Friday, September 27, 2013

E Friday - pizza and swinging

When granddaughter E was visiting with us in August we went down to Circus Circus to hit the rides in the Adventure Dome. We stopped for lunch, and somebody liked her pizza

But in our back yard she probably spent as much time on the swing as in the pool

Boy, that picture makes Vegas look pretty green, doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kitchen's done!

We finally finished up in the kitchen. Well, almost, B still has to decide what to do with that big blank wall next to the window. It’s a tossup between open shelves or a big painting, still undecided. Our original design was with birch cabinets with a small square detail. But when we drove down to Ikea to look around B noticed a kitchen setup with glossy white cabinets, and she thought about how easy it would be to clean them – I do most of the cooking and she does most of the cleaning, so for her the idea of a smooth finish with no details to catch dirt was very appealing. So we changed our style and decided to do a more modern look, with shiny white cabinets, long stainless steel handles and an all stainless steel island.

Anyway, here are some ‘before’ shots. I didn’t really think ahead and take good photographs of what it looked like before we started, sorry. Our house was built in the late ‘60’s and the kitchen is original. The cabinets were all custom built, probably pretty good quality when they went in but after forty years they were kind of worn out, with the drawers starting to come apart. When we moved in it was the original dark wood stain. B painted the cabinets white because she just couldn’t take how dark it was. After a few years I took down some overhead cabinets that were separating the kitchen area from the small seating area.

To the left of the refrigerator is a door that leads to the laundry room, a small bathroom and the garage. The cabinets I took down were over the small peninsula right in front, so with them in place you would not be able to see the window from this angle. There was an open foot or so below the cabinets, I guess so that you could pass things back and forth, but it was just too confining. Overhead were two long fluorescent fixtures, each with one bulb so it was never very bright in there.

Behind where the camera is in the above photo is an outside wall which had a small window which we replaced with big French doors out to an eating area on the patio.

To the left of the above shots is the cooking area. Only two burners of the electric cooktop still worked. Just to the right was a small wall oven that would not keep an accurate temperature. B painted the wall behind the cooktop, and eventually stuck up some glass tiles. The walls behind and to the left are what we took down and we pushed this area back three feet to make the kitchen wider.

After seven months of slow work this is what we ended up with. It’s a major change from our old ‘60s kitchen. We took down the wall between the kitchen and our family room, extended the kitchen three feet and put in the large countertop bar. I moved the stove and installed a gas cooktop in a new island with exhaust hood. The sink was there in front of a small window which I replaced with an 8’ window which brightens things up considerably. We used to have the old style ceiling fluorescents with plastic panels which we pulled out and raised the ceiling and installed all led and fluorescent lights in ceiling cans. The bar is about a meter deep and two long, plenty of room for working on my cakes and cookies. There are now cabinets along the entire outside wall, over six meters worth. Again, a lot of room to lay out whatever I’m preparing.

All of the cabinets are from Ikea, with pull out drawers. We’ve got so much more storage now that we didn’t need any overhead cabinets, and with the drawers we don’t have to kneel down to dig things out of lower cabinets. That’s a small cabinet to the left of the window with a roll up door in which we keep the coffee maker.

In the above picture you can see the microwave with two big convection ovens below. They are in about the same place as the old oven, but pushed back three feet. To the left of them is where the old cooktop and wall was. Pushing that back made the area pretty large, and instead of the peninsula that was original there we put in an island with a new gas cooktop. When built the house was all electric, but shortly after we moved in the gas company started laying lines in our neighborhood and we had gas brought to the house, originally for a water heater but in anticipation of a gas stove. I now have five burners that all work, one of which is big enough to cook just about anything. The only overhead cabinets are above the ovens and the refrigerator. There is room in the island for all of my pots and pans. Cookie sheets are in a roll out next to the ovens. We could have made the island bigger, but there is enough countertop space and we wanted room for a small table to sit at in there.

The door that was originally to the left of the refrigerator was covered up and moved to the right of it, making room for a large walk in pantry (which is behind the refrigerator). I changed the door to be a sliding pocket door, so it doesn’t take up any room when open. Countertops are bright white quartz with a grey marbling, much nicer that that yellow laminate we started with, with stainless steel on the island. We put down a cork floating floor as the concrete slab developed a long crack which limited what we could do. Didn’t want tile, we felt it was too hard and cold to stand on. The cork is soft and warmer to walk on. B picked a glass/marble mosaic tile for the backsplash, which was also put up vertically next to the bar to provide some color.

That's it - the cabinets and appliances have been in for a while, so I've gotten to try everything out. The countertops went in and finally the flooring. Crown molding finished things up, so now it's on to our next project.

Friday, September 20, 2013

View from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

A lot of photos today – still bunches on my camera to take off and edit but it seems other things come around. These are from our recent trip to City Center a few weeks ago to have lunch at Mozen. First is the check in desk for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It’s up on the 23rd floor, which seemed a little strange, but it does provide a bit of security, and all hotel guests have to go past the check in desk to get to the room elevators, so kind of planned. There is a nice view out of the big windows behind the desk, so as you wait to check in you have something to look at. The staff can also turn around at slow times and look down on City Center and the Strip to keep amused.

Back down on the first floor there is access to the Mandarin Oriental meeting rooms. The carpet was rather dull, but the halls were lined with wood paneling and I liked all of the glass balls hanging from the ceilings.

Back on the 23rd floor near the tea room are some public restrooms. Everything inside was black, something seen at a few other ‘modern’ hotels (such as at Mix at Mandalay Bay). The sink was interesting, a long trough with those hand sensing faucets you don’t have to touch. This was one of the few open restrooms that had cloth hand towels instead of paper – you can see them nicely rolled and stacked at the end of the sink.

