Belly Dancing

For this week’s New Thing I decided to try my hand, or in this case my hips, at belly dancing. I took a beginners’ class with Alexia at Knox Dance Worx. The class was small, which meant the students got a lot of individual attention. This worked well for me because I am completely uncoordinated and apparently have no idea how to shake my hips. I fail as a girl.

We each wore belly dancing hip scarves. Mine was black velvet with gold coins that made noise when they shook. Frankly, shaking my hips (or attempting to) and making the coins clank together might have been my favorite part of the evening. It’s hard not to smile when your clothing makes noise.

We also had great vibey music. I believe this is one of the songs we danced to. According to Google, the song is about a woman who is claiming her independence from her guy, telling him that her looks can stop 100 men in their tracks, that he doesn’t appreciate her true worth, and he shouldn’t chase her when she leaves. All I know is that I want her wardrobe. If anyone knows what she is actually saying, please fill me in. After watching the video a few times I’m pretty curious.


The class started with some basic stretches, including a few yoga postures, to limber up. We then tried a few beginner moves which isolated different parts of the body, mainly the hips, chest, and stomach. For me, this involved a lot of awkward undulating. Once we had the basics down, she started to teach us some dance steps. This actually took quite a bit of concentration. Our hands, feet, and hips were all moving in different directions; it was much more difficult than I expected. My favorite moves were shimmying my hips (mainly because it made the hip scarf make a lot of noise) and the hip hits (which simulate closing a car door with your hip). Overall, it was a ton of fun and a great core workout.

This is Alexia teaching me to be a diva (like I needed any help with that):

DivaPose

Even though I was completely terrible at belly dancing, I had an amazing time and couldn’t stop smiling. I definitely plan to go back and try it again soon. Practice makes perfect!

Candle Making & Snow Cream

Due to a lovely January snow storm I got to try two new things this week. One planned (making candles) and one unplanned (making snow cream). I’ll still do a new thing for all 52 weeks, I just consider the snow cream a delicious bonus.

Candle Making

This weekend I went to a 3-hour candle making workshop. I know that doesn’t sound very thrilling, but it’s too cold for outdoor fun. I promise more exciting things are coming. The workshop was held at Marble Springs Farmstead, the home of John Sevier. I am not from Tennessee so I don’t know much about its history. From what I’ve learned about our first governor, he was actually born in Virginia (my home state), he is buried at the courthouse next to where I work (it is a bit weird that I didn’t know that), and he almost got into a duel with Andrew Jackson (which doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do because Andrew Jackson was a crazy person). Moving on.

The workshop took place in the property’s 18th century style tavern and focused on the lighting techniques of the period.

Tavern

Of course, 200+ years ago there was no central heating or electricity so it was like hanging out in an icebox for 3 hours. There was a fire, but it was still colder inside than it was outside (around 30 degrees when we got there). I really can’t imagine what it was like to live back then. They experienced a mini ice age in the 1770s, so I’d imagine it was especially cold on the frontier.

WaxMelting

The fire wasn’t just to keep us warm, it was used to melt the wax for the candles.

DemonstrationWe used beeswax, which was popular during that period and you can get it today at your local crafts store. It smelled a bit like honey before it melted, but in candleform it smells a bit like a crayon. I can’t really explain that. You start the process by cutting your wick and dipping it into the hot wax. Actually, that’s the entire process. Dip. Let cool. Dip. Let cool. Dip. Let cool. And so on and so forth. Eventually, you have a candle.

CourtingCandle

The workshop was a lot of fun and very informative. It definitely appealed to my inner nerd. For example, we learned about ‘courting candles.’  Courting candles were used as a timer for how long a suitor could spend with a young lady. (It was at this time the gentleman giving the workshop pointed out that I would be considered a spinster because I was over 18 and unmarried. Thanks dude.) The father could adjust the candle’s height based on how much he liked the suitor.

I hoped to take a tour of the grounds while I was there, but after a week of rain and melting snow it was a little too muddy. Marble Springs has tons of other educational activities like soap making and stargazing so I am sure I will be back there soon. But maybe I’ll wait until it is a bit warmer.

CandleDipping

Special thanks to my friend Erin for coming and hanging out with me in the cold and helping with pictures.

