Vegas, December 2017

This was a trip that was planned sometime earlier this year (I forget when, exactly), when we got a mailer from the Wynn for some screaming deal – two nights, two buffets, and two tickets to Le Reve for $400. Depending on how you look at it, we either ended up getting the stay free or the show/meals free.

In any case, we flew out to Los Angeles early the morning of December 4th to grab B’s car and drive to Vegas.

Monday, December 4:

Our flight was super early and we didn’t really eat much prior (well, B; I had eaten more), so we grabbed a bit more food when we landed as well as some coffee. We then started the drive to Las Vegas.

We took a small detour just outside of town to see the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation, which apparently has been around since May of 2016 and will be on display until May of next year.

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It was a bit windy and cold, but still super neat. I would recommend checking it out before it ends, as it’s a quick and easy drive outside of the city. I don’t know Uber/Lyft/taxi rates, but you could seriously rent a car for an hour and go.

Our next stop was the Wynn, where B dropped me off with the bags and then went to go park the car at the Mirage, the closest MLife property (free parking). I hung out waiting for him. We then got checked in and quick ran across the street to Fashion Show for a bite to eat. I tried a new lobster roll in Luke’s Lobster.

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Close-up.

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With the bag.

Spice blend was a bit weird – it reminded me of the shrimp/spices Noodles and Company uses on the Buttered Egg Noodles and Parmesan – but it definitely wasn’t the worst lobster roll I’ve ever had. Proper bun … I’d put it about average.

Snack eaten, we wandered around the Wynn a bit before doing a quick workout.

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Some of the holiday decor.

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View from the room.

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Room.

We weren’t too terribly hungry, so we just grabbed a snack waiting for the show to start – a very expensive beer and popcorn that we split.

Le Reve, however, was AMAZING. A bit abstract for sure, but visually stunning. I wish I had seen they allowed photos (just not flash) as I would have taken a few, but on the other hand, I’m also glad I didn’t as it really allowed me to be immersed in the show. Both of us highly enjoyed it. It is an expensive ticket for sure, but totally worth it.

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End of the show.

Ate: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the Delta Sky Club in DIA, plane snacks, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwich, road trip snacks (including tasty doughnuts at some random place in Hesperia, Calif.), Luke’s Lobster lobster roll, half a Jamba Juice, popcorn and beer.

Tuesday, December 5:

The original thought was to run in the morning – north side of the Strip, could run without all of the stupid stairs and bridges – but Las Vegas was actually kind of cold this trip (silly desert) and we neglected to bring proper running clothes. Oops. So we figured we’d get our workout in later when it warmed up.

So, first things first, we hit up the Wynn buffet.

Visually, it was gorgeous.

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Inside.

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Close-up of one of the displays.

However, the food? Actually fairly mediocre. I’ve eaten at enough Vegas (breakfast) buffets to know that a regular salad bar is usually a thing; not at the Wynn (unless I wanted a Caesar salad, which no.). So that was disappointing. The eggs Benedicts were very hit or miss in terms of the ham/Canadian bacon on them (I picked up one to try it; no meat; had to grab another one); the bagels were tiny and since they toasted them for you, got kinda burnt; desserts were terrible. Very glad we got it free and didn’t pay for it. You should not finish a buffet feeling full yet terribly unsatisfied. Ugh.

Walked over to Fashion Show to get coffee afterward (Starbucks for me, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for B) and since it was still too early for anything to be really open there, grabbed the car and headed to the Gamblers General Store, a place B wanted to hit up. Not entirely my scene, but it was still pretty cool. Want to buy a full-sized craps table or just some playing cards/dice/chips for the house? This is your place.

Headed back to Fashion Show after to officially walk around since we never (I have, but years ago) have officially OFFICIALLY walked around.

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USA Hockey has a store there!

We were debating on what to do for lunch and ended up deciding on Ra Sushi. Nigiri was great, as was the cucumber roll. The shrimp tempura roll? Something was off about it. The hot green tea was also some of the worst I’ve ever had. Would not recommend; would not go back to.

Felt like death afterward, so moved the car back to the Mirage and headed back to the hotel to chill a bit.

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Holiday dolphins in the Mirage.

After things settled a bit, we headed down to the Wynn fitness center again (which is AWESOME I might add) to get in a quick mile or so on the treadmills and then a lift. We were initially going to meet up with a pilot friend of B’s (and his wife) for a drink before they headed to the Golden Knight’s game, but they were running late so no meet up for us. We still got ready for our (late) reservations because we wanted to walk on down to the Bellagio.

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The Wynn has a baby fountain choreographed to music … competing with the Bellag?

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Conservatory at the Bellagio. Love the little detail like the hook.

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Stunning as always.

