Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thriller Dance Classes

“Cause this is thriller, thriller night
And no one’s gonna save you from the beast you strike
You know it’s thriller, thriller night
You’re fighting for you life inside a killer, thriller night.”

Like most everyone who has ever turned on the radio, I have sang right along to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” And after his passing, I wanted to get an insight to some of his iconic dance moves. A dance studio in Denver, Dance Art Studios, was offering just what I was looking for, thriller dance lessons.

The mystical music was jamming, the howling began and the music peaked. It was go time. We walked eight counts in our best zombie fashion, and eight more adding in the head twitches. Keeping the zombie mindset, we added more into the mix throwing our heads and moving our hips simultaneously, and it was all I could do to try and add grace into the mix.

It would be hard for anyone to dance like M.J., all of his intricate, crisp and subtle movements. His unparallel energy makes it look like he was meant to dance through life, instead of walk.

I continued on kicking my feet to the left and to the right, arms in the air and shimmying on down. Waving my hands in the air then tapping my foot in a circle around me to turn. We kept the pace going and rehearsing the moves that we learned.

By the end of the class we were running smoothly and keeping pace. The classes are divided into four one hour classes. And by the end of the fourth class you could to be thrilling on any thriller night.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Today we are going to cross cultures over to Scandinavia. My family in Phoenix has Scandinavian roots and it turns out there could not have been a more cultural time to visit, as they were putting together a Scandinavian smorgasbord breakfast for nearly 200 people. And I was there to help!
All types of authentic foods were served from Lox, Danishes, Lingonberries, a variety of cheeses and meats and we even made a Norwegian wedding cake. But my favorite part was the rosettes because they are like snowflakes, no two are alike.
Rosettes are a very delicate and thin cookie made with a rosette iron. Of the many types of designs, we chose a star and circular pattern.
The cookies are made from a batter that consists mainly of eggs, sugar and flour. Some families spice it up by adding vanilla or even stronger flavors like lemon.
Game Time! After learning the plays from my Uncle Mark I was ready for a touchdown. As I was a first time chef, even a first down would have been fine by me. The rosette iron is dipped into a pot of oil at 375 degrees for about a minute. TIME OUT! I fumbled; I failed to give the iron a definitive shake, you know to show them who the boss is. This lets the excess oil off the iron.
Game resumed. We then dipped the iron into the batter and then placed back into the oil to fry for about fifteen to thirty seconds, or until it develops a deep golden color. If you are me, you might overcook a few, but my coach had me back in the game in no time.
After lifting the iron out of the oil, use a fork to gently push the rosette off the iron and onto a paper towel or plate. I stumbled here at first and dismantled a few of these precious cookies. But we called a time out and headed to the drawing board. I quickly saw the pinpoints of where to give the slightest pressure to the rosette for an easy release.
We then dipped ours in granulated sugar. AND VOILA! Anyone can be game and become a Scandinavian chef in an instant. The process can be repeated as many times as necessary, or until your tummy is full!
Ok, so the mix of oil and sugar is not the healthiest thing but who said you can’t live on the sweet side for just a little while?!
Here is one way batter can be made:
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine eggs, sugar, and salt; beat well and add remainder of the ingredients.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Two weeks before the Phoenix Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon I said “I’m in!” I switched out my P-90 X DVD’s for long runs, tempo runs and mile repeats. At the start line my nerves were turned on high. I have run half marathons in the past but a full training schedule always accompanied the race.
Making sure my timing chip was hooked tightly I took a full breath and headed out with my mind focused only on mile marker number one. Before I even thought to check my pace, my Asics already got me to the first mile. I looked at my watch to see a 7:47. I’ll take it.
By the sixth mile I was still on target for my pace to be just under 8:00 minute miles. I was running on the outside of the course taking every high five I could get. I felt the corners of my mouth constantly turning up, I was feeling darn good. Smiling away.
At mile nine, the smile came down a notch. And by mile ten, two notches. I was trying to ignore the blisters I could feel forming on the arches of my feet. My heel to toe running fashion soon was turning to the outsides of my feet. But I would not let anything take me off my pace.
At every mile I developed a pattern. I would count ahead 8 minutes and repeat the number out loud to myself to keep my focus powered on and to make it to the next mile marker in just under 8 minutes, every time.
I didn’t want the pattern to stop. My breaths became deeper and my focus stronger. I powered through to mile 11 and kept telling myself I could do it, and believed it. At mile twelve I decided to take it in. With the finish line in sight, I started to push harder off the ground and reach farther with my stride. My arms pumping and taking me to a sprint I crossed the finish line. I instantly looked at my watch. 1:43:50. I came in with a personal record.
This race was ever so important to me because I felt the power of believing in yourself. I told myself I would do it, and I did.
The Rock ‘N Roll marathons have a trail of success behind them, as they should. Bands are organized and playing at each mile. Supplies are stocked and no runner would ever be left high and dry without water and friendly staff and volunteers to cheer them on. The expo runs smoothly and offers a lot of expert advice along the way, and plenty of samples of every kind of energy bar you could imagine!
With nearly 22,000 finishers in the half marathon, and close to 6,000 finishers in the marathon, the size of this race will surely keep growing because of the organization and energy brought to the course.

