Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dusty, Vegas, Hotpads and Handbells

We lost another of our sweet guinea pigs on Fri., August 29. As with Ozzie, it was unexpected. Not quite as unexpected as Ozzie, as there was NO warning with Oz, while Dusty started becoming much less active and not eating much a week before. But it was a surprise that he got sick. He was one of the more active and curious piggies we'd had. He would stand and stretch along the side of his cage, looking all around at the slightest sound or movement. We don't know what happened. We started putting vitamins made for piggies in his water, but he died that evening about an hour after I came home from work. He was pretty; looked like an albino with pink eyes except he had a dark patch on his face. Considering we acquired him and his late cagemate Rusty after they were abandoned in a home with four other piggies that already had died, at least we were able to give these two a good home for their final months. RIP, Dusty....

Thankfully, this was the only dark moment of the first of two long weekends, the following Mon. being Labor Day. The following morning, my new pastor, Liz, came over to visit and met Rex and the critters. (He still hasn't been to my new church; he continues to be scheduled to work Sundays.) I spent most of the weekend the way I usually like to spend them -- at home with the doggies and piggies, watching TV and crocheting, and also making plans for the following weekend, my mini-vacation in Vegas! Hard to believe that now, it's already been two weeks ago, and the first day of fall is almost here.

I got up at 4:00 a.m. (yawn) on Friday the 5th, had Rex drop me at the dock to take the 5:00 ferry to West Seattle, and from there took the express bus to the airport, getting there in plenty of time for my 8:00 flight. There was no problem getting my steel crochet hook on board the plane either coming or going, so I was able to work on a lavender and green pineapple doily on each flight. We landed a little early, at 10:15-ish. I had already started spending the $100 my boss gave me for my bd at Sea-Tac Airport, buying a summery aqua necklace, and now at McCarran Airport, here was a store with rows of very cute watches for $10! Having just broken the bangle watch I loved days before, what great timing! After some deliberation, I picked a pretty lavender one with a "croco" strap and silvertone trim.

This was the first trip where I ever rented a car; I usually choose to walk and take buses on trips, but with the 105 degree heat, I saw little choice, and I got a fabulous deal from Alamo. They were out of compacts so I got to upgrade to a nice silver Pontiac G6, which I enjoyed driving (they offered a minivan at first, but I've never driven one and didn't feel ready to start now). Heading north toward my hotel and driving through the Strip, even without the neon lights, I was in awe and had to keep telling myself to watch where I was going and calm down. At Sahara, the cross street where I would turn left for the Palace Station Hotel, was a large, tacky, but fun gift shop called Bonanza, so I had to stop in there. Kitty corner from that shop was the NASCAR Cafe and Gift Shop, where I already knew I would stop. Looking at the ladies' tops for awhile, I decided on two -- a black NASCAR Cafe tank that would be great to wear for the next evening's activity (more on that soon) and a nice long-sleeve black and gray (with orange Home Depot trim, natch) Tony Stewart shirt that was half-price due to his not driving that car after this season (since he will be a team owner then).

It was still a bit early to check into the hotel, so I decided to have lunch and then drive around a bit. I looked for a restaurant called Hash House I found online where I'd decided to eat lunch, but couldn't find it. So I ended up eating at KFC, which still hit the spot. I somehow kept making wrong turns though I usually have a good sense of direction. I stumbled upon a mall with a Michael's and went there for a red Sugar N'Cream yarn for hotpads. They had my Bernat Berella yarn for the incredible price of $1.49 and I decided to buy some and have my friend Mary (who I'd be meeting the next day) ship it to me (which would still be cheaper than paying $15 to check a bag). I bought 6 soft forest, 5 forest, 10 rich pink, and the one remaining skein of soft heather (cream).

