Archive for December 2010

Annual Christmas Day Run

December 25th, 2010 — 11:04am

dscn0629My family has an annual Christmas Day tradition to run from my parents’ house in Brookfield to the Milwaukee Lakefront (about 10 miles). I can’t remember exactly when the tradition first began, but we only took one year off—last year, when the flu decimated us one by one. But in good health, it’s a strong tradition that holds through the fiercest winds and highest snow accumulations. Here are my posts from our runs in 2008 and 2007.

This year was a little different with the notable absence of my brother, who didn’t make it home from San Francisco for the holidays (although he did Skype in for present opening). Amazingly, I actually missed his whining about having to get up so early for our run and his passionate pleas that we continue the tradition no matter what formidable conditions were thrown our way. dscn0645

Although it wasn’t quite the same without him, my dad and I set out on our normal route—down North Avenue, along the Menomonee River Parkway, through a variety of parks (Hart, Jacobus, and Doyne), and then up Wisconsin Avenue to the lake. As our designated pick-up driver, My mom drove down the lakefront and ran a few miles there before meeting us for the final stretch. dscn0638

Afterward we took fun pictures to commemorate our 2010 Christmas Day run. I especially like the jumping pictures. Now it’s off to Grandma D’s for family fun and great food. With ten miles under my belt, there’s plenty of room in my belly for some good Christmas day eating. I’m especially looking forward to the Dempsey family shrimp extravaganza and foodie present exchange.

Happy holidays to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day with your families and loved ones.

1 comment » | Family Fun

Christmas in the Big City

December 25th, 2010 — 6:04am

dscn0568Last weekend my best friend and I made our annual holiday pilgrimage to downtown Chicago for three indulgent days of shopping, eating, and taking in the lights and festivities of the city. It’s a trip I look forward to all year—my little taste of life in the big city.

As usual, my days revolved around food: breakfast each morning at Fox & Obel, frequent stops at Starbucks for my new favorite—Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, a nice sugar high from Sweet Mandy B’s, and great dinners at Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill and Topo Gigio, a quaint Italian restaurant in Old Town.

But certainly there were other highlights: peering down on the magnificent Great Tree and into the holiday windows at Marshall Fields…er, Macy’s (a Chicago holiday tradition for more than a century), running along the shore of Lake Michigan each morning, strolling down Michigan Avenue, exploring a wide variety of neighborhoods and shops, and uncovering the perfect tree-topper at my favorite downtown boutique, P.O.S.H.

It was a great weekend, indeed. But each year when it’s all said and done—my shopping bags brimming with newfound treasures, my belly protruding far beyond normal, and my Christmas spirits on high—I’m always eager to leave the big city behind. It turns out I’m not really cut out for life in the big city after all. But every once in a while, I love me a little taste.

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Peppermint Whoopie Pies

December 16th, 2010 — 2:51pm

december-2010-081You may remember my first attempt at Whoopie pies earlier this fall. I made Pumpkin Whoopie Pies…and they were delicious. It only seemed fitting that my next attempt would be to make Peppermint Whoopie Pies. And so I found a nice occasion (holiday office party), a great recipe (from Juliann Matthews by way of Paul Deen), and then set to work makin’ whoopie.

The pies were a big hit with my co-workers and friends. Some described them as a “giant oreo.” I especially loved the festive touch of crushed peppermint candies in the cream filling. The only thing I’d do differently next time is half the recipe (I certainly didn’t need to make 40 whoopie pies.) I’ll also warn you that these babies take time and patience—there are many steps involved. But I think it’s worth it for a special occasion. This recipe is a keeper.

In the spirit of the holidays, here are a few of my all-time favorite holiday recipes:

Nanimo Bars
Homemade Marshmallows
Swirled Peppermint Bark
Almond Buttercreams

Enjoy! Let me know if you have a favorite to share…include a link below.

