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There are 600 million adolescent girls living in the developing world – the majority living in poverty. By giving one of these girls a chance, you start the Girl Effect. When girls have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they can thrive. And if they thrive, everyone around them thrives, too.

Did you know? (from the Girl Effect fact sheet)

  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
    (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881 [Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
  • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers.
    (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
    (Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.)

The Nike Foundation and NoVo Foundation have a shared mission to create opportunities for girls and the world. They believe in the positive impact educating and empowering girls can have on a community.

Grow Interactive, a Norfolk-based interactive advertising and design studio, teamed up with leading independent advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy (from my home town), to develop the Girl Effect campaign. Brilliant. Powerful. Captivating. Regardless of your personal philanthropic beliefs or views of these companies, they should be praised for their creativity and remarkable use of typography.

Watch the video. Make a difference. Be significant.

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Dr. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon. On September 18, 2007, after just a month of being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he gave his last lecture, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” in a packed McConomy Auditorium. Inspiring others, he speaks about his life lessons and encourages others to achieve their childhood dreams. Randy passed away on July 25th at the age of forty-seven. He left behind a wife and three very young children. The gifted professor said the last lecture was meant to be a “message in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children.”

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and skip So You Think You Can Dance to watch this instead. There’s a pretty good stinking reason it’s been downloaded over 10 million times.

And the best selling book…….

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Yesterday was a great day. Having the day off I decided to spend some time alone shopping and running errands. Even though my blog doesn’t reflect it, I do like love shopping. It’s not the actual act of buying lots of stuff it’s more finding that fabulous piece at just the right price. (Okay. Who am I kidding? Maybe there is something to buying loads of goodies…..)

I have many reasons to squeal like an over-excited-schoolgirl being chased on the playground by her-favorite-snot-nose-crush today, but here are just a couple simple ones:

1. IKEA. Yes, IKEA in Sweden is the same old place as in the states only with funny looking signs, sing-song Swedish being spoken, and a grip of Swedes downing meatballs and sipping on lignon berry juice. And yes, regardless of what country you’re located in, I realize shopping and especially shopping at IKEA is a nightmare for most folks – including Fattie, so I was delighted to trot down there with me, myself, and I. With hours to browse, measure, and contemplate that perfectly cheap disposable item, I was happy and in my element.

Now I don’t live for IKEA and my house is NOT a home filled with IKEA “stuff” and neither are most Swedes homes I have visited, but it is certainly amusing to find that one item that does work and doesn’t set you back a truckload of dough.

I ended up with these gorgeous plates/bowls.

I know they’re not high-end expensive china from a designer store but I just love, love, love these bowls! I already own a complete set of 365+ dishes but had been on the hunt for awhile for this type of deep plate-bowl combo. These everyday white bowls, that I plan to serve just about everything in, are also from IKEA’s 365+ Dinnerware Series and designed by Susan Pryke. They run $5.99 in the states and 59:- Swedish kroner here, roughly $10.00 each (grrrrr, I loath paying more – but had to remind myself of the 25% sales tax here – not kidding). Even with the thought of shelling out a bit more coin, I was thrilled and loaded up my cart with twenty of these bad boys. Twenty? Yup, twenty. See Fattie has four brothers and sisters, so with spouses, children, and in-laws busting in for some chow it’s easily twelve hungry relatives at any given time and I assume that number is only going to get larger as more folks are added into the mix. I adore entertaining and a girl can’t have enough dishes…..So, I need want place settings for thirty but for now am settling on three different sets of twenty each. That should be good.

Just one of many cabinets loaded with white dishes....

I also snagged some white square appetizer plates from the same 365+ line. I had been eyeing similar porcelain plates at Crate and Barrel but had completely spaced picking them up before I left the states. Since I was getting the square side plates I knew I just must have the dinner plates, and these adorable little side/sauce cups as well. Uh-huh, twenty of each of those too. And before I knew it, I also threw in some new Cognac and dessert wine glasses. (shhh…don’t tell Fattie…..they are washed, dried, and put away so he hasn’t noticed yet)

Just some glassware...

Flying high from my kitchen fix, I stumbled on these bad boys in hammered silver.

I adore lamps. I had close to thirty-some-odd lamps at my home in the states – and for a single girl living on her own, I’ve been told that’s a lot.

