Behind the Yellow Sign of KOA Kampgrounds #CampKOA in Hurricane, Utah

I’m not a camper.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of it…the great outdoors, sleeping with the stars overhead, a campfire to cook breakfast on, the sounds of nature outside of my tent.

But.

I’m spoiled these days.

Tents are fine, sure. But doesn’t an RV sound better? A real bathroom? A refrigerator? A TV to watch the Travel Channel? Or how about a cabin? All the comforts of home without giving up being in nature?

Sign me up.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know that last month I packed up my little family and we headed out on a 3 week tour of the United States. 25 states, countless National Parks, and lots of oohs and hash from breathtaking vistas along the way.

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While we didn’t plan each and every stop, nor did we have hotels scheduled along the way, we DID have ideas of things we HAD to see (Yellowstone, Yosemite, where the Goonies was filmed) and things we HAD to do (drive the Pacific Coast Highway, touch a giant Sequoia, hike The Narrows of Zion).  And I’m glad we left our schedule flexibly planned, as it opened a few doors for us to be able to see and do things we hadn’t really counted on.

But back to camping.

One of the stops we knew we wanted to make was Zion National Park, where The Narrows are located.  I saw The Narrows on television once- this steep gorge created by a small river, with canyon walls that climbed overhead at staggering heights. What really drew me in was that you could hike into the canyon, through the river, miles into that gorge, surrounded by millions of years of natural beauty.

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I’m not a hiker.

Heck, I’m not even what you’d classify as an outdoor girl. But I have had in my mind for years that I was hiking that canyon, and nothing, even the 25 pounds I managed to lose in advance of the trip, was going to stop me.

But…where to stay?  There aren’t a lot of hotels to choose from around Zion.  Though there are a few, I just couldn’t commit to such prices (over $200-$400 per night) in a little touristy town full of well, tourists.  So imagine my delight when I receive an email from a PR friend asking if is be willing to try out a KOA Kampground – and soon.

Perfect!

We we traveling in my husbands truck, loaded down with 3 weeks worth of clothing, snacks, and electronics for the three of us, but no tent, no sleeping bags, no way to really camp. So I WAS a little worried, until I realized that many of today’s KOAs have cabins!

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From my iPhone, I began searching the KOA website (they do have an app as well!), and found that in Hurricane, Utah, there is a KOA campground that had cabins…and even better- they were FULLY EQUIPPED! All linens were provided (somewhat unusual, but check the KOA site as many sites now offer this convenience). A queen sized bed, a set of bunk beds, full bathroom, mini kitchen- it was above and beyond what we needed, but utter perfection for us!

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Upon arrival, we checked in at the Welcome Center, where the general manager of the property checked us in to cabin #5, gave us the site map, walked us through all there was to offer, and even provided us with directions to nearby shopping and dining, as the KOA is remote in feel but is actually only a few miles from civilization.

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We quickly found our cabin (and oh, the view from that covered porch!) and entered to find the most adorable room!  A quilted bed with lots of cushy blankets was already made, and the bunk beds were ready to be made with the provided clean linens. A good sized bathroom was complete with travel sized shampoos and soaps, plenty of towels, and even a hair dryer, which was totally unexpected.

Back in the main living area where our beds were located was a small dining table and tiny kitchen area, which had a coffee maker, microwave, and mini-fridge…plus a toaster, sink, and lots of plates and silverware for our use. Nothing was overlooked!  We even had a TV with lots of stations, and an air conditioner that was so well received in the 105 degree summer heat.

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Just across from the cabin was the RV camping, which had several people staying. And just across from that was the in ground pool, where most of the kids splashed around in the late afternoons. There was even a putt putt course, and FREE TO USE. Gotta love free, especially with a six year old in tow, right?

One of the things I was thrilled about was the free Wi-Fi. However, I was warned at check in that because the office had just been moved, the Wi-Fi was down until a tech could come remedy it. But I was able to get enough cell service (thankfully) to keep up with my emails and twitter. But the fact that they even offered it was awesome, and a great convenience in a world where so many of us rely on the internet. Love the thought!

After a great first nights sleep (seriously, we slept great, and $109 for a night in a cabin? Amazing deal) we headed the few miles to Zion where as a family, we made it over 4 miles round trip up The Narrows.

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Can’t even tell you how good that made me feel!

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Knowing we had a comfy bed to return to was a huge relief as well, and after a round of miniature golf, 3 rounds of showers (never ran out of hot water!) we all tucked in and slept like the dead.

We opted not to cook while there, but there was a grill outside our cabin, as well as a firepit if we had wanted to. Our neighbors were cooking the evening we came back from Zion, and they seemed to be enjoying it, but on vacation, I want someone else to cook.  So, imagine our surprise that our KOA Offered a free pancake breakfast on the morning we left out for the Grand Canyon!

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I would definitely recommend checking into a KOA- they are very convenient, even for folks like me that are RV and tentless. Camp showers, bathrooms- all available. Seems like a great compromise to be able to camp and yet have the conveniences we’ve all gotten so accustomed to.

Like Wi-Fi.

And a toilet.

And a pool.

So I’m spoiled! Aren’t you?

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Great Grilling Recipes for Camping

Now, like I said, we weren’t equipped to cook (nor did I want to, I was tired!) but Camp Grilling is a fun way to get everyone together.  Food brings us all together, so why not make it GREAT food?  Here are a few of my favorite grilling recipes for you to try:

 

 

 

 

Behind the Yellow Sign of KOA Kampgrounds

If you are looking for a great place to camp, whether in a tent, camper, RV, or maybe even a cabin, you should definitely look in  to what’s behind the yellow sign of a KOA Kampground.  There are so many to choose from, and you can check pricing and availability from their very user friendly website.

Have you stayed at one already?  Where was it, and what did you think?  I’d love to know…I’m always up for a little more travel!

For more ways to find KOA Kampgrounds

Trekaroo bloggers and Mom It Forward bloggers are sharing their discoveries of “What’s Behind the Yellow Sign”.  You know, that KOA yellow sign that you often see whizzing by you on road trips? Well, wonder no more. Read honest reviews as well as family tips on fantastic camping recipes, crafts, camping activities and much more.  Get a look of KOA life through their photos and stories. Snag some camping tips for your next camping trip and then win a chance to stay in a Deluxe Cabin or to camp at a KOA this year.  You’ll get to discover for yourself “What’s Behind the Yellow Sign.”

