Tuesday, July 31, 2012

30B430 Book 24: The Buddha in the Attic

I grabbed a bunch of new books from my mom a few weeks ago, and jumped right in to The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I had heard of the author's other book,When the Emperor Was Divine, but had yet to read either book.

The Buddha in the Attic shares the collective stories of a group of Japanese immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1900s. The story is told through the eyes of "picture brides," women who left Japan with a photo of their Japanese husband, whom they were to meet in America. It starts with their life on the ship, and the details their "wedding night," their life with their husbands that is far from what they were promised in letters, and raising children who are first generation Americans. As the war breaks out, Otsuka shares the fear and dread as they are ordered to evacuate and prepare to leave, with no idea where they are going. She hints at, but does not detail the womens' lives in the Japanese internment camps, which I believe was the focus of her earlier book.

What was most interesting about the story, was Otsuka's use of the collective "we" throughout the novel. There are no main characters, although every once in awhile, there are names. The theme of identity is huge in the book: questioning identity, maintaining identity, losing identity. Her writing is beautiful and heartbreaking, especially reading about the discrimination and justice issues that are an often overlooked part of our country's history.

I would definitely recommend this book. It is a super fast read, at just 127 pages. You won't want to put it down.

Green Leafy Overload!

My mom, sister and I have been splitting a CSA basket for the last several months. I talked about it a little bit before here. Each week, we get a surprise assortment of veggies that we divide and conquer.

Although lately, I haven't been doing so good on the conquering part. More like, take my share of the veggies and dump them in the crisper drawer - also known as, where food goes to die. It's true. Once it hits the drawer, I usually forget about it until it is unrecognizable. Very bad habit that leads to a sometimes stinky fridge.

I always had the best intentions of eating all of those delicious (and free) vegetables, but at some point, the weekly deliveries got a little overwhelming, and the ziplocs of spoiled lettuces piled too high.

Last week, I decided to start fresh. I dumped out all of the old, and brought home only what I thought I could reasonably eat this week.

Okay, it is still a lot. But I made this delicious meal yesterday, using my spring onions, kale, and basil. Yum! Kale is a new veggie that I have discovered through the CSA.

My challenge is to now eat the rest of what I have throughout this week. I think it will actually be easier now that we seem to be getting less lettuce and more squashes and other things. I am VERY excited about having fresh basil and mint. Not sure what I am going to do with the pattypan squash....

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Travel Adventure

My morning post was about an awesome adventure running through the city. My afternoon post is about a less awesome adventure standing on the side of the road for a few hours. Who's excited?!

One of the more fun components of my job is providing the opportunity for a group of student leaders to attend a national session of The LeaderShape Institute, a really amazing program that inspires them to come back and change their world. No big thing.

We were sending four students to the program this year, and I agreed to drive them down to Urbana-Champaign for the program. Sunday was a dedicated day of driving there and back. I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled up to the Union, and all of the students were already ready to go. I was thinking I'd have to call and wake someone up, but not with these fantastic leaders. Totally made my morning, especially after there was some major coffee spillage at the gas station.

We hit the road and were making great time, with very little traffic in Chicago. I was actually a little concerned that we were going to get to the site too early and have to kill some time. Do not ever think that on a road trip. Not even in your head...

We were in the middle of Chicago when the emergency light went on and said "Tires Low." I had Alyssa, my navigator, pull out the van's manual. It said we should stop relatively soon and check the air and make sure to fill it up so that the tires didn't overheat. It didn't sound flat, so we agreed to get through Chicago and stop at a gas station to check.

We were 20-30 minutes South of the city when we heard the pop and immediately had to pull over.

Womp womp.

While I called the roadside assistance number through the rental company, a few of the students attempted to get the spare out from underneath the van. This is the point of the trip where I became the nervous parent, totally concerned for their safety. As we stood on the side of the road, there was a ton of traffic, and apparently in Illinois, people do not feel the need to move over to the left lane when there is a car on the side of the road. I am pretty sure that I gave a very panicked yelp, "You guys, stay on this side of the car!" Maybe 2-3 times. They totally wanted to solve the problem themselves, and I crushed their dreams in the name of safety. That's me.

While waiting for what felt like hours, a state trooper did eventually stop by. He was very nice and gave us some flares. He also reiterated my "don't go on the driver's side of the car" command, which made me feel slightly less neurotic. Is it just me, or is the side of the highway a totally scary place to be? I think so. Especially when you are there for a few hours.  

Definitely got some color while standing on the side of the road.
Then, two guys pulled up, and asked if we had a flat. They just so happened to fix flats as their business, and had all of the tools in their truck right there. Not only could they put the spare on, if that is what we wanted, but they then offered to actually patch the tire and put that right back on. Despite my protests of "but it's a rental car so I can't pay you and don't know that I have the authority to okay you patching the tire," and "we actually have someone coming," they didn't really listen and just did the work. I was also in the midst of trying to get ahold of all the people I needed to inform of our adventures, and that was one of those professional moments where I just sort of let it happen, because I just wanted to get back on the road. I had two and a half more hours on this leg, and then four and a half back home after that and we certainly were not going to drive that on the donut. Was it the right thing to do? I don't really know. But that is what happened. So thanks to those kind men, for doing that work for free. I kind of expect they were hoping to get paid, but they still did the work anyway even after I made clear I couldn't pay them. It did make it awkward and even more hectic though when the roadside assistance man arrived as they were putting the tire back on. But it worked itself out. 

