Monday, December 31, 2012

The last Monday of 2012

Oh, jeepers, Reader. Get ready. I am feeling sentimental about 2012 (and life in general) today, and I think it will show in the Marvelous Monday notes.

1) I finished The End of Your Life Book Club over the weekend and loved it. Besides being a great story about the relationship between the author and his mom - and all of the books that they read together - it made me think a lot about gratitude, living mindfully, what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and what part I am playing right now in moving my community forward. I went in assuming it would be sad (his mother is terminally ill almost from the start of the book) and instead felt inspired by how his mother lived and the light she cast into the world. The book also made me scribble about five more books into my "to read" list.

Oh! I know one is supposed to do year-end recaps before the start of a new year, but I have a 2012 book report coming up with my favorites from the year.

2) Santa brought me fleece-lined leggings and they are a total game-changer.

3) My sister and her boyfriend cooked dinner for my family on Saturday night as their Christmas present to us! I hadn't seen her new(ish) apartment before Saturday, and it was beautiful (and the dinner was great, too).

My brother was crouching by her Christmas tree but then started standing up mid-picture, so he kind of looks like he springs around a room like a cat:

After most of dinner, the actual cat, Buffy, decided that we could be trusted and came out to play.

I thought I was a dog person, but I do love Buffy, too!

4) I love, love, love holiday cards. When Josh and I returned from 10 days away from our mailbox, the bulk of the season's cards were waiting in one pile, so we got to open them all at once. Each year, I put them up on a post in my kitchen and keep them there way, way past New Year's Day. I love seeing people we love up there.

I know people don't send out pictures of the days when they feel cranky - actually, if I weren't such a tireless advocate for optimism, I think it would be a really funny tradition to send those cards out, maybe in January! But these little cards remind me of how much our friends and family are celebrating this year: school and family and travel and projects and love and lives being well-lived. (I warned you I was feeling sentimental!)

5) On that note, I found out today that two of our friends are having a baby in 2013!

I will never forget 2012, for many reasons large and small, including a pair of pointy ears and a morning on a porch in Tennessee. I'm grateful for the year and excited about the years to come.

It's another good time to thank all of you: for reading M&L, for letting me post about Wish more than once per week without too much heckling, for your comments, recommendations and feedback. We'll cross M&L's two-year mark in the spring, and I have learned so much from writing almost daily and from connecting with you through it.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

For my library

Look what was waiting in our mailbox for me when we got back to St. Paul!

I still haven't strapped on my snowshoes yet this winter, but when I do, I have a feeling that this will help a lot. Thanks to Annie for the book rec!

I quilted up a storm today while nursing a cold that makes my voice scratchy to the max, especially at night. We also watched a Lifetime movie and took Wish for a walk. It was a good Sunday.

More on that quilting stuff as soon as I'm finished with it!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More masa!

The other day I walked by my dad using the computer, glanced the browser and saw that he was perusing old Miles and Laurel, the post about making tamales. (Kind of sweetly reassuring to know that my parents will read my blog even when I'm staying at their home!)

This morning, Dad said he was going out to get oatmeal. He went to the grocery store and came back with an avocado and a big old bag of masa! He said he had walked past the bags of masa and done a double-take, remembering what I had just written about it.

It was time to make chips and guacamole!

By the way, if you are still curious about masa, my dad confirmed what I already suspected: that I did a lousy job of explaining the difference between cornmeal and masa. I almost wrote that masa is corn flour, but then one of the Google results said something like, "If you think masa and corn flour are the same, TRY AGAIN!" and I got scared and just concluded that masa/corn flour/cornmeal were all different. The general internet consensus is that the corn in masa is treated in a lime solution, partly to make it better for tortillas, and it's finer than cornmeal. (I know one of you readers must have a better explanation. Please provide it in the comments!)

We got to work. Josh and I are most familiar with making corn tortillas from masa and water mixed together and then flattened in a tortilla press. (We like to make fajitas with the tortillas.) We hadn't actually made chips before, but we figured it should be pretty intuitive - and luckily, it was.