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B and one of the polar bears. I think Coca-Cola was a sponsor …

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Frolicking polar bears. I think I like the murderous penguins from a couple years ago better …

Dinner that night (December’s date night) was at Prime Steakhouse. We had kind of hoped for patio seating (out by the fountains), but would have had to wait an extra half-hour for it. Since it was pretty cold out … we decided we’d pass and just grab a table. We got led to the table … and it wasn’t officially ready, so we got herded back to the bar area. A few minutes later, table is ready, we go back for good … and got free drinks for the inconvenience? Which, given that the glass of Pinot Noir I ordered was $20ish, I’m not really complaining about, but I feel was also unnecessary as seriously, shit happens.

We essentially ordered the same thing – filet mignon – with Yukon gold mashed potatoes to split as well as Brussels sprouts, and the Market Tomato Salad to split.

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Essentially a twist on a Caprese salad, it wasn’t bad. A bit too much arugula for my tastes (so. peppery.) and the burrata cheese was a bit too smooth (?)/off texture for me, but the tomatoes? Delicious.

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Potatoes, steak, sprouts.

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Close-up of the sprouts, with pears, bacon, and chervil.

Okay, so the main course. If I’m going to eat at a ridiculously schmancy steakhouse (and pay $68 for a piece of meat), I expect the quality of that piece of meat to be way up there. I’ve eaten at enough ridiculously schmancy places* (thanks, dad) to know that a properly well-cooked piece of beef? Should not need sauces to make it taste good. We think it was under-seasoned, for one (where’s my salt crust pre-cooking?), and secondly, the parts that were more well-done (we ordered it medium-rare and it was cooked properly, but the outside bits are more done; you know how it goes) didn’t taste of high quality beef and rather had the texture of something you’d get at more of say, a Texas RoadHouse or something. Which yeah, is good, but not at that price point.

The potatoes weren’t bad (and quite good when eaten in combination with the filet)(even though I make a better mashed potato) and the sprouts … well, let’s just say that B ate most of them. Not cooked well, too mushy, bacon needed to be crispier, and the pear, which took the texture role, was too sweet for how they were prepared.

(I think I watch too much Chopped.)

Dinner took a bit of time to come out, but I wasn’t too worried about it since these schmancy steakhouses tend to do that. However, our waiter and like two other people came to apologize about the wait (or say that the food was coming right out or whatever). In apology for the wait … we got free dessert (and coffee). Um, okay?

(for you keeping track at home, this means that our drinks and our desserts (that we probably honestly weren’t going to order as it was) were going to be free, and not due to anything on our parts. we said absolutely nothing and honestly didn’t care about the slight delays.)

We got two desserts – a molten lava cake made from Valhrona chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream and a New York style cheesecake with cranberry sorbet.

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Made me think of D Bar’s “molten cake thingy everybody has”. Pretty dang delicious.

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Didn’t eat the sorbet/cranberry stuff (don’t like cranberries), but the cheesecake was really good.

Dinner, in short, was ass expensive, but it could have been a lot worse. Would I recommend Prime? Maybe. Depends on if you like dropping a lot of money on food. While I don’t like frequenting those types of joints often, I’d be intrigued to see if say, Fix, is better.

Walking home was really nice after that dinner. Urp.

Ate: Wynn buffet, Starbucks/Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Auntie Anne’s, Ra Sushi, Prime Bellagio

Wednesday, December 6:

We woke up and legitimately had a food hangover. Oh dear lord. I did something I don’t really ever do and worked out without eating food first. I am very much a creature of habit and like breakfast FIRST THING. This morning? Nope. Sweating a bit made me feel a bit more human, which was nice.

I had a couple options for coming home as B started a trip later that day, with, ironically, a Vegas overnight. I could …
– head back home on a flight that morning
– stay in Vegas by myself for the day, spend the night with him down at the Signature, and leave on a flight the next morning
– drive back to LA with B and catch a flight home that night while he goes off to work.

We ultimately decided on option three, which was nice since I usually always have to take the first flight out of places. So, we packed up, I hung out while B grabbed the car, and we popped over to the Peppermill for some breakfast, because as much as we didn’t particularly feel like eating ever again, we knew we needed breakfast.

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My type of breakfast.

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Love this place.

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B likes getting pancakes the size of his head.

We grabbed coffee and some Christmas presents at Starbucks on our way out of town (and I had a conversation about dinosaurs with one of the baristas) and settled in for the drive back.

I bought a cookie at Starbucks just in case … and I eventually ate it sometime in California … but my stomach was still not happy with me from the vast amounts of food I had consumed the day prior. As a result, dinner ended up being snacks (cheese, cucumber, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, and ramen) in the Delta clubs. I got home super late, but it was worth it.

Ate: Peppermill, Starbucks, Delta Sky Club noshes, plane snacks

We did talk a bit about the stay on the drive back to LA, and we determined that while the Wynn was nice, it’s not the place for us. It was also a bit too far north – we love our Bellagio, basically. Definitely worth the experience, though.

