#15 and #24

It’s been a while since we have blogged.  It’s not because we haven’t been thinking or working on our list but more because life happens and the kids are running us ragged.  Kelly and I both had kids involved in high school sports in the fall, I had surgery to remove melanoma from my leg which put all hiking on hold, and before you know it its February and I haven’t blogged in 6 months.

Kelly and Dana went with their families to Florida in January to run the Disney Marathon.  This was something on her 40th-year bucket list that I was happy to miss.   I was sad I did not get to see Mickey but completely fine missing out on the marathon experience.

These last few weeks have been rough so we decided to take some time for ourselves and get back to our list.  We left St. Mary’s about 2 hours behind schedule on Friday (2/15) because I got the dreaded call at 7:45 in the morning, “Mom, I was in an accident.”  The boy was on his way to school and rear-ended another kid.  After getting that all straight, and needing a weekend away more than ever, we loaded up the car and headed to Westmoreland County, Virginia for a little getaway.  My family has a farm over here and the peace and quiet was something we were both craving.

On our way down the road, after stopping at the ATM, getting gas twice, and grabbing snacks, we stopped at Ingleside Winery.  Neither of us is much of a wine connoisseur, we are county girls we drink it, we don’t analyze it.  So when we walked into the tasting room, we were very upfront about our lack of knowledge on the subject.  I told the sommelier (fancy word for wine lady) that we like white and semi-sweet.  She did the rest of the work, explaining to us the nuances of all the different wines we tasted.  I will say she did not steer us wrong and only had us try one wine that I did not finish. The winery itself is located in Westmoreland Virginia in what is called the Northern Neck.  It’s charming and you take a nice drive through the vineyards before arriving at the visitor’s center and tasting room.  They have a nice open courtyard with fire pits and tables and chairs, a fountain, and garden lights strung from beautiful old trees.  I learned a few things.  For one, I don’t like Chardonnay because of the oaky taste.  We tried a chardonnay from a steel cask and I did find that more suitable to my palette.  I also learned about residual sugars and if the wine has residual sugars it may be good to pair with a spicy dish because the hint of sweet may cut the spice (please read this dripping with sarcasm, the way I intended it, I through around these words all weekend because it sounded like I knew what I was talking about).  Kelly and I each purchased three bottles to take home and enjoyed a glass of our favorite wine in the courtyard before continuing on our trip to the farm.  We made a couple more stops at boutiques, to grab some barbeque at NNK BBQ, and one stop at the grocery store before arriving at the farm, wrestling with the gate and opening up camp.  Bobby and Melinda arrived around 6:30 Friday night to Kelly and I drinking wine, rocking out to 90’s grunge music and putting together a puzzle (because when we get away for the weekend we really party hard).

Saturday morning we got up early and made breakfast and had our coffee and Bobby and Melinda played tour guide and took us into the town of Kilmarnock. We went to Kilmarnock Antique Gallery and explored for almost 2 hours.  There were some really neat furniture pieces and paintings but after all that time the only thing purchased was a brass hearth cricket by Melinda.  There was a George Washington bust and an Andrew Jackson picture, as well as a RCA radio and a couple typewriters I would love to have but I always worry that because I do not know enough about antiques I will be an easy target to rip-off.  After sauntering through the antiques we went to lunch at NN Burger, voted Virginia’s best burger, and it did not disappoint.  Kelly and I split a Top Notch Burger on a gluten-free bun, twisted potato chips with bacon, white cheddar, and sour cream and a peanut butter cup milkshake.  Then we wandered over to a gourmet popcorn store, Northern Neck Popcorn (try the salted dark chocolate caramel, OMG), and bought some treats to take home to the kids.

We headed back to the farm to check on the crock pot, with the intent to head to a winery across the street, but once we got back and had a few minutes in the house, we opted for naps and a glass of wine instead.  The rest of last night and this morning have been very relaxing as we prepare to pack up and head back to reality where I have 2 projects for grad school to work on before class on Tuesday night.

Until next time!


