Under the Town

Number 132 on my list is “Take a boat tour of Bonne Terre Mine in Bonne Terre, Missouri.”  I think I first found out about it when I came across a photo on Pinterest.  When I saw that the mine was in Missouri, I knew I needed to go.  We made the trip in October with my parents.

One of the major highlights of the Bonne Terre Mine is the billion gallon lake, which is 17 miles long.  It was amazing how big the mine is (and we only saw part of it on the tour!)

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The mine is kind of a big deal.  It has been featured in National Geographic and USA Today, among other publications.  It is best known for being a fantastic diving spot.  However, we skipped going underwater and went on the walking/boat tour instead.

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I thought it was fascinating that there are 3 levels of the mine that are completely submerged in water, including a “ghost town” where the miners lived.  If you are into diving (or want to be), this would be such a cool place to explore!  It made me (almost) want to conquer my claustrophobic fears and jump in.

The tour itself was interesting and informative, and the mine was eerily beautiful.  I would definitely recommend that you stop by if you’re in the area.  It felt a bit surreal after the tour as we drove through Bonne Terre, knowing there was a whole other world under the town.

-A

P.S.  My photos don’t really do the mine justice.  Check out this article by St. Louis Magazine for another look.

Over the Mountains and through the Woods

This year, I visited 7 state parks, 6 of which were parks that were new to me.  That means I can cross #126 – Visit 5 state parks that I haven’t been to before – off my list.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about my love of state parks and detailed my visits to Watkins Mill State Park (June 2016) and Lewis and Clark State Park (July 2016).  You can read more here.

In August, I went with my parents to Katy Trail State Park, which is different than a traditional park in that it is comprised of a 240 mile trail on the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.  I only walked a few miles of the park, but it is a really nice trail.

K and I went on our 3rd annual road trip to visit friends in North Dakota in September.  On our way back to Missouri, we stopped at Palisades State Park in South Dakota.  This park is absolutely beautiful.  I wish we could have spent all day there.  The only negative part was that we got a parking ticket because apparently parking is not free at South Dakota state parks.  Alas, it didn’t sour our experience too much.

In October, K and I spent a wonderful weekend in Southeast Missouri with my parents.  We went to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park and Elephant Rocks State Park.  Taum Sauk is the highest point in Missouri.  It was a great place to go hiking and there were some really pretty views.

But the highlight of the trip for me was Elephant Rocks.  I have never seen anything like it.  I was expecting just a few big boulders, but the park is covered with these elephant rocks.  Even better, it’s like a giant playground because you can climb and jump your way across the rocks.

I’m really glad I put this goal on my adventure list.  I would not have gone to any new parks this year if I hadn’t made this a goal.  It’s so much easier to do the same things every weekend, but it’s so much more fun to go to new places.

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When’s the last time you went somewhere for the first time?

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-A

It Might Taste Good

Last month, the 3-year old daughter of some friends was singing a cute little diddy from Daniel Tiger about how you need to try new foods ’cause they might taste good, and I thought, that’s some great advice.

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It’s so easy to get stuck in the habit of eating the same stuff or cooking the same meals, so at the beginning of the year I set a goal to encourage myself to branch out and try new things.  Number 123 on my adventure list – try at least 10 new foods/cuisines within one year.

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So far in 2016, I have tried Ethiopian, Mediterranean, French, Turkish, American Indian, Egyptian, Scandinavian, Colombian, St. Lucian, and Austrian-German cuisines.  I also tried some Japanese foods that were new to me.  Of the dishes I tried, five were at restaurants I’ve never been to, and seven were samples from booths at an Ethnic Enrichment Festival in my city.

It’s hard to narrow down the list to which foods I liked the best, because I actually liked them all!

The Ethiopian food we had was especially delicious, my favorite thing being the injera (spongy, sour flatbread).  Since our first visit, we have returned to the restaurant and plan to go again in the future.

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I also loved the Mediterranean food we had.  It inspired me to start making my own pita bread, hummus, and lentil soup.

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My new favorite snack – homemade pita bread and hummus

I think the food I was most nervous to try was escargot…703784_10206460995505968_4049882212204343064_o

but it was actually really good!

