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Month: April 2020

late spring

late spring

spring always comes late to minnesota. the past couple years, the ice has stayed on the lakes well into may, sending cool breezes across the frozen water that chilled you even on the warmer days.

but this year, the ice wasn’t thick to begin with, and spotty after an on-again, off-again start to winter. the ice quickly dissolved into lake water by mid-april, not that anyone could pinpoint what day or month it was.

when the ice leaves, the frogs arrive. their songs fill the evening air, and on the bawdiest of days, they start croaking in the early hours of the morning. the snow is gone, and we’re in limbo, waiting for the green to arrive after knowing the snow has left. it’s the antsiest time of year.

the end of april this year was on the warmer side, and days so far have veered into the 60s range, which is both a surprise and a much-welcomed change for us northerners. while the warm temps help, what really helps is rain. april for me has been a little on the dry side, but the other day it rained a half an inch or so – just enough to make the tips of the trees start to turn green and the grass look a little shaggy.

i took a turn around the garden with my tiller yesterday, prepping it for seeds that have been in my garage for a month now and future plans of visiting the nursery for my tomatoes and peppers. last year, i tilled in mid- to late-may because the ground was still chilly well into may. if the long-term forecast holds up, i may plant in the next couple weeks.

two of my planters have flowers in them already, and i make sure to watch the nighttime temps. i also make sure to spray anti-rodent stuff on them because someone out there sure likes to eat begonias. i’ve got 8 little moss roses plants, which makes me think of my grandma. i’m going to plant them along my entry sidewalk and hope they propagate.

at night i leave the windows cracked a bit and listen to the frogs as they sing late into the night. the frogs are a short lived season, and i wait for them during the winter months, knowing they are the harbingers of spring. spring may come late in minnesota, but it always arrives.

ten tips to start saving the earth (you won’t believe #9!)

ten tips to start saving the earth (you won’t believe #9!)

it all starts little! if everyone does one little thing, the collective effort makes a difference. isn’t this something that everyone can agree with?

(on the flip side, if everyone thinks “well everyone else is doing it so i don’t have to,” then we’ve accomplished nothing.)

so what are we starting little on these days, besides social distancing and wearing a mask to the store and making a crapton of bread and doing 40 puzzles a day (well, that’s kind of big stuff, actually)?

we’re starting with things we can do to help the planet. we’ve seen this past month what collective effort can DO. the air clears up. the pollution levels lower. the water gets clear.

so what can we do on a personal level to start the collective effort?

  1. recycle. ooh big surprise. i know i’ve talked about varying levels of recycling, so you know that plastic is kind of a crapshoot, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be recycling your aluminum, glass, and tin. they recycle endlessly and you get money for aluminum cans, to boot. just do it. that means you.
  2. bring your reusable bag. yep, it’s hard. if you forget it, and you carried your items up to the register without a cart or basket, you can carry them to your car without a bag. if you need a bag, tell them to pack as much as possible into the bags. paper an option? take it. paper’s better on the earth than plastic. and we can plant more trees and recycle the paper. (i find it ironic that we move to plastic because we wanted to “save the trees”.)
  3. buy used. instead of buying something brand new, try to find a used option. now, there are exceptions to this, of course: underwear, beds, old and busted running shoes. but people give away perfectly nice sheet sets, throw pillows, pairs of jeans or work clothes because they’re one season old, jackets, books, etc. just visit your local goodwill or other used item outlet! now, sometimes craigslist or FBmarketplace is a crapshoot, but i’ve had relatively good luck. big ticket items i’ve purchased that have been perfectly wonderful? a canon lens. a lawn mower. freezer. now i’m looking for a riding lawn mower.
  4. reduce your plastic. this one is HUGE. HUGE. plastic use is so ubiquitous right now, and like i said before, recycling plastic is awful. maybe it costs a bit more to get the steel version of something or it takes a little more work or it’s just different to use soap that doesn’t come from a plastic bottle, but 90% of the time, the quality is better and the environmental costs aren’t as steep.
  5. grow some food. not only does growing your own food create less bad environmental byproducts like shipping pollution, farm tillage/topsoil depletion, and pesticide and fertilizer runoff, but it’s therapeutic, better tasting, and immensely satisfying. even if you throw a tomato plant in a pot and help it grow on your patio, you’re helping a little bit. plus, you may end up with enough pickles to last you 5 years. (personal problem.)
  6. compost. or try to. composting can be difficult if you don’t have the space, and if you don’t have space, you need some special equipment and you need to be mindful of your composting. even if you do have space, you still need to be mindful. i’m not that mindful of my compost pile, but it’s still there. i turn it only a couple times during the summer, which is awful, and i take a break during the winter because it’s out behind the house and i’m lazy. but i’m hoping to take some compost this spring and spread it out on my garden to till it in.
  7. plant. i recently read that a lot of our emissions problems could be overcome by just planting more trees. stop clearcutting forests. stop cutting down trees when building new neighborhoods and build around them. start planting everywhere. don’t want to commit to a tree? just plant a flowerbox or some perennials in your yard. more green stuff to take in the CO2 is good. and they look nice, to boot.
  8. drive efficiently. i’m only including this one because we are just now seeing the effects of fewer cars on the road. and while i know those of us in flyover country (or as i like to call it, most of the country) can’t not use cars as transportation, we CAN choose to drive more fuel efficient cars. and i’m hoping that the stay home orders really put into perspective what could happen if we put many more electric cars on the roads. for 90% of my use, an electric car would be perfectly fine. when it’s time to replace my nissan, i may look at an electric car.
  9. try. i am not a 100% follower of every one of these rules (well, except maybe recycling aluminum and glass). all you can do is try your best and hope that others are also trying their best. i see these “zero waste” people who are pretty much living as minimally as possible and off the grid, and while i would love to attain that sort of lifestyle, i know that my mindset is not there right now.
  10. realize. effect. the thing that i keep coming back to is that the root of everything we view as current problems: socioeconomic, health, political, power, etc. they are moot if there is no planet habitable to live on. earth don’t care if we nuke ourselves. earth don’t care if we wipe out coastal cities. earth don’t care if the ozone layer depletes (actually, the hole is now completely shut! see what can happen if we make change?). cuz you know what? earth wins every time, which has become abundantly clear these past couple months. so why not work with the earth and with other people than against? make yourself a tidy home.
happy 50th earth day