We did end up driving to the next exit and stopping at a tire shop to make sure we were okay to drive the next two hours. Once we got the okay, and had refueled at Culver's, we were back on the road. Just a few short hours later, the students were dropped off at the retreat center, and I was waving the awkward "I'm not really your mom, but it sorta feels like it right now" summer camp send off. They seemed excited and I am sure they are already in the midst of an amazing week. 

My coworker helped me make arrangements to trade out the car for another once I got to Champaign. She agreed that she didn't feel safe with me driving back by myself on a tire that was patched on the side of the road earlier that day. I am fairly certain the people at the Enterprise counter at the airport thought I was crazy when I told them that the flat tire that they'd heard about was already patched. But, she swapped cars with me anyway, and I headed back to Milwaukee in a Nissan Sentra. Fine by me - I'm a small-car kinda girl. 

The trip back through Chicago had a little more traffic, which gave me some time sitting on the highway to snap a picture or two of the cloudy skyline.

Chicago traffic on a Sunday night. Not excited.
Not long after that, I was back home. At that point, pretty much the best feeling ever. 

Today was a little hectic at Enterprise, as we had to try to track down where exactly I had dropped off their van. But the staff were understanding about the whole thing. 

I am very glad someone else is picking them up on Friday, although a little sad that I won't be in the car to hear all about their awesome experiences. 

Let's postpone my next carpool route until next year though. 

A City Adventure

I have never been so excited about a surprise water stop!
I am thinking that today is going to be a two-post day. I wanted to share a bit about my weekend adventures, but Saturday and Sunday were so absolutely different, that I do not think I can make them fit in one post. One at a time.

So let's start with Saturday. Our running group didn't have a training run scheduled for this weekend, because they were hosting a 10-mile race on Sunday. Since I would not be able to participate in the race, I made other arrangements for a Saturday run, unlike the rest.

You may recall that awhile back I mentioned that I had signed up to run Milwaukee as part of the blog, A Good Run. I am not actually posting until November, but decided to get the actual run in a bit early, as the distance we were looking at fit well with the current training schedule.

I didn't run alone. willrun4cookies7338 ran with me! She is an experienced marathoner, and has been a great coach for me throughout my training so far. I appreciate all of her motivation and expertise, especially when I ask dumb questions like, "What socks should I wear" and "Should my foot look like this?"

So Saturday morning, we hit seven different hotspots during our run through the city. Any guesses what they were?

I will save the details for my November post on A Good Run, but will say that it was a really fun adventure, that involved a little bit of freestyling, some surprise trail running when we got a bit off course, and a bonus stop towards the beginning of our journey. We discovered new, fun parts of the city that we didn't know existed along the way. Plus, we found some of the city's cleaner porta-potties. An important thing to know when doing long runs.

One of the best parts of the day was when we ran through the end of an organized 5K that we did not know was happening that day. I do not know that I have ever been so excited for a water stop. My bottle had been empty for a little while, and I was starting to get whiny. Since the race had already gone through, and the volunteer was tearing it down, he was nice enough to let us steal some water, even though we were not signed up for the race. Thank you good sir!

Even better, we completed 13.3 miles! It was hard to believe it, but I actually completed a distance further than a half marathon! We made pretty good time, considering that we were stopping to take pictures, and did some walking too. We finished in 02:53:39. Not bad! I was amazed at how good that I felt throughout the run, which I attribute that to the beautiful weather. I definitely still feel on track with our training program, and am reading for the 14-mile run this weekend.

I do not know if I ever would have said this before, but I honestly think that running is one of the best ways to see a city, which is why I am so excited about Steve's blog. You should definitely check it out and consider signing up yourself if you enjoy running. I believe there are still some spots left!

What would you highlight in your city?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


You really want to read a blog by a woman who posts weekly pics of her cats?!
Over the past few days, I have had the opportunity to have some fantastic conversations while we had a social media expert visiting on campus. And some awkward ones. Specifically one that went something like this...

Me: I use social media more personally...Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest...
Colleague: And you're a blogger.
Me: Oh, yeah, I do have a blog.
Social Media Expert: What's your blog's name?
Me: Fabulously Broke Twentysomething...except I turn 30 soon, so I'm going to have to figure that one out...
SME: That's a pretty intense name. What do you write about?
Me: Oh, my life. Mostly personal stuff. Like right now, training for a marathon and skin diseases.

Yep, that happened. Hello, my name is Captain Awkward. Nice to meet you.

In the moment I forgot about the fact that I write about cupcakes and cats. Also awkward, but maybe less so than skin diseases. Yup....

Yet, there are people reading my blog. It is a shocking fact to me too. In fact, I have had five different people this week say, "Kirstin, I love your blog. I read it all the time." This usually leads to a super nerdy response from me coupled with some blushing, because honestly, I never expected that anyone would ever really be that interested in what I had to say. Especially when I talk about such random things. But if there are two things I do well, they would be: nerdy and awkward. And apparently I must be slightly entertaining. At least sometimes. Maybe only when talking about ringworm...

Anyway, thank you for reading. I appreciate it. More than you know. And thank to those of you that have shared with me that you are enjoying the blog, in person, on Facebook, via e-mail, in skywriting...okay, that one was a lie. I absolutely love when I see that I have a new follower, or that someone has commented. Totally makes my day.

For those of you lurkers out there who enjoy reading, but wouldn't dream of publicly following or commenting, you're okay too. : ) I've also spent significant time in the shadows while reading my favorite blogs, so I totally get it. But if I do happen to post something worthy of a conversation, you know where to find me. Feel free to make it super awkward. Perhaps your opening line could be, "Nice photos, cat lady."

I'll be right there with ya.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let's Start at the Very Beginning...

A very good place to start.

