Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ready to get "Lost"

Today we are noticing somewhat of a warming trend. Highs might hit double digits above zero today, and the weekend looks to be returning to normal in the mid to upper 20’s. That is good, because Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we had -30 to -40 wind chills.

Let me tell you, that was some bitter cold stuff, even for this Minnesotan. Simply getting in my car after work Tuesday night was excruciatingly windy and chilly, and I have not felt cold like that in years. It was so cold that it took the car several miles just to warm up to its normal operating temperature. Heated seats are a wonderful thing, however. Although, I would like to request a new feature; heated steering wheels! Mine was frozen solid and it almost hurt to hold on. I think there is definitely a market for this in the northern climates. Automobile manufacturers, take note! :)

To avoid the -40 wind chill stuff, I opted to run last night when it was warmer (a steamy -4 degrees with a -16 wind chill!). Oh well, despite being cold, it was a nice run. Obviously, I had the trails all to myself. I did have to be a little cautious though, because our extreme warm day that turned to extreme cold caused some refreezing of puddles on the trail and at intersections, so I had to play a bit of hopscotch in some places. But it was fun!

When I returned to my apartment building with my frosted-over facemask and frozen eyelashes, I walked through the lobby to pick up my mail. A group of elderly residents were sitting around and chatting. They didn’t speak to me directly, but I overheard one of them say, “Look at this guy! Wow!” Too funny. Now I have a bunch of my neighbors who think I am crazy!

Two more items completely unrelated to anything:

1. I wrote about this last year, but I see they are doing it again, and it is worth noting with February 14th fast approaching. Guys, it is time to grab your best girl and take her to White Castle for Valentine’s Day! They are doing the candlelight dinner with white tablecloths, and they even take reservations. Because nothing says “I love you” like a sack full of sliders.

2. I couldn’t be more excited because tonight is the season premiere of “Lost,” which I have been anxiously awaiting since last May! This is unquestionably my favorite show on TV, and one of the most entertaining and creative things I have seen. We were left with so many questions at the end of last season, so I am interested to see where we go from here. Last night, they reran the previous season finale and added some subtext to explain certain events and history. I am so ready for the new season. Bring it on!

Ready to get “Lost,”

Jean

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Doing the math

This is as good a time as any to tell you I am kicking some major butt in fantasy golf. I am in two different leagues (what can I say, I am a geek!), and I am currently leading in both of them!. Of course, it is a long season, and of course, it helps when you pick Tiger and he wins. But hey, I will bask in fantasy golf glory as long as I possibly can!

We all know golf is a warm weather sport, and today is anything but. How about a little story about temperature swings?

On Saturday, January 19, I went running when it was -15 below zero. Last night, Monday, January 28, I went running when it was 39 degrees above zero. Even with my limited math skills, I know that is a 54 degree temperature difference! Isn’t that amazing? What a strange state Minnesota is!

Last night’s run was incredible. It was just my typical 4 1/2 miler and raining lightly at the time. But it felt downright warm! No need for multiple layers, so I had no restricted movement. I wore my road shoes for the first time in weeks, since all the snow had melted off the paths. What a treat to switch from the heavy trail shoes to a pair of light running shoes. I felt fast. And actually, I was fast! I clipped right along and generally enjoyed the mild evening, even scaring up a deer in the park. Good times!

And today we are swinging back to the negative side of zero again. The temperature has been falling like a rock all day, and the overnight lows are supposed to be in the double digits below zero with wind chills approaching -40 in the metro. As it is a scheduled day off from running, I will not need to subject myself to that sort of cold!

Cranking up the fireplace tonight,

Jean

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tonight's dinner

Just to make you all hungry, and because it turned out so pretty, here is tonight's dinner; pollo alla cacciatora!



Chicken, red bell peppers, spicy mixed olives, mushrooms, onions, and plenty of garlic, simmered in a spicy tomato and white wine sauce, served over whole-wheat spaghetti, and topped with a few slivers of julienned prosciutto just for good measure.

Giada has nothing on me... :)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Runners, runners, everywhere!

