Category Archives: homemakering

Everything’s Relative (Especially Time)

This week, the days seem unbelievably long. I just basically seem to have SO FREAKING MUCH TIME (First World Problems again).

It just occurred to me that there’s a reason for that: last week, there was an awful lot of running off to rehearsal and class and that TV news thing; this week, there’s … well, there’s class?

Class and housework. Some technologizing in the margins.

I’m fine with that. I’m really not complaining. It’s actually pretty nice—it’s just weird and surprising how spacious this week feels after last week’s compressed, frenetic schedule.

You would think I’d have figured it out by now; that I’d have been around this block enough times to be able to predict that, hey, this week is way less busy than last week so it’s going to feel luxuriously slow, but nope. I haven’t figured that out yet, apparently.

My brain is on a break, or I’d try to draw some really intelligent correlation between this kind of experiential relativity and Einstein’s relativity. Like, I feel the germ of an idea kicking around in there, but I can’t quite seem to get hold of it.

Anyway, this morning I did barre and adagio, then made my excuses (foot, as usual >.<). Killer B gave me a correction that made my arms look awesome: keep the shape of the arm as is, but imagine that you’re pressing the whole thing down against something.

Curiously, what this accomplishes is not arms that collapse, but arms that look strong and shoulders that stay open and down and back and all that good stuff (read: all the other stuff BW regularly reminds me to do ^-^).

Basically, it’s like when you’re a little kid in those swimmy things[1] (they still make them—who knew?!) that go on your arms, and you’re using your lats to push them down against the water so they push you up. Maybe normal people don’t do that, but during my Swimmies-wearing phase, I totally did (in my defense, I was 2.5-3 years old) because I liked being able to go Boing!Boing!Boing! in the water, usually whilst my grandparents’ German Shepherd/Alsatian[2] looked on with a heckin concern.

  1. We also had those floaty swimsuit things that make you look like some kind of undernourished koopa: basically, an aquatic romper with what was essentially a couple of small kickboards—one in front and one in back, if memory serves—sewn between two layers of lycra. Mine was initially too big and would ride up and bonk me in the chin and chafe my armpits. By the time I was the right size, I already knew how to swim well enough not to need it.
  2. For those in the US who are not dog nerds who spent too much of their formative years reading dog books from the UK, German Shepherd = Alsatian.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of pictures taken (JUST NOW!!!) with D’s late-90s-era webcam (seriously, this thing is geriatric in tech years, though it still does the job) that more or less illustrate the point:

In case you’re wondering, this is my office/guest room, where I’m in the midst of catching up on the laundry after last week’s scheduling madness.

The really interesting thing is that I didn’t actually change the angle of my arm between the first and second shot in any of the sets: engaging my lats moved my entire shoulder joint.

That said, I don’t think pix 5 and 6 are great illustrations of anything except the fact that engaging your lats makes your neck look longer.

Picture 7, meanwhile, is just silliness for its own sake.

I’ll have to try to get better pictures of this effect next time I’m in the studio. It was hard to get enough of my body in the frame and still be able to click the mouse (I appreciate voice-activation so much more right now, you guys). I would’ve done better just to use my phone and email the pix to myself, but that seemed like too much work.

One of these days, I’ll try to see if I can get D to take a picture of what this looks like from the back, because I really feel it right below the margins of my scapulae/shoulder-blades/wing-bones, and I suspect that it’s probably quite visible.

I am not, however, very good at taking pictures of my own back.

You Might Be A Dancer If, #8*

*Honestly, I’ve lost count, so they’re all to be number 8 from here on out because #dancermath    

Anyway. 

You might be a dancer if you get home from rehearsal, decide you’re too tired to fold the already-clean laundry, but then put your Ballet stuff in the washing machine and stay up ’til it’s done so you can hang it up (because #priorities).       

The Badger Cabinet Problem, Episode 01: Possible Solutions?

D installed new cabinets in our kitchen some while before I arrived in his life.

He bought them as a lot, rather than having them custom-built, because he’s the frugal kind of person who does that kind of thing and makes it work (I love that about him).

Anyway, I think our cabinets were originally intended for a more typically-sized and -laid out kitchen. This led to one significant problem: a deep, inaccessible well in a corner where two cabinets should connect, but don’t.

theresyourproblem

Well, there’s your problem. (Also, full disclosure: the weird, sugary pink lemonade mix belongs to D, but I am the one who drinks the nasty instant coffee.)

I’ve dealt with the problem, thus far, by shoving things I rarely use into that deep, dark well.

This is all (ahem) well and good until I actually do need to use them. Then, it’s a giant pain in the neck to pull everything out of the near end of the cabinet so I can fish around in the far end, hoping against hope that nothing with big, sharp teeth is hiding in there(1).

  1. Okay, it’s fairly unlikely that there are, say, badgers living in my cabinets, but there’s still something I instinctively dislike about shoving my arms into dark hidey-holes.
yarrherebebadgers

Yarrr. Here be badgers.

