Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III

Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III winds down our 2008 spring break trip to Las Vegas in getting back to Vegas basics style.

Filling In The Vegas Days and Nights: Hotels, Casinos & Restaurants


Spending the afternoon at Venetian surrounded by copies of and renditions of famous Italian works and decor was the plan for our Thursday afternoon.

The machines, bonus rounds and green felt covered tables will take a backseat to sightseeing and lunch at Grand Lux Cafe at Venetian.


I get into the theme of it all and appreciate it for what it is- a gorgeous imitation of inspired artistic works of architectural wonder.


People often comment negatively in regards to Grand Lux as a dining choice while in Las Vegas.

“It’s a chain. Why in the world are you eating at a chain restaurant?”


How do we love Grand Lux Cafe?

Let us deliciously count the ways.

The food is always excellent.  See images above.

The menu offers a wide variety of delicious something for everyone dishes.

The dining room design and decor is lovely.

The price is right.

If it ain’t broke…

I did not break with my dining at Grand Lux tradition ordering the seafood salad and a shared order of double-stuffed potato spring rolls.

Dave ordered the fish and chips and gave it 4 forks out of a possible 5 review.

The casino at Venetian was packed.

I played $1 Top Dollar slots with no big wins. Dave didn’t fare too well at the tables so he was in hot pursuit of a $1 Double Top Dollar slot machine to play.

We both love Top Dollar and Pinball.

I did not receive an ounce of respect, love or pay from the numerous Top Dollar or Pinball machines I played during this session.

I now fondly refer to them as “sucker machines” and Dave now fondly refers to me as a sore loser.

If it was in the cards for me to be a loser, at least the rocking band playing at La Scena (casino floor lounge that sadly is no more) was churning out some fantastic music.

Win, lose or draw I like to get my boogie on.

We have boogied to really fantastic lounge acts playing the casino lounges. That part of old Vegas is slowly going away too.

My parents tell of the now famous singers they saw years ago in Las Vegas when the entertainers were up and coming lounge acts.


I got it together earlier than usual so we could be on our way to lunch at the Paris Le Village buffet.

Paris-Las-Vegas-Dining-Buffet-Le-Village-Buffet-1.jpg.stdimg.hd.xlLe Village Buffet at Paris

I knew I would want to play before lunch and also figured the line to be seated could be rather long on a Friday afternoon.

I could not squeak out a win, but left the casino floor for the buffet line even. That’s always a win in my book!

The lunch at Le Village was good, but this is a buffet that shines at breakfast.

Dave pointed out the French onion soup, and I informed him I had worked the French onion soup enough for a while.

The crepe station did call out to me and I answered apple with raspberries, blueberries and crème fraîche, se il vous plaît.

5 forks out of 5 very French c’est si bon forks.


Moving Day: From Treasure Island to Rio We Go

I packed the room up with a cup of in-room brewed strong Louisiana coffee in hand.

Traveling with a coffee pot isn’t for everyone, but we do it for two reasons.

In extremely short order after my eyes pop open in the morning and my feet hit the floor or carpet I need coffee- hot, fresh and Louisiana strong.

I also like to have a cup or two in the afternoons or early evening when we are relaxing in the room before dinner or a show or just regrouping.

The other reason is pure economics I swear we would go broke by the third day in town feeding our coffee fix.

A fellow Vegas travel nut cued me in on a coffee pot travel tip.


There are several Walgreens and CVS locations up and down the Las Vegas Strip.

Pop in a pick up a coffee maker and supplies and ignore the initial sticker shock investment.

It will pay for itself within the first day. If you don’t want to contend with packing it up and carting it home, simply leave it in the room.

Easy peasy.

It is ridiculous what hotels charge for coffee ordered from room service or in the coffee shops, and speaking of coffee shops- coffee shops are quickly becoming an extinct dining option on the Strip.

I am not the biggest fan of the buffet, but for breakfast dining the beverage selection and cost included reasons this to be a reasonable option.

Dave went down to visit with the host with positive results.

We checked out over the television and said goodbye to Treasure Island.

 cokePop Sugar

Our host at the Rio met us at VIP-Diamond check in and assigned us a room in the Ipanema Tower.

The room reminded me of the suites at the Stardust we loved.

These rooms impress me more in terms of size and layout vs decor. Various tell-tale signs give the age of the property away, but nothing we can’t live with for five nights.

We got our gambling on for about an hour, and finally I declared victory with a $$$ win on a five-line .25 3X  4X  5X machine in front of the performing stage.

Cocktail service at Rio was fast and frequent.  My server took my Coke order.

“Is Pepsi okay?”

My “not in this lifetime” answer produced a chuckle on his part.

I changed my order to a Shirley Temple (I was on the hard stuff this afternoon) and returned to my play.

In a flash he returns with his own version of comedy with a “You had the ice-cold Pepsi?”