(Do you love The Sound of Music as much as I do? I consider it one of the best movies of all time.)

I have officially called a do-over on my dissertation proposal. Well, I am 95% sure. I do need to check in with my advisor.

Most people would say that this is not the time to start over. That my decision is totally crazy. Why would I put in a semester's worth of work just to decide to scrap it? But here is my reality:

1. I wrote the initial draft of my proposal over a year ago, and then did not look at it again until this summer.
2. I have spent the majority of the summer trying to pick it back up, and have had to spend the majority of that time just re-reading the literature to find a way back in.
3. The study I was initially proposing was not feeling quite so realistic. At least in my current plan. And I am more concerned with finishing and writing something good than spending the next 10 years trying to do something ground breaking (which I am sure that my proposal was not). I will save that for after I have those letters after my name.
4. It was not bad work, but it really was not very good. Sort of all over the place, without much direction. My instructor's feedback says as much.
5. I am already way more excited about the potential for my new study. And I think I can actually do it.

So here I am. Back to the drawing board. Not starting totally from scratch though. This new topic emerged from my initial proposal, and I will be able to use some of the literature review and possibly parts of my methodology. But I have  a whole lot of reading to do, and even more writing. I have given myself a deadline of February, although I would like to have it done sooner.

I probably should have known this would happen. In both my undergraduate and graduate classes, I could only write a paper to the deadline - that is what they taught us in journalism school. If I started too far in advance, I would always scrap it and start over. A bad habit when it comes time to do that PhD. My procrastination and perfectionism are in an epic battle as we speak.

New mantra: Write something every day. And not just a blog post.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dark Night

I am very sad. Sad for the people of Aurora, CO. Sad for the victims and their families. I just do not understand how someone can walk into a movie theater and shoot people at random, including children. I do not understand why. I have been reading/watching the news stories, but am struggling to process what has happened.

I am also very scared. I know it may seem like an overreaction, but we had tickets for The Dark Knight Rises yesterday, and I honestly did not want to go. Chris bought the tickets the week that they went up for pre-order, and I knew it meant a lot to him to see the movie. He had been talking about it for months (years, maybe). But it was really hard to get past that feeling of "this may not be a safe place" as  we headed through the mall and up into the theater.

I like to think it is a world of hope and possibility. Not of terror and fear.

Hmm. Let me rephrase: I recognize that I am privileged to live in a life that does not involve terror and fear. I do not have to question my safety and security on a regular basis. I also know that for some people, terror and fear is a part of their daily existence. That is something that I cannot even imagine.

Christopher Nolan, director of the Batman trilogy, shared the following statement in response to the massacre:

“Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families. 

Fear and hope were both major themes in the Batman trilogy, especially this last film. I think we all are going to have to spend some time looking for our own sources of hope, as we try to make sense of all of this violation of our safe space. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Ice for the knees. Ice for the soles.
Don't tell Chris, that's his pillow that's doing the propping...
I ran 12 miles today (in 2:20:37). No big deal.

Yeah, just kidding. It feels like a really big deal. Because it basically sucked, and while I finished, I was not totally sure it was going to happen. Which makes me nervous for the additional two miles that will be coming for the next several weeks. Yikes!

I also don't think I realized quite how hot it actually was until I had to stop to use the porta-potty on mile 10. While trapped in that stinky plastic death trap, it became clear exactly how much heat that my body was radiating at the time. That was also the moment that I thought, "really...I'm doing this on purpose?"

I am not a fast runner. At all. I am averaging between 10-12:30 per mile, depending on how much I stop to walk, take breaks, etc. Or today, dodge through a 5K walk that happened to merge with our route (where most people were walking 6-8 deep...rude). Today was one of those days that I wished I was faster, because then I would have been done much sooner.

Not to mention, if I was faster, then maybe the 5K walker wouldn't have taunted me because I was pretty much the last one in the group trudging along, well behind everyone else. Having someone yell, "Catch up, catch up," was not exactly well received. In hindsight, I, of course, applaud the individual for also getting outside and exercising as well. "We each gotta do our own thing, at our own pace - you walk your 3.2 miles, I'll run my 12. Yeah us." What I really wanted to yell back was, "I'm on mile 9, how about you, jerk?!" But I'm doing this for me, not for anyone else. And I do not really anticipate going much faster, so I'll stick to my place by myself in the back. Slow trotting it is.

Anyway, I am currently in the midst of my post-run routine, also known as recovery. This is where, after stretching, showering, and peeling off any blisters, I wrap myself in ice packs, prop my knees, and lay in my bed watching internet tv. Usually with both a coffee and a Gatorade, maybe some chips. Dramatic? Maybe. But it's necessary. Because I'm not quite sure I could walk right now. My feet want to cry every time I stand up. And I am conserving all of the energy that I have got left so that I do not fall asleep at Batman. Chris would be so disappointed.

So this is running...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Feed the Pig

About every other week, Chris and I pack up all of our dirty laundry, and trek across town to the coin laundry mat. Between us, we usually have about 5-7 loads. Chris has one, I have 3-4, and we usually have a shared load or two of sheets and towels. We go on either Tuesday or Wednesday, the discount nights with $1 wash loads. I love that we can do our laundry all at once, and that we stop to get Ian's pizza after. I basically hate the rest of this process. Especially the hauling part.

We have a jar in our living room where we hoard quarters, to make this night possible. My mom actually gave Chris a roll of quarters with his birthday card. How cute is that? Do you think that is to prevent us from bringing our laundry to her place? I only do that every once in awhile, because it takes forever. But thanks, Mom!

