Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mornings like these

This spring, I had settled into a running routine that worked well for me: 20-30 miles per week, mostly completed over my lunch hour with the exception of one longer run on Saturdays. I took a cutback week a couple of weeks ago because I got the chance to try out a couple of lunchtime fitness classes (pilates and a different yoga class). After that, suddenly, it was way too warm for a midday run without my face being bright red for the rest of the afternoon.

It's time, I realized, to get back to morning running.

I considered this morning to be a test run, since my Saturday miles are usually morning ones anyway (albeit later in the morning, earlier in the spring). I had forgotten how still the neighborhoods are in the early morning, save for a few people out walking their dogs. An hour or two later, the playgrounds and garage sales and neighborhood baseball games and lawnmowers were in motion. But during my run, the city was quiet.

And, of course, the morning clouds:

By the time I got home, the clouds had burned off completely. The sky changes so fast in the early daylight.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A few more lilacs

Judging from this morning's walk, it appears that this weekend will be the end of the blooming lilacs in the lilac tunnel. Luckily, today's stroll through the tunnel was beautiful.

Peony blooms, I think, will be next to arrive.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Well, this is definitely a first for me.

Tonight I made pickles!

This curiosity started a few weeks back when I met a friend at Foxy Falafel for lunch (a very good idea, by the way) and she ordered a pickle plate featuring several types of pickled vegetables to share. They were great, and she said that she makes pickles all the time and that the process is a simple one. I was intrigued and thought that that I, too, might like to try making pickles.

Then I saw a recipe for quick pickles in the lovely summer food extravaganza section of June's Martha Stewart Living. It's one of those nice recipes for which you likely already have nearly everything on hand (vinegar's the star for this one, besides the vegetables of your choice). And truly, it could not be easier. I think this will come as no surprise if you've made pickles before: you combine a handful of ingredients and then let everything sit for an hour.

I actually let the batch go a little longer than an hour because I went for a bike ride and forgot about it. I came home and wondered on earth these pickles would taste like.

And? It turned out I liked them quite a lot, more than I expected. I'll be trying this recipe again this summer, with different vegetables (and more cucumber batches, too). This was a fun little weeknight discovery.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The garden

Yesterday I finally got our garden plot set up for the season!

This is my second year being part of a St. Paul community garden, which means that I pay a nominal fee for the use of a flat patch of dirt. There are about 50 people who are part of our community garden, and there are a bunch of gardens like this around Minneapolis and St. Paul. It's a perfect set-up for people who would like to garden but don't have a yard.

This is the second consecutive late spring in Minnesota, and with a frost threat lingering as recently as two weeks ago, I got another late start this year. (Despite that, the plot's production still surpassed my expectations last year - with the exception of the carrots - so I hope that will prove true in 2014, too.)

Last year we planted two large tomato plants and one cherry tomato plant, lots of basil, green beans, cucumbers, rosemary, sage, and lots of peppers. The basil and green beans were the only projects that I started as seeds. I loved the tomatoes, herbs and green beans. (The tomatoes were out of control in a great way.) The cucumber plant produced two cucumbers and then decided to be done for the season, the peppers were a little lackluster (with the exception of the poblanos), and I did end up with more basil than I wanted, if you can believe that.

So I kept the plan pretty similar to last year, with a few tweaks. So far, I've planted:
  • two large tomato plants and one cherry tomato plant
  • two basil plants from seed
  • a long row of purple beans, with enough room to plant another row in two weeks to stagger production
  • several onions (surplus from another St. Paul gardener!)
  • a row of lettuce
  • a jalapeno pepper plant, with plans to probably add a poblano
  • a couple of bunches of Swiss chard
  • sage and oregano, with plans to add rosemary
  • some climbing, flowering beans that my mom gave me that will hopefully grow up the fence adjacent to the back of my plot
I also made a slight change to the plot's layout. Each plot like ours starts as two rectangles that are parallel to each other. Because we keep the same plot from year to year as long as we want, some of the gardeners have converted the little path between the two rectangles into more garden. I decided to do that with the back of the plot, so my little garden is now an upside-down U shape.

Here's last year's garden in August:

And here we are this year on Day 1, May 26, starting all over again:

I am excited to see what happens this year. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our weekly spring update

It feels like spring rolled into town full force this week, with warmer temperatures, plentiful sunshine and lots of leaves. I was deleting some leaf photos from my phone (if you can believe it, there are many more leaf photos that don't end up on the blog) and even as I poked fun at myself for the quantity, I also liked seeing the progression in the last several weeks.

