Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Storm report

Remember that blizzard about which I was rabidly excited?  The foot of snow?  The snowshoeing opportunities it would create?  The general winter wonderland?  In like a lion, out like a lamb?

In my corner of the world, that didn't exactly happen, although 20 minutes north of here, it's a different story.  And an hour or two north of here, it's a very different story. Here? This is how it went, since yesterday: Snow, slop, rain, slush, snow, slop.

Last night, the city was Slop, icy sidewalks with big, cold puddles and all - and driving rain.

Here is said Slop:

I do like these golden footprints, though.

Today?  It's pretty amazing: two or three degrees' difference would've made this weather system completely different, either in terms of 15 inches of snow or tons and tons of ice.  In St. Paul, three or four inches of snow fell overnight, and I've never seen such heavy snow.  Add a few more degrees, and that all turned back into Slop.

Of course, I had to investigate with a run.  I expected icy sidewalks, but slushy was what I got. I kept hooting and hollering as I splashed through the slush.  You know what they call those conditions?  Free ice bath for the feet!

I brought my camera along for the run in case I liked any of the snow, but I didn't expect to find beauty in just how messy it was.

Lots of puddles.  Bonus points for incorporating a reflection!  (Did I just award myself bonus points?  That's cool.)

Slush...and snow...and water.  There's just a little bit of kind of clear concrete on the left side of the trail, so you can dodge that big puddle...

...but you can't dodge this stuff!  (This is the exact moment in space and time when I completely gave up trying to keep my feet sort of dry.)

And then I got to my first major intersection. Trying to figure out how to cross this street actually stopped me in my tracks momentarily.  I'm sure I looked very confused.

And then I saw that someone with gigantic feet had traversed the streets before me:

(That had nothing to do with the storm.  I was just really impressed by the footprint.)  

It really felt like I spent four miles playing outside.

And it's February 29, too!  Are you doing anything fun and unusual to commemorate the day?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A repaired vehicle

It's the little engine that could!

Today's entry is dedicated to my car, which (I had to work really hard to not type "who") is usually the recipient of grouching and not warm fuzzies.

This car has a persistent problem with a squealing belt related to its alternator.  This is not a charming noise and is even more confusing because it happens at ignition and then at random intervals on the road.  I took it in yesterday and asked them to tighten the belt, which has fixed the problem before.  One of the employees called and sounded mildly concerned but also charged with determination (I might have imagined that) because he wanted to do some digging and find the root problem.  And then he didn't call...and didn't call.  And my concern started climbing a little bit, because a major repair would force the question (and decision) of whether to pay for the repair or move onto a new vehicle.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, and my worry was all for naught.  He called and said my car was ready to go!  The parts were replaced and the belts no longer squeal.

Thank you, Little Car, for breaking down in parts that are covered by warranty!

Basically, if you can imagine a little less shine and a little more character, my car was looking like this:

Here's to you, Little Car!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marvelous Monday, 2012, Week 9

Nine weeks into 2012!  What's marvelous about today?
  1. I finished reading What is the What over the weekend.  Reader, this one is going to stay with me for a long time.  It's about the Lost Boys of Sudan, and now I understand why it was chosen as this year's common reading at my alma mater.  I keep flipping back to reread dog-eared passages.   Some pages were so heartbreaking I could barely catch my breath, but at its heart, it's one person's experience, one person's story to tell.  What a book.
  2. After a weekend hiatus, I'm back to yoga class tonight!
  3. There is a good old fashioned winter storm getting whipped up and trekking up to Minnesota in the next day or two.  If this turns into actual snow accumulation, you'll hear more about this later in the week.  It's well established that I get real riled up over this kind of thing.  My snowshoes are ready to spring into action.
  4. March starts this week!  I'm watching my 101 in 1,001 list and thinking of what items might be next on my list.
  5. My sewing machine is coughing for attention!  Ideas for my next project are bouncing around in my head.  I'm excited to head to the fabric shop this week to get going.
Thanks for stopping by, Reader!  What are you looking forward to in March?  What's marvelous about today in your corner of the world?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Sunday

Wait.  Not to be all "time flies so quickly," but how in the heck did it get to be Oscar time already?

Every year I think of how enriching and fun it would be to watch every Best Picture nominee, and every year, I never even get close, so I don't really have any business feeling passionate about the race.  I did cover Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, and The Descendants, and although all three were great, my vote would probably go to The Descendants.  And at a minimum, whether I'm fully or barely invested, it's sure a pleasant Sunday night TV program.

Yes, it's full Sunday night mode over at Miles and Laurel.  I have my Sunday paper still waiting for me.  I also have a Sock Party going on, in the form of a huge laundry basket full of all of our socks eagerly waiting to be matched with partners. Josh knocked out some major cleaning while I was enjoying brunch with my book club, so I'll gladly take on Sock Party - although I have been telling him that as soon as I cash in a winning lottery ticket, I'm buying a huge quantity of identical black socks.

Ha!  That was a thrilling paragraph!  Socks!