The rest of our coins? Those head into this guy. With the hopes that eventually we won't have to save quarters any more, because we will be able to buy our own washer and dryer. We have the hook ups in the basement. But no appliances yet. We are aiming for brand new, top loading, energy efficient, but nothing flashy. (I know that a lot of you love your front loaders, but I have found that they tend to smell like mildew all the time - ick). Delivery/set up is a must.

Right now there is exactly $16.93 in the pig. It does not add up very fast when you take all the quarters out. But someday that washer/dryer will be ours.

What are you saving for right now?

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Skin I'm In

It has taken me 29 years to finally start taking care of my skin. Oops.

I have never been very good about getting into a regular skin care routine, nor did I find a product that I liked. I guess when you start approaching 30, it is time to jump on board with things like anti-aging, eye cream, etc. I don't see Botox or plastic surgery in my future, but I would certainly like to stay looking as youthful as I can, right?

I am currently using the Rodan + Fields line, with a combo of the Unblemish and Reverse treatments. The Unblemish will hopefully address my summer breakouts, which have been made worse by all of the sweating I'm doing. The Reverse treatment, is supposed to lighten the sun damage already done. I'll eventually switch out of that to the Anti-Age. I have only been using it for a few months, but it is amazing the difference that washing/treating my face twice a day can make.

And sunscreen? We are new BFFs. I previously loved the idea of being tan, especially during the summer, and put significant time, money and energy into browning my pasty skin (both outside and inside), often resulting in some serious sunburns along the way. I just cannot imagine continuing to damage my skin and risk the more serious consequences that could come down the road. Does anyone else have serious tanning regret? Maybe it's just me. Pale is the new tan, friends.

What are your skin care secrets?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Storming the Bastille

So I totally feel like the Defarges in A Tale of Two Cities right now. Yeah, French Revolution! Okay, not really at all, but I did run Storm the Bastille 5K, as part of Bastille Days on Thursday. The race started at 9 pm and went through downtown Milwaukee. It was so much fun!

I got to run with Rachel, one of my coworkers!
I would definitely do this race again. Although it is super crowded, there was some great people watching. I loved the people wearing costumes during the race. There were a lot of people wearing berets, striped shirts, etc. and running carrying baguettes, which made me laugh. I'd be all about running with a Cafe Au Lait and a beignet. Perhaps a glass of wine. Definitely a good fun run!
On a semi-related note (because it's French of course, although post-French Revolution), who is excited for the new Les Miserables movie? It comes out December 14, 2012 - get ready! It's a musical version, unlike the 1998 version with Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes. Check out the trailer here:

So excited that it stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Sasha Baron Cohen. Not excited that Anne Hathaway will be playing Fantine. I really can't stand her. And she will be singing "I Dreamed a Dream," one of my favorite Les Mis songs, as shown in the trailer. I sang that during voice lessons back in the day. I will definitely still go see it. Can't wait! Between that and the new Great Gatsby, I think it is going to be an excellent movie season.

30B430 Book 23: In the Garden of Beasts

After finishing The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, I couldn't wait to get his most recent book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin.

Larson tells the story of William Dodd and his family, who moved to Berlin in 1933, where he served as the American Ambassador to Germany during the rise of the Nazi regime. The climax of the book is The Night of the Long Knives/Operation Hummingbird, a night filled with political murders.

Dodd is portrayed as an unlikely candidate, whom some claimed got the job because Franklin D. Roosevelt called the wrong Dodd in the phone book. Unlike other ambassadors, he was frugal, attempting to live within his salary, and voicing his distaste for the lavish parties and entertaining that is expected of the role. Much of the book shares the criticisms that Dodd received from others within the foreign ministry, both in Germany and back in the U.S. The foreign affairs staff in the U.S. wanted Dodd's focus to be getting Germany to pay the debts that they owed, and didn't want him to rock the boat regarding the political happenings there.

His daughter Martha creates her own fair share of scandal throughout the book, due to the numerous men that entertains, including a number of high ranking officials within the Nazi party. She certainly had her own definition of foreign affairs.

Throughout the book, different individuals hinted at an ominous feeling of "something bad is about to happen." Obviously, we know that was true. But they couldn't totally put their finger on it. And they were living in place overflowing with propaganda that they did not really know what to believe. It is weird to think about being right in the middle of all of the terror and chaos, but not totally recognizing it. I would imagine it is the whole forest from the trees thing...

Overall, it was a very interesting look at Germany pre-World War II. It gave some insight as to the environment within the Nazi party, and how Hitler rose to power so quickly, without anyone challenging him, either in Germany or elsewhere. I am certainly not a seasoned World War II scholar, so I learned a lot from the book. Definitely worth the read.

Seven more books to go. I'm taking suggestions on what to read next. What would you recommend?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Let's Fly Away

Wow, I just saw that the Pinterest Challenge post had over 300 views. How exciting! If you found this blog through the Challenge, and decided to come back and read again - thanks! I am still checking out all of the other projects that fellow pinners did. And of course trying to figure out what to DIY next....

Anyway, I am sort of a terrible gift giver.

In fact, most of the time, I do not get people birthday gifts anywhere near their actual birthday. Most often, they get them about 2-3 months later (okay sometimes more like six). They are also usually not wrapped, but rather, held behind my back and then handed over with a dramatic, "TA DA!" Does anyone else have this problem?

I have such an admiration of folks who are good at giving gifts. And so I was so totally blown away by the Mother's Day gift that Bethany from Rinse. Repeat. shared on her blog. She always has the most thoughtful ideas, and this one was so good, that I had to copy it. I hope she doesn't mind! (I know I'm not the first to copy one of her ideas...her bridesmaid boxes have ended up on tons of wedding web sites, and I keep seeing them pinned all over Pinterest).

