Daily Prompt: Enchantment

When I saw the daily prompt today I thought, that will be easy! What expresses the meaning of “Enchantment” more than a beautiful night picture of the illuminated Cinderella’s castle from Disney World?  And, since we have been there so many times I have a plethora of pictures to choose from on my computer.

However, as I was going through my pictures I came accross this picture.  Taken over the summer, it is basic, not enhanced and just not very beautiful.  Even so, this is the one that expresses the meaning of “Enchantment” to me.  Why?

Because as soon as you walk through the gates of the Magic Kingdom and start making your way down Main Street USA in the early morning hours with hundreds of other families….a midst all the excitement and smiles…you are transported to a magical land.  One where the cares and struggles of the “real” world are tossed away and your only reason for being there is FUN.  My two kids…now in their early teen years, hormone ridden where every day is an emotional crap shoot…suddenly changed back to their childlike, carefree and happy selves.  My daughter skipped her way towards the castle.  I caught my son singing “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” and actually walking close to his sister.  I was overcome with emotion and had to snap this picture.  It embodies the true meaning of “Enchantment” to me.  Thank you Walt.

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Viva Las Vegas Part I

Sorry this is so delayed, it has been a very busy time in the office since I got back from my short two-nighter in Vegas. So my mother and I left DFW early Sunday morning on an uneventful flight. We left from terminal D at the DFW Airport and even thought I worked at the hotel there for 2 years, I never noticed this weird music making contraption inside the terminal.  It was so strange I had to take a picture of it.  You apparently walk around in it and it makes sounds…

Weird

The only comment I have about the flight is that AA flight attendants sure are unhappy with their jobs and it is VERY obvious. We had an older lady who just seemed completely “over it”. To her, I say….go get a new job. We flew first class but were treated like the lowest of the low. I can only imagine how the people in coach were treated.  My mom has since written a letter — we’ll see how much of an impact that makes…if any!

We decided to take a Bell Trans shuttle over to the Aria because we were early and really weren’t in a big hurry. It did take us about 35 minutes total by the time the driver stuffed the filled up the van and we were the 2nd stop. Quick but of info – if you take a taxi you would be dropped off around the Aria’s front drive not too far outside of the check in area. If you take a shuttle, as we did, .they can only drop off in the underground garage area from which you would take the escalators up to the opposite side of the casino from where the front desk is. It is a long walk through the casino to check in. We didn’t mind it, as my mom had never seen the Aria before but if you have a ton of luggage you might take the bellman up on his offer to help with your bags…as you will be walking quite a ways.

View of the Luxor from the route our driver took

Mandalay Bay

Another Luxor View

It was around 10am by the time we got to the hotel and they hadn’t formed a line for check “IN” yet. There was a long line of people checking out and about 5 clerks at the desk. One thing about Aria check in…they are extremely friendly but very slow. I’m not sure what they have to do in their system to check in a guest but from 12+ years of hotel front desk management experience, I can tell you that I could check in my guests in less than 3 minutes each. We had a really nice clerk but he was sure taking his sweet time!

Outside of City Center

City Center / Aria / Cosmopolitan

Aria check in area, fall decorations

Aria casino

The room wasn’t going to be ready until much later so we quickly brought our bags to the bellstand for storage. I only stopped at one machine on the way out the door…the new Ghostbusters transmissive reel machine. $20 gone just like that…nothing,, zilch, nada. Sadly, this would be the recurring theme throughout the trip. We headed out to lunch and like an idiot…I didn’t change my shoes before walking down to the Mirage for our tradition of eating at Carnegie Deli. My dogs were barkin LOUD by the time we got there and I planned on grabbing a pair of flip flops from somewhere before heading back down the strip.

Views while walking

Bellagio

Inside the Cosmopolitan

More of the Cosmopolitan as we were coming down the escalator

Vegas is getting to look more like New York!

Time for lunch!!

Always a tradition to eat here on day 1

Lunch at Carnegie was good as usual…we laughed because we got the same waiter we had a few years back…an older Asian gentleman who just seems constantly confused and forgetful. He’s extremely nice and it’s always a hoot watching him run around like a chicken with his head cut off so we really didn’t make a big deal about having to remind him about our request for pickles 5 times…. We shared a potato knish and a grilled cheese/tomato …just a little over $20 out the door for the both of us. You can barely eat at Mc Donalds for that price nowadays (I don’t eat at Mc Donalds tho…) I swear that the knish size has shrunk however…it did seem much smaller than in the past. Either that or I was just extremely hungry.

Grilled cheese and knish (that is mustard I promise!)

