January 4, 2013

Themes (and a Salad!) for the New Year

Happy new year, friends! I hope you were able to dedicate some time to yourself over the holidays away from work and obligations to be decadent and indulgent. I rode a train north to Massachusetts to meet my family in Northampton. It snowed on Christmas Day, my niece wore no fewer than three hand-me-down Christmas ensembles, and I felt restored to myself, just for having a wide open expanse of time. Some of what I learned included:

  • Being able to go and stay offline––for days!––feels like the rarest and most glorious kind of luxury
  • I love the Mindy Project (and Dr. Danny Castellano)
  • It can take a full week for the stress and anxieties of work to lose their grip on you
  • If someone offers you a shot of innocent-enough sounding pink gin (which is actually the vile combination of gin spiked with bitters), do not kick it back
  • A long winter walk can ease just about any kind of hurt
  • Grown adults can sit in a circle and be entertained for hours by the smiles, squeaks, and flirty expressions of a five month-old
  • It feels good to set time aside to dream
  • Another rare and glorious luxury: slipping into an outdoor hot tub surrounded by packed snow, bare tree branches stretching over your head
  • I am a woman who wants to wear a furry hat

Over the holidays I watched the documentary The Queen of Versailles, a movie about David Siegel and his time-share business and family. One scary scene brings you into a motivational sales meeting. The man at the front of the room, in sort of creepy Tom Cruise in Magnolia-like fashion, tells a crowd of time-share sales reps that they are just like doctors, like nurses, like firefighters. “Vacations save lives,” he tells them. Well, I had to give him that. Studies do show how vacations encourage physical and emotional well-being, and right now, fresh from time with my friends, my family, and to myself, I feel it. I feel optimistic and grounded, lucky, loved, and centered.

I haven’t been one for resolutions lately. Last year, I gave myself a theme to repeat to myself like a refrain: Back to Basics. With its simple encouragement to stay tuned in to what matters, it’s one I’d like to keep up this year. I’d also like to wear more flattering v-neck t-shirts and read more books. But I think my strongest thematic influence this year, which I will share at the risk of sounding like Iris McKay, is inspired by the two archetypal feminine cards in the tarot deck: The High Priestess, who is complicated and confusing to me, but who stands for potential, mystery, and the magic of the unseen world, and The Empress, who is as wonderfully straight-forward as a woman lounging on a chaise in a woodland scene, wearing a flowing gown and a crown of stars can be. All of my intentions for the year, though, are bound up in a bigger one: to be with what’s here right now. It’s a resolution I could make for a lifetime.

In the spirit of fresh starts, and because you, like me, are probably craving vegetables right now, I also wanted to share my current favorite winter salad. It’s as simple as can be really, and more a template than a recipe: any roast squash will do, some chopped apple, the nut or seed of your choice tossed with lots of shredded kale and a sweet-tart apple cider vinaigrette. Before the holidays I was sprinkling this salad with a bit of blue cheese, but if that feels too hedonistic, I think some pomegranate seeds would be just lovely.

If you feel like sharing, my questions are manifold: what themes/resolutions/intentions are you thinking about for the new year? What vibrant, healthy meals are you making right now? And what did you learn on your winter vacation?


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  • Kristina Strain: Happy new year! Our goals for the year are to renew our passports and get out of the country, and to sell our old house in Binghamton, which we’ve been renting for the past year and I feel is holding us back.

