Thursday, December 27, 2007

Boston Bound

This afternoon, I finally registered for the 2008 Boston Marathon, the 112th running of the legendary event (making it the world's oldest annually contested marathon). This year's race is on Monday, April 21, which conincides with Patriots' Day, as has been the case since the race's inception. The course follows a point-to-point route from rural Hopkinton to Boston, and includes the infamous "heartbreak hill," which is a steep ascent over one-half mile between the 20 and 21 mile marks, in the vicinity of Boston College. The race is capped at 25,000 participants, all of whom must meet tough designated qualifiying time standards, based on sex and age group.

In order to qualify for the race, I needed to hit at or below a 3:45 marathon. I qualified out of the Detroit Marathon, both in 2005 and 2006. My 2006 time of 3:30 made the mark by more than 15 minutes. Each qualifying time is then good for two years. Karen and I decided that 2008 would be our year to finally run the Boston Marathon. We have reservations at a quaint bed and breakfast in Cambridge, very close to Harvard. I've never been to Boston before, so I am very excited to explore the city and be apart of this very pretigious race.

It's a joke in our family that when I was much younger (maybe 10), my dad once told me when I was running with him on the YMCA track that I was so slow it was "painful" to run with me (I know it sounds bad, but he didnt' really mean it like that.) And now I'm Boston bound. And that's very meaningful to me since I've worked hard for many, many years to become a runner. I've persevered through doubts and countless injuries, to follow one of my greatest loves, the simple act of running.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nanaimo Bars

On Saturday afternoon, I made the much-awaited trip home to Brookfield, to spend Christmas with my family. Although I've only been here 24-hours, I already feel relaxed and rejuvenated, especially after a full eight-hours of sleep last night, which was heaven. My mom and I have been driving around town finishing our last-minute shopping, and this morning we made a trip to the grocery store for necessary ingredients and have spent the last several hours baking and cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

I just completed a batch of Nanaimo Bars, a family recipe that Karen recently shared with me. I had the bars for the first time when I spent Thanksigiving with her family, and they were one of the most delicious desserts I've ever tasted. Karen's mother was a very proud Canadian who often served these bars with tea. The recipe is a popular Candadian dessert that originated in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, in the 1950's. It's a three-layer no-bake recipe, that consists of a crumb-based layer, a custard layer, and a top layer of chocolate. Mmm...delicious.

Bottom layer:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa (not Dutch processed)
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 cup coconut

1/2 cup soft butter
2 tbsp. vanilla custard poweder
2 cups powedered sugar
2 tbsp. cream or milk

Top layer:
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate

Butter (or use a cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan.

Bottom layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Filling: Cream the butter with an electric beater. Beat in the remaining ingredients. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Top Layer: In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Spread over the filling and refrigerate.

To prevent the chocolate from cracking, using a sharp knife, bring the squares to room temperature before cutting. Makes about 25 square.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Last Minute Shopping?

Still looking for a nice gift for that special someone? Look no further. It's all about the hot chocolate kit. And so, it's time to break out your culinary skills and whip up a batch of homemade melt-in-your-mouth peppermint marshmallows. The recipe for these delicious morsels was featured in the Holidaze issue of ReadyMade. And Santa, if you're still listening, I'd really like to ammend my Christmas list to include a subscription to ReadyMade. That is, if it's not too late. And for your shopping ease, I've even included a direct link to the subcription page. I'm generally thoughtful like that.

The last post is a play-by-play video of making the marshmallows. The video was created by the folks at San Fransico based Curiosity Shoppe, which I have recently become obsessed with. The online store is billed as the "Crafts, Kits, & Curios for the Creatively Inclined." I'm especially interested in the "Great Outdoors Notecard Set," which is sadly, but only temporarily, out of stock. Thankfully, there's still hope.

Homemade Marshmallows

Swirled Peppermint Bark

Here is another one of my favorite holiday recipes. I love peppermint bark, and the bark from Williams Sonoma is devine. However, the $24.50 price tag is outrageous! Who wants to pay that kind of money for bark? A few years ago, I searched for a recipe for a homemade version, and below is what I came up with. It's very simple, and the swirled, tasty treat will be a hit at any holiday party!

10 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped or as chips
10 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped or as chips
4 oz. candy canes, crushed

Line a cookie sheet with two lengths of aluminum foil; there should be enough foil so that the entire inside of the pan is lined. Place the semisweet chocolate in one medium microwaveable bowl and the white chocolate in another.

