Monday, April 30, 2007

Birding extravaganza

Tonight it was back to my normal mileage, the usual 4 1/2, after my long run on Saturday. A little bit of steady rain was falling this afternoon, and there was a strong wind coming out of the south. But it was a pleasant run nonetheless. The new shoes felt great, and I even scared up a broad-winged hawk while running through the woods!

I should probably tell you about my Sunday. I went hiking and bird watching at William O’Brien State Park, which is located on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border just northeast of the Twin Cities. There are miles of trails here that pass through wetlands, hardwood forest, and prairie; quite a varied terrain.

A beaver pond at William O’Brien. Notice the nice trail on the left!



I got there when the park opened at 8 AM and spent over 3 hours hiking around. I only saw about five other groups of people the whole time, so I felt like I had the place to myself. On an 80 degree and sunny day, no less!

The bird watching was most successful. I saw 26 different species of birds on my hike. Several were some of the usual suspects I encounter on my running routes. But there were some interesting new ones as well.

I saw the three warblers I mentioned last weekend, Myrtle, Tennessee, and the palm (the palm was by far the most abundant, and they seemed to travel in large numbers). There was the yellow-bellied sapsucker hanging out in a stand of stately oaks. Three sandhill cranes cruised over me as I stood by a beaver dam. From the top of a ridge I got to see a northern harrier (or as I have always known it, the marsh hawk) flying low over the swamp, all the while being pestered by a small songbird. And I finally got to see my first white-throated sparrow of the year.

A few sharp-lobed hepaticas, my first wildflowers of the season



I even added a new bird to my birding life list. While walking through an open area, I saw a small rusty colored sparrow. My first thought was that it was the chipping sparrow. But upon closer inspection, I could see it was not. This little guy had a pink beak. I watched him until he flew, and then referenced my bird book. It was the field sparrow. Apparently this is a somewhat common bird, but I had never noticed him before. Perhaps I need to spend more time in the field? :)

It was another full day, and a very busy weekend. I capped it off with some of Giada de Laurentiis’ stuffed pasta shells for dinner (but with Italian sausage instead of the ground turkey called for in the recipe). A tasty way to conclude such a great day!

Giada knows pasta!



Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A full day

First of all, I must acknowledge my blog’s birthday! I started it exactly one year ago on April 28th. I now have a full year’s worth of stories about running, races, various travels, food, occasional attempts at humor, as well as plenty of drivel. :)

Quite a full day today. This morning I did a 14 mile run. This is actually the longest run I have done, and I am happy to say it went very well.

I took off at 6 AM just as the sun was barely peeking above the horizon. It was a glorious 55 degrees, and there was not a cloud to be seen. The leaves have exploded in the last week, so everything is a beautiful green. A fantastic morning. I ran a route south of me through various neighborhoods, came back through the park, and finished with a lap around the nearby lake. According to the Google’s Gmaps Pedometer , it was 14.1 miles, to be exact. A half marathon plus one mile. I was very pleased with my run.

There was a new bird sighting as well. I saw several blue-winged teal on a couple of different ponds. I have always thought these were cute ducks. I remember as a kid down on my Grandparents’ farm in southern MN, the farm pond was home to numerous blue-winged teal, so it was a fun sighting today. I also heard, but did not see, the distinctive sound of the white-throated sparrow too. Other usual suspects included the eastern phoebe, wood ducks, red-bellied woodpeckers, and the osprey.

After my run, I made a trip to the west metro to buy some new running shoes. I visited my running store, Start Line in Minnetonka, to pick up another pair of Brooks. As you might recall from an earlier post, Brooks discontinued my Adrenaline GTS6 shoes in favor of the upgraded Adrenaline GTS7. The shoes performed great for me, so I was happy that any changed made to the shoe were negligible. I bought another pair, as well as some Clif Shot Bloks and Jelly Belly “Sport Beans,” and I was on my way.

The Minnetonka Drive In; a trip back in time



Since I was in the west metro, I decided to see out a throwback fast food joint that I had never been to. I drove west of Minnetonka to the town of Spring Park to eat at the Minnetonka Drive In. This is a honest to goodness 60’s drive in that serves up all your typical drive in fare, and has the carhops who bring you your order. I had a great California burger with fries and a pop, and it cost me $5 and a few coins. Great stuff, and a true trip back in time.

