Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We must move

Moving is one of the most bittersweet life events all humans must do. At some point everyone has to move. Whether moving when you’re a kid cause your parents got a new job in a different place, moving out your parent’s house for college or moving into your first home or apartment.

This past week I moved from my family home in rural Connecticut to Harlem, NYC. I have spent the last three years since college living at home, which has been a blessing. Living in Connecticut I could be exposed to activities I wouldn’t have in the city. I was able to hike on the Appalachian Trail anytime I pleased since my hometown falls right on the trail. I was able to work on a farm a mile from my house and receive organic vegetables regularly. I re fell in love with the being outdoors and came to the realization that I feel most at peace when I am in nature. 

I was lucky enough to form a new relationship with the parents in my early twenties. That felt more like a best friendship then parents. However I knew I couldn’t stay in Connecticut forever. Although I will always be a country girl I knew it was time for me to move like the water in the Housatonic River that runs by my house.

An opportunity presented itself to move in with two of my best friends in the city and I took it. My first apartment and my first time living in the city. Although there is less nature to get lost in in New York there is culture to be experienced at every moment.

When packing I kept it simple. My favorite clothes, bedding, toiletries, plants and a few trinkets that I reminded me of home. As nervous as I was to move from the horse farm I grew up on to the big apple. I knew it was time to go. One of the hardest things about living in the area of Connecticut I was in was the complete lack of diversity. I was always the only black person where ever I went. 
Now that I am here it feels amazing being in a neighborhood with deep roots of Black History and Pan Africanism. 

I still have much exploring to do in Harlem and around the entire city. I feel like I am on a new planet. I am thankful that I decided to move and allow a fresh experience into my life. If you don’t move things will never change and that’s not always positive. I look forward to sharing this next chapter of my life with you all in the city that is full of big dreamers who apparently never sleep.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering Dr. King

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday first observed in 1986. The late Dr. King was a pastor, humanitarian, activist and the leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. His words, actions and leadership shaped the world we live in today. Without him this country very well could have stay segregated suffering in it’s own inequality.
Although Dr. King is widely known for his leadership in the south some may not know that many of the grass roots of the Civil Rights Movement started right in Amenia, N.Y. Dr. King frequently visited the Troutbeck Estate in Amenia. Owned at the time by Amy and Joel Spingarn the intellectuals attracted liberals and innovators to their estate including Pan Africanist W.E.B Dubois. A friend of Joel’s DuBois even visited Troutbeck to hammer out the fundaments of the NAACP of which Joel was the second president of the civil rights organization.

Recently I got the opportunity to photograph a historical treasure at Troutbeck a letter written to Amy Spingarn from Dr. King sent in 1957 to the Spingarn’s home in New York City. The letter was written after Joel Spingarn had passed away.  The beautifully written letter was to express appreciation to the Spingarns and all the board of directors of the NAACP for choosing Dr. King as the recipient of the Spingarn Medal of the year. In the letter King is extremely humbled by the Spingarn’s actions in the civil rights movement. A section of the letter reads, “ Let me express my appreciation to you for the great part that you and your late husband have played in the struggle for freedom and human dignity for all people. The names of the Spingarns will go down in history as symbol of the struggle for freedom and justice.” 
It was a honor to photograph and hold the blown up copy of the letter which remains displayed in the library at Troutbeck. I had no idea that Amenia had such deep civil rights activism roots in this small rural town which I have frequently visit and cover for the newspaper. 

Happy MLK Day everyone! 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Recipe: Smoothie Bowl

The smoothie bowl, is the latest breakfast trend. I have seen an increase in photos people are posting of their artistically berry and nut decorated smoothie bowls sprinkled with chai, flax or sunflower seeds on Instagram. I decided that it was finally my turn to give the smoothie bowl a whirl.  

