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New Year's Resolutions, Caviar-Style

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Finally: it's over.

You've given your last gift to the wretched ungrateful masses (and perhaps have already regifted, thrown away, or exchanged presents given to you, because you too are part of the wretched ungrateful masses).

You've braved the squalling populi at malls, endured the indignity of gift wrap paper cuts, and rubbed the signature clean off the back of your Amex.

And it's over, done, finito.

Hallelujah.

But, now, on the horizon: more punishment. In the form of those beastly, earnest yearly commandments, which inevitably begin with: Thou Shalt Eat Salmon and Iceberg Lettuce and Spend Hideous Amounts of Time at the Gym.

What is it about the American psyche this time of year, that dictates a period of total gluttony followed by weeks of self-flagellation? An utterly outmoded arrangement, in my opinion.

Frankly, I'd rather wash my New Year's resolutions down with a glass of champagne than with a spoonful of castor oil.

What follows is a list of ten painless New Year's resolutions. The idea behind these suggestions is that resolutions are gifts that you give yourself, not a way to rub your nose in all of your shortcomings.

Enjoy this caviar-version of self-improvement.

* * *

Resolution #1. Instead of buying a guilt-inducing $500 pair of shoes or boots, spend that money on an evening class. An art history class, a French class, a wine-tasting class. Many eight-week courses cost around $500.

What the world does not need: another Carrie Bradshaw wannabe.

What the world does need: more interesting, well-educated people.

New York University School of Continuing Education.

* * *

Resolution #2. Stop getting expensive facials. I know many women with beautiful skin who've never gotten one. Save the money from do-nothing spa rituals and make an appointment with a real dermatologist, who will be able to give you real advice (from products, procedures, and nutrition) on how to look your most radiant.

Susan Kline of Delivering Beauty is a secret weapon in the arsenal of many New York City ladies-in-the-know.

Delivering Beauty (212-439-9900 or www.deliveringbeauty.com)

* * *

Resolution #3. Instead of spending $75 in a stinking bar on nasty watery drinks one unmemorable Saturday night, use that money to buy a museum membership.

A $75 membership to New York City's beautiful Museum of Modern Art gives you unlimited year-long access to the incredible general collections and special exhibits; plus, the MoMA cafes are wonderfully chic lunch destinations.

Museum of Modern Art

* * *

Resolution #4. Take a make-up lesson from a pro.

And I don't mean at a dumpy Macy's Lancome counter either. Find out the name of the best make-up professional in your area and book an hour with him or her. You'd be amazed by how different -- and good -- you look after learning a few shorthand tricks. It's an excellent life-long investment.

New York City's famed Keri Berman can carve a cheekbone out of nowhere.

www.keriberman.com

* * *

Resolution #5. Start keeping a journal.

Someday you'll want to reflect on the different chapters of your life, and our memory for detail is not as good as we'd like to think.

I'm particularly fond of scrapbooks - save airplane ticket stubs and snapshots along with your writings; they're incredibly evocative a few years down the line.

* * *

Resolution #6. On that note, print out the photos clogging up your computer. Printed photographs will outlast any hard drive. Take an afternoon and put the photos into beautiful albums. This is a way of honoring your memories and telling yourself that your experiences are worthy of being showcased.

And if your photos are not worth showcasing, they're probably not worth keeping (or taking in the first place). Learn to edit them as you take them as well.

Kate's Paperie always has a lovely selection of albums, and there are countless online sources for creating clever, professional-quality photography books from your jpegs.

www.katespaperie.com

* * *

Resolution #7. Get a proper undergarments fitting. Any good lingerie department or store will take your measurements and help you build an excellent intimates collection. This is more important than most women realize; the majority of American women are wearing the wrong bra size (and they're bound to be sorry about this later in life ... Swing Low, Sweet Chariot ... ).

Plus, beautiful lingerie makes women feel beautiful. It's a simple fact of life. Always has been, always will be.

* * *

Resolution #8. Do a massive purge of your belongings. Cull through your clothes, shoes, bags, all of the crap under your bed, all of the crap in your fridge. Be ruthless, be a Feng Shui Stalin.

The state of your apartment or house belies your state of mind. Clutter and chaos behind closed closet doors is disturbing. Even if you can't bring yourself to throw it all away, organize the hell out of it.

Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

And once you're done culling, donate what you do not want. Housing Works in New York City collects clothes and housewares. An additional bonus: it's a tax write-off.

* * *

Resolution #9. Instead of booking the same old vacation you take every summer (Nantucket = zzz, the Hamptons = zzzzzzz), go someplace entirely new. You don't need a good excuse to go to the ends of the earth, besides your own damn curiosity. India. Croatia. The Maldives (after all, they may not even be there in another ten years). Many Americans have never been to South America or even Canada.

Nothing is more enlivening or perspective-giving than travel.

* * *

Resolution #10. The most important resolution of all: make the time to do these and other similar things. We all say that we're busy, busy, busy, and I suppose that we are. But we always find ample time to squander on computers, blackberries, and other distracting inanities and rituals.

Resolve to find the time to truly invest in yourself, and create and preserve a rich, textured, memorable life.

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