Friday, January 25, 2008

Hut, Hut!

Tonight, I’m heading on vacation. And no, I’m not going to the super bowl. I’m flying to Colorado for an 8-day vacation in the mountains! Karen and I are flying into Colorado Springs late tonight, where we will meet up with Karen’s younger sister, Kate, who lives and works in the Springs. (Kate is actually the Director of Doping Control for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), where she’s worked for the past seven years. She’s traveled the world, and was actually the representative from USADA who met Marion Jones' lawyers for a secretive meeting to take possession of Marion’s Olympic medals after she admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs. A sweet job indeed, but massively stressful and time-consuming, and thus, Kate has decided to make a big life change. She resigned two weeks ago and is moving to Madison this spring!)

During our time in Colorado, tomorrow morning, we’ll be running in a 10-mile race, which is part of the Pike’s Peak Road Running Club's Winter Series. We’ll spend a couple days in Colorado Springs hanging out and touring the Olympic training facilities and USADA, before heading to the mountains. Kate rents a condo near Breckenridge with a bunch of her friends, so we’ll stay there and ski a couple days. Then, we’re really heading into the mountains, for a three-day hut trip, which should certainly be an adventure. Needless to say, I won't have access to Internet from the hut, or probably much of next week. Many stories and pics when I return.

Boot Drinkin' at the Essen Haus

Last Saturday night, I went out to celebrate my friend Lauren’s birthday. Lauren, and her husband Brodie, are great friends of mine from college (I was the maid of honor in their wedding last year), and also currently reside in Madison. Lauren and Brodie had people over at their house for drinks and appetizers (my spinach artichoke dip was a hit!), and then we headed to the Essen Haus for some boot drinkin'.

The Essen Haus is a Madison landmark and UW alumni gathering spot complete with authentic German food and biers, live oompah music, and polka dancing. The big thing to do when you're at the Essen Haus is to play the "boot game," in which everyone passes around a boot and takes a drink. There are some rules, however, which always make for a rowdy time. You can never let the boot touch the table, you must flick the glass when you are done taking a sip, and if the person after you finishes the boot, well then you need to buy the next boot of beer. Which is going to cost you, upwards of $30-50. So if you're getting down towards the end, you better finish that beer in the boot! Luckily, I was able to get away with little sips, and didn't ever get stuck with the bill!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Water for Elephants

I recently finished reading Water for Elephants, a novel by Sara Gruen, which I eagerly tore through in a few short days. While it’s definitely a quick read—the perfect summer beach fling—the plot and storyline are expertly researched and crafted. The novel weaves back and forth between the present and past—Jacob now, a 93-year old nursing home dweller with undying determination and spunk. And Jacob then, an Ivy League-educated, soon-to-be graduate, who is forced into an unexpected, and ultimately lifelong journey, of life on the road as a circus veterinarian for a shady circus outfit during the 1930’s depression era.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book was reading the “Author’s Notes,” which comprised the last few pages. In these, Gruen details how she initially came to be fascinated with the concept of old-time circus life, her research for the book, and some of the “real life” circus stories that she expertly incorporated into the novel. Fittingly, each of the book’s 24 chapters begins with a vintage circus photograph, which together provide a colorful tapestry of the emotions, fashions, settings, personalities, and day-to-day activities of a circus troupe in the early 1900’s.

And per usual, I will end with my favorite line from the book. It is as follows: Lucinda’s death leaves us with a serious deficiency in the freak lineup. And it must be filled—all the big shows have fat ladies, and therefore so must we” (pg. 205).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

They're Carmel Delights, Damn It.

Have you received a visit from your local girl scout? In case you didn't realize, we're in the middle of full fledge Girl Scout cookie season, and you better believe I've already ordered upteen boxes of sinfully delicous Samoas Cookies (aka Carmel Delights, for those of us old school girl scouts).

I was also pleasantly surprised to find Edy's Samoas Cookie Ice Cream back in the freezer at my local grocer last week. The creamy treat is packed with Samoas Cookies in caramel ice cream with fudge. You better believe I picked up a few gallons. To go with my cookies, of course.

