Recent Happenings – February 26, 2015 Edition

This edition of Recent Happenings brings you lots of exciting and not-so-exciting developments on the home front!

As you know, we brought our goldendoodle Gus home last August. He is now a big soon-to-be nine month old puppy. We decided to add a second dog to our family, but we wanted to adopt this time.

I steal socks. It’s my thing.
We scoured the web for a few weeks, and finally, found this little guy in Santa Fe. Carson says hi! He is a miniature poodle mix and around 2 years old (according to the shelter) although I think he is more like a year old. 

Gus and Carson are totally adorable together but can play a little rough. In fact, they managed to pull my laptop off the dining room table, which completely destroyed my harddrive. This is why this week’s post has been delayed. Thank goodness for Dropbox and Mozy! Saviors! Although it’s going to be another 18 hours until my restore is completed!

But I still love them.

In addition to having a broken laptop, our water heater decided to crap out on us for the second time since we moved into our house in June.

We were without hot water for two days and finally got to take hot showers last night! Did I mention that we have also been experiencing below average temperatures this week? Cold shower + cold in general = really cold!

New water heater

Besides that, the money pit new house has not been undergoing much work as of late. It still needs a lot of work – master bathroom, living room and kitchen. Plus, miscellaneous items that haven’t been completed. I think we will restart on our renovation projects come summertime.

I found myself in DC for part of last week. 28 hours to be exact. Chinese New Year was celebrated last Thursday. Happy Year of the Sheep!

It was so cold while I was in town that I didn’t do anything besides go to the office and then hide in my hotel. I hit up the treadmill, and then to get into the spirit of Chinese New Year, I ordered delivery and watched The Housewives of Beverly Hills in my pajamas! Woohoo! 

While I was in town, I also was able try a couple of cold-pressed juices from JRINK Juicery. I had the Pick Me Up (beet, carrot, orange and apple) for breakfast and the Fuel Me Up (pear, kale, cucumber, romaine and lemon) for an afternoon snack. They were both yum!

Running has taken a little bit of a back burner of late due to some ongoing medical challenges. A few weeks ago, I went on a registration kick and signed up for some spring races. I am glad that I stopped because I’m not sure that I will be able to train or run much. I was planning to register for a fall half marathon, but I’m not sure if that is going to happen.

Of the ones that I did sign up for, hopefully, I will at least be able to walk them. For now, I am going to try to kick up my yoga consistency instead.

Happy Thursday, friends!

Valentine’s Weekend in Las Vegas

Hope you all had a fantastic Valentine’s Day and for those of you who are single, a happy Singles Awareness Day!

Raisin Bread and I spent two lovely days in Sin City. It had been a very long time, over 5 years, since we last visited Las Vegas and there have been lots of changes! 
We left Albuquerque early on Valentine’s morning and had a beautiful view of the Grand Canyon and the mountains on our approach to Vegas.

After dropping off our luggage, we spent the morning at the Bellagio. This is one of my favorite hotels because it is so classic and doesn’t seem to have aged much. Many of the hotels along The Strip were decked out for the upcoming Chinese New Year, which made our weekend away even more festive. 
I have always loved visiting the Chihuly piece, Fiori Di Como, in the lobby of the Bellagio. Back in the day, I didn’t even know who Chihuly was and still was impressed by it!
Dale Chihuly’s Fiori Di Como

We were a little early for our breakfast double date with my sister and brother-in-law so we headed to the Conservatory, which was also decorated for Chinese New Year and celebrating the Year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat.

For breakfast, we headed to Jean Philippe Patisserie

The entrance to the patisserie had a wild chocolate fountain. Looks so yummy!

As with most things in Vegas, there was somewhat of a wait to place our order and get our food. Raisin Bread ordered the salmon crepe.

I had a nutella and strawberry crepe. It was really delicious and made a sweet start to our weekend.

After breakfast, we visited the Gallery of Fine Art to see the Faberge Revealed exhibit.