happy 50th earth day

happy 50th birthday, earth day! for your big day, we got you a pandemic.

i just read something that reminded me about how radical earth day was when it was first celebrated. there were no air quality and pollution controls, corporations were dumping waste directly into rivers and other bodies of water, and people in general had no idea how awful the water and air quality were. after regulations* were put in place, we became accustomed to the guidelines for clean air and water, and now earth day is an afterthought to most people. something we don’t think about much, because why bother?

(*let’s talk about federal air and water regulations for a moment. you may scream states’ rights and capitalism and free market. i argue that the federal government ABSOLUTELY has authority to place regulations, and strict ones at that, on air and water quality. in fact, i would argue that an organization such as the UN should be the one making worldwide regulations. why? because air and water do not know state or federal lines. we can’t pull over a water molecule for crossing into canada from the US. what we do in MN as far as crop and field work greatly affects crabbing in louisiana. we see air quality plummet when there are wildfires in alberta. water knows no bounds. air knows no bounds. get a global agency in charge of regulating them.)

and here we are 50 years later with a large chunk of the population at home because of a global health disaster, and guess what happened?

the earth shows us just how resilient and wonderful and awesome she is. i think it’s an eye-opening experience that we should be flabbergasted by to know that the earth will win, no matter what we humans end up doing.

china’s air pollution cleared up.

(NO2 is nitrogen dioxide. it’s released when fossil fuels are burned at high temps, mostly for fertilizer production. inhalation can result in heart failure.)

beijing looks pretty clear.

You can see los angeles.

people in india can actually see the himalayan mountain range from more than 100 miles away. for the first time in 30+ years!

wildlife are returning to their natural habitats

in nairobi, they’re seeing mount kenya.

the water in venice is the clearest it’s been in years, and the dolphins have returned to saridinia (not in venice – that was fake news).

stanford has calculated that the reduction in air pollution could help save the lives of 77,000 residents. so while we hunkered down avoid death by covid, we may have also inadvertently avoided death by air pollution.

now, all these environmental silver linings are not without their inconvenience on the human population, but when it comes to the rest of the earth and species we share the planet with, i’d say that this is something we need to pay attention to. we are at a turning point as it is with climate change, and i hope that by getting an extraordinary sneak-peak what our surroundings could look like ALL THE TIME if we put in some effort with reducing air pollution, we may actually make a difference after coming out of our houses and covid-funk. the timeliness of covid with our climate precipice could not have been more perfect.

because if there’s one good that comes out of this pandemic, i hope it’s opening our eyes to what could be, whether in our outdoor surroundings, our work lives, our family. so happy birthday, earth day. like i always say, every day is earth day.