Dad tackled the guacamole with his fabulous recipe while Josh poured the masa and started mixing. There are directions on the back of the bag for how to make the amount of tortillas you'd like.

We left the dough just a little too thick - again, even after the tamale feedback! - but it's pretty hard to seriously mess up tortillas.

Then it was time to roll out tortillas. Without the size restrictions from a tortilla press, where you're limited to small tortillas, I could roll out tortillas as large as I could fit in the pan!

While I rolled them out, Josh tended to the pan. We usually use a griddle, but a flat pan will do the job just fine. Yum.

After they were all done - a couple of minutes on each side over medium-high heat is all it took - I cut each tortilla into sixths or eighths. That's where the chip experiment began. We drizzled a little bit of olive oil and sprinkled sea salt over them, and put half the batch into the oven on a pizza stone at 375 degrees. That turned out to take a long time and they just weren't quite as crunchy as we were hoping. The next batch: 400 degrees, with the olive oil brushed evenly over the tortilla instead of drizzled. Much better!

I wouldn't be surprised if some avocados and a new bag of masa fell into my own grocery cart sometime soon.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tromping through snow

Today Mom and I took Wish out for a walk - "a little loop," I think was how she pitched it. Two or three inches of snow had fallen overnight, so the first couple of miles on one of our favorite trails involved breaking trail. (Read: Wish was having the time of his life while our leg muscles were burning.) "Are you guys good to go a little farther?" she asked, and Wish and I agreed. Once we finished the trail segment, we finished the loop by trekking along a quiet dirt road lined by trees dusted with a fresh coat of snow.

An hour and a half later, we were back home, totally tuckered out, and we figured out we'd traveled five miles on our "little loop." "Oops!" Mom chirped.

No wonder there were some extra-leisurely naps this afternoon!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tamale time

We had a tamale party!!

Tamales are a tradition in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, and they're eaten year-round but especially popular during winter holidays. They aren't technically difficult to make at all, but the preparation and steps make it a day-long project - so people in Josh's hometown know who is selling tamales and then buy them by the dozen.

Josh's family used to make them - I got to hear about the bevy of tamale tips and tricks Josh's gramps used to have up his sleeve! - but had mostly stopped doing it regularly. I was very excited when I heard rumblings that they were going to bring the tradition back at Christmas 2012. The plan was set: Sunday, the day before Christmas Eve.

When we arrived at Josh's aunt and uncle's house, the husks were already soaking in the sink. You buy corn husks at any Mexican market, I hear, and then soak them to soften them up. They eventually serve as the tamale wrapper (you don't eat them). I liked their faint smell because it reminded me of the cornfield in my backyard growing up.

And then you prepare the dough, with masa (in the Maseca bag, the same stuff Josh and I use to make corn tortillas), a dash of salt and baking powder, and lard, which in Spanish is called manteca. I will use manteca going forward because it sounds so much nicer than lard! Masa is something like a flour made of corn - not the same as cornmeal, but kind of similar.

This is Dawn, Josh's sister-in-law, kneading together the masa and manteca and liquid reserved from the pork in the crockpot.

I think this is her official Miles and Laurel debut, by the way. (Welcome, Dawn!) This is also a good time to mention that I'm kind of particular about not posting names and pictures of people here unless they know M&L and have given wildly enthusiastic consent. (Wish is exempt from this policy.) Something about "I posted this picture of you on the internet without you knowing" just doesn't garner many favors, right? Anyway, you can't totally tell this from the pictures, but there was a gaggle of us working on the tamales - seven or eight of us rotating through the kitchen - and that was a big part of the whole fun of it. Josh and I will try to make them again, but making tamales practically begs to be done with a bunch of family.

You pour in that reserved liquid and/or plain water in case the liquid is too hot, and mash that dough up. It needs to be smooth in order to spread well - in fact, our post-tamale analysis was that we kept it too thick.

If it can do this, it's definitely too thick!

