Catching Up with the Cousin

My cousin, Todd, and I ate lunch yesterday at Ayame Curry & Ramen, a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in a shopping center. He ordered the cold noodles and gyoza, while I took the beef curry.

Our families used to live five minutes away from one another, so our moms would take us out to the beach, to restaurants, and do other kid stuff. He was, and still is, my “older brother.”

But since he moved to Vegas in 2011, the only time we saw each other was when my family went up during Christmas and/or summer. In between those times, we hardly talked to each other, except the yearly “happy birthday” text.

We talked about him possibly moving back home, but he doesn’t want to since Hawaii’s “so small,” work, and relationships.

After we walked around the shopping center eating ice cream: cotton candy for him, cookies & cream for me. When I dropped him off at his moms’, he told me, “Text me anytime. Just because I’m on the mainland doesn’t mean I’m dead.”

He was always the funny cousin.

And that’s what I miss about him. But I’m happy that he now makes an effort to come out and visit. And that we had our first grown-up outing since being adults!

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Vegas 2017

I didn’t get around to blogging this sooner but here is my post about my Vegas trip!

My dad and I stayed at the New York New York Hotel & Casino, our first time staying on the Strip. It was a decent hotel and central to everything. The hotel lobby was outlined with restaurants and the further you walked past the casino, the decor changed to look like New York: there was a pizza parlor, painted brownstone apartments on the walls and cobblestone pathways. The hotel has a roller coaster which starts inside the hotel, so every few minutes there was the roar of the car taking off. Upstairs was Nathan’s Hot Dogs, an arcade, the second floor of Hershey’s World (first floor was by the casino), Coyote Ugly bar and entrance to the pedestrian bridge connecting New York to MGM Grand across the street.

New York New York
One of the walkways of New York New York

We arrived Friday afternoon and took the shuttle to our hotel. After freshening up it was 6pm, and we went to explore our surroundings. But first, dinner!

Broadway Burger
Bacon Cheeseburger and buttermilk onion rings

We ate at Broadway Burger and split the bacon cheeseburger and buttermilk onion rings. I loved the mini fryer the fries came in!

After, we went to look for the T-Mobile Arena, where the John Mayer concert was, which was located in The Park. It was a nice dining complex right outside of the hotel, with Shake Shack (need to eat there next time), Bruxie and other restaurants.

Saturday we went exploring. We went to see the flower garden at The Bellagio, ate pizza at Caesars Palace, went to a few of the Las Vegas gift shops and meandered around Hershey’s World.

Bellagio
Japanese Spring was Bellagio’s theme in the flower garden

Hershey
One of three cases of sweetness at Hershey’s World

That night was the concert, and it was alright. The arena was nice and in the foyers T-Mobiles signature pink was splashed everywhere. I’m still a hardcore John Mayer fan though.

Sunday morning we ate breakfast at Denny’s, checked out Wynn and Encore, took the tram to Mandalay Bay and Luxor and relived my childhood at Excalibur and Circus Circus.

Since it was our last night I wanted to eat dinner at Giada de Laurentiis’ restaurant, who is my favorite chef. I thought that since it was Sunday that it wouldn’t be crowded.

Boy was I wrong. The next open table was at 9:30pm, so we chose to eat at the bar lounge. Upon arriving, you walk up a set of stairs to a very clean, nicely lit and organized reception area. There are items for purchase on display, including her cookbooks and shirts. In the corner is a seating area with a photo booth.

Giada
Entrance to Giada

The dining area was equally fancy, with a panoramic view of the Strip, including the Bellagio Fountains across the street.

My dad and I split the chicken marsala meatballs and spaghetti. Both were full of flavor, especially the spaghetti, which was very lemony. It wasn’t overpowering. The shrimp was cooked well and complemented the pasta. I could’ve eaten a full order!

Spaghetti
Half portion of spaghetti with shrimp

After dinner we watched the Bellagio fountain show. It was good ending to our trip.

But it wasn’t over.

When we arrived at our hotel we noticed a crowd of people were waiting in front of the elevator lobby doors to Century Tower (where we were staying). The fire alarm had gone off on the 22nd floor so the elevators were shut down.

Our room was on the 37th floor.

