Saturday, August 30, 2008

The fox and the bunnies

One of my bunny buddies hanging out on a lawn next to the trail early on Saturday morning.



Saturday greeted me with a gorgeous and blissfully cool morning in the lower 60's. Another fantastic day to run.

I did 21 miles today, and it felt great. Nothing too stressfull, just a nice, easy-paced, long run. I drank lots of fluids and ate a few gel packs over the course of the run, and I even felt pretty strong at the end. Overall, a very good day of running. I am happy with the progress of my training.

Lots of runners out on the trails today. I kept meeting a lot of the same people as I made loops of my neighborhood lake, so it is obvious there are several locals training for marathons. I even got passed by a group of eight guys who were running together. Good grief, I felt like I was in a race there for a second!

This was another good wildlife day.

I happened to surprise a red fox. When I say "surprise a red fox," I mean "scared the hell out of a red fox."

Rounding a corner on the trail, I observed the foxy one trotting down the trail in the same direction as me. He was a very pretty animal and looked in great shape. The sun was just starting to come up, and I could see his red fur and the classic white tip on the end of his tail (which practically glowed in the dark light of early morning). My presence was not apparent to him until I got within 30 yards.

Le renard looked over his shoulder and then nearly screwed himself into the ground in a moment of panic. He did this leaping, spinning, 360 degree turn and tore off into the brush! It was so funny and reminded me of a cartoon character such as the road runner when they are running in place and not going anywhere.

These moments make running at 6 AM fun. People have no idea what they are missing!

Calm waters and a reflective sunrise on the lake Saturday morning. This was taken moments after my fox encounter!



Of course, my trail bunnies were out in full force. I saw 13 bunnies over my 21 miles (for a .62 BPM ratio). The dude in the photo at the top was quite friendly. Bunnies seem to enjoy conversation. At least this one did. I chatted with him as I snapped a few photos, and he didn't move an inch. As soon as I said "Thanks!" to Thumper and resumed my run, he took off like a shot. Always good to see the bunnies.

(As I write this, I am really hoping the red fox doesn't read my blog. I am having visions of him taking notes: "Interesting! Bunnies sit still if you talk to them...hmmmm...")

How does one treat himself after a 21 mile run? Why, by cooking up some delicious pasta, of course! I bought some incredible Minnesota grown grape tomatoes, so I made a dish with them, apple wood smoked bacon from a local market, garlic, shredded basil, and spaghetti. Talk about fresh! Man, that was a good lunch. And a good way to fuel up!

My lunch with some positively decadent tomatoes



The rest of the weekend is a bit up in the air. Lots of sports to watch, probably some more cooking, and who knows what else. Love these long, holiday weekends!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Belated post about my Sunday run

This week has been crazy. I’ve been busy preparing a release at work. I hate it when work gets in the way of play!

I have been meaning for days to talk about my Sunday run. The run wasn’t long, just a shade over 7 miles, but it was just so much fun. The morning was so cool and calm, around 50 degrees and very crisp. I did a loop around my lake and had the trails virtually to myself. The water was still, and it reflected the sunrise beautifully.

You almost forget how great it feels to run in cool weather. It makes it pretty difficult to overheat, so I felt downright strong. Downright speedy, too. What a glorious morning to run. This is one of those days you dream about as a runner. Spectacular.

What would a post be without some talk of food? This past weekend, I made my own homemade, open-faced beef commercial sandwich. It turned out great. Slow cooked pot roast, homemade mashed red potatoes, some nice sourdough bread, and a beef stock/red wine gravy that was good enough to be its own food group. Admittedly, a little upscale for what it is, but delicious nonetheless!

My homemade "beef commercial" sandwich



Also, on Saturday, I went to the Minnetonka Drive In for lunch. Is there anything better than enjoying a California Supreme burger and fries at a picnic table of an old time drive in?

The Minnetonka Drive In rocks



And now, tomorrow is Friday, and a holiday weekend at that. Nice.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tonight's dinner...

...just because it was pretty and delicious! :)



Homemade pizza with whole-wheat dough, topped with tomato sauce, Canadaian bacon, mushrooms, green & Kalamata olives, and four kinds of cheese.

Yum.

Busy week

Wow, no posts since Sunday? Good grief, the week has flown by!

I had a quite busy week, as I was preparing for a release at work. Couple that with the fact that I had a cold since Sunday (it seems to be fading now, but Wednesday was miserable), and the fact that the Olympics are killing my sleep schedule...well, let's just say it makes for a tiring week as well.

But today is Friday, and I happened to have the day off! Instead of doing my long run on Saturday, I did it today. 17 miles...tough miles, too. Lots of humidity and wind, and the temperature heated up very quickly.

I saw 12 bunnies again today, and I was wondering if they were the same 12 I saw last weekend? :) Regardless, the Bunnies Per Mile ratio was slightly increased as a results of going one mile shorter than last weekend (a respectable .70 BPM).

