Posts Tagged ‘Stratosphere’

Move Forward & Stop Looking Back

Birthdays are interesting annual events.  Some people count down to the big day and some would rather it pass unnoticed.

As life goes on, the way we celebrate the natal day changes.  As a kid, we’re excited for a cake, a party, and gifts.

That’s me celebrating my first birthday with a cake that ISN’T chocolate! 😦

October 13 1965

In retrospective, I’m grateful I got to celebrate that birthday.  When I arrived six weeks early, in the fall of 1964, I weighed about three pounds and I wasn’t expected to make it.  The survival rate for preemies back then was only 28%!

For many, becoming a teenager is exciting and to others, it’s a terrifying time. Then, there’s 16, 18, and 21.

After that the pressure settles in as 25 nears and you become frantic at 30 feeling as though your youth is gone.  It’s time to evaluate where you’re at in life and where you’re heading.


I survived college, partying, and finding myself in my teens and 20s, starting my career in my 30s, finding love in my 40s, and losing it in my 50s.

There are days of bitterness and anger, but many more are now filled with uncertainty — not only of what lies ahead down this road of life we travel, but mortality!   Dessie-Hollie-Anthony -- Fall 1964

While the average life expectancy in the U.S. is now 78.7 years, my beautiful mother, Dessie, didn’t get anywhere near that.

She died at 47 (in 1990).  My father died three years earlier at 55.


I’m optimistic that I have many years left since I’m physically and mentally healthy.  I just have to work on becoming emotionally and mentally happy!

My next birthday is right around the corner (October 13).

If you send birthday wishes to me via Facebook, I’ll get around to responding to them when I can since I’ll be out of the country!

I’m marking another continent off my travel list!


This will be the fourth continent I’ve visited — following North America, Europe, and Asia!

To help you narrow it down, I don’t think I need to visit Antarctica and going to South America isn’t high on my travel “bucket list”.

Final clues before you see the pictures on Facebook when I have internet:  It’s north of the Equator (never been south of it), 99% Muslim, and it’s ruled by a King.

Birthday Trip 2

And, in August, Madonna spent her 60th birthday there.  I’m sure that her arrangements were on a grander scale! 🙂


P.S. I share my birthday with Sacha Baron Cohen (47), Nancy Kerrigan (49), Fox Mulder (57), and Marie Osmond (59).  Oh, I can’t forget my dear friend, Crystal Craddock-Posey!

With that being said, I want to share some of my favorites birthdays of the past with you.


jc bd.JPG



For my 50th birthday, I wanted to visit Tel Aviv, Israel.

When booking the trip, the connecting flight was through Paris, so it was decided to spend three nights in Paris and four in Tel Aviv.

For my birthday, I was treated to a Seine River dinner cruise, a view of Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower, and sitting stage side at the historic Moulin Rogue sipping champagne at midnight as I turned 50!

Anthony 50

Days later, in Tel Aviv, I had the best meal ever at Benny The Fisherman, right on the Mediterranean Sea!

Benny The Fisherman


The day started with an incredible brunch at the Stratosphere (back when it was good) in Las Vegas and ended with seeing Madonna and the incredible “MDNA Tour”.


Madonna MDNA


This would be the last one with my best buddy in the world, my beautiful golden retriever, Miss ABBA.  It was a warm fall day in the Quad Cities and we spent it outside playing.



2009 Gifts

As I head into my 55th year and beyond, I’ll live by the words of Kylie Minogue and her life affirming hit “Golden” (which chronicles her turning 50 earlier this year)!

Kylie Golden 1


Kylie Golden 2

My one goal for 2019 — seeing Kylie’s “Golden Tour” here in the U.S.!

Here’s to future!



Random Friday Thoughts — May 27, 2016

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  It’s the unofficial kick-off to the summer season.  I hope you have a great one.  It’ll be especially nice for those with a three-day weekend (Ray!).

I wasn’t planning on an installment of Random Friday Thoughts, but here it is.  Surprise!


We’re running behind schedule this year, but we’re putting up our pool this weekend.

We closed it down in late September, but I’m ready to float the weekends and afternoons away — especially now that we’re enjoying summer-like, above average temperatures in the Quad Cities.


Beth Howland, who played ditzy waitress Vera, on the long running 1970s-1980s CBS sitcom, “Alice”, has died of lung cancer. She was 74.


Howland actually died December 31, 2015, but her actor husband, Charles Kimbrough, told The Associated Press that it “her choice” not to have a memorial service or funeral.  That’s why the news is just now coming out.

As a kid, I loved her character and comedic timing.


