Sunday, May 3, 2015

Book: Calves in the Mud Room

I checked out a bunch of small, short books for the trip to Las Vegas, and then I didn't end up reading any of them. Last night while Ross was playing video games I plowed through Calves in the Mudroom by Jerome Brown. It has been a while since I read a real book. I enjoyed this one. The author doesn't explain everything--leaves some things up to the imagination. I liked that. The long, descriptive list of what was in the guy's truck---didn't think that was necessary.

The main character helps some cows give birth. That's something I've always wanted to do. Sometimes I really think I shoulda been a vet.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Las Vegas 2015: The Bellagio

We ended up going to the Bellagio a couple of times. Once to eat pastries--yay, no more matzo, and once to hit the buffet. The Japanese garden display was much nicer during the day. The sunlight from overhead and lack of crowds made it much more pleasing. The giant super-fake tree in the center was lame, other than that it was really pretty.

The buffet was good. Lots of meat, but we ate our veggies. They had a kale salad with pine nuts and grapefruit that I found surprisingly tasty. They gave us the most adorable little jars of honey for our tea. They started bringing out the dinner food (seafood), and some new desserts. I picked up a coconut pudding topped with mango. I think that was my favorite thing.

Richard MacDonald has a gallery in the Bellagio. He sculpts dancers and Cirque performers. It was really interesting to look at the sculptures. This was our favorite one.

Las Vegas 2015: Stratosphere: Rides and Skyjump

We stayed at the Stratosphere, at the northern end of the strip. Because we were staying there we got to go up to the observation levels whenever we wanted. We also got discount tickets to ride the thrill rides. Our favorite was a tower-drop called Big Shot. The other two were just okay.

Here is the Big Shot tower. The top is 350m above the strip. We were surprised because it shoots you up. I thought it was just going to drag us up then drop us. Nope. Big shot up. I actually screamed the first time. I think we rode it 6 times. I could do that ride all day--in fact we did ride it during the day, then went back at night.
This ride wasn't scary, it just made us dizzy and disoriented. Not good.

The other thing to do at the Stratosphere is the Skyjump. You jump off a platform 253m high and descend to the ground. They slow you down at the end so you don't just splat into the bulls eye.  Ross and I both jumped! I expected a faster, more exciting fall than trapeze. Not so. In fact, when I first jumped off I felt like I was suspended in the air. It wasn't scary at all. It was like very long drop from the trapeze. Trapeze is actually scarier for some reason.
Mom caught this photo of me falling.

Ross walking away from the jump, not phased at all.

I do want to say that the staff was very safety conscious. I think my gear was checked a total of 5 times. So I definitely felt very safe. I'm glad we did it, but I don't think I'd do it again. I don't know how jumping from 829 feet could be so un-thrilling, but it was.

Las Vegas 2015: Cirque du Soleil Ka

I definitely wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. My mom chose Ka. We all loved it. The stage is an engineering and visual marvel. It rotates, goes up and down, and tilts almost upright (all while weighing about as much as a fully loaded 747.) The whole show was magnificent. I especially enjoyed the part where the female twin performed with her boyfriend in a kind of silks act. At one point he was in an iron cross with her hanging from his neck. Talk about strength! The whole cast is incredibly talented.

Here are the performers in a battle scene--the stage is almost upright and they are suspended by wires. At one point I was so into it that when one of the clowns slipped down the stage I was actually scared for him!

Ka was the best part of our trip to Vegas.

Las Vegas 2015: The Wynn

Because I don't gamble, checking out the hotel lobbies and displays is one of the things I like to do. This time I was impressed by the display at the Wynn. Flowers everywhere. They had a carousel and a hot air balloon (both small)  that were completely covered in flowers like a parade float. They also had flower displays and flower balls hanging from the trees. It reminded me of Longwood Gardens.

Las Vegas 2015: Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden

We arrived pretty early in Las Vegas, and after some breakfast we decided to take a walk. We ended up at the Mirage, where we visted Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden. It's an odd combination of Dolphins and Big Cats. It was a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the strip.

We saw the dolphins during a training session. They have an underwater viewing area where you can see the dolphins swimming by. That was really cool.

 This dolphin was posing for photos. It was neat to watch the dolphins. Some of them were playing with toys. Like typical kids one dolphin wanted to play with all the toys at once and didn't want to share.
Most of the cats were asleep. One of the handlers tried to wake up the female lions, but they weren't having it. I took a zoomed in photo of the male white lion's paw. It was so huge.

The black jaguar was awake, but this one was passed out. I enjoyed this place. Outdoors (warm), quiet, peaceful, and I got to see animals.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dr. Pepper Brisket

So I'm going to write about how I turned this:

Into this:

I started with the smallest brisket they had at Fiesta: 11.13 pounds. I trimmed off the fat, and out of curiosity I weighed it: 2. 34 pounds.
I coated the brisket with salt, pepper, and some smoked pepper then seared both sides of the brisket. At first the brisket didn't fit into my huge roasting pan, but it shrank a little when I seared it and I was able to wiggle it in. I then coated the brisket (fattier side up) with a bbq sauce mixture.

Stubbs Sweet Heat BBQ sauce (2/3 of the bottle?)
12 oz. can of tomato paste
whole grain mustard
Worcestershire sauce
brown sugar
smoked pepper

Dr. Pepper

You know me, I don't measure. I just threw the sauce together. This is based on a root beer brisket slow cooker recipe. Well, no slow cooker could have held this brisket, and I don't do slow cookers anyway. I wanted to make a Texan brisket, so I used Dr. Pepper instead of root beer.

After coating the brisket with the BBQ sauce mixture I poured Dr. Pepper into the bottom of the pan. I cooked the brisket at 350 degrees F for 3 hours, then flipped it over. I cooked it another two hours then coated it in Dr. Pepper glaze. For the glaze I simply simmered Dr. Pepper in a small pot until it reduced down to almost nothing. When it cooled, it was basically Dr. Pepper syrup, which I brushed onto the meat. I cooked the brisket for another 30 minutes without the lid. When I pulled it out of the oven the meat was falling apart and had a kind of candy coating on the top.

The Dr. Pepper brisket was a hit at Seder last night. I will definitely make this again. Ross and I both love the sauce.