A new year, a fresh start. Many choose to kick off attempts at lifestyle changes come Jan. 1, but here at the Gazette, we think it’s less important to worry about counting calories and more important to count experiences. We only get one life to live (soap opera pun not intended) and we should live it well. Set aside some time in the upcoming new year to have fun and try something different. Some of these things may lead to a healthier you, but that’s just a bonus. Learn to step outside your comfort zone; it’s good for the soul. For our next Thursday Top Ten, we're giving you ten things to try in 2014! —Danielle & Joe
1. Start hiking.
Staying in shape has got to be one of the most popular resolutions. What better way to shed the pounds than a hike? With all of the scenic trails that cut through our area, you have no excuse not to enjoy the great outdoors. A section of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail passes over the Blue Mountain. Check it out. —JK
2. Get crafty.
Pinterest. You’re either obsessed or you have no idea what it is. The latter may ignore this one. So Pinners, we all know how crazy addictive the virtual corkboard is. It’s also an awesome resource for DIY ideas, homemade crafts, and ingenious innovations. Search for anything you want, make a list, and go nuts on a Saturday afternoon. Also check out Home Recycled Home for some green-friendly options! —DT
3. Read some classics.
With the proliferation of novels like 50 Shades of Grey, many readers don’t make time to get schooled in the ways of Hemingway or Fitzgerald. No matter what your taste—epic adventure, romance, war stories, and anything else you can imagine—you can get your fix with literary classics. You can polish off The Great Gatsby in an afternoon, so there’s no excuse not to get caught up on some great writing. —JK
4. Take a class.
Many of the area’s community colleges offer noncredit course options. Have you ever wanted to try your hand at cake decorating? Or take a French class, just for fun? Maybe you think you have a brilliant idea for a screenplay, but you’re unsure how to execute it? Check out NCC and LCCC for course options and fulfill the dreams you’ve been, well, dreaming about. —DT
5. Take a wine tour.
We have so many awesome vineyards in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas, why not spend an afternoon taking a wine tour? I don’t consider myself a connoisseur, but there isn’t a much better culinary experience than attending a wine pairing with a sommelier that knows his or her stuff. —JK
Tired of the same ol’ meat and potatoes? Grab a not-so-ordinary cookbook (or find something on, you guessed it, Pinterest) and wake up your tastebuds by taking them on a foodventure. Pick three to try on a weekend, take a trip to the store for the ingredients, come home and try them all. Best case scenario, you find a few new favorites. Worst case scenario, you end up ordering pizza. —DT
7. Meet new people.
Now I’m not saying you should start shaking people’s hands in the supermarket, but one of the best parts about starting a new friendship or relationship is learning someone’s life story. Combine that with the lost art of writing letters and you have a fun way to pass a rainy afternoon. What am I talking about? PEN PALS! You’d be surprised at the number of programs you can find with a simple Google search. There are international programs, programs for children and soldiers and foodies and heck, even prisoners. You could wind up with a friend halfway across the globe and that is a beautiful thing. —DT
8. Fly in a light aircraft.
We have plenty of municipal airports dotting our region, including one in Slatington and Carbon County Airport in Lehighton. There are plenty of programs and flight schools that will give you the opportunity to soar 3,500 feet above the Lehigh Valley. —JK
9. Do good.
The grammarist in me wants to change that to “do well,” but I’m using Mr. Feeny’s interpretation here. Do good. Do good for others. Do good for the world. Even a raindrop makes a ripple in an ocean. Find a cause, find a reason to fight for something. What do you believe in? What do you wish you could change? Find something that spurs you to action and defend it. Unfortunately, there will never be a shortage of charities or fundraisers and every penny helps. Do some research and learn about some of your own neighbors who may be struggling and lend a helping hand. —DT
The best decision I’ve made in 2013 is to get off the couch and start running. Beating personal best times and other fitness milestones is the best feeling in the world. You don’t have to be Usain Bolt to start hitting the treadmill or the trails. —JK