For whatever reason, the 2014 Austrian psychological thriller/horror movie, “Goodnight Mommy”, just hit Redbox and I highly recommend it!

Susanne Wuest is incredible in the role as “The Mother” and twins, Elias and Lukas Schwarz, are mesmerizing.

The movie was Austria’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 88th Annual Academy Awards, but it wasn’t picked as a nominee.  Oscar fail!

Before I saw the movie, I wrote, “the trailer definitely creeps me out”.  Wait until you see the movie!

I don’t give too many movies this grade, but “Goodnight Mommy” gets….



I know Earth Day is in April.  But, there’s something that we can do to cut back on pollution and some communities are working hard to make it happen.

As I travel across the country (and the world), I see more and more businesses charging for those paper-thin, flimsy plastic bags that Walmart and other stores use.

They’re cheap to produce and many aren’t used again because they rip open before you even get home!  Many end up blowing in the wind or floating in area lakes and rivers.

Ban Bags

More businesses are selling cloth reusable bags and I think that’s fantastic.

Aldi stores sell the reusable bags, but they also have plastic bags.  However, if you want one (whether you throw it away or reuse it), you pay for it.

I know it’d get expensive if you’re paying for the plastic bags at big stores like Walmart, but it’d probably prompt you to buy quality, reusable bags.  And, the environment would love you for it.

Many communities are even banning or proposing bans on the plastic bags.


Fish Be You


I was wrong!

In my “Random Friday Thoughts — December 19, 2014”, I predicted that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush would be the two candidates on November’s ballot for U.S. president.

Hillary AP

Well, it looks like I’ll be right with the Democratic nominee come June 7th once New Jersey and California vote, but who would have thought the presumptive nominee out of seventeen candidates on the Republican side would be Donald Trump!

DT Masks

Scary, right?  Yes!  I don’t need to wait for an answer!


Going to Las Vegas is an annual pilgrimage for me and Ray.

We love to eat, gamble, catch a couple of shows, walk, walk, walk, and see the sights.

Las Vegas

We love checking out the beautiful hotels and casinos — especially the displays made of flowers at the Bellagio.  I really want to visit one December when the glitzy city is decorated for Christmas.

However, our next trip in late July will not include a visit to the gorgeous The Venetian and The Palazzo.

The CEO is donating $100 million (yes, million) to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign! I’m sorry, but I will not help fund in any way that sorry excuse of a man that wants to be president!

There are plenty of other places there to try my luck at the slots — and eat desserts!

We’ll be visiting the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood.  It’s a tradition for us to eat there and have the weekend champagne brunch at the Stratosphere.

Spice Market Buffet Las Vegas

Have I mentioned how much I love buffets, slot machines, and Las Vegas?


Former First Lady Nancy Reagan died earlier this year of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.  Her husband, Ronald, our country’s 40th president, died back in June 2004 at the age of 93.


Since it’s an election year, I’ve mostly been reading biographies and autobiographies of political figures.  I’ve read books from Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jimmy Carter, plus books on presidential wannabees Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee.

I just finished Nancy Reagan’s “My Turn” and Kitty Kelley’s “Nancy:  The Unauthorized Biography”.

What I concluded from Nancy’s book is that she definitely heavily influenced Ronald Reagan in his two terms as California’s governor (1967-1975) and his two terms as president (1981-1989).

Even in her own words, I don’t think she was probably a very nice person (outwardly).  However, I don’t think she was the evil pariah that Kelley made her out to be.

But, reading some of the accusations made by Kelley — including an affair with Frank Sinatra, date rape, and unplanned pregnancies — it definitely makes one wonder what was really going on in the lives of one of the most conservative political families.


To restore some of my faith in Ms. Reagan, I read Michael Deaver’s “Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan”.

Although it’s a short book, don’t waste your time.  It’s basically the “CliffsNotes” version of Nancy’s “My Turn”.

He told the same stories she did with very little new insight.  The book only one earned its worth when in the last thirty or so pages, he addressed Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s Disease.


There’s one thing that I would never dispute about the Reagans — their love for each other in their 50+ years of marriage.  It’s very admirable.

I still have a few more books to read about them — about their love and President Reagan’s autobiography.


I didn’t personally know or like the Reagans (especially the President).

There’s one big reason that I used to despise Reagan and it was much deeper than him defeating my favorite President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.  Here’s a blog from the summer of 2012 to explain.  (Clicking on this blog link will open a new window, so you won’t lose your place in today’s reading.)


Since my last “Random Friday Thoughts”, Ray and I spent two weeks in China.  We met some really nice people in our tour group from all over the world, including New Zealand.