Ingredients I used 
two large scoops of Greek yogurt
spoonful of almond butter
handful of blackberries & frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon each of chia seeds, sunflower seeds and chocolate chips

I put greek yogurt, frozen blueberries, blackberries and almond butter into a blender with coconut water to loosen into smoothie liquid form. I then poured smoothie substance into a bowl and decorated the top with blackberries, blueberries, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips and chia seeds. The result was like a cold fruity soup. It was tasty but I think next time I will put less coconut water in and let the chia seeds sit in the smoothie bowl for a couple minutes to let the smoothie thicken out.
This weekend try making your own smoothie bowl for breakfast there are so many different fruit, berry, seed combinations you can really make it your own! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A celebration of tonight's Broad City S2 Premiere in Fan Art

gif By Mike Perry 

There are few television shows that have impacted like Broad City.  The last show I was this obsessed with was As Told By Ginger or Zoey 101 (my best friend can attest to this as embarrassing as that sounds). 
However the web series turned Comedy Central hit starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer is pure genius. In one season the show has gained a cult like following as like a stoner girl's bible if you will. 
Although all you have to do is watch the show to know why it's as incredible as it is. What I find most endearing about the two young comedians is their fan’s absolute adoration for them expressed via art.
 Since the show premiered Abbi and Ilana have shared their Broad City fan art on social media. Abbi is an illustrator herself. From illustrations, graphic art, nail art, watercolors, cross stitch and more fans have creatively expressed their love of the feminist heros. I searched far and wide through the depths of the internet to gather a collection of my top favorite Broad City fan art in celebration of the season two premiere tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. You would be a damn fool not to be watching!

Parallel Play by Batalla

Illustration by Tyler Wintermute
Illustrator KR Whalen
By Illustrator Ryan Casey
The New Yorker!
Artist Unknown

Map of NYC by Abbi Jacobson 
by Illustrator Emma Munger 
We are like feminist heros right now by Steve Beres
Portraits by Oh Gosh, Cindy
Watercolor by Sophie Argetsinger

If I incorrectly sourced your work please let me know and I will update it immediately. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

6 Reasons Why I Hula Hoop

Lately, I have been thinking to myself why do I hoop? It’s been four years since I first picked up the hoop. But it isn’t until recently that I have really thought to myself what is it about hula hooping that keeps bringing me back. Here is my list of the six reason why I hula hoop.

Hobbies are important

DJing and hula hooping a Winter Solstice party. 

In Nick Offerman’s American Ham one-man standup he goes through his “10 tips for delicious living.” Number 5 on his list includes “Get a Hobby.” Similar to his role as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation in real life Offerman loves woodworking. Offerman says, “A hobby is an unfortunate word for something that has beautiful meaning in someone’s life.” Although the word hobby is horrible sounding it is a way to escape into what excites us. Hobbies are not your career but what you love to do. Sometimes such as in Offerman’s case those hobbies can bring you money since he does have a successful woodshop company in Los, Angeles. Similar to Offerman I too have found ways to generate income out of my hula hooping hobby. However with hobbies it isn’t about the money, it’s about the fact that you have found an activity that you make extra time for even if you are not getting paid. As Offerman says, “Whatever it is that you love to do that is the sexiest part of you.”

Express yourself

Giving a hoop performance at Grumbling Gryphon's Theater Camp. 

Hoop dancing is a performance art. By dancing with the hoop you are expressing yourself creatively. As someone who is always finding ways to be creative this is a facet of hooping I am always tuned into. The way you dance and move your body tells a story. You can hoop fast and crazy to convey anger or slow and sensual to show sadness or love. Using the hoop you can make shapes, create an illusion and trick the mind. Hula hooping becomes your physical mood ring. I find it very fulfilling and empowering. 


LED hooping in Kent, CT. Photo by Ian Abrams

There are many ways to meditate and hula hooping is one of them. Have you ever heard of the Whirling Dervishes? It’s an ancient Sufi practice of whirling in circles to connect with god. The Whirling Dervishes spin for up to hours in big skirts to achieve enlightenment. There is something about the act of spinning that centers oneself inward and calms the mind of any story or chatter. I believe by spinning one can simply reach a new mode of consciousness that leaves the mind content and at peace. When I reach that level of ecstasy when hooping there is nothing like it. It’s a natural high.


