Friday, March 29, 2013

What's Wrong With This Picture?


Look closely--find anything wrong with this picture?

(Besides the awkward face I'm making, that is.)

Still can't see it? Try looking a little closer...



Just in case you're apparently as tired as I am on this Friday afternoon, I'll go ahead and make it easy for you:


This is how I went to work today.

I wish I were kidding.

 I got to the school, threw my bags under my desk, and slumped into my chair with a sigh, splaying my legs out.

Then I noticed that I had actually left the house this morning wearing two different shoes.

I don't know how, I don't know why, but I do know this:

Thank goodness it's Friday, cuz apparently I'm sleep-deprived.

(Although, word on the street is, some of my students are planning a "Mrs. Meidell Shoe Day" on Monday where they all will wear two different shoes to school because they want to be so utterly cool, like their teacher. Bless their hearts.)

Seriously folks, HAPPY WEEKEND!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In Defense of Cooking



At every full-time job I've ever had, I've noticed something: I am usually the only one in my workplace that brings lunch that I have cooked myself. At my last job (which was the first job I got after I was married), I quickly realized that due to financial reasons, I pretty much had to pack my own lunch every day. While all my coworkers went out daily to fast food joints and the gas station up the street (spending anywhere from $5-15 every day on lunch), I would pull out my leftover chicken and dumplings, beef and vegetable stew, or whatever else I had concocted the night before and enjoy a hearty meal that probably ended up costing me around $1.50, once everything was averaged out.

I didn't think anything of this ritual, but as the days wore on, more and more of my coworkers started noticing my seemingly "strange" behavior

At first, the comments started out harmless enough:

"Mmm...that smells good. What is it?"

Then, a couple days later,

"Do you actually make all that yourself? Like in your own kitchen?"

"Why don't you just grab a pizza? It would take less time."

Then finally, after days of them eating hot dogs, greasy fries, and the latest special at the local Maverik,

"If I paid you $30 a week, would you make lunch for me every day?"

The last one made me laugh, but my coworkers were hardly in jest--they not only could see how much money that cooking my own lunch saved me, but more often than not, my lunch looked a lot more appealing than theirs, which brings me to a central question that's been on my mind:

Why is cooking becoming a lost art?

At first, I just chalked it up to the job environments I was working at, which were largely filled with single men who worked long hours in industrial positions. But then I came here to the intermediate school. Expecting to find that most other teachers also brought home-cooked lunches, I was incredulous when I saw that almost everyone else brought Top Ramen, microwaveable canned soups, t.v. dinners, or yogurt and crackers to eat for lunch every day. A few teachers are brave enough to eat the school lunch regularly, but one thing is for sure: I am almost always the only one in the faculty room who has cooked my own meal.

And, not surprisingly (seeing as I was, once again, the odd (wo)man out), I started getting lots of questions from my coworkers:

"Mmm...that smells good. What is it?"

"You actually MADE that? Like, from scratch?"

"I don't know how you find TIME to do that every night. I just take my kids through the drive-thru almost every day because we're just so busy all the time."

Yes, these are actual comments that I have heard. My coworkers aren't ignorant--they know the dangers of eating too much processed food (especially the kind you get at a drive-thru). They know from personal experience that microwave dinners and canned soups don't fill you up for long, and that they definitely don't leave you satisfied.

So why am I still the only one in the faculty room who's making my own meals?

I get questions from other places too--questions like, "Is it really fair that you should be cooking every night when you're the one in your house with a full-time job?" or "That's nice that you can do that every night Torrie, but as a working mom, I just don't have the time."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be self-righteous or anything here. There are plenty of times when I also am too tired to cook, so I'll have a bowl of cereal (like last night) or order a pizza. And I realize that if I had kids on top of all my work responsibilities, there might be more nights like that. But by choice, that is not my "normal."

And, in response to the seemingly endless stream of comments related to the fact that yes, I do cook most nights, and yes, I do make most things from scratch, and yes, I often am tired when I come home from work but I still cook, here it is:

My defense of cooking.

First off, some people have this notion that since the feminist movement, women shouldn't have to be "slaving away" in the kitchen all day for their families. I would say that all the comments about me being a "working woman" would fit into this category. My question is this: who says that cooking is drudgery? Personally, I find something relaxing about measuring spices, chopping up vegetables, and stirring something bubbly over the stove. I find great satisfaction in producing meals that are pleasing to the eye, the stomach, AND the waistline. And it's not like anyone (my husband included) has this "expectation" that I'm going to be in the kitchen day in and day out making everyone's meals all the time anyway (obviously, the comments I've received show that that expectation has apparently almost disappeared).

