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2 time ovarian cancer Survivor, Advocate for ovarian cancer awareness & research, Teacher of Zen Method Tai Chi, Blogger, sharing the wonderment and power of essential oils, proud fan of Cathe Friedrich's workouts, Reiki practitoner, A Course in Miracles student, paper crafter

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Vegas Vacay Day 3, Part 1.5

I was so excited to share my divine Craftsteak experience with you, dear readers, that I skipped over a bit of day 3 of my Vegas vacation. Forgive me?

I had been contemplating which shows I wanted to see, and could afford, since I arrived in Vegas. It was very unusual for me to go on vacation without at least a general plan of events. I'm a planner, I come by it honestly as my Mom is a planner too. We couldn't decide what we really wanted to see, or what was really worth seeing. So we spent the first 2 days of vacation getting acquainted with the Strip and asking questions. By this third day we were ready to see a show!

In the early pages of the free tourist guide there are 3 discount ticket sellers for same day shows. After the Shark Reef Aquarium tour with my New York Cathlete friend, I randomly picked one and called to find out what shows were discounted for the evening. After listening to the very very long list- TWICE, and talking to Mom on the phone with bad reception- TWICE- we finally decided on *drum roll, please* (this is anti-climatic if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, sorry) Cirque du Soleil's Criss Angel show at the Luxor. This show just sounded really cool to me. I saved about $100 by buying them on the same day- and doing lots of walking.

When I bought the tickets on the phone I was at Mandalay Bay. I had to pick up the tickets at the company's booth outside of MGM Grand which is kiddie corner to MB. That sounds like a fairly simple and short walk, right? No, not right! I took the free tram from MB to Excalibur, which took 15 minutes to go 1 long block. No, it's not faster to walk. I found that out on my way to the Shark Reef Aquarium earlier in the day. From Excalibur I walked to the first pedestrian bridge which is a couple hundred feet from the actual corner, and then I had to walk to the second pedestrian bridge that brought me to the front of MGM Grand. I thought the ticket booth would be right there in front of MGM Grand, because that's what the rep on the phone told me. That wasn't exactly the case. So I walked about 20 more minutes looking for the booth. Yay, I found it! Booo, I had to stand in line for 45 minutes. It was a crazy busy street with swarms of people everywhere. I was very far from my comfort zone! I finally get my tickets. Yay! But, booo I had to go to Luxor to actually choose specific seats and the earlier I got there the better. So I did my walk in reverse except I got off the tram at Luxor instead of going all the way back to Mandalay Bay. That took a full 30 minutes.

Here's the view from the first pedestrian bridge.

The view from the second pedestrian bridge. Luxor is the shiny pyramid. Mandalay Bay is the gold building to the left of Luxor. 

Nope, not there yet.... 

This is the front of MGM Grand. It's really, well, grand. New York New York is across the street, on the left side of the picture. We never got a chance to go in or ride the roller coaster. Bummer, but I think we spent our money and time wisely in Vegas. How many people can say THAT? ha! 

Here is an escalator to one of the pedestrian bridges.., 

A better- though not great- view of NYNY from a pedestrian bridge. It was built to really look like the NYC skyline so all those 'little' buildings really is one big building. Yay for palm trees, too! 

A good view of the roller coaster! Riding this coaster was on my wish list, but after Craftsteak and shows spending $15 to ride this just once felt a little silly.  

A glimpse of the gorgeous mountains that unfortunately you can barely see from the Strip. Can you believe all the street lanes and traffic?!? 

At this point I had walked 75 minutes for these discounted tickets. To go across the street two times! Vegas is insane! I had already been walking most of the day. I was pretty worn out by this time. It's not over yet though! I had to walk BACK to MGM Grand to meet Mom for dinner at Craftsteak. After dinner we had to walk BACK to Luxor for the Criss Angel show. I added it all up, best I could figure, to be at least 6 hours of walking. I definitely earned that Craftsteak meal of a lifetime!!

