... dance, fitness, food, health, life...

Monday, December 31, 2012

It just got real

How could I forget? Or was it not so much forgetfulness, but fear??

Time to be real.

In my last post, I reflected on 2012 and how the year was not the easiest year I've ever lived. In fact, it was quite rough. Challenging. Trying. A big pain in the arse much of the time, to be honest. I also reflected on the good stuff, for there was good stuff in the middle of the muck. I did get to marry my best friend, after all! I thanked the amazing people in my life, family and friends alike, who helped me through this crazy year.

But you know what? I forgot the numero uno person responsible for the beauty amidst the pain... God.

I've never really mentioned Him 'round these parts. I've wanted to. I've wanted to throw God and Jesus into the conversation, but I always held back for fear. I kept it under wraps for fear of offending. Fear of losing readers, friends. Fear that my membership card in the cool kids' club would be revoked. Fear that I'd lose my street cred.

But no mas, amigos. Living a double life is exhausting. And not true to who I am. This is me. Yes, world, I am a Jesus follower.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that no more living life as a double agent. This blog is not evolving into a religious blog. It's still the same ol' blog talking about dance, fitness, food and life (with plans for more focused talk in the coming year, which I will discuss in tomorrow's post). My musings are just going to be more transparent. When I feel that God is doing something or telling me something, no more charades.

Time to get real.

Happy New Year, y'all!!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reflect: 2012

This year was not an easy one. The year began with a sudden onset of pain and fatigue, to discover several months later that rheumatoid arthritis had taken up residence in my body and that it was a permanent companion. I was not able to finish the final semester of my dance degree due to financial constraints. I spent many months unemployed, adding to the squeeze. I uprooted and moved far away from my family, friends and home. I'm still nursing a homesick heart.

But despite the rough road that 2012 has been, the blessings and gifts helped me deal with the trials.

I got certified to teach the first year syllabus in the Vaganova (Russian) ballet technique. I got engaged. I got married. I moved across the country with a partner in crime. I'm getting reacquainted with West African dance in my new city. To name a few.

And the people! Oh the people in my life... I've never been without good supportive people, but this year I feel like I paid closer attention. My life would be a hot mess without my peeps.

I'm terrible, absolutely terrible, about writing thank you notes. I wish I weren't. I have no idea why, but sitting down to write out few thank-you notes just overwhelms me. It feels like such a chore. Lamesauce, I know. I'm working on it. Baby steps, folks. For the record: I have finally started my wedding thank-you's... hella late, yes, but as my blog indicates, this is how I roll...

Bronco girl in Steeler country. The Broncos are in the playoffs, I might add. Holla!
So for everyone who supported, friended, helped, guided, listened, liked and loved me this last year, near and far, old friends and new, THANK YOU. The lack of a thank you note in your mailbox is not the reflection of what I feel in my heart. Genuine, full, raw GRATITUDE. I'm one lucky lady.

First dance performance in the 'Burgh. Sorry for the blur. African dance moves too fast for my Crackberry.

Looking back on your 2012, how do you feel about it? Maybe you feel grateful, content, inspired, but maybe not. It's okay. This is real life and life is stupid sometimes. Please share, I'd love to hear about it!


Friday, December 21, 2012

A new, new job

Let's cut to the chase.

My new job two weeks ago? It is no longer. Don't worry, no drama ensued... We just didn't click. I was disappointed after so much excitement to finally work again, and it caused me some anxiety that week. But at the week's end, I got the call that I really wanted all along. I knew in my heart that this new, new job was it. Only a week into the new, new job this week and it clicks. I am happy.

That's all that needs to be said about that.

Oh, and my new work digs? Uh-maze-balls. I mean, those ceilings! At some point I expect to see Dumbledore walk around the corner...

Now on to winter recess. Ah yes, the major perks of working in academia... Today is the last day my office is open until the New Year. Pretty sweet gig, eh? :)

In between baking and eating Christmas goodies, I will be a busy little bee during my time off. I have the past year to reflect upon and write about (stay tuned!), as well as planning to do for the New Year. Lots to do!

I may not see you back here until after Christmas, so if you celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

One lucky birthday girl

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday!

I didn't expect much, just to spend the day with my husband without worrying about errands, to-do lists or any kind of agenda. He spoiled me all day long... he began by making me breakfast, followed by gifts and shopping. Our evening plan was a sushi date, per my request. He upped that, too, by inviting our new friends who all surprised me when we arrived. I had no idea. Well played, Hubs.

Chocolate with cherry filling and cream cheese icing. See? Spoiled.

I love my birthday and usually like to celebrate with a party or some kind of festive gathering. This year I was content with a low-key day... I didn't expect that this year, being in a new city and not knowing too many people yet. He really made my day special.

