47. Go vegetarian for an entire month

March 25th, 2011
Creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich

My final meal as a temporary vegetarian: Creamy tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich

My experiment as a temporary vegetarian started with the morning of February 15 after a “last meal” at Hot Dog World the previous evening. (Don’t judge. Their tater tots are fantastic and it’s totally romantic for Valentine’s Day.)

Breakfasts were no sweat. My usual granola with yogurt was fine. Maybe an English muffin or bagel on the weekends.

Lunches typically consisted of a salad and peanut butter crackers in the dining hall at work. If that got boring, I might venture out for tater tots, pad Thai or mushroom and Swiss panini.

Dinner really allowed me to get creative.

Portobello mushrooms stuffed with cashews, panko and herbs. Sauteed green beans with garlic. Tomato pie with pesto and three cheeses. Black bean tacos with guacamole slaw.

Dining out proved the biggest challenge.

What other juices might be floating around on the grill where that mushroom and Swiss panini was pressed? What kind of oil were those tater tots fried in?

The only time a meat product (other than eggs, which were allowed because no animal died to produce them) ever crossed my lips was at a Thai restaurant where the waiter served a soup made with chicken broth. I’d told him I was a vegetarian and asked about a few of the vegetarian options on the menu before ordering. One mouthful of soup and I put my spoon down, knowing he’d made a mistake. The soup and a complimentary egg roll were apologetically replaced with diet-safe versions.

One night, I met up with my mom and her husband for dinner. The restaurant they chose had one (seriously? ONE? in this day and age?) vegetarian dish on the menu. And it wasn’t even a salad. And it wasn’t an entree. It was an appetizer portion of fried green tomatoes over cheese grits. Fortunately, it was plenty of food when paired with a side of baked apples.

A few things surprised me.

Only a couple colleagues noticed any change in my eating habits, and I eat lunch with them most work days.

The fiance who had moaned and groaned about all the meatless dinners he would have to endure actually enjoyed the vegetarian meals (especially when they involved cheese).

I didn’t miss meat very much at all. Except for an occasional craving for fish or shrimp, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. In fact, in the absence of meat, I remembered how much I enjoy vegetables. Simple steamed broccoli with a splash of soy sauce? Divine.

Now that the month has ended, I won’t be completely eliminating meat from my diet anytime soon, but the experiment has made me more conscious of my eating habits. More color and variety is continuing to find its way to my plate. The meat to vegetables ratio has shifted, and I couldn’t be happier with the change.

68. Be passionately, blissfully in love

March 18th, 2011
Internet, meet Brendan. He makes me so happy I'm blurry.

Internet, meet Brendan. He makes me so happy I'm blurry.

Brendan and I met in high school way back in 1995. We were both on the newspaper staff, one of those classes where no one did much of anything and everyone got a good grade anyway.

He sat behind me in class nearly every day for two years. I spent a good chunk of each class sitting backward in my seat and talking to him about whatever pointless crap teenage girls talked about at the time. Probably Backstreet Boys vs. NSync.

I was pretty sure he had a crush on me. He told me I had nice hands. But I wasn’t allowed to date yet and besides that, he was way too skinny and wore one of those goofy ROTC uniforms on Tuesdays.

He graduated in 1997 and I didn’t see him again until 13 years later, when a late night Facebook chat turned into a sushi dinner. He said he’d read my website and wanted to (unsuccessfully) teach me to drive a stick shift.

I’d had a couple glasses of pear sake and thought Internet stalking was hot. We pretended to be just friends for a while.

One Friday night in August, he told me he loved me. I asked him if he’d ever seen the movie Elf.

He hadn’t but I said I loved him anyway. Two days later, on Sunday, he said he was going to marry me. I nodded.

Turns out, you really do just know.

On February 8, he gave me this:

the engagement ring

I'm going to cross #69 off the list before fall.

59. Have a sleepover with my nieces

June 19th, 2010
Blueberry pancakes for breakfast

Homemade blueberry pancakes for breakfast

We stayed up late watching a movie, drinking raspberry lemonade, eating popcorn and painting toenails.

Samantha announced that she hated Justin Bieber because “I hear his name all the time and I don’t even know who he is!” Then she told the guy at Blockbuster about the time she punched a boy in the face and knocked out one of his teeth after he hit her and stole her bicycle. (Seriously, don’t mess with that girl.)

The next morning, we slept in until almost 9, drizzled maple syrup on our turkey sausage, played at the nearby park, ate salads at a restaurant best known for its hot dogs and bought a train whistle for their brother’s 4th birthday.

Afterward,  I took a nice long nap.

All in all, a very fun memorable day.

32. Make charitable giving a regular activity

May 15th, 2010

Turns out, this is the reason I most look forward to pay day.

I didn’t grow up tithing but I do remember begging for spare change to send spiraling down the giant funnel for sending blind children to camp and watching my parents put money into every Salvation Army kettle they passed at Christmas time.

