The Perfect Bag

Alright, let's talk for a minute about bags, specifically bags for adults like this dance professor. Listen, I love me a good tote, but I'm telling you that it's just killing my back to sling everything on one shoulder. I simply cannot do it any more thus began the great bag search of 2018. 

I needed something with lot's of room, space to put laptop, notebooks, clothes and shoes (as I often change into normal or dance clothes mid day), normal office supplies like pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc. and of course water, food, basically all the life essentials. To top it off, it needs to look like something an adult would carry, in other words, as professional as a backpack can be with all my room requirements. 

A leather bag is really out. They don't have an much room as I need, not to mention they are super expensive. A giant supped up hiking backpack wouldn't do--those are also expensive and way bigger than necessary. A good ol' standard Jansport just wasn't going to cut it and I for sure wasn't trekking down to Target for a cheapie, this bag has got to last. 

This wasn't going to be an easy task so I spent a lot of time researching especially when I discovered I was going to be spending some cash no matter what choice I made, but hopefully it would something that would last me a long time. 

1. The North Face Surge  - $129-159

It's chockfull of pockets including a laptop sleeve and almost every pocket is fleece lined. The straps are molded specifically for women and the arm sleeves are nice and padded as is the back. The look is sleek and sporty, waterproof, and don't forget the two water bottle holders on the side. I know. That was selling point for me, too. Just kidding. But really, an overall great bag. 

2. The Vera Bradley Iconic XL Campus - $158

I was planning on avoiding all things Vera Bradley, truly, but I happened to find they enlarged their Campus Backpack and it's made for hauling a ton of things. There's a laptop sleeve, as almost all backpacks have these days, tons of pockets for storing everything you could possible need. Online I wasn't entirely sold, but in the store with my hands on it, I loved it. It comes in sleek black and a pink and black print inside...not my favorite. 

3. The Jansport Agave - $70

Definitely the least expensive option out of everything I've found. It's very similar to the North Face Surge but I found that a few reviews that mentioned how this backpack didn't last as long as they had hoped. I keep it in the running as a lesser expensive option, but truth be told, I put my bags through their paces so I wasn't 100% sold on this one. 

4. Patagonia Women's Paxat Backpack 30L - $119

This was an interesting find! Pretty decent price and definitely made to hold some stuff. It's got side pockets, laptop case THAT FOLDS OUT, a good amount of room, water resistant fabric and padded back and sleeves made for women. Yes, there is a men's version and other size options available. There's a smaller style of a similar backpack but this particular one fit my needs a bit better. 

Now the the hard part is to decide which one would work best! 

What bags are you using to haul your work life around town?

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Sunny Disposition

Sunflowers have always been one of my favorite flowers. As I kid, I just thought they were the cheeriest flower that ever was and how big and beautiful! One year in a production number to "The Wiz", I got to be an actual sunflower dancer, yellow flowered hat and all. I tell you what, I really loved it! 

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Sunflowers just say summertime to me. The last two summer's we've planted a small row of them in the garden to bring in bees. Someday I'd like to plant a whole field. 

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We've enjoyed watching them blossom and grow. Picking up the dried heads, I'm hoping we can harvest the seeds for next year. So long as Penny doesn't keep eating them...

Sometimes it's the simplest thing, like a bright happy sunflower that can add a little cheer to a person's day, add a bit of positivity to your day. How can you have a bad day with a sight like this? It all reminds of a very appropriate and favorite quote: 

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do.     

Helen Keller

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Don't sweat the small stuff. Look to the good and always keep that sunny disposition! 

What flowers put you in the best of moods? 

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Life Lately - Episode 5: Gratitude Adjustment

Hey y'all! Just a quick check in to start another fully week! 

I'm a week into setting a show and we're doing great! It's also the last week before classes start so I'm pulling a little double duty in getting work done. By day I'm singing "One, singular  sensation..." and by night I'm working through emails, finalizing schedules and double checking course descriptions. It's a lot, I can't lie about that, but in truth, it's also wonderful! 