This afternoon has been spent watching the wreck-fest at the NASCAR Busch Series Race at Talladega. I made some pizza dough and will have a pizza for dinner tonight. I think I will sleep well this evening!

Tomorrow will be a day off from running, but I am planning to go to a local state park in the morning to do some bird watching. Full report to follow.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A chance to be Prince Charming

The weather has just been sensational for running. This afternoon we had 58 with overcast skies and a light breeze. I could run in weather like this any day.

I did 5 1/2 miles (putting in a little extra since I want to take tomorrow off and go for a long one on Saturday), running in the park, down the trails, and through my neighborhood. It was most pleasant. Kind of a quiet bird day in terms of new arrivals, but there were a number of ducks, sparrows. robins, and the two ospreys (one in the nest and one riding the currents overhead). A lot of fun running today.

With about a mile left on my run, I was stopped by a couple of attractive young ladies on bikes. One of them had the chain slip off of the big gear of her mountain bike, so they asked me if I knew how to fix it (probably not, but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying!).

Actually, it should have been fairly easy, but unfortunately the chain had wedged in the small groove between the pedal crank and the hub. I tried to yank it out of there, but there was nothing I could do to dislodge it by hand. With my hands absolutely covered in gunk and grease (And I mean covered! I’m still trying to get this crap out from under my fingernails!), I quickly started to loose my grip, and I was of little help.

Thankfully, we were right next to a golf course, so I sent them over there where the maintenance shop would certainly have some tools that could get the chain unstuck. They thanked my for my efforts (as feeble as my efforts were), and we parted ways. I ran the last mile home looking like I tried to rob a Jiffy Lube.

Drat! A chance to save some damsels in distress, ruined. If only their dilemma was related to one of my areas of expertise, such as needing help identifying a bird, finding a good specialty running store, or wondering how to make a delicious Bolognese sauce; something along those lines. Then, being Prince Charming would not be a problem. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another awesome day

Another banner day here in Minnesota! 62 degrees, a little overcast, and a slight breeze. Excellent running weather.

I did my 4 1/2 after work. A pretty uneventful run, just a gallop down the trails through the park and around the lake. I saw the eastern phoebe swooping through the shrubs in search of bugs, and the bluebirds were present near the school. There are lots of bluebird birdhouses set up in the park, and from the looks of it, they are well utilized.

Dinner was pretty lazy. I baked a few Morningstar Farms Buffalo wings (I actually like these quite a bit...they have a little kick to them!), and had some steamed broccoli and Doritos chips on the side (mmmm...."Spicy Nacho" flavor!). Quick and easy!

Right now I am just kind of relaxing and waiting for tonight's new episodes of ”NCIS” and ”The Unit”. These are two of my favorites, and I can’t wait!

Still loving spring,

Jean

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just Like Paradise

These are the kind of days Minnesotans dream about when it is below zero and snowing. 68 degrees, a mix of sunshine and puffy clouds, with a gentle breeze. As David Lee Roth said on his 1988 Skyscraper album, “This must be just like livin’ in paradise!” :)

As predicted, the rain yesterday afternoon has given a vibrant shade of green. The grass that was dormant has perked up, and the leaves have sprouted even more today. There were a couple of flowering shrubs in my neighborhood that have exploded with flowers.

I went out for the usual weekday 4 1/2 miler, and it was extremely pleasant. A lot of bikers, walkers, and a few other runners were out taking advantage of the gorgeous day as well. I even flushed some wood ducks and saw one of the ospreys soaring overhead. What a great day to be outside.

In totaling up some miles, I realized I should be replacing my road shoes. I’ve got 4 months and over 400 miles on them, and I want to get a new pair in advance of Fargo so I have a little time to break them in. I will need to make a trip to Minnetonka to see my good friends at Start Line soon!

Loving the spring weather,

Jean

Sunday, April 22, 2007

For the birds

The morning was pleasant with some sun and clouds, which is turning over to rain this afternoon. Since this was a day off from running, I went for a 2 1/2 hour hike through the local regional park with my binoculars in tow. I thought I would do a little bird watching, and I am really glad I did.

It is astonishing how green it is getting around here. I am not sure if this picture does any justice, but you can see the leaves have started to sprout.

