Easy Crock Pot Cassoulet

by Friday, December 23, 2011

An easy crockpot cassoulet, with chicken and canned beans.  This was adapted from a recipe I found online.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-2" pieces
  • 1 package Isernios hot Italian chicken sausage, steamed, then cut into 1/2" rounds (can use any sausage, really)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 cans (about 15 ounces each) beans, rinsed and drained (like great northern, white beans, etc)
    You can include just about anything in a cassoulet, so other optional ingredients such as carrots, bacon, corn, mushrooms or what have you are all possibilities!


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion to hot oil; cook and stir until onion is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, sausage, garlic, & thyme. Cook 5 to 8 minutes, or until chicken and sausage are browned. Stir in tomato paste and water and coat all ingredients with the tomato paste, then transfer to slow cooker. Stir beans into the chicken mixture; cover and cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours.

Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Serves 4-6

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

by Monday, December 05, 2011
I have never liked pot pie. In general, I am not a fan of Irish-type fare where everything cooks together in a big slurry of mono-flavor. Like I wasn't a big stew fan either, and essentially putting it into a crust did not endear it to me. But in my ongoing theme of learning to love things I never used to even like by making it fresh myself (risotto, sausage-based dishes, and indeed crock pot stew) here we are with a pot pie recipe I really liked!

We ended up not having any guests at our annual traditional Thanksgiving Part Deux, so the traditional 18 lb turkey made for a lot of leftovers for us. We have had turkey omelets and scrambles (Chris would live on eggs if I or his cholesterol count let him), turkey sandwiches, the usual. But I wanted some dinner fare that was yummy and pleasegodnoteggbased (so no quiche thanks).

Pretty quick to prep, and yummy.  Most "easy pot pie" recipes called for thawed frozen veggie packs, but we don't tend to keep frozen veggies around much, and prefer fresh anyway. But you could save some prep time by using the prepped veggies instead of chopping fresh.  Still others called for pre-made gravy instead of cream of mushroom soup, but I wanted some mushroominess and we were out of mushrooms.  Lastly, I wanted to have some potatoes in this, but opted to leave them out as it was looking pretty stacked already, but you could cube up  a medium potato like the carrots and celery and throw it in that step.

The result? YUMMY! Chris went back for seconds and thirds and was like to burst. Being a big fan of pot pies, his opinion mattered more than mine, and he was oohing and aahing about it; so, success!  Here is the recipe:

1 box Pillsbury pie crust
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 large white onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
A handful of flour
1 can of low sodium cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
2ish cups leftover turkey
2 large carrots cubed medium
1 large celery stalk chopped medium
1 cup canned corn
1 tsp each rosemary, thyme*
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt & pepper
(*any savory herbs are great, use to taste. I would have used sage, too, but we were out)

Melt butter in large sautee pan, cook onion and garlic about 4 minutes. Toss in herbs and flour, stir to coat.

Pour in cream of mushroom soup, water, milk, & veggies, blend well and bring to a boil. Keep at low simmering boil stirring fairly frequently 8-10 minutes until veggies soften a little.  5 minutes through, throw in the turkey and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 425. Roll bottom pie crust into a 9" pie pan. Pour in the turkey mixture (it piles up a little but it fit!), roll top crust over, pinching edge closed.  Poke  a few fork holes along the top. 

Cover edges with foil for 25 minutes, then cook about 15-20 minutes until well browned and bubbly.  Let sit 5 minutes before cutting in.

Broken in pieces on the floor=strength and opportunity!

by Sunday, November 06, 2011
A fantastic article on the power in being broken down.


“Ishvari” in Sanskrit means “goddess” or “female power,” and the “Akhilanda” means essentially “never not broken.” In other words, The Always Broken Goddess. Sanskrit is a tricky and amazing language, and I love that the double negative here means that she is broken right down to her name.

But this isn’t the kind of broken that indicates weakness and terror.

It’s the kind of broken that tears apart all the stuff that gets us stuck in toxic routines, repeating the same relationships and habits over and over, rather than diving into the scary process of trying something new and unfathomable.

Akhilanda derives her power from being broken: in flux, pulling herself apart, living in different, constant selves at the same time, from never becoming a whole that has limitations."


National Sandwich Day: Chips n' Guac Grilled Cheese

by Thursday, November 03, 2011
Oh man oh man, can it be true? A sandwich made to taste like chips and guacamole....on a grilled cheese sandwich??!!  And get this: BONUS BACON! It just so happens, I made myself some home-made guacamole JUST yesterday. Guess what I am having for lunch today?

