Touristy Tuesday: Columbia, MO Edition

The way I would describe our time in Columbia would be like a week long speed dating session, but with friends. Columbia is home to Mizzou and I still have a lot of friends still in town. In our seven days in town I crammed as many friend dates in as possible! I didn’t get to see everyone, but I did have a blast seeing everyone I did get to hang out with.

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In addition to meeting absolutely everyone I know, I also dragged Eliot all around Columbia. First I had to show him campus, the quad, the columns, and all the highlights of Mizzou.

My first night in town I met up with Zahra. Those familiar with Columbia would probably say go to Shakespeare’s Pizza, Harpos, or the Burg as soon as you get back in town. For me, it’s India House. It is just down the street from my old apartment (home sweet home for Zahra now) and is one of my favorite places to go with Zahra. I mean, she obviously knows the best choices on the menu too!

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We had some much needed girl talk and then Kevin joined us for dinner. Remember him? He’s the one who called me Hot Dog the whole time we hung out over Thanksgiving break. Not much has changed there!

After dinner we walked down the street (another reason to love CoMO – everything is in walking distance) to Ragtag, which is an independent movie theater/cafe/bar. It gets to be a lot of different things because it is just that cool. I mean, they have couches for seats in the theater! We were going to see all the short films nominated for Oscars this year. I had a great time, but don’t remember much. I managed to stay awake to finish a glass of wine, but was knocked out almost as soon as I put the glass down! Big surprise, but I slept through the whole thing. (Here’s a fun fact about me: I need my movies to END by 9 p.m. – this one started at 9 p.m. so there wasn’t even a glimmer of hope I would make it through without falling asleep.)

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Eliot and I were actually in town for recruiting at Mizzou, looking for the next class of Hotdoggers. As we were walking around campus on Friday putting up fliers we stumbled across a show setting up in Jesse Hall. It turned out to be the traveling broadway production of Shrek the Musical. Both being big Disney fans and having limited amounts of shame, we joined a hundreds of small children and went to see it that night.

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I’ll be honest, Mike Myers did such a great job with the film Shrek that I was leery of how it would translate to the stage. It was pretty good. I’m not going to say it blew me away, but it was definitely fun to see and the set was great. Of course, that final number with I’m a Believer is always the best. Even before the show, that was the official theme song for Eliot and I anyway.

Saturday night Eliot and I went to another show as Jesse Hall, but of a much different kind. There were absolutely no children in a theater this time!

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As part of the 1 Billion Rising campaign, we went to go see the Vagina Monologues.

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Eliot had never seen them and I love them, so I felt we just had to go! Let me tell you something, going to see the Vagina Monologues with a co-worker you’ve only worked with for a month is something that will definitely test a partnership. But we both survived, probably due to never speaking about it or uttering the word vagina again after the curtain closed.

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Luckily, Zahra and Kevin joined us along with one of their friends and their infusion of goofiness dropped the awkwardness level down a bit too.

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After the Vagina Monologues Eliot and I headed downtown to meet up with a bunch of my friends. It was Emily’s birthday and she always has the very best birthdays. Last year she had a bucket of champagne with sparklers coming out for goodness sake!

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It worked out great that it was her birthday weekend because a lot of people were in town to celebrate! There was another added bonus that the journalism career fair was also this week and so a lot of grads were back in town as well.

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Talk about a great night. We started at Room 38 and let’s be honest, since it is one of the classiest places in town the night could inevitably only go downhill – in a good way anyway!

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From Room 38 we headed to Shot Bar, which is a relatively new place. Take a shot and leave. (“It’s SOOOO European,” said all the undergrads fresh from their study abroad experiences that left them feeling like the epitome of cultured.) Really it’s just a chance to charge insane amounts for a drink and get quick turnover.

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At Quintons, my favorite bar back in college, Eliot and I were getting drinks when I looked down the bar and recognized a familiar face. Sure enough, it was Adam Hickey, another Hotdogger and Mizzou grad who we had met up with in Chicago a month before. Talk about a small world!

The night ended with quite a lot of dancing and quite a lot of tacos. Isn’t that how it always goes in college though?

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Along the way, I introduced Eliot to some other Columbia staples including $1 Burgers on Sundays at Big 12. I made sure he got the waffle fries so I could eat them! We also tried somewhere new for me – Main Squeeze, a local vegetarian place. I had a sunflower burger (?!) and it was deeee-licious!

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We did make one final reappearance in Columbia, driving through for lunch this past week, where we remembered to bring cash to try the sliders at Booches and I got to catch up with Emily and Tyler one more time as well!

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I had done my best to show Eliot the best Columbia had to offer in our one week in town. He saw the classy side of things on campus and the fun side downtown. Sadly, he never got to really experience the sports side, but I think I might have gotten Mizzou to be his SEC team of choice now!

Being back on campus was a blast, but I’m even more eager to get to grad school now. I’m ready to have my nose in books, coffee cups, and pint glasses again!

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A Not So Touristy Tuesday: HOME!

