Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Card for You!

We put together a little video Christmas card for friends and family. Hope you enjoy it.

May all your holiday wishes come true!

PS Couldn't resist including one of my favorite Christmas photos--that's Kathy's baby, Matt, way back in 1999. And, Matt, you're still just as cute.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The FL Adventure Continues

Tomorrow it will be three weeks since we arrived in Solivita. Whew, we've been busy. Getting the house together took a lot more work than we thought--hey, shopping is tough when it's a job--but we're loving it.

In case I neglected to get you our address, it's 483 Davinci Pass, Poinciana FL 34759. Our cell numbers are the same.

Below is a link to some more photos to show what we've been up to. If you don't want to see sunshine and fun, don't click on the photo. Can't say you haven't been warned. :-)

Hope to see you soon!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Start of the Florida Adventure

Well, it's official, we're temporary Floridians! Arrived at Solivita on Tuesday and have been having fun getting settled into the new house. There have been some not so fun adventures--no water--but we're feeling mighty blessed to be here for the winter.

Below are some photos of the first few days (click to see larger). I'll keep you posted on how we're settling in and hope to see some of you down here soon! If not, look for us on the deck in Chicago in April or May. Cheers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Next Adventure

Well, today marks the start of my first full week of not working and I have to say, I like it! Time for meditation and yoga in the morning feels quite luxurious and Bandit will enjoy lots of extra walks.

Of course, I'll miss the daily interaction with all the great friends at SitStayRead but I look forward to discovering the next adventure.

Not sure yet what focus Shandy's blog will have but I promise to keep you posted. In the meantime, please keep in touch by phone (same cell #) or email (click here for new address.)

Let's get together for lunch or coffee. Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saying Good-bye to Maggie

Saying good-bye is the most difficult part of loving our canine friends. We're so sad to report that Rick and Lauren Johnson's beloved Maggie died of a stroke last Friday.

That's Maggie on the left with her partner in reading, Baguette, at their annual Halloween party in 2008.

Both Maggie and Baguette have been SitStayRead dogs almost from the beginning. They were certified in 2004, just a year after the founding of the organization, and continued to spread joy year after year.

Maggie's sweet, calm presence made her a favorite with kids and adults alike. Her enthusiastic tail wag in greeting always brought smiles--and if she was lucky, a treat from her admirers. Maggie will be greatly missed by so many. Thank you, Rick and Lauren, for sharing her with us.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reflecting on the Pact We Make With Dogs

It's a year today that we said good-bye to our beloved Shandy. She enjoyed life to the end--that's her at a concert in the park on our last evening together.

I miss my brown-eyed girl every day, but I also feel her presence every time I think of her, which is often. At night I sleep with my legs bent to keep her spot on the bed--a 17 year habit is tough to break even if you want to, and I don't. I wish I could still hear her gentle snores.

A lot has happened this year, some good things, some not. But even in the not so good times, I get comfort from thinking of Shandy. And from remembering my friend Johanna's blog post "On The Pact We Make With Dogs". It's a beautiful piece. Her phrase, "Their partnership was legendary", helps when I'm particularly sad because it feels like I did justice to Shandy's many gifts--most especially her love of children. Shandy led, I was just her human partner on the other end of the leash.

Johanna lost her beloved Oskar recently and I wish I could return her kindness with a similar comforting thought. I don't have her gift though so all I can say is, "Johanna, you walk in integrity wherever you go and Oskar, Ulani, and all the animals in your life are the luckier for it. You honor them by acknowledging them for who they are. Thank you for sharing your stories."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Feeling the Love at NTA

As you can see, the Reading Rewards Celebration at National Teachers Academy was a love fest. That's Slugger giving a kiss.

The students received their Summer Reading Fun Packs, chose books to keep and to pass along, and had a chance to say good-bye to their canine reading buddies.

These celebrations are a great opportunity for major donors to see what they make possible and we were happy to have two visitors--Maggie Mastellone from Allied World Assurance Company and Caitlin Rosberg. Caitlin presented SSR with a $5,000 check from the Kluth Family Foundation. Through her job at Caitlin had the opportunity to choose a nonprofit to receive a grant and we were honored that she chose SitStayRead.

Thank you to all our donors for making these Reading Reward Celebrations possible and for giving our students the tools they need to keep reading and writing all summer long!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Presenting Smokey and the Bandit

SitStayRead's Hollywood night at Kinowerks Studio was a smash hit! As you can see from Smokey and the Bandit, guests were dressed in their finest for the big night. (Smokey is actually wearing a tux!)

Guests enjoyed food and drinks while touring the facility and everyone was in awe watching The Matrix in the private screening room of the Wachowskis who wrote, directed, and produced The Matrix Trilogy.

Nearly $2,000 was raised at this blockbuster event--all of which will help more kids learn to love reading! Click on Smokey and the Bandit to see more photos of all the fun.

