Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving recipes and love for you :)

Hi Lovelies!  I have been... just too happy to mess with blogging these days. But Thanksgiving is right around the corner so I'll share a few recipes and tell you what's been up with me lately.. though if we're facebook friends that probably has kept you really posted on my life.

So, the house is all settled in. Still waiting on my handyman guy to put the new closet door into my guest room and a few other piddly things but overall I am so happy with my new house in Austin. I especially like the backyard and the covered patio with all my hammocks. Work is keeping me insane these days so I haven't been training much but once a week keeps me feeling like I am still connected and next year it will get easier for sure.

I am dating someone special, too. I don't need to share all the details, but, he's amazing, and as close to perfect as I could imagine. He even trains! So I won't jinx it, hopefully, by telling you that much!

I'm making Thanksgiving as usual... for about eighteen, maybe twenty.  This year since the new house only has one oven, I'm buying two deep fried turkeys, and my dear friends Sandy and Gabrielle will bring a few dishes, but I'm doing the gravy, a traditional bread stuffing, mashpots, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts, acorn squash (from the bf's dad's garden!), buttermilk biscuits, and my traditional chocolate-caramel-walnut tart.

I wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holiday seasons.  And now, for the cookings....
From the folks:

Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach & Blue Cheese

Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/4-inch cubes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup regular or whole-wheat orzo
2 cups shredded spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread into a single layer on a sheet tray. Bake until squash is tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes. (Squash can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.)
Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until just warm. Stir in garlic, remove from heat, and allow to sit until ready to use.
Place the orzo in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain and immediately pour the hot orzo on top of the spinach. Let sit for a few minutes to slightly wilt spinach.
Add butternut squash to the pasta, along with the blue cheese and garlic olive oil. Toss until well-combined and serve warm.

  • Make-ahead moment: Roast the squash whenever you have a spare moment and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Warm it in the microwave, a low oven, or in the skillet with the garlic before tossing with the pasta.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits -- from Cook's Illustrated (the best source!)

(makes 12)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon sugar 
3/4 teaspoon table salt 
1 cup buttermilk (cold)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes), plus 2-3 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps.
2. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Using greased 1/4-cup dry measure, scoop level amount of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (biscuits should measure about 2 1/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high). Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.
3. Brush biscuit tops with remaining 2-3 tablespoons melted butter. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart-- again Cook's Illustrated, my tried and true favorite!

Makes one 9-inch tart, serving 12 to 16

1 large egg, separated
¼teaspoon vanilla extract
½cup toasted walnuts (2 ½ ounces), see note
½cup confectioners' sugar (2 ounces)
1cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
⅛teaspoon table salt
5tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into ½-inch cubes


¼cup water
1cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
⅔cup heavy cream
3tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
½teaspoon vanilla extract
½teaspoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
⅛teaspoon table salt
16-18 walnut halves, plus 1 cup (5 ounces) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (see note)


2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon heavy cream
⅓cup heavy cream
⅓cup whole milk
5ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
2tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

The nuts used in the crust, in the caramel filling, and as a garnish must all be toasted; the entire amount can be toasted together on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven until fragrant and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. For cutting clean slices, dip the blade of the knife in warm water and wipe with a kitchen towel before making each cut.

1. FOR THE CRUST: Beat egg white in bowl with fork until frothy; remove 1 tablespoon egg white to second bowl and whisk in yolk and vanilla. Process nuts and sugar in food processor until finely ground, 8 to 10 seconds. Add flour and salt and pulse to combine. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add egg yolk mixture and process until dough forms ball, about 20 seconds. Transfer dough to large sheet plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk; wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm but malleable, about 30 minutes.

2. Roll out dough between 2 large sheets lightly floured plastic wrap to 13-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick (if at any point dough becomes too soft and sticky to work with, slip dough onto baking sheet and freeze or refrigerate until workable). Place dough round on baking sheet and freeze until stiff and cold, about 15 minutes (or refrigerate about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, evenly spray 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray.

3. Remove dough from freezer; discard top sheet plastic wrap but keep dough on baking sheet. Following illustrations 1 through 6 below, line tart pan with dough. Freeze dough-lined tart pan until firm, about 30 minutes. (Can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 month.)

4. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet. Spray 12-inch square foil with nonstick cooking spray and press foil inside chilled tart shell; fill with pie weights. Bake until light golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Cool on baking sheet on wire rack about 5 minutes, then brush hot crust with reserved egg white. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

5. FOR CARAMEL-WALNUT FILLING AND GARNISH: While crust is cooling; pour water into medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add sugar to center of pot to keep granules from adhering to sides of pot. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; covered; swirling pan once or twice to dissolve sugar. Uncover pot and continue to boil, without stirring, until sugar is deep amber and begins to smoke and registers about 375 degrees on instant-read or candy thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Carefully add about half of cream; mixture will sputter and steam. Add remaining cream and let bubbling subside. Return pan to low heat and stir with heatproof rubber spatula until caramel is smooth. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove pan from heat; stir in vanilla; lemon juice; and salt.

6. Add walnut halves to caramel and stir to coat; let stand until caramel is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon and allowing excess caramel to drain back into saucepan, transfer walnuts to wire rack set over baking sheet; set aside. Stir chopped walnuts into caramel, then pour mixture evenly into tart shell. Refrigerate, uncovered, on baking sheet until caramel is firm and does not slip when pan is tilted, about 20 minutes.

7. FOR CHOCOLATE FILLING: Whisk yolks and 1 tablespoon cream in small bowl. Bring milk and remaining 1/3 cup cream to simmer in small saucepan; off heat, add chocolate and butter. Cover pan and let stand until chocolate is mostly melted, about 2 minutes. Using spatula, stir mixture until smooth; stir in yolk mixture. (Chocolate should be thin and pourable; if too thick to pour evenly, set saucepan over low heat to warm mixture.) Pour filling into caramel-filled tart shell, tilting tart pan as necessary to evenly distribute chocolate to edges of tart. Bake on baking sheet in 300-degree oven until tiny bubbles are visible on surface and chocolate layer is just set (if pan is gently shaken, filling will appear very wobbly because caramel layer is warm), about 25 minutes. Set baking sheet with tart on wire rack; arrange caramel-coated walnut halves on surface of tart, around perimeter. Cool tart until just warm, about 30 minutes, then refrigerate, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Colorful Greek Quinoa Salad

This is great for lunches especially if you like to pre-pack at the start of the week. 

Colorful Quick Quinoa Grecian Salad Recipe

2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped English cucumber
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon minced shallots

Place quinoa in a large bowl; cover with water. Let stand 5 minutes; rinse well, and drain.
Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan; stir in quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Uncover; fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature.
Combine olive oil and next 5 ingredients (through sea salt) in a large bowl. Add cooled quinoa, tomatoes, and the remaining ingredients; toss well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Train with Jiu-Jitsu Champions. Star in your own documentary. Return home from Brazil.

A guest post by Kate Carsella about BJJ4Change, an amazing opportunity to support the favela kids, a documentary, and a very impressive training camp in Brazil...

Grief and tragedy are known quantities in every community. It is an unfortunate truth. But there is always relief. There are always unions borne of need and compassion. One topical example is the growing number of organizations hoping to give back to the community, to children, by way of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Yes, you read that right.

Up in Milwaukee, WI, a change is underfoot. Never Ending Light Productions, the studio behind multiple award-winning, praiseworthy documentaries is currently working on their project “BJJ 4 Change”.

Train with Jiu-Jitsu Champions. Star in your own documentary. Return home from Brazil. When you purchase a ticket to this event, a portion of the sale is going directly to the children. When you play the documentary in your city, proceeds from the ticket sales go back to Brazil and the children. Resources they need like education, mentorships, gis and new equipment that will go into the gyms where they train. We are also working with the Brazilian and US authorities to help provide paid  visa sponsorships for BJJ coaches to travel abroad.

Included in the purchase of a ticket: All travel, food, accommodations, and safety within Brazil for our scheduled itinerary (the final itinerary will be published December 1st). Your ticket includes all of your training, a close-up moment in the documentary, and one tournament entry. This organization is gaining steam, and so are likewise movements and organizations around the globe.