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Nashville Day 3

We did so many cool things in Nashville.  Not all of them are on our list but some are worth telling you about.  On Friday, day three of our adventure, we got up early for a tour of the Ryman Auditorium.  I really did not know much about the place, but was soon taken aback by the magic and history of the place.  All the music legends that have shared that stage, the story how the theater was almost left to ruin before country music artists stepped in to save it, it was a really great experience and made me appreciate the building and the country music community as a whole.

After our self-guided tour of the theater, we walked down Broadway, stopping in a couple boot shops on our way to Acme Feed and Seed.  The restaurant is several levels like many of the others with a rooftop bar and different levels offering a different atmosphere or type of food.  We ate downstairs on the main level.  We ordered our food as we came in, found a table and went to the bar to get a drink, we picked one named after Hannah Montana, in honor of our kids and the hours we have spent watching the show as they were growing up.  The food was at our table pretty quickly and was absolutely delicious.  I had the brisket sandwich.  It melted in my mouth.  Probably the best thing I ate the entire time I was in Nashville, even better than the baconaise at Old Red’s, haha. We were there too early to experience any live music, which is unfortunate.  Since eating at five Food Network restaurants is on our list, we can check one of those off with this visit.

Once we left, we headed back up Broadway in the direction of our hotel.  We stopped in several shops in search of cowboy boots.  One of the shops, Boot Country, offers buy one get two free boots.  The problem with this is it is very hard to find a pair that is under $300 and the selection is limited.  They are lined up on racks by size like you would find in Payless Shoe Store.  Not finding what we were looking for here, we wandered into another store that was more like a boutique.  They carried clothes from Miranda Lamberts clothing line as well.  I can’t remember the name of the shop, but the boots were really expensive and there were not any discounts.  Lastly, we walked into Big Time Boots. The clerk who helped us was incredibly patient as we tried on endless pairs of boots trying to make a decision.  He helped me wedge boots on to my feet and helped pull them off, and not once did he seem aggravated or annoyed.  After at least an hour, Kelly and I both had our official cowboy boots and were ready to make a purchase.  They offered a discount if you bought multiple pairs you got 30% off.  He applied the discount and figured the cost of each of our boots so we could pay separately but still get the discount.   Boots in tow, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Grand Ole Opry.  My one piece of advice here is if you want cowboy boots to strut around Nashville in, and you totally will, buy them ahead of time.  Even with the “discount” both of our boots were cheaper online.

Decked out in our best country outfits (lace, denim, gingham and leather boots), we headed out to the Opry on Friday night.  I want to say, if you do anything in Nashville, if there is one must do, gotta see, attraction, this is it.  Maybe it was the drinks I had ahead of time, or the lineup of talent that was there the night we went, but the Opry was amazing.  We belted out “Strawberry Wine” with Deanna Carter like we were 15 years younger.  Headlining that night was Charley Pride, which took me back to my childhood and 8 tracks playing in my dad’s old stereo.  The only frustrating part was each artist only performed a couple of songs and some of them, like Aaron Tippen, I could have listened to for hours rather than minutes. After the show, we took a backstage tour, hung out in the dressing rooms, and got our picture taken on stage.

When we finished our tour, we called an UBER, and headed back to our hotel.  Hungry, Kelly wanted to walk a block or two over to McDonald’s to grab late night French fries.  I tried to talk her into a diner or something more upscale.  But in the end we opted for quick and close. We took our food back to the hotel, tugged our boots off and called it a night.

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#12 Camp in Yosemite

As a kid who grew up in California, we camped in Yosemite a bit.  It was a favorite adventure of my brothers and me.  We could play in the woods, raft in the mighty Merced River, roast marshmallows on the fire, and just enjoy being outdoors exploring.  When thinking of what I wanted to do in my 40th year, camping in Yosemite had to be on this list!  Julie’s request, to see the giant trees.

We began planning for this trip very early on, since there was a lot of coordinating that needed to be done.  We decided we wanted to stay in the Yosemite Valley so we could walk or shuttle to anywhere we wanted to go.  We were lucky enough to get sites at the Housekeeping Camp which is pretty much tent camping with a bed.  Each three walled unit comes with electricity, a double bed, a bunk bed, a storage shelf, table, and bear proof storage box. I was pleasantly surprised to find you don’t have to bring to many supplies with you. You can rent pretty much anything needed from the camp store.

