Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leisure and Leisure

Short version: My family and I took a mini-vacation last weekend - at a sweet familiar old spot.

Long version, beginning with some pertinent background: I grew up taking family vacations in the Hitchhiker II, my dad's parents' RV. Grandma and Grandpa drove the RV south every winter, but for one week in August every summer, my family got to take it around the United States. We visited everywhere from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota to the Black Hills in South Dakota to Colorado Springs to Niagara Falls. My brother and sister and I got to assemble the week's menus (Gushers! French fries!), my dad did the driving, and we all have a wide medley of memories: buttered popcorn Jelly Bellies (eww!), one missed turn we still laugh about, trying out the pool at every campground we visited, and a whole host of truly wonderful adventures.

We also got to spend some really special time with my grandparents at the campground where they parked their trailer, not too far from Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota, about 90 miles north of here. After they died, my dad continued spending time there, but for the rest of us, our visits kind of tapered off. For me, "avoiding" is too strong a word to describe my actions, but it did make me sad that my grandparents wouldn't be there. Years went by and summer weekends started to fill up even faster, and I still didn't go back.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when my sister suggested that we all go up north to the trailer one weekend to celebrate my dad's birthday. We all agreed, so on Saturday afternoon, my brother, sister and I piled into the car with Josh and Wish and drove up to the campground.  We pulled up to the campsite and took a walk around the campground with my dad.

And there was no dramatic lightbulb moment, no stunning realization of this moment feeling easier or harder than I expected. It just was, in the nicest way. We walked around, we saw the little lake where I used to fish with Grandma, Wish got confused by the kids riding around on ATVs. We sat down, we ate loads of guacamole on a chilly, gray afternoon, we watched Josh hit golf balls (or try).

I mean, really, how could you not relax in a place like this?  (Assuming you didn't get lost, of course.)

And man, did we eat. Dad grilled steaks on Saturday night and hamburgers for lunch on Sunday. It reminded me of a former colleague who would bake the absolute best sweets and how another colleague swore it was because she baked with love. Dad is a grill master - and I think he might grill with love, too.

The weather was kind of lousy, so I can barely imagine how much fun we'd have on a glorious sunny weekend. When the rain rolled in, we lounged in the blue gazebo next to the RV. I laughed until I cried at least once, at a goofy conversation that would be zero percent funny if I tried to capture it in writing. Mom and Dad and my brother and sister slept in the RV, and Josh, Wish and I stayed in the gazebo. I woke up in the middle of the night and listened to thunderstorms.

Twice we tended fires. On Sunday, we all walked to the little lake (Mille Lacs was still too choppy because of the weekend storms) and split up our party to fit into Dad's boat and one of the community canoes.

On Sunday afternoon, after the canoe adventure - apparently I need to work on my paddle skills before I head up to the Boundary Waters in August, or at least reduce my time spent taking pictures of lily pads and loons - we spread out around the campsite in various stages of nap. It's hard to feel quite that relaxed back home. The sun came out. I was reclining in a patio chair with my brother and sister on the picnic table next to me, with this view:

And luckily, my mom reprised her role as family photographer from vacations past, but that means she's not in as many of the photos. (Mom! Darn it!)  I'm also realizing I don't have any pictures of the trailer itself to show. Anyway, here are some of Mom's:

So what did I find up north on my first trip back in many years?  Sure, the weekend made me think about my grandparents - hourly, at least - and sometimes I felt a little bit sad. But the overall feeling - mushy as it's going to sound - ended up being one of love: how much they loved that place, and how much we all loved and love each other, and how this space allowed my family this weekend to just relax and be together without the distractions of schedule and routine we run into back home.

Next time, though, I won't let years go by before I return. I loved the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My one-year-old, that is!

With everything Wish-related going on this month, my blog's first birthday flew by five days ago with nary a notice. I think I posted when I reached 100 posts, then 200, and then I promised that I would only throw an online mini-party for one more occasion - the one-year mark - before retiring these weird online mini-parties forever.

And here we are!

Instead of an I really managed to keep this going for a year? party, it's another Thank you, Reader party. I've written this before, but it never hurts to say one more time (at least one more time) that I love the feedback from y'all. It's true that having a public blog can introduce the odd scenario of chatting with a friend you haven't seen in awhile and realizing they are really caught up on your life. But many more times over I've made new connections with friends because of questions I've asked, values and hobbies we have in common that we didn't realize, and so on. It's really fun! I love-love-love the recommendations, feedback, and comments from you - and of course, I'm happy you stop by to read this little record. Thank you!