After 30 minutes we were allowed to return to our rooms through different elevators (which didn’t make sense because each tower had their own set of elevators). But my dad and I were given conflicting information to get back to our room. We walked up stairs and took two elevators, only to come back down to the lobby. Eventually we had to be escorted by the hotel manager to our floor.

It was 11:15pm when it was over, and we needed to wake up at 5:30am to catch the airport shuttle.

After rushing to shower, I hopped into bed and awoke groggy. I didn’t want to go home.

But I had to. I had to go back to work, and vacation doesn’t last forever.

Until next time…

Camping

I went on my first camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. Four of us went to Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area and it was fun!

Since it was a weekend to unplug and be with nature, I didn’t take a lot of photos, but there was no need to. It was great making memories without photos.

Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area houses Aiea Loop Trail, with ten campsites scattered around the park. Some campsites had amenities such as bathrooms and showers, while others had nothing but greenery. Thankfully, we had the former, and our site was at the end of the trail.

Tent
Our tent

We arrived Saturday afternoon and spent the next 48 hours eating good food (someone ate more s’mores than I can count), relaxing, getting rained on (twice) and one Target trip (Sunday).

There were seven designated areas on the campsite, each having at least one picnic table. I was wondering how many people were going to there and it was quite a bit! The largest group had the prime spot, where they set up a covering and a large fire. It was populated, but the campsite was large so no one was invading another group’s space. I liked that there were a lot of people around.

Some of them made us laugh. Like group grilling over the sewer line. (Actually, that just made us concerned).

But, it was a sight.

During the day it was hot, but at night I needed to wear a jacket. In fact, I wore my jacket over my long-sleeve PJ’s.

Despite the cold, we saw the stars, and they were beautiful.

Smores
The…fifth, fourth time making s’mores?

Because of the rain early Sunday morning, it was too muddy to hike the trail. However, the four of us got our exercise walking to the entrance of the trail head looking for dill. (A friend and I went on a walk Saturday night and smelled it, so we brought the guys to explore but the smell was gone! They thought we were crazy).

Even though camping was fun, I was SO ready to go home and SHOWER. I think we all were. Two days in the “wilderness” was enough for me. I joked that camping was going to be a once a year affair. I’m not that much of an outdoorsy person, but wanted to try camping.

And my OCD was (mostly) kept in check. I was hesitant to go camping because of that, but I decided that I wasn’t going to let it prevent me from doing things.

And I didn’t.

Making Bread

My boyfriend, Matt, enjoys making bread. Dinner rolls, danishes, loaves filled with herbs. He’s a bread making machine! I never wanted to try baking some myself because of the kneading process. I was lazy.

That changed when I found Alexandra Stafford’s no-knead peasant bread. I read the recipe and figured it was simple, so I made it on a Saturday where I didn’t have any plans. (That’s rare, by the way).

Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the baking process, but it came together fast! It was mixed by hand with a spatula: no stand mixer needed. And you only need one bowl to mix the ingredients, how great is that?

However, even with the quick prep, the dough still needed to rise for a total of…okay, so the first rise is 1-1/1/2 hours and the second rise is 10-20 minutes. I let it rise for 1/1/2 hours, then 20 minutes, so you do the math for me. Haha!!

After the first rise, I formed the mass of dough into a ball, divided in half, and placed each half into two (different sized) bowls using forks. The transfer of the balls with forks resulted in the dough coming apart. I wasn’t sure why the directions called for forks, but I assumed it was to keep my hands from getting messy (if that was the case, the directions said that if the dough came apart during transferring, to use your hands. Contradiction).

Because my bowls were different sizes, that affected how the dough rose the second time. The dough ball in the small bowl became huge while the ball in the large bowl didn’t look too big.

The differences in bowl sizes also affected their baking time. The one in the small bowl was done in 20 minutes while the other took longer.

Now, as I mentioned, it was my first time baking bread. I didn’t know when it was fully baked, even though I ate it all the time. I’ve eaten (and seen) soft, white bread, brown bread, wheat bread…but baking loaves myself made me wonder, ‘Is it done? How do I know?’

loaves

The loaves came out decent. The outside was crunchy and the inside was really buttery (because of the greasing of the bowls) and soft, a little too soft. Not doughy. According to Matt, it was a little undercooked.

I trust him.

insideofbread

Even with that knowledge, I was proud of myself for making my first bread! I will be making it again.

But I better buy two same size bowls first.