Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The best thing I've ever seen

Real-time life update: Yoga.  Friends.  Boot camp.  Unpacking.  Laundry.  Etc. 

You're ready for the Best Thing I've Ever Seen now, aren't you? 

Over the weekend, Josh and I were lounging around and paging through the Sunday paper.  "Here," he said, and tossed a page in my direction without any explanation at all.  "What?" I asked.  And then I saw what he was directing me toward.

This newspaper has a feature in which kids can submit their letters to Santa, and the editor randomly selects up to 30 per day to run as-is - no edits.  And, as mentioned, I think it's about the best thing I've ever seen.  Here are some of my favorites:

You didn't think Jessica needed to clarify that she wants a real horse and a real puppy, right?  Turns out that this is a recurring theme.  Check out Levie, who wants not only real money and loo too (?) but also a real penguin.

Santa is going to have to lug around a lot of penguins this year.  Luckily, Abby notes that the mouse (and flower and food) need not be real, but the hamster and the 200-inch penguin?  Big question mark.

Makayla is only six, but I know she is going to be successful.  Watch how she backs up her request for an iPod touch.  Sneaky.

Meanwhile, I appreciate that Michael is looking out for Santa's needs - a rare quality in letters to Santa these days.  I worry, though, that it's all motivated by the visions of Nerf gun(s) and reindeer rides dancing in his head.

And then there's John.  "That's all you want, John?  And you'll leave me milk and cookies?  Okay, it's a deal," Santa says.

When I was a kid, I wanted Sweet Valley High books and, like, beads.  Does William have a mummy sitting around that needs to be painted?

Dylan's might be my favorite, just because this nine-year-old dude is working the word "clearly" into his letter to Santa.

I'll remind you once more that there are 30 of these letters printed every day for the next month and now I can't find them online and I'm heartbroken.  I am considering subscribing to this newspaper every December just to have my finger on the pulse of Santa letters. I love them all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Green beans, Black Friday, La La and Loco

We're home!  First, the facts.  Later in the week, some silliness is on tap. 

Josh and I arrived in Colorado on Thursday and pulled into his aunt and uncle's driveway minutes before the Thanksgiving meal was ready.  It was a fantastic feast: turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and pie and all of what you'd expect at Thanksgiving.  I also got to try my first green bean casserole and it rocked my socks.  Yum!  We played tag and kickball outside, and it was sunny and about 75 degrees, which obviously felt amazing.  There is not much that's better than running around in a t-shirt, chasing goofballs in a serious game of tag.

Speaking of: Josh has a large and wonderful extended family, but two characters you should meet right away are his now-four-year-old niece and five-year-old nephew, who we will call La La and Loco, respectively.  These are two of many family nicknames for these critters.  We love them both dearly and I rarely laugh as hard as I do when I'm spending time with them.

Here I am with the two of them.  I'm kicking off my Colorado report with this photo because it's representative of our time with the kids.  These two are rarely still.

I handed a time-honored tradition in my family over to Loco, and he took to the challenge well: tackling the Thanksgiving "Oh, You Turkey!" Star Tribune coloring contest.  By the time he was finished, he concluded that his effort was probably better than my sister's back in Minnesota.

At this point, Reader, I should admit to a bit of revisionist history, so to speak.  I wrote on Friday that I would not be partaking in too much Black Friday madness because I was in a town without much Black Friday shenanigans.  Well, this was totally false.  I found myself at Walmart at 10 p.m. on Thursday, wading through hundreds of shoppers clutching two kinds of coffeemakers and frantically trying to find a telescope with Josh on behalf of Josh's sister-in-law, Dawn.  We ended up being pretty successful, and the group effort was completely necessary.  It was utter, complete madness.  In between stalking deals, Josh and I picked up a few groceries for our temporary home's fridge.  The people in front of us in the checkout line was like, "You braved this for that?"  I couldn't blame them.

The next day, preparation began for the big event of the weekend: La La's fourth birthday party.  For this occasion, she had requested her first manicure.  On Friday morning, her mom and I headed over to the salon (Josh: "When are you going to the shop for nails?" La La: "It's not a shop, it's a salon") and met another cousin, who works there and was in charge of La La's nails.  (And mine, too.  La La tried to stick me with a weird mauve-y color and I asked her if she was okay with a dark pink instead, and she agreed that it was fine.)

Anyway, she sat still long enough to (mostly) get a successful manicure.  (Ashley did a great job with her.)  I asked her to show me her nails afterward.  Isn't this kind of how we all feel after a good manicure?

And don't we all feel like doing a little dance afterward, too?

