Looking Ahead

by Jenn (eating bender) on January 8, 2013

We are already a week into 2013 and I am so overwhelmed – in the best possible way – by all of the excitement this year promises. Now that Bobby and I are feeling like ourselves again – as evidenced by the cold beer and cheeseburgers we consumed tonight – I’ve had a chance to sit down and map out some goals for these next 12 months, and each one makes me smile.

Some of them are easy, some…not so much, as they challenge me both physically and mentally. Some of them are pure fun, some…not so much, as they push the boundaries of nearly 26 years of habit formation (see also, “house cleaning”). I thought I’d share the top 13 from my working list with you, in hopes that you’d share some of your goals for the year with me, too!

Looking Ahead: 2013 Goals and Aspirations

goodreads copy

Increase my number of books read from 2012.

Last year I read 27 books (and reviewed more than half of them, with a few more reviews to come). It’s no secret that I love reading, writing and pretty much anything associated with the literary world, but I hope to expand upon that this year with more books read and more reviews written. So for 2013, I hope to reach at least 35 books, and write a review for each of them. Yet another thing I love about finishing a book is the discussion that happens afterward, especially when others have read it. Which leads me to my next goal…

Start an in-person book club.

I’m happy to announce that this goal has already been accomplished, thanks to some tag teaming with another food- and book-loving blogger, Nicole. I will be sharing much more about it at the end of this month. I’m also excited to continue my virtual book club!

Ragnar del Sol jpg

Cross the finish line at Ragnar del Sol.

This goal has been in the works for a while, but I’m excited to officially announce that I will be running Ragnar del Sol this February with 11 amazing women! Some I’ve known for years, some I’ve only just met, but after our team meeting on Friday I know that the 200 miles from Wickenburg to Tempe are going to be a blast.

Nicole and Ari are our fearless leaders. I was also able to convince my lovely friends Karla and Melissa to come all the way from California and Iowa, respectively. It has been far too long since I’ve seen either of those ladies in person, and I can’t wait to go on this adventure together. Bety, Jaime, Jennifer, Megan, Stacey, Tara and Kelli make up the rest of our group. Cheers to Team Dessert! (Our official name is “Run to the desert?! We thought they said dessert!”) :) I’d be lying if I told you that I’m not slightly terrified of this relay race and all that it entails over the course of 48 hours, but being in such good company is a huge comfort. It will be challenging, but totally worth it once we cross the finish line.


Travel across the ocean.

Bobby and I have been planning a 2013 trip to Europe in our heads for a long time, and we’re ready to make it a reality. Italy and France are highest up on our list, but there are so many other places we’d also like to see. If anyone has advice for how to make the most of Italy, France and maybe one other country or destination (Spain? London?) in a 14-day period, we would love to hear from you. Neither of us studied abroad and though I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a few places through various groups I was involved with in high school and college, we both will be experiencing travel to Europe on our own for the first time. We’re open to any and all suggestions!

Clean House

Clean house more often than cleaned apartment.

Anyone who spent time at our Chicago apartment would probably agree that the term organized chaos often applied – and sometimes just chaos. Now that we are settled in for the long haul at our house, I want to work harder on taking good care of the space we live in, which to me means doing a better job of things like putting the dishes away immediately, cleaning the most lived-in areas more often and in general, not allowing my usual piles of clutter to accumulate quite as high as they usually do (yes, that is me admitting that said piles are mine, not Bobby’s).

It is very possible that this goal might often fall by the wayside thanks to my tendency to embrace the above quote, but I’m going to make a real effort to try. In addition to keeping clean and organized, I also want to take on some DIY projects, such as creating an herb garden in our backyard and adding a few more plants to the mix of what is there already. These goals will also require me to be more diligent about maintenance and cure my lack of a green thumb. It should be interesting. Scrivener copy

Finish my novel.

Yes, that novel. It’s interesting to look back on 2012 and see just how many excuses and life events I let get in the way of my personal writing. I do have to cut myself some slack with the move, but as Bobby recently pointed out while in the midst of a “let’s be real about this” conversation, there will never be a time in my life that I am less busy than I am right now. If I keep using a crazy schedule as an excuse, this book will never be finished. And so I have made a promise to myself that I will schedule a certain number of uninterrupted hours per week to write, research, stare at a blank screen…whatever it is I need to do in order to get it done. They are hours with absolutely no distractions made of the quietest quiet a person can find. So far, they’ve resulted in 4,000 new words. I like it. (Side note: The icon above is for Scrivener, which is an amazing software that is well worth checking out if you have a personal writing project of your own.)

