Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roman-Style Fettuccine with Chicken

This is another terrific Italian dish from Giada De Laurentiis. I grew up thinking that if you were going to serve pasta, you had to smoother it in either a tomato or heavy cheese sauce. Oh what a sheltered life I lead! I have made this dish many times, and it's always a crowd favorite. When I tell Julie I'm making this for Sunday dinner, it always makes her smile.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs of pasta. Since pasta is only sold in 1 pound boxes, I usually go ahead and cook the full 2 pounds and include a little more chicken.

Giada lists this recipe as making 4 to 6 servings. My experience is it makes 8 servings, and more if you up the quantity of ingredients. Even if you invite friends over you'll still have plenty of leftovers.

If you don't have fresh herbs, it's OK to use dried, but just reduce the amount by 1/3 to 1/2.

I recommend serving this dish with a nice Chardonnay. It's a great one-dish meal to serve on a cold winter night.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
3 oz prosciutto, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. fettuccine
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the bell peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, wine, thyme, and oregano. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the broth, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir and cook until tender per the directions on the package.
  5. Remove the chicken and let it cool slightly on a cutting board. Using a fork and knife, gently shred the chicken. Return the chicken to the pan Stir in the parsley.
  6. To serve, spoon the pasta into serving dishes and top with the chicken and sauce.
From Giada De Laurentiis Everyday Pasta

Monday, December 29, 2008

TJ and Peekay in the News

This past Saturday and Sunday Peekay and I competed in the AKC sanctioned North Georgia All Breed Herding Trial in Watkinsville, GA. I plan on doing a full article on my blog soon. Peekay failed to qualify on either day, and thus did not earn her Herding Intermediate title this weekend.

In my nine years of trialing my German Shepherds, I have never been more proud of my dog, than I am of Peekay's performance on Sunday. We drew an incredibly difficult set of sheep. When let out onto the arena, two of the sheep went straight to the grain pan at the set-out point. The other sheep, to be known hence forth as "A-hole" ran to the other side of the arena. Peekay and I waited at the other end of the field for over 1 minute as the set-out dog worked hard to get him with the others. For our entire run, A-hole was as rank as I ever have seen a sheep behave. Time-and-time again "A-hole" would break ranks and try to escape. Time-and-time again, Peekay gathered him up and brought him back. Peekay was relentless at inserting her will on that sheep. I am swelling up with emotion just recollecting it now.

But as I said, the full story will have to wait. This past Thursday I received a phone call from a reported from the Athen's Georgia newspaper, The Athens Banner-Herald. The report had learned about our trial from my blog, and wanted to know if it would be OK for him and a photographer to cover it. I recalled the paper had done a story years ago on Doyle, and I new he wouldn't mind. I also told him that the trial was open to the public, and admission was free.

What a great story they wrote! The story made the front page of this mornings addition!

Click here to read the story on the Athens Banner-Herald's website. I'm quoted a few times, and Peekay is referenced.

Make sure you also view the article's accompanying Photo/Audio Slideshow. It's terrific! They really captured the spirit and essence of our herding trial. Peekay and I made the cut and we're featured towards the end.

The man with the charming Georgia accent and wearing the cool chilly pepper shirt is Doyle Ivie, the owner of Woodsend Farm. Doyle and his girlfriend Claire Hamilton make it all possible. They certainly doesn't make any money herding. He tries to break even, but I'm sure that rarely happens. They are the salt of the earth, and I can't thank them enough for those Tuesday and Thursday nights they waited for Peekay and me to show up to practice. They make it all possible.

Speed is good, Staying is better!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Practice Report

On Thursday December 18th Peekay, Lauda, and I were back in Watkinsville, GA for sheep herding practice. This would be Peekay's final practice session before the AKC sheep herding trial on December 27th and 28th. My plan this evening was to keep it short and simple. We were going to do simulated A-course, intermediate class runs. There were to be no drills, no special lessons. Tonight I wanted to establish where we where at. If we ran into problems we would deal with them as you would in a trial: the best way you can. We would keep the sheep flowing from station-to-station. I would physically positon myself on course only where the AKC rule book allowed.

Neither run went completely smooth. Peekay had trouble on her counter-clockwise outruns. She was coming in too fast, and tight. In this practice we didn't have the luxury of having a stock handler to spot the sheep for us. We had to pick them off the back fence. These sheep didn't want to leave the security of the fence. Each time they ran along the fence of the arena and directly into the Y-chute, instead of coming up the center of the field.

Peekay's outruns in the clockwise direction were much better. For whatever reason, they are slower and wider. The goal at the beginning of any run is to minimally stress the sheep. Just prior to coming into the field, the sheep are safe and secure in their holding pen. In a matter of seconds they are driven out by a stock dog and thrust into the arena. Before they know what has hit them, another dog comes hurtling down the field towards them. If there is going to be big trouble, it usually will occur withing these first 10 seconds of the run.

Unless I change my mind on the way to the trial tomorrow, for the first time I can recall ever in competition I plan on sending Peekay on the outrun in the clockwise direction. Just like people being either right or left-handed dogs are right or left-sided. Peekay favors her right-side (counter-clockwise), but through practice she has improved her left side outruns and flanks dramatically. Being the human in this dog/man partnership, it's my job to make these hard decisions.

On both runs, each time we exited the Z-chute and turned for the holding pen, the sheep attempted to escape down the arena. The would make the turn, and begin running. Both times Peekay was more than up for the challenge. On my command she ran down the center of the arena and cut off the retreat. In horse racing she has what is called tactical speed. She has slow speeds, fast speeds, and speeds in between. They can be called upon on command. This makes us a very formidable competitor.

On cross drives this night we were 50/50. Half the time Peekay hesitated a split second, and the sheep ran back to the gate. I think I discovered a technique to help correct the problem. Without getting too technical, I found if I am too close to the fence, Peekay doesn't want to come in between me and the fence. If I step away from the fence, it opens the door and she is more willing to shoot the gap.

I'm presently sitting at my breakfast nook table typing this blog. Both Peekay and Lauda are sleeping like babies at my feet. It is the night before the trial. In little more than 12 hours our first run will be history. I'm excited and confident, but certainly not cocky. I've been trialing long enough to know that there is no sure thing. Even with all the preparation, there are some variables you can not control. It just takes on wrong command; one moment of hesitation, and you're done. But I'm going into this trial feeling like I've prepared my little GSD well.

I started herding with her with the goal of reaching the Intermediate class. We are now on the threshold of our 4th AKC herding title. Unser was my first herding titled German Shepherd Dog. Lauda was my second. Unser crossed "The Rainbow Bridge" over 5 years now. While Lauda will be coming to the trial with us, it won't be long before he too makes the same journey. When "Peeks" and I walk on the field, I'll be thinking of both of them. Peekay is an extremely talented dog, but we have reached this moment in large part to the ground work laid by Peekay's predecessors . Because of them, I am a better trainer. They'll always have a special place in my heart. If we earn a title this weekend, a piece of it will belong to Unser and Lauda. Speed is good, belly rubs are better. Thank you Unser. Thank you Lauda. I love you both.

Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary

Of all the recipes I have posted on this blog, this may be my favorite. If you love a hearty tomato soup, you absolutely must make this recipe. It's very easy, has simple ingredients, and it's packed with lots of flavor. I made it on a rare week night when I cooked. I'm not an exceptionally speedy cook, and it took under 1 hour including clean up.

This soup is also very healthy. Many tomato based soups use heavy cream as a thickening agent. This recipe uses cannellini beans. The beans are packed with nutrition and give the soup a nice texture. I would recommend using a low-sodium chicken broth. It cuts down on the salt, and you won't sacrifice any flavor.

This recipe is from From Giada de Laurentis' Giada's Kitchen New Italian Favorites. Another bonus for this recipe, Giada is easy on the eyes!

2 tbs unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (16 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can(28 oz) crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup plain yogurt
zest of 1 lemon

  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary, and the red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes covered.
  2. Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to the pot and keep warm over low heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. To serve, place the soup into bowls, dollop each with the plain yogurt. Sprinkle the top with the remaining fresh rosemary and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

From Giada de Laurentis' Giada's Kitchen New Italian Favorites

Peekay Townsville SC Herding Practice Report

On Saturday December 13th Peekay, Lauda, and I were back at Red Creek Farm in Townsville, SC for sheep herding practice. Our goal was to sharpen up my #1 black-and-red GSD for the sheep herding trial at the end of December.

We arrived a half hour early for the scheduled 9:00 AM start. When we pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised by the small turn out. There were only two other cars in the lot.

I walked Peekay on leash to to the sign-in area. John Tholkes, who along with his wife Carol Anne, own the farm, was talking to a couple with a German Shepherd. As I approached I heard him say, "Now here is a German Shepherd that is fit to work." He walked up to Peekay and gently touched her sides.

"You shouldn't be able to see her ribs, but you should be able to feel them when you touch her side", said John. What we apparently walked into was John telling this couple that their dog was fat! He even had the woman come over and feel Peekay's ribs. He was right, their dog was overweight by at least 15 pounds. By the expression on both of their faces, I don't think either one wanted to hear it. I wonder if they'll be back?

This was a very good practice. More people came, but the attendance was smaller than usual. I think some of the regulars were scared away by the morning temperatures in the low 30s. . We were 1 of only 3 dogs in the intermediate field. Over the course of 4 hours, we had 5 separate runs.

Our first run had a little drama. We were the first ones in the intermediate field. Carol Anne warned us that the sheep that were in the field were not the set she would have chosen. These particular group of sheep did not have a lot of "dog experience" and were flighty and unpredictable. Sure enough, soon after we started Peekay was moving the sheep along the fence when one decided to make a break for it and ran back to the gate. Peekay took off in hot pursuit right on it's hoofs. The sheep, without any hesitation, ran head first into the wire fence. Thankfully, sheep are pretty tough and he he just bounced off, shook it off, and returned back to the others. After that we had no problems.

I like working fresh and flighty sheep. Sheep like this are the ones you typically draw in a trial. They constantly are looking for a way to beat the dog and escape. Light sheep force both me and Peekay to be alert and work as a team. If you can work light sheep, you can work pretty much anything.

We continued to work on inside flanks. An inside flank is where Peekay, from just a voice command from me will circle the sheep in either a a clockwise ("go by"), or counter-clockwise ("away to me") direction. What makes the "flank" an "inside flank" is when Peekay is circling the sheep, she will operate in the area between me and the sheep. Prior she has been doing outside flanks, where I am in between her and the sheep. In our current trial class, and even more in the advanced class, I am restricted as to where I can be on the course. In order to move up in class, Peekay will need to execute reliable inside flanks.

One each successive run, Peekay improved. She became more comfortable working on the inside. I could see she was figuring things out. I worked hard to be consistent in my commands and my corrections.

By the time we went in for our final run, the sheep were tired and rank. The dog before us had placed them in a small holding pen along the fence. They couldn't get them out. It was up to us to finish the job. I sent Peekay to the back wall of the fence. She stuck her head through the slats. One of the sheep stood his ground, lowered his head and stomped his hoof. Peekay maintained eye contact and stood her ground. The sheep moved in and tried to butt her. Peekay slipped to the right, and chomped her jaws. She didn't bite him, but the sheep got the message. He moved out of the pen with the others.

After that we practiced a few inside flanks and called it a day. It was another good practice, and we headed home a little better than we left. Speed is good!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chocolate Bourbon Cookies

This past Sunday we attended the annual Nottingham Gate Subdivision cookie exchange. For the very first time in the 7 years we have lived in the neighborhood, we enthusiastically RSVPed "yes" and attended. Prior years required each person to bring a whopping 6 dozen cookies. I don't think we ever had 6 dozen cookies in our house at one time ever! Really, what would we do with so many cookies? This year the rules were modified and inclusion in the exchange only required 3 1/2 dozen home baked, from scratch cookies. The rules strictly forbid anything store bought.

I attended with Julie, and predictably other than the host's husband, I was the only man in attendance. No matter, I had a good time conversing, and sampling the cookies.

We picked this recipe for one reason; it has bourbon! Surprisingly these cookies didn't have a boozy taste. The bourbon flavors married quite nicely with the chocolate.

Yields 50 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbs cocoa powder unsweetened
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firm pack
1/2 cup bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
1 cup mini chocolate chips, semi-sweet
2 egg whites
2 tbs water
3 cups pecans, finely chopped
  1. Combine the flour and cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside
  2. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until creamy and sooth. Beat in bourbon until well blended.
  3. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  4. When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 F. Grease w large cookie sheets. Beat together egg whites and water and set aside. Using 1 level tablespoon, shape dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll each ball first in the egg whites then in the chopped nuts. Arrange the balls 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. If the dough gets to soft, periodically return the dough to the refrigerator.
  5. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are still soft but have a light crackled crust. Cool cookies on the cookie sheets for 2-5 minutes. Carefully remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peekay Entered in AKC Sheep Herding Trial

Alpharetta, GA - Confirmation has been received that the entry of The Power of One Vom Grunenfeld CD RE HSAs, aka "Peekay" has been accepted and she will compete in the North Georgia All Breed Herding Dog Association's American Kennel Club Herding Trial on December 27th and 28th. The Trial is to be held at Woods End Farm in Watkinsville, GA. The 58 lb black-and-red German Shepherd Dog will be competing in the "Herding Intermediate A Course Sheep" class.

On Saturday morning December 27th, Peekay will be running under judge Cathy Hartley. and has drawn the pole position. Overall she will be the 4th of 50 dogs to run and the 1st of 8 dogs in the HI A Course Sheep class. It is estimate our run will commence at about 8:30 AM.

On Sunday morning December 28th, Peekay will be running under judge Sandra Lindenmuth, and has drawn the #6 hole. Overall she will be the 23rd of 50 dogs to run, and the 6th of 9 dogs in the "HI A Course Sheep class. It is estimated that Peekay's run on Sunday will commence at about 11:15 AM.