By Saturday, it was party time.  I was left alone for approximately 20 minutes and apparently stumbled on how much I love making paper snowflakes.  This theme will probably resurface in the next week or two.  I have plans.  But just skip over the fact that this snowflake has eight points instead of the traditional six.

We all met at a local community center to set up and decorate the space for the lady's princess-themed party.  I was in charge of crepe paper (and loved every minute of it).  La La eventually wore what I had hung in the window.  Who am I kidding?  By the end of the party, I was wearing it, too.

Lots and lots of extended family and friends came, and La La had a blast.  We ate pizza and cake and ice cream.  The kids played Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  Josh held up a pinata because the ceiling didn't have any appropriate hooks for it, and the kids went crazy for it.  Presents were opened.

Meanwhile, Loco was helpful, especially regarding supervising the balloon supply.

La La was very proud of her "high-heeled dancing shoes," which she wore on Thanksgiving and again for her birthday party.  I'd be proud of these guys if they were mine, too.

I love her zest for life.  Shouldn't we all spend our birthdays dancing around with a balloon?

That covers the basic, basic basics of the weekend's key events.  Much more to come later, including the best newspaper feature I've ever seen.  It's good to be home, but we miss everyone already.  It was a great weekend.

Monday, November 28, 2011

And the crafts roll on

Ooh, I am excited about this one, Readers.

If you are a runner or love one, you probably know that a runner's home is scattered with old race bibs.  (No?  Just me?)  When I started racing, I saved each bib as a souvenir and never got out of that habit.  Now, I never want to throw one away, but I never know where to put them, either.  At best, they were housed in a ziploc bag.  At worst...well, at worst, they are in various corners of my files, bookcase, magazine stacks, refrigerator, and so on.

I've seen bib organizers for sale in running magazines, but they seem really expensive for what they are.

Solution: Try to make my own!

Earlier this week, I found myself in the craft aisle, collecting supplies.  I found two blank unfinished picture frames for 99 cents each, a tube of paint (purple) and paintbrushes for the same price, a basic three-hole punch, and a stack of ring-clip things.

We also bought a basic drill, partly because Josh wanted a drill for our home and partly because I was overcome by wanting to make this bib book that night.

Then I had to collect my bibs.  I found about 20 of them in my preliminary search, and I know others will pop out of the woodwork in the near future.  I am so excited to have one place where I can put them!  I love how colorful the bibs are.  Some are plain - I'm sure it's cheaper - but it's fun to see the ones that identify specific races and think about how that race went for me.

While the drill charged, I got to work on the first coat of paint.

Then Josh drilled two holes in each frame, lined up with where the bibs would be punched, of course.  We put the two rings in, and they just barely fit.  Then I worked on finished the paint, and let the frames sit overnight before finishing the book.

The next morning, I jumped out of bed to finish my craft project.  I added my bibs lovingly.  I set up the picture in the frame with a piece of glass from an old 4x6 frame (I told you the frames were 99 cents, right?).  For the cover, I chose a photo from one of my favorite running memories, when I set my current personal record (PR) for 26.2 at the Madison Marathon in 2008. This actually momentarily fired me up to work hard for the next year so I can add a new photo for a new (PR) in a marathon next fall.  

But I digress!  Here's what it looks like from the inside:

And here's the final product!

I am very happy with it.  At long last, my bibs have a respectable home!

(Note: I reserve my right to do Marvelous Monday on Tuesday.  Marvelous Tuesday.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ravioli and pears

It'll be many days - well, many hours - since Thanksgiving by the time you're reading this, but I guarantee I'm still thinking about Wednesday night's dinner.  My family had a much-appreciated pre-Thanksgiving rendezvous/celebration because Josh and I had made plans to spend the long weekend in Colorado with his family.  (Okay, Reader, it is Wednesday night as I'm writing this and trying to be tense-appropriate for when you're reading this on Sunday is a skill I apparently don't have at the moment.  Work with me, okay?)

The details: Because everyone (except for my vegetarian sister) would be enjoying turkey the next day, my mom tried a new recipe for butternut squash ravioli.  Gah!  Even those words are beautiful all together!  She borrowed a ravioli-maker from her sister (thank you, auntie!) and made the ravioli, then added this mixture of butternut squash, cream, butter and sage for the filling.  Here's what it looked like, pre-cooking:

Then she cooked the ravioli and topped it with this browned butter sauce and shavings of parmesan cheese.  Amazing.

And then came dessert.  Mom wrapped these little pears with puff pastry, baked each one and served it with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.  Readers, this is pretty stuff.

