Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creeping Through Edinburgh Castle

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I would show photos from the creepiest place in Edinburgh: the Prions of War section of Edinburgh Castle. I began shooting in color, then switched to black and white because I knew it would add to the creepy factor. 


This was the most interesting part of the prison. Men would carve words or their names wherever they could find wood. The Castle has murals where they tell you what the writings say. Very interesting.

I can't imagine sleeping there. Gives me the creeps.

 Happy Halloween, my friends.
To all my dancing, writing, and blogging friends in NYC: 
Please be safe. Praying for you.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You asked, I answered

A few weeks ago, I asked if you had any questions for me or Mr. Branflake. You guys had such great ones! I'm answering them in three parts in chronological order since there were so many. We have everything here from religion to dance to Scotland. This is my kind of post!

Jessica Havican asked
Since you are a BYU graduate...I'm wondering what year you graduated? Did you get your Bachelors in Dance at BYU? Did you also get a masters? Did Mr. Branflake go to BYU too? 
Dancing Branflake
Yes! I graduated in dance in 2007 at BYU. Mr. Branflake graduated in 2006 in physics. In fact, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have gone to college to get my degree. His support was everything.

Tabitha asked
Were you born a Mormon or did you become a Mormon - hope it's ok to ask something like that.
Dancing Branflake
Of course that's okay to ask! I was baptized Mormon when I was 12. Even though I was raised agnostic, I had a really strong passion for religion when I was young and that eventually led me to the LDS Church. I'm the only one in my immediately family who is LDS, although they are very supportive. 

Vanisha @ Vanishas Life In...Australia asked
I'm curious about your 'exercise' routine. I only ask because, you're a dancer, so do you dance as a form of exercise or do you do things in addition to that :)
Dancing Branflake
Urgh. I try to exercise. I walk a lot and I do my butt exercises. I'm tending an injury right now, so it's tough. But when I'm not, I try to aim for at least an hour of cardio a day to keep my heart healthy. I also stretch every single day. I can't go a day without a good stretch.

SabinePsynopsis asked
I'm curious... How are your moving plans progressing? And if I'm allowed another one... How did you discover your love for Scotland?
Dancing Branflake
We haven't heard from any jobs yet. Fingers crossed!
I fell in love with Scotland just by hearing about it. When I went there on my solo trip, something inside lit up and I haven't been the same since.

I've always wondered when you discovered your love for dance. It seems like a dream come true to be able to make a career out of it although I'd imagine that it's quite difficult to break into and it must be very grueling. Has it always been your passion?
Dancing Branflake
Since I started, I loved dance. It was more than a passion, it was an obsession. It's less so now, and more a part of me, like my laugh or my right arm. I can't imagine life without it.
It is difficult to continue on, especially when you have many people telling you what you can't do, but I know when a young dancer will be successful because he or she loves to dance. That love will push you through the hard days. If they don't love it, they won't last.

Blicious asked
yes, what is the best stretch for lower back pain?! :)
Dancing Branflake
Hip flexor stretches and butt stretches. I have three herniated discs and I have no pain when I do my stretches. If you want, I'll do a picture tutorial for this one. I've been meaning to for a while...

Amy Shaughnessy asked
Well, now I'm curious about what kind of pointe shoes you wear...And are you a tights over leotards or under? 
Dancing Branflake
I wear Grishko Elites. I've always worn Grishkos, since I was 12. And tights over- helps when you have to make a quick trip to the bathroom, haha!

More to come!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baking and Writing

This morning, I woke at 4 am randomly and without a plan. Then the word, "bake," popped into my head. So I slipped out of the covers and baked my favorite chocolate chip cookies.

Then the word, "write," popped into my head and, in between mixing and scooping, I wrote scenes in that manuscript that's been sitting on my desktop this week, barely touched and staring at me like a cat that doesn't know if it wants to be petted or to bite you.