I spun my seat around to find him standing there holding my ST with the biggest grin on his face.

We both laughed and he became my cheering section for a big win.

The time clock was ticking for me to be back to the room to get ready for Cher.

Time clocks can be a good thing or a very bad thing when gambling.

It was a good thing this go round and the $$$ win money made it to the room.


I covered the Cher experience in a previous installment.

We hit The Cheesecake Factory in The Forum Shops for our post show dinner of a shared pepperoni pizza, strawberry shortcake and two glasses of Riesling.

Very tasty.


Happy Birthday, Dave!

Shopping for birthday gifts and perhaps something new for both of us to wear to the birthday celebration dinner this evening is the plan, and Vegas knows shopping.

Dave was a sport and kept me company while I spent the afternoon shopping at the Fashion Show Mall.

 Starbucks supplied our very light lunch break of shared pastry and coffees- just a quick bite of something to keep a headache at bay.

Our plan for the birthday celebration evening was for a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Range Steakhouse at Harrah’s (presently Ruth’s Chris).

We enjoyed dinner at The Range so much on our last trip.

We were seated by the window and with James as our waiter (requested). His personality and professionalism adds to the evening.

Dave started with the lobster bisque and I selected the blue cheese and fresh apple salad.

For our entrees we both ordered the 12 oz. center cut pork chop and shared Yukon gold mashed potatoes.

The manager knew we were celebrating Dave’s birthday and sent over the most fantastic chocolate cake with strawberries and coffee for two.

The food presentation and preparation was done very well.  The service and the wait staff could not have been more professional or friendly, and it all equaled a memorable birthday meal in Vegas.


We were dressed and waiting in the Rio valet at 8:15 AM Wednesday.

Trust me, I am not the up and dressed and ready to greet the day while on vacation kind of girl.

By the time of day and level of enthusiasm, Dave realized I was serious about this slot tournament.

I grabbed the keys, gave the valet a good morning hello and it was touchdown Flamingo events area.


The tournament was open to all Total Rewards card holders, so Dave put down a few $20s and we were registered for 10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 1:00 PM, and finally 2:00 PM.


That’s a lot of hope and fun packed into a late morning and early afternoon at the dirty bird, and you would think we had a snowball’s chance in the desert of winning.

Goodness knows as many times as we entered we sure thought we did!

We didn’t even come close to placing, but we had an absolute ball trying.


The last day in Vegas gives me a pit in my stomach no words can describe.

Staying busy cures it.

Gambling for this trip was officially over.

I had not been able to win enough to make it accumulate over what I started with, and the wins were too far apart from each other to save me.

I find it is easier to swallow if I quit without too much damage to the initial bankroll.

The suggestion of In-N-Out Burger for lunch and a business mixed with pleasure venture was met with no complaints.

We headed out to dine in style and visit a few design and antiques shops.

4950783496_cff6e4382c_bIn-N-Out Burger

We saw parts of Vegas new to us, and I lucked up on a few items I could easily pack.

We grabbed a couple of coffees, parked and watched the airplanes landing and taking off from McCarran International.

I must admit after nine full days and nights in Vegas this was a nice change.

We caught a couple of afternoon fountain shows at Bellagio and it was Monte Carlo time.


Dave and I discovered the Wizard of Oz penny slots complete with flying monkeys, the yellow brick road and the wizard himself.

The graphics and sound effects are amazing, and Oz turned out to be a magical place.

I put in a $5 voucher and cashed out with $$$ for a nice win.

The beautiful Glenda appeared to me in bonus round goodness resulting in the big hit.

I could become addicted to these machines with no problem.

There’s no place like home or Vegas on a sunny winning afternoon.


The Friday going home wake up call came at 5:30 AM with coffee shortly after.

We checked out of Rio and at the car rental return by 9:15 AM.

We were through security and to Continental gate D 20 with fifty minutes to spare.

I took in the final sights of the Strip from my window seat on the airplane.

I settled in for the three-hour flight with good tunes, better memories and big plans for our next trip.

Getting home to a full house of family and friends on Hurricane Gustav alert and all he dumped on Central Louisiana naturally put priorities where they should be.

Normalcy is back in our reach and has allowed me to share with you my trip report.

The overall casual tone was the right way to go for us this Vegas trip.

It was easy on the schedule, expectations and the wallet. I wasted no time bringing to Dave’s attention with all the money saved this trip it would be stupid not to book another trip out to our desert oasis within the next six months.

My logic has him thinking about it.  Then again, my logic always has me thinking about Vegas.

Thanks to all who have stayed with the reading.


images: The Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe, Rio All-Suite Hotel

Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part II

Spring Break Trip Report Part II is up and ready to read.

There is no match for seeing a production show, concert or headliner in Las Vegas.

There’s a reason why Las Vegas is known as the entertainment capital of the world.

