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Archive for the ‘101 in 1001’ Category

Today marks the 1,001st day of the 101-in-1001 challenge that Bart and I started back in February of 2011. Our goal was to create a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days–just about 2.75 years–and accomplish all of them in the given time. As of today, I count that we accomplished 88 out of 101 items on our list, meaning 13 items were not completed by this date.
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Our 101-in-1001 deadline is drawing near, and I’ve already accepted the fact that we just aren’t going to complete all 101 things on our list. We might have gotten there under normal circumstances, but moving was a fatal disruption to some of our list items. However, I’m quite satisfied that Bart and I will have accomplished 101 very interesting things in that time frame, just not every last one we set out to do back in 2011. It has accomplished its purpose of making us intentional about the things we say we want to do.

I haven’t totally given up on the list, though. In fact, just this week I finally completed another item, #82: read another book by Brandon Sanderson. You may know him as “the guy who finished writing the Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan died,” and, I’ll be honest, that’s where we first learned of him. However, he is a fantasy writer in his own right with quite a few original novels and series of his own. Bart and I have read most of them to date, and it seemed like an easy enough goal to tack on a new one when it came out.

Sure enough, a couple of years ago Sanderson released “Alloy of Law” as a complementary book to one of his best known series, Mistborn. It’s not a sequel, just a separate story set in the same world. We got it, and Bart read it immediately. However, I tried three separate times to start the book and for some reason every time I got distracted before I could finish the first chapter. Finally, last month when I had jury duty, I picked it up again, determined to succeed this time while I was a captive audience in the jury waiting room. However, I’m afraid I was going to get distracted yet again until Bart intervened. He happily volunteered to read it together with me, so over the course of a few weeks, we read it aloud together in the evenings. We finally finished it on Tuesday night. It was a good story, so I have no idea why I kept putting it off! Plus, compared to every other fantasy novel I get sucked into reading, it was only 300 pages or so instead of 600 or 700. So I had no excuse before, but I’m finally off the hook.

I’ve decided that I cannot recommend “Alloy of Law” to anyone who has not read the original Mistborn trilogy. However, I cannot recommend Mistborn highly enough. I really don’t read a ton of fantasy series, but I personally found it to be one of the most unique and interesting premises I’ve ever come across. Sanderson takes an unconventional approach to “good guys” and “bad guys;” where sharp lines are usually drawn between camps in most stories, he blurs and greys the lines and leaves you guessing until the end. I found it to be a refreshing departure from the predominate type of stories and worlds one tends to find in the genre.

But once you’re familiar with the world of Mistborn, “Alloy of Law” is an engaging exercise in exploring the same world with the same magic system, only in a different culture a few hundred years later. The original Mistborn is set in a traditional fantasy kind of world, with largely pre-industrial civilization and technology. “Alloy” is set in a late-1800’s or turn-of-the-century type era, with fledgling technologies like automobiles and electricity; it almost has a steampunk feel to it. The plot and characters are fun and engaging, and not intended to be developed in the same depth as the original series. It’s by no means superficial, but it’s an easier read with less commitment than, say, Wheel of Time. :p So, go read Mistborn right now, and then read Alloy of Law after that.

Of course, why read just one book when you can read two? Brandon Sanderson released a new book, “Steelheart,” just last week. Bart insisted on picking it up, and we’ve started reading it together the last couple of nights. This is the first book in a new series, and it’s completely different from Mistborn. It’s set in future Chicago where evil anti-heroes control and oppress the population, but one group of ordinary humans still fights back to overcome these “Epics.” We’re only half-way through, but we like it, and so far I can recommended for another fun read. If I finish, can I check another item off my list?

You can check out Brandon Sanderson and learn more about his writings at www.BrandonSanderson.com.

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The Taylors have crossed off yet another 101-in-1001 item: breakfast in bed.

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We’d never had breakfast in bed before, so it seemed like a perfect curious item to add to our list. It honestly always seemed a little weird to me, though, as bed has never appealed to me as a place to eat food (except maybe my dorm bed, since there wasn’t any other place to sit in those cramped rooms ;). But I was certainly willing to give it a try. And this morning seemed like the perfect opportunity.

As you can see, I didn’t have a big spread, just English muffins and some fresh strawberry spread (a delicious and stupidly easy concoction that I will have to share with you soon). But I did make coffee for Bart, which is a huge feat, as I don’t drink coffee at all and don’t know one end of a coffee bean from the other…or something like that. Fortunately, he has one of those pod coffee makers, so I was able to just throw a k-cup in the machine and hit a button. Voila. The hardest part was carrying the mug up the stairs on a tray.

