Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ginger Diaries: Let's hear it for the Senior Ladies

Well, Oireachtas season has come and gone and I'm now enjoying the brief lull that we experience in the Irish Dance World... the month of December :)

Over my long weekend, I had the chance to must about my Irish Dance adventure over the past 15 years and I have an urge to wax poetic about a topic near to my heart.

As a Senior Lady, I look forward to competitions (whether a local feis, the Oireachtas, or the Worlds) to visit and enjoy the company of my friends all over the world. What I find remarkable, is how amazing the Senior Ladies competition actually is.

Posing at the 2010 North American Championships

Senior Ladies are so much more than just dancers and competitors. Some of my closest friends are studying to be physicians, volunteer in third world countries, have their own photography business while working full time, are interns at major corporations, school teachers, etc etc, etc ;)

It can be extremely hard to balance a "full time" career or interest and then try to find time to practice and attend class, sometimes hours away from where we live. We dance because we truly love it and can't imagine our lives without it.

I find that in my "advanced Irish Dance age" that it's hard to keep up with the "youngins" with loads of energy at class. I'm the dancer sticking my head out the nearest window or door in the dance hall in trying to suck in some cold air while clutching my inhaler until I hear "Colleen! Let's go, you're up next".

I found this picture in my Twitter pics before the Oireachtas: worn out after a lot of dancing at class!

I should own stock in Icy Hot, Biofreeze, ankle wraps, and epsom salts (one of my TC's favorite remedies)

I have to mention that nothing is more satisfying than when I leave dance class, covered in sweat, and feel like I really mastered a step or a move that was giving me issues. It's another reason why I love dancing; it is so satisfying to watch hard work pay off.

I know my time left in Irish Dancing is short. The time and dedication required that are necessary to dance at a competitive level is huge. At the end of a long work day, the last thing I want to do is practice by myself for another two hours a few nights a week, but once I put on my shoes and turn on the music, nothing else matters. For a brief moment in time, my focus is on making my hardshoe rhythm follow the beat of the music and making my softshoe lively and effortless.

Rising to new heights (LOL) during my reel at the 2010 World Championships

Some day, my competing days will be over, but one of the many wonderful things I'll be able to take away from this "wild ride" are my friends.

Me and my wonderful friend Katie, both wearing the same pants at a feis just because we thought it would be a fun idea!

I've met some remarkable dancers and friends over my adventure. My dance friends have held me up in my darkest times. No matter what the hour, I know I can log onto Twitter, Facebook, Dance.net, or pick up the phone and I can talk to a dance pal when I'm feeling down. I have been lucky enough to meet some of my best dance friends online before seeing each other in person at a feis or major.

We've laughed, we've CRIED, and we've gotten into some fun "shenanagans" (practicing in the London Victoria station at 11PM on a Thursday in October, getting lost on a tram in Amsterdam, shopping on Black Friday in full wigs and makeup in a mall while at the Oireachtas).

Out to dinner with my lovely UK friends at the 2010 North American Championships

When a person is dancing stage, we only get a quick glimpse of their personality and style. The real treat is talking to the same dancer side stage or after a long day of dancing and getting to know the person behind the wig, dress or vest, and shoes. I've met so many people from around the world, both in person and online, who share a love for Irish Dancing but also have so many diverse interests.

Having a laugh with a lovely friend after a long day at the 2009 World Championships in Philadelphia

We may be in our "twilight years", but we are still dreaming, just like the u8's, of reaching our end goal: whether it is to finally master The Blackbird set piece, dancing on a school performance team, winning a Prelim competition, dancing solos at the Oireachtas, or recalling at the Worlds.

This post is for the Senior Ladies who keep dancing, even when looked down upon by others for continuing in a art form that is generally geared for younger competitors.

For those who sometimes have to eat toast for a week to afford the next major while paying student loans and car insurance (*sheepishly raises hand*)

For those who work hard to come back from injury and long to dance a step in class

For those who never give up, who always give 100%, and have a smile on their face while doing so.

