Shamrock Soaps Product Review and Giveaway

Heather, the owner contacted me and asked if I would like to write a review or possibly host a giveaway to help promote her business, and we decided to do both. Please take a minute or two to read the first product review by WTF. Details of the the Giveaway are below the review.

1ed128b7fc8fa39c72b9bf9e1b900768The Company

Shamrock Soaps is a line of  body products locally made in Wisconsin. With a line for Irish Dancers, and products for their support teams (aka us), I took it upon myself to review one of each. You can find the site at Shamrock Soaps and can purchase on line at Shamrock Soaps on Etsy. They are also on Facebook at Shamrock Soaps.

The Product Reviews

Kick Your Bum Foot and Body Balm

I have always had an issue with dry skin on my feet, so bad, I am sad to admit, they could be on one of those infommercials. They can get so dry and cracked, it hurts to walk. When Heather offered me the chance to try a product, and I saw she had something for dry feet, I figured, what the heck.

I have tried lots of other options, lotions, creams and butters. They are messy to apply and make me slide around in my socks. I never stick to a program with those products even though I know I should. I’m still a guy, remember. So, honestly, I did not know what to expect when I said I would try the foot balm.

I was very pleasantly surprised. The foot balm comes in a tube, kind of like a pushpop, and is very easy to apply. Rubbed a little into my heels, put on some socks and went to bed. The next morning I saw a noticeable improvement. After a few days, my heels looked like normal people feet, and I have used the balm every day since. I can honestly say my feet have not felt or looked this good for a very long time. The instructions say use at night, but since I really don’t like sleeping in socks, I put it on my feet after my morning shower, don the socks, and head off for my day.

If there was any negative, it would be the fragrance. Let me try that again, the fragrance is fine, for a woman, or a girl, but when your 6’5″ and built like an ex football player, you probably should not smell like flowers. I think it is Lavender, but that’s a guy guess. Obviously I didn’t mind and am secure enough with my masculinity to have used it everyday for nearly two weeks. Actually the smell is relaxing, but would probably not fit most mens grooming routines.

I recommend this highly, 5 stars (out of 5) and will continue to use it. You can see the product on the Shamrock Soaps Etsy shop at Kick Your Bum Foot and Body Balm

Subtle hint to Heather, maybe a balm that smells like the beer soap? No pressure ;)

Irish Stout Beer Soap

And speaking of beer soap, how could I not try something made with Irish Stout.

Great soap, lathers really well and has a nice smell which is described as hoppy on the website. Not sure I would say hoppy, as that makes me think of an IPA, but it is a very nice, natural scent. Not at all like beer, so you don’t need to worry about smelling like a six-pack when you get to work. The site also recommends using it as a shampoo, which I did not try, sorry. It did not dry out my skin like some soaps.

Any negative would be it only lasted two weeks, but thinking about that a little more, I have never judged long how long a bar of soap lasts, so maybe that is normal.

I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can see the product at the Shamrock Soaps Etsy shop at Irish Stout Beer Soap.

The Giveaway

Shamrock Soaps will be giving three lucky people the product of their choice and free shipping for that product. To see the products, visit the website and the online shop.

To Enter the Giveaway

To enter, simply add your name, email and a short comment in the comment section below (emails will not be displayed and will be used ONLY for the purposes of this giveaway).  Entries will be accepted  until midnight on October 31st, 2014 and the winners will be chosen at random on November 1st from the comments on this post. Entrants must also either LIKE the Shamrock Soaps Facebook page OR sign up for the Shamrock Soaps newsletter on the sites homepage to be eligible to win.

Good Luck!

Rhythm of Ireland Feis 2014, Grades Review

Booster LogoThe Rhythm of Ireland hosted their annual feis on Saturday October 18th and Sunday October 19th, returning to Williamsburg after a one year hiatus (held in nearby Portsmouth in 2013). This review covers the morning session of Grades, which featured Beg and Ad Beg of all ages, Novice u10 and below and PW U11 and below. Champs danced Saturday and Nov U11 and older and PW U12 and older all danced after lunch.


The Doubletree by Hilton was the site of the feis. It’s a huge venue, with enormous  ballrooms and plenty of space for vendors. It’s a very nice hotel and a feis rate was offered. It was nice to have the feis back in Williamsburg.


Grades danced on 6 different stages, in 3 rooms. The size of the rooms was plentiful and not once did you feel crammed. The stages themselves, at least in the room my dancer was in were extremely slippery. Never have I seen so many dancers fall or slip. I lost count after 5. That’s five too many. The stages were on the small side and initially they had the dancers dancing 3 at a time. This was a poor move on the part of the feis organizers and thankfully the dances after reel were danced 2 at a time.

Score 4

Feis Flow

The feis began on time (8:30 am) starting with figures. Once stages 5 and 6 finished with figures they began Reels, unbeknownst to the kiddos still dancing figures on stages 3 and 4. It wasn’t until all the reels on stages 5 and 6 were completed that they finally decided to get the other stages caught up. They did this by halting all comps on 5 and 6. This oversight did not sit well with many parents. Gladly, they did allow any dancer who missed their reel to dance it without penalty. The stoppage of about 15 minutes could have been prevented had solo’s not begun until all stages were finished with figures. Once stages 5 and 6 re-started they moved quickly through the next dances. Set’s were held up a little while as they had to wait for some comps to finish. The lunch break was listed on the schedule, occurring at approx 11:15 am.

