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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Oh. Em. Gee.

First, one should realize that we can't be sensible and grown-up all the time and at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I was anything but sensible.

Anyway...best day ever! Seriously, I felt like I had just drank and entire bottle of Felix Felicis. I don't know that I've been more excited about anything in my life. For those interested, I will now run you through a brief overview of my experience - so if you don't want to know anything about the park, stop reading!

Okay so, we get to the park and I made a beeline for the Harry Potter park. Steven had to work to keep up, but I was on a mission. We finally get near the Harry Potter area....and there's a line just to get in! I was sad:

Yes, that is my Ravenclaw House sweater. And yes, I know I'm a nerd.

But the line really didn't seem that long, and we got into the park fairly quickly. It was incredible, I seriously cannot stress how amazing the park looks. I really felt like I was in Hogsmeade! Plus, it was pretty cold, so the snow on the rooftops seemed entirely plausible! First things first, we got a couple of butterbeers (in souvenir mugs of course!) and I was happy:


Then, to kick things off right, we got in line for Ollivander's right away. We ended up waiting about an hour and a half, but it was so worth it, because I got picked for the re-enactment!! It was so magical, the script was almost word-for-word out of the book, I got to try wands and make things go wrong AND when I found the right wand there was music and lights and wind blowing - it was very incredible. 

Next we went to ride The Forbidden Journey, the new ride for the park. Steven got very sick but I loved it!! You flew around Hogwarts on an enchanted bench, got chased by a dragon, hit the Whomping Willow and flew around the Quidditch pitch and attacked by dementors! It was a pretty crazy ride, but very fun.

After that ride, the part got really crowded, so we decided to leave and get a return ticket for later. I was able to snap a sweet photo, so you too can see how incredible the area looks:


Later, we returned to walk through Honeyduke's, Zonko's, The Three Broomsticks and the Hog's Head. They did a really great job with the interiors of these too, but I wish there were less people so I could walk around more (and that Bertie Bott's every flavour beans weren't $10 a pop) and enjoy it. But I suppose on a Hogsmeade weekend at Hogwarts the shops would get pretty crowded too.

I really cannot wait to go back. And if you cannot wait to get to the park either, here are a few tips from yours truly:

  • Get to the park early and hit Harry Potter first. Even though they were regulating the amount of people to get into the area, it still got a lot busier after noon.
  • Go to Olivander's first, we waited for about an hour and a half, but later in the afternoon the line can get much longer.
  • Don't go through the single rider's line. It doesn't end up being much shorter, and you miss a lot of the line attractions.
  • There's a high possibility that you will get sick on The Forbidden Journey. Of all the people I talked to, just me and one other person didn't get deathly nauseous.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Blogging from a Plane!

I suppose as part of Delta's attempts to spread holiday cheer, they've teamed up with Google Chrome to present free GoGo in Flight (wireless internet service while in the air). This is pretty rad, as I'm often on a plane with wireless, but never partake because it's ridiculously overpriced. So this means you get an exciting blog post from the air!

Ooooooooooo...

Anyway, as a wise singer once said, 'Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays!' So I am currently making the trek back to Tarpon Springs. Despite a trick-connection through Minneapolis, the trip has been pretty smooth. And as I am sitting here in anticipation of my trip home, I've compiled a list of the top-five things I plan to do while home...because you cared.

One - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Not sure when this is going to happen, but it will. I have been waiting for this for months: seeing people's Facebook statuses and pictures, getting a detailed description from my WBFF Tara - the anticipation is killing me! But in just a short while, my dreams will finally come true and I will get to experience the magic for myself. 


Oh, and yes, I totally brought my Ravenclaw house sweater to wear. I will get picked for every possible audience participation show there is!

Two - Eating a Moe's Southwest Grill. Mmmm mmmm. A Triple Lindy with tofu and queso on the burrito: you are going to be so very, very yummy.


Three - Going to Howl at the Moon. It's a really rad dueling piano bar with delicious cocktails in buckets. For some reason my sister hasn't been here yet, so we will need to rectify that.


Four - Eating at Tijuana Flats, another delicious Tex-Mex joint. Here, I enjoy their black bean tacos and the mild sauces in their hot sauce bar. Om nom, nom, nom...


Five - Mock Eclipse with my sister. Normally we go to the movie theatre to mock the Twilight films and have people hiss and throw things at us; but unfortunately I was in California for the release of the third movie and wasn't able to do this with her. But, we will still have a ton of fun making fun of the ridiculousness that is this third Twilight movie. I think it's more fun to piss people off while doing so...maybe we can convince my mom to throw stuff at us or something.


And of course, it goes without saying that I'm most looking forward to spending some quality time with my family and friends. After all ... 'for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!'

Happy Christmahanukwanzika everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Support Craft Breweries!

This weekend, in addition to snowboarding (surprise), Steven and I watched a very interesting documentary entitled Beer Wars. This documentary focused on the secret war currently being fought between new craft breweries and the 'big three' - Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Watch the trailer!


Before prohibition, apparently there were many craft breweries all over the United States - European immigrants who came to America and brought the beer recipes from their home countries. After prohibition ended, the era of 'big beer' began and brought with it tasteless, common beer. Those who wanted beer with intricate flavors needed to brew their own.

