Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Early Birthday Celebration

My sister has a big birthday coming up this year. Her being a December-born - like myself - we decided to celebrate sooner rather than later so we could focus on each other and not get lost in all the holiday shuffle.

So how else does one celebrate a birthday with her sister/BFF??
You head to Vegas because....

Yes, the greatest singer in all 'da world is doing her thing in Vegas once again. We missed her the last time she did her stint at Caesar's Palace and there was NO WAY we were going to miss it again.

So we flew to Vegas to catch Celine Dion's show to celebrate our birthdays.
A simple trip. In and out. Right?

Welllll.... that was the plan. Let me explain.

Last Thursday, I drove to Boise with Grace and Charlotte. They did AWESOME in the car! I got to listen to the radio AND chat on the phone...the latter being illegal but I like livin' on the edge. Arrived to Boise by 2:30 and no time like the present to start attacking the 'to-do's' so I got Grace's haircut. She was looking a bit shaggy and I really like the gal in Boise...just another reason to make the trek!

Dinner that night al fresco on the patio. The menu? Homemade crab cakes (my mom makes the best anywhere - Tom Douglas can go fly a kite!), a light summer salad and for dessert panna cotta with strawberries. It was delish!
Endless entertainment provided by Grace and Charlotte, of course!

Grace pedaled a tricycle all by herself for the first time!

And Charlotte never stopped moving.

Lucky for me, there is an Apple store in Boise so on Friday I hit up the Genius Bar to see if I could finally resolve my computer issues. My mom, bless her soul, cased Boise Town Square with both girls in the double BOB while I dealt with the "Genius" at Apple. Three hours later...problems not fixed. EVERYONE was a bit on edge! Apple suggested checking in my computer so they could do a few diagnostics over the weekend. Perfect. I sent positive thoughts into the universe that my computer would be back to normal by Monday as we set off for lunch with the girls. (Just an FYI - Cheesecake Factory - the only game in town when it comes to food at the Boise mall - introduced a new 'Skinny Menu' the day we lunched and it is GOOD! I had the Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad and it is YUM-MY. Good enough to mention here at least! So if you are ever at Cheesecake Factory and don't want to eat 10,000 calories in one bite...take a gander at the Skinny Menu.)

Man....I get off track easily. Anyway, back to the good stuff. VEGAS!! My sister, Molly, flew in that night. She had been in Spokane for work so she flew from Spokane - via Seattle - to Boise. (Note that this was two flights to get to Boise. This will be important later.)

She arrived and we all relaxed with some wine while we watched the kids play outside. Once they were good and worn out, I tucked them in and hit the hay as Molly and I had an early wake up call the next morning....4 am!!

Molly flies Alaska a lot and had a buddy pass that meant we could both fly to Vegas for the price of one ticket. The only catch was that we both had to start and *end* in the same place. This was the reason Molly flew into Boise to 'pick me up'. And I was in Boise so that my parents could watch the girls. Ya followin'??

Saturday morning our flight to Vegas - via Seattle - took off at 6:30 am. Now the big 'what if' of the trip was whether on the return flight Molly could "hop off" in Seattle and I could continue on to Boise. When we got to our gate at 5:30 am the answer was a solid no! As long as Molly didn't check a bag, we didn't see what the big deal was. So we chalked it up as the gate agent being cranky and decided to deal with it later. Ee were on our way to Vegas baby! Who cares about coming home?!?!

After two uneventful plane rides, we arrived in Las Vegas to RAIN!! Can you even believe it?! I mean when does it ever rain in Las August?!?! As I had no plans of getting into a bathing suit until...well, never...the rain was an absolute blessing! We high tailed it to Caesar's Palace - our lodging of choice on this trip. Early check-in is nearly impossible in Vegas as most people don't start moving until well into the afternoon hours. So when the gal at the reception desk said she had a room available albeit in the old tower (the other three have all been renovated) we glanced at our watches - 11 am - and said "Hells-to-the-yeah!! We will take it! Renovated...Smenovated!"

We dropped off our bags, freshened up, checked in to make sure the girls were doing ok and headed out for lunch and shopping!! Wooo hoooo! Lunch was great. We hit up Munch Bar a new, little dining spot right next to Pure Nightclub. It was super yummy, not expensive but the service was pretty bad. Push come to shove I'd go back. The fish tacos were really good.

With a little food and booze (we had Sweet Tea Vodkas - OMG!! Dangerous but soo good) in our tummies, we headed off to the Forum Shops. It wasn't but a moment and we found ourselves in a Kodak moment...

Double Dangerous! A little drunksy and armed with credit cards the good times continued as we headed toward the Forum Shops. We searched and searched and searched for a special little something to commemorate our Celine Dion trip but to no avail. This wasn't quite the memento we were on the prowl for.

