jo skates

Skating in the key of life


Surprise! A Post

Out of the blue, after many months of nothingness, a post.

Since June, I have taken on some new roles at work, and between that and some shifts in skating hours, there’s been relatively little time for me to skate.

But this week, I actually had some last-minute meeting cancellations, and actually got on the ice three times, including two days in a row. That was awesome, but also let me know how out of shape I’ve gotten.

So well before the new year, I am trying to pave the way for a resolution: more skating to restore my sanity (or to get back into my old states of blissful insanity on ice).

I’ve been on and off the ice for much of the year, so will post some pictures that I took in past months that somehow I never got around to sharing. These will remind me that I need to return!


Beetza Pizza

My beetza pizza

I made this pizza for dinner tonight! Beets, spinach, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, mushrooms, and cheese. I’ve been making loads of no-knead bread and rolls as well as this pizza dough. Super easy, but you have to allow for lots of rising time. This morning I started at around 9:30 a.m. with the following:

3 cups lukewarm water (I used whey from the last time I made ricotta cheese)

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 Tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons salt

7 or more cups of flour (I used a combination of around 5 cups of all-purpose, 1 cup of bread flour, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour)

olive oil

I mixed the water, yeast, and honey together in a large bowl, then added the flour and salt and mixed everything together until smooth. The dough was pretty sticky, so I added a bit more flour. I coated the dough with olive oil, covered it up and left it near the heating vent so that it would stay nice and warm. At lunchtime my son punched it down and gave it a bit of a knead. Then we covered it up and let it rise most of the afternoon.

At around 4 p.m., I buttered two pans: my big roasting pan (roughly 12 x 18 inches) and a round 16-inch pizza pan. I then coated both with another layer of olive oil (doing the butter + olive oil ensures that the pizza will not stick and will brown up nicely.

I then took around 2/3 of the dough and stretched it into a rectangular shape to put into the roasting pan, and stretched about 1/3 in a circular shape for the pizza pan. Went for a walk and to run a few errands, then came back and chopped and pan-roasted some vegetables. I like to caramelize onions, but had to rush today. While those were cooking, I flipped the dough over (this gets rid of some of the bigger bubbles), then I re-stretched and re-shaped the dough so that it covered bottom of the pans with a little lip all the way round.

Since I used pre-made sauce and shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, it was easy from there on in. Mine was vegetarian, but I put pepperoni on the other one for the rest of my family.

I baked both in a 450 degree F. over for around 15-20 minutes. The round one took a bit less time, so I took it out and then put both in for a final 5 minutes so they’d be ready at the same time.

Lots of baking adventures these days, but no skating adventures for me right now. COVID makes inside skating near-impossible, and even the outdoor rinks are closed right now.

I found a picture of myself from a quarter-century ago, skating around the speed-skating rink (John Rose Oval). Here’s hoping I can post a much more recent one soon.

Jo at John Rose Oval in 1995.

There have been some bright spots these past couple of months, so here’s some pictures to enjoy. Happy and healthy holidays ahead to all!


Curses! Foiled again!

Well, it seemed a few weeks ago that I might be getting a little more skating time in. I signed up for a weekly “Skatercise” class that seemed perfect: a small group, socially-distanced, everyone is wearing a mask. And we were working on lots of different edges, a few turns, and some general conditioning. Perfect, given the circumstances.

Well, a little over two weeks ago my husband and I went out for our morning tandem bike ride. After hearing our warning bell, a group of runners moved off the bike path to let us pass. But at the last moment one of them jumped in our way.

I didn’t see her; I am the power generator on the back seat of the tandem. So all I remember is my husband yelling and then I hit the ground hard. As it turns out, I broke three ribs and my right collarbone. Ouch!

So the good news is that the surgery on my collarbone seems to have gone well. A titanium plate and screws is holding everything together, and I didn’t have to have soft-tissue repair done. I am gradually getting back to work and am able to hold things together under the early semester onslaught of preparing for the fall semester (starts next week).

Everything will be online this fall for me, and hopefully will go smoothly. At least I don’t have to commute, and can take frequent breaks in my comfy rocking chair nearby.

I am sad that I won’t be skating (at least for a little while longer). But the good news is that everything seems to be healing up just fine, and hopefully there will be more happy skating (and other) news to come. Fingers crossed!

