Wednesday, July 29, 2009

REALLY good oatmeal cookies

My aunt Ellen makes THE BEST oatmeal cookies... and my cousin Jimmy makes them really well too!  Enjoy!

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1.5 teaspoons of vanilla
2 eggs
1.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

A trick from Jimmy - dig in and mix it all up with your fingers!
Then bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A night with the Utah JAZZ!

Megan, Me, Gina, Lisa after dance class with the Utah Jazz Dancers!

I spent my night taking the audition prep class for the Nu Skin Jazz Dancers- oh what a blast.  I can already feel my muscles getting sore!  Those that knew me before I became a modern dance major (discussing time, space, energy, dynamic change, symbolism, etc. ) know that I was quite the jazzerina.  Yes, most Friday nights I was at school with my poms pulling some cheesy dance moves.  But in the end... those were some of my favorite memories from high school (and gave me great opportunities - hello, New York - hello, London).  I had so so so much fun... just like I did tonight.

No, I am not auditioning to be a Utah Jazz dancer... come this Saturday I will be sporting a bridesmaids dress instead of a skimpy dance outfit (best friend's wedding trumps dance audition ANY day).  Tonight was all I needed.  As I was "free-styling" (dancing wildly with the music however you feel - no choreography), I really remembered how much I freaking LOVE dancing- and having Lisa, Megan, and Gina there helped with the loving, too!  This was one of the first dance classes, in four whole years, that I have taken without having to worry about a grade!  It felt so good.  BUT - as we were sitting down to the question and answer session after a high energy class I lost my enthusiasm.  Once they mentioned the 7 hours of rehearsals a week in addition to all the performances and appearances, I knew it wasn't time yet.  I love dancing - I really do - but I know if I go back to dancing and rehearsing even half as much as I was, I won't love dancing much longer.  (Not to mention a lot of being a Jazz Dancer is based on your look and body type rather then your actual dance skills, and while I can understand why that is, it still really bugs me...)  

Over the next year - or few years -  I know I will have to take a dance class every now and then to maintain my sanity, but I still think a break is very much needed.  I'm so excited for all the other possibilities that are opening up for me!!!  Yay life!

Me, in my high school cheesy jazz dancing days!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ode to Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham passed away yesterday evening.  This is a pretty big deal in the dance world... Merce Cunningham was a big deal...   When I heard I took out my dance history books to read some tributes to Merce.  When looking up his name in the index, there are endless pages devoted to him, his work, his company, his technique, and his dancers- and rightfully so -he changed the world of modern dance.

A quick sum up:  Merce danced in the Martha Graham company (another dance great).  At that time dances were created with a narrative, a theme, a story, and a climax.  Merce had great technique and was an amazingly captivating performer.  He was the first to believe that a dance should and could just be about the dance - a story didn't have to accompany it.  He collaborated greatly with the musician John Cage.  Cage and Cunningham believed that music and dance did not have to be created for one another... in a sense a piece of music could be composed while a dance was being composed completely separately and they could still in the end work well together.  Cunningham also used chance to create works known as "chance dances."  In a sense movement was performed in the order it was drawn from a hat... sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, an amazing process no matter the result.  Ultimately, Cunningham's theories about dance lead to a greater exploration and appreciation of all the body is capable of.

I don't have a great gift for words or poetry- so I am not doing this "ode" justice... honestly I'm tired and ready for bed - but Cunningham is definitely on my mind...

Read more about Cunningham's life and contributions in this New York Times Article, Merce Cunningham, Dance Visionary, dies

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Belgium and other FoCo awesomeness

Today is my last day in my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado!  I got to see some old friends from high school and I'm definitely remembering that Fort Collins isn't just a great city for the stuff that's in it, but also for the people there (and the people who consider it home even if they don't live there anymore).

