Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The ice house as art

For people who are unfamiliar with life in a cold climate, ice houses are kind of hard to wrap one's mind around. 

Once the ice is thick enough, people set up little houses all over the state's lakes so they can fish year-round (through holes they drill in the ice) in some degree of comfort.  And sometimes the comfort is quite high!  You can have beds and TVs and everything in your fish house, or you can keep it pretty primitive.  

(I would be curious here to get a sense of how many of you readers are from Minnesota and are like "blah blah duh," and how many readers are utterly confused!)

The point is - and it's a theme throughout Miles and Laurel this winter - is that while Minnesotans do spend more time inside during the cold months, there are also a lot of people doing a wide range of outdoor activities.

Like Art Shanty Projects!

Recently, Sara and I trekked to Medicine Lake in Plymouth, a second-ring suburb of Minneapolis, to check out this outdoor art project.  Per the website, Art Shanty Projects is:
...a four-week exhibition that is part sculpture park, part artist residency and part social experiment, inspired by traditional ice fishing houses that dot the state's lakes in winter. It is an artist driven temporary community exploring the ways in which the relatively unregulated public space of the frozen lake can be used as a new and challenging artistic environment to expand notions of what art can be.
Sara is an art shanty veteran, but I had No Idea what to expect.

Okay, first, check out the whole scene.  That's all lake, although I'm facing toward shore.  Because this winter has been so warm, the shanties are way closer to shore than usual.

There were 24 shanties this year: all different colors and all very different from each other.  It was a gorgeous weekend afternoon, so it was crazy busy, and the shanties were packed inside.  There were people skiing and riding bikes and dancing, plus lots of families walking around.  Sara took a picture of a family pulling their baby in its carseat in a laundry basket.  It was pretty awesome.

Right away, we made a beeline toward the Monsters Under the Bed Shanty, which I think I can safely call my favorite.

See?  There's a bed on top, and then big monsters underneath.  On the website, this was advertised as a "monster-positive environment."  See that little blue claw at the bottom?  On every wall inside, there was a hole you could stick your arm into, and then you'd inadvertently be waving the monster arms around.

There was also this sign near the entrance of the Monster Shanty:

Then we saw the Robot Reprise - a big robot that moves around when enough people generate enough momentum to push it!

Then there's the Naughty Shanty, which I originally pegged as one of the cutest little shanties in the whole group.  See?  So cute.

Turns out beneath its cute facade, it's, well, naughty. Sara is posing next to a naughty little diorama.  My favorite part about this picture is actually the Monster Shanty photobombing.

And now I'm slightly wary of posting a picture of this one, which I didn't enter but thought was just very pretty.  It may also be naughty.  I just don't know. I just want a window like that in my home someday, okay?

Finally, audience participation was a major component in many shanties.  (Well, I guess all of the shanties, to be specific - but some depended on it more than others.)  There was one shanty that was basically plain with white walls on the outside (with "Mazatlan" spraypainted on it), and inside it was like a little dark dance club, with wall-to-wall people dancing to "Love Shack."
The other dance-related shanty was the Audio Adventure Shanty, which seems to provide different kinds of audio tours.  Sara and I saw this group of 15-20 people dancing like crazy in the middle of the shanties, all wearing these pink earmuff headsets.  

"What is going on over there?" I said. 

"I think there is something in their headsets!" Sara said.  (I think part of why Sara is so fab is that she didn't automatically assume there was something in their headsets, that people might just be rocking out with pink earmuffs on for the heck of it.)

We got a little closer and saw the schedule: It was time for the dance mob, held at the top of every hour!

We put on the earmuffs, and sure enough, Rihanna was blasting at a healthy volume.  What else could one do but join the dance party?

This whole kind of project-exhibit-spectacle-participatory festival is pretty new to me. (For example, I'm not sure that "cute" and "pretty" are the most precise adjectives for this art.)  But I had a great time wandering through the shanties.  Some of the shanties have blogs on the website, and it was amazing to see how much work went into building them. It was awfully neat to see up close how such creative people responded to the challenge of making a basic ice house into art - and how closely the community of artists had banded together to support each other and this project.

Check it out!  It runs through this weekend.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Marvelous Monday, 2012, Vol. 5

It's 40 degrees today and that is marvelous!  But this Marvelous Monday is entirely a weekend recap.  Argh!  Mark my words: next Monday's entry will be completely about Monday.

1) READER!  I learned what an autonomous snowplow competition is! Yesterday morning I went for an impromptu run with my brother.  We were near downtown and I asked if he wanted to swing over there to look at the ice sculptures, and I lamented missing the autonomous snowplows the day before.  Lo and behold, the competition was still in full swing!