Chips & Guacamole Grilled Cheese
Makes 4 sandwiches
8 slices bacon
8 large tortilla chips (about 2 ounces)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 slices sourdough bread
1/2 cup guacamole
2 tablespoons peeled, seeded, finely diced (1/4-inch) Roma tomatoes (see note)
4 ounces Wisconsin Colby Cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces Wisconsin Monterey Jack Cheese, coarsely grated
Line a plate with paper towels. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until very crisp. Drain the bacon on the paper towels. Remove the bacon fat from the pan and wipe the pan with a paper towel, but do not wash it. Set aside.
To make the tortilla chip butter, put the chips in the bowl of a food processor and process until the texture is very fine, similar to sand. Alternatively, place the chips in a sturdy plastic bag. Using a meat mallet or other heavy object, pound the chips until they are the texture of sand.

Put the butter in a medium bowl and add the ground chips. Using a fork, work the chip "sand" and butter together until well-mixed. The mixture will be somewhat stiff.

To assemble: Spread the butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices, butter-chip mixture side down, on your work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons of the guacamole on each slice of bread. Sprinkle the tomato on top of the guacamole, if using. Follow with the Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Finish by placing two bacon pieces on each sandwich. Top with remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden brown. Watch carefully because the chips in the butter can burn easily. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to compress the filling slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the undersides are well-browned. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

For sandwich maker method: Use your sandwich maker for this sandwich only if you have variable heat settings. Otherwise, it will cook too hot and burn the chips on the bread without melting the cheese. To use your sandwich maker, follow directions for assembly above. Cook according to manufacturer's instructions.

Note: There's no need to use the tomato if your guacamole already has tomato in it.

Super Easy White Bean Chicken Chili in the Crock Pot

by Wednesday, October 05, 2011
2 cans Great Northern Beans, rinsed & drained
Leftover chicken from earlier in the week (or 2 chicken breasts, cooked)
1 can cream of chicken (I was out of chicken stock, which you can use instead)
1.5 cans water (to thin cream of chicken, or to cover beans if using one can chicken stock)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp each of cumin, oregano, and chili powder

Throw in crock pot, cook on low for 8-10 hours

add 1 can chopped tomatoes and/or 1 bell pepper chopped and/or any other veggies you want in the last hour of cooking.
1 Tbsp cilantro
top with a dollop of sour cream and/or some shredded white cheddar or pepper-jack
serve with crusty bread

Waking Up Full of Awesome

by Wednesday, September 07, 2011

"There was a time when you were five years old,
and you woke up full of awesome.
You knew you were awesome.
You loved yourself.
You thought you were beautiful,
even with missing teeth and messy hair and mismatched socks inside your grubby sneakers.
You loved your body, and the things it could do.
You thought you were strong.
You knew you were smart.
Do you still have it?"

Shame Free Blogging Day!

by Friday, April 15, 2011
The lovely Arya over on Style Trumps Fashion, a student and friend of mine, is starting a new tradition this year: Shame Free Blogging.  After a recent incident of downright inappropriate and personal commenting on her blog, she was inspired to stand up and say "NO WAY will I allow you to shame me"--particularly when it comes to our bodies, and our confidence in it and love for it, it is too easy to fall prey to cruel intentions of others.  The internet (and the "blogosphere") is filled with trolls--thoughtless and insecure people who find some sense of power in their life by trying to bring others down or stir the shit.  And today, on Shame Free Blogging Day, I am saying:

We don't buy that crazy here. Peddle that shit elsewhere.

A little bit from Arya's blog about it:

"I am not ashamed of my body.  My body is strong, supple, and graceful.  It is firm in some places, and soft in others.  It rises to my demands (almost) without fail, whether I want to participate in a four-hour yoga workshop, make it through boot camp and two war zones, shimmy for two hours straight, make love with my husband, run for three miles, or stay up through the night with a woman in labor.  My body is shaped in a way that screams "WOMAN!", and I'm finally, blessedly, okay with enjoying that.

I will not be shamed."

If you have a blog, or even a Facebook page, where you would like to show solidarity for a shame-free experience on the internet, join us today by posting one of Arya's lovely badges on your blog, site, or page.

Live in the layers...

by Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Layers
Stanley Kunitz
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strenth
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

FAQ Spotlight: When do I get to perform?

by Sunday, March 06, 2011
When I was a new student, I was absolutely rabid for any new information on bellydance. I was always digging around for new details about the styles I was studying, the classes I was taking, and the teachers I was studying with (or hoped to one day study with). I know a lot of you reading this blog are the same way--you just love reading about the dance, and learning all you can in your time both in and outside of class!

It was in this spirit that I started my FAQ section on my website. I knew other dancers are just like me, and are eager to read up on various topics having to do with the dance. There is a lot to cover, but I tried to focus my questions and answers on the same topics I wondered about when I was first learning. It makes for a long FAQ, though, and it can be hard to find time to dig through it all. So I am going to occasionally post a blog entry featuring one of the FAQ topics I think you may enjoy reading. I welcome any thoughts or feedback on these topics--I am still that same eager student who loves to study and discuss all the angles of this incredible dance form!

When do I get to perform?