Enter craft breweries: New Belgium, Sam Adams (although I consider them more 'mainstream' now), Gordon Biersch, Stone Brewing Company, Dogfish Head, etc. They bring beer with flavor, life, and...well...love. But with the 'big three' dominating the market, these little guys struggle to survive.

For example, did you know that Anheuser Busch owns 49% of the market share? And that's not just Bud, Bud Light, Buch, Michelob, Bud Lime or any of the others that first pop to mind. No, no. With the advent of craft breweries, Anheuser Busch needs to get a piece of that action and also owns some trickster brews: Shock Top, Wild Blue, Rolling Rock, and Beach Bum. Not to mention the capitalize on imports: Boddington's, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Kirin, and Stella Artois.

I mean, Boddington's, really?! I love Boddington's! I guess now I know how I was able to get it at Rays games.

You can see a full listing of Anheuser Busch's brews here, and the list might surprise you!

Actually, an interesting test the documentary ran, and I would like to partake in was a blind taste test of Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Lite. Everyone tested had 'their' beer, but none of them were able to pinpoint it when tasting each beer.

Do they really all taste the same? Is my preference for Miller Lite really just due to loyalty to my Wisconsin roots? I'm very interested to try...

I know why you choose one of the 'big three': they're cheap, you don't care what your beer tastes like, etc. But come on people! It's time to put your big boy or big girl pants on and start standing up for beers with taste and character, made by those who love what they do and aren't afraid to try new recipes!

Call me a 'beer snob' or whatever you will, but I'm staying away from the 'big three' and all of their tricks. You may be paying more, but you're paying for quality and helping craft breweries stay in business. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching the film - I'd equate it to Bottle Shock, but for beer.

After watching the movie, Steven and I were inspired and quickly took a trip to BevMo to snatch up some craft beers. We checked every label, and were surprised to find how few choices there are and how many land mines await you!

In other news, check out Brew Masters on the Discovery Channel. It follows Sam Calagione, owner and founder of Dogfish Head Brewery and it's 'Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People'. It's really quite interesting and a lot of fun to watch!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nick's Day!

What?! You've never heard of St. Nick's Day? Well... I mean... outrageous... come on... erm... honestly I'm not surprised. I was pretty much the only kid out of my friend's who celebrated St. Nick's Day growing up.

St. Nick's Day happens on the 6th of December when St Nick visits and leaves small presents in your stockings. St. Nick actually gave me my first beanie baby!

Derby the Horse: My First Beanie Baby. I snuck him into school that day to show my friends.

St. Nick's Day is predominately celebrated in the Midwest by families with strong Central/Eastern European ties. With my mom's family being strongly Ukrainian and Polish and dad's family being German (plus growing up in the Milwaukee area), they brought the tradition with us to Florida. 

It celebrates the feast day of St. Nicholas, who lived in the village of Patara (now the Southern coast of Turkey) during the third century. While there are many versions of his story, the main gist is that he gave to the poor and hungry and protected those who needed protecting, and St. Nick's Day is meant to preserve the stories of his generosity.

The main question I get from people is "What's the difference between Santa and St. Nick?" While Santa Claus is also based on the image of St. Nicholas, he has morphed into someone much flashier and bigger what with the North Pole, elves, reindeer and that sleigh.  If you still don't realize the difference, these chocolates should help:

Santa Claus (left) and St. Nick (right)

So St. Nick's Day is meant to be simpler and celebrate the life of St. Nicholas himself, while Christmas brings you the jolly rotund man whose nine slave reindeer carry him through the air in what I'm sure is a very heavy sleigh.

In any case, Happy St. Nick's Day everyone!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Awesome 'Pow' Riding, Man!

I hope everyone out there in blogland had a lovely Turkey Day, I know I did! And if you decided to brave the stores on Black Friday, I do hope you didn't get too trampled!

Four day weekends are always nice, especially since I can squeeze in two days of boarding and still feel like I had time to relax. Steven and I spent all day Saturday boarding at Sierra and were joined by our friends Liz and Monika at Northstar on Sunday!

I think I'm getting pretty good, by the end of the day Sunday I was feeling pretty good going semi-fast down some blue runs. Once I get back in shape and my endurance is kicking at full speed, I'll be bombing down blacks like its no one's business! I know many of you probably don't believe I'm so active now, so here's a sweet pic my friend Liz took of me riding at Northstar.


And yes, I'm wearing a helmet. :]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble, Please!

Alongside a tradition of overeating, inflatable balloons and field goals lies a far less glamorous custom of family gathering at the dinner table and reciting what they're thankful for. In fact, the Uelmen family takes that tradition one step further and writes what they're thankful for in a journal that has been kept since my sister was in the second grade.

In keeping with this ritual, I wanted to take a moment and list some of the things that I am thankful for this year. Many people get caught up in the stress of the holiday, and I think it's important to take a moment to just be grateful for the good things in your life.

So here goes, in no particular order:

I'm thankful for my job. In this world of economic uncertainty, I am truly grateful to have a job that I enjoy going to and not to mention pays the bills and keeps me living rather comfortably. Thanks, Parallax!


I'm thankful for my amazing boyfriend. Most days I really can't believe how fortunate I am to be with someone so supportive and fun. I'd be a lot worse off if he weren't around, that's for sure!


