Monday, December 29, 2014

2015: Let's Try This Again aka 50 in '15

It's the first day of 2015 and that means it's time for Day Zero List Version 2. We had a blast doing all of the fun things on our last list, so we decided to make it annual thing. There will be some slight changes this time. Rather than 101 things in 10001 days, we've re-tooled the list to be 50 things in 52 weeks. This mostly serves the purpose of allowing us to print cool looking books annually, rather than once every three years. It may be shallow, but I just want a shelf full of different versions of “Make Your Own Damn Coffee Table Book” and this is a good way to make that happen.

But, other than shortening the list, it's pretty much the same concept. We took the first 50 random goals that were offered up by the Day Zero site. Well, truth be told, not the first 50. It's the first 50 that were reasonable. Unfortunately we won't be camping in Antarctica or anything crazy and expensive like that this year.

And how did the list turn out?

That depends on who you ask.

For me, I seem to remember a little more excitement about things on the last list. There were just a couple things that stood out to me on this one as being exciting: riding a hot air balloon, go spelunking, and learning how to throw a knife, for example.

Katie, on the other hand, seemed to have somehow talked to the folks at Day Zero and made sure that the “random” things that popped up were all things she's been trying to get me to do for a while. She'll have a huge smile on her face as we have themed parties and dress up for Halloween and head out to the ballet.

So, on the surface, it would seem like Katie won this one. But that's okay. I'm not worried. If the last batch of goals taught me anything it's that I may find myself enjoying things that I was in no way looking forward to.

On that note, don't be surprised if by the end of the year I have a new hobby of knitting sweaters and hosting tea parties. You just never know what you are going to learn over the course of trying 50 new things.

And that's the precise reason that we are excited for another year living “Our Life of Lists.”

Day Zero Project #Whatever: The odds and ends.

It's the end of the year and, sadly, I didn't finish everything on my list. But don't stress it too much. It's almost 2015 and there will be a whole new list to try and accomplish.

I've posted everything that I finished, but I wanted to do one last post for all of the other goals that were in various states of completion so that those are listed here for posterity.

#9: Learn how to play a song on guitar - I pretty much pick up the guitar that is sitting right next to my monitor whenever I get bored with looking at pictures of kittens on the Internet so, while I didn't learn a full song per se, I learned enough parts of enough songs that I'm willing to call it 75% done.

#14: Join a writing group - I started off November by signing up for the St. Pete chapter of the NanoWriMo competition, which is a group dedicated to getting 50,000 words down on paper during the month of November. It just so happens that November is, historically, one of the busiest months around this household and I ended up getting something like 5,000 words down and didn't participate with the group as much as I wanted. On the bright side I do have a title and a start to my debut novel coming to you. at the current pace I'm going, in 2020

#19: Eat a meal cooked by a famous chef - This one was difficult. Every time a famous chef came around Tampa/St. Pete it was for some special event with a fixed menu that included mostly things that people who don't eat meat find gross. Not willing to give up my pescatarianism so easily, we never did find ourselves seated with a famous chef.

That said, we did eat at a number of restaurants with regionally "famous" head chefs such as Bern's, Black Pearl, Rococo, and others I'm drawing a blank on, so we at least ate some great food this year. Close enough for me!

#21: Take guitar lessons - Guitar lessons are not fun. Trust me, I know. I've tried taking them a number of times in my life, but I have had no luck in finding an instructor that I like and doesn't talk to me like I'm a five year old who has never picked up a guitar before.

But I found a Groupon for an online guitar instruction site and so I dropped the $20 on that to see how it was and sat through a few of those lessons. They were decent, but without a live person to jam with I found myself lacking motivation to practice enough.

Needless to say, I'm still not in a famous band.

#40: Pick 5 people who changed my life and write each of them a letter - I couldn't ever decide how I wanted to tackle this one. At first I was going to get real serious and write letters to the people that I love the most. I wrote one for Katie and while I was waiting to pick who the other four lucky receivers of a letter would be I decided that it might be fun to switch up the project.