Here’s pictures from earlier in the summer, with some happy skating and gardening times.


Kummerspeck und Eislaufen

So I was thinking that there should be a word or phrase for the feeling you get when you open the fridge or the cupboard to get that last ingredient or container of leftovers that you were planning to have for lunch, only to find that someone else has eaten it first.

German seems like a good language for these kinds of expressions, so I went looking but all I could find was “Kummerspeck,” which is a term for emotional overeating. “Kummer” means grief and “speck” means bacon, so this translates to “grief bacon,” as in “Wegen des pandemic habe ich viel getan Kummerspeck.” This too is true, but it’s not the word I want.

The more exciting news is that several skating friends and I went in together on renting ice for a couple of private sessions: six people, all respecting proper distancing measures and wearing masks. Of course there is still risk of infection, but hopefully this is less than a public session (which no one seems to be offering anyway). Plus if any of us get sick, we know who to call.

The first time out was pretty tentative. I have been bicycling and doing yoga, but it took a while to feel comfortable again on skates. However, the following week was better. I’ve been concentrating on skating alignment and all that hard work over the past few years seems to be paying off. I’m not fully back in shape but I also don’t feel like I’m all over the place.

Sometimes just staying balanced is a victory of sorts.

Stay healthy and safe, friends!


Tiny blood-sucking fiends

Since there hasn’t been any skating for a few months now, I’ve been keeping busy with biking and trying to get my yard and garden in shape. My goal was to get things planted and round one of weeding done before the tiny blood-sucking fiends (a.k.a. mosquitos) arrive.

Almost made it! It rained hard yesterday and this morning while I was finishing one section, I was surrounded by a swarm. I probably should have gone inside, but I was soooo close to finishing.

Now the yard looks great, but I did get a few bites around the ears. The little vampiric creatures were probably going for my neck but missed. Now I know why I miss skating so much. No bugs and no danger of malaria, West Nile virus, or any of those things that we used to worry about before we realized there were much bigger worries in our world.

So what else have I been doing? Well, waiting and worrying, like everyone else. I’ve been working quite a bit–started teaching online in March, and some of the summer will be spent preparing for fall (just in case). Online yoga classes with my sisters-in-law. Baking (bread dough is a wonderful way to knead out anxiety) and cooking (jambalaya, risotto, and other comfort foods). Sometime this weekend I’m going to try my hand at making ricotta cheese.

Luckily we have a porch that’s big enough for skating friends. None of us can skate at the moment, but we can talk and laugh and be together even when we’re six feet apart.

I am gradually moving into summer mode, so hopefully that means I’ll have some more time for this blog. In the meantime, here’s some photos of the past couple of months.


Curling lesson

Some friends of ours went to a fundraiser and came out with a two-hour curling lesson. They invited me, my husband, and son to join them. So today after we shoveled ourselves out of the snow, we drove to the Chaska Curling Center, which is the national training center for USA Curling. It’s a super modern facility (opened in 2015).

Despite the fact that there are a number of curling arenas in the Twin Cities area, none of us had ever tried curling before. We had two really patient instructors who took us through the basics and then split into our two teams: the Mixed Nuts and the Curling Irons (my friend Emma is very creative). Then the games began!

It was super fun. I never quite got into the most efficient lunge position, and wound up sitting down on the ice quite a few times after releasing the stone. But I managed to get the rock down the ice nonetheless, and even helped score a few times. And boy, sweeping the ice is way more enjoyable than sweeping my kitchen floor.

Though curling doesn’t seem all that strenuous, it definitely made us tired and hungry. Several hours later, we all enjoyed a very late lunch at the restaurant which conveniently overlooks the curling arena. Luckily, my husband was there to drive home while the rest of us zonked out in the car.

While I’m not sure I would hang up my skates in favor of the curling broom, I definitely would do it again. Ice sports rule!



Life is good!

Nothing like a polar vortex (minus 28 degrees F was the worst for us here in the metro area) to make me grateful for temperatures above zero.

Nothing like several bouts of white-knuckle driving through fog and snow and ice to make one appreciate being at home.

Nothing like several days of shoveling to make me appreciate some clear and sunny days.

And skating again, ah . . .

