Looking Forward to 2014: Five Things to Do Differently Next Year (to have more fun, live even better, and do more good)

| December 29, 2013 | 5 Comments

I don’t generally make New Years resolutions, and fear not, I am not going to start today.  But the end of the year usually finds me gnawing on a straw in a coffee shop somewhere, staring off into space and mulling over what I may want to change up in the coming year.  (Yep, it’s pretty darned exciting being me, isn’t it?)

Here is where my mind often goes:  Where’s the friction in my life, where something just isn’t working for me?

Are there recurring situations where I watch myself wasting money, or creating more waste than I have to, or using something toxic that I want to cut out?  Is there something I want to learn how to do or make or fix myself, so I can get off the cheap plastic crap train?  How can I get more freedom in my life?  More happiness?  These aren’t “lose fifty pounds” pledges, but instead are small things, with clear action plans and do-it-now-ability.

I find this much more useful than a tiresome recap of everything I did “wrong” in the past year, and those promises to become a whole new person in the coming year.  If you’re reading this blog, you might find it more useful too.  Here are mine – what are yours?

Stop wasting so much money heating the great outdoors.

When I was a young’un working my way through college, my wonderful friend and landlady Nila used to admonish me, when I lingered by the open door on a subzero day, to shut the door, girl, it’s not my turn to heat the great outdoors.  Thirty years later and I’m still heating the great outdoors, this time via the pitiful excuse for insulation in the attic of our house. Not only is there nowhere near enough insulation — seriously, we could use four times what we have — it leaks like a sieve both up and down.  There are numerous places where you can see daylight through the cracks, and the air from the house is leaking up into the attic at an alarming rate.

I can feel a lot better about this by spending some time up there with some loud music, first wielding a few tubes of foam insulation, and after we’ve sealed up a lot of the leaks, putting down enough insulation to bring us to R60.

This is a couple of half-weekends after we have all the materials, less if we have someone blow in the loose insulation for us.

The energy auditor who reviewed our house said the annual savings could be $200-300 per year for us.  Worth the time, dust, and claustrophobia to me, in order to stick it to the utility company and pocket those thousands in the coming years.

Tithing for the greater good: Set aside more time and money to support people I care about in their endeavors.

I know a lot of people who are doing very noble things with their lives.  I know even more who are trying to live happier, more fulfilling lives by doing work they love.  These are people who have opened small shops and restaurants, or people starting bands, people who are trying to make a living writing or creating art as a small business or income source….I look around and I’m happy about what I see as a trend toward more happiness, self-determination and self-sufficiency.

I will make it a point in 2014 to redirect more of my dollars to people and things I care about.  Some tithe 10% of their income to religious organizations; this could be a good model for me. I can “tithe” to the greater good, feed friendships, and see some great stuff growing.

Seriously, finally find a no-brainer way to eat more fruits and vegetables.

As an organic gardener and a healthy person, you would think I have this down, right?  Well, I don’t.  I’m often rushing from task to task, and it’s far easier (in my mind anyway) to grab something like a sandwich or starch-based Something than it is to conjure up a fruit salad or a stir-fry when I’m starving.  It’s not as though I eat a lot of junk; it’s just that I FEEL much better when I eat a lot of plant foods — I feel like a million bucks, and I want more of that feeling.  It’s just making it happen in a hectic day that is hard for me.

But I know myself.  I can be tricked.  And I can be lured into better behaviors if I have some easy alternatives mapped out in advance. Here are some of the tricks I may pull on myself this year:

1) Get a blender that can really make green smoothies.  One green smoothie — winging random veggies and fruits into the blender with a little coconut milk — can kick in several servings right there. These blenders are expensive, but I have a little Christmas money I may use for that purpose.

2) Figure out ten super-simple, super-fast, veggie-heavy recipes that I can choose from to do some prep on a Sunday morning, and stash in the fridge for the busy weekdays ahead.  This would have to be an easy routine, and the complexity level needs to be next to nothing, or I know I won’t do it.  But I think I can.

One example of a super-easy and fast recipe that I love is this Red Cabbage Salad:

1/4 large head red cabbage, cored and shredded (that’s the only work involved, and it’s minor)

2 ounces gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
whisked with
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and black pepper

Put the cabbage, cheese, walnuts, raisins, and oil & vinegar in a big bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Toss, taste and adjust the seasoning, and eat.

So:  This week I’ll put together 10 recipes, stick them on the fridge with the green smoothie ideas, and identify what I have to add to my weekly shopping list to make them.  That should take me about 15 minutes. I can do that.

3) Sneak vegetables into things I didn’t before.  Have you ever tasted the combination of black beans, sweet potatoes, and chipotle chili?  Uh-mazing.  I also have a recipe for a quick bread with carrots, zucchini, and apples in it. Also amazing. Sneaking chopped greens into pasta sauces, sneaking sprouts onto sandwiches, keeping a little tub of chopped steamed veggies to toss into scrambled eggs….all of these will add up.

Try growing my own medicine.