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The Steal: KOA Giveaway with 3 winners

Whether you’re looking for total relaxation or family fun; KOA creates amazing camping experiences.  Learn more about KOA and Win FREE camping at any KOA Campground in North America.  Your family’s next great memory is waiting just Behind the Yellow Sign

Details: One (1) winner will win the grand prize and two (2) runner up winners will receive the second prize.

Grand Prize:

3 complimentary KOA Camping Vouchers good for one night apiece; including Deluxe Cabins, at any KOA campground in North America. Prize Value: $500

Runner Up Prizes:

2 complimentary KOA Camping Vouchers good for one night apiece; including Deluxe Cabins, at any KOA campground in North America.  Prize Value: $300

How do you enter to win?  Just follow this link!  Good Luck!

I have received a complimentary stay at a KOA via Kampgrounds of America. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post for Mom It Forward.

Traveling Cross Country…an American Road Trip

Have you noticed I’ve been absent?

I have been.  So sorry!  But, summer is slow here in Food Blog Land, so I packed up my little family and headed West!

That’s right, as of June 11, I have been on the road, seeing the sights, eating the foods (so many foods!), walking the walks and combing the beaches.  We’ve been on boats and winding roads, in Nuclear Power Plants, perusing old volcanic grounds, eating meals from high above the cities, and splashing in cold Pacific waters…but we aren’t even halfway through our journey!

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I’ve got so many things to tell you – and I will! – but as for now, I just wanted to update you on my whereabouts.  No, I am NOT missing!  As I write this, I am curled up in a gorgeous inn in Mendocino, California, after riding all morning down the Pacific Coast Highway and Route 1.  It was quite a drive, and one that was amazingly beautiful…but I will start with my Day One.

Virginia – West Virginia – Ohio – Indiana

 

Most of the sights were in West Virginia…we stopped at The New River Gorge Bridge for a quick hike to the amazing viewpoint.  From there we went deep into the countryside, to a tourist attraction that certainly lives up to it’s name – Mystery Hole.  Please don’t ask me the mystery…I have my theories, but, honestly – you’d be better off if I just didn’t share them.  It was a fun little stop, though…

After our tour, we continued on through the mountains, stopping to photograph an unexpected waterfall named Cathedral Falls, and then pushed forward to Point Pleasant, WV, the home of the alleged and famed Mothman.

West Virginia quickly changed to Ohio, and then to Indiana, where we stopped for the evening.  Everyone was beat after such a long day, so we grabbed a quick bite and tucked ourselves in for a much needed night of sleep.  The next day took us on the Chicago…and WAY beyond!  Stay tuned!

Travel: It’s All Bigger in Texas

I’ve heard that.  You know, the Everything is bigger in Texas thing.

It may be true.  What I do know for sure?  Texas has a lot to offer, especially in Houston and The Woodlands.

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A couple of weeks ago, I flew out to Houston with Paula to meet up with one of our favorite PR mavens, Kim, who happens to work with the gorgeous Woodlands Resort just outside of Houston.  We hopped in our rental (no, we didn’t get the Porsche Panamera, but wouldn’t that have been hot?) and within about 20 minutes, we were on our way up to the exclusive Treetops Level of our resort.

Whoa.

From the minute we arrived we were greeted with big, Texas smiles, welcome packets, valet parkers, lots of information, and the friendliest service you could ask for.  But once we reached our room level, we KNEW we were in for a real treat.

First up, a large communal area waited just outside the elevator doors, complete with television, large, comfortable lounging, and so many snacks. SO MANY.  Candies, fruits, chips, drinks – you name it, we could have made a meal of it!  But did we?

I’ll never tell.

What I will tell you is that upon opening the door to our fantastic two bedroom suite, we were greeted with a CD player playing Panic at the Disco!  Turns out these folks had been snooping around my blog and knew just what I wanted to hear!  Attention to detail, folks – The Woodlands has it in spades.

I let Paula take the room with the king bed (whaaa?) and I took a room with two doubles.  Both had great bathrooms, plenty of lounging areas, upscale décor, and nice smelling soaps.  (I am a shampoo snob, this place did it right!)  We also shared a large living/dining area and kitchen, and there was a powder room as well.  Perfect for a group to share, or a family.  Nice views, too!

Out back was a huge pool area, and the resort is in the midst of building an enormous lazy river, due to open this summer.  I can’t wait to go back and try it out!

We ate many of our meals in the main dining room, and the food was fantastic.  The chicken wings were to die for – in fact, I’ve already had Jon recreate them here at home I loved them so much…so stay tuned for that!

Oooh – we hit the spa, too!  So relaxing!  I had the hot stone massage, and it was out of this world.  It was even nice just hanging out in the common room by the fire, chatting and drinking the fruit infused water. What a way to start a day, right?

Paula and I are thinking that next year, we may have to host our Mixed Conference at The Woodlands – it’s ideal for groups and has so much to offer.  How awesome would that be?

So…what else did we do?

Well, on Saturday, another blogger buddy met up with us! Pamela from y Man’s Belly flew down from Dallas to join us at Rodeo Houston.

Rodeo Houston.

HUGE-EO.  Puts the West Virginia State Fair to shame.  Shopping, eating, deep fried everything.  I bought a gorgeous cowhide rug…I couldn’t help myself.  And then there was the actual rodeo…

So many cowboys, so little time.  Names like Tuf. Cody. Chase. Colt.  I just wanted to drink them all in, boys riding bulls and making it look easy.  All with that twang, you know the one.  Good stuff.

Following the rodeo was a concert – The Band Perry.  They did a bang up job and the crowd loved them. I would definitely recommend tickets to the rodeo for anyone interested – it has so much going on and lasts for 3 weeks.  Full of great bands, cowboys, and of course…that fried food I mentioned.  How could you go wrong?

All in all, it was a GREAT weekend, and I can’t wait to go back again.  Have you been?  Anything you would recommend?  I’m all ears!

The Woodlands Resort

A mere thirty minutes from downtown Houston, Texas a world of natural beauty meets high-tech convenience – and welcoming smiles are ready to grant even the most challenging of requests. An ideal destination for families and couples to relax
and refresh, it’s also a world-class venue for conferences. Close to home, but worlds away, The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center awaits your arrival.

The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center

2301 North Millbend Drive, The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Toll Free: 800.433.2624 · Hotel Direct Number: 281.367.1100

A Fun Trip to Boston

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this trip with you yet.  Of course, it feels like I JUST went, but, it’s been a full month now!

