Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Las Vegas

Merry Christmas from the Luxor! That's kind of a fun thing to type. I was downstairs in the vast lobby imbibing my morning latte in the Starbucks, and it was surprisingly busy for 8:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. It was actually busy every morning I was there this week, even before 7:00 a.m. Now it's 9:30, I'm back in the darkened hotel room, M snoring gently, the sparkling wine chilling in anticipation of our trek over to sis-in-law's suite at Mandalay Bay for Christmas brunch in about an hour.

It's been a good trip so far. Mom, Denise, and Felicia were over for dinner the night before we left, so that started off the festivities nicely. Mom took Rex up to the coast the next morning, and by all accounts he's having a pleasant time--canine cousin Zoe is there too. Since we flew out of the Sonoma County airport, our morning was fairly relaxed--no rushing to beat Bay Area traffic. There was a little turbulence, but otherwise the flight was smooth and on time.

We didn't do much that first night, just settle in and have dinner. Though M did have a little fun and luck at the craps table, and I lost some cash at the slot machines. Wednesday morning M and I walked the strip a bit then waited in a very long line for the lunch buffet at the Bellagio. I don't think I've ever eaten so much! It was a painful waddle back to the Luxor in time for my pedicure and spa date with Arienne and Christin. It was a really nice indulgence--I've been feeling a little stressed from work, and the sauna and Jacuzzi in particular were a great way to release some of that. And a little girlie bonding with the in-laws was also A Good Thing. After some afternoon relaxation, we took a cab down to Fremont Street and saw how the seedy parts of Vegas had been cleaned up for us tourists.


On Thursday, M and Arienne and I headed out to Hoover Dam. We made it early enough to miss the worst of the crowds and opted for the deluxe tour that took us deep into the dam. It is quite the engineering marvel. I was good to get out of the casino for a little bit. After the high winds blew storm clouds out of the sky on Tuesday night, it's been cool but clear weather since, with lovely views of the desert ringed by mountains.

This morning, Christmas Day, we brought booty purchased from Whole Foods on the way back from Hoover Dam over to Christy and Scott's lovely suite atop Mandalay Bay and chatted for a bit while chowing down. Then we took to the strip again, riding the roller coaster at New York New York and admiring the lions at the MGM Grand. Arienne and I continued on to the Bellagio to fight the crowds in the garden area and see the incredible chocolate fountain. We took a couple of trams back, but I think my hips are going to be a little sore tomorrow.

Impressions: The food here is better than I recall from our last visit nine years ago, and also more expensive. I also pretty much gave up gambling after my first losses to the slots. M's been having good fortune at the craps tables, though we still have a day and tonight to spend, spend, spend. It's hard to penetrate to any sort of meaningful local experience, too. I asked my pedicurist (a nice young man named Thong, pronounced "Tong," which seemed like a particularly appropriate name for a denizen of Las Vegas) about thrift stores, and he was very vague about it, though of course shopping may not have been his forte. When asked about good places to eat, the nice young gal at the Starbucks offered a buffet she'd never actually been to. And while the scarcity of people when we first arrived was a bit of a downer (how do those dealers at the empty poker tables stand there for so long and stand it?), the crowds that have been building since Wednesday have been a bit of a drag. The casinos seem less smoky, but it's still hard for introverted me to be there with so much sensory overload. And so many families with young children here, what is up with that? One of my best Christmas gifts? I slept for eight straight hours on Christmas Eve, something I haven't done for a looong time. Santa Sandman was good to me.

Not sure what tomorrow holds. We all go our separate ways. I'd like to have breakfast at Bouchon at the Venetian, but not sure if we'll have time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vacation: Day Two

Day One was all about TV (a couple episodes of Dexter, Julie and Julia, Twin Dragons) and lounge attire. And for me, getting a good start on that $40 bottle of merlot M's bosses gave me at the Christmas party last Saturday. I was just a little shell-shocked from the week before, I think. Work continued to be extremely busy and stressful, but there were some nice parts.