A trail in the park with leaves emerging on the trees



I am excited to report that some warblers have arrived! This is a very exciting thing for birders, because these gorgeous little songbirds are only here for a short time. Some do nest around here, but a good number of them are only passing through on their way from the tropics to their nesting grounds in Canada.

Today I saw the yellow-rumped (a.k.a., “Myrtle”) warbler, the Tennessee warbler, and, what was a first for me that I got to add to my birding life list, the palm warbler. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see these birds. They are so beautiful, and there are a sure sign that summer is just around the corner!

I saw other new arrivals today as well. There were a number of tiny ruby-crowned kinglets flitting about in the shrubs and underbrush. One was even hopping around in a spruce tree a mere 5 feet from me, so I got a great look at her. Such a cute bird.

The birds were busy and active today, and I saw most of the usual suspect on my journey (chickadees, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, and the pair of ospreys). I’ve started to notice dragonflies and other insects emerging. The green darners were cruising down by the swamp. And I saw my first red admiral butterfly of the season.

A great morning to be outside. And the rain just started as I am typing this, so I am in for the day! Things will really be greening up in a hurry after this precipitation.

I am making a pork stir-fry dish for dinner tonight, and I still have plenty of prep work, so I must get busy!

Nature rules,

Jean

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Against the wind

We have a relatively warm day and some potential spring storms brewing in Minnesota over the weekend.

In fact, it was rather mild when I went on my run today, 60 degrees right as the sun was coming up. As I am now less than a month away from the Fargo Half Marathon, I did a longer one today, putting in a total of 11 miles.

The first 5 or so were a bit challenging, as there was a very strong south-southeast wind that I was running into for the most part. It was really cranking out there! But that meant that once I turned to come home, it would be helping me, which was great!

It was a nice long run, and I felt pretty comfortable the whole time. I was probably overdressed in a long sleeved running shirt, but it wasn’t exactly a heat wave, either. I just ran easy, popped a Clif Shot Blok (I like the “cola” flavored ones!) and took a drink of water every so often. It was a good training run.

A new bird sighting to report, too. I saw my first great blue heron of the season. The heron rose up out of a lake I passed and was trying to fly into the wind, having a difficult time. He was moving about as quickly as I was while running into the wind! :)

Later on, I did a few errands and then treated myself to a really tasty Gorgonzola-bacon cheese burger at the Washington Square Bar & Grill. Absolutely delicious, and it sure hit the spot following my long run!

As Homer Simpson would say, ”Mmmm...burger!”



More NASCAR racing this evening, and tomorrow will be a day of rest.

Enjoy the weekend,

Jean

Friday, April 20, 2007

Curry up and go running!

A group of us from work went to lunch today and had the buffet at the India Palace in Roseville. Admittedly, Indian cuisine is one that I know very little about, and have virtually no experience with, but I am always up for something new when it comes to food and eating!

Everything was very tasty and well seasoned, and we had a couple of knowledgeable Indian food connoisseurs with us to explain the dishes, which was helpful. My favorite was the tandoori murg; chicken marinated in yogurt, garlic, and assorted spices and then barbecued. I also liked the beef curry, the chicken and mushrooms, as well as a side dish of peas and what I believe was tofu in a light curry sauce. And this flat bread called naan was light and yummy, kind of like a big pita. A fun lunch lunch with some coworkers. We had a great time and ate our fill.

Why do I tell you this? Well, the large lunch slowed me down quite a bit on my run this afternoon! :) I am not used to eating so much at lunch, so I felt a little weighed down. But it was a nice day, so I couldn’t complain too much.

Sunshine, blue skies, and low 70’s greeted my for my run. There was a decent breeze coming out of the southeast, so that helped to keep things comfortable. If felt pretty warm, and I was sweating a lot. The body still needs to adjust to heat. Just a nice easy 4 miler down the trails and around the lake. I had no intentions of pushing anything today anyhow, since I will do a longer run tomorrow.

This evening there is some NASCAR racing in Phoenix, so I will be tuned to ESPN2 at 8 PM. Love that racing under the lights! It will be fun to watch as I continue digesting my large lunch.

Eating light this evening,

Jean

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Getting green

We are hitting a stretch of really awesome days. 63, sunny, with a nice breeze. Simply gorgeous! I ran another easy 4 1/2. Most enjoyable.

