Archive for October 2012

Halloween Cross

October 28th, 2012 — 4:09pm

Yesterday’s cyclocross race at Washington Park in Milwaukee featured a Halloween theme, a great opportunity for the sport’s unique breed of zany, fun-loving personalities to take it up a notch. Over a sheath of spandex, many riders sported fur, horns, wigs and face paint, transforming the race into a full-fledged freak show. There was a penguin, unicorn, astronaut, Santa, and Sputnik—pride of the Soviet space program, just to name a few. Me? I was a ladybug with black-dotted, thigh-high red tights and wings, while Larry pulled on his old standby, an electric blue rock star wig.

The course featured a two-mile loop of run-ups, barriers and dozens of sharp turns, but also a few Halloween-themed touches, like a barrier made to look like a coffin, with the hand-painted, ominous message—bunny hop or die. Somehow I survived despite dismissing the warning. Not yet adept at the bunny hop technique, I instead got off my bike and carried it over the coffin, much to the disappointment of the surrounding spectators. But even so, I did get plenty of “go ladybug” cheers throughout the race.

It was a tough race. I was in third position after the initial sprint, and eventually made my way into the lead by the end of the first loop. But it was one of those races where second place is just ten seconds back and you can feel a presence behind you, seemingly getting closer and closer with each passing lap. I honestly don’t remember how many laps we did—5 or 6. I could tell I was tired as the race wore on—my turns were getting sloppy and I felt less powerful on the straightaways. At one point during the second-to-the-last loop, I misjudged a corner and ran into a tree, which knocked me off my bike a bit. Luckily, I recovered fairly quickly. I’ve found that the biggest challenge at the end of these races is trying to focus and be cautiously smooth on the corners, despite not being able to see clearly due to exhaustion and oxygen-debt. As always, it was a huge relief to hear the bell for the last lap, and finally cross the finish line. But still, it was a race until the finish. And it took everything I had to get there.

My parents were there to watch and document the action. I particularly enjoyed catching my dad’s proud smile at several points during the race. And amazingly,  my mom snapped nearly 200 pictures. Below are just a few of her great shots.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Iron Chef October Tailgate

October 26th, 2012 — 5:19am

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Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 10/24

October 24th, 2012 — 10:05am

Today’s Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch was dedicated to celebrating Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food. As part of the celebration, several businesses and organizations were at the cafe to promote their products and mission, including Black Earth Meats, Red Meat Market, REthink Wisconsin, Bloom Bake Shop, and the Office of Sustainability. Unfortunately, Bucky Badger, who was scheduled to appear from 11:30-12:30 p.m. seemed to be a no-show.

My picks for lunch included the Apple Onion Jam Mozzarella Kale Sandwich, Pork Belly Salad, Potato Leek Soup, and a chocolate chip sandwich with cream filling from Bloom Bake Shop. All were delicious and filing. And to top it all off, I enjoyed the company of several great friends and former co-workers.

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Sixth-Annual O’Brien Barn Dance

October 23rd, 2012 — 11:04am

Last  Saturday, Larry and I attended the sixth-annual Barn Dance at O’Brien Barn in Brooklyn with Larry’s parents. The event included a potluck at 5:30 p.m., followed by music and dancing at 7 p.m. (featuring the Briarpickers and Caller Mike Mossman). Larry’s parents had attended the dance with neighbors the year before and invited us to come along this time. The event was as great as I imagined it would be—full of people of all ages getting together to have a good time.

The potluck featured an incredible variety of dishes, many of which we sampled while perched upon stacks of hay. After dinner, we headed upstairs to the dance floor. It was a beautiful space, lit with tiny white lights and a giant, open window overlooking several people gathered around a crackling bonfire below. The dance floor was packed, with hundreds of people clustered in groups learning various square dances. After observing the first dance (and the big smiles on everyone’s faces), Larry and I hopped into the mix for the next round. We had a great time, met several nice people, ran into a few old friends, and learned how to dosey doe and promenade.

This way to the barn dance

I ran into a former co-worker, Fred!

The dance floor before the action began

The Briarpickers

The event flyer

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FurtherCross Race – 10/14

October 19th, 2012 — 11:17am

Last Sunday I raced in my fifth cyclocross race—FurtherCross, held at Badger Prairie Park in Verona. To say it was wet and muddy would be an understatement. I was there early to watch Larry’s race, and as the morning went on, the course conditions only continued to deteriorate. Soon, the course was one big muddy mess. A big part of me considered skipping the race, but ultimately I decided to give it a shot. It would be my first time riding in mud—an adventure for sure, and certainly a good learning experience.

