Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CSA Cooking: Lemon Basil Pesto

On Monday night, I picked up my CSA veggies for the week from my mom's house. Because I knew that the two weeks ahead were going to be pretty crazy, I decided it would be a pretty good idea to start using the veggies up right away, starting with the giant bunch of lemon basil. Yum.

We got lemon basil a few weeks ago, and I ended up having to throw it away. Since I knew that I wasn't going to eat it for dinner tonight, or possibly the next several nights, I decided it would be a good idea to make and freeze some pesto.


2 cups of lemon basil leaves (I just used my whole bunch)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of almonds (didn't have pine nuts, so I figured these were an okay substitute)
2 Tablespoons of parmesan cheese
6 Tablespoons of olive oil

I started by chopping up the almonds in the blender so that they wouldn't be big chunks in the pesto. Then I added in the basil leaves and the garlic. After that was nice and chunky, I added the cheese and olive oil until I had a paste.

So easy!

On the next edition of Cooking with Kirstin....

Yeah, I got nothing. It will have to be a surprise.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chili Weather

Mmm. Smell what's cooking!
Okay, so today may not be chili weather, but Sunday was a gloomy day in Milwaukee, which made it perfect weather for a nice, hot bowl of chili. And there are a lot more of those days coming as fall approaches.

I came home to find Chris in the middle of making a big pot of it, using our favorite recipe that we found on The Boilermaker Tailgate Chili recipe was posted by MIGHTYPURDUE22 - we were able to look past the Big 10 rivalry because the chili is so delicious. You will notice that it has lots of stars. Others are big fans too.

We definitely modify to meet our own tastes and what we have on hand, as there are a lot of ingredients involved. If you are looking for a recipe to try, give this one a shot. Thanks so much for sharing MIGHTYPURDUE22! Made excellent leftovers for lunch today.

Boilermaker Tailgate Chili from MIGHTYPURDUE 22 on

Prep Time:30 Min

Cook Time: 2 Hrs
Ready In: 2 Hrs 30 Min


  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 3 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits (I obviously leave these out)
  • 4 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™) (We used Sriracha, which also worked)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips such as Fritos®
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese


  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan, and cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease.
  2. Pour in the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate, and serve the next day.
  4. To serve, ladle into bowls, and top with corn chips and shredded Cheddar cheese. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

On the Tube

Lately I have been watching a lot of tv, one of my favorite vices. It may be due to the fact that I was sick for about a week and couldn't do much else. I love a well-written tv show, and enjoy spending the summer finding new shows and/or catching up on those shows that have been on my "To Watch" list for some time. When you don't have cable, Internet TV is the way to go during the summer. Between Hulu Plus, Netflix Watch Instantly, Netflix Discs, and Project Free TV, we managed to find some good shows.

Homeland (Showtime)
If you haven't seen Homeland, I suggest you find some time to watch the first season before the second one starts in a few weeks. It looks at the CIA The show has some really great characters, lots of plot twists and conspiracy theory, and a major cliffhanger to end Season One. Well worth the time to watch. Claire Danes is awesome.

Mad Men (AMC)
I am a little late to the party on this one, I know. But I just finished watching all five seasons of Mad Men, back-to-back. Holy cow. Still trying to process how Season 5 ended, even though I knew what was coming.

Downton Abbey (PBS)
I think I have probably declared my love for Downton Abbey already. It is just SO good. I cannot wait for Season 3 to start. Even if you are not typically a fan of period dramas, you need to give Downton Abbey a shot.

Treme (HBO)
I finished Season One of Treme, and just got the discs for Season Two. The HBO Series follows the lives of people in the New Orleans neighborhood of Treme, just a few months after Hurricane Katrina. Such a great show. Makes me miss New Orleans. It is sort of eerie to watch right now, with Hurricane Isaac on the way. 

Still on my list to give a shot - Breaking Bad, Sherlock, and Game of Thrones. I am also still considering Dr. Who, a favorite of my friend, Ann.
What are some of your favorite TV series? Anything new that you are planning to pick up this fall?

What are some of your favorite TV series? Anything new that you are planning to pick up this fall?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Less is More

I don't know what it is about August, but it just flies by. Students come back to campus this week, which made this my last weekend of summer. Chris and I made a point to squeeze in a lot of fun stuff, but I also had one major project that I wanted to get done - cleaning out my closet and dressers.

I did a lot of paring down when we moved last summer, but our lovely duplex has pretty small closets, and mine happened to be overflowing. I already had a garbage bag of clothes sitting in our room waiting to be donated. I felt like it was finally time for a cleanse. Why not start out these next crazy weeks of work with easier access to my clothes? 

