Day 76: I'm All Shook Up

After picking my dad up from getting his car tuned up, I ended up at my parents house for the first time in months. For today's New Thing, I had intended to go riding on my dad's motorcycle, but it was dark, rainy and cold--not the best conditions for motorcycling. However, to my delight, upon entering the living room, I found a Shake Weight.

Bingo!

My mom said that the equipment came with an instructional video, to which I had to oblige, making Day 76's New Thing that I worked out with the Shake Weight instructional video.



I was making fun of this pretty bad when mom showed me how to use it for real. She had to use a similar product in physical therapy for a shoulder injury, so she knew how each exercise was supposed to be performed. In reality, if you really put your mind to the proper form, it can be a pretty solid workout to shake that thing for the whole six minutes of the instructional video.

But I still can't help laughing...

Day 75: The Goriest Amputation Scene in Film History

According to reports from the Toronto film festival, when viewers watched the movie 127 Hours, there were three people who fainted and one who had a seizure. Why such a strong reaction? Well, the main character, Aron, is a mountain climber who gets stuck in a canyon when a boulder crushes his arm. He is unable to free himself or receive help for five days, and in a last-ditch effort to save his life, HE AMPUTATES HIS OWN ARM.

As The Guardian said, "the scenes of mountain climber Ralston taking off his own arm to free himself after a fall are among the most realistic of graphic gore ever put on film"

I was half hoping that I too would faint or vomit or something so that I could add that to my list of New Things, but for Day 75, I can say that I saw the movie 127 Hours and it was amazing.

It showed me that I never, ever want to go to the Utah desert, that I'm not cut out for climbing into canyons and that I L-O-V-E my arm. It also showed me that Aron Ralston is a total badass for being able to do all of these things that I couldn't. He survived the worst of the worst. He is a testament to how much humans will sacrifice to stay alive and the power of the mind to overcome horrendous obstacles. Even after five days of not eating and having minimal water, he had the energy and resolve to amputate his own arm with a 2-inch pocketknife in order not to die in that cave.

I don't think I could have been so bold. I would've been way too skittish to even cut through the top layer of skin. I don't know how many times I would vomit or pass out from the mere sight of my own arm performing such a gory feat on the other. Although, perhaps, after 5 days of no food and the delusions and insanity that overcome a person in this situation, maybe I could have.

Let's all hope that none of us ever has to find out.

You have to see this movie. It is hugely entertaining and really makes a person think about the lengths you would go to save your own life and the power we have to get ourselves out of horrendous situations.

Day 74: How Lululemon Pants Changed My Whole Outlook on Life

Today, my girlfriend Kaylee asked me to demonstrate yoga at the retail clothing store she works at, Lululemon. There were a variety of yoga demos throughout the day that were part of a new store opening as well as a treat for the Black Friday rush. I agreed to be a part of it because I'd likely be doing yoga anyway, so why not demo it at a store? I could get discovered, after all.

One of the stipulations, naturally, was that I needed to wear some of the store's gear. While their stuff is some of the cutest I've seen, it's also the priciest, making cheap ol' me nervous. I've never even tried on a single piece of their clothing, despite the fact that I know it has the best reputation, because I didn't want to get hooked. Further, I've talked about lulu's clothes in this blog before, saying something to the effect of "It won't help me get into a handstand any more gracefully than my Target clothes."

Today was the day of reckoning--to see if these clothes, as cute as they are, would really affect my practice.

I came in at the appropriate time and was sent to the pants section with one of the sales associates, who helped me select a pair of athletic leggings. I went to the dressing room to put them on, and I can say without a doubt,

They.

Changed.

My.

Life.

The pants were fitted to perfection, every inch from my hips down to my ankles, but were so soft that they didn't feel like they were on my legs at all. The fabric was sturdy but not bulky and the seaming made me made my legs look fabulous while I was performing my demo. While they may not help me get into a handstand any better than my Target pants, they are unbeatable for comfort, quality and style. I'll never get the feel of them out of my head.

Did they affect my practice? Yes, in a huge way.

While performing my demo, I had this whole revelation that if these pants made me feel so much better about myself and my yoga practice, that maybe I need to invest in better quality things throughout my whole life. What a difference a little quality might make!

The demo was a lot of fun and I got a lot of great feedback from people about my practice, making me a little more sure that I want to learn how to teach yoga one day in the future. So yes, now I want to invest in more quality and change my career path, thanks to Lululemon pants.

If you are a runner, dancer, yogi, or fitness junkie, you should definitely try them out. ASAP. Oh, and read their mantras, too. They're totally inspiring.

Who am I? And why do I like this new girl so much??

Day 73: Ice Skating and Wing Womaning

My friend Albert may be the most ideal friend I've ever had. We met a couple years ago while working as counselors at a summer camp in West Virginia and ended up fast friends with an unmatchable chemistry in our senses of humor and fun. I would argue we had a better time than the kids did all summer.

Despite the fact that he goes to UF, his parents live Atlanta, meaning during his college breaks, he comes back up to my neck of the woods. When he's in town, we get together and end up in some unplanned, ridiculous adventure. What's best, it's always natural and genuine, even though it only happens a couple of times a year.

This time, while Albert was in town for Thanksgiving, we decided to go ice skating at The Rink at Park Tavern. I was so, so excited when I learned that Atlanta got this public, seasonal skating rink and Albert had never been ice skating before, so it was a perfect New Thing adventure for the both of us.

I remember skating when I was in middle school and being pretty good at moving in a generally forward and circular pattern, so I was feeling pretty confident that I would get my "ice legs" back. I secretly hoped Albert wasn't very good so that my forward, circular motion looked impressive.

He was pretty nervous about this skating thing so before we donned our skates, we had a couple drinks at the bar to loosen up. This obviously did the opposite calming our nerves, and made us both more nervous and hyped up the experience.

With much fanfare and anticipation, we laced up our skates and hit the ice, and, of course, Albert was a natural and I was dreadful. I was parked up close to the side wall, clutching for dear life, pulling myself forward while shuffling my feet, and Albert was out practically speed skating past me with the greatest of ease.