I'm thankful to have such an incredible family. Although we'll be spending this Thanksgiving miles apart, I'll be celebrating with them in spirit. I can't think of better people to call my kin, and can never thank my parents enough for how well the raised me and how much their unconditional love and support means to me.


And on a less sappy note, I'm thankful that the Doctor Who Christmas Special is only one month away! I've been jonesing for some new Who and with Michael Gambon in this episode, it's going to be spectacular!


To all of my wonderful friends, I am thankful for you as well! I just don't have a snazzy picture of everyone to share here. You all bring laughter, nerdiness, support, and general shennanigans to my life, and I'm grateful to spend time with each of you.

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: My Two Cents

Anyone who knows me knows how much of a Potter-maniac I am. For mic checks in drama I used to recite the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I own all seven books in both the American and original British versions and my best friend Tara and I dressed up for the movie premieres and midnight book releases.

But not that you needed to know all of that.

I will say, that for past HP films it has taken me a couple times to fully love the movies. See, the first time I would harp on the pieces left out and the scenes added for no reason, but the second time I could get past all of that and enjoy it for what it is - a film adaptation.

This wasn't the case for Deathly Hallows Part 1, however. While things will always be left out of films, they just did such an incredible job capturing the desperation, hopelessness and darkness of this final book in the Potter saga.

Now if you haven't seen the film yet, beware! Spoilers will probably abound, and you shouldn't read on. I'll put this picture to distract you from continuing, and for those who have seen the film and want to read on, it will get you in the mood.


So, the movie begins with the standard rusty WB logo and Hedwig's theme, and I have just begun nibbling on my fingernails and bouncing a bit in my seat. Steven looks at me and rolls his eyes.

We open with Scrimgeour addressing reporters and announcing that everything is under control. Then we flash to Hermione modifying her parents' memories so that they don't remember they have a daughter to protect them from the Death Eaters. This scene is perfect to open with - can you imagine how it would feel to make your parents think you never existed? And to plan for the contingency that if you don't survive, at least they won't be any wiser and will continue to live happy lives?

Now we're into the mood of the movie. You feel the desperation that members of the wizarding community feel. You understand the dangers that the people standing up to Voldemort face, and the level of fear coursing through the wizarding community.

The majority of the movie is spent with Harry, Ron and Hermione camping and bickering, which apparently is a big sore spot for a lot of people. While some think that this is boring and should have been cut, I think that it highlights an important point: these are barely overage wizards who haven't even finished school. They've only had small hints from Dumbledore to help aid them on the near-impossible task of defeating the most powerful dark wizard the wizarding world has ever seen! Of course they're not going to have a clear direction or vision of what they need to accomplish. In fact, I venture to guess that I would be more upset if they didn't struggle to find and destroy the Horcruxes. If that were the case, Voldemort would have been this "all-powerful" dark wizard who was defeated by three 17-year old kids who barely had to lift a finger to destroy him?

Please.

One gripe I did have with the film, and I'm sure many are going to disagree with me on this, is the animated scene of the "Tale of the Three Brothers." Don't get me wrong, the animation was visually stunning and incredibly amazing, but it just felt out of place to me. I understand what they were trying to accomplish in that this story was a children's tale, so let's make the retelling an animation; but they've never done anything like this before, so the whole thing just kind of stood out and didn't "flow" for me.

The last gripe I had was them not showing Harry start to come into his own. And they rushed over the fact of what the Hallows are and what they can do. First, Harry was never hopeful or excited, thinking that if he collected all of the Hallows, he would stand a better chance of fighting Voldemort and his Horcruxes. But then, when he sees Voldemort wanting to go after the Elder Wand, he makes a conscious decision to let him take the wand. That's just such an incredible turning point in the book - Harry finally beginning to understand Voldemort in a way that will help destroy him.

And the movie just leads you to believe that while they are mourning Dobby, Voldemort gets the Elder Wand, and everyone is screwed.

But overall, as I mentioned before, I thought the movie was phenomenal. The acting, as usual was incredible, even as you dig deeper into the emotional ties of the trio.

So I'm totally ready to see this movie again - who's with me?!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Three Reasons Why I Loved this Weekend

This weekend was absolutely fantastic, filled with good friends and good times. Here are the three major highlights:

One: Saturday evening I finally saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it really was all that and a bag of chips. Seriously, so very, very, very good! If you haven't seen it, what the heck is wrong with you?! Check for a review by yours truly soon!


Two: Snowboarding!! There's nothing quite like the first day on the slopes to remind you of how out of shape you've gotten from last season. But it was great to get back on my board and do a few runs. PLUS it was snowing, no one was at the resort, and we didn't have to stop to put chains on! What a great day.

A view from the Gondola.

Three: Green Bay CRUSHED Minnesota 31-3. Beating Minnesota is always grand, but with the game being played in Minnesota and Brett Favre still as starting QB it is just all the more sweeter. I mean, it was so embarrassing for them that Brad Childress was relieved this morning as head coach. And they're now just one game ahead of the Lions in the division! Mwuahahahaha.

Image copyright of packers.com

So yes, very good weekend. Now I've just got a 2.5 day work week before the Thanksgiving holiday!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Graduate School!

Two posts in one day?! Wow! What's the occasion?

