My Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year Series. Last up, Resolutions for A Sense of Well-Being.

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1) Condition myself to get enough sleep, which means more than five hours.  For most of my life, I went to bed at a decent hour and averaged about eight hours of sleep a night.  And then a couple of things happened that interrupted that pattern: I started a perfume blog nine years ago and began staying up later at night to work on my posts, and then there was a spell of time (probably only a couple of months) where my husband was staying up until the wee hours of night playing computer games, and that gave me tacit permission to stay up just as late. Of course, he got himself sorted out and I never did; though I wake up each day around 7 am and don’t take any naps, I typically don’t go to bed until 2 am. I know this is unhealthy, and yet oddly enough, it’s as if my mind and body are now hard-wired to expect only 5 hours of sleep (so, if I manage to go to bed at 11 pm, I’m often awake by 4 am). Even though I have obviously functioned for years now on little rest, I’m training myself to get back on track. Some nights it requires the aid of a dose of Benadryl to make me drowsy, but over time I’m hoping that sleep will prove to be a natural craving, the way it once was for me.

ti-mxzgbsmk-clem-onojeghuo2) Get new frames for my glasses so that I actually enjoy wearing them. I’m far-sighted and have had a pair of progressive lens (aka “no-line bifocal”) glasses for years, but have hardly ever worn them. When progressive-lens glasses originally came out, they were not as good as the ones that are being produced now – and my eyesight was such that I could get by with relying on my reading glasses, so I did. Then two years ago I got a new pair of progressive lenses that worked so much better, but I never liked the frames: they seemed the best choice when I was in the store, and since I had to make a decision that day (or so it seemed) I ordered them. I did make an effort to wear them at first, but every time I slipped them on I felt unattractive. So, my resolution? This past month I got my eyes re-examined and insisted that my eye doctor give me my prescription so that I could hunt for frames through some of the reputable eyeglass manufacturers on the Internet, at least one of which allows you to do home try-ons with various frames (and the shipping for the try-on frames is free). I’m going to resolve to be patient and find a pair of frames that works for me — and if in the end I order them and change my mind about how they look, I’m going to wrestle my utterly useless sense of vanity to the floor and commit to wearing them anyway. 2017 is the year of me wearing the glasses I need.

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3) Get back to doing pilates. Most of my exercise centers around running, and that leaves certain groups of muscles neglected: my arms, abs and back. I used to do pilates floor exercises quite a bit, and even doing them only twice a week makes a big difference in my muscle strength and posture. As I’m writing this, it also occurs to me that back in the days when I practiced it regularly I tended to sleep better, too. It’s a quieting exercise with a lot of focus on breathing, so it calms the mind much in the way yoga does, and in my experience, it’s a whole lot easier and more comfortable to do than yoga, because the movement is continuous: you’re stretching and trying to keep the movement slow and steady, but you aren’t holding a difficult pose or position for a determined length of time. I really like that about it, so why did I ever stop doing it? Well, for all of the normal reasons that people stop doing things that don’t come naturally and require a certain amount of concentration or focus. However, I hereby resolve to get back to it, and I’m lumping this in as an “easy” resolution, because I already know the routine. I don’t have to learn anything new, I just have to make the effort.

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4) Write letters to people I love. After featuring Garrison Keillor’s How To Write A Letter essay in one of my posts, I realized how much I treasure the letters people once wrote to me and which I have kept all these years, almost as souvenirs of those relationships, whether they were familial, friendship, or romantic relationships. I have letters tucked away from my paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, my mom, childhood friends, college roommates, boyfriends, and even a couple from my husband, whom I’ve never been away from for more than a week or two, and who isn’t a letter-writing kind of guy, but who managed to write me a couple lovely letters anyway. It seems to me that if you treasure a certain tradition or institution, you should do your part to reciprocate and uphold it, so I’ll be writing letters this year, on the flaps of birthday cards (which is the easy way to start, since the motivation to address a card to someone is already there) and hopefully on some nice stationery, too.

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5) Do a better job at connecting with my husband’s interests. When you’ve been in a marriage a long time, it’s easy to take the other person for granted. If your personalities and interests are very different, and you think you no longer have to impress this person, why not let him do his thing and you do yours? I have the tendency to adopt that stance, but fortunately my husband keeps us on track. For the past two years it has been with ballroom dancing lessons, which has led us to going out a lot more with friends (the friends who are in our class and who are quite a social bunch). And his allowing me to bring my pet rabbit, Boxer, into our home has brought us even closer, because we never had children and now we’ve both fallen for this precious little guy who is like our child. All of which is to say, I’m grateful and I’m going to show it to him by engaging in some of his favorite pastimes. For starters, he’s wanted me to play computer games with him for the longest time, and this year I’m going to learn the ropes of World of Warcraft. (Yes, believe it or not, honey, it’s true. Count me in!)

