Highlights of 2016

Highlights2016I know, you’re thinking, “Uhhhh…we’re less than two weeks into 2016.” You are correct, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had a chance to stumble upon a few things that are making this year amazing!

Tackling the Beast in the Kitchen

I’ve mentioned¬†my recent efforts to clean out my pantry, freezer and fridge, largely with a mind to reducing food waste. Both freezers were done. The pantry was done. But I had been avoiding tackling the fridge (aka, the Beast). Mentally worn out after three big writing deadlines last week (thus the absence of blog posts), I decided that some manual labor was in order. I systematically pulled everything out of the fridge so I could remove and clean the shelves and drawers, then put things back with an actual thought to grouping like items with like. This is something I do in my pantry and freezer, but for some reason the fridge (other than the produce crispers and the cheese drawer) tends to be organized based on whether an object will fit on a certain shelf.

After tossing the half-used jars of mango chutney and olive tapenade (both of indeterminate age) and the half-bunch of collard greens that were lying limp and forgotten in my veggie crisper (Crisper? As if!), discovering that we had two half-used jars of Jeff’s home-canned pickled garlic (I had just used up a third, so that gives you and idea about how crammed and jumbled our fridge was) and decanting the olives we buy in bulk from Big John’s PFI into smaller jars, I gave new thought to zoning my fridge. From the bottom up, this is how it goes (photo is at the bottom of the post):

  • Fruit drawer
  • Veggie drawer
  • Shelf for leftovers and highly perishable items (yogurt, cottage cheese)
  • Drawer for cheese, freshly ground nut butters, and currently the last remaining corn tortilla (if we have proscuitto on hand, that’s where it would life, too)
  • Shelf for tubs of greens and other veggies that won’t fit in the veggie bin
  • Shelf for our massive tubs of French mustard (yes, I know), pickled items (home-canned), olives, seed and nut butters (currently just tahini), and eggs because they fit neatly below the half-shelf

I tossed a few jars of jams and spreads that I know won’t get eaten, and put the rest in the door instead of on that small top half-shelf. And as testimony to our love of pickled and brined things, huge Costco jars of kalamata olives and capers also live in the door.

Not only can we now find things, but ever since we moved into this house in 2006, I had used the shelf above the veggie drawer for overflow veggie storage, for no reason other than the fact that it was right above the veggie drawer! Totally stupid, because that is one of the coldest spots in the fridge, and we would sometimes find that some of our greens had frozen. Stupid!

I want to point out how stylish our fridge is. Notice the attractive pink accents? That is so nice…not! We are planning a kitchen remodel this summer (we figured it’s easier to do it when we can comfortably cook outdoors on our grill and the massive free-standing three-burner gas cookstove that we use when we do canning or go camping). We may invest in a new fridge, since this one came with the house and clearly was far from new then, but I have trouble parting with still-functioning appliances, especially when the cost of replacement is high.

Not only will this new organization make it easier to avoid wasting things, but the biggest improvement is this: Opening my refrigerator door no longer stresses me out! I’ve always known that clutter can be stressful (and we are working on decluttering projects elsewhere in our house), but this most recent, and quite obvious, before-and-after makes that lesson as clear as clear can be.

The Power of Habit

While philosophically I am sick and tired of the “online summits” that everyone and their dog is organizing (recent topics that have crossed my inbox include mindless eating, menopause, eating psychology, detox, etc, etc), I can’t seem to stop myself from signing up for them even though they stress me out. You basically have 24 hours to listen to each day’s recorded interviews for free, and after that you have to pay to purchase continued access to the whole shebang (which I never do). I already live a very deadline-driven life, and here I am trying to squeeze in more things that have an absolute deadline. Not smart.

Anyway, against my better judgement, I signed up for this weeklong “Peak Work Performance Summit.” I basically managed to listen to two of the presenters, since, you know, I was trying to have a life in between my writing deadlines, and, well, working. Well, thank goodness that one of those two was Gretchen Rubin, because I think this woman may have changed my life. OK, that’s could be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. You may have heard of Gretchen, who has written a few books, including The Happiness Project and, most recently, Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.

I received a review copy of Better Than Before a year ago, but have not had time to read it yet! I’ve now moved it near the top of my to-read list, but in the meantime I’ve been binge-listening to her podcast. And I don’t listen to podcasts! (I told my husband, and he said, “Aren’t podcasts so 2000?” Then I said, “Were podcasts around in 2000?” I don’t know, were they?).

Anyway, I love, love, love Gretchen’s podcast, “Happier, with Gretchen Rubin.” She records it with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, who is an LA screenwriter, and not only are they a pleasure to listen to, but what Gretchen has to say about forming habits (and how it makes your life better) is so, so true. And they give you small, actionable things to do (like making your bed each morning, which I am totally doing now on the days Jeff and I get up at the same time; he’s agreed to do it on the days I get up earlier).

Do you struggle to form habits that support your goals (health or otherwise). I highly recommend visiting Gretchen’s blog and downloading her podcasts. On her blog, she has easy instructions for subscribing to the podcast via iTunes, SoundCloud or RSS (I subscribe via iTunes so I can listen on my iPhone) or you can subscribe via email and listen to them when they arrive in your inbox. Do it! Gretchen will make your 2016 better, too!


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