Spring Break 2017

Since George was out of school for Spring Break this week, we decided to take advantage of his time off to do some exploring. We considered a few destinations, and ended up selecting Jackson Hole, Wyoming – a place that none of us had visited before.

We love the idea of showing George new things, and a snowy, mountainous wilderness is novel to both children and adults. Well, especially when you are from a sunny, humid, and sea-level Houston.

While John and I both had to tackle a bit of work on our trip, we still managed to have a wonderful time. We created many beautiful memories on our trip and I am always grateful for the quality family time that we have together.

TOOM

I look forward to sharing more details about our trip in the coming days. In the meantime, we’re going to try to enjoy the last few days of Spring Break!

Hotel Review – Caesars Palace

During our quick weekend getaway to Las Vegas last month, my sisters and I stayed at Caesars Palace.

cp-elton

Caesars Palace is a luxury hotel and casino with over 3,900 hotel rooms. This hotel is an infamous part of Vegas culture and is therefore consistently busy with people, activities, and opportunities for people-watching.

Location – The hotel is centrally located on the Vegas Strip, and depending on traffic, is usually a 10-15 minute drive to the airport. The hotel is near the Cromwell, Linq, Bellagio, and the Venetian.

Customer Service – The service at the hotel is exceptional. Vegas is known for high-end hospitality, and the service at Caesars is on par with this.  We never wanted for anything and everyone seemed to be on a mission to make our stay “perfect.”

Accommodations – We stayed in the hotel’s Julius Tower, in an Executive Suite.

room entry

Our large room had a very comfortable king bed, a couch and ottoman, a small dining table with  chairs and a bench, a desk and chair, and a small bar area.

bedroom

The over-sized master bathroom had an over-sized shower, water closet and double vanities. There was also ample closet space for our luggage, coats, carry-on bags, etc. Our room also came with a half-bath – a great amenity when you have multiple guests staying in the same room.

extra bath

Amenities – The hotel offers far more amenities than we used during our very short stay. The hotel offers many lounging areas, shops for souvenirs and high-end luxury items, casual and high-end restaurants, pools, multiple bars, gaming, a fitness center, a spa and lots, lots more. The hotel also put a complimentary roll-away bed on our room – just to make sure everyone had great sleeping options.

Member Recognition – There is a recognition program for the hotel that is linked to the hotel’s gaming functions. Although we are “members” who are very low on the totem pole, we managed to score a fantastic upgrade.

Sin City Getaway

A few weekends ago, Nelda, Julie, and I spent the weekend in Las Vegas while our husbands stayed home with our kids. That’s right – they stayed (home), and we played.

fri-sister-vegas-bw

This was a surprise (Julie didn’t know where we were headed until I picked her up to go to the airport!) getaway trip to honor Julie’s recent milestone birthday. It was a very quick trip, but a fabulous way to relax, have fun, and to celebrate Julie.

Friday

After enduring painful rush hour traffic, Julie and I took an early evening flight from Houston to Vegas on Friday. We had fun on the plane and enjoyed the complimentary food and drinks in the first class cabin. We spent a lot of our time reading magazines and relaxing, although I did spend an hour working (adult life is hard sometimes, am I right?). Once we landed in Vegas, we took an Uber to Caesars Palace.

We were upgraded at check-in and spent a few extra minutes trying to work out our accommodations. Long story short, I originally booked a large room with 2 queen beds and sleeper sofa, but the hotel upgraded us to a very large suite with a King bed (more on this in the hotel review). It all worked out in the end, but took some negotiations. As a business traveler, I know a thing or two about scoring exactly what I want/need, and I was more than happy to put my skills to use.

While Julie and I got settled into our room, Nelda made her way to the hotel (she flew in from Austin). Julie didn’t know Nelda was joining us (I lied about her not being able to make it!), but she was thrilled when she arrived. Once we were ready, we made our way to the Cromwell Hotel for a very late dinner at Giada’s.

giada-wine

We kicked things off with a bottle of sparkling rose, and then proceeded to enjoy a high-end Italian carb-fest.

giada-pasta

We enjoyed marinated olives, crostini, three homemade pasta dishes, espresso, and a large plate of cookies (some were taken back to the room for snacks).

giada-espresso

giada-julie

After dinner, we spent some time gambling and people-watching at the hotel. Good times. We ended our night gambling at Caesars Palace before heading up to our room.