Other goals for the year include:

  • (Finally) take my mom on a girl’s weekend trip. It’s happening in February, and will be delectable.
  • Train and complete at least five other races of varying distances (not sure about a half yet).
  • Take a minimum of one day per week to go completely offline.
  • Make an effort to cook at least one new dinner recipe per month to add into our rotation.
  • Dedicate more workout hours to strength training – specifically arm exercises.
  • Spend at least 10-15 minutes of every day reading and catching up on current events.
  • Volunteer my time in some capacity at least three days per month.

Thirteen for now, and many more that I’m sure will become apparent as the year goes on. Some of them are from my 2012 list, but they certainly deserve to be repeated.

Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear what you have in the works for lucky number ’13.



1 Janiek @ A non-perfect girl January 8, 2013 at 2:31 am

Oh wow, don’t get me started on travelling now! I’m from Europe so I’m lucky enough to have travelled to most of the big cities in europe. Italy is definetly a great country to travel to, I went to rome and florence this summer and had a great time. Obviously there are soooo many things to see in Rome, but honestly I prefered Florence. Florence is so much more relaxed and almost magical especially in the evening. If you ever go there :go visit the restaurant casa linga! %rance is a beautiful country and great to travel trough by car. If you don’t have that opportunity: Paris is a great city! Also, I really really loved normandy ,it was so amazing to so the beaches of D-day and the overwhelming graveyards. It’s just a really beautifull place. I’ve been to spain many times, and it’s great to go to for laying on the beach. Barcelona is a fun city and great for shopping! (definetly visit the Zara store: you pay half the price for the clothing in spain in comparison to all other european countries! Ehmm, london: I LOVE LONDON! There’s is so much to do, always new things to find, I never get sick of it. Go visit a show, and camdens market, and of course the more obvious touristic places. What else in europe? I’ve never been to berlin but I’ve heard it’s pretty great. And then there is Amsterdam: the city I know best cause it’s the city I’m from! Don’t go to holland for the weather but it’s so great for tourists. And again, I would reccomend renting a car since it’s such a small country, it gives you the opportunity to really see the country! If you want any more tips just send me a message ,i never get sick of talking about travel :p (as you can tell) x

2 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:14 am

Wow, thank you so much for all of the great tips, Janiek! I’m really glad you said that you liked Florence because we are trying to narrow down which Italian cities we’d want to visit most, so that’s really helpful! Normandy sounds like it would be really interesting, too. And now the debate is really whether we go to Spain or London! Of course, I’d love to go to Amsterdam, too…the list is endless. I think I may be sending you a message once we start getting into the details of our trip. THANK YOU!

3 megan January 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I’m an American living in Europe – in Germany – and also recommend Florence. We stayed at a resort within a few hours in the Tuscan countryside. And the food….oh my. I LOVE London as well. It is very easy to navigate too. So so much sight seeing there, so much to do. My advice – keep in mind the time of year you are visiting. If you go to Holland, go in the spring. Tulip season! Etc. I recommend Europe in general in the spring…it’s the greatest season here.

4 Jenn (eating bender) January 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

You’ve made me so excited, Megan! We’re planning to go in the spring, so all of your tips are perfect. Florence is officially at the top of the list for Italy, and I would love to see the tulips in Holland. Thanks for all of the advice! Do you remember what the resort you stayed at in Italy was called?

5 megan January 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Villa La Palagina – rustic and in the hills of Tuscany. Great for just sitting around and relaxing. That is why we went there! Enjoy your vacation! You will love it

6 Erica January 8, 2013 at 5:28 am

FABULOUS goals! I can’t wait to read about Ragnar del Sol and your girls weekend with your Mom. My goals are 1. Give more. I’ve already started by donating blood for the first time this year (and I plan to do it every 8 weeks). 2. Be more patient and don’t sweat the small things (an on going goal). 3. Spend more time with Josh and Kaylin :)
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7 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:15 am

I love your goals, Erica! It doesn’t get any better than those three things! :)

