Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Northwest Folklife Festival 2014

One year ago I danced my way across the contra dance floor day after day and hour after hour.

It's been a year since I danced and I was so thrilled to be back in Seattle for another NWFLF (Northwest Folklife Festival).

I arrived early early in the morning after some delays on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, my luggage did not. That didn't stop me from spending some wonderful quality time with three very good friends that day. The weather was beautiful and time was spent wandering the streets of Fremont, laying on the grassy hillside at the Ballard locks, and walking through Ballard that evening.

I wish I'd had more time to devote to reconnecting and spending time with my friends. Life is so short and sometimes it feels like time is stolen from me more than just passing by.

Thursday my friend and I headed up Little Si Mountain. My lower back was hurting significantly from excessive exercise and stretching the prior week so I'm positive that it was the slowest ascent and descent I've ever done on a mountain, but I enjoyed being outside nonetheless. The critters were out too. Spotted lots of caterpillars, some deer, a chipmunk, and even a small snake crossing the path. The sun was out and the forest was alive with colors and sounds of summer.

The trail head.

A popular rock climbing wall in the woods.

View from the top. That's not Seattle in case you were wondering...

The trail through the trees. It's soooo green!

Yes, we stopped and stared at each other for a bit. He graciously posed for the camera :)

Friday started Folklife. Since my back was still weak I only danced for a cumulative of a few hours, and only contra dancing that day. It was a day of reuniting with old friends and reintroducing my body to the dance world again :)

Saturday I planned a more complex day. It started with some swing dancing and continued into an hour and a half of Gilbert and Sullivan sing-a-longs! By then it was early evening and I headed back to some contra dancing for the rest of the night.

Sunday started with some contra but soon turned into a fabulous and fun hour of zydeco dancing!! Sweaty and blissfully happy I left to find some food and a Bach sing-a-long choir. Dancing resumed again with a bunch of Scandinavian dances, more contra, outside swing in the rain on the grass and a conclusive night of waltzing. My feet were hurting by the end of Sunday, but my back was no longer. I was eager to rest for the last day of Folklife.

Monday was going to be the most unusual for me that I had planned. I spent some time dancing zydeco in the morning and then a lovely afternoon discussing blues improv for violin and contra dance writing with a good friend. When I went back to dancing it was to the swing stage for the afternoon. I did have one complete contra dance on Monday to complete my contra dancing weekend before heading out to latin ballroom dancing. I shimmied and swirled and swept my way across the latin floor for the rest of the night before it was time to say good bye to everyone I'd just met and all the friends I'd barely had time to share one dance with all weekend.

It was an amazing weekend. Not just for the fun of dancing and the friendships, but because this weekend I broke down some boundaries I'd created, pushed myself out of some comfort zones I had, set goals that I completed, and discovered a confidence that I had long ago lost. I knew this weekend would be magical but still was unprepared for how magical and life changing it would be. I'm so thankful for all the friends I have, all the friends I made, and all the friends I haven't lost while traveling so often and so far without constant contact. I'm still amazed at the generosity, humble kindness, and genuine love they show toward me and am so blessed to have a place in all of their lives, no matter how small it may be (cozy corners are often the best spots)!

Here's to Folklife, Friends, Fun, and many more of these times to come!

Next I'm off to Ohio to perform for the summer at the Ohio Light Opera Company. Come visit. Come see a show. I'll be performing, I'll be dancing (locally as often as possible, but not on stage lol), I'll be outside mountain biking and playing tennis, and best of all, I'll be enjoying life as I continue my pursuit of the cruise ship :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Walt Disney World 05/2014

It's hard to believe but it's true. Before this month I'd never been to any theme park in my life, and definitely not anything as spectacular as a Disney theme park.

When my adopted dad found out about this rather astonishing fact he told me that whenever I was free he would make my dream come true and take me to a Disney park! It only took a few years before I had an entire free week in the United States, but it finally happened.


I didn't exactly grow up on Disney so some of the parks nostalgia was lost on me, but the charm and excitement and childlike inspiration wasn't lost. I spent five days from open until close walking every corner, eating every treat, riding every ride, and smiling the entire time.

Somehow I managed only to gain a couple pounds, avoid a sun burn and just achieve a nice tan, and fill a memory bank of fun to overflowing!