I was also surprised to find that at the Austrian-German restaurant, I loved the sauerkraut on the bratwurst appetizer.

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Going to the Ethnic Enrichment Festival was an amazing experience.  The only downside was that I got too full too quickly.  :)  Next time, I would like to go to the festival on more than one day so I can try everything!

My favorite food at the festival was the Colombian empanadas (fried pastry with beef and potato filling, served with salsa verde).

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You can read more here about all the new foods I tried.  Although I can officially cross this goal off my list, it’s far from being over.  I am actually just inspired to try more new foods.  Because you know what?  It might taste good.

-A

 

Sugar and Spice

Number 121 on my adventure list – get a cartilage ear piercing – has been something I have wanted to do for awhile.  My only piercings thus far have been the basic ear lobe piercings that I had done in high school.  I think my inspiration for another ear piercing initially came from Anna Kendrick in the movie Pitch Perfect.

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Anna Kendrick – she is beautiful.

My best friend and I have been talking for the past year about her getting a new tattoo and me getting my cartilage pierced.  We finally made it happen a few weeks ago.

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Feeling nervous pre-piercing

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BF taking the pain like a champ.

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Post best friend permanent accessory bonding time

Now, about the pain.  The piercing itself didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.  It was the days after when I had to clean it that the pain was the worst.  I also didn’t think about how I would only be able to sleep on one side at night.  That part wasn’t fun.  However, it’s now the end of week 3, and overall it feels pretty good and is healing nicely.

I think my new piercing adds the little bit of spice I was looking for.IMG_4658 (1)

I’ll leave you with this.

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-A

 

The People’s Parks

I love state parks, and really, what’s not to love?  They’re beautiful, free, a great excuse to get some exercise and fresh air, and a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Growing up, I remember visiting several state parks with my family, my favorite being Ha Ha Tonka State Park.  Shortly after K and I started dating, we took a road trip to this park.  It was just as great as I remember!

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Another park that I went to as a child (but don’t really remember) and later returned to as an adult is Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.  This is hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Missouri.

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These family trips likely inspired Number 126 on my adventure list – visit 5 state parks that I haven’t been to before within one year.  This summer, I have visited two (new to me) state parks in Missouri.

Watkins Mill State Park (June 2016).  This was a nice park with lots of space.  We enjoyed a long walk on the paved trail.  There was a lake beach, but the posted sign said it was not currently safe for swimming due to bacteria levels.  We also visited the Watkins Mill Historic Site which was part of the park.

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And people are still swimming…

Lewis and Clark State Park (July 2016).  It was a small park, but the overlook of the lake was worth the trip.  Lots of wildlife around the water.  It was interesting that Lewis and Clark were in this exact area on July 4th and that was the same day that we visited.

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I have plans to visit several other parks this summer/fall, including Taum Sauk Mountain State ParkElephant Rocks State ParkGrand Gulf State Park, and Palisades State Park.

What’s your favorite state or national park?

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-A

My First Piñata

For some reason, I have wanted to break a piñata for as long as I can remember.  In fact, breaking a piñata is #96 on my bucket list.  I’m not sure where this fascination came from – did I see it in a movie?  Read about it in a book?  I can’t remember.  All I know is that every time I see piñatas in the party aisle at the store, I want one.

I have considered buying a piñata on multiple occasions, but I have held off.  There needed to be a purpose to the piñata – not just that I wanted to hit it.  I actually considered throwing a Cinco de Mayo party for the sole purpose of having a purpose for a piñata.

And then the piñata happened spontaneously, just as it should.  For my company’s anniversary, our boss brought in margaritas, cake, and A PIÑATA!!!

Finally, I thought.  This is my chance.  I’ve been waiting years for this moment.

When they asked for a volunteer to hit it first, my hand shot up.  I hoped that my pounding heart and ear to ear grin did not appear to be too over eager.  I’m not the type to get over excited at work events, nor the type to volunteer first for anything.  My face felt flushed, my eyes were shining.  Was it my high hopes or the fact that I had just eaten two large pieces of cake and downed a margarita?