So, yeah. I love lighting…..and yeah, not the over head variety. Uh, unless of course it’s a chandelier. As you can probably determine on your own, due to the electrical and voltage difference here in Europe, my fabulous lamps could not make the journey to Sweden. (insert sad face here). This past year I’ve been looking left and right for some affordable lighting. You thought gas was expensive, jeez, just try to purchase a few lamps…. (and no complaints from US folks please….gas is running close to $10.00 a gallon here!) These babies weren’t exactly the “right” price but they were less than most others I had run across and I actually liked the chunky design. The bonus? A built in dimmer switch. Yeah! $39.99 in the states and 450:- Swedish kroner here, roughly $75.00 for the lamp base plus another 22 bones for the shade. So, at about 100 bucks a pop I somehow managed to squeeze two in hammered silver and two in dark brown into my already over stuffed cart. Lovely.

2. Fattie. He’s such a love. And generously agreed to some IKEA assembly. I know putting together anything from IKEA is Fattie’s nemesis and probably everyone’s worst horror, so the fact that after a hard day at a work he cracked a beer, rolled up his sleeves, and jumped in with a big smile on his face just makes me love him even more. He deserves a big squeeze.

3. Mail. More precisely any mail that is not a bill or an advertisement. Upon arriving home to unpack my treasures I was greeted by a big brown package on the porch. And a package from the states! Did I already mention how much I like getting mail…..! My brother and his wife spent a few weeks in Europe last month for our wedding and a European sight-seeing-adventure. We had a glorious time together and seriously can’t wait for them to get their booties over here so we can do it again next year. As a thank you Joe, Janet, Jameson, and Jenna (yes, that’s a lot of J’s) sent me us the most wonderful package ever! Filled with treats from home. I’m sure the neighbors heard me squealing like a little piglet! I had a grin on my face all night. The highlights are:

  • Ziploc baggies IN GALLON SIZE! Seriously I know it’s not environmentally friendly but I miss Ziploc bags. I might even turn into one of those little ladies who wash them out and reuse them. I mean is that really so bad? Don’t tempt me….
  • Kitchen Calculator Pro! Oh, I am in love. I had mentioned back in April I wanted one of these useful gadgets to help with my cooking adventures and am over the top thrilled to have it in my hot hands.
  • iPod accessories. My sweet twelve year old niece noticed me eyeing her cool iPod cover so she decided I needed one too. How thoughtful. And the cutest pug card to go along with it. Thank you Jenna!
  • Baking soda! OMG. You just don’t know how much you miss something as simple as Arm & Hammer baking soda until you get over here and try to whip up some of your favorite cookies….This is brilliant!

This package not only made me giggle and smile it truly warmed my heart. Thank you so much! It’s the little things from home that bring comfort when you are far away. And their thoughtfulness made me happy.

I am feeling full of gratitude. Thankful I could afford the gas to drive to IKEA to load up on kitchen goodies, thankful for Fattie who never complains and loves me perfectly, and so grateful for my wonderful family.

See, I really am a simple happy girl.

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I’ve been talking for years about bringing home a French Bulldog – he has been lovingly known as, Mr. Pickles. However, my hectic life and travel schedule with work always seem to get in the way of giving a pup the dedication he/she needed and deserved so I patiently waited for a better time. Then when I thought ‘things’ would calm down a bit and I would be home longer than two weeks, I unexpectedly feel in love and got engaged. Planning a big move from the US to Europe I just knew there was no way I could have a tiny sweet frogdog in quarantine during the import process to the old country, so again, I waited. And waited. And waited.

Now unpacked (well, almost) and settled in Europe, I just got married to the most-perfect-guy-for-me-ever (more coming on that later), and we’re loving our life together. Having both resigned, from great but busy corporate brief case carrying positions after more than a decade, we’re now in an ideal situation to give up our lives as we know it devote time and buckets of love to a puppy .

So, seriously, I am getting to something……Last night we met this adorable little Frenchie named, Esther who is ready to have puppies and looking forward to being a mom! She’s just a perfect little girl – petite, mellow, sweet, barely snores or farts at all and is just cute as can be. (I think Henri Hopper would dig her – even if she is knocked up).

I didn’t get any pictures while we were there but hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll have some good news to share and will be introducing you to our new dawggie. I’m SO excited!

Have a frenchie? Have any good dog advice for me? I would love to hear from you!

Leave me a comment or drop me a line at: hookedinamsterdam@wordpress.com

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Some think it’s a pretty freakin’ boring activity that takes too much time for the amount of calories it ultimately burns. However, walking does have some pretty huge benefits. Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah – you’ve heard it a thousand times before, you know walking is good for you, you know you should exercise…..but maybe it’s not so bad to be reminded every so often…..