 Oh looky there! Another task coming down the track! Yahoo! 

Oh looky there! Another task coming down the track! Yahoo! 

When I was at the Dance Life Teacher Conference a couple weeks ago, I had an opportunity to focus on the joy of everyday--stick with me, I'm going somewhere important! One of the things this conference helped us to focus on is that we truly get to do what we love most, that at one point we couldn't wait to be paid to do what lights us up and that yes, you truly are living the dream even if there are some tough or full days. 

The third day at the conference, I took a class with Sandi Duncan that focused on waking up the brain and body. In Duncan's class she walked us through what she called a Gratitude Adjustment. We talked about what was the first thing we thought that morning when we woke up. Everyone laughed because we all felt sore or tired or ready for a nap already. She brought to mind the fact that we get a chance to wake up every day and start fresh, why not start off on the right foot? Duncan then had us partner up with someone we didn't know and listed off five things we were grateful for that day. This isn't new to me but it was an opportunity to vocally express what we were thankful for that day, big or little, just a moment to say "thank heavens for this!" 

 We've got a lot to smile about, don't you think? 

We've got a lot to smile about, don't you think? 

I have a little poem I used to recite to myself in college,

"In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I'm blessed."

It's the same concept. Often times when things get busy or stressful, we forget! We forget that we asked for these wonderful opportunities that keep our calendars full and we forget that we dreamt of challenges to keep pushing us forward; We asked for this wonderful life and to wake up with a grouchy attitude about it does no good and starts the day off in a funk before our feet even hit the ground. To go through the day worrying and stressing about what to accomplish next takes away from our opportunity to enjoy this time and this moment. 

Raise your hand if you've been woken up by the pet or child that needs you or if the list of things to do is a mile long or if your husband's snoring is first thing you hear--turn those moments around and be grateful for the fur creature, sleepy child or happily snoring significant other! Because at one time or another, those were things you deeply wanted and you should enjoy them. 

Last Monday kicked off a really busy time for me. I'm talking, stacked with work from August to mid October with another wave right after that until Christmas. Knowing that can be overwhelming, to say the least. Here's the thing though, I don't want to miss a day or a class or an opportunity any more or holding out for vacation. This is my life! How cool is that?!

 I'm naturally a glass-half-full kind of gal! 

I'm naturally a glass-half-full kind of gal! 

I'm not glorifying busy or ignoring what's tough, I'm just readjusting my gratitude levels to focus on what's important and setting the day off on a good foot. I consciously make a choice to change my morning thought process. Instead of waking up concerned and consumed with what all I have to accomplish, I'm waking up and saying, "thank you, thank you, thank you for these opportunities!" and reminding myself that I actually get to do something that fires me up!  After all, I really am living the dream. Are you? 

Also, if you want, this was my other favorite saying in college, 

"When things are going from bad to worse, put a cookie in your purse."

No joke, it's 100% true and still a good rule of thumb I follow today! 

 Let's see, which cookies am I grateful for today? All of them. Er'day. 

Let's see, which cookies am I grateful for today? All of them. Er'day. 

Have you given yourself a gratitude adjustment yet? What's something your grateful for?  

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Mellow Yellow or Just Playing It Cool

Yellow has been a favorite color of mine since about the fourth grade. I had a costumer put me in yellow once, declare it was my color and I suddenly saw that golden hue in a whole new light, my light. 

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But honestly, it's so hard to keep a straight face when you're wearing one of the happiest colors on the palette! 

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See what I mean? Can't help but smile when I wear it! Yellow, it's just the best and so is this top. I think I've worn the heck out of it this summer. Light, airy, and perfect with jeans, shorts or a patterned skirt like this one. 

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I'm loving these light skirts these days. It's so hot right now in Texas and I'll be going back to a steamy Oklahoma here real soon, you can bet pieces like this will be on repeat! 

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Ooh! And this one is still on sale if you're interested. Did I mention it has pockets? 'Cause that's an important feature. 

