Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Week in Vegas

So what do you do when you're in Vegas for a whole week and you don't gamble and you're too poor to go see a show?
Well here's what I did:

As I mentioned in my previous post, we stayed at Circus Circus which was- as promised by reviews- at the shady end of the strip.

The room was perfectly nice, but the public areas (shops, lobby and casino) were pretty run down. The worst bit was how far away from the rest of the action it was- you had to walk through about a half mile of construction before you hit Fashion Show mall or the Wynn, which were the nearest places on the Strip.
Though on the way there you did pass some entertaining places like this coffee shop:

You catch the name in red there? When I worked up the courage to wander past and actually peek in though, it didn't seem to actually have anything to do with fornication, except that there was a cutout of a lady in a bikini right by the door...
But anyway... since Wynn was closest to our hotel I usually had lunch there in a cute little cafe called Sugar & Ice. It had the dual draw of a nice view:

and being one of the few places in town where you can get a great sandwich and a (bottomless!) coffee for under $15. Seriously, if it's been a few years since you've been to Vegas, prepare yourself for the price increase on food! One evening my hubby was late coming to meet me for dinner at the Bellagio (about 2.5 hours late) and I decided to grab a snack. I paid almost 20 bucks for a crepe and and iced mocha!! But I digress...

The Wynn was very pretty with lots of natural light, and the vegas-ness was very tastefully done. I particularly like the decorations at the bars Parasol Up and Parasol Down (there was one upstairs and one downstairs.)

This is the upstairs bar:

And this is the decoration over the downstairs bar:

Ginormous fantasy parasols! So pretty...

The casinos were all decked out for the Chinese New Year (which was Monday.) Apparently that's big business for them.

The Wynn had a dragon in the lobby:

As well as a display in the conservatory:

That was a tough picture to get without crowds of people in the middle of it! Everyone was crowding in to get shots of the giant emperor guy.

Who had quite impressive detailing when you got up close. But the topiary pandas were pretty darn cute, too:
So after lunch if the weather was nice I would hit the strip and wander around the outdoor entertainments and check out the hotel facades.
Personally I liked Paris the best (from the outside at least!)

I liked that it had all its big showy stuff right out front in the sidewalk where you didn't have to wade through 10 minutes of smokey casino to see it! I also appreciated its lack of moving, scrolling and flashing parts- that all got a little dizzying after awhile! And it was just as cool after dark:

The Flamingo had a little zoo with flamingos (surprise!) and other water fowl:

As well as a nice little series of water falls:

Over at the Mirage they had a habitat with a few dolphins and the white lions and tigers from Penn and Teller's show. That one wasn't free (the other was) but I figured with all the free entertainment I was getting, I'd splurge on the $15 for this. (I'm not entirely sure it was worth it, the place was REALLY small...)
You could see the dolphins from the top of the tank, or under water. There was a guy trying to do some maintenance on the tank while I was there and one of the dolphins seemed determined to eat his flipper, which was pretty cute.

And over in the large cat area there were some tiger cubs having an awful lot of fun:

And some random llamas and alpacas that weren't.

And when the weather was bad I worked my way from one hotel to another via the connected malls and shops and bridge walkways. Inside I enjoyed things like the singing gondoliers at the Venetian.
And the abundance of fountains that frequently came to life to fight with each other or play music. This particular fountain didn't actually do anything, which made it one of the nicer ones!

And as you can see, the sky ceiling that changed over the course of the day was pretty cool.
Way toward the back of the Shops at the Venetian (or was this all in the Forum shops? They're getting all mixed in my head already!) is FAO Schwartz with its signature giant toy out front, this one a robotic Trojan horse that lit up and nodded scarily every once in awhile.

Across the street at the Forum shops at Ceasar's Palace there were very few stores I could afford anything in, but there was an incredible home furnishing place that was like a museum.

I would have LOVED to take just about everything in that store home with me, but since that table alone was "on sale" for about $3,000, that certainly wasn't going to happen!
On the front of the mall there was a sign that I loved:

How perfect!! Ha ha!

So after about 8 hours of wandering up and down the Strip and in and out of stores, I met my Hubby and his colleagues for dinner. (One of my duties during the day was scouting out reasonably priced restaurant options.) The only bad meal we had the whole time there was our first night when we got in late and ate in Circus Circus. (Though Origins India slightly off the strip wasn't exactly impressive.) But Planet Hollywood (Forum Shops), Olives (Bellagio), Okada (Wynn), and PF Changs (Planet Hollywood) while mostly chains, all had quite good quality food.

After dinner I would try to get Hubby out to see a bit of the strip.

And while he was mostly overworked and exhausted (can you tell?), he did see the big sights as far south as New York New York!

My favorite entertainment on the Strip was by far the fountains at the Bellagio. I watched them 9 times! And each time the show was different! I got a nice video clip of them doing their thing to "Singing in the Rain", but my internet connection keeps cutting out before it can load. I'll try again in the morning and see if it's more solid... check back later!

The real highlight of the week,though, came Sunday evening when Hubby called an early quit to the day (4:30ish) so we could all jump in the car and drive out to see the Hoover Dam.

