Monday, April 30, 2012

Marvelous Monday, Week 18

Here we are, the last Monday in April, the 18th week of 2012. May starts tomorrow!

What is marvelous about the start of this week, you ask?

1) I guess this is as good a place as any to admit I am a total fiend for Draw Something, that silly smartphone version of Pictionary. The marvelous bit is that I started today by drawing a little man Tebowing and Josh guessed it.  Ha!  Five years ago, no one would've known what I was talking about in this item!

2) I went to one of my favorite yoga classes at CorePower yet last night, the 75-minute candlelight session. It was wonderful. The only light in the room was the candles, obviously, and the whole class faced the windows instead of the mirrors. I didn't realize how much I had been relying on the mirrors for feedback. I loved facing the windows.

3) My plants have survived 18 hours without animal sabotage.

4) I snuck in just under the wire with a new recipe (see #82) last night. Have I already mentioned my love for the blog Iowa Girl Eats? Her recipes are so fab.  Last night I tried sweet corn and quinoa with honey lemon vinagrette. Marvelous: I cooked a bigger batch so I could have leftovers for lunch this week. Also marvelous: the smell of the first fresh sweet corn of the year sauteing in butter.

5) The last few days have apparently been some sort of a 101 in 1,001 party. Next: I'm giving blood tonight, for the first time in years!  I hope it is marvelous. Advance gratitude to Kate for guiding me through this process.

BONUS: May is Museum Month in the Twin Cities!  Are there any museum visits on your wishlist this month?

DOUBLE BONUS: Today marks six months of daily posting over here at Miles and Laurel, fulfilling a little internal challenge. I have definitely never managed to maintain a journal daily for six months, so I will give a tiny pat on the back and move onward. I am not sure if this torrid streak will continue, but it's another good opportunity to appreciate you readers. I love my interactions with you all, whether it is through email, the comment section or whatever other communication vehicle you choose (in-person interaction falls in this category). Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Patio preparation

Today I barreled outside around the crack of dawn midmorning with an enthusiastic urge to prepare the patio for the summer. I saw that I had some work cut out for me: leaves, sticks and junk, plus the little helicopter leaves that plunged into our table last fall, were all waiting for me. I spend a lot of hours out on the patio in the spring, summer and fall, so it was high time for some spring cleaning.

My chairs cheered me on and made nice shadows.

And after!

In the middle of my cleaning, I discovered that Josh and I actually have two window boxes just begging for flowers. (Yes, we moved in 18 months ago.) And that reminded me that, with warmer temperatures around the corner this week, I should get some herbs going. (If I'm sorely misguided, you can leave me in the dark.)  The trouble is that the window boxes - and most of the patio space - are in almost full shade.

I puttered over to my local hardware/garden shop and jackpot!  It appears from my in-store research that impatiens are good plants for the shade. I bought two four-packs, one for each window box, and picked out a few herbs, too, to put in a more sunny spot near the patio.


Oh, yes, and the herbs:

Basil and spearmint. Not pictured: Dill.
Let's see if I can keep these guys alive this summer. Last year, I ran into a host of foes, ranging from my own inexperience to the previously mentioned patio shade to actual animal predators. Today I Googled "what is a squirrel's worst enemy?" which evolved into a more civilized search, "how to deter squirrels from a garden." But so far my action plan involves only crossing my fingers that they'll stay away. 

Any genius ideas, gardeners?  I know many of my readers have greener thumbs than I do. And tell me: what is the best gardening tip or advice you've ever gotten?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy times at Get in Gear!

That's kind of a spoiler, isn't it? 

I shall take you through the morning, with a warm pizza by my side for sustenance.

Some context: The race is at Minnehaha Falls, on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi River right across the Ford Parkway bridge that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul.  I've found in past years that it works really well to park on the St. Paul side of the river and meander over to the start line for my warm-up, especially because parking on the Minneapolis side can be nasty. I found a nice spot and jogged over to meet my friend Kate at 8:30 so we could be leisurely before the 9 a.m. start for the 10K and half-marathon.

I was basically marshmallowed up in a bunch of layers at that point and was downright toasty, but I wasn't sure how many of them I should shed before the race.  It was about 42 degrees, and there was this gross blob of rain on the radar coming our way. If that precipitation decided to get serious mid-race, I'd want a jacket. (Cue the same fussing that went on at last week's trail race!)  At the last minute, I decided to just go with my black quarter-zip and 3/4 tights (same as last week, minus the vest) and was so-so-so-so grateful I did that. I got warm as soon as I settled into the race.

