Monday, October 28, 2013

Viva Las Vegas!

About a month ago, our oldest son came to us and said, "Rebekah and I are getting married!"

And we were like, "Woot! That's AWESOME!"

He then said, "And we're getting married in Las Vegas!"

And we were like, "Whah??!!" Really? Vegas? And yes...he expected us to be there.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against Las Vegas, per se...after all, Hubby and I used to spend a lot - a LOT - of time in Vegas, due to his business. We've pretty much stayed in just about every casino up and down the strip, and have seen most of the shows. However, over the years, the lure of gambling wore off, and the incessant crowds and traffic got worse, leading to an 8-year hiatus of Vegas on our part.

And now we were going back - for a quick, three-day weekend, to witness the marriage of Evan and Rebekah.

Actually, the wedding itself was wonderful...I'll talk about it in my next post...but for this post, I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the highlights of our weekend jaunt.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, and because we had 14-year old Daughter with us - who's never been to Vegas before - we spent most of our free time showing her the sights of the elaborate casinos.

First, though, a quick stop at Pinkberry, for some delicious fortification:

And I know you're DYING to see what it is I'm noshing on, so here you go:

Nom. Nom. Nom. Gluten-free, too.

My favorite casino has always been the Bellagio...what an experience, both inside and out. Their conservatory, which is free, by the way, was completely decked out in a cornucopia (literally) of fall decor:

A 10-foot tall cornucopia overflowing with fall vegetables...

This wheel was so pretty...the sound of the water so peaceful....

A talking tree...which totally creeped me out, especially the moving eyes...eep!

Look at that gnome...!! Or a troll??? I'm not sure, but it was incredibly creepy....

After enjoying the conservatory and the glass ceiling, we made our way down to the World's Largest Chocolate Fountain:


This thing was huge...HUGE! So big, in fact, I couldn't begin to capture the entire thing in my camera. It had a Willie Wonka-esque quality, which led me to do my best Veruca Salt impression and demand, "I want one, honey...I want one NOW!"

If it weren't behind glass, I would seriously dive in to that and bathe in it. Really.

And in case you are doubting that it's the World's Largest Chocolate Fountain, here's the proof:

Eventually, we made our way outside, so we could enjoy the free "dancing fountains" that are in front of the Bellagio:

So cool...I hope they have these...always!

We visited some other casinos, including the Venetian, so we could show Daughter the indoor gondola rides:

Daughter at Saint Mark's Square....

Of course, we had to visit New York, New York - in homage to our summer vacation there:

Another highlight was visiting the "Haunted" Shark Reef aquarium at Mandalay Bay:

Decorated for Halloween...Daughter makes a new friend....

The piranha tank was decorated in a most unique way:

Creepy! Did I ever tell you that I used to have a pet piranha when I was a little girl? That's a story for another day...but so true! His name was George. Ask me about him sometime...!

My daughter could be swallowed by a giant bat, and she would never have a clue....

Glued to her cell phone. Of course.

I loved the "haunted" aspect of the attraction, which was only for this weekend before Halloween:

Looks like these scuba divers ran into a bit of trouble in the shark tank....

My favorite part of the exhibit:


I REALLY don't like the way this guy was looking at me...

He was scarier than any fake Halloween decorations, believe me....

One last highlight...a visit to Aria, which had these cool "tornado" sculptures...they were fascinating to watch, as they spun around, each one different:

Besides our visits to the casinos, we also dined at some fabulous restaurants, watched some interesting people, and enjoyed some beautiful weather. We also saw Criss Angel, the magician, perform at the Luxor on Saturday night...where we sat directly behind Joel Silver, the famous Hollywood director - and his entourage. I actually sat behind his bodyguard, and it was pretty much like sitting behind a wall.

Vegas has changed in some ways in eight years, but in many ways, it's still the same.

