Viva Las Vegas!

“Can you back the hell up outta my space please?”

That.

That, right there?

Is my lasting impression of Sin City.

I think my personal experience was a little skewed.  Firstly, during the day, I was by myself, my travelling buddy was at the hackers’ conference and I was wandering the streets of sin all by myself.  I think that makes a big difference – people see single women wandering aimlessly around, and it’s like dangling a zebra to a freakin’ lion.  Complete with overwhelmed, ‘Holy crap am I really witnessing all of this?’ doe-eyes, my first day really was spent wandering aimlessly up and down (and back up, and back down) the strip.  I was taking everything in (mostly heat stroke and golf-ball sized blisters over both feet) and everyone took this as an open invitation to get up in my business – It wasn’t.

Secondly, I’ve obviously had my wicked-cool ninja training from Houston.  My ‘be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to everyone and everything’ training.  From the second I woke up and stepped out of the hotel on to the strip, I was mentally exhausted.  I felt uncomfortable, constantly on edge, needing to stay focused and keep my wits about me, I had one hand free at all times and my phone wasn’t ever tucked too far away in case I needed to call for help.  I get that this sounds an extreme over reaction or an exaggeration, but it really did put me on edge and get my back up.

Here’s the first of my travel tips for Vegas – hydration is key.  Especially in the height of summer.  People tell you this all the time and you’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I got it.  No biggie.’ But it IS a biggie – if you’re drinking enough water to sink the Titanic and you’re not peeing? Drink more.  Carry a water bottle with you at all times.  If you get one of those novelty margarita glasses and you empty it? Before you refill it, down a round of H2O.  I landed myself with some (albeit mild) sunstroke, and it knocked me for six.  I thought I was drinking enough water, I wasn’t drinking all that much alcohol, and I didn’t feel too badly in the moment until it caught up with me.  Then I felt rough as hell.

Sunscreen – use it.  In ABUNDANCE. Usually I’m that idiotic pasty white Irish girl who doesn’t apply enough sun cream and winds up with second degree sunburn – and everything that goes with it, the peeling, the itching, tea baths, old wives’ remedies, aloe up the wazoo, and any amount of whining and moaning about my negligent-inflicted wounds.  But this time? I was ON POINT.  The Nevada summer sun overhead is intense, probably the most intense sun I’ve ever felt – and I lived in Texas for seven years.  But Vegas is hotter than Satan’s front porch, and it’s a dry, overwhelming, OMG I CAN’T BREATHE, kinda heat.  I could almost feel my skin cooking when I wasn’t in the shade, so I was on top of my sunscreen applications, I was applying in the middle of the street every half hour to an hour while I was outside.  Don’t be caught on this one, it’s painful and it’s dangerous.  Especially if you’re drinking, dehydrated and your mind isn’t at 100% – set an alarm on your phone if you have to.  Remind yourself.  Protect yourself.

Now those important things are out of the way, let’s talk about the fun things.  What to do, where to go, what to see and what to eat.

I gave a friend of mine completely free-reign over which shows I should go see.  They were comp tickets, she knows me well enough to know what I’d like, what I wouldn’t like and if it was left up to me I’d never have been able to narrow the BAZILLIONS of shows down to just the three nights I was there.

X-Burlesque

I guess most girls tend towards getting tickets to the Thunder Down Under, or some testosterone-filled male strip show.  But, having a friend as a burlesque dancer, having seen her troupe a couple times I was excited by this one.  I love burlesque.  That said, I was somewhat disappointed by this one.  I felt like a sardine in a tin can, kinda smushed up in behind the line of tables in front – so much so that my friend was able to manage some master level photobombing of the girls in front of us.  The venue is small, sure, but there was no real need to feel like my knees were wrapped around my neck.  Secondly, it was cold, freezing cold.  I get that the girls are constantly moving and they are hot under the lights, but I shivered the entire time – maybe that’s why the feeling of sardines in a can, so you can huddle together for warmth? I’m not sure.

So, from my previous experiences, I’d have said that the art of burlesque is about the seduction, the tease, the big-reveal.  It’s not necessarily always slow, but its sensual, tells a story, makes you use your imagination for a lot of it…it’s not just getting your clothes off, or from zero to bare boobs in 0.01 seconds.  This was more a naked dance show, and some tracks were just a little on the side of weird and totes awkward moreso than anything.  I mean, it was entertaining, and of course the dudes like it, naked girls getting their kit off multiple times to different genres of music, but I can’t in good conscience dub it ‘pure burlesque’.  I think I preferred the entertainment of watching the reactions of the men in the crowd, to the display of the dancers on stage.

