Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eating Clean(er) and the Surprising Outcome

I started eating clean. Well, cleaner, at least. I've cut out almost all my processed foods and switched to mostly vegetables, lean protein, and green apples. I did this because I had an 'Oh my goodness I'm fat' freak out a few weeks ago. The dietary change was a temporary fix for a frustrating body image attack.

But then something happened: my period was awesome.

For the record, I've never said that before. I hate my period (doesn't everyone?) I usually have to take at least triple the recommended dosage of Aleve to make life remotely bearable during my cycle, and even then I'm doubled up in pain in bed or on the floor. But during this last one, I took two pills when I felt cramps coming on and didn't have to take anymore for the rest of the week.

I was amazed and completely taken off guard and now I'm addicted to this 'clean' diet. (Eating clean means different things to different people, but in a nutshell it means no processed foods and a lot of vegetables. Yes, I know that's a very small nutshell. For a better explanation and great recipes, read this article.)

Here are some things I've been cooking since the diet change.

Chili with chicken instead of beef and a double portion of green peppers and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

For breakfast I'll eat green apple slices with all natural peanut butter (you know, the kind you get fresh at the grocery store) or plain Greek yogurt with honey.

I am now a kale eater. I eat it almost everyday as a small meal or side to a large meal. I love my kale sauteed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have witnessed my first attempt at kale making. Here are the results below.

 Sure, when we go out I'll splurge a little, but I'm dedicated to eating cleaner because the benefits are completely obvious. And what's more, it's for a better reason than to look good: I want to be healthy (while secretly crossing my fingers I'll lose a few pounds in the process, hee hee).

Do you eat clean?
What benefits have you seen from changing to this lifestyle?
What are your favorite 'clean' websites or recipes?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Peaches, the Romantic Fruit

Favorite moment of the weekend:

Sunday afternoon.  I'm wearing my favorite maxi dress that makes me feel like a goddess. I went in my in-law's backyard to pick peaches from their tree. The hanging fruit's sweetness permeates my nose and fills my head with ideas of pies, cobblers, and sweet cream. I reach above my head to pick a beautifully ripened globe when Mr. Branflake sneaks up behind me and whispers in my ear, "You're beautiful."

Suddenly, peaches have become the most romantic fruit ever.

What's your favorite way to eat peaches?
Besides, of course, with a handsome man feeding them to you. Heh.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dinner Party Conversations (and a reason to celebrate!)

Did you hear it last night?
 It was the big, fat sigh of relief coming from Mr. Branflake as he finished the third and final day of the California State Bar Exam, aka the most difficult bar in the United States. 
After 18 grueling hours of testing and little sleep, he's done.
This is the last and final step that takes him from a doctor to a lawyer.


He won't know the results until the end of November. 
Cruel, don't you think? 

photo by Bethany Nauert via Apartment Therapy

Because of that, he's not read anything but note cards and practice exams this week so links are all on me today. I hope you like them!

Four choreographers to be featured on U.S. postal stamps. Hooray!!!

22 rules of storytelling from Pixar (so interesting what they say about characters.)

Newsweek is undergoing a total shift to online. Is this a last ditch effort or preemptive move?

Alvin Ailey dancers show Men's Health Magazine how to get in shape. Adults who want a dancer's body, listen up!

Zombie nouns are attacking the world!

Cheers to celebrating all weekend long!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Making Eye Contact, Saying 'Hi,' and Giving a Smile

One of my favorite things to do is take walks in my neighborhood. I have a five mile loop I'll do when I'm hashing out a plot or trying to think of a better word than, "realize. It was during these walks that the majority of my last story came to fruition.

On average, I'll walk past ten people in this loop and I've made it a goal to say hi to everyone of them. It's a small thing I want to do to help build a stronger sense of community in my neighborhood. It's easy for me to cast my eyes down at my feet or look away when walking past someone, and there's also the discomfort level of making eye contact with a stranger. 

But I want my neighborhood to be a happy and cohesive place, one where people aren't afraid to reach out to others, even just a little bit.

So often I feel helpless, like I'm not doing enough to change the world and make it a better place for my children. I know this small habit is little, but each time I do it I'm reminded of a greater lesson: 

Being kind is always worth it.

Do you say hi to strangers?
Does it give you anxiety or is it part of your neighborhood culture?

*photos of my neighborhood by moi

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Does Dance Matter to You?

I started dance when I was ten, a latecomer in the dance world. I was an avid soccer player as a youth and heard about athletes who took ballet to gain coordination. By the next year, I quit soccer and devoted my life to dance. It was an addiction.

