Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: City of Thieves

I just finished reading David Benioff's book, "City of Thieves." I highly recommend it. It was a total page turner; I think I read it in the span of about 2-3 days, which is pretty quick considering the fact that I don't have a ton of free time these days between work and training. The story is told from the persepective of a young Russian, Lev, who has just been arrested for breaking curfew in beseiged Leningrad. He is teamed up with another prisoner and given an order to find a dozen eggs so the daughter of a high-ranking officer can have a cake at her upcoming wedding. Obviously finding a dozen eggs in war torn Russia is a tall order.

The writing of this book is beautiful. There were many passages that I flagged to go back and re-read. This is a book that I would actually recommend to both men and women. I tend to read female-centric fiction, but this one definitely straddles the line and is something that would be enjoyed by either sex - especially if you have any interest in WWII. Warning: It does have some rough language and explicit scenes since it is written from the perspective a male soldier.

Reading this book makes me want to learn more about the Russian front of WWII... and more about WWII in general. I feel like my knowledge of that war is just the 'tip of the ice berg'. It's times like this when I wish I could call up my Grandpa and ask for a book recommendation. He was an avid reader - especially of war history books. I guess that means I just need to do a little research on my own. I feel like the older I get, the less I know. Do you know what I mean? I guess as I age, I realize how much knowledge is out there. Both sides of my family love to play Trivial Pursuit and they are fiercely competitive, so I really need to step up & read more non-fiction so I can be more of a contributing team member.

So many books to read, so little time.

Do you belong to a 'game loving' family? Is there a certain game that your family loves to play? My family loves Trivial Pursuit and lately we've been really into Apples to Apples!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Weekend Review

You know that point of a relationship where you kind of realize that it's just not going to pan out and you are just ready to move onto the next stage?

That is how I feel about summer. Summer, I have waited and waited for you to warm up. But you continue to give me temps in the 50-60 degree range, and summer dear, that is fall weather. Ok? So I am giving up on you and am moving onto my fall mindset. But I swear to God, if you belatedly turn on your charms in October with some 90 degree days - especially on the day I do the Twin Cities 10 mile run or my 1/2 marathon - I am not going to be happy.

Anywho, moving on. I am enjoying another great weekend here in the Twin Cities. Being home two weekends in a row has been fabulous. It's been nice to have time to go grocery shopping, do laundry, and iron clothes. By the way, ironing is probably one of my favorite 'chores'. Except I hate ironing dress pants. But give me a stack of button down shirts and I am happy as a clam.

After my 3 mile run this morning, I went to Lunds do some grocery shopping. They were having a great sale on produce. I was like a kid in a candy store. I know the days of in-season produce are dwindling so I kind of feel like I need to eat as much fruit/berries as I can in the next couple of weeks so I have some fond taste memories to reflect back on this winter when I am eating frozen berries. Which are fine, but don't hold a candle to fresh produce!

Here are some pictures of what I bought.

Mmmm... It's hard to choose my favorite berry, but the raspberry is one of the front runners. My grandparents had raspberries bushes when I was a little girl. So each week, my mom would round up us kids and we'd head over to pick some berries. I kind of want to reach back and slap the face of my 8 year old self. You know, the 8 year old who would turn on her dramatic voice and say 'Do we HAVE to go pick berries?? Ugh' Insert a massive sigh in there, too. What can I say, I was a dramatic child. Now I think back on all that whining and think - oh, you poor little thing! You get as many berries as you want for FREE. Now I dance with glee when I see that the tiny containers are on sale - 2/$3. Ahh, how I'd love to go back to the days of free produce. *sigh*

Alright, moving on. Aside from getting groceries, I also worked on getting my closet in shape for the fall. Since I've lost some weight this past year, I had a lot of clothes that needed to be weeded out and donated to charity.

Here's the stack of clothes that were plucked out of my closet.

Even though I don't clean out my closet very often, it is a chore that I really, really enjoy. It is so therapeutic for some reason. I guess it is in my genes or something. Kind of funny story - when I was young, maybe 6, I went over to my cousin's house to play for the afternoon. We were trying to decide what to do when I came up with a great idea. I said, "I know! Let's fold and organize the clothes in your drawers!"

Not even kidding. So we proceeded to fold and organize the clothes in her bureau. My cousin still loves to tell that story. I guess I was kind of an odd, anal kid. All I can say is - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I get the anal tendencies from my dear Mom, whose house is so clean, you could eat off the floors.

Anyways, I hope you all are having a great weekend! Especially those of you who are preparing to return to school, either as a student or a teacher!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Running Rituals

Good Morning & Happy Friday! Oh, I am so ready for the weekend. Work has been less than fabulous this week, but we won't dwell on that here.

