Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Fuck You, 2016.

I am glad I am not charged with preparing the "In Memoriam" segments in the various upcoming awards shows. I mean, come on.

2016 had to be the worst year in memory in terms of celebrities who left us; but not just celebrities, ICONS. LEGENDS. Not sure? Here is a list of some of them we lost in 2016, and I suspect you will know most or all of them, without my mentioning a single name.

Ziggy Stardust, The Purple One, The Greatest, Mr. Hockey, Jason Seaver, Carol Brady, Larry Sanders, R2-D2, Professor Snape, The Okie from Muskogie, and just yesterday, our dear Princess Leia.

And so many others that will live on in our memories.

John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Janet Reno, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Patty Duke, Harper Lee, Joe Garagiola, John McLaughlin, Abe Vigoda, George Kennedy, Garry Marshall, Robert Vaughn, Doris Roberts, Ron Glass, Leonard Cohen, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Morley Safer, Anton Yelchin and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Oh, and Harambe.

And that's hardly a complete list.

That's a pretty bad year, and I haven't even mentioned the worst thing that happened to the world in 2016: the election of a misogynistic, racist, narcissistic, untruthful, grandiose, unstable, attention-seeking, homophobic, arrogant piece of human garbage to the highest office in the land. Certainly it wasn't a secret that racism and homophobia still existed in the USA, but Drumpf has brought it to the forefront, and made it 'cool' again. The next four years are going to be a nightmare.

And we can't leave out how incredibly stupid the general population continued to be this year. Fuck you, Pokemon Go. Fuck you, Mannequin Challenge. And to all those creepy clowns, well go fuck each other you sadistic lunatics.

Not a spectacular year personally, either. In March we lost our dear old cat, Madeline, and we miss her every day. My mom was diagnosed with Lupus and although her medication is allowing her to manage the disease fairly well, her age has really caught up with her. Two years ago I would have said she was "75 going on 50". Now, sadly, she's "77 going on 100". Her memory is failing, physically she is starting to break down, and a month or so ago she lost her longtime common-law husband to cancer. And since he had not updated his will to include her, there is a (likely long) legal battle ahead to settle his estate and make sure she is taken care of.

My amazing wife continues to be the reason I get out of bed every day, but she fell ill this year as well and was diagnosed with a condition called Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD), which is basically a hodgepodge of auto-immune diseases. Some Lupus, some Rheumatoid Arthritis, some Psoriasis. Lots of fun. She was put on some medication (the same medication that has worked well for my Mom, actually), and promptly had a significant allergic reaction to it, ending up in the ER (on my birthday!) with hives all over most of her body. They lasted for almost two weeks. In order to try to 'cure' the condition, she has taken the recommendation of several people and eliminated gluten and dairy from her diet. She has done incredibly well, and we are optimistic that between these changes and her new medication, the symptoms will be manageable going forward. I am so proud of her. There are no circumstances under which I could be able to give up gluten OR dairy, let alone both of them.

It wasn't ALL bad, though; we had an absolutely incredible vacation in March/April, consisting of a spectacular cruise in the Caribbean and then two weeks at Disneyworld. It's tough to imagine a better vacation. But we will try!!

We also spent a lovely week in Vegas in July. It had been over two years since Tracey had been to Vegas, and she made up for the time lapse with a phenomenal amount of relaxation.

Great wine continues to be our passion, and we certainly experienced lots of that this past year, not only at home, but with several great trips to the Okanagan (see the wine blog). And we both got lots of amazing wine for Christmas. In fact, the year ended perfectly from a personal standpoint, as we had another wonderful Christmas. It is our favorite time of the year and we, admittedly, tend to go a little overboard.

So that's basically it. A year that started well and ended well, sort of, with a lot of not-so-great in between.

To sum it up, here is John Oliver with a little clip that puts a bow on this tire fire of a year fairly well.


Here's to 2017. Let's face it, it can't get a helluva lot worse. The bar has been set pretty low (that's not a challenge, Drumpf).



Thursday, 8 September 2016

The best 150 days of the year!!!!!

Seriously, being an NFL fan is torture. SuperBowl 51, and by definition the end of the NFL season, is 150 days from today. Jesus.

Let's hope those 150 days are filled with some great football. If you don't want to know who is going to finish where, who is going to win what, don't read any further. Spoilers below.

NFC EAST:

1. NY Giants 10-6
2. Washington 8-8
3. Dallas 8-8
4. Philadelphia 4-12

NFC SOUTH:

1. Carolina 11-5
2. New Orleans 10-6
3. Atlanta 9-7
4. Tampa Bay 7-9

NFC NORTH:

1. Green Bay 11-5
2. Detroit 9-7
3. Minnesota 9-7
4. Chicago 4-12

NFC WEST:

1. Arizona 13-3
2. Seattle 9-7
3. San Francisco 7-9
4. Los Angeles 6-10

Wild card teams: New Orleans, Detroit

AFC EAST:

1. New England 10-6
2. Buffalo 9-7
3. NY Jets 9-7
4. Miami 6-10

AFC NORTH:

1. Pittsburgh 11-5
2. Cincinnati 10-6
3. Baltimore 8-8
4. Cleveland 3-13

AFC SOUTH:

1. Indianapolis 11-5
2. Jacksonville 9-7
3. Houston 8-8
4. Tennessee 5-11

AFC WEST:

1. Kansas City 12-4
2. Denver 11-5
3. Oakland 10-6
4. San Diego 4-12

Wild Cards: Denver, Cincinnati

NFC Championship Game: Arizona 27, Green Bay 17

AFC Championship Game: Kansas City 31, Cincinnati 10

SUPERBOWL 51:

Arizona 27, Kansas City 24

MVP: Carson Palmer, Arizona

Defensive Player of the year: Khalil Mack, Oakland

Offensive Rookie of the year: Sterling Shepherd, NY Giants

Defensive Rookie of the year: Brandon Williams, Arizona

Coach of the year: Andy Reid, Kansas City

Comeback Player of the year: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (honorable mention to RGIII, who I expect to have a really good season despite the fact that the team is so bad they can't win many games)

Please, people, I implore you...no wagering.

FOOTBALL IS BACK!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Vacation Blog VII, The Voyage Home....but first, a new reigning Fajitas champion

8:00 AM - Up in time to pack and have copious amount of bacon and waffles for breakfast before checking out and leaving our beautiful resort.

10;00 AM - Check out time and no complaints about the check-out process.....a 10 second phone call to the front desk and we're in the car and gone. Heading right over to The Mirage to visit some long-lost relatives of our fur babies.



Lions.


Tigers.


And Bears. Oh My.

Oh, and leopards and dolphins, too.



We went early in the morning hoping that the animals would be a little more active, but even at 10AM it was well over 100 degrees so the kitties weren't exactly interested in putting on a show.

Noon - After killing just enough time to make sure that Rhumbar was open, my Pina Colada count went up to 3. That's actually a little embarrassing.

On the way to our next stop, we walked through The Cromwell and decided to put a couple bucks into a very enticing vintage Batman slot machine.


Quite a bit of fun. Tracey didn't get anything interesting but I got to a few bonuses and ended up with a ONE DOLLAR PROFIT! WOO-HOO!!!! Any slot profit feels like a million bucks.

12:30 PM - To Cabo Wabo for lunch. In the past, I've really enjoyed their fajitas, and I would rank them as the 3rd best I've ever had. Cactus Club was the long-time reigning champion, and in second place was.....

Damn I can't actually remember. Old age is creeping up on me. I know it's not local.....it's somewhere we have to travel to......but damned if I can put my finger on it.

