Thursday, December 3, 2009

Can you help?

Hey there,

As some of you may know, my neighbors were robbed yesterday. The jerk took their computer, their camera, the kids' Wii and all accessories and games, and, worst of all in my opinion, the Christmas gifts for the kids. Check out this news article for more info.

What gets me is that they knew they were taking gifts for children when they stole that stuff. You don't pick up a brand-new-in-the-box toy and not realize that it's meant for a child. I don't know if they are going to sell it or give it to their own kids, but either way, it's just despicable. The neighbor kids and my kids play together, and it just broke my heart when I heard about what happened. Their youngest daughter was with them when they found the back window shattered and the door wide open. She was terrified. I've rarely seen a child that upset.

I want to help them, in any way we can. My husband, Jason, already got them a computer through work. It's not new, but it's theirs to keep and will get them through until they can get something better, if they'd like. I'm going to pick up a gift for each of the kids, but one gift isn't enough. If anyone out there wants to donate a gift card or a toy for the kids, please contact me. Anything at all is accepted and so greatly appreciated. Just drop me a line.

Those of you who know me know my family has been struggling the last two years. I've been out of work and Christmas's have been lean. We're struggling with two cars that are on their last legs and just trying to make it. We know how this family feels. Their story is very much like ours. I know how devastated I would be if this happened to us, and it just tears me up. To know the kids are going to be so sad, that the youngest will wonder why Santa didn't come this year... it just kills me. Please, if you are able, even a $20 gift card will go a long way. Let me know and you can be Santa this year.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Something Corwin said that I want to share...

My sons (ages 8 and 2, to be 9 and 3 next month. :O!!!!!!!!) and I were watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone yesterday and the scene where Hagrid gives Dudley a tail was playing. Xay asked why Dudley was jumping around when Hagrid zapped him. I explained that it must have hurt. However, Corwin turned around and said, “No! Harry scared the worm out of his pocket!” Clearly, that is what happened. All this time I thought Dudley was growing a pig’s tail, when really, he was harboring a worm in his pocket.

I thought this was hilarious and completely plausible. Good job, Diddy!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hard life lessons.

My oldest son, Xay, and I were hanging out in downtown Augusta this past Saturday and we were ardently looking for a place to have lunch as it was 3PM and we hadn't eaten. As we were passing Metro Coffee House, an older man came up to me and asked if we could spare any money. I always feel terrible in these situations because a) I don't carry cash and can't help this person (and I seriously would if I carried cash; just giving it all away though I haven't worked in over two years) and b) I don't carry cash for just this reason and I'm secretly relieved because these situations make me a tad frightened. Especially with my kids in tow. I explained that I didn't have any cash on me and the man then asked if I could buy him a cup of coffee on my credit card. I thought this was incredibly ballsy and in a flat tone, I explained that I was most concerned with feeding my son at the moment. It was at that point that I went from sympathetic to irritated.

However, I could see that Xay was pretty affected. He asked what that man had asked me, and when I explained, Xay asked why he would do that.

I said, "He's homeless, honey."

I don't think Xay thought that homeless people were in our town or that they could look pretty much like anyone else on the street. I explained that I didn't have any cash to give the man. He was pretty shocked and saddened by seeing someone who was hungry enough to beg on a public street in broad daylight. The irony of us sitting in a restaurant (granted a BIG treat for us!) eating after the encounter was not lost on me. I was feeling cynical and upset myself, but I was trying to have a good day with Xay, too.

After we were seated and our Cokes* came, Xay asked if we could go home afterward and he could get some of his allowance money from his bank to give to the man. I said we'd talk about it. And, if he was serious about it, I would have gladly let him do whatever he was moved to do. I want to encourage both of my kids to be compassionate. After a few silent moments, Xay then announces that he doesn't think he can eat his whole lunch. Moments before he was starving; I knew where this as going.

"You eat until you are full, ok? Then, if there is anything left over and you want to give it away, we'll box it up and you can give it to that man if he'll take it, ok?" He beamed and my heart melted.

I could tell he was really serious about this and was genuinely concerned for this man. I felt so jaded and cynical because I don't like to give homeless people money for all the worst reasons: what if they just use it for alcohol or drugs? (So what if they do? It's the act of compassion, with no strings attached, that I should be striving for.) What if they think it's not enough and they try to mug me? (A genuine concern, especially when my kids are with me. Then again, I don't go into scary places with my kids.) Mostly, I'd rather do something tangible for someone in need rather than throw money at it.

So, I decided I would have half my sandwich and cheese fries boxed up for the man. That half would go to waste if it were just me eating it, and this would put it to good use. We added the celery that came with Xay's wings, three wet wipes Xay didn't use, and got a to-go Coke for him. Xay was so excited about giving this man a warm meal that he couldn't get out of there fast enough.

We left, and looked for the man where we left him. I was feeling happy, though a bit nervous, too. I didn't know what to expect of his reaction. We didn't find him for about a half hour; we were wandering around downtown doing our thing and suddenly there he was.

I said, "Xay, is that him?"

Xay nearly ran into traffic to get to him. He was giddy! I was (and am) so proud of him.

Then, everything sort of fell apart. As we were walking across the street to give this man the food we carried all over downtown for him, he walked up to three people leaving a sidewalk cafe and asked if he could have the leftover beer they were walking away from. He was trying to make a quick getaway with an open container when we walked up to him.

"We got you some lunch," I said as I handed him the to-go box. Xay stood next to me, practically bouncing, with a huge, hopeful smile plastered on his face.

The man mumbled, "Okay," snatched the box, then quickly walked away. No thank-yous, no smile, no nothing. Like we were handing out unwanted fliers on the street. Xay stood there looking from him to me, with this confused and stunned look on his face. He was so hurt.

"Mom, what happened?"

I didn't know what to say. So, I put my arm around him and told him that some people, no matter their living situation, don't know how to be polite or say thank-you, but that once he got to eat the food, even if he didn't think of us, he would be glad to have that and that Xay had given that to him.

We walked along in silence for a little bit after that. I could tell that Xay was thinking about it alot. I was angry at that man: he was rude and pushy when he forced his way into our afternoon asking scary, inconvenient questions, then when we try to rise to the occasion and do the hard thing, he brushed past us, grabbing the food we were trying to offer in love and leaving without so much as a hint of thanks. Most of all, he hurt my kid's feelings when he was trying to hard to do something good for someone, to make someone happy, to feed someone who was hungry.

