12/03-17/08 and beyond Some may question why the Westies returned to Las Vegas so soon after their last trip so I have compiled our Top 10 reasons: 10. Alternative involved dishes, cooking and house cleaning. 9. Dollywood price increase. 8. Enjoy making new friends on Ogden Street. 7. Fine dining at Battistaâ€™s. 6. Listen to Viva Las Vegas one more time. 5. Another opportunity to view the tunnel. 4. Comped tickets to the Sirens of TI show. 3. Cowgirls/cowboys in â€œtight fittinâ€™ jeansâ€. 2. Just learned of the $20 check-in trick. 1. Expiring monorail ticket. We departed Harford at 12:15PM via a nonstop SWA flight and arrived in Las Vegas at 3:30PM local time. After retrieving our luggage, we proceeded to the consolidated rental facility via shuttle and picked up the first of our (2) one-week economy car rentals. Although returning one vehicle and picking-up another is a hassle, I felt it worth the effort because it allowed me to use a $25 Alamo online coupon for each rental plus receive double, total of 3, Rapid Reward credits. The total cost of the first weekâ€™s rental was $62.66 which is the lowest I have paid in years. The Alamo lot attendant upgraded us from an economy car to a 2009 PT Cruiser, but refused to accept a gratuity. We were quickly on our way to the Eastside Cannery (Eastside) where we were booked for the following 14 nights, including weekends, at a rate of $29.95. The Eastside is a new hotel/casino having opened in August and we managed to secure the last available room with a king sized bed. Room 1208 was adjacent to the elevator which proved to be noisy on occasion, but we decided to stay put rather than move to another room the following day. The quality of the room was very good and, as a bonus, the view from our floor to ceiling windows included not only the Stratosphere and distant mountains, but Samâ€™s RV Park. We were hungry, but not starved, so we decided on dining at the Oyster Bar at Sunset Station. We each chose the cioppino - a spicy tomato based seafood stew that included ample portions of clams, snow crab, whitefish, green lip mussels and scallops. The cioppino came with a side of rice which we did not feel was needed. I was able to apply both a Restaurant.com gift certificate and Fiesta points. ($7, Points, Restaurant.com (R.com), 4 Forks) Note: all dollar amounts shown for dining include the cost of any certificates and the gratuity. 12/04 As usual I was unable to adjust to the time zone change and found myself sitting at the FPDW (full pay deuces wild) machines at 2AM. After a few hours of play and my #1 quad deuces of the trip, I returned to the room for a few additional hours of sleep. There are times in our lives when we embark on a course of action that we know we will likely regret. Such was our experience this morning at the recently renovated Boulder Station buffet. The new room is quite nice, but there has been little, if any, improvement in food quality. I chose 2 easy over eggs, ham, ambrosia, watermelon, and unripe cantaloupe. â€œPutting lipstick on a pigâ€ pretty much describes our feelings about the â€œnewâ€ buffet. ($3, LVA, Points, 0.5 Forks) We needed to keep our Boarding Passes (slot cards) current so we played a little 10-coin, 5 cent FPDW. While playing, I recognized an Asian man who sat down beside me from the Fiesta-Rancho. This guyâ€™s schtick is playing $1 at each FPDW machine in the casino and then shakes his hand and curses the machine when he loses. We made a short stop at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets in order for me to pick up some much needed shorts and socks. We then returned to Boulder Station for the free mystery gift promotion and received a set of wooden placemats (me) and $5 cash (Ms. Westie). I offered to sell my placemats to her for $5, but she refused â€“ go figure. On our return to the Eastside, I checked the promotions calendar and realized I qualified for a gift. I joined the long line at the slot booth which has been a continuing problem since it first opened. A second slot booth recently opened, but it was never staffed during our stay. After a several minute wait, a staff member announced gifts could be picked up at a table set-up on the other side of the casino. In quick order I was walking off with a ceramic spoon holder. We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the room either reading or relaxing. Tonightâ€™s drinks were provided by the South Point Casino courtesy of ACG coupons. We ordered mojitos, but the bartender warned us off because they are now using an inferior mix rather than making them from scratch as in the past. We decided to forego the experience in flavor (sic) of glasses of merlot (2.5 Sips). This trip coincided with the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) so all casino bars and the lounge were fully occupied by cowboys and cowgirls. Sitting at the bar nursing merlots while watching the NFR held a certain appeal, but we opted for dinner at Vox Wine Lounge. On our arrival the bar was reasonably active, but the dining room virtually empty. Since our September visit, the owners have attempted to reinvent the restaurant and the menu is now less adventuresome (read appealing). http://www.voxwinelounge.com/ We began with what was described on the menu as a grilled Caesar salad, but I pulled out a magnifying glass and could detect no grill marks. The salad dressing was flavored with a tinge of smokiness and the overall salad was satisfying. Ms. Westie ordered Angel Pasta which was penne and chicken tossed in a tomato vodka sauce. My garlic noodles with prawns entrÃ©e was excellent though I suspect the crustaceans were actually shrimp. We also shared a delicious butter scotch crÃ¨me brulee. Our waiter, the only waiter, informed us that he and pastry chef would soon be departing. I used a $50 gift certificate purchased from a local radio station. ($45.83, 3.5 Forks) 12/05 I managed to hit my #2 quads this morning, but walked away a loser. On returning to the room, I discovered Ms. Westie was sleeping in late on her birthday, so I quietly closed the door and walked the casino floor for another half hour. After freshening up, we departed for the Green Valley Ranch Resort for the breakfast buffet. There was a sign posted at the entrance advising patrons that points and coupons could not be combined, but