Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Viva Las Vegas (A LONG Overdue Recap)

One year ago today, I was in Las Vegas with my two speech buddies, Kathy and Heather, celebrating Heather's big 4-0.  When I returned from sin city, I had the best of intentions of posting a recap of my trip, but...  Well, life happened.  Better late than never, right?

Where We Stayed

The Signature at MGM Grand

The Signature at MGM Grand is located about one block east of the strip and connects with the MGM Grand via a series of pedways.

What I liked most about The Signature is that it is not a casino hotel, so there's no casino in the lobby.  The lobby is very well appointed, nicely decorated, and peaceful.  Once we exited the MGM Grand and accessed the pedways en route back to our hotel, which was only accessible to guests of The Signature, it was a welcomed, quiet respite from all the visual and auditory stimulation found in the lobbies of most casino hotels and outside on the strip.

The three of us shared a junior suite that came with a king size bed and pull out sofa sleeper (which I slept on and was rather comfy).  The suite had a mini kitchen with a small stove, microwave, sink, and refrigerator, which was very handy for keeping drinks, fruits, and other snacks.  The bath featured a two sink vanity, a humongous garden tub, a separate toilet room, a spacious shower, and enough floor space to learn how to do the Cupid Shuffle.

Where We Ate 

New York New York Hotel and Casino

The filet mignon...  Oh, mercy sakes!  It was wonderful and was served with some of the best sautéed asparagus I've ever had.

We ate breakfast/brunch there once or twice and got Haagen Das one evening.  Nothing really stands out in my mind about the experience other than it being a typical food court.  

Canal Canal Shoppes at The Palazzo

Grimaldi's is my favorite New York style pizza and I trek across the Brooklyn Bridge every time I'm in NYC to indulge in this coal-fired brick oven pizza.  Once I discovered that there was a Grimaldi's in Vegas, I knew I had to go, for it had been nearly six years since I had tasted it.

MGM Grand

Upon the recommendation of one of Heather's friends, we started with the 1842 Nachos - fresh tortilla chips smothered in heritage pork chili, black bean and jicama relish, cheddar cheese, fresnos, and sour cream.  I'm not typically one for that many textures, but I made an exception because it was really, really good.  (Sorry, no picture...  Apparently we were all too busy eating!)

Kingman, AZ

Thanks to TripAdvisor, we stumbled upon this classic roadside diner that not only offered up tasty food, but also a heapin' helping of nostalgic 1950's Americana.  

What We Did

On the day we arrived, because our flight was so early, we took a day trip to the Grand Canyon.

For her birthday, Kathy and I surprised Heather with tickets to see the blokes from Thunder From Down Under do their thing at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. 

Heather and I ziplined the length of Fremont Street on the Slotzilla Las Vegas Zipline.


We also people watched, lounged by the pool, explored the strip, saw Cirque du Soleil's Mystère at Treasure Island, attempted to learn craps, and lost money playing roulette.

We also melted.  Yeah, there's something to be said when an excessive heat warning is issued for Las Vegas in July.  I know what you're going to say, "But, it's a dry heat..."  Dry heat my ass...

Oh, did I mention we people watched?

How We Got Around

We explored a lot on foot.  *When you look at a map of the Las Vegas strip, it's easy to think that everything's within walking distance because they are to some degree. But, the sheer size of the casinos, some of which are behemoth giants, make them appear closer than they really are.  (FYI - the distance between Mandalay Bay, which is located on the southern part of the strip, to the Stratosphere at the northern end is about 4.4 miles.)

We also utilized two Las Vegas buses - The Deuce and SDX.  Granted, riding The Deuce, because it stops very frequently along the strip, made for a slow trip.  We had to allow plenty of time when using it.  The SDX had fewer stops, which was a bit faster.

For our day trip to the Grand Canyon, we rented a car.


Before last summer, it had been 15 years since I had been to Las Vegas.  I was utterly amazed at how much things had changed in that time period.  It was bigger, brighter, louder, and much more crowded.

Vegas is definitely a place where you can over indulge, be it gambling, eating, drinking, or numerous other things.   But, it's also a fun destination with a lot of options for dining and entertainment.  And, it was a blast for ringing in my friend's 40th birthday!

Have you ever been to Vegas?  What did you think?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I'm Not

A morning person

A super hero movie watcher

A cook


A lover of shopping

A mother

A smoker

Easily offended 

An extrovert

A conformist

A drama queen


A wearer of yellow

A coffee, tea, or wine drinker

A fan of Donald Trump

High maintenance

A hip-hop music listener

A girly girl

A minimalist

Afraid of the water


What's something that you are not?

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Have a great day!

Stolen Inspired by Steph's post

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday Topics (Not on Tuesday) - Nine Games

Yesterday's Tuesday Topic was Nine Games. Not surprisingly, I'm a little late to game.  Whatevs....  Although my summer break is quickly nearing the end, I'm still in easy breezy, summer mode where I say pfft to deadlines and schedules! LOL!  Without further ado, here are my nine favorite games:

Dice with Buddies/Yahtzee

I admit, I'm a bit of a Dice with Buddies addict and have spend probably more time than I care to admit rolling dice.  But, I so enjoy it and much of my enjoyment is that is not language based.  As a speech language pathologist, I deal a lot with language and this  game gives me a nice language break.


This is a game that I liked playing with friends as a teen, but forgot about once I went to college.  I have recently started using Boggle in my therapy with kids at school and I play Boggle with Friends online.  I can't play this game in great quantities, though.  I find it's a language overload.


