Stretching your ears: my experience and brief tutorial

by Monday, September 28, 2009
As many of my Twitter followers know, last year I decided to start stretching my ears to accept larger gauge jewelry. I did this for two reasons. The most obvious reason to many is the fabulous ethnic jewelry we tribal bellydancers love to indulge in. Large gauge hoops, wood and bone plugs, the works. I of course adored these aesthetics and wanted them for myself. But even before that I had considered stretching to accept simple tunnels for a reason not everyone would know about.

My mother was a lover of chunky gold jewelry in the 80's. She was always wearing some large, heavy earrings of some ilk every day. And as the years wore on, it took its toll on her lobes. The hole continued to stretch, looking somewhat like a cheese-cutting wire slicing downward due to weight and gravity. Finally, several years back, one of her earlobes split, and she had to get surgery to repair it. It was at that moment I started taking a closer look at stretching, because now I, too, wear some pretty heavy jewelry regularly (not every day, but frequently). My ears would often ache after performances from the weight of the jewelry, or even the simple act of wearing a slightly thicker wire than my regular fashion jewelry earrings. And finally, there was the mixed metals and materials these items were made from--some of which when worn in necklaces can cause dancers to suffer rashes or greening or blackening of the skin. I already have a mild silver reaction sometimes with earrings and nose rings, to boot. Putting these metals into the enclosed channel of my ear piercing was surely asking for continued issues down the road. So I was inspired to work toward wearing some smaller tunnels, to reinforce my lobes against the "cheese-cutter-syndrome", as I now call it, and to keep the mysterious metals from direct contact with my skin.

So I did a lot of research online, then went to my local "alternative" shop, and picked up a pair of very tiny tapers and began my journey. I Tweeted and FB'd my progress as I went, and I got a lot of questions along the way about how I was doing it and what the results were. My troupe-mate Gen followed close behind, using my (sanitized) hand-me-down stretching jewelry, following along the same successful path. Then my husband followed suit, but had his rapidly stretched at Club Tattoo in Las Vegas on our 10 year anniversary trip. This past weekend, another troupe-mate, Kym, began her first baby steps, and my co-director Renee started asking some questions about it as well. This volume of questions over the last year have inspired me to share with you some places I got my information, and what I did specifically to stretch to where I am at my goal-gauge now: 00 or ~9.5mm-10mm.

The Research
There are many many sites out there which address stretching techniques and warnings, and anyone with even a single finger on their hand (or the tip of their nose!) can make a Google and get themselves some hits. So I will focus on my favorite site I used for my process.

One Tribe has a really great FAQ that is concise, clearly written, honest, and a wealth of info on the details you likely want to ask.

To sum up some important points:
1) Cleanliness is KEY. Don't skip your sea salt soaks. Don't touch them outside of when you are cleaning them.
2) Don't rush. Take your time. A gauge at a time is plenty, and at least a few weeks in between is best to avoid tearing or the dreaded "cat butt" or "blowouts"! Some gauge jumps will take longer than others, so treat each stretch as its own animal and work with your body's limits.
3) Use the right materials - not all jewelry is appropriate for stretching. Porous materials such as bone and wood will harbor bacteria and increase the risk of infection. Stick with stainless and glass. It limits your jewelry options at first, but will reduce risk of infection.
4) Be prepared to pay about $15-$40 per stretch in jewelry, depending on your budget for jewelry.
5) If buying from a shop that does not do piercings, or if using hand-me-down jewelry, make sure the jewelry is sanitized before you use them. Best is to take them to a local piercer and get them to pop it in the autoclave for you--some piercers will do this for you for free to help promote health among their customers. In a pinch, boiling hot water, or soaking in hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes, will do the trick. Make sure they are cooled/rinsed before putting them in.

How I Did It
So as I mentioned previously, my ears would ache if I even used a slightly larger gauge regular wire in my ears. I was pierced when I was 12 years old at a mall, and didn't wear jewelry daily all my life, so even wearing a 16 gauge earring would sometimes cause a little heat and discomfort. So the first stretch was a little painful, but not too bad.

