A wise woman we know had a bedtime ritual for her children: Before going to sleep, she reminded them of one fun activity planned for the next day. It could be as simple as baking cookies, planting marigolds or reading the comics together, but the children learned to wake up feeling excited and hopeful. It taught them to look forward to each new day.
In that same spirit, Sun staff writers have come up with a short, highly idiosyncratic list of pleasures to anticipate in the new year. Think of them as little presents that you can unwrap over the next 12 months, small gifts you can give yourself when it's rained for a week straight and you're fighting with the boss.
We advise starting today.
Get Trapped in this Web Site: www.blacktable.com. An always surprising, often hilarious Web magazine on pop culture, politics and life, the Black Table was founded two years ago to see what would happen to an online magazine that gave writers time to write and didn't care about making money.
The results have included fascinating stories on the ways straight men signal to each other that they're not gay (drop in a mention of The Wife or The Girlfriend) and how to behave in a four-star restaurant (you don't need to thank the busboy). This site has no full-time staff and publishes just one new story daily, so it'll never become the next Slate or Salon, but it gives a home to strange, original journalism you won't find anywhere else.
-- Stephen Kiehl
Grow A No-Fuss Rose: Rose Double Knock Out could change the rose's reputation from that of a disease magnet into that of a trouble-free shrub. When its predecessor was introduced in 2000, gardeners were thrilled by the plant's resistance to black spot -- a disease that causes the leaves to develop holes and fall off. But while the single-petaled version of Knock Out requires no spraying, the broad, flat flowers don't look like the hybrid tea blooms most people think of as roses.
The solution: Double Knock Out, said to combine the hardiness of its parent with the classic rose form. Although the new cultivar (in a silky shade of burgundy) was introduced in 2004, supplies were extremely limited. This spring, it is expected to hit the market big-time.
-- Mary Carole McCauley
Cheer on the Comeback Kid: After a long-awaited 2003 facelift, Belvedere Square began to transform itself from an empty hull to a thriving collection of stores, restaurants and an open-air market. Its comeback began slowly, but now the major tenants are in.
Taste restaurant opened in the fall and was mobbed, Ryan's Daughter draws a crowd, Nouveau has moved in, and the open market area now flows into Ceriello's deli and Grand Cru wine bar. Will the square rejuvenating the neighborhood, as its proponents claim?
-- Kate Shatzkin
Eat Noodles: Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but here's looking forward to the demise of the low-carb craze in 2005. There are indications this may happen. New research suggests that low-fat diets work better long term, and sales of low-carb products are slowing down.
People doubtless still will use the Atkins diet to take off a few unwanted pounds, but as a lifestyle -- ugh. There are simply too many wonderful foods that don't fit with the program. If so, by the end of next year we may be reporting that whole grains, gourmet chocolates, dried fruits and exotic pastas are the hottest food trends of 2005.
-- Elizabeth Large
Hi-Carb Movies: 2005 looks to be a clash of titans in every season and genre, from the Big Macs of popular culture to good-old fashioned stories that stick to your ribs.
In the former category, George Lucas will bring the Star Wars saga to its conclusion with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg goes up against the memories of both Orson Welles and sci-fi pioneer George Pal with The War of the Worlds.
-- Michael Sragow
Follow A Record Chase -- and a Controversy: There's no better subject for gossip, that most enjoyable of pastimes, than a home run record pursuit and a scandal. Better yet, in 2005, they're likely to involve the same player -- Barry Bonds. The San Francisco Giants slugger enters the 2005 baseball season with 703 home runs, just 52 shy of all-time leader Hank Aaron. But last month, it was reported that Bonds testified before a federal grand jury that he unknowingly used steroids given to him by a trainer.
Will asterisks accompany Bonds' stats in the record books? Stay tuned.
-- Joe Burris
The Play's the Thing: Local theater fans have learned that the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington reliably revives unjustly neglected masterpieces. After sitting through 3,020 productions of The Mikado or Romeo and Juliet, it can be a wonderful treat to see a work by a playwright who once was revered but with whom contemporary audiences are unfamiliar.
This year, we can look forward to Alfred de Musset's Lorenzaccio, which runs from Jan. 18 through March 5 at 450 Seventh St. N.W., Washington. The classic French play tells the story of Lorenzo de Medici, who must decide whether to murder his good friend, the Duke of Florence, thereby liberating that Italian city from the ruler's tyranny. And it is being directed by the estimable Michael Kahn. What more could we ask?
-- Mary Carole McCauley
Dress with Finesse: Take a break from tweed in 2005. This year, what was prim and proper will give way to what is fresh and romantic, breezy and light. In the spring fashion shows in New York, designers brightened up the runways with lightweight skirts, delicate blouses, fanciful colors and soft fabrics.
So be lighthearted: Trade your granny brooch for a satin ribbon, tied 'round the waist or in your hair. Cuff your jeans. Be prepared to go gingham, striped or polka-dotted. Fashion for 2005 is all about fun.
-- Tanika White