Burlesque University

My friend thought she’d push me out of my comfort zone and pick me up a ticket to a burlesque class.  I was equal parts terrified and intrigued.  I’d jumped out of my comfort zone when I stepped in to Krav, so thought ‘What the heck?’ and walked in to the Burlesque studio with an open mind and a thumping heart.

Let me first say, that the majority of my problems with this class, wasn’t at all to do with the organisers, other than the fact that they didn’t interject much, they were WAY too polite, the other participants of the class spoke up before the ‘teachers’ did.  We had a boy in our class, a straight, heterosexual boy, with a full beard, learning to apply make-up and to do burlesque dancing – which is fine, but go with it.  He spent over twenty minutes asking questions about the waiver, legal questions, please explain this, what does this mean, well I’m not signing this type deal.  At one point the dancer turned and said, ‘look, I’m just a burlesque dancer, not a lawyer, we can’t go ahead with this unless you sign it’, so he amended it and finally signed it.  Then the make-up portion of the class started and he kept asking questions, what is blush? What is lipstick? What does this do? Where are my cheek bones? (Not even kidding here) Seemingly all deadly serious too – DUDE.  Give it up and GO WITH IT.  By the time we got to the dancing part, there wasn’t much time left for the dancing – the dancer even told me that if I wasn’t leaving a couple days later, she’d give me free tickets for a show the following week, because this guy was such a colossal disruption to the class.

Dancing wise, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the content, but, again, we didn’t have enough time cause of Mr-Questions.  So I think I’d need to do a do-over before I could give a fair and balanced review of this class.  The choreographer and the dancer were both lovely though!

Cirque du Soliel

I admit, I was a disbeliever.

I didn’t buy in to the hype, I didn’t buy in to the cost, I didn’t buy in to the experience, I just didn’t buy it.  And then I got handed tickets to the LOVE, Cirque du Soleil – the BEATLES Cirque du Soleil.

For me, the Beatles are almost a religious experience.  On my first trip to the US in 1999 to visit my big brother in Atlanta, Georgia, I was exposed to a campfire version of ‘Let it Be’ – I was besotted.  I hadn’t heard the Beatles before, and, horrified, my brother bought me the ‘Hard Day’s Night’ album as a Christmas gift later that year.  I listened, I repeated, I obsessed, I loved.  I was officially a Beatles fan.  Over the years, I listened to more of their back catalogue and, had a random guy stood on stage with a plastic bucket and sang Beatles songs – I’d probably have given him a shot.

This? This was SO. MUCH. MORE. Than that.

I’m not going to ruin it for you, but it was interactive, it was 360, it was audio, it was visual and it was utterly incredible – I got choked up a time or two, and – despite her objections to the same, I’m sure I saw my girl Courtney get a lil choked up too.  If the Beatles aren’t your jam – find something that is, and go see it.  I do want to see the Mystere show now that I’ve popped my Cirque cherry.  Though, that would require a return trip to Vegas and I’m not sure it’s my kinda thang at all.

Tenors of Rock

Lastly, (but by no means leastly), I got tickets to see the Tenors of Rock – the ‘in house’ act at our hotel, Harrahs.  Being a choral singer, I was curious – just, how *does* one put on a Vegas level show, singing contemporary rock songs, with classical Tenor voices.

I’m not quite sure what I expected, but I got goosebumps, I cried, I sang, we danced – and Courtney, who didn’t have high expectations to begin with, admitted to being blown away too.  These guys were great!

Another up-side was that after the show, the guys came out for a meet and greet, picture and autograph session – being largely from England (and the lone Aussie) it was nice to have a quick chat and get a few snaps and signatures before we headed on our way.  Don’t dismiss the idea of going to the ‘lower’ level shows, I really did enjoy this one a lot, even though it’s not something I would have maybe chosen on paper.

