And The Winner IS…!

hoopy halloween

Once again this year I had so many wonderfully inventive entries. I loved seeing everyone’s creativity when it comes to incorporating a hoop into your costume and in fact, creativity was one of the big factors in choosing a winner out of all the awesome entries. To recap the rest of the criteria, I was looking for:

  1. How well the hoop fit in with the rest of your costume. Was the hoop an integral part of your costume or just an afterthought? Hoops could have been used as a structural quality in your costume or as standard hula hoop, just as long as your costume made sense having that hula hoop there.
  2. Handcrafted elements. Entries that were handcrafted or had homemade elements scored higher than those that were store-bought.

And of course

  1. Thinking outside the box with your costume got you more points than common costume themes.

pumpkin spiceAnd before I present all the entries, let me remind you what was at stake. 2nd runner up receives a 30% coupon for anything from the Katie Sunshine Hoops store. 1st runner up gets a 50% off coupon and the grand prize winner gets a 31” Pumpkin Spice collapsible polypro hoop! Now, without further ado, here were the 2015 entries:

 

 

halloween4First, this happy little Minnie Mouse with her Mousettes entry from Savannah Hoopstar. I thought it was not only adorable she decided to get her two dogs in on the Halloween fun, but also appropriate Miss Hoopstar was Minnie Mouse since she helped me name a new three-hoop move “The Mickey Mouse.”

 

 

 

Speaking of hoop stars, you know you have reached celebrity status when people dress up as your fans for Halloween. It truly halloween12was the #yearoftheben for this next hooper who dressed up as the number fan of Benjamin Berry, The Fanicorn! Talk about hoopers supporting hoopers, it’s awesome to see such encouragement and support! This entry comes to us from Samantha Rogers a.k.a. Hoopleseed Rogers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Next up is this grinning Cheshire Cat Submitted by Jenna Elizabeth. Complete with striped painted shirt, furry leg warmers, and color-coordinated hoops, this hoop cat is ready for the party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had a couple of Instagram entries. The first is from @valeriejo416. She looks stunning as the hooping villian of the vines, Poison Ivy! Then from @katybabygems as the beautiful Princess Bubblegum with her candy hoop.

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Here are two awesome entries by Erin Gainfran and both spectacular are costumes! The first as a happy hooping little bee and the second as Katniss Everdeen with a fiery hoop as her bow. You can tell she definitely had fun hooping in these costumes!

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Erin wasn’t the only Kitness hooper this Halloween. Nancy Burns entered an awesome costume as Katniss in her halloween16fiery wedding dress. I love how she used red feathers to represent the flames on Katniss’s dress and her shiny hoop makes a perfect bow.

I also love this little Lava Girl having the time of her life all dressed up with her hoop! halloween16

From Jenn Frederick comes this awesomely inventive Siren from the Sky! Her
hoops are covered with sparkly seaweed that I’m sure look spectacular when she hoops. I would love to see those celestial hoops in motion!

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From Sirens in the Sky we go to ghouls from underground

with this entry from as Beetlejuice: halloween3

Next up is this creepy ghoulish hooping doll from Jill Ellis:

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Jane Deason sumbitted this costume as The Soulshine Warrior: 12105715_1009803145751303_7592187925805030975_n

Halloween is also the time to show off your superpower hoop moves in character as a superhero! I had two awesome superhero costumes submitted, both incorporating the hula hoop very well. First, from Saralee Mansker, Wonder Woman showing off her golden whip/hoop in action! Then is Sonic the Hedgehog complete with Golden rings (and an awesome Sonic hood!) from Jenny Faundez.

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And now for the announcement of the winners! I was totally torn for the place of second runner up halloween6so it’s a tie between these two. Jaylyn Ellis submitted an awesome costume as the hooping Indiana Jones. I absolutely love the creative and successful use of a simple, black infinity collapsible hoop as her whip. In fact, after seeing this photo, I started seeing other Indiana Jones hoop costumes popping up, proof that is was so good it inspired some imitation.

halloween8Tied with Jaylyn is Grace Riemer as a hooping Steam Punk doll. I love the use of her altered hoops to look like gears and her makeup is fabulous!

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The first runner up is Randi Boisen as Tina from Bob’s Burgers. This costume was so original, so well crafted, and uses the hoop so creatively as Tina’s tray.

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And now, the grand prize winner is a perfect example of thinking outside of the box. I thought this costume was so imaginative and uses custom made hoops as an integral part of the costume not to mention the impeccable craftsmanship. Congratulations Kelsey Pippin for coming up with the winning design: “Atom” & Eve! Halloween

Thank you to everyone who entered in the contest, I loved seeing all the costume ideas! Please comment and let me know what you think about 2015’s Hula Hoop Halloween costumes.

Hula Hoop Halloween Costume Contest

hoopy halloween

My Hula Hoop Costume Contest last Halloween was such a success I’m excited to announce it again this year! I loved seeing the creativity in all the costumes and I have a brand new polypro hoop design to give away.

This year I’m giving away my new pumpkin spice polypro hoop to the person who designs and wears the best Halloween costume involving a hula hoop or hula hoops. The hoop I’m giving away is a fully taped 3/4″ polypro measuring 31″ in diameter. This hoop features bright orange hologlitter tape paired with spicey brown and black grip tapes for a hoop that is perfect for that hoopable fall weather. This hoop is push-button collapsible so you may take this hoop anywhere your heart desires.

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Here’s how to enter:

1) “Like” my facebook page here and follow me on Instagram @katiesunshine14

2) Share this blog post on social media OR share this facebook photo or social media between now and October 31st, 2015.

3) Post a photo of your hoopy Halloween costume in the comments section of this blog, or on my Facebook page, or tag me on instagram @katiesunshine14 by midnight November 1st, 2015. You may also send your photos to katiesunshinehoops@gmail.com

Costumes will be judged by the following criteria:

  • Creativity of the costume idea. Think outside of the box! This will score you extra points.