Back in the day, pre-kiddo, Jon and I would take a huge trip every year for my birthday, which just so happens to also be our wedding anniversary.  Now?  It’s harder to get away, as Seven has school, and skipping town for a month to traipse around Southeast Asia is a little tougher to do.

So, this year, we took a long weekend and flew up to Boston to celebrate, and celebrate we did.

The trip was almost a huge flop, though.

Turns out, my grand idea of being safe, and flying from Charlotte, which was bound to be warmer and less likely to have airport issues, was kind of for naught. You see, we left a little after 3am to head 3 hours south to Charlotte, and as we were about an hour away, I notice on my Delta App that it is now time for me to CHECK IN.  Not a big deal except it wanted me to check in for my flight THE NEXT DAY.

That’s not cool.

Why the change?  The Atlanta Snow-pocalypse.  Every flight into and out of Atlanta, which we were headed through, was cancelled.  I flipped a chicken…but apparently I did it in the right way.  I called, I used my sweet voice.  I whined a little.  And even though flights were oversold and I was told I would be placed on standby for a flight through JFK instead of Atlanta – I called back after a few minutes and we got confirmed and upgraded to first class and sent on our way, only 3 hours later than originally planned.  Bonus of the morning was a nice little nap in the truck in the Charlotte parking garage. Lol.

So…we arrived in Boston with just enough time to grab a car to our hotel for the weekend, the Revere Boston Common.  I had been tweeting throughout the day with the hotel (I love to do this in advance of arriving, and the hotels seem to get a kick out of interacting with guests this way), so when we got there, guess what we were treated to?

A HUGE upgrade.  We landed ourselves in a fancy Penthouse level suite, with a full living room and bedroom, and a magnificent view over all of Boston.  Just stunning!

We quickly freshened up and then busted tail over to the House of Blues, where we had box seats to see one of my favorite bands – Panic at the Disco.  I don’t care how old I am – I LOVE their fresh and funky style of music!  We barely made it – the first act had already finished and the second band was about to wrap up, but we didn’t miss a second of Panic.  So lucky!  Of course, Brendan and company didn’t disappoint (just like when I jetted off to Vegas for their concert in November – I know, groupie!)  Such a fun night and I think even Jon enjoyed them, despite his distaste of any music I like.

The next day we spent the morning sleeping in, and then walked around the city, shopping.  We stumbled upon the Old City Hall just in time for lunch…and housed in this landmark building?  Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  We had a great lunch in a beautiful setting.

Later that evening we had a ball at Myers & Chang, a hip and happening restaurant in town.  PACKED.  Just PACKED!  Luckily I had been tweeting with one of the owners earlier in the week, and we were able to sneak in a reservation for ourselves and our college friends who live in Boston.  I’m not sure if it’s always that packed, but the night we were there turned out to be Chinese New Year.  Dim Sum, all kinds of noodles, meats, dumplings…sweet, spicy…just deliciousness in every bite!  And – Joanne Chang came out to say hello, and we were all thrilled to meet her!  Stunned she came out on such a busy night to say hello.  To ME! Whoa.

From there, we made our way to The Four Seasons for a few more goodies, as well as drinks and DESSERT.  The chef hooked us up with some appetizers – thanks! – but the dessert.  Oh my lord, the Chocolate Cake Tower.  Ridiculous.  I can’t say I’ve ever had a chocolate cake any better than that one.  Fun night – and we turned in after 1.  ONE!  I felt like such a grown up!  (And look at the view at night from the Revere! Stunning, right?)

The next day was more incredible experiences.

We met Jon’s friends who made the drive down from New Hampshire, and they treated us to lunch at a funky Italian restaurant – and get this – front row seats, right on the ice! – at the Boston Bruins game!  We walked over from lunch, bought a custom jersey (I HAD to, they even put our name and 7 on it!) and totally enjoyed the game.  The Bruins won against the Edmonton Oilers, so good times!

From there we walked around a bit, then grabbed a cab to head back to the Revere.  A quick nap (I needed that!) and then it was time to get gussied up to meet Melanie over at Davio’s for dinner.

I wore my new Christian Leboutins – those giant boots nearly killed me.  The red soles are slippery, and talllllll.  They do look hot though, so, there’s that.  Davio’s was just the right place to break them in – Melanie knows the owner and the food is fantastic.  Everything is so well done.  Despite being a classy, upscale restaurant, the prices are very reasonable, and the food is NOT FUSSY. Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Pork Belly and Apples?  Like, real food without crazy concoctions.  And diverse?  Very.  An excellent meal all the way around.  I highly recommend it if you are anywhere a Davio’s is!

 

After dinner we once again headed to the Four Seasons (I can’t help it, once I love a place, I love a place) and hooked up with a few more blogging friends for the late night dessert buffet.  Yes, really!  It is to die for…all kinds of goodies, like chocolate covered strawberries, cake pops, pie, cheesecake, sundaes – and a CREPE BAR.  Swoon.  We had all we could! (Now I am on a diet, primarily due to that weekend. Go figure.)

So…that was my weekend.  We flew home without any setbacks, and I lived to tell the tale.

What’s your favorite thing about Boston?  What have I missed?  I know – a LOT.  But I want to go back, time and again, so fill me in!

Get Some Sleep!

This may not be the first thing you want to read on a MONDAY…but SLEEP.

Sleep, sleep, sleep.

You want a  nap now, don’t you?  I bet you do.  It’s cold out, probably raining or snowing wherever you are (of course!), and after too short of a weekend, you would just like to call it a day and hit the sack.

I hear you.

But…hang in there.

After all, it’s National Sleep Awareness Week, and thanks to Procter and Gamble, I got to attend a mini-conference on all things sleep a few days ago, at the P&G Headquarters in Cincinnati.

Did you even know that P&G is in Cincy?  I didn’t.  I just assumed the titanic company would be headquartered somewhere like Chicago, or LA, or New York.  A BIG city.  But no, quaint and efficient Cincinnati is their home, and has been since Day One.  Why change a good thing?

We had a ball visiting – we were treated to a super fun hotel, called the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown.  Art was everywhere, and so were giant yellow penguins!  A cocktail party with photo opps and BEDS, more penguins, and a fantastic signature cocktail was a great way to kick off our stay, so that we could mix and mingle with the other bloggers from across the country. 

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After the party?  SNUGGIES in our rooms!  Did I seriously post photos of myself in it?  Ummm….well, yeah.  I blame the signature cocktails.