The sweet tea vodkas were starting to wear off at this point and the early wake up call was doing a number as well, so back to our un-renovated room we went for a nap.
Here I was - no kids, total freedom - and I couldn't sleep! How I've dreamed of a nap for the last...hmmm...2.5 years!! But the sandman wouldn't oblige and since I was wide awake I decided to take a shower and start primping for the evening.
So remember how I said our room was in the old tower?? Well, the reason there was a room available at 11 am in the old, crappy tower was because it - was old and crappy, yes you are paying attention - and had NO HOT WATER!!
I immediately hopped out of the shower and called the front desk. They were going to send up their "engineer" to take a look. Their "engineer" took over a half hour to get to our room. The "engineer" or as I like to say 'plumber' came out of the bathroom 20 seconds later and told us it was fixed. Molly hopped in and NO HOT WATER!! Another call was made to the front desk. She dispatched another engineer.
Thirty minutes later, engineer #2 had not arrived. We were on a tight Celine Dion viewing schedule. There was no room to dilly dally but we called the front desk again. Her solution? Grab all of our crap and traipse across the casino floor to a new room at the complete opposite end of the hotel. If you've ever traipsed across a casino floor you know why we didn't take this deal. If we had been staying for more than one night, I would have moved. But as we were only staying one night I just wanted them to fix the water. I relayed this to the front desk and to make things right she gave us a $50 voucher to Bradley Ogden, a restaurant we'd had our eye on AND she'd sent up another engineer - who actually fixed the water! Yippee! 

To celebrate our new found hot water we went downstairs and had some drinks and apps on the Palace!!

Bradley Ogden was a great restaurant. Great menu, smoke-free and a great little people watching spot.
In fact, I thought I saw my friend Joe so I took this pic and sent it to him. For those of you who know Joe - is this not his doppelgänger?! Down to the t-shirt and everything!

I have no pictures of Celine Dion or the show. We were in the nosebleed seats and cameras were forbidden but it was a great show! Think what you want about Celine Dion - her comical appearances on Oprah, her decrepitly old husband - but there is no denying that she is the greatest voice of our time. That honor used to belong to Whitney Houston....until she started hitting the crack pipe. But Celine Dion has a voice that makes you believe in God because it is such a gift. How can one - and only one - human being sound like that?

Her concert started out with a movie montage about her last go-round at Caesar's Palace, her world tour and her stay-at-home-mom year where you had her twin boys. Like any movie montage - be it about a golfer or a war hero - it had me in tears within 15 seconds. I'm telling you it was some emotional sh*t!
I don't know if it was because I left Charlotte for the first time or if it was just plain old moving-making-magic but Celine had me in tears at hello and kept me there on the edge of an ugly cry throughout the entire performance.

Here are my takeaways. Celine Dion has the best part-time job on planet earth. She sings three or four nights a week about six months out of the year. The rest of the time she gets to spend with her family. And by the way, she makes a gizillion dollars doing it. 
Her voice in person sounds the same, if not better, than any of her recordings. You just can't believe that a human being can sing the way she does at anytime on any day anywhere! I would sell my soul to the devil to be able to sing like her just once in my life!! 
Singing aside, Celine Dion is not the best performer. She had a neat stage that moved and lit up and did lots of fancy stuff. She had beautiful gowns and a few little surprises throughout the show but her interaction with the audience is pretty rehearsed. I'm not sure if it is because English is her second language, but you can tell she says the same thing in the same way at the same time to every audience. She did do a few chest thumps and she dropped a few 'no you didn't girlfriend' as spoofed on Saturday Night Live. So that was awesome!

She sang a lot of good songs. 
Because You Loved Me
Beauty and the Beast (I am quite familiar with this one!)
It's All Coming Back to Me (you know, the Meatloaf-y sounding song?)
I'm Your Lady
All By Myself
I Drove All Night
and of course, My Heart Will Go On

She saved the best for last. We almost didn't think we'd hear My Heart Will Go On. She said good night. Left the stage and I swear, you could feel the crowd get angry. No Celine Dion show is complete without My Heart Will Go On. Molly leaned over and said, "If she doesn't sing it, I want my money back!" Does Celine Dion even comprehend how many times we have all listened to that song...on our sorority houses and dorm rooms?!

Next thing we knew, the iconic flute of Titanic's theme song began howling through the auditorium and you could feel the huge sigh of relief of all the women in the audience!!

All in was a great, great, great show! SOO glad we did it!! Happy Birthday to us!! yippee!!

On the way out of the performance, we noticed two things:

Check out this t-shirt.
On the front it says
"I Drove All Night" and this is what it says on the back.

We asked the girl to pull over because we HAD to take a picture of it! She was with her dad - who was also wearing a shirt - and they had flown from Minnesota to L.A. the previous day and had DRIVEN from L.A. to Las Vegas to see the show! And we thought our measly little layover in Seattle was rough!

The second thing we noticed...

A poster announcing Shania Twain coming to Caesar's Palace in 2012!!!
Looks like this is going to be an annual trip for us December borns!

With the show over, we decided to put on our dancing shoes and hit the clubs.

Yeah right! We went back to our room and rented a movie!
In the morning, we enjoyed our hot shower, a quick breakfast and then it was back to the airport to head home.

We still had the itsy bits problem of our return flights - could Molly hop off in Seattle?
We were told no again and again while we waited to depart from Las Vegas. Because of the buddy pass we had to fly together. If Molly hopped, off my ticket would be invalid. A one way ticket from Seattle to Boise at the last minute was pricey. So Molly, using her iPhone - yay technology! - purchased a one way ticket using her miles. So Molly was going to fly from Las Vegas to Seattle to Boise and then back to Seattle. Talk about taking one for the team! We definitely worked out the kinks for the Shania trip! haha

All good stories have a happy ending though.
In the Seattle airport, we came across a kindred spirit gate agent who decided to look the other way. Molly was free to hop off in Seattle and I could continue on my way to Boise. 
Kindness. The best birthday present of all, eh?

Happy Birthday Molly! Can't wait to do it again!

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