  • Level of “homemade-ness.” Costumes with homemade or handcrafted elements will be scored higher than store bought costumes.

  • How well the hoop “prop” fits with the costume. For example, a standard costume with a hoop simply added, let’s say a hula-hooping nurse costume, will be scored lower than a costume in which the hoop is an integral part, such as a Saturn costume where the hula hoops are the rings (you can still use that idea if you want, by the way).

The hula hoop(s) may be incorporated as a structural quality in a costume and don’t neccessarily have to be visible or removable. However, if the hoop isn’t obvious, please add a note as to where the hoop is incorporated.

To see last years winner as well as the rest of the entries click here.

**I’m also excited to introduce and 1st runner up and 2nd runner up prizes this year. 1st runner up will be given a 50% coupon for katiesunshinehoops.com and the 2nd runner up will be awarded a 30% off coupon for katiesunshinehoops.com.**

This contest is open to any age. All may participate! Have a Hoopy Halloween!

If you’re totally drawing a blank, I found a few ideas and I’ve added them to my Pinterest board.

Which Hoop Should I Choose?

hoops

 

Obviously trying a hoop out is the best way to decide which one is right for you, but when you’re shopping online that’s not a possibility. Additionally, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill department store hoops that you just grab off of a rack, these are handcrafted just for you so of course you want to be sure and get it right. With tubing size, diameter size, and not to mention all the tape designs to choose from it’s easy to be confused very quickly! Here’s a break-down of the different options and what they mean so you may make a better educated hoop purchase…

*Keep in mind, there is no “perfect” hoop size. Some sizes may be easier and some harder but how much you practice will determine how good you will get with almost any size hula hoop.*

Types of Tubing 

This first option decides what type of plastic tubing will become your basic hoop construction. Descriptions are listed in order from heaviest to lightest. 

¾” PE (heavy)- This is a heavy, black PolyEthylene irrigation tubing made to withstand a lot of water pressure. What that means in hooping terms is that it’s heavy, durable, and will be good for absolute beginner hoopers and hoopers looking to get in shape. A hula hoop made with this tubing that is 40″ diameter will weigh about 2 lbs. All hoops made with this tubing will be infinity collapsible

¾” PE- This black irrigation tubing looks exactly like the first option but doesn’t weigh quite as much. This tubing is also great for beginner hoopers. A hula hoop made with this tubing that is 40″ will weight a little over 1 lb. All hoops made with this tubing will be infinity collapsible

½” PE- This is a black irrigation tubing that is thinner than the ¾” PE tubing. This is a great size for kids, teens, as well as someone looking to downsize their hoop for the first time. This is a great intermediate hoop because it is heavy enough for on-body hooping, but also light enough for off-body practice. A hula hoop made with this tubing that is 34″ in diameter will weigh about 12 oz. All hoops made with this tubing will be infinity collapsible.

¾” HDPE- HDPE stands for “High Density PolyEthylene.” This is a lighter, harder plastic than PE tubing. This plastic comes in a variety of colors if you want to leave your hoop un-taped. This type of tubing is great for intermediate to advanced hoopers, or hoopers wanting to learn new off-body tricks. HDPE is bouncier and springier than PE tubing. This tubing is just slightly heavier than polypro tubing (see below) but is more durable than polypro tubing. All hoops made with this tubing will be push-button collapsible.

¾” Polypro- “polypro” is the abbreviated name for the type of plastic it is: polypropylene. Polypro hoops are very light, weighing only a few ounces without tape. Polypro tubing comes in a variety of colors if you want to leave your hoop un-taped. Because it is so light, the hoop is very springy and great for breaks and paddles with very little bruising on the body. However, one down side of Polypro is it’s tendency to crack or break when it gets cold. All hoops made with this tubing will be push-button collapsible.

5/8″ HDPE- Just like ¾” HDPE mentioned above except that this tubing is much skinnier and therefore much lighter. This tubing is great for the advanced hooper looking to challenge his or her skills. This is also a wonderful tubing for minis. All hoops made with this tubing will be push-button collapsible.

5/8″ Polypro- Just like ¾” polypropylene mentioned above except that this tubing is much skinnier and therefore much lighter. This tubing is great for the advanced hooper looking to challenge his or her skills. This is also a wonderful tubing for minis. All hoops made with this tubing will be push-button collapsible.

Hoop Diameter 

The larger the hoop, the longer it takes to make one full rotation around your body. Conversely, the smaller the hoop, the faster it will rotate around your body. For beginners, slower moving hoops are often easy because it gives you more time to perform a trick. For intermediate or advanced hoopers who already feel comfortable performing tricks, a smaller hoop can make those tricks look speedy and impressive! Hoop diameters are listed from largest to smallest with the suggested skill levels. 

40″ – 44″- This size is for the complete beginner, or the person who may have had trouble in the past keeping a hula hoop going. Suggested for on-body hooping.

34″ – 38″- This size is great for petit beginners or for those who know they can hula hoop but haven’t tried in a long time. Suggested for on-body hooping.

30″ -33″- This size is great for kids as well as adults who know how to hula hoop very well. Works great for both on and off-body hooping.

27″- 29″- This size is great for very young kids as well intermediate to advanced hoopers looking to really speed up their moves. This is great for off-body hooping.

How your hoop collapses 

There are two ways to make a hoop collapsible. 

Infinity Collapsible- These hoops fold down into a figure 8 shape or “infity” sign and then one end folds over the other. There are two connectors in this hoop to make this possible and the hoop may be folded from either connector.

Push-button Collapsbile- These hoops have one connector and a push-button. The silver button can be pushed in allowing you to pull the hoop apart and open. Then the hoop may be coiled down smaller and secured with zip-ties, velcro, or string. 5/8″ HDPE and Polypro tubing is flexible enough to be coiled down and connected back onto itself.

Tape 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to decorating your hoop with tape! 

Standard tapes- Standard tapes are colorful and patterned tapes added to your hoop to customize the way it looks. Standard tapes include both vinyl and duct tapes. See product images for all standard tape designs.

