Thursday, December 29, 2011

Free Day

Several months ago, I read an article in the newspaper about freebies you could sign up for your birthday. I went on line and signed up for all of them. So this week I have been cashing in on them. I started off this morning at QT with a free cup of hot cocoa and a breakfast sandwich. These freebies weren't really for my birthday. They were for liking them on facebook or doing an email survey for them.
Then Lezlee and I went to a movie. I had a free movie ticket for doing a customer satisfaction survey for Walgreens. In the movie, I had a free popcorn voucher and was able to get a soda for a dollar with my Harkin's cup.
We met my friend, Cindy and her Father in law for lunch at Cucina Tagliani's. I had a free dessert from them for my birthday. That is one of my favorite places and I was part of their loyalty program for a long time. We had the pumpkin bread pudding split four ways. Perfect!
Then Lezlee and I went out on the Arab Horse Farm tour. Also free.
I had dinner with my friend Juanita. We went to Lone Star to use my free appetizer coupon for my birthday. Juanita then picked up the tab. That wasn't part of the plan, but it did fit with the theme of the day.
Then finally, I wanted to see Hugo before it left the theatres, so went to one more movie. I used a free movie ticket I had gotten from work.
Lots of free fun packed into one day!

Arab Horse Farm Tour

I love horses. I haven't owned one in many years, but I still love to see them and be around them. I read in the paper that some of the fancy schmancy Arab Horse Farms in North Scottsdale were having some tours/open houses over the next four days. I went to one this afternoon with my friend Lezlee.
The barn was huge beautiful and amazing. The horses there are all nationally ranked competitive horses. There were beautiful to look at. We walked around and admired them, fed a few of them carrots and petted them. I don't know if it was Lezlee's perfume or what, but several of them really were sniffing at Lezlee and nuzzling her. One decided they wanted to take a bite of her coat. I have to say it was pretty funny. We had trouble getting her coat out from between his teeth, but we finally succeeded.
Here are some of the showy beauties.

I think of arabs as the show girls of the horse world. They can be pretty flashy. After walking around they had a demo and put of few of their champions through their paces. They rode in all different styles and also showed in arab costume and at halter. They were beautiful to see.
They told us that most show horse have about 5 or 6 years of an active show career. There was one stallion that was a legend that they were happy to share with us. His name is Shameless and he has been actively showing and winning national championships since he was 2. He is now 19. He was awesome! This is him.
This is an annual event. You should check it out sometime. And best of all, it's all free!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Other Fun things in Vegas

While in Vegas with Edith. We went to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay. I really enjoyed it,but my photos didn't turn out that great. Here are a few. Above is a Komodo Dragon. I had never seen one before, and apparently this is a younger guy because he is not as big as they get. They can get to 300 lbs!
This is a tree skink. He looks a lot like the Geico Gecko.
A Thai Crocodile.
And I love looking a t tanks full of jelly fish. They are pretty amazing to look at to me.
We also went to an art exhibit. We did a session at the Las Vegas Temple. That was really nice.
We went to two Cirque Du Soliel shows, Ka and Viva Elvis. Ka was my favorite and the Elvis one was Edith's favorite.

And we saw and ate a lot of amazing food!
I have to say, I don't think inexpensive food exists at the nice hotels anymore. The buffet at our hotel was 29$ for dinner and 17$ for breakfast. We didn't do that. We ate a couple of meals at our hotel, but other than that, we ate off the strip at regular places.

We had a grand time though. Lots to do even if you don't gamble! We even hit the outlet mall on the way out of town.

Vegas at Christmas time!

So! I pretty much work nights all of Christmas eve, Christmas day, etc. But you know, I am not going to let that stop me from having some fun this time of  year. Last summer, I saw a little tidbit in the paper advertisingt a special at the MGM Grand. If you booked a 3 night stay by Aug. 16th, they would throw in show tickets for one of seven shows. I had been wanting to go up and see one of the Cirque Du Soleil shows, so it sounded like a great deal to me. I checked the prices on line and by going mid week, we were able to get a room for about 69$ a night. Plus show tickets that were worth about 150$. So I thought this would be a great time to go.

My friend Edith said she would come so plans were made and off we went. The lobby of our hotel was beautifully decorated. Lots of gold, silver and red roses.
We were able to see the holiday decorations at several hotels. But the most fabulous was the atrium at the Bellagio. They use all plant products like the Rose Bowl Parade floats. It was stunning.
So many different types of Poinsettias and cyclamens made up the base. Jets of water. Arches, trees, penguins and polar bears.

This "card" backdrop was really cool. It was hard to get a photo of because so many people were taking their picture in front of it. Again it was all made of plant materials.

There were three carnation covered polar bears with ice covered trees behind them.

And ice skating penguins.

And a train went around this polar bear.

We got to see a lot of beautiful Christmas decorations!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oatmeal part 2

I did a blog on Oatmeal earlier this year. I recently got an email from Bob's Red Mill with some fun suggestions on things to add to your oatmeal. The savory ideas were interesting. I never thought of them. I will have to try them. Here they are:
• Add nut butter (peanut, almond, etc) or an egg to your cereal to boost flavor and protein and really kick start your day with a breakfast that will fuel you until lunch.

• Add some flaxseed meal, chia seed, hemp seed or pumpkin seed to increase your fiber and omega-3 intake to support a healthy heart.

• Fresh, frozen or dried fruit also make a great addition to boost flavor and add vitamins and antioxidants.