Hooping on the beach in Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Nedjra Manning 

For many years I was a runner. I ran cross country and track growing up. I used to run for miles with my team and by myself. However when I tore my meniscus playing basketball I got knee surgery and never really ran the same. Although I am fully healed I still run with a slight limp. I soon stopped running and quickly lost my runner’s body. I started hula hooping because it seemed interesting but also because I knew it was a form of exercise. Talking to my doctor I learned that hula hooping is a great cardiovascular exercise. It tones and body and increases your heart rate. When I hoop I use all parts of my body and improves my hand eye coordination. I never have been one for going to the gym. I love hula hooping because you can do it anywhere all you need is your hoop.

Because regular dancing isn’t as fun anymore 

Hooping at the Lantern Inn Wassaic, NY. 

This one sounds silly but is so true. I have gotten so used to dancing with a hoop that if I dance without my hoop I don’t know what to do with my body. I just start doing hoop tricks pretending like I have an invisible hoop it’s weird and awkward. When you start hoop dancing the hoop becomes your dance partner and an extension of yourself. It’s hard to go back to dancing without a hula hoop once you’ve seen the other side.

Connects you to new people

My local hoop group at Bulls Bridge in Kent, CT. 

Since I have started hula hooping I have made new friends through the hoop. Every time I hoop in a public place people will come up and say “Hey how did you learn to do that" or  "I am a Hooper too” then we will start geeking out about hoop related topics. I don’t know what I would do without my local hoop tribe. In the warmer months we meet on a weekly basis and have hoop jams together either next to a river or in an open field. We hoop, play music, laugh and just hang out. It’s nice to have that camaraderie and it’s a great way to learn new tricks from other people instead of watching hoop tutorials all the time. 

It's fun!  

Minis at sunset on Skiff Mountain. Photo by Sara Morales

There is no better way to say it hula hooping is just fun to do. I love discovering a new song and then rocking out to it with my hoop. It brings me joy to be able to dance and express myself through my body. If I am having a bad day all I need to do is spend 30 minutes hula hooping and suddenly anything that was worrying me disappears. You learn to find your flow and you dance because it makes you feel good. 

Photo by Sade Joseph
Happy Hooping!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Setting an intention

What does it mean to set an intention? By dictionary definition it means something that you plan to do. Everyday we set little intentions. We intend to read more, drink more water, spend less time on Facebook, eat healthier the list goes on. However sometimes those intentions can be difficult to keep. Instead of drinking water we drink soda because its tastier (lets be honest), we eat fast food because it’s cheaper and we stare at the glare of our phones because it’s more convenient than reading a book.

However everyday we have the chance to start over. But sometimes it doesn’t seem to click until a new year has come. This morning I woke up at 6 a.m. and caught a glimpse of the full wolf moon, the first full moon of 2015. Instead of going back to sleep I went outside and stared at the soulful white circle as it drifted behind the mountain that landscapes my house. For that moment I remembered that there is always a chance to start over and set a new intention.

With the New Year finally upon is I am going to set an intention to make it a priority to bring new life to my blog. I intend to share my path as a writer and hoop artist with this online community. As well as what inspires me from art, music, food, travel, style and more. Join me on this journey. Check in and set an intention of your own. Whether it means cutting a person out of your life who isn’t supporting your path or taking time to walk outside everyday. It’s never too late to begin again.  

Photos by Arvolyn Hill 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Discovering an American city: Austin

In mid March I had the pleasure of taking a break from New England’s brutal winter to visit the succulent city of Austin, Texas. I was long overdue to visit my best friend Isabelle Barron, who moved to Austin over a year ago.
Isabelle and one of Austin's massive Agave plants
I picked a high demand time to be in the city, which was gearing up to support a hundred thousand tourists for South by Southwest (SXSW). A two-week long film, interactive and music festival and conference taking place in downtown Austin. Isabelle and I had no tickets to any of it and Isabelle had little interest in being anywhere near it. I quickly learned that although SXSW is the highest producing revenue event for the city, its also a huge headache for Austin locals. Many of Isabelle’s friends were fleeting the city letting tourists stay in their apartments through Airbnb.