Originally the U11 treble reel and U10 PW non trad set were scheduled at the end of the day. ROI responded to emails by moving these comps to the morning, which made more sense. Probably an oversight on their part originally and they corrected the error.

Score 5


The dancers rotated between two stages for core dances. That means they were judged by only 2 adjudicators. We prefer having more than two Adjudicators judge the dancers, but realize this isn’t always possible. Judges were attentive and provided comments.

Score 8

Normally this is where Awards and Results get combined. Not this review. They are each deserving of their own special summary.


As usual, the results were turtle slow. And by turtle slow I mean girls and boys completed comps by 11 am and didn’t receive some results until 1:00 pm. No excuses, they messed this one up (again).

Score 1. Interestingly Efeis emailed the results posted online results by 4 pm.


Never have I been so disappointed with awards. First of all, they only “placed” (meaning you got your name up on the sheet of paper) roughly 40% of dancers. 50% is the norm in our experience. Then, they told the dancers that any place lower than 4th, even if the name was listed on the result sheet, would not receive ANYTHING. So, not only did they place such few dancers (less than 40%), they physically awarded even less. Then, we noticed that those running the scores began to fold over the results sheets so not to show the 5th place and below dancers. I know this because I looked to see what was under the folded part of the paper. And, once efeis put the scores up online, I noticed my dancer always placed well above the 50% mark, but twice was left off the sheet of paper, or the paper was folded over and therefore wasn’t able to receive an award that she earned. By the judges eyes, those dancers were deserving of an award. Purposely not displaying names was a cop out on the part of ROI.

Trophies were given for 1-4th place in PW and 1-3 place Novice. We saw plenty of broken trophies which demonstrates the lack of quality. Medals (nice ones with ribbons) were given for 1-3 place in Beg/Ad Beg and maybe some other comps, but by this point I was too tired and frustrated to find out for sure. Set and Treble reel champions received small medals, as did anyone who placed. Out of 20 dancers in a treble reel, only 4 dancers received an award. Set and Treble reel champions weren’t even awarded with a trophy. Most feiseanna recognize these “special” comps with great hardware. The awards had to be the most disappointing experience as a feis parent. Can a WTF reviewer give a score of zero? If so, that’s the score.

Score 0

NOTE FROM WTF You can give whatever score you want, it is your review ;) 


Plenty of space to camp, and moreover there were a generous amount of chairs to sit. Restrooms were clean and close to the comps.

Score 10


Head for the World, Fab Rince, Goin Feising, Yours truly Photography, Celtic Vine, Earth traditions, Fireball designs, ishopirish. Plentiful and their placement in the lobby area was good.

Score 10


Outside food allowed and of course you could purchase food/coffee at the hotel. Ice cold water and cups were at the back of every ballroom and outside the results area.

Score 9

Social Media/Release of schedule

ROI has a facebook page but didn’t post results or any information during the feis Saturday. They also didn’t post pictures or results from the Champs on Saturday, but they did post information on their FB page as to when comp results would be announced. They could have used social media a lot better and hopefully next year they will. Feis schedule posted early in the week and a competitor list was also published.

Score 6


The results were slow, painfully slow, and not one volunteer could tell us why. The venue is very nice and roomy. Location wise, it’s good to have it back in Williamsburg. The vendors offered lots of selections, important for those shopping for Oireachtas and the school had a raffle table with nice prizes. I don’t want to give this feis a score because I am very upset over the results and awards. But, I want to see what score you give the ROI feis so please vote below and be sure to leave some feedback. After all, a feis cannot improve if they don’t know which areas they were weak in.

Thanks! CC

Well, now it’s your turn, what did you think?

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Feis An Fhomhair 2014 Review

gargoyleleftThe Feis An Fhomhair, hosted by the Irwin School of Irish Dancing, was held on October 10-12, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta.


The Feis An Fhomhair takes place at the Hyatt Regency Calgary, in the heart of downtown.  Guest rooms are wonderful, service staff is attentive and friendly, and the special “feis rate” brings the cost down to a manageable level for families.  The Hyatt has underground parking (with a special rate for feis attendees.)  I did not notice other downtown parking near the hotel.

Stages were set up in the large meeting rooms on the 3rd floor.  A/B and C/D were in the larger room, and E/F was in the smaller space immediately adjoining. My dancer reports that the stages here are wonderful for dancing, each year.  They seem adequately spacious.  There was plenty of seating for observers.

Vendors were set up in large hallway outside of competition rooms.  A nearby room had solo dresses for sale ($5 charge to hang you dress,)  results on the wall, and the table where the professional photographer sold his shots of your dancer.  Farther down the hallway was a dance practice room.

Feis Flow

The schedule called for FIGURES and ADULT competitions on Friday night.   PRELIM and OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS on Saturday.  FIRST FEIS to PRIZEWINNER competitions on Saturday.

Feis administrators, announcers, and stage monitors in general did a fine job communicating to dancers when to check in.  (the announcer on E/F Sunday does need instruction on using a microphone.) They seemed very focused on not having downtime. My one criticism of getting dancers checked in early was on Sunday a.m. : competitions started with First Feis dancers.  These dancers were checked in and sitting side-stage for 10 minutes waiting for judges and musicians to arrive.