Snow Cream

It snowed this week in Knoxville!  The first real snow of the season. We got about 3-4 inches which essentially shut down the city. But, I got a day and a half off from work so I am not complaining. Here is the view of the garden from my bedroom window:

Snow

I’d never heard of snow cream before I moved to Tennessee. In fact, I don’t think I’d heard of it before I moved to Knoxville. Instead, we always made snow cones when I was a kid. It’s the same concept, just with Kool-Aid and without the cream.

SnowCream

After lounging and enjoying my snow day at home, I finally made it outside to collect some snow. It has been a while since we had any sort of substantial snowfall (anything more than flurries here is considered substantial), so it was nice to hear the ice crunching beneath my boots again. The recipe is really easy, just milk or cream, sugar, vanilla, and snow. Essentially, what I made two weeks ago to go with the pie, but colder.

Pro tip: If you stop to take a bunch of photos of your creation it will start to melt before you can eat it.

The snow cream was pretty tasty and a fun winter treat. I see why everyone likes it so much. I will note that if you freeze it to eat later and then try to scoop it out of the bowl, there is a good chance the rock solid block of snow cream will end up on the floor. Or, it could just be that I am uniquely talented.

Ice Skating in Market Square

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the world’s most coordinated person. On more than one occasion I’ve fallen down stairs, tripped in traffic, or even fallen over while simply standing still. Recently, I had incident where the spike of my heel got wedged in someone’s doormat. It resulted in me almost falling through their front door and then having to bend over, take my shoe off, and pry my heel out of the mat. Not one of my most shining moments. Because I’m not particularly graceful, I wasn’t sure what to expect from slapping on a pair of shoes with blades on the bottom and propelling myself across a sheet of ice.

I moved to Knoxville almost 4 1/2 years ago. Each winter I’ve wanted to go ice skating in Market Square but I’ve never made the time to do it. If you don’t live in Knoxville, Market Square is a historic district full of boutiques and local restaurants and it is the perfect place to people watch and listen to live music any night of the week. It has a lot of personality and is quintessentially Knoxville. Every year the city sets up an ice rink right in the center of the square.

Ice Skating

When we got there it was about 45 degrees outside, which was absolutely perfect for skating. The crisp cool air added to the fun winter atmosphere and it was cold enough that you could bundle up but not get overheated while on the ice. The rink was decorated for the holidays with Christmas lights and oversized ornaments. Music was playing and everyone was skating and laughing and wearing their winter coats.

We made our way onto the ice and into the herd of people. It took a few laps to get aquatinted with the ice, but once we got our sea legs, or I guess in this case ice legs, it was smooth sailing. The main challenge wasn’t the slick surface, it was avoiding being run over by the kids on the ice. I felt a bit like Tippi Hedren getting dive bombed by seagulls. Skating was both exhilarating and relaxing. It felt wonderful to just let go and have some pointless fun. Despite my innate clumsiness, I managed to stay relatively incident-free and maintain my dignity. There was one moment while getting off the ice that I almost took a spill, but I somehow managed to stay vertical. So I’m not counting it as a fall.

I had an amazing time and I can’t wait to make this a yearly tradition for as long as I call Knoxville home.

Baking a Pie from Scratch

Cooking stresses me out, especially if I am cooking for other people. I think this is because I am a perfectionist and have absolutely no idea how to do anything in the kitchen. Needing something to be perfect and having no idea how to do it are a dangerous combination. At least for me. Because of this, I have included quite a few cooking items on my 52 Things list (for example, I want to prepare a dish from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child). To kick things off I decided to bake a pie from scratch. When I told my friend Tina about my plan her immediate response was “this sounds like it’s going to be an episode of I Love Lucy.” She obviously knows me well.

I chose Three-Berry Pie with Vanilla Cream. I wanted something that I could build from the bottom up. Something that was not going to be easy. Something that would take patience. I definitely picked the right recipe.

The recipe had three main parts. The pie filling, the pastry dough, and the vanilla cream.

I started with the pastry dough because it required an hour of chilling before I could use it. The ingredients were pretty simple, just flour, butter, vegetable shortening, salt, and ice water. I should note that before now I had no idea what vegetable shortening was. I actually had to google in while in the grocery store just to find it on the shelf. Now I wish I didn’t know; it’s pretty gross. Basically one solid blob of fat.

The dough was, by far, the most complicated part. I should have been tipped off by this when the recipe called for blending the mixture with my fingertips.

Image

It took some time to get it to the right “coarse meal” consistency. Especially since I didn’t really know what meal was either.

