Central States Karate Championships – 2017

Earlier this month, Michael and his teammates from Forte’s American Karate, competed in the Central States Karate Championships at Fridley High School. I like this location for tournaments due to its dropped floor in the gym. There are great vantage points all around the gym to watch the tournament from. What I didn’t know, was that there was also a second gym. This is where the black belts and many of the adults competed…

Michael has been nervous to compete ever since he got his black belt a year and a half ago.  He has competed once since then, but didn’t do as well as he had hoped, so he took a break from competing.  He finally decided to give it another go a year later. He decided that he would just spar this time.

This tournament is typically way behind on time. I showed up about a half hour before he was supposed to fight, expecting that he wouldn’t be going for a couple more hours.  They were running pretty much on time, which was a pleasant surprise. We waited for just a short time before the black belts started sparring.

There were 7 boys in the 12-13 year old division. They had them line up by height. Michael was exactly in the middle. The 4 “shorter” boys were all within an inch of each other. The next tallest boy was probably a full inch taller than Michael. I was glad that the ring judges decided that the four boys who were all about the same height would be sparring against each other.

Michael had quite a crew cheering him on. His dad and I were there, his Grandma and Grandpa, and several of his team mates who were done competing for the day. Michael’s fights both went well. He won both of them, taking first place. It was very exciting for him (and those of us who were watching him).

After his fight, we stayed to watch his teacher, Mr. Hallberg, spar in the Men’s 18-29 year old division. He also won his matches, taking first place. He made it look so easy, but it was fun to watch! Michael’s friend, Natalia, won in the girls’ black belt 12-13 year old division. Michael was glad girls and boys did not spar each other, because he and Natalia are pretty evenly matched. They were both sparring at the same time, so they didn’t get to cheer each other on. It was pretty exciting that all 3 black belts from the White Bear Lake school took first place in their divisions!

I’m looking forward to watching Michael in future tournaments! Now that he has found his confidence, I’m sure there will be more!



Spotlight Dance Cup 2017

Our final regional competition of the 2017 season, was Spotlight Dance Cup. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did last year. As far as the competition itself went, it was fine. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that made it less enjoyable for me, but it wasn’t my favorite. Maybe I was just tired, due to going from the competition to my brother’s wedding, and then back to the competition the next day … I don’t know.

I certainly don’t love the Roy Wilkins Auditorium as a venue for competitions. It makes for an expensive weekend, especially for those families that had dancers who competed multiple days, which we did. It adds up quick.! There are parking fees and food costs just to name a couple (we paid $14 for a small order of fries and 2 beverages, and later, $4.75 for a bottle of water).

On top of those costs associated with the venue, the program book was $15, a cost higher than at other competitions. It was smaller than most, which is not a big deal, but there was only one page to write special awards and their top recognition awards. It was annoying to have to keep going through the program to write everything down.  In general though, each award session went too fast to catch it all any way.

Things I enjoyed about Spotlight

  • They had a dance off which was fun to watch. Dancers were taught a short routine, and then they performed it several times, competing for a place in the final round.
  • There was great merchandise for sale. My daughter got a pair of shorts.
  • Phil, the Show Director, was really fun. He was very positive, and had a lot of energy.
  • There must have been microphones on the stage, because you could really hear the tap dancers. I like when you can hear all their sounds!
  • The program listed the choreographers for each routine. I liked that, because I often try to guess who choreographed routines. It was sort of like using the answers at the end of a math book to see if you were right. 😉

Other Commentary 

  • In my program, I wrote a note saying, “What’s with the angled wings? Dancers kept running into them.” I saw dancers in groups of all sizes tripping up in, and struggling to get past the wings when they need to switch lines backstage. I would imagine that it could also make entrances a struggle when they need to come onstage in a straight line (especially for younger dancers who may not have fully developed spacial awareness, which would help them know to turn their bodies as they got to the stage entrance).

A few of the hip hop dancers from my daughter’s team.

  • Instead of having all of one style of dance at a time, the styles were all mixed together throughout the day. I have mixed opinions about this. On one hand, I wonder if it makes it easier, or harder for judges to have to keep switching gears while scoring. On the other hand, audience members weren’t watching the same style of dance over and over. This can be good or annoying, depending on the person. I personally like when similar styles are grouped together.
  • There seemed to be computer issues several times, causing delays in the competition.

There were many of the same groups we saw the rest of the season. The routines were amazing every time! We did see a few new groups. That’s always refreshing.

