Monday, September 30, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 39

It's Monday, and it's a gorgeous day in this corner of the world: sunny, deep blue sky, and temperatures in the 70s. The leaves are starting to change color, and you know that thrills me.

Five more marvelous tidbits:

1) I ran this morning for the first time in nearly three weeks! Items of note: pink cirrus clouds, somewhere two and three miles covered, a lengthy stop to examine some marvelous maple leaves. It was a wonderful way to start Monday.

2) I spent some time at my parents' house on Saturday, and along with old copies of my high school newspapers, yearbooks, sports memorabilia, cards, photos and a letter jacket, I also retrieved Wish's All-Time Favorite Toy, which we'd left there on a previous visit. It's this gnarly, beat-up old toy football that has long since lost its squeak, and when I showed it to him later in the day, I thought he was going to explode with happiness.

On Sunday, I found him in the living room, not expecting to play, just sitting like this:

3) It's Twin Cities Marathon Week! This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The course looks beautiful, and so does the forecast! I'll be volunteering with my committee near the finish line. I know several friends (and readers - hello!) are running the marathon or 10 Mile. If this means you, please give me an approximate time range, and I will cheer and shout for you! I am so proud of the runners already, especially the ones who are tackling a distance for the first time.

4) Tonight Josh and I are watching the play-in game between the Rays and the Rangers that determines which team will go to the playoffs. Like many Minnesotans, I'd guess, I have a soft spot in my heart for Game 163s that harkens back to the Twins' own Game 163 in 2009 against the Tigers that lasted 12 innings and was totally epic. I was on a work trip to Colorado and wasn't able to watch the game in real time, but my phone was going crazy with texts and I fielded several questions at my work event about the game. (Josh was at the stadium, so I guess we balance out.)

5) And to pair with tonight's baseball game: tonight's dinner is sweet corn and bacon skillet mac and cheese. It's basically bacon, corn, pasta and cheese topped with tomatoes. This Iowa Girl Eats knows what she's doing.

In a potentially unprecedented way, this Marvelous Monday covers a number of things I love: running, leaves, clouds, Wish, my family, Twin Cities Marathon, baseball, cooking and food. Whoa.

How's your week starting out, Reader? What is your best guess for peak fall color in the Twin Cities? Will you spectating and cheering this weekend (or running yourself)? Favorite fall recipes? Do share! The butternut squash is arriving in this week's CSA!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blast from the past

Oh, guys.

Today I spent some time at home sifting through two enormous boxes of My Stuff From Childhood and it probably took twice as long as it should have because I had to read through most of the diaries, college papers and letters. I think this is going to be a rich week of content at Miles and Laurel - at least to my family, anyway.

We'll kick off the coverage with a highlight from my days as an angler:

I am actually pretty grateful for this picture (ants-on-a-tablecloth shorts aside) because I can't remember ever catching a larger fish, so I think it actually does represent Rebecca's Biggest Fish.

Let the record show that I caught the biggest fish of my life on June 1, 1994!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Can't blame him

Haven't we all been here before at 8:30 on a Friday night?

Wishing you some cozy couch time of your own, if that's what you're seeking this weekend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday sunset

I can't remember the last time I saw a sunset like this. What on earth?!

Happy Thursday, indeed!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hiking at the Gunflint Lodge

During our trip up to the Gunflint Lodge, we took three hikes: one leisurely walk with Wish, one where we left pup back at the cabin, and one guided night hike with a naturalist. We loved that there were routes of varying difficulty starting a couple of minutes' walk away from the main lodge. You'd walk up this dirt road, turn a corner, and see this! (Streaming sunlight an added bonus.)

There were some longer hikes possible on the outskirts of the trail network, but the most popular hikes were color-coded and very well-marked:

My husband was our trusted navigator, except for when he tried to pretend we were lost.

On the first day (minus Wish), we went straight for the High Cliffs route, which was described as a challenging path with the best views of the Northwoods, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and the promise that hikers could see for miles into the Canadian wilderness.