(P.S. If you can't already tell from instructions like "It's too thick if you can wear it on your thumb," please don't treat this blog post as a source for an authoritative recipe!)

Next up: spreading the dough on the soft (or shiny) side of the husks. This is the test to see if the dough is the proper consistency: it should spread pretty easily along the top half of the husk. It was a little tricky for some of us - the first hint our dough was a little too thick. You leave the bottom half of the husk without dough, because that's the part you'll fold.

Toss each husk into a pile.

Now we reach for the filling! You can fill a tamale with different ingredients - I heard about jalapeno and cheese and even a sweet tamale with dessert filling - but the traditional way is with pork.You can get the pork ready in any number of ways, and for this rendition, some of our tamale chefs had prepared the pork ahead of time by cooking it in the crockpot. You shred it and then send to the stovetop to simmer with tomato sauce and chili powder. (The quantity of chili powder is how you adjust the heat level. I tried a way spicy tamale earlier in my visit - this batch was more mild.)

Drop a spoonful of the meat into the middle of the husk:

Roll it up tightly, so it's a little tube. Then fold the bottom half under the rest of the tamale and stack them up in a pan as you go.

Close up, they look like this:

And from the other side!

Sometimes little girls want to be part of the fun:

The last task is steaming the tamales, a step that can vary wildly in duration but roughly takes a couple of hours. We stacked them up in a double boiler, like this, and then covered the pan so they could steam:

Ours took longer to cook because the masa was spread thicker than usual. You don't want the masa to be mushy or undercooked - it has to be pretty sturdy.

Then we took a break for the Broncos game, and then we ate our tamales!

The funniest part about the whole project was how quickly our reviews degraded as time went on. As we were gobbling them, the consensus was that they were a little thick but overall pretty good - but by Christmas Day, the verdict was that our crew had totally, unabashedly botched the tamales. (I think this is the great kind of memory that will only get exaggerated with time, so as the years go by, the over-thickness of the masa will only get worse and worse.) It cracked me up, even though I am not yet a tamale connoisseur and thought they tasted pretty good in my book!

But if our first batch wasn't successful, Josh and I left resolved to finesse our tamale-making skills back in St. Paul, so we can bring our A-game to next year's tamale festivities. Any local taste-testers interested?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas if you are celebrating today, Reader!

Don't you think it's fun to hear how different families spend their holidays? (I do, anyway!) In Josh's family, the tradition is to get together for a big breakfast on Christmas Day - his mom and her three siblings take turns hosting - and then go in different directions (usually in smaller family units) for the rest of the day. I love this tradition. I also love the breakfast, which is definitely Christmas Day's main meal.

This year, as everyone was arriving, it was snowing, which made for an extra-nice Christmas Day atmosphere. (I don't think a white Christmas is a guarantee in southern Colorado, even though last year - my first Christmas with Josh's family - brought a mega-blizzard, so now it's 2-for-2 in terms of my experiences with snowy Colorado Christmases.)

(Someday I will become proficient at taking a photo that successfully captures how beautiful a lightly falling snow is, or I will finally give up and just accept that that moment is better spent just watching said lightly falling snow.)

After breakfast, Josh and I went to his brother and sister-in-law's house to open stockings and more presents with Loco and Lala. We also relaxed and napped and played with the new toys and decorated gingerbread houses with the kids. (More successful than last year, but only marginally so!) Then we visited aunts, uncles and cousins to say goodbye, because we leave town tomorrow. It was a great trip.

Tomorrow brings a long travel day, but by the time we get back to my parents' house in the evening, my family will be waiting to begin our annual evening of Slovenian bread-baking! We will spend a few days there before heading back to St. Paul, and I can't wait.

Hey! If you celebrate Christmas, how did you spend yesterday and today? Do you have any traditions that you love? Please share!

Monday, December 24, 2012

He's ready

I woke up this morning to find this greeting via text message:

It was only a matter of time, wasn't it? I'm not sure the holiday season would've been complete without one photo of Wish in a Santa hat. Despite their expressions indicating otherwise, I know Wish and my dad are both in the Christmas spirit. I might have gotten a text yesterday from my dad with a picture of Wish about to pounce on a mammoth bone (I mean, truly, I think it was from a mammoth - that's how big it was) with a caption about Santa visiting early. Goofballs.