Let me take a second here to mention the hotel.  It was a decent enough hotel and all – on the flight to Vegas, a lady was very snooty to me about the hotel I was staying in (Courtney’s work picked it) and I couldn’t figure out why.  It was perfectly nice – ok, it is one of the ‘older’ hotels on the strip and needs a bit of a facelift, and, if you compare it to the other, bigger, brighter hotels on the strip, you’ll be disappointed.  But it was nice.  Aside from restaurants on the ground floor, they had an in-house Starbucks and a little bar-type area, that had a GREAT in-house act.  Dave the Sax Man and his brother played there the few days that I was staying there – I loved them so much so that I set an alarm on my phone to call in for a drink and listen the next day too.   Gorgeous soul singers and great sax playing had strangers (including me) dancing together on the dancefloor.  It was a really nice way to pass a couple hours and take refuge from the blazing sun.

Between the pan-handlers, the pick-pockets, the people trying to get in your space about going to different clubs and venues in the evenings, those peddling wares from shirts and hats, to margaritas and henna tattoos (that they claim will last for a month, but DON’T!) and the dudes and dudettes dressed in character garb wanting a few bucks for selfies – the concept of personal space just DOESN’T exist in Vegas.  Everything is very much in your space.  If you want some ‘me time’, it’s probably not the right place to go – especially as most people are drinking, so there’s stumbling and bumping elbows, there’s also THRONGS of people – even in the skin-frying-height-of-summer.

That said? There were some pretty cool things we did, places we went and things we saw – things I enjoyed (other than the amazing shows of course!)

Food

First real night in town, we had dinner in a cute little Mexican called Canonita – deep in the belly of the Venetian hotel.  You should nab a reservation – especially if you want a river-side seat to watch the gondolas sail past you (we did!)  The food was delicious, we had some thick cheesy starter and I got some yummy fajitas, but it was more about the atmosphere and just watching the world sail by to be honest.  It was a lovely place to eat dinner, and I’d happily go back there again – even though it takes FOREVER to get to it from the street – plan an extra 20-minute walk or so in to your ‘walk to the restaurant’ journey – cause you don’t wanna end up arriving a big ole sweaty mess, to such a lovely place!

After picking up tickets to my Burlesque dance class, I went in to Gordon Ramsay’s Fish and Chips, which was RIGHT next door to the Flamingo.  I had high hopes.  I wanted British sausages, I wanted British chips – not American sausages and American ‘fries’.  Being disappointed on the sausage (not British sausages) and being told they were ‘fries’, I was disappointed.  But I loaded my fries with cheese and bacon and got the fish – aside from the fact that it was all swimming in grease, it was pretty darn good.  The fish, in particular was light and flaky and delish!

While waiting for our number to be called for the dinner buffet, Courtney and I went to the Payard Patisserie and Bistro in Caesars Palace.  I bagged a delicious hot chocolate and we split a lemon tart, it was really tasty – though a little on the expensive side, a tasty treat for sure.

Most people typically hit up the all you can eat buffets in Vegas – and we were no exception to that stereotype.  We tried three buffets while we were there, Cravings buffet (Mirage Hotel), Bacchanal Buffet (Caesars Palace hotel) and Flavors Buffet (Harrahs hotel) and of the three, Cravings was my favourite – the bottomless wine and beer helped for SURE, but I also preferred the food selections and quality in the Mirage.  I know, I know, Caesar’s Palace is THE BOMB of buffets – right? Hell, we had to wait over an hour for our number to be called.  And, sure enough, if I was in to seafood, I bet that this buffet would be my favourite, but I wasn’t impressed.  It was grossly overpriced compared to the other buffets, it didn’t include wine or beer, and while I loved the lamb and potatoes, I wasn’t thrilled at the stale bread and the clumps of fat posing as beef in the beef dishes.  Flavours rotisserie pork and rosemary potatoes were good, but the crème brulee was more like crime brulee, plus the service was grumpy and I didn’t like how sweet the pasta sauce was.  Cravings, on the other hand, I liked.  The staff were friendly and made solid recommendations of food, the wine was free – did I mention that the wine was free? And bottomless 😉 and we liked the chef station, Courtney asked the chef to throw together a pasta dish (his choice across the board) and it was delicious! Worth it.

I didn’t drink much alcohol while I was there, but the margarita I got from La Salsa (on the strip close to M&M world) was delicious!

