There have been many words this year.
First, there was adventure.
Adventure is your favorite celebrity who encourages you to dream big. He wants you to break free from your everyday routines and try something new. Adventure knows that you don't like uncertainty, but that you need a little bit of it in your life.
Adventure says: "2017 will be a defining year in your life. You will either change or you won't."
Then, there was self-love.
Self-love is a friend who insists you focus on yourself. She makes you look inward, and forces you to confront all the things you would maybe rather choose to ignore. Self-love knows that you want to support your family & friends, but that you need to be selfish sometimes.
Self-love says: " You are the center of your universe. Treat yourself accordingly."
At some point, nourish chimed in.
Nourish is a personal trainer who asks you to take care of yourself in a way that is healthy & good for you. He asks you to divide your energy up between yourself and the people you care about, to focus on all the different parts of your life that matter. Nourish knows that you have a hard time choosing your priorities, but that you are happier when you do.
Nourish says: "You have to feed the things that matter to you. Everything else is just noise"
Finally, along came balance.
Balance is the wise older aunt who has seen some shit. She wants you to be happy, and to feel at peace. Balance knows that too much is not good, but too little isn't great, either.
Balance says: "You know instinctively what you need. All things in moderation."
All of them have things that I need, but for 2017, I am asking balance to sit at my table. When I think of where I am, where I want to be, and how I want to feel, that's what I crave in my life right now: balance.
life and work,
body and mind,
indulgence and health,
adventure and calm,
travel and home,
spending and saving,
new things and old favorites.
What's your theme for the year?
Ever since I was little, I have loved cooking. And ever since I discovered Jamie Oliver, I have loved Jamie Oliver. When I was able to eat at his Fifteen restaurant in 2015, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far. This year, one of my goals is to reconnect with the things that really make me happy: reading, photography, and cooking.
When I was thinking about how to go about taking cooking from something utilitarian - what can I make quickly, that is mostly healthy, fits all of our dietary restrictions, and will keep well for my lunches during the work week - back to something pleasant that brings me joy & respite, I thought about the movie Julie & Julia. In real life, Julia Childs was not a fan of blogger Julie Powell's project, but I liked the idea of commiting to something for an entire year (plus you can't beat Meryl Streep).
This year, I've decided that I will complete 52 recipes from Jamie Oliver. I'll be using the ones I cut out of the Jamie Magazine subscription I had this year, plus recipes from five cookbooks:
- Jamie's Italy
- Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook
- Jamie does... Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece, France
- Jamie's Comfort Food
- Everyday Super Food
Some weeks, I probably won't get around to making a recipe, or it simply won't fit in with our schedule and requirements that week. Other weeks, I might combine a couple of recipes to make a full meal. You can follow along on Instagram, where everything will be documented using the hashtag #myyearwithjamie. Periodically, I'll be updating the list below with my progress, as well as a tiny review of how the recipe worked out/tasted.
I'm really looking forward to this challenge. Some of the recipes are quite intricate, some are very simple, and some are old favorites, but all of them make me incredibly excited to get into the kitchen & create a few messes.
Are you planning any major creative projects this year?
I'd love to hear about them!
