Happy Anniversary (24th)!!!!

My wife, Tara, will not be happy I am posting this.  She would be mortified if I put it on Facebook, so I'll just sneak it in here.  Tara, thanks for the past 24 glorious years and here's to many more!!!



2013 ATP Hours Round Up...

My ultimate goal of logging in 433 hours for the year was hit today!!!!

Thanks to yesterday's temperatures in the 50's, Tara and I got out for a nice road bike ride.  I managed to log in 2 1/2 hours out there as my legs were feeling pretty good and I went back for another segment after Tara peeled off to go home after the first hour.

Today, with temperatures about 50 degrees cooler and in single digits outside with howling winds, I mounted myself up on the C7i in the 70 degree warm basement and ground out 2 hours watching the NFL while sipping on 2 bottles of water.

The start of my 2nd hour where I threw in 15 x 1 minute intervals...


It's hard to take a picture while spinning at 89 rpm's!!!  But the ride felt good and I think I am in pretty good shape to enter my base building phase officially after January starts.

My 87 year old Dad is visiting us for 10 days and has been making his way down to the basement to get 20 minutes per day on the LeMond recumbent trainer.  He usually either falls asleep while spinning on it or makes it over to the couch for his "sleepy time".  Here he is all tuckered out after today's 20 minutes and not paying attention to the Packers vs. Bears game...


It's been nice having him for a visit as we celebrated his 87th birthday on the 21st, Christmas Eve, Christmas and he will be flying back to Rapid City on New Year's Eve. 

As I've blogged before, I had several ATP goals this year.  Goal one was to usurp last year's hours by 10%.  I hit that goal of 392 hours on November 21st.  Then my Training Peaks goal was for 420 hours which I surpassed in December and the final goal was an annual planned 433 hours which I just hit today!!!

Training Peaks

433 Hours is now in the bag and all I have left is a weight lifting sesson tomorrow which will probably be 30-40 minutes.  Then a rest and recovery week which will really not be a rest.  It will involve snow skiing!!!  A different exercise, but at least a R&R off the bike.

Christmas was held this year with me being the primary chef getting the meal organized and cooked as Tara flew in from San Francisco Christmas Day due to her Christmas Eve flight being overbooked in San Francisco.  They actually wrote her out a check for $783 because of it which covered the cost of a hotel overnight in Chicago and the first seat into Des Moines Christmas morning.

Cooking the meal...

I smoked a 13 pound turkey and used a simple Simon & Garfunkle recipe (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme).  After an 18 hour brine (Alton Brown's brine recipe), I used olive oil and my herbs to wet rub the bird...


Three hours on the Big Green Egg at 325 - 375 and it looked spectacular when it came out of the Egg...


The bird was very juicy and delicious!!!  We actually got 7 meals out of this bird.  Christmas "Lunner", Christmas night leftovers, two meals of turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, two smoked turkey pizzas and last night we finished off the turkey with spinach salad.

Back to Christmas Day:  Of course, I made a nice organic cranberry, apple and fresh squeezed orange sauce...


And one has to have some cherry pie...


There were roasted brussel sprouts with bacon as well, but I didn't get a photo of those.

It was nice to have 2 weeks of exercise through it all that had enough hours to burn off the calories.  I got 9:20 hours in last week and 9:10 this week.


Merry Christmas to All!!!

May the blessings of the season be with you and your family!



Single Digits for the holidays...

Saturday:  We celebrated my father's birthday on Saturday (his 87th).  We gave him the option of a birthday lunch or a birthday dinner and he chose lunch.  And he wanted an Iowa Pork Chop.  So off we went for a quiet Saturday lunch to celebrate and find a pork chop.   He was a bit tired from the trip out, but we had a nice visit and lunch.

Zack and I attended Deb and Joel Hade's annual Christmas party on Saturday evening.  It's also a fund raiser for the Indianola High School A Capella Choir who show up and sing a half dozen songs for the 50-70 folks in attendance.  They were great as usual and I made a contribution to their fund raiser digging deep into my wallet.  A bit later, everyone gathered to sing christmas songs which is always a special time for those of us that like music and singing.  This year was fun (and special) for me as Zack and I both sang a couple of duets/solos and it was fun to sing with him.  We went to the party with the ground dry and the sky clear.  We left the party a few hours later with 2" of snow already on the ground and a nice snow storm well underway.  It must have been that "Let it Snow" song we all sang!!!

