Archive for February 2009


Lady Liberty Rises from the Depths

February 27th, 2009 — 1:35pm

statue_liberty_setup09_9225UW-Madison News 2/16: “In a repeat performance of one of the most popular college pranks ever, this week Lady Liberty once again appeared to rise from Lake Mendota with torch aloft, thanks to the Wisconsin Hoofers, UW-Madison’s outdoor recreation club.

In honor of the statue’s first appearance 30 years ago — and as a feature of this year’s Hoofers Winter Carnival — the organization’s members rescued the Statue of Liberty’s pieces from storage in the campus’s Stock Pavilion, hauled the enormous components onto to the lake and constructed the iconic image. Among the challenges: building the 38-foot-wide crown and the 40-foot-high torch with no written instructions to follow.”

Read more about the history of Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota here.
View a slide show if its construction here.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Point Bock 5-mile Run

February 25th, 2009 — 2:55pm

n8610515_31058237_8247One of my favorite races of the year is the Point Bock 5-mile Run. This year’s race is scheduled for noon on Saturday, March 7 at the Stevens Point Brewery. On the left is a picture of me from the race in 2006 proudly displaying the door prize I took home—a six-pack of Point Bock. That year I made money at the race!

I love this race because it’s fun, extremely well organized, flat and fast, at a brewery, involves a roadtrip, has grassroots charm, signals the early signs of spring, and pre-registration is only $15—which includes a long-sleeve t-shirt, the post-race party with complimentary Point Einbock Beer and Special Root Beer, Big Apple Bagels, Snacks, Music, and Door Prizes. Amazing. Especially when I compare it to some of my other recent race entry fees–Austin Half-Marathon ($90), Door County Half-Ironman Triathlon ($140), and Ironman World Championships ($575). Too much racing can make a girl broke.

Anyways, I hope those of you in the area will consider running the Point Bock. It’s racing as it should be. Online registration is open through Wednesday, March 4.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Don’t Mess with TX–Austin Day #3

February 24th, 2009 — 6:36pm

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On Tuesday we found ourselves on the road again, this time bound for San Antonio. First, however, we stopped at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress for my very necessary daily java fix. I enjoyed Jo’s—coffee is all coffee to me after a certain point, but I loved the outdoor deck, minimalist style, and understated trendiness at Jo’s. austin-tx-020

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After an hour’s drive, we arrived in San Antonio just before noon. Our first stop was to the Alamo, which is surprisingly located in the heart of downtown San Antonio. I don’t know why, but I was expecting the Alamo to be situated on the outskirts of town in the middle of nowhere. The quietly revered fortress just doesn’t seem to to fit amongst the tall downtown buildings and hustle and bustle of city life. Anyhow, the Alamo is an impressive and well-preserved historical landmark. I enjoyed touring the Chapel and Long Barrack, and learning the fascinating details of Texans’ heroic fight for independence in 1836. It’s no wonder Texans have such overwhelming pride in their state—“Remember the Alamo!”

austin-tx-023We walked around downtown a bit, and ended up having lunch at Schilo’s Delicatessen, a German-style restaurant my parents had dined at a few years earlier that serves up traditional bratwursts, reubens, and famous split-pea soup and root beer. I hadn’t expected such strong German influences in Texas. I later learned that many Germans immigrated to Texas in the 1830’s because of the social and economic conditions in Germany coupled with the availability of land in frontier Texas. My lunch at Schilo’s was fine. I’m not much into German food, so it didn’t do much for me. Not to mention, I’d have to believe the best German food in the US can be found in my home state of Wisconsin.

