Prohibition Ends Here

I’ve wanted to go to a speakeasy bar (Number 144 on my list) for awhile.  I like the hint of secrecy and mystery behind it.  However, it seemed like a special occasion type of thing to do and the occasion didn’t present itself under February 2018.  A friend of ours was celebrating his birthday and guess where he was going?

Being let into the basement bar through a hidden door was exciting.  The bar itself was cozy, with lots of comfy seats, and it was very dark.  The limited number of people allowed inside at one time made for a more intimate experience.  One downside of our experience was the noisy group next to us, which made our conversation a little difficult, but I digress.

Overall, it was a fun experience and I would love to do it again.



The Nutcracker

Until last Christmas, I had never been to the ballet (at least as an adult) so this made my adventure list as Number 131.  My friend and I had talked for years about going to The Nutcracker but we hadn’t ever made it happen.  So last December, I surprised her with tickets.

It was amazing.

We both loved it, and I can’t wait to go to another ballet.

Have you been to the ballet?  Which was your favorite one?


Project 333

Number 136 on my list was to complete the Project 333 clothing challenge.  If you haven’t read my post about simplifying my life with the Konmari method, check that out here first.  It was through that process that I first learned about Project 333, which is a minimalist fashion challenge in which you wear just 33 items for 3 months.  Certain things, such as sleepwear, underwear, and workout clothes don’t count as part of the 33 items.  I also didn’t count jewelry or my coat.  For the full rules of the challenge, visit the Project 333 site.

I started Project 333 on January 14, 2018 and finished on April 14.  During this time, I did not buy any new or used clothing, and I wore only 33 items.  I did swap out a few things during the first few weeks when I realized I needed another shoe and sweater option.  This challenge taught me that I really don’t need a lot of clothes.  I was able to create different outfits by mixing the pieces I had.  It definitely forced me to be more creative.  And on the other hand, it made it easier to get dressed in the morning.  Fewer options definitely simplify things.

So what were my 33 items?

-4 tank tops (white, blue, polka dot, and black/white)

-4 short sleeve shirts (2 black and 2 white)

-2 long sleeve shirts (1 black/white striped and 1 flannel)

-3 sweaters (gray, white, and black/white)

-4 cardigans (white, 2 black, and gray)

-4 dress pants (2 gray, 1 black, and 1 blue)

-2 jeans (light blue and dark blue)

-1 skirt (black)

-2 dresses (purple and black/white)

-2 scarves (white/pink floral and light blue)

-5 shoes (brown boots, black ankle boots, white keds, cheetah print flats, and black heels)


This challenge solidified what I learned about simplifying with Konmari.  It also taught me that having fewer but quality items is better for me than having a bunch of average items.  Once the challenge was over, I slowly reintroduced items to my wardrobe, but I permanently got rid of several others.  Sometimes, less really is more.


The Beauty of the Ozarks

Number 135 on my adventure list was to see the Shepherd of the Hills play in Branson, Missouri.  My parents took my brother and I to see this when we were little, but I don’t really remember it.  I have been wanting to see the play as an adult ever since I read the book a few years ago.

I have a beautiful old copy of The Shepherd of the Hills that my Grandpa JB let me have.  It belonged to his mom – her name is written in the front of the book.  Sadly, it sat on my shelf for several years before my dad convinced me to read it.  I am so glad I did because I ended up loving it.


Shortly after I read it, I was talking to my Grandpa on the phone about the play in Branson.  He mentioned that it had shut down recently.  I was so disappointed!  I felt like I had missed my chance to go.  But then the play reopened.  Unfortunately, K and I got busy and didn’t end up making it to the play during the summer of 2016, so I decided to make it a priority for the next season.  And then it shut down, again!  I felt like I had really blown my chances to see it.  But luckily, it reopened, again.  We booked our tickets for a Saturday night show and planned a weekend getaway to Branson.

We stayed in a beautiful airbnb that had a stunning view of the Ozarks.  I could have spent a week here instead of just a couple days.

