Friday, May 31, 2013

Wrapping up May

On my list of favorite things: starting Friday evening with a walk in the sunshine.

P.S. Happy two-year anniversary this week to this old blog!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

101 in 1,001 update: May 2013

Oh, it has been a long time! I'm not even going to dig back to see what goals I tackled earlier in the spring. We start fresh, for summer!

If the last couple of months are any indication, though, I've got a hunch that the next few months won't make for wild progress on the 101 list. (There's a new 101 side project of sorts that sprung up around Miles and Laurel in the form of wedding planning!) Even so, it's still very fun to have a tangible list of projects that are important to me, and there will be plenty of time this summer to explore some of the items, especially the seasonal ones.

Meanwhile, though, I haven't stalled completely. Here's the scoop:

Ongoing projects:
#82 Cook one new recipe each month
I love this one. May's recipe was Southwestern quinoa and black bean casserole. Before then, I had been on a streak of cakes. (Not such a bad thing.)
#62 Send one card per week for three months
I have been stopping and re-starting this one basically since the project started, but I'm three weeks in now. Progress!
#46 Eat or shop at 10 new-to-me restaurants in Minneapolis.
I added the 5-8 Club to this list last week. I should be able to make progress in this area this summer without too much adversity.
#43 Give blood at least once per year.
I did this in April.

Completed projects since my last update:
#40 Take a Spanish class.
I even got a little diploma to prove it. I'm very happy I took this class.
#87 Make jam
I made blueberry jam as part of my mom's birthday cake last month.

(Why didn't I put "learn to grill" on the list?!)

So, crunching some numbers:
38/101 items
19/101 in progress

New goals going forward for the summer:
#1 Set a PR (fingers crossed)
#4 Do pushups 15 days in one month
#6 Learn how to do a cartwheel
#19 Go on a very long bike ride
#47 Volunteer at six races (continue this one)
#50 Go to a festival in the summer
#98 Read a story in Spanish

There is a gelato place in St. Paul I've been meaning to try, too. I will diligently add this to my list.

Got any tips for me, Reader? What local festival is your favorite?  Am I the only person in the world who doesn't know how to do a cartwheel? And tell me: what's on your summer to-do list?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To begin

Hello, Reader! (I accidentally typed a question mark instead of an exclamation point at first. I'm not sure what that means, but I almost left it just for fun.)

I'm kicking off the workweek at Miles and Laurel with a list of nice tidbits. It may sound a lot like the traditional Marvelous Monday to you, but I can't quite call it that because, well, it's Tuesday.

1) It was a gray and rainy weekend, but I took the unofficial start of summer as a cue to swap my winter wardrobe for the boxes of summer stuff in the closet. I also reshuffled some of our closets based on how we use them, and you guys know I love doing that. My crafts are organized much better now!

2) I tried my first Juicy Lucy yesterday and I can't believe it took me 29 years as a Minnesota resident to do it. It's a cheeseburger with cheese in the middle, inside the patty, instead of on top of it. Two Minneapolis restaurants claim to have invented this phenomenon, and we went to one of them, the 5-8 Club. YUM. (My first visit to the 5-8 Club reminds me that I'm way overdue for a 101 in 1,001 update! This week, friends!)

3) I picked up a bunch of seed packets yesterday, and once the ground dries up a little bit, I'm heading over to my garden plot to get this summer's crop started.

4) The weather made it easy to spend some time on the couch with the new "Arrested Development" episodes, and we quite liked the new stories about the beloved Bluth family (especially my favorite, Buster).

5) It didn't rain all weekend, though, and 60 degrees or so is a pretty nice temperature for strolling. I went on a bunch of nice walks this weekend: with a friend, with Wish, with Josh. I love to walk in the springtime.

This week, I'm fixin' to get over to the library, since I haven't gotten into good fiction lately, and all of the summer book lists are catching my eye. What are you up to? Are you an "Arrested Development" fan? Is your garden all planted? And finally, do you have an opinion on the Juicy Lucy? Do tell.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's Arrested Development

Today Wish and I went for a run, and then after he got tuckered out I continued on for a few more miles on my own, and Josh played golf, and then we settled in for an episode (or many) of "Arrested Development," with a break in the middle that included a long walk and caprese sandwiches on the grill. It was a happy Sunday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Week in review

Some sights around Miles and Laurel this week:

My beloved Gerber daisies!!

