Thanksgiving Photoshoot

I hope all my fellow americans had a great Thanksgiving! My parents visited again this year, and I think we are all still feeling lethargic from so much turkey and dressing.

They brought my nine year-old niece Avery who I have really missed up here. She told her mom she wanted to see our house and “get to see Alyssa, Joseph, their cat that pees in the toilet, and their crazy dog.” Our toilet-using cat and crazy dog are pretty much what we’re known for, but she did forget about Lazar Wolf!

We had so much fun with her. We talked about crushes (she did a fairly disturbing unintentional Sex & the City impression when she hopelessly sat back in a chair and complained, “I’m always single!”), tortured kitty Leonardo, took funny Photo Booth pictures, and she introduced me to iCarly. Much of her time was spent playing with Joseph (or watching him play Skyrim)–he told me she at one point said, “Uncles are fun! Aunts can be kind of annoying…”

The day after Thanksgiving I drug her to clearing behind a nearby neighborhood to play Hannah Montana. A few pre-teen boys showed up after a while, and Avery ran straight to the car in embarrassment. But I think we got a few good shots while it lasted!


It’s hard not to laugh when Avery is around. In the left photo she was doing a bizarre robotic dance, and in the right she was pretending to be a cranky old lady.


Her Aunt Tori joined in on the fun!


Then I handed the camera off to Avery, who easily bossed her aunts around.


I will leave you with this photo of Tori and me looking incredibly beautiful.

Beautiful Things in Las Vegas

Say what you will about Vegas, but the city does not take the easy way out when it comes to design. It’s like Walt Disney World: absolutely contrived and profit-driven but incredibly detailed. That’s something that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. I love the details. I love that these hotels will display huge fountains and mounds of flowers just because they can. Who in the world decides, “Why don’t we cover our ceiling with 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers? Let’s not make anything easy.”

Sure, their motivations aren’t for aesthetics alone. But I am a frequent complainer (much to the annoyance of my husband) about sky-scrapers. I hate imposing glass walls with nothing to them. I only want the precision of details no one else cares about. This absence was actually a huge adjustment for me when moving back to the US last summer after four years in Italy.

But the level of design in Vegas helped me like the city more than I would have otherwise. Without so many beautiful and intricately-designed things to look at, I think the consumerism would have killed my spirit.

First, Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como in the Bellagio lobby. I love this. The glass flowers burst from the ceiling like some kind of beautiful disease (is that too gruesome?).

Just past the lobby is Bellagio’s botanical garden and conservatory, dressed up for fall.

A beautiful glass leave hanging from the conservatory roof. I didn’t even take photos of the beautiful flower displays set up throughout the hotel and behind the check-in desks in the lobby.

My other favorite hotel was Wynn Las Vegas. This hotel is gorgeous and, of course, expensive. I’d recommend anyone on the strip walk around, even if it’s further down the road than the others and is lacking in loud tourist attractions. The light is took dark (in every hotel/casino) to do the photos justice. The Wynn has the most beautiful and unique design–a mix of contemporary cute and classic sophistication. I was dying over the carpet and wallpaper, both of which I neglected to photograph but very badly want for my home office.

This is the Wynn Buffet, where Joseph and I had dinner with my friend Sarah. The meal was delicious, and do I even need to mention this room? It’s straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

Las Vegas: The Strip

Neither Joseph nor I are big on gambling, but of course, we were in Vegas. There’s really not much else to do. We stuck with the slot machines and actually came out ahead, but it still terrifies me!

This machine was set on tormenting me. This happened TWICE. Notice neither row is actually on the line, making me a loser. Ugh.

I ate a crepe for breakfast at the Paris buffet, and then we sat down for a bit of gamblin’

Everything on the strip is so nice and so beautiful! I couldn’t help sneaking a few pictures of bathrooms.

Photo at the Bellagio. More on this later! That is such a beautiful hotel.

I’m really excited I got to meet up with my friend Sarah, who I met online a few years ago and who happens to live in Vegas. Isn’t she beautiful?? We had a great lunch at the Wynn, which offers a lot of Vegan options for her (another seriously beautiful hotel–more on that one later too!)


Just a corner of one of the shopping centers. Seriously beautiful!

New York New York:

Our hotel, the MGM Grand:

As for shows, we very sadly got our dates confused and missed the one we were looking forward to–The Lion King. The tickets were nonrefundable, of course, and they are leaving at the end of the year. :( We did get to catch Cirque du Soleil’s Ka but were extremely disappointed in it. They held it at an absolutely incredible theater with an amazing moving stage, but there was almost no acrobatics. We were looking forward to seeing something like Downtown Disney’s La Nouba, which we really loved. Ka had one ribbon dance (which honestly wasn’t incredibly impressive considering what I saw at La Nouba), a one baton twirling act, and a segment of shadow puppets. Like, shadow puppets you make with your hands on the wall illuminated by light. This was not at all what we were looking for, and I found myself wanted to walk out (which I have never done at any kind of performance).

That kind of put a bitter taste on the night, but it was still overall a great trip. I just should have done more research because it seems other people who didn’t like Ka were also hoping it was more like La Nouba.

Las Vegas: Nature First

Joseph and I just returned from half a week in Las Vegas. It was kind of a strange destination for us considering the places we normally travel, but we needed a relaxing vacation and a break from school and work. Vegas requires very little thinking or planning–it fit the bill perfectly.

Before I flood you with photos from the bright city, I’ll share our first day. We flew in early and spent the morning hiking at Red Rock Canyon before driving for a quick tour of Hoover Dam. It was kind of a last-minute decision, and I’m really glad we spent the early part of the trip this way.

I’m normally not a fan of this dry landscape (I love and miss my Dolomites), but it really was incredibly beautiful in person.

Hoover Dam:

One of the best parts of the day: stopping for lunch at In-N-Out! We got our very first one here in Fort Worth a few months ago, but it had been too crowded for me to try. When we realized the chain was in Nevada, we immediately knew where we wanted to go. It definitely lived up to the hype, but I felt like a dork ordering everything off the “secret menu.”

The Cat in the Window

Leonardo has always been interested in the world outside our walls, but actually going outdoors is just too overwhelming. So he spends a lot of his time gazing out windows.

This was one of his favorite spots in our apartment in Italy–the big window in the kitchen. It was frequently open to release the kitchen’s heat, so he got to smell all sorts of nature! Plus, he could see into our neighbors’ yards and watch them walk in and out of their houses.

Before buying our house here in Fort Worth, we stayed in a hotel for a few weeks. Our room was right by the front entrance, and I often came home to find him staring right out this window. I’m sure all the hotel occupants knew of him!

Now he has a quite different view out the back window.

Although definitely not friends, they like to play together through the protection of the glass windowpane. They do this multiple times a day, beginning at 6:50 every morning.

I took this photo to show off the wreath I made last year and then noticed Leonardo’s little face in the window. Every time we check the mail, we come back to find Leonardo right there with his mouth moving frantically and his meows muted by the door. I laugh every time.

Joseph got a ladder to put Leonardo on the windowsill above the front door so he could watch the birds outside.

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