Our first snow
Bradshaw Mountains. Aren't they pretty?
Las Vegas Trip
I've stayed at several hotels in Las Vegas, from the Circus Circus (total and absolute dump), Paris (meh… really wasn't that great a place to stay), New York, New York (wasn't bad, it just wasn't all that memorable), and even the Bellagio (one of the best places to be on the Strip, in my opinion. Saying all that, I've never quite had the treatment we received while staying at the Rio.
Rio is not new to me. In fact, on the trip where we stayed at the Bellagio, we went to see a performance at the Rio held on a small stage with singers and dancers circulating on the ceiling above in metal cage-like contraptions. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't impressed. Neither was I impressed with the massage I received in the hotel spa. So when my mother and I flew to LV and she told me we were staying at the Rio, I really wasn't expecting all that much.
When we fist arrived, because my mother drops a pretty nickel on slots each time she goes to Vegas, we were able to check in at the VIP desk. When they discovered it was my birthday, our suite was upgraded to a suite that was, in all honesty, larger than some apartments. With a bedroom that is twice the size of my rather large master bedroom, an elongated bathroom that puts any others I've seen to shame and a living room/dining room that beats my own by a couple hundred feet, I was in awe.
Because of the shape of the hotel itself, our suite was curved. As such, the windows curve, offering a panorama of the Vegas skyline that is unrivaled anywhere else. The dining, living and bedroom windows curve and once all the drapes are opened, it is possible to see from downtown Vegas to well past the outlet center south of the Strip. Unreal.
While there for my weekend getaway, we saw Blue Man Group, a performance that was sometimes funny, sometimes awe inspiring, sometimes inane and/or gross and always loud. It was a fun way to spend the evening. I'm not sure I'd go back but it was worth my time to see it once.
The second evening we saw Bette Midler. She. Was. Amazing. There isn't much more to say than that. Funny, vulgar, politically incorrect, still has a great set of pipes, and looking incredibly fabulous. I wish to look like that when I get to be her age. If I look half as good, I'd be happy, actually.
All too soon my weekend was over. I wasn't sad to leave Vegas, because I can only tolerate the noise, the traffic, the tacky bling and the lights for so long, but I DID enjoy my stay there and dreaded returning to work. Here are some pictures of our suite and the view:
From the front door
Looking out onto the Strip:
Oh, and another recipe!
LG CAN YAMS, DRAINED/SLICED 2 APPLES, SLICED
1/2 C PACKED BROWN SUGAR 1 TSP CINNAMON
1/3 CUP PECAN HALVES 1/4 CUP MARGARINE
2 CUPS MINIATURE MARSHMALLOWS
COMBINE APPLES, BROWN SUGAR, CINNAMON, & PECANS IN 2 1/2 QT CASSEROLE DISH. ALTERNATE LAYERS OF YAMS AND APPLE- MIX. DOT WITH MARGARINE. BAKE AT 350 FOR 35-40 MIN. (COVERED). ADD MARSHMALLOWS TO TOP AND BROIL UNTIL TOP IS SLIGHTLY BROWNED. (JUST A FEW MINUTES) WATCH CAREFULLY, IT CAN BURN QUICKLY!!
Moonlight on DVD!
As you well know (or maybe you don't), Moonlight was a TV series on CBS last season. Even though it earned a People's Choice award, as well as garnered nothing short of a cult following, the series was cancelled after its abbreviated first season. Many thought it'd be picked up by another network, or the very least, by Sci-Fi or the CW since both are known for their paranormal or supernatural shows. Nope. It faded into the dust. But all is not lost! Look here! It will be sold on DVD at the end of January.
WHY are they waiting for January?? That, to me, is just insane. They could make much more money had they had the box set available for purchase before Christmas! Waiting until after the first of the year is the second decision they've made that's not only foolish and financially foolhardy, but outright stupid and inane.
But what do I know? I'm just one measly fan, right? I still refuse to watch CBS, though. Just on principle.
(Pre-order Moonlight at Barnes and Noble
or Amazon or Borders)
And here's another holiday recipe I used:
1 8oz box pasta macaroni
5 oz cubed of mozzerella
5 oz cubed of cheddar
5 oz of monterrey jack
1 quart room temp milk
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
Cook pasta. While rinsing pasta, in a big pot, melt 4T butter and add 4T flour to make a rouge. Add 4 cups room temperature milk. After all is mixed together well, add pasta and cheese. Do not let the cheese melt in this process! Add salt, pepper, and/or cayenne. Pour into sprayed 13 X 9 pan. Top with a little paprika for color.
