Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book Club Books!

The Grab Bag Book Club met for the first time last week, and we discussed a book by a local author (Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik). We had a great time discussing the book, and picking out some of our upcoming books. I think we have determined that we all have different tastes in books, but we do all agree that we are looking for more fun reads, not ones that are super in-depth or serious. To that aim, we came up with a bunch of books that look good!

I found a great site called Reading Group Guides that has tons of great resources for a book club leader - ideas for books, themes, questions to guide discussions, meeting location ideas and more. Check it out. :) We found some of our "to read" books from that site.

The book we are reading for our next meeting is not on that site, but it does promise to be hilarious: My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands by Chelsea Handler. Erin Jane thought her books would be very funny.

Here is a list of some of the other books that the attendees last week agreed on:
  1. Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter
  2. Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA by Kris Radish
  3. No Good Girls by Jean Marie Pierson
  4. Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane
  5. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (my mom and I have read this and it is phenomenal...she has a new book out now called The Sugar Queen that we could read, but it is only in hardcover, so that could make it a bit tougher. However, I think it would be worth it. FYI, it's also available on the Kindle.)
  6. Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch
  7. My Best Friend's Girl by Dorothy Koomson

We also had a couple of maybes, looking for approval or not from the folks who couldn't make our first meeting on these ones:

  1. Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
  2. The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski

Our next book club meeting is going to be at the end of June (I'm thinking either Thursday the 26th or Monday the 30th, or even Tuesday, July 1st), where we'll be discussing the Chelsea Handler book. If you have any suggestions for a meeting location, or for another good book to read (either from the lists above or anywhere else!), please send them to me. It's always best to have a lot of options on our "to-read" list, plus you may find that one of these interests you and you want to read it now!

Please let me know which date works best for you, or if a date doesn't work for you.

  • Thursday, June 26th
  • Monday, June 30th
  • Tuesday, July 1st

Happy reading (try not to shoot Diet Coke out of your nose when you realize how hilarious Chelsea Handler is...)


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Excited for the long weekend? Me too!!

The long weekend has really started out well for me. On Thursday, we did happy hour, and I (ME!) lasted until 10:30. That's pretty impressive, and I had a lot of fun. I did have to work a full day Friday - the last one of the summer for me - but accomplished a lot in the new building. I got grocery shopping and some errands done last night, and then went to Hava's for a house warming party, which was very fun. (We are going to make fun of the fanny pack, sorry.) :) After that, Amy, EJ and I went to grab some dinner at Granite City, and that was lots of fun.

Now it's Saturday afternoon, the weather is perfect for chilling out, Travis and I made waffles for breakfast, and I am going to go get a couple of spa treatments at my favorite salons. I'm not sure I could ask for much more today. The only thing I could request is that Travis wouldn't be working this weekend, it really sucks to have a long weekend, and he has to go to work each day.

Hope that everyone else has a fabulous long weekend (and happy early birthday, Amanda!!!)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Go Go Gadget LISA!!!

Alright everyone...send good thoughts to my sister, Lisa. She has her last final of law school today, and then she is DONE with it all! She graduates this Saturday (which is coincidentally when Wandering Bront makes their big debut to an audience).

Congratulations, Lisa!!! Well done!
Thank God for no more law school :)


Friday, May 9, 2008

Testing zucchini breads because I am a fishing widow

As I am a fishing widow this weekend (it's the walleye opener and Travis went up north to fish with some buddies), I decided I would be extremely domestic this evening and bake some zucchini bread. Now zucchini bread is a longtime favorite of the Schmid family, and Grandma Darlene's recipe is pretty much the bomb. However, tonight I decided I would make the original recipe and then a few variations on it. Grandma's recipe makes some extremely unhealthy (but absolutely delicious!) bread as it calls for an entire cup of oil, and two cups of sugar. Whoa.

My arteries are clogging just thinking about it. And my mouth is watering. :)

The variations I baked tonight include a cinnamon-free variety (Amanda is allergic to cinnamon) that includes the oil and sugar, an oil-free recipe (substituting applesauce for oil) that includes the sugar, and an oil-free (applesauce) and sugar-free (using Splenda instead) recipe. They're not all quite out of the oven yet - this was a full evening event. By the way, it does indeed mean that I made 15 loaves of zucchini bread so there is plenty for everyone!

Want to see what five medium zucchinis shreds into? Check out this picture. That's a little less than eight cups. To make zucchini bread, you essentially have two processes going on. You mix up the shredded zucchini with flour, and in a separate bowl, you mix up oil, sugar, eggs, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Once the two things are mixed separately, you mix them together, and then you have dough.