My eagerness must have been evident, as I was chosen to go first.  It.  Was.  Happening.  My big moment!  Check it out for yourself in the video below.  Look at those swings!  I’m giving it all that I’ve got.  Years of anticipation have led up to THIS MOMENT.

And after my moment had ended, I was left with a strange realization.  I had always thought that breaking the piñata would be the highlight.  But to my surprise, I found that it didn’t matter that I didn’t break it.  I realized that the reason this made it onto my bucket list was because of everything else – it was the anticipation, the spinning, the unknown, it was the danger of almost hitting the fire alarm lever on the wall, the laughs and cheers from my friends, it was the feeling of that last swing as it connected to the piñata.

And isn’t that just like life?  Sometimes the best part isn’t what you think it will be – it’s all the little things along the way.

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-A

12 hours in San Fran

When we were booking our flights to New Zealand, we had the option to choose a short stop in San Francisco or a 12 hour layover.  Both options had us arriving in NZ at the same time.

K and I had never set foot in San Fran outside of the airport.  Being the adventure lovers that we are, we decided to do the long layover and see as much of the city as we could.  We got to see a lot of highlights, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars, Lombard Street, and Chinatown.  How did we do it?

  1. First, we had a plan.  We narrowed down our list of must see sights, went on Googlemaps, and plotted out a tentative itinerary for our trip in March.
  2. Once our plane arrived, we stored our luggage at the Airport Travel Agency for a small fee.
  3. Next, we took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from the airport to the Embarcadero stop.  It was about a 30-minute ride.
  4. From Embarcadero, we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf.  We did some seal watching at Pier 39 (one of my favorite things!) and we spotted Alcatraz Island.  I only wish we would have had time to tour Alcatraz!    IMG_2896.jpg
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    These jailbirds escaped.

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  5. K had the great idea to rent some bikes as it was beginning to be questionable if we would make it to the Golden Gate Bridge and still have time for other activities.  Once on the bikes, we made great time and ended up biking over the bridge and then back across.  It was surreal being on the bridge.  I’ve seen it in movies and on TV shows, but seeing it in person was pretty amazing.  IMG_2905.jpgIMG_2916.jpgIMG_2931.jpg
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    Looking straight down off the bridge

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  6. After returning our bikes, we got some lunch – seafood chowder in a bread bowl, of course!
  7. Then we did something that was on my original bucket list – #16 to be exact – ride a cable car in San Francisco.  There was a long line of people waiting for a ride…it was definitely a touristy attraction.  The ride itself was short.  I’m glad we did it, but the spontaneous adventure of riding bikes across the bridge was definitely the highlight of our day trip.  IMG_2946.jpgIMG_2947.jpgIMG_2953IMG_3384.jpg
  8. We got off the cable car in Chinatown and briefly walked through.
  9. Our last stop was to see the crookedest street in the city (Lombard St).  It was also very crowded with tourists… so crowded that there were police directing traffic and pedestrians.  IMG_2961.jpgIMG_3386.jpg
  10. Finally, we took the BART back to the airport.  After 8+ miles of walking and 12+ miles of biking, we were pretty exhausted!  K was asleep before the plane even took off.

Have you ever been to San Francisco?  I’d love to hear about your trip!

-A

 

 

168 Hours Unplugged

Time to cross off my first goal on my 28 before 28 list!

#16. Take a week break from TV/Netflix and social media.

One week.  168 hours.  Unplugged.  What did I do?

f1dcc98665b21f315dcd190ef98c70a4This one has been on my list for 2 years now.  Two.  Freaking.  Years.  I had it on my 26 before 26 list and on my 27 before 27 list.  Somehow, I never crossed it off.  Why?  This is not a hard one.  It doesn’t take weeks of planning or lots of money or require leaving the country.  Yet here it is on my list for a third year in a row.  I decided to start my 28 before 28 list off strong by getting Number 16 off the list during my first week after turning 27.  I decided to unplug from Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, and TV.  I didn’t include “no movies” on this goal as I don’t really watch that many movies to begin with – my Netflix/TV obsessions are always a series.  I have other social media like Snapchat, Instagram, and Linked In, but I spend hardly any time on them.  This past week, I didn’t login to Instagram or Linked In at all.  I opened a couple snapchats and sent a total of one this whole week.