Recipes (in no particular order):
- Baked Egg in Beans (Everyday Superfood, p. 16)
- Toasted Oats (Everyday Superfood, p. 62)
- Cheese & Corn Pancakes (Everyday Superfood, p. 74)
- Healthy Chicken Caesar Salad (Everyday Superfood, p. 94)
- Corn & Quinoa Salad (Everyday Superfood, p. 152)
Beetroot Winter Salad (Cook With Jamie, p. 36) Homemade Pasta Dough + Oozy Egg Ravioli (Cook With Jamie, p. 84/106)
- Schnitzel with Watercress & Homemade Applesauce (Cook With Jamie, p. 182)
- Chicken Tikka Masala (Comfort Foods, p. 16)
- Classic Porridge (Comfort Foods, p. 84)
- Insanity Burger (Comfort Foods, p. 94)
- Superfood Salad (Comfort Foods, p. 174)
- Saffron Risotto (Comfort Foods, p. 246)
- Eggs Benedict (Comfort Foods, p. 302)
Tarte Tatin (Comfort Foods, p. 378)
- Stuffed Courgette Flowers (Jamie Does..., p. 78)
- Minestrone (Jamie Does..., p. 92)
- Swedish Meatballs (Jamie Does..., p. 130)
Split Pea Soup (Jamie Does..., p. 132)
- Chicken, Olive, and Preserved Lemon Tagine (Jamie Does..., p. 208)
Greek Salad (Jamie Does..., p. 238) Gigantes Plaka (Jamie Does..., p. 266)
- Chicken & Bean Soup (Jamie Does..., p. 310)
- Fried Ricotta (Jamie's Italy, p. 12)
- Spaghetti Fritters (Jamie's Italy, p. 36)
- Fried Pizza (Jamie's Italy, p. 59)
- Pea Soup (Jamie's Italy, p. 80)
- Baked Pasta (Jamie's Italy, p. 114)
- Spring Veggie Stew (Jamie's Italy, p. 251)
Farro with Tomatoes and Garlic Basic Stew with Mash Topping
- Baby Back Ribs with Grilled Corn
- Spiced Meatballs with Noodles and Pickled Watermelon
- Pot-roast Chicken
- Asparagus Carbonara
- Pappardelle with Fennel-Sausage Ragout
- Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup
- Watercress and Pork Balls Noodle Soup
- Poached Chicken and Asparagus Soup
- Bone Broth Brodo
- Blueberry Pancakes with Honeycomb and Bacon Butter
- Classic Crumpets
- Appel and Sorrel Granita
Apple Bourdelot Lemon and Pistacchio Marble Cake
- Pavlova with Hibiscus-poached Pears
- Sweetcorn Panacotta with Caramel Popcorn
- Coconut, Beef, and Potato Curry
- Wild Garlic, Mushroom, and Ricotta Tortellini
- Alpahabet Soup
- Citrus Trifle with Lemon Curd, Lime Sponge, and Orange Blossom Jelly
As anyone who knows me can attest to, I LOVE movies. I know more about random movies that I've never even seen than I do about important things like stain removal & car insurance, but to me, that is an acceptable trade-off.
Unfortunately, going to the cinema is incredibly expensive here in Germany, especially when you want to see movies in the original English version. I have to drive to the nearest bigger city as well, so I don't go nearly as often as I would like. When I do, though, it's almost always worth it.
In 2016, I went to the cinema just 10 times, and two of those were only possible because I was visiting my parents where it was a lot cheaper. Technically, I only saw 9 movies, because I watched Captain America: Civil War twice. Which probably also makes it easy to guess what movie was my favorite this year ;) The other films I went to see are:
- Star Wars: Awakening
- Mother's Day (terrible)
- Angry Birds
- Star Trek: Beyond
- Finding Dory
- Dr. Strange (underwhelmed)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
What I love most about that list? Except for Mother's Day (a lovely day out, but only happened because I was visiting my parents), it's basically animated movies for children on the one hand, and massive explosion-filled blockbusters on the other hand. Which pretty much sums me up neatly.
As Roger Ebert said:
I firmly believe this to be true. If someone is really into horror movies and high-brow French dramas, we probably won't be a good fit. The person I fall in love with will think it's adorable how excited I get about movies that make up for their lack of story with an abundance of fights & screeching tires, and will indulge my love of adorable animated creatures, princesses & fairytales.
Until he shows up, I will continue to go to the cinema on my own, and it will remain one of my favorite things to do. But I digress.
What I came up with is a simple template divided into two parts: Looking Back and Looking Ahead. I like having the two side-by-side because it makes it easier for me to visualize what I want the new year to look like.
On the "Looking Back" side, you will find some questions prompting you to look at both the highlights & low points of the year (equally important, I think), what lessons you learned, and what you really enjoyed. For me, that includes the places I traveled and the movies I managed to see in the theater.
If you don't love movies as much as I do, you can simply change that question to something that means a lot to you, like your favorite books, biggest adventures, or most memorable meals of 2016.
On the "Looking Ahead" side, I've accumulated questions that will help you lay the foundation for your 2017 resolutions, or, if you're not into that, will set a tone for your upcoming year. Even if you don't like setting specific goals, I believe it's important to think about what you want a year to feel like & be focused on.