It's SO COOL.  Contrary to what I imagined, the snowplows are not full-size monsters cruising around sans driver.  They're little miniature snowplow robots, about the size of a large coffee table, and they're designed by teams of college students from all over the country.  Then the little snowplows navigate a course that includes a 180-degree turn, completely controlled by a computer program.  Again: SO COOL!

2) Sunday Night Movie Night at my home is officially a streak!  Last night, it was "Moneyball."  I am no movie critic so I can't contribute scintillating new insights, but I thought both Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were fantastic.  And so was the girl who played Brad Pitt's daughter.  We really liked it.

3) Treats. I finally got to try Koppelin's legendary hot chocolate yesterday at the coffee shop's new location at Marshall and Cleveland, and it lived up to its reputation.  That block might be the best in St. Paul in terms of treats: Koppelin's, next to Izzy's ice cream, next to Sweets Bakeshop.  Sara and I skipped the ice cream but did investigate the macarons and cupcakes at Sweets.  I tried mint-basil and lemon macarons, and the lemon in particular was soooo good.

4) I went to a swap party this weekend hosted by a friend from high school.  The idea is that you bring gently used clothes, household items, books and DVDs - plus unopened toiletries - and assemble them garage sale-style.  Each person gets a little poker chip for each item she brought, then you get to go through and pick out your new prizes, and items left over at the end all get donated. Among other items, I brought home a cookbook, a shirt (that I'm wearing today!), and an awesome shoe rack for the entryway.  Kudos to Kristen for organizing it!

5) I cooked beans from...scratch? for the first time yesterday.  This process definitely cuts the cost and sodium compared to canned beans, so it seems like it's a good project for a Sunday evening hanging out at home.  I am crossing my fingers that the kidney beans turned out okay and will try them tonight or tomorrow night in Moosewood chili.

Reader, tell me: What's marvelous about your Monday?  What was marvelous about your weekend?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Securian Winter Run: Volunteer report

We are on a streak of posts celebrating the great outdoors in the winter, aren't we? 

One of my 101 in 1,001 goals is to volunteer for at least six races. Whether for fun or for a goal, I race pretty frequently, and I see how crucial volunteers are. For me, a cup of water or a kind word of encouragement at just the right time can make a big difference, and for the race director, having enough volunteers goes a long way toward ensuring safety - and a good experience - out on the course.  To me, it seems only fair that I should volunteer at least once in awhile, to support this running community I love.  It's also just fun to see a race from a different perspective, especially when you get to cheer on athletes.

Enter the Securian Winter Run, which has grown to include a 10K and 5K in addition to the half-marathon.  I've run this race before, and it has the potential to get real cold. One year I ran it when it was shortened to six miles because it was so cold - subzero, if I remember correctly, for the whole race.  I figured that there might be a shortage of volunteers for these winter races, dropped an email to the race director and was assigned to the illustrious position of course marshal!

Yesterday morning was about 20 degrees and sunny, which is pretty perfect for a January race.  I took the bus into downtown St. Paul and checked in at the volunteer station to get my sign, then wandered over to my post near Rice Park.  By the nature of these events, there's extra time built into volunteer assignments - you don't want your course marshal scrambling to her intersection just ahead of the race field, do you? - so I could be a little leisurely.

The race coincides with the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which per its website began in 1886 and is the nation's oldest and largest winter festival.  The festival includes an ice sculpture-carving competition in Rice Park - basically 100 yards or so from my post - and I walked through it en route to my course marshal duties.  (I was really early, don't worry.)


I was in awe.  I also liked the decorations in the park.  (They aren't real.)

Then I headed to my spot, got my bearings regarding road closings, and got ready. Curious about how I looked with my sign?

Yes. I have really, really, really long legs.
Then some hooligans tried to obstruct the course and I had to get tough.

No, I'm kidding.  Being a course marshal, when everything goes smoothly, is pretty uneventful.  You make sure cars and people stay off the course, generally watch out for the runners' safety and cheer your little vocal cords out.  I had my sign pointing runners to the left, but once the lead police car goes through, it's pretty self-explanatory to everybody in the field.  There were police nearby regulating nearby car traffic, too.

I was stationed between the first and second mile markers, so everyone zoomed by really close together.  The half-marathon, 10K and 5K started all within 10 minutes, so it was over before I knew it.  With cold toes - I knew I should've doubled up on socks - I decided to skip the Autonomous Snow Plow Competition Display near the park.  (I'm totally kicking myself over that now.  What is it?  Does anyone know?)  I hustled back to the start, dropped off my sign and was back on a warm bus toward home in minutes.

