Green Eggs & Gym?

Yes, you read that right. It's been a big serving of green eggs and gym this past week. That, and our 20th Wedding Anniversary. We went to Django last night up in Des Moines for some French Bistro cuisine to celebrate.

Back to the egg....

I spent three days staining and applying coats of spar urethane on the cypress wooden table that houses Tara's new extra large Big Green Egg smoker/grill/oven. The goal was to protect the wood to withstand the outside elements on our back deck. That's a tall task for the temperature range of -15 to 100+ degrees here in Iowa, but we'll see how it does. I chose a cherry chestnut stain and I took the table apart to get every inch of the wood stained and coated with the spar urethane before assembling it all back together. The house developed quite a smell from all of those chemicals and even with the windows open and the ceiling fans going - I developed a sore throat for two days from inhaling the stuff. Was it all worth it?

Well - here is the finished product which will enjoy its maiden smoke tomorrow to kick of the New Year. I think we'll do brisket and pork butt for round one.

After Zack and I lifted the 225 lb. egg into the hole in the table:


I'm really happy with the staining color choice as it offsets the dark green ceramic of the Big Green Egg quite well.

Here's Tara showing off her new present:


Here's the Egg outside on the deck and ready for use (not to worry, we have a cover for it):


Hopefully the food will taste yummy.

Now on to the gym rat part of the post...

I spent the past 2 off seasons at the gym doing my weights, but the cost of gym membership is just getting too high and the Simpson gym is always full of athletes using all the weights and machines I need at the times I can go to the gym. So I have slowly developed my own gym in the basement and can workout whenever I want without having to share the weights. Well, except when my son comes down in the basement to show off and bench press every plate we own. And my daughter is doing squats and dead lifts for her sprinting. She did very well this week at Iowa State Track Camp where she was the only freshmen sprinter there. She learned a lot about technique and they focused on coming out of the blocks to get the most powerful acceleration.

I'm in the Hypertrophy phase right now which calls for 6 sets of 10-12 reps at time. At the gym, tying up the squat rack for 6 sets with 1 1/2 - 2 minutes of rest between sets to get in the full 60 - 72 reps was usually a frustrating experience for either me or the person(s) waiting for what I was using. I do miss have the leg press, rowing machine and lat pull from the gym - but I'll have to make do by doing other core and leg exercises that target the same thing.

Here's the new bench with squat rack that Tara and the kids got me for Christmas:


And here is where most of my weekly cycle training is during the winter:


I have been getting out on the snow quite a bit with the RIP 9 this winter. I'm not a big fan of riding gravel roads in general, but now that they are snow and ice covered, I get in some outdoor time nearly every day thanks to taking the dogs for a walk. The colder it is, the better in terms of traction and speed. It's a great way to work on balance on the bike because the front and rear tires will - on occasion - slide out, forcing one to balance and counter to stay upright. I did it last year as well and it really helped my control when sliding out on the dirt during races. I have not fallen yet this winter, but I can already tell my balance skills are improving even more this year which should pay off come race season.

But the majority of the training is happening inside with the weights and exercise bikes. I've got a goal to shave some minutes off of my finish times this coming season. That's a tall order, but I'm shooting for it.

I timed the all-important hypertrophy phase to take place while I was on vacation from teaching because it is the most draining phase due to the amount of lifting. I did a little longer adaptation phase this fall because I really stopped maintenance weights during the season this year (for whatever reason). So it took time to get everything going again and avoid any injury. My right elbow area does feel sore and has a bit of strain as all the snow shoveling has tweaked it a bit.

In fact, with all the hypertrophy lifting I'm doing (4 days a week), this is what I feel like even after a 30 minute recovery ride:



December now officially ranks as the 2nd month with the most snow in history here in the Des Moines area as we topped 28 inches yesterday. Worries of flooding, roof damange/leaking abound as we all wait to see what will happen once the temperatures climb back up to the 36 degree area and all this white stuff goes somewhere as it melts.

Back down to the basement to set it up for my daughters New Year's Eve Party. She has invivted eleven 14 year old girls to spend the night and some boys will be there until just shortly after midnight. That ought to keep my wife and I busy and sleepless all night...


