Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happiness: A 2010 Project

I had seen a blog posted on Slate this past year called "The Happiness Project". I had read a few post here and there, but didn't really look into it in depth. Of course, at year's end, I finally took a closer look. Gretchen Rubin started the blog about trying to increase personal happiness. She has her own website with a whole happiness toolbox. Quite a few people have joined to work on their own personal happiness. In fact, she is even recruiting people to get involved with a more specific happiness program in 2010.

I thought this was quite interesting, especially as we approach the new year, when everyone starts working on those dreaded New Year's Resolutions that most of us fail at time and again. If you think about it, all New Year's Resolution are about increasing our personal happiness. Whether our resolution is to lose weight or spend more time with family or spend time on "me"- the end result should be in our being more happy about ourselves. Of course, we almost always "fail" or lapse in our resolutions just a few weeks or months into the new year. We make all sorts of excuses - the most common one being "I don't have time."

I think it is pretty sad that we are essentially saying "I don't have time be more happy." What a way to go through life, huh?

Ms. Rubin has a "Happiness Manifesto" on her website and encourages others to create their own manifestos. Of the several points in her manifesto, these stood out the most to me.

To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.
I like this because it doesn't buy into the fallicy that being happy means that you don't go through those tough days. You will have bad days. Also, it stresses that feeling happy and feeling right are not necessarily the same thing. One can be right and not feel good about being right. One can feel good and be very wrong. The point, I believe, is that being aware about your feelings and why you are feeling them provides you with a window into yourself. This will help you to deal the the bad days better, provide you with a guide for how to feel good, and check that your feelings are what you think they should be.

You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
Ms. Rubin uses this as a "fake it til you feel it" motto. That is all well and good. I think this goes more to awareness. I think we've all been in situations where we may have started out in being unhappy and suddenly realized that we were happy.We've also had those situations where we suddenly realized "I should be happy right now, but I'm not". Both of those situations require awareness.

The days are long, but the years are short.
Yes, we've had those bad days that seem to go on forever and ever and ever. We often dwell on them - bemoaning our wretched state, lamenting our mistakes, rehashing the sordid details until they are mush. But, we turn around one day and all of a sudden we realize "Wow, it's been 5 years since...." "Where did the time go?" "Has it been that long?" So, is it really important or necessary to dwell on each detail of the day? Or do we shake it off and look ahead? Like Anne Shirley (of Anne of Green Gables for those who may not know) says - "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it."

Think about yourself so that you can forget yourself.
Put in the time and energy on you when you need to and then you can just let go and be you. You aren't sitting there stressing about what you are doing wrong, what you should be doing, etc. This is SO much easier said than done. I think women especially have problems with this one.

Ms. Rubin talks about setting goals but she believes that they should be specific goals if you really want to increase your happiness. So instead of saying "I want to spend more time with my family", you might say, "I will set aside the 1st Wednesday of the month as Family Night." Instead of saying "I want to exercise more", you might say "I will go for a 10 minute walk before lunch everyday." These are much more manageable and more concrete. You know very clearly if you have achieved the goal or not.

To that end, here are my goals that I have set out for 2010 in an effort to improve my happiness:

Do a blog post at least 1x per week - even if it is just one line.
I have gotten all worked up over not having done a blog post for a while. I've also done the "I have nothing to write about" lament. By doing at least one post a week, I will no longer feel bad about not doing a post. By allowing the post to be one line if necessary allows me to "not have anything to write about".

Do a major cleaning (ie overhaul) of the house 2x this year - one in the spring and one in the fall.
I have complained for years about the how messy the house gets. We get those Asian Lady Beetles everywhere. The dust bunnies add up. We are visited by rodents. I will beat myself up for not doing a better job with cleaning (even though I do clean every week). I have realized that sometimes my cleaning is more lax than other times. Also, there are some chores that I have a tendancy to not do. By setting up major cleaning sessions (and doing them), I provide myself with the time to devote to those tasks. I ensure that I will have at least 2 times during the year when I can look around the house and not lament its state of cleanliness.

Work out times for visiting family.
It seems that Husband and I always feel like we should be spending more time with our family. Since doing so requires a lot of time and travel, I think we need to work out some times in order to do so. I know I feel much better when I have a schedule and a plan on how to get things done. I know it is nice to simply "drop in" sometimes, but I will admit that doing so happens too rarely.

What about you? What would be some of your goals towards increasing your happiness in 2010?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

And I'm Baaaacccckkk! And Merry Christmas

Ok, I was going to post this on Christmas Eve. However, our internet went down on Wednesday and didn't come back until tonight. Talk about withdrawl! So, I am posting the post that I had intended to post Christmas Eve. I know, I know - I haven't posted since October. Add "be more consistent with blog posting" to my New Year's Resolution List. Here we go!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

This Christmas has not turned out exactly as I would have liked. Due to Snowpocalypse 2009: The Christmas Edition, we were unable to have family down for Christmas Eve dinner. Alas! It also looks unlikely that we will be able to meet up with more family on Christmas Day. I suppose it is my own fault, really. I wanted a “White Christmas” and well, I got it. I only wish this power worked on the lottery.

This was to be the first Christmas Dinner that I would host. I have to admit that I was really looking forward to it. It was going to be a hodgepodge of my family traditions, Hubby’s traditions, and some new ones we would start ourselves.

So, here we are, snowed in at home with a whole lotta food and only the two of us. For those of you who could not make it, here is what you will be missing:

One 14.5lb ham, served Alton Brown-style. This means scored skin (to release the fat) then slathered with mustard and brown sugar, covered with ginger snaps (in this case, thin homemade ginger cookies) and spritzed with bourbon. Then it is baked til a nice crust is formed.

Creamy mashed potatoes. This is done with my Dad’s potatoes (he’s a potato farmer), riced with a potato ricer, and mixed with heavy cream and butter. There is ham gravy to go over the top.

A winter salad. This is made with bitter winter greens, olives, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, nuts, cranberries, fresh goat cheese and topped with a dressing of good olive oil and local apple cider vinegar.

Grandma Clara’s Peppermint Dessert (sorry - no photo). This is a dessert from my childhood. My grandma made it every year and I love it. It is also really easy. It is powdered peppermints (in a food processor) folded into a pint of whipped cream. This is mixed with half a bag of puffed up marshmallows (done in the microwave with a bit of milk) and chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts). The mixture is poured into a pan that has been filled along the bottom with graham cracker crumbs. The concoction is frozen. You serve it by cutting out squares. These are minty squares of deliciousness!

Rommegrot. Yes, I grew up having rommegrot for Christmas. I also grew up having lutefisk for Christmas, but that is a tradition I am willing to let go. However, I love rommegrot (or as my husband dubs it “sweet wallpaper paste”). I occasionally get butter to separate out of the mixture, but not always. I don’t care though – a bowl with some melted butter, cinnamon and sugar and I am home!

Raisin-Eggnog Bread Pudding. I wanted to bring a new dish to the table. The Hubby had mentioned possibly doing a bread pudding and so I went onto the trusty interwebs to find what was out there. I came across a recipe for Raisin-Eggnog Bread Pudding at this blog. The recipe looked simple enough and quite tasty. There was even a link to a homemade raising bread recipe. The raisin bread is mixed with eggnog, eggs, sugar, brandy and rum. The top is sprinkled with nutmeg. I’m very excited about this.

Lefse. I don’t make good lefse. I have tried and failed. Crispy lefse is not a good thing. Luckily for me, there is a woman near here that makes excellent lefse. I have stocked up with her lefse. Yay lefse!

Christmas Cookies. I was a little lazy in the cookie department this year. I only made spritzes and ginger cookies. Perhaps in the future I will be more ambitious. However, since you can see I already have 4 other sweets on this menu, I figured that this would be enough.

What has been very nice is that we’ve been able to visit with some of the neighbors. One couple stopped by yesterday with cookies, banana bread, and homemade eggnog. It was great, because we were going to head over to visit them and bring them some 2009 Nocino. We sat around and talked while drinking some Tom and Jerry’s (mixed with bourbon and rum) while snacking on nuts and chippers (potato chips covered with chocolate – this is VERY good – you must try it!).

Today, another neighbor came by to help us clear out our driveway. We have a little lawn tractor with a little plow on the front. However, it only can handle about 2 inches of snow. Anything above that and it really just spins its wheels. Our neighbor came over with his tractor and big snow blower and cleared out the driveway in about 10 minutes. He came in for a drink and conversation and we gave him a bottle of 2009 Nocino. He said that he would come by tomorrow (we are supposed to get another 6-8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow). It’s great to have fantastic neighbors!

Finally, I acknowledge that I have been very lax in updating this blog. Ok, lax is an understatement. How about completely off the grid? Anyway, we’ve been doing a lot of good eating since my last post (in October!) and I hope to catch everyone up with what has been going on between then and now. Also, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more consistent with my blog postings.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!