On the other hand, if anyone needs a secure place to stash the One Ring for a few decades, my Badger Cabinet is probably a good choice.

Anyway, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a better way to manage the Badger Cabinet, and I think I’ve finally figured something out thanks to a really expensive sliding spice rack.

Denis would almost certainly murder me if I spent nearly $80 on a sliding spice rack right now, or even $45 on the single-tier version that holds “large containers,” but he almost certainly(2) won’t murder me if I buy some appropriately-sized plastic or metal bins and some of those stick-on felt slidey feet, as long as I don’t spend too much money.

  1. I say almost certainly because D doesn’t understand my desire to organize things into easily-removable units. He has no problem with removing 15,000,000 individual small items in order to access one large item, probably because HE NEVER PUTS ANYTHING AWAY, EVER(3). /me stomps off in a huff
  2. Seriously, this is true. You should see his work bench o_O But he makes up for it by his many other excellent qualities, like knowing how to do plumbing and already owning a Fancy Stand Mixer so I didn’t have to buy one ^.-

One set of bins could go up front, so rather than removing a bazillion individual bottles of miscellaneous oils, tins of baking powder, bags of baking soda (I have discovered that you can buy baking soda, which I use both for cooking and cleaning, in 2-pound bags), I’ll just have to remove a few bins.

The slidey feet will make it easier to get the the bins in the back out.

Et violà—no more sticking my poor, naked arms into potentially badger-infested dark holes.

I will have to measure our fancy stand mixer to confirm this, but it might even be possible to move the Fancy Stand Mixer  (which currently lives atop the fridge, where I can’t reach it for fear of dropping it on my own head; that thing is heavy) to the cabinet, where I could potentially wrestle it free without risking cranial injury. Then I could actually use said Fancy Stand Mixer.

That or else I could move the Fancy Stand Mixer to the spot on the countertop where the SodaStream and several cookbooks currently live, then move those guys into the cabinet above or onto the top of the fridge.

I could even move all the random junk that lives in the large cabinet under the flatware drawer up into the Badger Cabinet and then use it to store things like the bread machine (also currently inaccessible due to its precarious perch atop the fridge) and possibly some of my loaf pans, cupcake molds, and so forth.

There’s also a Badger Cabinet on my stove. Right now, it holds all the muffin tins, loaf pans, and so forth, but they’re not very well organized. (Okay, really, they’re barely organized at all.) I have some plans to improve that situation; the challenge is finding the right parts. I’m thinking a combination of slim tension rods and some kind of heat-resistant shelf could work.

So there we have it. A possible solution for the Problem of the Badger Cabinet. I’ll check back in once I try implementing one of my possible solutions.

Miscellany

1. I Dream Of Turning 

Last night, I dreamt very vividly about successfully attempting quadruple turns. I should probably note, though, that the class in question took place in something like a a church fellowship hall, we had to clear up folding tables and chairs first, and I accidentally stole some girl’s water. 

But still, I hope the turns part will be like the dreams in which I sorted out Albrecht’s variation.

~

2. Things I Don’t Like About My House

  • Low ceilings. 8-foot ceilings are sub-optimal for dancers, chandeliers, heat distribution in punishing Southern summers, and ceiling fans. 
  • Lack of cross-ventilation. This house was built after WW II, and the floor plan seems to assume central air conditioning. It does not have central aircon, however, and thus is a boiling misery even on days when a little proper cross-ventilation could solve the problem. 
  • Too much clutter. I find it hard to clean around clutter. D won’t get rid of his stuff, so instead I’m getting rid of mine bit by bit. 
  • Too many small rooms. There’s no reason a house this size should have a separate dining room at the expense of counter- and cabinet-space in the kitchen (which it too small even for a rolling island). If I make one major change to this house, it will be to knock out a couple completely-extraneous walls (they don’t even have have electrical outlets, let alone ductwork or structural importance) to join the kitchen and dining room. This will allow for a much better kitchen while still preserving a reasonable dining area.
  • The location. Our neighborhood is not walkable at all by most people’s standards. By mine, it is unpleasant to walk in. This is one thing about the house that I can’t change.
  • Edit: Oh, yeah—left out the thing that inspired this post in the first place. I really profoundly dislike the fact that the front door opens right into the living room. Full disclosure: I grew up in a pretty big house with an actual foyer. This is the only place I’ve lived that had an entry directly into the living room. It feels weird and exposed. Maybe that could be changed along with the kitchen, if we stick around long enough. On the other hand, it’s probably not worth it. 

