Sunday, September 27, 2009

Natalie Merchant at the Shaker Heritage Society

Today I met Natalie Merchant. Five words I couldn't be more ecstatic to write! Here's the story.

Saturday morning I flew from Raleigh to Baltimore to Albany, NY. I rented a car and drove straight to the Shaker Heritage Society, the organization hosting the event.

The story goes that Natalie was in Albany about 10 years ago, getting some repairs done on a car she was going to give to her mother. To kill some time, the dealership suggested she check out the Shaker site. She's a history buff, and although she enjoyed her visit, back then it was hardly anything to speak of. Fast forward a few years, and Natalie has a baby. Around age 3, she becomes obsessed with the Shakers (apparently after being exposed to them via a Ken Burns documentary on PBS--only Natalie's child would have such an archaic and esoteric fixation). Imagine a three-year-old singing one of their hymns over and over and dancing around to it, Shaker style no less. Natalie makes her a Shaker outfit and she wears it constantly, even insisting on wearing it to her first day of preschool. Then, apparently Natalie visited the Shaker site a few months ago and saw all the work being done to restore it, and offered her talents to help raise funds. So the benefit concert idea was born.

When I heard about it, I was intrigued, because this kind of venue is uniquely Natalie. I contemplated going, and wavered, mostly because it involves a flight, a hotel, and not-cheap tickets. But the more I heard about it, I was ever more tempted. I priced everything out and decided I wanted to take the plunge. I found out there would be three tiers of tickets. I settled on the middle one. Then they announced a tour of the grounds with Natalie herself, for an extra (hefty) donation. My parents graciously gifted me the funds as a birthday present so I could participate. Then they announced that the first show had sold out and a second was being added! I figured, I'm already paying all this money to get there, I might as well see her all that I can!

So anyway, I arrived at the Shaker Heritage Society (SHS) and toured the itty bitty (but very informative) museum, met Brother William the meeting house cat, and purchased a couple of things from the gift shop. The volunteer who rang me up was full of fascinating information--did you know that the Shakers were not granted conscientious objector status (and thus exemption from conscription) during the Civil War until they agreed to supply the Union Army with herbal medicines (including opium and cannabis) and provide a rocking chair for Abe Lincoln himself?

I walked around outside enjoying the bright blue sky and the crisp fall air. In the pasture were three oxen, one of which (the biggest, I might add) came over to pay me a visit.

Last night I didn't sleep well at all, too full of excitement and anticipation for today. I'd set my alarm for 6:30 am so I could check in for my Southwest flight home and wasn't able to go back to sleep. I didn't know what to do with myself. Finally 11 am rolled around so I could go into the little gift shop to get my tickets. (They were will call only.)

I'd managed to score fifth row on the side for the first show, and sixth row dead center for the second. They were sold over the phone only back in August (no online option), and it took well over 100 calls for me to get through, so I was grateful I didn't end up in the way back! SHS is a tiny operation--they have like 3 phone lines. This was the first event of this kind they've ever held, way beyond the scope of anything they've ever done before.

Back to getting the tickets (whoo, lots of tangents!) So the shop is attached to the meeting house, and I could hear Natalie rehearsing! I tried to sneak a peak but they closed the door. :( She sounded AH-mazing. Just a little teaser for what was to come!

I still had an hour until the tour, so I went back to the car and saw a gentleman walking around. We exchanged "hi's" and of course were both there for the same reason, so we hit it off immediately. Oh, let me tell you how satisfying it is to have a conversation with someone who has the same passion as you! Andrew and I are both Natalie nerds to the core, we had so much to talk about, it was nonstop gabbing. Shortly before noon we located Justin and his wife Carmen. Justin and I go "way back," as they say--back to the days of trading bootleg cassette tapes of Natalie shows--but we'd never met. He's an even bigger fan than I, if you can imagine. He goes to everything. Her performance with the Boston Pops? There. Her week at the Hiro in NYC? There. I WISH I could have gone to those!

