The Party’s Over!

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The party is over. The glittering lights of the Decembers holidays have gone out with a bang on New Year's . . .The tree's ornaments have been carefully stowed away for next December, the confetti has been swept up, the empty champagne bottles have been carted to the recycling bin . . .

Andrea here, and I have to confess, it's quite depressing! Oh, yes. There are many good things about the new year, and starting, er, fresh. However the state of my fridge and pantry are not among them. Gone are the myriad cookies, the chocolate, the truffles, the brownies and blondies. Instead they are filled with all the things I SHOULD be eating. Sigh. I'm in a state of withdrawal.

I will cheerfully admit to having a sweet tooth. And the holidays are time that I rationalize that it's okay to splurge on all those buttery, sugar and spice confections. I mean, one can't be Scrooge-like and refuse to get in the spirit of season's excess, right? And we all know calories don't count from Thanksgiving to New Year's! (Quantum, surely you can up up with a quantum physics theorem that supports my scientific thinking on this . . .the tilt of the earth, the angle of the sun . . . how quickly you can scarf down the cookie . . .)

Over the holidays, I got in a bad habit of helping myself to goodies every day. And now it's time to stop. As I sit here feeling sorry for myslef I find myself fantasizing about what I miss most . . .it's a toss -up between the homemade Swiss biber (a gingerbread confection filled with marzipan) and my special blondie recipe studded with walnuts and golden raisins, topped with a lemon glaze.

What holiday goodie do you miss most after the clock strikes midnight on January 1? Or are you smarter than me and just say, "Party On!

 

 

I Resolve To . . .

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Andrea/Cara here,

So, it’s the second day of January . . . are you one of the many people who have scribbled down a list of resolutions for the next twelve months? A new year always seems to spur a resolve to make changes for the better. Some are really daunting ones—like” I’m going to lose weight” or  “I’m going to be more organized.” (No matter that what we really want to resolve is to eat more chocolate. Hey—it’s good for us, right?)

We’re hardly the first who’ve felt the need to make such New Year’s resolution lists. Apparently there are records showing the Babylonians took such commitments seriously. Promising the gods that they would return borrowed items and pay their debts were popular pledges. In Medieval times, knights took the “Peacock Pledge” in December, whereby they promised to abide by the rules of chivalry for the coming year.

350px-Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915So, how do we do at succeeding at our resolutions? Alas, not very well, according to a study done several years ago, which reported 88% of people failed to live up to their list. But don’t despair! According to an article in the New York Times, the best way to succeed in a resolution is to have a specific, measurable goal–ie, deciding you want to lose ten pounds in order to look good for your college reunion rather than just simply saying you want to lose weight in 2017.

I have some things I’d like to write to the blank slate that is 2017—including finding more time for reading!—and while a don’t make a resolution list per se, I do have a checklist I keep looking at to remind me of goals. I think challenges are good and serve as motivation . . . as long as they maintain a healthy balance and encourage positive thoughts, not negative “I can’t do this” discouragement.

So what about you. Do you make a Resolution List? Any favorites you want to share?

Happy New Year!

Fireworks.jpg 1On behalf of all the Word Wenches, a very happy, peaceful, healthy and successful year to everyone, with lots of good books to read and lots of time to read them in! 

Traditionally the New Year is a time to reflect on the year that has gone and to plan for the year ahead, including the making of resolutions. It’s also a time to get together with family and friends, to celebrate and to indulge in our own personal and cultural traditions. Hogmanay, in Scotland, is one of the best-known New Year celebrations. In the town of Stonehaven there is a parade through the streets by kilted men swinging big balls of fire. In Turkey it is traditional to wear red lingerie to see in the New Year. In Denmark it’s appropriate to jump off a chair at Midnight on New Year’s Eve and smash plates against your friends’ doors to bring them good luck.

How do you celebrate the dawning of a new year? Do you have a special family custom or do you make New Year’s resolutions? Whatever your plan, I wish you a very Happy 2016!

Tightening the Belt!

LilletCara/Andrea here,
If you’re like me,  the first few days of the New Year are a time for tightening the belt (or drawstrings of my writing sweatpants!) and sticking to a Spartan diet to make up for all the holiday indulgences. You know, bread and water . . . well, maybe just a little dab of butter on the bread, and maybe a nice fragrant black tea to infuse the hot water. But you know what I mean!

DBNow, just because I’m imbibing doesn’t mean I can’t still read about food . . . and drink. One of my fun book presents this year was The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, a delightful tour through the history of “plants that create the world’s great drinks.” It’s fun and fascinating, and chock full of interesting recipes for both classic and exotic cocktails and infusions. 

