Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April in retrospect

Today is the last day of April! What happened around here this month?

Wish tried on his first baseball jersey:

Josh and I went to Opening Day at Target Field. I have long been a staunch advocate for fun player facts, ever since I saw them in Seattle a few years ago. If Opening Day was any indication, I'm about to learn more about my favorite team:

Then, a few days after that, I went to Washington, D.C. to visit Nathalia and Mike. I never did a proper recap of the trip beyond the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, but we had a great weekend - and got to visit lots of blooming trees around town, cherry blossoms and otherwise:

We saw the White House, too, which is not big news for them but was for me:

We went on a ranger-led run around the tidal basin, home to lots and lots of cherry trees, and learned all about their history. The ranger is the silhouette in the tree bark. She was awesome.

Nat cooked beautiful food, including an apple pie.

I missed Wishy but became fast friends with Nat and Mike's pup.

It snowed...and snowed...and snowed.

Wish dismantled what must be his fourth football, his favorite toy. When he got his paw fur trimmed, he was presented with a new one. HAPPY DAYS.

Then he figured out a new way to keep it safe that I haven't seen before this month. WOE!

I made blueberry jam on the stove. Well, to be completely honest, I made a batch of blueberry syrup first and then tried it again and actually made jam. (It kind of looks like lava in this picture but it's jam, I swear.)

And finally - surprise! - Wish got a tie. (You probably don't know this since I've been keeping it hush-hush around the blog, yeah?) I like this photo because he looks kind of gigantic.

Tomorrow: hello, May!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 17

Oh, my. Back when I was trying not to grouch endlessly about the long winter, a wise friend pointed out how glorious it would be when spring finally did arrive. And oh, she was right! It's the third consecutive day of 70 degrees or more, and it is just wonderful. Lots of good time out in the world this weekend for me: a book club party that was marvelously themed after the book we read (The Night Circus), baseball games outside, long walks in the sun that left a certain sweater-wearing dog all tired out.

So, some marvelous things to begin the workweek:

1) I love weeks that start with a Sunday family dinner. Yesterday morning I assembled the beloved pulled pork in the crockpot and baked the lemon blueberry marble cake my mom had requested after seeing it on Pinterest. When I got back later in the afternoon, I assembled the taco accessories (my personal favorite was cooking onions way down in the cast iron for the first time) and put the rest of the cake together.

We celebrated my dear mom's birthday:

It's just too bad Wish doesn't really get along with my family or feel comfortable with them, you know?

2) In addition to the marvelous temperatures this weekend, I forgot how marvelous the clouds are in the warmer months. Big, puffy white spring clouds!!

3) Book report: Last week I previewed that my Kindle library loan of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was just about to expire, and I only got about halfway through before that happened. (Cry!) But then I looked it up in the library catalog again and there was no waiting list for another copy! It's back on!

4) This week includes the start of May, and that month includes a visit from Ellie.

5) I bought a Crowd Cut offer for a kayaking/canoeing/paddleboarding company - I think the same one from my family's kayaking adventure a couple of years ago - and cannot wait to get out on the lakes at least once this summer.

What is marvelous about your week or weekend, Reader? Any reading recommendations for when I finally finish The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? Did you spend time outside this weekend?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Officially a family tradition

The waving photo! This tradition started with last year's family Christmas picture, when my dad suggested that we all wave and we were all skeptical, then it turned out to be the best photo we took that day.

P.S. Would it be weird to ask our wedding photographer to take a waving photo?

P.P.S. I love the creepy hand from the print on the wall that wants to be part of the fun, too.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

One more tie picture

Okay, I can't promise this will be the last picture on Miles and Laurel featuring Wish wearing a tie. Maybe the last picture this week. (Ha, ha.)

He may have worn his tie on this morning's walk, and I like to think I wasn't imagining that it added an extra pep to his step.

I definitely think it's growing on him.