Get $40 off your first airbnb stay by signing up here!  

During the day on Saturday, we went to another place I have been wanting to go to – Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.  This place was amazing!  There are so many little waterfalls throughout the park.  The path is paved and flat, so it is an easy walk (6.5 miles).  The waterfall that is furthest from the park entrance is the most beautiful, so it is definitely worth it to walk to the end.  You can also rent bikes or take the tram tour if you prefer.  I would definitely go back here.

That night, we headed to the outdoor theater to see The Shepherd of the Hills.  We had good seats, the weather was perfect, and the actors all did a great job.  Of course, the book was better.  The play added more drama and comedy, which makes sense for theater.  What I was expecting to see, though, was an exact portrayal of what I read without all the entertainment add-ins.  All in all, it was still an enjoyable experience and I’m glad that I got to see it.  I only wish I could have told my Grandpa that I finally got to go.  He passed away about 10 months before we went.

After heading back to our airbnb, I sat out on the deck to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the Ozarks with a cup of hot chocolate.  I don’t think that this area gets enough credit – the Ozarks are truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.  But maybe I am a little biased, because for me, it feels a little bit like home.


Have you been to Branson before?  What are your favorite things to do here?


The City of Echoes

Part 3 of our Eurotrip was Rome.  Be sure to read about Part 1 (Germany) and Part 2 (Venice) if you missed them.

On Wednesday, March 22nd, we took a train from Venice to Rome.  The train ride was very scenic and it went by fast (about a 3.5 hour ride).  Once we arrived in Rome, we picked up our Romapass, which is a pretty good deal if you are planning to see several major sights in Rome.  Then we took the metro to our airbnb.  (Get $40 in travel credit when signing up here for Airbnb!)

Our host was there to greet us and give us a map of the neighborhood, which included her recommendations.  Our flat was actually amidst some ruins and only a short walk to the Colosseum.  As Giotto di Bondone said, “Rome is the city of echoes.”

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There was an amazing cafe near our airbnb that served delicious coffee and donuts, so we were able to start the next day off right.


Then we walked to the Colosseum for a tour.  It was crowded (of course), but such an amazing sight.

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Next, we headed to the Roman Forum.  I was not expecting the Roman Forum to encompass such a huge area.  We actually spent several hours here.  Pretty incredible place!

We also got to see a cool view of the Colosseum.


IMG_4174Next, we walked up to Palatine Hill.  It was beautiful.

That night, we went by the Trevi Fountain and then met up with my parents (who were doing a Rick Steve’s Italy Tour) for dinner.  It was really nice to see them and discuss our travels thus far.

On Friday, we went to the Vatican.  I got to cross #88 off my adventure list – see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.  However, this was not my favorite part of the trip.  It was very crowded, especially in the Sistine Chapel.  We were also tired from all the walking we did the previous day at the Roman Forum.

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We had planned to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, but the line to get in was incredibly long so we didn’t even try.  We enjoyed the view from the outside, and then headed back to Rome.


Next, we headed to the Pantheon.  It was crowded, but still very cool to see.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Rome on our own.

We went inside some beautiful churches that we stumbled upon during our wandering.

We had dinner with my parents again that night.  Delicious food, amazing wine, and wonderful company.

K and I took a daytrip to Pompeii on Saturday.  We took an early morning bus which dropped us off right at Pompeii.  We decided not to buy a return ticket yet since we didn’t know how long we wanted to spend at Pompeii.  We figured that once we got there, we could find a bus station and buy a return ticket.  Unfortunately, we walked and walked and could not find a bus station anywhere.

Luckily, I had printed off alternate directions to the train station, so we decided we would just sort that out when the time came.  So we walked back and headed into Pompeii.

It was incredible.  I had not expected that Pompeii would be so spread out.  You can walk through the entire city – it was pretty amazing.  Since the area is so big, even if there are a lot of people there, it doesn’t feel crowded.  There were parts of Pompeii that we explored that made us feel like we were the only people there.

