Saturday, January 27, 2007

Random Bliss

What a great day today. Free latte this morning, sun is actually out, weather is warm, planning fun stuff for Reno and smiling as I think about it, being able to blog by cell phone, radio playing all the right songs, and It's FRIDAY! My man will probably make me a pot of coffee tonight to start the weekend off the right way, and I canceled my dentist appt for tomorrow morning. Life is good.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Quaint Iniquity Days Ahead

Gotta Go
Well, it must be that time of year again because I realized that exactly one year ago I booked the same trip for the exact same days (well, days of that same week - the date on the calendar has shifted by one) as the one I just booked! There must something about the end of January that makes me ready to leave the rainy Northwest for just a bit. And so, it's been decided that it's about time for another little trip to Reno. Southwest Airlines Vacations has a crazy deal if you go during the week (under $350 for two round trip air & three weeknights at hotel).

Why I Like Reno
I really loved Reno when we went last year. People warned me that Reno isn't quite like Vegas, and that's partly why I liked it. Don't get me wrong, Vegas is fun, but Reno is a little more low-key, a lot smaller, and has a charm of its own, especially if you just enjoy it on its own merit and don't insist on comparing it to Vegas. And it's cheaper - budget travel is my specialty. So, Reno is kind of "quaint" in some ways, but my thoughts have already turned to all the iniquities to enjoy - chain smoking, free drinking while gambling, eating and eating and eating ($9.95 prime rib dinners!) - all in excess (well, when you play nickel games, it only feels like excess, but your $20 can last the whole night if you are lucky enough), and then doing it all again the next day, and the one after that.

Day Trip to Tahoe and Virginia City
Last time we rented an SUV (Dollar Rent A Car was in our hotel, but for selection, we took the free shuttle to the airport and rented from the desk there) and took the drive up to stunning Lake Tahoe and drove around the loop (click on the link, and that's almost what we did, but instead of taking Hwy 50 to start in the middle of the east side, we took the Route 431/Mt Rose Hwy exit for the great view heading into the basin and started at the north end and then went counter-clockwise. Even though it was at a different starting point on the loop, we printed out this little Frommer's guide) - everyone should do this at least once - but please be careful in winter, go prepared. After that, we drove to Virginia City (used this link but coming from Tahoe - again, really, in winter be careful, go prepared).

(Side note: I know a lot of the stuff I've read claims that you can drive up to both year round, but that does NOT mean it's always a good day to do it safely. If the roads are bad, pick another day. And then go prepared in case the weather gets a little wacky. Keep this stuff in mind, and be safe.)

All of that was a wonderful day trip, but this time we don't feel like we really have to pay to rent a car and take time away from all that other fun stuff unless the spirit moves us, so there's no pressure. Gosh, I feel relaxed already.

Sleeping with the Clowns and Eating with a Pimp
Last year we stayed at Circus Circus Reno (in downtown area on the little "strip"), and we'll do the same this year. The Sky Tower rooms are cheaper by about $20.00 per night than the North Tower (Casino Tower) rooms, and no matter what some reviews say on different travel sites, it's really not a long walk from the Sky Tower side to the main casino side with all the other entertainment and food (the walk is all indoors, less than 3 minutes to walk even at a stroll), we did not see a bunch of "thugs" or other "undesirables" no matter what time in the wee hours we did the walk, and the little tram will take you between the two if you are too tired (or drunk) to make the walk. The tram is cute and kind of fun as a novelty, but it's not any faster than walking, really. Even in the cheaper Sky Tower rooms, if you ask for a higher floor and a view to the west, you will have an awesome view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Gorgeous!

What's cool, too, aside from actually watching the circus acts (that makes you feel like a kid even when you are getting old) is that Circus Circus is actually connected to the Silver Legacy Hotel and the Eldorado on the second floor level - in fact, you barely know that you've passed out of one and into the other on the little path. How nice not to have to go out into the cold or roaming around outside late at night, which we did and thought it was kind of creepy. But it was worth it to eat an Awful Awful Burger and all those fries at the very back inside of the Nugget (near Fitzgerald's and the Reno Arch) next to a pimp who was upset with one of his "girls" - whose price (the burger's, not the girl's), sadly, just went up to $5.50 after being only $3.50 for 40 years - see this article - I'll still go there, though, because it's delish!. I keep reading that it's cash only, but I can't remember if that's true - so bring some or win some just in case.

