Monday, December 8, 2014

Outdoor decorations

On Saturday, my mom came over for a full day of painting and decorating. (First things first: thank you for all of your help, Mom!!)

In between coats of paint in the bathroom—I'll tell you about that later—she gave me a primer on outdoor decorating for the holidays. First, we wanted to replace the summer windowbox arrangement that the previous owners had designed with a festive winter windowbox. She also pitched the idea of setting up some little pots for the front step, which I liked.

Mom tackled the windowbox while I slowly started poking pine boughs into one of the pots. She used drapey pine boughs (they smell wonderful!) with artificial red berries, and she reused the summer arrangement's sticks. (I think she arranged the whole windowbox in the time that I worked on one pot.) In the pots, we stuck a different kind of pine bough vertically (very precise language here, I know) and then added more drapey boughs, pine cones, and red berries. The weather was good for working outside: temperatures were near 30, and the sunshine was surprisingly warm.

Mom at work:

And voila!

One more view of the windowbox:

And me with the little pots!

At the start of the morning, I had no idea how to even articulate what kinds of arrangements I liked best. Mom was so helpful in walking me through the steps, patiently advising me, and presenting different options. I like this new touch of cheer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

One Colorado sunset

It is tricky to capture in words how much I love Colorado sunsets, especially in the parts of the state with wide, wide open spaces. Last week, I got to see a true gem.

Looking south:

And looking straight west:

And the view to the north (perhaps my favorite because of the red-gold light on the fields):

I couldn't believe it. What an amazing sight.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A visit to Colorado

We are back in Minnesota after a week with our Colorado family!

It was special to spend Thanksgiving in Colorado because we are especially grateful this year for Josh's mom's health: she is in remission now after several months of challenging treatments. We stayed with Josh's brother and sister-in-law, took our niece and nephew to the park for some batting practice, caught a showing of Big Hero 6, enjoyed the 70-degree weather on Thursday and Friday, and visited with lots of family all week.

Here's a group selfie from batting practice:

Now we're settling back into our routine at home. Other notes to begin the new week:

1) A huge thank you to my sister and her boyfriend, as well as my mom and dad, for taking such good care of Wish while we were away.

2) On the flight out to Denver, I got drawn into Rainbow Rowell's debut novel Attachments, which I chose because of how much I liked Eleanor & Park. (Next up: the rest of her books.)

3) Josh and I visited Menards yesterday and left with a Christmas tree, some garland, and a couple of window insulation kits. By the end of the evening, our fireplace mantel was adorned with the garland and some white lights, the tree was up but not decorated, and (thanks to Josh) a bunch of our windows were insulated with plastic.

4) There were some very exciting football games this weekend. The University of Tennessee won its sixth game of the season, becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010 (and the first time since I started following the team)! That means that the team's season is extended for another month, until its bowl game.

5) Lasagna soup is in this week's menu plan for the first time this season.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ice on the river

On this morning's run, I meandered along the Mississippi River, and I couldn't help taking a detour over the river to see what the water looked like.

The early cold snap ended overnight - the temperature was in the mid-30s by 8 a.m. and I liked leaving my gloves at home! - but the stretch of unseasonably cool temperature meant that ice had already started to form on the river. On a gray morning with a touch of fog, I took a minute to marvel at the formations before continuing on my way.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Over the weekend

The weekend started with a lowkey Friday evening during which Josh tested out Wish's habit of resting his chin on the coffee table to see if it was actually comfortable. (The answer is no.)

Then we had Gophers football tickets (we've been to three Gophers games total, and two were in the last two weeks!) and joined last week's tailgating group again for Deep Fryer Day before the 11:00 game. This meant deep-fried everything, including Oreos, which I'd never had in deep-fried form before.

The rest of the weekend included more football, dinner with friends, and a visit to snap some photos of my friend's baby (a Santa hat did appear) before a family dinner on Sunday to celebrate my sister's boyfriend's birthday.

I've finished the fascinating book Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies and am reading Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl for this week's book club, with Rainbow Rowell's Attachments waiting on deck. (We also starting listening to Serial over the weekend.) Moosewood vegetarian chili is on tap for later this week - it was supposed to be tonight, but I forgot we were out of bulgur. A new week is underway.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Snowy Monday

A new season stampeded into town this morning with snow, sleet and cold wind. A few inches of snow fell in my city, but sixteen inches fell just over an hour north of here. With colder temperatures predicted for the next week, I think this snow cover is going to stick around for awhile.

