Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Administrative Professionals Day

"A workman is not just a workman. A laborer is not just a laborer. An office worker is not just an office worker. They are living, breathing, important pillars on which the entire structure of our civilization is erected. They are not cogs in a mighty machine. They are the machine itself." -- L. Ron Hubbard.

In recognition of Administrative Professionals' Day, our university is allowing employees to bring their children (between a certain age range) to the workplace today. Perhaps in doing so, it will encourage (or discourage ;-)) them to consider careers in the secretarial/administrative support field.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Windfall My Way

Hmm...there have been so many windy days lately, maybe something will blow my way. Perhaps good luck, a cycling computer, or an Easter bunny laying chocolate eggs!

Sourpuss

[sou-er-puss]-n. 1. a person having a grouchy disposition that is often accompanied by a scowling facial expression.

She did not like taking pictures with a lemon but she was a good photo subject, if only for a moment when I snapped the shutter.
 This lemon was picked from a tree where I stayed for Girl's Weekend. It measures nearly 5 inches across and weighs approximately a full pound! I think it is the size of Elgy's head--counting her fluffy hair or bigger.
A tip I learned about shopping for grapefruit that would also apply to lemons...when picking one go for the heavier piece for they have more water content and most likely less pith.

Bachi Burger

John and I had one of the best burgers we've ever tasted yesterday at Bachi Burger. Tucked away in a little strip mall on the corner of Windmill and Bermuda, the place has sit down dining in a kind of inexpensive chic decor (it was 3 p.m. in the afternoon and there was quite a few people eating so that was a good sign). They are known for their Asian inspired burgers which we thought we'd indulge in at the recommendation of a friend. According to their website, bachi is an abbreviated term for the word “Hibachi” which refers to a method of Japanese style of grilling. The word bachi also means to treat others how you would like to be treated in return. Since we have been good kids, hopefully the food will be good to us.
First we tried the Bachi Pickles appetizer ($3) an assortment of pickled cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, beets, cabbage with thin slices of Thai peppers, and garlic cloves (you would think the flavor would be overpowering but it had a smoky BBQ taste). Each item was distinct, all were delicious and definitely whet our appetite.

The next item was the Truffle Parmesan Fries ($4) which has parmesan reggiano, a drizzle of black truffle, sprinkle of chives, and sun dried tomato aioli for dipping. MAN they were good!! And one order is enough to share, which we did, in between sips of one of their specialty sodas, Apple Lychee ($3.50). We asked for a glass of plain soda to water it down in anticipation of the sweetness from the syrup because I'm not fond of sugary drinks. The soda was perfect for washing the savory fries down.

Finally, our main course of their specialty burgers arrived. John ordered the Ronin Burger ($8.50): caramelized onions, Japanese cole slaw, miso goma dressing, fried egg, and katsu BBQ on a sweet bread bun with yuzu citrus aioli on the side.The concept of a fried egg on a burger may be strange but it actually works; we couldn't really taste it and could have done without. The bun was similar to the Hawaiian sweet rolls and was the perfect amount of bread. This tasty burger reminded us of a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and has a little bite from the vinegar.

I had the Kiki's Burger ($8.50): sautéed shiitake and eryngi mushrooms, spring greens mix, caramelized bacon sweet onion marmalade, thick cut maple smoked bacon, and gruyere cheese on the same sweet bread bun with garlic chili aioli on the side. This burger was SO GOOD; it had a smoky, soy-sauce flavor and all the ingredients melded together perfectly. However it was slightly too greasy for me even though the patty was a leaner ground Angus beef. I understand that oiliness comes with the territory of having a juicy burger but with the additional fat from the bacon and cheese it was a bit unctous for a gourmet burger. Perhaps if they drained the bacon and patty before assembling the sandwich, it would be just right but still I highly recommend it. Just leave all guilt at the door and come ready to enjoy.


In the end we were well fed and very pleased with our lunch. For an appetizer, two specialty burgers and fries, and a drink, our bill came to about $30. We thought the price was fair and the service was good. We definitely will visit again. Next time I will try the Ban Mi Burger!!

After that we went home to rest. John had a great ride with friends on Mount Charleston where he took these photos. The route was purely uphill for miles and miles which I was not up to doing on top of not feeling too hot so I rode a short ride on my own to Jean and back.
Along the way I saw a guy on a bike without a helmet riding on the shoulder in the opposite direction against traffic--which was absolute stupidity because on a blind turn he could have collided with another bicycle rider riding on the correct side of the street. Fortunately I saw him coming towards me and got on to the car lane to avoid him on the shoulder. If he doesn't know any of the Nevada bicycle laws (a bicycle is a vehicle and belong to the road as cars do, therefore bicycle riders and automobile drivers follow the same rules and have the same rights), he should understand at minimum the simple laws of motion.

