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January 13, 2012 by Daniora

New Year’s Resolutions. They can be hard to make and are harder to keep. We’re two weeks into the year, and I’m sure most of us who made resolutions have already broken at least one. Case in point: This post was supposed to be done two weeks ago.

That being said, the new year is a good excuse to start doing new things in your life. I think people inherently like deadlines and due dates. New Year’s is the perfect universal start date. So here are a few resolutions that I think we should all try and keep. These aren’t the usual “I will lose 15 pounds” or “I will take the dog for a walk every day”. These are more general resolutions that will help make life better for all of us.

1. Try something new.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. Everyone is so busy these days, falling back on “the old standbys” is a quick and easy solution. We’ve also developed into a society that is totally opposed to mistakes and failure. To combat this, we should all try something new at least once a week. It can be a new food, a new recipe, or a new hobby. Our local technical school has a large variety of classes from auto repair to cooking that meet once or twice a week for a few weeks. They are very reasonably priced and are a great way to try your hand at something new. It’s fine if you wind up not enjoying it or if it turns out to be a complete disaster; even negative experiences help enrich our lives. Besides, you might find there are a lot of awesome things that you didn’t even know you enjoyed.

2. Read labels. It could be on your food, your clothing, or your new mattress. Wherever it is, give the label a read. Make sure you know what you’re eating, how to wash your clothes, or how not to remove this tag under penalty of law. Labels have a lot of useful information that you might not have known. I think this is especially eye opening on food packages. The number of sneaky, not good for you, extra ingredients or the number of servings that are really in that little bag of chips can be alarming. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat them, but reading the label will make you more aware of what you are eating.

3. Read instructions. This goes hand in hand with number two. The instructions will not only tell you the right way to do things, they can also tell you about features you didn’t even know you had access. I find this to be especially true when installing new software or playing with a new piece of hardware. If I have a good idea of how something works, I’ll usually just plow ahead and get right to work. Eventually, I’ll need to look something up in the manual and find out that there were easier ways to do things all along. I am all too familiar with the phrase “I didn’t know it could do that”.

4. Use the right tool. We don’t own a set of dry measuring cups. The fact that my baking adventures turn out as well as they do in spite of this is a testament to the quality of the recipes I’m using. While I do take Alton Brown’s stand of not having a lot of one function tools around, having the proper tools for what you’re doing will make everything easier and faster with a greater chance of success. When you’re done using the proper tools, put them back where they belong. You’ll be less likely to reach for the wrong tool if the right one is easily accessible.

5. Back things up. I don’t take pictures with a film camera anymore. Most people don’t. As a result, every precious photographed memory I have from the last six or so years is stored as little bits of data on a hard drive. This is a scary situation. Almost everything else on my computer can be reacquired or reloaded. My pictures are irreplaceable.  The only solution is to back them up. I regularly back all my photos up on an external hard drive and hope to add a second cloud storage back up in the near future. The double back up ensures that your files will be safe and sound should anything happen to your computer.

6. Finish things. I am totally awesome at starting projects. Just ask my husband. I am slightly less awesome at finishing them. I think part of the problem is that every project I start working on spawns ideas for more things to do. I get so excited about these new projects that the original ones get put aside. So this year, I’m going to try and finish some of them. I’ll probably still have multiple things going at once, but at least I’ll have more entering that “finished” pile than going into the huge boxes of “work in progress”.

7. Take a tech break. I adore technology and gadgets. I also know that I spend way too much time using them. So this year I’m going to try and take a break more often, and I hope you’ll join me. Read a book, make something by hand, play a board game with friends. We don’t have to all become hermits living in a shack in the woods, but we can put our smart phones down for a little while.

8. Make things by hand or from scratch. So, back on resolution two you read the labels and saw all the extra stuff in the food you eat. So why not try making some of it from scratch? You don’t have to make everything from scratch, but there are plenty of things that are easy to make and actually wind up better tasting and better for you than store bought. Salad dressing is a prime example of this. It’s super fast and easy to make and turns out better than anything you’d buy in a bottle. Whipped cream is way better made from scratch and homemade marshmallows, while a bit more of a challenge, are out of this world. Making other things by hand is a great way to get into that trying new things bit we talked about earlier and it makes you appreciate just how much work goes into every day things.

9. Support artisans and craftspeople. Let’s face it; there are a lot of things we’re not going to make ourselves. For those things, why not get them from an artisan or a local source rather than factory made? I love farmers’ markets for jam and jelly and sometimes baked goods. Etsy is a great source for handmade stuff; there’s a lot of crap on there, but there’s a lot of really awesome handicrafts too. Maybe you make jelly and a friend bakes bread. Why not start a barter system? I traded a shirt for the Renaissance Faire that I made to a friend who is knitting me fingerless gloves. Trading with others is a great way for you do get something you need by doing something you enjoy.

10. Take care of yourself. I know, I know, I said this wouldn’t be the “lose 15 pounds” kind of list. Let’s face it, though. We all get so caught up in all of our everyday stuff that we don’t always do what’s best for our minds and bodies. So this year, fix that. Get some sleep. Eat well. Get a little fresh air and sunshine. Take five minutes to decompress and relax. Enjoy your food.

There you have it. Ten things we can all do this year to make 2012 the best year yet.

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