The judging at this competition can be a little confusing. Instead of Platinum, High Gold, Gold, and Silver, this competition used a different ranking system. At Spotlight, Diamond is the highest score a group can get, Ruby is the second highest, then Emerald, then Sapphire. What makes it really confusing (I heard several parents in the audience trying to figure it out), was that they used the same ranking system for routines (vs 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on). So, a dance that scored in the highest range of points could get a Diamond, but then get an Emerald for their overall ranking (meaning they got 3rd place). Many routines, including several of ours, got Ruby or Diamond for their score, but didn’t place at all. I heard many audience members who were very frustrated not knowing what was going on during awards.

Our dancers did well overall. Most routines scored Ruby or Diamond, some even placed in the overalls. We got some special recognition awards for clean routines, choreography, Best in Musical Theater, and more.

After this competition, we looked forward to recitals and Nationals coming up…. Now, we are at the beginning of a new season. With my daughter doing 8 routines this year, it is sure to be extra busy, but also fun!

Protein Balls recipe – 1st attempt

Tonight, I made protein balls for the first time. I’m trying to eat less junk food, but I have an insatiable sweet tooth.

I have been intending on making protein balls for at least a year or so, when a friend of mine gave me some that she had made. I’ve been craving sweets too often lately, and finally decided these would be a good way to get the sweet treat I’m craving, but also give me more protein.

Here’s the recipe I used (taken from the trainers at Lifetime Fitness, and given my own twist). This is for a double batch (approximately 48 protein balls).

2 cups dry oatmeal (a tiny bit more if the mixture is too sticky)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup honey
2 scoops Chocolate Whey Protein Powder from Lifetime
1 scoop Mocha Life Greens from Lifetime
a little less than 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

They are simple to make. Mix all the ingredients together, and roll them into balls. I put them into two containers. One for the refrigerator (they can last about a week in the fridge), and one batch for the freezer. Update: I have read that these can be left unrefrigerated, but they are awfully sticky. Putting them in the fridge helped them solidify a little easier, which also makes them easier to eat.

For the first time making them, I should not have made a double batch. They are good, but I do know what I would do differently.

  • Next time, I will use a different ratio of peanut butter to almond butter. If I were to do a double batch again, I’d use 1 1/2 cups peanut butter to 1/2 cup almond butter. I think I will also try it with crunchy peanut butter for a little more texture.
  • I also saw a suggestion to add shredded coconut. I think I will try that.
  • When I bought the mini chocolate chips, I meant to buy dark chocolate. Instead, I bought semi-sweet. To make them a little healthier, I will use dark chocolate chips next time.
  • I would not use quite as much of the Greens powder. I’m not sure if I just didn’t quite mix it well enough, but the flavor was a bit over-powering in the sample I tasted. Update: the next day, the flavor of the Greens isn’t quite so overpowering, but I can still taste it. I will use less than a scoop in the future.

Looking forward to having these treats post-workout, or when I’m craving something sweet!

Tough Mudder 2017

Yesterday, my husband and I, along with 6 other friends, completed the Tough Mudder. If you aren’t familiar with this event, it’s a 10+ mile muddy, wet, and very challenging obstacle course. If you don’t like mud, getting dirty, getting wet, or having wet feet, this is NOT the event for you!

The event was held at the Wild Wings Gun Club in Hugo, MN. We were glad it was so close to our house. Parking at the event was $20, so everyone met here, and we took 2 vehicles to bring everyone there. Afterwards, our team came over for pulled pork, baked beans with bacon, and some good old-fashioned reliving the event we had just completed together.

In preparation for the event, I was working out at the gym, focusing on upper body, and core strength. On the playground at preschool, I had been practicing crossing the monkeybars. The first day of school, I couldn’t do any. Last week, I was able to cross five. I was feeling very encouraged by this! My legs have gotten quite strong over the past year, so I didn’t worry too much about those. I just added some weight to my squats (sometimes using kettlebells, sometimes using hand weights). A few weeks’ back, I messed up my back, so I had to take the most critical time of training to deal with that. 😦  It was a good thing I took that time though, because it held up great through the entire event! I was really nervous it wouldn’t. Thank you to chiropractor, Dr. John Tomlinson for helping get it back on track!

Laura and I after Tough Mudder. We were the only two women on our team.

It was a super hot day. Temps were over 90, with very little cloud cover. There was no amount of training that I could have done or not done to prepare me for the heat. We were all sweating and stinky before we even started. At the first obstacle, they told us weather conditions were red, so they were recommending people not run, and drink plenty at the water stops.

