"I have learned a few strategies for making new year resolutions: keep them simple, tell as few people about them as possible and do not under any circumstances write them down." Tim Dowling - The Guardian
Well I did write them down, although I don't think I really told anyone about them - well maybe I did a post about them - and I did keep them simple.
The first week of January is upon us - well tomorrow it will be. New year, new start, which when you think about it is a ridiculous concept. I mean it's just another day in your life and it's certainly not even a new year to the billions of Chinese and others whose years run to a different rhythm. And the supermarkets have obviously abandoned the entire notion of landmark dates, such as New Year's Eve, by selling Easter hot cross buns already. I confess - we bought some because we like them. Although we would be just as happy with fruit buns without a cross on them.
Nevertheless, because I'm always looking for things to hang a blog post on, today, being the last day of 2022 I am looking at my past year's resolutions - shown here.
For the last few years I have been writing them in the front of my next year's diary, which as you know, for 2022 was the disappointing French Country Diary. Indeed one of its disappointments was that there were no empty pages for notes or anything similar so I had to use the space on the title page. I take that back - right at the back of the book I now see, was a page for Special Events - an odd thing to have. But the back of the book just doesn't seem right for making a new start by making resolutions. Anyway - I made a few and I will come to them in a minute.
So yes, against Tim Dowling's advice I wrote them down and can therefore see how badly (or not - we shall see) I failed. And the first thing I notice is that initially I seem to have decided I wouldn't make any. Most of the gurus do indeed give this advice because it just sets you up for failure, disappointment, depression, low self-esteem ... And yet it seems I just couldn't resist.
But here's one thing I found as I 'researched', that goals and plans are different. A goal is something large - give up smoking, lose kilos of weight, or something even more amorphous like be happy, be kinder... And these are more or less unattainable, not just because they are generally so huge, but also because they are also somewhat undefinable.
Looking at my little list I see that they are really plans maybe even a list of tasks rather than goals. I also see that they are mostly food related. Which implies that I only think about food all the time, which is just not true. In fact I had other goals/plans/ideas of how to pass the time which I did not write down and which I am only dimly aware of anyway. Like read more books. They're probably those huge, immensely vague things like be a better person.
So let's go through my mini goals.
Arrange three long weekends away. COVID permitting.
Abject, complete failure here. I think I made this resolution because the year before we had travelled to the King Valley in Victoria for a couple of nights with friends and had enjoyed it so much that I vowed to do more. But it didn't happen - inertia I believe. However we did finally make it to Port Douglas for 10 days, so does that count I wonder. Three long weekends in one trip? I suspect that's sort of cheating, however wonderful it was, in spite of the down moments - well it was family.
Then we're into the foodie resolutions/aims.
Cook a recipe from my early gurus and a new one from anywhere - alternating week by week.
This is an interesting one in that although I have not quite achieved that aim, I have done pretty well on it. With one proviso. I completely forgot about alternating between something completely new like this 5 star Curried cauliflower cheese filo pie from Ottolenghi and co, and something from one of my early cooking gurus - Elizabeth David, Robert Carrier, Jane Grigson, Delia Smith, Claudia Roden. Well I completely forgot the gurus although I have no doubt that here and there throughout the year I have cooked one of their dishes. But no, I completely forgot about alternating and just concentrated on the completely new. And I have to say that, probably rather unimaginatively those have been mostly from Ottolenghi and crew. Not completely but often. So no I could not say that I have religiously completed that goal every week, but overall I have made a lot of new dishes, and so I feel that the larger aim of extending my cooking range and trying new things, as it were, was achieved.
A family meal once a month
Again only a very partial success here, and really most of the family gatherings have been hosted by my younger son in his much larger house. This was an early Christmas dinner as they departed for a long holiday in Europe shortly after this occasion. Of course we have gathered for birthdays but those have often been in restaurants, and we have had the occasional barbecue here, but no - not enough. When I think about it though the 'resolution' did not say that it had to be a home hosted thing - just a family meal somewhere. This year I shall be trying to make it a regular thing - once a month ought to be achievable, although of course, once the grandchildren hit teenage the weekends become very full. 'Could do better' would be the appropriate report card status for this one.