Today, I am co-dependent on dance. It's my most effective means of expression, it's my livelihood, and it's my identity. What does dance mean to me? Dance means everything.

But I'm curious: Why does dance matter to you?

Not all of us are professional dancers. In fact, not all of us can keep a beat while Beyonce's blasting in the background. But it's safe to say everyone has danced at least once in their life. The role of dance in society has dramatically shifted over the years yet it's importance is everlasting: it makes people feel good. Whether you're watching a performance, having an impromptu break-out session in your kitchen, or taking a swing dance class with a group of your friends, people are happier when dance is involved.

In honor of Why Dance Matters Week, I'm asking you the simple question:

Why does dance matter to you?

I want to hear your dance stories, big or small. I want to hear about the first time you danced to Debbie Gibson or the moment you teared up when your little girl was on stage. Maybe dance saved your from depression or helped you cope from loss. Maybe it was while you were dancing you realized how absolutely beautiful you are.

To say I'm excited to hear your answers would be the understatement of the century. Bring it!

Hear what others have to say at Why Dance Matters on Facebook.
There are some powerful stories. Bring tissues.

photos by Susan Yee of En Pointe Photography

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Take Me Away

I'm not gonna sugar coat it: last week was an ugly week. I mean, it was wonderful in that my ballet students were amazing and it was my birthday. But all last week I felt ugly. So much so that I had a few breakdowns and a vow I would either have to change my attitude or my entire body via plastic surgery (uh... dramatic much, Branflake?)

Bless Mr. Branflake's heart, he had to hear all of it. He listened to me complain about my stomach, butt, thighs, face, etc. How he's still attracted to me is beyond my understanding (men like confident women, not high strung hot messes with self-esteem issues), but he was a saint nonetheless.

What do you say to a woman with all these issues? I think after years of experience, Mr. Branflake has it figured out.

One night in bed, after I curled up sad about my not so flat stomach, he simply pulled me into his arms and said calmly:

"I want to take you on a romantic vacation to Europe. Just you and me. We'll go to Paris and walk the streets together. Then we'll go to Italy and see the sights. Then we'll go to Scotland and you'll show me all the places you visited. How does that sound?"

Apparently, it sounded amazing because I was asleep seconds later and ever since I've been dreaming about our romantic European vacation. Mr. Branflake knows he will never 'cure' me of my body image issues, but he sure knows how to make a woman smile.

Do you suffer from 'ugly times?'
I know a lot of us do. If so, what helps you move past them?

1st image by Luxury Launches
2nd image Henri Cartier Bresson
3rd image by Mikkel Vang
4th image by Peter Turnley
5th image by Patchwork Photography

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shabby Apple Giveaway Winner

Me in one of my Shabby Apple Dresses
photo by Susan Yee of En Pointe Photography

hlovrin- you're our winner! Contact me at dancingbranflake at gmail dot com to claim your prize! 
You have a week before I redraw another winner.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dinner Party Conversations (via Mr. Branflake et moi)

Yesterday I took a ballet class from the nicest French woman. She spoke little English and as I tried to talk to her in her native tongue, I realized all my ten years of French was completely lost. Zut alors!! If I want to go back to Paris, I'm going to need some serious brush ups.

Until then, all my dinner party conversations will be in English. Here's a hint at what we'll be talking about...

photo by Jess Graham via Green Wedding Shoes

My Links:

Seven Things Extroverts Should Know About Introverts (and Vice Versa).  Thanks, Sheri, for the tip!

Snubbing the book snobs.

7 Words Your Probably Misusing... (ex: you can't have a monthly anniversary!)

Comic-Con recipes? Looks pretty good to me! (Who knew Comic-Con was so awesome?)

Do you want to be inspired? An anatomy of inspiration from 1942.

Mr. Branflake's Links

Chelsea Zimmerman on strict enforcement of the Olympic Trademark for the coming London games (including a prohibition against frosting cakes with those familiar multi-colored rings).

Alex Madrigal on why we wear pants.

Have a wonderful weekend!
May your conversations be sparkling with a sprinkling of Branflakes.
(I know- sooo cheesy!)
Also, it's the last day to enter the Shabby Apple Giveaway.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Ate My Way Through Downtown Sacramento

A huge thank you all for your sweet birthday wishes. If I'm ever down in the dumps (such a weird expression) I'll look back on Tuesday's post and have an insta-smile. I've never celebrated my birthday on the blog but I'm so happy I did this year. You guys make all my life events more special with your comments, tweets, Facebook shout outs, and Instagram hearts. Speaking of...