Also, I think a lot of people are trying to imply with their questions that my husband should take on more of the cooking since he's only working part-time (although he's going to school full-time, which in my book, makes him busier than I am), and I'm our main breadwinner. A couple points: first, Matt DOES help me with the cooking. All the time, really. Sometimes he'll even take on the entire task of dinner all by his lonesome, and even though those nights usually mean mac 'n cheese with hot dogs, I still appreciate the fact that he's willing to put forth that effort whenever necessary. Second, I resent the implication that just because I'm working, I shouldn't have to take on my fair share of household reseponsibilities. Just as I'll expect Matt to still help me with the cooking when he's the main breadwinner, I have those same expectations for myself. (Besides, if I'm being honest--I'm just flat-out the better cook of us two because I've had way more practice, so I usually prefer to do the cooking myself anyway. Especially because when I cook, there are actually vegetables involved.)

Another point I'd like to bring up is that a lot of people try to say that they go for more "convenience" foods to save time (and that therefore, I should as well), but if I'm being honest with myself, all that time that I "saved" by picking up a pizza instead of cooking would probably just land me an extra half hour in front of a computer or t.v. screen. I've actually found that doing "real" cooking motivates me MORE to do worthwhile activities such as reading, writing, cleaning, and developing talents because it means that I'm not sluggish due to the consumption of greasy, highly-processed pseudo-foods.

My recent reading habits (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and a smattering of different texts on modern food by Michal Pollan) have also encouraged me to be proud of the fact that I am among the Americans who still care about what goes into my body and whether or not I am truly being as healthy as I can be. I think it's beyond sad that because we've convinced ourselves we're "too busy," we've lost the ability to feed ourselves with the kind of nourishment that would actually help us to get more things done.

And finally, it all really comes down to this: cooking my own meals is not only more tasty, frugal, and healthy, but it also gives me precious nuggets of time to discuss my day with my husband, reflect on what's happened, and to take a moment to be grateful for all the abundance I enjoy daily as we chop onions, trim the fat off of the chicken, or grate cheese together in our own kitchen. I imagine that gratitude will only get more pronounced as I strive later this year to start growing more of my own food and to buy what I can't grow/produce from local members of my community--you tend to appreciate something a lot more when you realize all the work that goes on behind-the-scenes to bring it to your table.

So, although I'm sure the comments in the faculty room and in my future workspaces about my "strange" cooking habits will probably never stop, I will forever by a defendant of the virtues and value of home cooking.

What are your thoughts on the matter?



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week 13


Go figure that this week just happens to be the unlucky 13--it seemed like every day that I normally would be doing my organization project, something came up or happened so that I no longer was able to do it. And then, when this morning came and I still hadn't even started to look through my stack of magazines that was getting more and more intimidating by the day, I was tempted to call the whole thing off and just do double-duty next week.

But you know what?

I don't want to be a quitter like that.

So I buckled down and just got to it.

First, I took out all the magazines that were more than a year old. Most of them I was able to get rid of, but a few (like the special commemorative editions of Time and People covering the Royal Wedding and a few hairstyling and running magazines), I just couldn't part with.

With the remaining magazines, I decided what absolutely was going to stay no-matter-what (like Country Living) and what I could probably part with and feel little remorse (Family Fun, seeing as I don't have kids, and some issues of All You).

And even though the remaining stack would still be considered excessive for most people, I'm feeling pretty darn good about myself, especially considering now that they're kind of even organized into subgroups (home and garden on the left, church magazines in the middle, and lifestyle/fitness/fashion on the right).

Boo-yah.

Too bad I get 7 or 8 magazines every single month, so I'll have to do this process again in like 3 months.

Oh well.



This Week's Quick Stats:
# of Items Tossed/Donated: 21
# of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 282
Amount of Money Spent on Organizing this Week: $0

Since this week before spring break might get a little crazy, I've decided to go kind of small again for my next project:

The Mail

Even though I bought a cute little basket to put the incoming mail in a few weeks back when I organized the kitchen, I've still not gotten the hang of not just putting every random piece of paper in there. So, it looks like to really get organized, I'm actually going to have to come up with a system, seeing as how my little basket has currently reached its maximum carrying capacity.

To-Do List
*Sort through the mail you currently have and toss what you don't need
*Set up a place to keep all mail supplies (stamps, envelopes, stationery, cards, etc.)
*Remove your name from unwanted mailing lists (create an account at www.dmachoice.org)
*To stop the Yellow Pages from being delivered to your home, go to www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org
*Toss all old catalogs and all the new catalogs that you'll never order from
*Choose a receptacle for all incoming mail and designate a separate place for current catalogs, bills, etc.