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After lunch, we made our way to La Villita, a historical gallery-district located above the south bank of the River Walk, which was also San Antonio’s first neighborhood. Afterwards, we walked to El Mercado, the largest Mexican marketplace north of the border. There, we stopped for dessert at Mi Tierra, a Mexican café and bakery that offers a visual feast of over sixty different Mexican baked goods. As you can imagine, my dad and I had a field day sampling the many unique offerings.

austin-tx-022Our final stop was to the River Walk, easily the most vibrant, romantic, and picturesque area of downtown San Antonio, which is comprised of a pathway along the San Antonio river lined with outdoor cafes and restaurants. We enjoyed a drink at an outdoor café while we rested our tired legs and took in the bustling scene. Afterwards, we began the drive back to Austin.

austin-tx-029Later in the evening, we picked up Kelly and Ben for dinner, and headed to Guero’s Taco Bar, another Austin Tex-Mex favorite on South Congress. I enjoyed Guero’s very much. It was probably my favorite Tex-Mex during the trip. I opted for the No. 1 Dinner, which included one chicken enchilada, a beef taco, guacamole, and tamale and chili con queso. Delicious.

m5x00096_9After dinner, we walked across the street to Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill, where we talked and enjoyed several beers on the outdoor patio. It was a full and refreshing day.

1 comment » | Vacation and Travel

Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks

February 24th, 2009 — 7:44am

austin-tx-012Although vacation has slowed progress in my quest to bake as many recipes from the Baked cookbook as possible in 2009, I made my 6th (of 94) recipes on Sunday evening. This time I chose the Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks. The end result was quite tasty, but different from any other peanut butter cookie I’ve tasted before. As authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito note in the introductory text to the recipe, “our cookie is nether too dry and crumbly, nor too moist and characterless; rather, it is the perfect balance of crispy and chewy.” I couldn’t agree more. Enjoy.

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 oz. good milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Baked Note: We know there may be some temptation to replace the milk chocolate chunks with semisweet chocolate chips, but don’t give in. Semisweet chips taste almost bitter against the peanut butter, while the milk chocolate is a natural and delightful combo.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat until just incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart. With the palm of your hand, very gently press each cookie down so it forms a very tall disk shape. Do not press too hard and do not press it flat. 

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until the tops of the cookies just begin to brown.

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 Working my way through the Recipe Index…slowly, but surely.

Comment » | Recipes from the Cookbook "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking"

“You Turn Me On”–Austin Day #2

February 22nd, 2009 — 10:56am

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Unfortunately, we spent the first half of our second day in Austin checking out of our intolerable condo, searching for a suitable replacement, and moving there. Luckily, we found a nice enough hotel close to downtown that overlooked Town Lake. Finally, I felt comfortable, settled, and confident that I would sleep well for the first time in days.

 

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For lunch, we headed to Home Slice Pizza on South Congress, a recommendation from my former boss, Kelly O., that specializes in NY style pizza by the slice or pie. I chose two slices—the Margherita (fresh mozzarella, tomato, garlic and basil) and the White Pie with Spinach (olive oil, garlic, ricotta, and mozzarella). Both were flavorful, filling, and delicious, but I had a much greater affinity for the Margherita. I also loved the restaurant’s stylish retro interior.

 

After lunch, my dad and I met up with my brother at Zilker Park to do a short run on the Barton Springs Greenbelt, which is a challenging, narrow trail with sharp cutbacks and loose rock, requiring sure-footing and coordination, that is most popularly shared by mountain bikers and trail runners. I enjoyed the great scenery–sheer cliff walls, bluffs, creek beds, and natural rock formations dominated the landscape. I’m sure it’s even more gorgeous in the spring and summer with flourishing water holes and lush vegetation.

 

After the run, we dropped my brother back off at his apartment and headed to nearby Austin Java, a good start on my mission to try as many of Austin’s coffee houses as possible, since it seemed to me the most ubiquitous of Austin’s offerings. I ordered a black coffee, my regular and first of the day. 

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My parents and I had dinner at Chuy’s, which is one of Austin’s most well-known Tex-Mex restaurants on Barton Springs Road. Honestly, it was cheesy and disappointing. I ordered a margarita and chicken fajitas, which were standard fare with flour tortillas, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo, and rice and beans. It’s not that the food was bad, it just was’t memorable, and the dining room was too loud to even carry on a conversation.