Here's what I did on my birthday...
(It's food related, in case you didn't know me at all.)

Kristen saw my post about the cotton candy birthday cake, so she bought me two bags of cotton candy!
One of the best birthday presents EVER!

photo by Caitlin

Pre-Dessert delights at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolate shop.
Their salty caramel macarons made me gasp they were so good.
photos by me! On my phone! I'm real excited!

Photos by Caitlin and Kristen
The peach ice cream was the best ice cream I've ever had in my entire life.
I'm still dreaming about it.

If you haven't noticed- I'm totally addicted to Instagram. 
And the Instagram community is so nice! 
After the first night of joining, I woke up the next morning to 30 followers. 
Way to be supportive, Instagrammers!

(find me on Instagram here. I promise to not post photos of my feet.)

PS... Don't forget (I almost did) I have a Shabby Apple Giveaway going on.
Summer is the season of dresses... dress accordingly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dancing Branflake Birthday Party

It's my birthday! Truth be told, I have a hard time with my birthday. I don't mind getting older, but it's the actual celebrating that brings me down. In the last six years, I've spent my birthday at home once. Every other year I've been on tour or traveling. And although last year's birthday was pretty wonderful in London, it was with people I had just met and by a miracle I fell in love with all of them. Up until that day, I was planning on spending my birthday alone. (sad)

I guess it's the expectations that come with birthdays that gives me anxiety. Will people remember? Will they care? Why do I even care if they remember or care? Would they want to even celebrate it with me? Why am I so high-maintenance?

But this year I'm telling myself to suck it up, enjoy the life God gave me, and have a wonderful birthday no matter what happens. 

And I'm day dreaming while I'm at it....

The Decor
Let's party at my imaginary beach house.
I'd love to do some midnight swimming after dessert.

image from Elle Decor

The Menu
I need more clam bakes in my life.
And mini BLT burgers.
salad, clam bake, burgers, soup, chips, pizza

My Cake
This is my dream cake.
Cotton candy is heaven's dessert.
Cake and photos by Heather from Sprinkle Bakes

What I'm Wearing
is 100% Dancing Branflake style.
I just went through all my favorite sites and picked out things I loved.
necklace, clutch, ring, dress, jacket, sunnies, heels

The Favor
Because I love you. And s'mores.
Via Real Simple

Happy Birthday to all my July friends!
Let's rock our birthdays this year!
ps... remember last year's birthday post about the awkward Scot who tried to pick me up?

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's My Birthday Week So I'm Hosting a Shabby Apple Giveaway!

I'm obsessed with Shabby Apple dresses and I'm thrilled to offer yet another one of their fabulous giveaways. $50 of Shabby Apple credit can be yours to spend on whatever you want on their website. To help sway you to enter (as if you need extra encouragement) I once wore the dress below and a group of firemen checked me out at the grocery store. Just sayin'...

Here are my other favorites:
(I won two Shabby Apple Giveaways this year, so I have some dresses to buy!)
I'd love to wear this to a nice dinner. Or a summer wedding. Or the opera. Or an awards ceremony...

This dress and I would go perfect in Nantucket.
Bonus: red is a great eye catching color wherever you are.
I just love this dress.
It's great for travel, transcends the seasons, and is classy for day or night.
Every gal needs a little white dress in their closet.

How to enter:
 'like' Shabby Apple on Facebook.
Leave a comment below telling me you did so.
US addresses only.

Winner announced on the blog:
Friday, July 20th

Leave a comment and win a dress.
Maybe a group of firemen will check you out also...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dinner Party Conversations (via Mr. Branflake et moi)

Yesterday morning before the sun was up, Mr. Branflake and I were in bed reading all your honest and loving comments about parenting. As we were discussing how hard it was to differentiate between goals as a parent and goals for your children, he kept adding to the discussion by citing the most interesting news articles. Mr. Branflake is a sponge of information and devours the news like I would an Anita Shreve novel. 

So I asked him if I could share the interesting things he read that week. He seemed skeptical, but I promised him you wouldn't judge too harshly (wink).

photo by Audrey Hall

Mr. Branflake's Links:

Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge in the 7th circuit, on why we have too many patents. 

David Brooks on the education gap between boys and girls:  

Jordan Wiessmann on why only yuppies feel busy

Surprise, surprise! Family time has grown.

