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You all are probably expecting me to start out with some explanation as to why I haven’t written in so long. (And by “you all,” I mean my mom and the other three people out there who haven’t given up on poor ol’ Jeez-o-petes.) I’m not going to. I’m not going to go into the crazy that’s been going on, about how a ton of people I’ve worked with and truly like and respect were laid off and my employment future is a little uncertain, and I’m not going to talk all about how my dad was in the hospital but was finally released today.

No, I’m just going to dive straight into the fact that I might kind of love New York.

Yes, I know, I know, way to be original. I KNOW. But hear me out.

The first time I went to NYC, it was basically Big and Cool and Scary. I was with Jared, who’d been there as a child but not as an adult, and we really didn’t go anywhere without either a guide or very specific instructions. I think we used the subway once. I found it to be an amazing city, but I had a hard time understanding the concept of living there.

After going there a couple of times last summer, I started to get it a little more. It still absolutely wasn’t for me, but I got outside of Midtown and rode the subway by myself and visited more friends who really lived the NYC lifestyle. It wasn’t so scary anymore.

This was a whole different trip. For starters, I was there for a week (Jared was working a trade show, so I went to a few meetings and lunches and otherwise did my normal work thing, except that instead of sitting in my office without pants on, I wore a dress and boots and makeup and worked from a Starbucks in Soho. I have never seen a busier bathroom than the one there, let me tell you.) I had some amazing experiences — going to the top of the Empire State Building, attending a Knicks game in a suite courtesy of Jared’s work, attending and photographing a charity event on behalf of Paw Nation (not something I generally get to do in Gainesville), and eating what might have been the World’s Best Lunch with Metalia.

No, seriously, I might not have great pictures from the fancy basketball game, or any actual pictures of myself with friends I visited, but food? You know it!

avocado toast

Avocado toast with lemon-infused olive oil

crispy artichokes

Crispy artichokes with magical dipping sauce

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So, tomorrow eeeearrrrly (ok, not that early for normal people, but early for folks like me who always get up at 7:30 or 8 and don’t like to use an alarm), I’ll be on my way to New York City for BlogHer ’10. This is my second time going, so theoretically, I totally know what I’m doing. The empty suitcase on my bed tells me I’m a bit less of an expert than I think I am.

Anyway, I know a lot of amazing people will be there, and I’d totally like to meet you! So, here’s a fairly recent picture of me. I’ll probably look just like this — I’ll wear my hair in a braid a couple of times, it’s likely I’ll be a little sweaty, and I’m totally bringing that shirt. So, if you see me, please come say hi!

For those of you who I’ll be meeting for the first time (and maybe also rooming with — hi, Roxanna!), here are a few things about me. Because, well, I can always talk about me. I’m kind of an expert on the topic.

  1. I’m not much of a hugger. If I know you well (IRL or online), have had a bit to drink, or have just experienced something emotional, I might be comfortable hugging you. But if I don’t hug you, don’t be offended. It’s just not my thing.
  2. I love to dance. Seriously, if you want someone out on the dance floor with you, as long as I’m not in some deep conversation or just refilled a super-spillable martini glass, I’m your girl.
  3. Let’s eat. I don’t eat meat (though I do eat seafood), but I love love love to eat. In fact, I totally want to squeeze in this food tour. Any takers? In particular, I love Mexican and pizza, but I also really enjoy sushi and Thai food, and I rarely say no to Indian food. And I’m totally looking forward to good New York bagels.
  4. I don’t want to share my drink. And not just because I’m a boozehound. If you ask for a sip of my water/margarita/absinthe, please don’t think I’m an ass if I a) say no or b) say yes and then tell you to go ahead and finish it. I have a thing about drinking after people, especially if there’s lipstick or gloss or OH MY GOD I’M ACTUALLY SHAKING FROM PICTURING THIS GROOOOSSSSSSSS. So, yeah, it’s definitely not you. It’s very much me. Sorry about that.
  5. I’m not quite comfortable in the city. I’m seriously, completely excited to go to New York, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive. Walking a few blocks to the subway to get somewhere is probably totally normal for you, but it’s a little scary for me. Please don’t poke fun.
  6. I might not know who you are. But I don’t expect anybody to know who I am in person, either. If I know you from the internet, I probably have a picture of you in my head. It might look like your Twitter avatar, it might look like a picture from your blog, or it might look like Wilma Flintstone for no reason whatsoever. But whether I recognize you or not, I swear I am excited to meet you.
  7. I might burp. I don’t mean to, but sometimes, it just happens. I apologize in advance.
  8. Things I like: Chardonnay, vodka tonic, cute animal pictures (who doesn’t?), funny stories. I also really like TV — I absolutely love Chuck, but other current favorites are Burn Notice, White Collar (yes, I’m into the spy thing these days), Psych, Law & Order (any and all), Glee, House Hunters International (I mean, regular House Hunters is okay, but watching that after International is kind of like going back to straight, black coffee after you’ve had delicious french vanilla coffee with a bit of cream, you know?). And I would love to know what books you’re reading, although I haven’t read too many recently.