There has been an e-mail thread being sent around the this holiday season and one of the lines in the e-mail definitely rings true for me:

"The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money...or the most awards.They simply are the ones who care the most".

Irish Dancing, no doubt, has been one of the best things in my life. I may not remember a feis result from a few years ago, but I do remember the adventures and fun of each car, train, and plane adventure with some of my best friends.

To all the Senior Ladies: Thank you for being my friends, for enriching my life, for supporting me in my quest to be the best dancer I can be, and inspiring me with your character in the Irish Dance world and beyond.

Keep hornpiping,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Ginger Diaries: OMG, shoes!!

Greetings and salutations! It's that time of year again! The both dreaded and loved Oireachtas season *erie music plays in background*

You'll be hearing from me a bit more than usual this month, as the Oireachtas season always has me waxing poetic...

But I digress...

I'm sure many of you have seen the YouTube video called "Shoes". Unfortunately, due to it's non PG13 language, I refuse to post it here, but it is very hilarious. It reminds me of my own situation with my Irish Dance footwear!

When it comes to Irish Dance shoes and breaking them in... I am the most STUBBORN mule that you will ever meet.

I hate breaking in shoes!! I hate the toe blisters, I hate the heel blisters, I hate that they are so stiff and not my own. If I had the opportunity to only break in one pair of shoes that would grow with me for life, I'd be all for it.

My teachers especially hate my old hardshoes: "You're wearing those STILL?!?!?!" or "You can't be serious".

My shoes are actually a discontinued version, which makes them much easier to date. I'd say they are about 7 years old. They are the black flexi bottoms and the black sole has been replaced at least 4 times. The shoemaker actually told me that he could no longer patch them anymore, which made me very sad. I've also had them re-tipped at least 4 times.

I should have retired them after the Belfast Worlds in 2008. They had such a large hole on the bottom that you could see my socks. I had a panic attack, as I was leaving in 2 days and clearly didn't have time to break in new shoes. My dad, being very ingenious, slathered epoxy on the the balls of the shoe and we "painted" the coating in Sharpie marker so I was still able to dance.

Want to see how bad the shoes look? I'll warn you, they aren't pretty!

Here she is, a "normal" looking left hardshoe; perhaps the inner heel is looking a bit worn:

Ok, maybe the side view is showing a little more wear. I do love gaffer's tape, as I have an unnatural fear of falling every other second. Yes, I should be untying my shoes when I take them off; it's another bad habit of mine.

Now it gets gross. Check out the LAYERS of tape on the sole.. I'm talking 2 years of tape.

Let's see both shoes to survey the real damage! The white powder is rosin. My practice area at home and at the house I practice at during the week have wonderful plywood flooring, but I still get nervous about "slippage". A few badly sprained ankles has me very superstitious.

Here is the real meat and potatoes of my issues. I was able to dig under the layers of gaffers tape to reveal the epoxy my dad placed on my shoes could they could last for "just one more competition" aka the Worlds over 2 years ago!

One of these tips is NOT like the other!!!! I guess I'm a dominant right foot trebler ;)

My "practice" pair of softshoes are equally as gross. I have a "practice" pair and a "competition" pair. Not only am I breaking in new hardshoes, but a new competition pair for the Oireachtas so I can retire my pathetic looking practice pair:

These are a 2.5. They look like they have been stretched to a size 8 or 9!

The bottom of my shoe is being held together exclusively by gaffers tape and HOPE!

The bottom has seen better days too. I had better break in my new competition pair STAT!

Due to time constraints, I'm left to break in my new shoes whenever I can. I wear them around the apartment while I'm washing dishes, while I'm reading my blogroll, or even sitting at work. Good thing my desk/cube area is away from the general public, as this is what you would see:

Yes, my friends, this is me using my space heater (I'm perpetually cold) to try to soften the leather so it doesn't feel like I'm binding my feet like the Chinese used to do. My toe knuckles are actually protruding!