Ahhh...Girl Scout Cookies. Now there's something to look forward to in this seemingly never-ending winter freeze.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Race Calendar

March 1: Point Bock Run (5 miles)
March 16: Madison Shamrock Shuffle (10K)
April 5: IU-Bloomington Mini Marathon
April 21: Boston Marathon
May 18: Memphis in May Triathlon
May 25: Madison Half-Marathon
June 14: Horribly Hilly Hundred (200K)
July 5: Green Lake 10K
July 12: Muncie Endurathon (half-ironman)
August 3: Ripon Medical Center Triathlon
September 7: Ironman Wisconsin
October 5: Twin Cities Marathon

The New Job

On Friday afternoon, I was offered the job of Manager of Recruitment Outreach for the UW-Madison Office of Admissions. While it hasn't officially been announced yet--I'm still working out some of the details with our office's director--I am very proud to have been offered the position, and glad to know the process is finally over. In this new role, I'll be managing our office's many recruitment programs, and moving from a behind-the-scenes role to one of increased responsibility and visibility. Thanks for all of your support over the last several months. Your words of encouragement have certainly helped to keep me sane through this seemigly never-ending process.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Frozen Solid (with no sign of hope)

As I've mentioned before, I co-manage the university's campus visit program, and work very closely with our forty student campus tour guides. We recently hired eleven new guides, to replace those who have graduated, and this week they endured a very rigorous training week of listening to overwhelming amounts of campus information, and traipsing all over campus practicing their presentation skills and content mastery during "mock tours". They're a great group of new guides, with loads of energy and talent. And most of them are freshmen! I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of them better. They do make me feel very old, though. Since I was once a tour guide myself, I feel all hip and close to the experience, but then they remind me that I've almost been out of college for a decade. Which is unreal.

Anyhow, I observed many of their "mock tours" over the past two days, and I must say that I am still de-frosting. Today, I spent over four hours walking the tour route observing, and my hands are still blue (despite hand warmers strategically placed in my mittens, which Karen generously picked up for me at Walgreens this morning). I do not believe I will ever be warm again. Tomorrow is predicted to be much worse, however. And of course, I'm scheduled to do a 13-mile run around the lake with two of my friends. Tomorrow's forcast calls for a high (a HIGH) of minus one degree. By the end of the weekend, I will surely be a block of ice.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Tonight at 7pm, I'm attending a Border's author event with some friends (if I'm not snowed in at work, that is). The book is actually a cookbook, "Potluck! Home Cooking from Wisconsin's Community Cookbooks." The more than 200 recipes featured in the book were collected by author Toni Brandeis from 14 community cookbooks produced by groups that include the Monroe Singers and the Madison Curling Club.

I've never attended a cookbook author event, so I'm not sure what to expect. Probably good stories and maybe a few demos? Who knows. I'm game for anything that involves a potluck.

Countdown to Sundance

I would do almost anything to have a flight to Park City, UT this evening for the start of the Sundance Film Festival. And tickets to a few of the films I’m currently salivating over would be good, too.

Last year at this time, this dream was my reality, as I found myself hopping on a plane headed to Utah, where I spent the entire duration of the world renowned 10-day film festival. My brother was living in Salt Lake City at the time, which made the opportunity all together possible. For ten days, I had the opportunity to see some of the world’s most anticipated and celebrated independent films—one from the comfort of Robert Redford’s screening room at Sundance Resort, and others followed by intimate Q&A sessions with the directors themselves. The films were heartbreaking, mind-blowing, and utterly mesmerizing. Taking in these great films made me appreciate film on a whole new level. I couldn’t believe my great luck to have scored such coveted tickets to this premiere event.

This year’s festival promises another ten days of great film. There are four competition categories with sixteen films in each. The categories are: Documentary Competition, Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, and World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Out-of-competition film categories include: Premieres, Spectrum, Park City at Midnight, New Frontier, and Shorts. The films I am most excited for, and anxiously awaiting feedback on, are: Choke, The Last Word, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Wackiness, King of Ping Pong, The Wave, Assassination of a High School President, Death in Love, Incendiary, and Savage Grace.