This wraps up my “5 Easy Resolutions for the New Year” series. If you made any resolutions, I hope they’re going well and that they impart a sense of renewed energy, or perhaps a greater sense of personal contentment, in the year ahead.

Keeping my Resolutions: Homemade Wonton Soup

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These are the finished wonton noodles, prior to cooking them.

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The finished soup.

In one of my “Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year” series, I resolved to learn how to make wonton soup, and now I can check it off my list (though I will definitely be making it again, it was that good). I followed this recipe — Simple Wonton Soup from The Woks of Life blog — and followed it to a T, with the exception of using regular Japanese soy sauce instead of Seasoned Soy Sauce (a Chinese soy sauce that reportedly has a different flavor from the Kikoman soy sauce that most of us buy) and fresh-ground black pepper in place of white pepper. The recipe only calls for a very small amount of both these items, so I didn’t see the sense in purchasing new products when what I had on hand was close enough.  I did, however, make a special trip to an Asian grocery store to purchase the specific type of wonton skins described in the recipe’s instructions, as well as a bottle of shaozing wine, which is a dark rice wine. You only use a tablespoon of the latter — it goes in the filling for the wontons — but as rice wine is quite different from most other wines, and distinctly Asian, it seemed essential to purchase it.

For the broth, I used my husband’s homemade turkey broth, which is slightly richer than chicken broth, but still a light broth. Homemade broth is, in my opinion, the only way to go for this recipe. Whereas the western tradition of soup-making typically involves incorporating a lot of ingredients into the broth — the diced vegetables and meats simmered in such soups flavor them to the degree that you can often get away with using a canned broth from the grocery store (especially if you’re also adding a cream to the base of the soup and pureeing it) — the Asian tradition is often towards a clear-brothed soup, and it’s essential for that broth to be tasty and stand-alone good. (A boxed or canned broth in this wonton soup would be too flat and wan-tasting.)

Even using the richer turkey broth (rather than chicken), my husband characterized this wonton soup as being “more delicate and also more complex” than the soup we get at our favorite Chinese restaurant. I’d have to agree — I have no complaints about the restaurant soup (it’s a favorite of mine), but this homemade version was more elegant in terms of its tastes. I’m glad I put it on my New Year’s Resolution list because I would never have gotten around to making it; I would have kept saying that I was going to do it someday, and then kept ignoring it in favor of making the steady rotation of soups that are already in my cooking repertoire because, you know, they’re easy. Not that making wonton soup is particularly difficult, but for someone unaccustomed to filling and folding dumplings, it was more time consuming than my normal style of cooking. I knew it would be, so I made it on a day when I had no other obligations and could relax. I set my computer and headphones on my workstation and listened to YouTube videos while I filled and shaped the wontons. Doing this reminded me of why I made my New Year’s Resolutions the way I did. When resolutions involve big changes or daunting challenges, chances are you won’t do them. I’d rather make a list of a bunch of things to incorporate in the year ahead, and have them be just challenging and out-of-the-ordinary enough that they get me out of my normal routine. And if they add an element of joy to my new year, all the better!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my final installment of my “Five Easy Resolutions” series. I realize it’s the end of January and most people aren’t thinking about such things anymore, but I still am. 🙂

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My Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year Series. Second Up, Resolutions for Learning Something Fun!

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1) Learn how to make the perfect Irish Coffee. When I was in college, I dated a boy whose heritage was Irish-Italian, and whenever I went home with him during various breaks in the semester, his mother delighted in making me all kinds of culinary treats. Irish Coffee was a drink she made beautifully, and I was always impressed with the way she layered Bailey’s Irish Cream on top of the dark brew, spooling it perfectly such that it never mixed with the coffee until one dipped one’s spoon in and purposely swirled it.

 

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2) Learn how to braid my short (bob-length) hair. It never really occurred to me that you could braid short hair and have it look chic. For the past year I’ve been growing out my once pixie-length hair into a bob that is now chin length, and anyone who has done this knows how frustrating the process can be: hair that is growing out is often hair that looks awkward. But there are so many beauty posts on Pinterest that show women with short hair rocking messy braids that impart a sense of youthfulness, femininity, and a “just-go-with-it” naturalness to their style. And this photo of actress Carey Mulligan with a fishtail braid in her wispy bob convinces me that even someone with fine hair, like me, can manage at least a little braid (and have it make a big difference). Of course, she has youth and beauty on her side, but I’m still going to try it!

 

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3) It’s not my first time attempting this, but I’d like to learn how to speak Italian. I took an introductory class many years ago and loved it, and then two years ago I purchased a language-learning software package that I stayed faithful to for about a month. By stating this as a resolution here on my blog, I hope to put true resolve in my intent, but if I’m to be honest, I’ll probably only be successful if I can find a class to attend. What is on my side, though, is motivation: after spending a week in Rome in the fall of 2013 (with my husband and two perfume blogging friends), I’ve been longing to go back! Not only to Rome, but to Tuscany (some year, pretty please!).