And for the record...yes. I gambled. Duh. I was in Vegas, after all. However, I was NOT lucky...with that said, I NEVER like to leave empty-handed, so I DID come home with something:

Yup. Two cents to my name.

But gaining a daughter-in-law?



Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Bristol: Review

It's no secret that I love food.

And so, this new adventure of gluten-free (GF) dining has been quite the learning experience...I've had some good days, and some not-so-good days, for sure. I've been learning to not only read labels of pretty much every single item I consider eating, but I've also learned that, while dining out, it is up to ME to be my best advocate on what I can - or can't - have. If I leave it up to my server, I'm probably doomed...and unfortunately, I've learned this the hard way, when I've been "glutenized" - and left reeling with pain after a meal.


Eating in my own kitchen has been certainly easier than dining out, as I know EXACTLY what ingredients are going into my cuisine. It's when I go out to eat that I stumble...and so, I've been on a quest to learn as much as I can about local restaurants here in town and their gluten-free offerings. Honestly, although more venues are getting on board with a GF menu, there's still a lack of info out there for the average diner.

I've always posted dining reviews here on my blog, and I will continue to do so - with a twist. From here on out, my dining reviews will concentrate on GF I have to believe that there are others who are just like me....

Last night, Hubby and I headed to the Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City - a collection of diverse dining and entertainment venues that draws people of all ages from all over our area. We had 8:00 pm tickets for the Eagles concert, and I scored a 6:00 pm dinner reservation at The Bristol, an upscale seafood & steak restaurant that has been in business here in town for over thirty years.

I had checked out their website BEFORE we arrived at the restaurant, as I wanted to see if they had a dedicated gluten-free (GF) menu. I was thrilled to see that they did, indeed - and it didn't look extremely limited - unlike some restaurants I've dined at. There were a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts that would be "safe" for me to indulge in.

Hubby and I arrived at exactly 6:00 pm, and were immediately seated. The restaurant was absolutely packed, as it's only two blocks from the concert venue, and apparently, all 15,000+ concert-goers had the same idea: grab a bite to eat before the show. Even with the craziness of a full house, with hundreds of others clamoring to get in at the front desk, our server was calm, cool and collected. She quickly brought the GF menu for me, as well as the "regular" menu for Hubby. This picture of the GF menu is pretty poor, but it gives you a good idea of what they offer - and indeed, it was pretty extensive, considering it is GF:

We began our meal with some delicious cocktails: a chocolate martini for me, and a Margarita martini for Hubby:

The lighting was VERY low in the restaurant, so you'll have to excuse my crappy pictures.

Oh my goodness, this drink was good! Not too sweet - but strong enough that I had a good buzz going...squeeeeeee!!!!!! I am SO vivacious and funny when I have a buzz going...per me.

For a starter, I had the mixed greens salad:

This was a mixture of watercress greens, feta cheese, and pine nuts...topped with a delicious honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Going GF has pretty much insured that I will always have to have some sort of a vinaigrette dressing, and I found this dressing to be just the right mixture of sweet with tart.

For my entree, I ordered the filet mignon, with sides of mashed potatoes, as well as an artichoke:

The filet initially was a little too "pink" for me, but our server was very quick to take it back to the kitchen and have it cooked to my taste. It was tender, juicy, and flavorful - especially when dipped into that little bowl of mystery sauce (I believe it was honey mustard with a hint of horseradish). Nom nom nom. The mashed potatoes were to die for, and the artichoke was...there. I should have realized it would be swimming in butter, and when one does not have a gallbladder, butter is a four-letter word.

Upon the recommendation of our server, Hubby ordered the Barramundi, a white fish from New Zealand, along with some Butternut Squash Risotto:

He loved the fish, but found the risotto to be a little on the dry side...which is pretty typical for risotto offered in restaurants, we've found.

We skipped dessert, as I pretty much had cleaned my plate and was enjoying my chocolate martini - still. We also needed to get our butts in gear and walk across the street to the concert - it was going to be starting soon, and I didn't want to miss a MINUTE!

