Sunday, March 30, 2014

Morning light

Early yesterday morning, I brought Josh to the airport and started my run as the sky was getting light.

The city was quiet and still in my early miles. I made my way over to the St. Paul skyline in time to see the sun actually lift over the horizon, one orange sliver at a time. In Minnesota's capital city, it reminded me of the peaceful sunrises in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Boundary Waters.

Through downtown St. Paul, that golden light was bouncing off the buildings, too.

On one bridge overlooking the Mississippi River, I noticed that what looked like debris in the water was actually patches of snow and ice floating downstream: another sign of spring.

I wanted to get a closer look, so I ran down to the bike path you can see in the picture above.

Total: 11 gentle miles on a quiet morning in early spring.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happening now

If you're a regular reader here, you'll know it's sort of a massive understatement that I choose to focus on the positive at Miles and Laurel. My goal with this blog was never to document comprehensively the highs and lows of everything that happened every day, and I certainly don't mean to present the idea that all my days are bright, all the time. Rather, I use this space to collect the bright spots that exist in each day, no matter how small the bright spot or how difficult the day.

The last few months have been difficult for many dear people in my life, for different reasons. Out of respect for their privacy, I usually didn't write directly about these circumstances on this public blog, even as my heart was going out to them.

Today I will be more direct because anything else feels inappropriate. We found out yesterday that Josh's mom will be dealing with a significant health issue this year and begin treatment for it immediately. A plan is in place. We will do everything we can, in Colorado and from Minnesota, to support her and the rest of the family.

That is what's happening; this is the challenge our family is facing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Marvelous midweek

A little snapshot from yesterday's six-miler under purple-gray clouds:

Onward with more marvelous tidbits:

1) Last week, a friend told me about using Zinio, a digital magazine program through the St. Paul Public Library and available in other metro systems. (More info here.) I loved exploring the free lending program, seeing some magazines I already really like and discovering new ones. (This month's Smithsonian Magazine, for example, had gorgeous pictures and a neat feature on small towns around the U.S.) I can browse the magazines on my phone and click a "text" option to read the articles in larger print. I think this is such a neat resource.

2) Josh was in Arizona over the weekend, and his flight was originally due in at 11:30 p.m. yesterday, but he changed flights and got in at 10:30 instead. (Marvelous indeed!)

3) Both Tennessee's men's and women's basketball teams are rolling into the Sweet 16! Orange Gerbera daisies are on the table this week to celebrate.

4) The Twins' home opener is less than two weeks away. It is still not feeling very springy here (with the fleeting exception of days like Friday) but the beginning of baseball season is a good sign. I've been listening to baseball podcasts to get up to speed on the spring training storylines.

5) I am looking forward to seeing the Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with Sara tomorrow!

That's it! I hope your Wednesday is a good one. What's your favorite magazine? How's your bracket? And are you planning to catch some baseball games this spring?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Making bread

This month, I have taken the tiniest step into the world of breadmaking.

The whole thing started when I was leafing through Cook's Country and saw a recipe for anadama bread. Anadama bread is apparently a New England tradition. (Friends from that region, can you confirm? I would love to hear!) The bread's trademark is that it gets its flavoring from molasses and cornmeal, two ingredients I enjoy and had on hand, and I was very intrigued.

I have always been oddly nervous about recipes that 1) require dough to rise and 2) require a stand mixer's dough hook. I googled how to modify a recipe that calls for a dough hook, and my favorite response was a post that likened my question to asking if was okay to hand-chop cabbage for a recipe that called for it to be put through a food processor. Knead away!

This recipe turned out to be easy to put together (even sans mixer). The only challenge is that the process requires letting the dough rise twice, which took longer in my kitchen than expected because it was cold. For that reason, it's a good project for a weekend day at home. (Oh! And you're supposed to let the fresh bread rest for two hours before you cut into it! We could only wait an hour.)

I really liked this bread's distinctive taste - especially toasted and used for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or just topped with butter), although I do think it would also be good with soup or a savory sandwich with meat and cheese.