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The food was delicious, if I do say so myself, but I was correct that I just did quite “get it.” However, we did enjoy sharing a different experience together, and did I mentioned the strawberry spread was delicious? And easy. Very delicious.

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Completing one item on our 101-in-1001 list in a week is awesome, but completing two is downright spectacular. Not only did I finish my mitered square blanket this week, Bart and I unexpectedly knocked out a very delicious list item yesterday.

One of our food-related goals was to have fondue. Neither of us had tried it before, so it seemed like a fun thing to experience sometime. When we overnighted in Zurich last September, we thought it would be an unparalleled way to experience some local cuisine. However, we didn’t have much time and weren’t able to find a place for fondue (we did have schnitzel, though…winning!).

We still had plans to make it happen sometime, though, either at home ourselves or at a fondue restaurant. The latter option is typically pricey, so I wasn’t sure I’d be willing to shell out the cash for it unless it were maybe for a birthday or anniversary. However, early this week I snagged a social coupon on Amazon Local for two-for-the-price-of-one classic four-course fondue experience from The Melting Pot in Gaithersburg, making it a much more affordable way to complete our 101-in-1001 experience. So Bart and I decided to give it a go for a mid-week date on Wednesday.

(I should write a whole post about how social coupons, like Groupon and Amazon Local, have been an awesome vehicle for getting out and about in a new town and for helping us accomplish some of our fun goals.)

I assume most Melting Pot restaurants are about the same, but this is the first one we’d ever been in. It was quite dark, and the two of us were seated in a uniquely shaped, private booth for two, making for an intimate setting (and also poor cell phone photography…apologies in advance!). It was just Bart, me, and the fondue pot on a hot plate on the table.

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Our deal was for the classic four course experience: cheese fondue, followed by salads, the classic main entrée, and dessert. How we were going to eat all this food was beyond us, but we were determined to give it our all.

For cheese fondue, we chose the classic Swiss style with gruyere and emmenthaler (the stereotypical “Swiss cheese,” though it all came grated for easy melting…no holes). Our waitress prepared our fondue table side, which I didn’t anticipate. Once melted, we proceeded to dip away with some crudités, some fresh apple slices, and the traditional and oh-so-yummy chunks of bread.

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The cheese fondue was quite yummy, but once we had our fill of that course, it was on to the salads. Nothing too notable there.

Finally, it was time for the main course, various bite-sized pieces of raw meat that you stab with your fondue fork and boil to cook in a simmering broth or oil mixture–we opted for the traditional broth. We had chunks of chicken, pork, shrimp, and two kinds of beef along with some veggies, with six different kinds of sauces to top them off. Insanity! Delicious insanity.

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We ate until we were stuffed and couldn’t eat any more. And then it was time for dessert.

While preparing for our one evening in Zurich, Bart and I were sad to learn that chocolate fondue is, in fact, not a traditional Swiss development. I’m sure most would consider it a sacrilege. But to us Americans, it is utterly transformative. Bart and I had our choice of multiple melted concoctions to chase out entrée, and we went with the Flaming Turtle, a flambéed milk chocolate and caramel concoction topped with candied pecans and served with a ridiculous assortment of chocolate delivery vehicles: marshmallows, brownies, pound cake, Rice Krispy treats, cheesecake, bananas, and strawberries. Oh still my beating heart (probably insulin-induced palpitations).

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Needless to say, this was my favorite part of the meal.

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I guess Bart enjoyed it well enough, too. 😉

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We were so miserably full at the end. There’s no denying that this place is usually saved for a splurge-worthy event, considering price and the sheer amount of noms. However, there are other options than the four course experience; you can come just for cheese fondue or dessert or whatever suits your fancy. If we return, it will probably be for a scaled back meal or just dessert. It would also be fun to experience with friends or family.

Social coupon deal = total win on this one. If you’re looking for a unique experience for a special night out, consider giving The Melting Pot or a fondue restaurant a try. And if you haven’t had fondue before, maybe put that on your own bucket list. Along with a trip to Switzerland. And have some schnitzel, too.

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It’s done. It’s finally done. All the squares, all the stitching together, all the weaving in ends, all the border. I’m going to go bury my knitting needles now.

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Oh wait, is that a hole where my woven-in ends have come undone?…. Dang it.