The exhibit consisted of four of the famous Easter eggs as well as an assortment of brooches, pendants, parasol handles and picture frames. Seeing the eggs in person always amazes me because of their intricacy and beauty. 
The brother-in-law wanted to see the Penske Wynn Ferrari Maserati showroom at the Wynn Las Vegas, so we hopped a cab and journeyed down the Strip.

The Wynn was also decked out for Chinese New Year.

It was soon lunch time! Vegas = buffets so we hit up the Bacchanal Buffet at Caeser’s Palace. I was pretty happy with the selection at this buffet, and only wish I could have stuffed myself more!

My first plate consisted of king crab legs, crawfish and rock crab claws. I also had a fresh carrot juice, oyster shooter and a bloody mary.

For my second plate, I filled up on sushi, charcuterie and roasted carrots, kale and brussels sprouts. Finally, for dessert, I had a pistachio tart, black sesame gelato, almond jelly and a red velvet cupcake. So yummy, but so stuffed.

Cupcake display at Bacchanal Buffet

It was about time for us to finally check in to our hotel, where we took a nice nap and got freshened up for our evening out on the town.

We all reconvened at Planet Hollywood for dinner at Gordon Ramsey Burgr. Las Vegas is teeming with celebrity chef restaurants, and I was happy to finally be able to try one of Gordon Ramsey’s.

The outside of the restaurant has this really cool fire window display. 
To start, the table shared an order of the Honey-Pig Bao Buns – roasted pork belly, cucumber radish, cilantro and honey-hoisin sauce. 
Raisin Bread and I weren’t exactly starving, so we opted to share a burger. We selected the Britannia, which had English sharp cheddar, mango chutney and arugula. I was unsure about this combination, but it wound up being a really tasty burger. 
We also shared an order of the sweet potato fries, which was accompanied by vanilla powdered sugar and honey jalapeno mayo. Not the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. 

After dinner, we walked down The Strip towards The Mirage for Raisin Bread’s Valentine’s surprise. Just as we were passing by the Bellagio, the Fountain Show began. I know it’s cheesy but the water show makes me happy.

Oh hello, Eiffel Tower!

For Valentine’s Day, I got Raisin Bread tickets to The Beatles LOVE, a Cirque du Soleil show. 

This was our third time seeing a Cirque du Soleil show, and as far as they go, this one was okay. There was a lot more dancing and less crazy feats of physicality. It was a fun show still and there were two parts that were truly imaginative.

After the show, my feet were killing me, so we had to go back to the hotel to change. Then we headed back out to visit The Linq and search for some dessert.

The Linq’s High Roller

We settled on an old favorite: Sprinkles Cupcakes! We each picked a cupcake and brought them back to the hotel to enjoy in bed. I had the Black & White and the hubs had a Vanilla.

The next morning, Raisin Bread and I took a little running tour of The Strip. We headed south from our hotel and ran past Paris Las Vegas.

We saw the shops of ARIA

Waited at a stop light with Elmo and Cookie Monster.

Saw the sights of New York New York.

We turned around after passing the MGM Grand and headed back to our hotel. In total, we made it 2.8 miles.

For brunch, we had buffet #2: Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan.

Of the two buffets, I preferred Bacchanal. Here is a sampling of what I tried: bone marrow, pork belly, sushi, mac and cheese, prime rib, beet salad, thai tea gelato, chocolate molten cake and chocolate covered strawberries.
We didn’t have much planned for lunch, so we went with the sister and bro-in-law to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop from the tv show Pawn Stars. We don’t have cable so I have only seen this show a few random times.  

Before we said good-bye to the sister and brother-in-law, we visited one last place. We went to the Paris Las Vegas to go up the Eiffel Tower. I remember now that I had actually been up it before, but I still enjoyed the view from up there. The sky was so clear!

Our visit to Las Vegas ended with dinner at Mon Ami Gabi, also at the Paris Las Vegas. We weren’t terribly hungry again, so we wound up sticking with only entrees. 