My new task was to pick five authors who wrote books that meant a lot to me and see if I received any responses back. I mailed one letter to Lucia Perillo who wrote a wonderful collection of short stories called "Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain" and appeared to be someone who really "gets" what it's like to suffer from a disease that hurt in a way that people can't always see (She has M.S., but the writing works for things that affect those around me like Rheumatoid Arthritis, as well). It was very touching and worth letting her know that .

She didn't write back, but that's okay since I'm assuming she's quite busy writing things like excellent stories.

I never got around to writing any more letters, but 2 out of 5 isn't terrible.

#50: Learn watercolor painting techniques - I bought the watercolor stuff and read a book. Does that count?

#100: Complete a coloring book - I started this by thinking that if I had to color I was going to do so with an adult coloring book. I found one called "Hot Wax" by Tyson McAdoo and got to work.

All was going fine, but using colored pencils with the amount of detail (and tattoos) in this book was taking FOREVER. I didn't think I was going to finish in time, so I switched to something easier.

And you know what? I didn't finish that, either.

And just so I close this book with full disclosure, here are the things that I did not finish in time for inclusion in this book:

Go deep sea fishing
Learn to ski
Go a week with no cellphone, computer or TV
Take a CPR class
Create an emergency preparedness kit
Go a day without talking
Eat with chopsticks for a week
Take a bartending class
Have a homemade ice cream party
Work out with a personal trainer
Learn to ride a horse
Learn a card trick
Send a secret to PostSecret
Take a Young Me, Now Me picture
Don't spend any money for a week
Learn to ice skate
Go for a run every day for a week
Attend a yoga class

Day Zero Project #43: Take a picture for each letter of the alphabet from the nature.

There's quite a few pictures here (I did run out of time and am missing a few letters), so I'll skip the wordiness and just say that this project was one of the most fun out of all the ones we did. Enjoy the show!

A is for Alligator

B is for Blue-Eyed Darner Dragonfly

C is for Callicarpa Americana (Beautyberry)

D is for Dahoon Holly

E is for Eastern Pondhawk Dragonfly

F is for Fungus

G is for Green Bottle Fly

H is for Heart-Leaved Aster

I is for Ibis

J is for nothing. I didn't get around to finding a J thing.

K is also for nothing. 

L is for Laughing Gulls

M is for Marbled Godwit

N is for Nephila Clavipes (Banana Spider)

O is for Osprey

P is for Pokeweed

Q is for Queen Anne's Lace

R is for Red-Bellied Woodpecker

S is for Sandwich Tern

T is for Tallgrass Prairie

U is for... no idea. We didn't find anything that started with a U in time.

V is for Vertebrate (in this case a Florida Box Turtle)

W is for Wildflowers

X is... seriously. It's an X. There's nothing.

Y is for Yellow Flower (Black-Eyed Susan is the culprit here)

and finally Z. Actually let's just try and end on a high note and call Y the end.

Day Zero Project #38: Write a Christmas letter

Hello and welcome to the first, and most likely only, edition of the Dustin and Katie Hughes Holiday Letter. These sorts of things aren’t normally “our thing” as they are best left to the professionals like Katie’s cousin, Anny. She can write a letter and you’ll laugh and cry and feel that warm fuzzy feeling that is comparable only to how you feel after a night of drinking your good friend’s spiked egg nog. Here you will only find dry humor and some pictures. Hopefully that’s the sort of thing you like.

“If it’s not your thing then why are you doing this?” you might be asking yourself.

And that would be a great question. The answer is that it just came up on a random list that I (Dustin) generated that we’re trying to accomplish this year. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen my posts on all sorts of weird things we’ve done this year. If you aren’t, I’ve included some handy best-of pictures below.

I believe that the typical thing to do is to use this space to fill-in everyone on all the major milestones that we reached over the past year. A very popular thing to do is to recap the really wonderful things that your children, accomplished so I’ll start there.

