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Monday got off to a great start with some awesome gifts from Theresa Barlow, our boss's wife. She brought us each a loaf of chocolate pumpkin bread, and lots of cookies!


After the band's run-through in the house, Irina surprised me with a gorgeous hand-painted music box from Russia! I love it <3


On Tuesday and Wednesday we did full dress rehearsals in the house. We had most of our music and were able to play along with most acts. After playing for the Mongolian act for the first time, several members of the troupe turned around and applauded us. That felt really good :)

Read more... )
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Well...nothing terribly exciting happened this week!

The Gold Unit loaded out to begin their run of holiday shows.




The building seems very empty without them. Break a leg guys, have a great tour :)

Read more... )
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Monday: a standard day.
Tuesday: The band finally got to have a sound check in the rehearsal space! We're making progress :)
During a break, I got this great video of one of our horses playing with a ball <3



On Wednesday we had our regular rehearsal, then played in the house again. We played music for the Bungee Act as they rehearsed. While we were practicing, some crew members were working on the lighting grid above our heads. It was a ballet of cherry pickers and scissor lifts.


Thursday was a day off. I joined Jameson at his apartment in Orlando, where we started our day with a tasty breakfast at Keke's Breakfast Cafe!


After that treat, we returned to the apartment to wrap each other's Christmas presents! He wrapped mine in the music room while I hogged the living room. Can't wait to exchange gifts soon :)


Read more... )
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Today (Monday) was our first time seeing the new Feld facility! It looks like any other gigantic corporate office from the outside. Inside there are large warehouse-like spaces that can be used for rehearsal. Here's a video clip from YouTube (so I don't get in trouble for posting my own pics haha):


Just like last Winter Quarters, we have been warned not to post photos because the show is still in production (it's a secret!) I won't be posting photos of the building, animals, rehearsals, props, etc. unless the Ringling site posts it first. I'm taking a gamble in this post by sharing some photos of the band's rehearsal space. Readers just be aware that some photos might disappear if I'm asked to remove them.

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I flew home on Monday. The flights were ok, though there was quite a bit of turbulence due to weather. I was lucky to catch an earlier flight for the second leg of my journey, so arrived at the airport "on time" despite both of my flights being delayed. Some of my parents' friends had planned to pick me up, but because it was dark and rainy my Dad left work early to come get me. Thank you Dad!!!

While waiting for him, I played a little Ingress. There are lots of portals in the Philly airport.



I made the fields between gates E and D, and after I left someone else built on those fields at gates C and B :)

Dad and I got home around 9pm. After a much-needed night in a real bed, I woke up late on Tuesday and Mom and I went shopping for "Early Thanksgiving". My sister Kate came over, and together we three prepared some of the food for the next day.


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Monday:
This train run was a little longer. We ran right alongside the Pacific!






Tuesday:
Once we arrived, I was quickly kidnapped for chicken and waffles
with Slick, Brett, Jameson, Jerome, and Tom :)



I've never had REAL chicken and waffles...in middle school I remember having some soggy slop called "chicken and waffles", but of course that doesn't even compare. This was REAL soul food. IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.


Just in case that wasn't enough awesome for one night,
we then crossed the street to Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon (since 1880!)
,
also called Jack London's Rendezvous because Jack used to hang out there regularly.



Many features of the bar are original, including the bar itself, gas lamps, wood stove, and tables and chairs. This is especially impressive considering that during the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the bar was irreparably damaged.
The supports under the floor collapsed, causing the entire bar to tilt at a pretty sharp angle.



As you can see there's also a lot of neat stuff stuck to the wall and ceiling.
Business cards cover the walls, along with newspaper clippings, medals, and other artifacts.
Hats, life preservers and evil rubber bats controlled by the bartender coat the ceiling :)

It was a cool place. I'm sure lots of us will be stopping by as it's very close to the train!


Read more... )
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Without further ado...
...let me finally post these photos from Winter Quarters!

These are photos that I wanted to share but couldn't because the show wasn't public yet!
Most are just photos of props and vehicles used in the show.
Now that we are performing publicly, I think it's ok to share these.
However there is always a chance that I could be asked to take them down.
So enjoy while you can ;)

The dump truck!

dump

My favorite, the 'soap dispenser'!
soap

The cannon. The door behind the cannon leads to several dressing rooms,
including the band's rehearsal space.