Some signs of spring are beginning to emerge in terms of vegetation. The smaller shrubs and trees have started to sprout tiny little green leaves. How great to see this! The local golf courses are open, and the grass is starting to green up, too. I am hoping this means we are officially done with snow. Although you never know. Dad tells me about a Minnesota fishing opener from years gone by (mid May) when it snowed, so we will keep our fingers crossed that this does not happen! :)

No new birds to report, but I did hear a pheasant crowing when I ran the trail through. I seem to hear pheasant occasionally when I run through that area however I have never seen them. One of these days, I am sure I will!

I am looking forward to the new ”Lost” tonight. It appears that Kate might be getting a little jealous of Jack spending a lot of time with Juliet (who can’t be trusted!). It is getting good. Of course, there will be more questions than answers, but I love it anyhow! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nicer days

A very strong northeast wind today, but it is truly had to complain. 60 degrees and sunny, otherwise. This is great!

I did 4 1/2 miles again today. I was astonished at the lack of people out and about. I ran on the trail for two miles before I saw another soul, and that was just a solitary biker. Come on, folks, this is the weather we have been waiting for! :) It was a nice, easy run. and it felt wonderful to be outside on such a pretty day.

Since yesterday’s race was a fundraiser for a local ski club, you can check out the recap at the SkinnySki.com website. There is a brief note on the right hand column side with links to pictures (I am featured in in pictures 23 and 69 of the 10k photo set), as well as a link to the results. That was a fun little event.

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, April 15, 2007

We’ll “Rundezvous” at the Fort!

Trail running in an historic location on a gorgeous spring day in Minnesota; how could it get any better?

Today I participated in the Pike Island Rundezvous (not a typo) 10k at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul. Fort Snelling is an 1820 military fort built on the bluffs where the Mississippi River and the Minnesota River converge. This fort became possible due to a fairly one-sided land deal brokered by Zebulon Pike as part of America’s westward expansion (hence the name, Pike Island, where the deal took place). In 1962, it became a Minnesota State Park, and there are miles of trails and plenty of wildlife for people to enjoy.

Historic Fort Snelling



We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. At race time, the temperatures had to have been in the upper 40’s and approaching 50. The sun was shining, and there was a light breeze. Ideal weather for running.

Also, it proved to be ideal weather for bird activity. The birds were singing away on this day, and I saw countless chickadees, the red-bellied woodpecker was everywhere, pileated woodpeckers, and all sorts of ducks and geese. I even saw a new spring arrival, the brown creeper who was busy creeping up an oak tree near the starting line.

The race was a smaller event (perhaps a few dozen runners at the most) that runs counterclockwise around Pike Island, with the Minnesota River on one side, and the Mississippi on the other. A lap around the island is about 5k, so the race consisted of two laps. The trails were fairly wide, dirt trails, with some crushed rock and a few sandy areas, but they were also very flat.

Amazingly enough, I ran into a coworker of mine! He was there because he runs in the season long Minnesota Trail Run Series, and the Pike Island Rundezvous is the first event in 2007. It is not often that I know someone at these races, so that was kind of fun.

A self portrait with the Minnesota River in the background



The race started and the runners quickly dispersed. Despite earlier warnings that there might be mud, there was really none to be found. A couple of damp areas, otherwise the trails were in fantastic shape, and I settled in at a comfortable pace. From about one mile on, I was following another runner by about 20 yards or so. He was running the same speed I was, so I followed him all the way to the 5k mark.

I finished lap one in 24:09. Feeling pretty good, I decided to increase my pace slightly. I passed the runner that I had been following shortly after the 5k mark and continued on my way.

As I reached the easternmost tip of the island where the Mississippi and the Minnesota meet, I made the turn to head westward towards the finish. I realized I was running all by myself. I could see nobody ahead of me or behind me, which is kind of a surreal feeling in a race.

I crossed the finish line in 47:10, which is my personal best 10k trail race time (it was also the flattest trail race I have run, so I am guessing that has something to do with it!), and I finished 15th overall. Afterwards, I spent some time chatting with other runners. Everyone is excited about the upcoming running season, talking about their plans for spring and summer races. They had a lot of great snacks and goodies back at the headquarters, too (and awesome race shirts!).

One of the coolest race shirts I own!



A quick note about gear; this is the first race I have done in my Vasque Velocity trail shoes, and I absolutely loved them. They were so comfortable, I had tons of grip, and they seem to fit my feet perfectly. Now I have both road and trail shoes that I like very much!