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the purple gleam of light from the new Monsters penny slot machine and headed over there after eating. Not too long and the machine had eaten my $20 for its lunch too. I hit something and saw at the top of the screen it said “45 Wilds added”…sounded good. You can see by the video that I won a whopping $1.80.

What a let down! Of course I had to play my arch-enemy Davinci Diamonds … walked away with about $10 only. We played a few more slots and I walked out of the Mirage about $40 lighter, while my mom played a Wheel of Fortune slot and walked out after doubling her money.

My mom’s win on WOF

$24.21 profit

Next was TI because I knew they had that store where everything is $10 or less and I was in desperate need of some different shoes. We took the tram over from Mirage to TI and I made a b-line for that store. Grabbed a pair of blinged out sandals and my feet cried with relief. After a quick Starbucks run and a bathroom break, we decided to take the tram back over to Mirage and then cross over to do the Casino Royale promo slot and grab a couple of margaritas. My promo $ ran out rather quickly and my mom was able to sit a while longer before hers finally ran out.

We didn’t play any there but went into the Flamingo to get our TR cards (I forgot mine and I don’t think mom even had one). We tried a few slots there. Here is a small bonus win on one of my most favorite slots, Ghostbusters:

And another small win on the Hangover slot machine (another favorite — btw, I had just reduced my bet because I was running out of money and hit the bonus…always happens that way!)

I sat down at the new “Clue” machine and got some random bonus after just a few spins that made me $40….that was the one and only time that “Clue” game paid me anything. I wish I would’ve filmed it but I forgot.  I also played “Aladdin” and made it to the bonus where the chair moves – which was pretty cool if you ask me. I think I made like $15 off of that bonus…I was only playing like $.40 a pull. Mom fell in love with one of those Penguin machines…because her Penguins were pretty active. They were jumping around, leaping and swimming, turning things wild and re spinning…which resulted in about a $50 profit for her. I tried the machine next to her and I think my Penguins were hibernating. I got nuttin.

From Flamingo was a walk past Harrah’s carnival court to get to Paris. They’ve got the sidewalk all torn up over there and it is a tight squeeze to get around. We saw some interesting “characters” hanging around. I don’t know about you but there is something incredibly wrong with a 6 foot Dora just hanging around on the strip! Creepy. Inside Paris we took a stab at that new community Wheel of Fortune video slot and a couple of others. No profits but we had fun.

Creepy Spongebob and Dora

Be afraid kids, be very afraid!

By this time it was nearing 4pm and we needed to see if our room was finally ready…as they never texted us to let us know. I picked up our show tickets from that night at the old Viva Elvis box office…now the “Zarkana” box office.  When I mentioned to the guy that I would be back in February and am excited to see “Zarkana”, he commented that they probably will still be working the kinks out of the show at that time, so it might be a good idea to see it twice.  Once in Feb and once later in 2013.  The box office area was really gorgeous and the show seems like it’s going to be excellent.  He mentioned that “Zarkana” will be a resident show to the strip, similar to the other Cirque shows like “Mystere” and “O”.

Zarkana theater area

The room was available and we were able to change and get ready for our show at NYNY. The room was decent – they had given us 2 beds even though I had made the reservation for a room with one king to avoid the extra $30 they originally wanted to charge me for 2 beds on the night that was not comped. It ended up that they gave us the 2 bed room for free because there was never that $30 additional charged to our room. The room seemed much smaller than the one my husband and I stayed in back in Feb. In my opinion, the huge entry way wastes a lot of space. However, the shower/tub combo thing is awesome.

Tryin out the technology

We took the back way through Monte Carlo to get to NYNY and grabbed a soda on the way. We had tickets for the new show “Broadway Celebration”. Mom and I are both musical theater nerds so this was right up our alley. I had heard and read some not too good reviews of this show but we both thought it was really good. Obviously the chorus/dancers were lip syncing to all of the background vocals while they were dancing. However the 4 main performers, 2 guys and 2 girls, were great and they had microphones. They had amazing voices and outstanding charisma. The guy who sang “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables gave us chills and brought tears to my mother’s eyes. That is personally my favorite musical ever so I was very glad that they didn’t change any of the arrangements and to me this was the best part of the show. They did a great job with it. The show is in a very small and intimate theater and all the seating is at one level. We got second row center and the view couldn’t have been better. The man next to me was begging his wife (before the show started) not to post anything about him going to this show with her on Facebook. He said the guys at the office would kill him if they knew. It was hilarious to me later that he was dancing in his seat, singing along and was cheering loudly at the end of each segment. I think he secretly wanted to be up on that stage with them!

