New Year’s Resolutions Part 3

put down the iPhone

In July, after a three-year-old baby-sitting charge dropped my cell phone in a pile of wet sand, I became a smartphone user. And it’s since then that I’ve realized the real danger that is smartphone-use while driving. In the past, I’d never had much of a problem leaving my phone in my purse while in the car. Sure, I’d answer the occasional phone call or send the a quick text while sitting at a stoplight, but I never considered myself one of those “dangerous” cell phone drivers.

All that changed, though, when Gmail, Facebook, and WordPress landed straight in the palm of my hand. Available to me at any time, the urge to check my email and scroll through status updates is far too strong. I find myself subconsciously reaching for my phone while behind the wheel entirely too often. I know the statistics. Seriously. (If you leave me some long-winded comment citing percentages of accidents, trying to force me to see the error of my ways, I’ll be really annoyed. I get it.)

So, I’ve decided it’s time to change this habit. So, in 2012, my iPhone will be riding in my trunk any time I’m traveling solo. No text, no call, no status update is vital enough for the distraction and risk that is smartphone-use while driving.

New Year’s Resolutions Part 2

be more inventive in the kitchen (a two-part resolution)

We run our dishwasher at least once a day, which may seem like a lot for a household of two. But the higher water bill is offset by our economically-friendly habit of eating at home. During our dating years, B and I were in the habit of eating out almost every time we shared a meal. It was just easier; I lived with my parents, and B’s apartment was a bachelor pad in every sense of the phrase, right down to his bare refrigerator. If we wanted a little privacy for a meal, we had to 1) kick my parents out of their house, 2) cart all the ingredients from their house to B’s apartment, or 3) eat out. For simplicity’s sake, we usually fell back on the latter choice. However, when we moved in together and took a closer look at our budget, we knew that for our wallet’s sake, that habit would have to change. We now eat out, on average, once a week. The rest of our meals we cook at home.

In the past eight months that we’ve lived together, we’ve developed a standard repertoire of dishes:

Occasionally we’ll venture out and experiment with some ground beef or throw together a different kind of soup or pasta, but overall, we’re stuck in a bit of a food rut. Much of this is my fault–I do most of the cooking, and am constantly scouring cookbooks, websites, and magazines for recipe ideas. However, during the work week, I just plain don’t feel like figuring out a new recipe. So, part one of this resolution is to:

try new recipes

But, wait! There’s more. Since moving in, we’ve really only hosted dinner for other people three times, and I’m embarrassed to admit that each time the menu was the same. I blogged about the menu of our first dinner party in July, and it really was not that astounding. But every time we’re set to have people over, I get nervous. I don’t want to try out a new recipe on guests; what if it’s awful? So, I end up making our same-old go-to dish.

A couple weekends ago, my good friend and her boyfriend had B and I over for dinner, and I was so impressed with the menu. She had cheese, bread, and grapes for appetizers, a seasonal salad, lightly-glazed roasted chicken, and a Pinterest-inspired potato dish. Not only that, but the presentation was lovely. For dessert, she’d even put together a little picnic basket with all the makings for s’mores. The whole evening was beautiful, comfortable, and adorable.

Therefore, the second half of my food-related resolution is to:

learn some guest-worthy dishes and host dinner parties

Not only will this two-parter of a resolution spice up our dinner life a bit, but I plan to keep you all up-to-date with my kitchen accomplishments, as well. Coming soon is a page with some of our favorite recipes, the tried-and-true as well as the new.

Actually, here’s an idea–let’s make this a back-and-forth. If you’d like to share a recipe with me, I’d love to try it out!

Update: Check out this new page, where I’ll keep track of some of our favorite recipes we try throughout the year!

Mixing It Up Challenge 2012

In 2012 I will be participating in the Mixing It Up Challenge. You, too, could participate in this challenge and expand your reading repertoire. Just go here for more information and to sign up.

In an effort to round out my reading this year, I’m vowing to read one book from at least 13 of the 16 listed categories. Although I’m tempted to go for the All the Trimmings and a Cherry on Top participation level, I’m keeping it real and admitting that between my two book clubs, I may be over-committing. So, I’ll be a Two-Tier Cake-r this year. Confused yet? Read this blog for more information on the challenge.

Without further ado, the categories, and my brainstorming:

CLASSICS

Considering some Willa Cather, but considering going back to some of those should-have-read-in-high-school novels, such as Scarlet Letter or Three Musketeers.

BIOGRAPHY

I absolutely love reading biographies, but to be honest, don’t have any on my “to-read” list. However, I know that Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff has been getting a lot of attention recently, so I may have to check it out.

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

The author of this challenge suggested a book on wine for this category. If I can pair this with some real-life research, I’m down!

HISTORY

On tap for my July book club meeting is Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, a WWII story named by TIME magazine as “the best nonfiction book of the year”. We also have Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowley and Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo coming up in February and April.

MODERN FICTION

And this is the category where I’ll fit in my recent addiction: Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble series.

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

This genre will (would) be entirely new for me, and quite a stretch out of my comfort zone. May be one of the 1-3 genres I skip. We’ll see…

CRIME AND MYSTERY

Paying homage to my mother, I will probably zip through an Agatha Christie or two in 2012, but I also plan to enjoy a few more of the Stephanie Plum series. In addition, Hardball, by Sara Paretsky, is on my book club’s list for March.

HORROR

I can honestly say I’ve never read a horror novel, but on my to-read list for quite some time has been Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

ROMANCE

The latest Nicholas Sparks? Yes, please.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Ugh. This is my general reaction to science fiction and fantasy. If I re-read the Harry Potter series, does that count? (Maybe I’ll sign up for the Harry Potter Reading Challenge.)

TRAVEL

B gifted me with travel guides on London and Paris in preparation for our 2013 European vacation, so you can bet I’ll be scouring these in 2012.

POETRY AND DRAMA

I always enjoy poetry more than I think I will. Since I honestly never think to sit down and read it, I will appreciate taking the time to do so this year. I’m thinking some springtime reading…

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

This genre will take some research for me. It’s another one that I’m not too familiar with. Maybe I’ll check out one of those Chelsea Handler books that always look like they’ll annoy me… or maybe I’ll delve deeper and read a journalist’s collected works. Hmm….

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this year, I’m honestly not sure I can put myself through another work in this genre so soon…

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
In my profession, this one should not be a problem!
I’ll keep you updated on my favorites of 2012.

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY
I gave B a copy of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart this Christmas. The subtitle, Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Not sure this challenge is for you, but interested in learning about some others? Check out this blog, one of my favorite literature-based reads, for some more ideas.

Completed Reads

CLASSICS

The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald

BIOGRAPHY

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

HISTORY

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo

MODERN FICTION

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

Homecoming by Meg Cabot

CRIME AND MYSTERY

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

HORROR

ROMANCE

The Villa by Nora Roberts

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

TRAVEL

POETRY AND DRAMA

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell