Saturday, February 28, 2009

A beautiful 2 degrees

I woke up this morning a little nervous about last night's weather forecast. They were predicting -8 in my neighborhood with a wind chill of -10 to -15. Last couple weekend was tough to do a long run because of really cold weather and unplowed trails. I was really hoping this wouldn't happen two weekends in a row.

Luckily, it never got quite that cold. I checked the temperature when I returned home from my run and it was 2 degrees.

But it was a beautiful 2 degrees! :)

There was no wind today, which was a blessing. Equally as nice was the fact that there was not a cloud in the sky with the sun shining brightly. Because of that, things felt warmer than they actually were. This enabled me to do a nice 13 1/2 mile run instead of having to settle for something shorter.

Giving credit where credit is due, the road crews did an amazing job digging us out from Thursday's storm. The roads are clear, as are all of my trails. The guys who plow the park were all over it and did marvelous work. This made for easy running.

Very few people out and about this morning. I saw all of four people, three of whom appeared to be runners from a marathon training group. By the time I returned home, my eyelashes were nearly frozen together, and my entire head was frosted over. I saw my reflection in the window of the door when I entered my building, and I looked as if I had been trekking to the North Pole. Well, it was 2 degrees, after all.

Tonight's dinner was baked spaghetti with Italian sausage. What made it extra special was that it was prepared with a jar of excellent homemade pasta sauce that my Mom and Dad canned with their fresh tomatoes last fall. Yum!

Baked spaghetti on a chilly night



I really like this dish. You get a wonderful contrast of textures with the crispy noodles and cheese on top, and then you have the softer noodles on the inside, along with a spicy red sauce chock full of Italian sausage, mushrooms, and olives. A great way to fuel up after a long run, and to warm up on a chilly day.

And it is a good thing I have plenty of leftovers to help warm me up. The weather geeks are calling for -3 tonight (which is the first day of March, mind you...wow!).

Staying near the fireplace,

Jean

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good old fashioned winter storm

Hey, this turned out to be a pretty decent storm.

A photo taken at my office around 3 PM today



Another shot from the office grounds; you could see grass on this field a few hours earlier!



The snow started at noon. By 12:30, I couldn't see the building that is less than a quarter mile from me. We are receiving anywhere between 4 and 8 inches according to the weather geeks. Certainly not the most I have ever seen, but it sure was enough to screw up the roads.

The drive home SUCKED, and it took twice as long as it usually does. The snow is very wet and heavy, and there was very little grip. Trying to pull away from an intersection was even challenging. Not fun. I am glad to be home.

On a positive note, I highly recommend eating a homemade pizza while watching the large flakes fall outside. :)

Tonight's pizza; oh yeah!



Welcome back, winter!

Jean

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Long runs, more snow, and Clouseau

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day, around 38 degrees, sunshine, and a slight breeze. Since I was somewhat deprived of a long run over the weekend, I took advantage of the nice conditions and ran 11 miles after work.

The trails had indeed been plowed, and with the warmth they were all cleared off, making for easy and fast running. The temperature was fantastic as well. 38 degrees may sound cold. But trust me, it certainly doesn’t feel cold after what we have dealt with this winter! I love running in this weather. And I saw a couple of interesting things during my run.

Out on the lake, there was a guy with some contraption that resembled a parachute or a big kite. He had skis strapped to his feet. Letting the wind do its thing, he held onto this parachute/kite and was being pulled around the lake’s snowy surface on his skis. Is this called “para-skiing” or something? I have never seen anything like this. It looked like it would have been a tremendous amount of work, and I would bet it is a heck of an upper-body workout. But, he was cruising around at a pretty decent clip, even in what was only a moderate breeze.

Also, I saw both of my eagles. They were there on the way out and on the way back. In fact, as I was coming back, I even got to witness one of them flying overhead and landing directly in the nest. This is the first time this season I have seen one of them sitting in the nest, so they have obviously started their nesting. Very cool.

Of course, now that all of our snow has just about melted again, we are just in time for yet another snow storm! The National Weather Circus is predicting that upwards of 9 inches could fall tomorrow. Good grief! Should this come to fruition, it would be our most significant snowfall of the winter. Looks like my trails will need to be plowed again. Ugh!

On a completely unrelated tangent, over the weekend I recorded “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” on my DVR. I was reminder how fantastic the “Pink Panther” series of movies were as well as how great old movies, especially old comedies, are.

