Jan 31, 2013

Lavender & Moss

As many of you may know, Mark & I are getting married at the end of May. Even though we are having a very small wedding/elopement I want everything to be perfect. In my planning I have come up with the theme of Lavender & Moss.

All flowers have a meaning. Lavender flowers have their own special meaning. When given as a gift, lavender flowers represent purity, silence and luck. Lavender flowers also convey a message of devotion, which is why I chose them. That and they are pretty and smell lovely!

Most people don't even know that moss has a floral meaning, but it does. Moss' floral meaning is charity and maternal love. I think that the maternal love aspect has a good place in our theme seeing how our daughter, Tallulah, is also going to be our little flower girl. Also, moss thrives in the shade which, to me, can reflect how even when life gets dark we continue to grow together as a couple and as a family. Plus I think moss is beautiful!

The lavender and moss together portray a kind of casual whimsy to me. Perfect for what I want!

Jan 29, 2013

Easy Vegetable Pizza

Let's face it... We don't always have the time or the inclination to whip up the most fabulous meal known to man to serve our families. Sometimes my daughter eats non-stop (growth spurts) and the longer It takes to fill her belly, the more whining I have to endure. One of my solutions for a quick and easy meal for the whole family is Easy Vegetable Pizza!

Easy Vegetable Pizza

1 Loaf Artisan Bread (Sourdough is our personal preference)
Pizza or Spaghetti Sauce of choice
Cheese (Artisan Vegan cheese's work just as well)
Vegetables of choice

*Line a baking pan with tin foil.
*Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
*Slice your loaf of bread in half lengthwise, then slice each side in half to make 4 personal pizzas.
*Layer sauce, cheese and vegetables.
*Bake in oven until cheese melts. (For extra crunch, broil for approx. 5 minutes after cheese melts.)

Our vegetables of choice usually include spinach, mushrooms, squashes, and tomato slices for daddy. The image below only shows mushrooms as that happened to be all we had in the fridge this go 'round. Use what you have!

Jan 28, 2013

Why is conditioning important?

Last night I started going to a double whammy of belly dance classes. At 5:15, I started in Kaitlyn Bellydance's Beginner/Intermediate class which is mostly Cabaret. Then directly following that class she also teaches a Tribal class that mostly follows the ATS format trademarked by Fat Chance Belly Dance. Both of these classes are already amazing! Kaitlyn incorporates a lot of conditioning into these classes catered to belly dancing and a belly dancer's body and the moves that we do. Let me just say here that my booty was kicked and this morning I am very sore! It's a good kind of sore though. Next time I will definitely hydrate better!!

So why is conditioning so important?

Some find that working out is a natural activity that they excel at without much effort, while others find that they need to plan ahead in order to stay motivated and see results. Most people don’t know how to train hard and keep up their conditioning so their body stays healthy and hydrated.

Strength and Conditioning training aims to improve sport performance and even everyday life by helping stop injuries and increasing fitness. The focus of Strength and Conditioning will vary according to the needs of the individual but can include: strength and power work, speed, balance, plyometrics, flexibility and endurance training.

If you don’t have a rhythm going while you workout to build up sweat and get your heart rate going you won't see that great of results. That’s why it’s so extremely important to learn how to workout so that you condition your body to keep the heart rate up.

If you don’t warm up before your workout, you won’t get your heart rate up. The higher the heart rate the better your body can pump blood flow to your muscles to force them to work and grow.

When you use conditioning, for example, you train in a rotating workout routine with various exercises non-stop and with very little rest to condition your body to make that blood flow.

If you don’t add this type of training into your workouts you risk getting plateaus in your muscle development or weight loss. Condition training, even if you throw it into your workout once a week, will help keep your body from causal injuries from the same old cardio your body is used to.

The benefits of conditioning training are great, you will see more strength, flexibility and much more confidence in your workouts or dance routine.

Jan 26, 2013

Bedtime Prayer for Children

Someone on my Facebook page shared this image and I absolutely fell in love with it! I think we will be incorporating it into our bedtime routine with my daughter.

Thinking About Juicing

I have been seriously considering getting into juicing for a good while. I could go on and on about why juicing is good for you here, but instead I am just going to keep it short and sweet. Basically, fresh juice is a raw, live food that’s high in enzymes, and it’s absolutely brimming with nutrients that are well absorbed by the body. The juicer does all the work if breaking down the fruits and veggies, so juicing is excellent for anyone with any sort of digestive issue. Juicing fruits and vegetables is a wonderful way to increase the amount of nutrients from raw foods in your diet, and fresh juice is super high in minerals that can be used by the body to reduce inflammation and potentially heal numerous ailments. Juicing helps the body rid itself of toxins so it can be a valuable addition to a weight loss program…it can also help improve the condition of your skin and hair. If you want to read more about the health benefits of juicing, I think the website of cancer survivor Kris Carr is a great resource.