Batman and/or my dog in the morning sunlight and shadows:

A run with a new mama and a new running buddy:

Looking up and seeing this:

And a visit to a park and what seems to be a frank talk, possibly about the hippo:

Onward with the weekend!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Celebrating Dad's birthday

It's Dad's birthday week!

We kicked off the celebration early - two days before his actual birthday - with an overnight trip up north to the campground that houses the RV that took us on many family vacations in my youth. (If this is sounding familiar, we started the tradition last year and I wrote all about it!) Last year's celebration included a lot of rain, but whatever the weather, it's peaceful to spend time in a relaxing place with my family.

And it looked like rain would rule this year's party, too, when we left our home on Saturday morning. But the downpours subsided as we got closer to the campground, and it wouldn't rain again until we left again on Sunday morning.

In a development surprising to no one, I had my camera within reach for most of the day, so photos will help tell the story.

Josh and I drove up with my brother. We stopped at a gas station en route and Wish cleared up any doubt who's in the driver's seat:

Wish likes to show off his serious face, even when he's in a hammock:

Then he relaxed and enjoyed his extra-long leash:

(The bandana is a gift from our friend Kate, whose dogs also love their bandanas.)

My mom dug out our old hammock from storage, and Josh and my dad set it up. I arrived at the quick conclusion that a hammock is one of my favorite material items.

Because the weather forecast had been erring toward crummy, my mom had churned up a batch of playdoh that morning, just like the olden days. (I love that this happened.) One of my dad's many talents when we were kids was his ability to craft a Babar elephant out of anything: hamburger, playdoh, snow, you name it.

I looked over at Dad minutes after the playdoh came out, and he had already sculpted an elephant family:

He's good, right!? That's Babar and Pom and Flora, two of Babar's children, plus Rataxes, a rhinoceros in the story. (I hope you guys know the children's books I'm talking about. Otherwise, this post is getting really far out there, really fast.)

Then I looked over another minute later, and my mom and dad were making snakes.

My sister and her boyfriend arrived, and Wish was pleased. He and my sister are pretty much BFFs.

Around that time, the first watermelon I laid eyes on in 2013 also appeared. Yes.

If it looks like we lounged around and ate a lot, well, that's a pretty accurate portrayal. It was so relaxing.

This photo says it all:

Dad grilled chicken and steak for dinner, and then Mom brought out her famous lemon meringue pie. I mentioned earlier this week that Dad has had lemon meringue pie for his birthday instead of cake for as long as he can remember. My mom makes one every year for him, and part of the tradition is how she trash-talks various pie components until we cut into it and see that it's magnificent as usual. (I need a lemon meringue pie lesson from her.)

And what would a birthday celebration be without a waving photo, hmm?

I love this time with my family, and the whole day (and the bonfire after the sun set) made for a great celebration to honor my dear dad.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We got ourselves a garden

A few weeks back, during our long, cold spring, I joked to some friends that I was susceptible to saying yes to anything that involved key summer-related words. Boats. Picnics. Lakes. I was so ready for those warm-weather activities - really, just warm weather - that I was ready to fill my summer schedule with them.

One of those words was garden, but this is no impulsive whim. I've wanted a nice space for vegetables for a long time. I've tried my hand at herbs in pots and flowers in window boxes over the past few summers, with mixed successes, but limited sunlight and space mean that I can't do much more than that.

But this summer will be different! I found out about community garden plots available at a local rec center for neighbors without yards or gardens of their own. I talked it over with Josh, we decided to sign up, and in a lucky turn, we got the last space available out of the 50 that were created earlier in the spring. We have a garden! Yahoo!

We scouted out our space last night. This will serve as a "before" picture. The two plots that Josh is scrutinizing are ours. I think he is thinking about where he will put all of the chili peppers he wants to grow.

I think we will plant this weekend (or next week, depending on the weather). Our CSA vegetable box will still be arriving weekly in the summer, so we wanted to plant vegetables that we could either 1) never get enough of or 2) freeze for the cooler months.