I also saw some interesting birds this morning. I started my run at sunrise, and I noticed several nighthawks swooping erratically and snapping up insects above the road. I guess they do much of their feeding at dusk and dawn, so it was cool to be able to watch them in action!

Not much on the agenda for the weekend. There are so many different sporting events on TV that I don't know what to do with myself; pre-season football is in full swing, golf, a couple of NASCAR races, and of course, the Olympics. I do hope to catch some of the men's marathon on TV, so I hope I can figure out what time it is on!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Model change

First, a couple of funny moments from my Friday afternoon run:

1. I was running through my neighborhood, and a member of the Hennepin County Sheriff's K9 unit was parked near the sidewalk. The deputy was standing outside of his SUV talking on a cell phone. As I ran by him, the German shepherd in the back of the truck completely flew off the handle and started going nuts. He was barking and snarling, seemingly wanting a piece of me. In the past, I have written that I am not a dog person and that I seem to attract dogs. Good grief, now the police dogs are out to get me. I was really hoping he didn't get out of the vehicle and mistake me for a "perp," as they would say in cop lingo!

2. While running on a paved trail near my lake, I got passed by a guy on roller skates. Not roller blades, I am talking the genuine 1970's, roller rink, "that last song was couples only, now this one's an all-skate" kind of skates. Not only that, but he seemed to be practicing dance moves on the trail. Up ahead of me, I could see him stopping to do 360 degree spins, skating backwards on one skate with his other leg in the air, etc. This guy was a sequined jacket and a Bee Gees album away from being the living embodiment of the Disco Stu character from "The Simpson's." It was a classic, good humored running moment for me. What can I say? It truly is the little things that I find amusing.

Saturday, I did an 18 mile run. It was a perfect morning to run, cool in the 60's, relatively calm, and not a cloud in the sky. The run went really well, and I was quite happy with my performance.

On my long run, I saw 12 cottontail rabbits (for a 0.67 BPM ratio), many gray catbirds, a Baltimore oriole (first one since early summer), and dozens of song sparrows, some of which were carrying food, leading me to believe they had a second batch of youngsters.

You can also tell that the fall marathon season is upon us, judging by the number of people training. Yesterday had to have been a record for the number of runners I saw on the trails. Normally I see a few folks out running early on a weekend, but at one point, I met a group of a dozen or so runners (obviously part of a training group). There were lots of people out and about, and I expect to see more of the same on weekends up until the Twin Cities Marathon.

Following the run, I went to my running store to get some new shoes. I had been running with the Brook's "Adrenaline" series of shoes for a few years (absolutely loved these shoes), and it finally happened; I got burned with a model change.

The newer Adrenaline GTS8 seems much smaller and more narrow in the front, and my toes were almost getting pinched, causing some discomfort and numbness after a long run. The previous GTS7 model felt wider and had a much larger toe box by comparison. Crap!

I spent about a half an hour with the good folks at Start Line, trying on some alternatives and running with them on the treadmill. They took the time to help me with the shoes to make sure I got a proper fit and found the right shoes. I settled on a pair of Mizuno "Wave Inspire 4's" that felt just great. They reminded me of my previous model of Brooks and were roomy and comfortable (and also lighter). I am hopeful that these will do the trick.

And, just my two cents to the shoe manufacturers out there; when you have a good thing going, don't screw with it! :)

Unrelated to anything, here is tonight's dinner:

Lasagna with Minnesota sweet corn



Ooh, and here are my awesome homemade sweet pickles as well!



Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A day off from running, but not from cooking

It was a day off from running, so I don't have too much to say; but my shrimp Pad Thai tonight was so pretty and delicious that I just had to share! :)

Mmmm...Thai food!



I cooked a nice dinner this evening, which is something of a rarity on a weekday. Usually I am too busy after work, but today I just took my time and made something fun that I was craving. The dish was wonderful; sweet and spicy, with lots of great textures and flavors. Yum!

I also started prepping some cucumbers to make refrigerator sweet pickles. This is a two day process, so the sliced, lightly salted cukes are sitting in the fridge right now so they can release some of their liquids overnight. Tomorrow, they get the pickling treatment! More on them in the next post.

Cooking up a storm tonight,

Jean

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Outdoorsy stuff, and beware of tourists

Yours truly, looking like a tourist on the shore of Lake Superior by Naniboujou Lodge



Back at the ranch, I got to spend a lot of time outside hiking around. I have come to the conclusion that Mom and Dad’s birds and animals are very spoiled. Chickadees and nuthatches will visit your hand for sunflower seeds. The red squirrels and chipmunks will actually climb the screen door and stare into the house if there is a deficiency of seeds in the feeder (this drives the cat nuts). And the wildflower garden provides nourishment for a variety of dragonflies and butterflies (I got to see a Compton's Tortoiseshell, which I think I had only seen once in my life prior to this).

