Fifty-Two Adventures

Fifty Two Weeks of Adventure #52: And So We Come to the End

This is it. This is the final post in my 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge.

I started this year out with adventures in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. I spent the middle of the year exploring Korea, Japan, and Taiwan and getting my first tattoo(s). I ended the year exactly where I needed to be – in Louisiana having Christmas with my family for the first time in four years.

Not only did I get to spend Christmas with my parents, my grandparents, my two sisters, my brother, and my husband, but I also got to build this super cool gingerbread house with my super cool nephew.

We got back to Columbia yesterday after spending a full week in Louisiana with my family. It was a luxury to have so much time to spend with them after being there for only two days this summer.  The longer stay also made the 12 hour drive each way feel more worthwhile.

This year has been so full of change. Our adventures have taken us through seven different countries where we’ve made new friends, said good-bye to some, and been reunited with others. Some weeks, my adventure was easy to spot, but other weeks I had to change my perspective and either intentionally seek a new experience, or choose to see the extraordinary in my ordinary days.

I want to give a special mention to my friend Pradnya, who completed 52 adventures of her own and blogged about them here. Knowing that Pradnya was keeping up with her own adventures encouraged me to stick with it.

This challenge pushed me to look at all of life as an adventure and to keep exploring the world around me, whether I’m on an international excursion or in my own hometown. The perspective I gained from living intentional adventures is one I hope to carry with me into 2016 and beyond.

So here’s to my year of adventures,  and to all of you who came along with me, both living your own adventures and sharing in mine. This is only the beginning. 52 adventures and counting!

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Fifty-two weeks of Adventure #51: Family Pictures and Purple Hair

Last week my in-laws came to visit us in South Carolina. Jonathan’s sister was home from college for Christmas break and his brother had come back from South Africa where he lives. Since Jonathan and I had been in Korea for the past two years, this was the first time the whole family had been together since August 2013.

I really love Jonathan’s family – they are lots of fun and we all get along really well together. Of course, having people stay at your house is always a little stressful, especially when your house is pretty small like ours is, but the Dunn clan is pretty easy-going and that made their visit lots of fun, even though it was a little crowded.

Since this was the last time we would all see each other before Christmas, we exchanged Christmas presents early. Naturally, we prepared for the festivities by putting on this “Yule Log” video of Nick Offerman sipping whiskey at a glacial pace in front of a fireplace. (Literally all he does is sit there and sip whiskey without speaking for an hour).

 

Jonathan decided to give me one of my Christmas presents early.

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Yes, that is a 2-step step ladder. Because I am vertically challenged and can’t reach things on the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets. (Jonathan says I am his “shorty”). This rivals the Tide Pen of ’08 for most romantic gift he’s ever given me.

The one big event we did with Jonathan’s family was taking family pictures. After much deliberation about the coordination of outfits, we ended up in the most perfectly color-coordinated group ensemble I’ve ever seen. My super talented, amazing, hilarious, soul sister Lorien took these pictures for us. I LOVE them.

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The one negative part of having Jonathan’s family around for several days was that my darling idiot cat, Bart, was incredibly stressed out by it. He does not like strangers and has an impressive commitment to hiding from them. One night, after staying under the bed for probably a good 10 hours, he wandered out and stood at my ankles crying and crying so I picked him up. He doesn’t normally like to be picked up, but apparently he was so stressed out and in need of comfort that he immediately buried his head in my arm and stayed that way. Like, “Oh, Mommy, please save me from this horror!”

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After my in-laws left and the family pictures were safely out of the way, I decided to take my next two weeks of vacation as an opportunity to try something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Lavender hair.

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It’s just a wash out so it’s already mostly faded, but I might do a bit more over the holidays, just for fun. It makes me feel like an exotic mermaid. Or at least a My Little Pony.

Don’t forget that my 10,000 Subscriber Book Giveaway is STILL OPEN, but it does close tonight at midnight. Rules for entering are HERE.

And as always…

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. If you missed last week’s adventure about our grand Christmas Feast, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #50: Christmas Feast

In spite of the 70 degree weather we’ve experienced here in Columbia this week, Christmas is only two weeks away. Since this is the first Christmas we’ve spent in the US in 3 years, we’ve been trying to make the most of Christmas festivities.

