Thursday, January 2, 2014

Trying Something New - January

As I mentioned in a previous post, I aim to try something new every day in 2014. I expect that some of my experimentation will be easy - trying a new food or a new restaurant, for example. But I expect that some of the new things will push me out of my comfort zone a bit - and that is, at least in part, the point of this whole endeavor.

Here is my list of new things to try this month (with updates regarding the result):
  1. Eat gooseberries. Result: hidden in a papery covering, this orange-colored fruit resembles a grape tomato in size, shape and texture. Eaten raw, it is mouth-puckeringly tart like an unripe kiwi. Cooked (we had it in a savory dish: stuffing) it both tastes and shrivels up a bit like a tomato. Bottom line: didn't love it, but didn't hate it either.
  2. Wear bright green and pink - in the winter. I've never owned a lot of green clothing. As a result, every St. Patrick's Day I struggle to assemble an outfit that includes a hint o' the shamrock hue. Similarly, until I received some official NY Jets paraphernalia, finding something to wear to cheer on #6 wasn't easy either. It's not that I don't like green; in fact, I chose light green for the walls of my bedroom as a teenager and our weekend house is largely forest green. But for some reason, I don't wear green much. I had a lime green and pink summer dress for a while. And for many years when I first started working, I had a deep emerald green silk blouse that I loved. But not much else. So I was delighted to receive a bright green sweater with a coordinating scarf as a Christmas gift. I wore it as my second "new thing" to show that I am working to get out of my color rut - both wearing a color I generally don't choose, and wearing something beautifully bright in the winter when I usually choose deep, dark tones. And I'll have to say, wearing that bright color all day really made me feel happy! Update: when I wore the sweater/scarf combo again, people commented how well I looked - tan and rested!
  3. Order an entire meal in French. So sad that on the third day of the year, I failed to try my planned new thing! My intentions were good - but with travel hassles, I simply forgot until it was too late. I guess I could say I ate dinner in a new restaurant (but it was in an airport and I didn't have anything remarkably new except, perhaps, a white wine from a vineyard called "Cupcake" and chicken with a pleasant peppercorn sauce), so I'm not sure it counts. I was in Quebec (where I've been before) and I think I've flown Air Canada before, too (although, perhaps, I never will again since the service we received in both directions was dismal). I did stay in a hotel I've never stayed in before (the Hotel Frontenac) - so maybe count that?
  4. Go dog sledding in Quebec. Ok, here's something new that I'll be talking about for quite a while!! I've ridden horses, an elephant, even a camel - but riding in a dogsled is decidedly a first for me! I loved seeing the dogs' enthusiasm for running, how they worked as a team, meeting them when the ride was over, and especially touring the facilities and learning more about sled dogs. It was 10 below (F) but even the cold couldn't keep me from loving this experience! I also tried the traditional Quebec drink Caribou at the Hotel Frontenac bar and went to the wonderful Saint-Amour restaurant.
  5. Gooseberries again. Pleasant surprise to find them garnishing our room service fruit salad at breakfast. Also a pleasant visit to Quebec's Musee du Fort (can I count that as a new thing?) Otherwise, rough travel day (eventually had to overnight in Montreal - but I've been bumped before, so that's not new), so not much else.
  6. Clean the insides of the stove vent. I'm not a big fan of household tasks, and generally do the minimum to get by. But with my BIL in town and anxious to play handyman, I did a bit more than the usual today. Mostly it's been about tightening the knobs on our closet doors, fixing the reclining chair mechanism and the like, but he also seems to like to take apart things, just well... because he can. So when he suggested removing the vent above the stove to clean off the cooking grease I got my new experience for the day (I can't emphasize enough that I never would have thought of taking off the vent by myself). I didn't notice a huge difference from the outside, especially since I do wipe this down with a hearty grease-beating cleaner from time to time, but I really got going with the Goo Gone and removed quite a layer of grease from the inside of the grate.
  7. Learn about Bitcoin. Did quite a bit of reading online and I think I understand the theory and the purported benefits of using Bitcoin. I gotta admit, though, that I'm still a little shady on how it is created and how the system limits fraud and criminal use. Will it take off? Hmmm... you really need lots of folks to substitute their current method of payment for it to become completely mainstream. Seems more likely to me that other methods, like phone payments, have better chances of supplanting cash, checks and credit cards.
  8. Survive an entire day without calling J my "pumpkin." I made it through quite a bit of the day with only one slip-up, but then toward bedtime, I was tired, he was cute and needed comforting as I cared for his wounded paw (red and raw from road salt) - I think I used the "p-word" five times in all. So perhaps I'll try again? But also soaked his foot in Epson salts - that's a first. And tried booties on him to keep him from licking his foot - that's a first, too.