Other tidbits to begin the week:

1) This weekend included a first birthday celebration, a 31st birthday celebration, and a dinner-meeting with some of my TCM friends. Josh and I also went to the Gophers game against Iowa, my first visit to TCF Bank Stadium in a couple of years. (It was a big win for the Gophers!)

2) I got a few miles in this morning as the snow was falling. I had a lot of snow in my face by the time I was done, but I'm glad I did it.

3) We bought a shovel yesterday - just in time! I shoveled light snow this morning and Josh cleared an icy and snowy sidewalk this evening.

4) Wish has been scrambling across our living room coffee table's lower shelf when he's running after a ball, but I think this weekend was the first time I noticed him using it as a place to rest.

5) We're hosting a big group for dinner tomorrow. Tonight I made brownies for tomorrow's dessert and I had to cut off an edge to make sure they were okay.

Onward to Tuesday!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Over the last few months, my miles have ebbed and flowed: a few consistent weeks of training leading up to the Bear Water Run, a few quiet running weeks around our move and Twin Cities Marathon volunteering. Now that we've settled into our house, I'm feeling ready to be more consistent again, and the cooler days are actually helping with that: I balance morning runs with a few miles over the lunch hour again, which I don't do in warmer weather.

I also signed up for the Minneapolis Running 2014 holiday challenge, with different mileage levels ranging from 12 miles per week to 31 miles per week over the next few months. With no race goal or training plan right now, I really appreciate the tracking mechanism to log miles and be accountable. I'm aiming for 18 miles per week to practice consistency and maintaining a good base through the winter.

I loved today's run, which was great both when I was looking up at the clouds...

...and when I looked down and saw a discarded Halloween craft project:

I'm looking forward to more miles in the weeks ahead.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hello, November

It's November!

Five tidbits to begin the week (and the new month):

1) Election Day is tomorrow! Please vote!

2) I'm still working on Upstairs at the White House: My Life With the First Ladies, and it's fascinating to learn about the families of each presidency.

3) I got some long-overdue new running shoes. I've run in Mizuno Wave Riders for many years, but the update to this shoe earlier this year did not work for me, and I was able to find an earlier version of the same shoe that I used until now. The newest Wave Rider just came out, and I hear its features move back toward the traditional models, so I am looking forward to trying out these shoes (and hoping that they're like my old Mizuno friends).

4) After stumbling across a recipe for spicy tomato cream pasta last week, I tried it out for Sunday dinner (and will be making it again soon, I suspect). I paired it with a kale salad that Nathalia served last weekend with pizza. I modified the pecan topping the same way Natty did, omitting the nutritional yeast and adding parmesan cheese. Creating nice salads doesn't come naturally to me the way it does to some of my friends, and I think this recipe could help me with that.

5) Wish started a new obedience class this week, and I really, really liked the first session. (We've taken a general obedience course and one geared toward reducing aggression toward other dogs.) This one is focused on helping dogs be more at ease with people—specifically, strangers on the street and visitors in our home. Wish is very comfortable with my immediate family, but he's often nervous and unpredictable around other visitors. There are five other dogs in the class, and the atmosphere in our first session was low-key and friendly. Josh and I took him for a long walk on Sunday morning and practiced the training that our teacher assigned, and I love to watch the pup figure out the challenge and respond to it.

Finally, the week began with an almost-sunrise view during today's morning run:

I'm thinking that sighting will provide motivation for at least one more morning run this week.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Home work

In between watching football games this weekend (two key wins on Saturday for both our alma mater and Tennessee!), Josh and I worked on a couple of house projects.

First, Josh installed a light on our back porch. There were wires involved, and he navigated them all. There was a ceiling fan on that fixture when we moved in, but now there is a light, too, so we can spend evenings out there.

Later on Saturday, I decided to assemble my latest Craigslist purchase on my own, since Josh has been putting together plenty of furniture lately and I wanted to practice that skill for myself. I bought an Ikea Expedit bookcase from a woman who was moving out of state, and she was kind of enough to break it down for me so that it could fit in my car. Putting the Expedit together turned out to be a surprisingly fun task, not unlike assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

Just getting started:

Almost done, before getting the drill out for a few bolts to stabilize the whole thing:

The Expedit's home will be in the room we're using as our office. Last week my mom turned this room from bright blue to grayish-periwinkle, a touch more muted than it looks in the above pictures, and we are so grateful for her help, painting skills and enthusiasm.