Of course, when I am talking about “Pink Panther” movies, I am only referring to the ones starring Peter Sellers as “Inspector Clouseau,” (however, I would concede that “Trail of the Pink Panther” was awful, as it was basically a clip show pieced together after Peter Sellers died), and not the abysmal modern versions with Steve Martin which I absolutely refuse to see. In my mind, this is akin to some new artist repainting the Mona Lisa; the classics just shouldn’t be messed with. Clouseau was a brilliant character, and Sellers was a treasure. Unlike many of today's one-trick-ponies who are deemed to be "actors," he could do anything. Man, I love these movies!

A classic scene from "The Pink Panther Strikes Again"



They sure don't make 'em like they used to.

Bracing for snow,

Jean

Monday, February 23, 2009

Searching for snowplows

This past weekend’s weather was not exactly conducive to getting in some long runs. I had wanted to do at least a 13-14 miler on one of those days, but there were a few things working against me.

As documented earlier, my Saturday run could have been better conducted using snowshoes. I only got in 7 miles while plowing my way through 4 inches of snow.

On Sunday, things were not much better. My trails around the lake had still not been plowed (grrrr!). Usually they get on these fairly quickly, so I don’t know why there was a delay. Whatever the reason, I was forced to change things up and find a new route. I ended up sticking to some sidewalks that had been cleared off and essentially ran a big square in my neighborhood, covering just over 8 miles.

Adding to the difficulty, the temperature when I finished up on Sunday was 4 degrees with a wind chill of -8. I guess this would explain why my left eyelashes were frozen together so I could barely see! :) Wow, we are almost in the month of March, yet we are still seeing these temperatures.

So it wasn’t an easy weekend of running by any stretch of the imagination. In hindsight, I think it was OK to have a lighter weekend. Over the three previous weekends, I had put in a long run between 13 and 14.5 miles. And having just recovered from a cold, it was probably fine to have dialed back the training. I am feeling much better and more rested.

Also, the good news is that I still think I am in a decent place with my training. The Fargo Marathon is still 74 days away, so I have time! With our days getting longer gradually warming up over the next couple of months, there should be more (and hopefully easier) opportunities for some longer runs.

In culinary news (perhaps I need a segment called "Jean's Culinary Corner"?), I've been on a pizza kick lately. I made some absolutely excellent dough over the weekend, so here is tonight's dinner. With dough made ahead of time and kept in the fridge, I can have a homemade pizza ready for dinner in about 35-40 minutes. The pizza delivery folks in my neighborhood have never met me. :)

Pepperoni, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and green olives with asiago and fresh mozzarella cheeses. In your face, Domino's! :)



Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Character building

Yours truly, exhausted from today's run, but still looking sharp in my snazzy new running jacket!



You know how whenever you complete a difficult task (generally an unpleasant one) and people will say to you, "It builds character"? That perfectly describes this morning's run.

My neighborhood received between 3 and 4 inches of snow overnight. Everything is pretty and white again, so we have returned to winter.

I went for my run, and of course nothing was plowed. Not that I would expect this so early in the day, as the park trails are generally cleared within a day of a snowfall. But none of the residential streets were plowed, either.

Each step was kind of like plowing snow. I encountered no other people, and I broke trail in the fresh snow for most of the route. Needless to say, the run was very, very slow, yet it had to be a good calorie burner.

I made it 7 miles, but it felt like twice that. When I returned, I had clumps of snow still clinging to my pants at the cuff, and my socks were completely soaked. As I said, it was a tough run!

There is good news, however. My cold is improving, and this is the best I have felt since Monday. And, as seen above, I got a sweet new running jacket to replace the one I destroyed. My running store, Start Line, had a blowout sale on their winter gear, so I picked up this Brooks jacket. Aside from the fact that it was marked down from $85 to $42.50, the best part is that it is orange, one of my favorite colors!

And how to reward yourself after a hard run? Why, with oven fried chicken, of course!

Buttermilk-marinated oven fried chicken



Last night I marinated a few chicken pieces in a mixture of buttermilk, fresh thyme and rosemary, several cloves of crushed garlic, and a healthy dose of hot sauce. Today, I removed the chicken from the marinade, seasoned it with a homemade paprika-based poultry seasoning, and dredges the chicken in a mixture of flour and fine breadcrumbs. Right before baking, I spray the chicken with cooking spray (it aids in the browning). I baked it in the oven at 350 degrees until a pretty crust is formed, and an instant read meat thermometer registered at 165 degrees (close to an hour.

Good stuff! The meat stays nice and juicy, you get a tasty, flavorful crust, and you can really taste the tangy results of the buttermilk soak. Mmmmm, that's good oven fried chicken...