Kate and I found our way into the start corral, and we were off!  As I wrote about yesterday, the start at Get in Gear is usually a kind of slow one - there were about 5,000 people in the half-marathon and 10K, which start together - and I'm learning that this is really good for me because it forces a slower first mile to ease into race pace.  I felt fab for the first mile but tried to dial it down a little, since it is easy to feel so good early on in a race like this and then fall apart later.

The 10K is a big rectangle, with the Ford bridge and the Lake Street bridge serving as the two shorter sides and the river road as the longer ones. 

Ha! This is basically a bird's eye view of the course.
Those segments break up the distance nicely for me. I passed Mile 2 and then the Lake Street bridge - and experienced the only really sharp headwind in the race - and then passed the 5K mark averaging 7:50s.

Then comes The Hill. It's the main hill on the whole course and I find it to be just a big pain, whether I am training or racing. Get up and over it, though, and it's pretty flat for the rest of the way, so you can really get moving if you've saved enough effort. I got up the hill, got to Mile 4 and could finally decide that I was having a good day. I felt like I had measured my effort just right and was very excited to realize that my legs were going to be able to hold on for the rest of the way. (This is a great confidence booster, the opposite end of the spectrum from the demoralizing Oh no, I started out way too fast fade!)

This race went by so quickly. It rained lightly the whole time, I think, but I barely noticed it. Miles 5 and 6 were tough, as they should be, but even they went by fast. There were a few stretches in the last two miles where I started checking out a little bit. I refocused - don't give in, don't let up, one block at a time - thanks to some sports philosophy I've been hearing around my home this spring. (It's good stuff!) I was back in the game!

This is looking back just before the six-mile marker, midway across the Ford bridge. I'll clarify that I took this photo post-race, should you think that I had the inclination to leisurely look over my shoulder during the race to snap a context photo.

Before I knew it, I was running up the (long) stretch into the finish chute. By my Garmin watch, I averaged a 7:41 pace - it's probably a little slower in the official results, since humans usually run a tad longer than the official course because we don't hit all of the tangents properly. I am thrilled with that time, but I'm probably even more excited that my second 5K was nine seconds faster than my first 5K. A negative split is a surefire way for a race experience to find its way into my group of favorites. It's just so much fun and so satisfying. To me - and I know this is going to come out hokey - it feels like one of the rare life experiences of getting to watch your mind and your body work together truly in tune.

I was very happy, especially once I had gotten my dry clothes and hat back from the gear check.

Then I attended to important business:

Get in Gear always has ice cream bars, which is exciting to me as an ice-cream lover, but I didn't take one because I was scared I'd get too cold. I did grab a chocolate milk (YUM!), a Salted Nut Roll, and a banana. Seriously. Is this the trifecta of perfect post-race recovery?

I hurried to the finish line to cheer for Kate (yay!) but missed her (boo!).  Why didn't I see her, you ask?  Oh, just because she beat her estimated finish time for her first 10K ever by 15 minutes!  I was so proud. I think she might have the 10K bug.

Then we got cold and wanted to go home, much like this guy:

If last weekend's trail race wasn't the spring/summer racing season's official kickoff, today's race was a great way to do it. Today I learned once again the value of not going into a race with expectations because of the temperature and radar. I got closer to my personal best time than I expected, truly had fun racing and got to share in the experience of Kate's first 10K. Thumbs up, all around.

Congratulations to everyone who ran, and special thanks to the race organizers and volunteers!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Love the 10K: Get in Gear preview

Tomorrow is Get in Gear, Minnesota's annual rite of spring!

That's the event's tagline, not my own creativity. But I have had 10K races on the brain lately, and Get in Gear - although it now includes 2K, 5K, and half-marathon options - is a classic one. I will be on the start line tomorrow. One friend and Miles and Laurel reader (Kate!) is running it, and it's her 10K debut!  I also received an email from a friend asking for recommendations for 10K races in the fall. (More on this, perhaps, in a future post.)

This is all kind of funny to me because I find a 10K (6.2 miles) to be a fantastic challenge (emphasis on challenge). As strange as it sounds, I find half-marathons easier than 10Ks. This may be partly because I race the 10K distance so infrequently, mostly as speedwork at the end of a marathon training cycle, that I have a glorious history of starting out the race running as fast as I can because six miles is nothing! and then burning out magnificently around mile 4. I don't recommend that pacing strategy, okay?

But I need to admit, to myself and all of M&L land, that I'd like to start emphasizing the fantastic in "fantastic challenge" instead.  I just wrote the other day that my friend Sara and I talk about the scared-excited mashup feeling that accompanies many worthwhile activities. Well, thinking about 10Ks churns up those feelings for me. Racing one requires speedy legs and patience to not go out too fast - and you can't fake endurance if it's not there, either. It's really tricky!  But racing that distance is also such good prep for longer race training, I've found.