We left Lake Tahoe, a story for another day, early to get to Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoias.  We were lucky enough to get a parking spot at the main lot to take the shuttle to the newly opened/renovated grove trail.  We walked the loop at Mariposa Grove and were able to see plenty of large trees, most notably the Grizzly Giant.

We arrived at the housekeeping camp about 3:30 on Sunday afternoon where we met my Dad, Uncle Tony, Aunt Renee, Aunt Kandy, and my cousin Tiffani.  We set up camp, the kids played in the river and later we enjoyed the campfire and a gourmet camp dinner.  We discussed what we wanted our hike to be for the next day. We were going to conquer hiking to the top of Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail.

The hike is supposed to be 5.4 miles round trip, much to the relief of Julie and Olivia who were still recovering from the 9.8 miles we hiked at Old Rag.  We started the hike at Happy Isles at 8:00 am, with Julie promising not to cry this time, and worked our way up the beautiful Mist Trail.  The trail runs along the Merced River and is paved the first 1.5 miles or so.  It was a steep and tough on the legs. Little did we know the challenge ahead was going to be much greater.  We got to the Vernal Falls footbridge and the beauty of it took our breath away.  We continued up the Mist Trail where we were cooled by the mist coming off Vernal Falls. The steps were steep and slippery but once we go to the top it was well worth it.  We spent some time at the top eating a snack and exploring.  It was time to move on to Nevada Falls, this was a bit more of a challenge.

About ten minutes into the hike to Nevada Falls, Julie decided she wanted to end the friendship.  Math in public is dangerous and apparently not something I am good at!  Julie had realized by the time we would get to the top of Nevada Falls, we would be at about 4.5 miles into said 5.4-mile round trip hike.   At this point, the sun was blazing, and the switch backs were so steep that you had to use your hands on some portions, and the drop off was super scary. I had to worry about myself, talk Julie off the “ledge” of hating me, and convince my youngest daughter Olivia that this really is fun! We finally make it to the top and the view was absolutely breathtaking. Dipping our toes in the water while enjoying a snack and re-hydrating was so worth it.  It was an awesome hike even though I know a few people wanted to push me off the “ledge” while hiking. (Julie here…by the way the 5.4-mile hike was actually 8.4 miles and I am not sure if it’s her math skills or map skills I should start to question since this is the second time she has led me astray.  I didn’t cry, in case you were wondering. But, I did need to stop every couple switch backs because the air was thin and it was pretty strenuous. I agree the view and sense of accomplishment was worth it, although I am not sure Olivia would say the same.)

We spent the second day exploring the valley – we visited Lower Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, watched some rock climbers conquer El Capitan through a telescope people had set up, and visited the historic Awahnee Hotel. We swam in the Merced, enjoyed the great company, and especially the camping culinary skills of Aunt Kandy.

We left around 8:00 am on Wednesday, headed for Bodie Ghost Town, leaving through Tioga Pass, which was a whole other adventure.  Talk about a nerve wracking drive.   I plan on applying for Half Dome permits each year.  If I get one, I will go back and check that goal off my bucket list.  And really, Julie must not be too scarred because she said she was willing to consider coming back to conquer Half Dome too.


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#25 Go to a Honky Tonk

Nashville Day Two Part Two

It’s really not hard to fall in love with Nashville.  Kelly and I knew immediately it was our kind of town.  There is lots of live music, great food, plenty of history and the people were all very friendly.  We were also there during hockey playoff season that the whole town had hockey fever.  Being Capitals fans, even we found Nashville’s love for their team so contagious, we almost bought Predator fan gear.  That is until we looked at the $50 price tag on the t-shirts, which seemed to cure our fever rather quickly.

After we got home from The Hermitage, we made ourselves a snack and a beverage and set out about Broadway in search of great music and a good honky tonk. This really wasn’t a difficult task. Our plan of attack was to have one drink at each honky-tonk, then we could go back to our favorites another night.  There were a couple of problems with this plan. First of all, there are far too many bars for you to safely consume a beverage at each bar. Secondly, with drinks running almost 10 bucks a pop, you would have to take out another mortgage on your house to pay for all of those drinks.  Our first stop was Nudies.  Probably one of our favorites, it had great music and a good crowd.  The service was quick and the bartender was friendly.  We also traveled to FGL, the bar owned by Florida Georgia Line where we hit up the rooftop bar for a drink.  The first couple floors were a restaurant as well as a bar, there was a good musician where we were but I did not get the same old-fashioned honky tonk vibe that I had gotten from Nudies.

