Thoughts on Vegas

On the flight back from Vegas we sat next to a very chatty man whose very first question was “win anything?” I smiled and then told him that we actually hadn’t gambled at all while there. Taken aback he asked if we at least had a couple of good drinks. I laughed this time and told him that we actually hadn’t had any alcohol while in Vegas either. His eyes bugged out a little and he started taking us in again. I think he was briefly wondering if we could be very secular Amish people (I mean, Christopher’s beard is pretty beast these days). ;) We told him that we weren’t against drinking or gambling, but that we just got busy with site seeing that we didn’t even realize that we were forgetting to partake in two of Vegas’s favorite past times. Eventually our seat buddy’s shock wore off and we continued chatting about other things throughout the flight.

fabulous las vegas

We didn’t go to Vegas planning not to drink or gamble. But we also didn’t go to Vegas in order to do those things. We have Tunica just south of us if we want to hit up a casino. There was just SO much that we wanted to do and see while we were in Vegas that we didn’t want to “waste” time in front of a slot machine.

venice vegas

I want to be clear: I have no issue with drinking (as long as the person doing it is 21 years old and not getting behind the wheel of a car). Personally, I don’t drink alcohol regularly and I’ve never been drunk or buzzed or light headed from drinking. I don’t say this to imply that I am superior to anyone else because I’m most definitely not. It’s just a personal choice I made a long time ago. I have the hardest time controlling the words that come out of my mouth sometimes (not bad things, just ridiculous oversharing usually, haha!) without the help of alcohol that the idea of being any more out of control of my words is not okay with me.

And I have no issue with gambling. To me it’s just entertainment. Christopher and I spend $20 to go see a movie in the theater. So for us to spend $20 on penny slots at a casino for an evening of fun seems totally reasonable.

gelato2

But it’s the excess. The inability to practice self control. The lack of moderation. There is so much excess in the American culture. This is my issue with not only drinking and gambling, but so many other things. We seem to be lacking self control in this culture where we live. We eat and eat. We spend and spend. This is something that I already know about the American culture (because my, oh my, I had a hard time with reverse culture shock when I first moved here), but Vegas was such an amplified version of this. So much excess.

christopher photographing ceiling

One afternoon in Vegas we heard a 20-something guy in passing talking to his friend and telling him that he didn’t understand how he could be in Vegas and still feel so lonely. I’m not one to hit someone over the head with the Bible, but I so wanted to reach for that young man’s hand and tell him about Jesus and the hope and peace that come with Him. And looking back, maybe I should have.

Excess doesn’t bring true fulfillment. Having everything that we think we want, doesn’t bring joy. Being surrounded by all the glitz and glamour of this world, doesn’t make the hurts of this life go away. 

eiffel tower2

Don’t get me wrong, Vegas was so much fun to visit! We’re glad we went and got to see one of those most iconic places in the USA. But it definitely brought up a lot of conversations for Christopher and I as we processed everything we saw. It reminded us that we don’t want to live in excess. That we want to be good stewards of what we have. And that we want to bless others around us.

fabulous las vegas2

I don’t want to come across as judgmental because truly that isn’t my intention (or even my place). We genuinely did have a great time in Vegas. This post is just me trying to sift through the thoughts and conversations Christopher and I have had since our trip. :) Hope you guys have a stellar weekend!

Love Rach

The grandest canyon I’ve ever seen

The Grand Canyon was magnificent. Words and pictures just don’t do it justice. You really have to stand on the precipice to feel the magnitude of it all. It was by far the best part of our trip out west. Seeing Vegas was fun, but seeing the Grand Canyon was phenomenal. I don’t have a ton of video footage or photos from that day because Christopher and I really wanted to just go and explore and be. But we did get a couple of photos & minutes of video footage (which I’m so glad we have to look back on!). So I compiled it into this 2 minute video for you guys. :)

For those of you who have asked how Christopher’s knee is healing after surgery in January… you can see from this video that while he is careful with his steps and compensates in his shoulders a little bit, he’s moving just fine. :) He’ll be back to 100% before long!

us at grand canyon6

It was amazing, you guys. We most definitely will be back! Next time with longer to stay so we can do more hiking! :)

Love Rach

Thoughts this Monday morning

I’ve shared this before, but it has really been on my mind again lately so I’m sharing again. :)

While we aren’t Jewish, Christopher and I celebrate Passover every year with our friends from church. A portion of the evening is spent reciting a song called “Dayenu” which essentially means “it would have been enough for us.” The song is full of the pieces of the story of the Exodus when the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt. And in the song, you are saying that “even if all You had done was ______, it would have been enough for us.” And you fill in the blank with each step of the journey (brought them out of Egypt, split the sea, given us the Torah, etc). Any one of these things would have been “enough for us” and so much more than we deserve. I love this way of thinking because it still applies to life today.

