Zumba Classes - Have You Tried Them?

Reading the previous post about all those dances started me thinking. Have you tried Zumba classes? I have. The first couple of classes I took, I hated because the instructors gave so few cues it was impossible to follow anything. Then I discovered Indi at Gloucester Wellness and Fitness Center. I loved her classes, and although I knew too little to follow the steps at first, I kept coming to class and have learned the dances--at least enough to follow. If you haven't tried Zumba, you'll discover it's fun and a great cardio workout!

The A to Z Challenge starts today and it goes for the entire month of April except for Sundays. I'm trying a real challenge this month. I'm doing a painting a day, using the letter for the day to determine my subject, mostly animals and flowers. My painting for today is an alligator because of the Jefferson Hotel and all the alligators that once lived in the lobby. Hope you will check it out.

--Mary Montague Sikes


Lowercase Calligraphy

Written in calligraphy, words appear to waltz across a page. But don't let the rythmic flourishes and old-world elegance of such lettering fool you. Calligraphy is easy to learn. All you need to do it are a few special tools and a bit of patient practice. Before long, you'll find making letters this way as comfortable as using your best penmanship.

There are numerous


Cha-cha, Merengue, Salsa—What’s the Difference?

So many dances, so little time, so much confusion.  Here’s a quick guide to the most popular Latin dances.  You won’t be able to hit the dance floor after this quick review, but you’ll be able to talk the talk.

Cha-cha is probably the easiest Latin dance to recognize. There are two slower steps followed by three quick steps (ONE-TWO, cha-cha-cha).  This Cuban dance is a favorite on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS).
The Merengue, which hails from the Dominican Republic, is probably the easiest dance to learn.  Partners move their knees slightly right, then left, which causes the hips to move left and right—that’s the basic step. Remember Dirty Dancing? Baby dances the merengue with the lodge owner’s son (Neil). If Neil can do it, anyone can.

The Salsa is also a Cuban dance (with Afro-Cuban origins). This dance is harder for the novice to recognize, especially since there are numerous variations of the steps and the dance.  The dance has a quick-quick slow rhythm and can often be identified by the free leg (the foot not bearing any weight) which is frequently tapped or kicked. This dance is also well known for the Cuban hip movement.
Unfortunately, there are more Latin dances and more confusion.  There’s the Mambo—you’ll probably have better luck recognizing the music. Perez Prado actually came up with the dance for Mambo music.

The Rumba is another dance you can easily identify. Often called the dance of love, the ballroom version is typically much slower than cha-cha, merengue or salsa. Frequently, the Rumba looks like upright sex.  This dance is also characterized by a quick-quick, slow cadence, but the slooow step is very slow and very sensual.
The Paso Doble is pretty easy to spot. Just imagine the woman as the bullfighter’s cape. This is another dance popular on DWTS and the music often sounds like a charging bull will arrive any second.

There’s also the Jive (a variation of the American jitterbug), the Tango (almost everyone recognizes this dance), the Argentine Tango (a variation of the Tango with flamenco influence) and the Sambo, a Brazilian dance characterized by bending and straightening of the knee.
Have I totally confused you? Just remember, dancing should be fun. Forget the names and just shake that booty.


Meditation as a part of life

For many in the west, meditation is something to be wary of, to regard with suspicion, even to scorn. But in the East and the orient, meditation is considered to be an integral part of everyday life. Not something to be focussed upon for five, ten or even twenty minutes twice a week.

As more and more people in the west bend beneath the claims and commitments of life, and feel there is less and less time to achieve the goals they've set themselves perhaps it is time to reassess the part meditation plays in life.

Perhaps, like breathing it should become an integral part of your waking life.  Like most things, it takes work to begin with to achieve this automatic form of raising the quality of life, but in time it can become second nature.

It doesn't mean life's trials and tribulations magically disappear, they don't!  It just means that it will take longer for you to lose your cool, to raise your voice in anger, to allow the small things to build up into huge mountains of aggravation that threaten to flatten you when you feel overwhelmed by the challenges life decides to dish out for you.

It is times like these, when everything seems to be getting on top of yu, that remembering to be grateful for the good things in your lives can help to redress the balance of your emotions and attitudes. It doesn't have to be anything huge, but - like those pesky little tribulations that line up ready to take you down, if we consciously line up things to be grateful for, they in turn will help to uplift us when we need a mental friend.

For me it is daffodils that is my first line of defence when things begin to get on top of me. The are cheerful, full of the promise of summer, and bend in the wind.