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This week’s Touristy Tuesday comes from back home in Kansas City, Missouri! Home sweet home. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hotdogging and all the adventures that come with, but after six months living out of a suitcase in hotels I was more than ready to go back home to the Midwest.

I dropped Abe off at the airport, handed off the keys to the Wienermobile (more on that mistake later) and then boarded my own flight the next morning.

When Abe and I have flown before I never had to worry about my checked bags. He has a military ID so we just check everything free and don’t have to worry about weight limits. On this trip home I had stealthily distracted the American Airlines desk attendant with Wiener Whistles while he grabbed my bag, which I saw weighed in at 58 lbs. This came back to bite me on the return trip though when that woman had a much sharper eye. Whoops!

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My dad picked me up at the KC airport and then we stopped by to pick up my step mom Maggie from work. After hugs all around we headed home where I met the latest addition to our family: Jake – a 4 month old golden retriever puppy!

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My sister came down for the Thanksgiving holiday the next day and brought her own new dog with her. As tradition in our family dictates, Thanksgiving always means a trip to the dog park!

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The first few days of break were strictly filled with family and food, two things I’ve missed quite a bit on the road. It was so nice to have a fridge to peruse and have multiple home-cooked meals!

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Friday morning I headed over to Sean’s house. Like everyone else it seems, Sean also got a new dog while I was away. He just adopted Checker’s so we took our own trip to the dog park to catch up on life, running, and school.

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Was he always this cute or did the dog make him cuter?

In my house the Friday after Thanksgiving means only one thing: Christmas Decorating! We have never done Black Friday and always swap the good deals for putting up the lights and garland.

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Another tradition that has been in our house throughout these recent college years is that I always bring my international friends home for the holidays.

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Naturally, they are always suckered into sharing the lights duties with me. This year was no exception! Zahra, one of my dearest college friends, came into Kansas City stopped by for the annual tradition.

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Once our house reached “best on the block” status, Zahra and I headed down to the Kansas City Country Club Plaza to meet up with some of her friends for dinner.

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And by dinner, of course I mean a little shopping too! We ended up eating at this vegetarian place that was simply divine! Zahra has the most hilarious friends and it was so fun to hang out with them. (Sorry Abe, but it was nice to hang out with new people and not eat Mexican rice and beans for a night!)

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Kevin, a fellow Mizzou J-Schooler, adopted a new nickname for me: Hot Dog. While normally I deplore all wiener-related nicknames while on the job, there was something about his French accent that made this absolutely endearing.

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After dinner we went over to Crown Center Plaza for ice skating. If you are ever in Kansas City for the holidays you have to do these two things: see the Plaza Christmas lights and go ice skating at Crown Center.

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It’s like going to NYC and seeing the Rockefeller Christmas tree! You just have to do it.

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With only two days left to see friends, I was determined to squeeze in as many friend dates as possible. Saturday I met up with Lauren, another college friend. We had LOTS to talk about: new jobs in the advertising industry, weddings, and more.

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Lauren is getting married to her fiance Anthony this summer and I’m one of the bridesmaids. This is actually going to be the first wedding I’ve ever been in! They’re a cute couple and I had to get the scoop on the engagement, the planning process, and their new dog! (Are we noticing a trend with the new fur children everyone seems to be adopting!)

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On Sunday I made the familiar trip back to Columbia to see my friends still finishing up at Mizzou. I popped in to see Zahra at 103 Belvedere, my old apartment. It was fun to go back and see what it is like now. Good news; the slumlords have now installed a front door to the building and Zahra hasn’t had any squirrels fall down the chimney like I did. I’m a little jealous because the night club next door was also torn down. Lucky girl, she’s living high class!

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Afterwards I did lunch (read: cupcakes) with Katie, Emily, and Brittany in downtown Columbia. A cupcakery opened right before I graduated that none of us had tried out, so we tested out all of the flavors: tiaramisu, red velvet, cranberry, and sweet potato. Yum!

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While we had swapped the cocktails for mini cakes, it was a moment right out of Sex and the City. Having not seen them in six months there was a quite a bit of catching up to do – some conversations you just can’t have over the phone!

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I forced the three of them to wander campus with me for a bit. I’ll admit, I miss walking by the columns every day and just being in school! Coming back to Mizzou really made me confident and excited about going to Georgia in June.

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We also went on a scavenger hunt over at the Mizzou Alumni Association in search of my brick. For graduation, my mom got me a lifetime membership to the alumni association and that included a brick in the final installment in the Legacy Walk. I vaguely remember what I had put on it, so with four sets of eyes we scoured the sidewalk looking for it.

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Surprisingly, it took less than a minute – Brittany found it in no time!

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My diploma was waiting for me at home too! I'm very excited about this because I had put "Magna Cum Laude" on my graduation announcements and I knew it would be printed in the program that I achieved Magna Cum Laude because they go off of the previous semester. Well let's just say second semester senior year I had a bit of senioritus and was afraid I may have blown it. Nope! Magna Cum Laude it is! Whoo!