Sunday:  When we woke up on Sunday, there was a 3 foot drift across the driveway and the snow was about 6-8" deep in the driveway and on the walks.  My snowblower's auger wouldn't rotate, so I had to do it the old manual way with a shovel.  Ughhh!!!  That was not good for the back.  2 1/2 hours laters, sweating and exhausted I got back into the house and ate a bowl of soup to recover.  The rest of the day was spent watching football and resting.  I did get an hour on the bike trainer to finish the week at 9+ hours of training.  I made it an evening of grilling steaks out in the cold and the side dish was my succotash and small red potatoes.  Yum!

Monday:  Brrrrrrr......it was -4 this morning during my dog walk.  The dogs seemed to enjoy it, although I think Zoey's paw got a little chilly running around in the snow out there.   Max was happy as a clam and in the mood to play when we got back...

Max playing.

After we played a bit, I got my Dad's sleep apnea machine reset and working (it had not functioned for 2 nights due to a computer chip error code).  After 2 nights of poor sleeping he went in for his morning nap to hook up to his machine and was out for 4 hours!!!  Nothing like sleep debt, whether one is 87, 52, 20, or 6.  While he slept, I loaded up the snow blower in the back of the Element and hauled it off for repair.  Then I got everything needed for the next two or three days from Hy-Vee (dog food, people food, and holiday cheer).

I made a big vat of slow cooker chili for the bachelors so we'd have some Monday Night Football game food.  This is the last official regular season game in Candlestick as it ends the 43 years of service it provided. 

Looking good as I fired it up for the cook...


It's from a really good and interesting recipe here.  Not too spicy, but has just enough kick to satisfy everyone as it leaves those who don't like hot chili happy as well.  It's the only chili recipe I've ever used that includes diced celery in the dish which is a nice addition.

While the chili was cooking, I jumped the holiday tradition game by one day in terms of setting up the Tannenbaum on Christmas Eve.  Tara (and I think Alexa) arrive back in Des Moines tomorrow from San Francisco, so I wanted to get as much done as possible and couldn't wait until tomorrow.  Sorry and apologies to the German tradition, but it's done one day ahead of schedule this year.  Zack helped me decorate the tree and we had fun talking about all of the ornaments that he and Alexa had made over the years in school that were still in the ornament bag as we pulled them out.

After the basement flood following the tornado in 2010, we lost all of our lights and a lot of our ornaments.  Since we didn't set it up last year as we were in South Dakota for Christmas, I guess I forgot that I had replaced the damaged lights with all red lights.  It looks really vivid in person compared to this picture, but the lights are all red (not white like some of them look in this picture)...



Winter is here!!!

Saturday is the shortest day of the year.  Or better known as Winter Solstice 2013.  It kicks off the season known as winter officially - even though it seems like winter had already arrived a few weeks early this year.  Well, now it is officially here.  We were awakened today to a covering on the ground and cars that seemed like a big glazed doughnut was outside thanks to the ice that covered everything.  The dog walks were fun today because of that and not only the dogs, but I too felt like I needed ice skates.

Speaking of ice skating, Tara and Alexa are in California for Christmas.  Here's a shot of Tara that she sent me today standing next to the outdoor rink in Walnut Creek, CA (where we used to live and where Tara grew up).  Her sister is in the background in the middle of the rink teaching skating...


She flew out on Wednesday from Des Moines and Alexa flew out on Thursday from Kansas City.  I played chaffeur for the 2 on Wednesday and Thursday and logged in a trip to Iowa City and back on Wednesday and Kansas City and back on Thursday.

I snapped this shot of Alexa getting ready to enter her gate at the KC airport after we hit up the Starbucks...

KC Airport

My father arrived for the holidays this evening after his flight was delayed for 4 hours in Denver (not weather related).  Between Zack, myself, and my Dad - we had our first bachelor's evening tonight sitting around the kitchen table eating my pot roast and trimmings.  Tomorrow is Dad's birthday, so we'll celebrate his 87th somewhere besides my cooking!!!!

