Saturday, August 31, 2013

The rest of the riverboat story

Okay, I am finally ready to continue the story I started Thursday night before I got sleepy!

Earlier this summer, my sister surprised Josh and me with two tickets for a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi Queen Paddleboat! I was so excited, for many reasons:
  1. After asking about our schedules, she chose tickets for a specific date (Thursday night), so it was "we've got this on the calendar!" not "we'll do this fun activity someday in the future."
  2. I love a midweek date - and a unique activity to boot!
  3. I've been on a couple of riverboat cruises before, but they've always left from near downtown St. Paul, so I was excited to be part of a Minneapolis excursion.
  4. I love being out on the water in the summertime.
  5. The Thursday night cruise includes a pizza buffet, and as many of you know, I love myself some pizza.
I'm not exaggerating when I say I was looking forward to this boat ride all week, so one of our takeaways is that we want to book more Thursday night outings early in the week to properly anticipate the night out (and reduce the chance of bailing in favor of our comfortable routine!).

Josh and I met at Bohemian Flats, near the University of Minnesota campus, and boarded the boat just before 6 p.m. for a two-hour cruise up and down the river.

Here we are - after the boat ride, but it's the only picture that shows the boat!

Right away, we approached downtown Minneapolis:

And then we turned back and went almost as far as the Lake Street bridge! I loved being on a section of the river that I run along often and seeing it from a different perspective. Also, the captain was talking about some of the history of the river and bridges (fascinating to me!), but we could only hear that narrative on the second level, outside, after we enjoyed our pizza at one of the tables inside. It was a warm night, but there was a breeze on the water that was great. There seemed to be a fair number of tourists on the boat, as well as a large group of locals celebrating a birthday, and I think this activity would be super wherever you call home. You guys know I love tourism at home.

The clouds were extraordinary:

This company runs cruises through late October, and I would love to book another trip for late September when the fall colors are peaking. Wouldn't that be gorgeous!? Big thanks to my sister - it was such a treat!

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Tonight I spent the evening on a riverboat on the Mississippi in Minneapolis.

I have to tell you more about it tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another milestone

It's hot this week.

Here's what the conditions were like yesterday evening, courtesy of my beloved Weather Underground. Check out that dew point!

And here's the forecast for later in the week. Could this really be true? I think it might change, but the trio of 99s boggled my mind.

Though it's easier to manage (and even appreciate) at the end of the summer, when we know cooler conditions are around the corner, I just ran 3.5 miles and it felt like about 12. The heat wave's timing is also less than ideal for college students moving into their dorms and for the State Fair crowds over at the fairgrounds this week.

But some things love the heat, including our garden. As soon as the days got warmer again last week, the tomatoes started turning colors beautifully and rapidly. The cherry tomatoes seem like they're going from green to red in the span of a day or two.

Drumroll, please! The first round of heirloom tomatoes are ready!

We went to the garden on Sunday afternoon and harvested two big bright red heirlooms. I am especially proud of these guys because they started as small and kind of fragile plants given to me by my cousin, and through the cool early weeks of summer, I wasn't sure they were going to make it. It was a huge relief to even see them flower. And now they're full of big tomatoes!

We skipped turning on the oven last night and sent caprese sandwiches, complete with those red tomatoes, straight to the grill. I have high hopes for the rest of the heirloom crop and intend to strike a 50-50 balance of using them in recipes versus eating them whole with a little dusting of salt. I am very excited.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 34

Hello! It's Marvelous Monday:

1) Caprese sandwiches on the grill for dinner = one of my favorite ways to start a week.

2) The garden is loving this heat wave. (More on this later.)

3) A family member of mine discovered that our wedding day is in the (very) extended forecast!

4) We are a little late to the party and just watched Justin Timberlake's VMA performance, which was completely amazing. We are also a little dismayed because Wish wondered afterward if he could go live with JT instead of us.

5) Tennessee football starts on Saturday!!!

Hope your week is starting out very nicely, Reader.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A new twist on an old tradition

Last night, my sister threw the most marvelous bachelorette party for me, with help from my mom and dad, my other bridesmaids, and the wonderful friends who were able to join us for the celebration. I try not to post photos at Miles and Laurel of friends and family who haven't given a specific thumbs-up for it, so this recap might not quite capture the entire spirit of the party. Well, scratch that! I hope it does convey the spirit, if not every little detail. (No one needs all of those!)

