2011: It's All About Potential

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential."  ~Ellen Goodman

It's a new year; time to Take Stock and Get Serious about resolutions. . . or intentions. . . or plans. . . or goals (whatever we choose to call them).  Although I don't like to bog myself down with public pronouncements of Big Changes I plan to make in my life, I do like to use the turning of the new calendar to think about what I might DO.


I've decided that, this year, it's all about potential!  I want to go places, try things, and have a little adventure.  I want to find ways to express my creativity, learn new things, and meet new people.  I want to organize, simplify, and minimize.  I want some time and space for quiet solitude, for reflection, and for making connections.  And I want to keep moving and stretching, diving right in . . . but keeping my perspective.


What am I going to DO?

  • Knit what I feel like -- and preferrably from my (very nice) stash.
  • Focus on my photography -- joining Project 360 and learning to use Photoshop.
  • Celebrate my own Year-of-the-Tree:  replacing the diseased Crabapple with a Red Bud; the storm-ravaged Hawthorn with a River Birch; and adding a Kousa Dogwood to the back yard. . . just because I want one.
  • Organize my garden inventory, plans, and maintenance schedule with one of the online garden journal programs (think Ravelry for the garden!).
  • Brush up on my French.
  • Plan a couple of trips -- Paris and Belgium and Amsterdam with my sister; Nova Scotia with Tom.
  • Settle on a new fitness program -- now that my old one has been completely upended by my job.  Zumba? Spinning? Running?
  • Explore even MORE new recipes and cooking techniques!  Last year, I took on bread and fish (with great success!). . . now I want to add French cuisine and MORE vegetables.
  • Use things up; recycle whatever I can; buy less to begin with; and clean out those closets.
  • Little bites.  Maybe I don't have the time to clean a WHOLE closet. . . but I bet I have time to tackle one shelf.  Or one drawer. 
  • Just do it!  Put in steps down the hill in the backyard and plant some things to halt the erosion.
  • Stay on the same reading plan -- mostly-contemporary-fiction-with-a-good-number-of-classics-and-at-least-three-nonfictions-thrown-in.  This year, I want to focus on women authors (but not exclusively).
  • Keep thinking about my personal philanthropy -- and how I can make it meaningful for myself and my family.
  • It's time for a little redecorating.  There are a few areas around the house that could use a little sprucing up . . . especially as Erin will need to furnish her own apartment soon (see "recycle whatever I can" above).
  • Host a dinner party or two. 
  • Since I haven't had much luck finding a book group since moving to Kalamazoo (seven years ago!), I think it's time to start one of my own.


So. . . there you have it!  2011.  Nothing but potential!

Live With Intention

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is Ten Intentions for the New Year.  I keep this magnet on my fridge:

Live with intention

It's a pretty good list, as is (even though there are 11 things. . .).  But I'll use this list as a springboard for my own.  Here are my own inTENtions for the New Year:

  1. dig in
  2. encourage
  3. balance
  4. be nimble
  5. breathe deeply
  6. embrace what IS
  7. simplify
  8. reuse
  9. give
  10. just do it

How about you?

An EARTHY Anniversary

Today is Earth Day.  In fact, it is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day!  Let's begin the celebration with one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs. . .

I remember the very first Earth Day --- way back in 1970.  I had just turned 11, and I was very tuned in to the new environmental movement (only, back then, it was really a "fight pollution" movement).   I remember being absolutely stymied that rivers could catch fire; I remember working with my fifth grade class to write letters asking city leaders to install trash bins in parks and on downtown streets; I remember ad campaigns like "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute!"

and the Native American sadly paddling his canoe through a polluted river. 

Earth Day was a Big Deal to me then -- and it's still a day I celebrate.

This year, one of my personal goals is to "do whatever I can to reduce my carbon footprint."  I thought I would use this day to show you 10 things I'm doing to forward that goal -- and to try to convince you to join me!  Small actions can make a big difference . . . over time. . . and if enough people join the effort.

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1.  I use re-usable bags whenever I shop.  When I first started doing this - a few years ago - my family thought I was a bit crazy.  But not anymore!  I always keep a bunch of bags in my car, so I have them with me whenever I'm out shopping.  Although I do have several store-brand bags from different shops, these are my all-time favorites!  They are GREAT for a full load of groceries.  If you like to sew, here's a site that offers FREE patterns to make your own re-usable bags.  And, if you knit, there are many great market bag patterns on Ravelry.