So I'm happy to keep tracking that progress!

One example:

Another example, from a gorgeous midweek late afternoon walk:

It also seemed like candles popped out this week - a little later in the season than when I first noticed them a few years back, but marvelous just the same. (Candles are the little bright green extensions when pine trees grow each year - so named because they really look like candles.)

The dandelions are also in full force:

With lots of sunshine this week, I liked peeking up at the new leaves.

And of course, a return trip later in the week to the lilac tunnel, now in nearly full bloom:

I love the spring layers:

After a long winter, springtime in Minnesota is truly something to behold.

Friday, May 23, 2014

101 in 1,001 update

With just over three months to go, I'm making some more progress on my 101 in 1,001 list. I'm starting to get close to finishing a full section (my list is divided into different categories) but I have no idea what one is going to get closed first. I'm so curious!

Also, I recruited cartwheel help last weekend (that's goal #6) from a former gymnast. I will revisit our conversation later in the summer. She makes it sound feasible!

Here's what I wrapped up recently:

#46 Eat or shop at 10 (new to me) local businesses in Minneapolis. Turns out that I prioritized the "eat" part of this goal: all 10 places I recorded were restaurants. I liked having a reminder to branch out from my St. Paul favorites. This month I checked off my tenth restaurant with a visit to World Street Kitchen on Lyndale. I had the Bangkok Burrito (red curry with chicken) and it was incredible. (The other nine: Pizzeria Lola, Nami, Anchor Fish & Chips, Red Stag Supper Club, 5-8 Club, Parkway Pizza, Sonora Grill, Cafe Lurcat and Al Vento.)

#53 Put change in someone's expired parking meter. This was fun!

#16 Go to a drive-in movie theater. We finally did this last night! I didn't realize when I set this goal how scarce drive-in movie theaters had become in Minnesota, but it turns out that Vali-Hi theater is just off the interstate and a quick 15 minutes east of St. Paul. We were there primarily for "Neighbors," the middle movie of the triple bill, but we arrived in time to get situated before the first movie started around 9:00.

The lot really filled up by the end of the first movie, and it seemed like most people watched from inside their cars (like we did), though some brought camping chairs or sat in the back of their trucks. We bought popcorn for $1 (twice) and kicked back on a pretty spring night to watch some movies. Going to the drive-in was a fun and novel outing, and I am both amazed that we stayed til 1 a.m. and fiercely curious about how many people stayed for the third movie, which presumably got started around 1:15. (My husband and I did bring up the median age, from what I could tell.)

#47 Volunteer at six races. I wrapped up this goal on Sunday by volunteering at packet pick-up at the City of Lakes Loppet Foundation's Salomon City Trail Loppet. The race, which had 10 mile and 10K options, started in Robbinsdale and then meandered, mostly on trails, all the way down to the finish line at the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis. Pretty neat place for a finish area, no?

Because of my year-round volunteer role with Twin Cities in Motion, I'm on site at nearly all of TCM's events, but I decided to focus on non-TCM races for this goal for more of a stretch. That made it more ambitious, but I learned a lot and enjoyed supporting other events in this great running community.

#52 Register to be a bone marrow donor. I first donated blood in high school and have been intending to join the bone marrow donor registry since before I made the 101 in 1,001 list. I wish I would have done it ages ago, but I finally registered to be a bone marrow donor last month. Please ask me if you have any Qs about either process.

And one I am attempting:

#100 Read 30 minutes per day for two weeks. I set this goal to make sure I was prioritizing how much I enjoy reading. I thought I read a lot, but this one is trickier than I expected, mostly because I've been reading at night and falling asleep minutes into my designated half-hour. I've been waking up earlier in the mornings thanks to the earlier sunrise, and I think I'm going to become a morning reader (besides or instead of my magazines over breakfast) for this goal. I'm three days in.

That's 65/101 complete and 9/101 in progress. A few are not likely to be completed, but 36 items left on the list isn't as daunting as it sounds. There are a few left in each category, with several delightful summer-specific goals. I'm looking forward to the last three full months of my first 101 in 1,001 list.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Next up: lilacs

This morning I walked through a tunnel of lilac bushes, the buds just about to open. (If my description makes it sound like one of my favorite spring places, that's because it is.) I looked a little closer and was delighted to see that every once in awhile, there would be one little flower leading the way for the rest of the buds.

