Monday, September 30, 2013

Vegas with Baby & on a Budget -- Part 3

So again, we did not take baby to Vegas -- but we did manage to stay within our budget when it came to gambling, shopping and entertainment.

On the second night of our trip, we made reservations to eat at LAVO because Paul wanted to taste the one pound meatball he saw on the TV show, "Man vs. Food".
So we went.
LAVO is located inside the Palazzo Hotel & Casino, which is adjacent to the amazing Venetian. We decided to walk to LAVO from the Vdara. I was all made-up, dress & heels and since we had 1/2 hour to get there I figured, why spend money on a taxi cab? So we walked (bad idea).
Well, we arrived late but fortunately, they still honored our reservation and even gave us front-of-the-line tickets to stay and dance the night away with DJ Paul Oakenfold (the offer was there for people who purchased two entrees at the restaurant).

LAVO's amazing one-pound meatball!
The one pound meatball did not disappoint. It was delicious. It had whipped ricotta cheese and just the right amount of spices and tomato sauce to make it deliciously gooey and tasteful. He was a happy man. I ended up ordering a salmon dish which was also very good. For dessert, we were recommended the strawberry cheesecake so we went for it.

After a long night of dinner and dancing, we decided to walk back to our hotel (again) and on our way there, I bumped into this little pink vending machine that sold flat shoes on the go (Emergency Footwear)!!! This is available so that ladies like myself who simply could no longer walk in heels, deposit a crisp $20 bill and after selecting shoe size and color, a new pair of flats is dispensed allowing for one to walk comfortably the rest of the way. Genius, right?

The next day in Vegas, we had an early morning work out and felt like Mexican food for lunch. So we walked to the Aria and discovered Javier's... I had a lunch that was yummy, delicious and nutritious-- the chicken breast with poblano pepper. Paul went for the enchiladas. From there, we explored the strip where I found an pigeon-shaped chair outside of the Aria (clever) and posed for a picture. We also learned that the new Cirque du Soleil show, Zarkana, was dark that week (booo)... but we made it to the Bettie Page Store where I wanted to buy everything!

View of Javier's from the Aria Casino Floor

Decent Menu of Imported Beer & Spirits

At the Bettie Page Store I tried on a cute flower print dress but they didn't have my size. Paul was gracious to patiently wait outside the fitting room as he checked on his sports bets.

The dresses here are so elegant & classy!

The Bettie Paige clothing store is a real treat to those of us who love the pin-up culture...there's actually a shop located here in L.A. but the Vegas store is just so unique!
Later that afternoon, we headed to the Bellagio for dinner at Yellowtail to try the famous filet mignon roll.
On our way there, we stopped to check out the world's biggest chocolate fountain, which is a great activity for kids... :-) This fountain allows for white, medium and dark confectionary grade liquid chocolate to flow through more than 500 feet of stainless steel piping. The chocolate rises 27 feet from the lower level pump room and it took 2 years to engineer, plan and design... the only thing missing were the oompa-loompas :-)

A few steps from the chocolate fountain is the Bellagio's Majestic flower display. It's whimsy, colorful and beautiful...another place where children love to hang out! It's far enough from the casino floor to remain fresh and smoke-free and a visual treat for all ages. Benny would have been intrigued to be here.

The flower display change every season. This time around, the summer exhibit offered giant birds, a Chanel Perfume display frame and this cutesy little (giant) snail that was made with approximately 1,500 cut flowers.

Snail Flower Detail
Incredibly gorgeous... I love flowers.  The last leg of our trip, including dinner at the Yellowtail and breakfast at Hash house a go-go will be posted tomorrow!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vegas with Baby & on a Budget -- Part 2

Realistically, the only way to do Vegas on a budget is to drive there in a vehicle with good gas mileage, refrain from gambling and opt for more affordable places to eat...all of which we did.

Lavish Decor at the Cosmopolitan Hotel
My hubby actually loves to we gave each other a specified amount of money to spend and at that point, he knew he wouldn't be able to sit at the $25 Poker Tables...sorry, love.
Instead he went to the nearest sports book and placed bets on a few parlays-- Parlays are grouped sports bets. It's when you wager on more than one outcome. So, to give you an example, one parlay can include your guess that the Dodgers will beat the Yankees by two points, that a particular horse will win a race and that Canelo Alvarez will knock out Mayweather during the 3rd round. If everything happens exactly the way you predicted, with all the aforementioned sporting events occurring on the same day, then you could win a lot of money. The thing about parlays is that: a.) you have to really know your sports and b.) you have to wait all day and watch each of the sporting events in your parlay to find out if you're a winner...It's nice because it takes away from the itch to continue depositing your hard-earned cash into programmed and computer-altered slot machines.

