25 things I want to do before I’m 25.


I feel compelled to set goals today, like there are things to be learned and done, and if I don’t write it down, I’ll never do it.

I guess it all started when I thought to myself, I should learn how to use chopsticks well before I’m thirty. 

Then I thought, Well, maybe I need to learn to like food that you eat with chopsticks better. Because there are few Chinese dishes that I eat (hello, vegetarian here) and most of the Thai dishes I like are soupy or have long noodles that intimidate me and make me not want to try the chopsticks.

So that goes on the list, but because I don’t really do long-term goals well, let’s make it before I’m 25. Maybe you can make one for the next four years of your life, too, and we’ll say it’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s not that we don’t feel we’ve done anything with our lives thus far, we just see possibility in setting goals.

So, here are the 25 things I want to do before I’m 25.

1. Learn to use chopsticks proficiently and without looking or feeling stupid.

2. Learn to like more foods that you eat with chopsticks.

3. Finally have a place for everything and everything in its place. As in, to always be able to walk across the floor of my bedroom without hazard. (BTW, it’s a hygienic mess… just a little cluttered with my two lives coming together)

4. Write a full-length book. Maybe send it somewhere and get rejection letters or maybe just write it for the sake of writing. Then start another one.

5. Always be reading at least one book for pleasure and make it a habit to let it be the last thing I see at night. Not my phone. Not my computer. A book.

6. Leave the country and see one I’ve never seen before with someone I love.

7. Get better at saying, “I love you.” Because I forget and miss the moments I should say it and always think people know that I love them.

8. Have my own place. Not that I don’t love my parents or appreciate being able to live here, but I’d like to learn how to live on my own for real – bills and all.

9. Be a regular somewhere. Preferably at a coffee shop.

10. Take a dance class. This time preferably not in German.

11. Go camping again.

12. Get through all 500 prompts in my writing prompt book.

13. Learn how to either a) change a flat tire, b) change my oil, or c) be able to label all the parts of an engine and know their function in relation to the others. Maybe all three.

14. To better understand sanctification and how God uses it.

15. Take a vacation (no matter how short or close to home) by myself.

16. Master Excel.

17. Have a thriving vegetable garden.

18. To have permanently callused fingertips on my left hand… none of this “just when I have time to practice” thing.

19. Learn to like tofu.

20. Ease myself out of my hoarding tendencies and into a balanced mindset where not everything has sentimental value and not everything is bound for the dumpster.

21. Learn how to say, “no” and how to say, “yes” and when to employ them each respectively.

22. Have something published somewhere by someone who isn’t me. (Ambiguity intentional)

23. Meet Taylor Swift (you knew it was coming) and do something normal like bowling or something. Maybe take a selfie.

24. Become friends with a librarian somewhere.

25. Know a little bit more about who I am.

That’s 25. Those are probably not the only 25 things I will do before I’m 25, but maybe they’ll be among the many things. And maybe I’ll do others instead that I didn’t plan, and these will come later.

What would you do in the next four years of your life?

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Week one is done.


Things I haven’t told you this week that we need to get out of the way:

– I’m a literacy intern in downtown Chicago. That pic is from my L stop. 

– Air conditioning is nice, but you can totally live without it in the Midwest, even on the third floor. Or maybe that’s just because we have a strict box-fan-in-every-window policy.

– I almost picked up a 4 foot tall stuffed giraffe from the sidewalk yesterday because it had a free sign on it. The only thing that stopped me was 1) hygiene and 2) I was on my way downtown and wasn’t sure about lugging a giraffe of unknown cleanliness on the way. Unfortunately, the giraffe wasn’t there on our way back, so I’m giraffe-less.

Let’s talk about how God knows me better than I know myself. Let’s talk about the way that I was just sitting in Austria, registering for classes, hoping to get into all the classes I needed and found I didn’t have enough credits.

So then this opportunity just popped up out of the blue yonder of InternMatch.com. And not only did they let me Skype interview, but they offered me the position early on. And they have the perfect, book-filled office in a great neighborhood. And I get four free books a month and get to work to promote literacy in a city where there are so many who have not been encouraged to read.