Training for the half continues to go well, but I've been feeling a little achier than usual in my quads and hip flexor. I can't really figure out why, so I decided to swap out my shoes. I haven't really kept track of the miles I've put on them, but I think I am coming up against the max of 600 miles on them.

So it's out with the old...

And in with the new!

I always feel like a bit of a fraud when I start wearing new running shoes. They are so bright white, they practically glow in the dark. A true runner's shoes should look like they have some wear and tear on them. Kind of like my current Mizuno's do. They look much better in the picture than they actually look. I'm excited to step into my Mizuno's for the first time this weekend. It's great that I have finally found a shoe that I love - I definitely went through a couple of other brands before finding the Mizuno Waveriders. I don't even have to try them on anymore - this is my 3rd pair and they always fit me perfectly!

Aside from having a shoe of choice, I have some other rituals that I do. Sometimes I feel like I am channelling Jack Nicholson's character from the movie, "As Good As It Gets." You know, the movie where he played a neurotic, OCD character? Yah, I have some of those OCD tendencies. I think know it runs in the family - most notably on my mom's side. We are just a little quirky.

So what my are my running rituals?
  • I have to hold my keys in a certain way in my right hand. I then spin the bigger of my two key rings as I run. The keys have to lay in my hand in a certain way for me to be able to spin this key ring. I have been doing this since I started training for the marathon in 2006. If I don't do this ritual when running outdoors, my run feels off. However, when I run on the treadmill, I can run sans keys just fine.
  • In my left hand, I have to hold the cord from my head phones in a certain way and then I tuck my first finger into the fold of skin between my thumb and first finger.
  • I only run around the lakes counter clockwise. I have tried switching it up and the runs feel like they take much longer. And my pace is slower, too - even though there isn't a difference in elevation when I run in the opposite direction.

Hmm... writing those out makes me feel like I should get my head examined. My cousin who is in med school has done a psych rotation so I am sure she could diagnose me in no time!

I know I am not alone in having odd rituals. So come on - 'fess up. What are your rituals? Of course, they do not have to relate to running - they can be about anything. Don't even get me started on all of the other weird rituals I do during the normal course of a day!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What if...

There is something about this time of year that makes me nostalgic. Back in my home state of North Dakota, kids are returning to school this week. How is that possible? Wasn't it just the 4th of July yesterday?

10 years ago, I was entering my freshman year at the University of North Dakota (Go Sioux!). That summer I had somehow convinced myself that I should major in Clinical Lab Science. I did fine in Science, but it definitely wasn't my forte, so I am not sure what I was thinking. Math had always been my strongest suit, but I took zero math classes that semester since I had met all the math requirements for the Clinical Lab Science program.

As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. By not taking any math classes, I realized how much I loved the subject. I found myself tutoring people on my floor and was jealous of my friends who were taking Calculus. Yes, I realize I am weird. So after that first semester, I knew my heart belonged in Witmer Hall in those high level math classes. I declared my major and never looked back.

But 10 years later, I can't help but play the 'what if' game. What if I had taken a completely different path? I've had two separate conversations this week with a friend and a co-worker about this subject. And here is what I have come up with for potential degrees I could have pursued:
  • Library Science - Ok, this is kind of obvious. I am in love with books. I think I would make a kick-arse librarian. Especially when working with kids. I'd love to introduce them to the books that turned me onto reading as a child. I would also love to work with adults, too. I love talking about books with adults and suggesting books that I think they might be interested in.
  • English - Not quite sure what I would have done with this degree, but having a better command of the intricacies of the English language would make writing a book a more realistic goal. Or maybe I could be a free lance writer for a magazine. Or I could get a job as an editor. Or I could review books & write the blurbs that make people buy a book.
  • Engineering - This is an obvious match for my math-loving mind. I could have still taken my favorite math classes (Calc I, II, III, and Differential Equations) but I also would have learned how to apply the math I was learning... which is not something I learned to do in my math classes unfortunately. And I could have avoided the math I didn't love (Discrete Structures)

Don't get me wrong - I don't regret getting my math degree - it stands out on my resume and is a well-respected field of study. It probably helped me stand out from other applicants when I applied for my MBA program. But it's interesting to think about what else I could have done.

If you could go back & do it over, what would you major in? If you are still in school, what is your major?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cool salad for a hot summer night

Greetings. It's your domestically challenged blogger here. You know, the person who gets freaked out by recipes and has to either call her mom or aunt when she's at the grocery store. Or approach the friendliest looking person to ask them to point her in the direction of a serrano chile.

Well, occasionally I do actually have some success in the kitchen. Especially when it involves very little 'cooking'. After all, it's summer - who wants to heat up their kitchen any more than necessary?

