Holidays 2014

I’m trying to keep current with this thing for once in my life!

This time of year has been strange ever since I started working (what is essentially) retail. Christmas comes in mid-November and it doesn’t leave until early January. That combined with the fact that I’m the “help” and am not actually a real person in many customers’ eyes … really makes me kind of hate this time of year.

Still doesn’t keep Christmas from coming. If the Grinch can’t steal Christmas, neither can I.

Being an adult doesn’t help either. I’ve heard over the years that Christmas is for kids, and the older I get, the more I start to realize that’s actually pretty true. I realized that even clearer at the family Christmas Eve celebration as my niece (at 16 months) is starting to kind of grasp how this stuff goes.

For the family 24th celebration, we had to bring dessert. I brought my thumbprint cookies, because duh, but I also needed to bring either cake or pie. We’re a bit sick of pie in Casa Dino, so I decided to research Christmas cakes. Not much came up (yes, fruitcake is obvious, but I was NOT making a damn fruitcake) except for a buche de noel, a traditional French log cake. I found a super simple version (one that didn’t require me to make sugar mushrooms) and it actually turned out pretty well:

 photo buche_de_noel4_zps9c7d6b96.jpg

Time with family is, well, time with family. We were supposed to go to my parents’, but my mom broke her arm on the 23rd, so everything got shifted to my brother’s place. He and Nicole stepped up and did a great job.

 photo xmas_eve_zps1f091ceb.jpg
Brandon in his AWESOME dinosaur sweater.

 photo xmas_eve2_zps0b281ab0.jpg
The table.

 photo xmas_eve4_zps9bc603f7.jpg
Swinging Amelia in my arms.

 photo caprese_salad_zps7bc8b88f.jpg
Caprese salad. Actually really good.

 photo xmas_eve_feast_zps93ff4549.jpg
The feast.

 photo xmas_eve7_zpsb9c87c4c.jpg
Amelia walking with Uncle Brandon.

 photo xmas_eve9_zps4e252e4d.jpg
First present she goes to was actually hers (from us).

 photo xmas_eve11_zps8bc35c81.jpg
With her Santa gift. I don’t think she quite understood it.

Christmas morning was rushed with us; Brandon had to go back to work so we had a half hour together, just enough time to make him breakfast. As a result, our present opening got delayed until the 27th. Such is life with two people who work unconventional jobs …

November Vegas Trip: Part Three

Saturday began early-ish. We woke up and went for a quick run to shake out the legs. It was only at 9 or 10 in the morning, but for Las Vegas on a Saturday morning? That’s early. The strip was quiet, and you get to see the “behind the scenes stuff.”

 photo saturday_zpsb452e0be.jpg
(Case in point – maintenance being done on the Bellagio fountains.)

After the run, it was off to the Bellagio buffet for breakfast/brunch and then to the Pinball Hall of Fame/Museum which was very cool and highly recommended.

 photo saturday6_zpsfc84889d.jpg

 photo saturday7_zpsc2b3bed4.jpg
Walked in, saw this game, threw some quarters in … that was a good 10 minutes of entertainment.

 photo saturday8_zps8884c5a9.jpg
So many machines!

There were also quite a few very cool retro hockey games. I played them all.

 photo saturday9_zps38686294.jpg
From the 1930s.

 photo saturday10_zps945e7b8f.jpg

 photo saturday11_zps4021fe9a.jpg
This was a hybrid between air hockey and bubble hockey.

 photo saturday12_zpsaab2d6c0.jpg

After the Pinball Museum, it was off to Mandalay Bay and the Shark Reef Aquarium. It … was okay. By general rule, you typically want to avoid aquariums in land-locked states, and Shark Reef proved the rule to be true. Still, we got to play with sting rays, so that made the visit worth it for us.

 photo saturday14_zps60f4759d.jpg

 photo saturday16_zps3c5e3889.jpg
Brandon in the shark tank (he’s a nerd and likes the CNBC show).

 photo saturday18_zps73b830a6.jpg
Splashy the Ray. He was awesome.

 photo saturday19_zps322a6aff.jpg
Our friend, a fan of obscure Russian historical figures, in front of the statue of Lenin outside Red Square restaurant in Mandalay Bay.

