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ballet + Copenhagen + denmark + In My Next Life + Life / Friday, 15 Feb 2013

In my next life: Ballerina

photography by Amanda Thomsen
I’m super pleased to introduce a new monthly column to Lars and it’s been a long time in coming. Let me explain. Growing up I felt like I was meant to be a ballet dancer. My mom was a dancer, my aunt was a dancer, and clearly I was also supposed to be one as well. The problem is that my ballet teacher didn’t agree. I was “too chubby” to audition for the Nutcracker at the age of 8. Now, it may seem harsh, but in all honesty, I was tubby and most likely awkward because I was definitely shy and turned bright red when anyone spoke to me. Not a great combo for a graceful dancer. My mom instantly took me out of ballet and enrolled me in tennis and cello and I continue to play to this day. Ultimately, she didn’t want me to grow up in a world where weight and appearance was a factor that dictated her life and I’m very glad she directed me in another direction. I’m also very happy with how my childhood and adolescence played out so though I still would have loved to have been a dancer (and with the right body type), I’m satisfied with the talents and skills I’ve been able to develop. No harm done!

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jobs that I wouldn’t like to try in my next life. Enter new column. This whole internet thing has exposed me to jobs that I never knew existed. Paper floral designer? Color expert? Cupcake maker? Come on, these are dream jobs! In fact, I was going to label this column “Dream Jobs”, but thought that they’re someone’s reality so “In my next life” it is. Every month I’ll feature a different person who inspires me in their chosen profession. First up? Christina Michanek.
Christina Michanek is a soloist at the Royal Danish Ballet. She’s also a good friend of mine and my former landlord. Ha! Paul and I lived on the top floor of her house that she and her husband were renovating. You would think that friendship + landlord could be a recipe for disaster, but these two are the best. I’m their biggest fan. You won’t find two more kind and hardworking people. Part of the reason I was so sad to leave Denmark was because we wouldn’t be by them (and their adorable 2 year old). 
Christina generously invited my mom and me to attend a dress rehearsal of a brand new show at the Ballet in September at the Opera House, The Golden Cockerel (or Den Gyldne Hane), an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov that was turned into a ballet with original choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. She said that the sets and costumes reminded her of me and my jaw just about dropped when I saw them. They’re bright and bold and colorful (see below). They’re the original designs from Ballet Russes. I invited Amanda Thomsen, the awesome photographer with whom I shared a studio in Copenhagen, to come along and document the day. She takes us through from the practice, getting ready and finally the dress rehearsal with her beautiful photos.
Mom and I had a ball watching The Golden Cockerel. Though the story is over-the-top (like all operas), I loved the dancing and original choreography. There was an exotic spin on traditional ballet. I also loved the costumes. It was definitely a feast for the eyes. I tend to like dress rehearsals better than the real thing because you get to hear the banter between the director, maestro, and dancers. It’s a bit more entertaining when you add in the real life drama.
With that in mind, Christina was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Did you always want to be a dancer? 
Before I knew ballet and ballet dancers even existed I wanted to be a librarian. The library was such a magical place for me. It was like a church for stories. And I dreamed of being this superlibrarian who could tell people as soon as I saw them what they should get! 

How did you get into dancing? 
An American missionary who was dancing at Ballet West in Utah, Candice Taylor, made a little dance for all the young girls in my church congregation for a Christmas activity. Ever since she danced for us I was hooked!

Were there people along the way in your field who you admired or helped you shape the decision to be a dancer?
In the school it was my friend Ulrik Birkjær (now principal the company) who was my ‘source’ or his ambition and ballet interest just made him the one I could ask ballet questions and he inspired me to aspire higher. Still does. Apprentice years and early dancer years it was Adam Lüders, Caroline Cavallo, Sorella Englund and Nikolaj Hübbe.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
The feeling of moving in space led by my own musicality. The drama we get to enjoy! I’m a drama junkie! I’ll do a death scene any day any time. The theater magic of costumes, stage light and a live orchestra. 
Is there anything you could do without?
I could do without the judging, elbowing, never good enough chase for perfection. And that it takes forever to get in shape and four days to get out of it…that’s almost evil. 