The holder of an outstanding 7 American Kennel Club Titles ( 1 Obedience Title, 3 Rally Obedience Titles, and 3 Herding Titles), Peekay looks to add her 8th title at this trial. A qualifying run on either day will earn her the coveted Herding Intermediate Sheep title. To date Peekay has competed in the HI A Course Sheep class 4 times, and has earned a qualifying score twice. Neither her stablemate "Lauda" or her predecessor "Unser" have ever competed in the Herding Intermediate Class, let alone have had a qualifying run.

Peekay has been working very well in practice, and the team is optimistic for a good results on this last weekend of December. Her outruns have been outstanding and has consistent explosive tactical speed. Her work drive is second to none. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Speed is good --- Staying is Better!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lake Windward 5K

On November 16 I ran the Lake Windward Elementary (LWE) 5K Road Race. LWE is where Julie teaches. It is also the elementary school the kids in our neighborhood attend. The race is put on by the school's PTA, and is held in conjunction with their "Waffles with Wally (Gator)" fund raiser. All participants get the event t-shirt on the left. Having lived in Florida for 13 years, I'm very familiar with alligators. Seeing them in the wild or in zoos never fails to creep me out. I like this androgynous, non-threatening Wally. I think he's so lame, he actually cool. I like Wally's skinny legs and carrot top hands. I think all alligators should wear clothes; it makes them less threatening!

While this was a very small race with less than 100 participants, this was not an easy race. The course is the most difficult 5K I have seen. The race began and ended in the school's parking lot. This was the easy part. The meat of the race; two laps of the 1.3 mile walking trail in the neighboring Webb Bridge Park gets ones attention. I typically run 3 times a week in Webb Bridge Park. I know this trail like the back of my hand. The trail is made of dirt and compacted gravel. There are multiple steep hills. You would be hard pressed to find a more difficult course.

This is the second year of the running of the LWE 5K. Last year I finished 5th overall, and 1st in the over 40 male age group. Construction on the walking trail resulted in an odd circuit of the park's trail. My time last year was a questionable 2o minutes and 5o seconds. To this day I contest that the course was not measured correctly and was really less than 5 kilometers. I remember looking down at my watch at the 1 mile mark and seeing 6 minutes and 35 seconds! I don't think I can run a mile in that time down hill on concrete let alone uphill on dirt!

This year I was fighting the worst cold I have had in recent memory. The week leading up to the race I missed two days of work and did absolutely no running or exercise of any kind. As the race started my legs felt tired, and I could still feel the crud in my chest. I jumped out to an early lead, but was quickly caught and passed by several runners. The first guy to pass me was the guy who won last year. I didn't expect to see him again. The second guy that passed me was the guy I beat last year for the over 40 male win. He was listening to his Ipod, and had a confident steady gate. The others that went by I didn't recognize. About 1/2 mile in we hit the first hill. I passed 3 people on the first hill and was in fourth. I was right behind the guy in third place, and could still see the leaders. The guy in third appeared to be laboring already. I just stayed behind him and waited for the next hill. Sure enough, at the next serious climb he cracked. In the middle of the hill he suddenly stopped running, put his hands on his waist, and walked up the remainder of the hill. I ran by him and didn't look back.

I ended up finishing 3rd overall, and second in the over 40 male age group. Even with being sick, I ran the race in a respectable 23 minutes and 26 seconds which translates to a 7 minute 54 second mile pace. I figure being sick slowed me down by at least 1 minute. I wouldn't have won, but I had a real shot at second. The guy who finished second beat me by just 40 seconds. But running these races is more about competing against yourself, and less about competing against other people. It was a nice little event, extremely close to home, which encouraged parents and kids to get out and exercise. Hopefully the PTA will continue to have the race next year, and more people participate.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alton Brown's Pot Roast

I made a couple of small modifications from the original recipe found on the Food Channel's website. Alton's ingredient list included 1 cup of chopped cocktail olives. I absolutely hate olives, and I omitted them. He also had the oven temperature set at 190-200 degrees. I was afraid with such a low temperature and after 3 1/2 hours of cooking, the meat would be still raw in the middle. I raised the temperature to 225 degrees.

I was very pleased with this recipe and my changes. I would certainly make this again. The meat was so tender, you could cut it with a spoon. The flavors were very unique. The rub gave the meat a slight bite. The raisins gave the sauce a hint of sweetness. The dish had a very elegant, sophisticated flavor, but nothing was overpowering. The spice rub and gravy complimented each other very nicely.

I was fooled by this recipe. One of the items I liked was the tin foil pouch. I thought clean up would be a breeze. I was wrong. While I could just throw away the tin foil, I could not throw away the blender nor the cooking pan! I'm not a good "clean as you go" cook to begin with, so I rely heavily on the dishwasher. Unfortunately our dishwasher was broken and everything had to be cleaned by hand.


  • 1 (2-pound) blade cut chuck roast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins


  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Place a wide, heavy skillet or fry pan over high heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, rub both sides of meat with the salt and cumin. When the pan is hot brown meat on both sides and remove from pan.
  3. Add just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan then add the onion and garlic. Stir constantly until onion is softened. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, and raisins. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half.
  4. Create a pouch with wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. Place half the reduced liquid/chunk mixture on the foil, add the roast, and then top with the remaining mixture. Close the pouch, and wrap tightly in another complete layer of foil. Cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a fork pushes easily into the meat.
  5. Remove from oven and rest (still wrapped) for at least 1/2 hour. Snip off 1 corner of the foil pouch and drain the liquid into a bowl or measuring cup. Add some of the "chunkies" and puree with a blender. Slice meat thinly, or pull apart with a fork. Serve with sauce.

TJ's Tiger Woods 09 Highlight - Ouch!

Tiger Woods 09 for the Xbox360 has a really cool feature. This is the first video game I am aware of where you literally can be in the game. You can upload digital photos of yourself, and the game will put your face on an animated computer golfer. Amazing!

The conversion algorithm isn't perfect. Depending on your facial features you'll have varying degrees of success. My golfer came out near perfect. It looks so much like me it's creepy!

Here's a short video of my golfer on the tee at the 1st hole at TPC Sawgrass. I am sporting a shirt, tie, sport coat and my favorite Abe Lincoln stove pipe hat. I think the dude I hit over reacted slightly. I expect to hear from his computer generated lawyer any day!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Practice Report

Tuesday night Peekay, Lauda and I were in Watkinsville GA, for sheep herding practice. With our AKC trial only 2 1/2 weeks away, it was time to get serious and start tightening the screws.

For each of our two practice runs, I decided we would run the entire AKC A-course to the Intermediate class rules. Just before we went out on the field, Doyle swapped out the stock. The current set of sheep had been out there with several different dogs for about an hour and were spent.

When I opened the gate and walked onto the field with Peekay, I immediately new that the new set of sheep were very LIGHT. With Peekay a good 30 yards away, the sheep were reacting to her movement, giving her a wide berth.

