Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Buffett Chronicles

Buffett Day, 2007. Where do I even begin? I had patiently waited two years for this concert, as Jimmy took a disappointing hiatus from Alpine Valley in 2006, and last year (in retaliation), I took a hiatus of my own to attend my good friends’ Jill and Ryan’s wedding in Green Bay. Every year, from the moment Jimmy announces his summer tour dates, the anticipation builds and builds until the day is finally here. And then, before you even know it, it’s all over. This is the story of my eighth Buffett show at Alpine Valley.

We all arrived at Guilford HS before 11 a.m. to load the bus with all of our coolers and food. Shortly after 11 a.m., we were on the road. Our driver—a cheery, white-haired, grandpa-like fellow, was thoroughly entertained with our debaucheries, and he and I became good friends by the end of the day. When we finally arrived at Alpine Valley, we pulled into a prime spot in the bus lot that was just a few rows away from the main amphitheater entrance. All of concert goers from the surrounding buses were vying for space, and we quickly started stacking a wall of beer cases to ensure ours. Behind us was the infamous slip and slide, and to our right, a few perverted men were hosting a game in which daring individuals could step into a tiny jail and take a spin for the chance to kiss, show their boobs, etc., before being released. There was also a Jello wresting pit located just down the way. Only at Buffett.

It was great to catch up with friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed many Coronas and Brigham-mixed drinks, namely the “shark bowl” and “sweet heaven.” I am pictured with the “shark bowl”, sans shark, above. Eventually, I met up with my new friend Royce, and toured the lot with a few of his friends and mine. From there, we went into the show. I spend most of the show dancing on deck six, which was probably the closest spot I’ve ever seen the show from. Following the concert, I wandered back to the bus, where I apparently devoured a bag of Cheetos and then crashed in exhaustion. The ride home was a little bumpy, but I had the seat all to myself! Another year’s concert has come and gone, but there's always next year's to look forward to!

Pictures from Buffett Day

Kristin, Anne, and Beth

Beth and Adam pose for a pic as Luke expertly attaches a fin to our bus.

Our spot in the lot: Next to slip and slide fun.

The girls of Buffett.

The boys of Buffett.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Buffett Day

Tomorrow is Buffett Day—quite possibly the best day of the year. One of unparalleled debauchery. Which are altogether too few and far between these days. And so I really embrace Buffett Day. And for one day each year, I don’t hold back. I get a little crazy. A little dirty. But that’s Buffett, my friends. I cannot wait—for that one particular harbor.

With forty of Guilford High School’s finest Viking alums packed in a bus, a fin on the top and dozens of coolers stocked to the brim and chilled with ice, we’ll leave our alma mater’s parking lot promptly at 11 a.m. We’ll crack the beers, toast to Buffett, and be on our merry way. Alpine Valley or Bust. Surely we’ll be one of the very first buses to arrive, and again, we’ll toast to that. With leis around our neck, coconut bras strapped to our chests, and grass skirts wrapped loosely around our hips, we’ll catch up with old friends and inevitably meet many new Parrot heads. Brigham will start mixing his signature drinks, and Jenny will serve an assortment of heavily spiked Jello shots. Seven hours later, we’ll stumble to the amphitheater, where we’ll be reinvigorated by Jimmy’s sweet island songs. We’ll dance the night away and sing every word. And much later, we’ll stumble back to the bus, realizing that the fun never ends. And who would want it to? It may take hours to get our bus out of the crowded parking lot, and there’s always the bus ride home.