How do you juggle being a wife/mother with your job?
I make sure to leave work at work and don’t bring it home. And if I need to take a nap before a show I do it in the living room preferably in the beanbag on the floor so it’s easy for my son to play on and around me. FaceTime helps a lot too then we can blow kisses to each other and sing songs and play games. It was a great help when I went on tour recently. 

What’s one of the most memorable moments of your career?
Some of my favorite moments… Watching a colleague on their 40th jubilee and seeing old pictures and video and sensing their love for their work and how much they are loved for sharing their talent. 
First Sylph rehearsal is a special memory too. As soon as Nikolaj [Hübbe, the director of the ballet] had left the studio I let out a little scream and involuntary leap of joy and then I got a little embarrassed cause he could probably hear me. 
Romeo and Juliet balcony pas de deux with Ulrik in Japan. I stole a moment to just soak in the stage, the music, the moment and save it in my heart and mind and it made me shiver with delight. 
Watching Nikolaj dance Apollo in a small proconsul theater, sitting in the wing so fascinated that I almost was on stage! I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind at all. 
I have a lot of favorite moments. 

I loved watching Christina dance. She is pure passion and love for the art. I’m also very lucky to call her my friend. She is beauty, kindness, and integrity. Thank you, Christina, for being letting us follow you around.
Stay tuned for next month’s In My Next Life.

Do you have a dream job? What is it? 
Thank you to Det Kongelige Teater for allowing us to take up some space in the practice room and letting us wander around backstage.

Photography by Amanda Thomsen

flowers + Life + paper + Wedding / Monday, 3 Sep 2012

2 years and thoughts about marriage

Paul and I celebrate two years of marriage today. Yay! On one hand I can’t believe we’ve been married for two years and on the other hand, whoa! I feel like I have SO much to learn still. Most of all, I’ve learned that I’m a SLOW learner. You can be taught your whole life how to have a happy marriage, but you can’t know HOW to apply it until you’re in it and learn things that work for you and your partner. For example, not going grocery shopping together is one of our keys to happiness. Check.
I’ve had a few people mention how they can’t seem to find my wedding pictures on this blog and looking back, it’s because I didn’t post too many here. They were originally published on 100 Layer Cake so I thought I’d post a bunch load today, including some never before footage (so reality show-ish!). Careful, it’s gonna be a doozy.
I remember the day feeling surreal. A lot of the steps of the day kind of seemed like robotic motions because you’ve seen weddings on tv, movies, with friends, etc and then all of a sudden you’re the star of the show. Even if you’re sick (I had a cold and Paul’s back had gone out) you’re running on pure adrenaline and you keep that smile plastered on your face. I was determined not to be frantic or nervous or bridezilla and I don’t think I was, but maybe you should ask someone else for the truth.
But, let’s talk about regrets now. One thing I regret about the day was that I didn’t have our family and friends speak at our reception. I would have LOVED to have heard the speech I’m almost positive my dad prepared. If you know my dad, you know he doesn’t mind a mic (to put it mildly).
The biggest thing I’ve learned about marriage so far is that it’s not something you can do half-heartedly. If you want a marriage to work, you gotta WORK at it. It’s a consistent investment of time and thought. You can’t do something thoughtful one day and think you’re good for while. It’s an every day thing. It’s an “I love you so much I want to make your day good” thing. Oh my, I’ve got a long way to go. I’ve learned that I’m not perfect. Ha! I must have thought I was when I was single. Well, needless to say, marriage is humbling, terrific, relentless, fulfilling and so many other opposites. Thankfully, I’ve married a very patient man who I’ve grown to love more and more each day.
What’s your key to a happy marriage? I’d LOVE to know!
Click below to read more about the wedding reception.