Never trust these!!
Fortunately for us, we had some restaurants we wanted to check out and we did!
We wanted to try the buffet at the Cosmopolitan, the one pound meatball at LAVO, the filet mignon sushi roll at Yellowtail and the oversized breakfast at Hash-House a go-go.
Then, I wanted to visit places a family would enjoy with their babies and shop at the Bettie Page Store inside the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino. So this is how we made it all happen:
On the first day, we went for brunch at the Wicked Spoon, the buffet inside the Cosmopolitan.
This place is soooooooo good. The restaurant's motto is: "A bustling culinary hall that satisfies cravings and invites discovery" Agreed. Price per person $40.00 & with bottomless champagne $50.00

Sure, paying $100 per couple to eat our first meal of the day may seem a bit excessive but we looked into it before the trip and this was my treat (from my allotted spending cash) and to this day, no regrets! The options here were incredible...From individual country gravy biscuits and fried chicken to salmon cream cones, wedge salads and bone marrow...yes, bone marrow!!

There was also fresh-made "wicked" juice (made from a variety of fruits & veggies), kale salad, spaghetti in mini-pots with mushroom sauce (this was incredibly tasty), an entire breakfast meat section with bacon, sausage and breakfast patties (Meat lovers rejoice!).

They offered shrimp cocktail shooters, Asian favorites such as orange chicken, noodles and individually packaged rice as well as a crazy dessert buffet with a gelato bar, and ridiculously tempting treats like dulce de leche shots and a plethora of cake bites!

The hubster was kind of embarrassed that I was taking pictures of the food-- but hey, If I hadn't done so then I wouldn't have been able to show and tell, right? He opted to sit and enjoy the culinary experience, never once agreeing to take a picture of me eating...sucker!

The Cosmopolitan has enjoyed much popularity with its unique motto of "just the right amount of wrong"...We weren't surprised when we found the dining room's framed art feature the likes of vegetables in unlikely situations, like this onion, getting choked and weighed down by gold chains...hmmmm.

After brunch, we walked for a bit...but the rest will have to wait for tomorrow since I'm getting sleepy and I still have a bunch of other stuff to do before the day's over.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vegas with Baby & on a Budget -- Part 1

Planning a trip to Vegas with a baby?

My advice to you….DON’T!

It's true that a fun-loving, responsible family with an infant can absolutely prepare, provide and accommodate for their little baby regardless of where they’re traveling…but…if you leave your little one with a trusted babysitter while you and your honey go on that much needed weekend getaway to Sin City, you will be glad that you did.

That’s not to say we didn’t bump into dozens of people pushing strollers and wearing baby carriers all along Las Vegas Boulevard. Families with babies travel to the desert and take their children to one of the most drunken, adult entertainment-riddled and gambling-addicted cities in the U.S. all the time BUT …we’re just glad we made the trip without Benny this time.

And if I may, I actually lived in Las Vegas for over a year at one point in my life so I have plenty of love for the city…just no desire to go there while my baby is still, well, um...a baby, especially in the hot days of summer.

BUT…if we absolutely had to travel to Vegas and take our little Benny Boy who still drinks from a bottle, soils diapers and can’t walk…I made sure to keep my eyes open for places and things to do with baby while visiting Las Vegas. 
First, here's how we ended up in Sin City a week after returning from our vacation to the Dominican Republic: We were visiting my parents talking about what an amazing time we had, but remembering how Benny constantly kept us busy when all of a sudden, my hubby came up with a brilliant idea—we needed another vacation. I guess you could say we had the vacation itch!

But this time it was decided we would leave Benny with my mom & dad in order to enjoy a nice weekend all to ourselves…

The day Paul decided we needed another getaway...LOL

So the first thing I did was look for a nice hotel on the “Strip”. 

Expedia and Orbitz featured tons of attractive Strip hotels, but none of them were selling for less than $150 a night. So I made a deal with Paul… if he really wanted to go to Vegas, then we would be adventurous and purchase one of those secret deals where we choose the option of a guaranteed 5-star hotel in our destination city but don’t find out the location until after purchasing the non-refundable package.