Alas, The End of Summer is Inevitable

And yet, once again, we find ourselves at that slightly depressing point during the summer when we’re like, damn, the summer has gone by way too fast. And although I certainly don’t want to rush things any faster than need be, it might be time to start talking about fall fashion. I seem to have a recent obsession with dresses. And this wrap dress from Banana Republic is my current top pick. It comes in classic black, as well as both a brown and gray herringbone print. So professional and perfect for work, yet also appropriate for a variety of other social functions. Not that I ever have enough of those to go to. I just collect dresses and hope I’ll have something to wear them to eventually. I think you’re actually suppose to have an event in mind before selecting an appropriate dress. But this, obviously, is not the way I do business. For me, it’s find the perfect dress, then pray for an appropriate event. And like I said, I never have enough of those, which is actually probably a good thing. So, I get my use out of ‘em by wearing them to work and continually becoming annoyed when people ask, why are you all dressed up today? That has always been my pet peeve. Because I want to be, damn it.

So yes, I purchased the dress in the gray herringbone print, which one of our flaming assistant managers assured me I could wear through March. And that’s like more than half the year, so I figure it will give me great mileage. That’s really my favorite part about working at BR—whenever I go in there to try on clothes, I have like five personal shopping assistants to help me put together outfits. This is why you should never, never go shopping alone, unless you want to waste a boat load of money on clothes that might not look good on you. Never trust yourself. An honest opinion goes a long way in getting you in clothes that look great, which ultimately give you the most bang for your buck.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Last Night's Concert

Last night I took my parents to their very first Concert on the Square, which was sadly the fifth and second to last concert of this summer’s series. The concerts are performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and directed by Andrew Sewell. Last night’s concert featured oboist Naomi Bensdorf and the musical theme “Eye of the Storm,” a risky prophecy that was luckily left unfulfilled. As always, the ambiance was perfect, and the music magnificent.

My parents came in early and picked me up from work at 3 p.m. so we could head directly to the capitol square to find a prime spot for our blanket. Three is the earliest that concertgoers can begin reserving spots, so we found a great location left stage. From there we went home to mix together peach sangria, and then headed to St. Vinny’s on Willy Street, which is our favorite place to look for used books. As the Web site attests, St. Vinny’s “probably has the best used book section you will find in any thrift store in the country.” After purchasing a few finds, we had dinner at Eldorado Grill, which I had never been to before. It’s an upscale Tex-Mex restaurant on Willy Street. I’ll save the details for a future post, but the food was excellent. And finally, we drove to the square and located our spot among the sea of picnickers and blankets. There, we enjoyed a dessert feast and sangria while we waited for the concert to begin. It was a perfect summer night for a concert, and I’m glad that my parents were finally able to join me for one of my favorite Madison treats.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tour Party

Last Friday we had a Tour de France party at the office over the lunch break. It was great fun. Everyone was assigned a team, and the idea was to bring a food or beverage from the country associated with your team. My team was T-Mobile, so I brought brownies. Because that’s German, right? Usually I'm much more creative, but this time I was admittedly disappointing. Here are some pictures from the party. Love the yellow jersey cookies and the Gerolsteiner water.

Speaking of the tour, yesterday’s breaking news was that Alexandre Vinokourov, a double stage victor of team Astana, tested positive for blood doping, and Astana has pulled out of the Tour. It’s also highly suspected that Michael Rasmussen, the current yellow jersey leader of Rabbobank, is also doping. Which proves my earlier point that they’re all dirty birds. Why would I even bother watching the tour? These are the only reasons I could come up with:

1. The dramatic crashes.
2. The historical significance and traditions associated with the tour.
3. The breathtaking scenery and challenging course.
4. Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and Bob Roll.
5. Hot men in spandex with shaven legs (because I'm quite possibly the only female that actualy prefers this look).
4. The crazy-drunk, camera-happy spectators.

But, even so—I don't watch it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And Here's the Pie

Here are pictures of the peach pie I made for last Thursday's picnic. The recipe comes from that great cookbook I found in Duluth—Betty's Pies Favorite Recipes, written by the ultimate pie-making legend, Betty Lessard. It's Betty's favorite, enjoy!

Fresh Peach Pie

1 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 1/2 cups sliced peaches
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry (perhaps I'll share my favorite in a future post).