The Criss Angel show was definitely worth it, though! We ended up with crazy good seats so all that walking was worth it. The show was very entertaining and mind boggling! He is truly the best illusionist ever! Criss Angel was much more personable and down to earth than Mom or I thought he would be. We loved his show, but there wasn't much 'Cirque'ness to it. I'm not sure how the Cirque de Soleil fit in. Still, it was a fantastic and, yes, magical way to end the evening.

My evening wasn't quite over yet, though. That's Day 3 Part 3, though and it involves exotic flowers, a flirty encounter, and fire.

Vegas Vacay Day 3, Part 2

The third day of my Vegas vacation was my favorite day. The highlight of my favorite day was eating at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak restaurant with my Mom.


This was the finest, most delectable meal of my life. The restaurant is simply and elegantly decorated with rich woods, beautiful and creatively used flowers and whimsical paintings of cows. We had 2, count 'em 2, waiters. That is such an insufficient term, though. They treated us like a combination of royalty and family. The warmth and friendliness of these gentlemen was genuine and sincere. One of them even offered to take the above picture for us. 

There are numerous fine restaurants to choose from in Las Vegas, and choosing wasn't easy for me. I choose Craftsteak because it serves grass-fed beef and farm fresh produce. And because I'm a long time fan of Tom Colicchio, if you can be a fan of a Chef before trying his food. I honestly never thought I'd have the opportunity to dine at any of his restaurants. As a cancer Survivor, I truly appreciate the grass-fed beef options and rich vegetable choices. I thought it was so cool when I saw a list of farms and food artisans on the menu! I was nearly giddy from the moment we walked in! 

In the spirit of celebrating my Remission and improving health, we splurged and ordered the Chef's Beef Selction 3 Course Meal and a glass of red wine. The wine list was a really big book, it was really nifty.  I choose the Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec of Barancas Vineyards. It was THE best Malbec I've ever tasted! Well-balanced with just a hint of sweetness, and it had the most amazing purplish red color.

Each of the 3 courses has many components which was a very pleasant surprise. We couldn't believe how much high quality food was in each course, especially compared to the previous night's small yet very expensive appetizers at Stacked. 

This First Course

 Italian Buffalo Mozzarella with Red Pepper coulis and hazelnuts, perfectly Grilled Shrimp....

and Frisee, Poached Egg and Smoked Bacon salad (my first experience with eating a poached egg on a salad, it was to.die.for.).... 

and Roasted Beets with Clementines  (heavenly, and also a great cancer fighter).

Most amazing first course of my life! I would have been thrilled just to have eaten that course by itself. Thankfully, I didn't have to. 

The Main Course

Yukon Gold Potato Puree (silky smooth, perfectly seasoned divineness) served in a hot copper pot, Asparagus with Lemon Zest (incredibly fresh!), Assorted Sauteed Mushrooms, New York Strip steak medium rare served in a hot copper pan and....

Filet Mignon cooked to perfect medium in another copper pan. 

I'll never be able to eat steak anywhere else again. These steaks were melt in your mouth, superbly yet simply seasoned and roasted majestically.  

The Third Course

 These were the kind of desserts you see on Top Chef. It was thrilling to eat such well crafted food!! 

First came the coffee- in a coffee press just for our table! And little pieces of sugar, not cubes, pieces of sugar. I found those pieces of sugar immensely delightful. I'm not a big fan of coffee, but this coffee was special. Smooth, rich, and remarkably fresh. 

The desserts filled the table! We gleefully yet somehow gracefully indulged in Chocolate Ganache Cake with Creme Fraiche (chocolate perfection!), Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Strawberry sauce (insanely delicious)...

and Grapefruit Sorbet (interesting and unique), Hazelnut Cocoa Chip Ice Cream,  fresh Dates, Kiwi and Oranges. I haven't eaten many dates in my life, but I would joyfully eat these everyday.

Dining at Craftsteak was by far the culinary highlight of my life. I am thankful to be alive and healthy to have enjoyed it with my Mom. Thank you, Tom Colcchio,  Matt Seeber, and all of the Craftsteak crafters. Most of all, thank you Mom for this once in my lifetime vacation and incredibly marvelous and memorable meal. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vegas Vacay Day 3, Part 1

Yeah, yeah, I know the whole Part 1 thing isn't fair. It's late and I need to be awake and functional early so this will have to be a Part 1.

