Hidden Joys of Cable TV

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just letting people know that I am now using the DISQUS commenting platform. Some comments, for whatever reasons, don't come through - or are displayed on my Blogger comment box, but not on the blog. Huh? Anyway, if I do not reply to a comment of yours, please do not be angry - I probably am unable to reply for technical reasons. :(

I'm still ill with a cold. Since the heat ducts under our house are broken due to flooding, we have not had heat for about a month. The landlord (we rent) is working on it, but it is taking a long time. To stay warm, I am forced to remain in the living room in front of a space heater. Because the electrical system is fickle, we can't plug in too many heaters, so most of the house is cold.

In the mornings, I have recently discovered a delightful little channel with perfect morning programming - TTV or Tokyo TV. It's channel 174 for me, and I have fallen in love! In the mornings, they have different programs from NHK World that feature life and culture in Japan. They are in English, and they explore everything from gardens, language, umbrella makers, young Sherpas, hotels and hospitality, the different seasons, and fashion. The programs are not slick - they have canned music and feel "older", but they focus on beautiful locations. The pace is slow and relaxed as they explore different locales in Japan or follow the day of a particular resident. They have been very insightful, and deepen my love for Japan even more. I loved the episode about the traditional umbrella maker, and this morning they had a 15 minute show that explained the differences in Japanese hotels from American ones.

The best programming tends to be in the mornings, and they have news and business stuff for the rest of the day. What I love is the variety of shows (some are quite short) and the non-violent, relaxed, sweet content. It is the perfect way to wake up and enjoy my morning coffee.

To see if you also get TTV which features NHK World in the mornings, check this website.

Princess Tutu Polyvore

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Every so often, I enjoy creating a set or two on Polyvore.com. Sometimes I prefer not to get sucked in to internet stuff like this, since I much rather focus on my artwork. However, after long hours of studying and class, it can be a relaxing activity.
Anyway, here is a Princess Tutu inspired set!

Gingerbread and Lemon Curd

It's holiday season, so of course it's gingerbread season!

   I'm stuck inside with a cold. We have not had heat in the house for about a month, so I'm huddled in front of the TV watching a "Toddlers and Tiaras" marathon and having a gingerbread snack. I'm also enjoying Celestial Seasonings' Sugar Plum Spice tea. Yum!

   Not all gingerbread is created equal, and sometimes it can be difficult to bake the perfect loaf. However, some store-bought gingerbread can satisfy the holiday cravings.
   We started off the season with a loaf from Trader Joe's. At first it looks very appetizing, and you get a decent amount for the price. However, it is chronically dry (like many of TJ's baked goods), and the only redeeming factor is the yummy powdered sugar top. It doesn't have a whole lot of ginger bite, but that may appeal to some people who are not fans of ginger.
   However, the gingerbread cake from Whole Foods was worlds better, and it only cost a dollar more. It was soft, moist, and packed a good load of ginger. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wished to purchase a gingerbread cake this year. I'm not a huge fan of gingerbread cookies or houses (to eat I mean!), since they tend to be tasteless and dry. I have always wanted to decorate a gingerbread house, but I have never had the chance! :(

We can't forget the best condiment for gingerbread! By far, my favorite thing to slather over the holiday cake (or crumpets, or scones) is lemon curd. If you have never had it, you have no idea what you're missing! Some people mistake it for lemon honey, since it has a smooth, viscous consistency and a pale yellow color. The best lemon curd is going to taste like a sweet lemon instead of sugar. Unfortunately, most lemon curds that I have tried all have too much sugar. The best brand has been from Trader Joe's. It's buttery and has just the right amount of lemon. It comes in a cute square glass jar and is even imported from England. It's also perfect for baking and filling pastries. Of course, it tastes fantastic on gingerbread, and can help liven up dry loafs.

Starting Ballet as an Adult or Older Teen

    With the release of the film “Black Swan” and a growing presence of classical ballet in the media (at last!), I thought it would be time to write up a few articles on adult ballet. I started ballet when I was only 19 years old, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions on starting ballet as an adult.
    I hope these guides will inspire you to dance. Remember - you will never know if you don’t try!

Starting Ballet as an Adult or Older Teen

Ballet can be practiced and enjoyed at any age!

    As long as you are reasonably fit and have no major problems in your back, feet, or knees, it is absolutely possible to become a ballet dancer. It is also possible to learn to dance in pointe shoes. You will improve your flexibility, strength, musicality, and grace more than you could imagine, and well as develop a body awareness that will aid any other physical sport you may engage in. There are some limits to a late-starting ballet dancer, and it may be more difficult to find a studio, but the rewards will be boundless!

    Finding a Studio
    This step may be one of the hardest, but don’t give up! You may have to do some serious searching, but the studio makes or breaks the dancer. A good studio will offer appropriate classes, good instruction, and maybe even performance opportunities.
    Begin by consulting your yellow-pages. Not all studios in your area may have website or be listed on yelp.com or google, but be sure to try to locate a number of studios instead of just focusing on one or two. Collect numbers and homepages (if they have one) and begin your search. Not all studios are going to offer adult classes, and not all adult classes are created equal. Call around and ask if you can watch a class.

What to look for in a quality studio (coming soon!)

    Many studios will offer the first class free, so take advantage of this and give it a try! Your first class may seem daunting, but try to remind yourself that you are learning a completely new skill that is unlike anything else - you will get better!
    If at all possible, try to take classes at your very own college, and don’t overlook the benefits of community college. I took my very first (and some of the best) classes at my community college. You usually get more instruction, and the studios can be rather nice. Plus, there can also be performance opportunities. Classes at a community college can also be much, much cheaper than at a private studio.

