Sunday, December 29, 2013

So How Was It?

Unwinding 2013's Watch!
Yes, it's the obligatory "year end" post.  It's been interesting to post every month and see how the journey toward my goals progressed.  I won't recap everything, but overall, I'm very pleased.  I'm exercising more, drinking more water, and my house is neater with less stress.  While things weren't without their glitches, I try to remember that this is a long road and pit stops and course corrections are part of the trip.  I think it was a good year and I'm excited about 2014 - I'll post about those goals once it's actually 2014; no need to risk jinxing things.

In December, I set the goal of trying something new every single day.  This turned out to be a lot of fun and I enjoyed sharing my "something new" with Facebook friends, who were incredibly supportive of my attempts.  (In fact, this challenge gave me two of my ideas for 2014!)  When I look back over the past thirty days, I noticed how many of my "something news" involved food in one way or another.  Let's see:

  • Day 1 - I went to my hometown's annual Christmas tree lighting.  Friends, merriment, and carols.  No food.  This was a trend that would not last.
  • Day 2 - Tried scallops.  Didn't work too well, but I tried.
  • Day 3 - Had a Black Forest smoothie for breakfast.  Yum!  OK, I'm going to work the food angle now.
  • Day 4 - Tried gourmet hot chocolate with cinnamon.  Again with the yum.
  • Day 5 - Had snacks at the campus bookstore for Faculty/Staff Appreciation Day and bought a ridiculously on-sale sweatshirt.
  • Day 6 - Cooked a comfort dinner and used the good china and crystal just for me.
  • Day 7 - Tried hot jasmine tea.  (See, only a week in and almost everything is food-related!)
  • Day 8 - Tried a Thai dish called "drunken noodle."
  • Day 9 - Bought a springform pan with the notion of making a "from scratch" cheesecake.
  • Day 10 - Made and tried instant cafe mocha.  Serious yum!
  • Day 11 - Tried the "blue" Toblerone.
  • Day 12 - Doughnut holes from my hometown bakery.
  • Day 13 - Winter pedicure.  (See - it's not all food!)
  • Day 14 - Tried an appetizer called "Crunchy Thai Noodle."
  • Day 15 - Explored the "Farm to Front Porch" local food project.  It, of course, came with samples!
  • Day 16 - Went to the community theatre show.  Hilarious!  (And yeah, there were snacks at intermission.)
  • Day 17 - Discovered a wealth of do-it-yourself spa treatments on Pinterest and made a salt scrub.
  • Day 18 - Unwound with hot tea and a homemade peppermint foot soak.
  • Day 19 - Made that cheesecake!
  • Day 20 - Elegant dinner at a friend's house, featuring roasted winter vegetables and a brined chicken.
  • Day 21 - Tried tortellini al forno.
  • Day 22 - Tried a fresh-made ginger limeade.
  • Day 23 - Browsed in a nice jewelry store while my engagement ring was inspected and cleaned.
  • Day 24 - Made cranberry-nut bread from my mom's recipe.
  • Day 25 - Had a home spa night with multiple "treatments."
  • Day 26 - Started "Couch to 5K" with my first jog in years and years!  (It doesn't look like it's related to food, but I'm pretty sure it's an indirect result!)
  • Day 27 - Watched the anime masterpiece Akira.
  • Day 28 - Made (and used!) a homemade "achy muscle" bath to treat my owowowowow! from starting the "Couch to 5K" program!
  • Day 29 - Tried a to-die-for chocolate truffle made with lavender, honey, and lemon.
  • Day 30 - Made a composting bin with the idea of composting yard and household scraps to enrich the garden.  (Again, an indirect result of all the food!)

Whew!  As I said, much fun.  May 2014 be a good year for all of us - full of opportunities, delights, and growth.

See you next year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Month of New!

About three weeks ago, I embarked on what I called "30 Days of New" with the promise that every single day I'd try something new.  At first, I saw it as a way to get out of some very comfortable ruts.  Then I started seeing it as a tiny, daily adventure.  What I never expected was how friends would help me along this new road - I've gotten messages of encouragement, recipes, suggestions, and a very nice gift basket crammed with all sort of sweet and savory delights (still have to try the "blueberry acai puffs") to help me along my month-long journey.

If there's been a theme to this, I think it's been "be kind to yourself."  While I didn't start out with a specific message in mind, I have to say - that's not a bad one.  The holidays last year were a rats-nest of self-inflicted stress and holly-trimmed hysteria.  I wanted things Just So and ignored the realities of teaching full time (the end of the fall semester is beyond crazy) and having a commuter marriage, then felt like a Grinchy failure when I didn't have cards sent out by Dec. 10th.  (Or at all, finally.)  Not this year, we both swore.  And so far, we've done a much better job of enjoying our holidays - yes, yes, they aren't Martha Stewart's or Alexandra Stoddard's and our house will never be mistaken for Biltmore.  That was never the point.

We decorated in small spurts instead of a marathon, stuffed our discounted tree (remember my family motto of "Never Pay Retail!") into the car, were entertained by the new kitty exploring the conundrum of outside things being inside, and overall, it's much calmer and more celebratory.  Amazing what sitting down with a calendar and saying "no" to some things can accomplish.  Oh, there's still work to do - we need to tighten the budget and I need to relax a little more about things not being Just So - but wow! what a difference!

Among the things I've tried during this "30 Days of New" - you can follow the daily posts on Facebook - have been:

  • Sampling local foods from the Farm to Front Porch initiative and figuring out how we can be part of this movement to shop local.
  • Exploring DIY spa treatments on Pinterest - I even invested in little Mason jars for this one!
  • Finally taking the plunge and buying a springform pan so I could bake a "from scratch" cheesecake that was an overwhelming success.
  • Discovering that yes, I still don't like scallops, regardless of the recipe.
  • Trying other new foods and finding some I really, really liked (the "Crunchy Thai Noodle" appetizer at Joe's, for instance).
  • And the biggest one - making time.  Time for a cup of tea drunk while sitting in a chair, instead of standing over the sink.  Time to go see a community theatre play (hilarious, by the way.  Beloved holiday classics ("BHC") in a blender.), time to firmly shut my office door and go take a walk.

To everyone who says, "Well sure - she could do it.  She doesn't have to deal with my [fill in the blank of personal obligations here].  I couldn't do that," I say (as lovingly as possible; we're always so hard on ourselves), you're spouting complete and utter hogwash.  I have too much to do and too little time to do it.  I also have too little money to spend lavishly and freely.  If I can scale back my holidays and find daily joy, so help me, so can you!  Of course you're valuable to your employer and of course you're important to your family and friends.  Of course you take on too much - it's a way we validate ourselves and it's a way we show our love for those around us.  But it so very, very easily slips into resentment - and barking "No, you can't help - you'll just do it wrong" is a guaranteed ouch!   No wonder people stop offering to help us and we wind up doing absolutely everything at work, at home, and in between, often while sighing deeply and wondering why no one is helping us out.

Let it go.  Sure, maybe the sheets won't have sharp hospital corners.  Maybe the whites will have a brown sock slip in there (that was me yesterday BTW.  Color-safe bleach saved the day.)  Maybe the tree will be decorated a little lopsided.  Maybe (gasp!) an heirloom dish will get broken.

It'll all be okay.  Someone will have helped with the chores to show you that they love you.  The tree will be done and gorgeous because it was done with love.  And - well, dishes break - even heirloom ones.  At least you used them instead of needing to dust them.  They're in your house, not a museum.

Go try something new.  Do it joyously and with abandon.  If it works out, fantastic!  If it doesn't (scallops), you tried it with a spirit of adventure.