To do

So.  The M&M store may be one of, if not my *favourite* store in ALL THE WORLD.  There’s, like, FOUR FLOORS of M&M stuff.  From a WALL of M&M’s – in a variety of flavours and colours, to everything from t-shirts and pjs, to cups, glasses and aprons.

Of COURSE there’s a mark-up on, well, EVERYTHING.  I’ve NEVER spent so much money on a single bag of candy in my entire life, but you get totally caught up in the moment, and in the desire to test the fact that M&M’s are resistant to the Vegas heat (the crunchy shell prevents them from getting all melty and smushed – it’s pure genius.)  That said? My pj bottoms got a hole in them, before they even hit the wash for the first time – can you believe that? The most expensive pair of pjs I own and they got a hole.  UGH.  I spent a lot of time in here, I explored each floor, looked at ALL THE THINGS and came away with a bit of a haul of goodies.  It’s a great place to stop in and have a poke-around.  Plus? Who doesn’t want to get their picture taken with a giant M&M?

The Coke store didn’t really impress me much at all, but it may be worth poking your head in for a bit of a look-see.  They had a couple of cool things to see – plus, y’know, aircon.

The day we left, I had a late flight – Courtney wanted to head to the airport and hang out, however, upon arrival to the airport, we discovered we were in different terminals and we went our separate ways.  Being WAY too early for even bag-drop, I decided to pay an EXTORTIONATE amount of money for a taxi from the airport to Fremont Street (and back).  It was a quick trip, cause of traffic and the time of day and it was one of my fave parts of the trip.

This is what’s known as ‘old Vegas’, it used to be the old strip – and I felt MUCH more comfy and at home here, than on the current strip.  It was, I dunno, something.  More relaxed? A little more at home.  If you need souvenirs – go here.  Much better selection, and certainly a better price than on the strip.  I got a glimpse of somewhere I’d have LOVED to visit while I was there, the Mob museum, totally my cup of tea and very accessible from Fremont street.  If I ever go back to Vegas, I’d go to the museum, and probably spend my time in town, on Fremont street for sure.

I didn’t gamble a single penny while I was there, I wasn’t even tempted, I think if I hadn’t gotten sunstroke and busted up my foot (I truly thought for a moment it was broken) I may have been a little more inclined, but I think I was quickly over the ‘scene’, the cat calling and whistling, the propositioning and the indignation at being turned down.  It was off-putting.

I dunno, I guess I was over Vegas, before I was under it.  I didn’t have the same experiences that a lot of other people have in Vegas, I wasn’t blinded by the seafood or the gambling or the glitz and glam.  I enjoyed it, but different aspects to those that typically love it.

Would I go back? Maybe.  To see and do specific places and things, with specific people.  But.  And this is a BIG but.  It wasn’t, anywhere near close to my fave city in the US and I feel like for the same money you’d spend there, there’s any number of *better* places you could go – so, I’d rather go to those places instead.

Arrival from Sweden…

For Christmas, I tried to think a little ‘out of the box’ when it came to Col’s Christmas present.  As it happens, my husband absolutely LOVES music – as many people do – and when I saw a couple friends informed us of a concert venue less than five minutes from our house, I just HAD to check out the upcoming artists.

I stumbled upon an Abba tribute group, called Arrival from Sweden and I figured that would be PERFECT to take Col to see, he enjoys Abba’s music (and, more importantly, cause when I’m being brought along with him to an event, it’s very important that I like it obviously! LOL!) and we were quite excited when we pulled in to the Stafford Center’s car park.

ABBA_ArrivalFromSwedenThere are a few good points to note about the Stafford Center, free parking, no fees when you book and a huge TV screen for those up in the balcony (that’s us).  The concessions are cash-only, but they do have an ATM on-site.

I have to say, as an act, I was disappointed with them.  In November 2011, Col and I landed some tickets to go into town and see a Beatles tribute act, Rain (blog post: here) and I still get chills when I think about it, it was out of this world.  We spent most of the show on our feet, singing, dancing and it even reduced me to tears.  With ‘The music of Abba’, I was bored to tears!  Aside from the girl who ‘played’ Agnetha, (her voice was beautiful and she really gave it her all with the dancing and entertaining) I really wasn’t impressed – and I’d even go so far as to say that I could have done a better job than the girl who played Anni-fred, and for sure the two men (who were great musicians, but we just barely heard them sing, they just didn’t have strong voices).