Here are our ideas:
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil (lots)
  • Chili peppers (a few kinds) for cooking, roasting and freezing
  • Green beans
  • More herbs (mint will stay at my house and away from this garden)
Now I need your help! I've already gotten great guidance from some master gardeners around me, but I know there are more of you lurking out there. What else is fun to plant? What tips do you have for a first garden? What do you wish you would've known when you started gardening? And if you could have one vegetable all summer long, what would it be?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 20

How 'bout that? The 20th Monday of the year falls on May 20. Nice!

Here we go:

1) Of course, I couldn't start the day's post without noting that it's my dear dad's birthday today. We were up north on Saturday to celebrate, and he had his lemon meringue pie, a tradition that started with his mom and one that my mom has carried on ever since I could remember:

I hope he's having a marvelous birthday!

2) With the summer racing season around the corner, I tried the novel concept of a little bit of speedwork today. I haven't really done any in ages, so I'll have to build up gradually. I did 10 sets of one minute hard and one minute easy, plus a warm-up and cool-down. It's one of my favorite easing-into-intervals workouts, because you still get a total of 20 minutes of quality speedwork, but it's not too arduous for an early-season effort.

3) Today on my drive to work I noticed that the leaves on the trees were out practically in full force. I don't think they were out at all on Friday. It is really lovely to walk around the neighborhood with leaves above you. There are also tons of tulips blooming. Spring is late, but it is here.

4) On a related note, I smelled a lilac plant before I could see it today, which is another very marvelous marker of spring.

5) Last night I branched out beyond chicken and tried grilling turkey burgers for the first time. It went about 75 percent well, and by that I mean that three burgers were very tasty and one fell between the grill grates and was lost.

There you have it. Is spring in full bloom where you are? What should I try grilling next? If you're a runner, do you have any races on the calendar?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wild clouds

Yesterday's rain turned into today's thunderstorms, and once they rolled through over my corner of town this evening, they left behind wild clouds:

The weekend wasn't a washout by any stretch, though. My family headed north to celebrate my dad's birthday, ducking most of the precipitation in the process. Later this week, I will tell you all about our trip.

Hope your weekend was great!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rainy day

My dog does not mask his disdain for rain.

But we've got a special birthday to celebrate in our family, and while the rain may impede our plans, it will not thwart our fun. Onward with Saturday!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The grill

Someday I hope to look back on this post and laugh fondly about the days back when I was learning how to grill.


I think this is going to open a new era for our grill. In past summers, Josh and I used a grill a few times, usually for cookouts or parties with friends and family. We always kind of wanted to use it more frequently, but never quite got around to actually doing that, partly because he was the only one who knew how to use it.

Well, until now. Since we opened the grill one week ago, we've made steak for fajitas and steak on its own (for separate groups of friends who came over), caprese sandwiches, and two kinds of chicken. We don't usually eat tons of meat, so I'm excited to try more vegetables and fruit (I'm looking at you, peaches) on the grill soon.

For 29 years, starting with my dad, I've watched people grill around me. I love grilled food. (Does anyone loathe food on the grill?) I've always had a small inkling that it would be fun to learn how to do it, but honestly, with our gas grill, I was scared. This confession will seem kind of silly to grill aficionados, but there's that huge tank of gas and you're voluntarily opening it and then trying to ignite that gas not too far away and it just seemed like the potential was ripe for things to go majorly wrong.

My motivation to finally conquer this fear stemmed from a recent "Dinner Party Download" podcast featuring Bobby Flay saying he didn't get why people were intimidated by grilling, as it's the most basic cooking method in the history of the world: putting meat over fire. Oh, I said to myself, he's right! So on Sunday, Josh kindly walked me through (twice) the steps of turning on the grill and operating it. I practiced lighting it and we talked through the basics of the cooking process.

And then, on Monday, Josh was working late and my plan was to use up some frozen chicken, and it was time to put Sunday's lesson to the test. I tried a margarita-esque marinade that included tequila, soy sauce, honey, lime and garlic. I let the chicken marinade for about an hour while I walked the pup. And then it was grill time.

I went outside and got the grill lit and ready to go. Wish didn't hide his concern.

