Springtime Experiences

It is finally Spring and I have been quite busy in the past few weeks…

I received a hair cut from Bumble & Bumble Model Project. The style of the cut was layers with bangs so now my hair is slightly past my shoulders, which initially seemed like quite a bit cut off but have gotten used to it now. I also got my hair dyed a reddish brown color. Below, is the new color.

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I finally had the chance to visit Empire State Building observatory deck for the very first time, with one of my friends who was able to get a discount for us. It was a breathtaking experience and I loved the gorgeous views of the city! And sunset which was absolutely beautiful, bathing the whole city in an orange-pinkish glow. This touristy activity is well worth it.

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I attended the exciting Supreme Asian Chef Culinary Battle in Atlantic City (with free appetizers and drinks!) with a great group of people. There were six chefs total battling for two spots to compete in Las Vegas. We got to see the chefs cook up a storm, with amazing creations using the ingredients: Sea bass, mushroom and egg.

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I had a chance to see the iLuminate Artist of Light Show performance, which got its beginnings on “America’s Got Talent.” It is a dance-in-the-dark adventure, with an electrifying mash-up of music, technology and illusions. It tells the story of an artist who has a magic paintbrush that brings characters to life, who inadvertently creates monsters who threaten to destroy everything he holds dear. Below, a photo of me with some of the cast members.

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Spending the evening in Long Island, ice skating at Iceland Rink to popular hit songs was loads of fun then heading to the Cheesecake Factory, which is my #1 favorite chain restaurant.

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The Cheesecake Factory has an awesome menu and something new called “Skinnylicious” menu which is lower calorie items. I selected the steak medallions, which came with mashed potatoes, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushroom and red wine sauce. Absolutely delicious and fresh and at half the calorie count!

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Getting to see Broadway musical, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical which “tells the inspiring true story of Carole King’s remarkable rise from teenage songwriter to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” It was wonderful with an amazingly talented cast. I really enjoyed the bliss of hearing pop hits, such as “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” and “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” which all gave me the feeling to get up and dance!

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Attending an ElectroYoga Pop Up event, which got my adrenaline running as we paired traditional yoga moves and positions (as well as some interesting lifting and twisting of body) with fast beats and bass. After the workout, we had small bites: Fruit, popcorn, chips & hummus and vendors of sweet treats, chocolate, tea, makeup, clothing and free massages.

electroyogaLive taping of “America’s Got Talent” auditions in Madison Square Garden, which is always a treat. It’s so much fun to see the acts, especially the amazing ones. I especially liked the opening act, a slew of Asian dancers in green who did this lovely Jasmine ballet routine that all the judges were awed by. Most of the other acts were just okay by comparison, but there were a couple of other decent dance acts, a singing act and a very unique & interesting one involving flying/lit up wooden animals that involved a bit of song and dance. Then of course there were a bunch of really bad ones, which was entertaining as well especially because they usually think they did pretty well. And I love seeing Nick Cannon and my favorite judge, Howie Mandel! I also knew the warm up comedian, Tom Kelly (from the days when I made my living attending television shows like “The Newlywed Game” and “The View”) and he actually remembered me by name! Always a pleasure to run into him.

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Today, I had the chance to enjoy a cute little place called Just Sweet Cafe. It’s mostly desserts, some nice bubble tea options and a few appetizer and noodle/rice dish options. There wasn’t too much to choose from for the savory treats, so I just ordered the green onion pancake with curry. The pancake tasty- Very thin and extremely crispy- and not as oily as usually so that was a plus. Also the curry had a nice flavor to it and wasn’t at all spicy. It came with potatoes which was yummy.

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Then I ordered a special dessert that consisted of Taiwanese shaved ice topped with green tea ice cream, condensed milk, red bean, mochi of varying colors, mango, strawberry and kiwi. Such a delightful combination of flavors, textures and colors! All the ingredients came together beautifully and the condensed milk brought everything together perfectly. It was delectable!