The problems of last week had disappeared. We no longer had a problem of the sheep hiding in the chutes. With Peekay 20 yards behind, the sheep would easily enter the Y chute, and exit out the other end. Peekay didn't have to even get close to the mouth of the gates, let alone go into them. The first time the sheep approached the Z chute, they were going so fast, they ran right by.

No practice would be complete without problems. This night our main problem was moving the sheep out of the #3 corner which is in between the exit of the Z chute and the entrance to the holding pen. The sheep went into the corner, but wouldn't come out. In order to get them out of the corner, Peekay needed to approach pressed against the back fence, forcing the sheep to shoot out.

Peekay gets it. I've been herding with her since she was 6 months old, and I know she understands her job. She knows that it is her responsibility to keep the sheep together and to prevent them from running away. To get the sheep out of the corner, Peekay would have to "open the door" and give the sheep the opportunity to run uncontrolled down the field. Once open, she would have to quickly out flank the sheep, and close the door. Peekay was very reluctant to open the door. I tried several time to swing Peekay wide, but each time she kept heading on a trajectory directly to the sheep, keeping them pinned in the corner.

We eventually got them out of the corner, and into the holding pen. Getting them out of the pen was our second problem. When we draw light sheep I can typically position Peekay behind the back wall of the pen. The sheep see her, feel her presence and they'll move away from her and pop out. Not these sheep. They seemed quite happy to stay in the safety of the pen. I had little choice but to bring Peekay into the tight confines of the 10 x 10 hold pen with the sheep. . This is always a very delicate maneuver. I moved Peekay up slowly one step at a time. The sheep stood motionless until they couldn't take it any longer. Suddenly they all made a break for it. Peekay did a great job to run after them, cut off the retreat, and hold them along the fence. We practiced the hold pen exit several times, and we were successful about half the time. Not bad.

In the end I was pleased with he practice. We were presented with a number of situations that we could run into at the trial. We uncovered some weaknesses that we can work on correcting.

Plans are for this weekend to head back to Townsville, SC for another herding clinic. We'll keep trying. Only 2 1/2 weeks to our trial!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Turkey Hash

This recipe is from the Reader's Digest Like Grandma Used to Make Cookbook. It states very matter-of-factly that "Chicken Hash" was Thomas Jefferson's favorite breakfast food, and how this recipe was adapted from the original to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I have made this recipe countless times, and have always blindly accepted this to be true. I even took patriotic comfort in this claim. However, is it really his favorite? I decided to investigate. Here is what I have found from Google:

lists pancakes & spoon bread among "TJs" favorites, but does not mention chicken hash. Hmm....

American Library.gov states macaroni and peach flambe' were his favorites and again does not mention chicken hash.

And shockingly I found this website when I googled "Thomas Jefferson favorite hash".....

I still want to believe that this was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. But could the people at Reader's Digest made a mistake? For all I know this was George Jefferson's favorite! Regardless this is still a very good post-Thanksgiving breakfast. If I wasn't delinquent with this blog entry many of my faithful readers could already have made this dish. My apologies, and I'll try to do better next time. Hopefully you still have some Turkey hiding out in the back of the refrigerator or froze those leftovers. Serve Turkey Hash with a side of scramble eggs. For an extra treat, mix in some cheddar cheese with those eggs.


2 medium-size potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 small green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

  1. In a small saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain.
  2. In a 10-inch skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and green pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in potatoes, turkey, rosemary, black pepper and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more or until it has the desired consistency.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peekay Herding Practice Report

It's been over a month since I last blogged about herding with Peekay. Since the end of October we have only been out practicing four times. Three times we have been to our home field in Watkinsville and once we attended a clinic in Townsville, SC. We have also missed a couple of practice opportunities because of bad weather and yours truly being sick with a very nasty cold.

I have entered Peekay in our herding club's American Kennel Club Herding Trial. The trial will be at our home field in Watkinsville on December 27th and 28th. Peekay is entered in the Herding Intermediate A-Course Sheep class both days. Having received two qualifying scores in AKC trials earlier this year, she needs to obtain a qualifying score on one of the days to earn her Herding Intermediate A-Course title. Of the 5 AKC herding classes, the Intermediate class is second from the top. Very few non border collies even attempt the jump from "Herding Started" to "Herding Intermediate", let alone have success.

Here is a summary of our recent practices:

Nov 4 - Watkinsville, GA : Cross drives continue to improve. Multiple times Peekay was able to shoot the gap between the fence and the flock and then reverse direction to get them to walk across the field. Out runs were also good. On our final run we executed a near perfect cross drive. I drove home to Alpharetta with a big smile on my face.

Nov 18 - Watkinsville, GA :With missing a week because of illness, and concentrating on the cross drive for weeks, Peekay developed a bad habit at both the "Y" and "Z" chutes. I have trained Peekay to follow the livestock into the mouth of each chute. Once in the chute she is to keep walking until till just before the sheep exit the other side. It is at this point I give her the "Back" command. Upon hearing this command, Peekay should do a 180 degree turn in the chute, and exit the same way she entered. Upon exiting, she should loop wide to pin the livestock against the fence, preventing them from retreating on the course. In this practice she was very reluctant to enter the chute. When she reached the mouth of the chute, she would swing wide. If you draw very light sheep, you usually can get away with this. But these sheep were not light. Sensing no pressure from the dog, the sheep were stopping in the middle of the chute and wouldn't exit. I had no choice by to take Peekay a step back and repeatedly make her enter the chute and exit on command.

Nov. 23 - Townsville, SC : It's always good to go to different places and practice. Dog's are truly creatures of habit, and often associate training to specific locations. I constantly witnessed this when I taught dog obedience classes when we lived in Florida. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had a student explain to me how well their dog would perform the exercise they just flubbed at home. Training at different locations offers re-enforcement to the dog that commands are to be followed at all times and places.

This practice session we worked on the basics of flanking commands. Peekay does not have a very good "inside flank". We can get away with this in our current trial class, but certainly will not go far in the Advanced class. I worked on techniques to teach the inside flanks with the help of my instructor John Stokes. I originally planned on attending the clinic on Saturday, but because of my cold, I decided to stay home and rest and attend the clinic on Sunday. Most of the handler/dog teams were novices, and not using our field. They had two round pens staffed, and both had several dogs in queues. Peekay and I were fortunate enough to be just 1 of 3 intermediate teams. This meant we received a lot of field time and one-on-one instructions. I came away with some good ideas on where we need to improve, and how to get better. However my focus is to have Peekay ready for the December trial, so I won't make any radical changes in my training techniques until after the trial.

Dec 2 - Watkinsville, GA: We went right to work on the Y and Z chute problem. Peekay was much improved from the prior week. Towards the end of practice, she was entering the gates on her own, and exiting on my command. The practice had no major wrecks, and I considered it a success.

Present at every one of these practices was Peekay's stablemate "Lauda", our 12 year old GSD. He is still battling his Degenerative Myelopathy , arthritis, and bone infection. He has his better days, and his not so good days now. It's difficult for him to stand up for any length of time. I always walk next to him to catch him in case he stumbles. On November 24th, we came very close to losing him. It was the day after the Townsville, SC practice, and the next morning he just couldn't stand. We made "the call". He was to be put down at 11 AM.