My adopted dad and I drove from near Nashville all the way to Orlando (in two days) and stayed outside the park in a super nice apartment just 4 miles away. It was so nice to have a kitchen and separate bedrooms and we were so close to the park it was amazingly easy to waltz right in every morning.

The first day we went to The Magic Kingdom. I'd seen some Disney movies obviously, but since I had never been to a Disney park I had no idea that the castle in the movie opening was actually real! It was beyond believable when I walked in and realized I was in a whole new world. As I walked and walked I couldn't believe how big and how real everything was.

 My adopted dad had been there before and so he took charge, steering me first this way and then that; taking me on Space Mountain and Buzz Light Year and every ride in the park it seemed. We stopped for churros and for Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches. We stopped for pictures and pictures and still more pictures. The park was so big I was lost for a while. All I knew was that I walked and walked and kept on walking that first day. The ride my adopted dad most wanted to do was Splash Mountain, so we got a fast pass that afternoon and headed over to the ride. It's a cute ride with the Brer Rabbit theme throughout and I did enjoy it although it is not my favorite ride. When we finally got home that evening, I collapsed into bed with the biggest smile on my face. I was getting to experience what it's like to be a kid at Walt Disney World...well, a big one at least :)

Bet you can't guess who won?!?!
Inside the ride on Thunder Mountain!

Prophetic I do hope!

We took a nice relaxing break on the old steam boat Liberty Belle.

Enjoying our (my first) Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich!

The sign declares it a cruise out front...the lights were pretty :)

Such a long long wait for Space Mountain...all of a whopping 10 minutes! Barely had time to take a picture of the "line".

The second day we went to Hollywood Studios. I rode the Tower of Terror a couple of times and enjoyed swallowing my stomach and being suspended in the air for a second as the ride fell away! Hollywood Studios has the best and newest rides apparently though because even with fast pass it was nigh to impossible to get a ride on Toy Story and the Rockin Roller Coaster. We did manage later that evening and really enjoyed both. I like the Toy Story ride better than the Buzz Light Year one, but the line issue at Toy Story turned my loyalty toward the latter. Rockin Roller Coaster was fun and we did that ride numerous times over the next couple of days. Other than those rides, there wasn't much of interest at this park. I preferred the magicalness of the Magic Kingdom sets to the replicas of major cities in Hollywood Studios. And compared to my first day in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios was puny. After a long half day, we went home, showered, ate some dinner, and returned for Fantasmic. The story line was rather odd, as it tried to mesh together all the Disney movies to create a half hour story, but the lights and water sequences were nice.

All the screams made me inquisitive to find out what all the fun was to be had!

Getting ready for my Star Wars Tour all decked out in my 3D glasses B-)

Being me ;-p

The Rockin Roller Coaster entry complete with car, guitar and bigger guitar lol

The big boat at the end of Fantasmic with all the Disney characters dancing around.

On board for the Toy Story ride. My worst selfie of the trip, but one of my favorite rides :-)

The third park we chose to visit was Epcot. I have to say, upon entering I wasn't all that excited. It didn't carry the same feel as the other parks had and the rides weren't as fun for me and the activities were all indoors where it was freezing! It was however, flower season, so I enjoyed seeing all the topiary designs and landscaping creations that were done to the Disney extreme.

The topiary Mickey Apprentice.

What do you see? I see an exclamation point landing in a red puddle!

All the beautiful flowers. I stopped so many times just to marvel and awe over all of them.
 After roaming the first circle area for a while, we decided to head to the international circle. Both of us being world travelers, we looked at all the destinations in a different light but had an enjoyable enough time we walked around that circle at least five times. Finally we decided to eat lunch in Japan. I was very nervous having just returned from Japan that the food wouldn't be similar at all, but Americanized Japanese. I was so wrong. The shrimp tempura I'd had in Japan was rivaled by the shrimp tempura at Walt Disney World. The flavors were intoxicating and the shrimp was extra large and they gave me two instead of just one in the bowl. The noodles were not too soft and not too hard. In fact, my adopted dad and I loved the soba noodles so much that we returned to Japan for lunch the following three days! And each day we ate the exact same dish. Now if that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is!!!