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Just Sweet Cafe
83 Third Avenue
New York, NY

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Night at the Museum of the Moving Image

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I finally had a chance to visit the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. It is free on Friday nights from 4-8pm. When first walking into the lobby, there’s a huge wall of moving images from famous movies & television shows, titled “The Reaction GIF – Moving Image as Gestures,” with cleverly worded tags about each. It featured key scenes from The Muppets, Liar Liar, Tina Fey, Oprah, Dawson’s Creek and many more.

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Beyond the wall, there is a lovely snow white café area and outdoor courtyard (closed for the season) with a minimalist and simplistic beauty.

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The second level boasts a large screen that shows scenes from older films and previews from newer movies. Then a wall full of gorgeous black and white head shots of classic actors and actresses. The lighting and level of photography for each image was superb.

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Next, there was a section featuring costumes and outfits from famous movies, which brought back memories of each movie. There were also famous masks, displays of makeup, horror movie memorabilia from actual movie sets.
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There were also set models for different scenes and specific movies. Below, is the adorable set model for the Muppets Take Manhattan!

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Toward the back there was a huge old-time movie theater area (named Tut’s Fever) with lovely sights and colorful statues, as well as a little (slightly scary) surprise in the dark hallway…

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After that we headed upstairs where there was a dark room with spotlights of light in varying flashes and frequencies, brightening and dimming. This was both touching and powerful, called Last Day in the Beginning of March, “a rhythmic narrative—chronicling the last day of the life of the artist’s brother. Each of the 26 light bulbs suspended from the ceiling is connected to an electronic circuit containing a fictionalized, digital ‘memory’ of a specific event.”

One of my favorite exhibits was this gorgeous set of bright glittering lights that have the appearance of people walking by as you walk further away from it.

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Another favorite was this huge black and white clock that has a camera connected to it so that when you are in front of the clock, you can see a photograph of yourself within the clock.

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I also loved an interactive exhibit that allows you to record a 5 second video of yourself that can then be turned into your own personal flip book. For my video, I blew a kiss, did an awesome spin (getting some great hair in the wind look) and ended with a hair flip. The customized flip book is around $11.

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Me in front of the white screen:

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After that, we stopped by one of the rooms to record our voice so we could hear it played in a popular movie. I chose Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz.” It was a lot of fun and I actually sounded like the actual Dorothy!

Then we saw a whole display of old-style TV sets, bathed in cool purple light.

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There was also a set of 6 mini TV’s projects your image onto the screen and starts off clear then fades out slowly on each subsequent television screen.

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Overall exploring the Museum of the Moving Image was a wonderful, interactive and fun experience. I would definitely recommend checking this place out!

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Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35 Ave
Astoria, NY

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Winter Restaurant Week 2014

Winter Restaurant Week has now passed, but here is a  sampling of restaurants I tried this time around. Let’s begin with lunches…

City Lobster

City Lobster

Appetizer: Lettuce wedge salad, complete with cucumbers, tomatoes, crispy onions, bacon, and bleu cheese. Even though I’m not a huge fan of ice berg lettuce, I really liked the toppings.
Main:
Fish and Chips were great. The cod was extremely flaky and I would have liked slightly more crispy but the French fries were spot on.
Dessert:
Profiteroles (large cream puffs) with coffee ice cream and chocolate on top. This was delectable. The coffee ice cream inside complements the full sweet chocolate flavor.
Service: Good.
Location:
City Lobster
121 W 49 St
New York, NY

Craftbar

Craftbar

Appetizer: The warm pecorino fondue w/ acacia honey, hazelnuts & pepperoncini, as well as 4 long pieces of crostini, was out of this world amazing— I love the creamy taste of the thick pecorino cheese. The honey and pine nuts worked well with the cheese, while the crunchy crostinis were the perfect accompaniment.
Main:
Lumache Pasta Bolognese. The pasta was cooked al dente and the ragu with the sauce worked together beautifully. I would have liked a little more cheese on it, but overall was a solid choice.
Dessert:
Chocolate peanut butter pie with honey roasted peanuts was yummy. It was light, and had chocolate mousse as well as slight peanut butter flavor. The honey roasted peanuts added a layer of deliciousness.
Service: Very competent and friendly wait staff.
Location:
Craftbar
900 Broadway
New York, NY

Now, onto the dinners!