Well ladies and gentlemen... I GOT INTO GRADUATE SCHOOL!!! :D

Yep, I will be starting my master's program in the spring at California State University, Sacramento. If all goes to plan, I'll receive my M.S. in Electrical Engineering with a concentration in Control Systems (more specifically, robotics).

I'm super excited... this weekend keeps getting better and better!

Goooo Hornets!

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

This weekend, marks opening weekend at our favorite resort - Northstar at Tahoe. There's a big winter storm moving though predicting a 20:1 snow to rain ratio. (Meaning for every inch of rain that falls, 20 inches of snow will fall.) Needless to say, I am super stoked!

If you know me well enough, you are probably familiar with my tragic snowboarding accident last year, which ended my season in early March. Well now, dear Blogland, I am ready to hop back on my board (with a helmet on my head) and start tearing up the mountain!

Me posing on one of my first successful snowboarding days.

Then, Saturday night, is the moment I've been waiting for for much too long (and it was just released at midnight last night)... Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1!! We're seeing it in IMAX and it will be glorious. Seriously, it looks so good, and so as not to ruin the suspense for myself, I am actually not checking Facebook again until after I see it.

I mean, how awesome is this poster?

It's going to be an awesome weekend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fun with Friendlies!

While I may have appeared to have dropped "off the grid" for the last week, again, I assure you it was for good reason. One, I know you all have better things to do than read these random posts, and two I was entertaining my BFF Taylor and her husband Josh for four days.

So let us now embark on a brief tour of our awesome adventures, which can also serve as a preview if you, too, decide to come visit. And if I like you, I hope you do! (You know who you are.)

Day 1, Friday, was a day spent around Sacramento. Since our guests arrived on a late (and delayed) flight we slept in for a bit (which was nice) and then went out on the town. We headed to Old Sacramento first, Steven's and my old stomping ground, walked around and took some pictures. Then we headed over to the Capitol Building, followed by lunch at the holy grail of California dining...


Yes ladies and gentleman, the most delicious burger joint around. I love taking people here because its cheap and delicious. Mmmmm, mmmmm. We then returned to our new place and hung out for a bit, watched some Dr. Horrible and played some Rockband and Street Fighter. The evening was filled with dinner and more friendlies who stopped by our place to finish off the last of Steven't pumpkin ale.

Day 2, Saturday was aiming to be San Francisco day, but due to a late start we decided to hold off and head to Apple Hill instead. It was a gorgeous day, filled with plenty of apples. The most interested apple concoction was "Apple Beer". This wasn't beer made with apples, it was actually your choice of Bud Light, Coors Light or Sierra Nevada mixed with Apple Cider. Josh described it with the word of the trip, "interesting."

We finished the day at the Jack Russel Brewing Company, which is always a good time. They have a great outdoor grassy area with live music, food and vendors - and not to mention great beer. Saturday was their tribute to Guy Fawkes, so there were fun renaissance performers sword fighting with sticks. One of the vendors, a "fancy" almond seller, and one of the best salesmen around got us to buy a package of toffee almonds, garlic almonds, and wasabi peas. Wasabi peas are Steven's absolute favorite, and for the rest of the day he kept trying to get me to try one. Here's a picture of me trying to smile pretty while Steven mounts his assault:


After that picture, a bit of wasabi pea got on my lip, and my lips were on fire for like an hour. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but my lips were burning. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is enough to never get me to try wasabi peas.

Day 3, Sunday, was spent in Tahoe. We found out that they would be getting a pretty good dumping of snow, and thought it would be cool to head up and see it and the lake. Steven got to drive his new Jeep in the snow, and it was rockin' to not have to put chains on.

It did end up snowing pretty good over the summit, and we found a great place to pull over and play in the snow. There were snowball fights and attempts at snowmen and a good time was had by all.

Taylor and I by Lake Tahoe.

Steven and I posing: Lake Tahoe and some pretty fall colors.

Snowball fight!

Day 4, Monday, was spent in lovely San Francisco. We hit all of the touristy spots: Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, rode the cable cars, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Many choruses of the Full House theme were sung, particularly when we were walking the Golden Gate.

Josh, Taylor & I at Fisherman's Wharf.

Steven and I posing for the classic Golden Gate shot.

Then on Tuesday they left and I was sad. But I am super excited that they got to visit, and I hope they loved visiting as much as we loved having them! :]

So when are you coming to visit?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where in the World is Jessica?

Well hello there dear Blogand, its been awhile since I posted! And why is that you ask? Well, I have been a busy little bee. First off, we've finally moved to a new apartment (hooray)! We're now in Midtown Sacramento with a two-bedroom, two-bathroom place paying just a bit more than we were paying in Old Sacramento. Have no fear, pictures will come soon, once we've got everything settled.

And I also applied to graduate school at Sacramento State. Wish me luck!

Also, a big portion of time over the past week was spent on my super sweet Halloween costume. For those of you that don't recognize it, I'm Leeloo Dallas from The Fifth Element. If you haven't seen this movie, you really haven't lived. It's amazing. Go rent it!

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of pictures of my sweet costume since, well, Steven was working a Mountain Lions game and I'm not too big into taking Myspace angles shots of myself. (And I'm not a big picture-taker in general.) But here's one I stole from a friend on Facebook:

She knows it's a Multi Pass!