I had the Sunday special: beef wellington. I wish I had ordered something lighter because it was a tad too much food and a tad too rich.

We browsed around some more before heading to the airport. Here I am pretending to drink out of one of those ridiculous cups!

 I had a fun and romantic weekend. It was nice spending time with the husband and seeing my family members! Until next time, Vegas! Not sure when that will be!

Miyako Odori

Miyako Odori is “The Dance of the Capital” and occurs every spring during the month of April in the old capital of Kyoto. The first Miyako Odori took place in 1872 and has been a popular event for locals and visitors ever since.

During our trip to Japan last spring, I desperately wanted to see some real geisha (geiko) and not just catch a glimpse of one at night on the streets of Gion. We were so lucky that our visit coincided with that year’s Miyako Odori.

Miyako Odori is a dance and musical performance put on by the maiko and geiko of Gion Kobu. Maiko are apprentice geiko, who are still training to become full-fledged geiko.

Since 1873 the performance has been held in the same beautiful theatre, the Gion Kobu Kaburen-jo Theatre.

Prior to the performance, we explored the gardens of the theatre and looked at some displays before we were very hurriedly directed into the tea ceremony.

The whole affair felt and was very rushed. A geiko made tea at the front of the room and was assisted by a maiko.

During the ceremony, workers placed a cup of tea and red bean sweet in front of us for our enjoyment.  The sweet arrived on a hand-painted plate that was ours to keep as a souvenir.

I was so busy taking pictures that I had to scarf down both my tea and sweet while people were rushing us to leave the room. I wished we had more time to soak everything in, but I thought it was still worth it to attend the tea ceremony.

We were then escorted to a holding area where we waited until the theatre was open for seating. In this area, there was a souvenir stand, restrooms and a sitting area.

Finally, it was time for the show. Our seats were lovely, in the center on the first floor and not too far back.

As many things in Japanese culture, this performance focused somewhat on seasonality. Many scenes depicted the changing of seasons. Since it was cherry blossom season, this also played heavily into the setting and staging of the dances. 

I couldn’t follow everything that was going on, but the dances were mesmerizing. I was amazed by the grace and elegance of their movements.
Source: Miyako Odori
Source: Miyako Odori

The 2015 Miyako Odori takes places April 1 to 30, 2015 – four times daily (12:30, 2:00, 3:30 and 4:50). The performance lasts one hour.
Ticket prices vary:
¥4,800 Special Class ticket – reserved seating on the first floor or front area of the second floor or in a designated tatami mat area on the second floor balcony. Ticket also includes tea ceremony with souvenir plate. 

¥4,200 First Class ticket –  R

eserved seating on the second floor or in a designated tatami mat area on the second floor balcony.
¥2,500 Second Class ticket – Non-reserved bench seats on the third floor

Tickets may be reserved online.

*Information accurate on date of publication* 

Ski Vacation in Pagosa Springs (Colorado)