Performing is an exciting way to bring the joy you feel in dancing to an audience--I have been a performer all my life and can definitely vouch for what a rewarding experience it can be to take to the stage. However, it is by no means a requirement, nor is it even a "natural progression" that every dancer should one day perform. Many students are quite happy to confine their dancing to class and/or their living room, and never perform for the public, and that is absolutely fine.

Patience, Persistence and Practice!
For those who do want to perform, it is important to know that the skills one must develop to become a strong performer is a process that takes years. No matter how eager or well-intentioned, one cannot simply "take a few classes" and be adequately prepared to present this art form to an audience. Would you take a few ballet classes and do Swan Lake? Would you take a few painting classes and have a gallery opening? Would you take a few months of piano lessons and put on a concert? No, it takes years of thoughtful study and dedication to reach that point. Any art deserves time and guided development before it is ready to be presented to the public. And you deserve the time to enjoy being a pure student, enjoying the exploration of movement and community, free from the responsibilities that performing demands. Students should consider carefully before accepting an opportunity to perform without the guidance of a trusted mentor/instructor. It's a responsibility that deserves preparation and respect. Please feel free to talk to me if you have any thoughts or questions about performance ethics and preparation.

Hafla Durga 2006
Student level performances, under the guidance of your teacher, are a good way to see if performing is for you, and to learn some basic and vital performance skills. For a student performance, careful choice of the appropriate venue, music, and costuming is something your instructor can guide you in, and are details that should not be taken lightly. A trusted mentor or teacher can help you sidestep common pitfalls, and make sure that you represent yourself beautifully and confidently on stage. Remember, when you perform, you represent not only yourself, but your fellow dancers, your teacher, and the art form in general. Don't you think it's important that you put your best foot forward by being adequately prepared and guided by someone who is experienced in performance of this art? Check out the next section about our student troupe, Nomaditude, to see if it's something you'd like to try!

Bottom line, concentrating on your personal development, dedicating your energies to improving your dance skills and expanding your knowledge of tribal bellydance, may guide you down the road to performing one day. Don't rush the process. Enjoy the work of being a student, and make regular study/classes your highest priority in pursuing a future in performance. Trust me--your dedication and commitment will be well worth it, wherever it leads you.

Note:  This FAQ definitely reflects my philosophy on performing. Different teachers may guide you differently. Some encourage students to perform right away, after only a few weeks. Some will never provide performance opportunities for their students.  I like to think that I encourage my students to perform at a time when they are best mentally and physically prepared (in the style we learn together in class), and I try to create various opportunities which introduce different level dancers at venues which showcase their talents, so no one ever goes out on stage without the basic tools needed to be a success. For many, that takes more time than they may realize, but I promise to always try and do my best to be an honest and thoughtful teacher in this regard.

I encourage every student to find a teacher and a style which resonate with you, whom you trust to help you be your best, and be guided by their advice.

Steampunk Bellydance - an article and some thoughts

by Monday, February 28, 2011
 On a discussion over in the comments section on this article on Gilded Serpent, there is some debate about whether Steampunk Bellydance is a legitimate genre of dance or not--the article asserts it is not, and some commenters argue the contrary.

One very articulate poster, going only by the name "T.", is clearly a Steampunk practitioner/enthusiast/community member, and had some very articulate thoughts to share on her frustrations with the overuse of Steampunk in everyday parlance.  A portion of her post read:

"It’s never a good feeling, having your meticulous, time-honored craft dismissed or eclipsed by a trend you have no immediate connection to. It’s difficult not to feel uneasy, watching your art form be oversimplified, lumped in, or lazily dismissed by an all-too-easy and reductive definition. It’s not fun, being shoved in a box that you have no desire to be in, even if that box is comfortable, or even inspiring, for plenty of others who’ve willingly placed themselves inside of it."

My reply, which I share as a founding member of the Seattle Steamrats in addition to my over a decade of teaching and performing bellydance, are as follows follows:

A. Not to be flip, but I imagine this sums up the feelings of a large cross-section of the bellydance "culture" who feel that lots of different things have been tossed into a giant pile and called bellydance, for no other reason than someone likes bellydance AND something else, and they think that gives them the inalienable right to jam them together and call it bellydance.  These sentiments ring true to artists of any and all ilk--there are always those who are trying to maintain a set of recognizable criteria and standards, and there are those who feel to do so is a constraint of their creativity. The former feels they are being undermined in their efforts to uphold their ideals, and the latter feels they are "taking it to the next level."

I always argue that a dancer should be able to remove their costume and even the music (gasp), and those knowledgable of the style being presented should be able to recognize the dance they are doing.  I have yet to see a performance called "Steampunk bellydance" able to communicate that fusion through purely movement. Tempest and I disagree on gothic bellydance as well--I have not yet experienced something under that moniker that didn't look simply as either simply bellydance or generally modern/interpretive dance.