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The Dunn House is ready for Christmas.

We've got our stockings up and everything!

We’ve got our stockings up and everything!

On Saturday night we drove to our friends Asharae and Tim’s home outside of Charlotte. Asharae was one of my college roommates and she and her husband are fantastically talented wedding photographers and videographers and all around terrifically creative and incredibly sweet people. We take it as a clear act of grace that we now live a mere 2 hr drive from them.

Asharae and Tim hosted a Christmas party for their friends which included Brandon and Christy, who live in Charlotte and have visited a few times this fall , and also a whole slew of new acquaintances.

This party was so festive. There were Christmas decorations and holiday beverages and party foods and Christmas movies and cookies to decorate. Brandon wore a pair of excellent green velour shorts with jingle bells on them that I think we sadly failed to get proper photo documentation of.

Check out that gorgeous centerpiece!

Check out that gorgeous centerpiece!

Concentrating on the decorations.

Concentrating on the decorations.

Queen Frostine. Get it?

Queen Frostine. Get it?

Moments like these are the ones that make me so glad to be back in the US sharing these moments with people who are dear to us. I miss the excitement and glamor of life abroad, but there is something sacred and special about sharing these moments with the people we love. 12360250_10100345764262652_9103981593181293596_n

Tomorrow Jonathan’s family is coming to stay with us for a few days and next week we will head down to Louisiana to spend Christmas with my family. It’s hard to believe that there are only two adventures left in this year that has been so very full.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my grown up birthday celebration at the zoo, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #49: A Real Adult Birthday

This past Friday was my 28th birthday. Naturally, I wanted what any mature nearly 30-year-old would want for her birthday. To go to the zoo and have a sleepover with my best friend.

I woke up before Jonathan did to tutor on Friday morning, but he had decorated the kitchen the night before so I’d be greeted by birthday magicalness when I woke up. It was a good way to start the day.

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I received some lovely and thoughtful gifts from my parents, in-laws, and the hubby. My favorite gifts was probably the Marc Jacobs lipstick and roller ball of Viktor and Rolfe Flowerbomb perfume that Jonathan gave me. These are both such luxurious, splurge items that I kind of just want to use them and not look at them. I put them on on Friday and went around feeling fancy and sophisticated.

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And then I noticed that I had dried toothpaste in my hair from spitting during my morning toothbrushing. You win some, you lose some.

On Saturday my best friend from college, Christina, and her new husband, Andy, came to visit from Raleigh. This was the first time I’ve seen them since their wedding in September and the first time I’ve really hung out with them together because they met and got engaged while we were in Korea and got married a few weeks after we got back.

Christina is maybe even more obsessed with zoos than I am so she was as excited as I was to visit a new one. I have to say, the Riverbanks Zoo here in Columbia is a pretty good one. I mean, they have your standard animals, but they also have a lot of strange species I’d never seen before.

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Columbia has a a lot of locally owned restaurants we want to try, but we typically eat at home so we haven’t had a chance to try as many of them as we would like. For my birthday dinner we went to Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Food, which sounds like a cheap plate lunch restaurant but is in fact a nice place with some of the yummiest food I’ve had in a long time. I had some sort of catfish topped with crawfish in a cream sauce with vegetables and I don’t even know what else. It was seriously delicious but for some reason I failed to take any pictures. Actually, the only pictures we took together were in the Lorikeet cage at the zoo.

From Mr. Friendly’s we went to Kaminsky’s which is a dessert cafe that serves the most massive and amazing desserts you’ve ever seen. I had the giantest piece of coconut cream cake that was basically the size of 3 -4 normal pieces of cake. It was amazing.

After dessert we waddled home and played one of my favorite board games, Nuns on the Run. If you are a big board game person, you should check out this game. It’s very fun and also has a hilarious premise.