And I have a mug with my name on it. And my own little desk. It’s a dream come true. And there’s a Keurig and lots of coffee.

God also knows what I need to hear. I met him at church this morning, and he met me, too. He said, “hey, remember that thing that’s been tapping on your heart and asking to be dealt with? Well I just told your pastor to talk about that. Yes, this is a word for you. No, you didn’t know you needed it.”

God knows that I needed a third floor apartment this year because the view is beautiful in our little alley when the sun is going down. I have a great vantage point. I didn’t know I wanted a third floor apartment.

When I got frantic about money again, I got another email – “hey, I have a friend who needs an editor for their book!” 

The. next. day.

I still can’t get over that. Why is God interested in my life? Why is he involved? (because we all know you can be interested from a distance and not be involved) Love? Oh, that’s crazy.

Here’s my jumble. That’s what’s going on in my little bundle of heat brain. I hope to gain some coherency as the semester goes on.

In the wind


We saw the rain on one side of the bus as we journeyed to Mont Saint Michel last week. The wind blew the rain drops onto half of the windows so that it appeared that the bus split the storm. Split the storm it did, because when we arrived at the shuttle to take us to the mount, the clouds parted and the sun shone.

The sun shone and the winds blew, so strongly that we could have nearly fallen into it and let it hold us upright with its force. It blew salty sea micro droplets onto our skin, into our hair. It made the walk harder but not less pleasant. The sun still shone and heated our skin while we basked in the salty air and the old abbey.

Tonight, the wind blows steadily in the aftermath of a rainstorm outside my room. I can feel it stirring the trees and the grass and whisking everything up and settling it down somewhere else.

I need the wind to blow. I love to stand in the dark with my eyes closed, to feel the wind on my skin and hear it rushing around me. Not to see it because, who can? Unless it’s salty, it won’t be good to taste, and even then…  The smell is fresh, full of newness, air from somewhere else.

God wasn’t in the strong wind for Moses. He was in the still, small voice, because God needed Moses to know that battles aren’t won by might or by power but by His Spirit, which can win battles with a whisper.

But God is in the wind, for me, because God wants me to feel how He brushes past me and around me, always circling back to blow through my life again. He picks things up and deposits them elsewhere, sometimes pulling them out of my reach, sometimes placing new things beside me.

He wants me to feel Him beside me, around me, filling my lungs and brushing past my closed eyelids. I close my eyes because I don’t have to watch Him work to know that it’s good.

Sunny 20 carbohydrates.


I turn twenty in six days. It’s probably not that big of a deal, but let me tell you – it feels like a big deal.

I’ll be able to casually include myself in the “twenty-somethings” category.  I won’t be a teenager anymore. I will have a “2” in my age for the third time in my life. I won’t have to say I’m nineteen anymore (duh and hallelujah).

I thought it called for a blog makeover. It was either that or dye my hair, and I didn’t think I could pick a color, so I picked a new WordPress template.

Welcome to my journey in Austria, now officially labelled on here. It’s like we have a little side party going on from our normal blog relationship.

Today was another beautiful, sunny day, so I decided to walk to Uni (again… this time to get the ID that I was supposed to get yesterday when the office was closed and the man said “of course” is was too late to get the card) despite my heel blisters. I wasn’t aware that you can get blisters on your heels, like the area almost on the soles of your feet, but apparently, you can.

I got a hundred strange looks from people as I walked, because apparently it’s still winter jacket weather. I was wearing a spring cardigan and maxi skirt, so I suppose I looked crazy, but the sun was shining, and it was well above freezing. I only cared a little bit that they thought I was crazy.

I’m finally an official Uni-Graz student and can get into the library – the most important thing because it’s beautiful. I’ll post a picture sometime.

Rebekka and I went to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch since she couldn’t work on her thesis anymore, and I don’t have anything to work on. Who knew you could get so full on veggies? It was a buffet line of all good things, and I didn’t realize you had to pay by weight, so I just got a little bit of everything. I’m not even sure what all I ate, but most of it was very good, including the banana chocolate rum cake. We had to sit for a little bit before we could walk anywhere.