So everything came out, and got piled on the bed. I examined for holes/stains, tried on stuff I hadn't worn in awhile, and threw stuff that needed to find a new home into a laundry basket. I am totally cool with cutting down. Why have six pairs of jeans that just fit okay, when I could have three pairs that fit well? I would rather have less clothes and more accessories. Plus, stuff fits in the drawers a lot better with less total stuff. This also helped me to feel better about the stuff I bought at the outlet mall yesterday. : ) 

 Now if I could only cut down on all of those t-shirts...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Sunday Habit

I have a morning routine most Sundays. It starts with clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. Flipping through the Super Saver and finding the good ones. Then I head to and print some there too. Finished with a stop on to see what I can find there.

I am by no means an Extreme Couponer. We do not have shelves of toilet paper storage or dozens of bottles of shampoo in waiting. It actually looks more like I hoard coupons than actual items.

But we are trying to save some money, especially on stuff that we know that we need to buy anyway. And we are slowly learning how to match up coupons with store deals and organize our process.

Last weekend we did a Target run and saved $63.17 on $333.83 (19%), leaving our total at $270.66, plus we got one item for free, and $15 in free Target gift cards. Sounds like a lot of money, but that includes a major grocery run, cleaning supplies, toiletries, cat food/litter - nothing too frivolous. The most expensive thing on our list? A $12.50 container of almonds. Those were coming home with us, coupon or no coupon.

Do you coupon? What are your best money-saving strategies?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Halfway to 30

Almost time to add some candles!
I wish that the title of the post was in reference to my 30B430 list. Sadly no. Somehow in the snot fest of this last week, I totally missed that Wednesday was my half birthday. Which means that I now have less than half a year to finish the things on my list.

So far, I have checked off exactly nine of 30. Not even two thirds of the list. Time to kick it into high gear!

1. Read 30 books for fun
2. Get a second tattoo
 3. Pay off my car payments (early, please) 
4. Share a secret with Post Secret 
5. Watch a sunrise 
6. Run a half marathon 
7. Try out vegetarianism for a month (Okay, almost a month...) 
8. Use my passport 
9. Take a classic American road trip 
10. Quit my soda addiction
 11. Go one month without eating out
 12. Plant a garden 
13. Pass my comps
 14. Propose my dissertation 
15. Move in with my man 
16. Visit a state I've never been to before (AL, AK, AR, DE, HI, ID, MD, ME, MS, MT, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OK, OR, PA, SC, TX, UT, VT, WV, WY)...I was missing a few on the list. 
17. Go camping 
18. Relearn Spanish 
19. Get to my ideal weight 
20. Find a great hairstylist 
21. Be in a flash mob 
22. Do a Man vs. Food challenge
 23. Connect with a service organization 
24. Start and finish a scrapbook 
25. Change up my look
 26. Host a dinner party 
27. Find the perfect pair of jeans 
28. Buy myself a really nice piece of jewelry 
29. Go to Las Vegas 
30. (Sorry friends, this one is top secret)

I am on my way, but quite a few more to go. I know that I may not check them all off the list, but I do want to push myself to get as many as I can.

And this is where I need your help. Whatever you can offer me. Motivation. Inspiration. A partner in crime for one of the items on the list. Your Spanish skills. Perhaps you have some sweet hook ups for one of these trips? I am calling in favors. 

It's time to kick it into high gear!     

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our Gallery Wall

We have finally filled the blank wall in our living room, and I am so excited to share!

Check out the new corner!
I did my best to take a picture of each piece, but unfortunately they were pretty gritty. Some are better than others.

One of the paintings I made from the Pinterest Challenge
A map of Madison, drawn entirely in lines from Studio KMO

A little red square mirror we found at Ikea. Oh hey, that's my hand!
A picture I took of Stellie's paws one day.
Some art I made with food coloring, inspired by Young House Love
A print of St. Louis that I got back in the day from Art Shark Designs
And for the bottom row:

A vintage postcard of Indianapolis that Chris found.
Three pics of the kitties that Chris framed for me for Christmas
A print of Providence that I got for Chris from ReStudios
A drawing that I found on Etsy called "Clink" from Genevieve Santos. So cute!
A rooster print that we found on Etsy at The Joy of Color

And finally:
The other Pinterest Challenge print

It has definitely been a work in progress for some time. So glad that we finally were able to hang everything. Right now, it sort of has a theme of the different places we have lived. And our kitties, of course!

I am excited that we still have some room for the wall to grow. Can't wait to see how it changes!

Bucket Of Yuck

That's how I've been feeling lately. What seemed to be allergies last week has turned into a vicious summer cold this week. We are talking snot everywhere, people. It's not pretty.