    3. Things I Do Like About My House

    • It’s a house. At the end of the day, that’s nothing to sneeze at. 
    • The kitchen, though tiny and not terribly efficient, is rather private. I actually used to hate that; I would find myself washing up after dinner and bitterly resenting the fact that D was relaxing in the living room, watching TV. Then I thought the problem through and realized that I could listen to documentaries or podcasts while working. Now my kitchen is really a haven for me; a place where I can both be alone (which, as an introvert, I desperately need) and get things done (which makes me happy). 
    • The port de bras mirror in the bathroom. There’s a huge mirror, probably 5 feet wide by four feet high, that takes up an entire wall (from the edge of the linen cabinet to the side wall of the house). This mirror is where I practice port de bras. This and video are why my arms look less stupid than they used to.
    • The colors. D is not afraid of color, and as such we do not live in a sea of beige. Truth be told, this was also a factor in his making it past the Just Friends stage. The fear of color says a great deal about a person. I’d rather live with someone who decorates boldly and badly than with a timid soul who is afraid to decorate at all. Fortunately, D does it boldly and well.  
    • The world’s most efficient furnace. Seriously, the thing is dedicated and does its job insanely well. Our electric bill can be rather high in the summer, but it’s balanced by the ridiculously low gas bill in the winter.
    • The mid-century main floor bathroom. For a long time, I thought I wanted to completely redo the main floor bath. The downstairs bath (technically a 3/4 bath, as it has a stand-up shower of the variety in which one whacks one’s elbows whilst shampooing one’s hair) is beautiful and modern, and I thought I wanted the main-floor bath to be beautiful and modern as well. However, as it stands, it has rather a charming mid-century modern feel that could be fully realized by replacing a few broken floor tiles,  removing a seriously hideous set of shower doors, and repainting the walls. I haven’t decided whether to replace the shower doors with something period-appropriate or something more up-to-date, but unobtrusive.
    • The window above the kitchen sink. US homes built before the 1970s almost always feature a window right above the kitchen sink. For some reason, newer homes often lack this feature. Few things say, “Homemakers don’t matter,” quite as effectively as staring at a blank, depressing wall whilst doing the washing-up. Fortunately, my house does not suffer from this. 

      So that’s today’s unusually-pedestrian post. 

      Pathetic Fanboy Redux; Also, How Do Armband? 

      A bazillion (okay, six) years ago, when I was training in Muay Thai(1), there was a “How Do Armbar” meme that circulated the Mixed Martial Arts forums and made us all snicker uncontrollably and snorf our drinks at school and work. 

      1. If you dance and are looking for an effective stand-up fighting game(because who isn’t, I guess?), I highly recommend Muay Thai, because A) it’s hella fun and B) your existing flexibility, rond-de-jambe, grand battement, and ridiculously powerful legs give you a totally unfair advantage starting out. Basically, Muay Thai is a lot like ballet, only when you kick people in the head (for which, btw, you use your shins, not your feet), it’s on purpose and sometimes they grin at you and your instructor gets all joyfully goggle-eyed. Also, you get to learn the arcane art of hand-wrapping and how to legitimately punch a mofo, should need arise. There is much less face-punching in ballet. Usually. 

      Anyway, I apologize for committing not only meme necromancy, but obscure meme necromancy, in my title.

      Regarding which: OMG, you guys! Why did I never think of recycling worn-out socks into phone armbands? 

      It literally couldn’t be easier.  Here’s the source (lots of other amazing Mixed Martial Homemaking stuff on this blog, too, by the way):

      The Art of Doing Stuff: DIY Armband for Your Phone 

      For dancers, this is probably also a good way to repurpose that pair of legwarmers that looked amazing at the store, but started unraveling as soon as you took them off after class (I’m looking at you, sparkly legwarmers.)

      Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I think I’m going to work on a version that folds over at the top and buttons, because dance, amirite? No way my phone is going to stay in an unsecured sock-based armband during tombé-coupé-jeté. Not for a minute. 

      But this kind of thing could be incredibly useful for earphones-required rehearsals (Bluetooth earbuds are the best invention ever) and backstage warm-ups and everyday life (and running, and bike rides). Maybe I’ll sew them into pockets, too. Easy hand-sewing project, there. There are so many possibilities, here. 

      I may never have to wear actual trousers with actual pockets again!

      ~

      In other news, I went and got my Pathetic Fanboy on last night, and it was so worth it (though the music for “Mother Ginger” always gets stuck in my head, presumably because #AncientAliens).

      First, it’s weird watching The Nutcracker year after year and ticking off the parts you could actually do (and those you could do if you just had a reliable tombé-coupé-jeté: regarding which—in men’s technique, tombé in second to achieve maximum liftoff, apparently; forgot to mention that yesterday). 

      The last time I saw Nutcracker was two years ago. It was a totally different thing. I was really just climbing back into ballet, optimistically (and impatiently) forging my way back through all the stuff I’d learned as a kid. I had no experience of partnering. A lot of the men’s technique, in particular, still seemed further from my reach (let alone my grasp) than I cared to admit to myself. 

      This year, much of the choreography seemed reasonably in reach—partly thanks to simply having learned a lot, and partly because learning Albrecht’s variation taught me that I’m more capable than I think (though, like Albrecht’s variation, maybe I would have to learn things with single tours subbed in ’til I have solid doubles).

      Anyway, watching BW dance was, as always, enlightening. 