Day 3 was the peak of my vacation. I slept a bit late, and then walked to the other end of the Strip to meet a Facebook friend and fellow Cathlete. It took me a whole hour, and I was walking briskly. Got my cardio in for the morning for sure!! I was kind of sweaty by the time I got to our meeting place, but the brisk walk in the crisp air felt wonderful. The weather was a little chilly the whole time I was there, which was a little disappointing but worked out just fine.

This was the first time I've ever met another Cathlete and I was a bit nervous. Turned out just fine, though! We hit it off and had a great time together at Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef Aquarium and Fleur restaurant.

We started at Fleur, famed Hubert Keller's restaurant. It's a tapas menu, and it's heavenly. We shared hummus and baba ganoush with grilled pita and angus sliders. It was THE best burger- slider or not- I have ever enjoyed. Cooked perfectly and the onions were magic in my mouth.

Then we hunted out the Shark Reef Aquarium. I love aquariums, have you noticed? This aquarium is special because it's North America's only predator based aquarium. They had aquatic animals I've never seen in person before so that was nifty for me.

We were welcomed by this crocodile. 


Soo graceful and beautiful!

Look at me, I'm flying!!


He was really standing just like this picture- upside down! Amazing!


This fish was HUMENGOUS!!

There was a really cool tunnel!

We sat and rested on the benches inside the tunnel for a few minutes. We were in awe. 


Nifty jelly fish. I love the mystery and beauty of jellyfish. 

The highlight of the shark aquarium for me!





That wraps up Part 1. You'll definitely want to be here for Part 2. It's about a super nifty, once in a lifetime experience for me. 

















Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vegas Vacay, Day 2

Flying from Memphis to Las Vegas gifted me with 2 extra hours in the day. That was great, but it made for a very long Sunday. So on Monday I slept late for Memphis time, but reasonable for Vegas time (in my opinion, at least). I woke up with very tight and sore legs from all the walking I did on Sunday. The first thing I did was get on the floor and do some Yoga stretches. After about 15 minutes I felt invigorated and well stretched out. I *heart* Yoga. I need more Yoga in my life, but that's another post.

One of reasons I wanted to go to Vegas is because it holds a bit of my family history. My Bapa really enjoyed vacationing in Vegas after he retired many years ago. This meant my Nana got to 'enjoy' it too. Neither of them smoked and rarely drank alcohol. They were careful with their money, and only gambled with X amount each trip. They weren't Vegas-type people. Still, Bapa enjoyed it for some reason. Even more oddly, his favorite place to stay was Circus Circus. Twenty or so years ago, when they first started going to Vegas, CC was probably a decent place. Vegas surely was different back then, and Bapa wasn't big on change. He liked CC once, and so he probably saw no value in trying out someplace else.

Mom and I took a cab to CC Monday so I could see it live and in person. Yikes. Mom and my heart's ached for my Nana when we saw what CC was like inside. It smelled old, musty, smoky and generally icky. Nana must have hated it. There wasn't much for her to enjoy doing in Vegas. Bapa's favorite casino was Slots of Fun. I kid you not. Again, I don't know why. Apparently, this is was an awesome place back in the day. Bapa just never really left that day, I guess.

The wind was blowing crazy hard that day. See my post-chemo hair blowing in the wind? Yay for hair that's long to blow in the wind again!! 

Inside Circus Circus during one of the circus acts. It was, well, amusing. 

It was nifty to see the places that my Bapa enjoyed so much. I've heard about them almost my whole life. In a sad way, seeing these places completes a circle inside my heart.

