cheerleading {tryout tips}

A couple of Saucy's peeps have asked lately for some info regarding cheer tryouts for their daughters, their nieces, their friends. Perhaps it's a good time to summarize the key points Saucy thinks that hopeful cheerleaders should be aware of before they hit the gym for tryouts.

It's that time of year, after all. She hopes this helps you!

Tip Number One: Attitude above all else

As a very old coach, Saucy can pretty much sniff out a bad attitude a mile away. Arriving late and unprepared (more about how to prepare later), copping a 'tude or not giving one hundred percent in the tryout situation tells a coach pretty much what they need to know about an athlete. So... be on time (early is best). Be prepared to give everything a good solid try. Don't whine or complain. Don't roll your eyes (instant strike through your name) and don't offer excuses. Try your best and if you screw up, try again. That stuff is golden for a coach.

Tip Number Two: Be a student of the sport

You can hit YouTube and a ton of cheerleading web sites that have tutorials and tons of information regarding tryouts. You can even follow some training organizations like the NCA (National Cheerleaders Association), UCA (Universal Cheer Association) and even some uniform supply companies (Omni Cheer and Varsity) on Facebook and they often post interesting links to their sites and blogs that provide pre-season and training information. On YouTube, there are lots of sample tryout cheers and routines you can look at. The better idea you have about what you might be faced with, the better prepared you will be.

Tip Number Three: Talk to the coach

It never hurts to make contact with the coach prior to the tryouts. Let her know you are interested... ask questions (especially how you might improve your chances) and be enthusiastic, polite and confident. Treat it like a job interview. If you are a good student, say so. If you are involved in other activities, let the coach know that also. He or she will appreciate knowing that you have varied interests but will also want to be aware of any conflicts in your schedule.

Tip Number Four: Start conditioning and stretching as soon as possible

You should stretch your muscles twice a day (after a bath or shower is ideal, when your muscles are already warmed up). Some of Saucy's most flexible team members have their nighttime bath and stretch for a full half hour while watching their favourite TV show. If you have good flexibility, you have a better chance of mastering skills like jumps and poses much quicker. You'll also go through the tryouts with less pain. Now would also be a good time to hit your school's weight room or fitness club. Go with a friend, especially if you are planning on trying out together.

Tip Number Five: Don't try anything new or crazy, especially without proper supervision

Now is NOT the time to try a stunt or a jump on your own, without instruction or proper spotting. Wearing a cast to tryouts would pretty much exclude you from participating!

Tip Number Six: Ditch the piercings, the crazy hair colour, and heavy makeup

Do NOT show up at tryouts with any of the above looks. It's best to arrive looking clean-cut and natural. Besides, jewelry wearing is verboden in competitive cheer so you will have to take it out when you get there anyway. Pull your hair up in a ponytail if it is long enough but at the very least make sure it is off your face.

Tip Number Seven: Wear appropriate gear

You don't have to go out and buy anything new... just a clean tee shirt and shorts will work. Yoga wear, if it isn't too revealing is also acceptable. Your school-issued gym strip will work too but whatever you choose it should not show bra straps, the top of your underpants, or have anything written on it that a teacher, coach or "old person" will find offensive. Trust Saucy, the last kid to be put on the list is the kid with a tee shirt that says something dirty. Ditto for logos for liquor companies or stuff like that. The cleanest, lightest running shoe you can get your hands on is also good.

Tip Number Eight: Smile, and then smile some more

It sounds simple but it's the hardest thing to do when you feel like everyone's watching you and you are under pressure. But it comes down to this: a smile can hide imperfections. A good coach also knows you might screw up when you're learning something new... but not having to yell at you all year about remembering to smile is great. You can master the skill to perfection later, but if you're smiling along the way, you look confident and fun to work with.

Tip Number Nine: Be a positive influence and role model

Yes, it's sort of a competition to get on the team, but if you look like you're willing to help the other girls at tryouts, you're sending a message to the coach that you are a team player and you can work well with others. Avoid drama. If there are girls fighting at tryouts... head the other direction. Also, help set things up and put things away. That's what the team members have to do, so you may as well learn now and lead by example. It won't go unnoticed.

