Wednesday, February 27, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week Nine

Okay, I'll confess: I'm a bit embarrassed to let you see the before shots on what was in my purse. I knew it had gotten bad (really bad), but I guess I was still in a slight state of denial because I had somehow let it get to this:

And, if you really want to get technical, this picture is still missing some stuff.

I know.


Basically what I always have done is just throw everything in my purse (to deal with later), and somehow, that "later" just never comes.

Until the day when my back and shoulders and neck have just about had it, that is. (That day was last week, in case you were wondering.)

I will say this, though--I was actually kind of surprised that my purse was under 10 pounds. I realize that 8.2 lbs. is still an atrocious amount of weight to be carrying around on one side of your body, but in all honesty--I thought it would be much worse.

But that's where the good news ended.

The bad news is that I had to start sifting through little bits and pieces of trash and papers and gum and who-knows-what to try and get to the bottom of what appeared to be nothing less than the bag of Mary Poppins herself.

**Side note: I seriously ALWAYS put off cleaning out my purse because all those little bits of junk really freak me out. I think they're unbearably disgusting, and I tend to repulse myself as I realize that I'm the sole person to blame.

After everything was visually laid out in front of me, it actually became pretty easy to pare down to the essentials, which for me include:
*ibuprofen (I teach 7th graders, remember?)
*my collection of lip colors (because I almost always put it on while I'm on-the-go)
*temple cards

What are the essentials you keep in your purse?

Also, every four months or so, I like to rotate to a different bag. Since I'd been carrying my white one around for that amount of time, I decided to switch over to a slightly smaller one I had in the front closet.

Take a look:

Seriously? I feel like I've lost about 10 pounds. (And not just 5.8, thankyouverymuch!)

Hopefully I can keep this up.

This Week's Quick Stats:
# of Items Tossed/Donated: 5 (if you count all those papers as one thing!)
# of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 373
Amount of Money Spent on Organizing This Week: $0

For next week, I've decided to take on:

My Email Inbox & Social Media

I'm taking this one on now partly because I kind of need a smaller task to do considering that I'm wrapping up a very stressful trimester at the school, and I also want to take it on now because my inbox currently has about 300 messages in it that I haven't filed away, and it's driving me crazy.

So, without further ado, here is my to-do list for this next week:

Inbox/Social Media To-Do List:
*Go through inbox and delete all emails you no longer need, including ones about events that have already occurred, emails from ex-boyfriends (no idea why I haven't done that one yet), and emails containing attachments that you already have a copy of on your hard drive.
*Go through your sent box and delete all emails you don't need a copy of.
*Set up folders in your inbox to sort all the emails that remain (and set up folders anticipating which types of emails you'll receive in the future)
*Ask to be removed from all lists that you no longer want to subscribe to
*Update your contacts list so that it's current
*Consolidate all personal email into one account by using an automatic forwarding system
*Review settings on antivirus and spam to assure that it's currently set at the right level for you
*Update the live feed on your Facebook account so it includes only the kinds of updates that you actually care about
*Delete any friends on Facebook that you no longer are in contact with or no longer wish to be in contact with

Once a Month
*Go through emails, replying to all relevant messages
*Delete all emails that you do not need to keep a copy of
*Clear out your drafts folder

Once Every 3-6 Months
*Clean out your sent box
*Update your personal settings

Once a Year
*Look over and update your contacts list
*Purchase or update any antivirus software you use

*All to-do lists and cleaning suggestions are taken from Jennifer Ford Berry's book Get Organized. (This is NOT a sponsored project--I just adore the book! I highly recommend buying a copy for yourself. It literally is what inspired this whole project and is worth the money. Click here to check it out.)

I'll be honest, I'm kind of excited for this one. My inboxes have been driving me crazy for months now.

How do you stay on top of your email? Or do you just let it all pile up in your inbox, like me?

(Oh, and you should go weigh your purse and tell me how many pounds it weighs. I need some comparisons, here!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All

*Well, friends--it has happened: I have finally ended my dry spell. And by dry spell, I mean that I pretty much haven't exercised (and by exercise, I mean real, cardio, aerobic, heart-pumping kind of exercise) for months. And yesterday, on the busiest of days, I somehow  managed to fit it in between grading book projects and preparing myself for the end of the trimester this Thursday. 

*Take THAT, stress weight.