First Step - 16 gauge to 12 gauge
I am estimating where my piercings began at for this, since I am not certain. Most mall piercings are somewhere around 18 or 16 gauge. I bought simple tusks with a slight curve to them, with a very narrow/pointy end to get into my tiny little original piercing hole, and went up to a 12 gauge at the end. After a hot shower, I rubbed my ears with some vitamin E lotion (note: lotion is not recommended for piercings as it can harbor bacteria, but this is what I used), and pushed the little buggers in as far as I could stand, which was not very far--it was difficult to get the tiny washer to stay on the end because so little of it was protruding through the hole. It felt really HOT, but no sharp pain. Regardless, I did get some bleeding, and I immediately soaked my ear in some hot salt water to wash away the blood and make sure I was getting a clean start.

I was actually afraid these would be uncomfortable to sleep on due to the curve and the spiky little end I needed to have to get it in place, but surprisingly it was quite comfortable to sleep on and I had no issues. Every single evening I would boil up some hot water, dissolve some sea salt in it, add a little cool water to make it bearably cooler, and soaked my ears. I attribute my infection-free success and fast stretching to this diligence.

I continued with this regimen regularly, gently pushing the jewelry through a little further each time it felt like my ear was ready to accept it. It never got so hot or painful again--just heightened "awareness", if you will...sensitivity. I was up to the 12 gauge thickest end within a couple weeks.

Next Gauge - 10 gauge
I next bought what many term a "claw". Some call them "pinchers", but I think that is a misnomer for this style, which only has a single pointed end, and tends to be more circular than crescent shaped as the pinchers, which I did use extensively in future steps.

This was one of my favorite steps. It really felt like I was starting to wear something that was obviously stretching jewelry, and the circular design was softer than the dark black claw I had begun with, and because it was so large a curve, the taper was far more gradual than some of the smaller pieces I wore later down the line. This one was slipping through within a week without my having to push it at all, but I kept wearing it a week longer just to be safe and not rush the process.

6 no...8 Gauge

The tapering was going so quickly at this point--I would wake up and the jewelry would be loose, having slipped through a little in the night--I thought I could buy jewelry two gauges up and just taper my way through more swiftly and save some money with not having to buy the interim gauge. That might have worked, except that due to the limits of the jewelry I had access to at the local shops, when I tried, I would get jewelry that thickened up from the point too fast, and this wouldn't stay in. I couldn't get the piece in far enough for the rubber washers to stay in place. The weight of the jewelry would work its way out within seconds. So I had to go back to the store to get the interim 8 gauge as well. I wish they had had the claw from my previous step available in the gauge I was working toward, but unfortunately they did not, and I only had pinchers to work with, which tend to start with a very sharp point and a thick center, as you see in the picture.

During these steps, I would leave the jewelry in for a week or so, and then would begin taking them out when I got into the shower. I would wash my ears gently with antibacterial soap, was the jewelry, massage the lobe with the vitamin E lotion, wipe my skin as clean as I could to not keep lotion on the surface, and put the earrings back in. This is not recommended by most FAQ's, but I felt the need to really get everything as clean as possible, and I did not get any infections, I feel due to my diligence in continuing to wash, massage, and soak every chance I got.

About this time, my troupe-sister Genevieve got interested in the process, and I was able to pass on my few starter pieces for her to get going. Boiled 'em up, plopped them into the little boxes they came in, and handed them off for her to get started.

4-2-0 Gauge
Things went pretty quick here, but I was getting a little impatient with only having rather bland stainless pinchers to wear all the time. When was the fun stuff going to start?! Sure, I could have let things heal completely and just started wearing jewelry at that gauge for a while if I wanted, but I didn't want to invest too much in jewelry at stages I didn't intend to stay at. It would just be a waste. But when I reached 2, I did invest in a small pair of orange stone plugs to wear to a family function.