Anyway, Tracey and I decided to order the combo fajitas for 2, with grilled sirloin and chipotle chicken. We added on a new option (or at least, new to us), "served over melted cheese skillet, $4". A game changer. GAME CHANGER.

They take the onions and peppers, grilled to perfection, and dump about a pound of cheddar cheese on them and melt it. Then they serve the meat on top, along with the normal fajitas accompaniments (shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole). We also added on the beans and rice which were fine but, IMO, unneccessary.

The winner, and newwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Fajitas Champion of the World, CABO WABO!!!

Incredible.

The goodness didn't stop there.....the chips and guacamole we started with was terrific (perhaps the best guacamole I've ever tasted), and I ordered a fantastic glass of white sangria. What an absolutely perfect last meal of this Vegas trip.

3:30 PM: With a few hours left before our flight, we decided to find a good movie theatre and enjoy a movie in the comfort of air conditioning. We got a HELL of a lot more than air conditioning. For those of you reading this who enjoy, as we do, the lush comfort of the seats at our VIP theatres, well, you ain't seen nothing.

We went to a theatre called Galaxy+ not too far from the airport, where we enjoyed Pixar's latest offering, Finding Dory. The movie itself was very good but the winner of this day was the theatre itself. Although there was no in-seat food and beverage service like we are treated to at our VIP Theatres (you can get alcohol in the lobby if you like), the seats, man, the seats.......they weren't actually seats, they were FULLY AUTOMATIC LOUNGE CHAIRS. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that there is so much room to recline your chairs that it is physically impossible for anyone behind you to kick your chair (believe me...I tried). With one push of a button, your chair reclines to whatever level you wish, and it has a pull-out shelf for your food and beverage (just like our VIP theatres have). Holy shit...talk about game changers. If I'd known about this we could have come earlier and had a nice nap before our flight.

6:20 PM - We arrive at our gate after a very small lineup through security, although we did have a delay while they searched one of our carry-on bags. We had two laptops in the bag and apparently having them back to back makes it impossible for the X-Ray machine to properly screen them so they had to be hand searched. No huge deal, it took 15 minutes or so but we were in no hurry.

7:10 PM - Our flight boards right on time.

Shortly after take-off, we get our meal. Actually it's considered a "snack".



This is one of the reasons we fly First Class when we can. Absolutely fantastic food. Even the salad was great, and normally my opinion is that salad is what you move out of the way to get to the food.

Sitting right behind us is a lady with her therapy dog. He couldn't possibly be better behaved. Honestly we wouldn't have even known he was there if we hadn't seen him. What a good boy.

10:00 PM - Nothing to interesting happens and we land about 10 minutes early. But landing early is nice if you can actually get off the plane, but because we are early we have to wait on the tarmac while other planes get out of our way.

It's pouring rain in Seattle. Pouring. Welcome home, Engemoens.

Uneventful drive home.....we pick up some wine which we had sent to our package depot and head to the border. We have 6 bottles, two more than we are technically allowed, but because we are so far under our other purchase exemptions it's quite possible they won't bother to make us go in and pay the duty.

Nope. The border guard is a bit of a dick and he sends us in. The guy inside is nicer and he seems to be considering letting us get away with no duty, but in the end he charges us $52 for duty on the two extra bottles. Oh well, not a huge surprise, and well worth it for the quality of wine we just picked up.

2:00 AM- Home, finally. What a week. What a trip.

If you enjoyed reading the blog half as much as I enjoyed the trip, well, I obviously had twice as much fun as you did.





Thursday, 7 July 2016

Vacation Blog VII, Part 7, our last full day in Vegas

10:00 AM - Well I am sleeping a little later every day. If I had another week here I'd be sleeping until dinner time. Wouldn't that be nice?

10:05 AM - HAHA I still beat Tracey by five minutes :)

11:15 AM - After breakfast, it's back down to the pool. Today we are going to head up to the main pool and see if we can get any spots there. It's not crazy busy here since the end of the 4th of July weekend.

The main pool has lots of room, but it also has slightly colder water than the other pool.....so back to the other pool we go. After my requisite hour, I leave Contented Pool Bear to her own devices and head back up to the room to relax.

1:50 PM - Just after I finished my leftover pizza (which was STILL outstanding, BTW), Tracey arrives back in the room to have her lunch and then we are heading to Bellagio. First up, to the Atrium where we discover that the current theme is "Under the sea".





The mermaid's tail consists of 1500 flowers
Nice exhibit, but we've seen better. We also both noticed this one was considerably less fragrant than past exhibits.

Next up, to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, where the current exhibit is a fascinating look at some of the most iconic people of the 20th century, as captured by renowned Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh.

We were allowed to take pictures but with only an Iphone, it was tough to get good shots without an overabundance of glare.





PRINCESS Elizabeth, a year before her coronation.

I was going to take this one home with me but Tracey was convinced the guards would stop me. Might have been worth a shot anyway.
Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was totally shocked by how moving this exhibit was. Some of these photographs felt like you were interrupting an intimate moment - glancing right into the subject's soul.

After we were done here we stopped to partake in some gelato (my first experience with Snickers gelato, and probably not my last) and then do a little more shopping at the shops between Bellagio and Caesar's Palace. It was there, in the Gucci store, that we happened across The World's Biggest Douchebag.

I wish I had a picture to show you but he wouldn't stand still long enough for me to get one. He was wearing a Gucci shirt (an ugly one), Gucci shorts (more below), Gucci shoes (horrifically ugly), carrying a Gucci man-bag, and holding his big wad of cash in his hand in the way a crab might hold your finger if you were stupid enough to put your finger into a crab's claw. Boisterous and loud enough so that everyone in the store could hear him proclaim how much Gucci stuff he owned (as if the fact that Gucci had already puked up on him wasn't enough indication...I particularly like the blue Gucci shorts that were about the same size as the ADIDAS tennis shorts that we all used to wear back before we realized just how ridiculous we looked in those things). You remember: these things.




So in your mind, just replace the Adidas logo with Gucci's logo (all over the shorts) and turn them blue, and you pretty much have it.

Talk about a certified piece of Euro-trash. The only thing surprising is that he wasn't wearing these monstrosities on his feet:


At least, not yet. He DID still have a wad of cash in his claw that he seemed intent on spending.

Las Vegas: Where literally ANYTHING is possible, even wearing Bigfoot's shoes.

Anyhoo, after our mocking of GucciBoy was over, it was time to head back to Bellagio for our buffet dinner. This was another one of our MyVegas redemptions, so it was 2-for-1, but the even BETTER part was that it entitled us to skip the line and go through the Express Comps line....so about 2 minutes in line as opposed to the 75 minute lineup the regular people had to endure. Hee Hee Hee. Suck on that, regular people :)  Honestly the skipping of the line was more important to me than saving the $38 on the dinner. What a nice bonus. Dean doesn't like lineups. Lineups and Dean kinda clash.

8:00 PM - After dinner it's time to head back to the room, open up a nice bottle of Chardonnay and prepare to leave our lovely resort. We don't fly out until 7:50 PM tomorrow so we still have another day of Vegas fun ahead of us, but we have to check out of the resort at 10AM.....so tonight, we pack!

Tomorrow, after check out, we'll see what the day brings. But dammit, there will be at least one more frosty Pina Colada before I leave this town!!!




Vacation Blog VII, Part Six: Another relaxing day followed by an evening of merriment

9:00 AM - Hmm so this is the first night I've had a good 8 hours of sleep. so why am I so damn groggy? Takes me a good half hour to shake it off and get moving.

