Following my husband's death in 2008, I moved from Tennessee to Florida to look after my parents. Now I'm living in a retirement community, making friends and trying new things. The most fun I've had has been ballroom dancing. So far, I've taken intro lessons in all the dances and now I'm starting intermediate. I hardly have time to read anymore but I manage four or five dances a week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Las Vegas

Just got back from my first visit to Las Vegas.  I'll just admit up front that it's not my kind of town.  I'm not a gambler and I'm a real wimp when it comes to the heat.  Yeah, I know, I live in Florida, it's hot here too, BUT when I walked outside in the sun in Vegas it felt like someone was touching my skin with an iron.  That's just too hot, dry or not.

We stayed at the Stratosphere which was nice enough but it was at the far end of the Strip - too far for me to walk, even at night, although it didn't seem to faze the younger generation.  Geez, it didn't cool down at all at night like it does here in Florida.  Every time we took a taxi somewhere it cost $20.  That adds up quickly.

Anyway, the purpose of the trip was my Uncle Henry decided to have a family reunion to celebrate his 80th birthday as well as his son's birthday (Don) and another son's wedding anniversary (Andy and Marie).  That's Henry in the black suit, Don is standing and Bob (the third son) is in the blue shirt.  There were 27 people there including friends and slightly extended family members (me).  It was fun seeing the children of my cousins and catching up on what they've been doing.

Most of the time everyone scattered and did their own thing.  One day we visited the Aria hotel and casino.  My neighbors who are walking the pups while I'm gone have a son who works there and we had promised to say hi.  We loved that hotel.  It had a quiet elegance that was not as nerve jangling as the other casinos.  And they had a great ventilation system that handled the smoke.  Yeah, I hated having to walk through a smoky casino to get anywhere.  Blech!  Anyway, when we found Randy at a craps table he got really nervous and indicated we should move away.  Turned out he was working a table that had been reserved by a "whale" which is what they call the really big spenders.  The table had been roped off and the guy didn't want any women within his line of sight while he was playing.  He had a 3 million dollar credit limit.  Whew!  No wonder they were catering to him.  We also went to the Aria to have lunch with a couple we met on the plane from Orlando.  They were a lot of fun.

On our second night there we went to a show where the performers imitated famous entertainers.  It was an uneven performance but we did enjoy the Elvis, Charlie Daniels and Michael Jackson impersonators.  In fact, the Charlie Daniels impersonator was a fill in for another performer and I thought he was the best of the lot.  LOL  And except for the Britney Spears act, the music was all good.

There was a vendor in the hotel who did temporary tattoos and Dennis convinced me to get one.  *shaking head*  I still can't believe I did that.  But I went along because, hey, you do stuff in Vegas you wouldn't do anywhere else.  Right?

One of the "rides" at the Stratosphere is a bungee jump from the observation tower.  Keep in mind the tower is one of the tallest buildings in the US and Sally, Bob's daughter, decided she wanted to jump, so her mom and dad paid for it.  Den and I kept her company on the tower until she jumped, the rest of the gang watched from the 8th floor pool (outside) and I think her mom cowered somewhere until it was over.  Carla has a severe fear of heights and when we saw her a few minutes after Sally's jump she was white as a sheet.  Pictured with Sally here are Jeff and Eric (two of Don's sons).

On the last night, we all got together for a dinner at Fellini's in a private dining room.  It was very congenial although a bit cramped.  The food was excellent although there was way too much.  The wait staff was excellent.  Henry was sure that starting the dinner at 5:30 would give us plenty of time to get to the show which started at 9:30 but we ended up having to rush.  The show was incredible - a perfect ending to our stay in Las Vegas.  It was Cirque du Soleil's Mystere.  As all of Cirque's shows are magical, so was this one.  The acts were astounding, the music hauntingly beautiful, the comedy hilarious and the ending blew me away.  When Den and I were talking about shows to see, I mentioned that I would love to attend a performance of those large Japanese drums.  And that was the finale to Mystere.  What are the odds?