So, will I see you there?

I didn’t know about life lists until sometime last year (for someone who blogs for a living, I’m surprisingly slow to pick up on things like this), at which point I was completely enthralled with the idea. Shocking, I know, considering I make lists to keep track of my lists for trips and work and stuff. I mean, you guys don’t even know how hard it was for me to not create a whole life spreadsheet. (Okay, fine, I made one. But I’m not sharing it, so don’t tell. Shhh.)

Anyway, so I’ve basically been working on it for a year. Partly in my head, partly on Post-Its, and partly in various documents on my computer. And finally I decided, ENOUGH! Does it have any power if it’s not shared? I don’t know, but I want to share it — I want it to be real, and I want a reason to work toward checking off the items.( A reason other than the fact that these items are things I just totally want to do. Because, I guess, that’s not reason enough? Whatever.)

One of the things I loved about creating this is that it not only gave me a way to articulate things I want to accomplish, but it gave me an excuse to look back on things I’ve done; things I’m proud of. Just because I’ve already done it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of being on the list, you see — if I hadn’t already done it, it would be on there, so why not put it on there and have something to cross off, right?

(Yes, I do that with my to-do lists, also. SHUT UP.)

So, with no further ado (because this has been a lot of ado — much, and about nothing, really), here it is: My Life List. It doesn’t all make sense, and I might not do all of it, and that’s okay. Let me know what’s on yours — maybe I’m missing something! (And shitballs, that was more ado, wasn’t it? Sorry, y’all.)

(Big thanks to Kate O for inspiring me to separate this into sections, which has helped immensely. And, fellow life listers — if I stole your idea, I’m totally sorry and you can tell me I stole it and I’ll add in a link. I promise I didn’t do it on purpose!)

Key: italics mean it’s in progress, bold means I’ve done it. If it’s bold and in italics, it probably requires explanation

1.    Live on the beach
2.    Own a house with a backyard and guest rooms
3.    Live a laid-back life on a laid-back island, in the Caribbean or elsewhere
4.    Marry someone who makes me laugh and think
5.    Know the best restaurants and bars (hole-in-the-wall, fancy, whatever) in every city I love
6.    Become a regular at a local restaurant or bar (Norm!) (preferably, within walking distance of the beach house I’ll live in)
7.    Live in a truly energy-efficient home
8.    Plant a beautiful flower garden and keep it alive for more than a year

9.    Spend a month (or more) in Europe without everything planned out
10.    Fly first class on a long flight
11.    Go to Egypt; see the pyramids and the Sphinx, etc.
12.    Do a Pacific Northwest wine tour
13.    Hike and camp Machu Picchu
14.    Drive throughout the Northeast in the fall to see the leaves
15.    Attend a Final Four basketball game (TWICE!)
16.    Take a roadtrip with girlfriends
17.    Go on an African (photo) safari
18.    Ride public transportation alone in a major city
19.    Spend enough time in another country that people no longer assume I’m an American tourist
20.    Go to Hawaii and visit at least three islands
21.    Go horseback riding along the beach
22.    Zipline through a rain forest
23.    Visit the hometowns of my ancestors (which would probably involve finding out where they lived, I suppose, and also who they were, and gah, this sounds like a lot of work.)