Judges & Musicians

There was an adequate number of judges, who rotated stages regularly.  Musicians were very capable.  Each stage had a fiddle and an accordion.  There was a little bit of sound interference from one room to the other.


Feis An Fhomhair draws many vendors, who set up near the competition rooms.  Dance shoes, Solo dresses, tiatraas and buckles and jewelry, snacks, shirts and jackets and bags (including Zuca bags,) were all available.  The School also hired professional photographers who sold pix of dancers on stage.  (Not sure how distracting it is to dancers to have the photographers snapping shots as they compete.)


Besides the vendor selling snacks, the Hyatt Regency has  a coffee and baked goods shop in the lobby that also sells snacks and bottled drinks, as well as two restaurants.  I’m not aware of restrictions on bringing outside food into the feis;  some folks did.


Results were posted in a room just down the hall from the competition rooms.  It didn’t take too long for the results to be posted.  I especially appreciate that at Feis An Fhomhair, a paper copy of each dancer’s results is included in the cost of registration, and can be picked up after a dancer completes her/his dances.

Things to do around the Feis

Beyond the feis, downtown Calgary also has its attractions.  The Calgary Tower is just a block from the Hyatt, and Chinatown with its many restaurants is only a four-block walk.  The Calgary Zoo is highly regarded, and you can take the train (that stops at the Hyatt) straight there.  Numerous shops and restaurants are within easy walking distance of the Hyatt Regency, including a McDonald’s.

 Did you attend? What did you think?

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The Shoe Shine Post

idblHardShoesWhat The Feis do you do to get her shoes that shiny?

A few people have asked about what I do to get TGC’s (that is The Girl Child in case you are new to my blog) shoes looking the way they do. Its easy, step 1, join the Navy, step 2, go to boot camp… OK, so maybe that is a little extreme, but it is how I learned. I use a technique commonly called ‘spit shine’ or ‘bull polishing’, but don’t worry, there is no actual spit or bulls involved

Please note, I have put as much detail into this as I could to try to describe the process. There are actually very few steps, but I tried to list all the little nuances to consider and be aware of. I am not big on videoing, and I can’t hold a camera and polish shoes at the same time anyway, so this is going to have to do. I will gladly demo in person, at the hotel bar, the night before a feis, by appointment only ;).

Bringing Back the Spit Shine

Here is a list of what you need to get the shine in the pictures, the After, not the Before

  • Kiwi Black Shoe Polish in the little round can, not a bottle or anything with a spongy applicator
  • Old tshirt, white – cut into small pieces. I guess it doesn’t have to be white, but that’s what I always use.
  • Small container of hot water – the water helps the polish stick to the shoes instead of the tshirt.
  • A beverage – suggested, not required
  • Time
  • Patience

NOTE: The shiny shoes in the pictures where shined with a very old can of Kiwi (at least 13 years old if memory serves). Recently I bought their latest product as my old can is nearly empty, but I am not impressed with the shine. It is OK but no where near the shine I can get with the older stuff. I have not tried their ‘Parade Shine’ product, which I am hoping will be more like the polish I am used to, and will let you know when I do. Bottom line, your mileage may vary.

I have a plethora of old white tshirts from my Navy days, so I use those to apply the polish. I assume any tshirt will work though. Cut the tshirt into small pieces so that you can wrap it around your finger covering the tip, while being able to hold it securely with at least two layers of shirt between you and the shoe as you apply the polish.

For the container of water, use something you won’t mind getting polish on, because inevitably you will get polish on it. Keep the lid off a can of spray paint or hairspray, and add that to your shoe shine kit.

A little polish, a little water, and little circles

  1. Wrap a piece of tshirt around your finger and dip it in the warm water, just moist, not really wet. Wipe both shoes with the damp tshirt to get any dirt and debris off them.
  2. Grab a new piece of shirt, wrap it around your finger again with at least two layers of tshirt covering your finger. This ‘helps’ keep your finger clean, but you will probably get some polish bleed through. You can try more than two layers, but I always go with two and just deal with the black finger tip.
  3. Making sure the tshirt is secure, dip your finger in the water like in step one, and then get a small bit of polish on your fingertip. Start applying polish to the shoe in small circles, about the size of a Kennedy half-dollar, or the diameter of a ping pong ball for you people who have no idea how big a KHD is ;)
  4. Repeat Step 3, a lot.

beforeShineI tend to blacken the entire shoe, laying polish in pretty heavy to damaged areas. Make sure it is rubbed in well, and there are no thick spots that can rub off easily and give a spotted cow look to your poodle socks.

After the entire shoe is evenly blackened, I start working on the front of the shoe and toe. You can shine the entire shoe, but the top and front is the focus area, besides the fact that doing the entire shoe will completely eat up your Friday night. I repeat step 3, continuously, still working in small circles. I keep the tshirt moist and will occassionally get a dab of polish first, and then a small dip of water on top of it, and continue the process. There is no rhyme or reason to when to dip polish first or water first, just make sure you don’t get the tshirt too wet.