It was a challenging (but pretty short) scramble to the top, and the view was totally worth it.

surveying the scene
Canada's on the other side of the lake

Later in the day, we were on a pontoon boat on Gunflint Lake and got a cool view of where we had just hiked. We were standing on top of those sheer cliffs in the top third of this photo:

Josh pointed it out, just for good measure:

We continued on and linked together a couple of other routes to make a longer hike. (I think we were out for two hours.) We knew the forecast for the rest of our trip included a higher risk of rain, so we wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous day. By all accounts, the fall color was beginning late, so there were only pops of orange and red, but the whole forecast was highlighted with gold undertones and you could see how amazing it would be in a week. Actually, the fall colors changed even over the course of our short trip.

We also walked by some monstrous trees, which we found out at our night hike are white pines that were too young and small to cut down during the logging era a century ago:

We walked past those white pines during the night hike, with a nearly full moon overhead, and they were even more striking in the dark. The night hike was nearly two hours, and a group of us headed out on the horse trails with the moon as our only light. The naturalist covered celestial legends, pointed out constellations, and talked about the Northern Lights. (We never saw them, but I vow to return in the winter because they sound magnificent!)

The next day was cloudy but warmer than the previous day, and we headed out with Wish for our third hike. We didn't think he was quite ready for the High Cliffs trail, so we took him to Lonely Lake and Lookout Point. Despite this photo looking like he's trying to walk perpendicular to the trail, he had the time of his life scrambling and smelling and scampering.

Our first stop: Lonely Lake, about one-half mile in from the trailhead. The trail ends at a boardwalk/dock overlooking Lonely Lake.

It was a beautiful, quiet morning, and we sat down on the dock and enjoyed the view. The lake was so still that the tree reflections were gorgeous.

Then we headed back up the boardwalk...

...and onward to Lookout Point, an easier hike than High Cliffs that still offered a great overlook view:

Then we headed back to our cabin and Wish was conked out in front of the fireplace within minutes. We loved our time on the Gunflint hiking paths.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 38

Back to Marvelous Monday!

Our Tennessee Volunteers could not pull off an upset at Florida on Saturday, but it was a good weekend just the same that included dinner with friends, two long walks, and two kinds of salsa. (Hi, oodles of tomatillos!)

1) It's barely fall, but it's officially time for me to hereby resolve to assemble more meals in the slow cooker. I started my favorite pulled pork recipe this morning before work, and by the time I stopped by home over lunch, it smelled so good that I was very excited for the rest of the day. (And then dinner was basically ready when I got home from work!)

2) On a related note, yesterday I read through Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, and it's full of marvelous recipes, some of which are slow cooker-friendly. I can't wait to cook my way through this book.

3) I got to hold the sweetest four-day-old baby yesterday. Her parents were dancing at our wedding 10 days ago, and when we turned on our cell phones on Thursday after our trip, we got the marvelous word that she had arrived. Welcome to this world, Baby!

4) I am also excited for a friend who started a new job today.

5) The Monday sky was big and blue and full of beautiful cirrus clouds.

How about your Monday, Reader? Are you starting any new chapters, large or small, literal or figurative? Any books to recommend? And what's your favorite cookbook?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dog grin

Collected over the course of our trip, I bring you The Wish Grin. Dog smiles are some of my favorite things ever. Just looking at these pictures again makes me laugh out loud.

Wishing you a wonderful start to the new week!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Visiting the Gunflint Lodge

Josh and I got married one week ago today!

In the days since then, we spent lots of time with family and friends and then headed up north with Wish for a great vacation.

Our big plan is to head somewhere warm for a trip this winter, but for the days immediately following the wedding, we had thrown around a few ideas for a short getaway: Cape Cod, New Orleans, and back to that cabin in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains. Eventually, we decided closer to home would be a better option for our time and budget, and I started scouting out locations up north.

I had a list of ideas thanks to research I did a few years ago for a winter weekend getaway (that never actually transpired), and I was mulling them over when a Crowdcut email offer serendipitously rolled into my inbox for the Gunflint Lodge, one of the options on my list. It wasn't on Lake Superior but was on a lake, and it allowed us to have our own cabin and bring Wish along. Josh was on board, and I booked it!

The Gunflint Lodge is way, way up north - it has a Grand Marais address but is 45 miles farther up the Gunflint Trail from there, on the Canadian border - and that actually fit perfectly into our schedule: we left Monday morning, meandered up the North Shore, and arrived by dinnertime, then left late Thursday morning and got back to the Twin Cities by evening to have the whole weekend to settle in back at home.