The percussion player was a joy to watch, he was entertaining and talented, as was the saxophonist and the backing singers were better than (or at least they overpowered) the main act on a number of occassions.

The piano was poorly mic-d up, we couldn’t hear it at all, and for any number of Abba tunes the piano needs to be heard (Money, Money, Money for example).

My favourite song of the night was ‘The Winner Takes it all’, which was sung by Agnetha.  She did a great job on it and I was singing along, right there with her!

All that said, it was a good night, though at $30 a pop for the balcony tickets, I feel it a little overpriced for the quality of the show, but Col enjoyed himself and we discovered a new concert venue, so it was a pretty worth while investment all round and we’re already checking on what else will be coming up in the Stafford center!

Detroit Waves…

Tuesday started with our second Norwex demo, I had two friends who couldn’t make it to the previous one, who wanted to see Amber’s great cleaners at work.

It wasn’t as long as the first one, and after a quick check of the work email for Amber, I took her to Chipotle for lunch.  When I first went to visit her, she introduced me to Chipotle, but now she lives in a different town, she doesn’t have a Chipotle overly close.  So when she’s in another city, it’s all over her radar!

We spent the afternoon shopping (and, for the most part coming up empty), Lane Bryant, Academy Sports, Ross, Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack (my first time), aside from some Turtles glasses and a pair of $160 reduced to $18, I came up pretty much empty.

That night, I took in my first ever gig at the Houston House of Blues, to see the one and only Matt Nathanson.  My waiting came to an end at the end of last year when I FINALLY got to see him play live in Iowa (with Amber and Emily), blog post, here if you’re interested.

His support act, was Rachel Platten, described on her website as

”Beautiful, but not brazen.  Passionate, but never peachy.  Populist but definitely not prosaic.  New York City singer-songwriter, pianist and beatboxer Rachel Platten is by no means your average headliner-in-the-making.”

Amber and I got to meet Rachel!

To be honest, I’d never heard of her, but Lindsey had tweeted me to say she was fantastic and I decided to give her carte blanche (I normally hate supporting artists for some reason).

Amber doesn’t like warbly singers, Rachel is definitely warbly, but I think she’s just shy of the ‘too much’ line.  Her beat-boxing adds a dimension of interesting to her performance, though I’d definitely have described her as having been peachy that night.

She’s most definitely ‘peppy’, enthusiastic and friendly – she hung around to sign autographs and let people take pictures with her (including us).

Her drummer was a header, he was the most enthusiastic and happy drummer I’ve ever seen – I also had my picture taken with him.

Matty Nay was fab, just like last time! His cover songs were, as usual, well known 80’s songs like Tainted Love and the set, though it was mostly from his latest two albums, killed!

The House of Blues as a venue is pretty good, just don’t go wanting a few drinks.  $8 a piece will set you back a crap-ton if you’re not careful!

Amz and I - traditional pic, untraditional hair!

Day 3 D-Day!

Day 3 of Helena’s visit Sunday (Dec 11th) morning I had a pick-up to do for the choir, a wonderfully generous donation from a local store, Phoenicia.  They graciously donated 300 Baklava pieces to our Holiday concert’s international food fest.

What a generous donation!

Check out the carrot carved into a flower!

While we were there, Helena picked up a few bits and pieces – I swear, anyone who enters the doors of Phoenicia, fall in love, it’s such a great shop.  For those of you new to Houston, or who have been here for a while and haven’t checked it out, please do.

My personal favourites?

Well, they sell lamb, no kidding! It’s hard to find lamb in Houston, it’s even harder to find good quality lamb.  It’s expensive, but man is it worth it!

They also do the best pita EVER! It’s hot and fresh off the conveyer belt.  Mix a little salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil, brush over it and stick it in the oven for a few minutes and it’s delicious!

They also have great quality cooking chocolate, for a VERY reasonable price.

You could easily drop $100 in this place, and I have (on a number of occasions), it’s a dangerous place to shop, but so, so, worth it!

After picking up Oatcakes from Magz at the Phoenicia cafe, we headed to the new HEB off HWY 6 to spend the $100 that they graciously donated to the choir.  I picked up a bunch of sliced meats, crisps, breads and other things we needed for the food fest.