In spite of my lower back nagging me a bit today, I managed to get in 70 minutes of training after yesterday's hour on the bike.  I downloaded the free app MyFitnessPal for my iPhone to track my daily intake of food and exercise to keep track of what and how much goes in every day to get an idea of my habits so I can tweak a few things.  The iPhone reads the bar code of any product/packaged food that I eat to make things easy.  All the rest I look up easily online and type in the information for my portion size and the calories.   I was shocked at the amount of sodium in the can of Clam Chowder I had for lunch.  Wow!  Time to stop buying that canned soup.  I think even the low sodium version would be way too high as well.

To make Winter Solstice 2013 appropriate, there will be snow arriving on Saturday which will sit on top of the ice we have.  Luckily, the new Winterforce tires from Firestone are champs out there in the conditions.

Enjoy your shortest day of the year!!!


Gadgets and Gimmicks continued.....

Well, I guess my fascination with gadgets and even some gimmicks continued yesterday.

I had a dentist's appointment in the morning with my good friend Dr. Al Boone.  I was in 6 months ago for a routine cleaning and he noted I would need to replace an old filling at my 6 month cleaning and check up in December.  I guess I forgot about the filling aspect of the appointment and thought I was just getting a cleaning.  After the cleaning, the hygienest told me now it was time for my filling.  What?  Oh, that's right.  Now I remember.  So I was marched into the next room and saw the another assistant come in with the big novacaine needle and syringe along with the tools for the drill job.  Al came in to chat and take a look.

Here's the gimmick that Al offered to me...

He said we could give it a try without novacaine.  Really?  He said if I felt any pain, we could always novacaine me up at that point?  I trusted him and the drilling proceeding to remove the old filling, and drill down another 1.5mm to prepare for the new filling.  He was right, outside of the pressure and sound - I wasn't feeling any pain.  Kudos to Al for recommending that as it saved me from drooling for 2 hours with a numb mouth.  I got the new filling and instructions not to eat for an hour - and when I did, only chew on the other side of my mouth.  Sounded like a recipe to have soup for lunch.

I drove across the street to the tire shop and saw that my Firestone Winterforce tires had arrived.  Much to my surprise, one of Zack's ex-girlfriends was working there and it was nice to talk to her and catch up.  The new tires look great...


...and provide a nice plush, soft ride in the colder temperatures.  The reviews talked about how loud they were, but I took it up to 65 mph and it didn't sound much different than with my all-season tires on there.  The Element is simply not a quiet ride to begin with, so no problems there.  More snow is due tomorrow and since I have to get Alexa to the KC airport - perfect timing to have the dedicated tread installed on the truck.

Back to gadgets...

More options will be available for mountain bikes in 2014 from Wolf Tooth Components and Absolute Black that include larger cogs on a rear cassette for a cost-effective 1 x 10 system that has as broad a range of gearing as the 1 x 11 systems to date.

Wolf Tooth will have a 42T cog for around $90 in January...


And Absolute will have a 40T cog next year as well...


I'm not ordering anything yet, but it's nice to be thinkering on it all.  I bet there is even a way to convert a 9 speed cassette using one of these new cogs via a wider spacer and the same sort of instructions as those used for converting the 10 speed cassette.  Using a 10 speed chain on a 9 speed is fine - actually better in terms of chain retention - so no problems there.  I've got plenty of time to think about it.  I rode the RIP yesterday for the two dog walks and it was nice to sit back on a full suspension after 2 months of nothing but sitting on the road bike, trainer and hardtail.  My back and body let out a nice sigh of relief with a big "Ah......" as I flew through the field behind the nearby elementary school with dogs running wild.

Temperatures rose to 38 degress on Tuesday afternoon, but the windchill made it feel like it was in the low 20's.  So I bundled up and headed out for a 75 minute black pavement ride on the road bike with Beethoven and Mahler blasting in my ears.  Most of the wind I hit was a cross wind which kept me on my toes handling wise.  It was pretty strong.  It's even stronger today!!!

Phone gadgets and gimmicks...

US Cellular began selling the iPhone on November 8th.  Zack and I were still on the old flip phones with no data package and were years out of our contract and due to be brought into the fold of having a smart phone.  We had accrued enough points to get 2 iPhone 5C's for a penny each (well, along with the 2 year contract and an increase from $10 a month to $35 a month for the data package).  We needed Tara to go along with us to US Cellular to do this as she had to sign the point release.  Somehow, we never got around to upgrading once the phones we had been waiting for were available at US Cellular on November 8th.  Either we were all busy doing different things or the local store was out of stock on the iPhones.

