Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's for Dinner?

If you're like me, you're always looking for something quick & yummy to throw at the masses for dinner.

Today was no different. 5pm rolled around, and nothing had been thawed out. The symphony of tummies growling joined the famous chorus, "What's for dinner?"

Not wanting to go out, it was now Creative Time. I opened the fridge, and hoped something would just jump out and say, "Eat me!" No such luck. However, I did find some broccoli that needed to be used. What goes well with broccoli? Chicken!!!

Unfortunately, almost all the chicken we have is frozen solid, except for the Costco bag of Foster Farms Breast Nuggets. Could these work in a pinch? I was willing to give it a try.

I did a Google search for a Chicken Divan recipe, and then "Hamannized" it. It actually turned out quite good, although as David says, "I would never share this recipe with anyone, because that would mean we'd have to admit we'd eat something like this, something so high in sodium". I said, "As a mom, sometimes you just need something easy & something you know they'll like."

So, with that anti-healthy warning, here's the recipe I pulled together:

Easy Chicken Divan

Total Prep Time: 15 minutes
Actual Cooking Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Number of Servings: 4


2 cups Rice, cooked
2 cups Broccoli, cooked and cut up
15 frozen Chicken Nuggets (I used Foster Farms Breast Nuggets)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/3 cup Milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese


  1. Combine Soup & Milk.
  2. Place Rice in the bottom of 11 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Pour 1/2 of Soup/Milk mixture over Rice & combine until all Rice is "wet".
  4. Place Broccoli and Chicken Nuggets on top of Rice.
  5. Pour remaining Soup/Milk mixture over Chicken & Broccoli.
  6. Sprinkle with Cheese.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
Again, not the most healthy of recipes, but oh-so-good :-)

Bon appetite, friends! K~

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


No, I'm not talking about the canned meat product shown to the left, that was so popular in the 50s. I'm talking about Email Spam. You know, the messages that fill your Inbox, with offers of amazing deals on painkillers & meeting singles in your area & on & on & on.

And yes, I know most email programs have Spam filters that try their best to catch all the thousands of junk mail messages that invade our Inbox on a daily basis.

What I don't get is this: Why do those people in marketing think assaulting people with info about your product is going to make them want to buy it? I would think the opposite would be true. I know they say even negative advertising is still advertising, but please!

Here's a perfect example: I went to check my email this morning, and it said I had 65 new messages! On a typical day, I maybe get 4 or 5. So, I'm looking at all these messages, and every one of them says the same thing, and is from the same domain. By the way, I'm not going to post the link or even mention the company, because that's what they want--any kind of exposure, even on some stranger's blog.

So I mark them all as "junk", which in theory is supposed to tell the internet provider to treat them as spam in the future. Then I go to get my new messages, and it tells me, as it's trying to pull up yet another of the same message, that my Inbox does not have enough room to continue downloading the rest of my new messages.

As I'm grumbling to myself, and thinking some choice thoughts about this sender, I go check the Mail Server to see how large these messages are. 2MB each!!!! No wonder my Inbox crashed.

And again, why would anyone think that after message #64, or even 24, I would finally say, "Wow. They're persistent. I guess I'll check out what they're trying to sell me."

But the thing that really gets me about Spam is this: Multiple copies of the same email aside, what they're really doing is trying to validate your email address. When it says, "Click Here to Unsubscribe Me", and it's something you've never signed up for, when you reply back, you've just confirmed your address as being valid. Now they can sell it to others. In essence, the product they're advertising is merely a vehicle to the main goal: confirmation of a valid email address.

Oy! We just can't win! Oh well, at least the sun is out today! So get away from your email, and your spam, and go enjoy this beautiful weather.

Blessings friends! K~

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas. The Fourth and Final Day

Saturday, Day 4. We're going home today, but since our flight doesn't leave until late this evening, today will be spent trying to see as much as possible.

