Archive for August 2008

A Very Unfortunate Sighting

August 29th, 2008 — 2:08pm

Last night, while gazing out a second-floor bedroom window of my house, I had a very unfortunate sighting of my next-door neighbors dropping their towels and getting into their backyard hot tub. It wasn’t pretty, and now it’s an image that is permanently etched in my mind.

Karen and I were very worried when our neighbors recently purchased a hot tub. Somehow we just knew an incident such as this one would transpire. They seemed like the type that were apt to bathe in the nude. In the middle of the day!

Our neighbors are very nice, but a little odd. And one is quite obese. Not exactly what you’d hope to find while gazing out your window. Has anyone else had a similar experience? Any weird neighbor stories? I’m okay with skinny dipping, but only when it takes place in the dark hours of the night…

2 comments » | Uncategorized

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

August 29th, 2008 — 7:56am

One of the recipes I make most often is for my favorite banana bread (recipe follows). I purposely buy two extra bananas whenever I’m at the grocery store so that I can make this bread as soon as they become very ripe. You can also freeze your ripe bananas and pull them out of the freezer whenever you’re ready to bake. This bread is deliciously moist and flavorful, and pairs wonderfully well with morning coffee. Enjoy!

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 large bananas will do)
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, spray cooking oil (you can use butter) to coat the bottom of a 9x5x3 inch bread pan, then lightly dust the pan with flour and tap out excess.

Next, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. One at a time, add eggs, beating well with a fork after each addition. Stir in bananas, milk and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scrape batter into a prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until you test with a knife in the center of the bread and it comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack, cool 10 minutes before removing bread from the pan, then finish cooling on the rack.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

The S’mores Song

August 28th, 2008 — 6:23am
Kristin and Emma enjoy subs on Picnic Point
Allie and Karen prepare to roast marshmallows for s’mores
Lake Wingra
Kristin and Emma rowing on Lake Wingra
This past weekend, Karen, Kate, and I spent most of Saturday and Sunday with two of Karen and Kate’s nieces, Allie and Emma. I love these girls. Luckily, I have many opportunities to spend time with them, and they treat me like one of their aunts. I love their big hugs and smiles, and just being part of their lives and watching them grow up.

As I’ve said before, Karen and Kate truly are the best aunts ever. That’s probably why Allie and Emma, and their sister Megan, are always so excited to spend time with their aunts, and have absolutely no reservations about spending the night away from home in Madison, even at such a young age.

It’s always non-stop fun when they come to town. On Saturday night, we reserved a fire pit at Picnic Point, where we enjoyed subs from Jimmy John’s and s’mores. Picnic Point is a peninsula near campus that extends into Lake Mendota, where hikers, runners, and picnickers can enjoy fantastic views of the lake, campus, and the state capitol. It’s a great spot to see the city all lit up at night. We had a great time enjoying several rounds of s’mores and even made up a s’mores song, which Allie continued to sing the entire weekend. It was good stuff.

The girls slept over at Kate’s new house and enjoyed “blasberry” pancakes the next morning, while Karen and I volunteered at the Trek Urban Assault race. Afterwards, we joined up again for an adventure on Lake Wingra. We rented a row boat and spent an hour exploring the lake. It was a beautiful day, and we had a lot of fun, despite making very little rowing progress and being trash talked by a little girl in another boat who cruised by us with her father in a canoe. After such an exhausting adventure, we walked to Michael’s Frozen Custard, where we enjoyed great custard and many laughs over the custard that ended up all over Allie and Emma’s clothes and faces. That’s the problem with custard, it just melts too fast for the little ones!

It was a great weekend, and I’m excited to see the girls again this weekend for one last summer hurrah at Green Lake.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Taper Time

August 26th, 2008 — 2:12pm

With race day approaching in just 11 days, it’s officially taper time for my upcoming Ironman Wisconsin triathlon on Sunday, September 7. What exactly is a taper, you might ask.

According to, a taper is a “period of time in which you reduce your training load before a peak race. By reducing your training load for a period of time, you allow yourself to rest before your race. This allows you to store up physical, mental, and emotional energy over a period of a few weeks, allowing you to “unleash” your maximum potential on race day. If you were to skip the taper, you would carry with you, into your peak race, some residual training fatigue, and you would not be able to race your best.”