Regardless, last night the full moon found us all in the same place at the same time, so we made her go with us to the local US Cellular branch.  And of course, a stop at a US Cellular store in these parts is a guaranteed 2 hour wait.  After having been in and out of there so often over the years thanks to Alexa managing to always break something, or get a faulty phone - I dread having to sit around so long waiting for service.  And so it was last night.  We had to sign our names on a wait list and were told the wait was running around 35 minutes.  2 hours later, our name was called.  During that time, I pretty much tried out every phone in the store to make sure I was going to be okay with the iPhone.  The special rate they were running for the holiday season was instead of the phone price for the iPhone 5C being $99, you could get it for a penny with 5000 points from your account.  The salesman told us we had enough points to get 5 or 6 phones - so we were good to go for the two we needed.  Eventually, we emerged through the locked doors at 9:25 PM with our new gadgets in hand (cased in the Otter Box protective case).

Zack's phone and case is white and my phone and case is blue...


How's that for a "phonie self"....?  '-)

Good grief!  Now I have to remember all of these dang passwords (Facebook, flickr, YAHOO!, Google, iTunes, WiFi, etc...).

I know the camera is a bit better on the iPhone 5S, but that phone would have cost me $199 more than the penny for the 5C.  You needed something like 31000 points for that phone to be free and we didn't have enough for one of those and a 5C.  It was something I could stand considering I still have a nice digital camera for any occasion.  The phone camera - as you see in the pictures above of me new tire and the phone - is fine for showing representative images on a blog or Facebook.


Giddy for Gadgets!!!

Oh boy, it's dangerous when I have time to read and scour the internet for stuff.

You know, stuff you don't really absolutely need, but has been in the back of your mind for a while.

During Tara's first ride on her holiday gift CycleOps Fluid trainer, it was apparent that laying her cellphone on the floor to use as a timer is not going to work since the screen goes dark and you have to get off the bike to use the phone.  So I told her I would get a holder that she could use to mount it on the bike.  I checked with the US Cellular store here in town and at Wal-Mart - no Galaxy S4 bike mounts.  I called Rassy's up in Des Moines and Sterling told me they had a universal holder.  So I went online and combed the net to come up with this cool Batman style slickness..


It's called Rokform and the mount is really slick as it installs in the stem cap bolt, and the phone frame holder (you buy the specific phone holder for whatever brand you use) has a magnet on the back, a lanyard to go around the stem in case the phone drops, and a locking clip.

Bike Mount from Rokform

Nice video review of the product here...

And real world trail use here...

So I certainly got Giddy for Gadgets over this product.  I showed the videos to Tara with great zeal only to be met with her repsonse of "Please.  Do I really need that?".  Ok.  Well, it's out there and since there is also a car mount - I'm going to surprise her with a gift (anniversary is coming) and be content that at least I've geeked out and found a cool solution for her cycling and phone.  She'll thank me later - or so I hope.

Then I stumbled on MTBR.com's excellent article review of the newest 42T cog to convert a 10 speed mountain bike drivetrain to a cost-efficient 1 x 10 system with a 11-42T rear cassette range.  The article is here.  It's called the OneUp and sells for $100 with free shipping.

This giddy gadget comes in lime green or black...



After you jack out the 17T ring and follow the instructions of converting a 11-36T Shimano or SRAM cassette, you end up with this sweetie pie...


I ran the cost estimate after scouring eBay of what components I could get for my RIP 9 on eBay that include free shipping to take it from 1 x 9 34T with 11-34 cassette to a 1 x 10 34T with 11-42T cassette to increase my gearing range for climbs and eliminate some of the grunt climbs.

Here's what it would cost me for this Gadget conversion...

$100 for the OneUp (free shipping)
$32 for the X7 10 speed trigger (free shipping)
$69 for the X7 10 speed type 2 (free shipping)
$28 for a 10 speed SRAM chain (free shipping)
$47 for a SRAM compatible 10 speed 11-36 cassette (free shipping)
$276 grand total

Now that's not bad - especially considering the kit to convert to SRAM's XX1 or X01 for a 1 x 11 set one back for $1300 and $1000 respectively!!!

