January 31, 2011

Comfort Food in --- Las Vegas?

UNLV Campus in Winter
Photo by Jeff Speer
   When most people think of Las Vegas, rarely do they picture scenes of cold, rain, and snow. However, the city is located in a desert basin at 2,030 feet above sea level and winter temperatures, though usually mild in the day, often get chilly at night with lows dropping into the 30s. And, although snow is rare in the Las Vegas Valley floor, every few years, it gets more than a slight dusting — in December 2009, the city had a 3.6 inch snowfall.
    Without a doubt, this is the time of year, even in Las Vegas, to put away the salad tongs and pick up the soup ladle. Because nothing says “comfort food” like soup. Clear broths, creamy textures, or hearty combinations — soup is coziness in a bowl.

Elements Kitchen and Martini Bar
   Drive a couple of miles west of The Strip on Tropicana and you will come upon a nondescript strip mall just behind a gas station on Rainbow Boulevard. There you will find Elements Kitchen and Martini Bar (4950 S. Rainbow Blvd.), one of the nicest and friendliest small restaurants in a town known mostly for the grand and impersonal.

January 15, 2011

Ten Ways We Live Small

One-half of our living space

      We did it. Granted, we picked a pretty spendy place to live. San Francisco rents are expensive, so we now live in a studio apartment (we might go to a one-bedroom some day, but we aren't sure). Takes no time to clean (but no slacking --- no place to hide stuff). If we bring something in, we have to take something else out. We don't have a car. It's less expensive to rent one, take a bus or taxi, or use ZipCar. K. W. often goes to a coffee house to work (they have good WiFi and someone else makes the brew). Seems austere, but when we walk out our door, we have all of San Francisco for a living room. 
      Downsizing means you can live wherever you want. 

Here is how we are doing it:

The List
 1.   Most things have to have multiple uses (except for wall art --- it can just be art). Tables are desks, dining chairs are desk chairs, side tables are coffee tables and workspaces, the sofa is a bed, bookcases have storage baskets, the hand blender has attachments that turn it into a food processor and hand mixer, physical books are allowed in small quantities --- the rest is on the Kindle.
 2.  There is no room for major food or wine storage. So shopping is done more frequently. The end result is that everything is fresh, which is probably better for us.
3.    We each have a relatively small closet in the studio. My closet holds my clothes, household linens, and any stuff that needs moth protection. It's pretty organized thanks to one of those Joy Mangano closet systems --- those hangers really do make extra room, folks!
4.    My husband's closet holds his clothes, the wireless printer, office supplies, one bin of household files, electronic bits and pieces, and the all-important Tsar Nutcracker.
5.    We have a small closet down in the garage where we have our luggage and a couple of extra plastic bins for out-of-season clothes and extra linens. 

Outside Storage
      I do have to admit, we are still storing some things in a small outside storage unit, which we go through once a month. We have tossed more stuff, and are making some hard decisions about what we can keep. 
 6.     Each of us has about four boxes of books that we want access to, but don't need every day. There are large cooking pots not needed except on special occasions, holiday decorations, and personal records and files. And we have a large CD/DVD collection that will eventually migrate to another storage format. We are working on that.
 7.     We have chosen two beautiful pieces of furniture from our past life to keep --- a sideboard and chest of drawers. Our oak sideboard (a very small one) eventually will make it to the apartment. It's a beautiful piece of furniture and holds a lot of stuff for its size. Historically, it has been the repository for our entertaining items like wine glasses, cocktail paraphernalia and liquor, serving pieces, and "good" dishes. Since we like to have company, it gets to stay. The large chest of drawers will stay in storage until we decide whether our downsizing will permanently be a studio or a one-bedroom apartment.
 8.     In the next few months, we will cut in half what we have in storage. However, we have admitted to ourselves that we will probably have a small storage unit for the duration. It's less expensive than paying for a larger apartment to house things we only need infrequently. 

The Final Cut
        So, what are we keeping in the apartment? 
 9.    Computers, TV, stereo (duh!), art, rugs, sideboard, basic furniture, current bill files and receipts, small quantities of food, some office supplies, clothes in current use, and daily kitchen equipment.
10.   Each other. We remind ourselves that if we didn't love each other, no place would be big enough. However, since we do, no place is too small.

And, did I mention: We are living in SAN FRANCISCO!