*But honestly--please tell me you go through exercise dry spells, too. You know what I'm talking about--when all you can think of is, "I really should exercise today," but all your body does is flip on the computer or lay itself down for a nap? And the longer you go without exercising, the harder it is to work up the motivation?

*Surely it can't be just me.

*Cuz that would be embarrassing.

*On this topic, I decided that it's ridiculous how much I force myself to re-learn the same lessons over and over again. I thought when I was training for the marathon last year that I had been truly converted to nearly-daily exercise for life. I felt so good all the time (and looked pretty good, too!) that I just couldn't see how I could ever stop exercising. Then life happened. My first year of teaching happened. And then yesterday, after just a 30-minute run, I was amazed anew at how clear my mind became, at how my permanent restlessness seemed to dissipate, and at how I was able to look upon teaching with some degree of fondness again, instead of coming up with ideas of jobs that would be much easier for me. And it was like I'd never experienced it before.

*Seriously, I'm kind of an idiot sometimes.

*Don't tell my students.

*I did FOUR full (jam-packed full) loads of laundry over the weekend. Yes, you read that right. And yes, there are still just two of us in this household.

*I obviously am GREAT at procrastinating laundry.

*I'm really great at procrastinating a lot of things, actually. In fact, I'm so good at procrastinating, I haven't even picked up the book that I bought myself for Christmas entitled The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination.

*I wish I were kidding.

*Last week, I had to get a sub for part of the day while I went to our sister school (the closest intermediate school to us that shares our same curriculum) to observe two teachers. Lemme share a little hint with you: I've learned from multiple experiences (not just from this one time last week, mind you) that when a teacher says, "Hope you don't mind a little bit of chaos," you know you're in for a real shocker of a class. I mean, we're talking students out of their desks, sending and receiving pictures on their phones, picking up their fellow classmates and carrying them around the room, a girl stabbing her friend repeatedly in the wrist with her pencil...bedlam, I tell ya. And then I wonder why people have such a bad view of education nowadays.

*Listen, people--WE'RE NOT ALL LIKE THAT.


*So kinda funny story--Sunday night, I had to go to a meeting with one of the older young women in the youth program I'm in charge of. During a certain section of the meeting, the young women and leaders were separated to get different information on how our summer camp is going to run, and at the end of the adult presentation, the person in charge asked for any questions. So I raise my hand and ask where the informational packets were supposed to be delivered when they were all completed. The leader, looking a bit surprised that anyone actually had questions, said, "Oh don't worry--just hand it to your young women's president and she'll know what to do." I immediately raised my hand back up, and the surprised leader called on me again, asking what I needed. "Um," I said. "I AM the young women's president, and I have no idea what's going on."

*Everybody got a good laugh out of that one.

*What's been going on with you lately?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Arroz Con Leche (Rice With Milk)

Ever since getting back from my mission to El Salvador two and a half years ago, I have a harder time being alone than I ever used to. It takes me several hours to finally embrace the loneliness, and wth Matt being gone for most of this weekend, I had plenty of time to myself.

Maybe it was the loneliness, then, that got me craving some serious comfort food (and by serious, I mean that it either came from my mission or that my mom made it). So, since I'm 80 miles away from my mom, I decided to try out an El Salvadorean classic dish here at home.

I had to search through several boxes before I finally found the recipe, which I had written mostly in Spanish and tucked away in one of my mission planners. I got this recipe from Mama Haydee (pronounced eye-DAY), who I affectionaly called "Mama" when she became like a second mother to me. She didn't have much in the way of worldly goods, but that woman always made sure to whip something up for us with the little that she did have.

Arroz con leche was my favorite.

I bet you anything you'd like it, too.

Since most of the recipe was written using the metric system, I converted it over to good ol' American measuring, for your convenience (and mine!).

After whipping myself up a HUGE pot of this, it was like the loneliness melted away, and I can honestly say that I fully enjoyed the rest of my weekend.

So if you're needing a little cure from loneliness or just a good, hot dish of something comforting, here's your go-to recipe:

Arroz Con Leche
1 lb. (about 2-1/2 cups) white rice (rinse first)
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bring the above ingredients to a boil.
When the mixture starts boiling, SLOWLY add four more cups (1 liter) of water. Bring to a boil again. Stir frequently.

Boil until rice is softer and hard to stir, then add 4 cups more (one liter) of water until the rice is soft and ready. Keep stirring frequently.

Add four cups of milk. Bring to a boil.
Ladle out into a bowl, and serve hot (with extra milk, if desired).
***Can add orange peelings as an optional flavoring.