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We followed this little walkway and we weren’t sure where we were going to end up…

After spending most of the day here, we were exhausted.  We followed my directions to the train station and took a train to Naples.  From there, we were able to get a train back to Rome.  We were pretty relieved once we were on the last train – my directions panned out!

Sunday was our last day in Rome.  We met up with my dad for coffee, and then wandered around the city, ending back up at the Trevi Fountain.  My mom joined us for lunch before we parted ways for a few hours.

K and I went to Circus Maximus that afternoon, which was the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium.  It was the perfect place to relax with a cold drink on a sunny afternoon.  We also went by the Colosseum one last time.

We met up with my parents for our final dinner in Italy, where we reminisced our adventures, savored our pasta, and sipped some amazing Italian wine, but not for the last time.  We will be back.

On Monday, K and I planned to grab coffee and breakfast from our favorite cafe near our flat.  Alas, it was not open yet.  So we headed to the airport for our first flight, which was to Amsterdam.  We had a short layover and I bought some delicious waffle candy.  So good!


Then we boarded our flight back to the United States.  Goodbye, Europe.  We will meet again someday!  Until then, I will be dreaming of la dolce vita we lived while here.



La Dolce Vita

Part two of our Eurotrip was Italia.  If you missed Part One (Germany), read about that here.

After departing Germany on the morning of March 20th, 2017, we had a short flight to Venice.  From the airport, we took a water taxi to Venice.


View from the water taxi

Luckily, the aunt of our airbnb host met us at the water taxi drop-off in Venice.  I don’t think we could have found our way without her guiding us!  She led us through several narrow, unmarked, winding passageways before we reached our temporary home away from home.

Our Venice flat was amazing.  It was beautiful inside, along with a stunning view of the city from the balcony.  There was a delicious gelato shop right by our place, which was very convenient.  There was also a bakery nearby that served yummy croissants.  The flat was a close walk to most of the major sights, but was on a quiet street so it was very peaceful.  The location really couldn’t have been better.  I wish we could have spent a month here.  If you haven’t used airbnb before, I highly recommend you check it out!  You can get $40 in travel credit if you sign up here!


After we got all settled into our place, we headed out to see the town and find some lunch.


We carried our pocket phrasebook with us and attempted to speak (albeit very poorly) Italian everywhere that we went.  Almost everyone we encountered did speak English, but we felt that it was important to try to speak their native language in their country.

We spent the day exploring, including going to St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.  Both were a bit crowded, but definitely must sees.


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Literally everywhere in Venice is beautiful.


For dinner that first night, we had some delicious pasta at a quaint little spot.  Our server brought us free digestifs after dinner.  It was limoncello – I loved it!

After diner, we walked around Venice and ended up back at the Rialto Bridge and then at St. Mark’s Square.  It was cool to see both places illuminated in the dark, and there were way less people.


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The next day, we headed to St. Mark’s Square to see the inside of the basilica.  We arrived right as it opened, so we only had to wait a minute or two in line.  It was pretty incredible to see all the detail that went into the design.  (No photos were allowed inside the church.)

We also did a tour of Doge’s Palace.  We rented audioguides and then explored on our own.  It’s a beautiful place – each room is more elaborate than the next.


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This day also happened to be our 2-year wedding anniversary.  What better place to celebrate than in Venice?  Our celebration included a gondola ride.  It may be touristy and expensive, but it was worth every penny.  Gliding through the canals, with beautiful old buildings and unique bridges everywhere, an Italian tenor singing softly in the distance – it’s pretty perfect.


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For dinner we went to an amazing Italian place that K found.  I think our server appreciated us trying to speak Italian because he brought us free aperitifs.  The aperitif was quite bitter, but I drank it anyway.  When in Venice!


After dinner and drinks, we headed out and decided to try to get lost in the winding streets.  We bought some wine from a little store and then meandered through the narrow walkways, sipping as we walked, enjoying the magic that is Venice.