Be aware that even though fresh juice is fabulous for you, it does not have any fiber. So please don’t give up on eating your fruits and veggies whole. Also, as you get into juicing, it’s best not to only juice sweet fruits and/or carrots and beets. These are quite high in natural sugars and you don’t want to consume large amounts of them juiced: you may throw your blood sugar out of whack. Balance is key, so make sure to add low-glycemic, high nutrient greens to your juices, as well. Organic produce is recommended for juicing; if you can’t buy organic, make sure to wash your fruits and veggies with an all natural produce rinse to remove any pesticide or other chemical residue.

Fresh juice should be consumed right after you make it (store-bought, packaged juices honestly don’t have a lot of value in terms of nutrients and/or healing properties), and I’ve always heard it’s best for your digestion to drink fresh juice 20-30 minutes before a meal. I’ve also always heard it’s best not to suck the juice down quickly, but to drink it slowly, and to sort of “chew” every mouthful. Yes, pretty much every source states how it’s a bit of a pain to clean the juicer but think about how much good you are doing your body by incorporating the practice of juicing into your life.

But there's no sound scientific evidence yet that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself. On the other hand, if you don't enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a fun way to add them to your diet or to try fruits and vegetables you normally wouldn't eat. Particularly for kids!! You can find many juicing recipes online or mix up your own combinations of fruits and vegetables to suit your taste.

Jan 24, 2013

Brussels Sprout Overage?

Do you always end up with extra Brussels Sprouts just hanging around in your fridge after making a recipe and have no idea what to do with them?

Here's a tip... chop them finely or shred them and use them just like lettuce! That's right. Brussels Sprouts can be used a myriad of ways, including taking the place of lettuce in salads, on sandwiches, and even in tacos! Use it raw or cooked for an awesome boost of Vitamin K. Brussels Sprouts also boast 3.38 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces!

Tonight I threw together what I like to call a "poor man's meal", which basically just means that I used the bits and pieces I had left from other meals, maybe added a little pizazz, and created a new dish for our culinary enjoyment. In this case I simply shredded my leftover Brussels Sprouts and fried them up with some black beans, taco-style seasonings (garlic, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, cayenne, oregano, salt & pepper - all to taste!) in a habanero olive oil blend (because we like it spicy!) and served over rice. Voila!

Jan 22, 2013


I've been spending a lot of time creating bindis! It takes a lot of work to take and edit pictures, come up with names and descriptions, and get them listed in my online storefronts.



Jan 20, 2013

What is a Hafla?

Okay. So I have been asked several times over the past few weeks "What exactly is a Hafla?". In anticipation and excitement for my first Hafla, which was last night, I had mentioned it many many times on Facebook and in person to people. So I decided to use this entry to explain exactly what a Hafla is.

Hafla. (Pronounced "HAHF lah".) This basically refers to a party. A private hafla thrown by a belly dancer usually involves Middle Eastern music (sometimes live musicians jamming, sometimes just taped music), dancers taking turns performing for each other, and some open-floor dancing for everyone to get up and enjoy the music. A more public hafla may be effectively a full belly dance festival, with vendors selling their wares and a more formalized stage show.

It is especially good in order to provide students with a low-stakes arena in which to perform, as well as to expose them to the style of other bellydancers.

Our Hafla last night featured students and professional troupes. Prior to the Hafla, there were also workshops being offered by members of Torque. It was AMAZING! I highly recommend, even if you yourself do not dance, that you go to a Hafla at least once. It is such a beautiful artistic expression and to see how differently each person and/or troupe uses it and personalizes it is truly a sight to be seen!

Jan 18, 2013

Brussels Sprout Detox Salad

Brussels Sprout Detox Salad

  • Brussels sprouts (about 18), washed and stems removed
  • carrots (about 2 large), peeled
  • 1 apple, diced 
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 4-6 tbsp raisins
  • 2-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh Thyme leaves (optional), or other herbs of choice
  • Pure maple syrup, to taste

1. Add the grate/shred blade to food processor. Turn machine on and drop in the brussels sprouts to shred. Now drop in the carrots to shred. Alternatively, you can finely chop brussels and shred carrots with a hand-held grater. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Stir in the diced apple, celery, sunflower seeds, and raisins into the carrot and Brussels sprout mixture.

3. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and optional fresh thyme to taste. Add a small amount of maple syrup (about 1/2-1.5 tsp) to take the edge off the lemon juice. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Serve & enjoy!

Jan 17, 2013

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Need a healthy snack or dessert? Just want to cram some extra protein into your day? Try a Greek Yogurt Parfait! Greek Yogurt is nonfat and has a whopping 21 grams of protein per cup! Not to mention it is super simple and delicious!

Just take your favorite flavored Greek Yogurt and layer it with fresh fruit, nuts, granola or anything else that suits your fancy! In any amount you desire!