Sun-catching tapes- these tapes are highly reflective and shiny. These tapes may have a smooth and shiny “mirror” look, or have sparkles and prisms in the design. See product images for all sun-catching tape designs.

Grip tape- a.k.a gaffer’s tape. This tape is slightly textured and is good for extra grippy-ness when hooping. Grip tape come in a variety of solid, bright colors and is also good to add and extra “pop” of color on your hoop.

 

With all the specifics in mind, here are the general principles to keep in mind:

  • The smaller diameter the hoop, the faster it will move around your body.
  • The lighter the hoop is, the faster it will move around your body.
  • The larger diameter the hoop, the slower it will move around your body.
  • The heavier a hoop is, the slower it will move around your body.
  • Lighter, smaller hoops require you move your body faster to keep them moving, which is good for burning calories.
  • Larger, heavier hoops move slower, but require you to brace your muscles to keep it moving, which is good for toning the body.

 

Still feeling overwhelmed? Remember, there is no “perfect” hoop size. Whatever size you get, practice will determine how well you are able to use it. Here are my general hoop size suggested based on skill level:

“I have never been good at hooping before but I really want to learn. I am a complete beginner” 

You need a hoop made with ¾” heavy PE tubing that is 40″-44″ in diameter. 

“I used to hoop all the time as a kid but I’ve forgotten how. I’d like to get back into it.” 

You need a hoop made with 3/4″ PE tubing that is 36″-40″ in diameter. 

“I want to start hula hooping to lose weight.” 

You need a hoop made with ¾” heavy PE tubing that is 38″-42″ in diameter. 

“I have hooped before but I’m still having trouble with some on-body moves like hooping on my chest and knees.” 

You need a hoop made with ¾” PE tubing that is 34″-38″ in diameter. 

“I am really good at hooping on my waist, chest, and knees, but I want to learn some cool off-body tricks.” 

You need a hoop made with 3/4″ HDPE or ¾” Polypro that is 30″-34″ in diameter. 

“I want to learn all those super-fast techy hoop moves!” 

You need a hoop made with 5/8″ HDPE or 5/8″ Polypro that is 27″-30″ in diameter. 

“I’ve been using a large hoop for some time now and I’m ready to downsize, but I’m nervous about getting a hoop that is too small.”

You need a hoop made with 1/2″ PE tubing that is 32″-36″ in diameter.

“I’m pretty good with one hoop and now I want to try minis.” 

You need two hoops that are 5/8″ HDPE or Polypro and 25″-28″ in diameter.

If you have any questions about choosing your hoop, please feel free to contact me.

Hoops for Haiti 2015

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My recent adventure to Haiti as part of my Hoops for Haiti campaign was definitely eye-opening, it was interesting, but above all it was unforgettable.

After getting picked up at the Port-Au-Prince airport and the stress of making it through the gauntlet of international travel, hoops intact, began to melt away I struck up a conversation with RaRa, our driver and interpreter. I was curious to know, as I always am when I’m in a new place, what was the colloquial name for the hula hoop. I like to add these little tidbits of information to my vocabulary’s repertoire because you just never know when that kind of information will come in handy. I was astonished when RaRa told me they didn’t have a name for the hula hoop because they didn’t have hula hoops at all.

“What do you mean, you don’t have hula hoops?” I asked in disbelief. Hula hoops are such simple toys, I was really amazed they weren’t around in some form or fashion already.

“I mean, I have seen these hula hoop before,” RaRa explained, “because tourists and other people bring them here when they come. But when they leave, they take hula hoop with them! They never leave them for us so we never come up with word for them.”

This made me laugh. Not only because it surprised me, and not only because it was amusing listening to RaRa’s heavily accented explanation, but also the sentiment of “why would we bother to name something we don’t have?” struck me as particularly funny.

“Well, then this should be really fun for everyone,” I said. I tried to hide on the outside the fanciful thoughts I was having in my imagination about single-handedly ushering the hooping experience into an entire country. It was pure fantasy, as I’m sure there had to be a single hula hoop somewhere on the entire island, but the thought entertained me for a moment.

 When we arrived at the place where we would be staying for the week, a Mennonite compound in Croix-des-Bouquets with quarters for housing missionaries, humanitarians, and other guests, I began to unpack and unfurl my hoops. I ended up taking 34 hoops, coiled up and packed in two large cardboard boxes which I checked at the gate. While I twisted each hoop open, I had to smile as I remembered the look on the agent’s face as I passed through customs in Haiti. He had cut open both boxes expecting anything, I’m sure, but these sparkly, rainbow-colored coils.

Once I was unpacked, I sat with Karla and Beckham of the Ozark Water Projects to get a feel for the week. Unfortunately, right before their arrival, they had discovered that the initial location for the well in Canaan was not at all ideal. The local surveyors gave them a 60% chance that digging would result in either hitting no water at all, or hitting salt water, which is pas bon, as the Haitians would say…not good. That was a chance they just weren’t willing to take, especially with so many other options to dig, so the plan was to find our new spot for a well. And in the meantime, work on hand pump repair.

My second day, and first day of work, we were picked up by Jean and his crew and taken to a village somewhere on the outskirts of Port Au Prince. Jean, a native of Port Au Prince, has worked with the Ozark Water Projects on all their trips to Haiti. He was their eyes on the ground in Haiti and he knew all the spots that needed hand pumps repaired and how urgently. Once at the village, I quickly learned that hand pump repair, or any out-of-the-ordinary activity I suppose, garners an instant audience. Much to my delight, a large part of that audience was children. It was time to unload and introduce the hoops!

I admit I was a little embarrassed I didn’t speak the language. I always try to learn a little bit of the language wherever I travel out of respect to the culture and the people but I was a little ashamed I had done a terrible job of that this trip. The online lessons I found were quite costly and my local library was fresh out of the Haitian Creole CDs. However, I knew the  basics of “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” and the one I was about to use “Do you want to play?”