Over the years, we have been fortunate enough to have seen some of the best entertainers in the world perform on the stages of the infamous Las Vegas showrooms.

Our entertainment selections for this trip fit the playbill, mixed the old with the new, paid tribute to a legendary group of lads, had us hearing voices, and rocked our Friday night in Vegas world.

Cher at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace

Cher-Caesars-PalaceCher at Caesars Palace~ then and now

The backstory:

My first time to see Cher live was in 1980.

It was my first trip to Las Vegas, Caesars Palace and the infamous Circus Maximus showroom.

Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world for a reason, and the best of the best performers and entertainers play Caesars for the same reason- it is the gold standard.

The stages of the Vegas showrooms invented the celebrity A game of which Cher is a master player.

This engagement at Caesars Palace was a production extravaganza of Cher’s Take Me Home tour.

I was a wide eyed kid in the Vegas candy store on a sugar high of glamour, glitz, feathers, sequins, female impersonators and Bob Mackie creations custom made for a Vegas state of mind.

It was gloriously flashy, dramatic with a capital D and exquisitely orchestrated by the incomparable entertaining brilliance that is Cher.


I saw Cher again at Caesars Palace in the Circus Maximus showroom the next year with the same enthusiasm and a new Cher convert, my brother.

Cher’s “surprise guests” Bette Midler and Diana Ross completely fooled my brother.

My mother and I knew the ladies were in fact female impersonators and informed my brother of it, but he was totally convinced we were out of our minds.

He was amazed at their physical and theatrical likeness, and when he thought about it for awhile he again wasn’t quite convinced.

Fast forward twenty seven years to a new entertainment venue at Caesars (my third time to The Colosseum aka the house of Celine, Dave’s first) and a curiosity to see if lightening would strike thrice.

Dave and I were through the security monitors (another new aspect of Vegas) and seated quickly in our seats on the first mezzanine.

Cher and company delivered like Domino’s!

When she performed a medley of her greatest hits from her 1970s discography, the ones that in 1980 and 1981 were relatively new hits, Cher turned back time.

Dave loved every minute of the show, lightening bolts and all.

This was a great way to spend an evening in Vegas.

Mama Mia at Mandalay Bay

¥ Kept the memories, lost the program.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

We Saturday night in Vegas different from most.

The circus arena on steroids atmosphere of a Vegas Saturday night can be too much at times.

It’s become the norm for us to see the 6:00 p.m. performance of Mama Mia at Mandalay Bay and have a late gourmet supper at In-N-Out.

Stick with us, kids, and we’ll take you to the best burger joint in Vegas!

This is our ninth time to see Mama Mia, and while I like Mama Mia, Dave loves Mama Mia.

For this trip we had front row seats A 16 and A 17.

The lobby of the Mandalay Bay Theatre (presently the Michael Jackson ONE theatre) has an Art-Deco style reminiscent of vintage movie houses.

This photo of Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Before the show began we visited with two of the nicest ladies from Salt Lake City seated to our left and a local mom and her six year old daughter seated to our right.

Meeting new people continues to be a part of the Vegas experience that pleases.

Dave and I both agreed this particular performance was one of the best yet.

It doesn’t take but a tweak here and a small change there to step up a performance.

As it is with interior design and home decor, placing a new spin on an oldie but a goodie helps to keep things fresh and relevant.


We lip synced and kept time to the music throughout the entire show, and the Dancing Queens that we are surfaced during the finale.

Along with most of the audience we were up out of our seats and dancing with the cast members to the feel good gotta love it songs of ABBA.

If this is in fact our last time to see the show in Vegas it made for a great memory.

It was indeed our last time to see Mama Mia! in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay.

Danny Gans at Mirage


In all the time we have been going to Vegas this would be our first time seeing Danny Gans (October 25, 1956 – May 1, 2009).

I purchase discount entertainment vouchers and restaurant coupons to use on our trips, and one of the best outlets is the radio shopping show from local Las Vegas radio station, KSHP.

I stream the show via the internet, purchase the vouchers and have the show mail them out to me.

This particular trip the station was running a promo on one of their afternoon shows.  I answered a trivia question correctly and scored two tickets seventh row center section to Danny Gans at the Mirage.

The theatre was full to capacity, the vibe of the room and the audience was high energy and the laugh-o-meter was set to hilarious.

We loved the band and the live music, and Danny Gans’ impression of Johnny Carson and his The Twelve Days of Christmas skit was fantastic.

He performed Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open”, and while his performance was good his band’s performance was great.

I have to admit only a small percentage of the audience seemed to be familiar with Creed, but those that were gave him a standing ovation.


We left the theater thoroughly entertained and ready to put the hurt on the Mirage in the gambling department.

The Mirage was well armed for battle against us giving me the honor of being seven for seven in the “I can’t win a damn thing in this casino” category.