To celebrate, I recently blew out candles with my loved ones. See?

No, no!  I'm totally kidding.  Kick me if I ever do this!

Hope your week is going well - and as usual, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In the news

Some love for the Twin Cities!

Today the American College of Sports Medicine released its annual rankings for the "healthiest/fittest" urban areas, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area topped the list for the second year in a row! I read about it on Runner's World and then clicked through to the organization's news release to see the full list. (Also a must-read over at Runner's World today: the story of a man who is a professional dog runner. But I digress.)

Anyway, the top five are the Twin Cities, D.C., Boston, San Francisco and Hartford. (I have to say I said "Hartford?" out loud, even though I loved my experience running the Hartford Marathon a few years back when I was out east for work.)  Check out the list.  Any surprises?  I'm no urban geographer, but I was surprised to see the Portland-Seattle-Denver trio as "low" as they were (#7-9), since they are the three urban areas that come perhaps the closest to feeling like home to me in terms of the pedestrian- and cycling-friendly infrastructure that makes up a key part of the list's methodology.

I grew up in the Twin Cities. Part of why I love showing visitors around is because I undoubtedly take for granted some of the features that landed my home on top of the list: the extensive trail network, the vast urban park system, the increasing range of sustainable transportation options like bike highways and the light rail.  I like to see the Twin Cities through a visitor's eyes.  The love for my community was a timely reminder to appreciate it - and all of the work that people here have invested in encouraging health.

So, if you're in the Twin Cities, do you agree with the top ranking?  If you live somewhere else, do you think the assessment for your city is spot-on or way off-base?  What improvements have you seen in your community - and tell me: what changes do you still dream about?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Marvelous Monday: Week 22

It's Marvelous Monday!  We just got back from Wish's first obedience class.  I am really happy with how it went. And so is Wish, even though he was totally tuckered out by the car ride home:

So, before we all fall asleep, I bring you Marvelous Monday!

1. We took our pup on his longest walk with us yet this morning! He is acclimating to the walkers, runners, and cyclists in our neighborhood and we've been able to start working stretches of busier sidewalks into our routes lately. There's work to be done for sure - and more homework now with obedience class! - but it's great to see progress.

2. With the clock ticking down on my Kindle library loan, I finished The Book Thief earlier in the weekend. It's an incredible, moving, captivating piece of writing. I really may have to buy a hard copy of this one for my own library. I dream of someday being able to write young adult fiction that's a fraction as well-done as this book. (Thanks to Steph for this recommendation, by the way, which came out of an M&L inquiry for book recommendations!)

Next up: either Salvage the Bones (my book club's choice for next month, which is waiting for me on my Kindle) or The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang.

3. My fledgling garden projects have been enjoying the recent downpours. I keep meaning to do a comparison photo to see how much my herbs have grown since I transplanted them to new pots. One day last week, I noticed a new little bud about to bloom on my impatiens plants in the window box. I said out loud, "You really are alive!"

4. This season's temperatures mean I finish a run craving cold drinks instead of coffee and oatmeal.  It's smoothie season! By fall every year, I forget how satisfying smoothies are after a hot run, so it feels like a fun new discovery every time warm weather rolls around again. Today's concoction: milk, vanilla protein powder, and strawberries. I like to add frozen fruit instead of ice, but today I had fresh strawberries, so the consistency meant no spoon was needed.  Really, there's no wrong way to go about making a smoothie.  That's downright marvelous.

5. There's a lot to look forward to in the next couple of weeks, including (but not limited to) my dear grandma's birthday, time with my extended family and a visit from Josh's family!

Here's to you, Reader, and to the loved ones in your heart Memorial Day and every day.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A weekend getaway

Including these three troublemakers!

This is going to require a little more explanation, so I'll have a full recap up soon. Minor spoiler: I loved the whole thing.

Bonus report also still to come: the unabridged saga of Wish's first bath!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Salted Nut Roll party

How is it that Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls are The Best Post-Race Food Ever?  And do most races outside Minnesota include them in the array of post-race snacks, or is it just because Pearson's is a Minnesota company?  (Out-of-state readers, please chime in!)

