Day 47: Cartooning

I'm an avid reader of the blog "Hyperbole and a Half," a sort of comic strip memoir of a girl's life. I have no such ambitions to be a comic strip blogger, but I did want to see how I might portray myself as a cartoon. So, today, using MS Paint as my medium, I cartooned myself, and this was the process. I am not an artist, but I do have fun :)

Step 1: Head and Hair

Step 2: A semblance of a body

Step 3: Color and figure

Step 4: Stylish details like argyle and eyelashes. I love argyle. I am lame.

Day 46: A Very "Social" Movie Experience

Today, I went to a movie alone and saw "The Social Network."

Why that film choice?


After being an only child for 23 years and eating alone rather comfortably, this was a piece of cake. It was dark and everyone was watching the screen. No one was walking past me judging me or anything. AND there were two other women who were solo too!

I'm thinking these "doing X alone" type challenges aren't challenging me very much. I'm good at doing things by myself and quite comfortable in my own company. Perhaps convincing people to do things with me is more of a growing experience.

Day 45: Dining with Strangers: A How-to Guide

On Day 45 of doing "New Things" I ended up being invited out to eat at the Blue Grotto with eight strangers from the yoga studio I frequent. I learned eight essential tips to make your dining-with-strangers experience a positive one that makes them think you are SUPER interesting and ultimately incorporate you into the group.

Before Booze:
1. Have an iPhone
When attending a gathering of new people who all know each other but don't know you, it's very important to have an iPhone. Everyone in my group had one and was showing off fun features. I was quite markedly out of this conversation, being that I have a two-or-more year old LG Envy. If I had that iPhone though, I would've really fit in on making a better first impressions. "What's that application to make your face fatter? I love that one!" "You can't miss that bling bling round-em-up game!!"

A critical reason for needing an iPhone, is that you can't discuss an iPhone without looking at your iPhone, and those who do not possess an iPhone cannot look at it, making you the only person not looking at your toy and waiting desperately for libations to arrive.

2. Make your Job Sound VERY exciting
Now, I enjoy my job for the fact that I get to write most every day and that I get to do personally interesting research on occasion, but this does not a conversation make. In a new group of people, you must describe your work as nothing short of FAB-yeuw-lousssss. Describe it in such a way that makes them want to know more, embellish it's importance to their respective future, and render your captive audience slightly jealous of the "greener grass" on your pasture.

3. Ask out-of-the-ordinary questions
Like, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you like pate?" "Oh! You're a vegetarian, 'bout grapes??" "On any ordinary day, how often do you think of going to the moon?"

Bypass anything like "How often do you come to this restaurant?" "Do you think I'm a total weirdo for coming out with you?" and such. This makes you sound boring and insecure.

During Booze:
4. Libations
After you've broken the ice by talking about the newest feature on your iPhone and successfully filled up the longer-than-normal-especially-when-you're-not-drunk time between sitting down with your new compadres and waiting for your libation, it's finally time to drink.

It's important to select a drink that does not stand out. For example, do not order a martini at a Mexican restaurant, despite its power to mainline 'cool' into your persona. You look like a jerk. In all Mexican restaurant occasions, order margaritas. My perennial favorite for non-Mexican restaurants is the house red. You look totally un-pretentious but sophisticated-ish.

Select the libations that demonstrate to your future biffles (best friends for life!) that you are exciting. Red wine makes me chatty and confident and somehow exciting. It's how I became cool during my acts of shameless self-promotion in Ohio.

And drink quickly. Ramp up your BAC as soon as possible to integrate yourself into the group.

This leads to the fifth tip.

5. Reveal Personal Information
My new friends were revealing rather personal information about themselves, which I was both happy with and scared of. I enjoy that they felt comfortable enough to bring sensitive things up, but slightly scared that I would inadvertently blurt out this information in later yoga classes.

I realized, however, that it is important in bonding with your dining buddies that you reveal equally or MORE personal info. It makes you seem approachable, interesting, and able to relate. I'm kinda sarcastic about this, but not really. Thinking it was the red wine that inspired me to try to relate to strangers.

My God, they were totally judging me, weren't they.