Note: This recipe requires close watching---you need to be frequently stirring so the rice doesn't stick and burn. And it takes almost an hour, so plan your time accordingly (it's totally worth it, though!).
Serves:  8-10

Do you get lonely easily? What's your cure for loneliness?

Friday, February 22, 2013


I'm bummed that Matt will be gone on a campout for most of this weekend.
I'm happy that I'll get some extra reading time in (although not with my cute niece, who's reading with me in the above picture).

I'm frustrated that several of my students still haven't finished their research papers, even though they've had well over a month to work on it in class.
I'm flattered that enough of my students nominated me for being a great teacher that I won our weekly teacher drawing today ($5 to Wendy's--boo yah).

I'm mad that it's snowing again because it's making me think that Logan will never warm up.
I guess I'm grateful we're getting the moisture because our dry old state needs it.

I'm feeling overwhelmed because I have SO much grading to do before the trimester ends next week.
I'm excited that the trimester is over because it means I'm 2/3 of the way done with my first year of teaching.

I hated being woken up last night by a horrific nightmare that left me shaking and unable to fall back asleep for awhile.
I'm grateful that I had the nightmare while Matt was there because he woke me up when he heard me whimpering and comforted me until I was calm enough to sleep again.

I've been on hall duty all week, which I dread.
The week's over, so I can enjoy my freedom during the next month of lunches.

I'm not looking forward to how much cleaning and laundry I have to do this weekend.
I'm grateful that I have a place of my own to have to clean and enough clothing that I can go weeks (months, really) without doing laundry. Well, besides underwear.

I'm upset there's a glitch in the travel plans we've made to go down to Bryce over Matt's spring break.
I'm excited that we'll still be able to go, even if I might have to shuffle things around and reschedule.

What are the two sides of your life lately?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Are You Too Attached to Your Virtual Reality?

While grading through some packets my students did while reading A Christmas Carol, I have been especially interested to read their responses to this question:

"In Stave 2, Scrooge is given the opportunity to see all the events from his past that have affected his current feelings about the future. In thinking over your own life, what are the events in YOUR past that have affected the person you are today?"

I've had lots of students write in about going through their parents' divorce, moving, playing on sports teams, and dealing with loss.

And then I read over this one:

"Having a phone has affected my life because I don't pay attention to what else is going on in my life and also I don't interact with my family. I just sit here and text. Also it affects my life at school because I can text someone and then be terrified to talk to them in person. Which means I can only talk to them through a text message or calling. And when you do have a phone, it's easy to say anything you want to, but in person you barely talk so that is what has affected my life."

It brought to my mind this thought from one of the leaders of our church, David A. Bednar:

"Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience."

It seems like every now and then, I get these little surges of inspiration that I need to spend less time online and less time "living" in my virtual reality. You may have realized for the past couple weeks that my blog posts have been a bit delayed or not quite as frequent. While I'm not saying that I'm about to stop blogging, I AM saying that I'm trying hard to put technology in its rightful place.

Do you set limits on how much you involve yourself in a digital reality? Do you think it's important to set limits?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week 8

I was just remarking to Matt that I don't seem to realize how much I need organization in my life until I see the Before/After pictures side by side.

Take this last challenge, for example--in my head, I was thinking that our kitchen drawers really weren't too bad. (Well, I knew our main utensil drawer was, but other than that, I didn't think I could drastically improve on them too much.)


I'm sure if I counted up all the minutes I spend every day looking for a Tupperware container to put leftovers for my lunch in (and searching for the corresponding lid, of course) that it would add up to like six months of my life or something.


And I think that's the beauty that I'm quickly realizing through all this newfound organization--that I actually seem to have MORE time for things that matter, even after you factor in all the extra time I'm putting in doing housework. I can't exactly explain it, but I'm sure it's true.

Maybe I'll just let the pictures SHOW you why I'll have more time now:

To tackle that particular brand of chaos, I went ahead and bought myself some drawer dividers as well as a utensil holder to go on our countertop.

I argued with myself over whether it was worth the lost counter space to put this utensil holder out (since we have so little counter space as it is), but I realized that having these utensils close at hand while I'm cooking on the stove could only be a blessing, really. (Because I cannot TELL you how many times I've burned something cooking in a skillet because I couldn't find the right utensil fast enough, dang it!)

