Saturday, December 31, 2011


Those photo fads have been sweeping the internet this year, haven't they?  I've stayed pretty far away from them.  I have not planked, I have not owled, and I have not tried to emulate Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow - although I came close last night at the bowling lane, but that was more a product of nearly falling over due to horrific bowling technique than actual Tebowing.

But in yesterday's Star Tribune, a wrap-up of the year's photo fads got my family in the curious spirit.  The story included this thing called horsemanning, a photo fad of which I had not heard!  Per the article, horsemanning is "a modern revival of an old 1920s photo trick involving two people that makes one look like the head and body have been separated."  I learned later that there's even a website called, complete with photo gallery.  (The whole photo technique is named after the Headless Horseman from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," in case your curiosity was equally piqued.)

Armed with just enough idle time after dinner, I bring you my family's best horsemanning.

My brother, after a couple of failed takes, summarized it best: "How'd they do this in the '20s?!"

Cheers!  I hope you and your loved ones have a warm, wonderful and safe New Year's Eve.  See you next year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Take a hike!

Yesterday, Josh and I ventured over to the hiking trails in the local park reserve!

We found a restored prairie, sunny skies and a mostly frozen creek.

Oh!  Just 30 hours until the clock rings 2012!  How will you spend the last day before the new year?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Week in review

Ahhh. I've been at my parents' house since Monday night, and the week has been cozy, jolly, peaceful and warm.

My activities have included:

-Finding a sewing machine under the tree!

I've been researching and plotting my first projects, but the first step is to putter around and get to know the machine.  Here is my first creation!  So proud.  Does anyone want a small pouch, perfect for a cell phone and wallet?  Don't all raise your hands at once!

Yesterday my mom and I scoped out the nearby sewing and craft stores and collected some supplies and fleece for my first project.  I will start this project tomorrow!

-Baking potica, the Slovenian bread that has found itself among my family's holiday traditions.  It's dough spread with a mixture of ground walnuts, honey, butter and so on and then rolled into a loaf, so when you cut a slice, it's a pretty spiral of filling.  I learned to knead bread by making potica.

-Making pizza dough and then pizza with my brother.  I want to host a make-your-own-pizza dinner party sometime.

-Running my beloved trails in the park reserve close to my parents' house.  They are the place where I first started to love running.  It's impossible to run here and not remember how proud and excited I felt about running two miles for the first time, or four miles, or eight miles.  The trails are beautiful and calming and stretch on and on and on in ways that paths in St. Paul just can't do.  I resolve to train here more frequently.

-Mulling over and dreaming up my 101 in 1,001 list. It's happening!  Thanks to Steph for pointing me toward the Day Zero Project website, which will be a great home for my list.  It is timely and fun to work on my ideas the week before the new year begins.

What are you up to this week, Reader?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lots of snow

Minnesota had a snowless Christmas this year - in fact, the high on Christmas Day was a very unseasonable 52 degrees!  My Christmas in Colorado was a very, very white Christmas, thanks to a blizzard that swept across the Southwest early last week.  We arrived after dark on Thursday, so it was hard to get a good grasp on just how much snow had fallen and how such a rare storm had affected the town.

On Friday morning, I woke up early (thanks, time zones!) and headed out on foot to check out the snow.  A dusting on top of the snowpacked roads actually made running conditions a-ok, but driving the roads in town was quite a bit trickier.  I've never seen snow there before, let alone snow like that.  Combine the pristine snow with hoarfrost - one of my favorite weather-generated conditions of all time - and it was one of the most beautiful runs I've ever had.

Check it out!


An hour after I returned, all of the hoar frost had disappeared from the trees.  I came back from the run bouncing off the walls with excitement - a very happy way to kick off my Colorado Christmas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gingerbread houses galore

This holiday season, I had the good fortune of stumbling into not one but two gingerbread house projects. 

Actually, this is misleading. The honest truth, frankly, is that I did a healthy amount of crowing about how badly I wanted to make a gingerbread house, and two groups of people helped make it happen!

Part I
I'll start this story by giving thanks to Josh's sister-in-law, Dawn, who should be commended for not brawling me when I invited her children at Thanksgiving to make gingerbread houses with me at Christmas.  She came home from the store one day last week with a fabulous gingerbread house kit!  Lala and Loco and I immediately got to work.  The kids and I set up the house with the kit's frosting and let it set for awhile, but I'll set the stage for how the rest of the project went by noting that we flagrantly disregarded the gentle "wait 15 minutes before decorating" suggestion on the back of the box.