But first, why is this even on my bucket list?  Why did I think this was important to accomplish?  The sad truth is – the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started spending a lot of time doing nothing.  Facebook, Pinterest, and Netflix are my favorite places to do nothing.  I guess I am just not satisfied with that – I don’t want to be the person that would rather stare at a screen instead of actually doing something..reading something…writing something…learning something.  And yet, here I am being exactly that person.  One more episode turns into the whole afternoon.  I find myself checking Facebook when I pull up to a stoplight.  Ridiculous.

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I was never a “screen kid” growing up.  I didn’t play video games.  I barely watched TV.  I was too busy living.  I was outside playing imaginary games, I was reading books, I was exploring the country with my four-legged best friend Lady (aka the best dog ever), I was climbing the tallest trees (sorry mom and dad), I was sliding down the barn roof with my friend Andy (again, sorry mom and dad).  My childhood was full of adventure and I can’t help but feel that the kid I was would be disappointed with the boring old adult I can often be.  Why is it that the older I get, the more time I spend staring at screens?  I can’t figure it out.

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Woman with Bicycle on Country Lane

 

I think the weirdest thing I noticed during this experiment was that sometimes something would happen and I would automatically think of it as a status update.  Sitting by the fire with coffee, a cat, and a book = perfection;  Best part of working at a school is having a Christmas break – loving this time off!;  Enjoying the Plaza lights <insert selfie with spouse here>.  

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I was surprised by how easy this goal turned out to be.  There were definitely several moments when I wanted to check Facebook or turn on Netflix, but then the feeling would pass.  I honestly didn’t miss Pinterest this week.

How could it be so easy to stop doing things for a week that usually fill so much of my time?  Perhaps I am not as addicted as I thought I was.  Maybe it is just habit to check Facebook or scroll through Pinterest or to click next episode on Netflix.

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Day 1: Sunday, December 27

The first day was the hardest to not check Facebook.  In anticipation of this, I moved the Facebook app and Pinterest app on my phone off the front page, and it has become a reflex to just click on it.  A few times, I found myself opening up the folder that Facebook is usually kept it, before remembering, oh wait…  I spent a lot of time reading today.  K made a fire in the woodstove in the library.  He worked on a puzzle while I read.  It was cozy and peaceful.  I also did some blogging, thrift shopping, and stopped by my work to feed a stray kitten I’m trying to tame.  I did some yoga before bed.

Day 2:Monday, December 28

Today was easier.  It was nice to wake up in the morning and not immediately grab my phone to check Facebook.  I drank my coffee and read a book.  I finished my book and started on a second one today.  In the afternoon, I checked off several things that have been sitting on my to-do list for months, which was a nice feeling.  I did some blogging and also some yoga.  I went to bed feeling good.

Day 3: Tuesday, December 29

I did some more reading today (already moved on to book #3 for the week).  I also did some free writing.  K and I decided to go see a movie at the theater today.  We saw The Big Short.  It was not a typical movie I would choose to see, but I actually ended up liking it a lot.  We also stopped by the Plaza to walk around and see the Christmas lights.

Day 4: Wednesday, December 30

Today we ran some errands.  I did some more reading (a biography about my favorite author, L.M. Montgomery) and did some more free writing.  We watched a New Zealand movie that has been sitting unwatched on our shelf for a few years (Whale Rider).  It was so good, actually.  I don’t know why we never watched it before.

Day 5: Thursday, December 31

I finished my third book for the week.  I did some travel planning and daydreaming about going to Prince Edward Island to see the L.M. Montgomery historic sites.  Discussed with K when we can make this trip happen (possibly this year!).  I feel such a connection to this author.  There are so many lines that she writes where I have that feeling of being understood…that yes, this, exactly feeling.  It would seriously be a dream come true to stand where she has stood, to see with my own eyes the places that she wrote about.  Her writing inspires and thrills me unlike any other author I’ve ever read.  Alright, ending my tangent now…  K and I went out to dinner and then brought in the New Year with friends at their house.