As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that my genetics dealt me a bum hand in a lot of ways, healthwise. One of the more sinister aspects is a tendency toward high blood pressure that stays high no matter what I throw at it.  Although my levels were just starting in the danger zone (136 over 90), my doctor threatened me repeatedly that I was courting disaster by not letting her prescribe pharmaceuticals.  Remembering something from an herbal medicine class I took at the local community college (for an extra elective credit), I started taking a daily regimen of hawthorn, extracted from a fairly common thorny shrub.  As a control, this was the ONLY thing I changed up, already having tried a healthy low-sodium diet, stress reduction, exercise, and all the rest of the tricks.  Within 3 months, my blood pressure was down well below borderline, and now rests at a steady 110 over 70.

I also occasionally have trouble sleeping, and now take a dose of chinese scullcap to overcome that.  And St. John’s Wort (mood), valerian root (stress) and echinacea (immune booster) have all proven to work for me. Others are hit-or-miss, but these are pretty effective.  I’m not very well-read about these things, and I am not a true believer that thinks everything can be solved with a plant, but I’m still drug-free at 50 despite a family history of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and cancer, and I think there’s something there for me to learn about nature’s ability to keep me healthy without the help of Big Pharma.

So, I have a 4′ x 8′ space mapped out for a “medicine garden” this spring, to grow these plants:

Chinese scullcap  (sleep aid)
Valerian  (stress)
St. John’s Wort (mood)
Echinacea purpurea (ass-kicking immune booster)

Hawthorn is something I’ll have to research, find and buy as a shrub, and it will need a bigger area.  I have a sunny spot in mind for it as well.

I’ll report back when I start planting and again at the end of the year to let you know how it all went.  Given the ridiculous cost of many medicines, and the cost of the uncovered portions of my healthcare, I’m pretty excited about this.

Have more fun doing things I can write about and share.

I do a lot of fun green hedonistic things, but only a fraction of them ever makes it into print.  I’d love to share more of the kinds of things everybody can do on an everyday basis to enjoy life, and turn us all into an idea bank of wildly fun sustainability.

* * *

How about you guys?  Throw the resolutions out the window and do one thing differently.  If you had to pick one thing to change up this year that you think would make you happier, or less stressed, or feel better about your life, what would it be?

Happy new year, everybody.



Category: Cooking, Energy Saving, Food, Fun, Garden, Home, Mental Health, Money Saving, Recipes, Sustainable

Comments (5)

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  1. Kay from K-town says:

    Hey GH,

    My goals for 2014: 1). Produce more art — starting an adventure in mosaic and stained glass (need any stained glass light switch covers? I’m your gal).

    2). Work on my home so it reflects this particular stage in my life.

    3). Let the garden go fallow this year…or maybe just cover crop it.

    4). Go to more farmer’s markets to make up for the fact that I’m not growing veggies due to goal No. 3.

    • greenhedonist says:

      Sign me up as a customer for one of those lightswitch covers! I’m doing up the Green Hedonist Intergalactic Headquarters in brighter colors this year and it would make me smile every time I turned the light on. Great ideas, Kay!

  2. Sharon in the Desert says:

    GH, where do you find time to write such great posts? Goal #1 doesn’t really apply to our home, although I guess we can be mindful about not cooling the great outdoors when temps top 110 degrees here. I’m completely on board with being intentional about spending and contributing our dollars for the common and greater good. That’s been something we’re doing with more success each year.

    My big friction spot is feeding myself when I’m traveling from meeting to meeting. I spent the day catching up on business record-keeping, and I logged almost 8,000 miles in 2013, most within 50 miles of home. I also ran a budget report, and although the dollar total is lower than I expected, there are way too many times when I go through McDonalds drive-through for the protein my body craves when I’m working long hours – egg mcmuffin in the morning, filet of fish for lunch. Of course, the protein comes with fat, sodium, and non-nutricious carbs at no extra cost. And I don’t need to explain to GH readers why I feel crappy about patronizing McDs. I also leave the house way too often without my reusable water bottle, so I buy bottled water or accept bottles from gracious clients.

    My intention is to move my water bottle to an often-used cabinet, and dig my insulated lunch bag out to the garage (I know it’s in there somewhere) and set it next to the water bottle. I’ll come up with 10 ideas for things I can put in the bag quickly – a boiled egg and carrot sticks, for example, or a container with a handful of almonds.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    • greenhedonist says:

      Oh, I can totally sympathize, Sharon. I could easily have chosen your intention for myself….I’m exquisitely terrible at feeding myself when I am frantically busy, especially protein! (so many weaknesses, so little time…:)

      I’ve taken to buying turkey jerky lately (reduced-sodium and all natural at the health food stores) and keeping that in the car. In a healthier vein, this is something the HH (hedonist husband) has started to make, for a quick grab-n-go of protein:
      Almonds are also great, and cheese sticks. But these egg things really hit me squarely in the “gotta get a macmuffin” craving.

      Good luck with this – it’s really a toughie!

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