After brunch (and discovering a lovely new dish called egg puff - thanks, Kate!), Josh and I went for a walk.  I credit him for the following photo.  He noticed Smiley Cardboard while I stepped right past it.
I love that Smiley Cardboard. 

A new week starts tomorrow, and there are some exciting things looming ahead: a possibly monstrous snowstorm, Marvelous Monday, new 101 in 1,001 cosas - and oh, yes: March!

Hey, Reader!  Do you have favorite films for which you're rooting?  Do you love or hate blush gowns on the red carpet?  And do you have a magical way to keep socks orderly and organized?  Share, please.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nokomis travels

Ahh!  A leisurely weekend morning that includes a long run is one of my favorite things.  Winter introduces many challenges to the weekly long run, but one distinct upside is that the season's temperatures mean you can head out anytime in the morning - or, heck, live extra-dangerously and go out in the afternoon - without suffering heat-related consequences. (On especially hot summer weekends, my alarm has sounded before 5 a.m. in a futile effort to beat the heat.  Blech!)  Molly and I planned to meet at 9:00 this morning, then pushed it back to 9:30 when we saw the forecast was a little chilly.  That plan turned out to work perfectly, because the sun popped out literally a few minutes before we started!

As I was enjoying my grapefruit, oatmeal with peanut butter, and coffee (sound the "creature of habit" alarm!), I noticed that a very light snow was falling very gently.  It was snowglobe snow.  It had stopped by the time Molly and I started running, but it piled up smartly on the sidewalks and looked like cottonwood seeds or cattail fluff.

We set out for our loop, which took us over to Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.  I've really been sightseeing around metro area lakes lately!  Last week, it was Como; the week before, Calhoun and Harriet.  This week, we had another running buddy along for the trip: Molly's pup, Rachel!

Besides being cute and furry, Rachel was an invaluable asset because she practically pulled Molly and me up the 1.5-mile hill that's right at the end of our route.  And then she got tuckered out at the end of the run, just like Molly and I did.  Now that's an evenly matched running buddy!  We finished with just under 14 miles.  Next week is 15, the longest we'll run before our half-marathon on St. Patrick's Day!

And now, some recovery, special-ordered for a Saturday afternoon: rest-burrito-water-TV-sleep-read.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why I love my blog

Well, that title kind of came out wrong.  I don't mean why I love my blog significantly more than any other blog out there.  I suppose I should title this post "One of the many reasons why I've found value in maintaining a regular blog" - but I'm trying to work on being more concise, okay?

One of my goals for February, being near the start of 2012 and all, was to order prints for many of the photos I took in 2011 and organize them into an album.  You'll notice that I didn't say all of the photos I took in 2011.  I left out some gems.  You know what they say.  Can't print 'em all.

It's apparent that, since I launched Miles and Laurel in late May 2011, I took just an absolute slew of completely junky photos.  But keeping up with my blog - a pursuit that turned daily in November - prompted me to start carrying my camera with me most of the time, to be able to snap a photo of the kooky, beautiful, quirky sights around me.  And that made me start to notice those sights more, which made me take more photos.  So while it's true that I have a bunch of goofy photos of grapefruit and squash and clouds, I also unintentionally ended up with a yearbook for what my city looked like in 2011.

Going through all of the photos and selecting enough to print for my 2011 album also reminded me of everything that happened last year, which sounds like I just have a poor memory but is another reason why keeping a regular blog is so helpful.  Sure, I will always remember that Josh and I traveled to two wonderful out-of-state weddings in 2011, but I might easily have forgotten about the slugs that crawled on Lopez Island or the maple ice cream I tasted in Vermont or how tall Sara's basil plants were last summer.  I want to remember those life details just as much.  If taking more photos accomplishes that - heck, I'll keep doing it.

Over the last few years, I've printed photos out sparingly and sporadically, usually after a big race or a trip.  Picasa and Facebook - and now Miles and Laurel - have done an adequate job of holding them for me.  But today I ordered more than 400 prints, thanks to a really good deal I found at Snapfish advertising 4x6 prints for only 3 cents each (use code febprints). I can't wait to get an enormous envelope in the mail, chock full of 2011 - and then get them into a book.

What about you, Reader?  Do you still print out photos, or do you keep them online?  Do you put 'em in piles, like I am prone to doing, or do you have a more organized system?

Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The almost-Friday recap

This week has been a quiet one: some What is the What reading, some cooking, some running - the usual. The major new adventure continues to be my Core Power Yoga classes.  I did my second heated class last night (opposed to the nonheated classes I took last week) and it's a little funny because this is a super-challenging and fascinating new little journey for me, but it's not one that's easily captured in photos unless you're interested in a picture of my red, sweaty face. (Please don't be!)  

The major good news is that I have not fallen on my face in yoga for a full week now.  But like one of my yoga teachers said: if you're not falling, you're not learning, no?

I bring you Three Things Thursday:

1) Josh and I went out to breakfast before work this morning!  I had a truly beautiful egg and sausage sandwich, with sweet potato hash. We generally fly around each other in the home each morning in various stages of hurry up, so the mid-week morning mini-dates are something to which we both look forward.  We're trying to do these weekly this winter and spring.

