Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I've seen a lot of things over the years that just really make me speechless. Probably the biggest one is the generosity of people. When I started my foundation in Corliss' memory. I did it to try and assist those that are fighting cancer. I also did it so my girls can have an attachment to their mommy and so they know what kind of person she was. My girls were only 5 and 1 when Corliss passed away. Zoe and Lexi don't really remember their mommy except for things that myself, family and friends tell them. I hope that they take their experiences from this and grow. I truly hope that someday, they can look back and say, I really do know my mommy. That would make me happy.... But until then, I get to write stories about others that do good.

The first person I would like to talk about is Dr. David Covington, Prairie Oak Smokers from Minnesota. Doc is a wonderful caring person. Probably why he is a emergency room physician. He has a heart of gold and is a huge supporter of our foundation. He has been supporting our foundation for a few years now. He does it all for 'Poppa Dave', David's father, who passed away from cancer. You can usually see David and Raeanna at a contest with their 20 kids...
OK, they don't really have that many children, but it just seems like it... I realized Doc's generosity back on 2007 at the Minnesota in May contest. They took Reserve Grand Champion and he came up after the awards and donated his checks that he just won to my foundation and told me he was doing it in his fathers memory. I will say that it was one of the most powerful gifts I have received and I am honored. He has continued his generosity over the years and so far this year, Prairie Oak Smokers have donated their winnings from Fire on Ice, where they took the Grand Championship. They also donated 5 contest entries that they won at the KCBS banquet to the foundation. I was able to raffle them off on eBay and was able to generate over $950!!! Just amazing.

So I lifted this photo off of the Prairie Oak Smokers web page, so you can all have a picture of David, Raeanna and Poppa Dave. Thank you Doc for all you do.

The second person I would like to talk about is Jim Ballog, from Sweet Pepper out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is Jim holding up the phone.

Jim built a drum smoker and decided to raffle it off in the memory of Monica Benedict from Odis and The Bird BBQ team. Monica passed away from cancer a few months ago and Jim wanted to do something in her memory. Jim had exchanged emails and asked if it would be OK, as Jay had requested any donations be made to my foundation. (Jay and Monica have been supporting my foundation since 2006.) I thought it was a great idea and I knew that Jim knew a lot of folks, as he travels all over the Southwest region and knows lots of teams. He was selling tickets for $5 and all proceeds would go to the foundation. I was figuring that he would be able to maybe raise a couple hundred dollars. Boy was I wrong!!! As the following pictures explains. Jim presented us with his check at the Rio Rancho BBQ contest in New Mexico.

Here is the winner of the drum smoker and a closer look at the check!!! Yes, it did leave me speechless. Especially when Jim had called Jay on the phone. I had a speech all ready to give and honestly, I wouldn't of been able to do it. It really touched me.

While I am not trying to single out these fine gentlemen, I think it is important to know that there are folks out there that have some huge caring hearts. So to David and Jim, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Know that I will continue this fight to cure cancer and some day, I hope to say we have achieved our goals. Until then, I will keep fighting side by side with you gentlemen.

Until our journeys meet again.

Cancer Sucks!


Rio Rancho, New Mexico

This was the start of the girls Spring Break. We left on Wednesday afternoon, as we had 20 hours of driving ahead of us. When I woke up bright and early on Thursday morning (with still 12 hours of driving to go) I found out that a massive front was moving in and was expecting to dump a lot of snow in Eastern New Mexico and in the pan handle of Texas. So I kept up a steady pace to get to Rio Rancho. We started getting hit with real heavy winds about Amarillo. A light rain started in Eastern New Mexico. We made it to Rio Rancho by 7:00 pm and fortunately we missed the snow. I-40 was shut down in parts. As Amarillo, TX got 11 inches of snow! But were the winds ever blowing in Rio Rancho!!!

When I woke on Friday morning, I was expecting 6 inches of snow on the ground. We didn't have any, but I understand that some local places had 3 inches of snow. It was really snowing up in the mountains, but most of the snow was melted by lunchtime. The winds continued all night long, with them actually rocking the RV back and forth. I'd venture a guess to say that they were blowing at times up to 50 mph... Fortunately for us, Rio Rancho is building a new town center and there is construction going on all over the place. We were in that corner of that parking lot that was getting nailed witht he wind first. So I guess we were blocking it for the rest of the teams! Needless to say, I think I will be cleaning desert/sand out of my RV for years to come. At times, it felt like you were in a sandblaster getting pelted with sand from the winds!!! The winds were so strong, that I couldn't get my awning back up without it wanting to act like a sail! So instead, I tied it down to a full cooler, just make sure it didn't take off!

This was officially our 19th state that we as a team have cooked!!! As many of you know, our goals are to try and cook in as many states as we can!!! This was also a fun one for the girls, as Aunt Robin came over from Tucson and met us for a few days. Which made the girls happy!!!

The organizer at this contest Art Perez really bends over backwards for the cooks. They had a real nice feast for us on Friday night and again for breakfast on Saturday morning. I have become a huge fan of green chile's on EVERYTHING!!! The winds and temps didn't keep the people from showing up for the event and there were good crowds all weekend. Saturday was a beautiful day in the 60's and the winds calmed a little bit. I was next to Scott Hettinga from Porkrastinators, as his mom lives in Rio Rancho. He ended up lowering his Ez-Up all the way to the ground and working out of it with it that low. The winds were blowing that strong! I was also next to Mark from Q and he ended up putting his Ez-Up away, as it blew away at one point.

