New Year’s Resolutions in Reverse: A Good-bye to 2013

 

The first few days of the New Year are upon us.

This can only mean one thing:

New. Year. Obligatory. Post.

Just in case the other 97627346 bloggers, hard-hitting CNN journalists (seriously – CNN – sometimes I think you’re punking me with your absurd headlines), and, as I found out today… , USA.GOV New Year’s Resolution website (what???) didn’t offer the right amount of predictable inspiration, I’m offering my two cents here.

Truthfully, I am a fan of this topic and New Year’s in general.

The ending of a year and the starting of a brand spanking new blank slate is pretty exciting.  It’s like the first day of school (brand new notebooks!!).

However, I don’t believe you can start a new chapter/list/notebook before you’ve properly closed off the previous one.

Last night, during a dinner party, one of the seven guests suggested we go around the table and have everyone say their “Best and Worst of 2013.”

The answers were real.  Some were funny.  All prompted reflection.  The worst: losing a job, learning of a family member’s illness, losing a pet; The best: passing an important exam, meeting newly special people, finding a new job.

In similar fashion, for today’s post, I’ve decided to recycle a popular idea I used a few months ago called The Reverse Bucket List and write a reverse New Year’s resolution list for 2013.

The following is a list of some self-improvements, goals, and personal attainments of 2013 (and, when appropriate, illustrative photos):

1)      Put effort into becoming closer with family members; find time to get to know extended family

cousins

Meeting second cousins for brunch

2)      Separate emotionally from surrounding drama

3)      Get back out on that ice and start figure skating/training/coaching again

ice skating figure skating

Back on the ice – starting a session

4)      Furnish/decorate an apartment from scratch

The completed "living room" in my first personal apartment

The completed “living room” in my first personal apartment

5)      Travel abroad for an “extended” vacation; leave worries/computers/cell phones behind

greece

Taking it easy in Naxos, Greece

6)      Pick up a new fitness hobby

flywheel spin cycle

Attending Flywheel classes with friends

7)      Cook for myself more – learn to make new healthy staples

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

8)      Take advantage of new city

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

9)      Take advantage of new found proximity to family (with move to Chicago) and spend more time with little sister

roller coaster

Roller-coastering with lil sis

10)      Take steps to show some semblance of putting yourself first

11)      Learn to say no

12)      Bring down the mile-high fence/barricade/guard and give trust and a new relationship a chance

Ice skating at the zoo.  It snowed.  It was perfect.

Ice skating at the zoo in Chicago. It snowed. A friend snapped this when we weren’t looking.

Decidedly, 2013 was pretty good to me.

A great portion of the positive in 2013 stemmed from this blog.  Writing these posts, however inconsequential they may seem, has come to be a huge part of my life.  I love connecting with readers from my  backyard as well as all over the world.  I love reading what others are generating.  I love finding commonalities.

So thank you, friends, for making 2013 Awesome.

I think I’m ready for 2014.

Cheers!

Dear Millennials and People of All Ages: Write a Reverse Bucket List

greece

These days, everybody’s got advice to give, it seems.

Just this morning, someone at work forwarded a list of the top 10 BEST pieces of advice according to some dude named Dan Schawbel (and Forbes, apparently) for all millennials.

According to Dan and the popular media of the world, we should never settle for a job we’re not passionate about, make a big impact IMMEDIATELY at a new job (haha), take risks early and often, spend more time with people, measure your work outcomes and SACRIFICE today to position yourself better for tomorrow.

Sure thing, Dan.

I’ll pencil this in for Thursday.  Wednesday’s already filled up it looks like……I’m uh….oh hmmm YEP, Wednesday I’m settling from 8 – 6:30.

Sometimes advice from every imaginable expert on success makes for great lunch-time reading.

Sometimes you just don’t want to hear it.

Here’s some Tuesday advice: take a break from world domination plotting and wondering what more you could be doing (I’m speaking to myself as well here) and write a reverse bucket list.

You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

Just so happens that in the same hour that I was blessed with this life-changing advice, I also read a blog post from this Awesome woman who cleverly wrote a bucket list in reverse.

This inspiring Millennial, Amy, “[took] stock of all [she has] accomplished thus far” on her milestone birthday.

My advice is to take half a second to think about the things you’ve already accomplished in your young, medium, more medium age and revel in it for a second.

Swish it in your mouth.

Enjoy the moment.

Get some perspective.

As Amy puts it, “once you start recalling all the amazing things you’ve already accomplished in life, those looming items unchecked off your bucket list don’t seem too daunting, or out of reach.”

What follows is my reverse bucket list.