2) I launched an Explosions in the Sky station on Pandora today - that is the band possibly best known for the Friday Night Lights movie soundtrack - and the second song to pop on was "The Winner Is" from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack (i.e. one of my favorite movies and songs of all time). Pandora is mysterious and all-knowing.

3) I saw 40 Things That Make Corgis Happy.  Go.  Just look.  Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday warbling

Pawprints.  They never get old.  Does this suggest that I've got to get myself a dog, or that I shouldn't get a dog because it means I'd spend my winters photographing its pawprints in the snow?  I would also probably have to train my pup to be okay with that (read: sit still long enough to make it happen).

Other pertinent life updates:
  1. I have secured my return flight from Arizona back to Minnesota next month.  In other thrilling news, I will be flying the Red Eye Express - my first overnight flight.  (Anonymous friend: "Doesn't that make your soul cry a little, though?")
  2. I took my first hot yoga class last night at Core Power.  I learned later that there are different levels of hot and I had inadvertently stumbled into the hottest of the hot, at 105 degrees.  Wowzers.  I mean, that was hot.  I actually really liked it, though.  If I do this consistently, will I finally run better in warm weather?
  3. I will never cease to be amazed by how little cooked recipes actually resemble their gorgeous magazine versions. Meatloaf, I suspect, is never as pretty in person.
What's going on in your world today, Reader?  Do you have red eye advice for me?  Hot yoga advice?  Meatloaf advice?  I'm open to everything, friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Storm report

Yes, it snowed!

This would usually not be breaking news, but because it's such a rarity this winter, I will file a very official snow report for the Miles and Laurel archives.

I am soooo glad the snow held off until later in the evening, after my run with Molly was in the books.  We did a great (read: tough!) interval workout on the track: two sets of [800, 400, 200, 1200].  The wind was really working and it must have been pretty funny to watch us circle the track, alternating flying forward and nearly flying backward.

This morning, three inches or so had piled up in my corner of town.  It was perfect late-winter snow: heavy and sticky.  If I would've had the day off, I would've gone hog-wild with snowman-making.  Heck, this was snowfort snow.  It was all I could do to not ask my neighbor if he wanted to have a snowball fight with me while I was brushing it off my car.  (I held back.) A snowman had already sprung up along my route to work this morning, which is pretty impressive considering the snow fell overnight.

It's warm again now, and the snow is puddling.  Along the sidewalks, it looks like this:

Does this make anyone else want Oreo ice cream?  No?  Just me?  Fine!

Happy Tuesday to you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Marvelous Monday: 2012, Volume 8

Oh, marvelous!  Here we go!

1) New recipes abound in my home.  This country (or maybe just its foodies) seems to be on a fervent quest to make macaroni and cheese healthier, and I've been seeing all kinds of recipes that incorporate vegetables in a hidden and sneaky way.  Last night I tried a recipe from the Star Tribune: mac and cheese with roasted butternut squash. Yum. Tonight I'm tackling a meatloaf recipe from Cooking Light.  This will be my first meatloaf effort.  I'm not even a major meatloaf fan, but the picture is really pretty and it also involves cheddar cheese.  Wish me luck.

2) I have been curious about Core Power Yoga for a long time because I wanted to see if I could fit yoga into my fitness routine more than once a week.  I got a Groupon for a month of unlimited classes for a trial run, and I am just loving it.  It's warm and cozy and so good for my health.

3) I'm closing in on the end of Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America.  It was pretty wonderful. It made me laugh out loud (often), I learned a lot, and it made me want to be a tourist even though about 60 percent of the book is poking fun at the nation's sights and their tourists. 

It's kind of fun to start the week by picking out a new book.  What's next?  I have What is the What by Dave Eggers in my pile and a few others in my Kindle. Any recommendations?  What are you reading right now?

4) I am meeting my running buddy Molly for a run later today!  Speedwork, here we come.  Our race is in less than a month!

5) Our workout might be done under gently falling snow.  Well, it's supposed to rain or snow tonight.  Instead of rainy (read: DREARY), I choose to think that it might be a beautiful and quiet snowfall.  We shall see.  I read yesterday that the Twin Cities has had something like 15.3 inches of snow so far this winter, the least since something like 1930. (Those are approximations but I know they're close! It's crazy!)  I will welcome a little bit of snow.

What's marvelous to you?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mathematical miracles

Now you're curious, aren't you?

I don't even really know how this happened, but today Josh and I found ourselves at our local bowling alley at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Perhaps because this is not the most common time to knock over some pins, the alley runs a $1.25/game special from 9:00 to noon on Sunday mornings.  We racked up three games by noon, and even though we were not bowling our best (and came up with a medley of excuses for it), it was a good time.  There was also a double date going on a few lanes to our left, which I was extra curious about, because I don't think I could wrangle any double dates for, like, 10 a.m. on a Sunday.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to show you my progress from one of the games:

Okay, you can barely see it in the photo, but look at that line!  9+9+9+9!  9, 18, 27, 36!  Am I the only person who thinks this is so cool!?  Unfortunately, this magical streak did not continue.  I was positively dismayed when I threw a 7 or 8 on my next turn.  But it was fun while it lasted.