Maintenance
Once a Week
*Clear out your mail basket
Once every 3-6 Months
*Toss old magazines and catalogs
*Restock any mail supplies that are low
Once a Year
*Cancel catalogs to places you don't shop
*Cancel or renew any mail subscriptions you currently receive

Due to the fact that I'm already getting this blog post out so late, you'll have just to wait with bated breath until next week to see my mailbox's "Before" picture.

Bet you can't even wait.

*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.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All


*Well, my vacation hangover is *almost* gone. I will admit though, as I've been looking through all these Bryce pictures for my posts this week, I've gone through some vacation withdrawals that required some massive amounts of ice cream therapy...

*I've got exciting news (for me, anyway): Matt and I are the proud new owners of our very own little garden plot. Ever since starting Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (by Barbara Kingsolver), I have been a little bit more than obsessed about the idea of growing our own little vegetable garden. And, lo and behold, the opportunity just fell into our lap this last weekend. I keep going over and over all the possibilities, trying to decide what would be best: start planting some early crops (like lettuce and carrots) now, or just prepare the soil for the "heavy hitters" (like potatoes, peppers, and zucchini) later? Should I attempt to grow some of the vegetables I'm not very familiar with, like corn, pumpkin, and broccoli? And even though those "early" crops I mentioned are supposed to be able to tolerate the cold a bit more, are they really up to tolerating LOGAN cold? Is it too early to start planting some of them this weekend?

*If you have a garden in Utah, I would really love your advice on all this. What has worked well for you? What hasn't? When is it too early to start getting some of these "early" vegetables in the ground?

*In other news, I bought shoes last weekend. Confession: unlike most of the female race, I quite dislike shoe shopping. In fact, I'll usually put it off for months and months before forcing myself to give in and buy some (case in point: I STILL haven't bought new running shoes after the marathon, although I've needed themd desperately for almost a year now). I don't know what it is, but I would just rather spend my personal money on maxi skirts and cute shirts. But I did finally drag myself to the store to go get me a new pair of flats, since I think I've unofficially sworn off wearing heels to teach in.

*The administration at my school district FINALLY authorized the teachers to have access to Youtube. Seriously, this announcement has made my whole year. I was so sick of having to go through all sorts of crazy websites and channels to try to find the videos I wanted to share as part of my lesson plans. And now, I just have to snap my fingers and a magic little elf just brings whatever I want right up. Well, not really, but I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

*My own spring break is next week--I've totally been counting down the days, even more than most of my students (don't worry--I haven't been counting down in front of them). Even though I'll probably just be working on the vegetable garden and some family history the whole time, it will give me enough of a taste of summer to help me hang on a little bit longer.

*Of course, it also might have the opposite effect of burning me out because I'm so summer-hungry I can't even stand it. That's a possibility, too.

*In fact, I've been so summer-hungry that I've been spending long bits of time in the floral department at the grocery store, trying to work up the non-frugal nerve enough to buy myself some flowers. However, practicality eventually got her say because what I ended up buying was a cilantro plant for my kitchen that I've been frantically trying to keep alive ever since (it has a tendency of drooping very forlornly, like I'm killing its soul by keeping it inside). The use of the leaves in my cooking lately has been delightful, though.

*I know I shouldn't always freak out about it, but I've put on a stubborn two pounds over the past month that just refuse to budge. It took me a lot of effort to lose those 20 pounds a couple years back, and so you might be able to understand why I get a little uptight about gaining any of it back. (Or maybe you don't, and I'm just crazy. Whatever.)

*Of course, I'm sure the fact that I've hardly been exercising for the past four or so weeks has NOTHING to do with it...

*The immature, undisciplined part of me always seems to think that I can go ages without exercising and start eating ice cream every day and not gain any weight. I think it's because secretly, my mind is still seventeen years old.

*Even though I have a ton of grading to do, I am seriously contemplating putting my head down during my prep and seeing if I can't take a little power nap. (Of course, I've thought about doing that all year, but it has never happened.) Perhaps today shall be that day, friends---perhaps today shall be that day.

*I'm supposed to make some kind of bread item for our faculty tomorrow, and I'm in a bit of a conundrum because most of my go-to bread recipes really need to be served warm. Do you know of any recipes I could look up that would be for a moist bread that would still taste good the morning after it was cooked?

*I'm on hall duty this week during lunch, and I despise it; even though it's only for ten minutes, I feel like I spend all ten of those minutes saying, "Stop that!" or "Walk, please!" And, with the oncoming arrival of spring, we have more and more students getting caught with their significant other in various public displays of affection. This one hasn't happened to me yet, but I really hope I don't come across any of it this week, especially since we're supposed to call the parents and have a sit-down chat with them about what happened. Our school PDA peoblem is MUCH better than most for that reason.