Not to get all gushy, but he's just amazing. How did I get so lucky?? Really, I mean that.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hungry Dancer goes International: Persian stew, Abgoosht

Before meeting my husband, I knew nothing about Persian cooking, much less Persian culture. Of course, being married to a tall, dark and handsome Persian man is slowly enlightening my ignorance.

I say this with no judgement since I was in the same boat, but most Americans are clueless about what Persian even means, so here's a quick crash course. Persian is the culture of the people from Iran. The name comes from Iran's former empirical name, Persia. You may think of modern flicks like "The Prince of Persia" or "300" (the peeps the 300 Spartans were fighting off, led by the abnormally tall and golden-skinned Xerxes, according to Greek legend... the husband hates this movie, btw)... That's the extent of our idea of Persian, according to Hollywood.

Anyway, most people confuse Iran to be part of the Arab world, but they're not. Most of Iran's neighbors are Arab, and they share the Muslim religion, but they're not Arab - they're Persian. And they don't speak Arabic, they speak Farsi. Both are very rich with their own respective histories and cultures, but there are vast differences between the two. I'm no expert, so the culture lesson ends there. I am a hungry dancer, however, so let's move on to the food.

Slowly but surely I'm learning to cook Persian food. I'm not sure why, but cooking middle eastern food is completely intimidating. There's no logic to this, as it's just like cooking anything else: just follow the directions and most likely you will end up with something edible and hopefully delicious.

For starters, there is the rice. Rice is the foundation and staple of Persian cooking and as embarrassing as it is, I was never able to cook rice. Even with a rice cooker. Epicurean fail, I know. But! I'm happy to announce that I can now successfully cook rice, after Hubs walked me through it step-by-step. Now we share the rice-cooking responsibilities (enter his sigh of relief).

I have made a couple of Persian stews, both being successful on my first attempts! The one featured here is called abgoosht.

This is the recipe I followed as a guideline. Per usual, I deviated and forged my own path. My modifications were due to necessity, really. For example, I didn't have lamb or beef stew meat, so I made meatballs instead. I also didn't have four tomatoes, but I had 1 fresh and 1 can of diced, so I figured that would work. And it did.

Abgoosht (Hungry Dancer style) 

All the ingredients are the same according to what the recipe above calls for, except:
1 cup of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 cup of pinto beans
1 12-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 fresh tomato

A note about the beans:
I used dried beans, but I prepped them using the quick-soak method, which you can find here.

Mix together 1 lb of ground beef, half a finely diced white onion, approximately 1 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 egg and salt & pepper to taste. Mix with your hands. Don't be afraid to get in there and get dirty. If the mixture is too wet, just gradually add more cracker crumbs. Form and roll into balls. Set aside.

Toss the other ingredients into the slow cooker, starting with the chopped onions.

Top the onions with the meatballs.

Add the beans, canned tomatoes and spices.

Pour about 8 cups of water over all of this. Cover and turn the slow cooker on high.

After three to four hours, I added the fresh tomato (which I coarsely chopped) and the potatoes.

If you use dry beans like I did, plan for 10-12 hours of cooking time. If you use canned beans, I estimate that it will take about 5-6 hours on high (to ensure that the meat is cooked through and the potatoes are soft).

Note: The traditional way to eat Abgoosht is to strain the meat and veggies from the liquid, puree the meat and veggies until smooth, and then serve the meat/veggie puree alongside the liquid. (See pic here.) The husband and I are fans of chunky soup and stew, so I skipped this step.

Enjoy with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of plain yogurt, and a slice of crusty bread on the side!

The verdict: I received two thumbs up from Hubs. He said the stew tasted just like it should. Take that, rice!

You should try this. The spices are warm and savory and it's perfect for a chilly day. It's not difficult at all - I mean, the slow-cooker does all the cooking, after the prep work is complete. Let me know if you try it and how it turns out!

Are there seemingly "simple" foods you struggle to cook with success? Oh, like rice?

Bon appetit!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Oh happy December!

December is here!! (As if you're not aware of this already :) )

Without fail, December's arrival just makes me HAPPY. For starters, there is my birthday. I love my birthday. LOVE. (T-minus one week, y'all!) Then Christmas. Then New Year's Eve. The festivities and sparkle abound and I just love it.

Here is a handful of eye candy that matches my December happiness....

This looks about right for my birthday cake
Nutcracker Ballet. Love.
The best version of the Christmas Carol, imo
Rudolph has been a tradition in my family since I was a tot
Oh the pretty lights
Oh the pretty snow

Oh the pretty lights and the pretty snow

This is downtown Fort Collins, CO, my home!
Bubbly for New Year's, always

{via Pinterest}

Do you love December, too? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions and to-do's?