  9. Make chicken hash. I've seen various forms of hash on diner menus for years, but frankly, it never sounded that appealing to me. When I ran across a recipe for chicken hash in a cookbook though, I thought I'd give it a try. The key attractions? It seemed easy to make, with ingredients we often have on hand, and I thought it was possible that no one in the family would really hate it. And they didn't. But I don't think anyone really loved it, either, so it probably won't become a menu staple.
  10. Make another new recipe: roast pork with apples. This attempt at a new dinner staple wasn't a huge success either. The recipe called for apples in three forms: apples slices, cider, and apple cider vinegar. The latter really dominated the flavors, making it much more acidic than I think any of us would have liked.
  11. Pretend I'm left-handed all day. For the most part, I remembered to do this and found it was mostly awkward and inconvenient. A few things were impossible, though, like putting in my contacts. And I'm sure that I forgot quite a bit - it is indeed quite a change in a lifetime habit.
  12. Make pizza from scratch. Gotta put a moratorium on falling back on new recipes as my new thing, especially since K did most of the work on this one! But I'm delighted that he's taking an interest in my "new things" quest. And he found a recipe that didn't require rising time or a lot of kneading - so it was fast, easy and tasty! 
  13. Listen to new music. I'm a music junkie and enjoy almost all genres. I grew up with classical music and almost nothing thrills me more than the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto... unless it is a new favorite that I've just discovered and play over and over and over again (my Rhapsody subscription is great for this exploration). When I was training for the NY Marathon, I looked forward to creating new playlists to motivate me as much as I looked forward to having my training run be over! My kids introduced me to rap (the poetry of the streets) and to electronica/house/dupstep (I'm currently enjoying Zedd). But today I wanted to try something altogether different so I headed over to the Alt/Punk sections, which ordinarily I avoid. I was surprised to see a few names I recognize - and enjoy - like Green Day and Linkin Park, so I dug a little deeper and explored the Emo/Hardcore listings. Lo and beyond, I ran across some old friends like Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World, so I moved on to the Alt Country section to find something that would really be a "new thing" for me. And I was reminded once again why Country isn't exactly my thing. I didn't exactly hate Beachwood Sparks, Whiskeytown, Jay Farrar and the others, but didn't find them hum-able or have the urge to hit "repeat" either.
  14. Sell clothes on thredUP. I've had success with the Like Twice site for cashing in on clothes I no longer wear. Today I bagged up a few items for thredUP to see how that site compares. Next, I'm thinking about sending a few things over to Bib and Tuck. Living in a NYC apartment means that I have limited storage - so if I want to bring new treasures home, I've got to send some old things packing to make room. In the past, I just took things to local thrift stores, but I like how these new sites allow me to profit from my give-aways.
  15. Comment on someone's blog. I confess: I'm usually a lurker, just hovering around, reading but never responding, taking but never giving (unless I'm posting a comment with a link to drive traffic to my own site). So today I made a small step toward participating in the community and posted my thoughts in the comments section of an interesting blog just for the joy in doing so. 
  16. Sign up for an e-class. Signed up for a writing class at The Open University.
  17. Go to a yoga class. I've tried Wii Fit yoga, but have never gone to an actual class. So when my older son's school offered a class for parents, I was eager to give it a shot. And I loved it! Can't wait to go again.
  18. Visit the Central Park Ice Festival. NYC is full of fun, free activities. Many times I read about them and plan to go, but then something comes up or I just get lazy, and I don't end up doing it. And then I regret it. That would have been the case with seeing the ice sculptures in Central Park, except that I've vowed to do one new thing every day this year. No one I asked wanted to come with me and I was tired, but I leashed up the dogs (J and L) anyway and headed out. We had a wonderful walk over (walking through the Ramble was especially nice - you really feel like you're in the woods, not the city) and although the Festival was crowded and I couldn't get close enough for a good look at the ice sculptures, the dogs got lots of attention from people and other pups, and so it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a winter afternoon.
  19. Try a new form of social media. Wow, there really are a lot of social media sites out there! And in looking through them, I discovered that I've already posted to quite a few: delicious, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, StumbledUpon, Tagged, Tumblr, Twiiter. Today, I added a new one to the list: 43Things.
  20. Empty my email inbox. I tend to keep things in my email inbox forever. Sure some stuff (mostly the ads) are deleted right away. And I try to file things I know I'll want to refer to later in well-organized file folders and subfolders. But a fair amount of my emails just linger in my inbox. Among other things, these are the notes that I want to write a thoughtful response to someday... Forwarded articles that would be nice to take the time to read when I have time... And online coupons that I might want to use soon... The trouble with this system is that every time I check email, I am reminded that I am a procrastinating loser for not dealing with all my email. Who needs that? So I resolved to go through each and every email once and for all, leaving my inbox completely and blissfully empty. And for the most part, I did just that, although I confess that I did create "Read Later" and "To Do" folders that still house a dozen or so emails that I want to keep but just couldn't deal with at the moment.