I said it to the first two little boys I saw who were both peeing on the same tree when we initially pulled up to the pump. As soon as I tried out my new phrase, their eyes lit up and they nodded with big grins on their faces. I handed each of them one of the hula hoops I had draped on my arm, kept one for myself, and laid the rest on the ground. Those hoops on the ground were immediately claimed as more kiddos began to appear. Hula hoops seem to have that power I’ve noticed- the power to make children materialize out of thin air.

I performed some tricks and did my best to give lessons and soon, there was a pretty good sized crowd of locals around. One thing that surprised me, however, was that I seemed to only have little boys around playing with the hula hoops. I noticed several young adolescent girls, and even a couple of women, but they all seemed to stay a safe distance away. The first few young girls I saw I noticed all seemed to be in the middle of some kind of task, walking this way or that with a bucket or basket balanced on their head. They would stop and watch me perform for a while, but when I would try to engage them or hand them a hoop, they would shy away, shake their heads “no” and sometimes at that point leave, carrying on with the task at hand. I eventually stopped asking as it seemed to only scare them away. From what little I observed, I gathered this was a cultural difference. Little girls were brought up learning how to cook, clean, fetch water, and do other sorts of chores while the boys were left to…well…do whatever they wanted, it appeared. I’m sure boys were brought up to leave the house each day and work, but with a devastated economy and no jobs to be had, men, boys, and young lads instead left the house each day to hang out and just pass the time. The crowd had grown to include some older boys, in their teens, and even some older men, as well as more young boys playing with the hoops. Every male there 16 or older seemed to be drunk or getting that way. I suppose with nothing else to do, why not? One of the older, and not drunk, gentlemen there explained it to me this way: “When you live in Haiti, you wake up, the first thing you do is you try to find something to eat, then you try to find a shady tree to sit under, then you sit there and wait for it to be night so you can go to sleep again. And that is your day.” What an existence.

With all that being said, however, I did have one little girl in this village who came out and played with the boys. She was probably eight or nine years old, I would guess, and absolutely beautiful. When I decided to take a break and hand my hoop off to someone else, she took a break too and came up beside me silently and held my hand. Then she stroked my arm hair, genuinely fascinated with it. As the morning turned into afternoon, I noticed my pantomimed lessons seemed to be paying off as the kids started getting better and better at keeping the hoops going around their waists and arms. The longer I was there, the more comfortable the few hovering girls became and they began trying them out as well. I noticed two young ladies jumping rope with the hula hoop together. The shorter one stood with her back pressed to the other girl’s front and they both jumped together inside the same hoop. I am continually amazed at the cleverness and imagination of kids with toys.

I showed them all the games I could think of to play with hoops. Not only how to do several of the tricks I do, but also how to hold up the hoops vertically and make a tunnel that was fun to run through as well as how to lay them all on the ground and jump across them like hopscotch. One of the older gentlemen set up a game for them, which I thought was genius, that was somewhat like musical chairs. He placed all the hoops on the ground and then lined up the kids about 15 feet away. On his command, they all had to run and stand inside a hoop, only one person per hoop. Anyone not inside a hoop was out and after each round he removed one hoop from the ground. I enjoyed watching them play. At least for that one day, the afternoon wasn’t spent sitting and waiting for night to come.

When we left that village we repaired one more hand pump in the city before calling it a day.

The next day the task was to find a better spot to dig the well. We had two main spots to take a look at, both owned by Pastor Bristol, a local pastor who managed not only a church and congregation, but also a school and orphanage. As much need as there is, I learned one must still be careful when choosing a spot to add a well. I heard countless stories of generosity and giving getting swallowed up by a corrupt government and lawless environment. For example, it’s not uncommon for an organization or mission to dig a well in a spot meant to serve an entire community only to have some individual come along the minute they leave, build a hut around it, and start charging for water. We knew that Pastor Bristol would not allow this to happen so we felt comfortable looking at his property.

I actually really enjoyed this day because I got to see more of the country from the backseat of RaRa’s car. I’d like to add how much I also enjoyed having a driver. Please understand, having a driver was not simply a convenience we felt like indulging in, it was an absolute necessity! I have seen some absurd driving in my life during my trips to Rome, Mexico City, San Jose, and Dallas, but I have never seen anything like the driving in Haiti! When he wasn’t ensnared in some labyrinthine traffic jam, or getting passed by massive trucks by mere centimeters, RaRa was dodging people, dogs, and goats milling in or around the streets and kiddie pool sized potholes or mountainous pile of rubble. I found looking out the side window was much less stressful than looking out the front windshield at all that needed to be navigated.

 What I discovered peering out these side windows was the brightly colored artwork of all the tap-taps carrying loads of swaying people. Tap-taps, or I also heard them called top-tops, are Haiti’s answer to public transportation. Some were trucks with a lifted and artistically altered camper shell and others were small buses with as much room scooped out the back as possible to accommodate as many commuters as possible. But they were all painted with bright, radiant colors and smattered with what seemed pretty random quotes, celebrity faces, symbols, and designs. Among the painted faces I recognized famous soccer players, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Tupac, Beyonce, Wyclef Jean, Shakira, Chris Brown and even Justin Bieber. My favorites were the tap-taps that juxtaposed a portrait of a voluptuous woman in a miniscule bikini next to the image of Christ, fully robed and holding his arms wide in exaltation. It was an interesting little slice of everything they valued and whom they admired, all right there for all to appreciate. Often times too the front of the tap-tap would be painted with eyes and a mouth to give the whole contraption the appearance of some kind of large, lumbering, bizarre creature.

I enjoyed observing the people as well. I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked because I just didn’t want to make the people I passed feel like zoo animals. I imagined how it would make me feel for a complete stranger, and a strange looking stranger at that, come into my world, point a camera at me, and snap unsolicited pictures of my daily life and I decided that I wouldn’t like that very much. So I refrained. I noticed a lot of American brands and slogans in English on t-shirts, I’m sure a result of past mission trips that had taken clothes and other items. RaRa told me a story about being at a soccer game a seeing a grown man wearing hot pink shirt that said “I Love My Boyfriend.”