Cool Site
Cheapo Reno is a cool site that helped me find the best deals in gambling (like $0.50 roulette at Circus Circus), eating, and even how often the free cocktails wander by at various casinos, so I'll have to read up on all this again. Now I'm all excited and looking so forward to some time away to enjoy all my favorite sins at once - and on the cheap.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is he serious??

Bill O'Reilly chimed in and opined that Shawn Hornbeck, kidnapped four years ago at age 11 by Michael Devlin and found last weekend after Ben Ownby was also kidnapped and found after four days, was somehow having the time of his life because he didn't escape, even though he may have had the chance. Says Pill O'Reilly (along with other head-scratcher comments on his show on January 15th, 2007):

"The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school. He could run around and do whatever he wanted."

What?? You've got to be kidding.

From the other day on True Crime Blog, O'Reilly's comments are here and include the full transcript of his conversation with Greta van Susteren (she's being reasonable, O'Reilly's being an ass).

Then today True Crime Blog links to the partial video of O'Reilly's disgusting commentary here. It's just snippets that include some of the above from the full transcript, but to actually see O'Reilly's face saying it and being serious is unbelievable. Also on True Crime Blog today is the mention of expected additional charges against creepy Devlin (and CNN is saying Shawn was taken at gun point - how pleasant).

Is anyone surprised that this perv was likely raping the boy? Did anyone really think Devlin kidnapped him (and then Ben Ownby) because he wanted to play chess and give some kid the freedom to "do whatever he wanted"? According to O'Reilly's comments, that seems his idea - gee, what fun, Bill! Why don't more 11 year old boys go out and see if they are lucky enough to get kidnapped so that they don't have to go to school and can get piercings (O'Reilly in that transcript has the idea that Shawn Hornbeck was somehow bad because he had piercings - um, OK, Bill). Sure, O'Reilly, that sure sounds like a great trade off for the unspeakable things that likely went on for that 11 year old boy every day for 4 years. Sign us all up - it's worth all the terror. What a jackass O'Reilly is sometimes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Snow Day!


It's so rare that we actually get snow days out here, but today was one. Here I am on the balcony (in my pajamas, but you can't see those... it does explain my hair, though).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Found

Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby found this past weekend. This is an amazing story all by itself in so many ways. The idea that a boy kidnapped in Oct 2004 was just found alive, in part because of another boy kidnapped just days ago being found at the same place. Anyway, in reading about this, I came across the True Crime Blog and found the information about this particular case very interesting. There are still a lot of questions about this whole thing, many wondering why Shawn didn't try to escape since he appears to have had internet access (even posted on the site set up by his family trying to find him) and other opportunities - I don't pretend to know or understand how it all works, but something fear-related I'd bet, makes people (and this was an 11-year old boy) stay. It's interesting to me to try to get my mind around it, but I wouldn't blame him a bit. I'm already irritated by the few comments I've heard that he could have left. If it was really that easy to do (mentally as well as physically), I bet he'd have done it. There was something more to it.

In any case, the prayers of these families have been answered. That doesn't happen often enough in cases like these.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Noodles

With the recent passing of Momofuku Ando, the man who invented instant ramen noodles, I've had noodles on the brain. It's all thanks to this man that I survived my college days without starving. It's almost amazing that you can practically live on them for 4+ years.

These $0.10 packets were all I knew until I lived in Japan and experienced the real thing, and the real thing is much, much better (though Japanese stores still do have more different kinds of instant ramen than I've ever seen here in the States). While I was in college and taking Japanese classes, I saw a great movie dedicated to making
the perfect ramen noodles, Tampopo, but I still didn't quite get it that real ramen noodles bear little resemblance to those little packets. Sooooo yummy. Nothing like your local noodle shop in anywhere Japan, especially on a cold day. Slurping is not only allowed, it's expected, so that adds it's own brand of fun (if you find that kind of thing fun).

