the wonderful world of veena.

31 May 2013

a space of my own.

I am spending the next 10 or so days housesitting / feeding the cat / hanging out at the Walker-Koelsch household near Walnut Grove and Highland, and thus far, it has been magical.

When my brother dropped me off on Tuesday morning, it occurred to me that it's the first time I have a space of my own since my last few weeks in Nepal. And even then, I only had a room in a guest house. The last time I had a whole house to myself for such a long time was my last year in Bangalore, when I lived on my own in the flat.

I realized on Tuesday night, as I was relaxing on the couch, reading magazines and occasionally checking the Heat-Pacers score, how nice it is to have a whole house all to myself. I can dictate my own schedule, do things as and when I wish, be in charge of the remote, and generally not have to worry about disturbing others or catering to anyone else's schedule. To be completely honest, I didn't leave the house on Wednesday or Thursday except to walk to the curb to get the newspaper.

I got a lot of work done on both days, including finally finishing the first draft of my Capstone final paper and taking care of a few other housekeeping and miscellaneous things I needed to do, and I did it at my own pace. I set my schedule, and I mostly stuck to it, and I felt really accomplished at the end of each day. It's been a long time since I've felt like that on a consistent basis.

My brother and I had a bit of an argument this afternoon about why I have to stay there and why I can't just stay at home and hang out with everyone, and I don't know how to explain that sometimes I need my space. This is a big house, but it can get crowded when all four of us are in it for extended periods of time. And I think I'm also acutely aware that my parents and brother have their evening routines, and I don't quite fit back in yet.

Am I purposely trying NOT to fit back in, so that it's not a disruption if and when I leave again? Perhaps. Maybe I don't want them to get used to me being around, so there won't be pressure to live at home even if I find a job in Memphis. Does that make me a terrible person? I don't think so. It certainly makes me sound selfish - and perhaps I am - but I also know that it's something that I have to do for myself.

For the time being, I am enjoying having a whole house to myself [other than the cat, Frankie, who has almost warmed up to my presence] and being able to do what I want when I want to do it. I know it's going to be short-lived, so I'm going to live it up while I can.

And a huge thank you to Walker and Joe for allowing me this little slice of tranquility.

30 May 2013

30 thursdays: 30 things on my summer bucket list.

Summer has arrived in Memphis, and as I will be State-side for the foreseeable future, I have decided to come up with a bucket list of the things I would like to accomplish in the next 3 or so months. It's also the first summer that my brother and I will both be living at home since probablyyyy...1999 or so? So I fully plan on pulling him along on as many of these adventures as I can. Wish me luck, and let me know if there is anything else I need to add to my list!

30 things on my summer bucket list:
  1. Braves game!
  2. Redbirds game[s].
  3. attend an outdoor concert [I know Riverfest happened last week, but I'd like to make it for one in Memphis or Nashville as well].
  4. have a picnic. preferably in Tom Lee Park, but adjustments can be made.
  5. see The Man of Steel.
  6. go bowling.
  7. play putt-putt.
  8. weekly lunches / dinners with friends.
  9. run outside at least twice a week.
  10. read at least 4 books.
  11. go to Graceland.
  12. see the stingrays at the Memphis Zoo.
  13. watch Friday Night Lights the tv show.
  14. make homemade ice cream and popsicles.
  15. go to an amusement park.
  16. send one handwritten card or letter to someone each week.
  17. visits to St Louis, Nashville, and Chattanooga.
  18. potential visits to NY and / or DC? [it's difficult to pay for plane tickets when you don't have an income...]
  19. cookout with friends.
  20. spend time at the library.
  21. learn how to make 3 simple dinner dishes. I've really got to learn how to cook one of these days.
  22. learn a new skill / pick up a new hobby.
  23. watch as many of the movies in our "best sports movie of all time" bracket as I can.
  24. explore new restaurants in Memphis.
  25. visit at least 2 museums / art galleries.
  26. go one week without social media or television. think I can probably throw in using the computer on that one as well.
  27. somehow convince my parents how easy it is to recycle now that Cordova has been annexed.
  28. brainstorm new gardening ideas with my mother and actually learn how to garden.
  29. renew my driver's license and passport.
  30. finally get a new Social Security card to replace the one that got lost when my wallet was stolen in 2009. only 4 years late on that one. no big deal.
Ok, so those last two are more housekeeping things that need to be done, but hey, I should also feel like I accomplished a few things with my summer, right? And now to get started. September and college football are right around the corner.