It's easy to get involved with the festival from the comfort of your own home, beyond reading the celebrity gossip in US magazine (Park City is jam packed with LA—last year I brushed shoulders with John Cusack, Tara Reid, Puff Daddy, and Nicole Richie). All of this year’s films, and brief descriptions of each, are online. You can download the film guide here. Although not all of the films will be picked up and widely released, some will, and then you’ll know which ones you’re looking for in the coming year or so. In 2007, between the festival and other venues in Madison (once the films were picked up), I was able to see ten films that premiered at the 2007 Film Festival. By downloading the film guide, you can study up and know what you’re looking for.

Italian Pasta Bake

Here is the Italian dish I mixed up this past Saturday night. I found the recipe in the latest Rachel Ray magazine. It was good stuff, and relatively easy to whip up.

2 loaves day-old Italian country bread, crusts discarded, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 pound rigatoni or ziti pasta
4 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup grated parmesean cheese, plus more for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10-inch springform pan or 4-quart ovenproof bowl. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with bread slices, fitting them tightly; reserve several bread slices for the top.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir the peas and cook for 1 minute. Stir the tomatoes and heavy cream, mixing until combined, and bring to a simmer. Set aside 1 cup of the sauce.
4. Drain the pasta, add the sauce in teh skillet and toss to coat. Stir in the mozzarella and half of the parmesan. Season with salt. Pour the pasta into the bread-lined pan, pressing down with a wooden spoon. Cover with the remaining bread slices. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top and dot with the remaining 2 tbsp. butter.
5. Bake the pasta until golden and crusty, about 40 minutes (loosely cover with foil if necessary to prevent browning). Let cool for about 30 minutes, then unmold and slice. Serve with the reserved tomato sauce and extra parmesan.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weekend At The Lake

Diet coke addicts (BEST and LITTLE Buddies!)

Dinner is served! (recipe soon to follow)

View of the lake from the house

By now, I'm sure you've realized that I spend an extraordinary amount of time at Green Lake. It is my favorite place, and my ultimate dream is to someday have a family retreat of my own on Green Lake. This past weekend, Karen, our friend Kim, and I headed to Karen's family's lake house directly from work. It was a perfect winter weekend, complete with winter flurries, snow covered trees, and ice fishermen galore. Above are some pics from the weekend's fun.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Shoe Box

Over the weekend, I made my very first visit to downtown Black Earth’s The Shoe Box, which claims to be the “largest shoe store in the Midwest.” Located at the intersection of Highways 14 & 78, the store carries over 180 brands and has over 200,000 pairs of shoes in stock.

I first heard about The Shoe Box when I was a student at UW–Madison. The store earned notoriety from it’s involvement in a Men’s Basketball NCAA scandal (read: free shoes). Since then, I’ve been a little curious about the store, but never enough to actually make a stop during the few times I’ve driven by en route to Devil’s Lake or some other more exciting destination.

For the last several months, Karen has been obsessed with making a trip to The Shoe Box. Finally, I gathered up enough energy to feign interest and support. We made the trip on Sunday afternoon. The place is enormous. There were shoes everywhere. And employees were scattered all over the place, more than willing to measure foot size and fetch shoes. There were many random objects hanging from the ceilings, including several football helmets and a bird cage, complete with live birds. It very much seemed to be one of those random and tacky tourist attractions—you know, the kind that one only manages to finds in the US— like the Corn Palace or Wall Drug. The kind of place my parents always incorporated into our family road trips growing up.

Karen and I spent what felt like an eternity at the Shoe Box, but I was a good sport. Karen must have tried on over 20 pairs, and in the end took home three new pairs—an every-day pair of Keen boots, Nike Gore-Tex shoes for snowshoeing, and her always reliable Nike Structure Triax running shoes. She even negotiated for a multiple pair discount—ten dollars off each pair.