This recipes comes to us from my favorite grocery story chain in the Minneapolis/St Paul area, Lunds/Byerly's, and it features a very trendy ingredient that is super good for you: quinoa. Have you heard of this super food? It is a gluten free whole grain alternative that is so, so good. It's imported from South America and is pronounced "keen-wah." I have been able to find it in any grocery chain here in the cities - it's not something exclusive to a Whole Foods type of place.

Here's what the brand I buy looks like (excuse my terrible photography. I think I need to hire my uncle to take my food photos for me - he does such a good job on my aunt's blog! :)

I've had it with stir fry a few times, but decided to search for a salad recipe to bring to my mom's birthday dinner earlier this month. So I did a recipe search by ingredient on the Lunds/Byerly's website and voila! Quinoa Salad... Latin Style!

That hyperlink there will give you the recipe if you want to give it a shot. I am too lazy to type out the ingredients!

You start by cooking the quinoa - you can either cook it on the stove or use a rice cooker. The recipe calls for 1 uncooked cup with probably yield close to 3-4 cups when it's cooked? So this recipe definitely makes A LOT of salad. 18 1/2 cup servings actually, according to the recipe. So you might want to halve it? It does get better every day as the flavors combine, so is good as leftovers.

Here's the finished product! I love how of the citrus dressing gives it a tangy taste. I didn't have one on hand, but next time I make this, I will probably add an avocado. It went over really well with my family, too.

Have you had quinoa before?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Meme

Pinkflipflops did this over on her blog so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest.

- I really don't have anything on my shelves that has been around for a very long time since all the books from my childhood are at my parents. I hope. Or they might have gotten ruined when my parents' basement flooded in 1997 (please let that not be the case). The book that's been on my shelf the longest is probably "Tuesdays with Morrie." I sort of stole my mom's copy (whoopsies, sorry about that mom - do you want it back?) when I graduated from high school.

And if you haven't read that book yet - drop what you are doing and go read it! It's amazing! I usually read it about once a year when I need to tweek my perspective on life!

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time).

- Oo, that is tough. Both of my sets of grandparents have always known that reading is a passion of mine, so many of my gifts from them for Birthdays & Christmas were books. I'll never forget when my Grandma McDougall gave me the ENTIRE set of Little House on the Prairie books, though. I can still picture them. They were light blue and were nice and thick. Ahh, bliss. Seriously, seriously hoping that boxed set survived the flood. I would be heart broken if I couldn't pass them onto my own children (if I ever have any!) or to a niece (again, if I ever have one!)

The book that’s been with you to the most places.

- Hmmm... Probably the first book in the Harry Potter series: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." I bought that at the beginning of my Europe trip back in 2004 when I ran out of reading material. So it stayed with me on my travels through Germany, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. By the way, I thought I was going to hate the HP series. I only bought that first book because it was the only book in English that I hadn't read in that train station in Berlin. I finished the first book in about a day and track down the 2nd book at the train station in Prague. It's such a wonderful series. I would love to go back & re-read them. But so many books, so little time...

The most recent addition to your shelves.

- I broke my little 'book buying hiatus' by buying the next Books & Bars book, "Dud Avocado" (which is a serious dud in my opinion). I also bought Jillian Michael's new book "Master your Metabolism" after reading a fellow runner's review. She talks a lot about hormones and how they impact your metabolism, etc. Sounded interesting so I thought it was worth checking out and since it is a new release, I figured the wait at the library would be eternity. I haven't had a chance to dig into it, though. I'm sure I'll share anything of interest that I learn by reading it!

Your current read, your last read, and the book you'll read next.

- Current read is "Dud Avocado" (I don't recommend checking this out), my last read was "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" (technically my last read was "The Shadow of the Silk Road" but I couldn't get into it so gave up after the first 50 pages. One of the perks of borrowing it from the library v. owning it & feeling like you HAVE to finish it), and my next read is either "City of Thieves" or "And Sometimes Why" since those are two books that I have borrowed from the library & need to get back within the next couple of weeks.

By the way, I love getting books from the library, but it kind of gives me anxiety! I have this "I have to get this read" feeling! The problem is that all these books I want are on hold, and then, mysteriously, they are all available at the same time so I have 5 books right now, which are due on Sept 1. Seriously - who gets stressed out by the library? Apparently I do. I know there's this concept of 'renewing' the dang things so there is no reason to get stressed out about READING. What is wrong with me???

Anywho! Alright - your turn to play along! Either do this meme on your blog, or answer one or all of the questions that I just answered!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Abby's Wedding - The Big Day Part III

When I last left off, I had just given my speech. There were lots of other speeches, and they were all fantastic. Especially my dad's. He's kind of more soft spoken and not one that likes the lime light, but he did an awesome job. He used a perfect mix of humor and sentimentality. I know he is also super excited to have Ryan as a son-in-law!