*While I am familiar with eating at the “high rolling” places, mostly from my relatively extreme youth, it does not mean that I am comfortable at them. That’s for the rest of my family. Typically the more expensive the place, the stuffier it is … and I just don’t do stuffy.

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Creativity Corner: Shinedown Word Art

So. I’m hoping to create more this year (don’t I say that every year??), but so far, so good for the month!

I did doodle a bit in my sketchbook for the first time in ages, but I wanted to do something a bit more substantial, so I decided to do some word art for B. We’ve been talking about painting random song lyrics for the longest time, so I finally said, “screw it!” and asked him for some Shinedown lyrics and then a color theme.

This is the result:

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I only apparently had large canvases around (that I could find at the time, at least). He wanted warm colors, so I did a loose play on a sunset/sunrise. I added a metallic Shinedown logo (sort of visible in the dead center) and then washed over it to make it super subtle. Finally, the lyrics from “How Did You Love” that B texted me.

I still need to get a lot better with painting words/doing word art, but he’s super happy with the end result, so I’ll take it!

On Washed Ashore

The Denver Zoo recently had a traveling exhibit called “Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea.” I had seen the banners for it while driving and we finally got the chance to go about three days before it ended its residency.

From their website: “Washed Ashore builds and exhibits aesthetically powerful art to educate a global audience about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and spark positive changes in consumer habits.”

The pieces? Are stunning. I took photos of almost every piece at the zoo (missed one behind glass) and I’ve included my favorites here.

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I adore this marlin.

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The jellyfish in the background is almost all entirely water bottles. Insane.

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Gorgeous parrotfish.

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Close-up. The artistry that went into these is amazing.

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Shark.

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Shark close-up.

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Turtle out of cans.

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Salmon.

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American sea star. In USA colors to bring attention to firework debris.

As I said, the exhibit is no longer in Denver, but they currently also have pieces in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (which might be permanent?). They are also coming soon to the Science Museum of Virginia (Richmond, Va.), Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (Tacoma, Wash.), and Reiman Gardens (Ames, Ia.).

Creativity Corner: Word Art Painting

(Yeah, titles for these posts are a work in progress …)

In my last post, I mentioned that I painted for the first time in a long time in late December. As what I painted goes along very well with my goal for 2015, I figured I’d share it here.

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“embrace FEAR and dream BIG” (acrylics on canvas)

The saying is based off a quote I kept posted on the sticky note function on my laptop – “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”

I had the canvas already started in that weird purply color (no idea what I was doing; probably using up mixed paint colors). I took some glitter paint, brushed it over and then did the words. I’m not quite there when it comes to hand-painted typography (maybe some day?), but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. It’s on the wall across from my side of the bed, so it is the first thing I see every morning.

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.

Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens

I’ve known about glass artist Dale Chihuly for a little while – mainly because of his work at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Awesome stuff.

So, when an exhibition of his came to the Denver Botanic Gardens, I knew I had to go. It started in June, but I heard they were doing night tours (now sold out) starting in October, so I decided to wait until then to go.

I am SO glad I went – very, very cool time. If you’re in Denver, go before it’s gone; if you’re not, and an exhibit of his comes to town, go. You will not regret it.

Here is a small sampling of all the photos I took when I went.

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This boat did not work as well at night.

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A friend described this as Chihuly meets Walter White.

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Another exhibit that didn’t work quite as well at night.

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Workshop display.

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These were awesome during the day, too, but the sunset behind them was too good to pass up.

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Same deal with this one.

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This worked a lot better at night with the reflection.

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Shadow play on this one looked awesome at night. During the day, fairly unremarkable, comparatively.

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Awesomeness of these came out at night.

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Denver Chalk Art Festival

Earlier this month, Denver held its annual Chalk Art Festival. I’ve known about it for years and have always wanted to go. This year, Brandon was home and I decided you know what? We’re going. I had a race that morning in Louisville; we came home, I showered and we headed downtown.

We almost didn’t go – traffic/construction downtown was JUST. THAT. BAD. – but we finally gave up, found a garage, parked and walked to Larimer Square where the festival was being held.

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There were a ton of artists featured – many still working on their creations. Most of the artwork was reproductions of famous pieces; some, representing a company (I believe their sponsor? Not 100% sure …). It was really crowded and hard to get a good look at everything, but I was able to get a few pictures of my favorite pieces.

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Octopus.

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Beautiful Art Deco piece.

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Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”.

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Hokkusai recreation.

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Hungry Hungry Hippos. (Brandon loved this one.)

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Blue horse of death from DIA.

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I believe a Colorado twist on Serendipity.

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Not sure the original artist/inspiration, but love the black and white.

I would say I would definitely go to this again, but the crowds made it really difficult to say. We went on the third day (of three). I would say I’d prefer to go on day one, Friday, but I don’t think many if at all of the pieces would be completed … seeing as we went midday on day three and some pieces still weren’t finished.

If you DON’T mind crowds and heat and whatnot, go, definitely go, as the artwork is outstanding.