[Edited to add: More detailed information has been shared by the organizers.  The current line up is as follows and we are still working on growing the list- Rigan Machado, Rolles Gracie, Robert Drysdale, Carlos Terrinha , Clark Gracie, Penny Thomas, and a few more that are still trying to plan their schedules.

This is a 10 day trip (Jan 21st - 31st - 2016) that will consist of two days travel and 8 days in Rio to include four full days of training, two days of helping kids, and finally two days hosting the tournament, dinner, and awards ceremony. 

Each team of 10 travelers will be paired up with a Championship Coach and assigned to a specific school.  Travelers also have the ability to stay for Carnaval (at an additional cost). So far we have been leaving it up to the Coaches as to which schools and children they would like to represent and send the proceeds to.  As you are aware, we are currently in early roll out, so the details of the coaches are coming up over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, Robert Drysdale will be working with the kids in the Terere kids project, Clark Gracie just texted us last night that he also has chosen a school.  We are planning on updating and highlighting the schools in more detail leading up to the trip. 

This trip will be jam packed with coaching, speaking, and filming about 8-10 hours per day depending on how light the schedule. The lighter it is, the longer we take on dinner interviews. In the documentary film, students (depending on package level) will be interviewed and followed to shoot multiple spots - including some nostalgic ones (depending on the package).

The tournament and awards dinner at the remembrance for Helio Gracie will highlight the children and provide a great background cover for the documentary. The coaches, children, and some students will also be receiving an award at this dinner and be giving a speech. We will be using this as part of the ending of the film. Each of the coaches and students has a great biographical narrative so we will be focusing on how BJJ changed their (your) life.  We will be providing a detailed and authorized itinerary about a month ahead of the trip.]

The children of Brazil have long been grappling with unspeakable violence, poverty, and limited opportunities for change. Fortunately, the leading fighters, coaches, and students of Jiu-Jitsu are uniting against the grim, and pay their success and positivity forward. Recently, the Fightland Blog’s Ottavia Bourdain detailed the 1993 massacre of eight homeless children near the Candelaria church in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

"In the favelas, children were routinely shot during exchanges between drug gangs, but far more horrifying were the so called “death squads.” In May of 2012 I traveled to Rio with my husband, accompanied by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Igor Gracie. The highlight of our trip was a visit to Insituto Kapacidade, a non-profit organization founded in 2010 by four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Kyra Gracie and businessman Bruno Neves, that teaches BJJ to children in need. Using the sport as its main tool, the institute aims to educate and empower children and improve their self-esteem."

Here is an excerpt from Ottavia's interview with Kyra Gracie:

Fightland: What is Kapacidade about? What inspired you to create the institute and how did it happen?

Kyra Gracie: It all happened when in 2007 I visited the Santa Clara Family (an organization that was Ryan Gracie’s idea and that at the time took care of 70 kids), and I was touched by what I saw. I wanted to give back what BJJ gave me, so in 2010 I got together with Bruno Neves, who is a BJJ practitioner and was already involved with the Santa Clara Family organization. We started teaching the children BJJ and taking them to tournaments. That’s how Kapacidade institute was created.

What are the benefits of BJJ when it comes to children?
Martial arts help them with their self-esteem, respect, competitiveness. It builds their character into become a better person. Because for these kids reality is something really harsh and cruel.  They live in shacks with no flooring and sleep on the dirt.

What are your hopes for your students?
When you are born really poor in Brazil, you don’t have many opportunities. Big chances are you will end up involved in crimes. When the children start training BJJ, we are giving them a trade.  Something that they can embrace and carry on and eventually become a black belt.  With a black belt on their waist, they will have a whole lot of opportunities. They might become BJJ instructors and provide for their families.

 You can support the Kapacidade institute by attending their jiu-jitsu fundraising seminar at the Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC on June 22, or you can donate directly to Kapacidade through their Web site.