For the other drawers, I quickly realized as I started taking things out that we just had too much STUFF in all of them. And because a lot of it was still in great condition (like our hot pads and kitchen towels that we had never used), we decided to put some of those away until we have a house of our own. Other things (like our plastic Ziploc bags), I found other homes for (like on the new pantry shelves) so we would have an easier time navigating the drawers.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this week's drawer makeovers. And something that Matt reminded me of as I was fussing over the placement over every last utensil is that I can always change these new organization schemes--just because  I've taken pictures of it and slapped an "After" on it doesn't make it permanent.

My hubby's so smart.

And just in case anyone is curious, I picked up my drawer organizers from Walmart (6 pieces that totaled about $9), and I got my wooden utensil holder there as well ($6). I went to an antiques store first to look for a utensil holder that had a bit more charm to it, but walked out of there pretty quick when I started looking at all the price tags of the items I loved the most. (Like a vintage blue large Mason jar---$30. I don't think so.)

This Week's Quick Stats:
# of Items Tossed/Donated: 4
# of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 378
Amount of Money Spent on Organizing This Week: $15

Even though I sometimes wonder if our apartment will ever be truly organized, I feel that it's necessary for me now to have a small celebration. Why?


Yep, you read that right. There isn't a single place in our kitchen now where I have to think, "Ugh--I hope my mom never looks in there."

That's right, Mom--you can come and look into any nook and cranny of our kitchen that you want, and I think you'll be pretty pleased.

As for next week, I think I'm going to put the brakes on the actual apartment and address a much more pressing issue--

My Purse.

Seriously, I have managed to fit half of Rhode Island in there, as well as bits and pieces of some other places too.

It also weighs about 27 pounds.

So ladies (or men, with your man-bags), I hope you'll join with me as I seek to conquer this particularly difficult area of clutter.

But first, I need your input: what do you consider to be the absolute essentials to be kept in your purse at all times? What are things that you sometimes add in, but usually take out when you come back home? Do you think a smaller purse would solve most of my purse problems?

Pressing issues, people. I'm gettin' deep today.

This Week's To-Do List:
*Empty your purse (and wallet!) of all its contents
*Sort through all receipts, throwing out the ones you no longer need
*Place the remaining receipts in an envelope and put it by where you manage your finances
*Collect all loose change and add it to a coin jar (vacation money!)
*Sort through all credit and debit cards. Cancel and/or shred any that you no longer use or that are expired.
*Make a list of all the remaining cards, including the name of the company, account number, expiration date, and phone number for each, just in case your wallet is ever stolen. Keep this list in a filing cabinet in your home.
*Evaluate the condition of your purse and wallet. If they are showing obvious signs of wear and tear (or are larger than necessary), consider purchasing new ones (or using that smaller one hiding away in your closet).
*Organize your purse and wallet into zones. For example, all credit/debit cards should have a zone, your cell phone should have a zone, your makeup products, etc. etc.
*Go through all the papers and receipts in your purse. Most people just stuff everything in their purse with no organizational system, making it difficult to find the things you need in a hurry. Come up with an organizational system for papers in your purse, and paper-clip or rubber-band any items that need to stay together.
*Put a pen in your purse (and always in the same spot).

Maintenance List:
Every Month
*Go through your purse and wallet, eliminating all unnecessary papers.
*At the beginning of every month, empty your receipt pouch, and sort and file receipts.
Every 3-6 Months
*Clean out your purse and wallet entirely, eliminating anything that does not need to be in it
*Take a close look at the purse and wallet you are using. Replace if necessary.
Once a Year
*Sort and donate/toss any handbags that you know you will not use again

*All to-do lists and cleaning suggestions are taken from Jennifer Ford Berry's book Get Organized. (This is NOT a sponsored project--I just adore the book! I highly recommend buying a copy for yourself. It literally is what inspired this whole project and is worth the money. Click here to check it out.)

I'm not gonna lie, I sort of can't wait to do this challenge.

Partly because I'm totally going to go weigh my purse before I start this whole thing and see how bad it is. How much does your purse weigh? You should go weigh it and tell me.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All

*Thanks to my mother-in-law, we have found our latest meatless obsession: two corn tortillas (doubled up) smothered in cheddar cheese, avocados, and hot sauce. As she said, "When you have food like this, who needs meat?"

*So last night, I did something quite un-Torrie-like: I randomly decided to take off 3 days during Matt's spring break (my only personal leave days this year) and book a hotel down by Bryce Canyon. We're going to spend that whole time exploring the national park (which I've never been to) and kickin' it by the hot tub. I cannot WAIT. However, even though it may not be much like me--I LOVE it. I'm always trying to be more of a spontaneous, focus-on-the-good-stuff person. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I need to be more unlike me more often.