I won’t tell you how many bread-y items I bought at the store after that. I’ve decided that at least for the first few weeks or until I’ve tried everything, counting carbs is not important. I’ll just try to balance it out with fruit and yogurt and other good things. I feel like that way I can still grab life by the loaf and not miss out on anything.

And, of course, I’ll keep walking the carbs off. I’ve decided that I want to attempt biking, as well. I want to see if I can navigate the streets with cars and trams… I may die, but at least we’ll know that it was in a valiant effort to get to class on time without paying exorbitant tram fares.

In other news, I booked a flight to Paris in April to see my longtime friend who is teaching at a university in Rennes. It’s thrilling just to type that, much more to go, I’m sure. It seems far away, but I’m sure before I know it I’ll be home again. Sometimes life just is exciting, isn’t it?

On a beautiful fall day.


This fine, beautiful fall day was full of metaphors for life.

It started out at Beijo de Chocolat over crepes with my friend who is also an INFJ and exactly a foot shorter than me.  We were talking about how she writes pop songs out of love for it, but she writes choral pieces for her class.  I write blogs for the pure enjoyment of having creative license to write whatever I want, but I don’t mind writing essays.

Just like you do zumba for the fun of it – the workout benefits are just a plus.  You lift weights and run sprints to work out the muscles that will give you more endurance in zumba.  Essays and choral arrangements work out your mind so that the product of your creative pieces are better quality.

Shortly after that moment of brilliance (it may not have actually been brilliant, but as we sat there, soaking in the caffeine, it seemed to be), 4′ 11 1/2” remarked, “I learned so much from my beta fish this week.”  Beta fish are really good with relationships, apparently.  Whoever said that you can’t really have a relationship with a fish was totally wrong.  They’ve never heard these stories.

Enter word picture number 3: As my pen pal and I walked toward Buckingham Fountain, she remarked that she loved that we were walking fast.  Most of our friends don’t walk very fast, so we tone it down in their presence. (which doesn’t make us love them any less… we just don’t get places as quickly)  We decided that it’s a good picture for how we live our lives, bound for a destination.  It’s okay if we don’t know where we’re going – it just matters that we’re going somewhere.

Kind of like how even though the L stops frequently, you don’t get off at every stop.  You might get off to get coffee, but then you get back on until you get to your destination.  And you might not even stay there for very long.  You might just hop back on and go somewhere else until you find home.

We stood on the edge of a very windy Lake Michigan, so close to a drop-off that it made me nervous.  I think that also told me something about myself – nervous when on the brink of something that includes submersion or falling.

Amazing how many parallels to life are found in our everyday existence.

That’s my beautiful city, taken from the edge of windy Lake Michigan.  I’m so thankful, especially today but pretty much everyday, to be here in Chicago with people like my INFJ buddy and my pen pal. And the people who walk slowly.  Jesus knows what He’s doing when He tells us to go somewhere.

The Thanksgiving epic: an illustrated narrative.


Since I’m sure that everyone wants to hear about how I spend this day of gratitude, I’m not only going to post today – I’m going to keep a log of what I do ALL DAY.  Get excited.  When something exciting (or disastrous, or mundane, or funny) happens, I’m going to write about it immediately – time stamp and all.  And I’ll post at the end of the day!  LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN.

11:10 AM.  

I came downstairs to re-fill my bottle of hair gel from the Mommy bottle in my mom’s bathroom – and I ended up blogging.  This is the life of an aspiring writer.  I’ve been up for three lovely hours filled with coffee, watching the parade with my mom, Awesome Abs, rollerblading, and getting distracted by WordPress.  It’s T-2 hours until Stella & Co come to eat the feast with us, and I still have to clean my bathroom.  As I sit on the yoga ball that serves as our desk chair, I wonder what my sister is doing in Philadelphia (cough cough, Brooke, this is your hint to text/call/let me know you’re still alive) for our first major holiday apart.

I never really realized this before, but the times I spend with Brooke are really definitive of my holidays.  I remember most the things that I do with her.  For example, our 4th of July song and dance performed for our parents complete with American flag waving and stepping up and down on our little stepstools, the 12 days of Christmas puppet show that Brooke wrote, made puppets for, directed, and graciously allowed me to sit in on, playing with our giant wooden “paper dolls” under the christmas tree, baking together, and a host of other strange activities that I don’t think I should post online.  I think I write on this thread quite a bit, but I love my sister quite a bit.  Life isn’t the same without her, but transitions are good – they help us realize that we have to be intentional about staying in touch.