Amazing how the Vegas night air and a volcano eruption can make things all better.

Fab Four Live (presently B- A Tribute to the Beatles)


The Places In The Home gang loves this Beatles tribute show.

We’ve seen this late afternoon show nineteen times based on the following criteria: the price is right, the 5:30 PM showtime is perfect and the entire performance is live.

This is a fun show with lots of audience interaction. The four gentlemen who recreate musical magic bring the voices and songs of The Beatles to life with spot on accuracy, and did I mention the entire performance is live and very well done.

The set list covers the hits of the Beatlemania, the band’s US invasion, Sgt. Pepper (see photos) and the Abbey Road phenomenon.

Howard Arthur’s performance as John Lennon is amazing.


Sheryl Crow, James Blunt and Toots at Planet Hollywood: It Was Just One of Those Vegas Nights 


Toots is a Jamaican performer Sheryl Crow discovered and invited to tour with him.

We had never heard of him so going in we had no opinion one way or another.  Toots and band put on a great opening show incorporating the audience in the fun with sing-a-longs.

The sweet soulful reggae spin he put on John Denver’s classic hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was worth the price of admission.

This sing-a-long finale ended his set on a high note, and the good mood kept concert goers happy as the crews were breaking down his set and getting James Blunt and Company in set up.

More concert goers started to trickle into the theater signaling the people watching part of my brain to get busy taking it all in. People, clothes, conversations, pairings- it all fascinates me.

We humans are an interesting people.

It was hard not to notice the large cameras, cranes, booms and cables being set up in and around the theatre.

I commented to Dave it appeared some type of filming would be taking place during the evening.

We learned the filming was for a feature showcase for A&E’S Private Sessions.

sc-share-newSheryl Crow ~ Feels Like Home Cover.  How’s that for staying on the all things that make a home topic?

I also noticed a couple to my left heavily making out.

A girl in what I guess to be her mid 20’s and her mother are seated to my immediate left, and suffice it to say we are privy to this up close and way too personal floor show.

The mind doesn’t kick in quick enough with the stop looking command when it is stunned.

About the time I am turning away, busted!

Make out man decides to strike up a conversation with me, the mom and her daughter.

He tells us they have been married twenty five years, are empty nesters, and just want to, how did he put it?

He and his lady love just want to “be all over a good time.”

Is that what they call it now?

Believe me, these two were all over something for sure.

Their show within the show picked up steam as the night went on, and by the end of the night it was a free for all with a few added cast members.

They were in ecstasy, if you get my drift.

To put the cherry on top of the cake, about every five minutes this guy would scream out Sheryl (Sh-air-real) in a sort of New York/New Orleans blended accent.

How many times do you think Dave had to hear me mimic this guy’s cry of Crow for the rest of our trip?

All in all an excellent evening that far exceeded my expectations in the very best way.

To date, this is the best time I have ever had at a concert in Vegas.

We entered the venue at 7:10 p.m and walked out at 11:15 p.m rocked and ready for a Vegas Friday night turning into Saturday morning.

More Only in Vegas to come.


images: Biography, Caesars, VTheater, Sheryl Crow, Wikipedia


Tales of Road and Sky: Vacation Trip Reports

The Places In The Home gang will not be taking a vacation until later this year, so to feed my traveling jones I’m living vicariously through vacation trip reports from readers, friends and family this summer.


Thanks to the tales of road and sky journaled through the lenses of varied mobile device cameras, I’ve traveled to Tennessee, North Carolina, Crete, Las Vegas, Toronto, Cocoa Beach, Destin, Georgia,  Seattle and New Orleans.

Incoming vacation trip reports show the traveling masses are living up to my travel motto.


I called our son this morning to ask if he would mind me posting this picture of him and his girlfriend from their June trip to Las Vegas.

He thought about it for a minute and in his characteristically witty manner replied, “You have my Viva Las Vegas permission.”

J&K VegasBellagio Conservatory & Botancial Gardens, Las Vegas, Nevada

A picture tells the story long after the vacation ends.

Crete1Balos Beach Crete, Greece

The intended purpose of a vacation is fun,


Lake-BurtonLake Burton, Georgia

and fun is always in style.


A fun accent piece makes for an interesting conversation piece, a fun night out with friends knocks at the door of nice to see you again, and a punch of fun color shows off the ever appropriate sense of spontaneity.

Eiffel-tower1Eiffel Tower – Paris Hotel

Music is the ultimate traveling companion. It’s the soundtrack memories dance to.

I put as much thought into selecting our travel tunes as I do the travel itinerary.  It’s very High Fidelity.  

Gosh, what is it with me and movies references this week?

The music we travel to stays on the mind and the memory, and believe me, I speak from experience.

My dad decided one extended summer trip many summers ago that since he was a Willie Nelson fan the entire family was going to become Willie Nelson fans, like it or not.