*You'll never believe it--Matt FINALLY got a haircut. After mentioning about every other day how much he needed one (for the past 4 MONTHS), he finally was able to get one from our sister-in-law this last weekend. And he just looks so darn HANDSOME that I just keep grabbing him for a smooch.

*I just can't help it.

*Today, I was in charge of taking all the students from all the 7th grade Language Arts classes each hour who were done with their research papers and having a big game day with them. Seriously, I want everybody to try this at least once--YOU try directing a group of thirty-five 7th graders to nicely behave themselves while playing a high-energy, highly competitive game like Do You Love Your Neighbor. I dare you.

*Needless to say, I had a girl during 3rd hour who got pushed out of her chair so forcefully by one of the overcompetitive boys that she smacked her head on all the desks behind her and had to be sent to the nurse. Seriously. Do You Love Your Neighbor is serious business, people.

*That's part of the reason why I'm doing this blog post so late--I've needed all these hours to unwind my brain from the craziness that was teaching today.

*And by teaching, I mean straight-up monitoring.

*(I've also been organizing our kitchen drawers for tomorrow's post. Can you say procrastination?)

*I've been thinking a lot today about if I had to pick a word to describe myself for each month, what would it be? And unfortunately, what I thought of for this year was nothing too positive: for January, I felt like, truth be told, my word would have had to be something like "down"--not quite severe enough to be outright depressed, but I was feeling pretty low all month. And now, for this month, I think I'd have to say my word would be Restless. I just keep feeling the urge that something has got to change and fast before I go crazy--I just feel cooped up all the time, and it's like I just can't kick the negativity that seems to come into my thoughts almost every morning as I'm facing another day of teaching. I'm hoping this is just seasonal and not just that I'm discovering that I'm not cut out to be a teacher.

*I think part of the reason too why I've been feeling so antsy is because I really miss exercising, but I feel like I've taken so much on my plate that exercise has just been pushed down the list of priorities. Sure, I'll still do some push-ups and crunches and squats about every other day, but I miss running. I miss Zumba. I miss things that get my heart rate going. And until either the weather gets warmer or I get enough money for a gym pass, it looks like I might be stuck in this funk for awhile.

*I hope you don't mind that this Tuesday Tell-All isn't as upbeat as most. Truth is, there are some days I just don't really feel like blogging or like putting myself out there. I'm sure my fellow bloggers have felt the same. And occasionally I question whether I should even post on days like this. But the truth is, a Tuesday Tell-ALL doens't just mean I should tell you about the funny stuff going on in my life, or the stuff that's more lighthearted--it means telling everything, including the not-so-great. I'm sure you understand.

*If you had to pick a word to describe your month so far, what would it be?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Birthdays, Surprises, & Bowling

Since we hadn't been home to see our families since Christmas, we decided this weekend that we'd probably better suck it up and pay the extra gas costs and get ourselves to Bountiful already.

We couldn't have picked a better weekend to go.

Besides being a 3-day weekend (which just automatically makes for a more convenient weekend to travel), it was also our friend Sam's birthday as well as one of our niece's birthdays.

So what better way to celebrate than with a mini surprise party?

While Sam and wife Kayla were out to dinner, we (along with our other friends Haley and Richard) snuck in to their house (using the key that Kayla had given me earlier in the day), decorated the whole place up, and secreted ourselves into various locations by the door right before they got home.

There's just something kind of exhilarating about hiding in the dark waiting to scare the pants off of somebody, ya know? (Even if Sam admitted later that he really hates surprises. Ha ha.)

Except Sam kind of knew something was up, so he wasn't SUPER surprised, but we still had fun trying :)

 We followed up the surprise-making with some good ol' Costco cake and trick candles, then took ourselves on over to the bowling alley to take advantage of their $6/person for an hour of bowling deal.

I scored a 114 in our first game, which is the highest I've bowled in years.

I'm not a very good bowler.

In case you couldn't put two and two together there.

In other news, we spent the rest of the weekend at a board game convention (Matt) and at the family history library (me), as well as having our second birthday celebration of the weekend with all of Matt's family on Sunday.

And we still have the whole day ahead of us today to enjoy.


Love the weekends.

What did you do? And how do you feel about surprise parties?