Here I am!

Is this a good time to admit that I originally took a thumbs-up photo next to the grill that lasted about three seconds in this world before I deleted it?

Wish apparently continued to have zero faith in my efforts.

I took a picture of the chicken on the grill, too, but raw chicken isn't very photogenic. Ugh.

One at a time, each piece came off the grill.

And my first try was pretty good!

Last night, I revisited the grill with the rest of the frozen chicken. I branched out (not hard to do when it's your second grill session) and tried a new marinade: a Thai cilantro one I found via Google. I loved it and it's also extra-festive because the pureed cilantro sauce clings to the chicken and made it bright green on the grill. I roasted some broccoli to go with it and had a very green dinner.

Next up? I wasn't kidding - there really are three ripe peaches in the fruit basket. I stocked up on turkey burgers, hamburgers and more chicken at the grocery store. I can't wait to try vegetables, too.

I am so excited. I love to try new cooking ideas, and the grill is a whole new frontier for me. It's going to be a fun summer.

Thursday, May 16, 2013



All over the city - on blocks in my neighborhood and far from my neighborhood - I've been seeing these little sparkly mirror squares dusting the sidewalks like confetti:

I have absolutely no idea what they are and whether they are functional or litter. If they are litter, though, it might be the largest-scale litter job I've ever seen. I am so confused.

On a purely superficial level, they are kind of pretty because of their sparkle, but I don't think Wish would like to get one stuck in his paw.

Having an explanation won't have any impact on their presence, but I'm still ferociously curious. Does anyone know what these little mirrors are? Anyone want to venture a guess? Your help and/or creativity is appreciated.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Early miles

Oh, the morning run. There are many reasons to try it, but one of the most practical is when you have a week with most of the usual lunch and evening windows of free time filled up. The morning, friends, is almost always available.

The alarm clock, of course, is the obvious hurdle. I suggested to myself last night that if (and only if) I woke up before my alarm clock, it might be a nice idea to squeeze in a run. With the spring sunlight streaming in the window, I woke up with just enough time for four or five miles.

Sometimes it really does make more sense to sleep in: to give yourself a break, to get more rest, and so on. But today I remembered how nice it is to start the day with an hour of fresh air, all to yourself.

It was gorgeous, too. The temperature is supposed to surge wildly into the 90s today (I'll never figure out the weather and that's why I love it), and it felt a lot like a certain upcoming season out there this morning. I made the out-of-practice mistake of wearing a long-sleeved shirt over my tank top and ditched the top layer about three blocks into the run.

Honestly, early morning light is one of my favorite things in the world.

Who is that amazingly tall lady? (The only time in my entire life that I will be mistaken for tall.)

And, as many of you know, I love the leaves and am elated that they're back.

With so much morning light, I'm looking forward to fitting in more early miles in these kinder seasons.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 19

Reader, today was already turning out to be good. But now, thanks to this afternoon's vote in the Minnesota Senate, it will be part of a historic week for love and equality in my home state. That, plain and simple, is the most marvelous part of my Monday.

Everything else seems tiny by comparison, but there are other sweet pieces of life to appreciate, too:

1) Magnolia blooms around the neighborhood:

2) I read The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends over the last week. It's a cookbook from the host and producer of The Splendid Table, a public radio cooking show and one of my beloved podcasts. It's not the kind of collection for which I expect to try every recipe or even most recipes, but I loved it because 1) I did learn a lot of tips and 2) their passion for the art of slow, step by step weekend cooking is so wonderful that I couldn't help but be captivated.

3) My weekend with these girls:

4) Grill Party Extravaganza 2013 appeared to have arrived at our home for the summer. We got the grill out on Friday for the first time this year, and tonight will make three days out of the last four that we've used it. Tonight I am trying a margarita marinade on some chicken. On my own. Yes, that's right. By my request, Josh taught me how to operate the grill yesterday. I am looking forward to a long season of grilled steak, hamburgers, vegetables, Boca Burgers, hot dogs, fruit, and more. I will also finally try my beloved Grilled Corn Guacamole recipe with the corn actually properly grilled.

5) The countdown to our wedding has reached the four-month mark! Yay!