“It was not his fault, because he didn’t know what it said,” RaRa added. “It was sad and funny.”

I noticed everywhere we went, no matter what time of day, people were out and about. We passed several markets crawling with people selling fruits, hot food, shoes, t-shirts, sugar cane, bread, just about anything one might need that day. And it always seemed to be teeming with people. I think the markets were as much social events as they were shopping experiences. I noticed lots of girls and women carrying baskets on their heads either going to or from the market. In the villages we passed through, I noticed mostly young children and women milling about the houses. Everyone I noticed lived in cinderblock houses with open windows and no access to to electricity or running water. The few nice houses I saw were vacant, either unfinished or abandoned completely, or they were surrounded by a cinderblock wall topped with razor wire.

One thing that really surprised me was just how desolate Port Au Prince was. Being the capital city, and having hotels and airports, I expected it to be a little more “city-like.” I expected to see nicer houses, more access to electricity and water and generally more modern amenities. But no, it was just as dismal as the outlying villages, the only difference was there were more people in one spot. So everywhere I looked, there were just gray cinderblocks. Some villages, the ones in Port Au Prince, were closely compacted with houses, and other had a little more space, like the one we chose for our well digging spot.

The village where we decided to dig was called Turbe and was about an hour drive outside of Port Au Prince. This was a country village, and the people had a little more space for a front yard which was boxed in by a fence made of rocks or cactus. Most yards were full of kids, dogs, chickens, goats, or some combination of those things. There was one house in Turbe I noticed that was pretty large, but was demolished and abandoned and had been taken over by the local goats. There were probably thirty goats milling about this homestead, all sizes and colors. They had made this ruin their palace. I noticed more goats than any other animal. There wasn’t much grass where we were…scrub brush seemed to be the prevalent form of vegetation so it made sense that goats would thrive there where grazing herd animals might find it difficult to find grass to eat.

The spot where we chose to dig the well was a large field own by Pastor Bristol and a location he had planned to build another church and school eventually. The Ozark Water Projects likes to pair the wells they dig with churches or schools when possible because that will be a place where lots of villagers have reliable and constant access. It was also much closer to the people living on the outskirts who were having to walk quite a ways to make it to the next closest well. There was also a farm right next to our spot so having that well would certainly ensure good irrigation for that farm when the weather couldn’t be counted on.

As the rig was setting up and we were preparing to dig, I pulled out my hula hoops to start passing them out. There was a much larger crowd at this village than the last and at first, when the locals realized I was giving them away, there was almost a frenzy to grab a hoop! Even the adults were arguing over hula hoops! When everyone had snagged a hula hoop, many of them ran away, vanishing back to their homes. I stood there a little surprised, because that’s not exactly what I expected to happen, but they had their hula hoops, which was my goal, I suppose. A few older boys who had grabbed a hula hoop hung around and I was showing them how to use it. Then I started performing some of my tricks and as they got more comfortable around me, I could convince them to try it out as well. Slowly, the kids started to reappear with the hula hoops and I began showing them how to do some tricks with the hoops. They really seemed to enjoy watching me hula hoop more than they wanted to do the hoops themselves! One would come up and hand me their hoop and point to their elbow, or their knees, or their neck, instructing me to show them how to hula hoop on that part of the body. I supplemented my extremely limited Creole with lots of pointing and sound effects and it seemed to get the point across well enough. Often times, the younger ones seemed too embarrassed to try the tricks in front of me, or maybe in front of their peers, but I would catch them off in the distance by themselves trying out the tricks. I thought about what RaRa had said about not having a name for hula hoops, and I would tell them as best I could what they were called in English, but “le cercles,” the circles, seemed to be what was sticking. Once again, in this village just like in the last, the boys took precedence over the girls and were more likely to grab and hoop and try it out. But I did my best the engage the girls as well. I played patty-cake games with them and they loved that!

After a few hours, I could feel myself getting burned despite the sunscreen I has doused myself in, so I decided to take a break in the shade and rest up for a bit. This was when I really got to know the girls a little better. The boys were all still out in the field playing with the hoops, and the girls surrounded me to take a closer investigation. At first the girls kept their distance and watched me as I performed with the hoops but by this time, they were getting more comfortable with me and touched my skin and my hair and my clothes. A couple of the older girls, I would guess 12 or 13 year old, began playing with my hair. I took it out of the braid for them and they saw that as their invitation to play, so they began fixing my hair for me. Each one would grab a tiny strand of it and split it into two pieces, twisting it around and around all the way to the end. This was going to take a while, but I was hot and sunburned and welcomed to opportunity to just sit for a while! They really seemed to be fascinated with my hair. I could feel them spreading my hair apart at the roots and touching my scalp, I felt them stroke the hair at the nape of my neck where it was sweaty from hula hooping, thoroughly investigating every property of my hair. One little girl about seven years old sat beside me this whole time and examined all parts of my face. She lifted up my earlobe and peered underneath. She gently pulled down the top of my ear and lightly touch the skin above. She ran one single finger lightly over my eyebrow. She poked at my jaw and check. She even reached her hand around and gave the tip of my nose a slight squeeze. I made a silly face at her when she did that, so of course she did it one more time for good measure. And just like that last little girl, she seemed most fascinated with my arm hair. Once all parts of my face had been examined, she sat there holding my hand and petting my arm.

At the end of the day, the rig had hit water, but not enough to stop digging. So we decided to wrap up for the day and return the next. The next morning, before heading back out to Turbe, I paid a visit to Pastor Bristol’s school and hula hooped for the girls and boys there. I also left the last my hula hoops for them, knowing that if they stayed at the school, all the kids would have an opportunity to play with them every day. Pitterson, one of the digging crew and the one who had taken me to the school that morning, caught on to the hula hooping very quickly, and would step in and help with a hula hoop lesson when my poor Creole and miming weren’t doing the trick. In fact, I got the sense he quite liked teaching those kids how to hoop! I think they needed to start their own hula hooping club.