Ooh, guess what else!? We made tamales yesterday! I will tell you all about it soon. Today we are visiting Josh's dad, then going to church, then going to church, then spending Christmas Eve at his cousin's house. Also, the regional newspaper's letters to Santa are back this year, and I am loving them just as much as I did last year. I'm collecting my favorites and will share those with you this week, too.

If you are celebrating today, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Time for cookies and crafts

Hi from Colorado!

Yesterday's travel went as smoothly as it could have gone, especially given a winter storm working its way across the country. Josh picked me up at the airport and drove us back to his hometown, we checked into the hotel and then headed over to his brother and sister-in-law's house to visit. I heard about Loco's holiday school concert, which I had missed earlier in the day, and my future sister-in-law (yay!) and I browsed flowergirl dresses online for Lala (although Lala herself has definite opinions about the dress herself, which I love!).

I'm just back from an eight-mile run around town for my weekly long run. Like yesterday's walk with Mom and Wish, I got out just after sunrise, and the early morning light was great:

This town isn't in the mountains, but it is higher up in terms of altitude than anywhere I go in the Midwest, so I was huffing and puffing a little for the first half of the run. I almost cut it short but then got into a better groove and finished up my longest run since October's marathon. (I like this time of building my mileage back up, because every weekend long run gets to be a new Longest Run Since The Marathon.) I only had one dog run-in on my route, too: a dog was running around in his backyard and was upset by my presence on the adjacent sidewalk. At the exact same time, the dog and I both noted that his gate was unlatched and open to the sidewalk, and an almost comical race between us to the gate ensued. Luckily, I won and gently pushed the gate shut and continued on my merry way.

We're about to head out to spend time with family - "cookies and crafts" was the teaser for the day's activities, and of course, I'm totally sold.

What are you up to today, Reader? Any cookies and crafts going on in your neck of the woods this weekend?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Morning walk

This morning: a walk with Mom and Wish through the woods. We bundled up and remembered that a bright sun makes a big difference when it's six or seven degrees out. (I wish I were talking Celsius here.) Wish's chin got a little frost beard going.

The sun was coming up and shining pink light over a frozen lake:

I think it was the nicest way possible to start a long travel day.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wish's holiday plans

Soon I will be in Colorado for the holidays. Wish is bunking at my parents' house again - i.e. pretty much his favorite place in the world - and today I saw that his stocking was already hung with care. Oh my!

I like to pretend he's eyeing it like we used to do when we were kids:

We'll miss him like crazy while we're away, but I think he's in good hands here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The new project

Tonight I started my first quilt.

And now that I am one-seventh done with the actual quilt's material - one row! - and I think the worst is behind me, I will proclaim that there were about 30 minutes this evening when I was sure it was going to be an absolute mess. If this thing really comes together and you ever stop by to visit and snuggle up with this quilt, you can just take a discreet peek at Row 6, patches 3 and 4. They are bad news! Crooked, scraggly, bunchy, strange news.

But then I finally got my mind around how to arrange the strips in a way that actually made sense instead of guessing how they were going to fit together, and then the whole thing started to go a lot more quickly. It will also help if I can cut more straight strips of fabric.

For now, I am just happy that this little project is finally off the ground!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Craft mayhem

I just got home from a celebratory Punch Pizza dinner with a friend - she is having a baby boy in 2013! - and my home has already started to overflow with a trifecta of craft projects:
  1. One involves using something called fusible interfacing for the first time.
  2. One involves asking a boy's mother for the measurement from one far corner of his eye to the other outside corner.
  3. One involves getting out my trusty scrapbooking paper cutter (and required Wish's help earlier today).
Oh my, Reader, the kitchen table that greets Josh when he gets home is going to be quite a messy surprise!

I will update you accordingly. Good night.

