Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Countdown to spring?

We are only two days away from March. Can you believe it? I am starting to get excited for spring! Of course, March can also be one of our snowiest months, so perhaps I shouldn’t get too excited just yet? :) Actually, a possible two inches of snow is being predicted for tomorrow! Oh well, so much for the clear trails.

Running has been good this week, and I have enjoyed our ever expanding hours of daylight. How nice to run in actual daylight again! And with daylight savings time less than two weeks away, this is only sweetening the deal. Nice!

In cooking news, I have been pretty much subsisting on some Hungarian beef goulash that I made over the weekend. I used this recipe (but I added carrots and a sprinkle of dried marjoram, just because!), and it turned out pretty decent.

Tasty winter comfort food



I have never made a more traditional goulash before, and to me it was something like a combination of beef stew meets beef stroganoff, seasoned heavily with paprika and caraway, and finished with sour cream. I liked the dish. It was rustic and hearty. Next time I will do something to help thicken the sauce though, as I found it slightly thinner than I would have preferred. But good stuff, nonetheless! Give the recipe a whirl if you are interested in something different.

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The ultimate fish houses

Terminator on ice! A giant robot fish house at the Art Shanty Projects. More on this below!



Three cheers for nicer weather!

I woke up to 12 degrees, no wind, and bright sunshine this morning. What a treat! It felt a lot warmer with the sun out, and the day was off to a comfortable start.

Despite the fact that my bottle of Gatorade froze solid after 5 miles, I still managed to put in 13 today. My longest run since October, and it felt really good. Nothing too strenuous, just an easy, deliberate pace. Good stuff!

I couldn't believe the number of cardinals I saw, and man, were they ever singing away! Clearly, they were also excited about the gorgeous day. And I also saw the resident bald eagle flying overhead. I am happy to see more activity in the wildlife department!

Following my run, I was off to do some shopping. I stopped at my running store, Start Line in Minnetonka, to pick up a new pair of road running shoes. I had been on my same pair since August, so it was time. I upgraded to my new pair of Brooks, and I even found a sweet long sleeved running shirt on the half price rack that I could not resist. Always a good time shopping at the running store! :)

Also, I went to nearby Medicine Lake in Plymouth to check out the Art Shanty Projects.

The "Shanty of Misfit Toys"



Minnesota is known for its fishing, and during the winter we don't let a little bit of ice slow us down. Minnesotans simply build ice shanties (more colloquially referred to as "fish houses"), drag them out on the lake, drill a hole in the ice, and fish away!

A chalkboard fish house



A local group of artists has taken the fish house to another level by building creatively designed and decorated fish houses and putting them on display on Medicine Lake. This is becoming an annual event, and they have all sorts of games, performances, and fun to be had all winter long.

The mortgage crisis hits the fish house industry



Many of these structures were very original and some quite humorous. Clearly, a lot of thought and effort went into these projects. This goes to prove that winters are long in Minnesota, and we Minnesotans use our creativity and ingenuity to get through it. An artistic fish house festival on a frozen lake in the middle of winter? Absolutely!

My morning was capped off with lunch at one of my favorite places, the Lone Spur. The enchiladas with brisket were outstanding, as always!

A plate of Tex-Mex goodness



Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Back to the deep freeze

So just when I start talking about how we are turning the corner and things seem to be shaping up around here in terms of weather (birds singing, a couple of mild days), the bottom completely drops out.

Once again, Mother Nature decided to show us who is boss, treating us to a morning at -9 degrees with a -22 wind chill! Needless to say, it was a little crisp on my run today, but not too bad when sheltered from the wind.

Today was somewhat noteworthy in that I did my weekday morning run without the headlamp! Our days are getting long enough that it is light enough at 6 AM to see where you are going, and by the time I am done, the sun is nearly coming up.

Maybe we are turning the corner after all?

Sunday's baked spaghetti with Italian sausage and mushrooms




In culinary news, on Sunday I made a delicious baked spaghetti with a spicy red sauce , loaded with Italian sausage and mushrooms. Yummy! I had never done a baked spaghetti before, but as you can see, it comes out a little bit like lasagna. An interesting alternative, and extremely tasty. It was the perfect "prepare ahead of time" meal that enabled me to enjoy the Daytona 500 without spending a lot of time in the kitchen! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Law of averages

Out of curiosity, on Saturday I crunched some numbers and decided to see if I could come up with an average temperature for my runs over the winter.

I took a look at the temperatures during my runs from December 16, 2007, to Feb 16, 2008 (just to make for a nice, even 3 month block of time). Here is what I came up with:

Warmest run: 39 F (January 28th)

Coldest run: -15 F (January 19th)

Average temperature: 14.8 F

Good grief.

So, on average, I have been running at 14.8 degrees for the last 3 months! I have decided that I am ready for spring! :)

Saturday did give me a pretty nice day, and I did my longest run in some time. I completed 11 miles, doing a couple of laps around my lake. The sun was shining, chickadees and cardinals were singing, and I saw a pair of bald eagles sitting on a tree in the park. Nice. We are getting closer to spring, you can feel it!