To get things really shiny, the objective is to get the polish spread over the entire area (remember, I focus just on the top and front of the shoe for the ‘mirror’ shine). Going over the area repeatedly builds layers of polish and helps fill in the grain of the leather. You are not really going to shine the leather, you are going to shine the polish on the leather, so having the leather grain filled in and having a smooth coat of polish is important.

Occasionally, check the condition of the tshirt on your fingertip, as I find that the tshirt can get rough with use and can actually scratch the polish instead of getting a smooth application. You may consider swapping it out for a fresh piece or rearraging it so you are using a clean section of the same piece. This is also the reason I do not use a shoe shine brush. I know they are intended for buffing, but I tend to think they have more of a scrathy effect.

afterShineRepeating the process above will begin to bring on the shine, so keep going until you are satisfied with it. Remember, you will have to do the other shoe and they ‘should’ match, so plan ahead for time.

To finish off, after I have the polish worked in and start to get a nice shine, I will keep going with the little circles(making sure the shirt is not scratchy), even when the last bit of polish is rubbed in from the cloth. As long as the shirt is soft, gentle circles after you have plenty of polish applied will shine the polish. You will actually learn to feel the difference between the ‘raw’ leather and one with a good coat of polish because the cloth will slide more easily over the shoe.

Finally, I will breathe onto to the toe and go over it a little bit more with the cloth, and repeat that a few times. I have it in my head that the warm breath heats the polish a little, and finishes off the shine nicely. I don’t know why I think that, but I have been polishing shoes like this for a very long time, so…

Depending on the condition of the leather and how well the polish is going on, this can take quite a bit of time. I have literally spent an hour on one shoe, so I find it best to set aside a lot of time, put on some mindless tv, grab a beverage, and go to it. It should not take as long the next time, because you have a base of polish on the shoe, but if you go a while between shines, you may have to spend some time on them again. In the peak of feis season, when I am doing the shoes every week or so, I can do both in about 30 minutes, which is probably longer than you spend on them now so plan, you don’t want to get one done and run out of time.

And thats it, really. I know there is a lot of detail there, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. If you boil it all down, it is just a little polish, a little water, and little circles. I would love to see how yours come out. Take before and after pictures. You can post them on the WTF page(s) if you want. Be careful though, if you get really good at it, people will ask you for lessons, trust me ;)

Pat Roche Feis 2014, Grades Review

logocolorThe 2014 Pat Roche Feis was held on October 11-12, 2014 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont II. This was our first time attending this feis, and we attended only the first day, which was for grades.  PC/OC is not covered in this review, as those competitions were held the second day.


The feis was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention center.  The location was convenient — right near Chicago’s O’Hare airport, and easily accessible from the highway.

Parking (in a garage across the street from the venue) was $13 for the day, which is not bad by Chicago standards, but pricier than many other feiseanna, and at that amount, is something that needs to be built into the budget for the day.

There was a bit of a walk (through skywalks) from the parking lot to the feis location, but once we arrived, registration was right inside, and my dancer was checked in quickly and easily.

The convention center space allocated to the feis was generous.  There was plenty of room for camping, practicing, etc.  Since this was a VERY large feis (I believe around 1,200 dancers), and my dancer is fairly young, we were happy to find a spot away from all the noise & chaos so we could have some down time between dances.

The feis had 8 stages this year, and all were used for grades dances.  The stages were set up with 4 on each side of one end of the space.  The stages were close together, with curtained partitions separating them.  My dancer’s stage saw several slips & falls, which leads me to believe that the plywood on that one might need to be replaced.  I did not notice any attempts to mop or otherwise fix the issues, which was unfortunate.

Vendors were plentiful & did not disappoint.  There were several wig/tiara/bling vendors, as well as a few selling Irish clothing & household items.  We had Grandma with us, and she did quite a bit of holiday shopping in between my dancer’s competitions. J

Restrooms were plentiful & relatively clean.  I never had to wait in line in the ladies room, which was nice.  Toilet paper & paper towels were in stock all day.

Overall Venue Score: 8/10


My dancer danced 5 times & was seen by 4 judges.  That is excellent rotation, in my opinion.  I do wish more comments had been left, though, as my dancer received only 1, and was left  wondering why her placements in a couple of dances were significantly lower than usual.

Judge Score: 7/10


As I said before, I could not hear the music well from the audience, but my dancer could hear fine.  I heard no complaints about any of the musicians, and the one on  my dancer’s stage seemed enthusiastic and happy to be there.

Music Score:  10/10


The feis had a concession stand with pizza, chips & other similar items.  There was not much variety or much of anything healthy, and prices were, in my young dancer’s words “a rip off”.   A small bottle of water was $3.50, and prices only went up from there.  However, there was no ban on outside food (although no coolers were allowed) at this feis, so those who prefer to bring their own food can do that.

Food Score:  5/10


This is where this feis went south, in my opinion.  We waited almost 45 minutes for the results from my dancer’s last competition.  We wait until my dancer has completed all her dances to check results, so I don’t know if that was a fluke or the norm, but I did notice that many competitions were posted out of order, so it did seem like there was some trouble overall in this area.

Additionally, placements were very limited.  It appeared that only about 25% of the dancers in a competition were placed.  While I don’t believe every child needs to come away from every feis with an award, I do think that placing only 25% of the kids at such a large feis (and one that is close to the Oireachtas & therefore has a lot of VERY strong competition) is pretty stingy.