Happy weekend!!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Workin' 9-to-5

This coming Monday I rejoin the corporate workforce! Hoorah!

There are many reasons why I'm excited, ranging from the superficial - office fashion, holla! - to the down and dirty - there's a big debt monster that's about to receive a one-two punch from this dancer. The past three months have not been easy, financially or emotionally, but I'm very happy that all of my hours at the library and infinite resume editing is finally moving me forward!

My new job is in the financial sector. Over the course of my job search (and still even now) people asked me why I don't "teach dance or something". Well, most teaching jobs are part time. With part time hours comes part time pay. I have big girl bills, therefore I need a big girl job. That's my reality.

Oh, and there's that benefits thing. My RA doesn't mess around (remember this post?).

I want this, too. I am more than ready to close the chapter of being a struggling college student. I'm ready to put on my big girl knickers, add to my mad professional skills and take care of business.

This doesn't mean I can't or won't continue to dance, choreograph and teach while holding a full time job. Quite the contrary. I've done it before and I can do it again.

And! I am giddy that I will be able to afford to take class once again in my near future. Dance classes aren't cheap, y'all. While doing ballet barre in my apartment is by no means a waste of time or effort, I need to get into a studio. I need a marley floor. I need a real barre (chairs and kitchen counters only work so well). I need big mirrors. I need to get back into dance shape. And gosh darn it, I need my people.

These people.

Lots to do this weekend to get ready, including plan my first-day outfit. Very important, people, very important.

Up next: Hungry Dancer returns! And goes international.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday? No thanks

Yesterday was a lovely Thanksgiving, probably one of the best I've ever had. This was slightly surprising, as I expected to be homesick and sad not to be spending it with my family for the first time ever. But I wasn't. Yes, of course I would have loved to see my family and I do miss them, but Thanksgiving was perfect because it was relaxed and chill. It was quite nice to just do and be. In that rare space of peace, I was able to genuinely reflect on what I'm grateful for.

Today we got up at 10 o'clock. I made pumpkin pancakes topped with cranberry sauce. We watched some Food Network shows. I finally showered and dressed around noon. We talked with Hubs' family for awhile, ate some lunch and then walked to our neighborhood coffee shop, where we are now. We'll head home, gnosh on leftovers for dinner and continue to relax into the evening.

But wait, no shopping??

I don't do Black Friday. At least not in the wake-up-and-go-shop-at-3am sense (scoring deals online seems to be the safe, sensible alternative, imo). Not only do I find it completely unappealing to wake up at an ungodly hour to obtain sweet deals on the latest must-have gadgets, but I also hate the mentality behind the madness that BF has become. I just can't get on board with the out-of-control materialism that BF has bred in our society. Um, hello America? Literally stampeding over each other and even threatening to shoot fellow shoppers over iPads and iPods?? Total lamesauce. I don't want to be a part of that.

Okay, okay. I know that's the extreme-case scenario. I know (I hope) that most people are able to buy their dirt-cheap plasma TVs without imposing bodily harm on those around them. And c'mon, I'm not above the thrill of snagging shiney, pretty things on the cheap. I just take issue with how blown out of proportion BF has become... I remember years ago it was "stores open at 7am"... then "6am"... and earlier and earlier until encroaching into Thanksgiving evening itself. Let's find a little balance folks.

Alright, off my soapbox. If you're a loyal BF shopper, shop away my friend. It's just not for me. I'd rather kick it with loved ones and take care of me with some much-needed R&R. If I am in the market to shop for something, I'll do it online. Or wait for another day. If I'm not busy spending time with my peeps. Or taking a nap.

Like I said, this has been, and continues to be, one of the most satisfying holidays I've ever had. Let's see if I can maintain this through the New Year...

Happy Weekend!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Throwback Tuesday: Swing out!

"Throwback Thursday" has a much nicer ring to it, but seeing as I'll be feeding my Hungry Dancer beast with turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberries galore this coming Thursday, I had to move it up a couple of days. Please forgive the the alliteration fail.

Long before my days of the 'tard and tights, I was a retro gal! My dancing days started with Lindy Hop and Charleston, getting down to the tunes of Louis Prima, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. That music still is and probably will forever be my all-time favorite.

A friend posted these pics on FB yesterday and a wave of nostalgia crashed over me. Such amazing memories! This group was my dance troupe, The Jumpin' JiveCats, based in Fort Collins, Colorado. We taught swing dance lessons and workshops and we were hired for all kinds of gigs. We danced our little hearts out, sharing the love of the Lindy Hop with anyone and everyone.

Occasionally we branched out... This was our Moulin Rouge New Year's Eve event. Still one of my faves!
And in action...

Nowadays, many of us are scattered all over the country, living all kinds of lives. Some of us are still dancing, some of us not as much anymore... but I know each one of us still holds a special place in our hearts for Lindy, our first love!