Day 6: Friday, January 1

I started and finished book #4 today.  I started book #5.  I did some yoga.  We FaceTimed with K’s family.

Day 7: Saturday, January 2

Day 7 – I made it.  Today, I was inspired to start writing a story.  I wrote for several hours…ended up with 11 typed pages.  I finished book #5 today.  Went for a walk at the park with K.  Went back and did some editing of my story.

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So how can I take what I’ve learned this week and apply it going forward?  My goal is not to quit Facebook, Pinterest, and Netflix.  I think all three can be great in moderation.  I love staying in touch with family and friends on Facebook.  I find a lot of cool ideas on Pinterest.  Netflix can be a great way to relax and unwind (who doesn’t love watching a great show and discussing it later with friends?)  No, I don’t want to say goodbye to these three…I just want to say hello a little less frequently.

Out of Sight

One way I’ve decided to do this is to delete the Pinterest app on my phone.  I don’t need to be able to pin from anywhere.  I’ve also decided to keep the Facebook app off the front page of my phone.  I decided not to delete it as I still want to be able to upload a photo to Facebook from my phone, but hopefully having it out of sight will help me use it less.

Unplug Weekly

Another way I plan to keep my momentum going is to unplug at least one day every week.  168 hours was easy so I know I can stick with 24 hours of no social media/Netflix each week.  I think that Sundays will be my unplugged day going forward.

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What about you?  Do you feel like you waste too much time on social media or watching TV?  Do you ever feel like you get sucked into your screen and you end up missing out on the present moment?  Do you ever unplug from your screens?

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-A

 

28 before 28

Here’s my list for this year…

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TRAVEL

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1. Take a trip to Las Vegas.

2. Go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, MO.

3. Dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.

4. Visit 5 state parks that I haven’t been to before.

5. Tour wineries in Hermann, Missouri.

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6. Read ten of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels.

7. Read five biographies. 

8. Complete the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.

9. Read every book by my favorite author, L. M. Montgomery.

PRACTICAL

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10. Become financially literate.

11. Learn how to sew.

12. Stick with the Dave Ramsey budget system for at least a year.

13. Buy a house.

WELLNESS

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14. Grow my own vegetables.

15. Become an early riser.

16. Take a week break from TV/Netflix and all social media.

17. Start an exercise routine and stick with it for at least 90 days.

WRITE

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18. Blog at least once a month for 1 year.

PLAY

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19. Break a piñata.

20. Go parasailing.

21. Go snorkeling

22. Go swimming next to a waterfall

23. Go sailing.

24. Attend a music festival.

25. Get a cartilage ear piercing.

DISCOVER

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26. Learn the ASL alphabet and some basic phrases.

27. Watch 1 documentary a month for an entire year.

28. Try at least 10 new foods/cuisines within one year.

-A

My 27th Year

Recap of my 27 before 27 list

My 27th birthday was a couple days ago.  I attempted 16 things on my 27 before 27 list and actually completed 8 of them.

1. Read ten of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels.   Did I collect several Agatha Christie books?  Yes.  Did I read any this year?  No.

2. Read every book by my favorite author, L. M. Montgomery.  I’ve read 14 so far and there are 6 left.  Sadly, I did not read any additional books by her this year.

3. Read five biographies.  Again, I bought several biographies, but didn’t read any.

4. Brush up on American and World History.  Check!  (read more here) 

5. Complete the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. I’ve attempted this goal twice now.  The first time (in 2013), I read 31 books.  This year, I’m ashamed to say I only made it to 13.  Eek.  I started at least 5 additional books, but I just never finished them.

6. Become financially literate.  I’m making progress on this one, but I’m not there yet.

7. Learn how to sew.  I had one sewing lesson with my mom.  I was able to mend several pieces of clothing.  I even started on a special sewing project (which I’m hoping to finish next year).  However, I would not say that I met this goal yet.  Perhaps after I finish the sewing project I will feel confident enough in my sewing skills to consider this goal met.