6. Shamelessly promote your blog
I can't help it.

After the Booze has Worn Off:
7. Plan to meet up again, even if you don't mean it.
This group meets every Friday after yoga and I had a pretty good evening, so planning to meet up was genuine. But for you, it's not good etiquette to say, "I was so terrified by this encounter and couldn't relate to you at all despite the fact I brought an iPhone for the occasion." You still must say that you had a wonderful time and that you would lurve to meet again.

8. LEAVE QUICKLY. You are less interesting than when not inebriated and will likely regret what you said earlier in the conversation, or make awkward apologies to get them to say something favorable about you, or jabber about the weather or your car or other nonsense if you linger.

...And now you know!

P.S. My dinner partners seemed to like me, and I liked them. We had great conversation and I even got a hug from the yoga teacher on the way out. We may be on the way from strangers to friends if I go out with them again. In any case, however, I apparently need to get an iPhone.

Day 44: Gold, Brains and Blogging Regrets

First, Happy National Chocolate Day!

Phew, now onto less important details...

About a week ago, I bought customized chocolate bars from Chocri (I've mentioned them twice now and I'm thinking I should get them to advertise!) and they finally arrived today in my mailbox. On my concoctions, I selected goji berries, cocoa nibs and real gold flake--almost exclusively for the decadent pleasure of eating gold.

Now I should say that at the close of the markets today, the price for one ounce of gold came in at around $1,340. While people will tell you up and down that you should be investing in gold, today, I ingested gold. The amount of gold was nowhere near a whole ounce, but it was still more than I should have eaten.

Frankly, there isn't too much to relay to my dear readers about eating gold. It doesn't taste like anything, good or bad. It did make my chocolate sparkle, but I would've enjoyed it the same if there wasn't the natural glitter. I should have known that it wouldn't taste like much, but I was so excited at the time and thrilled by the possibility of eating gold that I just went with it.

I'm thinking I might dress up in my fanciest attire and try again. Maybe something magical will happen, like I inherit more gold. Or the gold will make me rich. Or something. So far, I just feel overly decadent and like I maybe should have invested that extra cash for the topping in real gold. 

The chocolate is amazing all by itself, and I think I got carried away with a novelty. 

But I do feel like a badass just SAYING I ate gold. Maybe that's what this is for after all.
Also, I have to mention to my readers that I have a blogging regret. I should have shared something with you when it happened, but alas, it will have to suffice for now. 

I ate brains on October 12.

Mark and I celebrated our year and a half anniversary at Paul's Restaurant. There, I ordered the sweetbread small plate, which, to the non-foodies, are sheep brains.You're wondering why on earth I could restrict you from such valuable, controversial, highly interesting information, I know.

Here's why:

First, I don't want to do many food posts. Food is easy to switch up in your daily routine, between three meals a day, countless restaurants and more food in the grocery store than I will eat in my lifetime, I think the "I ate (at) ____" posts could become overwhelming. There are already thousands of blogs like that and I want to offer you something new.

Also, that was the day I did my 5-Hour Energy mini-blog, which still ranks among the top 3 posts in pageviews so far, so I didn't (at the time) want to get greedy with two-fers. 

But these are BRAINS!!! Eating brains should be on my list of new things.

Now I'm going to tell you about this experience. It can be summed up that brains are bad on texture and good on taste.

Brain texture is bad because, for one, brains are hard to cut. When I'm slicing brain, I'd like to make it quick and not think too much about how this organ was just helping that little sheep "BBAAAA" to it's friends. 

Brain texture is also bad for chewing. Toughness makes me think about the fact that it's an actual brain when you have to chew it a lot, and think how much you must be jumbling the thoughts of that poor innocent creature. If you spit it back out and returned it to it's rightful owner, it would probably be singing ABBA. 

Brain taste is good. Brains are SO RICH. Like, tasty rich. And I didn't want to enjoy them too much, but I did, because they were covered in pancetta and butter. I'm only human.

Now that I've shared this with you, brains are officially on my list of new things, regret free. I'll never hold out on blogging about a really worthwhile food experience again, but I will keep those food posts interesting.

Day 43: "Blood Alone Moves the Wheels of History," a Tale of Little Green Men in Historical Battles

Most everywhere I go, I'm looking for inspiration for "New Things" because if I'm going to end up doing 365 of them, I need to seize every opportunity I come up with. On Monday this week, I stopped at a CVS en route to yoga to pick up some hair ties and took the time to wander through the other aisles. What stuck out at me like a shrimp shell in my gumbo was seeing a baggie of little green plastic army men.

