Per aspera ad astra

So Shoe Me

July 4th, 2010

I am officially a Master (of Education)! I finished my program through University of Illinois at the end of May and- while I love school- am glad to be done.

To congratulate me, my wonderful aunt & uncle sent me a package with some shirts from Kohl’s and some funds to cover a purchase I’ve needed to make for a long time: new running shoes. To put things in perspective, I bought my first running shoes when I started back in…. June 2009. Since then, I’ve run fairly regularly in all types of weather- including two 5Ks and the BolderBoulder. Those shoes were a relative splurge for me, but nothing fancy- a solid pair of Asics that helped me enjoy every mile. :)

Now that I love running and have upped my mileage (though with the Houston summer, it’s more treadmill mileage than anything else), I decided to go to an actual running store and try on a few brands. I sampled some New Balance, Nike, Adidas… but ended up returning to good old Asics.

Here they are- my shiny, lovely Asics GEL-Kayano 16s!

I’ve run with them a few times now and am still adjusting, but having shoes with traction again is great. :)

As for the shirts, sadly they weren’t the right fit and my local Kohl’s didn’t have the right sizes, so I used the store credit to pick up a few necessary camis, socks, and (in keeping with the shoe theme) a pair of gladiator sandals. I’d been inspired by the pair Cara blogged about and got a fairly similar pair. Success all around- thanks Barb & Don!

Memorable Memorial

June 4th, 2010

After scoring a cheap flight thanks to Bing’s travel predictor/alerts (check it out, seriously!), I spent my Memorial Day weekend in Colorado with two of my favorite ladies. First order of business? Toe-tally obvious: pedicures at Ten20 (which offers free Diet Cokes, M&Ms-though not of the pretzel variety, comfy chairs and girly shows. And the results are bright- but don’t get too attached to Erinn’s too-cute sandals; it’s a one-of-a-kind pair handmade in Tanzania. Piell opted for purple and I went with fuchsia.

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Pretty enough for a night on the town, we had some amazing mahi mahi tacos & margaritas at the Rio Grande in Boulder. Sadly, the scene was lacking thanks to CU being out for the summer, but we were simply smashing, no?

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We also spent a fair amount of time with this adorable creature- Erinn’s floppy Patrick.

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But this visit wasn’t all fun and games- I had serious business to do, in the form of this little 10K known as the Bolder Boulder. Erinn and I, along with 50,000 of our closest friends, decided to wake up early on the holiday and run around town. We made the mistake of stopping at Target for socks… and I ended up with a mostly new (coordinated!) outfit for the race.

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The shoes were old (and in serious need of replacement) and happened to match the teal-blue of the day. I was skeptical of running tights, but turns out they were a Great Decision- I didn’t feel overly disgusting/overheated at all.

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Erinn before the race. She finished in 1:04:14.30- rock on! [For the metrically-impaired and Google-lazy, 10K is 6.2 miles],

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I decided to take it a little slower and strolled in behind her at 1:04:33.21 (average 10:23/mile). Maybe I’ll blame the 19 second time difference on the fact that I slowed down at Mile 2 to inhale the smell of the bacon some jerks decided to make. :)

I knew the BB was big, but I had no idea it was really, honestly huge. Perspective: I came in as runner 20,301 and that put me almost in the top third of female runners. Along the race route, there were dancers, musicians, parties, random giveaways (the aforementioned bacon, Doritos, beer, donuts, marshmallows, tater tots) and I passed/was passed by a fair number of people in costume (I kept pace with a pair of guys dressed in bird costumes- wings and all). Compared to my two 5Ks, which had a couple hundred participants apiece, this was a major change (and a total blast).

The end of the race is at Folsom Field (also, incidentally, where Erinn had her wedding reception!)- you come into the stadium and run part of the track to the finish line. The stadium is packed with runners and spectators (including our cheerleaders- Erinn’s husband & father and Piell!) and the energy just sweeps you through the last tenth of a mile.

