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:

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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.

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Brandon in his AWESOME dinosaur sweater.

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The table.

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Swinging Amelia in my arms.

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Caprese salad. Actually really good.

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The feast.

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Amelia walking with Uncle Brandon.

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

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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.”

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(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.

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

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So many machines!

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

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From the 1930s.

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This was a hybrid between air hockey and bubble hockey.

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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.

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Entrance.

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

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Splashy the Ray. He was awesome.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Sign.

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

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Neon cactus!

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

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Brandon under one of the Binion’s horseshoes.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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Dinosaur sculpture.

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

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

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

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Brandon made a design. He’s proud.

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Tribal hut.

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

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T-Rexes and a sign about themselves.

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Nelson and the T-Rex.

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On a shell seat, in a submarine.

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Brandon in the sub.

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

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Room at the Bellagio.

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View.

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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.

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Just like I remembered …

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Me at the Peppermill.
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Fountain view with the fountains going.

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

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Hey thanks, Planet Hollywood/Miracle Mile Shops!

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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.

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Brandon driving.

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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.

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Outside the visitor’s center.

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I am like fire.

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Brandon’s like the wind.

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“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.”

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Surfing (or swimming?) on a lizard.

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Brandon on top the rocks.

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Dinosaurs staring at rocks.

After Red Rock, we were STARVING, so we grabbed food at probably the most logical place for us:
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Mmm. In-N-Out.

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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.

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