And P.S. Are you finishing up any holiday crafts (or other kinds of crafts)? Please tell me about them!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Marvelous Monday: Week 51

Guess what? I thought I had gone astray in my Monday calculations this year, because we're already here at Week 51 and there are still two Mondays left in the year. As it turns out, per my internet research, there are 53 Mondays in 2012, not 52. How about that? (I guess this is also the place where I shouldn't admit that I counted them myself on a calendar and somehow ended up with 55 Mondays.)

Here's today's list:

1) I scurried over to yoga class this morning before work, which I can't imagine ever not counting as a small victory.

2) I have finally made progress on the t-shirt quilt for which I've been saving old t-shirts for ages. I went through the shirts that have piled up, added some more to the pile and cut them roughly for size. This week, I'm hoping to make more progress by getting to the next step: preparing the squares for sewing.

The funny part was finding shirts that I forgot I had. In high school, my nordic ski team (the girls' team, anyway) was really into decorating t-shirts. (I was one of this effort's merry ringleaders.) I found one of my all-time favorite t-shirts, circa 1999, in the t-shirt quilt box:

That's Ski Happy on the front, with a skier with pigtails. I still don't know if I can cut this t-shirt up, although it is decidedly not in any condition to be worn around town, either.

3) I'm going to Washington, D.C. in the spring! Natty and her husband and I (and a bunch of his family, I think, and possibly some more of our friends?) entered the lottery for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, and our entries were accepted early this morning. I can't wait to run this wonderful race - and get to visit them for a weekend, and explore that city.

4) My family took our annual Christmas picture yesterday afternoon, which is kind of misleading because it means taking lots of pictures til we finally grab one where we all have our eyes open and are smiling. Sometime in the middle of our photo-taking, my dad said, "Wouldn't it be fun if we all waved?" We were all kind of uncertain about this, but we gave it a try, and by golly, it's my favorite picture of the whole bunch. And this is the only one in which Wish beamed, too.

5) I went to the dentist today and I am cavity-free!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The quiet hour

Today's run started in the low light of the early morning in a silent neighborhood, save for a soft rain falling into puddles and slush.

I was grateful to spend a quiet hour, one step at a time, out in the same world where both wonderful things and heartbreaking things have happened in the past few days. We experience these things with each other, with our community and the people we love. For me, it is also imperative to create room to process (or try to begin to process) those things quietly on my own, whether it's through running or walking or yoga or cooking or reading or writing. Those are the ways I've found so far.

Someone out there did that with a walk this morning:

How and where do you carve out that quiet space?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

C is for Cookie (2012 edition)

So I'm at the local beverage store the other day, picking up a few bottles of wine for last night's cookie exchange. When I lugged my basket to the check-out counter, the cashier - who I don't think could've been older than 23 or 24 years old - said, "Wow, you are having a party!" and asked if it was that night. And I said no, it was the next day, and he said, "Wow, you are planning ahead!"

I thought this was kind of funny because it wasn't like I was a week or two out from this party - it was the next day, after all. I told him that I had to have time for the white wine to chill! He said, "You really have things together!" and I burst out laughing.

"Is this the mark of being a grown-up?" I joked.

He nodded pretty seriously, like it was some kind of sobering affliction. We chatted a little bit more as he processed my credit card, and after he boxed the wine bottles, he said, "Have fun at your grown-up party. You'll probably talk about 401(k)s and nest eggs!"

I loved the whole thing and couldn't get his farewell out of my head. 401(k)s and nest eggs!

Although thinking about that conversation still makes me laugh, life changes have been on my mind lately - and I've become more keenly aware of people who have suddenly been in my life for a major chunk of my life. Does that make sense? Friends in college have now been my friends for 10 years. My friend Molly and I ran on a team together when we were turning 20 and were joking/marveling the other day that we could never have imagined at that time that we'd still be logging miles together in 2012 and that our conversations would include her baby (coming in the spring!) and my wedding. It's not that I never thought these life changes would happen or that they're at all unnerving, but it just has me feeling sentimental this season (in the happiest sense of that word).