I definitely not recommend being as stubborn as me and waiting until 3 weeks before the Oireachtas to realize that my old hardshoes are very likely to fall apart as I walk on stage for round one.

Keep practicing, whether it is for the big Oireachtas, your next local feis, or major performance :) Believe in yourself and remember why you dance.. because you LOVE it!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Ginger Diaries: Road Trip!!!!!!!

Hello everyone! How is your fall feis season going?

I’ve been working my tail off to master my Oireachtas dances and keep my “old” bones healthy, but before the summer ended, I decided to take a ROAD TRIP!!!

Every year, I try to go to a feis outside my normal region and combine it with a mini vacation.The beauty of Irish Dancing is getting to travel and visit new cities/states, and to make friends who love Irish Dancing as much as I do!

This year, I was able to fly to a feis in Clearwater Beach over Labor Day weekend. This feis kind of fell into my lap. I had pondered going on my own as I had Labor Day off from work and it would be nice to relax at the beach, but it would be no fun without a friend. I got a text 3 days before the feis closed entries saying: “Hey, I’m going to be in Orlando at my family’s timeshare Labor Day weekend and there is a competition in Clearwater; want to come?”

She didn’t have to say another word, as I had a free jetBlue credit waiting in my inbox to be used.

I arrived safe and sound on a somewhat bumpy flight thanks to Hurricane Earl.

Fast forward to the night before the feis…

It was probably the worst night of sleep before a competition in my life, even rivaling the evenings before I dance at the Worlds. Why, you ask? I was nervous about driving a rental car and navigating the Florida expressways for the first time, LOL! I can drive a rental car without having to pay additional fees for being a young driver (I’m showing my age here) but I’m so used to driving my own car that I was TERRIFIED of somehow messing it up. I was also worried because we were warned that parking at the feis hotel would be horrendous due to the long weekend and to arrive extra early.

Me giving the thumbs up at 5:55AM on the way to the feis. Yes, I drove through Central Florida with curlers in my hair like that and it was FUN!!

Even though I was dancing well after lunch, I got up at 5:45 and arrived at the feis at 7AM. It was crazy, but I found a parking spot in the garage so it was worth it.

I loved, loved, loved the feis. LOVED IT. And no, it’s not because I was lucky enough to place; that is just a nice perk :) I'm not affiliated with the dance school either ;)

Here's why this feis gets a major thumbs up:

1. The stages were raised so they had a "major championship feel" and painted with TrebleKote so I was less likely to fall on my toosh

2. Medal presentations for all 3 rounds in Open Champ and 2 rounds in Prelim

3. They ran the Senior girls' championship concurrently with another competition. I cannot express how grateful I am when a feis committee does this. Most senior championships at a feis have less than 10 entrants. Doing 3 rounds in under 15 minutes is extremely difficult at any age, but especially for me as I find my steps to be complex and stamina killing. The chance to catch a drink of water, a puff of the inhaler, to change shoes at a normal pace, and to not be yelled at to "HURRY UP, please" is awesome

4. Wonderful award ceremonies for each competition with a podium and fun modern music, like Cotton Eyed Joe for the little ones and a little Enrique Iglesias for us older girls

5. Thoughtful/fun awards and bonus competitions: These elements are not a "must" for me to attend, but I appreciate the thought that the feis committee put into the day. The medals were adorable and featured a beach umbrella and ghillies motif. Rainbow sashes for top 3 in Open Champs, which I was so pleased to receive! They also offered a a step down the line treble jig/hornpipe competition for Prelim and Open champs. It was great to watch talent of many ages on stage.

6. Friendly, thoughtful volunteers: Hats off to the parents' who ensured that the feis ran smoothly and provided up front communication weeks in advance about all aspects of the competition: weather, parking, vendors, and available shuttles/activities.

Rainbow sash! So fun and different!

