December 23, 2008

Cake Wrecks

Some people can make really awesome cakes.

Most people make normal cakes.

But how is it possible that these "professional" cakes make it out the door??!

As seen on Cake Wrecks.

December 22, 2008


Ben and I got our first ever real christmas tree! For the past several years, we've just taped lights or wrapping paper in the shape of a tree to the wall, and then hung ornaments on that. And that's been good for us--space saving, low budget (zero budget), and conversation piece all in one. But we were really waxing nostalgic on the lack of spruce/pine smell in the air. The Tree In A Can helped for the first half of December, but wasn't *quite* good enough. So we went out in search of some cheap garlands or wreaths to put up to make our place smell like Christmastime. The first place we stopped, the wreaths were $20, but the little cut trees were only $15! So we excitedly took it home and decorated it. I think it looks so cute. I'm so happy about it, it's the first real tree I've had as an adult.

December 20, 2008


I am reading a book my dad gave me called "Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life". It's one of those books that I find something fairly deep and probing on each page, making it a slow read (slower than my already slow reading abilities). But an appreciated read.

I finally hit upon a phrase that feels right for me regarding what I've been doing these past 10 months; "Licking my wounds".

I still feel pretty devastated and lost in my life. Having a definite goal (Physician Assistant school) helps, but I don't think I'll feel 100% about it/me until I'm in it. In the meantime, I'm just trucking along, trying to pay bills, trying to appreciate the love I have with Ben and my family, trying to put a little oomph in my dancing, and reminding myself to go easy on myself, daily. Getting overwhelmed and taken back out to the drowning sea of anxiety and depression is something that's never far away, so I try to keep it at bay by working, by reading books like Callings, by watching my hamster, by trying to ignore such feelings when they come uninvited, and only allowing myself to think about them when I choose to think about them (theoretically...).

Anyway. These sorts of affirmations calm me.


we were told in vet school that if it looked and sounded like a horse, then treat it like a horse. But don't forget it could actually be a zebra. (the obvious ailments usually are. however, there are some strange ones not to forget about.)

December 18, 2008

Mecca Holiday Party

And what a party it was! Thanks, Farhad, for hosting it beautifully with excellent foods (oysters on the halfshell, no less!), fresh charcoal for the hookah, lip-smacking liqueurs, fun music, and a central location. Thanks to all my Mecca peeps that lift my spirits any day!

December 10, 2008

My Shadowdance Performance

Sorry, guys, I thought I'd put a link to my performance in my blog about San Francisco. But I didn't! It's on my website, here's a quick link to it if you care to see my cathartic 'dark' piece. CLICK HERE to see it.

Here are my Shadowdance program blurbs, you can choose the one that fits your reading timeframe:

Long Program Description:
Alyssum shares with you a dance piece inspired by the feelings of loss, struggle, and despair that she has experienced during the past few years. After having survived both physical and emotional devastation, she was surprised with the additional blow of being smacked with mental and financial devastation, leaving her with an empty but brand new beginning. With contortion representing the knot-like situations, this is an attempt to mourn the loss of a dream, and simultaneously move on/go with the flow of her life by opening her heart and mind to that which is around us all--the good along with the bad.

Short Program Description:
With contortion representing loss, struggle, and devastation, Alyssum explores despair and mourns the loss of a dream.

December 2, 2008

Thick Accents

Whoa. I just watched this video (about a woman who has never worked), and was struck much more by her thick Scottish accent than her non-working situation. I love accents! Please post links to videos of your favorite thick accents!

November 20, 2008

San Francisco-Stabilizing

The past couple of weeks, I was out in sunny California, enjoying myself, getting away from my life. It was very stabilizing. I had moments of "I can do no wrong, here, I keep enjoying myself!" which I have not felt in years.
During the first 5 days, I took Mira Betz's first weeklong intensive, geared towards deepening performance/voice as an artist. She is such full-of-integrity woman that all the other women who took the intensive (she kept it to just 12 of us) displayed that quality too. We went deeper and broader into our lives, into ethics and history, into critique and trust, into the murky waters of tortured artists' minds than I thought was possible for a 'bellydance' workshop. I made good friends in the workshop, and got to visit with BrieAnn (one of my original students from OmBellyCo up in Boston) outside of class. I stayed with Troy and Tiffanie (and brand new Anjali!) in their cozy, love-filled Berkeley home.

