Resolutions in Instagram: #20 & #59 New State, Old Friends

I love surprises. But, I’m generally pretty terrible at executing them because I’m generally pretty terrible at keeping secrets. I finally pulled one off, though, with the help of a brilliant surprise-executing friend. My good friends Jake and Jenn moved away from good ‘ol Austin about 9 months ago and–like all long distance relationships–we miss each other terribly.

I wish I could claim the idea was entirely mine, but Jake threw out the idea that as a birthday gift for Jenn’s milestone 30th birthday, I could fly in to visit and bring a little piece of Austin to her in good ‘ol Indiana. So, somehow…some way..and thanks to some brilliant misdirection on Jake’s part, I managed to completely surprise her!

Resolution #26 / #59 : Visit a Friend in Another State & Visit a New US State

(Evidently she thought family was coming over. Surprise!)

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t know the first thing about Indiana. I didn’t know what was there, other than the Indy 500, and I was only vaguely familiar with where it is geographically (don’t judge me). Turns out that there’s a whole lot of farm land, but also a lot of really fun places to explore…

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…even when it’s 25 degrees outside. That’s like a tourist attraction in itself. If you were able to swipe that picture of an iPhone screen you’d be able to see that at the very same moment it was a pleasant 73 degrees in Austin, TX. Cold weather does two things for me, makes me really happy first of all, because you rarely experience real cold in Austin, but also makes me really appreciate the Texas heat, which is really hard to appreciate most of the time.

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We explored some little shops downtown where I got my obligatory coffee mug for my collection. I get one from every place I go, and they generally have no obvious connection to the place I was–except for that I remember getting it there. This is my newest addition, the Tea-Rex. It came from a quirky little store called Silver in the City, which also has an online store if you’d like to peruse their quirky goods. It’s on MassAve which is apparently the slightly condensed Indianapolis equivalent of Austin’s SoCo. It was also home to a toy store that I really wish I would have known about as a child because I’d have insisted that my mom fly me to Indiana to visit it…and purchase one of everything. Plus, a whole bunch of little boutiques that I only wish I’d had more time to explore.

544464_10151554694211635_2536704_nIt was also pleasant to discover that the good people of Indianapolis have your self-esteem in mind. Not only are the people extremely friendly, but even the buildings are proud to announce to the world that you are–indeed–a beautiful person. Thanks Indy.

image (3)Next, we made a day trip to Nashville in the famous (is it famous? I’m not sure.) Brown County, a small tourist town about an hour or so away from Indianapolis. This photo has almost nothing to do with Nashville, Indiana except for that that’s where it’s taken, but you’ll see here that one of the many reasons that one should pay a visit to the little town is that it is home to a very responsible generation of children, who apparently lock up their tricycles.

In all seriousness, though, we went specifically to sample the fried biscuits and apple butter at the Nashville House Restaurant connected to the Brown County Inn. This is one of those culinary delights that I can confidently say is WORTH the drive, which is actually a really nice one through plenty of hills and tall tress, a huge difference from the flatlands of nearby Indianapolis. You don’t even have to order real food. An order of those biscuits and apple butter will keep you going all morning.

It wasn’t just about the biscuits, though. I’m not sure what exactly I can compare this town too, other than Gruene, TX if anyone knows where that is. It’s like stepping back in time where all of the shops are mom-and-pop shops, all of the products are made locally (okay, ALMOST), for some reason everyone sells fudge no matter what kind of shop it is and you get to try everything before you buy it.

The only dead giveaway was that I don’t know if they used the term “Big Ass Cookie” back in the day.

photo (8)But, hey, “big ass” sells. Got to get up with the times, eh?  I might suggest that they create a set of signs for their “Damn Good” coffee too.

Next, I got to meet the Tea Rex’s cousin at the world’s largest children’s museum.

image (4)Guy really should start watching where he’s going.  …First of all, having a dinosaur step on your foot is less than pleasant, but I’m okay. That building, however, yeah, that’s going to cost a pretty penny.