Today we bought our first ladder, and Josh used it to clear out the gutters.

Then I rented a lawnmower from the local hardware store and Josh mowed the yard, likely the last time we'll need to mow this season. (That rental gives us the chance to do our research over the winter before buying a lawnmower of our own.) You couldn't ask for better weather on the first weekend in November for this kind of project: for one stretch during the sunny afternoon, there was yardwork going on at three consecutive houses on our block. The leaves are falling, another season is on its way, and we're trying to check off most of these little projects before that colder weather arrives.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A new view of Halloween

The candy is in the bowl. The porch is even a little festive. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

We are ready for the trick-or-treaters!

(Author's Nov. 1 update: We had seven trick-or-treaters, including four teenagers in halfhearted costumes. The porch garland was too scary.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

To the pumpkin patch

On the last weekend before Halloween, it seemed like a very good idea to head to a pumpkin patch.

Nathalia and her baby and I got in the car and traveled about 45 minutes outside Washington, D.C., a region that segues from urban to rural amazingly rapidly. We arrived at the orchard and pumpkin patch, and as soon as we got out of the car and started walking, we realized that we were going to have stunning, idyllic fall weather for our little adventure.

We declined a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch and instead wandered over there through the apple orchards.

We wanted just a handful of apples, and they were easy to find once we got farther into the rows of trees.

And then we found the pumpkin patch!

We took ten million a few photos here. Not surprisingly, I loved the orange pumpkins and blue sky together. I also loved baby girl's pumpkin-themed outfit (and snapping some pictures of mother and daughter).

I held the baby while her mama looked for a pumpkin.

Then we just decided to pick a pumpkin back at the entrance, where there were beautiful piles of all kinds of pumpkins.

And Nathalia found the perfect (and oddly hollow) pumpkin!

We meandered around to see the farm animals (baby was fascinated by the llama!), bought the pumpkin, four apples and some apple cider, and shared a caramel apple before heading home. I already love this memory with my friend and her daughter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Garden surprises

I'm back from a weekend with my friends and their baby girl, and I am so grateful for the visit—and to finally meet the baby! (More details—and pictures—to come later this week.)

Yesterday I finally returned to my garden plot to clean it out for the year. Most of my plants are done for the season, but my Swiss chard is just starting to ramp up (and oddly so are the poblano peppers). I transplanted my rosemary and sage plants into pots to bring back to the house and left the chard and peppers to see what happens.

Some plots are ready for winter; others are thriving with fall batches of lettuce and chard and broccoli. My favorite sight: a few handfuls of tiny tomatoes, ripening in rainbow fashion, hanging on my neighbor's fence like strings of lights.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Now boarding

I'm heading to the Washington, D.C. area for the weekend!

The last time I was here, in the winter, my dear friend Nathalia was pregnant (and the whole city was digging out from a big snowfall). Now there is a baby girl I need to meet! I know our plans include cheering on Nat's husband as he runs the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, but beyond that I anticipate lots of time just catching up with the new parents and their baby girl.

I like being intentional about what books I pair with travel destinations, so for my flight, I've got the fascinating-so-far Upstairs at the White House: My Life With the First Ladies, by a longtime White House chief usher.

I'm looking forward to seeing the city in the autumn and spending time with great friends.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A fresh coat

This evening's project: finishing the fresh coat of paint on the front porch that I started applying yesterday. The previous owners left a gallon of the Tile Red shade they'd used on the porch in the past, so I decided to go for it while the weather was so lovely. I began with the front steps last week and moved on to the porch itself yesterday.

I think this is the last painting project—for the time being, anyway!

Now that the fresh coat is finished and drying: World Series Game 1 and more Ella Enchanted.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend update

Saturday morning seems like a long time ago!

Yesterday my mom came over to help with some house projects. While Josh was tackling his own set of house-related projects, Mom helped me prepare the vegetable garden area for winter and plant some tulip and crocus bulbs for spring. I already can't wait to see them bloom in a few months.

Then we shifted full-speed into painting. (This was the second round of painting - on move-in weekend, Mom and I worked on the kitchen and guest bedroom.) First: the dining room, which we changed from a rich, bright yellow to Butter Up, a more mellow yellow. Mom is both a strong and merry painter, which is a marvelous combination. She makes painting fun, and she makes it look easy. We are so grateful.

