Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Writer. Communications assistant. Coffee drinker.

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Train Thoughts: Three Skating Programs You Must Watch

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about figure skating. (Since April, to be exact.) That’s a shame, because this has been a really wonderful season of figure skating so far.  So here are some trademark Train Thoughts (things I have written on my phone during my daily commuter rail commute) on my three favorite skating programs of the season so far.

Maia and Alex Shibutani – “That’s Life” short dance

One of the last nights my little sister was staying with me before she moved back to California, we were hanging out in the living room.

“Hey, I know you don’t like skating, but just watch this.” I said, pulling up the Shibutanis short dance from Skate America.

This program is set to a mashup of Frank Sinatra’s and Jay Z’s “That’s Life.” This year’s requirements have ice dancers performing blues, swing and hip-hop in their version of a short program, and I thought the Shibutanis had the best attempt at hitting the hip hop part of that equation.

My sister was drinking a beer when I started the video. Not a sip was taken, nor did she move, or say a word for the entire program. She’s really giving this a chance, I thought. My, things have changed since we were kids, when she just tolerated my endless skating watching.

Once the program ended, she turned to me. “That was the most f—- amazing skating anything I’ve ever seen.”

I almost wish there had been some way to save this program for an Olympic season (short dance requirements change by the season, so there is not.) No matter what skating fans think about it, this is something that would pull in the non-fan. Has it fully realized its potential yet? No, but no program or skater wants to be peaking in November. This program is on target for its best performance at Nationals, and is one of the reasons I keep trying to figure out exactly I could make it to Kansas City in January.

Mariah Bell – “East of Eden” long program

The other program that has me visiting every airlines’ website desperately trying to find ways to get to Kansas City for Nationals is Bell’s long program.

I had goosebumps watching a video of it from the early season U.S. International Classic. Despite costume issues and bobbles, it was a well composed long program that she had the talent to deliver beautifully.

Just a few weeks later, Bell performed it to near its full potential at Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Illinois (better known to college hockey fans as home of the Shillelagh Tournament, which is a tournament name I love to say over and over.) She won the long program and the overall silver medal for the effort.

She may double a toe loop on the end of a double Axel combo and the Salchow on a triple flip-half-loop-triple Salchow. Otherwise, it is some good, old-fashioned, captivating figure skating. In an era of no spirals, there are two solid, although brief, ones (one into the double Axel combo and one at the end) and no movements are thrown away. When a teacher, coach or choreographer implores a student to feel movement to their fingertips, this is what they mean. Is it the most artistic program ever? No. But none of this is filler movement, none of this represents a hummingbird fluttering around, and it never gets dull. Bell genuinely enjoys being on the ice, and this program showcases that.

On that note, I must digress. Longtime skating journalist Phil Hersh wrote this week about the “sad” state of U.S. skating, quipping, “Please don’t tell me that Rafael Arutunian will do a silk purse makeover on Mariah Bell.” I don’t believe anyone is saying that Bell’s coaching change (from the Kori Ade camp in Colorado Springs to the Arutunian camp in Southern California) is automatically going to elevate her past every other ladies skater in the U.S. But Hersh’s statement ignores the potential Bell has demonstrated in the past. She has always gone into Nationals with the goods that could have placed her in that bronze medal spot on the podium. All a coaching change needed to do for Bell is get her jumps more consistent and her confidence up. Bell is a contender, has been a contender, and will continue to be a contender, and shame on anyone who is just now realizing this and/or discounts the effort. 


Yuzuru Hanyu – “Let’s Go Crazy” short program

Prince’s untimely April death gave way to a few tribute programs this season, and this short program by the defending Olympic champion is my favorite. Technically, it has the difficulty to set it above the rest (opens with a quad loop, which Hanyu is the first to land, and the triple Axel comes out of an odd, but awesome, edge.) Artistically, it feels like going to a school dance and finding out that kid who seems like he would have no rhythm can actually break it down better than anyone. It starts off a little geeky, but by the ending slide across center ice that hits the song’s famous guitar riff, every girl is lining up to dance with him. (Gosh, I hope this comparison makes sense.) It’s as much fun as one can have in a short program these days, and I hope he finally hits it all at this weekend’s Grand Prix Final.

Eddie Penev is far from done.

After a unsuccessful bid for an Olympic team spot at this summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials, Eddie Penev could have hung up his grips and said farewell to the sport of gymnastics. But after mounting an impressive comeback from a devastating 2014 ACL injury, the 26 year old isn’t quite done.

Instead, the 2013 Nissen Emery Award (gymnastics’ version of the Heisman Trophy) winner is showing off difficult skills on Instagram, traveling to Germany to compete in professional competitions and traveling the East Coast with the final leg of the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.

“My goal is the world championships next year in Montreal,” said Penev via email last week on his way back from competing for KTT Heilbronn in Germany’s Bundesliga for the second year. “It’s a great opportunity for me because it’s an ‘individual worlds,’ meaning there’s no team competition and so they will most likely send guys who have the best medal chances on their best events.”