  21. Check out the pros/cons of social media aggregators like RebelMouse, Livefyre, Mass Relevance, and Chute. RebelMouse appears to be the typical "type once, publish many" type of social media tool, with connections to all the usual suspects. I signed up and will likely find it useful if I decide to get more active with social sites. Livefyre seems mostly to provide corporate applications, although it does offer its "Comments" product for bloggers. Mass Relevance and Chute are also platforms for corporate use.
  22. Do preliminary planning for trip to Israel. Even a cursory look at what Israel offers convinced me that I should do a fair amount of reading in both the Old and New Testament as part of my planning. I want to see the Dead Sea, of course: it is the lowest point on earth, plus it's home to great spas! Jerusalem is on the list, too, plus maybe Tel Aviv.
  23. Have lunch at the Tasting Table's test kitchen with Antonia Lofaso. The invitation came as a surprise yesterday - the result of a contest I won (although I hardly remember entering it). Turns out, the event was related to the launch of Wendy's ciabatta bacon cheeseburger (which we got to sample). Antonia created a batch of 3 "sides" (which we also got to sample) inspired by the ingredients in the new burger. Naturally her dishes were better (everyone loves appetizers more than the real meal!). It was a pleasure to meet her (of Top Chef fame - the girl next to me was a huge fan); I was especially impressed with how she mixed and mingled with all of us. The other guests were a real hodge podge (sort of like jury duty) - but I really enjoyed the folks I met and I'm glad I attended!
  24. Complete a sudoku puzzle. I made a valiant attempt - even starting as soon as the clock struck midnight. And I got pretty far in the next hour, filling out the whole puzzle. But just before I could congratulate myself I realized that one of the columns repeated the number 3. I worked a bit more the next night to fix it... but found asleep before I could.
  25. Try to clean a water-soaked rug. I'm still not 100% sure how it happened, but it appears that last week's snowstorm led to some sort of leak from our window/air-conditioner and soaked part of our living room rug. I did my best to mop it up, but within a day or two, I began to notice an unpleasant smell every time I walked into the apartment. D and I moved all the furniture off and sprinkled the offensive portions with baking soda - to no avail. Febreeze didn't help. Off the shelf run cleaners didn't either. Even when it was completely dry, the smell persisted. So we finally rolled it up and we'll send it out to a professional.
  26. Make oobleck - a non-Newtonian material. K had the idea for this new thing - his class at school learned about how oobleck (made from cornstarch and water) combines properties of both solids and liquids. I was impressed by how easy it was to make this strange, weird ooze.
  27. Listen to all of the Grammy winners. Turns out that this is a much bigger task than I expected. I've been at it all day (with more than 12 hours of listening) and still am only at #32 of the 82 categories. Thankfully, Rhapsody has most of the music available (only 1 album not listed, so far). A few surprises: Herb Alpert won in a pop category; folks I consider oldies, like Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney won all the rock categories; and while - predictably - I didn't like some of the country stuff, I was amused by Kacey Musgraves' efforts; and I'm really digging "Liquid Spirit" by Gregory Porter - the best jazz vocal album. I'll have to continue listening for several more days. 
  28. Taste chocolate with a high cacao count. First, I've gotta mention that I'm still listening to Grammy winners--more than 20 hours in and still only at #47. So I needed something fast today. I found it when B asked me to pick up some chocolate for his breakfast protein shake. I'll have to admit that when it comes to chocolate, I'm really not that sophisticated. I prefer the taste of milk chocolate to dark and so despite the attractions of combining my love of chocolate and my desire to be healthy, I have generally stayed away from the trend toward higher and higher cacao percentages. And frankly, I'll probably continue to do so. I got a bar of the seductive-sounding Intense Dark Midnight Reverie (86% cacao) from Ghirardelli. The taste reminded me of the bitter baking chocolate that we would occasionally nibble--and then recoil from in horror--when we were kids. Nasty then, nasty now.
  29. Make pizza with traditional yeast dough. Just for the record, I'm still listening to Grammy winners. More than 25 hours in, and I'm only on #56. And now on today's new thing: K and I made pizza on the 12th using the quick, no-rise recipe from AllRecipes.com, but I had it in mind that I wanted to go the full knead-and-let-rise route, so I did that today, using Paula Deen's basic pizza dough instructions. The verdict? I actually liked the quick version better!
  30. Learn more about school board. B is a student representative on his school's Board of Trustees. The President of the Board held a meeting to encourage the school community to learn more about the Board's role. So I attended and heard about what they do. I also continued to listen to Grammy winners - really in the bulk of the regional and classical, now.
  31. See a wrestling meet. I attended my first wrestling tournament last year, although B was on the DL at the time. Today I attended my first wrestling meet, although B didn't actually wrestle since there was no one on the opposing team in his weight class (so he won by default). And finally, finally, finally listened to the last of the Grammy winners, which is a great way to wrap up my first month of trying something new!

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