Receiving a Random Act of Kindness

3 Apr

Today, something amazing happened.

A few months ago, I signed up to be a beta tester for a site called GiftOn (and if you want to be a beta tester too, you definitely should sign up right now!). It’s a fun concept – people share stories of the best gifts they’ve gotten/received, and users can search for gift ideas by occasion, relationship, type of gift, interests, etc. I’ve submitted two stories so far, and one was a story about taking my boon companion for a bookish birthday:

“My friend and I are huge bookworms. We’ve bonded over books and spent many a happy day wandering bookstores (and lamenting the fact that we can’t afford everything on our to-read list). So for her birthday, I came up with the present I would want to be given myself.

I gave her a homemade coupon for a day out, in which I took us out for a meal (most likely brunch) and then we went to a bookstore – and whatever book she wanted was on me! She loved it and we had a great day together.

This had the bonus of being a shared experience sort of gift as well as having a physical reminder of our fun day out. We both loved it!”

I submitted this story a few weeks ago and got some nice reactions and comments, then gradually forgot about it.

Until today.

Today, the site’s founder (who is a lovely person I networked with on The Job Hunt) sent me an excited email with a subject line I would have rejected as spam from someone I didn’t know: “Surprise gift for you!!! $100 cash for books!!!

I furrowed my brow and immediately opened the email. She was almost as thrilled to write the email as I was to read it – someone had read my story and sent her this note:

“I probably can’t afford her whole to-read list, but I’d like to anonymously offer Allie $100 for her to buy at least a few of the books off her list.”

I sat there blinking for some time, then made some half-choked noises and looked up to see who I could stare at open-mouthed while pointing at my phone. (I did end up interrupting my coworker from dialing in to her conference call. NO REGRETS.)

I can’t get over this. I don’t know who this person is, but they made my entire day. I’ve never been on the receiving end of a Random Act of Kindness quite like this, and it made a grey Chicago day into a snuggly one with the thought of new books.

So, whoever you are – thank you!!! I can’t wait to spend the gift card (which will have a carefully-marked sticky note on it labeled “FOR BOOKS”) at local bookstores that I always want to support but can rarely afford.

I better get reading! There are new books out there waiting to be discovered!


My shelves runneth over. But only a little.


Advantages of Start-up Life

24 Mar

I’ve always loved startup culture, but until now, it’s always been as an outside observer, staring in through the window at offices who dress casually and eat snacks and laugh a lot. Now that I get to participate, I like it even more. Here’s what I’ve observed so far:

  • The office dress code is relaxed. Jeans and a nice shirt seem to be the norm, and I frequently see Converse.
  • Questions are always encouraged. When the COO mentioned our NPS score in a meeting, I waited until afterwards to ask him what that meant. After he happily explained, I started to walk away. But he called me back and demanded that next time I don’t know something, interrupt and ask him during the meeting.
  • Everyone is expected to know how the company works, inside and out – including how to use our meter, whether you have diabetes or not. (This led to an afternoon in which I discovered how much more difficult it is to draw and test blood than I ever previously understood.)
  • In a meeting to find out more about what he does, the VP of Operations literally drew a map of China and pointed out what parts of our device are made where, and how the entire shipping and fulfillment process works.
  • Hierarchy means nothing. I sit right next to said VP of Operations in our row of desks.
  • The company understands that happy employees are well-fed employees, so lunch is brought in every Wednesday, breakfast is brought in every Monday and Friday, and there is a constant supply of snacks available.
  • (On a related note, when we bemoaned the lack of pie in the office on Pi Day, we received pie.)
  • Everyone is focused, passionate, and friendly. I have yet to meet someone who acts like they’re only here because they’re paid to be. Everyone genuinely wants to be here and to do their work well. The office really feels like a team.
  • As long as you get your work done, no one really cares about the particulars of it. Work from home? Fine, just let us know. Doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day? Get yourself a check-up. Free to check emails at 8:00 at night? Neato. Work is done by 4:30? Go home. Need to say goodnight to your Israeli boyfriend at 3:30 in the afternoon? As long as it’s not during a meeting, step out and make a quick call.

One more thing I really appreciate is what my specific company actually does. Livongo empowers people with diabetes to better manage their condition. The blood sugar meter is friendly, easy to use (I’ll get the hang of it soon), and provides real-time feedback as it tracks your levels. Coaches are available for appointments anytime and, if your meter reads your levels at being outside of a normal range, you get a call within a few minutes making sure you’re okay. The testing supplies (strips and lancets) are all unlimited. And the best part is that it’s offered through employers, so employees with diabetes (and in many companies, their spouses and/or dependents too) get all of this for free.

I love that I can work for a company whose mission I completely support. Health tech startups are near and dear to my heart, and if my work helps someone else have an easier time handling a medical condition, I really feel fulfilled.


7 Must-Have Affordable Travel Accessories

26 Feb

If you’re like me, you always see articles proclaiming the things every traveler MUST have. And then you click on the link and find that it contains a $300 carry-on, a $70 neck pillow, $250 noise-canceling headphones, and probably an $800 portable white noise machine (“for silencing the obnoxious noises of warmed nut bowls clanking against the porcelain china when you’re sitting in first class!”).

But never fear – you can find affordable travel accessories that will make your life infinitely easier, whether on the ground or in the air. These are some of my favorites:

1. eBags Packing Cubes: $23-36


These things are amazing. A former boss and excellent friend of mine got them for me when I was packing to spend six months in Israel and expounded on their virtues to an unbelieving Past Allie, just like Current Allie is doing to a likely unbelieving Current Reader. But seriously, they make my life so much easier when I’m traveling. I have the set of three large cubes, but you can buy them in any size combination or color choice.

The brightly-colored part is super durable and super thin nylon, and the darker part on top is mesh – so you’ll never have to force your underwear into a 2-gallon Ziploc bag and squeeze all the air out as hard as you can before zipping it ever again. These squish down when there’s room to squish down, but stay intact when you want them to stay intact. Since two of these fit comfortably in your average suitcase, my brilliant strategy is that I fill one with shirts and the other with socks, bras, and underwear. Then, when I’m going home at the end of the trip, I reorganize to fill one with clean laundry and the other with dirty. It makes my life so stupidly simple, both while traveling and when I get home.

2. A good water bottle: $13-18


You know what they say: a good water bottle is hard to find. Or something along those lines, anyway. I always bring an empty reusable water bottle with me to the airport, because once I’m through security I can fill it for free, potentially saving myself several dollars per year! …And it helps the environment. At O’Hare, they have those automatic water bottle refill stations that count how many plastic bottles have been saved by using them, so I always feel good about myself.

Anyway, a good water bottle for air travel has to fulfill several requirements. It has to be leak-proof or spill-proof (why, oh why, do airlines not provide cupholders?). It can’t be the kind with a straw that you bite to access (because, as I discovered once, the change in pressure will send water shooting into your mouth as soon as you bite and thus drown you or drench your face and shirt). It probably shouldn’t be one without a cap (considering the number of things your water bottle will be rubbing against in various bags and seat pockets, you really don’t want to put your mouth directly on something unprotected). I’ve had excellent luck so far with the Camelbak Chute, but you can play around with whatever fits your needs best.

3. Travel jewelry wallet: $8-35


I once read that to pack necklaces and prevent them from tangling, you should wrap them around a pencil. After attempting this several times, I concluded that the suggester has never experienced gravity, as necklaces would just slide right off. Taping them seemed silly (and bad for the necklace), and then they usually fell off anyway (what? I tried it!).

So many, many moons ago, my mom got me a jewelry wallet, at the time from The Container Store. After I lost it due to intense flea-related cleaning (a lot of our stuff accidentally ended up in the garbage that week), we searched high and low for a new one, but it always evaded capture. Somehow, my mom found it again a few years ago – but I am unable to track down a good link to provide you with myself. But if you search “travel jewelry wallet”, you can find many excellent options.

Anyway, this is a must-have if you’re bringing multiple necklaces and/or earrings. Individual slots let you clasp necklaces through them so that they can’t tangle in transit, and a strip of leather with holes poked through makes for a perfect earring holder. Mine also has a zip pouch in the middle, which is great for bracelets and other items that are too big for the other sections. Plus, when you close it, it looks like a large wallet (hence the name) and slides easily into a backpack for travel.

4. Drawstring bag: $5-20


I love traveling with these for lots of reasons. They fit the entire contents of my purse as well as a water bottle, travel guide, and any other required accessories. They’re much more thief-proof than a backpack, as the bag’s own weight keeps it closed when it’s slung over your shoulders. And, the best part – I can make my boyfriend take turns carrying it, instead of just me carrying everything in my purse for everyone.

To be honest, I’ve never paid for one of these in my entire life – I always get them as swag, thanks to college, a job, and a sporting team. But you can find an entire category of them on Amazon with every logo and color and price you can imagine.

5. Organizer: $12-25


These are a requirement for any traveler who has basic hygiene needs. I use one of these for my toothbrush, toothpaste, contacts, glasses, medicines, deodorant, comb, etc. I highly recommend getting one that is squishable (so it doesn’t take up unnecessary room in your carry-on), has a flat bottom and a zip around the top (this is personal preference, but I like having the top stay open when needed), and is made of a material that can get wet and not be destroyed (since it’s probably going to hang out next to the sink a lot). You can find these at any drugstore or beauty store. The one pictured above is from Ulta.

I love having all of the necessities in one small bag with a handle, so I can just yank it out as needed. Easy to find and easy to use!

6. Earplugs and sleep mask: $5-20

Plane travel. Screaming children. Loud passengers. Drink carts. Need I say more?

7. Seat back pocket protector: $20-30


Full disclosure: I haven’t actually used one of these, but my boyfriend got one as a present for my aunt and uncle and it seems awesome. This thing goes in the seat back pocket in front of you on the plane, and you can put all your stuff in it instead of in the pocket itself. Not only does this seem more hygienic (I always feel gross holding my phone up to my face after it’s spent a few hours in that pocket), but it seems like you’re less likely to forget your stuff. If you’re like my mom who left a portable charger, or my boyfriend who left a water bottle, or my dad who left an iPad and a book, or my grandma who left a Kindle, you might want to invest in one of these.

We found this one at Macy’s for $28, but I’m sure you can shop around and find other options as well. Think bright colors so you won’t forget the entire thing!

If you have other suggestions, let me know in the comments!

Travel Tip: Making a Custom Map

2 Feb

Every time I’m mid-planning for a big trip, I reach a point where, after my head has been buried in a Fodor’s guide and my subsequent notes for hours, I suddenly look up, remember to inhale, and mutter, “How am I ever going to remember all this??”

Because despite my best attempts, other than a couple of main sights to see and food to eat, I feel like I forget most of what I’m planning, or I don’t know where things are in relation to each other. I write everything down, but I don’t want to spend vacation time poring over notes. Perhaps I’m missing the best restaurant in the city because I didn’t realize it was between the museum in the morning and the tour in the afternoon! It’s SO STRESSFUL.

I always put sticky flags all over the guide books, but then I’m stuck carrying the heavy travel book (along with all of the other crap I end up carrying for myself and everyone else). And I can’t easily flip to exactly the page of restaurants that I want. Besides, restaurants are usually arranged in the books by price and general area, not Exactly Where Allie Is At This Moment sections. (But Fodor’s, seriously, that would be really helpful.)

Elad and I found a site one time that aimed to help you plan your route when traveling, and it was so close to being helpful. It ended up being extraordinarily cumbersome and difficult to work with, and caused us more headaches than it was worth.

So as I’ve been planning our upcoming trip to Spain, I’ve been shaking my fist at the Internet for want of the exactly perfect travel planning app/website that does everything I want. But today I realized… I haven’t exactly searched for one. Oops. So I searched for the phrase “map lets you mark points of interest”. Not one of my finest search queries, but it got the job done. Because I discovered… Google’s My Maps.


It’s beautiful!

(I know I’m late to the game on this. In fact, I used a custom Google map for years when working at Chicago-Kent because an excellent librarian made a custom of nearby restaurants. But it never occurred to me to make one myself – until today!)

The essence of the site is that you can create pins on a Google map pointing to places of interest. You can color-code them, you can give them different symbols, you can add notes and photos to them, and you can make them in layers to be turned on or off at will.

This was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Instead of getting stressed about trying to remember which tapas restaurants are recommended near which museums, I have it all laid out for me. Everything I’m interested in is highlighted, it’s on a trustworthy map, it’s color-coded, it’s got my notes, and it’s PERFECT.

To give you an idea of what I mean, check out my map for Madrid. (And if you have suggestions for my trip, let me know!)

I decided to have different layers for activities, my hotel, and restaurants – so if we want to see just one or two of the sets of pins at a time, it’s easy to turn off the others. I color-coded them by type (red for restaurants, blue for activities) and by priority (the darker color means we HAVE to go, the lighter color means it’s on the list). I added notes, and now that I’ve played with the photos function, I’m considering taking photos of the relevant pages from my travel guide to attach to more complex pins.

If you’d like an excellent step-by-step tutorial, you should check out this one. You can skip the “how to access it” part at the end, though. You can share the link (to edit or to view) just like you would with any Google Drive document, and send it to yourself to have on your phone.

For the organized traveler who likes to plan ahead, I cannot recommend this strategy enough. The only potential downside I see is making sure we have data when we’re out and about. But even that can be sidestepped through screenshots, regular wifi access throughout the day, and planning at the hotel in the mornings or evenings.

I’m so excited to use this! Any other amazing travel apps/sites I need to know about? Tell me in the comments!

An Open Letter to Lord Voldemort

24 Jan

(Writer’s note: despite the current political climate, I am not in fact referring to anyone other than the fictional character from the Harry Potter books. Seriously. Also, this contains spoilers if you’re one of about twelve people who hasn’t read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

Dear Lord Voldemort,

I have a bone to pick with you. Well, to be honest, I have some larger issues with your actions and policies, as I am not in favor of a dark wizard overlord spreading fear and death across the land. But there’s something else that’s been bothering me, and I think you need to know. And how else do we learn, if not from our mistakes?

I noticed and laughed about this issue when I first read the book series in which you feature prominently (I assume since good wizards don’t like to say your name, you don’t like hearing your enemy’s name spoken aloud either). Now that I am rereading the series as an adult, I thought I might pick up on some crucial detail I had overlooked as a teenager.

But no. Your mistake still stands.

Let me elaborate.

In The Boy Who Lived and the Goblet of Fire (you’re welcome), you concoct an elaborate scheme to gain access to The Boy Who Lived away from the magical protection of his family at home and of Albus Dumbledore at Hogwarts. This involved the following:

  • Freeing your faithful servant from the oversight of his father
  • Keeping the father under the Imperius Curse and forcing him to continue to work as though nothing were wrong for many months
  • Attacking an advanced Auror
  • Brewing an immense amount of the Polyjuice Potion (an enormously complicated potion to make, as we know thanks to The Boy Who Lived and the Chamber of Secrets)
  • Breaking into the offices of a potential (and suspicious) enemy to get ingredients for this potion for 10 months
  • Keeping the previously mentioned advanced Auror alive but subdued
  • Risking detection throughout the entire school year because of faithful servant’s proximity to your strongest enemy, Albus Dumbledore
  • Tricking an ancient magical object into believing four schools were competing in the Triwizard Tournament to make The Boy Who Lived’s name appear
  • Guiding The Boy Who Lived through not one, not two, but three tasks without appearing to actually do so (which all presented their own difficulties, but this list is getting long)
  • Enchanting the Triwizard Cup to become a portkey right under Albus Dumbledore’s nose
  • Overall, waiting a full year and dealing with many magical trials and subterfuge.

Look, the idea to get Harry to touch the Triwizard Cup and be transported straight to you is a good one. It’s an easy way to get him out of Hogwarts.

But that’s all you had to do – just get him to touch a portkey.

You could have saved yourself one hell of a lot of trouble if you simplified this plan. Your faithful servant might still have had to replace the Auror, to get someone seemingly trustworthy near The Boy Who Lived.

But the Triwizard Cup? Completely unnecessary extravagance.


So extravagant.

Once The Boy Who Lived began to trust your faithful servant, all he would have had to do was offer him a cup of tea. Or a key. Or an old boot, for goodness’ sake.

“Potter, come to my office. Here, have a boot.” WHOOSH. Done.

I mean, we all know that kid can’t keep his hands off of anything. He started writing in your old diary, a strange magical object that he found in a toilet, because he was curious. He fell into Dumbledore’s Pensieve full of his private thoughts literally because it was SHINY.

But maybe Portkeys don’t work inside of Hogwarts, and that’s why it had to be outside in the Quidditch pitch. But again, this seems easy to simplify.