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tonight's pizza

I've got nothing to say, really. I just wanted to share because it turned out so nice! :)

Tonight's pizza; shrimp, artichoke hearts, red bell peppers, and green olives



Molto bene!

Jean

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wardrobe malfunction

The sunset on Wednesday night's run



I have a cold. Not sure where I picked it up, bit it appears to be only your common cold with the stuffy head and sinus issues.

I never really buy any meds to treat colds. I have found that a really effective cold medication is a shot of The Macallan “Cask Strength” single malt scotch in a highball glass with a couple of ice cubes. 116.4 proof alcoholic beverages are enough to kick the butt of most germs, I figure! :) Whatever the case, I feel like I am starting to improve.

Since this is only a head cold, I am still running. And yesterday was gorgeous. I saw 40 degrees in my neighborhood, and I ran without my winter running jacket for the first time in 2009. All I needed was my base layer winter shirt with a long sleeved technical shirt over the top of that. 40 degrees is my lower threshold for wearing shorts, but I opted for the running pants because it felt kind of clammy outside (and partially because of my cold). How great it felt not to have to wear multiple layers!

The trails were all free and clear of ice. I also noticed the ice on the lake was starting to look black and quite thin in place. I suspect this will start to thicken up again as we are dropping into the deep freeze in the coming days with some below zero temps in the forecast.

Tonight's run did require a jacket. It was 15 degrees and a wind chill of -1. Overnight we received a dusting of snow. This is the first snow we have seen in weeks, so the ground at least has a dusting of white. The trails were clear in most places, since the feisty wind blew off the snow. But in the places where snow remained, I did see some cool tracks.

Tracks of a ring-necked pheasant on the snow dusted trail



Anyhow, regarding tonight's run requiring a jacket; at about mile 3 of 5 tonight, I felt my stomach starting to get rather cold. I looked down and saw that the zipper on my running jacket had separated from the bottom up. In the process of pulling the zipper down, I think I must have stripped out the teeth. The zipper don't work no more.

Crap.

Running the remaining 2 miles trying to hold your jacket closed was not an easy task, and I am certain that I looked like a complete dork. Needless to say, I was pretty darned cold by the time I finished.

Looks like I am in the market for a new running jacket. We are nowhere near finished with winter!

Thawing out nicely,

Jean

Monday, February 16, 2009

Remembering and reconnecting

Sunday started with a pleasant 7 mile run. We had a crisp 7 degrees, but the morning was beautiful, clear, and calm, making it much more tolerable than it sounds.

I was treated to another gorgeous sunrise. And in spite of the cold, again I heard many cardinals and chickadees singing (I am not sure what is going on with them, but I don’t recall them singing so much this early in the year). I also flushed a red-tailed hawk from his perch along the wooded trail. I am starting to see more and more of the big hawks now. I do see a few here and there in the winter, but I suspect they are slowly making their way up here again. Sign of spring? Here is hoping!

Later in the morning, I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed north to my hometown. I was meeting up with my family to attend a memorial service for Jane, a teacher at my old school.

As sad as the occasion was, this ended up being a great event. I got to see so many former teachers (I even hugged my Kindergarten teacher, who is still teaching, as well as my Sunday school teacher from way back), shook hands with many of my coaches, and saw so many schoolmates and members of the community from years gone by. For my brother, it was practically a class reunion, as a significant number of his graduation class attended the service. This was also being held right at the school, so we walked through and toured the old elementary school building (much smaller than I remember!) and parts of the newer high school.

I have decided that there needs to be some etiquette followed at these gatherings that end up being something of a reunion; asking “Do you remember who I am?” to someone you have not seen in 15 to 20 years is not very fair. I got asked, and was consequently stumped by, this question no less than four times yesterday, and twice I embarrassingly guessed incorrectly. So please, simply take a moment to reintroduce yourself, if for no other reason than to make me look like less of an ass for forgetting your name! :)

There were hundreds in attendance, and many kind words spoken by friends, fellow colleagues, and former students. It was impressive to see the lasting impact that one person can have on a community. The day was a very nice tribute to Jane.

My trip home was quick with very light traffic for a Sunday evening. I was pretty tired when I got back to the apartment. Thanks to the magic of the DVR, I was able to watch the Daytona 500 in about 45 minutes (congratulations, Mr. Kenseth!). And having made some fresh dough the previous day, dinner was very quick and easy; I whipped up a homemade veggie pizza topped with red bell peppers, red onions, green olives, fresh asparagus spears, and three cheeses (mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fresh goat). It has been awhile since I made homemade pizza, so this was something of a treat. Yummy! A good way to cap off what was really a nice day of remembering and reconnecting.