Walk·ing

Pronunciation: \ˈw-kiŋ\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
1 : the action of one that walks <walking is good exercise>
2 : the condition of a surface for one going on foot <the walking is slippery>

Walking burns calories, strengthens back muscles, slims your waist, is easy on your joints, strengthens your bones, lowers blood pressure, allows time with family and friends, shapes and tones your legs and butt, cuts cholesterol, reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes, & other conditions, reduces stress, helps you sleep better, improves mood and outlook on life, can be done almost anywhere, requires no equipment, AND it’s free.

In addition to going to the gym, I have been trying to get in a decent walk every day. The route I’ve been plugging away on daily loops through the golf course, past two lakes and is a little over 10 km (roughly 6 1/2 miles). It takes me about an hour and a half-ish to complete, gives me some 1:1 time with myself and my iPod, and leaves me feeling sweaty, renewed, and refreshed (how can thirty two degrees Celsius not! Brrr…..).

Honestly, besides the crappy weather some days (I was caught in a graupel storm yesterday – seriously – it’s real – look that one up kids), I have every reason to get my bootie in motion and bust it outside – into the gorgeous crisp air. With the wedding less than three months away I do have an overwhelming desire to look fit and feel healthy for the big day.

I have also been blessed with a pair of perfectly good legs (which I’m forever thankful for) and have sixty eight pairs of running shoes (or ‘trainers’ as they lovingly refer to them in Europe) waiting patiently for their turn to break out of our fourth-bedroom-turned-walk-in-closet.

And yeah, that’s a grip of sneakers. I know.

Cut me some slack here….It’s no secret I cherish shoes and I do come from the ‘land of Nike’ where it’s bordering on an obsessive compulsive disorder cool and hip to own so many pairs of kicks, one to match every possible combination of exercise gear you might slip into.

But most importantly, with copious amounts of time now available to dedicate to a healthy activity like working out – something that was more of a luxury and took a backseat in my past life, I really have no excuses.

I was curious. Just how many calories am I burning on these little ninety minute hikes in the sticks?

And wouldn’t you know it, there are some simple formulas you can use to determine how many calories are being burned according to your weight and how fast you are walking.

3.0 miles/hour (20-minute mile): Burns .027 calories/pound/minute.

3.5 miles/hour (17 minute mile): Burns .033 calories/pound/minute.

4.0 miles/hour (15 minute mile): Burns .042 calories/pound/minute.

4.5 miles/hour (13 minute mile): Burns .047 calories/pound/minute.

Take the number of calories/pound/minute you burn and multiply it by your weight and then by the number of minutes you walk.

For instance, if you weigh 125 pounds and walk a 17-minute mile for 60 minutes, you multiply 125 by .033, then multiple the result (4.125) by 60. You burn a measly 247.5 calories.

So, that’s not a helluva lot, huh? Especially considering one pound of body fat is equal to 3500 calories. Ugh. And one 5 ounce glass of wine contains roughly 125 calories. And seeing I had more than one glass of wine last night, uh, and the night before too….I better step it up.

Here is a fun tool from Body Builder that will calculate how many calories you are burning per specific activity (they even list things such as house cleaning, playing music, standing in line, watching TV, & riding in a car – although I have to imagine the latter three don’t burn much if any at all), you can even discover how many minutes you need to exercise to burn your desired number of calories.

Either way, it’s time for me to lace up the next lucky pair of sneaks, head out, and burn up those nasty calories.

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goat cheese ravioli with walnuts

He loved to tinker and immerse himself into just about anything he hadn’t tried before. So it was no surprise when my dad trotted in one day with a pasta rolling machine under his arm. We were little munch-kins barely able to see above the kitchen counter and for that moment we thought this shiny silver thing with a crank on it was the coolest thing ever.

As kids we loved learning how to gently roll out those sheets of fabulous yellow tinted dough; linguine laying out on every single piece of flat surface we could find including draping it over the back of the kitchen chairs. He was always bringing fun and adventure into our lives including in the heart of the home – the kitchen. For me, these are treasured memories of my dad that I’ll always keep close.

As a treat during the post holiday sales, Fattie and I bought ourselves a pasta machine so we could roll out fresh Italian dishes whenever the urge presented itself. So, what to do on a Saturday night? Yup – you guessed it – pasta!