Combine the 1 cup of sugar, flour and cinnamon, mixing well. Lightly mix in the fresh peaches and pour into the pie shell. Dot with butter and cover with a top crust. Prick the top crust and sprinkle with sugar.

Put the pie into a 400 degree oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

By the Light of the Moon

Last Thursday night, I went to see the Shakespearian comedy Much Ado About Nothing at the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which is about forty-miles west of Madison. It’s a classical outdoor theatre that lies amid 110-acres of rolling, wooded acres near the Wisconsin River. APT’s repertoire consists primarily of plays by Shakespeare. For this, its 28th season, which runs from early June through early October, the company will also perform Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Timon of Athens, as well as George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance, and Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana.

The setting and mood before and during an American Player’s show is truly magical. Before each show, it’s tradition to relax with friends over a pre-theater dinner in the picnic areas surrounding the theater. Shortly before the start of the show, a trumpet beckons patrons to take their seats. During the show, the dark sky lights up with hundreds of dazzling stars, which make for a transcendent experience.

I went to see the show with colleagues from my division at work. We picnicked beforehand, and I brought my first homemade peach pie, still warm from the oven. It was gobbled up in a hurry, and many of my colleagues offered their accolades. This, of course brought a smile to my face. I very much enjoyed the show, which although predictable, was funny and offered strong performances by Michele Arnold, who played the head-strong and infinitely witty Beatrice, as well as the gentleman who played Don John, the wickedly funny evil step-brother, whose name, unfortunately, I cannot recall. Although not always the greatest fan of Shakespeare, I do love the experience at APT, and hope that I might be able to make it back later this summer for Teneessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana.

Calling All Friends and Family

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Friends and Family Days at Banana Republic is quickly approaching. Scheduled for Friday, August 3–Sunday, August 5, it’s an invitation-only opportunity for friends of employees to receive a 30% discount at any Banana Republic store, Banana Republic Factory Store or BananaRepublic.com. This is big time. If you would like an invitation, please e-mail me here with your address, e-mail, and phone number, and I will get an invite out to you immediately. Happy shopping!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Katie Muth Prints

"Making Cookies"

"Farmer's Market"

"Streetlight Smooch"

Serendipity (2001)

I'm a new fan of the work of Katie Muth, a Toronto-based independent artist and printmaker. Above are my favorites from her current collection. The top two would look fantastic in my yellow-ish kitchen, perhaps in the vacant space over the oven. The prints detail two of my favorite activities—baking and farmer's market shopping. Joy. I also had to include the third print, "Streetlight Smooch," because it just reminds me so much of my all-time favorite movie—Serendipity. John Cusack (Jonathan Trager) and Kate Beckinsale (Sarah Thomas) united at last. Beautiful.

Pictures from Muncie

Me in the middle (looking very serious with the big boys).

Pushing through a strong head wind on the bike.

Finishing strong.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wilco Tickets Secured

It is a good day, indeed. I have secured Wilco tickets for their Madison show at Overture Hall on September 11th as part of their Sky Blue Sky Tour. I haven't seen them since their show in Ann Arbor in 2005, which was amazing. I can't wait. Let me know if you'd like to join me.

Taqueria Guadalajara (formerly Morelos)

On Wednesday night, in lieu of the concert on the square since it was postponed, I went to dinner at Taqueria Guadalajara, a tiny, hole-in-the-wall, authentic Mexican restaurant on South Park Street that has enjoyed much recent coverage and a shower of praise in the local Madison papers. It's one of those totally authentic ethnic restaurants that you first walk into and are so obviously uncomfortable, because everyone looks up and stares, and then you panic because you don’t see any menus and don’t know how or what to order. But then everyone smiles, and you get it together, and all is good.