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After dinner, we moved on to Saxon Pub, an intimate, no-frills bar on South Lamar that has been a long-standing fixture in Austin’s live music culture, and home to many of South Austin’s singer-songwriters. One of my long-time favorite musicians, Bob Schneider, has enjoyed a legendary 10+ year residency there, playing almost weekly, either solo or with his band the Lonelylands. I was introduced to Bob’s music by a former college boyfriend, and have been listening ever since. Over the years, I’ve had a few opportunities to see Bob Schnieder on tour in Madison and Milwaukee, but always longed to see him in Austin, his true element. 

 

The show opened with a performance by another Austin-based artist, Matt Sever of Matt the Electrician, who showcased impressive vocals and guitar sequences. Bob Schneider came on at 9:30 p.m. playing mostly new music from his soon-to-be-released album, “Tarantula.” The show was great. I loved seeing Bob in his hometown at such a small venue amongst his most devout fans. His repertoire of music is extraordinarily vast and eclectic, touching on funk, country, rock, rap, and folk. He also has an unbelievably infectious and magnetic personality, a great sense of humor, the mouth of a sailor, and extraordinary good looks. Needless to say, I’ve had a huge crush on him for years. Words simply cannot do Bob Schneider justice. You must see him live. He’s certainly one of America’s greatest undiscovered musical talents. Having the opportunity to finally see Bob Schneider live in Austin at the Saxon Pub was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Comment » | Vacation and Travel

Unwelcome Visitors–Austin Day #1

February 19th, 2009 — 7:32am

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Luckily I don’t mind driving long distances, because the road trip from Wisconsin to Texas was certainly a long one. Most people would dread spending 20+ hours cooped up in a car with their parents, but honestly I enjoyed the time spent together catching up, listening to music and NPR shows, stopping at roadside greasy spoons, and tag-team driving. However, it was a relief to finally reach our final destination—Austin, Texas, a city I’ve always heard referred to as a warmer and bigger Madison (both state capitals, major university towns, and seemingly state outliers, composed of citizens who are notably eclectic, active, and just a little bit weird–and proudly so). Austin has also been the city my younger brother has called home for the past year. Needless to say, I’ve been anxious to make the trip and finally experience Austin firsthand.

 

Our first stop was to my brother and his roommate Ben’s apartment, which is located on Castle Hill drive, near downtown. My brother had adequately convinced me over the last several months that he lives in a slum apartment, and I felt very sorry for him. It ended up being anything but. Sure, there’s no front door to the building and not surprisingly, sometimes he claims to hear rats running around in the walls at night, but the four-bedroom apartment building is adequate, their unit has great character and natural light, the neighborhood is gorgeous, and it’s proximity to downtown can’t be beat. I no longer feel sorry for my brother.

 

After visiting with Kelly and Ben, my parents and I headed to P.Terry’s for lunch, a recommendation from my brother, that reminded me of my favorite West coast burger joint, In-N-Out Burger, because of it’s simple menu and fresh ingredients.

 

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Next, we headed to the infamous 6th street, Austin’s epicenter of rowdy nightlife, to check into the second-floor condo we had reserved for the week. The condo was not exactly what we were envisioning from the description and pictures we viewed beforehand. It was above a bar (which we suspected), but the entire second floor reeked of a frat house, and the unit was small and greatly in-need of many repairs and updates. Despite all of this, we decided to go for it and approach it as an adventure. It was livable, and the location was superbly convenient. Sadly, our optimism would eventually bite us in the ass. sixth_street_night

 

After getting settled, my brother ran to pick me up at the condo, and together we ventured on a long run along Town Lake and the Barton Springs Greenbelt. I was amazed by how many people were out running (I swear I haven’t seen a soul while running in Madison for months), and reveled in the opportunity to sport shorts and a short-sleeve t-shirt for the first time since October. Overall, I was impressed by Austin’s very apparent active culture, the beautiful scenery, warm weather, and unique Barton Springs.townrun600