26 May 2013

the joy project: week eighteen.

Sunday: ladies brunch at YaYa's with Britney and Amy. family excursion to Shakey's and Slim Chicken's followed by a viewing of Bull Durham.

Monday: worked on some upcoming blog posts. girls' night at the Travelers game with Bee [we got coupons for free cheese dip!]. late night family viewing of Batman Begins.

Tuesday: CSK victory [they're going to the finals!]. spent a rainy day on the couch watching The Dark Knight. family dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Grizzlies game. Nathan Jesson and I wowed the Town Pump with the greatest karaoke rendition of "Glory Days" that has ever happened to the world.

Wednesday: B made sausage and gravy and biscuits for breakfast. discovered Guillermo's, a nice coffee shop in west Little Rock. evening nap on the couch. Papa John's and a family viewing of Dark Knight Rises [it's been a pretty Batman-centered week in the void].

Thursday: hung out with Leah and Brian and finally got to meet miss Zoie [she's adorable and loves me already]. Nathan Jesson's little brother came to visit! Shakey's! late night "Cards Against Humanity" session [I tied for 2nd].

Friday: lunch with David Monteith at The Root. wandered at Riverfest. discovered a good Chinese restaurant downtown. in bed before 11pm.

Saturday: helped Britney and Dylan at their awesome Home Grown event. Slim Chicken's [we may already be regulars there]. saw BUSH live at Riverfest and relived my awkward teenage years.

and tomorrow it's back to Memphis.

23 May 2013

30 thursdays: 30 favourite athletes.

It's no secret that I'm a crazy sports fanatic. I've bled Braves red and blue, Razorback red, Packers green and yellow, and now Grizzlies blue and white for as many years as I've been alive [or in the case of the Grizzlies, as many years as they've been in Memphis]. In recent years - since the opening edition of the IPL in 2008 - I've included RCB red and gold and, on occasion, CSK yellow. I grew up attending all of my brother's various games and matches and meets, and sports has always been and will continue to be part of my life's fabric.

Over the course of the last 30 years I have amassed a fair number of favourite athletes, and today I introduce you to them. It won't come as a surprise to most of you that my list is pretty full of Braves, Razorbacks, Packers, Grizzlies, and cricket players. I'm pretty simple that way.

30 favourite athletes:
  1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni. obviously. 
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  2. Chipper Jones. 
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  3. Aaron Rodgers. 
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  4. Rafael Nadal. 
    [Gugi and I got to meet him at the Chennai Open in 2008! one of two moments in my life when I've been completely speechless]
  5. Corliss Williamson. 
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  6. Clay Matthews. 
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  7. Joe Montana. 
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  8. Jim McMahon. 
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  9. AB de Villiers. 
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  10. Michael Jordan. 
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  11. Brian McCann. 
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  12. Tayshaun Prince. 
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  13. Mike Conley, Jr. 
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  14. Marc Gasol 
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  15. Zach Randolph 
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  16. Tony Allen 
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  17. Greg Maddux. 
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  18. Tom Glavine. 
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  19. John Smoltz. 
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  20. Brett Favre. 
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  21. Andre Agassi. 
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  22. Joe Adams. 
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  23. Darren McFadden. 
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  24. Tim Hudson. 
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  25. Daniel Vettori. 
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  26. Rahul Dravid. 
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  27. Roger Federer. 
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  28. Shane Battier. 
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  29. Javy Lopez. 
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  30. Mark Wohlers. because he'll always be my favourite closer. 
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Looking over this list brings back a lot of great memories from all my years, and I'm reminiscing about why I love each and every one of these guys.

19 May 2013

restaurant review: sunday brunch at yaya's.

Britney's friend Amy came to visit this weekend, and we thought a Sunday brunch would be nice before she had to get on the road back to Kansas City. We decided on Yaya's at the Promenade in west Little Rock and make our reservations for 10am so we could take advantage of the "early bird" special: brunch is $2 or $3 cheaper between 10am and 11am.

I had only heard the name Yaya's but knew nothing about their brunch offerings until Bee mentioned it yesterday as an option. She had heard they had a good buffet as well as a bloody mary bar, so it seemed like a good option to us.

Our first indicator that it was going to be a good morning was when we got out of the car and could smell the bacon all the way in the parking lot. Britney and I are both big fans of bacon. When we sat, our waiter informed us that in addition to the buffet and the bloody marys and mimosas, we could also order Eggs Benedict and omelettes as part of the brunch offerings [the drinks were an additional price].