You see, my original plan for Chris' birthday, which was June 23rd, was to take him to Door County for the weekend (which I have since told him). I'm all about experiences, rather than gifts, especially since he is hard to shop for. Unfortunately, I procrastinated and missed the window for getting an affordable hotel, and then he wasn't able to take off work. So instead we had a weekend of adventures in Milwaukee, including running the 5K. And I gave him a t-shirt. Nothing fancy.

So when I saw Bethany's gift, I knew that getting him a passport would be a great option. I had actually considered it for a gift awhile back, but wasn't really sure how to execute it, without just giving him an envelope of cash. Plus I was fairly cash poor at the time. But this time, I was able to put something together that I am really excited about. And can give him a proper gift, more fitting for a major birthday. Here is my finished product:

The envelope included:
  • A passport application (plus instructions...gotta make this as easy as possible).
  • This awesome passport cover from ideaka's shop on Etsy.
  • The money to cover the application costs.
  • A map of Europe - since our likely first trip together will be to Ireland and London. Woo! (Since it was just a sad printout from a teacher web site, I jazzed it up a bit by adding some colorful thread going from country to country...embroidery is clearly not one of my skills, especially on cardstock). 
Now he just needs to apply and we need to start planning/saving for a trip!

Oh, and I probably should renew my own passport...


Oh time. There is never enough of it.

Yesterday I found one of those funny internet cards that said:

"I'm in love with my bed. We're perfect for each other, but my alarm clock doesn't want us together. That jealous whore."

Seems pretty fitting, right?

When I have taught a college transition class for first-year students in the past, we have them plot out their days for a whole week, showing exactly how they spend all of their time. We then have them analyze their major time wasters, things they should be spending more time doing (studying/sleeping, etc.), and the things that they forgot to put in, like calling their mom, doing their laundry, etc. It is usually a real eye opener. They have a set 168 hours to work with, and usually find that they have to make some serious adjustments to their plans.

I am seriously debating completing the exercise too, because I am really curious where my time is going.

  • It seems like a significant amount is being lost attempting to sleep, but not getting any shut eye. Good old insomnia. My brain just can't shut off at the end of the night, because there just may be too many things on my plate. Which then means I'm probably not doing a great job with the time I do have throughout the rest of the day, when I'm basically a zombie in need of a nap.
  • More and more time is going to running. As those miles get up there, the quick 30-minute run, now has become the quick hour run, which isn't so quick in my limited morning, especially when I am struggling to get out of bed. This morning I needed to get up and run by 5:30, but slept in until 6:30, which means that my run will have to wait until tonight when it is significantly warmer out.  And of course, you have those long runs are now several hours of my Saturday.
  • I have set aside two hours a day for dissertation work, but probably need to be doing even more.
  • I have several major projects on my plate at work, all of which are new things, which always takes more time to get done than one would think. They are projects I'm really excited about, but when the day fills up with meetings, I am always wishing for more "get ish done" time. Because I want them to be perfect (or as close as they can get), which takes time. 
  • Plus add in those other life things, like laundry night, dinner with my mom/sister, social/relaxing time, prepping for a friend's wedding events, blogging, crossing things off my 30B430 list....it goes on and on. 
Time management is always articulated as one of those life skills that we need to make sure students learn while in college. I'll speak only for myself, but I cannot say that I am always doing a great job of role modeling that, as a professional. It's a constant struggle.

When my alarm goes off in the morning, all I can think right now is, "Crap, how the heck am I going to get all of this done today?"and more often lately, "Is it really time to go running?!"

I know it is something that I have to keep working on. I just want to stay sane while doing so...

What are you doing to stay sane and manage the craziness around you?   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

And the Winner Is...


Congratulations on your fantastic new cupcake decorating supplies! Looking forward to seeing a blog post with your homemade cupcakes. The chocolate mint ones sound amazing, so if one happens to wind up making its way to me, I certainly won't be complaining. : )

If you haven't had the chance to check it out the recipes that others left in the comments section of the post. Such great ideas.

There will be at least one more giveaway this summer, so keep an eye out.

Happy Baking!

Pinterest Challenge

So two of my favorite bloggers, Sherry from Young House Love and Katie from Bower Power, have issued a new edition of their Pinterest Challenge: a call to actually make something with all of those pins that you have hanging out on your Pinterest boards. I have always had the good intentions of participating in the three previous challenges, but could never get my act together to do it in time.

I actually was mostly inspired to do something this time, when Sherry wrote that she planned to paint something and make some wall art. I have had six blank canvases of various sizes sitting in storage for awhile now, waiting for some paint to make them pretty. Plus, we were looking for a few more pieces to round out our gallery wall. Which actually is not anything yet - all of the pictures are sitting on a shelf, waiting to be hung. Procrastinate much? Yep.

One of the specific pins from Sherry was from Diane at Home Sweet Homemade. Sherry had pinned this picture that Diane made, using a toothpaste cap as a stamp, of sorts.

Stamp Art from Home Sweet Homemade. See the details here. 
Seemed easy enough. And it reminded me a lot of an art idea that I had pinned to my Wall Art-DIY board from Pawley's Island Posh. I don't know if these were actually DIY, or expensive art, but they provide great inspiration!

I decided that I would do a similar pair of canvases, with two different sizes of circles. I already had all of the supplies needed: a container of red acrylic paint, two 8x10 stretched canvases, a paper plate for my paint, and some newspaper for floor coverage. For my smaller circles, I started with the top of an empty mouth wash container. A tall mug worked for the larger circles. 