After the workshop, I moved in with Mira for the duration of my stay. We worked on our pieces for Shadowdance, helping one another with proper costuming, listening to musical transitions, throwing ideas at one another for feedback. It was very interesting for me to spend that time with Mira after having just taken a workshop with her--got to practice what I'd just learned, got to see what aspects in her creative process she listens to her own advice on, and which parts of her creative process she didn't even mention in her workshop because they're just part of Who She Is. Mostly, though, I was just enjoying spending time with her in her life--going to Professor Plumb and having lunch with her and Eve, getting to know Joe, making dinners together, going to parties together, going to her weekly dance class with her, poking fun at Tjarda (director of The Uzume, the tribal dance troupe in Amsterdam, who is staying with Mira for 5 months--she's SO FUN), disciplining Maceo, the dog, and petting Akasha, the 19 yr old Snowshoe kitty.

My time spent out there was capped with Shadowdance, the all-night (7pm-2am) show, put on by Ariellah (Darker Still Productions) and Amar (of Electric Vardo). It's supposed to be the "darker side of bellydance," so there was plenty of goth-themed performances--some great, some not so great...but the scene as a whole was stimulating, rich, and very very enjoyable. I didn't get to see a lot of the performances because I was busy flitting around, chatting, visiting, helping with costume changes, stretching, etc. But one of the highlights of the evening was Elysium Dance Theater's victorian, hallowed women peice "Diffidence" (I want to see it again! The caliber was so high, they shouldn't have been there. But I'm glad they were. Amazingly thought through). At the end of the evening, a couple girls drew blood and drank it from eachother (and I want to see this because....??), followed by CoRE's suspension performance (where a person hangs from hooks from the ceiling, and some other guys skewer him with other long needles which they then light on fire). I heard things like, "That is so bad-ass," when CoRE was performing, but I must say that I don't really understand the impetus. I have enough pain/drama in my life without creating it like that... Anyway, the thing that made me most excited and happy about that night was that so many people came just to see me! Kelly Hobbs, a friend from Powell County, who made a music video of me when I was 15 and he was in college, stopped by. He didn't know what sort of gathering it was going to be, so he stepped into the goth, dark, warehouse full of vampy, black-wearing people in a bright red Hawaiian shirt (hee hee! I loved that that's what he wore. I felt like I was the unwitting bringer of joy to the place (o: ). Pam, who was a student of mine at the Westborough YMCA in MA, came--she said she still missed my classes, awwwwww. Shannon, who was a grad student at the vet school, and a friend and other dance student of mine, came with her boyfriend Dean. And then Mary Jane, who was a great friend of Kaelan's (my best friend from high school out in Powell Co.), came with her boyfriend Charles. I so humbled and grateful and happy that these four people came to witness my catharsis (my 'dark' piece was about the tangled messes I've found myself in the past few years, and then how to deal with all that devastation, pain, mourning). The whole time I was out there I felt loved and supported.
The trip was marvelous.

[pics: Tiffanie, Anjali, Julie; Claivia in Berkeley; obligatory Golden Gate Bridge pic; moonrise over Albany; me walking around Fisherman's Wharf; after Mira's class--workshop participants!; dog looking around near Dolores Park; beautiful flowering tree on my walk through the Mission district; Opa Cupa, the amazing band I blogged about already; Rich, BrieAnn and I just after seeing the horrible Natacha Atlas show]

November 17, 2008

I saw some pictures of Deyrolle, a french taxidermy museum in Paris that burned down in February, and this one

reminded me of a picture from my own house burning down:

