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!

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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.

The Art of the Russian Feast

Filled with inspiration and energy from spending two weeks at home, I decided I would love to prepare a feast of my favorite Russian home-cooking for some close friends.

A small dinner party was organized and I set out preparing the menu.

3 days of slave labor (and phone calls at midnight to my family asking for help) later, I had enough food to feed a small army (just like home!) and wasn’t hungry at all (really takes it out of you).

The fact that this kind of table is set for my siblings and me every time we are home and in multiple locations is mind-boggling.

I GREATLY appreciate my mother, father, grandmothers, grandfather, aunt, parents’ best friends, neighbors who are culturally close to Eastern Europe and just random people who spend/have spent time preparing food for my arrival… (and don’t just outright tell me off on the phone when I demand certain foods are made)

Without further delay, I present the menu served:

  • Red caviar on traditional black bread
  • Russian Havarti and “Doctorskaya Kalbasa” plate (type of sausage)
  • Pelmeni with sour cream (hand rolled dough filled with different types of meats)
  • Olivier Salad (type of Russian potato salad that includes egg, potato and bologna among other ingredients and too much mayo.  This is my favorite food by far)
  • Vinegret Salad (Potato, beets, carrot… http://www.ruscuisine.com/recipes/salads-and-dressings/n–603/)
  • Chicken Cutlets (admittedly these were a bit overcooked)
  • Chicken Liver Pate
  • Herring
  • Russian Waffle Cake
  • Russian Chocolate Candy (The favorite candy of my childhood: “mishka and “belachka”)
  • Vodka (“Russian Standard”)
  • Wine (every kind)

We laughed at the sheer amount of food (“what were you thinking about quantity here?!?!”).  We ate until we couldn’t move.  We told stories (Customary).  We planned future get-togethers and laughed until we cried.

Verdict?

Success.

Awesome.