January is here. I'm still the same.

Trying not to jump on the new year resolutions bandwagon by lowering expectations just a bit.


1/3/20244 min read

Fall colors along the Black River in Upstate New York
Fall colors along the Black River in Upstate New York

December was just as busy as previous months; it feels like things have been nonstop since July. Between extended family obligations, the holidays, and making time for ourselves, it’s been a revolving door. I used the week between Christmas and New Year to do nothing productive and become one with the couch or whatever surface I was sitting on. It was a nice way to reset and find a bit of peace in the middle of the noise.

January is finally here and with it a whole heap of goals and to-do lists. As an adult, I’ve always liked January. It feels like a fresh start, and I find myself genuinely excited to start anew. I usually go over my goals and lists every six months; it helps me stay motivated and get excited about things that might have become boring.

So, instead of a “What I’ve been doing” post, I’d like to write a “What to expect this year” post, mostly to put things out in public in the hopes it might hold me accountable. I’m not saying this is a firm road map with no deviations, but it’s nice to have things in writing. In February, I’ll try to get back into regularly scheduled programming.


One of my goals is to cook a few Chinese or Japanese recipes without a recipe. There are a few cuisines with which I’m comfortable freestyling without a recipe; American, Italian, Mexican, and Polish cuisines come to mind. I find Asian cuisines more intimidating because it’s so difficult to strike the right balance of flavors without a recipe, so I follow one when cooking. I usually find recipes from sources I trust, such as The Woks of Life, Omnivore’s Cookbook, and Just One Cookbook. The one problem we have here in Poland is easy access to the more specialty ingredients; it’s a lot harder to find dashi powder than chicken bouillon cubes.

Another goal is to cook with less meat and more vegetables, because I enjoy cooking and eating them more than a pork chop. We have a fantastic vegetable stand not too far from our building. They stock fresh produce, most of it seasonal, some specialty. Our neighborhood has a lot of Koreans so it’s not uncommon to see bok choy, daikon, and shiitake. Sometimes there’s lemongrass, fennel, and habanero peppers and those days feel special. The world opens up when you know how to cook vegetables in delicious ways.


We went to New York in the fall, so we didn’t travel as much as we wanted to in order to spend two weeks there. This year, however, we have no major travel plans. This means plenty of time and funds to explore closer to home.

We plan on heading back to Italy, this time to Rome. I’ve always wanted to go, but after seeing pictures of the summer crowds literally melting in the heatwaves that wracked Europe, I decided a visit in the cooler months when things are cheaper and less crowded was a better idea. My goal is to eat each of the Roman pastas and associate settings from books and mythology with their actual places and inspirations. So, look out for that coming soon.

Other places we’re hoping to see are Spain (again), some of the smaller towns and cities around Poland, and finally crossing the U.K. off my bucket list, particularly Scotland and Wales.


I rarely keep up with new releases from favorite authors (although a quick Google reveals that I’ve missed a few Nick Hornby books). I expect that what I will read this year will be like other years: whatever I’m in the mood for. It may not be recent, or popular, but it will be interesting (to me). Some authors I’d like to read more of this year are David Sedaris and Nora Ephron. Perhaps I'll attempt a few of the Isaacson and Chernow biographies, and revisit some classics.

There has been a recent influx of books for my degree (more on that later), and alongside my ever-growing cookbook collection, I’ve acquired a lot of books about horticulture, gardening, and permaculture — even a college botany textbook. It’s hard not to get lost leafing (ha) through the pages and planting little gardens in my mind. There are a few I’m actively reading, but the others are simply resources and beautiful, to boot.


In the fall, I enrolled in a university program for horticulture and garden design. It is difficult. It is challenging. I have wanted to quit. I love it. I’m a lifelong learner and I enjoy doing anything with my hands. And, as with most things I dive into headfirst, this came about because I followed too many links in my research for how to make our west-facing balcony garden more productive. I’ll be focusing a lot of my free time on the class this year, as one of my more ambitious goals is to have it mostly finished by next January.

That being said, I remember to take time to revisit the things that bring me joy and recharge my soul, like crocheting, painting, and calligraphy. I don’t monetize my hobbies because I don’t feel like that’s what hobbies are for, but I enjoy giving handmade things to friends and family — it supercharges my soul.

Some of my favorite moments