I snapped this shot of the stage prior to the show

After the show was over we were starving. Nothing at NYNY sounded good and we were planning to try out the Lion’s Share machine anyway so we went over to MGM. I’m really getting to dislike MGM…it seems dirty and smelly to me…crowded and just …well, a zoo. There’s constant construction (I can’t remember a time within the last 6 years where there hasn’t been any construction on something) and it’s a pain to walk around without getting trampled by some drunk hoochie in 9 inch heels. Unless MLife comps me my entire stay and offers me a ton of free play to go with it…I won’t be staying here in the future until everything is renovated and complete.

We don’t really do any fancy dinners when I go with my mom so we ate at the Studio Café which didn’t have any line. I ordered the potato skins (4 tiny skins) and my mom had some chicken noodle soup. Add a side of fries and the bill came to $40. What a ripoff.

Thanks so whomever on T2V described exactly the location of the Lion’s Share machine at MGM..because we found it immediately. It’s like they’ve hidden it – it faces the wall of the high limit room! I expected to see droves of people around it but there it was…all by it’s lonesome. My mom and I sank $100 into the machine without even so much as a small hit. It was gone in less than 10 minutes. We were so not expecting that and just sat there staring at the machine once it was gone…..in shock. Hopefully it is still there when I go back in Feb with my husband. I want to kick it.

The infamous Lion’s Share

After MGM we just headed back to the Aria. The crowds and the smell was getting to us and we needed some fresh air. My mom wasn’t feeling too good either. It was either the chicken soup or the fact that we just blew a shot at $2.8 mil In 7 minutes. I could’ve put more money in but I figure that if it were meant to be, then it would’ve hit…apparently someone else needs that money more than we do.

Night view

Once back at the Aria, the gaming began. We played a ton of machines until around 1230am…and thanks to a quick bonus hit and run on the community Batman machine I ended up $50 up for the day. That was the only large bonus of the trip but it came at a good time. It was around $100. One thing I absolutely love about the Aria is the size of their drink glasses. At the Mirage, they are tiny….the Aria’s are huge. The waitresses are quick to return also and pretty friendly.  I think I finished the night with about 5 Vodka/Crans!

Small line hit on Double Davinci Diamonds

My Batman profit

Feeling every one of my 35 years, it was time for bed and hope that the next day would be just as much fun as the first.  Stay tuned for part II…this one took me forever so with any luck, I should have it up by tomorrow night.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Everyday Life

I saw this challenge and it seemed interesting. My every day suburbia really isn’t that captivating but something did instantly pop into my head when I was reading about the challenge.  Something that sets this featured city apart from all others…..New York City:

Image

Wait….is that the Naked Cowboy?  You bet your spurs it is!  I love this depiction of NYC….a man in cowboy boots and not much else, playing a guitar in the middle of a busy Times Square intersection.  You can tell the native New Yorkers from the tourists….they don’t even think twice, this is “normal” to them. I caught this shot from inside a cab as we passed by.   I love it!

Aloha Oe!

Today I’m looking back on our last day in Hawaii.  Our flight was an overnight one, scheduled to leave Honolulu at around 8pm.  that morning everyone awoke with sad faces, knowing that we were facing our last few hours in paradise.  As our last hurrah, we went down and had a big breakfast at Denny’s which was really, really good.  Much better than any Denny’s here at home.  Could it just be that ANY food on vacation tastes THAT much better?

After breakfast it was beach again.  We found the perfect spot with hardly any rocks and hundreds of fish swimming about near the shore.  We’d been there for 5 days and this was the first time we had found such a good area without rocks.

We were all permanently scarred for life when we saw an older man, probably in his late 50’s wearing a speedo and sunbathing with his wife who could’ve as well been wearing a band-aid and a cork because her swimsuit was so small.  Their beach umbrella kept falling over so he was constantly forced to contort his body into all kinds of disturbing positions in order to get it stable.  It was like a train wreck…we couldn’t stop staring and our eyes were burning. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.  I think maybe one of us was able to snap a picture of them but I wouldn’t wish that sight on my worst enemy so I’m not posting it here.

After the beach we grabbed lunch again at the snack shack and then began to re-pack and finish the last bits of laundry.  It seemed like the day flew by.  There were still beers in the fridge so I thought I would finish one off before heading to the airport.

Arrival to the airport was uneventful and we grabbed food (cost a fortune!) prior to boarding the flight.  Nobody puked on us and everyone was quite solemn on the way home.  After arriving back to Texas it took me a whole day for my body to recuperate!  I couldn’t get off the couch all day Saturday and actually felt kind of sick.  We were all really glad to see our animals tho, they really missed us.