When you're at a dinner party this weekend and someone brings up the Higgs Boson announcement, you'll know exactly what the heck she's talking about (and add to the conversation).

My links:

Karl Lagerfield came out with a perfume that smells like... wait for it... freshly printed books!

Allegra Goodman's thoughts on writing. She calls the process sacred, and rightly so.

The cabin above is real. It's where I will one day live a quiet life with nature, horses, ranunculus, and the written word.

Thank you for those who spoke out yesterday.
It has gone down in the books as one of my favorite posts because of your comments.
I love that I see the world with fresh eyes because of you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Are Your Goals as a Parent? (asks the non-parent)

I've been sitting on this post for a long time. Whew! Here's goes nothing!

I've always wanted to be a stay at home mom. It was a decision I made long before I met Mr. Branflake and before I understood the joys and challenges of starting a family. Knowing this, Mr. Branflake went to law school so we could afford to one day have a single income home. He never expected me to be a stay at home mom, but wanted to give me the option. Of all the many selfless things he has done, that was the greatest.

A Weird Expectation
I won't get into the reasons why I want to be a stay at home mom because I don't want this post to come across as preachy. We all do things in our own way for our own reasons and I would never judge anyone on this very personal decision. But I will say this: I think it's weird that women are expected to go back to work after having children. I understand that some women want to and some women have to, but to expect them to? Are you serious? I can't begin tell you how much that saddens me. 

I Can Do Anything
I know I can be a mother, dancer, teacher, and whatever else I choose to do. I simply don't want to. And just because I will one day walk away from the jobs I have now, that doesn't mean I'm not ambitious about my career. I want to go above and beyond everything I do. I want to be successful, to get accolades, to kick butt, and to wow my employers and peers. Mr. Branflake often says I'm the most ambitious person he's ever met because I'm not happy until I've done everything I can do, and do it better than anyone else. 

Love You to the Moon
We're all level headed people here. None of us are antagonistic or looking to pick a fight. That's why I love coming here everyday- you guys remind me of how good the world is. So thank you for letting me talk about this. More than that, I would love to hear what you have to say about parenthood and the goals you have. Because, as I told a group of women on Sunday at Church, we were not sent here to live mediocre lives.

What are your goals as a parent?
(Not goals for your children, but goals for yourself.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tapas Dinner Party (with recipes)

Every few months my friends and I have thematic dinner parties.
The first one was Thai, then we had French, Irish, Moroccan, and a few others I can't remember.
This past weekend we had a Tapas dinner party and it was amazing.
A big thank you to Heidi for her hospitality and delicious food and a huge thank you to Stacy for making the flakiest empanadas I've ever had.

When we walked in, Mr. Darcy was making a fool of himself.
Lizzy told him to put his money where his mouth was.
And Heidi was in the kitchen being awesome.

gazpacho, shrimp, meatballs, non-alcoholic sangria (it was so good!)

Empanadas and ham and cheese croquettes.

For dessert, Heidi went decidedly American and bought the most delicious cupcakes from Icing on the Cupcake. My favorite was the root beer one with the darling straw sticking out. So cute and delicious!

 Are you a Tapas lover like me?
The last time I had it was in London with Sabine. Such great memories on the Thames!

Croquettes (she used ham and replaced Spanish Paprika for the Saffron)

photos by Dancing Branflake

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Culloden: The End of Highland Living

Last summer I went on a solo trip to Scotland and fell in love with the country. I stopped blogging about it because I found it difficult to express what it all meant to me. And then I saw Brave and realized I had so much more to share. 

For those who don't know, the Battle of Culloden marked the breakdown of the Highland culture. Because of the Highlander rebellion against the English, a 'pacification' of the rebellious Highlanders (Jacobites) began and a 'no quarter given' law was instated. After Culloden, kilts, bagpipes, Gaelic, and anything associated with the Highlander way was banned and the majority of the Highland men were killed.

I stayed on Culloden Moor  in a bed and breakfast that was a stone's throw from the battlefield. During the day I would walk from my room and roam around the historic site, taking photos and engrossing myself in the poignancy of it all. 

After the battle, local Inverness residents came to bury the dead Highlanders in mass graves. 
They were buried based upon clan, as indicated by the clan badges they wore.

This is my favorite photo from my time at Culloden. I can imagine the Highlanders in their kilts and colorful tartan, running through the thicket armed and ready to defeat the English.

Their memory lives on.

I'd love to know if you have Scottish blood.
If you do, what's your clan?

For more information about Culloden or the Highland Clans, visit the Culloden Visitor's Center Website.