I was uber-ambitious this year and made the suspenders myself using insulation foam as a mold and silicone rubber for the material. I don't have pictures of the process since we were moving and I wasn't sure where my camera was. But I can tell you that I followed instructions here.

And let me tell you, she made it sound very easy, and it was definitely anything but. If anyone decides to do this in the future, know that you're going to put about a week of your life into this. I can totally see why people charge upwards of $200 for these things!

But, if someone out there decides that making their own Leeloo suspenders is the way to go, please learn from my mistakes. Tutorials never seem to tell you what they did wrong, and I feel like its a very important thing to share, so I will:
  1. Use very little red dye when making your orange. The red I got from Smooth-On was extremely aggressive. Maybe experience mold-makers know this, but I royally effed up and barely had enough yellow to make my orange.
  2. Be sure your mold pieces are glued together securely. Apparently I had some gaps and some of my silicone leaked out the sides, making some of the connections uneven.
  3. Make sure you save a little mixture to glue the suspenders together. I'm not really sure how to do this since you only have a limited time to work with the silicone before it begins to cure. But I did find out too late that it's the only thing that will glue them together and had to use clear packing tape. But if you're in a bind, it actually ended up working out since you can't really see it anyhow.
And that's pretty much what I've been doing. We're all moved into our new place, I went to a rockin' Halloween party, and now I'm preparing to have my BFF Taylor and her husband visit on Thursday! Yaaaaaaaaay team!

Until next time, you stay classy interwebs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vegetarian "Sausage" Bake

Now I know I am probably going hear a resounding "I told you so" from several of you who teased me when I first started dating Steven that I too would become a vegetarian. At the time, I was vehemently against the idea and instantly denied that giving up meat was even an option.

Well about two and a half years later I suppose I now get to eat my words, as I am currently 95% vegetarian. The other 5% being for any situations where not eating meat isn't an option/might offend someone (like in Europe).

Now I don't have any scientific or emotional reasons for becoming mostly vegetarian. Since moving in with Steven (who is vegetarian pretty much all the time) it just became an easy option. I found out that I really liked a lot of the meat substitutes, and in general I just feel better when not eating meat.

One positive about making the vegetarian switch is that I can still enjoy a lot of the meals I loved when I ate meat on a regular basis. So, for anyone out there thinking of switching to a low-meat diet (or is feeling particularly daring), I'm going to try to start sharing some yummy vegetarian recipes when I make them.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite dishes was an Italian Sausage Bake that my mom used to make. For awhile, it was a dish that I missed since it was quick & easy to make and tasted great. That is, until I discovered Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausage.


Now, I'll admit that a lot of veggie sausages taste gross, but this is definitely an exception. It's never going to taste like actual Italian Sausage, granted, but it does have a very nice flavor and texture to it. I highly recommend them!

As I mentioned before, this recipe is really easy to make. All you need is:

(1) Pack of Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausage
(8) Small red potatoes
(3) Bell peppers (any color)
(1) Onion
(3) Cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 375 and chop up your ingredients. I usually cut the potatoes into eighths, the peppers and onion in long slivers, and dice the garlic. Then, toss all of the veggies into a 5 Qt oblong baking dish (I prefer Pyrex), add enough olive oil so that the potatoes won't bake to the bottom and stick in in the oven. After about 30 minutes, when the potatoes are about halfway cooked, add the sausage-less sausage on top of the veggies (if using real sausage add it in the beginning with the vegetables). This keeps the sausage-less sausage from drying out, and still allows it time to soak up the flavors of the vegetables.

After about another 20 minutes, flip the sausages over an allow them to brown on the opposite side. Dinner is served when the potatoes are cooked all the way through (I find that this time can vary). Last night I paired it with a delicious salad and glass of Merlot... yummy!


Expect more recipes soon, dear Blogland! Steven and I are on a mission to stop being lazy by visiting the grocery store on a regular basis and making more meals at home. It'll be nice to save some green by not eating out all the time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

21-Day Meditation Challenge


So for the last four days, I have been embarking on the Chopra Center's 21-Day Meditation Challenge...because I'm earthy now.

Not really.

But I do find that I have the tendency to get frustrated and angry easily with people. I know what you're thinking - no, not you Jessica, you're positively amazing! But alas, no matter how close to perfection I might be, I do have my faults. And apparently meditation is supposed to be calming.

My wonderful mother turned me onto this challenge a couple of months ago, but I never got past Day 1. Honestly, I just didn't like it. But then a couple weeks ago I saw that they were starting the challenge again so I figured, what the hey, I'll give it another go. One day isn't really giving it much of a chance.

So far this go-round has surprisingly been pretty good. Except I do think the guy (Danny G) talks waaaaay too much. Seriously, I just want to start the freakin' meditation already and not listen to you say the same thing three different times. Maybe I'm just not "spiritual" enough, but it would be great if he would just explain what we had to do, tell us why we're doing it and then stop yapping.

It actually reminds me a lot of that scene from Caddyshack where Ty is giving Danny a golf lesson, and he keeps telling him to "be the ball, be the ball, be the ball, be the ball, be the ball..."

But, ya know, it is kinda hard with you talking like that.

So I'll keep you posted on how it's going my dearest, bloggiest friends. If nothing else I should have some entertaining stories.

