Behind the Waterfall

Number 116 on my adventure list was to go swimming next to a waterfall.  I have always loved waterfalls (but really, who doesn’t?)  When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Behind the Waterfall.  I won’t spoil it for you, but there is something magical hidden behind the falls in this film.  When I think of waterfalls now, I still think of magic.  That’s probably why this one ended up on my list.

Living in the midwest, I don’t get the chance to see very many waterfalls.  But in January, I found myself at this enchanting little spot in New Zealand.

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This swimming hole is on my brother-in-law and his fiance’s property.  The privacy and seclusion of this spot just adds to the charm.

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Although the water was a little cold, and I was a little afraid of potential eels lurking about, it was definitely worth it to jump in.  This was one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen.

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Also works as a water slide

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Top of the falls

GOPR0572.jpgWe didn’t find anything mysterious behind the waterfall.

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But there’s always next time.

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-A

7 Tips for a Short Stay in Vegas

 

Four best friends in Vegas…

No, I’m not talking about The Hangover.  In November, I traveled to Las Vegas with my husband and our two friends.  We didn’t steal a tiger or throw a mattress off the roof, but we did have a great time.

We played the slots.  And some of us won.  And then we all lost.

We played Blackjack.  And some of us won.  And then we all lost.

We ate at a classic Vegas buffet.  And some of us ate too much.  Okay, we all ate too much.

If you’re planning a trip (and you should), here are my recommendations:

  1. Stay in a central location on the Strip (or on Fremont street).  We rented an awesome condo on the Strip through Airbnb.  Our place was walking distance to almost everything.  The condo also had the added benefits of providing coffee (much needed after a late night) and a spa pool (great for relaxing after a long day of walking).  Have you tried Airbnb before?  We love using it.  We have gotten to stay at some great places for a cheaper price than a hotel, but with more space, a kitchen, and a local’s recommendations for things to do in the area.  Sign up here and get $40 off your first trip.  Just make sure the host you choose has positive reviews from other people, first.  🙂

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    The view from our room

  2. Try to see as many of the unique casinos as you can.  Even if you’re not a gambler, the architecture of the the buildings is worth seeing.  The Luxor, Excalibur, and The Paris were a few of my favorites.
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    The Paris

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    Excalibur

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    The Cosmo

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    The Luxor

  3. Make sure you check out Fremont Street.  It’s a different vibe from the Strip.  I would love to spend more time here on our next trip.IMG_3316.jpg
  4. Go to a lunch buffet.  It’s cheaper than dinner, but still has amazing food.  We went to The Golden Nugget – so good. IMG_3318.jpg
  5. Go see the sign.  You know the one.  The iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  It’s touristy, packed with people, parking is terrible, but seeing the sign in person is worth it.  We did have to drive here from the Strip (but you could take an Uber or taxi if you don’t want to rent a car.)  15232299_10208394089912120_1892026850154465942_n.jpg
  6. If you have time, get away from the city and check out the Hoover Dam.  Truly an amazing sight. IMG_5517.jpg IMG_3336.jpg
  7. If you have lots of time (or in our case-one day), drive to the Grand Canyon.  You can make the trip in a day, which is what we did, but I wouldn’t recommend that.  It’s a long drive (~4 hours each way).  It would be better to stay the night (or a few nights) near the canyon (maybe in Flagstaff), so that you have more time to enjoy the park.  Oh, and make sure you check the weather before you go.  Because apparently, it does snow in Arizona in November.  IMG_5526.jpgIMG_3422.jpgIMG_3426.jpg

Las Vegas is an unforgettable experience.  Brightly decorated buildings as far as you can see; aggressive street solicitors loudly slapping cards at you; peppy slot machine music echoing through your head (even after you leave); the flicker of excitement running through your body as you push “spin again”; cloudy rooms full of smoke, hope, regret.  There’s no place quite like Vegas.

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Have you been?  Would you like to go?

-A

 

 

One Day at a Time

Number 45 on my adventure list was to complete the 52 books in 52 weeks reading challenge.  2016 was my third year attempting to reach this goal.  During my first year of this challenge, I read 31 books.  The second year, I only read 13 (eek).  But 2016 was finally my year to cross this goal off my list – I read exactly 52 books in 52 weeks.  Here’s a list and short description of the books I read this past year.

I initially set this goal back in 2013 when I first started my blog.  Reading 52 books in 52 weeks made the cut for my adventure list because I used to read all the time, but life happened and slowly I stopped being a reader.

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In undergrad and grad school, I did a lot of non-fiction reading for classes, so the last thing I wanted to do was read a book for fun.  After I graduated and started working, I had more time to read, but I didn’t.  It was easier to turn on the TV or spend hours browsing Pinterest or getting lost on Youtube.  But although that was the easier choice, those things did not leave me feeling fulfilled or happy.  Hence, I set a goal to read more.