We climbed the Great Wall of China, cruised on the Yangtze River (when we weren’t fogged in and unable to move), saw the stunning Gorges, endured the worst smog I’ve ever seen in Beijing where our trip started and ended, and witnessed the lights and glamour of Shanghai, the reason we went to China!

AP Ray Shanghai.jpg

Maybe because it was for a tour group, the food was pretty bland and too Westernized.  I’m ready to enjoy my favorite Asian food in the Quad Cities, Osaka Buffet, in Moline, for some “real” tasty cuisine.

Would I ever go back to China?  Probably not.  Would I recommend seeing it once in your lifetime?  Definitely!


The first time I heard “Faded” by 18-year-old British-born Norwegian record producer Alan Walker (with vocals by Iselin Solheim), I fell in love with the song.

Instantly, I searched out more songs from Walker and much to my chagrin, I found there isn’t an album — yet.

The ethereal, very moody, and captivating song is already a chart-topping smash in Austria, Belgium,  France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vietnam, and eight other counties!

Here is the United States, the song is racing up the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart jumping from #26 to #17 this week and it’s already in the Top Ten on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.

It’s getting some airplay at Top 40 radio here, but I hope it really catches on soon.  If you haven’t heard it, here it is.

Call B100 and 101.3 KISSFM here in the Quad Cities and request it.  Just tell them that Anthony from Local 4 requests that you play it. 🙂


If you’re looking for an intelligent television series to add to your summer viewing, you have to check out this five-part BBC America series. (You can catch it on Netflix.)

“London Spy” stars one of the best English actors working today, Ben Whishaw, who’s also appearing on Broadway in “The Crucible”.


It doesn’t hurt that Whishaw is charming and adorable, too!  But, I’m recommending this thriller because he’s incredible and the story is very suspenseful.

It also stars Jim Broadbent (“Moulin Rouge!”) and Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”).



Since I don’t write as much as I used to or as much as I’d like, I appreciate you checking out this week’s “Random Friday Thoughts”.  As always, feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree — just do it diplomatically.

Have a great holiday weekend and remember the great men and women that made this Memorial Day weekend a holiday.


Cupcakes For A Dining Experience To Remember

As you know, we’re still in Las Vegas.  I had promised to blog about the Lady Gaga concert Friday night.  However, because I want to add some video of my “Born This Way Ball” experience, it will now be on Tuesday once I get back to the Quad Cities.  Let me just say that it was amazing.  Here’s one photo to whet your appetite.


Seven rows from Lady Gaga!

The resort that we stayed at Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night is off the strip, so we’ve gotten to do a lot of walking.  As a matter of fact, we walked more than 16 miles on Friday.  That is not a typo!  Needless to say, I don’t think we’ve gained any weight while here even with buffets.  The reason is that we’ve limited our meals and buffets to one a day.

On Thursday, we ate lunch at Palace Station.  It’s located off the Strip and is a favorite for locals.   It was very cheap and you pretty much got what you paid for.  While not great and not bad, it served the purpose of a quick-lunch once we got situated in our room.

We had one meal Friday for lunch and I’m talking about that today because it was fantastic.  We also ate dinner at the Mirage Friday night at Cravings Buffet thanks to a buy one, get one free deal (with free unlimited wine) from Travelzoo.  Today, we’re having our one meal, Sunday brunch at the Stratosphere with unlimited mimosa and champagne for only about $20 a person.  We ate there for my birthday in October and it was probably the best brunch/buffet I’ve ever eaten.  I hope it is today, as well.


But, this is about the Spice Market Buffet in Planet Hollywood.  It was picked as one of the Top Ten buffets in Las Vegas and after having lunch there, I agree.

I made a video of me walking from one end of the food section of this restaurant to the other that I’ll download and post when I get back to the Quad Cities.  Let’s just say that it took me more than two minutes to record it.  That is how many selections this place had.  A picture would not do it justice since there were so many stations to choose from:  several American presentations, Italian, Middle Eastern, Seafood, Mexican, salad bar, and many others.


That’s one of my plates.  Yes, I had more than two.  But, I also just grab a bite of what I want to sample and if it’s exceptional, I’ll get more like that red-colored Mediterranean grilled chicken kabob.

One of the best things we ate was a herb coated, boneless fried chicken!