P.S. That speed is not at all mine.  Josh thinks it's funny when I get so riled up when I improve my bowling speed, but wouldn't you if your average speed was in the 7 mph range?  I'm not exaggerating, either.  I am the slowest bowler in the history of the world.

P.P.S. Happy Sunday, Reader!  I hope your week starts out swimmingly.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Shadows on Saturday

Today my long run took me over to Como Lake - not the glam one in Italy where George Clooney hangs out, but the one in St. Paul probably best known for being close to the Como Zoo.

One of the reasons I'm happy I've been keeping up with Miles and Laurel is that I'll forever have a record of this bizarre winter.  It's in the mid-30s right now, which is odd enough for mid-February, but with barely any wind and full sun, it may as well be 55 degrees.  Most of the times I've run this route there has been a whole heap of snow covering the sidewalks, so today was pretty refreshing.

Along the lake, I loved the long, long shadows of the shoreline trees on the ice.  I really don't ever get my fill of shadows, living in a city.  I just love them!

And speaking of my friend George Clooney, I'm off to see "The Descendants"!  Bye!

Friday, February 17, 2012

A brief safety message

I would happily shout from the rooftops about how crucial it is to carry identification while exercising outside if it meant more people would do it.  I run many, many miles by myself, which I know can be unnerving to my loved ones.  Having an ID both identifies myself (obviously) if I have a medical emergency, but it also is an opportunity to communicate those loved ones' phone numbers so they can be reached.  

Over the years, I have been partial to a pink ankle Road ID. But lately, I have been forgetting it/leaving it at home/stashing it with my summer sports gear, instead of velcroing it onto my ankle.

Dumb!  Dumb!  Dumb!

This really had to change.  Even though I often carried my driver's license and phone on days I forgot it, it just doesn't replace having that information as readily accessible as my Road ID.

Finally, I decided to fix this problem.  I ponied up for a new Road ID - they're very reasonably priced, actually - and selected the Shoe ID.  This nifty little guy is light and smaller than a driver's license, still holds up to five lines of text (for me: my name, three phone numbers, and a "no known allergies" line), and velcros right onto my shoelaces.

Yes, that means I never have to take it off my shoe, so it will always be with me when I'm running.  It came in yesterday's mail.  Check it out!  (No, don't get distracted by my fab new pink shoes.  I prefer the turquoise, but that's a story for another post.)

This one ran me about $20, but they last for years. Come to think of it, I imagine this one will last even longer than my ankle ID.  (That one got mangy, but it's my own sweaty fault.)  I've been hit by a car while running before, and I've been at a race when a runner suffered a medical emergency and his family was notified more quickly because he was wearing a Road ID.  I really believe in this.

The odds are one-in-a-high-number, and I hope that you readers are never, ever in a situation where it's needed.  But if you are heading out on the streets, be safe and smart.  Please consider a Road ID or something like it.

I am happy to have it in time for my long run this weekend - and beyond.  Happy weekend to you, Reader!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A unique Thursday

At least in Miles and Laurel land, Thursdays are not usually known for their mind-blowing content.  (Are yours?) Today was very strange! I encountered three funny unThursdaylike things.

1) At boot camp this afternoon, we had to do the Speed Ladder, which was new to me.  You have to do this fancy diagonal footwork, basically making a zigzag pattern while minding the borders created by the ladder.  Has everyone done this thing except me?  Here is your visual, cribbed from the internet and not my class.  I will never take blog photos in gym class.
I suspect I was not a vision of agility and grace.  I am used to shuffling along in a mostly-straight line for miles, not zigzagging! Boot camp is good for me.  We also jump-roped and wall-sat and did vertical jumps.  I think I will feel this workout in the morning.

2) I also visited CorePower Yoga (my Two Class Tuesdays turned into Two Class Thursdays this semester), and that's where I found myself attempting Crow Pose for the first time.

All that needs to be said is that my interpretation of Crow Pose did not look quite like this and ended with me thumping my forehead on the ground.  Next time I'm sure I will look like that lady.

3) Finally, I received an anonymous package in the mail today and opened it gleefully, because Thursdays are not usually known for anonymous packages!  Well, correction: I recognized the handwriting as a certain friend's, so it was anonymous only in theory, and I was a little nervous because she and I have a history of sending very unique things to each other.  At a previous job, she loved sending things to my work address because she knew the mail got opened and vetted before it came to me.  (Although, to be fair, I might have started this strange tradition when I mailed her a pack of High School Musical trading cards.)

Inside the envelope?