So now I can say I've been to Vegas.  Oh, and yes, I did gamble a little.  Den talked me into it.  I played the penny and nickel poker machines and in the end came out ahead by $2.40.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Charity Ball - May 18

This year, Dennis and I were co-chairs for the Charity Ball given by USA Dance to benefit Hospice of Marion County.  We both feel a connection to Hospice because both our spouses were under hospice care when they died.  Plus Den's wife, Sandy, worked for Hospice of Marion County.

We arrived at the Pioneer Gardens around 5:00 to set up and the air conditioning was off. That was fun ... NOT.  Thankfully, someone came and turned it on just before the dance started.  One other little hiccup was that one bag full of decorations for the VIP tables somehow didn't make it to the dance so Den went out and bought new tablecloths, napkins and champagne glasses.  My hero came to the rescue.

We got "Automatic" Amee and Henry as the band and they were wonderful.  They played a good number of fox trots and waltzes and rumbas as well as cha-chas, swings and slow dances.  There was something for everyone since we had quite a few non-ballroom dancers as well as our ballroom dance members.  On the right is a good shot of the dance floor with Norma and Bill in the foreground.

We had a lot of help with decorations and food from various club members.  At left, Gail, painted butterfly centerpieces for all the tables since the butterfly is the symbol for Hospice.  There was VIP seating at an extra charge that had black tablecloths with silver butterflies and champagne.  Lots of people brought food for the buffet table which really could have been called a "groaning table".  Frieda and Al always take care of the refreshments and they kept an eye on everything this night as well.

Many of the area dance teachers provided dance exhibitions: Joe Mounts, Jamey Webb, Danila Tobias and Charles Cook.  On the right is Jamey Webb with Diedre.  All the dances were wonderful entertainment.  Jamey's dance was particularly mesmerizing.

Another thing we did for the charity ball that we don't normally do at our dances was have raffles.  One of our volunteers, Ella, sold tickets and we had nearly 20 gift baskets in which one could place as many tickets as one wished in hopes of winning that gift.  The most popular gift basket was the $50 gift certificate to Horse & Hounds Restaurant. During one of the breaks between dance exhibitions, Dennis announced our sponsors and Wayne and Susan helped distribute the gifts.  It flowed smoothly because Wayne and Susan worked great together.

After all the expenses were deducted we raised $1700 for Hospice of Marion County.  For such a small organization as ours, that is phenomenal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Another Old Friend

The day after my visit with Dale, another old friend came down to Florida.  Two friends, actually ... well, one was a friend the other was my "Sifu" when I was taking kung fu in Virginia.  Can't really call him my friend.  In fact, it was strange calling him David.  He was always "Sifu".   Always.  With respect and a bow.

David and Zan had come down to Crystal River to dive for a few days so Dennis and I drove over to have dinner with them.  They were celebrating their 25th anniversary during this trip.  I haven't seen them since I left Virginia to move to Albuquerque in '83 or '84.  Although we've kept in touch every Christmas, it was delightful seeing them again.  David is now a "Master" although he isn't teaching as much as he used to.  Zan quit kung fu just short of her black sash, right around the time they got married.

We had a little trouble finding the hotel even though I had googled the location and printed out the directions.  Den had his iPhone map out and insisted we turn left on route 19.  We kept driving and driving and finally he had to acknowledge that perhaps we were going the wrong way.  LOL  It's apparently the first time his iPhone map has steered him wrong.  If my google directions had been wrong I wouldn't have been surprised because it has taken me to the wrong location on numerous occasions but this time it was right.  *sigh*

Poor Zan was a little stiff because the dive site had a lot of stairs and they had to walk them wearing all their gear.  Every time we came to a few steps she'd say, "Oh look, Zan, steps."  Then we'd all laugh.  Den kept us entertained during dinner with one funny story after another, then we ended up in a round robin of joke telling (except for me, of course).  The food at Charlie's was excellent.  All in all, the evening was wonderful.