Dervish I mean Derby Party

still life with julep recipe
Teach a man to fish…

Well, it’s still not quite as good as being in Louisville for the festivities, but it sure is fun bringing a little bit of Churchill Downs to Saint Paul for a few hours. We hosted another Derby Party last weekend, and made a few modifications that I think went well: I spent more of the party outside of the kitchen, and didn’t have too many leftovers of sweets. I still collapsed in a heap after the last guest left, but that may be more due to the fact that I’m in the middle of marathon training and did a 9-mile hilly run, the morning of the party. And no, I didn’t keep count of the juleps I’d enjoyed over several hours… but at least the cups were small, and the whiskey not as strong.

Changes we made this year, that I hope to remember for the future. I wholly confess to heavy use of Pinterest to find some (all) of these recipes:

  • Hot browns! This is apparently a tradition for the event, though we didn’t experience them at all, in Louisville. After reading one recipe for these (in a “slider “version… baked all in one pan) and knowing full well how fond a certain individual (who wore seersucker) is of sandwiches, turkey and cheese… I added it to the menu. And it was amazing, even with the parmesan accidentally omitted.

Hot browns, resting now but bound for baking. #kyderby

A photo posted by Steve Morman (@stephen.morman) on


  • Benedictine spread: another one we never saw in Kentucky, but it’s a keeper that has just a tad more vegetables than the pimiento cheese spread/sandwiches we did last year. We made up a few white-bread sandwiches (I didn’t have the nerve nor time to cut off the crusts) and left the rest out for dipping with hearty crackers.
  • Kentucky Butter Cake: So few of the bourbon balls I made last year got eaten that I decided to try a dessert without nuts or chocolate. Also: making a bundt cake is a bit less time-intensive than chocolate-dipped candies. This was a great pound cake-like recipe that I’ll do again, though only a few of us enjoyed it at the party. We’ve been happily chipping away at it at breakfast, in the days since. I suppose people got enough sugar for the day from their juleps?
  • A bag of crushed ice. I am so glad I was able to buy this, the night before the party from Shamrock Group! Last year I was making crushed ice on a nearly per-julep basis with the VitaMix, which was terribly noisy. I spent a good part of the afternoon alone in the kitchen making juleps. This year, we converted most of the food table to a beverage station, complete with julep recipe, the appropriate supplies and tools, the world’s best muddler (the souvenir bat you get at the Slugger Museum), and a bowl of ice that we just had to replenish from the cooler on the back porch, from time to time.
  • There’s a hat store at the Mall of America now: Chapel Hats! I found a great fascinator there just a week before the party, for just $20. To be fair, it wasn’t … big enough if I were trying to impress (or win our own hat contest), but it was fun to wear, and saved me a ton of time.
  • I’d love to say I planned this, but alas: it simply happened. It was a gorgeous day out and people were able to sit out in our backyard and on the front porch, sipping and conversating. I gave a few tours of our garden. It has yet to reach its full potential (of course: it’s only May) but still had a few blooms to offer up: a ton of scilla, and a few bright tulips.

Some great things we didn’t intentionally change and yet they happened:

Mary's handmade cloche
I dared her to make it
  • One most excellent hand-crocheted Derby hat (see photo at right)
  • Everybody looked great! It was fun to see friends dressed up a bit, sometimes with ties, a waistcoat, a great hat or fascinator here and there, and some festive spring dresses.
  • A tie: three of our most excellent and non-underdog-picking friends decided to bet on American Pharoah. And yet no one placed actual bets, likely because we were too busy socializing to lay down the rules: the money jar was empty. So… we had to battlefield-promote most of the best-hat/tie prizes to race winnings. I’m not sure anyone noticed?
  • We shared a treasured treat with friends who appreciated it: some of our Angel’s Envy Rye.

It was so enjoyable to spend some relaxing time with good friends, and to share some specially-made food and drinks with them! Some of them traveled from pretty distant burbs/busy lives, and that was a super special treat.

I was really happy that I wasn’t frantically trying to make a fascinator, 30 minutes before the party, like I was last year. However, I was frantically trying to prepare the list of horses and the julep recipe, and facing frustrations with my computer. And a plate of veggies never made it out to our guests. For the most part, I think paring back our food plans made it easier for me to squeeze in the “necessary” 9-miler the morning of the party – but when we do this party again, I’ll make sure to keep the morning more open for party prep.