We spent the earlier part of the morning petting him, hugging him, and letting him know he was special. Something inside of me told me to give him one more chance. I helped him up and supported him as he stumbled down the ramp I built for him in the garage. I gently released my grip from around his midsection and let him walk. We continued to walk to the yard and do his business. He then became the same old Lauda and began to explore the nearby bushes. With relief, we called the vet back. He still went to the vet at 11 AM, but it was only for an examination.

I know "Pal" doesn't have much time left. I know any day now could be his last. I am just grateful for every day he is with us. He's the best.

Speed is good.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Apple Bread Pudding

When I make this for parties, I never have to worry about bringing home leftovers. There has never been any left. For an extra treat, top your bread pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The recipe says it serves 12, but they must have been feeding an NFL football team. Realistically you'll get 15-18 servings, so you have plenty for friends and family. The bread pudding will also keep nicely in the freezer.


8 ounces unsliced rich egg bread, such as challah, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
3 Tbs. butter
6 large Golden Delicious apples (3lbs), peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch
5 cups milk
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread bread cubes on cooking sheet; bake 15 to 20 minutes until lightly toasted. Meanwhile, in 12-in skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Stir in, apples and 1/2 tsp cinnamon; cover and cook 10 minutes. Uncover; stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Cook, stirring often 5 to 10 minutes; until apples are lightly caramelized. In cup, mix cornstarch and 1/2 cup milk until smooth; stir into apples. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
  2. Place half of bread in 13" by 9" glass baking dish. Spoon apple mixture over bread; top with remaining bread. In large bowl, with wire whisk or fork, mix eggs, vanilla, 2/3 cup sugar, and remaining 4 1/2 cups milk until well blended; pour over bread. Let stand 10 minutes, pressing bread into liquid. In cup, combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over bread.
  3. Place baking dish in a larger roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of dish. Bake 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes. Serve warm.
From the Gook House Keeping Step-by-Step Cookbook

Friday, November 28, 2008

Forza 2 : 2001 Starbucks Aston Martin V12 Vanquish

Thanks to the BBC America show "Top Gear", I now pay attention to British Cars. Pictured is the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish in full racing trim. The Starbuck's logo is spot on, and the scattered coffee beans along the side gives the car a unique look.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cornish Pasties

Sunday mornings if I ask Julie what she would like me to make for dinner that night, nine out of ten times I get the enthusiastic response "Pasties!". This recipe comes from the Reader's Digest "Grandma's Home Cooking" Cookbook. The cookbook traces the history of this recipe to Pennsylvania in the late 1800's. Pasties were hardy pocket meals miners would take with them into the mines.

This version is a little too delicate to put in one's pocket. Nevertheless, it's incredibly simple, and has a "home cook" flavor to it.

I've never done it, but if your feeling adventurous, you could substitute your "from scratch" pie crust recipe for the store bought. Personally, I think you would be wasting your time. I've made this many, many, times and never have I longed for a better crust.

1 lb stew meat, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium-size potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup, peeled turnip
1/2 cup, chopped yellow onion
2 Tbs. minced parsley
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 store-bought pie crusts
Low-fat (1% milk fat) milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a medium-size bowl, combine the meat, potato, turnip, onion, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, basil, salt and cayenne pepper.
  2. Place 1/4 of the meat mixture on half of 1 pie crust, then fold the crust over the meat mixture, forming a semi-circle. Crimp to seal edge. Repeat with the remaining crusts, and remaining meat mixture. Cut slits in the top of the pasties. Brush with a little milk.
  3. Place on an ungreased large baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cut each into wedges and serve with catsup or pizza sauce.

How to Name Your Cabin

Julie, the dogs, and I are spending Thanksgiving weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia. We're renting a cabin in a community called "My Mountain".

We've been coming up here for several years and have rented many cabins. I've noticed a constant; people like to name their second homes the same way people like to name their sailboats. The cabin we are renting is called "Round the Bend". Walking the dogs, I've seen neighboring cabins called "Sunrise", "Bear Necessity", "Living the Dream", and "Almost Heaven".

We have two friends who have recently bought North Georgia cabins. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they too erect a sign which informs the world the name of their cabin.

Don't get me wrong, I think naming a cabin is cool. Until 10 minutes ago, the working name of our fictitious cabin was "Justice League Headquarters", named after the fabled superhero hangout from the classic DC Comic Saturday morning cartoon "Superfriends" . Julie just informed me that she now thinks the name "Galactica" or "Battle Star Galactica" would be better.

I only offer this advice: Before you invest in the sign, "Google" it first. Don't make the same mistake's the Gordon's from Brandon, FL made naming their cabin "Eagle's Nest". The name has already been used by someone. Click here to find out who!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The 3 Gap 50 - Woody Gap

I was going through my old blogs today, and I discovered that I never finished blogging about the September 28th 3 Gap 50 bike ride. I failed to highlight not only the best part of the bike ride, but arguably the best 8 miles I have ridden all year -- the descent from Woody Gap.

The climb up Woody Gap completes the Neels/Wolf Pen/Woody/ "Gap" trilogy. Woody is the shortest and least steep of the three mountains. But the prize isn't the climb. It's the descent. It's long. It's fast. You reach speeds approaching 40 mph without trying. It has decreasing radius turns, sweeping turns, and tight turns. The road is an amusement park roller coaster -- and not a new state-of-the-art coasters made of metal and designed by NASA computers. It's an old rickety wooden coasters that's loud, rickety, and gives you the sensation that at any moment the car could jump the track. It's a ton of fun, but it's not to be taken lightly. The road demands respect.

Once Jim and I reached the final rest stop at the Woody Gap summit, we were reminded of what could happen if you screw up. Behind the table of sports drinks and carbohydrates, was a rider laying on his back with a cold cloth across his head. In the distance the faint wail of a siren could be heard, and it was growing louder. Soon, an ambulance pulled in. After a brief exam, the rider was on the gurney, loaded in the back, and he was on his way to the hospital. Afterward I heard the story of what happened. Reportedly he got spooked by a passing car, misjudged a turn and crashed into a guardrail. A motorist traveling in the opposite direction stopped, gave him aid and a ride back to the summit rest stop. The bent aluminum and carbon fiber which used to be his immaculately tuned bike lay abandoned in the grass. His injuries did not look too serious, but he certainly had a big hit.

Below are the videos of Jim and my descent. I haven't figured out the reasons why, but Jim is faster on the downhills then me. If I am in his draft, I can hang with him. But if I lose his slip stream, I can't catch him. He slowly pulls away.

It took 14 minutes to cover the 8 mile descent. Youtube has a rule that no video can be longer than 10 minutes, so it's broken up into two parts.