Saturday

By our Mom standards, we had a pretty lazy Saturday morning. Even though we were up early, we had no place to go and no immediate plans. In other words, it was a perfect morning. We ordered room service, read magazines, and watched political SNL clips.

breakfast

After a while, we got ready, and then did some shopping at the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. We scored some great finds at H&M, Sephora, and BCBG.

shopping

For lunch, we walked to the Aria and had a great meal, compete with margaritas, at Javier’s.

margs

sat-lunch

After lunch, we spent some time gambling and enjoying the smoke-free ambiance. I won $270 on a 1 cent slot machine (!) and used the winnings for our evening activities. It was literally a win-win for everyone.

Afterwards, we did some window-shopping at the Crystal Shops before heading to the spa at the Linq Hotel. Thanks to Nelda, we had late afternoon manicure/pedicure appointments. Uncharacteristically, I went with a gel manicure. My nails are often the victim of business travel mishaps, so I never bother painting my nails. Hey, but when in Vegas, right?

mani

We had a nice time at the spa – it was a relaxing and casual environment with great customer service.

spa

Once we got all dolled up, we made our way to Fizz for pre-concert cocktails and light bites.

fizz-outside

We had rose flights and champagne cocktails, a cheese plate, and tiny grilled cheese sandwiches.

wine-flights

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We had a great time pre-gaming and catching up.  After a while, we made our way into the Coliseum for the Elton John concert.

stage

In a word, the concert was AMAZING. Elton John is a true entertainer and spent almost half of the two hour concert solo – singing and playing the piano.

stage-end

After the concert, we had a late dinner at Mesa – a restaurant owned and operated by Bobby Flay. We had a nice quick meal, and then returned to our room to get ready for bed, and to pack.

mesa

My feet hurt so badly that evening.  I am woefully out of practice, friends!

shoes

Sunday

We were all up early on Sunday in order to catch early morning flights back home. Nelda left first and Julie and I followed after checking out of the hotel.

Security lines at the airport were crazy, especially for early morning flights.  Even still, we all easily made our flights. Julie and I flew back to Houston together and it was possibly the quietest flight I have ever been on.  Almost everyone slept on the plane, including Julie and me.

Julie, Nelda, and I were fortunate to be able to spend time together as sisters, and to celebrate Julie’s birthday.  We had a really fabulous time, even though we all wish we had more hours together in Vegas to celebrate. At least we will always have the memories!

sisters

Hotel Review – The Wynn

During our weekend getaway to Las Vegas last month, we stayed at the Wynn Hotel. The Wynn is a luxury hotel and casino and, in our opinion, is the perfect place to get away in Las Vegas. Even with over 2,700 hotel rooms, the hotel can seem quiet and relaxing (once you leave the casino floor) and almost as if you have the place to yourself.

hotel

Location – The hotel is located on the northern end of the Vegas Strip, and depending on traffic, is usually a 10-15 minute drive to the airport. The hotel is near Fashion Show Mall, the Bellagio and the Venetian.

Customer Service – The service at the hotel is exceptional. Vegas is known for high-end hospitality, but the service at the Wynn is truly over the top.  We never wanted for anything and everyone seemed to be on a mission to make our stay “perfect.”

Accommodations – We stayed in the hotel’s Tower Suites, in a King Suite. Our large room had a very comfortable king bed, a couch and ottoman, a small dining table with two chairs, a desk and chair, and a small bar area. The over-sized bathroom had a huge bathtub, over-sized shower, water closet and double vanities. There was also ample closet space for our luggage, coats, carry-on bags, etc.

wynn-room

wynnbath

wynn-bath-2

Our room also has a great view of the Strip.

wynn-view-from-room

Amenities – The hotel offers far more amenities than we could use during our short stay. The hotel offers many lounging areas, shops for souvenirs and high-end luxury items, casual and high-end restaurants, pools, multiple bars, gaming, a spa and lots, lots more. The hotel also offered complimentary tea, hot chocolate, and coffee in the morning (on the hotel’s casino level, just past the Tower Suite elevators) – which was a great way to start the day. Our room also came with complimentary breakfasts for two.

wynn-sign

Member Recognition – There is a recognition program for the hotel that is linked to the hotel’s gaming functions. We are “members,” but are very low on the totem pole.