Meanwhile, Nico Ball of the very same Fightland Blog, has had a major life change, centering around Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

From her Fightland Bio:

Nico Ball recently left her life as a teacher to train mixed martial arts full-time in Brazil. Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended George Mason University in Virginia and got her Masters degree studying the impact of martial arts-based social projects. She’s now living the fighter’s life and pursuing her dream to become a pro mixed martial artist, but has found a way to continue her interest in creating social change by helping organize The Tererê Kids Project, a nonprofit for the children living in poverty in the favela of Morro do Contagalo. The project is centered around jiu-jitsu star Fernando Augusto da Silva, widely known by his nickname Tererê, who used the Gentle Art as a way to escape a life of crime. We asked her to send us periodic updates of how the Project is going.

The following documents one such update: Tererê’s Kids Project.

Fernando Tererê started from the bottom, achieved greatness, and is now a dedicated guardian of the pathways to success, safety, and positivity for others:

Hailing from the slums of Rio de Janeiro, life for Fernando Tererê was replete with problems from a young age. Before the police occupation of the favelas that started in 2009, drug dealers imposed “Favela law”, using violence to maintain order in the slums located a few blocks from the picturesque Copacabana beaches. For Tererê, Gracie Jiu Jitsu was a way to escape the violence that inundated the then un-pacified favela of Cantagalo.

Tererê attributes his success in life to Gracie Jiu Jitsu. His involvement in the sport as a student and later as the founder of the first Jiu Jitsu social project in the Favela of Cantagalo, Pavao, Pavaozinho (PPG), was his salvation, not only as a small kid coping with a violent environment, but also as an adult, battling against schizophrenia and drug addiction.

In 2000, as a blue belt, Tererê founded Amigos Do Morro, the first Jiu-Jitsu social project in the favela of Cantagalo, Pavao, Pavaozinho (PPG). It was in this run down academy with second hand mats, holes in the wall, and no running water that BJJ stars like Jackson Souza, Michel Langhi, Alan Finfou, and Ricardo Viera began their ascent to greatness. It was also there that the charismatic Tererê found his passion for teaching. Tererê’s personality attracted people to him and he had a natural talent for recognizing raw talent like in the case of stars like Cobrinha.  It was his dedication to his students, to his family, and to his community that kept his name alive.

Now 14 years later, Tererê's legacy in the favela remains intact, despite his struggles. Amigos Do Morro, now Academia Fernando Tererê or Tererê Kids Project, is still thriving and providing free BJJ classes for the residents of the Cantagalo favela.

Sally Arsenault, a BJJ coach based in Nova Scotia, Canada uses her own personal history, along with the marketing campaign of OK! Kimonos, to speak to the needs of children today, and how BJJ can be a soothing, galvanizing, productive force for the young:

Most of my clothes were second hand, and without those hand-me-downs I would have had a very limited wardrobe. Because we were lucky just to have food left at the end of the month, it never occurred to me that I could play sports or take martial arts classes. Instead, I spent my days getting into trouble with other people who didn’t do anything productive with their free time.

The brand mascot [for OK! Kimonos] symbolizes Brendan [Hufford, creator of OK! Kimonos]’s message for children. “I want kids to know that it’s alright to be silly, nerdy, and dorky and then step on the mat at a tournament and hit a flying armbar in six seconds.” Training hard, confidence and assertiveness are key but he doesn’t promote unnecessary aggression.

Perhaps “luck” is a kind, yet incorrect word for what is going on with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s positive effect on communities and children with few options. These groups, missions, and efforts live the ethic of paying it forward. These stories are beautiful in their similarity; the chain of hard work, loyalty, and respect remains unbroken.

Luckily, this is not restricted to Brazil. In the Midwest, in Milwaukee, a group of BJJ coaches are cultivating a dedicated family of hard-working adults and children through jiu-jitsu. It is called BJJ4Change. The efforts of this group, soon to become a documentary, can be followed at

About the Author:
Kate Carsella is BJJ supporter, writer, and advocate for a healthier world.

[Edited to add: I asked for more information and here were their answers...

Tell me about the charity/ies and how they would help the children:

I also asked why the three price levels (US$3750 up to $12,000):
Currently, the price levels are structured out on the IndieGogo page :

How many students will be permitted?
We have room for up 150.  Don’t worry, it will not be 150 people in a big room together.  They are going to form sub groups and their accommodations will be separated into small groups of 10-20. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

What I learned from refereeing...

