Friday, May 27, 2011

The Vegas Nosh

Any city with  dozens of posh restaurants is bound to have some haute cuisine (natch). We had a great time tasting as much as we could. We learned the pre-show pice fixe meals are a great deal, and a wonderful way to see what a reataurant is all about. With just a few options for apps, entree and desert chosen to expedite your meal so you don't miss your show, you can get in, get out, and probably come back later for more!

When we saw Phantom of the Opera, we went to  Pinot Brasserie @ The Venetian. The pre-show menu was very limited so we ordered the same thing - salad, filet, and croissant chocolate pudding...wait, Jeff opted for ice cream over the pudding. Shocker.

When we saw O, we went to Fix @ Bellagio. This was our favorite restaurant of the entire trip! We decided to order different things from the menu and share. For starters, we had the creamy tomato soup with goat cheese grilled cheese and the Fix version of a Caesar salad. Delish. Next came truffle penne and filet mignon. Amaze. We finished up with cake and shake (chocolate cake & an espresso milkshake) and banana doughnuts with chocolate and peanut butter dipping sauces. Bliss!

Another favorite was Spago @ the Forum Shops. We went for lunch, but instead of getting lunch, we opted for 3 appetisers instead so we could try more things. The quesadilla was our favorite, though both the calamari & chicken sausage pizza were great.
 We also made quite the breakfast find in The Sugar Factory @ Paris. Red Velvet pancakes anyone? What about french toast with carmelized bananas and two kinds of chocolate sauce? A brie and ham crepe topped with apples and toasted almonds? Eggs Benedict on scalloped potatoes instead of a soggy English muffin? Next time we're in Vegas, we'll be there every day before noon!

Bellagio Conservatory

And here I was thinking a conservatory is where Colonel Mustard went with his candlestick.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vegas - The Secret Garden

One of the attractions on my to-do list for this trip was Sigfried & Roy's Secret Garden @ The Mirage. I wanted to take pictures of the animals, plus the weather was so gorgeous I wanted to be outside!

We could get amazingly close to the dolphins. They don't have show times, but interact with the trainers and the 'trainer for the day' participants often. Some day, I want to get in teh water with dolpins. But...not in a tank. Maybe in the ocean.


The big cats rotate through viewing exhibits, spending most of their time in their own lair. The white lions were gorgeous, and the white tiger cubs (born at the facility) were quite playful.

Vegas Baby!

I'm not sure what it is about Las Vegas, but I love the place! The energy, the warm weather, the attractions, the shows..I love it all.

Of course, when most people think of Vegas, they think of gambling. And I spent a fair amount of time hunting for my favorite slot machine - Invaders From The Planet Moolah! You can play it for pennies, and I always make money. But, since I play pennies, I win pennies.

We did a Craps lesson...and were utterly confused. We did a blackjack lesson...and I quickly learned that I need to practice on the machines before I start betting $5 a hand! Jeff did a poker tournament, but I think we're both more comfortable betting change than dollars.

All of the shows don't allow cameras...but we really loved O and Phantom of the Opera.

We treked to the end of the strip to check out the last day of the Sahara, which closed while we were at Stratosphere...a big problem, since we needed to go through Sahara to get to the monorail back down the strip!

At Stratosphere, Jeff had to try the rides he'd seen on TV. I hadn't seen the program, so I said I would do the one that looked like a roller coaster. Little did I launches you off the side of the building and dangles you there!! Jeff did the one that twirls you beside the building, and the one that blasts to the top of the tower. Can't say I'll be trying either!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zoo Crazy

The Gordon girls came to town to see us...and the zoo too!  This was Gracie's first time as a mostly-walker. No backpack, stroller, or wagon. She did great, but I think I'll still bring a stroller since she did spend a bit of time on Jeff's shoulders!

The boys were thrilled the zoo was holding a Lego exhibit for the weekend. They got to see projects created by students at Oregon Episcopal School's Lego Physics program, as well as the larger kits (like the death star).

The quality of the projects was quite impressive! A robot that followed masking tape tracks, a machine that crimped paper, squiggle pens and lots ove different robots - like one that could catch a beanie baby mouse!

I have a photo safari at the zoo next month as part of the photography class, so I brought the camera to take some 'before' pictures. I think most of my shots were overexposed...hope they can fix that in the class!

All of the kids agreed that the best part of the visit was Lorikeet Landing, where the birds decided to land on Hayden!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Backyard Fun

The sun came out! It hovered just above 70, which my kids thought meant time for shorts and water fights! After the rainy and cold autumn, summer, and spring...I let them go for it.

They turned the slide into a waterslide, which Grace thought was hilarious.

We're all looking forward to a fun summer!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Audobon Society Field Trip

What a great day the 2nd graders had! We all got cozy in a bus and headed up the twisty northwest roads. Hayden & I had never been to the Audobon Society, so were weren't sure what to expect. We loved every minute!

First, we went into a classroom and learned about how observing birds can tell us what they eat and how they live. Plus, the kids got to handle preserved specimens...wings, feet, bones, nests...and even taxidermied birds!

After lunch, it was time to get out hands on pelts and prints....and a beaver gnawed chunk of wood. 