Anyway, so noon rolls around and we're told that Natalie is finishing up rehearsal. Our guide, Starlyn, the executive director of SHS, begins speaking to the 13 of us about Shaker history. It really is interesting--you should read about it if you get a chance. About 8 after, Natalie emerges. Down the steps she comes, wearing a black trench coat, black scarf, and black boots, hair in a bun. I have a freeze frame in my mind of the instant I saw her. I'd told Andrew before, "I hope I don't gasp." I did. Thankfully she wasn't close enough to hear me. :) Sadly, though, she went to the back of the group, and pretty much stayed there the whole tour. And it wasn't much of a tour, really. We learned a lot, but we stood in one spot for 15 minutes, then moved to another spot 30 yards away for another 15 minutes, and then finished up back by the first spot. I mean, whatever, right, I wasn't there for the tour per se, I was there to see and meet Natalie. But she kind of made herself inconspicuous, so I felt like I had to sneak pictures even though I'd arranged with Starlyn weeks before to be "the SHS photographer" for the event. Nevertheless, sneak I did.

Natalie wasn't wearing any makeup and was squinting in the daylight so they weren't the best shots, but I was mere feet away from my all-time idol, so what do I care, right?!

So our time is up, and Starlyn says thank you to all of us for taking the tour, and Natalie starts to leave. I tap Starlyn on the shoulder and say, "Can I get a picture of you and Natalie?" Totally professional, right? It's for the organization! So she literally jogs up to Natalie and asks her to step aside. I take two quick shots and then thankfully someone in the tour group (Justin's wife Carmen!) asks Natalie, "Can we take a few pictures with you?" Natalie said, "Yes, as long as it's quick. I have to get back inside to finish rehearsing." So that began the parade of people posing with Natalie. Somehow I ended up being everyone's photographer--they all just handed me their cameras! Fine by me, I love it! Then there was no one with her and she said, "Come on!" to the group, with her arm out to the side, motioning someone to come get a photo. So I handed my camera to someone--anyone who would take it!--and Natalie asked me, "So where are you from?" I said, "North Carolina." Then we smiled for the camera (the woman didn't know how to work it, but with some coaching from me and the newspaper photographer, she figured it out--kinda). And that was it. I wanted to tell her how much I love her voice, and how much her songs mean to me, and how I've adored her for 17 years, and how much getting to meet her meant to me, but of course none of that came out, probably for the better, I guess.

Anyway, she left, and I looked at the photo of me and her.

Alas, it's quite overexposed but at least we're both looking at the camera and--AND--at least it didn't rain! Oh my word, I was so grateful that the rain held off! Talk about a blessing. And, of course everyone else had cameras too--both Justin and Carmen have iPhones, and they both took pics of me while I was with Natalie, so they both instantly emailed them to me. I posted Carmen's on Facebook. I took lots of pictures of Andrew when he was with Natalie--he'd met her before, and was telling her the story of it, so he spoke with her the longest.

After that, we got in line to go inside (btw, more rehearsal my hat! They were letting people into the meeting house not five minutes later!) We entered through the back (which is where the Shakers would let "worldly" people in to observe their prayer services) and I sat on the far left, fifth row. (Andrew had front row center!) There was an opening act, Shelving Rock, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why, until later I learned that one of the members is on the SHS board. They were good--a fiddler and a guitarist--but honestly, we were all there for Natalie. Gabriel Gordon and Eric De La Penna were her guitarists, and there was a cello player too. They came in first, through the front doors, and started playing a slow song. Natalie came in through the back, which waxed a bit bridal in my opinion. Come to find out later that she'd planned to have a candle and incense, but the fire marshal put the kibosh on that! When she reached the front, she started singing, and not more than 10 seconds into it, she stopped abruptly. The acoustics of the meeting house are such that you can hear every. single. sound. So the shutter clicks were quite disruptive! She gave a good-hearted lecture about being "in the moment," and she gave us all "a moment" to capture. She pranced around with a big smile on her face and we all furiously took photos. Some of my faves, although none are of a technical quality I'm particularly proud of:

Then we had to put our cameras away. This was contrary to her previous consent that we would be allowed to take photos for the first three songs. But, it's Natalie. You do what she asks.