When I reached 0, where I thought I might originally stop before I had decided to go to 00. So I thought it was a nice plateau to buy a little something to wear while I healed. I invested in a pair of double-flare titanium tunnels which screwed in. I loved having these, because they now allowed me to wear some of my old favorite jewelry, as well as a pair of big Miao hoops I had bought a while back (pictured in the original image up top). My older "fish hook" wire jewelry was another story. For the most part, they are not deep enough to seat in the deep metal tube that is a tunnel. So the curve of the earring wire doesn't go through or can't hang there and fit. So you have to replace much of your earring wires with wider ones. Instead of the somewhat egg-shaped oval top, look for ones with more round arcs. I still haven't converted some of my favorite pieces, but it's a good thing to keep in mind for if you decide to go this route.

I was also being gifted jewelry from friends who had been following my progress, and who had gone past my intended 00 gauge goal. They not only sympathize with the whole having to buy new jewelry all the time, but there was a symbolism in the passing of the jewelry involved--a sort of sharing in the ritual with me and encouraging me to my goal. I was gifted a lovely pair of silver 00 double flare tunnels from my troupe-mate Erika, and a pair of amber plugs from Julia of Gypsy Fire, which made me cry when she told me she had been holding on to these for years--her favorites from a previous gauge she had passed long ago--wanting to give them to someone special. She said when she heard I was going to 00, she knew they were meant for me all this time.

By this time hubby was getting interested, and really wanted to get his ears stretched. He had planned to go the same route as I had, and Genevieve had returned the starter loaners as she had already gone up several sizes since, and had her own jewelry collection accumulating. But when we were in Las Vegas for our anniversary vacation, we were window shopping in the Desert Passage Mall at Planet Hollywood (RIP Aladdin), and came across the newly opened Club Tattoo.
Wandering around, looking at some truly gorgeous ethnic jewelry, he decided to get his ears stretched to a 0, with the goal of going to 00, as I had decided, so we could share jewelry eventually. The process was more gruesome than my gradual process, but the outcome was some immediate gratification for him, and we walked out the same gauge...for now.

Once home, he was a rabid websearcher, tracking down some designs he wanted for when he got to 00, and encouraging me to make some purchases for my final destination as well. Damn you, Tawapa!! A chunk of change later, we had two or three new designs each we couldn't even wear yet. But it was still fun to shop for some jewelry I would actually get to wear for years to come! Something to look forward to!

The End of the Journey
Going to 00 was definitely the hardest step to date. By hardest, I mean it took the longest. It seemed the days of waking up and my jewelry falling through were over by this time; but so, too, was I not soaking every single night as I had in previous steps. I am sure that was part of the issue, as the warming of the skin, the rubbing with softening agents definitely is key to your happy ears. 00 was when I also started getting a little scarring--not so much to call it "cat butt", but definitely a close cousin.

I am sure part of my impatience with this step was that I had such wonderful jewelry waiting for me when I got there. And then to add to that, the aqua blue spirals I had bought were not quite 00 gauge. There is always some expected variation with the jewelry, but even after weeks of wearing them, and then trying to put in some of the plugs Chris had been wearing happily for weeks now himself, I couldn't get them in. I switched to some black stainless pinchers that were a little larger, and still for weeks I could not get double-flared anything through my lobes. So the gorgeous silver Tawapa plugs I had bought were taunting me and I couldn't give them any love. And forget the sentimental ambers or even the infinitely versatile silver tunnels!

I am happy to report that as of this morning, my ears have given up the fight. After my morning shower, I gave my lobes a good rub down, made my prayers, and pushed through the tunnels so generously gifted to me by Erika. Hooray! I will let my ears rest a smidge today, and then hope to try on some of my other beauties maybe tomorrow or the next day.

So there you go, that is the story of my stretching. For me, it was a fairly simple, pain-free process. I feel I was fairly smart in following the common advice on cleanliness and pacing. If you are considering stretching, I wish you luck in your process. The bottom line is to listen to YOUR body. Everyone's stretching will be at its own pace and will have its own issues to deal with. So get to know your lobes well, and watch for changes in sensation, coloring, and the like to stay alert for possible infections and scarring issues.