It had been rainy and overcast all day, but after dinner the sun came out and it was a beautiful evening so we decided to head outside for some impromptu family photos. I've mentioned before that I have a large family, but these pictures give you a visual.

Here's my mom (4 from the left) with her 7 siblings. Yes, we are Catholic. :) It was awesome having all of her siblings there - my one uncle came all the way from Florida!

After getting a shot of the siblings, we got as many of the McDougall clan together as we possibly could. Getting everyone in the family in a picture is quite like herding cats. But this is pretty close to the whole family!

My dad's side of the family was up next. Unfortunately I didn't get a shot of my grandma, dad, and his 3 siblings. All of my dad's siblings, including my aunt from California, were there. The last time we were all together was for my Grandpa's funeral in February so it was nice to get together to celebrate a happy occasion. My Grandpa's presence was definitely missed, though. Whenever we took a big family picture together, my Grandpa would smile and say, "all because two people fell in love." My Grandma is there in the center of the photo, next to Abby - she looked so beautiful! I hope I age as well as she has!!

After the family photos, it was time to go inside and get the party started!! They started off the dance with the Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances. I definitely look forward to dancing that dance with my dad some day. My dad was actually voted best dancer of his senior class - and my parents were voted best couple!! Kind of cool, huh?

After those 2 dances and the wedding party dance, it was time to get the other guests involved! Here's a picture of 2 of my nephews, James and Andrew. They had a great time playing with the props that the DJ brought along!

They played "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" pretty early in the night & I got some great shots during that song!

My aunt Barb cutting a rug!

My mom dancing with her 2 sisters!

I was dateless for this wedding (as usual) but who needs a date when you have a dance partner like this!!

And of course I wouldn't be fulfilling my duties as a bridesmaid if I didn't end up in the middle of a dance circle at some point in the night. What can I say - I LOVE wedding dances! :)

And that's all I've got for you. Do you feel like you attended the event after the 5 recap posts? I feel like I was a member of the paparazzi, but pictures are priceless, so I am glad I got so many great shots from the wedding.

Now it's back to life as usual. Abby & Ryan returned to Tucson the Monday after the wedding & just left for their honeymoon last Wednesday (I think they return today). I was pretty much with Abby non-stop from Thursday morning through Sunday night. It was probably the most time we've spent around each other since I left for college 10 years ago. I got so spoiled seeing so much of her, now I miss her more than ever.

They are coming home for Christmas, though, and given how fast this year is going, December will be here before we know it. And then I'll be in Tucson next May for a joint graduation party for Abby & Ryan. It's good knowing that I will see them a couple of times in the year to come, but it doesn't make it any easier to have them so far away. Luckily, I know they are in good hands down in Tucson since they live really close to Ryan's Dad and his wife, Lora.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the wedding posts! It was fun to re-live the memories when writing this post, and I know I will come back and re-read these posts when I miss Abby or want a reminder of the play of events of the weekend.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Running on the Brain

1/2 marathon training started on 8/10, so I have had running on the brain. I actually have ran less since I started training than I was before. That's because my training schedule calls for cross training & strength training on certain days - so my days of running 5-6 days a week are behind me for now. What I like about 1/2 marathons is that it's still an intense training schedule, but it's totally doable, and you don't exactly eat, sleep, breath running like you do when training for a marathon.

Anyways, today I am reviewing the book "What I talk about when I talk about running" by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is a Japanese writer who has penned many fiction books as well as some non-fiction books, like this one. This book reads like a memoir and as the title suggests, talks about running and also writing. It's kind of written from a 'stream of conscience' approach, which is a little different, but still captivating in my opinion. As the author describes in the blurb about the book, he is basically thinking aloud in this book. It was interesting to read about the parallels he draws between being a marathoner and an author and how they require the same perseverance and training. I read this book in less than 24 hours so would consider it a page turner! But only if you are into running & interested in the sport. So if you have zero interest in distance running, this is not the book for you!!

Oh, and I also thought it was cool that Murakami & I both wear the same brand of running shoes - Mizuno's!! Mizuno is not a super popular/famous brand, but dang do I love those shoes. And so does my little sister. Another similarity we have. My Mizuno's make me feel like I can fly!

I'm also reviewing a running movie that I watched this week - "The Spirit of the Marathon." Holy batman this is such a wonderful movie! If you have netflix, it's available to watch instantly on your computer. It follows 6 runners - some elite, some average joes (and janes!) - training for the 2005 Chicago marathon. Watching this brought back so many memories. I did not expect to get as emotional as I did when I watched this. I didn't cry when I crossed the finish line of the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon, but it was definitely an emotional experience that I will never forget. I can still vividly remember overhearing eavesdropping on a conversation on the bus when I first moved to Minneapolis - the man speaking had just done the marathon that previous weekend and I was in awe of him. That was in 2004 and if you had told my 23 year old self that I'd run a marathon 2 years later, I never would have believed it!