Getting started was pretty easy. Paint on plate. Dip mouthwash lid in paint, and go!

I intentionally started my circles off the edge, because I didn't want the circles to be perfectly lined up. I really like the big rough edges, and a few unintentional drips.

I staggered my lines as I went.

As you can see, it is definitely not perfect. Some of the circles are not totally complete, or heavier on different sides. But I like that even more. 

I left that one to dry and switched to the mug. 

I started in the middle of the picture, so that it didn't follow exactly the same pattern as the smaller circles. This one went very fast. 

After letting them dry overnight, they now look like this:

Love em! We still have to hang everything. But I think they will be a great addition to the wall. 

Thanks to Sherry and Katie for hosting the Pinterest Challenge. It was so fun! Here are the links to their projects: Sherry, Katie, and Kate and Michelle, who hosted with them this time. Check out the creative stuff they have made.

Have you made anything from Pinterest lately?

Oh, and the giveaway winner will be announced tonight! I know you are on the edge of your seats...

Monday, July 9, 2012

DIY Project: Summer Camp Card

Did you go to summer camp?

We did. Good old Catholic Youth Camp on beautiful Lake Panorama. One week out of each summer from fourth grade (maybe fifth), until high school. I loved everything about it. Swimming. Canoeing. Making friendship bracelets. Meeting lots of new friends. Eating the delicious food. Seriously, our camp food was really good.

One of the other best parts of camp - getting mail. It was always a big deal to hear your name during the mail call at lunch, and then read a nice note, and maybe get a couple extra dollars for some candy at the canteen. Oliver, a family friend, who is nine is currently at his first overnight camp experience. Last night, I crafted a quick card to get in the mail to him tomorrow. I want to make sure that he gets it before he leaves later this week.

I bought that pack of stickers forever ago. For some reason, I wanted the sleeping bag sticker. Glad I had them now and could finally put them to use. 

I hope Oliver has an amazing time at camp and that he tries lots of new things. The kid is pretty fearless and very athletic and outgoing, so I would imagine he's having a blast. Can't wait to hear all about it! 

This is the first of a bunch of DIY Projects I have coming up this week and next. Stay tuned! And if you want to make a DIY of your own, enter the Cupcake Kit giveaway. I'm picking a winner tonight, so enter soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Weekend at Alpine

I could write for days about my trip to Alpine, but I don't want to bore those of you who aren't quite as in love, so just a few of the highlights...

First, I love sitting in the pavilion seats. Best decision ever. I am just too old for the loud, crazy, distracting lawn. I love sitting among people who have all paid to see the show, and are not too drunk to actually enjoy it. We actually got to upgrade on Friday - this guy traded his better seats with ours, so that he could sit with his daughter and her friend during her first concert. The best part is that I can almost always see when I have an actual seat. Hard for a shorty like myself out in the super packed lawn crowd. I don't miss dodging tall dudes. Not to mention that my legs and feet were already sore on Saturday night, and could not have handled standing on that hill the whole time. Premiere parking was also one of the best decisions we have ever made. We were out in 15 minutes on Friday night. That. Never. Happens.

Dave was in fine form on Friday. I don't know if it was the heat, but he was really goofy. Kept talking about how cold it was and how he needed a sweater, long johns, a cardigan buttoned all the way up, etc. Meanwhile we all had visible sweat marks everywhere. Alpine was seriously like one giant, hot, sweaty armpit. Despite the heat, the band gave one of the best shows that I've seen. Saturday was much cooler, and even more awesome. It is amazing how much more fun it is to watch a show when you are not worried about heat exhaustion. 

The music was fantastic. Chris and I didn't really go into this weekend with a list of songs that we had hoped to hear. Regardless, we were not disappointed. There was a fantastic mix of new and newer songs, older songs, more obscure songs, and a few great covers. I got to hear Pig, which made me smile. Along with a few of my other favorites - Lie in Our Graves, Seven, Two Step, and The Best of What's Around.  I loved Stefan's Star Spangled Banner. I love that they played one of my favorite combos - So Much to Say into Too Much. Hadn't heard that in years. Both nights, guitarist Stanley Jordan did a guest appearance. He was really good, especially on Rhyme And Reason and Dreaming Tree on Saturday night. I loved Dave's solo - Whiter Shade of Pale on Friday. And who wasn't excited to hear them close with Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) on Saturday? I don't know what was better, the song, or Dave's awesome dance moves. Such a fun show. I'm sure you can find some of it on YouTube if you are interested. I could go on all day, but perhaps you should enjoy it for yourself. 

On Saturday, during Brandi Carlile's show, he also came out and performed a duet - Angel from Montgomery - a song I have heard about, but never seen DMB play. I love Brandi's music, and was so excited to see her live. The fact that she and Dave played together was icing on the cake. Here is a version that they performed at the Caravan in Seattle last year, and I found it on YouTube so I could share it with you all. Whoever this person is had a great view...

I'm sad that I have to wait another year to see the band again. Perhaps we should hit the road for another show...