I had an extremely busy week at work. We were a little short-handed to begin with, so I ended up having to pick up a few extra duties so we had everything covered. In addition, we had a meeting with some clients on Friday, so I needed to prepare for and attend that as well. I really like my job, but I was also pretty happy to see Friday done and over with!

I went for a 9 mile run this morning. There was an ever so slight dusting of fine snow along the trails, which made things a bit slippery, sort of feeling like you are spinning your wheels, so to speak. That made the run kind of slow. But hey, it was 20 degrees (making it 35 degrees warmer than last Saturday's run!), so who can complain?

In fact, most of the Twin Cities runners appeared to have come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the milder weather. I met perhaps eight different runners, in addition to some walkers.

There are two people I see routinely on my Saturday run, so I encountered them and we exchanged our usual "Good mornings." But there were a whole bunch of other runners as well. Perhaps more people are gearing up for the spring race season?

Not too much else going on. I got some shopping done today, and I will probably grab some Chinese takeout for dinner. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Running in the moonlight

First of all, thanks to Rick who gave me some press on his blog for my -15 below zero running exploits. It really is interesting how people can get acclimated to cold or heat. And hey, in Minnesota, we are fortunate to have both, depending upon the season! :)

I had a fantastic run this morning. The temperature was -2 degrees, however that felt downright balmy compared to the weekend!

There is a section of trail where I run through a park, which is more scenic and keeps me off the trail along side of the main roads. The trail winds through a meadow and into a wooded area. Away from the sounds of traffic, I was struck by the beauty of the morning.

Skies were clear, and the full moon was glowing so brightly that my headlamp was almost unnecessary. The moonbeams cast shadows from the trees onto the fresh dusting of snow we received overnight. It was so quiet and peaceful, and it is difficult to describe how nice it was, given that the day was still quite chilly. But when a morning run is that pretty, it doesn’t seem so cold! :)

Unrelated to anything, and thanks to the writers' strike, I have been surfing channels in search of anything new to watch. I stumbled across a show that I really like. It is called “Ghost Hunters International” and it is on the SciFi Channel. They are paranormal investigators who research reports of ghostly activity. It is a reality-based spin-off of the original “Ghost Hunters” show, except that they are based in Europe where they are exploring a lot of old castles and mansions that have centuries worth of history. Very interesting (and spooky) stuff! Anyhow, this has been helping to quench my thirst for new TV programs quite nicely.

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"It's a little cool!"

This morning, the Twin Cities woke up to -15 degrees with a -34 wind chill. Let's go running! :) I even brought my camera along to record some of the action.

An arctic sunrise over the lake



I didn't do anything crazy. No long weekend run today! I just ran one of my normal routes along the lake, putting in a little over 5 miles. As strange as it may sound, it wasn't all that unpleasant. Heck, even the tough little chickadees were flitting about in the shrubs along the way!

I was appropriately layered, had my full facemask, and even used my Buff around my neck for some added warmth. I wouldn't have wanted to be outside for a 2 hour run or anything, but it was enough to keep me comfortable for 5 miles! As you can plainly see, I got a little bit frosty.

The look of a runner at -15 degrees.



The comedic highlight of the run was the one, lone person I encountered on my journey. I was almost home and running though my neighborhood when I met a gentleman putting some mail in his mailbox. We exchanged "good mornings," and then he said:

"It's a little cool!"

Now THAT, my friends, is spoken like a true Minnesotan! We realize that as rough as the weather is, it could still be worse!

When I returned home, my Buff was frozen solid to my facemask by a chunk of ice. I didn't dare pull it apart for fear of ripping one of these articles of clothing. It is the first time in my running career that clothing has frozen together. Wow, it must have been a little cool... ;-)

So, with the run over and a high temperature that did not make it above zero, how does one spend the rest of the day? Why, by making meat loaf, or course! It was really a combination of two recipes. Most of it is based on Alton Brown's meat loaf recipe, which is my gold standard. However I borrowed an element from Bobby Flay, namely his balsamic-ketchup glaze. The results? Deeeeelicious, and great comfort food on a chilly evening in Minnesota.

Mmmmm....meat loaf...



