A Year Later

January 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

I was watching the movie Groundhog Day for about the 15th time the other day. It really does get better the more you watch it. This time I saw a lot of parallels with my 52 To Do project. With time, people and events being constant, Billy Murray’s character was ultimately left with himself to contend with. He learned how to play the piano, to sculpt ice, to speak French and to read poetry. He got to know the people around him in town, ultimately deciding to make Puxatony his home. He lost the ego, but thankfully not his wit, and learned the joy in looking outward.

Thankfully I didn’t relive the same day over and over this year (supposedly he lived the same day for 10 years!).  I did manage to slow time down a bit for myself taking it week by week. You will be surprised how much you can do in a week, even when you’re working. I removed myself from a full-time, full-on work schedule and took freelance jobs instead. Change started occurring little by little. I started sleeping well again. I quit making excuses for not getting out and doing things. I learned how to make stuff with my hands again and became someone who knows they can figure things out if they tinker enough. I learned how to get back to thinking for myself again. I still made some great new friends through advertising but also now hang out with people who are sommeliers, chefs, beer brewers, knitters, philosophers, climbers and so on. I’ve made Boulder feel like Home, something I haven’t felt about anywhere I’ve lived since moving out of my parents house after high school.

I’ve wrestled with my identity the most over the past year. I still don’t quite know how to answer the question “What do you do?”. It took awhile to let go of the quick and ego-stroking answer that I work in advertising (and most recently led strategy on Apple). My favorite answer so far is that “I’m taking some time off”. I joke with my husband that I might just use that the rest of my life.

We take time off for many reasons. Sometimes we’re forced into it. We may take time between jobs. We may be retiring after years of dedication to the same job. Whatever the reason, we should all have time to ourselves at some point. For me, it was less about self improvement and more just about simply getting to know myself again, period. I’m glad my time came sooner rather than later.

I’m a bit sad the project is coming to an end, but more than anything it got me back on the track of exploring and learning again. For 2012 I’m starting a new blog called So Now I Know. Each week I’m going to explore things I’ve always heard about but have never really learned; things I’ve always said I’d learn someday, probably. I hope you’ll check it out and thanks for reading about 52 To Do this year. It has really meant a lot.

Happy 2012!

52 To Do – Top 10

January 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

When I tell people about my blog they always ask what my favorite week has been. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but I can name my top 10. If you’re looking for some fun, interesting things to try out for 2012, here were my favorites from this past year in no particular order:

1. Learning to roast coffee – If you claim to love or live on coffee, this is something you have to try. Unfortunately for those who live in apartments where it’s hard to get outside this may not be ideal for you (there’s smoke). Sweet Maria’s has a great starter kit for $45.

It will seriously become your favorite cup of coffee. Ever.

2. Ice fishing (or something that seems completely out of your range of possibility) – We spent the day with friends trying something none of us had ever tried before. While we didn’t catch any fish, we did arguably have the best laugh of 2011.

Getting out and doing things I’d never done before to embrace winter made a huge difference living here in Boulder.

3. Researching my ancestry – I definitely looked at my life differently after understanding more about where I came from. Plus it is a great thing to do with your family. I spent the week with my family going through old pictures and hearing old stories, many I had not heard before. It was a nice way to spend time together.

It was good to get my parents to talk about what they remember. I only wish my grandparents were still around. I have so many questions for them.

4. Churn homemade ice cream with friends – I bought a hand churn ice cream maker (White Mountain 4 qt. hand crank) and this proved to be a fun summer activity with friends. If you do get the hand churn one, you pretty much need the extra help since it isn’t easy!

My friend Jess (who also accompanied me on lots of blog adventures) gave me a great ice cream recipe book that did us right. It was a toss up between the goat cheese ice cream and the roasted coffee ice cream (we of course used fresh home roasted coffee for that) as to which was the best.

5. Learning about wine – I owe a huge thanks to my friends at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder. James Beard award winner, Bobby Stuckey, welcomed my project early on letting me shadow his amazing crew of sommeliers on what it’s like to live for wine. I’ve made lots of new wine buddies through Frasca and the Boulder Wine Merchant. With more Master Sommeliers per capita than any city in the U.S. Boulder is a good place to be to learn about wine.

6. Hike a 14er – In 2011 I officially became a Coloradan by climbing my first 14,000 foot mountain with my friend Alicia (another partner in crime with many blog projects).