She started another song (never finished the first one, btw, not that I knew what it was--perhaps it was the Shaker hymn). She did lots of poetry ones (she's been on a kick of setting old poems to music she writes), some folk ones from House Carpenter's Daughter ("Owensboro," "Weeping Pilgrim," Bury Me Under the Willow Tree,") and then a few "mainstream" ones, like "Break Your Heart" and "Kind and Generous." The whole performance seemed very disjointed. She interrupted herself in the middle of many songs, either to have someone tune their guitar, to comment on a passing airplane (we were across the street from the airport), to start some lyrics over, etc. She didn't seem to know what to do with herself, not having a microphone. Oh yes. The whole thing was completely unplugged. No amplification whatsoever. Which was supposed to be awesome, because the acoustics of the meeting house are amazing. When it's empty. Put 310 living, breathing, coughing, sneezing, squirming bodies in there on folding chairs, and the acoustics change--imagine that! So she was walking up and down the center aisle, going to the way back so they could hear at least something, her guitarists following her around like a three-person mini parade. It was kind of awkward, but Natalie just rolled with it, and was very good humored about it. She conducted two sing-alongs, one to "Tell Yourself," and the other to "Kind and Generous." It was funny how people used very soft voices in order to try and not drown out Natalie, but then she wanted everyone to clap, and that was the end of that. No hope hearing her over all that ruckus! But it was fun nonetheless.

Another feature of this old building--no ventilation. It was only 60 degrees outside, but it was SO hot and stuffy inside. Poor Natalie, wearing a wool jacket. She commented on her poor choice of clothing, and I wasn't surprised that for the second show she changed into a cooler dress.

I unfortunately did have a coughing spell during the show, but thankfully a) it was when Natalie was performing in the back, and b) I was seated right next to an exit. Water, cough drop, and a swig of cough syrup (from a film canister!!) and I was all better.

She was supposed to end at 3:00, but played till about 3:25--yay! Andrew and I went to Panera for a snack and drink and then back for the 5:00 show!

Oh my word, it couldn't have been more different!!!! This show made my life. I can die happy now. It was absolutely incredible. SO. She entered through the back again, but somehow this time, there were only like 2 camera clicks, so she didn't stop mid-song. She sang the whole thing, and again, I think it was a Shaker hymn, but I'm not sure. Hard to know since she did so many poetry songs. After the first song, she did the briefest little "camera moment"--nowhere near as flaunting as the first show--then told us all to put our cameras away. She promised there would be another camera moment later, but there never was. :( But you could tell she was in a different mood, she felt more in control, she knew what she was getting into and had a plan.

She danced more, and since she was wearing a flowy skirt it made a nice prop for her to fling around. There was still some spontaneity to the set, and she even did some different songs, like "Calico Pie" (a children's nonsense poem by Edward Lear), which she really seemed to enjoy.

By the middle of the show, it was getting dark outside. There were three lights pointed at the front of the room, but nothing in the rest of the meeting house. So when she'd venture to the back, Eric and Gabe in tow, she was in the shadows. Again, it added to the atmosphere of the venue. For "If No One Marries Me," she went to one side of the back and did a verse, then went to the other side and did the same verse, so they could hear. The audience got a kick out of this, especially since it's the verse that talks about getting old at 28 or 29, and buying an orphan girl to raise as her own (this is a poem from the Victorian era).

She didn't stop in the middle of any songs this time around...unless you count "Tell Yourself," where she tends to get choked up at the end. But it was a great moment. She commented that whenever she sings, "And there's just no getting 'round the fact that you're thirteen," all her painful teenage memories flood back and she can't help herself. "I gave those to God and he just sends them right back to me!" she shouted. And might I add that this took place literally three feet away from me. As I said, I had an aisle seat this time, and she walked up and down that aisle a dozen times, and each time she passed me I got to hear her voice--unamplified, pure, and natural--up close and personal. Oh my lord, it just gets to me! Something about the tone of it, the timbre, it is just so sublime. So even though I was in the sixth row, I felt like I was in the front row more than once. But never more than during her last song.

