10 Simple Steps to a More Enriched Life | Here on TheCoolist, I tend to focus a lot on futurism, on the cutting edge of design, lifestyle and technology. Yet there are some core disciplines in my own life that are a lot more traditional that I wouldn’t want to live without. A love of wine, of keeping a garden, of cycling and cooking– these are old world values that span generations and in some cases, millenia. Since I wish I would have discovered some of these traditions sooner, I wanted to share 10 simple pleasures that I explore for a more enriched life. In the hopes of inspiring you to experience them yourself, I’ve chosen 10 products to get you started in each of these great pleasures. Enjoy!
Rediscovering a Love for Wine
While wine certainly has an intoxicating effect, it is consumed and cherished for its flavor more so than the fuzzy result. You may enjoy wine personally, but you may also be experiencing it improperly. Wine must breathe before being enjoyed, and all too often it is served immediately upon popping the cork. If you properly aerate your wine before drinking, you can rediscover the flavor that the vintner intended.
Take a young, but well-reviewed Cabernet Sauvignon for example. You shouldn’t serve a glass until it has been allowed to breathe for roughly 40 minutes after you pop the cork. Alternatively, you can use a Vinturi Wine Aerator to instantly aerate your wine while pouring a freshly opened bottle. A $7 bottle of Cab Sav will take like a $30 reserve bottle with just a quick pour through a Vinturi system. If you’re a regular wine drinker or you want to rediscover what wine should be, a $39 Vinturi is precisely the ticket. (oh, and we’re holding a contest for a free pair of Vinturis for readers… more at the end of this article)
Vinturi Wine Aerator Gallery
Organic Vegetable Garden
Life changes the moment you taste your own home-grown produce. You’ll never return to the grocery store again expecting the same amount of sheer flavor in vegetables. If you haven’t grown your own or you don’t know someone who does, you’re missing out on just how brilliant veggies can be. The act of sewing seeds, nurturing their development and harvesting their fruit can be a religious experience. If you have a plot of sunny land to yourself, get yourself some seeds, some water and some patience and you will thank us by the time the harvest comes. If you want a fresh start, I suggest this complete garden starter kit with grow light, it’ll start your seeds indoors for outdoor transplanting once they’re of age. If you’re living in the north, plant times are nearly weeks away– this could ultimately be the best thing you do this spring and summer.
Personal Produce Gallery
Document Your Decadence
If fine wine and organic gardening are things you enjoy, you owe it to yourselves to document the experience. The Moleskine Passion Journals are tailored to each of your passions, from food to wine to film, allowing you to record each experience in detail. If you pop a new bottle of wine, the Wine Journal provides specific note categories to capture the experience. For food, a recipe document is designed precisely for your ingredients and processes. Sure, you can use any old notebook or even a laptop, but there’s really nothing like having a dedicated journal of your own to document your experiences of decadence.
Moleskine Passion Journals Gallery
Inspiration to Explore Your City
If you’re living in a major city and you’re not using Groupon, Living Social or Gilt City, you’re missing out. These services aren’t just about saving money, however, they provide a curated path to exploring the city you call home. There are restaurants, museums, shops and more that you may not be aware of that these services will help you discover. If you find yourself in a rut, you need to snap out from your current cycle and discover something new. You’re more than capable of doing this on your own, but if you need a bit of inspiration, head to your favorite local flash sale website like Groupon, Living Social or Gilt City.
NYC at Night Gallery
Traditional Transport: Two Wheels and the Open Road
In the United States, the bicycle is the ultimate tool of transport for kids before they reach the age of 16. Once a kid gets a drivers license, the bike is dead– the allure of the automobile renders a bicycle useless. For me, it wasn’t until a good eight years later that I personally rediscovered the bicycle. While living in the city of Chicago, cycling became a new passion, a fast-paced and exciting game that lasted 20 minutes twice a day, as I carved up the city streets from River North to Lakeview. It later became the highlight of my day, a point of excitement to stir my blood in the early mornings and a celebration of freedom as I escaped the clutches of a day job. If you’re still stuck in a car, you’re missing out. If you want the right tool to reintroduce an old flame, we suggest this Electra Amsterdam bike, a beautiful Danish-inspired cruiser with all the details of early century cycling.