This museum should be on the list of things every child needs to see before they get too old to appreciate it, like Disney World and Sesame Street Live. I’m not a kid anymore, but the child in my heart leaped at the sight of 5 stories of pure, educational discovery. …Does that make me a nerd?

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The must see thing here is the giant carousel on the 4th level which was our first stop. I’d forgotten how magical those things are. I almost even made the mistake of telling Jake and Jenn that I would simply watch, but I boarded anyway and there’s just something special about that classical organ music and glossy plastic animals that makes your heart happy.

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I also got to look like a badass building a free standing arch with the unbelievable powers of physics, visit the real Batman suite and Riddler costumes from the Batman movies, drool over real life, giant Hot Wheels and poke around in Egypt for a minute or two. Again, I’m going to have to go back with more time because the entire thing is IMMENSE and couldn’t possibly be explored in one trip.

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So, I got me some space food for the road and we headed back to the house. I’m not sure I could be an astronaut after eating this, but for all the science that goes into putting cold dairy desserts below -40 degrees farenheit and drying it to make it shelf stable, this stuff was really good. But, the real food adventure was not anti-frozen ice cream.  It was this… the last new experience in Indianapolis was a doozy…and frankly had nothing to do with Indianapolis, but I have a long standing record of ridiculous and potentially disgusting food challenges with Jake. And so….

9208c3b69f1c11e2bc0822000a1f9737_7Canned…Haggis.  Do you guys even know what is in this stuff? Lungs…heart…EYES.  It was perfect. So, we spent the evening eating warm haggis on mini ritz crackers and enjoying each other’s company, before I finally had to say my goodbyes and head home. Do I recommend haggis?  You know…it’s not that bad, but better enjoyed with an adventurous friend.

I love visiting new places, but this whole trip just taught me that new adventures are fun, but new adventures with old friends are priceless. Thanks again, Jake and Jenn! I’ll be back soon.

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Resolution #31 & #9: Learn or Create a New Craft + Something I Can Wear and Oreos on Steroids

Let me tell you a secret.

I’m half grandma.

I already had my suspicions when I learned that I loved baking from scratch, scrapbooking and starting sentences with “Back in my day.” But, now… I also crochet.  It’s official. I’m a grandma minus the age and the grandchildren part.

Before I get all excited about needle craft, let’s talk about this baking from scratch thing, because I had a girls night the other night and was introduced to the most glorious creation I think has ever come from an oven.  These:

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Can you see that? Oreos. Peanut butter. Brownie. Now go ahead and try to think of something more brilliant and amazing. You can’t, I know. So, since I had to forego alcoholic libations at this girls get-together because of a medical study I’m participating in (more on that later), my night was full of…these.  In fact, I didn’t feel like I was missing a thing.  Of course, like any attempt on anything I’ve ever made that looks beautiful on a food blog, ours came out ugly. No, really. Really ugly.

Our Version

Note the ones in the pan that have fallen apart, oozed peanut butter, or otherwise. But, hey, they all just get chewed up anyway and they were to die for, so what’s it matter?  You want to make these at home, you say?  Well it’s easy.

Just grab a pack of Oreos, a jar of peanut butter, and a box of brownie mix (confession time: there is nothing ‘scratch’ about these). Dig out a muffin tin. Then either line it with papers or go heavy on the Pam, we did the latter and they still stuck a bit but it was okay.

Then, proceed thusly: Oreo, peanut butter on top of Oreo, another Oreo, more peanut butter on top, drop into muffin tin, cover in brownie batter.  Repeat x12. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Voila!  You’ll thank me later. Also, if you try this at home, send me your pictures? I want to see if anyone can make them as pretty as the picture perfect food blogger original. Go on, try it.