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I can’t even put into words how amazing it felt to finish the race (Erinn & I talked it up enough that Piell is set to run next year, pending a healed knee). Almost exactly a year ago, I started running as part of my get-in-shape plan- if you’d told me then that I’d enjoy running- and be finishing the Bolder Boulder the next year (fast enough to qualify for a restricted wave in 2011!), I might’ve broken something laughing. But after my first 5K in Iowa (38:45) and my second in Texas (30:30), I can confidently say that I now can’t imagine stopping. :)

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We finished off Memorial Day with a barbecue and more old friends- all said, a really wonderful long weekend.

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PDX-cellent

May 23rd, 2010

Phew. Work travel for the spring is now over. Have been hopping from Houston to Kansas, Spokane, Seattle and Portland over the past month and I’m glad to have some downtime. Here are some photos from my most recent trip to Portland to visit students.

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The library at Portland State University. Beautiful, green campus.

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To celebrate my visit and grad school graduation, my friend’s parents took me out to the delicious Chart House Restaurant- my spiced fresh yellowfin ahi was incredible, but the view was even more so. (You can barely make out Mount Saint Helens in this shot, but both it and Mount Hood were visible in person- along with the entire Willamette Valley :) ). I may or may not have had the Hot Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert- Godiva chocolate liqueur, molten center, chocolate sauce and Heath Bar Crunch… yeah.

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They even told the waiter I had graduated- check out that personalized menu! :)

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These flowers were all over campus at PSU and Oregon State. Funky, no?

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Green, green, green everywhere- I love it! Fortunately, Houston is well on its way to being sticky-hot and the magnolia outside my apartment is in full bloom. It’s nice to be back.

With work travel over for now, of course I’m already set for my next trip for fun! I’m going out to Colorado for Memorial Day weekend to see my recently-wed friend and former roomie and to run in the Bolder Boulder 10K. With two 5Ks under my belt, I should be set, right? I’m a little nervous about the altitude change and the fact that (thanks to travel and living in Humid-ston) I haven’t run outside much in the past few weeks. Wish me luck!

S.S. Delicious

May 4th, 2010

Just a quickie today. It’s been warm here in Texas for a while, but I finally caved and turned on the a/c this weekend. Temps are getting closer to the 90s this week and I have been craving lighter, but still delicious meals (also, more chilled wine and drinks- so the calories balance out :) ). Tonight I made this recipe for a Shrimp & Strawberry Salad from New Orleans Food & Fun. I got the shrimp fresh from the farmers’ market and the strawberries/spinach from Central Market. Wish I’d picked up some pecans, but still- yum!

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Cat-ching up.

May 2nd, 2010

Continuing the bad pun from the last blog, may I proudly introduce my newest love. Meet Anya.

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Oh hi there. Anya is a beautiful calico that I adopted from the shelter. She’s between 1-3 years old and, as a polydactyl (6 fingers on her front paws; 5 on the back) is a bit of a freak. An adorable one, at that. :)

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Likes: Snuggles; naps; bird-watching [also: water; greeting me when I get home from work; laser pointers]

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Seriously, though, she’s so much fun. Incredibly affectionate (it’s tricky to take photos when she’s constantly trying to hop up and cuddle) and playful without being (too) schizophrenic.

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We’ve got some kitchen’ up to do.

April 8th, 2010

I moved to Houston for work about three weeks ago. My stuff followed me about a week later and payday was just this past Friday. Both of those proved to be good enough reasons for me to explore Houston’s “dining out” scene. (It’s impressive, folks. More to come on that.) But now, money in the bank and pots & pans in cabinets, I’m ready to start being an adult again.

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My refrigerator is pleased to have things besides leftovers to house. A trip to Houston Farmers Market got me some local chicken, goat feta (oh.my.word.), veggies and eggs, while a venture to ye old H.E.B. got me the essential mustard, Greek yogurt and Russian(!) beer. My pantry joins the celebration and welcomes some of the basics.

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After my first-ever Spin class tonight, I decided I needed to get back down to business and take care of myself at home too. Enter Chicken Gyros with Homemade Tsatsiki (I swear, I checked the spelling on “tsatsiki” a million times.). A little more time-consuming when the chicken isn’t cooked already, but totally worth the wait. I substituted whole wheat pitas for whole wheat sandwich thins, put the tsatsiki underneath and added some goat feta (did I mention oh.my.word.?). Voila! Taste explosion!