Heat the semisweet chocolate in the microwave at medium (50%) power for one minute. Remove from microwave; stir thoroughly (about one minute). Microwave at 50% (medium) power for additional shorter intervals, stirring thoroughly after each, just until chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside at room temperature. Repeat melting instructions with white chocolate.

Pour the melted semisweet chocolate in a thin stream onto the bottom of the lined pan, moving the bowl around as you do so. Try to keep the chocolate about one-half inch away from all of the edges. Repeat the pouring with the melted white chocolate, again covering as large an area as possible and trying to stay about a half-inch away from all edges.

Using a toothpick or flat knife, marble the chocolates together, trying to fill in any gaps so that you have one layer of two types of chocolate that covers the bottom of the lined pan. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes all over the layer of melted chocolate, as evenly as possible.

Tear off a single sheet of foil about the length of the pan. Place it directly on top of the candy canes you’ve sprinkled on the chocolate. Gently press down on the foil sheet to firmly embed the crushed candy canes in the chocolate layer. Leave the foil sheet on top of the bark, and refrigerate the whole thing for about 30 minutes. At the end of that time, the top sheet of foil should easily peel off the bark.

Once the top sheet of foil is peeled off, quickly break the bark into small pieces. Place the bark pieces in an airtight storage container, and refrigerate until about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


To the snow plow driver who kept me up all night, you are an evil man and have now earned yourself years and years of bad karma by taking away my precious sleep. And you know that "beeb, beeb" sound that your truck makes when you are backing up? Well, I can't get that sound out of my mind. It's just reverberating through my sleep deprived, aching head. For that, at least, I hope you are sorry.

Tis' the Season

'Tis the season to watch my all-time favorite movie, Serendipity. A true classic starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. Below is a plot synopsis:

In a bustling department store just days before Christmas, Jonathan meets Sara when both try to buy the same pair of gloves. Two strangers amid the masses in New York City, their paths collide in the mad holiday rush as they feel a mutual attraction. Despite the fact that each is involved in another relationship, Jonathan and Sara spend the evening travelling Manhattan. But when the night reaches its inevitable end, the two are forced into determining some kind of next step. When the smitten Jonathan suggests an exchange of phone numbers, Sara balks and proposes an idea that will allow fate to take control of their future. If they are meant to be together, she tells him, they will find their way back into one another's life.

The majority of the film takes place seven years later, and consists largely of repeated "almost coincidences" where the two romantic leads almost, but not quite, meet.

Love this movie. No complicated plot, nor deep rooted symbolism. Just a charming love story that always leaves me wishing for a real life version for myself. It will happen. Come hither, Jonathan Trager. I'm yours! I also love the movie's soundtrack. Especially Northern Sky by Nick Drake. Serendipity is the only movie that I can recite nearly ever line to (and obviously, in doing so, annoy the hell out of anyone watching it with me.) But, I can't help myself. This is the perfect holiday movie!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sedaris' Santaland

"I wear green velvet knickers, a forest green velvet smock, and a perky little hat decorated with spangles. This is my work uniform..."

One of my favorite parts of my recent rendezvous in Chicago was seeing the stage adaptation of David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries at The Theatre Building Chicago. As many of you know, David Sedaris is is an award-winning comedic author and radio contributor. Many of his books are essay collections, and two of his most popular are Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004) and Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), both of which became New York Times Best Sellers. I kid you not when I tell you that they are roll-on-the-ground hilarious.

Sedaris' Santaland Diaries is the essay that, in 1992, launched his career when it broadcast on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. In fact, the New York Times described how the broadcast made Sedaris "a minor phenomenon." In the essay, Sedaris recounts his days as a Christmas elf at Macy's department store in New York City. You must listen to the NPR broadcast here. I promise that it will be the most hilarious thing you'll hear all day.

When we saw the stage adaptation in Chicago, it was equally hilarious. Mitchell J. Fain played the perfect David Sedaris (a.k.a. Crumpet, the elf). It was just a one-man show, in a very tiny theater, but so much personality and humor was packed into the performance. Amazingly, the show wasn't even sold out, and tickets were a steal. At least check out the NPR broadcast and let me know what you think! I hope it will make you laugh out loud, too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Weekend's Top Ten