One of the unique things about living in Korea is that they count age differently than the rest of the world. When a baby is born it is automatically 1 year old, so everyone is already considered 1 year older than they actually are. On top of that, people don’t get older on their birthdays. Instead, everyone gets older together on January 1st. This means that everyone born in the same year is always the same age. Between these two things, I spent most of the last year telling people I was 29 because that was my Korean age, so when I turned 28 this week I actually felt like I was getting younger.

Thanks to everyone who sent sweet birthday wishes my way and made me feel so loved.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about Thanksgiving and teaching Grandma about TMI, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #48: Thanksgiving with the In-Laws and Teaching Grandma about TMI

Like everyone else in America, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past Thursday. We drove to my in-laws house in Ohio, about a 9-hour drive from where we live. It was our first time back to Ohio in over a year, and we always enjoy visiting Jonathan’s parents who are very relaxed and low-key. It’s usually a restful time which was something I desperately needed after two weeks of non-stop work.

Even though there were only six of us there for Thanksgiving (Jonathan’s parents, us, his sister, and his grandma), our Thanksgiving meal on Thursday was complete with all the traditional foods thanks to my mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook . I contributed a Tollhouse Pie – something I’d never made before, but will absolutely be making again in the future.

Jonathan’s grandma lives nearby in an assisted living community and I always look forward to seeing her because she has so many amusing stories about her life there with the other residents. She’s also a bit infamous for sharing a little TMI and often gets chastised for over-sharing by other members of the family. This Thanksgiving, her significant overshare was referencing the place where Patrick (Jonathan’s brother) had been conceived. It immediately sent me, Brenda (my mother-in-law), and Kacy (my sister-in-law) into variations of, “Ewww. Too far! We did not need to know that!”

“What? Is it just never OK to mention S-E-X now?” Grandma asked, literally spelling out the word.

“It’s just…not when it’s my parents!” said Kacy.

“Grandma, it’s like this,” I explained. “It’s fine if you’re talking about a book or a movie or people we don’t know personally. It’s not cool if it’s someone in your immediate family.”

Apparently this explanation stuck with her because when Brenda dropped her off back at her home Grandma reportedly said, “I’m so glad I was able to talk with Lily. Now I understand when it is and is not appropriate to talk about sex.”

You’re welcome, Dunn family. Also, for the record, I think Grandma is so great. If you can’t speak your mind when you’re 84, then when can you?

After eating ourselves into comas and taking the obligatory Thanksgiving afternoon naps, we all (except Grandma) went out to see the final installment of the Hunger Games movies.  To the best of my memory it ran fairly closely to the book (though it’s been a while since I’ve read it). The ending is pretty bittersweet – not entirely happy, but hopeful.

On Wednesday Brenda, Kacy, and I braved the crowds for some Black Friday shopping. We didn’t get up at the crack of dawn like crazy people, but we did go out late morning and found some good deals at stores that were 50% or more. Black Friday shopping can be hard for me in terms of what I should get for myself because my birthday is the first week of December and Christmas comes right afterwards. If Jonathan is going to buy me presents, I’d rather we get them at a discounted price since the money all comes from one account, but at the same time, I don’t want to just buy all of my own presents since the point of presents isn’t just having more things, it’s the thought that goes into them.

On Saturday we had a biscotti and fudge-making extravaganza. Brenda had thought of making biscotti and fudge to give as gifts to coworkers and friends and I thought this was a great idea. Together we managed to make 3 different kinds of fudge along with 3 different kinds of biscotti. I would never have thought of biscotti, but it was really fun to make and makes a great gift because it stays good for quite a long time.

We drove back home on Sunday which took nearly 12 hours because of bad traffic and multiple accidents. While the driving time was not ideal, the time with family was great. I’m blessed with in-laws whom I genuinely enjoy spending time with and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks to celebrate Christmas.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my visit to the Sesquicentennial State Park, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #47: Irish Car Bombs, K-Pop, and the Sesquicentennial State Park

This week we got to celebrate our friends Sam and Laura who are both in Jonathan’s program and both happened to have birthdays this past week. We had all of the first year students in Jonathan’s discipline over for dinner, which sounds magnanimous of us, but there are only four of them, and also Sam cooked dinner even though it was his birthday. I did make fancy Irish Car Bomb cupcakes in celebration which were delicious if I do say so myself although they led to me gaining 3 lbs in the week before Thanksgiving – not ideal timing.