Here I used Vanilla Greek Yogurt, chopped pecans, and fresh sliced strawberries. Mmmmm!

Jan 15, 2013

Wee Can Too Art

If you want to introduce your child to the wonderful world of art at an early age you may be dismayed to find that most of the products on the market are for ages 3 and up. Occasionally you may find some products labeled 2 and up, but those a few and far between. So what? Does that mean you have to wait a whole 2 or 3 years to let your child explore the creative more intensely? Not at all!

We purchased the Grab n' Go Finger-paint set to celebrate our daughter, Tallulah's, 6th "birth-month-day" because it's never too early to introduce your child to the wonderful world of art! These paints are fabulous!! Not only do they allow your child to be creative, experiment with color, and practice focus, but they also help satiate a babies' desire for texture.

Not only that, but these eco friendly, organically edible paints are completely safe for your kids and edible in case they decide to put their little hands into their mouth, which has been known to happen while finger painting.

I was only too pleased to find these products since I did not have to hover over her to make sure she didn't ingest anything. Instead I could stay at a safe distance and just let her "do her thing". Lula loves her art time and we spent time painting at least once a week when she was younger. Active babies are happy babies!

Now that she is nearly two her artistic repertoire has grown and Wee Can Too art products have grown with her. Their list of products includes finger paints, tempura paints, crayons, sidewalk chalk, face paints and egg dyeing kits! I cannot say enough good things about this company or their products!

 Find out more information about Wee Can Too Art and their products here.

Jan 14, 2013

Baby Teeth Chart

I found this image on Pinterest today. It came from the Baby Orajel website. While I am sure it is just meant to be a general guideline, I don't personally know of any kids that this pertains too. My daughter got her first teeth at 4 months and has had all of her "baby teeth" since 18 months when the very last molar reared its ugly head. So while charts like these exist (and not just for teeth), it's important to remember that our children are individuals and not statistics. "Normal" is a setting on a washing machine and you won't find it anywhere else! ;)

Vegan Protein Sources

Meat eaters will never stop asking and vegans always get sick of hearing it:

“How do you get your protein?”

Plant-based protein can not only build strong muscles, but can keep a vegan healthy enough to run, swim, bike, dance or pump iron – no flesh-eating necessary.

Here are 10 sources of vegan protein:

1. Veggies: Yep, good old greens will pack a protein punch. One cup of cooked spinach has about 7 grams of protein. The same serving of French beans has about 13 grams. Two cups of cooked kale? 5 grams. One cup of boiled peas? Nine grams. You get the idea.

2. Hemp. No, you don’t have to get high to get your protein. But toss 30 grams of hemp powder in your smoothie and get about 11 grams of protein – just like that.

3. Non-Dairy Milk. Got (soy) milk? A mere 1 cup of soy or almond milk can pack about 7-9 grams of protein. Eat with some fortified cereal and you’ve got a totally vegan-friendly breakfast.

4. Nut Butter. Eat up your peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter. A couple of tablespoons of any one of these will get you 8 grams of protein.

5. Quinoa. I kinda think quinoa is God’s gift to vegans (and gluten-free peeps!), as it’s versatile, delicious and delivers about 9 grams of protein per cup.

6. Tofu. Four ounces of tofu will get you about 9 grams of protein.

7. Lentils. With lentils, you can make rice dishes, veggie burgers, casseroles and more. One cup cooked delivers a whopping 18 grams of protein! (Lentils are our go-to protein source in this house!)

8. Beans. They really are the magical fruit. With one cup of pinto, kidney or black beans, you’ll get about 13-15 grams of protein, a full belly and heart-healthy fiber.

9. Tempeh. One cup of tempeh packs about 30 grams of protein! That’s more than 5 eggs or a regular hamburger patty.

10. Sprouted-grain bread. Pack a sandwich with vegan sprouted-grain bread and you’ll get about 10 grams of protein in the bread alone.

Not sure how much protein you should have per day? Experts agree that most people exceed their recommended daily protein intake by 50% DAILY! I refer you to this article -

Vegetarian Southwestern Egg Rolls

If you've ever eaten at Chili's then you know about their Southwestern Egg Rolls of amazingness! I have never met a soul who had tried them and had not fallen in love with them. Theirs are not vegetarian as they have chunks of chicken in them.... But mine are! And they are just as delectable too!

Vegetarian Southwestern Egg Rolls & Dip

Egg Rolls
1 diced green pepper
2 cups corn
2-3 cups shredded spinach
1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
1- 4 oz can diced green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 dashes tabasco sauce
1 package of egg roll wrappers

1 cup Ranch dressing
1 avocado, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon grated lime

Step 1: Assemble ingredients! You knew that one, right? :)

Step 2: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 3: Mix all the egg roll ingredients, not including wrappers, in a large bowl. 