With one of the most difficult floor exercises in the U.S., Penev has every right to have his eyes set on one of the Worlds spots for that apparatus. He also is an international contender on vault, making next fall’s Worlds setup ideal to continue his competitive career for. Watching the recent Olympics showed him he definitely has the goods.

“Looking at the results from the games I can see that I had great medal chances on floor in particular – even gold medal chances by the looks of it and the scores I’ve gotten over the years in international competitions,” said Penev.

Though he didn’t get a spot on the Olympic team,  Penev was proud of what he achieved. He finished second in floor exercise and seventh on vault at Trials. “Olympic Trials was an amazing experience that I will certainly remember and cherish for the rest of my life,” he wrote. “And although it didn’t end the way I would’ve hoped it would, I was thrilled and honored to be a part of it.

“We have so many talented athletes in our country and that’s a good problem to have and it unfortunately means that great gymnasts will have to be left off the team. I made tremendous improvements since my knee injury (largely due to my coaches) and I couldn’t be happier with what I did. I just didn’t fit the team they wanted to send.”

But in an individual Worlds year, he might be a perfect fit. He has represented his birth country of Bulgaria at the 2007, 2010 and 2011 World Championships, but not the U.S., and this could be the season that it finally happens. To achieve that goal, Penev will continue training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, where he moved after graduating from Stanford University. The OTC is in the midst of the a shakeup, with national team head coach Vitaly Marinitch and national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika leaving, but the facilities and resources available there still make it the place to be.

“Nothing will change with my current training situation,” wrote Penev. “I will remain at the Olympic Training Center despite Vitaly’s resignation. While I’m very sad that he’s leaving us, I have absolutely everything I want/need at the OTC for high-level athletics. As I get older it’s so crucial that I stay on top of my physical therapy, nutrition, recovery, etc. and that is all there at my disposal.”

Another reason to stick around in Colorado Springs doesn’t involve gymnastics. “I’m also pursuing a few potential job opportunities in urban development, so when I’m done with my gymnastics career I’ll hopefully have something else lined up,” said Penev, who has a degree in architectural design. “I’m hoping to get an internship or part time work in the city of Colorado Springs in the planning department that I can fit into my schedule. It’s ambitious but I’m used to balancing school and gymnastics and I’m ready for that kind of life again.”

But before he gets back to Colorado and preparing for 2017, he will join members of the Olympic team and national teams and perform in the last set of dates on the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. “It’s another one of the those possibly once-in-a-lifetime things and its a great way to celebrate four years of dedication to the sport,” said Penev.

That includes a date at the Blue Cross Arena in Penev’s hometown of Rochester, NY on November 3rd. The last time Penev performed with the tour, he was a little kid performing as part of a segment of the show that features young local gymnasts at every stop. That segment is still a part of the show, but now Penev is now one of the champions those youngsters are aspiring to be.

The tour is a fitting close to one Olympiad and the start of the next portion of Penev’s journey, wherever it may lead him.

“It’s crazy to think how it’s all come full circle and now I have the opportunity to be one of the guys that kids look up to the way I did all those years ago,” said Penev.

The Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions hits Eddie’s and my hometown of Rochester, NY tonight, November 3rd, at the Blue Cross Arena. The tour finishes up in Boston, MA on November 13th with two shows at the TD Garden. Learn more at kelloggstour.com

You can read more of my gymnastics writing here.

Kat’s Coffee Blog: An ode to perfect diner iced coffee

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, an initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use.

If you have ever lived near the corner of Washington St. and Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, MA, you have heard the legend of Brighton Cafe iced coffee. Perfect fuel for a crowded Green Line ride to either BC or BU, it also is rumored to have hangover-curing qualities. (This is only rumor – I swear I have never tested it.)

Brighton Cafe iced coffee, at least back when I ordered it on the regular (2007-2009), came in two flavors: original and french vanilla. It was served in a large styrofoam cup, which I cringed at but dealt with by being super environmentally friendly the rest of the day.

It was your regular diner coffee, just iced, meaning it wasn’t exactly the most nuanced of flavors, but delivered the taste and caffeine jolt necessary. It never tasted like they had just taken leftover pots of hot coffee and cooled it – it was never bitter tasting, like what could happen when you do such a thing. What made it addictive was the just perfect amount of cream and sugar added. Because this was a diner, the cream was very fresh and the sugar was coarse instead of fine. This made the coffee just the perfect amount of sweet and bitter.

The two things I miss most about living in Brighton are Brighton Cafe coffee and it’s neighbor, Chang’s House, the friendliest Chinese food place in creation. While I have never found a replacement for Chang’s House (a place so kind that they would make me a special, non-menu soup when I suffered from laryngitis, which used to be every other month), I have finally found an equal to the Brighton Cafe iced coffee magic.

Firehouse Coffee Shop iced coffee

Firehouse Coffee Shop iced coffee

Salem, MA’s Nick’s Firehouse Coffee Shop is tucked away behind the old District Court building. My father-in-law first introduced the spot to me a decade ago, but I didn’t know of its iced coffee until 2015. The Firehouse has an amazing corned beef hash and very affordable lunch sandwiches, and it is a regular stop for lawyers, judges and court staff who work in the area.