1220121420a

Tiny clown bike :)
bike

Giant bag of Campfire Marshmallows!
Each marshmallow is slightly smaller than a basketball.
I haven't seen this used in the show...maybe it's part of preshow activities?
The size indicates that this is probably an elephant prop.

1218121321

The Russian acrobats, after an exceptionally tough rehearsal:


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Day 30

A long day, but not as long as we thought it would be!

There were photo shoots all day today.
We weren't involved in that, but we did get fitted for our costumes!



Yes, you're seeing that right: sparkly orange construction vest. And a caution tape tie!
Wardrobe has been working hard. It's so FABULOUS!~<3

On one hand, it's similar to what we had last year, and that's nice :)
We'll be wearing white shirts/black pants with the vests again.
And I can make that tie sexy ;D

On the other hand...the first thing that popped into my head was a construction-themed wing bar or something.
"Our lunch specials today are the CARP-enter's cedar plank,
and the Construction Burger with our signature 2 x 4 Fries.
Have a seat, we'll be with you in a moment!"  LOL!!

Brett's vest is different than ours. It's yellow with black stripes.
He's the Queen Bee!!
(he insists he's a very manly King Bee, but we all know there's no King Bee :P)

There will be pictures.

There was a PR for the band, and although I think only the Music Director got to speak,
the rest of us played a bit in the background for the cameras.

We did a run through of the whole show.


Russian acrobat leaping over an elephant's back:

(photo courtesy Nicole Feld's Twitter)

Most things went well.
One person was injured by a show vehicle, but fortunately not badly.
Additional safety precautions were added immediately after her injury.
The performers did very well, as did floor crew.

We (the band) have been getting more music over the past two days than we've gotten throughout all of winter quarters. Some parts are revisions of pieces we already have, and some are new.
We may have to play the preview show without some parts.
The band members who have been here for 5+ years say that we've never gotten music this late before.
This is my first winter quarters, so all I can do is speculate.
All I can really say is that hopefully we will be awesome. By tomorrow.


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Christmas!

Today I woke up super late, around 10am.
What a wonderful feeling!
After a week of early days, sleeping in was a great treat.

I cooked enough food to last a few days and cleaned up a bit.
Then I got to Skype with my parents and sister!!
They are opening presents tomorrow, and since I have to work they decided it would be better if
I opened my presents today. YIPEE!!!

First off, I am a very lucky girl, to have such generous and thoughtful parents and siblings.
My sister sent me a box, but unfortunately it may have been lost in transit.
However she put a lot of thought into the gift that would have arrived. It's a wonderful feeling,
knowing that she cares enough to send something. Thanks sista!

And my parents not only sent gifts, they also took the time to wrap them and make sure they arrived
before Christmas, so that I could open them today. That's REALLY above and beyond, and I was touched
by their thoughtfulness and long-distance love the day the boxes arrived :)

Then I got to open the gifts in front of them via Skype!

A NuWave Infrared oven!!!
I can cook whole chickens! Or cookies! Or pizza!
Wow, I might actually learn how to prepare food for REAL!!!



A NuWave Induction cooktop!!!
It works using a magnetic field, causing the cookware to vibrate and cook the food.
So you can touch it and not be burnt, while your food is cooking!!



I'll try these out for the first time in a day or two. Can't wait!!!

And stocking stuffers!!

1225121505a

My parents obviously took a LOT of time to consider what would be most useful to me on the train...
a Brita water bottle with extra filters, an LED lantern to find my way in the dark in the
train yards, an LED flashlight so that I can unlock the band box backstage, and a jar of
SUPER difficult to find PA Dutch Buckwheat honey (they went through a LOT of trouble for that one).
And candy :) You know, the necessities :D

I am deeply touched by how carefully they thought about all of these gifts.
I am deeply ashamed that my gifts to them are not nearly as thoughtful.
How can I repay them? I can't think of anything now. But it's my greatest wish that someday I can
give back an equal share or more.

I am very, very grateful for my family.

Afterward we talked for about an hour, about work and life and other such things.
It was nice catching up :)

Then I caught the 3:30 bus to a nearby Hilton, where the circus Christmas meal was being hosted.
It was just a dining hall with a hot meal for whoever wanted to dig in.