Anyway, on to the crafting. I’ve been doing this medical study for the last couple of weeks to fulfill resolution #40: Pay off at least one credit card. But, here’s the thing about medical studies: They are BORING. And you can’t do ANYTHING. No exercise, no snacking, no leaving the building. Basically, you are left to whatever entertainment you can fit in a suitcase and of course, whatever companionship you find with other subjects. So, week one I was pretty content with Netflix, mindless social media and catching up on work and writing. By the end of the week, though, my eyes were aching from screen time and if I saw one more hashtag I swear I’d have lost it.

I did notice a woman while I was in there who seemed perfectly content with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook. Why didn’t I think of that? So, as soon as they set us free for a few days I high-tailed it straight to the craft store (okay, I went and got pancakes first, because there isn’t real food in there either), picked up some yarn and a hook and set to google to teach myself how to create something wearable.

I got a little ambitious and wanted to try for this, for my roomates’ new baby:

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But then I started reading through the pattern and seeing abbreviations I didn’t know and realizing I should probably start small so I settled for…these:

photo (3)Those are mine!  I made those!  Essentially it’s a tube with thumb holes, but I call it… A GLOVE. Resolutions accomplished!

I even had enough yarn to make another pair and Dru thought they were so warm-looking and fashionable that he wanted some too. Grandma powers activate!  (I think that face means he’s happy, but I can’t be sure.)

Gloves

If you’re interested in some of your own, check out http://crochet.about.com/. I learned everything I had to know there and found the pattern for these gloves. It even came with patterns for a matching hat and scarf, but we’ll see about that. I’m now on the path to learning how to make elf hats. …What, you thought I’d be making average stuff? No way. Elf hats. Then maybe I’ll revisit the sock monkeys once I get some experience under my belt.

Hello February, Life Lessons & Resolution #37 Get Published on YCN

I can’t believe it’s already a few days into February.  I’m even more dumbfounded that I’m staring down the barrel of the age of 24, just a week away. (Happy Birthday to me!)

The shiny newness of 2013 hasn’t even started wearing off yet and it’s already proving to be so much better than its totally lame predecessor, 2012. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten a few leads on writing gigs, including a couple of guests posts for a new e-mag being started by the lovely Danasia over at Born at Twenty-Five called The Urban Realist.  It’s going to be fabulous, I can’t wait for it to launch.

Resolution #37: Get Published on YCN

Speaking of legit writing gigs, I actually got a piece published on Yahoo! Voices last week!  Me! A Yahoo writer! Please excuse the tooting of my own horn. But, if you’re interested in checking it out, I wrote about 5 Free/Inexpensive ways to keep that ‘Get Fit’ resolution.  It’s local, here in Austin, of course, but even if you don’t live in Austin, every time someone goes to read the article I get a few pennies from the big men over at Yahoo! Corporate.  So please go check out the article: 5 Free or Inexpensive Ways to Keep Your Get Fit Resolution in Austin

6882880373_5eda9dff5b_bI’ve also managed to get through an entire month of the paleo diet, with the exception of a few cheat days thanks to a birthday party featuring s’mores and a cookie cake, and an outing to a restaurant called “Bacon” where I didn’t even put up a fight against the powers of Chicken and Waffles.

IMG_5460What caveman could say no to that, huh?

Other life lessons learned this past month?

1. Lock Your Car

Everyone knows this is a good idea. And you may think that I say this because I got my car stolen, or something stolen out of it.  Luckily, and I mean really luckily, this is not the case. But, I did come back from a night out to discover an unconscious stranger in my backseat. Turns out this classy gent got a little too drunk downtown with him brother and stumbled back to what he thought was his car to sleep it off in the back seat. He was harmless. Not a thief, or a serial killer, but just to avoid that terrifying moment when you’re friend opens the back-seat and exclaims “…who is that?!”  Just lock your damn car.

