Saturday, December 25, 2010


...Good tidings to you, wherever you are;

Good tidings for Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Shopping is done; packages finally wrapped; and my thoughts tonight turned to some last minute baking.  My most favorite Christmas memories of years gone by, involve Pizzelles.  A thin, flat, anise favored Italian cookie.  My family heritage includes no Italian, other than that of which I married into, but instead, Swedish, English, Irish, and that good ol' Heinz 57 mix!

My mother and grandmother taught me how to make these when I was growing up (my grandmother had learned from some Italian women in the neighborhood) - the old fashioned way, which involved long handled, cast iron, single cookie molds that had to be used on my grandmother's gas stove.  Many, many hours were involved in the making of these, with grandpa coming in occasionally, from the big garage he owned, to make sure we were doing it right.  The old way involved dropping spoonfuls of yellow batter onto the center of an iron (Mom and Grandma would "double team" it, with an iron apiece); holding one side of the iron over the flame until just the right moment (they had it down to a science); and then flipping the iron over so that both sides baked equally.
Our move to Vegas in '94 found me with an updated version of my grandmother's favorite gas appliance...perfect for pizzelles - but instead, I purchased an electric, two cookie, non-stick pizzelle iron.  I had inherited my husband's grandmother's iron upon marrying into the family, and had made them that way, myself, for years - even figuring out that I could actually use my electric range to make them with the old iron.  My recipe makes twelve dozen cookies (144), that would SERIOUSLY take me 7 hours.  My electric iron has shaved 5-1/2 hours off that time.  My house will smell like these cookies for DAYS, now - that's a memory in and of itself! 
My same grandmother also had the most beautiful Christmas Cactus, up the creaky old, narrow stairs in her house; under the light that hung from a cord that you had to pull on the chain to turn on; on the table in her bedroom window.  She had it for as long as I could remember - it was massive, and it was beautiful!  A few weeks ago, I chanced upon one sitting at the grocery store, ready to bloom, and loaded with just about a hundred buds - it started opening up last week - just wanted to share.  My daughter made the other memory this year - the beautiful Victorian gingerbread house.

Here's wishing you lots of your own Christmas memories - make some new ones this holiday season (my own daughter is in on all the cookie baking now) and, most certainly, cherish the old.  My Mom (and Dad) are in Denver - she still makes her Pizzelles, though she has retired the old iron for an electric one, also.  And I know Grandma is in both kitchens, helping out, this time of year...Merry Christmas, to you and yours - may it be happy, and safe!

Grandma Rhyno's Pizzelles
2 tsp. Oil of Anise
6 eggs
2 cubes butter
1-1/2 C. sugar
4 C. flour
(This is the recipe my Mom still uses to this day - it makes a little thicker version of the cookie.  My husband likes his a little thinner, so I use the second version lately, given to us by a "little old lady in Denver" - seriously how I refer to the recipe.  Anise Oil (the "good stuff", and not Anise Flavoring), can be purchased from most Italian Deli's, or your local pharmacist.

The Little Old Lady's Pizzelle Recipe
1-1/2 C. Wesson Oil
1 dozen eggs
2 C. sugar
1 Tbsp. Oil of Anise
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
4 C. flour
(This is the recipe that makes 12 dozen)

Monday, December 20, 2010


This past Saturday evening, we had the immense pleasure of being treated to a night's stay/dinner & drinks at the newly opened Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino, at the City Center, in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip...and yes, I had a Cosmopolitan at The Cosmopolitan - it just seemed like the thing to do.   This is a project that has been five long years in the making - my husband's elevator company (Thyssen-Krupp) installed all of the escalators and elevators in this fabulous building - lots of blood, sweat and tears in this project, and a well deserved evening out for the guys, who did not have to ask the wives a second time to tag along.  I'm sure the write-ups in the papers will far surpass my little blog about it, but I snapped a few pictures and wanted to share the decadence of it all (make sure you click on the pictures to enlarge)...
This greeted us in the lobby of the hotel - they've taken a beautifully modernistic, artsy approach, for lack of a better sounding description...OK, artsy fartsy maybe, but absolutely jaw dropping!  Most of the things I tried taking pictures of were SO massive in size, it was hard to get it all in, so even harder to put it all in perspective.  These LARGE, four-sided LCD screens (there are people in the second photo - this was taken at check-out the following morning, hence the lack of bodies) are constantly changing their displays, and the displays are perpetually in motion.  These beautiful flowers were actually moving like they were real.  When we checked in, there was a different show on these, and I was told one of the more interesting ones involves a woman who appears to be trapped inside the columns.
One of the many escalators in the building - this was stunning!  The globe sculpture actually had water cascading over the screen behind the balls, while the whole display changed colors - it was blue just the second before I snapped this.
A glass drape ceiling display and the entrance, back down the hall, to the casino, were just a hint of what lay ahead, but first things, first...
Our incredible room was located on the 60th floor - very beautiful, minimalistic, and soothing styling in a room with a king sized bed; two (count em, TWO) 42" flat screen TVs; a sitting area with a full sized wrap-around couch; and wet bar.  The walk-in closet housed the greatest wallpaper.
The second picture here is of the wallpaper in the gorgeous bathroom - at first glance I just thought it was beautiful scroll work.
The most fabulous part of the room was the view of The Strip, facing South, towards CA.  I am uncomfortable with heights, so the fact that I crawled between the two railings on the balcony (walk out balcony with patio furniture) to take the photo looking towards Planet Hollywood, was no small feat on my part, and perhaps it could be attributed to that Cosmopolitan I had before we actually got to the room.  Final photo is looking down at one of the pool areas.
The showpiece of this grand resort is undoubtedly the 3-story, Chandelier Bar, in the middle of the casino.  I was standing with my mouth open at the sight of the bar with the crystals in the first picture, when my husband grabbed my arm, told me to close my mouth, and prepare to be amazed - that I hadn't seen "nuthin'", yet!  I don't think I've ever seen anything as truly fabulous as what I beheld when I rounded the corner.  The bar is swathed in crystals...SIX MILLION crystals, according to the concierge I spoke with at check out.
Crystals as far as the eye could see, and then some...