I have many, many fond memories of playing this classic board game with my neighbors while sitting on the front porch of my childhood home.  This is a game that I continue to play, but now I play with my therapy students.  It's a good game to teach turn taking skills, focus, and social skills (being a good loser and a gracious winner).


This is one of my guilty pleasures that I like to indulge in 3-4 times a year and always when on a cruise.  Do I ever win?  No.  But, I so enjoy the thought that I could potentially win.

Words with Friends/Scrabble

My stepmother introduced me to Scrabble years ago when I would visit her and my father over the summer as a teenager.  The downfall of Scrabble is that games have the potential to be slow and go on for a long time.  I've been playing Words with Friends (generic online knock off of Scrabble) for at least five years. Granted, these games might go on for days or weeks, depending on the frequency of play, but I've embraced the slowness.  Like with Boggle, sometimes I feel like I'm on language overload when I play this game in greater frequency.


When my husband's family gathers together, I always like to play this game with one of my brothers-in-law and whoever else wants to join.  I think the strategy appeals to me.


Again, I think part of my love of this game is that it doesn't involve much language and that gives the language center of my brain a much needed break while being entertained.

Gin Rummy

I haven't played this game in a long time, but it was a favorite of my best friend and I.  When we were in high school, we used to play this during lunch.  We continued to play off and on throughout college. 


I like to play this with my fourth and fifth graders.  This game is great for executive functioning because it requires strategic planning and reasoning.

What's one of your favorite games?  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Linking up with Jen @ Quirky Pickings

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Unflattering Photos I'm Still Glad Were Taken

Sometime last summer, I came across the 2013 article/blog post, So You're Feeling Too Fat To Be Photographed.  The timing of my finding it was uncanny because I was at my all-time heaviest and preparing for an upcoming girl's trip to Las Vegas, a trip where I knew there'd be a lot of picture taking.  

I've been heavy for most of my life and, like the author of the article said, I've had many pictures taken of myself over the years that have made me cringe and some even made me sick to my stomach because my round face, double chin, and pudgy middle were permanently documented for all of eternity.  I couldn't stand that there was photographic evidence of what I really looked like during my heaviest moments and  I feared people might actually look at those pictures and say, "Wow, Ericka really has gained weight" when that's exactly what I had done.

A few weeks ago, during my inaugural trip in my brand new kayak, I snapped a selfie to commemorate the event.  It was a fantastic day.  The weather was marvelous and I loved spending time with my friends on the water.  It was peaceful and relaxing and...  perfect.

After downloading the picture from my GoPro, I cringed as soon as I saw it. Why?  Because, despite the visible happiness that the picture captured on my face, despite the fact that I've lost nearly forty pounds and easily fit in the boat, despite the fact that I was kayaking confidently, I still, still zeroed in on my stomach area, which is my ever-persistent trouble spot and of which I'm terribly self conscious.  I'm also, as I'm about to reveal, very critical of myself, too.   The first words that popped in my head were, "I look like a cow."

Later that evening, something made me remember that article and how it really changed my way of of thinking.  I went out to Vegas with a new attitude and made an effort to be more open to having my picture taken; I embraced the images we captured, despite what I may have looked like in them.  And, in the end, the only one caring about how I looked, about whether I looked fat or not, was me.  My friends didn't care what I looked like; what they cared about was that I was with them as we celebrated H's 40th birthday in Las Vegas. 

I admit, those pictures recorded some incredibly fun times, times full of joy and happiness and laughter, times that I'm incredibly thankful to have preserved in photographs.

That's when I took a second look at my kayaking picture and focused on everything except my love handles.  That picture captured how happy I was in that moment and that is what matters most.

The lesson here is simple - Commemorate your life.  The moments that make up a life will continue regardless of how much you weigh, how wrinkled your face may be, whether you're wearing makeup or not, or how bald you are.  The Kodak moments of your life are worth preserving.

So, having said that, here are a few photographs that aren't the most flattering, in my opinion, but for which I'm still glad were taken:

This is a friend of mine from college, who just happened to be in Louisville in 2016 for the Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament.  This was the first time we had seen each other in over 20 years and we had a such a fun time that afternoon catching up.

This is my immediate family, minus my husband and my maternal grandmother.  It was taken in the summer of 2015 at a family reunion.  I remember thinking, once I saw it, how I wished I could've been in the back row so my size could've been disguised a little bit.  I was very big during that time, but these are my peeps and I'm very thankful for the picture.

Not the most flattering picture or angle, due to my love handles, but this picture is a trophy.  It was taken last October after I had lost around 20 lbs. It's evidence that I lost enough weight to easily be under the weight limit to zipline with my aunt in West Virginia.  

For the record, no one looks good wearing a floatation device.  LOL!  This is my lifelong best friend, her two girls, and myself on a float trip down the Upper New River several years ago.  My best friend wanted to expose her girls to more adventurous activities and we had such a great time that day.

I was hot, sweaty, and experiencing some terrible chaffing (from all the humidity and clothing friction) when this picture was taken, not to mention that I'm not particularly fond of how I look with my hair pulled back.  But, the important thing is that this picture captured a moment that I never thought I'd have.  Never in a million years would I have imagined that I'd ever visit Japan.

I was at my second all-time heaviest when this picture was taken back in 2006.  It took me a long time before I would even show this picture to anyone, but I eventually shifted my focus from how I looked to what this picture represents - my first ever trip to Europe.  

May you always be open and receptive to having your picture taken, to having your moments preserved.  You are worth it.

As always, thanks for stopping by.


Linking up with Penny's Passion

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