Now, I want to share the part that blew me away.  The dessert station consisted of traditional fare like bread puddings and fruit tarts, but it’s the selection of cupcakes that pushed this dining experience to spectacular.  You didn’t have a couple of traditional flavors to choose from, you had rows and rows of cupcakes.  I can recall seeing pumpkin, caramel apple, red velvet, chocolate mousse, cannoli-flavored with a cannoli sticking out of the top, and banana just to name a few.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, if that wasn’t enough to set the Spice Market Buffet apart from other Las Vegas buffets, you could top off your dining experience with cotton candy!


I’m sure there are many other great buffets in Las Vegas that I haven’t tried yet.  I know the next time we come, we’re buying the 24-hour buffet cards that certain hotels offer where you can try different casinos and hotel buffets all in one day.  My plan is to have dinner at one place, breakfast at another the next day, and then stop by the Spice Market Buffet for lunch just to eat desserts.  Yes, I want my cupcake and eat it, too.


Still Celebrating My Birthday VIP Style

I got my first Christmas card of the season yesterday (thank you, Kelly and Sam) and last week, I got my first Christmas present.  Actually, while it arrived closer to Christmas, it’s really more of a birthday present six weeks late.

As you recall, I spent my birthday in Las Vegas with Ray, Madonna, and 12,500 of her closest friends.


The concert was incredible, my unlimited champagne and mimosa brunch was amazing at Stratosphere, and the overall trip to Las Vegas was very fun.

I’m already looking forward to our next trip there in late January to see Lady Gaga and hopefully, Rod Stewart and/or Faith Hill and Tim McGraw!

But, what about my belated birthday present?  I would like to say that Madonna was so happy that I’ve been a huge fan for 30+ years, that I’ve seen her in concert three times, and that I’ve blogged about her countless times that she just had to send me something.  However, I know in the universe of the Material Girl, I’m one of those small specks out in space.

Last March, because we bought VIP tickets, they sent us two copies of Madonna’s “MDNA” album.  I also bought the “deluxe edition” to get the best song on the album “Gang Bang”, since it was so violent that it was left off the clean version.  The “deluxe” version also came with a second disc of five songs.

Nevertheless, because we had VIP tickets for the “MDNA Tour” (with only mediocre seats), Live Nation rewarded both Ray and I with gifts last week.

In addition to getting the CD last spring, the VIP package also got us the “MDNA” tour book, a Madonna poster, a “MDNA” key chain, a “MDNA” VIP laminate, a laminated commemorative ticket, and a Madonna concert t-shirt!

There are now only ten shows left in the sold-out worldwide “MDNA Tour” in South America.  It wraps up in Argentina on December 22, 2012, and then Madonna can go home for Christmas.

All I need to know now is when the concert DVD comes out so I can sit back, watch it, and re-live everything I missed because I was so excited.  Oh Madonna, please add some of Martin Solveig’s performance before your set.  He’s incredible.

Thanks for the gift, Madge and Live Nation.  Merry Christmas!



I’ve been back from Las Vegas now for nine days and it seems like forever.

The good news is that my healthy eating and exercise routine this summer worked and I lost 25 pounds and kept it off for the Madonna concert.  That really wasn’t the only reason for being healthy this summer.  I wanted to lose the 15 pounds that I gained since Ray and I met back in February 2009.

While in Vegas, we did a lot of walking and we even walked on the hotel treadmill.  One thing we didn’t do on vacation was count calories.  You know from reading my blog that I love food, so I’m going to share some of my plates with you.  Food porn, as some may call it!

We went grocery shopping to buy some snacks for the hotel room.  But, we only ate one meal each day and yes, that one meal was a buffet.

By far, the best dining experience on this trip was Saturday brunch for my birthday at the Stratosphere.

While the presentation, the food, the bottomless mimosas, and the champagne was incredible, what was truly impressive is that the brunch was only $19.99 each!  Great tasting and a great bargain!

The choices were endless and it seemed like the chefs switched out various entrees every 20-30 minutes.  It goes without saying, but I will, that even before I got my first plate, of many, that I checked out the desserts.

Along with my first two mimosa, my first plate was salad and fresh fruit.  So far, so good.

As I moved up to lunch fare on the second plate of swordfish, lox and capers, smoked salmon, pork, couscous, and veggies, I switched over to champagne for two glasses.  I didn’t want to overdo it with orange juice and Vitamin C!  🙂

From there, I moved back to breakfast food and back to mimosas for two more.

When I do buffets, I don’t load my plates with food because I don’t waste and I eat every bite.  For this one, I had Eggs Benedict, some French toast with whipped topping, crushed Heath bars, and a cherry, along with some bacon and fruit.


When I went back for my last plate before dessert, I had some chilled crab legs, which I’ve never had before.  I also had more lox and smoked salmon, and a little antipasto salad, and another mimosa.  And, then it was time to have dessert.