Obviously, I was tremendously full after this meal.  It was great to celebrate the holiday (just a little bit early) with my family, and Mom's cooking was perfecto practice for the Thanksgiving Day endurance eating events.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Heat wave

Ahh!  The past few days have been November weather gems, haven't they?  (Note: Reader, I am writing to you from the past and banking on the forecast for today through Friday being unseasonably warm.  Sorry!)  Earlier this week, it was 48 degrees and I hauled myself outside for a midday run before the traveling and Thanksgiving festivities began.  It wasn't just that the temperature climbed above freezing and melted all of the junk on the sidewalk - it was full sun, which adds about 20 degrees to the feels-like temperature index.  I even saw a woman running in shorts and a sports bra.  That is classic Minnesota.  

This fella didn't stand a chance.  Poor guy.

Nature was rocking it today, too.  I obviously have been loving the fall leaves and was sad to see them go, but I've been struck lately by how pretty the tree limbs are without the leaves, too.  This one had a few leaves clinging, but it gave the appearance of being decorated for the holidays with festive trim and fringe!

The sky was super blue and the pine trees on my route looked extra nice against it.  It's the whole getting-in-the-season thing.

And I'm a serious fan of the combination of pinkish-red and blue, so it's no surprise that these little things stopped me in my tracks.

I saved the best part of my run for last, though.  Toward the end, I passed an old woman out for a walk.  She gave me a big grin and two thumbs-ups and yelled, "ATTA GIRL!" 

It totally made my day. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Reader, do you love this Black Friday stuff or do you wish it would all just go away?

This year, I am ducking it almost completely, because I'll be in a city that doesn't have too much interest in Black Friday shenanigans.  I have experienced it once in my life, though.  One year in college as part of a job duty - long story short - I appeared on local morning television dressed up as a fairy tale character.  (I guess I was too tired at the time to remember which one.)  My family got quite a kick out of this, but the early bird gets the worm, and when I was done working at, like, 7:15 a.m., I hit the mall and cleaned up.  I did get a red down comforter for something like $30 that I still use all the time.

Anyway, although I love a good sale just as much as the next person, the whole idea just kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies.  In the interest of full disclosure, though, I admit that I am scoping out a few deals:

1) My mom alerted me to a really good deal on a sewing machine.  Because I'll be away from my computer, she's prowling the sales on my behalf - probably/hopefully on Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday.  I am very excited to get started on this sewing machine adventure and am grateful for her for helping a daughter out.

2) If you live in Minnesota or want to run a race in Minnesota in 2012, there are some curious deals I've been noticing in the running community.

Team Ortho is running (ha, ha) a special on all four of the half-marathons they host each year. Even without this special, I probably would've ended up doing one or two of the races - but they are all fun events, spread out through the year evenly enough so I'm usually looking for a longer race around that time anyway, so it's a pretty good deal for me. 

Front Runner is having a 50 percent off sale all of their races (running, duathlons and triathlons) in 2012.  That is a killer deal because while a half-marathon on sale is still a chunk of change, a 5K on sale adds up to a mere $12.50 if you register between today and Monday.  They have a lot to choose from all through the year, and I plan on signing up for at least two or three.  They are low-key races and always fun.

That's the scoop.  Are you already home with bags of deeply discounted goodies, or did you stay in bed this morning? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Oh, hello!  This kicks off a series of scheduled posts over the course of the next few days.  Right now, I am way up in the sky on a plane en route to Colorado and Josh's family.  As you read this, I am probably doing a Cryptoquip puzzle, since I stockpiled a whole bunch from the Star Tribune over the past couple of weeks.  But fear not!  If you pop into Miles and Laurel this weekend, you will note that I am sticking to my plan to have a post every day.  I can't quit on Nov. 24, after all, if I've already made it this far.  But they are written and lined up neatly in advance, since 1) I am not sure of what computer access I'll have in Colorado and 2) it seems pretty uncool to duck his great family because I have a post to write, right?  Yes.

So it's Thanksgiving, and I'm taking a moment to marvel that I haven't already hit you over the head with a 2x4 about how much I believe in giving thanks.  (That would not be good for my readership.)  Appreciating moments large and small, after all, is a key cornerstone in Miles and Laurel's foundation.  You don't have to be a mindreader to know that I am thankful for sunsets and running and work and all that.  I won't list everything for you.  It's personal business, after all, and you don't give a hoot about what's on my list!

What I will try to fit into words is how grateful I am for all of the people in different corners of my life: colleagues, friends, people who are family and people who are like family. They inspire and encourage and teach me so much - and we do our fair share of goofing around, too.  I am endlessly thankful for them.

Give thanks and eat turkey (or whatever you like) and have a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An old podcast

When I am training for a marathon, I crank through podcasts like crazy, and the miles fly by.  I have baseball podcasts, news podcasts, pop culture podcasts, media podcasts, grammar podcasts, running podcasts, celebrity gossip podcasts...the list goes on and on.  I've assembled a team of favorites that match pretty nicely with my weekly mileage during marathon training.  Outside of those time periods, though, it's really hard to keep up!