Electra Bikes Gallery
The Joy of Cooking: Finding Flavor Within
A good meal at a gourmet restaurant is one thing, but a great meal you’ve prepared yourself can be a transcendent experience. If cooking is something you’re curious about but haven’t yet tapped, a good place to start is within the pages of the bible of the kitchen, the Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. This iconic book inspired many a foodie, a collection of 4,500 recipes running the full range of cultural influences. If you think you can’t cook or you want to try cooking more often, this is an ideal way to dive into a very rewarding new hobby.
Travel Large, but not like a Tourist
That boring Big Box ™ hotel chain in your destination city seems like it’s giving you a fair deal on prices. If you and your significant other look to book a room for two with a couple of upgrades, the $250 price tag from the Hyatts, the Ws, the Sheratons and the Hiltons may seem like the best you can get. In my experience, there’s a better alternative available so long as you’re aware of it– boutique hotels. If you can find them, there are often a range of well-reviewed and cost-comparable boutique hotels in every major destination city. Our inside line is EpoqueHotels, a network of boutique hotels from around the world. Pricing is not much different from the usual suspects listed above, but the experience they offer is often a lot more tailored and upscale. We’ve got a dedicated article coming next month about our favorite off-the-beaten path hot spots, and boutique hotels plays a big part…
The New World of Chocolate
I have to admit, chocolate has never been something I personally desired. But the way my bride’s face lights up after she bites into a fine truffle… that’s something I can’t help but crave. Like the other items on this list, there’s a movement in the world of chocolate that is far different than what you can find at your local grocery store. Organic and designer chocolates provide a new world of flavor in chocolate, a taste that will turn a casual fan into a dedicated die hard. If you want to get to know how special chocolate can be, I suggest the Chocolate of the Month Club. Even as a monthly gift for the chocolate lover in your family, this can be one heck of a passionate undertaking.
The Art of the Craft: Shopping Small, Shopping Local
The individual producer and consumer relationship nearly died after the peak of the industrial revolution. No one really built anything any more, many of us wound up working for a larger company that produces something sold elsewhere. One little website has helped turn that tide, giving the independent craft person a chance to share their wares with the wider world. Etsy.com is no secret, but if you aren’t looking for clothing, art, furniture, jewelry and more on Etsy first, you’re missing out. You would think that a visit to Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters might provide a decent selection of clothing and kitsch, but there is true spirit to be found in the hand-made goodness on Etsy. Real people, real craft, all in one place. As an Etsy addict myself, I have to relay the pleasure I feel in purchasing something from a true artisan, using my consumer dollar as a vote for the independent crafts people of the world.
MicroInvesting: Fueling the Creatives of Tomorrow
Where do those independent artisans on Etsy get their start? Some may be fueled by the micro-investing community at KickStarter.com. KickStarter is a way for artists, film-makers, business startups and others to present their ideas to the public, who can in turn provide funding, one dollar at a time. The feeling of helping an artist reach their goals is truly rewarding, and the experience of watching that project come to life is even better. Your dollar, even in a singular sense, can go a long way toward sparking a new movement for an independent creator. If you’re not already on KickStarter, don’t hesitate any longer… (much love to Imagination Station Detroit, who raised $62,000 on KickStarter to construct a Robocop statue for my native city of Detroit. This might be the best thing to happen so far in 2011, this side of Egypt of course.)
Thanks for reading about 10 of my personal pleasures and 10 ways to enjoy them for yourself. I’m hoping that you’ll be inspired to try at least one of them for yourself. Do you have a personal tradition that you love that we didn’t talk about here? Share it in the comments, or send us a tweet @thecoolist.
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This feature is sponsored by the fuel-efficient 2011 Hyundai Elantra, a car that fits our aim for better living through technology.
Want to win a free set of Vinturi Wine Aerators to vastly improve your wine drinking experience? We’re running a contest courtesy of Hyundai to users who tweet us their thoughts on this article. Send us a tweet @thecoolist with the #snapout hash tag to become eligible to win a sweet set of Vinturi Wine Aerators, one for white, one for red. If there’s something you dig in these 10 ideas to snap out of your rut, tweet it to the world and you’re all set to go. Read the official rules for more info– good luck!
(leading photo by flickr user kyle kruchok)