Now I'm off to do some cleaning, because the house is cluttered again. Sigh. I really can't wait until we move to a bigger place. This is getting ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Hangin' at the Airport...

For some reason I have recently been finding myself at airports much earlier than necessary. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that I find myself with a lot more time on my hands.

Like today for example, I arrived at the airport about 3 hours early - but this just gives me plenty of time to catch-up on some work email and publish a fantastic post for you, dearest Blogland. And also allows me to reminisce about the hours upon hours I've spent on standby or waiting for a delayed flight in this very airport, this very terminal even!

I don't think I've been to the Cincinnati airport for about 8 years, but I'm surprised that not much has changed. There's new restaurants, sure, and my favorite book store that reminded me of Flourish & Blotts (Harry Potter, for those not nerdy enough) is gone.

I might even relive my childhood by walking the opposite direction on the moving sidewalk later. Depends how spunky I'm feeling.

Isn't that a great word, spunky? I think I'm going to start using it more.

But I digress and would, however, like to express my frustration with airports who don't provide free WiFi in the terminal - seriously, what's the deal? I mean, I'm currently tethering my phone and computer (which allows me to get internet on my laptop through my cell service - again, for those not nerdy enough), so I don't have to pay. But I don't get 3G service in this airport, so my connection is painfully slow.

I did, however, find a delicious place to have Lunner, a place called 360 Gourmet Burritos. The prices were quite reasonable, the veggies were fresh, and I got to choose tofu as my "meat"! Surprisingly healthy for airport food - and for Cincinnati in general, honestly.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Playfully Productive

This weekend was an absolute blast, and surprisingly productive! On Saturday Steven and I pulled the top off the Jeep and went cruising around to look at potential new places to rent that we saw online. It went very well, we were able to eliminate certain areas and narrow our search down a bit, which is a relief.

After house hunting, Steven took me to Raley Field for my first lesson driving the Jeep! And apparently I'm the "easiest person ever to teach how to drive a stick." In fact, I started from a stop without him telling me how to! (Still don't really know how I managed that.) Of course I stalled a few times, but it really was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I daresay I'll be an expert in no time flat!

Then, Saturday evening, we met up with some friends at the Dixon Corn Maze. If you are in the Sacramento area and haven't visited yet, seriously, GO! It's currently the Guinness Book of World Records-holder for the largest corn maze, and was a total blast.


We had technical difficulties at the beginning of the maze when we lost some of our group members. They ended up being waaaay better at navigating the maze than we did, and ended up waiting about 30 minutes for us to make our way to the first checkpoint. Us navigationally-challenged people made the mistake of trying to follow the map and look at the markers, a technique which kept leading us astray since all of the markers had been compromised (aka switched around).

After the maze, we hit up one of our favorite bars - O'Malley's Irish Pub in our Old Sacramento hood. We had a few beers, played pool (I accidentally made two shots!) and had a general good time.

Sunday was a wonderfully lazy day, we watched the Rays force Game 5 and then continued our Battlestar Galactica marathon.

Now I'm in Dayton, Ohio for a Project Lead the Way conference until Wednesday. Not as exciting as a business trip to Europe, but it should still be fun! I get to teach a small Boe-Bot seminar, which is definitely one of my favorite aspects of my job.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Terrific Tuesdays!

I don't know why, but I've always rather liked Tuesdays. They're very productive work days for me since I've caught up on all emails from over the weekend and already planned what I need to get done during the week on Monday.

Plus, at around 8:30 this evening (to allow for fast-forwarding through commercials) I get to GLEEk out!


GLEE is definitely one of my favorite shows. As a former Musical Theatre & drama nerd, how could I not love it? In reality, I went to one of those odd high schools that didn't have jocks that slushied or picked on nerds, so I never really got teased about being in Musical Theatre, but I did have their same high hopes of one day being a Broadway star.

And sure, most of the guys on the show are auto-tuned like crazy, but who couldn't love last week's Britney episode? Regardless of your feelings on the pop star, the music was just way too fun and really just kept you bopping the whole time.

Plus - John Stamos is now on the show! How great is that? I'm just waiting for him to be reunited with the Rippers and delight us with an encore performance of "Forever."

So yes, I really, really heart Tuesdays. And you can bet I'll be rocking out to my GLEE Slacker Radio station on the drive to work tomorrow. So don't be surprised if you pull up next to me and see me belting out some wicked notes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wild & Wacky Weekend Adventures

This weekend we decided to break in Steven's new ride and embark on an epic off-roading adventure! Now I know what most of you are probably laughing to yourself and thinking - when the heck did she become so outdoorsy?

Well dear Blogland, I moved to a state that doesn't have 200,000% humidity and has stunningly breathtaking scenery to explore. Therefore, the outdoors and I now get along.

But I digress, back to the adventure!

We started our journey Friday evening and drove up to Nevada City. As we were waiting for a friend to get off work we hung out in historic downtown Nevada City, which turned out to be a really cool area. There were a ton of local street artists and bars featuring local bands, and seemed like it had a really awesome music scene. We also had some delicious kebabs at 'Stik It' and caught the Giants game at an awesome dive bar, The Mine Shaft.

Our friend met us at the bar, and after a couple beers, we headed to the South Yuba Campground for the night. Although the campground had 16 sites and was pretty standard, there wasn't a soul around us, so it turned out to be a pretty cool. Since we were car camping, we were able to roll down the windows and turn up the tunes, so it made for a very fun evening.