Think of it. Can you recognize tap without any of the trappings? How about ballet? Flamenco? Hip Hop? Irish Step Dance?  Contact improv? Salsa? Jitterbug? Stomp?
And within these styles, experts can even discern sub-styles fairly easily.  Yet with bellydance, often we throw on a different piece of music and a different costume, and we think we can call it something else. We need to look deeper, as a community of artists, to understand what really differentiates one style from another and whether it truly is a new style, or an existing style in a new frock.

Shay and Chris at a Seattle Steamrats gathering

How many hours for a bellydance gig?

by Sunday, February 20, 2011
In a previous post, we looked at The True Cost of a Performance. In this installment, we look at the incomparable Delilah Flynn's question of:

Q. "How many hours does it take you to do a belly dance gig?"

Delilah's Answer:
"8PM show. 

I have to eat my last meal by 3:00 PM or I feel sluggish and bloated. So I have to plan my day accordingly. Open suitcase and gather costume pieces. Iron veil if necessary. Make sure I have costume, make up, zills, evening dress, shoes and stockings in the early day so incase I have to run an errand I have time. This takes about 30 minutes somewhere in my day. 

I shower at 5:30 and begin putting on makeup and doing hair at 6:00-6:45 and get dressed and load the car with costumes, sound system, props. 

Arrive at the gig to get acclimated at least 30-40 minutes in advance so I leave the house at 7:00 if local. The show is at 8:00 give or take a few . Usually shows go on a little late if the audience is still arriving . 

By 9 :00 I should be finished and need 30 minutes to cool down before stepping out in the Seattle rain. How ever the audience usually wants to meet the dancers so going out and saying hello is a professional curtesy.  So I probably am in my car at 10:00 realistically.

I estimate it takes me 30 minutes pre-plan during the day then 5pm-10:15 pm is my time investment for 1 nightly gig. So around 5 1/2 hours including driving and parking. If I have to set up sound lights or rehearse and do a sound and light check, then it could be all day long! If the show has 2 sets or is a theater show it could be all night too! 

The time it took to procure costumes, music, equipment, design and print business cards is another time investment and is why we don't work by the hour but by the gig. When dancers get $60-$100 for a gig it's not star wages or anything near! 

So even the lowest dancer on the totem pole should get paid I think. If the club or gig is resistant then perhaps you are deluding yourself as to your worth as a performer. This is where the stuff gets so sticky. "But I want to dance!" Yup...I know. Find a hafla, festival or recital show. So if the club is at least paying 1 dancer is it different? Maybe. How much are they paying her I suppose would be the next consideration. How many tables are in the room. Has business increased because of the show? Is the club owner advertising the show or is he just figuring your friends will come in. Ugh! Are the other dancers announced as students with a professional representation of belly dance getting paid. Maybe thats fine. have you spent all this time getting ready for your gig and there is still no audience. If the club owner has no investment in the show he won't advertise or get the word out (believe me restraunt owners are exhausted). He will rely on YOU. So then it's even more of your time! "

Valentine's Day - Why all the hatin'?

by Monday, February 14, 2011
A re-blog from my Livejournal, circa 2007

Valentine's Day...

I have never understood the amount of negativity people have toward a holiday that is devoted to love. This is not directed at anyone particular, but instead feelings that have long germinated in me over this topic.

"But it's so COMMERCIALIZED..."
You don't have to buy a THING from Hallmark or anyone else to give a gift to someone you love. Draw or paint something for your Mom. Sew up something fun for your best girlfriend. Make a "coupon book" for your boyfriend. Wash your car and go for a day road-trip with your honey, pack a picnic dinner...so many little things you can do for fun.

"I hate feeling like I am OBLIGATED to do something..."
Obligated? How about OPPORTUNITY?! A chance to celebrate the idea of love, in all its forms, with the rest of the country (or world, depending on other countries that celebrate it :). A chance to smile, look someone in the eye, and say "Happy Valentine's Day!" and better yet, follow it up with "I love you!" And from there, it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. No obligation. Just a chance to do something a little special and different from last Tuesday...

"Why just ONE day? I mean, we should be loving to each other EVERY day."
Right, and every day should be your birthday, because you are valuable and special every day? And it should be Christmas every day because we should celebrate good will toward men every day. And it should be Independence Day every day because we should be grateful for all the freedoms our country allows us, and the honor the men and women who fight for those rights and priviledges. And am I only required to not be racist during black history month?

Setting aside one day to especially recognize something important doesn't mean it isn't something that should be valued and practiced the rest of the year. But having one day to really focus on it and share that moment with many other people who are also celebrating and honoring it...it's magical. Give yourself permission to share in it, too!

