Monday, December 31, 2007

1350

This past Saturday, I was treated to a really great day of running. I did 9 miles through my neighborhood on the trails and around the lake. Temperatures were around 20 degrees, and a light, fluffy snow was falling. All of the trees were coated with the fresh snow, so I truly felt like I was in a winter wonderland. Along the route, I saw a few cardinals. There are few things more striking than seeing a bright red bird against a canvas of white. Those guys positively glow in the winter! Anyhow, I had a very nice run.

Otherwise, the weekend has been spent mainly doing some cooking. I was supremely bored by all of the meaningless Sunday NFL games (where most of the good teams benched their players to save them for the playoffs, as well as the hapless Vikings), so much of my day was spent in the kitchen. I made some beef jerky on the food dehydrator, homemade ravioli with whole-wheat pasta dough stuffed with a mixture of Italian sausage, potato, and Parmigiano-Reggianio and Swiss Emmenthaler cheeses (haven't tried this out yet, they are in the freezer for later), and a homemade pizza for dinner in the evening.

Today I only had a half day of work, so I left the office at noon. I went home and did my run. Prior to that, I had noticed my mileage log for the year was at 1342.5. I went out and did an 8 miler just to put over 1350 miles for the year (I figured that was a nice, round number!). The run was rather chilly today. It was 17 degrees, but they was a pretty stiff breeze coming out of the north, so that created a decent wind chill. But I did my lap around the lake, only encountering one other person (a runner) along the whole route. A great way to cap off 2007!

I have no big plans for New Year's Eve except for some football and Giada's balsamic roasted chicken (I haven't made this in ages, and it just sounded good!).

Another year is in the books, and what a year it was! I got to do a lot of fun races, achieved some new goals, ran more miles than ever before, got a new job, and a new place to live. Not bad!

Here is wishing everyone a safe and Happy New Year, and all the best wishes for a fantastic 2008!

Until next year, :)

Jean

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas giving and weather matters

Christmas Day was spent sharing a great meal of prime rib, exchanging gifts, and tuning in to watch "A Christmas Story" on TBS (No doubt, one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. Would you believe I actually saw it in a theater when it came out in 1983?)

And Christmas was especially kind to me. I received a lot of clever, thoughtful gifts, such as some books on Minnesota landmarks and history, clothing, Jelly Belly jellybeans (yum!), and other food-related items.

The envy of every NASCAR fan



Other items of note, I got a small, 1.3 gallon keg of Bell's Two Hearted Ale, a craft brew out of Michigan, from my brother and sister-in law. And, my Mom (an extraordinary quilter) hunted down some fabric with NASCAR print and made me this one-of-a-kind cooking apron (which is reversible and has numbers on the pockets for the great Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart on the side pictured, as well as Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne on the other). Nice! What NASCAR fan wouldn't fantasize about this combination of gifts? :)

But that is not all; Mom also made me a quilt with a collage of wildlife prints. Honest to goodness, I wasn't expecting to receive such a precious, handmade gift. What an honor! As Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" said of his Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, "One of the greatest Christmas presents I ever received, or ever would receive." It is absolutely gorgeous, and it now serves as the blanket for my bed. Thanks, Mom!

My beautiful quilt



OK, now I need to talk about the weather. Over the past weekend, the North Shore was supposed to experience a big snowstorm, with the worst of it hitting the easternmost tip of the Arrowhead. Dad is a volunteer snow spotter for the National Weather Circus (as I call it), so he regularly reports snow totals to the office in Duluth.

The area where my parents live was predicted to get upwards of 14 inches of snow by Sunday. Sunday morning, the freezing rain started, and shortly thereafter it changed over to all snow. While there was a brief burst of snow, it never seemed to really get going. They ended up with barely 2 inches. It turns out the storm track went a LOT further west, so Duluth absolutely got clobbered.

Later on Sunday, the phone rings. It was a guy from the National Weather Circus calling Dad to find out what is going on up in our area! Of course, I found this hilarious. The guys with the high-powered "Super Doppler" radar and all the scientific equipment can't figure out what is happening, so they have to call my Dad! Unreal. I think Dad knows more than they do anyhow, so this was probably a good thing.

But there is more; Tuesday night we watched the local weather on the news and all signed pointed to a relatively decent travel day for me on Wednesday, with Northern Wisconsin being the only area under the gun for a chance of snow. Wednesday morning, I awaken to a northeast wind and the dreaded "lake effect" snow, which gave me the wonderful treats of snow-packed roads, occasional white-out conditions, as well as an unbelievably slippery stretch on the outskirts of Duluth (the exact same area where I experienced difficult driving at Thanksgiving). A positively miserable drive, with over 200 miles of it being driven at well below the speed limits. It took me forever to get home, but thankfully I arrived in one piece.

My folks actually got more snow out of this unpredicted lake effect snow than they did from the "big storm" that was predicted for the weekend. It goes to show that you can't believe anything you hear about the weather in Minnesota. It is just so unpredictable.

And despite any grumblings I might have about my drive home, there is nowhere I would rather live. This state is awesome! :)

So that is my Christmas weekend. Great food, family, and a whole lot of fun; how could it not be the best ever?

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good eats over the holidays

My weekends when visiting Mom and Dad are usually centered around some really excellent food, and this Christmas was no exception.

We had a lunch of Mom's chicken & wild rice soup with our friends, Marland and Nancy. Dad made venison stew one night, shrimp in cream sauce over spaghetti, and a prime rib on Christmas Day. Of course, I can't forget snacking on my brother's venison summer sausage that he made in his own smoker.

The meal highlight for me was this one; our Christmas Eve menu of pork roast, Norwegian polse sausage, mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, roasted vegetables, cranberry relish, and some traditional lefse on the side.

A plate of Norwegian Christmas goodness



As noted Norwegian chef and food writer Andreas Viestad said in his "Kitchen of Light" cookbook, "Almost everyone I know eats pork rib roast, and for them a Christmas without it would be unthinkable." So who are we to argue? :) Mom made a most excellent pork loin roast; incredibly juicy, flavorful, delicious, and the gravy should be nominated for its own food group.

Sticking with the Norwegian tradition, Dad prepared some of his homemade Norwegian polse sausage. This has been a traditional Christmas dish for years. It is not easy to find, but you might be able to track some down in the smaller Norwegian communities in southern Minnesota. Polse (as we know it) is a ring sausage made of beef and pork, and is seasoned predominantly with allspice. It is a familiar flavor to us, as a market in my Dad's hometown used to make polse sausage. And I actually prefer Dad's version to the original! His recipe is awesome.

Wow, what a meal!

So now you know why I run as much as I do; when I am fed like this when I go home, calories need to be burned off! :)

More to come....

Jean

Finally, some snowshoe running

I discovered snowshoe running a few winters ago. I tried going out once last year after one of our few snowstorms, and it was an embarrassing failure. So in a year where we finally have some decent snow, how good was it to get back in the snowshoes again?

I went running on Friday up at Mom and Dad's, but otherwise the rest of my fitness activities were done wearing snowshoes. I am lucky that my folks have a network of trails that wind through their woods, which gives me a great opportunity to snowshoe to my heart's content.

Snowshoe runner



Saturday, I got in a scant 20 minute snowshoe run (it was freezing rain and really heavy, wet snow at the time...), but I followed that up with a much better 30 and 40 minute run on Monday and Tuesday. Doesn't sound like much of a workout, you say?