So, in honor of this great man and all he did to get me through college, today I concocted the most yummy instant ramen dish, influenced by several recipes using ramen noodles as a main ingredient on Recipezaar.com. I haven't posted my exact concoction over there yet, but here's what I did to make what I might just call...

"Happy Noodles":

Cook the noodles as instructed on package and set aside.
Add a squirt or two each of peanut oil and sesame oil, and about 1 teaspoon peanut butter.
Over medium heat, kind of swish around in the pan until the glob of peanut butter melts.
Add about 1 teaspoon of soy, a dash of chili powder, and a splash of milk.
Give a quick stir and heat until just bubbly.
Add noodles and use chopsticks to kind of lift from the bottom to mix them with the sauce.
Sprinkle very generously with sesame seeds if you like that kind of thing (I *love* sesame anything)
Be prepared to fall in love.

Thank you Mr. Ando-san!

Friday, January 12, 2007

One Liner

Sometimes being so open minded crosses its own line when you realize (usually too late) that you've actually become closed minded to the thought that not everyone shares your particular brand of open mindedness.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sleep...

I've been up way, way, way too late for way, way, way too many nights. The extra shot of espresso (5 total) in my Dutch Bros. helped this morning, but nothing can make up for two nights up past 2AM. The funny thing is, I always think I'll catch up on sleep on the weekend (I know, I know, it doesn't work that way, just like people roll their eyes when I state my belief that a latte is a good breakfast because skim milk still has plenty of good protein and calcium... it does, you know), but when the weekend rolls around I usually end up staying up even later and getting even less sleep. I guess I'm just afraid I'll miss something if my eyes are closed :)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Accentuate the Positive (do do do do, la la la la)

Accents fascinate me. After spending enough time in Japan and understanding Japanese (well, back when I still remembered it), I think I'm very good at faking a Japanese accent. I don't do it much, really just a phrase here or there when I'm talking to one of my dearest friends that was over there at the same time, but I do get a kick out of it because language is just interesting to me. I'm sure that there are plenty of folks back there still laughing their asses off at how badly I butchered their language or accidentally forgot to exchange the toilet slippers for my house slippers when done squatting over the toilet, so I guess it's fair. Anyway, this link is cool. You get to hear how people from all kinds place with all kinds of native languages sound when they take a stab at the same English sentences. What's really interesting is how differently we sound from different regions right here in America. I guess we all know that, but hearing this really brought it home in an interesting way (well, interesting to me, anyway).

Speech Accent Archive


And if the above is cool, then this is simply amazing. This thing nailed my butt right to the wall on my accent when I was pretty sure it wouldn't (and then I think it even insulted me without it meaning to do so??)

What American Accent Do You Have?

Have fun! I would love to hear what accent someone finds out they have and whether it was accurate or not.

Friday, January 05, 2007

And the day gets better

And the day gets better because The Office is on again tonight!

Guaranteed to Satisfy


One more day of coffee talk. Since yesterday morning started off a little bumpy and got a little better with coffee (then kind of tanked again as that wore off, I guess), I made a pre-emptive strike today by going to my place of worship, Dutch Bros. and ordering my latte with an extra shot (oh, and today was my free one on my stamp card thingy - so a free 5-shot latte day, even better!), just like back in the day when that was my regular thing to do before I tried scaling back. Picture is on my desk right now! (Actually, I took the picture a few days back, but it looks the same as now)


Here's the thing about Dutch Bros. and why I love them so very much.


First, they are kind of "local," so that's a nice thing. But there are a lot of "local" coffee shops out this way, and not all of them are great enough for me to get all giddy about like this.


Second, they are a drive-thru, not a get out of your car in the rain (this is the Northwest...) and stand around waitng kind of place. You can always tell by looking at me later whether there was a long line because those are the days that my make up is actually done in the comfort of my car while I wait and am not physically driving or putting others at risk :)


Third, Dutch Bros. normal 20oz (Venti-sized in Starbucks speak) lattes automatically come with FOUR shots of espresso. Compare this to Starbucks - two measly shots.


Fourth, said normal four shot latte with a flavor is only $3.25 or $3.50 (I think it's gone up, but sometimes they only charge me $3.25) compared to something like $4.10 at Starbucks when I splurge and get an extra shot for just a three shot latte (again, that's with flavor) - and I think Starbucks recently went up as well.