the cashier allowed me to tender a LVA coupon and use my Fiesta points. My breakfast included runny OJ, skim milk, cheese quesadilla, grilled veggies, 1/8th of a dismal pancake that I accidently drenched in melted butter instead of syrup plus fresh fruit with strawberry yogurt. (Points, 1 Fork) As we prepared to depart from our table we saw an elderly, defined as anyone older than us, lady at an adjoining table stuffing 3 bananas and a pear into her pocket book. It was sort of embarrassing for us because Ms. Westie was only able to fit one banana in her pocket book. On departing we made the short drive to the Henderson Multigenerational Center. The center includes numerous activity rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a basketball court and jogging track. We were visiting in order to see an exhibit by local artist Sharon Menary. (2 Claps) After viewing the exhibit and touring the facility we returned to our room, but discovered it was not maid (sic) up so were forced by circumstances beyond our control to return to the gaming floor. My game of choice was 1 cent, 10-line 9/6 JOB where I lost substantially more than 1 cent. The remainder of the afternoon was spent mentally preparing ourselves for the eveningâ€™s activities. We departed the Eastside in time to catch rush hour, but arrived at the South Point in time to secure prime seats at the bar. While we waited for the bartender to fill our glasses with merlot, I scampered upstairs to make reservations at the Primarily Prime Rib restaurant for 7PM. http://www.southpointcasino.com/dining/primarily-prime-rib.php After reviewing the menu, we each settled on the South Point cut of prime rib. All dinners include warm artisan bread and a choice of either salad or split pea soup. The blue cheese dressing on our salads was bland and most likely from a bottle and our baked potato was at least an hour past done. The prime rib was served medium rare and was accompanied by side dishes of a sour cream based dressing and fresh horseradish. The meat was tough and was in weak in flavor. Given the many favorable reviews, we were disappointed by the quality of our entire meal. The one positive was the South Point was running a Â½ point special on all food. ($8, Points, 1.5 Forks) Ms. Westie put a few points on her slot card in order to qualify for the 2,500 point birthday bonus before we departed. On our return to the Eastside we played (2) $10 MPs at the craps table for a net $10 win and then listened to local country singer Tony Marques in Marilynâ€™s Lounge. (1.5 Claps) http://www.tonymarques.com/ 12/06 This morningâ€™s VP session was notable for the number of wild royals I hit, but I basically broke even. Breakfast was at the historic Golden Gateâ€™s Bay City Diner. http://www.goldengatecasino.com/Assets/Downloads/BayCityDinerMenu.pdf The sole reason for us dining at this restaurant was for the French toast stuffed with cream cheese and fresh strawberries featured in the online menu, but we were told by the waitress that it had been discontinued. Ms. Westie ordered hot cakes with whipped cream which proved to be both overcooked and grossly over priced. I ordered eggs Florentine â€“ poached eggs with spinach over an English muffin and topped with Hollandaise sauce. The eggs were very close to being hard boiled, the previously frozen spinach was stringy, Hollandaise sauce too heavy on the lemon and the English muffin not sufficiently toasted. Otherwise our meals were perfect. ($12.52, ACG, 0.5 Forks) On exiting we joined the masses heading down Fremont Street for the Great Santa Run. Once again Siegfried and Roy participated along with thousands of runners and walkers dressed in Santa Claus outfits. We enjoyed the pre race activities, but did not have enough time to watch the start of the run because of our computer reservations at the Clark County library. Our next stop was Bon Jour Euro Bakers on the west side of town. http://www.bonjoureurobakers.com/ Prices are very reasonable compared to comparable Strip bakeries such as Bouchon, Jean Phillip Patisserie or Payard. After much discussion, we walked out with a beautiful and equally delicious Marquis â€“ a vanilla and chocolate mousse concoction. ($3.75, 4.5 Forks) My original intention was to do a taste comparison with a similar dessert purchased at Normandie Country Bakery, but we could not locate the latter. I spent the remainder of the afternoon reading and snoozing while Ms. Westie played a little VP. In the late afternoon I went to the slot booth and picked up a Pin Ups calendar that I earned during the morning session. We also participated in a free slot tournament and scored well below respectability. I realized this afternoon that this was day 4 of the trip and we hadnâ€™t visited Ellis Island yet. On entering I felt a rush of adrenaline and proceeded directly to the bar where we ordered a pair of eggnogs and a Partridge in a pear tree. The eggnogs were delicious, but Ellis was temporarily out of partridges. (4.5 Sips) We next navigated our way to Fredianiâ€™s Ristorante in Henderson for dinner. http://www.usmenuguide.com/fredianis.html We shared a more than credible Caesar salad and ordered crab cakes with roasted red pepper tartare sauce as our entrÃ©es. The crab cakes were very light on filler and accompanied by crisp asparagus spears and sautÃ©ed potatoes. We also shared a pana cotta with raspberry sauce. The staff was incredibly friendly and we enjoyed talking with the owner, no longer Frediani, and the executive chef. I used a $50 gift certificate purchased for $23.75 and thought our bill of fare would approximate the balance, but our dessert was comped. ($30.95, 4 Forks) On our return to the Eastside we played a pair of $10 MPs at the craps table â€“ net win $10. Ms. Westie returned to the machines while I listened to Jeff Allen at Pin Ups and Tony Marques in Marilynâ€™s Lounge before joining Ms. Westie. Shortly before the stroke of Cinderella hour, I quickly hit #3 and #4 quad deuces of the trip and retired to the room singing Joy to the World (Hoyt Axton version). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoyt_Axton 12/07 It only took a few minutes of play this morning before I hit a Royal Flush, my first in almost a year. After an oil and filter change in our room, we decided to celebrate my luck by dining downstairs at Snaps coffee shop. Two $1.99 breakfast specials are currently being offered and we tried both. Ms. Westie chose the 2 eggs (easy over), toast, bacon and hash browns while I feasted on 2 pancakes and bacon. Both were very well executed and service was attentive. ($6.29, 3 Forks) I went to the slot booth to pick-up the Hot Rod calendar earned earlier this morning, but learned there had been a delay in receiving them so I obtained a rain check. We lost a little money playing video poker before retiring to the room to read and relax. In the late afternoon I again participated in the free slot tournament and registered another ridiculously low score. The Orleans was the source for this eveningâ€™s pre dinner drinks, but I was disappointed to find they were out of Blue Moon. I chose a Budweiser Lime (1 Sip) while Ms. Westie continued her assault on the 2008 merlot crop. We headed west on Flamingo to Summerlin in search of CafÃ© Deia. After circling one shopping center, we sought directions and learned it was located across the street in different shopping center. We also discovered it was closed on Sundays. Plan B was the Rampart buffet, but the cashier noticed which I hadnâ€™t that the ACG coupon was valid for lunch only. Plan C was Senor Miguelâ€™s at the Suncoast. We started off with the usual chips and salsas followed by 2-item combinations â€“ enchilada and chile relleno served with refried beans, unadorned salad and Spanish rice. Though restaurant names differ, the same mediocre Tex-Mex food may be found in most casinos. ($4, Points, 1.5 Forks) http://www.suncoastcasino.com/dining/senor-miguels We beat a hasty retreat to the Suncoast showroom just in time for start of the Hawaiian Christmas show. Unlike many shows billed as Christmas shows at this time of year, this one actually featured 95% Christmas music, though only 66% of the cast appeared to be of Hawaiian heritage. The music was very good, but I did not feel the troupe of Hawaiian dancers added much to the overall production. (Comps, 3 Claps) We used our ticket stubs for free drinks with Ms. Westie opting for an Irish coffee with Baileyâ€™s Irish CrÃ¨me while yours truly experienced his first ever Jagermeister. (4 Sips) http://www.jagermeister.com/welcome/welcome.com.aspx 12/08 This morningâ€™s session was the worst of the trip with my best hand being 5 of a kind. On departing the Eastside we headed to Sunset Station for the breakfast buffet. Many unusual items, including menudo and Italian wedding soup, were offered in addition to standard breakfast fare. I stuck with traditional by filling my plate with fresh fruit and yogurt, an Eggbeatersâ€™ spinach omelet with mozzarella, bacon and ambrosia. (ACG, Points, 2.5 Forks) We checked out a few restaurants in the immediate area for later in the trip and then continued on to the Strip where we parked at Billsâ€™ and walked over to Bellagio. Our first stop was an exhibit of Richard MacDonaldâ€™s sculpture in the Oâ€™ lobby. http://www.bellagio.com/amenities/richard-macdonald.aspx His sculptures, particularly those involving Cirque performers, were very enjoyable. (4 Claps) We also visited the Gallery of Fine Art for the American Modernism exhibit. This exhibit was organized by the Boston Museum of Fine Art and featured the work of Georgia Oâ€™Keefe, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Arshile Gorky and others. ($24, 4 Claps) We decided on a liquid lunch at Ellis Island and redeemed an ACG coupon for a pair of eggnogs (4.5 Sips) and bottles of water. This followed by bowls of cream of chicken soup in the restaurant. ($6, ACG, 1.5 Forks) On returning to the Eastside in the mid-afternoon, I picked up a Trinkets of Treasure rodeo hat collectible plus $5. After resting for the remainder of the afternoon, the Westies drove to South Point for pre dinner drinks while watching the start of the rodeo broadcast. I consumed a Miller Chill and Wet Pearl before departing for the China Spice restaurant in Green Valley Ranch Resort (GVR). This restaurant is beautifully decorated and the food is consistently good though hardly authentic. It was also on sale at Â½ points for the month of December. We shared orders of cashew chicken and seafood and tofu hot pot. The hot pot included a mix of scallops, shrimp, mussels and whitefish. ($4, Points, 3.5 Forks) We saddled up and returned to the South Point to listen to Susie Dobbs in the showroom/lounge. Susie is a country singer who has performed for many years at either the Gold Coast or Orleans. She has not done much touring since having a baby a few years ago, but continues to perform in Las Vegas at this time of year. Her voice and energy level continue to be very good. http://www.susiedobbs.com/ (4 Claps) 12/09 The morning session proved to be a battle between Up and Down with Down winning the war. Daily temperatures to date been in the low 60â€™s, but it was very brisk this morning as we headed for the Fiesta-Henderson. Tuesdays are senior days where old codgers earn triple points and pay Â½ points for food. We each chose the $2.49 breakfast special at the Baja Beach CafÃ© â€“ 2 eggs done our way, bacon or sausage, toast and hash browns. The food was very good, but service was slow due to inadequate staffing. We also noticed the dessert display was not particularly appealing. ($2, Points, 2 Forks) On exiting we registered our cards for the bonus points and in short order Ms. Westie hit her #1 quad deuces of the trip. We also played (2) $25 match play (MP) coupons at the craps table for a net $23 win. On our return to the Eastside I picked up a very nice poly-dry sport shirt that I earned in the Shopping Spree promotion. We also played (2) more $10 MPs at the craps table for another $10 win. Tuesdays are also Ladies Night at the Las Vegas Hilton so I dropped Ms. Westie off at the spa where she enjoyed a Â½ priced Swedish massage. ($65, 4 Claps) I drove over to the nearby Sahara and picked-up our tickets for the Fuego Raw Talent show. On returning to the Hilton, I quickly toured the Cowboy Christmas Show at the Convention Center before retrieving Ms. Westie. On our return to the Eastside Ms. Westie noticed a Toys for Tots box in front of the Security desk so I exchanged our spoon holder for a Skanner 2 TV which we donated. We also played a little video poker and I managed to hit #5 quad deuces of the