This was the other favorite :) The deliciously tasty shrimp tempura rivaling its authentic Japanese competitor I just had a few months prior. YUM

The other thing I really loved in Epcot were the singers in the American Hall. 15 minutes before every show they come out and sing a cappella for the guests arriving. Being a musician I can't help but critique slightly. However, the more I critiqued, the more outstanding they became. Their phrasing and musicianship, their faces and exuberance, their pitch and range, it was all terrific. I loved it so much I went and saw them twice and took a video to listen to again in my home. If they had a cd I would buy it and I wish they had their own show instead of just a fifteen minute blurb before the video. Still, I'll take what I can get!

The Liberty Singers at the American Showcase. One of my absolute favorite parts of the entire park!

The fourth day we rested (sort of). Both of us were tired from the epically long days of strenuous and tiring fast walks around the parks to get to everything we possibly could. We slept in (all of one hour later), and then wouldn't you know it, we went walking, at the outlet malls. At least we weren't speed walking though. We leisurely made our way around a couple outlet mall complexes and browsed through multiple stores. I came away with my second pair of jeans and some socks. (Yeah, I know, I am a big shopper!) After walking all late morning and early afternoon we headed home. Sitting on the couch I couldn't imagine doing nothing from 3:00 until bedtime so I started browsing some pamphlets for other activities in the Orlando area. I found a couple of options and my adopted dad and I agreed on an air boat ride. It was my first (see a trend?) air boat ride ever and I was thrilled to be out on the water, even if it was just a tiny six person boat. The wind was in my hair until we got out in the bayou and started hunting for alligators in the swamp. We saw a couple mama alligators and several little babies swimming around. We got pretty close too. It was cool! Then at the end of our tour the guide drove us onto a sand bank and jumped into the calf deep water to take all of our pictures. Guess who jumped in after him?!  The water felt soooo good and the sand under my feet was the softest ever. It was so refreshing and I stayed out there as long as I could until we had to leave again. And of course, after everyone else saw that I jumped in they all did too...just need a trendsetter right? After the air boat ride and the gator hunt it was dinner and bed time so we could be ready for a big day at the fourth park.

All of us on the airboat.

Father and daughter just, you know, hanging out wading around in the Everglades...

It's a baby!!!

And we found mama...

The fifth day (fourth day at WDW) we decided to try our luck with the Toy Story ride in the morning. Even though we were there when the gates opened and practically ran straight there the line was already over an hour and there were no fast passes available. So instead we settled on a couple rides of the Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster and I got a tasty treat of a jalapeno pretzel :-p  After lunch...guess Japan in Epcot, we headed to our last park we hadn't been to, Animal Kingdom. I'd been to a safari park in San Diego and really enjoyed it so I was excited for this day. I wasn't disappointed. I saw all the animals on the safari, and also on the nature walks. I enjoyed the rides too, especially the river rapids ride. I went twice and had so much fun that I wanted to come back the next day and do it again!

Ready for a safari ride :)

Beautifully relaxing on a nice summer's day.

Fruit bats dancing around. Love their brightly colored wings.

This is one big dude!

Silently looking out over his territory.

Rhinoceros crossing ahead!

A tower of giraffes...literally lol

Lunch least for the zebras.

Our last day we returned to Magic Kingdom again to reride Buzz Light Year another 4 times (I won't mention who won ;-p )  and return to Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. With the fast pass situation we ended up only doing the Buzz Light Year ride and then heading to Epcot where we met up with a friend and his son for lunch in, you guessed it...Japan! After lunch the four of us wandered from fountain to fountain as my friend's little boy played in the water. Mid afternoon we parted ways and my adopted dad and I headed back to Magic Kingdom for some Splash Mountain fun. After riding that and Thunder Mountain again we headed across to Animal Kingdom for my last request, to ride the rapids two more times! These two times I didn't get nearly as soaked as the other days rides, but it was still fun and I think I know what my favorite ride is ;-)  Next time I might have to hit the water park!~

This was truly a magical time and this picture perfectly depicts the insane lack of fun, errrrr, good times (for those in fear of my use of the f*n word) at Disney World!!!!

It was an amazing adventure to say the least. I can't wait to return and experience it all over again!

But now it's back to the real world as they say, although my "real" world varies greatly I think from that of others. Tomorrow it's off to Atlanta to see a potential pianist before soaring away to Seattle for this year's Northwest Folklife Festival. Hope to see you all there!