Sorry, there are no pictures of me at the feis, as when you go by yourself, (Friend was watching the Opening Notre Dame game back in Orlando) it limits your options and I'm too shy to ask someone else.

Best part of all, after I was done dancing, I was off to the beach, located just outside the hotel doors!

Ahh, now THIS is the life!!

Yes, the white feet and orange legs are all the rage this year. I'm such a fashionista ;) My ankle brace also left some really pretty lines on my right foot.

I also brought the beach to you all and took a wee video! Of course, without realizing it, I'm dancing a bit during the beginning... it looks like part of the my treble jig lead.

Thanks to my mom, who found an old Park Hopper pass from when I was still in grade school, I was able to go to Disney World's Magic Kindom the day after the feis. You may be wondering: "Hey, Ging.. weren't you just in Disney World in July for the NAN". You would be correct, but I didn't have time to go into the parks, so it was great to be able to go and not have to worry about competing!

It was 95 degrees out and rained for an hour at one point in the afternoon, but we still ended up having a blast!

Everyone say, "Ooooh, ahhhhh"

I've never been to Disney around the Halloween season, only Christmas and Easter, so it was so great to see the cute fall decorations everywhere:

There was only one sad part in the day for me that was the fact that "It's a Small World", one of my favorite rides was CLOSED for refurbishment :( :(

Expressing my disappointment in the ride being closed:

We finished off the day with Disney's Electrical parade and then it was off to the Orlando airport early the next morning....

Well, I suppose I'd better stop waxing poetic and get to practicing! My Oireachtas is in 55 days and there is plenty of work to be done!

Have a fabulous fall feis season; keep jiggin ;)


Friday, September 3, 2010


So I was looking at the calendar the other day, and I realized that I Heart That! Dance is pretty quickly coming up on three years of being in business (our "birthday is in January :) ). If we were a kid, we'd have gone from infancy to being a walking, talking, grown-up food eating, toilet using preschooler. That's a big change, and the changes we've experienced both as a business, and in our personal lives during this time have been pretty darn huge too. 

We've gone from the five items we were selling at our first competition table in March 2008 to a product line-up of over 50 including a wide range of bags, clothing, knitwear, papercrafts, bath & body and mineral makeup.  And while we were developing patterns, researching suppliers and yes, CRAFTING these products (or putting hardworking crafters to work for us in papercrafts, bath & body and makeup) we were also doing the following:
  1. Having two babies (Kaylee, Nicole's daughter, in 2008 and Laura, Ally's daughter, in 2009) and getting ready to welcome yet another Girl@IHTD to the team (Nicole is due with #2 in January). One of us has been pregnant every summer since we started, which confuses our repeat customers no end ("wait, weren't you pregnant last year?") :)
  2. Buying a house (Ally, in July 2008), which of course meant MOVING. That won't happen again at least, because Ally refuses to move ever again.  Ever, ever, ever.
  3. Still training for dancing competitively (well, not when we were pregnant ;) ), and this past summer, STUDYING (Ally passed her BATD Highland Members exam the past July)
Let's just say the dishes don't get done very often.  Anyway, you came here because I promised a post about "big changes" so I'd better get on with it! 

We're Taking A Wee Break

Since Nic's going to be having her next beautiful baby after Christmas, we've decided to go on hiatus for a bit.  This will also give us a chance to review our products and suppliers, something we desperately need to do after such rapid growth, but have had no time for since we've been busy filling orders (not that we don't love being popular, and the wonderful customers who made that true!!). So here's how this will affect ordering in the near future:
  • We will be taking LIMITED custom orders for Christmas delivery. We have a finite number of spots available (the exact number depends on what gets ordered) and we will take orders either until those spots are filled or until November 1st at the latest. 
  • After November 1st, NO custom orders will be taken, but our stock items will still be available. You can always see what we have in stock by visiting http://iheartthatdance.artfire.com/.
We will resume taking custom orders in July 2011...sort of.  This brings me to the next big change:

We're Changing Our Product Line

Believe me when I tell you that from an emotional perspective, we LOVE making all the bags, knitwear and accessories by hand for all you wonderful gorgeous dancers.  It's a total thrill going to a competition and seeing one of our signature goods being used, or hearing from our customers how pleased they are with their purchase. 

