on cats and tango and hot summer days

It's the dog days of summer now. We've had one day of rain in the last month...and it was about maybe .50 inch. That's not good. The garden has long since passed on to brown. No amount of water could save it from weeks of unbroken days over 100 degrees F. Maybe the fall garden (should we ever get anything remotely resembling fall) will be better.

It's so hot the Mitten (Mittles) sleeps under the house during the day...

And Elvis decided that taking a nap with his rump in his waterbowl was a good idea:

He's not the brightest candle in the bunch.

For tango, I am eagerly awaiting the tango festival in Portland in October and some instruction with some new teachers and my regular teacher Alex (for a reality check). I am not exactly sure how the instruction will differ for the festival versus what the regular teachers teach for social dancing, but I'm sure to still get plenty to chew on.

I had a couple of classes over the weekend that left me exhausted. One technique class taught by Daniela Arcuri where she made us work our legs, feet and upper torso positions. I haven't done that kind of stuff in years! I was so tired!

The second class focused on embrace for the first half. Her words, I believe, boiled down to something like "I've seen how you are dancing here (in America or Texas?) and I want to show you how we dance in Argentina. You go to clases and you practice and then you go to the milonga and use an ambrace." That was the jist of it. And if she meant just my area of Texas and it's persistant use of what she calls a "practice" embrace as the main method of "embracing", I can surely believe her....

She spent a great deal of time explaining how a slightly offset "v" embrace works technically. And this wasn't the variety of "v' I have learned in the past, with body contact mainly in the armpit/shoulder area, but a full torso contact embrace. Thinking back over the years and the first time I learned close embrace, I think what she taught was what my original close embrace teacher wanted to go for, but was not able to convey to me. Ah well, no biggie, I went to Portland a couple of years ago and learned the brother of this closed "v", the flat on chest to chest close embrace favored there.

I do like how she explained the whole range of positions for the "v" embrace, and how to accomodate socially for it, especially with people who don't know how to do close embrace. She basically said, you just have to use the practice(classroom) embrace with follows hand on the leads shoulder blade or arm and fully upright posture, which was the conclusion I came to some time ago..and so I make do on the occasions when I go out dancing, and try to limit time spent dancign with people who only know how to dance this way.

I did not like the rather large and unsocial pattern she showed to the class in the last half. It was unnecesaarly large, not suitale for a crowded floor (which most floors in my area are) but based on something entirely social that she COULD have shown, but didn't. I am chagrined that I didn't even ask about it, but I was so busy trying to deal with the problems I wa encountering in practice that I didn't think about it. I will have to do better about that in lessons and learn to ask to be shown how things could be paired down for the social floor, because I doubt most people would think to do that. They go to a workshop, the teacher shows them something, and because it's the teacher they assume that what has been shown is OK to use anywhere, anytime. That is the fault of the teachers, IMO, and it's very dissapointing because it turned what could have been a great class in to one where I ended up rolling my eyes and saying "Oye- now people will try this long sequence of huge sweeping boleos at a restaurant and take out half a dozen couples". The teachers must think the people they teach have the sense of judgement to know better and also know how to pare things down (as I was trying to do) but that, in my experience, has not been the case.


Pickling....that's what my grandma used to do in the summer...pickled green beans, pickled cucumbers...green tomato chow chow....

I wish I'd paid a little more attention to all this when she was around because now I have decided to try pickling.

We've got gardens....

green beans...check
tomatoes...check check
pumpkin....I'm still not entirely convinced the plants that came up are pumpkin...

I got some jars from the chow chow my mother in law gave us in the fall...
I got vinegar, and dill...

So I found a recipe and watched a video or two and decided to give it a go. After some frantic vinegar cooking to make a big enough batch, putting jars in water baths and all that, I had 3 jars of pickled beans and onions. I closed the jars like they said- not too tight while they were hot, and sure enough 15 or so minutes later, the jars made popping sounds and sealed themselves- very cool! I can only hope I got the pickling mixture right and they will taste alright now. I guess I'll know in a couple of weeks!

tango pictures

We've been having fun with video stills...I've been going though videos we take of our practicing (always a necessity to try to ge the bugs out) and saving still photos from them because we don't have hardly any decent looking pics of us dancing...

This prompted a round of getting "nice" dance pics made (photos coming soon) but I think I did alright on my own with the stills...the professional photography has some great shots (silhouettes and frozen boleos), but we're just not that fancy. I'm glad we went through the experience though...more on that later...

Here's some recent photos...

Shoe Train- the 2008 Shoe Review

It's the end of the year and I decided to take stock of all my tango shoes and give them a good cleaning to start the new year out right. And since the tango shoe blog I had been blogging on for the last year or so (Tango Shoe Divas) seems to be a little defunct (you can still get to it, but you have to know how...) I thought I'd go ahead and keep carrying the torch over here for awhile.

Pretty shoes, while not a necessity for dancing tango, really do become a little bit of an addiction after awhile. And I had a lot of shoe disasters this past year so it's time to reflect on pretty shoes, comfort shoes and what I really think I need for the next year. So I'll go through my shoes by makers and comment on them, what I think of them...and more importantly, how they make my messed up feet feel after an hour of dancing.

Why is this such an obsession? Well, I have a lot of foot problems and so while I want my feet to look pretty, I don't care to be crippled after 5 years of dancing from wearing bad or tight shoes so finding the right shoe is a must...and takes trial and error...in my case...lots of error!

