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the occasions challenge

Last January, part of the Occasions staff met a challenge by publisher Audrey Watkins to get “outside the box,” during the year; to try something new and broaden our horizons.

We are a small, tight-knit staff, so throughout the year, we shared stories about our ongoing endeavors, gave each other feedback and generally had a really good time with our “challenges.”

Audrey invested time and practice in her golf game, associate editor Susan O’Connor took a Spanish class and art director Brittney Guest sewed several garments that she wore to work. Jonathan Adams, however, is still hoping to land a role in community theater.

By Audrey Watkins

Although I waited a good six months before I decided to make time for my own personal challenge of returning to the golf course after a 20-year hiatus, I am pleased to say that I made decent progress in 2009.

I learned to play golf in college but spent little time on the course before work, life and eventually kids took priority. I talked a friend into taking lessons with me this summer and a friend of hers graciously provided each of us with new golf clubs/bags for the venture. Weekly lessons with Jonesboro Country Club Assistant Golf Pro Krissy Austin focused initially on improving my swing off the tee as well as with my woods and irons. I admit that I often made the common mistake of taking my eyes off the ball and attempting to use all my strength to kill it. On many occasions, Kristi would resort to holding my head in place with her hand to keep me from looking up and getting in front of the ball. It  is simply taking time for me to realize that the more I tense up and try to smack the ball with all my might, the more hideous my shot is.

My friend, Rodney, helped me move from the driving range to the course last year offering incredible patience and encouragement.

“Did you advance the ball?” he would often ask as I whined about how ugly my last shot was.

“Yes,” I would say before grumbling something under my breath about being able to throw the ball farther than I had just hit it with the club.

My biggest improvement: Hitting my driver from the tee box. It’s a great feeling when it all comes together and you hit a beautiful shot down the fairway.

Most embarrassing moment: There were many, most involving water.

What I enjoyed the most: Enjoying beautiful days on golf courses with Rodney and introducing my daughter, Sophie, to the game.

My biggest disappointment: The inability to play in my first golf tournament last fall due to a wrist injury I developed while playing.

What’s next? I hope to improve my chipping and putting this year and play in the Komen Rally for a Cure in the fall.

My personal challenge for 2010: To coauthor a children’s book with Sophie, my 8-year-old daughter, who seems destined to be a writer based on the chapters she has already penned on various topics.

Spanish Musings
By Susan O’Connor

Learning another language is truly a task that requires seriousness. I took three years of French in high school, and remarkably, quite a bit still floats around in my mind. As I’ve learned rudimentary Spanish this year the two languages mix as I try to think of a phrase.

My desire for this goal arose from my close friendship with a friend from Mexico City, as well as frequent travel to Mexico over the years. It seems so anti-world to not learn the languages of others!

So, I enrolled in the first level of Spanish at the Hispanic Community Center on Huntington Avenue. Our instructor, Claudia Matos Eckert, was a delight. A native of the Dominican Republic, she brought humor and laughter into the class, as we all mangled her language week after week.

I also am studying through Mango Languages, an online program that is available to anyone with a Craighead County Library card. It is repetitious, but that is necessary at all stages of absorbing a language.

Spanish II awaits me this year. And hopefully, a trip to one of my favorite destinations in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende! Hasta luego…

Make a dress for "Cinderelly"
By Brittney Guest

I learned a great deal during my year-long adventure in sewing. Armed with my mother's Singer and vintage fabric from my grandmother's sewing basket, I set out to make the most awesome dress using only my wits. I was quickly humbled. Here's a list of the top ten things I learned along the way. (Words in bold will link you to photos and projects on my BurdaStyle profile.)

10. When making a stretchy skirt, cut the fabric the right way so that it will stretch around you and not just stretch from waist to hem. It may look the right size, but you can’t exactly wear it. My jersey skirt was as big a flop as Jersey Shore.

9. Wash your fabric before you make your super-cute dress, or you will end up with a doll-sized creation after one trip through the washing machine. Bye-bye, turquoise dress. I loved you for a summer.

8. Slow and steady wins the race and keeps you from running the sewing machine needle through your thumbnail. Thimbles are in sewing kits for a reason apparently.

7. Sewing is green! Once you figure out how to make a tote bag out of a pillowcase, you’ll never need shopping bags again…or gift bags…or beach totes…

6. Sewing saves you green. You’ll find yourself saying more and more as you go through stores, “I could so make that. American Apparel has nothing on me. ” or “I could just sew some cool patches on the one I have at home and I’ll have a new blazer for four dollars!”

5. Burdastyle.com is really addicting. It IS like a candy store. Practically free patterns and user creations tempt and inspire at the same time.

4.  Sewing turns you into a refashionista. Whenever a favorite tank top or dress or whatever gets stained or ripped, don’t panic or throw it away. Cut off the bad parts and make something new from your old clothes and end up with the best dress ever

3. Looking at patterns for rockabilly dresses may give you crazy ideas. No matter how good the results may turn out, resist the urge to take your sewing scissors and give yourself Bettie Page bangs…

2. And speaking of Betties, who needs a costume shop when you can make your own Ugly Betty costume for Halloween using fabric from Grandma’s stash? Someone telling me I was "that ugly chick from TV" totally made my day.

1. Sewing is awesome. 'Nuff said.