That brings us to the second annual cookie exchange. I hosted one last year, kind of an offshoot of a book club with this group of women, and decided to see if people were up for it again this year - and they were! We ended up having 11 or 12 people over last night. There were some who I see more regularly, others who I haven't seen in ages and certainly not as part of a big group lately.

Most of us attended the same college and graduated somewhere between six and 10 years ago, so it's not surprising that we've had lots of those life changes over the past few years: weddings, babies, careers, homes, and so on. I was so happy that this group gathered last night - from new moms bringing their babies over to people who battled commutes surpassing an hour (in one case, two hours) and still managed to stop by for a drink and some cookies. It was totally not some big serious event and I don't mean to make it sound more dramatic than it really was (because it wasn't dramatic at all!). It was just sweet to see everyone.

Oh, and on a lighter note, the cookies!

Hey!!! I just realized that the famous dipped Ritz crackers are missing from this photo and I can only fear that this means that they have already disappeared from my collection. Among others, there are Rolo snickerdoodles, chocolate-mint cookies, red velvet cake balls, peanut butter blossoms, pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies, seven-layer bars, holiday rice krispie bars, and a couple of variations on ginger cookies. We each brought three dozen cookies, so each person could take home three of every kind.

Count me into the ginger category: I tried Bon Appetit's Chewy Ginger Cookies recipe. There are three forms of ginger in it - crystallized, powdered, and fresh - and if you are a fan of ginger, that definitely makes for a sassy bite.

We didn't cover nest eggs or our 401(k)s, but even so, I was happy with the party - and the cookies!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

101 in 1,001: November update

It's practically the middle of December! Let's recap November's progress in the 101 in 1,001 project.

Your typical bounty full of links:
Last month's recap
The whole list
Track my progress (roughly) if you dare, via Google doc

Last month:
Between our trip to Tennessee and Thanksgiving travels, November flew by, and I didn't put much on my 101 in 1,001 plate. Just these two!

#32 See the Great Smoky Mountains
#28 Visit two new states

And I checked off both of them! We hiked and went sightseeing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We got to Tennessee by flying into Atlanta (because of bargain airfare from MSP) and driving about three hours through Georgia and into Tennessee. We also went to Chickamauga, a key Civil War battlefield that's run by the National Park Service now. New state: Georgia!

Coming up - well, already in progress - is December. This month is going to be a little quiet on the list front, too, because there are already lots of adventures and fun things going on. Luckily, the snow over the weekend reminded me of a couple of items on the list:

#11 Go snowshoeing
#13 Build a snowman

After last year's virtually snow-free winter, I'd like to cross one of those items off my list this month - ideally, an adventure to a local park to hit some snowshoeing trails!

Random list-related thoughts:

  1. I have also had a real hankering to start working on my cartwheel goal, but I think that has to wait until summer (and soft grass) - or maybe winter and its soft snow would be perfect after all! December would be a majorly banner month if I can manage to learn how to do a cartwheel. Is anyone an expert on teaching adults how to do a cartwheel? I wonder if I can get a tutorial on YouTube. Flinging my legs into the air hasn't worked well for me in the past.
  2. I am going to the dentist this month and will continue work on #23 Visit the dentist at least four times.
  3. Minneapolis, I believe, has switched completely to electronic/automated/credit-card-friendly/whatever parking meters that don't have individual stations showing how much time a car has left in its spot. Based on my recent trips to downtown St. Paul, I don't think the capital city is far behind, which potentially threatens goal #53 Put change in someone's expired parking meter. I need to act quickly, travel to cities without this newfangled technology or scout out the neighborhoods that still have coin-only meters. (I actually love the credit card option, by the way, because I'm horrible at carrying quarters.)

Here are the updated totals:
30/101 items complete
17/101 items in progress

I have nice ideas cropping up for my January goals. Perhaps I'll even read a classic book!

Please chime in with suggestions/feedback/tips in the comment section below!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Marvelous Monday: Week 50

We preface the regular Marvelous Monday format with two vital announcements.