  1. Learn a 3rd language
  2. Visit Cuba
  3. Work for a Fortune 500 Company
  4. Compete in a National Figure Skating Championship
  5. Share my passion for figure skating with others
  6. Zip-line in Costa Rica
  7. Take my little sister to see the Statue of Liberty
  8. Cook for my grandfather in my NYC apartment (he flew in!)
  9. Shop in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
  10. Win a medal in the school district’s Optimist Speech Contest (I was 13)
  11. Swim on a swim team
  12. Experience high tea in a castle in London
  13. Take a cruise with my mom
  14. Drink a beer at Oktoberfest in Munich
  15. Have a spa day in Bath, England (the historic site of the Roman Baths)
  16. Connect with a stranger on an international flight
  17. Ride the Maid of the Mist under Niagara Falls
  18. Camp on a deserted island
  19. Celebrate my birthday on a beach
  20. Climb Sleeping Bear Dunes
  21. Ride a roller coaster with my little sister
  22. Graduate from a top university
  23. Live in Mexico
  24. Sail in Greece
  25. Be inducted into my university’s athletic hall of fame
  26. Play in a recreational league (softball!)
  27. Watch the sunrise from an old fishing boat out on the ocean in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
  28. Study in Madrid, Spain
  29. Write letters to a friend in another country
  30. Live in New York City
  31. Go prom dress shopping with my mom
  32. Run a half marathon
  33. Join a book club
  34. Sit front row at a broadway show
  35. Dance all night in Florence on New Years Eve
  36. Volunteer at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge
  37. Eat home-made Moussaka in Mykonos, Greece
  38. Ride an ATV
  39. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home
  40. Attend a wedding in Europe
  41. Go tubbing on the Aegean Sea
  42. See Santana live in Mexico City
  43. Ski a black diamond trail
  44. Take a boxing class
  45. See the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
  46. See the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC
  47. Be a guest on a daytime talk show
  48. Take the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour
  49. Try wakeboarding
  50. Live in Chicago
  51. Start a personal blog

Thank you, Amy, for this wonderful idea.

I have 50 here (and 1 as the cherry on top).  I challenge everyone to write a reverse bucket-list.

It reminds you of the Awesome in your life.

Finding Family Abroad

plaka beach naxos greece

One of the best parts of traveling abroad, for me, has always been tied to the connections you make.

The notion that somewhere across the ocean are people totally different than you and yet absolutely the same perplexes, fascinates and makes me giddy.

The second part of this week, we found ourselves on the Greek Isle Naxos, about a 2 hour ferry ride (cruise) from Ios.

Naxos is a small island known for local wines and a family atmosphere.  We figured that after the insanity of Mykonos, Santorini and Ios, we could use a few relaxing days.

By the time Tuesday came around and it was time to say goodbye to Ios though, we weren’t ready and even considered an extended stay.

After a quick mental pro and con list (over morning cocktails), we decided to press ahead as planned.

Today we’re pretty thrilled we did.

On Naxos we found an authenticity missing from the other more touristy islands.

Naxos isn’t the top beach party destination or the most well-known romantic spot on the Aegean so it draws a smaller crowd.

The old town has old passageways and stone streets with charming character.  The beaches are incredibly beautiful and the hotels, beach bars and restaurants are all family-run.  Food is fresh and goats roam the exterior of our hotel.  Travelers come from all around the world and have a habit of coming back year after year. The greetings between locals and visitors are akin to a family reunion.

Unfortunately for us, this time of year is still considered low season and beaches were largely empty.

It was time to adapt to this new atmosphere and plus…

We wanted in on the family fun.

Within an hour we had located the oldest beach bar and restaurant on Plaka beach and decided to grab a drink.

About 6 hours later we were still there, with local liquor shots, sangria and vodka drinks, laughing with the owners – two brothers -, their extended families and their friends (visitors to the island with whom they now spend every Christmas in England).

We talked and told stories as if we’d known each other for years.

It’s incredible to know that strangers with completely different lives, languages and backgrounds can come together uninhibited and laugh their asses off for an entire afternoon.

Also – the Ukrainian girl inside was thrilled for confirmation: vodka can bring anyone together.

Awesome.

Easy going on the Aegean Sea

ios greeece

Ios, Greece

Never does the term “go with the flow” apply more than when traveling abroad.

I’ve found that even the best planner can’t schedule around the inevitable surprises, oopsies and unforeseen adventures that the travel Gods have in store.

And for those of us whose daily lives revolve around outlook calendars, this can be daunting.

In order to ease into the reality shift, my travel friends and I have decided to just not.

plan that is.

Two of my best girls and I flew to Athens last week, booked our hotels and planned to unplug and see where a Greek Isles immersion would take us.

We’ve used wiki-travel for on-the-go recommendations, asked random locals for suggestions and followed the advice of friends’ texts from home.