      First, I think it may have given me some insight into nailing down my double cabriole, which is one of next year’s #BalletGoals. 

      Second, BW’s technique is beautiful and clean and classical. Likewise, he legitimately makes partnering look so natural and effortless that it could be the kind of thing that just happens while you’re walking down the street or what have you(2).

      1. I don’t recommend just, like, ambush-partnering people, though. That might be taken wrongly, all things considered. So, in short, don’t roll up to the bus stop and be like, “Greetings, my good lady/fellow/etc,” and loft people above your head. They really might not appreciate it.

      And he seriously has the most beautiful legs. He has gigantor thighs like mine instead of sylph-like, Hallbergian ones, which rather flies in the face of our collective assumptions about what ballet bodies look like(3). They’re robust, yet so finely sculpted that you can practically see the individual muscle fibers(4, 5).

      1. Though maybe less so for people who don’t constantly simmer in a vat of ballet. Honestly, I’m pretty convinced that when the average American pictures a male ballet dancer, they always picture Baryshnikov, Nureyev, or possibly Carmen Miranda, although she was neither male nor a ballet dancer.
      2. To my great vexation, a month of sitting on my butt has largely de-sculpted mine :/ #FirstWorldDancerProblems
      3. Also, no, I didn’t just spend the whole ballet creeping on BW, though it totally sounds like I did. White tights, you guys. They hide nothing(6).
      4. Which is why(7) we have dance belts.
      5. Well, that, hernias, and testicular torsion.

      The other bit that seemed interesting: I noticed a few moments in which things subtly Didn’t Go According To Plan, and also why. I don’t know if that’s just a function of two years’ more experience and technique, or if it comes in part of watching painful video of myself dancing and thus learning to see why tiny error A leads to less tiny error B(8). Possibly both?

      1. As a whole, I think only one of these would have been visible to audience members who are neither dancers nor true balletomanes. 

       The second-act Sugar Plum pas de Deux wasn’t quite on form, though. I haven’t seen BR do classical partnering before, so I’m not sure if it’s not his thing or if it was just an off night. 

      The casting for Arabian seemed a bit strange. BB commented that this may have been intentional; our new AD is into pushing dancers out of their comfort zones. 

      Anyway, MK is the company’s resident Central Casting Classical Ballet Prince—and I mean that in a good way. That said, he’s not by nature the sinuous kind of mover the music demands. To my eye, he looked uncomfortable, and it translated into a stiff-ish performance. 

      His partner, on the other hand, was perfectly cast. If I remember correctly, she also danced Sugar Plum opposite BW’s cavalier in the other cast, though I can’t remember her initials right now to save my life.

       Also, an errant paper snowflake drifted down from the rigging and upstaged (well, technically, downstaged) everyone during the last part of the pas de deux. If there had been, like, ten snowflakes, it wouldn’t have been quite as funny. Instead, it was just just the one snowflake that maybe was asleep or something during the snow scene.

      Frankly, it was pretty hilarious, but I refrained from from laughing out out loud or narrating (“Omigosh, how did I miss my cue? Well, the show must go on—BANZAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII!”).

      On the other hand, no little kids waved to their parents.  Apparently that happened once last year, and will now circulate in the Horror Story annals of the company and the school forever. 

      Of course, Nutcracker doesn’t close ’til the 22nd, so a wave could still roll in.

      The flowers, on the other hand, were really lovely this year, as were the flutes or Merlitons or whatever they are in our production (I suppose I could go find my program?). Tea—a solo in this company—was playful and skilful, while Spanish chocolate—a quartet—danced with brilliance and playful flirtation.

      On the whole, everything was beautiful and magical, as it should be. HUK shined as a very non-creepy Drosselmeyer, and one of my favorite dancers, SV, owned the Russian dance (our company’s rendition isn’t my favorite, but it’s still pretty fun).
      So that was Nutcracker, and now it’s on to whatever’s next. I know The Sleeping Beauty is coming up, and I’m looking forward to that.

      10/10: Do Recommend

      This is evidently what happens when I haven’t been able to dance—or do much of anything else—for more than a week, but I’m finally feeling well enough to do more than play “match 3” games on my tablet and sleep. 

      I read.

      (Okay, I read anyway; I’m a compulsive reader.)

      Specifically, I fall down rabbit holes all over the Internet, then find myself googling related or semi-related things and falling down, I don’t know, jackrabbit holes. The game is afoot, but I’m cozily tucked up in its living room.

      Anyway, I just happened upon a Ravishly post titled, “I’m Not A Stay-At-Home-Mom, I’m A Queer Housewife, Thanks.

      I was going to write something about the same basic topic (except, like, I tend to call myself a “homemaker,” because people still be like, “Wait, you’re a boy, you can’t use ‘-wife'” and arguing about it is tiresome, and for all that my cat thinks he’s human and would happily ride around in a baby carrier all day if I got him one, I don’t have kids), but,  y’all, Ravishly’s Katherine DM Clover has pretty much covered it (without even invoking the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which has depressingly little to do with Star Trek: The Next Generation).