Here's the shoe train: I have 2 pairs of Comme Il Fauts, 2 Neotangos that I am happy with, 2 pairs of Jorge Nel's Forever dance shoes, 2 pairs of Diva-Boutique shoes and my practice shoes....that's 8 pairs of tango shoes, plus the practice pair...heavy on the black, not too bad for a low buget diva. The only thing I really need is a nice pair of dressy neutral shoes....

Now I'll go through them by maker...

The ever fashionable COmme Il Faut:

I'm really not all that fond of CIF...the are so pretty...and have so little padding in the front my feet hurt in as little as 30 mintues when I wear them. I have probably worn these 2 pairs less than 10 times each since I got them. They do cut the shoes well, and they are rock solid stable in the heel placement. But why can't they just update to modern times with the padding and offer a heel that is under 3 1/4" up the back? It's NOT necessary to have teetering heels to look good while dancing....


I like Neotango. They have good flexibility in the soles, which helps me be able to wear them a lot longer while dancing (though not the whole evening most days). These are the pretty sparkly lame' and suede model. The sparkly heel is the main attraction here. And it comes in a more comfortable 6.5cm heel...much more up my alley. The bad news is, they seem to have variable QC when it comes to fit. These are both the same model shoe, but the red ones ran quite wide. That ended up being ok, because I added a padded insole and they feel great...but if you aren't expecting that, well....that's a problem at $170 per pair. And don't even ask about that purple pair my friend exchanged for me in BSAs back in November....

Jorge Nel (Forever Dance shoes)

I like these shoes. They are fun. They were less than half the price of Comme Il Faut at a tango workshop. He was set up at the big tango weekend here and I went a little nuts going back and forth to get the right shoe. They fit alright. I'm not as fond of the heel placements he uses, but the pink ones were my favorite. They shouldn't have fit, but they are cut wide and they did. Bad thing is that the sizing on his shoes is very variable (size 6's labeled as 5, size 6's that fit like 7's and 7's that fit like 6's) so I wouldn't buy over the Internet, only at a show where I could try things on. Worth it for some fun shoes if you can find him at a workshop.

Diva Boutique:

Kathleen designs some nice shoes. The materials are good quality. She does some lower heels and some higher heels. They are comfortable, and decently priced. The only thing I think could be improved on is the padding on the insoles. It could be updated to something newer and more "squishy", and maybe some lower heels that aren't quite so granny looking...


I love my Bloch Splitflex. They are really comfortable. I can wear these little guys for hours. They have a 2 1/2" heel which is high enough but not too high...and very stable shank under the foot with a very flexible sole. (This was my main complaint against "character" shoes in the past, but Bloch solved it.)

And Tara tango:

Though I don't own these, I tried the new Tara Alegria shoes on recently. They are really pretty, very comfortable and had very soft leather with interchangebale cross strap or scarf tie. Her padding in these rocks...it's all the way from heel to toe and nice and "squishy". The bad news is these heels were too high for me (at 3.5") so they could not be my valentine...though she does have lots of low heel styles. I'm usually not all that fond of her styles (too conservative) but these were really nice.

shoe nightmare

Well- A friend of mine ended up being able to exchange the pretty black and red pair of shoes for me when she went to Buenos Aires....and got me a replacement pair of a style I have worn before...

They are so pretty!!!! They are too tight!!!!

How can the shoe manufacturer's there possibly do any worse on quality control! They are a size 6, but on the regular to narrow side rather than the WIDE side that I need...

So here is a beautiful piece of eye candy...because that's all I can do is put it on the shelf and look at it....my chubby toes just don't like it!

Perhaps I can take them to Houston for Homer and Christina's workshop an dmaybe someone will fit them....

tango shoes

Are you or someone you know addicted to Argentine Tango?

Need a good pair of shoes?

I got these beautiful Neotango shoes from a friend who just got back from Argetnina and got them for me. They are too big...I am a US 6-6.5 and these are a 7.

Black suede with red leather details. leather soles, 6.5 cm heel (2.5" up the front edge and 3" up the back side)- very comfortable. 9.5" length on the insole and 3" width.

I tried them on once and my mom (who wears somewhere between a 7-7.5 tried one on too and found them a little tight for her) so they are brand new, never been danced in.

US retail on these is $170+. I've got them posted for $130 so it's a good discount for a really good quality pair of shoes...


Popular bumper stickers in the town I live in...



"Bush 2004"

"Bush 2000"

Well- that ought to give you some idea of what my town is like...always a joy trying to negotiate the minefield of social conservatives here....

Hollow Beads

Recently, I had a customer who wanted hollow beads. I hadn't done hollow beads in over a year and figured I would regret it but said yes anyway because she has been a regular for awhile and I get sentimental about that and try to please.

Unfortunately- when you don't do something for over a year that you used to do really well, it's very frustrating getting it going again. I felt like I was reinventing the wheel.

But- after a few bad starts- my persistance paid off. The hollow beads I am doing now are some of the biggest and nicest ever. I think I've finally memorized the proper technique for them again!

This weeks hollow beads (and a few others):

Chicken TV

Some days- it's like living on a farm around here!

These chickens turned up in our yard a couple of months ago. They've been wandering around in our yard and the neighbors daily...Turns out the neighbor 2 doors down bought them. They just wander up and down our part of the street doing chicken things.... The cats are totally entranced by this. They sit out in their cat pen and watch them every day they show up under the oak tree. I call it chicken TV! (and thank my lucky stars they are not roosters.)