Archive for May 2007


Shoes of the Summer

May 31st, 2007 — 8:58am

I am a little obsessed with shoes. My mother will tell you that when we go to department stores, she needs to pry me away from the shoe section. I could sit there and look all day. Not necessarily buy, but just admire. Above are my top five (six) picks for summer. Some are more affordable than others, but they’re all my favorites and at least semi-affordable. I will preface my picks by saying that I do not like the trendy new metallic shoes. I also hate hoochy-high platforms, and am generally not a fan of super-high heels. I do need to walk.

1. My first pick is the “playfully sweet” Loeffler Randall Mazzy Flat in yellow. These sandals are made in Italy and available at shopbop.com. Oh, and I lied, these shoes are not at all affordable. They are $325. Alas, I will never have them.

2. Second pick is the leather Reef sandal appropriately named Yeehaw. This sandal has western detail and is available at usoutdoorstore.com for $44. Comfortable and fun!

3. My third pick is a hot fabric-covered heel from J.Crew. It’s the Isabella printed d’Orsay high heel, which is a black-and-white polka-dot number with a little sour lemon tie on top. I also kind of like the shoe in bright sherbet, mostly because of the sound of that color, but ultimately prefer timeless and multifunctional black. Also completely unaffordable at $175. But they sure are pretty.

4. Next, the mid-heel peep-toe canvas espadrille from Banana Republic. Comfortable and classy, it’s the one pair of shoes that I do already own and wear almost every day. Love the lower wedge. Also available in many other colors and patterns, although once again I prefer the multifunctional black or brown in this particular shoe. Pretty affordable at $68.

5. And finally, the Leather Small Wedge in tomato from Dolce Vita. Currently on sale at standardstyle.com for $55.30.

6. Okay, I lied again. I’m not done. I also must add the Na Na ‘Darian’ multicolored leather open-toe sandal. Now it’s a list of top six picks. These shoes are perfect for summer and available at Nordstrom’s for $64.95.

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Can I Skip the Swim? All I Really Want is a Cookie.

May 31st, 2007 — 5:55am

Tonight I will brave the frigid temperatures of Lake Mendota for the first Aquathon of the season. The Aquathon series (www.fleetfeetmadison.com/aquathon) is comprised of five races during the months of May, June, July and August. Sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports, the races are held at Warner Park on the northwest shore of Lake Mendota. The Aquathon consists of a 1000-meter swim followed by a 5000-meter run. Each race is chip-timed and scored with points, and the final series scores are based on each athlete’s best four finishes out of the five events.

It’s a fun, mid-week event. Many of the competitors use the series to practice their open water swimming skills and transitions, and to gear up for Ironman. You wouldn’t believe how challenging it is to transition from the swim to the run. As you probably know, the order of events in a triathlon is the swim, followed by the bike, and then finally the run. Transitioning from the swim to the run in the Aquathon is totally awkward and gives very little time to catch your breath and warm up your legs.

Last year, I was the second overall female of the series. It always happened that I would be leading out of the swim, and then be caught half-way through the run by a former UW track star that passed me like I was standing still. We’ll see how I hold up this year. My favorite part of last year’s races was the Potbelly’s cookies waiting at the finish line. I would seriously hover over that box all night. Mmmm…Potbelly’s cookies. I sure do hope they have those again this year.

Comment » | Racing and Training

Waitress Serves up a Slice of Hilarity and Heartache

May 30th, 2007 — 7:42am

Last night I revisited Sundance Cinemas 608 to see Waitress, a movie I have been dying to see since attending the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film was much hyped at the festival in the wake of writer/director Adrienne Shelley’s brutal murder on November 1, 2006 in her New York apartment office. The film, starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto and Andy Griffith, is the story of a sweet, southern pie-making extraordinaire waitress named Jenna (Keri Russell), who is stuck in a horrible marriage to Earl, her controlling and jealous husband, and doesn’t realize her own strength. When Jenna discovers, to her great dismay, that she is pregnant, she finds herself more trapped than ever in a life of poverty and unhappiness. Although she feels helpless, Jenna does find great pride and joy in her latest pie creation, and solace and friendship in co-workers Becky and Dawn, as well as Old Joe, the owner of the diner at which she works. She also finds a reason to smile when she meets gynecologist Dr. Pomatter, a handsome, neurotic, gentle (and married) man with whom she has a sweet and passionate love affair. In the end, she finds inner-strength and happiness, and the greatest love of her life.