It was especially interesting to watch the Elites prepare for the marathon. Man those people can run. If I remember correctly, Deena Kastor finishes around 2:21. That's faster that a 5:30 min/mile pace. Can you even imagine? I can run ah mile in 5:30, let alone 26.2. The men finish in 2:07, which is a sub-5 minute/mile pace. It blows the mind. It'd be pleased as punch to average 10 minute miles which would give me a finish time of around 4:30.

Similar to my book review, if you aren't interested in running or marathons, this probably won't float your boat. But if you have any interest whatsoever, you will probably really enjoy this flick! Warning: It is going to make you want to run a marathon.

Oh, and it totally makes me want to move to Chicago because it looks like they have an amazing running community. As you will see if you watch the movie, there are tons of people that all do their long runs together with various pace groups.

I'll be back next week with another book review & the final wedding post. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend. I'll be home for the first time in a long time with absolutely no plans! I am so excited to have a wide open weekend to do whatever I want, whenever I want.

What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Abby's Wedding - The Big Day Part II

Alright, time for another wedding post. Didn't realize how long these were going to be! This is the second to last, though!

When I last left off, we had just arrived at the reception. The DJ announced the wedding party and then Abby & Ryan were announced for the first time!

They got down to business right away and did their first dance to Michael Bubble's song, "Everything." I hope the videographer captured this as the dance was AWESOME. They didn't take dance classes, but Abby had taken ballroom dancing in college and said her & Ryan had been practicing. I was expecting a nice little first dance, but they blew me away with their number. They were seriously like Fred & Ginger on the dance floor with lots of dips and spins and things like that.

Pretty cool, huh? I fear I am way to klutzy to ever pull something like that off. I'd be the bride that would wipe out in her heels on the dance floor!

We arrived for part of the social hour so I was able to chat with some of the guests - and get some pictures taken, of course.

Suzanne, aka qwerkyqook, and I

Some of my cousins from my dad's side of the family: Ashley, Julie, and Alison

Soon enough, it was time to sit down for dinner which meant speech time! I have honestly been thinking about this speech since last fall when Abby asked me to be her maid of honor. I started sifting through quotes and thinking back on memories. What do I say to my sister on her wedding day? Obviously I wouldn't be giving a 'here's some marital advice speech' since I have no experience in that department. I can be a little bit on the witty side at times, but it is tough to be funny in front of 200 people when you only know about 1/2 of them. So I decided to take a sentimental approach to my speech. I started off by talking about the concept of a 'helicopter parent' and said they haven't coined this term yet, but if they did, I would fall under the category of a 'helicopter sibling.' I have always been that over-dominant older sibling, constantly offering unsolicited advice. Being 7 years older than my sister, I've always felt like I needed to take her under my wing and help her make the right choices and avoid the missteps I've made in my life.

I talked about how when Ryan came on the scene, I totally backed off because I knew my sister was with someone who was going to take care of her; someone who brought out the best in her. I meant it when I said I couldn't have picked a better spouse for my little sister. They compliment each other so well and it is so obvious how very much in love they are. I didn't talk about this in the speech, but I remember the first time I met Ryan. I had broken up with my Ryan the night before (confusing? Yah, we both dated Ryans. And we have a cousin Ryan. And our cousin married a Ryan. I guess we are fond of that name). Anyways, I was a sobbing mess, and I am not exaggerating when I say that. But he was so sweet and kind to me that weekend at the lake and he didn't seem too uncomfortable with my sporadic tears. I remember playing the game Apples to Apples with them and watching their interaction - it was nothing like my interactions with my Ryan. It was so hard to end things with my Ryan and I was starting to wonder if I had made the right decision. But I watched Abby & her Ryan and thought to myself, 'Lisa, you need to hold out for this kind of love.' Anyways, I obviously didn't talk about that during the speech because I would have come off as a train-wreck maid of honor who needed therapy. But that is what I thought about when I thought about what I wanted to say about Abby & Ryan.

Back to my speech - I closed things up with this quote:

"As you sit side by side through this roller coaster of life, remember to scream from the peaks, hold hands through the dips, laugh through the loop-the-loops, and enjoy every twist and turn."

And that's about all the blogging I have in me tonight. Stayed tuned for my final wedding post.