Here is Part 1 :

and Part 2:

Speed is Good!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Applesauce Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
Apple Cider Applesauce (recipe follows)
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin thin and a 6-cup tin with paper liners. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Put 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, the granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs, 1 at a time. On low speed, mix in the applesauce and then the flour mixture. Stir in the nuts.
  3. Divide the batter among the muffins cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in the tins on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, in the clean bowl of the electric mixer, mix the cream cheese with the remaining 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter and 1 cup brown sugar on medium speed until smooth. Spread the cream cheese frosting on the muffins. The muffins can be refrigerated in airtight containers up to 2 days.

Apple Cider Applesauce

1 lb juicy apples, such as McIntosh, peeled, cored, and quartered
3/4 cup apple cider
1 Tbs. sugar, plus more if needed
Pinch of salt

  1. Bring the apples and cider to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover the pan; reduce heat. Simmer until the apples are very soft, about 12 minutes. Stir in the sugar and salt.
  2. Cook (uncovered) over medium-low heat until the apples have broken down and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  3. Puree in a food processor or mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add more sugar, if desired. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.
Recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Forza 2 : 1953 Superman Mercedes 300SL

When I saw this car up for sale in the auction house, I had to have it. I love the way the cape flows over the roof and trunk. To see a full screen version of either photo, click on the picture. These photos were taken at two fantasy tracks created by the Forza 2 Game designers. The top photo is at Maple Valley. The bottom photo is on a mythical track through the streets of New York City.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients for the chicken:

1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 or 6)
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (about 3 pieces)
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, plus more for the cooking water
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbs. cornstarch
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Ingredients for the dumplings:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut in bits
3/4 cup low-fat milk

  1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium; add the thighs. Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with the breasts, cut the breasts crosswise into thirds.
  2. Add the butter to the pot; when melted add the onion, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Combine the cornstartch and flour in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the milk, and whisk the milk mixture into the broth. Boil,whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; return the chicken to the pot.
  3. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil; add salt. Add the carrots and geen beans; cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinsing with cold water to stop the cooking. Stir into the chicken mixture in the pot.
  4. Prepare the dumpling dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter; cut into the dry mixture until mealy. Pour in the milk, stir with a fork until the dough comes together. Return the chicken mixture to a simmer, and drop the dough by tablespoons on the surface of the stew. Cover; cook for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. (The dumplings will puff up.) Serve.
Per Serving, 442 calories, 12 G fat, 42 G carbohydrates

From The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Forza 2 : 2002 Dunkin' Doughnuts Toyota Soarer

My favorite Xbox360 game is Forza Motorsports 2. I have played a lot of racing games, and this one is as good as it gets. You can chose from driving hundreds of cars, make thousands of performance modifications, and drive on a couple dozen tracks. You can race against computer drivers or real people on Xbox live.

The game has a very original feature that is populated exclusively with user content. It has a build-in "paint shop" where people can create custom artwork for their cars. All car paint schemes can only be created with the tools within the Forza 2 paint shop. Uploading of pictures or clipart into the game is not allowed. Inside the Forza 2 online auction house, users can buy and sell each others cars. None of the sales are with "real" money. The transactions are all in the fantasy "Forza 2" in-game credit currency.

I have almost 200 cars in my Forza 2 career garage. I have bought many cars in the auction house. I was browsing through my garage the other day, and I realized that I have a lot of really cool looking cars that I have completely forgotten about. So I had the idea to occasionally showcase some of my cooler cars to help refresh my memory.

Above is the 2002 "Dunkin Doughnut's" Toyota Soarer. I think my sister-in-law Kim should consider repainting her Honda CRV to match this car! I remember when I saw this car for sale how funny it would be to see Kim in this car, at the crack of dawn, zipping around town, making a doughnut run!

I took these pictures in the game, on a real-life race track. If you think you know the track, tell me in the comments. Special bonus points to the first person who can give my nickname for the area behind the car in the top picture.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Alpharetta Century

Saturday November 1st I participated in the first annual Alpharetta Century bike ride. The ride began and ended in downtown Alpharetta, GA. The route headed north through the back roads of Alpharetta, Cumming and Dawsonville. Many of the roads I traversed I did for the first time. When you venture off the highways you see a very different Georgia from what you usually see. Gone are the strip malls, and fast food restaurants. Instead you see farms, horses, rolling hills, and spectacular views. This was a charity event. All proceeds went to benefit the GA Transplant Foundation.

The signature portion of the ride occurred at mile 48. Here you began the 6 mile, 1400 foot climb up Burnt Mountain. After reaching the top and enjoying a well earned snack you follow the directions on the sign above and head back down the mountain.

Below is my GPS track file from the ride. Click on the "+" and "-" buttons to zoom in and out. Clicking on the "Hybrid" or "Satellite"buttons to overlay satellite photos of the terrain. Clicking and holding the left mouse button while the pointer is on the map, allows you to drag the map. Clicking on the title "2008 Alpharetta Century" takes you to the Bikely.com website where you can view this track on a full screen as well as get the cue sheet, elevation profile, and more features.

This was my first century ride without my riding partner and best friend Jim. This was also the lightest attended organized ride that I have done. The New York City Century in September had five to six thousand riders. The 2007 Seagull Century and the 2005 Tour of Hope also had thousands of cyclists. This ride only had about 400 riders, with half doing the full century and the other half doing rides of shorter distances. In heavier attendant rides, your usually are always in a group of cyclist. Not this day. The majority of century riders were fast, hard core, experienced cyclists. In the first 20 miles I got passed far more than I passed other people. I have read that a rider will exert 20% less energy riding in the peloton compared with riding alone without any drafting help. After my first rest stop where English century riders went one direction, and metric century riders went the other direction, I wouldn't do much drafting. There would be a lot of solo riding ahead of me.

The ride began promptly at 8 AM at the Milton Center in Alpharetta. It was a crisp fall morning, with temperatures in the high 30s. Temperatures would warm quickly after sunrise. Highs were forecast to be in the low 70s with a crystal clear blue sky.

I knew going in that this would be a long day. I wanted to ride as much in the cool morning temperatures as possible. Usually I stop at all of the organized rest stops. I intentionally passed on the first stop at mile 16. I road non-stop for 33 miles to the second rest stop. I pulled in at 10:40 AM to the sounds of gun fire! The ride organizers had set up shop in the parking lot of an outdoor shooting range. I ducked and dodged my way to the Porto-let just like a virtual soldier in "Call of Duty 4".

It was at this rest stop that I learned a neat trick that I'll use on future cycling events. I was wearing my favorite Pearl Izumi cycling jacket. It is light weight, warm, yet breathable, with a lot of really cool zippered pockets. It's also expensive. The problem was it was now too warm to wear a jacket, and I had no place to put it. My Trek 720 hybrid is equipped with a rear tire rack and cycling bag. When I ride that bike, I just take off my jacket and stuff it in the bag. But on this ride I wasn't riding my heavy, wide-tire hybrid bike. I was riding my light, skinny-tire Trek Pilot 5.0 road bike. There was no place to store my jacket. I had no choice but to tie it around my waste, and deal with it for the next 70 miles. I met a guy at the rest stop who was wearing a new $5 sweatshirt from Walmart. When he was ready to get back on the road, he just removed the sweatshirt and left it behind. Great idea!