After parking, we walked about a mile to the check-in location. Then, we dropped our bag in the bag drop area, and headed for the queue at the starting gate. Our assigned start time was 11:00. It was about 11:15 when they let the group for the Tough Mudder Half go. We probably got to head for the actual starting gate around 11:30. There, we waited more, and probably around 12, got to actually get started.

We jogged the first 1/2 – 3/4 mile, before some of us started to walk. We had well over 10 miles ahead of us, why expend all that energy early on? We always made sure at least one person stayed with the person at the back. Sometimes that was me, sometimes Dan, Tim, or Jason. No matter who it was, no one was left behind. My goal was not to get it done fast, just to finish it.

We had to carry this wood as a group. It was heavy! Due to a miscommunication at the end, it was even more difficult for the couple of teammates who carried it all the way to the end.

The first obstacle we came to was called Kiss of Mud 2.0 . You can’t see me in the video, but you can watch as my husband crawls through the mud, under barbed wire. Teammate Charlie caught this video. I was to the right of him, so you catch me periodically. It wasn’t too bad. On another obstacle that started out in a similar way, I did get poked in the butt by barbed wire near the end. I thought I was all the way at the end, but I wasn’t quite done yet. Oops.

Post-Mudder selfie.

As the event went on, there were walls to climb over, mud to crawl through, pipes to climb up, wood to carry, etc. Most of the terrain was hilly, and uneven. I was definitely not prepared for that. It made for some very sore muscles, even with us walking most of the course.

The easiest obstacles for me tended to be the climbing ones. I guess my years of rock climbing paid off (even if I’m not very strong any more).  The hardest obstacle for me personally, was called Everest 2.0. This was a steep halfpipe, with a rounded top. Apparently, the trick is to use speed to run up as fast as you can. People at the top help each other, but they say not to aim for the hands. This obstacle was at the half way point for us. For whatever reason, I felt like I was completely out of gas. I struggled to muster up the energy to get enough speed to make it to the top. After 3 tries (plus one where I started to run, and started laughing at something someone said, so bailed), I was ready to admit defeat. I was frustrated and exhausted. I hadn’t eaten in several hours, and had long since burned through my breakfast. I decided to try one more time. This time, by a miracle, Chris, one of my teammates, caught my hand. Matt, another team mate jumped next to him to grab my other one. Charlie, our team captain, was trying to grab my leg. I didn’t have the strength to even swing it over… after hanging for what seemed like an eternity, I mustered the strength to swing it over, where he grabbed it, and they all pulled me over.

Luckily, I found a second wind after that. I managed to make it through all the rest of the obstacles. There were 3 obstacles I did not complete…. two had to do with going through electric wires. I got zapped pretty bad in high school, and didn’t want to relive that experience, so I skipped those two. The third obstacle I did not complete, was called Kong. It was a Legionaires-only obstacle. That means that only people who had completed the Tough Mudder  at least once could do that obstacle. Since it was my first time, I couldn’t try it. That was ok by me, because I knew I would fail. The obstacle before that one had monkey bars, etc. I was very disappointed in myself that I only made it across two monkey bars before I fell in the water. I was hoping to make it at least halfway across. Oh well, maybe next year.

Didn’t realize how banged up my knees were, until after my shower.

Four hours or so later, we finished the Tough Mudder. We were hot, sweaty, sore, and utterly exhausted! At the same time, it was thrilling to know that we had done it. We all had some battle wounds – cuts, bruises, scrapes, and lots of sunburn (despite putting plenty of sunblock on before hand). Some of us struggled with muscle cramps during the event, but it was all worth it!!

I now know how to train differently. I need to make sure I have a bigger breakfast that day, to make sure I pre-hydrate, and do some practice run/walks on hilly terrain. I will continue to work on being able to do things like pull ups, rings, monkey bars, and climbing walls. I will likely also go to a “Ninja Gym” to practice doing things like climbing ropes, and running up walls. I will be better prepared to not only complete obstacles, but also to be a better teammate, more capable of helping others over the obstacles.

I loved that this was such a team-focused event. We all worked together, and we made it! I am looking forward to doing the Tough Mudder again in the future!




LADC Recital 2017

Now that Nationals are over, I guess it’s time to finish my posts about the rest of the dance season. They were previously started, but never finished…

This year’s recital title, was “Perfect 10,” to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Lake Area Dance Center. There were 4 shows. The two I saw were great!!