Good Stuff
24.    Help homeless animals in more ways than adopting
25.    Become fluent (again) in Spanish
26.    Learn French, German, and Italian well enough to get by
27.    Take a painting class
28.    Surprise my goddaughter with a really amazing, life changing gift
29.    Celebrate a major anniversary with good friends at a fancy party
30.    Start or join a book club with a wide variety of people
31.    Send my family on an all-expenses paid vacation
32.    Learn to be a better photographer and print, then frame and hang my favorite photos
33.    Own a nice camera
34.    Be a season ticket holder for the closet college’s football and basketball teams
35.    Hike a mountain and have a picnic of wine and cheese at the top
36.    Write down my parents’ stories
37.    Develop a pet product and donate proceeds to an animal-related charity
38.    Star in a play (in high school — Arsenic and Old Lace, I was Aunt Abby — but I’d like to do it again)
39.    Read the classics I missed in high school
40.    Commit favorite quotes to memory
41.    Organize a 5k to benefit charity
42.    Know the names of all my neighbors
43.    Send cards with a handwritten letter on people’s birthday

44.    Start exercising first thing in the morning
45.    Be good enough at golf to play without constant embarrassment
46.    Learn to surf (thanks Erin)
47.    Be confident in a bathing suit, regardless of the size on the tag (without the help of any boozy drinks)
48.    Coach youth sports
49.    Waterski all the way around a lake
50.    Complete a sprint, Olympic, and Ironman 70.3 triathlon
51.    Win the swimming leg of a triathlon
52.    Learn swing dancing with my husband and be GOOD at it
53.    Play in a beach volleyball tournament
54.    Learn to breakdance
55.    Take an adult tap class (and perform!)
56.    Paddleboard (I mean, I did it, but not very far or for very long or very well, so I think it deserves another go)

57.    Become an expert wine taster (Taste 1000 wines and KEEP NOTES)
58.    Cook a vegetarian meal that meat eaters love (I have yet to win over my Dad, but there are several meatless meals that Jared totally digs)
59.    Grow vegetables, then eat them
60.    Make a pie like my Grandma’s
61.    Dedicate one afternoon a week to drinking wine with a couple of friends (this would require not having to work every afternoon, so I guess I should add WORK LESS)
62.    Learn to identify 100 cheeses by taste
63.    Put together a cookbook of my favorite recipes to share with friends

64.    Have a beautiful (and beautifully organized) closet
65.    Keep my house clean on a regular basis
66.    Print the good photos I have saved on my computer
67.    Create a travel file and keep notes on where I’ve been, what I liked best, what I would do differently, etc.
68.    Go through old home videos, edit them, and put all the keeper parts into a digital file

69.    Win a Halloween costume contest in something I created
70.    Wear something stylish that I sewed myself
71.    Put all my printed photos into albums
72.    Organize all my crafty supplies and keep them in one place (even the same room would be a start)

73.    Write a book that makes people laugh
74.    Write a book that makes people think (these can be the same book or different ones)
75.    Have someone recognize me (by name or sight) because I wrote something that resonated with them
76.    Interview a really, really famous actor (Sean Connery)/athlete (Misty May-Treanor, Aaron Rodgers)/writer/____
77.    Write for a living
78.    Have a column in a local newspaper
79.    Put all of my favorite articles/posts/stories together in one place

80.    Develop a signature style
81.    Find the perfect mascara
82.    Phase leather out of my wardrobe and own high quality, beautiful, cruelty-free shoes and purses and jackets
83.    Buy a pair of high heels that don’t hurt my feet, regardless of cost
84.    Decorate my house in a way that makes me smile
85.    Learn to mix patterns successfully
86.    Find the perfect perfume
87.    Own a DVF wrap dress
88.    Put together a collection of cool hats

89.    Throw out the first pitch of a baseball game
90.    Bid on and win a big ticket item at a silent auction
91.    Sing on key (so, um, taking voice lessons should probably be on there)
92.    Curate an enviable repertoire of jokes
93.    Be able to sew more than a button
94.    Get in a fight, and preferably win
95.    Walk a red carpet
96.    Perform a stand-up comedy routine
97.    Be an extra on a favorite TV show
98.    Watch an old movie outside, either at a park or on a beach
99.    Perform “We Didn’t Start the Fire” at karaoke
100.    Dance on a table in public

Is this list final? Hell no. I’m sure I’ll add things as I think of them, and I’ll remove them when they no longer appeal to me. But it’s a start, right?