Snowshoeing on the shores of Green Lake

At the Finish of the Finnish Five

Mad Rollin' Dolls Roller Derby

Over the weekend, I…

1. Enjoyed my favorite Friday night fish fry at the Mecan River Lodge in Princeton, Wisconsin.
2. Snowshoed along the shores of Green Lake.
3. Raced in Madison’s Hash House Harrier’s Finnish Five (in celebration of Finnish independence).
4. Watched the Ice Queens battle against the Candy Canes at the Mad Rollin’ Dolls Roller Derby Holiday Expo.
6. Ran around Madison’s Lake Monona (~10 miles).
7. Attended my first UW–Madison commencement ceremony.
8. Observed ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt address the class of 2007.
9. Attended a wedding reception at the Eldorado Grill.
10.Reviewed enough admission applications to make my head hurt.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Banana Split

Shortly after receiving my celebratory "one year" pin from Gap Inc., I have resigned from Banana Republic, perhaps retiring from the retail industry for good. My last official day is Wednesday. Which coincidentally saves me from the very worst of the holiday traffic. But I promise that I didn't plan that. So after Wednesday, my days of inredible clothing discounts come to a crashing end. So for those of you who have been using me for my discount over the last year (Seif), you don't have to pretend to be my friend anymore (j/k).

The reason for my resignation is threefold: I now have more clothes than I could ever need (umm...just kidding, I don't think there is ever such a point), I am too overwhelmed at my full-time job to handle a second job, and 90% of my Banana colleagues left when our general manager switched over to Anthropology earlier this fall, which has resulted in a working environment that, quite frankly, sucks. I can't tell you how much I despise condescending signs plastered all over the store that are signed "the management." Like, "Do not throw away liquids in the trash can. This is disgusting. The Management." I cannot handle that. Thus, the Banana Era hath come to an end.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Man Fur Spotted

Many people sporting long furs on Michigan Avenue over the weekend, which reminded me of my time living in Aspen. Check out this man fur. I wonder if he noticed Karen and I behind him, laughing and snapping pictures. He was asking for it, if you ask me. If only he could put a little bit of that fur on his head. Just kidding, I love bald men. Especially my dad ;)

Wicked Tix

Here's a picture of me after having just secured Wicked tickets! Finally the giant witch hat was good to me! Speaking of hats, I love hats. Do you like my hat in this picture? I picked it up earlier this fall, and finally broke it out for my trip to the city. Karen calls it my riding hat. She always asks if I'm heading to the stables whenever I'm wearing it. As if.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Front Row, Center

Front row, center, baby. That's where I had the privilege of sitting during Tuesday night's performance of Wicked at Chicago's Oriental Theatre. Wicked is currently one of the most popular theatrical events in the United States. The musical is based on the popular 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." The musical is essentially an extension of the Wizard of Oz narrative that re-examines the ethical positions of the two witches in the original story. Below is a brief synopsis:

Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two unlikely friends end up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch makes for the most spellbinding new musical in years.

I have wanted to see Wicked for years. Every show is usually sold out, and it's very difficult and expensive to find tickets. Each time I go to Chicago I enter the day-of-performance drawing for $25 seats in the front two rows. So, per usual, on Tuesday morning, I walked to the Oriental theater to enter my name in the drawing. Karen walked over during her conference's lunch break to enter her name. Then we came back at 5:30pm for the drawing. I expected dissapointment as always, but amazingly, and finally, I was the third name drawn, securing two front row seats for the 7:30pm show.

I loved the show. It was even better than I had hoped for. It was funny and heartwarming, and the acting, singing, and set were superb. But I am now paying the price of exhaustion, after having arrived back in Madison at 2 p.m. that morning, and then heading into both jobs yesterday. Ouch. But it was well worth it!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas In the City

I am heading to Chicago tonight for four full days of fun and vacation (Saturday through Tuesday)! Karen has an annual conference that she attends downtown each December, and I always tag along and bum around the city for a few days. It's one of my favorite weekends of the entire year. Nothing beats December in the city. It's just so alive with holiday excitement and cheer. We stay at the Sheraton, which is right off Michigan Avenue. It's an awesome location, with quick access to fabulous shopping and restaurants. Not to mention, the carolers and holiday cookies/cider in the lobby!

So what is my plan for the next few days? I plan to: drink lot of hot chocolate, ice skate at Millenium Park, celebrate Seif's faux 30th birthday at Uncle Julio's, attend afternoon tea at the Drake Hotel, possibly see the Santa Land Diaries, eat breakfast every morning at Fox and Obel, enter the lottery for Wicked tickets, and shop 'til I drop. I am SO EXCITED and very much looking forward to my mini-vacation!

