Vegas Baby! Sister's Edition

There are a few things you should know about Las Vegas before you go.
  • If you go in the summer it will be HOT.  100-110 degree are we in a sauna hot; but the warm nights feel amazing.  
  • There is no need for a car but there will be tons of walking.  I mean, miles and miles of walking.  It could take you a good 10 minutes just to walk through one of the larger hotels.  Pack your shoes accordingly.  
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages in public is perfectly acceptable so your drinks are free to travel with you.  There will be people walking around in the streets with giant waist high drinks; and if you want one for yourself expect to pay about $30 bucks for it!  
  • In the streets you will see people dressed up like movie characters and super heroes and doing random street performances.  Yes, you can take pictures with them if you want to.
  • No need to worry if you forget something.  There is a Walgreens, CVS and two Ross's right on the strip.  
  • You will see go go dancers in casinos on poker tables just dancing their little hearts out while people play cards like business as usual.  You might be shocked at first but eventually it all seems quite normal.
  • There is plenty to do besides gamble.  There is something for everyone.
  • There are tons of coupons, 2 for 1's and other deals to be had for shows and dinners once you get there.  It is a place of excess and luxury but you can go there on a budget.
  • There will be malls filled with many many stores that you can only dream about shopping in.  Good luck finding a cash register in any of these posh high end stores (not that you will need it).  They hide them in the back so the actual exchange of $1,000 for that pair of shoes is oh so discreet.
The drive there on Friday was all good until an overturned big rig had us sitting in traffic for 1 hr and 45 minutes.  We were pretty outdone by the time we finally checked into our hotel but so happy and excited to finally be there.  It's changed so much in three years!  The Vdara and the Cosmopolitan hotels were still being built when I was here last.  We stayed at Polo Towers where I have a timeshare which is a non casino hotel but a perfect location right in the middle of the strip.  It was 1 bedroom, one bath and a full kitchen so it felt more homey and less like a hotel room and we had plenty of room to store snacks and drinks.  We made our own much needed Margarita's on the rocks with light margarita mix and Tequila and drank it on the way over to MGM Grand where we ate dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe.  Then we hung out at the hotel and waited for little sister who had a late flight in.
Me and big sis Dani
At the Pool at Harrah's
We were at Ross at 9am Saturday morning right when they opened.  Little sis brought work out gear but no tennis shoes and it was imperative that we find a decent going out dress for my older sister.  She shows up in Vegas with a dress more appropriate for a company Holiday Party and we could not let her go out like that!  I don't know what the heck she was thinking!  We worked out at the gym and then walked all the way to The Flamingo to meet my friend J at the pool.  One problem.  This is a major party pool.  The music was loud, there were bodies everywhere and no place to sit.  They even had a poor tired looking bikini clad go go dancer in a little cage dancing in 102 degree heat.  We couldn't take it so we went over to Harrah's where J was actually staying dropped off our beach bags in her room, ate lunch and then went to their much more relaxed pool.

Out to Dinner
Me and my LBD

Out at the Club
Dancing All Night Long
Lil' Sis and Me
Normally even the idea of going out at 10:30 at night is exhausting and I'm ready to end my night by then but in Vegas I sucked it up because I didn't go there to watch a movie and go to bed.  We took a nap after the pool, I got my 2nd wind and we had a BLAST!  I finally got to wear my LBD that I bought a long time ago and it was so much fun to get all dolled up.  We bought an open bar Groupon for Koi Ultra Lounge-Planet Hollywood so we had free drinks for our night out which saved us a ton of money. We met up there with J, got our first drink, went to dinner at a restaurant inside the hotel and then went back to Koi.  The music was great.  We literally danced all night long.  When we were done there we went to Gallery Night Club (also in Planet Hollywood) where we'd gotten a wrist band for no cover and danced some more.  We didn't leave until after 3am.  I can't remember the last time I stayed out that late.  Dani pushed herself too hard at the gym so she was kind of in pain for the rest of the trip.  Poor thing!  She looked like an old lady limping around in her party dress and heels but she made the best of it and it did get a little better each day.

Eating Pizza in is good!