To make my point, the impact of hitting a slower vehicle going the same direction is by far less than the impact of crashing in to a vehicle going the opposite direction. Either way the car always wins against the bike...but you want to give yourself the best chance of survival. I just hope that guy made it home safely.

 Later in the evening, we got on our bikes and rode down the street in search of dessert at Coldstone Creamery. Then pedaled to grab a movie from Red Box called Fighter to watch. We had a wonderful Saturday.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Anthem Hills

After I got off work yesterday John and I went riding through Anthem. He had discovered another multi-use path during one of his rides he wanted to take me through. If you are interested in the route, just leave a comment and I'll post turn-by-turn directions.
We ascended through quiet neighborhoods until we got to the path (marked by a red arrow). The climbing was not yet over and we rode up and up until we finally got to the top of the hill. There I took this photo before we started descending at 36 miles per hour...it felt like flying.
I know it can be scary to go fast downhill but what I've found is if I try to slow down by feathering the breaks, the momentum pushes my body forward on the bike changing my center of gravity and there I feel I have less control. The riding tips I've read say to scoot back on the seat of the bike when going downhill and I had to do that, push against the handlebar while motion pushed me forward. On the other hand if I let off the brakes and just let gravity take me, I can focus on leaning to steer the bike rather than braking and pushing back on the saddle--it's much easier to go downhill that way. I just let go of my fear of speed and trust in my bike handling skills. The way I see it is--going 35 miles per hour per hour is fast and at that speed it may not make a difference whether I brake to slow down to 30 mph or not while descending if I were to crash. I would rather be in control and embrace the speed. Mind you I can always see straight ahead on a road with wide turns when I'm riding fast. I would exercise more caution if the road was narrow and twisting with cross roads where a car may enter the lane.
The rest of the way home was uneventful and peaceful as our ride had been. For the most part there have been no cars around us except for on the yellow veins of the map which mark the main roads through Anthem.
During the last stretch we laughed at our shadows chasing each other. They were also enjoying a ride on a path of their own.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lunch at Lee's Sandwiches

I received a call late this morning. It was my husband asking me if I would like to go to lunch. He would also bring my electric scooter from home where he had completed the maintenance of it. Of course I said 'sure, I'd love to!'. He went on to suggest we try Lee's Sandwiches and boy my day was getting better by the minute!
Breaking away from campus during lunch hour is like swimming upstream but we eventually made it to the only franchise in Nevada on 3989 Spring Mountain Rd. Since we saw it located next door to Pho Kim Long Vietnamese Restaurant, we've been wanting to try their Bánh sandwiches and today was the perfect opportunity.

John ordered #11, the Special Combination for $3.89 and I ordered the #1 Combination for a whopping $2.99 with an ice cold Vietnamese coffee (the only difference between the two sandwiches is the Special Combo has turkey). The sandwiches were everything we thought they would be--tasty jambon, headcheese, and pate, crisp fresh and pickled veggies on a crusty baguette freshly baked at the in-house factory. And if that wasn't enough, John helped himself to the yogurt bar and I picked up a pork ban bao, chicken and pork pate chaud, and deli manjoo (creme filled puff pastries) for later. If we could eat it all we would try everything on the vast menu. I suppose that gives us something to look forward to the next time we visit. Since they are always open, we can stop by any time of the day or night!

Uncle Sam

Now you can have your share.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring-Vegetable Couscous with Chicken Recipe

This is not the most photogenic dish but it is very easy to make and flavorful! The recipe is from Everyday Food which I subscribe to by text messaging. As I sat at my desk near the end of the day, wondering what to make for dinner--PING a recipe idea came through to my phone. I replied 'COOK' for the grocery list and picked up a couple items on the way home where I checked my email for directions to the recipe. Dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Spring-Vegetable Couscous with Chicken

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 wide strips lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup couscous
  • Leg and thigh meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Tips: I used a vegetable peeler with medium pressure to strip wide pieces of the lemon rind without cutting in to the bitter pith. Try to have everything washed, cut, and prepared to throw in the saucepan because the cooking time is very short.