If you don't want to celebrate it, fine. But the excuses make no sense to me. This holiday, in whatever different form, was around long before commercialism took hold of it. We don't have to be bound by what they say it is. It is what WE make it--a chance to give friends an extra-special gift or write them a note to acknowledgment their value in our lives; a chance to pat ourselves on the back and focus on the love we have for ourselves and maybe treat ourselves to a little indulgence we might not ordinarily; a chance to go out of your way to tell your family how much they mean to you and add a smile to their day; and for some it is just plain permission to say "I love you" to people who on any other day might feel it was overly emotional or out of context--not everyone has open, loving relationships in their lives where they get to say it and hear it every other day of the year. If you are one who does, then you are blessed. If you are not, then don't disparage a holiday and businesses which support the practice so at least one day a year, a woman (or man) gets flowers, candy, and a back rub. :)

A question of musicality...

by Friday, February 11, 2011
On Tribe, a fellow dancer shared a wonderful link to spark a discussion about how you learn and/or teach musicality in bellydance.   It ties into yet another Tribe discussion on the Tribal Bellydance tribe where a fellow member asked about whether you "count" or "feel" the music, which this article also addresses.  The article is about salsa, but the concepts apply, and offers good food for thought, so I thought I would share!

Here is a snippet:

"To the many who try to downplay the use of counting music, consider for a moment our beloved salsa music that we yearn to dance to. Those musicians count their music. In the words of “The Unlikely Salsero” Don Baarns, “Music ain’t random.” It has structure. No matter how dynamic or unconventional a song is, it has structure. The count is the structure of this music. A band has to count its music the same so that each member can be on the same page, or else musical chaos ensues. When each band member is playing his or her role and instrument, doing something different from one another that still somehow gels together into the beautiful sounds we hear, the count is the common ground that they all return to. I dare anyone to try to convince a legitimate musician or band not to count because it’s not important. The members of the band cannot simply “feel” the music. Each band member thinks differently and has a different personality, and therefore will not feel or interpret the music the same as the next. If each member only relied on his or her “feeling”, the song would be an un-danceable mess. This is no different for us in this partner dance we call salsa. If you are dancing with another person, you are dealing with another mind, another personality that will not feel the music the same way that you do, not to mention the fact that person is of the opposite gender (but that’s another story). The count is there so that you both will be able to be on the same page, the same way that the members of a band would. If the musicians that produce the music we dance to feel that counting is important, why shouldn't we?"

DanceNerdsUnite also has a post about musicality that I really enjoyed reading.

"Musical dancers, on the other hand, never disregard the music to fit in more tricks. “You can see the effort in a nonmusical dancer—they are often step-driven,” says NYC ballet teacher Deborah Wingert. “Musical dancers don’t just turn until they stop. They turn until they have to move on to the next point in the music. Musical dancers never get so caught up in steps that they ignore the music.”"

The True Cost of a Performance

by Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Over on Bhuz, they have some regularly featured blog posts that are fun to poke around at from time to time. This particular post I saw today made me want to cheer for all the articulate and thoughtful consideration that went into the topic: a breakdown of what it really costs to be a dancer, and why our rates are set as they are.  Many thanks to Jennifer for her post! A snippet appears below, and a link to the full article is HERE.

"Here is the whole breakdown of why I and other belly dancers in my area, charge what we do. After examining this list it should become very apparent why this is a specialty type of service and the key differentiators between a professional such as myself and non-professionals. The dancing you see in a performance is the fun part, but the behind the scenes work that is put into producing a show is quite a different story:
  • Gas- It just keeps going higher doesn’t it?
  • Car Maintenance- My car is one of my most important assets, if it is not up to shape I cannot drive anywhere! As a belly dancer I put in about 24,000 miles a year driving to all my venues and events.
  • Tolls- Those get higher every year as well.
  •  “Renting” Costumes- All my costumes are high end Turkish designer duds or from my self-made line. All in all, that leads to big $$$$ being spent to make a big impression. Every wear of a costume depreciates its resale value (like a car). In fact we are  "renting” a costume every time we use it.
  • “Renting” Props- the same basic idea goes for props as it does costumes.
  • Custom Music Edits- Hello software! Music editing software costs money and so does every single song we must buy that is not easily available on popular music sites such as I-tunes. Many of the most amazing songs I use have taken months of research to find, and are in languages not familiar to me, so that is a part-time job in and of itself....(continued)"
Read the rest of the list at http://bellydancebyjennifer.com/blog.html

How to Get Gigs by Cera Byer

by Saturday, February 05, 2011
Cera Byer (director of Damage Control Dance Theater) wrote a note recently over on Facebook about what it takes to get gigs. With her permission, I re-post her pragmatic advice here for your enjoyment. (punctuation and grammar were copied as written)

"a lot of people have been asking me recently how i get dance jobs/how i get hired at festivals, so i thought i'd just make a public post about it.

here's the answer: I ASK.

yep, that's it, no magic. i just ask.

i have a browser window that's always open that has the following tabs open at all times:
craigslist, danceplug audition board, theater bay area audition listings, and one empty one that cycles through google searches and dance magazines.

every single day, after i check my email, i look through each of these, and i apply to everything that looks interesting. EVERYTHING. even things i may not be able to do because of the date or how much it pays, just so people have my resume on file.