Three girls....two sinks...thank goodness

Dani and Little Sis in front of the Venetian
Little Sis actually switched shoes with Dani just so she could make the walk home
No hang over the next day.  Yes! We were up  Sunday morning by 9am so we could get a cabana at our pool.  Normally, they want to charge you an arm and a leg but at Polo Towers it's 1st come first serve and it is not a party pool at all; which was nice.  Having a cabana meant we didn't have to roast in the sun like a rotisserie chicken and it made the pool experience so much better.  I went to the gym again first then met my sisters at the cabana.  After Dani and I each got our massages at the spa we hung out in the room and ordered pizza from room service and ate it in bed.  Then it was time to head to our show Illusions at the Riviera.  We have no idea how this man locks himself in a box, then is suddenly outside the box and his assistant is in the box.  The guy is no Lance Burton-those tickets woulda cost us a heck of a lot more-but he did some amazing things and it was entertaining.  We took a cab there but we walked back...and it's about 2.5 miles! We stopped at an outdoor Fat Burger on the way to our hotel.  My sister's split a meal but all I wanted was some ice cold beer.  Then, we headed back to the room and got packed.  I think we made it to bed around 2am.   
Me and my BFF J
Poor little sis; she had an 8 am flight Monday morning so she only got a few hours of sleep.  I was so sad to see her go!  She hugged us while we were half asleep and when Dani and I got up around 9am it was so sad to see her bed empty; it wasn't the same without her.  We checked out of our hotel and stored our luggage with the bell desk. Between all the walking and my two gym workouts my legs were good and worn out by Monday.  We walked some more to meet J at the Bellagio for their Breakfast buffet.  Best french toast ever.  I wished I could have eaten more but the belly can only hold so much.  After that it was time to hit the road.

I really love the upbeat, yet relaxing, casual yet glamorous anything goes atmosphere in Vegas.  It can really be anything you want it to be.  It can be romantic or party central.  There is shopping, eating, gambling, pool parties and shows.  There really is something for everyone.  The beautiful massive hotels and the lights are a beautiful sight and it's just a whole different world out there.  It was so much fun getting to hang out with my sisters and my BFF.  I had an amazing time!  We definitely want to do it again; maybe next year.

As for this weekend Gymnastics Olympic Trials is on.  The ladies are on Friday and Sunday night Live on NBC at 6pm West Coast, 9pm East Coast.  Can't wait!

Vegas Bound

A friend spotted this pic on Yahoo from my modeling days
As of today at 5pm I will officially be on vacation!  I’m heading off to Las Vegas with my two sisters and my BFF is meeting us there.  The very same BFF I forgot to take a picture with who came to visit last month and will be moving to Alaska for three years.  I get a 2nd chance; and there is no way I can forget to take a single picture in three days.  She loves Vegas so when I told her we were going she was in.   Once again, I’m astounded by all of the things a so called low maintenance person such as myself needs.  I have a medium sized rolling suitcase (the small one wasn't big enough) and an entire bag dedicated exclusively to hair supplies and toiletries.  I HATE packing.   My mind is still racing about all of the things I could have forgotten.   Having to leave from work means that I had even less time to obsess and linger over my suitcase.  I’m going straight from work to my mom’s house where my older sister will be dropping of my nephew for safe keeping.   She’s driving us up to her house.  I’ll spend the night there and we’ll drive to Vegas on Friday morning and come back Monday.  My little sister is flying in Friday night.  It’s been three long years since I’ve been.  Mj had his turn to go with the boys and now it’s mine.  This trip is on point budget wise.  We're driving up there in a hybrid, staying at my time share right on the strip and I found us Groupons for a night out and a show.  That's how I roll.

There is another vacation ahead in the not so distant future.  A real vacation that even requires a passport!  Any guesses?  I've had weekend getaways and a trip to Delaware to visit the in laws but aside from that our last "real" vacation was our honeymoon in Oahu two years ago.  The timing of this trip was going to be very bad for work so for a while I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to go but it looks like it’s going to work out.  We haven’t nailed down the dates or itinerary just yet but I’m giddy with excitement and have been having a ball researching it obsessively for the last two weeks.

But first...some Vegas shenanigans with the girls are in order.  Can't wait.

