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!

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 #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 #44: Moving. Again.

In case you’re behind on the Dunn family drama, on Sunday we had to move out of our lovely condo after living there a grand total of 10 weeks because our landlords sold it out from under us. Boo. The good news is that we found a new place very nearby to the old one. It’s a duplex so it’s in a neighborhood rather than a big complex. There’s a little yard (although it’s mostly a dirt patch) and the house has wood floors and a (non-functional) fireplace and a loft with a spiral staircase.

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We were able to negotiate with our old landlords to have our moving costs covered since we were doing them the courtesy of allowing them to break our one-year-lease in the first place. This was the first time we had a moving company do the moving for us instead of doing everything ourselves. It pretty much rocked.

We still had to pack up all of our loose things into boxes and suitcases and we transferred our delicate things (wall hangings and small lamps) ourselves to make sure they weren’t damaged. My new friend Kelly came over on Friday to help me pack up the kitchen and Jonathan and I finished packing up the contents of our closets and our many, many books by Saturday night. The movers arrived at 8:45 on Sunday and have everything completely moved to the new place by 12:30. We spent the rest of the day cleaning the old place and driving unloading our cars which were crammed full of our breakable things.

I was still grumpy about moving.

I was still grumpy about moving.

The worst part of the move was that it was raining steadily all day long and the dirt patch front yard quickly became a mud patch which meant the floors of the house were quickly covered in mud as people tromped in and out. We are still trying to get the floor clean, but for now, I’ll just be leaving my slippers on all the time.

While the new place has a lot of charm, there are some downsides. It’s smaller than the old place and the kitchen has a lot less storage space, including no pantry, so we’re still trying to figure out how to fit all of the kitchen stuff plus food. The cabinets are also all very high which means I can just barely reach things on the second shelf and can’t reach the third shelf at all. It might be time to invest in a step-stool! There’s no dishwasher in this place, and while we didn’t have a dishwasher for the two years we were in Korea, it makes life a lot easier.

Other small annoyances include not being able to paint this place like we did the old one and the fact that the windows came with curtain rods already installed (good!) but they are the flimsy white plastic ones and they are installed right on the window frame. The first rule of hanging curtain rods is to hang them higher and wider than the windows themselves because this creates more visual space. Having the rods right on the windows like that makes the windows look small and cramped. Also, the white rod poking through the curtains with rings at the top. I know those are dumb complaints, I just put so much effort into making the last place feel beautiful that I’m feeling less cheerful about compromising. But it is a unique, cozy place and I know I’ll grow to love it.

Not quite to the cute and cozy stage yet.

Not quite to the cute and cozy stage yet.

Probably the funniest part of the whole move has been watching our cats react to the spiral staircase. Ruthie took one look at it and sprinted to the top, then jumped up on the ledge at the top. It’s about 6 inches wide and if she fell off of it she’d drop at least 6 feet before hitting one of the stairs below. It’s horrifying, but she’s a daredevil. If I tried to block it off somehow she’d just figure out a more dangerous way to get up there. She runs up and down those stairs like she’s training for the Olympics.

Bart, on the other hand, didn’t even notice the stairs for a full day. When he finally looked up, apparently for the first time in seven hours, he made this face, which is an exact cat version of the face Troy from Community when he meets LeVar Burton. (It’s even funnier in real life.)

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The few times Bart has attempted the stairs he makes loud, whiny noises each time he takes a step with long pauses in between each one. He usually gives up after 3 or 4.

I’ll give you guys the full photo tour once we have it all set up, but it might take a little while since we’re fitting unpacking in around Jonathan’s school and my work schedule. Today I am practicing gratitude by being thankful for a new place to live that really is quite cute in spite of its flaws and for the fact that Jonathan and I are here together and as long as that’s true it doesn’t really matter where we are.

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 New York 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 #43: Living It Up in the City

A few weeks ago my little sister called me and asked if I wanted to take a trip with her. Her birthday was coming up and she had the idea that maybe instead of a gift or birthday money my parents would be willing to give her some frequent flyer miles to fly us up to NYC for the weekend. Since I’m under-employed and was being offered a free trip I said, “Heck yes!” Which is how I found myself on a plane bound for New York this past Friday.

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I love New York City and even applied to schools there when I was looking at colleges. Somehow, even though I was accepted to Fordham and NYU with scholarships, my heart was set on Wheaton. It’s strange to look back on those big life decisions and wonder how life would have been different if you’d made a different choice. I met my husband and made some of my best friends at Wheaton, so it’s hard to imagine my life without it, a fact I remind myself of as I continue to pay off those student loans.