What is your first line of defence when under duress?


calligraphy samples art

There are several kinds of calligraphy pens to choose from when you're starting out. Most calligraphers recommend working with a dip pen for best results. But calligraphy for beginners is much easier to start with if you use a felt-pen or a fountain-pen that has a calligraphy nib. If you prefer, fasten two pencils together to practise ‘double-line' calligraphy so you start to understand the way

Creating A Gothic Alphabet

Historically, the ‘Gothic' alphabet refers to a series of scripts used to write texts in Europe between the 12th and 15th centuries, roughly speaking. These scripts varied in quality, shape and style but they also shared definite characteristics which we still look for in Gothic alphabets today.


Angel's Tears

Narcissus 'Thalia'
Daffodils are another harbinger of spring flower; and as a symbol of hope and rebirth, the flowers are often used in Easter arrangements, but they’ve been used much longer than the Christian religious celebration. Archeologists have found Daffodils in ancient Egypt’s tombs and funerary wreaths. Is it any wonder so much lore surrounds these flowers?

The botanical name ‘Narcissus’ shows another symbol of the flower: unrequited love. In Greek myth, Narcissus was the vain young man who spurned the Nymph Echo; then while taking a drink from a pool of water, he saw himself and fell in love with his reflection – a lover who could never return his love.

Certainly many daffodils could represent the image of vain, self-indulgent youth, especially those with the look-at-me yellow flowers, or even those with more subtle colorings and shapes. Yet, if ever there were a Narcissus that represents the mythical young man of Greek lore, I would choose the daffodil ‘Thalia.’ The beautiful, pristine white flowers arch downward as if seeking their reflection and, according to Allan M. Armitage, are along with other daffodils in the triandus class, “Often called the angel’s tears daffodil” (Herbaceous Perennial Plants. Varsity Press, Athens, Georgia.1989. Page 421). Thalia’s scent is certainly heavenly, and the scent is noticeable from far down the garden path, no need to get your nose in the middle of these flowers. They are vigorous bulbs, increasing each year and making an ever more impressive display, and they are very hardy.

Another piece of lore claims that receiving a single daffodil brings bad luck. I received luck. While recovering in the hospital many years ago from a nearly fatal automobile accident, a co-worker brought me a 5# tin can filled with at least fifty bright yellow daffodils. For a depressed patient, her gift gave a piece of spring, sunshine to brighten a hospital room, and certainly hope for recovery. I did, and think of her with every daffodil I see.
The most welcomed harbinger of spring


Spring Has Sprung?

Spring has sprung? Sprung a leak, maybe. Snow, ice, rain, wind, cold, and then good old Mother Nature tosses in a couple 70 degree, beautiful sunny days just for spite. I live in Kansas, so we expect radical weather changes. Ridiculous.

We have about a dozen perfect weather days in spring and fall that I would contest with any weather on the planet. But...the other 353 days are a pure grab bag of weather akin to sticking your hand blindly into a gunny sack containing a rat, a squirrel, a tomcat, or a fluffy bunny. I must say, though, 2013 has been odd even by Kansas standards.

I know there have been people suffering much worse weather-related misery than me over the course of the past year, so I shouldn’t complain.

My teacher friends who are on a spring break, Royals spring training vacation to Arizona had the nerve to send me this photograph from the game today. Mind you, when they sent the picture, they were perfectly aware we back in Kansas are under a winter weather advisory for tomorrow. Friends?

I think not. I did promise not to shovel their drive and sidewalk tomorrow. Serves them right.


Seek, Dowse and You Will Find

Some people believe the dowsing practice began in Germany in the fifteenth century.  I think people have been using twigs, rods or pendulums much longer than that to find answers for their questions.
And that’s the reason to dowse.  To help you find what you’re seeking.   In the U.S., dowsing or divining is known by other names such as water finding, water witching or water dowsing.  That causes folks to believe that dowsing is only good for one use – yep, discovering a water source.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are many reasons to dowse, including finding metals, tunnels, avalanche survivors, healing, choosing the most nutritious vegetables and fruits, working with the land and answering questions.  I know folks who use a pendulum when they eat out to decide which meal is best for their body that meal.  Another uses her pendulum in the grocery store.  And I recently learned of dowsing to heal and release negative patterns and habits. 
Dowsing tools include a forked tree branch, two L-shaped metal wire rods, pendulums and human hands without a tool.  If you ever played the baby shower game of dangling a needle over the mother’s “bump” to determine the fetus’s gender, you were dowsing!
When using a branch, the two ends on the forked side are held one in each hand with the stem of the branch pointing straight ahead.  Then the dowser walks slowly over the ground.  L-shaped rods are held one in each hand with the long arm pointing forward. When the sought object is found, the rods cross over each other, making an X.  Pendulums suspended from chains may be used to answer specific questions, and are often used in alternative healing sessions.
The most important part of a dowsing session is for the practitioner to keep an open mind.  You can use any of the tools – or your hands – and have dowsing work for you with some practice and focus on your task.  You may want to use meditation when first starting out, or when your skills are developed.  The ability to “listen” is key. 
Focus on your question or need (need being the important word), use the tool that works best for you, then listen.  Answers are always given to those who pay attention.
If you’d like more information on this ancient practice, go to the website of the American Society of Dowsers at   

Baby Shower Invite Wordings IV - Boy

Baby Shower Invitation Wording


We're all jumping for joy…
it's going to be a boy!


