Saturday, July 7, 2012

Is Surreality a Word? A Week of Vegas and High School Reunion

I recently took a week off work and, know me. Never one to sit at home and waste a day off with cleaning or actually doing something productive, I headed out on an adventure. The first part of the adventure was spent in fabulous Las Vegas with a couple of fabulous girlfriends (Catz and Pam) and then I flew straight from Vegas to my 30 year high school reunion in Tulsa. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus, my friend, Jimmie lives in Vegas half the year (working for the World Series of Poker) AND we went to high school together, so it was like doubling down. Or something like that.

Catz, Pam, and Me
When people find out you're going to Vegas, the first thing out of their mouths is 'Where are you staying?'. I am so over the Strip. I've stayed at Paris, MGM Grand, Mirage, Treasure Island (many times as I had  comped room there for about a year and a half for some unknown reason), Ceasar's, Bally's and I don't even remember where else. The sheer size of these places annoys me. I still like to visit them, but I hate coming 'home' to them at night (okay, early in the morning) and having to walk five miles to get to my room. Or having to pack a snack and a bottled water just to make the trek to the pool. I once walked from one resort to the one next door and it took 45 minutes. I feel the same way about large resorts anywhere. Too big, too impersonal. Give me a small boutique hotel or a b and b anytime.

Shrine in our room to Zula, my Voodoo Gambling Goddess (that's her with the pretty feather headdress in the middle) Offerings include stripper heel, WSOP laniard, chocolate Whipahol, beads, a cigarette, candles, tokens, an Altoid and ticket stubs.
I love downtown. I know it's not for everyone. It's kinda seedy and little weird, but then again isn't that what Vegas is all about?? Everyone on the Strip looks the same. Middle aged women in khaki or jean shorts, a tshirt, athletic shoes and a baseball cap. And just so you know, I call that the 'I've completely given up-middle aged woman uniform'. Yuck, yuck, yuck. It's like being at the mall at home, but with slot machines and packs of Asians. And, yes, the Bellagio is really pretty, but nobody freakin' smiles there. No one is having fun!!

But downtown? You can see people half dressed, people in fun costumes (and not just the ones that want you to tip them for a picture!) scary people, people who probably just escaped from prison and the hookers are much easier to spot. There are also some great restaurants and bars downtown. So, yes, I stay at a little tiny hotel/casino a block off Fremont Street called the Gold Spike (we lovingly call it the Crackwhore Casino of the Damned).

The staff at the Spike (who we know by name) is so helpful and nice and actually seem happy to have you there. As my friend, Catz says 'They look you in the eye and smile'. A man named Reverend (is that his real name?) makes some delicious food at the little diner (clean and great prices) and Joe is our bartender. LisaMarie is rockin' the front desk. We arrived super early in the day this time and were sitting in the bar having bloody breakfast and waiting to check in when Marchelina, one of the housekeepers, came by vaccuuming. We automatically lifted our feet for her to vacuum under and laughed about how we used to do that for our Moms. From then on, she was our best friend and had beach towels delivered to our room and anything else we needed.

Ms Catz chillin' in the pool
Okay, so the neighborhood isn't fancy, the elevators are slow and the hallway of the 6th floor reeked like potato chips and smoke, but the rooms are clean, the pool is nice and uncrowded and the price is so right, it's almost free. Seriously...$30 a night. No frig (buy a cooler down the block at Walgreens, Joe will fill it up each morning with ice), and no safes (don't bring any jewelry you aren't going to wear every day). Plan accordingly. I like the Spike. No judging. It's my blog, anyway.

I deffered to my professional photographer friend, Catz, to take pics this trip. I've been slacking lately on the pics, but I did get some fun ones of the Neon Boneyard. It's an outdoor museum of all of the old signs in Vegas. The tour takes about an hour and even at 10 am it's hotter than hell. You have to wear closed toed shoes due to gravel and possible broken glass and I suggest minimal clothing, an umbrella and a bottle of water. If you've won big the night before, possibly a pool boy to spritz you with Evian and fan you. It was definitely worth it -- very, very interesting and great photo ops.

Here's their link. You should go there next time you're in Vegas for something different

Old Gold Nugget sign. That is the nugget!

From Treasure Island
One of those Stardust stars would be fab in my living room!!!

Attack of the giant ducks!!!! Ugly Duckling Used Cars

Why, yes I am. Thanks for noticing.

Part of the Stardust sign

Aladdin's Lamp

The Silver Slipper. Rotated on a big pole like this one next door to the Desert Inn, where Howard Hughes was a recluse. He thought there was a camera in the shoe watching him.

