Tag Archives: NYT crossword

About them 2019 resolutions…

Okay, so I did all right. I won’t be crossing quite everything off the lists but I’m basically satisfied. In both 2018 and 2019 I made highly specific “kinda, sorta resolutions” tailored to me. It’s worked out well.
I read 33 books. The goal was 20. I did most of my reading in the early part of the year. I put check marks by 13 of them, indicating which ones I really appreciated.  I can’t read the way I used to; it takes more to hold my attention, more to get me to sit in a spot for hours with a book. Because of that, six of my 33 were books I’d read in years past and wanted to read again. Sometimes I just need a sure thing. I have little patience these days for trying to get into a book, trying to relate to characters, or trying to care about the subject matter. I get restless. And I KNOW there are books – like all things – which can hold me; it’s a matter of finding them.

A year ago I bought a yoga mat and a DVD player for the TV in the living room, the only place (other than outside!) where I have space for doing yoga. As with the reading, most of my yoga was done earlier in the year. I am very active outdoors most of the year and didn’t need more exercise of any stripe. Because I hadn’t totally factored that in I fell somewhat short of my intentions. I’ve done the five-minute “sun salutation” 38 of 50 planned times and the 30-minutes of yoga just half of 25 planned times. That said, when I DID do yoga it was usually in 40-45 minute increments per the instructional DVDs.

I like yoga. I don’t worry much about fussy breathing or learning all the poses’ names, or anything that might daunt, bore, or intimidate me. To me, yoga is exercise. Exercise focused on strength, balance, and stretch. It’ll make your body move in ways it wouldn’t in the normal course of a day which is an especially good idea for anyone who is aging. Otherwise you end up like the tin man!😯 I want to be strong, agile, and spry as long as possible. The way I live is dependent on it at many levels. I will not go down easily. I know I’ll be doing yoga over the winter.

I did ZIPPO with learning Italian from cds. That fell off the map in short order because I wasn’t enjoying it and I wasn’t learning Italian. All I can say is I recently heard “piazza” somewhere or other and knew it meant plaza.😐 I think I ‘d like to learn – or try to learn – key phrases and words at least as a starting-off point rather than attempt the language itself. That, or I need different cds. I felt inept very quickly with the set I was using. Other than English, I have never felt I had an aptitude for languages and my opinion after this year hasn’t changed a whit.

Thai cooking wasn’t a success either. Thai cooking, it seems, requires a lot of ingredients I don’t typically have and more trouble than I wanted to invest. I did attempt spring rolls because I love them when I have them out but mine, which I decided to bake since I cook NOTHING in pots of oil, were okay, not great.  Instead, I continued to make this Thai-inspired cole slaw. If I can find more recipes like it, I’d definitely try them. Lime, peanuts, cilantro, be still my heart!

I watched a lot of DVDs, both movies and series. I had wanted an idea of the number since I’d never kept track. The thing I realized is that as with books, I need the right movies or series to hold me. I ADORE movies, as I adore books and music. But a lot of each is just average, nothing special, not to me. I want the gems, the ones I get excited about, the ones that thrill me, and make me sit back in awe of someone else’s brilliance and accomplishment. How did they do that?! That’s the feeling I want. That’s why I read, watch movies/series, and listen to music.  I want to have that O-MI-GOD feeling. Am I demanding? Do I expect too much? Yeah, well maybe. But once you’ve had that feeling, it’s Continue reading

Update on my 2019 “resolutions”

It’s over 6 months – yikes over half way – into 2019. Time for an update on my kinda, sorta resolutions. This is my second year nailing down specific, simple things I’d like to accomplish. I consider it a positive new thing. It gives focus and a certain order to my year.

I have read 25 books. The goal, which I expected to exceed, was 20. The most recent was the 400+ page Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It’s part memoir, part nonfiction, a fascinating book for anyone psychologically minded. It gave me a lot to think about. It’s the longest book I’ve read since I got serious about reading again (less internet, more books).