En route home, we headed to Genghis Grill for lunch.  It’s one of the more ‘healthy’ alternatives for lunch here in Houston.  It’s somewhere that Amber introduced me to, going back, like, 5 or more years.  Speaking of Amber, on December 29th, we’ll have known each other for 7 years…seriously, that’s scary, it doesn’t feel like that long at all!

When we got home, we attempted the disastrous activity of trying to make scotch eggs (major fail!!) before we got ready and headed up to St Theresa’s for my concert.

Ball - fail!

Talk about a disgusting mishap.  I thought I’d make mini ones, but we couldn’t get the blitzed egg to stick together so it was just a big ole mess!!!

The singing went o.k. some pieces we excelled at, some pieces were better in rehearsal, but one thing is for sure, I had an absolute FANTASTIC time singing, I even, finally, mastered Handel’s Messiah!!

Multicoloured shirts!

Overall, the concert went fantastically and I’m so very proud of both myself, and the choir!

Sam, Emily, Luke, Magz and my littlest fan Eve!

What made the night even better, was looking in to the audience, scattered among the 700+ people there, was 25 of my nearest and dearest friends, beaming up at me on the Altar.  My sister kept giving me the thumbs up and big smiles and she looked truly proud as punch of me.  It was amazing to have such support!

At the food festival after the concert, I got to introduce little Eve to some of my choir friends, I had a quick chat with Phillip, our Choir Master (while giving him a jar of chutney) and he tried to encourage me to get Col to audition for the choir (I’m trying!!)

It really was a festive, magical night.  I’m so very honoured to be singing with such a talented bunch of people from all over the world – and I can’t WAIT for our next concert in May!!

With my Sop II buddy Julie!

Give peace a chance…

Tonight, I went to a Beatles concert.

I know what you’re thinking, the Beatles haven’t been a performing band for a long, long time…however, tonight we went to see an on-stage Beatles Tribute act, Rain.

A friend of mine in choir, won two tickets to the Rain show in the Hobby Centre for one of the two-night performances.  She didn’t want to go and didn’t want the tickets to go to waste.

She said, ‘do you like the Beatles?’

I replied, ‘Heck yes!!’

She said, ‘do you want tickets to this Beatles thing on Friday night?’

I took them, gratefully! And tonight, my mind was BLOWN by a fantastic tribute act.

Tribute acts can be hit and miss, and they’re something Col and I tend not to go anywhere near.  However, tonight really bowled both of us over.  It was a seriously fab!!

We sang (ok, so I sang), we danced (yes, we both danced), we did the twist, we cried…ok, so I cried! I had a lump in my throat from the first song they played, however I pushed them down, wayyyyy down deep for most of the concert until the second last song they sang.

Some of you don’t know, I have two older brothers, Rob and Rory.

1986

In 1999, when I was 14, I went on my first ever trip to the US of A to visit my big bro, (aka Captain Underpants) in Atlanta, with his lovely wife Karen and his year old (ish) daughter Meghan.

On this trip, we had a BBQ and around a fire (covered in lashings of mosquito cream) he taught me how to play Let it Be on the guitar.

The song brings back so many good memories of Rob, (especially that one!) and the flood gates opened!

Tears aside, it was a cracking night – I can’t believe we almost missed it, because we didn’t even know it was happening.  The crowd was energetic, singing, dancing and seriously patriotic! They had video footage on large screens, any time something American came on screen (Kennedy, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon etc) they went crazy – it was heart-warming!

It was such a great night and I’d happily go back, the guys were talented, they conveyed the talent, message and legacy of the Beatles over the years, they interacted with the crowd, they were upbeat, energetic and the costumes and stage show was all very impressive – plus, Lexus drivers got free valet parking 😉

For those of you who’ve never heard of the Beatles, or who haven’t heard much by them – go to Itunes or Amazon now and buy an album, preferably  A Hard Day’s Night, it’s the one my brother bought me all those years ago for Christmas to introduce me to the Beatles and it’s the one that rocks my world even today and probably tomorrow in my car! 😉

Day 3 – The end of a 7 (long-ass) year wait!

Thursday morning, I was flying solo, I’d originally planned on helping Amber around the house a bit while she worked.  However, since it’d been about 7 months since my last haircut, I decided a trip to the Capri student college salon would be a wise investment.

I dunno if any of you have been to a student college before, however, for me, it was my 2nd trip.  The first time I went, I got a hair style and make-up for my ‘Trash the Dress’ shoot and it cost a fraction of the price that it had in the ‘proper’ salon where I got sorted for my engagement shoot.