It was high noon when I arrived at the base of Burnt Mountain. I could see the beginning of a very steep climb in front of me. I peddled past the Steve Tate Highway on my left. This was the road back to Alpharetta. The thought entered my mind to just skip the mountain and start heading back home. The organizers made it very easy to skip. The route has you climb the mountain, but you don't descend on the other side. Once you reach the top, you just turn around and head back down to the base the same way you came up. Never one to avoid a challenge, I pressed on.

This was the hardest climb I have ever done. Burnt Mountain would be an extremely challenging road on it's own, let alone prefacing it with 48 miles of foothills. I usually don't have too much trouble with hills. My usual mode of operation is to find the right gear for the slope, settle in the seat and get into a comfortable, methodical cadence. Rarely do I ever feel the need to get out of the saddle and stand on the pedals and pump. I did this day. My Trek Pilot 5.0 has 27 gear combinations. For most of the 6 miles I was in my lowest gear setting and it wasn't comfortable. There were multiple segments of the climb where I had to stand and pump. My legs were burning, my heart was at a very high rate, and I was breathing very hard. I am not embarrassed to say that I had to briefly stop twice to catch my breath. The road did take pity on us cyclists briefly. In two places it leveled off. Each time the reprieve was short lived. In a matter of minutes I was back in Crank #1, Rear Gear #1. I climbing the mountain with one eye on the road, and the other eye on my GPS display which was counting down the distance to the top.

It took me 40 minutes to ride the 6 miles up Burnt Mountain. It took me under 10 minutes to ride down. I captured the descent on my Oregon Scientific video camera which I had mounted to my handle bar. In order to meet the 10 minute, 100 mb restrictions of YouTube, I've broken the video into two parts. Below is Part 1,

and Part 2:

The return ride to Alpharetta was challenging. It was now warmer. The cumulative effect of the miles and the mountain were taking it's toll. The body began to develop aches and pains. Fatigue and dehydration were becoming factors. Even with constantly drinking sports beverages and eating carbohydrate rich food, you never can fully recapture all the nutrients that you burn. As the ride progressed, it became more of an effort to eat. I ate so many Cliff Bars on this ride I could careless if I ever had another.

I have seen first hand, as well as read on the Internet that a number of people got lost on the course. This ride was held solely on public roads that were also open to traffic. Everyone who checked in at the start received a cue sheet that provided step-by-step turn directions for the entire route. The organizers also painted arrows in the road along the course where there was a change of direction. At some intersections there also were signs posted. The organizers made it clear that it was each riders responsibility to stay on course. I agree, however with that said, the organizers could have made it easier. Given the high number of turns, it's highly likely that one will get missed. Once you are off course, the cue sheet becomes worthless. More signs would have helped.

The more tired I become, the easier it is for me to miss a turn marker. I did get lost briefly on the way back. Thanks to my GPS, I caught the mistake after just a 1/2 mile. Along with a street map, my GPS displays the route and the distance to the next waypoint. The information is updated continuously in real time. After I missed the turn, soon I noticed that the distance to the next waypoint was not decreasing, but increasing. I immediately stopped and investigated further. As I was coming to the conclusion that I made a mistake, another rider passed me. I yelled to him, "Hey, I think we missed a turn back there."

Slowing down ever so slightly, he responded, "No, I don't think so, there are other people right behind us." Before I could respond, he was around the corner, and I never saw him again. I doubled back the half mile, and was back on course.

With about 15 miles to go, I stumbled upon another rider who had lost his way. He told me that he set out to ride the metric century (62 miles), but he had already done 95 miles! He said that he was lost, had bad cramps, and was looking for the next rest stop so he could bail and get a ride back to his car. I gave him the bad news that there were no more rest stops. He didn't believe me. Nature was calling me rather loudly at this moment, so I pointed him in the correct direction, and headed for the nearby tree line. After a few minutes, I mounted my bike and headed out. In a couple of minutes I see a rider heading towards me. It's the guy I just put on course! He still wasn't sure I had put him on the correct road. I told him "Look, see this on my handle bar? This is a GPS. It's telling me to go this way. I suggest you follow me." The three letters "G", "P", and "S" were all the convincing he needed. He tucked in behind me. In 5 minutes we came across the next turn marker (as my GPS predicted), and he was sold on the benefits of GPS technology.

With less than 10 miles to go, I suffered a mechanical problem that nearly prematurely ended my ride. After climbing a hill, I went to change gears from the #1 to the #2 front crank. The chain feel off the gear, and got jammed between the gear and my frame. I wrestled with freeing it for 20 minutes, and it wouldn't budge. I couldn't believe with so little distance left, I wasn't going to finish the ride. It was at that moment, when my new friend, the once lost metric century rider, came up from behind and stopped to help me. Together we freed my chain in just a few minutes, and I was back on the bike. From that point forward I carefully changed gears. The chain was now making a lot of noise rubbing badly on the front derailleur. I didn't dare use the #1 crank for the remainder of the ride. This made climbing hills more difficult, but I managed.

I pulled into the parking lot of the Milton Center at 4:55 PM. Discounting my mechanical problems, I finished in about 8 1/2 hours. The parking lot was nearly empty. But I was glad to have finished, and participated in the first Alpharetta Century. Hopefully we'll get to do it again next year. I'm sure the organizers have learned much from this year, and the event will only be bigger and better.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Buttermilk Biscuits

If you are going to have a buttermilk theme week of cooking, what better way to close it out then with old fashion buttermilk biscuits. There are no shortages of recipes. This also comes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics. The recipe makes 15 biscuits.

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup (sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Add the buttermilk; stir just until the mixture comes together, the batter will be sticky. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface; use your floured fingers and rolling pin to pat the dough to 1" thickness. Use a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter to cut out the biscuits, as close together as possible to minimize scraps.
  3. Transfer to a baking sheet; bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven; cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Baked Buttermilk Chicken

I had three quarters of a jug of buttermilk in my refrigerator this morning. Searching for recipes over the Sunday paper and a cup of coffee; I settled on this one. It comes from my television girlfriend and real life convicted felon Martha Stewart. It's from her book: Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics. This cookbook contains a mammoth 1,200 recipes published in her magazine over this decade. This recipe serves 4, and has 362 calories and 5g of fat per serving.

I liked the consistency and spiciness of the coating. It had a little bite, but wasn't over the top spicy. Julie didn't care for this recipe. She said it tasted like cornflakes on chicken!

Olive oil cooking spray
4 chicken drumsticks (about 1lb), skins removed
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 3/4lbs), halved
2 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
4 cups cornflakes, finely crushed
3/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Lemon wedge, for garnish (optional)
Flat-leaf parsley sprig, for garnish (optional)

  1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken. Cover and let marinate 1 hour in refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Generously coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, set aside.
  3. Toss the cornflakes, Old Bay, thyme, basil, and cayenne in a large bowl. Remove 1 piece of chicken at a time from the buttermilk, letting excess drip back into the bowl; dredge in the cornflake mixture.
  4. Transfer the pieces to a baking sheet; lightly coat each with cooking spray. Bake, turning the pieces once, until crisp and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a platter, garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.

