Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Updates and Link Love (powered by snacks, naps, and tired legs) July 13, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Food,Travel — Stephanie @ 10:11 am
Tags: , , ,

Inspired by many of you (especially NZ Muse, with her link loves powered by assorted things)

These past few weekends were awesome.  So I’m going to share about them.  And stay tuned to the end for some links to blog posts by other bloggers that I really enjoyed this week.

2 weekends ago, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit.  They haven’t visited in ages, so we packed the weekend with lots of food and fun!

Food:  Instead of taking them to the tourist traps (we considered them, but too pricey/overrated!), we took them to some of our favorite local restaurants.  I’ll share the list with you, but don’t all go there, or there will never be any room for me! 🙂

Tenoch Mexican, Delicious Mexican food (especially, in my opinion, their tortas and horchata)
Boston Burger Company (epic burgers with all sorts of awesome)
Trident Booksellers and Cafe (both times I’ve been there, I’ve gotten their Lemon Ricotta French Toast.  Also, they have Poutine!)
Flatbreads (you can’t go wrong with their salads, pizza, and beer (though we forgot to leave room for their desserts!))

Fun:  Friday was museum day:  Isabella Stewart Gardner museum AND the Museum of Fine Arts Boston!  We managed to get discounted prices by getting passes from the local library.  Quite a few of the libraries around here offer passes for free or discounted tickets to the area’s top tourist locations.  Definitely a deal.  Other discounts to try:  Your employer, AAA, or other memberships (especially teacher’s unions).  Walking throughout both museums definitely tired us out!

Saturday, we amped up our walking by touring Boston on foot.  Parked in Kenmore square, then walked down Commonwealth, Newbury, and Boylston all the way to Boston Public Garden, then through to Boston Common, where we started walking on the Freedom Trail.  We didn’t take an official tour, but followed the red brick/painted line all the way to Faneuil Hall and the Union Oyster House.  At that point, we decided it was time to head home.  But instead of taking the T back to Kenmore, we walked ALL THE WAY BACK!  This time crossing past City Hall, then going back through the Common and Garden, then taking the tree-lined (i.e. shaded) walkway on Commonwealth all the way back.

Yes, we tired ourselves out.

The following week included the 4th of July in Boston(we watched the awesome fireworks from Storrow Drive), then a drive up to Vermont for some relaxing.  Well, not JUST relaxing.  We also went for an early morning hike up (and down) Mt. Abraham (total time: 3hrs 36 minutes, which included a few stops along the way to enjoy the view), and then headed to the Farmer’s Market to walk around and enjoy some tasty food.  The rest of that weekend was really just lots of reading books and napping.  YES.

Speaking of books, I just finished reading Helaine Olen‘s book, Pound Foolish, about the dark side of the personal finance industry.  I’ll try to write up a review of that soon.  And I’m most of the way through Paddy Hirsch‘s Man vs. Markets.  I’ll review that as well once I’m done.

Oh, and if all that walking and hiking wasn’t enough, I’ve ramped back up my running.  So that might also cause some tired legs.  Though I have started wearing the ProCompression socks I got recently.  I’d heard good stuff about them, and compression gear in general, so I figured I’d buy a pair to try them out.  I tend to wear them after runs/to bed.  (and I wore them on the 4th of July, because the pair I got was so darn patriotic!) A few friends on twitter had asked what I thought of them, so here’s my short review:  it feels good to wear them after a run.  I don’t know if they’re actually helping with faster recovery as most compression gear is supposed to do.  But they do make my legs feel better.  (p.s. I bought them on sale, and apparently all their stuff is on sale for 40% off+ free shipping until August 4th using the coupon code JULY)

And now for the link love I promised.  Just two today, but I did read a lot of good stuff this week:

Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks wrote about the latest idea discussed this week regarding paying for college.  The proposal:  Instead of taking out loans, you pay a percentage of your salary for the next 20-25 years after college.  Krystal touched on quite a few of the points I was thinking of, and the commenters have also made some really excellent points as well.  Check out her post!