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high. Add scallion whites and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add lemon zest and 1 1/4 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Cover pan and bring liquid to a boil, then add asparagus and peas. Return to a boil and stir in couscous. Add chicken and remove pan from heat; cover and let sit 7 minutes. Add lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Fluff couscous with a fork and serve.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rudeness

Today someone had the audacity to tell me in an email in more words or less 'do NOT plan on being on furlough (unpaid leave of absence) during this period of the semester because there is a good probability I will be needed to resolve system problems'. This came from someone who is not in the position to approve or disapprove my leave requests and they sent it after I responded to the initial email (in which they were copied on)--while I was on approved time off with my family and prior to that work-related training out of state. The email was completely uncalled for and no doubt they ignored my out-of-office auto response message.

I was miffed by the comment but did not fire back and only responded to the issue with facts. Little does this person know how much of my personal time away from the office I have devoted to my work, countless hours upon hours until 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on many occasions to meet deadlines with a load of overwhelming tasks. Through the course of three years I've taken on extra job duties left by two vacancies that, to this day, were never filled--and I have done so without an increase to my salary. I certainly don't get paid enough to be a scapegoat. All the time and effort I put in to my job is because I truly enjoy what I do and it needed to be done.

So damn right I plan to be on furlough because it is mandatory and there is nothing this person can do about it. Whatever reason for the rudeness, I hope the person feels better about him/herself and their self-given job title because if my title was Chair of that department, I would strongly encourage them to do some real soul searching when writing their self-evaluation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wildflowers on River Mountains Loop Trail

With my recent travels, I haven't ridden my bike since the morning before our friends' wedding a couple Saturdays ago. Since I had today off from work, I went out and rode 67.47 miles on the River Mountains Loop Trail. There I saw wildflowers in bloom, a fellow rider, and a coyote! What a perfect day it was for cycling.
I made a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and fresh fruit I brought home from our Girl's Weekend. John and I had coffee and spent some time with Havi and Elgy before he left for work.
Like me Elgy loves the sun. On the ottoman she basked in the morning rays coming through the blinds.
Soon after I said 'good day' to the girls and was out the door heading west on Horizon Ridge Parkway and four miles out, our friend Mauricio caught up with me.
We chatted for five miles before he needed to start his training ride. Tucked in for aerodynamics, he flew down Lake Mead Parkway on his TT (time trial) bike.
At mile 17, I got on the River Mountains Trail Loop near the entrance station of the Lake Mead.
I love the switchbacks just after mile 19 through 20 1/2 ... downhill twist and turns of sometimes 120 degrees with an epic view of the Lake Mead Recreational Area and Lake Las Vegas. Then the trail flows up and down, up and down like tracks on a roller coaster. Near mile 24, where the trail runs along the road I saw a coyote run up the hill. Just then Mauricio passed by on Lakeshore Road and he called out words of caution as I stopped to take photos. The coyote sat there for a while looking at me and seeing that I was not a threat started to walk off when I snapped this photo.
I continued on my way admiring the desert wildflowers in bloom all around me. Purple curly things with breaths of little white pom-poms scattered about. Bushes of canary yellow and egg white petals everywhere!
I felt like Alice in Wonderland weaving through the valley of flowers.
These cacti with fuchsia blooms were also among the scenery.
32 miles in to the ride it was time to stop dilly-dallying. I was still quite a few miles from home so I continued on the trail which ran along US-93 (Great Basin Highway). I passed by the gas station located across from Heminway Park (where you can find Big Horn Sheep grazing in the evenings) and was sad to see that they had indeed closed their doors. It was a convenient place to stop on the loop for energy drinks and food. The next closest place is on Boulder City, on the highway in to town. They always give cyclists free soda from the machine but I didn't feel like crossing a busy freeway so I kept riding. Passing Rail Road Pass Casino and along the west side of the loop.
Here I had just finished climbing the "Three Sisters" a series of hills, one larger and steeper than the other (I've been told that their nicknames are "Three Bitches" if you rode the opposite direction). The perspective on my camera does not do the last hill justice. A person would be the size of half the boulders lining the turns on the trail if that gives you an idea of the magnitude of the hill.
Flying down it is a rush because the descent is straight down. I coasted at 34 miles per hour and could have pedaled to gain speed but rode conservatively since I was riding alone. The trail would wind ahead until I got off of it, close to where I had originally got on the trail, and on to Lake Mead Parkway heading west towards home.
By the time I reached 61 miles, I was ready to be home. But first I pulled in to the gas station on Horizon Ridge and Valle Verde to fill up my water bottle with ice and pour an ice cold Coke. It was just the thing I needed to fuel the remaining miles left.