The next morning we were treated to breakfast in bed, then off we went to the P&G Headquarters.  Let me say right off…could this place have been cleaner or smelled any better?  No.  THAT, my friends, was as impressive as a tour through the archives of all things P&G!  (By the way, I took this picture of the façade with my iPhone, then used the Waterlogue App to make it all watercolory.  Cool, right?)

But back to sleep.  Like I said, it’s National Sleep Awareness Week, and if you are anything at all like me, you could use a better night’s sleep.  It’s okay – we all do.  We are so stressed out from work, hobbies, school, errands, bills – it adds up.  But from what I learned at the conference, and from pure common sense – NOT getting enough sleep, and GOOD sleep makes the stress even worse.

I’m not sure why we negate sleep like we do – it seems to fall in rankings to eating well and exercise, but it really should mean more to us.  Without sleep, our bodies can’t regroup, can’t rest, can’t be our best.  The average adult should be getting a good 7 to 9 hours per night…and most of us are far less than that.  I know I get that, usually…but not always.  My husband?  I don’t know how but he survives on about 5 and 1/2 hours.  I couldn’t do it.  All of us are different though, and we all have different needs.

As I write this though, I feel like I could sleep a good three days.  Maybe more.

So, how do we get better sleep?  I know for me it is often hard to fall asleep, which results in tossing and turning.  That’s aggravating.  But the folks at P&G have some advice and some products that could help both of us.

Get some exercise.  Exercise does the body good, and also tires us out.  A tired body sleeps.  So take a hike, take the stairs, do some jumping jacks…just do something, and sleep will more easily find you.

Eat well, and don’t eat late.  We all know this.  Snacking before bedtime does nothing for us.  Try to eat your dinner and then call it quits.

Set a bedtime routine.  Maybe grab a shower at the same time each night, light a candle, listen to some soothing music.  Just be as consistent as possible, and your body will recognize the signals and know it’s time to sleep.

Get comfortable.  Good sheets, good pillows, cool temperature (under 70 or less is best) and a dark room free of electronics (I know, the horror!) will lead to better sleep.  Give it a try!

Block it out.  Have you tried a white noise machine?  I know it sounds silly, but these things really do seem to work.  Even in a quiet environment there’s something soothing about that faint, non-thinking sound.

Soothe your senses.  Smells of honey, lavender, and jasmine are great to encourage sleep, so stock up.  In support of the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week™ 2014, March 2-9, P&G Fabric Care is launching the Sweet Dreams Collection, including Tide® plus a touch of Downy™ Sweet Dreams™, Downy® UNSTOPABLES® Dreams™, Downy Infusions® Sweet Dreams™, and Bounce® Sweet Dreams™, which can transform your bedtime fabrics to help you relax so you can fall asleep.  Febreze has a new line of products called that feature these scents.  Sprays, air fresheners, candles, you name it.  They smell incredible – so soft.  Tide, Downy, and Bounce all have a sleepy scent now as well, so toss those sheets and jammies in the wash with the new line and drift off to dreamland.  My favorite of the products?  Downy UnStopables.  I’ve LOVED these things since Day One and can’t say enough good things about them.  They LAST for weeks.  Turns out, as you use the sheets or towels, the soft scent gets rubbed from the fibers and KEEPS on smelling fresh.  Weeks I tell you.  I love being able to open my bedroom door and smelling the clean smell.  Now that there’s a Sweet Dreams scent?  I’m in heaven.

In support of the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week™ 2014, March 2-9, P&G Fabric Care is launching the Sweet Dreams Collection, including Tide® plus a touch of Downy™ Sweet Dreams™, Downy® UNSTOPABLES® Dreams™, Downy Infusions® Sweet Dreams™, and Bounce® Sweet Dreams™, which can transform your bedtime fabrics to help you relax so you can fall asleep. (Photo: Business Wire)

 

Still can’t sleep?  Try ZzzQuil.  It’s non-habit forming (I should know!) and really does help.  It’s just for sleep, and I don’t feel that groggy feeling in the morning like I do with other brands.  Sometimes we all need a little help…so why not give it a try?

So…what do YOU do to get better sleep?  Do you have trouble at night?  Have you tried any of these new products?  If so, I’d love to hear what you thought.

And Hey…wake up!  You can sleep tonight…I hope!

Decorating a Float for the Rose Parade…with Dole!

You don’t have to tell me – I KNOW.  I know I am lucky.  I get amazing opportunities, I know fantastic people, I work with incredible companies.

Take Dole, for example.

I love the relationships I have made with the brand, from the great PR team that I consider to be friends (hey Jess and Julie!), to the executives (hi Michael and Dave!) to the go getting team (hellooo Rich and Rosemary!) – I am so humbled that these people invite me to things.

Like the Rose Parade.

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Over a casual dinner with the Dole team in Las Vegas last November, we casually discuss the Rose Parade, and that Dole has a float in it again in 2014.  Rosemary, my new friend (beside me in that pic up there!), says I should try to come.  Well, hmmm.

Two weeks later, Dole has booked my ticket and hotel, and I’m actually going to Pasadena for the new year to help decorate the Dole Float!

The trip was an absolute whirlwind.  Insane!  I arrived without incident (early, even!) into LA, and went to get my rental car.

Rental car.  In LA.

Did you know they have like, a multitude of huge highways that run parallel and perpendicular and overlapping all at once?  And each of them are 5-7 lanes wide?  On each side?  And that a GPS from small town Virginia freaks out in that situation, dumping it’s driver off on exits incorrectly and the word RECALCULATING might as well be a four letter word?

It happens.

But surprisingly enough, I made it to my hotel in downtown LA – The Westin Bonaventure – without too much incident, and even had time for a brief nap before heading out tom Pasadena and Irwindale.  My room was so high up!  Great, too, because off in the distance, I could see the Hollywood sign.  I guess that shows the small town girl in me…but I loved that view.

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So – Pasadena.

I made my way to this sweet town, full of gorgeous homes and tree lined streets, and found the mansion that houses all things Tournament of Roses.  I picked up my media credentials (I felt like such a grown up, you have no idea), and then hit the highway for Irwindale, where the floats are actually put together.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I arrived at Fiesta Floats, the Who’s Who of float companies.  A HUGE warehouse, and in it?  A dozen floats, wrapped in scaffolding, boards, flowers, volunteers, glue, ladders, more glue, and more flowers.  The hustle and bustle of so much going on was staggering…I didn’t know what to expect, but wow.  It was overwhelming.