Medals were awarded for all grades placements, and large trophies were given out for 1st place in Open Prizewinner.  Both medals & trophies were very nice quality.

Results/Awards Score: 5/10

Feis Flow

For grades, this feis was run by dance.  Most stages were single age groups, but a few had 2 ages.  Because there are more grades dancers in the U9-U11 age groups than in others, this meant that dancers were not evenly distributed across the stages & some stages finished much earlier than others.

Additionally, due to its proximity to the Oireachtas, this feis attracts many ceili entries.  Several stages had to be held in the morning because dancers were dancing ceilis on other stages, so many dances were delayed immediately, which was unfortunate.

The feis organizers did move dances off the slower stages & on to open stages as the day progressed, but dancers in the large age groups definitely had a VERY long day.  My dancer started dancing around 9:30 and was not finished until nearly 4:00.

The lunch break was well communicated & dancing started up again promptly after 30 minutes, but not all stages took a lunch break at the same time, which was confusing & made it difficult for anyone with multiple dancers to eat lunch.

There was also an issue with one of the treble reels, which was to be held as the last dance on one of the stages, but was instead delayed for 3 hours while dancers on other stages finished.  Had all lunch breaks been taken at the same time, the Treble Reel could have been held at lunch, and dancers who were done soon after would not have had to sit around and wait for so long.

Feis Flow Score: 4/10

Overall Score:  6.5/10

Not bad overall.  We are not likely to return next year, as the long day was too much for my young dancer, but I would be willing to try this one again when she is older.

What Do You Think?

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Gem City Feis 2014 PC/OC Review

gcfThe Gem City Feis was held on October 11th, 2014 at the Dayton Airport Expo Center in Vandalia, OH (basically attache to the Dayton International Airport, 15 minutes north of Dayton proper).

This is the third review I have done for Gem City, but I have been to the feis numerous times. If you would like to review the previous reviews, see this page.


As I have said in the past, the Expo Center is a great venue for a feis. Lots of space, nice size stages, nice separation between the stages, etc… My big peeve with this venue is the assigned camping area. If I was to refer to last years review, I said:

…last year I also said “probably could have taped off a bigger area for camping then they actually did, since the camping filled up and became difficult to navigate in and out of, but the annoyance was minor” and maybe I was a little too subtle. There is a ton of open area that could have been used for camping, but they taped off the same inadequate area this year and people were openly irritated. TAPE OFF A BIGGER CAMPING AREA IN 2014 PLEASE!

Well that went over well… not. Same area as the past few years, too small, too cramped, too frustrating. I won’t ask for a bigger area for 2015 since past attempts have gone SO well, but if someone from the committee reads this, I actually have an idea on how to expand the area.

Next peeve for this year was the temperature. The PC/OC end of the venue was very warm, while the opposite end was almost chilly because they had opened two of the large garage doors on that end of the building.

Lastly, stages. Stage size was great with PC/OC stages being 32 x 32 or bigger, but stage condition was horrible. I saw numerous falls, one resulting in the dancer being carried off the stage and transported by wheel chair a little later. The feis committee mopped at lunch, and occasionally between comps, but it did not seem to help much. Stage 2 actually stopped comps and moved one of the floor panels after numerous dancers fell on it, including the dancer in the wheel chair.


Typical for Champs, three judges, all attentive and two of the them on our stage were not familiar to me, which was a nice change. The other thing I realized which has not been the norm for TGCs results, was that all three judges scored her evenly. Typically (it seems), TGC will do great with two judges and meh with the third. I always wonder how she can score so differently, but this time that was not in question. All the judges saw the same dance ;)


I did not encounter any issues here. When the stage musician was playing, the other stages music was not a distraction. I did hear that the musician on Stage 2 was erratic with her tempos, but I did not encounter that, and TGC had no problems with the music.


Vendors seemed lighter than years past. Balinvilla was there (sans George, but he is doing well according to Betsy), the wig ladies, the feis t-shirt guys, and one other t-shirt guy. No real Irish nick-nacks, no Irish M&Ms… TGC was sad.


Convention Center food, pretzels, pizza, salad and sandwiches. They did have a nice fruit and cheese plate which I thought a nice option. Drinks were also available, coffee, water, soda and beer. I thought prices were high however, $2.50 for a bottle of water and over $5 for a pretzel and soda. The fruit and cheese will set you back $9. My advice, plan ahead. There are options fairly close if you are familiar with the area and easy to find if you are not, so brown bag it ;)


Gem City does a nice job with the PC/OC results and have an area set off in one corner to do the presentations. The presenter gives plenty of time for pics and makes an extra effort to make sure everyone is done taking pics before she had the dancers bow.

The awards are gems, and all placers get one. TGC got a Prizewinner gem last year and scored a placement gem this year and I think the PC/OC gems are bigger. A little sad that there were no sashes because trying to wear your gem could cause significant bodily harm due to their size.

If there were any negatives about the awards (other than no sashes) it would be the area proximity to Stage 1 made it hard to hear the award announcements when Stage 1 was going at it. Secondly, they had a bunch of lovely pumpkins lined up right in front of the podium and although it looked nice, I think it made it hard for the winners to get up on the podium. Maybe next year, add some space between the pumpkins and the podium.