From a pool hall. Mullett Man

Another highlight of the Vegas trip was seeing Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns at the Palms.

The best of the best Vegas musicians get together one night a week when they're off from their regular gigs with the big musical productions such as Jersey Boys and Phantom. They are incredible. Jaw dropping. As an added bonus, we got to sit in one of those lovely half circle banquette booths and sip cocktails. I could've listened to them for another two hours. Swankalicious.

And that's about all that I'm going to report on Vegas, because you know what they say. I did get to throw the dice in craps for the first time (and threw one clear off the f'ing table, much to the amusement of my friend, Jimmie), earned a nickname at Mermaid's casino - 'Berrynice'. See last year's Vegas blog for reference, partied and ziplined with Elvis down Fremont Street. And I have to say, if you don't have a friend who owns an Elvis suit and brings it to Vegas with ain't livin'.

Unapologetic Vegas Randomness: Glow in the dark KISS themed mini golf, party room, gift shop and 'Hotter than Hell' Wedding Chapel. Wow.

That's me behind Catz (Elviz?) Pam in on the bottom left in the crowd taking pics

You've been a very naughty girl

Karma: Walking into a casino with your friend dressed as Elvis and two other friends and finding four open Elvis slot machines in a row.

From Vegas, I flew into Tulsa for my 30 year high school reunion. Let the surreality continue. I stayed with my parents and we feasted at some of my favorite places in town - Old School Bagels, Hideaway Pizza and The Wild Fork.
Yes, food is a very important part of vacation. If you don't agree, I just don't understand you.

Wild Fork Omelette with cheese grits and fruit. My Mom and I split this and couldn't even finish it.

Hideaway Pizza. Oh, Baby.
The reunion was lots of fun. Getting together with people I grew up with is both cool and surreal. It's a little like going back in time, especially since I don't live in Tulsa anymore and don't just randomly run into these people all the time. Everyone looked great and we had a blast. As far as I know, nobody got scandalously drunk or anything fun like that.( I would've totally videoed that for my blog, are you kidding? Wondering now why I didn't buy rounds of shots. Maybe I was just expecting a cocktail waitress to bring some by) I drove by the house I grew up in and had a Koolie from Quik Trip and my time travel trip was complete.

Tour of the school!!! This was pretty fun.

This is where we used to park in our high school lot, known as Bong Row, because the stoners parked there, too. Too...I said too. That's my Dad's car and he lets me drive it when I'm in town because he's nice like that.

Me and Laurie

Laurie, Me and Toni

Scott, Toni and Lolly

Toni, Laurie and Me. Laurie didn't even go to high school with us, but she is our perpetual party bud, so she joined in the fun, good sport that she is

 One more random thing about Vegas -- we got a little lost due to navigational error one day and ran upon this building. It's the Center for Brain Health designed by Frank Gehry. Pretty fantastic, even in the land of strange buildings.

Another fun adventure. Sometimes it's really great being me.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Limoncello - the Perfect Summer Cocktail

Limoncello is an Italian Lemon liqueur, mainly produced in Southern Italy (or in my kitchen). It tastes like sunshine. Limoncello is a perfect after dinner drink, served very chilled or over ice and it makes a bad ass addition to a lemon daquiri. I would also add a splash to a dirty martini, because I'm just fabulous like that.

10 Lemons
1 750 ml bottle of good quality Vodka
3 1/2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
Seriously, just double the above, because you're going to want more than one batch.

Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler (this is by far the most difficult part of the recipe and it will be worth it, I promise!) Peel ONLY the yellow part and try to get none of the white pith because that will make your Limoncello bitter like a bad teenage breakup. If you end up with some white on your peels, simply scrape it off with a small, sharp knife. Place the peels and the vodka in a large container (I used a suntea jar) and let it sit at room temperature for two weeks. I picked it up and swirled it around every couple of days, just because it was fun.

**NOTE: Don't waste those little nekkid peeled lemons! Juice them and add water and Splenda to taste and you will have some AWESOME lemonade. Vodka optional in this one.

After the two weeks, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves - about 5 minutes. Cool completely and add to the vodka mixture, stir and refrigerate overnight. Strain the peels out of the mixture and transfer to bottles that you can cork or seal. 

Old wine bottles with the labels removed work well, as do Lorena French Lemonada bottles or you can buy fancy ones at Pier 1, The Container Store or Hobby Lobby (makin' likka is MY hobby!)  Pier 1 has really pretty bottles like the one on the right in the pic and they're not too pricey.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Limoncello makes a great gift.  

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Some of these entries are vintage travel reports and have been restored from a lost blog. I hope you enjoy them.