New Orleans eats and treats

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Hi hi! I’m back. I took nearly 1,000 photos during the trip and needed time to sort through them before I could share them with y’all Smile

New Orleans

Have you ever been to New Orleans? I’ve heard so many things about it before going but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I heard there was going to be a lot of drinking, the food would be incredible, the music scene amazing and just generally it was going to be crazy fun.

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Sign me up Smile

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The French Quarter was gorgeous. We spent hours walking around there, dropping into shops and galleries of interest. I went a little snap happy Winking smile

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We had a group of 6 so we moved at a slow pace. I found it almost meditative – walking slowly, noticing the beauty around me through the lens.

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[I wanted to take this little puppy home with me!]

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During the trip I also realized how much I needed down time. A few times during the trip, while the guys were out checking out museums or losing money at the casino, I actually chose to lounge on the sundeck of our hotel room – Kindle in hand. It was peaceful. It was relaxing. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. [Btw, I read The Kitchen Daughterwhich was a little sad and definitely emotional but beautifully written and I loved how it romanticized cooking. I made her ribollita soup a few days after coming home!]

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Every street musician we saw was incredibly talented. Loved loved loved the street music! [Aside from the street performers, a lot of times there was jazz or the like playing from speakers somewhere. Music is a giant part of the NOLA scene!]

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Just a few more pics so you can feel like you were there with me Open-mouthed smile [Scroll way down for food.]

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We got two photos from this gallery!

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[This made me realize how much I enjoy jazz. I need to find a good place around Boston. I know Beehive does jazz brunch. Time to check it out!]

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I loved how they added the giant pumpkin to the normally bare entrance. Very festive Smile

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[This place was featured on the Food Network. Have you seen it??]

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Alligator? I’m sort of intrigued…

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So now let’s talk food. New Orleans is definitely an eating city. Creole food has French, German, Spanish, Italian, Native American, etc etc influence. It’s bold flavors. The locals are proud of it.

Our first stop was Café du Monde which is a NOLA landmark!

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These beignets (French doughnuts) were better than I ever imagined. They were warm, and chewy yet soft, not greasy at all. I loved how they were almost savory until you douzed them in powdered sugar.

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Happy beignet consumers Winking smile

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We had a beignet a day for the first few days. Apparently 3 is my limit. I bought a mix and plan on recreating these once the beignet hangover settles.

Some other culinary highlights…

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This is a very popular brunch spot. We had about 30 minute wait which we spend drinking coffee and bloody mary’s outside. Not bad at all.

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I got the bbq shrimp and grits, which were a little bland but nothing some hot sauce couldn’t fix. The biscuits (Southern biscuits!!) were warm and buttery and fluffy. I had a little food envy when I saw Adam’s eggs cochon and Liz’s biscuit egg, bacon & cheese. Definitely try one of those if you’re in the city. Highly recommended!

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Crescent City Brewhouse

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Weiss beer – smooth quality with hints of banana and clove with a spicy finish

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I got a 12oz beer when everyone was drinking 20oz glasses. Can you imagine how much grief I got for my baby beer? And then I didn’t even finish it. Oy. It was super smooth and definitely had banana qualities like the description says. I would happily have another baby beer right now! Smile

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Speaking of drinking, yes – we spent the first night on Bourbon St (crazy and fun for just 1 night) and got the mandatory hurricane at Pat O’Brian’s. It tasted like sweet coolade but we stuck to one a piece based on warnings from all. Their patio was pretty cool with a giant fire/waterfall thingie. <—man, I’m eloquent.

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The next morning, Adam and I found this super cute coffee/wine/crepe shop called Merchant. It was slick (check out that link) yet adorable. I got a ham and cheese quiche (below) the first morning and a fruit parfait the next one. It had full fat yogurt and I felt like I was eating clouds of whipped cream yet it just felt oh so right.

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You gotta eat a proper po-boy when you’re in New Orleans, right?

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I split this giant sub (half oyster/half shrimp) with our friend Andrew. I’m still amazed at Adam polishing off an entire one.