But from a financial perspective, the truth is we are simply not charging enough for what we do.  Some recent calculations have shown that on a couple of the bags, we're only making $3 an hour, and that's not enough.  In the past two and a half years, we've reinvested everything we made back into the business because we HAD to -- while we've taken a considerable number of orders the profits are too low and so we haven't seen a single penny make its way into our pockets. As much as we love what we do, we obviously cannot continue this way.

We don't know exactly what the "new" IHTD will look like in July, but there are a couple of things we are pretty sure of:
  • We'll still be selling the screenprinted clothing -- in fact, now we'll be able to focus on making some ideas we're really excited about come to life! And yes, applique will still be available on hoodies and yoga jackets!
  • Most, if not all, of the bags and handmade clothing will no longer be available through IHTD. Some, such as ghillie bags, hardshoe bags, wig bags, PJ pants and possibly the deluxe makeup bags may still be available to wholesalers or for schools looking for school gear or fundraisers.
  • Sew-on and iron-on applique patches of our designs WILL be available! So you might not be able to order one of our bags but you can get a lil IHTD style on one you've already got!
Some of the existing bags will find their way into Ally's new shop, The Piper's Wife, but the materials will be somewhat different and the price will increase.  So, the moral of the story is that if there's something you have been wanting that's on the "hit list" now is the time to get it.

Again, we will be taking custom orders until November 1st or until we run out of spots, whichever comes first.

Did you seriously make it all the way to the end of this? You're awesome :)  Please leave us your feedback in the comments below or via email to thegirls@iheartthatdance.com -- we value your opinions so much and we will try to answer any questions we can without actually being in possession of a crystal ball :)

xoxo TheGirls

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ginger Diaries: The wonders of fake tan….

Ahaha! I surprised you all by coming back so soon!! I figured I would wax poetic on something near and dear to my pale, pasty skin: FAKE TAN.

Fake tan is a necessary evil for yours truly. My natural coloring is translucent, so whether it’s a feis or a major, I have to buckle down and tan.

See, I wasn't kidding on the pasty ;)

I often use the wonderful Rimmel SunShimmer product that allows you to rub it on the day of, then wash off. It provides excellent coverage and a nice bronze color, as opposed to oompa loompa orange but as I said earlier, it washes OFF, very easily:

This lovely image was captured the morning of my competition at the All Scotlands last October. I have a habit of sleeping on my stomach with my hands on my thighs, LOL. I had to quickly correct my hand print before I went over to the venue. It's a really good thing that I even noticed at that early hour of the morning. I love Rimmel, but I now save it for the day of competition emergencies instead of the night before.

In addition, my past 3 dresses have had very light linings and my current one is almost entirely white, so I panic about a speck of dust hitting it wrong, let alone a nice orange streak.

My claim to fame is having embarrassing "feis day" white patches, streaks, or even whole back thighs be completely lilly white while the rest of me is "oompa loompa". Thankfully for major competitions, I utilize professional services. Of course, with my luck, I always have a HILARIOUS and somewhat awkward story to go with each tanning experience, so I’ll share two gems.

At the Worlds in Glasgow this year, I found a lovely company who would come to my hotel and give me a spray tan in my room. I, in my infinite wisdom, did not set an alarm the night before the appointment and the only thing that woke me up that morning was the technicians phone call to alert me that she had arrived at the hotel. I kicked out my roomie, still half asleep, and ran down the stairs to catch Susan, the tan lady. As she was setting up shop, she handed me some dark cotton underwear to use so I wouldn’t have to get tanner all over mine when I didn’t have a washer handy. Her next statement both shocked and horrified me: “Ok, I’m ready when you are. Just take your bra off and step into the pop up tent”.

