Making Plant Stake Critters

I have distributed plant stakes at 3 locations this week, which means a lot of stake-making happened over the past month.

Staying focused to pick up more wire was indeed a danger zone during my hardware store trip.

Something compelled me to make stakes late last year, but then winter happened and ornament production kicked in. With spring/summer finally emerging, I decided to make more dragonflies and also play with ladybug designs.

I had to allocate enough pieces for Evanston Made, my own Pop-ups, a Sacred Art Consignment, and the new Hip Circle Empowerment Center Retail Zone.

There are popular colors, and then I keep finding scraps I want to play with, so it required some focus to get it all done. Shopping sprees also provide more fun colors.

I created a design on my Now That’s A Jig for the dragonfly. The ladybug is just two rounds and then I hand-bend the wings and the dots.

Then I cut out the patterns and place them on my palette to be waxed.

I fuse the paper layers onto the wire.

After that, I cut the paper or fabric to size.

It is easy to poke my eye out in the process, but so far so good. I also keep discovering new scratches on my arms…

Some stakes are embellished with alcohol inks, and I have one dragonfly hanging out on my porch to test all that for weather-fastness.

Rain causes a little bit of rust, and we’ll see what the sun does in terms of heat and fading.

Stakes are hard to photograph, so I need to figure out the setup for that if I load them to the shop.

Bouquets need a better backdrop as well.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the old bottles to use as a display.

So I scoped out Everlasting Fire Studio’s new glass vase designs that they debuted at a recent trunk show.

Based on my stake height they created two larger versions for me, and I love this much more than the recycled pieces.

I will still use the bottles as ‘car seats’ for my critters.

On Tuesday I dropped off my pieces at the former Hip Circle Studio.

Tonight the Hip Circle Empowerment Center makes its debut (changing Hip Circle from for-profit to not-for-profit) and the Women-Powered Retail Zone will be open for business.

I made special pieces for the occasion.

Class-goers have already admired all the gorgeous goodies by The Collage Cafe, Rita Shimelfarb, Golden Sapphire, See Jane Sparkle, Strait Jacket, Maike’s Marvels, Chai Wolfman, and Rock These Socks. We’ll be up for a month or two until the retail Zone features other woman makers, so you’d better shop during their new business hours.

The Women-Powered Retail Zone is open: 3 to 6 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,  1 to 4 pm Fridays, 15 minutes before & after all classes/workshops, and during the Custer Fair June 17 & 18. Here’s to my creatures flying off to new homes.

I also tagged a bunch for the Evanston Made pop-up shop at the Evanston Art Center, which opens tomorrow evening to the public.

All that spread-sheeting and number tracking has me looking forward to making more fabric versions next.

Fun at Chroma K8

It has been a whirlwind month. My Swarm is complete for Saturday’s opening, and I am dropping of my Music piece at the new Evanston Art Center tomorrow.

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May started off with a fun Pop-up at Chroma K8 Beautique. Several businesses gathered at the Salon to offer Mother’s Day gifts.

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We enjoyed getting to know each other better and learning about each other’s businesses as we spent the day perusing each other’s wares.

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My new table was fun to set up.

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Photo by Kate Jotzat

Malik of Hip Circle Studio came with her famed wheel to offer demonstrations and class sneak peeks.

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Hip Circle Studio is launching web-based classes that begin this week. You can participate by web cam, and Malik will monitor your posture and activity remotely, while you can also interact with other student in the studio. I hope some of my friends who moved away will reconnect with us this way.

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Memoir for Me  is a lovely concept where Nora Kerr interviews people and then puts photo album together with narratives as family heirlooms.

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She does this for people of all ages, from young children to retirees to grandparents.

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I picked up bath deliciousness from Bonnie-Naturally nourishing skin & body care, who offers organic skin care products.

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I chatted with Nomadic Ant and admired her lovely silver & brass jewelry.

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I also sniffed the colorful Skokiewood candles that smelled edible.

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Jenny offered Noktivo’s mini-manis for all vendors and shoppers.

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Back on Track untangled my shoulders during a relaxing chair massage.

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Little Monsters Photography took awesome photos of our event.

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Kate then asked me to leave some pieces with her for consignment, so you can peruse my pieces throughout the salon while you get your hair and nails done.

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I decided to get my hair done organically too last week.

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Chroma K8’s products are all earth friendly and healthy. The coloring products she uses have coconut oil and other hair-friendly ingredients to ensure the damage is limited.