• Add a few tablespoons of canned (or fresh) pumpkin for a decadent, holiday-themed breakfast. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, Potassium, Zinc and protein, making it a great addition to a whole grain breakfast.

• Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your cereal will help stabilize your blood sugar, not to mention that a little cinnamon can add a big flavor boost.

• Take it savory! Try this: add shredded cheese, sliced green onions, a dash of salsa and top with an egg for delicious and healthy Mexican dish.

Enjoy! Makes you think of other things you could do with it.....Maybe left over yams, adding some cooked acorn squash and cinnamon..

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What do we really think of America?

I recently had the opportunity to speak at length to a physician who was a native of Pakistan but had been in this country for the last 15 years. It was a really interesting conversation. Especially with the sticky situation we have had with Pakistan as a country.
I asked him if he would ever go back "home" to live. He said no, that this is home. His wife is also from Pakistan, but their children have all been born here. He loves Pakistan, but is very passionate about the United States and all the reasons it's a great country. And his reasons are ones that I think we take for granted. At least I know I do.
He said we have so much opportunity here. That truly people can get an education her, if they are motivated. And with that education can really change their lives. He said that where he is from, people are so incredibly hungry for an education that they go to any lengths to obtain one. He said he did some of his training in Newark, N.J. and was shocked to find people seemingly content to stay in reduced circumstances and not really striving to change. He said that we are so used to opportunity here, that we take it for granted.
He said it was also amazing to him how diverse our cultures were within the country and yet we were all still united as Americans. He has worked with the Amish, people in inner cities, Indian reservations and in spite of all of our differences, we can all be united. I like that a lot. Unity can do almost anything.

Another point that he made,was that a child can show up in an emergency room and have injuries. This child has no voice and cannot speak up and protect themselves. He said the fact that there is an agency in the government that will step in, investigate and protect this individual with no voice is really amazing. When he tells people back in his home country of this, they are amazed. Again, it never occured to me to think of CPS or Adult Protective Services as truly unique.

I was very moved by our conversation and felt very grateful for my country. And as I am trying to pay special attention to gratitude this month, I thought it fitting to say something about it. What are you grateful for in our country or your country?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LA County Coroner's Office

So...One night when Cindy and I were driving back and forth to our hotel, I saw a sign that said LA County Coroner's Office. I said "Hey, I remember reading once that the Coroner's office has a gift shop!" Cindy called her girl's and Roxanne looked it up on line for us. Sure enough in a Wild and Wacky LA post, she found that it was true. She gave us their info.
So the next morning we went to check it out. It was a complete hoot. First of all we passed some other people going in. We thought, they can't be here for anything good, so we better not make eye contact, smile or say good morning. The offices and area where the gift shop is, is in the old LA County General Hospital. It 's a kind of cool old building. Inside the receptionist dude wasn't quite sure about the gift shop and if it was open. The door wasn't 10 feet from where he was sitting. Hmmm
In one corner of the lobby was the "Notification Room". Cindy saw a sign that said something like be sure and be respectful of people who were here for notifications. Yeek.
Then we got inside the gift shop. What a hoot. Dark humor, trading off of the popularity of the whole CSI genre. Tshirts, aprons, door mats, etc. Saying things like," we are dying for your business" or "we have spare hands, spare hearts and spare ribs" . Shirts with body outlines on them. There was a sign that said Shoplifters Kin will be notified. HAH! I got a tshirt from the coroner's sport team. It has a running skeleton on it and it says Play hard or die Trying. Cute.

It was really a fun stop. Who knew?

Griffith Park Observatory

On Sunday last week, Cindy and I went to Church.In the afternoon, we went to the Griffith Park Observatory. It was on my list of notable places in LA that I should visit and hadn't. It is a very well known landmark and has been in several movies, especially a James Dean movie. When reading about it, parking was said to be very limited. So we decided to take one of the hiking trails up and hike there. This is what the lower part of the park looks like. Very shady, green and lots of trees. Quite pleasant. The trail was very definate, but there wasn't any signs and so we asked someone to make sure we were on our way to the Observatory. The lady said, yes you CAN get there this way, but it's far and very steep. Cindy and I looked at each other. Like how far? Cindy asked. The lady said a couple of miles. Ah, we thought, no problemo.

After the first short bit of trail in the trees, it opens up to a more natural vegetation in the area. It was a cool day, in the afternoon, so we were good. This is what it looks like from our approach. It WAS steep, but within our capabilities. I stopped a few times to catch my breath. There were amazing views as we went. It was a clear day, no smog and you could see clear to the ocean in one direction and to the San Gabriel mountains and Palm Springs to the other.

The Hollywood sign was not as close as it looks. I was using a bit of my zoom lens. But we were in the vicinity.

Almost to the top!

The San Gabriels with a dusting of snow.

Once there, you could climb up to several different levels. This is the roof.

There is the ocean, past downtown.

Looking South and slightly east.

It was free to go inside and there were several exhibits. The only thing you have to pay for is if you go to one of the planetarium shows.

There were some beautiful murals and ceiling paintings.

A memorial to James Dean.

View across the front lawn.

This guy was just a photo op waiting to happen. He and his buddies got a laugh out of my wanting to take his picture.

The trail starting back down.

This was our dinner stop for the night. I had been wanting to try one of the many food trucks we saw.

The front of the planetarium. It was a fun afternoon!