Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Because it's never too early to teach world domination

We started a game of Risk on Friday. Five days later, the battle still rages.

I'm green. Pete is black. Emma is blue. Morgan is yellow.

Emma's approach is to attack and conquer as many countries as possible, even if it leaves her spread perilously thin at the end of each turn.

Morgan just likes to build things.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More visitors

Some wild turkeys stopped by this morning. (As always, click on the photo to see a larger size.)

Yes, wild turkeys. Birds. Not the bourbon.

The red-winged blackbirds seemed a bit alarmed. I don't blame them. Those turkeys are big.

After wandering around the front yard for a bit, they continued on their walk.

Bye bye, turkeys.

Coyotes, deer, turkeys. Man, the fun just doesn't stop around here...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring? What spring?

Should flurries fall in the Twin Cities today as expected, it will mark the first time in nearly a century that there has been snow four consecutive days this late in the spring season.

It was flurrying at 8:30 when I let the dog out. Cripes. When's it going to get warm and stay warm???


Yesterday was a rest day, which I needed after Saturday's long run and then weight room session. Today was a short, light run at the crack of dawn. Good thing it was short and light, because I didn't have the energy for anything more strenuous. As it was, it felt like I was moving in slow motion and through sludge from start to finish. Oog.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a cross-training day. I think that means that I will swim a few laps while the girls have swimming lessons, and then go sit in the hot tub. Heh.

Going to work on the novel for a bit now, and then head to work.


Morgan read the Science Fair entry, and is Not Happy that her contributions to the project were not noted. My bad! For the record, she was the Artistic Director (i.e. she designed and drew the board's layout). She also wrote up their project notes: what they did, how they did it, what they learned.

There. All's fair again. Happy now, kiddo?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring, snow, Science Fairs, and food

I woke up this morning to this:

(yes, that's snow on the table and chairs)

which wouldn't have been so bad, but just the week before it was so beautiful that while my friend Kammy was here visiting from Chicago, we were able to have our first patio meal of the season:

Spring, you &%$#$@&(!@$ tease. Oh well. Could be worse. It could be a lot worse, actually -- I hear that Bemidji woke up to 8 inches of fresh white stuff this morning??! Also, look how much greener it is compared to just a week ago. I don't think I'll be out working in the garden today, though.

According to my training plan, Saturday is supposed to be my long-run day. I don't like treadmills (running in place, gah) and I really don't like tracks (running in circles, double gah), but it's still snowing and sleeting and just all-around miserable out there. So I'll be heading to the Y this afternoon and either running in place or running in circles. Whee.

# # #

Our winter sowing experiment was an unqualified success. Even the tomato seeds sprouted, to my astonishment. Granted, they didn't sprout until the morning of the Science Fair, but still. They sprouted! Emma tracked daily high and low temps for the 37 days from planting to the Science Fair: according to her calculations, the average high temp was 48°F and the average low was 31°F. (For the curious, the lowest low temp was 12°F on March 24, and the highest high was 77°F on April 21.) Fun stuff. The seedlings went right back out on the patio when they got home from the Science Fair Thursday night. Here's hoping that they survive this current round of sleet, snow, and cold so I can plant them on Mother's Day.

# # #

Last night's dinner was indeed very pretty. I hear that some of Pete's biking buddies like my food pictures? Well, enjoy, guys!

The bread (recipe from my absolute favorite baking book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day):

The Meat and Cheese Lasagna (from my favorite cooking magazine, Cook's Illustrated; I got this recipe from the Spring 2008, Light Recipes edition):

A Red Onion, Spinach, and Tomato Salad (I was nervous about that horseradish dressing -- a little horseradish can go a long way! --but it was very good):

Together, it all looked like this (I was in a hurry because we were just about to eat and screwed up the focus on this one, but it's still pretty):

Dessert was an Italian Pear and Apple Tart with fresh whipped cream:

(Not pictured: the appetizers: marinated olives, mushrooms, and artichokes from Byerly's. Yum.)

With the exception of the bread, all of these were new recipes, so there was the potential for disaster and an emergency call to get some pizza delivered. That's actually never happened -- I haven't made an inedible meal yet -- but as they say, there's always a first time for everything. Fortunately, this meal was very edible. Thanks, Matt and Mandy, for being such cheerful new-recipes guinea pigs! (Well, and I suppose I should thank Pete and the girls too, but they live with me and so have to suffer through new recipes all the time. Comes with the territory.) I realized this morning that we didn't drink the wine that you brought over. Oh dear. I guess that means you'll have to come back for another dinner...

