Thursday, January 30, 2014

Monthly photo project: Halfway point

One of my 101 in 1,001 goals is to take one photo of the same place every month for a year. Inspired in part by how I love a good time-lapse video, I also thought it would be fun because in one particular moment, it's tough to imagine how it looks in a completely different season. (Case in point: the early photos in this series look pretty dreamy to me right now.) I wanted to see what this place in my city looks like in every month of the year.

I choose a place I ran by regularly enough to get one photo per month, and I wanted an open space with trees (to include fall colors, of course).

I grabbed January's photo this week, so I'm halfway there now. I present to you: August 2013 through January 2014!

I didn't feel too much urgency in January because I figured this month's photo would look much like December's, but even in comparison, I like that the footprint snow tracks changed over the month.

I am really excited to see what the spring photos look like now.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting outside

Today the temperature climbed into the upper 20s and I spent nearly an hour outside. Saturday's long run felt like weeks ago, so the bright sun and blue sky seemed nothing short of amazing.

First, I went for a run and looked at the shadows.

Then Wish and I went out for our evening walk and decided to play in the snow at a neighborhood park instead. The snow is nearly-but-not-quite too deep for him, so he got a good workout in while we tromped through the snow.

There's nothing groundbreaking in this run-sky-shadow-Wish a-few-of-my-favorite-things post, but the fresh air felt like something special today. The little things.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Marvelous Monday: Week 4

A quick Marvelous Monday to begin the week!

1) Inspired by my running buddy Molly, I've mixed in some interval training on the treadmill over the last few weeks. Today's workout was a 10-minute warmup, then a ladder of one, two, three, four, four, three, two, and one minute(s) at a moderately hard pace, with one-minute recovery jogs in between each interval. If it were possible for a workout to fly by on a treadmill, this one did! I like ladder workouts.

2) I woke up to -15 degrees and a -40 windchill, but I have to admit that today's big blue sky was pretty.

3) Josh made tortas from our Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday cookbook for dinner tonight!

4) Over the last few months, my glasses have gotten so loose they fall off my face if I look down. I finally remembered to bring them in for a quick repair over the weekend, and I am so excited to have them fit correctly again.

5) At Trader Joe's last week a bottle of grapefruit juice found its way into my cart and I'm curious about how it will stack up to the fresh stuff.

What's nice about the start of your week?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Surprise swans

Reader, I am a Saturday morning long run fan through and through. But two degrees and a -20 windchill this morning had me leaning toward heading out tomorrow morning instead, after a forecasted overnight snowfall but with milder temperatures before the big winds and cold come back Sunday afternoon. (Big kudos, by the way, to all the runners who participated in a local half-marathon, 10K and 5K this morning!) By noon, the ship had all but sailed on the notion of me completing a run today.

You'll understand, then, how surprised I was at about 4 p.m. - after errands, shopping, crafts and a few HGTV shows about beach houses - to find myself thinking that it was a good time to see about that run.

I figured I should go with it, so I bundled up (the temperature had risen to seven degrees, with a light breeze) and scurried out to make the most out of the remaining daylight. I stayed pretty comfortable (thanks to my facemask) and enjoyed some peaceful miles around town.

In one Mississippi River crossing, I was admiring the St. Paul skyline from my bridge:

You can see there's a long open patch of water in the otherwise frozen-over river. When I got closer to the bridge's end, and thus closer to the open water, I noticed what appeared to be two swans!

I think the ice looks like coastline on a map, so I like to pretend that the swans are gigantic. Giant swans or not, this surprise fauna sighting was one of my favorite parts of a rare-for-me late afternoon weekend run.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 3

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I've seen that quote a few times today, and it bears repeating here (and everywhere, and often).

Five tidbits about the start of the week:

1) My Facebook and Twitter feeds are spreading this news: the Minneapolis-St. Paul area was named America's fittest city, in large part because of the parks and outdoor recreation space I love so much.

2) Some special people have birthdays this week!

3) I ran seven miles this morning, and thanks to yesterday's thaw (35 degrees) and subsequent snowman snow, there was an abundance of snowmen along my route, which I did not expect but enjoyed very much.

4) I got to meet Sara's pup Ramona today, and she is a total sweetheart.

5) I'm paging through A Field Guide to American Houses, which I picked up last week at the library. I've only worked my way through the introductory sections but have already learned a lot about the context behind different neighborhoods in different eras and seen examples from the book in houses along my running routes.


Over the weekend, my dad's cousin passed away. In memory of her kind spirit and big laugh, I find myself more aware of appreciating the small pieces of each day and being grateful for the people who make our days brighter. What are you grateful for today?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Following instructions

One of my goals for 2014 includes sharpening my sewing skills - the kind that come from following a pattern - so I am trying out my first pattern project since I made robes in 2011.

The last time I tackled a pattern, my mom was basically standing over my shoulder, guiding me through the project. (Thank you, Mom!!) This week I stared at the pattern and then muddled through the first few steps on my own, but I think her phone will be ringing (and ringing again) when I start working on the more complicated parts.

I looked through each page of instructions, crammed full of diagrams and arrows and suggestions. When I turned one particular page, I was so startled that I think I jumped back a little.