Mid-Turn

Sweet turn of events.

Back-skating

I eventually got my rhythm back as the booze wore off, and thoroughly enjoyed playing and posing and being silly and all that comes with ice skating comedy.

She's UP!

And now she's down...

We took a break to enjoy a Drunken Girl Scout, hot chocolate concoction and hit the ice for a last hoorah. We got so good that we were out-skating all the other 8 people on the rink.

Drunken Girl Scouts, pinkies out

Practically Pros
The rink closed around midnight, so we started heading back to my car. Halfway back, Albert said, "I know where we are, this is close to a gay bar that I like, do you mind if we stop in?"

PERFECT.

I think I may have gone to a gay bar once before, but I don't remember the experience very well, so I'm counting this as a New Thing too.

We walked up the road a couple of blocks to a bar called Blake's. Albert gave me a warning, saying, "This is where all the pretty gays are."

I was simultaneously excited and anxious. I was looking pretty ratty in a gray sweater and jeans, however, none of the men in this bar care. They're not looking at me to get with me, not even there to look at me. I am, at most, a dance partner to wiggle past through the crowd.

Somehow, and I can't identify when it happened, Albert got the impression that I was cool. Cool enough to score him a cute guy. Cool enough to be a wing woman. Now, the only cute guy I've ever scored is the one I'm currently dating, so this seemed like a stretch for me. But I was dancing my butt off and having a really good time and the gays were all about me, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Albert said, "Guy in the glasses at your 7:00, GO."

And go, I did. I danced my way into his little heart, pulled in Albert to the scene, started the conversation (Guy in the glasses has a blog!! It's way better than mine, check it out, What Now Atlanta?), and dipped out of their blossoming interest just in time to dance with another guy. As a first-time wing-woman to a gay guy, I think I did better than I could have ever, ever, ever expected.

At the end of the night, they traded numbers, hugged, and my little heart was a-flutter. Albert was glowing, and I had a night not to be forgotten.

And that was my super-awesomely-gay-ice-skating-gay-bar-wing-womaning adventure.

Day 72: Casse-rollin'

On Thanksgiving Day last year, I was unemployed and living in my parent's house. It was a strange point in my life, from which I've grown exponentially. I remember last year how inadequate I felt about not being able to bring over food to our Thanksgiving dinner. If I had done that, I would be using food that my mom bought, using her dishes and, sadly, she probably would have washed said dish. So I didn't make anything.

Now that I'm all moved out, employed and on my own, it was the first time that I could really bring a dish to Thanksgiving. I didn't bring anything fancy, but even my green bean casserole was a sign that I was on my own and contributing to the family meal in a grown-up kind of way.

I was tickled by the whole experience, as frivolous as it was, and grateful for how far I've come in a year.

Day 71: Friendsgiving

Today, I enjoyed a pre-Thanksgiving meal with the same culprits from the Twisted Taco night, in what we affectionately called "Friendsgiving." I've never celebrated this holiday with people my own age and enjoyed it thoroughly. While I'd like to relay a story or two, I'll just keep it simple and say that it was good food and good company, and nothing out of the ordinary for dining with twenty-somethings.

It has not been the easiest year for me to find friends, as I'm still adjusting to this whole grown-up routine in a (relatively) new city. Mark has some relationships from college who are in the city, some of this dinner crowd included, but I'm severely lacking in girlfriends and even just acquaintances. Post-college relationships are hard to find and even harder to nurture. I'm still learning.

While I can't say I've developed the deepest relationships with tonight's group, it simply feels good to know of people who have potential to grow into friends. It feels even better that they extended an invitation to me.

I felt it inappropriate to snap pictures throughout the night, because, well, I guess I'm just not comfortable enough yet to whip out the camera and ask people to smile with me. It would have seemed forced and pretentious, two things I don't want to be. Even for the sake of the blog.

Hopefully, throughout the holiday season and into the new year, some of these acquaintances will become friends. I am ready to have some new perspectives and new conversations. I am ready for new company and dinner parties that I'm not surprised to be invited to. I am ready to give what I can to people to enrich their lives and mine. I'm ready for real, genuine adult friendships.

I am ready to host my own Friendsgiving next year.

Day 70: Lady Locksmith

Shakespeare once said, "Open, Locks/Whoever Knocks!"

Taking Shakespeare's advice one step further, I set out to open all locks before I knocked, whether the lock's owner wanted me in or not. That's right, I learned how to pick locks.

I watched quite a few videos on YouTube to prepare me for the challenge. The videos suggested a tension wrench and bobby pins; the tension wrench to twist the lock and the bobby pins to push the lock's innards around.

I have about a billion bobby pins from my ballet dancing days (I think they mate and multiply when I'm not looking) so I had that part down. I figured, instead of buying a tool for this challenge, that I could fashion a "tension wrench" out of those bobby pins, too. Honestly, I'll never have a tension wrench on me when I need to pick a lock for real, but I can always find bobby pins in my purse or hair.

Tools of the Trade
After researching my game plan, I went at it, shaping bobby pins into various tools to pick my front door's lock. I set up camp at my door, dead bolted it, and started picking. It took me about fifteen minutes of picking before I had to go back to the instructional videos to help me out. Something wasn't right.

I got another idea for how to bend the bobby pins for maximum leverage and went back the the door. After bending over for a while my back started hurting, and after standing on my knees, they started getting sore. Lock-picking is a full-body activity that I have not trained for! (That or my body is aging faster than it should...hoping for the former.)

I stuck around a little longer, feeling, shaking, pushing, picking, sliding, turning, wrenching, and wiggling with the pins...with no success...at all...not even a little.

After going back again to the instructional videos, I think I may have found out what's wrong--my door may be a "security lock." Why there is any other type of lock (an un-secure lock??), I'll never know, but it's the most likely contributor to my inability to follow the videos. I swear I was doing everything they were to the T, only my efforts were lost.

Challenge failed.

I had to stop after my body and fingers started to ache.

