January 2011 Archives

Hobart. Jan 27 - Jan 29.

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The Tasmania adventure begins with a flat tire.

Jewelz' friend, Robin came to pick us up but her car got itself skewered with a screw in the airport parking lot. We jacked up the car and pulled out the spare to discover that it was flat, too. Fortunately, we had hoops to keep us occupied while we waited for the RAA to arrive. And while we had the tire repaired in Hobart, we enjoyed lunch at a yummy cafe. So it wasn't a bad start to the adventure, at all.

Robin's a dancer, hooper, aerialist and teacher who met Jewelz at Circusfest in 2009. We were visiting for a few days before heading to this year's Circusfest. Jewelz taught hoop classes in Cygnet, a charming village and the farthest south on the planet I've ever been.


I love Robin's place. It's a large parcel of land that supports Robin, her cat, three chickens and some wild paddimonts. Her house is amazing - octagonal open plan in design with a combined kitchen garden and bath space off the kitchen. It's off the grid - power is solar, there is an outhouse (or the bush) for toilet needs, and water is catchment. It is peaceful and I relished staying there while we geared up for Circus Fest.

On Saturday morning we loaded the car with hoops, gear, and the three of us as we drove north to Launceston. We picked up Lara in the park there, crammed her and her bags into our remaining space and then hit the supermarket for fresh produce. We arrived at the campsite with enough daylight to set up our tents and cook a great dinner.

And then the fun really began.

Sydney. Jan 21 - 27

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I flew out of Tokyo winter and into summer in Sydney on the 21st. Thanks to the hospitality of Jewelz and her family, I had a great time staying in Cronulla in the Shire south of Sydney. We were on the beach in a minute's barefoot walk, and two minutes' walk from some excellent coffee and cheap shopping for sandals and $6 dresses. And with the RSL next door, there was an entertaining happy hour with the veterans one afternoon.


The Sydney Juggling Convention was my aim and I went with hoops and enthusiasm. The atmosphere was casual but intense at the same time. Of course there was talent in abundance. Jugglers do make me swoon, and I kept finding myself just standing there, staring at all the motion and concentration in the room. It was like a drug.

I swore I'd learn to juggle in an environment full of inspiring tossers. But I didn't. I managed better than I ever had, though, and especially when I was hooping at the same time. Weird. I bought a set of clubs because there are these mechanical moves called legos that are mind-twisting and teasing to get right. Even if I can't juggle my clubs (yet), I can enjoy them in interesting ways. Plus, clubs are really fun to swing and a challenge to pack into a suitcase. Who could want more?

Despite desiring a juggling breakthrough, I was there to hoop and make friends. I did both.


We hoopers took over a section of the gymnasium for our play and training. We ran the gamut from serious circus stars to fun-seeking spinners. I discovered the differences between circus hooping and hoop dance (I'll share that revelation in a separate post soon). I learned drills which will become a firm foundation of my hoop practice. There were numerous corrections and suggestions for improvement in my hoop stance and style. It was hard and fulfilling at the same time. And it wasn't all serious. There was lots of trick sharing, laughing and general jolly play. One afternoon, we rolled hoops down our backs in a long line, then passed a hoop foot-to-foot around a circle of a dozen of us lying in the ground.

During the convention, I taught a few ad hoc workshops including off body, hand and isolation hooping with Lisa and a morning warm-up featuring my favorite Kundalini sequence combined with Jewelz' leading the Tibetan Five Rites. I spun so fast and furious during the rites that I popped the blood tiny vessels in my hands. That was freaky.

After three wonderful days at the convention, I was on my own for Australia Day, as Jewelz and Lisa were teaching a workshop, so I went into Sydney and wandered around the harbour area, listening to bands in the Rocks and sitting in the shade of the botanic garden with an ice cream and a long phone call to Tod.


Really I was just waiting for the Amanda Fucking Palmer concert to start. I love Amanda Palmer. She is hot and smart and sings like I do in my dreams. Her show was fabulous and the backing band, Mikelangelo & The Black Sea Gentlemen, were equally incredible. There was a working barbecue on stage, she drank VB (what were they thinking) pulled out of an icy eskie, and wore an Australian flag corset.