She ended with "Kind and Generous" again, and at the end there is this one bit that just repeats over and over--"Thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you." So we're all singing along, and she's walking down the aisle, and she looks right at me, and I look right back at her, and we're both singing, and she leans in close to my face--we're talking inches away--and sings, "Thank you, thank you!" Well, you can imagine my glee, my sheer bliss at that moment. As I'm writing about it now, I want to just scream: "AAAAAAH!" The thing is, she has lots of rabid fans; we are a hard core--but benevolent!--group, and that has to be awkward, knowing that there are these people out there that practically worship you. I understand why she's shy. But that one moment, just that small gesture, meant the world to me, and I am so grateful for it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Test your hearing

You're a little frustrated that you can't hear all the tones that the young 'uns can but will be more than happy if it means you don't have to listen to their damn ringtones on the bus anymore.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 14.9kHz
Find out which ultrasonic ringtones you can hear!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back in the USA

Our plane landed at LAX ahead of schedule and we are safely back in So Cal. The FlyAway was a madhouse, but we made it on finally and once again, our first stop was good ol' In 'n' Out. Gotta have it! I took over 3000 pictures in total (of Australia and NZ, not In 'n' Out!) so my task tomorrow is to go through them and write about each day of our trip. There are so many stories to tell!

Monday, June 08, 2009

We leave tomorrow!

I arrived in L.A. yesterday and the first thing we did was go to In-n-Out. Yum! Then hopped on the 405 and sat in traffic. Welcome back! We headed for Nicole's friends' house--Aaron, whom she teaches at La Mesa with, and his wife Kim. They have an 18 month old baby girl, Kara. She is so cute! She was a little unsure of me, but while I was there, she played fetch with Ellie (their min pin), and giggled profusely at the dog's reaction to the squeaky ball. She ran across the yard with Aunt Nicole. She stared intensely at her shelves of books until finally picking out two for her daddy to read to her. And she ate a tomato like an apple! Earlier in the day, Kim had told her that she could go outside after dinner. So when Nicole and I came in with the food, she immediately went to put on her shoes. What a memory!

I tried to sleep on the plane and thought I would do really well, because I was feeling nappy when we first got on, and I figured taking 2 benadryl would seal the deal. But it was still pretty much a very deep "rest" more than a light "sleep." I think the key is the alcohol-benadryl combination! Also, only a 5.5 hour flight, in the middle of the day. The flight to NZ will be 13 hours and overnight, so that will also encourage sleep. The onboard movie was He's Just Not That Into You, which I'd already seen, so I didn't bother watching it. But afterwards was an elephant documentary which was very interesting. You know how most nature films they're like, "This baby has wandered away from it's mother and will surely die. Elsewhere on the plain..." and you're like, "You're right there, why don't you help it for crying out loud??!" Well, this film was about people who DO intervene to help, so that was very satisfying. I saw the part where they had to sedate a baby and its mother to give the baby an injection of antibiotics for its broken foot, which had become infected internally. High drama, because there was a risk that the mama would pass out on top of the baby. Then it looked like the mama was going to land on her chest, blocking her airway. They had to tie ropes around her and use their vehicle to roll her over! In the end everything worked out though. My kind of animal documentary!!

So I made it until about 10:00 pm last night, which is 1am Eastern time, before I had to crash. I slept until about 6:30. I had a disturbing dream in which I took my iPhone out of my purse, and a bracelet I'd brought was wrapped around it. The problem was, the bracelet was magnetic (?) and had messed up the phone pretty bad. (Of course, there is no hard drive inside the iPhone--it's flash memory--which is not affected by magnets. But you know how dreams are!) So in my dream I was very upset because the phone basically wouldn't work, and I could take it to the Apple Store and have them restore it to factory settings, but then I would lose all my content. Not forever, because it's on my home computer, but my home computer is 2500 miles away at the moment! Oh so distressing. I was very relieved when I woke up and realized it was a dream! I do have to call AT&T customer service, though, because yesterday at Dulles airport I was unable to use the AT&T wireless service which is supposed to be free for all iPhone customers. It said something about not recognizing my number. When I called the wifi customer support, they said something is wrong with my account, but of course AT&T is closed on Sundays so all he could do is authorize access to the wifi as if I'd paid, and then I could deal with AT&T the next day. I swear, I've had nothing but problems w/ AT&T. If I was not absolutely head over heals in love with and addicted to my iPhone, I would go back to Verizon in a heartbeat. I have heard rumors that Verizon might be getting the iPhone next year, and if that's the case, I will be switching back for sure. I don't care if I have to pay an early termination fee! At least Verizon doesn't screw up your account twice in 4 months!