WHAT?!?! Take off my bra and leave it off, in front of you??

I nearly choked on the water I was drinking.

I pleaded “Can’t I leave it on?” but to no avail as she said then I wouldn’t get a perfect tan.

I generally don’t utilize a lot of salon services as Irish Dancing is my personal money drain so I forget that people who work in the personal beauty “biz” are used to seeing people without clothing. It is also my impression that people in the UK might be a tad more open about these types of things.I did survive the experience and Susan did provide a nice dark tan that lasted a full week! She mentioned to me that her husband spray tans her when she wants to go out with her friends, which I thought was pretty cool!

I did end up exceptionally brown. Please reference my top pasty picture, then look at the picture below, and LAUGH! This was before I rinsed off; I call this my "Tahitian Beauty" look:

And I do give the thumbs up to exercise... sometimes.... but it doesn't always make me feel good..

Now we fast forward to the North American Championships in Orlando. I always book with a popular on-site spray tan vendor, who I love. They have great customer service, especially when I e-mailed the owner just few weeks before NAN when he had 95% of his slots booked. I had to add a face and neck tan thanks to my white dress and my fear of getting powder bronzer all over the neckline. He was able to adjust my appointment right on the spot without changing the time.

It was my first time getting a face and neck tanned as opposed to a full body and unlike in Scotland, the tanning technician so kindly let me keep a sports bra on ;) Unfortunately, looking back, that was a bad idea on my part. After I finished competing, it was time to CELEBRATE, for many reasons! I got myself all gussied up and went back to the Dolphin to meet up with some friends.

I should have selected a different shirt, as this look was presented to the world in this picture:

Uh, can we say shockingly hilarious?!?

I'm really surprised my friend Katie (in the green) still wanted to be seen with me with that kind of neckline... Another valuable lesson was learned. It really is better to go with a full spray tan in the summer... or coordinate your outfits to not display your awkward tan line.

So, all my dancer friends out there: Do you have such embarrassing tan problems as yours truly? Am I the only person who has her palms orange while the top of her hands are white the day before the feis?

Until next time, keep treble jiggin' (which I'm not a fan of at the moment, not one BIT!)


Monday, July 12, 2010

The Ginger Diaries: Long time no see!

Hey everyone!

Long time no chat! I’m actually typing this update from my car, waiting for dance class to start! I spend a good portion of my life inside my poor car (the state of the inside of it should prove my point) so I figured I would catch up now!

I returned from the Worlds and was busy catching up on sleep for about a week then promptly got very sick, which I’ve been trying to deal with for the past few months. Thanks to 2 MRI’s, I can confidently say, that YES, I do have a brain, since some people doubted that I did. Now that everything seems to be under control, (*fingers crossed*) I’m back in action and have a lot of posting to catch up on. Plan to hear from me a good deal this summer!

I’m known for having a bit of a travel bug, all thanks due to Irish Dancing. I find it unfortunate that while I’m sitting at my desk at work there are people traveling all over the world seeing beautiful cities and countries. Sadly, I have to work to pay my bills and make a living or I think I would be a professional traveler. I am lucky enough to have 17 paid vacation days per year at my current employer; all of those days minus the day after Christmas, are reserved for Irish Dance related trips and travel

About a year ago, I decided that because so many major competitions are in the same cities, year after year, due to the size of the venue that is required to hold all of us, that I would plan to travel to another city after the competition that didn’t involve Irish Dancing.

After the Worlds in Glasgow, which was fabulous as usual and 2 trips to Edinburgh,I was lucky enough to travel to Paris and Amsterdam. Please note that while it was sunny and 70 degrees in my hometown in March, it was SNOWING in Edinburgh, see! Those little chunks of white are SNOW patches:

I decided to enjoy two days in Paris and two days in Amsterdam.Day one in Paris was spent by myself and the rest of the trip I was accompanied by my lovely and very talented dancer friend Katie and her parents.