The next morning, we packed our backpacks, stopped for one last croissant and coffee, and then headed to the train station to catch a high speed ride.  Until next time, Venice…

Next stop, Roma!


Castles in Europe

Before I start blogging about this year, I want to share my adventures from last year.

It was a pretty big travel year for me.  I have been dreaming about going to Europe for years, specifically to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.  Last March, we made those dreams come true and I was able to cross #1 off my bucket list – tour castles in Europe.

And as always, along the way, we had many other adventures that weren’t on my list. I’ll start with Germany.  I did organize a fairly detailed itinerary for our trip to make things easier for us since we were traveling alone and don’t speak the language.  We also booked our airbnbs for all three cities (Munich, Venice, and Rome) before we left the States.  However, other than specific dates for each city, the rest of the itinerary was fairly flexible.

We started off our Eurotrip by flying into Munich on March 18, 2017 and arriving in the morning.  From the airport, we took a train to central station in Munich.  We had some difficulty figuring out how to buy a train ticket and then how to validate it, but luckily a local helped us out.


We couldn’t check into our airbnb until later that afternoon, so we stored our hiking packs at the central train station.  They have lockable boxes you can rent for pretty cheap.

Then we took a train and bus to Dachau Concentration Camp.  On the train, we met a very nice man from Australia who was also heading to Dachau.  I was relieved that the directions I found online of which train and bus to take from Munich to Dachau were accurate.

Dachau Concentration Camp was surreal.  K referred to it as a “sobering experience”.  The museum was very informative and interesting from a historical perspective, but it was of course very sad.  Apart from the museum, you are free to wander around the camp.  We spent several hours here – there is a lot to see.  The weather was cold and rainy – luckily we brought some warm hats!

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After we got back to Munich, we grabbed our bags and then headed off to find some lunch.  Unfortunately, we walked for ages and couldn’t find a single place to eat.  By this time, I also really needed to find a toilet, which proved to be more elusive than a restaurant.  This was a low point of our trip.  We were cold, wet, jet-lagged, hungry, in desperate need of a bathroom, and in a country where we don’t speak the language.  By some stroke of luck, we finally stumbled upon an Italian place as we headed back in the direction of the train station.  Although we would be in Italy in a few days, we decided to stop here anyway because it was warm, it was food, and there was a bathroom.  After a few minutes, our stress faded away.  I think the drinks helped with that.

We checked into our airbnb flat after lunch, which happened to be right next to the Italian restaurant.  Our home for the next couple days was very nice and close to the train station.

That night, we went to a beer hall that K read about online, called Augustiner.  This place was my favorite thing about Munich.  When we arrived, it was all community seating at big long tables.  We found what looked like the only empty spots, two seats next to each other across from a couple older gentleman.  It turns out that they were from Sweden, but they spoke German too and some English.  It was definitely a humbling experience for me to see that most people we encountered in Europe spoke more than one language.  I don’t think that we do a very good job of that in America.

We actually never found out the names of the gentlemen we sat with at Augustiner, but they were very nice.  It was pretty loud in the beer hall.  Their English was limited and our German was reliant on a pocket translation guide, with our Swedish being non-existent.  But despite language barriers, we had a fun night with those guys, who we affectionately referred to as Pieter and Marten from that night on.  The food was amazing and the beer at Augustiner was actually the first beer that I have ever liked.

As we were leaving, we met a really funny (and very intoxicated) English man who had us rolling with laughter.  All in all, it was a great night.

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Unfortunately, K woke up sick the next day with a bit of a travel bug.  This was the day we planned to take a train to Neuschwanstein Castle, and it was the only day we would be able to go as we were leaving Munich the following day.  I offered to go on my own while K rested at our flat, but despite being sick, he did not want to spend our last full day in Munich in bed.

We grabbed croissants and coffee for breakfast at the train station.  The train took about 2 hours and then there was a short bus ride to Hohenschwangau, the small town where the castle is.  The view on the train was very scenic.  Also, I just love trains.