In the evening, I walked past the same bushes. A few more flowers had opened on each plant over the course of the day, so on a grouping like the one above, there would be three flowers instead of just one. It was amazing to see. What will the lilac tunnel look like tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A rainy beginning

After two gorgeous weekend days, yesterday's skies dropped more than two inches of rain on the Twin Cities. (It wasn't the ideal day to, say, forget an umbrella.) But the rest of the week's forecast is wonderful, starting with nearly 80 degrees for tonight's softball game, which would be the warmest temperature since Sept. 30.

More nice tidbits to begin the week:

1) Our household's weekend was full, starting on Friday night when I met my mom and brother for dinner at Anchor Fish and Chips. Then we visited Art-A-Whirl, another one of the Twin Cities' popular art crawl events. This one is in Northeast Minneapolis, and it features more than 500 artists in all kinds of studio spaces. One of those artists was my aunt, who was exhibiting her paintings in her first show ever. I was so proud to see her take this step.

One of her paintings already hangs in our home, and I was excited to see tiny versions of the same theme on display (complete with tiny easels) among her larger paintings. Right away, I wanted one for my workspace. I bought one and brought it to work this morning, and I love seeing it on my desk and thinking of the big painting, which was a special gift.

2) On Sunday morning, I volunteered at the Loppet Foundation's Salomon City Trail Loppet. I was at the finish area, which also was the race day packet pick-up spot, since most runners biked or drove to the finish line and then were transported up to the starting line in Robbinsdale. The finish area was at the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden, and my shift was early in the morning, so I got to see the iconic cherry and spoon in early morning light.

3) Later on Sunday, I practiced my panorama function during my first trip to Target Field this season. The Twins lost, but I had a great time with our group.

4) I stayed up late last night finishing The Fault in Our Stars. This joins Eleanor & Park as two of my favorite recent YA reads.

5) Today is my dear dad's birthday!

Here's my dad and me, way back, on a trip out on the Mississippi on my grandparents' boat.

And here's last year's birthday, with his traditional birthday lemon meringue pie. Our family is celebrating officially in a couple of weeks with our annual trip up north.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A funny coincidence

On today's rainy walk with Wish, I was admiring raindrops on tulips and the like, when I saw a tiny keychain on the ground. I crouched down for a closer look and gasped.

That's "Chicago/REBECCA/My kind of town."

I feel like I should either buy a lottery ticket or sign up for the Chicago Marathon.

Also, one outtake, from when Wish was trying to figure out what was so exciting:

I think this is a good start to the week.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A peek at the neighborhood

A big tulip patch next to a stop sign, leaving me wishing that every intersection included tulips:

A halo around the sun spotted on this morning's sun, reminding me of a winter sun dog:

A big sky with puffy spring clouds on an evening walk:

The prettiest blossoms, which I was ready to call crabapple or regular apple but may very well be something else entirely (input welcome):

A few raindrops during a chilly week:

And lots more leaves (and even some lilac buds) emerging with each passing day:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One little flower

Yesterday: a tiny flower sitting in a mud puddle (which happened to be reflecting clouds, to my delight).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Two years with Wish

On this date two years ago, we met Wish!

I actually forgot what specific date we adopted him from the dog rescue organization and had to look back through Facebook photos to figure it out. Then I was chuffed to realize that it was May 13, which (retroactively?) continues (starts?) our series of special events that fall on the 13th (including the days Josh and I got engaged and married).

Sometimes we talk about the Sunday afternoon when we drove to pick him up and the first time he ran around inside our house. We didn't expect to adopt him that day and actually had to stop at a pet supply store on the way home. In the two years since, I have learned that I love so many things about life with Wish: his million odd nicknames (and I do mean "million odd," not "million-odd"), his affinity for carrots, and how he pounces to catch a ball always a half-beat too early. If I didn't believe the power of a nice long walk two years ago, I do now. And I love his grin:

I love how he goes wild when I get home from work (and especially when he hears the key turns in the door to indicate that Josh is home). He adores Josh.

We have completed two obedience training classes with Wish, and while he likely won't ever be the life of a big party, it is so sweet to see his progress. I love what he has taught me about patience. I love when we are working on training and he reacts the way we want him to act, in a situation that used to scare him. And it cracks me up - he has been doing this a lot lately - when he pretends a challenge is tougher than it really is and looks up at me in a charming and kind of hammy way to make sure I've seen his good behavior and treat him accordingly. The face looks like this:

And he makes us laugh - a lot. I could never have imagined how much joy he brings to our little family. My heart is fuller because of this pup. Happy "birthday," little Wish.