Those that know me, know that I am not a big beer drinker (or really much of a drinker at all).  BUT when home I definitely take some time to enjoy some New Belgium - yes friends, Fat Tire is brewed just down the street from my house for your enjoyment! AND to make it even cooler (cause really being in FoCo makes it cool enough) the entire brewery is run on wind energy!

I got this picture off the Post Secret Blog...  Notice the Fort Collins, CO beer and wind energy!

This might help contribute to Fort Collins' most recent national ranking of 3rd smartest medium sized city in sustainability.  Check out The Fort Collins Blog  !
Just 3 years ago Money Magazine ranked us the best small city to live in.  (And we've moved from a "small" city to a "medium" city in just 3 years...)  Check out this clip from CNN on Fort Collins' first place ranking!

I love Salt Lake City, but I always miss Fort Collins just a little... stop by for a visit!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Trip Up Trail Ridge Road

We made it up Trail Ridge Road today in Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is the highest continuous, paved motor way in the United States.  It's closed most of the year (October through June) due to crazy amounts of snow.  It crosses the Continental Divide at an elevation of 10,758 feet and reaches its highest point at elevation 12,183 feet.  I don't mean to bash on the state of Utah because I love it there... but Utah's highest mountain peak, Kings Peak, is only 13, 520 feet - not quite equal to the fourteeners of the Colorado Rocky Mountains!
Me! at 12,000 feet! Trail Ridge Road - Rocky Mountain National Park
I mentioned after my last trip to Rocky Mountain National Park that I was too afraid to make the drive over Trail Ridge Road on my own (I'm sooooo afraid of heights), but the view is totally worth the fear and the shiver up your back that you get when you look over the edge.  LUCKILY, my aunt Ellen - also moving to FoCo - offered to drive for us ...  I had to switch which side of the car I was sitting on to move farthest away from the ledge.  I seriously need to do something to get over this fear.  There are some views I think I must be missing out on!
This does not accurately portray the scariness of the drive, but you get the idea.
Trail Ridge Road is covered in snow most of the year.  It takes you up past the treeline into the tundra where growth is limited due to extreme weather conditions.  In fact, there is still snow up there as of July 24th...
SNOW! July 24th Trail Ridge Road - Rocky Mountain National Park
I love Trail Ridge Road... and in spite of my complaints it is much safer (and less scary) then the Old Fall River Road which used to be the only way to travel through the park.  Old Fall River Road is still around... maybe, just maybe, when I'm feeling really brave, we'll catch those views.  If they are anything like what you see on Trail Ridge, it is definitely worth that drive!  Come to Colorado! See Rocky Mountain National Park!  It is so awesomely beautiful!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

One of my favorite places in the entire world is Rocky Mountain National Park!  I just feel so happy every time I'm there and I swell with Colorado pride!  I'm hanging out in Fort Collins, Colorado this week visiting my awesome family and trying to show my cousin Jimmy all the great sights!  He's in the process of moving here- so exciting! 

I drove myself, my sister Amanda, and my cousins Andy and Jimmy through Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday.  We stopped by the Alluvial Fan - always a classic - and Bear Lake.  We took some absolutely awesome pictures!

Amanda, Jimmy, me, and Andy - Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Me at the Alluvial Fan - Rocky Mountain National Park
If I'm feeling brave enough... I think we'll go up again tomorrow and drive along Trail Ridge Road - the highest continuous motor way in the United States (it takes you up past 12,000 feet and needless to say, for someone afraid of heights, the drive can be a little frightening...)   If that adventure happens- more pictures will come!

Amanda, Jimmy, Andy, and me - Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thank you, thank you, thank you ... to my high school teachers!!

I just finished reading Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen.  I learned a lot from the book - but a lot of it I already knew thanks to my amazing high school teachers.  