Friday, February 15, 2013

V-Day: The Aftermath

Something that will never cease to amaze me about marriage is that you think you know your spouse pretty well, and then they'll do something totally unpredictable that just makes you fall in love with them all over again.

Partly just because it shocks the heck out of you.

And I kind of like that.

Take last Valentine's Day, for instance--I was expecting our first V-day together to go pretty typically (flowers when I got home, a dinner out) . . . but then he shocked me by getting me all that kind of stuff the day BEFORE Valentine's Day. For a minute, I thought he just didn't know what day Valentine's Day really was. But then he explained that he wanted to break tradition a bit and get me flowers on a different day just because he could.

Well, since nothing out of the ordinary had happened as of Wednesday night this year, I figured we'd have a pretty typical Valentine's Day, even though Matt still had the activity with the young men in the evening, which would cut into our time together.

Or so I thought.

I was pretty bummed that they hadn't cancelled the activity, but I figured I'd go on ahead and plan a little romantic dinner for when he got back. So I kept pestering him with questions about what they were doing and how long they would be so I would be able to time the meal just right. And when the afternoon hours kept passing and no surprises were presented, I figured that Matt hadn't really planned to do anything for the holiday this year and was just stressed out with school and with the everything else going on. Or that he'd do something the next day, just to spite me.

Imagine my surprise then when about 25 minutes after he's left for this so-called activity, he comes bursting in the door with flowers and surprises and is looking all sorts of mischievous.

"What?! You're done with your activity ALREADY?! I'm not even close to being done with dinner!"

"I never HAD an activity. You just ask so many dang QUESTIONS-- it's almost impossible to surprise you with anything. And I kinda wanted you to think that I wasn't going to do anything for you for Valentine's Day."

"Well it WORKED."

*Matt smiles in triumph* (cue fist pump)

So all in all, we enjoyed a romantic candlelit dinner of steak and potatoes followed up by two wickedly delicious chocolate cupcakes.

(And when I say steak, I mean STEAK--Matt's was over 16 ounces!)

Did you do anything fun for the holiday? Any surprises?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day - From Here to Forever

While I have to put up with the antics and awkwardness that is Valentine's Day at a middle school, one thing at least will keep me sane today:

The fact that I have my own Real-Life Valentine now . . . and forever.

The fact that I don't have to be wondering as I go through the halls at school--"Does he like me? Will he notice me today? Will I get a special surprise for Valentine's Day?"

So GLAD that part of my life is over.

And so happy that I have, now and forever, my best friend and soulmate by my side.

Love you, Matt!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week 7

Well, I knew it would happen eventually--a week when I really didn't want to buckle down and get organized. When I didn't want to face my "stuff" for two more seconds. When I just wanted to sit down when I had a spare minute (a rare oddity) and watch a movie and eat red love cookies.

But I didn't let myself.

You see, I can be a determined, disciplined little bugger when I want to be. It's probably the only thing that's kept me going through this first year of teaching (that and the paycheck).

Luckily for me, my kitchen cupboards were probably the area that needed the LEAST amount of work in the kitchen, mainly due to the fact that we actually have quite a bit of cupboard space (no counter space to speak of, but at least we have a lot of cupboards, right?).

The main changes in my organization scheme were:
1. Move the pots and pans to be right above the stove/oven instead of in the more out-of-the-way spot they were in before.
2. Move the Pyrex pans that were currently above the stove to the same cupboard as my other baking things, such as my cake pans.
3. Gather up all the little appliances that were too big to fit in the utensil drawer but too small to be conveniently loose out on the shelves and put them in a bowl that's not frequently used.

After living with the pots and pans above the stove now for a few days, I can't BELIEVE that I didn't make that change sooner. It's WAY more convenient, and now I don't get as frustrated as I did before every time I had to wrangle a pan out of the back corner of the shelves.

And now, the before/after shots:

(This is the shelf above our stove/oven)

 (This is the shelf I moved all the Pyrex to. Yes, I did get rid of all those sweets.)


And finally, the grand picture of (most of) the shelves:


We won't normally have all those little empty places, by the way. We just need to do the dishes.

Quick Stats for the Week:
Number of Items Tossed/Donated: 9
Number of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 382
Money Spent on Organizing This Week: $0

Even though sometimes this organization business isn't the most fun (and I have to draw on my willpower to push through the whole business), I am happy about one thing this coming week--the fact that after this next week, my kitchen will be COMPLETELY ORGANIZED. Isn't that mind-blowing?