I have slacked entirely so far as continuing the Italian language cds I started in late 2018. I think it’s because I didn’t feel successful. I never felt I had a knack for languages and I can’t say my opinion has improved! I will try again but maybe a different cd set. I can’t give up this easily; I mean, geez, I should nail down a few phrases at least.

I have kept up my crossword puzzles hobby and, as planned, got a hold of several New York Times Sunday papers so I could try theirs. I really like the NYT puzzle. The puzzles increase in difficulty over the course of a week (one of my commenters pointed this out to me but I didn’t know which day the NYT “week” officially started). The puzzle is easiest on Monday and most difficult Saturday,  with Sunday’s puzzle being equivalent to a Thursday in difficulty. Having that measuring stick is useful.

I didn’t do as well on all the puzzles I tried as the one pictured but I’m still pecking away at them (without using the internet for solutions). The puzzles are created by different people and a short bio is included. A 25 year old named Erik Agard, a professional puzzle maker, had, as of June 2, contributed nine puzzles to the Times this year, more than anyone else. Professional puzzle maker! At 25!! I look at the puzzles and (very) vaguely wonder if I could make them. I don’t see how you’d even begin. Daunting. Which makes the 25 year old maker that much more impressive.

My favorite thing from the NYT however, is “Spelling Bee” , a challenge of making words from proffered letters. I don’t know exactly what it is about this but I love coming up with words. I need a framework though, and as with “Spelling Bee” a way to rate my progress. The Times has: Good, Excellent, and Genius scores. Naturally I’m striving for Genius! And occasionally with actual success! (So why aren’t there JOBS that need such a skill?😕) Useful or not, I always enjoyed finding words from random letters but now I see the importance of such word games in keeping your mind sharp, more so as you age.  Mental (and physical) challenges were part of 2019’s resolutions.

My self-instructed yoga got off to a good start. I’ve done the “sun salutation” – a five minute pose set – 21 of a planned 50 times. Additionally I’ve done 30 minutes plus of yoga 12 of 25 planned times. I haven’t been doing yoga recently because I’m very active outdoors in Spring and Summer and I really don’t need extra exercise. I’ll plan to pick it back up later in the year. Since I’ve done just about half, I think I should hit my goals by December’s end. I’m intent enough that I bought a DVD player for the TV in the living room – the only spot in the home big enough – where I “practice” yoga, primarily using library DVDs. I tried different ones to see who I’d like. I’ve never used exercise DVDs so this is new. It kind of makes you feel like you have company although I wonder if repeatedly watching the same one or few would get old? (I won’t pony up for classes and don’t feel the need.) I think if you get bored of hearing the same things, you can turn the volume down and just follow the poses.


Sun Salutation (simple 5-minute set of poses


I regularly de-clutter and get rid of stuff – and have been at it for years – so at the end of December I made a modest goal to get rid of 15 things. What was I thinking?! I’ve already let go of 125 things. I surprised myself. Getting rid of stuff is addictive, though. And really, I’m down to almost all little things. It feels awfully good to shake off debris that no longer serves you. Keeping a list makes it more fun. Same with the other numerical goals.


A sample selection


I have not made any Thai food (yet). A Thai-inspired Cole Slaw prompted that goal.i

This wasn’t in the January post but after an unusual year of indulgence of sorts (relative I assure you) I wanted to bring my food spending down. I was prompted to spend less as a goal because the  $2,200 I spent on food in 2018 seemed like a lot and was decidedly more than I’d ever spent. I have markedly cut my food spending in the first 6 months of 2019 but I wonder how much of that owes to the fact I had, I see in retrospect, the equivalent of a small grocery store in my home! I had quite a stockpile going on. You’d think a stash like that would just last & last but no, it seems I ate most of it.😐