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Crafts + Design + DIY + Life + oh happy day + Projects + Tips / Wednesday, 13 Jun 2012

Oh Happy Day & things I learned about DIYing

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I am saying farewell to contributing to Oh Happy Day. I just loved my time there and am sad to leave, but I need to start focusing more on my projects for Lars and some new exciting projects coming up. I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and do a monstrous recap. When Jordan asked me to start contributing I didn’t really think of myself as a DIYer but somehow over the past year I’ve turned the DIY engine on and it hasn’t stopped. I’ve learned a few things along the way that I thought I’d share them with you.
1. Photography is key. My projects all started with this little paper flower corsage. I took the photo myself on a timer. I think that works for some people who are trained but I ain’t no photographer so I’ve since smartened up and started working with talented photographers like Emily, Hilda, Amanda, and Liv who can add their own artistic spin to the picture. Besides a clear photo, it adds an added layer of creativity.
2. Setting is everything. I did this Peter Pan Party for a church function, but it just was NOT going to look good in its original setting where it was super dark and not conducive to good pictures. So, my friend Maria allowed me to take her place over for a couple of hours where I set it up again and shot in her terrific place. She ended up moving not too long after so I’m glad I got to do a project in her place at least once.
3. Work with somebody. I often don’t heed this advice and end up getting completely overwhelmed, but this ombre tablecloth I worked at Cramer’s studio and she helped me with the equipment and with the photos. I fall guilty of thinking I can do everything myself, but every time I wish I had someone there to assist. I’m trying to get better!
4. Get multiple projects done in one day. I was home visiting my family in California when I did these next few projects including this glitter disco ball lantern. I had done all the projects (mostly) before Emily came to photograph so that when she did we could get them done all in one go. Since it was my first time working this way I wasn’t fully prepared when she arrived and had to figure out a lot of sequencing, but it sure helped free up time over the next couple of months by doing it all in one go.
5. Color selection is key. Pipe cleaners often come in really awful primary colors. I bought a few different packages to gather the right color combos. I combined this pink with an olive rather than going with a full bright combo. I think it keeps the project more modern. I feel that color selection in all DIYs is what will set an excellent DIY from an ok DIY. 
6. Remember what you did as a child and then freshen it up. We did these wallpaper gift bags all the time as kids so when I visited Ferm Living here in Copenhagen and scored some wallpaper and I thought it’d be the best thing to freshen up a childhood craft. 
7. Listen to your mom. Ha! In my case, my mother is a creative genius so it’s easy to do. We often send each other 20 emails a day with ideas. Well, for some reason I didn’t listen to her at first when she told me to do her candy lights but I couldn’t think of anything else so by default I did it. It turned into one of the most popular projects. I just never know when something will be more liked over other projects.
8. Learn from where you go. I am constantly inspired by surroundings and on a 3 week trip to Nepal last year I saw something similar to this that I thought would turn into a great project for a DIY. This is the result. Take pictures, keep a sketchbook to record inspiration.
9. Often the simplest projects can be the best. These flour stencil hearts are so easy, but so fun. I’m often guilty of thinking that projects have to be super complicated, but really, who wants to spend a lot of time on crafts? We want fast and easy! 
10. Create a few styling options. I did a 4 project photoshoot day when I did these paper flower ice cream cones and I was so out of it when Hilda arrived to take pictures. I was so behind that I even had to cab it to go get a few last minute materials. Here in Denmark cabs are crazy expensive so it wasn’t the best. I had spent the night before crafting this ice cream holder that took me way too long. Additionally, I bought some mini flower pots to create stands for the flowers. I had so many different styling options and I don’t think I needed them all, but it’s always so nice to have options to take really great pictures.
11. Redo a project in a new way. I had created wire crowns for another website and thought it’d be cool to do them for a bride. I added some glitter and bada bing bada boom, a brand new project! 
12. Ask for other people’s advice. When Hilda came over to photograph the fruit balloons I asked her what she thought and she responded that they didn’t totally look like fruit. Blast! SO, she was so kind and patient and we headed to the store together where I bought more materials and she helped me blow them up, cut out leaves and try it again. Boy am I glad I asked her advice. They looked so much better the second time and this is my most popular project (according to page views).
13. Use a tripod and create gifs! This gold cupcake stand is the first project I’ve done where I used a tripod. Amanda was so nice in doing it setting it up and taking the pics and we created a little sequence of pictures to create a fun gif (I used this tutorial). After seeing Bri’s fun gifs on her blog, I thought it was a really great way to show steps in DIYs and gave it a try. 
There you go! A few things I’ve learned along the way. I’ve learned so many other things and I think I’ll give some pointers every now and again to help you create your own.