10:00 AM - I hear rumblings from the Bear's Den. And here she is!! Pleasant Morning Bear! Slightly discombobulated still, but more alive and alert than normal.

Not too much excitement to report this morning; we feast on a breakfast of bacon and eggs (I am fairly certain I have consumed more bacon on this trip than in the rest of 2016 combined) and hit the pool. I go down early to grab a couple of primo lounge chairs while Tracey finishes getting into pool mode.

While I'm sitting on the chair waiting for Tracey to come down, a group of six women comes barging into the pool area and I hated them almost instantly. The leader of their little group was one of those people who thought she was much more important than she really is. It was obvious by the way she commanded the rest of them to follow her plan to commandeer any free lounge chairs and move them over to where they wanted to sit, and do it quickly before anyone else might have the nerve to want to sit on them. I was actually quite pleased when she was visibly frustrated that there weren't enough chairs to go around for her little coffee klatch. She started eyeing the chair that I was holding for Tracey and I was PRAYING that she would come over and try to take it so I could kick her fat ass into the pool. Alas, she did not. I never get a break.

When Tracey arrives, I head off to the gym for a little workout. "Little" being the operative word there, as the joint was packed! All the cardio machines were full, a guy was using the free weights and a girl was on a yoga mat in the middle of the room doing some serious core work. I spent 15 or so minutes using the weight machines that were free and then headed back to the pool. Earlier this week when I went to the gym there was not another soul around.

Into the pool which is pleasant but much cooler today than it was on Monday. There is a stiff breeze that seems to be cooling things down. Most of the coffee klatch is already in the shallow end of the pool so I spend some time in the deep end. Most of them are behaving themselves but Sergeant Annoying is loud and obnoxious. I'n my mind, I'm gouging her eyes out just for the fun of it. Dare to dream.

After my obligatory hour of pool time, I leave Contented Bear to enjoy her day at the pool while I head back up to the room to relax for a couple hours. After an hour or so I take her a sandwich and an apple for lunch. Certainly can't have Contented Bear turn into Hungry Bear!! Hungry Bear is a handful, let me tell you!

We have plans to hit Caesar's and do a little shopping, then dinner at Trevi. After dinner, over to the Wynn for some charcuterie and wine at La Cave, our favorite wine hangout in Vegas. Should be a fun night.

3:15 PM - Tracey comes back from the pool and The Process (TM) begins. Meanwhile I log onto our yoga studio website and sign us up for our classes for the next week, starting on Sunday. Wow, it's hard to believe that this trip is almost over and it's just about time to head back to reality! Not that our reality is lousy or anything - far from it - but it's not Vegas!!

5:00 PM - We are into the car and off to Caesar's, where we do a great deal of window shopping and a little actual shopping. The Forums Shoppes are terrific, every high-end designer you could possibly think of in one spot.

6:30 PM - Time for our reservations at Trevi. We've eaten here 3 or 4 times and always had a great meal. The ambiance is terrific too, sitting right next to the huge Trevi fountain. Tonight's meal is no exception. We both start off with appetizers, I have butternut squash ravioli and Tracey orders Mozza sticks....but these are nothing like your traditional Mozza sticks. They are the best I've ever tasted. My ravioli is also fantastic.

For dinner Tracey has "Pollo Tre Pomodori", described on the menu as such:

CRISPY PARMESAN CHICKEN BREAST WITH A ROMA, CHERRY AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO BIANCO SAUCE, PAPPARDELLE CACIO E PEPE

It's absolutely fantastic, some of the best breaded chicken either of us have ever tasted, and the bianco sauce that coats the pappardelle pasta is phenomenal.

 I am leaning towards ordering the same Chicken Carbonara dish I enjoyed on our last visit, but then something else caught my eye: A Meatzza Pizza, covered in meatballs, pepperoni, sausage and pancetta. First I confirm they have a defibrillator standing by, and once confirmed, I place my order.

It is one of the 5-6 best pizzas I have had in my life. It's as close to perfect as pizza comes, I think. And huge. This is what it looks like after I've eaten half of it:



It's too good to waste so we have it packed up to take back to the resort for lunch tomorrow. It's a bit of a pain to carry around with me all night but it's worth it.

Oh, and our bill, including one glass of wine and a generous tip (TERRIFIC service from Eddie), was $108. Superb value. This is a must-do restaurant for all of our Vegas trips.

One more point: Since we knew we were going to La Cave later tonight we didn't have a bottle of wine here, but they have a fantastic wine list. It's small, but they have a little something for everyone at every price point.

After dinner we finish off the shops in the mall and then start the walk to the Wynn, where we are planning to get our "fine wine drink on". First though, we come across this:

video

A carousel made of flowers!!

The Wynn has really outdone themselves this time, it's truly amazing. We'll see what the Bellagio has in store in their Atrium which we will see tomorrow.

8:50 PM - We arrive at La Cave, disappointed to realize that they close at 10....so we will probably only get one bottle of wine. And WHAT A BOTTLE WE FIND. Wow.


Those of you who are regular readers of my wine blog might recognize the winery and the vineyard here. We recently tasted the 2013 vintage of this wine and it was the best red wine we have ever had. If you'd like to read the review, here it is.

Is this vintage as spectacular as that one? No, but it's still pretty damn good, and we were so surprised and pleased to find it on their wine menu. I'll do a full review of it, and the other wine we've had on this trip, this weekend when we are back home.

We also ordered some charcuterie which we knew we weren't going to be able to do justice to after the huge dinner we just had, but even a little bit here and there improves the wine so we nibbled a bit and then took the rest back to the resort, which we will probably enjoy with the 2 bottles of wine we still have back at the resort.

A little more shopping after we left La Cave (yes, the shops in the Wynn mall are still open) and then back to Caesar's to get our car and head back. We had considered walking home if I was too drunk to drive, but that certainly isn't the case, especially after the 20-minute walk back to Caesar's.

Off to bed, tomorrow we are going to have another relaxing morning followed by a trip to Bellagio to see some art and enjoy a little buffet dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Vacation Blog VII: Mon Ami Gabi and whatever else we manage to fit in today

9:30 AM - Well this is not so bad but considering what time I got to bed last night, not quite what I was hoping for. My brilliant prognosticating skills are predicting a nap in short order.

I head out to Target to replenish a few supplies that we need, starting with milk because some fucking dumbass didn't notice that the skim milk he purchased the other day was ALREADY expired. It's tough to find skim milk in the States, which might explain why the population of this country is so goddamned fat. It might be one of 1000 reasons (what's that? For $9.99 I can buy 100 Chicken McNuggets or three broccoli crowns???? Cluck cluck cluck!!!).

We have breakfast in the resort and relax a bit, and then it hits us....the nap monster has arrived.

2:30 PM - We both wake up. I had a good nap and Tracey's nap was fair to middling at best. Time for our leftover Chinese food to get us through to our late dinner tonight.

3:30 PM - Off to the Venetian for a little shopping, and sightseeing, and an opportunity for me to grab a lot of hot girl's asses.

What? Really?

Really.

Lindsay Lohan really was quite pretty before she turned into a total trainwreck.

Not to be a pig, but I swear her boobs are bigger in real life.


Full disclosure: I really wasn't grabbing any of their asses (although J-Lo looked like she was about to kick my ass).

But Katy Perry's cleavage was tough to ignore.


Most of the wax figures were very lifelike, but there was one that almost took my breath away.


Sandra Bullock. I'm not her biggest fan by any stretch, but this was so lifelike I felt like she was looking right into my soul. The eyes, man...the eyes.....they didn't look like a wax figurine at all. I swear I expected her to move at any second. Really, really well done.