I was very proud of myself for figuring out how to get from the Paris Nord train station and take the Metro to the area where my hotel was located. This was especially impressive considering I was traveling with one very large suitcase, a large shoulder bag, and dress bag during the lunch hour. I’m sure the French were not enamored with me during that Metro ride…

If I learned anything from my Paris experience, it is: Make sure you learn and can properly execute the necessary French phrases to survive if you don’t know French as a second language! I was all prepared with a little tip sheet with phrases like : “Hi, my name is”, “I need help”, “Where is the toilet”… you know, the basics…. But it didn’t help me one bit when I got majorly lost trying to find my hotel.

Long story short: I was able to navigate the subway BUT didn’t realize the hotel was not exactly on the exit from the subway. After 2 hours, many tears, frantic texts to my French speaking friend back in America, and a taxi cab fleecing me, I finally got to my hotel. Paris itself was lovely. I had amazing weather, unlike the snow and cold that I left in Glasgow. Check out the Eiffel tower (Yes, I did take this picture :) ):

Day one was spent with me seeing a few of the sights (too many to describe in one post), taking advantage of my tour bus ticket, and perhaps doing a little window shopping. I ended the night at an Indian restaurant, as I knew they would speak English and didn't want to embarrass myself in an all French speaking restaurant.

Day two started off bright and early as I went to greet Katie and her family back at Paris Nord. I greeted them professionally with a sign, of course. It was too light to see in the picture, so Katie's dad fixed it up for me with the magic of Microsoft Paint! Bob is Katie's Dad's nickname, not his real name ;)

We spent most of the day at the Louve, doing more window shopping, and back at the Eiffel tower so we could take a ride up in it.

Here is Katie and myself standing on an observation deck in the Eiffel Tower on day two in Paris, which was significantly colder than day one and rainy! We were FREEZING while posing for this shot:

I also enjoyed a delicious Nutella Crepe from a street vendor!!

Another lesson that I learned on this particular trip is to always check the time zone of the area you are staying in.I purchased a 5 pound phone to use on the trip, but Katie’s parents also brought their own clock. We had to be at the train station at 5:30AM. Long story short, there is an hour time difference between London and France, and we woke up at 5:30 when we were supposed to be at the station. I’ve never ran so fast with a 70 pound suitcase in my life!

Next stop was Amsterdam!

Oh how I adored Amsterdam! I texted my mom on the last night and told her I wasn’t coming home. She “laughed” or text “lol’ed” in my face. I missed being stranded by the ash cloud of 2010 by 4 days. I’m sure all the Dutch on my flight home were stranded in Vegas;not that they would have been upset about that.

We started off day 1 by visiting the Anne Frank House, which was extremely moving. No photography was allowed but it really was a wonderful tribute.

We then walked to the Heineken Brewery for a tour and that was a BLAST! A+

On the end of night one, Katie and I played a little game called: Let’s try on what I didn’t wear in my suitcase. What I found was that I packed 7, yes 7 tank tops. It was SNOWING in Glasgow… what was I thinking?!?

Here I am being coy peeking out of the bathroom about to show Katie outfit number one:

On day two in Amsterdam,Katie and I managed to get completely lost due to my error understanding the tram system. I don't think we ever quite figured it out! We ended up in an extremely industrial part of Amsterdam, but did get to pass by the Olympic stadium built for the 1928 Summer Olympics!

We walked around the main shopping areas, explored a very large public market, took an amazing boat cruise, RAN by the Red Light district, and experienced what McDonalds was like in the Netherlands. Katie went to the hotel to pack while I met a cousin of one of the dancers in my school who moved from North America to work in Amsterdam. He explained to me that it is possible to hold an umbrella, write a text message, and ride a bicycle at the same time ;) Biking is the ONLY way to really get around Amsterdam; tram drivers even stop for bicyclists!