Your turn! What's your favorite item to cook on the grill, and what is your best grilling tip? Do you have a favorite cookbook? And what's blooming in your neighborhood?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Today is for my mother: a woman who gives endless amounts of love and guidance and support and humor to us and the world, every day. I am inspired by her all the time.

I am also lucky to have so many other wonderful mothers around me - grandmothers, aunts, friends - and I thought of them today, too. And I think of my dear friends - some whose parents I know and some whose I don't - and I appreciate the mothers (and fathers) who raised them to be who they are. I think of those people, and the mothers around me (mothers of grown adults and mothers of tiny babies), and I think of my own amazing mother, with gratitude and love on this sweet holiday in their honor.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Lake Harriet jaunt

Hi, Reader! Ellie is visiting Minnesota this weekend (coinciding with Emily being back in the Twin Cities for awhile, too), so I've spent the last couple of days around town with these two dear friends from college. Yesterday was beautiful. We had brunch, strolled around the neighborhood, and sat on a patio - and we capped off the day with Josh waking up the grill for the year and cooking us dinner.

Today is cold and windy, but the goal was to run around at least one of the lakes, and we did it!

Here's one side of Lake Harriet. Placid and peaceful, no?

We thought we had started the loop going into the wind, but it wasn't until about halfway around the lake that we realized what into the wind really felt like. Check out the whitecaps!

In the last mile, it became Photo Time. First, Emily and Ellie running:

Then Ellie and me:

Then we tried to take a group photo, and a man came up and volunteered to take our photo. Nice!

(We did not plan our outfits, I swear.)

We wandered over to shore to look at some ducks. Emily got in the tree.

With the wind at my back, I decided it turned out to be a pretty beautiful morning after all.

And then it started to snow - how does this keep happening? and we scurried back to Dunn Brothers for some coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and a scone.

Runs with these friends, let alone three of us on the same run, happen once every couple of years, and I am grateful for the miles we get to run together.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday highlights

This view, on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis:

+ hearing that my brother had a great one-mile race

+ a hot chai latte in the middle of a blustery evening

+ a burger afterward in the company of some wonderful people

= a pretty neat Thursday.

Good night!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On their way

Today on my walk I looked up and realized: the leaves are almost here!


Serious spring - and even summer - are just around the bend.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 18

I was going to exclaim "It's May!" but it's actually nearly a full week into May, so not so noteworthy anymore. But it's still marvelous...

1) ...because spring is more or less officially here! I'm writing on Monday evening and it's still above 70. I'm cleaning up our patio and am ready to spend many hours sitting on it.

2) The gorgeous weather also makes for really nice walks with Wish. Tonight we strolled around the neighborhood for half an hour, and it's so lovely to not walk with my shoulders miserably scrunched up to brace against a cold wind.

3) Ellie is coming to Minnesota this week! I haven't seen this dear friend in way too long and I am so excited to catch up. It will be even more fun than a Google hangout.

4) Thai peanut noodles with tofu for dinner with all of my favorite toppings: green onions, cilantro, peanuts and lime.

5) I finally, finally started crafting my spring and summer list of races. More details to come!

Hi! What's marvelous about your week? What's for dinner tonight? And what races should I have on my list?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The sticker project

Do you ever discover something for yourself and wonder if the whole world is already well-versed in this topic, Reader? (Obviously, I do.)

Josh and I recently got a desk from my aunt that originally belonged to my great-grandparents. Besides the sentimental value, we're excited because it has drawers (eight of them!) in contrast to our old desk, which had zero and was also falling apart. I think it was Josh who suggested offhand that we should get some contact paper to protect the drawers.

Huh. Contact paper.

I knew what it was. I mean, we have kitchen drawers lined with the stuff, but I didn't pick it out and have never actually thought of buying contact paper. It turns out, based on an Amazon search, that there are oodles of colors and patterns available for a few dollars. Oooh.

And then it turned out to be so easy to apply that it felt like the days of my youth spend playing with stickers. "This is the most fun home improvement project ever!" I crowed to Josh.

Don't be surprised if you come over to our home and entire surfaces are covered in this contact paper.

The only problem now is that I keep purposely leaving the drawers cracked open so I see the little flowers.