“Potter, come with me. I saw something odd out of my window and we need to investigate. Oh look, there’s a Galleon on the ground over there. All yours, kid.” WHOOSH. Done.

Perhaps you didn’t want your faithful servant and The Boy Who Lived going for a suspicious walk together. But the kid goes to Hogsmeade at every opportunity. If your Portkey worked in the Quidditch pitch, it must be able to work at Hogsmeade.

“Hey Potter, look – there’s a letter on the ground with your name on it.” WHOOSH. Done. (You wouldn’t even have needed to replace Moody at this point. Anyone in Hogsmeade could have left that laying around.)

I understand you have a flair for the dramatic. (And that works for you; it’s hard to be an evil overlord if you don’t let people know about it.) So perhaps his disappearance HAD to be in front of a big crowd. Fine. Your servant literally told The Boy Who Lived what he should do to get through the dragons in the first task and knew he would be summoning his Firebolt. He could offer to carry it down to the first task and enchant it then.

“Accio Firebolt!” WHOOSH. Done.

Before I recently reread the book, I assumed there was some explanation as to why the Portkey had to be placed in the final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Perhaps creating a Portkey is a noticeable magical disturbance, but there were so many spells and enchantments and creatures in the third task that it would go unnoticed. But that’s not even on the table. Here’s what you say to the Death Eaters when you recount your entire plan, Bond villain-style:

“So how could I take him? Why…by using Bertha Jorkins’s information, of course. Use my one faithful Death Eater, stationed at Hogwarts, to ensure that the boy’s name was entered into the Goblet of Fire. Use my Death Eater to ensure that the boy won the tournament – that he touched the Triwizard Cup first – the cup which my Death Eater had turned into a Portkey, which would bring him here, beyond the reach of Dumbledore’s help and protection, and into my waiting arms.” (p. 657)

Voldy, this is overkill. (Although, since you didn’t kill him, I guess it’s underkill?) I understand that you just had to use this kid instead of literally any other enemy you have; it’s very you. But the whole Triwizard Tournament? This is just poor planning.

All in all, I think you should know that your penchant for easily recognizable dramatic plots might get you into trouble someday. Like, if you’re going to, I don’t know, hide pieces of your very soul, maybe just pick an old sock somewhere.

If you want to hold on to your magical empire, play hard to get a little bit.



SO dramatic.

101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge

13 Jan

Earlier this week, I discovered the 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge, and I love the idea. Being unemployed takes a toll on the psyche, so it would be really great to set myself some goals and accomplish them on a regular basis.

The tasks I chose span a wide range. There’s self-improvement, there’s entertainment, there’s travel, there’s Big Life Planning, there’s small organization, and lots and lots in between. Some of them will be easy and fun to do, and some of them will be big and difficult. But I look forward to nailing them, and to writing about them as well!

Start date: January 14, 2017
End date: October 12, 2019

Big Life Stuff

1. Get a full-time job: accomplished 2/28/2017
2. Be able to explain my career goals more clearly
3. Get my own apartment: accomplished 5/1/2017
4. Get a pet

Self-Improvement Stuff

5. Learn Hebrew
6. Make something from Pinterest
7. Learn the basics of Python
8. Read that meditation book from mom I’ve had for almost a year now (sorry, mom)
9. Meditate 10 days in a row
10. Take professional ukulele lessons
11. Take an improv class at Second City
12. Take a course on Coursera
13. Dye part of my hair a different color (ever since I saw a picture that accidentally looks like I have a single hot pink curl, I can’t get it out of my mind): accomplished 8/2017
14. Get a crochet lesson
15. Learn a legit magic trick from Danny
16. Learn a sentence in Chinese or Mongolian from Kacey
17. Learn to recognize a new constellation

Travel Stuff

18. Visit two new countries
    -Spain, February 2017
19. Visit Shelby in Salt Lake City
20. Visit Kacey and Krista in Phoenix
21. Visit Christina in Atlanta
22. Visit two other new US cities
23. Visit the Madison Farmers’ Market: accomplished 6/10/2017
24. Spend a day in Milwaukee

Stuff Outside

25. Go on a hike
26. Attend another roller derby class/workshop: accomplished 7/2017
27. Run/walk a 5K
28. Build a snowman