Whew! I must be in a mood to type! I haven't posted this much in eons. The plan for today is to get pedicures and maybe go to the movies. Pretty chill. The weather here is super nice. Unseasonably cool for June. I'll take it! Mid-70's all week, while it's high 80's and low 90's with thunderstorms in NC! That is one part of NC I won't miss while I'm gone! I do miss my baby, though. Comet is in good hands, though, and I am just going to keep telling myself that animals don't really have a sense of time, so me being gone 3 weeks isn't different from me being gone overnight. Hard to believe, but that's what they say.

Okay, ta ta for now!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some web finds

If you're like me, you have a bunch of stuff in the fridge, but when you open it, you say, "There's nothing for dinner!" There's a website to help us! It's called SuperCook, and all you have to do is enter in all the stuff you have on hand, and then it will generate a list of recipes you can make right now! Of course, if all you have is ketchup and Diet Coke, you're out of luck, but even seemingly random ingredients can come together and make a yummy meal. If you sign up for a free account, it will remember your list of foods so all you have to do is update it (out of carrots, but bought oranges, etc.). According to the site, I can make almost 800 recipes right now, including Chicken Cacciatore, Asparagus Risotto, and Breakfast Tortilla Strata. Of course, all I did was boil some ravioli, but it's nice to know I have options.

Just One Club Card is a website for those of us with a multitude of plastic "loyalty" cards. All you do is enter the barcode numbers from the back of the cards and choose the store names from drop-down boxes. The site then generates a credit card-sized image with up to 8 barcodes on it, which you can print out and even laminate if you wish. Not only does it save room on your wallet or keychain, but it makes it much easier to find the card you need. Mine has Kroger, CVS, Food Lion, Borders, Lowes Foods, PetSmart, Hallmark, and Dick's Sporting Goods. You can also do library cards via the "Advanced" tool.

And finally, if you like kaleidoscopes, you will like Repper. You can do stuff with the images that result if you want, but I just think it's fun to play with.

Best SNL skit in years

Leave it to Will Ferrell and a surprisingly hilarious Tom Hanks to produce one of the funniest skits to appear on SNL in quite some time. (Well, those Tina Fey/Sarah Palin ones were pretty entertaining!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Piedmont Wildlife Festival

A couple weekends ago I was the "official photographer" for the Piedmont Wildlife Festival in Durham, NC. I volunteered for the role, and was pleased as punch to be taking pix of animals all day. Here are a few of my favorites:

I came to know the Piedmont Wildlife Center when a coworker tried to trap a mouse in my office and it went terribly awry. Only the poor little guy's leg was caught. I tried to release him into the woods behind our building, but he didn't want to leave the box we'd put him in. So we took him to the wildlife center, where they accepted him with no hesitation, with as much care as they would a grander animal. Alas, he didn't make it, but I was so grateful to be able to take him somewhere that would give him a chance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Susan Boyle's makeover

From what I've read, half the world is up in arms over Susan Boyle's recent makeover. Detractors say she is losing her "ugly duckling appeal," and risks becoming too polished. I say she looks fantastic, and more power to her! All she did was cut and dye her hair, trim her brows, and get a new outfit. It's not like she got lipo and a fake tan, people. She still looks like a "normal" person. Just a bit more fashionable. Trust me, if you've seen any interviews with her, you know--stylish locks will not strip away her somewhat awkward, down to earth personality.