I happened across a post from someone I hadn’t been following before, but I really liked it (and will now follow her :P) She wrote about how she’s gotten sick of the health and fitness “ambassador” programs.  If you’re unfamiliar with these programs, they’re basically blogging/social media networks that, at their core, are just groups of people interested in health and fitness.  But many of these programs connect with brands, and then the bloggers are given free stuff in exchange for tweeting/facebooking/blogging about the brands or products.  And so Carly wrote about how she wont be involved in any of this branded speech from now on.  I agree with her on many points.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love free stuff as much as the next person, and will review things that I like (and even some stuff that I’ve even gotten for free!), but I want to be open and honest and not have to conform to a brand’s marketing plan.  I tweet about brands I genuinely love, and review books I’ve read and products I’ve tried.  I have reviewed things in the past that I’ve experienced for free, but have always disclosed it, and I hope you never would think I’m trying to market anything to you.  I like sharing my opinions on things, so hopefully you enjoy reading them and know that they’re completely honest!  Please let me know if you ever think I’m not keeping up with this standard!

Well, that’s over 1000 words in one not-so-short update.  I guess I had a lot to say.  Maybe I should try to update more often, eh?

So, have you recently been a tourist in your own town?  Do you only check out the sites when tourists are visiting?  Have you tried any of the restaurants I mentioned?  Do you have another favorite restaurant to add to the list?

Read any good books lately?  Found any awesome links you’d like to share?

What do you think of Krystal and Carly’s posts?  Agree or disagree with their stance?

Don’t worry, more blog posts coming soon, including more of the Graduate’s Guide to Being a Grownup series, some book reviews, and plenty more.  I’m still blogging!

 

Walk for Hunger: 20 miles of Boston April 28, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 11:04 pm
Tags: ,

Let me start out by saying, I wasn’t quite sure how to write a new blog post.  Do I ignore the terrible events that happened in Boston?  Or go into a long post about it?  The whole Boston Marathon tragedy is nothing to ignore.  It is sad, upsetting, and confusing.  And the plant explosion in Texas was also terrible.  I realized the best way to process these sad events is to acknowledge them, remind you that there are plenty of ways to help, through donations: (The One Fund Boston, Officer 179 fund, and others for Boston, and Various West, Texas charities), and continue with blogging.

And so, I embrace the mantra, Boston Strong.  Because I will be walking with thousands of others in Boston for a great cause.

As Ellen Parker (Project Bread’s executive director) said in a special letter sent out a few days ago, “This year, Project Bread faces a unique and unprecedented challenge. On Sunday, May 5, 2013, The Walk for Hunger will be the first large outdoor public gathering in the city since the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.”

So we will all be careful, and watching, but we will not allow the tragedy to stop us from participating in this event .  We will not be terrorized.

Sign:  The Walk for Hunger is the oldest continual pledge walk in the country
A week from today, I will be joining thousands of others in a 20-mile walk starting and ending in Boston, winding around many of the nearby towns.  Last year was my first year doing The Walk, and I found it to be a rewarding and inspiring experience.  I walked all 20 miles, and raised $1,215.50!  Super excited that this year, I’ve already raised (at last count) $1,526!  And I still have a week left!  Very grateful to all my supporters so far, especially Joe Taxpayer for his generous $250 match!  My newest fundraising goal is now set at $1800.

Sign:  MA has one of the greatest income gaps in the nation

I’ll admit, I’m posting this blog post in part to ask for donations.  Any amount helps, even $5 or $10, but Project Bread sent out some facts about how donations can help:

$25 provides a hot meal for 40 individuals at a supper program.
$50 helps a family on SNAP purchase twice that amount in fresh produce at a farmers’ market.
$75 subsidizes CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares for one week for ten families.
$100 provides food vouchers to five senior households.
$500 helps support a healthy summer food program for low-income children.
$1,000 helps create innovative farm-to-table programs that give low-income families a hand up and that also strengthen the community.

Sign:  Hunger is a SOLVABLE problem

It’s not too late to help!  You can still sign up to walk or volunteer.  You can donate to me or anyone else.  You can find out if your donation will be matched by your employer.

Thank you again to everyone who has donated so far!  And thank you in advance to anyone who joins in to walk, volunteer, or donate!  Are you participating?