I am not a morning person. Getting up early is 9 am. I am a night owl- an artist. In college, I arrived to French class late every single time. My teacher would smile at me and exclaim in a sing-song voice, "La boheme!" as if to say, "It's okay. She's an artist, a dancer. Her mind is on a different schedule than ours."

But I'm up. And it feels good. Mr. Branflake will be up shortly to go on a bike ride. I'll have chocolate chip cookies waiting for him when he gets home.

Life is good. This week was crazy good.

I met Sarah Jio at her book signing. She is quite possibly the most delightful and kindest person. I also met a few other published authors and they were just as interested in my unpublished  manuscript as I was in their multiple novels. It made me happy to know the novelist's world is an inviting and caring place.

And then I had a photoshoot with Tom that knocked my socks off. More photos of that later, or you can see a few teasers on Instagram.

And then I got a new phone. Mr. Branflake set it all up for me. He even included my favorite apps, like Pinterest, without me even asking. Either I'm REALLY addicted to Pinterest or he's the most thoughtful man on the planet. I think it's the latter.

Earlier this week, I was reminded of my favorite quote by Sylvia Plath:

"Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences."

I think I'll do just that.

I hope you have an inspiring weekend!
If there's a 4 am impulse, I say go for it.
Why not?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Best Caramel Corn in the World (and a note about my mother)

As I was driving my dear friends Catherine, Nichelle, and Lauren to the airport after we spoke at the Dance/USA Conference about blogging in the dance world, I happened to have a bag of caramel corn in my car. My mom, in her infinite kindness, made some over the weekend and gave me a bag to take to the conference.

Because we're all dancers, we scarfed down that gallon sized bag as soon as we got on the 101. This is what I heard:

"Oh my goodness! This is the best caramel corn I've ever had!"

"This is like crack. No, this is better than crack."

"This. Is. So. Good."

"Your mom is amazing!"

My mom recently texted me and said she just shaved her head. Cancer. Yep. Her first round of chemo was two weeks ago and now she's on the hunt for cute hats and scarves. She has a rare form of uterine cancer. She'll be okay. She's a tough cookie.

So in honor of her, I thought I'd post her recipe. Maybe you could make a batch or two and think of her? And then be blown away by how ridiculously good it is. And then look down and realize you've eaten the entire batch.

Don't worry- you won't be the first.

I'm not kidding. It's that good.

Caramel Corn Recipe
In her words. She's a very thorough person and apparently very concerned with my safety.

Turn your oven on to 250 F
Pop 20 cups of popped popcorn (a little less than a cup of kernals). 
Take out kernels that are not fully popped. 
Spray large bowl with cooking spray and put the popcorn in.  
Prepare 2 large baking pans lined with silpat, foil, or cooking spray. 

Melt 1 cup real butter in a deep sauce pan (it will boil over if it's too small when you add the baking soda).
Add 2 cups light brown sugar and
1/2 cup light karo syrup and
1 tsp salt. 
Boil, stirring constantly.  

Then, boil for 5 minutes DO NOT STIR, DO NOT TOUCH. Remove from heat. 

Add in 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp baking soda.  Mix well. 
Careful!!! It will foam (The foam will double in size so that’s why you need a deep sauce pan). 

Pour over popcorn and mix well with silicone spatula.  Put in 2 large baking pans.  Bake for 250 for 45 minutes to one hour.  Every 15 minutes stir so the caramel doesn't burn and will coat the popcorn evenly. 

1.  Put the popcorn in the oven while you are making the caramel. It is easier to mix while warm.
2.  Use butter, not margarine. You can cut the butter down 1/4 cup but I use the whole amount.
3.  Cut down the salt if you use salted butter.
4.  Soak all the pans and utensils with water and it will come out clean.
5.  After baking, immediately stir the caramel corn so you won't get big lumps (unless you want them).
6.  Will keep for a week in a sealed container.
7.  The trick is to make sure that the popcorn is on the dry side and not buttered because if it's too wet it will become soggy after adding the popcorn. 
8.  The caramel is HOT HOT HOT so do not touch while baking.