It was such a fun little adventure for a Saturday morning. In other news, there was a polar plunge elsewhere in the Twin Cities yesterday, where people all jumped into a lake.  Among all of my 101 in 1,001 goals, that one is 100 percent not on my list!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What the snow says

Once in awhile when I'm running, I'm totally captivated by the idea of whose feet have also touched the spot of the earth that my feet are touching.  Not in a weird or germy way, Reader, and not all the time.  (To be totally honest, I think it's usually about F. Scott Fitzgerald, who grew up in a neighborhood where I often run.)

It's just fun to daydream about.  And yesterday, it was especially easy to do that, because a light dusting of snow had fallen. Because it didn't melt, it captured every movement on the route since the snow started at noon.

I don't even know what this is but I thought it looked sort of like ribbons.

And this!  I think these are little ice pellets with snow on top.

Finally, if I've learned one thing this winter, it's how much I love pawprints in the snow!

Yikes!  Gotta run.  I have cupcakes to frost.  (Maybe more on this later.)  Happy Saturday to you, Reader!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Week in review

Sometimes a week is a zooming rollercoaster of highs and lows.  This week was not that way.  Instead, there were lots of small highlights that were just really nice, in the best sense of that word.  I got to catch up with my friend Ellie Fence, found myself buying fresh flowers and a gallon-sized bucket of animal crackers at Trader Joe's, and am loving this new Saucony headband I got at Marathon Sports, a running shop in Minneapolis.

Yeah!  I'm wearing a headband because it's warm now!  I mentioned icy sidewalks earlier, but temperatures soared to a balmy 40 degrees by yesterday afternoon.  I walked home from work, which I really like to do when I can.  I didn't even need a hat (or my headband, for that matter), and the gloves came off early in the trip.  I love using figures of speech literally!

And I got to watch the sun set, too.  I swear, you guys, if I lived in a more rural area with more viewing opportunities, all you would ever see at M&L would be sunsets.  I can't ever get enough.

Whoa.  Now that's an extra-large photo.  I'm practicing taking pictures with my new phone, and they turn out extra-tall, which seems to mean I can make them extra-large in Blogger without overflowing into the right margins.  

I promise to use this discovery for good and not just for extra-large sunset summaries.

Happy Friday!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Editing birthday cards

I love tampering with cards.

Well, Reader, you know I love cards in general - tampered or untampered.  (How many times in one post can I say "tampered?"  Let's see!)  

Phrased unelegantly, getting mail is just so darn fun.  As you also know, I love to give average days more pizzazz, so unsurprisingly, birthdays are my cup of tea.  I'm not much for fanfare and big scenes, but I do like to celebrate. 

And remember when you were a kid, and you'd practically lose sleep over an approaching birthday, you were so excited?  And then when you finally reached the big day and you could officially call yourself that next age, you felt so fab!

Somewhere past the age of 21, people usually stop feeling so excited about birthdays. So, just for fun, sometimes I like to buy a birthday card meant for a child and make one little edit with a black marker to suit the adult recipient.

Recently, I browsed the card racks to find just the right greeting for a 28th birthday, brought it home and got out my trusty black marker for the edit.

Adding a puppy to a card is never a bad thing.
Hee, hee.  I'm glad I found a good "8" card because the "2" cards were a little too young - one had something to do with being so thrilled to finally be able to eat with a spoon.  Not quite right.  You gotta strike the right balance between joyful and...juvenile?

Whether you love or hate this idea, Reader, I dare you to try looking at kids' cards next time you're searching for a birthday greeting and keep a straight face.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My first cookbook

The other day, I walked by a bakery in my neighborhoood.  On the door, there was a beautiful photo of a sole pristine piece of bread with perfect little pat of butter on it.

"That bread looks like it needs some food coloring on it," I thought to myself.


I thought hard about where that idea had come from and finally remembered the source. 

Monster Toast!

Reader, get ready to meet "Kinder-Krunchies"!

This book is especially dear to me because it's inscribed "To Becky, your first cookbook, from Grandma and Grandpa - March 11, 1989."  This is even better because my grandma has since proclaimed that she doesn't even really like to cook!

"Kinder-Krunchies" was published in 1982 by Karen Jenkins and I think it's geared toward a progressive audience.  (I'm basing this assumption almost entirely on the fact that there's something about adding carob powder to an ice cream recipe, okay?)  I would be curious to see a later edition or a similar cookbook published more recently to see how it incorporates this national conversation going on about where our food comes from.  Regardless, I will save it forever because it opens the door to those questions, and it really is a cool introduction to food and nutrition and cooking for kids.  Each spread has a recipe on the left page and a series of "food for thought" (ha!) questions on the right page. 

