Saturday, August 27, 2011

If I could talk to the animals

Saturday morning was gorgeous.  Headed out for my run before the sun came up, and was treated to a beautiful sunrise with various striations of color in the clouds.  57 degrees, too.  Nice and cool!  Perfect for running.

Shortly into the run, I had perhaps the strangest and funniest encounter I have ever had with an animal.  I saw a gray squirrel with a much smaller gray squirrel.  It was a late season baby, roughly half the size of mama.

They were right along the trail, so I stopped to take a look.  Predictably, the mama squirrel bolted to the nearest tree.  But the little guy bounded over to me as if I was his long lost friend and sat on my running shoe!

Here I am in the middle of the trail with a fuzzy little squirrel on my foot.  He looked straight up at me like he was thinking about climbing my leg.  The thought of squirrel claws digging into my leg did not sound appealing, so I just started laughing, gently shooed him away and told him to go back to his mom, which he did.

The little squirrel clearly needs to learn his evasive techniques.  Hilarious!  That kept me amused for the rest of the run.

My experience was nothing like the Griswold squirrel episode...

I did see other wildlife as well, but none were as friendly as the squirrel.  Ridiculous amounts of cedar waxwings flying around right now.  They were busy raiding all of the elderberry bushes.  And I saw the trumpeter swan family that I first spotted in June.  The babies are as big as the parents now.

The wildlife certainly outnumbered the people.  I ran the entire southern loop of Elm Creek Park and only saw four people on the trails - a biker, two walkers, and...a shoeless, barefoot guy doing pushup next to a park map kiosk?  Sure, whatever floats your boat.

In any case, today's run was eventful with lots of interesting sights.

Last night I made a tasty sourdough pizza with a few of the ingredients I found at the farmers market - cherry tomatoes, basil, bacon, fresh mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Simple, but delicious.

Fresh and tasty
No news on the home front.  I am pretty much in waiting mode while decisions are being made.  I am trying to be proactive, and I have started purging my apartment and packing a few things.  I forgot how much fun moving can be...not!  You never realize how much stuff you have until you need to move it.  Ugh.  But, we will just take this one day at a time and hope that things move along quickly and smoothly.

With that, I plan to retire to the easy chair tonight and partake in the Vikings preseason game.  Let another season of heartbreak and disappointment begin! ;-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bacon-Cheeseburger Pizza

Last week at work, we had some pizza ordered in for a meeting.  It was from Maggie's in Wayzata where they make the uber thin crust, Minnesota-style pizza cut into squares.

One of the pizzas that few people indulged in, but one that I loved, was a "bacon-cheeseburger" pizza - ground beef, bacon, mozzarella, cheddar, onions, and...pickles?

Yes, pickles!  Slices of dill pickles, just like you would find on a cheeseburger.  Now, I have seen bacon-cheeseburger pizzas before, but never with pickles on top.  Strange as it may sound, the pickles were an awesome idea for a topping.  Briny, sweet, sour, and they retained a slightly crisp texture.  Outstanding!  There was nothing not to like, as far as I was concerned. 

Tonight I thought I would recreate this at home with my sourdough crust.  Here is what it looked like:

Eat your heart our, Maggie's!
I browned up a small amount of ground beef, crisped up some bacon, sliced up a little onion and dill pickle, and grated up some mozzarella and sharp cheddar.  Patted out my dough, spread on some of my basic pizza sauce, threw everything on top and baked for about 7 minutes at 500 F on my stone.

Good stuff - and once again, the pickles rock!  They almost serve as this refreshing burst of sweet and sour flavor to balance out the savory, cheesy, beefy, smoky components on the pizza.  Works very well, in my opinion.

Thanks for the idea, Maggie's.  This will become a regular in the rotation!    

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where's Jean?

Sorry for the absence of posts in recent weeks.  I'm still here!

Life has been busy, but rather interesting.  I am finally trying to buy a house.  With current low interest rates, and the fact that the prices have dropped so drastically in this market over the last year, it is time to pull the trigger.  Operation Find Jean a House (code name "Maison de Jean") is in full swing!