This past weekend, Renee asked what gauge we felt was necessary to have a tunnel that can accept a regular earring wire. Really, I think most people need only go to a 6 or 4 to get a regular earring wire through. But if you want to wear some of the ethnic jewelry with the thick ends, spirals and the like, I would plan to go to at least a 0. Besides, around 0/00 is when the plugs start to get really beautiful and interesting, with the materials and/or the end designs being large enough to appreciate.

If you have stretched, leave a comment and tell us a little about it! If you plan to stretch and have any questions, please feel free to ask. If I don't know, I will be happy to help you find the answers you seek!

For spouses/partners of artists!

by Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Excerpted from the excellent

This is just one section of three wonderful brief paragraphs about what it means to live with, and try to understand, about an artist. Does this sound like you?

"Living with an artist isn't easy, particularly if you are the significant other. So, after living with and working with artists for over 20 years I've put together a few suggestions for you to share with your partners...

The concept of "working" was a hard one for me to understand. Often times I'd go into my husband's studio and see him sitting on the couch with the television on or listening to the radio…staring at his paintings. I'd been at my office all day, talking on the phone or busy with clients. This was not my idea of "work." It wasn't until I really understood the process of making a painting that I realized how much of the work is in just looking…thinking…imagining what it would be like to do this or that. Mental activity that to the lay person looks like relaxation. I could accept the fact that slathering paint around was work…but, sitting and staring, that was hard for me. What I came to learn was that the "looking," is the hardest part. It was kind of like hearing about the way Mozart wrote music. He wouldn't write anything down until he could hear it all in his head first, then he would write it out perfectly in a matter of minutes.

Contrary to the common stereotype of artists as slackers, artists are incredibly industrious and hard working. In most cases, regardless of what they do for a living, they are working on their obsession 24/7. Acknowledging this, can help tremendously in understanding an important aspect of an artists' character…and saving a relationship."

Off to Jamila Weeklong

by Sunday, September 20, 2009

Renee and I are leavin' on a jet plane today for SF to attend the Jamila Salimpour Weeklong. I am sadly injured on two levels and won't be dancing much, which makes me very sad, but I am still excited to get to *literally* sit at the feet of one of the most influential dancers in American Bellydance history, soak up her knowledge and stories, share some good times with my friend Renee, take in San Francisco for a week, and generally make the most of a week of learning and silliness!

I will not be testing as we have to fly back on Friday for our annual troupe retreat. Testing begins at 1pm and our flight is at 3pm. Though testing would be something I would like to do (if for nothing else, to be able to have the option to do the Level 2), I am not going specifically to get a certificate, but instead am plenty happy to get the knowledge and hear it from the Source. Then we're happily heading home early so we can be swapping bags and leaving immediately for the cabin to meet up with our dance family for a weekend of sharing, drinking, noshing, laughing, drumming, dancing, crafting, and generally bonding with my dance sisters.

Wow, a whole week without my hubby (I will see him for about 30 minutes when he picks us up at the airport until we hop into Renee's car to drive off), and without puppies. But also a whole week without working on anything yard related! Woot! Though in related news on that front, We Can Haz Lawn! We have a weirdly perfect sod lawn outside my window as I type this, and it is tripping me out!

Okay, gotta finish my last minute packing, then off to the airport! But before I do, here is a little taste of what I will be working on.

Here is the performance we did at the Northwest Folklife Festival last year. The first zill portion was inspired by the Jamila Level 2--Renee came back aflutter with finger cymbal goodness and orchestrated this zill-off. Then Renee, Quinn, and I perform El Ataba Khadra from Jamila's Level 2 coursework, which Renee and Quinn learned and brought back and included me in performing it. Enjoy!

Keep the Channel open

by Thursday, September 17, 2009

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And, because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And, if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open... whether you choose to take an art class, keep a journal, record your dreams, dance your story or live each day from your own creative source. Above all else, keep the Channel open!