Tip Number Ten: If you don't make it, try and try again

Saucy will almost 100% of the time take a kid who tries out again a second time after being turned away. It shows her that not only do they really want to be there, they're also the kind of kid who will work to achieve their goal. When Saucy has taken those kids, they've been awesome cheerleaders because they really appreciate the opportunity and more than likely, they spent the year that they weren't on the team doing things to improve their chances at the next tryout, like attending camps and watching YouTube videos. Dance lessons and gymnastics lessons also help, if you have the money. Don't forget to thank the coach for the opportunity of trying out and ask him or her what you might need to work on for next year. Chances are, they'll make a mental note of your mature attitude and if you put in the effort, you'll be on the team this time next year.

the decline of the corsage

Okay, well some of you are thinking it. Corsages can be a tad tacky. And outdated. 

They're so 1960's. Maybe that's why Saucy adores them. She just loves the idea of them, you know. It's the idea of having such a fancy event to attend, you feel compelled to pin a living flower to your arm or plunk in on the shoulder of your gown. It's kind of strange, really... an antiquated notion.

Who wants to pick just the right dress and accessorize it just so and plop a mismatched flower on it?

These chicks do. Well, not entirely. 

On the night of the spring formal dance, they gussied themselves up... then they put on corsages... to watch High School Musical. It was their anti-formal event. They had the dresses and wanted to wear them, even if they just hung out and watched movies. 

Saucy was happy to oblige their whim with corsages. All in good fun. Making corsages is quick and easy. It literally costs just pennies, especially if you pick in-season blooms at the grocery checkout.

You'll need: fresh flowers, foliage and filler (baby's breath is ideal but puffs of tulle work too). For flowers, Saucy likes the spicy scent of carnations. The mini sprays are easier to work with. Same with roses. There's something about the nice thin stems of mini spray flowers that make them easy to bunch up and they look a little more glam and retro when they're clustered.

You'll need scissors, ribbon and floral tape. Floral tape is available at florist suppliers, craft stores and sometimes at the dollar store. It is stretchy and tacky and sort of sticks to itself. Its pliability makes it easy to work with. It's incredibly forgiving. (When finished, store in an airtight container or ziploc baggie to keep it soft and usable).

Start by clustering two flowers together, but stagger the meeting point of each bloom. They should appear to sit alongside each other - and then tape the stems together. Just wrap that sticky stuff along the stem.

Once you have the first two flowers placed together, it's easy to start building a shape to your corsage. Just keep adding and building outwards. At this point, Saucy adds her first bit of filler flower and then she ascertains where the back of the corsage will be and she adds the green leaves.

It's that simple, really. If you tape together two tiny completed bunches like this, you basically have a corsage. Add more filler and a bow, and you're done. Attach your bow using wire... slip it between the two bunches that you taped together, then run the wire down the large stem and cover the entire bit with tape. That tape hides everything. The tape also protects the corsage wearer from getting poked by wayward wire.

For a wrist corsage, You can build two tiny corsages and then start taping them together in the midsection with floral tape:

Keep adding flowers inwards to fill the middle and place your bow in the last spot to conceal any empty spots. Since there's no water supply anyway, you can even use hot glue to add the last bits of baby's breath or small buds.

Sheer bows are the most forgiving - and the most festive. It's also soft and smooth against the skin. Honk if you ever wore a corsage with that stiff acetate ribbon on it!  How irritating.

You can attach the wrist corsage to a pre-made elastic bracelet (you can slip stitch one with scraps of sewing elastic) or, as Saucy prefers - just tie it on with a length of pretty ribbon. How retro.

Saucy was pretty pleased with her efforts. After all, it was five dollars' worth of stems and some junk from the craft drawer... and they had corsages to wear





Oh, well.

It's like, really a great movie.

varenyky {with saskatoon berries}

Last week Saucy posted about The Fan and The Secret Weapon's 50th wedding anniversary. For that event, Saucy and her brother "aproned up" and made about 500 varenyky. 

Varenyky (also known as perogies) are a Russian (Ukranian, if you call them perogies) dumpling made with a tender white dough and can be filled with potatoes and cheese, cottage cheese, or berries.

The dough itself is easy to make - and so are the fillings. They're just a little time-consuming. Hence, they're usually brought out for special occasions around these parts. They're also served soaked in butter... thus not very kind to the waistline. You might want to bookmark this post for Christmas.