We would love to return to The Wynn in the future, most likely on another getaway.

Weekend Getaway – Las Vegas (Part 2)

Saturday – We slept in on Saturday morning – it was glorious. The Wynn’s blackout shades, quiet floors, and heavenly bedding made an amazing sleep chamber for us. It also made for a nice leisurely morning.

sun-rise

We had a really nice breakfast at Tableau, a restaurant located at the base of the Tower Suites elevators at the Wynn. We had a quaint table in the conservatory and a great server.  John and I each ordered entrees and shared them. I especially enjoyed my eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit. John was very into his smoothie and the pastry basket.

sun-break

After breakfast, we hit the Vegas Strip for some serious shopping. We were on the lookout for a few items, and we were also window shopping for a few others. I also dropped off some jewelry at Tiffany for cleaning and to get a few ideas for gifts that I will need to purchase in the future (hello – Mother’s Day!). We spent the majority of time in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, but we also picked up some gifts for family at the Bouchon Bakery at the Venetian.

sun-bouchj

For lunch, we kept on walking down the Strip and ended up at Javier’s at the Aria Hotel. Javier’s is an institution in Dallas, and it is a favorite of John’s from his days at SMU Law School. Our original plan was to eat at Giada’s restaurant, but John was really craving Mexican food over Italian. So, Javier’s it was.

sun-wall

The restaurant is modern, masculine, and has a very intimate feel. It also has an unusual wood carving on it’s back wall that is scary, yet so intriguing. John ordered tacos for lunch, while I enjoyed the rellenos. The food is really good at Javier’s, but it is incredibly mild. If you are looking for food with a kick, you are unlikely to find it here. But if you want a great margarita with Tito’s Vodka or a super flavorful meal, you will be in luck.

sun-lun

After lunch, we started to make the trek back to the Wynn. We stopped at the Forum  Shops again, and John bought me an Apple Watch. I’ve been interested in one for a few months, but we pulled the trigger after I tried one on. I’m excited to learn more about how it works and how it can help me be more efficient and effective in my job and with my fitness goals. I may get a few other bands once I start wearing it, but for now, I am super pleased with my pearl nylon band.

Once we made it back to our room, we changed into robes and slippers and made our way to the spa. John had a custom massage and I had a body polish treatment and a deep-tissue massage. The services were wonderful and the spa environment was tranquil and very relaxing.

After some downtime in the room, we took an Uber to the Bellagio for our dinner reservation at Le Cirque. We have eaten at Le Cirque several times in the past and we consider it to be one of our favorite restaurants. The restaurant is small, quaint, and has exceptional service and food. This visit did not disappoint.

We each selected the 5-course Winter Degustation Menu and I selected the mushroom soup, black truffle risotto, potato encrusted sea bass, organic chicken with asparagus and mushrooms, and the chocolate ball for dessert. The food was exceptional and overall was a  truly enjoyable foodie experience. To boot, we were also celebrating the 14th anniversary of our first date together. Time flies, doesn’t it?

sat-dinner-collage

We were so full with food, wine, and cocktails after our 2.5 hour dinner, that we took an Uber back to our hotel and promptly passed out.

Sunday – After a great evening of rest and tranquility, we woke up on Sunday and immediately began packing and getting ready. John ordered some smoothies and juices for us from room service to help us wake up and get going. While ideally we would have taken a later flight back to Houston, we really wanted to see George and to have some time with him before the work week began.

We checked out of the room and took an Uber to the airport. To our delight, the TSA security line was very short and we were relaxing in the United Club within minutes of our arrival at the airport.

sun-airport

Boarding and take off for our flight back to Houston was easy and on-time.We were served breakfast on-board, but neither of us were too hungry.

flight-break

We both worked the entire flight home so that we could focus on George when we saw him.  Speaking of George, we met him and my parents at Pico’s for an early dinner when we arrived in Houston.

John and I are very lucky to be able to take trips like this together, and we are very fortunate that my parents (and the Hunters!) were able to watch George for us.

sun-us

As we continue to assess our good fortune, we remain ever grateful for the amazing travel and life moments that we are able to experience together.

 

Weekend Getaway – Las Vegas (Part 1)

As we made New Year resolutions earlier this month, John and I were keenly aware that we did a terrible job of carving out time to spend with each other in 2016. We took a fun trip to Napa and had a few dates here and there last year, but we didn’t do as much as we could and should have. So, spending more “alone time” together is a goal of ours for 2017.