The Fair & Father's Day

I love the County Fair.  I've been going every year since I can remember...  well, except last year.   We skipped it because I was broke but this year it was on!!
The first thing we did when we got there was eat.  Because of all the traffic it took us 1 1/2 hours to get there and park when normally it only takes 30 minutes so by the time we got there I was irritable...and starving.   At the fair everywhere you look there are people shoving food in their mouths and I couldn't wait to join in.  You pretty much sit down and eat anywhere you can so we sat in the grass and chowed down.  Every year Papa Gino's Pizza is set up in the same place and I always get the same delicious French Bread Pizza.  Mj got Chicken & Rice in a Pineapple.  Really.  Too bad I didn't get a picture of it.  Considering that they have things like deep fried cereal and deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I think our choices were pretty good. 
We did a free wine tasting in the infield and then on our way over to BODIES The Exhibition we split a giant sugar twist doughnut.  I've always wanted to see this exhibit and it was there for just $7 extra.  They don't allow cameras or video inside so I couldn't take any pictures which is fine because I would feel really weird taking pictures of what is essentially a dead person.  The tissues and muscles are preserved in a way to prevent decay that allows real human bodies and skeletons to be dissected and displayed.  One man was literally cut in half and opened up so you could see a cross section of the internal organs and bones and what actually exists underneath our skin.   It's so strange that those are real people who were once alive.  I have no idea why they were selected but all the whole bodies are people from China who died of natural causes.  They also had individual organs and body parts like a legs and arms with sections cut out so you can see down to the tissue and bone.  They had half of the head of a baby with encephalitis on display and you could still see the eye lashes.  It sounds super disgusting but it's not.  I mean, it is a little icky but in a scientific way and it was really fascinating.

Then we walked around and looked at exhibits.  You can buy everything from rug cleaner to, a spa to an on the spot teeth whitening treatment at the fair.  I settled for some pretty sterling silver earrings.  No rides this year.  I now go to the fair and don't go on rides when I can still remember the days I used to live in the Fun Zone and the exhibits were sooo boring.  If I wasn't officially old before I am now!  We had a good time.  I'm so glad we got to go.
Big Sis, Dad and Me
Sunday we woke up super early so we could go to breakfast with my family for Father's Day before my dad went off to work.  It takes us about 45 minutes to get up there so we had to leave by 7:15am.   Rough for a Sunday but it was worth it.  Eight months after his kidney transplant my dad is doing so amazingly well.  It was worrisome at first because his kidney was slow to get to working but now it's fully functioning, he's handling all of his medications well and he's feeling good.  Instead of going to dialysis all the time he goes to the gym and he's back to working full time as a barber.  He really did get a 2nd chance at life and we're all so glad.  My dad went off to work and then we spent the rest of the afternoon at mom's house.

Here is my nephew.  He is the cutest thing ever!!  He's going on 2 years old now so he's not driving just yet but knows how to turn the wheel.

Flatout Pizza

For reasons that myself or my mom can't figure out 'cause goodness knows we've tried, I just never took to cooking. It just seems like such a chore most of the time and something I'd rather not be bothered with but I do believe I finally found something that I actually don't mind "cooking." And yes, I realize that to call this cooking is pushing it a bit but it does requires the chopping up of ingredients AND an oven so I think it fits the criteria however loosely.   I've discovered Flatouts.  They can be used as a wrap or as a flatbread.  These are my three creations of the flatbread variety.
The Classic Flat Out
The Classic is topped with grilled chicken, green onions, mozzarella cheese and onion sprouts.  Those black spots don't necessarily look all that appetizing but they are onion sprouts and add a lot of flavor.  I could eat a grilled chicken breast with veggies and a dinner roll or I could just put it on a Flatout and add cheese which I find infinitely more appealing.
The Mexican  Flatout
The Mexican is topped with re-fried beans, ground beef, green onions and Mozzarella or Jack cheese.  I think this one is my favorite.  You can also top it with Salsa and I suggest pairing it with an ice cold beer for maximum enjoyment.  This one has 335 calories, 18 grams of fat and 24 carbs for the whole thing.
The Italian Flatout
The Italian is topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, turkey pepperoni, garlic and basil.  It's basically Pizza but with a whole lot less carbs.  The Light Italian Herb Flatout has only 90 calories each and 9 grams of Fiber.  With toppings this version is 330 calories, 16 grams of fat and 24 carbs.

Making these feels creative and fun which is how I imagine people who like to cook feel about "real" cooking.  They are healthy, quick, easy and I can top them with anything I want for variety.  No matter what I have a craving for there is a Flatout recipe to satisfy it. I put the Flatout in the oven on broil for about four minutes so it gets crispy.  I take it out, add my toppings, bake for 8 more minutes and Voila!  Dinner is served in less then 30 minutes.
Homemade Deep Dish Pizza
I didn't make these all in one week in case you were wondering but I totally would.  Saturday night we made deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet.  It was so good.  We used Pillsbury Pizza dough from the can and filled it with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, turkey pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and topped it with pizza sauce and fresh garlic.  Because it's deep you can load it with toppings.  We coated the bottom of the pan with cornmeal which gives it a nice little crunch and baked it until the edges of the crust got crispy which was much longer then the recommended 6-10 minutes after topping.  My 2nd favorite food is a Quesadilla.  I guess I just prefer foods that are easy to make, that I can eat with my fingers and are covered in cheese.