Lest you think I only have terrible 10K experiences in my running history, I do have a favorite 10K, and it was at Get in Gear in 2009! The race field is large and can be mayhem at the start, which usually leads to a slower first mile as runner sort out their paces. In 2009, that continued into a slower second mile and third mile than I was expecting - not because of the crowds, just because I was dawdling and not pushing myself because it was just easier to sit back. I got my 5K split that year and thought to myself, no, no! that's not what I want.  I won that little mental battle, kicked it up a notch (I got in gear, if you want to get punny), and I had the fitness to back up the surge. It was a huge thrill for me, and I finished in a time I never quite expected I could ever run. It's still my current PR.

That feeling is part of what keeps me coming back to this race and this distance. It is really a spring tradition for lots of Minnesota runners, too. While I'm sure that race organizers would love 55 degrees and mostly cloudy, it also won't be Get in Gear we know and love unless the weather is wacky.  I ran my first GIG in 2003 when I was a freshman in college, and that was the closest to mild weather conditions I've ever experienced there (it was sort of warm and humid but nothing wild). I've run either the 5K or 10K at GIG probably five times since then and have learned that late April in Minnesota is one gigantic wild card in terms of possible meteorological conditions. On the day I ran my PR, it was windy and sleeting. In the past couple of years, pouring rain has been the name of the game. Tomorrow's forecast says "a chance of rain and a chance of snow." It's part of the race's charm for sure.

So, in honor of Get in Gear, I'll reveal a mini-goal. Beginning with tomorrow's race, this will be the summer of the 10K!  I'd like to work on the distance, figure out how to pace myself better, and maybe even get close to that old PR.  Please feel free to remind me of that, if needed, when I come back tomorrow for a race report.

Good luck to everyone racing tomorrow!  Will any of you be among the thousands at Get in Gear?  Anyone else running or racing this weekend?  And now that I shared mine, tell me: what is your toughest race distance?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Well, it's true!

Oh, Reader, I promise I didn't write this on the sidewalk! I just love it!

I'm fresh off a great evening with friends old and new. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow morning!  Good night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A strange branch

Today I ran on a stretch of earth on Summit Avenue in St. Paul that the soles of my shoes have touched at least hundreds and probably thousands of times. (That's kind of funny to think about in itself, no?)

Then I looked up, and I saw this crazy, warped, looping tree that I had never, ever noticed before.  See that dirt path underneath it? That's where I run.

What the heck?  Where on earth did this tree come from?  How did that wayward branch grow that way?  And isn't it strange!? (And I bet you liked how I managed to work a tree shadow into that photo, hmm?)

It's interesting to think of everything I must see every day and not notice.  It's probably overwhelming if one thinks of it too much. (Then you'd stop noticing anything because you were distressed you weren't noticing enough!  Bad news bears!)

I just think it's fun when you get a little nudge like that.  Hey, don't get too comfortable!  There's something new here every day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Marvelous Monday, Week 17

Here we go! Five marvelous tidbits about this Monday, the 17th Monday of 2012:

1. This morning's run: the alarm rang and I got up.  (Thrilling to you, I know!)  It was a gorgeous morning and my favorite sighting was this flock of dandelions that was glowing in the early sunlight.

2. I also saw a dog owner with a labrador puppy who was just learned how to go on walks. The puppy was scared to cross the street, and I watched the two fuss at each other about it until the pup just plopped onto the ground and made it clear he was going to hang out there for a little while. We've all been there, Pup.

3. It is sunny and 65 outside (at Miles and Laurel, we call these conditions "the best spring weather ever.")

4. Oh, my. I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet.  But if not on Marvelous Monday, then when? 'Cause these guys are MARVELOUS!

Also marvelous: the spring in your step that comes with new shoes.

5. And finally: all over the city, the trees are blooming.  Mar-vel-ous!

Hope your week is starting out well, Reader!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dessert land

It is definitely a good Sunday when the cookie dough is flying at Miles and Laurel.

Today: M&M bars and peanut butter and chocolate chip bars. I am kind of new to the bar-baking ballgame, but I was happy with how these turned out.  And any recipe with a step that looks like this can't be that bad, can it?

Any baking projects going on where you are, Reader?  Do you have a favorite bar of choice?  I love a good seven-layer bar. Come to think of it, maybe I should tackle that recipe next time I bake!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Race report: Trail Mix 25K

My second trail race ever!  My longest trail race ever!  Done!