My next task is to do what I came downstairs for, then shower, drink some water (no eating until 1pm), and clean my bathroom.  Then my parents and I will run around doing all the little things we forgot.  Stay tuned.

12 AM – T-1 hour.  The bathroom got cleaned.

armed with paper towels and windex

I believe in full-size images at all times. which is why you have this lovely pic of the mirror cleaning.

then, I got clean.

That’s all for now.  Next step: add makeup and deodorant.  Then, start playing jazzy music and put on some socks so that we’re all ready for company.

Did I mention that I’m so thankful to all of your who read my musings?  Even if you don’t read every post or subscribe, I still am amazed that people want to read this stuff.  :)

I love writing.  Over and out for now.

12:30 – my mom just requested “all trivets on deck!” which means the food is coming out.  We’re getting things rolling here.

our table is all set and ready to be laden with food and surrounded with 8 hungry people

That's Squanto. He squats by our incredibly tall - by comparison - Pilgrims.

food is all staying warm...

6:36pm

The fun really began at 1:30, when our friends arrived, bearing challah bread, Russian potato salad, meringue cake (I spelled it “merengue” the first time I wrote that), green beans, and this amazing cream/garlic combo spread.  Broccoli was quickly steamed, potatoes and butter were put into serving dishes, and bread was sliced up so that the feast could begin.

At our house, Thanksgiving is as much about the initial meal as it is about the leftovers, so though we definitely ate our fill, no one had to put on stretchier pants or skip dessert for lack of stomach capacity.

As a non-turkey eater, the mashed potatoes and other carbohydrate items hold a special place in my heart.  I was the proud potato peeler last night – of an entire bag of potatoes, thank-you-very-much – and the taste tester.

I put my Grandma-made apron on to complete that happy task.  Then I proceeded to inform my mother that they needed more butter.

Both of my parents are initially from the south, which is probably why we use about 8 sticks of butter in our thanksgiving feast.  Maybe more.  It’s hard to say.

As avid leftover consumers, immediately after we decided that we were full, leftovers were split up into tupperwares to be re-enjoyed over the next couple days.  The rest of the afternoon consisted of dessert consumption, catching up on each others’ lives a bit, Apples to Apples, and more conversation.

our table, complete with what little food would fit between the many plates...

All good things must come to an end, so after we hugged our goodbyes to our friends, we waved goodbye to Autumn as well and put up our Christmas lights.

And now, let the most wonderful time of the year commence – right after I eat some more mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and reflect a little more about what I’m thankful for.

This year I’m most thankful for the little things that sound cliché, you know the ones I’m talking about.  They’re the cop outs for when you can’t remember what you’re actually thankful for and you have to say it right away.  umm, I’m just really, like.. I’m just super thankful for… umm, my friends. *sheepish smile* yeah, they’re just really awesome.  Then the next person goes, someone who’s actually thought about what they’re thankful for, and you wish you could sink into the floor.  You’re second place in the gratitude category.  But I really am thankful for my friends.  Certainly the fact that I will be away from them – and my family, and all the little comforts of home like having my own room and car – next year in college makes me more appreciative of them right now.  It’s said that you never know what you have until it’s gone, but I think it’s more until there’s a threat that it will be taken away.  That’s when I want to cling to those things at least.  Maybe I’m in the minority on that one.

Besides my friends, I am thankful for my parents.  I’m grateful that they sacrifice financially so that I can be in private school, that they have set such a great precedent as godly parents, that they have always supported me in EVERYTHING.  I can’t think of a time when they copped out of going to something I was participating in for lack of interest or desire to be there.

You already know that I’m thankful for Brooke, that part of my heart is gone when she’s away.

I particularly like heat.  I love ibuprofen.  Carbohydrates are a fabulous part of my life that I would miss greatly were they taken from me.  I’m thankful for Chloe, our iMac, since she helps me blog more easily than Larry did.