Well Shakespeare, I hope your phrase follows through for me. Rest safe America, I'll have to do the knocking to open doors...for now.

Day 69: Adding to Borders' Inventory

After deciding with utmost certainty that I had no interest whatsoever in finishing The Purple Emperor from my "read a fantasy book" challenge, I thought of a creative way to eliminate it from my life. I left ye old Emperor in the Fantasy section of Borders, next to Frost Bitten, The Reluctant Mage, The Evolutionary Void and Total Eclipse. I think he'll make some friends in this section, even if he is a little awkward.

As you may be able to see, there is a little purple tab sticking out of my book. I left this note for the future owner to find:

Okay, so, major typo...there's no "@" in the web address, but hopefully this person is smart and will figure this out.

Before leaving, I had a strange change of heart. While I was definitely benefiting the customer in that he would get a free book, I was simultaneously ripping off Borders. The person that picked up my book may forgo buying another book. My conscience was distraught thinking of how I was damaging the publishing industry and all, so I decided to buy something to make up for it.

I heeded the advice of Ashley and Katie and bought the Avett Brothers CD, which is most certainly overpriced anyway, so Borders is making profit in spades.

I can't wait to see if someone actually finds it!!

Day 68: Watch Out Carnival! I Make the Cutest Towel Animals

This was just a blissfully simple challenge, where I learned to make towel animals like they do on the cruise ships. They're easy to make and there are lots of videos on YouTube to show you how to make them. I encourage everyone to do this once...I had way too much fun doing it and want to spread the joy. :)

Emilio the Erudite Elephant

Pupmaster Flex

Sally the Silly Snail
Swan Heart

Day 67: Hair Coloring

I was scared of Day 67 for a while and even thought about canceling my appointment a week ago. I've never gotten my hair colored before, and today's New Thing was to finally devirginize my hair. I have always been curious about what I might look like with a different colored coif and wanted that "whole new woman" feeling that ladies swear by...but I can't help but freak out about such a change.

The morning before my appointment, I was reviewing things with Mark.

Me: Should I not do this? I mean, think of all the maintenance involved. You're going to have a high-maintenance girl now!
Mark: I think this will be really good for you. I think you're going to like it a lot.
Me: But what if I hate it?
Mark: You can get it re-colored or grow it out. Hair grows, you know.
Me: I AM SO SCARED.
Mark: Chill out, it's just hair

After freaking myself out enough over the situation, I drove down Piedmont to G Salon and Spa, the place where I got Reflexology in October. I walked in, approaching my hair's potential demise. Hair can fall out if you color it too much, right? And if I have to get it recolored after this, today will be the last day I have a pretty head of hair.

Sigh.

I had an appointment for partial foils, which to my knowledge meant that I would get the top of my hair colored, leaving the base color, my natural brown, intact.

I got to talking with my hairdresser and told her I wanted a dark color that picks up auburn and honey tones in the sun. She got a little too giddy with excitement and scampered off to bring back hair color samples. What she showed me, I liked, a dark brown and a honey color, which thereby sealed my fate.

The hairdresser got started on the foils and away we were. We chatted about the holiday season, boyfriends, girlfriends and social lives, and how I looked like I was picking up radio signals with all the foils.

All was going pretty well until, out of nowhere, I received a wet slap in the eye...a piece of hair went rogue, protesting violently that it be colored, and punishing me with poisonous goop IN MY EYE.

I groped around for her arm or anything to hold on to to get myself to a sink. We flushed the eye out with water, and my hairdresser insisted, "Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, oh my gosh!!" Then, she swore, "This is the best kind of coloring you can possibly get in your eye, it's made of 85% fruits and vegetables!!"

And 15% ammonia that is currently burning a hole IN MY EYE, thank you. NOT COMFORTING.

After this fiasco, she said, "We're done with the foils now and onto the hair, so that won't happen again."


Wait, what?? Done with the foils? I requested partial foils...

Whatever. I think the hair coloring had seeped its way through my eye into my brain, clouding my judgment. I should have stopped her, but I didn't say anything--afraid I might pounce on her like a cheetah on an antelope.

We finished with the color and let me sit and process for a while. After processing and a wonderful massaging washing (hair washers should get paid way more money, that stuff feels awesome), she began to dry my hair saying "this looks a little dark...I hope it dries the right color"

F$*%. That is NOT a vote of confidence. That is NOT a way to inspire the customer that you did your best work. That is NOT what you say to a first-time freaker-outer like myself.

After three hours, this is what it came out as:

Before and After
It's not horrible, not bad even, but I don't look much different! The ends of my hair look darker and that's about it. I just paid her to torture my eyes and my hair, to achieve the same look I already had. Brilliant.

This is why I don't get my hair done.

Now I'm full of new questions. Do I get it re-done? Is darker better for me anyway (outsiders looking in)? Did my experience cloud my opinion?

Let me know what you think!

Day 66: Inspiration and A Shout Out

With Blogger comes an obsession-inducing feature called Stats. Stats allows me to see how many people look at various posts, what countries the visitors come from, and how people got to the site (i.e. Facbook and Twitter).

Some fun and interesting "how people got to this site" sources include a German games website (presumably from my Mahjong post, as it appeared around the same time as the Germans) as well as a link from a Russian interior decorating website (Remroom.ru) whose interest in New Things, I don't know.

On Day 66, I noticed that I had been getting some traffic from a Wordpress blog called Faith Mine Eyes. As is typical, I went to check it out. This particular young lady had started a blog and said that it was, in part, inspired by my 365 challenge. And I didn't (at first) know who it was! No one had told me that they were starting a blog as a result of mine and the person's identity wasn't immediately clear to me.

To say I was flattered would be the understatement of the year. I've recently been thinking about quitting this project for a variety of reasons. First, this project is expensive--New Things don't come cheap. Second, I'm not getting as much interest by readers as I had hoped. When I started looking to see if this project was unique, I came upon blogs of people who have attempted doing one new thing every day for a year before. They had so many supporters who offered up a lot of ideas, they had friends who wanted to participate and they were getting a lot of comments and affirmation. I haven't yet received much interest, and it makes me think I must not be a good writer or I'm not doing the right New Things, etc.