Several other things that are making me happy. First is that my new skates and I are getting along great. They are still stiff (what a great feeling to take them off after each practice!) But I have now switched over 100%. I find that they (a) provide much more support, and (b) make it much easier to turn, which shouldn’t surprise me, given how worn out my old skates were.

Another plus is that the new skates are slightly longer, which means that my right middle toe no longer gets cramped up. Given that I am trying to use my feet more, I need all the toe-help I can get!

Second is that I have started do more regular bouts of off-ice exercises and stretching, and even added some weights to this mini-workout. I think this will help my skating, too.

Third is my son’s college auditions are over (fingers crossed!) and I think (hope) that I have finally finished some of the busywork that has been taking up room in my email in-box. ‘Tis the season!

I tend to worry when things are going well (you never know when the next snowstorm is going to hit) and I know that my email in-box will fill up again, probably by tomorrow. But I’m trying to just enjoy these moments. Life is good!






Great Scott!


Regardless of how they do this time around, Virtue and Moir will always be in my  pantheon of ice dancing deities. So I was watching this video about the development of their Moulin Rouge free dance (it has since been blocked on YouTube, sadly, so I can’t share it here), I was amazed that at one point Scott got a coaching tip on an back inside three. He was told that he should just let the turn pivot, rather than muscling it around.

That’s exactly what my coaches have been telling me! Great Scott!

In her recent Fit&Fed post, Mary’s coach told her to identify “the elephant in the room”: the moves or aspects of skating that you should address and change asap. My elephants have been announcing themselves with regularity over the past few years, but I’ve now reached the happy stage when things in general feel much more stable and I’m no longer skating in pain.

This is happy, yes, but also a little too comfy. The elephants are clearly there, but they are no longer quite so obvious, at least not to me. That’s where the coaches come in handy to wipe the skating-euphoria-induced grin off my face.

Both lessons this week were on fairly basic elements, allowing us to focus on some basic things that are still. . . well, quite elephantine. I’ll detail them here.

Inside mohawks. I learned that what I thought was a wonky and unstable back inside edge exit was really a problematic entry edge. The entry edge started flat and took a deep curve for the worse before the turn, which meant that the exit edge had to perform a kind of rescue mission. Smooth even curve into the entry edge and everything is beautiful again.

Back inside push onto back outside edge. Okay, this is sooo basic but has been sooo hard. Laurie pointed out that I have been setting my back outside edge down inside the circle, which means an automatic flat or even inside edge. She had me doing back chassés and putting my back outside edge down right behind the inside (pushing edge), which felt like I was stepping outside my circle with an angled foot.  Hard to describe, but definitely different from what I’ve been doing and definitely better.

Ari and I discussed this push as well (well, he basically talked and I listened, thinking to myself, “oh woe is me!” for doing it wrong for all these years). His advice was more about keeping the pushing foot on the ice longer. What distinguishes this from two-footing is that you basically keep your weight on the pushing foot rather than partially transferring it over (“oh woe is me!”)

Once I am on a back outside edge, I have to learn to keep my weight inside the circle. I tend to try to stand up over my skate rather than using my lean even as I rotate my body. (Trying to stand up over your skates only works if you are going really slowly, as I have been, but if you are trying to get speed, it totally doesn’t work!) Laurie gave me a great image: think of your body as being on an axis (or spit), and rotate the entire thing on the same plane as your lean.

That’s me, rotisserie Jo!

So all of these things boil down to (a) putting your feet in the right place on the circle, (b) maintaining lean, and (c) just letting rotation happen normally as part of the action of the curve, rather than forcing the turn or the edge.

The good thing about these tips is that they make just about everything I do better. The bad thing is that not doing them makes things really really hard.

So what choice do I have? Great Scott!

Lesson notes:

  • forward inside mohawk, back outside three
  • back chassés (placement of outside edge)
  • back inside threes (lean is different from other edges, not into the circle)
  • two foot rocker exercise
  • one foot rocker exercise
  • inside mohawk, push back, outside three
  • inside mohawk, back inside three (feet together after mohawk)
  • forward outside double three, cross stroke, other direction (allow rotation with free side back, don’t spin around)





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Poem for today

A poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist”

We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

‘How do you know if you are going to die?’
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
‘When you can no longer make a fist.’

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.

Source: Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry (University of Utah Press, 1988)