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Rosemary found me and gave me the tour – the Dole Float, the SeaWorld Float, the volunteer flower station, the Glue Shed (kid you not), and then showed me where to jump in.

The float has been under production for over 10 months – yes, really – and the final push is once it’s time to get the fresh flowers on.  Other things, like seeds, dried bits, moss, those things have been underway for months, but obviously, the fresh flowers have to wait until the last minute.  As you’ve seen, that’s no small feat – the Rose Parade floats are COVERED in fresh flowers.  In fact, everything visible on a float has to be covered in a natural material…and a big portion of this is fresh flowers.  It all started with a concept…and then it came to life!  There is even a live mandarin orange tree on this float, which is planted after…too cool!

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I worked on a couple of different sections, starting with the swags covered in purple flowers that are draped on a couple of the camels standing at the front of the float.  Once I had the four swags done (you’d be shocked how long these take, and how much glue you use – I was covered!), I moved on to helping Rosemary with where she had been toiling along.

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Peacocks. Two enormous white peacocks graced the float, and their huge tails were covered in feathers made of coconut, rice, green button flowers, beans, and orchids.  They were STUNNING.  Each feather had to be glued into place, which took a lot of time, as each feather had a special shape, and matching up shapes proved to be a lot of work!  But, late into the night, we had those peacocks covered…so they were ready for their judging the following morning!

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I made it back to Fiesta Floats in plenty of time to watch the judging the next morning, a big production where a team of judges gets the chance to see each float up close and personal before they make their trip to Pasadena, complete with music, riders, confetti, dancers – it’s all judged!  The Dole Float of course looked amazing, with all of its imported flowers, cascading waterfalls, belly dancers, and theme music – we were all so pleased!  Of course, there were other beautiful Fiesta floats, including the Miracle-Gro and SeaWorld floats…I loved some of those details.  Sorry – but I just have to show you a bunch of details you can’t see from the TV or afar – everything is stunning!

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All that was left was a long trek to Pasadena to line up for the following day’s parade, so I went back to the hotel and settled in for a New Year’s Eve all to my lonesome – where I watched the fireworks from my room light up different areas of LA.

By 3am I was up and at ‘em – I had to get to Pasadena and the parade early, so I was there a little after 430 cruising for parking.  Trust me, do not do this.  Ever.  There is no place to park unless you cry.  Which I did, and the guards took mercy on me.  DO not underestimate the effect Southern Girl Tears can have on an old man in a white suit.  I got my spot, right off of the parade route.

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At 6, we awaited the awards news in front of the the Rose Parade headquarters.  There are lots of different awards, but the biggie – the Sweepstakes Award for most beautiful float – is the one that we all wanted.  Dole has only had a float for 3 years, but for each of those 3, they took the Sweepstakes.  Fingers crossed for a fourth!

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By 615 we had our answer – Dole won!  A lot of hugs, cheers, and sighs of relief were all around, but no one dwelled on it too long – there was so much going on!  HGTV, LA news stations, and other media were buzzing about interviewing, the White Suits were trying to get the crowds out of the street and the floats into position, the horses and riders were falling into line – it was chaotic but fun!  We eventually made it to our seats at the start of the Parade (Thanks Dave & Rosemary for the great seat!) and the Parade started.

To see the Dole Float draw such chatter and oohs and ahhs from the crowd was priceless.  I feel so honored to have been able to do ANYTHING on it – what an experience!

A HUGE thanks to all of the folks at Finn Partners and Dole for making all of this possible for me.  I am touched and still kind of in shock.  I loved it!

I’ll leave you with some extra details about the float, in case you get as geeked out about things like that as I do.  Thanks for letting me share such an awesome experience with you!


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Wrapping Up 2013…Part Two

Okay, okay…I wrote the first part of this wrap up over two weeks ago, swearing I would write the rest of it the VERY NEXT DAY.

I meant I would write it today.  or something like that.  You see, I got lazy, or busy, or lazy.  It happens.  But honest, I didn’t mean to let this wrap up of my incredible 2013 linger quite this long.  Because really?  September through December of last year was chock full of great things, and I was a lucky, lucky gal.

In case you missed Part One, my January through August 2013 post and want to take a peek – you can find it here.  But this post?  Well, let’s kick this post off with September and go from there.

September

September was primarily filled with planning, prepping, and working my butt off with Paula trying to get our November Conference, called Mixed, up and running.  We had close to 100 folks to prepare for, and we wanted success, so that involved some long, lonnnngggg days.

Seven had also started back to school, which meant – Mama had to get used to crawling out of bed early to drive him to school.  I had gotten used to those lazy mornings of sleeping in!  But, it also meant that my days were a bit freer, and therefore I could do a little more work. IMG_9266 Lucky me!

 

One big change for me happened in September – I started doing cooking segments on a nearly NBC talk show – Daytime Blue Ridge on WSLS.  I’ve made some great girlfriends there, and have been back a BUNCH of times now, but that first segment, whoa, was I ever nervous!  Live TV?  Eeek!

Towards the end of the month, I flew off to Chicago for a dinner with the Food Integrity group, learning more about GMOs and other food facts.  Quick trip, but fun and informative, and I got to see my gal Roxi there, so bonus!

IMG_9529At the very end of the month, though, I was in for a treat!  The Idaho Potato group flew me out to Idaho for several days of everything POTATO!  I had a great time with old friends and making new ones, learning about 453 different ways to make potatoes, and maybe even a late night dip in a hot tub full of spud lovers.  Maybe.  I can’t exactly admit any of that.

From Idaho, I flew directly to New York City, which brings me to October…

October

I arrived after a bunch of delays into JFK, in and of itself the worst airport I have been privy to, and that’s saying a LOT.  A confused cabbie dropped me at an airport hotel close to 2am, I slept, and then found my way into downtown, where I checked in to my NYC HomeAwayFromHome, the Waldorf Astoria.  Sorry if this sounds bratty, but Good Lord after the debacle from the night before, I was so glad to be in such a place!

That weekend it was off to the Greenwich Wine & Food Festival, where I was a “Celebrity Chef” presenter, along with my chef friend Mike Behmoiras, who I teamed up with to make some crazy s’mores for the crowd.  I was also able to see a lot of great friends there in Greenwich – like Sam, Danielle, some buddies from college, and of course, Duff Goldman.  Being a presenter there was kind of surreal, but so much fun!

