New Year’s resolutions tend to be purposeful, serious and easily broken. The following 15 activities are definitely not resolutions. Let’s call them suggestions – ideas to help you escape your rut. Will they change your life? Maybe, maybe not. But they’ll make 2015 more interesting.
1. Sample a new cuisine. Find Ghanaian food at Mama’s Gee’s, 509 Beatties Ford Road, including kelewele, which are seasoned, fried plantains that Observer restaurant writer Helen Schwab promises “will make plantain lovers weep.” Schwab describes dozens more cuisines at Charlotte restaurants in this handy interactive tour at charlotteobserver.com/living.
2. Give back. If you want to volunteer, but you’re not sure where, start with handsoncharlotte.org. Hands-On Charlotte’s website lists about 150 volunteer opportunities each month. Register, attend orientation, pay a $20 engagement fee, and you’re eligible to volunteer for any opportunity.
3. Appreciate something in your own backyard. If you’ve never set foot in a local museum, make this the year. Among the possibilities: The Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St., a great introduction to Charlotte’s post-Civil War history. Or try Shelby’s year-old Earl Scruggs Center, 103 Layfayette St., which explores the life, times and music of the late Cleveland County-born bango master. More info: museumofthenewsouth.org, earlscruggscenter.org.
4. Shop for old stuff. The Catawba River Antique Mall ( www.catawbariverantiquemall.com) in Belmont, just a few miles west of the airport, is one of the region’s newest antique malls. More than 370 consignment booths hawk vintage clothing, furniture and all varieties of old stuff. Not as quirky as Charlotte’s Sleepy Poet, but it’s in the ball park.
5. Grow something edible. Starting a vegetable garden isn’t hard if you stay really small. In late February, clear out maybe a square yard of space in an existing bed that gets good sun. Amend with compost, plant lettuce and spinach seeds. Want even less commitment? Buy a seed sprouter and you’ll be topping your salads with alfalfa and bean sprouts in days.
6. Support local art. In addition to attending gallery openings, consider buying a “share” in the Arts & Science Council’s Community Supported Art program, just like people buy a CSA share to get a season’s worth of fruits and vegetables. For $500, you receive nine pieces from nine local artists delivered over three months. New shares are available for purchase in late January. More info: www.artsandscience.org.
7. Try a new phone app. The Internet is filled this time of year with “Best New App” lists. Apple recently named Elevate, a braining-training app, its 2014 app of the year. Our favorite discovery? Waze. It’s not new, but this traffic and navigation application uses crowd sourcing to alert you to accidents and traffic jams.
8. Learn to salsa. All it takes is 20 minutes and an open mind, says the Observer’s Cleve Wootson, who teaches salsa dancing when he’s not covering crime. Classes are available at numerous clubs and dance schools. Cosmos Cafe, 300 N. College St., offers free lessons, starting around 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Thursdays, which tend to be less crowded and best for beginners. More info: 704-372-3553.
9. Attend a reading. Bookstores, especially Park Road Books, hold regular author readings. And February brings Davidson College’s annual Conarroe lecture, one of our favorite literary events. U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright, who’s a Davidson College graduate, speaks at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 in Duke Family Performance Hall. Tickets are required but free. Details: 704-894-2135 or www.davidson.edu/the-arts/ticket-office.
10. Discern the difference between a Merlot and a Malbec. Did you know that in the early 20th century, before Prohibition put the kibosh on alcohol, North Carolina was the nation’s leading wine producer? In the past 20 years, N.C. wine has made a huge comeback. The state is now home to more than 100 wineries. They’re all on this map: www.ncwine.org/wineries.
11. Change your fitness routine. A Google search of “hot fitness trends” turns up some unusual classes. There’s one that involves weighted drum sticks, one called “Ropes Gone Wild” and another that’s described as dancing your own steps to music. Which sounds like plain old dancing. (See salsa lessons.) Anyway, the point: Take a spin class, try cardiofunk or cross-training, hire a personal trainer to set up a customized exercise routine. Do something different.
12. Declutter your house. Need inspiration? Observer book columnist Dannye Romine Powell recommends the best-selling “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Ten Speed Press, $16.99), which inspired her to clear out a bunch of stuff. The author, Marie Kondo, advises reducing your possessions to only those that inspire joy.
13. Find a festival. Many Carolinas festivals (peach, shrimp, blueberry) are held during the spring and summer. But Asheville’s Winter Warmer Beer Festival is Jan. 24. For $45, you can sample from more than 40 brewers. More info: www.ashevillebeerfest.com.
14. Eat a new food. You’ll find a growing variety of locally-made cheeses at farmers markets and specialty stores. Observer Food Editor Kathleen Purvis suggests a burrata, a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. One local cheesemaker, U.A.V., sells burrata in several locations, including Pasta & Provisions, 1528 Providence Road; Ferrucci’s, 20910 Torrence Chapel Road in Cornelius; and the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, 188 N. Trade St. in Matthews. Traditional and seasonal flavors are about $7 for a third of a pound. The truffle burrata is about $10.
15. Paint a room. What could be more cheering in January’s short days than a freshly painted wall? Sherwin-Williams has declared coral reef its 2015 color of the year. Pantone’s 2015 pick is a red-brown tone called marsala.