All I could say was, "Honey, what you did was wonderful, compassionate thing to do. His reaction didn't matter, and a thank you would have just been a bonus. You can't let that get in the way of you doing good; you can't let it make you hard-hearted to those in need. You gave a hungry person food. There's nothing in the world better then that." He nodded, and said I was right. I hope he believes it.

My sons make me want to be better, they help me BE better. I hope this doesn't make Xay hesitate to help others. I've emailed a local soup kitchen to see if Xay and I can volunteer. I think he would like that, and it would do him good to see people who sincerely appreciate what you are doing for them. I'll keep you posted.


*Yes, I had a Coke. My third since giving up sodas weeks ago. I don't feel bad.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Chili Recipe

I love to cook, and especially to bake. I really wish I would have paid attention to my Mom and Dad all those years they told me to pay attention in the kitchen because I'd know so much more, including family recipes and techniques. I'm lucky that I'm still able to learn them from my parents when I'm with them. This stubbornness (ie "I can read. All I have to do is read the recipe." What a little jerk I was! And foolish, too.) lead me to leave home with very little kitchen expertise and a sadly lacking imagination for menu planning. I still struggle with figuring out a menu for my family that is consistently satisfying to them yet varied enough for me and isn't boring to prepare.

One of the first recipes I came up with was what would later be known as my Sweet Chili. I've given it out to a few people, usually after they've eaten it and been convinced that chili can be sweet, not just savory or spicy. Lately, I've taken to sharing it online or giving it out on a nice recipe card in swaps. I've been really honored to have gotten some very kind and enthusiastic feedback on my chili and I love to share. So, I thought I'd share the recipe here, too.

Jeannie’s Sweet Chili.

1 bottle of V8 (I use the medium-sized bottle, and I usually get one fortified with calcium or antioxidants)
1 can each of mild chili beans, light kidney beans, dark kidney beans, great northern beans, black beans
1.5 pounds of hamburger or ground turkey (they both taste GREAT!) Or soy crumbles.
1 family-sized boil-in-bag brown rice
Chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, season salt, sugar

Brown the meat with a few dashes of garlic and onion powders, just to make the kitchen smell fantastic and get you in the mood to cook. While that is cooking, open all cans of beans. Once meat is cooked through, drain thoroughly (I even wipe out the pan to remove as much residual fat as possible), return to pot and heat.

Add V8.

Empty all beans EXCEPT the chili beans, into a colander and rinse with cool water until it runs clear. Add all beans to the pot. Marvel at how pretty all those beans look together.

Cook boil-in-bag rice per manufacturer’s directions (I cook mine in the microwave for ten minutes in a micro-safe bowl, covered in water).

Bringing the chili to a simmer, add enough chili powder to cover the surface of the chili in a dry layer (you want enough chili powder to make it taste like chili and not tomato soup). Stir. Add garlic and onion powders to taste. If you feel it needs more salt, use season salt so you get less sodium and more flavor. Stir in about a 3/4 cup sugar until it is dissolved. Taste often to be sure it’s just how you like it.

Stir in hot cooked rice, heat to steaming and serve.

My family gets two meals and leftovers out of this recipe, so I’d estimate that it would serve 8 comfortably.

Notes: I make this chili because my family loves it and my husband just recently started eating veggies. So, with the V8 and a glass of milk, I could be sure he was getting a complete meal in a bowl, with lots of fiber and protein to boot. However, I’d make this a bit differently if I were making it exactly how I like it: I’d add a can of crushed tomatoes, saute a large onion and a few mild peppers with the meat, and serve it with a dollop of sour cream and grated cheese on top with a slice of wheat bread smeared with peanut butter. Everyone thinks I’m crazy to suggest peanut butter bread with chili, but I promise that if you try it, you’ll love it! Just dip it in the chili, and give it a shot; you’ll be amazed at how yummy it is!

If you don’t want to add the rice directly to the pot, it makes a nice presentation to allow the rice to sit in a bowl to cool for a few minutes and become a bit sticky. Then, use an ice cream scoop to place a rice ball in the middle of each bowl of chili. If you like a spicier chili, get hot chili beans, and add more chili powder or a few spicy peppers to the browning meat.

Yum!! I hope you enjoy it! I just wish I could make it for you!


Please note, I'm sharing this because I love giving. So please, if you make this and someone asks for the recipe, it would be very cool of you to call it "Jeannie's Sweet Chili." It took years for me to get this consistent and yummy, and I'm very proud of my little recipe, so giving me credit or directing curious recipe-seekers here would be kind, cool, and appreciated. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Something Xay said today that I want to preserve....

This morning, while driving to school, Xay and I noticed a flock of small black birds flying over the trees. They weren't in formation, and it seemed like they had just been spooked and flew up in a cloud.

Xay said, "Hey, did you see that?"

I told him I had.

He then said, "They looked like a thumbprint."

It was a singularly poetic statement, and for a moment, I was speechless. He's an amazing child.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Who Alchemy is hosting in 2010

Alchemy is very excited to be hosting four amazing artists in workshop next year! Save the dates:

March 20: Aziza Nawal!

Have you met Aziza Nawal? Alchemy calls her "The Chuck Norris of Bellydance"! Incredible precision and a playful attitude combine to make her dynamite on stage! Her drum solos are killer.

June 26: Amberetta!

With grace and poise, Amberetta makes every movement onstage look effortless. Known for her flawless double swords, she infuses a strength into every piece and works tirelessly to inspire her students and fellows dancers.

Third Quarter: Ariellah and the Sideshow Tour!

The Sideshow Tour will not only feature the incomparable Ariellah, but also the evocative Frederique, and couture clothier Black Lotus who helps Ariellah fashion her signature looks.

Here is a look at Ariellah, spellbinding the audience with her dark themes, intense emotion, and impeccable technique.

And, here find Frederique, with a vintage feminine beauty that defies categorization.

Ariellah is currently out of the country, but when she returns, we will announce a firm date for this amazing tour! Alchemy is so excited to be bringing Ariellah to the CSRA for the first time. Not only do we greatly admire her and her work, but we know she is a real favorite in our community.