In the first six months I spent $766 on food, which, if doubled and divided by 365 is about $4.20 a day. I did this NOT by dieting or going hungry but by eliminating pricier products or prepared foods like the $5 pound of hummus I treated myself to occasionally in 2018. (That hummus is now $5.50 and shouldn’t a home cook like me be making her own hummus anyway?) I bought only fish (frozen or canned) and shellfish, no other animals (which is not to say I never will but as of now have no thought to). Other than Olive and Sesame I haven’t bought any fancy oils, such as the delicious Avocado oil I bought a few times in 2018. I’ve eaten well, nutritiously, and plentifully (I have to for my activity level), no complaints. At this rate, one I’m not sure I’ll maintain, I’d spend $600 less on food this year than last. I’ll be satisfied if I cut it by $300 (more beans, less pasta.😁) and that seems like a realistic or probable savings by year’s end.

The only real indulgence I’ve kept – so far – is an occasional bottle of Kalamata Olives. The point of cutting my food spending isn’t to be a martyr or self-punishing in any respect. I ADORE food and its importance in my life can’t be overstated. It’s to see if I can spend less and still be happy with my food and to get myself to make even more foods at home.

I’ve watched (or watched again) two Marx Brothers films. Who said goals can’t be fun?! I know I need it, more levity, and the Marx Brothers are a sure thing. I have watched A LOT of movies and several series this year but I’m not too concerned so long as nothing more important is short-changed. This is the first time I’ve kept a list; I simply had no idea how many hours I spend watching DVDs and I wanted to know.IMG_20190708_122736

Lastly, I ‘m maintaining my physical health and with the yoga earlier this year, definitely challenging myself. I was pleased to find I kept up with everything the instructors were doing in the DVDs. On other fronts, I haven’t mastered a chin-up or pull-up 😁 – something I’ve mentioned – but I don’t really expect to.

Reflecting on my life in 2018

This post has been percolating since I wrote The End of My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions in November. I have more I want to say. I’ve been reflecting on this past year, framed against the goals I set for myself. The goals were simple but effective. I made improvements to my life and that’s something I want to continue.

I’ve said this before in a couple ways but I believe that when someone is dealing with a problem, be it relationship troubles, or job issues, or money worries, or health concerns, or grief over a loss, or any kind of time-and-energy-sucking problem, the last thing they typically feel like doing is making life improvements, that is, adding new responsibilities or commitments. I’ve had a problem that weighs on me for the last several years. It’s one not of my making but which has been visited upon me. It ate up a lot of my energy and frankly, depressed me.

Further adding to my state of mind was the suicide in 2016 of a man I knew. It brought up a number of feelings both those related to this man and his suicide, but also those of suicide, death, loss, and grief more generally. The reality is that the longer you live the more people you know who will die. Dwelling on such thoughts, while purposeful for a time maybe, can reach a not-useful point.

In summer 2017 I made a turn-around. The overarching problem in my life didn’t go away but I resolved to switch up my attitude and to resist pouring my good energy into a crappy situation. I did what I could do to make things better for myself, knowing that nobody else was going to step up and do that (that was very clear). I had to shut off some of my feelings and stop being so vulnerable. Vulnerability is a key point in my psyche – it’s how I’m wired – but in this case, I needed less of it. And by and large, it has worked. I toughened up to my own benefit.

Having a little more steam led me to making simple resolutions at the start of this year, ones that excited me. No, I wasn’t going to train for a marathon, or travel to Europe or get a Masters but it didn’t matter. I was the one I was measuring myself against (yes, yes, I know that’s what we’re SUPPOSED to do but c’mon, who never measures their self against others?!) Breathing new life into my life was my intent.

As I looked back over my calendar I saw that in addition to my simple goals, I’d also done a few other things. I did both a dairy-free week and an Amazon-free week (no looking even). And to my own surprise, starting back in August, I more or less gave up coffee. I hadn’t planned to (I was sick for a few days and didn’t drink any) but I decided to give it a go. Sometimes I have tea or homemade cocoa in the morning but most often, I make a version of my healthy drink. I won’t kid you, taking the time to make this drink is a nuisance – knocking back coffee in the morning is easier & quicker – BUT with the healthy drink there is the benefit of sustained energy, not to mention not eating away at my bones – which I’d really rather keep – with caffeine. I miss coffee and that mini instant high and I can’t say I’ll never start again but for now this is working.