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Things may not always happen the way I plan or hope that they will. And on days like that I am reminded of how much God has already done for me. For the amazing ways He has worked in my life already. Each of those things would have been sufficient already and yet He continues to bless me. So even if everything doesn’t work out the way I hope… He is still good. Always. Because Dayenu – it has been sufficient.

he is still good{source}

Love Rach

A taste of Italy in Vegas

We ate at several places while in Vegas (including one buffet which cost more than any meal we’ve ever paid for ever o.O), but I want to share with you four of our favorites. Funnily enough… they are all Italian based. We really did eat other types of food in Vegas as well, but these really were our favorite spots. :)

slice of vegas collage

Slice of Vegas inside Mandalay Bay had an absolutely amazing Caeser salad and such a good pizza! We ordered the il Mangino which according to their menu is fresh pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and ricotta cheese topped with roasted red onions, prosciutto and arugula salad tossed in fresh lemon and olive oil, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano. You guys… SO good. We will most absolutely be recreating this at home! It was the perfect combination of flavors!

Slice of Vegas on Urbanspoon

grimaldi's

Speaking of pizza, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria inside the Venetian was also absolutely delicious. Coal fired, thin crust pizza with homemade mozzarella. We had a Margherita pizza and it was deeeelish!

Grimaldi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

trevi fountain restaurant

Trevi inside Caeser’s Palace is situated right beside the Trevi fountain replica. We originally intended to eat at a sandwich place on this particular evening, but when we arrived and nothing was calling our names we decided to look elsewhere. This was close by and had decent reviews on Urbanspoon so we decided to go for it. We were SO glad that we did! Their caprese salad was fresh and light and perfect. The rigatoni bolognese was rich and delicious. We learned that their new chef is from Italy and he revamped the bolognese when he arrived which is why it is so delicious now. Two thumbs up for sure! We sat on the patio beside the Trevi fountain and enjoyed a romantic Italian meal. :)

Trevi on Urbanspoon

gelato

We ended up at Cafe Gelato by total chance. We walked down the wrong hallway inside the Bellagio and all the sudden there it was beside us. So we popped in to see if they had any sugar-free flavors. They had four (plus a ton of sugar-full options)! So we tasted a couple of flavors and landed on the sugar-free chocolate to split. It was absolutely delightful! Not exactly the same as gelato in Italy (wow, way to sound like a snob, Rach, haha!), but still so tasty! We had gelato at another spot too, but it wasn’t near as good as this one. So if you’re in Vegas looking for gelato, head to Cafe Gelato inside the Bellagio!

{side note: I do not recommend sugar-free products to people in general unless it is pertinent to their health that they control their sugar. In my (non-doctor, non-dietitian opinion) it’s better to eat whole foods (including sugar) in moderation that are actual food and not chemicals. I have a heart condition that requires me to control the amount of sugar that I intake so that’s why you’ll hear me opt for sugar-free options when I eat treats. And even then it’s not often that I do that because the sugar-free stuff often hurts my tummy if I eat too much of it. But a treat here and there – especially on vacation is the bomb dot com. End of PSA. ;) }

Café Gelato on Urbanspoon

So there’s our taste of Italy in Vegas. If you’re headed there soon and like Italian food, check these places out! :)
Love Rach

In the lap of luxury

When Christopher and I travel we want to see everything and experience as much as we can and eat all the most delicious food which means that we are out all day long and come back to the hotel at bedtime. Occasionally we’ll come back in the late afternoon to get cleaned up from a hot day so we feel nice for dinner, but even that is a quick turn around before we’re out the door again. Which means that when we are looking for a place to stay when we travel we are looking for a few very specific things: 1. Location. 2. Cleanliness. 3. Cost. Since we spend so little time in the room it makes no sense to pay a lot of money just for a place to sleep at the end of the day. So we try to find the cleanest, best location, for the cheapest price. Naturally this means we’ve never stayed in a super fancy hotel room, but basic is totally okay with us.

luxor

When we heard that we could literally stay inside a pyramid in Vegas (at the Luxor) we got so excited. From the reviews and pictures we could tell that it was a little outdated decor wise, but it looked clean and when we saw that they had some of the least expensive rooms on the strip we knew it was the place for us. So we reserved their most basic room (a king bed) and went on our merry way.

pyramid outside

When we arrived at the Luxor to check in we were met with the news that somehow there had been an overbooking and that they had no king-size beds still available. And this is how Vegas works, my friends. They apologized profusely that there were no kings left and upgraded us to a suite with two queens. Three floors from the top of the Pyramid with a view looking out over the strip. Who needs a king bed in a basic room when you have a view like that?! And a hot tub too. Oh my goodness, you guys… it was AWESOME!

pyramid room

Yes, it’s a little dated decor wise, but it was an entire suite just for us! And we only paid for their most basic room. The suite was great in general, but the best part was definitely the hot tub!

hot tub

We stayed in the Pyramid on our last night in Vegas (after 2 days of 5am wake up calls, walking everywhere all day, and late nights) so at this point we were exhausted and sore. That hot tub and that view and that night at the Luxor… definitely a favorite memory from the trip. I finally understand why people are willing to pay a little more for moments of luxury and beauty like those.

pyramid at night

So, will we stay in super nice hotels from now on? Booking suites and getting the best views? Not likely. Our reasons still stand when it comes to travel. But it was such a lovely experience that we decided that once in a while we might splurge and stay in a nicer place. :)

What are the most important things you look for in a place to stay while traveling?