Snowiest month in history yet.....?

We've already made it to the 3rd snowiest month in history here with 27.7 inches (and it just started snowing outside again). That's close to the 2nd snowiest month which was 28 inches in March of 1912. The snowiest month on record was 37 inches in January of 1886. I doubt we'll make that, but there is a good chance we'll nip the 1912 record since snow is falling right now and Wednesday's forecast is for snow.

No wonder my back hurts from all the shoveling!!!

I stained the table for Tara's Christmas/Anniversary/Birthday present today. Alexa, Zack and I bought her something called "The Big Green Egg" which is a grill/smoker/oven all in one and a table for her "egg" so we can cook outside with it. The table wood was unfinished cypress and I used a beautiful cherry chestnut stain that required two coats. Tomorrow I will seal it all up with three coats of indoor/outdoor spar urethane. That should allow us to get the "egg" set in there, put it out on the back deck and get everything ready to go for our first smoked meal!!!! Yummy.....

It's been a weekend full of doing all - or at least some - of those projects that I have let go for many weeks and in some cases months. I built a make-up vanity for Alexa in her bathroom, removed some spots on the new carpet downstairs, did a major house cleaning and cleaned out the "stuff" that had been hiding in the back of both fridges for a long, long time. I'll finish dealing with the speaker wire and cables of our home entertainment system tomorrow, time permitting. A few more projects to go over the vacation, but the main one starts soon as I block out, map out and figure out how I am going to stage and direct The Mikado since our rehearsals at Simpson start on January 11th. I've got tons of ideas in my head on exactly what I want, but I need to put ideas to paper so I know how it is all going to map out measure by measure for the entire operetta. We have very little time to waste in the rehearsal process, so I need to be prepared. The set design is done. The costumes have been ordered. I've coached everyone on their spoken dialogue to get the British accents and inflection going. I need to track down some large Japanese fans that are built specifically for stage productions. We may have to rent them, but the costume company is the first place to start as they have access to fans.

I set up my Christmas present yesterday. Tara got a really great deal on a floor model weight bench with squat rack. It was marked down, on sale from the marked down price and she talked them into an additional 10% off since it was a floor model from a model no longer made (last year's model). Sweet wheeling and dealing there and I love the set up!! I had asked for socks to be my present. Well, I actually did get 2 pair of new cycling socks along with a new coffee thermos, a 2010 datebook, and a weight lifting belt. That's way more than the socks.

Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming in 3 days and I'm trying to figure out where to take Tara for dinner on a date. It's hard to believe it has actually been 20 years. Time flies when you're having fun!

Training wise, I have been getting some good time in on the exercise bike, weights, recumbent trainer and I ride every morning and evening around the neighborhood on the RIP 9 with the big knobby tires in the snow. I think everyone in the neighborhood thinks I'm nuts to be out there riding every day, but I love riding in the snow and cold. I'm trying not to put on so much muscle weight this year, so I am watching how many plates I throw on the lifting bar and how much I throw on my plate at the dinner table as well. ;-)


1st Semester Ends!!!

I finished up last night about 5:30 pm with the second semster and then got the grades submitted. It's been an eventful semester, some of those events were grand, good and fun. Others give me reason to pause, reflect and rebuild to go forward. One student is transferring to a community college. One dropped out of school around mid-semester. One student is switching to an online degree from another institution to get a degree other than music. She will do this from home and not continue at Simpson. And one told me yesterday that he is jumping ship next semester. So I began the semester with 19 voice majors and now trimmed down to 15. This gives me room for 3 new students, but not sure who and how that will work out at the moment. I have a full load with directing the opera on the side, so it may be best to recruit 3 new students to begin next academic calendar year (2010-11).

To take my mind off the daily grind, I got the RIP all up and going again this morning after the rear hub was worked on at the LBS. While I had the wheel off, I swapped out the 118mm BB spindle to one with a 113mm to get a narrower Q-Factor that I prefer. I took it out for a spin in the snow with the dogs, but that is not as much fun as the "snow-free" trails are. Black Hills - here I come. The only question is when. I've got to figure that out.