I loved the film. It’s sweet, sarcastic, genuine, and optimistic, with a very witty sense of humor. The characters have great depth, warmth, and authenticity. The story could have easily been too sweet, or too predictable. But instead, as New York Times film reviewer A.O. Scott describes, “[Shelley] has tamed and shaped [realism], finding a perfect, difficult-to-achieve balance of enchantment and plausibility. The story, in which resilience is rewarded, and meanness is banished, is comforting without feeling unduly sentimental, thanks to its mood of easygoing, tolerant honesty. If “Waitress” were more strenuously uplifting, it might be labeled a feel-good movie, but it isn’t that. It’s just a movie that leaves you feeling good.” The film certainly left me feeling good, and wanting very much to see it again.

Apparently the film was inspired by Shelley’s own feelings when she was pregnant. As Shelley relates, “I was about eight months pregnant, and I was really scared about the idea of having a baby. I couldn’t imagine how my life was going to be, that it would change so drastically that I wasn’t even going to recognize myself anymore. I was terrified and I really had never seen that reflected in anything, not in a book or in a movie.” Shelley ultimately saw the film as a love letter to her baby daughter, Sophie. Her story is so real and relatable to so many women. Not every woman naturally sees herself as a mother. The prospect of motherhood is often scary and seems so utterly life-changing. But in the end, Shelly shows how Jenna finds herself, inspiration, and the greatest love and joy of her life through daughter, Lu Lu.

The film was difficult to watch, knowing the grim details of Shelley’s senseless murder in her New York office, just two month’s prior to the film’s successful debut at the Sundance Film Festival. It was heartbreaking to watch Shelley on screen as Jenna’s mousy and sweet, hilarious co-waitress Dawn. To think of the film as her final legacy, and last love letter to her 3-year old daughter, Sophie, is truly devastating.

Comment » | Books, Film, and Music

Hot New Find at Trader Joe’s

May 29th, 2007 — 7:50am

Late Saturday afternoon, I did a quick run to Trader Joe’s for a few last-minute dinner ingredients. The Madison store, which opened a little over a year ago on Monroe Street, is within walking distance from my Regent neighborhood home. Frustratingly, no matter what time of the day I go, the store is always insanely crowded. Apparently the grand opening never ended. It’s an endless, utter mayhem of elbow throwing, cart crashing, and food grabbing. Sure, Trader Joe’s has some exciting products and low prices, but seriously people, calm down. It’s a grocery store.

So the crowds are a little annoying, but really that wasn’t my point. The real reason for my post is because I am in love with Trader Joe’s new designer-worthy reusable bag that doubles as the perfect summer tote. If you’re a regular at TJ’s, you’ve probably seen their most popular design–a red, 100% Polypropylene Hawaiian-style sack, which sells for only 99 cents. Timeless. The new bag, which sells for a slightly more expensive $1.99, is a hot blue-and-green number with a fruit and nautical themed print. You’ve gotta hand it to TJ’s for making reusable grocery bags that I actually want to use. I always did hate those canvas and cloth bags from other grocery retailers. In addition to the coolness and eco-friendly factors, each time you bring in your bag you are entered into the store’s monthly lottery to win $50 worth of groceries. But don’t tell your friends about this hot new find–it’s already much too crowded at my local Trader Joe’s.

Comment » | Uncategorized

Fresh Spring Asparagus

May 29th, 2007 — 6:11am

Fresh spring asparagus–my all-time favorite vegetable. Sadly, the asparagus season doesn’t last long. It’s here, and then just as suddenly, it’s gone. Therefore, you must eat as much as possible for two months straight. Don’t. Stop. Eating. Here are two of my favorite asparagus recipes that are packed with irresistible springtime flavor. Bon appetit!