Britney and I both ordered bloody marys and Eggs Benedict, and Amy ordered an omelette with mixed bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach. The spread on the buffet was pretty good - lots of fruits, 3 different kinds of salads, pasta salad, and pita bread and hummus on the starter table, and pasta, bacon, sausages, eggs, grits [I think], and biscuits and gravy on the main table. There was also a carving station and a dessert station as well as a little section with stuff you could add to your bloody mary - pickles, various hot sauces, and other peppers and such. It was a pretty extensive selection.

The pasta was awesome, as was the bacon. I also very much liked the biscuits and gravy. The Eggs Benedict were ok; Bee and I decided the hollandaise sauce was more lemony than usual, which made it tast a little odd. I tried one of the salads and liked it, and I definitely had a second helping of the pasta. For dessert I had the chocolate "creme brulee", although it looked and tasted more like mousse. Either way, it was good. I also had a chocolate chunk cookie - it was a bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, which is just the way I like 'em, so I was happy. And yes, the bloody mary was very well done. Especially with a little dash of black pepper.

Even though I normally cringe at spending so much money on a meal [brunch + bloody mary + tax and tip = $30!], it was worth the experience. The food was good, and it was fun to have a ladies brunch to see Amy off in style. It would be a really nice place for a special occasion brunch of some sort, such as Mother's Day or a parents' anniversary.

And around 10.40am, the live bluesy-jazzy music began. It was pretty epic.

[on a side note, our waiter was a bit on the odd side, making a lot of awkward jokes and lingering a lot, but we decided he liked Amy, and that's why that happened. it eased up as the restaurant got busy and his tables filled up, so the latter half of our brunch wasn't as bad as the first half]

Important info:
Location: in the Promenade mall on Chenal Parkway in west Little Rock, about a mile or so past the fancy Kroger Marketplace.
Hours of operation: Lunch and Dinner, with slightly separate menus for the two, as well as a Sunday brunch from 10am-2pm. the "early bird" brunch special runs 10-11am and earns you about a $2-$3 discount off your brunch.
Method[s] of payment: accept cash and cards.
Dress code: while I don't think there's a formal dress code, it's a little bit of a nicer place. maybe don't show up in anything ripped or looking too shabby.

The food is good, but be prepared to put a serious dent in your wallet when you go there.

restaurant review: leo's greek castle.

Friday night the fam got dinner from Leo's Greek Castle, and I thought I would share our experience with you.

We heard about Leo's most recently from our dear classmate Maggie whose friends have recently bought Leo's and taken it over. We've been saying for a few weeks that we should eat there / get take-out from there, and finally on Friday the stars aligned and we made it happen.

As we had heard Leo's is a small place [6 tables inside and about 4 on a small outdoor patio], and as we had decided to have a viewing of Miracle while we were waiting for Britney's friend Amy to arrive, we decided to opt for take-out.

Leo's has a vast menu that includes Mediterranean foods as well as burgers and other American foods. The four of us split the combo dip of hummus and baba ghannouj with pita bread; Bee and I split a gyros platter with a greek salad; Nathan Jesson had a gyros platter with french fries; and Dylan had a cup of gazpacho soup, dolmades, and a shish-ka-bob sandwich.

The hummus was awesome, and while Dylan and I liked the baba ghannouj, Britney was not a huge fan. The greek salad was a bit of a disappointment - it wasn't good or bad but just generally didn't have a taste - but the gyros platter more than made up for it. Because we were splitting it, it would have been nice to have had one more pita, but we made do with the extra pita bread from the dips. The meat was great, as was the tzatziki sauce. I can't speak for Dylan, but he polished off his food in no time, so I'm going to say it was probably pretty good.

Leo's prices are very reasonable, too - our entire meal was about $37, and the portions were very generous. The salad and platter was perfect for 2 of us to split, which meant Nathan's platter was the right size for him. Dylan finished his dolmades and sandwich and has been eating his gazpacho with other meals over the weekend, so his portions were pretty good as well.

Overall I really liked the food [and I think the others did, too], and I will definitely try to hit it up again whenever I'm in the Rock over the summer. I also had the opportunity to meet Frank, one of Maggie's friends who runs the place, and he was very friendly as well. I always like to be loyal to friendly places.