Yes!! That's my very own Justin Bieber notebook and two-pack of Bieber folders.  I especially love the huge "2" to clarify what a fabulous deal those folders are and the clearance price tags.  I also love Justin's expression on the folder.  Some might call it "pensive" - I say he was aiming for "thoughtful."  (I'll never duck a "10 Things I Hate About You" reference on Miles and Laurel, for the record.)  She also enclosed a recipe for a punch that prominently features grapefruit. (Yum!)

I guess this would be a natural place to explain why I was the lucky recipient of the Bieber gear.  Do we both have Bieber Fever?  I will maintain my air of mystery and let you wonder.

I was at a meeting later in the evening and my Justin Bieber notebook definitely fell out of my bag.  I like to think everyone politely ignored it.

If that was Thursday, I can't wait to see what Friday brings.  No crow pose, please!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vacation time

Fluffy snow fell today in St. Paul, but my mind was on sunnier climates.  

Today I bought a one-way ticket to Arizona!

Well, I just had to say that for dramatic effect.  I'm not moving to Arizona.  I am just visiting next month and found a nice price for the flight out there.  Now I simply have to secure a flight home, ideally because I leave for my trip.

I am dreaming of everything I will do there: see great friends, watch baseball (MLB and college), hike in the desert, eat very Southwestern things and see cacti.  I even saw a website for tours on horseback at a dude ranch.

Can you picture it now, Reader?

I am so, so excited.  I'm going west!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Is it surprising to anyone out there that I love Valentine's Day?  No?

Sure, it can be a little schmaltzy.  Sure, it's a little lot overcommercialized.  

But I love love. (Speaking of schmaltz, I'm aware I may have permanently lost readers with that sentence.) The argument against Valentine's Day with which I align most closely is that love should be celebrated every day, not just on Feb. 14.  I really do wish people celebrated it every day.  And not just romantic love, either.  This is a perfecto day to remind those dear to you how great you think they are.  (And if I had a dog, I would not rule out giving it a Valentine, either.)

Go tell someone you love him or her, okay? I mean, maybe not a colleague, but friends and family tend to appreciate this sort of thing.
More love.  More heart.  That's it.

Wishing you lots of both, from Miles and Laurel.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Marvelous Monday: 2012, #7

It's the lucky seventh week of 2012!  Let's kick it off with Marvelous Monday!

1) Of course, we have to start with the official birthday announcement for my sister.  She's 22 today!  She is six years younger than I am, and sometimes we get stuck in our big sis-little sis roles (e.g. my brother and I still make her sit in the middle seat because she used to be the smallest, even though she's taller than I am now).  But more and more I see her like the rest of the world does: a talented, adventurous, caring young person who just finished college and is doing good things in this world.  Other fun facts: she loves her cat, Buffy, and Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" was the chart-topping song the week she was born. Cheers to you, Sister!

2) I was flipping through my Glamour magazine over breakfast this morning when I noticed a full-page spread about how to do a fishtail braid.  That's #41 on the 101 in 1,001 list, friends!  Here we go!

3) At dinner last night, Mom gave me a Valentine's Day treat bag with cookies iced festively with hearts and red and pink and white swirlies.  I will never be too old for this!

4) Reading report: I started The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson over the weekend.  Also, the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts is skyrocketing up my list - my sister got it for her birthday and I'm hearing a ton about it.

5) Speaking of quiet: I had a peaceful, productive run at lunch.  It's hard to force a run like this, but I've written before that an uninterrupted block of time away from a computer can be an energizing space for generating ideas and brainstorms and plain old good, solid thinking.  I have an event coming up that I wanted to think seriously about, and by the time I finished five miles today, I felt a lot more prepared.  Running isn't the required component here - I've had luck with this on walks, too - but the key structure, I think, is to get your brain alone for a few minutes and see what it dreams up, without all the static and distraction.

There you have it!  What's marvelous about your Monday?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday dinner

Oh!  I almost forgot to post today!

Today I relaxed, then shopped for groceries, then cooked and cooked.  We hosted my family for dinner to celebrate my sister's birthday and my brother's promotion at work.  Earlier in the day, I described my culinary approach as alternately "swinging for the fences" and "throwing a Hail Mary" - like a Choose Your Own Sports Metaphor.  I tried three new recipes at one dinner party, which is a supreme no-no, but two of the recipes on my list to try were Indian-inspired, which I thought would pair well together.  And the third was chocolate cake.  Enough said!  

I really liked the Samosa Pie recipe - and it was my first time working with phyllo dough!  THAT was fun!  The daal with vegetables was okay, but I skipped 1) the four tablespoons of fresh coriander because I couldn't find it at the store and 2) the ancho chile, so the result was a little bland (and also more gray than advertised because it was sans fresh coriander!).  I will try again when I can have those ingredients and also let the flavors mingle a little more leisurely on the stovetop.

But anyway, I think what you are really curious about is the cake report and not the looking-for-fresh-coriander-and-hemming-and-hawing-about-ancho report.

I found this recipe a long time ago on Bakerella and have been eyeing it ever since.  This is definitely not a cake to be made for two people, so I decided to hold it for my sister's birthday.

It included buttercream.  Lots. Of. Buttercream.