  • I am set to end the week having answered the most tech support calls in the department. Go me!
  • Comet was up at 3:30 hurling...but not just his usual one time. There was nothing for him to bring up. Poor baby. I think he might be working on a hairball. I hadn't been sleeping well anyway so I just got up and went online. Yay for buying memory cards on New Egg at 4 in the morning!
  • I am not bringing my laptop to Australia so I want to make sure I don't run out of space on my camera. I should be set for 5,000 photos with 2 8GB cards. The one I bought this morning was actually a micro SD and included an adapter AND a USB reader for about 20 bucks. This is in stark contrast to the memory stick duo I was forced to purchase in Florence, Italy in 2004...128 MB for over $100. We have come so far.
  • I have been listening to the audio book In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson on my drive to and from work lately. It is so enlightening and funny! I am beside myself with anticipation and excitement for my upcoming trip. It is going to be too fabulous for words. That I get to spend a few days in L.A. before and after is serious icing on the cake. I cannot wait for the Dario's buffet I come, cheese enchiladas! And that I will have 3 solid weeks with my BFF Nicole is like a giant scoop of ice cream on top of that piece of iced cake!
  • On Wednesday, I went to a "mixer" for the newly formed UCSD alumni chapter of the Triangle. We all unanimously agreed that there is NO good Mexican food to be found here.
  • It is going to be in the 90's here this weekend. Yikes. I'm hoping to see the new Disney movie Earth. It should be quite the spectacle.
  • At work, my manager is making having us read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. I find the book to be, for the most part, repugnant. It is an easy read and has many illustrative anecdotes, but it is basically a user manual for manipulating people. The author is always reinforcing that you must be genuine about this or that. If you genuinely cared about other people, you would not need a book to tell you how to get friends. And you certainly would not actively be seeking to influence them. My rancor towards this book has brought out a negative tone in me that I don't like. I've tried to just stay mum but now I am in charge of leading the (online) discussion. Hmph.
  • Oh, I never did write about Easter, did I? I was originally going to be in Washington, DC but that fell through, so I ended up picking up Cassidy and having her Thursday and Friday night. Friday we went to Pullen Park here in Raleigh and she had so much fun riding the train, the boats, and the carousel.

Friday evening we decorated Easter eggs.

Sunday was the Easter egg hunt...of the plastic, candy-filled variety, not the chicken embryo variety. I still get a rush when I see an egg peeking out from its hiding spot, even though I helped fill and hide them. That girl ended up with enough candy for 20 kids. We helped her eat it though. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More old pics

This is the best old pic I've come across. I love Matthew's expression, my dad would probably still buy that t-shirt today, and the backdrop is beautiful (no idea where it was shot though--some western national park no doubt). My hair is hideous, but I was in junior high...who looks good in junior high??

Then there's this one...those are some stylin' shades! Much improved hair. And my legs are actually not a blinding shade of white!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Time capsule

I scanned in a handful of old pics this evening and hope to do more in the days ahead. Here's a little taste of what's in the mix:

When I taught 7th grade world history, for the Middle Ages unit we did a Medieval Faire. This is the year I dressed in costume like the kids! I think it was 2001 or 2002. I remember the night before going over to my parents' house and asking my mom to sew the cape for me. Because she's such a good mommy, she did.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wall-E Computer

This is the craziest, most tricked-out computer case ever. The Russian guy who did it put a ton of work into it. Pix of the "wow you really liked that movie, huh?" process here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lost & Hopefully Found

This morning a dog that looks just like this one was waiting for me outside my garage. He (?) was so friendly and cute. No owner anywhere to be seen. He followed me down to the mailbox, and then wanted to jump in the car with me. I spent a couple minutes petting him and talking to him ("Where's your mommy? Do you know how to get home? I bet your mommy is missing you.") I finally had to leave, but he did not move along. I had to back out the driveway an inch at a time, keeping my eyes glued to all my mirrors, and then when I closed the garage door, make sure he didn't run inside. He was wearing a collar with a tag, but it did not have a local phone number on it. I hope that he found his way home.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dog show

So this was a few weekends ago, but I wanted to post about it because it was so much fun. I went to the Raleigh Kennel Club dog show. I'd seen dog shows on TV, of course, but never in person. And this one is a small local show so it wasn't anything fancy, but I was just there for the dogs! They were everywhere in large numbers and it was spectacular. They are (almost) all just so adorable. My two new favorite breeds were the Shiba Inu (looks like a fox!):

And the vizsla:

I think what's so striking about the vizsla is its sleek reddish coat, and the fact that its nose and lips are pink, rather than being black.