a break in covid news

a break in covid news

i bring you a break to the covid news to bring you a running update. right about now, i’d be primed and ready to for the earth day half if covid were not a thing, and let me tell you, it’s good news that my half marathon is postponed because my left foot is INJURED.

normally i easily break in a new pair of asics kayanos, the brand’s stability shoe that i’ve been wearing for the past 7 years or so. i skipped a couple iterations because of the toebox, but i’d never had a problem with a heel. until THIS iteration. i wore them to work one day and my left heel was sore already, then i decided to run in them. ugh! then i ran some more because i thought well, maybe it’ll shake out. to be fair, at that point i wasn’t sure that it was the shoe that was causing pain. they sure seemed fine when i tried them on right out of the box.

i should know better by now.

and now i haven’t run for more than a week! i went to PT on tuesday, and after looking at the shoes, she thought maybe the arch and heel had torqued my foot somehow, which strained tendons in my foot and is causing stabbing pain along the back bottom of my heel. i also wonder about the heel drop, which seems to be significantly higher than past versions of the kayano.


so now i’m in running pause while the tendons reconfigure themselves. and next week’s weather is shaping up to be the best in a while, and i can barely go for a quarter mile walk.

i did write a nastygram to asics to let them know their $160 shoes caused me an injury. there’s about 13 miles on the shoes, so i doubt i can return them (especially with covid), and who knows if that falls under warranty.

in related news, i am trying a different brand of shoes, topo, which has a low heel drop and should have a decent amount of stability as well. we’ll see how those go when they arrive!

in the meantime, i’m using the stationary recumbent bike and will hope for a better foot next week.

bread in the time of covid-19

bread in the time of covid-19

like everyone else and their neighbor, i decided that #stayathome was a good time to try out my bread skills.

if i had recipes that i created, i would put them here because everyone hates when the recipe is at the BOTTOM of a blog post. i don’t want to know your life story that led you to this moment when you made your go-to frosting for cinnamon rolls, karen. i just want to know what you put in it.

so here are the links to recipes i used for my bread that i’m about to photobomb you with:

sourdough starter

ATK rustic loaf (a google book because ATK is behind a paywall, which i should be able to access because i own the print copy good grief)

oatmeal honey sourdough

basic sourdough bread

oatmeal honey non-sourdough (i added a tablespoon of maple syrup to this one)

ok! so here i was browsing twitter and instagram and seeing all these peeps talking about making sourdough bread. being the challenge-oriented person i am, i thought this was something i should try out.

first, you should know that yeast and i generally don’t get along. i get too impatient with it. since i’m an end-of-the-alphabet person, i like my instant gratification. it doesn’t like to rise fast enough for me. i bake it before it’s ready. i get flat bread. you’d think i’d learn, but since i generally don’t like dealing with yeast, i stick to quickbreads (banana bread, pumpkin bread), cakes, pies. i pull out the yeast once a year to make bohemekuchen and that’s it.

so this would be a foray into patience for me. plus,  my kuchen this year turned out most excellent, so i was feeling a high.

firstly, i started the sourdough starter.

starter is SUPER easy – it just takes some time. 5 days before i was set to bake the bread, i put a 1-to-1 ratio of flour and water in a bowl and waited. each day, i added additional flour and water, and BOOM those little yeasties took right off.

in the meantime, i was itching to make some bread because that’s what everyone else was doing, so i perusing the good old america’s testing kitchen to see what they had for bread. they had a rustic loaf that i felt i could tackle – it used store-bought yeast, but it started with a SPONGE, which i’d never done before. a sponge is a sort of glorified yeast starter – instead of letting it bloom in water and a little sugar, you also add some flour and let it sit for a while – at least 5 hours.

the rest of the recipe was easy and i let my kitchenaid do a lot of the kneading. i ended up with a halfway decent wheat loaf that i was able to bake right on my pizza stone i have in the bottom of my oven all the time.

ooh fancy! and yummy! the crust was extra crusty and delicious.

by the time i’d had enough of this bread, it was time to attempt sourdough. so here’s where i failed  – since i was feeding my starter up til it was go time, i wasn’t sure if i needed to do the “leaven” part of the recipe or just use the starter straight away.

and the first loaf i attempted was a honey oat loaf, which probably wasn’t the best idea. the stretch and pull was awful, and i didn’t get any sort of rise out of the dough. 🙁

i also need proofing baskets if i’m going to attempt sourdough again, as i had to throw this in a bowl lined with a towel dusted with flour, and it still stuck. i might need some different, less sticky dough to dust with. obviously it stuck good.

it was also not very holey at all, meaning no real rise. sure, it was a dense loaf, but you’d think there’d be some rise to it.

BUT it was DELICIOUS. just the right amount of sour, and it wasn’t overpowering like some of the store-bought sourdoughs can be. if i figure out the starter issue and get a real proofing basket, i might try this one again.

but you know me, why stop at one failure and try for another? this time i tried out a plain white sourdough, and it was really promising! the stretch and folder was really working up some gluten and it was looking good! my loaves puffed out after i threw them in my towel-lined bowls, and even after i turned them out into my dutch oven and had to pull away the towel very carefully, i still had hope.

the fun part about baking sourdough is that you bake it in a dutch oven at 450-500º. you keep the cover on for about 20 minutes so it keeps the steam in to create that crusty surface, then you take it off so it darkens up.

mmm, the maillard reaction.

ah, success! this one was holey and sourdoughy, even though it was flat. there was so much gluten and goodness, that it almost ate like a popover – very eggy but without the eggs.

it makes darn good toast with some butter and raspberry jam.

i have two loaves of the plain white, and one’s in the freezer for later! my starter is in the fridge waiting for another round of sourdough after i figure out proofing baskets.

not to be outdone by it’s all-natural counterpart, i decided to give store-bought yeast another go and made an oatmeal-honey-maple loaf (or two). this one started with oats soaked in boiling water and mixed with some honey. i added in a tablespoon of maple syrup for good measure.

the top is melted butter, honey, and maple syrup mixed together. this is a more traditional loaf of bread, though a little bit sweet. this should also make some excellent toast, and i’m putting a loaf of this in the freezer for later.

we’ll see what other breads or baked goods i come up with for this time of covid. now that the governor has extended stay at home for another month, i’ll have lots of time on my hands. and carbs. good thing good running weather is upon us so i can fit into my regular clothes when this is all over!

any ideas or requests on baked goods or cooking you want me to attempt? no, i will not send you macarons, liz.

livin’ la vida corona

livin’ la vida corona

i don’t know about you, but i feel like i’m living my best life right now.

working from home is pretty ok – meetings are minimal and i’m getting work done. i can get up and take a walk in my own neighborhood over lunch; zoom meetings aren’t horrible at all; i can take a break and do the dishes (i have NEVER in my life been so caught up on dishes); i can stop working and be dressed for a run and out the door by 4:10 p.m.

and while it isn’t IDEAL running weather for ME, it’s still outdoor running a little bit. the wind is killer, though. it’s cold wind, and it’s strong wind. it makes for a tough decision on what to wear while out running. BUT ideal running weather is JUST around the corner.

work weeks meld into weekends because i’m at home all the time. my computer is in front of my window at home, and in 2-3 weeks, things will start to green up and i’ll go all starry-eyed. i take most zoom meetings on my couch. then i watch bad netflix movies on my couch over the weekends. what day IS it?

i spent about 2 hours raking out my flower garden today and found several little green things already. i think we’re supposed to be getting rain in the next few days, so the green things will only multiply. i trimmed the apple trees and the raspberry bushes, and within the next week i need to start raking my vegetable garden. i’ve also got to get to a greenhouse or menard’s STAT to get some seeds, as i’ve heard they’re going to go the way of toilet paper. “essential trip.” (YES. it’s essential. have you seen my cupboards? i’m not running out of pickles anytime soon.)

i’ve talked to friends/family more in the past two weeks than i normally would – i have virtual coffee with jenee and john on monday mornings, then on friday mornings, jenee i have a week end meeting. my sisters and i have a friday afternoon week end wrapup. i text matt and my boss like crazy.

i’ve made a ton of bread (yeah me and everyone else). i’m trying my hand at sourdough, which is fickle but delicious no matter how it turns out. a longer post to come on that one.

i’ve done three puzzles in the past week. i’m rereading “the stand” and have a stack of fiction books at the ready. i’m going to do a podcast this week about hiking memoirs and tying them into state parks for CMLE podcast series, which is great timing for the time of year and the time of covid.

my cats love making appearances during my zoom meetings, and people love that they make appearances.

i’ve spent more on booze in the past two weeks than in the past two years, and according to the barefoot contessa, “during a crisis, almost any hour is cocktail hour.”

keeping the local economy alive! colorado bulldogs are delicious. i get budweiser lime-a-ritas for nate. a week or two ago, i was stress eating like crazy, but also anxiety running like crazy. they sort of even out? since then, work has slowed down a little bit and my anxiety has backed off a little bit. the sun helps.

the only thing i’m worried about right now is that nate still goes to work every night. it’s inevitable that he will get CV, and that means i will get CV.

until then, cheers. livin’ la vida corona!