I don't think the temperature exceeded 76 degrees today but I was cycling for nearly 4 1/2 hours (close to 5 hours with all the stops) and so my skin naturally tans. Now I have this lovely Pearl Izumi logo on the back of my wrists and tan lines on my legs from my socks and shorts undoing the sun bathing I did in Palm Springs to even out my zebra stripes from cycling. Oh well...summer has not started yet!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

3rd Annual Girl's Weekend - Palm Springs

My mom-in-law Maggie picked me up from home early Friday morning and we were on the road just after 6:30 a.m. I had barely slept after I came home from Portland to repack my suitcase for our trip but hot coffee in hand and the homemade cinnamon rolls we enjoyed was all I needed. We chatted during the drive out to Palm Springs, CA to join aunt Jan, grandma Nancy, and great-cousin Caroline who had arrived there the day before. This reunion is the third annual girl get-together connecting five women from three states: California, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
 When we pulled in to the driveway of the condo where we would stay, we left all the rules at the door--no commitments or deadlines. From that point forward the only time we cared about was fun girl time...time to eat, time to drink, time to rest and lay by the pool, eat what we want, when we want, we didn't have to do anything we didn't want to. And three full days of it!

The first day we soaked in the hot tub while the snow fell on the surrounding mountains before cleaning up for dinner at Dink's Restaurant. The garlic cheese bread, flying shrimp on a grilled slice of pineapple and peanut dipping sauce, blues burger, seafood kabobs, skirt steak with chimichurri, and alderwood roasted wild salmon was fabulous. Then went home and watched the movie, Castaway.

The next day we got up and made breakfast of homemade cinnamon roles, coffee, tea, and fresh fruit salad (some were picked from the trees outside). After shopping at the River and stores on El Paseo Drive, we had lunch at Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill. Though I didn't have any, I heard that their margaritas are really strong (it did the trick for this mom who walked out happy with her husband and two kids). The guacamole fiesta, carne asada and fish tacos, shrimp cocktail, and wet beef burritos were absolutely tasty! We kept dinner light with hors' de vours of mahogany chicken wings (Grandma's recipe), meat stuffed wontons, and salad - yum! Our movie for the night was The Rock.

Sunday I made breakfast: shredded pork and carne asada hash with fresh fruit salad. We hung by the pool all day. Grandma, Maggie, and Caroline played cards while Jan swam and I gave everyone a massage. Then I napped by the pool for hours and evened out my tan lines from cycling. When evening came we grilled filet mignon, asparagus, and potatoes served with a beautiful tomato avocado salad -- delicious!! The ladies sat around and read their books while I closed my eyes and eventually fell asleep.

Today was our last day together. We went to old downtown Palm Springs and did some more shopping. Finally we had lunch at Tyler's Old Fashioned Hamburgers and boy-oy-boy were their burgers, fries, malt shake, and coleslaw mouthwatering delicious!! 'A Hamburger Girl's Dream' as Jan put it and indeed it was.

Maggie and I enjoyed our drive home. We still had much to talk about --raving about our weekend and made plans for next year. I must admit I had butterflies in my stomach when I saw the Vegas skyline. I would soon be home and was excited to see John, Havi, and Elgy whom I have missed so much!!

More photos to come from Jan's camera. Most of these were taken with my phone.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

One of My Favorite Things to Do

...is nothing.

Downtown Portland

Toto, we're not in Portland anymore. Those words flew by in my head, just as the past week had gone, as I walked through the Las Vegas airport with my luggage late Thursday night. I was now surrounded by a different crowd, slot machines, and banners with promises of entertainment. Finally home but only for six more hours.

On Monday afternoon I flew in to Portland with one of my co-workers, another person would follow the next day. It was sprinkling rain and cool with temperatures in the 50s as I had expected. We stayed at the Paramount Hotel, in the heart of downtown Portland and a stone's throw from the Fox Tower where we would attend three full days of training for a new software our institution had purchased. Across the block there was an Italian restaurant called Pastini Pastaria where we stopped in for dinner. It was perfect for the evening, warm, cozy, and smelled heavenly of crusty bread, rosemary, garlic, and tomato sauce.