Important info:
Address: 2925 Kavanaugh, about 2 blocks west of The Afterthought in Hillcrest.
Known for: Greek dishes, but they also serve burgers and American food.
Price: very reasonable. the combo dip was $4.50, the gyros platters were $9, and 4 of us ate for under $40.
Hours of operation: open until 10pm [I think], 7 days a week. Dine-in or Carry-out available.
Method[s] of payment: accept cash and cards.

Definitely try it if you're in the area. And tell Frank that Veena sent you.

the joy project: week seventeen.

the first week in the "real world".

Sunday: finally got food from Slim Chicken's, and it was fantastic. family adventures in North Little Rock. early to bed.

Monday: back to Memphis to see the Grizz claw their way back from a 17-point deficit to win Game 4 at home in OT. #GritnGrind, indeed. best graduation presents ever: a MacBook Pro from the parentals and - perhaps even more valuable to me - Chipper Jones' 1991 rookie card from the Macon Braves from my brother.

Tuesday: slept and slept and slept. watched tv in bed. CSK victory.

Wednesday: started catching up on my podcasts and my magazine reading. GRIZZLIES ARE GOING TO THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS.

Thursday: went for a run. hung out with the brother at his apartment. watched a lot of tv and took a nap. I could maybe get used to this "real world" thing if this is what it looks like.

Friday: back to Little Rock. nice long nap on the couch. family dinner from Leo's Greek Castle and a viewing of Miracle. Britney's friend Amy came to town. first visit to Bubba's Tavern downtown.

Saturday: slept in and then slept in some more. RCB victory [maybe this semifinals thing will happen after all?]. BURT AND KATIE GOT MARRIED.

so as you can see, a lot of sleeping happened this week. it was much needed after last week, and it also happened because I didn't have a whole lot else happening on my schedule. need to get back into the groove next week, but I'm going to enjoy this whole relaxing thing just a little bit longer.

happy week ahead!

14 May 2013

life, lately.

1. Last Saturday was Graduation! That's right, I have my Master's in Public Service.* Still trying to figure out what that means for the rest of my life [or at least the rest of the summer].

2. This weekend is Burt & Katie's wedding in Little Rock. From the looks of it, it might be the only wedding I make it to this summer. And I'm pretty ok with that.

3. Now that things are - hopefully - settling down, I desperately want to get back into the habit of reading regularly. I miss it. A lot.

4. I know the 30 thursdays posts have kind of disappeared, but I've got about 6 in the pipelines for the coming weeks. A few require pictures that are on my hard drive, a few require pictures that need to be taken, and a few just require me sitting down for however long it takes to finish them. But they're coming.


6. I've sort of been trying to start running again since I got back to the States, but it's been difficult with the back-and-forth between Memphis and Little Rock. It's going to happen soon, though. It has to.

7. It's been a few years since I loved a Grizzlies team as much as I love this one. I love how they've come together down the stretch this season, and I'm glad I made it back in time for the playoffs. #GritnGrind

8. Trying to figure out a time for a road trip to Nashville. Hopefully that will happen sometime next month.

9. Only 6 weeks to complete my 30before30 list. Ha!

10. As always, it's bittersweet to be back in the States. It's great to see everyone here and to catch up with friends and classmates and to eat at all my favourite haunts. But I also miss everyone in India, I miss my crazy cities, and I miss the awesome food. Trying to figure out where I want to be right now is tougher than I expected, and I have a feeling a longer blog post will be appearing on that topic in the coming days / weeks.

Still lots to be done, but I'm taking today to enjoy sitting on the couch and watching mindless television. I'll face the real world tomorrow.

*Technically I am still completing the requirements of the degree, which is to say that I have finish my final Capstone paper, submit it, and defend my project. But I got to walk at Graduation last weekend.

12 May 2013

the joy project: week sixteen.

Graduation week!

Sunday: family trip to Toad Suck Daze in Conway - corn dogs and fried cookie dough on a stick. yum.

Monday: hung out with the Bonner babies from Rhodes. Clinton School Girls' Night at Kelly Ford's house. Britney, Dylan, Nathan, and I read our "Letters to Ourselves" out loud to each other; they were hilarious and very representative of each of us. ridiculous family antics. 2am viewing of The Sandlot to cap it all off.

Tuesday: dinner in Argenta Market with Stan, Britney, and Dylan. Class 7 trolley party through downtown LR and NLR [we may have caused a few traffic jams at the corner of Broadway and President Clinton Ave...oops]. Grizzlies win in OKC!