December 4: Amani Jabril!

Amani is a highly educated dancer who has immersed herself in world dance. As an artist, she combines a high standard of technique with a deep knowledge of cultural nuance and a smoldering sensuality. She's fun and her love of dance creates an atmosphere where learning is easy and the student comes away with more than just a few new moves.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to leave comments here! As always, you can also check out Alchemy for up-to-the-minute info! We have a website, Twitter, Facebook (see the sidebar to the right) and tribe!

BB! And here's to an exciting 2010!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Busy, busy!

Just a little update:

I've been making alot of "stuff" lately. I hate to use such a non-specific word, but there's such a wide variety that I can't be more specific without an exhaustive list. My costume for Southern Mirage this weekend is DONE! W00t!! I'll post pics when I can.

I've also completed all the projects for this month's HPKCHC assignments that I wanted to hand in. Yay!

Also, Alchemy got some AMAZING news recently regarding an artist we will be hosting in 2010. We are so excited, but we want to hold the announcement until this weekend when we will have a big reveal at the show. I'm overjoyed that we are hosting this artist because I've admired their work for a very long time and to be a part of bringing them to the CSRA for the first time is an amazing opportunity that I feel so grateful to be a part of.

I've got to share a wonderful video about one amazing dancer:

And, no, that's not a hint about the paragraph above! lol Ok, that's all for now. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On my mind

So, we've been working hard in our house to be healthier. Part of that, for me, means I'm back to the water-almost-exclusively plan. For two weeks I drink nothing but water, with milk for cereal, and then after two weeks I will occasionally have something else to drink, if I want it. I do this for a couple of reasons: No one in the world needs all the extra calories we take in when we drink sodas, sweet tea or even juices everyday. You also get nutrients from tea and juices, but the sugar gain outweighs the benefits and most of us don't drink just a serving (1/2 cup). Juice packs alot of calories, but you don't get the benefit of the fiber you get when you have a the whole fruit or vegetable. I'm not saying juice is evil, I just prefer to eat a whole fruit/veg and have a glass of water with it. Plus, I'm fuller, longer, and with good stuff. Another reason I, in particular, need to drink as much water as I can is that I am a kidney stone breeder. It's been years (knock wood!!!) since I've passed a stone, and even longer since it's landed me in the hospital, but I can tell you that it is, by far, the worst pain I've ever felt, and I've had two babies. Naturally. I'd rather have a baby than pass a kidney stone. And, since no one knows what my stones are made of, I don't know what to avoid. Better safe than sorry. After two weeks, I'll add hot teas, especially green, back into the mix because I tend to put less sugar in hot tea than cold, sweet tea, and I'm always happy with one cup, whereas I can drink gallons of sweet tea in a day. I've done it.

During these two weeks, I'm not going to change anything else in my diet. I don't like to break my neck and try to change everything at once. I feel that it sets me up for failure. So, I do steps, changing habits and thought patterns gradually, one at a time, building on success and gaining momentum.

Another change I've been working on for a while now is eating fish. Note, that doesn't say eating MORE fish, just eating fish. I've never enjoyed fish, but I want to learn to if nothing else for the health benefits. I started eating some non-vegetarian sushi a couple of years ago, but I hardly count that as it's a very small amount of fish. Recently, I tried some tilapia while out with friends, and I was blown away with how wonderful it was. Mari loves fish and spent some time as a pescetarian , so she's always encouraging me to give fish another shot. I decided that it was time for me to be a grown up and give fish a chance. So far, I've ordered fish twice while out to eat, and I've made fish twice here at home this week. Once it was for dinner and once for lunch. Granted, none of these small forays are perfect, but I've enjoyed every single occasion. Today, I had a Lean Cuisine Parmesan-crusted fish meal for lunch, and I finished it wishing I had a freezer packed with it. It was just amazingly tasty, and the flavor of the fish wasn't drowned out by something else! I actually liked the fish!!! I've got more fish in the freezer, and I'm so encouraged that I may have a tilapia filet for lunch tomorrow.

So, we're eating healthier (lots and lots of veggies! very lean meat! no added oils or fats! FISH! water, water, water!) and we're exercising more. All in all, it's a good thing and I love that Jason is on the bandwagon, too. It's so much easier to make these changes when you're not the only person in the house making them or when you don't have to make a meal for them and meal for yourself.

Now, I don't know if this is related, and if it is, I don't know how, but along with this is an urge to travel. One of my life goals is to live in another country before I die, and maybe even live my life out in another country. I love my country, please don't mistake me, but I also love my world and I've seen far to little of it. Though I feel I have an open and accepting mind, I know there are ideas, people, places out there that I cannot even imagine, and I want to experience that. I want to be immersed in other languages and be forced to learn them in order to survive. I want to live in a bustling Japanese city, a sedate and beautiful Austrian town, on a deep green hillside in Ireland, on the edge of a vast rainforest, within sight of the Egyptian desert, in the Outback, Morocco to Moscow, Paris to the Pacific Northwest, Tehran to Tahiti... I want to live anywhere I can because I want to be a citizen of the world. I think when I work toward making my body healthier, my view is always on the whole and how the systems work with each other, so perhaps it's natural that my thoughts and view would turn outward to see how our world is a reflection of my body. As above, so below, ya know?

So, I sit here and my feet are eager to be off. I want to travel, and I want my children to travel. I want them to see the world, to love it and want to protect it. I hope they will learn to value people (including themselves) for what they are: fallible, imperfect, ultimately lovable, full of grace and worthy of redemption. I hope they will see that different ideas, ideologies, religions, viewpoints, voices, are not only ok, but absolutely necessary. Most of all, I want them to see nature, and feel the full force of Nature, to feel small next to a redwood, and huge when an ant crawls up their shoe, to know they are nothing special, but everything that is amazing. I want them to be filled with pride and humility, and I know that traveling can give that to you. It's a subtle mix, to be sure.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Swap, swap, swap.