Thanks, Mom, for the recipe!
You're just as beautiful with a shaved head!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Monday was our first rainfall. I picked up a butternut squash at the grocery store for the very first time, determine to  figure out how to 1) peel it and 2) cook with it.

Number one was the most difficult part. I felt like I was helping a drunk person home, awkwardly trying to keep a grip on it so it wouldn't roll to the floor. Okay, I've never helped a drunk person home, but you get the visual. 

Peeler in hand, I frustratingly shaved off the first layer of skin like a woodcarver shiving a hunk of birch in the forest. Did I say it was awkward? Do you like my analogies? Have I convinced you yet to buy the pre-peeled/pre-cut squashes in the frozen food section?

Anyone have any tips on how to peel that sucker? 

The results were worth it. It was so good and perfect for what I needed on a rainy day.

The Recipe:

1 medium to large sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed
(about three to four pounds)
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 pounds of yukon or red potatoes, chopped (optional)
olive oil
six cups of chicken broth
1 cup of half and half (optional)

Roasting the Squash
Line baking sheet with foil and grease
put cubed squash on it
drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper
Bake at 450 F until soft 
(about half hour, depending on how small you chopped it)

Crisping the Prosciutto
Bake in oven for ten minutes in a 450 F oven.
Less or more depending on how crispy you like it.

Putting it all together
In a large pot, saute onion, carrot, and celery with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and thyme.
Once softened, add in roasted butternut squash and chicken broth and stir.
Once it comes to a boil, take the pot off the stove top and puree 
(I used an immersion blender)
Stir in cream.
Add in potatoes and bring back to a low boil.
Boil until potatoes are soft. 

Serve with prosciutto. 
I promise, the combination of the two is out of this world.
The salty meat balances the sweet squash very nicely.
(Thought of it myself!)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Prosciutto.
Happiness in a bowl.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bacon, Butter, and Caramel

My good friend and fellow blogger, Caitlin, and I ventured off to new territory on Saturday and went to a charming restaurant in Sacramento called Bacon and Butter. Based upon the name alone, we knew we were in for a gastronomical treat. To my surprise, the place was total eye candy as it was filled with beautifully displayed remnants of the past.

Take a look around: isn't it charming?

Where I was sitting as I waited for our table.

Our food was amazing. The biscuits were the best I've ever had. The apple butter and honey butter to spread on top complemented the fluffy texture perfectly. I took a bite and squealed in happiness.

Yes, I squeal over my food. Are you surprised?

We ordered the smashed fries with a side of the bacon sauce. It was salty, crispy, savory, and everything you could want in a potato.

I then ordered the Eggs and Bacon Benedict because I decided to kill myself. Thick, toasted white bread, melted cheddar cheese, bacon cheese sauce, thick slices of bacon, a poached egg, and more of the sauce. It was rich but not disgustingly heavy.

Oh, and I ordered more potatoes because the only other side was fruit and I don't like fruit.

*Disclaimer, it took 40 minutes to get our food. Don't go to Bacon and Butter if you're in a hurry.

I love eating with bloggers. We can hold the best conversations as we instagram and take photos. Multi-tasking at it's best

Isn't my date so beautiful? Love Caitlin.

And don't you love all the little details of the place, like the burlap behind her and how they give the bill in cloth bound books?
Isn't this door adorable?
After breakfast, we headed on over to Ginger Elizabeths for caramel day where we purchased specialty caramel chocolates like hickory smoked caramels, which is delicious with a complexity of flavors.

Eating beautiful treats as the leaves fall around us. What a morning!
We split the chocolate caramel cupcake and a caramel apple tart. Both were amazing. Both had gold leaf on it.

To prove how good this day is, the lady by me pre-ordered 18 cupcakes. She said, "This is my favorite day of the year."