Meanwhile, I'll be framing our two new posters, while sporting my new DMB top. : )

Happy Sunday!
The Set Lists (borrowed from the DMB site)

Friday  Jul 6 2012
You Never Know


(Blue Water)

Best of Whats Around

The Song That Jane Likes

Seek Up

Shake Me Like a Monkey


The Riff



Out Of My Hands 

Star Spangled Banner
All Along The Watchtower

Grey Street

Proudest Monkey
Lie In Our Graves

Don’t Drink the Water


A Whiter Shade of Pale

So Damn Lucky
Tripping Billies

Saturday  Jul 7 2012
(Little Thing) 
Funny The Way It Is 
Pantala Naga Pampa 
Loving Wings 
You and Me 
Jimi Thing 
Rhyme And Reason *
Dreaming Tree *
So Much To Say 
Anyone Seen The Bridge 
Too Much 
Typical Situation 
If Only 
Two Step 

The Space Between +
Ants Marching 
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) *

Psst. You better hurry! Tomorrow is the last day to enter my second blog giveaway, the Cupcake Decorating Kit. Check out this post for more details. I'll pick a winner tomorrow night and announce on Tuesday!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Me and Dave, Dave and Me

If you have known me for some amount of time, it has probably become clear that I am a huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band. I went to my first concert on Sunday, September 1, 2002 at Alpine Valley.

The ticket stub from my very first show. I can't find 'em all, but I still have this one.
 They played the following set list:
  1. Pig
  2. Granny
  3. Where Are You Going
  4. If I Had It All
  5. Dancing Nancies
  6. Warehouse
  7. Rhyme & Reason
  8. One Sweet World
  9. #41
  10. So Much to Say
  11. Anyone Seen the Bridge
  12. Too Much
  13. Grace Is Gone
  14. I Did It
  15. Two Step
  16. Gravedigger
    (Dave Matthews song) (Dave solo)
  17. Ants Marching
At the time, I owned two DMB albums - Before These Crowded Streets, and Dave and Tim: Live at Luther. Of the songs they played at the show, I knew a handful. I loved One Sweet World into #41. I don't think I knew Pig at the time (I hadn't ever listened to BTCS all the way through), and it is now my favorite song - the first I ever heard live. I vowed that night that I would always go to both nights of a two-night tour stop. I was hooked.

Ten years later, and I am headed to my 21st and 22nd shows this weekend.As of last year, I have officially graduated from the lawn, and will sit under the Pavilion tonight. What I love most, is that every single show is different. And I can't say that there has ever been a bad one.

I have seen the band play at the Gorge out in Washington, both Busch Stadium and Fenway Park, and a special show at UW-Madison as part of the Vote for Change tour in 2004. Not to mention, that I am now the proud owner of several DMB t-shirts, a sweatshirt from the Gorge, and various posters which hang throughout our place. I've stopped counting how many of their cds that I have.

My love of DMB has triggered many new friendships with fellow fans over the years. And one very important relationship. Four years ago, while attending a professional development institute, Chris and I had our first non-work-related conversation about Dave Matthews. Later that year, when we attended a conference together, it was Dave Matthews that got us talking again, and probably why we kept talking.

So thank you, Dave - I don't know that Chris and I would be celebrating these 3+ years together if it wasn't for you. And Happy Tenth Anniversary. It's been a sweet road. Looking forward to 10 more years.

Oh, and please play Pig tonight. : )

Time is winding down for my second blog giveaway, the Cupcake Decorating Kit. Check out this post for more details. I'll pick a winner on Monday. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Little Incentive

Image borrowed from here
As I was browsing on Pinterest awhile back, I saw a cool idea to create a little motivation/incentive for working out.

For each workout that you complete, you put $1 in a jar. When the jar gets to $100, you reward yourself with something nice. The example given was jeans, since hopefully by 100 workouts in, you might be ready for a new, smaller pair.

I loved this idea, and have been doing the same, although rather than an actual dollar, I have been moving the money from my checking account to my savings at the end of each month. Much easier, since I rarely carry cash. With 58 in, I am past the halfway mark, and working towards that $100 reward, which will hopefully come by the end of the summer. Right now I'm thinking a new pair of jeans would be a perfect reward, but perhaps new shoes, or maybe more new jewelry. : )

What do you use as workout motivation?

Don't forget about my second blog giveaway, the Cupcake Decorating Kit. Check out this post for more details. I'll pick a winner on Monday. Are cupcakes good workout motivation? Haha. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July!

I started off my day with a little Fourth of July run near the lake. After taking three days off, I had to make it happen, although I fought myself on it for about two hours before I actually got out there. Which of course meant that temps kept rising while I procrastinated. Bad idea. Let me tell you, that heat was sort of oppressive. Today may be too hot for running....

Other things it MAY be too hot for this Fourth:

  • BBQs. Really? You are going to make some poor friend or family member stand in front of a hot grill on a day that it's in the 90s? That just seems mean. I hope you are giving them an iv of gatorade, because they are going to be sweating their butts off. I would rather stick to your basic cold foods today - popsicles, watermelon slices, cold drinks, and ice cream - what else do you need?
  • Sparklers and fireworks. It's not only too hot for that, but also way too dry. 
  • Mayonnaise. Just a little food safety thought - potato salad, cole slaw and other mayo-based foods don't get along real well with heat. And the last thing that anyone needs on the Fourth is food poisoning. Check yourself.
  • Parades. Don't get me wrong, I love a good parade. But standing in direct sun in my own sweat for a few hours, waving at marching bands, scary clowns, and local politicians. On a cooler day, definitely. Today, I will pass. (Ironically my mother sent me a text from a parade while I was writing this). 
But it is not too hot for:
  • American Flag apparel. Wear it proudly! I sadly do not have anything with a flag on it, but I could probably track down a bedazzler and make it happen. 
  • Reflecting on the privileges that we have living in a free country, and thanking those that protect that freedom. It is a very big deal. We should probably spend at least a little bit of the day thinking about it. 
  • Movies. Especially ones with that good old patriotic spirit. You know - Independence Day, Miracle, Apollo 13, Field of Dreams. Or really any movie about baseball. We will be heading to the theaters in a bit to check out Spiderman. Nothing says USA pride like a good summer blockbuster based on a comic book.
  • Pools, water parks, lakes/oceans, sprinklers, or your classic bathtub filled with cold water. All good options.
  • Standing in front of a fan or air conditioner in your underwear. Make it red, white and/or blue underwear, and that is a party.
Call me a party pooper, if you will. My mission in life is to stay cool. Although we will be heading out to Summerfest tonight to see David Gray. Maybe not until after it gets dark though. That just seems smarter.