You bake the dough for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, and then you end up with delicious and wonderful zucchini bread. You could also make this dough into muffins - that works wonderfully. I've made bars from it as well. My favorite remains the bread...it reminds me of Grandma.

I'll be bringing some of these loaves into work and to my family to test out what is best. I know my mom will appreciate some tasty zucchini bread for Mother's Day this weekend!

Let me know if you want to be a taste tester - I've got 15 loaves to work through here!! :)

What other things should a fishing widow do? I have Mass a few times this weekend (I'm cantoring twice), and we have Mother's Day dinner tomorrow night at Axel's...mmmm. I'll definitely do some laundry, and I should clean my house. I might also start reading the Septimus Heap novels - they are sort of like Harry Potter, but not as good. I'll give them a shot.

Anyway, hope everyone has a great weekend as well!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

What kind of dinosaur are you?

This survey is from Beth, and let me tell you: this could make or break your band career. So step right up and answer some questions to determine...what kind of dinosaur are you???



I'm no longer a Guitar Hero...but I am still a rock star

So I played Guitar Hero last night at Brian's house. I hadn't played in quite awhile, and let me tell you: Skills get rusty. Ouch. I'm out of shape; the strumming made my hand sore. (Seriously.)

In all the time I've spent focusing on Wandering Bront (where I am almost always the singer, occasionally the drummer and never a guitarist), I've forgotten how to play the fake plastic guitar!! I seriously need to brush up. From what I hear, the guitar on Rock Band is actually harder than on Guitar Hero, so I can't even imagine how awful I'd be on the RB guitar now.

It's a good thing I have the weekend to practice...Wandering Bront debuts next weekend, and who knows, someone else might want the singing gig, so I may have to step in at guitar (OK, probably not, no one else wants to sing, but hey, at least I'd be ready!) Anybody up for a little Rock Band this weekend?


Monday, May 5, 2008

BBQ sauce in jambalaya?

Don't doubt it until you've tried it! I was very surprised...I was checking out Yahoo's home page earlier today, and each Monday they post "7 easy recipes you could make tonight". Normally, when I check that out, I sort of laugh, because it either sounds terrible, or I'd have to buy all of the ingredients on the way home for work - boo on that. I need a tool where I can enter the food I have at home, and it comes back with a yummy recipe. Know of any??

Anyways, one of the recipes featured today actually sounded like it might almost work for me, though when I looked at it, it called for the items below. I've marked what I actually had, and what I had to substitute...this meal actually turned out pretty darn well. It actually tasted like jambalaya as well. Travis called it "good", so that's saying something.

-1 tablespoon oil - didn't use, I rarely use extra oil to cook
-1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, sliced, quartered - had! there was enough oil in these...I made a full pound
-1 medium onion, chopped - had! we almost always have onions around
-1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained - did not have, but I happened to have a cup and a half of diced tomatoes from tacos last week, so I added enough water to make it 14 ounces
-1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth - did not have, but made my own broth with water and chicken bouillon, that works like a dream
-1 medium green pepper, chopped - sort of had, I had a mix of diced stoplight peppers from taco night, that seems to be coming in handy here!
-1/2 cup KRAFT Original Barbecue Sauce - I actually used Famous Dave's Rich and Sassy, I'd recommend using their Devil's Spit or Texas Pit next time, a little less sweet
-1 pound frozen cooked shrimp, thawed - gross, yuck, yuck, I just used extra sausages
-2 cups MINUTE White Rice, uncooked - I don't use Minute Rice, so I used Uncle Ben's Converted Long Grain (still used 2 cups)

Essentially, you brown the sausage and onion, then add all the other stuff, and cook (covered) for 15-20 minutes. I added some chili powder and Mrs. Dash Spicy Blend to round off the seasoning. Add a salad (we did a blueberry poppyseed deal that I threw together), and you've got a full meal! Actually, now we have enough leftovers for the next few days, and I will probably even eat them. Next time I make this, I'll probably cut the recipe in half, similar to my stovetop lasagna.

Finally, an "easy" recipe that really was easy, and I had the food at home, AND only took 45 minutes from start to finish. Thank you, Yahoo! Anybody want some leftovers?


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Complete success at the MS Walk!!

So the MS Walk was today, and it was awesome! First of all, the weather turned out great - 60 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze. Really good walking weather. I cannot believe all the people that were at the walk this year! I think that the way they changed the route to having only one start/finish area made it seem like there were more people at all parts of the trail.

I documented our day in photos, and they are shown for your enjoyment. :)

Lisa and Jessie as we were waiting in a ridiculously long line to get a backpack in which to carry our tshirts and assorted loot.

Lisa and I in the same aforementioned line. I am rocking an assortment of ND gear.