Before the seat belts were buckled and the tires had cleared the driveway our self-appointed travel DJ popped Stardust by Willie Nelson into the cassette player (told you it was many moons ago).

The cassette played and played over the mountains and through the woods all the way to grandmother’s house and back.

As much as we bitched and protested about it then, we have never forgotten that trip nor that album.

To bring it all home, guess what comes in as my number one  playlist starred under travel tunes?

The music is good, but the memories are what makes it great.

Where are you going on your next vacation?

What music will be making your travel playlist?

Love your style!

The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery

In the daily meeting with the Places In The Home creative team (me, myself and I), quiet and centered thought bring forth ideas.

Sometimes it all runs together, and at other times the ideas and interest flow like the mighty Mississippi River.

There’s a world of inspiration out there folks!

I love the search, especially when it is right here at home.

October is a great month for antiquing, fall road trips, and home tours.

Several fall October weekends ago, Dave the Builder, the Canadian snowbird (our son), and I set out on an intrigue packed afternoon and evening fondly referred to as The Myrtles: Inspiration, History, and Mystery.

antique sideboard

Working for family is a trick and a treat.

I set the tone for a blissful and professional working relationship right off the bat, and we’re off and decorating.

My brother is once again enlisting my help in redecorating his den and foyer.

He didn’t realize he also wants to freshen up his dining room decor until I insisted gently persuaded him to do so.

formal dining room

His circa 1903 home is one of the few Victorian turret architecture examples in the state.

Staying true to the period is an absolute must on the exterior for historical purposes however, I am allowed to blur the lines when it comes to the interior.

Small changes and edits keep the bottom line affordable and in check with current styles.

Changing the neutral color palette is off limits.

He loves it, and it flows with the historical aspect of the home.

table lampsclick on image to enlarge

New lamps for the sideboard and replacing the dining room chairs ( bad, very bad) is first on the list.

He has tried his best to get his hands on the balustrade lamp Dave the Builder made for me.

Brother dear, that is not going to happen.

This is the reason I sourced lamps in a more sophisticated image of my lamp for his consideration.

We will also be paying attention to new curtains-drapes or perhaps just embellishing the exiting ones with trim or tassels.

A new area rug is on the list,  and we will definitely be lowering the artwork and framed photos.

Essential to the art of the hang, consideration has to be given to ceiling height, proportion of the space, and overall balance when placing artwork.

Placing items and photographing the space for reference reminded me of the details surrounding the silver lazy susan with double turned malachite handles atop the sideboard.

St. Francisville, Louisiana is a charming town rich in history and historical sites.

My brother is a history buff who really appreciates the architecture of historical homes.  He enthusiastically believes no trip to St. Francisville is complete without a tour of The Myrtles Plantation.

The Myrtles PlantationMyrtles Plantation

The Myrtles Plantation  is not without national media attention.

Referred to as one of “America’s Most Haunted Homes”, The Myrtles has been the subject of interest, articles and television documentaries from Veranda, Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, History Channel, and the one I most remember, the visit with cameras rolling from Oprah Winfrey.


The Front Porch – Myrtles Plantation

As visitors make their way up the winding driveway to the entrance of the circa 1796 Antebellum mansion, distinctive features such as the brick courtyard, double dormers, and the lacy wrought iron wrapped front veranda captures the eye.


Front Porch View of the Grounds of The Myrtles Plantation

I could sit on the veranda in the large rocking chairs staring out at the moss draped live oaks and lush grounds for hours.

One Saturday afternoon and evening fifteen years ago, I did just that.

Photos of Myrtles Plantation, Saint Francisville

Dave the Builder, our son and I were in Baton Rouge on a working vacation of sorts.

My brother suggested we drive over to St. Francisville and New Roads to check out the sites, the tastes, and to tour The Myrtles.

He asked me to pay close attention to the silver lazy susan in the dining room of the Myrtles with the request for me to try to find him one in our treasure hunt rounds.

With travel weather seasonally perfect, down Hwy. 61 we go.

Upon arrival in St. Francisville, we decided to have lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant on the grounds of the Myrtles Plantation (regrettably now permanently closed due to a fire).

The Carriage House Restaurant at The Myrtles PlantationCarriage House

Our waitress asked if this was our first time to The Myrtles.

She highlighted the history of the town, suggested must visit shops, and highly suggested we take the Saturday evening Myrtles Mystery Tour.

The Mystery Tour is held on Friday and Saturday nights, and is touted as the opportune time for Chloe, the reported ghost known to inhabit the house and grounds of The Myrtles, to make an appearance.

Our son was captivated, my curiosity piqued, and Dave the Builder weighed in with an approving why not on a Louisiana Saturday night.

I made reservations for the three of us for the 7:00 pm tour, and we left the grounds highly anticipating our return.