Rayuela

Rayuela

Starter: Cheesy bread was amazing. We were only given one piece, but I definitely could have had many more.
Appetizer: Garlic shrimp with foccacia bread. The garlic shrimp was extremely flavorful but had some specks of hot pepper so was a bit spicy. The foccacia bread was disappointing, as it seemed to be just regular bread.
Main: Salmon with butternut squash and brussel sprouts was good. The sauce was enjoyable and I liked the crispness of the salmon.
Dessert: Bread pudding with caramel sauce and bananas were okay. It wasn’t bread pudding in the traditional sense, but the pieces were still quite moist and I liked the sauce.
Service: Pretty good
Location:
Rayuela
165 Alllen St
New York, NY

L'Ecole

L’Ecole

Appetizer: Spinach fettuccine with braised duck leg ragu made with tomato jam and carrots. This was well done- Wonderful pasta with plenty of meat.
Main: Braised pork osso buco with risotto Milanese and gremolata was mouthwateringly good. The risotto had a robust flavor and the pork osso buco was perfectly tender and came off the bone easily.
Dessert: Chocolate with apple crisp was light and delightful.
Service: Attentive and thoughtful
Location:
L’Ecole
462 Broadway
New York, NY

Brasserie 8 1/2

Brasserie 8 1/2

Amuse-bouche: Chestnut soup had a nice flavor to it.
Appetizer: Consommé de Boeuf – Short Rib Consommé, Ravioli, Parsnips, Black Truffles
Side: French fries were so good, with just the right amount of crunch.
Main: Filet Mignon – Petit Filet, Potato Croquettes, Espelette Pepper Bearnaise
At first, my filet mignon did not come with the potato croquettes but they made up for it by giving me an extra one. The petit filet itself was delicious enough on its own… Perfectly tender, flavorful, but would have liked more of the sauce. The potato croquettes were decent, but I preferred the French fries.
Dessert: I was able to try both.

The tarte au citron (Meyer Lemon Tart) was pretty good. There was a strong lemon flavor and it was both tangy and sweet. I enjoyed the crust, however did not discern the taste of thyme scented honey and the crème fraiche was tasteless.

Macaron – Vanilla Macaron, Valhrona Chocolate Ganache, Hazelnut Ice Cream
I enjoyed the macaron more. The French Macaron was large, dusted with powdered sugar and had the perfect consistency and chewy texture. The Valhrona chocolate ganache was rich, creamy, delicious. The hazelnut ice cream was very tasty as well.

Service: Not the best and had a long wait time in receiving our meals. We received a plate of mini treats to make up for it: Sea salt caramel macarons, raspberry cookies, biscotti and mini chocolate chip cookies. All of the sweet treats were wonderful, especially the macaron and chocolate chip cookie.
Location:
Brasserie 8 1/2
9 West 57 St
New York, NY

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Restaurant Week Lunch at David Burke Kitchen

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I recently had a chance to dine at the lovely David Burke Kitchen for Restaurant Week. The restaurant “blends the cool, industrial simplicity of SoHo’s airy lofts with the rustic warmth of a country abode.”

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The seating was a little tight, but I loved the atmosphere and the imaginative, playful American cuisine offered on the menu. On the the table was a cute little bucket filled with purple grapes and David Burke’s famous pretzel bread sticks that are wonderfully seasoned and flavorful.

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For my appetizer, I chose the lobster soup, which consisted of lobster dumplings, white bean and a brown broth that is poured over the dumplings. The lobster dumplings were delicious little bites with a lot of lobster flavor, but I wasn’t a big fan of the s0up broth.

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My friend ordered the pretzel crusted crab cake which he graciously shared with me. This was absolutely wonderful – The pretzel complemented the crab cake part and it was cooked to crispy perfection and full of robust flavor that wasn’t seafood-y at all.