First up is our oldest, Mayor Cuddles Von Mystery, Esq. He had a big year in 2014 with highlights including that one time he almost caught the red dot and in September he escaped outside for what can only be described as 3 glorious minutes in the outdoors. He’s still a little upset about having to come back inside, but indoors is pretty much an all-you-can-eat buffet, so he’s learning to be okay with it.

Second, but certainly first in the hearts of many, is Slayer. Like her namesake, she spent a lot of this year being heavy. Seriously… she eats quite a bit. She also listed her yearly accomplishments as terrorizing The Mayor every single day, reducing the amount of sleeping hours of her parents in half and managing to hide every single toy that she is bought underneath the stove for “safe keeping.” 

 But enough about those crazy kids of ours, it’s time to talk about our favorite subject: us.
Katie spent the year at the coffee shop. No joke. I barely saw her, but when I did she was always highly caffeinated. This uptick in energy led her to get a new job, while simultaneously giving her the super power of somehow dealing with the craziness that is me. She’s a saint; a short, curly-haired saint.

 And myself? I had a big year. I got a new turntable, which increased the amount of ridiculous dancing that takes place in our house. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen me dance around the living room to a Stan Getz or Botch record in my pajamas. I also brought up the number of lists that I keep to somewhere around 80, and if you know me, you know that is big news. Next year I hope to reach 100 different lists. 

We also did some seriously awesome things, but if you haven’t figured it out by now this will not be a serious letter. So instead you are left with a mental picture of me dancing. You’re welcome.

I think that should just about do it. I’d certainly rate this letter as a solid C+ and just a “minor waste of your time” rather than a “complete waste of your time,” so on that note, I’d call it a success. And now I’ll wrap it up with a few closing thoughts and an award-winning photography collection:

By the time you receive this letter it will likely be past Christmas, and for that we apologize. But it’s not our fault, really. You see, we live in Florida and it’s at least 70 degrees every day so we were too busy getting tans and sipping on beach cocktails to realize that it was Holiday time again!

Actually, we are just lazy. But tans and cocktails sound like a much better excuse.

In all seriousness though, if you are reading this you are someone special to us and we hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season and, more importantly, a wonderful rest of the year, too. Thanks for being an outstanding person and doing your part to make our lives that much more awesome.

No matter what Santa says about you, we know that you are amazing.

Dustin and Katie Hughes

p.s. And now, in case this thing wasn't long-winded enough, we bring you our first, and last, “2014 In Lists” feature.

Best Books We Read In 2014
1. “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra
2. “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon
3. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
4. “Krik? Krak!” by Edwidge Danticat
5. “Drop City” by T.C. Boyle
1.”The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
2. “Drinking Closer to Home” by Jessica Blau
3. “Meet the Annas” by Robert Dunn
4. “The Tainted City: by Courtney Schaffer
5. “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen

Best New (To Us) Music of 2014
1. The World Is a Beautiful Place... “Between Bodies”
2. Q and Not U “Different Damage”
3. The Dear Hunter “Migrant”
4. Annabel “Youth in Youth”
5. The Sidekicks “Weight of Air”
1. She & Him “Classics”
2. Houndmouth “From the Hills Below the City”
3. The Menzingers “Rented World”
4. The Sidekicks “Weight of Air”
5. Annabel “Youth in Youth”

Best Comic Books We Read In 2014
1. “Sheltered” by Brisson/Christmas
2. “Blankets” by Craig Thompson
3. “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” by Chris Ware
4. “Saga” by Vaughn/Staples
5. “Nailbiter” by Williamson/Henderson
1. “Sheltered” by Brisson/Christmas
2. “Rat Queens” by Weibe
3. “Baltimore” by Mignola/Stenbeck
4. “Saga” by Vaughn/Staples
5. “X” by Swierczynski/Nguyen

Best Concerts of 2014
1. mewithoutYou @ The Social, Orlando, FL
2. Modest Mouse @ The Beacham, Orlando, FL
3. The World Is A Beautiful Place... @ The Fest, Gainesville, FL
4. Mouth of the Architect @ Orpheum, Tampa, FL
5. Broadway Calls @ Orpheum, Tampa, FL
1. Broadway Calls @ Orpheum, Tampa, FL
2. Captain, We're Sinking @ Wooly, Gainesville, FL
3. Houndmouth @ Local 662, St. Pete, FL
4. Less Than Jake @ Orpheum, Tampa, FL
5. The Sidekicks @ Wooly, Gainesville, FL

And now we've reached the end. We hope you all make 2015 the best year ever. We'll be right there with you trying to do the same.