While my taper technically started on August 11, following a peak workout weekend with a 100-mile ride and a 23-mile run, I still had some difficult workouts last week, including 10 x 800 repeats on Tuesday, an Aquathon race on Thursday, and a Brick workout on Saturday (4 hour bike ride, followed by a 1:15 hour run). With all of that now completed, the future looks bright with much rest and relaxation, and very manageable workouts for the remaining days leading up to race day.

While it’s certainly a relief to be over the really long/hard workouts, taper time can be a challenge in itself. I find that I start to feel little aches and pains surface, I have trouble sleeping, and interestingly, I feel hungrier with a reduced workout load. My goal over the next week and-a-half will be to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and mentally prepare for the upcoming race. I’m incredibly excited for race day, and I feel more prepared for this year’s race than ever.

Comment » | Racing and Training

Trigger Happy

August 26th, 2008 — 5:28am

Volunteering at the Trek Urban Assault bicycle adventure race on Sunday morning was an awesome experience. For three and-a-half hours, my job was to soak competitors with a super soaker water gun, while they attempted to gather wooden nickles that were scattered across an astro turf field, while wearing tedious oven mitts, and fill a stationary bowl.

The whole experience was so much fun—it was a beautiful day, the other volunteers were great, the race was extremely organized, yet relatively laid back, and I obviously loved wielding a highly powerful squirt gun and the authority to douse competitors in cold water. For the most part, the racers totally enjoyed the experience and were cracking jokes the whole time. There were a few competitors, however, that were not at all happy to be targeted, and I did receive some very dirty glares. This, of course, only encouraged me to squirt that particular competitor even harder and longer. Needless to say, they left a little wet.

Great race, great volunteer experience. I’m now trying to convince Karen to sign up with me next year, and my parents to sign up as a team as well.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

The Best of Dane County Farmer’s Market

August 22nd, 2008 — 12:45pm
As many of you know, I am obsessed with the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Madison’s capitol square. It’s no doubt the highlight of my week. I wanted to share with you my very favorite stops at the market, so I’ve been collecting pictures all summer…
My first stop is ALWAYS for coffee at Steep and Brew. I get a 12 oz. cup for $1.75 and fill it to the brim with French Roast. Definitely need my coffee before starting the loop.

Next up, I need a little treat to go with my coffee. As you know, I love scones, and fancy myself a connoisseur. There are many great scone purveyors at the market. My favorite, the name of the booth escapes me, offers orange chocolate chip scones, which are fabulous. There are also some newbies out there this year that are cooking up some very unique and tasty scones. I’d encourage you to sample a few :)

Renaissance Farm offers amazing pestos, vinagrettes, and sea salts. I love the basil vinagrette and keep it in stock for salads throughout the year. It’s fantastic. Their cinnamon rolls are pretty good, too.

The cheese from Bleu Mont is my favorite. I particularly love the aged cheddar. The cheese maker at Bleu Mont has been heralded by the New York Times as the “rock star of cheese.” The cheese is a little pricey, but well worth it.

Fresh veggies and fruits galore.

I also get some fresh RP pasta each week. I love it in the summer with a little olive oil and fresh veggies from my garden.

And then there’s the famed hot spicy cheese bread from Stella’s. If you’ve never tried it, you simply must. It’s hot, and straight from the oven. You’ll hear the bakers yelling “HOT, spicy cheese bread” from across the square.

I hope you enjoyed my tour of market favorites!

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Back in the Game

August 22nd, 2008 — 9:32am

Last night, I competed in my first Aquathon of the season. I’ve done many of these in the past, but largely sat this year’s series out and cheered from the sidelines. For some reason, I felt the urge to get out there again and see what I could do.

Leading up to the start, the skies were a little dark and rain seemed imminent. The water was churning with sizable waves. But I really like waves. I think they make the swim a little more interesting and propel forward momentum. I’m sure most would argue otherwise. I came out of the water as the third female, and raced through transition. I always have such a hard time transitioning from the swim to the run. I feel dizzy and faint. I definitely prefer biking as an in between event, as in a triathlon.