I've learned all kinds of interesting stuff over the last week, and I currently have an offer on a place that was accepted by the homeowners.  Unfortunately, this is a "short sale" situation, so the homeowners' bank needs to approve the sale, which I am told could take anywhere from two weeks to several months, if indeed they even decide to approve it.

So, this is far from certain, but I really hope it happens.  It is a beautiful, well kept place in a location I would love.  I'm trying to stay positive and not worry about the stuff that I have no control over.  With any luck, I hope to have a new place to live in the near future.  And then I will face the unenviable task of moving...ugh.  But I will cross that bridge when I get there!

I should have some more posts in the coming days, as there is a little break in the action while we wait for the bank.  House hunting in no way halts the running and the cooking, so I will try to post new material, and check out your blogs, sometime soon!

Hoping last night's fortune cookie is a positive sign...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Catching up

It has been an exceptionally busy week, but very good week.  Busyness leaves precious little time to blog.  To recap:

1.  Really nice weather this week, for the most part.  A couple of unseasonably cool days in the mid 70's with exceptionally low dew points.  Almost felt "fall like" on Tuesday.  Lovely!

2.  This has translated to really nice running weather.  I had three great runs this week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  It is great not to feel like you are suffocating when running in the humidity!  During my various runs, I spotted the little deer again on one day (they are getting more skittish now, which I was happy to see), the goldenrod has begun to bloom (now that is a sign of fall!), and there was an emergence of eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies this week.  Very pretty. 

3.  Went into my laundry room earlier in the week and thought I smelled Gorgonzola cheese.  Turned out to be my running shoes.  Ewwww!  An unfortunate casualty this summer's hot and humid running season, and too many excessively sweaty runs.  Again, this is another reason to celebrate cooler weather - less sweating. (Sorry...that was probably too much information!)

4.  I went on a boat trip this week!  My company was celebrating a special occasion, so we took a cruise on Lake Minnetonka.  People from not around here, and those who are sports fans, might recall a much publicized Minnesota Vikings "love boat" cruise on this very lake.  I wish to point out that "Captain" Fred Smoot was not the organizer, and we all behaved ourselves! ;-)  It was a great time on the most perfect of summer days.  A few photos from the excursion:

View of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Bay.

The "low rent" district on Lake Minnetonka... ;-)

Yours truly, in boating mode!
5.  I hope to have some additional exciting news in the coming weeks.  Big changes might be afoot.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A great bird encounter and the farmer's market

The weather sucks.  While temperatures have improved slightly, we just can't shake the humidity.

This morning's run was terrible.  I struggled through 14 miles at temps in the upper 70's with a dew point of 70.  It was a sweat fest.  Not much good can be said about it.  I was overheated, and pretty much ended up walking more of the last mile.  

The only fun thing from today's run was an interesting wildlife encounter.  While running the trail along the creek bottoms, I scared up a large bird.  It flew up into a nearby tree.  Then I heard a whistle above me.  Another one was less than 10 feet above my head. 

It was a pair of barred owls.  Both were sort of hunching their shoulders and slowly bobbing their heads while making this screechy, one-note whistling noise.  Their normal hoot is often described as sounding like they are saying, "who-cooks-for-you," and I have never heard the barred owl do that.  I gathered that they were not very happy with me, so I am not sure if there were little owls in the vicinity or not.  I got out of there quickly so as not to disturb them, but that was so fun to see them.  Way more entertaining than the run itself!  

Let's talk about some fun stuff, however.  In other news, things are heating up at the local farmers market!  Lots of good stuff to be had.  Here was Thursday's haul:

I found picked up some incredible sweet corn, fresh basil, the most colorful carrots, and beautiful eggplants.  Tonight's dinner consisted of most everything here: 

Local Minnesota goodness on a plate

I grilled up a simple butterflied pork chop and dressed it simply with some spicy brown mustard.  Sweet corn was briefly boiled, and it is just fantastic, sweet, and crisp.  Potatoes (left over from the previous week's trip to the market) and the colorful carrots were roasted in the oven.  The potatoes were dressed with some fresh basil pesto that I made this afternoon.  An excellent summer meal.

You will notice the eggplant was not in use here.  I am saving those bad boys for eggplant parmigiana tomorrow!


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