Step 4: Wrap 3 tablespoons of mix in one egg roll wrapper. Fold corners in and roll. (There are probably excellent instructions on the package.) Seal with water.

Step 5: Place rolled egg rolls on wax paper on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Step 6: Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Flip. Bake 5 more minutes. Makes approximately 18 egg rolls.

Step 7: Make the dip! Sorry, actually, you need to do this while it's baking, that would be better.


Step 8: Peel and mash avocado. If you're like me, you are about to google 'peel avocado'. Don't. Because you don't actually peel it, you just scoop the avocado out of the peel with a spoon. Super easy.

Step 9: Mix avocado with ranch dressing and lime peel.  That's it! Dip those babies!

Easy Banana Bread (Vegan)

Bananas are definitely a household favorite for us! In my opinion this is the BEST banana bread I have EVER had! It stays moist for a few days and is really scrumptious. :) I guarantee that you will love this vegan banana bread/cake recipe!


2 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk*
1 cup mashed banana or 2 bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)
Nuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil a cake pan.
Add all ingredients into a bowl and stir vigorously until very smooth.
Pour banana bread mixture into the oiled tin.
Bake for 1 hour or so until top has browned and a skewer poked in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
Serve warm.
Spread with vegan butter and eat eat eat!

*I use canned lite coconut milk.
*Purée the banana if you want the banana taste to be equal throughout the bread. Or if you would rather chunky bits, just mash the banana.

Jan 11, 2013

Beginner Belly Dance Make-Up

This information is aimed at those that infrequently or never wear make-up and find themselves facing a student belly dance performance with no idea of what to do. Leaving your face unadorned when you have costumed the rest of you can spoil the effect. Not using make up for an actual stage production under lights is never recommended. People won’t be able to see your eyes and will have trouble connecting with you.

The quickest and easiest way to learn about make-up application is to go to a free make over. These are offered by big department stores as well as make up companies or artists trying to build up a following.

One of my past dreams/interests was to be a makeup artist. I did a lot of research on my own and used to practice with friends. Nowadays I am lucky if I remember to put on lip gloss before running out the door!

I will outline below the cheapest and easiest way to get started.

Eye liner preferably black
Eye shadow (3 to 4 shades)
Lip stick
Really good to have:
Lip liner
Mascara also black
The first 2 under ‘really good to have’ are essentials if you do not have clear skin.

Now there are so many other products that are also great to have but careful use of the above will yield a pleasing result and start you on your way to familiarity as to what suits you.


Lipstick – Check with your belly dance teacher if you are doing a group piece – this is fairly likely as you are just starting out. Everyone in the troupe wearing the same shade of lippy helps give a unified look. If the teacher does not mind then its up to personal preference. A fairly nude or pale lip colour has been quite fashionable for a while now but doesn’t work well for everyone. I recommend a deep red as a starting colour; it usually goes well for most styles of belly dancing and most colours. If you are fair watch out for reds with too much of an orangey tone to them – it can highlight all the flaws in your skin. Lip liner should be darker than your lipstick and preferably in a similar color range.

Eye liner – go black. Most belly dancers wear very dark eyeliner and it will blend you in with your troupe. Felt tip pen eyeliners are easiest for beginners.

Foundation – to suit your skin tone

Blush – ‘cause if you wear foundation and no blush you will look featureless and scary.

Eye Shadow – a 4 pack of different shades of brown (Dark brown to a pale neutral shade). Why? Because it looks good to great on almost everyone, is available in many brands, is natural enough looking that people new to make up won’t freak out when applying it and you can use it later outside of performance.

How to apply...

There are many tricky techniques you can use but I will cover the bare, bare essentials to get you on your way. Once you know the basics you will find youtube a treasure trove of help!

Apply foundation to your face.

Apply eyeliner to the edge of your top eyelid as close to the eyelashes as possible. Now we are going to extend it out to give a more exotic look. With your eyes OPEN put a small dot as to where you want your line to end – then close that eye and connect the line. If you do not, the line will tend to droop down and be unattractive. Don’t worry about putting any on the bottom lid until you are more experienced with taking things into account such as your eye shape, etc.

Use one of the shades to accentuate your eye brows – be really light to start with and fill in any gaps and neaten the shape. This will of course work best for people with brown hair. The dark brown in most 4 colour sets is dark enough for most people to get away with when they are beginning. If you are really fair skinned try using the next shade up.

Use the darkest brown to follow along just above the eyeliner line also apply a bit to the crease and up a little in the 1/3 of your eye furthest away from your nose. Use the next shade to blend in to the dark brown – above the crease out to the extended line and below the crease in the furthest third. Use the third shade to blend in to the the rest of the eye lid and above the last shade. The light colour can be used to highlight under the brow and a little in the inner third to give a wider set to the eyes.

Apply Blush on a diagonal along your cheekbone. For younger dancers you can apply it mostly to the apples of your cheeks. To find the apples just smile and lightly brush over the rounded sticky out bits! Use a big make up brush for blush application.