My package find may just be the Working Man's solution.

I think I'll stay off of the internet today because who knows what other gadgets I find that will make me giddy!!!!


Christmas Recess....

Christmas Recess sounds like an odd term, but that's what Simpson calls the 32 days between the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring semester.  Today is day 4 of my recess.

Yesterday included some firsts and changes.  I did my first voice lesson with a former student using Skype.  He was in Sweden and I was in my living room at the piano.  It worked perfectly!!!

Trying to be productive, the day continued with me setting up my holiday gift to Tara - a new CycleOps Fluid trainer for her bike.  This will be a big change for her to move from the LeMond recumbent trainer to her own Specialized Roubaix road bike mounted on the CycleOps Fluid trainer.


That included cleaning our basement gym area while I rearranged things to change the configuration of our basement layout while we decide whether or not to keep the LeMond trainer.

Throw in 9 hours of NFL football to that day (a first for me to watch that much football), an hour on the bike for me, and a phone conversation that Tara and I had with a relative who is experiencing a dramatic change in her life - and it was quite a day to say the least of firsts and changes.

In spite of being on "recess", I gave 2 voice lessons on Friday, the Skype lesson yesterday, and will give 2 lessons today as well.  However, Friday was for prospective students, yesterday was a former student, and today will include a former student who is passing through Indianola.  We watched the Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night by Kevin Puts from Minnesota Opera on Friday night.  Wow!  What a great production and piece about the WWI spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans.  For those that missed it, you can watch it at your leisure online here:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2365132185/

Then Zack and I went to see the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of Falstaff at the Jordan Creek movie theater at noon on Saturday.  Fabulous!!!  Elements of the production reminded me of the one we did in Vienna which was also updated to the 1950's.  A lot of money was thrown at this production and it was worth it.  Great accoustical set, wonderful costumes, ideal lighting, top singers, top stage director, top conductor, etc...all came together for an overall Gestalt that was not to be missed.  The baritone playing Falstaff was one of the best I've ever seen do the role and the quartet of women (Alice, Meg, Nannetta, Quickly) were about as good as it gets vocally and dramatically.  This was the first new production of Falstaff at the MET since 1964, so they were certainly due.  James Levine made it all work musically and marked his first appearance back at the MET in 2 years after health issues kept him away.  Was it worth the $24 per ticket admission price?  You bet!!!

Saturday evening was a dinner party - birthday party, actually - for our friend Gayla.  We had 4 couples over and enjoyed a nice evening of celebration with wonderful cheese, bread, wine, roasted pork, potatoes, roasted vegetables, salad, key lime cake, cookies, coffee and holiday music.

Monday means more cleaning and arranging in the basement today and hopefully the snow tires have arrived so I can have them mounted up on the Element.



Old man winter officially arrives in 9 days on December 21st.  Like the awkward invited guest who shows up at 6:30 for a 7:00 dinner as you are hastily trying to get the final touches done - so too has old man winter arrived before the appointed time.

The 5+" snow we got on Sunday has hung around thanks to temperatures remaining cold.  And the wind keeps blowing the light and dry snow around so it seems like the walks need cleaning up on a daily basis.

Oh well, at least Max and Zoey are excited with the arrival of "let's hunt for poopsicles" season...

Max & Zoey after shoveling


Winter force has led to my decision of having at least one of our cars equipped with dedicated snow tires for the first time ever here in the Midwest.  We had them in Austria where we needed them for skiing, the Alps, and the Vienna Woods where we lived. 

I had narrowed my choice town to the Bridgestone Blizzaks to put on my Honda Element.  However, the local tire shop's computer only showed one - that's right 1 tire - in my size as being available in the US.  They said that Bridgestone only makes a certain number per year and at least at this point, the stock has dwindled to one tire.  Actually, I found a sweet deal of 4 Blizzaks mounted up on black steel rims from a Honda Element owner in the state of New York for an incredible price.  However, he is not willing to ship even if I secured the shipping.  Odd, but go figure.  Back to my local tire store (which is a great local business by the way).... 