~Martha Graham

Amazing Art: Hand crafted dolls

by Sunday, September 13, 2009
I would like to share with you some inspirational artists and what they are doing with their talents. Yes, it won't always be dance/performance art. And on that note, I would like to share Enchanted Doll. This woman's work is simply...stunning. The dolls are hand-crafted individually, hand-painted, wigs hand-created, the clothes and jewelry hand-crafted to the finest detail...and then they are posed and photographed so realistically, they really seem almost alive. Prepare to be amazed!

The artist also keeps a a blog about her inspirations, progress, sketches, and more; and has a detailed photo gallery showing the process by which she creates the dolls and clothes themselves. So you can look in a little behind the scenes with this incredible artist!

If you have a favorite artist you would like featured here, please write me personally and I will look into including it in a future installment!

On being an artist: Art is a lifestyle not just an activity.

by Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Art is a lifestyle not just an activity. One's art and one's life are eventually inseparable. One cannot be an artist without living a lifestyle which is conducive to being an artist:

Being an artist means having a lifestyle that makes creativity and art part of your everyday life

One cannot be creative 8 hrs a day, from 9 to 5. Similarly one cannot schedule "creative time" say from 4 to 5 p.m. every Thursday. While you can certainly write this down in your planner, or in your PDA, whether you will feel inspired on that particular day at that specific time remains to be seen.

Fact is, the muses visit whenever they please and not necessarily during "business hours." It is therefore very difficult to schedule creative time the way one would schedule a business appointment. Certainly, it can be done. But there are no guarantees that you will feel creative during that time. To guarantee success in your creative endeavors you have to be aware of your creative impulses and design a schedule that works around them, not a schedule that demands that you be creative from 3 to 4 then do paperwork from 4 to 5 and so on.

Being an artist therefore means implementing a lifestyle that favors creativity, impulsion and freedom. Because this may conflict with other activities being an artist means learning how to organize your life so that you can handle these potential conflicts successfully. "

Meditate on this. Do you agree with this or not? In what ways do you feel your life is dedicated to/inseparable from your art? In what way do you make space in your life to nurture your inner (or outer) artist? Is it class and rehearsals only, or do you live what you create in other capacities? Good questions...

Class Newsletter September 11, 2009

by Friday, September 11, 2009
Hello dear dancers!

Have you enjoyed your summer? I sure have! Wow, what a beautiful season we have had, and this weekend is promising one last hurrah before we get back into the swing of fall as we know it here in the Northwest.

We're back to school this coming week, and I can't wait to dance with you all again. I always miss it, and all of you, no matter how long or short our break!




Alright, this session of classes is going to be a little wonky, so please pay special attention to the details and mark your calendars accordingly!
I will be going to California to get some more dance training the week of Sept 21st, so there will be no class. Yes, that means the first week of class, then a break, then class resumes. So sorry about that, but it was unavoidable!

inFusion Tribal will be performing at Pyramid Lounge with their dear sister Renee, who is the featured instructor for October. LEVEL 1 WILL MEET AS USUAL. Then Level 2 and 3 students are encouraged to attend the Pyramid Lounge performance where there will be homework worksheets for everyone to fill out and discuss the following week in class.

Note: Pyramid Lounge is 21 and over only. If you are a Monday Level 2/3 student who is not 21+ and cannot attend, please get in touch with me.
Tonight we will be taking a field trip to Pyramid Lounge at the High Dive in Ballard.

A writer and on-air reporter for our local NPR station will be attending the Level 1 class on Monday, September 14th to gather some information for a story she *may* be doing on tribal bellydance. Normally I do not allow "bystanders" in any class, but she will need to be running audio recording equipment while she listens and learns about my classes and what we are learning about the dance. If anyone is uncomfortable being audio recorded (no photos or video) in this manner, please get in touch with me. I really appreciate your understanding and support in her endeavors to share the story of tribal bellydance with our community--it's a big deal, and we're hoping it all works out!

You guys already know Renee Drellishak as co-director of inFusion Tribal, and she sometimes subs improv classes as well. What you may not already know about Renee is that she is a wicked killer driller, and a perfect guest teacher to bring in for a 6-week session of Skills n' Drills! I made her promise not to kill you guys, but you will be in for a good workout and a wealth of information on how to take your dance skills in new directions. All skill levels welcome, with at least Level 2 experience recommended.