As for your lips, everyone has a preference and you have to take your lip shape into account. Many people place the lipliner on the outside of their lips and use their lipstick to just color inside of the lines. This lends to a fuller lip! You can really use your liner to build any shape you want to before filling them in. Play with it until you find the look you want!

Jan 10, 2013

Curves in Motion

Being an active plus sized woman has its own unique challenges. One of the main problems I encounter is finding a sports bra that is worth a damn. Finding the right sports bra is like finding the right pair of jeans...there's agony, there's triumph and then there are all the emotions in between.

Many people will tell you that you need different bras for your particular activity. Different bras with different levels of support. Why not just find a good bra with the maximum support that you would need for all of your various activities? I don't know about anyone else, but I cannot afford to have a different sports bra for each activity that I enjoy partaking of.

When your bra size extends from the C-cup range and up it used to be commonplace to double up on your bras before doing a medium to high impact activity. That means you were either wearing two sports bras one on top of the other or you were wearing one sports bra and one underwire bra to reach your maximum "non-jiggle" for your "girls". NOT COMFORTABLE. Wearing a normal bra for too long during the day is not comfortable for most women, let alone if you have some heft! Now add two sets of straps, two fasteners on your back and a lot of rigorous movement. Ugh.

Luckily, these days it is easier to find sports bras that are designed with us curvier gals in mind. Good bras are IMPORTANT just like good shoes. Whether they are sports bras or not, a good bra is not something you should skimp on.

In my search for a good sports bra that met all of my requirements for my increasingly active lifestyle I stumbled upon Glamorise Sport and their Ultimate Full Figure Sport Bra. While I have not purchased this bra and cannot give a review of it just yet (although I plan to in the not so distant future), its description and design gives me hope that I may have found my new favorite bra to workout in.

*crosses fingers*

NC Porch Lettuce Wraps

I found this recipe on The Post Punk Kitchen and have been wanting to try it for awhile! Ask my fiancé, Mark, he'll tell you how many times I mentioned it before today! Ha ha! Let me just say that I should definitely have made this sooner because it is delicious!!

You can find the original recipe here:

I tweaked the recipe a little since the time of year was not right for nectarines in my neck of the woods and I was trying to use more easily found ingredients for my area. ;)

For the edamame pesto: (the original recipe made twice as much pesto than we wanted/needed)
1 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
5 oz package edamame, thawed (preferably shelled so the chopped up shells don't get stuck in your teeth like popcorn kernels)
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the beans:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
Several dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound of asparagus, sliced on a bias (3/4 inch pieces or so)
1 1/2 cups great northern beans, rinsed and drained (a 15.5 oz can)

To serve:
1 head of red bibb lettuce, or similar

Prepare the pesto:
Place garlic and basil in food processor and pulse a few times to get it chopped up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Add a little more vegetable broth if it seems too stiff. Set aside until ready to use.

Now prepare the beans:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat (cast iron is preferred.) Saute the shallots in olive oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds more. Season with black pepper and salt. Add asparagus and toss to coat. Cook for about 7 minutes. The asparagus should be a bright Green.

Add beans and toss to coat. Cook until they are warmed through, about 2 more minutes. Taste for salt. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes or so, so that the flavors can meld.

In the meantime, prepare red lettuce leaves. Just peel off the good big ones, rinse and dry them.

To assemble wraps:

Place a few leaves on each plate, spoon in some beans and plop on a nice big scoop of the pesto.

*We found that the bean mixture was amazing by itself as well as with the pesto. And my 20 month old ate it up almost without stopping for breath!

Jan 8, 2013

Belly Dancing for Beginners

I have been belly dancing at home with DVDs for years, on and off. Let me just say, right now, that using DVDs at home and taking an actual class with an instructor IS SO VERY DIFFERENT. And BETTER, of course. If you have a real interest it behooves you to have someone to critique you so that you can learn and improve (and not hurt yourself). Taking a class also throws you into one of the greatest communities of people that I have ever come across. Dancing brings joy and belly dancers are full of it!

So, here I am coming up on my first ever performance in a couple of weeks and I thought I would share some information that I found useful for all of the potentials out there. It's pretty basic, but good to know.

Ten Tips for Belly Dance Students By Shemiran Ibarhim © 2007

1. Breathe & feel the moment
Breathe through the movement; keep your attention in your feet, your belly, your pelvis and your breath. Stay in the moment by living in your belly and pelvis, feeling your feet on the ground and sensing your breath flow past your nostrils and your lips.

2. Relax your lips
Part your lips sensually. Don’t clench your jaw or your mouth, stay loose. This will also help you to breathe out of your mouth and in through your nose, allowing for a bigger exhalation through the mouth and a deeper inhalation – refilling and re-energising your every move. Also, keep your tongue connected to the roof of your mouth; according to ancient Taoism, this keeps your energy flowing up and down your body. Try it especially when you are feeling blocked.