I have to cut this short, as I am prepping my dinner now so I can just throw it into the oven. I can't miss the Daytona 500 this afternoon! :)

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Jean

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ready for spring, anyone?

It has been a hectic week of work, hence the limited activity on my blog. I am preparing for a software release coming up in the next week, so I have been mired in documentation and testing!

I am happy to say my cold is done and over with. The sinuses have cleared up nicely, thanks to some rest and a lot of orange and grapefruit juices! So that also means I have done some running this week, and I ran very well. We even had a dusting of a couple inches of snow Wednesday night into Thursday, which did not slow me down on the trails at all, thanks to some quick plowing efforts by the park folks (thanks guys!).

While I am sick of talking about the weather (probably as sick as you are of reading about it!), it continues to be interesting. Here we are a little more than a month away from the official first day of spring, and it was still -9 degrees (actual air temperature) in my neighborhood this morning. As much as I don’t mind doing a short 4-5 miler in the bitter cold, I am so ready for some warmth.

Just for kicks, I looked back at my running spreadsheet this morning, where I not only track mileage, but also keep other notes, including the temperature at the time of my run. I decided it might be fun to see if I can determine an average temperature for my runs over the past few months. I am going to calculate this and will share the results later on.

And, in looking at my running spreadsheet, I was actually quite pleased, and somewhat surprised, to see that I am ahead on my mileage when comparing to last year at this time. Only by about 22 miles, but I am still ahead! That made me happy, since I feel like I have been missing out on some long run opportunities on the weekends as of late. That will change though, as the days (eventually) become warmer! :)

Looking forward to spring,

Jean

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cold

The title of the post is not what you think. Yeah, it is cold, and our high temperature on Sunday was -4 degrees. I mean cold; as in, I have one.

On Friday, my sinuses were extremely dry, and I believed it was simply the weather to blame. By midday Saturday, I was on full “sniffles mode.” This is my first “real” cold in about 7 years. Ick! I wonder if this is partially what contributed to the difficulty of my Saturday run? Whatever the case, my head is still stuffed up, but I feel more or less OK. I haven’t been running since Saturday because I am just trying to take care of myself. That, and because it is just really freaking cold outside! (See, even I am starting to complain now!).

(And a quick note of reference to those of you who might have, or get, a cold; The Macallan “Cask Strength” scotch is absolutely excellent at clearing your sinuses.)

Not a heck of a lot to report from the rest of the weekend. Even though I was a bit under the weather, it was great to see NASCAR back on Saturday night. How fun was it that Dale Jr. took the checkers with his first outing on the new team? It always amazes me whenever he takes the lead, the roar of the crowd can actually be heard over the noise of the race cars! Only 6 days until Daytona.

Also in sports news, I got absolutely stomped in one of my fantasy golf leagues this weekend. I, along with several others, took Phil Mickelson (the #2 player in the world) at Pebble Beach (a tournament that he won last year). Well, on Saturday “Lefty” carded a crowd-pleasing 11 on the 14th hole en route to a 78 and a missed cut! Ugh. What a wasted pick on my behalf. Ah, such is the frustration of fantasy golf!

Since a post of mine would feel almost incomplete without some mention of food, here is last night’s venison and Guinness stew. What could be better for nursing a cold on a below zero day than pot of slow-cooked venison in a rich sauce of beef stock and Guinness stout beer? Not much, I say!

The Stew of the Gods



I tried something new in that I roasted some carrots and parsnips in the oven for about a half an hour until slightly caramelized before adding them to the stew. The process became somewhat involved and required a couple extra pans, but roasting the veggies made them sweeter and really changed the flavor of the dish. Yummy! And the leftovers for lunch today were outstanding. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Out of the Northwest

This morning was the warmest part of the day.

I took off at 7 AM and did a 9 mile run again, doing my loop of the lake. Temperatures were mild in the mid 20's with light flurries.

Despite being mild, the run was difficult. The flurries had blanketed the trail to the point where I felt as if I was slipping with each step. Couple that with the fact that a few trails had not been plowed from our earlier snowfall, so in those areas if was like you were running in sand. This is exhausting! To cap it all off, the nozzle on my water bottle froze after about 5 miles!

I'm starting to get a little frustrated because I would like to go on some longer weekend runs, but the weather never seems to cooperate. The big woodchuck out east said on Feb 2 that there would only be six more weeks of this, right? :)

After a shower and some grocery shopping, I went to The Lookout for some lunch. While I was dining, the weather completely changed.

Old Glory, whipping in the wind at The Lookout



As promised by the National Weather Circus, the bottom was going to drop out, bringing us bitter cold and strong winds out of the northwest. I looked out the window from my booth, and the big American flag started flapping in the breeze. The dusting of snow that coated the parking lot was blowing off, creating swirls of snow. Crazy. We are now under a "Wind Chill Warning." The temperature is going to hit about -15 with possible wind chills of -40.