The place is tiny—basically an old rickety home turned steamy lunch counter. Luckily, there’s also an outdoor deck with five or six tables that is perfect for summer dining. The place was pretty busy on Wednesday night, but luckily we snagged an outdoor table. The food, prices, and service were all phenomenal. I ordered a beef taco, beef sopa (which is sort of like an open-faced taco with a softer, chewier shell), chicken sopa, and a diet Pepsi—all for under seven dollars. The food was delicious and fresh, and the taco and sopa shells are made fresh everyday. It was way more food than I needed. So much so, that when my roommate suggested we stop for ice cream at Dairy Cream on the way home, I passed, perhaps for the very first time ever.

Taqueria Guadalajara, truly a mom-and-pop establishment, is owned and operated by Josefina Trejon and Fancisco Vasquez, young entrepreneurs and brilliant cooks, who are quite possibly the most genuinely friendly and hard-working restaurant owners I have ever met. The food comes from all over Mexico, but their specialty is the platillo Guadalajara, which is grilled beef, friend onions, nopal salad, refried beans with cheese and pico de gallo. Please support this amazing local gem!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Crazy Love

Last week, I went to see the film Crazy Love at the Westgate Arts Cinema. Co-directed by Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens, it’s a documentary about an obsessive and twisted love affair between Burt Pugach and Linda Riss. The movie was featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and although I didn’t get the chance to catch it there, it has been on my list of “must sees” since hearing about it there.

Intermixed with present-day interviews with Burt and Linda, the movie begins with footage from the 1950’s and the story of their early love affair. Linda is a strikingly beautiful twenty year-old vixen, and Burt a successful lawyer who makes his fortune as a pioneer ambulance chaser. Burt explains that, immediately after laying eyes on Linda, he had to have her and immediately took to courting her. Linda, a good-girl type who grew up with a tough family life and bouts of poverty, is enamored with Burt’s big life—the glamorous nightlife, mixing with celebrities, and his constant attention. However, when she finds out that he is already married, she promptly ends their relationship when it becomes apparent that he will never leave his wife. Burt can not accept the breakup, and his love quickly turns destructive with stalking, constant phone calls, and threats. Despite all of this, Linda moves on, and eventually becomes engaged to another man. In an act of psychotic rage, with the reasoning that if I can’t have her, no one can, Burt hires three thugs to throw acid in Linda’s face, a devastating crime that leaves her blinded for life, and quickly brings an end to her engagement.

And as if this weren't enough, Burt writes love letters to Linda while he is incarcerated, and after he is released from jail in 1971, he proposes to Linda, who astonishingly accepts. They have been married ever since. Their life in the 1970's, a glamorous whirlwind of talk-show appearances and other media attention. It’s an unbelievable, but still somehow predictable, destructive co-dependency that I found deeply fascinating. I liked the film—their relationship is obviously sad, sick, and twisted, but at the end of the movie it shows the two in the present day, and they seem content. Which makes me think.

Borat Cheers On Tour Riders

A half-naked supporter runs by the pack as it rides by during the eighth stage of the 94th Tour de France cycling race between Le-Grand Bornand and Tignes, 15 July 2007.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Egg Fry Rings

Last night was my roommate’s last shift at Pottery Barn, and hence the end of her wonderful discount at Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma. Knowing the end was near, we stopped at Oakbrook Mall on our way home from Indiana on Sunday afternoon to stock up on a few final items. The Egg Fry Rings from Williams-Sonoma have been on my list for quite some time. Sold in a pack of four, the three-inch diameter metal rings make it easy to fry a perfectly symmetrical egg that neatly fits on a bagel or English muffin. Yes, random, but an ingenious product nonetheless.

This morning I tried frying an egg in one of the rings for the first time. I wanted to make myself an Egg McMuffin of sorts with an egg, turkey bacon, and American cheese on a multigrain English muffin. The rings were very easy to use and my egg was cooked and shaped to perfection. My little breakfast sandwich was very cute and delicious. I enjoyed my creation with fresh raspberries and coffee.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

America's Greatest Sports Town

My roommate loves ESPN Radio. Because of this, I am subjected to a seemingly endless stream of worthless sports ramblings—at home in the morning, and especially during road trips. Most of the time, the incessant chatter gives me a pounding headache. I dramatically pretend like I hate it, and oftentimes I do, but every so often I do hear something that is just a little bit interesting. My interest is often piqued when they talk about my beloved Badgers or something non-sports related, like fashion or relationships, which happens surprisingly often on ESPN Radio.