      So, in short, since this is a dance blog and you may not be super-interested in sociology, I’m not gonna be like OMG GO READ THIS AND THEN WRITE ME A 500-WORD ESSAY AND I EXPECT YOU TO TURN IT IN BY MONDAY, I’m putting it out here, because you might be interested in dance and sociology, and even in the power of language, so why not?

      I also enjoyed a post about fancy food, to which I can say: yes, for the love of all that is holy, I’m having a hard enough time mastering Homemaking 101 without delving into the arcane waters of Organic Quinoa Coffee Flour and Martha Stuart Everything (and also, while I’m at it, why is almost everything they print in Real Simple actually really freaking complicated?). 

      I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Organic Quinoa Coffee Flour is inherently bad — just, like, baby steps, y’all. Baby steps. At least for me. Because I was raised by cats.

      Um, I’ll be over here, trying to devise yet another system to keep from getting behing on the household book-keeping.

      Cooking with ADHD: Bread 2.0

      I think I may may have posted my bread recipe at some point in the past, but I’ve updated it a little bit, so here’s the update!

      I have a kitchen scale now, so later on I’ll add metric mass values so those of you cooking in Europe can give it a whirl without having to guess. It works fine by the fairly-inexact American volumetric method, though! 

      You will need:

      • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus extra for dusting
      • 4.5 teaspoons highly active dry yeast (I recommend SAF red; also, that’s 1.5 tablespoon, by the way; or if you’re using packets, 2 packets)
      • 1.5 cups hottish (not boiling) water (or 1 cup hottish water and .5 cup milk)
      • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil (margarine or veg oil will work, too!) 
      • 1-2 tablespoons sugar, brown sugar, honey, or malt syrup (your choice)*
      • 1.5 teaspoons salt *

      Ingredients marked * are optional. I like the flavor of bread better with salt (and need tons of salt because my body is crazy), but you can leave it out. The sugar/honey/syrup changes the flavor of the finished bread only a little, but it can help get your yeast going if it’s sluggish. Honey or malt syrup add a little moisture, but not enough to require adjustments (edit: usually).

      I think you can also bake bread entirely without fats, but I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure how it would turn out. 

      To make the bread:

      1. Combine water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to blend them, then set aside. 
      2. Combine flour, butter/oil, and salt in a large bowl. 
      3. When the yeast mix gets foamy, pour it into the dry mix (if you’re using butter, the hot water will help it melt).
      4. If you’re using milk, pour it in, too.
      5. Stir with a stirring spoon to everything is fairly well blended (don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be anything like perfect!). 
      6. If you have time, give the ingredients about 5 or 10 minutes to rest. This lets the flour take up the liquids. It also lets you find some awesome podcasts to listen to while you knead (might I recommend the History Chicks?). 
      7. Squish everything together a little with your hands, dust your work surface with flour, and dump your dough right onto it.
      8. If you’re like me, set a timer so you don’t find yourself thinking, “OMG, I have been kneading this dough foreeeeeeeevaaaarrrrrr.” 6 to 8 minutes should do the trick.
      9. Ready … set … knead! Remember, no grouchy TV chefs are here, and even if they are, it’s your kitchen — so knead that dough in whatever way works for you!
      10. Ball up the dough, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 30 minutes (if you’re in a hurry) to 1 hour (if you’re not). Longer than 1 hour is fine, too. If it’s going to sit all day or overnight, though, maybe stick the dough in the fridge so it doesn’t go completely crazy.
      11. When you’re ready to bake, preheat dat oven — I like a darker, crisper crust, so I set it for 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
      12.  Punch down your puffed-up, self-important doughball friend, then shape your baguettes or batards or loaf or rolls or boules or what have you. I often do one baguette and either four submarine rolls or eight dinner rolls. 
      13. If you have time, let your dough rise again (like the Mary-Ellen Carter!) for 15 – 30 minutes. this step is optional, but gets you a pooftier end product. 
      14. Bake for 15 (for dinner rolls) to 30 minutes on or in whatever kind of pizza stone, cookie sheet, loaf pan, and/or baguette pan you’ve got on hand. You can probably even use muffin tins (though I haven’t tried that).
      15. Cool (preferably on a rack) for as long as you can stand it.
      16. The most important part! Enjoy your bread while collecting accolades from your friends and loved ones who will be like, “OMG, this person is amazing!”  (Unless they can’t have gluten. I should learn a good gluten-free recipe, because Celiac is no joke.) 

      That’s it! I’ll try to add pictures, and someday, I swear, I really will do a video post about this. 

      Edit: Oh, yeah. You can also also combine steps 1 through 4 and just mix everything together right away, as long as you have good yeast. I like to proof mine because it makes me feel like a mad scientist, but it isn’t really entirely necessary. 

      When I make pizza dough (exact same recipe!), I usually omit the second rise. 