In the other direction were little frosted glass doors leading to the toilets – a trend in some of the better hotels, instead of a row of dividers everyone gets their own little room.

Back to the windows of the tea room, which is next to the check in desk above, you get a nice view of the Strip, looking down on the roof of Crystals shopping center, one of the few in town that doesn’t have a roof full of air conditioners and exhaust vents. You can still see the world’s most expensive billboard, which used to advertise the Cirque Elvis show but now advertises Zarkana, its replacement. I said most expensive because the building, which was supposed to be a 60 story hotel and condo tower, had construction halted in the middle so now it just sits empty awaiting court hearings. So it’s basically a $230,000,000 billboard. The construction company and MGM are in litigation over construction defects, it seems the steel rebar reinforcing stuff was put in wrong and the place could fall down at any time. After two years in court a local judge just gave MGM permission to tear down the building. Engineers are trying to figure out how to do that, as it’s in the middle of other buildings which are really close. And it was put up as a LEED certified green building, so there are restrictions on recycling of the entire structure as it comes down. The court case on who will pay for everything is about to come to trial, with a two year trial expected. I wonder who they will find to sit on the jury for two years just to stay awake much less remember it all to make a judgment. The court case will take longer than the construction took.

Looking to the right and down you can see Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip). There are the Polo Towers condos and in front an old three story motel. I’m impressed that it is still there, with on-Strip property at one time going for $23,000,000 an acre the land alone is worth a fortune. There should be a fifty story tower and casino there, not a low motel. Yes, it’s open for business and you can stay there probably pretty cheaply compared to this place. The brown roofs to the left cover the Miracle Mile shops, a very large shopping center that is part of Planet Hollywood.

Down at the restaurant Mozen, which is on the third floor, the view is about the same, looking north towards the Eiffel Tower in front of Paris. The Aria vertical electronic sign is rated one of the nicest in the city, with some pretty impressive graphics. It’s two hundred feet high and all electronic display, a pretty massive TV set.

Close by is the main entrance to City Center, with the roofs of Crystals above. If you couldn’t tell, there is a big Gucci store up front. All of the stores in there are rather high end, I’m impressed that they can stay in business with as few customers as I see in them. But there are always people with store shopping bags around, so someone is purchasing $30,000 handbags and $50,000 watches.

Friday, September 13, 2013

assorted ramblings

Just back from walking outside and we are finally back to our gorgeous clear blue sky without clouds anywhere. For the past few weeks there has been a monsoon sitting off the coast of Baja California several hundred miles south which has been sending moist air up here. This has resulted in rain almost every day somewhere in our valley for the past few weeks. Unfortunately the rain has been spread somewhat unevenly, with some areas getting flooded and other areas just misted. Our official rainfall figure so far this year is 1.55 inches (just under 4cm), about half of what we should have by now. (yes, it is pretty dry here). Yesterday morning it was down to 69f – the first time in 106 days we dropped below 70, but with the monsoon going away it is expected to be back up to 100 by Sunday.

A few weeks ago we went down to City Center and walked around in the drizzle. Here is what Vegas looks like when it’s cloudy and wet – City Center

Crystals shopping center and the Strip

It’s difficult to get photos of the sky without any blue showing.

Next Thursday is international Talk Like A Pirate Day – locally the Krispy Kreme donut stores will give a free dozen donuts to anyone coming in that day dressed like a pirate, with at least three items of pirate type clothing, such as an eye patch, big gold earring, frilly shirt or similar items. You probably have to through in a few ‘Arrrgs’ along with the donut request.

We finally are almost done with our kitchen. Only thing left is for me to finish installing toe plates around the island and B to paint and patch the trim – should be finished tomorrow officially!! Then I get to post photos for my memory of the event. It’s taken us long enough. Next project is my office – moving in those shelves we took out of the living room when we expanded the kitchen and changing around the closet.

Back to Smith Center Cabaret tonight to see Arturo Sandoval, we’re trying seats on the upper level to get a little different view. Looking forward to his music.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Thunderstorm season

Haven’t put up one of these in a while, just the Vegas sky near sunset. Usually a clear blue, this time of year we get some clouds and thunderstorms passing through.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Smith Center Cabaret

Last year the Smith Center for the Performing Arts opened near downtown. We have been to a number of events in the 2,000 seat main auditorium (including Wicked a few months ago) but have wanted to see what the smaller 250 seat cabaret venue was like.

We’re on the email list for event announcements, and I finally found one in the cabaret that sounded ok and fit our schedule – we’ve been trying to keep working on the kitchen to get that darn thing done already and not wanting to take time away. I purchased tickets for a recent Friday night to hear Billy Stritch sing the Mel Torme songbook; it was a pretty nice evening.

The Smith Center was built with an Art Deco styling, to kind of match the Hoover Dam. It’s a little different than any of the casinos, which have been built in quite a variety of styles but nothing specifically Art Deco. New York New York comes close, but a few years ago it was modernized (again) and not doesn’t have much of a specific style. The cabaret at the Smith Center is built on two levels, with main seating based on small round tables with four chairs around each. The second level balcony runs around the two sides and the back and has smaller tables for two along the railings.

They serve a variety of snacks, cheese and dessert trays along with having a full mixed bar and table service. Looks like most people get there early and just enjoy some time, like most club scenes. I thought the ceiling was rather interesting – steps of glass with chrome strips

The music was pretty good – Billy on piano with a drummer and upright bass.

I hadn’t heard of him before, but evidently he’s been around town a lot. Clint Holmes was in the audience (and introduced) along with Mel Torme’s sister. Clint is a regular at the cabaret theater, been wanting to see him but his nights seemed to conflict with other events. Someday.