IMG_9717I wrapped up October with a few things…I turned Seven into a zombie for Halloween – in fact, a Michael Jackson Thriller Video Zombie.  He’s a huge MJ fan ( I swear, I didn’t encourage this, he did it on his own, he has a style and imagination all his own.)  He came home with about 42 times more candy than any one person needs in a year, so I’m guessing 0 success?

  I also celebrated Jon’s big 4-0 with a visit from college buddies who all came in from afar to stay with us for the weekend, tailgate, play, and eat cake, of course!  And, while they were all here that weekend…I had my hair dyed.  Pink.

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November

Oh, November.  I don’t even know if I have the energy to type it up.

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November took me back to Vegas for the second time in 3 months, this time for a week.  I was there with Dole to document the World Food Championships, held in DOWNtown.  I’d never been to the Old School Vegas before, and wow, is it ever different than the Strip. Fun, yeah, but different!

Remember Ally, who I helped out at the Dole California Cook-Off?  She was a big part of the WFCs, and came in the Top 10 of her division there, so congrats, Ally!  Not only was I there to cheer on Dole and Ally, I met some great new folks, including Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, and Matt Pelton, the manliest man I ever ran across who knows what brie is and how to use it!  Matt was also in the WFCs, and his Mac & Cheese was incredible.  He’s shared the recipe with me, and honest?  I’m too intimidated to attempt it.  Yet.

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IMG_9871While in town, my new friend Melanie flew in all the way from Boston to play for a few days, so every evening we would taxi off to the Strip for fine dining (beware the “Open Food charge.  Trust me.), makeovers at Sephora, shopping, more eating, and overall big fun.  It was so great to have her there!

Right after returning home, it was time for MixedPaula came in early and we spent a few days getting everything organized on site.  What an adventure!  That Thursday, our speakers and a few sponsors rolled into town, we had some great food, and then EVERYONE descended on site!  We worked and ate and laughed all weekend, catching up with old friends and making new ones…what an awesome time!

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IMG_0240A few days later, I celebrated my very first Hanukkah.  Chef Mike and his mother, Linda, are both Jewish, and they invited us to first night, where Mike made doughnuts and latkes – we had a wonderful time, and Seven learned to play dreidel – he loved it!

Thanksgiving was the next day, so we celebrated at my parents and my huge extended family.  It’s a tradition, and over 40 cousins, aunt, uncles an the like were there.  it’s one of the best days of the year!

As a last minute splurge, I bought tickets to a concert for Jon and I two days later…in Las Vegas.  I know!  Crazy!  We jumped on a flight to Sin City and arrived in time for to see Panic at the Disco and Thirty Second to Mars perform in a smaller venue – so amazing!  Just like with Melanie, Jon and I ate very well, visiting Scarpetta, Fix, and others.  Indulgence was the name of the game!  We also saw an amazing show – Absinthe – at Caesars Palace.  I’d do that again in a heartbeat.

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December

Other than work, which I did a lot of, I can’t even remember December.  Yes, I know it was just a few weeks ago, but good gravy, the time flew by.

Christmas with the family happened, of course…so we did that.  Always so much fun – and this year, they didn’t make me make ANYTHING! (Lol, last year they surprised me by having me make a cheesecake, from scratch, no warning.  So I wrote a post about it.  Must’ve worked, haha!)

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I wrapped up the month by jetting off to Los Angeles on the 30th – for real! – and finally, incredibly, making Gold Medallion on Delta.  Yay!  I flew out to help with the decorating of the Dole Rose Parade Float – and gosh, I can’t even tell you how incredible that experience was.  You’ll just have to stay tuned, as I have a post all about it coming up shortly.  Fantastic time!

So whew…that was my year.

It was a whirlwind, it was unexpected, and it was one of the best 12 months any one person can ever hope for.  I feel like 2014 will have to be a let down after a year like that, but who knows?

You never know what could be lurking just around the corner.

Happy 2014 to you!!

Wrapping Up 2013…Part One

This post is mostly for me.  To remember.  To reflect.  To remind myself I have it good…and I do.  I really do.  It’s just hard to remember the good when you are so caught up in the day to day of work and life.

I know I wrote a post at the beginning of the year, scared to death of what 2013 would hold for me.  I was freaked out, to say the least, because I just KNEW this year couldn’t measure up to 2012.

So I worked.  I worked like a madman.  Too much?  Perhaps.  But I sunk everything I had into making my blog and my work WORK.  I wanted to provide for my family. I wanted to make some kind of difference.  I wanted to see and do things – experience new things – I wanted to make friends and laugh.  I wanted to treat my son to things that so many kids do not get to do.

I think I succeeded.  So much in fact, that the I’m Scared of 2014 Blog Post is bound to happen…because again, I am nervous.  Until that happens, I’m going to write about the highlights of my 2013.  Read them if you like, click away if you like.  As I said, this post is for me, but if you enjoy it – and I hope you do, as it is because of SO MANY of YOU that I had this banner year – I hope you’ll let me know.  I appreciate each and every one of you.

January

IMG_5708Bree came here to visit for a few days to photograph my S’mores cookbook, which was due in a few short weeks.  It was great having her here, and we knocked it out like we knew what we were doing!

Immediately after Bree left, my husband Jon and I packed Seven up and we headed to The Greenbrier for a few days of R&R…it was much needed!  If you’ve not been – go.  The Greenbrier is amazing.  The Casino, the food, the Spa, the indoor pool, the bowling – we had such a fun time, as did Seven!

The following week, Jon surprised me with a Royal Caribbean cruise, which was relaxing and a great way to kick off the year and celebrate the end of my book work.  We travel so well together, and it was nice to get away, just the two of us.  We ended our cruise with a weekend at the Four Seasons Miami – oh my!  Gorgeous.

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Later that month I was in Birmingham to speak at Food Blog South, my first conference speaking gig.  Even though both Paula and I got a touch of food poisoning while there, we managed to get through it!

February

Being a food blogger has it’s perks – The Hotel Hershey invited us up for Chocolate Covered February, for a weekend stay, chocolate and wine tastings, treatments at the Hershey Spa, and meals like no other.  So much fun!

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March

The first weekend of March, we packed up and headed to The Homestead Resort with Seven.  The Jefferson Pools (oh so famous) are so relaxing at a balmy 99 degrees – and it was bitter cold outside!  Great food, a fantastic resort, and lots of quality family time…can’t say enough good things here!

