With the year coming to an end, I figured I should give a small update. 2019 was a big one for me, and in a lot of ways, I feel good about the choices I have made during the year.
Anyone who has followed along with my cocktail philosophy knows that I enjoy pure drinks. Simple drinks. I like a classic cocktail as close as possible to the ethos of the original drink.
When I used to create recipes for cocktail lists, the hardest part was editing. Cutting back a quarter ounce of this or that because it didn't add anything to the finished product or leaving off a delicious cocktail because it was a drink more for me and not for the guest. I was always aiming for that perfect three-ingredient cocktail.
I started applying some of the same editing tactics to my life this year, and I have been pleased with the results. It is funny to think about all the things we do or keep around that add little if anything to our lives -- superfluous components that cloud the whole thing up.
Big City to Small City
On preference alone, we moved from busy Chicago to sleepy Ann Arbor. The quiet has been good for my soul and has lessened my anxiety. At first, I was worried that people would think it was because we couldn't hack it in the city, but the reality was we had squeezed everything out of it that we wanted, and it was time to move on. I am proud of the things I accomplished in Chicago, and my compass was pointing toward something that could not work in a big city environment. I wanted a workshop in the garage and a yard to cut and enjoy. Those things aren't available in a 700 sq ft. high rise. I miss public transit, but I never mind the walk.
We popped around a bit this year on some trips and agreed not to use Airbnb anymore. Since Airbnb came on the scene many years ago, we used it exclusively on our travels. We got to stay in a killer apartment in Paris in early 2018 and a beautiful condo in Mexico City last Valentine's Day. Every Christmas for the past six or so years, we have stayed at the same Airbnb in the Garden District of New Orleans and loved it. (We stayed put this year.) Airbnbs are excellent for getting a neighborhood feel that a hotel may not provide, but my favorite thing about a hotel is the lobby bar. Airbnbs don't have that. You also can't pick up the phone in an Airbnb and order a bottle of chilled bubbles or ask for more towels. We enjoy those kinds of things, and we are back to the hotels!
Coffee to Tea
I have been back and forth with coffee for years, but this year I finally drove a stake in the ground and made the full switch. I like tea because it is quiet. Coffee is loud. Grinding the beans (I am a purist) was too loud of a way to start the day. Tea is quiet with its soft boil and delicate trickle over the leaves. Also, the ability to re-steep tea is a no brainer. I enjoy more esoteric teas that I order from White2tea, but honestly, most mornings, it is a bag of PG Tips with a spoon of sugar and a splash of milk. Care for a cuppa?
Spotify to Radio
This was a huge change, and something that I think has made our life so much better. While still living in Chicago, I bought a new radio to listen to the Cubs games I have not had a TV in the house since college. I found I enjoyed waking up to the radio for quick weather and traffic updates, and soon enough, I found myself on the jazz and classical stations more and more during the day. After moving, I found my station here (90.9 WRCJ) and ditched Spotify. My days move with the radio station and the DJs that almost feel like friends now. Waking up to the daily Sousa march during the week and Baroque on the weekends has been lovely. At 7 pm the classical ends and the programming switches to jazz just in time for dinner.
Another note about the radio (or at least 90.9) is that the people picking the music are professionals. I am certainly not a professional music picker, and when I create a playlist, it based on what I know at that moment. The radio is continuously expanding my musical horizons in a way that no AI-driven software could. The DJs on the radio are picking music for the time of day, the season, the weather and Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Tidal whatever are only basing their choices off of you. Did I mention the radio is free?
I Quit Instagram
I quit. @CocktailDoodle was a fun experiment, and I may revive it again in the future, but I was spending too much time online and not enough time in real life. There isn't much more to say about it...I prefer real life.
We made a choice when setting up the house to not install a microwave. I have never liked microwaves because I think they make you a lazy cook. If I am heating leftovers for lunch, I do it on the stove or in the oven. The microwave saves tons of time, but for what? I enjoy watching my food slowly carmelize and come together in a cast iron pan. I do not need to rush it, and the music on the radio is keeping me company.