Lots of veggies :)
There was chocolate cake and sweet potato pie too. I had a 1/2 slice of each.
Boy was I stuffed!
LJ (floor crew) and one of the KCT (King Charles Troupe) guys joined me.
We ate and talked and caught the next bus back to the train.

I cleaned up a bit, then wrote this,
and now I'm going to watch a Christmas movie and enjoy the rest of the holiday :D

Merry Christmas everyone!
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Day 25

Two more mysterious boxes have appeared!



The one with gold snowflakes is shedding glitter EVERYWHERE <3
I had fun scattering glitter around in the rehearsal room. Not sure the boys appreciated it though :P

I also received some surprise goodies from my Aunt today!!



Along with this KAWAII geisha nutcracker, there was also a box of Botan Rice Candy
and some Starbucks instant coffee!! Instant good day :D
Botan rice candy is tasty, it's a citrus-y chewy gummy wrapped in rice paper.
Gave me a happy nostalgic feeling to eat it today :)
Thanks Aunt C! I love you!

We had a runthrough again today that went pretty well.
We played our new music, including High Wire which has a lot of cuts and cues.


I missed a bunch of cues...well I saw them, but when my eyes went back to the music they'd
go to the wrong place more often than not. I think learning cues is partially muscle memory, too.
Tomorrow will be better :)

Assuming there IS a tomorrow!

We had a heck of an apocalypse storm tonight. No thunder but heavy rains and high winds.

Merry Christmas! )
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Day 21

There is some awesome pyro very close to the bandstand.
Rock Trombone \m/

Did a run-through of the first half of the show today,
and got one new piece of music.
Is it bad that we've got 11 days left until preview night,
and only 1/4 of the music?

In other news, missed the Gold show preview tonight :/
I had to get ready for a trip tomorrow.
But I hear they did a great job (and frankly am not surprised!)


Read more... )
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Day 16

Back to work!
There was a pretty raucous storm last night, so everything's wet and mucky today.
Train yards can get pretty gross when it rains.

We ran through our music (nothing new), mostly focusing on the stuff for the King Charles Troupe since it's
a bit harder and we just recently got it. I like that piece a lot, but was getting frustrated at my inability
to play it well today. There is a section where I can play an improvised solo, and if you know me well, you know how miserable I am about improvising. I have almost a nonexistent jazz background.
Fortunately, here at the Greatest Show On Earth®, I am blessed with patient coworkers who are willing to let me work through it in my own way. Thank you guys, really. This is the first time I can work at improving this aspect of my playing without fear of being sneered at and/or fired. I can't tell you how much that means.
Tomorrow will be better :)

And I KNOW it will be better because I got my new slide in the mail!!
Didn't I mention? I'm trying to make a copy of my boss's horn, a Minick small bore trombone.
Minick horns are SUPER difficult to find; the one that I get to play here on the circus is very
literally one-of-a-kind. As much as I love playing it, it's not mine, and although I do still have my
adorable King 606, it just doesn't compare to the quality of the Minick.


So at my boss's suggestion, I picked up a Conn 100H bell back in Oklahoma City.
He was then kind enough to put me in touch with a guy who makes and/or sells custom slides, and who
had a lightweight Conn slide similar to the Minick's. It's a Frankenbone for sure, but it sounds great and with some bell work might come close to sounding like the Minick!

Other than that it was an uneventful day.
On the way back to the train Brett saw a frog in the road.
I hopped out and picked it up, and we were almost back to the train when it slipped
between my fingers and started hopping around on the dashboard.
Lucky Brett didn't freak out!
Frog was recaptured and returned to the wild :D


Day 17

12/12/12! Or Check 121212 ;)
Appropriately, we got our in-ears today!


It is awfully humid today, making it very difficult for some of us to play.
Nothing of note happened today...just another day at work.
Although we're having to repeat the same like 10 songs over and over,
there's a purpose behind it, and we'll be getting most of our new music next week.
So we're trying to stay positive and not get bummed by the repetition :)


Day 18

We're bummed by the repetition. Lol.
We've been told that we'll get more music once the Gold show is finished.
Right now we're in the 'calm before the storm'. Boy I hate waiting!!
But if I ever start getting frustrated because we're playing the same music over and over,
all I have to do is think about last year when I was working my a$$ off to stay afloat.
All I have to do is think about all the people out there having to work in dangerous conditions,
or for too little pay, or for employers who take advantage of them. Or all the people who desperately need
work to support their loved ones, but can't find a job.
Thinking about these things, I can do my best and play to the best of my ability.
Because I am a lucky duck.