      In Which Things Are Accomplished

      In addition to submitting my audition registration forms, today I:

      • tidied and vacuumed my living room (oy vey)
      • got promoted to Trapeze 3 (BOOYAH!)
      • got oversplit back on the right side (though I suspect that me try to figure out how to get a yoga block under my front foot while in a full split probably made for a pretty hilarious floor show)
      • hung out with friends and ate ice cream

      This was one heck of a good day, people. Now I’m going to bed so I’ll be well rested for class tomorrow 🙂

      Modern Monday: Thoughts on Picking Up Combinations; Also on Food

      I’ve been working on a strategy for combination-acquisition that Modern T recommended to me, and I really think it’s probably the best way to go.

      In short, instead of hand-miming or subtly marking the combo as it’s handed out, you just stand (or, in some cases, sit) there and watch — really watch and ingest; get a good, solid mental video.

      Then, if there’s a repeat of the demo or a verbal explanation, you can mime or mark as needed. It also helps to program in the counts (and swing and swing and swing and around, or what have you) on the repeat if you think you’re going to get lost.

      This approach prevents you from missing critical points — the direction of a turn; what exactly happens during a change of direction; whether there’s an extra step or a direct weight transfer; what’s happening with arms and necks and shoulders and backs.

      I did this throughout most of class today. Sometimes it felt really weird to be standing there just watching while much of the rest of the class was doing the subtle-marking method and my brain cells were firing like crazy, trying to make parts of me move.

      On the other hand, it worked.

      Throughout much of the class, I had the choreography down about as well as anyone. I felt solid doing it, even though sometimes my body was busy going, “WTF, THIS IS NOT GOOD BALLET, I WANT TO DO GOOD BALLET.” Sometimes my body doesn’t get the memo that modern != ballet.

      To be frank, this kind of watching is hard for me. I tend to space out (and then start jiggling) when I’m standing still (thanks, ADHD!) — so this kind of “just watching” involved a very conscious, intentional imbibing*.

      *Belatedly, I’ve realized that it’s the same way I watch compelling dance performances (which also explains why I have really good mental “video” of quite a few of them).

      I totally failed to apply this lesson going across the floor. I started out with good intentions, but then realized I was in somebody’s way, took a step — and suddenly I was soft-marking along and missing really critical elements (Wait, isn’t there a third triplet? And is that hop-tour lent thing on the upstage leg or the downstage leg? And why am I doing it as if it was an sauté-fouetté?!).

      As such, my across-the-floor combination was a straight-up disaster.

      I did it wrong, then did it another flavor of wrong, then did it a still another flavor of wrong… Literally every pass (and we did the combination at least four times each way) was a new, unique, and different kind of more-or-less entirely incorrect.

      Yeah, I got a bit frustrated, there. Like, seriously, for once in my life, when Modern T said, “Do you want to do it again, or are you guys done?” I was the one who said, “I’m done.” (And then did it twice more anyway.)

      But, at any rate, I learned a valuable lesson about how I absorb choreography (and, um, knowing is half the battle, I guess?).

      Okay!

      Moving right along.

      Some thoughts I’ve been kicking around with G+ friends have led me to reflect on my eating patterns, and I’ve realized that I eat quite differently for a strongly dance-based lifestyle than I did when I was training for bike racing.

      I’m not at all sure I’m Doin’ It Rite™, but — at any rate — I’ve noticed that dancing doesn’t seem to make me as hungry as cycling (I think I’ve touched on this before) and that my “fueling” strategy is quite a bit higher in carbs than it was for cycling.

      Some of this, of course, is sheer disorganization. I have not adapted amazingly well to my current schedule, which often involves dance classes in the morning, a brief break in the afternoon, and aerials or more dance classes in the evening.

      Basically, I am not good at changing gears, and thus am not the kind of person who can get much done in the gap — so I do less cooking than I should and more, well, scavenging for anything quick, basically.

      I have at least finally managed to mostly get on top of breakfast, for the most part. Breakfast is usually ~113 grams of plain Greek yoghurt, ~70 grams of unsweetened frozen berries (I happen to particularly like the blends that include cherries), and 25 – 30 grams of whatever kind of not-super-sugary granola looks promising.

      If this sounds astonishingly precise for me, I promise, it’s really a function of the fact that it’s easier to scoop yoghurt out with a spatula, weigh it, and hit “tare” a few more times as more things are added than it is to shove it into a measuring cup, then transfer it into a bowl or whatevs.

      I also have fancy yoghurt bowls that keep the crunchy stuff separate until you’re ready to eat. Using frozen berries means I have to make the yoghurt parfaits ahead of time, which saves me from having to fumble around with the kitchen scale in the morning.

      On days that I fail to crawl out of the crypt bed in time to actually eat like an adult (or at least a toddler), I still tend to desperately chug protein shakes on the way to class. For such emergencies, I use Orgain (Creamy Chocolate Fudge) because it’s low in sugar, decent in the fiber department, tastes okay, and isn’t horribly expensive. My base of choice is unsweetened almond milk, but it’s perfectly good with regular milk. I usually add coffee concentrate and a touch of vanilla extract, but it’s acceptable without.