It took about an hour for results to come out after TGCs comp was done dancing, which is a bit better than average.

Feis Flow

Feis Flow when things were going was not bad, and according to the stage estimator Mrs. WTF used, TGC was right on schedule. The ‘issue’ was the Treble Reels.

Scheduled to start during lunch, they were repeatedly delayed, and at one point they announced that it would be “AT LEAST 20 more minutes” before they started. If I had to guess, lunch on stage 2 started at 12ish and the Treble Reels didn’t go till closer to 130. If anyone has more exact info, please let me know.

Other than that, from my perspective, flow was pretty good.


Positives and negatives… venue was great, stages, not so much, awards were nice, flow had its hiccups, vendors were limited, food was pricey. I would place this around 6 or 7, your mileage may vary.

What did you think?

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Greensboro City Feis 2014 Grades Review for U10 and Below

The 2nd annual Greensboro City Feis, held on Saturday October 4th and Sunday October 5th was sponsored by the Walsh Kelley School. After a not so stellar venue in 2013, the organizers secured a different hotel for 2014 -The Greensboro Marriott Downtown.This review will cover my opinion of the U10 and below comps. U11 and above danced later in the day.


The venue was much improved from last year. Overall it was more spacious, both the dance room, vendor room, and hotel lobby. A feis rate of $119.00 was offered (plus parking). There was ample parking in the garage adjacent to the hotel but it wasn’t free. There are restaurants in walking distance however the area around the hotel might be best visited in the daylight and with a group of people. Initially the dance room was stuffy then the air kicked on and it was noticeably cooler.

Score 8

Stages and Seating

The Feis was held on the bottom, or lobby floor of the hotel. Grades stages were run on on 2 stages (one huge stage divided) and featured a raised stage The stages were durable and not slippery. The size was small/average and dancers went two at a time. On the far end of each stage was a column type support beam which obstructed the view of the audience, though it *seemed* like the judges, who were seated below the stage could look out and around the column. For the young ones the stage size was not an issue, I am interested to read what U11 and above thought. The raised stage created some excitement among the dancers, especially those who will be attending Oireachtas and don’t normally dance on a raised stage.

Score 7.5


Dancers rotated stages for each dance. There were 4 adjudicators (from Mid America and West region) -2 sat on one stage, two at the other and they took turns judging the comps. My dancer was judged by 3 of them. All left comments.

Score 9


Only one musician was needed at this feis, and he (Mark Arrington) did a fabulous job. Music could be heard just fine by the dancers and audience.

Score 10


Coolers were allowed at the feis which is always a plus. No food or snacks were offered by the host school,which probably had to do with the proximity of the hotel restaurant which hotel was literally behind the room the dancers danced. After the feis it was convenient to go sit and eat. Somewhat pricey, though what you would expect from a hotel.

Score 8


Again, this is a small feis so the there were only two vendors ( Fab Rince and Callahans) but they sold the most popular kind of Irish Dance needs. I don’t think either were selling shoes but please correct me if I am wrong.

Score 7 (8 if shoes were offered)


The room for dancing was not conducive to camping, but there were a good number of chairs set up for guests. I learned quickly though that if my dancer was on Stage 2, then the best area for viewing was close to stage 1 and visa versa. Outside the dancing room people camped along the hallway. The lobby was huge and offered a nice respite from the action. The second floor (staircase from the lobby or elevator) was also roomy and offered a good place for dancers to practice.

Score 7


Close to the dancing room. Again this was a smaller sized feis and not all ages danced at the same time so long lines for the bathroom did not exist (thankfully!!)

Score 10

Feis Flow

The feis began on time (8:00) with the beginners dancing all of their dances. Next up were the AB/Nov/PW for U10 and below. The last dance for this group was the U10 non traditional set which commenced at 11:10. Figures went next, then lunch, and finally U11 and above, Beg/AB/Nov/PW. The organizers underestimated the time U11 would start by over an hour. Though the stage schedule read u11- Not before 10:20, it was probably more like noon. Per the committee, the feis ended by 4:00 pm. Better feis math will prevent the second group (U11 and above) from showing up too early. If I were to score just for my dancer’s comps, I would rate this a 9, but realistically and thinking what the next group thought, it deserves a lower

Score 6

Awards and Results

Results were posted in an adjacent, very large room (the vendors were also in this room along with the dress rack). Let me restate it was a large room! As far as results go I have to tip my hat to the organizers. They had those results up swiftly, at least for the U10 and below group. PW received trophies for 1-3 places, and medals for any place below 3rd. The trophies noted the placement and the first place trophies were taller than 2 and 3. Medals were given for Beg-Nov. groups. Medals came with ribbons.

Score 10

Overall Score 8

If you were at the 2013 feis in Greensboro and decided not to return in 2014, you missed out on a good feis. It was 100% better than last year leading me to believe the feis committee is open to criticism and suggestions and willing to seek measures to improve. Walsh Kelley *usually* schedule their feisianna with younger dancers dancing in the morning and older age groups in the afternoon. If that schedule suits you, then come on down to Greensboro in 2015. I know we will be there!

Cheers, CC

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Pittsburgh Feis Eats

One of the reasons I like to travel is for the food, and when I find a family friendly place near the venue I like to point it out, especially when it is a ‘local’ place that might be easily missed. I found one this weekend during the Halloween Feis.