And while the dam itself (for me at least) was kind of like "oh look, a big dam," the landscape on the drive down and the reverse view from the dam was BEAUTIFUL!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Las Vegas, Here We Come!

My poor hubby is once again being sent to a fascinating location to spend a week workin' his butt off. But that means that lucky old me- I get to go for a little vaca! As you may have guessed from my not-so-cryptic heading, we're off to Vegas!

Neither of us has ever been to Vegas. Neither of us gambles. Neither of us has seen anything of the mid-west, and hubby has been DYING to see some canyons and is practically groaning in pain at the thought of being less than three hours drive to about 6 different famous sights and completely unable to take the time to see them! We'll be out there for about a week, so there is a small hope that the project will move unexpectedly quickly and we will be able to get away.

In the meantime, I will be wandering up and down the Strip, exploring the casinos, hotels, museums, and any sort of free or cheap entertainment I can find.
I will not be gambling!
I hate gambling! Some well-meaning family members invited me to join them at a casino day a few months ago. My step-mom even gave me money with which to gamble, thinking that losing someone else's money would make it more fun! But it didn't. I spent about 2 hours wandering around losing the first $30 slowly and painfully, at which point my sisters took me to a video machine and FORCED me to HAVE SOME FUN! (aka, lose the rest of my money.)

So I don't get it. I mean, why would I go feed my money into some machine that flashes silly pictures at me when I could just as easily walk over to the shops and spend that same money with MUCH better odds? I mean, I've NEVER walked into a store, handed them money and NOT gotten something in return! My sister keeps pointing out that you get free drinks when you gamble, but I just can't drink fast enough to make that work either! I mean, even losing as slowly as I possibly could I was only able to comsume 4 beverages in the time it took me to lose $60. Now where is she drinking that 4 drinks cost more than $60?!

Anyway, my hubby's admin booked us into Circus Circus, because apparently his wife's presence meant that she should put us in a "family friendly" hotel rather than the usual Planet Hollywood. (I also don't get that...) And while I'm not thrilled about staying in a place where most of the reviews mention something about the throngs of unsupervised, screaming children, I am pretty excited to be staying across the street from the brand new Wynn, and next to Fashion Show Mall! Unfortunately, the Wynn has closed its art gallery, but it seems that a keen eye will find Picassos and Renoirs hanging in the lobby itself!

We're off tomorrow, and back next Wednesday. Hopefully I'll get some good pictures to share with everyone when we get back!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Olympic Low VOC Paint, and more...

In my continuing quest to find paint that doesn't burn my brains out with its odor while simultaneously offering me a vast array of color choices and not emptying my bank account, I tried out Olympic low-odor (and VOC free) paint from Lowes. I also checked out their low VOC primer.
Apparently, all of Olympic's premium interior paints are now VOC free, and truly very very low odor. They do have a large selection of colors, and claim that they can match any color they can find in their database. Since they offered, I thought I'd test that out with a color swatch I'd picked from Behr. And they matched it!
Unfortunately the color was wrong... but two shades lighter on the same strip from Behr looked very promising, so back I went! But the second time, despite multiple attempts, they were unable to match the color- it kept coming out wierdly yellowish grey. So I picked a very similar line from their own selection, which also turned out to be the wrong color once I got it up on the wall...
So back I went! Again! I was tearing through their racks of color trying to find an Olympic swatch that matched the Behr swatch I had when the mixing guy (who at this point new my face quite well) came and offered to try another match. And again, despite six modifications, he failed... but I took the paint anyway because he had tried so hard... (have I mentioned before I'm kind of a sucker?)
CONCLUSION: The primer had a low but noticeable odor, and very splotchy coverage. It was enough that one layer of light paint over it was sufficient, but it did splatter a lot during application with a roller (hat and drop cloth not optional!) The paint was odorless, splattered much less than the primer during application, but also had patchy coverage unless I was really careful. It liked to go on a little thick. On the wall where I had primed, one careful (light colored) layer was sufficient, but two coats on a non-primed surface still required some touching up.

OLYMPIC VS. FRESHAIRE CHOICE: I have to give the leg up to Olympic because of the color range, and also because it seemed to stick better to the wall (is there a term for that?) Once it was dry I pushed the furniture right up against it and it hasn't rubbed off yet! And Olympic is about $10 cheaper, which helps.

WHY am I painting? you may ask... here's a little hint:

Darn it, I'm so bad at hints! I always get too excited and give everything away! Though this time I haven't actually, because that isn't even the final paint color! Though it does hint at it... : )

Friday, January 9, 2009

Clean House!

My sister's dogs (who have been with us for a week) are going home tonight. And while they have been adorable and entertaining, they have mostly been MESSY, and a LOT of work!

Mothers out there, I respect you all the more having tried to manage one week with two dogs and two cats, and nearly being defeated by that!

When they go, I will finally be able to satisfactorily CLEAN MY HOUSE!! And in eager anticipation of that moment, I have- as prior visitors will notice- cleaned my blog! The banner isn't exactly all I'd hoped it would be (oddly pixelated...), but all those colors and pictures and backgrounds seemed to be getting in the way of each other.

