Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Garden 2015 @ The Bellagio - Las Vegas, NV

Good morning, Sunshines!

As you might already know, we find ourselves in Las Vegas in triple digit hell heat to celebrate Bella's 3rd birthday with the Robinson Vegas clan.

As you might also already know, we are boring people these days. There's nothing we do in Vegas that has to stay here.

Almost all our Vegas fun is pretty much G-rated except for the R-rated language that comes out of mine and Dean's mouths from time to time...

Tourists, man...

And if we're here in 110F weather, you can bet all our Vegas fun is going to be air conditioned, too.

It's no secret I mostly dislike The Strip and most of what it stands for, but there are exceptions to everything, and the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one such exception... Mostly.

I love plants and flowers and Bellagio's colorful, whimsical, and fantastical seasonal presentations always delight a big part of me.

The other part of me that cringes at the staggering excess and waste required to create it (and Vegas in general) is a thing I'm learning to temper for the sake of balance and fun.

And it really is always fun for me to see what they'll come up with next.

They unimaginatively call this one Summer Garden. 

I think they should come up with something more fun and descriptive. Like Under the Sea on LSD!!! or something like that. 

If you're listening, Bellagio peeps, just look at the world around you. (That's a corny Disney joke, kids. Speaking of other things that make me cringe... ;) )

Chihuly in the lobby.

Always a lovely sight to take in when in Vegas. Hope you enjoyed. :)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Catching Up!

Howdy, Sunshines!

It's been a while since I've updated so I figured I'd drop a line, ask how you're doing, and catch you up on ALL THE EXCITEMENT going on around here.

That's it right there behind me.

Pansies, mums, bougainvilleas, geraniums, perilla, two kinds of mint (TWO KINDS!), Vietnamese coriander, tomatoes, various cucurbits, and lots and lots of Japanese eggplants.

Oh, and making sure that annoying neighborhood cat hasn't taken any shits in Bella's sandbox lately.

It doesn't do it often thanks to the sand toys I'm usually good about spreading all over so it can't find a soft place to land, but my recent hormonal changes and the extra olfactory perception that comes with them (I already have a hound's nose) pretty much ensure I'll smell it if it happens.

Those hormonal changes also thwack me in the face with exhaustion most afternoons (the B-tabs are helping), make me extra thinky and feely on top of my already extra thinky/feely nature (a little self-awareness helps with that mostly, but not always), cause me to be exceptionally bitchy from time to time when it's not that time (my poor family), and sometimes even make me alarmingly and embarrassingly sweaty. (But surprisingly not HOT. Just SWEATY.)

Perimenopause, I think they call it.

That's what I've been up to. Yard maintenance and perimenopausing.

Oh, and I've also been up to trying to live this little mantra I read the other day:

I've been trying to consciously and conscientiously nurture my relationships more and more. Trying to pour more empathy and effort into my interactions with the people I love instead of taking those connections for granted while pouring all my thought and energy into projects...

...which admittedly are focused on things I also love in another way, but on which I am gaining different and better perspective.

I feel the people and the projects less and less at odds with one another as the people begin to take much clearer priority over the projects.

Which, oddly, has had the effect of making my project related decisions so much easier and less stressful.

If the logistics of a project don't easily allow for the prioritization of the people (self included), then it gets reworked or scrapped.

Hence the creation of my Women's Cookshop Meetup group, which allows me to combine my passion for food and cooking with what has become an increasingly stronger calling to support and work with other women in a nice blend of enterprise and service (and fun and fulfillment, too!), where business is not the primary focus but hopefully a nice side effect if it's meant to be.

(If you've been with me for a while, you know it's been a little over a year in the making while I've explored several different avenues to fruition. That's a really cool thing about blogging your path on a social media platform with a strong search capability, by the way. Just type a few key words and BAM! Instant recall. ;) )

So that's another thing I've been up to - learning the ins and outs of Meetup and also learning a great deal about human nature in the process. The way people socialize and the way they interact about it tells you a lot about where they are in life.

So yeah.

That pretty much sums up what I've been up to.

Except for the cat crap and perimenopause, it's all been quite lovely. If I have to take some imperfections with this life right now, those are totally doable.

Love and gratitude always for accompanying me on this journey.

Your company is such a gift as always.