I have reffed at in-house tournaments briefly, but this past weekend I got to experience "real" refereeing at a "real" tournament for the first time.  And, by real I mean "really stressed out about making mistakes" and "REALLY worried about being yelled at."

I'm happy to report it went smoothly and I feel like I kept mistakes to a minimum.  Here's what I learned...

Random quick notes: wear layers, it will be cold in the morning and by afternoon you'll be roasting hot. Also bring a sandwich or two and fruit, unless you don't mind waiting for lukewarm pizza.

I couldn't have done it had I not competed before, and attended many tournaments, and worked many many tournament matches as a scorer/ring coordinator.  I feel like that level and depth of experience filtered into my subconscious and I was able to better communicate with my scorer/timekeeper and table staff, how to predict the action, understand how the score was being earned, and how to carry myself professionally.

What does that mean?  First I should say that as a relatively new (1 year) purple belt I am just now edging in to being qualified to ref. The most challenging aspects of scoring are kids' matches, takedown scrambles, and sweeps, for me. I feel like being a purple belt is a bare minimum, to really grasp when you are in someone's guard and when you have passed or when you get a takedown or when they've pulled guard at the optimal moment and whether you've maintained a dominant position.

I think having been a scorer/timekeeper gave me a better appreciation for how to ref as well-- how to make sure hand signals are clear and held for long enough, how to communicate "oops" and how to get peoples' attention without making too big a deal out of the fact that you caught them woolgathering... I know on occasion when it happened to me as a scorer, I was so grateful not to be called out on the carpet, and I tripled my efforts to be alert and attentive and not get distracted just watching all that jiu jitsu.

I feel like having been a ring coordinator gave me essential skills to help my (at times, less-experienced and at times brand-new) table staff figure out how to run brackets, how to follow complex arrangements for loser brackets and running multiple divisions at once, and how to handle questions from the audience and competitors.

(I did get frustrated with a guy who was trying his best to figure out how to do the bracket, and eventually replaced him with someone else more meticulous. Advice for all table workers: DO NOT MESS WITH THE BRACKET.  Do not change competitors around, do not add names in "blank spots" and do not alter anything except the order in which prearranged matches happen, as is necessary when competitors are not present on time.)

You wouldn't believe how much it helped me to tell myself "Ok, red is in green's guard, so if there's a pass that's 3 points for red. If there's a sweep it's 2 points for green."  In the adrenaline of the moment, knowing ahead of time whether you'll use right or left hand to hold up the score really helped me be smooth and clear for my table people.

More importantly, I was always worried about the safety of my competitors, spectators, and people on neighboring mats.  I kept my body in the best place where I could watch for scoring positions (such as being able to see whether they got both hooks in) and illegal grips and near-submissions (less a concern with adults because I won't tap for a grownup absent crazy circumstances, though I did worry about chokes a bit).  I also focused on using my body to visually cue the rolls to stay on the mat, to protect the table, to protect other competitors or spectators, and to keep other refs with their backs turned safe.

I tried very hard to carry myself professionally.  I have learned from watching many many tournament matches that sometimes refs let their eyes stray to the next mat. I tried very hard to focus only on my mat and my current match. I tried to have good posture, silly as that sounds, though the one photograph with me in it looks like I have an enormous spare tire around my waist, thank you dumb tournament tshirt. I always visibly counted out the 3 seconds of dominance before giving points, by holding a hand with the fingers extended (like 2 for a sweep) low along my leg and swinging it distinctly to measure the beats before putting my arm up straight and holding it up until I saw that the score was adjusted properly. I didn't get on my cell phone except for when I was on a break and someone else reffed.  (I did, however, stuff my face with pizza between matches, and I feel like that was kind of pushing it to start a match with a mouthful.)

OMG KIDS' MATCHES... In my first four kids' matches I had 3 little ones crying because they got armbarred. I tapped for them, but not quickly enough apparently, and I FELT LIKE CRAP. After that I jumped in much faster, and fortunately only one parent complained. That's a good complaint to me-- it means I acted to put myself in the way of danger and injury. I'm fine with that. Afterwards, I had some kids crying-- but they were crying from feeling overwhelmed halfway through the match and not from being hurt. Or they were crying from anger -- "But I didn't tap!"  Look, your arm was locked out all the way... it's my job to keep you safe. And part of that was being willing to be face-down-to-the-mat so I could see what the grips were and whether little arms were in danger.

