jo skates

Skating in the key of life


Pi day plans gang aft agley

First of all, happy pi day! Two quick and easy pies this year: a chocolate chip cookie pie and a bittersweet chocolate pie on a coconut crust. The former is for my two teenage sons and the latter is for my husband and me (we are doing gluten-free and low sugar these days).

Here’s a couple of pictures and the basic recipes.


Chocolate chip cookie pie (no crust)

2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8 inch pie plate. Beat eggs until frothy. Add in flour, brown sugar, and sugar. Mix in butter. Add chocolate chips. Spread in pie plate and bake for 35-45 minutes. Serve warm or cool.



Bittersweet chocolate pie with coconut crust

Coconut crust: Mix 1-1/2 cups coconut (I used half unsweetened and half sweetened) with 3 tablespoons of butter. Press into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool crust, then fill with a round of bittersweet chocolate pudding and chill. Serve with whipped cream.

I was really looking forward to this week of skating, since I am on spring break. Last week I finally got my skates sharpened and was feeling pretty good. But wouldn’t you know it, last Thursday I was doing power pulls on my newly sharpened skates and caught an edge. Down I fell! and bruised my tailbone and right thigh this time. Fortunately this was not as bad as the bruise I got in January, but it is enough to make me contemplate wearing pads.

Ouch redux! So I have been a little tentative on my right side this week (maybe this will force me to work harder on my left side). I have also gotten behind on this blog because even thinking about skating made me feel more bruised.

I am feeling much better today. Pi(e) helps!

So do a couple of good lessons (which I will detail in a future post) and this note of wisdom from poet Robert Burns, from his classic “To a Mouse” (he has just destroyed the home of this “Wee, sleeket, cowran, timorous beastie”):

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
          But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
          An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!

Everyone has grief and pain sometimes. But not everyone celebrates January 25, Bobby Burns Day, with the dread haggis. I’ll take pie anytime!



The 12 days of skating

On the first day of skating, my coaches gave to me
Alignment and edge quality!

On the second day of skating my coaches gave to me
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the third day of skating my coaches gave to me
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the fourth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the fifth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the sixth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the seventh day of skating my coaches gave to me
Seven stunning spirals
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the eighth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Eight magic mohawks
Seven stunning spirals
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the ninth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Nine clean counters
Eight magic mohawks
Seven stunning spirals
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the tenth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Ten chillin’ choctaws
Nine clean counters
Eight magic mohawks
Seven stunning spirals
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the eleventh day of skating my coaches gave to me
Eleven rocking rockers
Ten chillin’ choctaws
Nine clean counters
Eight magic mohawks
Seven stunning spirals
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!

On the twelfth day of skating my coaches gave to me
Twelve twirling twizzles
Eleven rocking rockers
Ten chillin’ choctaws
Nine clean counters
Eight magic mohawks
Seven stunning spirals
Six perfect swing rolls
Hips under me!
Four Ina Bauers
Three three turns
Two bending knees
And alignment and edge quality!


Speed skaters: rough, tough, and in the buff

So when I was looking on the web for resources that might help me understand the muscles used in skating, I came across two very interesting things.  One was a motion-capture video of Olympic and World Champion speed skating Ireen Wüst:

Cool, huh? Notice how there is no wasted motion here.

The other thing I found was an article called “The Anatomy of Speed Skating” from an issue of Popular Science Monthly from December 1895. It begins with a reference to the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who enjoyed skating.

Here’s a picture of Goethe on skates, looking very much the manly skater on the cusp of German Romanticism (hips forward and tailbone down). I feel like I should be one of that smiling trio of women ready to chuck a snowball at him.


I didn’t know Goethe skated, but why should I be surprised?  After all, William Wordsworth skated too. All those Romantic poets seemed to take to the ice, and then write poetry about it. Here’s Wordsworth’s description of what he calls “a time of rapture” from The Prelude: 

. . . I wheeled about,
Proud and exulting like an untired horse
That cares not for his home. All shod with steel,
We hissed along the polished ice in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures,–the resounding horn,
The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.

And here’s Wordsworth’s skates, preserved for posterity in the Wordsworth Museum and immortalized by the great contemporary poet Seamus Heaney in his poem “Wordsworth’s Skates,” from his 2006 poetry collection District and Circle.

Star in the window.

Slate scrape.
Bird or branch?
Or the whet and scud of steel on placid ice?

Not the bootless runners lying toppled
In dust in a display case,
Their bindings perished,

But the reel of them on frozen Windermere
As he flashed from the clutch of earth along its curve
And left it scored.

Image from the Wordsworth Trust. Caption reads:

Image from the Wordsworth Trust. Caption reads: “These were Wordsworth’s skates and they would have bolted into his clogs (shoes with wooden soles). Only four days after moving into Dove Cottage, on Christmas Eve, 1799, Wordsworth wrote in a letter, ‘Rydal is covered in ice, clear as polished steel, I have procured a pair of skates,
and tomorrow mean to give my body to the wind.”