What a strange item to have in a pharmacy!!

I knew instantly that I could do something with these guys. Despite them being a classic toy, I'd never played with them as a child which makes them good material for this blog. And they are cheap. More than anything, I love free and cheap new things.

When I brought them home, Mark was more excited about them than I was, and what ensued was a history lesson in battle tactics. This has, hands down, been my favorite "New Thing" to execute so far, and while you might find this silly, I think we're genius.
Civil/Revolutionary War-Stand up and take it like a man

WWI-Trench Warfare

I think trench warfare is the coolest. I don't know why.

Storming the Beach at Normandy

A first-person view of the Battle of Normandy. You're welcome!

And for the Pacific Theater of WWII--Nuclear Warfare

Vietnam--the Overview of Ho Chi Minh trail

In 'Nam, Soldiers on the Mountain. P.S. Check out the sniper in the flower!!!!!

The Viet Cong behind the brush

A first-person view down the Ho Chi Minh trail. It's like you're there, huh?

The Persian Gulf War-- Marine Scout Sniper doing recon in the hot Middle Eastern Sun, taking out a target of opportunity

Calling in the stealth bombers

Bombs in a Sandstorm...(the camera did this all by itself! Fate...)
This has been a comprehensive history of America war tactics, presented by the little green men and Mark, because while I know policy, he knows strategy.

But in all seriousness, we love you troops! Thanks for all of your service!

Day 42: What's a Mumford?

Yesterday, my morning routine was rocked completely. I got out of the shower, poured myself a bowl of Cheerios and turned on Palladia. I caught the end of some country song I don't know and shoveled more Cheerios into my mouth and dived off the couch to get my laptop off the floor, careful not to spill the milk. Then I had to pause halfway, because from the TV came a brilliant, splendid, joyously sad, folksy ditty. I put down the computer and turned to the tube--this song required my devoted attention. It grabbed me by the ears and didn't let go, and for the first time in years, I was excited about music.

Turns out, that song was Mumford & Sons "Little Lion Man."

(Aside: When I put up my newfound revelation on Facebook, I got a pretty big response of people saying nothing but positive things about loving the band! Friends, listen here, if you have any other awesome band secrets that you're keeping from me, please reveal them now. You can use the "Comments" below if you want.)

So, as you can probably guess, I HAD to purchase their album.

If I were to guess, I'd say I haven't downloaded anything to my iTunes is from the past three years. Partly, it's because I'm cheap, but it's also probably due to the fact that I had XM radio in my last car and enjoyed the non-mainstream variety it offered. Further, I'm really into singers and songwriters, and there haven't been almost any in top 40 over the last couple of years, save John Mayer (who I love dearly, btw, but it does not a music collection make).

Call me old fashioned, but I probably won't buy music that's contains no real musical instruments and an auto-tuned human voice. That's not music I'm going to pull out in 15 years and reminisce about. You can also call me old fashioned, too, that when I like an artist, I will buy the physical CD. That's just who I am. I know you're judging me, and I'm okay with it.

This will hopefully put in context how thrilled and wonderfully in love I am with this band that I went to Borders after work and  bought the Mumford & Son's CD, "Sigh No More."

The CD is a unique compilation of English indie kids, playing banjo, rocking out to some really tender lyrics.  Think if Kings of Leon grew up in London, and then went to West Virginia and got stuck with a banjo playing savant who got on the tour bus and wouldn't get off. It is a different sound from anything I've ever heard before, and I can't get enough. They're coming to Atlanta on November 4 for a concert and I would likely do everything in my power (and within my budget) to get into the show.

Day 41: "Poetry"

Today I wrote and performed a dramatic recitation of a poem, but since I can't trust you to read it how it should be read, I'll read it for you. I can't watch this myself, so please leave me comments and feedback to know how it went!