As I wrote about last weekend, my 10-minute trail adventure at Sabino Canyon last month reminded me how much fun trail running can be. I ran the City of Lakes Trail Loppet half-marathon a couple of years ago with Molly, but that's the extent of my trail running experience. I wanted to try another one, so with a little nudge from Molly, I signed up for the 25K at the Trail Mix, a race at Hyland Lake Park Reserve southwest of Minneapolis with 25K and 50K options.

And then this week I thought to myself, 15 miles is kind of a long way on trails. I was nervous, but I think it was the right balance of scared-excited that my friend Sara and I have discussed often comes before activities that end up being really worthwhile or formative.  I knew covering that much ground on trails would be a new challenge for me, but also that I would be doing the race with a good friend - and on trails, which can be tougher but also so much more fun than roads. It's not like we were trying to make course records fall, either.  We made the game plan to start out nice and easy and treat the whole thing like a relaxed long run, and if the nerves I'd felt the night before the race hadn't faded away already, they did then.

This race made me think of the phrase "stay on your mat." Did I hear that at yoga class?  Did I read it in another blog? To me, it means basically to focus on your experience (yoga or otherwise) and what your body is doing and needing, not looking around and comparing what everyone else can do.  That was how Molly and I approached this race: to have fun, to honor the experience of running out on the trails instead of on city concrete, to enjoy spending time with a good friend. I realized when we were on the road that I hadn't even thought to bring my Garmin to monitor my pace.  Even more fun?  I didn't care a bit!

Then, when we pulled into the parking lot, I saw this sign. 

And I kept mentally inserting "own" into the message, so in my head, I kept seeing " your own pace!" Either way: an apt message!

Molly and I got to the park and had about half an hour to pick up our bibs and race chips and settle on an outfit before heading to the start line. That last task might sound silly to some readers, who might suggest picking out an outfit before getting to the race.  Not me! The weather forecast was up in the air: it might pour rain, it might be sunny, it could be overcast, it could be 40 or it could be 50. Those possibilities introduced a huge range of wardrobe options. I've never heard so much verbal uncertainty from the race field in the parking lot pre-race: "Are you wearing gloves?" and so on. I went back and forth about jacket versus vest - I'm realizing right now how mundane and totally boring this paragraph sounds, but at the moment it was very dramatic - and settled on a vest over 3/4 tights and a  quarter-zip top. I grabbed my little hat, too, in case the rain did roll in.

This was the view, walking to the start line.

And the sun kept rising, as it is wont to do:

And then we realized it was, like, 7:28, and we did a little dash to the start line. The 50K runners had started 30 minutes before our start, and I would estimate there were maybe 200 runners in the 25K. (If you know me, you know this careful estimate means the total field was anywhere between 50 and 2,000.) And we were off!

I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't drawn to the race in the least by its cute name.  Who can't get behind trail mix? What's even sweeter, and I didn't even put the pieces together until right now, guess what volunteers served at every aid station besides water and Powerade?  That's right.  TRAIL MIX!  Ha!

The 25K was two loops, and the runners spread out pretty quickly, on trails that were wider than some sections we covered at Wirth last weekend.  The course wove all over the park reserve, and it was just beautiful.  The trails were either wood chip or grass, and there were some sections that were so bouncy and cozy and soft that it felt like I was running along a fun little trampoline (in a good way).  My legs were loving it.  The weather turned out to be perfect race weather - about 45 and cloudy, with a light breeze - and I am grateful to Molly for reminding me that I would get hot with a jacket.

We motored along, chatting almost the whole time. I think there were three water stops per loop, which we appreciated. One fun fact about trail racing: it is totally cool (and even smart) to walk up big hills instead of running them, because it manages your heart rate and energy more efficiently over the long haul.  (I was really into that.) I also really like that at the start of each loop, the people running the longer race put coolers in the "drop area" stocked with their very favorite treats.  We finished the first loop, and the second loop's kilometers clicked by really quickly.  The whole race went by really quickly. I got a little burst of energy with a couple of miles left, but then by the time we approached the finish line, I was ready to be done. I saw the clock twice, once after each loop, and when we crossed the line, I realized that we had run almost exactly even splits for each loop. Nice!!

The finish line was stacked with more trail mix, which I finally tried after bypassing it at every water stop. That was amazing. I've also heard runners wax poetic about how fantastic flat Coca-Cola tastes after a long run, and I never quite understood.  Listen, Reader, they had Coke at the finish line, and now I get it. Oh! It was great.

I also felt surprisingly good, probably thanks to the forgiving trail surface. The 25K distance was undoubtedly a challenge -and I'm guessing I'll still be sore tomorrow - but it felt like I had run about five miles, not 15.