The next morning Steven found a hiking trail near our camp sight, and we decided to follow it after his brief exploration promised an awesome trail that got 'more and more scenic with every step.' His promise didn't disappoint, and we even found and explored some old mining caves!

The trail ended at the South Yuba River, which was really pretty, so I stopped to pose!


We decided to stay and play along the river for awhile, and I got to break in my new Keens. Look! They're completely submerged in the river, and it doesn't matter!


After hiking back, we started the real adventure and started on the off-road trail. It turned out to be a pretty technical trail, and I think Steven really enjoyed being able to use his Jeep for the reason it was built for.

Our off-roading trail led us to the quiet town of Alleghany. At first glance, we honestly thought we entered a post-apocalyptic world: there was no one around, the streets were lined with more non-functioning vehicles than functioning ones, and all of the playgrounds were overgrown with weeds and grass that looked to be about 3-4 ft tall. Seriously, we were waiting for the hordes of zombies to come attack our vehicle at any moment.

After driving around the town a bit and feeling what seemed like hateful, invisible eyes watching our every move, we were almost too scared to enter the local bar. But we decided to give it a go, and boy am I glad we did!

Sitting in the bar was a local by the name of 'One Arm Jack' - I kid you not. This gent only had one arm, apparently was originally from Australia, grows 4 ft tall tomato plants, and just rolled his truck off the side of a cliff about 30 minutes prior to our arriving.

No joke, we saw his truck as we were making our way to the town. It was balancing precariously by a couple of trees, nothing but a 100-ft drop to the river below it. We thought to ourselves, man it would suck to be that guy, and then we freakin' met him in the bar!

After enjoying a couple beers and listening to a few of One Arm Jack's stories, we had to hit the trail again to try and get to a camping spot before dark. Well, we didn't make that goal, and even got to do some off-roading in the dark! I was a little nervous, but Steven handled the situation like a pro and got us to a very nice campsite (which we discovered in the morning).


Unfortunately, I had a killer headache thanks to my hair being tied back into a tight bun all day, so I turned in as soon as we got to the site. During the night it rained on us, so we got to learn that our tent's rain flap worked well, and our sleeping bags also keep out moisture very well.

So that was my weekend adventure, I must say I'm rather excited about the Jeep. I've got some great stories to share from this trip, and look forward to more awesome stories in the future!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mommy, I want to be an astronaut!

So remember when you were a kid, and people asked you want you wanted to be when you grew up and you said 'Astronaut!' And you really, really wanted to attend Space Camp at the Kennedy Space Center over the summer but weren't allowed to? So then you made do with the awesome field trip there in the 5th grade but were uber-disappointed when you weren't picked to ride in the flight simulator?

Well I do.

But today I heard some very disturbing news that potentially made me regret ever having that dream. Apparently, the gloves used in the space suit can make your fingernails fall off! Seriously, read on!

I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm kind of fond of my fingernails. I get annoyed when they get any longer than the tip of my finger and I have to cut them, but I'm glad they're there. They scratch things, portray my annoyance or boredom with a situation, and keep the tops of my fingers warm...

I actually lost an entire thumbnail in college when I slammed my finger in a car door. It turned black and was only hanging on by one side of my thumb, so you could actually lift it up because I was waaaaay too wimpy to pull the thing off. Here's an unattractive pic for your viewing pleasure:

Fun Fact: I had red hair for a time in college ... I got over it.

Gross, right? And although it was awesome that I was rocking Spider-man Band-Aids all the time to keep the nail attached, it was still pretty disturbing. And that was just a thumb! I can't imagine how I would feel if I lost all of my fingernails.

...

Although really, I suppose it is a small price to pay for actually being in freakin' space. So it's weird and gross, but I think I could handle losing some fingernails to be able to say that I took part in an EVA.

Maybe then I could rock some of those ridiculously long acrylic nails that some women have!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Wonderland

After my latest whirlwind European business adventure, I spent this weekend relaxing and spending some much needed time with my fantastic boyfriend. Between my business travels and his silent takeover of the Sacramento sports production scene, we're going to have to start scheduling time to see each other.

Saturday morning I woke up early (unfortunately) and decided to treat myself to some Saturday Morning Cartoons...which ended up turning into afternoon cartoons. But it was still really nice to lay on the couch and do absolutely nothing beside watch...


It's a little campier than the original X-Men series, but I find it to still be enjoyable.

Then, Saturday evening Steven got VIP tickets for a few friends and I to go see the Sacramento Mountain Lions take on the Florida Tuskers (UFL, in case you were wondering). We watched most of the game from the VIP tent, since that provided free food and booze, and overall it was a very enjoyable event. Despite a slow start, the game was pretty good, resulting in a 24-20 Mountain Lions victory. I rocked my UCF hat to show my support for Dante, and it was also conveniently Mountain Lions colors.


Sunday was very laid back. Steven and I began with brunch and Bloody Mary's at the always delicious Fox & Goose Public House. Then we went cruisin' in his new ride:


Isn't it awesome? We went driving around East Sacramento to see if there were any cool places for rent and finished off with some very domestic grocery shopping to stock our very bare shelves. Overall, it was the perfect weekend to recharge the batteries and gear up for another busy week at work!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Airport Agony

Well dear blogland, I promised that my next post would be from the States, and I did finally make it home! And let me tell you, what an adventure it was.