A few observations on being sick:
  • Red, chapped nose is not sexy. Vaseline is essential.
  • When your head is totally fuzzy, you start to think crazy things - like maybe leggings COULD be pants. Call for help!
  • Robitussin is still the only cough syrup that I trust. Hoping it doesn't look too shady that I have a bottle in my purse. Probably looks more shady that I tend to drink it out of the bottle. But who wants to clean those tiny little cups? 
  • Snot bubbles at 29 are totally embarrassing. Yeah.
  • Having a guest room is a very good thing when you have a hacking cough at 3 am. I can at least lock myself away and keep from waking everyone else up.
  • There comes a point with a cold where your head becomes more clear because all your snot has drained down to your chest. Which means your cough becomes more awful sounding and way more painful. That is my least favorite part. 
  • I don't know about you, but I am even more awkward when sick. Nice to meet you - let me totally forget that I just coughed for 10 minutes and then offer to shake your hand. Aww crap.
  • Nothing is better than sweatpants and blankets when sick. Until five minutes later when that fever kicks it into high gear...
  • Nobody likes to be around sick people. I get it. I am usually a huge germaphobe myself when I am not sick. Avoid me like the plague.  
Isn't being sick the worst?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Change in the Game

Running is hard, especially when you cannot breathe.
I am starting to cry again as I write this post. I'm honestly heartbroken. I haven't kept count, but probably the fifth or sixth time that I have cried this weekend. Pity party, table of one.

These last few weeks have been full of highs and lows. Lately, mostly lows. And most of those related to running.

Last week's long run did not go well. It was incredibly hot, and although I was hopeful, I was not able to finish the run, and walked a good chunk of the 14 miles, hurting most of the way and unable to get my breathing in right due to my allergy-induced asthma. It felt like one thing was going wrong after the next. And all I could hope for was a better run this week when it was time to tackle 16 miles.

The week was rough. My allergies have been on overdrive due to the high ragweed count, and I was only able to get in one short run on Tuesday. I actually ended up staying home sick on Friday, and had to head into the doctor for a breathing treatment to help open up my lungs. At the end of my appointment, I asked if I could attempt running on Saturday. The doctor said it was okay for me to try.

Saturday was a beautiful day. For mid-August, I couldn't ask for better weather. Nice and cool, with most of my run in the shade. Although I didn't feel awesome when I woke up, I decided it was worth a shot. I did not want to miss one of the few cool days that we have had this summer. The first 8 miles went quite smoothly. Only a little bit of walking. Then on miles 9-10, my knee started to hurt. I found myself doing lots of stopping and starting. Attempts at running, accompanied by a need to stop fairly quickly. And by the end of mile eleven, I just had to stop completely at the water stop and catch a ride back. The last five miles I was going to be totally on my own, headed down the bike path back to my car. I wasn't sure if I was even going to be able to walk it, and didn't want to get stranded.

When I got back, I talked to the PT doctor. He thought that my knee problems were probably with my IT Bands, one of the most common running injuries. He did have some concern that I have a stress fracture, and told me to come in and get an x-ray this week to figure out if I should keep pounding the pavement.

This is the point at which I drove home and had a serious meltdown. We are talking straight out of Toddlers and Tiaras. Big old crocodile tears. Ridiculous for a 29 year-old? Probably. But I was just overcome with frustration, disappointment, embarrassment - you name it, I was feeling it. Do you ever have one of those moments? My very own Jessie Spano breakdown. Sad panda.

I do not want to quit. Even with how badly it has been going. Because I want more than anything else to prove to myself that I can do it. I had the chance to catch up with one of my best friends a few weeks ago. She told me how proud she was of me, but also that she was surprised I had made it this far. You see, I have a history of picking things up, and not sticking with them. Especially when it comes to health and fitness. I have received so much encouragement along the way, that thinking about stopping has overwhelmed me. This would be just one more thing that I failed to actually do.

But I also need to listen to my body. And my knees have hurt so much over these past few runs that I have then taken more time than I should have to recover. Which just made the next long run even harder. I need the recovery time, but I also need to squeeze in my runs. Where do you go with that?

Balancing running and life has become a challenge. Finding time for my runs has turned me into a ball of stress especially as I look ahead to the next six weeks. I have already been in a battle of the hours, choosing between sleep, dissertation, work, life, and running. And the problem is that when I choose not to run over those other things, I am basically asking to get hurt. I have learned the hard way that you cannot skip the short runs and think the long ones will go okay. I need to be able to work harder at this. And right now, I just don't know that I can. Especially when it hurts to even walk right now, not to mention breathe.

I am not giving up on this. Just putting it on hold for right now and perhaps setting a more reasonable challenge. I want to make sure that I can make the time for training and that I am not trying to manage too many major things at the same time. I may try to start with a half marathon first and do a little more base building. Hopefully if I can get in more running generally, building up the distance will be more doable. Maybe a marathon was not a realistic goal this time around. But it was worth giving it a shot.