Maybe I'm not such a mellow yellow gal so much as I'm just trying to play it cool in all this summer time heat. 

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What's your power color these days? 

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I Don't Think You're Ready for this Jelly

OK, maybe you are! My family's Jalapeño Jelly recipe is outstanding and by far one of my favorite jellies to have on hand! 

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We used this jelly as favors at our wedding, gifting people with little jars to take home, but my mother has actually been making this stuff since my sister was a tot. Traditionally this is something we make around Christmas time and I started whipping it up to bring as gifts to family when we come to town. There's nothing like bringing a basket of noshes to share with everyone. I'll have to share our Christmas basket later this year, but let's stay focused on the jelly, shall we?

 Just FYI, I highly recommend using gloves or plastic bags to cover your hands while you chop peppers! 

Just FYI, I highly recommend using gloves or plastic bags to cover your hands while you chop peppers! 

Between all four of our jalapeño plants, we produced quite a crop this year. We couldn't make that much salsa so the next big idea was to start canning jalapeño jelly early! We got right down to it making four total batches and I still have jalapeños to spare! Good grief! 

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Check out the recipe here if you want to give it a try--just remember, you're working with hot peppers so don't rub your eyes! 

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Jalapeno Jelly

¾ cup ground green bell pepper (about 1 large)

¼ - ½ cup ground fresh jalapeno pepper (about 7-10 medium peppers)* SEE NOTE BELOW

1 cup cider vinegar

5 cups white sugar

1 (6 oz.) bottle liquid fruit pectin ( 2  3oz. pouches)

Green food coloring

Combine peppers, vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool 1 minute.  Add pectin and a few (4-6) drops of green food coloring. Stir gently.  Pour into hot sterilized jars, wipe the inner edges clean, seal, and cool.  Makes five 6oz. jars or four 8oz. jars. 

* Handle the jalapenos carefully!! Use gloves or a plastic bag on each hand when cutting the peppers. Cut off the stems, slice the peppers in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds with the tip of a knife and discard them. The pepper oils will burn your skin, so be sure to discard the gloves carefully and wash your hands thoroughly after handling. Don’t rub your eyes! If you do get the oils on your skin, soothe the burning by soaking your hands in milk or washing your hands with shampoo to remove the oil.

 Deliciousness in a jar! 

Deliciousness in a jar! 

We love Jalapeno Jelly served over cream cheese on Triscuits.  It’s also good on roast beef or brisket sandwiched on a roll.

You can't go wrong with this stuff and you also don't have to wait until Christmas to make it! 

What's your favorite jam or jelly? Got a favorite recipe to make? Share it in the comments! 

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First Day of (Show) School

First day of school! First day of school! 

Name that movie! 

So maybe it's not really the first day of school, but it is the first day of working my next show and I'm pumped for the day! We've technically started last May and now is the time we're really digging in and setting it all. I've got two solid weeks to get it all up and running which is both stressful and exhilarating--you work so hard to prep the show and it's numbers and then seeing it all come to life makes all the hours worth it. Seriously, sometimes I feel like I hold my breath waiting to see how it all pans out and then voila! We have a number! I get such a big thrill from this when I set work on our resident company. I can't wait to start the work on our Christmas show in September--eep! Coming up so soon...

Alright folks, time to caffeinate myself and focus in on the work coming up! 

Any big plans for you? Share them in the comments below! 

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Dance Life Teacher Conference

I spent part of last week in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona for a dance educators seminar and it was fantastic! I attended Rhee Gold's Dance Life Teacher Conference five years ago and walked away with so much information. When I came back this time, I knew I would be getting another inspiring experience and I wasn't wrong. 

 Little tired, but super excited to make be there! 

Little tired, but super excited to make be there! 

Dance Life Teacher Conference is usually held every other year but there was a hiccup last year causing a three year gap since the last one. It seemed everyone was thrilled to be back at again! 