8 Lauren January 8, 2013 at 7:03 am

I love your goals, especially the one about traveling to Europe! That has been on my bucket list for years…I just need to finalize a timeframe when I’ll make it happen. :)

9 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:16 am

Thanks, Lauren!! It has been on ours, too. I say let’s both make it happen sooner rather than later! :)

10 joelle (on a pink typewriter) January 8, 2013 at 8:34 am

I love that offline goal! Some of mine for the year include running a half and moving back west to be closer to my family. :)

11 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:18 am

Thanks, Joelle! Love both of your goals – the last one in particular was my favorite. Moving closer to family is the best! :)

12 Melissa @TryingtoHeal January 8, 2013 at 9:58 am

These are such great goals for the year Jenn! I seriously can’t wait to run Ragnar with you, and you’ll be the one to cross the finish line too!!! It will be awesome, I promise! And you won’t be able to stop as soon as you start! :)

And funny, I just reread the portion of your book you sent me on my way home from Florida…I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year!

We’ll have fun walking more about your goals when I see you soon! Or we have a chat session!?!??!?!!??
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13 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:20 am

I am so dang excited for our race – and to see you!! It’s going to be a great start to the year. :) And oh my goodness you made me smile when you said you re-read the portion I sent you. Seriously, you couldn’t have made my day any brighter than saying that! It has evolved a bit since then, so I can’t wait for you to read the finished rough draft. Can’t wait to chat more in person about both of our goals, but until then I think a video chat session is definitely in order!

14 Heather January 8, 2013 at 9:59 am

We recently took a Mediterranean cruise with Royal Caribbean – 7 days, with 10 days total traveling. It was pretty intensive, but I loved it! It’s a good way to see lots of Europe in short bites, and then hopefully come back for more in the future.

The pros were that it was relatively inexpensive, we didn’t have to worry about finding a hotel for each place, and the boat could travel extensively overnight so we didn’t have to (we ported in or nearby Venice, Split (Croatia), Naples, Rome, Pisa, Provence (France) and Barcelona). My favorite places were Split, Rome and Barcelona! Additionally, we didn’t take any pre-planned excursions – I was able to research extensively online in advance and took the local transportation everywhere with few worries, everyone is well to offer help if you need it.

But really, anywhere in Europe will be amazing, if you do it by boat, train or foot :) I hope to get back to Rome, Greece and Paris one day :)

15 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thank you so much for sharing, Heather – that sounds like an awesome trip! I’ve heard about taking cruises before and think that you are right – it’s a great way to see a lot of Europe in shorter bites. Your cruise in particular covered so many of the places we most want to see. I’m going to have to check it out – thanks again! :)

16 Heather January 10, 2013 at 10:39 am

No problem! Happy to help. I will say if you love the planning part before the vacation, cruising is definitely a win in that department. Otherwise, it can get stressful 😉 Good luck!

17 Jenn (eating bender) January 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm

That’s great advice. Thank you again!

18 Megan (Braise The Roof) January 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Those are some lofty goals, lady! I think you can do it, though- sounds like you’re already off to a great start! Can’t wait to hear about all your adventures. :)
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19 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:22 am

Thank you, Megan!!

20 Cara (Twinthusiast) January 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Great goals – can’t wait until your novel is complete. I’ll be one eager reader. Amen on the cleaning quote. Book your Europe trip! 😉 My goals for this year include being more mindful of my free time (I might write a post about this), double my published articles from six in 2012 to to 12 in 2013, and search for a small job. I would also love to run my first post-baby race. Let’s hold each other accountable, shall we?
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21 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:25 am

I can’t wait until my novel is complete either! I had a bit of a breakthrough on it yesterday that I’ll have to tell you more about – in short, I outlined the book from start to finish, something I hadn’t done before. I thought that I was the kind of person who could just write without structure, but in sitting down and doing that yesterday I realized how amazingly helpful it is for me to see the whole picture at once. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say it may have been the best thing I could possibly have done at this stage in the game. I love your goals for the year and will comment more about them in your blog post, but yes – let’s please hold each other accountable! Cheers to that.

22 Melanee January 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Oh, oh, and oh! Europe, book writing, races with a community of female friends. An excursion with mom, space and order in your new home, fresh recipes and an herb garden.. something for every season. I love it.