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What is it?  I can’t say yet…it’s a gift. 🙂

8. Learn how to drive a manual car.  K gave me one lesson about 3 years ago.  We did not have a second lesson this year.  I am feeling hesitant about accomplishing this goal.

9. Learn some geography.  Check!  (read more here)

10. Become financially self-sufficient.  Check!  (read more here)

11. Grow my own vegetables.  We grew herbs this year (parsley, cilantro, and basil) but no veggies.  Next year!

12. Learn how to make sushi.  I have helped K make sushi a couple more times, but I won’t consider this goal met until I can do it myself from start to finish.

13. Become an early riser.  With my new job, I now have to be at work at 7:45 am.  This has resulted in me getting up early by default.  However, I will not consider this goal met until I am consistently getting up at least 30 minutes before I have to so that I have time to drink coffee/read a book before leaving for work.

14. Be completely debt free.  This was the year I finally paid off my student loan.  All that is left now is K’s student loan.

15. Take a week break from TV/Netflix and all social media.  I took some weekend breaks, but I did not do a whole week.

16. Stick with the Dave Ramsey budget system for at least a year.  I have been off and on with this goal throughout the year.  I do maintain a budget, but we have not stuck with doing cash only.

17. Pay for a stranger’s groceries.  I have not done this one yet.

18. Start an exercise routine and stick with it for at least 90 days.  I stuck with an exercise routine for about a month…  I also did yoga for a couple months in a row.  However, nothing has stuck.

19. Eat fresh vegetables or fruits once a day for 30 days.  Check! (read more here)

20. Blog at least once a month for 1 year.  I missed blogging several months this year.

21. Marry the love of my life.  I’m a Mrs. now! (read more here)

22. Host a dinner party.  Check!  (read more here)

23. Break a piñata.  Not yet.  I need a piñata breaking occasion.  Cinco de Mayo party, maybe?

24. Go parasailing.  We had this booked in October when we went to Florida, but unfortunately it got canceled due to weather conditions.

25. Take a trip with my best friend.  Check! (read more here)

26. Go spelunking.  Check!  (read more here)

27. Attend a masquerade party.  Not yet.

When I saw that I only completed 8 things on my list this year, I was disappointed.  However, then I realized that I have done more than I initially thought.  In addition to the 8 goals on my 27 before 27 list, I also completed 3 other adventures that were on my overall bucket list.

#19. Watch the sunrise at the beach (completed in April 2015, read more here)

#66. Release a floating lantern (completed July 2015, read more here)

#104. Visit 15 new places/towns/cities within driving distance of where I live in one year. (completed December 2015, read more here)

I made some progress on #47, too – watch the 100 greatest American movies of all time, as ranked by the AFI (read about my progress here).  I watched 5 more movies on this list this year (Pulp Fiction, Fargo, The Silence of the Lambs, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Annie Hall.)

Best of all, I had some amazing spontaneous adventures that never made it on a bucket list.

Reflecting back on my year, I feel that there are a couple of main hurdles that held me back from meeting more goals.  One hurdle was that I was not happy at my job.  When I got home from work, my mood was not the greatest and I didn’t feel like doing anything other than sitting down in front of the TV.  Many days, I just did not feel motivated at all to work on my goals.  However, at the end of August I made a big change and switched to a new job.  I am much, much happier in my new work environment.

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The other main hurdle for me is time wasters like Netflix, Pinterest, and Facebook.  Don’t get me wrong, I think all three of these are great in moderation.  But I don’t use them in moderation.  I keep finding new shows to binge watch, I can pin things for hours, heck, when I’m driving and stop at a stoplight, my first instinct is to grab my phone and check Facebook.  My problem is that a few minutes turns into a few hours.  I want to make it a priority this year to scale back and use time wasters in moderation.  I know I will feel much more fulfilled if I get up and do something instead of letting all my time waste away.

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I would say that overall my 26th year was pretty adventure-filled after all.  Now, it’s time to finish my 28 before 28 list.  Here’s to my 27th year being full of adventure.

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-A