Thursday, October 29, 2009

German Chocolate Cake

As the youngest of 6 kids, my siblings will all agree that I was spoiled - the "baby." To that I say, "yes I was and you're just jealous!"

The highlight of my "special treatment" came when I was in law school in California. I was a very long way from home, terrified of failing out of school, and flat-ass broke. I was, in short, miserable.

When my birthday rolled around I received a package from home.

I became the most popular girl in our apartment building when I opened the box and pulled out a homemade German Chocolate Cake from my mom. I'm still not sure how she managed to mail a cake from Shelby MT to Malibu CA and have it arrive in 1 piece, unscathed, and delicious.

Nothing like a little chocolate cake to lift a girl's spirits; that was 22 years ago (yikes) and I still remember how special that was. So, just in case you feel like making someone's day, here's the recipe.
German Chocolate Cake

1 pkg. (4 oz.) Baker's German sweet chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
Coconut-Pecan frosting (recipe follows)
PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Cover bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with wax paper; grease sides of pans.

Microwave chocolate and water in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 min. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool.

MIX flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in melted chocolate and the vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition.

BEAT egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter. Pour evenly into prepared pans.

BAKE 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Immediately run small metal spatula around cake layers in pans. Cool in pans 15 min.; remove layers from pans to wire racks. Remove and discard wax paper. Cool cake layers completely. Spread Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting between cake layers and onto top of cake.

Combine in heavy bottomed, medium saucepan:
1-1/2 cups (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 slightly beaten egg yolks
3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stir over medium heat until thickened, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups shredded coconut and 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans. Cool until thick enough to spread. Makes 4-1/4 cups.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is it too Early to start Whining?

We are in the midst of our first big snowstorm of the season. It may be a REALLY long winter . . .

view from our rear patio

No hoops today.

Another 8 - 12 inches is predicted before the storm moves out.
I better start shoveling . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Go Fast or Go Home?

Recently the New York Times ran an article that really pissed me off.

It wasn’t about healthcare legislation, the recession or the Yankees.

It was about me.

Well, not exactly, but close enough that it got my attention and my ire.

Reasonable people might disagree, but to me the gist of the article was: if you aren’t an elite athlete, don’t even try to run a marathon [and as a natural extension of this elitist bullshit attitude, don’t even think about competing in a triathlon or endurance cycling event . . .].

“Tens of thousands of runners are training for marathons this time of year. . . Purists believe that running a marathon should be just that — running the entire course at a relatively fast clip. They point out that a six-hour marathoner is simply participating in the event, not racing in it. Slow runners have disrespected the distance, they say, and have ruined the marathon’s mystique.”

Really? Are you kidding me? Just because I’ll never – let me repeat – NEVER – win a bike race, I disrespect the event by entering it? Who gets to define “racing” versus “participating” and what makes one more intrinsically respectful than the other?

I train. I push myself to my limit. Just because I didn’t win the genetic lottery and am not “athletically gifted” I should not participate?

Based on the fact that there are now 400 comments to the article, it hit a nerve with many people.

What do you think? If you can’t win, should you stay home? Is it inappropriate to have the goal of simply finishing – whatever the event may be?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie Review - Race Across the Sky

After weeks of anticipation we saw Race Across the Sky - The Leadville Trail 100 2009 mountain bike race movie last night.

The photography was great, and the graphics showing the course were really well done. I think it helped our friends who haven't seen certain sections of the course visualize what we have described.

My only disappointment is that the movie's focus was too narrow. The Lance vs. Dave story is really only one of hundreds of compelling stories that could be told. Nearly every competitor has a story worth telling - their motivation, the hardships they have overcome, physical challenges, etc. A couple of those human interest angles were explored, but only superficially.

I think I've mentioned 24 Solo and Off Road to Athens in prior posts. Those movies take the time to develop the human interest angles, and I think they tell a more compelling story than Race Across the Sky does.

All that aside - I loved the film. It was exciting to watch it and relive the day.

I have to give it 4.5 stars - BECAUSE I'M IN IT!!

As the credits roll, in a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it moment, there is a close-up shot of me! I was so surprised I blurted out "that's ME", amusing everyone in several seats near us. Now I just have to wait for the DVD release so I can watch that nano-second in super slo-mo . . . over & over again!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Golden Gate & Yosemite

Phil and I grew up on opposite sides of Glacier National Park in Montana (he spent his high school years in cloudy Columbia Falls, while I grew up on the east side of the park in sunny - but windy - Shelby).

We both have a great appreciation for the National Park system (pre-dating the Ken Burns PBS documentary by decades) and have been to many of the National Parks in the Western U.S.

For years I have wanted to visit Yosemite National Park. Yosemite, one of the first wilderness parks in the United States, is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area and much more. Although not the first designated national park, Yosemite was a focal point in the development of the national park idea, largely owing to the work of John Muir.