"Well, you made a long journey from Milan to Minsk, Rochelle, Rochelle. You never stopped hoping, now your in a Pinsk, Rochelle, Rochelle. When the naysayers 'nay' you picked up your pace. You said nothing's going to stop me so get out of my face. I'm having adventures all over the place, Rochelle, Rochelle!!!"

At this point I swear it doesn't matter what Bette Midler has done in her career before or after, I will never think of her as anything but Macaroni Midler from Seinfeld.

She really is the Wind Beneath My Wings. She is so freaking talented.

And here is a little tribute to a few greats we've lost recently:


Was Whitney really THIS tiny?

Purple Picture, Purple Picture

and the wife got in on the action with some of her gentlemen friends as well.

FINALLY, THE ROCK HAS COME BACK IN LIFELIKE WAX FORM TO LAYETH THE SMACKETH DOWN ON ALL YOUR CANDY ASSES!

I think JT is auditioning for the next Bond movie.


I don't know who this guy is.
And of course, if you want to take true STAR POWER....you want to talk about the BIGGEST STAR IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD...you are clearly talking about this cool cat.



Yup, Grumpy Cat has his own figurine. Actually pretty cute, and it moved.


A brand new Dean in the Rat Pack.


I heard that Wolfgang Puck is pouring an '84 Sassicaia.

So that's about it for Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. We had not been there in several years, quite fun. And man some of those figurines were so lifelike it was creepy.

7:00 PM - We grab the car and head down to the Paris where we are going to have dinner. No huge hurry for a table, since we are planning to sit outside and soak up the atmosphere. They aren't that busy tonight though, so we actually head to do a bit of shopping where I pick up a couple of T-shirts (one that says "Pardon My #($@)@!$@ French". I swear, is there a more appropriate T-shirt for me to wear???) and then it's time to hit Mon Ami Gabi for dinner.

Although I was planning on a nice bottle of wine to celebrate my tourney winnings from last night we decided on a carafe of their Frangria (Sangria + French...get it???), which is the best I've ever tasted, anywhere. Normally Tracey is the Sangria whore.....and I'm pretty lukewarm on it....but this is spectacular. We are both having Filet Mignon for dinner so I order just a glass of a nice Bordeaux to pair with my steak better than the Frangria would. The wine is a perfect complement to a beautiful piece of meat. We both leave fully satisfied and the price is terrific, as our bill is $140 all in. Incredible food and very good value as well.

11:00 PM - After we donated a couple bucks to the local economy in the form of some slot play, we are both tired and head back to the resort to hit the sack. Another big day tomorrow...although there will be some sleeping in and probably some napping, we are planning some shopping and dining in the Caesar's Palace Forum shops and then up to the Wynn for some spectacular wine and charcuterie at La Cave, our favorite wine bar in Vegas. Can't wait!!


Vacation Blog VII, Part Four: Who knows what this day will bring?

......the first day of our trip where we have literally no plans.

8:30 AM - I'm normally up around 6 AM every day. It seems like 8:30 is becoming my new time on this trip. I am fine with this.

9:00 AM - Out onto the patio to enjoy the peaceful serenity of the pool below us before anyone gets in it. Since I am always up hours before Discombobulated Bear makes an appearance, this has become one of my favorite rituals on vacation......just sitting on the patio, drinking an ice-cold Diet Coke, doing something on my computer or Ipad. It's a great way to start the day.

I am pretty sure we will be IN that pool in the not-too-distant future.

10:45 AM - My prognosticative abilities can no longer be questioned. We are in the pool.

At this point, there is no sign of shrinkage.

12:30 PM - That's about as much pool time as I can handle, especially in this heat, so I head back up to the room to have some lunch. I bring Pool Bear a turkey sandwich as was ordered, er, requested of me. She will be there for hours.

2:05 PM - What's this? I feel a nap coming on. I wonder if I should let it get me or if I should fighttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

4:00 PM - Just as I am stirring awake Tracey returns from the pool. She tells me a story of the redneck who joined them down there after I left and spent a lot of time trying to convince everyone that his pro-gun stance doesn't make him a mass murderer just as if he had pulled the trigger himself. It's probably a very good thing that I was gone by the time he started in on his position, as there would have been a confrontation.

Apparently everyone involved in this conversation hates Hillary Clinton, but they don't like Trump either. Too damn bad, people, it's YOUR system that has put those two on the ballot. You can hold your nose while doing it if you must, but if you don't vote for Hillary, you are responsible for every problem that Drumpf causes while in office.

That was a pretty unsatisfying nap. It just didn't take :(

4:30 PM - I hop in the car and head to Panda Express to grab some take-out for dinner. For $45 we get enough food for both of us to enjoy a full dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. Pretty reasonable. We are planning a late dinner at Mon Ami Gabi tomorrow, outside on their terrace once the sun has gone down and the heat subsides a tad, so having a large meal around lunchtime is the perfect tonic to get us through until our table is ready. We don't generally eat dinner that late.

After dinner we relax a little bit and watch some TV. I am playing in a poker tournament at 9PM at Caesar's Palace. It is a $150 buy in tournament so not huge but if I am successful at least I will win enough to make it worth my while.

8:30 PM - I get to Caesar's and register for the tourney. While waiting for it to start I notice a game called "Free Bet Blackjack". What is that, you ask? Well it's regular blackjack except that when you double or split, the HOUSE pays those bets for you. So if you bet $30 and let's say you get 11, and double down, you don't have to put up the other $30, the house does it for you.....so you are effectively wagering $30 to win $60.

Why would the house DO that, you ask? Well, for one, blackjack at these tables only pays 6-5, so they recoup some of their edge there. Secondly, it makes people play worse. I saw a guy split 4's against a face card, and then a guy doubled down on 9 against a face card as well. I guess the chance to win twice the money without putting up twice the money was too enticing for them to notice that they actually decreased their odds of winning the hand significantly.

Anyway, I sit down and play for a bit, and get only one hand worth doubling on (an 11), and I end up pushing the dealer so nothing exciting. I made $40 in the 10 minutes I played so that's pretty good.

(if you have no interest in poker stories, stop reading now, that's about all there will be for the rest of this blog entry).

9 PM - Tourney starts. My first table is odd, lots of raising and re-raising and huge raises, more than you would normally see at a tourney like this...especially so early when the blinds are so low. We started with 15K in chips, and the blinds are at 25/50 so everyone has 300 big blinds...no need to get nuts. But there is one guy at the table who continuously over-raises and the following interesting hand comes up:

I am in middle position with pocket fours. There is a raise in front of me and I call and so do about 6 other people. The pot has around 1K in it pre-flop. The flop is Q94 rainbow, quite a nice flop for me obviously. The pre-flop raiser bets 800, and Mr. Crazy Raiser raises it to 7500! At this point, I could smooth call but that would be suspicious and pointless, so I shove my stack in, he calls instantly and tables Q9. He doesn't improve and I more than double up my stack really early.

For the next little while I play well and get some decent hands and, most importantly, don't get unlucky. I dominate the table I am at for the first 5-6 rounds and I am almost certainly tournament chip leader at the first break, which is 2 hours into the tourney.

I get moved to another table and continue to play well and get a few hands, and I'm the chip leader at that table too for most of the night.