trip before retiring to the room. In the late afternoon we drove to the Orleans for the Mix and Mingle which featured Next Movement, a R&B group, this week. The Bourbon Street Cabaret was almost full, but we were able to find an empty table and enjoyed listening to them. Todayâ€™s crowd was an interesting mix of R&B and Rodeo fans. The latter were waiting anxiously for the start of the rodeo broadcast. http://www.thenextmovementshow.com/ (3.5 Claps) We had no difficulty re-locating CafÃ© Deia, a welcome addition to the growing list of tapas restaurants in Las Vegas. We started off with Baba Gandoush â€“ baked eggplant pureed with olive oil and lemon juice and served with warm pita bread (3.5 Forks). We next ordered Shrimp a la Diabla â€“ marinated shrimp sautÃ©ed with garlic, red pepper and white wine, spicy and delicious, and bacon wrapped figs. (4.5 Forks for each) Our last order was spinach stuffed mushrooms topped with bÃ©chamel sauce and Swiss cheese (3.5 Forks) and Classic Paella â€“ saffron rice mixed with black mussels, shrimp, calamari, peas and carrots. (4.5 Forks) Service was very attentive and knowledgeable. ($27.16, R.com) http://www.usmenuguide.com/cafedeia.html On exiting we made the short drive to the Rampart where we joined the slot club and redeemed ACG coupons for a choice of either a T-shirt or hat plus a deck of cards. They were out of the cards so we each received both a T-shirt and a ball cap. 12/10 The morning VP session proved to be a winner after I hit my #6 quads of the trip. This day also signaled the halfway point in the trip so our first order of business this morning was to drop off our dirty laundry at our favorite wash and fold. We continued on to Ellis Island where we have enjoyed the cinnamon vanilla French toast many times in the past, but todayâ€™s scaled new culinary heights and for the first time I cleaned my plate. ($8, ACG, 4 Forks) Ms. Westie suggested an intermediate stop at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood so she could use some expiring coupons at Sephora (perfume) and Chicoâ€™s (earrings) stores before we returned to the Eastside. At around 1PM, we began to feel a little hungry so we drove to Fiesta-Henderson. Once again service at the Baja Beach CafÃ© was painfully slow and when one of the waitresses finally acknowledged our existence we placed an order for a turkey club sandwich. The sandwich was pretty good with an ample portion of turkey and crisp bacon, but would have been a lot better had it not sat for several minutes before being served. ($2, Points, 2 Forks) On returning to the Eastside, I picked up a green plaid fleece blanket at the slot club booth. Later on we retrieved our laundry and proceeded to the consolidated rental facility where I returned the PT Cruiser. Ms. Westie waited upstairs while I completed the check-in process for our next rental. The lot attendant refused my request for an upgrade citing the number of economy cars on the lot. Our new Pontiac G5 provided a nicer ride and had more zip than the larger PT Cruiser. We exited the lot and quickly arrived at the South Point for another round of pre dinner drinks, merlots and mudslides, while watching the rodeo broadcast. The Silverton was offering Â½ price food at all restaurants this month so we settled on the Twin Creeks Steakhouse for dinner. http://tinyurl.com/sx28l This restaurant is physically impressive and was beautifully decorated for the holiday season. Our server presented the menus and returned shortly with a basket of warm Artisan bread. We each ordered 8 ounce filet mignons cooked medium rare off the Classicsâ€™ section of the menu which includes a house salad and choice of two sides - potatoes and/or vegetables. I chose sautÃ©ed broccolini and a baker. Our server returned with salads of mixed greens and cherry tomatoes properly dressed sparingly with balsamic vinaigrette. Each filet was slightly overcooked; mine tender and delicious while Ms. Westieâ€™s was smaller and tougher. ($30.71, 4 Forks for mine, 3 for hers) Our last stop of the evening was the Gold Coast lounge where Wylie and The Wild West band were performing. Wylie is a throwback to the days of singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, yodeling included. You just donâ€™t find music like this in CT. http://www.wylieww.com/ (3.5 Claps) 12/11 This morningâ€™s highlight was my #7 quads of the trip. The low was watching the slot techs eliminate the speed control on the bank of full pay video poker machines and setting them at medium speed. Each morning the Shift Slot Manager has come around inquiring how I was doing and asking if there was anything he could do for me. I decided the time was right, so I requested a comp for Snaps and he wrote one out for $25. Ms. Westie and I each ordered OJ, an avocado omelet and bacon. The omelets were satisfactory, but nothing to write home about. The bill was an amazing $22.78. ($4, Comps, 2 Forks) On exiting I joined the conga line at the slot club booth to pickup a hand blender earned earlier this morning and recognized Luvnluck from the LVA discussion board. I last saw him at Casino MonteLagoâ€™s lounge some 3 years ago. We also visited the Clark County Library to check our emails before heeding the call to head west to Bon Jour Euro Bakers. This time we chose a tiramisu and Raspberry Milequille (puff dough layered with raspberry pastry cream) that we consumed over the next two days in our room. ($8, 4.5 Forks) Our last stop was Boulder Station for a Mystery Gift, Ms. Westie received a set of 4 soup bowls and I got a crispy new $5 bill. I responded negatively when Ms. Westie inquired if I was interested in purchasing said bowls. The remainder of the day was spent in our room resting and reading before we departed for the pre dinner drinks at the Orleans. We started off with merlots, but a gentleman seated a few stools away was served a beautiful looking drink so on the next round I ordered â€œwhat that guy is drinkingâ€. It proved to be a raspberry martini made with Chambord, vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice. (4.5 Sips) Sufficiently lubricated and now hungry, we drove to Mezzo Italian Bistro in North Las Vegas. The owner/chef once owned the highly regarded, now defunct, Marcâ€™s Italian Steakhouse, but sold it a few years back and opened the slightly larger