Those Olympic Odds

The Summer Olympics in London are only two months away!!! I am so excited. Most people only pay attention to gymnastics during the Olympics but because I'm always obsessed with all things Gymnastics I've been looking forward to this for a while.  The Visa Nationals (June 9-10) and US Olympic Trials (July 1) are the big competitions leading up to it and Olympic competition begins on July 28th.
[Photo Source]  Seven Olympic Dreams in 1996
In the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta there were Seven.  Who can forget the Mag 7 team Gold and Kerri Strug's heroic vault?  For team finals 6 gymnasts competed on each event and 5 scores counted.  In the 2000 Sydney Olympics they reduced the number on each team to 6 with 5 gymnasts up on each event and 4 scores counting.  In Beijing 2008 they kept the number on each team at 6 but they changed the format to only 3 gymnasts up on each event with all 3 scores counting.  Very unforgiving as there is literally  no margin for error plus that often means less Olympic action for each gymnast.  And now, for London 2012 they have reduced the  number to only 5 with the same 3 up 3 count team finals format.  Obviously, everyone can't be an Olympian but Seven gives a decent number of gymnasts that chance.  But only Five? Even to reduce it by two spots is major.  Each reduction from 7 to 6 to 5 basically cuts someone's Olympic dream.  The IOC says the cuts were made to encourage diversity and more participation from other countries.  Limiting athletes per team allows more individual slots from other countries.  But still, Five is just too low.

[Photo Source] 2011 World Team:  Ana, Jordan, Mckayla, Sabrina, Aly, Gabby.
All six are going for the 2012 Olympics but only five spots are available.
It is mind boggling to me that only five female gymnasts will get to the Olympics this year.

The 2011 World Team Medalists~The whole Gold medal winning World Championship Team is trying for a spot but there are only two that I consider to be a sure thing.  Jordan Wieber the current USA #1 and reigning World All Around Champ is all but guaranteed a spot as long as she doesn't get injured.  Aly Raisman is another World medalist that is almost guaranteed because she has great difficulty, is consistent and has proven herself time and time again.  The way I see it there are really only three spots that are up for grabs!  Out of the remaining four who made up that team I'd say Gabby Douglas has the best chance, Ana Li is a long shot and McKayla Maroney and Sabrina Vega fall somewhere in between. 

[Photo Source]  So beautiful! She Nailed that beam routine 2 weeks ago.
The Veteran /Comeback group~  So what about a gymnast like 2007 National Champ Rebecca Bross?  After two back to back injuries she still hasn't given up in this.  Three years ago she was the one everyone thought would be next in line to be the All Around Champion in 2012 but things have changed and that won't happen now.  She got injured, she's out of time and has been reduced to only two events; Bars and Beam with her Beam routine being pretty shaky.  I can't imagine how difficult it must be for her to continue training so many hours per day six days a week when with only two events and the fact that she is barely getting back into competition the odds are really not in her favor.  Two time Olympian Alicia Sacramone is back and only plans to do Vault and Beam whereas at the last Olympics she did those events plus floor.  She's also coming off of an injury and hasn't competed in a while but can usually be counted on to be consistent.  Her odds are better then Rebecca's in my opinion.  2008 Olympic All Around Champion Nastia Liukin has come back to the sport after three years with her best two events Bars and Beam.  She nailed her  beam two weeks ago at the Secret Classic showing us this comeback is for real.  Her beauty is unmatched on those two events and I'd love to see her in the Olympics again.  Not being All Arounders and doing the same events you already know that at best only one of those three girls has any chance of making the team.  And there is also Bridget Sloan; a member of the 2008 Olympic team and the 2009 World All Around Champion who has been mostly out of commission ever since. I think she's planning four events.  Shawn Johnson (2008 All Around silver medalist) decided to make a comeback after blowing out her knee skiing and was supposed to be competing but just announced her retirement on Sunday. 

Right there alone, that's ten athletes battling for only five spots.  On top of that there are a few up and comers who are not veterans and who were not part of that World Championship team last year that also have an outside shot.  It's the World Champions who have proven themselves to be ready right now and want their turn VS the veterans with great past accomplishments who still think they have what it takes VS the exciting newcomers with amazing talent, nothing to lose and everything to prove.

Only Five gymnasts.  More dreams will be crushed then will come true.  Who will make it?

The 2012 Visa Nationals Women's Day 1 can be seen Live Friday 5pm West Coast  here at Universal Sports online and on Sunday the Finals will air on NBC at 1pm West Coast time.  Both days will remain viewable on Universal Sports online.