Loewen argues that history textbooks, and many teachers, shy away from anything that may cause controversy in turn depriving high school students of the opportunity to form their own  opinions and think for themselves.  Many don't get this opportunity for discussion and complex understanding until they reach college courses - if they are lucky enough to go to college.  In my freshman year OF HIGH SCHOOL, after reading the somewhat controversial Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (a book also very worthy of a read), our class discussed whether or not we were old enough to be faced with a controversial idea and reason it on our own.  Many parents didn't want their high school freshmen to spend class time reading an antiwar novel  about a man who has lost all limbs and all senses and is now forced to communicate with the world via the tapping of his head in Morse code.  I loved that my teacher trusted us to form our own opinions and thought us mature enough to discuss controversial topics... so many students don't ever get to reach that understanding which is pointed out by Loewen in his book.

Loewen also describes the ethnocentrism that is promoted in so many of our American history textbooks and the promotion of Christianity as the most standard religion of the American people.  Also in my freshman year, my history class devoted great amounts of time to understanding Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  I still find what I learned in that class meaningful when it comes to understanding other cultures.  This information proved especially useful because that same year, in that same class, I watched the twin towers fall on our classroom television.  While a lot of the United States viewed the practice of Islam to be evil, I had the knowledge base to recognize the difference between regular Muslims and extremists.  

Loewen also discusses the heroification of many American figures that don't really deserve our respect such as Christopher Columbus (who wasn't actually the first to" discover the new world"  and should be known for bringing disease and cruelty to the Americans that already lived here).  My sophomore year history class revolved around our main project of the year - the trial of Francisco Pizarro - noble conquistador or selfish savage?  We spent weeks in the library trying to find primary sources describing Pizarro's character and his motives based on what side we were assigned.  Through our research we not only realized what a downright nasty guy he was, we also learned the importance of primary sources, bias, and how completely wrong our textbook was.  

Our junior year was another purely American history course (which I of course dreaded - how many times do I have to hear about the men of the Revolutionary War?).  Our teacher this year added some new elements that made it slightly less boring.  After reading countless times of brief mentions of the slave trade in our textbooks, we watched the movie Amistad, one of the few films to give me chills and leave me uneasy for the rest of the week.  I always knew the slave trade was bad... but seeing it on film adds a whole new dimension of disgust.  In this class we also read a personal account from a Native American who had been at the massacre at Wounded Knee - again heart-wrenching and completely eye-opening.  Our teacher gave us weekly copies of a political cartoon  relating to the subject we were studying.  The constant exposure to primary sources that relayed how people back then actually felt about an event made all the difference in the world when it came to learning about history.

And finally, I can't even described all that I learned my senior year of high school.  Loewen laments that many high school classes rarely make it all the way through a textbook (I know my classes never did).  This is in part because many texts spend pages, chapters even, discussing every detail of the Revolution or the Civil War and as a result, many classes don't learn much past that.  There are some vital parts of history that leaves out!  The World Wars, Cuban Missile Crisis, Civil Rights, Vietnam, Cold War, etc. were all topics my previous history classes just never got around to.  So sad since they are so incredibly relevant to our world today.  My history class didn't sugar coat a bit - and I loved it.  We began by reading the entirety of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  This is something most history teachers would rarely have the courage to do based on our country's feelings towards communism (wasn't that our justification for going to war in Vietnam?).  It was so beneficial to read what is sometimes described as one of the "world's most influential political manuscripts."  It made communism seem less scary and was yet another controversial topic that we were able to discuss and in turn understand - which few do.  Our textbook was hand-selected by our fabulous teacher.  It was no longer in print so our copies were quite tattered, some even missing their covers.  We read every page of that book.  We were assigned large readings every night and often that was my favorite part of homework because the book actually discussed events and people and motivations rather than trying to uphold the idea that the US has acted all this time without fault (as many other history books wrongly convey).  As a tie in, my Theory of Knowledge class even devoted an entire week to a documentary and discussion of the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam- an event rarely mentioned in most texts. (Yes, I took a class called Theory of Knowledge while the rest of my school was at lunch - and I loved it.)