I was part of the small crew that helped set up for the recitals. I have done this for a few years in the past. This year, we got the floors unrolled, taped down, and everything ready to rock and roll in record time!


This year, I volunteered to take pictures during dress rehearsals. We got a new camera this year, and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the different lenses. I finally got some decent pictures!! I enjoyed going from the balcony, to the line up area, to the floor level to get various shots. The appreciation I got from the studio owner made the bruises on my hip/leg (from bumping into the arm rests of the seats) all worth it!


There were 4 shows – two that included both Recreational and Competitive level dances, one Competitive Gala, and a Solo/Duet/ Trio Showcase. Both my kids were in the 1st show. I decided not to volunteer for this show, and just watch. I’m so glad I did! I really enjoyed the almost 3 hour show. Watching my kids shine on stage was awesome!

Show 2, I volunteered for. I have always been with preschoolers, but was assigned to 1st/2nd graders instead. I wasn’t even sure what to bring for this group, but I came armed with a handful of books, and Uno. This proved to be enough to mostly entertain them (well, those and the coloring books provided for the volunteers by the studio). I also had a high school student from one of our sister studios, Woodbury Dance Center, with my group. While I taught a group of the girls to play Uno, Emily colored with the other ones. We had a great time with these girls. 

Show 3 was the Competitive Gala. I got to watch this one too. It was beyond worth the price of admission, as the best dances at the studio were featured here. I love watching the dances get more and more polished as the season goes on. I can’t wait for Nationals in a couple weeks! 

We did not stay for show 4, the Solo Showcase. I’m sure it was a very entertaining show, as many of the solos are Musical Theater, Tap – my favorite styles to watch. There were also solos in the styles of jazz, ballet, lyrical, and contemporary.


The shows all seemed to run quite smoothly. Aside from one poor preschool peeing herself on stage, and the cleanup that required, there were no delays that I noticed.

It amazes me what a well-oiled machine the recital has become. I know there are many pieces that go on back stage to make sure this happens. The team that works together to make sure things run well is incredible!

Kudos to LADC for a successful 10th season… here’s to many more!


Masquerade Dance Competition 2017

Two weeks ago, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center, attended our favorite competition of the year, Masquerade. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville, MN.

The competition was quite large this year, and was spread out to 6 days! This was the longest competition I think we’ve ever been to (at least on the regional level). Even without Grace doing a solo, her schedule was crazy this year! She had to dance 4 different days. The amount of time we spent there was worth it – we got to see some incredible dances!

Thursday night, Senior Company danced their three large group dances. They got a high gold on their jazz and tap dances, and platinum on their lyrical dance. Their jazz dance, “You Don’t Know My Name”, got the audience choice award for Musical Theater/Jazz. Friday, our Company Hip Hop group danced their routine, “Starving”. They got a platinum score. They also received a Judge’s Award for having a cool style, and for being a happy, chill hip hop dance with a story. Starving also got an Audience Choice Award. Our Teens’ lyrical/contemporary dance got an Audience Choice award as well.

Grace accepting the Judges Award for their Hip Hop Dance.

Saturday, Our Teen/Senior Line performed their jazz dance, “Welcome to Miami.” They got a platinum score, and were called back to do an encore. My favorite dances of the day were all asked to perform encores. Our dancers did an amazing job! They were highly energetic, very together… it was quite fun to watch! They ended up taking 2nd place in the Teen Purple Line Division. The dances that took 3rd, 4th, and 5th were the three dances that would have taken 1st, 2nd and 3rd in my mind. It was a very exciting night!!! I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen our studio owner, Miss Maria, that excited once before!

Sunday morning, bright and early, our dancers performed their Production number, Ultimate Fighters. It just might be my favorite dance of all time! It’s a high energy dance, with lots of great music!! They got called back to perform an encore. I didn’t get to see it, because I had to head back to work at the dance studio for a few hours. I heard they did well. They got a platinum score, and 2nd place overall.

Photo creds to Miss Maria for this shot of the entire Production Group!

A few additional notes (or more like random thoughts) from this competition:

*The Ames Center seemed to be colder than usual this year.

*Once again, the food did not disappoint. I’m very happy with the changes they’ve made to their menu offerings!