 

Getting the Pure Barre experience March 10, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness — Stephanie @ 10:46 pm
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Disclaimer:  I was invited to this class for free through Blog and Tweet Boston, a group that organizes events for local Bostonian bloggers/tweeters.  The expectation was that after we all met up for this class, we would write about our experience.  So, this is what I’m doing…right now!  All the opinions are my own.

Last Saturday (a little over a week ago) I met up with a bunch of Boston-area fitness bloggers at Pure Barre Boston.  It’s on Newbury Street right near Mass Ave.  Pretty close to where the J.P. Licks used to be.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I assumed everyone would be a pro at this sort of thing, since they’re all legit fitness bloggers.  You know, compared to me, the personal finance blogger who also blogs about fitness, Boston, and STEM.  But I still was excited to try it out!

A fun part of the meetup was putting faces to twitter handles.  Maureen and I discovered we were already following each other online!  And there were quite a few other great people there that I already followed (on twitter).

For the class, they had an instructor, Fiona, plus a few other experienced individuals  (including the owner) around as extra models to follow (and to guide us if we’re not doing the workouts quite right).

The facility definitely had a zen feel to it,  with sparse color and lots of windows to let in natural light.  It was very crisp and clean.  The studio itself had two walls of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and one wall with windows.  There was a ballet barre on every wall.  There was a cool chandelier and maybe some skylights if I recall correctly.  The floor was carpeted for a cushioned workout.  Like I said, very zen.  I think I could live there 😛

Okay, now for the workout itself.  There was fast-paced music with a good beat throughout the entire class that we were to keep in time with.  The style of the barre method was to focus on specific body parts, doing exercises to strengthen certain muscles one at a time.  Pretty much every exercise involved multiple repetitions of very small changes, moving the body or appendage just an inch or so in and out of position.  Or as it’s described on the Pure Barre website, “small, isometric movements”.  Which sounds way better than what I said.

As they mention on that Technique page as well, there are multiple components to the class:  Warmup (which was mostly arm work), Thigh Work (I felt like my legs were burning up during this part), Seat work (tone that butt!), and Abs Work.  And of course some stretching after each component.  The Thigh and Seat exercises were the most intense; they were fast paced and really forced me to keep using muscles that I wanted to stop using.  The nice part of the Abs exercises is that they easily transition into a cooldown of sorts, lying on the ground and then doing some final stretches.

For the entire class, there is a focus on posture and proper form, and also “tucking” your hips in.  Which to me felt kind of like I was doing hip thrusts.  The goal is to roll your hips forward and up.  We did a lot of repetitive tucking during the class.

There were a few aspects of yoga (with certain stretches and positions), but not as much ballet as I had expected.   I think we stood at 1st, 4th, or 5th position for some of the exercises, and we stood at a barre for some of them, and we had to keep good posture.  But no leaping or dancing really.  Don’t worry, then, if you don’t know ballet (or yoga, or any other activities, for that matter).  It’s a little confusing for beginners, but easy to pick up what’s going on.  Especially when the instructor helps you.   It was a tough class.  But it was really neat to try out and I definitely got a workout.  Plus it was super cool to meet fellow Boston bloggers and try something new.

Would I recommend it?  Would I go again?

Well, you know me.  I’m always concerned about money.  So, pricing:  A single class at the Boston location is $23.  Or you can buy multiple classes up front at a discount (you know, like any bulk purchase), which brings the cost down by a few dollars per class.  They also offer monthly memberships for unlimited classes (though you need to sign up for each class individually, and I don’t know how fast the classes fill up).  The most appealing (to me) of course is their New Client Special, which is $100 for unlimited classes for one month.  Though, knowing me, I’d try to go as often as possible to get my money’s worth!  Which could be a little crazy.

The other issue (for me at least) would be on how to get there.  It’s steps away from the Hynes Convention Center T stop, which is super convenient for Boston commuters.  But not so convenient for me living way out in Medford.  So getting there, either by taking a long walk/bus/T ride would not be ideal.  Or trying to find (and pay for) parking in Boston.  Still, if you can get there easily, it would work.  There are other locations outside of Boston, but I don’t know if that would be any easier.