As we know it is very easy to get overwhelmed, we decide to narrow our choices down to only 2 or 3 of the casinos & hotels. That way too we can save our feet, and also not be so rushed.

Richard (David's dad), Kyra & I head out after breakfast, as Marie wants to pack & straighten up a little bit at the condo. I really want to see the New York, New York Hotel & Casino, as I've always wanted to go there, (the real New York City, that is) and reality is, this is probably the closest I'll ever get :-(

We drive into the parking garage, and they actually have a sign posted that says, "Be prepared to show Photo ID". Apparently, they're still worried about post 9/11, and are just being safe. Well, the guard just let us pass without any problems--Maybe it was the minivan?????

The whole "campus" is built to resemble downtown Manhattan, with the outside of the hotel looking like it's made up of skyscrapers, like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

By the way, the steel girders running parallel to the ground in the picture above belong to a screaming roller coaster that winds its way in and out of the buildings, kind of like a maniacal subway--actually it's supposed to be modeled after the Cyclone on Coney Island. Also along the outside sidewalk, they've fashioned a replica of the Harbor, complete with the Statue of Liberty and NYPD Fireboats, as well as many of the bridges that connect Manhattan to other parts of New York and New Jersey. Below are pictures of the Statue of Liberty, and Kyra & I in front of one of the fireboats.

Inside, they've continued the whole city theme, and parts of the floor are even cobble-stoned in places. Central Park, The Tavern on the Green restaurant, Times Square, Greenwich Village, the Soho District, and a dueling pianos bar. They all vie for your attention. Unfortunately, my little digital camera is no match for the large dark spaces, so the pictures I take do not come out well.

Our next stop is the
Excalibur, as it's just a hop, skip & a jump across the street. Because they're all about the Medieval & Middle Ages, the outside is complete with moat & flying buttresses.

I have to say, this is probably my least favorite hotel & casino so far. But then, look at the era they have to work with. You can only do so much with dragons & stone.

Then we're on to the
Luxor, the Egyptian experience, complete with large pyramid, and hieroglyphics galore. The unique thing about the Luxor is, because it's literally a pyramid, all the room floors honeycomb up the four sides, while overlooking the atrium which houses the casino, shops & the restaurants in the middle. In addition, to accommodate the sloped sides, the elevators to the floors actually travel sideways on a 39 degree angle. By accident, we found ourselves in one of these elevators, by misreading one of the signs, but it was totally worth it! The picture below is taken from one of these room floor hallways, overlooking the atrium.

By now, we find ourselves quite hungry, and remember a pizza place called Sirrico's, back at New York, New York that looked pretty good. We head back that way, and because we're bringing lunch for everyone, order a whole pie. I have to tell you, this ends up being right up there with the best pizza I've ever eaten. Besides being HUGE, it is piled high with toppings and the crust is to die for.

Pizza in hand, back we go to the condo for lunch. Then time for Kyra's nap, and now the girls head out for more sight-seeing.

This time we start at the
Paris, walking by the Arc de Triomphe and underneath the incredible Eiffel Tower, pictured below.

As Marie & Beth have never gone up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, we wait our turn, and soon enough we are making our way up to the top. Let me tell you, the view from the top is unbelievable, but is clearly 10 degrees cooler, with the wind blowing up a storm. If it gives you any idea of how cold it is, the operator at the top is dressed in a full parka--no joke!

The pictures below are taken from the observation deck at the top, looking across to the Bellagio, and down to the busy Strip to the west of us.

Now that we've seen the Bellagio from above, it's time to get up close and personal.

This is, by far, my favorite hotel/casino of all the ones we've visited! If I could live at the Bellagio, I would move in tomorrow. The lobby, with its amazing marble floors, dares you not to look up at its stunning ceiling, literally bursting with 2,ooo hand-blown glass flowers by the amazing artist,
Dale Chihuly.

And if that's not enough, the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens take your breath away. This time they are all decked out for spring, complete with life-sized watering cans & even a butterfly garden.