Holiday Cookies (Recipe #1)

These are one of my favorite holiday cookies. I got the recipe last year from my Aunt Toby. I made them last night for the first time for my office holiday party tonight. Pretty simple, no bake recipe. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Bon Bons

2 c crunchy peanut butter
2 c Rice Krispies
1-12 oz. pkg. mini-chocolate chips
1 1/2 c powder sugar
4 tpsp melted butter

Almond bark/white chocolate

Mix first five ingredients together. Shape into balls and put on wax paper-lined cookie sheets. Freeze.

Melt a few pieces of almond bark at a time. Take out a few balls--leave remaining in freezer until ready so they do not thaw--and dip into melted almond bark. Let harden on wax paper.

Makes about 5 dozen.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I hope this holiday season finds you well. As you probably already know, I have been a very, very good girl this year. As such, below I have included my Christmas list for your reading pleasure.

1. Subscription to the The New Yorker

2. Running Pants (Spartan Pant (M) from Brooks)

3. Winter Hats (Pokydot or Ali Dots Hat from Jytte)

4. Ski Gloves (Women’s One Gloves from REI)

5. Running Gloves (Women’s Paradox Mitten from Brooks)

6. Smart Wool Socks

7. Silicone Rolling Pin

8. Prairie Fume Wine from Wollersheim Winery

9. Backpack (Paragon Pack from Patagonia)

10. Books/Vinyl Records

If you or the elves have any questions, please let me know. I promise to leave lots of milk and cookies this year, Santa! Love, Kristin

St. Jackie's Surprise

Here is the wonderful array of small gifts that St. Jackie sent me for St. Nick's Day! The theme was Peppermint, and all of the items, from tea, to hand lotion, to soap, to chocolate bark, centered on that theme. Thank you, St. Jackie! What a wonderful surprise to receive on the door step upon arriving home from work last night!


Last winter, a group of my friends from Ann Arbor (whom I met during grad school) and I competed against each other in a virtual running race across the country. Each day, we would go to to log our actual running mileage. From our private league page, we could view everyone’s standings and locations on a map of the course. On the side bar of the page was a comments section where everyone could talk smack, which was the real motivator. We often commented about the frigid weather or who was kicking whose ass.

As of November 26th, we’re at it again. This time we’re running from Los Angeles to San Francisco on U.S. Highway 101, a total distance of 471 miles. Currently, there are 14 contenders. My friend Aaron is in the lead with 45.2 miles as of today. I am in second place with 35.5 miles. I just reached Santa Monica this morning, and now have 80.5 miles to the next checkpoint, which is Santa Barbara. Some haven’t even started running yet. I, myself, was ready to get out of LA as quickly as possible.

The virtual league is a really great way to stay motivated during the winter. Whether you’re a walker, runner, or biker, there are many events to keep you motivated. Some are open to everyone, and others are private leagues in which you can invite your friends and family to join you. Below is an excerpt from the Roadtrip Web site:

The driving force behind Roadtrip is the belief that a little motivation to get someone running or walking will do wonders for their health, their fitness levels, and their outlook on life. This philosophy has led to the tracking method of applying an individual's daily walking or running miles to a real point-to-point journey on a map such as Route 66, or Daytona Beach to Miami Beach, or Edinburgh to London.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Favorite Holiday

Believe it or not, today is my favorite holiday of the year. It's St. Nick's Day! According to German tradition, St. Nicholas was a third century saint and Bishop who was known for his secret gift giving. In Germany, and throughout much of Europe, many children put a boot outside their front door on the night of December 5th. That night, St. Nicholas visits and fills their boots with small gifts to be found the next morning.

Growing up in Milwaukee, which still has very strong German influences, my family always celebrated the German custom of St. Nick's Day. I loved the thrill of running to my stocking on the morning of December 6th to see what St. Nick (aka Elf Jackie) had left me for being such a good girl. Usually, it was lots of candy and small gifts. My mom always included her trademark LifeSaver Sweet Storybook. Despite the fact that I've never liked LifeSaver candies, the inclusion of this small item year after year always brought a smile to my face.

Although my childhood has long since passed, my family continues to celebrate St. Nick's Day, and I've introduced the tradition to many new friends. My roommate Karen knows just how much I love St. Nick's Day, so unbeknownst to me, she awoke early this morning to leave out a stocking full of goodies for me (clearly, I have been a good roommate this year). I did the same for her, and we excitedly dug through our stockings together early this morning. Elf Jackie has assured me that more goodies are on their way from Nevada. Thus, I await anxiously.