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

Day Zero Project #17: Create a comic strip.

I would like to introduce the world's next famous superhero: The Classy Hipster.

For the past 12 months our refrigerator has been the home of this wonderful man and all of his zany adventures in beard-growing, PBR-drinking, and popular music-hating. We've followed along as he's gone through numerous wardrobe changes (mostly flannel) and cringed as he's unsuccessful tried many times to pick up ladies (his failures range from Katie to a special John Suarez-drawn appearance of a certain cursing goth lady).

He's probably due to be retired, but I wouldn't be surprised if he pops back up on our fridge from time-to-time for special guest appearances.

So pick up a cheap beer and let's toast The Classy Hipster!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day Zero Project #27: Play in a poker competition.

This past Friday I strolled into the Derby Poker Club in St. Petersburg, FL ready to play in my first ever Texas Hold 'Em tournament. I had spent a whole 15 to 20 minutes Googling poker strategy and I even watched a YouTube video of Phil Helmuth, so I figured I was in a pretty good spot to win the whole thing.

As I walked out the door I did forget three important things that all poker players need: my hoodie, some sunglasses and my headphones. And (spoiler alert) when I didn't win the tournament, I was pretty sure that this mistake is what cost me the trophy (and cash)

So how did I do? The tournament started with four tables and I was the last guy out before the final table, so I tied for 11th. Not too shabby for my first ever tournament. I was a little bummed about going out at that time because all the final table won something and I went home with nothing more $18 in winnings from the dog races that were taking place during the tournament.

For those who care about how I lost, my stack was running pretty low and the blinds were getting high enough that I didn't have much choice but to take my next decent hand and go all-in. I ended up being dealt a pair of Queens (which gave me some hope that I might win the hand and get back into it). I was called by two people and none of the other cards that were dealt helped at all.

Oh well, I had a ton of fun and plan to hit up a few more tournaments next year and see if I can't start cashing in on some of those prizes!

Note: I stole that bottom photo from Paul W. who was also at the tournament and did a whole lot better than I did, both at picture taking and in card playing.

Day Zero Project #99: Go on a helicopter ride.

I believe I've said it before, but I may as well go ahead and state the obvious again. If you are going to do a list of 101 things where many of them cost money then Groupon and LivingSocial should be your best friends. Especially when there's something like going on a helicopter ride which, it turns out, is a pretty expensive thing to do.

So, before heading over to check out professional hockey's greatest team (aka the Tampa Bay Lightning) we were lucky enough to have a Groupon deal in hand for Old City Helicopters.

And now that we've done it, I highly recommend taking a little tour in a helicopter. It was a really neat way to see views of our area that we wouldn't normally get. I could type about that view, but why not just look at the pictures.

View from the front seat.
Us standing outside the helicopter worrying about if we'd live.
Downtown Tampa
Co-Pilot Katie
Amalie Arena - Tampa, FL

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day Zero Project #69: Attend a music festival.

Originally this goal was on the list as "Camp at a music festival", but a Summer shoulder surgery for my wife made that option a no-go, so I had to modify this slightly to "Attend a music festival." This is probably a good thing because, although I was looking forward to getting to Bonnaroo for the first time, I also know that I am far too old for 4am drum circles.

So last weekend we took our slightly modified goal and made our way up to Gainesville for The Fest 13, a music festival we've been going to anyways for the past seven years. It's basically one weekend in Florida where almost all of our favorite bands are in one spot and you just jump around venues checking out great band after great band. All the while, you are also drinking too much beer and eating far too much vegetarian food.