This special six week series will emphasize muscle conditioning and drills to improve your bellydance technique. Each class will focus on a separate foundational bellydance movement (e.g. twists, interior hip circles, figure 8s, etc), that form the basis of our bellydance vocabulary. Each movement will be broken down and then drilled over a series of foot patterns and directions to ensure that students are using proper technique and building the movement into their muscle memory.

On a related note, Renee is sponsoring Suhaila Salimpour in a 3-Day Level I Intensive workshop November 6-9, 2009 here in Seattle. If you like this class series, then this workshop is for you! For more details, contact Renee

Next session after this begins the week of November 2nd
NO CLASS on November 23rd or 26th (Thanksgiving Week)
HOLIDAY BREAK December 20th-January 3rd
First session of 2010 begins the week of January 4th

Have you popped over to check out my dance blog? I have been posting fairly regularly with event wrap-ups, costume and make-up tips, links I love, and much more. I hope you will visit regularly, and join in the conversation!

Okay, that's it for now. I look forward to seeing you all next week!
Much love,

On being an artist: is it this simple?

by Thursday, September 10, 2009

Contrary to a previous post and link about what it takes to be an artist, this web page asserts that if you think you are an artist, you are. It takes nothing more than messing about with whatever medium you choose. Even just being a slob on a regular basis makes you a "slob-artist"?

"You Are an Artist

You may think you are not an artist at all, but here's the good news--we are all artists. I'm not just talking about painting, drawing and sculpting artists, either.

* If you write you are a word-artist
* If you make music you are a music-artist
* If you make wonderful dishes you are a food-artist
* If you make messes you are a clutter-artist "

I think my regular readers probably have an idea of how I feel about this one--I am not in agreement with this statement. I think one can play with a lot of different creative mediums and not necessarily be an "artist" at it. I sometimes paint, but I am not a paint-artist. I crochet for fun, but don't consider myself an "artist" in crochet--it's a hobby, and a fun one, but it is not my art. I play with a lot of things: screenprinting, sidewalk chalk, knitting, gardening, drawing, home decorating, music, and much much more. So driving my car every day makes me a driving artist? Surely there is some greater definition than repetition to define an artist, yes?

Some people may have many different "arts" with which they practice being an "artist"--in my strong opinion, one need not be confined to one discipline (a key word, IMO), nor does one even need to excel at it to claim being an artist at something--but does just using a given medium make one an artist with it? What do you think?

The rest of the article does have some fun advice for keeping the creative juices flowing though...

You Are Creative

If you think you are not creative can consider that you are simply not using or recognizing your creativity. Perhaps you are afraid of doing something new or different? (Gasp! What will the neighbors say?)

Ask A Child

If you want the best advise on how to be creative and spontaneous, talk to a three-year-old. Small children are natural artists. They don't just make a study of creativity, they live it. Everything is new and every day is an adventure.

Stretch back and think of the time when you were small. Do you remember how you saw the world then?

Creativity comes naturally to all of us. We simply forget how. It's not as much that creativity is not taught in school, it's more that it is un-taught. Children are taught to fit in and follow the rules. They can no longer color outside the lines...

Just Do It

Artists' block, writers' block - we all know what that is. We want to create something but then we freeze. We can go for days or weeks with no ideas.

This is the time to let your inner child through and just play. Not everything you start has to become a "finished product". Splash your paints around. Write silly limericks. Draw doodles. Have fun. Artists were never meant to turn their work out assembly-line style.

Keep A Journal

Journals are good tools for stimulating creativity. There is no reason you can't keep more than one journal going at the same time. You can keep different journals for different activities or different aspects of your personality.

Ideas For Journals

* Daily journal
* Hopes & dreams journal
* Garden journal
* Creativity journal

What to keep a journal in? Anything you like - a blank book, a spiral notebook, a three-ring binder . . . or maybe you could be really creative and make a journal from scratch. Perhaps learn some old-fashioned book-binding, or tie the pages together with ribbon.