PS I seriously want to throw my computer off my balcony right about now. I apparently contracted a virus from a Facebook link that I stupidly clicked on (via a message from a friend). I can not figure out how to get rid of this annoying virus. I've done virus scans. I renewed by PC-cillin membership. I am at my wit's end. So lesson learned: don't click on a link in a message received on facebook from a random person.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From Blog to Book to Big Screen

After my big swim on Saturday and my 4 mile training run on Sunday - which went surprisingly well - I decided to reward myself by going to the movie, Julie & Julia, on Sunday afternoon. I have been so excited to see this movie since I heard about it! It is based upon two books that I have read: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, and My Life in France by Julia Child. I highly recommend both books. I read Julie & Julia before starting this blog, so I don't have a review for that one, but you can read my review of My Life in France here!

The movie winds the stories of these two books together so well. They are a natural fit since Julie & Julia is about a blogger who decides to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's book - Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Holy. Cannasta. That was quite an undertaking. The casting in this movie was fantastic. Meryl Streep was the perfect Julia Child and Amy Adams did a great job of portraying Julie Powell. This is one of the rare times where the producers actually did a great job of bringing a book to the big screen.

I definitely aspire to be like Julie Powell. It is a dream of mine to someday write a book. I don't need my life to be made into a movie because it certainly isn't interesting enough, but writing a book would be amazing. Although, if they did make my life into a movie, I think I would cast Ellen Page to play me. You know, the girl from Juno.

Anyways, it is definitely worth seeing, especially if you are a foodie. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't show Julie Powell making bone marrow. I loved the part of the book where she had to saw into this leg of a cow and prepare bone marrow. That is what inspired me to try it while in France last summer. The aspic scene was great, though, and reminded me of my meal with a French family in Lyon.

Random comment to close things up. I went to this movie by myself. Which is something I do quite often. I am always surprised by the reaction I get from people when I tell them I saw a movie by myself. They give me the strangest look & say something like - 'really? You went by yourself?' I don't get it. It's not like you talk to someone during a movie, so I don't see why it is necessary to have someone else there with you. Granted, I do miss out on talking about the movie afterwards, but that's what this blog is for, I guess! I am strongly considering going to an Orchestra Concert in October by myself. Ben Folds is coming to Minneapolis, and I simply adore him. I am pretty confident that none of my friends like his music, so I doubt I can talk anyone into going, but I figure - why should I miss out on something that I am so interested in just because I can't find someone else who is interested in attending? Again - it's not like you talk during a concert!

Do you ever seen movies on your own? Also, if they made your life into a movie, who would you cast as the lead?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Abby's Wedding - The Big Day Part I

Alright, time for another wedding blog post!

Abby's hair appointment started at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, so we were up quite early. Luckily, the hair person came right to our room, which was super duper convenient.

Check out the volume in that photo - this girl was the master of back combing and teasing! Abby and I can tend to have flat hair, so that really helped our updo's to not have that 'plastered' look!

Here's the finished product from the back!

The morning went by so fast. Before we knew it, it was time to get Abby in her dress and out the door for the first siting photos. Photos went super fast. The wedding party only had to be there for about 30-45 min of photos, which is really not too bad at all, in my opinion. There were 3 different photographers taking photos from different angles, so I think that helped speed up the process.

We headed over to the church around 1 so we could get there before guests started arriving for the ceremony, which started at 2 pm. I snapped this shot of Abby right before she walked down the aisle. She had a cathedral length veil and then this blusher veil, which I loved!

I kept it together until I looked over and saw the look on Ryan's face when he saw Abby walking down the aisle with our dad. He had tears rolling down his face and you could just see how in love he is with my sister. All I can say is Thank God for waterproof mascara.

The ceremony was beautiful! The priest was a family friend, which made it extra special. The music was beautiful - my aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins did most of the music and my other aunt played the processional & recessional. She actually composed the processional for her daughter's wedding. If I ever get a chance to walk down the aisle, I will definitely be asking her to play that song! I sure have a very musical family!! My aunt, uncle, and their 2 kids have pretty much played at all of my siblings weddings, I think? My aunt was a choir teacher & my uncle was a band teacher, so music is definitely in their genes, and the genes of their children.

After the ceremony, I bustled Abby's dress, and we hopped in the bus they had rented for the wedding party and we headed to a local bar. I got some great shots of the newly wedded couple on the bus ride to the bar!

We got a few photos at the bar as well!

Abby & her new sister-in-law Erin

Abby & I

After Abby and I took that picture, one of the ushers asked Ryan is we were twins!!! We had alot of people come up to us that day, saying that they had never noticed how much we looked alike - especially with our hair pulled back!

We had a reception to get to, so we only stayed for a drink and headed over to the Golf Course where the reception was being held. Of course we took more photos!

my older sister Emily, her husband, and I

Stayed tuned for the final post!! For my cousin's re-cap of the day, click here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Word of the Weekend = Water

If there is a word to describe my weekend, it would probably have to be water.