Like I said, this is heaven to my soul, after days of smoke & loud noises & crowds. As we bask in this nirvana, I think to myself, "The only thing that would make this better would be a MOCHA!" So we ask at one of the shops if there's a place to get coffee, and sure enough, just around the corner, the most amazing combination of pastries, coffee, crepes and sandwiches, all rolled into this wonderful place called Jean-Philippe Patisserie. They even have a 27-foot-tall liquid chocolate fountain behind glass that will have you drooling uncontrollably.

And finally, the famous Bellagio fountains. Although not as awe-inspiring in the daytime as at night, complete with lights, they still put on quite a show. Below, I've tried to capture it for you in a short 1min, 30 second clip. Just a warning, it is very windy, plus the people next to us are quite enthusiastic about the show--don't worry, it's clean. It's just they have little kids who keep up a running commentary throughout the whole thing. I've also included a snapshot if you don't want to watch the video.

And lastly, a very brief tour of the Bellagio's neighbor, Caesars Palace. Then back to the condo to load everything into the car, and on to the airport.

Due to the lateness of our flight, it was only half-full, so we didn't even have to arm-wrestle anyone for the bulkhead row :-) Kyra slept most of the way home, as it was now quickly approaching midnight. David was there to meet us, and not too long afterwards, we were headed for home, a shower to wash off "airplane", and a much-needed bed. The unpacking and laundry could wait until the next day.

And now, speaking of much-needed beds, I should be heading to mine.

Blessings, friends. K~

Monday, May 14, 2007

Picnic, anyone?

I just had to take a little break from our Vegas recounts, and share the cool thing that happened to us today.

Many times we read or hear about a Biblical concept, like loving your neighbor or waiting for God's timing, and we say confidently, "Yes. I get that." Or if we're feeling extremely whiny, "Moses got a burning bush. Why can't I have something visual, like that?"

Well, today I got a "burning bush" :-)

It was an absolutely stunning day in Portland, my favorite kind of weather: warm but not too warm~~80 degrees, blue skies, a little breeze. Kyra & I had no specific plans today, so we were just going to hang out and enjoy the beautiful day.

On top of that, our back lawn was mowed recently, so the yard was just begging for a picnic. Kyra also hasn't spent a lot of time in our backyard, because 9 months out of the year, it's a swampy, squishy puddle--we have the lowest point in the neighborhood. In fact, when our subdivision was being built, our house was one of the last to be built, and all the neighbor kids used to come and play in our yard, as it had the best mud puddles.

So, the concept of being in the backyard, and having a picnic there, was a whole new experience for her, but one she seemed excited about.

Unfortunately, in order to get everything ready so we could eat, I had to put her in her crib--contained and safe. Needless to say, this did not go over very well, and she promptly burst into tears. You would have thought I was being the most horrible parent ever, by the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came from her room.

So, I quickly pulled together our little lunch, and went to free her. On the way there, I called out, "An Invitation for Miss Kyra to join me in the backyard for a yummy picnic and fun!"

And that's when it hit me. This is exactly what God does with us, when we encounter what I like to call "postponed desires". We know about the promise, we're excited to see it & experience it, but then He says, "Wait. I need to prepare everything so it will be ready for you. If you come too early, you could get hurt, or it might not be as great as I know it can be." But all we see in our "cribs" or waiting places, is the disappointment, the confusion, the "I want it now!".

If I had let Kyra come out to the backyard before everything was ready, there was the risk that something would have been overlooked, and thus our wonderful picnic ruined. So, although it was hard for Kyra to wait, and she might have even thought she was being punished, I believe it was worth it for her in the end.

In the same way, when we want something so badly, be it a child, a new job, a house, a repaired relationship with someone, and God says, "Wait", we often think He has abandoned us. In reality, He's just working out all the details, so when it does come together, it may not look like what we originally asked for, but I guarantee it will be 100x better than we could ever have dreamed.