Oh, okay, sorry. Back to the article on “The Anatomy of Speed Skating.”

The rest of the essay describes the accomplishments of some of the fastest speed skaters of this time (John S. Johnson [of Minneapolis!], Olaf Nortwedt, Adolph Norsing, and J.K. McCulloch) but also focuses on how these men have developed skeletal and muscular problems from the over-development of certain muscles and the neglect of others.  It gives careful details on anatomical features, diet, and training habits of speed skaters from the U.S., Canada, and Norway. It concludes that some of these men have developed a “bicycle stoop” and have poorly developed arms while others, who have supplemented skating with gymnastics, have much better upper body development and symmetry.

I confess I was somewhat taken aback as I looked beyond the diagrams and sketches (including a chart comparing their physiques to that of 3000 young men at Yale) and came across the photographs of them very scantily clad in briefs or a thong–or in the nude. All were tastefully posed in speed skating position, and photographed from the side so that nothing may have shocked the magazine’s readers. These photographs didn’t seem as though they were intended to be provocative; this is Popular Science Monthly in 1895, for Pete’s sake, not “The Hottest Men of Figure Skating” (which I only found by following the blog “Princess Beany Skates,” honest!) or my latest seriously funny random find, “Des Hommes et des chatons.”

So I didn’t really learn all that much about what muscles are used in skating. And I wasn’t convinced by looking at these photographs that speed skating, as the article said, would lead to the “permanent deformity of its too zealous votaries.”

Hmmm. . . they looked okay to me. And admiring their skating musculature certainly made for a nice change from all that poetry!


Pie recipes for Eva

Another adult skater has been a loyal commentator on my blog. (Her blog is called “Eva Bakes,” on which she shares all kinds of delicious recipes. On Fridays she posts entries about her skating adventures, including her recent performance in the Championship Gold Ladies event at Adult Nationals 2015.)

Eva asked for Harriet’s rhubarb pie recipe, so I thought I’d post both that one and the one for my friend Carol’s deep fudge pie.

But first, a little pie poem, dedicated to Eva and sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”

Lemon meringue so fluffy and downy,
I’ve got a fudge one that tastes like a brownie,
Strawberry rhubarb, I cannot deny,
These are a few of my favorite pies.

Pecan or apple, there is nothing to it,
Raspberry, blueberry, all berries will do it.
Since so much skating has trimmed down my thighs,
These are a few of my favorite pies!

Chocolate fudge pie

Chocolate fudge pie

Carol’s Deep Fudge Pie

1 9″ unbaked pie crust (1 stick [1/2 c] of butter, 1 cup of flour, salt, 1 T sugar, plus 3 T ice water)
3 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c. butter
4 eggs
3 T light corn syrup
1-1/2 c sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla

Make pie crust in a food processor by cutting a cubed stick (1/2 c) of butter into a cup of flour, salt, and a tablespoon of sugar, then adding ice water until the whole thing comes together into a ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes and then roll out into a 9″ pie pan. Prick pie crust with fork. Bake in 400 degree oven 10 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate with butter over hot water or in microwave. Cool slightly.
Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in corn syrup, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture; blend well. Pour into pie shell.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until top is crusty and filling is set around edges (Do not overbake; the pie should still be soft in the middle.) Cool on rack. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Harriet's rhubarb pie

Harriet’s rhubarb pie

Harriet’s Rhubarb Pie
1 cup flour
5  Tbs. confectionery sugar (1/3 cup)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (not soft)

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup flour
3-4 cups rhubarb cut to 1/4″ lengths  (I use 4)
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 TBL Cinnamon

Crust:  Mix flour and confectioner’s sugar and cut in butter/margarine with a pastry blender (or you can use the food processor to first cut in the butter and then add a few tablespoons of ice water until the mixture forms a ball). Press mixture into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan (10 if 4 cups rhubarb used). Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Pie:  Beat eggs and stir in sugar, salt and flour.  Mix in rhubarb and spoon into the hot crust.  Bake at 350 degrees 50 to 55 min. until top starts to brown lightly. Serve hot or cold.


Poem: “The Skating Day”

Hey, it’s National Poetry Month, and I’ve been reading Mary Oliver’s breathtakingly beautiful poem, “The Summer Day.” Her poem asks many questions, beginning with a hard one: “Who made the world?” and ending with this memorable query: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”

That’s an easy one. Here’s my answer, a tribute to her inspiring meditation on watching a grasshopper (lines in italics are hers).