It's no secret, I love swapping. I love giving, and receiving ain't too bad, either. I like to blog about the packages I send out so that I can later tell my partner what my thought process was. This is my latest package sent out for the Reducio Sock Swap (Round 7), and the theme was "Aboard the Hogwart's Express!" I decided I wanted to do a traveling/back-to-school slant to this, so I collected items to that end. Here's the whole shebang!:

On the travel side, I sent travel playing cards in a case, travel stickers, travel-themed stitch-markers (which I made), a magic towel (no traveler, or hitch-hiker should be without one!), suckers and a luggage tag in the shape of a frog, which is one animal students are allowed to bring to Hogwart's.

On the back-to-school side, I sent hand sanitizer, recycled pencils, a highlighter, a Sharpie, a calendar, a pencil case, tic-tacs (the her House colors, and no one should go to school with bad breath!), feet-shaped paper clips (good for the travel theme, too), and a few patterns, because we are always looking to learn somethign new. :)

Of course, we always include two hand-made fiber items. This time I sent this little knit bag that I improvised from my Virtue Bookmark pattern:

The back, plain stockinette:

The front. See that tiny cable?!? I could die! :D :

After I made thi bag, I showed it to Xay and his response was, "That looks great! You must be Reducioing again!" LOL I love that he has been drawn into my fandom. :D

And, this little, tiny sock, which is all stripey! I love tiny stitched things!

I sent the package off with a note from my spoilee's Aunt Clara, the Pretty Witch. I gave no other clue as to who I am, but I figure that's a pretty big one considering my Rav name is pretywtch. :) I really hope she enjoys it because I was VERY lucky to get one of my fave Rav people as my partner! I can't wait to see what she thinks! :D


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Random thoughts.

I haven't blogged in a while, at least, not a blog that contain my thoughts and doings. I'm not sure why that is, other than the hermity feeling I get at this time of the year and when I'm at home alot. I find that the more I'm at home, the more I want to be at home and I start to get in a place where I hate the thought of leaving the house. I just become a homebody in the truest sense and I want to dig in with my family close around me. I've been like that lately, and coupled with that is a drive to create! create! create! Hence all the patterns I've been posting. :) So, I've been very active, but not out and about alot.

The past Saturday I finally found the gumption to work on a costume for an upcoming show. I'll reveal more of that later, but I'll say this: it's for Southern Mirage, in which we are hosting Mira Betz. This is our first themed show, but I certainly don't see it being our last. The theme is fairy tales, so all the performances are created with that in mind and the performers seem to really be enjoying having a framework to drape their ideas on. I love working with a theme, so I'm glad to know this is fun for others, too. I have tons of interesting ideas for themes, so we'll see about using those when the time comes.

Speaking of costumes, Xay is having a hard time figuring out what he wants to be for Hallowe'en. It's a struggle for us every year to find something he wants to be that is possible for me to make without pulling my hair out. I need to figure something out for Corwin, too... Sigh. I've got some old costumes of Xay that might work for Corwin, I've just got to pull them out and try them on. I always get that "hand-me-down" guilt, though. I never want Corwin to think he is an afterthought or doesn't deserve something new. When he's old enough to voice what he wants to be, then we'll start worrying about making new stuff for him. For now, I hate waste and excess, so it's reuse, reuse, reuse!

I'm probably going to wear the same costume for trick-or-treat that I'll be using for Southern Mirage. Doesn't that sound intriguing? Will you be looking for a bellydancer on the streets this year? lol Well, it won't be me. I don't dress like a typical bellydancer even when I am dancing and I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those cheap polyester things the costume stores pass for bellydancer in a bag. And, with this outfit, you probably wouldn't even recognize it as a bellydance costume. I tend to look at costuming more from a theater aspect than from a bellydance aspect. We try to incorporate items that would make it as bellydance, but we're not in any way restricted by bellydance. It's nice working with a troupe that appreciates your visions and gets excited enough to not only work on them with you, but bring in ideas and viewpoints you would have never even dreamed of. This number is a good example of an idea that really is a conglomeration of our ideas. Mari provided the character, Brandi provided the song, and I provided the style. It's a total mash-up, but I think we are going to pull it off nicely. In other words, I'm very lucky to be in Alchemy. :)

Personally, I've been looking to live more simply. I've been cooking alot, which is wonderful because I absolutely adore cooking and baking. I'm glad it's getting cooler so I can bake more. By cooking more and more myself, I'm able to control a bit more what my family eats. For example, Jason is eating two vegetables with every evening meal now, which is a complete 180 from this time last year when he ate vegetables maybe twice a week. He's been a real trooper, making a valiant and concerted effort to eat healthier and he says he's getting to where it's easier. I've discovered that frozen veggies in the steamer bags work best for us. They taste great, are easy, and are the healthiest way to eat cooked veg, so it's a real win-win. I've also been using leaner meats, and lots and lots of whole grain in everything from steamer rice to snack crackers. I'm trying to pack it in everywhere so that we feel fuller faster and eat less.

A while back we got a Wii Fit, just in time for my gym membership to expire. I enjoy it, for the most part, but it's kinda boring and the fact that you can't queue up forms in yoga just kills me. You spend twice as much time getting to and from the forms as you do actually in the pose. I can't wait for the new version to come out, which is supposed to allow you to queue. But, it does have some fun games, and it's gotten my whole family thinking about fitness and what it really means to be healthy. Jason and I want to make sure the boys exercise regularly, so it's a habit for life. This is one good way to make it fun, and they can do it even when it's raining outside. :)

Another development on the fitness front is that we got a used recumbent exercise bike from craigslist for a mere $45. It's not perfect, but it works well for us, and I can't tell you how awesome it is to be able to go upstairs and get a workout in. I prefer an elliptical or treadmill, but I'm no snob. It's also very quiet, so even if one of us is sleeping, the other can work out. I'm really grateful for it. :) Also, taking a shower in your own bath after a workout and not an impersonal, slightly creepy gym shower? Rock.

Because I can't not talk about fiber stuff: I've got two more for-sale patterns in the works right now. They are a coordinated set for cooler weather and soon they will be ready to go out to testers. I hope I can find testers for these. They aren't traditional, though I think they are cute. Obviously. ;) I designed them with a neo-Victorian, steampunky feel to them, so they are a little edgy. But, like anything, you could easily adapt it with simple color choices. Also, for one, I'll have four variations and two lengths which build on one another and you can mix and match, so you can really make it your own. I think they are unisex designs, too. Fun and funky, but functional, too. I hope they are successful! I'll be sure to post here when they are available on Ravelry and in my Etsy shop. Can you tell I'm working hard to try to contribute to my family while not having a job? It's very hard, but I'm really working at it. I love being home with the kids and getting to work at something I really love, but we need to eat, too.