This time, I asked for an ‘Advanced’ stylist, so, someone who’s been there a while – not a beginner.  I tend to be particular about my hair, but, since I was verging on desperation for a cut (or, rather, my hair was) I figured screw it.

My stylist, also called Amber funnily enough – was lovely! She listened to what I wanted, we picked colours – approved by her instructor, decided how much to cut and signed the form.  The whole process took 4 hours, or there abouts.  I went with an all over browny colour, some highlights and a 1.5inch trim (at the back, the front was a little more of a trim than that).  Nothing too major, or out there – and, for the most part, I’m happy with how it came out.

The cut, I LOVE – in spite of it not being a Curly Girl cut, (see previous posts about my CG hair routine!) she did a damn good job – and my hair already feels a world better.  The curls are bouncier and my hair is feeling healthier already also.

The colour – for the most part, I like.  At least, everything bar the crown of my head (yup, the freakin’ part that everyone sees!) Either she left the colours on too long (which I think is the case since some of my hair is white-blonde!), they interacted together or something else, but it’s gone orange, or, as I called it when I first saw it ‘ginger’.  I wasn’t sure how long it’d take to ‘fix’ and with only an hour to get home and get sorted for our jaunt to Des Moines, I just told her it was grand and left.

Big Mistake.

I quickly decided I didn’t like it and Amber tells me that I should have asked for a toner – if only I’d known!

Dang! Anyways, it’s only hair, I can always re-dye it, get it fixed, or, on the other hand, just leave it til September and just dye it ‘fall’ (or Autumn for my ‘at home’ readers!) colours then.  I could probably last…

Upside is, anyone who’s seen it, has said they like it (Aside from Adrian, Pierce and Mariano who heard me say I didn’t like it and tore into me!) – though I’m pretty sure they’re just being polite…

Back at Amber’s, I had enough time to get changed, take a drink and ‘plop’ my hair (again see previous references to my CG hair routine!).  We loaded up Emily’s fab Murano and headed on our merry 2 hour trip to Des Moines.

After about 30 minutes, we stopped to fill up the car (and to get me food cause I’d not found time to eat a meal yet!) and, Amber discovered that she  had forgotten to lift the tickets for the concert.  Disaster!

We about-turned, headed back to Van Horne, grabbed the tickets and headed back on our merry way to Des Moines.  We checked in to the hotel quickly and headed straight to the venue – the Des Moines outdoor Ampitheatre.

Ampitheatre

We grabbed hotdogs (and I grabbed a T-shirt) and a spot on the grass and waited.  I think I was the only one of the 3 of us to even vaguely enjoy the warm up act (who’s name currently escapes me just now) but it wasn’t long before the wonderful Matty Nay came out onstage!

Mmmmmmmatty Nay!

Those of you who know me, are probably sick to death of this story, but, for those of you who may not have known me for 7 (or more) years now, here’s where my obsession for Mr Matty came from.

I met Amber online, at least 7 years ago now (I’d have to check my old livejournal to get the actual date) and around 2 years after we ‘met’ (and wrote letters back and forward, emailed almost every day, texted, the occasional phone call), I flew to Chicago where we met ‘in real life’ for the first time.

Thankfully, she wasn’t a pervy old man, or someone who wanted to sell me in to the slave trade or something (which is just as well since I’d make a terrible slave!) Anyways, between that trip (and the occasional music exchange prior to me visiting), I discovered a whole world of unknown music to me.  A genre we dubbed, ‘guys’n’guitars’.  Jason Mraz, Matt Nathanson, John Mayer…Gavin de Graw, Marc Broussard, Donovan Frankenreiter etc etc etc…

So, the first two on that list, became my two, absolutely favourite musicians – EVER.  I got pretty much any music they’d ever done – live or studio, I’d fallen in love…

Jason Mraz I’ve seen 4 or 5 times now, John Mayer, once.  But Matt has always been tres elusive! Everytime I’m in Iowa, he’s not (and, annoyingly he’s always there a few weeks before or after!!!!!), when I’m in Houston, he’s not! I don’t think he’s been to Northern Ireland or the U.K and he’s been top of my list of ‘must see’ artists for, well, pretty much EVER really…ok, slight exaggeration, but I’m sure you get my point.  I’ve been dying to see him for years…

Shaking what God gave him...

