Monthly Archives: December 2013

What I Want To Do: 2014

50 things for me to aspire to, complete, learn, and accomplish in 2014, with a focus on the little stuff:

  1. Swim in Forked Lake
  2. Swim in Lake’s Pond
  3. Learn how to make mussels at home
  4. Learn how to make at least one new kind of candy
  5. Watch at least two of the following TV shows: Orphan Black, Masters of Sex, the Americans
  6. Cross country ski at least three times
  7. Go for at least one bike ride in the country
  8. Try three new-to-me restaurants in Albany
  9. Go to Schodack Island State Park
  10. Run at least two 5Ks
  11. Go to Adirondack Extreme
  12. Learn to make bread
  13. Can some sort of jam
  14. Listen at least twice to one new album a month
  15. Print and hang select pictures from our Tanzania trip
  16. Go on a Maine canoe trip
  17. Tell a story at Front Parlor
  18. Complete at least three levels of Rosetta Stone Spanish
  19. Kayak down the Kinderhook Creek
  20. Finish one quilt
  21. Hike at least five high peaks
  22. Take my wife out to a fancy meal
  23. Read at least one Shakespearian play
  24. Back up my gmail account
  25. Sell my wedding shoes and dress
  26. Go to Vietnam (or someplace equally exciting)
  27. Learn to excel at playing at least one new board game
  28. Host a dinner party here for some of our friends
  29. Host a dinner party here for some of our family
  30. Go to the Mahar’s in Castleton
  31. Take my dog to Capital Hills at least twice
  32. Improve my paddling skills
  33. Attend a cultural event at a cool local venue, not including Tangelwood
  34. Attend a show at Tangelwood
  35. Stand on our balance board for at least five minutes without falling
  36. Run a ten-minute mile
  37. Make at least one cake from the cake bible
  38. Downhill ski and/or try out snowboarding
  39. Fix my boots so I can wear them
  40. Take at least one historical building tour in Albany
  41. Open and/or fix my membership with the Albany Public Library system
  42. Pare down my wardrobe, jewelry collection, shoe collection, and so on so that I only own things I actually like and wear
  43. Go rock climbing at least once
  44. By the end of 2014, have at least three houseplants on hand that I can keep alive
  45. Get my hair cut at least twice
  46. Make ice cream at least once
  47. Figure out a better system for organizing my saved blog posts
  48. Keep this thing going
  49. And tell people about it
  50. Fix the zipper on my goddamn sleeping bag like a goddamn grownup

2013 Goals: What I Did

After a wonderful but not so restful week of traveling around New York State to celebrate Christmas (or: friends, family, and wealth of all sorts), I’m back and ready to jump into 2014. I had a pretty great 2013, all things considered, and one easy way to track that is to examine the goals I accomplished this year.

Last January, I sat down and thought about some small, concrete tasks I wanted to work on in 2013. I missed some, as is to be expected, but what’s pleasing is how many just happened. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say they manifested themselves, but it does sort of feel that way–I think that there’s a connection between pointedly acknowledging your interest in something and pursuing that interest. I’m hoping to build on this for next year, while continuing to not get too into the damaging “bucket list” mentality that I think takes me out of living a spontaneous, present life. For now, though, here are a few of the things I did in 2013:

  • Made (vegetarian) French Onion soup for the first time
  • Tried absinthe. (Only rimmed on a cocktail at the Speakeasy, but I’m still counting it since that experience has led my previous interest in absinthe cocktails to dissolve.)
  • Took my whale-obsessed wife on a whale watch out of Plymouth, Massachusetts. We saw Nile the Humpback, who she has declared her spirit animal.
  • Took my dog on long walks at least once a week. (Sounds pathetic, but I have a dog who really doesn’t like walks that much, so it’s a real accomplishment.)
  • Hiked two mountains: Hadley and Porter
  • Swam in my two favorite lake-like bodies: Forked Lake and Lake’s Pond
  • Went cross-country skiing via a weekend at Dippikill
  • Learned to make three new kinds of candy, not just the one new kind I was aiming for. I have mastered two types of caramels and chocolate truffles, and am working on my peanut butter fudge.
  • Learned how to poach an egg with confidence
  • Took a tour of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and felt closer to my favorite adolescent-years author Madeleine L’Engle in the process. She’s more than just A Wrinkle in Time!
  • Had multiple bagels from Absolute Bagels at 108th and Broadway
  • Canned not just “something,” but tomato sauce.
  • Went on not one, but two random fun trips with my wife to places we hadn’t been as a couple. The first was to Rhode Island with some of our friends, and the second was to Montreal for our first anniversary.
  • Went to a show at the UCB
  • Got not just my first, but also my second massage–the first in Hudson, the other on Zanzibar! As it turns out, this was a very easy goal to accomplish. Also, hot stone massages are amazing.
  • Wrote a fundraising appeal letter for my favorite organization
  • Printed, framed, and hung select wedding photos
  • Took my aunt Carol out to lunch
  • Took my 10-year-old brother-in-law and 12-year-old sister-in-law on an adventure to Lake George, complete with jumping off of (small) cliffs into the water and exploring a waterfall
  • Learned how to make crepes with confidence

Adding in a move to Albany, increasing professional responsibility, a very stressful year of non-profit board service, making new friends and keeping old ones, spending lots of time with my family, countless picnics in Washington Park, keeping up my usual regiment of book reading / TV watching / Internet awareness, a literal safari, and starting this blog, it makes sense that this year has felt so incredibly full of joy and fun.