A very well organized and fun event! I had a fantastic time, ran pretty well, and enjoyed the nicest day of the year thus far with a great group of Minnesota trail runners. As I said earlier, how could it get any better?

Jean

Friday, April 13, 2007

Now THAT is what I am talking about!

Spring is back, and it was a gorgeous day. Mid 50’s, sun is shining, light winds...what is not to like? The snow from a couple days ago is a distant memory.

I did an easy 4 miler this afternoon through the park and around the lake. It was just a great day to be outside, which you could tell by the number of people out and about. Lots of bikers, walkers, and dogs enjoying the wonderful weather.

I saw one new bird today; an eastern phoebe. This little flycatcher was sitting in a tree along side of a meadow, waiting for some unsuspecting insects to cruise by. I have always liked the phoebe because we had one that would build a nest on the outdoor flood light of the home I grew up in. Many a phoebe was raised there, and they were such cute birds.

On Sunday I have a race, the Pike Island Rundezvous 10k at Fort Snelling State Park. This will be both my first trail race, as well as my first 10k, of 2007. It is a smaller event, and the weather looks to be beautiful, so I am anticipating a relaxed atmosphere and a fun day.

Today I received an e-mail from the Race Director saying that the island was not underwater (it is right where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers meet, so flooding is sometimes an issue in the spring), but there were areas with “some mud,” and also a 50 yard section of standing water that we will be routed around. Otherwise, the trails sound like they are in great shape for running. I will give you a full report with some pictures on Sunday.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My "runiversary" surprise, and my mystery lunch

Three years ago on this very day, I strolled into a Dick's Sporting Goods and bought a pair of shoes. Tired of becoming winded from merely walking up a flight of stairs at work, I took up running in a effort to get in shape. If you had told me at the time that this simple fitness pursuit would lead to taking trips to remote places like Copper Harbor, MI, simply to run in a trail race, buying specialized clothing made of lycra and other wicking materials, and logging enough miles to have crossed the country on foot, I would have laughed out loud!

But here we are three years later, and running has taken me on a rather fun, exciting, and rewarding journey. How to celebrate such an anniversary, or perhaps more appropriate, “runiversary?” Why, by going for a run, or course!

It was a very pleasant day, quite different from yesterday. 44 degrees, a mix of sun and clouds, and a slight breeze. Great for running. Most of the snow we got has melted except for some patches in the shaded areas, so all the streets and trails were clear. Another good wildlife day, too. Wood ducks, bluebirds, cardinals, Canada geese, chickadees, robins, goldfinches, tree sparrows, and even a couple cottontail rabbits came out to greet me. I ended up doing an extra mile; 5 1/2 today. It was a nice way to spend my “runiversary!”

When I got home, I checked my mail and got the neatest surprise. There was a letter from one of my Godparents. In it was a copy of my birth announcement, as well as a picture and a newspaper clipping from my baptism! Wow, how do you even begin to say thank you for something so thoughtful and special? It absolutely made my day. Thank you, Tom and Phyl!

Oh, and unrelated to anything, I must conclude with a funny note about my lunch today; 99% of the time I bring food from home to eat at work. This week has consisted of an assortment of stuff, since I was not here to do any cooking of my own last weekend. Tuesday, I brought a sandwich made of leftover Easter ham. Yesterday, I had some of my homemade chili from the freezer. Today? Well, I grabbed the Tupperware container out of the freezer that was sitting next to yesterday's chili, thinking it was chili the whole time. Only it wasn't chili. Upon removing my container from the microwave, I realized this was something Italian; my homemade meat ragu, minus the pasta, of course! So I sat at my desk like a dope and ate my pasta sauce straight up. It tasted great, but it was screaming for spaghetti or linguini.

Note to self; start labeling leftovers.

Jean

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

No run today. I just had to share a shot of our lovely spring weather.



This was taken a few minutes ago from my deck. As you can see, we have some accumulation in the grassy areas. However, it is warm enough that it is melting when it his the roads, so my drive home was fine. The Twin Cities was on the northern edge of this system, so we were a little lucky. Out friends in southern Minnesota have been dealing with several inches of this stuff. Ugh...