Only four women toed the start line for the Category 3 race. Luckily, Larry had given me good advice beforehand. He told me to go out conservatively, and warned that riding in mud takes a lot of extra energy. He was right, it seemed 10x more difficult. Almost immediately, my breaks and gears were locking up from all of the caked-on mud. I tried to power through it and find the least muddy part of the course (not always easy). Running up a steep set of stairs (once each loop, five loops) was the most physically challenging part of the race. On my third time up the stairs, a spectator yelled, “You’re running up those stairs like a girl!” I wanted to yell back, “But I am a girl!” Did I mention that heckling is a big part of the culture of cyclocross? When I passed a few guys in the Category 3 race, the spectators sure gave those guys a hard time.

My friends Dano and Dione braved the cold and rain to come check out the race and cheer for me. Actually, Dano ran to the race in Verona from his house in Madison. That was a fun surprise! It was great to see their big smiles throughout the race, and Dano captured several great photos.

After the race, I huddled around a bonfire with fellow-racers to try to warm up, and also enjoyed a sample of Furthermore Fallen Apple beer (tasty!). Cleaning all the mud off myself was no easy task, but luckily Larry had the ingenious idea to take our bikes through a car wash. I wish I had pictures of that.


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An Evening With Radioactive Author Lauren Redniss

October 18th, 2012 — 6:08am

On Monday night I attended a presentation by Lauren Redniss, author of Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Currie: A Tale of Love and Fallout. The book was selected this year for Go Big Read, UW-Madison’s common reading program. Admittedly, I was disappointed when I first picked up the book. As science was always my least favorite subject in school, the idea of reading about radioactivity seemed less than thrilling. And it also looked like a children’s book—complete with, what I assumed to be, superfluous illustrations and the overuse of color and cute fonts.

But luckily, my initial impressions turned out to be completely wrong. It was one of the most interesting and unique books I’ve ever read. It’s poetic, artistic, scientific, historical, and in so many ways, defies categorization. Redniss uses the interplay of art and text to tell the story of Marie and Pierre Currie—their love, work, and the modern repercussions of their research.

What I found so interesting about the book is the combination of all the creative elements, and how Redniss weaves them together to amplify the book’s themes and form deeper meaning. For example, the images in the book are made using a process called cyanotype printing (representing the “internal light” of radium). Furthermore, Redniss created the book’s unique font after being inspired by the formality and imperfection of title pages of manuscripts at the New York Public Library, and named the font Eusapia LR, after a spiritualist whose seances the Curies attended.

It was great to attend Redniss’ presentation on Monday evening at UW’s Union South. She talked a bit about what inspired the book (a combination of wanting to expand beyond her New York Times Op Art pieces and tell longer stories, coupled with a desire to incorporate elements that her previous book didn’t have). She also showed photos from her travels while researching Radioactive, provided a glimpse of pages from her sketch book and demonstrated how she pieced together one illustration in the book. Redniss ended with a brief reading from Radioactive, and provided a preview of her current project—apparently she was inspired to work on a book about weather after joking to a friend that, after Radioactive, her next book would be about “rainbows and clouds.”

Through it all, I loved her sense of curiosity, humility, beautiful smile, and how genuinely honored she seemed to have had her book selected for UW’s reading program.  She mentioned how grateful she is to have the opportunity to explore, write and create. I can’t imagine more fulfilling work.

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UW Slow Food Cafe Lunch – 10/17

October 17th, 2012 — 8:04am

This week’s Slow Food Cafe Lunch featured Malaysian dishes imagined by a SFUW intern who loves sharing her culture through recipes from home (she’s been in the U.S. attending UW-Madison since 2011). My lunch picks included spiced baked chicken with cabbage and white rice, cooked vegetables with spicy peanut dressing, clear beef soup, and baked pumpkin custard. Delicious! I especially enjoyed the spicy peanut dressing and the rice. Also caught up with my friend Liz, a post-doc in the Entomology department, who I met at a cafe lunch last semester.

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Chilaquiles with Fried Eggs

October 16th, 2012 — 3:53am

Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish Larry introduced me to shortly after we started dating. To me, it seems like the ultimate comfort food, the Mexican equivalent of a gourmet bowl of mac ‘n cheese, with intricate layers of flavor and texture.

The best chilaquiles I’ve had (although admittedly, I’m yet to try the dish in Mexico) was at a restaurant in Austin, Texas called Polvos. Larry ordered the chilaquiles for breakfast, and they came served with fried eggs on top. It was a beautiful and incredibly delicious and filling meal we talked about for days.