This Morning's Run

This morning Karen, Emily and I met for a run at 5:45 a.m. before work. It was 3 degrees with a windchill of -4 degrees. It was painful. Very painful. Our faces were just covered in sweat turned frost. You can see the lingering frost on Emily's eyelashes in this picture. I kept looking at those two yahoos during our run, their faces just covered in frost, thinking, surely I don't look like that right now!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Where Art Thou?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Then We Came to the End

Last night I finally finished reading a really great novel called Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris. I say finally because I was to have finished the novel for a book club party that Karen and I hosted in October. Since I've always been on top of these sorts of things, obviously circumstances completely out of my control hindered a more timely completion of this novel. Anyways, it's a hilarious debut novel about several copywriters and designers at a Chicago ad agency who face layoffs at the end of the '90s Internet boom. I was hooked from the very beginning. The novel's prologue is especially funny. Here's an excerpt:

We were fractious and overpaid. . . It was the era of take-ones and tchotchkes. The world was flush with Internet cash and we got our fair share of it. It was our position that logo design was every bit as important as product performance and distribution systems. 'Wicked cool' were the words we used to describe our logo designs. 'Bush league' were the words we used to describe the logo designs of other agencies -- unless it was a really well-designed logo, in which case we bowed down before it, much like the ancient Mayans did their pagan gods. We, too, thought it would never end.

I found that I enjoyed the novel as the plot thickened, and things got a little more serious with Lynn's illness and layoffs (appropriately referred to in the novel as "walking Spanish"--a euphemism for being fired, inspired by Spanish pirates walking toward execution). I also loved the "collective We" that Ferris employs in the novel, in which mere surface descriptions are given of the seemingly petty and eccentric copywriters, contrasted with the vivid, deep, and descriptive portrayal provided for Lynn (which, I must say, effectively broke my heart). Ferris=literary genius.

Although I've never actually watched an episode of The Office, the popular NBC sit-com, I would assume the same sort of office humor applies here. I really think anybody involved in advertising, design, or any sort of office culture would really enjoy this book. I was thinking that my brother and high school friend Katy might enjoy it most.

Here's another enjoyable exerpt:

It reminded Carl of when an ad got watered down by a client, and watered down, until everything interesting about the ad disappeared. Carl still had to write the copy for it. The art director still had to put the drop shadow where the drop shadow belonged and the logo in its proper place. That was the process known as 'polishing the turd'. All over America, in fact, people were up and out of their beds today in a continuing effort to polish turds. Sure, for the sake of survival, but more immediately, for the sake of some sadistic manager or shit-brained client whose small imagination and numbingly dumb ideas were bleaching the world of all relevancy and hope.

This one really made me think of my brother and the life of a designer. Just that feeling of frustration that nobody gets it. And they never will. And so, I will leave you with that. This book is a gem. It will leave you laughing out loud. But not in an annoying You Shall Know Our Velocity (Dave Eggers) sort of way, but more of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (also Dave Eggers) sort of way. You see?

Monday, December 3, 2007

An Event Planner's Worst Nightmare

Over the last few years, I’ve learned from first hand experience that bad weather is an event planner’s worst nightmare. Most of my work in the Office of Admissions focuses on planning large-scale recruitment events on campus and around the country for prospective and admitted students. One such program is an invitation-only overnight visit program for top admitted students. Less than ten-percent of admitted students are invited to attend, all of whom are very much Ivy-league caliber students. Our goal is to give these students a personalized and in-depth campus experience, in hopes that they will ultimately choose Wisconsin!

The program takes place over two days (essentially 24-hours in the life of a Wisconsin student), with programming for the visiting students as well as their parents. The program’s primary component is the opportunity for the visiting students to stay overnight with current student hosts in the residence halls, and then attend meals and classes with that student the following morning. The event also consists of a faculty presentation, admissions presentation, university staff panel, current student panel, campus walking tour, a resource fair with close to twenty university offices represented (i.e., honors program, academic advisors, student organization office, etc.). Luckily, I have a wonderful student worker named Chloe who recruits and matches all of the current student hosts with the visiting prospective students, which is no easy task.

The planning for each of these events spans an entire year, and this past weekend (Sunday and Monday) was the first of this year’s three sessions. This session was exclusively for Wisconsin students, and families were planning to travel in on Sunday from all over the state. Imagine my anxiety on Friday when first learning of the approaching winter storms heading towards Madison. I had forty-five students and their parents registered to attend, and countless other details confirmed, the success of which all hinged on Mother Nature. The unpredictable whore.