I always knew my high school education was pretty good.  After reading Lies My Teacher Told Me,  I feel like writing a thank you letter to all my teachers that weren't afraid of controversy.  I learned so much from them about the world and how to think for myself and will be forever grateful. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Reasons the coming week is going to ROCK...

This is probably the week of summer I have been looking forward to most - it is jam packed with totally awesome stuff!!!

Sunday - Going to see Patwa at the Reggae Fest in Park City!
Monday - Dial M for Murder playing for free at the Gallivan!
Tuesday - Harry Potter Marathon and stitch and bitch.
Wednesday - Midnight opening of HARRY POTTER!!!  
Thursday - The Black Keys at the Gallivan!
Friday - Samba Fogo's show at my old home the MCD (Marriott Center for Dance)
Saturday - Drive to Fort Collins for Emma's birthday!
Sunday - Rocky Mountain National Park with my awesome family!
And the rest of the following week ... I will be have a blast showing my cousin around Fort Collins.  (He's moving there and I'm so excited!!!  I feel like I just gained a little brother!)  The week will be packed with hikes, bike rides, canoeing, brewery tours, Horsetooth, Big City Burrito, Walrus Ice Cream, and old town!
Me and my cousin Jimmy who will be moving to Fort Collins in one short week!

SOOOO EXCITED!!!  I'm loving life!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thoughts After Reading THE END OF POVERTY by Jeffrey Sachs

In an earlier blog I said that I wanted to read a book a week after graduating.  I haven't quite kept up with that, but The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs is my seventh book of the summer, so I think I'm doing ok.

This book was the perfect book for me to read right now, as a recent college graduate who is trying to decide what to accomplish in my lifetime.  I just received my BFA (diploma in the mail last week) in modern dance and about a year ago decided that I wanted to stay in school and earn a second degree in nursing.  Originally my motivation for this degree was because I wanted to be able to earn a living while trying to make it as a dancer.  Having been a dance major, I'm a firm believer in doing what you love in life because I think if you do what you love you will always find a way to be successful and happy.  I have been hesitant about my decision to go to nursing school because I never considered that as a career in my life - but I have been dancing for the last 18 years and it is so a part of who I am.  I identify myself as a dancer.

I was discussing this with some of my closest dance friends yesterday.  I realized it probably isn't the best plan to identify solely as a dancer (as I have throughout a good portion of my life) because it makes you forget all the other aspects of who you are.  So many times I've been introduced as "This is Sara... she's a dancer..."  when I would rather be introduced as a friend, sister, girlfriend, etc.   I have to admit, I don't feel like I should have a college degree. (I earned it- I often spent 8-12 hours a day devoted to dance!)  I can tell you anything you want to know about dance, but I feel like I still have a lot to learn about life.  Honestly, having grown up in the International Baccalaureate Program, I miss academics and classes I had to read a lot for and study a lot for where I learned about the Cold War instead of Martha Graham.  

This feeling helps to reaffirm my decision to get a second degree.  I also realized that nursing was something I could enjoy doing after spending a week in the hospital in December (I was fine, but my mother had massive brain surgery- GO MOM!)  I wasn't even a patient and that experience was terrifying.  All of her doctors were nice, but ultimately they were really busy and just there to get the job done.  The nursing staff was what made that experience bearable.  I would hope that I could do the same for someone who was in my family's situation someday.

The book The End of Poverty also had me jumping at the chance to get a nursing degree.  A good portion of the book discussed the need for economic change and more monetary aid (I will never be an expert economist or have riches to donate...), but it also discussed the need for healthcare in areas with extreme poverty, especially in Africa.  After my travels to Ghana - I already have a soft spot in my heart for Africa.  Sachs discussed how the spread of malaria and the HIV/AIDS epidemic are detrimental to the communities in Africa because they cause such a massive number of deaths.  The saddest part is that both malaria and HIV/AIDS are treatable - most of Africa just doesn't have access to medical care or the drugs they need so malaria can turn into a death sentence amazingly quickly.  When I was in Ghana the two youngest girls in my host family both were sick with Malaria.  BUT - the village of DzoDze has a hospital and my family has enough money to pay for the medicine.  Many families in Africa are not so lucky.  What if my host family's business begins to suffer?  The next time those beautiful little girls get malaria, will they be able to be treated?  Many areas of Africa just need someone who has a basic medical knowledge.  That could be me...
If you look really hard... you can see me in this picture... on my trip to Ghana!