I find that this particular conference is strongly based on an educator's perspective. The faculty are seasoned with years of experience working studios, owning studios, and teaching dancers to all ages; Basically women and men who have a great deal to offer current dance teachers currently in the trenches. There is a great blend of dance classes, lectures on specifics such as props, recitals, behaviors and even learning disabilities plus there is a whole business track for owners and office managers. 

 The man himself, Rhee Gold! 

The man himself, Rhee Gold! 

While I'm not necessarily teaching young ones on a daily basis, I am working with future dance teachers and I always need more information and resources to pass on to my students. Conferences like this are concentrated opportunities to double down on that information. What I found were some good reminders, a few new suggestions, and a great deal of reaffirmation in what we're teaching already. 

Aside from all this great material, I got to meet a ton of wonderful teachers from all over including New Zealand and those ladies were amazing dancers! The best part, for me, was that all of us teachers got to actually dance for ourselves and I mean dance. Full out, no marking and it felt good, y'all! When you get an opportunity  to move for yourself, you take full advantage of it and I certainly did. I'm still feeling it a bit, but who cares, I got to dance! 

 I also ran into so many alumni and friends which made the experience that much sweeter!

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Trying to share every piece of information would be impossible but if you're looking for some new resources, try looking up:

Julie Kay Stallcup - Focuses on working with younger dancers, faculty of LA Dance Magic, studio owner in southern California so so much more! 

Tricia Gomez  - Founder of Dance in a Box, crafted the Rhythm Works Certification system, choreographer for Disney and a ton more! 

Billy Griffin - Awesome musical theater choreographer in NYC, teaches at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. He was a blast--check out his instagram!  

Rhee Gold - Of course, if you weren't familiar with him before now, definitely get to know the man. He's a vast amount of knowledge and well worth the time getting to know. 

There are so many more, but I truly think you need to experience the conference for yourself! 

 Julie Kay Stallcup interview with Rhee Gold. 

Julie Kay Stallcup interview with Rhee Gold. 

If you're looking for an opportunity to brush up on your skills, get some new material, be inspired by other teachers, this could be the conference for you. If I owned a studio, I would definitely attend again with my own faculty and staff.  Apparently next year is in Atlantic City, a whole new spot--maybe this is the year for you!

 We stayed in a 5 star resort and the pool life was everything I wanted and more! 

We stayed in a 5 star resort and the pool life was everything I wanted and more! 

Definitely enjoyed my time in Arizona and have plenty to take back with me this school year. Now, it's time to get focused for the next project, setting A Chorus Line! 

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Think Pink

I'm in a pink mood these days. 

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And still very much into summer dresses. 

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Trying to cool down this summer in ice shades of pink with soft light fabric and flowing skirts. 

This LOFT dress is simply gorgeous. I have a marigold colored dress in similar style and it's one of my favorites. It reminds me of this Gal Meets Glam dress, soft, pink, feminine, and chic.  

I love my lavendar suede Steven Madden shoes, but these would be a lovely option, too. I love a good ankle strap and the return of the chunky heel is a nice change from the stiletto. 

Simple gold jewelry from my favorite, Nan Lee. I love her simple style, including these wire earrings. I wear these Lotus Leaf earrings quite frequently. 

Yes, I'm pretty good with my rose colored daze and think pink vibe. 

What colors are you currently crushing on?

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Summer Books

Summer reading, had me a blast! Summer reading, happens so fast!

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Okie dokie--someone got me stuck on Grease here recently and those darned songs just get stuck in your head! Not the point of the post, but summer reading actually is! My goal this summer was ten books and I'm a little bit behind. OK, I'm a lot behind! No worries, I'm sure I'll catch up and with a set time of reading for 20 minutes each night before bed, I'm sure to make it happen. So long as I don't get sucked into scrolling Insta...

 "Yeah right, Mom" - Penny, My nighttime reading buddy. 

"Yeah right, Mom" - Penny, My nighttime reading buddy. 