It started out very nicely!  (Note one of the kids flying across the background.)

There was a bit of a lean, though.

And early in the process, one of the gingerbread men required emergency surgery. So sad.
And then there was more lean. 

I am noticing Loco in the near background in all of my photos, and I'm not ready to rule that his actions did not contribute to our house's eventual demise.

Then it all went!  Luckily, my fellow homebuilders were the perfect audience for this.  In fact, as soon as we finished decorating, Lala and Loco asked if it was time to dismantle and eat it.

As you can see, they were not sad in the slightest when the whole thing collapsed.

Lesson 1: Wait 15 minutes.  Do not let eager children convince you to bend this rule.

Lesson 2: No stress!  The eager children are rooting for it to fall down!

Part II
Last night, my plane touched down at MSP, I scurried home, and within five minutes of opening the door, I had an apron on and was kneading dough for potica, a bread my family makes every year over Christmas. The gingerbread house was scheduled for potica intermission (i.e. while it was rising). I had received reports via text that my mom, brother and sister had already assembled the gingerbread house's structure, with at least one collapse, mixed results, and some profanities. 

Lesson 3: Gingerbread houses are hard to make.  They're just hard, okay?

It started out simply enough.  In contrast to my first gingerbread house adventure with Lala and Loco, there was no consumption of frosting.  My mom made this Very Effective frosting that was apparently not edible.  (That should not be called frosting then, should it?  Hmm.)  We let it sit, and sit, and sit - the lesson learned by all. 

Lesson 4: Let it sit for a long time before you decorate it!!!

Then we started decorating.  First, almonds for shingles.  You can get a good look at the windows here, a tip my mom learned from my grandpa: crush up Lifesavers or Jolly Ranchers and bake them in the cutout.  Voila!  Stained glass windows!

It got more and more serious. Sprinkles came out. Trees were made from ice cream cones.
The piping rolled on.

A tiger joined the fray.

Here's the final result, surrounded by my sister, her boyfriend, me, and my brother.

Believe me. I am staring at it right now, approximatey 20 hours post-construction. This thing is not falling down.

I s'pose the technical rubric for success means that only one house this year met the criteria, but heck, Lesson 5: I loved making both of them.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Marvelous Christmas

Reader, I'm back in Minnesota!  My blogging is always a little kooky when I return home from a trip (ha ha, "always" - like I've blogged extensively after years of travels) because there continues to be real-time stuff going on as I post recaps.  But I always like to celebrate the out-of-the-ordinary, and for me, this was the first Christmas away from home, so there were lots of new traditions and activities to experience.  Now I'm back home at my parents' house to celebrate Christmas with my family. Josh will join us on Wednesday for a few days, and then we'll head back to St. Paul this weekend.

In lieu of my usual Monday post, I will start out with a Marvelous Christmas of sorts, recapping a few marvelous moments from yesterday (Christmas Day).

Background information: Josh and I arrived on Thursday night, just after a few more inches of snow fell on eastern Colorado. We were delayed an hour out of MSP, but that didn't seem all that bad once we arrived at Denver International and saw a packed airport full of stranded travelers two days before Christmas Eve.  We drove slowly and carefully to his hometown in southern Colorado, which was still digging out of a monster blizzard that socked the Southwest early in the week. 

To give you an idea of how crazy this blizzard was, here's what his aunt and uncle's picnic table looked like on Thursday night:

We visited and made a gingerbread house (more on this later this week) and prepared for Christmas festivities.  On Friday, we went to Christmas Eve mass and then headed to his cousin's house, where 15-20 members of his family had gathered for dinner (Jeremy's manicotti) and the first round of gift-opening.

Obviously, we spent loads of time this weekend with Josh's nephew and niece - you know them as Loco and Lala - and it was the first year I've truly realized the benefit that Santa brings to the lives of parents of young children every December.  Good behavior can totally be encouraged by noting Santa's presence (or potential lack thereof).  On Christmas Eve, the local 9:00 news broadcast really went all out, interviewing city officials and meteorologists to get a good read on the conditions for Santa's arrival - and then, even the timing of his arrival.  The anchor mentioned very seriously that Santa was expected in southern Colorado in the next hour or two, and Lala absolutely lost her mind.  "He's almost here!" she yelled, and then wanted to go home so quickly that she didn't feel that she had time to put on her winter boots - I would have to carry her to the car in her dress shoes.  We dropped the kids at their house, watched Lala and Loco and their mom sprinkle reindeer food (a tiny bag of glitter and oats) on the lawn and then rush off to bed.