Wednesday: CSK victory. a tour of the new UACS building space downtown. classmate drinks and snacks at Prost. reception at Foster's Lounge at The Rep. free tickets to Death of a Salesman [great show, but maybe not the most uplifting for almost-graduates]. drinks with Jordan. family hangout time.

Thursday: breakfast made by the Parents Sink [biscuits and gravy!]. fancy reception in the Executive Suite at the Clinton Library. dinner with the Family Sink at Dam Goode. Shakey's!

Friday: RCB victory. finished my grant writing portfolio! lunch with the parentals at the new Chuy's in west Little Rock. family and friends reception at school. dinner at Pei Wei. met Nathan Jesson's family! more ridiculous family antics.

Saturday: GRADUATION! [who thought that day would ever finally arrive?] Grizzlies victory! chilled with the brothers. celebration party at Maggie's house.

it was a fun week, but it was exhausting. I'm looking forward to not having to wear heels again for a while yet.

05 May 2013

the joy project: week fifteen.

Sunday: CSK victory. went for a nice run through the neighbourhood. mum made yummy Indian vegetables for lunch. cookout with Walker and Joe at their house in Midtown.

Monday: finally sorted out my room, put my boxes from last year away, and unpacked my bags and put away my stuff from India. dinner with Lindsey.

Tuesday: CSK victory. Grizzlies won in LA!

Wednesday: ran through the Little Rock 'hood. the Class 7-ers at the SGA meeting were surprised with a "Congraduation" cake! watched the Celtics win in New York with the Nathan Jesson at the Pump.

Thursday: CSK victory. met Nancy Pelosi [she's pretty cool]. RCB victory. actually got some work done in Sturgis. dinner with Ang.

Friday: got to see a lot of the DGS people from last year at the Making Your Garden Grow conference. cold weather! GRIZZLIES BEAT THE CLIPPERS!

Saturday: Clinton School Beer Olympics 2013. fun adventures with Dylan and Nathan. dinner with Will.

only 6 days to graduation!

02 May 2013

30thursdays: 30 awesome things from my childhood.

I find myself getting nostalgic for the beauty of my childhood. Not because I'm freaking out about turning 30 or anything like that. I think it's more because the reality of finishing grad school and having to look for "real" jobs is beginning to sink in, and I remember the peacefulness and freedom of being a child and thinking that waiting one week for the new episodes on T.G.I.F. was the biggest problem in my life. I had such an amazing childhood, full of so many different, fun things, and today I shall share some of my reminiscences with you.

30 awesome things from my childhood:
  1. the original Nintendo. 
  2. Dukes of Hazzard model cars. 
  3. Skip-It. 
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  4. Pogo Balls. 
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  5. Polly Pockets. yep, I said it. 
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  6. the original Game Boy. 
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog
  8. Mad Libs. 
  9. Choose Your Own Adventure books. 
  10. Saved by the Bell, Full House, and Family Matters. 

  11. slap bracelets. 
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  12. The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby Doo. 

  13. Nickelodeon Gak. 
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  14. candy bracelets and necklaces. 
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  15. Pocket Rockers. 
  16. Super Mario Kart. 
  17. Trapper Keepers. 
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  18. Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Nickelodeon Guts. 

  19. Teddy Ruxpin. 
  20. Care Bears, Garbage Pail Kids, and My Little Pony. 

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  21. the Goosebumps series. 
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  22. layered slouch socks and t-shirt ties. 
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  23. He-Man and She-ra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Inspector Gadget. 
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  24. Michael Jackson before his nose peeled off and he became all creepy. 
  25. Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Ghostwriter, and Clarissa Explains it All. 

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  26. Invisible Ink activity books. these kept me entertained for hours on our India trips. 
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  27. Legos. 
  28. American Gladiators. 
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  29. Macho Man Randy Savage. 
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  30. wooly willy. 
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I am certainly a child of the '80s if ever there was one.

ps. I know I've been majorly slacking on these blog posts. My plan is that once graduation has come and gone - taking with it my Capstone Final Report, my online Grant Writing class, and my Independent Study - I will start cranking out a few of these a week to make up for the last few months of my life. Have no fear, we will get 30 of these on here before I actually turn 30. [in order for that to happen, however, I could use some more suggestions on topics, please and thank you :)]

[images are from wikipedia except where otherwise noted]