One Saturday last year, I had to go into Boston early, and my regular Dunkin’ Donuts by the Salem train station was closed. I figured I’d grab some hot coffee from the Firehouse. I walked in, looked at their menu, and realized they had iced coffee. I tasted it and was immediately transported back to that corner of Washington St. and Commonwealth Ave. Finally, I had found a North Shore diner who cared just as much about their iced coffee as the Brighton Cafe.

I didn’t get a chance to try it again until this week. (Giving up caffeine for 10 months will do that for you.) It still is that perfect mixture of coffee flavor, cream and coarse sugar that will cure whatever ails you, be it a hangover or your four month old waking up five times during the night.

Review: Both Brighton Cafe and Firehouse get four cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️

Kat’s Coffee Blog: Blue State’s Espresso Fizz

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. 

If you have worked as someone’s assistant for over a decade, you get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. Coffee. TV shows. iPhone apps. Odds are that ten years in, your suggestions to each other are going to be some of the most well-founded you will get in your life.

When I returned to my full-time job recently after my maternity leave, one of the very first things the Dean said to me was, “Kat, you have to go try the espresso fizz at Blue State.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s shots of espresso in seltzer water,” the Dean explained while we sat next to our office’s two coffee makers. (We don’t play around. We used to have a swanky espresso maker too, but it disappeared during my maternity leave and I am scared to ask what happened to it.)

He saw me somewhat scrunch my nose at the description. “Trust me. I’ve been drinking them all summer. It’s good.”

So I made my way to Boston University’s West Campus before a meeting and stopped by Blue State Coffee. Blue State is a small New England chain of coffee shops that makes strong coffee and supports many community organizations. They pride themselves on the craft of creating their drinks. Your espresso drink is going to take a few seconds more than most shops, but it is worth the wait. (Just know that when you plan on going before a meeting.)

I ordered a small espresso fizz with a shot of their house made vanilla syrup, and drank it straight up (no milk or cream.)  The barista poured a shot of vanilla syrup and seltzer into a cup filled with ice, and floated what looked to be about one and a half shots of espresso on top.

Not going to lie – I was a tad scared to take my first sip. But I then remembered who sent me this way.

All of the Dean’s buzz was correct. It was light and refreshing, especially as every sip pulled the drink’s layers of seltzer, vanilla and espresso. The homemade vanilla shot really elevates the drink to “all time great” status. There is a sophisticated sweetness to it that makes it a drink to savor.

I was sad that I only ordered a small. I’ve already looked at my schedule to see when I have another meeting up near Blue State so I can enjoy another.

The Dean was right, per usual. Why wouldn’t it be? You never want your assistant to be under-caffeinated.

Review: Five cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

How To Watch the Olympics When Your Time Is Limited

Let's TalkOlympicsWhen I watched the Olympics as a kid, I dreamed of being able to see every event I wanted, when I wanted. I learned to use my parents’ VCR just so I could tape the 1992 Winter Games and watch them over and over again. In the 1990s, that was the closest I could get to having the Olympics on demand.

Well, 10 year old me, guess what? We have Olympics on demand now, and it is spectacular.

For the last week, I’ve been taking advantage of all of the on-demand and replay options that these Olympics have had to offer. Between returning to my full-time job and having a 10 week old, I don’t get to see much live or even during NBC’s prime-time coverage. Comcast, my cable provider, boasts of offering 6,800 hours of coverage on the docket from Rio, and I’ve been playing catch-up and making the most of my limited Olympic-watching moments with a few of their key features.

Comcast’s Marc Goodman reached out to me before the games and pointed out a few of the features that I’ve been making the most of. On Saturday, I finally got to check out the Gold Zone, a NFL Red Zone-style option. You get to watch four sports at one time. It’s Olympic multitasking. It’s not just focused on U.S. teams and athletes, which means you get a good mix of all of the obscure events any Olympics have to offer.

Gold Zone

Also, it took me until Day 10 of the Games, but I finally found the hidden secret of the Olympics: the live track and field call room feed. I speak “Olympics” into the remote, and I get a list of every Olympic event currently on live on a network. Then I scroll down one level of the menu, and I can watch any event that’s streaming on NBCOlympics.com, including the track and field call room feed. It’s people walking on a small strip of track and getting psyched up for their races. It’s silent, but strangely captivating. It’s Olympic watching meditation.

track and field cam

And in what could possibly be the most important Comcast Olympics feature: all the Olympics and Olympic Trials coverage is available on demand until October 1st. That still may not be long enough to get through everything I want to watch, but I’ll be able to come close. The only bummer: I wish the men’s gymnastics Olympic Trials replays were the entire broadcast, instead of individual routines of just guys who made the team. If the USOC can’t allow the Trials to be livestreamed on YouTube like most USA Gymnastics events, I would love to see them give a similar level of coverage on the platforms they do have agreements with. But it is still better than what we used to have when I was a kid.

Though NBC has lagged in some of its coverage (especially in gymnastics,) being able to watch on demand both on the computer and TV has been a game-changer for me. For an Olympics-junkie like myself, it has been super helpful.

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