Day 40: The Red Windmill

If you spoke French, you would know from the title of my post that it had something to do with the Moulin Rouge, and you would be even more spot-on if you knew that Atlanta Ballet is presently performing the show as a ballet. If you know me, you'd know that Moulin Rouge, the movie, was one of my favorites for song and dance, and to be frank, I relish in the mix of campy and classy. And if you know me, you'd know I was a ballet dancer for numerous years.
Putting it all together, today I saw Moulin Rouge, the Ballet, as performed by the Atlanta Ballet. I recruited my belle amie Lauren from high school to go with me, and we thoroughly, completely, wholly adored the performance. We decided that if we were professional dancers (and we were both dancers growing up), we think it would be a dream show. The choreography was divine, the costumes were fun, the story was easy to follow, and they brought the drama to all the highs and lows. Okay, so it was definitely beating me over-the-head with the French theme, but that's pretty forgivable overall. I stayed connected to the characters and plot for the whole two and a half hours, which I can't say is typical of my attention span. 
The ballet can-can-ed its way into my little heart and made me want to wear neon ruffled skirts and shake my derriere. A two-thumbs-up recommendation from me!

Day 39: No Calorie Left Behind

Today, Mark and I attended the food festival, Taste of Atlanta and thoroughly gorged on all sorts of 'new things.' Between the two of us, we sampled over 15 dishes from local restaurants, and if it weren't for the number of "food tickets" allocated to us, we could have gone for more. I only allow myself this pleasure once in a blue moon so I feel justified in letting loose for a couple hours.

I can't remember all the names of these dishes, nor all the places that I got them, but I can guarantee you that every dish was from a restaurant I have never been to. 

Since I'm sure you'll ask, my favorite was the chicken and waffles, because it's a southern classic that I finally had a venue to experience. There's a really unique combination of sweet, baked, fluffy waffle that contrasts so perfectly with fried, salty chicken. Truly a treat. And I skipped the entire 30+ person line, which put me in a splendid mood to enjoy said indulgence.

And since I'm sure you'll ask about this too, my least favorite was the Kobe sliders because (I think) I've hyped up what my first experience with Kobe beef would be. I thought it would be life-changing and make me realize what the best beef in the world should taste like. However, eating ground meat of any sort takes away the original texture (the highlight of the Kobe beef in the first place), and any burger additions will take away from the original taste. Putting it on a bun subjects a beautiful meat to white bread...which is certainly not my favorite. The slider was itself quite yummy, but not what I hoped. Despite my first impression of beer-fed beef, I'm not giving up yet. I'm still holding onto the notion that when I get my first Kobe beef steak that it will change my life.

What we ate, in order:
Pork, grits and pickled okra

"Black bottom cupcake" with cream cheese frosting and chocolate chips on top

Krispy Kreme doughnut topped with fresh, hot chocolate sauce

Moroccan lamb sausage and spicy aioli

Porcini ravioli with champagne cream sauce. Doesn't make for a super attractive picture, but it was tasty!

Jim and Nick's Ribs with slaw. YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY

Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffle, wrapped newspaper. What's not to love?

Shrimp and polenta with yellow tomato salad
Ran into Kate while she was waiting on rosemary and olive oil ice cream! So sweet I could eat her up too.

Figo bruschetta  with caramelized onions, goat cheese and apricots

Figo bruschetta with tomato and capers (and other things that I've forgotten)

Cheese plate: Gouda, honey-infused goat cheese, charcuterie and crackers

Duh, Grilled artichoke with remoulade
Kobe beef slider with brie
And P.S. I never claimed, nor ever will claim, that I am any sort of photojournalist. I can't take a decent picture to save my soul, but if anyone wants to teach me, that would definitely count as a "new thing" and I would be ever-so-grateful (hint hint).

Day 38: "Adventure is out there!!"

I've been feeling slightly behind the relationship milestones in some ways, in that despite the fact that I see Mark's family at least every other week, we don't make a lot of out-of-the-ordinary plans. We'll often get together for lunch, holidays, football games and birthdays, but have never seen a movie together or had dinner "just because." You'll also notice, if you've read the blog from the beginning, that I just recently introduced our parents. Also, despite the fact that we've been living together for months now, Mark's parents have never been over to the apartment. Today, we broke that trend and hosted Mark's mom and dad for dinner and a movie.

Mark made all the fare, because he is the resident chef-in-training and I worked until 6:00 today. He dished up buffalo meat tacos with homemade guac, as well as a Spanish dirty beans and rice side dish.