November 8, 2008

Opa Cupa

Last night I went to see Opa Cupa, a group from Italy, play in conjunction with some local San Franciscan musicians at the Freight and Salvage in North Berkeley. It was so fucking phenomenal. The trumpet player, keyboardist & drummer were the Italians, and the bassist, violin player, singers and doumbek/etc percussionist were from here. The musicians were all such characters--I just sat and stared at them, laughing out loud at their awesomeness and muppet-like qualities. The trumpeter looks like Hugh Grant, with foppish hair and hit beats with his hips as he manically whizzed his fingers over the buttons on his instrument, sometimes taking one hand to slap the side of the trumpet while he played. The drummer looked like SideShowBob with bright orange curly hair bobbing in the air as he played. The keyboardist screwed up his face as he attacked the keys, gesturing wildly with one hand while playing with the other. The bassist is regarded as the best slap-bassist in the world, and I could hardly see his hands, he moved them so quickly on his all-but-falling-apart 7ft tall bass. He had it on his knee at one point, rocking out like it was a guitar, and at the end, he threw the enormous instrument up into the air and played it upside down, defying gravity and bringing the house into even wilder ruckus. One of the singers had an absolutely operatic voice with highs and lows like you wouldn't believe. It was all pretty incredible.

And Then, we went to the after party, where most of the musicians (plus several more) showed up and we got to hear a up-close and personal house-party jam session version of the crazy Balkanesque music. In all, the instruments played at one time:
upright bass
Bulgarian lute
Chinese fiddle
other percussion thing
It was crazy and so so awesome. Yeah!!!!
For your viewing/listening pleasure-- some of my night:

November 4, 2008

I'm still registered to vote out in Powell County, and I love casting my vote out there at the Middlefork Fire Department. (Any fontophiles out there that are as perplexed as me as to why the R is lowercase when the rest of MIDDLEFOrK is capitalized?) First, it's a great excuse to drive out of the city and get some fresh air, and re-set my perspective. The autumn colors were really lovely, lots of yellow, similar in hue to the yellow flowers in this picture that was taken back in May when I last voted.

I love that when I enter the polling place, I am greeted by a neighbor of my dad's and then after a chat, I go to sign in--the woman asks my name, and replies, "Oh, your dad's a doctor," recognizing that I do in fact belong there even though she doesn't recognize my face, and dispelling with the need to check an I.D. It's so homey and friendly. And the wait was non-existent. Gladdens my heart.

Afterward, on my drive home, I stopped in Bowen at a cinderblock building with a marquee outside that read "JUNK N TREASURES INSIDE YARD SALE". True to advertising, it was mostly junk, but amongst the junk I found 2 pieces of junk that I know Mira will be able to turn into treasures, when I bring them out to California to her tomorrow. She makes beautiful pendant necklaces out of old pocket watches / stop watches and vintage brooches. Here's a couple examples, there on the left in the center of the doilies:

November 3, 2008

Liberating the Founders

Ben and I listened to this very interesting episode of Krista Tippet's "Speaking of Faith" last night on WEKU. The description of the episode is:

"Americans remain divided about how much religion they want in their political life. As we elect a new president, we return to an evocative, relevant conversation from earlier this year with journalist Steven Waldman. From his unusual study of the American founders, he understands why 21st-century struggles over religion in the public square spur passionate disagreement and entanglement with politics at its most impure."

The most interesting point made, that I was unaware of, is that the reason for the founding fathers' declaration of 'separation of church and state' was in order to increase religiosity. They felt that being a good person was paramount, and that often religion helped people to be a better person, and that by keeping them separate, religion would flourish. True, as people in politics invoke religion in their candidacies or campaigns, it has had the effect of turning a generation of people off to religion (Christianity in particular, in this country) rather than against government/politics. Many of the founding fathers belonged to religious groups that were persecuted in their day (Baptists, Quakers, Evangelists), and by separating their beliefs from their work, they felt (and their churches felt) that politicians would be able to make their points as people, not as believers of a specific ideology--and this would allow more room for the ideology/religions to grow in a private sphere rather than being condemned in the public sphere.

November 2, 2008

Autumn Parsnips

One of my favorite root vegetables are parsnips--sweet and fibrous, they taste best (I think) when they're sliced thin and toasted in butter. If they're really crisp, a moment in a steamer to soften them can help. If they're older and more 'rubbery' then they're pre-softened for you.