The point is, they're simply the best: peanuts and marshmallows and some sort of nougat-caramel-peanut butter stuff that holds it all together. And so awhile back, when my friend Kate told me she had discovered a recipe for Salted Nut Rolls in bar form, I knew I had to try it.

Today I finished my long run with Molly - 11 miles, most of them in the rain! - and then I got into the pan of salted nut roll bars I had put in the fridge to set yesterday. (I used this recipe.) It wasn't quite the same as crossing a finish line and getting my hands on a little red candy bar package, but you know?  It was pretty nice just the same.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rain report

It felt like it rained for days and days here this week. It was really only 24 hours or so, but man, it was serious rain. Some cities on the western side of the metro area got up to five inches of rain.

Last night the skies started to clear. It was very exciting.

This morning I rolled out of bed for my run and saw nothing but blue skies and a happy Friday sun. (Obviously totally different in appearance from a non-Friday sun, of course.)

Just for case you didn't believe me, I guess?

Besides a very green world, there was still some evidence of all of the rain that fell yesterday.  See the puddles next to the train tracks?


I'm sad to report that the wind and storms did a number on the peony scene around town.

But the wonderful, massive wild rose bush in my neighborhood fared just fine!

It was a peaceful, easy trip around town after a day off from running yesterday - the kind that leaves you refreshed and energized instead of sluggish and blugh. (I have those workouts, too. And yes, blugh is a valid adjective.)

And now it's the weekend! What are you up to?  I'm excited for plans with friends and family - but first is an experiment involving salted nut roll bars...and then probably finishing The Book Thief while eating said bars. Have a great weekend, Reader!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dog versus rain


I feel the same way on rainy mornings, buddy.
Oh, you promise to hold an umbrella over my head?

Okay, fine, as long as you towel me off.

But let the record show that I still don't like it.

Yes, it has been raining cats and dogs (sorry) here for the last 24 hours. Tomorrow I swear-swear-swear will bring a post about something other than this little critter.  Happy almost-Friday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Learning the neighborhood again

Today I bring a trio of sights from around the neighborhood. (One glaring omission: the peonies.  PEONIES!  Today when I walked into work, my officemate had left a gorgeous bouquet of bright pink peonies on my desk, perhaps because I practically fell over with excitement when she told me yesterday that her yard was packed full of the blooms. I got to smell them all day!)

Where was I? Right. On with the neighborhood sights:


I am prowling the city streets much more now - morning, noon and night - thanks to my little wolf. I am seeing things I never notice while I'm running, even though my hands are usually full of leash and dog biscuits and my eyes are watching for various moving obstacles (particularly of the canine variety). Spring just helps me see more, but it doesn't hurt that I'm just out and about in my neighborhood at new times, either.

It's even more fascinating to realize that I don't notice a fraction of the sights, sounds and smells (especially smells) that Wish does. (Though to be perfectly clear, these photos were snapped when I wasn't with him. And he sure as heck would never care about a pretty poppy or chive flower anyway.)

I am having fun trying to see the neighborhood through his eyes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Warm sun

This is how I feel when I sit in the sun after a walk at lunchtime, too.

I am doing a great job at posting Wish-related content only on Fridays, aren't I? Thank you kindly for your patience!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Marvelous Monday, Week 21

I can't say "Volume 21" anymore, because last week's "WE GOT A DOG" post makes for a couple of skipped Marvelous Monday installments now. But here you are: the 21st week of 2012!

What is marvelous about the start of the week?  Well:

1. Yesterday, thanks to the recommendation from one friend, who got the tip from another friend, we bought Wish an Easy Walk harness that promised to cut down on how much he pulls on his leash.  The verdict? It totally works and is amazing. I won't bore you too much with the physics behind it, but the harness just redistributes the pressure of the leash (as opposed to just against his throat, like his plain old collar) and essentially pulls him back automatically every time he pulls, without us making the deliberate choice to stop the walk and pull him back. This seems much better in terms of consistency and also frees us up to work on his growls toward his litany of perceived threats. (Sigh. My darling.)

Thank you for the recommendation, friends!