Really, all I need to say is that the whole evening blew me away, thanks in large part to my sister's thoughtful, amazing plan. I barely knew anything about the itinerary leading up to the party, and when she picked me up in the early evening, she let me know that we'd start with dinner at a nearby restaurant. (Most of us ordered pizzas we thought were going to be individual-sized that turned out to be enormous!) It was so much fun just to have dinner with friends from different parts of my life all together in one place. We enjoyed chocolate cake that my sister had baked for dessert, and that's when I found out the plan.

Remember our family's annual Easter scavenger hunt? Every Easter, my dad the Easter Bunny sends us on this chase, usually all over town, with one clever clue after another that eventually leads us to our Easter baskets. (Yes, this still happens!) My sister brought the Easter Bunny out for a late-summer excursion and created an amazing scavenger hunt in the Easter Bunny's voice and spirit (jokes and puns and all!). I was so surprised and so excited, and our first clue clearly sent us to our alma mater, which Josh and I share with my sister and a bunch of our friends, too. The one mystery: the clue noted that transportation would be provided.

I had no idea that a yellow school bus would pull up a few minutes later - with my dad at the helm! (He works part-time driving for a school bus company, and he and my sister had coordinated our transportation for the evening!) Here's how I felt about this surprise:

(I think I just had this goofy grin on for the rest of the evening, actually.)

And of course, the bus's interior was decked out with ribbons and streamers and pictures of Josh and me, thanks to my mom. We all piled into the bus, pulled the windows down to let the summer night's breeze in, and the ribbons started flying.

We had a couple of clues at my alma mater: the residence hall where I lived during my first year of college, the building that housed many of Josh's science classes, and so on. One of the last clues on campus led our party to a nearby watering hole, and then after that stop, my dad dropped us off at the house where I lived with Sara (a bridesmaid) and a few other friends during my junior year of college. My sister had gone to the house earlier in the day and asked the family that lives there now if she could stash a clue in their fence. They gave her permission, and when we returned that night, they had put a bottle of champagne out with a note congratulating us and thanking my roommates and me for warming the house for their arrival, a year or two after we moved out.

We took lots and lots of photos. Here's one of me with the bridesmaids in attendance:

There were two other dear bridesmaids who I missed that night, but at the next stop (in the spirit of another family tradition), my sister included life-size photos of their heads on a stick so they could be included in the group photos, too. At nearly every stop, she had thought of fun activities for the group to do.

The second to last stop brought us to the restaurant where Josh and I had our first date, and some more friends joined us there before we headed to our last stop, which featured the all-important dance floor.

I was so, so touched by the level of care, effort and detail my sister put into weaving together an evening that I loved wholeheartedly, one that included many of the dearest people, places and neighborhoods in my past and present. Thank you, so much, to everyone who helped make it happen. I am a happy bride-to-be.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Birthday wishes

For the best brother around!

(My brother, not Wish or Wish's brother. Wish just wanted to extend a birthday greeting of his own. Or he wanted the photographer to drop the treat she was dangling. Either way: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful brother!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Family dinner

Part of the sweet weekend I referenced yesterday included my family's celebration for my brother's upcoming birthday! We all met at my parents' house for dinner on Sunday night.

My brother had requested spring rolls for pre-dinner snacks and this marvelous saffron-coconut milk shrimp pasta that my mom makes. I found out the menu on Friday and had to wait until Sunday to see it unfold.

Here is my brother and my sister's boyfriend assembling the spring rolls. (My mom tried making the accompanying peanut sauce for the first time, and it was a winner.) Also, I love the wild phone cord.

Because it was a gorgeous evening, we gobbled the spring rolls out on the porch and eventually came back inside to eat dinner.

Wish and my sister caught up with each other:

We have some good birthday treat-related traditions in my family. My dad gets lemon meringue pie every year, and I get a lemon pudding cake. (I don't think that's the actual name, is it? Mom! Help!) My brother gets a green caterpillar cupcake.

I was loving the setting sun shining through the window and tried to capture it with my camera, to varying degrees of (un)success:

We were arranging some combinations for family photos on the porch when a neighbor and her dog (much to Wish's chagrin) moseyed into the yard to say hello and ended up snapping a picture of the whole group!

Unsurprisingly, we also practiced our family wave:

And, of course, we sang to him! Happy almost-birthday, Brother.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 33

It's Marvelous Monday! I'm starting the week feeling grateful for the great conversations and miles (and meals!) I had with friends and family on Saturday and Sunday.

1) I got to be in the same place with some dear running buddies, including one who I haven't run with in at least a couple of years who was in town for the week!

You like that camera shadow, don't you? The sunlight was spectacular on Saturday morning.