As for the results, I was happy with my turn-ins even if the scores didn't indicate. Our results were:

- 17th place chicken
- 27th place ribs
- 4th place ribs
- 12th place brisket
- 8th place overall.

The Reserve Grand was Wild Hogs BBQ and Grand Champion was Rib-It. It was Mark and Beth's first GC!! Congrats to them! I was happy for them. They were just trembling up on stage, as they called the top 10 up to the stage. I didn't want to pox them, but I thought it was obvious that they had the win.

Probably the highlight of my weekend was a auction that Jim Ballog from Sweet Peppers did in memory of Monica Benedict, who passed away a few months ago. I'll write up a blog on that, but my hat goes off to Jim. You almost had me when we were up on stage and you called Jay. Fortuantely, you didn't have me talk!!! ;-)

So thanks to all the new friends I met in New Mexico! The girls and I had a riot!

Thanks again Jim. You are the man!!!

Cancer Sucks!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Little Rock, Arkansas

While we cooked our first contest of the year at New Year's down in Felda, Florida. In my eyes, Smoke on the Water is the official kickoff to our BBQ season. Nothing better to kick off the year than a $50,000 contest with 133 teams coming from all over the US to compete!

The last time I was down in Arkansas, was for the Pine Bluff contest. On our way home, Alex (Dr. Porkenstein) and I got to drive through 2 tornados on the way home. This trip was uneventful. Had a little rain/snow once I hit Arkansas, but nothing to really make the roads bad. I did realize that I was truly in Arkansas, when I was on I-40 and saw a box in the middle of the expressway. Then I saw an object with a truck stopped and a guy running back to get the object... It was a deer head!!! I knew I had arrived when I saw him running after the deer head, that obviously flew out of the back of his truck.

This was a fun contest. They loaded everyone in hour intervals to their spots. I thought that would be a mess, but it turned out OK. The rain held off until we were all set-up. My sister flew down for this contest and came over while I was at the cooks meeting. Which the mud/grass was unbelievable for this cooks meeting. It was like a bog. Amazing they ever got the judges in there on Saturday, that's how wet it was!

Steph from theslab.com set up a dinner feast with a St. Patrick Day theme. I of course brought Italian Beefs, by request... I also did bring some Green River soda, just so I could keep the "green" theme. We had dinner over at the I Smell Smoke camp. We had everything from corned beef, Irish stew to soup. I really liked the stew and the soup... As it was rainy and a bit cold by then. I enjoy getting together with friends from all over the country for these feasts. So while I give Steph a hard time, I do enjoy them!!!

The evening was uneventful. My back was killing me the next day and I am not sure why. It seemed to put me always a minute behind for the morning though. As the Advil's were just not working! I was so out of sorts, that I missed the 9:22 am good luck shot. Fortunately, I was able to hit the next one at the 4 Legs Up camp.

We got through the turn-ins without a hitch. We were happy in the 4 categories that we turned in for the day. I knew we had the kiss of death when my sister and I each ate 3 ribs. Even had a side bet with Smokey Joel. He won, as the judges didn't seem to like my ribs. Then again, they didn't seem to really think much of anything we turned in. We got a call for 13th place brisket. Nothing to jump up and down about, but some days you have what the judges are looking for and other days you don't. This contest was one of those that we didn't have what they were looking for. While I knew my chicken wasn't "spot on", I had confidence in my other 3 categories. Oh well, we move on and try again at the next contest!

The winners were Myron Mixon and his Jack's Old South team for Grand Champion and Pellet Envy for Reserve Grand Champion. I talked with Myron on the way to awards and wished him luck, but it didn't look like he needed it. Rod just seems to own Arkansas. He has been joking that he is going to be moving down to those parts, with the success that he has had in Arkansas! Honestly, if I wore hats that color, I would be hiding in Arkansas too! If anyone needs a nice Greased Lightning hat, Rod has a couple extra's!!!

Cancer Sucks!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday LuLu!!!

This past weekend, we celebrated my little LuLu's 8th birthday!!! It's amazing how quick time is just flying by! It seems like just yesterday she was a baby. We've come a long way kiddo.

The weekend starts off with a birthday celebration that we do every year. On Febraury 26th, me and the girls go out and eat at Greek Islands West and celebrate Corliss' birthday. As her birthday is 2 days prior to Lexi's. The 3 of us have done this for the last 6 years and I can't really see us changing anything too soon. It was Corliss favorite place to eat, as she just loved getting a bunch of everything and have a feast! I am fortunate that my girls love Greek food, so we can still enjoy coming to their mommies favorite restaurant. Opaa!

Lexi's birthday is also the end of a long month for me, as there are a lot of meaningful dates for me in February. So I for one am ready for a party!!! This year, we went out to Dubuque, Iowa and to the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark. This is the resort that we have come the last 2 years for the Dubuque BBQ contest. Steve Geisz, who runs the BBQ contest is also the GM for the Resort and he really took care of the girls. We had a great weekend splashing around in nice warm water, while it was freezing cold outside. We didn't get to do as much as we wanted, as we were battling a nasty cold, but the girls had a real good time! We also got to go to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. The girls were just amazed at the fish swimming around in the big tank! As Lexi said, "that catfish could eat me!" We left on Sunday and enjoyed a beautiful drive home. That part of NW Illinois is just gorgeous! I love that drive!

Until our next adventure.

Cancer Sucks!