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The World of the Blogging

April 2nd, 2010

So, it’s been a while. Thought it’s not like I haven’t been busy (I recently relocated to Houston and started a new job!), I haven’t been that busy. What’s the deal with my lack of blogging? Well, despite a number of emails and gentle phone calls from my aunt and mother, avid readers, I’ve just been plain lazy.

In my attempt to jump back into things, I thought I’d draw inspiration from two lady bloggers I envy. Over at Here’s Looking at Shoes, Cara posts regularly (daily?) updates on, well, shoes and jackets and fashions and frocks and trends and.. I’ll never be as stylish as Ms. Ballard (seriously, check out these shoes, this simple-cute look or this bright and cheery dress), so I thought I’d stick with something more my speed.

Cue Jonesin’ For… (c/o Jessica Jones- more proof that Russian majors can be useful to society, not to mention witty with titles). Now I consider myself a decent cook, but whenever JJ posts something, I secretly worry that my boyfriend might leave me for her her chocolate stout cupcakes w/ Bailey’s cream cheese icing. Of course that thought only lasts a millisecond before I can’t focus on anything but salivating.

While I promise (swear!) that a post with new apartment pics, jobtalk, etc. is coming, sometimes baby steps are the way to go.  Today, Jess posted this killer recipe for fennel & apple salad and my craving for prosciutto finally convinced me I could blog again. Next week (Mon-Sat), I’m going to make at least one JJ special and do a little write-up about it (perhaps even incorporating some of those aforementioned details about my new life). I’ve got an empty fridge, a new paycheck, and a whole bunch of inspiration, so давай!

Pagratis Pair

November 16th, 2009

Per usual, part II of my Colorado wedding blog was postponed, but here we go! Early the next morning after the rehearsal dinner (which, if you’ll recall, featured enough food to feed most of Colorado), the lucky (though yawning) bridesmaids headed into Boulder to meet the bride and get our hair done. Fortunately, Erinn’s mom and sister were prepared with mimosas and bagels (and Nicole hit up Starbucks for good measure).

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Kate and I were the first to finish and felt the urge to enjoy the beautiful day (and perhaps burn off some of those delicious bagels), so we went for a walk through the quaint and charming (and expensive) Boulder neighborhood.

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Which, naturally, resulted in a good deal of “You did WHAT?!” from our hairdressers when we returned. Still worth it! Meanwhile, Erinn was becoming even more stunning.

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A quick limo ride over to the church in Denver and we were greeted by our bouquets. Erinn’s matched our dresses…

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And the bridesmaids’ bunches were pretty. So perfect!

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Erinn’s mom and sister helped her climb in to her hefty dress (someone might have been crushed if they’d tried to lift it over her head). Equally challenging- staving off tears long enough to make it down the aisle.

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Erinn, now firmly secure in her dress and veil, begins the photo-taking process before the start of the ceremony.

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Annnnd, they’re off! Kostas and his ageless mom walk in. (The rest of the photos of the couples walking down  are blurry, so I’ve left them out!).

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Someone had mentioned earlier that it was a good thing Erinn/Kostas’s “first moment” was before the ceremony to allow them to get some initial shock out of the way. This didn’t, however, prevent them both from bawling the entire time Erinn walked down the aisle.

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An hour of part-Greek, part-English, all-symbolism later, Kostas and Erinn Pagratis were officially wed!

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And I managed to avoid stumbling down the aisle! Small steps…

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Now that all that mumbo-jumbo was taken care of, it was time to get down to real business– more photos! [As you admire Erinn's dress's train, keep in mind that no fewer than three bridesmaids would find themselves under that dress at some point in the evening].

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As we all rode in a (bigger) limo back to Boulder, Kostas kept leaning out the window yelling “I’m freaking married!” Adorable. :)

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The best thing we didn’t realize about our bridesmaid’s dress was that in every Myspace-style photo, we’d appear topless, if not totally nude.