Thanks to Molly for encouraging me to sign up with her. This was one of the most fun races I've ever run. I loved the challenge and the experience, I loved running with a friend, and I loved spending a Saturday morning trotting around out in the woods.

I think I love trail running.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Something sunny

You have heard a lot about my family this week at Miles and Laurel, haven't you?

Get ready for more!  What can I say?  I love them.

This week, I got a very, very wonderful surprise in the mail. There was a business-sized envelope from my grandma waiting for me on the table when I got home, and it was thick, with something more than just a normal letter inside it. Grandma and I exchange letters regularly, but this was out of the ordinary. What in the heck was inside?

Turns out it was this!

The letter opened with this: "Since you got more knowledgeable about hummingbirds while in Arizona, I just had to knit this dishcloth for your kitchen."

Reader, it's not much of a stretch to imagine my face as I was processing this gift and the accompanying letter.  There are no words for how much I loved it. I don't dare keep it pristine, though, because she gets feisty when people tell her that her dishtowels are too lovely to use!

So shall we kick off this weekend with a toast (figurative or literal) to grandmas all over the world?  Hear, hear!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lilac party

The other day, I emailed Josh the following photo with the subject line "my new friend."

He didn't see the monarch butterfly in the middle of the photo and thought I was simply sending a photo of lilacs and referring to lilacs singularly as "my new friend."

I initially wrote this incident off as a total backfire because he didn't even mention anything about finding an email of this nature remotely odd. (Ha! He's used to my charm.)

Then I got to thinking, and I'm pretty sure he was picking up on something. I do love lilacs.  They are sort of like my new friend this time of year.  Around my neighborhood, they are just starting to bloom, so on any given plant, about half of the buds have burst into flowers.  (You can see it in my butterfly photo above, too - the dark purple and the light purple.)

I went for a walk earlier this week on Summit Avenue - that street with the peaceful dirt path down the middle of the median that I wrote about back in September.  The path is chock full of lilac plants right now!

I can practically smell them now, just looking at the photos:

Looks like we have to add another idea to the Amenities in My Future Home list. I think if I don't narrow down my grand visions, I am going to someday have a weird yard cluttered with all kinds of plants that may or may not go together.  Heck! A girl can dream.

Hey, Reader, do you have a favorite spring flower?  I thought mine was the tulip, but lilacs are scurrying up the ladder.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An April birthday

Sound the alarm, please!  We've got a birthday!

And I don't mean Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera - although I send warm birthday wishes to you, too, Miggy.  (I heard he is a big Miles and Laurel fan.)

It's my mom!  

I think that's cause for a photo collage, no?
Guys, do you know her?  If you do, you know that she brings energy to every space around her. Her full days seem to be one big word-cloud of verbs: she teaches, nurtures, grows, inspires, cares, explores, and learns.  (She also scrapbooks, gardens, and makes a ferocious batch of pancakes, but I mustn't test the limits of Blogger by typing out everything she does.) Sometimes we have very serious conversations about the weather. Sometimes she begins text messages "OMG x 10." I love her dearly and appreciate her more each year, and I hope she is having a wonderful birthday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Exploring the Mill City

Here at Miles and Laurel, Tuesday brings a recap of my family's field trip over the weekend to the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.

First, it's important to outline how this field trip took shape. We had been throwing around the idea of the museum ever since my dad went there and recommended it highly for a family field trip.  Then, one day, I went into yoga class and came out an hour later to find, like, 600 texts on my cell phone.  The entire event had been settled via text.  Who are you, and what have you done with my family!?

What's even more extraordinary: this all happened, like, 72 hours before our field trip. It appeared that a free block of time had magically floated onto six adults' schedules on Sunday afternoon.

Josh and I hosted brunch at our place first, to celebrate my mom's upcoming birthday and kick off the festivities, and then we all went over to the museum.

Here it is!!

I'd like to host a caption contest for this next photo. My best guess is that my sister is blissfully dreaming about what the museum might have in store for us. (I also think, in the background, that Josh is pounding the parking meter, which was being difficult.)

The museum is in the city's warehouse district has loads of beautiful historic buildings that have been restored and renovated into condos and lofts. I love the big windows and the stone.  I would definitely love to have those windows, so I like to look at the buildings, and sometimes I like to take pictures of them. 
Until Josh reminds me that I am essentially taking photos into peoples' homes.

I have definitely posted pictures on M&L of the Washburn A Mill, which forms the back side of the museum, because I think it's one of the most striking views I see on a run along the Mississippi Riverfront.  But I never really knew anything about it!

You are used to seeing it from this vantage point, taken from the river road by the Stone Arch Bridge:

What do you think the view looks like from way up there, on the eighth floor?

