A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ring Out The Old, Ring In the New

Goodbye, 2017, and hello 2018! The New Year can be a bit guilt inducing for me - it's usually one of the times that I realize I didn't accomplish last year's New Year's Resolutions, and also know it's highly unlikely that I will accomplish this year's resolutions too. Which of course won't prevent me from making resolutions.

Taking stock of 2017, I wanted to do a bit of a "journal entry" blog post on all the new things I did during 2017 - some succeeded, some failed, and some were just silly. I tend to be a pretty strong creature of habit, so I wanted to document some of the things I did to try to break out of my rut.

Here are the Top 17 of 2017! With the exception of the top 5, these aren't really in any particular order.

17. Tried to grow an herb garden. It started out promising, and then got left outside in a major rainstorm and died. I have some extra seeds and will try again in 2018. I would love to try and grow tomatoes and other garden stuff, but I have some voracious neighborhood squirrels who would probably eat it all.
16. Expanded by wardrobe by trying a clothing rental service. I tried "Gwynnie Bee" for a month, and it was fun. Pros: expanding my wardrobe without the commitment of buying clothes and avoiding the hassle of going to the store. Cons: limited selection (especially work appropriate clothes with sleeves!) and you can't choose which of the items you selected you will get. Plus, pretty expensive to do on a regular basis.
15. Visited Seattle! I had never been to Washington State before this, and I will definitely need to go back. I got to go for a work trip and stayed over the weekend to do some fun things. Delicious food, lovely natural beauty, colorful Pike's Place Market, and even got a few sunny days in.

14. Hosted a family full of energetic kids at my house. One of my former mission companions was in town, and she and her adorable family stayed with me for a few days. It's one of the benefits of my new-ish house that I have way more space than I need and can share it with others. I've had people stay before, but this was the first time a full family stayed with me.
13. Biked all around Central Park. Another work trip took me to NYC, where I stayed for another weekend to do some fun things - saw a good show (Groundhog Day), great show (Oslo), and best show (Come From Away - such a wonderful message. See it if you can!). But the highlight was biking around Central Park for a few hours on a lovely morning after a rainstorm.

12. Tried a paint nite. Let's just say I'll be keeping my day job, as I don't really have any artistic talent, but it was relaxing to try something different than staring at a computer screen.

11. Two words: Escape Room. We did a work event at a local escape room, which is basically a room full of puzzles you try to solve in 60 minutes or less. I don't think I need to do one again, but it was a fun activity to do with co-workers in the name of team building. And yes, we made it out in under an hour!
10. Visited the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History. It's stayed with me, and this is another one I will need to go back to. The pop culture exhibits were fun, but the historical/civil rights section is one I will need to re-visit and let sink into my soul. Also, I didn't get the chance to try the cafeteria, and I hear it is phenomenal.

9. New recipes. This year for the first time I made Kim-chi, swiss chocolate buttercream, pupusas, and a bunch of other new recipes. It's a nice break from my go-to meal of tacos (mmmm, tacos...delicious).
Swiss Meringue Buttercream for a friend's birthday
8. Ted Talks in real life. I have a friend who is a big Ted Talks fan, and so we went to the local live TedX event. It was an interesting mix of politics, inspiration, and new ideas.

7. Sent real physical Christmas cards. I decided that since I love receiving "real" mail, others might too, so I sent out a real live batch of Christmas cards. I kept it to a small list, which I think made it more enjoyable than a marathon 200 cards.
6. Political Parties. I had two political discussion parties this year - one on overall political bias ("Politics and Pizza") and one on the local November elections ("Discussion and Donuts"). I enjoy the chance to discuss politics with friends who have different opinions. I feel like I need to do more of this in our hyper-polarized political climate, so let me know if you want to be included in 2018's "Immigration and Enchiladas" discussion.
Dessert Pizza for "Politics and Pizza" night
5. Dinner En Blanc. It's a big festive outdoor picnic party, with a secret location that is revealed just minutes before the event, where everyone dresses in 100% white. I have a friend who has done it the past few years, and she let me in this year, with my brother indulging me in my eccentricities and coming along. If I ever do it again, I need to wear more comfortable shoes!
4. Friend dinners. I've been trying various meal delivery services (Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, etc.) and invited several friends over for one-on-one dinners to enjoy together. It was a good chance to catch up, and while my friends may have thought it was weird (if I ever write a book, a good title would be "Do My Friends Think I'm Weird?" with subtitle "And Other Totally Random Abnormal Anxieties"), I enjoyed the chance to share a good meal and chat. I should probably do this again in 2018, since I have a few more meal delivery services on my list to try.
3. Solo trip to see the fall colors in southern Virginia. I typically take a solo vacation somewhere in the US each year, and this year was a fall trip to southwestern Virginia. Highlights included a waterfall hike, 18 mile bike ride through magical woodlands, driving major portions of the Blue Ridge parkway, and visiting a mill my great-grandmother painted before I was born.

2. Went on a trip with my brother to NYC and saw Hamilton! Seriously, such an amazing Broadway show. Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius, and it was fun to do a trip with my brother, who is a gregarious and adventurous travel buddy with a passionate love of trains. Also: always make sure you check your ticket times! We thought we had tickets to the Hamilton evening show, but luckily figured out it was the matinee before the matinee started. Otherwise, that would have been a disaster. We also got to visit an interesting Emily Dickinson exhibit at the Morgan Library (such a cool museum), eat much delicious and non-nutritious food, and see two other shows - Dear Evan Hansen and Amelie, which were also both good.
1. Trip to Iceland! This was something I had been building up in my head for a long time, and luckily it did not disappoint. My friend and I drove the entire Ring Road around the country in 10 days, and despite a cold for the last three days, it was BEAUTIFUL and LOVELY and FANTASTIC. Go to Iceland if you possibly can.

Other good things that weren't new in 2017, but still brought joy to my life: Cookbook Club, Book Club, summer baseball games, family dinners, 4th of July in Park City, many many MANY games of Nertz (aka the best card game in the world that I love despite being terrible at it), The West Wing Weekly podcast (not to mention re-watching The West Wing for the millionth time), so many musicals and plays (Into the Woods, The King and I, Sound of Music, Crazy For You - so many other good ones), 8th Annual Friends Shakespeare trip, crafts (including a Christmas Tree Skirt), temple trips, and Cherry Blossoms.

Friends, 2017 has not been perfect. I've struggled with political and personal events, and I'm aware that the list above makes it seem like life is all roses and sunshine, when it's NOT. But, I am extraordinarily blessed to have friends and family who love me (heaven only knows why) and far more goodness than I deserve. May your 2018 be blessed and happy!
Finally used my Fancy Glasses for a family dinner

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