Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections on a Blessed Year

The change of a calendar year has always been a time of reflection for me. Even as a kid, I perceived the passing of time as something sacred and solemn. As 2010 draws to a close here in Palm Springs, I find reminders all around me of just how blessed I have been. To make a list of things for which I am grateful would be exhaustive and rather boring for you, gentle reader. But I would be remiss not to acknowledge just a few things for which I am especially grateful; good health, having a home shared with someone special, two beautiful nieces, and pets who bring joy to my life everyday- all these make me very grateful indeed. When I think back just one year ago to the day, I realize just how many blessings have come to me in the year.


It was a strange twist of fate that I will not get into here, but the upshot was the opportunity that presented itself that led to me joining the management team at Natural Balance. Without hesitation, I can say it was one of the best things that ever happened in my life. Over the past year I found a new perspective on work, just from a slightly different angle and it has made all the difference. 

Regular readers know that I deeply believe in karma and the power of positive energy in one's life. Practice random acts of kindness. Think good thoughts. Surround yourself with good energy- and remove any negative energy or toxic situations from your life. You'd be surprised at the results.  

Remember the wise Buddha Wisdom: "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world".

As the remaining hours in this year slip away take a moment to consider what you are grateful for and focus on the positive things. Greet the new year with a clear head filled with positive energy to create the world you want in 2011. I wish you all the best.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Get Ready for Another Amazing Rose Parade Float!

Most of you have no doubt heard of the Tournament of Roses Parade, more commonly known as The Rose Parade. For the past three years, my employer, Natural Balance Pet Foods has had a float in this granddaddy of American Parades. Dick Van Patten himself and his son Jimmy Van Patten, both ride on our float waving to the millions of people who watch the parade annually. Our float is known for having the amazingly talented, entertaining and world famous Tillman, the skateboarding bulldog. Along with Tillman are the other bulldogs Rose, Lyle and Sully all of whom will be skim boarding on the float. In addition, this year's float will also feature a group of Dock Diving Dogs who will be jumping into a pool while the Bulldogs do their thing on the lower level. With all the water in the float, we are seeking to break a new record for the World's Heaviest Parade Float. The officials from The Guinness Book of World Records will even be on site to inspect and certify our float!
We're now down to the last few days before this year's "Havin a Splash" parade float makes its debut to the world. Over 100 million people are expected to see the Rose Parade. The dogs have been in rehearsals for weeks and their trainers are confident, yet some level of fear is always lurking. Pictured at  left is "Porter", having fun but hard at work learning the routine. I hope you can watch the Rose Parade on January 1st and cheer on our float from home.

The Rose Parade is broadcast on nine TV stations, including, CBS, NBC, ABC, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, Tribune, Univision, RFD-TV and Sky Link TV. The parade begins at 8:00 AM Pacific time, so please tune in.
I'd really appreciate your vote for us as your favorite Rose Parade Float. You cannot vote until after the parade ends on January 1st. It's easy to vote for "Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods Float"  You can either text FLOAT39 to "50649" starting Jan. 1, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. PST or Vote online from the link below:
http://www.tournamentofroses.com/the-rose-parade/vote/viewers-choice-award


Oh, by the way, we have an awesome SWEEPSTAKES going on- click here to learn more.

Friday, December 24, 2010

However You Say It....

Mele Kalikimaka! 
Joyeux Noël! 
Nadolig Llawen!
Buon Natale!
Feliz Navid!
Froehliche Weinachten!
Nollaig Shona Duit! 
Feliz Natal!
Vrolijke Kerstmis!
Happy Christmas! 
Merry Christmas!



Monday, December 20, 2010

The Adventures of Sheldon and Duncan: The Christmas Portrait

For those of you with pets in your home, no doubt you will appreciate this post. As we're in the final stretch of the Christmas holiday week, I felt it was time to post this holiday photo. It was supposed to be better than it turned out, but the challenge is the subjects of the photo. This brings me to another installment of The Adventures of Sheldon and Duncan: The Christmas Portrait. I am a bit of a traditionalist with things like holiday photos and like everything just so. Both poodles went to the grooming salon for a bath, brush and fluff. Even Owen was clean, fluffy and ready for his close-up. I set the stage with a roaring fire, switched on the Christmas tree lights, and had the lighting just so. I positioned the kids in front of the tree, and on cue, Owen sauntered over to the fireplace and sat on the hearth next to his brothers. 

Sheldon sat up especially straight- he always tries very hard to please- so much so that he had a serious expression on his face. Duncan, on the other hand was smiling non-stop, and looking around. There I stood, giving all sorts of instructions and commands to the three of them, as if they actually understood my direction. They looked left. They looked right. They switched places. I kept clicking away, hoping for the one perfect photo. After a few minutes they became impatient, and just wanted a break. I insisted we try a few more shots. I could see tails wagging excessively, as if they had all they could do to hold back their excitement. 