He agreed and we bought a 3-night hotel stay with parking and pool access included, on the Las Vegas Strip, on a holiday weekend for only $110 a night. We entered our credit card information and boom….the purchase was made!

Much to my pleasant surprise… we learned we had scored a deal at the all-suite, non-smoking, non-gambling Vdara Hotel, located behind the Cosmopolitan (which is one of the moment's hottest Vegas destinations) and next to the Aria, which is also a brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art casino & hotel. 

We were excited because staying at the Vdara meant the following:

1.       No temptation to gamble on our way to our room.

2.       No smoking allowed that would have otherwise made our lungs, clothes and hair suffer.

3.       No pressure to have to dine out all the time since we had a fridge, a stove and a full kitchen!

Vdara Cocktail Bar located in the smoke-free lobby!!

Upon arrival at the Vdara, we were stoked. The place is clean, fresh, modern, friendly, amazing and again, conveniently located a hallway away from the Cosmopolitan, the Aria and did I mention there's another hallway that connects to the beautiful Bellagio??

Our room was a basic, comfy, cozy suite—with all the amenities a couple might enjoy, including a stand-alone bathtub for a night of… magazine reading and a glass of Champagne..!! 
There's also the option to request a baby crib and of course, all suites are sound-proof in case things get loud in the middle of the night...with a weeping little one (of course)!

We had a relatively nice view of the Strip

Downstairs, the hotel has a trendy, designer cocktail bar and a restaurant with a convenience store that sold the coolest item I was able to find all weekend— green glitter chocolate lollipops.

I made an appointment at the Vdara salon to schedule a mani-pedi and inquired about cabana rental at the pool to give myself some time to tan. I was greeted at the salon with a delicious cup of tea and chose a hot pink shade to set the mood for the weekend…

Later by the pool, I orded the Vdara Signature drink which was so REFRESHING! I'm just going to say it contained vodka, vodka and more vodka (smiley face).
But it was reallly nice to see families with their little kids swimming and having a great time at the Vdara pool (Benny would have loved it too).

Mommy Long Legs...LOL
After the pool, Paul made snacks for us in our room and prepared a chilled glass of red wine to toast  before venturing out to lose our money. So far, we could have done everything on this day (except gamble) with Benny Bear had we brought him along so it IS possible to enjoy Vegas with baby... Stay tuned for Part 2 of this entry...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Preparing for Irene's Wedding

Three months from today, I will be a nervous-wreck, probably very emotional yet very hyper…hopefully thinner in my elegant gown and very, very, very honored to be a maid of honor (one of four) at my sister Irene’s wedding!!!

Yes—Irene is getting married in December and we can’t wait for her fabulous nuptials which will basically represent simple elegance at its fullest. Being her older sister and having weekends off (unlike the little sister Frances who works weekends), I’ve been able to spend time with her as she plans, prepares and organizes her wedding and all the details that will go along with it.

The soon-to-be Mr. & Mrs. Cervantes
First off, Irene’s love story is very unique in that her soon-to-be hubby, Mr. Emmanuel Cervantes (better known by Benny as "Uncle E-man") was her beloved boyfriend during her early college years…But as destiny would have it, they broke up, moved away and moved on. 
But, six years later, the two found each other again (this time older, more mature, focused and still in love) and the magnetic force between them was simply too strong to ignore…They’re inseparable. 
He proposed in the summer at a quaint little restaurant off the Oxnard Harbor with both families there to witness the moment:

Uncle Arturo & Aunt Ofe with the lovebirds. It was an emotional evening for all of us! 

And ever since they got engaged, they decided there was no point in waiting too long before tying the knot--- so they set a wedding date within 6 months of the proposal and now we've got three months to go (Wowser!) 

Since the proposal, I’ve had the pleasure of being there to join her in shopping for her wedding gown... 

Benny waits for his nina Irene to come out of the dressing room

Big sister duties...BTW, this is NOT her dress :-)

We met with Cari Izaguirre of All Occasion Event Planning (Click here for Website), who was hired to be her wedding coordinator…
Cari & Irene discuss guest lists, seating arrangements and lighting
We’ve been shopping together for such things as reception décor and table cloth fabrics at specialty boutiques as well as in the famous Downtown LA Garment district.
Irene is going for a soft, romantic theme
And everything is coming together one detail at a time!!!
Irene’s wedding will be a classy affair with a touch of vintage romantic Mexico!
I plan on blogging about it (of course) but first, I’ll let the Mariachi lead me to the bar so I can scream: “Arriba los novios!!”