Sunday, December 30, 2012

Preparing to restart jits after a long layoff...

Wow... I've been away from the mats for a few months, thanks to IVF.  So I hope to blog about my journey back to regular training...  hope that blogging about it will help me the same way it helped me when I started training.

About the infertility thing, if you're curious... we successfully made a few eggs, fertilized them, and let the embryos grow to a stage that indicates they're likely to be chromosomally normal ie capable of establishing a viable pregnancy. We froze them instead of putting them back in me right away, because I have an immune disorder that makes my body attack embryos as if they were germs. So I will start some immune suppressant meds very soon, I hope, and as soon as they take effect, we'll thaw some embryos and put 'em back in, hopefully this spring.

But until then, I'm scared I've lost my passion for bjj, I've gotten lazy and fat and comfortable with not training, and I hope if anyone is still reading this, that you'll encourage me in my efforts to get back into the swing of things. January 2, here I come! (I'm traveling tomorrow, and academy is closed on January 1.)

Happy new year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Charity jiu jitsu seminar benefiting the victims of Sandy Hook

Check out !  Henry Akins, Eddie Bravo, Jeff Glover, Felicia Oh, and Bill Cooper among others are putting on a free online seminar this Sunday, 2pm Pacific, to benefit (via your paypal donation) the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the East Coast...

Sorry for not posting in forever... got busy with work deadlines and our Christmas party (a streamlined, smaller version this year with way less food and no gift exchange... and it was a success, so perhaps people really are satisfied as long as I make eggnog and the famous champagne punch!  Lauren said it gave her goosebumps!)

So we're on the East Coast for the holidays this year... we're in DC right now, staying in the home of a blogging jiu jitsu buddy that I've never actually met in person (and still haven't, as he's in Florida right now...)  Doing all the touristy stuff.. then headed to Virginia for time with my family.  We'll be back home on NYE.

Hope you're enjoying your holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cathy "The Bitch" Brown

LondonReal TV interviewed Cathy Brown, the first female boxer to be crowned British Champion (previously ranked #3 in the world in the flyweight category before she retired in 2007), and here's a little highlight.

Her hands are deadly weapons!  And here's the full, hour-long interview.

Props to the sister for making it in a man's world.  For more info, you can read about her here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Holiday centerpiece...

I don't think I'll do this on my dining room table... but if I could find a smaller branch, and put it on the "bar" that separates my kitchen from my living room and breakfast area, it would be great... found this in today's WaPo article on making the holiday easier (and all it did was make me want to hunt for moss, tree branches and so on when otherwise I wouldn't have done a "centerpiece"!)

(Tracy A. Woodward/ THE WASHINGTON POST ) - The centerpiece on display was made by Sidra Forman. Sidra said the items for her centerpiece were \

Mmm, shepherd's pie and sauteed zucchini

This is not a traditional shepherd's pie, as I make it with ground beef instead of lamb... but I think it's awesome... it's a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes or it takes hardly any time at all to make some specifically for this dish.  If you use lefties, you will probably want to add more milk to make them more creamy than thick.
Makes a 9x13 baking dish-full.
  • 2-3 lbs ground beef, no more than 10% fat is best
  • small bag of frozen peas (you could add chopped carrots, mushrooms or corn as well)
  • 1 small can (I think 6 oz) tomato paste
  • olive oil, 1-2 Tbsp.
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves (up to you) garlic, pressed
  • sweet (not hot) paprika, salt, pepper, oregano to taste
  • 3-4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4-8 Tbsp. butter for mashed potatoes, to taste
  • 1-2 cups milk for mashed potatoes, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In big pot, cover your chopped potatoes with 1" water and add a little salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat then lower the heat so you don't boil over.  Cook potatoes until tender and fork pierces without any resistance.  Drain all the water out and leave potatoes in hot pot, no lid, on hot (turned off) burner.  You want them as dry as possible. Water causes the starch molecules to swell, break down, and gelatinize (get pasty).

In large frying pan, saute onions in olive oil over med-high heat until transparent.  Add ground beef and break up, stirring occasionally until evenly browned.  If you're watching your calories, you can drain the fat at this point, but you will lose some flavor.  Add garlic, oregano, and paprika... I think I usually add about 2-3 tsp of paprika and the same of oregano.  Stir in tomato paste and reduce heat to medium, stirring regularly to blend well.

Meanwhile add butter to your potatoes and mash.  (Don't add milk before or with the butter; you need the fat molecules to coat the starch molecules first before the cold liquid.)  After they're fully mashed up, start adding milk until they get to the creaminess you prefer.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Taste your beef mixture and add salt and pepper as needed.  I usually add about a teaspoon or two of salt, depending on how much beef and what brand of tomato paste I used (some are salty already.)  Put your frozen peas in a bowl in the microwave and defrost them, then use a slotted spoon to get them out of the extra water and stir into the beef.  Pour the beef/pea mixture into the 9x13 baking dish, then pile the mashed potatoes on top in heaping giant spoonfuls, smoothing it out to seal all the way to the edges of the dish. I find it makes a nicer presentation to have little "crests" or "peaks" of potato sticking up instead of being perfectly smoothed out, because you'll broil it at the end and get them nice and brown.

Usually with my oven, I cook this for 40-45 min-- if your dish is glass, you'll see the beef mixture bubbling away under the mashpots-- and then I put it under a hot broiler for about 10 minutes to make the top crispy and golden brown.

Especially if you put additional veggies in, this is a relatively healthy one-pot meal which really smells good while cooking and warms the tum.

If like me you only put peas in, here's a recipe to go with it:

Sauteed Zucchini with Onions- serves 3-4

Halve and chop into 1/2" slices 3 or 4 zucchini squash.  Cut 1/2 of a yellow onion into thin wedges.  Saute the onion in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until brown on the edges and pretty soft.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Add your zucchini and continue to saute until zucchini is getting softer and golden brown.  Sprinkle a little more salt if you think it needs it, then add a good splash all the way around the pan of white balsamic vinegar (at least a good couple tablespoons, maybe up to 1/4 cup or so.)  Keep stirring while the vinegar turns into a glaze, about 2-4 minutes, and remove from heat.  Optionally you can serve with goat cheese or parmesan sprinkled on top.

Here you can see our dinner on Monday night-- the shepherd's pie didn't broil as long as I might have because we were hungry :)


Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Cooking without an oven...

I am happy to take special requests for cooking info!  What do you do when your landlord simply refuses to fix your oven?  (If you're in the US, you threaten to sue them under the Landlord Tenant Code of your jurisdiction... but I digress..)  If you're somewhere else and it's just not worth the fight, or whatever... you make do.  So-- by special request-- some recipes for cooking that require only stovetop, microwave, or slow cooker means of combining heat and foodies to make yum.

Glazed Grilled (or Pan Fried) Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4

    * 1/2 cup plum jelly (or apricot, or apple, just don't use strawberry or grape.)
    * 2 tablespoons lime juice
    * 2 scallions, minced
    * 2 garlic cloves, minced
    * 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
    * 2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)
    * 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    * Salt and pepper

   1. Combine  jelly, lime juice, scallions, garlic, and ginger in bowl.
   2. Rub tenderloins with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill meat over hot fire or over medium-high heat in nonstick pan until browned on all sides and internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 12 minutes. Brush with plum glaze and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to platter, cover with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Slice pork and serve with remaining glaze.