Overall, I think everyone should read The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs.  It was very informative and motivating.  At the end of the book, Sachs quotes Robert Kennedy (I LOVE Robert Kennedy)...

Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills - against misery and ignorance, injustice  and violence . . . Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation . . .

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

All the Reasons I'm LOVING Summer in the SLC!

When making my summer plans months ago I tried to fit in as many travels and adventures as possible.  Having packed my schedule, I soon realized that I would be spending only 2-3 weeks in Salt Lake City!  After a month of traveling about (all through Greece, stranded in Philadelphia, drives to the Fort, and adventures in Cali) I arrived back in Salt Lake and have had a hard time leaving it since!  Here are just a few of the reasons I'm absolutely loving my summer in the SLC...

- Farmers Market at Pioneer Park!!!  The Farmers Market in downtown Salt Lake has been a long time favorite of mine.  You could even find me there with my crocheted clothing booth for the last two summers (see  I no longer have my booth and am once again loving the market!  Great booths, great people, friendly dogs, and awesomely delicious cherries! MMM!

- The Gateway!!!  I'm a little embarrassed to admit just how much I've been to this outdoor mall this summer... but with all its shops, restaurants, the movie theater and other attractions- it's the one - stop- summer - shop.  A few weeks ago they had a sidewalk chalk contest with some fantastic chalk artists - I was quite impressed.

- Picnics in Sugar House Park!!!  Oh how I love Sugar House Park.  It has such a fantastic view of the mountains and so many friendly trees to eat food or read a good book under...

- Kayaking in Mantua!!!  I drove up to Cache Valley to visit my fabulous friend Sarah in Logan and spent an awesome afternoon kayaking with her and her mom... I'm seriously considering investing in a kayak (if only I didn't live in such a tiny apartment and drive such a tiny car...)

-4th of July in Park City!!!  Got to chill up the mountain a ways on the 4th where the weather is typically about 10 degrees cooler (a welcome relief in July) and listened to the awesome new Reggae band Patwa - who also happens to be playing at the Reggae Festival this weekend - very excited!!!

-Hiking in Little Cottonwood Canyon!!!  I still have a lot of exploring to do up there - it is so absolutely beautiful!

-Utah Arts Festival!!!  I got exposed to my first Poetry Slam this year at the UT Arts Fest!  So amazingly good!  I don't normally consider myself much of a poetry person, but these artists gave me chills and brought me close to tears! SO SO SO Good!  *Snaps* PUSH!!! (you'd get it if you were there...)

- Hitchcock Marathon at the Gallivan!!!  Nothing like cozying up in some blankets on the grass and watching Hitchcock's finest on the big screen!  

- Twilight Concert Series!!!  Bon Iver, The Black Keys, M. Ward, Iron and Wine, Toots and the Maytals, and Q-Tip --- all for free in downtown SLC.  YAY!

-Harry Potter!!!  Comes out in a few days!!! I'm not even trying to hide my excitement!!!

-Samba Gringa!!!  Live Samba music with the big drums, samba dancers, and occasionally some Capoeira - these guys pop up all over Salt Lake and they are AWESOME!!!

- Sailing!  I will make my dad take me at some point this summer.  Let the lessons begin!  Good thing there happen to be some particularly large lakes in Utah...

And ultimately the very very best part about this summer is the awesome people I am spending it with...  I have absolutely amazing friends and I am having a blast!  YAY!