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Ugly Holiday Sweater Party

December 16th, 2010 — 2:13pm

148295_10100186064781567_8610515_60312447_7709407_nLast weekend I attended my first ever “Ugly Holiday Sweater” party at my friends’ Ryan and Jill’s house. Based on a recommendation from a friend, I headed to Walmart to find an “ugly sweater.” It didn’t take long to uncover a festive sweater vest perfect for the occasion. Coupled with fuzzy Christmas tree ornaments from Claire’s, it was a nice little ensemble. The party was everything I hoped it would be. Although I didn’t take home the traveling trophy for “Best Ugly Sweater” this year, I did learn a lot from the experience. You can count on me to kick it up a notch next year.

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A Big Girl Christmas Tree

December 15th, 2010 — 11:16am

december-2010-105This year I finally purchased my first “big girl” Christmas tree. In previous years, I’d been disappointed with (and slightly embarrassed by) my barely-knee-high tree that cowered in a corner and pathetically sagged under the weight of an ever-growing ornament collection. This year I invested in the real deal. And by real, I mean fake. A $49 day-after-Thanksgiving door-buster from Home Depot. It’s a towering six foot number pre-lit with precisely spaced strands of white lights and decorated with artificial pine cones and berries. She’s a real beauty.

The Sunday after Christmas I dedicated my evening to tree assembly. And some will tell you that assembly of any kind is not my strong suit. Admittedly, I’m impatient and despise following what I believe are more often than not mindbogglingly unclear instructions. Lucky for me, setting up the tree was not rocket science, rather a matter of connecting four poles, separating and shaping branches, and plugging in lights. It was something even I could handle.

I stood back and admired the tree before setting to work on my next and favorite task—unpacking and hanging my collection of ornaments. I love unwrapping my ornaments from their tissue paper cocoons and taking a moment to recount the memory behind each. Growing up, my parents bought me an ornament each year to represent something important in my life. The ornaments are many and varied: there’s a globe from my birth year, an ice cream sundae from childhood, a swimmer inscribed with my nickname “Krit” from high school, a Bucky Badger from college, and perhaps most entertaining, Barbie (wearing a gown my mom hand-painted red) for the year I was named homecoming queen at UW. All the little memories that collectively represent my life.088

The end result was magnificent. But my eyes were immediately distracted by the unsightly tree base that screamed “artificial tree.” It was clear I needed to invest in a tree skirt. And despite my mom’s pre-St. Nick’s Day warnings (do not buy anything for yourself), I set out on a quest to find the perfect tree skirt. But I was quickly disheartened. The few tree skirts I found were generic, tacky, and extraordinary over-priced. After a few shopping trips, I had pretty much given up.

But like a Christmas miracle, over the weekend I received my annual St. Nick’s Day package from my parents. The box included an assortment of small goodies. Just when I thought I had reached the end, I felt something folded at the bottom of the package underneath a thick bed of tissue paper. Slowly, I uncovered a beautiful tree skirt my mom had quilted for me. My eyes lit up with joy and I rushed to put it in its place below the tree. It was absolutely perfect. My Christmas tree was finally complete. And once again I learned it’s always best to listen to mom.

1 comment » | Crafts & Design, Family Fun

A Conversation of Lunacy

December 10th, 2010 — 4:04pm

My new favorite YouTube video…

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Flea Market Finds

December 6th, 2010 — 5:20pm

A few pictures of this year’s favorite antique/flea market finds…




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Annual Christmas List

December 3rd, 2010 — 8:27pm

It’s time for my annual Christmas list! Definitely more for fun than anything. Here it goes. L-R (top-bottom): Care Free by Tatsuro Kiuchi (14″ x 11″ print), Assorted yarn, Assorted vinyl records, Jewelry by Erik Maes, Subscription to Saveur Magazine, Garmin 405, Le Creuset Signature Dutch Oven, Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen, Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Renato Poliafito.

Of course there’s more to the holidays than wish lists and gifts, but I do always have fun putting together a list of my most coveted items. What’s on your list this year?