Ha!  Poor little cake.  One of the layers baked up unevenly, so I sawed off the top of the second layer to help even it out.  Want to know what's good camouflage for a problem like that?  Answer: BUTTERCREAM!

Through that recipe, I learned about the concept of a crumb coat, which means you frost a very thin layer over the whole cake, then put your project in the freezer for a few minutes.  This forms a durable little coat that allows the rest of the buttercream to go on very smoothly and without crumbs.  Thank you, Bakerella!

Oh, but first, I had to get the layer right.

There's the cake, post-crumb coat (and regular coat).

Last is the ganache - another cooking process that was new to me.  That is surprisingly easy to do.  I let it settle a little bit too long and it was too thick to do the gorgeous side-dripping thing that the cake on Bakerella did.  But really: does the aesthetic of ganache really matter?  Not really.

Here is my sis, modeling her new birthday snuggie and getting ready to blow out some candles.  (That's Brother in the background.)

And here is the cake:

It was fun to work on, piece by piece. I'm glad it turned out and, setting all recipe talk aside, I'm extra-glad we could all be together to celebrate birthdays and good news. I am excited to see what 2012 and beyond holds for those siblings of mine.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A morning on the lakes

A handy three-word post summary: Valentine's!  Run!  Brr!

This morning was the Twin Cities in Motion Valentine's Day 5K run at Lake Harriet, and as part of my work on TCM's media committee, I was helping out at the photo booth.  Let me tell you, if there are any universal truths in this world, one has gotta be that People Love Photo Booths.  We had a backdrop set up, and the marketing committee had drummed up a bunch of themed props: flowers, little thought bubbles, champagne flutes, hats, mustaches, tiaras, and so on for people to use.  I think they'll be really cute and they'll be on Facebook soon.  Perhaps I even posed with a mustache.

That the race field embraced this photo booth so wholeheartedly was made even more fun by the fact that it was Really, Really Cold.  At race time - that's 10:00 - it was a whopping four degrees...and it was windy, too.  It was very cool that so many people still came out for the race.  

My three favorite parts of today's race:
  1. Instead of a water stop late in the race, there was a candy stop, with little cups full of conversation hearts.
  2. The man who won the race wore shorts.  Whoa.
  3. A proposal happened at the finish line!  The couple ran the race together and the man got down on his knee again at the photo booth to recreate the moment.
Afterward, I headed out for my own run around the lakes.

The sun was so bright and the sky was so blue.  Because of the recent warm weather, Hennepin County had banned all cars and trucks from its lakes.  I saw just a couple of ice fishermen on the Calhoun and Harriet, the two lakes I covered.  Even the hockey rink on Harriet was deserted.  

The windchill may have contributed to that more than the vehicle ban.  Man, the lakes really  do whip up a especially hurtful winter wind.

Good to know the muskies are still there, though.  Gross.  And scary.

Even with the cold, it was fun to be back on the lakes.  I spent so much time on them this summer with my running club and had gotten to associate being there with being totally hot and sweaty and tired from a hard run.

The lifeguard chairs were still up, too.  If you squint, it almost looks like a late summer afternoon with open water.

And the shoreline almost looks like little whitecaps, no?  Well, I think this one is more of a stretch.

Now: Home, warm, and staying inside until dinner.  Happy Saturday to you!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A very long sunset

There have been rumblings from many of you that I haven't posted a sunset photo in a long time.

Ha!  I'm totally kidding.  No one has requested more sunset photos - and no one probably ever will because everyone knows one is just around every corner.  But I do like that kind of teaser as a jumping off point for posts I want to write about.   (I can see it now: "Thousands of you have been begging for a photo of what snow looks like on a sidewalk...")

Anyway, I was running last night and saw a rockin' sunset - as in, I was running westward for, like, a full 30 minutes of sunset.  Paradise!

Run report: Run was good.  The weather was super and since I've been caught being overzealous about these warm-for-winter temps in my wardrobe choices lately, I overdressed just a tiny bit, so I felt cozy but not unbearably hot.  (That was a really long sentence for some content that is prob interesting only to me.)

I finally got my act together, which last night meant figuring out where there was a public indoor drinking fountain so I could eat a Gu packet, which is basically a 100-calorie packet of gooey carbohydrates that I eat if I'm running farther than 12 miles.  (It makes the last few miles of a long run a lot more pleasant and seems to help my recovery, too, but you gotta take it with a few gulps of water.) I remembered there was a community center at a totally prime Gu-eating spot in the mileage and it worked out perfectly.  Also, I got to enjoy my new favorite Gu flavor.  My friend Taya introduced me to Mint Chocolate this summer and it is wonderful and tastes like Junior Mints.  YUM!

Other items of note: I added two blocks to my route when I spotted a loose German Shepherd moseying around on the sidewalk in front of me, probably looking for a me-sized dinner.  Also, what little snow we had has melted, so funny stuff in yards gets revealed.  In one yard, there was a lone toy (but large) plastic dagger in the grass, complete with fake blood on the blade.  Finally, I got to catch up on some really good podcasts: two from Slate ("Double X Gabfest" and "Hang Up and Listen") plus "ESPN Baseball Today."