I reached out on Facespace a while back for good recommendations to read and so many people hit me up with awesome sounding novels. I'm working my way through the list right, but here's what I've read and loved so far: 

1. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Oh. My. Gah. Wonderful read. So many moments I just did not see coming and the author did a great job of throwing me some curve balls when I thought I knew exactly what was going on. Get it. You won't regret it!

PS--Amy Adams and Julianne Moore are starring in the movie version! Just announced last week! 

 We interrupt this chapter for a chin scratch.

We interrupt this chapter for a chin scratch.

2. The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Beautiful novel about three women that come together in the aftermath of WWII, becoming a new family, working through their ghosts and all that happens after. It was just an incredible read based on the author's stories from her grandmother--I read that after I finished it because you just feel like every story told is so very, very real. 

 Can I help you? I'm in the middle of this story...

Can I help you? I'm in the middle of this story...

3. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Alright, it's a total young adult novel, but I still enjoyed it. I definitely got vibes of Katniss and every other female heroine in a dystopian universe that's out there lately including the love triangle. Still in all, it was a fun quick read for adventurous story. 

I use the Overdrive app to rent books from the library. I've put several on hold and when they pop up, I have a week to read them before they disappear. Needless to say I've started several and haven't finished them yet including The Wife Between Us, another suspense book I really want to finish! I'm patiently waiting my turn (again) for about four incomplete books right now...whoops! 

 Just got to a good part! 

Just got to a good part! 

I'm working my way through Nightingale currently and really enjoying it, another WWII historic fiction this time about two sisters. Truly, I think historic fiction is probably one of my favorite book categories. In any case, back to reading! I've got another four books to finish after this one! 

What books are you reading this summer?  

Our little hambone, Penny. She's a sucker for those belly rubs! 

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My, My, How Can I Resist You?

Y'all. I adore music theater. I remember the first time I went to see a musical in rehearsal, my mom was helping with costumes on our local production of Camelot and I got to go up to see a rehearsal one timeI walked in through the doors of the auditorium and it was like I walked in to the most wonderful magical place on earth. Truly. There was a parade of performers singing, dancing, and all these people directing them down in front. I'd never seen anything like it in my whole life. 

I was seven at the time and every summer after I would spend most evening at the performing arts center where I was eventually dubbed a PAC Rat. It wasn't long before I got to be up on stage myself just living my best life. Those were some of the most magical summers of my life. My mom would take us the video store or library to rent musicals, too. I remember watching My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Showboat, Funny Girl, Hello Dolly and so, so many more. 

When Fosse came out, my dance teacher at the time was a huge fan. We rented Pajama Game and Damn Yankees and I did a whole research project over the man in 7th grade. My sophomore year I had to build a mole for Mole Day in Chemistry. At the time I was in A Chorus Line at another theater so naturally I worked with my costumer mother to build a mole with a replica of the infamous "One" costume. Naturally. So let's be real, I've loved me some music theater for a long time. 

Honestly, who doesn't enjoy a show where everyone breaks out into song and dance AT THE SAME TIME? I can even get my husband to see one on occasion. And speaking of seeing shows, I took myself to see Lyric Theaters Mamma Mia just this week. Oh y'all, who doesn't enjoy a little ABBA?

I was a total dancing queen in my seat the whole time! The music is so darn fun, you can't help but sing along. I was in stitches over "Mamma Mia," their Donna was a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed Tanya during "Does You Mother Know," and my eyes were on the brink of spilling over during "Slipping Through My Fingers." Oh, it was just so good and such a fun way to spend a night.

Best part was getting to see several of my students out there just living life on stage! I tell you what, if my seven year old self knew I'd someday be working with the talent that crosses that stage, sometimes even getting to set work for musicals myself, she would be pretty dang proud. 

Next up, I guess I'm going to have to check out Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again in theaters to just round out the experience. Anyone interested in going with? 

 Seriously, a riot and had me in stitches! 

Seriously, a riot and had me in stitches! 

  OK folks, name your favorite musical! Go! 

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