To see that someone was in the smallest way inspired by what I've done made me tear up. I don't think I've inspired anyone to do anything in my life, and if I have, I can say without a doubt that I've never inspired someone to blog.

Through reading her blog a little further, I came across a couple pictures and realized that it was a former UGA Redcoat Band auxiliary lady. Now that you know who you are, I'm sending out a heartfelt thanks for rejuvenating my passion!

Readers, I'd like to thank her by sending lots of visitors to her blog, where you can get to know her through her 30-day blogging challenge. Visit her here.

Day 65: Getting Way too Serious with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

You might remember this time last week, I told you that I had started reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and was only 36 pages in. Well, a week later, I finally finished it. That might represent the longest time it has taken anyone to read this book, but I'm not sure how to prove that. This is also the first science fiction book I have ever read, although I'm not sure it counts because it so blatantly makes fun of the genre.

The Guide, as it is called, is a a comedy science-fiction novel about Arthur, who is the only man rescued from Earth seconds before it is demolished, saved by a outer-space resident and author of the Guide. The novel shows how Arthur adjusts to his new surroundings and searches for the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

For the most part, the novel has a fairly simple plot filled with a ton of made-up alien babble, but does so with hilarity and finesse.

To keep this short, I'll just say that this book is supposed to be a silly foray into an impossible and delightful world with all the seriousness of mind-candy. At this point in my life, however, I actually took a lot of overly-serious comfort in its themes.

Towards the end of the novel, we learn that a computer, named Deep Thought, has been charged to determine the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. It takes the machine 7 million years of processing to figure it out, but when he does, the answer he delivers is 42. The joke? The Ultimate Question of what this answers is unknown.

While I'm here on Earth having (likely clinical-grade) anxiety over my future and how I want to live my life and feeling like I'm doing everything wrong and freaked out that if I don't start something now that I'll never do it, the whole "Meaning of Life" is 42.

It's nothing really. Our own struggle to put a name to our meaning is just as irrelevant as 42 is to Life and Everything.

In fact, now that I read it back a couple of times, it's starting to become funny.

Maybe that's the meaning of life after all.

See, way too serious.

Day 64: Three Easy Steps to Committing Postage Stamp Fraud

Totally a joke on the title there, so glad it lured you in!

Recently, I stamped an envelope for an unknown reason. Mark wrote an address on that envelope, not to mail anywhere, but as a scrap piece of paper on which to write an address to subsequently be put into the GPS.

No matter what, I wasn't giving up on getting my $0.42 back. Period. So today, I learned how to remove a stamp from an envelope.

Since this stamp had never been through the mail, it's not technically fraudulent. This is just a handy how-to guide for those stamp collectors out there...or cheapos. If you happen to use this money-saving trick for evil, I can't really be held responsible for your actions.

I'm cheap, however, and that unused stamp was MINE.


Step 1: Get an envelope with a stamp on it

Step 2: Put that envelope face-side down in warm water

Step 3: After 15 minutes, remove stamp
Thank me later.

Day 63: Circus Freak

"Oh, [s]he floats through the air
With the greatest of ease,
This daring young [wo]man
On the flying trapeze!"


 On Day 63, I attended a circus class at the Circus Arts Institute. As in the case of my helicopter flight, I found this deal on Living Social and it was just kooky enough and cheap enough to lure me in.

I had originally anticipated that my friend Marlena would come with me, as we had the "OMG Let's DO it!" conversation on Facebook, but for various reasons, she didn't get the deal. Looks like I had to go this one alone. That fact became especially sad when I arrived in the scary, graffitied downtown Atlanta neighborhood, by my onesies, and got even worse when I walked in and all 30 attendees were with a buddy. I was tired on Day 63 anyway, and if it hadn't have been rush hour, I seriously might have gone home.

However, I drove almost a freaking hour to get to this place through gobs of city traffic, so I put my big girl panties on and stepped up to the challenge.

After a brief warm-up that mostly consisted of wiggling and stretching out our wrists, we got to play on the equipment.

I had the opportunity to swing on the flying trapeze, climb the Spanish Web, tightrope walk, balance on a balance board and juggle. Because we spent only a 15 minutes or so on each apparatus, I ended up having a lot of fun and not getting bored with anything. After lots of smiling and trying new things together, everyone was loosened up and I ended up chatting with some of the other ladies--making me feel less like a loner.

Playing on circus equipment was definitely fun and not too difficult. I especially liked the trapeze because as a novice you can do a lot on it. The teacher gave us a series of 8ish movements to try, so when I got up there, I felt like I was actually good at it.

I surprised myself on the Spanish Web in that I could actually climb the thing like a rope. My upper body strength has significantly improved since elementary school.

This is what a Spanish Web looks like, but I didn't do all of this crazy stuff, I just climbed it 7 feet in the air
 The tight rope was pretty fun, but definitely hurt my feet a little. It wasn't too intimidating because it was only a foot off the floor. I guess they can't risk life and limb at the circus school.


I was surprisingly good at the balance board, despite the fact that I can't skateboard at all and have never jumped up on one of those things before. I guess regular yoga classes keep my balance pretty solid.

At the end of class, the instructors did a couple routines on the trapeze and on the silks that proved how inadequate we intro class kids were, but served as a teaser of the wonderful things we could learn if we joined the circus. While it was a dashingly fun experience for one day, the place is simply too far from my apartment for me to go there on any regular basis.


Overall, I had a really good time, was surprised by what my body could do and got out of my rut of going solo. While I could definitely improve my upper body strength by going more often, I kind of just missed going to yoga class.

At the end of the day, yoga is the workout I prefer (although boxing is a close second!)

Day 62: The 24-Hour Vegan

Today, inspired by my friend and dietician-in-the-making Sam, I took on the challenge of being a vegan for a day.

I've gone vegetarian accidentally more often than I can count, but I'm pretty sure I've never endured a day without cheese or chocolate on my own volition.