Bake uncovered on middle shelf at 350' for about an hour.
Eve of Darkness by S.J. Day
This book is not coming out until May 2009. The second book in the series is titled Eve of Destruction and the third book is Eve of Chaos, which will be published in June 2009 and July 2009, respectively. S.J. Day's official website is www.sjday.net.
When young and inexperienced seventeen-year-old Evangeline Hollis sees the dangerously sexy man astride his Harley, she knows she should run the other way. But like a moth to a flame, Eve cannot turn away. Accepting a ride on the man's bike, Eve finds in herself a courage that she never knew existed. And later, throwing caution to the wind, she gives herself to the man she only knows as Alec Cain.
A decade later, in a similarly magnetic situation, with a man that could pass as Alec's twin, Eve finds herself in a stairwell experiencing the ferocity of a rare, spontaneous sexual encounter. But instead of the relaxing satiety that she should feel after sex, she passes out, having been branded with the Mark of Cain by Alec's brother, Reed Abel.
In an instant, agnostic Eve's life is altered from mild-mannered businesswoman to strong, fast, kick-ass demon killer. It's a life that she doesn't quite believe and certainly doesn't want. She'd rather go back to her old life where her most exciting of days included watching Buffy reruns with the elderly woman down the hall from her condo, while slurping pasta. And now, not only is she quickly learning the ins and outs of the theocratic tiers—the heavenly AND hellish kind—she also realizes that her agnosticism is quickly becoming passé in this world where myth and fairy tales are reality.
Before sinking my teeth into erotic romance or before touching paranormals (childhood stories don't count), I loved books that were fights between good and evil. Granted, many stories have subtle battles between the good guy and the villain, but that's not what I mean. I particularly preferred apocalyptic thrillers that showcased angels, demons and spirits. At the time, however, there were few options in mainstream fiction. Should you wish to delve into eternal battles, it was necessary to read stories by authors like Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. Fabulous authors, but they are nonetheless Christian writers that leave the reader with a clear conclusion that good will always prevail. (They are getting better, leaving conflicts dangling for conclusion at a later time, a premise that, to be honest, is much more to my liking.)
When I learned that S.J. Day was writing a series that spotlights demons, angels and God Himself, I was more than intrigued, I was entranced. I had to get me a copy! May 2009? Are you kidding me? I grew up with Sesame Street and McDonald's where narcissism rules. I didn't want to wait until May 2009! I wanted to read it NOW!
Finagling an advanced bound copy of Eve of Darkness, I was, understandably, in heaven. No pun intended. With the stress of my job, working many hours and several book reviews due, I didn't want to do what I did with many of the books I read: get five minutes in here and there. No, I wanted to get INTO the book, which could only occur when I actually had time to spare. Being the OCD person that I am (well, not quite… or if I am, I'm highly functional) once I discovered that I was able to move north of Phoenix, I packed rather quickly and was able to find a few hours to devour this story in one sitting.
I have to say, Eve of Darkness was all I expected it to be, and more. With a heroine that is unbelievably strong and intelligent (the term "kick-ass" just doesn't do her justice), two sinfully sexy men that are as old as time, literally, and non-stop action between the forces that simple humans cannot begin to fathom, it's a match made, um, err, that is to say…well it's a match made in heaven!
Can you just imagine that a lust-filled moment as a virgin teen with an intense and brooding Harley rider would literally alter your life, forever? Now imagine meeting his equally devastating brother years later, not knowing for certain that he is related to that man that walked out on you a decade earlier but believing to your very core that you want him more than your next breath. Picture a heated stairwell moment, mind blowing sex, being branded as one of God's own to work off your sins and realizing that although you haven't died, life as you know it is gone.
Now picture your new life as a demon hunter. Those you thought were mere mortals only days before, you know see as they really are: demons, angels and various otherworldly beings… those who aren't completely immortal, as they can be slain, but who aren't human either. It's enough to make my head spin. I can't imagine being up to the task, but Eve manages it with aplomb, with a fierce determination that makes me want to sit up and shriek, "I want to be like HER when I grow up!"