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One sunny weekend my little family and I spent the weekend in Washington, DC, doing a bit of sightseeing.  We also met up with Miss Bree again, and our kiddos played together after a great dinner – so much fun!

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Dallas!  I attended Blissdom in Dallas, Texas, at the Gaylord.  I was so thrilled to have my Blogging Besties with me – Paula, Brandi and Meredith – we must have watched Pitch Perfect a million times!  We also made plenty of time for umm, choosing Zombie Apolycypse partners in the Sports Bar, seeing Reckless Kelly in concert, and ordering room service!  Oh, the stories we just can’t tell…

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April

April was a bit slower for me, but Jon and I did sneak away for a weekend in Baltimore and Annapolis, where we visited our friends Jeff & Ann.  Great meals at the Four Seasons in Baltimore, a lot of boating, and quaint shopping in Annapolis made for a really great weekend.

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IMG_6909May

I kicked off May with a trip to southern California, where I threw an event for a sponsor.  Before heading to my event locale, I had lunch at The BLVD at the Four Seasons..and guess who I saw?  Harry Connick, Jr.!  He even tweeted me ! Woooot!

But onto the event!  I got to stay in the most incredible villa – complete with theater room, pool, hot tub, and so much more…sweet!  We had a very successful evening, full of great bloggers and food – good times with good people!  From there I flew home and May really swung into full gear.

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Another cruise!!  While I was at Blissdom, I met a lovely lady who worked for Carnival Cruise lines, and she invited my family on a weeklong cruise to the Western Caribbean!  So, for a week we sailed and ate, played and shopped, and had an incredibly good time.  It was Seven’s first cruise, and to say he enjoyed it is an understatement!

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June

IMG_7195June began with BlogHer Food in Austin.  Again I reunited with my girlfriends for 5 days of parties! (And, yeah, there was a conference, too.)  We started with a Spa day courtesy of Dixie Crystals, then another spa day for Paula and I, lots of other parties, then a huge Dole Luncheon at our gorgeous mansion.  After 14 events we were partied out but was it ever a great time.  I love hosting events for my sponsors, and Dixie Crystals and Dole are just two of the very best brands you could ever ask to work for.

 

 

Later that month I judged a cake competition with my new-to-me friend Chef Mike Behmoiras…it’s always an honor to be considered worthy to judge anything at all, and this was my third year judging, so I hope that means I am doing something right!

Finally, I spent the end of June in Santa Monica with the Dole California Cookoff, where I was the sous chef for my new friend Ally – her amazing recipe WON her $25,000!  I was thrilled to be a part of it!

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July

Good Lord, July.

We spent the 4th at Mountain Lake Lodge.  In fact, we spent several days there, and had an absolute ball.  Paula and her family joined us as well, and we ate and played like there was no tomorrow.  We went and did the Treetop Adventure with our families – dig the hats?

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IMG_7648On July 11, I had my Cookbook launch party at The Bank Food & Drink – where I gave a little presentation, we had lots of s’mores, and all of my dear friends and family joined me for a wonderful dinner to celebrate.  What a relief to see the book in print, and what a great way to relax and smile knowing I had achieved something I set out to do!

Not long after that, Jon and I packed up and headed back for more boating with friends in Baltimore – this time we played non-stop.  Swimming holes each day, great food each night – we took in all there was to see and do!

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Soon after I flew off to the Windy City for BlogHer, and another weekend of parties…including one of my own!  Courtesy of Hershey’s, I kicked off a S’mores Cookbook tour at the Hard Rock Café Chicago, and you can’t even imagine how unreal that was!  I got to meet up with one of my favorite bloggers – Jamie of StickyFeet Part Deux – who I had only been friends with online until then.  So surreal to sit and eat, chatting as if we’d always known each other – but SO GREAT.

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August

I was home very little in August…the S’mores Cookbook Tour was in full swing.  First stop – Boston – which was made amazing thanks to my now dear friend Melanie of A Beautiful Bite.  She joined me for a delicious dinner at my host hotel – The Four Seasons Boston – and then arranged a blogger brunch for us in Cambridge so that I could share my cookbook with even MORE friends.  How great is that!?

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From there I took the train to New York City for another stop of the book tour, and another brunch that was out of this world.  My hotel, The Waldorf Astoria, was a gracious host and hooked us up with the most wonderful meal, including s’mores desserts so decadent it’s impossible to describe them.

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While in NYC, I had plenty of time on my own to wander the city…and wander I did. Turns out I managed to wander right into Times Square on Underwear Day- where I stripped to my skivvies and joined the masses in hopes of setting the new World Record for people in their underwear!

After New York,  I went on to Las Vegas, where I played with my friend Jill, and also promoted the book with even more blogger friends.  I finally met Kari from Retro Bakery (yay!!), I went to a couple of shows, I shopped…and I got tattoos!

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From Vegas I went on to Los Angeles, and spent a few days touring and playing.  I hooked up with my friend Jessica who works PR for Dole – she even picked me up from the airport and took me to lunch, so sweet!  An afternoon walk around Beverly Hills landed me back at The Four IMG_8474Seasons Beverly Wilshire (my stomping grounds when I am in LA) where I met up with my friend Jeremy, the GM of The BLVD restaurant at the Four Seasons.  He treats me way too good, and it was fun to catch up over Pimm’s Cups and Cronuts!

I also met up with the owner of Grub LA – the one and only Chef Betty Fraser.  Betty and I met in LA at the event I hosted in May, and let me tell you, her restaurant is TOP NOTCH. (Top Chef Top Notch, lol!)  Betty even joined in for my Cookbook Party in LA, which was hosted at my friends place…you may have heard of him.  Duff Goldman?

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Yep!  Duff’s Cakemix is where I had my party, and we had a great time decorating cakes, talking and laughing…such fun!  Duff actually wrote the foreword for my S’mores cookbook, so it was fun to have the party there and kind of bring it all full circle.  Thanks, Duff!

I left LA one morning and took the train – yes, the train – north, all the way to Seattle.  36 hours, a private room, lots of meals in the dining car, and one hell of a great experience.  I can NOT tell you how wonderful that was, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  The peace and scenery, the meals, the nostalgia of a different time and place…it was just incredible.  I intend to write a full post about it, and I’m sad to say I just haven’t yet…but it will happen!

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IMG_9047Once I arrived in Seattle, I had my final stop on the West Coast book tour – again – The Four Seasons!  ART in The Four Seasons hosted our luncheon, and it was great to hook up with some great bloggers there.  I love having friends all across the country, and these were ones I really can’t get enough of!