On Christmas morning, Josh's extended family gathers for breakfast before each smaller family unit goes off to celebrate with other groups. Josh's mom and her three siblings take turns hosting. This year, we all met at a community center in town, and it was an absolute feast: biscuits and gravy, potato burritos with green chile spooned on top, cinnamon rolls, eggs, bacon and tamales.  Tamales are a Mexican food - basically, meat filling rolled into a layer of masa dough, wrapped up and steamed inside a corn husk.  I've tried them before, but on this trip, my life tamale consumption went up exponentially.  Yum.  They are so good.

Josh agrees with me.  His aunt sent him home from breakfast with a few extra, which he carefully stowed on top of the coatrack at breakfast:

Lala and Loco were in great spirits, fresh off the discovery that Santa had brought them both bikes.  Josh, Loco and I posed for a photo - with "crazy faces" encouraged by Loco. Loco was all "your crazy face wasn't that crazy!" and I argued that having to use one hand to take the photo restricted my crazy face.  You be the judge.

After breakfast, we went back to Josh's brother and sister-in-law's house for stockings and another round of gift-opening. Lala brought me my stocking and helped me sort through it:

We also got to see some ornaments that Loco had crafted.  Here's one, which he made out of a "googly eye" craft kit that Josh and I brought him at Thanksgiving:

Then Josh's brother and sister-in-law opened a gift from him: a magnet that, if possible, I loved even more than the googly eye tree. Honestly, I want to post this photo in my home to look at whenever I feel sad.  It cracks me up.

Actually, I just love the entire gift-opening experience with the kids, start to finish.  It was so much fun.

And there's so much more to come.  When I'm not playing with my new sewing machine this week (yeep!), I will tell you all about it!  It was a great trip and a great Christmas, and I'm grateful to Josh's family for bringing me into the holiday with such warmth.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sartorial splendor

Reader: I am probably under a pile of crumpled wrapping paper or playing in the snow or gobbling Christmas treats.  I wrote this on Wednesday, just to fit this sweater into the Miles and Laurel seasonal blogging schedule.

At home last year, I made a fabulous sartorial discovery.

Christmas 1984 (left) and Christmas 2010 (right)
Will the sweater make an appearance in 2011, too?  

I'm flying home back to Minnesota tomorrow morning...and only time will tell.

If you are celebrating today, I hope you have a wonderful, joy-filled, merry, merry Christmas. 

P.S. Real-time updates return tomorrow.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jekyll and Hyde

In honor of Christmas Eve, I bring you some present-opening memories.  Mom dug into the old holiday photo albums this week, and I loved every bit of it.

"I am so pleased to find this little pony under the Christmas tree and then pose peacefully while sitting on it," Rebecca said, a cherubic expression on her face.

"Do not doubt for a minute that I will manhandle you if you try to take this pony away from me!!"

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday preview

I am officially in Colorado now!  This weekend will mark my first Christmas away from home, and the first time Josh and I have intentionally spent the holiday together.  (He got snowed in one year after a Christmas blizzard nixed his flight home, but that's not quite the same.)  I'm heading back home on Monday to spend time with my family and am very excited for this whole darn week.

With assistance from the Rebecca of Christmas Past, I bring you a preview of the days ahead.

There will, of course, be family!

There will undoubtedly be music!

I guarantee there will be festive sweaters!

There will be baking!

I don't expect there to be haircuts, professional or otherwise.

And above all, I hope I don't find myself making this face.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Love for the Longfellow Lights Committee

I'm on a plane to Colorado!  I'm doing that sneaky post-scheduling thing again!  I should probably try harder to preserve some air of mystery around Miles and Laurel, shouldn't I?  Don't answer that.

Yesterday I went for a run with my longlost running buddy Molly.  Last winter, we ran every weekend together, but because of our schedules flying every-which-way this fall, we haven't coordinated nearly well enough.  (We vowed for that to change, so expect more stories soon about running with Molly.)

Anyway, we covered six miles on the winter solstice - and oddly enough, because of a light snowfall that had started falling earlier in the afternoon, it seemed lighter than it had been at 4:45 in ages.  It was beautiful and we cruised along the river road's paths with Molly's sweet pup, Rachel. 