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Nicole and Effie (Kostas’ far-too-tan-and-Greek-pretty sister) were a little more modest. [and unique- the other bridesmaids were two Amandas, a Kate and a Katy]

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The beginning of the day had been beautiful, and the weather held out just long enough for some mountain photos before it began to pour. I sacrificed the mountains in my own photo to minimize the highway view (the photographer was on the ground for his shots).

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Kostas probably should have thought of this earlier…

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Finally, the reception hall at Folsom Field! The next series of would-be photos are missing, probably due to the fact that we were all too busy eating delicious Greek food (including lamb, bleu cheese mashed potatoes and meditteranean-stuffed chicken breast). Oh well, at least I got a tableshot?

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Having stuffed ourselves (again), we proceeded to dance, enjoy some libations, and take hundreds of photos. Despite the fact that there were over 100 people at the wedding, there were still plenty shots taken at arm-length.

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And plenty of shots of Brandon & I being a little nauseating,

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And then the crying starts. Toasts from several of Kostas/Erinn’s friends and family (who were all both phenomenally emotional and good at public speaking), the first dance, and the head table was losing it.

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Erinn’s dad explained in his toast that he wrote and performed the song that he and Erinn would be dancing to (he recorded it for the DJ)- and the bridesmaids fell apart. Again.

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Fortunately, there were some people able to take our minds off of anything sappy.

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Warning: severe cute ahead.

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Though they are very sweet and loving and caring and blahblahblah, Erinn and Kostas do know how to get down- never fear.

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And of course we all had some fun when Michael Jackson came on (even Piell looks Thrilled).

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Modesty is key for Katy, Kate, Cara, and Britta.

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And of course the bride is nothing if not blushing.

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I stole Erinn away from the photog and her husband to snag a mommy-baby (KDX-style) shot [one-armed, of course].

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And my pledge sister Kate and I got down- we’ve got back.

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The wedding and reception went off without a hitch (besides the obvious) until shortly before the end when Piell got a little too exuberant in dancing to Journey. She twisted her knee, but fortunately we had one dapper Greek groomsman (and Brandon, I guess) for her to lean on out to the car. [she's since had surgery and is on crutches until New Years. but she hasn't stopped believing!]

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All in all, one of the best weddings I’ve been to. This didn’t make the subsequent drive back through Nebraska any easier, but seeing Kostas and Erinn’s happiness and love for each other was entirely worth it.

40°01′N 105°17′W: Elevation Elation

November 13th, 2009

I’ve been slacking on my updates, so be prepared for a slew of photo-jammed blog posts today. :) A few weeks ago, one of my sorority sisters (and, incidentally, closest friends) decided to throw in the towel tie the knot. I was naturally excited for her, but was also excited to cross another state off my list (I’ve got 35/50 now!). What I didn’t take into account was that to get to the beautiful state of Colorado, I’d need to drive through a state I’d hoped never to visit again.

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That’s right- it’s Nebraska. Endless hours of unbelievably deserted flatland and (lucky us!) grey skies. Brandon’s not afraid to show how he really feels.

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Fortunately, on the way out to Colorado, we had this to look forward to.

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As well as the lovely bride-to-be herself, Erinn. Double perk: she greeted us with homemade mac n’ cheese and Cosmopolitans.  The day after we arrived, we plunged straight into bachelorette party fun.

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Erinn’s sister Katy was the MOH and did a fantastic job arranging things for the party. Exhibit A: In college, our sorority invented the Mr. Brightside drink (a mix of Malibu, pineapple juice and cream soda). Katy duplicated the drink in shot form.

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One shot down and we’re ready to hit the town of Boulder. I opted to bring the sparkle.

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We started with dinner (and margaritas- ole!) at Rio Grande, where Piell, Kate and I made the wise choice of Mahi-Mahi tacos with mango salsa. Ohm nom nom.

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The off for a pub crawl on Pearl Street! Starting (and spending a lot time) with the Walrus.

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Though Erinn was obviously the queen of the evening (see the crown?), I think we all looked pretty smashing.

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Crawling on, Piell and Kate play the reenactment game.