Last Thursday, ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt declared during his show that he had just left the belly of the beast, America’s greatest sports town—Madison, Wisconsin. You can listen to his eleven-minute broadcast here. It’s pretty hilarious. Scott backs up his pick with many stories and Madison highlights. In his eyes, it all comes down to “teams that are relevant, venues that are unbelievable, and a gorgeous setting.” I would have to agree. He also talks at length about the drinking culture in Madison and various establishments like State Street Brats, Essen Hause, and Mondays. When referring to the Essen Haus boot, he describes that, “the moral of the story is, [in Madison], a cup of booze is not enough.” If you have a moment, take a listen. It’s good stuff.

Muncie Race Report

Saturday’s Endurathon went pretty well. I felt strong during the entire race, and despite the very windy conditions on the bike, finished within three minutes of last year’s time in five hours and fifteen minutes. The race results are posted here. Also similar to last year, I finished second in my age group. Very consistent, indeed.

The temperature on Saturday was in the mid-80’s most of the day, which is surprisingly cool for Muncie in July and made for a much more comfortable half-marathon than last year. The swim was alright. I didn’t feel very strong, which definitely made me realize that I need to incorporate more open water swimming into my training. Primarily, my swim training has taken place in the pool over my lunch break. In fact, I think I’ve only done one open water swim this season. The last leg of the swim portion was also tough because the sun was glaring in my eyes, which made it nearly impossible to see anything. I felt strong on the bike, despite an incessant head wind, but I’m afraid that I backed off during the last ten miles, which was just too soon. I always like to take it in a bit easier to ease into the transition, but I think those last ten miles really slowed down my bike split.

Overall, good race. I feel happy with where I’m at with Ironman training. In the coming weeks, I’d like to get in some great long rides on the Ironman course and more open water swimming. Additionally, I’d love to get over this plantar fasciatis running injury once and for all and start incorporating more speed training into my running.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Muncie Endurathon

This weekend I’ll be competing in the 28th annual Muncie Endurathon half-ironman distance triathlon in Muncie, Indiana. The race, which is one of the longest-running half-ironman races in the country, is comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run. This will be my third year competing in the race, and besides the fact that it’s in Muncie, I’ve always liked the race because it offers a decent course and falls smack in the middle of my Ironman training so I can get a sense of where I stand.

As you can imagine, it’s always hot in Indiana in July, so the heat can present a formidable challenge, particularly during the run since there’s no shade. It’s just you and the blistering sun pounding it out on the hard pavement for thirteen miles. And don't forget that your legs have been severly weakened by a 56-mile bike ride. As of now, they’re forecasting sunny skies, a high of 84 degrees, and strong winds for Saturday in Muncie. That’s not bad, but strong winds will potentially make for a very tough ride. According to the race Web site, the water temperature is currently at 82 degrees, meaning that unless the water temps cool down significantly (to 78 degrees or below), wetsuits will not be allowed under USAT rules. From a competitive standpoint, this is good for me since I think that non-swimmers tend to realize much greater benefits from wetsuits than swimmers do. On the other hand, my roommate and many other non-swimmers would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in the water with their wetsuits. Thus I am torn.