Surprisingly, I didn’t buy anything. But, I did enjoy a stop at Culvers on the way home. Mmm…butter burgers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

LOLE: Live Out Loud Everyday

I recently discovered a new women's active wear brand that I really like. It's called LOLE, which stands for Live Out Loud Everyday. There's a great, high-end women's active wear store in Madison (on Monroe Street) called Stone's Throw, which carries a lof ot LOLE items (and by the way, is having a massive sale until Jan. 19). LOLE's winter pieces rock, but I also love many pieces from their spring line as well.

Who knew, but according to LOLE's Web site, you are what you wear. Their clothing is described as "Bold and beautiful. Strong yet sensitive. Feminine yet functinoal." And so desperately, I want to be all of those things. Furthermore, the site describes that, "LOLE is passitionate about creating the ultimate in fabulously feminine active wear for today's fashion-minded, forward-thinking woman." Can I just say that I love that sentence? Fabulously feminine active wear. Beautiful.

Isn't that enough to make you want to shop? And yet, I reluctantly decline. Now that I'm done with my tenure at Banana Republic, my bank account is very grateful. But when I do feel like shopping again, which I'm sure will be all too soon, I think it's time to move beyond professional clothes and focus on active wear. And LOLE can help me be sporty spice.

Best Waffles. Ever.

Following is a recipe for what is surely to be the best waffles you've ever tasted. The recipe was given to Karen's parents a number of years ago by friends of theirs from California. These are the fluffiest, yummiest waffles I've ever tasted. And the recipe is extraordinarily simple. We make these waffles every time we're at the lake, which is where we spent the weekend with our friend, Kim. Enjoy!

2 cups Bisquick
3 tbsp. oil
1 egg
10 oz. club soda (1 1/3 cup)

Mix all ingredients together and use at once, as the batter is of an effervescent nature.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pizza Brutta

Perhaps some would beg to differ, but I believe that Madison is truly lacking in great pizza joints. Sure, there's always Paisan's, Greenbush, and Ian's, but nothing to rave about. (Like I said, some may disagree.) That's why I was so pleasantly surprised to find a new kid on the block. The newest addition to the increasingly vibrant Monroe Street, Pizza Brutta is a charmingly hip pizzeria that specializes in Neapolitan style brick oven pizzas.

So far, I've made two trips to Pizza Brutta since it opened in December. Both times, I've been very impressed by the simple and fresh ingredients, wood-oven taste, crispy crusts, and the quaint and modern atmosphere. I've now ordered the Margherita Pizza ($9) twice, which is topped by tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella (made in-house), basil, and olive oil. Other pizzas include the Pepperoni, Quattro Formaggi, Salami E Funghi, Siciliana, Greco, Prosciutto Arugula, Salsiccia, Caprino, and Gabriel. Salads include the Brutta, Caesar, Gorgonzola, and Greek, which range in price from $4-$7.50. Lots of vino as well, available by both glass and bottle.

As for the service and atmosphere, it's order at the counter, but the pizza is then brought out to your table, which makes for a cheaper and more laid-back dining experience. The restaurant itself seems very quaint, although plenty of comfortable seating exists, and the focal point is certainly the beautiful brick oven in back. The walls are painted in a cheery, subdued orange color and are dotted with large, black-and-white photographs of Neapolitan street scenes.

This place is just another great reason to spend some time on Monroe Street. Now complete with a Trader Joe's and several trendy boutiques and coffee shops, Monroe Street really does have it all. And luckily, I live within walking distance!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's Official...

Well, it's official. I feel like a giddy high school student who has just received her college admission decision (in the big envelope with "Yes!" printed on the flap). I'm in for this year's Boston Marathon. I received my acceptance card in the mail yesterday afternoon. Until then, there was still a tiny question mark. When I registered for the race online, I had to input my race qualification information, and then an auto not-so confirmation spit out and told me that I was not yet registered for the Boston marathon. Essentially there's another step to the process in which a formal committee verifies your race qualifications.