Mine, too, strange woman. Mine, too.

I was a happy camper.

Thanks for all your supportive comments yesterday.
You guys rock my socks.

I was in a commercial. No big deal. Oh, and I'm in England right now.

Me at breakfast Saturday morning. Caitlin and I had to wake up our tummies before Caramel Day.
More photos from that fabulous day will be forth coming.
This photo is from Caitlin's instagram.

I just shot a commercial for a big time technology company. I'm pretty excited. I can't say any details yet, but best believe as soon as I can, you'll be the first to know. (You can see some of the photos on my instagram.)

Meanwhile in England...

I'm over at Elizabeth's blog talking about Halloween. She was like, "Americans are so excited about Halloween, do you want to guest post about it?" (Totally just paraphrased her.)

So I curated a pretty fancy dinner party. I hope I represented Americans well!

Go to Elizabeth's blog and visit me in England. I promise, you won't be disappointed!

Did you all have a fun weekend?
I had to cancel the British Isles dinner party because of the commercial shoot.
But I will have it soon!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Martha Stewart Cookie Cottages

I have suddenly...

become excited for Christmas. 

How adorable is this Tudor style cookie cottage from Martha Stewart?
I'm thinking I'll be making an entire Dickens Village this year.

Oh, Martha. She does it again.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Goal: A Healthy Weekend

After last weekend's pigout, I stuck to eating healthy this week. Inspired by Diana, I bought some avocados and put them in my salad every night. Okay, not the most revolutionary way to eat them, but I liked getting my fats from plants and not animals.

It's a small step toward eating better and cleaner. 

So I'm trying to eat healthier. Except tomorrow is Caramel Day at my favorite chocolate shop and I'm going to be first in line.

What's Caramel Day, you ask? I'll be instragramming the delights for inquiring minds.

Also, on Sunday night I'm hosting a British Isles Dinner Party. Anyone have suggestions on a good main dish for seven people? Any help would be appreciated!

Have a healthy weekend, my friends!
Also, did you know I have a Facebook Page?
Go ahead and like it. You know you want to (hee hee)

ps... I wrote a few heartfelt posts this week. Thank you for your constant support. This girl loves you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Edited. Stripped bare. In defense of the Lacking.

Remember when I went to wine country and visited the most lavish chocolate shop since Marie Antoinette? And then I wrote this post about aesthetics and blogging and how I learned how to appreciate a more detailed approach to marketing? Well, a few weekends ago I went to an equally beautiful bakery decorated with less. Much less. 

The shelves were plain white, almost bare, with only bread and a few hat boxes as decoration. The labels on the goodies were simple, if not handwritten, and the packaging for everything was nearly non-existent.

And I loved it. 

The focus wasn't on the decor but on the goods. You could tell they didn't have to rely on gimmicks or fancy packaging because their food spoke for itself.

If that's not powerful marketing, I don't know what is. 

I loved the handwritten sign for those donut holes. Those donut holes were the best I've ever had.

As a blogger trying to be herself, it's tempting to want it all when I see where the blog world is headed. More banners! More buttons! Let's add another app! Your blog doesn't look like a magazine? Next!

How the heck are we supposed to focus on content when bombarded with the pressure to be a better version of everyone else? 

Crickey, I just got real preachy. Please note, if you have lots of banners, buttons, and apps, I don't judge. It' s your blog. I read it for the content and for you.

I guess my point is that a beautiful world doesn't have to be a decorated world. There is more beauty in what's not there versus what is. Choreographers, writers, and composers know the value of editing. 

Strip it bare. Let what remains shine and speak louder than the rest.

A good sign the bread tastes yummy? They were nearly sold out of everything. Legit.

Are you a simple person or is lavish the name of your game?
This bakery was the one my dad grew up going to when he was a kid.
It's in San Juan Bautista, CA: a tiny town with an amazing bakery.
photos by Dancing Branflake

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Art of Being Attractive

"Don't wear knee length dresses," they say. "It'll make you look frumpy."