Old Adobe Mission, Old Town Scottsdale

Spending the Martin Luther King Holiday in Downtown Scottsdale was a treat almost as rewarding as the peanut butter cup sundae I ate at the Sugar Bowl in the Old Town. I figured since I ran the Phoenix half marathon the day before, I could delve in.
As a museum fanatic (some call me nerdy, but I’ll let it slide) I had to take in as much of the museum offerings as possible, even though they were closed. As I stood outside the railway museum, I pictured the conductors and cargo these trains may have carried. All I needed was a guide to fill me in on the fun facts; I suppose that’s what Google and guide books are for.
I could only take so much shopping. I do love art, but all the Southwest art on Fifth Avenue and the Western art in the Old Town started to mesh in my mind as the same. So I strolled onto the beaten path to find a solid bright white building with a cross on the top. It reminded me of the magnificent churches that always caused my adrenaline to rush in Europe.
As I turned the knob, I held my breath hoping that by some chance the church might be open. It was. I was soon inside the Old Adobe Mission, the first Catholic Church in Scottsdale.
The church was built in 1933 by Hispanic and Anglos so they could have a place to worship. What I found the most interesting about the church was the pews. Seems like all pews are standard, right? But at this church every family was responsible for creating and maintaining their pew, which means that every pew was different. I would have hoped to have mine finished first so I could have front row, permanently!
I was able to sit down and take a break from the rain and instead take in the stain glass windows and clay walls. The mission is open to the public for a place to contemplate, and that’s exactly what I did. I put aside my now wrinkled map, turned off my phone and shook off my umbrella to sit back, relax and enjoy the Old Adobe Mission experience.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Castle Trail, Morrison Colorado