Here is how I figure it; go out and get yourself to a point where you think you are in great shape. Then, strap some snowshoes to your feet and try running on an unbroken trail. Soon, you will find out what kind of shape you are in! This is a pretty intense cardiovascular workout. It feels a bit like you are running in sand, even after you have pounded down the trail a little bit. This is fantastic exercise.

The snowshoe trail on Christmas Day



My Monday and Tuesday runs were great, with the best coming on Tuesday. By Tuesday, I had packed down the trail really well, and there was a light dusting of fresh powder on top. I was able to cruise through the woods and absolutely fly on the downhills (Which is really fun, by the way...your footing is so secure, and the claws on the bottom dig right in, so you can go downhill with great speed and confidence. Wheeeeeee!!!).

And what a treat to be able to run in such a tranquil setting. It was peaceful in the woods, and the trees looked so beautiful with the fresh layer of snow. And of course, I had to carry sunflower seeds with me, as I was occasionally accosted by Norris and his roving band of friendly chickadees. As always, they were happy to see me.

One of my chickadee friends



Norris, enjoying some seeds while sneering at my running outfit



So my return to snowshoe running was both successful and fun. I can't wait to go out again. (And judging by the condition of the trails back in my neighborhood, I could just as well have worn my snowshoes on my afternoon run!)

More to come... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Best Christmas ever?

A hazy Christmas Day on the North Shore



Hi everyone,

I have returned from the North Country following my long Christmas weekend. A good time was had by all with plenty of food and drink, outdoor activity, and excellent company. And the weather cooperated (for the most part...more on that later).

For the sake of organization, I think I am going to break up my weekend into a few different posts. It is much easier to stay on topic that way! In the meantime, please enjoy this photo of my favorite kitty, who is always happy to see me when I visit Mom and Dad!

Kitty loves my duffel bag



Christmas 2007 - Index of Posts

Finally, some snowshoe running
Good eats over the holidays
Christmas giving and weather matters

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas

Just a quick note to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

I am heading up to Mom and Dad's place right around the lunch hour today for a long holiday weekend. The trunk of my car is full, and I have my snowshoes along, so there is bound to be some outdoor activity...along with some really good food, of course!

Safe travels to you all, enjoy the holidays, and I will talk to you when I return next Wednesday!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Snowshoeing, anyone?

A strange week compared to our recent cold snap. This week has felt downright mild. We have had days approaching the freezing mark, and there is actually a little bit of melting that has transpired.

My run this morning was good, just the usual 4.5. I must be getting on a fairly regular morning schedule, because I keep meeting the same two female runners on the same stretch of the bike path in roughly the same spot! (One of them wears a headlamp now, too...I am a trend setter!)

With the New Year rapidly approaching, it is time to start filling in the race calendar. I have my first event of 2008 scheduled. It will likely prove to be an interesting one. I am doing the Yukon Day 3 mile snowshoe race on Feb. 2nd in White Bear Lake. Perhaps to be more accurate I should say it is ON White Bear Lake! :) I have never done a snowshoe race before, so I will be in uncharted territory. This should be a lot of fun.

As for other races, I will do the Human Race 8k for certain (this will be the 4th year in a row), and I am tentatively thinking that I might do the Superior Trail Race 25k in May for my first "big" race of the year.

That is all I've got so far. The rest will fill in over time as I get my goals ironed out!

Time to finish this post. The Unit is on in about 20 minutes... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas baking!

Christmas is getting really close. And it wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't do a little baking!

This week, my office is having a cookie baking contest. Today I prepared my entry; dark chocolate chip-toffee-M&M drop cookies.

Danger: Loaded With Chocolate!



I used dark chocolate chips, M&M's (also of the dark chocolate variety), and little chopped of bits of Heath English toffee bars. The cookies are fantastic, and I am going to have to hide them from myself so I don't eat the all before the contest! :)

I went running on both Saturday and today. Saturday was pretty brisk again with a temperature of 0 degree, but it was ever so calm. I put in 7 miles, saw chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and even a pileated woodpecker. There were a couple of human signs of life as well; a lady walking a black lab, and I met one runner. I greeted the runner, both of us with our facemasks and hats completely frosted over. Choosing to put a positive spin on the weather, he said to me, "Hey, at least it's not windy, right?":) I love running in this stuff.

Today I put in a little over 5 miles at a much warmer 16 degrees. Some flurries from overnight had slightly dusted parts of the trail, but no significant accumulation. I had solid footing all the way around. The only living thing I saw was a deer I startled when rounding a corner.

I hit a significant milestone on Saturday. I surpassed 1300 miles for the year! While I had already run further than I ever have in any year before, 1300 is a nice even number and one that I wanted to pass before year's end.

Today, in addition to baking cookies, I have been watching football and wrapping Christmas presents. Yesterday I got the last of my shopping sone (thank goodness). Speaking of shopping, I drove by the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in hopes of hitting the bookstore, and there was not a place to park. People were parked all the way out in the outer ring of the parking lots, and cars were lined up to get into the complex. This is insane!

Shopping online next year,

Jean

Friday, December 14, 2007

Change in channels

A very busy week with a lot to do at work; but hey, it is the weekend!

And it is really my last weekend before my Christmas vacation starts. I will be heading up to the North Country this coming Thursday for an extended holiday, and I can't wait. That does mean that I have quite a bit to do this weekend, particularly in terms of last minute shopping. Plus, I should do laundry, buy some groceries, and pretty much get things in order for the week to come. I'm also looking forward to doing some running tomorrow and Sunday. Saturday morning is supposed to be bitterly cold again, so it should be perfect running weather! :)

I noticed recently that my channel lineup has changed somewhat in recent days. I now have the Food Network HD channel, so I can now watch Giada and Alton in high-def. Woohoo!

Also, I am getting some channel called Universal HD. They show a mishmash of TV shows, sports, and movies like "D.C. Cab" and "Meatballs II." It is something like what I had in mind for the JeanTV network I want to launch, but a little more classy. They manage to sneak in the occasional, honest-to-goodness classic, such as "The Day of the Jackal," for instance, whereas I just want to show the obscure comedies and TV shows that left before their time. My dream is still alive! :)

Whatever the case, my HD options are expanding, and that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Warming up, looking ahead, and game shows

The weather has warmed up dramatically. It was actually 20 degrees when I went for my run this morning!

A recent plow job exposed some of the pavement on the bike path, which means I had solid footing for the first time in over a week. I felt downright speedy. Nice! The run today was a very good one. I even met three other runners, and two of them were wearing headlamps like mine. I would like to think of myself as a trend-setter in this regard… :)

Sunday's run was quite good as well. I decided to go out for a short 4 miler just so I could explore a little more of the trail I discovered on Saturday. It winds its way along a creek, through some woods, and over some wide open meadows and grassy areas. I saw no other people on this day (it was 4 degrees at the time), and the only signs of life were downy woodpeckers, gray squirrels, and three deer that I scared out of the creek bottom. This will become a regular route, I am certain.

I am starting to get excited because the local 2008 races calendars are starting to get populated with information. It is always kind if fun to look ahead to the local running events and trying to figure out what I want to do. I know I want to focus more on distance this year, do fewer short races, and hopefully run more races on trails. Time to start planning and setting some new goals!

Unrelated to anything, here the venison chili that I brewed up on Sunday; yum! This batch turned out excellent, with a pleasant heat level and a hint of sweetness. It was the perfect meal to enjoy on a cold Sunday afternoon while watching the Vikes beat the Niners (sorry, Rick!).

Fine football fare



Also unrelated to anything, I have been watching a fair amount of "Deal Or No Deal" lately, and there was a story in our local news about the show. Apparently, over 10,000 people showed up to audition for the show at a Twin Cities car dealership during our bitter cold weekend. Insane, isn't it? I will run in sub-zero temperatures, but not even the prospect of getting to meet the holder of Case #3 in person would be enough to get me to stand around in weather like that.

Running in the cold? Deal. Standing around in the cold? NO DEAL! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Minus 5 equals 7

I woke up this morning to a temperature of -5 degrees (with a wind chill factor of -16 for anyone keeping score at home). Why not go for a run!

Here is what -5 below zero looks like! A shot of Weaver Lake in Maple Grove.



With the full face mask, winter base layers, gloves, and trail shoes, I hit the bike paths and trails and did 7 miles. It was absolutely exhilarating. I love running in weather like this! The crunch of snow underneath your feet, the frost that builds up on your eyelashes, and that very audible, crystalline, tinkling sound you hear when the weather is below zero (Minnesotans know what I mean). I would take running in this over running when it's 90 degrees any day.

I only saw four other signs of life. Four people, all runners, all die-hards. Is there anything more comical to a runner during the winter when runners meet and exchange an almost incomprehensible "Good morning!" that is muffled by ski masks, scarves, etc.? :) I even got to explore a new bike path that was beautiful, and will provide me with a better route to the lake loop that I run. It winds through a wide open meadow and along the edge of a creek. Awesome!

Once I thawed out from my run I did some grocery shopping, as well as some Christmas shopping (finally!). I managed to get to the stores early enough to beat a lot of the crowds, although I did pretty much get run out of the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble. There were about a dozen people tearing down cookbook displays, moving books, and setting up audio equipment for some apparent story time session or something. I felt like I was totally in the way, nobody even said "excuse me," and on top of that I didn't find the book I was looking for, either. So that pissed me off slightly. This is a further reminder why online shopping is a great thing! :)

But hey, 'tis the season to be jolly, right? So why not have a little lunch at The Lookout Bar & Grill? I tried something new today; the pork tenderloin sandwich. This just in; pork tenderloin sandwiches rock! :)

Breaded porky goodness at The Lookout



For the rest of the afternoon, I sat by the fire, watched some football and basketball, and got all of my Christmas cards done. A very productive day, if I do say so myself.

I might even go for another run tomorrow morning. The low temperature tonight will be a balmy 0 degrees. Perfect weather for running... :)

Winter running rules,

Jean

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Winter when it isn't even winter

I just returned from the official company "holiday happy hour!" It was held at Axel's Bonfire. Nice place, delicious appetizers, and the Guinness tasted mighty good. I had a good time getting to know some of my coworkers outside of the office setting. They are a fun group!

So far, I am finding this December to be a little bit challenging for running. Monday served up some unplowed sidewalks for me, and today, while the sidewalks were plowed, the street plows had thrown a bunch of chunked-up snow onto my path. There were areas where I had to stop and walk through, or in some case, hop over, because it was impossible to run. Ugh! Perhaps I should just start snowshoeing along my route? :)

I've had some interesting drives home from work, too. Tuesday was one of the worst rush hours I have ever seen. It took me an hour to get home from the office (a journey of only 13 miles, and I did not see a single snow plow). I take the back roads, and they were clogged by people trying to avoid the freeways, which by all accounts were parking lots. One of my coworkers was stuck on the road for 3 hours trying to get from the west metro over to St. Paul. Yikes! This winter is off to a quite a start; and it isn't even officially winter yet!

Speaking of snow plows, here is something that would only happen in Minnesota. Interestingly enough, I had similar thoughts on my Tuesday drive home, but as I said, no plows were in sight... ;-)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Two months, and four days...

...that is how long it took to get all the administrative stuff from my move straightened out. I've been waiting to get everything resolved until I posted about this just so I could unleash it all in one big bitch session, because this is positively unbelievable. Here is a list of everything that got screwed up through the process of moving, in no particular order:

1. I updated my new address online with my bank. At a later date when I had to call them to order checks, the addresses did not get tied to all of my accounts, even though I am certain I did it correctly.

2. When you cancel your phone service, your phone company is supposed to notify your long distance carrier that service has been stopped. That never happened, because last week I got a bill from my former long distance carrier (even though my phone service was turned off two months ago).

3. Given that I started a new job, I wanted to take my 401k and do a rollover. One of my 401k accounts would not send the check directly to my new fund, so they had to send it to me. This got returned to them because they had my old address. It would seem the post office apparently would not forward this, even though I registered a change of address and was getting other forwarded mail. Yesterday I finally received the check to give to my financial advisor.

4. The management of my new apartment does the courtesy of notifying the power company to get billing set up for new residents. Shortly thereafter, I received a confirmation letter from the power company that listed an old address that I had years ago (which was the last time I had an account with this particular power company). I had to call them to verify they had my current address. On top of that, I called them again last week because, after living here for two months, I had yet to receive a bill. Something apparently got fouled up with the last resident at this address, so they never billed me.

5. Last week, I got a call from my old apartment manager. She said she sent me the check for the balance of my security deposit, but it got returned to them. Even though I had provided them with the correct new address when I moved out, she somehow managed to send it to a wrong one.

6. A couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from the State of Minnesota saying that I owed $5 for a "wheelage tax" on my car, a tax which was being levied by Anoka, Washington, and Ramsey Counties. I found this interesting, since I live in Hennepin County. When you update your driver's license in Minnesota, it automatically should update your vehicle registration. After calling the DMV, it appears that that never happened, either. (But hey, now I don't owe $5!)

7. My cable provider completely screwed up the transfer of cable/internet service to my new place. Not only did the tech have problems with the installation because of the way the it was set up by the person I spoke with to arrange the transfer (a call which took 35 minutes, and I was put on hold four times), but I got double-billed at my new place, AND they never closed out my account at the old apartment (so I got a past due notice for $300+ at my old apartment). This only took me three different phone calls to resolve.

8. The only things that actually went smoothly were changing the address for my cell phone and my car payment.

As the late, great Peter Boyle would have said; "Holy crap!"

This is astonishing to me. As I told my Mom and Dad when all of this was transpiring, I'm not some deadbeat; I'm someone who is just trying to be responsible and pay his bills. How does such a high level of disorganization, incompetence, and horrible customer service keep these outfits in business? Moreover, I am just one person! How many other people have to go through this kind of garbage when they move? Wow.

Anyhow, enough about that. We are in the midst of a whole lot of snow. In fact, they sent us home early today because the commute was going to suck (and it did!). We are in line for 3-5 inches more today.

I tried going running on Tuesday and only made it 3 miles because the sidewalks and bike paths had not been plowed. So I was relegated to running around the neighborhood on some quiet, plowed streets. Today was much better. My routes were plowed, and I made it the usual 4 1/2. Those first runs on the snow are always a bit of a challenge. You need to get your "winter legs" back so you can get used to running on the snowy surfaces!

Things are definitely looking favorable in terms of a "white Christmas," as they say. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, December 01, 2007

First snow of the season

Yes sir, we've got a winter storm on our hands!