I headed for the Palace Station, deciding I would freshen up and then take their shuttle to the Strip. I knew it was an economy room, but being Vegas, I assumed it would still be nice and have at least the basic amenities I'd come to expect when traveling. What a disappointment! The room was tiny (the two double beds taking up most of it), very plain vanilla "decor", no bathtub (only a shower stall), no refrigerator, and the most stunning to me -- no coffeepot and fixings to make morning coffee! I've never stayed anywhere that didn't have that. Also, it was advertised as being 2 blocks from the Strip -- at least a mile would be more like it. I would never stay at this place again if I went back, and would advise anyone else not to....

I took the shuttle to the Strip. There was only one stop (or as I learned, sometimes two, according to their whim). I sat next to a delightful young woman visiting from Germany, who was pretty enough to be in a beauty pageant. I wish I'd taken her picture. I got off the shuttle and started walking. It was still waaaay too hot for me though the sun had gone down; I had to stop and get a bottle of water. Then I saw there was a $2 bus that went all the way down the Strip and I decided to take that, but it took forever to get there. I finally got most of the way down the Strip and decided to walk much of the way back. I walked through a few of the fancy malls in the prominent hotels -- the Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood was especially elegant and impressive. I took some pics of the neon lights of the Strip at night, and when I was almost done doing that, my danged camera battery ran out -- and I hadn't thought to bring the charger. I was surprised at how, at many intersections, the crosswalk is totally blocked off and to move forward, you HAVE to go up an escalator that leads into one of the famous hotels -- or you can turn and take the next escalator down, and it can be confusing. But I eventually made it back to the shuttle stop and returned to my plain little room to prepare for the next day -- my birthday!

I'd arranged to meet my E-mail friend Mary at Omelet House, another restaurant I found online (which offers a free bd meal if you bring a friend), at 8:00 a.m. I had probably the best omelet I ever had there, but it was beyond enormous. They must have used six eggs! I hated to waste half of it, but I had no choice since the danged hotel room had no fridge. Then Mary and I went to a yarn store she'd never been to. It turned out to be the typical small yarn store that caters almost exclusively to knitters, so neither of us were terribly impressed. Then we went to her home for a short while where I met her hubby, two of her sons, and her two cute dogs, Lady, a husky, and Coco, a chow puppy. We had a nice visit and it was fun meeting her after communicating online for quite some time. Her son took a pic (my battery having died) and I wish I could share it, but I look awful; my eyes are half-closed...

When I left her home, I drove around a bit, then I went to the hotel to shower and plan for the evening. After unwinding for awhile, I took the Strip shuttle and walked to Harrah's, where the shuttle bus was leaving at 5 p.m. for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway!! I'd decided a couple weeks before that rather than go to a show, I'd spend my last evening in Vegas touring the speedway and riding 3 laps at up to 165 mph in an exact replica of a real NASCAR! Each of us had to put on a fire-retardant suit like the drivers wear and a helmet, then wait our turn dressed like that in the 100 degree-plus heat. Needless to say, that part I could have done without. And it was over pretty fast. It was scary but fun! I guess I'm glad I did it. But for what they charge (plus an extra $35 for the pic of me in the car on a stone plaque), next time I go to a speedway, it will be to actually attend a race -- and in cooler temps! It did give me even more of an appreciation for what the drivers do. The hardest part was crawling in and out of that tiny window! Afterwards, we toured the garage and when I saw the exact replica of Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot car, I lamented that my camera battery had died. So one of the ladies took my pic by the car and E-mailed it to me. It turned out OK, so I'll post it at the bottom of this paragraph. The bus dropped us back at Harrah's, and since I was required to wear closed shoes for the NASCAR ride, which weren't nearly as comfy as my sandals, rather than walking through the Strip some more, I found the shuttle and returned to my room. The shuttle nearly left without me; it stopped at a different spot than before and I had to yell and wave him down. Then the driver acted like I was supposed to know where he was stopping. This only added to my distaste for the Palace Station Hotel.