Beautiful trails criss cross all over Colorado, but there is one trail with an extra majestic ending. Castle Trail is located two miles outside the charming town of Morrison. The trail is fairly steep and is shared by hikers, walkers and bikers.
After a three mile climb to the top there it is! The remains of a castle atop Mount Falcon, which was once the home of John Brisben Walker in the early 1900’s. He lived here while he was building a summer home for the presidents to vacation in. After a fire destroyed his home in 1918 the project was put on hold and never completed.
President or not, who wouldn’t want to vacation here? You can’t go wrong with what direction you look. The west, you have the mountains, to North is Denver and Red Rocks, and the East and South holds the calming plains.
A look at the remnants make it easy to visualize the structure of what was once a mansion complete with many fireplaces and large stone walls. As I walked through the remains I though back to a visionary man who built the place.
John Brisben Walker is responsible for the Denver Mountain Park System and even built a railroad up Mount Falcon, which was the longest running cog railway system at that time. I peeked my head out west of what would have been a very large window and tried to put myself in Walker’s top hat. If I could take away anything from this hike, besides the endurance I gained, I would hope it would be the innovation and enthusiasm this man left behind.
If you are looking to add a little excitement to a hike you have to try out Castle Trail! From Denver: Head South on C-470 and go West at Morrison Road. Turn left at the second light after the small town. Follow signs to Mt. Falcon Open Space Park.
And if you have not yet experienced Red Rocks it is just a red stone’s throw away.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Walking out of my house, heading to South Suburban Ice Arena, with a broom in one hand and duct tape in the other, I felt a little ridiculous. In my head, I pictured my debut as me surging over the ice towards my team, complete with a hokey stop spraying ice into the air. But broomball is a game, where even though played on the ice, participants wear street shoes, so the hockey stop would have to wait for another day.
The only prop needed for this game, which originated in Canada, is a broom with a duct taped bristles. Lucky for us, there was a veteran broom ball player who supplied actual broom ball sticks, which are aluminum shafts with a rubber triangle at the bottom. There are two types of balls to play with. One is larger and looks like a volleyball, the other is smaller and looks like a basketball you would find in an arcade game.
Game time. After the draw was taken we were all slip sliding to the ball and slapping it across the courts. This was a pick up game with players ranging from 7 to 47 years old, and the sole purpose was for fun. We didn’t have pennies, which made it hard to identify who was on our team.
But it didn’t take long for us to start recognizing “the enemy”, start talking and start passing. The ball was beginning to be controlled and suddenly I felt like I was back on the lacrosse field. Especially, when a seven year old kid set up a pick and I landed right in the middle of it. Wipe out number one. Little Rascal.
All Right strategy time, I started thinking back to the high school and college lacrosse days. We set someone up behind the goal and tried to make cuts toward it to shoot, but the other team’s goalie was fearless, stopping every shot. The best shots on goal occurred when a powerhouse player used all their might to slap that ball all the way to the corner of the net. Swoosh.
The best luck I had at scoring was when a second ball was added into the mix. This one was larger, the volleyball sized one, and it was much easier to control. When we had both balls on our side and the goalie was focused on saving one ball, I shot the other in, with all my might. But the seven year old jumped in the air and slapped it right down to the ground. The cheering of my team stopped. Thanks a lot kid.
To switch it up, I moved over to the defensive end by the goalie, trying to keep the ball from making any rides in. There was the seven year old, he sure plays tight defense. He took a shot with the small ball and I backed up the goalie and swept it out. After it was cleared I heard victory cheers. I whipped around to see our goalie sliding through the ice on his stomach, and the ball had landed in the right corner pocket over his head. AH! The young tot should have been hoisted into the air. He took our strategy of distracting with one ball and scoring with the other. We should have copyrighted that move!
After a few more shots on goal, wipeouts and taking more beatings from a seven year old the lights started to flicker. The rec center was closing but I knew I would be going home to brush up on strategy and even game film to take that seven year old down.
But all ridiculousness aside, broomball is a game that most anyone can play and most anyone should.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Elvis the Pelvis

Elvis’s seventy fifth birthday would have been yesterday, so I decided to get out and celebrate. An Elvis impersonator in a snazzy leather suit caught my eye in the Denver Post, so I kept reading. Anyone who can pull off a full on leather suit deserves attention. Turn outs out, Johnny Barber can really recreate that Rock ‘N Roll legend Elvis left behind in 1977 at the age of 42.
A full house came aboard at the Oriental Theater in Denver to remember the King of Rock. The dance floor was rock’n and we were trying to swerve our hips like Elvis the Pelvis. Johnny Barber can move his legs like an earthquake, but a controlled one that leaves you with no choice but to get up and dance.
All the hits were played and the whole theater was digging deep to sing out “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “All Shook Up.” There also came the time for the gospel songs and many other uncharted Elvis songs that I was unfamiliar with. However, regardless of if the lyrics rang in my ear the Elvis mystique comes through in all of them.
Someone even thought to bring Elvis’s favorite, peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, and the crowd went wild! After the birthday candles were blown out people were now swiveling heir hips as they licked the last of the peanut butter off their hands. I am always ready to try something new but to me bacon and peanut butter together is almost as scary as flying on a trapeze without a net. But if someone with Elvis’s taste like it, I might have to pull out the griddle one of these days.
Even without the cake I was still fueled to keep on rock’n for the nearly two hours that were played, all in a leather suit. That deserves a standing ovation in its self. There was an artist on the side of the stage mixing dancing and painting. You would think it would turn out a little messy but here are the pictures to show how an Elvis tune can inspire an artist.