Read Stuff

29. Read a book alone under a tree
30. Go to a coffee shop alone just to read
31. Leave a good book somewhere for someone else to discover
32. Read two complete book series (serieses?)
33. Read a book grabbed on impulse from the library
34. Read 50 books I own but haven’t read yet (I KNOW, I HAVE A PROBLEM)
    -3/50 as of 2/22/17

Watch Stuff

35. Watch Agent Carter
36. Finish season 9 of Doctor Who
37. Finish watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
38. Watch Freaks & Geeks
39. Watch Dollhouse
40. Watch Fargo (the movie)
41. Re-watch O Brother, Where Art Thou? as an adult
42. Watch The Godfather

Entertainment Stuff

43. Bring a group of friends to see live music of my choice
44. See 10 plays/musicals
    -The Bodyguard, 1/31/2017
-Gloria, 2/1/2017
-Carmen, 2/28/2017

    -Hedwig and the Angry Inch, 3/7/2017
    -Aladdin, 4/2017
    -Something Rotten, 7/2017
45. Attend three Meetup group meetings
   -North Side Social Club, 3/10/17
46. Attend a comic con: accomplished 4/2017 (C2E2)
47. Write a short story
48. Host a potluck dinner with friends
49. Sing karaoke in public
50. Go to a drag show
51. Catch up on Hello From the Magic Tavern (I’m more than halfway there!): accomplished 9/17/17 (just in time to see a live taping!)
52. Attend a Chicago street festival
53. Play Kingdom Hearts
54. Replay an N64 or GameCube game from my childhood
55. Attend a friend’s performance: accomplished 6/2017 (Rachel & Geoff’s choir)

Eating Stuff In

56. Make a dessert for someone else
57. Make one of my grandma’s recipes with her
58. Make one of my mom’s recipes with her
59. Make one of my dad’s recipes with him
60. Have a picnic
61. Open a cookbook to a new page and make that recipe
62. Learn what to do with a butternut squash
63. Actually make Yael’s challah recipe

Eating Stuff Out

64. Visit three Chicago coffee shops I haven’t been to before
    -Chicago Grind, 1/27/2017
-Queen of Hearts, 7/2017
    -Ritual Coffeehouse, 6/2017
65. Visit Kibbitznest Books, Brews & Blarney
66. Visit The Berkshire Room
67. Go to Howl at the Moon
68. Visit Little Bad Wolf: accomplished 5/2017
69. Visit Luella’s Southern Kitchen: accomplished 7/2017
70. Eat Korean BBQ
71. Go on a Chicago food tour
72. Open the Entertainment coupon book to a random page and go where the coupon is

Boyfriend-Related Stuff

73. Watch Memento together (one of his favorite movies I’ve never seen)
74. Watch What We Do in the Shadows
75. Watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi (and eat sushi)
76. Kiss in the rain
77. Figure out more details for our future (we’ve got a general plan, but details are neat)

Organizational Stuff

78. Upload all of my photos from my computer to Flickr
79. Upgrade my laptop’s iOS
80. Figure out the weird iTunes issue that separates songs into different albums by artist (for example, The Producers soundtrack is split into separate albums – one is Nathan Lane, one is Matthew Broderick, one is Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, etc.)
81. Clean out the trunk of my car
82. Fix the hole I keep ignoring in my favorite skinny jeans: accomplished 3/6/2017

Get Stuff

83. Get a Moleskine notebook or planner: accomplished 2/26/2017
84. Buy and use a grown-up candle
85. Get an autograph from someone famous (or at least famous to me): accomplished 3/29/2017 (John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War)

Giving Stuff Back

86. Donate 30 items of clothing
87. Donate blood: accomplished 6/2017
88. Volunteer for a political cause that matters to me
89. Review 10 favorite local restaurants on Yelp
    -Patisserie Coralie, 1/23/16
    -The Lunatic, The Lover, & The Poet, 6/2017
-Sushi Tokoro, 6/2017

    -Ritual Coffeehouse, 6/2017
90. Review 5 hotels/trip providers on TripAdvisor
    -Room Mate Mario (Madrid hotel), 2/23/17
    -El Jardi (Barcelona hotel), 2/23/17
91. Mail someone a care package for no reason
92. Volunteer at the Uptown Cafe

Financial Stuff

93. Look through the Wall Street Journal financial planning book from my grandpa; figure out what applies
94. Put $5 in savings for every task I accomplish: 1, 3, 13, 23, 26, 46, 51, 55, 64, 68, 69, 82, 83, 85, 87
95. Donate $5 to charity for every task I don’t accomplish

Future Stuff

96. Come up with items 97 – 101 as needed
97. Go out dancing with Shelby in Chicago

(Setting goals for the next 2.74 years is fun, but I certainly hope I have new ideas during that time. I don’t want to box in all 101 goals just yet.)