Keep a sketchbook as a journal. Instead of writing your feelings and observations, draw them.

Sketch your feelings; create your own symbols for them.

Draw silly caricatures of people who annoy you.
Morning Pages to Root Out Your Icky Stuff

In The Artists Way, Julia Cameron suggest writing "morning pages". In a nutshell, these are three pages, first thing in the morning, written down very quickly. These are meant to sift out the garbage which is keeping you from your creativity.

Anything bothering you or something you have refused to face will pop up in your Morning Pages. Write it all out and get rid of it.

Don't Forget Your Dreams

Dreams contain a wealth of creative ideas in them. Many people have used them for problem-solving, gone to bed with something un-resolved and dreamt the solution. Write down your dream as soon as you wake up. Note colors and feelings as well as the events.

Don't forget colored markers, colored pencils and crayons.

Break All the Rules!

Be an artistic rebel. Do a picture and forget every rule you learned about balance and composition. Put the main subject smack-dab in the middle of the picture. Keep the colors unbalanced. Draw people out of proportion. Draw really trite and predictable images. Do anything that would horrify an Art teacher.

If you are a writer, forget the basic rules. Write about things you know absolutely nothing about. Use bad grammer. Make lots of spelling errors. Write a story with no plot.

Now, didn't that feel good? A bit like running with scissors, eh?

Your artistic self is not to be taken seriously. Art should be fun. It doesn't have to say anything, and not everyone has to like it"

Doesn't all that sound FUN?! Now go try it! I know I am going to!

Slow cookin'....

by Monday, September 07, 2009
I have a torrid love affair I need to come clean about. It's been going on for two years now, ever since my friend Amy hooked me up on my birthday. I never could have known that an offhand remark about a secret desire would lead to such a connection that I know will last for the rest of my life.
Don't tell Chris.
It's my crock-pot.

If you have not yet been introduced to the fantabulousness that is a crock-pot, let me be your "hook up". You need to get one. Like, today! As the first grey and stormy days hit Seattle this week, it is time to pull that baby out and get to making some of my favorite hearty soups and one-pot meals. The house is filled with delectable smells all day long (a blessing and a curse), preparations are simple, it needs no tending, and at the end of the day you have a scrumptious feast. I had always dismissed crock-pots as something that grandmas used, and wasn't really a modern cooking apparatus. I was so wrong.

That's my little cherry red beauty there. Nothing fancy, about $20 at Target (though right now it's on sale for $16.99). You don't need anything complex like programmable digital timers or anything like that. Though of course you can if you feel compelled, it just isn't necessary. We know how to read clocks. I recommend getting a 4 quart size, even if it's just you, as it is a perfect size for making enough food for leftovers (and you WILL want the leftovers, believe me!), for parties, etc. Don't bother with a cookbook, as there are literally thousands upon thousands of recipes available online, searchable by keywords for just what you have in mind or in the fridge at the time.

Here is what I am making as we speak:

* 1 package 16 Bean Soup (toss the "ham flavor" packet if you want veg. soup)
* 1 tablespoon fresh crushed oregano
* 1 can no-fat chicken or vegetable stock
* Additional water to cover
* 2 stalks celery chopped
(* 3 carrots diced - no carrots in the larder today, but I usually do)
* 1 red or green bell pepper, cut into ~ 1" chunks
* 1/4 white onion chopped
* 3 cloves garlic sliced
* 1 can stewed (or diced) tomatoes

Combine first 4 ingredients (liquid should cover mixture + 1 to 2 inches) in slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours, or until beans are tender. Add remaining ingredients and decrease temperature to low; cook for additional 3 to 4 hours. If desired, add cayenne or crushed red pepper when adding second set of ingredients. Serve as complete meal or over rice. Freezes well.

You can vary this recipe any way you like and not go wrong. It's kind of "stone soup" in our house, where I will grab whatever is in the veggie drawer, sometimes we'll add sauteed ground beef or chicken, different spices, whatever. We like to serve the bean soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.