I had a one-month stint with full-time vegetarianism in college, but it didn't stick. My grandmother offered me her beef burgundy, my favorite dish EVER, and I summarily resigned my veg ways and went back to my carnivorous self. I say that all to say that I knew I could go vegan, but I also know that I am, at heart, a meat and dairy eater to the core and that food habits die hard.

The whole point of this, for me, was to wholeheartedly invest myself in a vegan lifestyle for a day. If I was going to do it, I figured I should put forth all of the effort, research and planning that a real vegan would. I had a couple rules for myself:
  1. Eat one vegan meal that I would normally eat
  2. Order a vegan meal at a chain restaurant 
  3. Cook with a meat substitute that isn't tofu (I've had tons of tofu in my life: I wanted to try something different)
  4. Drink a milk-substitute that isn't soy milk (I switched entirely to soy milk throughout college, so that wasn't anything new)
  5. Try a vegan ice cream
Overall, I'm proud of my one-day vegan accomplishments. Here was my meal plan:


Breakfast was pretty simple, just oatmeal with brown sugar, strawberries and almond milk. This meal fulfilled the requirements of number 4. Almond milk last is undeniably delicious, with a super-light, barely-there texture and taste that finishes sweet.

I went to Atlanta Bread Company to fulfill objective number 2 for lunch. I had Vegetarian Vegetable Soup (vegan too!) and the California Avocado Sandwich sans cheese & mayo. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but that may be my penchant for avocado.


For my afternoon snack, I had Planter's Nut-rition Antioxidant mix. Dried fruit and nuts, totally vegan, totally something I would normally eat, fulfilling objective number 1.


Now be honest, does this look vegan? For dinner I made baked tempeh enchiladas with rice and beans (and a salad too, not here in this picture)! 

I cooked this dish all by myself from a recipe, representing the first time I've cooked a meal with a meat substitute, which just so happened to not be tofu, fulfilling objective number 3. I was so skeptical about this dish because raw temeph looks like a totally unappetizing slice of brain, but I was so unbelievably pleased by the outcome. Tempeh, when cooked correctly, has the texture of pork. Mark loved it as much or more than I did (surprise!!) and said I could cook it for him any time. Not kidding. This dish was to die for.

 

For dessert I had organic and all-natural "ice cream" made from coconut milk--no soy, no dairy, no gluten. You could have fooled me entirely with this one. The Amaretto-Cherry frozen treat was packed with it's stated flavors and fully satisfying as a dessert. It had the same texture of ice cream and 200 calories per serving to boot.

I learned a ton from researching, planning for and eating vegan foods. The main lessons were that eating vegan doesn't mean that you eat low-fat, all-organic or all raw foods. This challenge also showed me that eating vegan incorporates a lot of things that I already love, but that just require an extra step of thought. For the big kicker, vegan eating proved itself to be extremely filling--I didn't feel deprived all day.

Eating vegan did, however, buck the trend that I've tried to observe recently about trying to eat non-processed and local foods. Many prepared vegan foods are highly processed, as you can see with most any meat substitute. I guess we all, vegan or otherwise, pick our food battles.

Overall, this New Thing was a big challenge, a ton of fun and revelatory of the vegan lifestyle. I actually thought at the end of the day that with all of the vegan options, I should have tried to do this for a week instead of a day. How's that for a change of heart?



    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I do have a secret that I need to confess. I had to go to Whole Foods to get many of the elements of my tempeh enchiladas. There, the staff was giving away samples of baked brie with fig sauce. I couldn't resist. I am only human.

    Day 61: Word Gamer

    I love word games. I grew up being the family champion of UpWords--a sort-of Scrabble that removes points per letter but allows you to stack tiles. I started getting good at UpWords when I was in my early teens and have been on a roll ever since.

    I also had a love affair with TextTwist during high school. I could sit for hours coming up with new permutations of letters to create words that I did and didn't know the meaning of. My obsession got so bad that I would make up words in my head and switch the letters around to make other words ad nauseum.

    Word games are my thing.

    Today, while bowling with my friends Tasha and Brian, Brian brought up that he was playing Words with Friends, the game for iPhone. It allows you to play Scrabble with your buddies online an sends you texts when it's your turn to play.

    I've seen people play WWF before but haven't ever really invested myself in it. I can be so obnoxious when I really become obsessed with something, namely games, that I try to restrict myself from those activities. It's kryptonite. Seriously. I have a criminal obsession with word games and conquering them.

    When Brian brought it up that I could play, I became quickly consumed with proving my worth, and on my first play scored 44 points. From then, WWF required my rabid, all-consuming attention for rest of our bowling games.

    My obsession rivals those of the kids who are avid players of World of Warcraft and Farmville who give up sleep to play, compromise relationships with real people, stop eating normal food and lose the ability to make logical decisions about life. Seriously.

    I tried to appear to my friends that I was cooler than being sucked into the game, but alas, I was as transparent as cellophane. Moral of the story, don't let me play your word game if you want to hang out with me.

    Sorry Tasha and Brian...I should have warned you beforehand.

    As if I didn't have enough reasons to get an iPhone.

    Day 60: Dancing in Unexpected Places

    Day 60 was a birthday celebration kind of day.

    The day started out simply enough with a birthday brunch at Rosebud for Mark's sister, Stephanie.

    Rosebud, located in the Highlands, is notorious on the Atlanta food scene for outstanding Southern brunches and fried chicken, among it's otherwise All-American fare. Paired with a warm-in-the-sunshine, cool-in-the-shade November day, it was an experience to be blogged about.

    After wading through a brunch menu packed with dishes that made me think "I can't miss this one!", that included the likes of crab cakes benedict, brioche french toast and sausage omelets, I settled on the ultimate celebration of Rosebud's forte--Gordo's Breakfast. Gordo's is a generous fried chicken breast on top of a biscuit, topped with a fried egg and covered in white gravy. I ordered it with a side of grits because buttery bad-for-you grits are the most wonderful treats in the world and I will never be swayed to believe otherwise.