All in all, I give 5 stars to The Bristol. The service was prompt, courteous and attentive...and the food was delicious. It was also nice to have a bit of a choice while dining GF, as so many restaurants offer perhaps two entrees, at most, to choose from. Gah. We will definitely be going back to this little gem!


The Eagles: Takin' It Easy

So, the Eagles rolled into Kansas City last night for a one-night concert...and having been deprived my entire adult life, I had never seen them in person. I obviously could NOT die - yet - without having had the experience of being in the same room as Glenn Fry, Don Henley and Joe Walsh - so, I got tickets and rounded up the Hubby and away we went.

Obviously, choosing an outfit became of prime importance...I ended up going with a black skirt, black boots, and a black/leopard flowy" thingie that covered the imperfections:

I love, love, love these boots - as they are the most comfortable walking boots in the history of mankind. And I knew - between parking the car, walking to dinner, walking to the concert venue, and then walking back to the car - I would be doing some SERIOUS walking. And I needed boots MADE for walking, and these fit the bill. They. Were. Awesome.

I then adorned my outfit with enough necklaces, bracelets and earrings that I could seriously be the poster child for "heavy metal"...little did I know that this would result in a small issue later in the evening. All I know is, I jingled when I walked, and I thought it was lyrical. I liked it. So the jewelry stayed on.

Just a bit of the bling this night....

The concert was set to start around 8:00 pm at the Sprint Center, Kansas City's premier spot for performances:

Approaching the Sprint Center, the crowd was heavy - but VERY laid back. I mean, we're all aging baby boomers...our rebel days are pretty much behind us. Even the numerous cops, monitoring traffic, were laid back, joking with us as we headed inside. Once there, we all had to walk through a metal detector for security purposes, and here's where my "heavy metal" bit me in the butt. I think I pretty much set off not only MY metal detector that I walked through, but every metal detector within a five-mile radius.



I looked at the security guy in horror, as I realized it was my extensive bling creating this mess. The guy took one look at all the jewelry, rolled his eyes, and said, "Just GO!!!"


Bless his heart. If I'd had to take the time to remove everything, we'd have never made it to the actual show.

Once inside, we made our way up to the rafters - aka "Nosebleed Section" - and took a look at the growing crowds:

Yes. We were up high. But I'd only paid $40 per ticket...and I thought that was pretty reasonable. Besides, I'm blind with anything beyond five feet in front of me, so it didn't matter to me where we sat - all I was going to be able to do was listen anyway. Hee.

Anyway, at about 8:07 pm, the show began...and what a show it was.

Twenty seven songs.

Pretty much every greatest hit that the Eagles ever had.

Sung to perfection.

Performed with precision and passion.

It. Was. Amazing.

Glenn Fry...kept the show moving with humor and style, as well as a thoughtful shout-out to the hometown Chiefs...

Don Henley...still has an amazing voice and totally blew me away on "Hotel California"...

Some photos:

Pinch me, this is surely a dream....

I was breathing the same air as these guys!!! Be still my heart!!!!

I know that I had thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wasn't sure about Hubby. He's normally more blase about things like this, so imagine my surprise, as we headed home in the wee hours of the morning, when he declared it the BEST CONCERT he's ever been to.


Oh. And Joe Walsh?

He is still rockin' a guitar. Unbelievable.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sinus Surgery: Six Months Later


Has it really been six months since I fell into the depths of flaming Hell and prayed for death to relieve me from the God-awful pain had sinus surgery??

Wow. How time flies, huh?

Anyway. I thought I would post an update - six months out - on how things are going, just in case any of my dear readers are pondering sinus surgery themselves.

Here's the bottom line:



Now...if you'd asked me my opinion just a few short days after the surgery, I would have cursed you and then thrown you off a bridge - but I blame the post-surgery medication for that.