Finally I came home, just a few days before Seven started First Grade, and the following weekend we had his 6th Birthday Party….whew!!  August was a whirlwind!


Wow! This post is LONG.  I’m going to stop here and do a Part Two tomorrow…so much more good stuff happened in 2013 – I want to make sure I get it all on paper!

Loving Las Vegas…and a Huge Giveaway!

Good morning!  I hope you had a great weekend, and are ready for a fun giveaway to continue my 12 Days of Giveaways!  if you haven’t already, you still have time to get in on the KitchenAid Mixer and Waffle Baker Giveaways, so make sure you do that!

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Today, however, is a little more, well, travel-y.

This year, I have found myself in Las Vegas a whopping 3 times.  Since August – 3 times.  All told, it’s amounted to 15 days, and in that time, I got to have some amazing meals, see shows, shop, and stay in great places.  I also found a little time to get into trouble.  A bit. 

I want to share ALL of that with you.

So first things first, let’s break Vegas into categories…Food. Lodging. Things to Do.  That’s a good start, no?

I think so.  Today I am going to tackle the food…and one little thing to do, if you are so inclined.  But let’s start with food!

Food

I have to say, I can’t get over the incredible amount of ridiculous food options available in Vegas.  Every celebrity chef has one or more eateries there, from Wolfgang Puck, to Gordon Ramsey, to Bastianich and Batali.  There is no shortage of delicious food.

Scarpetta

scarpetta-spaghettiOne of my very favorites is Scarpetta, located in the Cosmopolitan.  The hotel itself makes you feel like a million bucks, with an enormous crystal chandelier that spans multiple floors, a casino that oozes excess, and a variety of restaurants for all tastes.  Scarpetta is owned by Scott Conant, and if you’ve not had his spaghetti, that dish alone is worth the visit.

Yes, spaghetti. 

It is ridiculous – so simple and full of flavor.  The noodles are huge, and the bite?  Yes, it’s the bite that makes this the best spaghetti you’ll ever eat.  But if you want more, the tasting menu is well worth the price, and offers several courses of masterfully prepared dishes.  Like the duck.  Dear Lord, the duck.

And did I mention the view?

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Perched high above the Bellagio fountains, lucky window seats deliver a dinner show every 15 minutes.  You certainly won’t be disappointed.  Nor will you find better service anywhere in Vegas.  The staff knows the menu inside out, from the drinks (try the Renaissance Mule!) to the desserts (Nutella filled Bomboloni, good GOD.) – this crew knows their business and you won’t go wrong with their recommendations.

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Another restaurant inside the Cosmopolitan is a most bizarre fusion – Chinese and Mexican.  China Poblano combines the best of both cuisine in a fun format of small plates – perfect for sharing with a group.  The drinks are also well done and creative, especially the margaritas topped with a salt foam versus salt rims.  It makes for a festive addition to an already spectacular drink, and the whimsical décor ties the whole package up quite nicely.  Definitely worth a visit!

Buddy V’s

Where, other than the Venetian, would you expect to find an Italian eatery owned by Cake Boss Buddy?

Upon arrival, Buddy V’s feels like an outdoor café, but the interior is full on family kitchen.  Cool lighting, an open kitchen, rolling pins hung as decoration – it’s all very hip and yet understated. 

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The food makes for a great lunch, which I was very impressed with.  The menu appears unassuming, even simplistic, and perhaps that is exactly what makes it so successful.  Simple dishes prepared according to traditional family recipes, from giant meatballs to mozzarella en carrozza, to one of the best mac & cheese plates I’ve ever had.  The best part though?

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Dessert.

Buddy offers up his infamous Lobster Claw, and I can’t even tell you how delicious and creamy this thing is.  Big enough to share (though you won’t want to) and well worth every penny…you need to trust me on this.  If you have only one thing at Buddy’s – make it this pastry.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Buffet at The Bellagio

I couldn’t very well go to Vegas and not mention a buffet.  So if you’re looking for the best, look to the Bellagio.  Ever since seeing it on TV as the best, I knew I had to give it a shot.  Carved meats, pastas, pizzas, soups and sandwiches and desserts or all kinds.  Seafood and cheeses and good grief did I say desserts?  Great price for all you get, and one of the best buffets I’ve come across.

Fix

Duck and Waffles.  I have nothing more to say.

No really, Fix, located inside the Bellagio is more of an upscale bar setting, but the Duck and Waffles are worth the visit.  Duck confit, served with malted waffles, a soft fried egg, and bourbon maple syrup?  Yes, please.  Incredible.

Olives, by Todd English

Also located inside the Bellagio, and with unbeatable fountain views.  Seriously the water practically hits your window it’s that close.  The food is well done, as one would expect from English, and red meats are perfectly cooked to order.  Personally though, I’d return for the view and the upscale décor.  It’s right on with the best Vegas has to offer.

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Lemongrass

Lemongrass was such a welcome change of pace, and with great pricing and even better service.  It is located inside the luxurious Aria, with an extensive menu in a cool setting. Lemongrass is Thai, and one of the best and easiest meals I had in town. Try the potstickers and any of the fried rice dishes…they do not disappoint.  Gotta love that it is open late with its full menu.  Yum.

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Something to Do

Get a tattoo.

I did.

One late night I met James, stepping out of Starlight Tattoo, located inside The Mirage.  James was a doll and did great work, so I entrusted my wrists to his talent.  15-20 minutes later, I was out of my snakeskin chair and the owner of white ink tattoos, perfectly scripted, and absolutely everything I need to say.

Be happy for this moment…this moment is your life.

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When in Vegas.

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(Thanks, James!!)

The Giveaway

No, I can’t send you to Vegas, or buy you dinner there, or even set you up with a tattoo.  But what I CAN do is offer you an American Express GIFT CARD to make it happen!

How about a $500 American Express?

I’d say that’s not too shabby.

What would you do with it?  Tell me here and you’ll be entered to win it.  Plus, if you’ll share a link to this post tagging @doughmesstic, then return here to leave a separate comment, you’ll be entered TWICE.

So get on it!

Disclaimer:  Post is not sponsored, and I was not paid to endorse any of these restaurants or James and Starlight.  Lunch at Buddy V’s was complimentary and paid by a third party, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.  Contest open until December 25 at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be notified via email provided on December 27.  US Addresses only, please.  Good luck!

By: ifood.tv