Anyway, I love New York City and since I had had two major hysterical meltdowns in the past few weeks, it seemed like an ideal time to get away. My sister Maggi flew up from Baton Rouge and had a layover in Charlotte, NC. I met her at the airport there and we flew the rest of the way together. My awesome and generous father let us use his hotel rewards points and we were able to stay at a hotel right in Times Square for free.

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The last time I was in New York was Jonathan’s and my first wedding anniversary and on that trip we made it a point to see a lot of shows. Not just Broadway musicals, but comedy shows and regular plays as well. We had a blast. This trip was for my sister’s birthday and what she really wanted was to have a fancy-pants dinner at a very ritzy restaurant instead of getting tickets to a show. She made reservations for us at Jean Georges, a three Michelin star restaurant  in the Trump Hotel.

We got to Manhattan around dinner time on Friday and spent some time walking around and had truffle fries and cocktails and tried unsuccessfully to selfie.

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On Saturday we took the subway down to Battery Park so we could see the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t take the ferry out to the island, we just saw the statue from the park. Maggi couldn’t remember ever seeing it before and wanted to at least catch a glimpse.

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There was an apple festival going on in Battery Park that day so we walked around and sampled some apple-themed cuisine and beverages and enjoyed being out by the water.

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From there we walked up to the 9/11 Memorial and the new One World Trade Center. The last time I was in New York this was all still under construction, so it was my first time seeing it.

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It’s hard to get a good picture of this, as it is so massive, but this is one of two pools that mark where twin towers once stood. There is a waterfall pouring from the edges down into the middle and then down the hole in the center. It’s meant to give the illusion that it goes on forever.

We did a little bit of shopping in the evening and had a fabulous dinner at Il Forno Hell’s Kitchen where I ate a parmesan mushroom risotto that I’m still dreaming about.

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On Sunday we went to the Chelsea Highline, an elevated park built on an old railroad track that runs for about twenty blocks down in Chelsea. This was my first time there and I recommend it to anyone visiting the city. It’s relaxing and lovely and is a unique way to see some of the city from a bit of an elevation.

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Sunday evening was our grand meal. Our reservations were for 8:45 and we didn’t leave until just after midnight. We each had a 7-course prix fixe menu. Maggi had the classic Jean Georges menu and I had the Autumn themed menu. We tried to act casual, like we did this sort of thing all the time, but we failed miserably. The food (which was mostly French in style) was divine. I’ve never been so full in my life.

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I took pictures of each course and tried to remember all the things they told me about each thing, but there were so many components to each dish that it’s hard to remember. Also, the pictures aren’t great because I couldn’t use my flash and it was really dark in there, but trust me, all of the courses looked and tasted very gourmet.

American sturgeon caviar atop a butter poached turnip with some greens I don't know the name of.

American sturgeon caviar atop a butter poached turnip with some greens I don’t know the name of.

Sashimi with lime juice and radish.

Sashimi with lime juice and pickled radish.

Wild mushroom salad with lightly braised medley of mushrooms and pine nut emulsion.

Wild mushroom salad with lightly braised medley of mushrooms and pine nut emulsion.

Sea bass topped with something and poblano peppers swimming in a coconut cream, mint and lemongrass sauce.

Seared sea bass topped with something and poblano peppers swimming in a coconut cream, mint and lemongrass sauce.

Lobster. There was more, but all I remember is that the little brown sauce on the side was made of hazelnuts and almonds and chili paste.

Lobster. There was more, but all I remember is that the little brown sauce on the side was made of hazelnuts and almonds and chili paste.

Venison encrusted with juniper berries served with venison jou, an emulsion of chestnuts and poblano peppers and caramelized red cabbage.

Venison encrusted with juniper berries served with venison jou, an emulsion of chestnuts and poblano peppers and caramelized red cabbage.

Multiple sorbets to cleanse the palette

Multiple sorbets to cleanse the palette

Dessert dish including Concord grape sorbet, some sort of cookie with cream cheese ice cream on top, a jellied fig thing, and a poached pear.

Dessert dish including Concord grape sorbet, some sort of cookie with cream cheese ice cream on top, a jellied fig thing, and a poached pear.

We finished with these adorable peanut butter and jelly macarons.

We finished with these adorable peanut butter and jelly macarons. They were the size of a postage stamp.

We flew back to our homes on Monday, stuffed to the gills from great food and great company. It’s pretty cool to have a sister who wants to hang out with you and parents who are awesome enough to give up all of their mileage and hotel points so you can take a trip together.

Today I am feeling tired and fat, but most of all incredibly grateful.

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 the South Carolina State Fair 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.