2) I got to see this little goofball model a new bandana, courtesy of my mom:

3) Over the weekend, Josh and I arranged a salsa extravaganza at our home. First, we harvested a bunch of cherry tomatoes and four poblano peppers from the garden:

Then we made two batches of salsa. I tried roasting tomatillos for the first time, with a batch from this week's CSA box. Actually, with the exception of some supplemental cilantro, every ingredient was from the CSA box or the garden! Triumph!

Anyway, the salsa recipe I used called for some white onion, cilantro, lime, a jalapeno pepper, plus the roasted tomatillos, all blended together. While I was assembling that, Josh was roasted the poblano peppers on the grill. He added that to onion, cilantro, and the cherry tomatoes, and blended those all together. We ate a lot of salsa.

4) I stalled on Pride and Prejudice a little bit earlier this month, but I experienced no fewer than three moments over the last week in which people referenced the book or asked me if I had read it. Obviously, I need to finish this book!

5) It's my brother's birthday week!

Also, our wedding is officially under a month away. I bought yogurt today with an expiration date that was several days after our wedding and could hardly believe it. We can't wait!

What's marvelous about the start of your week, Reader? What is your favorite kind of salsa? What were the highlights of your weekend?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Saturday morning river

More on today's wonderful run later. Just one snap for now:

It was a beautiful morning to be out on the cities' sidewalks. I have to imagine it was pretty nice for those rowers on the water, too.

Happy weekend to you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

This, right here

Every summer, around this time, there is a little turning point when I start to really appreciate the best parts of summer. (I'm pretty sure I wrote about this last year, actually.) This little realization stops me in my tracks, in a gentle way, and makes me say to myself, this, right here, is what I dream about in January. And then I go for a walk in the warm sun or sit on the grass, just because when the snow is flying, I'd love to do nothing more than that. I start to do little favors for my January self. It's a happy little moment: think savoring - not dreading.

I had that little feeling yesterday in the garden, when my hands smelled like basil and tomato plants and the warm late afternoon sun was shining. This is what I dream about in January.

What will you do this month as a favor to your January self?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 32

Hello, blog! It's Marvelous Monday.

1) My aunt and cousin hosted such a sweet party for me yesterday: beautiful desserts, fresh homemade summer beverages, and wonderful family. I was so touched.

My mom's penchant for organizing photos at events used to be a thorn in my siblings' collective side, or whatever the right expression is. ("Mom! Another picture?!") Obviously, if you've visited this blog even once before, I've come around to appreciate her habit of getting out the camera. I love this photo of my grandma, mom and sister with me.

2) I also love reading and thinking about kindness. On today's run, the Slate Double X Podcast to which I was listening steered me toward "George Saunders's Advice to Graduates". "Err in the direction of kindness," he writes. Who do I know that needs an extra touch of kindness this week? Who do you know?

3) Tonight was a grill night! I prepared a play on a recipe I read in this month's Martha Stewart Living that involved topping grilled eggplant with basil, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and feta, which I swapped for fresh mozzarella I had on hand. (Can anyone give a high five for not just eating the caprese salad and skipping the eggplant? 'Cause I almost did.) I haven't grilled eggplant before and it was great.

4) The next few days call for mid-70s and sun. Yes!!

5) Josh just came home after a long day and Wish was so elated that he went airborne in his greeting, which I don't think I've ever seen before and was totally marvelous.

Happy times at Miles and Laurel.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The second harvest

After overnight rain earlier in the week, I visited the garden after work. I forgot to bring a bucket, so I grabbed an empty cardboard box that had previously held granola bars and ended up stuffing the box full of vegetables. There are rarely other people at the garden when I go, but of course this time there was another person who saw me march up to the garden with what appeared to be a box of granola bars in hand.

Here's the second official harvest - as you'll see, lighter on the green beans but way heavier on the cherry tomatoes!

I'm snapping these photos for archival purposes and am glad I'm doing it, because I already forgot what the first harvest looked like and am happy to compare the two:

I predict that cherry tomatoes and cucumbers are going to be the stars of Harvest #3. I would like to see that bowl full of cherry tomatoes!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

101 in 1,001 update: August 2013

Hello, 101 in 1,001 list!

Because it has been awhile since my last list-related update: I'm working on a list of 101 goals over the course of 1,001 days. I have been making slow progress this summer, and I'm excited to start working on more list items in the project's last year. That's right - I'm approaching the one-year-to-go mark, so I had to review the list to see if there were any full-year projects I haven't started yet! (I'm looking at you, #73 Take a photo of the same place every month for a year. I've got the spot picked out now and just need to get started.) I can't believe I'm already approaching the last 365 days of this project. (September 28, 2014 is the end date.)