    My salad-of-the-moment is arugula with toasted pumpkin seeds and craisins soaked for a few hours in a tangy dijon vinaigrette. When the craisins are fat, just spoon them over the greens and let the dressing drip off them. AHmazin.2 years ago

  • Yes, here’s to out of the country vacations!2 years ago

  • Jess: This is so beautiful, Sarah. I’ve been feeling inspired by the idea of really appreciating the good I have, rather than obsessively focusing on ways to make things better–thanks so much for the boost :) And just my two cents, but you would look stellar in a lush fur hat!2 years ago

  • Lana: Happy New Year, Sarah! First, my resolution was pretty open and roomy. You can read about it here: http://www.mondaysnugget.com/2013/01/2013-chapter-1.html
    My favorite food of the moment is turnip greens with bowtie noodles, garlic and anchovies! Oh, how I love how those little fish can transform a dish! However, this salad looks incredible and I can’t wait to try it!
    Lesson from winter vacation: when making Christmas pies around a two year old, always make a tiny one just for her to eat right out of the oven. It’s impossible for a child to understand the phrase, “We have to wait until the guests arrive to slice the pie!” :)2 years ago

  • Amanda Bretz: My theme for 2013 is creating depth. I chose it to force myself to remember to think, feel and act from a deeper place, no matter what life throws at me this year.

    This week I made a sort of chef’s salad, romaine and iceberg lettuce, hard boiled eggs, bacon, tomato, red onion, cucumbers, carrots and croutons. I hadn’t had one in ages, and sometimes a simple, classic dish just hits the spot! This time of year I also enjoy a nice caprese salad with balsamic and olive oil. 😉

    Over my winter vacation I learned to really enjoy the company of those I am with because we just never know what will happen tomorrow. :)2 years ago

  • Arwen: I’ve been completely enamoured by this workbook+planner I got. It’s all about goals and how to hit them but it’s not obnoxious. Very positive and motivating. I normally dislike them but this one? Well let’s just say that one of my BIG dreams for 2013 has already come true (I wanted a well known artist in the Tarot community to illustrate a spreads book I am releasing soon. That artist is now working on my book. *THUD* HUGE! I’ve also been working on my word for the year and finally came up with it while working on this planner. So yeah, it’s going to be an amazing year. 😀 That’s my theme…amazing. Food wise? I’m looking for things that are high in fiber and low in sugar due to being diagnosed with diabetes II last year. Wheee!2 years ago

  • tea_austen: This is so lovely, Sarah, and so true.
    This year I learned/was reminded that, when we don’t take care of ourselves and take time off, we end up getting sick for the holidays.
    It’s a lesson I am not going to soon forget :-)
    Happy New Year to you! Here’s to a wonderful 2013.2 years ago

  • Melissa @ Hilltophausfrau: Oh dear. This is going to sound so terribly…precious! !

    My resolution is to volunteer my time at the art gallery near the lake in our town this year.

    I think it will not only help the little publicly funded space with some extra (wo)manpower, but also will energize me, who is so often feeling like I can do more than, well, Hausfrau-ing!

    Ok, don’t think I’m creepy but I actually made this very salad for dinner guests tonight! Here in BC, Canada, many of these ingredients are actually in season right now. It was delish, even when I substituted a balsamic dressing for the cider vinegar dressing! Dinner party guests LOVED it.

    Happy 2013!2 years ago

  • Melissa, Here’s a secret: I think I have a high tolerance for preciousness. A college writing professor once called me maudlin, but I’ve learned to embrace it. Ha! So glad your guests liked the salad–I think it’s a fabulous combination of ingredients!

    Arwen, Amanda, and Lana, I wanted to thank you three especially. Your comments (and respective blog posts) helped me hone in on my own word for 2013 (because sometimes a girl needs more than a theme): wholehearted. And you know what I realized after I came to that word? The Empress has a heart-shaped symbol at her feet with the female symbol in it: made to be!

    Happy new year, all!2 years ago

  • Livia: ‘Carpe diem’ is my theme for 2013. I’m going to stop putting off the things I want to do and instead just do them! I’d like to try something new every week. And I want to work at becoming a better cook.
    Homemade pizza is my favourite thing to make right now. I can never get tired of a thin crust pizza, a simple green salad and a glass of wine.
    Happy new year!2 years ago

  • Melissa @ Hilltophausfrau: Oh!