The view from my deck




It is hard to say for sure how much we have because of all the blowing and drifting, but after looking at the parking lot, it appears there might be a couple of inches or so. They are still insisting we will have 6 - 10 inches when all is said and done, so we will see. Certainly not the most powerful storm I have seen, but a pretty darned good one for the first of the season.

I actually like being snowed in on weekends in the winter. It kind of takes the pressure off for finding things to do! And, it gives you a great excuse to sit around, watch football, cook, and update the template for your blog (do you like the new look?)

But before the snow started flying, I went for my run early this morning. 8 1/2 miles, which is the longest I have gone in well over 6 weeks. The run was a little slow going, but it was comfortable. The temperature was only around 15 degrees, but that is why they invented things like ski masks, Thinsulate gloves, and winter running tights! :) A nice run around the lake (which, of course, was frozen over).

Following the run, I walked over to a nearby grocery store to pick up some spur of the moment cooking supplies (because hey, being snowed in is a perfect excuse to make beef jerky on the food dehydrator!). By the time I exited the store at around 9 AM, the flurries were coming down!

So here I am. The Army-Navy game just wrapped up, and there is football on the rest of the day. Homemade burritos are on the menu this evening. Otherwise, I am just going to sit by the fireplace and watch the snowflakes come down.

Reporting from a winter wonderland,

Jean

Friday, November 30, 2007

Winter storm!



Our first winter storm of the season is upon us! The local weather geeks are saying we here in the Twin Cities could get anywhere between 6 to 12 inches of the white stuff by the time this thing rolls out of here on Sunday. Wow!

I am really glad I don't have to go anywhere this weekend. I'm home from work, the grocery shopping is done, and there is a ton of football on TV.

Perhaps I will get to use my snowshoes this year? :)

Battening down the hatches,

Jean

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Running, wildlife, and food

The Thanksgiving weekend was a very fun time for me. I got to go running four times (which was probably good considering the amount of food I consumed!). Nothing too crazy and all of the runs were between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 miles. It was great to run on dirt roads and real trails again! The weather was the coldest I have experienced so far this season, with the chilliest being Thanksgiving Day morning when it was 8 degrees. But hey, I had better get used to it, because winter hasn't even officially started!

Gone are all the birds of summer, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some action in the woods. All of the resident chickadees, nuthatches (including our buddy Norris, as well as his new antagonist and competitive counterpart, "Norbert"), woodpeckers, jays (both Canada and blue) were very busy at the bird feeders. Of course, they were quite happy to see me out in the woods.

Charlie Chickadee stopping for a quick snack



Also, I am happy to say that "Bottlebrush" is still hanging in there. She has been mentioned here a couple of times before and is my favorite of the many red squirrels in Mom and Dad's yard because of her unique tail. On a couple of mornings she met me in the driveway hoping for her allotment of sunflower seeds.

Bottlebrush



Our Thanksgiving Day feast was, as is our tradition, non-traditional. We had baked scallops, jumbo stuffed shrimp, and grilled tri-tip. Everything was incredible. Other meals throughout the weekend included roast pheasant, Dad's signature applewood-smoked ribs, and the turkey dinner you saw in the earlier post (which, as always, we ate on a day other than Thanksgiving!).

The Thanksgiving Day feast



Mom and I also made our traditional batch of lefse, as we always do around the holiday season. I have talked about lefse on this blog before, and Scandinavian-Americans in the audience already know what I am talking about. Basically, it is a "Norwegian tortilla," an unleavened flatbread made from potatoes. For us, no holiday dinner table would be complete without it. And, in my humble and completely biased opinion, the stuff Mom makes is the best.

Lefse makers



Needless to say, I brought home a ton of leftovers (I enjoyed a combination turkey-pheasant sandwich for lunch today!), as well as some venison that my brother gave me from a successful hunting season. In addition, he bought himself a fancy new smoker and bestowed upon me some of his own homemade venison summer sausage, which was absolutely excellent. I did not have to do much grocery shopping when I got home!

That is a quick recap of the weekend up north. It was a very good one, and it is clear that I have a lot to be thankful for this year; a new job, a new apartment, a beautiful place to visit with an abundance of nature (and food!), and a great family. It is a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and here is to many, many more!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy post-Thanksgiving, and welcome to winter driving!

Hi all,

I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I have returned from the long weekend, and as always, it was tons of fun and consisted of a ton of food!

Our Sunday platter of traditional Turkey goodness



Lots of stories to tell, so how about I start with my trip to Mom and Dad's last Wednesday. All was well until I got to Sturgeon Lake, MN. There was some snow that was starting to accumulate on the roads. Hmmmm, our esteemed running meteorologist never said anything about this in the previous evening's forecast!

A few more miles down the road, conditions deteriorated rapidly. Just past Barnum, I saw the first sign of trouble; about a half dozen emergency vehicles attending to a pickup truck that was on its roof and in the woods. Ick!

The stretch between Carlton and Esko was the worst. Roads were completely ice-covered. Dozens of cars were in the ditch, police vehicles were everywhere, and traffic was crawling along. It was scary.

I was cursing wildly. This seems to happen every Thanksgiving, from the time I was in college coming home from break all the way to two years ago when I got stranded in the above-mentioned town of Barnum during an ice storm. Unbelievable. Travel at Thanksgiving absolutely bites!

Already making plans to find a hotel, I called the folks to let them know where I was and what was going on. Dad told me this was a result of "lake effect" snow off of Lake Superior. When you get a northeast wind off of the lake, there is sort of a geographical perfect storm in that the lake creates it own weather and blows it southwest over the hill in Duluth. In all seasons, it can really screw things up and produce anything from dense fog to freezing rain and snow. Dad said if I can get through Duluth, it should be smooth sailing because they had clear skies up on the North Shore!

Anyhow, Dad was right. I crawled into Duluth and the roads progressively got better. By the time I hit the expressway on the outskirts of the city, I was back up to cruising speed, and it was a fantastic drive the rest of the way. I had the roads virtually to myself and the iPod playing classic rock on the stereo. Driving at its finest!

I arrived close to an hour late, but I was greeted by the family, and we sat down to a steaming hot kettle of Dad's famous seafood chowder (a pre-Thanksgiving Day tradition. Yum, by the way!) and a cold beer. A great way to wrap up a fairly eventful drive, and to start off the Thanksgiving weekend.

Even the cat was happy to see me!



More to come...

Jean

Sunday, November 25, 2007

2008 Races

Below are links to my 2008 Races:



March 16, 2008 - St. Patrick's Day Human Race 8k - St. Paul, MN

April 12, 2008 - Dr. Steven Fetzer Memorial 20k - Rochester, MN

May 3, 2008 - Runnin' in the Ruff 10k Trail Run - Milaca, MN

May 17, 2008 - Superior Trail Race 25k - Lutsen, MN

June 7, 2008 - Chester Woods 10 Mile Trail Run - Rochester, MN

July 4, 2008 - Firecracker Run 10k - Excelsior, MN

July 26, 2008 - Freight House Road Race 10 Mile - Stillwater, MN

September 21, 2008 - Community First Fox Cities Marathon - Appleton, WI

October 11, 2008 - Autumn Woods Classic 10k - Maple Grove, MN

November 2, 2008 - Rocky's Run 5k - Falcon Heights, MN

November 23, 2008 - Turkey Run 5k - St. Paul, MN

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving!