Carolina Crockpot Chicken
Serves 3-6

6      skinless chicken thighs, boneless too, if available
1      onion -- chopped
2       cloves of garlic -- pressed     
1       teaspoon  dry mustard
         salt and pepper -- to taste
1/4    cup  tomato paste
1/2    cup  Worcestershire sauce
3       tablespoons  cider vinegar
1       tablespoon  olive oil

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the chicken on both sides. Place in a crockpot with remaining ingredients and cook on low 8-9 hours, depending on your crockpot.  When done, shred with two forks and serve with juices over rice or egg noodles.

Chicken Marsala and Gorgonzola

Serves 2-3

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 3)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz. cremini or white mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 2-1/4 cups)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola (1/3 cup) or any mild blue cheese (can substitute goat cheese)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Trim the chicken, removing the tenders, and slice on an angle into 3/4-inch-thick pieces; season generously with salt and pepper.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add half of the chicken and cook, flipping once, until lightly browned and just barely cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate; repeat with the remaining chicken. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the mushrooms, season lightly with salt, and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened and well browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds. Pour in the Marsala and scrape the pan with the spoon to loosen any browned bits; simmer until the Marsala is reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer until thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add two-thirds of the Gorgonzola and stir until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Taste the sauce; add salt and pepper as needed. Add the chicken along with any accumulated juices and turn to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining cheese and the parsley.

Pan-Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Red Quinoa and Vegetables

 Serves 4

    * 3 medium shallots, roughly chopped
    * 2 stalks fresh lemongrass (tough outer leaves removed), roughly chopped  (if you can't find lemongrass, substitute zest from 1 lemon.)
    * 1 piece ginger (about 1 1/2 inches), peeled
    * 1/4 cup plus 5 tsp canola oil, divided
    * 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    * 1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
    * 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    * 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    * 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    * 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    * 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

    * 3/4 cup red quinoa
    * 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or stock)
    * Vegetable oil cooking spray or olive oil

    * 1 pound fresh sugar snap peas, strings removed
    * 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
    * 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
    * 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Marinade: Puree shallots, lemongrass, ginger, 1/4 cup oil, lime juice, tamari, sugar, sea salt, pepper and coriander in a blender until smooth. Place chicken in a dish or ziploc bag and spoon on marinade, rubbing it on all sides. Cover; chill 1/2 to 2 hours.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook quinoa until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until quinoa absorbs liquid, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat; let sit, covered, until ready to serve.

Heat a grill pan or skillet over high heat; coat with cooking spray/olive oil. Cook chicken, turning once, for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove chicken; let rest 2 minutes. Slice each breast on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook sugar peas and peppers until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add mint and toss.

Divide quinoa among 4 plates. Top each with 1 sliced chicken breast and 1/4 of vegetables.

Shrimp Soft Tacos with Guacamole
Serves 4

1/4 c + 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, halved
2 small serrano chile peppers or 1 small jalapeno, halved- remove ribs and seeds to reduce the heat
1/2 c loosely packed cilantro
1/2 c freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes), divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs raw shrimp with shells removed
1 lg white onion, sliced 1/4" thick
2 ripe avocados
1 ripe small tomato
12 corn tortillas (6" size)

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chile peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until just brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Process with cilantro, 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and black pepper in blender or food processor until smooth.  Put shrimp in shallow dish or ziploc bag and spread half the garlic mixture over them, stirring to make sure you get coverage of all shrimp on all sides.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden but still slightly crispy, about 5 minutes. Chop enough of the onion to make 1/4 cup and set aside. Put rest of onion on a plate. Save the skillet.

Peel and pit avocados, dice in skins, and put flesh in a bowl. Dice tomato and add with reserved chopped onion, remaining garlic mixture, remaining lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Coarsely mash with potato masher or fork.

Return skillet to medium heat and add remaining tablespoon oil. Add shrimp to hot pan, discarding excess marinade, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook on high heat 3-5 minutes, stirring/flipping frequently to cook both sides, until shrimp are pink and opaque but not further or they will get tough. Remove to bowl. Put reserved sliced onion in the skillet to reheat. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave on high 1 minute. Remove paper towels and keep tortillas warm. Toss shrimp with onion in pan. Serve with tortillas and guacamole.

Penne puttanesca with shrimp

Serves 4

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (from half a medium orange)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juice reserved
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed and quartered
2 Tbs. capers, rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. whole-grain penne pasta
1 lb. medium shrimp (51 to 60 per lb.), shelled and deveined
4  anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion, orange zest, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it has almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, olives, and capers. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain well.

Add the shrimp and anchovies (if using) to the sauce in the skillet. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the pasta into the skillet and toss with the shrimp sauce. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley.

Creamy Orechiette with Spinach and Prosciutto
serves 4-6

Kosher salt
3/4 lb. dried orecchiette or medium shells
8 oz. baby spinach leaves (about 8 lightly packed cups)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 oz. coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup using a box grater)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 oz. prosciutto (about 4 thin slices), coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Gently stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, a few seconds. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta and spinach.

Return the pot to the stove over low heat, add the mascarpone, Parmigiano, and lemon zest and cook until the mascarpone has melted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta, spinach, reserved pasta water, and the prosciutto and toss gently. Season to taste with pepper and serve.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The jiu jitsu community is the bomb :)

First, welcome back from Thanksgiving, did you get fat?  I was so bloated from the hormones and steroids for my IVF cycle, on top of extra padding from not training so long, I really didn't get any fatter despite eating my weight in food... but anyway!

One example of the wonderful jiu jitsu community-- I enjoyed a visit with Slideyfoot from Gracie Barra Bristol in the UK.  It was his first trip to the US and he did a BJJ tour of Texas!

Couple days in Dallas first, where he got to train at the Machado school with Triin of Fenom Gi, and stayed with a complete stranger he met on CouchSurfing.  Then he came to Austin and stayed with me and my husband for a week... sadly, I wasn't training, but he did get to train with my husband at his academy (a Cleber Luciano affiliate).  He also trained a few other places, did some touristy things, saw a Walmart (it was on his list of things to see!) and helped me prep dinner for twenty on Thanksgiving day, and better yet-- clean up afterwards :)   It was fantastic getting to know in person someone I've known on the internet for years... Slidey was always encouraging and helpful to me from whitebelt on, and I'm privileged to call him a friend.  (And now I have a couch to surf in the UK!)

Let me interject another facet of fabulous BJJ community-ness:  see that tshirt I'm wearing?  (The tiger was drawn by Meerkatsu!) It's from a SUPER-cool new gi company, OK! Kimonos.  They are a one-man business, specializing in kids' gis, and they offer a gi exchange!  When your kid grows out of his gi, you can send it back for a 20% discount on the next one... and Brendan, the owner, sends all those kids' gis to a free BJJ-for-kids program in the favelas of Rio!  There aren't any kids gis for sale at this exact moment on his site but I am assured they'll be up shortly!  Brendan tells me, "What occurred was the original pants for the gis weren't the quality that I wanted and I had to reorder them.  They'll actually be arriving this Friday to my house and if the quality is up to par, I'll have them up on the site on Monday, along with some AWESOME backpacks that I'm super excited about."  He's also probably doing a big sale for the grand opening, so please stay tuned if you have little ones!!