 

My favorite part of the day was heading out to dinner afterwards with my family and Ben to Salt Lick BBQ, located approximately 30-minutes outside Austin in Driftwood, a restaurant that arguably serves up the best barbecue in the area. The sprawling ranch, BYOB policy (my brother and Ben fittingly brought a 24-pack of Lone Star to share), and laid-back Texas charm made for a picture-perfect barbecue experience. We chatted and sipped from cans of Lone Star as we waited outside on picnic tables for a table in the dining room. Eventually, we were led to a table in the cozy, wood-paneled main dining room, which contained a massive round grill. We each ordered the all-you-can eat “family style” platter which includes heapings of beef, sausage, and pork ribs, served with potato salad, cole slaw, beans, bread, pickles, and onions. It was an amazing feast of delicious, Texas-style dry-rubbed meat. I took in my fair share, but was stunned by how much meat my skinny brother could put away. It was borderline disgusting. austin-tx-007

 

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I wish the night could have simply ended with a full belly and a great night of sleep, but the sleep part just wasn’t in the cards. We returned to the condo, which was vibrating as a result of the pulsating techno music emanating from the completely empty bar below. Tired and uneasy, we retreated to our beds and desperately tried to claim a few minutes of sleep. Long story short, my mom and I were awoken in the middle of the night by suspicious noises and squeals from the kitchen. We quickly woke my dad to investigate the situation, and he found himself face-to-face with a large rat who was enjoying a bag of peanut M&M’s I had left on the counter. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep the rest of the night, and we checked out of the condo the following morning. The “adventure” was over. After two sleepless nights, we were back on the road again, in search of new accommodations.

1 comment » | Vacation and Travel

Texas Chili

February 19th, 2009 — 7:08am

chili_31Last night I whipped up a batch of Texas Chili, perhaps in an attempt to re-connect with my recent vacation to Austin. Sadly, the only way I can re-create the warm weather of Texas in Madison is to make a bowl of piping hot chili. I used a recipe that I found a few years ago at Whole Foods, which was originally published in Cooks Illustrated Magazine. Unfortunately, I found out afterwards that most Texans wouldn’t even consider the recipe “real” Texas chili. My research points to the fact that purists believe “real” Texas chili contains no beans. Alas, my chili isn’t even Texas worthy, but at least it keeps me warm for a short while during these frigid February days in Wisconsin.

Texas Chili
2lb diced or course ground beef or turkey
2 cups pinto or red kidney beans
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
1 ½ cloves finely chopped garlic
2 large green peppers, diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 tsp. chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. oregano
4 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
¼ cup red wine
sea salt, to taste (optional)
grated cheddar cheese for garnish

Cover beans and soak overnight. Drain. Sear the meat until it turns grey; drain off excess fat. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, bay lead, red wine, salt, and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½–2 hours, until beans are tender.

Taste for seasoning and garnish with spoonfuls of grated cheddar cheese. Makes about 10 cups.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Austin Overview

February 17th, 2009 — 6:59am

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Here is the cliff notes version of my vacation. Many more pictures and details to follow….

Sunday
-Arrive in Austin mid-day
-Burgers at P.Terry’s
-Check into condo on 6th Street
-Run along Town Lake and the Barton Creek Greenbelt with my brother Kelly
-BBQ at the Salt Lick in Driftwood with my family and Kelly’s roommate Ben

Monday
-Check out of condo on 6th Street
-Check into downtown hotel
-Run along Barton Creek Greenbelt with my brother and dad
-Lunch at Home Slice Pizza on South Congress
-Coffee at Austin Java
-Dinner at Chuy’s (Tex-Mex) with my parents
-Live music: Bob Schneider at the Saxon Pub