That's how I found myself marveling on a recent run over an Oct. 21 segment of NPR's "Talk to the Nation" that I'm sure is totally old news to everyone except me.  (How old?  The next segment was previewing the first game of the World Series.)  Nevertheless, I will share some of the key points that really resonated.  The host interviewed Dan Buettner, who wrote "Thrive: Finding Happiness The Blue Zones Way."  You remember hearing about those Blue Zones, right, Reader?  They're those pockets around the world where people live better and longer, and it seems that Dan Buettner has made it his business to identify them and then figure out why.

I'm quoting from the show's transcript, even though I think I would hate it if people attributed quotes to me based on how I responded to interview questions.  I'm sorry, Dan Buettner.
  • "The biggest variable in the happiness equation - did I marry the right person, do I have engaging work, do I have my health - the biggest variable, most variable variable is where you live."
  • "As a rule, the more we socialize in a day, the happier we are . . . The happiest Americans are reporting between six and seven hours of social interaction. And by the way, that is face-to-face, not Facebook."
  • "When I think of happiness, I think 90 percent of it is contentment. Then there's 10 percent of having these occasional peaks of joy. I assert you want to focus on that day-to-day, that high plateau of well-being than, you know, going out for the great party or, you know, the real peaks."
  • "When you look at Americans' day-to-day activity . . . the top two things we hate the most on a day-to-day basis is 1) housework and 2) the daily commute in our cars. In fact, if you can cut an hour-long commute each way out of your life, it's the equivalent of making up an extra of $40,000 a year if you're at the $50-60,000 level. Huge."
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has read Miles and Laurel more than once, I am on board with all of this, and it's not just because Dan Buettner revealed that he chooses to live in Minnesota.  I am a huge believer in the notions of place and home and community, and I try to be intentional when I can about creating situations and scenarios that match up to those values. For me, that means appreciating that I work and live in dynamic, walkable neighborhoods close to water and green space. I have an easygoing commute and I am grateful for that all the time.  I do not know how Buettner and his researchers reached this statistic about $40,000 per year, but I accept it and believe it without question.  As an aside, at least now I know I'm not alone in not having an affinity for housework.  

The notion of happiness being place-dependent can potentially seem overwhelming for people who feel locked into a place for any number of reasons, and I get that.  I don't mean for this post to be an heavy-handed avenue for me to yammer on Pollyanna-style about how I appreciate my city.  The podcast was also full of ideas for smaller changes that are well within our control and our daily choices - namely, the statistics about social interaction, which were so interesting to me.  

By the nature of my work as a writer, I could happily tap away on the keyboard and have the whole day go by, but that concept shows how important it is to carve out social time for walks or lunches or grabbing coffee with friends whenever I can - and making an effort to connect with the people around me during the workday, too.  (That's not just me-me-me talk, either - I think it's pretty well-accepted that the most productive office cultures usually include room for that collegial, congenial interaction.)  It also reminds me that I'm fortunate to have opportunities to combine fitness activities (classes and especially running) with social connections.  The conversation was a healthy reminder that face-to-face interaction trumps text, Facebook, gchat and email messages every time.

One more time: here's the link to the conversation. Okay, Reader: What's genius, what's common sense, and what's baloney?  Did any tidbits hit home with you the way they did with me?  What do you appreciate about your place and home?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In honor of yoga tonight

Reader, do you love Babar like I do?

And make no mistake about it - that's in present tense for good reason.  Babar and his brood of elephants were a beloved cast of characters in my childhood.  He, obviously, was the king of the elephants.  He had a wife, Celeste, and three children: Pom, Flora and Alexander.  They got into various adventures over the course of a series of children's books.  My dad has made Babar replicas out of both snow and ground beef.  (Truth.)  A quick wikipedia search reveals that some critics assert that Babar's stories are politically charged and loaded with justification for colonialism.  If that is true, it totally went over my head as a youth.  I just loved Babar, his little green suit and his little elephant family.  That's all.

So it makes perfect sense, you understand, when this book landed in my basket during an expedition to a bookstore over the weekend:

Now you get a sense of why my bookcase is crammed full, right?  Because I buy books like this and love them all...although I kind of want to give this one prime real estate on my coffee table.  There is a great line introducing one of the poses, for example, by noting that it was designed primarily for elephants and that humans should not feel frustrated if they can't do it.