Here are a few shots from the fun we had in Amsterdam:

An absolutely beautiful tree right outside our hotel:

I was definitely grossed out by these "public" restrooms on the street:

Just hanging out in a wooden shoe, no big:

Me posing with some of my purchases in Amsterdam and some of Katie's. I walked around with these bags for 2 hours.... again during lunch, and again I probably annoyed people with all of those bags on a crowded tram ;) :

After all my adventures, I knew my suitcase was well over 50 pounds, so I purchased a 15 pound suitcase at the public market. Pushing two suitcases, a dress bag, and a large shoulder bag was NOT fun while rushing to catch my connecting flight home in Philadelphia:

What I learned from my 2010 Post Worlds extravaganza:

1.Irish dance accessories will account for half of your suitcase
2.Carefully check the weather of each of your destinations before departure. When a friend tells you need mittens, a sweater, and possibly UnderArmour, BRING what they tell you!
3.No matter what, you do not need to bring 7 tank tops on your trip
4.When looking at a map in a foreign city later at night, always do it with your back facing a wall , even when you are with a group of adults(Long story… not all Parisians are nice…)
5. Tour buses allow you to pick survey all the popular sights first, then you can pick which places you want to visit (I already knew this but it is worth repeating)
6. McDonalds: It's truly an internationally recognized restaurant and it's fun to see the differences in their menu items (FYI, my Happy Meal in Paris, had a piece of pineapple in it! I ordered a Happy Meal because it's one of the only things I knew to say)
7. The UK store Primark is absolutely fabulous for finding the necessary clothing and shoes you forgot to bring but its affordable pricing also can cause you to buy too much and overfill your suitcase
8.Comfortable shoes are a MUST, especially when walking many miles. Wear sneakers with a sundress in Paris; make a fashion statement. Maybe you'll start a new trend ;)
9. The Mona Lisa at the Louve is small, REALLY small, but breathtaking at the same time
10. Touring the world and seeing how other cultures live, work, and play is truly a gift and I'm so glad I was able to visit two countries I had never set foot in.

The best news of all is the fact that I get to travel to another country again next year, as I was privileged enough to qualify for the 2011 Worlds in Dublin at the North American Championships a few weeks ago! I can’t wait to start planning my trip! Any suggestions on where I should travel?

Until next time, keep on jiggin’. Hope everyone is enjoying summer feising!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Today's News...

.... math is hard.  But despite that, I have successfully completed the draws! Note that I have used the name associated with the entry that was picked. So without further adieu:

Tara Mills

Get The Look Kit & Deluxe Makeup Bag (Kickoff Prize #1)

Advanced Highland Training DVD Set from FerlieFeet (Kickoff Prize #2)
Wallace (the first of the comments labelled "Wallace" on this blog post)
***Please make access to your Blogger profile public so I can email you about your prize***

Lucky Clover Necklace from As Luck Would Have It (Kickoff Prize #3)
Cee Jammin

Choice of Bag & McAleer Highland Gear Goodie Bag (Kickoff Prize #4)

Spa Package including PJ Pants and Ghillie Slippers (Kickoff Prize #5)
Jessica Bach

Ghillie Necklace from Triskelt (Kickoff Prize #6)
Bonnie MacNeill

FeisFaces Deluxe Membership (Kickoff Prize #7) -- Two of these were available!
Christine Newton
Hannah Jarvis

CONGRATULATIONS to our winners and thanks to everyone who participated! I hope you had fun (we certainly did here at IHTD) and I will be getting in touch with all of you over the next couple of days to make arrangements for your prizes.  And remember -- Kickoff may be over but

Shout Outs are just beginning!

You can win $10 to use on our website EVERY single week for the WHOLE summer just by sending a shout-out to your dance friends here on the blog or on Facebook!  Read the rules here:

The first Shout Out blog post will go up tomorrow so you can start commenting then! And don't forget, if you are using Facebook, if you and the person you are sending a Shout Out to are fans of our Facebook page, if your entry is picked you BOTH get $10. Woohoo!  Same goes for Twitter!

xo Ally and Nic