Completed: 30 Before 30 Minibook

So I turned 30 back in July, and meant to get this book done soon after. (Back when I finished my 27 Things Before I turned 27 list, I finished the book BY my birthday, which seems crazy looking back. The 28 Things While I’m 28 book was only shortly after my birthday.)

Things were a little crazy just after my birthday, what with moving a week after, and starting a new job a month and a half after that. I was busy, and honestly? I pretty much lost my crafty mojo there for a while. I have this awesome craft room now and haven’t really used it. But a few weeks ago, I finally got the room organized and tidied up so that I could actually get some crafts done in there. I haven’t always felt like working on this, now that it’s so far past my birthday and some things have changed even since the list, but I pushed through, knowing how much I wanted to have the book completed, mostly to be able to come back and see it in a few years. It’s not my favorite minibook, but that’s not to say that I don’t love it and the things it contains. This list was my favorite of all the birthday lists, and I think I got some pretty major things done this year thanks to it.

Completed: 30 Before 30 book
#7: Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame
#22: Get a Tattoo
30 Before 30 minibook


I feel like I have been talking about turning thirty all year. And I guess I kind of have, what with the 30 Before 30 list and everything. (I am still working on a few of the items, and will definitely write to wrap up the list once things calm down a bit.)
July 21, 1982 :: 1
July 21, 1982. One.

As a kid, I had a strange history of putting way too much importance in my own birthday. There were a lot of years of stressing about what the perfect gift might be, or how to spend the perfect day. I have been afraid all along that the oh-so-typical Birthday Stress would be exponentially larger, since Turning Thirty is such a Big Deal And Whatever.

July 21, 1984 :: 3

But now it’s here, and I didn’t really end up coming up with anything outrageously noteworthy to do today, unlike most of my friends who have planned big parties or super fun things to do with large groups of everyone who loves them. I couldn’t even think of what to tell people I wanted. And the biggest surprise to me, the same girl who used to FREAK OUT the week before every birthday (it’s the last time I’ll ever swim in a pool while I’m 13!!), is that I’m totally okay with all of it. I am wearing a striped dress and giant pink, red and purple earrings with my purple saltwater sandals, I’ve eaten a bagel and will soon consume frozen yogurt, a beer sampler, and some cupcakes. I’m spending the day with my love. And that is pretty damn great.

July 21, 1985 :: 4
July 21, 1985. Four.

29 seemed like it was going to be The Year, and really? It turned out to be not great at all. There was so much stress and hassle and tears and frustration and for a really large part of the year, it felt like nothing was going as it should, and that everything was more difficult than it needed to be. Right up until this past week, when I almost broke my foot and had unexpected and expensive car repairs. So, no, 29 was not what I expected. But I think that fact is what has helped me approach 30 with increasing excitement and hope the closer it got. My teens were spent knowing somewhere deep down that I just didn’t fit in. My twenties were years of endless searching. For my place in the world, for a career, for fulfillment, for love, for friendship… And as I sit here, newly 30 and perhaps a bit too reflective, I can’t help but feel for damn sure that everyone who has ever told me that their thirties were the best years EVER was SO RIGHT.

Because Dan and I just moved in together and even though the last few weeks have been unsettled and chaotic, things are coming together SO nicely. And I have some of the best friends in the universe. And a craft room. And a brother and a sister and parents who know me better than anyone and who have carried my shit way too many times. And someone who really loves me. And I’m having a really great hair day.

So thirty, bring it on. I simply can’t wait to see what you have in store.

365.1 :: 30

#29: Bake something just for me, without an occasion

Some days, I really don’t know whether all of these projects I have going are a blessing or a curse. When I’m in the midst of getting ready to move (more on that later this week), they do begin to feel more like the latter.

#29. Bake something just for me

But because I’m a bit of an idiot when it comes to following my self-imposed rules, I power through and do things like what I did on Friday. I had the day off, the usual set-up when I work a Saturday, and I spent the bulk of the day packing and sorting and sweating in general. So Friday evening, instead of relaxing or just sitting still for a while, I decided it would be the perfect time to bake. Because baking something just because is one of the few remaining 30 Before 30 list items, and I hadn’t made anything that could count for Handmade 52 last week, either. And again, I’m an idiot.

soon to be oreos

I originally put this on 30 Before 30 because lately it seems like I only ever bake for parties or for other people. And while I love doing that, there seems to be a lot of things that I’d love to bake, but the masses wouldn’t enjoy. Or, the masses only ever request chocolate chip cookies and holy crap am I sick of making chocolate chip cookies.

homemade oreos

Anyway! My cousin made homemade oreos around Christmastime and I couldn’t stop eating them. I can’t deal with more than three or four of the original ones, because me and chocolate aren’t the best of friends. (Oddly enough, though, cookies and cream is my favorite ice cream flavor. Don’t ask me, I know it doesn’t make sense.) So I have wanted to make them since then, and since the recipe source that I always go to first, Smitten Kitchen, had a recipe for homemade oreos, I was set.