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It was tough to pick the main course, but the waitress sold me on one of the brunch specials: Fried chicken with eggs, sausage polenta, and biscuit. This was a huge portion and I had to take home half of it, so I was quite satisfied. The fried chicken was crispy delicious and I really enjoyed the red sauce that it came with- Slightly sweet and very good. The eggs with the sausage were tasty- Fresh and flavorful. The biscuit was warm, buttery, delightful.

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For dessert, I had Rocky Mountain Road Sundae. which was delectable. When the waiter brought it to the table, he poured the special chocolate sauce that hardens, over the brown butter ice cream. The sundae also came with whipped cream, bananas, brownie bites and peanut brittle. The brown butter ice cream just by itself was delicious. It had a sweet, light flavor and everything combined together (especially the peanut brittle) was a  concoction of delight.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at David Burke Kitchen and the service was a dream.

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David Burke Kitchen
23 Grand Street
New York, NY

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Restaurant Week at Smoke Jazz Club

I recently dined at Smoke Jazz Club for Restaurant Week and even got to see an awesome live jazz show with no additional charge. The interior of Smoke Jazz Club is a little small, but cozy and comfortable. I had two lamb sliders with French fries for my appetizer, which were delicious. The lamb was perfectly cooked, moist, juicy and flavorful. The fries were also very tasty.

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I was torn between ribs or fried chicken for my main course, but finally decided on fried chicken. It came with collared greens with bacon and corn bread, all in a cute basket. The fried chicken was wonderful – Crispy, fresh, full of flavor, and plenty of it – I ended up taking half of it home. The corn bread was pretty good- crumbly, warm and smooth. The collared greens amazing – Just the right amount of salt, and the loved the taste of bacon.

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For dessert, there was only one choice: S’mores Brownie. I would have appreciated other options, but the brownie was pretty darn good. The brownie came with sweet marshmallow fluff and sauce on top. The brownie was incredibly chocolaty (it even had chocolate chips), rich and the marshmallow complemented it perfectly.

While we were eating our meal, we had the privilege of seeing Baylor Project perform, featuring Jean Baylor, Marcus Baylor, Allyn John-piano, Marvin Sewell-guitar, and Richie Goods-bass. At first it was just instrumental which was nice, but I’ve never been a huge fan of jazz so didn’t do much for me. Then, singer Jean Baylor came up to perform with the band. She was fun, welcoming, friendly and had great stage presence. She sang in a variety of genres: R&B, Gospel and Jazz. “Her sweet sultry voice is poignant, smooth and intoxicatingly ear friendly like a young modern day Nancy Wilson.”

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So even though Smoke Jazz Club is a bit far, located up on 105 St, my friend and I both had a marvelous time and really enjoyed the delicious meal.

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Smoke Jazz Club
2751 Broadway
New York,NY

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Luncheon Tasting at Bouley

Dining at Bouley is quite a delightful & delicious experience. When first walking in, you are greeted by coat check and the wood paneling filled from top to bottom with red and green apples, which gives off a sweet, crisp wonderful scent.

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Upon entering the actual restaurant, you are transported into a world of elegance and splendor. There are plush dark velvet blue seats, walls painted a lighter blue, bordered with beautiful white lilies.

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After the rest of our party arrived, we were escorted to the main dining room, which is warm and lovely, giving off a Parisian-feeling with vaulted ceilings. “The interior features limestone from the Versailles quarry, a handcrafted fireplace and 19th century-inspired quarter-sawn oak and walnut parquet floors.”

We are given two pieces of bread to start with. I liked the one with apple and raisin- Soft, sweet and tasty. Then came two amuse-bouches that were oh so good. The first, a pink concoction that tasted of watermelon puree and had a sprinkling of sesame seed and brittle, a bit of cream and the surprise taste of smooth, flavorful cheese at the bottom. The other bite was truffle on top of a savory, wonderful sauce and thin cracker.