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2.  I use the cold water setting for all my laundry.  I used to think that my clothes wouldn't be as clean or soft if I used cold water, but I tried it, and I don't notice a difference at all.  According to TheDailyGreen, 90% of washing machine energy goes into heating the water.  So . . . if you don't heat the water. . . you use less energy.

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3.  I pay attention to the types of cleaning products I use.  Whenever possible, I use cleaning products that are non-toxic.  (I like the Method brand of products.)  I also use washable and re-usable towels, mop covers and, rags; and I avoid paper towels and one-use wipe products.

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4.  I use CFL light bulbs and rechargeable batteries. . . most of the time.  When we do use regular batteries in our house, we recycle them.  We just put our used batteries in a designated box, and then recycle when the box gets full.  Same with used CFL bulbs -- we save them, and then recycle them at our local Lowe's store.

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5.  I drink tap water and take it along with me in a reusable water bottle.  Sure, purchased bottled water is convenient.  But it isn't good for the environment, and it isn't any healthier for you than tap water.  It's expensive, wasteful, and draws attention away from public systems. 

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6.  I recycle.  I've been recycling since my kids were very, very small.  We're fortunate to have curbside recycling in our community, so it's hassle-free.  We also have a bottle-deposit law in effect here in Michigan, so we recycle our bottles separately.  We shred documents and paper --- which I recycle in my compost bin.  I've already talked about recycling batteries and CFL bulbs.  I re-use plastic bags (for packing materials), wrapping paper and gift bags; I give unwanted-but-still-usable items to Goodwill and other charitable organizations.  It's easy to recycle -- once you make the commitment to keep things out of your trash can!

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7.  And speaking of keeping things out of the trash. . . I am the Queen of Compost!  I keep a small compost bin under my kitchen sink (lined with biodegradable liners -- made of cornstarch), and add food scraps, coffee filters, tea bags, peelings, etc. (but never meat).  When the small bin gets full, I take it outside and empty it into my big compost bin.  My garden is happy; my trash can is light.

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8.  I plan my driving carefully -- by grouping my errands and taking as few trips as possible.  I also try not to sit and wait anywhere with my car idling, because that's a huge gas drain. 

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9.  I "eat local."  I'm paying attention to where my food comes from, and I'm supporting local growers.  I frequent my local farmer's market and the local produce section of my grocery store.  I pay attention to what's currently in season when I'm planning my menus.  And - I'm growing my own food, too!  My yard is not set up very well for hard-core vegetable gardening (too shady and hilly), but this year, I'm growing vegetables in containers (more on that in posts to follow).  This book - The Bountiful Container - is an excellent resource if you're interested in growing your own food - but you don't have the space for a "real" garden.

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10.  I am learning to live with weeds!  Improper fertilization and lawn pesticide use causes surface and groundwater contamination.  I don't need a golf-course-perfect lawn.  I do need clean, safe drinking water.  Learn the proper, safe ways to keep your lawn looking good -- without contributing to water problems.

Happy Earth Day!  Don't it always seem to go. . . that you don't know what you've got til it's gone!

Writing Them Down: Everything Else

"Map out your future, but do it in pencil."  -- Jon Bon Jovi

Earlier this month, I decided to write down my goals for the new year -- in my blog.  I really do think there's something . . . magical. . . about writing your goals down.  And sometimes I think it helps to share them in a public way.  Built-in accountability, you know?  (But I do think it's okay to use a pencil!)

So.  Since it's already the end of January, I decided I better get this goal-setting wrapped up.

"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves."  -- Anthony J. D'Angelo

Garden June 17 09 012 

My personal gardening goals for 2010 are:

  1. Renovate the big bed in the side yard near my driveway.  (Now that I've finally admitted that my long-wished-for "cottage garden" just isn't going to work in that location, I need to find the plants that will!)
  2. Incorporate more vegetables and herbs into the existing beds -- and add containers.
  3. Expand the pond (but only slightly. . . don't worry, Tom.  Not much digging!)
  4. Add a swing to the pergola and get some new patio furniture.
  5. Thin out some of the overgrown plants and participate in plant trades with other gardeners.
  6. Start thinking about renovating the shade garden; gather ideas.
  7. Begin worm composting!

"Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion.  You must set yourself on fire."  -- Arnold H. Glasow

January 27 random 001 

My personal health and fitness goals for 2010 are:

  1. Stay the course.  I've developed a good fitness regimen -- I need to maintain the program.
  2. Up my swimming mileage to 2 miles/per week by June.
  3. Drink more water!
  4. Focus on mindfulness - living in the moment.
  5. Practice meditation.
  6. Continue taking Jenny for a walk every day -- regardless of the weather.