Sunday night's pizza



Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Double eagle

Hey, where did our warm weather go? :)

Of course, I kid. It is not even close to being spring yet. So I shouldn't have been surprised when the temperature was 10 degrees this morning!

That didn't stop me from doing 14 1/2 miles, however. Actually, it was a comfortable 10 degrees, if there is such a thing. The day started out calm with clear skies. I saw an amazing sunrise over the lake. Then skies quickly clouded over and some snow flurries began to fall. Nothing that was enough to cause any accumulation, but it was pretty.

The birds were very active again. Cardinals and chickadees are in abundance, and they were singing happily despite the cold. But the most exciting find was my eagles; BOTH of them are back!

As I approached the nest, I could see two chunky silhouettes sitting up in the tree. I was very happy to see that both of them had survived the harsh winter, and they are obviously getting into their nesting mode. I said "Hi" to them, but they just stared at me with their steely gaze, seemingly uninterested in my presence. Here is wishing them a successful nesting season, and I look forward to hopefully watching them raise a youngster or two this summer.

When I returned from my run, I was fairly frosted over. My face mask had ice on it, there was frost all over my stocking cap, and even the technical shirt I was wearing over my base layer shirt and under my jacket had some ice buildup on it! That was a first. There is never a dull moment running in Minnesota.

So, it was a chilly day. How about a little meat loaf for dinner?

Loaf of meat, with goat cheese mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus



I had not made meat loaf in some time, and it just sounded good. I use Alton Brown's recipe for the most part, except that I only use two pound of meat (still use equal parts beef and pork, though), saute the vegetables first (to cook out the raw taste and to give them some roasted flavor), add a little ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to the meat mixture, use fresh thyme instead of dried, add fresh chopped parsley, add some balsamic vinegar to the glaze, and roasted it in the pan (350 in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the temperature reaches 155 F) and opposed to turning it out onto a sheetpan.

Wow...OK, so maybe I don't use Alton Brown's recipe! All I know is this was damn good served with a side of mashed baby red potatoes spiked with a creamy, tangy Belgian goat cheese, and also some fresh asparagus. This is a tasty, comforting way to combat the cold here in Minnesota.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let's go racing, boys!

We actually had a relatively mild week here in MN, which made for some good running.

We had 34 degrees yesterday (with some rain, sleet, and wind, but otherwise it was fine), and 28 today. Trails were clear, but I had to tiptoe over some frozen puddles this afternoon. It is absolutely incredible how much snow we have lost.

I saw one of my eagles near the nest on my run today. Always fun to see the eagle! I think those guys have a lot of downtime. I saw him on my way out and on my way back, and he hadn't moved an inch. Eagles like to lounge. I can respect that.

I have to keep this short because I need to eat something, and then I need to sit down and watch the NASCAR Gatorade Duels from Daytona, which I recorded this afternoon. NASCAR season is back, baby! And to kick things off right, how about reliving on of the most famous fights between drivers in NASCAR history! :)

Are you ready for some NASCAR?



Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring in February?

A photo from my run this afternoon; after two days of rain and warm temperatures, my local lake had water on top of the ice!



Here in Minnesota, we have been treated to some strange, springlike weather. I saw 46 degrees in my neighborhood yesterday, and it was 38 today. Couple that with some rain on both days, and our snow is virtually gone!

I went running this afternoon, and it was good. The trails are all clear of the ice and snow pack, with the exception of my big hill which is in the woods and in the shade. That was glare ice. Otherwise, it was all pavement and puddles! A very fast surface today, but it ought to get really interesting when everything refreezes.

A shot from along the trail; it has been some time since I have seen the grass on the trail's edge!



Of course, I know better than to get too excited. In Minnesota, we are all but guaranteed another big snowstorm or two. And this usually occurs at the end of March, just when we think spring is here. I guess I will just enjoy the warmth (and enjoy not having to put on 600 layers of clothing) while it lasts! :)

Thinking spring,

Jean

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Ragu

It was a pretty decent weekend for running here in the Twin Cities.

Saturday morning I got up really early and was out the door at 5:30 AM. The temperature was 29 degrees with overcast skies and a fairly healthy dose of humidity (I swear days like this feel colder than a crisp zero degree day!). I ran 13 1/2 miles. It feels good to start logging some longer runs.