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The shampoo and conditioner products also offer healthy solutions for earth and scalp, and the staff at ChromaK8 offers knowledgeable advice to support one’s hair, and the products don’t break the bank.

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Chroma K8 Beautique is located at 5425 N Lincoln in Chicago, and worth the visit.

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A body positivity photo shoot

It seems that body advocacy has become more prevalent over the past few years, or maybe I just follow like-minded people who agree that photoshopped imagery in magazines is an impossible standard to uphold. But instead of sharing and liking these links on social media, I was called to do something more substantial about it in June.

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Inspired by this blog post about normal-size women posing as Victoria’s Secret swimsuit models, Malik of Hip Circle Studio posted the following invitation:

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Within the week, she had scheduled a formal event invite that called us to wear our favorite bathing suit and show up at the beach.

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I tried on a few the night before and realized that it had been a while that I’d been bathing suit shopping. Comfortable me gravitated toward the tankinis, but I decided to do the scary thing and put on the two-piece that fit. At the beach, I saw photographer Kerry Ben-Joseph checking the light.

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Soon my friends from Bellydance and Moxie Boxing classes appeared. A few new-to-me ladies also  came to the shoot. We were asked to line up and strike poses.

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photo by Kerramel Studios

The power pose:

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photo by Kerramel Studios

The jumping pose:

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photo by Kerramel Studios

The chatting pose:

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photo by Kerramel Studios

We were also asked to pose individually. Initially I wasn’t going to, but then it seemed everyone was game, so I played along. The hardest part was not contracting my belly the whole time. I feel like I could have posed better, but the photo is posted on Malik’s insightful recap blog post so you can see it there.

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

I didn’t see ‘models’ like me in the media growing up, so if this shoot is enabling one teenage girl to accept herself as she is, rather than looking at air-brushed and ‘skinnified’ images of women she will never look like, then the mission of this shoot is accomplished.

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Malik hopes to make this at least an annual event, and I am all for it. We need more initiatives like this to showcase that everyone is beautiful just as nature created you. It was fun in spite of the initial awkwardness!

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

Shimmying body issues away

Last May, I decided to get back into a fitness routine and walked into a studio that enriched my life. I had seen Hip Circle Studio’s demonstrations during various Custer Street Fairs since 2010, but didn’t take a class until the end of May. Located a few blocks away, there was no excuse of a long drive to get there, and with summer in full swing I had the energy to walk a few blocks to groove to world music.

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I started with a CardioBelly class, which is a fast-moving session where Malik has us mimic quick combinations of bellydance moves. Even though I had taken Egyptian bellydance classes in 2007 and 2008, this class felt like rub your belly and pat your head for the first few tries, but the fun music and the can-do spirit of all the ladies kept me coming back.

I decided to brush up on my basics with BaseFusion, where Malik breaks down bellydance moves at a slower pace and helps us to coordinate muscles and practice more thoroughly. Both bellydance classes include an ‘improv’ session during which we dance like nobody’s watching. Malik’s intent is that we allow our body to remember its own natural rhythm rather than be indoctrinated with a certain way to move.

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What I love about Hip Circle Studio is that it truly welcomes all women of all ages and all sizes and shapes. There is no pressure to dress in the latest fitness gear, no weigh-ins or tape measures apply, and we are praised for showing up. While personal sessions with Malik can certainly incorporate weight loss or muscle toning goals, group sessions are about celebrating our bodies as they are, and keeping them moving.

I received a complimentary personal training session when I joined,which I used to see if my muscles were up for Moxie Boxing. Malik’s one-on-one session gave me the courage to try it, and though the first few classes were challenging, I was never made to feel like I wasn’t keeping up.

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When our muscles aren’t willing to do the full-on cardio moves, Malik shows us modifications, such as jumping jacks that don’t require jumping, or having us drop the dumbbell weights when one’s shoulders start tensing up during weight-lifting exercises. Even though I come on a regular basis and my muscles are familiar with the moves, there are still sessions where I opt for the lower-key workout.

The flash mob choreography for the June Custer Street Fair was in full swing when I joined, and even though I felt like I didn’t have the choreography down pat, I was encouraged to participate. So two weeks after joining I was dancing out in public.

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I also became part of another choreography that was intended for last Fall’s Show & Tell’s performance art session. However, that October event was cancelled, so December became the next target date for that choreography. Suddenly I became a member of Zahara Fusion, Malik’s tribal fusion bellydance troupe.