Next, we meandered over to Ole Red.  It was opening weekend for Blake Shelton’s new bar.  We decided to have a bite to eat and tried their frozen prosecco beverage while watching the band, which was excellent, from the second level.  We loved everything about this place, especially the baconaise, a mayonnaise made with bacon grease that was served as a dipping sauce for your French fries.  Yum.  We caught the waitresses in a shift change because it took a while to get served and then when we went to find our check, no one had it.  After a long time trying to figure out who actually could give us our check, the manager came over and took care of our bill for us, with many apologies.  We told him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted.  We left, almost regretfully, but we hoped to get back later on our trip.

We wandered further up the street to The Stage, which I loved.  The murals on the wall, the band, the bartenders, it was all exactly what I imagined downtown Nashville to be. We had a few drinks, danced, made friends when we pulled out our phone to catch part of the Capitals game.  Feeling the need to see what else what out there, we grudgingly left and went up to Tootsies.  My brother and sister in law, after their visit to Nashville a few years ago, told me this was their favorite.  I want to point out that each level at each bar has a different vibe, you can go to the same bar and depending what floor you are on have a totally different experience than someone else who is there at the same time.  The rooftops tended to draw the younger crowd, more like the city nightlife you would expect of an up and coming urban town.  The lower levels had lower lighting, a more traditional bar atmosphere, well at least from our experience.  When we went to Tootsies, we traveled to the top level.  The rooftop bar.  It was crowded, which I expected because every list I read about Nashville named it as one of the hot spots to visit. I understand why.  The drinks were good, the entertainment outstanding.  The bartender put the Caps game on for us, a bonus.  I had a great time, although I tend to prefer a quieter bar, more traditional scene and this seemed more like a club atmosphere.   When we left, we decided to throw in the towel on our barhopping plan and take on the rest of Broadway another night.

Honky Tonks:  Part 2

It was Cinco de Mayo, our last day in Nashville, and it was pouring rain.  We had been to Pinewood Social that morning for brunch.  It was a little off the beaten path and not easy to find, but a really neat place unlike any other experience in Nashville.  My knowledge of design concepts doesn’t extend past Fixer Upper on HGTV but I would describe the décor as modern industrial, maybe?  There was an open seating concept where people ate on sofas around coffee tables as well as regular tables.  There were private rooms that were no larger than a big closet that had a table in them.  The bar was in the middle of the space and had seating all the way around.  They had a specialty coffee bar.  In the back was a separate room where you could bowl a few games in a small, retro bowling alley.  They also have a patio that has a swimming pool and an airstream trailer that you can also order food from.  Seeing as it was pouring down rain, we did not get to walk out and see what this was like.  I had a waffle for breakfast, the flavor was good, but it was not really hot so my butter didn’t melt into the little squares, which is the only way to eat a waffle. Kelly had an omelet and said it was good.

After brunch, we ventured back out into the rain.  We walked up to The Gulch, another neighborhood in Nashville.  We did a little shopping and got our picture in front of the country music angel wings mural.  I have to admit I probably had a bad case of the “grumpies” because I was soaked, hungry and miserable at this point.  We found a Mexican place in The Gulch, because…nachos.  The wait was more than an hour, because…Cinco de Mayo. So we walked back to the hotel, to get some dry clothes on and head back out to Broadway.  We found a relatively new Mexican place called Pancho and Lefty’s located right next to Bridgestone Arena.  Luckily, they had a seat for us right away.  This was probably one of my favorite surprises of the trip.  The wait staff was awesome.  Our waiter was really friendly and stopped to talk with us several times, I wish I could remember his name to give him props here but I can’t, because…margaritas.  The steak nachos were delicious.  The margaritas were strong.  We stayed probably longer than we should because our honky tonk experience that afternoon is not as clear as I wish it to be.