On Saturday, I believe I saw the first raccoon of the season. As I ran the trail along side of a creek, I scared up this large, rotund critter with a stump of a tail. It was still dark, so I could only see a silhouette, but I don't know what else it would have been. The weather has been nice enough that a few of them have probably emerged from hibernation.

Today I awakened to a 14 degree day with clear skies and relatively calm winds. I put in 7 miles and only saw one other person (a walker) the entire time. Lots of birds singing again this morning, most noticeably cardinals and chickadees, and even a robin.

(Incidentally, there has been lots of talk regarding the large number of robins in the Twin Cities this winter, which is somewhat unusual. WCCO ran a story on this. The reason many have stayed? They only fly as far south as they need to! Interesting stuff.)

For dinner tonight, I got in touch with my inner Italian (even though I am decidedly not Italian). I had not made a Bolognese-style ragu in quite some time, and I was kind of craving it. So I made this my project for the afternoon while the Daytona 500 qualifying was going on in the background (NASCAR season is upon us!).

Today's ragu consisted of ground lamb, Italian sausage, and a little bit of pancetta. Aromatic veggies included carrots, celery, fennel, red onion, and garlic. To make the sauce, I went with crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine and beef stock. I used fresh rosemary as my primary herb, since it plays nice with lamb. There was also some crushed red pepper thrown in for heat.

Lamb and Italian sausage ragu over spaghetti



Mmmm...now that's good ragu... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, February 6, 2009

The 23rd Psalm

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.” – Psalm 23:6


Lost” could be my favorite TV show of all time. One of my favorite episodes was from the second season. It was entitled “The 23rd Psalm.”

This episode focused on the story of Mr. Eko, a former African drug lord turned priest, and followed him on his path to ultimately find redemption. At the end of the show, we see Mr. Eko reciting the 23rd Psalm on the beach next to a burning pile of brush that was the remnants of a church he was trying to build on the island. It was one of the most memorable episodes for me.

Mr. Eko reciting the 23rd Psalm on "Lost"



I heard the 23rd Psalm recited at my great aunt’s funeral last Friday. Tomorrow I am attending the funeral for a cousin, and I will likely hear it there as well. And the weekend after that at the funeral for a friend back in my hometown.

That makes three funerals in three weeks.

As sad as funerals are, in a strange sort of way they also end up being nice occasions. A celebration, even. Last weekend I got to see so many relatives and friends of the family that I had not seen in years. I met relatives that I had never met before. I heard fantastic (and often funny) stories about the good old days back in my Dad’s hometown, which had quite the cast of characters. It was beautiful.

I expect a similar experience tomorrow. And the weekend after that.

Me with my parents, aunt and uncle, and cousin, taken last weekend



I have been fortunate to have the most loving, caring group of people in my life. Both sides of my family are the best of the best. They are the people who taught me to be a leader and not a follower, that the reward for a job well done is more work, and that you treat others the way you would like to be treated. I don't know how I came to be so lucky, as they say you can't choose your family. I couldn't have chosen a better one.

But it goes beyond family. I had the best teachers growing up. I have the best group of friends. Even my co-workers are outstanding people who show me on a daily basis the value of teamwork, selflessness, and helping those in need of support.

I am truly surrounded by good people. What more could a person ask for?

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Requiem for a can opener

First, some weather notes:

I keep a spreadsheet to track my mileage. I also record the temperature at the time of the run. In January, I went running on 22 of the 31 days. Just for kicks, I calculated an overall average temperature during my 22 runs for the entire month. Here are the numbers:

Warmest Run: 30 F (Tie: January 21st & 22nd)

Coldest Run: -12 F (January 24th)

Overall Average Temperature: 12.6 F

What I am trying to say is that January was a chilly month! :)

I had an absolutely fantastic run this evening after work. The temperature when I finished was a crowd-pleasing 6 degrees with a -7 wind chill. Although, I must confess it didn't feel that cold. We had bright sunshine today, and I think that helped.

The trails, for the most part, were free and clear of ice, so it was clear sailing. I was downright speedy today, and it felt as if I had my summer legs back. Good times! I love runs like that.

My old can opener; retired unceremoniously after years of service



This weekend when I was preparing my chili, I broke my can opener. This particular can opener is a hand-me-down that I have had since I left home. I am certain it is older than I am. It is all metal, except for a small piece of plastic that served as something of a washer between the housing and the gearing.