Beyond all that temporal stuff, I’m thankful for hope.  For the fact that my fate, my life is not my own. That I am not alone.  That I live for a purpose far greater than anything that humans come up with.  I cling to that more than anything – yet there is no threat of it being taken from me.  And that’s the best part.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

culture bonus, promises, and caffeine


I never spell caffeine right the first time.  I think that’s because I usually just ingest it and don’t think about how to spell it.  And if I’m writing about it, it probably means that I am hoping to get some into my system or I’ve had an overload of it.

Yesterday was a good example of an overload.

Coffee at breakfast – approximately 170 mg (at  my house, we make it STRONG!)

Tea while during homework and waiting for a phone call to tell me when I could begin my miracle babysitting job – about 50 mg

Dr. Pepper at 6’o clock while I’m babysitting/helping do behind-the-scenes work at a Pakistani fashion show – 28 mg

the black tea with lots of milk and sugar in it that someone brought me while I sat in the back room with a sleeping three-year-old – about 50 mg

That’s quite a bit of caffeine.  And let me tell you, it was all necessary.

Remember the promise of a 14-hour babysitting job that I had on Friday?  I was supposed to get a phone call about that around 10 am on Saturday.  So, when 10:00 came and went, I called one of two ladies who had called me on Friday.  There was much confusion and I was told a jumble of things “plane got in late last night…” “still definitely need you…” “call you when she wakes up…”

At this point I don’t know exactly whose child I’m watching since I’ve talked to three different people on the phone – one of whom thought my name was Sheila, who I eventually found out was the child’s mother… the least informed of the bunch – and none of them claim that it’s their little boy.

By 1:15, however, a plan was laid down.  Meet at an event center, watch child til around midnight, oh and can you be here by 2:00?

Yes, yes I can.

So I pack a bag with a book, a granola bar, an extra shirt just in case I need to look a little bit neater, my iPod, my phone, and my wallet.  After frenziedly looking up the address and snagging my keys and my dad’s GPS (affectionately named Balto, after the Alaskan sled dog), Audrey and I set out to meet our charge for the evening.

As I was going out the door, my dad said, “there’s a fashion show at this place tonight.  Maybe your employer’s a model!”

Oh, great.

Ten and a half hours later (I’ll do the math for you, it’s a little after midnight now), I park Audrey in our driveway and bring in my bag (including a much fuller wallet) to tell my parents about my great experience at this Pakistani fashion show, watching an adorable child, steaming beautifully designed Pakistani dresses (designed by the child’s mother…  she wasn’t a model, but rather a high-end designer) for some rather air-headed and snotty models, and packing up the dresses after the show was done.

 Everyone was friendly, everyone was amazed at the strange way that I got the job. (“so, how did you get hired?” “Oh, one of my friends referred me to a woman who the event planner’s mom knows.” “So you’ve never met this kid before?”  “Nope.”)

God is faithful.  He gave me a job from nice people who overpaid me and told me to look them up on Facebook because they love me.

On another note, I was thinking about all those passages in scripture that promise that someone won’t come to harm.  “the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night.” “The Lord will watch over your life.”  “so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”  “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Great promises, one and all.  I started thinking, though, that in the context of my life today, those promises are not made to me.  They were made to David and the Israelites and other people, respectively.  They were a specific promise to a specific person for some reason.  I’m not saying that no promises in the Bible apply to me, but a lot of the ones that people quote as reasons why they won’t ever be harmed weren’t written for them.  Or me, for that matter.

It made me want to know those people better, you know, those who God promised kingdoms, victories, protections, children in old age.  It made me want to know what qualified them to receive promises from God, specific declarations of what He would do for them.

And be like them.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. Psalm 18:30

sesame street, patience, and more adventures having to do with books and uptown minneapolis


I have two confessions to make, and I think I’ll begin with the light-hearted one.

I have some serious affection for Sesame Street.  While watching it I laugh out loud at Elmo and his gang, smile at everything, and think – every five seconds – my kids will never watch any tv show that is not Sesame Street. Never.  No Wonderpets, no Dora, no Barney (gosh no, he’s so annoying!).  No, they will watch Sesame Street or nothing.