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Honestly, we were all underwhelmed. It just tasted like plain fried food on a subpart roll. Nothing fancy and nothing exciting. I can make a better sub. Yup, I said it.

Now Jacques-Imos was a polar opposite of that experience.

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It’s located in the Uptown neighborhood, far away from tourists. It’s an incredibly popular spot with the locals and we found out first hand why that is. The food was incredible. Incredible!!! And I love how the owners obviously have a sense of humor (see pics above). The wait is normally 3 hours but we had a hookup with the restaurant manager. Sweet!

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This post is getting long so I’m not going to provide much description to each dish. All you have to know is that the following appetizers were one of the best foods I’ve ever had. That includes alligator cheesecake (yup) and the rest. It was so original and flavorful and just absolutely incredible.

Corn bread with garlic butter

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Shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake

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This cheesecake was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network. A lot of other dishes won numerous awards. No wonder everyone is willing to wait for hours for a table!

Fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade

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Crabmeat stuffed shrimp with magnolia sauce

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I also got the mahi-mahi with pistachio sauce for my entrée which I found to be too sweet (actually a lot of times during the trip I seemed to order the wrong thing). Everyone else LOVED their dishes and dessert (crème brulee and bread pudding) once again a show stopper. I honestly could have come back there the very next night and would have been happy as a clam. (Btw, I don’t really know what that expression really means. I’m going to assume clams are very happy. Smile )

The next night we stayed closer to “home” and trusted Yelp that this dive bar was going to be the answer to our jambalaya and Creole dreams.

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After a bit of a wait, we were indeed led into a dive bar. It was dark and quirky (see below) but the service was super friendly and the food phenomenal.

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Crabmeat stuffed jalapeno peppers – served with horseradish sauce

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Redfish Meuniere8oz fillet floured & sauteed with shrimp, butter, lemon, hot sauce, Worcesteshire & wine. Served over rice with Creole green beans

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I licked the plate clean and finally broke my spell of ordering the wrong thing!!

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Ok, I’m getting tired and I’m sure you are too. Quick mention of LukeJohn Besh’s restaurant. This was the most upscale meal we had during the trip (in terms of food quality, creativity and service, not in terms of prices… prices were very reasonable actually!!) and it was flawless. Highly highly recommended.

Etouffee of blue crab and brown shrimp with fennel, garlic, saffron fumet and handmade garganelli

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Brendan’s bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and hot buttered pecan sauce

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And before heading back home, we of course had to try the famous muffuletta sandwich which was invented at Central Grocery.

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Yes, there is a long line. Yes, you are in line inside a grocery store.

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And yes, it is absolutely WORTH IT!

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Muffuletta is a round Sicilian sesame bread. The sandwich contains marinated olive salad, then layers of capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham and provolone.

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The olive salad is of course the key ingredient here and Central Grocery’s version includes peppers, carrots and secret spices. It was super delicious! I had 1/4 for lunch and another 1/4 on the plane home for dinner.

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Yum!

New Orleans was a lot of fun but I’m also very happy to be home. I’m sure it won’t be long before we start planning our next trip! I love traveling.

If you were featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, what dish would you choose? Tough one, right?

Feel free to also comment on anything you see above. I sure gave you lots of material. Winking smile

PS – I’m taking a little hiatus from blogging for the remainder of the month. As mentioned above, this trip made me realize how much I need down time and I would like to honor this need. I’ll see you back here in November (or maybe earlier if I really can’t wait until then).

Healthy and Sane in Washington DC

I’m back from DC!! It was the fastest and hottest (nearly 100*!!) 4 days of my life. We saw things. We sweat. We ate. We drank. It was awesome. DC was good to us for sure!

We did a lot of sight seeing

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Capitol building

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Smithsonian National Air and Space museum

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I have no pictures from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History but it was incredibly impressive!!

Arlington National cemetery

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Washington monument

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Lincoln memorial

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The White House

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Michelle Obama’s garden Smile

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We saw the cutest animals at the Smithsonian National Zoo

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This little bird was so fuzzy and adorable!

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Janetha, I thought of you every time I saw an owl Smile

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They were gorgeous!