Important announcement #1
Reader, first of all: I goofed. Last week I went on about this year's Christmas tree being our second annual tree in our apartment. As I dug through some photos over the weekend, an image surfaced of the actual first Christmas tree Josh and I had in our home: the 2010 version, making this the third annual tree! Oops! How quickly I forgot about the first and littlest tree!

What is this blog for if not to provide archival records, right? Keeping that in mind, our three years of trees:

Important announcement #2
Well, you can decide the level of importance for yourself - I think it's just kind of fun - but I marked my 500th post at Miles and Laurel on Thursday without even knowing it! Fitting that it was a cloud picture, huh? I think at least 100 of those posts must involve a cloud photo in some form.

Now, on to Marvelous Monday business - but this week, let's call it 2012's First Post-Snowstorm Marvelous Monday, to be completely accurate.

1) St. Paul is beautiful right now with a big layer of snow. Today the temperature slid down, but the blue skies (and bright sun) were out in full force.

2) My favorite jeans wore out. (That's not the marvelous part.) I was hemming and hawing about buying a new pair of my JCrew favorites for a pretty penny - after all, once I find jeans that work, I stick with them. Then I looked on Ebay and found a gently used pair of my beloved JCrew favorites - for $20. Yes!

3) Reading report: I am slowly working on The Master Butchers Singing Club by local author Louise Erdrich. My mom passed a copy on to me and I think my grandma also read it, too! I'm only about 100 pages in - I've been reading 10 or 20 pages every night before bed instead of reading big chunks at a time - but am enjoying the story and the author's writing style.

4) I love holiday cookies. I am hosting a cookie exchange this week and my home is already totally flush with cookies in preparation. I tried one tried-and-true recipe (sugar cookies) and one new recipe (which I think I will tell you about post-party).

5) I squeezed in a 30-minute run tonight after work: my first facemask-wearing, icy eyelash run of the winter. It felt like a big, healthy, invigorating (and cold) dose of fresh air - and that's one marvelous reason why I try to run my miles outdoors whenever possible through the winter.

Hey! What's marvelous about how your week is beginning, Reader? Any book recommendations for my upcoming holiday travels back to Colorado? Also, if you live in Minnesota, any snowshoe trails you'd like to suggest? (Bonus points if they're within 30 minutes of St. Paul!)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let it snow

Remember last year's mild winter, when all I did was post photos of me wearing shorts for running outside?

I think this winter's going to be different!

Today it snowed like crazy, and the storm's trajectory ended up being quite a bit different than was forecasted. It was supposed to drop around three to five inches of snow, with the heaviest snow falling in central and northern Minnesota. Then, late yesterday evening, my Twitter feed went wild with meteorologists posting that the storm's path had swung southward and slowed down, meaning way more snow for Minneapolis and St. Paul than they had previously expected. By noon today, more snow (4.7 inches at that time) had already fallen than in any day last winter. Whoa.

Here is the day's play by play:

I woke up early and skedaddled over to my friends' house to fulfill my cat-visiting duties while they were traveling, before the snow really picked up and the road conditions deteriorated. After I got back home, I took the resident crazydog out for a walk.

Like his first time in the snow with us over Thanksgiving, he was initially bewildered and/or peeved...

...but then started freaking out with excitement about this weird stuff covering the ground.
Then we went inside and spent most of the rest of the day cozy and indoors. It seemed perfecto that my plan for the afternoon had already included baking cookies.

Later, we went out again, and instead of a couple of inches, there were easily eight inches piled up. In case you were wondering, I think Wish's legs are probably about eight inches long, so it made for some quality entertainment to watch him try to get around the neighborhood while still attending to the must-smells.

(I think that might be my favorite Wish picture ever, by the way.)

The neighborhood looked beautiful, too, with lots of the snow still clinging onto tree branches and thus piling up in a really pretty way:

And it's still coming down! I'm getting my snowshoes out tonight with hopes of using them this week for the first time in two years!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Today I was enjoying a bowl of cereal, grapefruit and cup of coffee (not all together) before my run with Molly. I thought Wish was in the other room. Then I heard rustling under the table.