A beautiful flower at Mom and Dad's



It was very enjoyable seeing that the friendly resident nuthatches, Norris and Noreen, have had their babies! What a treat to see the little 'hatches following “Mom and Dad” around the woods. They are the cutest things; they sit, chirp, and flutter their wings, demanding to be fed by the folks. It is good to know that another generation of these extremely cool and assertive birds will be hanging out in my parents’ back yard.

The chickadees all had their babies out and about as well. The little guys were indeed very little, and the young ones do not have a feather out of place. The same can't be said for their bedraggled parents who look in pretty rough shape. No doubt they are waiting for fall when they start to look crisp and clean once again.

Hanging with the chickadees



One of the chipmunks at the house enjoying a handout



Because I ate so much, it is good that I got to do a lot of hiking. But it is also good that I am a runner to burn off all those calories! I went running three times, including a couple of 5 milers and a 14 miler. The weather was almost ideal except for the 14 miler when temperatures actually got into the lower 70’s, making it a little slower going than I would have liked. But the mornings of the 5 milers were blissfully cool in the 50’s. I got to run along the shore and take in some spectacular views of Lake Superior.

I was on my 14 miler running an old road/trail along side of Minnesota Hwy 61, which is a busy, busy stretch of road (especially in the summer) as it is the only artery to the North Shore from Duluth. I saw a car stopped on the road near an open meadow.

When I say “stopped on the road,” I mean stopped dead right in the middle of the southbound lane of the highway. The car had North Dakota plates (tourists!). At first, I thought they were having problems, but then I realized they probably were looking at something.

I watched in horror as a car approached from behind, slowing down rapidly and zipping around the vehicle that was parked in the road. Realizing his error, the driver finally got a clue and tried to move his car over to the shoulder.

As I approached, I saw what they were looking at; an entire family of deer consisting of a buck (still had velvet on the antlers), doe, and two adorable spotted fawns. Beautiful animals, and a fairly rare sight! This is definitely worth looking at, but not worth getting killed over, either. The car full of “NoDak” tourists eventually left as I got closer, pulling back onto the road without signaling.

The deer, perhaps only 25-30 feet away from me, just stood there and watched. I started talking to them.

“What do you think of all these tourists?” I asked the furry creatures. The deer continued to stare.

I started waving my arms wildly and chased them from the meadow up into the woods. They were too close to the highway, and I didn’t want any of them getting pancaked by a car (nor did I want a different carload of North Dakotans watching them from the middle of the highways to get creamed, for that matter).

As the deer bounded into the woods, I froze. I had forgotten that I was carrying my digital camera in my waist pack!

What an idiot. Not as big of an idiot as the guy who stopped his car in the highway, but an idiot nonetheless.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My culinary weekend up north

Time to catch up on my weekend. Let us start with the food first...

The weekend started with good food, and the trend continued throughout. On my way up to Mom and Dad’s, I stopped at Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet for a bacon cheeseburger. Gordy’s is the best, and in fact, it should be recognized as a national landmark. Fantastic burgers, and quite inexpensive, too. It is always worth a little extra driving off of the interstate for this treat!

The bacon cheeseburger at Gordy’s Hi-Hat



Of course, Mom and Dad fed me extremely well. Dad’s home smoked BBQ ribs, grilled salmon with a maple glaze, shrimp scampi, a double-smoked ham from a Duluth meat market...wow. They pull out all the stops when I come home. Needless to say, I was sent back to the Cities with many leftovers for my weekday lunches!

Dad's ribs - one of many excellent meals at Mom and Dad’s



We even went out to eat as well! On Friday, Mom and I had lunch at Chez Jude in Grand Marais. Excellent food and an intriguing menu can be found at this slightly upscale dining establishment. As if my Gordy’s burger on Thursday wasn’t enough, I had a burger again. I couldn’t pass it up. Chopped sirloin with a wild rice & gouda cheese; are you kidding me? How could I turn that down? And their "frites" (not pictured because they are served in the elevated iron stand on the plate) were exceptional.

My burger at Chez Jude



The family also went to Naniboujou Lodge on Sunday for brunch. This lodge has an interesting history dating back to the 1920’s, and the dining room is decorated rather ornately. The brunch was nothing to sneeze at, either. Wild rice and blueberry sausages, quiche, and even cedar-planked salmon? Oh, yes!

The colorful dining room at Naniboujou



But that is not all! I even got to snack when I was out in the woods.

The wild raspberries are wonderfully ripe now, so I spent a good deal of time raiding the raspberry patches both during hikes and after runs (a fantastic post-run snack, I might add!). They are absolutely delicious, sweet, and in no way compare to the domestic raspberry in terms of sweetness. I also stumbled across the occasional dwarf raspberry, wild strawberry, and some of the best thimbleberries I have ever tasted (a vastly underrated fruit). Nature sure can produce some tasty products.