As many of you know, it snowed and snowed all day on Saturday in Wisconsin. After getting my car stuck in the snow on Saturday night (and having to abandon it there on the side of the road), I thought to myself that there was no way these students were going to make it to campus on Sunday. After walking into the office on Sunday morning, and expecting to find a barrage of e-mails and voice messages from students canceling their visit due to the weather, I was pleasantly surprised to have only received three such messages.

In an effort to be proactive, I composed and sent an e-mail to all of the program registrants letting them know that the program would go on, but if they did not feel safe traveling, we would be more than happy to transfer their registration to a different date. Then, I sat and waited. The fate of my program was no longer in my hands. It was up to mother nature. And I’ve already established my thoughts about her.

Amazingly, thirty-eight students and their parents were able to make it to campus safely yesterday afternoon for the start of the program. A few hours ago we finished up with what I think was a very successful program. Just another day in the Office of Admissions. And now, I am ready for a drink.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Madison's 11th Annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival

After a nice long run and coffee tomororw morning, here's where I plan to head. I've never been before, but it sounds very cool. Might even find some great holiday gifts!

The 11th Annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Fair trade education and gifts made by real people making real wages. Products include handcrafts, ornaments, rugs, pottery, coffee, chocolate, cheese, gift baskets, textiles and toys.

Date: Saturday, December 1, 2007
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Location: MATC's downtown campus
Directions: Carroll Street between Dayton and Johnson

Award Winning Texas Bowl o' Red

And here is the recipe for my award-winning bowl of chili, which I found in the Williams Sonoma Southwest Cookbook. I can't honestly say that I enjoyed it all that much (too spicy), but others thought it had great flavor.
Texas Bowl 'o Red
3 lb (1.5 kg) boneless beef chuck
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp ground New Mexico chili
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
2 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
2 tsp freshly ground canela or 1tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (28 oz) plum (Roma) tomatoes with juice, pureed
1 oz (30 g) bittersweet chocolate
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp masa harine stirred into 1/4 cup water (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
sour cream

1. Trim any excess fat from the beef, then cut into ½-inch cubes. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the onion and saute until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes longer. Raise the heat to high and, in batches, add the beef and brown well on all sides, 8-10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the ground chile, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, canela or cinnamon, oregano, and pureed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and summer uncovered, stirring frequently until thickened, about 1 hour.

2. Add the chocolate, sugar, and the diluted masa harina, if you wish to thicken the stew slightly, and stir to combine. Cook for 15-20 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

3. Ladle into warmed bowls, garnish with a dollop of sour cream, and serve immediately

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kim's Award Winning Cornbread Muffins

Here's the recipe for the K&K Chili Cookoff award winning cornbread muffins. The recipe is compliments of our friend and fellow admission counselor (and apparently expert chef), Kim. Thanks, Kim!

Sweet Potato Corn Muffins

(via the side of the Glory Foods Golden Sweet Corn Muffin Mix, available at Copps)

-1-29 oz. can or 2-15 oz. cans Glory Foods Cut Sweet Potatoes (I'm sure any canned sweet potatoes would do)
-2 packages 7.5 oz Glory Foods Corn Muffin Mix (I'm sure any boxed corn muffin mix would do)
-3/4 cup milk
-2 large eggs
-3 tbsp. sugar
-1 tbsp. vanilla flavoring
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tsp. nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Lightly grease muffin tins (or use paper cups like me)
3. Drain sweet potatoes thoroughly and place in mixing bowl. Mash well with a slotted spoon.
4. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, stir thoroughly.
5. Add eggs and vanilla, stir thoroughly.
6. Add both packages of Corn Muffin Mix and milk. Stir until smooth.
7. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
8. Serve at a chili cookoff and win first prize in the cornbread category!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chili Cookoff

My beautifully crafted centerpiece

Let the games begin, may the best cook win!

Karen using her family crest to lobby for presentation points

Gotta try 'em all!

Judge Kristin at work

The Chili Cookoff winners--Kristin (best chili), Karen (best presentation), Carol (best chili name), and Kim (best cornbread)

Last night Karen and I hosted the inaugural K&K Chili Cookoff. The event was a huge success. After weeks of careful preparation, the cookoff went off without a hitch. We had twelve party attendees, six chili division entrants, three cornbread co-rec division entrants, and a few freeloaders (just kidding, they supplied ample amounts of beer, which made them far from freeloaders). Anyhow, I'm very surprised and flattered to report that my chili was named "Best Chili" of the party. Which I don't really understand, because I thought that many of the others were far better. I made a Texas chili recipe without beans (which I named Bucky's Bullseye Bowl 'O Red) that I found in my Williams Sonoma Southwest Cookbook. The recipe had some interesting ingredients, most notably bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon. I even had to break out the mortar and pestle for spice grinding, so I supposed I did work hard for the coveted title.