 

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4) Learn how to write a compelling movie review, Roger Ebert-style. Though this blog isn’t proof of it, due to its daily format, which has the tendency to make a writer lean towards breezy posts, writing is one of my fortes. (This is more evident in my other website, Suzanne’s Perfume Journal, where I write essays and reviews of perfumes, often connecting them to films, books, art, and childhood memories). Over the past few years, thanks to video streaming sites like Amazon and Netflix, I’ve watched a lot of films that really move me, and part of me thinks I would like to start a film-review blog. What’s holding me back? I think it’s actually quite challenging to write a review of a movie without giving away its salient plot points or revealing too much of its story line, because those very exquisite turning points are the very things that make you excited and make you want to write.  Of all the subjects one could review (art, food, wine, books, gadgets), I think films are the most difficult for this very reason. Still, I’m going to make a stab at writing at least a few of them here on this venue.

 

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Image Source: The Woks of Life Blog (click for recipe)

5) Learn how to make wonton soup — because this is my favorite of all soups. A lot of people favor soups that are thick and hearty. For some reason, I prefer soups with a clear broth: they taste cleaner to me, and when they have noodles, the texture of the noodle, as well as the taste, is accentuated. Considering how often I run up to our local Asian restaurant for a take-out quart of wonton soup (a quart of it makes the perfect supper), I ought to learn how to make it at home. Not because it will be easier or less expensive — I don’t think I can beat our local restaurant on either count — but because it’s such a lovely soup to behold, and why not have it in my cooking arsenal since it’s a favorite, right? Plus, I just found the perfect recipe: Simple Wonton Soup by Sarah at The Woks of Life blog. She includes great photos for every step of the process, as well as the finished soup — which is the photo pictured above.

My Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year Series. First Up, Resolutions for the Home

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Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis from Unsplash.com

1) Burn more candles, all through the year. I love them, especially tea candles and tapers (I own some jar candles, which are nice to have outside on the patio in summer, since they don’t blow out as easily, but I really like the daintiness of tea candles and the elegance of tapers). They are one of the easiest ways to add chic and warmth to a home.

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Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis from Unsplash.com

2) Change up the tableau that I keep on the windowsill above my kitchen sink. I spend a lot of my time standing in front of that window (because I like to cook, and then of course, it’s necessary to clean up), and I tend to keep the same objects there: a petrified rock from Angkor Wat, given to me by a writing friend; a smooth stone painted such that it looks like a turtle; a conch shell found and passed down from a relative who died in World War II; and a little glass jar, ridged and in a gentle sea-green color, that I use as a bud vase (I love to put daisies in it in summer). All of these items are precious, but when I see this photo above, with the beautiful animal skeletons, it makes me want to refresh mine and always have some found treasure there that is a bit unusual.

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Photo from Unsplash.com by Elizabeth Lies

3) Find a pretty way to put a map on one of my walls. To be precise, it needs to be a world map, because I’ve been realizing lately how weak I am at geography, and though I could study maps on the Internet, I think I’d like to frame a really nice one and put it above my desk. And then, of course, I must resolve to study it, so when someone says they’re heading to Luxembourg, I’ll know exactly where that is. (And here is where I ought to insert a blushing emoji in this post.)

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Photo from Unsplash.com by Oliver Klein

4) Organize a closet, even if it’s a tiny one. I live in a small house that is generally lacking in storage, and last year I really dug in and got organized in most of the rooms of our house. My motivation stemmed from bringing my rabbit Boxer into our home. I cleared out a bedroom upstairs that had served as our home office but was also used as a catch-all space for anything we couldn’t fit into our closets. It became his room (where we keep his pen) and I found a poorly used space in our living room that I converted into a very streamlined home office and storage space that works so much better for us. This set off a chain reaction for me: I loved the results and made progress in a number of areas, but I still have closets that are utter chaos. I’m going to be busting a move on one of those babies, soon, and getting it cleared out!

 

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Photo from Unsplash.com by Yutacar

5) Throw a party for friends that isn’t just a dinner party. This will actually be one of the hardest resolutions for me to keep, simply because I get nervous over the thought of entertaining a large group of people. If it’s a small dinner party for family or for another couple, I’m golden: I’ve done that many times. But I’ve never thrown a carefree soiree for a bigger crowd, and it’s probably time I do that. Plus, I think I owe this to some friends who invite us to their parties all the time.

Over the course of January, I’ll be adding to this series, which I’m calling “Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year.” This one was focused on the home — five simple things to make my living space better and more enjoyable — but I’ll be back with resolutions in a couple other categories, too. In the meantime, what about you? Do you have a habit of making New Year’s resolutions, and do you usually achieve them?

 

 

Note: All of the photos in this post are from the website Unsplash.com — a terrific site which aggregates photos from individuals across the globe and, under a creative commons license, allows others to use them for free, whether for artisitc, blogging, or even commercial purposes. Be sure to check them out. It’s fun perusing their photos whether you’re in need of images or not.