My husband gave me a trip to Europe, or anywhere in the world really, for my birthday this past year, and I feel overwhelmed at the idea. He’s traveled all over, but I haven’t, and I narrowed it down to France and Italy the first trip too. He’s even taken three weeks off this summer in case I get my plans together for it.

We are alike when it comes to all things domestic. I love space and order, and yet I am so often afraid that I am wasting my time on it, and that if I spend too much time cleaning, I will miss out on something more meaningful or exciting. Sigh. I’ve made enormous strides though, particularly when it comes to simplifying everything.

The best thing I’ve done is to donate and purge and get rid of as much stuff as I can. Live with less and just breathe. Have cupboards that are empty and open spaces. I find that I can be so much more creative in a clean and open space.

I used to set lists of goals, and then I’d accomplish them. I know that doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but I’d push myself so hard, and expect myself to accomplish, which I did, that I got exhausted. I became allergic to goals even though I still have ridiculously high self-expectations and internal goals.

So.. your list is so fun, that I might venture into concrete goals again. I just wrote a post on the idea that if we ask ourselves what were our high points last year, many of them would not be attached to a goal at all. And yet, as I think about it, and am going to write about this idea soon, even though the highlight moment was not a goal itself, there were many consistent actions and goals behind that moment that had to take place in order for that moment to occur.

Like let’s say you have a moment this summer where you have all of your favorite people over to your new home, and you serve them a fresh recipe with your garden herbs. You may not have set a goal to have the party, but you did set cooking and gardening goals, and you did set goals and intentions that would allow you to be the kind of person who would attract such amazing friends. So while the party may be a highlight for the year, and not a set goal, that moment of serendipity was made possible by your consistent efforts.

Can’t wait to celebrate your victories this year! Thank-you for sharing!

23 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

I just have to say that your comments are always so thought-provoking, insightful and well-written, Melanee! How wonderful that your husband gave you a trip for your birthday. We’ll have to chat more as we start to iron out the details and swap notes on any exciting tidbits and must-sees we find. I also love what you said about creating space and order through living with less. I certainly find that I function best when there is less “stuff” around and more open space, so I need to be more mindful of that this year.

And perhaps the biggest “light bulb moment” for me was when you were talking about concrete goals vs. the biggest high points of the year. It is so true that often the events I remember most are not the ones I expected or set out to do. But then again, they may be the result of the consistent actions and goals I achieved leading up to that moment. The garden example is brilliant – I’ve never thought of it in that way before but am definitely going to keep referencing it moving forward. It will be amazing to look back on the best of 2013 and be able to point to the specific efforts that may have allowed for them to happen. Thank you for that perspective!

Can’t wait to celebrate both of our victories this year. :) All of the best to you and your family!

24 BroccoliHut January 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I love your list of goals! You’re far more ambitious than I–I just made four. However, I think I might steal a few of yours, particularly the book club and volunteering ones.

25 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

Steal away! I might also have to steal your 365 miles goal because I think it’s such a great one!

26 Marianne January 9, 2013 at 1:08 am

Happy New Year! I highly recommend Prague if you can work it into your Europe schedule – it’s awesome, and relatively cheap :)

As for goals, I made a few on my blog. They include things like get organized, bake bread, read more, and get moving more. I kinda think I need to add travel somewhere new to my list though too – I could really use a vacation after internship ends.
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27 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:36 am

Thank you, Marianne!! I actually went to Prague my junior year of high school. I have fond memories of that trip, so we may have to find a way to work it in. I know Bobby would love it, too. :) I’m a big fan of all your goals (I wish I lived closer so that I might be able to have some of that baked bread, haha), and I think adding travel in there is a definite must-do.