We had so many variations of chili--white, vegetarian, spicy, meaty, beans, no beans, etc., and as you can see from the pictures above, our kitchen was overtaken by crock pots. I think that everyone had a great time, and now Karen and I are scheming on ideas for our next party.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Clinton and Stacy

My camera is MIA. I had it on Sunday night, and now it is nowhere to be found. I do remain optimistic that it is somewhere in my possession, but a more extensive search may be warranted at this point. Therefore, I do not have Thanksgiving pictures today as promised. Hopefully they will be coming, perhaps fashionably late.

Speaking of fashion, TLC's "What Not to Wear," with Clinton Kelly and Stacy London is my favorite (currently running) TV show. Alas, I do not have cable at home, and up until this weekend, can't remember the last time I even turned on a TV. Because of this, I tend to pack in episodes when I eventually do have have some form of access to cable. Karen said that I must have watched at least ten episodes over the weekend, but I would say it was more like five. Regardless of the number, I loved them all and enjoyed every minute. I love Clinton and Stacy.

In addition to a massive intake of "What Not to Wear," which I might add Karen's sister, Martha, graciously TiVoed for me, which allowed me to watch so many episodes in a row sans commercials, I also spent a lot of time not being a couch potato. We ran the Dan Gibbon's Turkey Trot on Thursday morning in Elmhurst, which was a 5k fun run. And of course I am friends with people whom felt that distance was not enough for a day's run. So, in addition to the race, that morning I also ran from downtown packet pick-up to Marath'a house, from the house to the race, and from the race back to the house, which in total made for a nine-mile run. Seriously, why must I be friends with these crazy people.

Our Thanksgiving meal was very nice at Martha's, who is Karen's oldest sister. It was the Mittelstadt sisters (Martha, Karen, Sue, and Kate) along with Sue's husband, Martha's husband and three daughters, and me! But by now, I am seriously like part of the family. Although I generally hate Thanksgiving foods (turkey, stuffing, cranberries, blah), it was a very good meal and I especially enjoyed the gravy, stuffing, and french silk pie (which Karen and I picked up from Baker's Square earlier in the day). The rest of the weekend was spent shopping (I felt the great need to put my newly acquired "What Not to Wear" knowledge to use), playing with Martha's daughters (aged 3, 5, and 8, who are like nieces to me...sometimes they even call me Aunt Kristin :), spending time with Karen's family and friends, going out to dinner, and completing daily morning runs. It was a fantastic weekend spent with, what has become my second family.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Brother's Turkey Dinner

This is rather impressive for boys, I think. As some of you know, my brother and his best friend, Ben, have overtaken my parents' house in Brookfield, while my parents spend their winter in Nevada and Kelly and Ben attempt to launch a business of their own. Kelly is a graphic designer, and Ben a computer programmer, and thus their talents mesh nicely. Anyhow, Ben and Kelly hosted a Thanksgiving meal at the house and invited a couple friends. As you can see, the offerings were complete, and I was also impressed to see that lace linens and candlesticks also donned the table. Indeed, a nice touch.

Ya We Fix That

Funny picture from this weekend in Elmhurst, Illinois. This sign was posted in front of a gas station garage. I had to laugh. I spent my long Thanksgiving weekend with Karen and her three sisters (and their families) in Elmhurst, Illinois, which is my favorite suburb of Chicago, and also where my Dad spent his younger days. I had an incredibly fun and relaxing weekend. It was definitely hard to come back to work and real life yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home this morning, and thus cannot upload my pictures from the weekend, but I promise to have good stories and pictures tomorrow. Hope you all had a great holiday weekend!

Help Out by Dining Out

FYI- AIDS Network's An Extra Helping is this Wednesday, November 28th. That means you can increase HIV/AIDS awareness in Madison by simply going out to dinner that night. Participating restaurants will contribute a percentage of the day's sales directly to AIDS Network. "So help out by dining out. Fight the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS in your own community by wielding a surprising weapon--your fork."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WIST Holiday Trunk Show

So besides the incredible food, the main reason for going to Lazy Jane's for breakfast on Saturday was for the First Annual WIST Holiday Trunk Show. Problem was we arrived 8 hours early. Karen thought the show was during the morning, but it was actually scheduled for 5-9 p.m. So we ate our breakfast at Lazy Jane's, enjoyed the rest of the day, and then came back at 6 p.m.

