Friday, June 29, 2012

Palazzo VS Caesar

I have not scheduled the girls for much this summer.  This is pretty normal for us.  But I do not want this summer to slip by and have them look at me all sad and whiny come September and have them say "But we didn't DO ANYTHING all SUMMER!!!"
Last summer, with Thing 2's broken arm, and our selling the house and moving, it was what Judy Moody would call a total bummer summer.  But this year I am willing to expend a little energy to try and keep it from being bummer-ish.

The first week after school was out we went to Vegas.  Hubby has had a conference in Vegas nearly the same week for several years.  We've skipped it once or twice in order for the girls to attend the "end of year festival" at school, but this year they bumped the conference to the week after school let out, so we were able to attend both the end of year festival at our old school, and the Vegas conference.
We have been to Las Vegas several times now, know our way around the area we stay in, and have gotten to enjoy Vegas.  The girls and I sleep in, lounge by the pool, wander the hotels and the area and laze around the hotel room.  When the conference is done for the day and Hubby comes back we wander around the hotels or the shops and find somewhere to eat.  Each trip we take the girls to one show - The Mystere Cirque du Soleil show one year, the Jousting Knights in shining armor dinner one year...  There might have been a couple years the girls were just too little to take anywhere... I have a memory of carrying a sleeping girl on my back all the way back to the hotel from the movie theater on the opposite end of Las Vegas Avenue.

The conference has always been held at the Palazzo hotel.  I have developed a deep love for the Palazzo.  Because:
1)  I like the Venetian hotel canal and shops, which connect the two hotels.  (not that I could ever in my wildest dreams afford anything there, it's just a nice place to walk)
2)  Denny's is right on the other side of the Venetian.
3)  There is a nice mall kitty-corner across from the Palazzo.
4)  The room is massive - a large TV in the bathroom, one at the foot of the two queen beds, and one in the adjoining sunken living room with the sectional sofa and huge coffee table.  That's right, THREE TVs.  Large ones.  The room was so much bigger and more spacious than our cute little 100 year old house, it was a real change for us.  The girls could spend an hour just jumping from the coffee table, to the couch, to the short wall room divider (covered with marble and about three feet tall), to the first bed, to the 2nd bed... and back again.  (Not that I would ever condone jumping around on the furniture like wild Indians... but...  If it keeps them happy while I can cruise the internet for a while, I'm inclined to overlook a lot of normally marginal behavior.)
This is a picture off the internet of the Palazzo hotel room.  Looking from the beds into the living room area.  It is a mirror image room of the next picture, but it's like the ones we've stayed in before.
 This is looking from the other direction.  Note the terribly handy benches at the foot of the beds.
 The bathroom was bigger than my TV room at our old house.  The huge tub and shower are off to your left out of the picture.  The door in the middle goes to the toilet.
I realize the "ooh poor me I used to be able to stay in the lap of luxury shown here" angle is pretty weak... but this is as much a diary as a blog, so there it is.
5)  The rooms on one side of the Palazzo overlook the Treasure Island hotel, where the pirate ship battle goes on every half hour or so.  The last time we stayed at the Palazzo, we had a great view of the pirate battle.  We watched it several times, the girls in their pajamas sitting on the window ledge looking out over the city.
6)  There was a little mini-market right near the elevators at ground level.  It was ridiculously overpriced, but I could get some fruit or a bagel or a cup of cereal and a container of milk.  It was workable.

So.  We loved the Palazzo.

However we learned that our love for the Palazzo will have to go unrequited.  Because the conference has moved to Caesar's Palace two years ago, and due to some financial kerfuffle and lots of shouting and hurt feelings (on the part of the conference management that Hubby talked to) they won't be going back.

Ceasar's Palace is great.
But it isn't the Palazzo.
There wasn't a sunken living room.  There wasn't sprawl out seating, there was one little sofa, and two rather small arm chairs.  The bathroom was big, but not as big.  Denny's was a longer walk away.  The pool was closer, but the big padded couches right in front of the pool were all reserved and you get chased off by the drink girls in the skimpy costumes if you sit on them without checking with the cabana boys first.  The walk from our room to ANYWHERE was about seven minutes or longer.  There was no market, nowhere to buy any little things you'd forgotten, or a piece of fruit.  The closest food I found was a little food court. Breakfast selections were extremely limited.  But it was the most likely thing I could find without leaving the hotel, or having to sit down and have a formal breakfast. To get there I had to go down the elevators, by the pool, cut through a corner of the casino, though the hall by some shops, past a reproduction of the David, past three or very pricey restaurants, cut through another corner of the casino, and up a ramp.  Then, back, with my arms full of paper bags and a cardboard drink caddy of juices.
The first night we couldn't find a good restaurant and it was getting late, so we broke down and went back to the hotel room and ordered room service for the girls.  YIKES!!!  Won't be doing that again!
While I took care of the room service order and waited with the girls for it to come, Hubby went out roaming to find some food for me and himself.  He picked up a take out salad for me, and a burger for himself, and returned about the time the girls were wrapping up their meal.  He forgot to get me a fork.  He nearly cried.  Lucky for him, I had noticed that there was a very very limited Starbucks not too far from the elevators, and I ran down and got one.  Though of course I could have just used the room service fork... Didn't think about that until I was already back.
Too much detail.  Sorry.  This is what a $73 room service meal looks like.
We still had a lovely time, spent a lot more time at the pool than we usually do during our Vegas vacations, but I brought a lot of sunscreen, and like usual, only sunburned myself. We took the girls to the Blue Man show, they absolutely loved it.
We watched the Bellagio fountain, which we hadn't seen before.  We even waited through the break in between to see a couple of the fountain shows.