I was lucky to discover that one my new juggling friends, Adam, was also going to the concert so we met on the stairs outside the venue and went in together. Another stroke of good luck had us sitting next to each other thanks to an observant usher. We squealed, shouted, and whispered, squeezed hands and generally enthused wildly through the entire concert. Neil Gaiman read three of his short works and I closed my eyes and imagined he was reading to me - never mind the other thousands in the opera house. I loved hearing you read about megafauna; thank you, Mr. Gaiman. And thanks, Adam, for being an awesome concert date.

The next morning, Jewelz and I packed up our luggage, shouldered our hoops, and headed to Tasmania. The main event was about to begin - Circus Fest!

From my travel notebook

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"My heart is so full and open today; I am overwhelmed by emotions. I am happy to be alive, grateful to everyone who loves and supports me, eager to be adventuring & learning more, sad to leave Sydney, awed by the vastness of the planet, and moved by every detail and nuance of the beauty around me. All while singing 'Map of Tasmania' silently to myself. It's all too much really. I need a cuddle."

Written on the flight to Hobart. January 27, 2011.

Nominated for two Hoopie Awards!



On a whim last summer, I dreamed up and acted on a project for World Hoop Day: a choreographed hoop dance that would be done around the world.

It came together beautifully over the next few months. I made video tutorials for people to learn the moves. I taught the dance in the park and in the classroom. I lost a hoop to the trains. Stina, D, and I performed the dance in front of my heros and fellow hoopers at Hoop Camp. And then it all culminated in October with a public dance performance in 17 locations worldwide on World Hoop Day and a compilation video of the scores of happy hoop dancers who took part.

And now the event and the video are both finalists in hooping.org's annual Hoopie Awards. I am gobsmacked to have something I worked on recognised this way. You should see the list of nominees. It is a Who's Who of the hooping world. Wow.

I am so very proud of everyone who participated in the dance. There were hoopers from almost every continent - so many people took the time and effort to learn it, share it, perform it, and video it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the dancers and to the folks who nominated the WHD Dance for the Hoopies.

If we win a Hoopie, it is a group honor for everyone who joined in and supported the project. And if we don't win a Hoopie, it is still a great pleasure to have been nominated and make it to the finalists. Let's give ourselves a hand regardless. Yay, us!!

You can see all the inspiring hoopers up for awards and vote at Hooping.org until 9pm PST on Friday.

Physical Crises



In the past 24 hours, I've had news of three people in my family with physical issues.

Maureen, my sister-in-law in Pittsburgh, is in the hospital on bed rest awaiting the birth of her twins. She went into labor on Friday, but it was too soon. She and the twins have to hang in there until Monday when they reach week 34. Everyone seems to be safe and healthy at the moment. I'm sending positive energy and anti-contraction thoughts her way.

Tod woke up yesterday with pain in his side. After some Internet research, he believes he has a kidney stone. The pain is mostly bearable and manageable with Advil right now, so we're hoping the stone will pass through on its own in the next day or two, like Wikipedia says 85% of them do. If not, Tod's off to the doctor for testing and stronger drugs. It is very hard to see him in pain and scared. Kidney stones don't generally kill or maim but they hurt like hell.

My mother woke on Tuesday feeling off balance and hinkey on her feet. By Wednesday it got bad enough that she was dragging her right foot around behind her, so she called the ambulance and went to the ER. An MRI of her lower back indicated a nerve inflammation; they dosed her with steroids and made an appointment with the spinal specialist. With Mom, limitations and restrictions spark creative solutions. Her theatre friend is bringing over a walker from Mom's prop room, she's taking sponge baths in the powder room sink, and she's ordered a week of Meals On Wheels. All is under control and I hope the specialist gets her back on her feet quickly.

If you are in my family, you might be safe because bad news comes in threes, right? Otherwise, please take care of yourself.