When we left, we headed to Legends.  It is on the corner of Broadway with the big mural of country musicians on the outside wall.  Inside, the walls were lined with old album covers.  I got inappropriately excited to see some of my dad’s favorites on the wall, Jim Reeves mainly.  It was crowded and the musician was good.  He interacted a lot with the crowd.  Kelly and I danced right up in front of the stage.  Then something happened like a switch flipped.  I think he covered a Taylor Swift song.  I was done. I just walked out.  He called me out on it as Kelly followed me out, confused.  I still am not sure why I felt the need to leave abruptly, but I wanted to go back to The Stage. So, that is where I went. They were switching bands when we got there.  I requested Conway Twitty, which they graciously played.  Kelly danced, I recorded it. Ha-ha. The rest is a bit of a blur. Blame the margaritas.  We walked down to the Wild Horse Saloon, another place I was told I must visit.  Unfortunately, it was closed, on a Saturday, the whole bar rented out for a private event. Say what?! So we went to George Jones’ bar and restaurant.  The Kentucky Derby was getting ready to start.  They have a small bar in the front of the restaurant that sits on the street.  I may or may not have demanded a mint julep, because…derby day.  The bartender, who was not amused by my shenanigans, told me he could not make me one.  ABSURD! I am sure I complained but ordered a drink to watch the derby.  Kelly at this point had tapped out and was patiently waiting for me to finish my drink and the derby so we could go back to the hotel for a nap.

We made our way back to our room at about 6:30.  We laid down, planning to get up about 8:30 and go back out for a little bit, it was our last night after all.  We woke up about 10, Kelly offered to put her jeans back on so we could go back out, and I laughed and turned out the light.

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#20 Visit a Historical Home

Nashville Day 2 Part 1

On every trip we take, Kelly appeases the nerd in me by coming along on some history related adventure.  This trip was no different.  We got up on the second day of our trip, made coffee and headed out to The Hermitage, home of the 7th President, Andrew Jackson.  Do I need to insert some brief history here? The teacher in me can’t resist.  Jackson was the first president to be considered a self-made man.  He was born in poverty to a single mom, his father died while she was pregnant with him.  He was a British prisoner during the Revolution when he was just 13 years old.  He was a fighter, a gambler, and a known hothead.  He killed a man in a duel and was the first president to survive an assassination attempt, where instead, he attacked his would-be assassin.  He was also a proponent of the common man controlling the government and Indian removal.  My students love learning about Jackson because there are so many good stories you can tell about him.

The Hermitage did not disappoint.  It is run very similarly to Mount Vernon, Washington’s home.  The house was very well maintained, the staff is knowledgeable and unlike Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, you can take pictures.  It gets busy, so if you go, go early so you do not have to wait too long for the mansion tour.  I also recommend watching the short video about his life in the visitor’s center.  It will give you a stronger appreciation of who he was as a man and as the president.  We also were able to attend a short demonstration on dueling, since he was known for being involved in several.  I have been teaching US History for more than 15 years, and I still walked away feeling like I had learned something new.


#20 Visit a historical home….check

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#10 Girls Trip to Nashville

May 2-6

Twenty years ago, Kelly and I embarked on our first major road trip together.  Her dad was living in Dallas, and we decided to go down for a visit over spring break.  We stopped halfway in Nashville for the night.  Twenty years later, as a kick off to our list and our 40th birthdays, we headed back to Nashville for a girls weekend.

We followed the same route we did 20 years ago and even made some of the same stops, grabbing breakfast at the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia for breakfast.  Our road trip necessities were a little different, instead of grabbing a bag of Now and Laters and a carton of cigarettes we opted for gluten-free pretzels, water, and a few bottles of prosecco.  Also unlike the first time we took this trip, we used GPS instead of a road atlas and we did a lot more pre-planning.  Months of research, studying city guides, Pinterest and the internet resulted in a pretty epic adventure, if I do say so myself.