I'm frantically working on holiday/birthday/new baby gifts and will update when I get some of those done. I'm also working on my first cardigans, one in knit and one in crochet. These will be for myself because I can justify buying $15 in yarn for a sweater more than $30 for a new sweater. Plus, to say I made a sweater? Very, very cool. I'm super intimidated, though. I get nervous with big projects because I'm afraid I'm going to screw it up, then all the time, effort and love will be for nothing. This is a huge fear for me: wasted time and effort. Why? Granted, I'll learn something either way, but to do all that work and have nothing to show for it is really discouraging for me.

More on the bellydance front: I've been disgusted with bellydance and the bellydance community as a whole lately. There is so much cattiness and just plain mean-spiritedness in the bellydance community, and it's infecting the Augusta scene like a canker. Part of this is because the number of bellydance troupes and soloists in our small area has exploded lately, outnumbering almost all other dancers and companies combined. That seems like a good thing, and in some ways, it really is. In another way, local festivals are glutted with bellydance artists, and I feel like the public will soon be saturated. Also, with so many dancers and so little market, there is alot of backstabbing, gossiping, undercutting both financially and of reputations.

Being that Alchemy was one of the first troupes in this area and the very first Fusion troupe, we're proud that we've paved the way for others to get together and express themselves and push the envelope in dance here in the CSRA. However, being first also paints a big ole target on your backs, sometimes with your own students. We've always tried to be as professional as possible and as generous as we can be with anyone and everyone. We've also worked to invite other dancers to our shows, events, and stage, sometimes giving up stage time at festivals and shows in order to give other dancers a time to shine.

Now, that's not to make us sound like we are the mother Theresas of the CSRA bellydance scene. We've made our mistakes, trusted the wrong people, given too much or not enough, but we've always tried really hard and we've had no one at all to turn to for advice or leadership. We produced our first show with in six months of forming Alchemy, and pulled it off on a shoestring budget and no experience. That show celebrated it's fifth year this past June. So, we've had some successes, too.

However, it's so sad to see people you've mentored go off and start running your name through the mud. To clap while the same people who trampled on your feelings are dancing, because it's the right thing to do, then turn around and find out they were rolling their eyes and making loud, snide comments about you while you were dancing. We work hard, every day, to try to bring our dance community together. I mean, really REALLY hard. If it were all about us, why would we ever share the stage with anyone?! We would produce shows that were JUST US or just our students, showcasing our choreographies, costuming, and storylines. We certainly wouldn't share coveted prime-time spots on the main stage at local festivals. We can easily fill a half hour with just Alchemy, but we invite students to dance with us, or other local dancers. Sometimes, even not-so-local dancers. Creating a happy, supportive, loving community that is trying to elevate bellydance and dancers is one of our main goals, and it says so in our charter. I'm not talking about style choices here, or how someone portrays bellydance to the public. We don't have, and wouldn't never want, control of that. What I'm talking about here is simple respect and consideration for those others in your community who are giving you time and space to dance, who are teaching you and giving you 110% every week, creating dynamic, fun and interesting choreographies for you to dance that are on the cutting edge of what bellydance is today. Alchemy tries really hard to consider and respect those around us, even sharing our stage with the very people who have raked our names through the mud and hurt us so deeply, with such malice and intent to hurt, that sometimes we wonder when we'll ever get over it. Don't worry, we are getting over it, and it gets easier every day.

All THAT being said, the living simply trickles down to my dance as well. I said to Mari and Brandi the other day that I'd rather love dance in obscurity than hate it in the spotlight. Though dance is an amazing gift I get to cherish every day, and sometimes share with others, if it's not bringing me joy, I can't do. No won't, because it's not a choice. I CANNOT do it. I'm not getting paid for this, all of our shows and workshop weekends serve only to fund the next one so at least it's not coming out of our pockets. Dance doesn't feed my children or pay for my husband's retirement fund. Therefore, if I'm not happy while dancing, I'm not getting anything out of it, and doing something you once loved that now brings up painful memories and feelings becomes obligation and tedium and torture. So, I'm getting back to basics. Alchemy, too. We're going to get back to the things about dance that we love and that makes us want to dance forever. That may mean less shows and workshops weekend produced by Alchemy. It may mean letting certain connections and commitments go. It may mean only dancing on stage once in a while, but making that once in a while so polished, so entertaining, unexpected, and innovative that the audience is left wide-eyed and breathless. We can do that, you know. Just lately, we've lost sight of why or how. I will have that back.

Ok, this has gotten long, and if you've stuck with me this far, I thank you for your kind attention. :) Leave me a comment, ok? I love hearing from you, especially YOU. I don't write this blog as an exercise in vanity or even to journal my life. I write this in order to reach out and connect to other people, to share my trials and insights. I've recently discovered that I've got alot of love and I struggle every day to give it all away. In alot of ways that has made me vulnerable and the hurts sometimes make me hard-shelled, but I working on that. Stick with me, ok? And let me know you're out there. I'm straining to hear the whisper in the dark.


Thursday, September 10, 2009


I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet: I put my first for-sale pattern up on Ravelry! It's called Galaxy (pictured above), and it started out as a dishcloth, then I decided to add a tawashi option... then five variations grew out of the original pattern... then I realized it would work well for blankets, afghan blocks, hats and bags. I really love how versatile it is. :) The pattern is pretty clever, too, if I do say so myself. :)

I've had a few sales, which is really exciting and gratifying for a new designer. I've had patterns up on Ralvery for a while, all of which are also listed on this blog, but this is the first pattern that I've put out there for sale. This has been a big year for me on the fiber arts front as I also had my first pattern accepted for publication in June. Sometimes, I can't believe it! Here's a pic of the Green Bean, the pattern that will be published in a book of original patterns next year:

You can find the link for Galaxy on Ravelry here.

You can also find the pattern for sale on my Etsy page.