Unfortunately, the hormones I was taking were working a little better than expected, and my IVF doctor in NY called the day before Thanksgiving to tell me I'd likely need to get there early so I didn't miss the eggs' ready-time.  Had to change plane tickets for me and my husband, and had to abandon Slidey a few days early.  Thank goodness for good jiu jitsu friends who all jumped at the chance to entertain him, take him around, and make sure he made it to the bus okay for the Houston stop on his tour.  Check out all his reports on his blog.

We had a nice time in NY, stayed with cousins and had a successful retrieval of 6 eggs, of which only one made it to the proper developmental stage to be frozen, but hey, I'm 40 so that's actually pretty good to even get one.  We had to spend one night in the city, and ended up at a hotel RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Marcelo's academy!  Too bad my husband hadn't brought his gi, though I think Marcelo's original location is still out of service due to a water leak in the floors above them.  (I also think their temp location in Chelsea got washed out thanks to Sandy...)

One more example of how wonderful the BJJ community is... here is your opportunity to share with the less fortunate!  Remember the baby-BJJ community in Moldova and the Give a Gi program started by Christian the BJJ Globetrotter (below in the hat)?

Well, Bobby, the Peace Corps guy who started BJJ there, is promoting the first ever Moldovan BJJ Cup tournament in January!  And he needs your help.  Please-- send him $20 and a patch from your academy.  He'll use the money to buy a gi (cost, around $130) and patch it up with all the patches he receives-- it will be a prize for the "competitor with the most heart" (to give everyone a fair shot at winning it, versus the usual prize for the absolute champion).   If there is extra money, it will help cover the costs for transport and entrance fees for otherwise indigent competitors or future similar projects (though your patch will still go on the gi.)

Depending whether you're in the States or Europe, please send a patch and US$20 (or your equivalent) to:

c/o Robert McMasters
7605 Mokena Ct.
New Port Richey, FL

McMasters Robert
Cal. Grivitei 192
Ap. 49, Et. 1, Sc. C

You can also paypal him the money, at bobby.mcmasters(at)
Thanks for being part of this wonderful BJJ community and do your part in spreading the love to the peeps in Moldova!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Slideyfoot is coming to visit!

I'm pretty excited-- Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we'll be hosting Slideyfoot for a week!  (I'm sure you're familiar with his very nicely-thought-out blog about training and learning jiu jitsu, no?  He's a purple belt at Gracie Barra Bristol... go check it out if you haven't already..) 

He's coming to Texas to get his jiu jitsu on, check out the art scene, and generally explore this very-different culture.  He's also stopping in Houston and Dallas, but *I* get him for Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to that especially. 

We should have somewhere between 16-20 people here for dinner.  I am going to wait and see how I feel-- I might actually train with him or I might not.  Seems a shame for Slidey to come all the way from the UK and me not get to roll with him.  But I'm doing all these shots again to grow lots and lots of eggs, so it just depends how explosive my ovaries feel.

Miss training.  Miss working out.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Review: the Submission Fight Co "Mini Gi Hanger"

There are a lot of nifty things you can do with the mini gi hanger from Submission Fight Co.  It retails for $14.99. 

First, it comes in this nice little pouch with a snap.  This pouch is a good size to tuck your wallet or cell phone into, if you're going to be out in the rain and want to keep things dry.

It makes a nice decoration.  Here I have it hanging from a plant in my kitchen window.  You could look at it and conduct some virtual grip practice, while washing up from supper.  And thanks to my buddy Parabellum, who noted it makes a LOVELY Christmas tree decoration.  (In fact, you could get two, and wire them to look like they're grappling, and put it on your wreath on the front door!)

It appears to be well made, but I couldn't actually put it to any testing, as it was just too small for actual grip work.  And since it feels like the bottom of the gi jacket is glued shut, I didn't wash and dry it, so no shrinkage data.

But it's clearly got a black belt wrapped around it, so it would also be nice to hang from the rearview of your car... no one will break in or mess with your vehicle now!  Or you could let it dangle in the basket on the front of your bike-- no guarantees though, if you leave your lock off...

I did conduct some aerodynamics testing.  If you're looking for something to toss around with, or even throw at, the kids or a pet, a rolled-up pair of socks has a much truer trajectory and does appear to go faster.  It reaches enough airspeed to land with a satisfying "thunk" too-- whereas the mini gi hanger is more like a ... well, a developmentally-disabled paper airplane.  It peters out pretty quickly.  And when stuffed with catnip, its retention is quite poor.  With the socks, you can just put the 'nip in the toe and ball them up for many minutes of entertainment and far less sprinklage.

If you're still not ready to hit the keyboard and order your own, check out this video review by Stormland Fights...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chewy oatmeal cookies.

Yeah, I know they're not gluten free.  Didn't say I ate any, did I?

Note: you must plan ahead for making these as they MUST rest at least a few hours before baking.  This is part of why these bake up as chewy, delectable (not dry! not crumbly!) oatmeal cookies.  Just a touch of crisp crunch in the immediate exterior-- but the rest is truly chewy, stick-together deliciousness.

You can substitute 1 cup of raisins and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg for the cranberries/white chocolate if you're wanting a more traditional oatmeal raisin cookie.... or my personal preference, substitute milk chocolate chips and hazelnuts....

I got this from the Serious Eats blog.

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups (about 6 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips, put in the freezer for 20 minutes
  1. In a small bowl, combine oats and water; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt; set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. As soon as it's melted, remove from heat and stir in sugar and brown sugar. Add egg, stirring quickly until incorporated. Add flour mixture to the pan and stir to combine. Stir in oats, cranberries, and white chocolate. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let chill in refrigerator at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

  2. Adjust oven rack to lower and upper middle positions and preheat oven to 350°F. Drop cookies by the rounded tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheets and bake until just starting to brown on top, 11-13 minutes- they might look a little raw in the cracks in the center, don't worry.  They'll finish cooking with the residual heat of the pan when on the counter. Let cool completely before moving.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest post from Brian McLaughlin-- Metamoris commentary

Hope you enjoy this guest post by Brian McLaughlin, a BJJ black belt, boxer, and mixed martial artist who runs Precision MMA in the Hudson Valley area of New York.

"Metamoris was the first submission-only BJJ tournament featuring the top grapplers from today. The event has a lot of people talking about the different philosophies surrounding Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and where the sport is headed, in part because of how it highlighted the different paradigms and approaches that BJJ artists take when all eyes are on them.

 Safety First

Ryron Gracie made it his mission to stay out of danger and avoid getting caught. He did a masterful job of evading danger, but in the process did not engage in the typical battles within the war. He did not defend the pass or fight the mount, but rather acquiesced to the inferior position so long as he was prepared to thwart an attack. His movements were seemingly always reactive and rarely first initiated. Some called this the “playful approach” – however, in my estimation, being playful assumes taking chances and experimenting with different positions. The two most “playful” competitors were definitely Jeff Glover and Ciao Terra. Flowing into exotic guards and exposing themselves to attack in the hopes of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Ryron’s approach from an offensive standpoint took very few chances and instead used efficiency as a weapon waiting to capitalize on a mistake that Galvao ultimately never made.  