There was a faint color change, ever so slowly, throughout the evening, casting a different glow every so often - absolutely stunning, and obviously, in just letting the pictures speak for themselves, I'm still speechless.
Vegas has something for everyone, and who would have thought that I would have found what I did after dinner that night (which was at STK - an unbelievable steakhouse with amazing ambiance, helped by a live DJ in the middle of the room).  Allsaints Spitalfields had HUNDREDS of antique sewing machines in two LARGE front windows - attached to steel, threaded poles - believe me...HUNDREDS!  Probably the best window display I've ever seen, even if I wasn't a seamstress!  The inside of the store was done totally in greys, and was reminiscent of a turn of the century sweat shop - sewing machinery and antiques as far as you could see, past the fabulous clothing line they carry.  I'm taking my daughter and going back, without the boys, for some serious looking around.
And then there were these...the lighting in the hallway made these pictures next to impossible to take, true to color.  These three glass chandeliers were Pepto Bismol pink, in color - truly, decadently gaudy, and more than likely outrageously expensive, if I only knew the story behind them...which brings me to one of the million dollar, round glass elevators at the side of the bar...
...and out the door, back to my humble little abode.  An amazing evening out - many thanks to my husband, his company, and his employees that put in many, MANY long hours on this incredible project.  Truly the most fabulous place I've ever stayed, and I have them to thank for it.  Don't miss it, even if it's just to go in and gawk at the crystals - all 6 MILLION of them...I think I was impressed!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Yes, we DO decorate for Christmas in Vegas, the 'Land of No Snow'.  I had a friend ask for tree pictures recently, and while I tried to pass off the atrium of the Bellagio Hotel as my home for a week, I figured I should probably post some actual pictures of my humble tree.  The tree picture, in and of itself, is pretty ordinary (actually, it looks pretty plain, with just a few presents tucked next to it right now), but the story lies in the ornaments.  I have over 300 of them on this very eclectic tree - I believe it is 8' tall, and weighs something like 900 back pays for it each year.  It is probably time to get a bigger, lighter one, as the collection grows every time I travel.  I can tell you where each and every one came from, or who gifted it to me - no small feat the older I get.  Four houses, three moves, and not one broken in transit - of course, the number was considerably smaller the first two houses.
A picture perfect moment occurred as I was snapping ornaments - he doesn't sit still for long, our Voltron! (the exclamation mark is part of his name).  Eight lbs. of unbridled energy - he loves the tree.
The requisite, beautiful glass globes and Old World Santa...
Dorothy from my Oz Collection of ornaments; and a fabulous Victorian Pram; both gifts from my parents...
 Die Cut and Glitter Glass Santa; a precious glass ball from my grandparent's tree sits on the uppermost branch, probably my most treasured decoration; the Santa is my son's first ornament from my folks; Glinda the Good Witch; and Pinocchio from my daughter's trip to Italy, kickin' it in the branches on the lower level...
"Hands to work and hearts to God" from St. Charles, MO; what would a Vegas tree be without a Vegas ornament, from my friend, Melanie; beautiful blown glass present from Mom and Dad...
Which brings us to some of the more "interesting" items on the tree...yes, I did say eclectic.  The drunken, googly eyed skeleton from the Day of the Dead celebration a few years back, donated by my daughter; commemorative bulb of Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead, from the year he died; a monkey, since my parents found out I was terrorized by the black woolly spider monkey that hung and swung from tree to tree at the large house on the acre lot that I had to walk past on my walk to first grade...
Athletic supporter from my son's baseball days, gifted by a friend; my beautiful Polish blown glass wart hog (yes, wart hog!); a hollowed out gourd with sparkles inside (use your imagination - there is also dried gourd guts in there, too) and a shotgun shell (yes, it is), both from Missouri - them folks are a hoot, they are!
Blown glass alien for Area 51; Showgirl fish with dangly legs and the biggest, reddest lips ever, from Laguna Beach; a big tiger (let's just leave it at that, shall we)...
A luscious, full figured showgirl; a blown glass Diet Coke can (breakfast of champions), a gift from Susan Silva; and the ostrich with eyelashes (that you probably can't see)...
Handmade ornaments from both of my children are plentiful throughout the tree...a Nevada cutout from Louie, and a cartouche of Jaclyn's name; Christmas stocking from my friend Pat...
Beautiful little hand painted Christmas bulb snowman, from another friend, and another baseball ornament  from my son's AAU tournament in Burnsville, MN in 1999; and the newest addition that just showed up this week - a gingerbread bear in honor of our Golden getting ahold of the gingerbread accesories for the house we built last weekend...yes, my parents are a hoot, too!  If I left anyone out, who has donated to the cause over all these years, I promise I will get you on the next go 'round.  It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas...Happy Saturday, everyone!