We decided to walk back up the Strip and check out The Venetian's shops. It was further than it looked, just like everything in Vegas. I definitely got plenty of cardio on this vacation!! We saw the gondolas. I wasn't impressed, but it was interesting to see. Inside the shops is similar to a mall, but with upscale stores, beautiful and ornate architecture and the ceiling looks like a cloudy blue sky. Very cool! I felt like I could have easily been in Italy.  Judge for yourself, click here. The beginning of the third and fourth pictures show the ceiling/sky. And, yes, that's really what it looks like inside. It's amazing, elegant, and grandiose. I found my personal favorite shop in this 'mall', but that's top secret. Remember?

There are, also, living statues. Each living statue we saw was so graceful. Great ambiance! 

This was part of a little free show. The jester was stealing the statue's tips. 

I was shopped out and hungry, so we decided to walk across the street to our hotel. That sounds simple, right? Ha! It took us 20 minutes of actual walking time to get back to the lobby. We decided to share a couple appetizers at Stack. I ordered one of their specialty drinks called Raspberry Sin. It was yummy and decadent- and expensive. Yikes! 

Here's a very bad picture of my drink taken from Mom's phone. Notice the list? I had so many things I wanted to see and do on vacation that I had to write it all down so my chemo-brain wouldn't lose it. 

We ordered lobster tacos and lettuce wraps with beef, chicken and pork. The meats for the lettuce wraps came on a tiny grill. It's hard to see in the picture, look in the upper left hand corner. How fun is that? It was THE most expensive and smallest meal ever. Very tasty, though. And all the people watching was fun, too. 

Excellent, slightly emotional, and exhausting day 2. I was thankful to spend the rest of the evening resting my post chemo-ed feet and knees on the super comfy luxurious bed while texting with a couple friends. 

Day 3 is next... 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vegas Vacay, Day 1

Hellllooo from 10,000 feet above almost-to Las Vegas!

Look at these amazingly beautiful mountains!!!





Yay, we made it!! Look at those pretty palm trees! I *heart* palms! 

Vegas is crazy busy and full of people and noise!! It's overwhelming, in a mostly fun way, as soon as you get off the plane. Mom and I picked up our luggage and caught a bus to The Mirage. It was about Noon on a Sunday and the traffic was insane! I've never seen soooo many lanes! Everything is Vegas is grandiose. The Mirage is no different. There's a grandiose aquarium at their check in desk. I stood and stared in awe for several minutes. The room itself was wonderful! Sleek, elegant, comfy- but don't pick up or put down anything in the fridge because it will charge you! The mini-fridge in the room is weight sensitive. Mom and I laughed about it a lot! It was a shame that we couldn't buy a few bottles of water at grocery store and keep them in our room. Vegas is all about the money!

We started walking towards the M&M store, but we took the 'long' way through Caesars Palace's The Forum 'mall'. Mom wanted to show me the living statues. 


What a fun way to kick off our Vegas vacation! Amazing free show in the middle of The Forum shops!

The M&M store is totally awesome! There are 4, count 'em, 4!! floors. We found some really cute stuff, but it's top secret until next weekend when my Texas Peeps are home for a visit. No, I don't know who the little boy is in the picture. There were so many people, that I couldn't get a shot of just Red. I tried, believe me.

Next door to M&M is the Coca-Cola store. We found a couple cute things that we just had to bring home, again top secret. We decided to try soda from all over the world. 


Don't freak out- we shared it BUT we didn't drink even half of it. Some of them tasted really gross. 


This was one of the gross ones. 

See? We didn't drink that much of the samples. 


On our walk back we witness the theater of the living. We saw a golden Elvis. A man painted himself gold then dressed up like Elvis!! Crazy!! (That's Mom standing next to him on the left.) There was a young lady screaming and pushing a guy on the walkway. Scary! There was a young man passed out on a another walkway. So sad! Men and women tried to give us business card sized inappropriate pictures of women. Scary, sad, and sickening!

My view from the street on the very long walk back to the hotel. Here are some more~


The water show at the Bellagio. Very cool! 

Yes, Vegas is lit up like a crazy Christmas tree. Fun and amusing in small doses, for me anyway. 

I took this one from the walk-over bridge. 


Hail, Caesar!



Day 2 coming up tomorrow.... 

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