This summer, I've continued a bunch of ongoing projects like #82 Cook with one new recipe per month. Gone With the Wind counted toward my classic book goal, and we met with a financial planner earlier this summer, which counts toward my financial literacy project goal (#61).

Here's what I checked off my list in the last few months:

#15 Pick strawberries

#37 Learn to edit video
#62 Send one card per week for three months (I did it!!)

That leaves me with:

41/100 items completed
18/101 items in progress

I was really hoping to learn how to do a cartwheel this summer, but I'm thinking that has to be shelved til next summer now. I vow to do a soup exchange this fall or winter. And I definitely need to start shopping and eating at more local businesses and restaurants in the next few months! Any recommendations for me?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 31

1) I finished Gone With the Wind on Sunday, and my reading experience certainly added oomph to my quest to read more classic novels that I missed reading via school assignments. I loved working my way through it over nearly three weeks and thinking of the main characters during that time - it truly was a reading experience because it wasn't the kind of book one could churn through in a long evening and then set aside.

When I checked out the book along with Pride and Prejudice, I mused that I was thrilled to read this epic novel as a traditional hard copy instead of the Kindle version, but wow, 1,024 pages makes for a hefty book, especially when your copy has a fragile binding. I might have preferred a Kindle version. Also, I'm not sure what I was thinking, checking out Gone With the Wind and Pride and Prejudice in the same three-week borrowing period. I finished the former with three days to spare. (And yes - I can't wait to watch the film adaptation.)

2) It's dear Ellie's birthday today! Here we are, at Nat's wedding. (Her nickname is Fence.)

I cannot wait to see her next month.

3) It's August and our wedding is next month! The date felt so very far away for so many of the months of planning, and all of a sudden it seems a lot closer, and we are so excited.

4) I grilled corn tonight for grilled corn and potato chowder, which I chose to use up the red potatoes and chives from this week's CSA (the sweet corn in the box got used up in sweet corn and quinoa over the weekend). Anyway, I was excited for grilling the corn because 1) I had never grilled corn and 2) this is a big reason why I wanted to learn how to grill: not just for main meat entrees, but also for components of other dishes. (I made the soup more fun by topping it with bacon and cheese, but I would give it a thumbs up either way.)

5) Yesterday I got to see Wish notice a squirrel way up in the treetops and then try to leap up the tree trunk, as if just this once, he might get enough momentum to catch the squirrel.

Your turn, Reader! What's marvelous in your world this week? Have you grilled lately? Have you read or watched Gone With the Wind?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Happy face

I think Wish looks like he's singing in this picture!

If you can't tell by that look, we're having a good weekend around the neighborhood: some running, some walking, some wedding planning, a trip to the park, some cooking, a pizza and a whole bunch of Gone With the Wind.

I hope your weekend has been good, too!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Around the garden

I left our garden more or less alone this week, popping over yesterday to give it a quick drink of water but otherwise letting the intermittent rain showers take care of it. This afternoon, though, I headed over to check it out and do some maintenance. I filled up my little tupperware bowl with even more green beans than last week, noticed that the cherry tomatoes are still this close to going crazy (read: tons of green tomatoes), and lamented that the cherry tomato plant has completely crowded one or two of the pepper plants' personal space.

Also, the healthiest pepper plant is going crazy!

And in other good news, more heirloom tomatoes have popped out, too. This is one of the very newest:

Then I looked around the rest of the garden. There is a concept from my yoga classes that I've written about here before calling "staying on your mat" - i.e. not worrying too much about what your yoga neighbor can or can't do in comparison to what you can or can't do. It is good that I've heard this before, because my garden neighbor has a veritable forest of tomato plants with gigantic tomatoes. I appreciate and marvel at this neighbor's tomato-growing talents, and will tell this person so if I ever meet him or her.

There are lots and lots of green tomatoes in everyone's plots right now. It's going to be gorgeous when they all turn orange, red and yellow. I think they are pretty when they're green, too.

I saw some more purple prairie coneflowers, which I can now identify thanks to yesterday's post and subsequent comment!

And then I left the garden alone again, went home and ate the green beans.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy petals

These flowers seem to be all over the neighborhood lately. I love them. It kind of looks like the petals are stretching out leisurely but wholeheartedly, like they know this is the sweetest stretch of summer.

What are they? And what's the app called that processes a clip of music and identifies the song for you? I wish there was one that worked for flowers - or maybe, you know, I could just learn more about flowers. Maybe that should be next summer's project. For now, I'll just admire.