It's black and white, but obviously, I took it upon myself at an early age to convert the pages to full color.

Some recipes are definitely more complicated than others.  Some require help from adults.  Some are recipes that use the oven that I would actually still like to cook now!  (That's a future post, I suppose.)

Others are more simple.

My favorite parts are the questions for kids to consider. Some are about health and portion control and how to approach treats.

Something must have gone wrong in how I processed this lesson, because I would quite like to eat large quantities of Kindness Cookies every day!

This last one is my absolute favorite.  Read #5.  Oh my!  Remind me to get some Vitamin C, pronto.

Simply put, this cookbook rules.  Now, excuse me - I have Monster Toast to make.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Be careful but keep going!

Okay, Reader, I don't mean to get all "running in the winter is so hard boo hoo whomp whomp!" on you.

But, well, running through the winter can be really hard.  Right now in Minnesota, the snow falls a teeny bit at a time, enough to collect on the sidewalks but not enough so that every homeowner thinks, "Hmm!  I should head outside with my shovel and a bag of salt!"

That makes for a real slog on some stretches of my routes - I've compared it before to running on loose beach sand.  Ow!  My legs get tired just thinking about it.

And then if it's not snow on the sidewalks, the paths look like this:

Oh, it looks all glittery and pretty, Reader, but don't be fooled.  That's glare ice and bad news.  That stuff makes you run for the edge of the snowbanks real quick before you have to launch into an impromptu ice-dance routine down that slope.

And then it gets dark so early and you have to watch for your footing while you're watching for cars, who can't see you as easily.  And you have to kind of dress like a snowman and it is way harder to pack up your duffel bag before work than it is when you're packing clothes in the summer.  Add all of that up, and it can become a major deterrent to running outside in the winter, even for weirdos like me who actually like it 80 percent of the time.

But the purpose of this post is not to grouch about a hobby I choose to practice.  (Somewhere a reader is like "I know she complained about warm weather in the summer!  I know it!  Shut up!")

Today on my run I was thinking about new runners in wintry climates and how gutsy they are for working to establish a running routine in this very strange time of year.  It's January, after all, and I know there are people out there setting resolutions to run their first 5K or run a mile without stopping.  I am proud of people working on that on a treadmill, of course, but I know there are also a lot of people who are doing it without a gym, outside, on the same sidewalks I'm traversing.  

I get asked often whether I run outside through the winter, and for me, it's simply a routine and a habit formed over many years of doing it.  The fresh air does me a whole heap of good, it's not really a fancy choice to me, and as I've written before, I've learned through trial and error that you can dress for just about any conditions and be mostly comfortable.

But like running in the rest of the year - or just like any other challenge - it's not always easy.  Running in the winter can be exhilarating and refreshing.  It can also be dark and cold and lonely.  Skipping a workout can get so easy when a warm couch and warm dinner is beckoning after work.

I give real, serious kudos, therefore, to anyone out there who is just beginning to build a fitness routine this month, who is walking or running outside in the winter for the first time, making a firm choice each time he or she heads out onto slushy sidewalks.  

Be careful, but keep going!  It will get easier!  I'm rooting for you!

This time of year, running outside can definitely be a bear.  But every time, even if it's a trudgefest for most of the trip, I have at least one moment where it clicks for me that my muscles have been totally worked or my mind has been calmed - or an even tinier moment, when I just see streetlights against a darkening sky and think, I'm really glad I did this after all.  

I really hope all of the new runners feel that this winter, too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Marvelous Monday (Vol. 4)

Here at Miles and Laurel, Marvelous Monday is usually a merge between a true Marvelous Monday (noting five nice things about Monday) and a weekend recap of highlights still on my mind.  This weekend started with a chilly but great long run with Molly on Saturday morning, and after that was done, I let the rainy, icy, chilly weather keep me mostly inside for the rest of the weekend in a cozy sort of way.  Thus, some of my Marvelous Monday notes are riffs on that theme.

1) Josh will either laugh or roll his eyes when he sees this because I've been crowing about nonstop, but I will now shout to the world that I downloaded Hulu Plus for my new phone and have been back on a Parks and Recreation kick.  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.

2) Today I signed up for the next six weeks of boot camp class through work.  This may not be marvelous exactly, but I came to terms with the idea that I just need a little more of a forced nudge to do strength training.  It felt good to act on that realization instead of just mumbling to myself over and over that tomorrow would be a perfect day to finally going on strength work.