As for the program itself, I have a feeling I would probably see really good results if I started going on a regular basis.  It was hard work while I was there, but I was surprised not to be aching from it at all the next day.  Does that mean I was doing something wrong, or something right?

If I found an easier way to get to the class, I’d probably buy the $100 intro package.  And then take a bunch of classes.  Like a crazy person.

Have any of you tried out Pure Barre?  Or any other barre-related classes?  Do you like the technique?  Do you have any more questions for me about my experience?

(Oh, as a note, you can check out some other people’s reviews.  They all had cameras/smart phones, so they took pictures, if you’re hoping to get a better idea of the place.  Style Method (her last picture has me with my back to the camera in my blue shirt), Fabulous Life of a Natural Disaster, Boston Rookie (I’m in a few of her pictures, too :P, and you can see that chandelier I mentioned), A Girl’s Gotta Balance, Healthy Chicks, Kissing Frogs, Urban Guide to Life.  Did I miss any?)

 

Celebrating Awesome: National Engineers Week in Boston and Beyond! February 16, 2013

I wrote a post 2 years ago about how excited I was about National Engineers Week.  Guess what?  National Engineers Week 2013 is starting!

First of all, the theme for this year’s Engineer Week is Celebrate Awesome.  Frankly, I think that’s one of the best ways to talk about engineering.  It’s AWESOME!

I really love being an engineer.  I get to work with other smart people to create new materials and dream up solutions to problems.  I know engineers who are building robots, designing cars, or creating video games.  They get to be creative and have fun while improving the way we work, live, and play!  Basically, being an engineer is, in fact, AWESOME.

If you live in or around Boston, there’s plenty to do this week to celebrate e-week.  Whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent, or just a curious individual, there’s something cool to see or do. These aren’t the only events going on, they’re just the ones I know about.  Please share events in the comments!

Any other events going on to celebrate engineers?  Let me know!

And if you don’t live near Boston, you can check out events for National Engineers Week at My Discover-e (or Google Engineers Week events in your city).  Or you can visit the Discover Engineering website to learn more about engineering without leaving your house!

Are you an engineer (or aspiring engineer)? What’s your favorite part about being an engineer?  And if you’re not an engineer, do you have any questions about engineering?

 

And the Snow Kept On Falling February 13, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Food — Stephanie @ 10:59 pm
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That’s the repeated line from a favorite book from when I was little:  “The Snow Kept On Falling“.  Growing up in Buffalo, NY, we got quite used to all the lake effect snow that would pile up every winter…and long into spring.

So, I should be used to snow by now, right?

I got ready Thursday night the way I knew I should.  I fueled up my car.  Then I headed to the grocery store for some last minute groceries. We already had bread and milk, so I only needed to pick up eggs to fulfill the French Toast Alert that people go crazy for leading up to a big storm.  It was a good thing we already had bread.  The shelves at my local grocery store were pretty picked over!

Bread shelves the night before Winter Storm Nemo

I also picked up plenty of fruits and veggies so that we could stay healthy during the storm!

Friday morning, I woke up to NO SNOW.  Was this weather forecast a joke?  I knew it was coming, but it felt a little weird to have preemptively planned to stay home.  See, most days, I have no choice but to go to work.  I work in a lab, and it’s not possible to work from home.  But our boss said it was fine to work from home due to the storm, and I just happened to have some reports to work on and some online training to take, so I was able to put in my time without having to brave the storm.

Not too long into the day, it became obvious that staying home was the right choice.  By the time the driving ban kicked in at 4pm, the roads near my house had plenty of snow.

And as they said in the book:  “The snow kept on falling…”

We kept busy the rest of the weekend watching some more movies.  I caught the Die Hard 2 (to follow on from the first one last week) as well as Short Circuit (NO DISASSEMBLE!)  I had always meant to see Short Circuit, because a coworker at one of my internships used to quote it to me (mostly because the female lead’s name is Stephanie and the robot in the movie keeps saying her name).

We played some video games, and a few rounds of Dominion (what can we say, we’re nerds).