And now it's Friday!  On my weekend itinerary: pitching in/hanging out at the Twin Cities in Motion Valentine's Day 5K, dinner out on Saturday night with Josh, and hosting my family for dinner on Sunday.  And some grapefruit.  For sure.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Three things Thursday

Here are a few things going on around Miles and Laurel this week - besides failed hot air balloon sightseeing, White Elephant games, and arts and crafts shopping trips.

1) Loco's kindergarten class celebrated the 100th day of school this week, and in honor of the occasion, the kids dressed up as their interpretation of 100-year-old people.  This involved baby powder in his hair and eyebrows.  I kind of want to implement this celebration in my workplace.  I wonder if any of my colleagues would be game.

2) I love to do my long runs on Saturday mornings, leaving Sundays gloriously and completely free.  I've had Saturday morning non-running plans for the past couple of weeks, so I've been squeezing in my long run on Thursday nights after work.  This requires a little bit of extra planning and is a little bit of a pain, but it's also kind of awesome.  My long runs right now are 12 or 13 miles - not up to 20, like they will be in the summer - so I'm still home at a reasonable time. And then I go into Friday with my long run already in the rearview mirror!  I'm at it again tonight.  As an added bonus, I will sneak the run in when it's 40 degrees and sunny instead of on Saturday morning, when it will be about 9 degrees.

3) Today when I woke up at my usual time, the light coming in from the windows was just a little bit brighter.  Ahhh.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Art supplies

I guess I now consider myself an enthusiastic stamper.

It all started with a trip to Art Scraps to gather supplies for an upcoming craft project.  Art Scraps Reuse Store is part of Art Start, a local nonprofit arts education organization.  Per its website, the store:
collects scraps, overstock, factory rejects, and other items normally destined for the landfill. ArtScraps makes these products available to teachers, parents, artists, scout leaders, day care providers – anyone working with children or interested in reducing waste through reuse of discard able materials.
I suppose I at least fall into that very last category, don't I?  The real appeal for me is that it's a constantly rotating motley mix of art materials.  You never know what's going to be in there, and as soon as I entered the store, my imagination just exploded!  In addition to a mix of paper, envelope, ribbon and fabric scraps, there were tiny glass tiles, photo slides, postcards, old advertising magazines, and on and on.

It was incredible and I loved the whole place.  You should totally go here.

It probably doesn't hurt that I overheard this exchange between two shoppers, a dad and his very young son:

Son: This is a baseball store.
Dad: Yeah...except there's not baseball stuff.
Son, merrily: Except the baseball stuff.
Dad: I don't know that I agree with you.

I picked out wonderful, kooky, fun art supplies for my project, and the total cost was much less than I would've paid for a similar range of new products.  Am I setting up justification for a more frivolous purchase?  You bet I am.  (Oh!  I got my flu shot this morning and my doctor did say I should pick up a little treat for myself!)

Well, I found myself wandering down this aisle chock full of rubber stamps, and I remembered how I used to love rubber stamps.  They were all less than one dollar and I confess that several ended up in my basket, plus an ink pad labelled "shimmery iridescent purple ink."  In case you were wondering, one I will use with a straight face and the rest fall into the "so goofy I love them" category.

I was so tickled by my new stamps that I would randomly start laughing out loud to myself on the walk home, thinking about what I could do with my growing stamp collection.

This one is my favorite.  It's really big.

I absolutely cannot wait to go to a party and afterward drop a note to the host in the mail that says simply "Had a great time" via my new stamp and shimmery iridescent purple ink.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

White Elephant, Vol. 29

First things first.  There's a Blogger function that shows what Google searches lead to Miles and Laurel, and you all know I get great entertainment from the weird phrases that somehow point people this way.  But today someone got to M&L by googling:

my feet are super stinky and i make everyone smell them

Listen, Readers.  I assure you that I do not make everyone smell my feet and that I have not written on this theme in the past, nor do I plan to in the future.  That's just not a worry you need to consider before dropping by M&L. How, why, how and why did this happen!?!  Gah!  (I extend a dubious welcome to that new reader, if he or she is still here.)

Now, down to business.  Every February, my mom's side of the family congregates at my family's house for the annual White Elephant party. There are a lot of us with winter and spring birthdays, so it is kind of a big old birthday party.  Our family takes this quite seriously: by most counts, this year's party was the 29th annual!

What is White Elephant, you ask?  Well, it involves every participant bringing an assortment of gifts found at home or collected during the year.  "Gifts" may not be the right noun.  Some call them "beloved hand-me-downs," others "junk." They must be wrapped.  Then you pile them on the table and distribute several pairs of dice to your guests.  Your merry guests take turns rolling the dice until they get doubles and get to select a prize.  This goes on until all of the prizes are done.  Each guest shares the wonders that they've unwrapped, then the next round begins, when rolling doubles allows guests to steal prizes from each other.  I don't actually know how long that round lasts - 10 minutes? 15? - because my dad is in charge of this part of the competition.  Then the game is done.  When I was a kid, it usually ended in tears for at least one of us cousins.  (Reader, it hurts to miss out on a gumball machine.)  I should also note that I used to think this was our family's original invention until I got a little older and learned about the many variations of this game: Yankee swap and so on.