Come join the celebration
we have much anticipation
Of the wonder and the joy,
of the Abbott's baby boy!


The time is coming,
She's almost due
and what we know
Is that it is definitely blue!


A baby boy is on the way
Let's shower Mary Lou
before arrival day!


Oh Boy!
Gina's got a bun in the oven!


Trucks, tractors, trains, oh my!
It's almost time to meet Aiyesha's little guy!


A brand new baby boy is on the way
so let's celebrate with a special day!


Loulou is expecting and she hasn't a clue!
Let's get her ready for her
little baby in blue!


Tiny yawns and sleepy sighs,
Nursery rhymes and lullabies.
A brand new life to bring us joy
Oh, what fun to expect a boy!


I am here, though you cannot see,
The doctor tells mom and dad
a BOY I will be...


Diapers, clothes, and sweet baby toys
Anything she would want for her new baby boy!

Baby Shower Invite Wordings III - Girl


We're tickled pink and happy to say
Cindy & Jeff
Have a baby on the way!


Soft as a whisper
So precious and sweet
Tiny perfection
From her head to her feet!


Ten little fingers and ten little toes
It's going to be a girl in ribbons and bows!


I am here, though you cannot see,
The doctor tells mom and dad
a GIRL I will be...

Baby Shower Invite Wordings II

  Simply change the date, time, and place of the event and you're done

Baby Shower Verse 1

Bottles and booties
and bibs and more,
let's shower the baby
with gifts galore!
Please come to a baby shower for
Sally and Michael Kent
on Sunday, April 9th at noon
5542 Landers Lane
Dallas, Texas

Given by Lauren, Katherine, and Mandy Kent

Baby Shower Verse 2

We have the formula for fun!

Help us celebrate and shower
Marie Sandstrom
on Saturday, March 12th
at 2 o'clock in the afternoon
The Tea Room
256 Green Hill Ave
Daley, Georgia

Hosted by the Sisters and Sister-in-laws of Marie

Baby Shower Verse 3

Heard the forecast?
A baby is predicted,
but first there will be a shower!
Please join us at a Baby Shower in honor of
Brenda Givens
Sunday, January 12th, 2018
2:00 p.m.
Sandy Merl's Home
587 Forest Circle
Nashville, Tennesssee

Please let us know "weather" or not you can attend
849-9999 or

Baby Shower Verse 4

There once was a time
when we all heard her say,
I’m done, that’s it...
two kids, call it a day.
But now that expression
“I’m done” is in the past.
There’s gonna be another Berns boy,
will this be the last?
Join us for a surprise lunch to honor
Wednesday, February 5th at 11 a.m.
48 Hickory Road
Tampa, Florida

Regrets to Missy 258-1525

Baby Shower Verse 5

Please come to a Baby Shower
Date: Sunday, May 11th, 2018
Time: 1 o'clock in the afternoon
Place: Christie Bell's House, 144 Coconut Lane
Guest of Honor: Stacy Allen

Regrets only to Lisa Ford
(701) 594-5689

Baby Shower Verse 6

Around the Clock Baby Shower
Kerry Markson
Sunday, May 18th at 12 noon
986 Anderson Road
Tampa, Florida

Hosted by:
Kim Langley and Shannon Hardin

RSVP to Kim at (859) 859-8559

Please bring a gift appropriate for the time: __________

Baby Shower Verse 7

Join us as we honor
Teresa Mills
and her baby boy
Timothy Adam
with a Baby Shower
on May 30th at 2:00 p.m.
Dorothy's Home
30 Oregon Road
Panama, Ohio

Given with love by
Dorothy Hills and Brenda Lee

Baby Shower Verse 8

Let's shower her with love...
You are cordially invited to a Baby Shower for
Megan Brianne
on Saturday, March 10th
at 4 p.m.
7568 Palmetto Lane

Regrets only to Beth at 701-7661

Baby Shower Verse 9

They're expecting a baby,
a new bundle of joy
A very special gift,
be it a girl or a boy!
It's a Baby Shower for
Diane LaCross
on Saturday, June 4th at 2 p.m.
388 West Lake Road
Starkey, IL