Again, movies are included in the list of questions - more specifically, the movies I'm looking forward to next year. In case you're wondering, my most-anticipated films of 2017 are Fast 8, Logan, John Wick 2, Beauty & the Beast, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
Movies or no, I hope this collection of questions is helpful for you in recapping your year & planning for the new one that's just around the corner!
You can download the template here: 2016 in Review & Looking Ahead to 2017
What were your favorite movies this year?
We stood in the cold for an hour. I was apprehensive, unsure whether my ticket, purchased from a reseller, would actually allow me to enter the venue. Dread was building at the base of my skull, the low buzz of anxiety slowly turning into a howl. What if they didn't let me in? What if my ticket wasn't valid, what if I had flown all this way for no reason? What would I do then?
The parents in front of me, who were accompanying their teenage daughter and her friend, reassured me: they bought their tickets there as well, if the security people at the entrance made a fuss they would support me, or even help me buy a ticket off a scalper - after all, "we understand how much this means to our daughter, it must mean even more to you, having traveled so far; we've got you luv". Never in my life have I been called "luv" and "darlin'" as much as I was in Manchester. Their kind reassurance made the anxiety receded to its normal, dull thrum.
Finally, the line started to move, at first slowly and then more quickly, towards the door, towards a dream I've had since I was 14. As we reached the door, the parents and two teenagers were able to enter without problem, and then kindly waited for me to get in as well. Never have I ever anticipated a "bip" as much as when the security guard's scanner was hovering over my ticket. When it finally sounded, the rush of relief was immediate and immense. The parents gave me a quick hug, we wished each other lots of fun, and all of us entered the venue.
Making my way toward the stage of what felt like a perfectly-sized room (capacity about 3000), I noticed something that made me very happy: British women (at least those in Manchester) are really short, most of them only coming up to my chest or shoulders. I fell in line with two boyfriends who had been dragged along; at about 1,80m they weren't giants, but with me in the middle as the anchor, we presented an unbreachable wall to the people behind us. Their line of sight completely blocked, we also instinctively closed ranks whenever someone tried to push through. I felt bad for a second, but then remembered that I had spent more than 120 Euros to even be in the room, so my guilt quickly dissipated.
Random songs blaring from the speakers, we stood for another hour. As my legs grew stiff, the tension started creeping up my spine: what if they didn't show up? What if the sound was bad, or they simply did their set and left? Normally, I try to keep my expectations on the lower end of the scale, so as to avoid disappointment. Tonight, however, 13 years of expectations were pushing down on me, and the voice in my head was just waiting, begging for me to be wrong so it could tell me "I told you so". An unmemorable opening act, playing four songs to lukewarm reception, came and went, after which we stood for another hour.
And then... then the first few chords came crashing through the speakers. As the crowd let out a roar, the four members of McFly took the stage, and everything just fell away. The anxiety, the worries - I forgot about all of it. Transported back to the first time I carefully placed the single into my discman, plugging the headphones into my ears, my foot tapping along to the beat, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience: I knew what I was seeing and hearing was real, but couldn't believe that I was actually there. Standing ten feet away from the stage, people screaming and jumping and singing all around me, "5 Colors in Her Hair" splashing down on all of us, tears started rolling down my face and I felt... calm. At peace. And unshakeably, uncontrollably happy.
After the first song was over, the sensation rushed back into my body, and for the next 1 1/2 hours, I enjoyed what has arguably gone down as the best night of my life. Singing along to all the songs I knew by heart, occasionally bumping into one of the two very patient (if slightly uninterested) boyfriends, I enjoyed 90 minutes of pure, anxiety-free, and complete happiness. Leaving the theater, tour poster carefully tucked under my arm, I fell out into the cold night air. I practically floated back to the hotel, replaying all the little moments between the guys in my head, reveling in the fact that they played two of my favorite songs at the very end of the show, and laughing quietly at the people who jumped over each other to catch an empty can that was thrown from the stage (why??).
Falling into bed exhausted from smiling so much (not even making that up), I lay awake for another hour watching all the videos I took, excited about the fact that there were no hands in the way (thank you, short Manchunian ladies) and enjoying the crisp, high-quality sound of the music I love (thank you, Nokia Lumia).
When I finally fell asleep, for the first time in a long time, the little voice in my head was quiet. Because after such an incredible night, there was no anxiety, no worries, no nagging, no thrum... just happiness. And wonderful, incredible silence.