Oh, the clarity! There is no room for confusion there! I loved it!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Personal best

Not for me. For Wish!

Today Wish ran three miles with me for the first time! He is finally pacing himself better and trotted at a sweet little clip nearly the whole way (minus stops to sniff). The sun set during our run, the streetlights were glowing and there were three or four inches of fresh snow on the ground (but almost entirely shoveled off the sidewalks already!). It was a beautiful night in our city.

I am proud of this little dog.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Marvelous Monday: Week 2

Monday! Here we go:

1) Reading treats this week: today I picked up my reserved copy of A Field Guide to American Houses, and it looks simply marvelous. It's grouped by housing style, with lots of example photos and drawings to point out the key features of the style. I loved the architectural tidbits from the neighborhood walking tour I took and am excited to read the book and then know more about the other kinds of houses in the neighborhoods where I run.

2) You aren't going to believe this, but I got out for a run before work this morning - my first weekday morning run in what must be months - and did just under five miles, the last 1.5 of which were with Wish. It felt great to have the workout in the books so early, though tomorrow morning is supposed to be snowy and windy, so I won't guarantee that I'll be out there again.

3) My mom Santa included a little Keeshond-shaped cookie cutter in Wish's stocking at Christmas, and I am too fond of it to stash it away until next Christmas, so I devised a temporary little kitchen set-up, thanks to scrapbook paper, a few nails and a 5x7 picture frame (minus the glass) to keep it on display. I am trying to decide whether I should make two more with my Minnesota- and heart-shaped cookie cutters to make a little (odd) triptych. For now, the little Keeshond is making me smile.

4) My beloved "Hart of Dixie" is back tonight after a midseason hiatus and I just figured that out today.

5) I aim to begin a sewing project this week.

What's nice about the start of your week, Reader? Any winter TV shows coming back that you're exciting about? Any new books on your reading list? Tell me!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jambalaya and ice cream cake

Last night my family had dinner together at my parents' house to celebrate Josh's birthday. My mom cooked jambalaya and cornbread, which we loved. Then she took the dessert out of the freezer and plopped it straight into the oven, then onto the dinner table, where it had to sit for 30 minutes before we ate it.

It's something between a baked Alaska and a bombe, so it had a bottom layer of brownies, then layers of coffee ice cream, cookie dough ice cream, and some other kind of ice cream (chocolate?), then topped with meringue, which is what was browning in the oven. It turns out that the meringue insulates the ice cream layers, so the ice cream doesn't melt in the oven.

We were in awe. It was a special birthday treat and a great evening.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

101 in 1,001 update

I'm into the last calendar year of my 101 in 1,001 project!

I didn't make formal resolutions this year, but I have been thinking about 2014 in a big picture, wanna-make-a-vision-board kind of way. It is a perfect time to revisit the 101 in 1,001 list and do some planning, since my list wraps up on September 28!

I have 51 items complete and 17 in progress.

I finished a few recently:

#90 Try six new foods. I tried a guava on Christmas Day. I've never had it not in juice form!
#89 Take a cooking class. The buche de noel cooking class I took with Sara through Minneapolis Community Ed covered it (and was awesome).
#43 Give blood at least once a year. (Five donation visits during the 101 in 1,001 project: twice in 2012, twice in 2013, and once this week. I'm glad I got more consistent about this - and thanks to Kate for the initial nudge!)

I'm trucking along at others:

#82 Try one new recipe per month. (I love that these are all collected in one place, in my Google doc.)
#92 Read five classic books. (I've been reading Sister Carrie, very slowly.)
#97 See five classic movies. (I watched "The Godfather" last month.)
#73 Take a photo of the same place every month for a year. (This one is really fun!)

I'm keeping my eye out for some that I need to get moving on:

#57 Learn the basics of car maintenance (either by taking a class or asking my dad to teach me to change oil).
#61 Complete three financial literacy projects. I've been thinking a lot about this and have some ideas.
#67 Go to six cultural events with a friend. (Volunteers and ideas welcome!)

And I got the ball rolling on some others this week, including: making a dentist appointment, picking my next poem to memorize, marking my calendar to volunteer at an upcoming race, marking my calendar for the local hot air balloon festival, and hitting the sauna on those cold, cold days when the gym was my best workout option.

There's a lot left to tackle, but with nearly nine months to go in the project, I'm making progress. Even if I stopped today, it's neat to look at the list and take stock of the progress: the nearly 50 items I've checked off in the last couple of years that represent more trying, learning and exploring than I would've done without the list. I'm also jotting down ideas for my next list as they pop into my head, and at risk of looking too far ahead, I'm excited to start fresh with a new 101 in 1,001. But first: the remaining 51 unchecked items. Onward!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A birthday

Today is Josh's birthday!

We celebrated with dinner tonight. On the menu:

1) Carnitas: started this morning when I seared the pork, cooked all day in the slow cooker, and finished by broiling on a cookie sheet for a few minutes to make them crispy.

2) Birthday cake, of course! For the third year in a row: Alton Brown's carrot cake.