99% of my post-surgery side effects are gone...with the exception of having a tiny-bit different "voice" inside my head. Yes, I "hear" myself differently on the inside, which drives me a bit batty, as it's NOT the voice I'm used to hearing after 50+ years. But, I've been gradually getting used to this new voice, so that, too, shall pass.

Having that different "voice" has totally rendered me tone deaf. Not that I could sing before, but now? Forget about it. The "voice" that I "think" I have is not the voice that I have, so I am pretty much screwed when I try to find the correct note to sing along with. Gah. I think it's rather funny myself, but it kinda', sorta', drives my Daughter insane when I screech along with the radio in the car. Bwahahahahahaha.


Everything else is not only back to normal - but SOOOOOOOOOO improved from before.

It was tested while I was in Colorado, as I woke up one morning with a bit of a head cold. Taking a decongestant, I was amazed - AMAZED, I tell you - when the decongestant actually decongested - it WORKED - and the pressure in my head disappeared within hours.


(Remember? My sinus cavities were completely blocked, so there was no where for fluid to drain - or "decongest" - after taking such medicine. The surgery cured this. Woot!)

Another benefit, besides not having the continual pressure in my head, has been a MIRACULOUS change in my breathing while sleeping. As in, I can actually breathe! Little did I know that I was struggling for air before - my lungs were working OVERTIME in trying to suck air into my body - but now, with little effort, oxygen flows and I am sleeping in a continual state of bliss.


So...bottom line...regardless of the post-surgery pain and discomfort, and regardless of some of the weird post-surgery side effects, I absolutely, unequivocally, have NO regrets in having the surgery.

Okay. Wait. Maybe ONE in, I wish I'd had it twenty years sooner....


**Image from HERE


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cure for the Grumps: Lafcadio the Lion

Late to bed last night...and then hours spent tossing and turning in the sheets, while strange and bizarre dreams flashed through my brain...leaving me feeling very, very grumpy indeed this morning.

Stumbling to my laptop to check on news and other events, the first image that appeared on my Facebook wall was this:


And I smiled.

And all was right with the world again.

Because, really, how can one be grumpy when faced with a humorous picture of a lion wearing a marshmallow suit???

The picture comes from my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, "Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back" - written in 1963 by Shel Silverstein. My godmother gave me a copy of this book when I was eight years old, and after reading the book once, it quickly became an obsession. The story, the humor, the drawings, the puns - they sucked me in...and that book is still sitting on my bookshelves all these years later.

I love this book.

Let me say that again: I LOVE THIS BOOK.

I have probably read it more than 350 times over the years, and yet...and yet...I still cry at the end. Every. Single. Time.

I cry.

And then I smile, for I know that Lafcadio the Lion - wherever he may be in the world - is enjoying life right now, probably eating some delicious marshmallows...and how can you NOT smile at the idea of a lion eating marshmallows?

If you've never read this book...please. Stop what you're doing. Go to, and order the book NOW.

And then be prepared to fall in love with Lafcadio.

And then eat a marshmallow in his honor.



*The picture appeared because I've "Liked" the page of Shel Silverstein, the author of the sure to like his page, as well.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mourning My Losses

Pity the fool who gets between a half-starved woman and her twice-baked potato.

That's a saying, right?

Well. If it's not...then it SHOULD be.

Let's backtrack for a moment, shall we?

Friday night, we celebrated a son's birthday by heading to a local restaurant here in town, The Hereford House. Now - the Hereford House is a steak house that has been in operation in Kansas City since steak was pretty much invented. As in, forever. We don't go often, due to the sticker shock we see while perusing a menu, but the dozen or so times we've gone, it has been an absolute FAVORITE of mine.

I always, always, always begin with the house salad - not that the salad itself is spectacular, but the restaurant has the most amazing salad dressings, literally called the "Yellow" and the "Pink" - and when blended together, create absolute perfection on a bed of lettuce. This mixture is so divine, that I have always, always saved my delicious bread roll just so I can pinch little pieces and then dip in the remaining pink & yellow mixture...squee!