Position Before Submission

Although the only path to victory under the Metamoris rules set was submission, a few grapplers took a position-minded approach. Andre Galvao focused his attention on strong passing and knee on belly and mount transitions. Ultimately this was the path to a draw rather than submission. One might speculate that Galvao was accustomed to opponents fighting the position which in turn put them in a position to be submitted.

 Seek and Destroy

The element that made Metamoris a success was the grapplers that truly made achieving the submission their only concern. Kron Gracie, Rafael Lovato and Xande Ribeiro all went for broke. Lovato stated that he wanted to simply push the pace for every second of the 20 minutes. Kron showed this same mentality, never losing sight of his goal even when the clock was against him. Xande may not have been successful with his submission attempts, but he never stopped pursuing the finish and made this (much like Buchecha) one of the most crowd pleasing jiu-Jitsu displays.

Metamoris was a bold step not simply in the rules set, but also in the marketing and professionalism of the production (aside from the considerable delay at the onset). This is truly what is necessary for Jiu-jitsu artists to flourish as professional athletes. The question on most people’s mind is, what’s next? Will this continue as an outlet to showcase the world’s best submission fighters? Will we see Marcelo Garcia, Pablo Popovitch, The Mendes brothers and other BJJ aces of the world step into this arena? What are the chances that Metamoris does away with time limits entirely and makes the event a true submission-only affair?

Regardless of the next step, Metamoris was good for the art and a step towards having a true professional submission league."  

Brian McLaughlin is a black belt under Rob Kahn (a Royce Gracie Black Belt) and is considered one of the top instructors in the Hudson Valley. He holds competition wins over Ryan Hall, Wilson Reis, and Enrico Coco, among many others. His new website Learn to Grapple seeks to bring black-belt instruction to the masses, for free. Stay in touch with Facebook and Twitter!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

5 tips for better performance

Just read this in a Livestrong email and thought it had plenty of application to jiu jitsu.  What do you think?  

Author and performance coach Doug Newburg, Ph.D., has worked with thousands of elite performers in all fields. You can read more about his work on
"Recently, two amateur archers approached me about how they could improve their game. They showed up with stacks of graphs of their performance results, wanting an analysis and diagnosis of what they were doing wrong technically and mentally.

"We're engineers,” they said. “We're very analytical."

Yet they'd brought me all the wrong data. I asked them to take two weeks and collect the data that mattered—not what they had been doing, but what they hadn’t.

See, the difference being good and being great, or between being stuck and getting better—no matter whether you’re a runner, swimmer, lifter, baller, archer, or any other kind of athlete—isn’t always found in the hard, fast numbers. In fact, sometimes what we know actually gets in the way of what we need to do.

Before I sent the archers away to collect this different kind of data (which you’ll read about below), I asked them a simple, but challenging question—a question I’ve asked 10,000 people over my career: Does how you feel affect how you perform?

Almost everyone says yes, but the archers were skeptical at first. The "touchie-feelies," they called them.

But what they found—what everybody I’ve worked with has found—is that feel is different from feelings. Feel—intangible, yet so powerful—actually holds the key to better performance in any arena. My archers learned it, world-class athletes I’ve worked with have learned it, and many other folks in all kinds of professions have, too.

Here, the five steps to tapping into feel—and thus learning the secrets to better performance.

STEP 1: Focus on Play, Not Performance

Most athletes I’ve worked with come to me because they’ve lost that sense of play and placed too much emphasis on goals and outcomes, thus losing sight of why they perform in the first place. The reason most people stop playing? Because someone told them they were good, told them if they worked harder, they’d be successful. In return, they stopped playing and focused more on performing.

When Jon Lugbill was 14, he won his first of five world canoe championships. He’d had the chance to watch the best C-1 canoe competitors in the world. His first thought? “I can beat these guys,” even though no American had ever done so. His response was to play more, to experiment in his training, to “play” with and redesign his equipment, and to invent new strokes. Rather than bear down on what he already knew, simply doing it more often and harder, he learned and experimented and in his own words, “played and paddled more often.” He did his training, did the work, but he always made time for playing—not being bound by regimented schedules.

In every field I’ve worked in, play is critical, because it allows you to let go of the outside pressures to perform—and find new (and sometimes better) systems that work for you. (Even surgeons constantly practice tying knots, sewing their socks, playing with faster and better ways to “throw a stitch.”)

DO IT YOURSELF: The best way to incorporate more of a sense of play into your training is to let go of some of your tangible goals and suspend any of your traditional measurement of what you’re doing (times, weights, reps). Run or bike without a watch or take a new route, and focus on the feedback from your body. Define intervals by how you feel instead of how long you go, testing yourself instead of pushing yourself. As you get more comfortable with play, add back in the measurements, the watch, the mileage, but only look at them after you’re finished. This allows your body to help guide you to make better training decisions—that eventually will pay off with better tangible results, too.

STEP 2: Learn the Skill of Feel

Unlike feelings (which you really can’t control, but are valuable in terms of connecting with what we do and who we do it with), feel is actually a skill that you can control and develop. Understanding this difference was critical to the success of Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Jeff Rouse. Like most of us, he'd never consciously made the distinction between feel and feelings. Yet, one 24-hour period in the Barcelona Olympics taught him why this difference mattered.

The world-record holder and favorite in the 100-meter backstroke, Jeff listened to the talk that his legacy as a swimmer rested on winning the Olympic medal. He believed it when people told him without the gold medal, he'd be a failure. He worried about losing and, as a result swam not to lose. He tried harder than he usually did, and in his own words, "died" coming into the finish, losing by six one-hundredths of a second.

He couldn't believe it. He beat himself up mentally and was physically beaten up from the race. He was exhausted. Worse yet, he was scared. The next day he'd have to lead the U.S. into the 4 x 100 medley relay, a race they'd never lost in the history of the event.

He didn't sleep well and worried about letting down his teammates, his family and country... again. Five minutes before the race, teammate Pablo Morales grabbed him and told him to "swim the way he swam to get there."

In a single moment, that “feel” took the place of Jeff's “feelings” and he broke his own world record and went on to win two more golds in Atlanta.

DO IT YOURSELF: Feel is the byproduct of play, the testing and touching of those things that capture our attention. Feel is found in shooting, hitting, running, swimming for the feel of it in practice until you know that what you feel matches what you want. It’s quality over quantity. And to get it, you have to play (see Step 1). How do you find it? Feel is found in not leaving the gym until you’ve made 50 shots that felt right and went in, not counting the ones that went in, but felt bad. Feel is running or riding the hills until you find the rhythm of shifting gears that’s just right, attacking the hill without losing the momentum of the slope you’ve just left behind. Feel is finding and holding the glide in each stroke in the water that lessens the drag. Feel isn’t about working harder or trying to hit a certain number in a workout goal; it’s about experimenting to find what works best for you. And then when you find it, you know how to get it next time.