Or this gem:
"The life of a modern-day elephant is stressful and complicated. Yoga turned out to be exactly what we in Celesteville needed, offering calm and control in days that were busy and demanding."
Per Amazon, this book is "perfect for anyone who loves yoga or elephants."  I wholeheartedly agree.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marvelous Monday

1) Let's start with the big stuff.  My football team got its first conference win of the year on Saturday!  Tennessee beat Vanderbilt in overtime, and it was very exciting.  Josh acquired an mp3 of the Tennessee fight song on his phone, and he plays it whenever the team scores.  It makes our home a festive place, especially when they win!  It has been a very trying season for my sweet Volunteers, but this win was huge and much-needed.

2) I made another batch of spicy chicken chili last night.  I doubled the recipe, and the results just barely fit in the soup pot.  Some friends came over to help us tackle it, and it was such a nice way to spend a Sunday night.  And there are leftovers for tonight!  I was extra-happy it turned out because I seriously bungled every step of the cooking process.  Isn't that the beauty of chili?  It is really hard to mess it up.

3) I got to fit in my run at lunch today, even though my city's streets turned into Ice Rinkapalooza 2011 over the weekend.  I started out the run with a goal to do some modest speedwork, and this goal evolved into "please stay upright please stay upright please stay upright."  I think I was about 70 percent successful with the workout I attempted, which was 6 sets of three minutes hard, two minutes easy (with a warmup and cooldown bookending the intervals).  I found a road that was pretty clear (of both ice and cars - bonus!) for most of the workout, but the first part was more like run run tip-toe slide run shuffle skate run run tip-toe and so on.  Take a look at what the streets looked like last night, and I think you will be able to better imagine that visual.

So that doesn't sound too marvelous, right?  Au contrair!  It's marvelous because I 1) got to run at lunch, 2) stayed upright and did not slip and fall and 3) heard that temperatures are supposed to soar by Thanksgiving and melt all that junk by the time I get back home!

4) Speaking of warm: I'm going to Colorado on Thursday and it's supposed to be 67 degrees!  It's all I can do to not show up to Thanksgiving with Josh's family in beachwear!

5) My dad is out of town on a work trip.  (That's not the marvelous part!  I'm setting up the marvelous part.) He got his first cell phone a few months ago and has figured out the ins and outs of the camera function in no time.  That's good news for us, because he sends pictures of sights on the road.  I love them!  They are like little postcards, but more personal and obviously more instantaneous.  I could probably make a whole post out of his pictures.  Heck, I'm going to try to get him to guest-post during his next trip.  This one made me smile yesterday.  It's a steakhouse in - yep, you guessed it - Texas.  This restaurant, according to Dad, features a 72-ounce steak that is free...if you can eat it all!

What's up with the start of your week?  What's marvelous about it?  Are you traveling this week or staying close to home?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tis the season?

Okay, I know that it's both a well-accepted and well-lamented fact that the holiday season seems to start earlier and earlier each year.  It was very strange to see the Christmas decor section fly up at Target on November 1, as soon as the Halloween merch was relegated to a stuffed clearance section.  Lately, the Black Friday buzz seems to get louder and louder (as stores open earlier and earlier).  My point: I truly love the holidays as much as the next girl, but I usually try to hold back on unbridled enthusiasm until at least the weekend after Thanksgiving.

But today I saw evidence that my stance is wavering.

Josh and I were out and about this morning, and upon return, I opened the passenger door and looked at the snow next to the curb and saw some tracks in it.

Did I sensibly chalk it up to a dog or some sort of large, leggy rodent?


I yelled, "REINDEER!" out loud - loudly - to no one in particular.  This means that either I truly am an eight-year-old at heart or that the holiday spirit has gotten its grip on me and infiltrated my bones.  I choose the latter.  Tis the season to be jolly!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


All morning, the season's first snowfall was looming!  In a few months, the threat of snow will not conjure up much excitement, but now is not that time.  My city has seen flurries, but no real snowfall until today - November 19!

I started the day with a run with my friend Katie.  We met near Lake of the Isles, just like all the running club sessions from the summer, and started out around the lake.  I don't know if it was being on the paths where I did so much hard work this summer, or reconnecting with a great running buddy, or just doing a good old-fashioned long run, but it was the best run I've had in ages.  We ran Isles and Calhoun and decided to add on a loop around Lake Harriet, for a grand total of 10 miles - otherwise known as my longest run since the marathon by far.  The snow stayed away the whole time, but the lakes were churning up a pretty fierce wind, and by the end of the run, sleet was smacking into our faces.  Katie and I have run together on evenings that were 90 degrees, and now we can say we've run together in 25 degrees and sleet, too.

I scurried home to get warm, dry clothes and hot coffee.  The sleet started piling up.

Josh and I ventured outside to run errands, and I remember how much I like footprints on a fresh layer of snow.