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Next, was our appetizer and I ordered the chlorophyll soup, which came bright green and was made out of kale, spinach, sweet peas, asparagus and other green ingredients. It was hearty, savory creamy and full of flavor.

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Before our next course, along came the famous bread cart, complete with around 10+ different types of bread. I enjoyed the rosemary and garlic, as well as the one with blackcurrant. There was also a special one that is a combination of 3 different types of bread. All of it was delicious, but dare I say, too much bread!

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I had to try the Porcini Flan (one of Bouley’s most known dishes), which consists of Alaskan Live Dungeness Crab and black truffle dashi. The dish may not look like much in the image below, but the flavors here are incredible and the crab extremely tender and delicious. The black truffle and egg custard add to the taste and everything combines together beautifully.

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The next course was organic Long Island duck, which came within a sauce of Hudson Valley organic hand milled polenta and confit of young organic clementines. The duck was cooked to perfection and the sauce was sweet and worked well with the duck. I did not like the dates with prosciutto cooked in duck fat on the side though.

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I also tried the beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi. The beef cheeks were slow braised kobe style and quite good- A bit spicy but not too much. The beef was tender, full flavored and the gnocchi were creamy and delicious. I actually liked this dish better.

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We were given a little taste of fingerling potato mash, which was fresh made, still warm, velvety smooth, fluffy and had the yummy taste of potatoes and butter.

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Next, came our first dessert. I had the strawberries with amaretto ice cream. The flavor of the amaretto ice cream was intense and wonderful. The fruit, very sweet sauce and ice cream worked well together.

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The final course was hot Valrhona molten cake with chocolate mousse, white chocolate ice cream and it was simply divine! The chocolate was indeed hot and oozed out of the souffle cake. It was full of rich chocolate flavor, perfectly velvety smooth, and just so darn delectable.  The ice cream wasn’t all that flavorful and I could have done without the mousse, but the cake was good enough to stand on its own. If this was the only course I had at Bouley, I would have been satisfied…. That’s how good it was.

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We even got to try some truffles and chocolate which was so sweet of Bouley!

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This luncheon tasting meal will go down in history as one of my favorite meals ever. And it’s such a steal at $55, especially compared to the $175 6-course tasting menu for dinner. Also, the service was impeccable. Such a beautiful restaurant (now one of my favorites) with little treats in between courses, more bread than you can handle, with an elegant (jackets-required), but not pretentious atmosphere.

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Bouley
163 Duane Street
New York, NY

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Chinese New Year Parade at AC

This past weekend, I walked in the Chinese New Year Parade in Atlantic City with some great friends- Some I already knew and many I just met with the group,  Asian in NY. We each were given a special costume to wear during the parade. Mine was a lovely shiny orange color with gold brocading and flower design detailing.

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There were also bigger Victorian style dresses that I absolutely loved. My favorite is the white one with pale shimmery pink satin and gold accents.

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We finally got into formation for the parade and got to stand on one of the floats. It was pretty awesome to be up high and see everything from that vantage point.

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However, only a certain number of people were allowed to be on the float, so we had to walk the rest of the parade. It turned out to be not so bad- It had started to snow gently, which was better than last year when it rained.  We walked on the boardwalk and then through a couple casinos. I had a wonderful time waving to spectators and fans, and enjoyed having my picture snapped and getting cheered or clapped on. The parade ended at Bally’s and we got to see an amazing lion dance performance.

After that, we were all very hungry so was happy to indulge in a free buffet lunch. There were chicken wings, veal, sausage, mashed potato, pastas, chow mien, pork dumplings, vegetable stir fry and more. The food itself was mediocre at best, but we couldn’t really complain… After all, it was free!

DSCN6970When we were finished eating, we headed to Caesar’s Ballroom to pick up our free gift. They were cute little tea cup with a top and spoon with sweet adorable designs.

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We spent some time shopping at Caesar’s Outlets after that and even got to see part of the water fountain show.

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It had such a lovely time with everyone: Great costumes, good conversations, much laughter,  fun times, lasting memories…

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