    My girlish figure gone in a single meal--but blissfully.

    The chicken was most certainly worthy of a write-up. I can't describe how much better the breading was compared to other fried chicken breadings but to say that it was a little thicker breading than most, crispy and crunchy, salty to perfection and not at all oily. It stuck to the oh-so-tender chicken without breaking up. And the breading to chicken ratio was the stuff of gods.

    The grits knocked me backwards with homemade, chunky, buttery beauty and left me changed.

    Other than being underwhelmed by the biscuits, it was a perfect birthday celebration, and now I can say that I have brunched and eaten and fried chicken at Rosebud, and it lived up to the hype.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Our next birthday celebration was for Joe, one of Mark's old fraternity brothers. It was a celebration tripled up with a housewarming party for Joe and his new fiancee, Jamie, as well as the Auburn-UGA football game.

    The football game was awful, but the party guests were fun, so after the game that needs no description, we moved to Twisted Taco for food and margaritas.

    I wasn't in much of a drinking mood, feeling bad about all of my food transgressions earlier in the day, so when everyone was sufficiently looser, I was feeling a little more uptight. All that changed, however, when I got an invite out to the dance floor.

    Yes, that's right. I just said that I was invited to the dance floor in a Twisted Taco. Please tell me that I'm not the only person who didn't know that Twisted Taco turns into a suburban "night club" after 9:00 PM.

    This was the scene...seriously...



    Whether it was the pinnacle of lame or the raddest form of awesome, I'll never decide, but our whole group was out dancing and having a blast. The DJ was playing great music and people trickled on to the dance floor and stayed there. I started a train, fist-pumped, A-town stomped, cha-cha slid, cupid shuffled and generally danced my butt off with our big birthday party of friends at Twisted Taco.

    After a while, I took a breather at our table. Mark was slightly disappointed that I wasn't dancing with him and playfully threatened to get another lady out on the dance floor. I let him do it because the only women in this place were cougars and it was bound to be a good show.

    I watched in demented delight as Mark went cougar hunting around the TT and brought out ladies onto the floor. He told me later what his pickup line was, "Hey, do you have a husband? Would he hate to see you dancing with me?"

    I die.

    So that ended up being a new thing too, I watched Mark hit on cougars in front of me, but all in good fun.



    It doesn't matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home.

    Day 59: New Look

    Today, after much internal debate, I updated the look of my blog

    I wanted to give the blog a customized background to make it a little more universal but a little more personalized all at the same time. Please tell me whether you love it, hate it, liked it the way it was, want me to do something new, etc.

    I appreciate all of your feedback!

    Day 58: Trees and Excuses

    Day 58 was one of those days where I had a million ideas and didn't execute any of them.
    1. My lovely friend Sam Haring suggested that I go vegan for a day, an idea I love, but an idea which requires a lot of meal planning, specialty shopping and cooking that Day 58 wasn't cut out for.
    2. I recently picked up "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a mere 183 page sci-fi novel, thinking I could knock it out in a couple of days and write about it, but I haven't found any time to get past page 36. 
    3. I've also been looking at redesigning the blog to give it a more customized feel, but with all of the wonderful backgrounds, color schemes and fonts floating through my brain, I experienced analysis paralysis (theme of my life) and didn't pull the trigger on any of them.
    4. I've also wanted to get a flu shot to go on a really wild rant about vaccinations, American medicine, health and the human condition. Flu shots, however, aren't cheap and on Day 58 I lacked the energy to rant (I know you're shocked!).
    5. I've also wanted to do my Mentos and Coke part III where I make the bomb. The recent daylight savings switch has negatively affected my ability to do that though, because now, when I get home from work, it's too dark to take video of the experience.

    I say all of these excuses to demonstrate that I have, in fact, been dreaming up New Things.

    Now for the kicker.

    Today, after failing to accomplish any one of those New Things above, I did a new variation of tree pose (Vrikshasana) in yoga class. I did half lotus tree pose, which looks like this:

    I was even too tired (read: maybe lazy) to take a picture.  Thank goodness my teacher Seth put a New Thing in class, or otherwise my post might have been, "Assigned names to body parts."

    Exciting New Things to come later...I promise!

    Day 57: Mom's Chili

    Today, I called my mom in a panic.

    Me: "It's my night to make dinner and I don't know what to do."
    Mom: "What do you have in your pantry?"
    Me: "Absolutely nothing."
    Mom: "Have you had spaghetti recently?"
    Me: "Just cleaned some out of the fridge."
    Mom: "What about chili?"
    Me: "PERFECT, tell me how to make it"

    Now, I feel like my mom's chili has been misunderstood in the past, so I'm here to clear up some rumors and break some sterotypes.
    1. Her chili is not meant for topping hot dogs, but to be eaten in a bowl with a light topping of cheese and crackers. 
    2. It's not a great contender for chili cook-offs because it isn't super spicy, despite the fact that it's full of flavor. 
    3. It's not a single consistency of like chili meat sauce, but has a variety of textures between the meat, beans, onions and green peppers. 
    I love this chili and am pretty sure it's the best chili in the world, and I'm not just saying this because it's my mom's. I like it for all of it's differences from meat mush chili (which I have tried in abundance, for the record) and think that people would be more accepting of it if they thought of it like chili soup.

    So, today, as I'm sure you can see where this is headed, Mom taught me how to make her chili and I cooked it for dinner.

    In short, it was awesome. Not only did I make it to taste just like I remember it, Mark loved it too. Sweet validation.

    Now, I'm posing a challenge to you guys. You should try this chili recipe out, too. I think it will change your opinion on the matter.

    Mom's Chili (Soup)
    • One pound of hamburger meat
    • One onion, diced
    • One green pepper, diced
    • Two cans of diced tomatoes (I used a brand that had jalapenos in with the tomatoes, which was a nice addition!)
    • One can of tomato paste
    • One can of kidney beans, drained
    • One can of beer (I used Tap Room No. 21 Amber Ale, but anything will do)
    • Two cups of water
    • Chili powder
    • Chili seasoning packet
    • Salt & Pepper to taste
    Brown the meat and onions in the bottom of a sauce pot. Add diced peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, beer, two cups of water and all seasonings. Let cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. Serve hot with shredded cheddar and Saltine crackers.