Dedicated to all the 'Cats, past and present - I love you guys!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Yes, even Batman needs MS Office

What a week, y'all! I was blessed with two job interviews (woot!!), both of which I felt went rather well. Such a good feeling after three months of searching, fretting and doubting.

The stress that accompanied the wonderful interviews kicked my butt! Just like before I go onstage, I am one Nervous Nellie before a performance. It took me a full 24 hours, complete with napping, comfort food and bubble bath therapy, to fully decompress and return all systems to normal.

I do have some positive news on the job front, but you're going to have to wait for the full reveal. I want all the details on lock down first before I dish.


No surprise, of course, I'm already daydreaming about a little wardrobe revamp shopping spree, as this spending freeze will soon be thawed. Nothing crazy - we still have a budget and debt to knock out, after all. But that's whyRoss and T.J. Maxx were invented, am I right?!

I might drag Hubs out window shopping this weekend to plan my spree strategy. He's a good sport, though, I'm sure he'll play along... I have my ways :)

What's on your weekend agenda? Cooking? Shopping? Napping? I support all three!

Happy weekend!


Friday, November 9, 2012

PSA: Dating a Dancer

What a week, huh?? The week has been full and my weekend is not much of an exception with my first official dance event in the 'Burgh happening tomorrow. I get to don a leotard once again! This is bittersweet enthusiasm, ladies and gents. Wearing a 'tard for the first time after a sabbatical is always a little traumatizing (well, hello there double butt!).

In honor of dancers and all our quirky charms, I give to you a little glimpse of life with a dancer. While it's specifically referring to dating a dancer, it applies to being friends with a dancer, too, as my former roommate confirmed. My lovely blogging friend Dancing Branflakes posted this on her Facebook wall this morning and it's just too great not to share!

No, I don't want to talk about Black Swan. Ever.

My husband confirmed the entire list, btw.

For all you singles out there secretly hoping to date a dancer, consider this your PSA. You're welcome. But don't be afraid, we're perfectly lovable. After all, Hubs did put a ring on it :)

Happy Friday & Weekend!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mind games

Last week, while lunging, planking and squatting (and not too happy about it), I had an epiphany. Now, I'm one of those weirdo people who gets really jazzed by a hard workout, one that simply kicks my butt. I don't feel it's worth my time otherwise. Another confession? I really love the gym.

So if I love the gym so much and love getting schooled, then why the above stated unhappiness? I felt weak and more fatigued than usual and I really don't like feeling that way. Frankly, that's lamesauce in my book. My epiphany: I am not in shape and this is not okay. If I'm to call myself a dancer and an athlete, I need to act like one. Which means getting my sweat on even when I don't feel like it.

Therein lies the true battle. We all know how this goes. Whether elite athlete or recreational gym rat, each one of us has a bag of excuses which we reach into when faced with the choice to exercise or not. The truth? Not one of those excuses are legit*. It's our own brain playing tricks.

So how do we beat ourselves at our own mind games? Throw some game right back! It doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some tried and true tricks I use on myself.
  • Pack your workout bag and carry it along with your briefcase or backpack. When it's t-minus an hour until gym time and your excuses begin to surface, tell yourself you didn't carry around that extra bag all day for nothing.
  • Make a gym date with a friend. You don't want to be that person who stands up your friend, do you? The power of accountability is amazing!
  • Sign up for a race or any other kind competition. Setting a tangible goal (and paying registration fees!) is solid motivation.
  • Take pics of yourself in your underwear. Yes, completely awkward and will make you squirm. But worth it! This is one of the best motivators to don't think, DO. (But keep it classy, folks. Those pics are just for you, not the interwebs at large.)

Images via Pinterest

What are your fool-proof tricks to getting yourself to that class, on that trail or popping in that workout video? Dish! I have a feeling we all could use a few more defenses in our arsenal.

Happy Tuesday!


*Disclaimer: being ill or injured are legit reasons to pause. I am not encouraging exercise while on the sidelines. Be smart. Always check with your doctor if uncertain!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fantasy Friday: My Style

It's Friday. It's been another busy week, we're tired and ready to let loose a bit, yes? Let's keep it light, then.

Thus, I hereby declare today to be Fantasy Friday, where I indulge in a little dreaming and wishing and sharing.

There may be a spending freeze in my corner of the universe, but that doesn't mean I don't indulge in my fair share of virtual window shopping and wish list making. Pinterest is my wingman in this endeavor. Yours too? Fancy that ;)

I'm definitely a Coco/Audrey/classic kind of gal (although this changes in the summer, but I digress...). Here's what filled my eye candy jar this week...

 What is your little heart desiring this Friday evening?