So, this should be a fun 1001 days! I plan on updating this list as I complete them, and hopefully writing some blog posts about the experiences as well. If you want to join me in accomplishing any specific or general goals, I can’t wait to have your company.

Wish me luck, and bring it on!


Rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as an Adult

3 Jan

I decided to make 2017 the Year of the Series *sweeping hand gesture*, in part because I realized I’ve never read all of the Harry Potter books together as a set. I’ve read each one individually anywhere between two and fourteen million times, but never as a set and not really as an adult. So I began to wonder, would the books hold up? Would Adult Allie find them as fun, wonderful, and, well, magical?

Adult Allie found out the answer, at least for Book 1: it’s not as good as I remembered – it’s BETTER. (And this is saying something, considering the level of Young Allie’s obsession.)

It helps that rereading Sorcerer’s Stone came in the form of the Illustrated Edition, with absolutely gorgeous artwork from Jim Kay. Next time you find yourself at a bookstore, flip through a few pages. It is worth ogling.

But I couldn’t help noticing things a little differently as an adult. For example (please note, if you are one of approximately seven people left on earth who hasn’t read this book, please skip due to spoilers):

  • The Mirror of Erised is so much more dangerous than I realized as a kid. I mean, of course I wanted things as a kid, but they fell more along the lines of “a Furby” or “summer”. As an adult, I think about what I might see in the Mirror and how easily a person could waste away staring into its depths.
  • Where do hand-me-down wands come from? A recurring theme of the book series is that the wand chooses the wizard, and wizards are significantly more powerful when using their correct wand. But if Ron is using his older brother Charlie’s wand, why did Charlie get a new wand – and thus have an old wand for Ron to use?
  • Hagrid kind of has an alcohol problem. I mean, he drinks A LOT. After he and Harry go to Gringotts and he feels sick from the carriage ride, he sneaks in a quick day drink while Harry gets measured for his robes. Not to mention he lets slip the trick of getting past Fluffy to a MYSTERIOUS STRANGER entirely due to alcohol.
  • I know this comes more into play throughout several of the later books, but it is incredible to me that Ron doesn’t have more of an inferiority complex between his brothers and Harry. For goodness’ sake, when he exits the Hogwarts Express, his own little sister – who hasn’t seen him in almost a year – is pointing out Harry Potter instead of Ron. I commend Ron immeasurably for not flipping over his cart right then and there.
  • I find Malfoy less of a villain and more of a pathetic kid. It’s so interesting how I just want to laugh at him instead of punch him now. I think that means I grew up!
  • When Harry and Hermione bring Norbert up to the roof so Charlie’s friends can take him, they risk expulsion (and they do get caught and lose enormous amounts of points from Gryffindor). But why couldn’t Hagrid take Norbert to the roof, thus saving Harry and his friends the trouble? Harry and Hermione used the invisibility cloak, so it could be argued that Hagrid wouldn’t have fit under it – but he wouldn’t need it. Hagrid ain’t no student, so he wouldn’t get in trouble.
  • No wonder J.K. Rowling started writing mysteries after this – she is a masterful mystery writer, even though this is considered a Fantasy book. Just look at the Gringotts break-in. Harry realizes it’s so obvious that Quirrell had tried to steal the Stone just after they met at the Leaky Cauldron, but think of all the other people he met at the Leaky Cauldron and throughout Diagon Alley that day. You hardly even remember!
  • Let’s all remember the time Fred and George Weasley hit Voldemort in the face with snowballs.


And finally, I’d like to wish for us all to be more like Dumbledore in this book: wiser than we let on, humbled by ourselves and those around us, and never taking ourselves too seriously.