STEP 3: Remember the Why

The performers I’ve interviewed had a pretty simple, though not always easy, formula for success. They chose their sports (or careers) because they liked how doing that thing made them feel when they did it. Most of us assume that by chasing what we want (say, a marathon PR or a win on the tennis court), we'll also get what we like. But we can lose sight of what we like when chasing the actual goal.

Many years after working with Jeff Rouse, I talked with the guy who broke Jeff's records, Aaron Piersol. Aaron told me, "You can't ever forget why you're swimming, why you're doing what you're doing."

“I started swimming before I could walk. My family loved the water. It was like throw-the-kid-in because we were always around water. At a pool, at a spring, at the beach. That was how we spent our days,” he said.

“Competitive swimming is a very narrow definition of swimming. I’ve tried to explain that to other people and there are a lot of other opportunities to be comfortable with the water. If you want to be a good swimmer, you really want to know why you’re doing it. I just developed an appreciation for the water. When I go to the beach it’s beyond words. It’s just a feeling I get. It felt natural.”

Too often, we chase what we want at the expense of doing what makes us feel the way we like. We dress it up as being dedicated and hard working. That can lead to excuses, to replacing what we really like or want with the appreciation of others for how hard we worked. Or it can break us because what we like is no longer aligned with the work to getting what we want.

DO IT YOURSELF: When we were kids, we played and we liked. We played with those things and those people we liked. We had the freedom to like, a freedom fewer of us seem to allow ourselves. Instead of the pressure to “love” that comes with adulthood, as little kids, we were free to “like like” someone. What do you like about what you do? What do you like about running or cycling, playing hoops or golf or even your job regardless of where they lead you? My work consists mostly of reminding people how they like to feel and those activities and people that make that happen. I don’t need to remind people that they love what they do or that they want to achieve. My job is reconnecting them with the “like like” of a little kid that bridges that gap between what we like and what we want and doing the work it takes to get there. How do you get it? Try telling your story to someone or writing a blog post (or journal entry) about you sport—how you got into it, how learned to “like like” it. When you re-visit the roots, you remember how it felt to want to do it day after day. It’s a useful exercise, especially when you reach plateaus, hit a rough training spot, or just need some extra motivation.

STEP 4: Develop Trust, Not Confidence

What’s the difference between the two? Confidence is the belief that will get what you want—the outcome. Trust is knowing that you’ve done the work to allow you to do what you want to do. It’s subtle, but important—because trust actually can help you perform better, even when you’re not feeling confident. The best example of this came out in my interview with Grammy Award-winning musician Bruce Hornsby.

Bruce sat midcourt at his piano at the NBA All-Star Game, waiting with Branford Marsalis to play the National Anthem. As the lights went down, the cue for them to begin playing, a little red light went on over the television camera indicating they were live-- all the way to China. Bruce's hands resting down by his side, started to shake. He couldn't remember this happening before and his usual confidence hesitated.

He did what great performers do, even when their confidence escapes them-- he put his hands on the keys. Why? Because he trusted his hands to know what to do once they felt the keys. His hands could stay in the moment. He'd done the work well enough to allow them to do what they knew, to do what they could control without worrying about the outcome.

DO IT YOURSELF: Developing trust is the result of the relationship to what you do and how you do it. Trust comes as much from playing as it does from training or reps. Knowing your “thing” whether it’s a bike, a ball, or your shoes, play allows you to test them out, to bend them, move them, shape them, control them until they’re your friend. Toss the golf or tennis ball in the air sitting at your desk. Ride your bike instead of driving as often as you can. Wear your shoes until you know them and love them and feel that they fit you, not just your feet. Whatever it is, play with it—and this is key, away from your training—to get that feeling of trust.

STEP 5: Stop Judging

Accountability is literally taking responsibility for your results. How did you do? Judgment is how you feel about yourself based on how you did and is too often informed by your feelings. Great performers first and foremost hold themselves accountable for how they did, but really work on getting away from judgment.

A national team golfer was having problems landing a ball softly without rolling it too far away from the hole. So I had a suggestion: I’d stand in front of her while she shot.

“Hit the ball over my head,” I told her, “and make it land right behind me.”

Her eyes popped out of her head as if to say, “You want me to do WHAT?”

She’d told me about the judgment, the worry, the pressure she felt to perform. She’d shared how golf had gone from the wonder at that first time she got a ball up into the air as a girl, breaking a window of the family farm back home, to the worry of what she’d lose if she didn’t play well-- the scholarship, the education, the opportunities that being good afforded her.

She’d tried the visualization and relaxation techniques, the focus training, and simply hitting more balls, but couldn’t escape the self-judgment. She worried more about what she might do wrong than what she had actually done right or how to get better. She needed to just play golf and stop judging herself.

So I stood ten feet in front of her, between her and the fifth hole, and told her we weren’t leaving until she hit the ball over my head and landed it near the hole. We weren’t leaving until she felt what she needed to feel.

She squirmed over the ball, twitching, moving, uncomfortable and scared of hurting me. I smiled. I knew that if she could do this, she would learn what she needed to learn or at least experience what she needed to.

She sculled the first ball and I ducked as it whizzed by my head and into the creek. She covered her nervous laugh with her hand over her mouth. I laughed, and that made all the difference. She knew I wasn’t judging her.

The next shot was too soft and it landed gently in my hands. We played around with the club, laying it flatter on the ground and something fell into place. She stopped squirming and set herself like all of a sudden she knew what needed doing. And she just did it. She hit the ball high over my head and it landed softly behind me, then rolled within a foot of the cup. A huge smile, almost a giggle.

We stayed and played with the shot, with the ball, experimenting to see what worked. She played with it. She embraced the accountability-- that the ball was doing exactly what she made it do. And when it didn’t do what she wanted it to do, she played with it some more until it did exactly what she wanted it to do. No technical or mechanical thinking. Just playing and feeling. No judgment or pushing, but experimentation, creativity, and results.

I saw her a month or so later. She’d been playing well and I asked her why.

“I figured out what mattered,” she said.

DO IT YOURSELF: Getting rid of self-judgment requires the discipline of play, of creativity and experimentation, testing yourself instead of pushing yourself. You have to create those meaningless moments on purpose with your friends or teammates or people who couldn’t care less about the results, who just like spending time with you, who like playing with you and give you the freedom to be yourself. Really, it’s like being a kid again—running through the woods, swimming laps as you’re pretending to be in the Olympics, biking like you’re saving E. T., or taking the game winning shot and missing, then pretending you got fouled. Doing these things allow you into what seem like effortless moments until you realize, soaked and exhausted, it’s only the self-judgment that’s missing, not your resolve to do what works, to win, or to be better."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Exclusive interviews with Roger Gracie!

Check out London Real's exclusive full one-hour interview (and a 3 minute trailer) with BJJ champion Roger Gracie-- Here's the trailer:

The hour-long one:

Cranberry Pecan Muffins

I'm gluten-free again (going back to NY end of November for another round of egg retrieval!)  So these aren't for me.  They're for houseguests during Thanksgiving to enjoy for breakfast. :)

Makes 12 muffins
If fresh cranberries aren't available, substitute frozen: Microwave them in a bowl until they're partially but not fully thawed, 30 to 45 seconds.
Streusel Topping
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, softened
  •  Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/3 cups (6 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups pecan halves, toasted and cooled
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (7 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1. FOR THE STREUSEL: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Process flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, and salt in food processor until mixture resembles coarse sand, 4 to 5 pulses. Add pecans and process until pecans are coarsely chopped, about 4 pulses. Transfer to small bowl; set aside.