I am a bad auntie, by the way -- I took pictures of food, but didn't get any pictures of Brooke! She is the third cutest baby I have ever seen in my life. Seriously. Major cute factor! But poor Brooke had just had her 2 month shots and really wasn't in a picture-taking mood. Next time. :-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

The menu

Matt, Mandy, and Brooke are coming over for dinner tonight. We're having

Fresh baked artisan bread

Red Onion, Spinach and Tomato Salad

Meat and Cheese Lasagna

and for dessert,

Italian Pear and Apple Tart

Is your mouth watering? I think this is going to be a very pretty meal. I shall take pictures, oh yes, I shall!

Off now to get my stitches out (thank goodness! itch itch itch), followed by a stop at the grocery store for a few things, and then I will cook and bake myself silly for the rest of this dreary, rainy day. :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Don't I feel virtuous

Got up at 6 this morning and went for a run. Wow. I haven't done that for a long time (getting up early to go for a run, that is, not getting up early or running). It felt good -- which is in itself a good thing, since there are going to be an awful lot of early morning runs in my future between now and October 5th. Now it's pouring rain and I am feeling quite smug. And dry.

Again, I took it really easy (see: back and stitches (the stitches are itching like hell, by the way, and I can't wait to get them out tomorrow)), just a nice, gentle pace. Now I will sheepishly fess up to just how slowly I'm currently moving: average time was 13:07/mile. However, that pace would have me finishing a 26.2 mile run in 5 hours and 42 minutes, so perhaps I shouldn't feel too sheepish! After all, I don't want to be an elite runner. I just want to be able to finish before they close the course.

I have today off from work, I've got my daily work-out done, and the kids are at school...time to switch gears and work on the novel.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And lo, the universe smacked me upside the head spoke

Tuesday's horoscope (which I'm only just now reading):

You're on the hunt for a new adventure, filled with potential transformation and revolution. It's wonderful to step outside of our comfort zone every once in awhile to explore new territory. You do this today.

Well, that explains it, then. The stars made me do it!


Reaction to yesterday's posts is ranging from from "Are you insane?" to "Why?" The first one's easy: Yes. Yes, I am insane.

"Why?" is a little harder to answer. In fact, there is no one answer. Why do I want to do a marathon, anyway?

Because I've been running long distance since I was 12 (a sprinter I'm not), and while I've never been the fastest runner out there, I've always loved being out there.

Because I'm not getting any younger.

Because when will the time ever be right?

Because I've been plagued for the last year or two with stupid, relatively minor things (cysts, infections, food poisoning, viruses) that knock me out of commission and every time I get back on my feet, something else comes along and knocks me back down again, and so maybe this is my way of shaking my fist at this string of bad luck and reclaiming my body, or something.

Because every year I read the Strib article about the marathon filling up fast, and think I should do it, and then talk myself out of it. I mean, let's be honest here: this is a big, scary thing, or at least it is for me. It's a huge time commitment. How do I train for it? What if I get hurt training for it? For that matter, can I even get myself up to the level of physical fitness needed to do something like this? Etc.

But even though this is a big, scary thing, I really want to do it, perhaps for no other reason than just because.

So I read the usual annual article yesterday about the marathon slots filling up fast, and I thought I should do it, and before the little voice inside my head could tell me all the very valid reasons why I shouldn't do it, at least not this year, maybe next year though, I'd signed on the dotted line. And then I sat back grinning in disbelief, borderline panic, and a weird, unexpected euphoria. I should do it has become I'm going to do it. That feels pretty good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

After I posted about registering for the marathon, of course I went out for a run (because, panic OMG I just registered for a marathon OMG OMG OMG panic!). Keeping in mind that I haven't actually gone for a run in about two weeks (first, I got kind of lazy; second, last week I hurt my back; and third, last Friday I went to see my doctor about something unrelated to the back problem and ended up having a minor surgical procedure done on the spot [the stitches come out this Friday])...well, the good news is that things can only get better.

The bad news: holy slow running, batman. Of course, I was taking it pretty easy (see: back and stitches), but still. At this pace, it'd take me approximately 62 hours to run 26.2 miles. OK, I am exaggerating a bit. But truly, things really can only get better. However, I'm not going to talk about times and distance until they do. Because sheesh, talk about humiliation!