Just a heads-up, too, that his "birthday" is coming up and so the Wish-related posts may increase in the next couple of weeks as Josh and I mull over the pertinent celebratory details.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday report


...is one day after one of my favorite Tennessee football players from last season got drafted by my hometown NFL team!!! You may know that my household is a Broncos one, not Vikings, but I am very excited. When Cordarrelle Patterson committed to UT last year, I could not have imagined that, one year later, he'd be coming to play in Minnesota. He is such fun to watch. (Speaking of, the new UT coaching team is doing work on the recruiting trail and I'm also very excited about that program's future.)

...the weekend forecast looks like this:

...is therefore a day when I greatly look forward to my evening stroll with Wish.

...is when I got the dreaded "three days left in your Kindle library loan" email regarding my temporary digital copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I am fascinated by the book but only something like 18 percent into it. Crunch time!

...is when I get to try my wedding dress on for the first time since picking it out back in January!

...kicks off a weekend in which 1) I expect to look forward to running outside, 2) I might catch some outdoor baseball in the spring sun, 3) I'll see my friends for book club and 4) I get to have my family over for dinner to celebrate my mom's birthday earlier this month.

That's what's on my mind this morning. What're you thinking about for the days ahead? Will you be spending time outside this weekend?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 16

Well, it's Monday evening and the snow is flying, and by the time it's done tomorrow morning, there will be three or six or eight or ten inches on the ground, depending on whose forecast you believe. But...

1) ...by the weekend it might be 70 degrees!

Four other marvelous tidbits:

2) Josh and I did major spring cleaning around the house yesterday. Our home is ready for spring.

3) In said spring cleaning, I unearthed an ancient digital clock/thermometer that has needed batteries for years. (Like, maybe upwards of 10 years.) Next to it in the random storage box? Two brand new AAA batteries. Voila! Now I can always know what the temperature is inside the home!!

4) These guys found their way into my cart at the grocery store and are cheering up the house right now:

5) Yeep. I nearly forgot. I have my first wedding dress try-on on Friday!

Your turn! What's nice about the start of your week? Is it spring where you are, or are you watching the snow fly?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Still not tired of soup

I may be seasonally off base - the pumpkin-black bean soup on the stove is making it smell like a fine October afternoon in here - but the spices sure are pretty all together. Cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and paprika:

With oodles of leftover ready for lunches, it looks like I'll be in autumn spirits all week, too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spa day

Someone is pleased that he (finally) got his paw fur and nails trimmed!

He has been Most Reluctant about nail-clipping in the past, but thanks to a very helpful Petco employee today, he was practically at ease. The highlight, I would say, was post-trim when Josh gave him a little dog cookie that looked like an Oreo, and Wish trotted across most of the parking lot with it held neatly in his mouth, upright like a little O, and chomped on it only when he was back in the car.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April snowfall

The storm meandered eastward early in the morning, and by the time I left work, blue sky was popping out from behind the clouds and Wish and I walked for longer than usual in nearly-warm April evening sunshine, enjoying the fresh air and light. This was a week full of heavy hearts, and I'll start the weekend with wise words from my friend Lindsay: be good to others today and every day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

En español

My second Community Ed class of 2013 is underway!

The last time I studied Spanish formally was when I was 19, and I was comfortable with the language: proficient, though certainly not fluent. I spent three weeks in Ecuador during my sophomore year of college and got a glimpse of the linguistic strides that would be possible by spending a full semester abroad, but I ended up deciding to focus on internships back in the Twin Cities instead.

I graduated and years went by, and I slowly but surely grew less and less comfortable with Spanish - in particular, with speaking. Even now, I still feel okay with reading and writing in Spanish, and can grasp most conversations, but without regular practice, my spoken Spanish has really floundered.

No longer! (Well, I hope.)

For many reasons, I signed up for a weekly intermediate Spanish conversation class. The "intermediate" tag scared me, but the course description seemed appropriate. Even so: I was nervous.