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Shiitake Mushrooms, Lemon, and Chives

12 ounces of spaghetti
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4)
1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ¾ cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut crosswise in thirds
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
4 ounces shaved Asiago cheese

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Transfer pasta to large wide bowl.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute. Add shiitake mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute shiitake mixture until soft, about 6 minutes. Add lemon juice; cook 1 minute. Add broth and lemon peel. Bring to boil, then reduce to medium and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add asparagus to mushroom mixture; simmer until asparagus turns bright green, about 2 minutes. Add chives and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir until butter melts. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over pasta; toss to coat. Top with shaved Asisago and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Bon Appetit
April 2006
Tina Miller

Asparagus Chicken Crepes

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 cup cut fresh or frozen asparagus, thawed
1 /3 cup chopped fully cooked ham
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 /3 cup mayonnaise

To prepare the crepe batter, beat eggs and milk in a small mixing bowl. Combine flour and sugar; add to egg mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a lightly greased 8-inch nonstick skillet; pour 3 tablespoons batter into the center of skillet. Lift and tilt pan to evenly coat bottom. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15 to 20 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet as needed. When cool, stack crepes with waxed paper between.

In a small bowl, combine the soup, Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg. Set aside 1/4 cup. Add the chicken, asparagus and ham to remaining soup mixture. Spoon 2 tablespoonfuls over each crepe; roll up tightly. Place seam side down in a greased 9-inch square baking pan. Spoon reserved soup mixture over crepes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Gradually fold cream into mayonnaise. Spread over crepes. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Broil 6-inches from the heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Makes 4 servings.

Taste of Home
http://www.tasteofhome.com

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Dinner with Elizabeth Edwards

May 25th, 2007 — 10:02am

Last night, I attended the 20th Annual Wisconsin Women in Government banquet at the Alliant Energy Center. You might be wondering why I attended, since I’m certainly not a woman in government. Last night, I found myself wondering the same thing. Really, the only reason I attended was so that my best friend could hear the keynote address from Elizabeth Edwards, an attorney and best-selling author whose husband, Senator John Edwards, is making his second run for presidency. My best friend is a huge fan of Elizabeth’s and very much enjoyed her personal memoir Saving Graces, which describes her strength and courage while struggling with her son’s death and fighting cancer. Knowing that it would make my friend’s little eyes light up, I purchased tickets to the banquet as a birthday present for her.

I did not enjoy the banquet itself–the people were too creepy networky for me, in typical political fashion, but the dinner and keynote address were nice. Elizabeth was much more engaging when she was speaking extemporaneously at the beginning of her speech, than when she was later reading from her speech. She began by telling us that she will always have a special place in her heart for Wisconsin, because when she attended school as a young child in Japan, where her father was stationed in the military, her teacher was from Green Bay, and often referenced the Green Bay Packers, and other Wisconsin favorites. When Elizabeth then started in on her speech, her pace became so fast that I could barely follow. Even though the stage was about the length of a football stadium away from me, I could see her clearly on the jumbo screens, and thought she kind of looked like Katie Couric. Anyways, she talked a lot about how women are still disadvantaged in many aspects of social well-being, particularly in terms of wages and access to quality health care, and then touted her husband’s plan for universal health care and an end to poverty. She only briefly touched upon her and her husband’s decision to stay in the presidential race, despite the recent discovery that her breast cancer has spread to her bones, saying that their devotion to public service made it impossible to abandon all of the people and issues they care about. It was a nice evening, and I liked seeing and hearing from Elizabeth Edwards in person for the first time. And I think I did make my friend’s little eyes light up, which was the most important thing of all!

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

World’s Largest Brat Fest

May 25th, 2007 — 8:50am

Today at 11 a.m. marks the beginning of the World’s Largest Brat Fest (www.bratfest.com) on Williow Island, near the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The festival lasts throughout the Memorial Day weekend and features a great variety of entertainment, local celebrity cashiers, and more Johnsonville Brats, Oscar Mayer Hotdogs, and Boca Brats than you’ve ever seen before. The goal? To raise funds for local charities and break the event’s self-proclaimed word record of 189,432 brats sold. If stacked end-to-end, that’s almost 19-miles of brats! And since the event is actually only open for 34 hours, that’s almost 100 brats per minute. Over its 22-year history, the festival has sold 1,890,596 brats to raise more than $501,000 for more than 70 nonprofit groups.