There's only one thing that I didn't like about Eve of Darkness: its ending, leaving me wondering what will happen next. I CANNOT believe the next book isn't due out until June 2009. That's over six MONTHS away! Thankfully the third installment will be released a mere month after that, but I'm so beyond impatient, I don't know what I'll do between now and then. This book has gotten me so excited that I can just tell that after I read the third book, I'll be in that empty, downward spiral that readers often get when their favorite series is completed. Is it too much to wish that there will be more of Eve than a mere three books? One can only hope. Or pray.
When I learned that my brothers would be going up to my mother's house on Thanksgiving and that they would be eating at a casino buffet, because my mother didn't want to cook dinner, I decided to act. I love to cook. Those who know me know I love to cook. I went into some books I'd compiled full of recipes that I'd collected over the years and chose, well, a ton of things to make. Then I'd decided that one of the reasons I'd taken this job was so I'd have more time to write. So, I decided to get all my Christmas baking and decorating out of the way as well, so that come December I'd have time to start writing again.
I will share what I've made, and then will be sharing a recipe (or two) a day on other blog entries for you to try as well.
So, I first made about 4 gallons of salsa. Yes, that's typed correctly. 4 gallons. I love salsa from Z'Tejas and have been making my own version of their salsa for a few years now. I have their official recipe and have changed it to meet my needs. I can the salsa and send them to friends and family.
For family and friends, I also make Christmas tins full of goodies. This year, I've made milk chocolate Turtles, dark chocolate Turtles, toffee, snickerdoodles (which are always a hit) and Christmas colors M&M cookies. I sometimes also make peanut brittle and other goodies, but this year I opted for a more simple route.
Of course, I made a turkey. Actually I made two. I wasn't sure how much would be eaten or how much everyone would take home and since I wanted some leftovers to make turkey salad and turkey rice soup, I opted to make two small turkeys. I made the first one a week ahead of time because they needed to defrost and I didn't have space in the fridge to do them both at the same time. The recipe is pretty easy. Once the bird is defrosted, it's rinsed, inside and out and placed in a bag. Of course, the neck and giblets are removed. I said this once and I'll say it again: what kind of country are we that we pull paper-wrapped body organs from a poor bird's ass to cook it!? Unreal.
I make a poultice of seasonings—basil, pepper, salt, oregano, sage, olive oil—and pull back the skin, sliding the seasonings inside. Then, I add to the inner cavity about 1 cup of diced onion, a stick of butter, and some vinegar before tying the bag. I also saw a recipe to use citrus so in one of the turkeys, instead of the vinegar, onion and butter, I used broth and slices of fresh fruit: lemons, oranges and apples. I cook the turkey at 200 for about 12 hours. They turn out so moist that way!
Some of the items I didn't make for all meals, but I made Havarti mashed potatoes, sausage and sage stuffing, skillet tomatoes, cheddar cornbread, oat knots, green beans and lemon, homemade mac and cheese, apple-yam bake, Z'Tejas' Ancho Chili Fudge Pie, orange tapioca salad, spinach artichoke dip, and of course, gravy. Like I said, recipes will follow.
I tried to get some of the steps out of the way early, like making the breads a day before, peeling the potatoes and leaving them in water overnight, dicing the onions and putting them in Ziplocs in the freezer until needed, etc. This truly took me greater than a week to get it all done.
Thursday was a pleasant day. My father and stepmother came over. They brought the wine and Mickey made us a fresh apple pie that was wonderful. Dinner went off without a hitch and after lounging on the sofa for a while after dinner, they left in the early evening, and I spent some time reading before heading to bed since I needed to work the next day.
After work on Friday, I was greeted by my stepdad at the house. We had some of the artichoke dip and then left to go see the new James Bond—Quantum of Solace. What a great action flic! I think Daniel Craig makes an excellent Bond, and I've seen all of the Bond movies, from Dr. No on… even the stupid ones that weren't all that official, like the first Casino Royale, and Never Say Never Again.
Afterwards we shared a bottle of wine (okay, I confess, it was more like two bottles!) then he stumbled to the guest room. Heh. The next morning we hung Christmas lights outside and I started baking again.
My granny, mother, two brothers and sister-in-law arrived in the early afternoon and we started day three of my Thanksgiving feast. We were so full by dinner's end that we couldn't possibly have any dessert, so we took a ride and I showed everyone the Prescott area. We finally returned home and shared some fudge pie, sweet potato pie that my mom brought as well as some other pumpkin and chocolate goodies. Finally while cleaning up the dishes and food, I begged everyone to take some of the food so I wouldn't have to toss any of it.