Waiting is never fun, but if we're waiting on God, and seeking His will, He will never let us down. And He may even surprise us!

Blessings, K~

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Vegas, Baby! Day 3

Friday, Day 3, Morning. We're off to the town of Pahrump. I am not making this name up. This is a real town about 60 miles from Las Vegas with a population of about 33,000. What makes it so desirable is its rural, small-town feel, but still a relatively short drive from the big city. Also, real estate, and specifically new construction, is booming, thus the reason for our visit today.

Recently my parents-in-law have been tossing around the idea of retiring somewhere warmer & if it's a little cheaper, even better! So one of the things they wanted to do on this trip, besides visiting Beth, was to visit some model homes, and gather more information, you know, see the sites for themselves.

Most of these housing developments are still in the "dirt" stages, but a couple had models that were open to walk through. They seemed very nice, but because they (the developers) know the area is growing like crazy, they also unfortunately came with very "nice" price tags.

After looking at several areas, and eating a nice picnic lunch at a local park, we headed back towards Las Vegas, with a short detour through Red Rock Canyon. If you're ever in the Vegas area, I highly recommend giving your lungs a break from the smoky casinos, and go take a hike in the fresh, desert air. The views are spectacular, and the experience unparalleled.

If you're not the hiking type, but still enjoy great scenery, there's a nice 13-mile scenic drive, with plenty of stops along the way for photo opportunities. Below are some of the pictures from our visit:

If you look closely, there's a guy in the middle of the picture.
Gives you an idea of how large these rock fields are.

Extremely windy~~who knew a sweatshirt would be needed?

Back in Vegas, Grandpa agreed to hang out at the condo while Kyra took her much needed afternoon nap. Meanwhile, Beth, David's mom, Marie & I hit the "Strip" once more, this time with shopping at Planet Hollywood in mind.

Beth & Marie

This Casino & Hotel was formerly the Aladdin, so a lot of the inside still retains a Desert Passage/North African/Sultan vibe. And amazingly enough, every 1/2 hour, they have a thunderstorm inside, where it actually rains, and bright lights flash, and thunder booms. We sat and watched it from a safe & dry distance, while enjoying Ben & Jerry's ice cream--Not a bad deal :-)

We also got in a little gambling, and this time I won! (The previous day I played $5, and lost it all pretty quickly on a Slots game I didn't understand). I figured out the key was to play something very simple (1-line slots), and then quit while I was ahead. So although I lost the day before, I was a winner this day. Below is me spending Kyra's college fund ;-)

Then it was time for dinner, where we met some of Beth's friends, Russ & Flo, at a great restaurant called Big Dog's Draft House Barn & Casino. In June 1988, brothers Tom and George Wiesner made their start in the restaurant business when they opened the Draft House; a place famous for its genuine warm Wisconsin hospitality. Located in the Northwest area of Las Vegas, menu favorites include bratwurst, walleye, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads and soups. In August 1992, the restaurant expanded to the Draft House Barn & Casino, giving Las Vegas its first dining barn and Packer Fan Club. Apparently, whenever there's a Green Bay Packers' game on, the place is "packed", no pun intended. Sounds like our kind of place! (see previous post on our love of the Packers)

Tomorrow, one last chance to see the amazing hotels & casinos before we head to the airport for our 9:40pm flight. The "worldwide" tour~~the Paris & the Eiffel Tower, New York/New York, the Luxor (Egypt) and the incomparable Bellagio & its famous fountains.

Blessings, K~

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Vegas, Baby! Day 2

Anyone who has visited Las Vegas in the last decade knows Construction is an ongoing thing. And I do mean Ongoing. No stopping for dark or respecting the "quiet hours". Instead, let's pour concrete all night long, across the street, for the foundation of a new building. Or better yet, the construction across the parking lot: let's utilize an AIR HORN to direct the comings and goings of our crane! And let's start at 4:30 in the morning!