In terms of other race news, Karen and I are now contemplating another spring marathon after Boston. We're considering running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth again with a few other friends. I mean, why not? I'm totally game for another year of hellish temperatures, Catholic Benedictine dorm life, and a mentally painful race course. Bring on the torture. As long as I get to make a stop at Betty's Pies. This year, preferably after the marathon. Last year's slice of toffee cream pie the day before the race came back to haunt me for 13 unbearable miles.

A Mind-Blowing Observation in the World of Periodicals

I found myself curled up last night with a copy of Men’s Journal and a bowl of mac and cheese. How exactly did I come to be reading Men’s Journal? The truth is, I received an unsolicited, complimentary trial subscription in the mail. Just yesterday, the latest February issue arrived, which is the second I’ve received thus far.

Admittedly, I also perused the January issue, although I was much more intrigued by this month’s issue, the cover of which is adorned by the face of legendary professional skater and snowboarder “flying tomato” Shaun White. I brushed paths with Shaun at the post office one day a few years ago when I was living in Aspen, Colorado. Minutes later, I observed his mother yelling at a post office employee. Perhaps his prize snowboard didn’t arrive in time for the X-games? Who knows.

So back to Men’s Journal. I can’t say that I’ve ever taken the time to sit down with a periodical that is primarily intended for the opposite sex (or so I thought). However, I like to read most anything, and thought it would be a learning experience. I was shocked to find that more than 30% of the letters to the editor were from females. Seriously? I wasn’t the only woman reading Men’s Journal?

At first I found this revelation shocking, but upon closer inspection, I realized what I should have really known all along, that men’s and women’s magazine are not all that different. I know it's mind-blowing, but both cover the same topics, just written a little differently. Not so unlike Vogue or Glamour, Men’s Journal contains articles about fashion, fitness, food, world news, celebrities, travel, arts and culture, etc. But instead of Kate Hudson, it’s Shaun White. And instead recipes for romantic meal with your Valentine's sweetie, it’s recipes for meatloaf and reviews of “meat’s best friend,” otherwise known as ketchup. I know, it's utterly mind-blowing, folks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Dan In Real Life" Steals The Show

I may not watch TV, but I sure do see plenty of films. Especially lately. Here are four that I've seen in the past two weeks. Very much enjoyed each one of them, but my favorite, hands down, was Dan In Real Life, which I just saw last night. Following is a brief review on each:

I really enjoyed this film. A very simple and beautiful portrayal of two musicians who have just this “one” opportunity to share their lives and music, before moving on with their separate lives. They seemingly fall in love during their short time together, but rather than wallow in the complications of that, they simply enjoy the moment and appreciate it for what it is.

The reason I liked this movie is because there seemed to be a very fine line between reality and fiction. The two main characters began dating after the film was released, and now perform together in a band that goes by the name Swell Season.

Kite Runner
This movie was great, and very true to the novel. Definitely worth checking out, but I think that people who have read the book might be disappointed by the film's quick pace and ending. For example, Amir and Young Hassan's entrance into the US seems effortless in the film. Those of us who have read the book know that this couldn't have been further from the truth in author Khaled Hosseini's portrayal.

Also enjoyed this one, but would definitely recommend the novel over the film any day. Atonement is my all-time favorite book, and I truly believe that Ian McEwan is one of the best writers of our time. There are some based-on-novel films that are just bound to be a disappointment, regardless of the quality of the film, and I’m afraid this is just one of those. I liked the film, especially the typewriter metaphor, but the novel simply cannot be matched.

Dan In Real Life
I saw this movie at the “cheaps” last night. Three dollars for an evening show. Can’t beat that. This movie was my favorite of the four. Steve Carell is at his best in this hilarious, feel-good comedy. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so much during a movie. This is a must see.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I had the most wonderful evening following yesterday's immensely stressful job interview. After a glorious home cooked dinner, I sat by the fire and enjoyed a couple glasses of wine, and Issue 18 of McSweeney's, specifically the short story "The Stepfather" by Chris Adrian, which is geniusly hilarious. My brother gave me a few issues of McSweeney's, a quarterly literary journal edited by Dave Eggers, for Christmas, and I'm already an addict. It was the most perfect and thougtful gift my brother could have given me.