So next week, my last task for the kitchen will be:

Kitchen Drawers

I think this is one that Matt has been looking forward to because I think he complains just about every time he's faced with the sight of our utensil drawer:

I can't say I blame him.

So let's do this thing, eh?

Kitchen Drawers To-Do List:
  • Empty each drawer so you can see everything out in the open. Toss or donate anything that is broken, missing parts, or hasn't been used in over a year. Consider tossing any extras you have of the same item (such as pizza cutters, measuring spoons, etc.)
  • Store tupperware containers with the lids on them or with the lids in an organizing rack so you don't waste time searching for matching lids
  • If you don't have dividers already, consider buying drawer dividers so that every utensil/item has a set place
  • Consider buying a storage container that can hold the most-used utensils on your countertop instead of in a drawer
  • Clean out under the sink. Place all cleaning supplies in plastic buckets, and limit your grocery bag count to just ten. Find a simple container to put the bags in so that they are contained in one place.
So, looking through this list, my biggest questions are this
*How many of often-used cooking utensils do I really need? Do I NEED three spatulas? Or do I just need to learn to do the dishes more? :)
*Is there a drawer organizer that has dividers that are wide enough to house my bigger cooking utensils?
*Do I have room on my very-limited countertops to put another container on them?

What do you think? How do you organize your kitchen drawers?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All

*How bad do you let your hair get before you get a haircut? Well, I'll let you know how we Meidells do it--we just wait until we basically can't see anymore (or until the opportunity for a free haircut comes up) before we get one. I've been telling Matt that he needs a haircut for about 3 months now, but he says he flat-out refuses to pay money for one. I've been telling myself I need a haircut for about two. But somehow, I just never get around to it...

*But seriously--I've got to get a haircut, and pronto. Too bad my favorite hairstylist is now about an hour drive south...anyone know any good stylists in Logan?

*Then, of course, comes the age-old question: well, how should I actually CUT it? Should I get highlights? Go red? Keep it dark? Do I get blunt bangs again, like I've done the past two times? Such a conundrum.

*How do you decide which haircut to do next?

*In other news, it's Valentine's Day in two days. And you know what's ironic? The fact that I cancelled the weekly activity for my young women's group (due to the holiday), only to find out that my husband (who is over the young men's group) decided to go ahead and still have theirs. Go figure.

*So for Christmas we asked for a blender because our old one had been on the fritz for several weeks (like, some mornings it wouldn't even blend). Then, the weirdest thing happened: the second we brought our new Ninja blender home, all of a sudden the old blender has been blending like it's brand new. It's like it knew it was going to get replaced or something. So creepy.

*After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I FINALLY got four new magazines this week. I mean, what IS it about January that just makes everything seem to drag out so much longer? I swear, I'd finished all my magazines WEEKS before these new ones came, and I subscribe to SIX different kinds. The month's cursed, I'm tellin' ya.

*So lately, because Matt and I decided (not out loud, but we both must have come to the same conclusion) that we need to complain less and have a better attitude about things, we have since started to say these really sarcastic things to each other in the morning in lieu of complaining. Like, "I'm just so EXCITED to go to work today and have that same kid come tardy again to class. For the eighth time in a row. I really love the school policy that says I have to write him up for every tardy after #3." Or (Matt): "I just can't WAIT for my 10-hour long day on campus to start. And can I just say how much I LOVE how long my breaks are between classes?" Although the sarcasm might be killing the point, it oddly makes me feel a little better about things.

*We're terrible, we know. We should just learn to suck it up and let our gratitude for actually having a job and getting the chance to get an education shine through once in awhile.

*So yesterday, for a self-starting activity, I had all the students write in their notebooks any questions or concerns they still had about the research paper they have due this Friday (which we've been working on for a month). I asked them to specifically write down what they still didn't understand so I could be sure to go over it in class this week. As I was walking around and looking at all the responses, I came across this gem: "Um, I've had no idea what's been going on this whole time, so can you just start over and go over everything again? That'd be great."

*This isn't just typical teenage tune-out, people--that's a whole MONTH'S worth of complete inattentiveness. I mean, you'd have to be trying NOT to listen to have missed everything. Let's just say I had a hard time not laughing. Or smacking the kid.

*Last school story, I swear--so I have this kid that comes in literally almost every morning and asks if he can have a pencil (I keep a stack of new ones in my desk). When I ask him what happened to the one from yesterday, he'll say he doesn't know. After one morning when I responded in a particularly frustrated way to his query, he responded with, "It's not my fault! My mom keeps forgetting to tell me to bring my pencil pouch to school!"