And then there's Parsnip with a capital P.

October 29, 2008

Popular vote in Ky--

We're known as a Red State. All my friends from the Northeast wonder how I can stand living in such a place. My response has always been that I never minded being different from the people around me--I always felt like Kentucky was more diverse, than, say, Boston or Boulder or Seattle. Not racially/ethnically, necessarily, but my experiences lead me to believe definitely income, education, and political view--wise. (Kentucky and Massachusetts, interestingly, are tied for state with the widest spread between poorest and richest inhabitants in the nation). I found this table that shows the popular vote results by county for the 2000 Presidential election.
TOTAL= Gore: 640,123 Bush: 872,141
Of voting citizens, 2 of every 5 Kentuckians that you meet are likely to be Democrat. That's higher than I would have imagined. See? It's not so bad here. I quite like it, actually. What's a little more disturbing (nationwide, not just in KY) is how few people get out to vote. But that's another story.

October 27, 2008

Simple Measures of Success

[wildflowers from Dad's farm, Sept 2005)
I heard a chinese proverb on NPR the other day. Paraphrasing: "if you only have 2 pennies to your name, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other." I like both the practicality and beauty of that statement. It came just days after I told a friend that my aim in life is to have enough disposable income to be able to treat myself to cut flowers regularly. Having grown up with my uber-green thumbed and talented Ikebana Master (literally, that's her title) Momma, flowers seem missing in my grown-up life. I have lots of pretty plants in my house, but I miss the spot of color and seasonality that cut flowers bring indoors.

October 26, 2008

Ladies! Let's Bike!

A great article that exposes what we all knew was true, but never saw in print before: the worry of helmet hair is actually deterring people from riding bicycles to work! It talks about how gender inequality in the form of what grooming habits are deemed acceptable is having an effect on global warming. I am sad to say that on certain days when I'm expected to look a certain way, I have not ridden my bike to work for this exact reason (not that I'm infallible otherwise...I admittedly don't ride as much as I could/should). How can we change this?! How can we improve the numbers of people who ride to work/school, and the ability to still look/smell great when we get there, and change the expectations of co-workers/clients so that they are more apt to congratulate you for riding to work instead of dissing your helmet hair?!

October 24, 2008

"Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks

I just found this blog, and have been "laughing" at some of the content therein. Some "good ones":

October 23, 2008

Early Relationship Classes in UK

I'm all for having more useful classes from a very early age--not just relationship/sex ed classes, but classes on 'how to deal with stress' or pre-emptive health/nutrition classes that go beyond your regular gym class. There's more to learn (and not just more, but more universally important) topics beyond RRR (readin', 'ritin', 'rithmetic).
This is an article from the BBC that talks about what they're beginning to implement there. I particularly like the video because nearly a third of it is the teacher chastising Abdul for not paying attention. Ha ha. I want to see the next lesson!

October 22, 2008

Albania's transgender

This short article from the BBC is a really interesting look at ladies, mostly in their 80's now, who swore to be virgins their whole life, and lead the life of a man.
It reminds me a little bit of how white women in Maasai culture are allowed to do things with women, but all they have to do is put on pants and then they're accepted in the men's crowd, too, even being allowed (on occasion) to watch the male circumcision rituals.
Why is it so uncommon for people to see one another as Person rather than as Man or Woman?

October 21, 2008

Aquariums where you want 'em

You don't have to just have your aquatic friends on a table in a 5 gallon glass tank any more. You can have them in your toilet (an idea that my sister Chelsea actually slavaged a toilet to accomplish as a sculptural peice. She got as far as painting it silver and glittery, making a collage inside the seat lid that read "Where all good fishies go" with arrows pointing down the commode. And there were still-life fishes headed down the commode, but we never quite replaced the water tank with a real fish tank).

Or in an old computer (methinks these flat screens and laptops these days won't quite cut it, though).

And so on...

Oct 24 EDIT: I just saw this one, too, for those who want a small fish hemisphere on their walls.