When we arrived, we saw that cabin included a full kitchen, a sauna, and a fireplace - and outside, a charcoal grill and a pair of Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake a few steps away. (Many of you know that Adirondack chairs are a quick way to my heart.)

The main lodge, a literal stone's throw from our cabin, included a great restaurant, a gift shop, a station with free coffee, tea and fresh cookies (kind of the perfect trifecta to charm me), and it was open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. We cooked most of our meals, but I visited the main lodge often.

Here's a view of the main lodge from the dock:

The main lodge is also where guests sign up for the day's activities, which I loved. Our visit was midweek, and even then, there were five or six sessions through the day - crafts, boat rides, hikes, classes with the naturalist - that were all included in the cost of our reservation. Josh and I went on two: a night hike that covered celestial legends and an afternoon pontoon cruise with snacks. (The Wolf Howling night hike is tonight and I'm sad we're missing it.) The day's options are listed in shorthand on a board outside, with more details and a sign-up sheet. (We missed Snakes and are bummed about that, too.)

Here's our pontoon boat ride! Our driver told us about some of the lake's history and ecology. I loved it!

For the first half of our trip, by the way, the weather was gorgeous. Like this:

("The sun is making a sun shape," I said out loud to Josh.)

So in addition to all of the structured activities, we were really pleased with the hiking options that started basically from the lodge. We loved our Tennessee cabin and its porch dearly, but the only downside is that a car was required to do any hiking or exploring. At Gunflint, we kind of forgot our car was there, which was wonderful. (We also forgot our cell phones and email for the trip, since the only signal was a limited one in the main lodge. Also wonderful!)

There were kayaks and canoes to use whenever we wanted (we took kayaks out one afternoon) and a nice network of varied hiking trails close by. (More about this in my next post.) Besides the actual hiking trails, there was one path connecting the various cabins and one path connecting the various lakeside Adirondack chair set-ups. Wish was thrilled by the latter, because even that path was a little wild and exciting:

Actually, to be more clear, Wish was thrilled for pretty much the entire duration of the trip, and that was such a joy for our already happy hearts. He was either smiling or sleeping (from playing hard) the whole time. On the first night we were there, he (the dog who is scared of water) nearly flung himself into the lake to see about a duck.

There were crowds of ducks around the shore that were very tame. Wish gave them a scare or two, but soon they figured out that he was on leash the whole time and then they just merrily motored around, just out of his reach.

One of Wish's other thrills? Figuring out the windowsill was the perfect height for his own personal observation deck:

As for my own observation, I figured out fast that the sunset would be visible from our spot on the lake, but the sunrise was not. I saw two really lovely sunsets.

Later in the trip, the skies were cloudy, but it was comfortable hiking and kayaking weather (and actually warmer), with the added bonus that it felt cozier to stay inside, nap and build a fire. Josh was a fire-building champion. I am not exaggerating when I write that he must have built eight fires in three days. It was wonderful.

And while he was doing that, I was doing this:

We couldn't be happier with our trip to the Gunflint Lodge, and we can't wait to go back. I am so happy that September visits in the years to come will make perfect sense as anniversary trips, but I'd love to see the lodge and the surrounding area in the spring, summer and winter. It was a truly marvelous peek into Minnesota's beautiful North Woods.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

And we're home!

Hi, Reader!

Josh and I just got back from a marvelous few days way up north!

We are so happy that we were able to bring this guy along, too:

I think all three of us looked this happy and relaxed for the better part of the week.

I have been writing things like "more on this later" and "a full report soon" for basically the last couple of weeks. But soon it's going to happen! I'll start with our trip and work my way back, once I can gather all of my thoughts coherently, and then maybe circle back again to the wedding once more photos are available to post. I have a hunch those photos will cover more than I can find words to write.

Good night!

Monday, September 16, 2013

We're married!

Oh, what a wonderful weekend! We're married!

Yesterday, after the rest of our friends and family were on their way back home, Josh and I got the first look at our "guestbook": a tree with our guests' thumbprints as the leaves!