I also read through 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon. (I wasn't kidding when I said before that I've been wanting to do this for years: I've had this book since 2000 or maybe 2001.) Now, I actually have no desire to do this in 4 hours. I just want to finish in a respectable time, say, under 6 hours or just before they close the course (which is, uh, 6 hours after the start, yikes; so, 5:59). The main thing is that now I've got a training plan. I'm nuts, but I have a plan. All is good.

OMG. That's it. I'm nuts. That's all there is to it.

So, after years of saying that I want to do this, and that someday I'm going to do this...

I just registered for the Twin Cities Marathon.

Holy crap.

I've got a little over 5 months to figure out how to run 26.2 miles (that's 26.2 miles all in the same day, mind).

Holy crap!

Monday, April 14, 2008

My day

6:30 - 8:10
Get kids up, fed, off to school

8:10 - 10:30
Clean up from breakfast
Make more dishwasher detergent (yes, I am such a dork, I make my own)
Make more laundry detergent (yes, I am such a dork, I make my own)
Change and wash sheets
Make bread

10:30 - 2:00
Write a quick blog post
Work on novel
Eat lunch while working on novel

2:00 - 3:00
Walk the dog

Shower, get ready for work

Kids home from school
After-school snack and how-was-your-day debriefing

4 - 5:45
Clean my bedroom (Mondays we clean bedrooms; since we do this every week, it's a pretty quick job)
Help the girls clean their bedrooms as needed
Supervise homework
Kick them outside to play as soon as bedrooms and homework are done
Start dinner for Pete and the girls

Pete gets home
I go to work

Get home from work, change clothes, eat leftovers from dinner

Sit out in the living room and read (because there's no way I can go straight to bed right after I get home from work). Or maybe I'll put some more time in on the novel. Or work on some crits for my writing group.

1 a.m. or so?

And people ask if I ever get bored since I quit my day job. Ha.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On my bedside table, or, why I love the library

Currently reading:

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden -- William Alexander

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy -- Carlos Eire

A Thousand Splendid Suns -- Khaled Hosseini

The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies -- Mark Booth

How to Grow More Vegetables: (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains) -- John Jeavons

I have a confession. Even though I work for a bookstore, I get almost all my books through the library. My reasons for this are twofold. First, I don't want to spend my entire paycheck every week at work. I'm sure the store would appreciate it, and it would probably be a lot of fun! But that's not why I'm working there. So, no.

Second, I've gotten really picky about what goes on our bookshelves at home. We have a lot of books: floor to ceiling shelves in our family room, bookshelves in our bedrooms, shelves in our living room, all crammed full of books. (This is what happens when two English majors meet and get married: they live in houses stuffed with books.) It's great. I love it. And it's been really good for our girls: they've been surrounded by books and read to literally since day one. No wonder they're both little bookworms and reading several grade levels above their actual grade. But we're constantly running out of room, even with me constantly hauling bags and boxes of books to Goodwill, because a certain someone keeps buying more books...Okay, I'll fess up: it's me. But I don't have a problem! I can stop at any time. Really I can...

Ahem. About a year ago we put up some more shelves and I filled them like *that* and still had books waiting for shelf space, and realized that this had to stop or at least really slow down. So I went through and got rid of as many books as I could, and then instituted a 3 to 1 rule: for every 1 book purchased, 3 books need to go off the shelves and into the donate box. Wow, that sure makes a girl think twice or even three times about what she's buying. It also makes that girl get lots of advance reader copies at work and on the waiting list at the library for anything she can't get through work. (Currently #134 for Stephen King's Duma Key!)

If I really like a book -- and I mean really like, as in, I will read this over and over again AND it's something that Pete would probably like and the girls too, when they get a little older -- then I'll buy it (and then agonize over which 3 books are going to go away).

But otherwise, to the library we go. Hi ho, hi ho! And really, how awesome is the library?! Sure, you sometimes have to wait for the really popular or just-released books. But they've got lots of other books you can be reading in the meantime. And our library has this completely fabulous online system: I can and do request books online and have them ready and waiting to be picked up! I can and do also keep a book list going. And if the library doesn't have something I'd like to read, I can even suggest it for purchase. I did this with Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary Ride, by Peter Zheutlin and joy! They're ordering it. Oh, happy day.

The library. What a wonderful place. (But please, support your local bookstore and its friendly, hard-working staff too!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008


For dinner tonight I made salmon poached in a white wine.