Looking back on all of this gives me a little glow of satisfaction and pride.  I did it, one day at a time.  Today I am more the person I want to be than I was when I started this little blog three years ago.

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So how did I manage to read 52 books in one year?

By crossing Number 59 off my adventure list – become an early riser.  Just like with my goal of reading more, I have tried to become an early riser since my blog started.  And it took three years before I finally made it.  Somehow, pairing these two difficult goals was the magic solution to reaching them both.

My problem with achieving my reading goal during the first two years I attempted the challenge was that the only free time I felt like I had was after work.  But after work, I was tired and drained – reading a book was near impossible.

It was nearly midway through 2016 before I seriously started becoming an early riser.  I can’t really say what finally made this work for me.  Waking up early is something I’ve tried (and failed) to do for years.

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Perhaps it was a combination of several things perfectly aligning that finally made this happen.

First of all, a little over a year and a half ago, I started a new job.  This was my first job after graduation that had set hours, starting at 7:45 a.m. Monday-Friday.  My two previous jobs, on most days at least, did not require me to get up early as most of my appointments were in the afternoon or evenings.  So for the first time in many years (since probably high school), I had to be up and leaving the house at the same time 5 days a week.  Having a set schedule definitely helped set the tone for me becoming an early riser.

Second, I was tired of feeling rushed in the morning, drinking my coffee in the car and praying I wouldn’t be late to work.  Starting my day stressed and in a hurry was not in line with the life I wanted to live.

Third, I was determined to not fail my 52 books in 52 weeks goal a third year in a row.  Now or never was my motto.

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And finally, I realized that I was not going to reach my reading goal by trying to pick up a book after work (when I was tired) or on the weekends (when we often had plans).

And so I read many, many articles about how to wake up early.

And I tried many, many ideas from said articles, such as…

Set out your clothes the night before (this one didn’t work for me).

Move your alarm clock so you can’t turn it off without getting out of bed (this one definitely helped me get started in the beginning).

Go to bed earlier (so simple but so true).

Plan something exciting for breakfast (some days this helped).

And slowly, it happened.  I was getting up, every day, an hour before I needed to get ready for work.  I had a whole hour to myself, and it was beautiful.  I leisurely drank my coffee and read a book, and then read some more.  I drove to work, feeling peaceful because I had already had this wonderful time to myself.

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After several months of this, I realized – it’s happened.  I’m an early riser.  I did it.

And I read 52 books.

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Although I have officially crossed these goals off my list, both encompass qualities I want to continue having in my life.  I’ve still been reading this year (but at a more relaxed pace).

However, I have not been getting up early the past couple months, and that is something I want to get back to when I’m ready.  My grandpa passed away unexpectedly at the end of December, and I have been struggling with this loss.  He was one of my favorite people in the world.  I’m trying to be forgiving of myself because it has been such a difficult few months.

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Having goals and pushing yourself is great, but this loss has taught me that it’s okay to take a break when you need it.  There have been days lately when the only thing I’ve accomplished is going to work, days where I push the snooze button 5 times in a row, days where I cry the whole drive home, days where I curl up on the couch after work, and days where we eat fast food for dinner because I don’t have the energy to go to the store.  Right now, I’m taking things one day at a time.  I’m healing one day at a time.  And that is okay.

I’ll leave you with this.

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-A

Change Your Life

Number 125 on my adventure list – watch 1 documentary a month for an entire year – inspired me to make some big changes.

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There were a few busier months where I didn’t watch a documentary, but I am still counting this goal as complete since I watched a total of 13.  After I watched each one, I summed up one or two main points that I wanted to apply to my own life.  Looking back on this list, I’m happy to say that several changes I made really stuck.

From The Human Experiment I watched over a year ago, I decided to reduce my use of plastic kitchen containers, as well as make my own green cleaners.  Today, we have mostly glass food containers.  I also use my own green cleaners, made mainly from vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.

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For the most part, we have been eating much healthier after watching Forks over Knives and Sugar Coated.  

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After watching Tiny and Minimalism, I was inspired to reduce clutter, and I did!  (However, I still wasn’t at the point I wanted to be until I completed Marie Kondo’s “Konmari method” this January and February, which I will be blogging about soon.)

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There are some other ideas from these documentaries that are still a work in progress.  After watching Life 2.0, I wanted to spend less time wasting time online or watching TV, and more time living.  This is something I am still working on.  I am also still trying to find my “exercise flow” after watching Happy.  My takeaway from watching GMO OMG was a renewed interest in starting my own garden.

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Watching these films probably wasn’t my sole reason for making changes since I chose documentaries about topics I was already interested in.  However, I did get some solid ideas on how to get started.  It was also a fun way to get some more information (but be sure to do your own research after watching.)

What’s the most life-changing documentary you’ve ever watched?

-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

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…

28 before 28

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