I get Ad9d on the button and raise a standard amount and get re-raised by the big blind, but he doesn't raise nearly enough to make me fold (mistake number one by him in this hand). He checks the flop of TT2 with one diamond. I bet about 3/4 of the pot, and he calls (mistake number two). The turn card is an Ace. We both check. The river card is a 4, which changes nothing, and he bets about half of the pot (mistake number three). I call immediately and he turns over pocket Jacks! He played every single street in the worst possible way he could have, and he paid for it. He knew it too, and later in the night he told me how he thought he had misplayed that hand. I told him I agreed with him :)

Eventually I make what is, looking back, probably a bad call when a nice Australian girl (who is 3 hours from having to drive to the airport to catch a flight) shoves her stack in after I had open-raised with AJ. She didn't have a ton of chips, but I probably should have folded as she had just enough that I should have known I was not ahead. She had AK and I did not improve, knocking my stack in half. I was able to recover, though, and build my stack up to a top 5 amount again. This tournament had 20 minute levels, meaning that the blinds and antes would go up fast, and nobody else seemed to be noticing that even though I had a huge stack compared to everyone else at this table, I only had about 14 big blinds! Everyone else was playing as if they had tons of chips, but they did not.

Eventually we get down to 10 players (there were 49 entries, the top 5 get paid) and I am second in chips with about 102K.....sounds pretty good, but the blinds were already at 4K/8K....with a 1K ante! As the second chip leader, I only had 13 big blinds!! The chip leader had around 20. Everyone else was in total desperation mode, but they didn't seem to know it.

That nice Aussie girl ended up folding all the way down to about $21K when she finally went all in. She had waited for a hand and she got it, with pocket Aces! The problem is the big blind, who was the chip leader, couldn't possibly fold for another 13K (with 31K already in the pot) and he made the correct call and tabled Q7. Queen on the flop, Queen on the river, and the Aussie was headed to the airport. That's why you just can't sit and wait for big hands when the blinds are so big.

The chips continued to just move around the table for a while. Every time I picked up anything resembling a hand I went all-in and won the blinds and antes. A couple more players hit the rail and we were down to the bubble. Someone suggested we all put in $40 for the next player eliminated so that he/she would end up making $50 for their trouble; normally I turn down any deals at the table, but considering how high the blinds were, it was more than possible the bubble would be ME and I didn't want to go home empty handed, so I agreed, as did everyone else. The bubble burst shortly thereafter when we lost our last female player, a sweet young girl from Denver wearing a Raiders hat! We teased her all night that she would have to cheer for the Las Vegas Raiders pretty soon.

So the blinds and antes went up AGAIN and now nobody had any wiggle room. Then five hands in a row came up that decided my tournament.

Blinds were 8K/16K with a 1K ante, so even five-handed there was going to be 29K in the middle before the cards were dealt. I am in the big blind with about 55K left, and everyone folds to the small blind who shoves his stack (he had eliminated the last couple players and had about 145K). I look down at my cards and see an Ace and call. Doesn't even matter what the second one is (it was a 6). My opponent had 98 and failed to improve, so I doubled up and he was down to around 90K. The very next hand, it's folded around to him (he is now the button) and he shoves. I look down and see another Ace (this time with an 8) so I shove as well and the big blind folds. He has pocket Tens this time though, and I do not hit an Ace, so all his chips go right back to him leaving me with only 14K (less than the big blind).

Since everyone at the table knows I am going in on the next hand, I don't even look at my cards. Then something really bizarre happens: The same player raises to 32K. Think about it.....one player has less than the big blind...the proper thing to do would be for all of the other players at the table to just call the big blind, and check it down to increase the odds that someone would beat me and knock me out. But this guy raises, shutting out two of the other players (the big blind called), very much improving my chances to stick around. A terrible play.

 The board came like this:

88477, with three hearts. They checked all the way and turned over not much (the guy who raised to 32K had KJ offsuit), and I looked down to find KhQh for a flush and I more than tripled up! Still alive.

NEXT hand, I look down to find AK! Wow, I toss my chips into the middle and say something like "let's do that again!!!", trying to give them the impression that I am still shoving with any two cards, praying to get a call. I don't get one, however, but I'm now up to about 50K again.

NEXT hand, I am under the gun and look down to find a gorgeous pair of Kings!!! I again toss my chips into the middle, this time proclaiming "Third time's the charm", once again PRAYING to get called...and I do!! Yay for me! Notsofast....

He has Aces!!! LOL. I do not improve and that's it, I'm out in 5th place, with pays $566. Taking into account the $40 I tipped the crew and the $40 we gave to the bubble, I end up with a $336 profit (plus the $40 from blackjack).

Fun tourney, and it's always nice to cash.

And at least I can stop saying that I haven't wagered a dime this trip!!

2:30 AM - The tourney seemed to go quite quickly but it was 5.5 hours I played for. I didn't stick around to see the finale, but the blinds were about to go up again so it couldn't have possibly lasted much longer. I generally prefer tournaments with longer levels so that there is more skill involved at the end, but of course the downside to those types of tournaments is that they go on for much longer.

Tomorrow, another relaxing day, with a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants to cap it off! And with tonight's winnings, I see a nice bottle of wine in our near future.




Monday, 4 July 2016

Vacation Blog VII, Part Three: Two words: Garth Fucking Brooks

I never was that good at the maths or the counts. Or the grammar, apparently.

OK so the title of this blog gives away the details of our evening, but let's start where the day generally starts: the morning

8:30 AM - After getting home after Midnight from LOVE last night it was nice to sleep in a little.

9:00 AM - Discombobulated Bear sticks her head up for a moment, and doesn't like what she smells. The alarm going off is going to render that irrelevant, though, as we have only an hour or so to get breakfast and hit the road as we have another huge day planned.

11:10 AM - We arrive at Rick and Sue's place, which they have labeled "Del Boca Vista", to pick them up and head out to the Valley of Fire. They have seen this before and highly recommended it, so we decided to take this opportunity to check it out with them. We were expecting to be impressed, but we were absolutely blown away with the scope of the beauty we were witnessing. The rock formations, and the colours....oh, the colours. Breathtaking. As far as the eye could see.

Majestic in it's simplicity.







This was the first time in my life that I really spent any time in the desert.

Yes, I know Las Vegas is in the desert, but I'm talking about an ACTUAL desert. The desert where you are more likely to see this:


than this:



Thankfully, we've encountered neither this trip. And if I have to choose, I'd happily take my chances with the snake.

Oh, and it's hot today.....according to the car temperature, it reached 140 degrees when we were at the bottom of the valley. I'm just a tad skeptical about that, but I'll bet it was 120. There was just a touch of a breeze to make it tolerable, though, as we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch. Tracey points out that the heat out in the desert is different than the heat in the city, with all the concrete and glass on the buildings to intensify it. That was very astute of her. Please welcome Astute Bear to the family. Definitely never seen HER before.

I'm going to pay for that one.

3:30 PM - Back at Del Boca Vista for one last dip in the spectacular pool before saying goodbye to Rick and Sue and heading back to the resort for dinner and a short bit of relaxation before heading out to tonight's Garth Brooks concert. Neither of us have ever seen him, so this crosses one more off the concert bucket list for both of us.

6:30 PM - We arrive at the brand-spanking-new T-Mobile arena, future home of the Las Vegas NHL team, and it's gorgeous. We didn't have time to explore it completely, but it is reminiscent of the Staples Centre in LA, but a little smaller. Beautiful outdoor space that Staples doesn't have, though. This looks like a real winner.

7:00 PM - I received an Email a few days ago with the timing for the show, indicating that Garth Brooks would be onstage right around the scheduled time....so I guess he'll be out any second now.

7:25 PM - A portly gentlemen comes onto the stage with microphone in hand, and he announces that we are not only at a Garth concert, we are at a Garth TV TAPING!!!!!! You know they are going to pull out all the stops for this one. Very exciting.

