Summer of 2015: Las Vegas, Cruising, and Disney Dreaming

We’re experimenting with how we want to use two4disney and what and where we blog. Obviously, this is where our archives live and where we seem to be blogging about our Summer of 2015 adventures here in Las Vegas, cruising, and really, everything non Disney.

We’re also experimenting with bringing back our blogger blog for Disney posts – planning our next trip to WDW, whenever that might be. For now, we don’t see any opportunities for this year but we’re hoping for something next year.

So, to keep up with that Disney planning and news and other things going on at WDW that we’re especially interested in, click on BLOG or access it from the menu. We’re just getting started over there and will be tweaking design, etc.

Summer of 2015: Counting down to the End of July

We are definitely in the dog days of summer here in Las Vegas and we’re counting down to the end of July. But truth be told, I’ve never been a big fan of summer. In fact, other than my July birthday, I’m just not a big fan of July. No matter where I’ve lived, July seems to be the hottest month. Okay, maybe not on the Peninsula of the SF Bay Area – it’s usually fogged in during July.

By Saturday night, I was going nuts. Saturday started off fun enough – we had a morning soak in the hot tub and all was well until mid-afternoon. We get the hot afternoon sun in our back living space, and I had to get out of the house. First we thought we’d go grab a milk shake and drive to the nearest park. But, honestly, I really had had enough of staring at the sun.

So we made a quick turn and headed for South Point Casino. Casinos – they’re just meant for hiding out in the middle of summer. You’re in a dark, air-conditioned space and you don’t even know what’s going on outside.

We headed for our favorite watering hole – the Silverado Lounge – and Rich went up to the bar and ordered 2 dirty vodka martinis and brought them back to our table. They’re some of the best dirty martinis ever. We sipped, chatted, and people-watched until sundown. It was fabulous! We definitely need to do this more often – every night this summer, perhaps? :)


Summer of 2015: End of Summer Cruise

We kicked this summer off with our 7-night cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Carnival Miracle, the only ship that sailed to the Mexican Riviera in May. So today Rich booked us an end of summer cruise with a 4-nighter on the Ruby Princess. As much fun as we had on our Carnival cruise, it wasn’t exactly the best fit for us – we’re more Princess than Carnival. And this is a rare opportunity to cruise on the Ruby before she sets sail for Hawaii.

That leaves the possibility of a 7-night on the Crown Princess in the spring or a spring WDW trip or skip a spring trip altogether for a 20th anniversary trip to Hawaii – all possibilities for 2016.

In the meantime, we’re looking forward to wrapping up the summer of 2015 with this cruise.


Summer of 2015: Birthday, Beach, Napa Rose Wine Weekend: Day 4 and TOC

Tuesday, July 14, Day 4

We did the usual breakfast thing from our RI kitchen and then loaded up the car to go home. Thankfully, we’d packed the night before.

We filled up the tank, got on the freeway, and headed home at about 9 a.m. We didn’t make any more stops and drove through DQ in our neighborhood at about 1 p.m. We brought lunch home, greeted the kitties, and caught up on some rest before going back to work.

It had been a very busy but fun trip, but it was, as always, good to be home.

Links to this trip report:

Day 1, Downtown Disney and the GC

Day 2, Church & Family

Day 3, Part 1, Huntington Beach

Day 3, Part 2, Napa Rose Chef’s Counter Birthday Dinner

Day 4, Home and Trip Report TOC

Summer of 2015: Birthday, Beach, Napa Rose Wine Weekend: Day 3, Part 2, the Napa Rose Chef’s Counter

We left our hotel at 5:00 pm heading to Kathy’s special birthday dinner, arriving just a few minutes later at the Grand Californian gate where we checked in with the guard and proceeded to valet parking.

We checked in at the Napa Rose front desk where they knew our name since we were the only ones with reservations for the 5:30 pm seating at the Chef’s Counter (officially, there’s a 5:30 seating and an 8:30 seating). We were seated in the lounge until the Chef’s Counter was ready for us. While we waited, we ordered drinks, a glass of Scharffen Berger for Kathy and a glass of La Crema Chardonnay for me.

Note from Kathy: We were both still trying to wake up after our short nap, hoping the wine would help us out. If it hadn’t been for set dining times for the Chef’s Counter, we wouldn’t have been dining so early. We chose 5:30 because 8:30 seemed too late for us and, at the time we made ressies, we were supposed to be staying at the beach, which would have made us getting back even later.

Rich_NRRich reviewing the wine list in the Napa Rose Lounge

Kathy_NRKathy sitting in the dark area of the Napa Rose Lounge. :)

Soon they called us, and we carried our drinks into the restaurant where we seated at seats #5 and #6 at the Chef’s Counter, the only ones there at this time. We were already excited.

NR_KitchenA Quiet Napa Rose kitchen before service begins

We met Michael our server and Dan the Sous Chef who stood near us expediting orders for the restaurant as we ate. (we posted a live pic of Michael).

Throughout the night, we also interacted with Nico, another server, and Juan, another sous chef. Dan asked us if we had any allergies, how we liked our meats cooked (medium rare), and what types of food we preferred — including which foods we did not like.