My story first starts from when I arrived at Zurich airport probably a little earlier than was necessary. That's OK though, as I like to have enough time to navigate through security and customs and also give myself some leeway when trying to navigate a new airport. But I made it through quite easily and had some time to wander throught the Duty Free shop to see if there were any last minute souvenir trinkets that I couldn't live without.

Then the trouble started.

Apparently it was too foggy in Amsterdam to land our aircraft, so we were stuck with an indefinite delay. But they did know when they were able to update us. I killed some more time catching up on work emails, they told us our connecting flights would most likely be held or delayed due to the weather, no big deal.

Well the flight ended up being delayed and hour and half at the airport, and then another 45 minutes in the air as we had to circle and wait for our turn to land.

Needless to say, my flight did not wait for me. I missed it by 55 minutes.

Then started the arduous rebooking process. Apparently KLM only has one re-ticketing counter in the entire Amsterdam airport. Due to all of the delays, the line was ridiculously long. All the while, the KLM attendants were telling us about this mysterious room of 20 workers who were working to rebook all of our flights. While waiting in line, we were to check our flight status at the kiosks to see if we were rebooked.

After about an hour and half, I could finally see the golden ticket counter, and still had no reservation information from the kiosk. But it seemed that when I finally reached the point that I could see the counter, the line stopped. The whole front of the line was a clusterf!@$ of people - people cutting, First & Business customers that were allowed to skip the line - just no organization whatsoever!

It was at this moment (and no, I don't know why it took me so long to think of this) I had the bright idea to just call the airline to be rebooked. So I pulled out my handy international cell phone and phoned Delta. Within six minutes I was rebooked through Minneapolis!

But I wasn't out of the woods yet, I wasn't able to print my new boarding pass from the Kiosks and had to proceed to the gate to receive my boarding pass. Now before getting to the counter, you need to go through customs, where they ask for your boarding card.

Needless to say, I was nervous.

Turns out, though, I was nervous for nothing and everything worked just as Sasha on the phone at Delta said it would. The attendant even made my day a bit brighter by prompting, 'What, you didn't want to wait at re-ticketing?' He made all of us who were in the same situation laugh and really lightend the mood.

And so I finally get on my miracle plane back to the States, and that plane got delayed for about an hour. Then there was terrible movies to choose from on the plane, and of course I wasn't able sleep.

I arrived in Minneapolis exhausted after having been awake for 24 hours, and just really needing to sleep. And of course, my flight was delayed again. Fortunately, as soon as I boarded the plane I passed out and slept for almost the entire flight back to Sacramento.

And now I'm home!! Huzzah!

So moral of the story kids? Avoid connecting throught Amsterdam, and if you do have the misfortune of travelling on a bad weather day, don't wait in their disaster of a line. Always call the airline, seriously their attendants are rubbish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Day 8

Well I must say, I am exhausted. Today I met with a teacher at the International School Wintethur - another meeting that went quite well. We discussed BASIC Stamp Educator's Course possibilities for next June and he is quite enthusiastic about our products.

After the meeting, I walked around Zurich for a bit (a very little bit) and explored some areas further from the hotel. From a distance I saw St. Peter-Kirche (Europe's largest clockface) and the Fraumünster.


After wandering around I grabbed some quick food from a cart and returned to my hotel room. I've got a 4:30am taxi to the airport scheduled so I'm hoping to go to bed pretty soon.

Overall, I would consider this trip a success. I've made some great contacts and covered a lot of ground on this trip. I didn't get too much time to sightsee or do much for 'fun', but honestly I had a blast meeting new people, experiencing new things, and especially riding trains everywhere! (Too bad I can't get one last train ride to the airport in tomorrow - but unfortunately, the first train doesn't leave early enough.)

So the next time you hear from me Blogland, I'll be back Stateside! Probably doing a lot of sleeping - did I mention I was tired? :]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Day 7

Today I had a very good meeting with our Swiss distributor, ZEKO Kolbicz. He was very friendly and took me on a drive around the town and explained some of the local customs.

One custom that I found quite entertaining is that at the end of winter the entire town gathers and builds a large snowman. Then, they load the snowman with explosives and blow it up! Depending on how long it takes the head to melt is how good and how quickly spring will arrive.

I told him that our equivalent tradition, Groundhog Day, wasn't nearly as exciting.

After the meeting, I headed over to the Swiss National Museum, or Landesmuseum Zürich.

Landesmuseum Zürich

Their collection was very interesting and included a history of the Swiss Army Knife. The museum was very large and I kept viewing the exhibits backwards, I think. But overall it was a very interesting place to visit and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

After touring the museum, I decided to head back to the hotel and rest since I am not completely over my cold. Below is a picture of where I am staying, can you believe there is a Starbucks underneath? I suppose they really are everywhere.


So now I am relaxing before dinner, I am going to try a restaurant that boasts authentic Swiss cuisine made with local ingredients. Unfortunately, they do not open until 6, which is too bad as I could eat now and would like to go to sleep early again to help fight this cold. But the restaurant looks very interesting and should be yummy, so hopefully it's worth the wait!