Anyhow, I just thought I'd share that I'm feeling much better now that this interview stress is mostly behind me. Last night was one of the most relaxing, peaceful nights I've had in a very long time. It was the ultimate way to decompress. And I thought the picture above really captured the mood.

Tour de Greasy Spoon

This past weekend, I did a lot of eating out. But then again, I always do a lot of eating out. Maybe the thing that made this weekend’s selections so noteworthy was the fact that most could be described as “greasy spoons.” And we all know ‘tis the season for comfort foods. However, ‘tis always the season of comfort foods in my world. Word.

On Saturday night, prior to candlelight snowshoeing, Karen and I headed to our first greasy spoon selection, The Club Tavern (1915 Branch Street) in Middleton, for 2-for-1 burger baskets (My frugal friend, Karen, had clipped a coupon). I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere in the restaurant part of the tavern, which was originally built between 1860 and 18880 as a boarding house, and was later named the Club Tavern in 1921. The prices were unbeatable. Most of the burgers were under $5, and the fries were only 99 cents. And then there was the whole 2-for-1 deal. What a steal! The food was good, nothing too extraordinary, but decent tavern grub. Definitely worth a stop, especially with a 2-for-1 coupon.

The next morning, following a 13-mile run (around Lake Monona) with our friend Emily, we headed to Cleveland’s Diner (410 East Wilson), which is a tiny hole in the wall near John Nolen Drive. We both ordered eggs and toast, and then shared a short stack of blueberry pancakes. In my opinion, it’s pretty tough to mess up basic breakfast entrees, and the food was accordingly as expected. The prices were also phenomenal, with most breakfast dishes ranging in price from $3-$6. It was definitely a nice, laid-back breakfast in an old-school type of environment, but I must say that I would prefer Mickey's Dairy Bar any day (for the same sort of atmosphere). And I was a bit troubled by all of the dust and random posters/postcards taped on the walls. Just sort of messy/tacky and generally unappetizing.

Candlelight Snowshoeing

This past Saturday night, Karen and I drove to Bluemound State Park, about a 20-minute drive from Madison, to participate in the Candlelight Ski and Hike, sponsored by the Friends of the Blue Mound State Park.

We arrived at 7:30ish and immediately strapped on our snowshoes and hopped on the 1-mile snowshoe loop. There was also a separate 2-mile trail for x-country skiers. Our trail was set deep in the woods, lit only by small tea lights set at ten foot intervals. It was incredible. The fog had really set in by that point, and the combination of that, and total darkness, save for a few candles and frequent whiffs of paraffin, made for a setting that was just totally eerie and magical at the same time. We did three quick loops of the trail, and then headed up to the bonfire to enjoy a few cups of cider, hot chocolate, and marshmallows. This was seriously one of the coolest things I've done in Madison. Definitely worth checking out. And totally free.

The next candlelight event at Bluemound is on Saturday, February 2, from 6-9 p.m. There are also candlelight ski and hikes taking place at many other state parks throughout January and February.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Alamo Basement Exists

My brother's new Web site is now live. This is not the one he's been working on religiously for the past several months with his best friend, Ben, but another side project. Not sure what it all entails, but looks pretty interesting so far. And funny. Alamo basement, get it? There's some reference to Pee Wee's Big Adventure there, too. Or so I've been told.

One of the cool features on the site is that my brother built the background to correspond with weather patterns at the actual Alamo in San Antonio. Currently, you will see that it is pleasant and just slightly cloudy at the Alamo. Which is always good to know. Cheers to my brother on another design accomplishment. I'll let you know when the big site goes live. Kelly, anything I missed or you'd like to add?

Love In The Time of Cholera

Over the New Year’s weekend, I finished reading the novel, Love in the time of Chlorea, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is a story about the 50-year love triangle between Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Doctor Juvenal Urbino set in the late 19th century.While, unlike my mother, I did enjoy the book, I can see how she found it to be painfully slow paced, and the main character, Floretino, extraordinarily whiney and pathetic. My mom stopped reading the book three-quarters though. Being very cognizant of my own obsession compulsion with finishing books I’ve begun, I asked how she could have possibly stopped, especially so close to the end, to which she simply replied, “life is too short.” And you really can’t argue with that.