We had a lovely dinner chatting about general life and work things, and then Mark's dad dropped a bomb. "I've been reading your blogspot."

I sat, cautiously, waiting to be judged on how he perceives my silly writing project.

When I first introduced the idea to Mark he didn't quite get it and wasn't as excited about it as I was, but when I introduced it to my dad,  he enthusiastically rattled off a whole list of funny things I should try. Ever since then, I'm cautious about bringing it up and don't know how to react when other people do. I'm sure I mumbled something about doing 'new things' and whatnot waiting for the gavel to fall.

After a pause more uncomfortable than I expected he said, "I think it's really good!"

Beautiful, wonderful affirmation! Nothing can describe the relief I feel when people "get it."

I carried on the conversation more pleased than I had been all day. My blog transcends generations...and he thinks it is good enough that I could make some money advertising off of it.

After a couple hours-long dinner conversation, we moved to the living room to watch "Up," the animated flick that Mark has been wanting to share with his mom for a long time, and which just so happens to be my favorite movie EVER. I laugh every time; I cry every time; I always get tickled by the talking dogs, and am moved by the themes of the essence of love and friendship. A personal accomplishment, when watching, I never question the obvious impracticality of the plot, as my cynical-self am prone to doing.

If you haven't seen it, you need to. Like my blog, it transcends gender and age. (When I'm feeling confident, I can be Shameless with a capital S!) And for the record, I think it should have won Best Picture at the Oscars.

To document our double date, I drew inspiration from the film at the beginning, when Carl is watching Muntz speak in the movie theater, where he says "Adventure is out there!" and gives a straight arm-thumbs up to the camera. What's best, because I'm *that* in love with the movie, Mark's brother-in-law gave me a poster of Up that hangs in our office that served as the perfect backdrop for our photo sesh.

I couldn't agree more with Carl and Muntz...adventure is out there, and I'm out to find it one new thing at a time.

Day 37: Secrets, Secrets are No Fun...

Every Sunday since high school, my inner emo kid comes out and I make my way over to Postsecret to read Frank Warren's weekly collection of anonymous secrets. They range from poop jokes to comments on how peaceful the world could be "if...", all the way to heart-wrenching, psychiatrist-begging outpourings of emotion.

I thought it only fitting that I pay homage in my blog and send him a secret of my own. Since I don't have any secrets that will get me committed or arrested, and that it is highly unlikely that my "secret" will end up on his website, I'll go ahead and publish it here.

Day 36: My Chocolate, Indian Indulgence

Yesterday I learned about Chocri and I will never, ever be the same. The website's premise is simple enough--use fair trade chocolate and high-quality 'toppings' to create a customized chocolate bar. The toppings include hundreds of ingredients as diverse as basil, bacon and banana chips to satisfy any desire you could dream up. Oh, and you can name them once you're done.

So, as any chocoholic would do, I created and named my own chocolate bar.

Perusing the website yesterday was clearly a bad idea, as I have been thinking about the ideal combination of toppings and chocolate flavors ALL DAY. No joke, I even had dreams about the perfect bar.

Today, armed with chocolate dreams, I really went over the top. The first chocolate bar "Indian Indulgence" is the bar I thought up all day and night. It has goji berries, cocoa nibs and real gold flake, because they are all "new things" and because now that I know I can, I want to eat gold. I named it "Indian Indulgence" because I thought anything less than highfalutin, cheese-tastic language would really be failing the essence of creating and naming a chocolate bar. That chocolate bar alone came to twelve dollars, but when I went to check out, they said I had to order a minimum of two bars.


So for the next one, I allowed myself to experiment with the "wildflower" option. Yes, I am getting a bar with wildflowers on it...and blueberries. Because I'm sure I'll like that. And I went all-out on cheese-tastic names on this one, calling it my the "Exotic Wilderness" bar. You love it, don't play.

Can't wait 'til they arrive!