Here's the RIP ready to go....



Two of my former students from 2003-2007, Alejandro and Evan, are stopping by this evening to say hello on their way through town as they head to KC for the holidays. Alejandro teaches in Chicago and Evan in eastern Iowa. I'm looking forward to visiting with them to see how things are going. Another former student stopped by my office yesterday for a lesson and to sing for me. He is home on break from graduate school. He is doing really well and his singing is progressing right on track to be a major tenor talent in the opera business. I'll see him Saturday as well at a Christmas party.

Off to the mall with Alexa....


It's the busiest time of year...

I am always amazed how our music department at Simpson operates on a different work schedule than other departments. We began our finals week on Saturday which included piano proficiency examinations from 8 am - 3 pm, voice juries from 3:15 pm to 5 pm and continued with two concerts "Lessons and Carols" on Sunday afternoon followed by recital auditions from 7 - 11 pm. Monday - Thursday includes more juries and recital auditions at all hours of the day, meetings, dialogue and musical coachings for The Mikado which I am directing for our February production. I wonder if other departments work all through the weekend and during the evening like ours? '-[

I've managed to squeeze in my off training work in the basement with weights and on the C7i trainer knocking out enough cardio to keep me in shape and not lose too much fitness. I've been at it "down there in the basement" for about 3 weeks and moved from adaptation of weight lifting into the growth phase. That means it is time for the purchase of a rack I can use for squats. It's kind of hard to get the bar with all the plates on it up on your shoulders from the floor to do the squats by yourself. I always did these at the gym before with their rack and smith machine, but decided not to renew my membership and do it at home instead (watching the 55" TV of course)!!!! They've got a rack that can be used for bench press and raises high enough for squats up at Scheel's that isn't a pro sturdy model, but should suffice for my needs. It sells for $199 and is like some I have seen on line for $150. By the time you add shipping - it's a wash price wise.

I was enjoying a great fall of mountain biking once the dirt froze. My rear Chris King hub froze up on my last weekend and the LBS found nothing wrong with it. It needed a little winterizing (typical for King hubs to keep them rolling in cold temps). Regardless, last weekend was the end of the fun fall riding as the blizzard dumped so much snow with so many odd 3 - 6' drifts, that any off road snow riding is impossible this year because of the drifts and depth of snow (unless everything melts or one owns a Pugsley with the fat snow tires). We got a glazing of frozen rain and ice over everything in the past 12 hours which even dampens the riding around the neighborhood with the dogs. I'll have to dig out the studded tires today, but no time as I am at work from 10 - 10 today. So, it is pretty much a full time basement workout for now which is fine with me.

I'm still hoping to get out to the Black Hills on my RIP 9 at some point while my cardio is in good shape over this 3 week semester break, but weather and what not will decide if that happens.

Off to the music building for 12 hours of "listening" to the students perform their final juries and work with students on their British accents for the dialogue in The Mikado. We may have to go for a hybrid Midwest-British accent....



We are experiencing a good old fashioned Dakota Blizzard at the moment. It dropped about 14 - 16" of snow yesterday, last night and today. The winds behind the storm have kicked up to 30 - 50 mph all day long which have created some amazing drifts in our yard, driveway and street. One in the backyard is as high as the fence (about 6') and the drifts in the front yard and driveway are 3 - 5 feet in height. Temperatures and windchill are so cold that is hard to stay out there longer than 30 minutes at a time to work on the snow removal.

Public school and even college closed for the day (rare when the college closes). I've been digging out all day, but the wind just fills things back in within 30 minutes. I'm heading next door to borrow our neighbors snow blower to attack the driveway. The city snow plows managed to move all of the snow in the street into my driveway's entrance (like the do every time they plow). This time, however, it's at least 5 feet high and about 10 - 12 feet from street edge up the driveway. Way too much for a shovel to handle with the amount of daylight I have remaining. Plus my arms and back are pooped from all the shoveling I've done yesterday and today as it is.

Winds should die down around 6 p.m. tonight allowing all of us to finish digging out so we can get to school and work tomorrow.

Home made chili and apple pie was the mid day snack today. Yummmy!!!