3) We rented "Midnight in Paris" and watched it last night.  I kind of want to make Sunday movie nights a more regular occurrence!  It was a fun and festive way to end the weekend, especially because we were both utterly charmed by the movie.  It makes me want to listen to Cole Porter now, too.

4) Winter birthdays!  There are a ton in my family - more on this in the coming weeks - and among my friends.  I sounded the first birthday alarm over the weekend, but warm, happy birthday wishes go out to Nat (whose day was yesterday) and Dawn (whose is tomorrow)!

5) This morning I was attacking hacking demolishing scraping my windshield and a sheet of ice that was larger than an 8x11 piece of paper flew off.  It was pretty cool.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Words with strangers

So, Reader, late last week I broke the exciting news that I had kicked my Blackberry to the curb in favor of this Thunderbolt.  Blackberry is not much for the apps phenomenon, so Josh has been eagerly recommending apps.  (This is mostly really helpful, except for when he keeps pushing the "flashlight" app.  Also, we practicing Skyping with each other in the same room yesterday.)  There truly seems to be an app for about anything you could ever imagine.  Some of them (TETRIS!!) are very exciting to me.  

I mentioned Words With Friends very briefly last week.  Ooh, that is a fun game! It's like Scrabble but online.  It made Alec Baldwin get into that heap of trouble on that plane.  Over the weekend, I started playing with a couple of friends.  I also sent Josh an invitation to play a game.  Then I discovered that there's a messaging function within Words With Friends, so you can compliment and/or trash-talk moves accordingly.  Later, I realized that Josh had still not responded to my bold first word: "stat." (Hold your applause.)  Via the messaging function, I heckled him goodnaturedly.  

Later in the day, we were discussing this fabulous game (I promise we talk about other topics, too) and he said, "You didn't challenge me to a game." I was all, "YES I DID!" and immediately grabbed my phone to show him.  

And then I said, "Um, what's your user name?"  

And he told me his username, which, of course, was a different version of JoshFirstNameJoshLastName than I had been bothering.  And I groaned.  And then - here I will sacrifice my dignity for the sake of the story - I remembered that in addition to bothering DifferentJosh about the game, I had also been so thrilled to find the messenger function that I had also messaged DifferentJosh to see if he wanted to get a hangaber at the Blue Door Pub that night for dinner. (It's what Loco calls a hamburger, okay?  It just stuck.)  

I laughed until I cried.  Bless DifferentJosh for not responding to "stat," let alone my invitation to go get hangabers.  I may need to stick to real-life Scrabble.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Well, this is kind of fun.  I realized that today marks the 200th post on Miles and Laurel!  I will get excited one more time, for M&L's one-year, and then will stop fawning over the age of a blog.  It is a timely and handy opportunity, though, to thank all of you for reading my stories, from the mundane to the strange. This is a very fun project for me, and I love and appreciate all of your comments and feedback.

Then I realized that, over the next four days, two wonderful people I know will celebrate birthdays in real life.  

Let's have a virtual cake!

Happy weekend!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Touchscreen madness

A new phone!

A moment of background: I have had my Blackberry for two or three years. I mildly fought the smartphone thing for awhile and then grew to like the little Blackberry.  But as phones do, the poor thing started to really run out of steam over the last few months.  I began to keep my eyes open for a new phone.

Josh and I went to the Verizon store over the weekend to "learn more" about a new phone for me, and as luck would have it, we left with a new phone for him instead.  Hmph!  I found a lovely phone that was on a nice sale, so it was temporarily out of stock and I had to have it shipped to me.

My HTC Thunderbolt arrived on Wednesday. I pulled the phone out of the box, and I kid you not, the first thing I did (after cooing) was test it out holding it up to my ear.  Like this:

That does not make sense, for two reasons:
  1. Did I expect it to possibly not line up properly?
  2. I don't actually use my phone's telephone function enough to warrant that motion being the phone's first test.
In case you are interested in seeing a generic picture of a phone, happy Friday!  Here it is:

When I first got my Blackberry, I remember that my friend Nora told me sagely that I would quickly find a little point on the top of each index finger that enabled downright speedy typing on the keyboard.  She was right.  This is my first touchscreen phone, and I have yet to find that golden ticket.  I have had some strange run-ins with Autocorrect, which does not seem to appreciate my use of the word "totes" ("Did you mean 'rites'?" "No, I definitely did not mean 'rites'") or the nicknames I have for friends.