He is always ready and willing to clean up any food-related debris that might come his way. My little helper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Solving a mystery

I was reminded recently of a post that had been languishing as a draft for months - for good reason.

One morning in the early fall, I grabbed a sweatshirt folding up near the closet floor for my morning walk with Wish. There was a hole in the pocket - a very suspicious hole. Very.

My mind immediately went to a former college residence, where the mice were so bold that we'd hear them rustling in bags on the counter while we were in the next room. Oh, no, I thought. We must not have mice. We must not.

I worried. I talked with friends. They asked if we had seen other signs of mice, and I couldn't say that we had. Then, later in the day, Josh picked it up and was looking at the hole in the sweatshirt, and he said, "You know, this doesn't look like a mouse did this at all. It actually looks like..."

And then we both looked up at the dog and said, "Wish!"

And I swear he looked sheepishly away, as though he'd listened to the whole "OMG WE HAVE MICE!" exchange that morning and was just trying to see how long he could get away with it.

Later, we found a similar hole chewed in one of Josh's sweatshirts, and we traced it to the lure of crumbs from the treats we kept in the pockets to reward Wish during training on walks. (We definitely don't do that anymore.) Poor little rascal. He has little toys that are specifically designed to teach him how to think creatively to get treats, so how's he supposed to know any differently?

By the way, I kept this post as a draft for ages just to make sure we didn't actually have mice, so I wouldn't have to write, "Oh yeah, you know how I thought Wish was trying to eat holes in our sweatshirts? It turns out we have a rampant rodent infestation!" I still don't even like typing that out, for fear of jinxing our luck. I don't think any mice read my blog, though.

And what jogged my memory recently? It was when Josh showed me the little hole in his sweatshirt pocket and told me that he now actually likes the hole, because he can thread the cord to his headphones through it when his mp3 player is tucked into the pocket. Thanks, pup.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The tree is here!

It's our second annual Christmas tree!

I'll take away some of the suspense and admit that it looks pretty similar to last year's, because Josh and I still have most of the same ornaments and lights. (We did add the University of Tennessee's Smokey ornament to our tree.) It might be a little bit more sparkly than last year, though. For once in both of our lives, we found ourselves in the post-holiday Target clearance section in late 2011 and decided it would be prudent to stock up on cheap ornaments and wrapping paper. (We were very pleased with ourselves!) We both completely forgot about that until this year, when we opened our holiday storage boxes and found a big stash of new ornaments. YAY!

Some of the new ornaments included about 6,000 little red jinglebells. I wasted no time focusing on what's really important.

He looks so world-weary when we try to involve him in the holiday spirit.

After we dragged the tree into our house, Josh started setting up the tree stand. Wish wanted to see what all the commotion was about, so he wedged right in next to Josh. That was totally fine with us because we had wondered briefly if he would react, uh, less favorably to a tree inside.

While Josh set up the lights, I sorted through all of the ornaments. Typical snapshot of our home here: on the windowsill, you can still see my (unrotten) Halloween pumpkin. Seasonal hodgepodge.

When we were in Colorado last weekend, my mom set up her holiday decorations during Wish's stay. I guess he got used to being paid a lot of attention over there, because when she focused on the decorating instead, he sulked. When we got out the decorations, his face was all, "OH NO, NOT AGAIN!"

I don't understand all the fuss. I don't.
But he was very happy to hunker in and be part of the 2012 Christmas tree photo.

Here's 2011:

Ha! At least we know our taste is consistent. Definitely more sparklies this year, though.

Can you believe 1) we had white walls and 2) we did not have the little wolf running around our house? I hardly can!

2012 has been good to us. And I love our tree!

Will you decorate for a holiday this winter, Reader? If you are getting a tree, has yours already been up for ages, or is the decorating day still on its way? Do you have any other pre-holiday traditions that you like? My favorites include snowflake-making and cookie-baking, and that stuff is still yet to come!