Anyways, it should be a good race and a chance for me to see if I’m where I need to be at for Ironman training. My only goal is to feel and finish strong. My roommate and I leave for glorious Muncie tomorrow morning. Muncie or Bust.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Sampler Nevermore

Last night after a run, I biked to Wholefoods, which is conveniently located only a few blocks from my house. I had to pick up Pistachio ice cream, which I discuss further in the previous post. I'm sure you've experienced how a grocery run to Wholefoods oftentimes plays out. You go in looking for one item, and leave with like twelve things, which somehow end up totaling a whole paycheck. I did, however, pick up some amazing treats for tonight’s concert on the square—chocolate covered almonds, pineapple salsa, fresh multigrain bread, and some peaches and green beans.

So last night I’m strolling down the aisles, sampling a few of their products because I love the samples at Wholefoods and I’m hungry as hell having just done a run and all, when I notice this completely disheveled, sketchy used car salesman-looking man with balding hair, dark-rimmed eyeglasses, a protruding belly, sloppily dressed in oversized slacks and a messy polo, who appears to be purposefully moving from sample to sample devouring the various chips and dips. He’s grabbing them up in handfuls and stuffing them in his mouth as if he hasn’t had a meal in a week. He's also completely oblivious to everything around him, including my disgusted stares.

My roommate always warned me about the samples. I never heeded her warning and continued about my business. Now I can't seem to get this digusting man out of my head. I don’t believe I’ll ever be the same. Just like that, my days of innocent sampling have abruptly come to an end.

Cookin' Clafoutis

Last night I baked Cherry Clafoutis (pronounced "kla-foo-TEE"), which is a rustic French dessert that originated in Southern France. I found the recipe in a recent Williams-Sonoma catalog. The dessert is essentially sweet cherries baked in a custard filling. The preparation was relatively quick and straightforward, and the end result was delicious. My recent purchase of a cherry pitter certainly helped quicken preparations. It is my new favorite kitchen gadget and a must-have tool for any recipe involving fresh cherries.

The Clafoutis recipe recommends serving the dessert with pistachio ice cream. After an online search, I was relieved to discover that Haagen Dazs produces this flavor. Their Web site has a fantastic flavor finder database where you can determine which of your area grocery stores have received a recent shipment of a particular flavor. A search for pistachio ice cream in my zip code yielded a result of Woodman’s and Wholefoods in Madison. Very cool. This feature certainly saved me a lot of time and hassle. The dessert was good stuff. I loved the taste of the pistachio ice cream over the warm cherry custard. I will be making this dessert again. Hopefully when you're over for dinner next time, eh?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Simply Breakfast

My new favorite blog is www.simplybreakfast.blogspot.com. It's created by a Brooklyn photographer who celebrates and vividly captures the art of breakfast. Her daily updated pictures are colorful, unique, and totally inspiring—in both an artistic and edible sense. I, too, love breakfast more than any other meal of the day. So simple, yet a myriad of possibilities. Perhaps I'm easily amused...

What Goes Around Comes Around

I am currently obsessed with this little black number. It’s a more elevated version of the now popular t-shirt dress. The dress is made of silk with gathered wave detail on the side and a three-button closure in back. I am toying with the idea of purchasing it and wearing it to a friend’s wedding the first weekend in September. It’s so simple, yet undeniably refined and chic. And I plan to strut around the wedding with my hands out like the model pictured. The dress is, of course, from Banana Republic, which is the only place I seem to shop anymore. This due to an unmatchable employee discount that makes it nearly impossible to justify shopping elsewhere.

Speaking of t-shirt dresses, I recently dug one out of my closet back home at my parent’s house that I had purchased at the Gap probably over ten years ago. It was so close to being chucked, and just barely saved, only due to the whims of the fashion gods. I wore it yesterday, and everyone was like, where did you get that dress? To which I replied, Gap, like ten years ago. Which just goes to show that some things are worth keeping around. What goes around comes around. Particularly in the world of fashion.

The Dirty Bird Gets the Worm

This past Saturday marked the beginning of the 94th annual Tour de France, a 21-day epic cycling journey that features a prologue and twenty stages that cover a total distance of 3,550 kilometers. For the first time ever, the race began in London and will finish as always in the heart of Paris at the Champs-Elysees. A total of twenty-one teams, with nine riders on each, will compete for the coveted final yellow jersey and top team standings.