John Muir is a shirt-tail relative on my mom's side of the family, and I have read some of his writings about the Sierras and Yosemite.

Phil had a very brief drive-through visit to Yosemite in his late teens, but didn't have a chance to do much exploring.

Our friends Lowry & Colleen are back on the mainland (San Jose) after years in Hawaii (which was also a great place to visit, of course). They are two of our preferred adventure companions, and were itching for a reason to get out and play. San Jose is kind-of-sort-of-almost reasonably close to Yosemite . . . Further, one of Phil's college friends is an engineer for the Park Service, currently working in Yosemite.


We spent the first day of our trip in the San Francisco area. We saw the King Tut exhibit at the De Young Museum.

Walking up to the museum in Golden Gate Park for the King Tut exhibit.

Looking toward the Bridge from Land's End as the fog lifted.
Then Lowry took us on a tour of his favorite mountain bike areas near the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. To quote Arnold - "we'll be back" with our bikes, for sure. We also made a quick trip to the Muir Woods National Monument - we had quite an action-packed day!

At Fort Point, below the Golden Gate Bridge.

The next day we were on our way to Yosemite.

In the Merced Grove, just inside the Yosemite park boundary.

Half Dome and El Capitan - an iconic view.

Phil's friend Mike was a GREAT guide. From meeting us with a picnic to share at the base of El Cap on our first day, to guiding us on his double secret trail in bear country on the last day, it was an adventure through and through.

At Vernal Fall.

Before the rain - and the bears - and the scrambling across exposed talus slopes . . .

Bridal Veil Falls from a perspective few visitors to the park ever see.

Nature Boy on the super double secret trail (after chasing bears and stressing out Colleen!).

Phil, Mike, Colleen & Lowry.
We couldn't have had a better trip. Good weather, good food, good company . . . when can we go on another vacation?!
You can see more photos from our trip at the Facebook link below. I don't think you need to be a Facebook member to see them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dinner and a Movie

The first cold weather of the season has been lingering since Saturday so I’ve been thinking of warm food! If I try a new “experimental” recipe that is a little iffy, I always make a batch of these scones. Phil loves them and I know he’ll at least eat the scones, even if he isn’t too thrilled with the rest of the meal.

Serve scones hot out of the oven with a big bowl of chili and honey to drizzle over the top.

The recipe makes a small batch. You may want to mix up 2 batches and bake them at the same time. If you have a Pampered Chef pizza stone use it – the bottom of the scones get nicely browned & crispy.

Savory Chili Cornmeal Scones


2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. chilled stick butter or shortening, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup fat-free buttermilk
Cooking spray

Estimated Total Time: 35 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir just until moist. Pat dough into a 6-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and cut into 4 wedges. Bake at 400° for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

Bicycle Dreams
(2009) (run time 107 minutes) [We watched it July 23, 2009]

“Bicycle Dreams” captures the highs and lows of the 2005 edition of the Race Across America.

The Race Across America is an epic, 3000-mile bicycle race from the Pacific to the Atlantic. First held in 1982, RAAM is considered the most challenging sporting event in the world. Top riders, such as Jure Robic
, finish in under 10 days, riding over 300 miles per day and sleeping only a few hours per night.

Amid the sleepless grind, riders must endure the searing heat of the Mojave Desert, the agonizing climbs and descents of the Rockies, the driving winds of the Great Plains, and the twisting switchbacks of the Appalachians before the final sprint to the finish line in Atlantic City. With little prize money at stake, the fundamental goal of the race is simply to finish, a challenge half of all riders fail to meet.

**Spoiler Alert** In the 2005 edition of RAAM, one of the most respected and loved ultra endurance cyclists in the US was killed. If you’d like more information on the rider and the accident, click on this link.

To quote another movie reviewer: “It's an impressive, inspirational, and yet also deeply sad film, and I'd happily sit a non-cyclist in front of this, although it might enforce the impression that we're all completely mad.”

Like Running on the Sun, the movie about the Badwater Ultra Marathon, Bicycle Dreams is inspiring. The mental toughness of the competitors is amazing.

However, if we ever start talking about doing this event, just shoot us.


Don’t ask any questions. Shoot first, and get us into intensive psychological counseling immediately!

4 stars (for cyclists)
3 stars (for rational people who will spend the entire movie saying “Why the heck would anyone do that??”)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Too Cold to Cowboy

Here's a photo of the newly refinished floors; a light stain with a satin finish - they really look nice. I didn't realize how beat up they had gotten until I saw the "after."

So . . . this is the temperature at 9 am - an hour after I should have been at the cyclocross race. (Top temp is outside; bottom is inside. Maybe Phil has a point about me keeping the house too cold . . .!)
We didn't get a lot of snow; just enough to make the roads icky so you needed plenty of window washer fluid if you ventured out.