Because I swam for the first time all summer on Friday. I have jumped into the lake for a post-run cool off, but I don't think that counts. Friday I actually got in because I was so warm! Finally, a nice, hot sunny day at the lake! I needed to do 30 minutes of cross training, so I decided to tread water for 30 minutes. My sister-in-law and her niece kept me company so those 30 minutes went fast.

I rarely swim, so I was pretty tuckered out when I got out of the water. I definitely used muscles that don't get used when running! The slight exhaustion I felt on Friday night was nothing compared to what was to come on Saturday...

Before I go into this story, you should know that I come from a pretty intense family. We are competitive, we do things just for 'pride.'

So when my brother texted my mom on Friday night and said he was going to swim across the lake, I knew I had to be a part of this. I didn't honestly think we could swim across the dang lake, but I decided to give it an honest effort.

This will give you a slight visual of how far it is across the lake.

See? Not a short distance. We are estimating it is around 1.5 to 1.75 miles. Aside from treading water the day before, I hadn't really swam for a decent amount of time since I was in college.

But, miraculously, we made it. My brother, my sister-in-law's 12 year old niece (who kicked our butts, btw), and I made it across the lake. Unfortunately the lake was NOT as calm as it was in this picture. It was quite rough - lots of big waves and it started to rain when we were around the half way point. But we did it. I guesstimated that it would take us 2 hours. I finished in about 1:40 and my brother was close behind me.

And boy was I exhausted when I got done! My dad, brother, and sister-in-law had followed along with us in the pontoon - they really didn't think we were actually going to get all the way to the other side, so they were quite impressed.
I think we are going to make it an annual event. We even have a few people who have already said they are going to join us next year. I'm thinking that I might do a little training for it next year. Jumping into the water with zero swimming conditioning might not have been the best approach, but I got the job done.

The rest of the weekend was a blast. We only saw the sun on Friday, so I am glad I took the day off from work. The rest of the weekend was pretty wet and miserable outdoors, but we still had a blast! I forgot my camera this weekend, so unfortunately I don't have any pictures to share!

Friday, August 14, 2009

5 Sexy Things

Happy Friday everyone - as you read this, I am probably basking in the sun at my parents' cabin! It's my mom's Birthday today (Happy Birthday, Mom!) so I decided to take the day off and head up to the cabin for a 3 day weekend.

Nora tagged me to do a '5 Sexy Things' meme - Here are the rules:

* Write 5 things that make you feel sexy
* Post a pic if you dare!
* Pass it on to 5 lovely bloggers

So here goes:

1. Wearing heels - although not too tall, because then I feel like I am going to tip over or something!
2. Wearing a fun black dress
3. Wearing my glasses (sometimes... sometimes they just make me feel nerdy!)
4. Flying alone - I guess it makes me feel very mysterious or something?
5. Cooking up a delicious meal while wearing an apron

These were kind of tough to come up with, to be quite honest!

Here is who I am tagging:

Girl With the Red Hair
A Little Pink in the Cornfields
The Pure and Simple Truth
The Adventures of Abby and Ryan

Happy Friday! Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Abby's Wedding - Friday

Time for post #2 of the Wedding Weekend Recap.

As I said in my last wedding post, us girls woke up feeling fabulous, which was good because we had alot of work to do that morning. Luckily we were able to get into the reception site that morning to decorate, so we loaded up my mom's car and headed up.

My mom had a great task for a super anal math major - arranging the 200 place cards.

I was totally in my element when completing this task! I honestly don't have a creative bone in my body, so I was happy to do a task like this while my mom, sisters, and sister-in-law started hanging icicle lights,

and assembling the centerpieces

My mom was super organized and we had lots of hands helping, so we were out of there by 2 and back to the cabin so we could get ready for the rehearsal and groom's dinner.

As usual, the weather was on the crappy side - cool, windy, overcast. When we were leaving for the rehearsal, it wasn't raining (yet) so Abby & I got a few photos with our dad.

And of course we had to get a quick photo together - there's no such thing as too many pictures of my sister & I, I guess!

The rehearsal went smoothly - everyone showed up on time, which is always appreciated! Here's a photo of my dad, mom, Abby, & Ryan.

After the rehearsal, we headed over to the State Park where the rehearsal dinner was being held. They had it in this little chalet/lodge that is on a lake - such a beautiful setting! Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, so we all had to eat inside, but it was still a wonderful evening.

My brothers are amazing cooks, so they catered the rehearsal dinner. Here's a picture of my brother Kevin, tending to the chickens.