We left at 3:30 in the morning, stopping for breakfast, gas and to do a little antique shopping in Crossville, Tennessee at a place called the Rocking Horse Antique Mall.  We arrived in Nashville and checked into the Union Station Hotel at 1 PM.  Side note, this place was stunning.  Once the old train station, it has now been converted into a hotel and the main foyer is absolutely breathtaking.  Also breathtaking, in a completely different way, was the fact the hotel elevator was being renovated and apparently our hotel room was one of seven in the entire hotel that could only be accessed by that elevator.  So, we had to carry all of our luggage, cooler and other goodies up two flights of stairs. By 1:27, we were pouring our first, much deserved, glass of wine. The wine led to another necessity, a nap.

A few weeks out, I had purchased tickets for a show at Bluebird Café.    For most shows tickets are free, with a $10 minimum food/beverage purchase.  You can only get these one week in advance, and you have to wait in a “cue” online.  By luck, they had a special performance you could purchase tickets for about a month in advance and rather than risk not going, I opted to buy these.  The Bluebird Café was everything and nothing like I expected all at the same time. Its located in a rundown strip mall, inside is small and dimly lit, and our table was literally touching one of the performers.  It was charming and intimate and felt more like listening to friends play on the back deck on a summer evening.  The food wasn’t anything special, but people were not there for the food.  And although the musicians probably were not some I would typically listen to (one of them, Kevin, sounded exactly like the lead singer of the Flaming Lips), I was entertained and we really enjoyed the whole experience.

We “Ubered” back to the hotel around 10 PM, and opted to go to bed rather than go out, because after all, we are 40.

Number 10 on our list, Nashville trip…check

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The List

It all started with a list.

Sometime around my 39th birthday, Kelly and I were walking after work one evening.  I was lamenting on the fact that we would be forty soon and complaining about not looking forward to being that “old”.  Kelly had a different idea of what turning 40 would look like.  She told me about her idea to start a 40thyear bucket list.  Kelly’s list would be of 40 different things she would accomplish or do in her 40th year.

On my 39th birthday, my brother gave me a clock, a countdown clock. He’s two years younger than me and a complete smart ass. I kept looking at this clock as like doomsday symbol.  Then I started to think about Kelly’s list.   The next time we walked,we talked more about the list, things we would like to do and we decided two best friends completing this list together would be more fun than just one.  Suddenly the countdown clock did not seem so daunting.

So, we did some research.  Kelly and I started throwing things on a list, looking up bucket lists online and adding our personal goals.  About six months out from my 40th birthday, we finalized the list and started making plans.

I turned 40 on June 7th.  Kelly will follow suit on July 4th.  We have been thick as thieves since we were 13.  We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and have remained close through cross country moves, college, marriages, and babies…all of it.  This is our list.  Our adventure.  Maybe it will inspire someone to start an adventure of their own.

40 at 40

1.  Drive in Movie

2.  White House Tour

3.  Hike 40 miles

4.  40 hours of community service

5.  Run in a race together

6.  Go to a shooting range

7.  Attend a cooking class

8.  Repurpose something

9. Attend the concert of a music icon

10.  Nashville girl’s trip

11.  Go to 5 famous (food network) restaurants

12.  Camp in Yosemite

13.  Stand under a waterfall

14.  Get a tattoo

15.  Visit a winery

16.  Watch 40 movies from the AFI top 100 of all time

17.  48 hours no phone, TV, internet

18.  Visit a museum

19.  Go to a Broadway show

20.  Visit a historical home

21.  Ghost tour of a haunted place

22.  Climb something

23.  Buy something frivolous

24.  Go antiquing

25.  Go to a Honkey Tonk

26.  Karaoke night

27.  Write something (blog, short story)

28.  Read 40 hours for enjoyment

29.  40 random acts of kindness

30.  Journal for 40 days in a row

31.  Drink an expensive glass of wine

32.  Send 40 cards

33.  Buy a dress you feel great in and wear it

34.  Go on a picnic

35.  Donate blood

36.  Hot stone massage

37.  Attend a revival church

38.  Make a scrapbook

39.  Take a Segway tour

40.  Feed a giraffe


1.  Whitewater rafting

2.  Indoor sky diving

3.  Go to a casino

4.  Plan a rim to rim trip

5.  Attend a comedy show

6.  Visit Arlington National Cemetery


Stay tuned. Each blog will be about our attempts to complete the list and the shenanigans that occur along the way.