      *There is also a fine line between just enough breakfast and too freaking much breakfast, OMG, please stop the sloshing, but I really prefer not to think about the far side of that line. I’d rather err on the side of caution — ’tis better to feel puny in class than pukey.

      Dinner is frequently some species of pasta — I’m particularly fond of ziti and penne rigate — because I can make that ahead in huge batches and reheat it later. My sauce of choice comprises an “Italian seasoned” tomato paste, a ton of diced tomatoes (usually canned, because laziness), basil, oregano, garlic, onions (sauteed in a little olive oil and red wine), sometimes mushrooms, and either meatballs (sometimes frozen, sometimes turkey) or sausages.

      This makes it sound like I plan better than I do.

      If I were really any good at planning, there would be far fewer nights on which we eat dinner at 9 PM when I’ve arrived home at 7:45 :/

      Interestingly, I almost never ate pasta when I was racing bikes (except when I was intentionally carb-loading). Training rides tended to make me insanely hungry and I would just go crazy with the pasta; I generally substituted raw cabbage for the actual noodles (the sauce heats the cabbage just enough to be crisp-tender, which is awesome).

      I’m much better, now, at figuring out when I’m full, so I actually do eat pasta. I still often add either raw cabbage or raw baby spinach, though (because veggies ftw).

      In the past, my breakfasts were also generally lower in carbs than they are now.

      Meanwhile, lunch is just a horrible, ongoing, unmitigated disaster of food-on-the-fly right now. How desperate my choices are depends upon how well I’ve walked that fine line between just enough breakfast and way the hell too little breakfast*.

      I am not too proud to admit that I lunch has recently featured such stellar choices as a fried chicken sandwich, half a Whopper (apparently, I can’t eat an entire Whopper), or pizza from a gas station’s convenience store.

      This doesn’t really seem to be making any impact on my baseline health statistics (if anything, it’s the only thing stopping my blood pressure moving from “low” to “undetectable”), but it probably does significantly impact my ability to not be a horrible, face-eating hypoglycemia monster by the time my evening classes roll around.

      So basically, in summary:

      When I raced bikes I was hungry all the time, limited my carbs, and was much better at lunch.

      Now, my appetite is more manageable even though I burn roughly the same number of calories on any given day (if not more, because I have more upper-body muscle than I used to — so, seriously, wtf), I eat pasta like it’s going out of style, and I am terrible at lunch.

      The next step, then, is to figure out how to eat lunch on the fly without spending a gajillion dollars. I mean, obviously, I know how to eat lunch (open mouth, insert foot food), but the question is how to plan ahead and make food to bring with me (because apparently it’s not super safe to just leave a giant bowl of pasta in your car and assume it’ll be nice and hot by the time you get out of class…).

      So that’s today’s installment. Not incredibly informative to anyone who isn’t me, I’ll wager, but it has helped me identify a “next step” I wasn’t thinking about (that is, how to handle lunch).

      Pilobolus Master Class All Up In My Drawers

       

      …Wait, what?

      Kids, this is why punctuation is important. That should read:

      Pilobolus Master Class; All Up In My Drawers

      First: Pilobolus Master Class!

      You guys, it was so great.

      I feel like I learned a great deal about the process of creating dances through improv, and it was cool to dance in an environment where technique wasn’t even a thing. The guys from Pilobolus basically said, “We love dancers and we love dance technique, but if you’re someone who spends hours every day in class, please check your technique at the door.” As someone who loves technique but can get a bit too invested in it, that idea was very freeing.

      I am a horrible person, and have forgotten the names of our ambassadors of Pilobolus, but they were both very cool guys and very good teachers — though this process was as much one of bringing out what’s already there as one of teaching. The teaching part was more about figuring out how to use what’s already there.

      I must admit that I went into it a bit worried that I’d be all stiff and horrible because…

      OMG STRANGERZ!!!11!!!1one1oneomgwtfbbq

      …But apparently I overlooked the part where, like, you know, dancing? …When I was worrying about that.

      If dance is involved, I seem to do relatively okay in groups of new people.

      At the end of class, we broke into three groups and created three short (about 4 minutes) dances in the span of about five minutes, performed them, critiqued them, refined them over another two (two!) minutes, then performed them again.

      All three dances were completely different, and all three of them were cool, but one (not my group’s; ours was silly) was really stirring and moving. I hope some of the dancers will take it and run with it, because it was really, really good.

      I feel like I want to let this whole experience percolate a bit more, then write about it at greater length. It was, in short, just an amazing two-ish hours (happily, we ran over the original 1.5-hour class time).

      It turns out that Pilobolus holds a 3-week summer workshop series (in Connecticut, yay!). I’m going to have to seriously consider whether I can figure out how to afford at least one week this year. Curiously, the name of the third workshop, Vision & Revision, was also the name of my favorite writing class when I was in high school.