These weren’t difficult, and I did leave off a half cup of sugar as Deb suggests to avoid an overly sweet cookie. I think I would try to make the cookies a little smaller next time, though. I learned the hard way why you shouldn’t buy the bottom shelf $7.99 hand mixer at Target while making the filling though. (And didn’t burn down my soon-to-be-vacated apartment in the process.)

The bottom line? These were heavenly. And you should totally make them. They aren’t exactly like oreos, but they are amazing in their own right.

#22: Get a Tattoo

I feel as though if I had polled my friends and family back in July when I originally posted my 30 before 30 list, this is the item that most of you would have filed under “unlikely”. And I might have agreed with you, to be perfectly honest. I have wanted to get a tattoo for at least ten years (I distinctly remember sitting in dorm rooms in college talking about what I’d get if I ever got the nerve). I just really didn’t think I’d ever have the balls to get one for real.

I also have always had trouble nailing down what kind of tattoo I’d get, let alone where I would want it to go. And those are two pretty important aspects of choosing to get a tattoo. So I held off. The idea started to seem a little more attainable a few years ago when my brother got his rampant lion tattoo, though. He had an artist he liked and trusted, and perhaps more importantly, he had That Discussion with our parents and lived to tell the tale.

Cut to a little over a year ago, when my beloved grandmother became very sick and passed away. It was a very difficult time for all of us, but we found a lot of comfort in her outlook on life. I have often felt a little bit like Ghami was a misplaced hippie who was not really religious but very spiritual. Every card any of us received from her said “Heads up!” or “Feel the wind” alongside stick-figure drawings with short hair, hoop earrings, and a twirly skirt. It was her wise way of reminding us to take time to enjoy the moments in life, to focus on the details instead of the heavy stuff, to pause. And it never meant more than it did last spring.

It seemed like the perfect thing for a tattoo, but I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to symbolize the feel the wind spirit in an image. And after a week or so, it hit me, because sitting right on my desk was a tiny card I had bought at Paper Source sometime last winter, orange ink on white, a single dandelion with the seeds blowing in the wind. It was everything I wanted to convey – the wind, hope, details, wishes… perfect.

So I left that card (and the idea) on my desk for over a year. I wanted to make sure I loved the idea after months of staring at it as much as I did when I first thought of it. And sure enough, I did. And after becoming mildly obsessed (in a totally cool, not-creepy-but-friendly way) with the tattoo Jodi got on the top of her foot, I had found my ideal location. Visible when I want it to be, easy to see myself, and easy enough to cover, too.

june 009

After a few stops and starts, my brother and I showed up bright and early (or, at noon on the nose) a few Saturdays ago to get my tattoo. I showed Erik a few dandelion designs that I had printed, and he then drew up his own design, one that managed to take all of my favorite parts and combine them into the perfect design. Three dandelions, because three’s a good number, and lots of wind.

People keep asking me if it hurt, and I’m not sure what to say. It wasn’t unbearable, I didn’t cry, but it hurt like hell. And certain spots? Hurt even worse than that. About five minutes in, I started to feel kind of clammy and light-headed. I’m not a fainter, but I surely didn’t want to find out what it’s like in a tattoo shop. So we took a short break, and I chewed some gum and gulped down some soda. (I didn’t end up needing my emergency Skittles, as it turned out. Yes, I brought emergency Skittles.) After that, I’m not sure what changed, but while the pain was exactly as bad, it was somehow easier to deal with. My brother was there to talk to me through the hour, and I’m so glad for that. It wasn’t exactly something I’d recommend, but I got through it just fine.

About halfway through my tattoo, a for-serious biker dude came in to say hi to Erik. Long white ponytail, beard, leather vest, LOTS of tattoos. He scoped out my work in progress, and said to me, “So how does that feel?” I’m not sure how I responded, but it was probably something intelligent like “Well it’s not fun.” And then he said, “my feet are the only spot I’m NEVER getting tattooed.” And luckily, that made me feel like a champion, rather than unwise.

And then suddenly it was done, and it was amazing. Bigger than I expected, more painful than I could have guessed, but amazing. I probably left the bandage on longer than I needed to, because I was so freaked about screwing up the healing process.

june 010
all bandaged up, two hours later and so swollen and sore. I was so nervous to take the bandage off; it was a strange few hours between getting it done and then confronting the reality. Not that the overall soreness made it easy to forget during those hours!

Now that it has just about fully healed, and I’ve been looking at it, for real, on my own foot, I’m completely in love. It’s just so pretty. (And most people’s first comment is that it’s beautiful, and that’s nice, too, but I was prepared for some not-as-positive comments, too. It IS very visible.) My dad said to me the other night, “Hey, what happened to your foot?!”, which means that he’s getting used to it, too.

#22: get a tattoo

#22: get a tattoo

#22: get a tattoo

And hell, I just really can’t believe I really did it. That is just so damn cool.