When Amber told me he was gonna be in Des Moines, I had to book flights – especially when tickets were a mere $20 a piece.  Airmiles + $5 secured me a flight and I’d been pretty damn excited ever since.  Yes, this is the short story about my obsession with Matty Nay.

If you haven’t heard his stuff – do it! His most recent album ‘Modern Love’, is a lot more commercial than I’m used to hearing from him.  I like it! But, if you’re not a fan of folk-gone-pop, kinda akin to Mraz’s more recent stuff too, then pass it up and go straight to the old stuff.

Needless to say, the concert blew my freakin’ mind! He was fantastic live – hilarious and creative, all at once.  And he even picked on a fan who wouldn’t shut the hell up screaming at him to play one song for the entire concert.  He’s actually a pretty funny guy too – which I’m not sure I fully expected.  Plus – it doesn’t hurt that he’s a bit of a hottie – currently looking a little Wolverine-esque rockin his facial hair.  But, a hottie none the less! His voice is like melted chocolate (and not that Hershey’s crap!)…mmmmmmmmm!

Anyway, distracted! LOL!

The concert ROCKED (literally!), he brought out some 80’s classics (Purple Rain, Jessie’s Girl) and some modern hits (Forget you – CeeLo!) it was excellent.

When we’d finished at the concert, we were all starving.  We spent an hour or so looking to find a place that was still open to eat so late.  Eventually, we ended up calling an order in to the Cheesecake factory (and narrowly missing them closing!) to get our dinner and we ate back in the hotel room.

An hour or two of giggling and inventing the most random creations ensued, before we turned in for the night and went to bed.

GINGER LAS!

Day 3: The Epitome of Hyperbole…

Sunday morning we got up at 10am, I’d brought cereal with me and we’d bought milk (great way to cut cost if your hotel doesn’t provide free breakfast!) and we ate breakfast before we checked out of hotel no.1.

Col driving, all serious-like!

Cols driving buddy!

The drive to Bellingham was gorgeous, so much to see and take pictures of – which, I quickly learned, was difficult while moving at 60 (+) mph!

When we got to Bellingham, we checked in early at the Holiday Inn Express (hotel count:2).  Then, I consulted my trusty Entertainment guide (that I’d bought in Lynnwood the previous day), picked a little gastro pub for us to eat at for lunch, plugged the address in to Lucy, hit ‘go’ and got there to discover a boarded up building.  Wonderful!

Attempt no.2 yielded more fruit – I picked another little pub, the Village Inn pub and Brewery which was in a little town and off the beaten track.

As it turned out, we both enjoyed a really nice lunch (not to mention with our buy 1 get 1 free coupon, a really cheap lunch!).

The place was as close to authentic as I think we’ve seen in the US, it was filled with people who all knew each other and had sports on the TV, pool tables if you wanted to play and Abba on the juke box (which made Col a happy chappy!).

After lunch, we decided to drive to the venue and scout out some parking, to see if we could get any for cheap/free ahead of the throngs of people who were flocking to the Mt Baker theatre to see Mr Brian Regan.

Sold out!

When we got there, we had just over an hour to kill, so we figured we’d take a dander around the town, happen upon a coffee shop and enjoy an hour chilling out before the show.  Ha! How simple it sounds!

We walked around for about 25 minutes in the freezing cold and discovered that Bellingham doesn’t stay open past 5pm!  Everywhere was shut! We eventually found a little coffee shop that was open and set up camp with a cuppa.

The Theatre

Col and I pre-show

Regan on stage

Both Regan and his warm up/MC were hilarious!  If I’m honest, I was a little wary about the show – my sense of humour doesn’t always coincide with Col’s, however, Col wanted to see Regan and I’d agreed (since it was his birthday and all) and I’m so glad we went.  It was really great fun and we both enjoyed a really good laugh.

After the show, we tried to find somewhere to eat, only to discover that it wasn’t only Bellingham that closed early, Lynnwood did too – no where was open to get dinner! We resorted to using another coupon from the Entertainment guide, getting a grilled chicken sandwich each in Arbys (which wasn’t as bad as it sounds, it was just disappointing that we couldn’t find somewhere to eat!) and taking it back to our hotel room.

How boring!