The results are in from the Turkey Run! I was one second off in my earlier post. My actual time was 22:09. This is really interesting (to me, at least), because that is the exact time I clocked at the 2005 Turkey Run. And, with my time at Rocky's Run being only one second slower than two years ago, that either means I am really consistent or I am not improving! :)

We are quickly approaching Turkey Day! I am getting terribly excited. I took a half day off of work this coming Wednesday, so I will be packing up the Silver Hornet and leaving for Mom and Dad's around lunchtime. I think the menu is more or less set, too. Wednesday night when I arrive, there will be a pot of Dad's seafood chowder simmering away on the stove (this is a day-before-Thanksgiving tradition). And for the big day, I believe we are grilling some tri-tips, and we are also having a dish with shrimp and scallops. Not bad!

I am guessing I might be too busy packing tomorrow night to get on the computer, so I wish a happy Thanksgiving to you all! travel safe, have fun, and I will talk to you when I return from the North Country! :)

All the best,

Jean

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Several wrongs make a right at the Turkey Run

As far as race preparation goes, I did everything pretty much wrong yesterday.

I generally try to eat "bland" the day before a race. "Spicy food is not good the day before a race!" or so they say. So what do I eat? A grilled chicken burrito with hot salsa at Salsarita's for lunch, and some homemade spicy beef stir-fry with Japanese udon noodles for dinner. (Yum, by the way!) For breakfast this morning (because I am running out of breakfast items since I have sort of cleaned out the fridge in preparation for being gone over Thanksgiving) I had a piece of leftover cold pizza. Yikes!

The pre-race meal of champions?



Normally, I will lay out everything I need (shoes, clothing, accessories) for my race the night before. I didn't do that this time. Of course, that means I left my watch behind.

But no worries, because this is the Turkey Run 5k, after all! It is meant to be a fun kickoff for Thanksgiving, as well as a low-key close to the racing season.

A gray November day over Como Lake



It was a cold and gray day here in Minnesota, with temperatures right around freezing, with a fairly brisk southeast wind. But it would be perfect for a few hundred people running the clockwise loop around Como Lake.

This is my 3rd Turkey Run, and actually the 5th time I have run this route because the course is used by the Heart of St. Paul Race in February. It is flat and fast, which is welcomed after the hills during Rocky's Run! With no watch to time myself, and nobody calling out splits, I would just be running by feel today. The horn sounded and we were off!

The pack takes off like a shot, and I settle in where I feel comfortable, knowing I will pass a few of these folks later on. I feel like I am running fast, and it feels good.

It is a cute course that utilizes the excellent biking and walking trails around Como Lake. While it is was not the prettiest of days, I did enjoy the sights of several ducks, as well as some playful coots who were taking turns diving along the shore.

After about a mile, the pack really spread out. I maintained my brisk pace and realized once again that 5k's are hard! Man, it is tough to be fast. I like long races. I feel less rushed. :)

There was a runner about 20 feet in front of me who I ended up following from about the first mile all the way to the finish. And happily, I finished in 22:08. (Or something like that...the official results have not been posted yet) That is a pretty good 5k time for me, so it was hard not to be pleased, especially considering I had no idea how I was doing.

In honor of Dale Jr's last ride in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet at this afternoon's NASCAR race, I wore my Dale Jr. stocking cap! I felt is was appropriate, since it was the last race of the year for both of us. ;-)

Driver 8



So, a very nice close to the racing season, no ill effects from the previous day of spicy food or pizza for breakfast (my new pre-race breakfast-of-choice?), and no need for a watch since I felt kind of speedy without it.

Here is looking forward to the upcoming holidays, as well as the 2008 racing season! Time to set some new goals and aspirations.

Cold pizza for breakfast, anyone? :)

Jean

Friday, November 16, 2007

I am glad I are well educated

I have decided the American education system is failing miserably.

Thursday when I got home from work, I decided to watch the game show "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader." Last night's show was a special "celebrity edition" for charity where they had a ditzy southern girl named Kellie Pickler. Apparently she is famous for being on "American Idol" at some point in time. (I had no idea, but it seemed to me that this was somewhat of a reach in the "celebrity" genre).

As we would have said back in my hometown, she was a few logs short of a cord. (Some logging humor for you this evening!) Here were some of her responses:

-A roadrunner is a bird, true or false? Believe it or not, she had to debate this. Although, I must give her credit; she did correctly settle on "true" after recalling the old Looney Tunes cartoons.

-Given a choice of A). Woodwinds, B). Strings, or C). Percussion, Kellie was asked what musical instrument family the piccolo is from. She actually said "percussion," but was bailed out by a correct answer from one of the kids. (This is a girl who is supposedly a musician, mind you)

-Budapest is the capital of what European country? Now, I might be willing to give her a free pass here. Geography is not everyone's favorite subject, so I would imagine a lot of folks might not know we are looking for the old Soviet Bloc country of Hungary. However, it is hard to let this one slide because she went on to say that she thought "Europe" was a country.

Oh…my…goodness. How did this girl make it through high school?

I was trying to imagine the poor charity she was playing for (sorry, can't remember who it was) watching this and saying, "You've got to be kidding? We left our funding in HER hands?!?" These days, they must just hand out diplomas if you can successfully fog up a mirror. I couldn't watch anymore, so I have no idea how it ended up. Disgusting!

Of course, with her "celebrity" status, she is probably amassing a small fortune compared to me. So who is the real idiot here? :)

Anyhow, the run this morning was a good one. Temps were around 32 frosty degrees, and there was a fairly stiff breeze for the first half. But the good news was that it pushed me home over the second half of the route. Always a nice treat!

It was good I went running today to help preemptively burn some calories for the company pre-Thanksgiving potluck! People brought in a veritable buffet of goodies; meatballs in red sauce, pasta salad, "Little Smokies" in BBQ sauce, a shrimp and rice stick noodle stir-fry, 7-layer taco dip, the list goes on! And one guy even did some pork tenderloins and set up a carving station in his cube! That was awesome. What an effort!

Of course, there were lots of desserts, too. And I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell everyone that I really dislike pumpkin pie. I know I am definitely in the minority, and everyone seems to think Thanksgiving would be ruined without it, but pumpkin pie is not for me in the least. Aside from simply not enjoying the taste, I have long held the belief that a dessert should never be made from a vegetable. Fruit? Yes. Chocolate? Definitely. Custard? Without question. But not vegetables, please! The only time when it is acceptable to have vegetables in a pie is when the words "shepherd's" or "chicken pot" precede the word "pie." Mom, I will take the usual apple pie this Thanksgiving. :)

Good grief, I have rambled long enough! Time to wrap this up!

No real big plans for the weekend except for doing a little shopping in preparation for Turkey Day, and I have the Turkey Run on Sunday as a closer to the 2007 racing season. This is the course where I hold my 5k PR, but I really have no goals to break that. As I found out at Rocky's Run, speed is not exactly my forte this year! So I will just run and have fun. That is what it is all about anyway, right?

Until next time,

Jean (who passed high school with flying colors)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Prepping for Turkey Day

Regarding the last race I was in, Rocky's Run, the race director had a very thoughtful blog entry on 11/13 that tried to make some sense of the deaths of Rocky Racette and marathoner Ryan Shay. Please check it out if you get a chance.

Being it is the "off season," I have taken to running on an every other day schedule. My mileage is down significantly for the month, but that is OK. I am learning that you need to reduce training after long periods of high-level training in order to let the body rest. Sort of a "build it up/break it down" methodology, if you will.