Ranging from 3 to 7 performers based on the choreography and the event, Zahara Fusion was founded in 2006 to provide students a way to experience performance. The troupe commits to rehearsals at least once a week for the year and twice a week closer to the performance.

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My duet with another dancer to an unconventional classic went off swimmingly during our appearance at the Martini Lounge in Elgin. We then re-enacted the flash mob with the troupe, which was quite a crowd-pleaser. I had a blast getting dressed up and being inspired by the other bellydancers present that evening.

Zahara Fusion performs at bellydance and performance art events throughout Chicagoland, but also is available for private parties (as long as they aren’t bachelor parties). The next Zahara Fusion performance is at Evanston’s Custer Street Fair, and several members will be traveling to various other bellydancing events this year.

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A great benefit to Malik’s classes is the community among other women. We converse about life, body image, schedule challenges and other life issues in a safe and supportive environment. I leave sessions feeling empowered in more ways than just the endorphins running through my body and the fun music we listen to.

Malik is a community-builder and a woman-empowerer. She is also very engaged in the community. Her parties featuring local entrepreneurs and the other events I have been involved with through Hip Circle Studio have given me a greater awareness of the amazing women and small business owners in my neighborhood.

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My muscles are becoming more toned throughout my body, and prompted by the Women Out Walking initiative I am more aware of my calorie intake too. I haven’t dropped dress sizes since I started last year, but I don’t feel the need to either. I can celebrate me for who I am, and I admire the other ladies in the studio for who they are. We each radiate our own unique brilliance with our own talents and carry our beauty in different proportions.

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So come watch us flash mob at 5:45 Saturday and Sunday (Arena Stage), and swing by Hip Circle Studio at 709 Washington during the day to see if there is a class or workshop for you!

Women Out Walking

“You’ve got to find something that makes you happy
to keep you moving.”

~ Malik of Hip Circle Studio

In mid-March, the City of Evanston launched Women Out Walking for the 8th year in a row. The 12-week program encourages women to become more physically active and lead healthier lifestyles. Every week women are asked to log their steps, and whether as individuals or part of a team, are incentivized with prizes for their achievements.

Not only does this program give you incentive to walk more in your personal life, but local businesses are offering special sample sessions of exercise classes, like yoga, martial arts, dance, and running. Workshops on nutrition and general health are also promoted through June 21.

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I attended the kickoff at Evanston Township High School and put on the pedometer that came with the goodie bag right after the speeches. Mayor Tisdahl endorsed the event, and Hip Circle Studio owner Malik offered a keynote speech.

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Urban Beat Dance demonstrated the joy of moving with two fun performances.

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Currently 400 women are part of the program, but registration is ongoing. Goals of the program are to engage women in meaningful and healthy activities, increase social interaction, provide access to healthy resources, and ensure a sense of safety while walking.

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You submit your steps for the week every Monday with a link that is provided in a reminder email. You can use any step tracking device you want, such as the Fitbit, the WOW-provided pedometer, or other tools.

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After the kick-off speeches we were sent to 3 different stations for exercise options. In Hip Circle Studio’s demonstration we learned steps to the bellydance flashmob that will be shown at the Custer Street Fair.

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Connelly Martial Arts offered tips on how to walk around more safely, which means taking the earplugs out, putting your phone in your pocket, walking straight and purposefully and being alert of your surroundings. The best way to deal with a suspicious person is to simply walk away.

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photo courtesy Hip Circle Studio

Balance Through Motion had brought various balance boards for us to try out. They can be used to improve your general sense of balance, but also as tools for moderate to more challenging exercises. While our instinct was to stand on them and use them as teeter-totters for our feet, you can also do exercises while sitting, laying down, and as part of a new pilates program.

There was a vendor scavenger hunt with Bingo during which we learned more about nutrition, spinal alignment, footwear and other health-related resources. 1914 steps later, I was encouraged with all the walking we did at the event itself.  At the end of that very active first day, I logged more than 6000 steps!

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However, attaining the goal of 10,000 steps a day (recommended by the American Heart Association) is a challenge without an out-of-the-home commute. My ‘commute’ only logs about 33 steps. Thankfully the weather is nicer so I will be enticed to walk around the block more often during lunch time. Still, with Moxie Boxing, the most active of my workout sessions, the most steps I have gotten in one day is 7000.