When we finally made it out to the digging spot in Turbe is was getting close to noon. Chad, my husband, said “I don’t see any hula hoops,” speaking about the crowd that had gathered around the rig.

“Oh, they will come,” said Pitterson.

And sure enough, I hadn’t been out of the car for more than a minute when the same group of kids from the day before came running up to me. And there appeared the hula hoops as well. I couldn’t understand what they were saying to each other, but the look on their faces as they approached seemed to say “She’s back! She’s back! Go get your circle, she’s back!” This was perhaps my favorite moment of the whole trip. There was no warm up time needed today, they immediately began showing me what they had practiced, they held my hands, hung onto my arms, asked me to hoop for them, I felt like a celebrity! I had an entourage of everyone in the immediate community thirteen and under. One little boy in particular had taken an express interest in his hula hoop and showed me how he could move the hoop from his waist to his knees, and then take out one leg and hoop on one leg. I was so impressed!

I spent the rest of the afternoon hooping with kids and after just a couple of hours, the well was dug and the pump was installed. The concrete base still needed to be poured, but that would happen the following day.

I made one more stop that day and that was to Pastor Bristol’s orphanage. Karla and Beckham wanted to install one of their new water filtration systems and I hula hooped with the girls. All of the girls in the orphanage went to school at Pastor Bristol’s and I recognized several of them from earlier that day. Some of the hoops from the school had been brought to the orphanage so the playing continued! I get asked if I ever get tired of hula hooping, and the answer is no! If there is someone around excited to learn, I’m happy to keep hooping. This stop was especially nice because with no boys around, the girls got my full attention with the hula hoops, and I showed them everything I knew. We jumped rope, played hopscotch, made tunnels, all with the hula hoops.

This marked my last day in Haiti and I was a little surprised how quickly it had passed. The next day we got packed up, enjoyed a breakfast of eggs and fried hot dogs, and settled up with the compound for accommodating us.  What that amounted to was- get this- folding up our money and putting it in a mason jar that sat on top of the refrigerator. It operated purely on the honor system. I speculated that this system had to be 100% successful because how could anyone look at that sweet little mason jar with the note on it and have the capacity to scam them. We then headed to the Port Au Prince International Airport.

It was certainly a new culture for me to experience and an unforgettable trip. I hope to return one day. Now that my fantasy of introducing hula hoops to a new culture was actualized, I had a new one: to return to the same villages one day and discover a group of hoop stars!

Sunshine’s Song of the Month (Valentines!)

With Valentine’s Day coming up tomorrow of course I had to choose love songs! But don’t worry, I know there are plenty of you out there who roll your eyes at the gushy holiday and I didn’t forget about you. I’ve got a couple love songs for you love birds out as well as some anti-love songs for those of you who feel like gagging at the sappiness of it all.

First up, one of my recent favorites: This isn’t your traditional love ballad where the singer pours his or her heart and soul into warbling lyrics but rather this song is somewhat melancholy and haunting. Nonetheless, the singer confesses that this feeling of being “made of gold” can be mistaken for nothing else but…love. Chet Faker’s “Gold” is not only an alluring love song, but also has an awesome music video to accompany it!

Next up, this talented group of gals croon about being left with persistent sadness after love lost. But they do it so beautifully I found I couldn’t help but listen over and over again! Chic Gamine is a group I really don’t know much about, but I know that I love this song! Click here to listen to “Motions” on their website as well as many of their other songs. I also love this video of them performing the same song in their van. Somehow, the intimicy of this video gives the song a little more depth, I feel. The song starts about a minute into the video:

The next song is unique because it tells a love song from the point of view of a sweet little honey bee. Zee Avi is a Malaysian singer/songwriter who enjoyed such overwhelming success on Youtube she was launched into a career as a professional performer. She has an amazing life story which you can read more abouthere, but without further ado, here is her love song:

Happy Valentine’s Day from Katie Sunshine Hoops!

Hoop Fitness

Are you keeping up with those resolutions to work out more? Or already fudging on them a little? Either way, here’s a little extra motivation for you. What’s more, it’s a workout that’s fun because you’re hula hooping! I love hula hooping as a workout because not only does it burn calories, improve balance, and tone muscles, but it’s a great way to melt away stress. For example, for those who watch my videos, I’m sure you can tell it’s impossible for me to hula hoop without smiling.

Try the exercises on for size, and see if you’re smiling and sweating too!

Exercise one: Hoop Lunges

 This is exactly like your classic, static lunge but you’re hooping the whole time for extra calorie burn! To help keep that hoop moving, really focus on your front and back push points to keep that hoop even. Utilize the fact that your legs are already in a forward and back position to shift you weight front and back, just be careful not to extend that front knee over your toe!

Exercise two: Hoop Squats

Stand with your legs a little wider than normal for regular squats and point toes out 45 degrees from your body. Shift your hooping focus to a two point push method side to side. Utilize the face that your legs are out to the side to shift your weight side to side to keep that hoop even. Be sure that your legs are out wide enough your knees do not extend over your toes when you shift your weight.

Exercise three: Hoop Heel Lifts

Stay in the same position as your hoop squats and hold the down position. Lift one heel at a time off the ground, keeping the ball of your foot firmly planted. Hold for a second before gently lowering your heel and lifting the other heel. For an extra challenge, lift both heels off the ground and hold for 30 seconds! Focus on the keeping that hoop moving, and keeping your balance!

Exercise Five: Hoop Side Lunges

Hold your hoop vertically in between your palms. Step straight out to the side with one leg, bend your knee and stick your booty back to lunge down. Most of your weight should be on your bent leg. Be sure to keep your upper body lifted and make sure not to extend your knee over your toe. All your weight should be in your heel. You should feel a pull or stretch on the inside thigh of your straight leg. As your hold this position, flex your chest muscles to squeeze on your hoop. You’re not only working your booty and legs with this one, but also your chest! Double the results!