In part two of Three Part Harmony: Inspiration, History and Mystery, I’ll tell the tale of Chloe, recount our ferry trip to New Roads and the infamous Miss Emily, shopping, champagne punch, and the fun and fright of the Mystery Tour.



A West Coast Treat, A Turquoise Chair, A Designer’s Tips, And One Sensational Tenor: A Dallas, Texas Vacation

Do you trip report?  I like to keep the fun and memories of a memories of a getaway alive with a trip report.

Long before Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I was reduced to archaic methods of recording and reporting trip buffoonery.

A 35mm camera, a honking huge video camera, and a written trip report got the job done.

I definitely don’t miss the the video camera, kinda still like the pics from my 35mm camera, and will keep on keeping on with the trip reports.

Dallas, Texas vacationCity-Data

After running across pictures from our trip to Dallas last year, listening to one of my favorite singers on Spotify, and getting a big old Texas kick out of the new Dallas on TNT,  I’ve got memories from last year’s Dallas trip on my mind.

American Airlines Center

Our son called from the Great White North to inform us he was coming home for a visit.

We will now be three for the trip over to Dallas to see the performer I refer to as  “the voice”  in concert at American Airlines Center.


The son quickly informed the mother he would be sitting this one out- the concert, not the trip.

In spite of how health conscious and diet minded he is, he had his taste buds set for a west coast treat recently new to Texas.

More on that later.


“The Voice” is the incomparable Josh Groban.


On our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Las Vegas,  I had the pleasure of being introduced to the beautiful song “February Song” by Josh Groban.


Chill bumps!

When he announced he would be touring in 2011, I kept my eye out for the dates.

I zeroed in on a Dallas, Texas vacation, waited for the tickets to go on sale, and starting planning the trip.


The concert was fantastic!

The pictures not so much, but you get the general idea.

Barrett Solid Wood Vanity StoolBarrett Solid Wood Vanity Stool

I discovered a love of turquoise and cowhide while we were in Dallas.

When in Rome and Dallas, as they say.

While watching Good Morning Texas, I learned Vern Yip of HGTV’s Design Star and Bang For Your Buck was in Dallas on a promotional tour.

Our schedule was not permitting me to attend, but my ever handy notebook and pen got an early morning workout.

I sipped strong Texas coffee, paid close attention, and jotted down his home decor advice, suggestions, and tips.


From my notes :

Design don’t: do not buy things in sets.

Trend: vintage salvage.

Hot colors of summer 2011 will be turquoise and honeysuckle.

Curtain lengths should hit the floor.

Hang pictures at eye level.

Good interior design and home decor information.

California based In-N-Out Burger was the reason for our son’s excitement about our Dallas trip.

Yes, they are that good!

One of our favorite Saturday night Vegas traditions was seeing the show Mama Mia at Mandalay Bay, followed by a gourmet dinner fit for a dancing queen and her man at In-N-Out Burger.

Our trip to Dallas satisfied our son’s In-N-Out Burger craving, marked seeing Josh Groban live in concert off my bucket list, and gave Dave the Builder the opportunity to brush up on his tour guide skills.

Load ’em up!

I’m ready to hit the holiday road to the Big D again.



Natchitoches, Louisiana: A Best Southern Small Town

Today’s Natchitoches, Louisiana post is an updated version in tribute to Natchitoches being chosen Best Southern Small Town by USA Today readers. Visit Natchitoches once and you will come to know why this comes as no surprise to me. 

It’s the time of year for travel.

Vacations, staycations and day trips refresh our recreating souls, renew connections and give us ideas to implement into our home decor.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town rich in history and bragging rights.

Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush) is located about one hour south of Shreveport and five hours north of New Orleans.

Natchitoches was established by the French in 1714, and is the oldest permanent settlement in the 13 state territory Louisiana Purchase.

French and Spanish forts, historical homes, national historic landmarks, bed and breakfasts, antique shops, and fantastic restaurants line the original brick Front Street.

The thirty-three block National  Historic District and plantation district along the banks of Cane River Lake is made up of 100 historic homes and buildings.

Historic Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana

Historic Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana

One of my favorite shops to visit on historic Front Street is Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile.

Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana.

The front door swings open to a blast from the past decor full of charm, hardware, tools, classic toys and utensils all in I remember these splendor.

Natchitoches is the hometown of  writer, producer and film director Robert Harling.

Robert Harling is best known as the writer of the play, Steel Magnolias.

Rooted in location and hometown authenticity, Natchitoches was the star of the South for a brief period of time in 1988 when Hollywood came calling.

The excitement surrounding the filming was a statewide topic of conversation, and the memories of the stars and their time spent weaving in and out of the local landscape a souvenir program in Louisiana film history.

The Taylor-Cook home, better known as The Steel Magnolia House, remains one of the most recognizable and popular historic homes in downtown Natchitoches.

Many moonlight tour of homes ago, Dave the Builder purchased tickets to the Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes as a surprise birthday gift to me.