2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Spray 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray with flour. Whisk flour, baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt together in bowl; set aside.
3. Process toasted pecans and granulated sugar until mixture resembles coarse sand, 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer to large bowl and whisk in eggs, butter, and milk until combined. Whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until just moistened and no streaks of flour remain. Set batter aside 30 minutes to thicken.
4. Pulse cranberries, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and confectioners’ sugar in food processor until very coarsely chopped, 4 to 5 pulses. Using rubber spatula, fold cranberries into batter. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups, slightly mounding in middle. Evenly sprinkle streusel topping over muffins, gently pressing into batter to adhere. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin on wire rack, 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The ABCs...

It's been a while since my last political post.  And since I interrupted my viewing of Metamoris fights last night to watch the second debate between Mitt and Barack, I thought I'd share some thoughts on both with you.

On Metamoris:  I only watched two fights so far... of course, these would be Roger v Buchecha and Ryron v Galvao.  I was amazingly impressed by them both as far as fights go.  I was not thrilled with the bullsh*t artsyfartsy camera work-- I don't CARE what their facial expressions are, I am watching for the JIU JITSU, and thus the very very close-up shots AND the far away, capture-the-big-picture scenes are both detrimental to my ability to follow the grappling.  I was not as impressed by the Ryron/Galvao fight mainly because I thought Galvao should have been able to make something happen-- Ryron did (as Rener noted) seem a little too relaxed at times-- and yet I did think Ryron was extremely sport-jiu jitsu focused because if someone was pounding on his face during this, his lackadaisical comfort on the bottom would have evaporated.

Then the debate came on and I turned off youtube.

Today I found some "ABCs" of the debate and liked them so much, decided to share a select few.  They were written by journalist Erin Gloria Ryan on Jezebel.


And, only two letters into the alphabet and not long into the debate, Mitt Romney gift wraps and delivers the event's most meme-able moment.  As the story goes, when Mittens Romney was governorbot of Massachusetts, he told his staff that he wanted more women in his cabinet. But there weren't any qualified applicants! So instead of just hiring all dudes, like he'd always done, Mitt urged his minions on in a relentless search for women. They followed them to the bus stop. They found out where they liked to get coffee. They watched them read books in the park. They sent love poems to their email, elaborate edible bouquets to their offices, and dead birds to their boyfriends. Mitt Romney ate, slept, and breathed women. BINDERS FULL OF THEM.
Except the story is a big crock of piping hot homestyle bullshit. The real story of the binders is that before the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial elections, a group of 40 or so interest groups in the state formed a coalition to find women qualified for upper level jobs in the state government. Leading the charge was the bipartisan Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, not Mitt Romney's made up ah-hyuck aw garsh, where are all the ladies? antics. On Mitt Romney's first day in office, he was presented with the list of women the coalition found. So not only was it a weird thing to say, it was a weird thing to say that was also a lie.
Veracity of the Binders story aside, by the end of the debate, Romney's story had spawned,, and my personal favorite, Binders Full of Women, the Tumblr.


When a dark haired, olive complected woman named Lorraine Osorio asked how the candidates would deal with law abiding undocumented Americans, Mitt Romney sensitively referred to them as "illegals." At least he didn't talk about "self-deportation" this time.


Audience member Katherine Fenton struck lady voter gold last night when she asked the candidates the question that finally got them talking about what we've been waiting to hear from them — equal pay, which ended up spawning an awesome response by the President about how abortion and birth control are economic issues. Here's his response, in part,
A major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that's a mistake. In my health care bill I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured because this is not just a health issue, it's an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family's pocket. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That's not the kind of advocacy that women need. When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That's a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country, and it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care and the credits that we're providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family. These are not just women's issues. These are family issues, these are economic issues, and one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are, and I've got two daughters, and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody's sons have. That's a part of what I'm fighting for as President of the United States.
F*cking finally.

L is for LIBYA

Pundits are saying that this is the moment when Romney lost it— he accused the President of refusing to call the Libya attacks an act of terror, when in fact the day after they happened, the President referred to them as an "act of terror" during a speech in the Rose Garden. And Candy Crowley provided the live fact check.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I think it's interesting the President just said something which is that on the day after the attack he went to the Rose Garden and said this was an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That's what I said.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an attack of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that. It took the President 14 days before he called it an attack of terror.
MODERATOR: Let me call it an act of terror. He did call it an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
MODERATOR: He did call it an act of terror.
Then the audience applauded.


While answering a question about keeping assault weapons off of the streets, Mitt Romney offered an unorthodox, but predictable prescription to solve America's crime problems: let's not pass any new gun laws. Instead, let's get unregulated women off the streets. When single parents ("single parents" is dog whistle talk for "single mothers") exist in a state of unmatrimony, you see, they raise children who grow up to shoot dozens of people in movie theaters. If only women would get married, all of the problems would be solved!

During his stern Ward Cleaver lecture about how American gals shouldn't bring children into circumstances that statistically lead to crime — single parenthood, poverty, etc — what he didn't say said a lot more than what he actually said. The irony of the Romney's weird, meandering solution to the gun problem was that it didn't register that defunding Planned Parenthood and outlawing most abortion would likely lead to more children being born to unmarried women. Does Mitt Romney have a plan to personally visit each and every one of those women and try to bully them into giving their children to a nice, Mormon family?


[Note: this is one I really got mad about-- 99% of my facebook status update outcries during the debate were about this one.]

Don't worry, ladies. If Mitt Romney is President, he'll make sure that your boss lets you be home to make dinner for your kids. He knows what it's like for employers to hire women. You've gotta let them get to their god-ordained servant duties, or it all goes to shit! From the debate transcript,
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
To Mitt Romney, that's what workplace equality means — the ability for women to continue to do household chores while working a full time job. We can only assume that if elected, Mitt Romney will replace the Lily Ledbetter Act with the Make Me A Sandwich Act.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comfort food tonight.

Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Sherry-Olive Pan Sauce
Serves 4-- 320 calories/serving

8 boneless, skinless, thin-cut (1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick) chicken breast cutlets (1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lb.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup sherry, preferably medium dry, such as amontillado
1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and slivered
3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted lightly and cooled

Season the chicken on both sides with about 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Working in two or three batches to avoid crowding, cook the chicken until lightly browned on both sides and just cooked through, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of chicken to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm. If the pan seems dry at any point, add 2 more tsp. of oil.

Reduce the heat to medium, add 2 tsp. oil, and then the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sherry and chicken broth, increase the heat to medium high, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the olives and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in the parsley, season to taste with salt and pepper, and spoon the mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve.

Monday, October 15, 2012

what's new?