The plastic piece shattered while opening my black beans, so now there is no tension and the gear just spins. Thankfully, I had my Leatherman tool in my toolbox which has a blade for opening cans, so I was able to accomplish my mission.

However, I am kind of ticked off, because the can opener worked great. I'm going to hang onto it in case it is fixable. But I can just about guarantee any new can opener I buy isn't going to last 40 year or more!

I wonder how many cans this thing opened in its lifetime? Anyhow, thanks for the memories, dear can opener! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, February 2, 2009

A super Super Bowl

Today was a day off from running. In lieu of that, I have a couple of comments about last night's game:

-I noticed a huge difference between runners and football players. I know professional football players are generally considered to be "in shape." But when Harrison returned that 100 yard INT for a TD and then nearly needed to be carted off the field from exhaustion, I thought he needed to take up running! Don't get me wrong, the guy is put together and can probably bench press a house. I know I can't do that. But I also know I don't need oxygen after running 300 feet... :)

-What a 4th quarter! Lots of twists and turns, and the Pittsburgh drive at the end was pretty impressive. The amazing catch that Holmes made in the end zone was the stuff of legends. But nobody is really talking about the pass. If you look at the replay, there was only one of the three defenders that had a shot at it, but that was slim. Really, the only guy who could make the grab was Holmes. I hope for his sake his contract is up for renewal. What a bargaining chip! Anyhow, I got my wish; it was a good game with a great finish.

-Call me immature, but this is the Super Bowl commercial that made me laugh:



Oh, and last night's chili was pretty darned good as well!

Mmmmmm....chili!



Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dedication on Super Bowl Sunday

Another pretty nice day here in MN.

This morning it was 27 degrees for my run. The skies were clear, and there was a fairly stiff breeze, but nothing to quibble about. Yesterday's heatwave (I ended up seeing 46 degrees in my neighborhood!) melted off a lot of snow pack on the trails, so there was some nice bare pavement to run on in some areas.

Other spots where there had been standing water as a result of the melting were incredibly slick. I took my time in those areas! I ended up doing 7 miles on what was an enjoyable run with yet another gorgeous sunrise over the lake.

There has been a change in bird behavior. Yesterday I noted that the chickadees were doing their "fee-bee" call (they were still doing it today), which is generally heard only in the spring or fall. Today I heard the cardinals singing, as I did yesterday, but they were doing their piercing, descending call (the bird book describes the call as "what-CHEER! what-CHEER!") I have not heard the cardinals do this in months. This too is something of a sign of spring.

However, I am not buying it. We have a long way to go before the trees get their leaves and the flowers start blooming. I think the birds were just enjoying the nice day. Either that, or the cardinal is just excited that his team made it to the Super Bowl! ;-)

When I returned home from my run, I entered the apartment through the main doors. Two of the caretakers were standing in the lobby. They are really nice folks who always say hello.

One of them greeted me and said, "You know, you really need to write a book about your dedication!" They see me all the time when I come through the lobby after finishing up a run, and I think they think I am crazy for running year round, especially in the winter weather (even though today was pretty nice).

I told them both, "I just love running in the winter. It is always nice and cool!" My comment completely cracked them up. We wished each other a good day, and I headed to my apartment.

I thought it was kind of neat that they noticed. But I don't know that it is so much about dedication as it is about enjoyment. It is fun to get outside, see the sunrise, and observe the birds changing up their vocalizations. The act of running is fun in and of itself, but it also takes me to the places where I can see and hear these things. And there is always something new to hear and see.

In the movie, "The Rookie," Dennis Quaid play the character of Jim Morris, a former baseball player turned teacher and coach who refused to give up on his dream of playing in the major leagues. Quaid has line in the movie where he says to another teammate:

"You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball!"

I don't play baseball. But I do get to go running.

Now I am am simply kicking back and preparing for the Super Bowl. I am firmly entrenched in the "I don't care who wins; I just want to see a good game" camp, and I really hope the commercials are better this year than last. :)

One thing I have decided; I had ESPN on in the background while I was doing some prep work in the kitchen. There is far too much pre-game coverage when you have to fill time with Boomer quizzing Cris and Keyshawn about how many tons of chips are consumed by Americans while watching the Super Bowl, and when you have Snoop Dogg rapping next to NFL analyst, Chris Mortenson. Ugh. Thank goodness golf is on soon!

Anyhow, the Super Bowl chili is simmering as I type this, and it's going to be spicy. Speaking of spicy, here is last night's kung pao chicken. I think my nose is still running from all the chilies I put in it! :)

Kung POW!



Until next time,

Jean

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