Don't they look delicious? We feasted upon chicken, beef brisket, potato salad, and baked beans. Dessert was root beer floats. Mmm. Everything was so delicious. I forgot about calories for the evening and ate to my hearts delight. :)

I was too busy eating to snap many photos, but I did get this great picture of my youngest nephew, Matthew. He was giving me kisses when I was taking this photo - check out those beautiful blue eyes!!

After dinner, Abby and I headed to the hotel where my parents had gotten a room for us. I was so glad that I got to spend Abby's last single night with her! It was a special experience. I thought she might be nervous so I was fully prepared to be a calming influence on her, but she was cool as a clam that night, and all weekend.

It had been a long day, and her hair appointment was starting at 7 a.m. the following morning, so we hit the sheets pretty early.

We both tossed and turned for awhile - the anticipation of the exciting events of the next day made it tough to fall asleep...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books & Bars and My Library Card

Good morning and happy hump day to you all!!

Last night I attended my first Books & Bars book club meeting. I was a tad bit nervous about going - always a little bit unnerving to try something new. I am so glad I went, though. There were probably about 80 people in attendance, maybe more? So quite the crowd. I'd say it was 80% female, but there were quite a few guys and they commented almost as much as the ladies did during the discussion, which is impressive since this month's book, The Time Traveler's Wife, is probably a book that women might prefer since it is basically a love story, with some time travel added in to keep it interesting.

The moderator of the book club is great. He kept the conversation flowing and posed interesting questions. There were lots of thoughtful comments and it definitely made me think about the book in a different way. If you haven't checked it out, I think is it worth reading, but there are definitely plenty of haters out there - so there is a chance that you might find this book slow moving.

Next month we'll be discussing Dud Avocado, which is set in Paris!! Since I am a total Francophile, I think I am going to really like the book. Plus it is supposed to have plenty of humor in it, which will be a nice change of pace from the heavy reading I've been doing this summer.

I broke my book buying hiatus last night to purchase a copy - I tried to request a copy from the library, but other Books & Bars members must have requested it as well, as there is quite a long wait!

Speaking of the library - I used my library card yesterday for the first time in about 6 years! I am usually all about buying books, but am trying to limit the money I spend on discretionary items, like books, lattes, and lunches out with co-workers. So it was time to start to use my library card again!

So yesterday I picked up the following books:

1. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
2. And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson
3. Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
4. Up for Renewal by Cathy Alter

They are all due on 9/1, so I have my work cut out for me this month! I am sure I'll have to renew a couple of them, but my goal is to read at least 2 before the end of the month. I'm almost done with The Elegance of the Hedgehog (book review will be coming on this) so it's feasible.

So what are you all reading these days? Anything I need to add to my list?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Abby's Wedding - the Bach Party

Alright, time for the promised wedding weekend blog posts!

Since Abby lives in Arizona, she wasn't able to come back for a Bachelorette Party in advance of the wedding. So we had her bach party on Thursday night of the wedding weekend. Our family does bachelorette parties a little different - they are pretty tame and we include the moms and aunts. Might sound strange, but it is actually really, really fun. It's actually ideal in my opinion - you are surrounded by all of your favorite women and the night is all about chatting and telling stories, instead of taking shots and drinking until you are sick. Not that I am judging those who have those kind of bachelorette parties - to each their own!

Here's a picture of Abby & I before the festivities started. Do you think we look alike? All weekend people kept telling us we looked so much alike!

We went with a Mexican theme for the food for the party since that tends to be relatively healthy. If I may say so myself, everything was delicious! We had tacos, chips, guac, salsa, tortilla roll-ups, and fruit skewers.

The highlight of the party was DEFINITELY the cake that Abby's sister-in-law made. Holy canasta this girl is talented.

Would you believe me if I said that is the first time she's ever worked with fondant frosting? Isn't that amazing? She is obviously so talented!! The guests all raved about the cake and said it was very moist so she definitely has a future in cake decorating if she wants one!

After eating, we played a little 'how well do you know the bride' game. The bride always seems to get grilled at some point during a shower, so I figured it was time to turn the tables and put our guests on the spot.

That's my mom, sisters-in-law, and aunt, concentrating hard! My mom tied for first place.

After the game, it was time for the presents. She got some great things, like this hooded jacket that my aunt had embroidered. It was unseasonably cool for August, so she got alot of use out of that jacket throughout the wedding weekend!

We finished out the night by taking a picture of us bridesmaids with Abby.

(my sister Emily, Abby's friend Sarah, Abby, Abby's sister-in-law Erin, and I)

All in all, it was a great night. We all woke up the next morning, feeling fantastic - which is pretty rare for the morning after the bach party. But it was a good thing, because we had alot of work ahead of us and lots more celebrating to do!