Tuesday
-Coffee at Jo’s on South Congress
-Road trip to San Antonio (toured the Alamo, River Walk, La Villita, El Mercado, etc.)
-Lunch at Schilo’s Delicatessen
-Desserts at Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery
-Drinks at outdoor cafe along the the River Walk
-Drive back to Austin
-Dinner at Guero’s Taco Bar (Tex-Mex) with my family and Ben
-Drinks at Doc’s MotorWorks Bar & Grill

Wednesday
-Short run along Town Lake with my dad
-Breakfast at Flip Happy Crepes
-Informal tour of UT-Austin campus
-Lunch at Austin Pizza
-Shopping on South Congress (Uncommon Objects, Tesoros Trading Company, etc.)
-Mid-afternoon dessert at Hey Cupcake!
-Dinner at Moonshine with my friend and former boss, Kelly O.
-Drinks at the Ginger Man with my family, Ben, and Kelly O.
-Live music: Spazmatics at the Cedar Street Courtyard

Thursday
-Coffee at Progress
-Shopping on Lamar (including the largest and first Whole Foods)
-Lunch at Hut’s Burgers
-Pilgrimage to Lockhart, Texas (known as “the BBQ capital of Texas”) for ” Black’s Barbecue and Kruez Barbecue
-Live country music (Jesse Dayton) and dancing at Broken Spoke, known for the “best in Honkey Tonk Music in Texas”

Friday
-Run with my dad along Town Lake
-Breakfast at Flip Happy Crepes
-Road trip to Fredericksburg
-Wine tasting in the Hill Country: Texas Hills Vineyard, Pedernales Cellars, Woodrose Winery, Rancho Ponte Vineyard, Torre di Pietra, and Becker Vineyards 
-Lunch and live music at Silver Creek Restaurant and Biergarten in Fredericksbug
-Shopping at several botiques and galleries along Main Street in Fredericksburg
-Drive back to Austin
-Dinner at Ironworks BBQ
-Drinks with my family and Ben at Hula Hut on Lake Austin and the Spider House Cafe
-Late night doughnuts at Ken’s

Saturday
-Run with my dad along Town Lake
-Coffee at Mozart’s on Lake Austin
-Austin Half-Marathon packet pick-up
-Lunch at Maria’s Taco Express on South Lamer
-Hike up Mount Bonnell
-Dinner at Din Ho Chinese BBQ
-Dessert at Planet Yogurt

Sunday
-Run Austin Half-Marathon
-Watch Ben cross the finish line of his first marathon!
-Road trip back to Wisconsin

1 comment » | Vacation and Travel

Travel Update

February 16th, 2009 — 7:13pm

tx-249-cgreetings-from-austin-texas-postersI arrived  back in Madison this morning after a 20-hour road trip from Austin, Texas, where I enjoyed an incredible 8-day vacation with my family. I loved Austin more than I could have ever imagined…so much so that I honestly spent the entire week contemplating a move there.

No other city has tempted me in the same way. I just loved the interesting people, beautiful setting, warm weather, upbeat and quirky vibes, and the amazing array of live music and unique foods. Who knows what the future holds, but Austin has definitely made an impact and given me much to think about. Many pictures and stories to come…

Comment » | Vacation and Travel

Austin, I’ve Been Waiting For You

February 6th, 2009 — 3:24pm

6583-6Tomorrow morning, I depart on a 17-hour road trip with my parents to visit my brother in Austin, Texas for a week. I’m very excited to spend time with my family and to explore Austin, a city I’ve often heard compared to my beloved Madison. 

After much research, my family and I have created a “to do” list about a mile long with restaurants, bars, entertainment, day-trips, running routes, etc. Let’s just say I intend to eat a lot of tacos, listen to lots of live music, and drink a few Mexican Margaritas, which I hear are sheer bliss. We’ve rented a condo on 6th street, so we should be in the center of the action. The week will culminate with the Austin Marathon, which my brother’s roommate Ben is running. I’m registered to run the half, after which I’ll join the troops to cheer Ben to his first marathon finish! I’m ready, bring it on Austin.

1 comment » | Uncategorized

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