Day 19

The band got to run through the Clown Blowoff gag this afternoon!
We solidified some things that had been confusing, and worked through the parts where
cues needed to be given. I'm REALLY excited about it!

We also got to perform WITH everybody today for the first time! Woooo!!!
It's great to finally be doing something other than hashing it out in the back room.
Though that's an important step, it was hard to do it for so long without participating in the show.
Playing on the arena floor, even if we can only play some of the music, makes me feel like we're participating
and doing our job and all that awesome stuff :D

And we got to see the acts, finally! Although there are some rough spots, the show looks great so far!

I was really impressed by the new horse trainer (very sorry, I do not know his name yet!)
One of his horses seemed nervous about the things going on in the show...
loud noises, lights, fast movements, etc.
He led this horse around the arena floor while the band was playing,
and while the trampoline act was practicing. It would start and try to pull away, but he talked
to it, occasionally gave it treats, and waited patiently while it adjusted to the environment.
This took probably 20 minutes.
I was awestruck by how patiently and gently he treated his animals.


Everyone--floor crew, lighting, sound, wardrobe, performers--
--is working really hard and making it come together.


Photos! )
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Day 12

More rehearsal of course!
Brian and I recorded samples for the clown blowoff.
I think we are presenting the blowoff concept to the Felds on Sunday.
I'm kind of nervous, but the ratio of excitement is higher :D

Tonight was Clown Gag Night. This means that the Red Unit's Clown Alley presents their gags to the Felds
and their circus peeps for consideration for inclusion in the show.
Here's a video of Blue Unit's gag night from last year:



It must be very stressful, but all of the gags were very well done and came off well :)
The gags that I liked best were G's 'horse act' gag, Jeff and Aaron's 'construction' gag,
and Aaron's suitcase gag.

As you can see, many of our clowns have other skills besides clowning!

(Photo courtesy Nicole Feld's Twitter)


Day 13

I got to borrow a rental car for about an hour, so used it to run some errands!
Mostly I needed to find a post office. There are seriously no drop boxes in Tampa :/
After that I picked up a pine wreath and garland, and a set of lights I'd ordered from
Restoration Hardware. These aren't ordinary string lights; they're strung on a wire that
holds its shape. I will use them to light my room after the holidays.
The pine smells very nice in my room, and makes me think of Christmasy things :)




Day 14

Tonight was Act Night! This is very similar to Clown Gag Night that we had two days ago, except it's the circus acts performing for current and former circus members, and the Feld family.
Another video clip from last year's Blue Unit act night:



Elliana (human cannon) started the show off by flying across the arena, very impressive of course!
Then we got to watch Duo Fusion's hand balancing act. Those two are SUPER strong.

After that...it was the 'band gag' with Alex and Irina Emelin!
I don't want to spill the beans, but I will say two things:
~ Afterward many people asked whether we had rehearsed the act or not,
which is great because you're not supposed to be able to tell it was rehearsed ;)
~ It was a LOT of fun and an AMAZING privilege to participate in a circus act!!!!
Hopefully our act doesn't get cut...but if it does, I'm so glad we got to do it once!

Alex and Irina are skilled animal trainers as well. Their 'animal magic' act involves rabbits, ferrets and other hard-to-control small creatures. The Emelins make it look easy! And their dog act is totally TOP NOTCH...the dogs performed beautifully and with great skill, needing no corrections.

There were many other fantastic acts, including
the high wire, wheel, aerialists, trampoline, and clown soap gag.
The best part of the whole thing...was being a part of the whole thing!! :D

This was the circus performing for the circus.
Even though I'm just in the band, being there and experiencing the acts before they're perfected for the public really made me feel like a part of this 143-year-old American icon.

The skill, strength and easy grace of the performers made me a bit jealous of those born with circus blood.
But watching them work made me so happy :)

After Act Night, we all went back to the train for a punch party that's still going on as I type this!

Bottoms up!