Then the damn burst. Duncan couldn't hold it in any longer; he darted toward me, tail wagging, smiling broadly. "No-no, Duncan, SIT, SIT" I shouted. He looked at me bewildered. Sheldon remained sitting, but noticeably perturbed by his brothers outburst of emotion. Owen became squirmy and began grooming himself. I fetched some semi-moist dog treats to tempt them into submission. Both dogs were repositioned yet again, and while holding a treat in one hand I began snapping photos. Then the clock chimed- Duncan turned his head. Then an airplane flew overhead- Sheldon looked out the window. It was hopeless. I reviewed the photos captured thus far. Several were blurry. Several were just plain awful. One good one didn't have the kitty in it. One had all three of them, but no one was looking at the camera. ::sigh::

I looked back at my three children and realized they are the best pets for which a guy could ever ask. I smiled at them and called them to me. They were overjoyed with the calling and bounded toward me, licking my face in appreciation. It was then, at that moment I felt the Christmas Spirit. All was well, regardless of who was looking at the camera. We are a family, sharing our own Christmas joy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Watch Our TV Special This Weekend!

One of the really cool aspects of working at Natural Balance is the fun we have preparing for our awesome float in the Rose Parade. I mentioned yesterday that this year's float will set new records and be entertaining too. Our float has so much public interest, that once again a TV special was filmed and will air this weekend! "The Making of The World's Heaviest Float" shows the behind the scenes details of how we build the float, how the dogs train, and some of the drama behind it all. There are a few celebrity guests and sports legends who make appearances in the TV special. If you love dogs or sports, be sure to watch this show, or set your DVR to record it. Here are the air times on the stations I am aware of so far. If your city isn't listed below, try the WGN Superstation channel, you may be able to pick it up on their national feed, just check local listings.

  • KSWB/San Diego Sat 12/18 @ 430pm
  • KTLA/Los Angeles Sun 12/19 @ 5pm  & Sun 12/26 @ 4 pm
  • WPIX/New York Sat 12/18 @ 6:30pm    
  • WGN/Chicago Sat 12/18 @ 5pm  
  • WSFL-TV/Miami Sat 12/18 @ 6:30pm
  • WDCW/Washington, DC Sun 12/19 @ 5pm  
  • KZJO/Seattle Sun 12/19 @ 5pm  
  • KRCW/Portland Sat 12/18 @ 5pm  
  • WPHL-TV/Philadelphia   Sat 12/18 @ 5pm  
Tillman practices his skim boarding skills!
I wouldn't steer you wrong, this special is a lot of fun to watch, and its only a half hour so you can probably catch it before or after dinner. Wait til you see Tillman, Rose, Lyle, Sully and their Dock Diving Dog friends train, its a real treat. Hope you have a GREAT weekend! I'll be watching it with Sheldon and Duncan.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Awesome Post by Diane @CosmoHavanese

One of my blogger pals, Diane from the popular blog To Dog With Love wrote a really nice post about the Natural Balance Sweepstakes running online at PETCO.COM. She does a great job explaining how to win some really awesome free stuff and valuable prizes- and at the same time help feed dogs and cats in shelters too. So stop by Diane's blog and check out her post. PS- you can follow Diane on Twitter at @CosmoHavanese, its all about her Havanese named Cosmo who is one awesome dog!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Enter Weekly Sweepstakes & Feed Shelter Pets Too!

Regular readers of this blog know that I work for Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods. In addition to our expertise in pet nutrition, we also know how to have fun! For the past few years, we have had a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year's Day. Our float has been one of the most popular floats during the parade, thanks largely to Tillman and Rose, the world-famous skateboarding bulldogs (here is Rose above).
At last year's parade, the Guiness Book of World Records certified us as having the World's Longest Parade Float. This year, we have built what will be the World's Heaviest Parade Float, featuring Tillman, Rose and their other bulldog friends all skim boarding! They will also be joined by Dock Diving Dogs who will be jumping and swimming on the float at the same time.
  In early November we had an open casting call to find some of the best dock diving and skim boarding dogs in America to join us on the float. This photo at left shows all the dogs who made it, plus Tillman, Rose, Lyle and Sully who were on the float last year.
click banner above to enter the sweepstakes and learn more
  As part of all this fun, we partnered with PETCO on a special Sweepstakes to win really awesome prizes for the next few weeks. People can enter the sweepstakes online each week from PETCO.COM. The best part is with each entry per week, Natural Balance will donate a meal for a dog or cat to an animal shelter. In addition to this, if you are on Facebook, go to the PETCO page and the Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance fan page and click "Like" for each page. With every new "Like" those pages receive between now and January 1st, Natural Balance will also donate a meal for a dog or cat to a shelter! It's quick and easy to enter. All I ask is that you share this with your friends on facebook or Twitter. Let them know they can enter the sweepstakes, and help a shelter pet too. And mark your calendar to watch the Rose Parade on January 1st. Our float is going to be amazing and FUN!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rick's Roadshow: I Saw London, I saw Paris

