We all loosely seek out the activities and pastimes just for fun. But even if we typically follow our passions purely as an exercise in pleasure, applying a little discipline to your approach for a year can deepen your knowledge and appreciation of the things you love to do. Here are the projects I have on my list – borrow from mine or embark on your own yearlong project. And please share your yearlong project idea with me if you have one you’re excited to get going!
Work Through a Single Cookbook I love to cook, and for years I’ve collected cookbooks. When I have the time, I’ll pull a cookbook down and pore over it before bed. Then life gets busy and I often turn to searching out a recipe online based on the ingredients I have, then printing it out and then recycling the recipe afterward thinking that I can always find it again if I want to. But I realize that this approach doesn’t deepen my understanding of any one approach too cooking. In other words, I’m all over the place. Like the premise for Julie and Julia where a blogger spends a year working her way through Julia Childs’ canonical Mastering the Art of French Cooking and hones her classic culinary techniques along the way, I long to spend time exploring a single, focused approach to cooking. Whether it’s a book that explores how to bake using nothing but whole grains and alternative flours or one that looks at how to prepare vegetarian food the whole family will like, I envision a project where I make my way through one large cookbook (or perhaps a new small cookbook each month for a year), taking food photographs as well as pictures of my family cooking and eating, then adding notes about the process and what I might do differently next time. The whole project would go in a Mixbook photo book that I kept in process for a year, then printed for a wonderful chronicle as well as a meaningful gift for family and friends.
Taste All the Wines from a Single Region or Varietal My husband and I love wine, enjoying it together a few times a week. And while I’ve certainly learned a good deal about wine over the years, I sense that there’s a lot I could do to enhance my own appreciation. Just like most every couple that shares a passion for something, there’s usually one person who takes the lead, and in our case my husband is definitely in charge of the wine. He’s the “family sommelier,” an honorary title that he enjoys, but one that implies “I’m the one who chooses the wine.” And just as the person driving will always know the way better than the person in the passenger seat, he absorbs more about the wine we share because he’s driving the wine selection. I would never want to take that role away from him, but there are ways that I can become a very effective backseat driver. My idea is to ask him to continue choosing the wine, but to do so in a more focused manner so we taste wines from a specific varietal or a specific region each month every time we drink wine for a year. If I scan the labels and keep tasting notes in a photo book by month, I’d have a visual and sensory record of the year, and we’d both have deepened our love of wine together.
Dine at Renowned Restaurants Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have lots of opportunities to eat at great restaurants. From little hole-in-the-wall spots and food trucks to cutting-edge-chef-owned bistros and Michelin-star restaurants, there are endless options for enjoying incredible food. And while it’s fun to dabble in dining, it can be a fun quest to seek out every restaurant that serves a certain dish you love. Whether it’s Vietnamese pho or Texas barbecue, you can design your own undertaking to taste every option locally – even taking a pilgrimage to another city or town to widen your knowledge of a specific type of food. Take photos, scan menus, and write notes on your experience at each locale every time you take a culinary adventure over the course of your year.
Hike Every Local Trail I love to get out in nature and hike, run or bike a local trail. But even with hundreds of options available to me, I tend to do my favorites over and over again. I love the idea of methodically seeking out every local trail within a 50-mile radius and educating myself about my local geography in the process. Instead of heading out to the same trailhead every time I feel the urge to get out in nature, I’d plan to take on a new adventure. A photo book that tracks the effort over the course of a year would include name, location, map, photographs, notes and even flora and fauna spotted along the way. At the end of the year you’d have a hiker’s (or runner’s or biker’s) almanac of local adventures in nature, perfect for capturing memories and sharing with friends and family as a gift.
Explore Architectural Treasures Whether you’re finally setting out to deepen your knowledge of local architectural treasures or going on a pilgrimage of sorts to see structures across the country or world, it’s gratifying to track your adventure. Resolve to spend a few hours at 10–20 great buildings, take photographs, reflect on your time there, the history, and how the use of the structure has changed over time. Include passages that writers have written about the place as well as your impressions of the interior, exterior and current use of the space. This same exercise can be done for famous bridges, sculptures, public gardens, museums or even city or town halls. It’s all about taking a deliberate, methodical approach to appreciating something you love, spending time learning about it and reflecting on it, then formally tracking the whole experience. Whether it’s a project you undertake solely for your own pleasure or it’s something you intend to share with others, you’ll be glad you applied a little discipline to something you love.
Happy New Year! Happy Mixbooking!