Dali Museum )
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First off, to see some Ringling Bros. Official behind-the-scenes photos of Built to Amaze,
Fully Charged Gold Edition, and more, CLICK HERE!
(to the person who asked my why people don't get to 'tour' the train or eat in the Pie Car,
check out the Breakfast With The Stars event!)

And here are some behind-the-scenes videos of our progress thus far:

Rehearsals


Choreography Video
Days 7 - 11 )
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Day 3

I got to see our costumes today!
CONSTRUCTION VESTS!!!!
I can haz utility belt??
Also we must do the YMCA at least once!!! lol.

Here's a costume that you WON'T see me wearing btw :P


(image courtesy Nicole Feld's Twitter)


Read more... )
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Hello, everyone who reads this blog:

Just an fyi,
I won't be able to post any of my own pictures of props, acts, music, etc. until rehearsals are finished.
I will continue to share some of my own photos,
however all of my images are subject to removal at any time at the request of my employer.

Nicole Feld frequently posts pictures of behind-the-scenes stuff on her Twitter account,
and the Ringling Facebook page shares photos too,
so I'll be linking back to those images for now.

There'll be a post full of my own pictures later on :)


Anyway! )

Prep Day

Nov. 25th, 2012 10:41 am
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Hooraaaay! I'm back on the train!!!


Oh dear.
Unpacking was kind of a mess.
I had checked a suitcase full of books, decorations, clothing, and sheets.
I was up until 2am doing laundry and cleaning up this mess!
But it's easy to be productive when you're excited!!!

Tomorrow is our first day of rehearsal! I wonder what it'll be like?
I haven't heard the music or seen the costumes yet.
My dad kept asking me, "Are you SURE you don't have to be there for something right now???" Lol!
Well, they made me an ID, so hopefully that means they expect me to be here now!



I STILL can't believe I get to do this AGAIN!!!!!! Life is too good to me.

Today I'm going to prepare for the rest of the week, which is kinda hard to do...
but not knowing is exciting too :)
I'll take a short walk to a nearby grocery,
and try to wrap my head around the 70 degree weather and palm trees.
Then there's lots of cooking to be done, and then I think a trip to the rehearsal space is in order.

Off I go! I leave you with some pics:
From Nicole Feld's Twitter, this is the entrance portal being painted.

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This post comes a little late, as I had no internet in either the yard or at the arena this city.

We arrived in Auburn Hills EARLY...can you believe it??
On Tuesday I walked to the nearest grocery (a Meijer about 2 miles away) and picked up a few things for the week, and a few things that will come in handy for winter quarters.
It was a little difficult to guess how much food I'd need for the week, since I'm trying not to leave anything in the fridge while I'm gone. Anyway I think I did ok.

On Wednesday we had our last Fully Charged rehearsal, and the people who are leaving the circus prepared to move into hotels for the week. There are so many people leaving...the Chinese acrobats, the Big Bike acrobats, at least four clowns, half of the Brazilian dancers, the four performers mentioned in my last post, and more. The porters will be super busy cleaning rooms on the train run down to Florida; I hear they're offering $50 per room to anyone willing to help clean.
I wonder if there will be any left for me to clean by December!

On Thursday we only had one nighttime show. There's little to do around the venue or the yard.
I ran some errands with Brett (bandmaster), then went for a walk on the 'closed' side of the train.



When the train crew only opens one set of vestibule doors, it usually means
a) there's a live track on one side of us, or
b) they are opening the doors only on the side where cars park and the bus comes through.
I hadn't heard any trains go by during the day or night, so I crossed to the other side and went exploring.

After a short walk, I found a path!
Couldn't resist! Had to follow it!

The path was made up of large white rocks that were really difficult to walk over. Eventually it merged with a smaller path that was very obviously a walking/bike trail as there were lots of footprints and tracks on it. This path took me to a major road, which I crossed, finding a community park on the other side. I walked through the park and was surprised to find a group of castle-like buildings in the classic German architectural style.



This was Canterbury Village. I'd been seeing signs for it on the highway near our yard.
Canterbury Village is a 'Christmas Town'. Since it's not Christmas yet, the place was pretty abandoned-looking. A stereo system blasted Christmas tunes that echoed down empty streets. Automaton elves and snowmen that would no doubt be moving later in the year stared, motionless and glassy, from storefront windows. Creepy much?