Today, Saucy will show you how to make varenyky using her Aunt's recipe. In this post she will be filling them with saskatoon berries, found readily around these parts. The saskatoon berry is sweet and firm but not too juicy - an excellent fruit for filling perogies. They also have a slightly nutty, vanilla-like flavour to them which is absolutely delicious paired with this pastry dough. You might ask if blueberries would also do the trick and to that Saucy says, she doesn't know. If any readers have tried this with blueberries, please report. Saucy thinks they might get a little too mushy. At any rate, you will need 2-3 cups of fruit for one recipe of varenyky dough.

Instructions for other traditional fillings found below, if you can't find saskatoon berries. The potato/cheese and cottage cheese varieties are also popular 'round here.

Varenyky Dough (makes 45-55 varenyky)

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups white flour

In a medium-sized bowl, lightly whisk milk, water, egg, oil and salt. Using your whisk, begin adding the flour, about a half cup at a time, beating lightly as you go. After you have added about a cup and a half of the flour, the mixture will thicken and become too heavy for the whisk. Now is a good time to use your hands. Get in there. Get messy.

Add more flour, as you work the mixture with your hands. You really are going to get messy. It will be worth it. Add flour until the mixture has the consistency of a baby's earlobe...

That's right. When you pinch the dough, it should feel soft and tender and as light as pinching the earlobe of a newborn. At least that's what Saucy's Aunt told her about twenty years ago when they made these together.

Anyway, work flour into the dough until it is soft and elastic. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes. Do not overwork this dough. It needs to stay light and tender.

Cover the dough and allow it to rest for thirty minutes. This activates the glutens.

After a half hour, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and use a biscuit cutter to cut it into round circles for filling. The dough should be about 1/8" thick.

Here's the thing... the dough will be very "springy" and the rounds might look like they're shrinking right before your eyes. That's okay.  Just give them a little stretch and put some filling in the centre:

Today, Saucy filled them with saskatoon berries that were lightly dusted with flour and sugar. The flour cooks down with the sugar and berries inside the dough and makes for a very rich, thick filling.

There are no exact measurements here. Saucy will tell you: if your berries taste tart, add more sugar. 

Fold the round in half, pinching it across the top. From each side, pinch along the edges, poking the berries inward as needed as you go.

Pinch snugly. You don't want these bad boys popping open when they reach a rolling boil. You want to keep the good stuff inside.

Lay the uncooked varenyky on clean tea towels spread out on a flat surface. Make sure they don't touch each other. The dough will stick together and when you attempt to pull them apart, you'll get a holy, stretchy, berry mess.

At this part in the process you will be glad you invited a friend to make these with you - many hands make light work. If you didn't ask anyone to help you, you'll be wishing at this point that you did. Over the years Saucy has seen many a grandmother and aunt share this job over a long afternoon in the end to have enough varenyky to serve at a family wedding or party.

In fact, Saucy's Baba (her Russian grandmother) only had four fingers on one of her hands as the result of an accident. But man, you should have seen her fingers fly around the edges of a varenyky. She was skilled.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop the varenyky in, one at a time. Saucy's large pot holds about 10-12 varenyky at a time.

Since she's practically a professional at this, she'll often have two - or even three - pots boiling at a time on the cooktop. One for each flavour, if she's on a bender.

Notice that when they're first dropped in the water, they sink right to the bottom of the pan. Give them five minutes at a steady rolling boil.

Now we're getting somewhere! While the varenyky are boiling, melt butter in the microwave (you'll need about a half cup for one batch of perogies) and pour a little of it in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Check it out... the dough is looking translucent and the dumplings are floating and rolling around when they're done.

Use a strainer to remove them from the boiling water and repeat with the next 10-12 varenyky. After draining thoroughly, place the varenyky into the casserole dish and toss with butter, adding more butter as you add perogies. You do not want them sticking together.

The only downside of this dish is that it's not really that attractive. They're just simply folded dumplings - there's no real way to dress them up. Serve hot with more melted butter. The moment they hit your lips, you won't care what they look like. They're the ugly duckling of folk cuisine.

Cooked varenyky can be frozen in Ziploc bags. Thaw, reheat in the microwave and serve.