So he suggested another tire that was on my short shopping list of 3 candidates - the Firestone Winterforce as there were 57 of those in stock in warehouses throughout the US in my size.  It's the lower cost brethren from the same company Bridgestone/Firestone and gets rave reviews at the Honda Element Owners website, so I was fine with that.  I'll get free storage for my Bridgestone all-season tires at this shop and will be good to go without having to buy a 2nd set of rims.

They should arrive in a couple of days to be mounted up.  I think my Element - which is a rough riding machine anyway - will improve the driver/passenger feel with the softer rubber compound of a winter tire over the harsh feel of all-season tires rubber compound with the cold temperatures.  And I'll be good to go for the conditions I face here in Iowa during the winter.


Yesterday was a productive day to get a couple of things done around the house before work.  I had smelled a gas leak outside between our house and our neighbors last Saturday and again on Tuesday evening.  So I called the gas company and they came out Wednesday morning.  Sure enough, there was a leak (bad O-ring) at the meter which they fixed.  I also swapped out one of our cable televesion station packages with Mediacom for no cost so we can watch more sports that we like to watch instead of a variety package that is no longer being used enough to make it worthwhile.

School:  Our semester at Simpson College has wound down to final exams finishing up today.  Our last voice jury session was last night from 5:30 - 9:30, so that part of the voice faculty's exams are completed.  Grading today and finishing things up in the office today and tomorrow before the semester break begins in earnest.  Our 2nd semester kicks off on January 13th, so it's quite a lengthy break we have with the usual list of projects, singing, and work to be done.  I'm sure it will all go by so fast that I'll be left with not having completed my list of chores, to do items, and projects.  The cold weather will hamper some of it, but I will try...

Training:  My ATP hours (annual training) have accrued to 410 hours as of yesterday.  It looks like I will hit the 420 hour mark for sure by the end of the year as I will be firing up the base phase during this holiday break.  I have actually managed to keep my weight in check much better this year than last year at this time.  I have gained about 4-5 pounds (as opposed to last year's 10-12), but most of that seems to be from the weight lifting in November/December.  I think a lot of things had atrophied in spite of the once per week maintenance lifting throughout the warm months.  Regardless, it feels good to be working those muscles on a more consistent basis and see some growth.  Posture has improved, strength and stamina have improved, but I am fighting a lower back issue.  I am trying to address with good stretching, exercises and proper lifting form.  But something is tweaked down there in the lower back - or needs to be diagnosed... .  I thought it was solved, but when I drug the snow blower from the shed to the garage last Saturday to get ready for winter - I yanked something down there that reared its ugly head on Sunday morning when I tried to get out of bed.  Wowsa! 

In the meantime, winter is here in full force and in spite of the invited guest arriving early, I am now just about ready for old man winter.


The Sound of Music Live!!!.....and a live television opera morning gig...and out of the saddle...

Well...out of the saddle for 2 days that is....

I took 2 days off the bike (outside of my daily dog walks) to recover from a 9 hour on the bike week that I managed to pedal through last week.  Monday was my scheduled day off, and I skipped doing my weights to allow my legs to recover.  Tuesday I worked from 8 AM until 7 PM and was in no mood to hit the trainer when I came home.  In fact, I fell fast asleep by 8 PM watching mindless television while doing some work on the computer.

This week is headed in the direction of a much lower volume and time week due to it being the last week of classes this semester and all of the grading, make-up lessons, and last minute details that puts faculty, students and staff under the usual tremendous amount of semseter ending stress.  I do have some time today to work in some weights and a trainer ride as I attempt to get at least 17 more hours of training end by the end of the month to meet the 420 ATP hours for 2013.

My son, Zack, is singing an excerpt from Amahl and the Night Visitors live on television this morning at 9 AM (KCWI HD 23) on the Gread Day show:  http://www.kcwi23.com/great-day-show/ .  I assume the segment will be available for online viewing later if you miss it.

Meghan and my son Zack representing Simpson College quite well I might add...

Thursday night has long beeen booked by my wife and I for an event we are quite excited about and have been looking forward to watching for many, many months.  It's the live broadcast on NBC at 7 PM CST of the musical The Sound of Music.  This is a remount of the original stage production that starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel.  It's not an attempt at anything involved with the movie version that starred Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews that most people know.