2 comments » | Uncategorized

A Ruby Nouveau Feast

December 1st, 2010 — 6:53pm

ruby1The third Thursday of each November marks the release of the much-anticipated Beaujolais Nouveau—the first wine of the harvest or vin de primeur. It’s a tradition that originated in the Beaujolais region of France, but every year I celebrate right here in Wisconsin at Wollersheim Winery. You may remember my posts about Wollersheim’s Ruby Nouveau release in 2007 and 2009.

This year I traveled to the winery with my friend Julie, who happens to be a case club member. This, because she buys a lot of wine. Luckily, her elite status afforded us special privileges at the Ruby Nouveau release celebration, such as access to a private tasting event and discounts on bottles of wine. We joyfully made our way through the winery, tasting reds, whites, and everything in between. We scratched down notes as we went along and afterward purchased bottles of our favorites.pear

This year I took my Ruby Nouveau celebration even one step further. As soon as I got home, I cracked open a bottle of Ruby Nouveau and set to work making a Beaujoulais Nouveau inspired feast. I used recipes from the winery for Beef Bourguignon (which I served over a bed of Creme Fraiche Mashed Potatoes) and winemaker Philippe’s version of Ruby Pears. Philippe makes the recipe his own by starting with the following instruction: Open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass. Next, you essentially soak peeled pears in a bath of wine. Needless to say, it was a wonderful feast, and truly a celebration come full circle—from the Beaujolais region of France, to Wisconsin’s Wollersheim Winery, to my very own kitchen. Cheers!

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Dailymile Hot Toddy 5k

December 1st, 2010 — 7:08am

holiday-fantasy-of-lights-imageAccording to Wikipedia, Hot Toddy is a name given to mixed drink, usually including alcohol, that is served hot. Apparently hot toddies are traditionally drunk before going to bed and or in wet and/or cold weather.

So perhaps the rain on Monday night was really a blessing in disguise. But as I was leaving work that afternoon, it just seemed wet, dark, and cold. I didn’t think we’d have many takers for the Dailymile meet-up a few friends and I had planned for that evening.

Inspired by our Dailymile counterparts in San Francisco, we had put together a Madison Dailymile Holiday Fun Run, which was to be followed by hot toddies and snacks. Our plan was to meet at the Brittingham Boat House on Monona Bay at 6 p.m. to run to (and through) the Holiday Fantasy In Lights in Olin-Turville Park (a 5k run). Then over to my place for food and drinks.

Although our turnout was light (six runners total), our spirits were high. We had a fantastic run through the holiday lights. Damp and hungry, we came back to my place for warmth and replenishment. Inspired by an article I had saved from Martha Stewart Living (Oct. 2010), I made Spiced Brandy Wine with Spiced Gingered Cashews. It was the perfect way to top off a great run. The Spiced Brandy Wine burned oh so good, and the cashews were the perfect accompaniment—salty and sweet, with a little kick of cayenne pepper.

I hope we’ll be able to do it again in the next few weeks. Maybe we’ll get a few new faces to come out and join us. Following are the recipes I used for the Spiced Brandy Wine and Spiced Gingered Cashews. Definitely an excellent and festive choice for the holidays.


Spiced Brandy Wine
Bring 1 bottle (750 mL) light-bodied red wine (such as Beaujolais), 3 ounces brandy, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 whole cloves, 4 strips lemon zest (3 inches each), 2 cinnamon sticks, and 2 star anise to a simmer in a saucepan, covered, over high heat. Remove from heat; steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve. Ladle into 4 mugs; garnish with fresh lemon-zest strips. Makes 4.

hottoddy2Spiced Gingered Cashews
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Stir together 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Whisk 1 large egg white in a medium bowl until frothy. Stir 2 1/2 cups roasted cashews into egg white; toss to coat. Sprinkle sugar-and-spice mixture over nuts, and stir to coat. Arrange nuts in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake, stirring halfway through, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool, or serve warm. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen, Racing and Training

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