Can I keep up the trend of bolding the first line of every paragraph?  Let's see.  Oh, it's important to note that this party has a different theme each year: tropical fish, safari, etc.  This year it was plaid and snow.  Thanks to Pinterest and other sources, my mom really went full-bore with this theme.  It was pretty incredible.  Also, most of us wore plaid shirts.  Also, I made guacamole and I think she got mad at me that I skipped the steps of making it "plaid." (Sorry, Mama.)
Mashed potato snowpeople topping off beef stew
We ate and ate and ate and then started the game.  Among the items on the table: a typewriter, a telephone with cord, a huge bag full of wine corks, a bike helmet, a hat shaped like an elephant, a package of muffler bandage, a bag of aviation magazines, leopard print lingerie, a non-functioning Polaroid camera, my "Bad to the Bone" sweatshirt, a bag marked "belly button lint" and a bag full of rubber bands - among many, many, many others.  I didn't even cherry-pick the highlights, Reader - that's just a random list.

Early on, I set my sights on a Sport Kilt and emerged victorious.  What is a Sport Kilt?  I'm not exactly sure, but it seemed really important that I win it.

I also wanted some red lights shaped like hearts, but my sister took them and never looked back.  Later, I decided I regretted giving away Bad to the Bone, but it was too late.  My only hope is that it comes back to next year's party, which happens regularly.

My sister also won the bike helmet, which I had donated with the intention of her winning it. SISTER, WEAR IT!

Josh rolled doubles for a typewriter and no one tried to take it away.  Typewriters are cool!  (Yes, he is wearing his new robe.  It's plaid.)

We are excited to write ransom notes to each other and leave them around the apartment.

My brother won a Swiffer mini-vacuum thing and upon seeing how excited my sister was about it decided to give it to her.  He initially tried to pass it off as her birthday present, which didn't work.

So, another successful White Elephant party is in the books.  Big kudos to Mom for pulling off the snow-plaid theme seamlessly and to my entire fam for making this a tradition that's entering its fourth decade!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Marvelous Monday: 2012, Vol. 6

How on earth did it turn into six weeks into 2012?

As noted last week, I will keep this entry a true Marvelous Monday instead of a weekend recap.  The weekend was a full one and I will report about it soon enough.  Because I know you are all on the edge of your seats wondering what Very Exciting Plans I had for Saturday, though, I will spill the beans, partly because it was a total fail!  

Last weekend, I was reading the Sunday paper. I always browse the events calender and I almost fell out of my chair when I saw a listing for a hot air balloon festival coming up.  Attending a hot air balloon festival is an item on my 101 in 1,001 list - I've wanted to go the Albuquerque festival in October forever - and I was majorly crossing my fingers that I could go to either Albuquerque or a festival held sort of near Josh's hometown.  But who am I to turn down a festival featuring 40 balloons a mere 30 minutes from my home? How cool does that sound?  I researched the launch times, Josh and I made plans to go on Saturday morning to the 7:30 a.m. launch, and I was very, very excited.

Well.  You remember my hoarfrost/fog photo post, right?  I got up on Saturday morning, put the coffee on, put in my contacts, and was preparing for our 6:45 a.m. departure when I thought I should check to make sure the launch was on.  Of course, it was cancelled because of the low visibility.  (I'm not sure Josh was as dismayed as I was.)  Then we made plans to go to the afternoon launch, drove to the festival, and were hanging out on the launch field with hundreds of fellow hot air balloon enthusiasts when we got word that the 3:00 launch was cancelled, too, because of the muddy field conditions.

In conclusion, a hot air balloon festival is still on my list of sights to see.  I think the precise combination of safe conditions for a mass hot air balloon launch is pretty rare, so I will chalk this up as good practice and knowledge for when I finally do get to see a launch.

And with that tale in the books, I bring you Marvelous Monday:

1) I have been reading a lot lately - is that because it's winter? Regardless, I remembered how much I love to read! The most recent book was "The Descendants," which I recommend, and I'm now very excited to see the movie.  Marvelous: I'm excited to pick my next book.
2) I am determined to return a pile of movies rented from a local Red Box tonight to take control of the open charge on my debit card.  That would be really marvelous.
3) The sun is shining and it is 43 degrees.  I am bummed that it's my day off from running, but it sure is marvelous.
4) I stopped at a grocery store yesterday for guacamole ingredients and had the presence of mind to get enough grapefruit for four breakfasts.  It felt like a little present to myself this morning.

5) I also ate a very terrific caprese sandwich for lunch today from Common Roots Cafe.  There is no end to how much I love caprese.

What is marvelous about your day, Reader?