After Shark Reef, we wandered around shopping a bit and then got ready for our second nightclub of the trip – Marquee at the Cosmopolitan.

 photo saturday22_zps28047435.jpg

It … was okay. I don’t like crowds and climbing several flights of stairs in six inch heels and yeah. Like at Tao, we didn’t stay long.

 photo saturday23_zps0d8dac6c.jpg
After we left.

Sunday was a lazy morning sleeping in and then not a lot of wandering around – after all, we did have to race.

 photo sunday2_zps54b01c85.jpg
Playing with my pre-race sandwich.

The race … was okay. If you’re really curious as to how it went, mosey on over to the triathlon blog.

Monday was taken pretty easy. Brandon and our friend Mike played poker while I wandered around a bit. The most excitement that day was going to see Zumanity at New York New York. THAT was a cool show. I hadn’t seen a Cirque du Soleil show in years and this was one was just as awesome as the last one I’d seen. Again, highly recommended.

Tuesday … out of town and back to reality.

On The Neon Boneyard Park

One thing that I read about when researching Las Vegas was the Neon Boneyard Park (also found as the Neon Museum). I love the aesthetics of neon and own a neon light myself (custom made Avs logo – 16th birthday present) so when I found out about this place, I decided we had to go.

They do both day and night tours, but unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow for a night tour. Pity; just means we’ll have to come back and do the tour again at night. And again during the day for better lighting. Tours are $18/adult during the day, and $25 at night. You can also do a package bundle with the Mob Museum (something Brandon wants to go see, so for next time) as long as you visit the two places within a week of each other.

You see the signs only via a guided tour. The tour lasts about an hour long and is awesome in that you not only learn about the signs, but about Las Vegas history, too. For the history nerd in both of us, that alone made the tour worth it.

Obviously I took photos – over 70 of them – and narrowed it down to the 18 you see here. Enjoy, and decide to go next time you’re in Las Vegas (place is located on Las Vegas Blvd., north of the strip by a few miles).

 photo neon2_zps557f6c8b.jpg

 photo neon5_zps06ecb3e1.jpg

 photo neon10_zps334318a4.jpg

 photo neon15_zps36b743a4.jpg
City Center Motel. Sign designed by the same woman who did the Welcome to Las Vegas sign (Betty Willis).

 photo neon21_zpseccf6e8a.jpg
Neon cactus!

 photo neon25_zps718fa411.jpg

 photo neon26_zps15c104dc.jpg
Pieces of the Desert Rose sign. This is their next restoration project.

 photo neon32_zps985be357.jpg

 photo neon38_zpsdff023ab.jpg

 photo neon56_zpsfd0f983a.jpg

 photo neon58_zps3f32c573.jpg

 photo neon60_zpsc7a02612.jpg

 photo neon63_zps4f965cbb.jpg

 photo neon64_zps5c6fa057.jpg

 photo neon67_zps2ee8fcdc.jpg
Brandon under one of the Binion’s horseshoes.

 photo neon68_zps38d2557e.jpg

 photo neon69_zpsfd9dfd5c.jpg

 photo neon73_zps07d95470.jpg
Visitor Center – the lobby of the old La Concha.

November Vegas Trip: Part Two

Friday morning dawned and we were ready for another day of adventures – most of which I’ll put here, except for the Neon Museum, which deserves its own post.

The day, in photos.

 photo friday_zps1795768d.jpg
Blueberry Hill, a local diner chain we hit up for breakfast. Very good.

 photo friday3_zps0b406b29.jpg
Brandon looking down at his breakfast. You get a sense of the decor here, too.

 photo friday4_zpse0cc57dc.jpg
Nelson hates “Pawn Stars,” and therefore is cranky we’re driving past the pawn shop.

 photo lvnhm_zps47acb245.jpg
Dinosaurs in a dinosaur footprint outside the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

 photo lvnhm2_zpsb2d71f4c.jpg
Dinosaur sculpture.

 photo lvnhm3_zps669fe770.jpg
Buffalo. Pretty sure all the animals in this museum were real and taxidermied …

 photo lvnhm5_zpscfed5b0a.jpg
Sting ray. We are the ray whisperers, it’s kind of awesome.