We decided on ravioli because we both adore it and it’s such a joy to sink your teeth into this handmade goodness…..I wanted to make a lobster and crab recipe but we settled for this over indulgent goat cheese & walnut number. It really is fantastically rich and yummy.

pasta machine

 

Ravioli Dough

Courtesy of Tyler Florence & The Food Network

You’ll need:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yolk, for egg wash

In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour and salt. Add eggs 1 at a time and continue to mix. Drizzle in oil and continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead the dough until elastic and smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Cut the ball of dough in half, cover and reserve the dough you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with flour. Form the dough into a rectangle and roll it through the pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at its widest setting. Guide the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. *Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue until the machine is at its narrowest setting. The dough should be paper-thin, about 1/8-inch thick.

Dust the counter and dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta. Brush the top surface of dough with egg wash. Drop 1 tablespoon of cooled filling about 2-inches apart on half the sheet of pasta. Fold the unfilled half over the filling. With an espresso cup or fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling and form a seal. Use a crimper to cut each pillow into squares. Check to make sure the crimped edges are well sealed before cooking. If making ravioli in advance, dust with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

ravioli 2

 

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Walnut Sauce

Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse & The Food Network

You’ll need:

Filling:

1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced lemon peel
3 large pasta sheets

Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan

In a bowl combine the goat cheese, walnuts, basil, oil, garlic and lemon peel, and mix well. Set aside.

Put pasta sheet on work surface with long side facing you and put packed teaspoon of filling 2 inches apart lengthwise along half of the pasta sheet (you should have 10 to 12 mounds). Around each mound of filling brush dough very lightly with water. Fold dough lengthwise in half over mounds of filling, gently pressing around mounds to force out any air, and seal edges well. With a fluted pastry wheel trim edges and cut between mounds of filling to separate ravioli.

Line a large tray with a dry kitchen towel and arrange ravioli in 1 layer. Make more ravioli with remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling in same manner, transferring to kitchen-towel-lined tray and arranging in 1 layer. Ravioli may be made 8 hours ahead and chilled on towel-lined tray, covered loosely with plastic wrap.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove nuts from the pan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, shallots and garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and cream, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high until the liquid has thickened and reduced by nearly 50 percent in volume, about 4 minutes. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli until they are tender and rise to the surface, carefully stirring to keep them from sticking together, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander. Transfer the cooked ravioli to the pan with the sauce, and gently toss to coat and heat through.

Divide the ravioli among 6 serving plates or shallow bowls, and sprinkle each serving with walnuts and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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I know, normally it’s date night but for us it has been date week.

We wanted to spend time together while doing something good for ourselves and our bodies. We quickly agreed on the answer. Regular trips to the gym followed by evenings of cooking for each other. With the upcoming nuptials and my latest attempt to squeeze into my Amsale wedding dress, I thought this sounded like a excellent idea.

So, we grabbed our duffel bags and trotted off to the club.

But not your pedestrian treadmill, recumbent bike, or boring circuit training routines. No.

We went swimming.

date

At first, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. Swimming? Really? I mean, I love most bodies of water – lakes, pools (laying beside them in posh hotels), and always look forward to playing in the surf at the beach. But, uh, swimming laps? What are we? All of sudden 75? Since I’m usually up for new adventures and love Fattie to death – I grinned and agreed to give it a go.

But not without some apprehension. Here’s my top 5 concerns:

1) Germs. I don’t like them.

I certainly don’t like my bare feet coming in contact with any gym/locker room floor – and would NEVER consider taking a shower in a public place without flip flops on (even on our trip to Italy last month I showered in the hotel with thongs on). I know, I know – it’s borderline OCD.

2) Chlorine. Not my BFF.

My locks are professionally straightened and highlighted every 8-10 weeks, so chlorine, it’s drying agents, and all those other pool chemicals and I – just don’t get along.

3) Swimsuit. I don’t own one.

I mean, I don’t own a proper suit for swimming. I have about 60 suits to catch rays in – they’re called b-i-k-i-n-i-s and not really what you see folks draped in while they’re dog paddling around the pool to work up a sweat.

4) Casper. As in, Casper the ghost.

My first winter in Sweden and I’m paler than I’ve ever been, so you can understand I was horrified of the thought of showing my bleached out body to the general public.

5) Dork Incorporated. Probably not on the top 10 list of ‘cool’ things to do.