Needless to say, I still feel full. What a tasty weekend it was!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back from the North Country

Hi all!

Just a quick post to let you know I am back. I had an excellent weekend up at Mom and Dad's place in the North Country. It was so much fun hanging out with the family. Mom and Dad fed me extremely well (too well, in fact!), the weather was gorgeous, I got to do lots of running and hiking, and I once again made friends with the animal kingdom.

My impersonation of a Disney cartoon



It is probably going to take a little time to get some posts together to recap the weekend, so bear with me. I've got some good stories and photos that I look forward to sharing!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

There is a golf course named after me, and other random notes

I am heading up to Mom and Dad's for a long weekend in the North Country. Just a few anecdotal notes before I golf:

1. There is apparently a golf course named after me out in Pennsylvania! Well, not actually names after me specifically, but I think it is kind of cool that it not only shares my name, but also my hobby (link is here). If I am ever in Pennsylvania, I will have to play a round here.

2. I mentioned in the previous post that I am researching southern Minnesota's beef commercial sandwich. I have started a blog to share my findings (link is here).

3. I saw my first cedar waxwings of the year while running on Monday. There were at least a couple dozen of these nomadic birds in a deeply wooded spot along my running trail. I think they were interested in the sumac, but I am not entirely sure. Very fun to see these sleek, racy looking birds!

I am taking off to Mom and Dad's on Thursday afternoon. I haven't been up there since May when I ran the Superior Trail 25k, so that is a long time away for me. I am looking forward to getting up there, and I will report on my adventures when I return next week!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Running and road tripping in August

Wow, where is the summer going? It is hard to believe August is here already.

I was supposed to be running a race out in western Minnesota today, but on Tuesday of this week, I opted not to go. The weather forecast earlier at the time scared me off, as the National Weather Circus was calling for low 90's today with a high heat index. Didn't happen! It is still warm, but not quite as dire as predicted. Oh, well. No worries, there will always be other races!

That being said, I had a spectacular run this morning in my neighborhood. 16 1/2 miles in relatively mild, but somewhat humid, 60 degree temperatures. In fact, running through some of the foggy, swampy areas felt almost chilly. That is welcome relief considering some of my more recent afternoon runs.

Lots of wildlife again today; cardinals, catbirds, green heron, eagle, ducks, geese, and fourteen cottontail rabbits (that is a 0.85 BPM ratio for those of you keeping score at home), to name a few. But there were a couple of other nature highlights.

The morning was incredibly calm. When running by a bay on the lake, I saw a great blue heron flying very low over the surface of the water. He generated a perfect mirror-like reflection off the surface of the lake. Beautiful!

And, I also scared up a red fox! He was down by the shore of the lake, and when I ran by him he took off like a shot. A gorgeous specimen, with perfect fur and a very long, bushy tail. Wow, what a fast animal. He was really hauling! And, what a treat to see him.

Following my run, I went on a mini road trip of sorts. I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed west to the town of Kimball. A trip to the Knaus Sausage House was in order. On my trip out there, I made a point to drive on nothing but sleepy county roads. It was a beautiful day of driving.

I am drawn to any place that has a giant bull for a sign!



I picked up some jerky, maple bacon, sirloin, and a jar of their homemade sweet horseradish pickles. It is hard for me not to smile when I visit places like this.

Taking a roundabout way home, I ended up in the town of Howard Lake where I stopped for lunch. I dined at Sunni's Grille, a cute little family-style restaurant right in the heart of town.

I had the "hot beef commercial," which is essentially an open-faced hot roast beef sandwich served with mashed potatoes and gravy over everything. In most places throughout the Midwest, it is simply known as a "hot beef sandwich." But there is a distinct pocket in south central and southwestern Minnesota where this is called a beef commercial. I have actually started what will likely be an ongoing research project to study this (What can I say? I am a geek, and stuff like this fascinates me!). More to come...

My lunch at Sunni's Grille



Anyhow, the sandwich was just fantastic! Fork-tender roast beef, homemade mashed potatoes, sourdough bread, and a flavorful gravy. What is not to like here? This is down home cooking at its finest.

Tonight's dinner was a little lighter by comparison. I made venison soft shell tacos with a homemade red chile salsa. My salsa contained a mix of dried guajillo, pasilla, and cascabel chiles, and this was perhaps my best batch ever; spicy, slightly smoky, complex, and rich.

South of the border



The salsa, along with some sliced, tequila-lime marinated venison steak, refried beans, farmer cheese, fresh cilantro, and diced raw onion, made for a darn good Saturday night meal. And a darn good Saturday, for that matter.

Until next time,

Jean

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