We both started with an amuse-bouche, hamachi on a bed of smooth potatoes.


This was a great way to start the meal, especially with our love of hamachi. From this point forward in the meal, we were mostly served different dishes.

Note from Kathy: With being served unknown courses, it was difficult to snap a pic and take in the names and ingredients of every dish and eat and enjoy it. We’ll do the best we can as we recall each dish from our photos.

Next for Kathy was a fresh green salad with anchovies and a tuna tartare crostini.

IMG_1078Tuna Tartare Crostini

I had the most amazing grilled octopus. I can state unabashedly that this was the best octopus I have ever eaten. It was grilled and crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.


Kathy was then served clams three-ways in a lobster broth — clams in the shell, clam ravioli, and breaded razor clams. We had to ask for a spoon so Kathy could every last drop of the delicious broth.


I was served a lovely plate of halibut with a potato salad — not your ordinary picnic potato salad, this was a marvelous creation of potatoes, herbs, and red wine vinaigrette.


By now we were just finishing our glasses of white wine, I discussed with Michael our next wine choice. When I suggested that perhaps we would enjoy the La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (an Italian red blend), Michael wholeheartedly agreed. It was a nicely savory (not fruity) with plum, coffee aromas, and a hint of spice. It turned out to be a perfect pairing for the rest of the meal.

IMG_1081La Braccesca

Next was the pheasant risotto for Kathy. Perhaps her favorite bite of the night.


I had the veal scallopini. It was flavorful and tender, although perhaps a little salty for me.

IMG_1084Veal Scallopini

While we were eating these courses, Juan was preparing a dish in front of us as he had been doing during the meal, but this dish was for us — pork wrapped in pig’s ear with peach. We started to share this dish, but Kathy quickly demurred and let me finish it. An odd dish, but I was up for anything.

IMG_1086Pork in Pig’s Ear

Note from Kathy: I was not into the idea of pig’s ear at all. I did take one bite and that was it for me.

This was followed by a bright, palate-cleansing sorbet.


The main entrees were served next. Kathy had the lovely beef tenderloin with beef cheeks.

Note from Kathy: While I would love to have eaten an entire bowl of the pheasant risotto, the tenderlin was my best bite of the night – even outshined the beef cheeks. Superb!!!

IMG_1089Beef Tenderloin with Beef Cheeks

I had the veal loin with mango salsa and eggplant. The veal was very hearty and tasty, brightened by the fresh mango salsa. I am not a big eggplant fan, but it was woven into the dish so perfectly, I didn’t even know what it was.

IMG_1088Veal Loin

Michael then asked if it was alright if they chose the desserts for us, and we gladly agreed. He then asked the pastry chef what her two current favorite desserts were, and she prepared them for us.

Kathy was served a peanut butter and chocolate dessert with a crunchy base. It was absolutely scrumptious.

IMG_1091Peanut Butter and Chocolate

I had the cheesecake with cherry sorbet. Wow, delightful! Even the crunchy tuile was even delicious.

IMG_1090Cheesecake with Cherry Sorbet

After all this incredible food, we were allowed to linger while we finished our wine, watching all the work of the busy kitchen around us.

What an absolutely amazing experience! We had so many courses, and we often had different dishes. And it was fun to watch many of them made right in front of us in the kitchen. The service was impeccable, of course. Also it was fun to watch Dan expedite all the restaurant’s orders next to us. Fantastic fun was had by all.

Note from Kathy: Wow! I didn’t realize how many courses we’d had – so caught up in the excitement of it all!

Sadly, too soon it was time to go. Before we left, we asked Juan to take a picture of us at the Chef’s Counter.


As we left, Michael thanked us and gave us each a pair of Napa Rose truffles to go. We thanked Michael, Juan, and Dan, and made our way to the lobby to sit a comfortable environment and listen to some beautiful piano music as we watched the fireplace in the background.

The crowning moment to the wonderful birthday dinner experience was when the pianist ended his set with a rendition of Happy Birthday. Nothing could be better!

Note from Kathy: Everything about the GC is understated and it doesn’t have much of a Disney feel. In fact, my birthday was so played down, you wouldn’t know I was there having a birthday, which is rather unusual for Disney. It would have been nice if “happy birthday” had been written on the dessert plate or acknowledged in some way. So it was extra nice when we heard “happy birthday being played by the pianist in the GC lobby.

Also, the one negative about the Chef’s Counter is that you’re watching all of these other dishes being prepared and you want to be able to order one. Next time, we might actually order off the regular menu, which will be a first for us. But, overall, it was a fascinating, fun, and delicious experience!

Rich took my picture just outside Napa Rose where the menu was posted, but something reflected off of something and made for a rather unusual pic. :)

Kathy_NRPS – We noticed a seating of 4 people around 7 p.m. at the other counter. Perhaps, when the 5:30 seating isn’t full, they also offer a 7 p.m. seating or perhaps it was suggested or requested as a walk-up – this we do not know. 7 p.m. would have been a better time for us.