Several thousand miles above Georgia (or maybe it was Ohio, or possibly North Carolina), the idea of home hit me. I lived in the same house in Woodland, Michigan, until I went to college. When I was at Michigan State, just an hour away, home was obvious — it was the white farmhouse on a tree-canopied dirt road, across that road and up a steep hill from a lake, with a view of forest and fields and ponds and deer. It was where I had sleepovers and parties and watched movies and basketball with my parents. It was where my childhood dog was buried.

In about a month, I’ll have lived in Florida for 10 years, and my notion of home is a little hazier. My parents moved out of that house the same weekend I moved south, and, honestly, once they were no longer there, it was just a house. The small town in which I grew up, though I know every inch of the park and the school and the Dairy Queen (especially the Dairy Queen), well … it’s just some small town in Michigan there. A town where my dad used to have a store. I’ve been back a couple of times, but I feel like a visitor.

In a lot of ways, Florida feels like home, but it doesn’t feel like where I’m from. I’ve changed and grown in a lot of ways since I arrived, but my foundation was set before I ever paid a cent toward rent. Yes, I have history here now, but it’s not a history that really formed me.

This weekend, I was in Indiana, in a town called La Porte, for my Grandma Sara’s memorial (which was moving and beautiful, hard, but much-needed). What’s fascinating to me about La Porte is that, even though I’ve never lived there, it feels more like a home town than any other place on earth. My grandmother lived there until she came to live with us in Michigan in the ’80s, and we visited her often. I have family there — a big deal for someone who’s the only child of two onlies. There are businesses and plaques and gravestones marked with the names of people in my family tree.

Nobody knows me there, so it’s not like I go into a restaurant and am called by name, but there’s a strange sense of belonging, nonetheless. I know a lot of it has to do with who I see when I’m there — aunts and uncles and cousins who aren’t actually aunts or uncles or cousins (more like seconds or greats or twice-removeds). It’s because I go to the same house I visited on special occasions as a child, and because we talk about people like my grandfather, who I didn’t get a chance to know very well before he died.

What makes a place home? I think for me it’s partly the people, partly the memories, partly the actual location, and partly some sort of connection I can’t begin to understand. But it’s good to have, that much I know.

So I have decided that Kristen is not the only talent in the house.  I am throwing my hat into the ring and posting a few things myself.  Since I am now traveling quite a bit, I run into many situations where I see humorous things and had no one to share them with.  You, lucky reader, shall now share them with me.  I would like to present Musings from a Rambling Man.

Many of the places I have been traveling through are small podunk towns in Florida.  These towns are so small that I can barely even call them towns.  They seem to have a strange fascination with fried chicken.  I saw a sign in one town claiming that they had the best fried chicken in town.  Now this place also happened to be the only place in town.  Did I mention that it was a restaurant inside the only gas station in town? Can you really make a claim like that without there being any sort of competition in town?  I was very tempted to find a local KFC and pass along the fact that this restaurant, probably the only one of its kind, claims their chicken is better than their thousands of stores around the world. Once I looked down the two side streets that radiated from the one stop light in town and knew I would not find a KFC.

Did you know that there is a town in Florida called Lorida.  Oh my god! When I saw the first sign “Lorida” I thought it had to be a decrepit sign.  Then every other sign displaying Lorida I felt like my IQ  might start dropping every moment I spent in the place.  What kind of a person says “hey you know what would be a great name for a place? Lorida, Florida! Isnt that awesome!?!”  They could not even have gone for Florida, Florida.  You know, like New York, New York.  No, they just decided that they should remove one letter to confuse and annoy people coming through their town for decades to come.

For my final musing, I have no picture evidence.  I’m kicking myself for not stopping and taking a picture.  We have many rivers and bridges in Florida, and I have seen many signs right before the bridge: Bridge Freezes Before Road (like roads ever freeze here) and Narrow Bridge are two that come to mind. Beware Buzzards on Bridge was a new one on me.

I mean do we really need to keep an eye out for birds?  Shouldn’t they be able to fly away long before you hit one?  If you ask me birds are one of the few animals expect to see in the road.  Can this possibly be the only bridge in Florida where the retarded buzzards hang out?  I am going to keep my eyes peeled for the buzzards and the sign so I can get some proof of this one.

Thanks for reading my first post.  I will keep you all up to date on any fun stuff I encounter in my travels.

Since I leave again in a few days for another trip, I thought maybe it was about damn time I filled you in on the NYC trip. Aren’t I thoughtful?