It is hard to look at snow when spring fever is setting in. I suppose we can take solace in the fact that it should melt soon, and we should have temperatures in the upper 50's by the weekend! :)

Still waiting for spring,

Jean

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Logging 101

An overcast and breezy day in the metro. 42 degrees with a pretty strong east-southeast wind (we all know what that means - more on the weather in a second!), so at least I could get back to wearing shorts instead of my winter gear. I had a very energetic scamper down the bike path and trails today, with the wind helping me home during the last mile. Nice!

A new spring arrival to report; two eastern bluebirds were flitting about along the edge of a golf course. These pretty little birds kept flying ahead of me, so I got to watch them for a long time. Beautiful!

While rounding a corner in the park, I encountered a large birch tree (perhaps a foot in diameter) that had fallen across the trail. There was no severe weather while I was gone that could have knocked down such a sizable tree. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the resident beaver was responsible! He trimmed it perfectly at the base and dropped that sucker right on top of the trail as if to say “None shall pass!” I chuckled as I skirted by on the edge of the swamp. Sometimes nature just has to show us who is boss.

Speaking of that, I need to mention the weather; believe it or not, we are under a snow advisory tonight and tomorrow, and parts of southern Minnesota are under a full-blown winter storm warning! What a ridiculous spring.

Bracing for snow,

Jean

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter weekend

I have returned from my Easter weekend up north with the folks. As always, a good time was had by all.

The weekend was very good for wildlife. There were a large number of birds right there in the yard. Plenty of the usual suspects; juncos, hairy and downy woodpeckers, nuthatches, and both the blue and Canada jays. We also had flocks of cute little redpolls; I’m talking hundreds of these colorful birds, on the move to their nesting grounds! There were dozens of purple finches that were sitting in the cedar trees and looking like Christmas ornaments. And, we had a couple of the subtly beautiful fox sparrows thrashing away on the forest floor in search of food.

During a walk in the woods, I was lucky enough to find another female American three-toed woodpecker. Dad and I were able to watch her at a pretty close distance for close to a half hour. What a thrill! She is such a beautiful and rare bird, and it is always exciting to see her. And, while we were out there, a couple of chickadees found us to say hello (we always carry sunflower seeds just in case).

Dad with a feathered friend



A funny moment occurred one evening. Dad had remarked earlier in the weekend that they had not seen “Bottlebrush” for some time. “Bottlebrush” is the name of the favorite resident red squirrel. She has been a fixture in my parents’ bird feeder for three springs now. The reason for the name is because of the flared fur on the tip of her tail. She is a cute and unique looking squirrel who has become one of the mascots of the yard.

Anyhow, it was just about getting dark outside, and a red squirrel came up to the picture window. It was Bottlebrush! Dad peeked outside, and she ran to her bird feeder on the other side of the house, which was empty. Dad went outside and topped of the tray with sunflower seeds, much to the delight of the happy squirrel. Essentially, Bottlebrush came and got us because she wanted to be fed! Too funny. And nice to see that Bottlebrush is still hanging in there.

A photo of Bottlebrush from Christmas



Good eats abounded over the Easter weekend. Mom and I made a trip into Grand Marais and had lunch at a fun little restaurant, the Gun Flint Tavern (I highly recommend the Cuban sandwich). I shopped at the food co-op in town to pick up a few things. On my way home today, I even stopped for some smoked salmon at Lou’s Fish House in Two Harbors, and also at TJ’s Country Store in Mahtowa for some Swedish potato sausage and assorted wursts. My brother even sent home some of his own homemade sausage, as well as a duck.

As far as homemade food is concerned, Mom made her awesome homemade pizza. Dad prepared his famous applewood smoked BBQ ribs. And after Easter service on Sunday, the whole family came home for the traditional Easter ham dinner (magnificent!). Needless to say, with all the shopping I did, coupled with the abundance of leftovers Mom and Dad sent home with me, I had no reason to shop for groceries!

The traditional Easter dinner



I got in three runs over the course of the weekend, which is good considering all that I ate! There was a 4 1/2, 8 1/2, and a 5 miler, all conducted on trails and gravel roads. Always a treat to run on those surfaces! Despite the fact that it is now spring, it was darn cold. Single digits and really windy on two of the mornings, but it was most pleasant today with sunshine and hardly a breeze. All in all, the runs were very good.

It was a wonderful weekend with my family. It was great to see everyone, and we had a fun time. I am counting the days until my next visit over Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully the weather will be warmer by then, and we will be in the midst of the warbler migration, one of the highlights of the birding year.