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Today marks eight months since our move to DC. Two thirds of a year now–as usual, I am incredulous at how fast time goes. I feel sort of in the groove here, but other than my job I feel like I haven’t really started making a life here yet. We’re sort of just waiting for…something, I guess. Buying a house and really settling down? Life is good, lest you fret that it’s otherwise. My spirit is just getting antsy.

In two thirds of a year, I/we have:

  • Made a driving tour of New England.
  • Returned a visit to everyone who’s stayed with us at Hotel Taylor.
  • Complained about the humidity.
  • Gone to the batting cages.
  • Been stalked by a real estate agent we ran into at two different open houses.
  • Taken a furlough day.
  • Experienced an hour-long power outage at work.
  • Experienced a three-hour long power outage at home.
  • Harvested lettuce and Swiss chard from my little pots on the back porch.
  • Taken the dog to a new vet.
  • Exterminate the bugs in our kitchen. Take that, vermin.
  • Visited a beach during the summer time.
  • Finally visited a lighthouse.
  • Updated our 101-in-1001 list to reflect our new situation.

I/we have yet to:

  • Buy a house.
  • Feel totally settled.
  • Finish crocheting the border of my mitered square blanket.
  • Go to Gettysburg.
  • Plant more lettuce for a second crop.
  • Swim at a beach we’ve visited.
  • Buy any local Maryland produce (we have from places we’ve visited but not here).
  • Make rubbings of some names from the Vietnam Memorial, as requested by a family member.
  • Visited Mount Vernon.
South Portland Lighthouse, Maine

South Portland Lighthouse, Maine

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Everyone has a mental list of things they’d like to do someday, be it travel or crafts, classes to take or chores they’ve been putting off, foods to try or places to go. So often these ideas and dreams fall by the wayside, lost in the tyranny of the urgent–the daily grind, small annoyances with loud voices, general lack of motivation.

This was definitely happening to Bart and me as I was plodding through grad school and we had our normal routine going. But one day I read about a project called the “101 in 1001:” a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, just over 2.75 years. The idea is to pick a variety of things you would like to do and set a time goal to have them all completed by. The length, not quite three years, accommodates many shorter term projects as well as some that might require more time to accomplish. The idea appealed to us as a way to motivate ourselves to do those things that we always said we ought to do. Thus, in February of 2011, our 101-in-1001 list was born. Our 1001 days will end on November 14, 2013.

We’ve been at it nearly two and a half years now and have made significant progress, but the move has kind of messed up our list. We had a bunch of local Denver things on the list and a number of travel items in the western US; we completed most of the Colorado items when it looked like we might move, but we didn’t quite make all the western destinations like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Rather than toss out all our progress, we decided to bend the rules a little in keeping with the spirit of the list. Some of the local goals we modified to fit the time we had (go to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater -> go walk around Red Rocks Amphitheater). Some that we couldn’t do we replaced with interesting stuff we did do, especially if it was something we would have probably put on our list if we’d known about it earlier (go to Denver mint -> visit mint room at Celestial Seasonings factory). Likewise, we felt it was reasonable to replace some of the travel goals with similar destinations on the east coast (Grand Canyon -> Niagara Falls).

Moving also messed up our list because we aren’t in a position to do some of the projects we originally planned. For instance, I’m not set up very well in our rent house to do much sewing, so “sewing an article of clothing” probably isn’t happening for me before November. Similarly, Bart won’t be able to “turn a bowl on the lathe” as he sold that tool before we moved. Other woodworking projects will be challenging for him to complete in our limited workshop space. We decided to substitute these goals with some reasonable alternatives, though not necessarily crafty in nature.

After returning from our Fourth of July trip, Bart and I spent some time going over our list to make some of these new updates, particularly in light of our recent travel. We took a good look at what was left and made substitutions for things we knew wouldn’t be possible before November.

As of this evening, I count 20 goals still left. Looking at the remaining items, I feel re-energized to tackle some of them, but I’ll be honest that there are a couple on there that just don’t really interest me anymore. I still might be able to make myself check some them off, though. We realize that we might not meet all 101 goals by the end. There’s really no penalty for falling short; we prefer to adopt the philosophy that the list is a tool to help us accomplish things we probably wouldn’t have done without a gentle kick in the pants. We’ll just celebrate what we get done and think about new goals we want to set in the future. Maybe another 101 in 1001 list? I suppose we’ll see, but let’s not put our cart before the horse just yet.

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