3. Let go of tension
Think loosey goosey! Watch yourself in your body; are you tensing up all the time? If you’re not having fun in class you’re missing the whole point. If you stress in your mind you will tense up in your body. Make joy your first focus and some magic will then happen with your movement; it will flow easier and feel better. Beautiful Belly Dance not only looks good, it feels good.

4. Watch your mind
Start challenging your negative self-talk. This is a key to open up a door to your true feminine beauty. Read the Emotional Aspects of Learning Belly Dance to help you on your learning journey.

5. Dance without ambition or competition
As Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi says in her illuminating and heart warming book Belly Dancing; Unlock the secret power of an ancient dance; “Dance without ambition or competition”. Judgment of self and others is such a joy killer. If these thoughts come up for you, pay no attention and shift your focus onto better things, like how it feels to have your feet on the ground, are you holding your posture up correctly, or simply listen to the music and lose yourself in it.

6. Create community
Make friends, don’t isolate yourself in class. Get to know like-spirited women from your community. This will bring bigger meaning to your dance.

7. Dress up
Buy some affordable jewellery to compliment your hip scarf, or a flowing gypsy skirt and any other additions that will add colour and spice and increase your interest. Costuming is a big part of the Belly Dance experience. Feel like a little girl again! Please note that if you wear skirts to tuck them into your waistband so that your teacher can still see your knees and feet; the base of all your movements!

8. Really learn the feet, they are your foundation
Don’t brush over the feet as unimportant. They are your very foundation on top of which your hips and whole body depend, like the base of a pyramid holding up the entire structure. Feel the earth with your feet, live in your feet.

9. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your teacher, it always serves everyone. And remember, you are a paying customer!

10. Soak in Arabic music
Get into the music, buy CD’s and listen to them all week. As a beginner, start with slower rhythms, then graduate to the faster tracks.While we know for certain that belly dancing is fun, it has other favourable side effects as well. Below are two articles that describe the impact on belly dancing on your physical health.

The Health Benefits of Belly Dancing by Sheri Waldrop

Raks Sharki, also called belly dance, is a form of dance that many are familiar with. But few understand the effects it has on the human body. The graceful hip drops, rolls, and pivots of this dance form utilize muscle groups in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck, working with the body instead of against it. Unlike ballet, which can potentially alter and deform the skeleton, or other dance forms that work against rather than with the body's physical inclinations, raks sharki is based on movements that come naturally to the female form. There is a wealth of health benefits awaiting those who practice this form of dance.

Improved posture and muscle toning -

Our spinal column contains more bones and ligaments than any other part of the body. Its 33 vertebrae are stacked together in a column joined together by cartilage and ligaments, and almost every movement of the torso depends upon its flexibility and function. Muscle groups that attach to the ligaments and vertebrae create movement in the trunk and pelvis areas. Raks sharki tones these muscles and maintains flexibility in a safe and effective manner.

During the dance, the movements of hip drops, circles, figure eights, and shimmies put the joints and ligaments in the lower back and hip through a full range of gentle, repetitive motion. This movement helps increase the flow of synovial fluid (nature's lubricant) in these joints. When movements are done properly, the pelvis is tipped forward, or tucked somewhat; a neutral position that can help prevent lower back problems. Raks sharki can help relieve stress to the back, counteracting the almost constant compression of the disks that occurs from sitting and a sedentary lifestyle.

These toned muscles improve posture and help prevent back pain that can be caused by the unnatural curving forward of the spine that occurs when muscle groups are weak (lordosis). Small muscle groups deep in the back that are normally under-exercised are used and strengthened. The muscles surrounding the hip, the largest joint in the body, are used and exercised during hip drops, and figure eights, enhancing flexibility and suppleness. Improved hip flexibility can lead to improved balance when walking as well.

Arms and Shoulders are exercised when doing lifts, circles, or the rippling motions of snake arms, toning muscle. This toning effect is often evident early on, since holding the arms aloft are an important element of the dance, even for beginners.

Because a woman is on her feet, moving during the dance, it is considered a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise can prevent osteoporosis and strengthen bones, and the overall toning can lead to an improved self-image, as the dancer becomes more balanced and poised. Raks sharki is considered a low-impact exercise, meaning the risk of injury is minimal when movements are done correctly. The benefits of belly dance can be enjoyed by women of all ages; men and children are participating in the dance as well, and reaping the same benefits.

Weight loss -

According to Dr. Carolle Jean-Murat, M.D., raks sharki can burn up to 300 calories per hour. This estimate will vary, of course, depending on the intensity of your dancing. Combined with a healthy diet that involves sensible eating, raks sharki can without a doubt be part of a sound weight loss program.