This morning I did my usual 4 1/2. The weather has still been relatively mild. Low 40's today in the AM, but very windy and gusty. I continue to meet more runners and walkers on the trails and paths with me than I did in my old neighborhood, so there are seemingly greater numbers of people dedicated to fitness over here. I wonder if
anyone has done any studies whether or not Hennepin Country residents are more fit than Anoka County residents. :)

The countdown is on! My Thanksgiving starts in one week. I am taking a little vacation time and will be heading up to Mom and Dad's next Wednesday afternoon. Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday, and I haven't been up north to see the family since Labor Day. I have missed hiking in the woods and visiting with all the feathered and furry creatures as well. I can't wait!

The menu is still being tweaked, from what I understand. We always have a turkey at some point over the weekend, but never on Thanksgiving Day itself. We've developed a tradition of doing something different, be it wild game, seafood, or prime rib. And
usually what happens is Dad will set the menu, and then my brother will say something like, "Well, we need to have a duck and a pheasant to go along with that!" :) That pretty much ensures that there will be no shortage of anything. Whatever it ends up being, I am sure it will be really good!

Oh yeah, and my spaghetti and meatballs from Sunday turned out awesome. For the sauce, I used a combination of crushed tomatoes and a can of Trader Joe's "Sugo di Pomodoro" marinara sauce. Very tasty.

Viva Italia!



Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Football, food, and fun!

It has been a fairly uneventful weekend. Just lots of food, football, and fun!

Friday night right after work, I headed over to the local Buffalo Wild Wings for the annual fantasy golf league "awards ceremony!" Basically, it is just a good excuse to get together with friends and have some hot wings and a couple of "Black & Tans." Good times! I had two flavors of wings; the Caribbean jerk, and the plain old "hot." The jerk is really flavorful, and the hot is...well, hot!

Saturday morning it was time to run, so I did my 6 1/2 around the lake. I went at a pretty easy pace because it was kind of a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain in the form of little ice pellets! Nothing like getting stung when you are trying to run. Other than that, it was a pleasant run. Cool temps, easy pace, very nice!

Following a little grocery shopping, I had lunch at the Mainstreet Bar & Grill in Hopkins. Perhaps over a decade ago when I worked in this area, we would go here for lunch on occasion. The bar has a lot of character, and tt was fun to return. The burger wasn't bad, either!

Good burgers at the Mainstreet!



The rest of the weekend has been all about sports. There were countless football games on yesterday. I always try to watch the games that Mike Partick and Todd Blackledge are calling because they have been doing this segment called "Todd's Taste of the Town." In a nutshell, Blackledge visits a local restaurant in whatever town they visit, and they film it for some filler during them games. They are always some good local joint. Last night in South Carolina, he had some sort of sandwich with two kinds of gravy on it! Classic.

Anyhow, today is more football with the Vikings-Packers rivalry game at noon, there is the second to the last NASCAR race of the season later on, and I am making some homemade spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I am taking a bit of a shortcut with the sauce in that I found a large can of Trader Joe's marinara that I wanted to try. But the meatballs are homemade, and I just got done rolling them out. They contain beef, pork, garlic, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ramblings

I took a couple of days off from running after Rocky's Run. I figured
what the heck, I had earned it! But it was moderately chilly on
Monday and Tuesday, and the wind was absolutely cranking out of the
northwest. There were some reports of 45 MPH gusts! Anyhow, that was
a good enough reason for me!

I did run this morning though, and it was crisp. And frosty! The coldest night of the season so far, I believe. I wore the stocking cap, winter tights, my "glittens," pretty much the whole ensemble. It was great. I love running in the chilly weather!

Tonight's dinner was a fantastic homemade pizza. Pepperoni, black and green olives, green peppers, mozzarella and parmesan. Yummy! The dough was exceptional, and the toppings didn't suck, either. I am looking forward to making more of these.

Masterpiece pizza!



In TV news, I can't possibly express how much I love the CBS show, "The Big Bang Theory." I find it hysterical, and I actually see a little
bit of myself in Sheldon. Not the genius aspect of Sheldon (please!),
but rather the neurotically punctual, set in his ways, comfortable
with routine side of Sheldon. What a great show!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Running for Rocky

We were greeted with a glorious fall day here in Minnesota. Crisp, cool air, abundant sunshine...can you think of anything better to do than run in a race?

Go Gophers!



Sunday morning I participated in the Rocky's Run 5k. The race is a cross country event that takes place on the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Rocky's Run is held in honor of Rochelle "Rocky" Racette, a University of Minnesota cross country runner with wonderful spirit who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1981. The race benefits the Rocky Racette scholarship fund. Please check out this fantastic story on Rocky for more information on her inspirational life story.

And now, to change the mood completely, here is one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me at a race:

Before the race, I was wandering around and was approached by a smoking hot runner girl. We struck up a conversation, and she was asking me questions about the start and finish, we talked about racing, marathoning, etc. Then we looked over at a tent that was being raised where the U of M cross country team was setting up shop. The conversation went something like this:

Runner girl: "The cross country team is here. Are they running today?"

Me: "I think so. At least they did the last time I was here."

Runner girl: "Oh, are you a member of the team?"

Five minutes later, after I picked myself up off the ground from a fit of hysterical laughter, I said no and indicated I was just an average runner with plans of finishing deep in the field! However, I was deeply flattered that I could somehow be mistaken for a Division 1 college running stud... :)

Anyhow, as I said, it was a gorgeous day, and we lined up for the start of the 5k. This race brings out a lot of the great local cross country runners, as well as a lot of local race teams, so there would be some speedsters out there. The U of M women's cross country coach gave the prerace speech and introduced his team, who had just won the Big 10 championship!

There was also a moment of silence for Ryan Shay, the runner who collapsed and died during the US Olympic marathon trials this weekend, along with some parting words instructing us to enjoy every day.

A shot of the course, still showing some colors




The race started, and all those speedsters disappeared in front of me. I had forgotten two things:

1. Trying to be fast is not easy
2. This course is really hilly!

All summer long, I had been training for distance, not speed, so I felt like I was laboring a bit. And, the course is constantly going up and down. So I was trying to be fast on hills. Not a good combination for me!

But that is not to say the race was not fun. It was immensely entertaining! The course looped around this beautiful golf course. Some of the leaves on the trees were still hanging in there, the sun was shining, and the weather was ideal. Minnesota was blessed with a fantastic day for running.

For most of the race, I was tagging along with one of the members of the U of M team. We kept trading spots. I passed her on downhills, she passed me on uphills, and eventually she pulled away from me at the finish. Hey, at least I was kind of hanging with a collegiate runner!

A photo from the start of the 8k



I haven't seen the official results, but by my watch I finished in 24:14. That is EXACTLY the same time I had when I ran this two years ago! How funny. Hey, at least I am consistent, right? :)

A celebration of life expressed through running on one of the most beautiful fall days ever, and all for a good cause. Does it get much better? I will run for Rocky any day.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 02, 2007

"The office is currently closed for lunch."

Today at work I needed to contact one of the medical facilities we work with to have them resend some documentation. When I called the number, a recorded message starts playing and goes through the usual information. "You have reached the office of blah, blah, blah," and "If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911," etc. But then the message says the following:

"The office is currently closed for lunch."

What the hell?

You mean to tell me there are medical offices serving patients that just completely shut down for lunch? Good grief, there is some great service for you! I am reminded of the line that Dr. Beeper had in "Caddyshack" when he was talking to his office from the golf course: "Just snake a tube down her throat and I'll be there in about 4 hours!"