Our thanks to everyone who attended and helped with this event, and a special thanks to Kinowerks and the Wachowskis for hosting SitStayRead in their star studded studio!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Go Hollywood with SitStayRead!

The Wachowskis, American film directors, writers and producers, most famous for creating The Matrix trilogy, are graciously allowing the use of their private screening room for a fundraising (and fun-raising!) event to benefit SitStayRead on Saturday, May 21, 2011.

Join us at the Wachowski's ultra-glamorous Chicago studio, Kinowerks, complete with all the Hollywood touches including the Wachowski's Oscars and MTV Movie Awards, memorabilia from V for Vendetta, The Matrix and more!

Event Details

  • Saturday, May 21, 2011
  • 7 - 10 p.m.
  • $65 single seats; $150 loveseats (seats 2 people)
  • Ticket includes a mix and mingle Hollywood happy hour with drinks, appetizers, and a tour of the studio, followed by a private screening of a Wachowski feature film!
  • All proceeds benefit SitStayRead programs.
  • Call SitStayRead to purchase your tickets 773.545.6629

Never open to the public, this event at Kinowerks is exclusively for SitStayRead friends and volunteers - you won't want to miss it. Hurry! There are only 5 loveseats (each seats two people) and 8 single seats left. What are you waiting for? Call 773.545.6629 to order your tickets to this exclusive event today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Big Changes In Store

In case you missed it, this letter was sent to the SitStayRead email list yesterday.

After much deliberation, I have decided it is time to step down as Executive Director of SitStayRead. Over the past eight years, with your help and support, the organization has evolved from a dream to reality. To each of the 600 children we'll serve this year, SitStayRead means discovery, joy, and learning--something we can all be very proud of.

We have built a strong and durable enterprise that is poised to grow and impact many more children. With the past eight years as our base, I feel it is time to transition to new leadership who will optimize the growth and expansion that is our opportunity.

I will always be involved in SitStayRead as a volunteer and member of the corporation. Although SitStayRead represents only a portion of my work life, it is my life's work. I feel so lucky to have been led to this path by Shandy, the furry bundle of joy who was my constant companion for 17 years. Shandy's love of children inspired me to bring the healing power of dogs into the service of children. I am committed to participating in the growth of SitStayRead in her memory and glad to assist in that growth however I can.

Thank you for your kindness and friendship and for making SitStayRead the great organization it has become. I hope you will join me in continuing to support SitStayRead in its journey of greatness.

MaryEllen Schneider
Executive Director and Co-Founder

Monday, May 2, 2011

Free T-Shirt for Momofuku Cookies

Have you heard about these crazy cookies? We were talking about them in the office this morning and all the volunteers asked for the recipe. My sister, Patti, made them over the weekend and they were awesome.

Free SitStayRead t-shirt to anyone who gives the recipe a try and brings cookies to the office to share!

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie recipe by Christina Tosi (as seen on Regis & Kelly)


1 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup [Note: I left this out; not because I'm against corn syrup, I just didn't have it. The cookies came out fine, though may have had a nicer sheen with the syrup.]
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups your favorite baking ingredients (options: chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies)
1 1/2 cups your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc.)

Note: Patti used Ghirardelli chocolate chips and crushed pretzels and potato chips and Rice Krispies.

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for two to three minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.

2. On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate.

Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

3. When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Mix 45 - 60 seconds just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

4. On the same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30 - 45 seconds until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

5. Using a 6 oz. ice cream scoop (I'm not sure how many ounces mine is, but it worked well), portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.

6. Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or up to 1 week.
DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

7. Heat the oven to 400 F. Take the plastic off your cookies and bake 9 to 11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.

At 9 minutes, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don't match up and your cookies still seem pale and doughy on the surface.

8. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan (good luck!) before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, they'll keep five days.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Raise a Glass for SitStayRead!

We're happy to announce that a small quantity of Old Shore Vineyards 2010 "Sofia" Rose of Pinot Noir is now officially available to the public! Click here to purchase.

With subtle aromas of dark cherries, strawberries, and vanilla, this special reserve vintage is exceptional for more than taste; every bottle or case purchased supports SitStayRead. Click on Experience and then, Giving Back, to learn more.

And be sure to read all about the wonderful people at OSV--including the famous Sofia, vineyard dog and latest SitStayRead dog team member (pictured here with her dog team partner, Dannielle!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our New SitStayRead All Stars!

We're thrilled to announce that the 2011 batch of SitStayRead bookmarks has arrived featuring five new furry faces!

From left to right, we have Jack (winner of the silent auction bookmark package), Charlie & Emma (Dogs of the Year!), Bandit (seasoned SitStayRead Dog), and Feste (winner of the online auction bookmark package.)

Click here to find out more about these super star dogs! Give a big round of a-paws to these adorable pups!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Email from a Principal

That's Shandy with Evion, a young reader at Hendricks Academy, back in 2004. I can still remember how earnest Evion was when reading aloud. He'd be all smiles though when it came time to have Shandy do a trick.