But once you're in class, what are you going to do? Hedge a timid excuse about how you're lousy at speaking Spanish? No, you're going to speak Spanish as best you can, with the understanding that if you keep doing just that, it's going to get easier. That's how it went. Just getting back into the mode of listening and talking in Spanish for 90 minutes was immensely productive: I was surprised by how many verbs and vocabulary came back once it was apparent that falling back on English wasn't really an option (in a low-pressure way). The teacher, who was great, taught probably 90 percent of the class in Spanish, pausing to explain points once in awhile in English. His focus is on getting us to practice talking, and with only five or six other students, it's clear that we'll chat a lot.

A lot came back, but I also had a funny little wake-up about how I had changed since the last time I studied the language: when I was 19, I had no use beyond the basic words for topics on cleaning, cooking, pets and marriage. I clearly did not spend a lot of time musing about these topics in that life stage, because when those topics came up in class, I was barely equipped to discuss them. (Nobody had much to say about cleaning, though!)

I told Josh afterward that even if the class wasn't good, it would still be productive to spend 90 minutes per week in an all-Spanish environment. But I'm happy, of course, that it's better and more than just that. I'm very excited for the next five weeks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The unimaginable

When I hit "post" on yesterday's Marvelous Monday, including a Boston Marathon shout-out, I never could have imagined what would transpire in Boston later in the day.

It was a horrific turn of events that unfolded at one of my favorite places: a marathon finish line. I've never crossed that specific line on Boylston Street in Boston, but I've crossed eight marathon finish lines as a runner and stood at nearly as many as a spectator or volunteer. It is a special, dear space that is truly among my life's highlights so far. Few places have shown me such powerful and lasting lessons about joy, community, triumph, wholehearted effort and gratitude. It's no wonder I end up in tears at the Twin Cities Marathon's finish line at least once each year I volunteer there. Thanks to so many people - spectators, volunteers, emergency responders, race officials and runners - there is so much good.

My heart aches for yesterday's losses, the afternoon that brought tragedy and fear and pain to the finish line of a historic, legendary marathon. There are no answers, yet or maybe ever, and nothing can fix what happened.

All we can do, I guess, is try to remember the good of which we know these places are capable. The light was there yesterday, too: loved ones reuniting, neighbors opening their doors to athletes pulled off the race course, runners continuing on to donate blood after they finished 26.2 miles. The community at a finish line is still (and will forever be) a kind and powerful one, even in a darker time than I ever could have imagined before yesterday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 15

Yesterday's inclement weather motivated me to hibernate for the bulk of the day and thus set me up to start the week feeling recharged and rested. We also took a family self-portrait:

Wish looks more dismayed than he actually is, although he didn't know at that time that we had postponed his "spa day" (trip to get his nails clipped and paw fur trimmed) because of the weather. I hope that will happen tonight.

Onward with Marvelous Monday!

1) Last week, I posted about one set of friends expecting their baby to arrive shortly. It turned out that, in the last week, two sets of friends welcomed sweet baby boys, thanks to one's early arrival. I'm so happy for both sets of new parents and their families and so excited to meet the babies.

2) I finally, finally signed up for a Spanish class, and it begins this week. Yeep. I am nervous, but it's time to start slowly getting back up to speed with this language.

3) I'm devouring (ha!) Julia Child's memoir My Life in France. My most recent read, Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things, was exquisite and extraordinary and I'm hoping to pull together a separate post with some of my takeaways. By contrast, My Life in France is a lighter read, but a marvelous change in pace, especially if you like to picture the narrative in Julia Child's voice, which I do. It's also fascinating to consider that all of this culinary icon's passion for France and French cooking (really, cooking in general) didn't develop until she was nearly 40. Her joy for all of it really comes through and the level of detail is great, thanks in part to drawing on tons of letters that Paul and Julia exchanged with friends and family. (I love letters.) She also concludes some passages with one-word summary exclamations, like "Woe!" and "Marvelous!" and "Yum!" which I also love and might have to start doing more at M&L.