    Let me know how it goes!

    Day 56: "Watch Out Mark, She's Got a Good Left Hook"

    Paul Delgado, king of kicking
    my ass
    Mark has been working out a couple times a week at Delgado Boxing for the last six months or so and has been seeing really great results. Today, I learned why.

    When I say 'boxing studio' I don't just mean a room in a gym where they set up a couple of punching bags and give you some gloves. Delgado Boxing is run by Paul Delgado, a top-notch, 20 years in the making, certified U.S. Amateur Boxing coach. He himself gets in the ring on a regular basis and coaches international talent. Seriously. This is not your typical gym-class boxing.

    I was nervous all day for this challenge. Mark and I had originally planned to go on Saturday, but Mark was sick and in no shape to hit the gym. I had been hyping this workout up for days now, so my nerves were getting the best of me. I went into this pretty sure I was sealing my imminent death.

    May I remind you that I do yoga? Yoga classes and amateur boxing workouts share very few similarities.

    When I arrived, I instantly noticed the smell of sweat and rubber, and saw nothing but very strong, tough-looking guys all around me, reminding me that I was in a war zone of fitness.

    We started warming up with jumping ropes, lunges, weight training, etc. and I was pretty sure after 15 minutes that I was going to keel over and die from a lack of oxygen and quickly failing muscles. Paul let us have our first water break, and I was hoping we would calm down a little, but au contraire, this workout started strong and never let up.

    Suck on that, flab.

    After some high-impact cardio, we started with boxing technique where Paul took his time to explain to me how to move my hands and legs to get maximum impact on the bags. He was so patient throughout this whole class, spending enough time with me that I got the principles down, but not smothering me with instruction. My bag partner was also really patient, reinforcing all of the things Paul taught me and giving me the "You got it!" type encouragement when it was warranted.

    I learned all about punches and there numbers ("give them the old 1-2 punch" actually means something!) and how to move my body to unleash my inner fighter. I was surprised by how much I got into it for my first class. I think it's because boxing reminds me a lot of dancing. The whole, "Move your arm here while twisting your torso that way," "Turn your shoulders this way when moving there." It's a language that without a doubt I could master on a workout level, and it inspires me to kick a little ass.

    I mean, I definitely I had to slow my pace significantly at certain points throughout this workout and messed up the 1-2-6-7-3 punch almost every time I did it. What made it worth it however, was Paul telling me he was impressed with my left hook and my endurance, warning Mark of what terrors may befall him if he were to refuse me chocolate for a long enough period of time.

    Lastly, I give huge props to the students in the class we all incredible athletes and people. They were all there to work hard (allowing the teacher to really push the limits) and had great attitudes throughout the class. A couple people even approached me about how I liked my first class, paying me compliments and encouraging me to keep coming back. I really can't as for much more than great students and an unbeatable workout.

    Day 55: The Goddess of Gas Mileage **UPDATE**

    I hate buying gas. I think it's the biggest scam to be pulled off by anyone ever. You pay thousands of dollars for a car that decreases in value ever single day, and you're forced to buy an expensive, diminishing natural resource and subsequently burn your money to fuel that car. It's BS, and you know it.

    Due to my extreme hatred buying gas, I try to do is as little as possible and I hold out as long as I can. I keep thinking that maybe I'll randomly move to a city with public transportation and will turn my car in before having to buy another wretched tank of gas.

    Also, I have this unbreakable cheapness that forces me to use things until they die. I buy pairs of shoes and wear them until they cannot be worn anymore. I won't get rid of a tube of toothpaste until I am certain there is not the tiniest iota of cleaning power left in the tube. I drove my last car until an axle literally disintegrated (but timed it so that I wasn't in it and it was conveniently at the dealership!). I don't buy gas until I am running on fumes.

    On Day 55, I really outdid myself and pulled into the gas station with zero miles range left in my tank. While some people in my life (namely my parents) will be concerned about this behavior, I  am so unbelievably proud of this accomplishment. I let out a loud, "HA!" when I pulled up next to the pump. I stuck it to that gas. I maximized my dollar, used the resource to it's utmost and know for a fact that my timing as perfect. There is no way you can argue with that.

    Personality disorder? Maybe. Idosyncratic, definitely.

    Got a comment that made my world, including this scene from Seinfeld. I'm dying laughing. 



    Day 54: Buddhist Mishaps and Meditation

    My dear readers, on Day 54, I found myself at the Deprung Loesling Monastery for an intro to meditation class--a meditation 101, if you will.

    I wanted to go to this not entirely for the project, but because I've gotten a lot of mixed messages about meditation through studying yoga with various teachers and through talking about meditation with my grandfather, who has a Christian with a dash of Buddhist stance on spirituality.

    I thought that going to a Buddhist organization might help shed some light on the subject. I planned my trip for the first Sunday of the month, when the Monastery gives a free intro to meditation class. I read that the intro class started at 11:00 AM, but upon checking the website's calendar in the morning, I saw that meditation started at 10:00 AM. Day 54 was also daylight savings time, so I was triply messed up on where I was supposed to be and when.

    When I arrived at the monastery, I found my way up to the meditation room, which was simply stunning, with a carved woodwork shrine holding three golden buddhas, rich tapestries on the walls, pictures of the Dalai Lama, a section for sitting on the ground with perfectly shaped booty-pillows. There was the faint, spicy smell of incense in the air and a natural warmth that follows.

    There weren't many people there at 10:00 AM, but I got myself Meditation and Recitation guide and sat myself in the back, waiting for what may come.

    The Tibetan monk came in with all of his gold and red garb, and everyone stood up and bowed at the waist waiting for him to take his seat at the Buddhist version of a pulpit. We sat down, and to my utmost horror, I couldn't understand a single word he said from beginning to end! I was stuck in a class for an hour without any context of what was going on. Everyone had their eyes closed, and I followed suit but could barely understand a word a minute out of him.