7:30 PM - The lights dim, the music hits, and the crowd goes fucking berserk. And I mean abso-fucking-lutely berserk. Like nothing I've ever heard at any concert, ever. They continued the berserk-ness through the first song, which I wasn't familiar with, and the second song, Rodeo. Nobody sat down, nobody stopped hollering, nobody could (I presume) hear a thing. Garth tried talking to us a bit after the second song and I couldn't hear a damn thing he was saying.

There were so many things tonight that I just can't explain.

By the time he got into the third song, The Beaches of Cheyenne, I had tears welling up in my eyes.

I can't explain that.

The fourth song was Two Pina Coladas, which happened to be one more Pina Colada than I've had this entire trip!!

I certainly can't explain THAT.

I spent most of the night on my feet, cheering and hollering, singing along to songs I didn't know that I knew the words to. Somehow, tonight, I knew the words.

I can't explain that either.

I would upload some of the video I took but they are too large, and honestly I doubt they would do it justice.

Tracey and I agreed, this was likely the most fun either of us have ever had at a concert. Brooks makes it seem like the only person in the stadium who is enjoying the show more than you are, is him. His charm, charisma, humbleness and work ethic are absolutely second to none. He barely stopped running around the stage long enough to guzzle some water and catch his breath.

He calls his band his "family", which is hardly unique. But you know what kind of a family they are? The "newcomer" of his group, the guy who has been with him the least amount of time, has been playing with him for TWENTY-TWO YEARS. How do you get that kind of loyalty from a band, especially WHEN YOU RETIRED FOR FOURTEEN YEARS?!! Is it possible that he really is the nicest guy in show business? Seems plausible.

The only time the energy in the arena dipped below "LUDICROUS SPEED" was the 15-or-so minutes that his wife, Trisha Yearwood, took over. No offense meant to her at all, she's had a long and illustrious career in her own right, but she's not Garth. It turned out to be a good thing I think as Garth and the audience needed a couple minutes to recharge for the rest of the show.

Ludicrous speed. Heh.



A really nice moment at the end of Yearwood's set. One of their background singers was the songwriter for one of Yearwood's hits, a nice little tune called Georgia Rain. Yearwood had her come up front and sing the final verse, which was obviously a surprise to her as you could tell she was a little overcome with emotion. It was beautiful, though, and the crowd went nuts for it.

By the time the show got to Friends in Low Places (which the audience sang loud enough to drown Brooks out for the most part) and then the finale, The Dance, I was spent. Two encores later, I could hardly comprehend the performance I had just witnessed, and it seemed as if Brooks and the band could hardly believe it, either. What a show.

Oh, and that was just tonight's FIRST SHOW OF THE EVENING!! There was a second show starting at 10:30, or so it was scheduled. No way they were going to get everyone out of there and the place ready for a show in 25 minutes. I can't imagine how he could perform again tonight. He left it all out there, and then some.

If you've never seen him...if you are even a moderate fan of his.....Hell if you've even HEARD of him..... go see him if you get a chance. I doubt you will regret it. What a performer.

10:05 PM - On the way back to the MGM where we had parked the car we came across a place in NYNY that just happened to be selling frozen Pina Coladas! I was tempted to get two pina coladas, one for each hand....set sail with Captain Morgan, and never leave dry land....

But alas, I just got one, and Tracey partook in a frosty beverage as well for the road. Nothing like driving down the strip in a convertible with both occupants of the car sipping on frozen alcoholic beverages.

11:30 PM - Back at the resort and just time to type up some thoughts for the blog while finishing my tropical goodness and unwinding from what was a truly special day.

We are almost done with the "plans" for this trip; outside of dinner reservations for Wednesday night, and some loose ideas on some other dinners and activities, we are free to do anything we want, which includes not a damn thing, for the rest of the trip. "Not a damn thing" might very well be tomorrow's mantra.

72 hours into a Vegas trip, and while the Pina Colada count has now doubled to 2, I have still yet to wager a single dollar. To say that is unprecedented would be the understatement of the century. Will that change tomorrow? Stay tuned, true believers, and find out.



Sunday, 3 July 2016

Vacation Blog, Part Two: All you Need is Love

5:30 AM - Oh no you don't, I am not getting up at 5:30 AM on vacation.

7:00 AM - Harrumph. I suppose that will do.

I spend a few hours relaxing on our patio, enjoying the scenery and the beautiful weather, before adjourning to the kitchen to prepare bacon and eggs.

10 AM - As I begin to prepare breakfast, I am pretty sure I hear movement behind the bedroom door. I believe hibernation is over. My suspicions are confirmed when I peek into the room and notice a light on. I anxiously await which member of the Bear family will be joining me today. Stupid of me, though, until she's had her morning beverage, it's always the same one: Discombobulated Bear.

After breakfast we are off to walk up to the Strip and explore some of what is new since we last visited. We start with the incredible changes made at The Linq (formerly the toxic waste dump known as Imperial Palace), including a fabulous little outdoor shopping and dining area. I am still without a Frozen Pina Colada. In fact, Tracey beats me into the frozen waters, spying a place selling a Frozen Bailey's concoction. She knocks three children down on her stampede to that bar.

Next up, I take Tracey over to The Cromwell, which used to be the varmint-infested saloon called "Bill's Gambling Hall". It's gorgeous now. What an incredible feat of renovation: turning something hideous into a classy venue, without so much as one wall coming down (as far as I know). They must have one helluva interior designer.

Next we head across the street to Bally's, where another amazing metamorphosis has taken place! All of the dead area in front of Bally's has been replaced with The Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally's. A multitude of shopping and dining venues, most of them of what would be called the micro-variety: many of the shops are just tiny, about 200 square feet! It reminds me of little shipping containers. Still, it's an incredible upgrade from what was there before, which was not much.

We still have a bit of time so we head past the Paris and into the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood. And it is there that my love affair with tasty frozen treats is rekindled.

12:38 PM - The first sip of Frozen Pina Colada touches my lips. Oh that sweet, sweet nectar. The Vegas trip is officially on.

After perusing the wares at the mall, it's time to head back to the resort and get ready to head out for the day. Man did we overestimate our stamina, or underestimate the heat; it turns into one of those walks where you are praying for a cab to show up to take you the last half-block. Our prayers go unanswered.

2:10 PM - We hop into the car and begin the 30ish minute drive up to Rick and Sue's Vegas Vacation Hideaway (TM), a beautiful 2-bedroom townhouse in a gated community that they bought when the Canadian Dollar wasn't so far down the crapper. It was, in fact, slightly ABOVE par at that point. Oh, little Billy, those were the days. Those were the days.

Our GPS has other ideas however. At some point, for some unknown reason, it just stopped talking to us. I had to try to navigate based solely on the graphics on the screen (and reading such a screen while driving is about as convenient as doing your taxes while riding a roller coaster). I'm not even sure how many wrong turns I took, but once we finally got the voice working again we KNOW we took one more wrong turn, as some major construction has totally changed the exit and entrance ramps at the part of the highway where we needed to get off; so much so that she told us to "prepare to turn right" as we were already about 30 yards past the exit.

Oh well, we finally got there and enjoyed some lovely pool time. The pool was the perfect temperature. PER. FECT. I look over at Tracey and I know instantly that we have added another member to the family: Contented Bear.

Beautiful pool, beautiful complex, beautiful everything. It's going to be quite a fantastic retirement home for them in 58 months. I did not make that up, their retirement date is set and is in 58 months.

I am hoping to retire in 58 years.