    And forgot to add my fave salad (it’s Jamie Oliver):

    red grapefruit segments
    frisee (or other pretty greens)
    marinated artichoke hearts, cut in pieces
    toasted almond slivers
    parmesan shavings

    Arrange first four ingredients on a nice plate. Drizzle a honey/lemon dressing overtop. Finish with large curls of parmesan. Beautiful.2 years ago

  • geek+nerd: Happy New Year, Sarah! I’m so glad to hear that you had a lovely and restful vacation with your family (pink gin incident aside). I am not usually one for resolutions either, but after a particularly trying and emotional autumn, I decided I needed to jumpstart 2013 with some changes.

    For one, I disabled my Facebook account. This is something that I have long thought about. Much, like you, I am striving to be more present in each moment, and present with the people that I am with. I think that Facebook is an amazing site, with extraordinary capabilities to bring people together, but that said, I think I’d like to put a little more investment into the lovely people that are directly around me. It is amazing to me how controversial this decision was amongst my friends and family though. My niece, who lives half an hour from me, is five years younger than me (I have much older siblings – she’s pretty much my little sister), texted me to say “I’m going to miss you.” I replied “If you miss me, just call me, and we’ll go to dinner.” It’s amazing to me how Facebook weaseled its way into a social necessity, even among FAMILY. Maybe, I’m old fashioned, but I want a quieter way!

    Secondly, I decided to try Whole Livings 28-Day Mind and Body Challenge/Detox http://www.wholeliving.com/152870/2012-whole-living-action-plan I’m nearly a full week in, and I am loving it. I’ve been keeping tabs of my weight and my caloric intake (which I’ve never bothered to do) and I’ve lost 6.4 lbs already. My favorite meal has probably been a salad, which is essentially guacamole, with avocado, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, scallions and a lime/cayenne dressing. Delish…though quite garlicky!

    Also thinking of closing the book on Geek+Nerd and starting a new blog with a fresh, outlook. I’ll keep you posted if I change URLs/emails. Big New Year’s hugs to you!2 years ago

  • Andi: Dear Sarah,

    I love this post, and I thank you for writing it. I’ve been trying to hone in on a resolution since New Year’s Day, when I decided to make one for the first time. One of my themes is definitely going to be mindfulness. http://www.raptitude.com/2010/03/how-to-make-mindfulness-a-habit-with-only-a-tiny-commitment/

    As for my favorite salad, I don’t know how to make it yet.

    I had it at Pulino’s – roasted squash and mushroom salad
    with watercress, smoked pecorino, hazelnuts
    and Banyuls vinaigrette
    I don’t know what kind of mushrooms they use but they’re delicious!2 years ago

  • anne: Dr. Danny Castellano, yes.2 years ago

  • Anne, this comment made me LOL. Danny Castellano 4-eva!2 years ago

  • Amy C: So, I am a weirdo and haven’t read this post till now. I think I saw “salad” in the title, and I just wasn’t ready for the required austerity of January and all the salads and detoxes that come with it.

    But of course, a Sarah post is never about a simple salad, and now I’m kicking myself for not having read it sooner. Tarot cards! Mindy Project! Pomegranates! These are some of my favorite things.

    So I have to tell you – I really, really dig tarot. I get super into the whole Jungian thing and nerd out on the archetypes the cards represent.

    The High Priestess (or Persephone, to us Jungians) is easily my favorite card. I identified a lot with her last year, as I felt like I was abducted into a dark, confusing underworld and held captive there. She showed up a lot in my own readings. This year, she is a transformational figure – Persephone only spent half the year in the underworld, after all. And when she was above ground, she became a a guide for those who are still lost in their own underworld, the depths of their dark collective unconscious. I can make meaning out of that darkness, and help others make sense of it.

    Okay, I am done rambling now. Also, Mindy Project is amazing.2 years ago

  • Amy, I am so glad you rambled, because no one has ever said so many interesting things about The High Priestess to me, ever! I love your take. And I, too, dork out on the archetypes!2 years ago

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