Despite the impression of emptiness, almost all the shops were open.
I hadn't brought much cash with me as I hadn't been expecting to shop,
but I did have a few dollars and one stand had hot cider.
I bought a cup and enjoyed it very much, along with an Ice Cube (have you ever had these? They're amazing!)
I wandered around a bit more, but the sun was going down so didn't linger for too long.
It was a nice walk.

Friday was a 'split' day...that's an early show and a late show...so during the break I did some laundry and packed some stuff to take home.

Saturday was nothing special...just your typical 3-show day.
Because we were all looking forward to Sunday, the day might have seemed longer than usual.
People are putting programs, t-shirts, flags, and other items in the hallway to be signed.
I signed a few things but not everything (I'm only in the band after all!).
Everywhere you look there are cameras. Once during High Wire I saw something move in my peripheral vision, and turned to see someone snapping from between the band curtains.
It's the end of the tour all right!

After returning to the train after the shows,
I took my fish to Cindy (teacher) who is fishsitting for me while I'm away.
We chatted for a bit, then I returned to my room, repacked for the umpteenth time, and slept.

I'm typing this now from a hotel near the Detroit airport.
We had our last two shows today. It was bittersweet and exciting. As you'd expect with any closing production, there were a few shenanigans, the most notable being one of the acrobats basically cosplaying as another acrobat, and even participating in the guy's act. That was pretty funny. Otherwise the last show was pretty straightforward. At intermission we had a little 'mimosa' toast in the band's dressing room with some of the people who are leaving the circus:



After the show, Brian Crawford Scott (ringmaster) announced that this was the last performance of Fully Charged, recognized the staff, crew, and supporting members (thanks for the band shout-out, Brian!), and gave our stats:

783 shows.
90 cities.
2 countries.
4 MILLION PEOPLE.

That's right, we performed in front of a total of four million people this year. That's incredible!!!!!
I feel so fortunate to be a part of this.
The circus is awesome!!!

I have more to post about, but have to get to sleep. Early flight tomorrow.
These last few days have flown by. I can't wait to get started on next year's production!!
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Tonight (10/30) Hurricane Sandy is hitting the east coast. We're en route from Rochester to Pittsburgh, but the weather doesn't seem to affect our train much. The circus train weighs something like 4300 tons (that's 8,600,000lbs!) so the 90mph wind gusts were hardly noticeable. I hear NYC was hit pretty hard, and NJ too. Hang in there, tri-state peeps :/

(next day)
We arrived in Pittsburgh this morning and were spotted around noon.
It was raining pretty hard. When it slowed to a steady drizzle I went for a walk.



Living in train yards, you don't always end up in the nicest places.
I walked to a nearby grocery to get vanilla.

In the last city I picked up a quince, not knowing that you have to cook 'em for like two hours in an oven :/
I tried to poach it on my hot plate using water, honey, lemon, the vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.




It was supposed to turn pink...oh well. Still tastes good! Like a baked apple or pear. Although poaching either of those fruits would have been way easier :P

Pittsburgh is our second-to-last city, and the only city we've visited in my home state.
About a decade ago (yep feeling old),
I participated in a PMEA All-State concert here at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

I was SUCH a band geek when I was a kid!
Can't believe I'm posting this in public. Here's me and my best friend Lauren circa 2002.
1338308055672

Dorky!
It was a strange and nostalgic feeling to return to this city as a professional musician.
I feel a little pride, and a little humility; a little old and a lot happy.


Read more... )
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Hello again from Fort Worth!

Today is our last day in this city...we have one 3pm show, then we'll hit the road around 4am I think. It's so nice to have only one show in the middle of the day. I can wake up late, enjoy a good breakfast (and write in this blog, yay!) and make sure I've got all I need for a fabulous train run :)

This is the first city where I really feel like I missed out on 'experiencing the city'. There seemed to be lots of interesting buildings and shops in the Stockyards area, but the walk would have been over 3 miles and the weather + show schedules were uncooperative on the days I'd planned to visit.

Yes, I could have gotten a cab, but chose not to. Next year...I am bringing a bike!!!

On our day off, I did take a walk around the venue to see Sundance Square and the recently-built Bass Performance Hall.

Read more... )

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