Nope - this is a go at the real musical and stars Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer, and our favorite - Audra McDonald.  Not to mention, powerhouse Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, will star as the Baroness.  What's interesting is that Laura starred as Maria 16 years ago on Broadway (in the revival) when she was only 18!!!  And the casting of the kids looks like a perfect group.  We watched the segment The Making of The Sound of Music Live last week which is still available to watch here.

The great thing about a musical or an opera is that the piece lives on and survives multiple casts.  So I caution anyone not to get mired in letting the cast - or comparing it to a prior cast (stage or movie version) - deprive you of enjoying it.  The revival on Broadway of The Sound of Music in 1998, and the London Broadway revival version in 2006 (financed by Andrew Lloyd Webber) both featured other casts.  So the musical has certainly moved beyond being tied to one, and only one cast.  Thursday night will feature yet another cast for us to enjoy.


Needless to say, I highly recommend everyone stop everything they are doing to tune in to NBC on Thursday night for this epic live broadcast of the stage version of one of everyone's favorite old musicals.  It's an historic moment for Broadway to have a live performance aired in this special production that has been made for TV with months of rehearsals.  Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II nailed it on this one back in 1959 and my generation grew up listening to the music.

I think we are going to do an Austrian meal including a bottle of Riesling or GrĂ¼ner Veltliner from the Wachau region with some goat cheese to prepare for it!!!  I've encouraged all of my students to take time off from their studies and paper writing to catch it as well.

If you've got kids and are reading this blog - treat them to this live performance on Thursday night.  You won't regret it!!!!


December Bacon Rides...

The month of December was ushered in today after yesterday's final day of November temperature hit 54+ here in Indianola.  We had a very similar temperature this weekend one year ago, so it was not without precedent.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, even though I had hit my ATP hours, my "rounded up number" of 400 hours was hit on Friday and I added 2 hours on Saturday.  With the month of December yet to go, I could easily hit 420+ hours for 2013!!!!

Tara, Alexa, and I enjoyed seeing The Book Thief last night up in Des Moines.  We've got a few more movies to catch this holiday season, but the one last night was right up our alley.

Today, December 1st, marked yet another installment of the nice tradition we have going out at Banner Pits called the Banner Bacon Ride (and my own addition of also calling it the Summerset Sausage Ride since I started bringing sausage to cook).  Things were warm enough yesterday to finally soften up the earth after a frozen week.  This morning we had nice frozen/frosty trails on our first lap, but in the middle of the second lap around 9:45 AM it was like Ma Nature flipped a switch and suddenly spots in the trail became muddy and hampered the ride a bit.  It's best when the ground stays frozen to ride the singletrack this time of year due to the freeze/thaw cycle, but the warm sun and temperatures that climbed up into the 40's on their way to a high of 41 today after yesterday's mid 50's made the ground soft.

In spite of that, we got in 2 laps before hitting the Coleman stoves to fire up the bacon, sausage, potatoes & onions, etc...to go with the freshly made coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, mimosas, beer, water and what not.  All in all, we had a pretty good Sunday morning post-ride brunch.

There were about a dozen that showed up for today's ride and brunch...


Maybe a few fewer than I thought we'd have for a holiday weekend, but I'm sure many still had family visiting, or people were tired of eating, or who knows what that made conflicts pop up for some.  No worries as we'll be back next Sunday at 9 AM with colder temperatures forecasted (yeah for hard and fast singletrack) and some more creative dishes.

I rode the Dos Niner and the legs felt rather heavy after Saturday's 30 mile ride where I ran out of nutrition mid ride and was forced to go into survival mode for the final 12 miles (only had a small bowl of cereal at 8 AM and didn't eat lunch before heading out at 2:30).  My bad.  But today wasn't a race out on the singletrack, so I enjoyed hammering through with the legs and lungs I did have as the sunshine and warm temperatures made for a stellar morning.  Not to mention I went down twice due to soft conditions in a corner, and ice under leaves on one climb.  Those always take a little out of me and force me to slow down a bit to assess every situation.

After the ride, excellent food, and socializing, I packed up and headed back to the house where I showered and dressed before loading up Alexa with her belongings in the Element to drive her back to Iowa City.  It was fun having her home for the entire week!!!  Knowing that she'll be back in 2 1/2 weeks made it a lot easier to say good-bye this time around.

Now - on to the final week of classes for the final semester...