Onward! To the garden. And maybe the Angel’s Envy Rye.

Because … reasons

As I round the corner of the suddenly enormous queen-size bed, feeling every inch of the way the blister on my right big toe, the chafe-burns on both thighs and … sore triceps? “Why am I doing this?” It felt like it took several minutes to crawl into bed and get sufficiently reclined for sleep.

“You’re strong. You’re awesome…” comes from the other side of the bed. From a loving, supportive creature.

“Ok but this is just nuts.”

A few hours earlier I’d completed a 17-mile “LSD” (Long, Slow Distance AKA run as slow as you possibly can for a few hours to train your mind and body to handle a marathon) run, albeit on a beautiful, 50-something-degree day with a light, cool wind with good podcasts, music and scenery. And, I hadn’t needed to call him for a ride home, as I halfheartedly predicted when I headed out. “I’ll have my phone. I may call you. I’ll text you from out there, at any rate.”

That run came about 24 hours after an 8-mile “pace” run – 8 miles, attempting to hit and sustain the pace I want to run on June 20 at Grandma’s Marathon. The sensations that evening had me worried about my low back … some quality time with that foam roller didn’t even seem to help, though I felt better the next morning.

That workout came a few hours after a particularly intense upper-level YogaTed vinyasa yoga class in which we did approximately 36 side planks, in between a lot of good leg-muscle lengthening and gravity-relationship work.

I … selected (designed?) this weekend-warriorized marathon training plan. Because doing long runs on Sundays  allows me to get to that yoga class, and also allows me to be a functional participant in our household/relationship for more of the weekend. Why not be sore at work on Monday, rather than sore at home on Sunday?

Seriously. I am doing this … because I want to see if I can pace myself just a little bit more conservatively at the start, so that I may shave off a few minutes (10? more?) overall. Is that a good enough reason?

I’m not doing this for someone who is sick, or someone who is dead. I haven’t overcome any huge personal life challenge and so don’t really have a need to share celebrate a success story (oh wait, hold on there. I finally got a new job. That’s pretty huge but what the heck does it have to do with committing to marathon number two?).

In a text-message conversation I recently had with a friend who also enjoys long days outside while moving forward and perspiring, I was lovingly reminded that you don’t really have to have a reason other than “just because.” The weird, wild and lovely sounds -and hats- in the music video above seem to fit the feeling that inspires me to do such stuff.

I will add this: I haven’t been to the North Shore in several years. I’m overdue! What better reason? I’m taking back Interstate 35.

Marathon #2 Training Plan

Pike Island
Spring on Pike Island. A weeknight training run!
  1. Follow one of the Higdon plans. I’m going with Intermediate 1.
  2. Get on trail more. It’s better for my mind and knees. Probably is good strength training, at least for my glutes. Logistics are oddly simpler. It’s much easier to pee when you need to.
  3. Every couple weeks, log some serious miles on pavement with running club friends.
  4. Get in as much yoga as I can, meaning about 1 class per week plus at least 5-10 minutes of asana and/or meditating by candlelight each night.
  5. Strength training = that one (vinyasa) yoga class and/or climbing with friends at the gym and/or 10 minutes of core work after a couple of my runs each week.
  6. Every now and then I experience an evening in which my running/training and other (social/work/?) plans smash into each other. The solution that has worked a few times already: go home to cook a dinner with my husband.

So, I’m going about my preparation for Grandma’s, my second marathon, a little differently than I did for my first marathon, last summer and fall. The new job and commute have thrown a few new surprising … decision factors into each week. Mostly it’s the longer commute, which shortens my mornings and evenings and eliminates the option of a noon run. However, the newness of everything related to my workday has perhaps changed my attitude a bit. I feel slightly less available on the personal front, and far more conservative with my free time schedule, as I don’t get to see Steve as much as when we worked together.

Time’s precious.

Nice reminder, eh? I don’t think I’ll ever advocate for a longer driving commute, but perhaps it’s helping me make some healthy time management decisions that I never had to make when I had a 5-minute commute.