Our easygoing attitude has led to some adventures:

– Accidentally seeing the entire island of Mykonos and doing some off-roading. On two ATVs that we rented on a whim after a 5 minute tutorial (the shop owner insisted on teaching us). We were busy laughing and enjoying bumping down the labyrinth of the two-way “highway,” big enough for one car, when we realized we were a bit off course. The promised 40 minute trip to the beach turned into 2 hours and 40 minutes. Woops.

mykonos greece travel

Sunset, Mykonos, Greece

– Unplanned hike through Santorini’s wine country. We made enough of a scene boarding the bus that asking for proper directions wasn’t in the cards. We got off on the last stop, asked a local for directions and promptly set out on what ended up being an hour walk up the scenic mountainous terrain. (The return trip was equally exciting when the same bus driver found us walking and picked us up between stops. Thanks friend!)

santorini greece

Wine Country, Santorini, Greece

– Seasickness. We rented a catamaran with captain to do a private sail with six other new friends. We imagined a sail akin to a calm lake. Calm lake it was not. The Aegean Sea was so choppy that day, commercial ferries that shuttle hundreds of people between the islands were hiding out in calm coves. Our captains, on the other hand, thought riding the waves was a form of extreme sailing fun.

santorini greece travel

Oia, Santorini Sunset

Our adventures on this trip have led to some great experiences thus far.

We saw the famous Oia sunset from the best seat in the house with tips from new friends and some dumb luck. We bonded with the sailing captains and spent the evening experiencing Santorini nightlife the local way. We took a tip and headed to town one night when our planned beach party fell through and met a fun group of guys we danced with all night. We tried the oldest family-owned restaurant in Mykonos where mama prepared fresh moussaka for us on request.

 

One thing has been emphasized:

Since life is largely unplanned (even with the outlook calendar), sometimes you have to hop on an ATV and see where the road takes you.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Awesome.

Preparing to Relax… the Au-Naturel Way

I’m going to Greece this week.

It’s a much anticipated trip.  Not only because I’m heading to a foreign nation I’ve never been to (love this), but because…. I need a vacation.

I’m sure some (most?) can relate.

I need to stop and smell the Greek wine, detach the laptop from my body, and stop checking my cell phone (see previous post).

I think island hopping in Greece with friends might just do the trick.

In order to prepare for my very own Greek odyssey, I’ve spent the past few weeks crossing things off my prepare-for-Greece-list.

Obviously priority one is healthy-er eating in preparation for B.I.P. (bikini immersion program).

I know what you’re thinking…. detox during first weeks of gorgeous summer weather… impossible.

It’s a challenge I’ve taken on.

I still attended every BBQ, roof-top party and tater-tot-loving day-drinking event.  I’ve also managed to tone it down (pun intended) and flush the body out in preparation for serious vacationing.

How did I do it?

Simple.

By substituting meals where I wasn’t involved in potato skins eating contests with all natural and clean home-cooking.  And when I say all natural, I don’t mean it in the way that grocery-store companies mean it when they write “all natural chicken” on the front of the packaging.  (Because honestly – what in the world is non-natural chicken?  Do I even want to know?)

When I say all natural, I mean non-processed.   These are meals that have no chemicals, substitutes or fake sugars.

I’ve chosen to use this post to show a couple of things I’ve been eating over the past few weeks.  It’s left me feeling cleansed.

1)     Simple salad with home-made lemon vinaigrette dressing

salad

I took this idea from Andie’s blog.  I stumbled upon this mecca of healthy food ideas many months ago and continue to check back in often.  One of the posts a couple weeks ago caught my eye.  It was simple, easy to make and left me craving more leaves and veggies.

Who could ask for more?

The recipe can be found here.  I tweaked it since I forgot to buy avocado and instead used shaved raw brussel sprouts and miniature heirloom tomatoes.

For me, the most important part of the salad is the dressing.  Often times I find that once I’ve added my favorite veggies to a salad, I inevitably want to drown them in ranch dressing.  Andie’s recipe for lemon vinaigrette is delicious and satisfies the craving.

2)     Home-made red pepper hummus

hummus

One of my friends loves to make hummus and recently tried adding in her own mixture of veggies.  I decided to add this to the list.  As a pairing with the salad, I made my own hummus from scratch.  It took about 10 minutes total and tasted delicious.

In order to make this, I purchased a small food processor for about $11.00 on Amazon (truth) and bought/compiled/fetched the following ingredients:

  • 1 can of chick peas (16 oz)
  • 1 can of tahini paste (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 lemons (for freshly squeezed lemon juice) (3-5 tablespoons)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons)
  • Sea salt/pepper (to taste)
  • 1 organic red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup liquid from chick pea can

Combine all ingredients leaving the chickpea liquid from can for the end.

The result was delicious and once again… had completely clean and healthy ingredients.

I paired this with some baked chicken and the salad above.

3)     Juice

The last thing I want to share is the juicing portion.  My friends hear me talk about juicing all the time (sorry guys).  Last year a friend gave me a juicer for my birthday and I’ve been juicing my heart out ever since.  It takes about 5 minutes to make a delicious veggie and/or fruit juice and about 5 more minutes to rinse the parts clean.

A juice can supplement breakfast or a day-time snack.  My favorite juices for the morning:

  • Kale, carrot, green apple, lemon
  • Kale, cilantro, strawberry, apple, lime

I’ve enjoyed putting in extra effort to eat clean over the past couple of weeks.  It’s been uplifting.  I find that half the battle in the detox is the mental game anyway.

Eating well makes you feel Awesome.