Many dance classes take place only once or twice a week. For even better results and enhanced cardiovascular benefits, try combining the flexibility and muscle strengthening of raks sharki with an aerobic routine, such as swimming or bike riding, on the days you don't have class. Your entire body will feel the benefits as the aerobic exercise works large muscle groups, and the dance enhances strength and coordination of small muscle groups in the trunk, hips, and arms. Also, many exercise physiologists recommend doing just such a routine: alternating one form of exercise with another, for maximum benefits.

Preparation for childbirth -

The movements of raks sharki make an excellent prenatal exercise regimen that strengthens the muscles used during the childbirth process. The toned abdominal muscles and natural hip tucks, which are similar to the "pelvic rocking" taught during prenatal classes, teach the expectant mother how to move her pelvis. For women who desire natural childbirth, this form of exercise through dance, with its emphasis on muscle control not only facilitates natural childbirth, but also makes an excellent post-natal exercise that helps encourage abdominal tone. During those first weeks after giving birth, when caution is needed while healing from the birth process, these movements work the muscles gently and effectively, if done very gradually.

Stress reduction-

In this day and age of almost continuous stress, the subtle rhythms of raks sharki and the traditional movements are calming. The repetitive movements of the dance and the concentration needed to do them can help a mind filled with daily stress to "let go" for a while and relax. It's hard to worry about deadlines at work when you are thinking about getting that next drop just right, or while making sure that you are in time with the music.

One effect of stress is that our bodies tense up, causing contractions or spasms in muscle groups, such as those in the neck, shoulders, or back. When a muscle is contracted, lactic acid builds up, causing the "soreness" or pain that occurs. Blood flow to the affected muscles decreases as well.

Raks sharki, on the other hand, gently stretches and uses these vulnerable muscle groups, and as they are utilized, blood flow increases and lactic acid is flushed away. Stressed muscles relax as they are gently exercised, relieving the "clenched" muscles often seen in our society. The body becomes supple and limber, and practitioners frequently report that pain diminishes in the back and neck areas.

Raks sharki is a fun, healthy way to exercise. It can be a creative outlet that conditions, tones, and allows a woman to tune into the natural movements of her body. It can refresh, relax, and/or exhilarate. So why wait? Find out where classes are held locally, or visit to look up a class and join in this centuries old dance!

Advisory: Many doctors have suggested belly dancing classes as part of rehabilitation from injury; it is, however, important to check with your own medical provider before starting any new form of exercise, especially if you are over 40, pregnant or have medical problems. Most injuries related to "overdoing" for the beginner can be avoided by warming the muscles first and by remembering to do some basic stretching afterward. Listen to your body's signals. Raks sharki, or belly dance, is a wonderful and gentle way to begin to condition your body.

Belly-Dance is good for you by Angelique

Many people are surprised to learn that Middle-Eastern Dance, commonly known as "belly-dance," involves much more than the belly! In fact, belly-dance can benefit many parts of the body. Here are some of the health benefits of Middle-Eastern Dance:

Exercising the carrying muscles without impact. A belly-dancer uses her quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes to hold her steady as she performs hip movements or travels smoothly across the floor. However, even though she gets a great lower-body workout, the amount of impact to her knees and ankles is minimal. Impact is measured not only by how hard our feet strike the ground, but by how much stress is placed on our joints. Using this measure, most of Middle-Eastern dance is considered non-impact; some tribal and folk dances are low-impact.

Building the back muscles evenly. Belly-dancers use their torsos a lot-much more than ballet, modern or tap dancers. Only jazz dancers come close to our use of rib movements and undulations. These movements, coupled with shoulder movements, exercise the back muscles, and they exercise the muscles evenly. Strong back muscles prevent back injuries, and they promote good posture as well.

Exercising the arms. New belly-dance students are always surprised by much they have to use their arm muscles. Belly-dancers have to hold their arms up for long periods of time, and it actually takes quite a lot of strength to perform arm movements slowly and gracefully.

Aiding digestion. It's true! Exercising the abdominal area, not just by rolling the belly, but also by swaying the torso, helps food move along the digestive system. Any form of exercise will have this effect to some degree, but belly-dance is especially good for this purpose.

There you go friends! Some awesome information if you have ever considered getting into belly dance! It's fun and good for you. What else do you need to know? ;)

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

This recipe was featured on MOMSTRONG! Visit here: for tips on nutrition, health, workouts, and kids!


  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 celery ribs with leaves, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 tablespoons shredded carrots
  • 2 green onions, sliced


  • In a large saucepan, combine the first nine ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Add salt and pepper; simmer 10 minutes longer. Cool slightly. In small batches, puree soup in a blender; return to the pan. Heat for 5 minutes. Garnish with shredded carrots and green onions.

Jan 7, 2013

Bunnies are eco-friendly pets!

There are many benefits to owning a pet rabbit: they're utterly adorable, they're funny, they're quiet, they're clean... I could go on and on.