It only seemed fitting to try to recreate chilaquiles with fried eggs  for Larry’s birthday in late August. Armed with a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, I made the red chile sauce from scratch, yet cheated on the tortilla chips (I used pre-made chips instead of frying my own). The resulting dish was delicious and well worth the time and effort. Luckily, we had plenty of extra red chile sauce, which we froze and used a few weeks later to celebrate Larry’s birthday all over again.

Chilaquiles with Fried Eggs (from Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes 4 servings)

Red chile sauce:
7 dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
1 medium white onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapenño, with seeds, chopped
1/8 teaspoon smoked or Hungarian sweet paprika
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

For assembly:
Vegetable oil (for frying)
9 6″ corn tortillas, quartered, or 36 large tortilla chips
Kosher salt
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
4 large eggs
Finely chopped white onion
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

For red chile sauce:
Place chiles in a medium bowl; cover with 2 cups boiling water. Let chiles soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Discard stems and seeds; place chiles in a blender. Add tomatoes, next 4 ingredients, and 1 cup reserved soaking liquid; purée until smooth.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add purée (it will splatter) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes (add more reserved soaking liquid if too thick). Stir in honey and season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before using.

For assembly:
Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1 1/2″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in skillet with bulb submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°F. Working in batches, fry tortillas, occasionally turning with tongs, until crisp, 2-3 minutes. Transfer chips to prepared sheet and season with salt.

Preheat broiler. Toss chips and 1 cup sauce in a large bowl. Transfer half of chips to a large ovenproof platter or skillet. Scatter half of cheeses over chips. Top with remaining chips and cheeses, along with 1/2 cup more sauce. Broil until cheese is golden and melted, 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour oil into a nonstick skillet to lightly coat. Heat over medium heat. Add eggs and fry until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes.

Top chilaquiles with chopped onion, radishes, cilantro, and lime wedges. Top with fried eggs and serve with remaining sauce alongside.

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Cross the Domes – MKE 10/6

October 11th, 2012 — 10:51am

Last Saturday, Larry and I traveled to Milwaukee to compete in Cross the Domes, a cyclocross race at Mitchell Park (home of the domes) hosted by the Milwaukee-based team My Wife Inc. (MWI). It was my fourth cyclocross race and my first time competing as a category three rider. I had upgraded a few days prior to the race after receiving advice from fellow riders and friends. I’m still learning the ropes with bike racing, but essentially there are four categories for both male and female riders. The categories allow riders to compete with other riders who are at about the same ability. Once a rider starts doing well in a particular category, they “upgrade” by descending in category. Or risk being called a “sandbagger.”

Saturday was unseasonably windy and chilly. Larry’s race was in the morning and mine was early in the afternoon. The course featured stairs, a long, steep hill and countless sharp corners and bumpy terrain. When I lined up with about a dozen other category three women, I was happy to see that a few other riders I had gotten to know from previous races had also upgraded from category four. But even with a few familiar faces, I was so nervous and not knowing what to expect that I nearly felt sick to my stomach.

I started in the second row and was able to get into the second position after the initial sprint. In hindsight, I probably went out too hard, failing to fully consider the duration of the race—45 minutes, a full 15 minutes longer than what I had grown accustomed to during category four races. The toughest part of the loop was throwing my bike up on my shoulder and running up a giant hill, which launched me into total oxygen debt (in hindsight, I should have ridden up half the hill and just rolled my bike up the rest). At one point, I was leading the race, but that didn’t last long. The thing about cyclocross, though, is that you never know what is going to happen next. The  leader slipped on a corner and fell off her bike, and I was able to take the lead for a bit longer. But as I expected, she recovered quickly and passed me again a few minutes later. After five excruciating laps, I finally sprinted into the finish line for second place.

My favorite part of the race was when, on the last loop, Larry shouted to me, “you know you want the biggest cupcake!” in reference to the cupcakes given to the top three places in the race (sized in descending order). Clearly, he knows me well. My parents were also at the race—so it was awesome to see them out on the course cheering. My mom took some fantastic photos, which I think really capture the scene well.

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Pumpkin Muffins

October 10th, 2012 — 10:43am

Something about the month of October always inspires me to bake all things pumpkin. In the last three days alone, I’ve made pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, and now, pumpkin muffins. I like simple pumpkin recipes, and this one fits the bill. The recipe makes a light, moist, flavorful muffin, sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon-sugar. Quick, easy and delicious.

Pumpkin Muffins (from Smitten Kitchen via Gourmet Magazine, adapted from the American Club in Kohler, Wisc.)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice (I made my own)
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners in muffin cups.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

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