I passed both of the leading females within the first half-mile. Then I tried to get into a rhythm and hold my pace. I felt pretty good and strong, which definitely gives me confidence going into Ironman in 15 short days. That’s shockingly soon. I ended up being passed in the last 400 meters by a former UW track star. She passed me like I was standing still. And at that point, I had nothing left to give. I crossed the finish line in ~36 minutes and felt like I was going to puke. It’s so painful to sprint when you’re an endurance athlete. I can maintain a steady pace forever, but I can’t sprint at all anymore.

It was a fun race and Kate, Karen, and I stopped at New Orleans Take-out on the way home, which was of course the highlight of my night. I indulged in a dinner of crab cakes. Now how’s that for a post-race recovery meal?

Comment » | Racing and Training

College Rankings Just In

August 22nd, 2008 — 9:21am

This just in. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has moved up one spot from last year in U.S. News and World Report’s 2009 edition of America’s Best Colleges. We’re now ranked the 7th public university in the nation (behind only UC-Berkeley, University of Virginia, UCLA, Michigan, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and UC-San Diego). In terms of top school/college rankings, Business is tied for 13th, and Engineering was also ranked 13th overall. In the category “programs to look for,” which features administrator-nominated student-service programs, UW was mentioned most for its undergraduate research/creative projects, learning communities and study abroad. The issue is on newsstands today.

Although I think the rankings and their methodology are a load of crap, and compiled each year solely for the purpose of selling magazines, as an Admission representative, I know just how important they are to prospective students and parents. I’m also a proud alum, and happy to see that both of my alma maters are in the top seven!

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Beer, Bikes, & Big Wheels

August 21st, 2008 — 1:04pm

This weekend I’m volunteering at an urban adventure race that is taking place in Madison on Sunday. It’s the Trek Urban Assault Ride, and involves a crazy bike scavenger hunt with checkpoints around the city offering various obstacle courses (e.g., Big Wheels, the Keg Walk, Inflatable Slides, etc.). In addition to Madison, Urban Assault races have been offered this summer in Seattle, Portland, Austin, Fort Collins, Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago.

I’ll be volunteering at the Princeton Club check-point, which will feature an obstacle course requiring riders to pick up pennies using oven mitts and fill a jar. My task: to shoot them with a super soaker and make it a little more difficult. And after the race, there’s a huge post-party featuring Capital Brewery beer and Chipotle burritos, which I’ve also been invited to attend. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. I’m excited for some super soaker action and to check out the race.

4 comments » | Racing and Training

Madison’s New Late-Night Food

August 21st, 2008 — 10:02am

Insomnia Cookies is one of the most recent entrants to Madison’s late-night food scene. Founder Seth Berkowitz began baking and delivering cookies to the late night crowd at UPenn as a college junior. His goal was, and still is, dependable late night delivery to hungry college students, without the grease and heaviness that oftentimes accompanies late night foods. Business continued to grow, and after graduating in 2004, Berkowitz began to develop a commercial plan for expansion.

Insomnia Cookies has since expanded to 17 college campuses, including Cornell, Indiana University, NYU, Ohio State, University of Illinois, and Wisconsin. At Wisconsin, Insomnia operates out of a big van, pictured left, from 8pm-2:15am, and can usually be found on Library Mall or Francis Street (strategically located across from the Red Shed). In addition, Insomnia offers delivery within 3 miles of campus. There’s a $6 minimum delivery, and wait time runs ~25-30 minutes. Offerings include 8 classic cookies like sugar, chocolate chunk, and peanut butter ($1 each). There’s also cookies a la mode, the menage a trois “this cookie give new meaning to the word ‘threesome” ($6), jumbo deluxe cookies ($2.50), and “14 cookie cakes ($18).

In other late night food news, Pelmeni, the small store front on State Street that offered amazing Rusisan dumplings has closed its doors, and Ian’s Pizza has expanded to Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood and also expanded hours at Madison’s State Street location until 2:30am. There has also been much controversey surrounding Jeff Okafo, owner Jin’s Chicken and Fish, a classic late night food cart on Langdon Street. Jin’s has always had issues with the city, but this time he’s truly in hot water. Apparently, Jin’s received 23 parking tickets in 12 months, and Okafo has been driving without a license since 2004. As a result, in July, the city’s Vending Oversight Committee recommmended that city council members suspend Okafo’s vending license for six months. Council members will decide his fate on September 2.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

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