Fifth, you know that stamp card I mentioned where I got a free latte today? Yep, I love that. The only Starbucks here that do that are the ones in grocery stores. If I get a free latte after every 10, I can better justify this (I have about 16 reasons how I can justify most mornings' lattes - my favorite of which is that it's breakfast to me and the most calcium I get all day - without much bad stuff since I get a skinny - arguing against me on this has been done, and it's always futile).


Sixth, the coffee actually tastes really very good. Maybe it's because they put so many shots in it to start with, but a latte from Dutch Bros. tastes like there is actually espresso in that cup somewhere and not just sweetly flavored milk like some weaker lattes. It's energizing even to think about that dark and happy richness under all the fluff.


Finally, and maybe even one of the strongest reasons I love these folks, the people at EVERY Dutch Bros. location I've ever been to (and I've made a point of going to several) have all been super friendly and very "hip/cool." Before Dutch Bros, I went to the same Starbucks once or twice every day (the second run was for folks at work and my excuse to leave my cube), saw the same baristas and remembered them. I understand that there were only a few of them and lots of customers, but after that long, you'd think they'd act like they'd seen me before when I came in so often, but they didn't. At Dutch Bros, after going just the first few times, they saw me coming (literally) and started having my drink ready and being handed out the window as I pulled up. All with a great big smile and friendly banter. The only time this is not a good thing is when it gets seasonal and they have the eggnog lattes because there is a transition time of a few days to get them switched over :)


So, today can't be anything but a great day. "Guaranteed to Satisfy" it says on the bottom of my cup, and I am one satisfied woman.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Some Days Coffee is the Only Answer...


I'm usually fairly cheerful-ish for the most part, I think. Once in awhile, though, it's just "one of those days." This morning has gone that way. Work has been... well, work, and that's all that I'll say so "publicly" on a blog, but by 10:00AM I was just wishing already that I could start the day over. And then I decided that if I did that, I'd just shut the alarm off that first time (instead of hitting snooze several times and finally getting up), sleep in late, and stay in my nice warm and dry home with my nice warm and dry cats (instead of going out into the gloomy and rainy day). Since that wasn't possible, I tried to do the next best thing by having a cup of coffee since I was running too late to get a latte (which probably would have fixed this whole mess before it started, but that's another story). Sadly, the coffee situation is dismal for reasons I also won't get into (vague is fun), but very extremely fortunately, the solution to any bad day is sitting right on my desk (and one on my kitchen counter at home, too, though bad moods don't usually get me there because the cats are silly). This very cheap one cup coffee maker that accepts any brand of pods has saved my day, and it's so wonderful that I have to act like an infomercial and share this with anyone who ever needs a reason to smile (assuming their mind is so coffee addled as mine is). I bought mine at the Evil Wal-Martian for about $15.00 a couple years back, but the same exact model (don't be fooled by the others - they cost more and are not as cool) can be found at Amazon.com for just a bit more than what I paid.

Right now, I'm having a cup made with a Hazelnut flavored pod, and I added some Coconut Creamer that someone was kind enough to bring in and put in the fridge - and it is heaven. If I were one of my Sims, I would have a Platinum Mood thingy over my head. Thank you Proctor-Silex!

So here is the link:
http://www.amazon.com/ProctorSilex-42114-Single-Serve-Pod-Coffeemaker/dp/B000AQK0E0/sr=8-1/qid=1167850891/ref=sr_1_1/104-7070949-3949531?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen


And this is the review I wrote there:
"I love this product. First, it's much cheaper than other single cup brewers, and this one will let you use any brand of pod so that you can buy what's on sale. I also like that it has the option of using pods or grounds - I haven't seen others that can do this. I have one on my desk at work (that others use, too) and one at home for that one cup at night when I don't want to make an entire pot (no more wasted coffee at my house anymore!). One of my co-workers was so impressed that she bought one, too. I've had both of mine for over a year, and they have each been used several times a week and still make a delicious cup of coffee every time. I still can't get over the price. I would agree that the only drawback is that some of my mugs don't fit, but most of them do."

Update July 26, 2007. The one at home? Yah, it died. I cried.