Friday, May 24, 2013

AZ Bike Week

by Heather

One of the events I most look forward to each year is Arizona Bike Week. 
It's a full week of motorcycle-related activities held at that time of year 
here in Scottsdale, Arizona, 
when the sun is shining and the temperatures are balmy -- 
cool mornings and nights 
but gloriously warm temperatures during the days. 
Perfect for riding our motorcycles!
We attend as many events as our work schedules will allow and sometimes we'll take vacation days during this time just to enjoy the partying. 
We're always ready for friends and family to join us 
so we're usually traveling with a small crowd gang.

Day One:

Kick-Start Party at

Buddy Stubbs Harley Davidson dealership

It's noon and the party is just getting started...
 Starts off slowly and picks up speed as the afternoon wears on...
The boys in my biker "gang:" Tom, Pete, Scott, and Jimmy
Voted him best hair at the party...
A little jewelry shopping...picked up a tiny skull ring for me and a 60th birthday present for my younger sister
(hard to believe she's going to be that old this month)...
I was going to post this as a fashion" don't,"
but if you look this good with your butt cheeks hanging out,
maybe it's okay :)
These bad boys turned into pussycats
when I asked them to pose for a picture.
Too sweet.
Most interesting head wear at the party...
Age appropriate? Sometimes it's a hard thing to do when you're a biker...
Motorcycles line the street for as far as you can see in both directions
Tom is happy to pose for me 
as we get ready to ride to our next destination.

Day Two: Harley of Scottsdale's party

"I have my Harley clothes on...let's party!"

Thinking about those people who aren't here to party with us this year...

Pretty girls throwing trinkets out to the crowd -- doesn't get any better than this for the old men!
The two prettiest girls at the party: Lauri and Peighton
Look at all those old people (or "my people" as I like to call them) out past 9 p.m. on a Sunday night!
Ken is having a great time!
Steppenwolf playing "Born to be Wild" -- the biker anthem

Day Five: CycleFest

Takes place at WestWorld in north Scottsdale
Official AZ Bike Week merchandise can be purchased here
Tom, Todd, and Lauri checking out a bike that's screaming Todd's name.
Hey, it's only $49,000!
One of the favorite biker jewelers
"Okay, I can look away for a few seconds from the motorcycle stunt riders to pose for Gigi."
"I'm ready for my modeling gig, Gigi!"
Handsome daddy with his precious girl
Showing me some attitude!
You may have heard of Paul Yaffe -- a great custom bike builder
Our closest Harley dealer has a tent at the festival.
David (Sheila's husband) with two of his Jack Daniels' models.
He has such a tough job but somebody has to do it!

Day Seven

The Doobie Brothers were fabulous!!
Even with the dusty haze, it was still a good time.

The party continued for two more days...but you get the picture: more bands, more bikers, and more riding along perfect roads with perfect weather and perfect biker buddies.
Come join us next year!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Thrift Store Karma

by Sheila

I have pretty amazing luck when it comes to shopping at thrift stores for what I want.  I have had a new "bar" on my shopping want list for awhile.  I am fairly open to what that might be; a converted dresser or buffet would have worked if I had found the right thing, but I actually found the perfect piece last week at Goodwill.  It is a true bar, the perfect size and doesn't' need any work - no painting or anything (kinda disappointing, I know).
The front side.

I think the secret to this type of shopping is to make frequent stops at your favorite stores.  The beauty of thrifting is that the stock changes constantly and you never know when the perfect item is going to show up, so it pays to make a quick trip through now and then.  I can scope out my favorite stores in less than ten minutes.  I stop in when I am on the way to do something else in the area, so it doesn't necessarily take a lot of time.  Every once in awhile I make a day of it, but mostly I just stop
 in here and there. 

And the back side - I want to add wheels so it will roll out easily.

I'm sure I'll have more items on my list soon, as I will be adding furnishings to our Vacation Rental Property.  I'll keep you posted on my progress and my finds.  Happy hunting...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A New Investment Venture; A Vacation Rental

by Sheila

I love real estate as an investment.  We recently sold a condo we had in Las Vegas (for a nice profit, since that's what we're talking about here) that we had fully furnished.  The money we made on this deal, along with the furnishings that we had acquired got us thinking that maybe we could do a vacation rental.  That, and the fact that my parents have had great success with this over the past several years.  

The condo in Las Vegas... SOLD!  Fun while it lasted but on to new ventures.
We have rented vacation rentals frequently when we travel (VRBO and HomeAway are good resources), and like this option for accommodations.  It is generally reasonable priced and provides amenities like a washer and dryer and a kitchen.  Our most recent trip where we stayed in a VRBO was two weeks on Maui with our good friends Tim & Lisa.  We relaxed on the Lanai and took turns cooking dinner most evenings, enjoying the view with a glass of wine.  Great fun!
Me & the Hubby; our VRBO condo in the background
Lisa & Tim on the Hula Girl Sailboat...Great friends & great fun!
My criteria for this property was to find something very close to where we live (if I am doing frequent turnover, I don't want to have to go across town), with a good floor plan for sharing with another couple or several families.  Also, I wanted something that could be made into a "resort" type of feel.  It needed to be priced right; I'd rather buy something that we could improve rather than pay for someone else's choices that I may not like.  With Pat's help (Ann's hubby is a realtor), we found a place on a 9-hole golf course 3 blocks away that I think will be good.  It definitely needs work, so I have a new project going on.  I'll chronicle the progress here as I make improvements and get it ready to rent.  

