I don't do New Year's resolutions, although I understand the impulse. The year is young and fresh, the feasting season is past, and in the quiet of early January there is more space to take a deep breath and have a look around — both internally and externally — and ask what is going well and what could use a little work?
But resolutions are often about setting up lofty goals and unrealistic expectations, so instead I like to engage in a few small tasks and rituals to set me in a direction that feels wholesome and supportive. I begin this process in the kitchen, the heart of my home and the center of most of my activity.
I know it sounds predictable, but I like to start my new year with a decent kitchen clean-up. Not a 20-Day Cure, of course, but something I can accomplish in an afternoon. I focus on clearing out my refrigerator of any lingering holiday leftovers and ingredients. To do this, I must be firm and even a little ruthless, but also creative: throwing together a soup with the savory stuff, making crème fraîche with the leftover cream, stirring the extra cranberry sauce into yogurt for a snack.
I also give the countertops and cupboards a quick once-over, returning holiday-related items to their storage place or to the back of the cupboard, and giving everything a nice wipe-down. (There's always something gooey stuck to the underside of my KitchenAid mixer after the holidays.)
As a final flourish, I look for a new centerpiece to replace the evergreen and pinecones left over from December. A simple bowl of clementines, maybe, or a jar stuffed with winter herbs. This year it's a vase full of myrtle, a fragrant shrub whose leaves and berries are akin to bay, rosemary, and juniper.
The second step is a lot of fun: finding room for the holiday gifts I've just received. My friends and family know I'm a devoted cook, so I get a lot of kitchen-related items around the holidays. Instead of just shoving them into the cupboards, I like to take my time to be sure there is a place for each special thing — be it a bottle of fancy vinegar or a stack of beautiful homemade linen napkins. This usually involves getting rid of something in order to make space for something new — a very important practice that's both practical and metaphoric.
Finally, instead of making a casual, offhand resolution that I'll forget before the week is over, I instead like to come up with an intention for the coming year. I prefer the concept of intention over resolution because to my mind, intention has a broader scope and more fluidity. For me, it's less about dos and don'ts, and more about setting a tone, or orientating myself toward something. Intentions allow for the unpredictable energies of life to come in and shake things up a little. Resolutions can be broken, but intentions are more flexible and adaptable. Often my intention is one word, such as slower or explore or persistence.
Once I have my intention, I like to sit quietly with it for a while. I light a candle, pour out a special cup of tea or maybe a small glass of Sauternes leftover from a holiday dinner, and take a seat at my kitchen table. The holiday kitchen is often a busy, action-packed place for me, so it's a pleasure just to sit quietly and reflect. I find that sitting with my intention allows it to settle, becoming less of an idea and more of a part of who I am. After a while, once my drink is done and the candle has burned down, I rise up, wash my cup, and head back into the hustle-bustle of life, feeling refreshed and inspired.
Whether you set an intention, make a resolution, or just give the ol' KitchenAid a good polish, it's good to mark the new year in some way, to take advantage of the automatic reset button that is January 1 and to discover and cultivate what's most important.
How do you reset your kitchen for the new year? Do you have any kitchen rituals? What's your intention for 2016?
(Image credits: Leela Cyd)