2. The spring flower landscape is changing almost weekly around here. Tulips are gone. Lilacs are gone. Am I moping around town?  No.  Because what's next?  PEONIES!!
3. In all of the Wish excitement - which I chronicled on Friday, in case you missed it - I forgot to mention that I finally read Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and completely adored it. I kept laughing out loud, over and over again. Now I am on to something quite different: The Book Thief. I just started that over the weekend and am rapidly nearing the end of my Kindle library loan. Yeep! I really want to finish it in time.

4. Wish's very first pawprint photo, courtesy of my mom:

5. We start obedience training tonight!

Hey, Reader, what is marvelous about your day today?

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Happy birthday today to my dear dad!

Our family celebrated tonight with dinner, a gigantic lemon meringue pie (his birthday tradition) and a walk on the trails with Wish. Dad is a gem, to be sure, and he has taught me so much (and continues to teach me so much). I hope he had a great birthday, and I'm looking forward to a trip up north next weekend to continue the festivities.

Hope your weekend was wonderful, Reader!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A sure sign of summer

This morning I walked by a little community garden and did a double-take!

How did this happen?! It's almost strawberry time!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Your Friday Wish

Now we are five days into life with Wish!

I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but rarely have I ever learned more in a single span of five days - and seldom has my perspective changed more in that window of time. It can be hard - but he is just a joy for us.

Who, me?
Obviously, it's terribly important that I take at least 6,000 photos of Wish per day, most of which are either of him sleeping or of his back on a walk.

This is my favorite one of him sleeping, early in the week, with his head tucked neatly under the couch.

Keeshonds are very charming about loving and attaching to their humans. Wish is very low-key in our house and loves to sit by us (or lay on us). He is responding well to his crate and is completely housebroken.  He is also very food-motivated, which helps a lot with training, and like his foster said, he is eager to please us. (Also, Nat asked if we have any nicknames for him yet. The answer is yes, several million.) We've read that they take cues from the humans about how to react to strangers, and he has been a love to all of the family and friends who have met him so far. (Especially to my mom, who brought him a basket full of treats!)


The challenging part of his breed is that they are dominant little pups and like to show that dominance. In 35-pound Wish's case, this means pulling on his leash during walks and being a little less than friendly, shall we say, to passing people, squirrels, buses, and especially dogs.

Part of his transition, too, is simply adjusting to living in an urban neighborhood and all of the sensory details that that entails. He's figuring out what's scary, what's exciting, and what's an ordinary part of the neighborhood. It's funny how quickly I've absorbed this into my own perspective, even when I'm not with him.  ("This would make Wish crazy!" "Wish would love this!") This morning, he got totally nervous as we approached a gnarly, scary, ferocious tree stump.

We've spent some time this week just sitting outside with him and getting him used to all of the sights and sounds and smells. We've also started implementing some basic training ideas to work on the leash-pulling and over-reaction to these perceived threats (or excitements). This can be tough, but it is such fun to see him start to process the training and respond to it.

A squirrel? WHERE?!
And we ran together for the first time yesterday at lunch!  Two lengths of a little soccer field.  He was a big fan. I don't want to do much running until we're a little farther along in our training. I'm also cautious about this little furball overheating, so we'll wait til fall, I think. He is going to be a very happy camper in the fall and winter, I can already tell.

Another part of this experience that I didn't expect is that in addition to all of the joy he has brought us, the whole process has been an exercise in global gratitude. So many people have helped us along the way, from people around our apartment building to the terrific volunteers from the rescue organization to friends and family who give us much-valued recommendations and much-needed advice. I have just been floored by this.

This weekend: giving him his first bath. Next week: our training class begins!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Around town: this week

This week has been stupendously gorgeous in St. Paul. It feels more like late June than mid May, the best of my favorite kinds of weather: cool mornings that make for happy running and warm sun in the afternoons.

Here are my favorite scenes from around the city this week (obviously, I'll save Wish-related scenes for tomorrow).

Leaves under the sun on Sunday at my sister's graduation:

Sunrise over downtown St. Paul:

The same sky, half an hour later:

And finally, my favorite sidewalk chalk sighting this week.  Have you seen that funny video the Harvard baseball team made covering that song "Call me maybe"?  It went viral recently and has more than seven million views.  That's crazy.  Anyway. This sidewalk artist must have been loving that song, too.