You likely won’t have mountains like that around but maybe there’s another physical feat to try that makes you equally feel a part of where you’re living. Boston marathon? Rowing the Thames? Surfing in Santa Monica?

7. Learning how to knit – This was a favorite for multiple reasons. I gained a new skill that is incredibly relaxing. I made some beautiful cowls that served as well-received holiday presents and to top it off I made a new friend in the process.

I also found a gem of a local store (Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins) where I will continue going for yarn and pearls of wisdom from the fantastic crew of ladies that work there.

8. Shooting a gun – I will likely never own a gun but I am glad I learned how to shoot one this year (target range only). It is an experience you could never understand without actually doing it. I now know just how powerful and dangerous they are.

It was something totally foreign to me and outside of my comfort zone, but I felt like it was something I should try once in my lifetime. Plus it was a great way to spend the afternoon with my husband and his twin brothers in Portland.

9. Pasta making – Pasta is one of those staples around the house and making it yourself is not only easy but worth the little bit of effort. The difference in taste is amazing.

I’ve continued along with it and for New Year’s Day dinner tonight I’ll be making some homemade orchiette I learned to make from Brian, another Frasca friend.

10. Reading about philosophy and religion – One of the best outcomes of the year was learning to think for myself again. It was a great exercise to dust off some books on philosophy and religion and to challenge my thinking in that regard a bit again.

It’s easy to get caught up in day to day issues and worries and can be enlightening to realize we’re just a blip on the radar when it comes to humanity. We are trying to answer many of the same questions people have been trying to answer for centuries.

Halfway there

July 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

26 weeks down. 26 more to go. It was fun to look back at all the photos of what I’ve done so far. It’s a lot more than I would have ever done in the past 6 months without this project. Actually, it’s a lot more than I’ve probably done in the past 10 years!

When I started this I wasn’t really sure that I would keep it going or that I would come up with 52 things that I actually wanted to do. I never planned more than a couple of weeks out to see how I was feeling at the beginning of each week. Now I find myself feeling like it’s going by really fast and I only have 26 more things to choose from this year. I want to be a little less random and really prioritize the rest.

I look back at when I started this and it was largely out of the fact I felt governed by my career. I had forgotten how to think for myself. I had lost touch with what I truly enjoyed doing and what I didn’t enjoy doing vs what seemed cool at the time. I also wanted to feel more settled for a change and connected to the place I was living in, Boulder.

I feel like I’ve accomplished all of these things over the past 6 months. I feel much more in control of my life again, I’ve met some amazing people and really feel like I’m a part of Boulder. I still find myself unsure of where I’ll end up when this is over. I don’t really want to go back to advertising full time. I worry a lot less about it though. The world has become a lot more interesting to me again. I feel like whatever it is I’ll be doing will reveal itself in due course.

I just wanted to say a big thanks to all of the people who have been encouraging me along the way. It’s not an easy project sometimes and the words of encouragement have been great. It’s been rewarding to reconnect with so many people through this blog that I haven’t been in touch with in years.

Onto the next 26 weeks! I have some fun ones planned…

end of month 5!

June 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

I realize that I forgot to write a recap last month. I guess I was busy planning for vacation. This month I will reflect on some of the things that have not gone quite as planned since the weeks that I tried them.

Composting

Compton had a short-lived life. After only having him less than a month, he split in two and I had to take him back to the store & exchange him. Bamboo is not a good material for dry climates like Colorado.

He was a good composting bin while he lasted.

Sadly he’s been replaced by a much less attractive ceramic composting bin who’ve I’ve decided will go nameless for now.

Aside from the Compton casualty I am still composting and it has significantly reduced the trash that goes out each week. I actually find it easier and more enjoyable than recycling because I imagine it ending up in someone’s garden.

CSA
I’m mad at myself for this one. I’ve been known to procrastinate from time to time and instead of joining right away, I put it off with excuses. I’m conflicted because I think it is a very worthwhile thing to invest in but for some reason I kept putting it off. I think I wanted to save the $ for our vacation at the time and then I started thinking about the fact we would be gone a number of weeks this Summer. I wondered whether it was worth it ultimately for us. I’ve decided in lieu of a CSA this year, we’ll make a trip to the farmer’s market each week to support our local farmers. If we are traveling less next year, then I’ll revisit whether a CSA makes sense.