Summer of 2015: Birthday, Beach, Napa Rose Wine Weekend: Day 3, Part 1

Sunday, July 13, Day 3

Today was the day of the big birthday celebration. Knowing it would take 45 minutes to an hour for coffee, Rich got up, started the coffee, and then got back into bed. Eventually, we got up and drank a few sips before he went to the breakfast area and brought back another plate of eggs, sausage, tots, and muffins. This time we made do with the in-room coffee.

Then we packed our beach bag and headed down Harbor Blvd. for the beach. But, first, we had to stop off and see my childhood home, like we do on most trips.

Fearingbeachkathyhatsm I would be arrested if I got out of the car for my photo (has anybody noticed I’m there so often?), Rich took a pic of me sitting in the car. It did not come out well because he was sitting too close to me. :) So he took another photo at the beach, and I really liked how it turned out. Notice my new blue and white polka dot Minnie Mouse blouse.

We noticed there was a house for sale a few houses down and I got out and grabbed a flyer. We’d buy it in a minute if we were in the market for a $650K house. To think, we bought ours in 1967 for about $26K.

Then we dragged ourselves away and drove to Newport Beach.  Arriving at around 11 .m., we were about an hour too late to snag a parking place so we backtracked to Huntington Beach where there was tons of room. We parked, and carried our chairs, umbrella, and blanket to a spot near the waves. This was sublime. We watched some kids and their surfing lessons and once they left, we took turns splashing in the ocean.

Unfortunately, we were not in our swim suits because the forecast said it would be fogged in at the beach but it was perfectly sunny and beautiful and I regretted not wearing a swimsuit – I so wanted to dive right in. The water was warmer than usual, too. As it was, I rolled up my denim cutoffs, but kept tripping on the different levels of sand, trying to avoid getting my jean shorts wet. I failed. :)

I sat back in my chair and told Rich, “We must live near the beach.” I grew up not far from here and Rich grew up near Wildwood, NJ and he loves Huntington Beach because the long, wide beach reminds him of Wildwood. Once we were in a shop on the pier and a couple of girls mentioned, “Wildwood,” so there must be something to that.

Rich ran back to the cafe and brought back a couple of hot dogs and a churro to tide us over until our fabulous birthday dinner at Napa Rose that night. We had ressies for the 5:30 p.m. Chef’s Counter.

IMG_0219After lunch and some more beach fun, we drove back to our hotel via one of our favorite Huntington Beach Mobile Home parks, wondering if we could, perhaps, live there. :)

Summer of 2015: Birthday, Beach, Napa Rose Wine Weekend: Day 2

Note: Day 2 probably won’t be of interest to anyone outside of ourselves because it was about church and lunch with family in Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 12, Day 2

We woke up and Rich started the coffee. Forty-five minutes to an hour later it was ready – lol! In the meantime, Rich headed for the breakfast area and loaded up a plate of eggs, sausage, potatoes, and muffins and 2 cups of coffee and brought it all back to the room. I then divided the food onto 2 new plates from the kitchen. I was happy to see that the potatoes were now tots, a big improvement over the other potatoes we’d eaten across the country and back.

We showered, dressed, and then drove to Whittier in L.A. County. We’d discovered that not only is there an Eastern Rite and Western Rite (Latin or Roman) in the Catholic Church, but there is also a Western Rite and an Eastern Rite in the Eastern Orthodox Church (can we all just become one?) Anyway, the Western Rite in the Orthodox Church is very rare, although there is one in the Orlando area.


It was a small, friendly, warm church and because there were special events this morning, the service lasted for about two and a half hours. We had plans to visit Rich’s aunt north of L.A. and we were running late. So busy talking about the church service, we missed our I-5 exit and ended up driving through downtown L.A. and Hollywood on 101.

The traffic was backed up and we didn’t see how we’d get back on track and be on time. So Rich called his aunt and she instructed us how to get back on track. We were only a half hour late. (Btw, we’d last reported having lunch with his aunt at the Queen Mary in Long Beach on our October beach trip.)

We toured her little cottage and she shared pictures of his Uncle Charles. I’d always heard how alike Rich and Charles were and I’d seen the common gestures at our wedding. But in this photo, Charles was about Rich’s age now and the resemblance was uncanny! She shared photos of their Star Trek cruises and autographed photos, plates, and other memorabilia. We were all missing Charles!

We then made our way to the local popular barbecue joint for lunch just down the road. It was packed on a Sunday afternoon! We enjoyed the meal and company and then headed back to Aunt Eillean’s place for a tour of her garden. Her two kitties were a bit shy and we mostly just got a glance of them racing by – lol!


We hugged, took some photos and said our good-byes with plans to get together again this fall at a recreational area not far from our home in Las Vegas.

It was pretty hot that day in inland L.A. and we were still dressed in our church clothes, making us even hotter, so on the way home, we stopped off at Del Taco for a couple of milkshakes – the usual vanilla for Rich and strawberry for me.

By the time we got back to our little villa in Anaheim, it must have been close to six p.m. Totally exhausted, we rested for a bit and then finished off the bottle of wine, ate a few crackers with cheese and had milk and cookies for a bedtime snack before hitting the bed.

Oh, but of course, we couldn’t go to sleep until after the 9:30 fireworks were finished. And then we went to sleep.