Last week, as we compared schedules on Sunday, we discovered that we could make some time on the weekend for a date and/or a date day. So we called my parents and they offered to watch G. Then we got super spontaneous and decided to head to Las Vegas for the weekend. We got to have fun in Sin City and my parents got to have uninterrupted fun time with George. It was a win win for everyone.

Thursday- My parents and the Rosenbergs came over for an impromptu family pizza dinner party. Pink’s Pizza supplied the food and we supplied the chaos. After dinner, my parents took George to their house for the evening.

Friday – John and I were up early (old habits die-hard), so we went about our usual gym and work morning routines. Once I got ready and finalized my packing, I spent the rest of the morning on work calls. In fact, I was on calls all the way to the airport.

To our delight, traffic was light at the airport and we parked and were through security in a snap. After a stop at Cibo for drinks and snacks, we made our way to the Terminal E United Club to relax for a bit. Well, I was on calls in there, but it was much better to do it there than in the main terminal.

We boarded our plane without incident and had an on-time arrival. Lunch was served on the plane and it was pretty blah. Although we weren’t expecting much, the offerings left us very hungry. I picked around my plate and ended up putting my roast beef on the salad and called it a day.

plane-food

After lunch service, I took out my laptop and worked for the next 2.5 hours. Honestly, this was glorious. I got so much work done and had peace and quiet to really focus in on everything that mattered.

sky-plane

We had a super smooth landing and arrived to an airport that wasn’t overly busy.

airport

We took an Uber to the Wynn and check-in was seamless. Because we were a touch early, our room wasn’t ready yet.

wynn

This ended up working out nicely because we were hungry from our sad lunches (and because I hadn’t eaten breakfast) and we needed a snack. We ended up sharing some delicious matzo ball soup and French fries (totally healthy and nutritious, right?) at the hotel’s Zoozacrackers restaurant and it totally hit the spot.

soup

Just as we were finishing our snack, I got a text that our room was ready. Perfect!

view

We quickly settled in and unpacked our things before heading out to do some shopping. Because that’s one of the best reasons to come to Vegas, right? We did a combo of actual shopping and window shopping and it was really fun. John found a great new wallet – a very nice memento from our trip.

Naturally, we also spent some time picking up some treats for our George, including a stop at Tiny Treasures (it’s in the Wynn). This is one of my favorite children’s stores in Vegas and I have found some amazing gifts here over the years.

tiny-treasures

After our shopping excursion, we relaxed in the room and prepared for dinner. Before long, we made our way through the hotel for dinner at Costa di Mare (formerly Bartolotta). We love this restaurant, especially the fresh seafood and homemade pasta, and we were excited to be back.

Dinner did not disappoint. In fact, it was amazing. From the bread, to the impeccable service, to fabulous food, everything exceeded our expectations. We shared a salad before I dug into an orichette and rapini pasta primi presentation. For my secondi, I had the black truffle tagliatelle. Oh my, friends, everything was heavenly. Truly.  For dessert, we ordered an amaretti cheesecake and our server brought us a plate of complimentary chocolates. Both were delicious – sweet without being overwhelming.

sat-dinn-coll-image

After dinner, we walked over to the Parasol Bar. Our plan was to partake in the “water show” that a friend told us about. Well, let me honest. After seeing this “show,” I am questioning the intelligence of our friend. The show was lame and involved an animatronic frog. Need I say more?

frog

After the frog fiasco, we made our way to the Wynn Theatre for the Le Reve show. The show is highly rated and did not disappoint.

show

The show is a mix of water, dance, and side-effects and is well-done.

show2

Given the two-hour time change, and the 9:30 PM show start time, we were really tired by the end of the performance. However, we were glad we went. It was a gray way to end the evening.

 

Work Trip: Santa Fe, NM

Work Trip: Santa Fe, NM

I’ve continued to get requests for details and tips about work travel, so I’ve begun sharing some details about these trips when I can. I hope to post more about these trips in 2017.

A trip to Santa Fe, NM, was on the agenda this week. The trip was a two-night stay and involved multiple meetings in various settings (meetings, meals, presentations, etc.), but it also involved a few fun things. This was my third work trip of the year (the first and second were to Phoenix, AZ, and Little Rock, AR). I’m officially back at the grind for 2017.