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I can’t believe this color exists in real life. Incredible!!

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This elephant was walking around it’s exercise track. I want an exercise track Smile

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Hi birdie

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I’m pretty sure this monkey was eating soap. Oops.

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The lion cubs were actually pretty grown already. I was sort of disappointed.

This baby monkey made up for it a little.

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All the animals seemed so comfortable and happy. I was really impressed with their facilities. Some of them weren’t seen because it was so hot they were in the shade or indoors. I actually liked that they weren’t made to stew in the sun for our viewing pleasure although I would have loved to see the cheetahs and pandas.

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We rode the metro

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[Union Station]

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… to new neighborhoods…

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Georgetown was seriously the most picturesque area I’ve seen in this country. I was almost ready to move there Winking smile

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We skipped the line at Georgetown Cupcakes

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and instead tried a few from Baked & Wired (thanks Kara for this suggestion!)

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It hurt to choose just 2 (actually I was going to get just 1, but yeah… 2 were ordered to share)!

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Lemon blueberry and red velvet cupcakes

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Honestly, too sweet for my tasting. I had the red velvet cupcake from the Red Velvet Cupcakery and it was just right. Smooth and soft cream cheese, moist cake. Perfection!

And well, this just brings me to food. We ate like kings (and queens?) during this vacation. It was our third wedding anniversary trip and we lived it up for sure. I didn’t take pictures of everything, like the vegetarian platter at Etete (<—my very first Ethiopian meal out and definitely one of the best meals this trip! Must find a place in Boston asap!!)

The other culinary highlight was Jaleo. Incredible tapas. Fantastic sangria. I will be recreating this meal at home!!

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These were just 2 dishes from Jaleo… we also tried pan de recapte con anchoa (twice! best bites of the trip!!), gambas al ajillo, and rossejat. Basically Jose Andres is genius.

Despite great reviews on Yelp, the food at the National Museum of the American Indian was unique but overall overpriced (my sweet potato burrito was quite good but the wild rice salad and pickled veggies were thrown away)

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Goat cheese and mushroom stuffed organic chicken at Proof

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Spicy bloody mary at Matchbox (awesome!!)

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Banana bread fresh toast (genius!!!) at Matchbox [the creole fritatta special was even better!]

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This is what salt foam looks like. Tastes like salty… um, foam ;) [It's messy. Go for the classic margarita at Oyamel instead... better yet, go to Jaleo for sangrias!)

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[Table-side guac]

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[Goat cheese-stuffed zucchini blossoms]

Founding Farmers got me excited with their concept of sustainable produce, humanely raised meats and creative menu items… but the taste was just average (and they were out of half the things I ordered!).

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[Pickled veggies]

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[Fried green tomatoes]

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[Cheeseburger sliders]

We left last night with very happy bellies (and a buzz…from several rounds of sangria at Jaleo). The flight to DC is just a little over an hour from Boston. It’s a shame we waited this long to go!

Where did you travel last? Do you remember your favorite bite?

Vegas, baby!

I know a lot of people aren’t fans of Vegas. Yes I know, it permanently smells like smoke, you’re “stuck” inside breathing the same air over and over, gambling is a waste of money. Yup, all true. But what it’s also is a place with some great restaurants, the best shows, and well, you’re (hopefully) there for nothing other than FUN. I love love love vacations. I live for travel (and food; I like to combine them in fact). It’s time away from work, home, responsibilities. Time to relax, recharge, get a sunburn, and spend time with your favorite people. Vegas was all that and more!

Meet the Vegas crew!

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[Pretending we’re in Europe Winking smile]

Adam, Gary, Tiffany, Kyle… and moi (unpictured). Adam and I usually travel alone but some places are just so much better with company!! Kyle is hilarious and it was nice to do some girlie things with Tiffany. In fact, there was some much needed pool time with pina coladas and gossiping and a lot of this…

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This would be shopping. Window shopping. Girlie window shopping. So pretty…

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Tiffany writes a makeup blog. She’ll be blogging about Inglot soon (Tiffany, I promise to send you the 500 pics I took!!). That place was GORGEOUS (and actually really cheap). It took a lot of power to buy nothing.