I committed in 2018 to stop watching three specific TV shows that I used to watch, while not all the time, frequently. They weren’t good for me. I am happy to say I did it. While eliminating junk from entering my mind, I also made a point of adding good influences, largely through books and by following several public figures on Facebook who have something to tell or teach me. I didn’t stick with all of the individuals I started with but I’ve kept a core few. I want more of that and I’m going to continue to be selective about what I let enter my mind.

The local Dollar Tree sells small crossword puzzle books. The books feature many puzzle-makers so it keeps you on your toes (it can be easy to learn one person’s tricks and tendencies and not be so challenged after awhile). In the last year or so I’ve done 50 puzzles in this book. They’ve made me sharper. I know more than I think I do and the puzzles force me to remember.


As I recently wrote, I started playing Scrabble and that too, has given my mind a boost, plus I LOVE playing it.

I hesitate to mention this, because I’ve done so little and it’s very new, but I checked a CD series on conversational Italian out of the library. My language skills are limited to two sad years of high school Spanish. I disliked language classes so much that I managed to create a college degree for myself that eliminated taking any language courses. This isn’t because I’m The Ugly American who can’t be bothered but because I felt I didn’t have a knack for languages and the way I was taught in high school left a bad taste. I’m half Italian (father’s side) and I thought well, hell, maybe there’s a tad of residual DNA that might allow me to pick up Italian? Yeah, um, two hours into the CD lessons and I am thinking NOT. I suspect my pronunciation is quite bad and my dead ancestors are spinning. Ah well. As of now I know how to say I don’t speak Italian. Poorly.

I am going to do goals for 2019, but except for reading 20 books, not the exact same ones as 2018. I want to at least get through the conversational Italian set of CDs. I want to try the NYT crossword puzzle if I can get ahold of it (looks like you have to subscribe online?). Not all the goals have to be lofty; I want to watch the Marx Brothers movies again. It’s been awhile and I could use it. I made up a list already to get rid of fifteen things; I’ve already shed so much I think it could be a challenge; on the other hand I found four or five things to get rid of just this morning, so maybe not!

Physically, I’m in pretty good shape, literally and metaphorically. I don’t need to set a lot of exercise and fitness goals because I already have many in place. However, I’ve been thinking more seriously about yoga. I’ve sort of done yoga here and there on my own but don’t have anything that could be called a “yoga practice.” And — should I ever use the phrase “yoga practice” in a serious way, you are welcome to take me out behind the barn and give me a very stern look.

My flexibility and strength aren’t bad, particularly for my age, but they could be better. There are things I stopped doing for one reason or another, including injuries, but I want to see where I’m at and try to push further. I hadn’t done a headstand of any stripe in probably 10 or 12 years, maybe more. Recently, I decided to try one against a wall. At first, I thought there was no way I was getting my ass up off the floor but I did! It felt very strange, it had been so long. I doubt I’ll get to a place where I can do one without the support of the wall, but even this, is a good step, one I’ve repeated since.


Something like this

I see that what happens with older people is that their range of motion slowly, subtly goes away for lack of maintaining it. And then they become afraid of hurting themselves, which is not without cause. An injury when you’re middle-aged and up can take weeks, months, to heal, if it heals at all. I need to stay on top of things. And push myself some. I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll do – being specific helps a lot with goals – so I need to nail that down by January. I have found a yoga blogger here on WordPress who I relate to whose videos inspire me to want to do yoga. I also like the idea of getting in the habit of doing the sun salutation, a simple, straightforward series of moves, at least somewhat regularly. And I know it’s heresy but I don’t care much about any of the breathing business or learning all the fancy pose names with whatever yoga I do – it’d be counterproductive to overwhelm myself now.

So these are a few – maybe more than a few – of the thoughts I have going into a new year. I’ll likely do a post once I’ve got my specific plans in order.