It was, in short, a whirlwind. But a lovely whirlwind. We were picked up in a town car, driven to the airport, and the flight was uneventful. Plus, they offered us extra snacks! Woo hoo, go Jet Blue!

We stayed with my old roommate, Robyn, who is fairly new to the city herself. Which is why, when we went to bars we liked (and that first night, there were A LOT OF BARS. If there was a beer shortage in New York on Labor Day, we might be to blame.), Robyn jotted down the names and locations on her map. We also got chance to hang with my pal Chelsea, who is one of those NYC women who can run around in heels. Awesome.

Monday was sightseeing (and shopping! in Soho! and we saw Avenue Q, where we learned the Internet is good … for porn!), taking the Circle Line cruise down to the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautiful day, lots of sunshine, and my lips got burnt. Seriously, folks, they’re still all dry — if you have a super extra happy family lip balm you can recommend, shout it out. I’ve got three kinds on call at all times right now and I’m still way whiny.

Jared and I went to the Museum of Natural History the next day, and DUDE! They have the COOLEST dinosaur skeletons there! You might have thought most people would get that dinosaur excitement out in the second grade, but, nope. Especially when they’re all lively and attacking Jared!

But, at least I made a friend.

The Egyptian exhibit was pretty amazing. I think I fit in pretty well.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the last museum we saw. We were going to squeeze in the Museum of Modern Art (not all on the same day), but honestly? We were arted out. How are you going to beat the World’s Most Giant Balloon Dog, anyway? We didn’t hit the gym, but Jared got to show off his chiseled torso nonetheless. Also, $10 Kristen Bucks to anyone who can name the movie the picture of Jared is based on.

I know (assume? hope?) that some of you are super curious to know about the photoshoot, and trust me when I say it pretty much everything I could have asked for. I have some posts going up this week on StyleList, and once those have gone live and I get home from my next globetrotting adventure (to the exotic locale of … Michigan. Please, hold your applause.), I’ll get more pictures up from that. But, you should be pretty well filled in by then — I’m doing a four part series, one post a day starting most likely on Monday. With galleries of pictures! Look through, and leave (nice) comments!

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself, here:

Notice the number of things that Go Together! Notice how little is on there! And one of those outfits? For the plane! Throw a couple of purses into the mix (okay, carrying one and bringing three, but they take up, like, NO space, and it’s totally necessary, and two are clutches, which hardly even count), a few toiletries, and I’m packed, baby.

I know you can’t really tell what everything is, but you’ll be seeing plenty of these outfits, with me in them, in the next week or so. I promise. Or threaten. Whatever — I’m off to NYC in the morning!

Approximately 150 years ago I hinted at a trip to New York, and since I’m so on top of things, I’m back to give you the actual info. Yep, I’m with it, all right.

I was asked by Spiegel to come to NYC to do a photo shoot for their “Reality Dressing” catalog in which they feature real women of different ages. I had been in touch with them for a few things for StyleDash and AisleDash, and so when it came time to cast for this, they remembered me and asked if I was interested.

To which I promptly answered, “Certainly, I’d be delighted” “OMG! HELLS TO THE YES!” You know, because I’m demure and proper. I’m kinda surprised they didn’t run the opposite direction right then and there.

As if this wouldn’t be exciting enough on its own, consider this — I’ve NEVER been to New York. Not at all. And I write about fashion, people. I’ll be there the week before Fashion Week, which is kind of a bummer, but I just can’t wait to experience it.

They’re being kind enough to fly both myself and Jared up there, and they’re putting us up for two nights, and since there was NO WAY I was going to New York and not seeing, like, EVERYTHING, we’re staying for five nights, and crashing with my old roommate Robyn. A car will pick us up from the airport (woo hoo, Big Time!), and then we get to stay here for the night before and night after the photoshoot (plus, I get to have a MAKEOVER and PHOTOSHOOT, people!).

Stuff like this doesn’t happen to people like me, you know? I’m still a little in shock. I got my travel itinerary the other day, and I just can’t believe it. We leave August 31, and if anyone has any must see/must do lists for us, pass them along! As of right now, I think we’re going to see Avenue Q on Broadway, and go some cool rooftop bar, and probably do the boat ride around Manhattan, but not sure about everything else. Thoughts? Suggestions? Really good pizza places?

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