Even the cat had a good weekend with us!



Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Winter's return

I miss January, when it was nice! :)

We managed to dodge the snowstorm yesterday, but areas not too far north of here got anywhere from 5 to 11 inches of snow. On April 3rd. Crazy!

At least the streets were clear for my run tonight, however it was quite cold and brisk. 28 degrees, with a 20-30 MPH north wind. Brrrr! I did a couple laps around the lake and called it good.

Not much else to report. I am currently packing to head up to Mom and Dad's for a long Easter weekend. I can't tell you how excited I am to get up there, as I am really sick of the Twin Cities at the moment. Even though the weather is going to be on the chilly side, I look forward to seeing everyone, running in the woods, and communing with nature. Photos and stories when I return on Monday, I promise.

Have a great weekend, all!

Jean

Monday, April 2, 2007

Fun with food, and bracing for..snow?

I had a good time cooking over the weekend, as well as tonight.

Yesterday, I whipped up a Thai basil chicken stir-fry that was awesome. I also used a Thai black rice that is not only pretty, but quite tasty as well. It is fun to cook with exotic ingredients once in awhile!

Last night’s Thai basil chicken with black rice



And tonight, I made a quick and easy frittata using some wonderful Compart Farms bacon, fresh basil, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and provolone cheese. Yum.

Tonight’s frittata



Anyhow, a nice day today. I had originally planned on taking it off, since I ran long yesterday. However, after seeing the latest weather forecast, I figured I had better take advantage of the mild weather (more on the forecast in a second).

I took it easy and did a 4 miler this afternoon, taking some of the trails and doing a partial lap around the lake. Sunny, 45 degrees, light breeze; a good running day. Things were relatively quiet on the birding front. Most of the usual suspects were around, and no new sightings to report. The run was quite enjoyable, and I was glad I decided to go out.

The weather forecast for tomorrow? A snow advisory for me here in the metro, and just a little bit north of here is the border for a winter storm watch! Huh? It was 81 degrees a week ago today! We could get anywhere from 2-5 inches according to the latest projections.

Ugh! Just when you think you are done with the snow, you get smacked again. Welcome to Minnesota, where winter storms can happen in the spring. :)

Looking for my ice scraper,

Jean

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Lovely weather for ducks

The damp, rainy weekend continues into Sunday. I took off for my morning run in light, but persistent, drizzle, and a strong south wind. I intended to do a 10 miler for my long run of the week.

I ended up exploring a new route today to try and gain some shelter from the wind. I’m kind of glad I did, too, as I saw some new birds.

The bike path I ran on goes past several small ponds and swamp edges. In only the second mile of my journey, I had to stop to look at four buffleheads swimming around. These are such cute little ducks, and they are a new spring arrival.

Also, in a couple of different locations, I scared up some wood ducks, so they have also returned. The male is particularly colorful, and it is always a treat to see these guys.

Anyhow, back to the run. My run was going so well that I just kept running. Instead of heading home, I veered off into the park to hit some of my regular trails to check on the osprey nest (they weren’t home), sipping my Propel and popping a Clif Shot Blok or two when needed. The sun even tried really hard to peek out for the first time in days during my last mile. When all was said and done, I ran 12 miles instead of 10. I was pleased with that and felt really good the entire time. This tells me my training over the winter was solid, and I feel like I should be in pretty good condition for the Fargo half marathon in May.

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day by comparison. It was a day off from running, however it was really too crappy to do any outdoor activities. I did my grocery shopping, and then took a trip into Stillwater to have lunch at The Freight House. My bleu cheese bacon burger was pretty darned good.

The Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger at The Freight House



The afternoon and evening were spent watching a myriad of sporting events; NASCAR truck racing, golf, and the Final Four. It was kind of nice because KQRS was also playing my custom “MyTunes” playlist at 7 PM. So I streamed KQ through my computer and listened to my selections while watching the Final Four on mute (you don’t have to listen to Billy Packer that way!).

More sports on TV this afternoon while I watch it continue to drizzle, and tonight I am going to make some variation of a Thai basil chicken stir fry for my dinner. I think I have even earned the right to a second helping after the long run today!

(And yes, I am fully aware that today is April Fool’s Day...everything I said is true!)

Until next time,

Jean

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