We booked our tickets for both castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) in advance before our trip, but were able to upgrade to an earlier tour time once we arrived.  We toured Hohenschwangau Castle first, and then stopped for a quick lunch.  I had a delicious schnitzel sandwich and poor K, still sick, nibbled on a pretzel.

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We had a little bit of time in between the castle tours, so we went for a walk around the area.  There was a beautiful lake nearby.


Can you imagine waking up to this view every day?!


The lake water was so beautiful!

Finally, we made the trek up to Neuschwanstein.  I was pretty much bursting with excitement.  My ultimate travel goal was actually happening!  The sound is pretty soft on this video, but you can see the excitement on my face!

No photos were allowed inside the castle, but if you are ever in Munich, I would highly recommend that you take the day trip to Hohenschwangau.  The castles are amazing and the scenery in the area is absolutely beautiful.  This place was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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We were pretty tired by the time we got back to Munich and K was still feeling pretty bad, so we grabbed some food from the train station and took it back to our flat.  If he would have been feeling better, it would have been fun to have one last night out in Munich, but we decided to stay in so he could rest up for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, we took a bus to the airport.  We had some trouble finding the bus stop, and actually ended up running to make it on time.  Nothing like jogging with a heavy pack on your back in the early hours of the morning!

Once we got to the airport, our troubles were not over.  I had some difficulty getting through security because apparently I had too many liquids in my bag.  It was a little nerve-wracking to have problems at a foreign airport.  The security officer actually pulled my liquids out one by one to examine them, but most of them he referred to as “medicine”, such as my contact solution (“medicine for the eyes”), so these were excluded from the limit.  I ended up having to throw out one small container of dry shampoo that was almost empty anyway.

We departed Munich at 8:20 am on March 20th, 2017.  It was a quick trip, but we were able to see a lot in a couple days.

Next stop, Italia, but I’ll save that post for another day.


Rise Again

I was not my best self last year.  I lost someone very dear to me, my grandpa, on December 25th, 2016.  I struggled for the majority of 2017 to cope with this loss and all the secondary losses that came with it.


Thankfully, I feel like I am in a much better place in 2018, thanks in large part to the fact that I finally accepted help.  As someone with an educational background in mental health, I find it ironic that I put off going to grief counseling for so long.  Through therapy, I not only found the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have been given the tools to get out of the tunnel completely.

“Your trauma is valid. Even if other people have experienced “worse”. Even if someone else who went through the same experience doesn’t feel debilitated by it. Even if it “could have been avoided”. Even if it happened a long time ago. Even if no one knows. Your trauma is real and valid and you deserve a space to talk about it. It isn’t desperate or pathetic or attention-seeking. It’s self-care. It’s inconceivably brave. And regardless of the magnitude of your struggle, you’re allowed to take care of yourself by processing and unloading some of the pain you carry. Your pain matters. Your experience matters. And your healing matters. Nothing and no one can take that away.” – Daniell Koepke

If you are having a hard time or feeling stuck, there is help out there.  Find a counselor here. 

As much as I struggled last year, 2017 wasn’t all bad.  In fact, it was a year with some incredible highs, including my first trip to Europe and a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, which was my ultimate travel goal and the inspiration behind my blog.  2017 was also a year of waterfalls, camping trips, weekend getaways, and concerts.

And yet, it was a year with incredible lows, with days when I couldn’t stop the tears at work, nights when I couldn’t sleep, mornings when I woke up and remembered the loss all over again.  It was a year when friends moved away, friendships were tested, a year that a friend was diagnosed with leukemia.  It was a year of anger, anguish, bitterness, guilt, confusion, and loneliness.

It was definitely not a year for blogging.  I wrote a handful of sporadic posts, but mostly, this blog collected dust.

That’s going to change this year.  It’s my last year in my 20’s (what?!) and I feel more like myself again.  I am trying to learn from the sudden loss of my grandpa to cherish every moment, to live life to the fullest.  Time is not guaranteed.  There are so many things that I want to do and I want to make every day count.  I’ve got lots of adventures planned for 2018.  Stay tuned.