if there are no listings that look good, i will google dance festivals, theater companies, anything that i know pays dancers in my area, and i send in an unsolicited application - this means, even tho i dont see a listing saying they're hiring, i write to them and tell them who i am and say i'd love it if they had my resume on file for future projects. some companies dont like this, but i've had people write back and say 'OMG a choreographer just quit, can you come in today!?'

i applied to teach at tribal fest every year for 6 years before they hired me.
i applied to teach at kosmos camp every year for 3 years before they hired me.
i applied to teach at bellyfusions, and paid out of pocket to bring my company with me when they didn't cover all our travel.
every year, even tho they didn't hire me, i showed up as a participant, i said hi to all the organizers, i shook their hands, and i attended happily, knowing that one day, i'd teach there too.

i ask to be introduced to people if i find out that people i know are friends with people i'd like to know/should know. i walk up and introduce myself to the owners of theaters and the organizers of events, and then i exchange business cards, and then i write to them and follow up. i friend them on facebook, i tell them happy birthday. i stay connected.
i seek out choreographers that i admire and i ask them for critique on my work. i seek out directors and actors i admire and i ask them for critique on my work. 
after a while, people start to ask for you by name, because they know who you are.
i try to connect people if i hear that someone i know is looking for something that someone else i know could help them with, so that if they hear about a project i could be good for, they do the same for me.

the arts business (like all business) is about RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. the first time you meet a new contact may not be when you start working together, sometimes it takes years of saying 'hi' at events before the right project comes along - but trust me, if you keep connected, eventually the right project always comes along.

once you have a gig, be cool with EVERYONE. exchange cards with the tech guys, the venue owners, the bartenders, the dancers, the directors - treat everyone like your peer, because you really dont know who's around. everyone you meet may be the person who hires you for your next job.
be friends with everybody. you dont have to be fake, but work to find a common thread (even as simple as 'we're all on the same gig') with everyone you meet. be punctual, manage time well, deliver a strong product, take criticism well, follow through on commitments as best you can and own mistakes where you cant - like every other relationship you'll ever have - and one job will easily turn into 20.

one of the most important things i ever learned is that you dont have to be the most talented candidate if you're the best to work with. there are lots of talented people out there who aren't cool to work with. if you're both, it puts you way ahead of the game. if you're talented and not cool to work with, you wont get repeat business and referrals, and in a small arts community, that's what it's all about.

if you'd like dance to be your job, treat it like a job. be professional, submit resumes, keep your pro-kit (resume, photos, cv, website, videos, etc) up to date and attractive, and put it into the hands of anyone and everyone who could help you get somewhere. 
most folks would never sit at home and wait for a job to fall into their laps without applying for anything, but people have told me they just figured eventually they'd be 'invited' to teach somewhere. DONT PUT YOUR FATE IN ANYONE ELSES HANDS! if you want it (fuck, if you want ANYTHING), just go ask. you may be surprised at the answer you get.

hope this is helpful =) 

FAQ Spotlight - taking "lower level" classes

by Wednesday, February 02, 2011
When I was a new student, I was absolutely rabid for any new information on bellydance. I was always digging around for new details about the styles I was studying, the classes I was taking, and the teachers I was studying with (or hoped to one day study with). I know a lot of you reading this blog are the same way--you just love reading about the dance, and learning all you can in your time both in and outside of class!

It was in this spirit that I started my FAQ section on my website. I knew other dancers are just like me, and are eager to read up on various topics having to do with the dance. There is a lot to cover, but I tried to focus my questions and answers on the same questions I had when I was first learning. It makes for a long FAQ, though, and it can be hard to find time to dig through it all. So I am going to occasionally post a blog entry featuring one of the FAQ topics I think you may enjoy reading. I welcome any thoughts or feedback on these topics--I am still that same eager student who loves to study and discuss all the angles of this incredible dance form!

Our first featured topic is:

Once I have progressed to the next level in class, why would I want to continue taking the previous level class?

You can read the full FAQ response by clicking the link (the question) above. Sandi of FCBD put it in excellent perspective:

"For me, its kind of like going to yoga classes for a long time. You do the same poses and hear the same words, but you're always able to get better at the poses each time through that verbal guidance. That's what happens with constant practice too. I find that I'm not always successful doing yoga at home on my own because I don't have the guidance and the energy of the other students around me to push me to do it correctly or motivate me to keep the pose for longer.

With ATS, I would always go into a class to not only understand what the teacher is saying, but to get into my body more and try to work on my problem areas."

Right on, Sandi! Have a gander at the FAQ, and please feel free to share any further thoughts you may have!

The Sound of Music: Fast Class Music

by Sunday, January 30, 2011
You have asked for it, and I am happy to be sharing with you more music suggestions for dancing and listening. This month we're looking at the common music we use in classes each week. The more familiar you are with these songs, the better you will be able to respond to it in the moment, and the better dancer you will be. Especially in the lead, timing your transitions thoughtfully around changes in the music is a key to gently bringing your followers along with you, making everyone look synchronous and confident.