After I had fun making anadama bread, I wondered if it would be possible to make one of my favorite breads, English muffin bread. I chose one of the first recipes that popped up on Google because I had all the ingredients on hand. This one only requires one rise (and no kneading!), so it only took about an hour and a half from start to finish. Partly because of that, I could see it becoming a well-loved recipe in our house.

I sent one loaf from each batch to my brother, who lives nearby, and have been topping the remaining English muffin bread with butter and peanut butter and also using it for egg sandwiches. I like having fresh bread on hand, but the best part is how the smell of bread baking lingers all day in the house. I will make more bread just for this reason.

Tell me: do you have a favorite kind of bread, either to eat or to bake?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Snoopy's doghouse

One of the highlights of Saturday's run (besides seeing frozen Minnehaha Falls) was seeing my new favorite Snoopy doghouse, part of St. Paul's extensive collection of "Peanuts" statues. (The comic strip's author, Charles Schulz, grew up in St. Paul, and "Peanuts" debuted in the local papers here.)

This one, in front of Half Price Books in Highland Park, is called "It was a dark and stormy night."

Besides being really striking (and featuring clouds), I loved it because the walls are designed to look built from books, and each author's name on the book spine has been reworked to be dog-themed.

That means: Bark Twain, F. Scott Spitzgerald, St. Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woof, JK Growling and John Steinbark, among others.

I've likely driven by this little doghouse dozens of times, but it's really intended to be fully appreciated by pedestrians. I stopped midrun and must have stood there for two minutes laughing at the reworked names.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Minnehaha Falls visit

Now that I've decided to sign up for a trail 25K next month, it's time to start bumping up the mileage on my weekend long run. I love this because instead of making the long run feel more tedious, it actually is more fun for me because a longer run opens up so many more route options. I love a long run that takes me up to the University of Minnesota's campus or around Lake Nokomis or even over to Lake Calhoun. For these longer workouts, I keep the pace nice and gentle because I'm working on rebuilding endurance.

Today's route: a 12-miler that meandered over to Minnehaha Falls.

It's spring! It's spring?

Brr. It was hard to dress properly for this run because the temperatures were more typical of January or February, especially with the wind, but the March sun is so much stronger. I alternated between being toasty and cold, depending on whether the wind was in my face or at my back.

As I got close to the falls, I heard the water flowing. I remember visiting Minnehaha Falls with friends last summer, when the Sea Salt Eatery lines were long, the patio was packed, and the park was full of visitors. I wondered how different it would look.

The answer: pretty different. My first view:

(Author's note: A day after publishing this post, I stumbled across a photo from that summer visit and had to include it for contrast. Ready?)

The staircases leading down to the falls were closed, but I got a good view from above the waterfall. You can see the water flowing in the center of the falls area. The rest is ice. Here's a better look, with water on the left and ice on the right:

One last look before I turned around and headed back to St. Paul:

I've never seen Minnehaha Falls even partially frozen, and I'm glad I got the chance today.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The start of spring

Today is back to blustery and gray skies, and I wore my down jacket on my evening walk with Wish. But yesterday! Yesterday: 50 degrees and warm sun. Josh and I went for a walk around the neighborhood after work and got to see the sun set. It was the first day of spring, and I'm looking forward to more walks with warm sunlight in the season ahead.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Madness

Just for fun, I make a bracket for March Madness most years. I begin the tournament with optimism, but my success is generally short-lived.

This year is more exciting than usual for me because the Tennessee men's basketball team is in the mix!

Unless you are new to Miles and Laurel, you know that I've been a Tennessee football fan for almost three years. There have been some unintended effects of this project - for example, I've followed college football in general more closely than I ever expected. This year, another unintended effect was that I ended up following the Tennessee men's basketball season fairly closely simply because the Tennessee beat writers I follow on Twitter go from covering football in the fall to hoops in the winter. The team's season gained a lot of momentum at the right time heading into the SEC tournament, and they ended up playing last night in one of the First Four games to begin the NCAA tournament.