Skiing was not the only thing to happen on our trip to Colorado!
We rented a three-bedroom house in Pagosa Springs for the duration of our trip. At its height, the house was occupied by six people and two dogs. It was a zoo, but a fun one! The house had gorgeous views of the San Juan Mountains from the kitchen window and backyard.
After a full day of skiing, there was nothing more pleasant than returning to the house and hopping into the hot tub! Definitely something I could get used to!
I, of course, took advantage of the hot tub multiple times. The last time with a nice cold beer!
The remainder of our evenings were typically spent enjoying a home-cooked meal. We took turns cooking for the group. I made tacos with my sister-in-law, Raisin Bread and our friend made this wonderful linguine with shrimp and veggies, and, finally, another sets of friends made chili with corn bread! They were all such delicious and hearty meals. It pays to have friends who can cook! Yum.
After dinner, we often built a fire in the fireplace and played games. Both of the games we played were new to me. One was called Legendary, which features Marvel characters, and the other Dixit.
Setting up the Legendary board
On one of my off days from skiing, I paid a visit to the spa! One of my Christmas presents from Raisin Bread was a gift certificate to All About You Day Spa, a local Pagosa business. I was able to get the full head to toe treatment. I started off with a 60 minute Swedish massage, followed by a body brushing and sugar scrub. Afterwards I hit the shower and had a 50 minute European facial. Finally, I ended my day of pampering with a pedicure. Thanks, honey!
Although we did not have time to really explore the town of Pagosa Springs, we did sample some of the restaurants. After my spa day, Raisin Bread and one of our ski friends picked me up and we had lunch at Kip’s Grill and Cantina. I was pleasantly surprised by how similar southern Colorado and New Mexican cuisines are. Green chiles everywhere!
I opted for the fish tacos and added avocado on for good measure. It sure hit the spot.
This was our first time taking Gus with us on vacation and he wasn’t as much of a handful as I would have expected for an 8 month old goldendoodle puppy. He was mostly his usual self. 
He absolutely loved playing in the snow! It was so fun watching him leap around the snow, some of which went up to his belly and bury his head in the snow too. He is such a goofball!

Ski Vacation to Wolf Creek Ski Area (Colorado)

I went on my first ever ski vacation (skication?) last month! Raisin Bread, my sister-in-law, some friends and I spent five days in southwest Colorado to enjoy the snow.

Source: Wolf Creek Ski Area

We visited Wolf Creek Ski Area and stayed in nearby Pagosa Springs. Wolf Creek is said to be one of the best kept secrets in Colorado because not only is it off the beaten ski path but it also gets the most annual snowfall in Colorado, at an average of 430 inches. It is a 3.5 hour drive from Albuquerque or a 4.5 hour drive from Denver. There is also no on-resort lodging, so out-of-towners must stay in the nearby towns of Pagosa Springs or South Fork. The remoteness added with the lack of amenities is probably what keeps the crowds away, which is the very reason why I absolutely enjoyed our time there!

I am very much new to skiing. Before this trip, I had been on skis a total of four times. My husband, on the other hand, has been skiing probably since he could walk. For Christmas, Raisin Bread bought me a pair of skis and ski boots so that I could be fully equipped now that we live in close proximity to good ski areas.

Ready for vacation!
All of my previous ski experiences were day trips, so I was not sure how I would do with multiple days of skiing. I wound up hitting the mountain for two days, taking two days off and skiing again our final day.

I was, by far, the least experienced skiier, but I was lucky to have some really kind traveling companions who were generous enough to stay with me and give me some pointers. 

Since it was only my second time skiing this season, I started off on the beginner slopes and eventually became comfortable enough to mostly stick to the intermediate slopes. 

Our first two days of skiing were in the middle of the week, and we weren’t sharing the mountain with a ton of other people. No lines for the lifts and hardly anyone on the runs at the same time as us!

On the night of our first ski day, it dumped 8 inches of fresh snow. Since I learned to ski on the East Coast, I have never skied in powder before and I was sure not to miss it. It made for such a different experience. It felt like I was floating on marshmallows. 
I got a little carried away and actually got my skis caught in the powder, not once, but twice. At least falling and getting up is easier in the powder. 

On our last day of skiing, I really fell and hurt my knee on a run that I had already done at least five times. The difference was it was much much more crowded and the snow was no longer nice and pristine. Whoops. I sat most of the afternoon off. 

Another thing I liked about Wolf Creek was there was a lodge at the top of one of the lifts. That meant I could sit out while my ski companions continued to do their thing and then when I felt like it, I could just pop back into my skis and re-join then!
Plus, who doesn’t want a mid-afternoon hot chocolate with marshmallows break?
Although it would have been nice to be at a resort that was ski-in, ski-out, I think the lack of crowds and the nice conditions was a fair trade-off. I will definitely be skiing at Wolf Creek again, and I absolutely can’t wait to!