Day 35: Life Lessons from Adam Carolla

Today, I saw the Adam Carolla do stand up live at The Punchline. Obviously, I can never relay how funny it was and how much I loved being at the show, but I can tell you that at the end, he slapped us upside the head with a life lesson. Carolla went through his Social Security report from when he graduated high school to around 2004 and showed the audience how terribly he lived, never making more than $22,000 a year before he turned 30. After that time, he secured spots with The Man Show, Loveline, and other career successes, making between $300,000-2,000,000 per year for about five years; clearly, he found his stride. With this showing of pursuing his goals no matter what the return, he advised the audience, "If there is any kernel in you that says, "I wanna do, what I wanna do," I hope you go out and f***ing do it."

This so deeply inspired me (maybe it was just the two lemon drops I consumed beforehand, or just the point of life I'm in right now), to pursue everything I love, that in addition to being the funniest show I've seen to date, I will count this among the best live shows I've ever attended.

Day 34: Standing on my Hands

January 2010, I set my one and only New Year's Resolution to get into a yoga handstand all by myself. You'll also notice this was on my list of goals that I wrote in this blog. I have been working on getting into a handstand since starting yoga in 2008, fully believing that I would never be able to do it. My mind likes to believe that the wall is going to move away from me at any moment and leave me dead and flopped over on my back--or something similarly irrational.

I've gotten much, much closer to a yoga handstand recently, simply by doing it a couple times a week for the past two years now. I was so dangerously close on Thursday that I knew that the next time I practiced, I would arrive upright on my hands. On Sunday, the teacher didn't do yoga handstands in class; and while I was a little disappointed, I already had a blog post, so I didn't have to fight between two wonderful accomplishments.

Today, however, it was game time. I was determined, excited, sure that the teacher would include them in class, and most critically, I didn't have a blog post lined up, giving me extra pressure to step up to the task. I walked into class trying not to hype myself up, as I am prone to doing, and didn't want to wear my arms out with sun salutations so I took it a little easy. But my efforts were lost, because the class just wasn't pacing itself towards handstands.

After this sad realization, the remainder of the yoga class was shot and my meditative mind was anything but. I spent the rest of class thinking up "new things" that I could do cheaply at home and on limited time. It was the ultimate defeat to my personal accomplishments and to the blog.

When I got back to the apartment I saw my last hope-a beautiful open wall--perfect for executing handstands. After almost giving up again, I had a flash of brilliance, and I produced a perfect handstand ALL BY MYSELF.

Literally my first handstand I did by myself ever. Thank goodness Mark was there with my camera!!

Day 33: Future Helicopter Pilot

This is a "new thing" day I've been looking forward to for many weeks now, ever since I bought this deal off of Living Social--a one-hour helicopter flying lesson. I saw the deal for a mere $89 (typically $295/hour) and applied my "carpe diem" mood to justify my purchase.

And it was so super cool and worth it.

I arrived to the helicopter pad with my instructor Steven and he went over a couple of FAA regulations before stepping out onto the tarmac. What surprised me most was that the helicopter had no doors. Why on earth you would put students in a flying contraption without the courtesy of preventing them from falling to their death, I'll never know. But as you can already assume, I didn't have to worry about that after all.

Steven pulled out a checklist of things to read off to him, making me feel like a fighter pilot ready for battle. I called out commands like "master switch, ON!," "RPM, 70-75%," "Clutch, ON!" and on and on. While calling out commands, lots of things started buzzing, humming, and moving--all the way up to the rotor blades on spinning. It was strangely empowering and calming all at the same time.

When everything was up and running, we moved over to a grassy area where Steven let me take the reins. The right seat is the "pilot's" seat. Seriously. Look it up if you don't believe me.

Each and ever appendage works when you're flying a helicopter. There are two foot pedals, a lever for the left hand and not-easily-translatable-to-those-who-drive-cars joystick/steering bar called a cyclic--and they are all SUPER sensitive. Just a little push here, lift there and move of the pinkie on the cyclic could leave you upside down. But thankfully, Steven didn't let me get that far.We mostly worked rotating 180, hovering, floating up and down and moving left and right. Nothing like the Blue Angels, but hey, I was only 30 minutes in.

After thirty-some minutes of playing on the grass, Steven launched us up into the air and asked me to hold onto the cyclic while we flew, leaving one hand free to snap these pictures:

Buckhead and Midtown
Dunwoody--the King and Queen Building in the middle
He later told me that only 1% of people in the world are pilots, and only 7% of pilots are helicopter pilots. Of those, less than 20% are women. It's a small minority that I hope I added to for at least a day.