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I have experimented and found that the pedometer does count shimmies—albeit not one-for-one, something I am told the Fitbit doesn’t do. Ultimately the point is to get moving and be motivated to move more.

If I hit the 10,000 step mark during summer I’ll be happy, but I am allowing for the sedentary under 1000 steps days too. Maybe I’ll see you at the final Women out Walking Session, Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate at Long Field at the corner of Lincoln Street and Sheridan Road.

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PS-I loooove this vending machine at ETHS.

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It’s a writer’s dream.

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Establishing a fitness routine

In May I joined Hip Circle Studio to develop more of a fitness routine.

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Because winter was so long and my social life had me attending numerous potlucks and barbecues my summer clothes remained snugger than last year and I knew I wasn’t naturally walking and stairmastering  the winter padding off like I had in past years.

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I started with CardioBelly, which promptly got me recruited for the Custer Street Fair flashmob. After a 6-year hiatus from bellydancing, the moves are still a bit rusty, but they do come back with practice.

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For a bit more toning I added Moxie Boxing to my routine, which is a fun class of kicking and throwing punches while holding small weights in your hands. No gloves required.

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Right after my birthday I was talked into sampling Kettlebell AMPD, but that workout is still a bit intense so I am going to give that another whirl after my body has adjusted more to the other muscle moves I put it through. This one session did happen to be picture day, so I am a poster-child for the time being.

KettlebellPosterChildphoto copyright Hip Circle Studio

We get stickers after each class and thus far I have attended two fun fitness parties that serve as a reward for filling a card with 5 stickers. Each party features a local business and offers a fun activity.

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When the studio went on summer break I dug up my jump rope and purchased a matching pair of shoes (and pants that didn’t shimmy down) to motivate me to jump by the lake.

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Initially I stumbled through 5 minutes, but after a month of thrice-weekly intervals I am up to 8 minutes of jumping with occasional zen moments of no tripping for a minute or 2.

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I hope to keep it up as the weather cools down (possibly in the laundry room, which won’t be near as scenic).

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To warm up I do some of the floor exercises at home that we do in class as well, and on rainy non-class days the Bikini-ready Fast DVD comes out, which I can complete much easier now.

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When I picked that up years ago I tended to shut it off at 15 minutes from exhaustion. The home workouts are only 20-30 minutes, but still make me feel better than if I just rolled out of bed without any movement.

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My arms feel more toned and I know I have more stamina to walk. I haven’t dug out the scales from my closet because I still believe in Alexandra Jaye’s notion, but I will be monitoring the skinny pants waistline on a monthly basis.

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This coming month is all about nutrition, monitoring the ratio of my veggie intake vs. carbohydrate intake, which I know needs to be reversed. Even if I don’t go back to the ‘skinny’ size again, I know being healthy and fit makes me feel better about me, and gives me more energy to enjoy the rest of my life.

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You can peruse Hip Circle Studio’s schedule at www.HipCircleStudio.com. Zumba is fun too, and every class is filled with lovely women, empowering words, and fantastic playlists. Who doesn’t like to break a sweat to “I’m Sexy and I know it”?

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Streets Alive Evanston

We had a big block party on Sunday. Main Street between Dodge and Hinman were transformed into a pedestrian mall from 1 to 6 p.m.

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The roads were blocked to motor vehicles and an impromptu bike path established.

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The blocks were lined with booths providing information about various Evanston organizations. Along the way, various musicians, street artists and dancers gave performances.

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Children could play various games and get in touch with their artistic side. Open Studio Project offered painting a skyline made from boxes.

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Streets Alive! began as an initiative of Walk ‘n’ Roll, one of the project teams that emerged from the Evanston150 visioning process. The mission of Walk ‘n’ Roll is to make Evanston safer and more enjoyable for walking and cycling.

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After a successful pilot project on Dempster Street in 2013, Streets Alive! was adopted by Citizen’s Greener Evanston, resulting in this year’s Main Street event. A list of all participating organizations is hereHip Circle Studio held belly dance demonstrations.

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Later the troupe performed and then offered a demonstration in which each member of the circle could add their own move to a round-robin impromptu choreography.

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A Klezmer duo greeted us as we made our way to Piccolo Theatre.

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We took in the matinee of SMASH, which is a wonderful show worthy of attending.

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Unfortunately the event came to an end just after we finished laughing, so we imbibed in some lovely food from S-Paragon.

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It was quiet and peaceful without cars around.

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I look forward to next year’s event and getting to know another street in Evanston.

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