Today’s stage, a slightly-hilly route that begins in Waregem, Belgium and finishes in Compiegne, France, is the longest stage of the tour at 236.6 kilometers. After yesterday’s second stage, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara remains in the yellow jersey. The first few stages have seen a few major pileups; yesterday’s dangerous crash was provoked by a Milram rider swerving to the right, which caused the peloton to fold up like cards.

Since I don’t have cable television at home, I can’t watch this year’s tour on Versus, the previously named OLN channel that covers the Tour in the states (Think: Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and the infamous Bob Roll—"Tour day France"). This may be for the best, since I’m very much convinced that the sport of cycling is scandalously permeated by performance-enhancing drugs. I think most of ‘em are dirty birds. I don’t even believe our all-American boy Lance Armstrong was entirely Scotch-clean. It’s unfortunate that the sport has come to the point where every athlete and performance is shaded by a veil of doubt, and even otherwise clean athletes feel they must dope just to stay in the race. My friend who works in the anti-doping industry explained that the science behind the testing is not up to par, which leaves many of today’s performance-enhancing drugs completely undetectable by current testing methodology. Thus doping will continue until improved tests can detect the ever-changing current slate of drugs.

Despite all of this, I will still monitor the tour and cheer for all of the clean riders, whoever they might be. More information, as well as the most up-to-date news and standings, can be found at the official Web site: www.letour.fr/2007/TDF/LIVE/fr/300/index.html.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Grill Basket

The grill basket is my new favorite summer accessory. Nothing beats grilled veggies in the summer. Unlike wrapping ‘em in tinfoil, the grill basket produces consistently outstanding results. It’s quick and easy—slice your favorite veggies and sprinkle them with sea salt and olive oil to taste. Toss to coat. Throw them in the grill basket and you’re all set for some serious grilling action. Grill the vegetables until they're crisp-tender, which can take anywhere between five and twenty minutes. Weber makes a great vegetable grill chart, which provides approximate cooking time for over thirty different vegetables . The olive oil and sea salt mixture brings out amazing flavor and color, and the grill makes the vegetables amazingly crispy and smoky-flavored. My favorite grill-friendly veggies are broccoli, zucchini, and onions. Mmmm...

The pictured grill basket was purchased on my roommate’s employee discount at Williams-Sonoma, but may not be available online since I can’t seem to find it on their Web site. The closest online match is the Shaker Basket for $30. A little bigger and deeper, but would seem to do the trick.

Green Lake Weekend

Karen coming to pick me up from the pier for a ride on the jet ski.

Megan and I on a boat ride sporting our hot Jackie O. shades.

Fun Island. Sweet Heaven.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hot Socks

September 9th, the date of my fourth Ironman Wisconsin Triathlon, is looming nearer. With only two months until race day, training will become immensely challenging and time consuming until taper time in mid-August. Until then, my days will be devoured by long rides, runs, and swims. But I know the routine. And if I put in the work now, I will feel infinitely better, stronger, and well-prepared come race day.

Yesterday, I took a “vacation” day from work so I could fit in a long ride. This in hopes of getting the week’s long stuff out of the way so I can enjoy a slightly more relaxing weekend at Green Lake. At 8 a.m. I woke up and took down a bowl of Cheerios, some fruit, and a delicious Krispy Kreme donut. After packing some Gatorade, graham crackers, and honey mustard pretzels for the road, I got on my bike and did an 80-mile bike ride—one loop of the Ironman course followed by a quick tour of Paoli—which took me around four-and-a-half hours. I felt strong much of the way, but found myself exhausted after I returned. Later in the evening, I did a six-mile run to practice running with tired legs in preparation for a half-ironman race I'll be doing in Muncie, Indiana next weekend. Bike/Runs, which triathletes term “bricks,” are a crucial component to any triathlon training plan.