But one thing many people may not realize is that rabbits are ecologically-friendly pets. Here are seven ways that pet rabbits help contribute to a healthy environment.

You can grow a lot of their food yourself in a backyard garden. Growing your rabbit's food yourself helps the environment by cutting down on energy consumption and waste production caused by manufacturing, packaging, storing and shipping commercial food.

You can use both their recycled paper litter and their droppings in a compost pile, which will then fertilize your garden. In fact, rabbit droppings contain a large amount of nitrogen and phosphorus which is essential for flower and fruit production. This is not true for carnivorous pets like cats and dogs. Their waste products are not recommended for compost heaps. Furthermore, many kinds of clay-based cat litter comes from strip mining and are non-degradable.

Even if you're not a gardener, you can purchase their main diet staple, grass hay, along with other vegetables, from local farmers, again diminishing waste products that result from shipping commercial food.

Rabbits are effective paper shredders. No need to waste money and electricity on an electric shredder- rabbits' teeth grow continuously, so they need objects to chew on a regular basis. They will happily destroy your sensitive documents.

Rabbits' favorite toys consist of items you would normally throw away or recycle. They love playing with toilet paper rolls, outdated phone books, old towels, cardboard boxes, etc.

Rabbits are content to run around in your house or apartment, so you don't have to make regular trips to the dog park. This reduces gas consumption and carbon emissions. In addition, because house rabbits stay inside and use their eco-friendly litterboxes, you don't have to worry about proper poop disposal like you do with dogs. Not only are many dog poop bags non-recyclable and non-degradable, but dog fecal bacteria currently pollutes our storm drain systems causing disease to humans and wildlife.

House rabbits are very clean animals and, in general, they manage to carry on relatively disease-free lives. This means a reduction of harmful chemicals and drugs associated with pet shampoos, flea and tick treatments, and other medications. These pollutants cause an array of problems such as drug-resistant bacteria, contamination of waterways, and health concerns for aquatic animals.

So there you have it: seven ways rabbits are eco-friendly. Just another benefit to owning a pet bunny!

Jan 6, 2013

The Big "O"

To buy organic or not to buy organic?

I read once that in the grand scheme of things it is much more important to eat a large amount of produce than to eat a lesser amount of organic produce. This, of course, is referring to the higher costs of buying organic versus non-organic foods. However, if you can afford it, it is definitely a better choice to buy organically grown food and food without GMOs.

Numerous books and articles have information regarding the most important foods to buy organic. Not all foods are created equal in this regard. A quick Google search will return list upon list of foods that it would behoove you to buy organic if cost is an issue- which for most of us it is, especially if you are feeding a family and are not just flying solo.

One such list is from -

This list rates the most important fruits and veggies to buy organic by how badly they are affected by pesticides.

They also have a list of the least important foods to buy organic -

These are just two very good examples of information that is out there, easy to find and worth having on your path to health.

What about meats, eggs, and dairy?

When you get away from plants and into animal products you have to worry less about pesticides and more about antibiotics and hormones. Common sense should tell us that chemicals are bad for our bodies.

The differences between conventional and organic farming:

Conventional >

*Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.
*Spray synthetic insecticides to reduce pests and disease.
*Use synthetic herbicides to manage weeds.
*Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.

Organic >

*Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
*Spray pesticides from natural sources; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
*Use environmentally-generated plant-killing compounds; rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
*Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Studies have been done on both sides of the spectrum over whether or not organic is really better for you than non-organic foods.

Here is a NY Times article worth a read -

And one from the Huffington Post -

Whether or not eating organic foods is better for each individual (and I believe that it is), there is no denying that it is better for the environment. Here is some amazing information from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization -

I could go on, but I won't. This is just some food for thought.... about food.

2013, Here I Come!

One of my New Years' Resolutions for 2013 is to become a better blogger. For some reason I have had the worst time keeping up with blogging since I first decided to start. This year will be different. I can feel it. Plus this year already exudes so much awesomeness that there needs to be a place to share it all!

A lot of things have happened since the last blog entry. To cover the important things I will use a bulleted list in no particular order:

* My daughter was potty trained at 19 months. (She is now 20 months.)
* My boyfriend & I became engaged. (Our wedding is going to be on 5/29/2013)
* We acquired a pet bunny that is a lionhead/lop mix.
* I took up Belly Dancing, more seriously.
* Tallulah started gymnastics.
* We decided that Veganism was too strict for us for the area in which we live and went Pescetarian instead - for now.
* Mark went back to school full time.
* I revamped my online business and now have two online storefronts - Etsy & Storenvy.
* My parents bought a house in VA, only a 5 hour drive from us.
* I turned 29...

I am sure some things got left out, but oh well.

This year is going to be all about positivity, keeping our hearts healthy as well as our bodies and finding balance in every aspect of our lives. I have several personal goals with THE BIG 3-0 deadline attached to them as well. Cheers to 2013!