Think I can pull these off? Winking smile

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I took the girlie thing to a new level by going to the Canyon Ranch spa for a massage on Sunday afternoon. I’ve always wanted to get a massage on vacation but could never justify the cost. Well, Adam got some gambling $$ and I got a massage. It was fabulous. That place is sick. In a good way! Winking smile And I even went to their gym that morning. Also awesome. I always feel rushed when I work out. I took my sweet time that morning. Man, I love vacation!!

A sweat sesh was of course followed by a bloody mary and brunch at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon. We stayed at the Venetian hotel and I ate something from the Bouchon bakery every single day (it was the closest eating establishment to us) and then brunch at the actual restaurant one day.

I was greeted each morning with this:

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So I finally tried one of their famous macarons.

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Eh, they were just okay. My favorite thing from the bakery of everything I’ve tried (which was a lot!) was the yogurt with granola. The granola was super clustery and buttery. Yummmmmmm. Brunch was even better!

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[Sour dough rolls with butter and preserves]

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[Creamy eggplant soup with sweet crème fraiche]

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[Bread pudding french toast with caramelized apples and maple syrup]

***Pause*** Doesn’t that look like a stock photo? LOVE.

**Unpause** Closeup:

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Droooooooool. Ok, ready to move on? :lol:

I can’t eat a lot after a workout so I tasted a lot of these things but didn’t even finish half. It was so refreshing to just eat what I wanted and stop when I was satisfied. The old Elina would have gone into “this is my chance to eat what I want so I better stuff my face” mode. Nope, not this time. Progress!!

I didn’t bring my camera with me everywhere, but know that there were definitely a lot of these:

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That would be an incredible mojito from Emeril’s Table 10… but I actually meant drinks. We ate, we drank, the boys gambled, we saw O… and most importantly, we laughed A LOT. I forgot that I could be fun. I was fun!!! Did I mention I love vacation?

The best bites were actually from our dinner at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. I didn’t love my entrée (tuna steak) but the queso fundido (with goat cheese!) and cremini mushroom quesadillas (with a runny yolk over the top) were incredible. So was the side of a corn crusted chile releno with rice, beans and cheese. Awesomeness in a forkful. Feel free to quote me on that.

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Ooh, ooh, our only picture together!!

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Oh and the jalapeno cheddar bread was also phenom.

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The tiger shrimp with roasted garlic tamale sounds better than it was. I’m so over seafood/corn combos. Do something creative, people! I suggest you double up on the other 2 apps instead!!

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And skip the anise tasting tuna. Perfectly cooked, completely ruined by the spices. Booo.

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Everyone else was raving about their food (it was meat so I didn’t taste it) so I say dinner was still overall a success. I’m picky, what can I say! Confused smile

Last thing I really have to mention because I went back to the Aria to take pictures of it and purchase goodies to take home (mom, there may be something there for you? Winking smile ) is Jean Philippe’s patisserie. I was like a kid in a candy store. It was amazing. Chocolate, candies, crepes, ice cream… as far as the eye could see. It was heaven!

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Gigantic macaron lollipops!

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And moving sculpture flowers!!!

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I stocked up on stuff. Tiffany also bought me a dark chocolate salted caramel chocolate and I was kind of mad at it. Entirely because it was gone too fast and I wanted a whole box of them. Oh chocolate, how I love thee. Smile

A few more pics for the road. I love the whimsical details!

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So much fun!! None of us wanted to go back home. Next time we’re doing at least 4 full days!

Have you ever been to Vegas? Love/hate? Do tell Smile

PS – Thank you on your awesome comments on my last post. I am so excited to be blogging again. It’s even better to know that I have your support and can be my rambling self and you will be there to read and follow along. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!

PPS – For more of my ramblings, check out Russian Bites. I’ve changed the format to include more personal stories so you may like it even if you’re not into Russian food (lalalala, fingers in ears!). The post that’s coming up there may have some shocking news. Dramaaaaaaaaaa. hehe

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