It was a great little show with many unique handmade arts and crafts from local artists, not to mention the free champaign and cookies! WIST is short for the "Wisconsin Etsy Street Team." If you haven't yet checked out Etsy online, it's definitely worth seeing. Especially in light of the upcoming gift-giving season! Etsy is a website that was launched in 2005 that provides the general public with a way to buy and sell handmade goods. There's literally tens of thousands of sellers and it's sort of like one big open craft fair. It's a powerful forum. And you can find some very unique handmade items at affordable prices. As the WIST flyer states, "Join the Craft Revolution! Buy Independent. Buy Handmade." Word.

Lazy Jane's Cafe

Lazy Jane's Cafe on Willy Street (1358 Williamson St.) is my all-time favorite place for breakfast. I went there this past Saturday morning to enjoy a home style breakfast in a relaxed, classic Willy-Street environment complete with random artwork, eclectic antiques, mix matched furniture and serving ware, and an assortment of people from the east side of town and beyond. Besides the atmosphere, my favorite part of Lazy Jane's is their incredible scones. I love scones, and would fashion myself a true connoisseur. These are the best damn scones you'll ever taste in your life. And, they're as big as your head. My favorite is the raspberry scone, but this time I enjoyed a seasonal classic--a pumpkin scone with walnuts and white chocolate.

After quickly devouring the scone (which, I remind you, was as big as my head), I then moved on to my breakfast entree, the frittata with red peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and asiago cheese. Mmm....good. My mom ordered this one the last time I went to Lazy Jane's, the morning after Ironman Wisconsin, and it was tasty. So this time I wanted my own frittata. The whole thing. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my two-course breakfast, which I think was much deserved after a 9-mile run earlier that morning. Lazy Jane's is one of those places, like the Weary Traveler (which is where I had dinner last night with my friends Emily and Jill :), that I could eat at every single day and never grow tired of. Lazy Jane's for breakfast and Weary for Dinner. Now that's a life I could get used to.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree before Thanksgiving? Who ever heard of such a thing? When I was working a 9-hour shift at Banana last Sunday, Karen was buying, assembling, lighting, and decorating a Christmas tree, among many other projects. The girl cannot sit still. She also already decorated the mantel with poinsettias and garland. It all looks very beautiful and festive. Except, I am having trouble with all of the IU (Karen's alma mater) ornaments dotting the tree. So for perhaps the first time in my life, I am enjoying a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. And that is something to be thankful for.

Ruby Nouveau Tasting

On Saturday afternoon, Karen and I attended a wine tasting at Wollersheim Winery for the release of the 2007 Ruby Nouveau, the first wine of the new harvest. It's a "dry red with enticing fresh flavors and a zesty finish." In addition to Ruby Nouveau, several other wines were offered for sampling, along with the winery's infamous Coq au Ruby (ruby chicken) and assorted Wisconsin cheese. We also took a special tour, which explained the making of Ruby Nouveau.

This was the first time I had been to Wollersheim Winery, which is located in Prarie Du Sac, a 15-20 minute drive from Madison. The winery and surrounding property are just beautiful, a setting that consists of a scenic hillside overlooking the Wisconsin River.

My favorite part of the tour was hearing about the history of the winery and the lasting love affair that ensued between the French intern and the owner's daughter. The property was first selected for vineyards in the 1840's. A winery was operated at the site until the turn of the century. It wasn't until 1972 that the property was again established as a working vineyard. At that time, Robert and JoAnn Wollersheim purchased the nearly abandoned property with the intention of restoring it to a working family winery. Robert, who at the time left his job as an engineer, had always enjoyed wine but was certainly no expert on its production, and thus hired many helping hands.

One of those interns was current winemaker Philippe Coquard, who was originally from the Beaujolais region of France. After finishing wine college in France in the mid-1980's, he took part in an American exchange program that unexpectedly sent him to Wisconsin. Shortly after arriving at Wollersheim Winery, Coquard fell in love with one of Robert Wollersheim's daughters, Julie. They were married two years later, thus resulting in a most perfect union. Lucky girl. Her father opens a winery, and then she falls in love with the French intern. Why don't these sort of things ever happen to me?