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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 :)

This year our books are significantly thinner! Reasons: at two hours WITH intermission, the show is a full 1/2 hour shorter than last year! Plus there's a lot of synth music to match the "Xtreme" theme of the show. And let's not forget to mention all the cuts we've made.

The horns still have a lot of notes to play, but the difference is visible. On the left is last year's book, and on the right is this year's.

Having played the music for Fully Charged and Built to Amaze, and now Circus Xtreme, I have noticed similarities between the music for each show and also those special touches that make each show sound unique. Fully Charged had a dark sound...a lot of minor keys, a lot of power chords. Built to Amaze was much lighter and more energetic, featuring upbeat "almost-jazz" rhythms and some super catchy original tunes. This new show has a lot of energy, a lot of electronic sounds and effects and pop tunes. But there are an equal number of really beautiful, lyrical, expressive sections that Built to Amaze did not have. It's exciting to have something new and different to play!

We had a half day on Wednesday for Christmas. The last batch of packages arrived at our little mailbox...gifts from friends and family, and regular mail too.

I was fortunate to receive several boxes from home, and some gifts from Jameson's parents as well!
We drove to Orlando on Wednesday night. On Christmas day we enjoyed some blueberry scones and egg nog (he had egg nog, I had coffee with amaretto) for breakfast. Then it was time to open gifts and stockings! I got Jameson a Vox Brian May amp. Here he is trying it out.

He got me several books I've been wanting, two Neil Gaiman short story books and a Game of Thrones graphic novel! AND an Ingress t-shirt!!! Jameson's parents sent me a Chicago trombone quartet CD and some vanilla scented lotion I've had my eyeball on for-ever but have never been able to justify buying for myself. My own parents completely surprised me with their generosity. They got me a GoPro with an attachment kit, and a drone with a camera!!! We quickly charged up the drone's battery and took it for a spin.

I was delighted with all of the gifts and humbled by the generosity and thoughtfulness of my friends and family. You guys are wonderful <3 The best gift, of course, would have been to spend Christmas together. But we did have some Skype time, and I was happy to have my first Christmas with Jameson. We made it a special, awesome day :)

For our extra-special Christmas dinner, Jameson had a beef tenderloin recipe that he wanted to try. It involves mustard, peppercorns, parsley, sour cream, and horseradish. With sides of mashed potato, salad and croissants, it was FANTASTIC.

After watching a few Christmas movies together, we returned to the train with all of our new toys.
Back to work!

The first day back was a long day. We came in around 10-11am and weren't finished until 10pm. But that's what weekends will be like for us on the road, so it's good practice :P We received a few more missing pieces of music, made some new edits, played in the house, played for the dress rehearsal, and went home. Whew!

On Saturday we got our new costumes! Traditionally the band wears black pants and white dress shirts with some sort of vest. This year's vests are really nice! They're blue with a brick pattern and gears sewn in around the neck.

Tim and Brett getting fitted. Notice that Brett's vest has a fancy collar. Because he's the Bandmaster and all.

To my complete delight, for the first time since joining the circus, my vest has a slightly different cut than the boys'. It's much shorter and just a little more "girly". Yay!!! I'm actually excited to wear this in the show!

(Sorry for the crappy bathroom photo. I'm not one for selfies. I just really like my vest <3)

That day I also got yet ANOTHER box from home! Sheesh Mom and Dad, you really spoil me!!! This one contained my stocking and LOTS of goodies! Smoked salmon and dried fruit, an egg-shaped LED light, and a solar powered bug among other things!

By the end of the day we had basically all of our music. On Sunday we arrived and got the final charts, ran through them, then had the last full dress rehearsal of winter quarters. Everything went smoothly, or at least seemed to! Afterward it was time to pack up the stuff in our rehearsal trailer, stow our instruments and costumes in our road cases, and get out of the way so the professionals could get to work.

During the day train crew assembled the train and moved it to it's new-old home in Tampa. It was nice to come home to a familiar place. With a grocery nearby ;)

Winter quarters is already over!! This month went by so quickly! In only a few days we'll be premiering the new show in Tampa. I'm excited. Here we go!!

Other stuff:

An elephant's eye view of the last Built to Amaze show! (Ryan stuck a GoPro to Mabel's head :D)

CLICK HERE to watch!!!

Our security/parking guy got into the Christmas spirit!

Not one, not two...not even three! FOUR behind-the-scenes videos from Ringling's YouTube channel. Fun fact: the music playing for the "Wheel" and "BMX" videos will be used in the show!



Mongolian Troupe: