Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Favorite Belly Dancers

One of the best ways to learn and grow in any endeavor is through connecting with mentors and seeking out those that inspire you. Here's my list of favorite belly dancers who I've learned from and watched with awe.

My Favorite Locals
These are the dancers that I've worked with directly and who have helped me shape and hone my technique and style.

Dahlia Moon - a local Seattle dancer know for her Modern Egyptian style and superb shimmies. I've done multiple classes with Dahlia, as well as having seen her perform a number of times, and am never disappointed in her crisp technique combined with elegance and a warm welcoming heart. Check out the spectacular shimmies in this live performance.

Mish Mish - legendary local Seattle dancer and the woman I have to thank for my belly dance career. Mish Mish's class was the first belly dance class I ever took and it was because of her coaching and belief in me that I started doing troupe performances and eventually progressed onto becoming a solist. Mish Mish is known for her extensive knowledge of the history of belly dance, as well as other Middle Eastern folkloric dances. Check out an interview with Mish Mish here.

My Favorites Outside Seattle
These are the dancers that I've seen perform live and have done workshops with who never cease to amaze me with their performances. I aspire to one day dance at their level. Truly mind-blowing stuff that these ladies can crank out on the stage.

Aziza - quite possibly my favorite belly dancer of all time, Aziza has it all; technique, stage presence and beauty. A mesmerizing dancer to watch perform and an excellent teacher to study with. But you don't have to take my word for, just watch this amazing drum solo.

Ruby Beh - known for her Turkish style dance, including fabulous floorwork, Ruby Beh was recently the 1st runner-up in the World (yes, that's right, the entire world) Belly Dance compeition. Videos of her performances are up on her website.

The Honorable Mentions
My list is definitely skewed toward dancers that I've met, studied with, and seen perform live. So a few honorable mentions for some other great dancers out there.

Maria - one of my favorite pieces of a belly dancer's repotoire is the drum solo, and 2009 Belly Dancer of the Year, Maria, doesn't disappoint. Executing one of my favorite drum solos of all time, she makes is look effortless and her timing is flawless. Check it out here.

Rachel Brice - a world famous dancer, Rachel Brice is a pioneer in fusion tribal style dance, taking it to new heights with her pops and locks, intermixed with fluidity and fantastic feats of flexibility, strength, and how-did-she-just-do-that?! moments. Check out the back bend to a drop in this clip.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

La Dolce Vita

Last month I returned from an amazing three week vacation in Italy where I savored the sweet life. They say a picture's worth a thousand words. So without further ado, I give you this month's pictorial blog post.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

Il dolce far niente - the sweetness of doing nothing

Just a week ago, I got back from a 19 day Italy vacation and more than once along the way I said this phrase this myself. Now don't get me wrong, there was plenty of running about from one tourist sight to the next and hopping on and off of trains. But there was also the sweetness of doing nothing.

There was watching the sunset over the Mediterranean in the Cinque Terre.

Lingering over pasta-filled lunches.

Napping at the beach in Levanto.

Drinking a bottle of wine on the Spanish Steps.

People watching from a balcony overlooking Il Campo in Siena.

Indulging in gelato.

Wine tasting before noon.

Meandering through medieval streets.

Getting lost in the romance of the Venice canals.

Ah yes, the sweetness of doing nothing. I think the Italians are on to something here. Generally, as Americans, our culture is predominately about doing and achieving. And far too often I've bought into this mentality hook, line, and sinker. Allowing myself to get caught up in the repetitiveness of daily life, checking tasks off lists, and then rushing onto the next thing. But this trip to Italy just reinforced to me my theme for the year, which is all about being in the moment and celebrating life in all its glorious, imperfect messiness. So as a reminder to myself and the other Type-A overachievers out there, sometimes it's okay to do nothing. In fact, it's more than okay, because what is life without joy and amazement, pleasure and curiosity, beauty and laughter? Slow down and savor the sweetness.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Online Resources for Belly Dancers

1. BellyTalk: This is a Yahoo! Group for greater Seattle area based dancers. Teachers post about new classes and workshops. Producers post about openings in hafla-style shows. As well as general announcements and discussions related to belly dance. One of the most memorable posts in the last year was famous dancer Tamalyn Dallal writing about her experiences in Egypt while the revolution was going on. Pretty interesting stuff. If you'd like to join, head over to the Yahoo! Groups home page. You'll need to create a Yahoo! email account if you don't already have one (it's free). Then search for BellyTalk and send a request to join.

2. eBay: One of the questions I'm asked most frequently is where is a good place to buy costumes, and my first response is always eBay. Whether a newbie dancer looking for something inexpensive or a professional dancer looking for a designer costume, this is my first pick. If you're just starting out, you can get hip scarves, veils, basic circle skirts, and other essentials at good prices. I've also purchased used designer costumes from other dancers, brands such as Pharonics of Egypt and Joharah, at a fraction of their original prices. A few tips for buying costumes online:
  • Know your measurements and know the measurements of the costume. However, even if the costume isn't your exact size and you simply adore it, know that most costumes can be altered (within reason), just be prepared to pay pricey alteration fees if you don't know how to do it yourself.
  • Read the descriptions carefully to make sure you understand what's included and what condition it's in.
  • Feel free to ask the seller to email you additional photos to better see the item.
  • Check the seller's rating and feedback to make sure they are reliable and their merchandise meets expectations.

  • Many of cheaper items are massed produced in factories in Asia, and there's nothing wrong with these items, in fact I have some myself. The purple costume in the picture above is one such costume and only came to about $130 for the belt, bra, skirt, and shipping (note that I did add a few extra rhinestones of my). However, if you want something more original, try searching for used costumes only and you'll often find dancers selling pieces out of their personal collections, which is how I got the fabulous pink costume below (the picture doesn't do it justice).
  • Understand the shipping prices and terms - if you need something right away you don't want it coming to you on a slow boat from China.

3. The Best of Habibi: Habibi was a print magazine dedicated to Middle Eastern dance that was published from 1992 to 2002. Just recently, the magazine created a website featuring some of its best content from its past issues. Great resource for dancers who want to lean more about the history of this art form, and the dancers who have shaped its evolution.

4. Saqra's Pacific NW Calendar: A local dancer, Saqra, keeps a comprehensive online calendar of monthly/weekly reoccurring belly dance events, one-time performances and festivals, and special workshops from visiting teachers for both the Seattle and Portland areas.

5. This is an online magazine with articles ranging from costume fashion trends and interviews with famous dancers, to book reviews and stage makeup tips.

6. I buy most of the music I use in my classes and performances from In particular, I like the Cd's by Belly Dance Superstars. (I would have listed their website, but their Cd's are generally cheaper on Amazon).

Friday, September 16, 2011


Last month I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid in one of best friend's weddings. Between myself living in Seattle, the bride living in Austin, and one of the other bridesmaid's living in London (lucky girl!) it was definitely a full-fledged friendship reunion, complete with catching up, manicures, champagne, and the occasional bout of happy tears.  And it got me thinking about friendship more.

Girlfriends really are a necessity in life: they cheer us up when we are down, tell us we look amazing even with those extra pounds, console us after a breakup, laugh with us over chick flicks, celebrate our achievements, and provide that sympathetic listening ear that frankly, men just can't quite match. I don't know what I've done to deserve it, but I have some pretty great friends.

I've had girlfriends send me flowers at work when they knew my mom was sick and in the hospital for an extended period of time.

I've had girlfriends throw me a surprise birthday party, complete with cake, on a day that wasn't my birthday as a makeup for all the b-day parties I missed as a kid from being raised in a strict religious family.

There have been numerous rides to the airport and assistance with moving; two tasks nobody likes doing.

I've received greeting cards in the mail for no other reason than just to say thinking about you.

I've had a girlfriend come pick me up and take me out to dinner, her treat, so I would stop sitting at home having a pity party by myself.

And I would like to think that hopefully, I am in return a good friend as well. 

As the bride, myself, and the other bridesmaid were leaving Austin the day after the wedding, due to last minute changes in flights and delays at security, we almost didn't missed each other in the airport.  After making it through security, I quickly headed to their gate, hoping they hadn't left yet.  The bride met me halfway, almost in tears at having to say farewell for a year or more, and the thought that they were going to jet off without saying goodbye. And the feelings were mutual. Which made me think – that is true friendship.

So to all my girlfriends, if I haven't told you or shown you lately - you are an amazing person and I'm honored to have you as a friend.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Flying Trapeze and a Leap of Faith

"Do one thing every day that scares" ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I took these words to heart last weekend when I did my first ever flying trapeze class. Having bought a coupon off of Living Social, I'd decided it was time to go redeem it.

I'm not sure what I thought I was getting myself into when I signed up, but upon arriving at Emerald City Trapeze Arts, it dawned on that I would be jumping off of a platform 30-something feet up in the air while clutching a thin metal bar and swinging 20-something feet out over a yawning expanse of empty space. Oh, and guess who was nominated by the instructor to go first?

After about a 30 minute ground lesson explaining what to do (and not do) and getting rigged up in our safety harnesses, I made the mistake of standing closest to the ladder and before I knew it, the instructor says, alright you're first and snaps my harness into the safety line of the ladder.

As I began scaling the ladder, my adrenaline starting pumping. Honestly, it would probably be fairly difficult to actually hurt yourself, as you're strapped into a safety harness the entire time and there is a net at the bottom.  But there is a certain irrational and instinctive feat that takes over. It's the body's natural response to tell you that jumping from heights is not a good idea and you may very well plummet to your death or dismemberment, which my body was doing a good job of letting of me know this.

When I reach the platform at the top, I am greeted by a second instructor. I ask if it's normal to be nervous and he says yes, and that in fact, some people cry. Okay, good I think I'm not so scared that I'm going to cry, so check one for me. The instructor pulls the bar in and hands it to me. Grasping it with both hands, the steel feels more like an anchor than my flying companion. I leaned out over the edge of the platform as the instructor holds the back of the belt. Then the call comes, "Ready", I bend my knees, "Hup" and I jump.

And then I'm flying! I'm sailing through the air 30 feet up and this is one of the funnest things I've ever done. I'm so distracted by how utterly amazing and thrilling this feeling is that I momentarily forget to follow the instructors calls and don't quite execute the skill I'm supposed to be doing.

However, by my third turn, I've done my knee hang into a back flip well enough that I've graduated onto a catch. I'm once again nominated by the instructor to go first. Scared all over again that I'm going to be releasing from my bar to be catch mid-air by the other instructor, I climb the ladder. The instructor gives the call again, "Ready", "Hup" and I jump and swing forward. As I start to swing back I quickly get my knees up on the bar to be in the right position. As I start to swing forward again, I release with my hands and arch backward. I'm sailing in reverse, so I can't see the instructor on the other bar at all. The call comes, "Legs straight" and I release with my knees. blindly reaching out and.........

For a split-second I'm in mid-air and then instructor has caught me by the wrists!

Needless, to say I'm addicted and can't wait for my next class. In fact, I may even quit my job and join the circus. Watch out Cirque du Soleil!

So how about you? What have you done lately that scares you? Nothing in awhile? Then today might be the day to try something new.

Photo Credit: Emerald City Trapeze Arts

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

75 Random Facts About Me

I admit, this is a bit of a self-centered post, but really, what is a blog but writing about one's self in some fashion (thoughts, feelings, opinions, business, lifestyle, adventures) and hoping that others will be interested.  So just indulge me.

  1. I am deathly afraid of slugs, not just afraid, it's really more of a phobia
  2. Due to being raised in a strict, conservative religion, I did not celebrate my birthday until age 19, or have a birthday cake until age 22
  3. I have a swimming record at my high school – 200 freestyle relay
  4.  I rarely watch TV, but when I do it's usually America's Next Top Model, So You Think You Can Dance or Jeopardy
  5. I'm addicted to my To Do list
  6. The first professional belly dance costume I ever bought was purchased in the Khan Il Khalili market in Cairo
  7. On more than one occasion I've had women ask me where I got my hair extensions done
  8. Before fires in night clubs were a big no-no, I've seen Green Day twice end their show by lighting their entire drum set on fire
  9. One of my favorite games as a kid was building forts out of furniture and pretending I was a spy just like James Bond
  10. I have a massive sweet tooth and have never met a cupcake I didn't like
  11. Collage/visual journaling is my new favorite art form (see above picture for latest)
  12. I failed the written part of my driver's test twice
  13. I passed all parts of the CPA exam on the first try
  14. I love watermelon and could eat a whole one by myself
  15. My bucket list includes living overseas for a minimum of six months
  16. Getting a B+ in school was devastating – so close to that perfect, golden A
  17. I've played the violin for 19 years
  18. Gwen Stefani is my ultimate life and style icon
  19. Love the look of a made bed, hate actually making it
  20. My favorite old Hollywood actresses are Rita Hayworth, Bridget Bardot and Audrey Hepburn
  21. Veuve Clicquot (champagne) is happiness in a glass if you ask me
  22. I was fortunate to never have any student loans because I was awarded enough academic scholarships to cover all of my tuition
  23. I recently won a push-up contest at my office
  24. I'm an INTJ – the most independent and one of the rarest (and most misunderstood) of the personality types, we work best when given autonomy and tend to be analytical and creative
  25. My all-time favorite movie is Labyrinth – a Jim Henson movie with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly
  26. I really dislike unpainted toenails
  27. I represented UW at a business case competition in Hong Kong during my senior year
  28. My favorite Seattle coffee spot is Café Vita
  29. I've met Ashton Kutcher at a movie wrap party
  30. I find cheerleaders offensive and think they are a set back to women's lib
  31. Sitting still is very challenging for me and doing nothing is impossible
  32. After years of pouring over the catalogue, the best gift I ever got as a kid was my American Girl doll, which I still have
  33. I've surfed in Mexico and scuba dived in Egypt
  34. My biggest pet peeves are flakiness and bad drivers
  35. I take vitamins every day
  36. My all-time favorite house feature is French doors that open onto a balcony
  37. I missed the first class of the first belly dance series I ever signed up for (good thing I decided to take the rest of the series and not just cancel!)
  38. I believe strongly in individual freedoms, including gay marriage and a woman's right to choose
  39. I once accidentally tipped over an entire grocery cart full of groceries
  40. I read my own Tarot cards
  41. Every time I go to the fair I eat a minimum of three Fisher scones 
  42. I have a nephew who is older than I am and I'm already a great aunt
  43. I miss my cat who I had for 17 years
  44. Journal writing is my outlet and the best form of free therapy ever
  45. My older brother gave me his Nintendo when I was a pre-teen because I was walking over to his house too often to play it
  46. I love surprises
  47. I was previously engaged at the age of 18
  48. Sometimes I really think I was born in the wrong country and should have been a European
  49. I believe that the bigger the earrings the better
  50. For as long as I can remember I've wanted to write and publish a book
  51. I used to have eight body piercings
  52. I'm bad at almost all team sports and get nervous when the ball comes my way
  53. I didn't get chicken pox until I was 12 and it was miserable
  54. I love anything pink and sparkly
  55. My favorite holiday is Halloween
  56. I would wear costumes everyday if it was socially acceptable
  57. Before turning 21 I had a fake ID
  58. I think afternoon tea parties are divine
  59. I wrote a college term paper on vampires for a history of death class
  60. I believe in living a life of passion and adventure
  61. I felt guilty after killing a spider last week that was crawling on me, so I named him Ralphie
  62. I can solve logic puzzles like nobody's business, or at least I like to think I can
  63. Not having brothers or sisters close to my own age, I would play Monopoly and Clue by myself, which wasn't very effective
  64. I graduated magna cum laude
  65. I regret never having gotten the opportunity to see Nirvana play
  66. I was co-captain of the gymnastics team in high school
  67. I believe that dragons used to exist
  68. I am a really vivid dreamer and have multiple times "woken up" from my dream only to be in a new dream
  69. Despite having tons of hair on my head, wet hair in the bath tub makes me gag
  70. I had my first legal drink in Bolivia
  71. The only time I've ever cheated on a test, was in third grader when I was afraid of my teacher, so I didn't tell him I didn't understand fractions and instead copied off some else's paper
  72. I have never understood why anyone purposely feeds pigeons - they are,  in my opinion, rats with wings
  73. If I won the lottery I would buy a one-way ticket overseas and then later go back to school for something really impractical, like folklore or medieval studies
  74. My family and I were once evacuated out of our house because our crazy neighbor was shooting at us
  75. I can do the yoga pose Astavakrasana (see below)
Photo Credit:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Things I Love

My latest favorite discoveries and obsessions:

1. Gorgeous vintage jewelry finds at the Fremont Sunday Market. A belly dancer's dream come true!

2. Yellow Leaf cupcakes in Belltown. My new go-to spot for heavenly dessert. Not to mention that they have the most original cupcake flavors; can you say pancakes and bacon? Tomato soup anyone?

3. This breathtaking romantic view. Extra points to anyone who can tell me where this actually is!

4. And the view from my new office!

5. Show Pony - the designer consignment shop in Fremont. Didn't know this existed until last weekend. Scored two pairs of designer jeans for a price that would have only gotten me half a pair of jeans at Nordstrom.

6. Any season of HBO's True Blood. Warning: it's addicting. Sit down to watch one episode and five hours later you're wondering what happened.

7. Diva Dollz - the vintage clothing and lingerie boutique in Pioneer Square. Talk about old Hollywood glamour. Look like you just stepped out of a scene from Mad Men. Love that the shop girls are dressed the part, including winged eyeliner and beehives.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mid-Year Goal Check-In, Part Two

Just like the rest of life, dreams and goals are constantly evolving and changing. So while I'm pretty on track with my "Celebrate and Sparkle" goals that I set back in January, since then I've accomplished some new ambitions, added some new aspirations, and also identified some elements that need eliminating from my life.

As I've progressed down my "Celebrate and Sparkle" path, there have been a couple of ambitions that came up that I've actually already been able to check off my list:

  1. Take an aerial silks class.  I did this in May through Cabiri and it was amazing! The first class was a bit rough, as I felt like the body mechanics weren't clicking for me and my old shoulder injury was flaring up. Walking out of my class, that Negative Nellie in the back of mind was whispering demoralizing things like "Maybe you're just too old" and "Wow, you're really out of shape since your gymnastics days." After a short lived pity party, I'd had about enough of that, told negative Nellie to piss off, and was back at class the next week. And I was much improved! By week three I was having visions of performances and stunning feats of acrobatics.  I'm currently on hiatus due to scheduling conflicts, but you can certainly bet that I'll be back at it again this fall. Health bonus: taking the class actually ended up helping my shoulder, as I learned to engage properly through the rhomboids and stop hanging by my rotator cuff.
  2. Become a subscriber at the 5th Avenue. The 5th Avenue Theater has a spectacular season coming up and I'm now officially a subscriber, which is head over heels cheaper than buying individual tickets. For the price of $33 per ticket, over the next year I'll be sitting in row 7 (yes, as in seven rows back from the stage) smack-dab in the middle while I eat my heart out watching Rent(!), Les Miserables(!!), Damn Yankees, Oklahoma!, and Cinderella.

Looking forward to summer and out through the rest of my year, my new aspirations now include:
  1. Reading. Lots and lots of reading. Some of my happiest memories from childhood were the weekly summertime visit to the library to stock up on novels and then racing home to dive right into my new finds. Even now, walking into a library or bookstore gives me a great sense of peace. Each book a miniature door into possibility and imagination. The titles whispering to me to peer inside. Exotic worlds just waiting to be discovered. With those memories swimming around through the back of my head, I have a deep desire to spend a good majority of summer lazing about outside with a book in hand.
  2.  Sleep more.  The health and beauty benefits of sleep are countless.  So instead of rushing out to spend big bucks on the latest beauty revolution, I've decided why not just sleep more. For free. Seems like a no-brainer. I'm pretty good about always getting a minimum of seven hours, but my body tells me that I'd really prefer to be getting at least an half hour to an hour more per night.  There will always be more dishes to dry and more status updates to read on Facebook, so instead of doing that one last thing before bed, I'm going to just skip it and go to bed. 
And some things I need to remove, smite, magically aspirate, or otherwise eliminate from my life:
  1. Car problems! What is with my bad car luck?! Last year, I had my car broken into while on vacation, which was then subsequently damaged by the repair shop while they were repairing it. After having it back for a few weeks, I was then in an accident when another driver failed to yield. I thought my luck had changed this year, until I had to have it towed to the dealership for repairs in May. Which I again thought were fixed and behind me, until less than a month later, the problem started again and I had to have my insurance send out someone to give me a jump start and then drop the car off for more repairs. I am in desperate need of some kind of car karma cleansing! On a positive note, at least I'm getting my money's worth out of my roadside assistance policy.
  2. Time stealers. I think we all have them - certain activities that suck the hours right out of your day. I don't really watch TV, so that's not one for me. But compulsively checking email sure is (iPhone, I love you, but this obsessive relationship needs to stop), as well as taking too long to get ready (either for work or for bed). Both can easily take me an hour or more. I don't know how. My bathroom's not even that big. I don't particularly enjoy spending time in there. Which leads me to the conclusion that there must be some time of peculiar time wrap isolated to that one room of my apartment.
How about you goddesses? How are your goals coming along for the year? What's working for you and what isn't?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mid-Year Goal Check-In, Part One

We are already half-way through 2011! Can you believe it! My, my this year is whizzing by. At this mid-year point, it seems like the perfect time to do a goal check-in.

Back in January I wrote about my theme for the new year, "Celebrate and Sparkle", and what that theme meant to me in tangible terms. In fact, the picture above is a collage I put together of my theme; a visible reminder that I keep on my fridge as a daily mental nudge of what I want to manifest in my life. Drum roll please, let's see how this year is measuring up:

Goal #1: Wear more sequins.
Check! In addition to two new belly dance costume purchases, I've purchased some glittering garb appropriate for everyday attire. 

Goal #2: Buy more lingerie.
Check!! Actually, I really overindulged here and had to make some returns to Victoria Secret. Going for celebrate and sparkle, but not at the expense of credit card debt.

Goal #3: Dance with abandon.
In Progress. Definitely getting better. However, this is something that I probably will never check off as done, as developing one's expression with any creative or artistic endeavor is really a life-long process that's constantly evolving with changes in skill, age, circumstances, and experiences. I am however, currently working on my piece de resistance. Okay, maybe it's not that spectacular. But I will be debuting new choreography at this year's upcoming Med Fest. See my world premier at the Hiawatha Community Center on Saturday, July 16th at 3:30pm on the indoor stage!

Goal #4: Get a monthly facial and massage.
So far so good. And I've only paid full-price for one of my facials, thank you to Groupon, Living Social, and the other 20-something deal emails clogging my inbox daily.

Goal #5: Travel to England.
Check - with a twist. As my boyfriend and I missed booking tickets in time to use our miles for England, we are instead headed to Italy for two and a half weeks this fall. Itinerary is set to include Rome, Venice, Verona, Florence, Cinque Terra, Pisa, Siena, Assisi, Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Naples, and Pompeii. Ciao bella! Sleeping may not fit into the itinerary until we return.  

Goal #6: Get feather extensions.
Check. Got these back in January and wore proudly for about two months until I snagged it with my hair brush.

Goal #7: Indulge in fresh flowers.
Mostly a check. I've been averaging two-ish bouquets of flowers per month. I usually just snag the cheap-o bouquets from Trader Joe's. However, lucky girl that I am, my boyfriend did surprise me with having this beautiful bouquet delivered to my work. The picture doesn't even do it justice. The whole thing was so dang big I couldn't get it all in the lens!

So yes, things are off to a good start. How about you sugarpop? How has 2011 been treating you?

P.S. Stay tuned for Part Two....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Love Your Body

As a young girl I remember my mother stating that a woman's golden age is 25.  I can hear her lamenting over wrinkles and a post-baby body.  I recall her remarking with envy at the tiny waists of waif-like 20-somethings and stating that older women become invisible.  In short, from an early age, I was taught that a woman's value is defined by her outward beauty.

My mother was not a bad parent; she was simply a product of our society, as so many of us are – obsessing over what we see in the mirror.  And frankly ladies, it needs to stop.  We have so many more valuable things to be doing with our time and energy.

So what is the solution?  We need to stop buying into the ideas that mainstream media is selling us.  We need to unplug and instead surround ourselves with the people, activities, companies, and products that promote a healthy and balanced image of what it is to be female.  Find an activity that inspires and empowers you – surfing, belly dancing, aerial trapeze, yoga, whatever ignites your inner fire.  Find your tribe of like-minded women who build you up.  Stop dissecting what you see in the mirror and love yourself, exactly as you are, right now.  Stop waiting, life is too short.  Take back your power.

As I approach my 30th birthday this year, five years past my "golden age", I intend to celebrate.  My age and my appearance, do not define me.  I do. 

Picture Credit: Women's Natural Health Center

Monday, May 30, 2011

Be Kind to Your Belly

By the end of April, after finishing up a hectic busy season in my day job, which involved too much sitting at a desk, eating meals on the run, and hitting up happy hour, I was feeling a bit sluggish, toxic, and generally unhealthy. I need more whole, vibrant foods back in my diet. Which lead me to the decision to give up both dairy and alcohol for four weeks in May. Curious to know the results of my eating experiment?

They were all positive! I lost about an inch off my waist. I saved money from not purchasing drinks out at dinner or wine at the grocery store.  My skin looks clearer and more radiant. And my minor digestive tummy troubles have improved significantly. And best part? I still indulged in dessert every day.

I also didn't find giving up either dairy or alcohol as difficult as I thought it would be. There are enough dairy substitutes on the market, everything from butter to ice cream to sour cream, that I never felt deprived. Eating out was a bit trickier at times, but I was always able to find something on the menu. When I'm having a drink it's typically in a social situation, but I didn't feel that not drinking inhibited my ability to mingle or attend functions. Although, I must confess, that I did cheat once and had a drink at the Knee High Stocking Company, a speak-easy on Capital Hill, during the four weeks.  But I had a good reason - my Groupon was going to expire and I needed to use it!

Want to change up your diet? Whether it's giving up dairy, eating less junk food, going vegan, or whatever your personal goal may be, the main key is to plan ahead. Stock up on yummy, healthy foods from the grocery store so you aren't tempted by a drive through the fast food window or reaching for a candy bar when you're tired, hungry, and cranky. A few specific products I recommend are:
  1. Earth Balance non-dairy butter
  2. Purely Decadent soy ice cream in Cookie Dough or Turtle Trails
  3. Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet, for vegan recipes
  4. Nature's Path frozen Homestyle gluten-free waffles
  5. The Raw Food Detox Diet, by Natalia Rose for delicious healthy recipes
Happy Eating!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tea Time!

I recently hosted a Charitea - a tea party benefiting a non-profit. If you'd like to host your own tea party here are a few tips:
1. Tell guests that tea party attire (aprons, gloves, pearls, tiaras, feather boas, etc.) is strongly encouraged. Tea tastes better with accessories!
2. Serve multiple types of tea - black, green, white, and herbal. Be sure to label them so attendees know which is which.
3. Decorate with tulips and as much official tea time dishware you can find - tea pots, cups and saucers, three tiered serving trays, creamer and sugar, and petite dishes. You can find a lot of this on
4. Serve small finger-foods, such as tea sandwiches, scones, and mini cupcakes.
5. Pick a charity and ask guests to make a small donation. My selected charity was Friends of Maiti Nepal. You can make a donation here.
5. Give out gift bags to guests as a thank for you attending and for making a donation. Possible items to include are tea bags, tea candles, eye masks, and other small goodies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seattle Summertime Secrets

Oh Seattle, how I love thee when you are sunny. Warm and radiant. Green and lush. Numerous cool bodies of water, flanked by verdant forests and crisp mountain peaks studding the horizon. Puppies on parade at Greenlake. Hippies on display at Folklife. Birds chirping away. Okay, so maybe that one bird outside my bedroom window doesn't need to be quite so damn happy at 5am in the morning. But if he comes with sunshine, I am not complaining.

I have said it frequently, but there is hardly a more beautiful place on the planet than Seattle in summertime. Our first warm and sunny day last Saturday was a delicious taste of what I've been waiting on for the last eight months. Summer is my favorite season, when I can stockpile some much needed Vitamin D (from underneath the safety screen of SPF 30, of course). With that brief glimpse of sunshine, I have an itch to start all my favorite summertime activities. Want in on some of my summer secrets? Here's the juicy scoop.

Lazy Afternoon of Reading in Parsons Park
Where are you headed for your favorite park in Queen Anne? Are you stopping at Kerry Park? Oh no, not you. You're continuing a few blocks down Highland Avenue to a hidden secret garden called Parsons Park. Wave at those tourists snapping pictures as you saunter on by. Amateurs. Only a seasoned local like you knows where to partake in the perfect afternoon of park perfection.

Ice Cream from Molly Moon's
Alessandra you say, this is hardly a secret! The line is never shorter than an hour in summertime. Yes, true, very true. And I have waited in that line more than once to satisfy my sweet tooth with unique combinations of chocolate ice cream with olive oil and sea salt, or shredded carrot sticks and creamy vanilla bean. Ah, but the secret my friends, is that now there is a Molly Moon's truck! And so far, said truck does not have a line. The truck moves from location to location, which they announce via Twitter. However, lately, the truck has been making regular appearances on the top of Queen Anne. You have been officially informed.

Picnic in Kubota Gardens
A hop, skip, and a jump outside of downtown, on the other side of Rainier Valley, lies Kubota Gardens. An immaculate Japanese garden with winding pathways, delicate wooden bridges, meandering streams, and terraced garden beds. Idyllic locale for a picnic, as you won't have to worry about bustling crowds, rowdy parties, or really any other type of disturbance for that matter, because you'll be one of the few people there. And the cherry on top? There's no entrance fee like there is to the Japanese garden inside the Arboretum.

Mediterranean Fantasy Festival
This is a belly dance-based blog after all, so how could I not say something about Med Fest? Before I started belly dancing I'd never heard of this festival, but now it's one of my favorites. Two days, two stages, non-stop belly dance performances. Add to that workshops and costume vendors and I'm in belly dance heaven. This summer's Med Fest will be July 16th and 17th at the Hiawatha Community Center in West Seattle. Check out the Babylonian Ensemble website for more details.

Flash Mob
I have to admit that this is one I haven't done yet, but it's on my radar. Here's how it works: the organizers teach you the routines and tell you the date of the event. But it's not until performance day that they announce the times and locations. Flash mob day, you show up in your normal, everyday clothes, the music starts, and one by one, the dancers join in, taking the bystanders completely by surprise with an impromptu performance. Can't picture it? Check out this video of when Oprah's producers flash mobbed her. They haven't announced the summer flash mob details yet, but if you want to get on the mailing list you can sign up here. Sorry, Oprah and Black Eyed Peas not included in your local flash mob experience.

Have a favorite Seattle summertime activity? No holding out on the rest of us now. Post it below!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Green and Gorgeous

April is National Earth Month. I know we're all super-busy with daily life, but here's a few easy tips for being gorgeously green:

1. Recycle batteries rather than throwing them in trash. You can recycle them at almost all Bartell Drug's - just take them to the photo/electronics counter.

2. Shop local and/or organic. Seattle has a ton of farmer's markets, so it's pretty easy to find one close to you. Not only will the food you're eating be fresher, tastier, and free of icky chemicals, but you'll also be supporting local small business owners and cutting down on pollution from not having to ship food in from thousands of miles away. To find one near you, click here.

3. Buy a reusable alumnimum water bottle, rather than using a new plastic one every time. Papaya Art has some of my favorites.

4. Get off junk mailing lists. Rather than just instantly tossing those catalogues that you don't want, just never get them in the first place. You can also opt out of credit card offers, donation solicitations, and more. Create an account to manage your preferences at the DMA Choice website.

5. Wash your clothes in cold water. Not only is it better on the environment, but it will lower your heating bill and it's gentler on your clothing, especially bright colors.

Have more tips of your own? Leave a comment!