I've always liked weimaraners. Their coat is such an unusual greyish brown color, and their blue eyes are beautiful. I think I may have overcompensated on the red eye removal, but here's the weimaraner I saw:

Here are some more pictures from the show:

I love great danes! They are sweet, gentle giants.

A collie all fluffed up for the judges!

I wanted a beagle for a long time. They are the perfect size, I think. But I heard they have a strong natural odor, and the last thing I need is a house that smells like dog!

A ginormous Irish Wolfhound...I'm not a fan of the shaggy hair though.

All the basset hounds looked like grandmas with their ear protectors on.

Here's a basset in all his (or her!) beauty.

Wow, those are some hairy, hairy paws! And again with the ear protectors. Not sure what kind of dog this is.

I love how whippets are so sleek looking. They are very similar in appearance to Greyhounds (which are bigger) and Italian Greyhounds (which are smaller).

Must be named Fifi. That, or she escaped from the Yearning For Zion compound. That part down the middle, it's meticulous! Owners of these dogs must have never gotten over their My Little Pony phase.

The whole reason I even knew about the dog show was because my friend has two purebred Sharpeis and she was showing them. This is the male, Marker.

A poufy Keeshond.

Here's a shot of all the pugs in a row. I wish it was of their faces rather than their behinds, but no matter what side of the ring I was on, it always seemed to be the wrong side.

How does he even see?

We saw lots more dogs, but my photos of them are mediocre: Chihuahuas, dalmatians, bulldogs, pit bulls, boxers, minpins, Dachsunds, spaniels, corgis, Chinese cresteds, sheepdogs, labs, terriers, and German shepherds.

If you have a chance to check out a local dog show, I highly recommend it. It's a great way to spend a morning or an afternoon. You just need to make sure you get a schedule of what breeds will be in what rings and what times, if you care about seeing a certain kind of dog. But you can also just wander around aimlessly, or pick a chair and camp out and watch the dogs pass by you. Most owners were happy to let me take a picture of their dogs. But there were signs in the grooming area that said no photos or videos allowed. That was a bummer since that's when the dogs were up high and holding still!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Time for a new look!

I chose the photo above because I think it looks like the countryside in New Zealand. I hope the new look of everything is pleasing to everyone. I'm not sure how I feel about the super narrow columns on the right, but it's something different I thought I'd try. Oh, and I fixed my Comments...they weren't working...but now they do!

Bye bye, old template. You served me well.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Cute video!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

78 days until Sydney!

The ticket for LA isn't booked, but I have no choice: if I'm going to catch my flight from LAX to Sydney, I have to get my booty to the City of Angels by June 9. The plan is to leave Raleigh on June 6, have a few days to eat In 'n' Out and Mexican food nonstop chill in So Cal, then spend 5 nights in Sydney, 2 nights in Cairns (Great Barrier Reef), and 5 nights in New Zealand. Every time I think of it I have to pinch myself because I can't believe I'm going! I've had a thing for Australia since 6th grade, when I did a report on the country and also saw the Facts of Life movie where Blair, Jo, Tootie, and Natalie visit the land down under (note to self: check Netflix, would be awesome to watch movie again before going). The only things keeping me away were 1) the cost--tickets are regularly over $1500, and b) the length of the flight necessitates at least a 2-week stay to make it worthwhile. Well, 1) I found an aMAZing deal on Air New Zealand, and 2) I have enough PTO banked and Nicole has the summer off, more excuses!

I have never planned an overseas trip with this little advance notice; I realize it's over 2 months away still, but with London, I planned for a whole year, and even with Paris I had 4 months. I mean, hard core planning only takes a couple weeks, but part of the fun is the anticipation, just browsing online and exploring all the beautiful and fun things we will get to see and do. Of course, the benefit of it being so close, though, is that I don't have to wait so long!!