“The sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise again from the darkness, that we too can shine our own light.” -Sara Ajna


Behind the Waterfall

Number 116 on my adventure list was to go swimming next to a waterfall.  I have always loved waterfalls (but really, who doesn’t?)  When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Behind the Waterfall.  I won’t spoil it for you, but there is something magical hidden behind the falls in this film.  When I think of waterfalls now, I still think of magic.  That’s probably why this one ended up on my list.

Living in the midwest, I don’t get the chance to see very many waterfalls.  But in January, I found myself at this enchanting little spot in New Zealand.


This swimming hole is on my brother-in-law and his fiance’s property.  The privacy and seclusion of this spot just adds to the charm.


Although the water was a little cold, and I was a little afraid of potential eels lurking about, it was definitely worth it to jump in.  This was one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen.


Also works as a water slide

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Top of the falls

GOPR0572.jpgWe didn’t find anything mysterious behind the waterfall.

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But there’s always next time.

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7 Tips for a Short Stay in Vegas


Four best friends in Vegas…

No, I’m not talking about The Hangover.  In November, I traveled to Las Vegas with my husband and our two friends.  We didn’t steal a tiger or throw a mattress off the roof, but we did have a great time.

We played the slots.  And some of us won.  And then we all lost.

We played Blackjack.  And some of us won.  And then we all lost.

We ate at a classic Vegas buffet.  And some of us ate too much.  Okay, we all ate too much.

If you’re planning a trip (and you should), here are my recommendations:

  1. Stay in a central location on the Strip (or on Fremont street).  We rented an awesome condo on the Strip through Airbnb.  Our place was walking distance to almost everything.  The condo also had the added benefits of providing coffee (much needed after a late night) and a spa pool (great for relaxing after a long day of walking).  Have you tried Airbnb before?  We love using it.  We have gotten to stay at some great places for a cheaper price than a hotel, but with more space, a kitchen, and a local’s recommendations for things to do in the area.  Sign up here and get $40 off your first trip.  Just make sure the host you choose has positive reviews from other people, first.  🙂


    The view from our room

  2. Try to see as many of the unique casinos as you can.  Even if you’re not a gambler, the architecture of the the buildings is worth seeing.  The Luxor, Excalibur, and The Paris were a few of my favorites.

    The Paris




    The Cosmo


    The Luxor

  3. Make sure you check out Fremont Street.  It’s a different vibe from the Strip.  I would love to spend more time here on our next trip.IMG_3316.jpg
  4. Go to a lunch buffet.  It’s cheaper than dinner, but still has amazing food.  We went to The Golden Nugget – so good. IMG_3318.jpg
  5. Go see the sign.  You know the one.  The iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  It’s touristy, packed with people, parking is terrible, but seeing the sign in person is worth it.  We did have to drive here from the Strip (but you could take an Uber or taxi if you don’t want to rent a car.)  15232299_10208394089912120_1892026850154465942_n.jpg
  6. If you have time, get away from the city and check out the Hoover Dam.  Truly an amazing sight. IMG_5517.jpg IMG_3336.jpg
  7. If you have lots of time (or in our case-one day), drive to the Grand Canyon.  You can make the trip in a day, which is what we did, but I wouldn’t recommend that.  It’s a long drive (~4 hours each way).  It would be better to stay the night (or a few nights) near the canyon (maybe in Flagstaff), so that you have more time to enjoy the park.  Oh, and make sure you check the weather before you go.  Because apparently, it does snow in Arizona in November.  IMG_5526.jpgIMG_3422.jpgIMG_3426.jpg

Las Vegas is an unforgettable experience.  Brightly decorated buildings as far as you can see; aggressive street solicitors loudly slapping cards at you; peppy slot machine music echoing through your head (even after you leave); the flicker of excitement running through your body as you push “spin again”; cloudy rooms full of smoke, hope, regret.  There’s no place quite like Vegas.

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Have you been?  Would you like to go?