I purposely decided on a comparatively uneventful Sunday to conclude my trip. With my unlimited Alamo mileage, I decided to visit a Lutheran church on the far northwest side, which had its traditional service at 11:00. Before church, I went back to Omelet House for breakfast, but had French Toast this time. I took the "scenic route" to the church but still got there too early, so drove around some more. The service was a lot like those at my new church and I enjoyed it. Afterwards, I went back to the Michael's and retrieved the one skein of rich pink Berella yarn that had fallen out of my basket the other day (having given the other 21 to Mary to ship to me). I decided to gradually head to the outlet mall near the airport as my final stop even though my plane wasn't leaving till 7:27 p.m. I thought the mall would be on my right, then I saw the sign that it was ahead to the left. I thought, great, oh well, with this traffic, I don't feel like merging; I'll just head to the airport and hang out there. Then I saw another mall on my side of the road, Town Square, so decided to check that out. It was elegant, on manmade city "streets". I wanted to park and walk around despite the heat. But the parking spots were metered and I was almost out of change. I only had enough change for 12 minutes. I parked anyway but had to hurry back, being unable to think of something to buy quickly to get change. Then I couldn't find my way out of there; it was like a giant maze!! I finally found Las Vegas Blvd. heading south to the airport on the 4th or 5th try. I turned and thought, OK, I am dropping off this car, I've had enough of driving in this town! THEN came the sign, rental car return here, wrong side of road again!! O.....KAY..... I'll get to the next intersection, turn left and turn back around. I went to turn there -- and there was the outlet mall!! So I got to see it anyway. Then I went to the car return, then hung out at the airport for a few hours. I took the express bus to the ferry and got home at 12:15-ish. It was nice to not have to rush right off to bed and know I had the next day off to rest at home. Ironically, "Viva Las Vegas" was on tv, so I watched that. It was made in '64 and it was interesting to see how the Strip has changed since then.

Since returning home, I've mostly been working on CD hotpads. As I write this. I've made 16 so far. I'd thought about trying patterns for them for a long time, and had been saving free software and other free advertising CDs for that purpose. I have a couple dozen more of those CDs somewhere that I haven't found so far, but have about 2 dozen on hand to use, and the others may surface occasionally. The pattern I'm using is online, called Cluster CD Hotpad. I really enjoy making them and they will be nice to have on hand for exchanges, small gifts, or church fundraising. Once I use up the CDs I have on hand, I expect to start another Barbie dress, called Miss Holly, in dark rose, cream and hunter green.

The last part of the title of this post relates to this past Wednesday. I went to choir practice for the first time at my new church. The others were glad to see me, and the two sons we practiced were beautiful. It went very well and I really felt I fit in and was glad I went. After practice, Myrna asked me if I wanted to try handbells. Well, yes, actually, I've never gotten to play them and did want to try. Well.....I learned it's not for me. It's definitely harder than I thought and I just don't think I have the knack for it. The bells are heavy and there is a certain technique to how you have to move your arm to get the correct tone, and then there's the timing issue of knowing exactly WHEN to ring your bell, otherwise the chord could sound all wrong. I know everything takes practice. But I honestly didn't enjoy it. I hope that tomorrow, I can just tell her NO and not be made to feel guilty. Like Clint Eastwood would say, "A man (woman)'s got to know his (her) limitations!"

Finally....I didn't expect anything else from work for my birthday after Chris gave me the $100. But I was also given (from all the staff) a $40 gift cert for (Rex teased that was like giving my dad a gift cert for a tavern; I used it to buy several colors of Berrocco "Touche" yarn, which I haven't used but it seems like it will be very similar to Knit Picks Shine which I love for face or dish cloths) and we had a pizza party and chocolate bd cake on Wednesday. Between the pizza and the pretzels I'd eaten the previous two days, I got a bad migraine the next day and had to leave work at 1:30. So now my sick pay for the year is almost gone -- which would be OK if I could only control my eating! I know what certain foods will do to me when I overeat them but I do it anyway. Well, this is all that's fit to print for now!