And the more you listen to Middle Eastern music in general, the more you will begin to recognize common themes and patterns. Eventually, you develop an ear that can anticipate changes, even in music you may have never heard before, and be able to respond to them spontaneously. That's when the real magic strikes...and opens doors to dancing joyfully to live musicians!

So here is a list of fast songs we use in class, which has links to the album on either Amazon or iTunes where you can purchase the individual songs, or the entire album!

Baladi Unplugged (our zilling tune!) / Helm / Itneen
Saidi Festival / Upper Egypt Ensemble / Egypt-A Musical Voyage
Mazamir / BodyShock / The Bellydance Project
Sout With Spice / FatChance Belly Dance / Itneen
Wuh Ya Booy (Oh Father) / Hossam Ramzy / Sabla Tolo III
Entah / Helm /Itneen
*This is a legal, free download of this entire album. Just click "Slow Download" to start the transfer.

Roast Butterflied Chicken w/ Potatoes

by Saturday, January 15, 2011
We accidentally double-ordered whole chickens this week, and we planned to try out two new recipes. Instead, we cooked this twice this week it was so yummy, with minor variations the second time for fun. With the two of us, there is enough for dinner and some leftovers (some I had for lunch, some we cooked into a quick chicken fettucine later in the week)

  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs ideal, but anything over 2.5 lbs will be fine)
  • 2-3 yukon gold potatoes (or 1-2 baking potatoes of your choice--you will want lots of these, so don't skimp!) 
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Any dry herbs of your choice. We used classic Italian spices, since we prefer it - oregano, basil, garlic salt, onion powder, and rosemary. A tsp of each is probably enough, or whatever you eyeball to get decent coverage on your chicken

 Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees, and put rack one below your oven's center.

Line the broiler rack tray with foil. If you like, also foil the rack, for easier clean up, but punch holes in key places near the center to make sure the fat from the chicken is able to drip down into tray below.

Cut potatoes into 1.5'-2" pieces, whatever you like for roast potatoes. Toss in 1.5 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Put into roasting pan, sprinkle with some rosemary if you like.

Butterfly your chicken - if you have never done this before, don't be afraid! It's super easy! See a video here to see how easy it is. Don't be afraid to be rough with your chicken to get it set up how you like, it can take it. I hadn't done this before this week, and now I already feel like an old hand at it.

Slide your fingers under the skin of the breast and thighs, making room for flavorful goodness to get under there. Try not to perforate the skin or break through the other side, so you create a little "pocket" instead of a sheath open at both ends, if that makes sense.

Combine your herbs in a bowl. If you like, you can grind together with a mortar and pestle to get if nice and fine and well-blended.

Melt your butter in the microwave, then throw in the herbs and stir up.

Spoon the butter and herb mixture under the skin of the bird. This is kinda messy, but worth it. Use the spoon to spread it around (or if you were a mud-pie kinda kid, use your fingers!).

Put rack on top of roasting pan with potatoes in it, and place the chicken on the rack. Arrange legs to partly cover the breasts, and make sure the skin is covering the meat (exposed skinless meat can dry out).

Cook at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then rotate pan 180 and cook another 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, set chicken aside to rest 5 minutes. Pat your potatoes with paper towels to remove excess oils. They will have been soaking up the drippings from the chicken down there, which is great for flavor, but without some paper towel action they can be greasy, so don't skip this step if you want good crunchy potatoes. Some may stick to the foil; just scrape them up as much as you can.

For the two of us, I cut the chicken in half with a sharp kitchen knife. I put a pile of roast potatoes on the plate, and arranged the half chicken leaning against the potato-mountain. Then a veggie on the side if you planned for that. Note: heating some corn or peas on the stove during the last 10 minutes is easy enough, and you make your Mom proud eating your veggies. If you like, putting some carrots in with your potatoes in the roasting pan is another veggie option.


A classic interview with Paulette Rees-Denis

by Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I wanted to share this interview/article from several years ago in which Paulette was interviewed by a local NW dancer, Oberon, on iShimmy.com

There was always a fateful connection for me with Paulette...a reason why I was drawn to her, that was not simply geographical proximity. And those who know me will see how much we speak with the same voice on so many issues. I have always been inspired by how she has found such articulate, positive ways to channel her passion for bellydance, and all the nuances of artistic ethics and community building. She has always been, and continues to be, a mentor to me on so many levels, and I loved re-visiting this article and be reminded again why I am so proud to call her my original tribal bellydance "Momma". I hope you enjoy it, too!