Next we walked through the hospital and viewed the birds that live there permanently, usually because of an injury that keeps them from being released. Hayden had a great time with the great horned owl...but I couldn't get a good picture. He also loved looking at the raven...I think if I'd taken my eyes off of him, he would have tried to pet it!

We finished with a hike down to a pond. We've hiked to ponds before, but this one was teeming with animals! We saw a turtle, tadpoles, and at least two dozed rough skinned newts!

I see a day trip in our future for a repeat visit!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Welcome Spring!

Even if you are a little late, no one will mind as long as your warm sun and gentle breezes stick around. Today was beautiful, with the wind chime singing, Grace barefoot blowing bubbles, and the boys playing with friends. No wonder I've missed you, Spring. Welcome back.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mummies Are Gone!

I can't believe we missed the Egypt exhibit at OMSI. We never miss an  exhibit - that's what the membership is for! But, alas, the mummies have escaped us. It hasn't been gone long, because they still have the Life Hall blocked off.

We arrived to see a line of almost 20 buses. I had a mini-panic attack and thought about heading back home. But, apparently there was an OMSI overnight, and half the buses were taking kids away. Still, the place was packed with roaming middle schoolers. It seems at that age they've forgotten about waiting in line and taking turns. I wonder if I can fast forward my kids past it....better yet, keep rewinding them to the good parts.

The Design exhibit is still up and running. The kids really like this one because of the video games...and Grace loves to try and catch the dancing lights.

I was amazed by how much time we spent in the Science Playground, a part of the museum intended for the preschool set. I guess playing in the sand never gets old.

Turbine Hall was quite busy. We enjoyed the Physics Lab - especially the static electricity maker and music - until the place was invaded by more school uniforms than the fire marshall allows. And then it was home for nap time. You hear that Grace? NAP!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Columbia Gorge Field Trip

The U shaped Columbia River Gorge
The TAG program offered a fantastic field trip, with an Audobon Society instructor as a guide! I was thrilled to see all the things on the list - Vista House @ Crown Point, Rooster Rock State Park, Fish Hatchery, Bonneville Dam, Robins Island, Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls. Now, Jeff & I would probably tackle most of it with the kids in a day, but we're nutty that way (recall our Seattle marathon vacation, also known as Spring Broke). I couldn't see how we'd fit it all in, plus drive time.

The kids closing their eyes and pointing to Idaho

Well, that's because it was a list of possibilities, not the itenerary. Where they take the kids depends on weather (less hiking in the rain) and season (no point in viewing the fish ladder at the dam when there are no actual fish in it). Still, Jeff & I plan on trying to see how much of it we can do in a day some time this summer.

The first stop was Rooster Rock State Park, where the guide used the landscape to illustrate the history of how the gorge was formed. It cracked me up to hear the kids say they came on the field trip to skip class. They were given more information on science, geology, history, ecology, and biology than could have been packed into a monthh of lesson plans. They learned how Idaho built the gorge, the basalt building from lava flows and then era's later being carved down by the breaking of the ice dam on Lake Missoula, over and over again. Great, but a ground squirrel stole the show. What can you do? Kids love cute and furry.

@ Horsetail Falls

We hit the Old Columbia Gorge Highway and drove past Multnomah Falls, then to Horsetail Falls. The kids learned about the different kinds of basalt (which forms the sheer cliffs of the Columbia Gorge). Then we hiked up to Ponytail Falls. It was steep, but graded. Bayley is an avid hiker, and even he admitted his legs got sore towards the end of the uphill. But it was totally worth it...the trail went behind the waterfall! Amazing!!

I didn't hear a single complaint on the way back down. The kids all seemed to enjoy standing in the spray of the waterfall. Their sheer wonder reminded us how young they really are, no matter how mature they'd like us to think they are.

Bayley & Riley under the waterfall

Lunch was at Robins Island, a park on site at Bonneville Dam. After inhaling their food (hiking makes kids hungry!) they gathered around the guide who switched gears a bit and explained to them about dams and the effect on fish. Then it was all about salmon. Did you know your hand can help you remember the six kinds of salmon in the Pacific Northwest? 

Ponytail Falls basin, leading to Horsetail Falls below

Hold out your hand and look at your fingers. Touch your thumb...what rhymes with thumb? CHUM. Next take your pointer finger and poke yourself in the eye (just kidding), but the visual helps you remember SOCKEYE. Your middle finger is the longest, for KING or CHINOOK comes your ring finger for SILVER or COHO. Your pinky is PINK. Then make a fist and tap your noggin for STEELHEAD. Hey, I thought it was cool!

The guide explaining the holding ponds

At the Bonneville Fish Hatchery the kids watched a video about how the fish are harvested for spawning. It's graphic, but does explain a lot. They wandered though the outside ponds to see the fish at different sizes, and then took the obligatory peek at Herman the sturgeon. Then it was back on the bus so we could make it back before the end of school.

What an amazing opportunity for these kids. Bayley is still talking about it, and wants to take Jeff on the Ponytail Falls hike, though it's not Grace friendly. Maybe with the Cub Scouts...