While we were out - and our errands consisted largely of puttering around two bookstores - the snow really ramped up.  (I promise I won't chart every snowfall this winter in such great detail.  This is novelty, okay?)  We got home, put on warmer clothes and headed back outside for a long walk.  The falling snow was sharp and icy at first, but a few minutes later, it turned into light, fluffy, soft flakes, which was so pretty under the streetlights.

The only downside of today's snow?  It tried to bury all of the leaves!

There were a few people out walking and a lot of people out shoveling. 

We were super-bundled, so it was actually really comfortable to be out walking.  We didn't dodge the flakes completely (see photo below) but it was good to remember that we can stroll around town, hopefully all winter long.  I'll cross my fingers that my appreciation for the snow lasts that long, too.

Now it's time to pop some popcorn.  Hope you are enjoying your own Saturday, snowy or not!

Friday, November 18, 2011


I am ready for the weekend!

What am I looking forward to?

1) Josh and I are having a Friday night date and going to a Real Live Concert.  Two members of Los Lobos (David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, or as Josh has taken to calling them, David and Louie) are playing at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.  I have not been to a concert in ages (literally, like, years?).  Wait.  I think the last concert I went to was Eddie Money in Josh's hometown - a concert that, by the way, was much more fun than you might think on first glance.  Eddie puts on a good show. (And then I even ran by Eddie's tour bus at the Holiday Inn nearby our hotel the next morning!)  Anyway, I digress.  Tonight I am very excited to listen to good music and sit on a cozy couch at the Varsity.

2) I am running with a friend from running club tomorrow morning, for the first time in ages!  Katie and I figured out early in this summer's marathon training session that our training paces were both identical and sort of in a strange no man's land, so we didn't have a lot of people running similar paces to ours.  (Thank heavens she is fabulous, right?)  We ended up running most of our workouts and long, long runs together, but then we haven't seen each other since our October marathons.  We are way overdue and I'm super excited for our run.

3) Finally, I am excited - and you'd better believe this warrants its spot on the list - to spend Sunday doing three parts relaxing to one part cleaning.  Or maybe 4:1.  Or possibly 5:1.  I need to do some home-related business (laundry, cleaning, etc.) because Sunday rings in Thanksgiving Week and I will be traveling to Colorado on Thursday morning, and the time in between those two days will fly!

Argh, I just realized I used the word "excited" in each of the three paragraphs.  Instead of finding synonyms to mix it up, I will leave it at that and trust that you, too, are feeling way excited about the weekend.  

Any plans for you, large or small?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The day I got a huge box of soup

By the time I got home today, the wind was howling and the skies were pitch-black.  Okay, I exaggerate a bit.  It was kind of crummy and kind of dark.  But that's how November plays sometimes.  It was beautiful and sunny during the day, anyway. 

The point is that I was feeling a little bit chilled because I haven't ponied up for a big long down coat yet, and I'm clinging to my friendly, light fall jacket.  As I was opening the door, I noticed a big brown box sitting on the porch, unmarked except for my last name.  Ha!  It sounds like I'm setting up a suspense-filled story.  The truth is, it was just my soup delivery from Local Roots Fine Foods!  Hooray!

I nabbed a Groupon for this, but it's a pretty cool arrangement even sans Groupon.  Per the website, it seems to be a married couple who started the business with the goal of "making the finest frozen products from the freshest local ingredients," buying from local farmers and supporting sustainable agriculture.  For $26 (half off the regular price), I got a big box full of six tubs of frozen soup (each with 2-3 servings).  I think this will come in very handy on cold nights (like tonight, for example) when I don't necessarily have an elaborate dinner plan in mind but sure would appreciate a bowl of hot soup.

I made room for them in the freezer eventually, but I stacked them pyramid-style for your viewing pleasure.

Other items of note - call it Mini-Marvelous Thursday, if you prefer:

1) Boot camp was great, again.  On our first day of class, one of my friends said it made exercise feel like track and field day from elementary school, and she's totally right.  It's never boring!  We dash and shuffle and gallop from station to station.  Today some of our work involved throwing medicine balls down to the ground as hard as we could (which is surprisingly satisfying) and doing squats to lift a big old tire, among many other exercises. 

2) I encountered a neat local organization tonight.  It's called the Community Design Center of Minnesota, and its mission is "to build vibrant and healthy communities through food, conservation and youth development." One of the CDC's programs is a Nutrition Corps, in which kids age 14-18 can intern.  There were four interns at tonight's Bolder Options nutrition meeting, and they did a great job walking the Bolder Options kids through making healthy quesadillas: chopping up broccoli and peppers and cilantro, assembling a salad, preparing the toppings on a whole wheat tortilla and so on. 