I feel lucky to have great friends and people who inspire me in my life. Friends like Donna, a fellow fiber artist, who always has a kind word of encouragement. Inspiring people like Jennifer who moved me to share my designs with her unabashed and generous nature. Of course, I also love and thank my husband and kids for putting up with my obsessive stitching, my talking about things they don't really get (crochet, knitting, yarn), and all the yarn laying around that you CANNOT TOUCH BECAUSE I'M DESIGNING WITH THAT! lol

YAY!! :D:D:D

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sun and Moon Earrings

Sun and Moon Earrings
These are the notes I took for a friend, not a true pattern, so please bear with me and PLEASE feel free to ask questions!

They are really pretty simple and once you get the thread onto the earring, it’s not much different than any other crochet. I used two hoops of different metal-tone, with the silver being slightly larger due to the optical illusion of size given to the Sun earring with the stitches being outside the circle. The Moon would seem puny in comparison.

You’ll work with the right side facing you, even when you turn the work, it just seems to work out like that. I used a size B hook and size 5 crochet thread. Make a slip stich just like you always would but with a tail at least two inches long, then slip the hook inside the circle and under to catch the thread around the earring. Pull up a loop, catch the thread and pull through to make the first single crochet stitch.(You’re sort of treating the earring like it’s your foundation chain, and you’re making a row of single crochet on it.) Continue in this way until you have the desired umber of stitches. (There may be another or better way to do this. This is what I stumbled on in my experimenting and it works, so I keep using it. :))

For the Sun, I used 40 stitches, but any number divisible by five works; I’ve used this pattern with as few as 15 stitches and as many as 180. It always looks great. :) You want to use enough stitches that they are close on the earring, but not so many that the stitches on top are curving around themselves. After you get your first row onto the earring, ch one and turn then begin this pattern going back the other way: sc, dc, tc, dc, sc. Don’t be afraid to pull your stitches tight. If you allow the second dc and sc to go loose, you don’t get that nice bump on the surface. Once you get to the end, break thread, pull through the last loop and tie this end to the beginning tail. Snip close and superglue the knot for security.

For the Moon, you are going to begin the same way, only you don’t want enough stitches to cover the earring. I made enough to cover half the hoop in the same manner as the Sun. When you get to the end, turn work (do not ch 1 before turning, this creates a little bump in the end where you want it to be smooth), sk next st and sl st for the next four stitches. From here you will sc decr across until the last four or three stitches, depending on how many you have at the end. When you get to the end of that row, repeat it one more time. Your stitches will be very tight and you’ll want to begin moving them to the side of the hoop and finally toward the inside. Once you complete the third row, finish off and weave in ends. Slide the stitches to the inside of the hoop (this is easiest if you bunch them up first), then slide one end all the way to the top of the hoop and spread the rest out along the hoop to create the crescent shape. The thread will be taut. Try to get the stitches spaced evenly and the shape of the Moon will follow. Be sure to superglue your knots for security once you’re happy with the shape.
Please don’t sell this pattern or products made from this pattern, or redistribute this pattern. Thanks!

BB and thank you!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oh, No! Streelers!

Here's a free pattern for all you HP hookers out there. By that, of course, I mean Harry Potter fanatics that also crochet. :) I developed and debuted this pattern on my group on Ravelry, Harry's Happy Hookers. It's for a Streeler, which is a magical creature from the world of Harry Potter. Check out the links for more info.

On to the pattern!!

Oh, No! Streelers!

Streelers are giant magical snails from the world of Harry Potter. They have many unique properties that make them interesting, but their color-changing nature is what makes them fun to stitch up!

Materials List:
 as many scraps of variegated WW yarn as you can get your hands on and want to change through during the project. (I used four different colors for the dark Streeler and three for the light),
 a G hook,
 some stuffing,
 eyes of your choice (optional, I didn’t use any in my sample),
 a tapestry/wool/darning needle

Note: I don’t usually join rounds, so work in a spiral unless otherwise noted. A stitch marker is helpful to mark the 1st st in each row, so you know when to stop.

With color A:
Row 1: Ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook. (6)
Row 2: 2 sc {aka sc incr} in each st, around (12)
Row 3: (sc incr in next st, 1sc) around (18)
Row 4: (sc incr in next st, 2 sc) 5 times, then sc and dc in same stitch, dc, tc (24)

After Row 4:


* * From here you will begin to work in rows back and forth, as with a flat piece
Row 5-8: sc in every stitch (24), ch 1 at end of row, turn (after row 6, I changed to a new yarn)

After Row 8, the other side is completely open, with no spiraling back or anything:


From the open side, after Row 8:


* * From here, you will being to work in a spiral again, moving from this outside edge, toward the center.
Row 9: ch 4, dc, dc, sc around (24)

The beginning of Row 10, to start decr, you place your hook in the top of the ch 4 and just continue in a spiral:


Row 10: (sc decr, 2 sc) around (18)
Row 11: (sc decr, 1 sc) around (12)
Row 12: sc decr around (6)
Break yarn with a tail long enough to weave through the last six stitches to pull tight. Weave in ends or pull to middle and lightly stuff the first piece, just enough to give it shape, but not distend it or cause the stitches to stretch and show the stuffing.

Complete, first side:


Complete, other side:


Complete, from the bottom, shows opening:


With Color B (or C if you changed colors halfway through the first piece): Ch 2, in 2nd st from hook, 6 sc (again no joining, just spirals for me) (6)
Row 1: (sc incr, 1 sc) around (9)
Row 2-12: sc around (9)
It is easiest to stuff this as you go along, but remember to not stuff too tightly.
Row 13: (sc incr, 2 sc) around (12)
Row 14: (sc incr, sc) around (18)
Row 15: sc around (18)
Row 16: (sc decr, sc) around (12) If you are using safety eyes, place them now. Don’t forget to stuff!
Row 17: sc decr around (6)
Break yarn, leaving a long enough tail to weave through last six st and pull tightly to close. Weave in ends.

Both pieces, with ends woven in and stuffed.


Next, we will start putting the pieces together. First, sew the shell onto the back of the body, like this:


Continue sewing around the shell. When you get to the head, you will bend the head back, creating a curve in the body, and sew a little higher up on the shell to pull the head up.