Saturday morning I also went out to shovel some of the front walk (to get in a little exercise) and get a measurement of the snowfall.  The snow hadn’t stopped falling yet, but I wanted to get an idea.  As of Saturday morning, we had at least 22″ of snow:

Snow in Medford during Nemo

I baked some double-chocolate cookies.  I had to figure out what recipe to make using those so very precious eggs I bought.  I ended up using the old reliable Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, but with one minor alteration.  I replaced 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.  For a little extra chocolate kick.  I think they tasted good.  Especially warm out of the oven.  Or reheated for a few seconds in the microwave.  Mmm melty chocolate goodness.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Saturday afternoon, the snow had stopped, and most of the neighborhood was out shoveling their driveways and sidewalks.

Sunday morning, I woke to find out Mass at the church I usually go to had been cancelled.  Between that and the announcement from the Boston Archdiocese saying that we don’t have to go to church due to the storm, I guess I should have stayed home.  But some other friends who I usually go to church with invited me to meet up with them at a church less than 2 miles away.  So I figured:  why not walk there?  No need to dig out my car or try to park near the church.  And a walk would be good for my lazy bones.

Well, easier said than done.  It turns out not everyone had gotten around to shoveling the sidewalks in front of their house (even though it’s the law!)  And some people HAD shoveled their sidewalk, but they lived on the corner and so there was no way to get out except to either climb over the snow bank or double back and walk into the street.  So I got in quite a workout trying to navigate the sidewalks and streets of Medford while trying to avoid stepping in puddles or getting splashed by cars (since the snow had started to melt.).

The last bit of snow-related drama for the day was when my boyfriend and I went out to dig our cars out.  We had to dig through 3+ feet of snow just to get from the plowed area of the street to the cars themselves.  Then dig a foot or more of snow off the car.  I am so incredibly thankful to my boyfriend for doing the majority of the shoveling that night to get my car out of the snow piles.

Well, how did you fare during the Blizzard of 2013?  Were you prepared?  Did you find yourself Minding Nemo? How did you prevent yourself from going stir crazy?  Or getting cabin fever?

 

Soup-er Bowl weekend! February 6, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 9:46 pm
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I realized that quite a few of my highlights for the weekend revolved around food.  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, let’s get going on this Soup-er Bowl weekend, then, shall we?

Friday:

Might as well kick off this Super Bowl weekend with some super soup, right?  My boyfriend made a nice big batch of Butternut Squash soup (using a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook).  It’s a fan favorite, as we discovered when we hosted a party with multiple soups back at our housewarming a year and a half ago.  And it’s such a great soup for those times where you just want to curl up on the couch.

Which is what we did.  After seeing an ad for yet another installment of the Die Hard franchise (opening on February 14th, what a romantic Valentine’s Day!), I admitted to my boyfriend that I’d never seen ANY of the movies.  So we settled down to watch the first Die Hard movie.  Yippee-ki-yay!  Can I just say, Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman look like babies in that movie?!

Saturday:

The big event for Saturday was the MIT Club of Boston Annual Ice Skating Party. I look forward to this event every year.  It’s usually very well attended by fellow MIT students and Alumni.  We get the ice rink at the Johnson Athletic Center on campus for an hour with help from the MIT Figure Skating Club, plus we can stick around for the free-skate afterward.  We got in 1.5-2 hours of skating!  Lots of fun.

Check out the evidence of fun below.  I’m the girl in the brown fleece (you can see my new haircut from last weekend).  My friend Jeff is in red, and my boyfriend Aaron is the one in the navy sweatshirt and awesome hat.  This is just one of many photos taken by a fellow MIT Alum Clinton Blackburn.  You can see some more pictures from the event at his website.

IMG_1712

Sunday:

Headed to morning Mass with one of my good friends.  Especially enjoyed hearing the Second Reading, the very well-known “Love is Patient, Love is Kind…” reading.