I'll show you!  (Cue sighs of relief.)

That view is courtesy of one of my favorite parts of our trip to museum: the Flour Tower, a multimedia elevator tour to the eighth floor that took about 15 minutes. It was beautifully done snapshot of the mill's history. The elevator would stop intermittently at different floors, and the doors would open to show various scenes from around the mill. Sometimes footage or audio interviews about working in the mill would play. I learned a ton during the Flour Tower.

I should back up! Minneapolis, as I mentioned earlier this month, was known as the Flour Milling Capital of the World for about 50 years around the turn of the 20th century because of the milling industry, thanks to the water power generated by the nearby Mississippi River. The city's population grew exponentially during that time, but after World War I, the use of electricity became more widespread and applicable in mills and factories, and the river's proximity wasn't so special anymore. The Washburn A Mill, which is where the museum is today, closed in 1965 and nearly wrecked by fire in 1991. (I definitely didn't know that the mill's ruins were caused by such a recent fire.) Later, we went into another room and watched a 19-minute video about the history of Minneapolis, narrated by local playwright Kevin Kling. That was fabulous, too. Every Minnesotan should visit this place.

There are big, big views on the eighth floor (see my mom doing her best ape impression below) and it looks down on the skeleton of the mill, now part of the museum's event space. There are large windows and lots of brick above ground, and in the lower levels, there are loads of exhibits about the river, the history of the people who settled there, food, flour, baking, milling, and water power. There's also a wonderful gift shop.

Okay, here are some more pictures of the things I just described:

I definitely don't remember the last time my family and I went to a museum together, let alone one that none of us (except for my dad) had ever visited. And let alone one that focused on such an integral part of the history of the urban area I call my home. Like the Desert Museum in Tucson, this struck the jackpot of being appealing for all kinds of audiences: families, all ages, solo travelers, and so on.  That's the mark of a fantastic museum.

My family loves our birthday celebrations and dinners, but over the last year or so, we've started striving to go on more adventures together.  (Kayaking and bowling - check!) You may also recall (actually, you probably won't, unless you've memorized my list, which would be odd) that this field trip fell into two 101 in 1,001 list items:
  • #65 Do a new activity with my family
  •  #39 Go to three new-to-me museums
After we left the museum, my dad mentioned that I must have checked at least one item off my list that day, and I said I actually had covered two but had to decide which one to count it toward. (My family advocated for checking off both!  Non!  Guys, we have until Sept. 28, 2014!)

I decided that I enjoy my family's newfound adventurous spirit so much that I have faith we'll find another field trip before the 1,001 days are done (and hopefully more than one!). Thus, let the Google document show: I have visited a new-to-me museum!
Kudos to my dad for this great idea. You must check this place out!

P.S. Does your family have any adventures that we could try? Anything you'd love to do with your family but haven't had the chance yet?  Comment away!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marvelous Monday: Week 16

Guess what?  Week 16 means that we are 30 percent of the way through 2012. Weird!!

1) It's Boston Marathon day!  The annual running of such a historic, magnificent race is one of the most exciting days of the year for running fans. I went running at lunch, to make sure my miles coincided with the tens of thousands of runners out on the course in the time zone to my right. The crazy thing is that in St. Paul, the temperature was 40 degrees cooler than it was in Boston today. It was unbelievably hot for the marathon.  I hope the marathons celebrated being at the start line, ran smart, and enjoyed a cold beverage of their choice afterward.  (Mine is root beer.)

2) It snowed this morning. I'm not sure how marvelous that was, but it was pretty kooky.

3) I got to have pineapple today!

4)  I was doodling around in Picasa last night and started figuring out how to make a panoramic photo collage thing out of several photos of the same scene.  Did anyone else do this in college with actual printed photos and post the collage on their dorm room walls?  Some of my friends did, and I thought they were so cool. Progress report to come.

5) I am launching forward on some 101 in 1,001 items. You know it is a fun weekend when your activities count for more than one item and you have to choose!  (More on this tomorrow.)

Hope your week is starting out well, Reader. Care to share any marvelous tidbits?  (I promise it wouldn't be awkward content to comment.) Do you love spring snow or does it make you cringe? Do you have any 101 in 1,001-type goals that you are pursuing this week or month?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Field trip

Hi from the eighth floor of the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis!

This is my brother and mother, from the other side of the observation deck overlooking St. Anthony Falls (which I can tell you all about now, by the way!).  I am loving whatever creature my mom is impersonating!!

Can't wait to tell you more about this place - maybe Tuesday, maybe tomorrow if I can't wait until Tuesday! It showed me a whole different dimension of this city's history and it was such fun to experience it with my family.