Margery LaCross

Baby Shower Verse 10

Diaper pins and bottles
rattles and bows,
these are the little things
that our new baby brings!
You're invited to a Baby Shower for
Gwen Lynn
on Sunday, June 5th at 1 p.m.
1012 Mulberry Court
Sylvan, NC

Given by Melissa Rutherford

Baby Shower Verse 11

Someone Special
Someone Dear
Someone New
To Love Is Here

Join us in showering Haley Ann
daughter of Rebecca Retamozo
with a Baby Shower
on Saturday, April 23rd
at 2 p.m.
Botanical Gardern Restaurant
128 Camphor Circle
Austin, Texas

Regrets only to Sareda
312-569-8899 or

Baby Shower Verse 12

Bottles and bows
our love overflows!
Join us as we honor
Jessica Simons
and her baby girl
Samantha Rose
on the seventh of October
at 11 o'clock
17 Biscayne Boulevard
Orlando, Florida

Janine Simon

Baby Shower Verse 13

Ten little fingers and ten little toes
two little ears and one little nose!
Join us for a Baby Shower
honoring Erika Smith
daughter of Karen Smith
October 27, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
45 Pine Street
New York, NY

Brandy and Megan

Baby Shower Verse 14

A brand new baby is on the way, so let's celebrate with a special day!
Please join us at a Baby Shower for
Kelley Mathers
on April 7th, 2018
at 3:00 p.m.
78 Broadway Street
Itaca, NY

Janice and Julie

Baby Shower Verse 15

Twinkling stars in the heaven above are smiling down on baby with love!
Join us for a Baby Shower
honoring Courtney Rose
daughter of Pamela Rose
on May 16th at 4:00 p.m.
488 Benjamin Street
Amherst, New York

Karen Miller and Lauren Stubb

Baby Shower Verse 16

This shower is not for Mommy
because we’re asking for a toy
Just something fun and frivolous for a baby girl or boy
It’s a Baby’s Toy Shower
Ashley Preston
on August 15th at 4:30 p.m.
74 Velvet Lane
Bellflower, California

Mellissa and Paul Evans

Baby Shower Verse 17

So sweet and cuddly,
cute and fun
It’s a shower for Lissette
her new life’s begun!
You’re invited to a shower
in honor of her mother
Darla Main
on August 3rd at 2 p.m.
556 Amberlin Street
Ann Harbor, Michigan

Kelly and Linda

Baby Shower Verse 18

Hey diddle diddle,
have you seen Mary’s middle?
The baby will be here soon!
Please join us for a
Baby Shower in honor of
Mary Lopez
Friday, May 9th, 2018
at 4:00 p.m.
The Sheraton Hotel
Lifton Ballroom
133 Waters Place
Elizabeth, New Jersey

Regrets only by
April 2nd to Jackie (212) 222-2222

Baby Shower Verse 19

When a child is born,
so is a mother.

You’re invited to a
Baby Shower for Stacie Jolna
Sunday, June 7th at 11:00 a.m.
The Ritz Carlton
3501 Sepulveda Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA

Hosted by
Carla Robin & Becca Perle
RSVP by May 20th
to Carla 310-622-5999

Baby Shower Verse 20

Sarah and Charlie – always so cool, we’ll see how they look wearing baby drool!
Come help them get ready for these things babies do,
your guess is as good as ours – pink or blue!

Join us for a Couples Shower
Saturday, March 9th
from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Julia and Mark Stroop's Home
3226 Allen Loop
Barton, Arkansas

Regrets only to Julia 850-267-9123


Crocus, Spring, and Writing

I love flowers, but also the plants, the botany, and both their and my responses to the seasons, so somehow a garden scene of some sort shows up in my books. From my experiences and emotions about changing seasons, I hope I insert metaphoric meaning using gardens. Most of you, I am sure, have already had spring emerge where you live, but here in Northern Michigan, mounds of snow cover my garden, and although I had Snowdrops at this time last year, we had four more inches of snow yesterday. More is expected today. So I wait with hope for the promise of spring, just as I wrote in my first novel, Magic Aegis:
The garden looked beautiful even under the snow. The gray stems of parterre shrubs seemed to form a cleaner pattern, its framework more distinct. The hard work of pruning them had provided visual results. Swaying branches of the fruit trees, striated in smooth bark, created moving mosaics on the clear blue sky. Patterns in the wall were picked out with bright snow and the air held a frigid scent of promised renewal.
With fresh resolve, she rose at long last and shook the snow off her cloak and skirts. A bright color unseen at the side of the bench caught her eye. A small purple and yellow crocus bud emerged from the snowy blanket. The sight cheered her. Beyond the wall she heard crows cawing, and feeling different somehow, she left the garden.
Hope your spring has sprung. I’m waiting.