Exercise Six: Tabletops 

Are those legs burning yet? The next exercise will give those legs a break and work on your balance and strengthen those lower back muscles. Stand with all your weight on one leg but a slight bend in you knee (No locking out that knee!) Point your other toe behind you. Lift your arm opposite your pointed toe up over head, making a straight line from fingertip to toe. Slowly lift your pointed toe off the ground, and hinge forward maintaining that straight line until that line is horizontal, or “tabletop” position. Use your hoop to help you maintain balance.

Exercise Seven: Hoop Leg Stretch

Whew! Did you make it through all those exercises? Good for you! Reward yourself with this hoop leg stretch that feels great and improves balance as well. Stand with all your weight on one leg. Bend your knee to slightly lift one foot off the ground. Keep your knee pointed at the ground so you’re lifting your foot behind you. Place your hoop behind your back and hook your lifted toe inside the bottom of the hoop. Shift your hands to grab the top of the hoop. Slowly hinge forward, gently pulling on the top of the hoop to lift that back foot high off the ground. The more you pull on that hoop with your hands, the deeper stretch you will feel in the quad of your lifted leg. Balance and hold!

 Thanks for sticking with it, and be sure to check out more fun ways to stay in shape here.

For My Critics…

Water-for-life2I’ve recently come under some criticism for my recent Indiegogo campaign, Hoops for Haiti. It seems a perfectly legitimate argument: why spend money and devote efforts elsewhere when there are people in our own country hurting and wanting, especially this time of year? It’s a criticism I do not take offense to, however I remain steadfast in my decision.

For one, the group I’m working with, The Ozark Water Projects is a wonderful organization I feel proud to be a part of. The Ozark Water Project works with institutions in my local state of Arkansas as well as some of the surrounding states and organizes shoe drives. They collect and organize as many used shoes as they can and then ship the shoes off to distributors in developing countries. The distributors buy the shoes for $0.35/pound and then in turn are able to sell the shoes at very affordable prices to the local residents. They money raised from the shoe sales then are used to purchase equipment to install clean water systems in areas that need it.

Before the shoes are shipped off The Ozark Water Project does, in fact, help the local Ozark Water Projectcommunities they work with. The work they do locally, however, is not advertised. The number one reason being discretion for the people they help. As you might understand, some people may feel embarrassed for accepting a hand-out, or so they may perceive, and so as to save those individuals the embarrassment, The Ozark Water Project does everything very discreetly. In an effort to preserve that confidentiality, I will not describe specifically what they do, but if you are interested and wish to contact me privately I will be happy to disclose a little more information. katiesunshinehoops@gmail.com.

Second, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if a community in the United States were to demonstrate a need for clean water, or access to it, The Ozark Water Projects would certainly help. The fact of the matter is however unfortunate ones circumstances are in the United States, they probably have access to clean water. The access may be inconvenient, but the access is there. So is not the case in other parts of the world. Of the 3.4 million deaths worldwide that result from water related diseases (or lack of water) every year, 99% of them occur in developing countries.*

To illustrate, I will expound upon the way that poverty is defined. For the sake of brevity, I will introduce the most common two: absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is measured universally by the same standard which is lacking the means to access basic needs for survival such as adequate shelter, food, and water. To put a number to this definition, absolute poverty means living on $1.25 or less each day.** Relative poverty defines poverty in the context of the economic standards of a society. For example, a family may seem “poor” if they weren’t able to afford any Christmas presents for their children compared to other American families, but that family may still meet the basic threshold that is needed for survival. I don’t want to undermine the prevalence of poverty in the United States, I just want to point out that they are considered poor when compared to the high standard of living we have in America. So it’s not that The Ozark Water Projects or myself are unwilling to help the unfortunate in our own country, is just that other places demonstrate a more immediate need.

The Ozark Water Project addresses one of the deficits of those in absolute poverty.

Although it’s only one focus, giving people access to clean water has so many more benefits. Clean drinking water not only cuts down the number of diseases contracted from ingesting contaminated water but also aids in better hygiene and sanitation, food security, access to education, and overall improved quality of life. For example, close proximity to water gives millions of women and girls the opportunity to attend school as opposed to spending the day traveling long distances to gather water. I’m only scratching the surface, of course, but I just wanted to make the point how one improvement can make such a difference in so many things we take for granted here in the United States. For now, I’ll leave it at that, but if you’re interested in knowing more of the benefits of water, The Ozark Water Project outlines them very well on their website here and the World Health Organization has some great statistics as well.

Finally, I firmly believe a human life is a human life. Who is to say that a persons placement on this globe gives them more or less warranty for help? Following the same logic, human suffering is human suffering and I do not mean to underscore the suffering of millions of American who do want. That is not my aim. But when I think about issues on a global scale, I tend to take a more utilitarian perspective. I try to think what effort and expenditure will do the most good? When I consider what a donation can do for those in absolute poverty, where lives are on the line, versus what that same donation can do for those living in relative poverty, I tend to see one come into focus. For the reasons I listed very briefly above, I feel very confident in my decision to help the people in Haiti.

*http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water

**http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTPA/0,,contentMDK:20242879~menuPK:435055~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:430367,00.html

On a more positive note, I want to thank those donors who have already supported my campaign. Thank you so much!

Sunshine’s Song of the Month

For my second ever entry for Sunshine’s Song of the Month, I felt it only appropriate to introduce some holiday songs. As always, I strive to introduce you, my readers, to newly released music, or artists you may or may not have heard of. This month, I want to introduce two artists that I’m sure you’ve heard of, but have new holiday albums. The first is one of my favorite bands to hoop to: Earth, Wind & Fire. If you can believe it, they have released a new holiday album this year and my favorite track is one based off their 1978 hit “September.” However, the track has been changed to “December.” I love it. With the opening lyrics like “Do you remember, the 25th night of December?” it’s festive, funky, and sure to put a little groove in your step while you’re doing your holiday hobbies.
Listen to the track here.