Happy Sunday to you, Reader!  Hope your weekend was a good one.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On the trails

Next weekend, I am running a 25K with Molly on trails in a park reserve in the 'burbs. I signed up for it basically minutes after my Sabino Canyon trail adventure in Arizona, for an extra dose of fun to kick off my spring and summer running schedule.  Trail running is a totally different animal from road running, one that I have explored very minimally for all of the road running I've done. Trail running, to me, is definitely not about finish times and mile splits.  I interpret it as wild and messy and full of adventure - and getting to hang out in the great outdoors.

Molly has done much more of this than I have, and I am pumped to run the 25K next weekend with her.  She suggested that we hit some trails this weekend to wake up our trail running muscles. We headed to Theodore Wirth Park, on the western edge of Minneapolis, which is awesome for cross-country skiing and running (and golf, too). At times it can feel like you are absolutely in the middle of nowhere, when you're really about 10 minutes out of the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

For an hour and a half, we ran around the trails. I kept saying, "This feels like playing outside!" Instead of Running At Varying Speeds, we were Scampering and Jumping and Rushing (and yes, Shuffling sometimes).  Oof!  It was such fun. It was a perfect spring morning, the park's trees were magnificent, and it smelled so good out there.

I hope that this is just the start of many trail running adventures. More details to come after the race next weekend!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Little bird

Today it is blustery outside.  I mean, really blustery.  When I was eating breakfast, the wind was rattling the window next to me.  It's gray and rainy, too, which made it a cozy morning to head over to CorePower for some hot yoga.

The class was great, and I felt appropriately wrung out and energized for the day ahead when class ended and I stood up and started rolling up my mat.  I looked out the window and saw a tree I had never noticed before from this unique vantage point, on the second story of a street on which I run nearly daily. Some parts of the tree were swaying and other parts were whipping back and forth, thanks to the wind, and then I noticed way, way up high, sitting on the highest branch practically above the rest of the tree and all of its windy mayhem, was one little bird.

This little bird wholeheartedly captivated me. I stood on my mat for a couple of minutes, watching him stand firm up there. No one was there to give him a little bird medal for doing it. In fact, I think there's a good chance that I was the only person in the whole world to see this little bird because of my weird vantage point. And it might have been because I was feelin' the yoga energy, or maybe because Jeff Buckley's rendition of "Hallelujah" was playing in an otherwise silent space, but it struck me as such a beautiful tiny moment courtesy of the universe that I was almost overwhelmed.

I kept thinking about that little bird, as I went home and got ready for work, had my coffee, took a few minutes to memorize the next line of a poem.

The beauty of a small moment like that is that one can extrapolate any message or lesson he or she would like from it - or nothing at all.

Was that bird an example of triumphing over adversity?

Was he reminding us to work hard and do our best, even if no one's watching?

Was he showing that one can rise above a storm and find stillness? Or maybe that a seemingly insurmountable challenge is worth the effort after all?

Obviously, it's open to any amount of interpretation. Maybe the bird was just taking a minute up there to check out a sweeping Friday morning view.  For me, it was a small gift at an early hour to take with me through the day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The morning run

Today's run was a run-of-the-mill early morning grind.  I must have forgotten to grab my mental fortitude on my way out.  (Is that redundant?  Can one have physical fortitude?)  I was all boo hoo it's 36 degrees and my face is cold! and my legs feel sleepy!  (Cue the violins, right?)

The whole thing is 100 percent not a big deal, and of course I'll merrily head back out tomorrow for my next run. (I've just got to rally and get back into the morning run routine by the time the temperatures really climb.) I really just wanted to set you up for what I saw when I walked back into my apartment after the lackluster miles.

My reality check.  At least I am not this poor guy!

Sidenote 1: The leaves are popping out like crazy now.  All colors!  Yellow!

Sidenote 2: And the sun rose when I was out there and that was lovely, too.

Tomorrow's Friday!  What are you looking forward to this weekend, Reader?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Today is brought to you by the letters...

You might know by now that I revel in finding joy in small tiny things.

Sometimes, all it takes is...

...a brown bag with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich inside.  

Extra points: Labeling it as such.

Man! I forgot what a terrific combination this is!  On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, let's hear it for peanut butter and jelly!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Opening Day report!

I will sort out the events of Opening Day for you, in tidy list form to summarize the glorious and the not-so-good:

1) Well, that's not so good: A Twins loss for the home opener.

2) Always good: Watching my beloved team play out in the sunshine at a beautiful baseball park.  After years and years of watching baseball at the Metrodome, this never gets old and I promise to never take it for granted.  (Well, to be honest, I did start to take it for granted last summer during 100-degree game days.  But never again!)