85596488_scaled_110x110After having spent the previous week on the coast, I was actually tired of seafood, so when Mrs. WTF asked what I wanted for dinner, I said chicken wings. We did a Google search and found there was a Buffalo Wild Wings nearby, but those are everywhere. We also found a little place called Wings, Suds and Spuds that had some favorable ratings, so we gave it a shot.

A small place in Moon Township, about 10 minutes from the Hyatt, WSS is a family-run business. When we pulled in to a packed (albeit smallish) parking lot, I knew we were on to something, and once inside, I could smell the ‘wingy’ goodness. The restaurant is small, but is family-friendly and serves hot wings and cold beer as well as salads, sandwiches etc… You can see the full menu here.

I like wings and these were pretty good, better than some I have had at the big-name restaurants. The wings were wet, and you could get them really wet, so they were messy, but the sauces were really good. I did half and half with half hot, and the other half hot cajun. Everyone else got boneless or tenders and curly fries and there was very little left by the time we were all through.

WSS has 5 or 6 different beers on tap and all the usual suspects in bottles. I was surprised that there were no BIG name brands on tap, not even Yuengling or Iron City, which I think is against the law, but nobody seemed to care.

Prices were comparable to the chicken chains, maybe a little higher, but it was worth it.

So, if you are looking for something other than hotel or fast food next time you are at a Pittsburgh Feis, look these guys up.

As always, WTF is not compensated for these endorsements…. if I could only find a way ;)

Pittsburgh Halloween Feis 2014, PC/OC Review

I have been to four (at least) feis at this venue between the Halloween Feis and The West Virginia Feis. Yes, I said WV. It is at the same venue as the Halloween Feis which is actually between Pittsburgh and WV, but I digress. My first few experiences (one & two) were not my favorite, but number three was much better. The fact that TGC has moved up into the PC ranks, really helps the ‘likeability’ of this feis since the champs portion is held on Sunday. Not taking away from the great job the feis team does on Saturday mind you, but Sunday is just better. Can I get a ‘yeah man!’

The Pittsburgh Halloween Feis was held on Saturday and Sunday, October 4th and 5th, 2014 at Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Pittsburgh Airport in Pittsburgh, PA.

NOTE: This is for the PC/OC day of the feis (Sunday). If you have comments for the Grades day of the feis, please contact me and I can share them in a separate post, thanks!

After re-reading my review of the WV Feis from March, my comments for this feis are almost exactly the same, so much so that I am just going to quote them here, and I will indicate any differences I noticed.


Stages 1 and 2 were in the large ballroom and were separated by a temporary partition. This was a much better setup than having 3 stages in the same room and allowed more chairs for viewers and better traffic flow. Combine that with less people and it was a win-win.

Stages were huge, I am guessing 30 x 30ish, or maybe bigger. It was hard to tell since they covered the normal 4 x 8 sheets of plywood (which is how I do my normal measuring) with that black material which made a much better dance platform. I did not see any falls and only one minor slip while I was watching the competitions.

Due to the level of the dancers, results were announced instead of posted. This was in the hallway on the way to the back doors and blocked the hallway completely, which was an inconvenience but only minor (depending of course on who you ask).

Camping seemed adequate and I saw no NO CAMPING signs. People did fill up viewers chairs and the tables that had been set up in one of the side rooms, but I rant about that elsewhere if you are interested. There were lots of chairs though, and we did not have any trouble finding seats.

The concessions and vendors were setup in the halls as in years past, but with less people, it wasn’t as congested.

Parking was plentiful but may have involved a bit of a walk depending on when you arrived. There was a way to pull right up to the hotel to drop off dancers and gear though. The feis did pay for parking which was cool and saved me $13.


PC/OC  always has 3 judges monitoring the performance. You really don’t get much better than that. The judges seemed attentive on our stage and took no breaks that I saw.


Each stage had their own musician and there was a lot of distance between them. I could not hear the music from the other stage when I was watching dancers perform on our stage.


Same as for the last feis, breakfast sandwiches… all reasonably priced.

We were not there long enough for lunch so I cannot comment on that food. There are some previous comments in previous posts.


They had the airbrush artist back which I like. Otherwise the standard feis tshirt guy, shoe booth, jewelry, feis and Irish themed apparel, knit goods, the wig stuff, nic-nacs, paddywacks, etc…


As the morning progressed I was more and more impressed that ‘the feis guy’ would come out and announce ‘awards for X will be in 5 minutes’ about 15 minutes after the comp finished. Based on previous PC experience, this is the best PC/OC results I have seen. TGCs comp did take longer than the others, and was between 30 and 45 minutes, but there were a lot of dancers in her comp, so I can understand the extra time. Even with that, it was handled better than I have seen at this level so far.

I have to echo the same sentiment. Jim (the feis guy) does an excellent job keeping things moving. TGCs results were out in about 30 minutes, and now that I have a few champ feiseanna under my belt, that is pretty darn good.

If there were any negatives on the reults, and these are minor… It would be nice if the top three in both steps were announced instead of just first place. This seems to be the norm elsewhere and it seemed NKR (not quite right) when it wasn’t done here. Secondly, if Jim could slow down a little during the result reading, that would be good. If you have heard him, you know what I mean. That is one fast talker and his thick Pittsburgh accent doesn’t help ;)  NOTE: I realize I echo the same sentiment in the last review.