Before even going to brunch and Vegas, I already had my mind set on what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday and it must have been my lucky day because they had it!

That carrot cake was excellent and it was even better when I drizzled it with caramel sauce.  Oh, by the way, that picture is a little deceiving.  Of course, I had to wash it down with something!

We topped off brunch with a toast to my birthday and to a fantastic time at the Madonna concert later that night.  It was incredible.  Ray and I have decided that when we go back in January to see Lady Gaga we will be having the Stratosphere weekend brunch again.

In case you lost track, I had a total or seven or eight beverages for brunch. 🙂


On Friday, our second day in Vegas, we took the Monorail train and walked to two grocery stores to get snacks, cherry-flavored vodka, and wine.  While shopping, we noticed a Chinese buffet and decided to have lunch there.  It’s a good thing we did that because we ended up getting tickets to Elton John that night, so we didn’t eat dinner.

So, while the Chinese buffet was good, I won’t count it as my second favorite buffet because it wasn’t at a casino.  That would go to the Palms Bistro Buffet Sunday night.  This summer, we bought a Travelzoo 2-for-1 special and that is why we went out of our way to the Palms.

The buffet was not maintained well and a little messy, but the food was decent.

Before I even got my salad and fruit plate, our interaction with the waitress was rather standoffish.  Wine or beer came with dinner.  I asked, “what are your wine choices?” and she replied, “white or red”.

Simple enough, but I was still curious and asked, “what are the white wine choices?” to which she replied, “white or red”, and I politely looked back at her and said, “is that a white zinfandel or chardonnay?”, to which she finally understood and brought me the chardonnay, the only white wine choice.  At least, there was no confusion on the diet coke!


The highlight of my second plate was several different varieties of curried chicken.  When I went back for the third plate, I once again tried more of the curried chicken and a chilled crab leg.  However, the Palms chilled crab leg for dinner didn’t have the same effect, or taste, as the brunch chilled crab leg Saturday at the Stratosphere.

And, of course, I topped the meal off with dessert, or I should say, desserts!  In addition to what you see here, I also have a small bowl of chocolate ice cream.  However, we’ve all seen that so I didn’t take a picture of it. 🙂

The highlight of this meal was a funny interaction between us, our server, and another table.  Midway through the meal, a couple two tables behind us was getting ready to leave.  We had already noticed that the woman was rather bosomy.  And, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a woman who has probably had a AARP card for many, many years doesn’t have boobies that are that “out there and up there”.

As she walked by, Ray and I both watched her walk by.  I looked up and the waitress was looking at the sight, too.  She then looked over at me and realized that I was watching her watch the couple walk by.  For a couple of seconds, she didn’t know how to react.  So, I smiled that knowing smile.  Okay, it was an OMG smile and that broke the tension for the rest of the meal.

Hey, I say, “if you got the money and you want them, buy them and own them, they’re yours”!

Somehow segueing from desserts to boobies is probably wrong on so many levels.  I’ll just blame it on Madonna since I saw her the night before!

And, the buffet that really was not all that remarkable was the one that we had on the first night in Las Vegas and it was the most expensive.  It was the Big Belly Buffet at the Monte Carlo and it definitely wasn’t worth the $50 for the two of us.

You know it’s not all that spectacular when you load your plate with cantaloupe, honeydew, and veggies!  In all fairness, the limited sushi selections were good and the chicken enchilada was tasty.  The best dessert offering was the individual mini pecan pie.  I had two of them with some ice cream.

Upon returning from Vegas last Monday, we went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday with Gretel and Tammy at Osaka Buffet in Moline, Illinois, my favorite in the Quad Cities.  (Wise Guys Pizza in Davenport, Iowa, is a close second!)

Tammy made me a Twinkie Cake for my birthday and it was scrumptious.

Tammy and Gretel each had one piece that night, which meant that Ray and I finished it off that week.  And, that wasn’t the end of the indulgence or should I say, gluttony.  We had another buffet Friday night with Gretel.

So, after gaining a total of six pounds (and, eight for Ray), we’re both back on the healthy eating and exercising routine.  We’ve both already shed more than three of those vacation pounds.

Here’s a bit of irony.  On the day before Vegas, I had my annual physical in Chicago (and everything came back great).  My doctor was happy that I lost weight, but he told me, “don’t lose any more weight”.  Somehow, my mind told me, in Vegas, that meant eat all I wanted. 🙂

That old saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” might be true for some things, but it isn’t for the weight gain.  Those pounds followed us home!