Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanksgiving in Vegas

We spent Thanksgiving with the in-laws this year. Luckily for me, they live in Vegas which is one of my favorite cities so visiting them is fun. Not to mention, they're fun, fun, fun all around.

I've been visiting Vegas regularly since 1998 and I always meant to go to Seigfried and Roy's show. Unfortunately I never got around to it and now it's too late. The next best thing, though, is their "Secret Garden" at the Mirage Hotel where they display their tigers and lions. Or at least that's all I thought was there.

To my surprise, I found out that they have a rather large dolphin exhibit there at the Mirage and you can get really up close and personal to them. It's the next best thing to swimming with dolphins.

Of course they had the white tigers too, in fact they had 5 new tiger cubs - 2 snow white like this guy, 2 white ones with black stripes and 1 orange with black stripes. They were SO cute.

We stayed for a night at my favorite hotel.....Paris, of course. I know it's not the REAL one but I just love their Eiffel Tower, it's petite (1/2 scale) and cozy. So I was thrilled when we got to the room and saw our view.

And no trip to Vegas would be complete without a trip across the street to Bellagio.

After a couple of fun days on The Strip, we headed off to suburbia to bunk with the in-laws and eat turkey.....except they didn't fix turkey. I ask you, what's Thanksgiving without turkey...or pumpkin pie for that matter, because they didn't have that either. The ham and tiramisu were delicious but it just wasn't quite right. I came home and baked a pumpkin pie for myself this week. :-) But other than the menu changes (who knew I was so traditional?) it was a lovely visit and didn't last long enough.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

everything old is new again

"A presidential election was coming in the fall and it looked as though the Democrats were due to win. If they did, Mr. Whitehead, being a good Republican, was sure the country would be ruined." Laura Ingalls Wilder, First Four Years

That was 1888*. I guess some people's attitudes never change.

*In reality, although the Democratic presidential candidate (Grover Cleveland) won the popular vote, the Republican candidate (Benjamin Harrison) won the electoral college and the election. So Mr. Whitehead was a bit premature in his assessment of the country's future. He sold all his sheep because he was sure the new administration would end the tariff and his flock would be worth nothing. Laura and Almanzo (and Laura's cousin Peter) bought the entire flock for $200, made 150% on their investment in the first year by selling the wool and eventually sold the entire flock for $500 which provided them with a tidy nest egg. Doesn't say much for Mr. Whitehead's judgement....or powers of prediction. There's probably a lesson to be learned there.....just sayin'.

Monday, October 27, 2008

are you ready for a throwdown?

Have you ever watched Throwdown on the Food Network? It's a show by Bobby Flay, who has never been my favorite Food Network star (and don't even get me started about his Las Vegas restaurant Mesa Grill) but I really enjoy him on this show.

The premise is that he challenges chefs to a cook-off featuring their specialty. Sometimes he wins, more often he loses but it's always fun to watch, especially when Bobby messes the jambalaya episode one day, SO funny. He always shows up unexpectedly, the chef thinks they're being filmed for another Food Network show and is "surprised" when Bobby shows up and challenges them.

Anyway (yes, there is a point here), last night I was watching the news and they did a story on a local restaurant (one of my favorites) that was going to be featured in a new show on the Food Network. They were going to film a special cook-off at the restaurant at noon and invited the public to come by. I immediately thought that this sounded just like a set-up for Throwdown and I mentioned it to T in case he wanted to drop by and take pictures. He "works" from home so he has time to go out and do fun things like that.

He loved the idea and showed up at the restaurant today.....and yes, I was right, it *was* a throwdown. He got some great shots of Bobby cooking cioppino (a fish stew that's a San Francisco specialty). Apparently the restaurant was so impressed by his camera (and professional lens) that they got him a tall ladder so that he could get good shots without the crowd being in the way. They asked for copies of the pictures for their website.

Where was I during all this fun? I was working. You see, I have a serious job and can't just run around the country having fun. Was I jealous all through the day? You betcha! But it will be fun to watch the episode (currently set to air around the end of November) and know that T was there. Maybe we'll even catch a glimpse of him, although he's quite camera shy and probably stayed as far away from the cameras as he could.