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Then we made our friends watch K-Pop videos like this one for hours. (Side note: I miss Korea so much).

Fall is in full swing here in South Carolina and I have been pleasantly surprised by how much the leaves have changed colors. Where I grew up in Louisiana (which is even further south for you non-Americans) the leaves don’t really change colors. This is partially due to the large amount of evergreens that grow there and partly because the weather stays relatively warm all year round with just a few cold spells instead of properly changing into a whole season of new temperatures. When we lived in North Carolina a few years ago, the falls were exquisite. The days were crystal clear and crisp and the leaves were brilliant. I wasn’t sure what to expect from South Carolina which feels more similar to my hometown than to Raleigh, so I’m excited to report that South Carolina does indeed get a bit of fall -at least my part of it does.

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We’ve been meaning to check out some of the parks in our new homeland for a while now. In Korea we enjoyed hiking and taking walks on the weekend which we were able to do even though we lived in a big city. Here there is more nature all around, but as far as I know there aren’t trails or lakes within the city that you can run on or around the way there were in Raleigh and even Daegu. This means going out to enjoy nature requires an intentional trip.

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After church on Sunday we drove for about 25 minutes to the Sesquicentennial State Park. There aren’t any mountains or even significant hills there so we took a walk more than a hike, but it was still lovely to get out on a such a beautiful day.

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I was very proud of how tall I looked next to this tiny tree…if only you couldn’t see those slightly bigger trees in the background…

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Jonathan was grumpy. I don’t remember why, but I’m sure it was my fault. I’m super annoying sometimes.

The one downside to the Sesquicentennial State Park is that we had to pay $2 per person as an entrance fee. I know that’s not a lot of money, but I still think it’s lame since that’s something we theoretically pay taxes for anyway. Also it sort of rules out the possibility of using it as a regular running spot.

There are lots and lots of pine trees in South Carolina (and in this park in particular) which don’t do anything in the fall except make a great mess of pine needles, but there still enough red and orange and yellow trees sprinkled in to make it scenic. We’ll have to check it out in other seasons and report back.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my trip to Sparkletown and celebrating Friendsgiving, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #46: Sparkletown and Friendsgiving

One of the coolest things about ending up in Columbia, SC is how close it is to so many of our friends who for a variety of random reasons live in the Carolinas. Three of my five college roommates live North or South Carolina, my best friend from high school lives in Wilmington, NC , Jonathan’s best friend growing up lives in Charlotte, NC, and my best lifelong friend lives in Spartanburg, SC, about 1 1/2 hours from us. It’s crazy.

This past weekend I went to visit my friend Leigh in Spartanburg, otherwise known as Sparkletown. Leigh works at her alma mater, Wofford College, which is probably the nicest part of Spartanburg. To be fair, Columbia isn’t all that much to look at either, so it’s not like I had a lot to compare it to, but Spartanburg is the quintessential small town in the South.

It was an exquisitely beautiful fall day, something we appreciate more than ever after it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and we chose to take advantage of the great outdoors with a stroll through Glendale Mills, an abandoned mill site that now houses projects for  the Wofford environmental sciences  program. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place and I really enjoyed doing something a little out of the ordinary.

In the afternoon we went to RJ Rockers Brewery, a cool microbrewery where I had beer that tasted like s’mores. Delicious.

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The next day I headed back to Columbia just in time for Friendsgiving, a Thanksgiving dinner for the people in Jonathan’s program (and me! And a couple other significant others). We had turkey and stuffing and all of the best side dishes plus sweet breads and pies. It was a lot of fun. Plus yummy. It reminded me of the last two Thanksgiving dinners we had while in Korea when we crowded close to 20 people into our friend MJ’s 300 sq ft apartment and feasted on amazingly close approximations of our favorite holiday foods. Even though we’ll get to have Thanksgiving with family this year, I’m glad we had a Friendsgiving too. It’s starting to feel like a tradition.

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If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure which includes a photo tour of our new place, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.