And what a game it was! UT trailed early and in a big way, but ended up winning 78-65 in overtime. It was a thrilling start to March Madness for Volunteer fans (including Josh and me, but not Wish - he was sleeping).

Even the snowman is rooting for UT!

Who's in your Final Four? How do you craft your brackets? And are you rooting for powerhouses or underdogs?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Marvelous Monday: Week 11

I hit "publish" too soon on Saturday's post about bubbly ice! Look what I saw on Sunday's run:

Okay, let's start off the week with five tidbits for Marvelous Monday:

1) I tried a new recipe last night for Thai chicken curry, with red curry paste instead of yellow because I had a jar already in my cupboard. Thumbs up from me, especially with cilantro on top. (I didn't buy basil but I think the combination would be pretty good.) I think this is the first time I've actually trusted the chicken to cook during the simmer instead of cooking it separately and adding it in later, and that made everything a lot easier!

2) Josh and I have a list of about eight household chores that we try to do weekly, which means that everything usually happens on Sunday. Josh was out of town over the weekend, so we did most of them on Friday instead, and it was fun to enjoy a clean(er) house all weekend instead of just starting the week with one.

3) Last week's purple tulips are hanging around!

4) Reading: F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise. Fitzgerald wrote his debut novel in St. Paul and I heard a lot about it on the walking tour I took awhile back, so it's fun to read it with some context from Fitzgerald's own life in St. Paul. (Also, remembering that tour reminds me that spring and summer bring more neighborhood walking tours, and I need to do some research.)

5) I'm signing up for a 25K trail race with Molly and am very excited about working back up to a longer distance and running in a new-to-me trail system next month.

And I'm still thinking about my D.C. friends as they wait for their baby. Soon!

Hope your week is starting out in a marvelous way!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Birthday week in review

Now that I have a few days of experience being 30, I'll recap the week.

Tuesday was my actual birthday, and the day was great. My heart was full from the messages, visits and surprises. (Here's one surprise: an Edible Arrangements bouquet, complete with a "30" made out of pineapple!)

For dinner that night, Josh and I tried Al Vento, an Italian restaurant in south Minneapolis that we've been meaning to try for ages. The meal was wonderful (and my salad included grapefruit!). Our visit coincided with the restaurant's Tuesday night date night special, which I would definitely like to revisit in the future.

Later in the week, we celebrated with my family at my parents' house. I am realizing only now that we didn't set up the camera's timer for a full group shot!! Here are two pictures of family surrounded the traditional and beloved lemon cake:

Wish came with us and I got to see him leap over a big snowbank in my parents' backyard. He love, love, loves my parents' house, probably because the scene below isn't out of the ordinary. This is my sister holding him and my dad feeding him a little treat. Wish looks deliriously happy and also kind of wild.

On Saturday, I drove over to Stillwater to meet my friend for lunch (and after lunch, I got to meet her baby boy!). I got there a little early so I could stroll around the historic downtown district and look at the St. Croix River. It was cold for this time of year but the sun was brilliant.

And today I saw my second river of the weekend: the Mississippi, mid-run. I like seeing all that open water.

I'm very grateful for everything the week held - and excited to see what 30 brings.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ice patterns

From this morning's walk, before pedestrians (and canines) crunched through the bubbly ice on the sidewalk's edge:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Snow blanket

Now that it's nearly spring—or at least there's more daylight and puddles everywhere—apparently I am eager to recap winter.

If memory serves me, the Twin Cities really had only one or two significant snowstorms this winter (though March isn't over yet). But because it was so cold all winter, everything stuck around and piled up (and I mean piled up).

And I got used to it, and because there weren't very many big, big snowfalls, I'd forget how much snow  was on the ground. (Until Wish would try to walk across a drift and plunge through snow cover that turned out to be taller than he was, which happened more than once.) The only really clear reminder of the snow depth were the little outdoor landmarks that got swallowed: the benches, the signs, the bikes.