One of the biggest changes to this year’s event is a hefty price increase of fifty cents for brats, Boca brats, hotdogs, and soft drinks–so you better be ready to throw down. With a 50% price increase, it’s gonna cost you $1 for a hotdog, and $1.50 for a brat, Boca brat, or soft drink. Also, the event has added “Johnsonville” to its official name, garnering a big brat donation–the first 150,000–from Johnsonville Sausage Co.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to make a stop at the Brat Fest tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be doing my part to contribute to a new world record and charity. Also, the finish line of the half-marathon that I’m running on Sunday conveniently ends at the Brat Fest, so maybe I’ll have a few more then, too.

And please don’t forget your Brat Fest souvenirs! You can buy all your brat gear at the festival, or online at www.bratgear.com.

1 comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Race Preview

May 24th, 2007 — 11:11am

Here is a preview of my race schedule for this season, as it currently stands.
5/18/07 Syttende Mai 20-mile run
5/27/07 Madison Half-Marathon
5/31/07 Aquathon #1 (Warner Park, Madison, WI)
6/16/07 Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN)
6/21/07 Aquathon #2
7/14/07 Muncie Endurathon Half-Ironman (Muncie, IN)
7/19/07 Aquathon #3
8/9/07 Aquathon #4
8/30/07 Aquathon #5
9/9/07 Ironman Wisconsin
10/7/07 Chicago Marathon

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Year of the Dog

May 23rd, 2007 — 11:19am


This past weekend, I saw the movie Year of the Dog at the Westgate Arts Cinemas. A debut directorial for Mike White, who also wrote the scripts for School of Rock, Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl, the film was featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is the story of a quirky, happy-go-lucky woman named Peggy (Molly Shannon) and her greatest love and companion, a beagle named Pencil. When Pencil meets his unexpected death in a neighbor’s yard, Peggy is completely shattered and lost. She thus begins a journey and transformation process as she searches for purpose, passion, and a greater meaning in life. In the end, she discovers her true calling in life, and a way to keep Pencil’s spirit alive.

I can’t say that I loved this film. In fact, many times I found it boring and slow, but I do think Molly Shannon gives an excellent performance–certainly very un-SNL Mary Katherine Gallagher. I was generally unhappy with the plot and script, particularly towards the end of the film. I really just wanted her to end up with neighbor Al. Instead, she becomes this scary, almost militant-like, animal rights activist that becomes completely out of touch from reality and isolated from her friends and family. Not that her friends and family were worth the trouble, nor did she have anything else interesting going on in her life, but couldn’t she have just found it in her heart to forgive neighbor Al and taken him for what he was–a kind and gentle soul, hunting knives and all? He didn’t mean to poison Pencil! But seriously, can’t a girl get a little romance and passion?

Comment » | Books, Film, and Music

On the Road Again

May 23rd, 2007 — 5:49am

Yesterday afternoon I went on my first, and very long overdue, road ride of the season with my roommate, Karen. We did a Paoli loop, which is the most well-known bike route for local riders. It’s about a thirty-mile round-trip from Madison that features rolling hills, open country roads, and luscious fields and scenery. The half-way point is the charming, Sugar River town called Paoli, which is ten-miles southwest of Madison. The small town of Paoli is home to several unique shops and galleries, the Creamery Café, Paoli Cheese Cottage, the historic Paoli Mill, and of course, the Paoli Pub–the town’s finest tavern.

It was so great to be out on the open roads again. I felt free riding with the wind in aero down some of the steeper descents. Yesterday reminded me of one of the big reasons I chose to move back to Madison two years ago–you simply cannot beat the road riding found just a few short miles outside of Madison. Yesterday as I rode, I seriously found myself singing in my head, “The hills are alive with the sound of music…la, la, la, la.” Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly felt out-of-bike-shape and slow on those climbs, but it was just refreshing to be out there. So I guess I’ve officially begun Ironman training, or something like that. Now I just need to find my way to a pool…

1 comment » | Madtown Lovin', Racing and Training

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