Well, I trained one day last week, on Monday, and it was AWESOME being back!  The warmup didn't kill me as I'd feared, though 15 burpees did suck so I know I have lost some fitness.  I really enjoyed the positional sparring, and I noticed that some old habitual behaviors have slipped away... for instance, we were told to start in closed guard and only try for submission-- no sweeps.  I learned initially from a leftie, so I always start with my left hand in the collar (even though I am a rightie.)  But this time, for whatever reason, I threw my right hand into the collar.  I don't mean to say that was the Golden Egg of Success or anything, but I did think it interesting that I have apparently forgotten? lost? some muscle memory.  In any case it was fun to be back.

And then on Tuesday, I had a consultation with a new doctor, because I needed another laparoscopy to remove endometriosis... and fortunately for me, he had an opening in his surgery schedule for the very next day.  So that was that for training-- I recover quickly from laps, but I know better than to push it.  Boo.  I'll be watching class tonight and hopefully back on the mats later this week-- as soon as the incisions are fully healed.  Nothing worse than popping out some intestines or whatever on the mat.... ew!

I got to meet and hang out with Chris O'Dell, president of Datsusara MMA, and his lovely better half Maria this weekend... they were in town from California and we had lunch and caught the UFC together.  I am just about done with my review of the 2.0 version of their hemp gi... and was shocked to learn that Chris is mainly a nogi guy!  Haha :)

I missed Metamoris this weekend.  I wanted to get it, of course... but we found out my husband's company might be doing a 30% layoff in the next week or two.  Yikes.  So, I cancelled our lovely Farmhouse Delivery of local, organic produce... and no Metamoris..  I will say, the Farmhouse delivery was a nice idea and we really loved about 3/4 of each delivery.  The food was always very fresh and the service very easy to use.  However, there was enough unappealing stuff that the cost margin became a little iffy in my opinion.  I don't mind trying new stuff if I end up liking it-- but I wasn't crazy about getting a bag of green persimmons (they're still not ripe)... didn't care for the butternut squash... and this week, the collard greens were yellow overnight (too bad because I love me some greens.)  Also I've never had French sorrel before-- it's a lemony-ish soft green leaf thing that is supposedly good for salad.  I tried a bite and wasn't thrilled, but I need to eat it and not waste it, so I'll be tossing it around with baby spinach and a strong dressing.  On the plus side, we have FOUR ears of corn for dinner tonight.  Yum.  Plus local Gala apples, new potatoes, radishes, spring onions... it's high cotton for salads in my household :)

Here's a recipe they posted, for Grilled Chicken and Sorrel Salad with Creamy Dressing...

For dressing
  • 1/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For salad
  • 1/2 bunch sorrel, coarse stems discarded and leaves torn into bite-size pieces (4 cups)
  • 2 chicken breasts, grilled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 pound hearts of romaine, torn into bite-size pieces (4 cups)
  • 1/4 pound frisée, trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed fresh tarragon, leaves coarsely chopped if large
Make dressing:
Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a large bowl.
Make salad:
Toss together all salad ingredients with dressing in bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

And here's their recipe for Sorrel Vichyssoise-- too bad I just made a pot of Potato-Leek soup last week or I would have tried this...

1 cup finely chopped white and pale green part of leek, washed well
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound boiling potatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 pound fresh sorrel, stems discarded and the leaves rinsed, spun  dry, and shredded coarse (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives, or to taste, plus, if desired, additional for  garnish

In a large saucepan cook the leek and the onion with salt and pepper to taste in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, add the potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, the broth, and the water, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender. Stir in the sorrel and simmer the mixture for 1 minute. Purée the mixture in a blender in batches, transferring it as it is puréed to a bowl, and let it cool. Stir in the cream, the chives, and salt and pepper to taste, chill the soup, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight, and serve it sprinkled with the additional chives.  Also good warm.

Anyway, we are of course totally freaking out about the layoff.  It couldn't come at a worse time-- our doctor in NY wants me to come for the next egg retrieval shortly after Thanksgiving to take advantage of the laparoscopy, and that's a LOT of money to throw out of the bank when you're looking at mortgages and so on with just my state-employee salary.  *sigh*  If you aren't sick of praying for me yet, toss another one our way please.

Lastly, big congrats to my team for astounding successes and LOTS of bling this weekend at a local tournament... I didn't go, but I see lots of sore necks from holding up medals in the photos.  :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

IVF update...

Good news from NYC... Dr. Braverman is wonderful :) 

We (um, I) produced fewer eggs than expected (7, and only 4 were ripe/mature-- compared to last time, in May, when I made 11 eggs, 9 ripe) -- however, they were higher quality this time and we ended up with 3 blasts (this means blastocyst stage or an embryo that is more likely to be chromosomally normal and therefore capable of making a baby.)  So they're all frozen, and now I will probably begin the medications necessary for quelling my overactive immune system so that we can transfer some embryos back in sometime next spring.  It's possible we'll go through another stimulation cycle to make more eggs, but we haven't discussed it yet.

Very, very good news and totally a blessing from God, Dr. Braverman, and the embryologist Carlo.  Big relief.  Of course, the embryos have to survive the freeze and the thaw and then my killer uterus... but we're one step closer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whose responsibility is it?

Hi all!  Coming to you from NY and sorry for not having posted in a bit.  IVF is going well-- surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning to remove the eggs, hooray!  My ovaries are each about softball-sized right now and I'm feeling like I ate two Thanksgivings.  Oy!  So after this, I will go home and recover, and take some super-serious anti-immune-problem medications, and prepare for an embryo transfer in a month or three.  (In the meantime my embryos will be vitrified at the lab.)

In the meantime, I'm going to take a huge risk and post a comment here on my blog regarding something I read elsewhere which was brought to my attention by a friend.  I couldn't comment on the original site (maybe I'm just dense, couldn't find the comment spot!)

The post is here:  By the way, congrats to Jen, the author, on her brown belt which is well-earned and deserved.

Here's my comment.. whose responsibility is it to protect training partners in that situation?

And here's my thought:  while the person who launched into some kind of flying kimura was clearly taking things too far... and while it sucks to be promoted right before Mundials especially via a tough-as-nails belt challenge like this... it's ALWAYS ultimately OUR responsibility to protect OURSELVES by tapping.  (Not that Jen could have tapped in time given the description of that flying kimura!  but perhaps she could have tapped in many other rolls after that?) As soon as you are injured, you tap.  There are no points for "winning" in the academy.  There is only learning.  If people allow their pride and determination to continue to force themselves into positions where they worsen their injuries, that is THEIR  fault because training partners can't be expected to read their mind. 

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Common BJJ beginner questions...

I received this email from a new BJJ practitioner and thought I would share with you her (anonymous) questions and my answers, for whatever they're worth!

I recently discovered your blog and I was wondering if I could ask you a question. I started BJJ this spring, and since then I've learned a lot, but sometimes it feels like too much. I feel like my instructor just taught me a bunch of moves for a variety of situations but I just can't remember them all-- or if I'm put into a position, my brain just starts going wild thinking about, should I submit, choke, sweep? and if I choose one, even more options come up and finally when I decide to do something, my opponent has already escaped. I've tried to just sort out which ones work best for my size, position, etc. but the next week my instructor would ask me to demonstrate a sweep that I don't use in rolling so I perform it poorly. Is there any kind of balance? Any kind of trick to help me remember everything?