 photo lvnhm9_zps035469b4.jpg
“Carrying” “water” like an Egyptian. It’s heavy.

 photo lvnhm12_zps3b4b5bca.jpg
Brandon made a design. He’s proud.

 photo lvnhm13_zpscab11422.jpg
Tribal hut.

 photo lvnhm15_zps53d7f9bd.jpg
Picture taken for the Englestad name (also associated with Fighting Sioux hockey).

 photo lvnhm16_zps8cedeacb.jpg
T-Rexes and a sign about themselves.

 photo lvnhm17_zpsffea2887.jpg
Nelson and the T-Rex.

 photo lvnhm18_zps46ac2de3.jpg
On a shell seat, in a submarine.

 photo lvnhm19_zps0cc8e821.jpg
Brandon in the sub.

From the LVNHM, we checked in to the Bellagio where we’d be staying most of our visit.

 photo friday14_zpse772e015.jpg
Room at the Bellagio.

 photo friday15_zps65e1999e.jpg

 photo friday17_zps68461f87.jpg
Oh yeah, race expo.

After the expo, we took our realtor and local TV/radio personality Susie Wargin around to grab a bite and then help her get to a studio so she could do her radio show from Vegas (she was out running the full marathon). From there, it was off to the Neon Museum (next blog!) and after that, dinner at the Peppermill.

 photo friday20_zps498e984a.jpg
Just like I remembered …

 photo friday21_zps4bc287bf.jpg
Me at the Peppermill.

 photo friday23_zps77ad8036.jpg
Fountain view with the fountains going.

 photo friday25_zps0c8813d9.jpg
Ceiling between Bally’s and Paris. Never knew this was there …

 photo friday26_zps6925548c.jpg
Hey thanks, Planet Hollywood/Miracle Mile Shops!

 photo friday27_zps245378c6.jpg
Bellagio conservatory.

We also went to Tao Nightclub that night, but no pictures. Honestly, it was kind of a disappointing experience …

November Vegas Trip: Part One

A few weeks ago, Brandon and I went to Las Vegas, N.V. to run the Rock ‘N Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon. Well, that was the official reason for the trip. Unofficially, we wanted to make it an awesome vacation since our last few trips to Vegas had been fairly meh. We were out there for a few days – and I didn’t take super fun pictures every day.

But I took enough.

The race was Sunday; we came in on Thursday. We also rented a car (convertible!), a Vegas first for us.

 photo thursday_zpsf7ff0449.jpg
Brandon driving.

 photo thursday2_zps74d4de79.jpg
Convertible selfie.

Our first stop post-airport (besides a quick stop at a grocery store for a snack) was Red Rock Canyon. We were originally planning on running there, but ended up having too much fun hiking around instead.

 photo redrock_zpse3d40fc8.jpg
Outside the visitor’s center.

 photo redrock2_zps5d6aaf03.jpg
I am like fire.

 photo redrock4_zpsb6d24abb.jpg
Brandon’s like the wind.

 photo redrock5_zps20d0fb39.jpg
“In Red Rock Canyon the elements of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water weave together to create a dynamic tapestry of life to which you belong. Your thoughtful respect for these lands, the plants and animals that live on them helps hold these threads together.”

 photo redrock8_zps2759dc97.jpg
Surfing (or swimming?) on a lizard.

 photo redrock11_zps3f13ae81.jpg
Brandon on top the rocks.

 photo redrock15_zps8910291a.jpg
Dinosaurs staring at rocks.

After Red Rock, we were STARVING, so we grabbed food at probably the most logical place for us:

 photo thursday5_zps305bfea8.jpg
Mmm. In-N-Out.

 photo thursday6_zps06671c40.jpg
Ocean’s 11 Lounge. Proof that Vegas off-strip can be quite sketchy.

For dinner that night, we went to a place known for being “old Vegas,” Bob Taylor’s Original Ranch House.

 photo thursday8_zps8d66f58d.jpg

It was a non-fancy (but still pricey … and tasty) steakhouse. Definitely from a bygone era, but it was cool nonetheless.