28 Chelsea January 9, 2013 at 6:25 am

What great goals! My biggest one is to go on a three-years-late honeymoon to Ireland with my husband. We’ve never been abroad, and I am so flippin’ excited to taste some part of Europe as well.
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29 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:37 am

I have so many family members that have gone to Ireland and absolutely loved it. You are going to have such an amazing time, and what a special way to spend your honeymoon! It will make it even sweeter. :)

30 Joi January 9, 2013 at 11:50 am

Your goals are very interesting! I think they are quite realistic. I wish you much success in completing them. I would like for my book club to actually attend a book club conference this year. I too desire to go on an 11 day journey to Paris, London, & Amsterdam but I’m not married, so I’m having a hard time finding a travel partner that shares the interest and is willing to pay for it. I intend to open a fitness studio by the end of the year. This year will be devoted to increasing my presence in the fitness industry virtually and in the community. Thanks for sharing your goals. BTW, I might consider hiring a housekeeper to help out with the cleaning, you may want to join me:)
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31 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thank you, Joi! Ok, so I had no idea that book club conferences existed but now I really want to attend one! Is there one in particular that you are looking at? I need to do some more research because this is awesome. :) I love all of your other goals, too – I hope you are able to find a travel partner and think it’s amazing that you intend to open a fitness studio by the end of the year. You are inspiring and I can’t wait to follow along on your journey. And potentially find someone to help with all the cleaning! 😉

32 Joi January 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm

The one that we were told about is NBCC in Atlanta, GA. We are in Macon, GA which is about 60 miles South of Atlanta, so I would like to attend. I hear it’s really nice. I am doing good to have 8 – 10 ladies meet every 6 weeks consistently. I will try to ease the conference in over time. They were not trying to hear it last year:)
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33 Jenn (eating bender) January 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Haha! That sounds really cool. We’re aiming for 8-10 ladies, too. Here’s hoping it can stay consistent – I would love for this to be a book club that lasts for many, many years!

34 Potatoes and Pilates January 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm

These are great goals for 2013! Finish your novel, run a race AND keep a clean house – I admire your ambition:)

I did France and Italy this summer in just under three weeks with my husband who had never been to Europe before. It was my fourth time to Italy and third to France so I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have about visiting them in a short period of time. There really is SO much to see so I think it is best to identify a few cities/sites that are “must-sees”. Also, once you determine what time of the year you hope to visit, your itinerary should be a bit clearer.

Good luck! Excited to follow your journey this year!
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35 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

Thank you for the words of encouragement! I would LOVE to hear your tips on Europe. Once we know for sure when and where we’re going, I might send you an email to get the low down if that’s OK. :) I’m excited to follow your journey this year, too!

36 Potatoes and Pilates January 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Absolutely feel free to email me! x
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37 Susan January 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Great list of goals – well done, you. Let’s see, I think you already know that one of my favorite European adventures was seeing the Gibraltar monkeys – turns out that they’re actually Barbary Macaques with their own website – http://www.gibraltarmonkey.com/. I’m sure wherever/whatever you choose, it’ll be a wonderful trip. I, too, would like to sign up for a race (probably won’t be as warm as the desert, but I’ll see what I can get :)). And, last but not least, yay for your novel! I thought of you when I drove past the Fort Scott sign yesterday.

38 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:44 am

Haha oh yes, I could never forget those monkeys! I’m definitely adding them to our list of possibilities. Can’t wait to finalize everything. You’ll have to let me know what race you end up signing up for – and hurray for Fort Scott! I’ve had some big movement on the novel front this week that I’m excited to share more about. :)

39 Ari @ Ari's Menu January 9, 2013 at 11:55 pm

EEEE!!! So excited about Ragnar, and also pretty equally excited to read your NOVEL when it’s done. Who writes a novel??? So amazing!!

40 Jenn (eating bender) January 10, 2013 at 10:46 am

I’m so pumped for Team Dessert! And thank you! It’s always been my dream to write one and I am determined to make it happen. I’m excited for you to read it, too. :)

41 San Diego Barista January 11, 2013 at 12:25 am

Wow! I’m very inspired by your post. Last year, I was able to read 30 books. However, I haven’t written a review for any of them. With that realization, I think I know what one of my goals is this year. I also like the idea of an in-person book club. What will be the focus of your book club? Will you be reading different genres every month?

42 Jenn (eating bender) January 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Congrats on reading 30 books last year – that’s great! Our book club will likely switch around genres each month, with the focus being on historical fiction, young adult, general fiction and some of the current bestsellers. I’m excited!

43 glidingcalm January 11, 2013 at 7:49 am

I have a feeling 2013 will be a greeeeeeeeeeeeeeat year for you! EUROPE sounds amazing! That is something I would love to do someday as well!

Thanks for the love to my family in your last comment on my blog too.

Miss you!

44 Jenn (eating bender) January 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thanks, GC! Much love to you and your family!

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