2. Your inner child isn’t dead, let it out of its cage.

This past weekend I spent Saturday afternoon at the zoo. I can’t even claim the idea as my own, I would have never thought to go to the zoo on a Saturday, but Dru did and it took exactly 4 minutes before I was back to 10-years-old saying things like “Oh my god they have a tiger!!”  “I want to feed the deer!”  “Can I PET it?!” I had more fun feeding petting zoo food to baby goats and making conversation with parrots than I’ve had doing any ‘adult’ things lately (What would that be?  Drinking I guess?  Rated R movies?).

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Then on Sunday I skipped the Super Bowl and went and saw the Lion King (stage version) with my sister.  I’d originally bought tickets for she and her son for Christmas, but her son was still a little too young for live theatre, so she took me with her instead. We already have a special mutual connection to the show, but it was also great getting to giggle at Timon and Pumba’s antics and bouncing along to the Disney sing-a-longs.

3. Just say yes.

2035781407_23e1c60febThere were a few times this month where I found myself in a situation where I was presented with an opportunity and thought “Er…well, shoot…I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” or worse, “I’m scared.” I said yes anyway. Many times it involved a little nudging, or a violent shove from my friends, but I pushed past my own fears and limitations and just…did it anyway.  And guess what? Most often they were the most fun, most exciting, or most rewarding things I’ve done in a while.  Sometimes–they were not. Sometimes they were terrible ideas that I immediately regretted, but even then they turn into good stories or lessons learned. Either way it’s better than having to answer the question “What’ve been up to lately?” with “Oh you know, same ‘ol same ‘ol.”  Just say yes.

Resolution #42: Toss/donate/sell at LEAST 25 things that I do not need…Now 100!

You heard me right. I am now minus 100 of my belongings.  And I don’t think my room has been this clean and organized since–okay, well, never. I’ve never been clean and organized.

It feels a little like this:

Empty Room

Okay, just kidding. That’s not my room. But I’m surprised I have anything left. I had a lot more stuff than I thought.

I got a bit stir crazy while I was sick and started shuffling around my room, still cluttered with loads of stuff I have no space for, piling up things that I thought I could do without.  I started with my bookshelf, de-shelving outdated web development books, fiction novels I’d never read, and old college anthologies I was sure I’d touch again and never found the time.  I moved on to my closet and started plucking dresses and sweaters from hangers. I sorted through an unnecessary collection of scarves. Perched on the edge of my bed, I counted each book and article of clothing and realized that I’d already nearly surpassed my 25 object goal, and hadn’t even touched the rest of my room.

…Could I…could I actually make it 50?

I sure did. Then 85. Then 100! I got a bit more scrupulous and pulled about 15 more articles of clothing, cleaned out my jewelry, removed all the useless and broken technology from my desk drawers. I tossed the scale that that broke but that I still stepped on periodically to see if it magically started working again. I finally threw out the batch of business cards that still had the wrong job title  printed above the wrong office address.

“Why do I keep these things?” Was the question du jour. Seriously. Am I the only one that keeps literally over a hundred things that she really has absolutely no foreseeable use for?

85 items

Here’s the pile, 85 objects in.  I didn’t get a photo of the whole 100, because I boxed everything up before I finished collecting things. But here’s the final tally:

  • 18 books
  • 6 dvds
  • 1 scarf
  • 4 Dresses
  • 18 shirts
  • 5 jackets
  • 7 pairs of pants
  • 1 skirt
  • 10 pieces of jewelry
  • 6 pairs of shoes
  • 2 bags
  • My Nook E-Reader
  • A photo holder
  • Old business cards
  • A stuffed animal
  • Pack of pastels
  • Pack of colored pencils
  • Resistance Band
  • An old wallet
  • Bathroom Scale
  • A pair of false eyelashes
  • Contact case holder
  • A toy
  • Tabletop S’mores Kit
  • Framed Stock Photo
  • Straightening Iron
  • Broken Blow Dryer
  • Decorative Pillow
  • 5 Coffee Mugs

Phew!