Chicken Burritos

This recipe comes from my favorite cookbook: Reader's Digest Great Recipes for Good Health. This recipe serves 4. A single serving has just 379 calories and 3 g of saturated fat.

1 Tbs. corn or peanut oil
4 boned chicken thighs, skinned and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 1lb)
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. flour
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup buttermilk
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, drained
2 tsp. low-sodium tomato paste
8 6-inch flour tortillas

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a heavy 10-inch skillet, heat the corn oil over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until no longer pink on the outside -- about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl.
  2. In the same skillet, cook the onion and garlic, uncovered, until soft -- about 5 minutes. Blend in the flour, chili powder, and cumin, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chicken broth, buttermilk, chilies, and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Return the chicken to the skillet and stir.
  4. Place a scant 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture on the lower third of each tortilla, and roll it up like a cigar. Place seam side down in an ungreased 13"x9"x2" baking pan.
  5. Bake, uncovered for 5 minutes.

Friday, October 31, 2008


This is a very popular dish from Cuisine Magazine. When making for guests, we make the dough ahead of time, and let everyone form and build their own calzone. Below are the fillings we used this Sunday. Be creative and post your own filling ideas in the comment section below.

The recipe calls for a starter dough. Don't skip this step. It only takes 5 minutes to makes, and the flavor and texture of the dough will suffer if you don't use it.

Calzone Dough

for the Starter:
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
3 Tbs cold water

for the Dough:
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs warm water (85 - 95 F)
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbs olive oil
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt

Egg Wash:
1 egg
2 Tbs milk

Filling Options:

Chicken, Roasted Red Peppers, & Artichoke Hearts Calzone:
1 lb chicken tenderloins, cooked
1 jar cooked artichoke hearts, drained
1 jar, roasted red peppers, drained, and chopped
mozzarella cheese
ricotta cheese

Pizza Filling Calzones
8 oz, Pepperoni, sliced thin
1/4 lb frozen meatballs, thawed
1 medium onion, sliced thin and sauteed
1 medium green pepper, sliced thin and sauteed (with onions)
mozzarella cheese
ricotta cheese

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Pour liquid over flour and stir with a fork.
  2. Stir until all flour is incorporated. Mixture will be a stiff, heavy blob. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature.
  3. After fermenting for 15-24 hours, the starter has grown and is ready for the final dough. It's bubbly and smells yeasty.

  1. Whisk the yeast in warm water (85 - 95F). After foam appears (about 5 minutes), whisk in the oil. In separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
  2. To loosen the sponge, pour the liquid yeast mixture around the edge. Stir it lightly. The sponge will begin to pull away from the bowl.
  3. Add dry ingredients to the sponge mixture and stir until allt he flour is moistened. The dough will be sticky and full of lumps.
  4. It's time to knead. Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Lift and fold half of dough towards you. Flour hands and surface as needed.
  5. Press down and away from you with heel of hand. Keep hands floured. Give dough quarter-turns; repeat steps 4 & 5. Kead 8-10 minutes.
  6. Form 1 large ball. Dust with flour. Cover with plastic. Let rest 20 minutes. Cut into quarters. Tuck into 4 balls. Cover and let rise 2 hours.
  7. After dough has rishe 2 hours, flour surface. Flip 1 ball over (keep others covered). Press dough with fingertips to form circle.
  8. With both hands at top of dough, grasp the edge and rotate. This stretches the dough. Enlarges to a circle 7-8" in diameter.
  9. Lay down the dough circle and check for any uneven spots. With your fingers, gently lift and stretch out any thick spots.
  10. Put dough on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place fillings on half of circle leaving 3/4" clean border at edge of dough.
  11. Lift edge of unfilled side and pull slightly towards you. This streches dough so you can cover filling to meet edge on other side.
  12. Press edges to creat seal. Crimping ensures a tight bond between the two edges. Press each indentation twice to really seal it.
  13. Calzones look better with an egg wash. Lightly brush each one with egg mixture.
  14. Bake 10-12 minutes in 500 F oven until calzones are golden. Seve with warm marinara sauce

Breeders Cup Betting Summary

Saturday was the Breeder's Cup World Championship of Thoroughbred Racing. It's a nice day to hang out, drink, and gamble. This year I did no handicapping. I decided to test a betting theory of mine -- Bet every horse ridden by Garrett Gomez. Here is a summary on how I did.

Race ...................Bet............................................. Result....Balance
BC Turf Sprint.....$4 Win #11 Idiot Proof............... :( ........ -$4
BC Dirt Mile.........$4 Win #7 Albertus Maximus.... :) ........+$25.20
BC Mile................No Bet (Website Problems)........ :| ........+$25.20
BC Juvenile..........$4 Win .#11 Midshipman.......... :) ........+$43.60
BC Juvenile Turf...$4 Win #8 Paddy The Pro........... :(........+$39.60
BC Sprint..............$4 Win #4 Midnight Lute........... :) .......+$54.40
BC Turf.................$4 Win #10 Out of Control.......... :( .......+$50.40
BC Classic..............$4 Win #1 Go Between................ :(.......+$46.40

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Practice Report

Tuesday night Peekay, Lauda and I were back in Watkinsville for herding practice. Fall was in the air, and all of the dogs were loving the cool air.

The entire time Peekay was on the property, she was lit. She never is the the best dog waiting her turn, but tonight she was extra impatient. I typically tie her to the fence while I walk Lauda. I could here her mild protests the entire time I was walking the big guy.

Whatever I commanded Peekay to perform she typically did it faster than usual. Outruns where she typically trots, tonight she was running. Flanks where she would run, tonight she would do it at a sprinter speed. I had to work very hard to slow her down.

For the majority of our practice time, we continued our work on the cross drive. Peekay wasn't having too much trouble shooting the gap between the fence and the sheep. The new problem was once she shot the gap, she wouldn't stop. She was running so fast, she would shoot the gap and her momentum would carry her around the sheep. After 3 attempts with the same outcome, I had her take the sheep to the center of the field where we practiced flanking the sheep in both the "come by" and "away to me" directions. After each flank I would stop her at the 6 and 12 0'clock positions.

At the beginning of both practice runs , we did a simulated outrun. Both times they were flawless. Each time we drove them down the center of the field, made the turn at the #1 cone and drove the flock through both the Y and Z chutes. My only criticism was that she was very pushy, moving quicker than she needed. Peekay has a lot of natural "power". When she's jacked up, the sheep get jumpy and are more likely to try a jail break down the field.

I did leave practice feeling good. Training for sheep herding takes patience. Last night we made some small progress. Last week she wouldn't flank along the fence. We seemed to have corrected that problem. Next Tuesday we'll be back on the field, working on the cross drive.

Until then, Speed is good! stopping on a flank along the fence is better!