Sunday – Prepare/Plan/Travel 

As George has gotten older, pre-trip preparation has become much easier and streamlined. Prep for this trip was pretty easy because we had leftovers in the fridge and I also prepared a chicken spaghetti casserole for John and George to eat while I was away. The guys also had plenty of breakfast options, in part because of a baking party that G and I had on Sunday morning.

I packed some snacks for my trip, including a mix of almonds and cashews, banana chips, and dried apricots. I also grabbed an apple as I was walking out of the door to the airport.

snacks

Other than that, the only other prep I did was to tidy up the house, do some laundry, and take time to carefully pack my bags.

3:30 PM – I left the house and made the drive to IAH. I stopped to fill my car with gas on the way to the airport.

4:05 PM – I pulled into the Terminal C parking lot and immediately found a spot on the Sure Park level. I am loving my new Sure Park membership – especially how close I am to the Terminal C sky-walk. I arrived at the Terminal C security line and immediately encountered a 15 minute line at TSA Pre-Check. This wasn’t a big deal, but I was still surprised by the line.

4:35 PM – I picked up a bottle of sparkling water and filled my portable water bottle before taking the train to Terminal B. Once there, I made a quick stop in the United Club to get all of my carry-ons organized and to watch the news.

5:10 PM- We boarded my flight on time. Even with a small plane, boarding took a while because folks kept on insisting that their bags would fit overhead (they didn’t).

5:45 PM – We finally took off…and I immediately began working. Wifi was super iffy on this flight, so I stuck to non -internet tasks.

sunset

6:45 PM (1 hour time change) – Once we landed, I took the rental car shuttle to the rental center and got a car. It was raining and cold at this point, so I was happy to get into my SUV (which is what I insist on driving when the weather involves snow) and crank the heat up!

7:45 PM – I arrived at the La Posada Santa Fe and received an upgrade to a larger room. I unpacked and mindlessly began working again. Instead of ordering room service for dinner, I ate a Luna Bar with some of my snacks. Isn’t that sad? Well, on the plus side, I got a lot of work done.

dinner

But I should have ordered room service!

11:00 PM – I crawled into bed and passed out.

Monday – Meetings

5:30 AM – I was wide awake, so I went down to the gym for a long walk while watching the news. Thank goodness for 24-hour gyms and 24-hour cable news networks.It was snowing outside and the hotel looked magical, even at that early hour.

snow

snow-2

After returning to my room, I did a strength workout and got ready for the day. Afterwards, I did some work and ate a light breakfast before heading to my meetings.

boots

11:15 AM – After a few commitments, I popped into Sock Magic to pick up a few treats for John and George. This store has great socks and leg wear and I love shopping there.

sock

11:30 AM – I met my colleague and a business associate for lunch at La Plazuela at the La Fonda Hotel. I had a sad little salad with grilled chicken, but had my eye on my favorite chile relleno dish. However, I felt great after lunch and my salad was quite good.

12:45 PM – My colleague and I walked to the State Capitol and spent the rest of the day in a series of meetings and hearings.

5:15PM – Once I left the Capitol, I spent some time in my hotel room working and getting caught up on emails.

6:30 PM – I met up with my colleagues and some friends at Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretto for dinner. We had a really nice meal in front of a crackling fire – super cozy. I was also pleased that the chef was able to make me a Whole 30 compliant dinner of steak, broccolini and a kale salad.

10:00 PM – After a long day, I crashed pretty hard.

Tuesday – Travel 

3:30 AM – I was wide awake and couldn’t get back to sleep. Blerg. I ended up working on emails before heading to the gym for a long walk while watching the news.

5:45 AM – After getting ready and handling my final packing duties, I checked out of the hotel and made my way back to ABQ.

6:50 AM – After a brief refueling stop, I returned my rental car and made my way to the TSA Check-point (which was a breeze with no line). Once I cleared security, I refilled my water bottle and picked up some breakfast items.

7:50 AM – We boarded and took off on time. I spent the flight working on emails and documents.

leave

11:00 AM (1 hour time change) – We landed in Houston and  I made my way back home.  Once I arrived at my house, I immediately unpacked, started a load of laundry, and jumped into a series of work calls and video conferences. I really wanted (and needed!) a nap, but it wasn’t in the cards.