Dear ___________,

OK-- finally, at a real keyboard! sorry for the delay!

What you described is 100% totally normal and was experienced by all of us as we began jiu jitsu.  I will say that there are probably 3-4 instructors I know of in the world who would not have you feeling this way-- but only because they structure the learning opportunities for rank beginners very differently AND they have ridiculously exceptional grasp of the theory of BJJ AND the ability to teach. 

I'm sure you know, being able to do something is not necessarily proof that you can TEACH something, and rarely do the two run together!  Plus, most classes are comprised of a range of experience levels, so the "bottom" people who just started have to kind of tag along as best they can.  It's a steep learning curve the first year (or if you're like me, year or two...)  BUT it's not YOU, it's everyone, so just keep plugging away...the short version is--- relax (impossible) and ride with it... eventually, it will start making more and more sense, either because of the natural progression of learning BJJ, or because your instructors get better, or both.

One thing you can do to help yourself process things and be more systematic is to think about BJJ outside of class.  What you're really lacking at this point is a plan... a program of action.  Kind of a recipe-- when a little kid approaches a street corner, mom always tells them "stop-- look both ways-- listen for a car."  You need the same kind of simplistic 1-2-3 kind of plan at the beginning which hopefully can be expanded and adapted to incorporate new stuff. 

I learned this when I was training about 3 months in a haphazard horrible way, and had been at a real BJJ school a week.  I decided I was going to compete!  (Get it out of the way when I couldn't possibly expect much of myself.)  On the way to the tournament with some teammates, they asked me what my gameplan was.  (I laughed.)  The advice I received was, pick your favorite submission. I said-- "uhhhh... I don't have one!"  They said PICK ONE-- so I randomly picked "guillotine." The next advice: Always go for that submission if you can't think of anything else to do.  (In other words-- if someone GIVES you a triangle, don't struggle to get them out of it so you can do your guillotine.  But when lost, go for a guillotine.)  The last piece of advice: if you're not in a position where you can go for a guillotine, get into better position.

This was great for me.  It reinforced that my ultimate goal is not points, not stalling, not anything other than submission.  It gave me a clarity I needed desperately.  And while it was no good at all as far as HOW to get into better position... it was a good starting point.  It helped me narrow down what felt like a yawning chasm of amorphous opportunity-- when I did have some kind of dominant position, it foreclosed those moments of freezing while thinking-- in which people always started causing problems by MOVING, durn them... and when I was on the bottom, it helped me define everything in terms of "can I do X from here? if not, I must get out of here." 

Think of it like a flow chart.  Maybe easier if you have submission you like that works from top and from guard-- that's probably why I picked guillotine then-- now, I am so top-dependent, it has fostered by sweep game out of sheer desperation to get back on top.. But the flow chart in its simplest sense goes like this:

Where am I?  If on top, go to X or submission.  If on bottom-- can I do X sub? can I do Y sub? If yes, do it.  If not, sweep, get to top.  Then go back to "if on top."

When you have only one sweep, for instance, you need to work very hard on understanding the physical elements that make the other person likely to be swept by that sweep.  A scissor sweep is a basic early-beginner sweep, but it's also very hard to do if they're sitting back on their haunches, which is the easy defense.  So you can't just try to FORCE them to be swept-- you'll sit there with legs akimbo and they'll pass.  Sometimes it is best for beginners to only learn a couple options from each position because it forces them (and their classmates) to really home in on the elemental side of BJJ.  "Hmm, scissor only works when they're putting their momentum forward.  How can I make them do that?"

Now-- the other questions you asked.  When you're rolling, you have to predict that learning new stuff NEVER goes well against people your level and higher.  It just doesn't.  And when you have just begun, there is NO ONE below your level (usually) unless you're a guy and you can out-muscle them.  Sheer force does work, sad to say.  But if you don't have sheer force to rely on, it's okay-- you will develop more slowly, but you will develop better technique than someone who is capable of muscling their opponents inefficiently.  But the longer you keep at it-- and keep trying, regardless of the fact that you will be losing most or all of your "matches" and rolls and rounds and so on.... eventually people will join up after you, and you will have a brief moment or two where you are weaker physically but have better technique. 

(I used to kid, sorta, that for me as a blue belt, there was a two week golden period in the life of every whitebelt-- in which they was experienced enough to not be a danger to me by spazzing, but not experienced enough to overcome my superior technique with just enough technique of his own plus all that muscle.  The trick was watching the new whitebelts and pouncing at the right time so I could use that whole two weeks to experiment and practice my offense.  The better I got, the longer that time period got-- now there's a good 2-3 months of most whitebelts for me.)

Sorry for rambling-- to summarize that-- you will constantly lose, and that's okay.  It doesn't mean anything about whether or not you're learning.

And your last topic issues-- your instructor wants demonstrations but it wasn't what you were practicing and you do it badly.  This too is commonplace.  I struggle with this.  There's simply no way to practice everything equally-- but you should make an effort especially now early on to use your open mat times for drilling.  Just make a list of every technique you have been taught-- it's probably somewhere near 30 by now if not more.  And pick three to five each time you train, and drill each of them just 5-10 times (more if you're determined) with a partner (be sure to give them drilling time too).  Let's say this week you drill sweeps from guard-- scissor, push, flower-- and next week your instructor wants you to show a butterfly sweep.  You screw up-- so what!  He doesn't expect you to do it right and no matter how well you did it, he'd find something to suggest for improvement.  Won't mean you won't be promoted or anything else.  The important thing is, you get into a routine whereby you systematically review and practice all the time.  Sometimes you won't practice the "right" thing to catch the instructor's "cycle" or eye or whatever, but who cares, you are going to be improving.

As for remembering everything-- omg no.  There's no way.  I have two notebooks I use for seminars and privates, and I have a box full of printer-paper-sized pages of notes I used to take during class proper (I'd pinch from the academy printer.)  I have hundreds of pages of exhaustive notes on techniques and I really don't remember anything instinctively outside of what I use all the time.  And instructors know this.  That's why in time you'll realize they repeat, repeat, repeat techniques.  

Every time you see a tech in class, you'll learn maybe 40-50% of it.  You'll go out and try it in live sparring and use it probably badly to one degree or another.  After a couple months maybe he'll show it again-- you'll see an additional 10% that didn't stick out to you the first time because you lacked any experience in trying to implement it yourself.  So you'll practice and try it more and more-- sometimes you'll totally forget a technique the minute class is over and you won't try it at all.  Sometimes what happens is there's no place in your game to park the new technique, so you just never come close to it.  

(Here's my lily pad theory of jiu jitsu.... as students, we learn by hopping from one lily pad of technique to another.  If we only know techniques that are widely scattered apart like lily pads far apart on a lake, we stay on one pad.  As we learn more techniques that are very closely related to the pad we're on, we can "make the leap" from one to the next, and get comfortable and familiar with that "neighborhood."  So you'll see a very common assortment of techniques to be taught together might be-- from closed guard, the armbar, the triangle, and the omoplata.  Or from closed guard, the hip-bump sweep, the kimura, and the guillotine.) 


Anyway, that was my long ramble on her questions.  Your advice and input is, as always, welcome :)