Needless to say, this suburban girl was Sleepless in Las Vegas for most of the trip. Oh well, how important is sleep anyway?

Day 2 began bright and early (remember the air horn?), and after eating a quick breakfast, we all piled into the minivan for a short drive to Hoover Dam. We wanted to get there early, as the parking tends to be quite crowded, and no one wanted to walk any further than we needed to :-) Also, this way we could tour the dam, and get back at a reasonable time for Kyra's afternoon nap.

Because of 9/11, security is still high at places like the Hoover Dam, so like the airport, we went through yet another security screening. This time, however we got to keep our shoes on, but we still had to dismantle the stroller yak, only a little less loaded up than before.

We started the tour by watching a short video presentation, then went on a guided walking tour which was really cool because we got to see the turbines in the power house (each weighing 580 tons!).

Then we were on our own, so up to the observation deck for an overview. The Hoover Dam, named after Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, actually is half in Nevada & half in Arizona. In fact, the state line runs right down the middle, so of course we had to take a picture.

After the dam, we were all starving, so we stopped at this Hotel & Casino called the Hacienda for their buffet brunch. The food was decent, and in the lobby of the casino, was the largest slot machine I'd ever seen.

After lunch, we returned to the condo, and everyone had an afternoon siesta, except me. Sadly, I couldn't sleep, so I finally got to read my magazine.

Nap time over, and we were off to the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, specifically to see their Shark Reef exhibit, as Kyra loves fish. This was one of their residents, the Lionfish.

They also have this really neat glass tunnel, where you can walk through, and all the sea creatures completely surround you on all sides. I took a video of it, but I don't know how well it will show up here. I apologize in advance for the video operator--this was taken with a small digital camera in a dark area...

After wandering around Mandalay Bay, we decided dinner was needed. We ended up at the Harley Davidson Cafe and here are some pictures I took.

Elvis Presley's bike~~The "Love me Tender"

This was the front of the restaurant

But wait, the night was not over yet. Grandma & Grandpa agreed to watch Kyra, and Beth & I were off to Fremont Street, with Starbucks in-hand. This is the original Vegas, which has been painstakingly restored to make you believe you've stepped back in time. Beth says they've really worked hard to clean up the area to make it more family-friendly, and I think they've done a really good job.

The most amazing part of Fremont Street is their Viva Vision. Created by LG CNS Co., Ltd., the industry's foremost authority on dazzling, state-of-the-art light and animation display technology, this $17 million phenomena has delighted visitors with larger-than-life animations, integrated live video feeds, and synchronized music – all delivered on a high-tech overhead canopy that extends the length of more than five football fields! I tried to take a picture of it, but again, small camera, large space.

Well, another day in Vegas for the books. Tomorrow, the town of Pahrump, Red Rock Canyon, a little gambling, and more touring of "The Strip".

Blessings, K~

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Vegas, Baby! Day 1

Warning! This will be a series of long posts covering our recent vacation to Las Vegas, which was without computer access.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase, "Las Vegas"?

I bet (pun intended ;-) I can name some of the most popular answers: Gambling, heat/desert, construction, Sin City, shows like Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow and Sigfried & Roy, "The Strip", excessive drinking, partying, etc., etc., etc.

So why would someone like me, who doesn't gamble, hates the heat and isn't much of a party girl, choose to go to "The Entertainment Capital of the World"?

One word: Family. My sister-in-law, Beth, moved to Las Vegas several years ago, and we've never made it out to visit her. Also, since Kyra came, proud Aunt Beth's been dying to show her off to all her friends & coworkers :-)

It happens that right before Easter, David & I were talking about how we should go and visit Beth sometime soon. Unfortunately, this was also not long after our trip to Hawaii, and David was a little lean on vacation time. That meant it was just going to be me & Kyra, if we went this year. David suggested I talk to his mom to see if she'd be interested in a girls' trip to Vegas (read, an additional set of hands to help with Kyra on the plane, etc.!)