RedJust in case you still have guests lingering, here’s a fun punch to serve to a crowd—with the added benefit that it comes with an intellectual teaser! It’s called Five Trees punch—and how many of you can name the ones represented in the recipe? (This serves 10-15)

1 750 milliliter bottle of Lillet Rouge
24 oz. unfiltered apple cider
4 oz. bourbon
2 oz. maple syrup
1 apple, thinly sliced

Mix the first four ingredients in a punch bowl. Add apple slices and serve in short tumblers over ice.

So, how many of you have a ritual of staring off the New Year with a few days of very healthy eating? Do you have a certain indulgence you give up? I always do New Year’s Day with just fresh fruit, grains and sparkling water. No sweets, no butterfat, etc. I feel very virtuous . . . for a day. (Thank goodness it's january 2, and I can scarf down a piece of chocolate!)

What’s the Magic Word?

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo

BETTER. 

It’s human nature to want to better ourselves.  This may be particularly true of Americans since it’s inherent in our culture to believe that hard work will enable us to create better lives in all sorts of ways: we can be thinner, kinder, richer, more successful, more fit—you name it.  The self-help bestseller lists confirm this belief. <g>

This desire to improve is one reason there are New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve never made them—if I want to make a change, I’ll do it now!   (Patience is not my strong suit.)   Among people who do make formal resolutions, there seems to be a high degree of frustration.  New Year’s resolutions seem designed to make us feel like failures, and darned quickly, too!

Which is why I was delighted when my fantasy writer friend Sharon Shinn mentioned a practice she and some friends do.  Instead of resolutions, they choose a word for the year ahead—something to guide or inspire or help them make choices for the next twelve months. For example, one could choose:

 

~~~Patience~~~

 

Sharon says they got the idea from somewhere else, so she doesn’t know the origin, but I LOVE the concept!  It’s a theme, a mantra, a gentle suggestion rather than a list of goals that may prove impractical. 

So I considered some possible words for the year:

~~~Treasure~~~

This can be either a verb or a noun.  One can make a point of cherishing friends and family that we may take for granted, or one can use “treasure” as a noun, symbolizing the steps that might improve one’s financial situation. 

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~~~Lion Fearless: ~~~

This might be a good choice for someone who feels she needs to speak up for herself more.  It’s a sobering example, but a friend of mine who once was kidnapped off the street by three guys and beaten and raped for a couple of days before being released said that after that, things like bullying professors and bosses simply didn’t frighten her any more.  This could be a good theme for a year of evaluating what we fear and why.  And what we can do about it!

~~~Mindfulness:  Mindfulness~~~

This is another really good one.  We get so busy, so tied up in the small stuff, that we don’t always remember to “be here now” and cherish the immediate moment and our surroundings.

 

~~~Finish!: ~~~

I figure the word can have a punctuation mark without violating the principle.  <g> For someone who is always going in too many directionsscattered, starting lots of things but never getting them done, this could be a good keyword.

~~~Awake:~~~

This is rather like mindfulness.  Be alert!  Pay attention! Notice what’s going on!  (A good one for writers who wander around in a creative haze way too often. <G>)

800px-Olives_in_bowl ~~~Experiment:~~~

Be open to new possibilities.  Try new things.  I’ve never liked olives, but every now and then, I’ll have another one just to see if I like them better.  The answer is mostly no, but I have learned that I dislike some types less than others. <G> 

 

~~~Auckland_New_Zeland_Frame Reframe: ~~~

This is another concept I really like.  How we see our past can really influence how we see ourselves in the present, and how we interact with the world.  Think of how very different it is to say, “I was abused as a child and permanent scarred by it,” versus, “I had a very difficult childhood, but it made me incredibly strong and adaptable and compassionate.”  Or something simpler, like “I can never understand computers” reframed as, “I haven’t done well with computers in the past because I was insufficiently motivated, but now that I find I can do genealogy/needlework/see pictures of my grandkids online, I’ll figure it out in no time!” 

By the way, the picture was taken in a park above Auckland, New Zealand.  We had an 8 hour layover on our way to Australia, so we hired a car with a nice driver to take us around.)

Blender3D_NormalWalkCycle ~~~Move:~~~

 This could be a good one for physical improvement.  Many of us lead sedentary lives, so moving more can improve one’s health, vitality, and mood, not to mention one’s figure.  Park at the far end of the lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator (not if it’s the 88th floor, of course!), find some kind of physical outlet that will make you feel better and happier.

 

Sharon did something else really fun with this concept: “Last year I got magnets for the five of us who chose words. I went to Zazzle.com and picked my typefaces and color backgrounds and made a set for each of us. They're all hanging on my stove.”  
 
You can see the possibilities of this!  Do you like this idea?  Have you tried it?  Is there a word you’d like to be your theme for the year? 

Mary Jo, still working on Patience..