Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Around town this week

This weekend the Life is Beautiful Festival is taking over downtown. Vegas already hosts several other major events including the Electric Daisy Carnival, but that takes place up at the racetrack. This event takes over Fremont Street and several surrounding blocks. Tickets have been sold out for a while now, but we have been seeing articles in the local paper about road closures and the best ways to get downtown because several streets are being closed. There are several outdoor stages, and multiple food court areas, with music being part of what your ticket covers. Groups appearing include Imagine Dragons, Empire of the Sun, Beck, The Killers and a few dozen more. It sounds like an interesting event. There is a nice little video that announces it (looks like they took over Fremont Street at around 3am):

Circus Vargas is setting up a big top tent over at the Rio for people that like a ‘real’ circus, as opposed to all of the Cirque du Soleil shows around.

We already have several inches of snow up on Mt. Charleston, an hour north of town. I don’t know their schedule, but the ski and snowboarding resort up there should start up the snow machines soon and open their season, usually around late November. Though not nearly as big as the resorts in more northern climes they have eleven trails, three chair lifts and a freestyle park and provide an alternative to our gambling resorts. The mountain is over 14,000 feet high and the snow provides a contrast to the 85f Fall temperatures we are having down here. For now people can drive up and play in the short stuff, unless it’s melted with the recent temperature increases.

On the Strip Caesars Entertainment is still building the big wheel at the Linq where the circle is complete and they are installing the central cables and hanging cars, but their rebuild of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall into the Gansevoort Hotel has hit a snag. Evidently the Massachusetts Gaming Board has found that one of the Gansevoort officials has ties to the Russian mob, and asked Caesars to withdraw their proposal for a casino in that state because of it. So they cancelled contracts with Gansevoort, and we are waiting to see what the new hotel name will be. Caesars is putting $185,000,000 into the remodel to convert the small property into a 188 room luxury hotel, with a multi-story Drai’s Nightclub on the roof and Gaida’s restaurant on the overpass level.

At the south end THEhotel at Mandalay Bay will change over to be controlled by the Morgans Hotel Group and be renamed to Delano Las Vegas. All 1100 suites in the 43 story tower, along with the common areas and all other areas of the hotel are being redesigned and renovated. It will be interesting to see how they change those big letters up on the top floor to the new name. The Morgan Group also owns the Light Group which runs multiple restaurants and nightclubs around town, including several in Mandalay that are also being remodeled. I hope this one comes out well, as we stayed at THEhotel last year and really liked the facility. Breakfast down at the coffee shop was equally nice. I enjoy hitting different hotel coffee shops, and hope the remodel just makes it better. I was really disappointed with the Palms coffee shop redesigned; we used to go there quite often for breakfast but stopped a few years ago when things seemed to go downhill.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


It’s Fall here in Las Vegas, as it is many other places. As usual we still have a lot of things going on. Last week the D downtown had its one year anniversary celebration, for which they gave three free concerts down on Fremont Street out under the canopy in front of the hotel. For groups they had Uncle Kracker, Stone Temple Pilots and Kid Rock. Pretty good for free.

I remember Uncle K from his Follow Me song a few years ago. Still like it

Upcoming, events include the Ultimate Bacon Experience down on Fremont Street next month – with bacon cocktails and dozens of creations made with bacon. Yum (who doesn’t like bacon?)

A few weeks ago we went down to City Center. We had lunch in the Aria coffee shop, which is a pleasant place to eat. Food is OK, typical prices and good variety, and nice atmosphere. You don’t look towards the Strip but westward at one of the City Center traffic circles.

The Aria check in lobby is filled with butterflies. These make for a pleasant view while standing in line to check in to the hotel.

Meanwhile here at work we just received our notices of furlough, to start tomorrow. I work for a company that is a contractor to the Department of Energy, and we had enough carry over funds to keep going for a few weeks but that’s now up. Hopefully congress will get their act together and fund the government, otherwise here are another few thousand people taking undefined unpaid vacations.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cooking with Joe - jam cookies

Last month when E was out I wanted to prepare some things that she could help with because she likes to help out in the kitchen. I came across this recipe for jam filled mini butter tarts and it seemed simple enough – just flour, cream cheese and some simple things for the crust and jam. It’s a good recipe for kids to help as you can just get them to do the jam filling. These things were tasty and easy to make, just remember to make the dough in advance – it keeps in the refrigerator for several days. But that in itself is a positive, you can do all of the hard work ahead of time, and when the kids show up just form, fill and bake and have tasty treats pretty quickly.

I used to make the standard Betty Crocker jam thumbprints (from that cookbook on my shelf with the red and white checked cover). These are softer and bigger and really easy for kids to fill.