For my entree, I've always, always ordered the bacon-wrapped medallions of beef...they're usually succulent, moist and tender, and drenched in a demiglaze sauce that is to die for. With this, I pair a twice-baked potato that is dripping in butter, sour cream and bacon. Bliss.

For dessert, they have a white chocolate bread pudding, that soaked in rum sauce and torched with a match, melts in my mouth and leaves me perfectly sated.

This is my normal dining experience at The Hereford House.

But...this particular Friday not was not normal. Nope. My NEW normal is Gluten-Free...and this changed everything.

Arriving at the restaurant at 7:00 pm for our reservations, we wait patiently for everyone to show up - there were ten of us in all, celebrating. Once seated, Hubby quickly ordered some appetizers for everyone, and not ONCE did he even consider if it was something that I could eat. So, as trays of stuffed mushrooms and spinach artichoke dip were passed around the table, I shot DEVIL EYES in Hubby's direction, as the waiter apologetically told me none of these particular appetizers were "safe."

Soon, it was 8:00 pm, and we hadn't received our salads yet. I was starving. STARVING, I tell you. To the point that I was about ready to gnaw off my hand and take up cannibalism.

At 8:15, our salads arrived. However, the "Pink" and the "Yellow" are not I was reduced to a vinaigrette dressing, that tasted pretty much like PURE vinegar. Blah. Gah. It was AWFUL. As hungry as I was, I only managed to choke down about 2 pieces of acidic lettuce before giving up and waiting impatiently for my entree.

Soon, my medallions arrived...with no sauce. Just some dry pieces of leather sitting on my plate. And no divine twice-baked potato, either - as it is not considered "safe", either. Instead, I was given some steamed vegetables.


For dessert, others enjoyed cheesecake and creme brûlée...while I had...nothing. Oh, I COULD have enjoyed some ice cream, but by this point, I was pretty much beyond dessert.


Yes. I was mad. I was mad at my circumstances. I was mad that I can't eat what I used to eat. I was mad at the restaurant for not even attempting to serve to the Celiac population. I was mad at Hubby - well - just because. I needed to blame SOMEONE, and he was convenient.


It SUCKS sometimes having this condition.

So...on the way home, I pretty much blew up at Hubby - it was HIS fault, I decided, for EVERYTHING. Poor Hubby. He got to listen to me vent, and cry, and whine, for a good 90 minutes. It's just not FAIR, I whined. And whined some more. Oh, the drama of it all....

Poor Hubby.

Anyway. I got over it. I know I'll have some good days - and not so good days - on this new lifestyle. It's the nature of the beast, and it will definitely take some adjustment on my part, as well as those around me. the meantime...I really DO mourn the loss of the life - or food, anyway - that I used to know.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Feeling the Love

I returned home from my two-week deployment to Colorado last Thursday, and it's been a non-stop whirlwind ever since.

All those things that I kinda, sorta, shoved off my schedule for two weeks so I could head off with the Red Cross - kinda, sorta showed back up on my calendar and now needed immediate attention.


Eye doctor appointments, haircuts, birthday parties, laundry, grocery shopping - all piled up and waiting impatiently for my return.

If I had ever even imagined, for one moment, that my family didn't need me while I was out "saving the world," that thought was quickly extinguished the minute I landed at the airport.

Hubby is waiting for his shirts to go to the dry cleaner, the laundry to be completed, the bills to be paid, the groceries to be bought, the house to be organized - and so, I feel needed.

Daughter is waiting for help with her Algebra homework, her medications to be refilled, and fashion assistance with her middle-school wardrobe...and so, I feel needed.

Youngest son is waiting for someone to talk with about how awesome the Chiefs are playing, as well as waiting for advice with his job...and so, I feel needed.

Oldest son, who is away at college, is waiting to see if he can bring his girlfriend home for the weekend, and so, I feel needed.