Thawing out nicely by the fireplace,

Jean

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Getting nostalgic over the cold

We are in for a chilly week here in MN. This morning for my run, it was -8 (but there was no wind, so the wind chill was exactly the same, which means it only felt like it was -8!). Actually, it was a really nice run on the hard packed trails. I met no other runners or walkers, had the trails to myself, and returned with some pretty frosty eyelashes! Things are supposed to get even colder for the weekend.

Cold weather takes me back in time. I grew up in central Minnesota, and we experienced many a bitter cold day up there on the “frozen tundra!”

This was a long time ago, but this is to the best of my recollection; The worst I recall was a -48 degree day (that was actual air temperature, by the way!) when I was in elementary school. Dad, a teacher, was already at school, and I vividly remember standing out at the end of the driveway waiting for the school bus.

Yes, you read that correctly; I was standing at the bus stop at the end of our county road. School had not been called off (back then, we had a theory that my school district always waited to see what the neighboring town did before making any rash, weather-related school cancellations!).

Weather that cold is surreal; The snow makes a loud crunch when you take a step, there are virtually no signs of life, and the air and trees make an eerie tinkling noise that sounds like high-pitched wind chimes. And your spit will freeze before it hits the ground!

It turned out that the busses got recalled, school was eventually canceled, but the teachers all had to stay at school for some reason. However, they called off school so late that there were still kids waiting for their bus, like my brother and me!

Soon, I see Dad’s truck coming down the road, and he picked us up. I think Mom was teaching at a different district at the time (Is that right, Mom? And if so, what the hell, didn’t anyone call off school back then?!?), so because nobody was home, Dad took us back to work with him. So I had to go to school anyhow! I believe they eventually sent all the teachers home after some pipes froze in the school or something like that. Ah, such is winter in Minnesota!

Nowadays, when the weather gets the least bit cold, all of the local TV meteorologists will start foaming at the mouth with excitement. “Oooh, it is going to get REAAAAALLY cold this weekend with temperatures in the double digits below zero!” they will exclaim with great sensationalism. The National Weather Circus is even projecting temps of -15 on Saturday morning for the metro.

Having stood at the bus stop at -48 degrees, I am not all that impressed. On Saturday morning, I will probably just say, “Hmm, looks like I will just have to wear the full facemask on my run today!” :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lounge Lizard

Today my new purchase arrived. I finally have some REAL furniture!

All my life I have been living with either hand-me-down or cheap furniture; stuff leftover from college, family heirlooms (which are awesome, don't get me wrong), or purchases from the most confusing of stores, IKEA. I figured I was old enough now to treat myself to something special I can call my own. So I got a big 'ol leather recliner!

I found my "King's throne" at HOM Furniture on sale. It was more than half off as part of their New Year sale, so it was a steal. This is one of those chairs that everyone's Dad had that you were never allowed to sit it. It is that kind of recliner! Big, puffy, comfy, and built for watching sports. I can't wait to break this baby in.

This is how I will look watching football, NASCAR, and golf! :)



Nice morning for a run. There was some unexpected snow yesterday evening that the National Weather Circus failed to predict (these guys have had a rough week!), so there was close to an inch of white powder on the trails and paths. Just enough to make things slick. So much for being speedy! :) I did 9 miles today in a pleasant 21 degrees, and met a few other runners enjoying the morning as well.

Not much on the agenda except for football, golf, and Chinese takeout for dinner. I can't waste time in the kitchen today; there is lounging to be done! :)

It's good to be the King,

Jean

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

This has been a crazy week at work, and I have kept exceptionally busy. It is the first week in the last few where I will actually have been at work for five full days. Normally those weeks feel long, but this one has absolutely flown by. Where have the days gone?

Not a heck of a lot to report, really. Running has been good, as the trails have been clear, and the snow event (upwards of 3 inches, the National Weather Circus said) hardly resulted in a flake. So my runs have felt speedy compared to running on snow packed trails!

I will have more to report this weekend. I made an exciting purchase, which is scheduled to arrive on Saturday. Stay tuned... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, January 7, 2008

Strange weather, sausage, and sports

So we go from a frigid December to a downright balmy January? This is odd. It has been above freezing for the last 3 days and somewhat foggy. Heck, the temperature was close to 40 on Sunday! Things will return to normal soon enough.