Mezzo. We ordered pasta faglioli â€“ family style, but were informed the kitchen was out of it this evening, so we settled on minestrone listed as a special. It was reasonably good, but the portion size was exceptionally small and a total rip off at $7 per bowl. Ms. Westieâ€™s entrÃ©e was a very large portion of eggplant parmesan, a family recipe, prepared without any breading. I chose the spinach lasagna with a tomato vodka sauce which was equally bountiful and delicious. I used a $25 gift certificate purchased from a local radio station. ($28.33, 3.5 Forks) We drove down Rancho to the Santa Fe where we attempted to play (2) $25 MPs at the craps table, but the box man would not permit us to use both at the same time. Not a problem as we walked over to a roulette table and placed our bets on red and black with me covering the 0 and 00 for a $21 win. On our return to the Eastside I listened to Jeff Allen at Pin Ups bar singing songs by the likes of Elton, Roy Orbison, Creedence, Bryan Adams, Christopher Cross etc. before retiring for the evening. (3.5 Claps) 12/12 My morning session proved to be a train wreck so I has happy to quit when the chimes rang 7 times. We again headed across town for breakfast at Martiniâ€™s. http://www.mixednutslv.com/martinis/BFMay.htm Ms. Westie ordered a coffee and almond crusted French toast â€“ a croissant dipped in vanilla rum flavored batter, topped with pastry cream and raspberry sauce and served with maple syrup. Not to be outdone, I ordered a large OJ and eggs Florentine â€“ poached eggs over spinach on top of an English muffin and topped with Hollandaise sauce. My dish was accompanied by country grilled potatoes. ($16.24, R.com, 4.5 Forks) Our next stop was the Las Vegas Art Museum on Sahara where the current exhibit was titled L. A. Now. The exhibit featured works by several emerging artists currently residing in the greater Los Angeles area. I did not enjoy a single piece of art in the entire exhibit. ($10, 0.5 Claps) http://www.lasvegasartmuseum.org/exhibitions.shtml Far more interesting was an exhibit by local photographer Thomas Schiff called 360 degrees. His panoramic photos of Las Vegas architecture, mostly casinos, were unique and dazzling. (4 Claps) Since we were in the immediate area, we made one last visit to Bon Jour Euro Bakers, waltzing off with a baba au rum ($3.75, 4.5 Forks) We made a quick stop at the Palms to play a pair of $10 MPs at the craps table, net $10 win. Our last stop was the Hard Rock to play a pair of $10 MPs at the craps table, a $10 win, and $10 in free slot play coupons. I thought I had done well cashing out with a $12.50 win, but Ms. Westie hit quads and redeemed her ticket for $57.25. We finally arrived at the Eastside where I picked up a second poly-dry sport shirt as this dayâ€™s Mystery Gift before retiring to the room. In the late afternoon, I listened for a short time to blues guitarist Jimmy Limo (2 Claps) at Pin Ups while Ms. Westie prepped herself for the eveningâ€™s activities. http://www.revver.com/video/825205/jimmy-limo-blues-guitar-demo-las-vegas/ Our dinner drinks, merlots, were served at Roxyâ€™s Lounge in Samâ€™s Town while we listened to local country band Marshall Reign (3 Claps) http://www.marshalreign.com/ Dinner tonight was at Carve in the Eastside. Our waiter started us off with a basket of warm bread followed by a delicious, but heavily dressed, spinach salad. Ms. Westie entrÃ©e was a 12 ounce prime rib served with baked potato and herb grilled tomato. I ordered the rack of lamb that was served with a grilled shallot, sweet potato and grilled tomato. We also shared an unneeded order of broccolini sautÃ©ed with garlic. Both entrees were above average and service throughout was very good. I used a $50 gift certificate purchased from a local radio station. ($35.49, 4 Forks) http://www.eastsidecannery.com/Restaurants_Lounges/dining_carve.htm We next drove to the Sahara for the 8:30PM performance of Fuego Raw Talent. Even though I used a KSHP voucher to purchase our tickets, we were seated in the VIP section. Although the story line of the show is muddled, we enjoyed the performances by this energetic and talented dance troupe. http://www.rawtalent.com/ ($38, 3 Claps) On returning to the Eastside, Ms. Westie headed for our room while I went to Marilynâ€™s Lounge to listen to Johnny Potash. Wow, looks like someone has been eating well since his days as the Charlie Daniels impersonator in the American Superstars show! Johnny is a great fiddle player and impersonator, but his voice isnâ€™t really good enough to hold my interest for an entire set. (1.5 Claps) 12/13 I woke up at 3AM and over the course of the next 3 Â½ hours managed to hit quads #8 and #9. I also played a bit of 1 and 2 cent, 10-line 9/6 JOB. Breakfast was at the Orleans buffet where I downed OJ, skim milk, huevos rancheros and fresh citrus with strawberry yogurt. ($2, Points, ACG, 2 Forks) We again parked at Billâ€™s Gamblinâ€™ Hall and crossed the bridge to the Bellagio. The winter exhibit at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens featured flying reindeer decorated with whole pecans, snowmen made from white carnations, an enormous Christmas tree, hundreds of amaryllis and poinsettias, a large rocking horse and super sized Christmas ornaments. (4.5 Claps) Prior to departing we toured the Chihuly shop, Jean Phillipe Patisserie and the garden shop. On our return to the Eastside, I checked on the status of my Hot Rod calendar and was offered a choice of either another Pin Ups calendar or $20 in free play. It took less than a New York minute for me to choose the slot play. At 1PM while playing off the slot play, I heard an announcement that Westie had 1 minute to claim his prize in a drawing. I cashed out and started to jog to the slot booth to find out where to claim the prize. I was now in full panic arriving in Marilynâ€™s Lounge with less than 20 seconds to spare. I assumed the prize would be something of nominal in value so you can imagine my delight when the envelope I selected contained a certificate for $250 cash. Santa arrived a little early this year for Westie. On our return to the room we distributed the larger our gifts, notably the mixer, set of bowls and placemats, to the housekeepers. Later in afternoon while I napped, Ms. Westie went to Marilynâ€™s Lounge for the 3PM