I got a weird kick out of seeing those reminders this winter. The snow blanket is melting fast now, so I thought I'd collect a few examples before it's gone.

If you dropped by the blog on Monday, you saw these little benches without benches at the Lake Harriet Bandshell:

An Adirondack chair on a patio that's not quite ready for warm-weather lounging:

From over the weekend: that bar is the top of a bench.

And from after that big snowfall a few weeks back: the little stubs are the tops of the fence stakes around our community garden.

(Hard to picture? Here's what they looked like in the spring!)

I wondered at first why I was collecting these odd photos of things like buried Adirondack chairs—and then I figured out that these funny sights speak to my love of seeing these neighborhoods, one detail at a time, in every season.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Warm March sun

My first run in my 30s: blue skies and that strong March sun!

I listened to a baseball podcast for the first time in months, and even though the temperature was still in the 20s, it felt a lot like spring.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Marvelous Monday: Week 10

First, a weekend report: I volunteered at a TCM race over at Lake Harriet, watched "Casablanca," got a haircut (thank you, Mom!), stopped at a local bakery with her for pastries, took Wish for a long walk and did some spring cleaning (thank you, Martha Stewart Living!).

Here's a view from our walk:

And here's a peek at the Lake Harriet bandshell's seating area (also known as benches without benches). The days of summer concerts seem far away, but this view might look a lot different today after a couple of days with temperatures well above freezing (read on for more details!).

Now: it's Monday. My friends are still waiting for their baby's arrival over in Washington, D.C. Come on, baby!

1) Josh has been traveling for work and came home on Sunday! Wish and I went to pick him up at the airport, and on the way home, we stopped at Chipotle and Josh ran in to pick up dinner. You could tell that Wish thought he was gone again, just moments after our happy reunion.

Of course, Josh returned with Chipotle and then Wish's only problem is that we didn't share with him.

2) It's the warmest day since mid-November!!! 51 degrees? 52? The specifics don't matter. It was wonderful, especially around the noon hour, when the sun was shining.

3) This afternoon Molly and I met up for a run. It was plenty warm enough to take her baby boy out with us in the baby jogger. He wore a very cute little fleece bear suit and the three of us covered five miles together. I wore shorts for a run outside for the first time in months. We saw someone driving a convertible with its top down. It was great.

4) I keep meaning to mention this around here: I am loving my five-year journal that Lindsay told me about awhile back.

5) I am trying out a new decade this week. Hello, 30!

What's marvelous about the start of your week? What are you cooking, reading, eating, watching this week? If you are in the Midwest, how are you celebrating this heat wave? And do you love Chipotle like we do?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Very tall

This is the only instance in which Wish and I might be mistaken for very tall.

Also, the shadow above him looks like a gigantic squirrel ready to pounce.

Happy Saturday to you, Reader!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Morning run

Today I had just enough time to squeeze in some miles before work!

I'm really starting to notice the extra daylight in the morning and evening now. This morning, just before the sky started to get lighter, I loved the glow of the streetlights against the gray-blue clouds.

Then, only a few minutes later, I saw this!

I was cold by the time I got back home but glad I got out there. I do like those pink sunrises.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sunset walk

Today the high temperature was 23 degrees and the sun was shining, and it was good. (I saw more than one person wearing shorts.)

After work, Wish and I ambled around the neighborhood for two miles, which seems about 1.8 miles longer than his average walk this winter. (I think it's a three-way tie for most ready for spring in our household.) I took my gloves off, I felt cozy and warm in my light fleece jacket, and he scampered around the snowbanks and hopped puddles.

And the sun set during our walk, which is always an added bonus.

Soon the snow will melt and the leaves will pop and it'll be full-blast spring. But these little whispers of a new season are really fun.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Marvelous Monday: Week 9

First, a question: My first visit to the American Swedish Institute over the weekend made me wonder what else I've been missing all this time. Do you have a Twin Cities museum recommendation for me? Please share.