"Of course I'm ambitious.  What's wrong with that?  Otherwise you sleep all day."  -- Ringo Starr

Book monster 

My personal reading goals for 2010 are:

  1. Always have a novel going!
  2. Read a "classic" at least every 3rd book.  (On the list for this year: "The Awakening" and "Dracula", for sure.  Quite possibly "Anna Karenina."  And definitely something by Dickens.)
  3. Read at least one of Charles Dickens' novels ("Great Expectations"?  "David Copperfield"?) because I never have, and I want to give it a try.
  4. Read at least two non-fiction books (other than gardening or knitting books).

"The question isn't who is going to let me;  it's who is going to stop me!"  -- Ayn Rand


My personal miscellaneous goals for 2010 are:

  1. Do something with my photographs (like framing. . . or notecards. . .).
  2. Put together a great scrapbook for Brian as he graduates from high school.
  3. Paint and organize the mudroom and laundry room.
  4. Use things up before replacing; repair when possible.
  5. Take Jenny to the "advanced" obedience training class and continue to work with her.
  6. Think twice (or three times) before making purchases; limit impulsive buying.
  7. Do whatever I can to reduce my "carbon footprint."

Okay.  That's it.  They're written down.  In pencil!

"Don't say you don't have enough time.  You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. "  -- Life's Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Writing Them Down: Cooking

"I was 32 when I started cooking: Up until then, I just ate."  -- Julia Child

A couple of weeks ago, I started sharing my personal goals for the new year.  But then I got distracted -- by mittens and hockey and minions and comments.  But here I am today.  Back on track.  

Bread jan 17 005

I really like to cook.  It hasn't always been like that, though.  I used to consider it . . . just another chore.  BUT.  The potential for Liking to Cook was always there.  You see, I've always entertained the notion of cooking as something fun and creative to do.  Looking through food magazines.  Reading cookbooks.  Organizing old recipes.  I've even been - at various times in my earlier life -- an Adventurous Cook. (C'mon, Tom.  What can we consider "Frank Fiesta" . . . 30 years ago. . . if not "adventurous"?)  Over the last few years, though, I've really started to LIKE cooking.  (As opposed to baking. . . which I've always been pretty good at.)

Caramel Pecan Rolls Jan 2010 009 

So.  Here are my Cooking Goals for 2010:

  1. Support local growers/producers as much as possible.
  2. Make bread on the weekends during the cold months.
  3. Make at least one new dish/recipe each week.
  4. Become adept at cooking fish -- by putting fish on the menu at least once a week.
  5. Expand vegetarian repertoire -- by preparing at least one vegetarian meal per week.  (Sorry, Brian.)

I'm off to a grand start! 

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Bread jan 17 008 

Vegetarian AND bread! 

Writing Them Down: The Knitting

The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal.  The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.  -- Benjamin Mays

It's a new year.  2010.  And here we are. . .at the beginning of January, trying to get used to writing this new date.  Rolling the sound of "twenty-ten" around in our mouths.  And primed for action with our new, blank calendars and hopes for a fresh start.

2010 calendars 001

Lots of us begin the year with resolutions or goals.  As for me. . . well, I start with both. You see, to me, "resolutions" are in a completely different category than "goals."  To me, "resolutions" are ways you want to live. . . and "goals" are what you want to do.

You've already seen my resolutions for the new year; now it's time for me to start rolling out my goals.  I tend to follow the old SMART system of setting goals -- you know, Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Time-limited.  I break my goals down into different categories, and I limit myself to 3 or 4 goals in each category.  And, for me, the most important part of the task is writing them down.  Because, somehow that makes me more accountable.  To myself, of course.  And it makes my goals seem more real.  For myself, of course.  And what better way to write them down. . . than to write them down in my blog!

So, for starters, today. . . here are my Personal Knitting Goals for 2010:

  1. To knit what I feel like knitting. (I know this is not consistent with a SMART goal, but I can't help myself after the whole NaKniSweMoDo thing of 2009, so I'm sticking with it!)
  2. To finally try entrelac by making a scarf like Vicki's gorgeous wonder!
  3. To knit exclusively from my stash.  (Note:  I am not saying I will not purchase any yarn; I'm quite certain I will.  I'm just not going to knit with it during 2010.)
  4. To knit at least three charitable projects during 2010.
There you have them.  Written down.