"Lengthen your legs by wearing skirts above the knee," they say. "You'll look squat with dresses that long."

Whatever. I'm not about to sacrifice modesty so I can look taller. That's what heels are for. And what's wrong with being short, anyway?

And, really... is showing more skin going to make me look less frumpy? More elegant? More feminine? Skinner?

No. In fact I would dare say it does the opposite.

I'm probably preaching to the choir (you all are so classy!), but it gets under my skin when people have fashion rules, especially when those rules promote showing more skin.

We are women. We have beautiful bodies. We are not objects on display. We are not 'things' to be altered or manipulated to fit an aesthetic. To even suggest I wear a low cut top or higher hemline to make my body look better is ridiculous.

Women are naturally beautiful. We don't need to show skin to be attractive.

Case in point: this dress. It's long sleeved. It goes below my knees. It's not too tight. And my boobies are inside my top. And you know what? Mr. Branflake's eyes bulged out of his head when I walked out in it. I love an uncontrollable stare from him.

But more than that, I feel elegant in it. I feel like I could walk into a room full of beautiful women wearing low cut tops and short hemlines and not question my womanhood. Good clothes will make you do that. A positive outlook on your life will always make you do that.

Dress: Dorothy Perkins. Shoes: Nine West. Gold Necklace: Modcloth
Clutch was a gift from an amazing friend. I bought the cuff at the Aloha Festival on Saturday for $6!

Bottom line:
Women are naturally beautiful.
You don't have to wear revealing clothes to be your most attractive.
You just need to be yourself.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Weekend Where I Ate Everything

 I'm a little embarrassed to tell you how much I ate this weekend. But I'm going to tell you anyway because, kind of like roadkill, you just can't take your eyes away from the horror. (insert dramatic music).

It all started Friday night at Willie's Burgers where they're known to have amazing chili burgers. In my defense, it was in honor of my friend, Kristen, who's leaving Monday for a vacation to Spain and Morocco. So naturally we had to eat the unhealthiest foods in America to celebrate.

Kristen, me, and Caitlin. I've never known two ladies to love food as much as I.
I dare say, even more.
photos taken from Caitlin's Instagram.

And then after Willie's, I met some friends at Round Table Pizza and ate two slices of pepperoni and meat lovers. How could I resist?


The next morning, Caitlin and I met at 10:30 am for Ginger Elizabeth's Sundaes. Why so early? They're specialty made on second Saturdays and tend to sell out by the afternoon. There was even a line out the door when we got there!

Don't worry, I had rehearsal that morning so I at least moved my body before eating the most decadent sundae ever.

Left: Me and my sundae. Right: Caitlin's hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows.

Browned butter ice cream, pumpkin ice cream, creme fraiche, caramel sauce, and warm monkey bread.

Is that a snickerdoodle macaron? Oh yes oh yes!

 After 'breakfast', I met Mr. Branflake and our friends at the Aloha Festival. Amazing food, fun vendors, and Mr. Branflake brought his Ukelele and took an open class. Our very good friend, Sandra, is Hawaaian so it was fun partaking in her island heritage.

The Hibiscus Caramel Popcorn was amazing. The Bacon Caramel Popcorn had actual bacon in it. Whoa.

Tri tip sliders with mango chutney. Some of the best I've ever had.

I stopped shoving food in my face for a moment and watched a friend's brother bike polo tournament. Yes, you heard that right. Bike polo. It's insane, really gritty, and kinda dangerous. I think I'm hooked. If you haven't seen bike polo, it's a must. 

To top off the weekend, I just got home from a book club meeting where I ate caramel apple crumb pie, black bottom cupcakes, and almond cookies. Of, and sipped on some delicious hot apple cider. Crickey.

Did you eat anything fun this weekend?
Have you ever heard of bike polo before?
I'd love to talk to you if you have!