I’ve always been interested in reading Love In the Time of Cholera, and those of you familiar with my favorite movie, Serendipity, will remember that the book itself is integral to the romantic fate of the film’s protagonists, Jonathan Trager and Sara Thomas. My interest for the book was piqued once again when I recently discovered that the novel had been adapted into a film. There seemed like no better time to finally pick up a copy and start reading.

I thought the plot was interesting, as I generally find non-Danielle Steel romance novels to be, but was overwhelmingly troubled by Florentino’s notion of love, and absolutely repulsed by his behavior, particularly his constant “whoa is me” sexual diversions. The man literally sleeps with half of the southern hemisphere (622 love affairs in all), all in the name of love, before declaring his steadfast love to an elderly widower, Fermina, his long-lost teenage love, to whom he falsely sings that he has always been true to her. I mean, puleease. I completely agreed with my mom that he is a whiney, pathetic, and a very sad little man. Some think this novel is a heart-warming story about the enduring power of true love. I say bullshit. Please do excuse my language. And don't get my wrong, I did like the novel, but despised Florentino with a passion.

If Nothing Else, It's Over

This afternoon, I returned to the "boardroom" to complete the second-round interview for the position I am applying for within my office. As many of you know, I completed my first-round interview more than two months ago. The process has been, for reasons unknown to me, painfully slow. But still, I persist.

Today’s interview consisted of a 20-30 minute all-staff presentation in which I was to pretend the audience was all UW graduates, and I was training them on how to assist our office with recruiting qualified undergraduates straight out of high school.

At least forty of my co-workers turned out for the presentation. Although I read off my note cards too much, and had to answer about a gazillion questions from the audience following my presentation, some of which were not such strong answers, it’s finally over. And I think I did the best I could. Karen was nice enough to tell me that I was a "rockstar," but you know how best friends have to tell you that sort of stuff.

Now I can only hope that the process will carry out a little speedier following this final round of interviews. The other remaining candidate interviews on Wednesday, after which I would think (and hope) I’ll hear something by early next week. Leading up to the presentation, I felt overwhelmingly sick to my stomach and foggy, since I wasn’t able to sleep at all last night. But hallelujah, it’s over. And that's all that really matters to me right now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Live At Bowser's Castle

Today's Red Gym

Yesterday's Red Gym (the University's boat house was demolished in 1968)

Just in case you ever felt yourself wondering where I work, and thus where I spend the overwhelming majority of the hours of my life (which is somewhat troubling when you really calculate it out), here is a picture of my building, the Red Gym. The Office of Admissions is on the third floor of the building.

The Red Gym was one of the first buildlings on campus and overlooks Lake Mendota. It was built in 1894, and underwent a major $11 million renovation in the late 1990's. Since its creation, the building has served as a military training facility, gymnasium, infirmary, art exhibition space, and a convention hall. The gym was also used for student registration until 1983. In 1970, an anonymous war protester firebombed the Red Gym, intending to hit the ROTC, but instead caused major damage to another part of the builing, which, because of funding issues, wasn't fully repaired until the renovation. The Red Gym was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.

The building is now used as the "gateway to the univeristy," housing the Office of Admissions, Visitor and Information Programs, the Multicultural Student Center, Student Organization Office, International Student Services, and the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

And so, now you know where I work!

License Plate Art

Above is a picture of the very special and unique art piece that I received from my best friend Karen for Christmas. Last year, the piece was displayed at one of my favorite boutiques in downtown Princeton (near Green Lake) called Daiseye (which appropriately touts itself as "an eclectic marketplace offering earth-friendly products.") I loved the piece made from recycled Wisconsin license plates, truly a one-of-a-kind, but couldn't justify the price.