The thing I loved about kids' matches, though, was I felt a real opportunity to help make their tournament experience a kinder, gentler, more fun one. I could clown around a little before things got started, especially when I saw little lower lips trembling and big eyes looking scared or sad. I often got down to their level for hugs, before and after the matches, and more than once I picked up a little baby and held them while they cried for a second before passing them off to mom/dad/coach.

So... that was my day on Saturday, 8am-4pm, and I couldn't praise Seth Daniels and Fight to Win more thoroughly for running a nice, professional, prompt tournament. I am excited about being able to ref again :)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Salted chocolate pecan tart

Yup, it's starting to get towards the holidays, though I can hardly believe how fast this year has flown.  Anyway, this pie is great. Got the recipe from Farmhouse Delivery in Austin. Dark chocolate and nutty pecans set off with a salty sweet kick. Enjoy with clouds of softly whipped cream.

1 recipe basic pie dough

3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

3 Tbs butter

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. organic corn syrup

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 c. pecan halves

1 tsp. coarse, flaky salt

Preheat oven to 400. Line an 11 inch tart pan with rolled pastry, trim edges, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate with butter, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In another small sauce pan, heat sugar and corn syrup to a full boil over medium high heat. Lower heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla, then pour in melted chocolate mixture and sugar syrup. Place pecan halves in tart shell and carefully pour in filling mixture. Sprinkle salt evenly over tart.

Place tart on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 and continue baking until the crust is evenly browned and the filling is set, about 25 minutes longer.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Thinking about reffing...

So... I've been a purple belt about a year, training mostly on since September 2008. I have reffed some in-house tournament matches, and I've probably watched at least 500 IBJJF matches from the score table, and maybe that many or more again as a ring coordinator. I feel like I'm finally ready to (eep!) referee some matches at a "real" tournament.

I know the point system, and for sure I'll be reading and rereading the tournament's policies and rules so I know what subs are legal and illegal at what belt level, etc.  I am comfortable predicting the direction of a fight, both physical and strategic, so I think I can keep competitors safe. The only things I'm scared of, besides making a mistake generally, are the moments where you're challenged about your scoring and you have to remember what all was happening in the match and what points you gave.

What are your thoughts on purple belts reffing?

Have you refereed? advice? suggestions?

Thank you!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Please donate gis and cash to Moldova's oldest BJJ team!!!

Hi Everyone from Bobby McMasters!

My organization, Pride Moldova is currently running a gi drive to help benefit Team Burlacu BJJ, Moldova's oldest BJJ team. If you happen to have a new or used gi that is still in good shape (i.e. still has 2-3 years left in it with no rips or thin material) please think about donating it! In 2011 the gi drive was a great success.  We can really help this small community grow if we do it again!  The gis can be sent directly to the beneficiaries (which is more optimal for us) or if you don't have the postage you can send them to me. Here are the addresses, respectively:

Birlea Alexandru
s. Burlacu, r. Cahul
Republica Moldova

Activities Department
c/o Tip O' Texas RV Resort
101 Sioux Rd
Pharr, TX 78577

I know what you're thinking: "That first address is crazy. It doesn't even have a street name or number or zip code!" Trust me, I've received literally dozens of packages of BJJ material at that address without any issues. It is a small village in the middle of nowhere so they don't have street names. But, again, if you are unable to or uncomfortable sending your donated gi to that address, go ahead and send it to the second one.

Here's a little background on the team: Burlacu BJJ was started in 2006. Burlacu BJJ's current head instructor, Alexandru Birlea, was only 16 at the time, but has stepped up and has carried the team ever since. Alexandru is an avid competitor and currently holds the rank of purple belt under Tudor Mihaita of Bucharest, Romania. Alexandru also puts on Moldova's longest-running tournament, the "Burlacu Open" as well as the "Moldova Cup," both of which are held annually. Since 2006, Team Burlacu has recently expanded to include a developing gym in nearby Cahul, Moldova (pictured, posing with 2.5 gis!). Burlacu BJJ was featured in the short documentary, "Uncharted Territory: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the Republic of Moldova".