Anyhow, my morning running has been uneventful, and I think I have adjusted to my new schedule quite well. I have many nice, quiet routes I can take, and I usually meet a few other crazy runners or walkers out in the early morning hours. While I am still running the usual 4 ½ during the week, there won't be any really long weekend runs in the near future. This is the time to wind things down and rest the bones and muscles after a season of some big races! Sort of a "winter break," if you will.

But that doesn't mean there won't be races! I have one on Sunday, a little 5k cross country race in Falcon Heights called Rocky's Run. This one usually brings out a lot of current and former cross country studs and studettes, so I have no doubts that I will be finishing deep in the field! But the race will be fun nonetheless. And the weather forecast looks great.

Unrelated to anything, but very related to my earlier "JeanTV" post, I was pleased as punch to see that "Hot Shots! Part Deux" was on TV last night. A definite slapstick comedy classic from the "bad, but oh-so good" movie genre if there ever was one. This is the perfect example of the kind of programming that will run rampant on JeanTV once my network takes to the airwaves. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween fun

Happy Halloween!

I took it upon myself to "dress up" this year. With very little effort, I donned my Charlie Brown sweater from high school and went as CB himself! I finished as the "runner up" in the "funniest costume" category of the office Halloween costume contest…which meant that I didn't win anything! Kind of appropriate for Charlie Brown, don't you think? :) But it was a great day at the office. A lot of people dressed up. Good times!

Yours truly as Charlie Brown



What was also fun was the fact that I actually got to see "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" on TV last night. Longtime readers might remember me blowing a gasket last year when the local ABC affiliate preempted the show to run a political debate between some politicians contending for a House of Representatives seat. (You can read my e-mail to the TV station here) As this is not an election year, the "Great Pumpkin" went uninterrupted. I love these old cartoons. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 29, 2007

1170 and beyond

So in 2006, I ran a total of 1170 miles for the year. On Saturday's run, I have already passed that mark for 2007! Training for a marathon over the summer really ramps up the mileage in a hurry!

I just got in from my morning run. It was very mild out there with temps in the mid 40's. I think we are supposed to see highs in the 60's over the next couple of days. Excellent running weather right now.

I had a fun weekend. Saturday night, I went to a surprise birthday party for my buddy Brett who turned 40 (happy birthday, Brett!). It was a nice time with some great wine and assorted finger foods. A great night with friends.

Yesterday was pretty much spent watching the Vikings lose, watching my fantasy football team get crushed, and watching another predictable ending to a NASCAR race (getting a little tired of seeing the #48 car in victory lane!). But I did cook up a really tasty Thai chicken stir-fry with rice stick noodles.

Thai ginger chicken with rice stick noodles...yummy!



Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A lovely fall day, and a shout out to "Fred"

This is a fantastic time of year in Minnesota. I love the cooler temperatures and the change of seasons.

I went for a 6 1/2 mile run this morning around the lake. Very nice! It was about 37 degrees and quite crisp, making it pleasant for running. There were a number of ducks out on the lake. Most were mallards, but there were three hooded mergansers mixed in with them.

Following the run, it was time to do the grocery shopping and run some errands. That also meant I could go out for some lunch! Today I stopped in at Joe Senser's in Plymouth. For those who are unfamiliar with Minnesota Vikings history, Joe was one of the great Viking players from back in the late 70's and early 80's, and he has a small chain of impressive sports bars around the metro. Anyhow, I had a "Cajun Burger" which was roughly the size of my head! It was excellent, but really, that is an awful lot of food for one person. I will be eating light this evening! :)

The enormous "Cajun Burger" at Joe Senser's



And in local news, I am not sure how long this story will remain posted (since the Star-Tribune loves to remove stories after awhile), but I am a little upset about this. There was a wild turkey roaming around up in Maple Grove that was reportedly "causing problems." (And let us make it clear what exactly these so-called "problems" were..occasionally slowing down traffic, and chasing the geese, mail carriers, and UPS trucks!)

Obviously, he (the bird, named "Fred") was smarter that most of his pursuers, because Maple Grove's Finest were unable to catch, trap, or snare him. So what did they do? They called in the Minnesota DNR to shoot him!

Now, here is why I'm pissed; people are paving over the whole metro area, and these birds and animals have nowhere to go. Then, when someone has to stop because there is a turkey in the road, they call the police. What?!?

Really, what problems is a wild turkey going to cause? You know, I will bet he was going to break into the local businesses to steal their copper wiring. On second thought, I'll bet he was selling crack to school children! Good grief, don't we have bigger problems than wild turkeys? Can't we enjoy having these unique birds in our backyards, and maybe try to make room for them, too?

Apparently not, because Buffy and her minivan full of snot-nosed kids are on their way to day care. She is late for work and STILL still had to make her stop at Starbucks for her $4 latte, but she's being slowed down because this damn turkey is in the road!

Sorry, Fred.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

JeanTV

Following a couple of days off, I went running this morning. There had been some stiffness in my left knee after the half marathon (which I am attributing to the fact that I ran harder than originally expected!), but that has subsided with rest and I am feeling really good.

It was an easy 4 1/2 miles today, and a cool one at that. A brisk 38 degrees! I went with the full ensemble; running tights, long sleeved shirt, stocking cap, and gloves. What a nice run. I even saw a few snow flurries! I love running in weather like this.

And apparently, so do others. I met at least five other runners this morning. It would seem there are more runners in this neighborhood than my last. I even met another runner wearing a headlamp similar to mine! (Which begs the question, would something like this considered a running fashion "faux pas?" You know, kind of like when people show up to a party in the same outfit?)

On a completely unrelated note, I had been enjoying a new comedy about some socially retarded geniuses called "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS, and I was told it had already been canceled! Not fair! This always happens. The fun and quirky shows never seem to last. I suppose this would only clear the way for some moronic reality spin-off like "Dancing with the Bachelor" or "Sing Along with the Biggest Loser" or some dumb talent show with three former celebrity judges (one of whom is an arrogant ass). Ugh!

But alas, the news was wildly incorrect. "The Big Bang Theory" had actually been extended to a full 22 episodes this season. (Yay!)

But that got me thinking. Too many good shows and movies never get a chance. I want my own TV network where I can run all the shows I want, all the time. We could call it JeanTV.

I would broadcast the relatively recent shows that were good, but got the axe way too soon; programs like "Greg The Bunny," and "Vanished."

There would also be room for the old TV classics that disappeared way before their time, such as "Sledge Hammer!", "When Things Were Rotten," and "Police Squad!"

How about forgotten shows, like the "Alice" spin-off called ""Flo?" Remember "The Equalizer?" I'll put them on the air!

On weekends, there would be a laundry list of movies that I liked, even if the box office did not. Stuff that cracks me up like "Men At Work" with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, "Murder By Death" with Peter Sellers and Peter Falk, "Top Secret" with Val Kilmer, and "Hot Shots!" (also with Charlie Sheen).

And, of course, there would be "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" marathons over the week of Halloween.

Really, is it too much to ask? I'll have my people contact your people, and we'll make this happen... ;-)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why you should bring road shoes to a trail race

"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
-Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”

I know, I can hardly believe it, either. But the sun came out on Saturday! Honestly, we have not seen the sun in a week. The weather has absolutely sucked since last Sunday. But today, we got our well-deserved break.