The guestbook was one of the first things I saw when I arrived at the reception, a few minutes after most of our guests, and I was thrilled to see it already all marked up! I can't wait to hang it up in our home.

Yesterday I got a little chill seeing all of the thumbprints again and thinking of all of the people who celebrated with us, supported us, traveled to be with us, and helped make the weekend happen. Words can't express how grateful we are.

I will tell you lots, lots more (promise!) later this week.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Let it be a wonder

I carry a little yellow Semikolon notebook with me in my purse and jot down notes as I see fit. (I try to limit it to thoughts and quotes from what I read, but sometimes notes from work meetings sneak in when I've forgotten the right notebook.)

I filled up a bunch of pages this spring, when I read Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation from Cheryl Strayed's exquisitely written "Dear Sugar" advice column. This passage, excerpted from the end of this column, was one of several that landed in my notebook:
Let your wedding be a wonder. Let it be one hell of a good time. Let it be what you can't imagine and wouldn't orchestrate even if you could. You're getting married! There's a day ahead that's a shimmering slice of your mysterious destiny. All you've got to do is show up.
And here we go!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A beautiful prize

"We brought you a present from Colorado," said my soon-to-be sister-in-law - is that right? it's Josh's brother's wife - moments after the family of four had finished a truly marathon through-the-night driving adventure.

She asked me to come out to their car to help carry it, and when I saw it, I understood why: it was the heaviest watermelon I've ever seen, bought from one of my favorite farm markets in their corner of the state, which is known for its first-rate melon production. (A cantaloupe also came with them!)

This is my soon-to-be-niece next to it for context. It really is about half her size.

Obviously, I was thrilled and got to work right away. My challenge: to take down the whole thing by the time our wedding ceremony comes around, less than 48 hours from now. I will need help. Any takers?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A very important item

As we wait for friends and family to arrive, Josh and I are working on our To Do list this week. Here's one item on the list about which I've been especially excited!

A pedicure with Mom - what a treat! It was wonderful and so relaxing.

Tomorrow our first out-of-town visitors will arrive!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 36

Hey, it's wedding week!!! We can hardly believe it but are so excited!

1) It's hot here (but supposed to cool down by the weekend!) and I slogged through almost 10 miles on Saturday morning, my longest run in a long time. (That last part is the marvelous part.)

2) This morning's run was another slog, but there were two very beautiful parts: a rose sky just before daybreak, and then seeing one of the St. Paul bridges lined with glowing streetlights on a foggy, cloudy morning.

3) This is totally not romantic or light-hearted wedding week reading, but I started reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood last week and am captivated. Along similar lines, Josh and I finally - finally! - started watching "The Wire" over the last couple of weeks and are captivated by that, too.

4) Tennessee's second game of the season (and the first one on accessible-to-us TV) happened over the weekend, and Josh and I camped out on the couch on Saturday afternoon to watch the Volunteers march to a good win.

5) I went to a lovely baby shower yesterday honoring a lovely mama-to-be and was so happy to be able to celebrate with her.

And there are so many marvelous things ahead this week, with marvelous people, and my heart is so full.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ode to the ferocious tomato

I thought the garden was settling down for the fall. I was wrong!

Well, except for the green beans and cucumbers. To be clear: those are definitely done (and sad-looking).

But all three tomato plants (and at least two pepper plants, plus the herbs) are still singing. This summer, with amusement, I've watched the cherry tomato plant slowly but tenaciously try to take over the entire plot. Yesterday I was inspecting our poblano pepper plant, several feet away from the cherry tomato plant, and saw a small little cherry tomato vine marching up the poblano plant's stake. That thing is out of control, and I love it.

Here's my favorite find from our garden this week:

I didn't even like tomatoes until I started college, and I don't really eat fresh ones in the winter, so I can't imagine my life's tomato consumption total is very high. I think I might have matched that total with this summer's crop. Yum. The summer of tomatoes.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

September sky

I really almost pressed snooze today. Good thing I decided it would be best to get up and totter around for a few easy miles - I got to see the best clouds!

Sidenote: a bunch of dudes outside a coffee shop totally busted me taking a picture of the clouds. I looked ridiculous. From across the street, they asked me to send them the picture and I said, "Aren't those clouds cool?!"