We spent quite a bit of time at the pool.

We had to walk around the Venetian to get the Blue Man tickets.


Of course one of the big things about Vegas is the food.  This is one of my problems with Vegas.  There is often good food, but so much more than you really want, and you pay so much for it than you'd expect.  That's why the girls and I often sneak off to Denny's for some regular food.  But you get what you pay for, I suppose.  This was my lunch at Denny's.  I swear this was the plate I was handed.  Just like this.
Compare that to breakfast I had at my new favorite Vegas eatery, Hash House a Go Go.  This is some sort of chicken eggs benedict, just as it was handed to me. It might not look like the overwhelmingly delicious dish it was, but it was Absolutely Divine. My only frustration was that we'd eaten at the Cheesecake Factory the night before and I was still mostly full from that. I didn't get to eat much of this wonderful delicacy before I was just ready to pop.
  We stopped at the Hoover Dam on the way out of Vegas.  It was pretty interesting.  We hung out in the Dam snack store and had some Dam ice cream before we left because it was so darned hot.  We looked at buying a Dam tee-shirt in the Dam gift shop, but couldn't find any we liked.  Hubby showed Thing 2 the bottom of the Dam "DON'T LET GO OF ME DADDY!!!"  Thing 1 backed away quick when she saw him turn to her with that big smile on his face.
Then we got back on the Dam road and headed home. 

Of course anyone who's read all the Percy Jackson novels (like we have) knows these Dam angels are just hanging out until they can fly off to San Francisco to party with some angel statues there... I forget exactly where.

We had a darned fine time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

School's out, and We Have Dirt!

Last night we attended the "end of school" festival from our old school.  Stupid me took no pictures.  Thing 2 was just totally excited for the festival, but Thing 1 was a little worried that she'd be sad to see her old friends.  When we got there, the kids ran off and played and talked to all their old friends.  I saw all my old friends, and surprised myself by launching into my own melancholy.  The girls had a great time, and I enjoyed seeing everyone, but it was sad to see how much of a life we gave up to move here.  Having spent ten years down there, very heavily involved in the school, and church, there were lots of people I left behind too.  You don't realize what you're losing until it's lost.  Sigh.

Today I showed up to pick up the girls from their last day of school to find every parking space full, and cars all along the road in all directions.  I've never seen it so crowded!  What am I missing?  What is it all the other parents know is going on that I don't?
They have a tradition at the school to "clap out" the fifth graders, who are going on to the 6-7 grade school next year.  All the other kids and teachers line up and the outgoing fifth graders, dressed in wild wigs and apparently the most colorful, outrageous clothing they could find, run between the clappers.  It was kind of cute, I wish I had taken my phone so I'd have a picture.

The girls wanted to do something special after school.  I agreed to take them out for pizza for dinner, which has recently been redecided to just go get a pizza and come back and eat in front of a movie on the TV.  That's our idea of a celebration.  One woman I was standing with said she's going to take her kids to the amusement park, about an hour away.  Oooh, good idea!  Wish I'd thought of that!  Hmmm, not too excited about going, though, and the girls wouldn't want to go without Hubby.

SO glad school's out, this has been a really hard year for Thing 1.  Thing 2 is planning on having twice as much fun as normal, to make up for having a broken arm/no fun last year.

Instead of starting a new post, I'm just going to throw in some pictures of the garage deconstruction.
In order to take some of the slope off the horribly sloped driveway, we're digging down to lower the garage floor, then will slope it out to the road.  The cement was horribly pocked and pitted and needed to go anyway.  As soon as they took off the cement in the garage, they hit very hard rock that had to be jackhammered out.  A one day scoop job turned into a week of jackhammering and dragging rocks out.  You can see the lowered garage floor under the garage door.

The funny thing is that Hubby and I simultaneously and independently both came to the conclusion that we can use the rocks pulled out of the garage to build a rock wall in front of the house, to the right, to make a place to put some trees.  The excavator, a very nice little retired guy who's been finding every way he can to save us money, said he's built a couple of rock walls and will be happy to put the rocks aside, then move them over where we want to, and put the dirt on top of it.  The rock wall will be off to the right.
We just finish the basement and moved to the garage, before the basement even stopped smelling like new paint.  We must be gluttons for punishment.  My bank account is totally crippled.  I'm so looking forward to this being all over with.  The kitchen, which we knew when we moved in needed to be remodeled, is probably pushed back five years.  Sigh. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Photo stalker

We went downtown for Hubby to see Thing 1's art at the exhibit.
We were walking toward the gallery, and I happened to turn around and see a very old little man on the street motioning in our general direction.  Some people were coming the other way, and I thought surely he's with them.  We walked a little farther, and I noticed he was still following us, with a little smile on his face, and he motioned to me again.  He seemed pretty harmless so I went back and talked to him.

Turns out he lived just up the street, and saw us and thought we were a cute family.  He offered to take our picture. I think people in town see so many out of towners, they have been conditioned to be "tourist friendly."  

I let him take a picture of us with my phone.
Several people we talked to that evening talked to us like we were tourists, we quickly learned to smile and nod and accept their hospitality, and not tell them we are actually locals unless they asked specifically where we were from. 

In any event I got a picture of myself out of it, since I'm usually the one behind the camera, and consider myself less photogenic than the rest of my cute family, it is kind of rare.