We had unlimited options for places to eat from food carts to Italian restaurants and Asian bistros to French cafes--all was just a stroll away. We ate at several places, I can only remember a few...including the Heathman Restaurant & Bar and Dragonfish Asian Cafe. Even in side our training room we had muffins, cookies, and coffee flowed all day. I haven't drank so much coffee in a week of my life as I had in the three days of training, LOL!!

When we had free time after class, we walked down the blocks (and they are small blocks, not like Vegas street blocks--it's easy to overshoot) and went shopping. Down parks to Portland State University, a bike shop, apparel stores, and a LARGE bookstore called Powell's.

What left the largest impressions in my mind was how clean the city streets are. There was no trash to be seen--even on the shady streets and light rail where I would have expected. Trash and recycling receptacles are accessible, especially at the airport.

I was really impressed with how bike and pedestrian friendly the area is. The downtown traffic had just as many pedestrians and bicyclists as there were cars--and motor vehicles YIELD to them (even when a person is not at a crosswalk). Veins of bike lanes ran through all the streets, boundaries clearly marked, and there are plenty of places outside to lock up your bicycle and even designated parking spaces where cars would normally park.
The design of the office building we were in (the Fox Tower) reflected the philosophy of the president of the company who believed that every person no matter where they were sitting would have a view of daylight and the scenery outside. We admired the panoramic view of the city from sixteen floors up as we toured the floor from where our training was conducted. Not only did the desks line the windows of the structure, the offices on the inside perimeter had a glass wall to see through to the outdoors.

I really enjoyed our trip and came away learning not only about the intended purpose of why I was there but also about a city not very far away from where I grew up. I look forward to my next visit and hopefully the next time, the weather will sunnier and warmer!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Riding, Rings, and Redlands

This past weekend we witnessed the wedding of our two friends, Jouse, who I've known since I lived in Burbank, CA years prior my move to Vegas and, James, who I met at UNLV over three years ago; he was my workout buddy. I introduced them and they've been inseparable ever since. Saturday afternoon, aboard the yacht Destiny, they took each other's hand in marriage.

Since the ceremony and reception was to take place in Newport Beach, CA we took the opportunity to stay with family nearby and hauled our bikes along. Early Saturday morning, we rode our bikes from Corona Del Mar eastbound towards Cal State Irvine where we met our friend Ryon and his friend (forgive me I think his name was Eric).
A large group ride was underway and their path would cross with ours. As they passed we pedaled along and blended in to the group. There seemed to be about 50 to 60 riders and a few miles in to the ride, most of them broke off and went a different direction. I knew prior to joining the ride that this was expected so I decided in advance that I would find and hang with others riding at a pace I could handle.
The group I continued to ride with were very nice. I rode with them to Pacific Coast Highway and we made a big loop until I met up with John and Ryon again. By this time the boys got in their hard efforts and we were ready to cruise around for a few more hours.
We rode to Balboa Island for breakfast at Wilma's Patio before continuing on to ride through the neighborhoods of Corona Del Mar.
When evening came we taking a different cruise, through the bay of Newport Bay where we were captive audiences of our friends' wedding. Jouse and James exchanged vows as the yacht glided across the waters. We dined, we danced, we laughed, and at the end of the night, the bride and groom were swept away on a pagoda. The wedding was a lot of fun and we enjoyed celebrating our friends' special day. I have lots of photos to share through the slideshow.
On our way home the next day, John raced in the Redlands Classic Criterium. Had there been a category for me, I would have raced too since I had my bike but there wasn't. If I remember correctly, over 90 men in his category signed up but only 50+ finished. The course was so short, if a rider couldn't keep up with the group, the official will pull them out of the race (for safety and ease of record keeping). John finished in 4th place and his monetary prize made up for the cost of gas. He had fun racing and I was happy to watch proudly from the sidelines.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Waiting for a Friend

We are going for a group ride in Newport area.

On the Coast

Slight departure from the sunny weather yesterday. The marine layer should burn off to yield a perfect day for a wedding! Today I will see my two friends tie the knot. But first a bike ride.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Ride Down Harmon

I looked out the window this morning and could tell it was going to be a beautiful day so I packed my bike in the car and brought it to work. During lunch I rode eastbound along Harmon, one of the small streets with a bike lane, to just before Nellis Boulevard/Boulder Highway where I turned around and pedaled back. There was a lot of debris and glass on the road and just in case I got a flat, I wanted to make sure I had time to change it so I wouldn't be late to train a class of advisors. Even though the street was busy for this time of day and there were several stops along the way, I had a nice ride. It was good to get out, enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and spin my legs.

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