Here are a few of the most common questions I have heard from people looking to start ballet:
    “How many classes should I be taking per week?”
    This will all depend on what you hope to achieve from ballet. Ideally, if you want to see yourself progressing and learning rapidly, you will want to take at least two classes per week, and if you ever want to dance en pointe, you will need to take at least three classes. You can certainly progress with only one class per week, but you will find that your body may not have the strength and muscle memory to function to the fullest, and you may find yourself frustrated. Over time, you will find that your knowledge on ballet will increase, but your body will not be able to get up to what your mind has learned. Top dancers will dance everyday for hours, since ballet requires a great deal of repetition. The more hours and classes you take, the faster and more dramatic your progression will be.

    “But I’m not flexible! I won’t be able to do anything!”
    You’re talking to one of the least flexible girls on the planet here! You can have a great deal of fun in ballet even if you can’t do the splits or even achieve a 90 degree arabesque. You’ll find that not everything is about flexibility - and you will also discover your strengths in other areas, such as jumping, fluidity, or turns. Don’t let flexibility keep you from trying ballet!
    You will certainly see yourself gaining flexibility as you begin to train. By stretching before and after class, as well as stretching at home, you will surprise yourself with how much natural flexibility you may actually have!

    “Can I do pointe?”
    With the proper training and conditioning, yes! Be aware that it will not be easy, and it could take years to achieve. It is safe to say that one needs to be dancing regularly at least 2-3 times a week for at least two years before starting basic pointe work. In most cases, it may take you longer than that. If you continue to train seriously, stretch and strengthen at least every other day, and educate yourself outside of your classes, there is a very good chance that you can become a successful and happy pointe dancer.
    While you don’t need to be super flexible to dance en pointe, you will need to have excellent technique and strong feet. If pointe is your dream, look for a studio that focuses more on technique than on “tricks”. The barre part of class should not be rushed in a hurry to get to the center, and the instructor should also stress that dancers strengthen themselves safely and often. Make sure there are other adults en pointe already, and that pointe classes are already in place for adults. Some studios may not teach adult pointe, so do your research.

    “I don’t want to ruin my feet.”
    Ballet is going to give you the strongest feet of your life! Over time, you are going to become very well acquainted with every nuance of your feet and toes. Many of the exercises at the barre are focused on creating strong, articulate, supple, and responsive feet.
    Can your feet be ruined by taking ballet? Well, yes - if you are 8 years old and wearing ill fitting pointe shoes. Many of the “bad feet” stories in ballet result from a young child (whose bones have not finished developing) being put in pointe shoes too early. The shoes can squish and deform young feet. An adult need not worry about that happening! However, there will always be pain from badly-fitted pointe shoes, regardless of your age. This is why it is crucial that you and your first shoe fitter be very knowledgeable on foot anatomy and pointe fitting techniques.
    “I’m clumsy and I can’t dance!”
    THAT’S WHY YOU TAKE DANCE CLASSES. Do you think classes are just for amazing dancers with natural talent? No! If you feel that you “can’t dance”, what you really mean is that you do not have control over your body, have poor body awareness, and lack musicality. Ballet will fix this. You will discover muscles and control that you never knew you could have, and you will develop the confidence and musical ear needed for dancing. Plus, you will develop poise and grace. I used to be pretty clumsy and gangly myself, but now people comment on my elegance. You will love your new you!

    “I really want to perform. Will this ever be possible?”
    YES! You need to do some serious hunting for a studio that offers performance opportunities for adults, but it’s completely possible. I have been lucky enough to dance at a studio that caters primarily to adults, and I have already been in two performances. It’s such a rewarding experience, and I highly recommend it. Also be on the lookout for auditions and performances by other studios in the area. You don’t have to perform just at your home studio!

    “Do I really have to wear a leotard and tights?”
    Do you want to excel? Do you want to receive more advanced corrections? Do you want to avoid injury? If you answered “Yes”, than you absolutely need to wear a leo and tights - and nothing else. The black leotard and pink tights are the standard uniform of ballet for a reason - you can actually see your body. You and your instructor are able to see every nuance, muscle, and bone, and this is crucial for correct technique. Your instructor can’t give you many corrections if she can’t see you. Developing correct turnout requires that your knees and hips (and the muscles around them) are visible - if you are turning out incorrectly, you can get terrible injuries in your knees. 
    A leotard and tights are also “no fuss” clothing. No socks to pull up, no shirt to pull down, no pants to pull up, and nothing to adjust. Nothing is going to pop or slip with a leo. You can leap, slide, jump, roll, stretch, bend over, bend backwards, and turn without having to worry about your clothes. 
    I have also found that teachers will tend to give a little more attention to students who show they are devoted to studying ballet - and those students generally are wearing the correct attire even if the class does not have a dress code. I will oftentimes be the only student in a class in just a leo and tights, and I find that I tend to get more corrections and attention - because the teacher can actually see my body.

    I will have more information on choosing a leotard, tights, slippers, and accessories in a future article.

    “I’m really self-conscious. I’m afraid everyone will be staring at me!”
    Don’t worry about it. Most people will be too busy concentrating in class to be looking at other students. I’ve never heard ladies gossiping about other students in the class or complaining about their looks. Most dancers are too busy worrying about themselves and their own technique to worry about someone else.
    Plus, if you are a teenager, realize that teens are still dealing with an “imaginary audience” - an overwhelming feeling that EVERYBODY is always looking at them, even when no one really is. This is natural part of teenage development, and you will eventually grow out of it.

    I hope that this article has given you the confidence and information needed to start taking ballet! If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will try to answer them!

Additional Articles about Adult Ballet by Miss Etherington:

-Adult Ballet Students: You are Not the Problem
Dancers are the athletes of God. ~Albert Einstein
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