Best thing someone did for me in 2014: James took me to Africa. We went on an almost three week trip to Botswana and Mozambique. While in Botswana, I was able to watch the sun rise and set over the African landscape for the first time and it was a life-changing experience. The sun is so central to life in that part of the world and without Wifi, buildings to obstruct the landscape, and lots of time spent outdoors, I started to grasp how inconsequential humans are. I hope to go back to share a short part of time again with the majestic creatures that live there: lions, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, impalas, leopards, and the list goes on.
Best thing I did for someone else in 2014: Upped my annual contribution to public radio (WUOT-FM) and volunteered to help with a new charity event for Friends of Literacy. These are two of my favorite entities to help out. Both have a strong educational element and it makes me feel worthwhile to know that because of my small contribution adults in Knoxville might earn their GED and others are learning about events in the world through public radio. Please consider finding one charity in your community to contribute to in 2015. Even if you don’t have extra funds, please volunteer.
Best thing I did for myself in 2014: Embracing and exploring my love of camping. I have always loved the outdoors. This year I purchased a vintage travel trailer and worked on it a few hours a day until it was renovated. While I worked on it, I dreamed of camping in national parks in the United States. I didn’t have an opportunity to camp in the travel trailer before I sold it but I began booking spots in state and national parks where I would pitch a tent, observe nature, and enjoy falling asleep to a stream flowing or leaves rustling. I’m upgrading some of my camping gear this winter and can’t wait to explore more of the protected outdoors in our beautiful country.
Best non-fiction books of 2014: Wild, Tracks, and Lean In. I’ve previously blogged about Wild and Tracks (just click on the titles for the reviews) but I started reading Lean In at the end of this year. In this easy-read book, Facebook CEO, Sheryl Sandberg confronts gender bias head on. I call this an “easy-read book” because it is designed so that the reader can take in one subject in one chapter, hit the high points, and put the book down as needed until the next opportunity. I was most impressed with the amount of research presented that supports the theory that sexism is alive and well in the work force. My biggest take away: men are more confident than women when it comes to their careers and we have to work on this. Rather than thinking, “I’m just not ready to take on this new opportunity. I don’t have enough experience,” we should be thinking, “I am smart, educated, and capable of doing an excellent job in this opportunity even while learning new things.” All women should read this book.
Best meal of 2014: I’ve written about Mario Batali’s Babbo in NYC before so I’ll pick another favorite: Three course lunch at Elephant Hill winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Oh wow! I’m the type of person who appreciates the creative presentation of a dish especially if it is delicious and the chef here certainly gets that right. Elephant Hill Restaurant earned the distinction of 2014 “Best Winery Restaurant” by Cuisine Good Food Guide and I feel it is very deserving. They use locally sourced, seasonal, fresh food from growers and suppliers who are passionate about their products. I ordered the dish of cauliflower parfait, chilled prawns, pickles, smoked tomato crème to start, paired with 2013 Elephant Hill Sauvignon Blanc. My second course (just as wonderful as the first) was the entrée of smoked ricotta, duck tortellini, road beans, mint, confit onion dressing, paired with 2013 Elephant Hill Chardonnay. Elephant Hill’s website says the staff wishes to leave a lasting impression of fine food. Success!
Best thing to look forward to in 2015: Building a stronger body. James religiously goes to the gym and works out with a trainer. Like clockwork, he’s up and out the door at least three times a week. He has inspired me to get fit! I’m going to need a strong body in the New Year if I want to hike, kayak, and explore this great earth. He purchased a gym membership for me (don’t worry it was my idea) and we’ve been going together. We don’t work out together; we just ride together. I’ve been doing 35 minutes of cardio and stretching for 10 minutes on each visit. Now that my endurance is up slightly, I’m going to add core exercises such as abdominal work and yoga poses. It feels good to recognize the flow of adrenaline that comes from pushing oneself physically. I’m also paying particular attention again to regularly drinking green tea, eating probiotics such as Greek yogurt, and adding super foods like spinach, parsley, and kale to most dishes.