Everyone took off for home and I sat there on my sofa, fairly catatonic and completely exhausted, only to realize that it was only 7pm. I was so pleased though that everyone loved the food. Most of the things I'd made were first attempts, so I was really pushing my luck, hoping that everything turned out well. Adam thought it was one of the best Thanksgiving meals he'd ever had and called it gourmet. Everyone else really liked the dishes. I was just pleased to make a few things a little differently than every other year.
It was a great day, weather-wise. It was pretty cold, and unfortunately we didn't have any snow, but I was happy that we had such a beautiful day. Next year, if I make dinner, I'll have some great recipes to make again.
Orange Tapioca Salad
3 oz pkg orange jello 3 cups water
3 ½ oz pkg instant vanilla pudding 1/3 c tapioca beads
15oz can mandaring oranges 8oz can crushed pineapple
8 oz whipped topping
In sauce pan, bring 3 cups water to boil, then whisk in jello, dry pudding mix and the tapioca beads into that boiling water. Return to boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely. After totally cooled fold in fruit and whipped topping. Spoon into serving bowl, cover and refrigerate at least two hours.
Back in the Saddle
Back in May, I received a promotion from my disease management position to a managerial position within another division doing prior authorization and denial letters. My position started out as a mere supervisor and editing letters that would be sent to members for denials to their request for dental, medical and/or pharmacy services. Then I realized that the scope of my job was much larger than I was hired for. After discussions with my upper management, I was offered the "promotion" of manager.
I write that rather tongue-in-cheek because while I was told my pay grade would increase (something I never saw on my HR file), my salary would not increase until after the beginning of the year. Right. That's what I thought too.
I was working 60-hour work weeks, often staying until the sun went down, then, working until the wee hours of the morning on my laptop at home. Exhausted beyond all hope, I was then told my mono had probably resurfaced and had to slow down or risk hospitalization. It became clear that I could slow down my hours, but needed to maintain the same workload. Um, okay. I'll get right on that.
It wasn't all that delightful with my director either. I'd quickly become very valuable to her and while she'd often tell me what a wonderful job I'd been doing, I would also be given many little projects, things her boss had given HER to do but because she wasn't proficient with the computer she'd dump it in my lap… then she'd go to her executive meetings and claim credit. It would not matter that I stayed late at night and/or working from home (something they could see based on when I was logged in to the system), but if I didn't come in early, I was 'late'. I tried to tell her that with all the hours I was putting in, for all intents and purposes, I was actually early. It went right over her head.
My frustration levels got to the point that I truly wanted to just call it quits. But I liked my job and thought I had a future there. Then they started laying off employees. These were director and manager level positions. Perhaps there WERE too many chiefs but one would think they'd do some reorganization, maybe with some demotions but instead they laid off many employees company-wide. I was afraid I was next. Combined with everything else I was going through, I opted to job search.
I received an offer from a competitor, basically doing the job my current director was doing, but it would require me to stay in Phoenix, one degree shy of hell in the summer. I've lived in AZ for most of my life. I truly didn't want to remain if I had the opportunity to find something else in cooler weather. After working as a travel nurse a few years back, I'd seen northern AZ for longer than just a brief visit and knew I wanted to live someplace with more weather than sun and heat and more sun and heat.
I interviewed with several companies and hospital in Colorado and northern AZ. I sold the Lexus, bought a Subaru Tribeca and then managed to put over 1000 miles on the car driving to interviews. I was offered 4 different positions, and after gauging location, amenities, weather and places to live, I opted to take a job in Prescott, working in the pre-op area one day a week and working on charts the other four, going over testing to make sure these patients were good surgical candidates. The job seems to have been created to avoid those last minute surgical cancellations due to some medical condition that may put the patient at surgical risk for complications.
Within a week of finding a job I managed to find a wonderful house with a decent back yard, a gas stove and fireplace and an amazing view of the mountains near by. I'm close to Sedona and Flagstaff and can actually see the San Francisco peaks from various areas of the town (which are now covered in snow!).
The job is great, it's 20 minutes in traffic from home, and it's only 40 hours a week, with rare weekend call. So far, it's a great job and I thank God each and every day that I've been able to move up to this wonderful area. I'll keep you posted!
The view from my backyard.