*A totally random note I wrote was that the lines between jazz and hip hop seem to be increasingly blurred…. I can’t help but wonder just where that line is?!? When it looks like hip hop, but is in the jazz category, how do the judges score that? It seems like jazz has become more of a catch-all category for the things that don’t quite fit in hip hop, or don’t quite fit in contemporary… as there are more and more styles of dance at the competitions, the lines between them move closer and closer together…

*This competition brings together some of the best of the best in the Twin Cities. With that, there were more platinum scores than I remember ever hearing at competitions in the past.

The picture only gives a slight idea of how much less space they had to practice in.

*The Ames Center Maui Wowie stand was moved during this competition. It was on the second floor where groups typically rehearse their  dances – this was a terrible spot! If there wasn’t constantly a line, it might not be quite such a problem. Even when they tried to direct the line differently so it didn’t block the rehearsal area, it was still in the way.

*Usually Masquerade does a pretty good job at volume control, but this week, portions were over the top loud. Especially the bass. I had a note on another page that said “turn down the bass!”

*The programs were not too expensive at $10 each. My only complaint, is that in the back, where they had the place  to write awards, some categories were missing (such as Junior Purple Large Groups). I would also add areas to write down Audience Choice awards, and even Judges’ Awards. During awards, they didn’t talk to the 1st place winners  in each division, like they usually do. They were over an hour ahead, pretty much the whole weekend. It would have been nice if they’d have spent a little bit of that time talking to the winners in different categories (they only did on some).

*The internet at the Ames Center more spotty than usual.

*One of the things that makes Masquerade so fun, is that during the breaks, they typically throw out lots of bead necklaces, and other fun things. This year, in the four days I was there, I think I only saw them do it once. It could be that when the younger kids were there, they did it more, but I didn’t see it very often. Even though my own daughter has outgrown the desire to get as many beads as she can, it is one of the things that is fun about this competition, traditionally.

*For a favorite competition that was a lot of fun, I sure had a lot of negative sounding critiques of different things. Sorry about that. I don’t typically like to be negative. Overall, the competition was great! Our dancers did well, and we got to see TONS of amazing dances from all over the Twin Cities!!

I look forward to our upcoming competition, the last Regional of the season. Then, it’s recitals, and Nationals!!!


Legacy Dance Championships – 2017

Our first competition of the season was Legacy Dance Championships. We have attended this competition for several years.

Our studio, Lake Area Dance Center, did very well this year. The top recognition we received, was the Legacy Award for ages 12 and over. My understanding, is that this is the award for the highest overall score average for the top 3 dances from each studio. It felt really good for our studio to be recognized this way, because there was a lot of tough competition! Some of the studios we saw included Arabesque School of Dance, DelMonico Dance, Dance Express, and more!

We also received several Best of _______ awards, in several different categories. Several groups and solos placed in the Top 10 in their categories. Our production number got 1st place. It’s so amazing! Our Senior Company Dancers (the group Grace is in this year), were slightly too large to be a large group this year. Instead, they danced as a Senior Line. Unfortunately, they did not have any competition in their division. That means they got 1st, 2nd and 3rd place with their lyrical, tap, and jazz dances. The biggest compliment came when they gave our dancers their 1st place award. They complimented the girls on their “Great use of their props” (rocking chairs), and said that they “Nailed it!”

The first couple of days of the competition, I saw complaints online from parents and teachers about how loud the competition was playing their music. By Sunday, the only day we were there, they seem to have gotten the message.  While it was still louder than it needed to be, it was not horrible.

The competition was held at the Ames Center, in Burnsville, MN. I know I say it every year, but this is our favorite venue for competitions. The free parking, park right outside, nearby Caribou … all great benefits of this location! Our biggest complaint about this venue in the past, has been in regards to the food available. They seem to have upgraded this year. They are now offering hot dogs (which they were out of when Grace wanted to order one, much to her dismay), they also have some new sandwich options, which are fresh made, and no longer soggy. I ordered an Ames Club with avocado. It was delicious! Grace ended up ordering nachos with taco meat. She wasn’t impressed. She felt it didn’t have enough flavor. Overall though, there are better food option, which I was glad about.

A highlight for me, besides getting to watch all my daughter’s dances, was being able to watch them all with my mom. All of her dances were within a couple hours of each other, so she had many family members there to support her. Another highlight was running into a family, even for a brief moment, from our Wisconsin days. The sister of a girl that Grace used to play baseball and softball with was dancing at Legacy with Diamond School of Dance. The last time I saw her, she was about 6, now, she’s a middle schooler, and she dances beautifully!

The competition was fun, as always. I’m looking forward to our next one!




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