On with the marvelous tidbits:

1) Natty's due date is this week, and I am thinking of my friends in D.C. as they get ready to finally meet their little one!

2) Over the weekend, I finished Liz Murray's powerful book Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard.

3) It's March now, and that means spring (sometime soon!).

4) Temperatures are finally heading in the right direction: to the 20s and even 30s for the foreseeable future. I have been in maintenance mode with my miles lately, just trying to consistently get outside when I can. I was hoping to do 8-10 miles on Sunday morning, and when I woke up, it was -10 with a windchill of -31, which is just not very conducive to the mileage I had planned. (I skipped that run, just to be clear.) I am excited to finally do more outside and put together my spring and summer race calendar.

5) This scene from over the weekend:

Back to museum for just a minute: What's your favorite museum ever? (I just tried to type out a few favorites and had so many feelings that I might have to write about this another time.) What's the best one in your town? What museum would you love to visit but haven't yet?

Hoping that your week is starting out well - all of you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Week in review

During the workweek (Monday through Friday), between meetings and meet-ups with friends, I usually have plans on two or three evenings. This week's calendar was fuller than usual, and though I didn't plan it intentionally that way, the timing was good. I love my nights at home, and with the temperatures still low, low, low, my homebody tendency is more pronounced than usual this time of year. This week's plan was heavy on new activities and new places: just the ticket.

Monday night was a trip to the movies with Sara. We drove to a suburb to catch a screening of "That Awkward Moment" before it left theaters, primarily because we've been fans of Zac Efron since "High School Musical 2." (True story.) What did we find? $5.50 tickets and an empty theater.

Making plans to catch a weeknight movie was very fun, and I need to do that more often.

Next: thanks to my brother's suggestion, I attended my first Policy and a Pint, a monthly event hosted by The Current, the Twin Cities' member-sponsored radio station. This month's conversation was about the state of education in Minnesota - a set of issues about which I'm passionate - and the discussion, in front of a big audience at the Varsity Theater, was thoughtful and thought-provoking. I learned a lot from the panel's community members, and by the end of the evening, my head was full of more questions and ideas. I will be marking my calendar for future Policy and a Pint events.

Bonus: getting to spend time with my brother and sister in a neat venue.

Also, Josh is coaching baseball now, so most weeknights he's with the team at practice, but he had a new adventure of his own this week: he went to Costco for the first time and came home with a gigantic bag full of grapefruits for me!!

Later in the week: Ladies Night Out on Grand Avenue! Grand Avenue is a St. Paul street lined with shops and restaurants, and the avenue's business association organized a night with sales, specials, samples and that kind of thing. I met three friends at a salon for blowouts and makeup, and then we headed to dinner, with stops in between for a wine tasting and picking up a free spice at Penzey's. Leisurely strolling Grand Avenue is so nice in the warmer months, and this was a great reminder that it's still fun even when the weather is cold. (The strolling was just less leisurely.)

And today I went with Sara to see the American Swedish Institute's amazing Papercut! exhibit. It featured the work of a Danish artist named Karen Bit Vejle, as well as several other artists. The exhibit's link will give you a good sense of what papercutting looks like (its technical name is psaligraphy), but basically, it's the art of drawing with scissors (tiny scissors). Papercutting has a long tradition in Scandinavian countries, particularly in Denmark, and Hans Christian Andersen was well-known for his psaligraphy work.

I've loved the aesthetic of papercutting for a long time, before I actually knew the name for the art, and it was incredible to see the pieces up close and in person. The intricacy of the tiny details was stunning.

one example of Karen Bit Vejle's psaligraphy
I could not recommend this exhibit more highly. It was also our first visit to the American Swedish Institute, which is in Minneapolis and links a historic mansion to a modern gallery. The papercutting exhibit is in both areas, and the mansion also houses a more permanent exhibit on Swedish history and culture. It's a beautiful space.

This week's new experiences were a good antidote to our subzero days.