Monday, December 31, 2012

Best Moments of 2012

As this year comes to an end, I wanted to take some time to look back on 2012.
The year seemed to go really fast, but we managed to fit several major events into it.
2012 brought us: 
happiness and fulfillment in our work with the teens 
illness (I managed to spend 2 whole months with bronchitis this year) 
sadness and pain as we worked through life's struggles with family members
celebration when Bailey and Jon got engaged
frustration as we adjusted to our new schedules once I started working
sweet memories with both old and new friends
joy and love when we were able to visit family, and even more when they came to visit us
and so many blessings from friends, family, and even strangers that we could not begin to count.

Harry Potter World with KK in January
Spending the weekend with the Aggies from AFC
And getting to meet this beautiful soul - Joe
Meeting our new niece Kayley in March and spending time with her sisters
Buying a new car with insurance money. Taking it back 2 days later. Using my "Velvet Hammer" skills to get us Gramps
Beach day with Bailey and Jon...slash just their whole visit in March

Hosting my first Mother-Daughter Tea for the Juniors and Seniors in May
Celebrating my Grandpa's 80th with all the Baird cousins in June
Signing the papers to buy our first home in June
Replacing the living room floors in our new home
Our first mission trip to Foster's Children's Home in July (which is now a yearly trip)
Celebrating 4 years with this guy at the Lion King in August
Texas State Fair with two of our favorites in October
Thanksgiving with the Bairds in November
Perhaps my favorite moment of 2012 - Youth Retreat in December
Hosting a personal shower for Sister with these girls in December
Free trip to Las Vegas in December
Christmas with the Johns in December
2012 was a great year, with many ups and downs.
Already I know that 2013 will bring my MFT Exam (hopefully I will pass the first time) graduation, Sister's wedding, several cousin's weddings, and hopefully a real, grown up, full-time job for me.
I'm already excited and anxious just thinking about it!
Happy New Years to you all, and may God bless you richly in 2013!

Vegas Vacation - Hoover Dam Tour

Probably the best decision we made while in Las Vegas was to go on a tour of the Hoover Dam.
The second best decision was to go on the 12:00pm tour instead of the 8:00am tour.
We set it up with our hotel concierge, and it was perfect.
Our tour guide picked us up at our hotel, and after going to a couple other hotels to pick up passengers, we were on our way.
Usually, the tour guides just go straight to the freeway (at least that's what he said)
but ours took us through Old Downtown, and past Fremont Street, and all the chapels with Elvis,
and we even got to go past this place.
Gold and Silver Pawn Shop from Pawn Stars
Michael was super excited! 
There was a really long line to get in, so we were glad that we chose not to do that.
It was a short drive out to Hoover Dam, and about 5 minutes before we got to the dam, we got to the new skybridge.
Michael does not like heights.
Which means, Michael hated this bridge!
He really hated taking this picture because I made him stand close to the edge.
And, as soon as he took the picture, he ran off that thing.
I wasn't a huge fan of the feeling of being that high, but the view was pretty great.
After walking the bridge, we continued the drive to the dam.
We took the power plant tour, and there was so shortage of dam jokes.
I loved it.
It was just like the Griswold's in Vegas Vacation.
At the end of the tour you get to walk along the top of the dam.
Michael was still not a big fan...
But he was a little happier to take a picture with me,
since I stood closest to the railing.
 I had a great time walking around the dam and taking pictures,
and to be fair, it is a long way down.
It was very interesting to hear all about the dam, why it was build, and how it was built.
I probably liked it way more than Michael did, 
but he is glad we took the day to go see Hoover Dam too.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was when the tour guide pulled off onto a scenic turnout which lead to this beautiful view of Lake Mead.
The last stop of the tour (also off the normal route) was the famous Las Vegas sign.
Michael and I had kind of been looking for it, and didn't really know where it was, so we happened to mention it to our bus driver who agreed to take us all there.
It was a little smaller than I had imagined.
And by a little, I mean a lot.
It was the perfect ending to our tour, and to our time in Las Vegas.
We still had a couple hours after this to walk around to more hotels, eat dinner, and lose my wallet before our plane left for home.
You know, all the normal vacation activities.
Thankfully, I had a little beginners luck, and the sweet old lady that found my wallet turned it in to security, who gave it back to me.
By that time, Michael and I were more than ready to get home.
It was a great trip, the perfect 2-day getaway, and we are so happy that we had the opportunity to get a way for awhile...even if it was Sin City!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vegas Vacation - Shows and Attractions