It has not been perfect, and of course, I did not accomplish everything I set out to do:

  • I did not even re-finish level one of Rosetta Stone Spanish, let alone complete level three
  • I have a horrible sleep schedule induced by my telecommuting lifestyle, instead of the semi-normal one I aspired to attain in January
  • I gave up on my goal to listen to one new album a month in April
  • I have twice started and twice failed to create the sourdough starter I need to make my own bread per the Tartine Bread method
  • I neither kayaked down the Kinderhook Creek with my brother nor sailed my father’s sunfish
  • I continue to be a total delinquent at fixing my sleeping bag’s zipper so it can be comfortably used in less than 60 degree weather

But, all that said, I have also accomplished quite a bit I didn’t set out to do, and that’s life. Also life: the lucky ability to get excited about 2014, and all the things I might be able to do in the next twelve months. But that’s for tomorrow.

X of the Week, Entry Five

Yet another horrifying article about Big Agriculture. The videos don’t even deserve the word horrifying. Even if this sort of thing doesn’t make you feel horribly sad, it must make you feel so disgusted that you never want to put food in your body from this sort of production system again. Right? I guess not, based on the number of people I know who are both aware that these conditions exist and still eat regular mass-produced meat and dairy. I just don’t get it.

Hudson Valley Ballers is amazing. (The video linked from “Valley” is particularly hilarious.)

A roundup of great board games that makes me feel as though I don’t have a game closet at all. (I do.) (There are just a lot of great games out there.)

Speaking of board games, Vulture’s “oral history” of the Cones of Dunshire is pretty great. (Though I think you’d have to be a fan of dorky board games and/or Parks & Rec to appreciate it.) However, not so great is their “oral history” of the episode of Sex and the City where Kristen Johnston falls to her death after declaring NYC dead. Interesting, sure, but sort of horrifying in its blatant admission that the producers used the character as a way to prove what could happen to you (death!) as a single woman if you refuse to settle down. Eesh.

Blog Picks: Current Events

The overwhelming majority of what I read could be considered “current events,” which makes it hard to narrow this category down. I’ve decided to go with a more traditional definition, so the blogs below have to do with things you might find in the news that do not, on a regular basis, feature anything that could be construed as celebrity news.

So, as with my food blog picks, here are the current event blogs that would make the cut if I ever cleaned up my Feedly:

  1. Feministing is, 95% of the time, a bit too strident for me in that “I agree with your point but not your tone” way that always made me cringe in college and grad school. Still, it’s the best site I’ve found for getting a rundown of news that my other sources might not be covering, and from a different perspective than most other media.
  2. The Dish, obviously. It took me awhile to get into Andrew Sullivan, and I still find him a bit too much from time to time . . . but glancing at the Dish’s posts each day (and/or reading them in full) gives the best overview of online chatter about real things. My favorite threads are those that veer away from the absolutely current, like this one on miscarriage. I also love the experiment of an advertisement free, subscription based business/content model. This is how I think the Internet should work–a penny or two per post (or, in the Dish’s case, less than half a cent per post).
  3. Slog, the blog of the Stranger, Seattle’s alternative newspaper, is amazing even if (like me) you have never been to Seattle. Seattle-specific content only makes up about half of Slog, and the other half ranges from Dan Savage sex advice posts to lengthy national political coverage by Paul Constant. (Paul Constant is a bit of a crazy liberal, and I think I wouldn’t like him much in person, but he is my favorite reporter–by a very wide margin–during national election seasons.) Also, one of their reporters, Jen Graves, is from Albany. So there’s that, too.

Doesn’t seem like a lot, but they’re all prolific and they’re all great. And so, between them and the New York Times, I can avoid clicking on 99% of Slate’s click-baity headlines, which is one of my main Internet goals. Mission accomplished.

Lights in the Park

This is my first holiday season living across from Washington Park, and I love it. It’s all because of Lights in the Park. The cheerfulness of walking my dog amidst a park-wide light display is unparalleled in its winter festivity.

However: ughhh Albany, why do you have to be so anti-pedestrian? There are three days this season set aside for “walkers”–Tuesday, November 26; Wednesday, November 27; and Saturday, January 4. I don’t know about you, but in my family, we consider the Christmas season to start AFTER Thanksgiving and end by, at latest, January 2. So if you want to walk around looking at out-of-season light displays, Washington Park might be for you! And, of course, all of these are charity walks; there are no charity drives. I’m all for charity, but asking only the pedestrians to contribute to charity reminds me of how many restaurants assume that all vegetarians want a side salad instead of fries.

Of course, there’s the organizers of Lights in the Park have made another walking alternative available. From 4:30 to 5:30 (or so) each day, you can walk through the park for a fee. This, of course, is absolutely useless to almost everyone who has a regular 9-5 jobs.

This wouldn’t drive me so crazy if Washington Park wasn’t such a fantastic park for pedestrians. Syracuse has a similar “Lights on the Lake” display that would be truly miserable to walk around, because it’s on a regular road, doesn’t loop around, and is definitely not in an urban center. And, of course, I get it: they’re making a lot of money from cars, and there are lots of people who would be afraid/too cold/physically unable to walk around Washington Park in the winter.

But there are also plenty of people (ahem) who think that walking through the park seems about twenty times cooler (and environmentally friendly) than driving through it. Indeed, some of us walk through the park after work even when there aren’t lights in it–insulting enough that for one month of the year we’d have to pay for the privilege of doing so, but even worse that we’re flat-out not allowed to. Lights in the Park organizers: give us a night or two in the actual holiday season next year, or keep the lights on an extra hour at night one night a week. Have a night where people are encouraged to bring their dogs, or one for families. Encourage people to be a little more active and remind people that cities (and parks) belong to citizens, not cars or criminals. And maybe get my $5 in the process.