For the most part, training is going well. I’m starting to get some great mileage on my bike and it feels good to have a spring marathon already under my belt. A minor case of Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain, a common running injury) has been pestering me lately and I’m monitoring that very closely. It’s nothing that’s preventing me from running, but I have had to cut back my mileage a bit. I’m doing several stretches and strengthening exercises, and last weekend my friend Beth suggested that I pick up a Strassburg sock, which is apparently designed to keep tension on the plantar fascia so it heals in a stretched position at night. I’ll be getting that tonight. It’s so sexy, I can’t wait to sleep it every night until I’m fully healed.

Breakfast at Mickey's

This morning before work, I met my friends Lauren and Brodie for breakfast at Mickey’s Dairy Bar (1511 Monroe Street). Mickey’s is an old favorite and a Madison breakfast tradition since 1946. It’s the quintessential Wisconsin diner. On game days and weekend mornings, there’s always a horde of people on the sidewalk surrounding the entrance patiently waiting for the chance to devour a stack of pancakes or the signature greasy "scrambler", which is often touted as the perfect hangover cure. The décor hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s, and a preserved menu from then, listing shockingly low prices, still hangs on a side wall. Since it’s across the street from Camp Randall Stadium, there’s also a lot of Badger paraphernalia and team posters dotting the walls. The prices are great, and the portions are huge. Two things to keep in mind are that the restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch, and they only accept cash.

This morning I opted for the $4.50 blueberry pancakes, which I shared with Lauren. The plate features two giant-sized pancakes generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. It’s enough to feed an entire family. I also ordered a cup of coffee, which was refilled to the brim a half-dozen times by our shaky-handed but very attentive server, who must have been pushing eighty. Brodie had his usual—the scrambler, which is a massive, artery-clogging “everything but the kitchen sink” omelet with eggs, bacon or sausage, and cheese, all covered in a soup of gravy. In one greasy feast, you’ll satiate a day’s worth of hunger and calories. While I didn’t order it this morning, my other favorite is the $3.50 milkshakes, which are available in a multitude of flavors. They’re thick and delicious, and the perfect compliment to a stack of cakes.

Mickey’s is a must for anyone who visits Madison. It’s a unique dining experience and a Madison classic in the heart of campus. You might want to fast for a few days if you plan on ordering the scrambler, however.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Acapulco Revisited

After the Cubs game, the plan was to meet up with our friend Brigham for post-game drinks at his apartment, only a few blocks from Wrigley. When we called Brigham, however, he was across town at a bar on North Avenue Beach. Big surprise. So we took a cab to meet him at Castaways off Lake Shore Drive. Since it was such an amazing day, the beach was packed. It was quite a sight to be seen. The water was crystal blue and the skyline very clear. We went up the stairs of the ship-like structure to Castaways, where I instantly felt déjà vu—sophomore-year college spring break in Acapulco. The females were scantly clad in bikinis and the males were sporting muscle-bound shirtless chests. A band was playing in the middle and it was wall-to-wall people. Coming from the Cubs game instead of the beach, my group of friends was definitely overdressed. Despite this, we grabbed 20 oz. cans of Miller Light and continued to soak up the sun. It was a good time.

From there, we took a cab back to Wrigleyville and ate dinner at Socca, a neighborhood French Italian Bistro on North Clark that Erin’s cousin had recommended. It was amazing. Some of the best food I have ever tasted. We had the goat cheese pizzette as an appetizer, which had the most delectable flavors, and I enjoyed the gnocchi as an entrée, which featured chicken breast, escarole and butternut squash with a chicken parmesan sugo. Unbelievably tasty. After dinner, it was quite an adventure getting back to Naperville with Beth and Adam since we had missed the 8:40 train. Two hours later, we caught the 10:40 from Union Station and arrived home safely by midnight. It was a very long day, but so great to hang out with friends and enjoy an amazing summer day in Chicago.