If you'd like to help out but don't have a spare gi, we could always use some extra cash to help pay for postage and to go toward various other initiatives we have coming up. All you have to do is go to our website, and click the donate button! 100% of proceeds go directly to benefiting the fighters since we are a 100% volunteer-run organization.

Please reach out and help however you are able!  And contact Georgette at georgettejitsu (at) if you'd like a poster to hang at your academy to help promote this gi drive!

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Guest review by Matt Corley (Jiu Jitsu Magazine): the Lanky FG gi


I’m starting this review with a slight tangent.  I started reviewing gis almost 5 years ago.  The main reason that I began reviewing is that it took entirely too much effort for me to find a gi that actually fit. 

At 6’4” and 200 pounds very few gis fit me correctly.  A3s came down to my forearms and A4s were big enough to cover two people.  Jiu jitsu is hard enough when you’re just starting.  Having a gi that fits like a muumuu wasn’t helping.  I knew I wasn’t the only one having this problem so I started to research companies that made gis with different cuts to review.

Five years later I rarely write gi reviews.  To be perfectly honest, I hate to do them.  They’re tedious work and take quite a bit of time to do correctly.  I’ll let you in on another secret.  The only thing that I really care about for my gis is fit.  That’s it.  I’m perfectly happy with a plain gi that fits great.  I’ll wear a gi with patches and embroidery all over it too.  Everything else is secondary and other than cut (and material) most gis are manufactured the same way (usually in the same plant).  Speaking of manufacturing, I haven’t seen a poorly produced gi in a very long time, the competition is too stiff.  Companies that make crappy gis go out of business quickly.

If you’re still reading you’re probably wondering why the hell am I reviewing a gi if I hate doing it so much?  Simple, I’ve wanted a Lanky gi since they first came out over 2 years ago. 

When they came onto the market they focused exclusively on athletes that are long and lean.  A few others had tall/slim sizes but no one build their brand around those athletes.  At the time of this review they have 17 different sizes for their gis.  The even have 2 different versions for each size of the tall/slim gi.  When I saw a Facebook post requesting testers I asked if I could be included and was fortunate enough that John chose me to test their new PRO 550 v2 in black (they also have blue and white).


The jacket of the PRO 550 v2 is constructed of 550g pearl weave with pants constructed of 10oz ripstop.  Knee reinforcements that start at the upper thigh and continue to the cuffs. 

The pearl weave is very rough on the exterior of the jacket, similar to the sandpaper-eque weaves of older Atamas.  I had no discomfort wearing the gi, though I do wear a rashguard.  There’s been a trend towards lighter and lighter gis and the heavier weight of the jacket was a welcome change.  The gi wasn’t noticeably hot during summer rolling even while wearing a rashguard under the jacket.

 I mentioned earlier that virtually all jiu jitsu gis are well made and the PRO 550 v2 maintains that level of quality.  The stitches are straight, even and tight throughout the jacket and pants.  Grey contrast stitching is used, red is use strategically as a design element, stress points have triple stitching and seam tape improves comfort.

The lapel is covered in ripstop to make grip breaks easier.  There are 6 loops on the pants for the cord drawstring.

Speaking of drawstings.  The drawstring is probably the shortest one that I’ve ever used.  It’s long enough to get the job done but I wonder if it might come out of the pants in wash (hasn’t
happened yet).


Out of the box the pants fit me very well and the jacket was just a little bit too long, which is exactly what I requested.  When life permits I train twice a day and the only way I can keep in clean is by putting them in the dryer (on low heat) after washing them.  At the time these pics were taken I’ve worn the gi at least a dozen times.  If the gi is clean and dry I wear it.  I have 20+ hours of mat time while wearing it.

The gi fits me very, very well and will stay in my gi rotation.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use this as my competition gi if I ever compete again.  It’s worth mentioning that the sizing chart is comprehensive and accurate.  If you’re not sure what size to get start there and be sure to contact John directly if you have any questions.