Steel Magnolia House Natchitoches Louisiana

Steel Magnolia House – Natchitoches, Louisiana

The evening tour of Taylor-Cook aka The Steel Magnolia House was a candlelight and cocktails themed party not to be forgotten.

Several hundred guests strolled the grounds and toured the home filled with period antiques tastefully paired with stylish accents while sipping cocktails by moonlight, music and magnolias.


Natchitoches, Louisiana knows how to throw a good party.

Clockwise from top left: Taylor-Cook House, Front Street, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Melrose Plantation

Roque House (circa 1797)

Roque House (circa 1797)

Big_House_at_Melrose_Plantation_-_east_elevationBig House at Melrose Plantation

One of my favorite artist, African-American folk artist Clementine Hunter (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988) is closely associated with Natchitoches.

Miss Hunter was born near Cloutierville, Louisiana, moving to Melrose Plantation when she was fifteen years old.

Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) was a self-taught artist who painted from memory.

Clementine Hunter photo

Clementine was encouraged to paint and locally promoted by Melrose plantation curator, François Mignon.

Clementine_Hunter_-_The_Wash_-_91.88.2_-_Minneapolis_Institute_of_ArtsThe Wash – Clementine Hunter

The subjects of her paintings portray plantation life as it were in the early 20th century.

Although most of her works are untitled, the subject would be verbally described by the artist herself when asked.

Clementine_Hunter_-_Picking_Cotton_-_91.88.1_-_Minneapolis_Institute_of_ArtsPicking Cotton – Clementine Hunter

In the early days of her painting dating to the 1940s, Clementine Hunter sold her works for a quarter.

Her paintings can now sell for thousands of dollars.

It’s estimated Clementine Hunter painted between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime.

Miss Hunter continued to live in Northwest Louisiana until her death in 1988.

Cane River view downtown Natchitoches

Cane River

Picturesque Cane River runs through downtown Natchitoches.  

On the first weekend of December, Natchitoches illuminates the Southern night sky in a festive Christmas festival firework spectacular.

Approximately 150,000 visitors descend on the small town to experience this annual festival of lights, a tradition that ushers in the holiday season.  

The famous Natchitoches Meat Pie, a Southern delicacy, dates back to the late 1700s.

classic Natchitoches meat pies

Natchitoches Meat Pies are deep-fried pastries filled with ground beef and ground pork seasoned with onions, peppers, and garlic also known as the Cajun trinity.

Classic Natchitoches Meat Pie 


2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more for frying

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup minced yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 Meat Pie Dough (recipe follows)

1 large egg

2 tablespoons water


In a small Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add beef, pork, oregano, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and cayenne.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and crumbly, about 6 minutes.

Drain any excess liquid.  Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
Add onion; cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add garlic, bell pepper, and celery; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir into meat mixture.  Let cool completely.

Reserve 12 pieces for another use.  On a lightly floured surface, roll 28 pieces of dough to a 5½-inch circle, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Using a 5-inch round cutter, cut rounds from each piece of dough.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 2 tablespoons water.

Place 2 tablespoons filling in center of each round.  Lightly brush edges with egg wash.  Fold dough over filling, and press to seal.

Using a fork, crimp along edges of pie. Using a pastry wheel, cut along edges to further seal.

Freeze pies before frying.

In a large Dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of 4 inches, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 370°.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels, and place a wire rack on top.
Remove pies from freezer.

Using a slotted spoon, gently place pies, 3 at a time, in hot oil.  Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from oil, and let drain on prepared pan.

Makes 28.

Meat Pie Dough


5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup lard

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups whole milk


In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Using a pastry blender or 2 forks, cut in lard until mixture is crumbly.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.  Pour egg mixture over flour mixture, and lightly toss with your hands until a dough starts to form.  Knead together twice, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate until using.

Makes 14.

-Louisiana Cookin’

Southern hospitality flows through the town like the Cane River and the welcome mat is always out.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is home to Northwestern State University, festivals, historic homes and plantations, bed and breakfasts galore, quaint shops and excellent restaurants.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a great destination for day tripping, a weekend getaway or a stay for a week or two visit.

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Vacation Memories of Sunny Las Vegas and Snowy Gatlinburg

My mind is on vacation memories, especially on this supposed winter day in January.

I popped over to to verify these weird Louisiana temperatures  and the question on the homepage reads, “Where is winter?”

Well, it’s not in Louisiana, Jim Cantore!

I never know if it’s going to be an allergy medicine and hot tea with lemon or iced tea with lemon and flip flops kind of day.

I like a climate that can make its mind up.

Las Vegas Temperature Paris

Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

In an effort to convince my internal thermometer it’s not losing its mind, I’m going to take a couple of trips down vacation memories lane.