Feis Flow

Big KUDOS for feis flow. ‘The feis guy (aka Jim)’ I refer to above was outstanding keeping things going, and keeping people informed on what was going on.  I saw a continuous flow of dancers within and between comps, and there was very little down time.

Jim also ran the results and kept that smooth and quick. He does have a ‘not from around here’ accent and speaks quickly, and my wife had a hard time keeping up when he read results, but I had no trouble, of course my Mum has that same accent ;) .  If there was any comment, he could slow down a little.

From my viewpoint the flow was handled exceptionally well.

Side Note: Although I did not attend Day 1 of the feis, we pulled in shortly after 4 and were surprised to see day 1 had already wrapped up. That is one quick feis. Nice job.


I think Jim and his team do an outstanding job and from my perspective, this is one of the better run feis in the area. I would easily give it a 9+

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Back to Amanda’s Bequest

This is a follow up to a post I wrote last year, and some of the references may make more sense if you read that first. This is a bit more ‘story-tellish’ than most of my posts, and the story does not do it justice :)

ab1So a year after our discovery of a hidden gem in Montague, MI we returned to the Muskegon area for the 2014 Michigan Feis. It started with a Facebook message to Valerie, the proprietor, saying we were on the way. She let us know that she had other guests this year and that breakfast would be at 930. I replied that we would need to leave about 8 to get to the feis on time, and she need not worry about us, but shortly after, received a response saying we would not be leaving without breakfast, and that we could eat at 730.

ab2We arrived after dark and the front light was off, so we parked near the back and went in through the back as the kitchen light was on. Valerie met us in the kitchen with hugs and a smile. NOTE: I think we got the hugs because we were repeat customers. She had warm cider and home made donuts and cupcakes waiting, and after we got settled in our room, we came back down. We met a young German couple, B & K, also repeat guests, who had also stumbled across Amanda’s for their first visit. We sat around the table and swapped stories about whatever, ate donuts, drank cider, and somebody had snuck in some beer.  We laughed and acted like people would have before the onslaught of technology. I am beginning to think this house has that effect on people.

ab3The next morning I got up early and while Mrs. WTF and TGC got ready upstairs, I went downstairs and found Valerie, once again in dress and apron getting breakfast ready. There was a large skillet of sausage gravy and the blue coffee pot on the stove. John was there to, and he got me a cup of coffee, and I moved off to a seat in the corner of the kitchen and took it all in. Sitting in that kitchen is like going back in time, not just the decor, but the feeling. There is just a sense of calm and maybe it is because it reminds me of my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s kitchens, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter why.

ab4The women folk came down, and we were seated. For breakfast we had fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, sausage, gravy, toast, a homemade cinnamon jelly, and more coffee. John and Valerie joined us and had coffee while we ate, making sure our cups stayed full and that we were well fed. Everything was as it has been, wonderful.

ab5We finished up and went on our merry way. The feis was good, made all that much better by TGC’s (The Girl Child in case you have stumbled upon this and are not familiar with all the players) great results in the competition. Since she had done so well, she was invited back for the Parade of Champions at the Michigan Irish Music Festival (MIMF) which coincides with the feis weekend. Since we would have to be back that evening, we skipped going to the MIMF right after the feis which had been our norm, and went back to the B&B for a little rest between the events. I was not surprised to find fresh made fall pies waiting, but we would have to wait till Sunday morning before partaking. There were still donuts and cider though.

We opted for rest instead of exploring the yard, seeing the chickens and ducks and rabbits as we had last year, and since the last time, they added a small pond. Plus, since we were back at the festival in the evening, we missed the opportunity for a bonfire which was another of the highlights of our last stay.

ab7The MIMF was fun as always, but a lot more crowded in the evening than we were used to in our afternoon visits. Suffice it to say the crowd was a bit more ‘boisterous’ as well, so we retired before 11 and went back to Amanda’s Bequest.

Sunday greeted us with another wonderful breakfast, starting with the pies made the day before. The Sunday morning pie tradition, we found out later, had been going on for about a year, and we believe we were the first (or one of the first) guests to enjoy this new tradition in 2013. The fall pie was excellent, but I really prefer the Heritage Apple Pie Valerie makes (shh, don’t tell her). A breakfast bake followed, with fresh salsa made from ingredients from the garden in the back yard, toast, jam and coffee, and excellent company. The German couple had been replaced by a ‘foodie couple’ who both worked in the industry, and the conversation was lively and educational. It even came out that Valerie had developed a curriculum to teach children the basics of heritage cooking, and that she had not only successfully taught her program, but that it has been gaining popularity in Michigan and was being adopted by various agencies to help children.

ab6Some time later, with bellies full and minds freshly expanded, we said our goodbyes to Valerie and John. It isn’t often that I am so taken by a place, but the genuine relaxation I find there, plus Valerie’s cooking and the hospitality of both her and John make Amanda’s Bequest a must-see in your getaway plans if you are in that area. Admittedly, it is more expensive than local hotels, but it’s really hard to put a number on what you will walk away with. My hope is your experience will be like ours.