Wrap Up

It can be a real challenge for leaner athletes to find a gi that fits well enough to be suitable for competition training.  John over at Lanky recognized this need a few years ago and has stepped into the niche very nicely.  The Pro 550 v2 is heavy enough to stand up to a lot of abuse, will last for a long time and fits as well as any competition gi that I’ve ever worn.  The Pro 550 v2 has been a staple in my rotation for the last few months and it’s not going anywhere.  At $150, available in black, blue and white, the Pro 550 v2 is competitively priced within the market.  The next time that you’re in the market for a new gi be sure to check out their website, Facebook and Twitter for sales.

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Many thanks to Matt Corley-- writer at Jiu Jitsu Magazine-- for his guest post reviewing the Lanky FG gi!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Chinese analgesic balms effective at pain relief

I received some samples from Solstice Medicine Company in Los Angeles... One is called Zheng Gu Shui, and the other is"Hoe Hin White Flower" balm. They're described as "an external analgesic lotion used by martial artists for many years to heal bone fractures, torn ligaments and relieve muscle tension."

Well, how could I not give that a try. In fact, I had to share with a friend, a chronically injured blackbelt who runs an academy and can't stop training just because he's sore.
He decided to use them on a lower back strain and a sore knee. I had all the symptoms of sciatica. In fact, the oils aalso helped sore fingers, too.


Sorry, I should've taken a picture before I used it all! This is a brownish liquid with a yummy woody scent from the Angelica root and the camphor. I think both of us expected to need a lot more and we wasted it... It literally only takes a few drops! 

The ingredients are camphor, menthol, alcohol, bushy knot weed, Angelica root, moghania root, zedoary rhizome, and san-qi ginseng root. As you'd expect, the menthol produced a chilly feeling as it started working and I would not suggest putting this on before class under tape or athletic bandages/supports. Also, wash your hands well and don't wipe your face if it's still on your skin.
It comes in two sizes, and one ounce is only $5. They also offer this with a brush-on applicator and a spray.


My sample bottle was pretty small as you can see, but you don't need to use a lot; this little less than an ounce jar helped us both for a solid six+ weeks, and still going strong It comes out like a runny oil, clear, with a pleasant minty-lavender scent that doesn't linger.  The ingredients are menthol plus essential oils of eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint. It absorbs quickly and there's no greasy or sticky texture to your skin.

He applied about a half teaspoon, I did maybe half that, the first time, but now I just dribble a couple drops into my palm. Just rub into the affected area. I was expecting your standard menthol effect, even though it doesn't smell that strongly. Instead, neither of us noticed any perceptible heating or cooling... Just a pleasant tingling followed by, in about ten minutes, a reduction in soreness when moving and less aching/throbbing when sitting still. 

They're both found on the website, and they're very reasonably priced, $12.99 for the biggest bottle of white flower balm. I'm probably going to buy some myself as soon as this bottle looks low!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Update on Joao Pierini.... some good news, some bad

Joao Pierini (aka Joao Marcos) is the convicted felon, child molester, registered sex offender who was recently promoted to sixth degree BJJ blackbelt under Joe Moreira-- as I posted here.

First the good news-- I'm told that the academy heads in the area around Cancun where Pierini teaches have banded together, informed local schools, and gotten law enforcement authorities involved.

But the bad news-- Pierini was invited to teach a seminar at the Brasa affiliate in Cancun where the instructor is Ismael Sacramento. I've messaged Prof. Felipe Costa to get his input on this.

Also bad news, Pierini is apparently teaching at the Lotus affiliate in Playa del Carmen. I've messaged Prof. Giva Santana inquiring, as well. In a brief reply (since he's at Nationals in Vegas) Prof. Santana assures me that the Lotus people there are not affiliated with *his* Lotus. He'll explain more when he returns from competing and I'll update you then.

I hear that Pierini is lying and telling people that he was merely fined for buying alcohol for minors.  Folks, if you have any access to students or families in Quintana Roo, Mexico and that general area, please encourage them to look at the screen shots in this blog.  It's way worse than getting teens some booze. He's a predator.