My diploma was waiting for me at home too! I’m very excited about this because I had put “Magna Cum Laude” on my graduation announcements and I knew it would be printed in the program that I achieved Magna Cum Laude because they go off of the previous semester. Well let’s just say second semester senior year I had a bit of senioritus and was afraid I may have blown it. Nope! Magna Cum Laude it is! Whoo!

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Tarah and I met on the crew team but are now both avid runners. We did our first half marathons together last yea and she just did the Chicago marathon. While I spent most of the weekend just catching up with friends, it was great to hear what they’re all up to these days!

With that I headed back to Kansas City for the night and was off to the Southwest the next day. Sadly, when I arrived I realized that I had left the WRONG set of Wienermobile keys! Whoops! My lesson was learned… sitting, alone, in the smoky filthy Penske break room, I waited for the Wienermobile to finish getting maintenance done. Buy hey, that’s just one more adventure for the week!

Three Races in Three Weekends

The last three weekends of my life have been filled with some of the most incredible experiences of my life, and now I’m looking forward to another three adventerous weekends in a row.

Three Weeks Ago: I gave my huge client presentation that was essentially the culmination of all that I learned in college. This past semester I worked as an Account Planner at MOJO Ad, and was tasked with developing consumer insights around how twenty-somethings view happy hour for our client T.G.I. Fridays. Image

The presentation went terrific and it really topped off five months working with some incredible individuals. If I didn’t already have a job lined up for after graduation, this really could have opened up doors! Either way, I walked away with some great experience with primary research and campaign development.

Two Weeks Ago: I ran my first full marathon at the Cincinnati Flying Pig.

It was the single most incredible, exciting, and fun experience of my life! After 18 weeks of training, I couldn’t have asked for a better climax.

One Week Ago: I graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism with a Bachelor of Journalism, with an emphasis in Strategic Communication. I also received minors in Business – Marketing and Geology. Not only did I graduate, but I did so debt-free and with Magna Cum Laude Latin honors!

This was a goal that was four long years in the making for me and I worked my ass off to achieve it! I made applying for scholarships a part time job, held three jobs, and did the whole RA in the dorms thing. But, it paid off! In fact, it’s still paying off. Mizzou just sent me a nice little graduation present – a check in the mail for excess financial aid!

After graduation, my mom, sister, and I took a road trip down to Little Rock, Arkansas. I was pleasantly surprised by how cosmopolitan it was. I’ll be honest, that trip down through the Ozarks was rough with all those hills, but worth it. We went to the Clinton Presidential Library (I just love presidential libraries!) and also saw Central High – home of the Little Rock 9. I managed to squeeze in some runs along their riverfront trail as well.

Now those are a hard three weeks to top. In fact, I’m not sure they can be topped. However, the next three weeks look pretty darn promising!! — 

This Weekend: I’m headed up to Madison, WI to drop my sister off. She came down to Missouri for my graduation and the road trip, but now it’s time to send her back home. Then I’m making a stop in Rockford, IL for the Rockford Half Marathon.

While I don’t really consider anywhere my “hometown” because I moved so much growing up, I spent the longest time (6 years) living in Rockford and that is where I graduated. I really have no desire to go back and would rather meet up with high school friends in Chicago, but the allure of running the half was just too tempting. I looked at the course map though and realized the “scenic” parts include some of the scary parts of the city – recognized as one of the “Top 10 Most Miserable Cities in America” by Forbes.

I’m also going to Second City in Chicago! The birthplace of some great comedians, including Tina Fey and almost the entire SNL cast, I’ve been wanting to go to a show at Second City for years. Unfortunately, because I’m usually too spontaneous to plan in advance, I can never get tickets. Luckily my friend David is a little bit more organized than me!

Two Weeks From Now: I hope my grandma isn’t reading this, because I’m going to surprise her for her 76th birthday! Last year I decided on the 23rd to make a road trip out to Estes Park, CO to surprise her the next day on her birthday. This year I figured I’d keep the tradition going! 

While in Colorado, I’m making a long weekend of it and doing the Bolder Boulder 10k with my aunt Karla. The biggest 10k in the country I believe, I know this will be a blast! Because I’m doing it with my aunt as a graduation gift I’m not sure that I’m going to run it. We might just take it easy. I’m very excited to share this experience with her because she has been an enormous inspiration to me. At 50 she managed to lose 60lbs+ and has done a triathlon! She is what got me going on my weight loss and fitness journey!

Three Weeks From Now: I’m doing this Hospital Hill Half Marathon in Kansas City on Saturday, June 2nd. I’m looking forward to running this with my friend Sean, who has proven to be my spontaneity soul mate. He was the one I convinced to run the Warrior Dash with me the day I met him, and also signed up for the Tulsa Route 66 half marathon a week before the race! His girlfriend is running with us as well and hopefully I can convince them to hit the Power & Light District with me in downtown KC the night before!Warrior Dash 2011

The next day, Sunday, I board my flight back to Madison – this time to start my new job driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!