Thursday, December 30, 2010

holiday events

The holidays are extra-exciting for us this year because my little brother got married on Monday! The wedding was in Rochester, MN, where MJ's family was gathering for Christmas (the oldest of her four sisters lives there). It was a small but classy affair, though even with family only, there were 25 people, what with all the siblings and their husbands/partners and nieces and nephews. With all the new people, Anya was completely overwhelmed, and she did what she often does in these types of situations: clung terrified to me like a little koala until she fell asleep on my shoulder. In fact, she missed the whole ceremony (which was all of ten minutes, just a couple of readings, the vows and smoochies at the end) and I had to prod her awake for pictures afterwards, for which she refused to smile, but at least she wasn't crying. Daniel was much more engaged. Mostly, he was interested in the long, long lens attached to the photographer's camera, but during the vows he leaned over to me and whispered "Doesn't Aunt Maria look beautiful?" and a minute later, "Uncle Joe looks very pretty, too."

Rochester, Minnesota, is a fascinating place. It's home of the Mayo Clinic, of course, which is unique in itself. But what's so interesting is how the clinic is integrated with the rest of the downtown area. There is a whole network of underground walkways that connect the clinic with hotels and restaurants and upscale shops, including several for things like wigs and hats and scarves. Walking through the halls of the Kahler Grand, for example, you'll encounter several doctors' offices and a Starbucks along with all the rooms for guests.

Then yesterday was my birthday. I'm 32 now, which feels thoroughly unremarkable. But I had a good day, surrounded by family (Joe and Maria stopped in for a couple nights on their way back to Virginia), sledding with the kids, and eating good food. We made a big dinner of falafel and hummus and roasted red pepper-walnut spread with pita and fatouche salad, and cake, of course. I got some lovely presents and a bit of cash that is kind of burning a hole in my pocket, but oddly enough, I'm not sure how I want to spend it. A yarn spree would be fun, since I'm such an avid knitter, but I have so much already that doesn't quite feel right. I even went to a couple yarn shops with my mom and new (!) sister-in-law, but didn't buy anything.

After all the excitement, I'm looking forward to a quiet New Year's Eve! We'll drink wine and play Scrabble, and I'll probably go to bed early. I'm over 30, so that's okay.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

winter solstice and cold weather running

Today might be the first day of winter, officially, but as far as I'm concerned, winter has been here for several weeks already. Last night we had about 4" of snow piled on top of what was there already, which was considerable. If you ask me, the best part about the Winter Solstice is that little by little we'll start to see the sun again. The lack of daylight has really been getting to me the last couple of weeks.

In fact, the bitter cold, snow-packed streets and 4:30 sunsets have nearly ended my running regime for the winter. Some people may enjoy running outdoors when it's pitch-black and your nose is so cold it aches and you risk slipping and breaking a limb on a patch of ice, but I am not one of those people. Since getting back into running a couple of years ago, I've just come to accept that I'll have to take a hiatus in the winter. I've never liked to do that, since come springtime, that makes getting back into a routine that much more difficult. But I always figured there wasn't another option.

This year, I'm trying something new: I'm sucking it up and running in the cold. I have Stuart's determination to thank for this, really. For so long he was plagued with so many running injuries (most of them minor, all of them bad enough that he'd have to quit running for this or that reason to recover) that nothing - not rain or sleet or snow or frigid temperatures - will keep him from running now that he is healthy enough to do so. He's like the USPS that way. Well. If he can do it, so can I. (I might have a tiny little competitive streak...)

Now, understand that I am no great distance runner. My favorite route is a 4-mile loop. I'm not fast and I don't particularly care. I have no interest in racing. I run because I like it, and because it's healthy. (And also because I can't stand working out in a gym.)

Anyway, it turns out that with the proper clothing, cold weather running really isn't so bad. Last weekend I went out when it was about 15 degrees, and I wore a silk balaclava, a wool hat, a tank top under a running shirt under a fleece jacket, silk long johns under stretchy running pants, and mittens. I actually got hot and had to take the fleece jacket off less than 2 miles after I started.

As for the ice and snow, Stuart and I have discovered a wonderful product: yaktrax! They're like snow tires for your shoes. Stuart picked up some over the weekend, and since we can never go running together, we're just sharing the pair. On Sunday, I chose a running route that was all snow and ice, just to see what it was like...and it was okay. For distances longer than a mile or two, wearing Yaktrax will take some getting used to. Still, it's better than nothing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Today my baby girl turns three. Since we celebrated with cupcakes and presents over the weekend, we didn't do anything special today, other than make her favorite dinner (homemade noodles with tomato sauce), but I think the day deserves its own post anyway.

This picture captures so well her sweet spirit, her beautiful smile, her zest for life and also, a certain streak of independence and self-assurance that is

Happy birthday, big girl.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

winter randomness

1. Boy, there is no messing around with winter here. We had a blizzard over the weekend; Saturday night about 7" of snow fell (less than predicted, actually) and the roads are pretty bad. It's not the SnowMyGod the Twin Cities are experiencing, though. Today it's not quite cold enough for schools to close, but the wind chill is still well below zero. I'm coming around to the idea of winter here, but this sort of weather takes the fun out of sledding, you know?

2. In any case, I'm glad our basement windows are installed and sealed up:

The work on these was completed a day before the first snowfall last weekend, just in time.

3. Anya turns 3 on Tuesday, so we celebrated over the weekend, taking advantage Stuart's time off work. We invited the neighbors over for popcorn and cupcakes. Last year she needed Daniel's help blowing out her candles, but not this time:

4. Point of interest: it's birthday season around here! Anya turns 3 on Tuesday, my birthday is a few days after Christmas, Daniel turns 5 at the beginning of February, and then Stuart's birthday is in mid-March. All this plus Christmas means we are inundated with lots of new stuff stuff stuff, which is understandable and to be expected - even when we try and keep the gift-giving fairly simple-, but it also makes me a little crazy. This year it's even more intense because the basement work means that we have to re-locate (find a place to store/get rid of) a lot of stuff before the next stage of work begins. I'm in the mood to clean and purge, but this does not sit well with Young Children who are Very Attached to Their Things. Even putting some toys away for a little while so they feel new again in a couple of months is not feasible, because I literally do not have a place to hide things away (see above re: basement work).

5. Remember how my brother Joe got engaged? Well, he and his fiancée decided to get hitched over Christmas rather than deal with the stress of planning a big wedding next summer. The ceremony will be in Rochester, MN, where her family is gathering for the holidays. (I suggested that they have an outdoor Sledding Wedding!...but for some reason they didn't take me seriously. Can you imagine?) In any case, it's all very exciting, and adds to the season's festivities.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

first snow

At 5:15 this morning, a certain Little Boy woke up, looked out the window, and gasped with delight. "Mom!" he cried, "There's snow outside!!" His mother tried desperately to get him back to sleep, at least for a little bit, but the Little Boy refused. "I'm just too excited," he insisted, but eventually he agreed to look out the window quietly for a while until someone was ready to be up early with him. He watched and watched out the window, even got his binoculars to have a look. Finally, when he could stand it no more, at 6:30a.m. he and his Little Sister (who was also awake by this time) implored their father to go outside with him to shovel snow off the back deck. And so they did. (Their mother went back to bed at this point, desperate for a few minutes extra sleep before it was time to make breakfast.)

Later, the family went sledding at a nearby park.

And they declared it to be The First Day of Winter.