Image

After blending the flour, butter, and shortening for what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to take the mixture, flatten it out and put it in the refrigerator to chill and harden.

Next came the vanilla cream, which basically tastes like heaven. It’s just heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla all mixed up together. I highly suggest it for a quick, easy, and delicious dessert topping.

IMG_3202

After the dough chilled for an hour it was time to flatten it out to make the pie crust. This is where a rolling pin would have come in handy. Instead, we improvised with two pieces of wax paper and a can of Pam. (Probably the first time I’ve ever used Pam in the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter). It took both of us about 20 minutes of working the dough and swearing to achieve this:

Pie crust
Finally, came the filling. Berries, berries, and more berries. And lots of sugar. The recipe also called for 2 tablespoons of “quick-cooking tapioca.” I’ve never seen tapioca in pre-pudding form before, but apparently it’s dry and comes in a box. I have no idea why it is in this pie.

If you are going to make this recipe I suggest waiting until berries are in season because they are ridiculously expensive in January. You’ll need 7 cups so picking your own or going to a farmers market would be best.

Pie with berry filling

After 3 hours of beating dough, mixing cream, covering berries in sugar, and licking spoons, the pie was finally ready to go in the oven.

It baked for an hour and came out looking absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t believe that I was actually able to create something that looked like this:

Finished pie

Of course the real test of a job well done is not how the pie looks; it is how the pie tastes. The pie needed 3 hours to set and cool so I had to wait until morning to try it. Waiting was torture. The next day I, and my designated guinea pig, were finally able to dig into it. This is where the nerves kicked in. I was really worried that I’d done something wrong, especially to the crust, and that it wasn’t going to taste as good as it looked.

OMG NOM NOM NOM!

After my first bite all of my worries went away. I know it isn’t polite to compliment your own food, but my reaction can best be described as “OMG! NOM NOM NOM!” and roughly looked like this:

Cookie_Monster
It was absolutely delicious! The crust was light, crisp, and flakey. The filling was sweet, yet tangy. And the vanilla cream was the perfect sweet topping.

I’m so glad I decided bake a pie from scratch as my first new thing. It was so rewarding to put the time and energy into something that turned out so well. I will definitely be baking more from now on.

As great as the result was, I think my friend Tina summed up the process best with, “This is why women had to stay home. Because it took all f***ing day to make a pie.”

Before I Begin

Over the past few weeks I’ve thought a great deal about this project. I’ve thought about how fun it could be. I’ve thought about the new experiences I’d have. But mainly, I’ve thought about giving up before I even started. That alone was a sign that I had to go through with it; I figured it would be good for me. After all, as much as this is intended to be a fun exercise, it is also about self-discovery and getting outside of my comfort zone.

It wasn’t until I actually started compiling a list that I realized what a major undertaking it would be. It has been a feat in and of itself just to come up with 52 new things I want to do (current count stands at 45). Not to mention that actually completing them will be time-consuming and, at times, exhausting. Yet, I am anxious to begin this adventure.

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my 52 Things blog! For my New Year’s resolution I’m endeavoring to try 52 new things in 52 weeks. Over the next year I will try everything from acupuncture to zip-lining in an attempt to broaden my horizons. This isn’t intended to be a ‘bucket list’ (that list is significantly more expensive and extravagant), it’s just a way to pry myself out of my rut. I will chronicle my journey here, mainly to ensure that I actually follow through with it.

Here is a partial list of my planned activities. I’ll add more as the year progresses and opportunities arise:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aerial yoga/fitness class
  • Batting cage
  • Belly dancing
  • Cooking class
  • Corn maze
  • Dance class
  • Gamble at a casino
  • Golf range
  • Good deed everyday for a week
  • Go to a psychic
  • Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains
  • Horseback riding
  • Hot air ballon ride
  • Ice skating in Market Square
  • Juice fast
  • Kayaking
  • NFL game
  • NHL game
  • Paintball
  • Painting class
  • Polar Bear Plunge
  • Pottery class
  • Renaissance festival
  • Ride a mechanical bull
  • Rock climbing
  • Run a 5k
  • Run a 10k
  • Salt therapy
  • Shoot a bow and arrow
  • Stand up paddle boarding
  • Trivia night
  • Visit a zoo
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Wine tasting/Vineyard tour
  • Zip-lining

If you would like to join me on any of my adventures or have additional suggestions for my list, please let me know.

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