Yesterday was Give to the Max Day in Minnesota, designed to draw awareness and funding toward Minnesota non-profits, and it made me pause, notice and be grateful for how many people are doing Really Good Work around here.  It was great to learn more about the CDC tonight and see the interns teach the Bolder Options kids about nutrition and healthy habits.

3) Finally, today at Target I overheard a woman asking an employee to help her locate the "Barbie Ginormous Castle."  Isn't that more helpful than using the product's actual name, Reader?  (I guess I will eat my words and give Mattel credit if that company actually named something the Barbie Ginormous Castle.)

Happy Thursday to you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apple cheeks

Yoga and boot camp yesterday were both great.  To give myself a chance to recover from what shall now be known as "Two-Class Tuesday," I headed out for an easy, gentle recovery run after work.  Today's run include no speedwork, no hills, no anaerobic threshold.  The only obstacle was that it was cold.  When I got home, I learned that it was a 28-degrees-feels-like-20 kind of evening.  Brr.  It was the first time I've gone full tights, hat and gloves this season.

Early in my run, I saw a poster that had been tossed to the side of the road.  I ran past it, and then my curiosity got the best of me.  I was rewarded.

It is a well-kept secret that I once turned a small profit in my own bookmark-making venture back in fifth grade.  I would trim cross-stitching material into a bookmark shape and cross-stitch the buyer's name vertically in the embroidery floss color of his or her choice.  This would run a person 25 cents per bookmark, unless he or she wanted a tassel attached, which raised the price to 35 cents.  It looked like this:
Totally rockin', right?  (And yes, I did just spend two full minutes recreating the product via Paint It.)  Needless to say, I felt a connection to the (presumed) kids.  I hope the bookmark producers discarded their marketing materials because they sold out of bookmarks, not because their business model failed them.

I kept running, and the sun set.  As per usual around the time of year, it was very pretty.  I've never considered sunset-spotting as a reason for why I run, but if this blog is any indication, I'd better add it to my list.

I knew by the end of the run that in addition to being the first run of the season that called for extra clothes, it was the first apple cheeks run, too.  My mom used to send me outside to play in the winter with the order to not come in until I had apple cheeks.  I think her mother passed it down to her.  The summer version of apple cheeks is just not as appealing: think beet cheeks, or overripe tomato cheeks instead.  But winter apple cheeks are just right.  I tried to capture this effect with my camera, but it seemed to photograph as apple face.  Yikes.

Anyway, you know what I'm talking about.  Did you get apple cheeks today, too?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fitness challenges

I have been reveling in my post-marathon off-season, shall we say, very enthusiastically: way less running, no spinning since my intro class, no strength work, and so on.  Don't worry - I have learned and truly believe that rest and recovery is a healthy, important component of a year-round training plan.  But now I'm ready to get moving again, bit by bit.

Last Tuesday, I pursued an exceptionally wise and intelligent schedule that included both my first day of boot camp and my first day of yoga class in months and months, five hours apart from each other.  Boot camp included the s-word (stairs) but was a little easier than I expected.  (Note: I feel comfortable saying that now because today I experienced the vast unknown that was Week Two, and it was A Whole Lot Harder.)  Yoga was wonderful - I loved the class and teacher - and I really, truly vow to work on that this winter.  Even one yoga class per week in the past has done great things for my flexibility and muscles and breathing (not to mention the brain benefits).  Josh came to class with me last week and I think he came away with a new appreciation for how darn challenging yoga can be. 

But then I was so sore the next day, and every hour it got worse instead of better.  Owowowowow.  Completely, utterly my own fault.  I'm still sorry, my sweet hamstrings.

I missed boot camp last Thursday, so today was my second session - and, as mentioned, it was a lot tougher.  There were basically two workout stations set up, each one with four exercises per station.  We'd have to do 20 repetitions of one exercise at one station (e.g. lunges) and then run fast across the gym to get to the other station and do another exercise (e.g. push-ups or whatever) and then run back to do another...and so on.  

I wrote "push-ups or whatever" because the upper body and core stuff was all via those TRX bands, which I have used before but not too frequently.  Do you know what those are, Reader?  They're basically these ropes/bands that you hook into a sturdy surface (a door frame or whatever) and you grab them and do strength work using your own body weight.  (Check out these people if I am not being remotely coherent.)  Ouch!  These things are serious.  But they're also very adaptable to what kind of challenge you need, so everyone can use them without adding or removing weights.  It seems like a really handy piece of fitness equipment to have at home.  Also, I have neither broken the bands nor fallen on my face yet, so I deem them productive.