Bellagio fountains

Las Vegas, Nevada plays a big role in my family’s travel portfolio.  We’ve been going out to our favorite desert oasis since the mid-’70s.

For most of the year Las Vegas definitely lives up to its reputation as the great blow dryer in the desert.

We quickly acclimate to the temps and keep moving.

Dan TannaRobert Urich as the handsome and smooth private eye, Dan Tanna

We have great memories from over the years.

Remember this guy?

The year was 1979, and my mother was approached by Robert Urich, who starred as private eye Dan Tanna in the television series Vega$.  

My parents were staying at the Desert Inn where the series location was set.

Mr. Urich spotted my mother on the patio of the villa my parents were staying in, and he walked up to her, introduce himself, and invited her to be his guest on set for the day.  

Talk about a memory!


My lovely mother and Robert Urich on set together at the Desert Inn- 1979

We’ve seen the glitz and glamour of days past and the shorts and sandals scene of the current Vegas.

We have stayed in fabulous hotels, witnessed hotel implosions, and marveled at the reinvention of the Strip. 

We’ve seen fantastic entertainers and shows, attended prize fights, met many wonderful locals, and dined at gourmet restaurants, retro coffee shops and all night cafes.  

Caesars Palace Las Vegas

One of the best concerts was the Sheryl Crow and James Blunt concert at Planet Hollywood, August 2008.

I am listening to Spotify as I type this and guess what song is playing?

“Favorite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow.

Love it!

Sheryl Crow

Seeing a Don Rickles performance in Vegas is classic.

Dave the Builder begs me not to put us on the first four rows.  He fears Mr. Rickles will choose him as subject matter.

The first time we saw his show was in 1990 downtown at the Golden Nugget.

We were running late for the show which caused us to be seated in the very back of the showroom.

Dave could not contain his relief.

On our 2010 trip, Mr. Rickles was in town performing in the Orleans showroom.  I placed a lucky phone call to the showroom box office and scored second row seats dead in the center of the showroom.

Poor Dave, he was a nervous wreck until right before show time.

Thankfully,  two guys were seated directly in front of us which ran interference for us as comedy targets.

Did Rickles pick them out?

Picked them out and plucked their good-natured bones clean.

Don Rickles was a class act.

Don Rickles

Tipping our hats to The Hangover.

I took this photo of Treasure Island from the underground valet pick-up area at Palazzo after seeing Jersey Boys.

Treasure Island Las Vegas

Lunching at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Seafood.

I love the idea of a bread basket presentation.

bread basketDave the Builder ordered Joe’s famous scallops and roasted corn.

The reviews are in, and Joe’s gets a rave!

Joe's scallops

I went with Joe’s classic filet and broiled tomato.

filet mignon

Scenes from Sunday brunch at Border Grill.

Carne asada quesadilla for me.

Border Grill Las Vegas

Fish tacos ensenada for Dave.

This dish rendered the man speechless, and that ain’t easy.

That’s a nice way of saying he did not utter one word during the meal.

He was busy stuffing his face with the best fish tacos he’s ever eaten.

fish tacos

Now we’re talking!

Two half slices of dessert heaven- pineapple upside-down cake and tres leches.

tres leches

The breakfast of neon champions!

Note to self: make it a point to find out who is responsible for coming up with the brilliant and convenient concept of room service and send them a thank you note.

room service


In and Out Burger

Without a doubt, The Beatles LOVE is one of the most entertaining and touching shows on the strip.

The musical tour of the Beatles biggest hits celebrated in Cirque du Soleil splendor is magical.

Mirage Hotel

The view of the mountains and the runways at McCarran Airport is as beautiful to me as the neon lights of the strip.

McCarran Airport

We are now leaving the 100+ temps of the desert for Winterfest in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Wintertime in the Smokies guarantees brr it’s cold! fun at a relaxed pace.

Ober Gatlinburg

We spent an entire afternoon driving through Cades Cove.

Cades Cove

The deer and turkeys came out in record numbers, and photographers with cameras were as well.

Smokey Mountains

wild turkey

These two very vocal and confrontational geese hang out in the parking lot at the Apple Barn Cider Mill.

These two stay busy greeting the visitors.

Apple Barn Mill

The roaring waters throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will command your attention.

Our quaint, cozy, and tranquil home away from home.

Johnson's Inn

These signs line the road home to Tennessee.

For over forty years, as soon as we would spot a “See Rock City” sign we knew we were getting close to our grandparents house.

Good memories.

See Rock City

Vacations serve a wonderful purpose, and our Las Vegas and Gatlinburg, Tennessee vacations deliver fun.

A vacation, staycation, or getaway gives us a break from our normal routines and comfort zones, and gives us an opportunity to reconnect with each other while making lasting vacation memories.

I heard a commercial for Pure Michigan that says, “When we get to a place where no one knows us, we become most ourselves.”

Beautifully stated.

Love your style!