I have these silicone mini cupcake baking trays that are just the right size for these. As you can see we weren't perfect in the press the dough into the cups part, but dropping assorted jams in was fun. I also sprinkled a little cinnamon on top as everything sweet seems to go better with cinnamon.

After baking they had puffed up very nicely – these are soft and crumbly, best eaten over a plate as they are liable to come apart if you try to take small bites. But the dough was very flavorful and these will remain in the list of cookies to make during the Christmas cookie baking marathon. (as well as anytime)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Random videos

Bouncing around the internet, Dooce
pointed to this site Colossal Art that shows how to make giant bubbles. Very nicely done, and looks simple enough. The recipe is given in the video, only three ingredients for the bubble mix. One of which is J-lube, a product I had never heard of so I went looking on Amazon . It seems like this is not the intended use of this powdered product, but what I found amusing was the items listed under ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’ and there are the rest of the items needed for the giant bubble making, including rope, poles and dishwasher liquid. It looks like fun

I am tempted to get all the items and make giant bubbles for the kids in the neighborhood (me included).

Other videos – I found this one of a rebel rocket attack interesting. I’ve not seen the war (pick one) from the other side.

And something to do for Halloween

Friday, October 04, 2013

E Friday and cats

Looks like it’s cat day here today. Up in Portland our granddaughter E picked out a kitten a few weeks ago. I understand it is a very friendly cat, wanting to hang around its people all the time.

Evidently Portland is a city known to be animal friendly. They had to fill out all kids of forms and have an interview before being deemed good enough to adopt an animal from one of the shelters. This kitty was not from a shelter but from an individual that had several kittens available, all raised inside with people contact so they were rather friendly.

At our house we have been having interactions with a number of feral cats lately. One female that has been coming by for years had a new litter of four back in the Spring and kept bringing them through the yard. They may have been living in the back corner behind our shed since we saw them so often (prompting B to try and schedule a cleanup of that corner of the yard). At one point she seemed to take off with three of them, leaving the smallest behind. B started feeding it, bringing the dish closer to the house, and sitting outside when the kitten came around. Eventually she moved it inside and we now have a new cat ourselves. As for the rest, we borrowed some capture cages from the local ASPCA chapter and ended up catching five feral cats including momma, her three kittens and one big male we had never seen before. A local agency offers free neutering/spaying for feral cats, so they all went through the procedure and were released back in the yard.

Ours is not nearly as friendly as E’s, being a feral cat for the first few weeks of its life. But it has gotten fairly acceptable to us, but still runs away when you move on it too fast. B is home all day with the cat, so it has gotten more friendly with her than with me, the stranger that comes in at night. Last week when B was touching up the trim paint in the kitchen and found that she had a supervisor. This cat is part Siamese, with the crossed blue eyes and love of jumping and being on high places. So of course she wanted the top step. B had a problem when painting the baseboard, the cat was very helpful and kept making sure the paint was drying properly, resulting in little painted kitty paw prints around the house. When painting up high she is content to just insure the job is being done properly.

And the name? Granddaughter picked out the name for our kitten, Puck, from a book she was reading. Her cat is named Myrhh, because it goes so well with purr.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Cooking with Joe - Blueberry bars

I’ve been using our new kitchen and really enjoying the enhanced environment. However, I’ve been looking at the photos I’ve been taking of my activities and realized that I better start spending more time setting up my photo shoots.

A few weeks ago Valerie posted about making some blueberry crumb bars with rosemary crust . I’ve tried a bunch of her recipes and they all are pretty darn tasty. Stopping at the supermarket a few days later I found a big box of blueberries on sale, and knew that a recipe just floated by that used them so I picked it up.

The recipe didn’t require much work, and the bars were very good – something I’d recommend next time blueberries roll around your market. We had already eaten a fair amount of what I baked before I thought of taking a picture, and looking at the photo does not do the bars (or photography in general) justice. If you want to see how pretty they should be then go up to her blog and look at Valerie’s photographs. Then you probably will want to make some.

The recipe called for rosemary in the crust – I followed the recipe as I usually do, and thought that the next time I made them I would put in more rosemary than it called for, to really amp up that flavor component against the background lemon and the sweet blueberries. I guess I was a little fuzzy when thinking this as I was trying to picture how the rosemary was packaged in my supermarket, yes, in nice little plastic boxes with other herbs. Then came the moment when I said to myself “what are you thinking of, store bought rosemary?” because that is one item that we are able to grow quite well here in Vegas – in fact I’ve got a row that’s over thirty meters long and over a meter high and wide, plants we put in along a low wall back when we converted from grass:

Yup, probably enough rosemary to make quite a few bars. I just have to avoid the bees that also love those little blue flowers (which themselves go well as ornamentation in a lot of soups and other dishes).