Wow, that hotel post got out of hand fast!
I promise to make this one a little bit shorter.
But just a little.
Our second favorite thing about Las Vegas were all the shows and attractions that the hotels offer. 
Whether it is a daytime attraction that happens on the hour, 
a nighttime show that happens on the hour,
or a night show that stars celebrities, they are all amazing!
Our first priority on Monday was to see the Bellagio fountain show.
 Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
We only saw it the one time, but we were very impressed!
After the fountains, we went to MGM to hold baby lions.
Unfortunately, we found out that they decided to do away with the lions because they didn't make any money for the hotel. 
I was extremely disappointed!!
On the way back down the strip we bumped into these guys
And then we found the M&M store where I met this girl...
okay, she's a plastic figurine, but I was still excited.
My absolute favorite thing on the strip was definitely Paris.
I must have taken 30 pictures of the Eiffel Tower alone.
(Don't worry, I'll spare you those)
We never made it into the Paris Hotel, but the tower and the balloon were enough for me.
It was just as beautiful in the day as at night.
 *I found out later that there is an Arc de Triumph. 
I will be finding that my next time in Vegas.
I was also pretty impressed with these beautiful creatures at the Venetian.
They just walked around and posed.
And looked beautiful.
Since we only had two days in Las Vegas, we decided to see a show on Monday night.
I really wanted to go to Soul-2-Soul, a concert by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw,
but they are only in town on weekends so that was out.
Our next choice was a Christmas classic - Mannheim Steamroller
I will be honest, it was not as good a "show" as TSO,
but the music was incredible!!
Plus, they had acrobats, and it snowed on us.
It was the perfect Christmas concert for our night in Vegas.
After the show we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant in the Palazzo.
(It wasn't good, we wouldn't recommend it)
and the restaurant had lots of Italian cars!
Tuesday night, we walked out of the Venetian just as they were about to start their nighttime show.
They know how to put on a show, that's for sure!
It was probably 20 minutes long, full of lights, music, dancing, and angels.
The last attraction that we saw was at the Mirage.
This is one that I read about online, and heard about from several others.
It is the eruption of their volcano.
It happens every hour, on the hour, starting around 6pm.
I thought it was awesome...Michael was expecting a little more.
You win some you lose some.
Just like we did not see all the hotels in Las Vegas, we did not see even close to all the shows and attractions.
I can honestly say that Vegas has something for everyone.
Whatever you are looking for, you will find it.
We were looking to see the city, explore the hotels, and see some cool shows,
and we got our wish and much more!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vegas Vacation - The Hotels

I am so excited to finally be posting about our trip to Vegas!
Yes, Michael and I went to Vegas.
Yes, we are fully aware of it's status of "Sin City" and "Sodom and Gamorrah" and etc.
And yes, we had a blast!
Like, so much fun I'm already planning to go back this summer!
You might remember this post from back in February when I posted about winning a free trip to Vegas.
Well, we actually went through with it and it was completely worth it!
*We did end up having to pay a little (surprise, surprise) 
We were originally going to take 3 flights there, and 2 back, and stay in a hotel off the strip.
Instead, we paid $160 and got direct flights, a hotel on the strip, and half a day extra time there.
We flew arrived in Vegas at 12:30 Monday morning, and left Vegas at 1:15 Wednesday morning.
It was a whirlwind of a trip, but we jam packed it with activities.
I've decided to split up the posts to make them easier to write, and read.
This one is all about the hotels in Vegas.
This was my absolute favorite part of Vegas.
The hotels are breathtaking! 
I'll start with our hotel - The Riviera.
Our shuttle driver told us that our hotel was not on the strip, but in my opinion it was.
I mean, if the Stratosphere is on the strip, than our was!
It was a bit of a walk down to the famous hotels, but definitely doable.
It looks pretty fancy from the outside, and the rooms are nice, but the lobbies and casino are pretty old and run down.
It was perfect as far as free hotels go!
There was even a wedding chapel right below our room.
How's that for convenience?! 
And here is the hotel in lights.

Next up, Michael's favorite hotel - The Bellagio
It really is beautiful.
Michael likes this hotel because of the Ocean's movies.
And for me, the Bellagio definitely wins best interiors.
This is the first thing that you see when you walk in the front doors - the Chihuly Glass
 We lucked out and got to go to Vegas in December, so everything was decorated for Christmas.
Polar bear made completely of flowers
Painting made completely of flowers
It was completely amazing!
We were a little overwhelmed with all they had going on in that hotel.
*Michael claims he saw Susan Surandon, but I didn't see her.

My favorite hotel was the Venetian/Palazzo.
First of all, it looks exactly like I remember Venice looking!
Most of Vegas is a wanna-be.
Wanna-be New York. Wanna-be Paris.
And yes, this isn't really Venice, but they came pretty close!
St Marks Square
Rialto Bridge
They even had gondolas! 
And Gondoliers that sang!
We didn't ride in one though, it was too cold.
This hotel won best exteriors for by far, and the inside wasn't too bad either.
You can't ask for much more when this is the first thing you see inside the hotel.
And then you get to the lobby,
Even the casino had incredible artwork
The outside of the hotel became even more beautiful at night, when it was all lit up.

The hotel that won best food is - The Cosmopolitan
To be fair, we didn't really try to other hotels' food...
but the secret pizza place in the Cosmopolitan was DELICIOUS!
 Why is it secret??
Because they do not advertise or have any signage inside the hotel or out.
The only way to know about it is by word of mouth.
Lucky for me, my sister's friend told me about it.
We might have taken 2 laps around the hotel, but we found it, right down this hallway.
The exteriors of the hotel are really nothing to write home about,
but the indoor, 3-floor chandelier was gorgeous!
 And you can't forget about the giant high heel!

The Cosmopolitan finished in a tie for most girly with The Flamingo
 I mean, you can't get much more girly than live flamingos and pink-tinted windows.

It was interesting to see the difference in waitress from one casino to the next.
The Bellagio had young, attractive women dressed in tight black dresses,
while the Flamingo had much older women dressed in western attire.
Then there was our hotel...where I never even saw a waitress. Haha!

There were SO MANY other hotels that we never got to see inside due to lack of time.
Here are some of the others that we liked from the outside though.
Caesar's Palace
Trevi Fountain in the Roman Forum at Caesar's Palace
The Mirage
New York, New York
And then the one that might have been the biggest let-down...
Casino Royale
We had so much fun going from one hotel to the next, 
and that was only a small portion of our trip!!
Can't wait to share more later!
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