One of my colleagues planned an olive oil tasting and tour of the presses, so five of us escaped the office early on Monday and drove through the Dry Creek valley to the tasting room of the Dry Creek Olive Company. We sipped four varieties straight like the pros do, warming the cups in our hands first, and then used bread cubes to dip the oil mixed with fancy vinegar, which they also make. Due to the recent frost, they weren't pressing the day we visited, but the tour was still very interesting. The company has two mills, the traditional three-wheeled stone type (two mounted like an axle that turn while moving around the outer edge of the third stone disk) and a metal hammer style press. It was so nice to learn about something both interesting and delicious.

We also had a couple of office parties, but it was a tough week for them--they felt rushed, what with everyone racing to wrap up last minute tasks before the break. Ah well.

I'm feeling much better now. It's been a quiet, lovely day. No Sunday blues to be found. I did a very little bit of Christmas shopping today (huh, how did that new travel-style purse and grey turtleneck sweater get into my cart?), surprised at how few people were out and about the Sunday before Christmas. Though maybe not so surprised given the economy. Lucky for us, Mom is coming down tomorrow to pick up her granddog, so I have time to run more errands before we leave for Vegas on Tuesday morning. I've been doing a little Sin City research, and starting to get excited about our trip.

Time for more TV. M's found a movie about a commune in Northern California in the late '60s for us to watch. Not sure how long I'll last, but might be interesting.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Creeps In

The rain has finally come in quantity this weekend. It's been pleasant staring out the windows at it and the liquid-intensified colors of grass and trees. Just when the sky seems to be lightening a bit and the rain easing and I considered donning coat and boots to walk the dog yesterday, another downpour arrived. I did venture out this afternoon, and we had a precipitation-free constitutional. I really needed it.

So I haven't done much this weekend aside from a load or two of laundry and putting together a long shopping list for Ikea and wrapping the gifts I'm contributing to one of our local charity. It was a particularly stressful week at work and I think I'm still reeling from that a little bit. I also didn't exercise enough and had some routine medical stuff done, just to pile it on. But it's Sunday night, so once more into the breech. Hope springs eternal and all that yadda yadda.

One bright spot in the week was the annual office craft sale I organize. Mom brought down some new pieces the night before, so I had plenty of stock. We did a better job of promoting it to the company, including the two other small businesses in our business complex, so we had the best traffic ever this year. That's always nice.

At least the parties have been plentiful this month. We've already been to three, and M attended an additional wingding put on by the Bar Association.

On Saturday last we went to an evening hosted by the wills and trusts attorney M works with occasionally. He and his wife invite people to eat, drink, and be merry and bring a gift for the Toys for Tots program. As you can imagine, their home was filled with lawyers. And an enormous quantity of Christmas-themed bric-a-brac. Where do they keep it in the off season? And a large and adorable Bernese Mountain Dog. The highlight of my evening was chatting with a real private investigator. What an interesting line of work, though a bit too much threat of physical violence for me.

Originally uploaded by suzipaw
Last Sunday we headed to chez Honey for a family gathering. More delicious food and pleasant conversation. We played Bananagrams, headed out to the local school playground in the chill weather, M wii'd with the kids. Very nice.

Last night we went to M's law firm's party. It was very low key--at the home of the couple who run it, a home cooked meal rather than at a swanky restaurant. But that's saying quite a bit since the wife is a trained chef who left the culinary world behind to practice law. Another evening of pleasantness. They have two adorable young daughters and just adopted an ancient black lab from the shelter. We ended the night with a bit of Texas Hold 'em and I actually did pretty well after a bit of coaching. Trying to channel my luck for Vegas.

Today was spent in service of the goddess of consumerism. We headed down to Ikea, hoping to finally find bookcases that work, but they were just too…crappy. I just couldn't stand the idea of having them in my house. (I've been toying with the idea of having a furniture maker whip us up something simple but solid in walnut or cherry. Uncle Lloyd, where art thou?) We did come home with plenty of less crappy other crap, including a desk for M that will nicely match the other tables in my craft room and lots of drapery to take the place of the closet doors we banished to the garage during the renovation.

It's getting late and I should prep for the gym tomorrow. But just wanted to close with the sentiment that I really miss blogging more!