Here is another installment of Rick's Roadshow: I Saw London, I Saw Paris. What is there to write about Paris that has not already been written? I cannot imagine anything at all. During my time in France, I remembered that my command of the French language is not as good as it once was, no, make that not ever as good as I thought it was. I studied French over 25 years ago, and have barely used it at all. I am good at ordering French wine, French cheeses, and French baguette, but that seems to be where my expertise ends. Well that's not entirely fair, I was fine with reading menus and such so that accounts for something, I reckon. During these austere times, it is probably best that I forego the details of my time in France. Instead I'll share just a few photos of the Louvre, Paris' famed museum known to millions of art lovers.
Stunning architecture of the Louvre
Even the gardens at the Louvre are romantic

Paris loves its arches, or should I say "Arc"

Really, this needs a comment?

All I could think of was Dan Brown's book

The French Police- angels on horseback, trumpets blaring.

This photo sums it up: grace, elegance and beauty.



















While shopping at Galeries Lafayette, I spotted this wonderful shop window and took this video clip. It is quite charming:

video
I've long thought that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities by night. Almost any Rue you cross, there are wonderful feasts for the eye throughout Paris. I always recommend walking back from dinner, as it is the best way to see this terrific city at its best.

Here I am in the lounge of a hotel, enjoying a very nice French Bordeaux, well a bottle actually. That plus some fresh bread, wonderful cheese, and snacky things. These are the moments that make Paris Paris, if you know what I mean. I don't smoke, but the only way to have made this a more French moment was if I were smoking and quoting philosophy whilst sipping my wine. Indeed, Paris is divine, even in the winter.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rick's Roadshow: Back in England

I've been especially quiet on the blog for the past few weeks, primarily because I've been out of town on a few extended trips and didn't want to broadcast that my home was empty. One of my destinations was to the United Kingdom. Welcome to another installment of Rick's Roadshow: Back in England. This trip was entirely vacation, so it was relaxation central! Having lived in the UK many years ago, it is always nice to be back for a visit. Here are some photos of Cliveden House, a luxury hotel in Berkshire, just outside of London. It is a short ride to the famed Eton, where Prince William attended school.
Cliveden House is a grand, stately English estate surrounded by 376 acres of perfectly manicured grounds and formal gardens. It has a rich, interesting history with numerous stories associated with its long list of illustrious guests. The property has great bones and plenty of details. Look closely at this wall, there are dragons on the sides of the posts. Others have lions and a range of other symbols from British Empire's history.
I was also fascinated by the wonderful manicured gardens, including this one at left. Here you can see the hedges trimmed with incredible precision. The photo below shows a side garden with some topiary. It is, however winter, therefore none of the flowers are in bloom as you can see. Nonetheless these grounds are idyllic for garden parties, receptions and weddings.

While in London I also saw the theatre in Leicester Square where Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part I had opened. As one can imagine, there was tremendous fanfare in London for the latest installment in the magical series. There were hundreds of people dressed as various Harry Potter characters- this is a city that seems to enjoy the series as much as here in the US.
 Samuel Pepys once said "A man who is tired of London is tired of life." I couldn't agree more. London is a vibrant city with a huge range of things to do and see. Truly there is something for everyone. After one particularly busy day out and about, I was in need of some soft lighting and a refreshing libation. A delightful  champagne lounge was just the trick- here I finally had a moment to exhale.
I spent a full day in Windsor and started off with a tour of Windsor Castle, the private residence of Queen Elizabeth II. It had been over 20 years since I was last at the castle, and I must say it was wonderful to be back again. 

Here is an exterior view of the Castle, with a nice statue of Queen Victoria, in front of a soon-to be decorated Christmas tree. It was rather chilly this day, thankfully I was properly dressed, including ear muffs! The cold wind was cutting. What I really needed was a nice cuppa.  Windsor Castle has over a thousand years of history with British monarchs. 
If you are visiting London and want to see a real castle, this one delivers- in spades. There is plenty to learn along the audio-guided tour, which one can navigate along at one's own pace and preference. 


I stopped frequently to admire details such as this one at St George's gate. Here he is, slaying a dragon. You don't often find this sort of stuff in the US. The multiple gift shops had loads of tempting wares, to which I succumbed in short order. The city of Windsor itself is quite charming; tea shops, pubs and British tourist trap gift shops aplenty-all of which enabled me to part with my money in short order.
When lunchtime rolled around, we made our way to an old pub, off the beaten path, probably frequented more by locals than tourists, or at least I had hoped. It was nothing extraordinary, and that was precisely what I liked best. It was exactly the sort of place one would go if one lived there. I had a very ordinary lunch, with a very ordinary pint of ale to wash it down. It was indeed, the best lunch of the entire week. Tomorrow I'll share a few photos from Paris...yes I'm back.

Disclaimers...

This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

It is for entertainment purposes only it, so just lighten up and just enjoy it. Life is short, live in the moment.

As the author, thoughts/views have no affiliation to my clients, business colleagues or my company.