*I teach 13-year-olds.

*'Nuf said.

*And you wonder why I resort to extreme sarcasm every morning to get myself through the day.

*Any particularly frustrating/funny people in your life lately?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Powdered Sugar Explosions, Among Other Things

 I may not get into Valentine's Day as much as some people (meaning, I don't decorate my apartment with pink heart garlands or expect my hubby to get me some big elaborate gift or plot what I'm going to wear on the 14th).

I DO, however, wholeheartedly support any holiday that gives me an excuse to bake some special little treats, especially if they're RED VELVET special little treats.

So that is how yesterday, I came to looking like this:

Now, my frumpy outfit aside (I still haven't adjusted to having my church meeting start at 7:30 AM, okay?), you have probably figured out by now that I really should wear an apron more often than I do.

My excuse for the above powdered sugar explosion is because I hate using dishes that are bigger than I think I need because they take up more room in the dishwasher, and y'all should know by now that I really hate doing dishes more than I absolutely have to.

So just maybe I kinda sorta misjudged how big of a bowl I really needed to make the cream cheese frosting on these puppies.

(Confession: my kitchen still looks almost exactly like that bottom left picture there because I have this weird thing about doing the dishes on Sundays. Basically, I conveniently take the "day of rest" commandment as a perfect excuse not to do housework of any kind. But somehow that umbrella statement doesn't cover cooking itself. I know--my justification skills need some work.)

But, sugar explosion and dirty bowls aside, I've gotta say:

I make a pretty wicked red velvet love cookie.

(see recipe below)

Do you have a favorite Valentine's Day treat or tradition?

Red Velvet Love Cookies

1 box red velvet cake mix
1/3 cup plus one spoonful shortening (so basically between 1/3 and 1/2 cup)
3 eggs

4 oz. low-fat cream cheese
1/4 stick butter (2 T)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a hand-beater or other mixer, mix all the cookie ingredients together until well-blended (the dough will be quite thick--almost like play-dough). With your hands, roll the dough into small balls, about 1" in diameter. Bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes.

For the frosting, mix all four ingredients together until frosting has the desired consistency. (Tip: I wouldn't add all the sugar at once--instead, add about half of it at a time and work your way up until the frosting has the desired consistency. For a thicker frosting, add more than the recommended amount of powdered sugar).

When the cookies have cooled down sufficiently (or until you can't wait any longer), go ahead and frost one of those babies and eat it with a big ol' glass of milk. Or, if you want to do an Oreo thing, slap another cookie on top.

Yield: about 24

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nice to Meetcha

So . . . it's come to my attention that seemingly overnight, I have acquired a lot of new readers. And since part of the reason why I got into the blogging world was because I liked getting to meet like-minded people, I decided that today, I want to meet you.

But before I ask YOU to get all up close and personal with me, I guess I'd better start by introducing myself first.

My name's Torrie.
My husband is Matt.
We live in Utah.
I teach 7th grade Language Arts.
I sometimes like it.
I sometimes hate it.
I am currently trying to get over a mild Dr. Pepper addiction.
I am doing that by feeding my Tootsie Roll addiction.
I like to read, write, and try to teach myself new things (hence the blog title).
My most current dream is to finally have enough money to buy a nice camera.
My husband is trying to convince me to warm up to the idea of getting a dog.
I don't want to.
I can play most sports, but none of them very well.
However, I was never the kid that was picked last, either. Just puttin' that out there.
I actually really like to exercise, when I take the opportunity.
I ran my first marathon last year.
(I'll be honest--I haven't run very much since!)
I still love running though.
I wish I were a better artist.
I really wish that I was a dancer (I am teaching social dance twice a week at my school, so that's pretty much the closest I'll get to that fantasy).
I recently learned to love to cook, and I'm in the middle of a semi-difficult transition of trying to eat more vegetarian (simply because, I'll admit it--I hate how expensive meat is).

Um...that's all I've got for now.

So now, I want YOU to do something for me:

Go ahead and leave me a comment. If you need a jumping-off point to help you introduce yourself, go ahead and consider some of the following questions:
Do you have a blog? (If so, leave the link--I promise I'll check it out. I love finding new blogs!)
Weird quirks?

So go ahead--let's grab a virtual cup of hot chocolate together as we have a little chat.

Can't wait to meet you!
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