drawing. Surprise, surprise, her name was called and, unlike little Jack Horner, when she stuck in her thumb out came another $250 certificate. In the late afternoon we played a pair of $10 MPs at the craps table earning the Westieâ€™s another $10. We also played a little video poker with Ms. Westie hitting her #2 quads of the trip. Since we now had the Eastside begging for mercy, we played the first of our 2009 ACG $10 MPs and won yet another $10. Yes, the Westieâ€™s are having them selves a Merry, Merry Christmas. We also attended the 5PM drawing hoping lightening would strike again, but neither name was called so we departed for the South Point for pre dinner drinks of Chambord Coladas (4.5 Sips) and merlots (2 Sips). As the sun set over the North Pole, the Westieâ€™s headed to Grimaldiâ€™s Coal Brick Oven Pizza on Eastern. http://www.patsygrimaldis.com/ I signed Ms. Westie up for their newsletter a few years back and so each December she receives a free 1-item large pizza. We chose the white pizza with garlic and added fresh tomatoes. The toppings have always been above average, but this time the elves got the crust right. ($5.69, 4 Forks) We stopped at Ethel Mâ€™s and enjoyed the 500,000 or so Christmas lights in the cactus garden (3 Claps) before returning to our home base. I closed out the evening listening to Jeff Allen at Pin Ups for about a half hour. 12/14 How does one know when they have been playing video poker for too long? The answer is when the Shift Slot Supervisor greets you with a big hug as happened to me this morning. We needed a break from those big breakfasts we have been consuming so we trekked across town for a pair of apple fritters and a coffee at Ronaldâ€™s Donuts. ($3.70, 4 Forks) Our next stop was the Casino Royale where I park whenever we visit mid-Strip, but the number of parking spaces is now limited due to construction activities. We walked over to the Mirage to view the lobby aquarium which was supposedly improved, but I could not see much difference from the past. We also shed a few tears as we passed the BLT Burger restaurant where white tigers used to roam. On our return to the Casino Royal we each spun the dials on the outside slot machine with Ms. Westie winning $100 in free slot play on â€œselected machinesâ€ while I won $50. We passed on this amazing opportunity and drove back to the Eastside where I selected a flashlight as my Mystery Gift. Todayâ€™s R-J carried a South Point advertisement for $1 drinks at most of its bars in December - Ho Ho Ho! Of course Westie still has oodles of free drink coupons so we never took advantage of this deal. There was good news, bad news and worse news at my late morning video poker session. The good was hitting a natural royal flush. The bad was the royal was hit while playing 1 cent 10-line 9/6 JOB and the worse was I still lost money. This day in history is now notable because Ms. Westie and I played video poker on the same bank of machines, at the same time and each of us walked away a winner. Her win came from numerous wild royals and 5OAKs while mine was achieved by hitting my #10 quads of the trip. The destination for this eveningâ€™s libations was Ellis Island. As we took our seats at the bar one of the local barflyâ€™s passed out and completed a swan dive off the bar stool. According to bartender, he was an alcoholic attempting to dry out by going cold turkey. In spite of the security personnel and paramedics attending to him, activity at the bar continued unabated. For our part, we enjoyed eggnogs and merlots before departing for McCormick & Schmicks. http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/ We were seated in a booth and served an amuse bouche of ahi tuna salad on a cracker shortly after being presented with the eveningâ€™s menu. Our shared portions of spinach salad with fennel, cranberries, and carrots in a delicious basil dressing were ample. Ms. Westieâ€™s entrÃ©e was Copper River sockeye salmon grilled with winter squash hash and chipotle miso sauce. The salmon was very good, but slight dry due to overcooking. My meal was amazing, blackened catfish with spinach and crab served over a crunchy polenta cake. We concluded this feast by sharing one of their signature crÃ¨me bruleeâ€™s. In one of those Abbot and Costello moments shared by married couples, I remarked that I have had only one crÃ¨me brulee that I did not enjoy. Ms Westie responded â€œWynnâ€, but I thought she asked â€œWhenâ€ so I said â€œWynnâ€. We were able to use both a $50 gift certificate from redeeming points in my Preferred Guest Membership account and a certificate good for a free dessert in recognition of Ms. Westieâ€™s recent birthday. ($10, 4.5 Forks) We waddled like Christmas geese back to the car for the short drive to the Orleans where we enjoyed the Jo Dee Messinaâ€™s show. Jo Dee was amazingly short, funny, talented and pregnant. She has a wonderful voice and sang many of her hits, including my favorite â€œMy Give A Damns Bustedâ€ as well as several Christmas carols. (Comps, 4 Claps) On exiting the showroom, we were greeted by Mrs. Buddha, aka Nancy, who escorted us to the Mardi Gras bar where we enjoyed a drink and conversation with her, Buddha, Sailor and Pam. Shortly before the bewitching hour the Westies returned to their hotel room. 12/15 If one cannot say something good about oneâ€™s morning video poker session, it is best to say nothing. Today we had breakfast at the locally famous Harrieâ€™s Bagelmania and Deli on Twain Street. Both the neighborhood and Harrieâ€™s have seen better times, but our toasted bagels with cream cheese were very good. http://harries.tripod.com/ ($5.29, 3 Forks) We returned to our room to read the R-J and relax before departing for the Greek Bistro across from Sunset Station. This is a small family operated restaurant with mama serving as the chef, the oldest daughter as maÃ®tre d, the father clearing tables and a son serving as our waiter. We did not want a full meal so I asked if we could use a 2/1 entrÃ©e coupon for soup. The older sister replied affirmatively so we ordered bowls of the soup of the day, avgolemono â€“ a silky mix of egg, lemon juice, chicken broth and roasted chicken. We have had this same soup elsewhere, but their version was by far the best. I was taken aback when we were told that both meals were on the house. ($5, 4.5 