DEAR STEEL ADVICE: To make a New Year's resolution or not? Every year I make a resolution to improve some aspect of my life. But within a few weeks to at most a few months I fall back into my old habits. Is this New Year resolution process just a temporary feel good ritual or a good way to self-improve? What am I doing wrong? -- RESOLVED OUT
DEAR RESOLVED: The New Year is a time to readjust and recalibrate. An all-or-nothing attitude is bound to fail. So concentrate on taking small steps toward a more positive you. If your goal is for short-term dramatic results it is unrealistic and a prescription for failure. Make a list of your good habits and build on your strengths. Over a period of time consistent action in the right direction will lead to your success. If you slip backward, do not give up. Forgive yourself and get back on track. The formality of a written resolution is just a road map of where you want to be at the end of 2014. Old habits are extremely difficult to challenge, however that is not an excuse to continue bad habits. Use your resolutions as a written promise to appreciate each day and to be accountable to yourself.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: When we visit friends over the holidays we usually give a bottle of wine as a gift. However, I am not a big drinker and have noticed many gifted bottles of wine still sitting in my house that have been given by friends. This is a very popular gift item, but there must be something else. What do you suggest to improve on this gift? -- ALL WINED OUT
DEAR WINED OUT: Start to make your hostess gifts a little more original, and by that I do not mean to switch to Whitman's Samplers. Regift the wine you already have and then be on the lookout for a great place to shop so the next hostess gift selection does not become an ordeal. As thoughtful as some people may think little soaps, candles and other tchotchkes are, these items easily become fodder for a charity bazaar grab bag or gift basket donation. Steer clear of them. Spend some time in a trendy food market or cooking store where the wrapping is done for you. Interesting olive oils, imported teas with biscuits, fancy coffees or chocolates for cocoa make great hostess presents. Imported cheeses, salts or granolas are also fun presents to give and receive. Try not to wait to make this purchase on the way to the party with your spouse or kids in the car. It is easy to fall back into the bottle of wine in a gift bag trap if you do not have a plan. In a pinch, bring a small plant.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.