For my second song, this was one that came as quite a pleasant surprise to me. If you’re familiar with the adult animated comedy “Family Guy” then you already know creator Seth McFarlane does his share of singing in the show. But did you know he’s released a complete holiday album? “Holiday for Swing” was, for me, quite a surprise. I was honestly expecting a parody album, something inappropriate, offensive and vulgar (and hilarious) like all the songs I’ve ever heard Seth McFarlane sing before on the show. But I was a little stunned, quite honestly, that the crooning funny man seemed to take this very seriously…and that it sounded really good! Most of tracks have the same big band accompaniment that’s so familiar on the show and I found myself visualizing the Griffin’s animated house in my mind, but I also found myself really liking it. My favorite track is one of my favorite holiday songs…“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a duet Seth sings with the amazing class-act, Sara Bareilles. Listen for yourself and let me know what you think!

Summer Playlist 2014

When I post a new hooping video on Youtube or Facebook, I often get as many comments about my choice of music as I do about my performance. Generally, in the past, when I discovered a new song I liked I would “save” it to use in one of my videos. However, there are just too many songs I like to do that! Starting now, I will be posting a “Song of the Month”. Sunshine’s Song of the Month, if you will.

To kick things off, I wanted to share some of my favorite songs, groups, and musicians that became the soundtrack for this past summer. And considering yesterday was the first snow in my home state of Arkansas, a little bit of summer right now sounds pretty good!

 My first introduction is a musician I had the honor of meeting at this year’s Bean Blossom Blues Festival in Nashville, IN. They say big things come in small packages and that could never be more true than for Noah Wotherspoon. I’m pretty petite myself and it’s not often I meet someone tinier than me, but I believe Noah was. Meeting him in person, in fact, I found myself wondering “where in the world does he find suits that small?” But don’t let his small stature fool you, he can rock the guitar right along with the blues giants. I’ve been a lifelong fan of blues music thanks to my Dad, and Noah was right on up there with the best I’ve ever seen. From Dayton, OH Noah has been touring the country with his band since 2010, however he’s been a practiced musician for much longer. Although he’s great to listen to anywhere, I would encourage everyone to see him perform live, where he grows larger than life on stage.

Next up, is a new song by a band I’ve liked for years, Kasabian. In fact, I discovered Kasabian through a fan’s suggestion several years back. They’re an English Rock band out of Leicester that has quite the following overseas, but hasn’t quite taken off here in the states (to my knowledge anyway). However, their song “Eez-eh” may change that. It’s a fun, upbeat song perfect for getting your head boppin’ and your foot tappin’. I also fell in love with this song because there’s a certain special someone in my life whose signature phrase is “eez-eh” (easy) for comical relief.

Next is a new band and new song. You may have heard of Milky Chance by now as they have exploded on the alternative circuit. Their song “Stolen Dance”definitely caught my ear the first time I heard it, and then grew on me more and more to the point I found it stuck in my head constantly! However, that’s only the beginning. Their album Sadnecessary is full of other great tracks so if you like Stolen Dance be sure to check out their other stuff.

Like Milky Chance, Alt-J also had a summer hit that climbed the Alternative charts. “Left Hand Free” is off their new album, This is All Yours. But their previous album, An Awesome Wave, includes some of my original favorites. Tracks like “Tesselate,” “Something Good,” and “Breezeblocks” sound like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Their ecclectic sound is fresh, catchy, and I’m sure I’m going to see many new hits from them in the future.

Finally, James Blake is a musician I discovered, of all places, on a teaser trailor for HBO’s The Leftovers. His single “Retrograde” was an incredibly powerful track for the trailor and it was so haunting and interesting I had to figure out who did it. Perhaps even more interesting is watching James Blake create his electronic sound live. He builds the drama one piece at a time building it more and more intense and I find myself sucked into to the music much like good book or thrilling movie. Here, he performs his number one track on the David Letterman Show.

Just in case you found that last song a little depressing, I’ll leave you with one last one. It’s dance-y, happy, and  great song for bouncing, or in my case hooping, around the house when no one’s watching. The DJ pair Duck Sauce has always been one of my guilty pleasures and this track from last year became a new favorite of mine for this year. “It’s You” is a mix of old doo-wop singing with crazy electronic dance beats. What I love about them is that they are talented DJ’s who also have a great sense of humor as you can tell by their video for this song. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s a fun song! 

While these songs and musicians are certainly not the only great music I listened to over the summer I’ll leave you here. I have many more to share with you, so I’ll hope you’ll keep checking back! Happy Listening!

And The Winner Is…

I had so many great costumes submitted this Halloween for my costume contest I really had a hard time deciding who to choose as the winner! To briefly recap my criteria, I was looking for:

1. Creativity in the costume design
2. A hoop being used as an integral part of the costume (not just an afterthought)
3. Hand-made or self-designed costumes as opposed to store-bought.

First place wins a pair of my glow-in-the-dark Candy Corn minis and originally, that was the only prize I was giving away. However, I was so impressed with every costume that was submitted, I’m going to go ahead and give 25% off coupons to everyone who participated. Thank you all, and now, without further ado, here are the costumes…

clown hooper     1544943_10154673658840391_3193364569358458459_n     hooping knuckles
mad hooper     dead hooper
mockingjay hooper     office hooper
pebbles hooper
tony hooper     spiderman hoop

And the winner is…

hunger Games Hooper

 

I was so impressed with the creativity and effort that went into this costume. Each feather is hand cut and indivifually sewn on. The wings detach at the wrists and shoulders so it’s hoopable…dazzling and practicle! Thank you for entering, and congratulations, you are the winner!

There’s a pair of Candy Corn Glow-in-the-Dark minis coming your way!

Thank you to everyone who participated, and I look forward to what hooping costumes you can come up with next year!