Forks) http://www.menusearch.net/menus/567general.pdf Later in the afternoon we made our last drive to the South Point for pre dinner drinks. This time starting off with Malibu Bay Breezes (3 Sips) and finishing with merlots. Most of the cowboys had departed yesterday, so we shared the bar with the Monday Night Football crowd. Dinner this evening was at the Mix Zone Cafe, a funky Thai restaurant located on W. Charleston Blvd. in the hospital zone. http://www.mixzonecafe.com/ We started off with som tum â€“ shredded papaya salad with tomatoes, green beans, Thai chiles and lime juice. We requested heat level 2, but were levitated off our seats by the spiciness of this dish. Our shared entrees of pad Thai with shrimp and three color curry with chicken were milder, but neither proved to be exceptional. Our bill included an automatic 18% gratuity because I used a $25 gift certificate purchased from a local radio station. ($20.90, 2 Forks) On our return to the Eastside we continued our losing ways before calling a night. 12/16 I was despondent when I found the FPDW machines out of commission this morning. I located my best bud, the Slot Shift Manager, and was told they were scheduled for routine maintenance. I spent the next 3 hours playing 10-line, 2 cent video poker, managed to hit a second mini royal and felt like the Little Drummer Boy was banging out a tune on my scalp. At the next sighting of my favorite Slot Shift Manager I requested and received a $50 comp for Casa Cocina. On returning to the room I looked out our windows and remarked that â€œItâ€™s beginning to look a lot like Christmasâ€ because the Spring Mountains were coated with snow. I hooked up our sled and headed to the Fiesta-Henderson for another $2.49, Â½ points, breakfast at the Baja Beach Cafe. Once again the eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast were fine, but service was slow. ($2, Points, 2 Forks) We played a little video poker and then returned to the craps table to play our last pair of $25 MPs for a $23 win. We then made a wide swing to the Las Vegas Outlets where I picked up some additional socks. My first order of business on returning to the Eastside was picking up a royal flush collectible-thingy and a coupon good for $5. At this point in the trip I think I have earned almost every promotional gift with the exception of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. I spent the remainder of the day alternating between reading, napping and playing video poker. We also played the last of our $10 MPs at the craps table resulting in one more $10 bill added to our Christmas Club. At around 3:30PM we departed for the Clark County Library in order to print out our boarding passes for tomorrow. As the clock struck 4:30PM, I checked in for our flights and received Group B passes. I still cannot figure out how that happened. We then drove to the South Point for pre dinner drinks, Cosmos and wine. (3.5 Sips) It was back to the Eastside for dinner at Casa Cocina. We started off with Mango Margaritas (4 Sips), the obligatory salsas and chips and a delicious tortilla soup. Our entrees were Red Snapper Coscina - sautÃ©ed red snapper filet with a zesty tomato and cilantro sauce accompanied by rice and homemade refried beans. A picture of our entrees may be found in Websterâ€™s Dictionary under the page heading â€œMediocreâ€. We concluded the meal by sharing a caramel flan that was too dense, but very tasty. ($7, Comps, 1.5 Forks) http://www.eastsidecannery.com/pdf/Casa_Menu.pdf We retired early after short sessions hammering the video poker machines. 12/17 My early morning session was uneventful though I did manage to lose a few dollars. I checked with the front desk and was granted 1PM checkout time. It was decided Green Valley Ranch buffet would be the provider of our last breakfast of the trip. My goal was to reduce my average daily calorie intake by limiting myself to OJ, skim milk, fruit and cereal. What I actually consumed was all of the above plus a slice of cheese quesadilla, a dollop of bread pudding and a cheese blintz. I was not overly concerned because on our return to CT I will be fasting on rice cakes and water for the remainder of 2008. (Points, 2 Forks) We returned to the Eastside for one last video poker session before completing the online checkout process and departing. As we exited the parking lot a light snow was falling and I remarked how it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Based on a recent review, we decided to try Ping Pong, no Pang, for lunch. http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Jan-05-Fri-2007/weekly/11696661.html We each ordered Thai ice tea and shared orders of basil shrimp and spicy noodles with shrimp. Lunch entrees include a cup of some nondescript broth that neither of us finished. The basil shrimp lacked both basil and much in the way of vegetables or meat while the spicy noodles dish was exceptionally bland and visually unappealing. ($15.50, R.com, 0.5 Forks) The snow was now coming down hard as we returned the rental and arrived at the airport via the shuttle. Lines were long and after checking our luggage, the SWA representative advised us of possible flight delays and/or cancellations while handing us a sheet of paper advising us that we were on our own. We also learned ours was the last flight of the day scheduled for Hartford. After an extended wait at our gate we realized planes were neither departing nor arriving. The arrival/departure boards showed flights being delayed for an one hour and then cancelled. Passengers were then instructed to join the masses already in line in order to be rescheduled. Part of the problem was the SWA reservation system was overloaded and agents were having problems getting into the system. I finally stopped a SWA employee and inquired whether we would be better off leaving the airport and trying to reschedule at a later time. She agreed so we headed downstairs even though our flight had not officially been cancelled. We also called the Gold Coast and reserved a room for $29.95. After a 40 minute wait in the snow, our Showtime shuttle ($17.50) arrived and we were herded on board. After numerous stops to drop off every other passenger, we finally were deposited at our hotel. The very efficient and pleasant front desk manager told us we were being assigned