Sunny Winter Hooping


hoops & feet

Tokyo has the best winter weather. The skies are blue, the sun warms the day just enough to let me peel off my coat and layers to expose shoulders and feet. January has perfect afternoons for hooping, though the legwarmers, shirts and woolly knits go back on as soon as the sun slips behind the rooftops.

I was out in the park with my hoops for two hours yesterday and for another two today. It was almost too beautiful to stop and I am scraped and bruised and ever so slightly achy all over, just the way I like it. I have 15 days to get myself back into decent hooping form to avoid embarrassment when I meet my friends and make new friends at the Sydney Juggling Convention and CircusFest.

However, I'm not going to be embarrassed even though I am soft from too many Christmas cookies and rusty from taking nearly two months off from hooping after Spin Matsuri. I am who I am and I can do what I do. I try to accept myself and my hooping as it is. There's no comfort in comparing myself to others. There are much better hoopers than me in every genre. They are young, fast, flexible, professional, creative and generally amazing. They are great inspiration but I do not strive to be them.

Which isn't to say I'm not trying to improve, explore, or make progress in my hooping. I am and I do, but it's a challenge that's internally motivated: Be strong! Be engaged! Figure this out! Be joyful!

Yesterday I decided that one of my weak points in hooping is using vertical space - namely getting down low. I tend to topple or lose my footing when I bend my knees in dynamic motion. So I worked on that and on some floorwork. I think I have "tossing a hoop from your foot in a random direction" perfected. I wish I could do the foot-to-foot pass as consistently. I played with some circus-y tricks and just danced for a while. It was fun. I smiled a lot.

Today I brought out my smaller hoops because they will be lighter to travel with and I want to get used to them again. These are 85 cm, rather than the 95 cm hoops I've been playing with lately, so they are enough smaller to make me work faster. I did a lot of core hooping to let my muscle memory recall the pace. Then I did floorwork again and some leaping. I puzzled through transitions on some poi-based moves and played with four hoops at once. I hit myself in the head frequently. It was fun. I swore a lot.

The weather reports for the rest of the week says partly sunny with highs between 7 and 12. Looks like I will be out in the park again!

Tropical Fruitcake

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I realise it is a little late (or very early) to be posting a holiday fruitcake recipe, but I wanted to be sure it turned out OK before I shared the recipe. It was delicious!

This cake features tropical dried fruits, coconut and spiced rum. There's not a glace cherry in sight! It is very dense and moist and contains four times as much fruit as flour. I allowed the cake to mature for six weeks in the fridge, but I think it would be fine without the extra storage. Making it ahead does save you from a smidgen of holiday stress, though.

Tropical Fruitcake
makes 1 cake

2 cups mixed dried fruit (pineapple, papaya, mango, raisins, currents, cranberries, etc)
1/2 cup grated dried coconut
1/2 cup spiced rum (enough to cover fruit)

Combine the fruits and coconut, making sure to separate any stuck-together bits of fruit. Pour in the spiced rum. Allow to sit at room temperature overnight. Drain the excess liquid before adding to the cake.

75g butter
1/4 c light brown sugar
1 tsp molasses
2 eggs
1/2 orange rind, grated
scant 1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp ginger
1 Tbsp spiced rum

Line the bottom and 5cm up the sides of a loaf pan with two layers of baking paper. Heat the oven to 140 C.

Cream the butter, sugar and molasses. Add the eggs (if the mixture separates a little, don't panic). Stir in the orange peel, drained fruit and coconut. Mix in the flour and spices. Spoon into the loaf pan and spread evenly.

Bake for about 90 minutes to 2 hours. The cake should be slightly under-baked and very moist, but not wiggly. You may need to cover the pan with foil to keep the cake from browning too much. You can add a small pan of boiling water to the oven to help keep the cake moist, especially if you have a convection oven.

Remove from the oven and brush with 1 Tbsp of spiced rum. Allow to cool, then remove from pan. Peel off the outer layer of baking paper. Wrap the cake in plastic and then in foil and store in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

Welcome Twenty Eleven!

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The Year of the Rabbit hops on stage.

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