In between two quick coats on the dining room walls, we turned our attention to the basement wall I wanted to paint. In hopes of pulling out one particular shade of orange from the basement rug, I had tested samples of four shades of paint on the green wall before deciding on Autumn Haze. Mom did most of the first two coats, and then I topped it off with a third coat today.

Then: back upstairs to finish the dining room. Later, I put away the rest of the boxes and cleared off the table. The dining room is done!

This weekend wasn't just house projects, though. Yesterday Josh and I attended the beautiful wedding of a friend who I've known for almost 15 years (!), and it was so nice to celebrate my friend and her new husband and get a chance to catch up with some of my other friends from high school.

Today continued the streak of stunning fall weather in Minnesota, and we went for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. Because of how our work schedules overlap, Josh and I are typically solo on our walks with Wish, so I loved today's stroll.

And Tennessee did not manage to upset Ole Miss yesterday, but we're closing out the weekend with what looks to be shaping up to be a good Broncos win. I'm looking forward to the week ahead.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The back porch

Our back porch is one of my favorite places in our new home.

We liked it in the photos online before we even walked through the house, and we moved the little couch, a futon, and the dining room set onto the porch as soon as we moved in. I had plans to eat breakfast there all the time, but during a stretch of cooler weather this month, I didn't spend many mornings out there. We may need to get a little heater eventually, I think, to really maximize at least three seasons of use. But sunlight streams into the room later in the day, and as soon as the first touch of afternoon sun hits the space, it warms up beautifully. (It will be a good spot for a weekend afternoon nap.)

This morning, I peeked my head into the porch and was surprised and happy to find it warm enough to bring my breakfast and Kindle out there. (Wish also loves this room because of the view outside, especially when I pop open a window to let in a breeze, so he trots in whenever we do.)

And then the light started to change, and I liked it even more!

I'm looking forward to plenty of mornings on this porch—maybe, maybe even year-round!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bright leaves

Being outside today was splendid: warm, sunny, and with brilliant fall colors. I am very glad I was toting my camera on my walks. This year's leaves are especially magnificent.

After work, I took Wish for a long walk around our new neighborhood (during which I spotted another Keeshond out for a stroll!!) and then sat on our porch and finished reading Looking for Alaska. I love this season.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Back to books

Two weeks after moving into our new home, we are mostly done with the initial phase of unpacking—literally, the unpacking of boxes—and are more focused now on actually setting up rooms. It's tempting to jump around from project to project, so I scribbled down a To Do list to focus on one task at a time, which has been so helpful. Between the progress on that little list with the process of setting up a cozy reading nook last week, I realized I haven't sat down to read a book in our new house yet!

Now it's time to get back to my books. Over the weekend I reserved and downloaded a figurative pile of library books for my Kindle:

Per recommendations:
Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine)
Attachments (Rainbow Rowell)
Looking for Alaska (John Green)
Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Stumbled across while browsing:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo)
The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams (Ben Bradlee, Jr.)
Upstairs at the White House: My Life With the First Ladies (J.B. West)

And two more for good measure:
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), because I haven't read it in ages
The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein), because Josh and I listened to part of it as an audiobook and didn't finish, for no good reason

It's not likely that my name will reach the top of the reservation lists all at once, so I really hope I get to read them all. (And you know I love to hear recommendations based on what you're reading. Share, if you'd like!)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Leaves upon leaves

This afternoon I meandered down to that beloved Shadow Falls trail, which follows a tiny stream over to the actual Shadow Falls above the Mississippi River.

My view when I looked up:

And one of my views when I looked down:

My pace was sure not setting any personal records today, but it was one of my favorite runs in a long time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A visit to the garden

My mom came over to help us with some yard work last night (read: teach us how to do yard work) and our hydrangea bushes (among other areas around the yard) are now ready for colder weather. We also cleared out the raised bed that will turn into my vegetable garden come spring. (Many, many thanks to Mom!)

All of this reminded me that I needed to spend some time at my original little garden plot, so after work today, I headed over there.

With a couple of frosts on record in St. Paul already, it's not surprising that the garden is fading. I think this flower captured the feeling gracefully.

I collected a few green tomatoes and cleared out a couple of the tomato plants, but I need to go back this weekend to finish cleaning up and transplant some of the herbs into pots to keep at the house.

We've been spending most of our evenings lately unpacking and assembling the rooms in our home, and I hadn't visited the garden in ages, so it was nice take a few leisurely minutes outside today in the sun. Also, the clouds today were magnificent.

I'll miss my little garden plot this winter but am excited for more garden adventures in the yard next year.