Thankfully, I did my run at the right time, and I have nowhere to go! I have three things on my agenda this evening: 1.) Recliner. 2.) Fireplace. 3.) The NASCAR Budweiser Shootout on FOX. NASCAR season begins. One week until Daytona, baby! The season hasn't even start and already, Kurt Busch and my man, Tony Stewart, aren't getting along.

Oh, and that patty melt at The Lookout? Sublime. :)

Fantastic comfort food on a chilly day



Cranking up the fireplace,

Jean

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Nothing like that Italian plastic"

A few weeks ago, I was surfing around on the TV late one night and stumbled across an Austin City Limits program on PBS featuring the band Crowded House. Children of the 80's certainly remember them for their radio hits "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong." I really liked them then, and was surprised to see they were still performing. Quickly, I set the DVR.

I learned that Crowded House had reunited and released an album last year, so they performed some of their new stuff (which was really good), as well as a few classics, including a couple more obscure ones such as "Mean To Me" and "Italian Plastic." What a treat! They sounded fantastic. This prompted me to dig through old CD's to find my Crowd House tunes, prompted me to download some of their music that I didn't currently own, and load everything I have of theirs to my iPod. I have watched their performance several times now.

It is amazing how old songs can transport you to a different place and time. Much like the experience I had a couple years ago when hearing an Escape Club song on the radio, Crowded House had the same effect. Next thing you know, I'm singing along to all of the words of the songs I knew. "With a black and white TV, to stop us from getting lonely...." ;-)

Suddenly, it was 1986 all over again. I was bringing my boom box with me to the golf course, and "Don't Dream It's Over" is playing while I worked in the shop. Good stuff. I guess what I am trying to say is that music is awesome! :)

OK, back to running; I have been out the last two mornings. Both were nice runs, but today's was better. On Monday, we got perhaps an inch of snow (on a day when 3 to 5 inches was predicted by the National Weather Circus), so the trails still had a coating on them Tuesday. However, thanks to some mild temperatures and some quick plowing by the good folks at the park, the trails were mostly clear this morning, so I felt sort of speedy today.

One other thing I noticed this evening; I left work about 6 PM, and the sky was still a bit light in the west. The days are getting longer, my friends!

Rock on,

Jean

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A frosty Super Bowl Sunday

I woke up this morning to 18 degrees with very foggy and overcast skies. There was a sort of "winter wonderland" feeling too, as everything was frost-covered. Very pretty!

Gray skies and frosty trees



And old, abandoned farm in my neighborhood, coated in frost



I ran a 6 1/2 mile loop around the lake this morning. I felt a little more speedy than I did yesterday, wearing my road shoes instead of my trail clunkers, as much of the trail has cleared off due to some warmer days. I didn't meet any runners today, however I did meet a man walking two enormous sheepdogs! Wow, were they ever playful and cute.

Last nights Thai yellow curry with venison was outstanding, if I do say so myself. The dish consisted of sliced venison steak (well-seasoned with curry powder), red bell pepper, green beans, red onion, crushed red pepper, and lots of ginger and garlic in a sauce consisting of coconut milk and fish sauce. Served over jasmine rice, it was absolutely delightful, and I will be making this again (and with other types of meat, like chicken, beef, or even shrimp).

Last night's feast



Not much on the agenda today except to do some laundry, whip up a pot of chili, and sit back in the easy chair to watch the Super Bowl. My money is on the Patriots. Brady is just incredible. And I can't believe that the Giants (a team that my hapless Vikings absolutely crushed back in November) are in the big game. I would have much rather seen the Packers here, but what can you do? Let's just hope for a good, fun game!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Where I was supposed to be today

So today was supposed to be my first snowshoe race, the Yukon Day Race in White Bear Lake.

Yesterday the participants got an e-mail from the race director. Apparently when you have 40 degrees and rain on Monday that quickly turns into -15 below, the lake where the race is being held becomes more conducive to ice skating than snowshoeing. Crap!

I thought it was really nice of the race director to let everyone know the lake had no snow on it. But I opted not to go. I didn't feel like breaking my snowshoes, or worse, breaking something on me! Oh well, there will be other snowshoe races.

Instead, I went for what has become my regular weekend 9 mile loop around the lake. Running was difficult today. The weather was nice in the mid 20's, but the trails are still covered with patches of ice. Lots of starting, stopping, and occasional tiptoeing! But I got it done, so that is what counts!

My reward was a little lunch at Joe Senser's where I had a walleye sandwich as big as my head. Great stuff!

My beer battered walleye sandwich at Joe Senser's



Also, along the lines of food, tonight I am going to whip up a Thai yellow curry dish with venison. This is somewhat of an experiment, but I think it should work well. A full report forthcoming.

Until next time,

Jean

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