When I check out my site (after clearing cookies) my pages load in stages:
1. the color background
2. menu bars and type
3. background image
4. pictures

I put a color on the background because the pages were showing up as white.
I compressed the background image to 55kb.

Other websites with background images load all at once - no waiting for text or images. Why is mine so slow?
Check out empressvampire.com.