I didn’t mind not being able to attend SXSW, I was more curious to see every part of this unique American city that until this point I knew little about. Austin is a young city most people looked to be twenties or thirties. I distinctly remember the one elderly person I met and thought they seemed out of place. Most people have tattoos, I felt unorthodox not having some part of my body inked.
We hiked the arid landscape of the Barton Creek Greenbelt trails, ate fried avocado tacos from Austin’s infamous Torchy’s Taco Truck and shopped at thrift stores in South Congress neighborhood.
An amazing herbalist shop great for unique gifts! 
However what I became well acquainted with was Austin’s thriving yoga community. Throw a rock in Austin you will most likely hit three yoga studios. Isabelle also had just received her yoga teaching certification a few weeks before. Yoga isn’t just a weekly workout for her it’s a lifestyle. In Austin every yoga class we attended was packed with no sympathy for tardiness, locking out anyone who is five minutes late to class.
My first Austin yoga class was lead by teacher Annick at Yoga Yoga Studio. Annick had the face of a 60-year old women but the body of an 18-year old gymnast. Annick took us through a series of flow Hatha yoga poses, which engages physical and mental strength. Annick had a thick accent. The only time I could understand her was when she told us we would never recover if we fell too deeply into a mere body pretzel pose she put us in. Although her class was rigorous my body felt tension free after. I later learned Annick is South African and has studied yoga at Kripalu. When she started yoga she couldn’t touch her toes.
Our post hike taco feast at Tacodeli
Everyday I was in Austin the SXSW masses poured into the city. Downtown Austin turned into a SXSW theme park. SXSW was drawling all types of noteworthy people to the city including Girls creator Lena Dunham, rapper Snoop Dog, Photographer Brandon Stanton of Human Of New York and even the Internet most celebrated Grumpy Cat. In the midst of this were two girls trying to make a 6 p.m. yoga class on time in the heart of the SXSW nightlife.
A young man with curly black hair named Joshua Wise was our yoga teacher. We set up our mats in a circle in the center of the studio. Wise told us it would be a Prana class, which focuses on meditating and chanting. Wise turned on a meditation box from India that played a droning sound throughout the studio. He told us to sit upright, close our eyes and to say “OM.”  Like a chorus we would “OM” together take a deep breath and ‘OM’ again. Although my body was still in the studio with every chant I felt my mind become numb and simple. Our chants filled the room with a hum like the sound of a buzzing beehive. After 45 minutes of chanting my mouth unconsciously wanted to keep going. At the end when I opened my eyes I had to remind myself where I was. After the class I decided to ask Wise what got him into yoga.
“My life was totally falling apart,” said Wise. “I graduated college with no job I knew I was in debt and I was freaking out. I went into a donation yoga class and I left feeling amazing. I was hooked I practiced yoga before, but never when I was in such a desperate place. It saved my life.”
Run DMC graffiti on the Sugar Mamas Bake Shop
After hearing Wise’s reasoning I realized that most of the yogis I met in Austin got into yoga for similar reasons. They were suffering from a traumatic event or dealing with depression and yoga became their medicine. Isabelle has suffered from depression and anxiety for as long as I have known her.
“Self-love has been an issue my whole life,” said Isabelle. “I think I had tried literally every way to cope with it besides being kind to myself.”
Although Isabelle tried yoga on and off since she was a child, it didn’t become essential for her until she moved to Austin. Moving to a new city alone was difficult and not long after she suffered a personal tragic event. While on the phone crying with her father he told her to leave her apartment and walk to the nearest yoga studio. Isabelle listened to her father, took her first Austin yoga class at the same studio she would receive her yoga teacher training.
“It was helping me so significantly and quickly it was amazing," said Isabelle. "I have never experienced anything quite like that and I still feel it everyday,” “Some people go to twelve step meetings, I have to practice yoga. I have to meditate and I have to practice mindfulness.”
Isabelle doing standing bow pose  

Coming from a small town in Connecticut where yoga teachers struggle for enough students to hold class, I was fascinated being in a place immersed in yoga culture. Each class took me out of my comfort zone. If I was holding a pose that was uncomfortable and I wanted to stop I kept going and eventually the discomfort would pass. Yoga teaches us that when dealing with a painful situation in life to face it because in time that pain will also pass.
By the end of my time in Austin I had completely fell in love with the city. I loved the gigantic aloe plants on every street, the abundance of delicious taco trucks, the unbelievably kind Austinites and the yoga community that taught me there is always room to grow.
Isabelle and I on my last day in Austin