6:45 PM - Dinnertime! We have reservations at Portofino, a very well-reviewed Italian restaurant in The Mirage. We have a couple hours until the show which is good, because the service isn't exactly top-notch. It's not terrible, don't get me wrong....but if we were in a hurry, we may have had some issues.

The food, however, IS top-notch. Everyone is thrilled with their meals, and they are paired with a very nice and reasonably priced 2010 Brunello di Montalcino. 2010 has been called the "vintage of the Century" in Montalcino. This one did not disappoint.

As we prepare for the show, Tracey and Sue drop a couple bucks into some random slot machines. My wife and slot machines would remind fans of every season for the Toronto Maple Leafs: you might hope for the best, you might get teased a bit at the start, but in reality, you already know what the result is going to be.

9:30 PM - LOVE begins. I know this show like the back of my hand, and although it starts out with "Because", just like it always has, something seems.....different. Amiss. Unfamiliar.

But when that crazy guitar chord hits and Get Back begins, all is forgotten.

Hmm. Eleanor Rigby comes in the usual place, but again....something isn't right. It just seems a bit different. I can't put my finger on it.

Next up is Twist and Shout, which seems more than a bit odd because TWIST AND SHOUT ISN'T IN THE SHOW!

OH MY GOD THEY CHANGED THE SHOW!!! 

I had heard they made some adjustments to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, in preparation for the show's 10th Anniversary (in just a couple weeks). Well they did a lot more than that.

I believe it was Aristotle who coined the phrase "Don't Fuck With Perfection".

Well, they took perfection, tossed it into a blender, and came up with something brilliant. And completely, totally, different than before.

I'm not going to go into song-by-song details, some of you have probably seen this show and want to see it again so I won't ruin it for you. Only one song changed completely (Twist and Shout replacing I Am The Walrus), but the performances accompanying almost every other song were dramatically different. Not to mention they COMPLETELY changed the underlying storyline of the show.

(If you want to find out more about the new show, just Google "Beatles Love new". There is an article by Robin Leach where he interviews the Director and Musical Director of the show. The big changeover happened in February. I had no clue.)

By the time the show ended, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. It's not often that you get to see a completely new show for the 8th time. Can't wait to make it nine.

Oh, one very unwelcome change.....they stopped selling the frozen Pina Coladas in the lobby! That was my FAVORITE Pina Colada!! Bastards. I will have to make up for it with several trips to Rhumbar later in the week.

Back to the resort to hit the sack. Tomorrow heading back to Rick and Sue's as we are going to go on a little drive through some canyons which I've been told are quite spectacular to see.

Oh, and after about 48 hours in Vegas, I have wagered exactly zero dollars, and consumed exactly one Frozen Pina Colada.

Take THAT, those of you who think I'm predictable!! :)

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Vacation Blog VII: Oh-my-God-it's-been-so-long Vegas edition

My last Vegas trip was in June, 2014. That is a span of seven hundred and way too many days. It feels so good to be back.

And my wife has an even bigger beef, it's been over THREE years since she has been here. Clearly we need to travel more.

So I'm not going to get too much into our travel day; it was not the greatest of days, marked by one little problem after another. Alaska Airlines took good care of us, the best they could....but nobody could do much about the lineup of flights that were diverted during quite the thunderstorm earlier in the day. As if leaving late wasn't bad enough, we got re-routed during the flight as well, as the T-storms fired back up, leaving us little choice to take a non-direct route around them, coming into Vegas from the Southwest.

And once we got off the plane, there were about 150 people in line for the shuttle to the rental car centre. Some sort of construction causing massive delays and a much longer trip to the centre than normal. Luckily for us we were renting from Hertz, which basically meant we spent about 0.4 seconds getting the car. Not so luckily for us, our car was a Camaro...not that the car isn't excellent, it is, but it's our first time with this car and we couldn't figure out how to put the top down. Why worry about putting the top down at 1 AM, you ask? Well our luggage wouldn't all fit in the "trunk", and I use that word loosely, so it seemed an easier way to get our extra luggage into the back seat. After about 20 minutes of frustration we said "screw it" and shoved it into the back seat the old fashioned way.

Anyway, long story short, our heads finally hit the pillows at the Mirage around 2 AM...about 4 hours later than planned.

We love the Mirage, it's gotta be the best reasonably priced hotel in Vegas. This is just a quick one-night stay, comped through our MyVegas rewards. In order to avoid paying much higher prices by flying on Canada Day, we decided to come in the night before and crash here for one night before it's time to check-in at our resort. What an excellent decision, the flight problems notwithstanding.

Friday, July 1st - why spend Canada Day actually IN Canada??

8:30 AM - Up earlier than I'd like of course but that's not too bad given what time I hit the sack. Wonder what time The Bear will stir??

We already asked about late check-out.....normal check-out time is 11, but they said they would allow us to stay until Noon for no additional charge. $15 for 1PM, $40 for 3 PM, so that's pretty reasonable. We expect to check into our resort between 3 and 4 so this allows us a great deal of flexibility.

I head down to the M Life desk to redeem some other rewards and to pick up Tracey's M Life card, which she forgot at home. The casino floor has changed a ton since I was last here, including the cashier cage and poker room being totally relocated and a new bar put in their old spot. A couple of new restaurants as well.

10:00 AM - Back up to the room (which is gorgeous, BTW, they did a fabulous job of renovating all the rooms in this Hotel which doesn't show it's age at all anymore) and Tracey stirs when I come in. One of the rewards that I just redeemed is a 2 for 1 breakfast or lunch buffet here, so once we are both ready we head downstairs to take advantage of that and also go to the LOVE box office to pick up our show tickets for tomorrow's show. We are taking Tracey's brother Rick and his wife Sue to the show, and they have never seen it. I would imagine they are going to like what they see.

This will be my 8th time. Tracey is at 6, I believe. It's just spectacular.

The brunch buffet is really good. $25 and the food is excellent; sure it doesn't rise to the quality of the buffets at Bellagio, the Wynn or Caesar's, but you get what you pay for. The Mirage never disappoints. And we will happily be "getting what we paid for" at those other buffets later in the week.

After brunch we head back upstairs and pack up our stuff and use the online check out. The MGM properties have controversially started charging for parking, and combining the $18 valet fee with the $33 Resort fee which they've had for years, and our "free" room cost us $51. Actually $61 if you count the 2 bottles of water from the mini-bar. Still a bargain at twice the price, given that we saved about $350 on our airfare by coming down one day earlier. In fact, we were able to fly First Class for about the same as Coach would have cost had we flown on July 1st. No-brainer.

Off to the outlet mall to do a little shopping. SERIOUSLY good deals this weekend, as the entire mall was having a "Fourth of July weekend sale". Everything was basically free. No, really.

I was running out of good shoes and I didn't even bring a pair with me- I came down in my sandals - so first stop was the Nike store where we got three pairs of good shoes and some socks for under $200.

Usually this is the point in my blog where I lament that we left the mall having spent a small fortune, but not this time. The deals were terrific; I got two pairs of shorts and a shirt at Ralph Lauren and Tracey got some miscellaneous makeup and L'Occitane foot cream and it felt like we hardly spent anything. Fantastic.

3:15 PM - We arrive at our resort, where we've stayed many times, and are delighted to see absolutely no lineup to check-in. They are VERY firm about their 4 PM check-in time, except that they are not really firm on it at all....something that we know from having stayed here many times. After just a couple minutes at the check in desk we head over to the next stop where we get our parking pass and they try to convince us to go to one of those fucking timeshare presentations. We have to wait in line for about 20 minutes as the two employees at the desk have both found suckers who are going to the presentation and it takes some time to explain it all to them. When I approach the desk I shut her down in about 10 seconds and she knows immediately we aren't falling for any of this, so I get my pass and we are on our way to our  2-bedroom townhouse overlooking one of five pools. Beautiful.