4) It's Boston Marathon Day! For several years (I originally typed "for much of my adult life" but felt silly about that), qualifying for the Boston Marathon was a huge goal for me. It hasn't happened yet and it's definitely not the focus of my running right now (though maybe it will be again someday). Regardless, I still always get a few chills on this day on behalf of thousands of people getting to run this race. So many people have worked so hard to qualify, and I can't imagine the thrill of being on that start line.

5) It's my dear mom's birthday this week. We're not celebrating all together until later in the month, but she deserves a full month of celebrating. That's how wonderful she is.

What's marvelous in your world today, Reader? Anything new on your reading list? Do you speak a second language? And if you live in Minnesota, were you out and about yesterday or were you cozy indoors? Do share!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An icy day

This morning, I walked to an errand with flurries around me, and it was a really nice idea until the return trip, when ice was falling from the sky and striking my face. I scurried home making the goofiest intermittent yelping noises.

Later in the day, all of that rain/snow/ice turned into this:

Yikes. Today was a stay inside if possible day. I made green chili, worked on a craft project, helped some frozen chocolate chip cookie dough into the oven, and kept going with My Life in France. It was a winteresque but enjoyable and cozy Sunday.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mid-weekend report

What's going on around here this weekend?

In just a few words:

Walking: all over the neighborhood, with Wish and Josh
Shopping for: calligraphy supplies
Reading: Julia Child's My Life in France
Running: nothing yet (tomorrow, I think!)
Sipping: root beer!
Waiting for: the snow to melt
Enjoying: the sight of just a few little spring daffodils poking out of the ground

What's up in your corner of the world? I hope your weekend is going nicely.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

To the Xcel...

...for my second hockey game ever! A fitting activity for a snowy spring evening, right?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cherry Blossom Race Report

If you've ever read Miles and Laurel, you probably know that I love running in other cities as a way to explore those new places. I also love running races in other cities: to have the chance to run a route I couldn't configure on my own, to get a feel for the running community in each place, to see what's universal and what's unique.

When my dear friend Nat asked me months ago if I wanted to put my name into the lottery for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, I jumped at the chance (I was so excited that I probably literally jumped). I already loved many things about this race: its old-school, low-frills-in-a-good-way charm, its $40 entry fee, the prospect of seeing cherry blossoms along the course, the idea of running with my friend. We were both selected, along with Nat's husband, Mike, and I booked my flight not long after!

I had considered making this a goal race of sorts and started incorporating speedwork and building up my long runs, but a medley of winter-related reasons threw wrenches in both of our training plans. I think I did hit 10 or 11 miles for a long run at least once and did several in the 8 to 9 mile range, so I was prepared to complete the distance, but not exactly to race the distance. I think Nat and Mike and I were all on the same page, so our plan for the race was a relaxed one.

That opened the door to really enjoy the time leading up to the race, rather than trying to stay off our feet to rest up, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. We walked all over town on Friday, including a stop at one museum, and went on a cherry blossom interpretive run with a park ranger on Saturday (more on this soon). We walked past the Washington Monument, basically the start area for Sunday's race, and I tried to picture what it would look like with 17,000 runners milling around. On Friday, we grabbed our race packets at the expo, which (of course) was at a beautiful historic building: the National Building Museum. It was much prettier than any other expo venue I'd ever seen!

Nat and I got our bibs and finisher t-shirts, looked at those pretty sparkly headbands but didn't buy, and were so tuckered out from all the walking that day that we hopped on the Metro back to her home and took naps.

It might not have been until Saturday that we figured out that this would be our first race together. What?! Nat and I became friends because we ran cross-country together in college, but we never actually raced together then (and even if we would've, it wouldn't have been the chatty kind of running). Nearly a full 10 years after we first met, I felt so lucky to be running this race with her.

I also felt so lucky for the weather forecast. Sunday's high ended up in the low 70s, but the morning started out sunny and in the low 40s. This is basically my dream racing temperature. Because we jogged 15 minutes over to the starting line, we skipped bag check, so I started with a long-sleeved t-shirt on mostly so I wouldn't get too cold after the race. I was in my tank top by mile 3. I also wore my very stylish running pouch (not a fanny pack) to hold my camera, since our plan was to stroll around to see some of the monuments after the race.