But it was just too cold for me to compete in the cyclocross race today. Hopefully, it will be warmer in a couple weeks when the next race with a "beginner" category takes place.

Rex was glad I stayed home - he got some extra belly rubbing and ear scratching.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Time to Cowboy Up

Colorado Veldrijden Crusade is sponsoring the Carbon Cross Epic Ride tomorrow at Bear Creek Lake Park near Morrison, CO. This is a new format for a cross race – it is an epic 10 mile loop with groups doing 1, 2, or 3 laps depending on which group they race in. The Beginners race 1 lap.

It is one of the few cyclocross races that has a "Beginner" category, so I've had it on my calendar since late August.

Wednesday night I put Mr Tuffy strips
and Slime tubes in my cyclocross bike's tires, remembering that Bear Creek is thick with goathead thorns.

Of course, our Canadian friends have decided to send a miserable weather system our way – which is slated to arrive in the Denver area tonight.

No self-respecting cyclocross racer would avoid an event due to weather. In fact, it seems that the nastier the weather, the more they enjoy the race.

It is apparent that I'm not a cyclocross racer. Right now I'm having a wimp attack.

Here is the weather forecast . . .

Tonight: A chance of snow before midnight, then snow likely, possibly mixed with freezing drizzle. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 22. Calm wind becoming northeast between 11 and 14 mph. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Saturday: A chance of snow and freezing drizzle, mainly before noon. Patchy fog. Otherwise, cloudy, with a high near 33. East wind between 3 and 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

The beginner race starts at 830 am – and the forecast is not optimal:

Time 8 am
Condition 23°F Snow Shower
Feels Like 13°F
Chance Precip 50%
Humidity 81%
Wind From NNE 10 mph

My bike is ready; I just don't know if I am! I plan to make a "game day" decision on whether to ride . . . stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dancing With the Stars

Except for the Tour de France - and the last quarter of most Broncos games - I rarely watch television. I don't have anything against TV, I just don't find anything entertaining when I flip through the channels.

But I do have my one guilty pleasure – Dancing With the Stars. I started watching it the year Emmitt Smith was competing.

Some seasons the show has a more engaging cast than others; some seasons the level of competition is quite high.

This season, I'm disappointed. First, look at the remaining line-up:

Aaron Carter
Chuck Liddell
Debi Mazar
Donny Osmond
Joanne Krupa
Kelly Osbourne
Louie Vito
Mark Dacascos
Melissa Joan hart
Michael Irvin
Natalie Coughlin
Tom DeLay

Other than Donny Osmond, I can't say that any of the other contestants rise to the level of "celebrity," much less "Star". My first reaction to most of the names on the list is "who?"

All the contestants seem engaged and they appear to be working hard, but I am just not interested. No one has caught my attention and made me want to root for them. Oh, Kelly Osbourne was a nice surprise, but I don't really care whether or not she makes it to next week.

So, I think I'm over it for this season. Monday evenings just opened up on my calendar.

Now I have time to fit in that yoga class I keep saying I want to attend . . .

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dinner and a Movie

Back on-line & mostly dust-free; the floors look good, but kind of a miserable process . . .

I am not a fish eater, unless we go to someone’s house and that is what they are serving. So Phil compensates by ordering salmon almost every time he eats out. I had friends over a while ago who don’t eat much red meat, so I decided to be the good host and serve salmon. I bought the freshest fish I could at Whole Foods and used this recipe.

It was great! I’m still not ever going to become a regular at the sushi bars, but a little grilled fish once in a while is okay.

Serve with steamed brown rice and broccoli.


Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon

1/4 cup bourbon (buy a little airline-sized bottle – it is the perfect amount)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag, and add salmon to bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1-1/2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill or broiler.

Remove salmon from bag, reserving marinade. Place salmon on a grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Cook 6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, basting frequently with reserved marinade. Yield: 4 servings

Seven Pounds (2008) (run time 118 minutes)

The director of
Seven Pounds constructs the story so that a major secret stays hidden from the audience until the very end, making a spoiler-free synopsis of the movie sound either mysterious or incoherent.

With that caveat in mind, Seven Pounds stars Will Smith as Ben Thomas, a mysterious IRS agent whose quest for redemption is unexpectedly complicated after he inadvertently falls in love.

We watched it (not on the bikes!) September 6. We both really like Will Smith, so we were willing to gamble on this even though it got mixed reviews.

I enjoyed it – I wasn’t checking my watch to see if it was almost over or anything – but it wasn’t Will’s best movie. I saw what was coming for quite awhile before it was acknowledged in the film, and I know that in real life the process doesn’t work that way.

3.5 Stars. Suspend your disbelief, pop some Orville Redenbacher’s Natural Buttery Salt & Cracked Pepper popcorn, and go with the flow.