Speaking of rushing, I have been making an active attempt to slow down. Our city habits of speedwalking between downtown blocks and running to catch the subway are useless here. I wouldn't mind being late for once in my life. At this moment, I am not beholden to anyone but myself and my wife. Slowing down has helped my stress levels, my cooking, lawnmowing, everything! Rushing just to rush was only getting me nowhere quickly.
I read a lot more. For articles online, I use a small piece of software called Push to Kindle that strips everything down to text and sends it to my Kindle. I thought I was always going to be a page-turner, but I have fallen in love with the simplicity of carrying the multiple books, articles, and magazines I am bouncing between on my Kindle. It is waterproof and lights up so I can read it at night or on a plane without bothering anyone.
For real paper, I still check out a book from the library about once a month if I can't find the kindle edition (usually older books). I also get a newspaper every day except Sunday, which leads me to:
I stopped checking it. The only dose of news I get is from the paper. The rest of the digital junk I have filtered out. I figure if something Earth-shattering occurs, I will either get an emergency notification or the sirens will start wailing. Everything else can wait until I pull the plastic wrapper off my freshly printed Journal tomorrow morning.
Smartphone to Dumbphone
I remember the day vividly that I pulled the SIM card out of my big phone that could do anything and placed the smart device in its final resting drawer before inserting the card into a small phone that couldn't do much of anything. I was spending too much time swiping and checking my phone for emails, news, likes, etc. that I called it quits. My phone now only makes calls and texts. It doesn't have a camera, it can't display photos, and it fits nicely in my pocket if I decide even to do that. I do not need to be always available -- the people that need to know where I am, know. I check my email about as often as I check to see if the mailman came -- about once every day or two. I see my phone as a screwdriver now. It is a tool. It can't do everything, and honestly, it is pretty limited on what it can do. A screwdriver turns screws. My phone makes and receives calls. If I need to perform another task, I need a different tool.
Oh yeah! I am still doing that. Cocktail hour is going strong, and gin martinis are still the tipple of choice. I find myself drinking a lot more wine these days and enjoying my local bottle shop, Everyday Wines, far more than the shops in Chicago. Cocktail wise when we are low on dry vermouth, we bounce back and forth between our favorites: Manhattans (and their variations), lazy Old-fashioneds, and stiff Negronis. From time to time, when we can't be bothered to make a cocktail, we enjoy a heavy pour of vodka over ice.
Cooking and Groceries
I cook every day and love it. I look forward to creating in the kitchen and sticking to the simple dishes we like to eat. We prepare lots of roast chicken and fish these days. Beef has become more of a special occasion protein if only for the fact that I find it harder to digest. I still adore a perfectly cooked steak, but I find that I enjoy it rarely in both occurrence and internal temperature.
Most of our groceries we can walk to get from the little farm stand called Argus a few blocks from our house. They have fresh eggs with feathers still stuck to the shells, and milk and butter from the best dairy in town. All the produce is seasonal, so right now, it seems like it is only apples and butternut squash, but Spring and Summer will be here before we know it. All the meat they carry is local and of great value. We have loved the fresh white perch and lake trout both caught in Lake Michigan that they keep frozen for fish lovers. I think I have walked the aisles of Whole Foods twice since moving and only because we were in a bind. I prefer our little local shop at the bottom of the hill.
Without a tv, a cellphone, or a microwave to blow things up in, you may think: "What in the world do you do for fun?!" Well...lots of things! Walking has been high on the list, and on the weekends, we catch the free concerts that the University of Michigan Museum of Art puts on. I still smoke a pipe and enjoy that very much. We bought a fun little car that is a blast to drive on the curvy backroads when the weather is nice, and the house in and of itself keeps us pretty busy with upkeep. Oh, we also have been following college basketball pretty religiously, and I always have a book around for the rare downtimes.
I have been teaching myself stained glass for the past few months, and I am enjoying it. My grandfather has been a glass-man for the past thirty or so years, and being able to learn from him has saved me time and probably a finger or two. I am not sure where these new skills will lead me, but for the time being, I am enjoying my new hobby.
So what does the New Year hold? Probably a lot of the same...but we have been talking about adding a dog to the family. On Sunday, we head out to the country to meet some poodle puppies that hopefully like us!
Thanks for being readers! Happy holidays and I hope the coming year is a great one!
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