Our view:

3) Less good: Garlic fries. Sorry, garlic fries. I wanted to love you, like I love the garlic fries at some stadiums around the league.  But these were just too intense for me.  But...I totally still ate them all. should probably try them anyway.  (Sidenote: cheese curds=GOOD!)

4) QUITE BAD: I forgot to take the traditional Opening Day photo with Josh.

5) Wonderfully good: Getting to see my sister and her boyfriend perform in the ensemble that played the national anthem.  I got to Target Field and could hear the band, and it turned out that they were basically warming up on the field in front of my section!  I ran (super cool) down the stadium steps (in retrospect, a small miracle that I didn't trip and fly forward) to get closer.  And then my sister walked right by me with her drum and I yelled her name, and she looked.  And instead of yelling encouraging words or even simply saying hello like a non-creepo sister would do, I got so excited that I just took her picture instead.

6) Continued good: And then, after a great pre-game ceremony, the band came back out onto the field to perform the national anthem.

7) Still good: They did a wonderful job.  Seeing her was awesome, and so was knowing that she was behind the beats that were bouncing around the stadium!  It was beautiful.

So was the whole day, really, even though I would've liked my team to grab the W.

Hey, Reader, have you been enjoying the start of baseball season like I have?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Marvelous Monday, Week 15

Here we are!  By my count, it's the 15th week of 2012.  For the archives: temperatures are more seasonal, but the sunlight is gorgeous.

1) I promised a few more details about Easter in yesterday's post. My extended family spends the holiday at my grandma's house, on the farm where my mom and her siblings all grew up. I love prowling around the farm and seeing the differences between my grandma's home and my home in the city: the broader horizon during the day, and at night, the starrier sky and the quiet. Both places are beautiful, in very different ways.
And then we goofed around and had fun. Josh and my brother got little wrestling action figures in their Easter baskets. We climbed on tractors. My mom drove a tractor!

2) Reading report: Over the weekend, I finished How I Live Now, a book that Nat lent me when we were in Arizona. It's young adult fiction that's a little more sci-fi/futuristic than I usually err - basically, an English war story set in the modern timing - but it's wonderfully written, with storytelling that sucked me in and made me push back the start of my long run on Saturday morning so I could finish it. I'd like to start reading more YA fiction because I'd maybe like to write it someday.  There, I said it!

3) One of the best signs of spring: the Twins play their home opener today!  It's going to be sunny and cold and windy - in other words, April - and I packed my Twins stocking hat.  I am super excited to try the new garlic fries and even more excited to see my sister and her boyfriend and their crew perform the national anthem!  Oh, yes, and I'm excited to see the game, too.

4) I battled the early alarm and made it to yoga this morning - and it was a very small class, so I got lots of good tips and constructive feedback from the teacher.

5) One fabulous M&L reader joined a softball team and is playing in her first game tonight! Many good luck wishes to her!

How was your weekend, Reader?  What are your favorite signs of spring?  Any books to add to my reading list?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday

Today we all piled into a car and headed up 94 to my grandma's house to see my extended family.

We really missed my dad, who had to be away on a work trip, but the time with the rest of my family was great.

And the early April sunlight was unreal!

A fuller recap of the day will come later.  Tomorrow I've got yoga in the morning, work, and the Twins' home opener!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday stroll

Today I ran in not-warm rain.  I will skip that recap - just think "drenched rat" and that's a pretty good summary - and instead focus on yesterday's walk, which was full of spring.  Actually, today's scenery was full of spring, too.  The trees along the river were so green already and also full of that just-about-to-really-bloom energy. But yesterday was springy in a sunshine-on-a-Friday-afternoon kind of way.  You know.

Spring has introduced a whole new host of items in the Miles and Laurel "things I love" category. Very loyal readers (hi, Mom!) might know that this is my first spring on the blog.  (M&L is turning one next month.) Please be a little patient while I document some of these loves for the first time.

Here are a few.

1. I really, really love tulips. A yard full of them!

2. I also enjoy dandelions.

Oh, they're a weed? I don't care!

3. I love flowering trees of all varieties.

4. I also forgot how wonderful lilac bushes are. Here is an exciting preview of blog content in the future:

5. And finally, I really love sidewalk chalk. There is a real lack of opportunity for drawing on sidewalks during the winter months, so I think kids might try really hard to make up for it in the spring.
Those little lumps on the sidewalk are mashed-up dandelions.
Is that a mad fish and a cranky crab?  Next time I go on a long walk, I might make a whole post of the great sidewalk art around town.

Hey! What do you like best about spring?