#21: Make a Photo Book out of Project 365 Photos

#21: Make a photo book out of Project 365 photos

I started by going through all three years of Project 365 photos and adding any that grabbed me to a set on flickr. It was so interesting to actually take the time to click through every photo again, because some are so familiar, but the descriptions and tags aren’t as fresh in my mind. I tried to pick photos that I am most proud of, or ones that were taken on important or noteworthy days… but I also wanted to include some of the more mundane shots, too, because if that’s not at the heart of a daily photo project, I’m not sure what is. It became a bit of a labor of love as I added the photos to the layouts in the book, because my old habit of resizing photos to 800×600 or 1024×768 before posting to flickr meant that almost half of the photos I wanted to include were too low resolution to print. So I had to find the original files and re-edit as necessary. That was an adventure, too.

june 003
(I included the flickr captions for all three day 365/365 shots, because they make such nice summaries.)

june 004

june 005

june 006

Not only has doing this project gotten me all jazzed to start another round of daily photos, but it has reaffirmed my love for photography. Maybe I’m just the kind of person that needs rules to motivate myself creatively. (You’re shocked, I know.) What I do know, more than anything, is how glad I’m going to be that I got this book made in five, ten, twenty years. When I can pull it out and show kids, grandkids, old friends what I was doing, how I looked, how I found so much happy in the details way back when.

june 008
(The book was printed using I chose that solely based on a half off Groupon, and would be interested to compare quality to books from Snapfish/Shutterfly/Adorama, all of which were recommended to me by my photography pals. Using the software on my very old laptop wasn’t always…quick, but it was easy enough to use and very customizable. I went with the standard 10×8 landscape book with an image-wrapped cover. I LOVE the cover. The pages are a bit on the thin side, but I don’t wish I had upgraded. I’m very, very happy.)

#6: Make homemade pizza

I suppose it’s obvious at this point that I put making pizza on my 30 before 30 list because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been hoarding recipes, and although I made pizzas on New Years Eve with Dan and his brother, we used store-bought crusts for those… and even though I wrote on my own list that making my own dough was extra credit… I really, really wanted to try to make my own pizza dough.

So I did. It gets me extra credit on my 30 before 30, AND counts for week 25 in my Handmade52 project, too.


I’m not really sure, sometimes, what changes in my head so that I stop saying “oh, I should do that” and just do it… but that’s what happened last week. I found the yeast at the grocery store (without having to call my mom to ask where she thought it would be, even) and with a whole day off, I decided it was as good a time as any.

homemade pizza!

Making the dough was much, MUCH easier than I expected. (I used the Smitten Kitchen’s easy pizza dough recipe.) I definitely want to try this with whole wheat flour next time. (Side question for you homemade pizza dough pros out there: do you make the dough ahead and … refrigerate it? It seems like a lot of waiting for a weeknight dinner.)


I went simple with this first pizza (and okay, fine, I planned it for a day when my cheese-hating boyfriend wasn’t around, so I could avoid sauce and the large number of meat toppings he prefers. Not that I won’t make this with him some other time) and just used grated Parmesan and mozzarella.

homemade pizza!

And oh BOY was this super tasty. I can’t wait to make it again!

#26: Eat at Harold’s

Way back when I wrote my 30 before 30 list, I added #26, to eat at Harold’s Deli, because I have been hearing people talk about it for YEARS, but have never been there. My entire family has been there, and my dad telsl the best stories about going there with 5-6 of his softball buddies and still having too much food. I am not sure why I put off planning it for so long, because it’s not that far away.

I was able to persuade my brother, sister, and Dan to go with me on Saturday night, a task made easier when they heard that I hadn’t ever been there. We decided to go for a few drinks to the Harvest Moon brewery in New Brunswick first, just to maximize the hang-out time, but also so I could get another beer sampler, which is also on the list. This is definitely the largest sampler I’ve had since I’ve made it a habit, and while some of them were way too strong for my tastes (I’m looking at you, Barley Wine), it was, as always, so much fun to taste them all to pick my favorite (in this case, the Firehouse Red).

now THAT's a beer sampler

We met back up at Harold’s, a little late, just to try to avoid the dinner rush. This, I’m told, is a mistake, because being there when it’s super crowded is half of the fun of going to a place like Harold’s, where their claim to fame is that EVERYTHING on the menu is overly large and meant to feed 3-4 people. This goes from sandwiches to cheese steaks and caesar salads to the insanely large desserts.

with love from

Another claim to fame is their pickle bar, which boasted some of the tastiest pickles I’ve had in a long time. Except the sour one. I did not like that one.

world's largest

We started off with onion rings and fries, which were pretty epic just by themselves, and between the four of us, we ordered two sandwiches. Lindsey and John got pastrami and turkey, and Dan and I got pastrami and hard salami.

pastrami and hard salami

Woah. (Even the cole slaw was amazing. And don’t get me started on the mustard.)

The trick is repeat trips to the pickle bar, where you can also get stacks and stacks of some of the best rye bread in the universe. This was just what I ate that night, to make individual sandwiches:

that's only what I ate there

And then since we barely scratched the surface of the massive sandwich, we took 8 more slices of rye home to eat the rest of the sandwich with. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me glad I write these birthday lists – it made me do something I’ve always wanted to do, something that I can’t wait to go back and do again.