And what a perfect day to run in the Big Woods Run half marathon!

I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed south to the town of Nerstrand, MN, home to the Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park. The Big Woods is a majestic, mature forest that is really out of place on the prairie, kind of like an oasis in the desert. It is a gorgeous stand of trees, and may God bless whoever had the foresight to preserve this land. I was looking forward to running the trails.

Nerstrand, MN



However...

Remember how I said the weather was so atrocious this week? Well, they got so much rain down here that some of the park trails were under water! Out of concern for the trails, they rerouted the course to run on country roads in the area. We would get to run past the park, but not in it. Oh well! I was still excited to go running today. How could you not be on a day like this?

Despite some grumbling I heard from a few people regarding the reroute (such as “I drove all the way down here to run on trails!” and “Instead of running on trails, we get to run a flat, lame 13 miler?”...come on, suck it up, runners! Would you rather be sitting inside somewhere doing nothing on a beautiful fall day?!?), the race director and volunteers were AWESOME! There were all kind of issues with parking due to the wet church grounds, they had to lay out a new course with different aid stations, and they did so with grace and a boundless enthusiasm. Three cheers for all of you! You were great all day!

Now, given that this was supposed to be a trail race, I brought my Vasque running shoes with me. However, purely by accident, I WORE my regular road racing shoe. I am not sure why I slipped them on this morning. Normally I wear a pair of Keen hiking shoes pretty much everywhere I go. But today was different. And I was glad! Since we were going to be running on a mix of pavement, I would be glad to have my lighter road shoes. (Note to self; always bring a couple pairs of shoes! I am slowly learning my lesson about preparing for anything at races. Having options is a good thing!)

St. John’s Church, the race headquarters



The race started at St. John’s Church in rural Nerstrand. We would take country roads (mostly dirt, but some paved) and make a big, counterclockwise rectangular loop, running by the Big Woods State Park, head south, and make our way back to the church for the finish. I originally had no goals, but given the change of course, I changed my strategy and decided to try and push myself harder today and try match the pace I ran at Fargo last spring. The temperature at the start was in the upper 40’s, but would be warming up throughout the morning. But still, a comfortable temperature for running.

The horn sounds, and we are off like a herd of turtles! The county road by the churchwas narrow, so it took some time for the congestion to dissipate. But I settled in at a mid 8 mile per minute pace and just tried to keep it there.

The road to the Big Woods



The prettiest part of the course came between miles 4 and 7. This is the stretch where we ran past the state park. I guess we missed the peak of the fall colors by a week, and the rains this week did not help, but the trees were still gorgeous. All of the oaks were turning, with their muted burnt orange, yellow, and olive green colors. Spectacular! It was fun to run the rolling hills on this stretch of road, and I felt like I was running well. This was a most enjoyable section of the course. We even passed a farm where a bunch of cows were mooing at us!

Miles 7 through 10 were the most challenging. Here, we turned south, and most of the road seemed to be an oh-so gradual uphill. And, we were fighting a stiff SW wind! I think this was the part of the course that slowed me down the most. But not by much. I managed to pass a number of folks on this part of the course.

Around mile 10, we finally turned east to head back to the church and the finish. You could actually see the steeple of the church from nearly 3 miles away, so that was a bit of a tease! :) But at least the wind was helping us here. I tried my best to keep up my pace and chugged along, finishing in 1 hour, 50 minutes, and 37 seconds. That is nearly 4 minutes slower than my PR, but it is certainly nothing for me to complain about, especially on a day like this. I had a very good time running, even if we didn't get to use the trails!

When all was said and done, they were serving homemade soup and homemade cookies in the church. I was pretty warm after the race (and, it was close to 70 degrees, so the day warmed up, too!), so soup didn’t sound good to my stomach (although it smelled great!). I downed an apple and an excellent M&M cookie. Yum!

Believe it or not, I actually won a door prize, too. And it is one of the coolest door prizes ever! I got to choose either a T-shirt, or a jar of homemade jelly. Naturally, I wasn’t about to turn down homemade food, and one of the ladies recommended I grab a jar of the apple jelly, which was made with apples from a tree on the St. John’s Church property! Someone spent hours making this and put a lot of love into these prizes, and that is really neat. I will truly enjoy having this jelly on my morning toast!

Yours truly, with my edible prize



All in all, this was really a nice way to cap the 2007 race season. Sure, there will be a couple of 5k fun runs before the year is out, but this was the last of the heavy duty races until next spring. And what a year it has been! I am looking forward to dialing the training back in the off season, and will look to set some new goals for 2008!

Oh, and completely unrelated to anything, here is tonight's beef and mushroom lasagna I made for dinner. Mmmmmmmm.... :)

I swear I must be part Italian



Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, October 20, 2007

TAG: I am a runner because...

All right, Rick at 365me tagged me, so I need to respond to the following:

I am a runner because...

-(If I may shamelessly steal a line from Sir Roger Bannister) it is fun, and I cannot help myself
-I love to pass guys much younger than me during races
-it give me a good excuse to explore new cities and places
-running has made me realize the importance of setting goals
-I like all of the geeky technical clothing they make for runners!
-runners are sexy (I'm talking about the women here, and not myself!)
-it give me a feeling that I have accomplished something on my own
-runners need fuel, and it gives me an excuse eat good food! :)
-I love race T-shirts!
-running has made me a better person

That was fun! I will now tag off to Jean at See Jean Run. Feel free to play along if you wish! :)

On another note, I have returned from the Big Woods Half Marathon! It was an absolutely gorgeous day after a murky and wet week (foreshadowing alert), so the race was not exactly as expected. But it turned out fantastic nonetheless. Full report coming soon!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Return to normalcy

It has been an uneventful few days. Not a lot of new stuff to report. But that is good! The last month has been all about new stuff, so a lull in the action is a welcome thing! :)

I have been running the last couple of days, once in the morning, and once in the evening. Nothing crazy, just my usual route. Both runs were quite pleasant, and yesterday evening I even ran in the drizzle! Temperatures are remaining cool, but comfortable. We are definitely starting to settle into fall here.

My new team took me out to lunch today to welcome me into the fold! We went to a place called Axel's Bonfire, which I thought was excellent. They do all kinds of wood-fired dishes here, and everything on their rather large and varied menu looked great. I settled on the Cuban sandwich (I'm kind of a sucker for these…you don't see them on too many menus, so I like to order these when I have a chance!), which was quite tasty and very filling. I would come back to this restaurant in a heartbeat.

The new apartment continues to treat me well. People I pass in the hallways have all been friendly and polite. They will actually say hello to you, even the kids. And to my surprise, there seems to be a large number of retired folks living here. Why, there was even a bingo game going on in the party room last night! This is a completely different world from my old place. So far, I really like it here. Although, I am disappointed it has not been cold enough to run the fireplace, but I am sure that will change soon enough! :) This is Minnesota, after all.

This weekend brings the last "big" race of the year, the Big Woods Run half marathon down in Nerstrand. I have no goals for this race at all. This is being done purely for fun, and to get out and run some trails in the woods with other runners! I am hoping some of the fall colors are still showing themselves down there. I guess they said last weekend was the "peak" in that region of the state, and this week we have had a lot of rain, which I am sure has taken down a lot of the leaves. But it will still be pretty, and the weather forecast actually looks good! Hopefully that holds true. It would be a nice way to cap off a fun race season!

Until next time,

Jean
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