In early August, I saw the piece again, but this time at the Green Lake Art Fair. My parents were in town that weekend to celebrate my birthday, and I excitedly explained to them how much I loved and wanted the piece. The artist talked to us more about his thoughful creation of the piece, and how many of the license plate pieces corresponded to particular counties and Wisconsin themes. For example, Brown County is represented by a piece of brown plate on the right side of the map. I came so close to buying it that afternoon, because I knew that if I didn't, someone else would, and the beloved masterpiece would be lost to me forever. But again, I just couldn't justify the purchase, especially when I knew I would soon be shelling out $400 to register for the 2008 Ironman Triathlon. And I am sure that having the extremely frugal combination of my dad and Karen didn't help matters either. Or did it?

Luckily, my always scheming best friend had a plan of her own. Under the guise of "going to the vegetable market" to pick up corn and other veggies for a barbecue we were having that night, Karen went back to the art fair and purchased the piece for me. She hid it under one of the beds at the lake and picked it up in December to bring to Madison.

I love it and can't wait to find the perfect place to hang the piece. It's a very unique and thoughtful gift that I will treasure forever.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Pictures From Green Lake

Megan, Karen, and Kate take a moment's rest during a lakeside snowshoeing adventure.

Karen and Kristin sport matching Atlas snowshoes.

Megan and Kate's dog, Cosmo, pose by the lake.

Emma and Kristin, all bundled up and ready for speed!

Kristin, Emma, and Allie enjoy moonlight sledding (and a little snow, too!)

Kristin and Karen, the next day, just minutes before the aforementioned tragic crash.

Sledding Gone Wrong

I spent the long New Years weekend at Green Lake with Karen’s family, including her sister Kate, and her sister Martha, along with Martha’s husband, Brian, and their three young daughters—Megan (8), Emma (5), and Allie (3). Otherwise known as my second family. With an abundance of fresh snow, we enjoyed a fine array of winter activities, such as snowshoeing and sledding. Rosy cheeks were merrily sported all weekend long.

On Saturday afternoon, the entire crew headed to our favorite sledding hill, which sits atop the seventh hole of Lawsonia golf course, just a few blocks from the Mittelstadt family lake house. After several enjoyable runs, Karen and I decided to take a final run together, before heading back to camp for hot chocolate and naps. As true adventurers, we wanted to end things with a bang, and so we ventured onto a run we hand’t yet tried, one with a sizable jump built near the end. Unfortunately, we didn’t head the warnings of little Emma, who had just suffered a crash on the same run.

We took off with a big push from Brian, and gained more and more speed as we cruised over the packed snow. Just as we hit maximum velocity, we also hit the large bump, which immediately catapulted us both off the tube and flying into mid-air, ending with a harsh thump back to reality. Karen laughed uncontrollably as she picked herself up off the ground and dusted snow off her face and clothing. I, however, was not so fortunate. I remained laying on the ground, withering in pain. Something in my back was just not right.

Finally, I was able to get up, but the rest of the vacation I was tormented by a very sharp pain in my lower back. Any form of movement left me withering in pain, and I spent much time overdosing on Aleve and huddled up against a heating pad. Ironically, just after having registered for the Boston Marathon, training has already come to an abrupt standstill. It is way too painful to move, let alone run. Things are feeling a little better today, but movement still proves difficult. I'm bummed, but remain hopeful for a speedy recovery. Please be careful out there. Those seemingly little bumps can be lethal!

Annual Christmas Day Run

For the past few years, my dad, brother, and I have woken early on Christmas day to do our annual Christmas day run. By early, I mean that we leave the house at 9 a.m., which is extraordinarily early for my brother, Kelly, a self proclaimed night owl, who typically stumbles out of bed (very grumpy, I might add) sometime after 2 p.m.

Our route is approximately ten miles long, from my parent’s house in Brookfield to the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee. Luckily, we don't have to run another ten miles back home, as my mom always happily serves as our pick-up crew. This year, we completed the run in less than an hour-and-a-half, which my dad proudly declared, was our fastest time ever. Kelly has a tendency to keep the pace pretty quick, which can be challenging for me to keep up. As always, it was a special morning for all of us, and I hope we can keep the tradition alive for a very long time.