One of my favorite two-year-olds and I watched Sesame Street today on youtube (I didn’t even know you could do that until today!) for about an hour.  If it weren’t for dinnertime rolling around, I would have sat there for longer, enjoying every second of it.

Plus, there was a sweet, smiley, toddler snuggled up on my lap, playing with my car keys.

such a sweetie. and adorable.

in case you can't see, she's got my cell phone, my car keys... and her sippy cup.

Second confession: Patience is not on my list of strong traits.  Especially not when I’m tired, crabby, having low blood sugar, in the company of people who are on the more difficult side of love, or when I haven’t taken time to just spend with God that day.

Why, oh, why do I ever let anything else take priority over that?

The things that I let get in the way of having time to start my day the way that makes it (and me) turn out best gets shunted to the side if I wake up too late, if I have somewhere to be within an hour of waking, or some other lame excuse.

Talk about not setting yourself up for success, Ashley.

Then, the whole day I lack the vision and perspective and direction that spending time with my Savior typically brings.  If I’ve had my coffee I usually find something in the verses I’m reading that makes me think critically – resulting either in me learning something or thinking about something from an angle I had not considered before.

Lesson learned, I’ll never neglect this again.

Oh, wait, I forgot that I am a faulty human who needs to have made the same mistake at least 649 times before any real change can happen.

The negative comment just kind of popped out; right now (I’ll be real here, folks) I’m feeling cynical.

This is a rare moment.

I’ll continue to be real.  My God is the God who has changed the hearts of Pharisees who persecuted Christians to serve Him without ceasing.  He has pursued the hearts of humankind for thousands of years, relentlessly calling them to ask Him to change their lives.  He has given me the hope for which I live.  He provides opportunities to learn lessons (ahem.), and He does not give up on me.

Jesus, teach me to be patient.  When I have the opportunities, show me the right way to learn the skill.

Patience.

Patience.

Patience.

In our household, adventures are a daily occurrence.  It may be just the fact that I see the every day occurrences as adventures, but, I have pictures and stories to share.

Our adventurous spirit took us to uptown Minneapolis yesterday.  Home of the artsy, the hippie, and the urban.  Not that you have to be all three to live there.

First stop: Penzey’s spices.  I could sniff those organic wonders all day long, but not everyone share my enthusiasm for truly good smells.

smelling, smelling, smelling... it's single strength vanilla extract! mmmmmmmm!

So, we diverted our shopping endeavors to Magers & Quinn, booksellers.  It’s not on a Barnes & Noble level of class, but, on the other hand, it’s not on the same price level either.

the sale carts outside Magers & Quinn provided an optimum place for picture taking

I wandered around the store looking for affordable books until I found... the SALE TABLES! Tolstoy, Austen, Voltaire, Dickens, Kafka, and more, all on the same table with cheap prices!

I walked into the store holding a book full of pictures and stories about Shirley Temple that had caught my attention as a classic movie lover, thinking I’d splurge from my no-buying policy and fork over the $4.

I came out, having spent $7.55 total, with a bag containing Voltaire’s Candide, a collection of short stories by Tolstoy, and Oliver Twist, arguably by favorite Dickens’ novel… it’s neck and neck with Great Expectations.

To half steal my sister’s comparison, going into a bookstore is like going into a room of people.  You see lots of old friends that you know, some ones you’ve recently met, some you love, some you don’t love so much, and some… some you have never seen before, and they entice you into talking to them because you have a mutual friend or because they have a great name.  And you end up inviting a few of them over to talk some more….

the only part about this is analogy that doesn’t work is the checkout part where you pay for them, because that, dear readers, would be slave trading.  Not legal.  Not ethical.  So, we;ll leave the simile there.

Ah, books.

Our next adventure took us to Stella’s Fish Café and Prestige Oyster Bar.  We skipped the Oyster Bar part of that and just ate on the rooftop of Stella’s.

on Stella's rooftop

Then, we went to Heartbreaker (not pictured.)

And the sculpture gardens.

at the sculpture garden

the famous cherry and spoon sculpture, with interactions not to climb on it... we didn't.

the famous cherry and spoon sculpture, with instructions not to climb on it... we didn't.