The kids have already told me that they want to go back to Hawaii next year, so we’ll see.  Maybe to explore another island but only if we can stay longer than 5 days.  It definitely didn’t seem long enough!

Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e au
Until we meet again

Hula Dog or Bust!

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday.  I have a great Travel Tip Tuesday post in mind but will save it for next week.

Thursday we had planned to have lunch at the Kahala Resort located about 15 minutes away from Waikiki in the “posh posh” area of Oahu.  Apparently so posh that our taxi driver said the houses in that neighborhood range from $15 to 40 MILLION dollars.  Yes, why have one trillion when you can have one million??  Haha.

Early that morning my dad and husband rented a kayak and took it out for an hour.  I enjoyed watching them and took a few pictures.  Then we grabbed a beach umbrella and vegged out for a few hours before lunch.  Once everyone was dressed and dolled up for the Kahala, we boarded the cab and off we were.

As the cab pulled up to the Kahala I can see why this is considered ultra-luxury.  The lobby is an open air one (which I just love) and down one of the hallways there are several framed pictures adorning the walls of all the celebrities that have stayed at the resort.  Nicholas Cage, Billy Joel…even Snoop Dog to name a few.  The restaurant in which we had reservations is named “Plumeria” and the restaurant is also in an open-air setting right on the garden area with the ocean in the background.  Pure, raw beauty.

Inside the Kahala Resort Lobby

Another Lobby Shot

Hubby and I

Dad and I

 

We met up with my Hawaiian family members who had lunch with us.  Prosecco to start and yummy fruity iced tea to follow.  I had a salad and then had the fish tacos for my main entree.  They were so incredibly good that I didn’t even stop to take a picture before devouring them.  Fresh and spicy grilled huge chunks of Mahi-Mahi on a flour tortilla with cabbage slaw and some sort of tangy dressing.  Probably the best fish tacos I’ve ever had.

After lunch came coffee and dessert, which I did get pictures of.  I had the “famous” bread pudding and loved every minute of it.  By the time lunch was over I felt about 10 lbs heavier and was convinced I would need to be rolled out of my chair and out of the restaurant!

Bread Pudding

Mango Sorbet

Vanilla Flan

 

After lunch we explored the resort grounds and watched the resident dolphins get some training time with guests who had enrolled in their dolphin experience.  It was really nice to see them so close up.  I love a dolphin smile.

Dolphin Area

I took these pictures from the grounds of the resort and enhanced them with my iphone apps.  These are probably my most favorite pictures from the trip.

Dolphin Habitat Area

View of back of the resort

Pool Area

This little island sits out off the resort grounds all by itself

View from our table

More beauty

 

After lunch everyone was stuffed but we slowly got back to our normal state and went back out to the beach for a few more hours.  The girls took a paddleboard out for a while and said that they saw sea turtles swimming about below them.

That evening we were all still pretty full from lunch but my husband had heard about the “Puka Dog” which is from Kauai and featured on the Travel Channel.  The founders split into two separate entities and one moved to Oahu just outside the International Market Place.  Serving the exact same style Hawaiian hot dog, this one was named “Hula Dog”.  My husband was dead set on finding the place and trying one.

The difference between one of these hot dogs and a normal hot dog is that the bun (similar to a subway roll) has a hole in the middle in which the hot dog (or polish sausage) is inserted and the sauces are squeezed in around it.  They have some pretty unique sauces that are only available in Hawaii and that is what all the rage is about.

Sister of the Puka Dog

We walked around that night for what seemed like forever and finally located the place.  My husband then does the unthinkable…he orders his Hula dog with REGULAR mustard!  What?  He said he was afraid to order something “exotic” in case he didn’t like it.  The Hula dog and a fresh lemonade was $10.  I really wanted some noodles of some sort, my son wanted pizza and the girls weren’t that hungry.  So we hit up the food court at the open air mall for Japanese noodles and pizza and then moved on to the ABC Store for the girls to get small sandwiches, chips and soda.  The ABC store was packed and it was already around 9pm.

My Seafood Noodles — I’m not sure what all was in it but I ate it anyway!

Once again I had to finish off the evening with something mixed with vodka on ice (I promise, I only drink like this on vacation!) and some quiet time on the lanai.  I really didn’t know how I was going to manage without this once I got back to Texas!

Lazy Day Wednesday on the Island

I know it’s been a few days, I just really don’t like blogging  on the weekends (not to mention my daughter has control of the computer most of the time) and my full time job has kept me pretty busy lately.  Don’t you wish we could all live in a world where nobody had to go to work for a living?  I do!