Alternate fillings:

For traditional potato and cheese varenyky, you will need about two cups of thoroughly mashed potatoes. After mashing, while still hot, stir in milk or cream (about a half cup) and shredded cheddar cheese (sharp is best). Add the cheese to taste - Saucy uses almost a full cup. Add one medium onion that has been finely diced and sauteed until clear. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend carefully (a stand mixer is handy) and use about a teaspoon inside each varenyky, depending on the size of your dough cutter.

For cottage cheese varenyky, combine dry curd cottage cheese (one package is approximately two cups' worth) with a half cup of unflavoured, plain mashed potatoes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper - and one beaten egg. The egg bind the cottage cheese together. Use about a teaspoon inside each varenyky, depending on the size of your dough cutter again.

{fifty years}

On the May long weekend of 1962, The Fan married The Secret Weapon. This weekend, the family celebrated!

For their wedding, The Secret Weapon wore a hand-tailored suit by Barney Kutz. The Fan wore a silky gown and most importantly, a tiara upon her head fashioned by The Secret Weapon himself.

Over the long weekend in 2012, Loopy donned the gown and the tiara to celebrate her grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary.

Oddly, the gown had gone missing for many years and only made its way back to The Fan very recently. It has a history of being "something borrowed" by many brides so when it found its way home, Saucy was glad to clean it and steam it up for Loopy to try it on. 

How strange that it should fit her just so. Had she only worn the tiniest kitten heel with the dress, it was daresay perfect.

And it a strange coincidence, the neighbour across the street had his 1962 vehicle out to enjoy the spring weather. Saucy didn't even realize it was from 1962... but the neighbour willingly pulled it around and offered it for photographs.

He said the car was probably happy to have a vintage beauty to pose with! 

Here, Loopy evokes Kate Middleton as she and Wills drove the Mall in London after their wedding, don't you agree? Surely because The Fan's wedding style was so timeless. 

Wave to the adoring crowds, Loopy!

Saucy slipped on the dress that The Fan wore to her prom that was later worn by her bridesmaid. It's a treat to have both gowns together where they belong.

Plus, they make this spectacular swishy motion when you wear them. Saucy's not going to lie. She didn't want to take it off. Veto lived up to his nickname, vetoing her idea to wear it to the theatre to see Dark Shadows that night. 

It's rare, but when Veto exercises his authority, he's almost always right. It would have been too much for the cineplex.

Maybe without the hat and flowers, it would have been okay.

The less glamorous part of the celebration occurred beforehand... Saucy and her older brother (and his wife, Darling) making hundreds of varenyky (that's what our people call them, but your people might call them perogies). The kitchen was stifling hot as pots were boiling the little dough dumplings filled with potato and cheese, cottage cheese, or Saskatoon berries. 

Champagne and beer kept the cooks cool.

You must pinch the dough closed so carefully that the filling doesn't spill out when boiling. Saucy might make another batch later this week, Buddy Budderson wants more. There might be a recipe and tutorial coming your way.

Served warm, with melted butter. Yikes! Saucy does not want to tell you how much butter she and her brothers cooked with this weekend. 

Butter slathered on the varenyky.
Butter in the vegetable borscht (made with dill, no beets).
Buttered bread.
Butter in the cake.
Buttercream icing.

Wait... is this a celebration of marriage, or of butter?

Decorating the cake. Documenting it with Instagram. Even the mundane looks fabulous on Instagram.

This cake was featured on My Sweet & Saucy quite some time ago. You can find links to a YouTube tutorial there... it's easy.

Saucy fashioned a cake topper from a copy of a full-length wedding photo. She perched it upon a ribbon rosette and hot glued it to a short wooden dowel.

But it absolutely looks groovier on Instagram:

Before the party, the gowns were hung in the foyer.

Veto brought fifty roses for his in-laws... because he's kind like that. There were some left for the party, too. They just happened to match the bridesmaid's gown.

 Welcome to the party! The Fan... and Loopy, fifty years later.

The photo banner was a hit! Snapshots were simply clothes-pinned to a gold ribbon. The Fan had no idea Loopy had donned the gown for pictures.

Cheers! Congratulations to The Fan and The Secret Weapon on fifty wonderful years together!

*clinking glasses*