I ended up taking my stuff to a few second-hand stores and made just over 50 dollars for what they would take, donated the rest of the clothes toward Project Heartbeat (through Buffalo Exchange) and the non-clothes to Goodwill. The extra cash was nice, but seeing as that went directly toward paying bills…the greater gift was coming home to a room I felt I could actually live in.  Hasn’t been that way since I moved in! Better late than never, eh?

Well…The World Didn’t End, Bring on 2013

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Here we are 5 days into the new year and here I am without a complete resolution list! Shame on me.  This year hardly felt like it started with a clean slate. Heck, even my new year’s eve outing ended in a bit of chaos, including getting bitten by a dog and searching for a lost cat in the cold at 4 a.m., but I’d like to believe that that’s setting the tone for a year full of excitement (but not as intense as the ‘excitement’ that we all got a fist full of in 2012, please).

I did a lot of reflecting on my resolution list from last year. I thought about how it affected my year, the good and the bad things I got out of it, and most of all…how everything I learned should affect this year’s resolutions. This year already feels like its going to be one of spiritual growth.  People have heard me say “I need to do some soul-searching” a lot lately, but I don’t really know if I’m indulging that need or desire quite yet.  So this year I’m kind of categorizing my resolutions into the big buckets that are important to me this year:

  • Making habits of the things I love to do
  • Accomplishing the things I wanted to in 2012 that I didn’t
  • Keep on having new experience and big adventures
  • Take steps toward making my life dreams and goals a reality
  • Focus more on my health/wellness
  • Make a conscious effort to do that “soul-searching” I keep talking about
  • Do more good things for other people

So, with that in mind, I’m whittling my list down about and aspiring toward the completion of 60 resolutions this year.

The Shiny New 2013 Resolution List

Creating Habits:

Do something “just for me” once a week
Make a blog post 3 times a week
Exercise at least 3 times a week
Take a self-portrait once a month
Read a new book every month

2012 Resolutions Revisited:

Go on a road trip
Volunteer
Add an unnatural color to my hair
Create something I can wear
Write a short story
Participate in an activity that is only for women
Get a concealed handgun license
Take myself on a date
Submit a design to Threadless
Host a dinner party

New Experiences:

Go to Burning Man/Flipside
Go paintballing
Learn how to ride a motorcycle
Do something completely out of my comfort zone
Visit a new US State
Join a club or group
Learn to make something that I usually get pre-made/store-bought
Attempt a new form of art
Enter a competition
Do a DIY project
Stop in somewhere that I pass on the road just because it seems interesting
Create a secret recipe
Hack something into something cooler
Try acro yoga
Guerrilla anything (I’m thinking christmas decorations?)
Learn or create a new craft
Buy a groupon for something I’ve never done, and do it.
Take a cooking class
Learn to make sushi at home
Travel somewhere by train

Making my Dreams Come True:

Submit a short story to literary magazine
Get an article published by YCN
Get a consultation at Write by Night
Get certified to teach english as a second language
Pay off at least one credit card
Make an investment
Find a creative (and fulfilling) way to make extra money
Toss/donate/sell at LEAST 25 things that I do not need
Visit somewhere awe-inspiring
Learn more about astrology (you know, signs other than my own ;))

Self-Discovery:

Go camping alone
Make a change that I’ve always wanted but was afraid of what other people would think
Do the 21-day meditation challenge
Make one improvement that makes me more self-confident
Work on intuition/psychic development

Health and Wellness:

Try the Paleo diet
Get a check-up
Shop at the farmer’s market once a month
Attempt a tough mudder (or similar) challenge
Find something new and interesting to do for fitness

Good Things for Good People:

Do 10 random acts of kindness in one day
Help make someone else’s dream come true
Send an anonymous gift to someone for a holiday/birthday
Visit a friend in another state
Get involved with a charity or non-profit