To sum it up in picture form you'd have blurry, tipsy picture taking while singing along to your favorite songs.

Spiderman crowd surfing as one of your favorite band's plays At The Drive-In songs.

And fun bands with a stand-up bass that is almost as big as the venue.

In other words, it's perfect. You should check it out.

And because I like lists, here are my Top 5 sets for the weekend (in no particular order):

Captain, We're Sinking
The Sidekicks
Greenland is Melting
The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

So, yeah, I kinda cheated on this one, but I had a great time and staying at the Econolodge in Gainesville is probably less appealing than camping in the middle of  a mud field.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day Zero Project #5: Get a caricature done of myself.

This is me as an action figure. Thanks to CartoonMe at

And as a bonus here's my wife via the guy who writes the wonderful comic, Caribbean Blue.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day Zero Project #12: Make miso soup from scratch.

You may remember that the other day I tried my hand at rolling sushi and I figured that miso soup goes pretty well with mediocre sushi, so I also made sure to get this goal accomplished on the same day.

For those of you who have never made miso soup before it could be the most easy dish in the entire world to make. One could technically mix miso into water and have a very low-brow miso soup that wouldn't be very good but at least you'd get to check it off your list.

But that's not how I roll. I figured I should at least put some effort into it and make the dashi (broth). So while at a visit to the Chinese supermarket I made sure to pick up some bonito flakes (terrible smelling flaked, dried bonito fish) and kombu (a weird looking kind of kelp).

Alton Brown used to be one of my food heros before he gave up Good Eats and started hosting lame challenge shows, so I stuck to his recipe for the most part.

After you have the dashi made, you just throw in some miso, some tofu, some scallions, some mushrooms (if you remembered them, I got lost admiring all the weird foods in the supermarket, so I forgot). Again, basically copy Alton Brown.

That's it. It's a very simple and delicious side dish.

And why did someone feel the need to put this easy dish on their goal list? Who knows, but I think they won't have a problem accomplishing it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day Zero Project #42: Learn to roll sushi.

Every time that I start one of these new projects I have this vision in my head of how I'm going to do whatever it is absolutely perfect. Nevermind that I've never tried it, it's going to be great. Try my hand at painting? It'll be a Picasso. Run a 5K? I'll do it at a 4 minute mile pace.

It's like my mind forgets that people practice to get good at things and assumes that I'm naturally going to be the best at everything. I think this is a sign of some serious humbleness problems.

And, even though I know that I can never get anything perfect on the first try, I started the rice with the thought in my head that I was going to serve perfectly rolled sushi for dinner.

Step one was to visit the Asian market and get lost in there for three hours looking at all the different groceries and buying one of pretty much everything when you only wanted to get some sushi rice and a bamboo mat.

I ended up walking out of the store with some eel, some spring rolls that had pork in them that I had to throw away, enough sesame seeds to last a lifetime, inari skins, imitation crab, bonito flakes, kombu, two bamboo mats and absolutely no sushi rice. Because who needs to remember one of the two things you actually went in to buy. 

I eventually remedied the rice situation and got to work putting some delicious eel and sushi rice onto nori sheets.

Then I channeled my inner sushi master and began to roll.

And failed. Quite a few times. It turns out that rolling sushi is not as easy as they make it look at the restaurant. Who knew? Oh, that's right. Everybody knew!

Anyway, I ended up with a few salvageable rolls that don't look too terrible in a picture (Eel, Inari, Cucumber and Krab Rolls, if you're wondering.

The most important part was the taste. Which was okay. Not great like I pictured in my head, but more like what you'd get if you ordered sushi from a restaurant that everyone described as "Meh, I guess I'd eat there if I had to."

So if you're ever in the market for completely average sushi, come on over, I'll be glad to make it. Maybe next time I'll even be able to make cucumber rolls that don't eventually fall apart!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day Zero Project #89: Build a sand sculpture.

In honor of attending this year's The Fest 13, I decided to take the No Idea Records logo...

...and completely ruin it in the form of a very basic, and mostly scary, sand sculpture.

At least I tried!