Working for a nonprofit has significantly heightened my awareness of the importance of charitable giving and prompted me to think about spending as an extension of my values. So I sat down earlier this year and adjusted my budget to give a portion to organizations that are meaningful to me.

It might be Haiti relief, my alma mater or a favorite public radio station but it’s never the same cause two paychecks in a row. The amount isn’t as much as I’d like it to be but it’s a good start.

My Life List

March 29th, 2010
  1. Get laser eye surgery October 24, 2009 at Woolfson Eye Institute in Asheville
  2. Fly on a trapeze October 24, 2008 at the Trapeze School of New York
  3. Attend a Broadway musical “Wicked” on October 26, 2008
  4. Tap dance in a recital as an adult “Cabaret Fever” April 23-26, 2009 with the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre
  5. Figure out what I really believe about God spring 2008
  6. Make charitable giving a regular activity spring 2010
  7. Refinish a piece of furniture to fabulousness wicker chair on July 12, 2009
  8. Go vegetarian for an entire month February 15-March 16, 2011
  9. Repair Grandma Fain’s sewing machine and make something useful with it cloth napkins on December 28, 2008
  10. Ring a church bell March 2011 at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis
  11. Have a sleepover with my nieces June 19, 2010
  12. Ice skate at Rockefeller Center December 4, 2009
  13. Host Christmas/Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family November 27, 2008—and everyone got along!
  14. Be madly, passionately in love August 2010-present
  15. Marry that man! August 27, 2011 at the Forge Valley Event Center in Mills River
  16. Attend an opera late October 2011 in Rome
  17. Make crème brulee from scratch November 30, 2008—much easier than I thought it would be
  18. Tip a waitress $100 January 24, 2013 to Lauren at Blue in Charlotte
  19. Perform a solo routine in a clogging competition
  20. Become a morning person
  21. Overcome my chronic tardiness
  22. Ride a gondola in Venice
  23. Have dinner at “John’s place” in Todi, Italy, again
  24. Adopt a child
  25. Visit Greece
  26. Ride a zip line through a rain forest
  27. Take at least one voice lesson. Sing in public without the aid of alcohol. Earn sincere applause.
  28. Stand on the glass deck at the Grand Canyon
  29. Organize my photos
  30. Redesign my website
  31. Go on a cruise
  32. Attend an Olympic sporting event
  33. Volunteer regularly for a cause I really care about
  34. Dance/kiss in the rain
  35. Cross the Canadian border
  36. Maintain the ability to do splits until I’m at least 50
  37. Go two weeks without Internet access
  38. Publish a collection of poems
  39. Teach a college-level class
  40. Get a part in a play
  41. Milk a cow
  42. Experience life as a redhead
  43. Own harmonyjohnson.com and maintain with regular updates for at least five years
  44. Make physical fitness a lifetime goal
  45. Write and publish at least one book
  46. Skydive
  47. Pilot an airplane
  48. Ride in a hot air balloon
  49. Take a surfing lesson
  50. SCUBA dive
  51. Earn a master’s degree
  52. Live in a city where I don’t have to own a car
  53. Learn to drive a stick shift
  54. Fill a passport before it expires
  55. Set foot on all seven continents
  56. Set foot in all 50 states
  57. Return to Bamberg, Germany, and visit as many places in the photo albums as possible
  58. Dance in an Irish pub
  59. Swim in the Pacific, Mediterranean and Indian oceans
  60. Go on a yoga retreat
  61. Stand inside the Taj Mahal
  62. Stand atop the Great Wall of China
  63. Eat fresh lobster in Maine
  64. Become a great dinner party host: 50 fun, delicious dinners for 6+ people
  65. Walk the red carpet
  66. Go to Disney World
  67. Get baptized
  68. Own a piece of real estate
  69. Go on a vacation, just Mom and me
  70. Go on a vacation, just Vanessa and me
  71. Get to know my biological father
  72. Establish a scholarship at Carolina
  73. Ride the Orient Express
  74. Ride a horse at a full gallop. On the beach.
  75. Have a garden
  76. Go on a safari in Africa
  77. Fly first class
  78. Egypt: Camel rides, pyramids and a boat ride on the Nile
  79. Improve my Spanish enough to have a conversation with a native speaker
  80. Live in a house with a window seat and/or turret
  81. Go sailing
  82. Stomp grapes for making wine
  83. Take a road trip across the United States
  84. Taste miracle fruit
  85. Ride a bicycle across Hatteras and Ocracoke islands
  86. Participate in a drum circle
  87. Learn to swing dance with lifts and flips
  88. Read the Bible cover to cover
  89. Be debt free
  90. Paris: Crème brulee, the Louvre, a cooking class and the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower
  91. Ride a zamboni
  92. Go on a horsepacking trip
  93. Experience zero gravity
  94. Drive an Aston Martin
  95. Tip a busker $100
  96. Photograph the aurora borealis
  97. Complete a sprint triathlon
  98. Listen to U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” without being able to relate at all