So I think I am up to Wednesday of the trip…shopping day at International Marketplace.  That day was also my payday so a few trips to the ATM and we were set.  My mom had gotten up early and done to Lenard’s bakery for malasadas.  If you are just now tuning into my trip report and didn’t catch my rant about malasadas on day 1….go back and read it.

We spent a few hours at the International Marketplace and I’m still certain we didn’t see all of it.  My son got this weird T-Shirt that lights up when you talk, my daughter got some jewelry, we bought some hand carved tikis from the “natives” for us and my son’s BFF and did some tattoo-ing.  My mom and my son got the traditional air brush tattoos but my daughter got a henna one.  Once the guy started applying the dye to her skin he starts spewing out the rules…. Can’t go in the water for 4 hours, can’t touch it, can’t allow anything to come in contact with it, can’t let your shirt hit it etc..yada yada.  I was starting to think why the hell did I agree for her to this??  It did end up looking pretty cool tho.  Later that day the ink dried up and peeled off and left behind the actual tattoo.  Now, 2 weeks later you can still see it on her arm.  We spent the better part of the afternoon trying to avoid her arm like the plague.

“Mr. Dragon”

Attn: Wet Paint!

Mom liked it so much she wants a real one now!

My husband stopped to have a hot dog at this place called Hank’s Haute Dogs over by the tiki guys.  Seeing that it had been on Food Network and that Anthony Bourdain had eaten there, my husband and son had to try it out.  He said that it was good but that it’s more of a sausage than a hot dog. (That’s what she said….)

I luv Anthony Bourdain

Hanks Haute Dogs

My son was very impressed by the fortunes that the Great Swami were spitting out at him and I think I went through about $3 by the time he was completely satisfied with his predicted future.

The final stop of our shopping day was to the Ukelele store to buy one for my kid.  He just HAD to have one so where better to buy one than in Hawaii?  One Uke, coming right up……we’ve been home over a week and I still haven’t heard any Hawaiian music coming out of his room…….  Looks like it is soon to be MY Ukelele.

On the way back I nabbed some sushi at Sushi 2 Go (sounds scary I know but it was really good) and the kids had Subway again. We had made plans to visit the lagoon over at Hilton Hawaiian Village with my aunt and little cousin Kai.

Salmon Roll yum!

The Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon is like a big man made swimming hole.  I much prefer the actual ocean side because the lagoon is…well, kinda nasty.  The sand is packed so hard it’s like you are walking on concrete and it’s not very clean. Even though you are not allowed to smoke in that area I saw several cigarette butts on the ground.  The positive thing about it is the reason we went – its shallow for the little ones and there are no rocks to fall on while you are learning how to paddle board.  The paddle boards cost twice as much as they do on the Oceanside but the kids enjoyed learning on them.  My son was actually able to take his out and around the lagoon a few times without having to worry about waves or rocks.  By the time we were done my daughter thought she was an expert paddle-boarder!

Rainbow Tower

Getting the hang of it!

While walking back to the ocean side, we noticed that they were setting up for fireworks later that night and invited the Hawaiian fam back over our condo later on to watch them.  My aunt and cousin left for home and it was definitely time for a beverage.  We stopped at the Hale Koa beach bar and I had the 2 most yummy drinks ever.  Both a concoction of vodka and some kind of juice.  The non-drinkers in our group — namely everyone but my mother and I —  had ice tea.  This tea must’ve been like no other iced tea known to man as it was gone within a few seconds.  Either that or they were just really thirsty.

We laughed our asses off when the kids ordered an ice cream brownie sundae (described as a chocolaty brownie topped with ice cream) and what they got was a brownie wrapped in plastic wrap and a blue bell vanilla Dixie cup sitting on top of it on a plate.  The fact that I had downed two vodka drinks in less than 30 minutes could’ve attributed to the hilarity of the moment as well…

Drink #1

Drink #2

Looking towards the Hale Koa beach bar

Another view

Off to the beach for a while until the sun started to set.  I attempted some beach yoga which was very interesting and drew some very strange looks…it could’ve been that I kept falling face first into the sand while trying to do crow.  The beach was sloped. the beach was sloped!!  I got some awesome sunset pics that evening.

After our beach time we hit the snack shack again for dinner.  Shortly after, the fam came over to watch the fireworks.  My cousin brought over some Mochi Ice Cream which I had never tried before but instantly fell in love with.  My kids loved it too and now that we are back in Texas we are on the search for how to get our hands on some here.

We were able to see the fireworks pretty good from our lanai.  There was one tree slightly in the way but overall it was really nice to be able to sit out there and watch.  I think everyone had a great time that evening.  I ended the night with yet another vodka tonic – this time I mixed some guava juice in there – and a few chapters of my book.  Alas, another day had come to a close.