Next to Target to stock up on supplies for the week. Man this Target has absolutely everything. They should bring this store to Canada one day.

One thing I always forget to bring with me when we come to the States is peanut butter. Seriously, America, your peanut butter selection is a disgrace; we have to choose between Skippy and Jif. We choose Skippy of course.

 I am pretty sure Skippy's company motto is "hey, at least we aren't Jif!!!"

Back to the room to get ready for dinner at Del Frisco's, where we are meeting Rick and Sue.

7:20 PM - We get in the car and put the address into the GPS and it says it's a 3 minute drive, which can't possibly be right, because once we leave the resort we have to turn right and go around the corner and that's going to take us 3 minutes all by itself, not to mention the restaurant can't possibly be right behind us.

7:23 PM - We arrive at the restaurant, which is right behind us. Who knew?

Oh, and just as a little bonus? The restaurant, which has an impressive wine list, is having a sale. A SALE ON WINE! 30% off any bottle that is $500 or less. I giggle like a schoolgirl for about 10 minutes and finally decide on a 2003 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which should go beautifully with everyone's meal of red meat. After discount it's just over $200. I'm giggling again after typing that.

The meal is fantastic, the wine is transcendent, and just in case that wasn't good enough, the dessert is a piece of lemon cake big enough for four people (or six probably). I don't like lemon desserts at all, but I like this one! It's a perfect mix of tart and sweet. Superb.

Oh, and did I mention that Rick had arranged for a tour of their wine cellar? So there's that. And we also got to see the James Bond table. What is the James Bond table you ask?

I could not possibly describe it to you, just suffice it to say it's a table that is worth $1.2M. And probably worth even more to a huge James Bond fan, as my brother-in-law is. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After dinner, we take the long 4-minute drive back to the resort (we took the long route) and head right to bed, as we are both exhausted after a couple of long days.

What a special evening and this is just day one of the trip. Tomorrow we are heading up to Rick and Sue's place for some more visiting time and there will be poolin'.....oh yes, there will be poolin'.... oh, and then another great dinner and LOVE!! Can't wait.






Thursday, 14 April 2016

Vacation Blog VI: It's not the end. It's not beginning of the end. It's not even the end of the beginning.

But it IS the end of the damn vacation.

Oh, what a trip.

10:30 AM - Up and done with breakfast and we are off to the closest pool for a short bit of poolin' and hottubbin' and sunnin'. Unfortunately the sun didn't much cooperate but the other two were there. We actually experienced a ton of wildlife on this trip, but for the most part the kind you'd expect. But this morning we got two kinds you may not totally expect.

First, on the way to the pool, some golfers passed by us and told us to stay away from the water hazard right in front of the green they just played, as there was a gator poking his head out of the water!! OK I know gators in Florida are hardly newsworthy, but this is a small lake on a golf course, I would think the staff might try to keep out the alligators. At some point some golfer is going to get too close to the water and try to retrieve a ball, and lose an arm. Or worse.

I would have got a picture of this but, uh, I was just too anxious to get to the pool. It had nothing to do with a morbid fear of gators or anything like that.

I'm just going to assume he looked like this.



At the pool, we got some more wildlife, and this time we actually saw it: a Corn Snake, in the tree right above the pool! He started out on the lowest branch, just about 8 feet off the ground (I probably could have reached it if I wanted to jump at it, and you know, if I felt like getting bit by a snake). A security guy came by and said he'd try to move it later when the snake got lower. Uh, buddy, if the snake gets lower he's on the ground and the guests may not like that much. Corn snakes are not poisonous but they will bite if cornered, and let's face it, snakes scare the bezeezus out of a lot of people including a certain lovely female accompanying me on this trip.

Snakes actually don't scare me at all, especially if I see it and know where it is, and even moreso when I know it's not dangerous. I'm not trying to sound like a tough guy, if I walked down the street and suddenly a snake slithered right in front of me I'd probably jump 10 feet and screech like a 12-year old girl at a Bieber concert, but it would be the surprise of the thing that did it to me, not necessarily the snake itself. I actually enjoy seeing snakes at zoos and the like. I just like to know what they are and where they are :)

As I was leaving the pool I went back to the tree and was going to take a picture of the snake but was told he had slithered to a higher spot in the tree and I couldn't see him.

3:30 PM - After lunch we head back to the Magic Kingdom for our last park day of the trip. There is a severe thunderstorm warning tonight but we are lucky, as we have been all trip, and the only rain we see while we are in the park is about 5 minutes of very light sprinkling.

While in the 30-minute lineup for the Winnie the Pooh right (which was actually 12 minutes), I wrote a song. This is totally original, all mine, and any resemblance to Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys is completely coincidental. In fact I may have my lawyer contact Willie Nelson's estate posthumously

He's not dead? Seriously? How is THAT possible?

Anyway, here goes.

Mamas, don't take your babies to Disney too early
They'll never remember
A thing that they see
And all they will do is bug meeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Mamas, don't take your babies to Disney too early
They'll bitch and they'll cry
They'll whine and they'll moan
And you will just want to go hommmmmmmmmmme

I think I may have to call Bruce Dickinson. I smell a gold record.

Seriously, people, leave the damn babies at home. We saw TWO different babies that looked like they were about 4 hours old. Is Dad standing at the foot of the bed with scissors to cut the umbilical cord and a MagicBand??? "Hey babe, pop that little thing out so we can make it to Epcot in time for the parade!!!".

8:15 PM - Th-th-th-th-th-that's all, Folks!!! Oh I just mixed Looney Toons with Disney. Actually how come Disney hasn't BOUGHT them yet? They own everyone else.

Back to the car and headed back to the resort to finish packing. Tomorrow comes very early. Looking forward to being home, of course, but also don't ever want to leave. What a truly fantastic trip.

Oh, Alamo finally called me this morning. The guy was very sympathetic to my problem and said he was going to look into my rental and call me back later today to see if they could give me a better deal on my car (since I didn't get the car I wanted). He didn't call back.

DON'T RENT FROM ALAMO!!!!

Assuming nothing overly interesting happens tomorrow, this will be my last blog post of the trip.... sort of. I will, as promised, give a more detailed description of our dinner at Victoria & Albert's and full pictures of all the food and reviews of the wine. I'll try to get that done sometime this weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Our next Florida trip won't be until the Magic Kingdom's 50th Anniversary, in 2021 or 2022, depending I guess on when the official celebration is (it opened October 1st, 1971). It kind of pisses me off that the Frozen ride will be celebrating it's 5th Anniversary before we get here again!!! And the Avatar land will be 4. And everything ELSE that opens between now and then.....it's like it never ends!!

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

- Walter Elias Disney






Wednesday, 13 April 2016

NHL Playoff predictions

Quick break from the vacation to tell everyone what is guaranteed to happen in the NHL playoffs.

First, round 1 predictions:

West

DAL over MIN in 5 games
STL over CHI in 6 games

NSH over ANA in 7 games
LAK over SJS in 6 games

East

WSH over PHA in 4 games
PGH over NYR in 6 games

NYI over FLA in 6 games
DET over TB in 6 games

Western Final: LAK over DAL

Eastern Final: WSH over DET

Stanley Cup Final:

LAK win their third Stanley Cup in 6 games over Washington.

Conn Smythe Trophy: Jonathan Quick

You can put it in the win column, baby!!

(No actual guarantees should be inferred)