Then I had some baking to do.  I was headed to a Super Bowl party later, and I had promised to bring some dessert.  So, with an insane number of very ripe bananas tucked away in our freezer, I knew it was time to make banana bread.  Two batches.  And even though a few of my twitter/blog friends disagreed on my decision to add chocolate chips to the mix, I ended up making 2 dozen chocolate chip banana muffins (plus 14 mini muffins…I had a lot of batter to use!)  I used the recipe for the batter from the same ATK Family Cookbook we got the soup recipe from.  They have an option for adding chocolate to the bread, where you add slightly less sugar (by 2 Tbsp) then add a heaping half cup of grated bittersweet chocolate to the dry ingredients.  In my case I used a half cup of semisweet chocolate morsels.  As for the baking time, I had to adjust it for a different pan (they recommend a loaf pan) so I baked the mini muffins for 15-20 minutes and the regular sized muffins for 25-30 minutes.

The results:

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

And I wasn’t kidding about a Soup-er Bowl!  My friend Jeff (the guy in red at the skating party) has hosted a Soup-er Bowl party for watching the Super Bowl for the past few years.  He serves up delicious home-made soups that always impress me.  This time we enjoyed a hearty chicken noodle soup.  So delicious!

Oh yeah, and I guess there was a football game?  And a power outage at the game?  I guess that happened, too.

What was your favorite part of this weekend?  Did you watch the Super Bowl (or the ads)?  Stuff yourself with snacks (and then recoup the next day)?  What are your favorite recipes to share with family and friends?

 

Last Weekend in January 2013 January 31, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 7:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

After reading Elizabeth’s post about her weekend, I figured I might as well update about my weekend.  You’ll have to tell me what you think.  It’s a bit different from my typical blog posts, so let me know if I should keep doing them!  And feel free to comment about any of the stuff I talk about!

Friday:

We started out Friday night by going out to dinner at Yak and Yeti in Ball Square in Somerville.  It’s a Nepali and Indian restaurant we’ve been to a few times before.  Super tasty!  We  had a restaurant.com gift certificate to use there, so we got a pretty good deal.

Afterward, we went to meet up with some friends at Daddy Jones.  We used to go to the restaurant that was there before (huge plates of delicious Italian food!) so we were curious what the new place was like.  It definitely had a hipster vibe to it, but wasn’t super crowded.  We might check it out again.

Saturday:

After taking things easy when it comes to working out, I was ready to slowly wean myself back on the workout wagon.  I did a workout using the Nike+ Kinect Training program on our Xbox.  Some of the activities were a little tough, but it was still fun.  I’ll try to have a bigger review of Nike+ Kinect Training later on (after a few more workouts).  Or maybe have my boyfriend write a guest post on it, because he’s been using it a lot more than I have!

Then I headed out to get a haircut.  And I got my hair dyed, too.   I was long overdue for a haircut, and my sisters have been hounding me to get my hair colored to cover up the grey hair I’ve been gaining.  I had been debating for awhile whether it was worth it to pay for a hair coloring at a salon versus just using a boxed hair color.  I realized it made more sense (for me) to go out to get it done, since a hairdresser has more skill and experience than me.  Plus I’m a bit lazy.  And was ready to get mildly pampered by letting someone do stuff for me.  And I was already going to be getting a hair cut.  So why not?  And an added bonus:  It was the birthday of 3 of the hairdressers working at the salon that day, so I got some free birthday cake!  Grey gone, hair cut, and cake eaten!

That night we went to a game night at our friends’ house.  We played quite a few games of Dominion.  It’s a super fun card game, even if some people think it’s nerdy 🙂  And then I gained more nerd cred by finally playing Settlers of Catan.  Have you ever played either of these games?  I’m hooked on Dominion but I’m not quite a convert when it comes to Settlers.

Sunday:

Sunday morning started the way I like it, going to church with a friend, then chatting with some more friends afterward.  Heard news from one couple that they’re expecting!  I thought I spotted a baby bump, but I didn’t want to make the extreme faux pas of jumping to a conclusion on that!  So, good news there!

The rest of Sunday was pretty lazy.  And since I really wanted to get some rest, I took a nice long nap.  I’m committed to kicking this cold to the curb!

How was your weekend?  Do anything fun?  Finally take care of the things you’ve been putting off for months?

And are you ready for February?  Where did January go?

 

 
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