I love being able to squeeze in a run or a class at lunch during the workday, because even though it's usually not too leisurely because of the quest to get back to my desk, it always clears my head and leaves me refreshed.  Sometimes I actually make big strides in a work project when I'm working out at lunch.  Today, though, I was mostly focusing on trying not to fall on my face with those little bands.

I will continue this sensible schedule of taking two classes per week (just both on Tuesdays) with more yoga later tonight - but I won't come crying to you, Reader, with words like "ouch" and "agony" and "sore" in tomorrow's post.  I promise.  It's only fair.

P.S. Hope you like the tinkering I did to spice up the blog's header!  This stuff is all new to me, but I'm having fun playing around with it.  This lady is the queen of it all and inspired me to try.  I reserve my right to completely change my mind and do something different in the future!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marvelous Monday

Whoa!  Thanksgiving is next Thursday?  How did that happen?

I have a lot for which I am grateful.  I have no doubt that I'll whip up some thanks-giving content in the next week or two.  For now, though, I bring you Marvelous Monday!

1) I mentioned yesterday that Grandma always sends me home from her house with a bag of cookies, raisin bread, and embroidered dishtowels.  This morning, a dishtowel was one of the first things I saw when I started puttering around in the kitchen, and it totally made me smile.  Look at that little chilly snowman!

2) I guess I am finally easing into the holiday spirit, now that we're inside the two-week window before Thanksgiving.  Last night, Josh and I stopped over to visit my mom.  My dad is traveling for his job, and in his absence, my mom turned the basement into her own personal holiday decoration planning area. She elevates holiday decorating to an art form, Reader.  I counted, like, nine wreaths - including this one, my favorite.

3)  Grandma's raisin bread! I love the swirls of raisins.  Next time I visit her, I will ask how she does this.  My earliest memory of eating Grandma's raisin bread is from age six.  It is a major, major staple of my childhood.  It tastes best to me toasted - and, like most food items, is even better with butter melted on it.

4) Josh and I stumbled across a new restaurant recently - and guess what?  It's in Minneapolis.  That's way out of my normal St. Paul comfort zone.  Sun Street Breads is in the Kingfield neighborhood of southwest Minneapolis, and we went there for lunch.  Josh had "The Susan," otherwise known as a meatloaf sandwich with apple butter.  I scanned the menu and my eyes locked onto the "biscuit sandwich" category. 

Is there any word in the English language that is more specific and wonderful and communicates exactly what you're getting into better than "biscuit"?  Gah!  It was buttery and very serious and sooo good.  Some egg and cheese was involved, too.  We might need to go there for our next dinner date so I can get past the biscuit sandwiches and explore the rest of the menu.

5) Tonight I will go for a walk - because it's still 53 degrees and sunny! - and then make a pot of minestrone for the week.  Yum.

What's on your mind, Reader?  Got five marvelous pieces in your own Monday?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Over the river and through the woods

Think about your grandparents, Reader.  What are they like?  What do you love about them?

You know how some people make your heart rate and blood pressure relax just by being in their presence, without them saying a word?  That's my grandma.  She is so wise and calming and curious.  She has never stopped learning.  She sends me home with her embroidered dishtowels and homemade raisin bread every time I visit, and she also has a wicked sense of humor that comes out at the best times.  Because Josh and I will spend Thanksgiving with his family in Colorado and will miss seeing her then, we drove to rural Minnesota to spend the afternoon with her today. 

This is the view from her kitchen table. At this time of year, the bird feeder draws mostly sparrows, with the odd blue jay and cardinal thrown into the mix.  In the summer, though, there is a constant party going on around that little house.  I could sit here and stare out the window for hours.

The three of us (and then the four of us, once her sister-in-law dropped in to say hello and stayed for peach pie) sat and ate and talked and talked.  I have a large extended family that is mostly full-grown people now, so holidays at my grandma's house can be crowded, big, loud melees - wonderful in their own way, but not so good for one-on-one conversation.  That's why I love a quiet afternoon at her house. 

When we left, the sun was just setting behind the shed overlooking the rest of the farm.  Ahhh.

So Nov. 13 is in the books, and I hope I'm not jinxing myself by observing that I am (nearly) halfway through my goal to blog every day this month.  The truth is, Reader, November has lobbed some challenging days my way.  Sticking to the goal, though, brought me back to the original purpose of starting Miles and Laurel: to celebrate the kooky sights and small adventures that each day holds, and to remember that every day includes a lot of good.  (Oh - and this seems as good a time as any to welcome the reader who found this blog by googling "California treehouse vacation."  I'm very sorry I couldn't help you more, but I like your idea!)

That's that.  You'll catch me here every day, at least through the end of November.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll even keep the streak going.

One more sunset picture?  Fine, if you insist!

Good night!  I hope your week starts out well tomorrow.