But it is coming along, especially since last night, when I found the voice function that allows me to speak a text message and have it be rendered at least 80 percent correctly on the screen.  (THAT'S COOL!)  Also, the video is better than my computer's video, and the camera has more megapixels than my actual camera.  And it is fast!  I watched a Parks and Rec episode on it last night, and it was so smooth.  I got Words With Friends, too.  Whew.  I'm coming around.

What are the best apps on your smartphone, Reader?  What else would I like?  And what do you have going on this weekend?

P.S. Today I definitely saw a man leisurely smoking a cigar while he ran a snowblower on his sidewalk.

That's all.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Joan, pho and the theater

The snooze button is such a ferocious friend.  But today I didn't feel too bad about it.  (Oh!  If you are considering moving to this fine state - and you know who you are - I give the green light to skip the rest of this post.)

The background: I got home very late last night from my fabulous cultural event (tackling #67, friends!) with Sara. Earlier this month, she had come across two tickets to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Guthrie.  Part of my 101 in 1,001, as you can see on the list, is taking advantage of all of the rich theater, art and cultural events that the Twin Cities offers.  I am not well-versed in the theater scene at all, so I figured I had homework to do.  I read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof last week for the first time.  It was so much fun - and more seriously, so much more meaningful - to have read the script and the playwright's directions before seeing the play unfold in person.  There was dialogue I couldn't wait to see acted out and parts I interpreted differently when I saw them in person.  I thought the whole thing was fabulous.

I got home really late!  I set the alarm clock warily (and wearily, ha ha) for 6 a.m. in hopes of getting an easy run in before work, since I had other commitments at lunch and in the evening.  

But when the alarm sounded, I grabbed my shiny new phone and noticed that in addition to telling time, the main screen also included a large temperature reading.  This is two hours later, but it looked exactly like this.

I've run in that kind of temperature before.  I contend that it's possible to do it without being dangerous, assuming you have a huge facemask with only your eyes peeking out.  But is it fun?  You know, at 6 a.m. this morning, I begged to differ.  Snooze!

And later in the morning, when I went to work, I knew I had made the right choice.  This has been a pretty mild Minnesota winter, and I had forgotten what that sort of temperature with a breeze feels like on one's face.  I got into the car and noticed that the temperature had soared all the way to -9.

As an aside, this car provides song titles. Sort of.  It's correct maybe half of the time.  Sometimes it mashes together the song and artist, other times it's a completely random word.  I like to imagine that there was actually a song playing called "YOU JOAN."  It sort of sounds like an insult.  "You Joan!"

Then I went out to lunch and tried pho for the first time!  Yahoo!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I love running errands - but only when I'm literally running errands.

It's not that you'll find me popping into Super Target for groceries in the middle of a set of intervals, or that I'm so frenetic about multitasking that I pick up drycleaning midrun.  But sometimes, when conditions are right, it is fun and somehow downright sneaky to get stuff done on a run.  It's a well-established fact that I generally find walking, running, or biking so much more pleasant than driving, so that may contribute to this little hobby within a hobby.  But I don't really do it enough, either.  "Running an errand car-free" totally should have gone onto the 101 in 1,001 list.  Darn.  (I love that I wrote that so sadly, like there's clearly no way I could work on something if it didn't make it onto The List.)

Anyway.  After hours and hours of sloth yesterday, I realized that I needed stamps for some cards and green beans for the minestrone that was in the crockpot.  I also needed a very gentle recovery run, because my arms and back were - shall we say - feeling the effects from painting the day before. So I shuffled outside and embarked on a route around the city that took me by my ATM (where I picked up my stamps), a mailbox (where I dropped off my cards) and a grocery store (where I got the green beans).  Of course, the grocery store was about the farthest point out on my route, so I had to lug the green beans kind of a long way.  

By the way: this is a super effective tactic for truly buying only the item for which you went to the store and nothing else!

I ended up having a nicer run than I expected, given my tired self and the chilly weather.  When I was almost home, I looked down at my green beans and actually realized how silly the whole thing looked. Forgive me for my monster hands.

It makes tedious errands into a little scavenger hunt or a Choose Your Own Adventure, no?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Last night, I told Loco and Lala over the phone that I had been painting yesterday and could've used their help.  Even they knew that that was a bad idea.

"I would've gotten paint all over my face!" said Loco.
"I would've made a paint angel!" said Lala.

Did I fare better on my own?  Read on.