I had two favorite moments, besides catching up with Molly, obviously.  The first was when we veered off the river paths to head back up toward her house, probably 30 or 40 minutes after we had first run down those blocks.  The dusting of snow had just fallen before we started, and we saw two pairs of footprints on the sidewalk upon our return.  "Are those ours?" I asked Molly.  We tried to figure it out, and then a few yards later, we saw dog paws join the human footprints.  "RACHEL!" we both yelled.  The path continued like that for a block or two.  It was so pretty.

My other favorite tidbit is the good work of the Longfellow Lights Committee, which I witnessed along the route.  This committee is a group of five that includes Molly and her husband, Sara and two of their friends.  They represent the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, where all of my friends seem to be moving.  This cohort met earlier in the month to craft their awards, and then headed out into the neighborhood to determine the best holiday displays and honor them appropriately with awards. 

You've gotta check out Molly's play-by-play of their escapades.  My personal highlight of this story might be that a police officer blasted holiday music from his loudspeaker so the group could coordinate music to the lights.  This whole thing is pretty much the Cutest Thing in the Whole World. 

Sara and Molly: please note that I will file my application shortly to become an honorary member of the Longfellow Lights Committee for 2012 - or possibly directly copycat this idea for my neighborhood next year.  Best idea ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rocky Top report

Back in August, I wrote about a new project to which I was committing, for what some might call a study of the storied tradition of college football in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), composed to large southern universities.  You can read the whole darn explanation back at that old post, but I'll recap with an abbreviated version.
I don't like to commit to projects half-heartedly.  So here it goes: this year, I will follow and study one SEC football team.  I will get to know the program: players, coaches, highs, lows and traditions.  I will watch games on TV, read articles from the campus newspaper, and learn the stories behind the players.  I also should clarify that I don't even know the game of football particularly intricately, so that will be another hurdle. 

All of this research will be done so that by the time I reach the project's next stage, I'll get it.  I'll understand the fervent passion fans feel for this team, for its glorious wins and devastating, nail-biting losses.

I chose the University of Tennessee Volunteers, for a fairly wide range of fairly serious reasons.  UT is home to one of the best stadium experiences in college football.  Check out what Neyland looks like on game day.  That's a lotta orange.
Credit to the Knoxville News Sentinel
One important piece was the coach.  I actually really like UT head coach, Derek Dooley, for legitimate reasons.  But it also sure didn't hurt that he wears orange pants to every game and also has an impeccably coiffed hairstyle.

Credit to
Also, several years ago, Josh and I went to a wedding in Tennessee.  We stumbled across a little life-size giant-size mural of Smokey, the Tennessee mascot.  What do you call that?  FATE!

My choice was made.  But to make a long story short, it didn't exactly turn out to be a good year for my sweet Tennessee Volunteers.  Some very key players suffered injuries that ended or hampered their seasons.  The Vols had an unbelievably tough schedule and proved to be pretty legit at holding super-strong SEC teams like Alabama and LSU for the first half before losing all control in the second half.  They even lost to Kentucky in the last game of the season, which I learned early on was a major no-no. 

Per ESPN's SEC college football blog, the report was downright terrible.  Here's the basic summary:
Offense: F
Defense: C+
Special teams: C-
Coaching: F
I definitely didn't expect the team to be that bad, but what I also didn't expect was how much I actually started to care by the season's end.  I stayed up to date mostly via Twitter by following the UT beat reporters, UT athletics and media relations staff, and even some of the players.  Josh and I watched seven or eight of the games on TV.  We learned the Rocky Top fight song, and it became a fixture in our home.  When times were tough for the Vols, we even listened on the radio when UT played Middle Tennessee for its homecoming game (i.e. a you'd-better-beat-these-guys kind of match-up) for a morale boost. By the last game of the season, UT was trying to salvage its record and qualify for a bowl game.  The Vols lost to Kentucky, as mentioned, and I got the news on Twitter and felt a pang of genuine defeat. 

I learned a lot this season, although I surely don't pretend to be a football know-it-all or a decades-long die-hard Tennessee fan.  But I argue that it's impossible to commit to following a team like I did and not be compelled by the narratives that emerge over the course of the season.  At some point - earlier in the season than I expected - I crossed the line between pretending to be a fan and just being a fan. The storylines are different for every team, and there's no way to predict any of them at the start of the season, no matter how well you know a team. It's the great, beautiful power of sports, you know?  I went into this project knowing barely anything about the SEC and surprisingly little about football. I came out of the 2011 season with a new team to cheer for and UT merch on my holiday wishlist. 

But what's more, I came out of it with a weird, surprising feeling that I only ever thought I'd reserve for Twins baseball in the long winter offseason. I can't wait til next season.  

I think I get it now.