To be honest, I felt like a the biggest nerd answering my sister in law when she asked curiously the other day, “What are you guys going to do tonight?”…..me muttering under my breath, “Uh, we’re going swimming”.

Now, here’s a little interesting, or depending on how you look at it depressing, nugget of information about Sweden. The Swedes remove their shoes upon entering a place of residence. Not only do I think it’s terrible to be greeted by a pile of shoes at your front entry way, I’m just not used to it. And frankly – don’t like it.

See, I adore shoes. I’ve been known to build entire outfits around my shoes, so chucking them off at the door is somewhat alarming to me. All my pants, and I mean ALL my pants besides my Juicy sweat-suits, have been tailored for high-heels. The removal of any footwear means I not only become shorter but if I’m not in a dress or skirt then I also have 4 inches of pant leg dragging around behind me. Not attractive. And certainly not the ‘look’ I was going for. With the exception of boots, I’m used to walking around in strappy sandal type shoes – you know, the kind you don’t wear socks with – so, you can bet your bootie I’m not entirely thrilled about being in someone’s home for a dinner or cocktail party barefoot with pants in tow.

But really. I am leading up to something here.

We checked into the gym and rounded the corner to proceed to the locker rooms only to be embraced by the largest mud room I’ve ever laid my big brown eyes upon. What? Those stinking Swedes remove their shoes here too? At the gym? Uh-huh. Apparently, it’s common (and highly encouraged) to drop off your shoes BEFORE entering the locker room.

Nope. Not having it. None of it.

I glanced over at Fattie and squeaked apologetically, “I’m not doing it. I don’t care if I am being disrespectful…..I’m N-O-T doing it.” At this point, not only the potential cooties came into play but you can imagine I was mortified at the thought of leaving my hundred and fifty dollar UGGs out in the open for anyone to snag or worse yet the possibility of someone sticking their foot into my boot – eeewww. Ok, ok. I know. Take it easy. No, I don’t think the local Swedes are thieves; and no, I don’t think I’m so important that someone would really want to steal my shoes – but I can’t take that chance and I certainly can’t walk barefoot into the locker room!

Of course, being who he is and loving me for who I am, Fattie just smiled at me while he was finding a nice home on the shelf for his Converse.

Swim

Wow. Not exactly the burn from lifting weights or the high from running but swimming is hard work. I was envisioning these straight roped off lanes, head down, goggles on, proceeding ahead with the crawl stroke….But to my surprise the dudes in the water were swimming the breast stroke in a long rectangular loop. After a few laughs and comments about being the youngest people there by at least 30 years, I cautiously merged into the circle of elders….The first 2 laps were silly but alright. The next 48 were some kind of modern water torture. I made it through, only after stopping to rest and giggle with Fattie every 10 laps or so.

Now here’s something I had never seen before. Self cleaning hot-tubs. Ok, I guess that is cool and all. But what this really means is everyone and their grandmother scrambles to the jacuzzi at the same time sandwiching in next to each other and then right on queue, exactly 10 minutes later, everyone jumps out to allow the tub to ‘cleanse itself’. 10 minutes in – 10 minutes out. Weird.

Then came the locker room.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in the near vicinity with so many naked 75 year old ladies in my entire life. My eyes must have been as big as saucers! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a prude or shy of nudity – I worked in a health club for several years in my early 20’s so I am very accustomed to the gym and locker room culture. But holy smokes. I’ve seen children smaller than some of those bushes! The gardener must be on a permanent holiday. And don’t get me started on the sauna – it looked like a box of raisins.

Then it hit me. Someday I will be just like these little old ladies – hopefully with a little less hair. Spooky.

If on day/date 1 of our swimming adventure we were the youngest peeps by 30 years, then day 2 we were certainly the oldest by 30 years. Mental note: Mondays = senior night, Wednesday = kiddie night. Oh, the joy.

By our 2nd week hitting the drink, swimming was becoming an amusing routine. We both feel amazingly refreshed afterwards and savor the time we are spending together participating in an engaging, healthy, and, well – goofy activity. We also have had a brilliant time coming up with creative plates of grub to dish up for each other. Last week Fattie made these fabulous Greek meatballs of freshly ground lamb aside homemade tzatziki – reminded me of the yearly Greek festival back home – YUMO.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get so into this swimming thing I might even invest in a proper swimsuit – maybe even a swimming cap. Daaaaang – did I really just write that? So, it is very possible we are I am a giant dork. But at least I won’t be a barefoot dork.

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