The background
Last year, Josh and I moved into this apartment.  I agonized (but in a pleasant way) over paint samples and finally selected this subtle, modest, warm, lovely shade of pale yellow for the main kitchen/dining room.  I painted the first coat and wondered if the shade was perhaps a little too quiet.  We conferred and decided that a second coat would probably pump up the color.  Josh painted that coat.  He is colorblind and concluded that there was absolutely no difference between the original paint and this new choice.  I erred toward optimism and tried to argue that there was a slight difference.  One friend came over and asked when we were planning to paint.  Another friend described it as looking like the wall had been washed.  Rats!!

Therefore, I can't blame Josh one bit for being utterly and firmly done with painting.  Over the past couple of months, I started making tiny but enthusiastic mumbles about trying a new paint in that room. He would give me this warning don't even think about it look.  Being that he has taken the lead on many recent home renovation projects, I decided that this resistance was fair and decided to launch Painting Project 2.0 on a day when I was home from work and he wasn't.

Here we go!

The selection process
My favorite part of the preparation did involve Josh, though.  We were at the local hardware store, browsing through a great range of paint cards in the orange and yellow family, and I gravitated immediately toward this beautiful color called Lemoncello and decided that this was The One.  Josh took one look and reminded me that, of every paint sample available, I had just selected the one and only exact same shade we bought last year.  Oops.  Do I ever learn!?

So I picked two cards: the Lemoncello family, to see if I might like the next shade darker - and one that was a little more orangey.  I brought them home and taped them on the wall.  Over the next week, I decided that the next shade of Lemoncello, Banana Cream, was both homelier than Lemoncello with a less appealing name to boot.  Meanwhile, on the other card, Daisy Heart's star was rising.  I was ready to take a little bit of a risk, driven by a resolve to avoid another Lemoncello fiasco.  Go bold or go home, right?

On left: Lemoncello, Banana Cream.  On right: Daisy Heart, looking a little more orange in this photo.
One night, Josh came home and found a gallon of Daisy Heart sitting under the samples, like a present under the tree.  Game on!

The painting
I started very early in the morning yesterday.  Here's a look at two "Before" pictures:

Reader, I so wish that I would've kept the Miles and Laurel browser open so that I could've tracked my observations as they developed.  I'll recreate the general vibe:

7:06 a.m. I love settling in for a day of painting. This is going to be so satisfying and fun!

8:39 a.m. The ceiling is really high.  Hmm, I will do the easy parts first. I'm sure that's a good strategy.

8:47 a.m. Ooh, this is definitely brighter!  Too bright? Only time will tell. We're not going back to Lemoncello, that's for sure.

9:15 a.m. Gotta finish just a little more before I leave to run with Molly!  Spirits are still high.

11:16 a.m., returning home: Ahh! I love this color.
12:09 p.m.  Painting is so much less fun after a hard run.
1:54 p.m.  I hate painting.
2:23 p.m.  How am I ever going to reach that corner?

2:29 p.m.  My arms are going to fall off.
2:32 p.m.  I wonder what would happen if I taped a paint brush to a pole?

2:40 p.m.  DONE!!!!!

Final result: It's definitely punchier than I expected, but I love having color in this room now.  I love that it changes color with the sunlight over the course of the day.  I think my favorite light on it is around 11 a.m.  The color looks totally different at night - much more yellow - but all day long it's brighter and warmer, which is just what I was after.  I like it against the dark iron of the staircase and our black dining room table and chairs.

But now I'm with Josh.  We're done painting for a very long time!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marvelous Monday: 2012, Volume 3

Reader!  Golly!  I'm on the couch, nearly zonked out for the day, taking in some Gossip Girl very serious television programs, and I realized I haven't even celebrated Marvelous Monday yet!

  1. I got to spend part of the morning running with my friend Molly.  I guess we have officially started training for our next race!  We'll both be toeing the start line of the Get Lucky Half Marathon around St. Patrick's Day.  With that event in mind, we cranked out a few intervals together and enjoyed the sunshine.
  2. During my cooldown, I saw a Little Library in person for the first time!  If you perused the Miles and Laurel comment section last week, you may remember that I wrote about visiting the library for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and my post prompted Sara to mention the Little Free Library project.  The first Little Library was started in Hudson, Wis., and they've since spread all over the country: all community efforts, all run by volunteers.  Sara's note was the first I've heard I've heard of this project, and I loved seeing a Little Library in person!
  3. Later, I caught up with another friend at a restaurant that specializes in margherita pizzas - or, more accurately, I specialize in consuming their margherita pizzas.  Yum.
  4. This week's Kindle read is "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach.  I heard the author doing the rounds on my various podcasts this month - it's kind of about a baseball team at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest - and I decided to check it out.  It's grabbing my attention, I'm most of the way through and I'm hoping things turn around for Schwartz and Henry before the end of the book.
  5. This!