Thanks to all of you for your support along the way. Especially to Chris and my family, who have planned around my running schedule, come to support me at races, and put other things on hold. I appreciate everyone who has cheered for me, provided words of encouragement or running advice, and

Running is something that makes me feel very vulnerable. That is what I like about it. I do not have any natural talent at running and I may run slowly, but I run. Throughout this journey, I have put it out there for the world to read - ringworm, blisters, ice packs, and all. Something that makes me feel even more vulnerable. I may be disappointed right now, but I am very proud that I have run 5Ks, a 10K, and a 10-mile race as part of this process. I have muscles I have never had before. I actually like working out - which is perhaps the craziest part.

It does not look like I am going to get to 26.2 this time. But I will try again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Oh. Hello. Long time no see. My Olympics addiction has kept me from blogging for far too long. I just cannot seem to pull myself away from the TV and the Twitter. Which is crazy, because I actually had some time off last week. Both Monday and Tuesday. 

It is not often that I have a day off, or two for that matter, with nothing to do. If I use a vacation day, it is typically because I am either traveling (most vacation days are spent in the car), attending a conference/training, or on rare occasion, going on an actual vacation. The last time that I had two days off with no real plans was two years ago, when we happened to have back-to-back snow days at SLU. Being snowed in during a major storm is a bit different than having two beautiful summer weekdays off. I was sort of at a loss for what to do.

I started by doing what I know best. Making a To-Do List for my two days off with all of the "fun" I wanted to squeeze in. Nothing says "I don't know how to relax" more than planning out one's relaxing. Am I right?!

The list looked a little something like this:
  • Clean apartment - Check
  • Go to the beach - Check
  • Read books - Check
  • Watch the Olympics - Check
  • Target trip (with it's own list)
  • Work on dissertation - Sort-of Check
  • Clean out fridge
  • Clean out closet
  • Get shoes for Maria's wedding
  • Drink coffee - Check
  • Get in two runs - Sort-of check
  • Take naps - Check
  • Pay bills
  • Play with kitties - Check
  • Watch Treme and send back to Netflix
  • Finish blog posts
  • Go to the mall
  • Get more Gu from Sports Authority
  • Makeup from Bare Minerals
  • Sleep In
 Please note that I am really good at overloading a To Do list, whether for fun or for work. There were a few things on here that immediately got crossed off, once I figured out that I didn't actually get paid until Wednesday. Basically anything that required money. Womp womp. Broke Staycations are not very exciting.

But I did manage to check off a few of the other things, both fun and errands/chores. Yes, even on my staycation, I had chores on the list. Between my running schedule and work, I haven't had so much time to keep a tidy house, and several rooms were in need of some TLC.

A few highlights of my staycation:

I got in two morning runs, followed by this amazingly healthy breakfast. Check out how well I eat when I have time to cook. 

The nice weather let me open up all of the windows, which made the cats very happy. Always a plus when I can watch them stalk squirrels and birds from behind the screens.

Took a walk to the beach, and managed to stop and check out the Little Free Library on Lake Dr. So cute! We are actually doing a walking challenge at work. It is amazing the steps I got in on my two days off. So much more time for physical activity. Plus, you get in a TON of steps cleaning with all of the back and forth between rooms.

Walked through Atwater Park.

And down to Atwater Beach! So beautiful.

I stayed at the beach for probably about an hour, and managed to get sunburned, despite sunscreen application. While there I multi-tasked reading a book and checking updates on the Olympics via Twitter. Crazy, yes.

I also squeezed in a trip to the bakery and to Starbucks for a little afternoon snack. Yum.(I also spent a lot of time on Instagram - you can probably tell...)

A few reflections on my staycation experience.

1. I am really uncomfortable with just relaxing, because I so rarely have time to do it. I pride myself on being good at "going with the flow," but I seemed to struggle with a lack of structured time during my day off, and had to create a schedule/structure for myself. Perhaps on another staycation I can try a different route.
2. Sleeping-in just didn't happen. I really wanted to sleep late, but between Chris and the cats morning routine (yes, my cats seem to have a strict schedule), I got up at my regular time. The benefit of this is that I got my runs in early before it was too hot, and I was able to catch lots of Olympics coverage.
3. I could not resist the urge not to check my e-mail. I only logged on once, but then panicked when I saw how full my inbox was, and immediately began responding to stuff. Which then resulted in some of my coworkers yelling at me to stop responding. So I did log out. Oops.
4. Post-vacay led to me being super overwhelmed when I got back into the office. That wasn't fun. I need to find some better coping mechanisms to deal with that so that I don't immediately regret taking time off.
5. I would like to attempt to disconnect from social media on a future vacay/staycay. I actually probably used social media even more while off this time, again, mainly because of the Olympics. I think I would be a lot more refreshed if I turned everything off for a bit.

And finally - I am thinking that four years from now, I'll just take the full two weeks of the Olympics off. That Olympics fever really gets me...

How do you spend your Staycations?
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