the last room with a king size bed. Room 275 was situated on the second floor facing a wall and some 200 yards from the closest elevator, but the Westies were not about to complain. She also had a housekeeper provide us with extra pillows and complimentary toothbrushes and toothpaste. As I considered our situation, it slowly dawned on me that I had given away or tossed out all of our unused coupons the night before. I tore open my carry-on bag and much to my relief found a few old Coast Casinos ticket stubs good for a free drink. We headed downstairs and found an accommodating bartender who accepted the coupons and provided us with a pair of cosmos and two bottles of water. (3 Sips) On returning to the room Ms. Westie began to work the phone. She contacted our neighbors and was informed that a major storm was forecast for Friday. Next she called SWA and after 40 minutes on hold, an agent came on the line and rebooked us on the next available flight on, drum roll, Friday. Ms. Westie also called downstairs and booked us for an additional night. Lastly she called her sister to let her know weâ€™d be home for Christmas. 12/18 In the early morning I played a little 9/6 JOB at the sports book bar and made several tours of the casino floor before returning to the room. Horror of horrors, Westie found himself in line for the Gold Coast buffet without a 2/1 coupon in hand. Food consumed this morning included OJ, skim milk, huevos rancheros and melon with yogurt. (Points, 1.5 Forks) While waiting for the Coast Casinos shuttle to take us to the Billsâ€™ Gamblinâ€™ Hall, it was difficult to believe yesterdayâ€™s storm had even happened because the sun was shining brightly and all that remained of the snow were puddles of water. We walked over to the Forum shops where Ms. Westie managed to find a reasonably priced jersey. We also picked up a few odds and ends including a gallon of H2O at the Stage Door behind Billsâ€™. As we approached the pick-up area we saw a shuttle pull in which we quickly boarded. On our arrival at the Orleans we remained on the shuttle, but the driver said he was returning to the Strip and we needed to disembark and wait for the next shuttle. After a 20 minute wait we hopped on another shuttle which drove right past the Gold Coast, stopped at Billsâ€™ and continued back to the Gold Coast. The Westies spent the remainder of the day cloistered in their room reading, napping and making phone calls to the outside world. We then took our remaining free drink ticket stubs to the bar, but after ordering a wet pearl and merlot were told by the bartender he could not accept them. With a tear in my eye I forked over $11. (2 Sips) Dinner tonight was at the Cortez Room in the Gold Coast. We started off with a complimentary relish tray and loaf of freshly baked bread. Our entrees included a choice of soup or a house salad featuring the ever so common iceberg lettuce. Ms. Westie ordered Chicken Oscar - a skinless chicken filet topped with crab meat stuffing, asparagus and beurre blanc sauce. I chose the 14-ounce prime rib which was tender and delicious. Both meals included a baked potato served with sour cream and chives. http://www.goldcoastcasino.com/dining/cortez-room ($5, Points, 3.5 Forks) 12/19 I had little enthusiasm for this morningâ€™s video poker session so I spent much of the early morning hours circumventing the casino floor. After showering we put on our one and only outfits before heading downstairs for the Seattleâ€™s Best coffee shop. Ms. Westie ordered a coffee and we shared a delicious blueberry muffin. ($5.12, 3 Forks) The remainder of the morning was spent reading the newspaper and watching the Weather Channel for any news on the winter storm approaching New England. We also developed contingency plans that involved purchasing a Christmas tree and a short-term rental apartment should todayâ€™s flight be cancelled. This whole episode served as a reminder of the reasons we always rent a car on vacation. It was now approaching 1PM so we checked out and departed for the dim sum lunch at Ping Pang Pong. According to our check, we had Tea for 2, (2) Group Bâ€™s, a Group D and a Group E. I believe these translate into a ground shrimp cake on grilled green pepper, pork dumplings, crab balls and lo mein. Everything was very good as was the service. ($4, Points, 3.5 Forks) http://www.goldcoastcasino.com/dining/ping-pang-pong The taxi to the airport only cost $18 including gratuity and was much quicker and hassle free compared to the Showtime shuttle. Fortunately we arrived early because without an e-ticket we could not use the self check-in machines and had to stand in a long and very slowly moving line waiting to be serviced by a human being. Though we had reservations, the clerk was unable to ticket us so he requested assistance from a supervisor. They could not retrieve our prior flight information because after 24 hours the system erases all flight history. The supervisor told him to call their Dallas office for assistance. He was placed on hold and then explained our situation; a longer delay ensued followed by more explanation. It was finally determined that someone hit the wrong button and logged our original flight as being completed rather than cancelled. Finally, each of us had to be handled differently because Ms. Westie was flying on a Rapid Rewards ticket while I was a paying customer. We reached the gate only to discover our flight crew had been delayed and a new crew was in process of being assembled. We finally took off over an hour late but made up some of the time due to strong tail winds. On exiting the plane I located the SWAâ€™s baggage claim office and the attendant greeted us by name. I guess we were the only ones coming in at this time of the morning without our luggage. The shuttle to the parking lot was waiting outside and, though the total snowfall exceeded one foot, the storm had petered out and the roads were passable. This long, long vacation officially concluded as we trudged up our unplowed driveway at 2:30 in the morning. Though the Grinch tried his best, the Westies returned home with two shirts, one blanket, a few extra dollars and several lasting memories. A hearty thanks is extended to everyone who managed to read this long and often rambling trip report. May each of you experience a happy Yuletide Season.