HUGS!!! ❤ ❤ ❤


Friday, June 19, 2015

The Plants of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

So last week, I asked the interwebs if it was strange of me that I found the plants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park more fascinating than the animals.

And it's like they heard me because this morning, when I went looking for a little more information on their plants, they had this to say to me:

"YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your interest in the wealth of plant life that graces our grounds, Shinae."

What a relief.

One less reason I'm strange.

Their website goes on to say:

"San Diego's mild Mediterranean climate makes it possible to grow more different kinds of plants than almost anywhere else in the United States. With more than a million plants on a total of 1,900 acres (770 hectares) at the Zoo and the Safari Park, our grounds make up a truly world-class botanical garden and they have been recognized as such."

I believe it.

Next time I'm strapping the squirmy toddler into the stroller and going for a real photo walk with the fancycam.

If you wish I'd taken pics of the animals, check out Dean's album from the day. He got some really good ones.

And if you can ID any of the plants, please do in comments! :)

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer Menu Tasting with Craft Beer Pairings @ Vessel Restaurant, Kona Kai Resort & Spa, San Diego, CA in Pics

One of the perqs of this whole blogging/social media-ing thing is that every once in a while, you get invited to partake of special things.

If one of the things you happen to blog about is food and drink, every once in a while, you get invited to partake of specially delicious things.

My hot date for the evening - Kelli May
(@ ShivaLife Yoga! Shout-out, GF! ❤)

Like a fabulous six course Summer menu tasting in a fantastically San Diego kind of setting like Vessel Restaurant at Kona Kai Resort & Spa.

Where they pour a stiff cocktail... (Thank you, Peter!)

A Vessel Old Fashioned for me and an old fashioned
Old Fashioned for Kelli.

...and maybe not everybody, but somebody (namely the person who printed out your place card), knows your name. (That's a corny 80s reference, kids! :P)

And they pair some truly fantastic food...

...with some truly fantastic craft beer... true San Diego fashion.

The food was thoughtful, playful, and most importantly, well-executed and delicious. (Chef's descriptions as usual.)


48 Hour Pork Belly
plantain powder, sweet potato spaetzle, anise, bitter chocolate
Craft Beer Pairing: Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter

Yes, that belly was as melt-in-your-mouth porkalicious as it looks. :)


Roasted Pear
borage flower, Cowgirl Creamery Smoked Bleu (Roquefort was originally
planned, and would have been delicious, but this selection was yums!),
fine herb medley, caramelized black pepper vinaigrette
Craft Beer Pairing: Alesmith .394 Pale Ale
It's hard to go wrong with Alesmith. ;)

Kelli and I both thought that was deLISH!


Corn Dusted Albacore
serrano custard, bacon powder, onion jam
Craft Beer Pairing: Refuge Brewery Blood Orange Belgian
(I loved this dish with all the elements together, and I liked
this beer, but I didn't love the pairing. Oh, and that crunchy freeze
dried corn surprise at the bottom of the custard - a fun touch!)


Dry Aged Ribeye
blue cheese popcorn, foie gras butter, bordelaise
Craft Beer Pairing: Stone Brewing Co. Delicious IPA
Everyone LOVED that popcorn. I loved that ribeye even more... :)

Total indulgence.

I think I tricked Chef Roy Hendrickson into that winning grin.
(He's got that Serious Chef Face thing happening, IYKWIM. ;))


Confit Game Hen
anise scented couscous, quince lacquer, roasted grape
Craft Beer Pairing: Back to the Alesmith .394 Pale Ale
(The hen was juicy and perfectly seasoned. I appreciated the measured
hand with the anise - so many chefs go overboard with that spice.) 

Dessert's on the way, but first let us take a selfie. :P :P :P


Crema Catalana
almond semolina biscotto and Port

Lovely texture - delicate yet velvety.

Service was warm and accommodating without a hint of pretense. I always love when you can have elevated food in a friendly and comfortable environment.

And of course the surroundings don't hurt one bit.

Fantastic food, wonderful service, and a lovely location.

What a treat.

Kudos and gratitude to the team at Vessel and Kona Kai for a fabulous evening. :)


Vessel Restaurant at Kona Kai Resort & Spa
1551 Shelter Island Drive
San Diego, CA 92106