The conclusions I have made for today: Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s a necessity.  And it’s one that I need to equip myself with.  and the way I equip myself begins with keeping my priorities straight.

Ah, priorities. Ah, the condition of the heart.  Ah, it’s bedtime.

so we had a small adventure


Brooke and I live across the hall from each other, share a bathroom, eat in the same kitchen, complain to the same mother, share the same car (affectionately dubbed Audrey), speak the same language, even share plenty of interests, yet somehow we’ve neglected to set aside time to spend together lately.

So, today, we had a small adventure.  It began with a walk.  Then it turned into chocolate cake.

Brooke's ingredients: this is how our little pan of chocolatey goodness began.

We both had gift cards to a certain lovely store that we like to visit in uptown Minneapolis, called:

(for those of you that are illiterate, that says “heartbreaker.”)

But we thought that parking in uptown would be horrendous, so we went to the one at Southdale.

There isn't one at Southdale..... we found that out after spending 15 minutes trying to find a parking space and like 10 trying to find the store.

So we did what all lost teenagers should do.  We called Mom and discovered that our intended destination was in a strip mall not too far away.

After shopping around, trying things on, looking at accessories, and purchasing the best of the things we laid eyes on, we stopped at a cute little French bakery called Patrick’s

it looks like we went on a safari, not to a cafe.

and purchased a chocolate macaroon (not pictured, unfortunately, because we ate it fairly quickly) and a butter cookie.

mmm, butter cookie. It tasted a lot like butter and icing.

after a quick trip to Cub for supplies, we made an incredible, edible dinner of appetizers for our familia.

what will later become salsa, just wait and see

the chopping never ends when you make salsa. It's a good thing I didn't remember this when I started making it, because I might not have ended up actually making the goodness that is my wonderful homemade salsa.

MMMMM!!!! TASTY!!

Ignore the face there.  I was tired from all the chopping.  Also, my eyes started watering when I came across the onions, so I had to use my ski goggles, but it was too late to stop the tears.

then we made the Honey-Roasted Plums from Joy the Baker's blog... seriously, doesn't this remind you of when the evil queen in Snow White makes poison apples in her dungeon? This is a lot more cheerful, but I mean, really!!! I don't blame Snow White for wanting one of those tasty fruits. Not. One. Bit.

the gorgeous finished product that will not put you in a deep sleep once you take a bite. It's delicious. and easy.

DID WE MENTION THAT WE MADE PRETZEL BITES? The heat from our hot-as-fire oven made my photography a little blurry. There's probably a way to remedy that, but I'll just stick with a blurry picture.

We most certainly did.  One tip I’d like to add: even though you may think it’s a good idea, leaving a ring on while you knead pretzel dough is not a very smart thing to do.  Also, flour your hands before you feel the dough.  It’ll turn out better in the end for everyone.

and we fed our parents outside. Dad was ecstatic that there was food (particularly that there were plums), and Mom was happy that we made dinner so she didn't have to guess what everyone wanted to eat. We made a huge mess in the kitchen, but it was worth it.

The official menu?

Tonight’s meal will consist of : Egg Salad on Lavasch crackers, homemade salsa with Calidad chips, pretzel bites served with your choice of salsa con queso from a jar or ranch dressing, and honey-roasted plums.  Dessert will be a rather gooey no-bake cake that is extremely rich and chocolatey.  Enjoy.

there is nothing quite like a sister.  There are people who don’t have sisters who think that they have friends that are like sisters, but honestly, there is absolutely nothing like a sister.  Brooke and I can look at each other and know exactly how the other is feeling.  Often even the exact words that are floating across the other’s mind.

This makes her the most valuable friend I could ever possess on earth.

The downside to her value is that 9 months of the year she lives far away from me, just a phone call away, just a text or email away, but still… away.  There are few positives to her absence.

So, here’s to my sister (raise your glass of milk – because it’s 11:03 and because I’m not really into alcohol): Thank you for all the conversation; for talking through theology, relationships, outfit choices, moral dilemmas, and everything else; for setting an example of integrity and thoughtful lifestyle choices, for setting the bar high, for being proud of me and approving of who I have become, and for loving me unconditionally.  I treasure you.

Good night, all, my adventure today has tuckered me out.