By the way, don't bother asking who won, it's a secret.

prairie fever

It's 1,846 miles from my house to the Ingalls Homestead right outside of De Smet, South Dakota. According to Mapquest it would take me 27 hours to get there.....they probably haven't seen me drive. If I hopped in my car right now I could probably be there by Wednesday. Part of me wants to do it.

I was just there in August as part of my big Laura Ingalls Wilder trip across the midwest. I had a Laura Ingalls Wilder summer as I spent part of June in upstate New York meeting Dean Butler, who played Almanzo on the Little House tv series of the 70's and 80's. He was appearing at the Wilder Farm in Malone, NY to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of Farmer Boy, the 2nd book in the Little House series, the one that featured Almanzo as the main character. Almanzo, for the uninformed, was the husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder - author of the series and personal hero of mine since childhood.

She grew up in Minnesota and South Dakota so that's where I was last week, visiting the various museums that have been put up in her honor. Walnut Grove, Minnesota is very nice but De Smet, South Dakota stole my heart. I didn't expect it to. I'd been there once before, about 25 years ago when my parents and I were on one of our annual cross country summer trips. Dad had meetings all across the US just so that we could find a way to drive out to Oregon each summer to see my grandparents. I've been in most of the 48 continental states although I must admit I spent most of my time either sleeping or reading in the backseat of the car so I don't remember much of most of them. Those yearly trips were not much fun for me although I did enjoy stopping each evening to swim. We probably could have made much better time each day if dad hadn't had to stop by 5 each night to find a motel with a swimming pool for his little princess.

One year, when I was right out of high school (the last year I went on the cross country trip with them as a matter of fact) I found out that dad had meetings in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, South Dakota. A book on Laura Ingalls Wilder had come out a few years earlier and it listed all the museums in the back. One of them was in De Smet, South Dakota, the settings of many of the books. De Smet was right between Sioux Falls and Rapid City! Well, not *right* between, it was really quite out of the way but it was the closest I was ever going to get. Unfortunately, in order to get from the meeting one night in Sioux Falls to the meeting the next night in Rapid City, we were only going to be able to go through De Smet at 6 in the morning. Not many museums are open at that hour, I'm afraid. So I took a big chance and sent a letter to the address listed in the book, asking them what I might be able to see that early. The lovely lady who ran the place wrote back and offered to open everything up just for us. Of course we took her up on that offer and my patient parents got up at 4 in the morning so that we could make it to town on time. It was a wonderful visit, I thrilled to be able to set foot in the Surveyor's House where Laura lived one winter with her family. I spent all my spending money at the gift shop and those purchases are still some of my most treasured items today.

Still, as much as I enjoyed that visit, I didn't really remember the town of De Smet or the countryside. 25 years ago is a long time and my memory is getting foggy so although I was thrilled to be able to visit again, I had no idea that I'd fall in love with the prairie the way I did. Last week I stepped foot onto Ingalls land and lost my heart forever, I can't explain it any other way. I'm back home now and all I want to do is look at my pictures and figure out how to get back there next summer. I want to sleep in a covered wagon again and listen to the night sounds of the prairie. I want to see the baby animals, walk along the wagon trail (watching for mule poop the whole way) and hear the sound of a miniature horse hidden in the prairie grass. I want to rediscover the buffalo wallow. I want to take way more pictures. I want to spend time in Ma's Little House and play the pump organ, make more rope and really learn to twist hay the way they did in the Hard Winter. I want to play with kittens and milk a cow.

This is so unlike me, I'm usually not much of an outdoor girl.....maybe it's prairie fever.

I guess I'm blogging

Let's start by saying that I don't really know why I've decided to join the ranks and blog. Partly an insane need to be heard and partly because it's fun to call myself the prairie princess, even though it doesn't actually mean anything and really doesn't describe me at all since I neither live on (or even near) the prairie and I'm certainly not a princess. Maybe it's who I want to be. I don't have the $$ to go to therapy to figure it out so we'll just leave it there.

So, welcome to the blog of a middle-aged, non-prairie living, non-princess who is extremely private and yet is posting snippets of her life for the world to see. Should be a fun ride, eh?