Until Friday...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Never a dull moment

Today: Another seen-on-the-streets.  This week has been wild!  I haven't even blathered on and on and on about our new pup!  (I may have to collect Wish stories for one day of the week as to prevent M&L from becoming Wish Magazine, the Chronicle of Wish or Wish Weekly. I am not kidding. Wordless Wednesday might turn into Wish Wednesday.  Or maybe Wish Friday this week, if I can't hold back.)

Today's post is a whole different animal, all right.

Picture this. It's 6:30 a.m. and I am running, mostly still half-asleep. I turn a corner and see a little fauna running around on the sidewalk in a residential yet pretty high-traffic neighborhood in St. Paul. It's not a cat or a rabbit or a dog - the likely suspects that one would expect to see at this hour, in this place.

If you are doing the urban chicken farming thing, you might want to do a roster count. Someone, somewhere is on the lam.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How about you?

This winter, Miles and Laurel's "quirky sightings around town" content was a wee bit sluggish. Frankly, you can try to get out as much as you'd like when the city is frozen, but there's still not that spunky energy that spring and summer bring out in full force.

Exhibit A: I was recently running over a bridge in St. Paul. Tucked inside one of the little iron support pillars, I noticed a Post It note.  I've gotten so used to seeing these things stuck on cars that I assumed it was just a discarded promo piece. Was it advertising windshield repair? The best dance club in town?


It's a little hand-drawn cartoon scribble of a little dude saying, "Been looking forward to today. How about you?"

Wouldn't you love to learn the backstory behind this? Who stuck it there? Why? What made him or her choose those words?

I love it.

Monday, May 14, 2012


As my mom would say: OMG x10,000!

We got a dog!!

I've kept the whole process muffled on Miles and Laurel, but rest assured, this is no whim. I've kept it quiet partly because the details of getting permission from various parties associated with our apartment have been ongoing and pretty mundane (compared to the rest of the salacious content here, right?) and partly because I've gotten my own hopes up, like, zillions of times as we've pinpointed pups we loved and then watched them get adopted by other dog-loving people. We've wanted a dog for ages and ages and finally found the right circumstances - and the right pup!

Here's how it happened: We worked through a rescue organization, and last week, we found three dogs that we loved. We visited one on Friday night and then drove to southern Minnesota on Sunday to meet a duo being fostered at a farm there. We loved all three, but the dogs we saw on Sunday were a better fit for our home and lifestyle.  And one of them is a little Keeshond named Wish!

His dramatic "stare into the distance" expression
Because of the distance, I think the process we went through was a little out of the ordinary. We had been cleared to adopt an animal after we passed our home visit last week (yay!) but I don't think it's too common to bring a dog home directly after the first meeting with him or her. Anyway, we loved Wish - we loved both dogs on Sunday and it was so hard to pick one to bring home - and we drove back up a dirt road toward the interstate with a little dog in the backseat!

Fortunately, he was great in the car. We stopped at a pet supply store, and Josh hung out with Wish while I scrambled around the store. It must have been a funny sight because, while I had a list of the supplies we'd need immediately, I had No Clue what I was doing. I picked out a basic leash, water and food bowls, and toys, then asked an employee for help with the crate and food.

When we got home, it was so strange to see Wish trotting around the apartment. As much as we've wanted a pup for so long and as overjoyed as I was to find Wish, I was nervous yesterday. Through the process of choosing a rescue dog, I've seen firsthand how powerful experiences can be for dogs and how striking the right training (or lack of training or hurtful training) can be. I take this so seriously (probably too seriously) and just want to do the right thing for my pup. I have a wholeheartedly new appreciation for well-trained dogs as well as for people who choose puppies. All three of us were so tuckered out last night.

He seems to be crate-trained and housebroken, for which we are very grateful.  (What's that sound? Oh, it's just me, knocking on wood.)

I've just crossed the 24-hour mark of having Wish in my life, and while there is so much still to discover, I have already learned a lot about him.

A plant? I must investigate!
Things that Wish likes:
1) Liver biscuits
2) Walks
3) Plants OF ALL KINDS
4) Stop signs
5) Riding in the car

He also does a really good downward dog.

On his first walk last night, a little girl passed us and asked, "Is he a wolf or something like that?" My little wolfy dog. 

Things Wish definitely does not like:
1) Garbage trucks!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow brings a visit to the vet and choosing an obedience class.