More on that yellow stuff tomorrow.  All I can say now is that I am going to sleep soundly tonight.

What's marvelous about your Monday today?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An amazing coincidence about peanut butter

Since we spent time with Josh's niece and nephew over both Thanksgiving and Christmas, Josh has been talking with Loco and Lala on the phone almost daily. It's our solution to stay connected until we can configure webcams and Skype for both parties.  The kids are 5 and 4, so it seems like their phone conversations improve what seems like weekly, although Lala still sometimes flings the phone when she's done with the conversation and both of them need reminders that we can't see them nod or shake their heads.  Loco in particular is more vocal, especially now that he discovered the speakerphone function on their cordless phone.  

The other day, they were acting squirrelly, and Josh was (half?) joking that he'd fly to Colorado right then and there to set them up in time-out.  I noted out loud that I've had to put Josh in time-out from time to time myself and then heard muffled whispering on the other end.  Then Loco's mom said Loco had looked at her very seriously and asked, "Would Rebecca really do that?"

This morning, via the speakerphone, we were all chatting about what was on tap for breakfast.  Loco and Josh were talking about goatmeal (oatmeal!) versus cold cereal, and Josh volunteered the tidbit that I had already had goatmeal for my own breakfast.  "It's true," I said, "I love goatmeal with peanut butter in it."  (This is very true.)  Later on, he said, "Rebecca, did you really have goatmeal with peanut butter this morning? Because I just saw a commercial on TV about peanut butter."

"Yes!" I said. "We must be on the same wavelength."  Loco considered this for a moment and then burst out laughing.  I love those kids.

There are a bunch of projects launching this weekend in my casa: painting, telephone-wrangling, and sewing.  As mentioned yesterday, I hope to have results to share soon.  For now, the Golden Globes red carpet previews are on TV, and I intend to watch a few minutes before heading to a trampoline park for the evening.  (Yes, you read that right.  I CAN'T WAIT.)  

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hodge Podge

I love calling posts "Hodge Podge."

So, I am on vacation through Tuesday!  Consider this post a quarterly progress report for the weekend.  In no particular order, the last 48 hours have included:
  • A visit to the mall, to my beloved Marshalls and past the Lands End Not-Quite-Perfect Store, which is obviously a great spot for browsing.  The Not-Quite-Perfect Store seems to be the final stop specifically for returned monogrammed and personalized merchandise, but the thing is, this store seems to keep the price higher than you'd expect for such items.  Then again, it's kind of a treasure trove for bargain hunters with a good sense of humor.  For example, today I saw a robe with "Flimmy" embroidered on the front in a lovely violet script.  Why didn't Flimmy want that robe?  I also saw a youth cotton crewneck t-shirt with "Girls Extra-Large" embroidered across the front.  I have a better idea of why that one didn't sell.
  • Social running! A friend and I have been trying to coordinate a run together for literally more than a year.  This morning, we finally made it happen!  Success!  Seven miles, a new trail, lots of fun.
  • Elite running: Not me, obviously!  I'm talking about in Houston this morning, for the Olympic Trials marathon.  It's not like I went out on a limb, but I was very excited that my three picks for the U.S. women finished one-two-three and will race in London this summer!
  • I started my next sewing project. I hope to have positive things to report - or at least progress to report - soon.
  • Red Bull Crashed Ice: Reader, if you live in the Twin Cities, you can skip the next few lines, because I think everyone in the metro area has been bombarded with coverage of this thing.  If you haven't heard of it yet, it's totally crazy!  It's this tournament of sorts - a national championship, actually - with a course that starts at the top of the hill at the Cathedral in St. Paul and curves treacherously for about a half-mile down to the finish line.  Up to four skaters race down this course simultaneously at top speed, and there are bumps and hills and various obstacles (not the least of which is their own competition) that impede their progress.  Holy moly, it's intense.  The skaters flip into the air!  There were tons of spectators for the elimination round last night, when we were there.         

Here's the start of the course, which is near where we stood:

Here's the view just past us, which gives a better glimpse of the ice conditions:

And by the end, I had gotten a close-up photo of the ice:

Obviously, it should go without saying that this activity is not on my 101 in 1,001 list.  But it was definitely fun to watch.
  • And finally, snow!  This afternoon, the skies dropped about an inch of big popcorn snow on the sidewalks.  Josh and I went for a walk.  It was pretty. Maybe skiable, snowshoeable snow is not far behind?

And now it's Broncos time!  Reader, how is your weekend going?  What are you up to?