Italian

I did not learn as much Italian as I had hoped before going on vacation to Italy. While I would love to speak multiple languages other than English, I think I need to be honest with myself that I should be investing in my Spanish. I used to be fluent and now I struggle to have casual conversations with people. Trying to learn Italian was really just making my Spanish that much worse. At least when I was over there I was able to understand a bit more than I would have but speaking is an entirely different thing that takes a lot of time & dedication. It’s time to get my Spanish back up to snuff because it’s something I’ll actually use here in the US.

I think those are enough confessions for now. It’s easy to want everything I spend time and energy on to work out perfectly but it’s no big deal when they don’t sometimes. For the things that don’t work out from this project, there are 5x as many things that do, so that’s worth it to me. The things that don’t work out also sometimes push me towards the things I’d rather do anyway, like brushing up on my Spanish vs trying to learn a whole other language.

I guess the important lesson I’ve learned so far is that it’s more worthwhile to have something fail when you’ve actually tried it or looked into it than when you’ve just made an excuse not to try in the first place.

1/4 way through

April 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

March has ended and I’m on week 14. I wondered if at this point I would still be able to come up with things I want to do. I’ve actually been thinking about how I want to make sure I get to do everything I want to before it’s over. Every week, one thing I do seems to turn me onto something else I’m interested in learning about.

Since I’m at a milestone of sorts I thought it would be fun to look back at what I have learned and loved the most about each week so far.

week 1: finding a signature cocktail. I love the cocktail I made but even more so the bartenders I got to know in Boulder who now try out lots of fun new concoctions on me when I come by.

week 2: learning to make pickles was exhausting but great. I think it was a tie between learning how easy kimchi is to make and how good it is for you and making pickled okra which I now always have around for a snack.

week 2: roasting my own coffee is a new passion. I still do it twice a week & have started narrowing down the kind of coffee I love the most (rwandan, papua new guinea, el salvadorian)

week 4: spending a week out doing winter activities pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was most proud of going skiing again after being too afraid for the last 15 years. Ice fishing was the funniest moment of the week.

week 5: i felt amazing after a yoga week. the highlight was definitely meeting Bikram, the real spiritual gangster.

week 6: bread making was my first hiccup…i’m not a bread maker. However, I did find a place I love called Great Harvest Bread Co where I now buy my bread every week. Scott is truly an inspiration.

week 7: making lace is a madwoman’s pastime. I was strangely frustrated yet addicted at the same time and was proud of the lace bookmark I made (which is now on my Mom’s refrigerator back in SC. 🙂

week 8: I got to meet some wonderful local farmers & join a CSA. I loved meeting the Monroe’s from Monroe Farms, one of the oldest organic farms in the country. I’m looking forward to wonderful weekly local produce.

week 9: looking into volunteering reminded me of the good side of humanity. I plan to get involved with the Therapeutic Riding Center when I’m done with traveling so much. I’m currently volunteering some strategic help with a truly special organization called Paradox Sports. Check them out. Malcolm, the enthusiastic Exec Director is hell bent on teaching me how to climb the flatirons here in Boulder to get over my fear of heights.

week 10: I saved a ton of money! About $5,000 for the year…just by calling up all of our service companies and hunkering down on cleaning.

week 11: This was my favorite week of all so far. I got to spend time with some of the best sommeliers in the country at Frasca. This week taught me how to learn about wine & made me appreciate it even more. I would live at Frasca if they let me.

week 12: After all the great wine, I thought I’d take it easy, get to bed early and catch 7 sunrises. I’ve definitely fallen in love with this time of day in Boulder. It’s the most beautiful time of day in such a gorgeous place.

week 13: I’m on my way to learning Italiano for our vacation in May! Slowly but surely I’m learning with RosettaStone to guide me. Andiamo!

month 2: to include or not to include

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Before working on Apple’s ad campaigns, I’d always admired Apple from afar as a “brand” that makes big waves. It’s true that it makes revolutionary products but what I learned most from them was how to simplify things through clarity and editing. A lot of that greatness comes down to a laser focus on what to include and what not to include. After a while this process became second-hand to me in my job.