Oh boy, the line was awesome. At least we eventually got the backpack deal, it was worth it. Who wants to carry shirts for 6.5 miles?

Now all three of us are in line. This is the last picture of us in line, I'm sure you are sad already.

Here's Dad, Lisa, Jessie and I at the starting line! We got to have a special photo up there because Dad is a VIP at the event...note the orange VIP necktag on Dad there. Sweet! I also learned that team AmandaJCR was ranked 17th of ALL teams at the walk because we were able to raise so much money ($5,900 at last count!) Not too shabby for a four person team, I bet there aren't too many small teams like us with the big donations!!!

Lisa, me and Dad at the first rest stop where Great River Energy was a sponsor.

Lisa, me and Jessie at that same GRE sign at rest stop #1.

Anchor Bank was the presenting sponsor at the walk, and their team had these great blue shirts that said "Stomp out MS."

We found my name on one of the Golden Soles Club cards - to be in the Golden Soles Club, you need to raise at least $1,000 the previous year. Last year, right after we saw my name, Lisa was nearly killed by a flying tent. We were definitely on the lookout after this point.

Such a good thing, we took two pictures. Unfortunately, we never saw Lisa's name on the Golden Soles Club cards, but we all know that Lisa is a rockstar fundraising genius, and she was probably listed on the other (shorter) route. Maybe I should photoshop the second image and add her name in there. :)

Lisa reenacting the Great Tent Debacle of 2007 - she doesn't really look scared. This is not a true reenactment.

Lisa again, I think she is smiling even bigger in this one. Trust me, when it actually happened, it was very scary, and Lisa was lucky to escape with only a bruise. Check out her blog for the whole story: http://lisamschmid.blogspot.com/2008/05/goal-for-2008-ms-walk-survival.html

Party at the end of the walk - there were so many people there, cheering, eating lunch and enjoying a fabulous spring morning. The cheering at the finish line really makes you feel like a rockstar, it's impossible not to smile.

More of the party after the walk.

A little more food, fun and chilling after the walk. The MS Society does a really great job on the whole day. All of the rest stops and the opening and closing events are really a class act.

The walk ends at Minnehaha Park, home of the famous Minnehaha Falls. This is Lisa in front of the falls - aren't both of them just beautiful?

All in all, the MS Walk was a huge success. We all hit our fundraising goals (both personal and team goals - Lisa, where did that extra $200 come from?? AWESOME!), the walk went swimmingly, as evidenced above, and I think we are all set for another successful year next year. We're planning on building a team AmandaJCR web page for the event next year - so stay tuned (OK, tune back in for that in approximately February)

I hope you've been entertained by this blog posting...until next time, Gadget. Never fear, there will be continued blog posts about assorted fun things moving forward, I'm really trying to be good about blogging.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

MS Walk and Wandering Dinosaurs

In the past hour, team AmandaJCR has beaten its $5,000 fundraising goal! This doesn't mean that you shouldn't still donate if you were thinking about it, but I am just super excited that we beat that goal!!!

The MS Walk is this coming Sunday, and I checked out the weather today. It looks like it will be sixty degrees and sunny, which is just about perfect walking weather. Let's hope that the weather forecasters got it right, and that it isn't so windy that we repeat the Great Tent Debacle of MS Walk 2007. :)

I'm sure that you've missed all the fun information about Wandering Bront lately. It has been several days since I mentioned it on this blog. Rest assured, the band is still together! We now have several additional members, it appears we are taking more of a rotational approach to membership...that way more people can play. Beth (now rocking exclusively on the bass), Tracy (picking up some lead guitar riffs), John (filling in on drums and also playing lead guitar) and I (still sticking with the singing) played some music on Wednesday night.

I have one complaint about Rock Band, and I really think that this issue affects mostly the singer. Why in the sam hill do so many of the songs include references to rape, murder, waves of mutilation, death, anger and general meanness??? The meanness comment mostly refers to "Celebrity Skin" by Hole, I sang that one to Beth and I think she felt I was calling her a hooker waitress (hey, maybe I was*, but I don't judge). "I'm So Sick" - the bonus song - didn't feel like much of a bonus when you look at the words. During most of the songs, I would look at the words, sing them and then think, "WTF?" All in all, that is a small complaint, but when you are the main singer, it does seem to pile on the crazy lyrics.

We have had some discussions, we're pretty sure that we are actually going to order some tshirts. They'll probably be around $15-20 a piece - let me know if you have any interest, and what design preference you like (feel free to make suggestions here - check out http://www.customink.com/ to build some fun shirts)

I'll leave you with one last photo of Wandering Bront's sometimes groupie, sometimes lead guitarist - all members of this band really go all out. :)

Peace out, friends and fans. Peace out.

*Clearly, I was not, but still.