On "the Bellydance Police"

by Sunday, January 09, 2011
On Shira's tribe over on tribe.net (no, tribe isn't dead!), she referenced an article on Gilded Serpent in which another dancer wrote with a fair amount of disdain about those who rally behind the idea of retaining historical and cultural elements of bellydance (what is often termed "The Bellydance Police"). You can see the discussion, and link to the article, HERE. Shira follows it up with a great analogy, which I thought would be nice to share over here. So without further ado, I give you Shira's take:

"Let's say I write a 17-line poem with each line containing somewhere between 8 and 34 syllables and call it haiku. Now, the "poetry police" killjoys would tell you that such a poem does not conform to the properties of haiku (3 lines in length, with 5 syllables in line 1, 7 syllables in line 2, 5 syllables in line 3) and therefore is not haiku. Now, this poem may well convey my vision, my passion, my joy, and a completeness in my quest for beauty. These things would certainly qualify it as "poetry", but they don't qualify it as haiku.

But if I enter that poem in a haiku writing contest, should I expect to win? Should I expect journals that specialize in haiku to publish it, simply because I have chosen to declare that it is haiku, even though it does not contain the properties that people well-versed in the form would recognize as haiku?

If I start teaching classes in how to write haiku, should it be okay that I encourage my students to write any poem of any structure they please, all in the name of their vision, their passion, their joy, and a completeness in their quest for beauty while still calling the end result haiku? 

I would argue that no, it may all still be POETRY, and it all may all be worthy of being read, but there is a certain basic set of properties that must be met before you identify it as a specific genre of poetry. It still deserves to be written, and shared if the poet wishes to share it, but ultimately there should be truth in labeling."

Busy Busy Season!

by Thursday, January 06, 2011
Sorry things have been so slow around here lately. I am sure you all have been experiencing the same thing--that holiday hectic...ness? -icity? Whatever, it's just been really busy. So I haven't had a lot of time to share my thoughts here.

The biggest change has been that shortly before Thanksgiving, I took a contract job with The Purple Store.  What is it, you ask? Why, a store that sells purple things of course.  Yep, that is the business model.  If you or someone you know loves purple, they need to check out this shop. The site isn't fancy, but it's chock full of purpley goodness.

As you might imagine, being any kind of retailer around the holidays meant that my training was trial-by-fire, as we leapt from a manageable chunk or orders each day to OMGWTFXMAS in just over a week after I started. Luckily, the people I work with are smart, funny, motivated people, and we worked hard as a team to kick out the orders, answer customer service queries, and even put up a small retail space for last minute Christmas shoppers to get their gift on. To say it was a crazy busy time would be an understatement, but it was a joy to get to flex some different mental and physical muscles.

Classes have been small since I returned from hiatus, but it is made up of a dedicated bunch of women.

It's been a lot of fun to be able to give more personal attention to each individual student. It reminds me of the first year I taught, and how it felt to be able to really see each student fully and personally.  

It's been an interesting contrast to more recent years where, while I have always endeavored  to give each student the attention they deserved, I wasn't always able to key in to some of the details I can when groups are smaller.  It has given me a lot to think about as a teacher, and kind of re-prioritize what my eye should train on when in larger groups.  Good for larger classes and workshops both.

On the web design front things have been picking up at the end of the year/start of the new year.  It's been really fun digging into some of the new CS3 capabilities, allowing me to make tweaks here and there that are both cosmetically pleasing AND performance boosting. Who knew the two could go hand-in-hand? My latest project that is live is http://www.buddhakittyglass.com which is the business of our good friend Steena Fullmer. She turned her beloved hobby of fused glass into a tidy little online business, and has been growing with each year in both her skills and her customer demand. I was thrilled to get my hands on her website and fix it up so not only was it lovely and reflected her aesthetic, but was something she can easily edit and update herself. Now that's design I can get excited about!

At home, this new three-job life has been keeping me from my beloved home-care routine.  Dishes are not getting done every day, the bed is rarely made, and don't talk to me about vacuuming and dusting. Chris has been a rock star doing his best to help pick up the slack, but with the the many holiday obligations, it's been a challenge to find the energy.  But part of it is feeling a little cabin-fevery and longing for a little sunshine and warmth--grey and cold sucks the motivation right out of me, and all I wanna do is watch TV and drink tea! I feel confident I am not alone in this.

The thought that spring is around the corner (well, enough for me) is exciting. I am eager to get back out in the garden and make everything pretty again. We have a pile of unfinished projects from last year, plus the dream of starting our veggie garden to go with our successful herb garden from 2010. And more fresh herbs and veggies means more COOKING to be done!  We started our "Moore Family Cooking Compendium" last year--a folder where we keep our favorite recipes in little plastic sleeves for frequent use--and I intend to see a multi-volume set developing by the end of 2011.

I am pretty sure that catches us up for now. I can't say I am at all sad to see 2010 behind me. It started so amazingly, and then somewhere in the first third, shit hit the fan so hard, it was easy to imagine never recovering. We are still licking our wounds here in the Moore house, but we are a scrappy bunch and won't let anything keep us down for long. Besides, one of my Christmas gifts from Chris was a big ol' gift card from Fluevog, and with shiny new 'vogs on the horizon, how could the new year go anywhere but up?


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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