I got to thinking this month about how I could apply what I learned from Apple in my life. I think I’ve had a tendency to expect big sweeping events to define my life. I’ve told myself my life will find its course when I move to that new city or get that new job or get promoted at that new job, etc. This project is starting to get me to see my life in a somewhat different light, made up of all kinds of small details I can choose to include or not to include. In Apple fashion, I’m finding clarity and editing through the details.

what to include? I have 3 key goals for this project: exploring personal interests, establishing a sense of Home & community and learning more about craft. When I think about “what to include” from what I’ve done so far, they are generally the things that add up to these goals. Home coffee roasting is probably the best example. It’s a fun way to enjoy something I love in a new way. I enjoy roasting coffee for my husband and our friends. I’ve gotten to know some of the local roasters who’ve given me more insight into the craft of roasting coffee. I’ve also enjoyed making my signature cocktail for friends. It was a great experience visiting local farms and I look forward to joining CSAs to help support them. I’ve embraced Winter and gotten to see where I live in a new light. In general, I’m learning I like things that provide a greater connection to people.

what not to include? I think part of enjoying life does involve editing out the things that don’t contribute in a meaningful way. We only have so much time. Part of this project is finding out what isn’t me or what I don’t really want to do. I think bread-making challenged me the most in that regard. I liked the aspect of meeting local bakers, especially Scott at Great Harvest Bread Co. who was so helpful. When it came to making bread, I just didn’t enjoy the process of it. It’s very stop & go with (in my case) a very questionable result. I found lace-making to be rewarding but also very isolating and frustrating. Hip hop yoga just wasn’t for me. Canning at high altitude = a crapshoot. Part of it might be that a week isn’t enough time to work through the trial and error of some of these things but overall I’m learning I’m not a big baker or bobbin lace maker.

It will be interesting to see where I net out at the end of the year.

My first month of doing is done

January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I’ve mentioned this project to people, a lot have said it reminds them of the Julie/Julia project where a woman from NYC spent a year cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” cookbook.  I’ve seen the movie and it got me thinking about how my project compares.

I give her a lot of credit. In 365 days she cooked 536 recipes as well as learning a lot about Julia Child’s life, sharing her experiences along the way. That is a lot to do with a full time job!  I will in no way do that many things in a year and I’m only working part time. I think her project gave her the opportunity to pursue a passion that went beyond her job which is something I’m hoping to get out of this project.

That said, feel like she adopted Julia’s persona for a year whereas I would like to just be me and see where that leads. I would like to believe I am a little more like Julia Child in the equation who got out and explored Paris at age 37, meeting new people, trying new things and finding what it was she was passionate about. I guess one could argue it is a little more challenging for me though because Boulder isn’t Paris…or is it?

I think it would be amazing if I found something at the end of this I was as passionate about as Julia Child was about cooking but I will totally settle for finding new, smaller scale things that can become little parts of my day that make for a happy little life.  At the very least, it feels good to think about something other than advertising all the time!

Here are the Top Tens of my first month of doing stuff (in order of the doing vs in order of importance):

1. Hanging out with Noah, a barmaster at the Bitter Bar who was instrumental in teaching me about cocktails. Seriously try the hot toddy he made.
2. Hearing the passion in Todd Leopold‘s voice as he talked about the craft of making their Leopold Brothers spirits. I would love to find a lifelong pursuit like that where you’re learning and fine tuning everyday.
3. Making my signature cocktail, The Doozy, with the beautiful vintage cocktail glasses my husband found at an antique shop in Ann Arbor.
4. Making kimchi! I have now found the most perfect snack that is one of the healthiest things you can eat, is inexpensive and is a piece of cake to make. My husband has now commandeered this role from me. 🙂
5. Keeping family traditions from dying out. I learned how to make the dill pickles my grandparents used to eat all the time and also made sauerkraut from scratch which my great grandparents always had around the house.
6. I tasted coffee for the first time. Not really, but it felt like it after roasting my own beans at home. This was such a simple thing to do (10 min), not to mention half the price of buying coffee. Thank you Sweet Maria’s!
7. Dropping a goodie bag of coffee and pickles on my friend’s doorstep. It felt so neighborly!
8. Going ice fishing with new friends we’ve made here in Boulder. Could not have been more random, could not have laughed harder and happily no fish were harmed in process (much to TJ’s chagrin).
9.  I got over my fear of skiing! In fact, I thought I would love cross country skiing the most but I think I loved downhill even more. I am no ski goddess yet, but there’s promise.
10. I went on a fun excursion up to Snow Mountain Ranch with my husband. We enjoyed an incredibly beautiful drive up there, huffed and puffed through some cross country skiing and enjoyed a great glass of wine at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in front of the fire. I think we’re both gaining a new appreciation for this beautiful state we live in.

All in all a pretty spectacular month!

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