The cats and the dog are waiting for much-needed attention and an additional lap for napping, and so, I feel needed.

In some ways, these things are comforting, as well as reassuring; and although I might be making a difference to someone's life in Colorado, I might also be making a difference at home - as a wife, as a mom, as a friend, or as a daughter.

And that is a good thing.

So...for all those moms out there...don't ever sell yourself short. You are needed.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Predictable Routine

I like having a routine, because everything else... is so unpredictable.
...Jordana Brewster

As is typical the case, life has settled into a routine here in Colorado - as I finish up my last few days of deployment. Routine is good - I think it's our human nature to seek normalcy, a routine, in our daily lives....

The morning consists of an all-staff meeting at Headquarters - called a "Stand-Up", as we are all, indeed, standing up. There's just too many of us to find chairs or seats for everyone. Here, our Operations Manager will give a brief report on the day's events, as well as any other important or relevant information. After this, each department usually huddles for their own team meeting, and this is true of my department, as well. The ten or so of us in Public Affairs will meet and go over the assignments for the day - and discuss any potential situations that may erupt.

Afterwards, we all head out for our assignments...and because I've been doing a lot of field work, I usually hit the road and begin traveling to whatever beautiful destination in Colorado I may be covering for the day. Whether that's Boulder, Lyons, Longmont, Loveland - navigating through heavy traffic is always balanced by the beautiful sight of the Rocky Mountain foothills out the window to the west. It's sometimes hard to focus on the tasks at hand when that picturesque scenery is right outside the car window, as each day the view is different, depending on the sunlight, the clouds, or the snow.

My partner and I are both hooked on iced Chai latte tea - so before reaching our destination, our car always seems to find it's way to a Starbucks. It's amazing how that works.

Time is spent talking with people - whether they're fellow Red Cross volunteers, clients, or volunteers with other agencies. It may be a specific story that I'm after - or it may be just to see if there's a potential story there...or sometimes, it's just because I love to talk and to see how people are doing.

What's been wonderful about my assignment is that I've been able to squeeze in visits with friends who live here in Colorado - including Jan, who lives in the affected town of Longmont:

Afternoons are spent taking the notes from the morning and trying to put them in some sort of order, as well as editing the photographs that I've taken. It's my goal to send my content to my editor by 8:00 pm each night, but that doesn't always the perfectionist in me will tweak and twerk a story until I deem it absolutely perfect.

Sometimes there's dinner...sometimes it depends on just how busy I am. I keep a stash of delicious Trail Mix in my motel room, so I can always be nibbling on something. Every so often, the Public Affairs team gets together for a team dinner, as we did last night at a local Mexican restaurant. I have to admit, the team dinners are fun, and an awesome way to mentally decompress from everything. There's something about sharing a meal with friends, while laughing and carrying on, that restores the soul.

Bedtime is usually around 11:00 pm, following a call to my family back home in Kansas City to check up with how things are at home. The alarm is set for 6:00 am the next morning, although I seem to have developed an awful habit of waking up every morning at 4:30 am, alarm or not. Gah.

The weather, for the most part, has been near-perfect. There was ONE day when a cold, freezing rain fell all day - and since I was outside all that day, I was pretty miserable.

There's a "crud" going around Headquarters now - which is pretty normal for these deployments, as you squeeze together hundreds of people in a small space from all over the country, who are not sleeping or eating properly. I'd managed to stay pretty healthy myself until this morning, when I woke up with a God-awful headache and the familiar pressure on my ears. My body seems to know EXACTLY when it's about time for me to go home - and get on a plane - and always seems to develop a raging sinus infection about this time. This is not what I need right now, so I'm loading up on decongestants this morning. I guess this will be a true test of the effectiveness of my sinus surgery from last April - my fingers are crossed.

So...that's it. Nothing exciting. Nothing dramatic. Just a routine.

And that's a good thing.