The Skating Day

Who made this edge?
Who made this three, and these bunny ears?
Who made this pattern?
This pattern, I mean–
the one that swizzles up and down, saying there are knees bending,
heart pumping, ankles pressed against laces, then releasing.
I can see my own reflection going to and from the boards.
Now I am turning my hips against my shoulders and feeling tension deep deep down.
Now I change direction, head stays the same. Count with me–one, two, three.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to push down
into the ice’s bright and brittle surface, how to glide away
as if there was no clock and no opening of the gates
to signal us off and away, no moment when the music stops.
This is what I’ve been doing during those few hours.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Celebrating the ice

The temperature is now above 40 degrees, and everything is melting! In honor of the arrival of warmer weather (here in Minnesota we don’t say “spring” until May), I want to share a couple of poems and a few photos about ice.

First is a haiku I wrote for a competition run by my son’s Japanese class (they encouraged parents to enter):

Skaters trace out eights,
Quiet as frozen water.
Snow dusts our circles.

And now a humorous one by a friend (who wrote it in response to another poem about winter):

“About Those Icicles”

by Laura Gurak

When I read your poem
about icicles from roof to ground,
I thought “Hey, you need a roof rake.”
Those icicles are dangerous!
They will pull your rain gutters down!
Shiny and bright on the surface,
but underneath the glow
they are letting frosty cold water,
melted by mid-day sun,
creep underneath
and up behind your roof shingles.
Next thing you know, it’s raining in the kitchen!
Or in the bathroom!
It takes a hearty soul indeed to endure
the endless northern winters.
Whether New England or the Midwest, someone is bound
to have the worst one that year.
Snow, even when too much, gives us trails and animal tracks
to follow, often with the dog, nose to ground.
But icicles—they are not our friends.
Get a roof rake and make them vanish, and soon!
Then, we can welcome the March weather,
return of the sun, all melting all around us,

But to prove that we do love our winters (at least for a while), here are some pictures from earlier this year: an annual cross-country ski race that always involves decorating a frozen lake with ice sculptures and lights. Enjoy!


Ode to the European Waltz

At my lesson this week, Ari had me doing the side pattern from the European Waltz. We’ve been working on the man’s part for so long that it took me a few tries to get back into the woman’s steps. And then I realized how much repressed trauma can be buried under my smooth mask of skating joy and calm.

OMG, not the European Waltz! The dance that shall not be named! It was the first compulsory ice dance that I ever failed. I passed it on the fourth try, only because (a) I took enough cold medicine (for a bad cold, I swear) to put myself into a kind of altered state, and (b) I watched Torvill and Dean’s legendary Paso Doble OSP on television (yes, it was that long ago) right before the test.

The European Waltz is pretty much three-turn city. The pattern goes something like this: left three turn, back outside right, back outside left, step forward to right three turn, back outside left, back outside right, repeat the whole thing, then do three repetitions of a three-turn-to-back-outside-edge. The test requires three patterns, not short and definitely not sweet. It goes round and round the rink for what feels like forever.

Oomph pah pah, oomph pah pah, threatening imminent doom with every pulse of 3/4 time.

After I passed, I thought with relief that I’d never have to work on it again. But oooohhh nooo. . . . to progress further on the pre-gold dances I am faced with the brutal reality of the Starlight Waltz end pattern, which has two of those end pattern Euro-threes capped off by the oh-so-delightful foxtrot mohawk.

Had I passed my pre-golds soon after my silvers, I might have been spared testing the Starlight Waltz, which some years ago was made into a pre-gold dance (when I started ice dancing, it was tested at the international level, after the gold-level dances). But I took a set of breaks from skating, and a long long break from testing after doing the silvers. I actually do like the Starlight, aside from those wicked three turns. The repetitive three turns make European Waltz harder, because for me it’s like repeating the same mistake again and again and again. And again.

Both my three turns and back outside edges are problematic. Luckily, it’s the same basic challenge with both: not using the inside edge to lower myself down on the knee, and not placing the new foot on the ice. Unluckily, this causes the same problems: instead of lowering on the inside edge, I’ve been falling into the circle on my three turns (not lifting my heel), not lowering down but falling from the inside edge onto the back outside edge. I’ve also been sliding my feet from outside to outside on the transitions, missing those loveable “rockover” inside edges at the end of each outside edge. I need to work on controlling those inside edges in order to create a genuine, bona fide (really, truly, madly, deeply) push from one edge to another.

Some days I find myself watching those how-to videos (boy, can Maya Usova ever lower herself down on that inside edge!)

and thinking to myself, yeah, right.

I’m not sure I am conveying the proper tone of optimism about this process. So in the spirit of a modern dance teacher I once had who said “Your weaknesses become your strengths,” I am trying to stay upbeat and just keep at it.

So I tell myself that the European Waltz is a great dance with which to develop proper technique. It’s not fussy, there are no special features; it’s just rise and fall, three turns and back edges–and lots of controlled inside-edge pushes. Just my kind of thing, no? I even wrote a little poetic tribute to the European waltz in the style of Emily Dickinson. Here’s her original poem:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee.

And revery.

The revery itself will do,

If bees are few.

And here’s my version:

To do the European you need a back edge and one three,

One back edge, and a three.

And melody.

The melody itself will do,

If threes are few.