... 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!!