The new place - needs TLC - perfect!  Notice the Saguaro cactus; only in the Sonoran desert.
View from the upstairs balcony.  Great for golfers!
Okay, back to work.  I am patching the balcony and adding a waterproofing coating to it today...I do love power tools and paint!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Extreme Macaroni and Cheese

by Ann
Mac 'n cheese before baking.  I used rigatoni noodles because I could now find large elbows.
Macaroni and Cheese is trendy in great restaurants, and for good reason -- who doesn't like a good mac 'n cheese? When Sheila, Heather and I were in Vegas last January for the BlogWorld Expo, we ordered an appetizer of it, and then decided it was so good we ordered more for dinner at the Todd English P.U.B. (did everyone but me know that Pub stood for Public Urban Bar, or is that just the Todd English spin on the word?).  

One of the good news/bad news results of blogging is that I have started reading and enjoying many food blogs.  The good news is that there are so many amazing food bloggers out there from which I have gotten inspiration and ideas; the bad news is that I feel like a rookie who has a l-o-n-g way to go to try to compete.  One of my favorites is Kayotic Kitchen, written by a talented woman in the Netherlands, and is the inspiration behind this recipe.  Oops...I'm digressing from the mac 'n cheese topic, so back to it.

I made this recipe as a side for our Mother's Day celebration, and it was a big hit.  I think the key to it's "wonderfulness" is roasted garlic and Gruyere cheese.  The cheese is pricey, coming from Gruyere, Switzerland. If you've never tried it, you should; it is much better that run of the mill Swiss, but I imagine the end product would be good if you didn't want to pop for the Gruyere (the version I purchased was $16.99 per pound -- ouch!).  As for the roasted garlic -- I've decided to do next Tuesday's post all about roasting garlic and making compound butter.  If you have to make this recipe before next Tuesday, and don't know how to roast garlic, Google it -- there are many links to step-by-step instructions.
Can we all agree than anything is better with bacon in it?  Cook up plenty for snacking -- cooking is hard work!
Grate up the cheeses - Rough grate is okay for the cheddar and Gruyere, but finely grate the Parmesan
Roughly chop the shallots
Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their papery casings and mash with a fork.
(And yes, you do use the entire head of garlic!)
And now the sauce - add butter to the shallots cooking in reserved bacon fat.  No calories here!
Add flour and mustard powder to make a roux.  Cook for a couple of minutes until smooth and golden brown.

Gradually add milk - I used whole milk.  This would not be the time to start worrying  about fat grams.
At this point stir in the roasted garlic, freshly grated nutmeg and pepper.  May want to hold off on adding the salt until you've tasted it with the cheese.
Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese until it melts. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. 
Mix the topping ingredients.
Sprinkle topping on the mac and cheese.  Drizzle with melted butter.
Good thing I thought to take a picture before it was all gone!

Extreme Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound macaroni, a large variety
½ c roughly chopped shallot
1 T reserved bacon fat
6 T butter
1 bulb roasted garlic
½ c flour
½ t dry mustard
½ t freshly grated nutmeg
1 t salt
6 oz Gruyere (Swiss) cheese, grated
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 2/3 c milk
1 c panko bread crumbs
1/3 c diced bacon, cooked crispy (about 6 oz)
1 c Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 t dried parsley flakes
2 T melted butter
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(Eventually the oven will need to be preheated to 400° to bake the mac and cheese, but if your garlic is not already roasted, you need to have it on that temp anyway.)
  • Roast garlic bulb in 400° oven for 1 hour.  Remove cloves from casing and mash with a fork.  Set aside for later use. 
  • Grate all cheeses; set aside.
  • Cook the bacon until crisp, reserving 1 T fat.
  • While bacon is cooking, roughly chop enough shallots to fill ½ cup measure.
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Do not overcook.  Pasta will continue to cook in the baking process.
  • While macaroni is cooking, sauté shallots in reserved bacon fat for a minute or two.  Add the butter to the pan to melt and continue to cook the shallots.  Add the flour and dry mustard to make a roux.  Stir until the rawness of the flour is gone and the mixture becomes golden brown in color (2-4 minutes).
  • Gradually add milk until all is incorporated, whisking throughout the process to be sure to avoid lumps.  Once the sauce is velvety-smooth add the garlic paste, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Turn off the heat. Add Gruyere and cheddar cheeses; stir until smooth.
  • Drain pasta well.  Put macaroni back into to pasta-cooking pot and then add the cheese sauce.  Stir until pasta is evenly coated with amazingly smooth and delicious sauce. Pour into 9 x 13” baking dish.
  • Combine grated all topping ingredients except melted butter in small bowl.  Sprinkle over macaroni and cheese.  Drizzle melted butter over the top.  Cover with foil.  Bake covered for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove the aluminum foil and put back into the oven until edges are bubbling and topping browns (another 15 minutes or so).


Since this is a rather lengthy recipe I will attach it as a downloadable document even though I heard back from one reader that everyone can't open these like I was counting on having happen. (Back to my note about being an rookie at the blogging process...)

If you want a printable copy of the recipe, click here.  
My fingers are crossed that it works on your computer!