The main party mishap occurred when I tried to put Wish's birthday hat on (remember last year?) and Wish shook it off his ears before tearing into the hallway to see Josh. (But he was wearing it upside down, like a feed bag, which was kind of funny in itself.)

I can't believe we started celebrating birthdays together a decade ago, and I can't wait to see what my dear, wonderful husband does in 2014 and beyond.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marvelous Monday: Week 1

This morning I woke up and checked the weather on my phone, and the weather app reported -22 degrees with a -47 degree windchill.

We will focus on the marvelous!

1) I have a beloved and very warm button-up gray sweater that has been missing most of its buttons for at least a few months. I finally remembered to get new buttons for it last week at Joann, sewed the buttons on last night and got to wear the sweater buttoned up today. (Once I mend the pocket liners that were chewed through by a certain dog in pursuit of treats I had left in the pockets, it will be as good as new.)

2) Tonight is the college football national championship, and I'm rooting for Auburn to win. Every year since I chose Tennessee to be my SEC football team, I've learned a little more, and this year, I was surprised by how much information about other SEC teams (and college football in general) I took in by following UT football. Tennessee's win against South Carolina was my favorite college football game this year, but Auburn's amazing game against Alabama in the Iron Bowl is a close second. (And the Auburn radio call of the game-winning play is my favorite call of 2013.)

3) Given today's temperatures, I hit the treadmill today for a few intervals, alternating hard efforts with recovery segments as the songs changed on my iPod. It felt good to run harder than usual, and really good to be wearing normal running clothes instead of 600 layers.

4) My friend Sara got a dog and I'm so excited for her!!

5) I am very excited to try Iowa Girl Eats' Thai Peanut Chicken Quinoa recipe sometime this week.

What's new this week for you, Reader? Any cooking projects going on? Favorite recipe to cook on a cold day? And do you have a favorite cozy winter sweater? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The fireplace

Josh and I currently have a nonfunctioning fireplace in our living room, and a functioning fireplace is definitely on our dream wishlist for a future home. We love the idea of a working fireplace on a cold day.

We're a step closer...

This week I made it a little more functional...

Okay. This has nothing to do with a functional fireplace. I made a fake fire out of paper - and I love it.

With a Young House Love project way in the back of my head as initial inspiration, I got up during a Friday Night Lights marathon on a particularly chilly day last weekend and started making wavy "flames" with my rotary cutter and some red, orange and yellow scrapbooking paper, then taped each arrangement onto the fireplace doors.

Later in the week, I looked over at the fireplace and had to laugh. It looks like our "fire's" "flames" had actually sent little reflections dancing across the floor.

It's totally goofy, but the "fire" 1) makes me happy whenever I see it and 2) truly makes the room feel a little more cozy. We may have also talked about it like it's a real fire. It's not a home project I ever expected to take on, but it's definitely providing a little extra warmth (yes!) this week.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A five-year project

Thanks to Lindsay for the heads-up about this one!

Sometime last year, I saw an idea for a Vintage Postcard Calendar Journal, which I'd like you to know that I re-found today for you by googling "date-stamped journal in fruit basket."  (I should have thrown in a question mark at the end of that search criteria for good measure.)

I thought it'd be a fun way to jot down a little note for each day and then be able to look back in future years to see exactly what you were doing on that date. I also thought it'd be a fun vehicle for #99 Keep a "My Day in Six Words" journal for three months in my 101 in 1,001 list. But I did not act! (I really do wish I would've started in time to record the months and days leading up to our wedding and then have visual reminders each year as I updated the cards.)

But then my friend Lindsay mentioned that she has a five-year journal that sounded like just what I wanted. She found it on Amazon and updates it daily and likes that it's small enough to carry with her when she travels. I was very excited and bought my own copy shortly afterward.

I got it in November or December but wanted to wait til January 1 to start it, then forgot on January 1 (sigh) and began writing in it yesterday.

Here it is!

That photo is kind of bad because it makes the book look large. It's 4x6x1 inches.

Here's the inside. There's a page for each date, then you write in the year in each section. There are a few lines for each day, which I think will be perfect and manageable for noting a few thoughts each evening.

I hope I can keep this going over the next five years. I think that would be wonderful! Do any of you have anything like this going? Tell me, please!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy new year!

On New Year's Eve, I told Josh (maybe more than once) how nice it would be if Wish could wear one of those cute HAPPY NEW YEAR tiaras.

We thought it was just not meant to be. Yesterday, we bundled up for a walk to get some fresh air, and lo and behold, I found a slightly crushed but otherwise perfect tiara that had been discarded on a neighborhood sidewalk!

My husband encouraged me to not take it home, but I did just that. Unfortunately, Wish didn't seem to share my enthusiasm.

It has been really cold in Minnesota lately, with what seems like a perpetual wind chill advisory over the last week. I'm grateful that a brief reprieve will bring warmer temperatures tomorrow and Saturday. I've gotten out for a few miles this week, but my mileage (so far) has been eclipsed by the number of Friday Night Lights episodes we've watched lately - and that is just fine.

Now I am braising meat for the first time. Braised beef with onion, sweet potato and parsnip is in the oven, and I am excited to see how it turns out.

Cheers to 2014!