A friends meal every 2 months
Hosting one that is. Abject failure here. I think I may have done it once or twice but not more. I am determined to improve on this because I fear I am losing touch with them all. Our little world is shrinking to just we two - never a good thing.
Fish, vegetarian once a week - no chocolate
I actually extended this one to a new dish, a fish dish, a vegetarian dish and something with legumes - once a week for each of them. And I have pretty much kept to this. Well not always, but enough for me to be consciously trying to incorporate all of them into the week, and often enough that I don't get too upset about not keeping strictly to the plan.. I have to confess that the legumes have suffered most from being forgotten, unless you count peas. And when I do remember them it's mostly as a part of a dish rather than the main event. Above is one of the fish dishes I tried, although at the moment I cannot for the life of me remember what it is. Is it somebody's recipe or did I make it up? For these dishes - except the 'new' category do not have to be new. And why did I include 'no chocolate' in this? It was certainly immediately forgotten. Which isn't to say that I eat a lot of chocolate. That is David's vice. But I do eat some every now and then. Well at least once a week I suppose. So I think this rates a 'Fairly good on the whole' report.
Queen Vic Market
Abject failure. I have not been there at all even though I have repeatedly exhorted myself to do so. Particularly when the price of iceberg lettuce hit that historic high. So this one I am really vowing to get back into my routine. To visit at least once a month. We used to do it every fortnight before COVID, but that now seems like dreamtime. Way, way back in history. Stopped by COVID of course, but not renewed.
Eat locally every 2 months
If it wasn't for the June birthdays and our recent anniversary - both celebrated at local fine diner Mercer's - this too would be an abject failure. And really I count it as just that because my intention was to try out all the small suburban eateries that abound in Eltham and surrounds. We did eat out in the Yarra Valley once but again that was not what I meant and it was instigated by friends not us. No I meant to investigate the local Indian and Thai and Italian restaurants, and all the others too with just David. There are a lot. Ironically, David, who really doesn't like dining out, has done more of it than I when he meets up with his economic group friends over coffee and cake or lunch. Not me. So I'm going to put this back on my 2023 list.
And that statement implies that I won't do what all the experts say we should do and not make any resolutions. And not write them down anyway. Tim Dowling had some good advice to get over those feelings of failure:
"Maybe I’ll spend New Year’s Eve thinking about the things I did actually manage to achieve in the past 12 months and exhibit a bit of gratitude for all the bad outcomes that somehow passed me by in 2022." Tim Dowling
Overall on those actual resolutions I don't think I did too badly. I was never really expecting to achieve a 100% success rate. I managed to maintain my weight at the level I have set. I have walked on a fairly regular basis even if it wasn't quite enough. I have kept writing this blog, even if I don't manage to do it every day, even if I repeat myself, and even if the posts are not always that interesting. It's a little tick in the box every time I write one which is a satisfaction in itself. And we have avoided COVID. This year anyway.
Know yourself, said one advice article - another way of saying don't be unrealistic. I'm pretty sure that these days I am more realistic, although I see that in some cases I was completely unrealistic - those weekends away, the dinners with friends, the eating out informally more often. I think that's because those resolutions involve others - namely a husband who is a real home body and who finds preparing for hospitality events at home a strain. I worry about his enjoyment of things, and so don't forge ahead:
"But worry on its own doesn’t fix anything, and it doesn’t achieve anything. Travel anxiety won’t prevent a holiday disaster ..." Tim Dowling - The Guardian
So maybe I should be braver:
"Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Whatever you're scared of doing, Do it." Neil Gaiman
I turn 80 next year. Another one of those milestones which is really just another day in the life but I need to think of something really special to mark it. It might be the last major milestone in my life. Not true - later in the year my son will turn 50 - more alarming than myself turning 80, but another possibility for some kind of celebration. I've never been brave either, and I suspect that that is not going to change this late in life.
And I should be more instantaneous - more 'open that special bottle of wine' and other stupid excuses for a party occasions.
So happy new year to you all.
"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." Neil Gaiman