When you’re done sewing it on, it should look like this:


Next, we are going to add a foot to our little guy. With your final color of yarn, you will pick up stitches along the bottom of the body. To determine where to pick up stitches, turn your toy over and find the center line of stitches; you will pick up stitches on either side of that line. To find where to start from the top, count down four rows from the first increase row in the head.


You will sc 9 stitches onto the body, going toward the tail, ch one, then sc 9 on the outside line of stitches, moving back toward the head. Ch 1, turn work. Working back along this line of stitches, work 2 hdc in each st, including the ch 1 in the middle. Here is how it looks once you are finished picking up stitches and ready to start with the hdc:


And here it is once you are finished with the foot, from the bottom:


Here’s our little guy so far!


One last step and he’s (or she’s) complete! Taking a piece of scrap yarn, ch 10 and tie of, clipping the ends close to the knots. Then, thread your hook between two stitches on the top of the head:


Use your hook to thread that chain through the top of the head to make his little antennae.


Finished! These little guys are so quick and fun! The bottom Streeler is made with sc around the foot. It’s up to you; both will make it stand.


Please note: I am in no way affiliated with JK Rowling or the world of Harry Potter (thought I wish I were!), and I am not profiting from this pattern, so please be kind and don’t use this pattern to sell, especially under the name of Streelers. Feel free to share this pattern, but link to my blog or the pattern card on Ravelry.

Thank you and Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dishcloth Swap!

I know, I know... Seems like I'm all about the swap lately. Well, get used to it! lol To me there's just something wonderful and amazing about the communal exchange of friendship inherent in a gift swap of any sort. I really think, even beyond the greed, that this connection to another person obtained through gift giving, is what makes Christmas an exciting wonderful time, even if you're not Christian. I, for one, absolutely LOVE giving gifts, and it's my favorite part of the holidays. I like seeing people get excited. :)

So, I recently signed up for three more swaps groups on Ravelry: Knit & Crochet Dishcloth Swap, Ten Dollar Swap, and 12 Dancing Dishcloths. These are small exchanges, nothing extravagant, which means I get to be really creative on a budget, which is one thing I'm really good at. (For reference, see my mostly handmade bellydance wardrobe, ie the vest with the feather collar featured a while back.) And, I just sent out my first package for the first of these groups on Monday. It was for the Knit & Crochet Dishcloth Swap, and the overall theme was animals. We were asked to send our spoilee two dishcloths (knitted or crocheted, your choice) featuring animals.

Well, y'all know me, that's not quite enough of a theme, so when my spoilee suggested she likes sea creatures, I hit on the idea of doing a beachy package.



Here's what I sent:
A "seaweed" project bag. I make these ALL the time, and I love them for small project bags. They are perfect for making dishcloths on the go because the strap fits easly around your wrist and you can literally stitch anywhere, anytime. It keeps everything nice and neat, and because this one can hold two balls of kitchen cotton, you can work on something a little more complex, if you'd like. I used a sueded yarn, in a nice sage, which not only matched the theme (seaweedy, yes?) but I thought it might be a color she'd enjoy as she likes pale, earthy colors. I wish I had a better pic; here it is with everything in it, ready to be sent on it's way:


Attached to that, you can see a little "Sea Anemone Pin" I made. I am obsessed with fiber flowers and flower pins lately, so I knew I'd want to make one for my spoilee. This little pin can be used anywhere: hats, jackets, bags, scarves, shawls, anywhere! This picture above shows the color a bit better.


Of course, I made two animal-themed dishcloths. One is Sandy the Starfish, made in an ecru cotton to mimic a starfish lying in the sand. The other is Daphne the Dolphin, swimming through deep blue waves. Sand and sea... a little surf and turf, yes? ;) I couldn't find any projects in crochet that I felt really worked with the theme I was going for, so I knitted the cloths. It's been quite a while since I knitted anything, and it was so fun! I flew through these so much faster than I expected to. I think crochet has given me alot more fiber confidence, so my knitting is benefiting, too. Here are the cloths, up close:



You can see on each one that I also made some stitch markers to go with them. There are two blue starfish and two green dolphins. Also included was a little clip-on calendar featuring beach scenes, some treats for my spoilees boys, and a card to explain it all. Fate put me together with the same person I got to spoil for the Reducio Sock Swap last time, and it was nice to get to send her things that weren't HP themed, but that I thought she might still enjoy. She has two boys, like I do, though both of mine are December babies. May/December friendship? LOL I hope she enjoys everything as much as I've enjoyed making it for her!


Friday, August 7, 2009

The Southern Mirage is Coming!!

Alchemy Middle Eastern Dance Troupe is proud to present the second annual Southern Mirage!

October 3rd and 4th, 2009; save the date!

We are thrilled to be featuring MIRA BETZ in a two-day workshop extravaganza and our in our gala show on Saturday evening. Please see our website for more information: or go directly to our registration page: If you would like to know more about Mira, please check out her website: or tribe: If you don't know Mira, trust us, you WANT to know Mira! A beautiful performer who dances with the soul of tradition while flirting with the spirit of innovation, Mira emphasizes technique and form outside of the restrictions of style and genre, making her an invaluable teacher and artist whose experience benefits everyone she touches.

This year the theme is the misty realm of fairy tales, showcasing everything from the cute to the creepy, from the beautiful to the bizarre. Enter a land of Other with us. If you would like to participate in Alchemy's first fully-themed show, please contact Jeannie at for more information.

Venue Locations

Workshops will be held at:
The Augusta Ballet School
2941 Walton Way
Augusta, GA 30909

Gala show will be at:
Le Chat Noir
304 8th Street
Augusta, GA 30901

Recommended Accommodations:
Quality Inn
1455 Walton Way
Augusta, GA 30901
Please note, we do not have any discounts available with this hotel. However, it is centrally located to the workshops and the show venue. The usual rate is great, they offer a free continental breakfast, and we house our instructors there when needed. So, in short, we think you'll like it! :)

Local Airport:
Augusta Regional Airport

Questions? Concerns? Please see our tribe, or email us at


Sunday, August 2, 2009

TTMT - Talk to Me Tuesday

So, for those of you who don't know, Talk to Me Tuesday is an idea in which you post a vlog, or video blog, on Tuesdays. I've seen it on crafting blogs, so that may be where the phenomenon ends. But, I really like the idea, and I'm thinking of trying it if not this week then maybe next. Sometimes I may include tutorials for crafting, or maybe just some finished projects. Other times I might talk about what my dance troupe is up to or include a mini-bellydance lesson. We'll see how it goes. ::fingers crossed::


Friday, July 17, 2009

Reducio Swap Round 6, SPOILER ALERT!

I participate in a swap on Ravelry called the Reducio Sock Swap. Basically, we swap crocheted or knitted mini socks and other items with a Harry Potter theme. What? You didn't know I'm a Harry Potter nerd? Well, I am! :) Check out Reducio, if you want more info.

Anywho, I wanted to share what i'm sending my partner for Round 6. So....

harry potter, HP, fiber arts, ravelry, spoiler

Here's the whole shebang, minus the card, which I simply forgot to include in the pic:



I made a package up as if some of Harry's friends got together and sent him a package of gifts that would mean some special to them.

From the Twins, Fred and George: "poppers" from their new line of Muggle party products, confetti and a noisemaker on the advice of Arthur, their father, as they are traditional Muggle birthday favors. (My spoilee also has two little boys, so I thought they might get a kick out of these.)


From Seamus Finnegan: monkey bookmarks to remind Harry of a night eating animal crackers in the boy's dorm. Seamus ate a monkey that night and promptly started apeing around. (My spoilee also likes sock monkeys and I thought these little guys looked like they would make her smile.)


From Hagrid: an owl. Since Hagrid got Harry his very first owl, the much-missed Headwig, he wanted to get Harry another owl. Not to replace Headwig, mind you, but just because Hagrid can't imagine anyone without a beloved animal friend in their life.


From Ron and Hermione: Once, on another birthday, Ron and Hermione got Harry a box of chocolates from Honeydukes. Harry then threw them away. Chocolate abuse!!!! So, they wanted to get him another box, in the hopes he'll actually get to eat these!


From Neville Longbottom: Neville found these rare Tibeten Turnip blossoms and wanted to send them to Harry. He says they can make things disappear and thought Harry might find them useful. (I picked this project because my spoilee has the pattern in her faves on Rav, she loves cotton yarn, and because of their several purposes. They can be used as makeup removers, dish scrubbers or coasters, all of which make things disappear! There are seven; one for each HP book.)


From Dobby: Of course, the package includes a mini sock and who better to contribute that than Dobby, whom Harry freed from servitude with the gift of a sock. In Ravenclaw colors because my spoilee is a Ravenclaw. :)


From Ginny: a kiss as potent as firewhiskey. I made the lip balm holder (see pic above) and included my favorite lip balm, Burt's Bees. I liked this because the lip balm is obvious for kissing, and you never know when you'll need it, so having a holder for your keychain means your always ready and kissable. Plus, XXX stands for strong alcohol and X stands for kisses. It was a natural match. :)

Finally, a card. Luna picked out the card, so instead of having "Happy Birthday!!" on it, it has penguins on a yellow background and says "Congratulations" on the inside. I just thought that was hilarious for some reason! :D I love Luna!!!

So, that was my package for Reducio 6. I'm sending it out tomorrow and I REALLY hope she likes it! :D:D:D:D


Friday, July 10, 2009

I don't know where I was when Michael Jackson died, but I know when the new Harry Potter movie comes out!

That is so true. Sad? You may think so, but to me it makes perfect sense. :D

And, FINALLY, Xay is getting into Harry Potter, too, so we have plans to go see the movie with Mari after it comes out. Now, we won't be going to the midnight premiers, mostly because I love the idea of crowds and all their crazy outfits, but the actuality sorta sucks, so we will be going soon.

So, being a cheapskate and craftaholic, I wanted us to have stuff to wear, but I can't justify $26 shirts at the mall that I just kinda like. Well, along comes a little blog entry by Pren at Wilcox Wizard Wears on a tee she did from a fabulous tut by Jennifer Ofenstein over at sewhooked blog. Jennifer made this fantastic video tutorial on freezer paper stencils for fandom (and other) tees, check it out:

What does all this add up to? You got it! It adds up to me making t-shirts for me and Xay. He's a Ravenclaw and everyone knows I'm a Slytherin gal, so we got shirts that proclaim our Houses. I've also crocheted a headband, wristcuff, belt, and bag to complete my Slytherin mania. Xay has proclaimed that he also wants a wrist cuff and belt, so I'll be whipping up those in Ravenclaw colors for him before we head out.

Ok, I made a photo diary of my tee making adventure, to show y'all how I did it. Let the pics begin!!

First, find a tee in the color you want. Iron it lightly.

Now, using the video tut from above, make your stencil(s). I made one for the front (crest) and the back (House name).

"What's next?", you ask? Ah, if you were following along with the video tut, you are ready to iron the freezer paper mask onto the shirt! So, let's do so:

Here is where I start going crazy and doing my own thing. First, I tape off the stencil with tissue paper to avoid as much splashback as I can on the stencil I don't need any cool cloudy effects.

With a piece of cardboard inside to prevent bleed-through, you are ready to take it outside! Because, yes, we are going to SPRAY PAINT!! W00t!!

Ok, enough talking about it, paint, baby!!! I used metallic silver spray paint. You'll notice on the crest, I didn't mask. I wanted some overspray, and you'll see why.

Allow it to dry for about ten minutes, and remove all masks.

Be slightly sad about shoddy masking and overspray on the House Name, but ecstatic about how it turned out overall. Place on kid. Marvel at his cuteness.

Grin like a fool and forget to get a pic of the back on the kid. Be so happy he likes it. Make one for the baby, who has yet to go to Hogwart's so belongs to the House of Love still. Marvel at his cuteness.

Promptly make one for yourself.

I made mine a little differently to accomodate for the shape of the neckline and the "shelf." I hate when design is lost because of the shape of my body. So, I designed around my body. :) These look so much better in real life than these pics, and I could not be happier! I can't wait to wear them to the movie!

I got the Slytherin snake stencil from Makani at The Leaky Cauldron. Thank you, Makani! The crest and the raven I found through an online search. I even posted these on Leaky as part of the July Craftalong, the first I've participated in. Can you tell that I LOVE how these turned out! Seriously, y'all should try it!

Yay for fandom!