Day 32: I Lubba Hubba Bubba

Today's 'new thing' was a childhood novelty that when memories are rehashed, it makes you ask, simultaneously "Why on earth did we do that?" and "Why is this so much fun now?"

The tradition is, no less, blowing bubbles with the enamel-killing, lockjaw-inducing, sickeningly sweet cubed bubble gum.

With my confection, today's mission was simply to blow a bubble as big as my face.You say "Why?" I say "Why not??"

I have wanted to do this for a couple of days now and was very excited and prepared to get this done. To best reach my goal, I wanted to get the highest-impact bubble gum on the market--that had the volume and stretching factor conducive to ridiculously large orbs of sugary beauty. I opted for Hubba Bubba, after being reminded of the watermelon concoction reminiscent of childhood, with a green "rind" and pink inside, powdered with more sugar. You remember it now.

After selecting my weapon, I had to recruit some other participants, because why on earth would I have this silly experience alone? It just so happened that I was in Athens this weekend for UGA's homecoming football game. In Athens, I met up with one of my friends from second grade (the prime Hubba Bubba days), Courtney, as well as her friend Valerie. My fun-loving accomplices.

I realized early on, however, that I had thoroughly lost the knack for bubble-blowing that I had taken for granted in my younger days, and began the process like this:

It was looking like I would never get to the face-sized bubble. I was defeated; losing confidence. The bubbles just wouldn't grow! I started asking myself really deep questions like if it's possible to forget how to blow a bubble. Or if bubble-making is a 'use it or lose it' trait. I was honestly thinking that I would have to give this one up.

My friends thought I was surely able to blow a face-sized bubble, since they continually proved themselves  perfectly capable, and Courtney gave me a very helpful tutorial on flattening out the gum, and opening the mouth to allow for lots of air.

After a few (okay, a ton of) crude jokes ensued, and following one laugh so hearty the gum went flying out of my mouth onto dear Courtney's leg, I finally arrived at a beautiful full-face sized bubble! Sweet success!!
Only I didn't capture it on camera.

Below is the closest I got for film, but I have witnesses that it happened. And I proved to myself that I can blow a bubble as big as my face. And for Day 32, that's all that matters.

Day 31: Long-lost relatives

I've always thought that I have a pretty small family. I'm the only child and was the only grandchild until one of my grandmothers (lucky me, I have three!) was blessed with two little ones in more recent years.

If you go back to my grandparents, however, they all had big families and many siblings. I've met some of them, but not all, as they are fairly well-dispersed across the country. Today, my grandmother invited me over to dinner, where I met family I've never met before, my great aunt Peggy, my maternal grandfather's sister, and her husband, my great uncle Bill.

Now that I'm getting older, I have a much deeper respect for these people and their histories and how much they impact my own. It also had a very profound impact on me to meet the people who knew my grandparents when they were young.

It found it so touching to me to hear my aunt Peggy call my grandmother and grandfather, "Jimmy" and "Joanie," clearly personal names associated with their youths. While I know, of course, that my grandparents were young once, hearing these names and the stories in which they reference these names, makes them seem like lively young people just weathered by time--no different in character than they might have been when they were my age. My grandmother apparently made apple pies the same way she did when she and granddaddy were first married. She was also really claustrophobic. Things I never would have learned were it not for my new-found relatives to share with me.

I also found myself deeply engaged in the stories that aunt Peggy had to say about my grandfather as a brother--a role I had never connected him to. Peggy painted him as a troublemaker and prankster, as well as a young man who looked out and cared for a younger sister. She remembered that someone put her bike up in a tree (Granddaddy: "I will not confirm nor deny that I did that") and that he calmed her fears during a really heavy storms. 

I could really go on and on about the lessons I've learned from seeing my relatives interact with my grandparents on an intimate and knowing level. What I can confirm most is that I am indescribably blessed to have the family that I do, and that I hope to come across other relatives and friends who knew my parents and grandparents "when..." because it helps me understand who they were as well as putting into stunning relief the longevity, beauty and purpose of Family.

L to R: Granddaddy "Jimmy", Grandma Gore "Joanie", Uncle Bill, Aunt Peggy, Me, Mom, Daddy