Anyway, this was my view from the other direction:

My first September sunrise of the year is in the books. I have mixed feelings about the sunrises getting later (the upside being that I get to see more of them), but I do love running at this time of year.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Marvelous Monday: Week 35

It's Marvelous Monday!

1) The heat wave ended late last week, and yesterday and today were downright cool. We've been keeping the windows shut tight and the shades down because the conditions outside had been worse than what was happening inside our apartment. This morning, the windows were open, a cool breeze was circulating, and most importantly, fresh air was in our home.

2) I gave Wish a haircut yesterday. He has allowed that before, but the new development is that he actually let me trim the out-of-control fur between his toes, which he has been fussy about before. His little paws are so handsome now and I think he even likes it.

3) Speaking of that goofy dog, I got to have two leisurely, delightful walks with him around town today.

4) I also visited the garden today, and when I arrived, I saw the cherry tomato plant lit up with so many bright red tomatoes that it looked like it was decorated with strings of red Christmas lights. I must have picked six cups of cherry tomatoes, plus three big heirlooms. I thought the garden was starting to fade out for the summer, but it definitely proved me wrong.

5) We're getting married next week!!

I hope your week is starting out well, Reader.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I am so excited. Yesterday my friend Kate introduced me to letterboxing!

Do you know what letterboxing is? I didn't! From what Kate tells me, its popularity varies by region but is catching on more consistently around the country (and is actually international in its roots).

But what is it? Per Atlas Quest, a resource on the activity:
Letterboxing is an intriguing pastime combining artistic ability with delightful "treasure-hunts" in beautiful, scenic places that the whole family can enjoy. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by following clues, and then record their discovery in their personal journal with the help of a rubber stamp that's part of the letterbox.
As Kate had long suspected, this is right up my alley. We made plans to hang out yesterday and were tossing around ideas about what to do, and she suggested letterboxing, which I remembered from her 101 in 1,001 list but didn't understand at all what it was. She took the lead on making the plan, and I was very excited to look forward to a fun surprise for the second weekend in a row! Kate told me to meet her (and her pups) at Thompson County Park in West St. Paul.

At Atlas Quest or Letterboxing North America, there are huge lists of letterboxing sites. In the Twin Cities metro area, there are more than 200! People hide little boxes (anywhere between one and lots in any given route) and provide clues and directions for how to find them. The series Kate chose had 10 boxes, usually hidden just off the trail. (The community has a code of conduct to ensure that basic safe, respectful, leave-no-trace principles are in place.) Each box has a stamp in it, often hand-carved by the person who created the route, so you bring along a notebook to collect stamps (Kate has a sketchbook full of stamps from her previous adventures).

Kate at the first letterbox, showing me how it's done.
Our series was called Monster Mash, so each stamp and clue corresponded to that theme. For example, here is a typical clue, from the middle of the series:
Head past the boulder and continue down the main trail. When the trail splits, head right. The trail will wind through a small prairie. As it makes one final curve to the left, you will glimpse water through the trees. As the path comes out of this curve, look to the left for a tall, bleached shard of a tree with a "Y" trunk resting on it. On the right side of the shard of a tree are some stacked limbs. Reach around to the back of these limbs for the Zombie. 
And then, if you were successful, you'd find the box containing a little Zombie stamp and stamp it in your book before moving on to the next set of directions!


The boxes were not always easy to find immediately, but it was never frustrating, and we located nine of the 10 in the series and covered somewhere between one and two miles along the way. At either of those two online resources, the user communities help maintain the routes by noting when boxes were last found, as well as any context or changes in the area - so we knew there was a good chance we could find the boxes, because people had been there in the last week.

The dogs were a little confused because we were going for this lovely walk in the woods but then kept stopping!
Here's Kate at a trail intersection. The dogs are happy that we're on the move.

It was such a fun way to explore a new place and spend time outside being active with a friend. I think it would be a fabulous activity for families to do together, too. (HINT TO MY FAMILY.) It was a beautiful August evening - though we finished just before storms rolled in! - but I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to tromp around in the woods on a fall afternoon. I definitely want to do this again, either in future travels or in my Twin Cities backyard. A huge thank you to Kate for the fun adventure!