I was out of town for part of the weekend. One of the highlights was stopping at a small town meat market in the village of Kimball, MN. I swung into the Knaus Sausage House and loaded up on some fine meat products. This was sort of a trip down memory lane, as we would occasionally stop here on the way to visit my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I got some bratwurst, mettwurst, old fashioned hot dogs, a couple kinds of summer sausage, jerky, and some buffalo teriyaki sticks. Just fantastic stuff! And the freezer is now pretty full!

Not much on the agenda tonight except for the BCS football championship game. I have no vested interest in either team, but I suppose if anything I will root for OSU since they are in the Big 10 Conference. I would just like to see a good game! Some of these BCS game matchups have really sucked.

I am also pretty excited that PGA golf season is upon us, so my golfing fantasy leagues have begun right where football left off. I have a somewhat respectable start, but the season is long! We will see where it goes from here.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Comic relief

It turns out I provide an endless amount of entertainment for my coworkers.

So yesterday a few of us closed the office and were heading out for the evening. We are walking through the lobby, and there are these knee-level "Caution: Slippery When Wet" signs in the middle of the hallways. Conversing with one of my cohorts and not paying attention to where was going, I plowed right through one of those suckers, tripping wildly and booting it down the hallway with my right knee. Somehow, I managed to stay upright. To make things even better, the signs are made of wood, not plastic. As the late, great Chris Farley would have said, "Son of a...That's going to leave a mark!"

We all had a good laugh about it, and one of the guys said he chuckled on his way in this morning when he saw the sign. I am sure there is a security guard somewhere who is showing the hidden camera footage to the morning shift as well.

A little bruise was not going to prevent me from going on my morning run, however! It was 18 degrees when I went out, but the wind was blowing extremely hard, producing a wind chill of 2 degrees, and making it hard to stand up in some spots. On the section where I run east and west, the crosswind almost knocked me down on one occasion! Crazy stuff. However, coming home was a breeze (pardon the pun). The wind was at my back for the last mile.

I've been kind of inundated with football this week. The BCS bowl games have been blowouts for the most part, but I was happy to see West Virginia win after their coach ditched them, and I was even happier to read that they made the interim coach the head coach. He seemed like a good guy.

Also, I am pleased to say I tapped the keg of Bell's ale that my brother and sister-in-law gave me. It is really cool and works like a charm. But as you can see, I need to work on my pouring technique.

A poor pour!



Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Running, sledding, and eating well heading into 2008

It seems just moments ago that Y2K was going to get us all. Somehow, here we are in 2008!

Today it was chilly; 0 degrees with a wind chill of -14. Much too cold to go anywhere, yet perfect for a run! :) I celebrated the start of the New Year with a the regular 4 1/2 miles. The eyelashes were a bit frosty, but I was no worse for wear. A great way to start the season!

Over the last two days on my runs, I pass an area with a great big hill. There were tons of little kids and their out sledding, even today in the colder temperatures (there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear, right?). It was kind of like a postcard from years gone by and reminded me of sledding when I was little.

A long time ago, I remember my folks, along with several other families, went sledding at a nearby lake where there was a huge and rather lengthy hill. The dads all had snowmobiles, so we would slide down the hill in out toboggans and they would give us a ride to the top. How fantastic was that? It was the greatest day of sledding ever! Anyhow, seeing those kids sledding yesterday and today was pretty cool and brought back some fun memories. This is how Minnesota winters are supposed to be!

On another note, I have been eating exceptionally well over the long holiday weekend. Sunday night was a really nice homemade pizza, and last night was a favorite recipe that I had not made in quite some time; Giada de Laurentiis' balsamic roasted chicken. The chicken recipe is awesome. I don't mess around with making the vinaigrette, rather I just drizzle some really good aged balsamic over the top.

A pretty darned nice pizza




And, Giada sure has some good recipes!



Oh, and the fun does not stop there! Tonight I am making beef and bean burritos with a homemade guajillo chile salsa. Yum! The New Year is off to a very good, and very tasty, start.

Happy New Year to all!

Jean

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