How will you be celebrating America's independence today?

Don't forget about my second blog giveaway, the Cupcake Decorating Kit. Check out this post for more details, and get your entries in today! Just think, you could be decorating red, white and blue cupcakes!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Fungus Among Us

Name the band with that album name.

So it's about to get real personal. Slash maybe a little gross. If this is your first time reading this blog, I apologize...

I have been running a lot. Therefore, also sweating a lot. Because it's hot, you know.

Sweat = moisture. Moisture = breeding ground for fungus. That's right. My name is Kirstin, and I have a fungus.

More specifically, I was diagnosed with ringworm today. Ringworm is not a parasite. It is a fungus. And it can create a distinct circular pattern, like so:
Oh hey, that's my love handle...
It also goes by the names of Athlete's Foot and Jock Itch. Yuck. I fortunately only have it on my stomach and back, most likely from my sports bra and running tank. The nurse practitioner said they see a lot of it around this time of the year, especially among active people. So that is one official con of physical activity. Score: Fungus = 1, Kirstin = 0.

So I will be hanging out with my anti-fungal cream, washing every clothing item, towel, and bedsheet, and avoiding coming into any skin-to-skin contact with others for a little bit. Including the cats - they can get ringworm too. And in cats, it can create circular bald patches. The last thing I want is a funny looking cat.

You might be thinking "Kirstin, that's nasty." Yes, in fact it is. According to the sheet I got from the doctor, as well as the Mayo Clinic web site, here are some things you can do to avoid ringworm yourself:

  • Shower immediately after working out. Don't hang out in your sweaty gym clothes watching tv for a few hours. Basically practice good personal hygiene. Mmmk?
  • Avoid excessive sweating. Good luck this time of year.
  • Don't share towels, clothes, etc. - Um, yuck.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with others with ringworm. That just sounds dirty. 
  • Wash your clothes/towels regularly and make sure they are dry.
  • If you participate in contact sports (football, rugby, wrestling), you are taking a big risk...
  • The same is true if you live in a warm, humid climate. Sorry Florida. You sound like trouble. 
  • Don't wear your hair in a wet ponytail all the time. Oops.
  • Don't share hats, combs, brushes. Also important for avoiding head lice. 
  • Avoid tight shoes/underwear that rub/irritate your skin. Wear cotton underwear and socks.
  • Carefully dry your feet after bathing/swimming. "Apply antiperspirant to your feet if they perspire excessively." This feels weird. 
  • If your pet is missing patches of fur, it probably needs to go to the vet. Oh, and maybe don't touch the pet or their bald patches...

Okay, that is enough advice. Sorry if I grossed you out. I am kind of disgusted with myself right now. And I'm pretty sure that Chris was making a gagging noise when he asked me if it was contagious. Grown up cooties. But hey, at least now you know how to identify ringworm. Right?

On a happier note, don't forget about my second blog giveaway, the Cupcake Decorating Kit. Check out this post for more details, and get your entries in today! If there is one thing to take your mind off skin conditions, it's cupcakes. Am I right?!

Did you get the band name? Answer = Incubus

Enter to Win...

Check out the goodies in my July giveaway! Sorry, not the most amazing picture. 
Wondering how you can make cupcakes with all of these goodies? Check out the giveaway here and enter by Monday!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cupcake Fun and a Giveaway!

I had a lot of fun sharing different cake decorating tips last week, and thought I would turn my attention to my favorite form of cake: cupcakes!

I had the opportunity to go to one of my favorite cupcake cafes when I was in St. Louis last week, The Cup. Their cupcakes are gorgeous in a really simple way, and also delicious. Check out this baby:

When I took the cake decorating class a few years back, I was most excited about our last class, which focused entirely on cupcakes. It was so much fun to see the different things that you can create, simply by changing out the tips on the piping bag. I usually focus more on taste than toppings, but it is really fun to see what you can create. Here are a few:

This ladybug was just a smooth layer of red icing, a line and a few dots with chocolate icing, and then a chocolate drop and some white dots, which you can get at the craft store.  

 You can also bake cupcakes into an ice cream cone, and then top with frosting using a 1M tip (the big star). Topped with some sprinkles and a cherry = awesome! The 1M tip is the one that makes the nice big icing swirl on top of the cake. Much prettier than plopping down icing with a spatula.

Our instructor also made a delicious chocolate mint mousse-like icing for this one, which is my "ice cream." She also used this as a cupcake filling. It was surprisingly easy to fill cupcakes without making a mess, using the Bismarck tip. Give it a try!

So I will own that I didn't make this one, the instructor did. She showed us how to do a bunch, and then let us take her examples home. This sunflower was made with a leaf tip and yellow icing, followed by some small dots of chocolate. You could also do mini chocolate chips for the center. That leaf tip is great for making a lion face too.

Another fun tip for cupcakes is the grass tip, which can either do something like this...
From Lace Bakery
Or you can make muppet fur!
From Bake Factory UK
Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for cupcake decorating. Here are a few of my favorite pins that I would love to try. I have a lot of cupcake recipes saved for different flavors, these are more focused on the decorating piece.
Minion Cupcakes (made with twinkies) from Do It and How

Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes from Pixie Crust