Hendricks was our very first SitStayRead school and it is such a treat for the volunteers and dogs to return there each year. So you can imagine how thrilled we were to get this email from Principal Perisin.

"Here at Hendricks we are working to ensure that our students will have a world class education and you are helping me to fulfill that goal. Next year there will be some changes and we hope that you will still be working with us. You have been an anchor for our literacy program and we want you to continue the work."

Thank you Principal Perisin for your kind words--you can count on us to continue making reading fun for the fabulous students at Hendricks!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Welcome To Our New SitStayRead Dogs!

Today was an exciting day at the office! Two dogs passed the Dog Team Test to become part of our programs. Congratulations Smokey and Sofia!

Dannielle (on the right) is the proud handler of gorgeous Labradoodle, Sofia. You won't want to miss the new dog-themed wine that Dannielle, of Old Shore Vineyards, will be unveiling in the next few weeks to honor Sofia and benefit SitStayRead. Look for more details to come!

And no doubt you recognize our Admin Asst Amy and our office pup, the adorable Smokey.

Look for these great new teams in programs soon!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Greater Good For Reading!

We are excited to share that has awarded a generous grant to SitStayRead! The prestigious London-based The Economist Group chose to fund an education project in the United States, and chose SitStayRead as the recipient. Yeah!! The grant of $11,800 funds an entire class of second-graders for the full school year!

We are honored to be affiliated with Click here to check out the work they make possible through The Literacy Site website and be sure to click every day to help us reach more kids in need!

Here's what Lisa Halstead, board president of, had to say:

"We're very grateful to The Economist Group for providing the funding to enable us to support an entire year's worth of sessions for one school's second grade. And we are equally impressed with the quality of the program provided by SitStayRead. Through their innovative use of dogs and their dedicated volunteers, they have made an amazing impact on the lives of the children that they serve."

Click here or on the photo above to see the video that accompanied the grant announcement. The furry stars in this video include our very own SitStayRead dogs: Wrigley, Tojo, Spinny, Laverne, Lola, and Charley!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Email from a Program Leader

Jess Biscamp, one of our fabulous SitStayRead program leaders, made our day with this email to her team of volunteers in Ms. Pierre's class at Sumner Academy. We are so lucky to get to work with such great kids, teachers, and volunteers.

Hello, Sumner volunteers,

I didn't want to wait until next week to share Mrs. Pierre's good news and thanks with you. She pulled me aside during the program today and let me know that since we started coming, her students have been asking her if they can take home three and four books to read on the weekends. She said this is a big change in how much enthusiasm they have toward reading.

She also showed me the improvement in some of their reading fluency scores (i.e., DIBELS testing). Many of the students started the year in the 45-70 words-per-minute range and have now reached 90-120 words-per-minute! They are considered at grade level if they reach 90-words-per-minute at the beginning of third grade, and many of the students have already surpassed that in second grade. I cannot begin to express to you just how thankful Mrs. Pierre is for all the time and effort you are putting into helping her students improve their reading and writing; she said that the added excitement of new people and dogs has really pushed the students to do their absolute best. She was positively joyous while telling me about it!

Thank you all for the effort and time you put in to help these students. You are making a huge difference in their lives.

Happy Reading!

Jess Biscamp

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reading Fun at NUSH!

Our newest after-school programs at Northwestern University Settlement House (NUSH) just finished-up and the response from the kids, volunteers, and NUSH partners (thank you Mr. Jesse!) was overwhelmingly positive!

The NUSH e-newsletter included a slideshow of the fun--that's Spinney and Sandy with a young reader. To see a slideshow of more photos, click here.

Many thanks to our friends at Bears Care for bringing SitStayRead and NUSH together to help students read! We look forward to returning in spring for another session.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dogs for da Bears!

Bears fans all across Chicago are excited about today's big game and that includes our dogs! Sure, they're loyal to the hometown team but our dogs also know that Bears Care is a BIG supporter of kids in Chicago and especially SitStayRead.

Check-out these photos of the Bears with SitStayRead through the years and then email us ( photos showing how your dogs show their Bears team spirit. We'll add them to the album for all to see. (Click on photo for larger version.)


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Year In Pictures 2010

Just in case you missed our New Year's email, here's a look at SitStayRead's Year in Pictures!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Do You Have a Target Red Card?

How's this for an easy way to help our partner schools--register your Target credit card and 1% of all your purchases goes to the school of your choice. Takes less than a minute when you go to the Target Take Charge of Education page.

You can register for any school you like but, of course, we hope you'll choose one of our SitStayRead partner schools (listed below)--we know they'll put the money to good use and you can check on how much has been raised right on the Target page.

National Teachers Academy
Sumner Academy

Thank you, and be sure to encourage your family and friends to register, too!