    After fifteen minutes or so sans comprehension, I thought I might open my eyes to do some old-fashioned lip reading. It was then that I noticed the monk fluttering his eyes a little and swaying. I was pretty sure that he was looking at me, the only person in the room NOT doing what she should be. Total embarrassment...surely this was not the intro class.

    We went through a variety of recited prayers in English, which reminded me remarkably of the Christian church. It was, in essence, a Karma-cleansing, so there was a lot of confessing that you were not Buddha-like and asking for a remedy, and dedicating yourself to a new day, etc. Sound familiar?

    Then we launched into an other mantra, of which all the words were not even close to English. Even when written in English characters, I couldn't pronounce the words and I am an educated woman. I derived no meaning whatsoever out of them and felt so far out of my element. The only line I understood went  HA HA HA HA HO!

    Check, now I know where we are once every three minutes. Whew.

    The monk repeated this mantra a couple of times, first slow, then really fast, then infinitely fast, meditating on it for a good fifteen minutes.

    I was defeated at the end of this guided meditation. First attempt--total bust.

    Then I walked outside to see a whole group of uncomfortable looking people taking off their shoes and realized that I had, in fact, taken the wrong class.

    Perhaps there was a chance for meditation redemption.

    I stayed at the Tibetan monastery another hour for the real intro to meditation class which was so much more up my alley.  The same monk led this intro class, but admitted that he wasn't a great English speaker. To my pleasant surprise, this time around, I could understand him completely. He went through some of the tenets of Buddhism, with clarity and humor, as well as why we meditate and how to do it. With about 20 minutes left in class, he let us take the reins and do our first Shamatha meditation where you just try to clear your mind, focus your eyes lightly on a point (NOW I understand why the monk's eyes were fluttering!) and relax into nothingness.

    I was able to do it for about five minutes before I caught myself thinking "OOH! I'm doing it!", "Oh man, what's for lunch, I've been here two hours and I am HONGRY," and other thoughts that the monk referred to as 'monkey mind'.

    After getting to the meditation class I was supposed to be in, it was a wonderful experience, and I am so happy I went. I even took the opportunity to put my new meditation skills to work in my yoga class later in the day.

    Ever want to meditate? Call me up!

    Day 53: Mentos and Coke Part II

    Day 53 represented Part II of my Mentos and Coke experiments. (Part I can be found here!) On Thursday, I put a whole roll of Mentos into a bottle of Diet Big K, which produced a fantastical $1.00 cheap thrill fountain. Today, I went for the Mentos and Coke Belly Bomb, where I ingested the reactants at the same time, which you may have seen a similar version of in this YouTube film:


    I, however, have more dignity (despite what I may have demonstrated in previous posts) than to film myself doing this, so I did it sans camera.

    Overall, it was rather uneventful. I used two Mentos and a gulp of Coke, and while it got pretty frothy, and I had to let a little out, it was nothing that I couldn't handle. It looked more like this, but not exactly:


    Day 52: Dead in Decatur / Really Fancy 'Fancy Sauce'

    After failing to get sold-out tickets to the Decatur Wine Festival on Friday (how do you sell out of tickets to a festival??) Mark and I decided that we would at least go to the ArtWalk the night before the big event. It was was free anyway and there were promises of free wine at the various art boutiques, so it ended up looking like a win-win situation. The hours were set from 5 PM to 10PM, so we decided that we would go after dinner around 8.

    Upon arriving in Decatur, however, it was a ghost town. The only people we saw were hanging outside of restaurants smoking, making me think that Decatur must die after 8:30 PM. We didn't go out to Decatur to turn around and come home, so we wandered in a still-open jewelery store with an ArtWalk sign on the door to peek around.

    A twenty-something, hippie-ish sales associate approached us and showed off some of the jewelery. I pegged a really great bracelet that I was quickly falling in love with, and she, of course, told me that no one has ever worn this piece better than me (right, whatever, I'll giggle and take the compliment), and such.

    After looking around at other pieces for a while, I decided for sure I wanted to buy the bracelet. To my joyous surprise, Mark whipped out the credit card to get it for me (*I'm gushing* :)

    While paying, the sales girl started up a conversation that made us realized she must be high.

    Girl: "Hey so have you guys ever been here before?"

    Me: "No, but we've been around this area."

    Girl: "Oh, cool. So have you ever bought anything with us before?"

    Me: "No, this is the first time we've been in this store, although I went to Iberian Pig across the plaza area for my birthday"

    Girl: "Oh, wow, so you had a birthday this year??"

    What I wish I could have said "No shit, Sherlock, and there's an 83% chance you've had one this year too!"

    Me: "Yes, in September."

    Girl: "Oh, that's great!"

    That is your daily how-to ask a question about the answer your conversation partner just gave.

    ...and then I was done talking and staring really intently at my new prize:

     That you can wear like this:
    Or like this:

    Both of which I love!

    After this shenanigan, all the art stores were officially closed, so we went over to the Iberian Pig to have their Jamon Iberico which is TO DIE FOR. It's a cured ham/prosciutto made from Spanish black pigs who are fed acorns for their whole lives, and which produces a deliciously oily, barely salty, firm, nutty and overall mind-blowingly unique treat.

    Iberian Pig serves the ham with an espresso aioli, which, despite the fact that we had the same plate back in September, we noticed halfway through our snack on day 52. This time, we used it for dipping the ham and bread, which served as a really nice complement.

    Mark, being ever-so-curious about food these days, asked one of the kitchen staff what was in it, to which he replied, "Mayo and shots of espresso. People love it so much that I think we should bottle it!"

    We let him be excited and said something like "yeah, we would totally buy that!" *fingers crossed behind the back*. Then, next thing we know, he comes back to our table with a pint-sized container of the fancy sauce. Now Mark and I have a container of truly fancy 'fancy sauce,' espresso aioli.

    I can safely say that has never happened before. That also represents my third Step Brothers reference in a week. What have I become??