Here we are near the starting line, complete with Washington Monument and cherry tree in the background!

We hopped into the starting corrals in time for our start, a few minutes after 7:30. The course winds past the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial. It also meanders along the Tidal Basin, the body of water in DC that's also the site of so many cherry trees. Because of this year's late peak, they still weren't in full bloom, but with some trees blooming, it was still beautiful - and you could get a glimpse of how amazing it would be once peak bloom comes around.

Of course, running past national memorials is new to me:

There was a headwind that was tough at some times, but the sunshine was great.

We ran at a relaxed pace for most of the race and started to pick it up in the last few miles, which coincided with the headwind. I was starting to get tired, but had the cherry blossoms to distract me, as well as my two friends running next to me. We each took turns pointing out our favorite dogs along the course. We also enjoyed the spectators' signs, including one that said my name and one that said WISH'S name (except it was really "WISH" in huge letters with each runner's name in smaller letters, but of course, I pretended he was really there). Late in the race, there were two spectators dressed up as ketchup and mustard holding signs with glorious puns on them: something like "CATCH UP to the next runner" and something about RELISHing the race experience. (Obviously, I loved this.)

And then we were approaching the finish line! There is a big hill leading up to the line and I wasn't in a position to really pick it up at that point, but Nat and her husband kicked it into high gear up the hill and I was totally fine with motoring in a little slower. Then Natty turned around and waited for me, and we were both beaming as we crossed the finish line.

I think our pace ended up being in the low 9:00s (maybe 9:10?) per mile. We made our way through the finish line crowds, grabbed bottles of water, and started the walk home.

I looked back for one more peek at the post-race crowd:

During the trek home, I had my traditional post-race soda on the brain. But we started chatting about favorite post-race recovery food and drink, and someone mentioned chocolate milk, and it was all over. When we stopped for a few groceries for brunch, I ended up with this.

I bought some soda, too, but chocolate milk really is the best thing ever. Then it was time for brunch with some of Nat and Mike's friends. (Really good post-race celebration idea!)

There are few reasons why I would ever purchase photos that companies take of runners during races, but when Natty alerted me that ours were online, I decided I might have to buy from this one. It seems like the photographers rarely catch really positive race emotions, although it's possible that my racing ensemble usually just includes a charming perma-grimace. But on Sunday, nearly every photo they captured is of us laughing and smiling, even when we were tired at the end. I was so thrilled to be able to run this race with my friends.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We begin with blossoms

I went to Washington expecting to see lots and lots of cherry blossoms. Because of the chilly spring, the predicted peak for the weekend was already relatively late, but it turned out to be even later. The photos that follow will tell a different story, but there were many trees that hadn't bloomed yet. (I would love to be in the city today, because it must be magnificent!)

Luckily, though, there were trees that had bloomed, and they were tremendously lovely. What's more: cherry trees weren't the only blooming trees in town. There were magnolias and all kinds of other flowering trees, and it brought the springtime spirit like few neighborhoods I've ever seen. I was loving it.

There's lots more to discuss, but for now, we're going into the scrapbook category of blogging. I bring you 10 of my favorite blossom photos, in no particular order. I can practically smell them now.

With ice and snow on the way in Minnesota, I could think about these blossoms all day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 14

I'm back in Minnesota after a great long weekend with friends in Washington, D.C. While I enjoy looking at my trip photos and dream of the 70s and 80s in the city I just left, to distract myself from this week's forecast, I will share a few marvelous tidbits:

1) I got to reunite with Wish today! There was jumping and playing and snuggling.

2) I put away my travel bag and its contents, which is a huge step and a major rarity for me.

3) Today was predicted to be Washington's first 80-degree day of the year, I think. The first part of my travels took place during a warm, sunny, beautiful morning.