Have you ever been upgraded to a room better than you reserved?
Love Rach

Top 8 favorite things we saw in Vegas

Christopher and I just got home from a three day trip to Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We got home at 3 this morning so if I sound a little bit all over the place, that’s probably why. ;) Today I want to share with you our top 8 favorite things we saw in Vegas beginning at the end of the strip and moving up (so not necessarily in “favorite” order).

#1 – The welcome sign! I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen this sign in movies or on advertisements or just in the media in general. So to see it in person was really pretty cool! :)

fabulous las vegas

#2 – Egypt! We actually stayed the night inside the pyramid on Sunday night and it was crazy amazing! More on that later this week. :)

luxor

#3 – New York New York! Christopher and I went to NYC together while we were in college and we are tentatively planning to return later this year. But we joked that after going in Vegas, clearly we don’t need to go again this year. ;) Best part of NY NY in Vegas was definitely the roller coaster that wraps around the skyline! We had so much fun!

ny ny3

#4 – Fountains at the Bellagio! A beautiful fountain set to music. We came twice and both times were lovely! My favorite was the night time performance of “Singing in the Rain”!

fountains at bellagio

fountains at bellagio2

#5 – Caeser’s Palace! This was Christopher’s absolute favorite (and my second favorite). Those of you who are long time readers of this blog will recall our love for Italy and especially Rome. So Caeser’s Palace was such fun to explore! Indoor shops made to look as if we are outdoors (with the sky painted on the ceilings above and cobble stone floors beneath us). Lots of reproductions of statues including the Trevi Fountain which is what we’re standing in front of in this shot below.

trevi fountain

caeser's palace indoors

#6 – The Eiffel Tower! Like the Las Vegas Sign, the Eiffel Tower is something I’ve seen countless times in the media. It was cool to see the daytime, but especially pretty to see at night! Of course, this isn’t the original, but it was still fun to see! One of these days we’ll have to get to Paris to see the real deal!

eiffel tower

#7 – Mini Venice! This was my favorite and Christopher’s second favorite that we saw! (both of our top two favorites were Italy replicas… clearly we love Italy, haha!) Which is actually pretty funny to me because actual Venice was not high on our list of favorite cities that we visited in Italy. I mean, it was Italy so it was awesome, but it was just so touristy compared to other cities we visited. But Venice in Vegas was fabulous. Their reproductions really had me feeling like I was in Venice again. A cleaner, warmer, less humid, less dilapidated Venice. ;)

st mark's

venice vegas

#8 – The Mermaids! Just off the strip inside the Silverton Casino is a giant tank full of fishies! And during certain hours, mermaids hop in the tank and swim around! Mermaids, you guys! Christopher snapped this shot of me photographing the mermaid when she waved at me! :)

mermaid swim

We saw so many incredible and often outlandish things during our few days in Vegas, but these were definitely our favorites. :) It was a great trip, but we were go-go-go all weekend. Two 5am wake up calls (once for a flight and once to see sunrise at the Grand Canyon – both totally worth it), late nights, and lots of walking. Getting in at 3 this morning definitely didn’t help. Our plans for St. Patty’s Day include an early dinner at our favorite Irish place and then a 7pm bedtime (okay not really, but it will be much earlier than normal!). ;)

If you’ve been to Vegas, do we share any favorites?
Any big plans for St. Patrick’s Day tonight?

Love Rach

It’s 1:50am…

So. It’s 1:50am. As in… in the middle of the night. As in 4 hours past my bed time. Fear not, disaster has not struck. No middle of the night emergency. No, no, just a cup of coffee at the wrong time of the day. No, not an espresso as a nightcap. Just a cup of decaf coffee. At 3pm. Yeah, that’s how sensitive I am to caffeine (for those who don’t know, there is still some caffeine even in decaf coffee, though it’s not very much). I don’t drink caffeinated drinks, but I sure do love some decaf coffee. Usually when I have my decaf coffee it’s first thing in the morning. But today was a long, long day. So as a mid-afternoon treat I stopped by Starbucks for my favorite. And now here I am at nearly 2am wide awake.

The good news is that I have been super productive in these midnight hours. I finally finished planning our Vegas trip. Which is good since we leave tomorrow! Well… I guess that’s “today” now. I’m pretty stoked about it. :D

The other good news is that my day tomorrow will be simple. I had a photo shoot scheduled that just got moved to next week due to the rain so I can sleep in. I have a lunch date with one of my teens. I need to pack a quick getaway bag for the weekend. I’ll hit up the gym for a bit. And that’s it. Easy peasy. It’ll fly by, but I’m looking forward to it (especially the sleeping in part). And then next thing I know, I’ll be on my way to Vegas. :) But first I need to go to bed. ;)

Anyone out there super sensitive to caffeine? (or have you given it up in the past only to find that a small amount affects you quite a bit later?)

Any bets on how late I sleep in? I’m hoping for at least 7:30am! I’m normally an 8 hours of sleep kinda girl, but I know there’s no way my body will let me sleep in until 10am. ;)

Any last minute Vegas/Grand Canyon tips for us?

Love Rach