Monday, May 12, 2014


This month we got the great news, via a test result, that Josh's mom's initial treatment worked exactly as intended and hoped. After several weeks in the hospital, she was able to leave the hospital for just over a week before heading back in today, as scheduled, for the next round of treatment. While she still must continue additional treatment over the next several months, this test result was a huge relief. Josh and I have felt so much kindness and support from our friends and family, and we continue to appreciate it so much.

Some more notes about what has been happening lately:

1) We hosted my mom, dad, brother, sister, and sister's boyfriend for Mother's Day brunch yesterday. After a minor fiasco that involved a crust sailing across the kitchen counter during a practice run earlier in the week, the quiche turned out better yesterday and we enjoyed the meal and a walk around the neighborhood.

2) The weekend also included a fun night out to the American Swedish Institute's "Cocktails at the Castle" event. (This is where Sara and I saw the papercutting exhibit, which closes later this month.) It was a cool but not rainy evening, and it was so refreshing to be at an event where people were spending time outdoors but not completely bundled up.

3) I played in my first softball game since 1998 last week. My team is such a fun group of women, and I am glad I joined. I made mistakes in the outfield but am still on the email list for this week's game.

4) Out of nowhere yesterday, Josh asked me if I knew how to use the panorama function on my camera phone and then taught me how to do it. I am pretty excited about it. In addition to my usual photos of flowers, clouds, sunrises and sunsets, I will now be able to share panoramic photos of these subjects.

For example, the same tulips from over the weekend!

I hope your week is starting out well, Reader.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


All week I've been noticing a long row of tulip plants next to a building in our neighborhood. In the last couple of days, they've started to bloom:

Add that to the sight of emerging leaves all over the city...

...and it made for a pretty spring morning in St. Paul.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Shadow Falls (spring edition)

I don't usually make specific plans to visit Shadow Falls during a run. Instead, I meander over when the idea pops into my head in the middle of a run, which is what happened yesterday.

Last time I visited the area, I decided not to trek down to the falls themselves because of the snow and ice on the path. What a difference a couple of months makes!

I stood next to the little waterfall for a minute, and all I could hear was the water flowing over the rocks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Making a Kindle cover

There is something to be said for long-term craft projects that you pour lots of energy and love into. There is also something to be said for a craft project that transitions from a little idea in your head to a final product in an hour and change. Today's project falls into the latter category.

A few years ago, Josh surprised me with a Kindle. Though I maintain my love for hard copies of books, the Kindle has become part of my reading routine, especially thanks to our local library's Kindle book lending program. I wondered recently if I should consider getting some sort of case for it - and then forgot about it.

Then I saw a tweet containing a picture of a simple-enough Kindle book cover, and I thought, I want to make one of those.

I set off on a Google search and came across the "Kindle cover from a hardcover book" tutorial that became my inspiration and guide. I went off in a different direction a couple of times, but the final result is pretty similar and so that post deserves much credit.

Basically, you take a hardcover book and remove the pages and then cover it with fabric that you secure with hot glue. My route to the finished product was different because I tried to use supplies I already had on hand, and that didn't include the quilted fabric suggested in the instructions, so I started adding some makeshift padding with some quilting batting scraps and the hot glue gun.

Because of the batting, I wanted to wrap up the whole book with the rest of the cotton fabric. This is where the project started to feel a lot like using grocery bags to cover textbooks back in middle school and high school. I'm not even sure how honestly I can make that comparison, because my dad was so good at making perfect book covers that the number of books I actually covered myself is low. I may have texted my dad to ask for his book covering tips during this project.

I didn't take any more "in progress" pictures because I was working quickly with the glue gun and largely off the cuff. I tried to wrap the cover pretty tightly but with enough room to close nicely. I ended up wrapping the book like a present, with the fabric edges ending in the spine. Then I decided to put a little band of purple fabric in the spine to cover the edges and "hemmed" that with an iron. Along the way, I had attached the fabric to all four edges of each side with hot glue. No sewing in this project.

Then I made a little pocket out of another scrap of fabric, ironed a little hem on each edge to make a nice crease, and hot glued three of the edges to the left side of the cover.

That last picture spoiled the surprise of the last step: adding the elastic. That's the only part I had to go out and buy. I tried some elastic I had from another project and it was way too thick. It did not do the job. This dainty elastic was just right.

And here it is closed:

To be sure, it's definitely not perfect, but I like that something a little sturdier is protecting my little e-reader. I am happy with the results of this quick project.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Minneapolis sunset

Tonight Josh and I ran an errand to Minneapolis that coincided with the sun setting behind the skyline.

This was at 8:15 or so. I love the extra daylight.