4) It's almost five months until the wedding! Josh and I are working on some planning details this evening and will check a few more items off the list this week. Also, all but one of the bridesmaid dresses have arrived and are changing hands at an extraordinarily rapid rate. There is one in D.C. now. One is at my parents' house (I think). Next month, one will head to Massachusetts. I think two are with their rightful owners. I kind of want to make a little map tracing these dresses' paths. (Thanks again to my sister for her help with them!)

5) Two friends are welcoming their baby boy to the world very soon, and I am so excited and thinking of them as they wait to meet him.

The trip recap will be here momentarily! Hope your week is starting out well!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A happy weekend

Hi from DC, Reader! It has been a truly wonderful weekend here with friends (including a snuggly dachshund). The cherry blossoms bloomed more each day of my trip, I loved exploring this fascinating city, and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is one to put on your list.

That's the quick version. I'm hopping on a plane back to Minnesota soon, and as you might expect, the full report (with photos) will happen then.

Hope your Sunday was great!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Easter Bunny's hunt

Ever since I was a baby, my dad has arranged an Easter egg hunt. There exists a home video of me toddling around my old yard, picking plastic eggs out of the sandbox and behind trees, and ultimately finding the grand prize: a tiny white patent purse. As I got older and my brother and sister joined the festivities, the hunt got more intricate, and my dad made us work for our Easter baskets by sending us all over the yard and house (and sometimes into the adjacent cornfield) to get from one clue to another. As you can imagine, the hunt ramped up another level when I got my driver's license. We got sent all over town: to the water tower, to a bridge over a highway, and so on. As we got older, we also got to hear some behind-the-scenes details about how a father's good intentions can sometimes be confusing to local police officers as he lays out one clue after another around town late at night before Easter morning. Really, the whole thing is amazing.

And then last year it all halted abruptly! Not because we were all well in our 20s - don't be silly - but because Dad was out of town for work. We all gave him a healthy amount of guff but also wondered if 2012 was the end of the scavenger hunt.

We heard murmurs of a hunt this year, but the cards were stacked against the hunt again when Dad left for another work trip days before Easter Sunday. I think my dad planned out a couple of scenarios, and I heard rumors that my brother was being briefed to lead the effort. Luckily, Dad came home just in time, and I mean just in time. He flew in Sunday morning and got back to our house minutes before the scheduled start time!

We started with a new element for 2013: a quiz (20 questions, I think) incorporating Easter Bunny jokes, trivia from previous family vacations, and impossibly hard questions such as the number of steps to the second floor in our house. I thought that was the replacement for the scavenger hunt given Dad's travels. But then a mini-hunt began!

We pondered the first clue over caramel rolls. (Photos courtesy of my mom, by the way.)

That clue sent us downstairs. I forgot to mention earlier that the clues usually aren't little index cards. Sometimes they're in a huge plastic egg. Sometimes they're...a gigantic cardboard rabbit.

This one had text on it welcoming Wish to the group, and we were given instructions that he was to accompany us for the duration of the hunt.

Per my request, we paused briefly to snap a First Family Easter photograph with the pup. Wish hated the cardboard rabbit and stayed as far away from it as possible for the rest of the day.

That clue led us to the mailbox. Argh! I wish I had copies of the clues. They usually rhyme, poke fun at us for being one step behind the Easter Bunny, and tell more Easter Bunny jokes.

And that one sent us to the park, to Wish's favorite off-leash tennis court. He went wild while we retrieved our next clue. I wish I had a photo of that. I think he hip-checked my sister mid-air.

The off-site clue is key, because it gives the Easter Bunny a chance to bring our baskets out from hiding. We were directed to each of our rooms, where our baskets were waiting!

Wish might have been the most excited about his, because 1) he did not know he was getting a basket and 2) it was filled with dog treats and a new squeaky toy. I think he is trying to eat his basket:

My favorite part about that photo might be the mega-creepy rabbit shadow in the background. Oh, my.

Kudos and thank you to my mom and dad the Easter Bunny for another great year, for one of my favorite family traditions.