      Serendipity, much?

       

      And Now: All Up In My Drawers!

      I did manage to make it to IKEA afterwards.

      My one real goal was to acquire a second Big Blue Bag, which will greatly improve my laundry system. Heretofore, I’ve been using one Big Blue Bag and any of my various not-quite-as-ginormous shopping bags.

      The second Big Blue Bag wasn’t essential, but it will make the system run more smoothly, since now I’ll have two dedicated laundry bags of the same size.

      While cruising through the store (you guys, it is so nice to walk through an IKEA all alone), however, I found something even better: specifically, Drawerganizers(TM).

      Since keeping tights and so forth corralled is a fairly regular topic of conversation among dancers and aerialists in my life, I thought I’d share the current iteration of my system, which mostly comprises hair elastics, a plastic crate, and IKEA’s set of 6 Skubb boxes. (Sadly, the Cincy IKEA didn’t have the aqua ones in stock.)

      I’ve been meaning to implement a boxes-in-the-drawers system for a while, but hadn’t found Drawerganizers that worked for me (shoeboxes would have been fine, probably, but we didn’t have any). The Skubb series works really nicely, and I couldn’t argue with the price — something like $8 for the set — or the portability factor. The boxes fold up rather ingeniously; when you set them up, little zippers in the floor panels add tension that keeps them in shape.

      So, here’s how things are organized now:

      image

      First Floor: Cycling Apparel, Men’s Shirts, and The Occasional Sarong

      Bottom Drawer (technically the second drawer from the bottom; the real bottom drawer houses bed linens): this one’s full of bike kit, a few pairs of shorts, and a bunch of t-shirts that I should probably donate, since I don’t wear them enough.

      Bike kit used to share the dance clothes drawer (which was the Bike Kit Drawer until I had too much bike kit to keep it all in one drawer), but then the dance kit kind of took over. Anyway, I’ve used the two medium-sized Skubb boxes to contain bike kit.

      Overflow bike kit lives in a vertical organizer in the guest room closet, because I am apparently unusually sentimental about my Cabal jerseys, even the ones I don’t wear very often.

      And, yes, there’s even a sarong in there, though I don’t think you can see it in this shot.

      Next time I’m at IKEA, I’ll pick up a couple more Skubb boxes to corral the things that are still roaming free.

      image

      Second Floor: Dance Apparel, Fuzzy Socks, and Thermal Tights*

      Top Drawer: Dance kit and almost nothing else.

      Until recently, I’ve alternated between folding and rolling my tights, and found that neither really prevents everything from coming undone when I’m digging for that one pair with the pictures of mountains on it or whatevs.

      The other day, I hit on the solution of buying a package of brightly-colored hair ties to keep them contained. It works brilliantly.

      In combination with the hair ties, the Skubb boxes keep things corralled and controlled. No more tights rolling into the base-layer section; no more dance belts hiding under legwarmers (right now, for decency’s sake, they’re hiding under a pair of socks instead).

      Things that didn’t really fit anywhere else take up the extra space in the drawer in front of the Skubbs.

      image

      Rooftop Terrace: Aerial Apparel, Clutter, and Mayhem

      On Top Of Ol’ Dresser: Denis’ tights live here, along with our white-noise machine (which is really an air purifier), a photo from our wedding, and a terrifying doll that predates my tenure in this establishment. There are also some foam panels that insulate our air-con when it’s installed, but right now it’s still on vacation.

      I found the plastic basket at a place called Five Below, but you can find similar ones just about anywhere.

      The fact that Denis has his own tights-basket means he no longer asks me where his tights are (when they’re right freaking there!) or roots through my dance-kit drawer, leaving chaos in his wake. Seriously, the man is like a water buffalo sloshing around in a pond when he gets in there.

      My married peeps (and anyone with kids or particularly egregious housemates; similar things can happen in kitchen drawers) will understand how this helps keep me out of prison.

      image

      La Pièce de Resistance

      A cheap keychain-grade carabiner slipped through a convenient opening in the “weave” of the basket holds the hair elastics that aren’t currently in use. I’ve oriented it so the gate can be operated without removing the whole carabiner: you just slide a band up to the top, open the gate, and the band comes right out. The process for replacing one is similarly painless.

      I had to think long and hard about how to implement this bit, because my husband is a lazy slob (and will happily tell you so himself). The idea is to make it so freaking easy to put the bands back that it’s basically easier than not bothering.

      You guys, I seriously believe in the power of harnessing the path of least resistance. Remember, when (ahem) shaping (ahem) the behavior of spouses, appealing to the natural laziness of the human animal will save you many headaches.

      So, there you have it. A tour of how things are staying organized all up in my drawers (dancers be like, “Wait, isn’t that what dance belts are for?” :V).

      …And, now, on to the rest of the house.

      *gulp*

       

       

       

      *So organize. Very boxes. Wow.

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