I have many other simple and delicious recipes to share, if y'all are ever interested in hearing more. But in short, get a crock-pot, and experiment! Such fun, delicious, and rewarding!


by Saturday, September 05, 2009
Paulette Rees-Denis, my original Dance Momma, shared this thought in her Caravan Trails/Tribal Travels online newsletter today, and it really resonated with me. I wanted to pass it on. If you would like to subscribe to Paulette's Newsletter by writing her at or visit her blog (also in my blogroll) at

"Derek wrote:

No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no.
Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I'm trying:
If I'm not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.
Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” - then my answer is no. When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!” We're all busy. We've all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out."

Teachers - by T. Thorn Coyle

by Friday, September 04, 2009

T. Thorn Coyle posted this over on her Facebook and I enjoyed it so much that, with her permission, I wanted to share it here with you all. Don't know who Thorn is? Why, she is one of the original members of FatChance (pictured right with Paulette, at the Ancient Echoes Retreat), and while she doesn't dance much these days, she is a big part of the tribal family tree.

Read other thoughts by Thorn HERE

At the gym this morning, my body, mind, and emotions felt engaged. My breath was working and energy was flowing. My muscles strained and my heart pumped. I felt really good. There were some things that just felt strong in the workout, and other things I could barely do today, but did them anyway, as I was able to sense the ways in which they were helping me to grow more powerful.

Sound familiar? Yes. It is the same with any practice: the stretching, the engagement, the feeling good, and the feeling at the edge of our comfort zone.

My workouts last week were nothing like this. I was doing things by rote, and because I felt I should. My mind and emotions were not very engaged, though I made attempts at being present and aware, and at moving energy, because I have enough other training to do so. The contrast with this morning was huge. Last week, I had to try to harness and move energy, this week, the energy just moved, and I could concentrate on controlling where it went, and on moving my body in a more finely tuned fashion. It felt great.

What made the difference? I got a teacher.

I haven't done serious weight training in years and have just been going on what I learned in the late 80s, early 90s, during my FatChanceBellydance years. Needless to say, this time around, I did some of what I remembered, and did not push myself very hard, because despite having worked really hard in my life to get into my body and to feel physically engaged, my natural default is that of the intellectual: to be physically lazy. Hard for some of you to believe, I am sure, but it is true. All of my physical presence and awareness is the product of many years' practice and effort. Being in my body did not come naturally to me (and what does that say about alienation in our culture?). So my current workout felt minimally satisfying. But as physical exercise is one of my commitments to spiritual practice, I decided to get help.

Through a serendipitous turn of events, I was able to work out some barter of spiritual direction for physical coaching with Carey Rockland, a skilled athlete with a lot of training, good presence, and some intuitive skills. And yes, she's hot too, which always helps a workout. She pushed me some, corrected body placement, and gave me dynamic and interesting things to do with free weights, which are my favorites. I even got to say, "I can tell I'm going to have some resistance to this" which is something I get from my students all the time. We are always looking at the information that arises from resistance.

Today I took the workout she gave me and did it on my own. And loved it.

This was a good reminder to me of why teachers and mentors are so helpful. They see us for who we are and push us in directions we did not even know we could go. They bring their expertise to bear on our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits, and help us find our way. They encourage us to do things we don't want to do, things we resist, and show us the power that flows from these things over time. They enable us to expand into what is possible.

Exercising your creativity!

by Thursday, September 03, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Thanks to all my readers here. I appreciate your feedback from the many places you read my blog posts from, so a shout out to my RSS feed readers, my Facebook buddies, my LiveJournal friends list, and Tweeters! If you get a chance, post a little hi-hello here today. Would make my day to hear from you here on the blog!


"Creativity may be described as focused freedom. On the one hand you are free to create, on the other hand you are focused upon your work and your vision. It is a mix of two opposite directional forces in a way. In that respect it is a challenging state to find, to experience and to make happen. However, once you are in this state, magical things can take place that would not otherwise happen to you. "

Visit the article to read more


On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

I hope you will enjoy both my sites. Thanks for visiting!
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