Boulder, CO 2009:

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Mt Vernon, IA 2005:

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And throw in a little Dr. Horrible “plus, there are kids in that park, so…”

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And then we walked into a mountain. Or, you know, this really tall guy.

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Speaking of reenactments, my family can attest to the fact that when I was young I would reenact the “Part of Your World” scene from Little Mermaid where Ariel thrusts herself up on this giant rock (though typically my version involved the end of our living room couch). That whole ‘birds of a feather flock together’ thing must apply to sorority sisters, because, well…

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The final bar we visited (Juanita’s) had stopped serving food, so we couldn’t sing for our supper. Listening to the video of our karaoke experience though, this was probably a good thing.

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And the theme song of the week was born.

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Mahi-mahi tacos aside, this was both Erinn’s wedding week and the (unofficial) Week of Eating. Kate munches on some M&Ms (while we get pedicures for our bridesmaids’ gift)…

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Followed by delicious wraps, fruit, brie, and munches at Erinn’s mom’s loft…

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and Erinn’s dress/veil- which are about to devour me.

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Friday night, it was time to eat even more at the rehearsal dinner. But first, we had to take care of business and rehearse!

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Here’s a teaser shot of the church, the Assumption of the Theotokos cathedral in Denver.

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Alright, back to Denver to eat! The rehearsal dinner was at the Med in Boulder (Trying to remember the name, I Googled “Mediterranean Restaurant Boulder” and promptly felt like a jerk). I took a few cute photos before we all gorged ourselves beyond reason.

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Mwah!

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A few hours of tapas, olive bread, salmon, and wine later, we thought we were done. Then the waiters brought out… the dessert tray. Yeah, I may have snuck in a creme brulee on top of everything else I’d eaten already.

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The adorable couple gave mild tear-inducing speeches and were otherwise totally in love and ready for the next day’s adventure. Next up, dum-dum-deh-dum, Greek-style!

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24

October 9th, 2009

Happy birthday to me! (and you too, Scott Bakula) In honor of my 24 years, here’s a few highlights from last year and 24 aspirations for the year ahead.

> Went skydiving for the first time!
> Visited two new countries (Peru, Ireland) and Russia again.
>  Hit up a few new states. New York in December to see Katya; Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas on the road trip to the Texas wedding.
> Celebrated two years of hanging out with a pretty cool guy.
> Ran my first 5K and feel great about my body.

To-Do:
1. Finish my masters program and get my EdM.
2. Watch all (24) seasons of Trek (TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager)
3. Visit at least one new country (Turkey is currently on my schedule for my last grad school class).
4. Run another 5K (and maybe a 10K?)
5. Visit at least one new state (besides Colorado, which I will get to in less than two weeks ;) )
6. Gain beginner level (how are you? i like puppies) fluency in another language.
7. Read 24 fiction and 24 nonfiction books.
8. Make enough money to be able to support my (admittedly occasionally sweet) lifestyle without a PT job.
9. Have 5% of my yearly income in savings (between school payments old and new, car payments, and not having a summer income, I’d say this is a high-end hope as is)
10. Go to an NFL and an NBA game.
11. Maintain the weight loss I’ve achieved since May.
12. Watch Season 8 of 24!
13. Get to Russia again in 2010. (I’ve been at least once a year since 2005- can’t slack now!)
14. Make it to the end of Year 3 with LB.
15. Beat Super Mario Galaxy.
16. Take a different friend out for dinner/drinks/coffee once a month.
17. See every movie nominated for Best Picture in the Academy Awards (preferably before the show).
18. Go to California. Last year, I hit up NYC and earned some ‘real American’ credibility. I’ve gotta get out to LA to do the same. Plus, I’ve got friends there now to visit :)
19. Write in my journal or blog at least once a week.
20. See at least one friend from far away (Russia, Korea, etc)
21. Prepare an ethnically-inspired meal once a month (pelmeni, sushi, curry, etc.)
22. Listen to an album by someone I’m not familiar with once every two weeks.
23. Have a Skype date in Russian at least monthly.
24. Make it to 25!

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If I give you a penny, you will be one penny richer and I'll be one penny poorer. But if I give you an idea, you will have a new idea, but I shall still have it, too.

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