In a word: divine. (OK, that wine-divine rhyming? Totally unintentional, I swear.) Mouth-wateringly, swooningly good. It was so good that I did not pause to take even a single picture but instead ate every single bite and when it was all gone thought seriously about licking my plate. Man, I impress even me sometimes. That Pete, he's one lucky guy. =D

(I am also unbelievably modest!)
No, I didn't forget about this blog again. There just hasn't been much to blog about lately. I'm mostly either working on the novel or at work. If I'm not doing one of those two things, then I'm running the kids to and from their various activities, or cooking, or walking the dog, or cleaning, or watching it snow (because that's what it does here: snow, snow, snow! In fact, there's more snow coming tonight, they say. Drat.) or any one of all the other things that make up my days. Pretty exciting stuff, let me tell you. (Actually, that's OK. I like my peaceful, boring existence. When I was in my teens and 20s, excitement was fun. Now that I'm in my late 30s, I find that excitement is generally highly overrated and comes with a hangover.) But I figured I should drop in and say "Hi!" So, Hi!

Our winter sowing experiment is a limited success so far: 2 out of the 8 "greenhouses" have sprouts despite below-freezing temps and a mix of snow, sleet, and rain. The only problem is that our labels washed away, even though we'd used a Sharpie permanent marker. That, I didn't expect. I'm a bit chagrined about this, although why I should be, I don't know. It's not like I could have easily anticipated this one. God knows, Sharpie markings don't easily come out of anything else....

It's a good thing that 1) girls had gone crazy with their drawings, so much so that they didn't wash entirely away and 2) I'd taken "before" pictures, otherwise we'd still be trying to figure out what's what. We still haven't positively IDd two of them, though, and I'm not 100% about a few of the others.

Look, it's spinach (or "spinch," as one of the children labeled it) in a milk jug! In April, in Minnesota! Who'd have thunk?

Awww, little spinach sprouts, so cute.

We don't know what this is. Petunia sprouts, maybe, or perhaps lobelia? If they keep growing, we should find out in June or so...

Yesterday, I took up yogurt making. Oh, wow, this is so much fun, I can't even tell you how much fun it is. (Yes, yes, I'm a big dork, I know.) To make the yogurt, I followed this tutorial, brilliantly titled How to make your own yogurt. Super easy. And good, oh yeah, mouth-wateringly so! And economical, too. Aside from the milk and starter (I'll come back to that in a minute) I already had almost everything I needed to make this in my kitchen (pot for the milk, glass containers, pitchers) and garage (cooler); my only investment was a candy thermometer, which I'd been meaning to get for a while anyway after my old one broke.

Pete the home-brewer pointed out after that fact that he has a fermenter which would probably work just as well if not better for incubating than the pitchers of hot water and cooler. I'll try that next time.

The tutorial has lots of photos, but of course I had to take a few of my own.

Post-inoculation, ready to go in the incubator aka cooler. Pouring was a little sloshier than I'd anticipated!

Post-incubation and in the frig. YUM.

Thank you, cows of Cedar Summit Farm!

This yogurt is GOOD. It's so good, I don't think I'll go back to buying commercially produced yogurt. And cost-wise (I said I'd come back to that, remember?)...Right, I'm not going to count the candy thermometer into this since I've been meaning to get one and will be using it for more things than just yogurt-making. So, a half gallon of milk (64 ounces), plus a 6 ounce container of Stonyfield yogurt went into this batch of yogurt.

$1.15 for 6 oz of yogurt (about 19¢/oz)
$4.19 for 64 oz of milk -- organic, from a local dairy, in a glass, returnable container (about 6.5¢/oz)

= not-quite 8¢ per ounce for 70 ounces of organic, mostly locally-produced yogurt, with no sugars, additives, pectins, packaging or anything to recycle except for the 6 oz container the starter yogurt came in.

If I throw in the candy thermometer and pretend that I will only use it this one time for this batch of yogurt (which is silly, but it makes for easy math) then we have

$3.99 thermometer
$1.15 starter yogurt
$4.19 milk

= $9.33 for 70 ounces of yogurt, or a smidge more than 13¢/oz., which still beats the cost of an individual container of plain Stonyfield yogurt.

And like I said, this stuff is good. Really good. Really, really, really good. In fact, it's so good, I think I'm going to go eat some more as soon as I hit "post"...