Easter Brunch was at David's parents' house, and the topic of visiting Beth came up. They mentioned they were going to visit her the first week of May, and long story short, we (Kyra & I) decided to piggy-back on their trip. However, they also planned to visit some friends in Arizona their first couple days there, so suggested we come a couple days later. Incidentally, this turned out to save us a good chunk of change, as flying on Wednesdays is typically cheaper than on Sundays.

We got our tickets on Southwest Airlines at a smokin' deal ($99 each, one way). By the way, if you're going to purchase a seat for your infant/toddler, always look at the deals first, instead of just outright buying the infant seat. Because at least on Southwest, their infant/toddler seat rate at the time,was $150, but they also allow you to purchase an "adult" seat for your child, and in this case, I bought her ticket for $99. Whoo hoo! Plus, if you have a child under 4 years of age, you get to pre-board. Believe me, when there are no assigned seats, AND you have a car seat to haul onto the plane, this is huge!

Anyway, Wednesday of this last week came, and it was Travel Day. Now mind you, this is the first time I've traveled with Kyra by myself, and I've got the following which all need to arrive safe & sound in Vegas, where David's folks will meet us at baggage claim: Me, Kyra, one suitcase (which we checked), the stroller (which we checked at the gate), the car seat (which came on the plane with us) and one diaper bag/backpack which was my purse, snack-holder, toy carrier, important document storer, diapers, change of clothes for Kyra, a book, and the latest People magazine, which I deluded myself into thinking I'd have time to read on the plane! Needless to say, I felt like a Sherpa, and to prove it, below is a picture of my "pack animal".

The Stroller Yak

David helped us as far as he could, but had to say goodbye when it was time to go through TSA security. The lines were long & winding (like a Disneyland ride), and I looked over at the Premier/First Class Security section, and there was no one waiting. I asked the attendant if we could go through that way, as she could obviously see I had my hands full. She apologized, and said if she could, she would. But the airlines were really strict, and they didn't allow anyone unless they had a special boarding pass.

So I waited, winding around and around the narrow lanes, trying not to bump into anyone, or tip the whole thing over, until I got to the front of the line. What do I hear? A voice coming from the Premier/First Class Security section, beckoning me to come on down to their area. Let me tell you, I wanted so badly to make a comment!

We finally got through security with our gel-filled plastic bag and bare feet, and I loaded the stroller yak back up with girl and gear. We made our way down to the gate, and then waited again. I tried to let Kyra out to run around a little, but it was always a gamble, because if she happened to take off running, who would watch the stuff? You know, they're very strict about abandoned luggage these days. And, above all, unless the stroller yak was balanced just right, it tipped over backwards.

The flight, itself was pretty unremarkable. Only being 2 hours, it was at the most an hour of active flying, and the other hour either taking off or landing. Kyra was very good, although she didn't have much of a choice as she was strapped into her car seat. This purchasing a seat for her turned out to be a great thing, because she knew her car seat, and it was familiar to her. Unfortunately, the extra depth of the car seat allowed her to stretch out her already long legs in front of her, and KICK the seat-back in front of her. We were extremely lucky, however, as the nice lady in that seat was very understanding, when I apologized profusely for her unplanned "back massage".

We arrived in Las Vegas, and after making our way from the gate to the baggage claim area, we found David's parents (Hallelujah!), and our luggage, plus a cheap pair of sunglasses that had hopped a ride on my suitcase. We were already "ahead" in Vegas!

Dinner that night was at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, where Beth works. I had a cheeseburger, of course. I mean, what else would you have there? Then after dinner we walked through the Flamingo Hotel, and saw real flamingos!

I love this picture.
You can't really see the flamingos,
but it's a great picture of Kyra & her "Funny Face"

Then it was back to the condo, for an early night, as we were pretty tired from our busy day. Tomorrow, touring Hoover Dam, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, and the Harley Davidson Cafe.

Blessings, K