So, what do you think?!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Favorite Things

Looking around my house, there are a few things I have that I adore a little more every time I see them. Some have great stories, and some are just a little self-indulgent, but they all bring me pleasure.

In no particular order:
I picked up this wood carving of Ganesha and two elephants on my last trip to India (my husband's parents are in Bombay, so we try to go every year.)

I remember standing in the expo where we bought it, staring at the 20-odd different designs of carvings to choose from. The proprietor- normally very attentive- had long since given up on the idea of helping us decide (we went back three times and spend at least 20 minutes each time!) And once we did decide my husband had to carry it the mile or so back to the house- the piece is solid and weighs 5-10 lbs.! And then cramming it into my suitcase...

But I got very good at packing when my in-laws presented me with a gorgeous Noritake china set -about 50 pieces, without packaging- on my first trip. I'm proud to say that I packed all that china- tea set and all!- in dirty socks and underwear, checked it in and got it home without losing a single piece! HA!

Also in the list of things I've lugged back from India and love all the more for it:

This solid brass hanging elephant head. It's sort of like a door knocker, but with a bell instead. Again, weighs a ton...

This carved and inlayed side table:

Actually, my husband brought this back as a present the first year we were together. (He thought since we weren't engaged it would be best to go without me!) But boy did he make up for leaving me behind!
And then there are the moroccan bowls:

Which my aunt gave me as a bridal shower gift. I love these bowls.... LOVE THEM! And with that love comes the conflict of what to do with them: Do I store them safely away so they will be safe forever? Do I display them on the wall and risk them getting knocked down? Do I actually USE them?? I've opted for the last so that I can see them every single day, and I use them as fruit bowls.This is the small one overloaded with clementines!

And in that same picture is another of my new favorite things.

My kitchen chandelier! Between the faceted bulbs I put in there and the abundance of crystals, it casts SUCH a pretty light! You can see the pattern the bulbs throw on the ceiling in this picture, and at night there are prisms all over my kitchen! In the summer I'll take off the red shades and swap out the red cutrains (in the previous picture) for some crisp cream colored ones and lighten the whole thing up.

Another light I adore that transitions nicely into my golden obsession:

This was one of the first purchases I made for the new house. I bought it at Home Goods with a gift certificate my grandparents gave me as a housewarming present. I must admit that I would never have spent over $50 of my own money on a table lamp, no matter how pretty it was! And yet I happily spend $100 plus for chandeliers without blinking... go figure!

Another gilt-obsession satisfying, gift card provided purchase:

This adorable side table from Pier One. A friend gave me a gift card as a thank-you for watching her puppy for a week, and I found this table on sale for under $30! The best part?

It folds up!
You pull up on that ring and the whole thing folds flat to be stored behind a couch, or hung on the wall until you need it again! That's perfect for me since I'm continually rearranging the furniture to accomodate varying social gatherings (in a couple weeks the couch will be moving into the kitchen to make way for a banquet table for a 12-guest dinner my husband is hosting!) This table fits perfectly in any available spot where a cocktail may need to rest.

And I do so love sparkley things... !

Well, this list could go on and on, but that's enough for one sitting!

There's a poplular saying around here in New England that you may have heard before: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." I've just had a perfect example of that. Literally five minutes ago it was a beautiful, bright sunny day, and now?

More snow!! And coincidentally, that view is also one of my favorite things! (preferably minus the snow...)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hand Painted Coffee Table

I found my coffee table in someone's trash pile on the side of the road about six years ago. It was black, chipped on the corners and scratched and scuffed on top.

But it had all this pretty detailing that seemed to have promise, so I piled the backseat passengers on top of each other (which was okay because it was my brother-in-law and his girlfriend) and took it home with me.

I sanded it a bit, painted it to match the wood furniture, and broke out my gold paint pen.

Yup, one of those gold pens you can pick up in the office supply section! I tried a couple different kinds of gold paint, and the pen actually was easiest to control and gave the best color.

I looked at Mehendi design books for ideas for the drawings. Since I was free-handing (and am not a great art talent) I sketched out the designs with a pencil before going over them with the pen.

Inside the flowers in the corners I created a monogram of my husband's and my own first initials, H and M.
The detailing on the side was the hardest and took the longest to do.

But, 14 hours of painstaking detail work and a couple coats of polyurethane later, I had a great customized, personalized coffee table for less than $10!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Winter Fun in the Suburbs

So what do you do when you live in the suburbs and are a little post-holiday broke?
Go cross-country skiing!

We've been eying that large, snow-laden field behind our house for awhile now, and my husband finally got on the phone and called all the sports retailers in the area to see if any rent cross country skis and what the prices are. Turns out that EMS, which is about 15 minutes from our house, does rent a full kit (boots, poles and skis) for $15/day, or $20 for the weekend, and because of the holiday he got to keep everything from Wednesday to Sunday for $20.

My sister's pointer dogs are with us for the week, and an old college buddy of my husband's was visiting, so we all got suited up and went for a romp in the field.

I think the dogs had fun.