*Yesterday, a coworker came into my classroom and told me that there was an opening at the high school that I should consider applying for (not because she was trying to get rid of me--I hope). A part of me wants to seriously consider it, but another part of me doesn't want to go through the "new person" phase again so soon--I feel like I'm finally starting to fit in here, and I really wouldn't want to have to start all over again. On the other hand, trying to have a discussion on the short story we read today in class with my 7th graders was often frustrating, to say the least--at this age, most of them still have a really hard time getting the deeper meanings of literature and so often just see what's right out in front of them. I think that I might be much more effective with an older group of students because I tend to always gravitate towards those more difficult questions. I think I'll stick around here for another year though (since we'll likely be moving after that anyway). I just hope I don't end up regretting it.

*If I wasn't on hall duty today, I would totally drive to the hospital cafeteria and see what they have for dessert today. Yum...

*It's almost April, people---that fact makes me very, very happy since everyone has always told me that historically, March is the longest month of teaching during the whole year.

*What's going on in your almost-spring world?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bryce Canyon: A Photo & Word Journal, Days Two & Three


 
This will be the last of my posts on our trip to Bryce (although I may or may not include some more pictures in tomorrow's Tell-All. We shall see.)

Day Two:

No matter how I sit or lie down, my skin burns and itches; the most comfortable position is generally on my back (since at least that's not sunburned), but my arms are fried all the way around and seem to hurt no matter what.

Today, I am beyond grateful we nixed the idea of camping and decided to go for the "high luxury" of the cheapest available hotel.

Since the frugal part of me feels guilty about paying the $25 admission fee to Bryce Canyon and not going to visit it at all today, Matt and I have worked out a plan: since the sunscreen is beyond expensive, we are going to just drive from one viewpoint to another, scuttle from the car to the shade as fast as possible, and avoid the sun as much as we can. We're also going to check out the Visitor's Center a little more (including the short 20-minute film they have about the history of the canyon) and go back to Clark's again for lunch, since we were so impressed by it after last night's dinner.

Even though we're not going to get in all the hiking we wanted to do, I'm still glad we decided to come back to the park today and brave the sun because no matter which angle we're looking from, this place is breathtaking.

A part of me maybe feels a little guilty for spending so much time in the hotel, rubbing aloe vera all over our sunburns and watching episode after episode of Auction Kings and Storage Wars, but this has still been the perfect blend of sightseeing and relaxation that a vacation should be.







Day Three:

We want to get back to Logan tonight by about 6, so we know we have to get out of here pretty early to make it back by then. We decided to outsmart the sun though and get up early to go catch a little of the Navajo Loop trail that we were eying the other day. (Besides, we knew we had to get back into the canyon to take some of our favorite little smooching pics! I don't know what it is, but it's like I've made a secret goal to take pictures of us kissing all around the world. So in case anybody was worried that our newlywed-ness had rubbed off, here's proof so that y'all can know that we're still crazy in love over here!)

Even though part of the Navajo Loop trail is blocked off (so that we really can't loop around at all), we're glad we decided to make this last-minute stop into the park. The trail descends right into the midst of a lush microclimate of greenery and trickling water, a fact we were apprised of in the movie we saw yesterday. We keep looking around, eagerly anticipating some wildlife, but all we see is a tiny chipmunk and a bird or two. Not even the bugs appear to have come out of hibernation yet.

Our hike only lasts about 45 minutes, and then we're back in the car, going through the drive-through at Arby's as our last checkpoint before we make the almost-six hour drive home.

As we drive out of Bryce, I take one last look through the rearview mirror as the trees close behind us and a group of three mule deer eat at the side of the road. I raise a prayer to heaven that, once again, my soul has been filled by managing to "get away" from it all and enjoy the best of creation.






Until next time, Bryce!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tips on Visiting Bryce in the Spring


With its high elevation and with the heavy snowfall Utah has received this year, I had several people ask me why on earth we chose to go to Bryce Canyon in the middle of March, a month that's infamous for being completely unpredictable.

Now that I've actually been, I think there are definitely a couple of things that I would have liked to know (or be reminded of) before we embarked. So, for any fellow travellers interested in visiting Bryce Canyon (especially in the early spring), here are some tips:

*Be prepared for ALL kinds of weather, including blazing sun, pouring rain, or heavy snow. On our trip, we got *lucky* enough to have the first option, but because the forecast had only predicted it to be in the high 40s and low 50s, we hadn't bothered to pack sunscreen. After a four-hour hike in almost-70-degree temperatures, we returned to the hotel as red as tomatoes, and it was much more difficult to fully enjoy the rest of our vacation as planned because of it. So, remember to pack sunblock, aloe vera, a sturdy umbrella, and clothes that will let you be comfortable in any weather (short-sleeved shirts, light waterproof jackets, and a heavy coat).

*If you're planning on doing any hikes, count on many of the trails being iced over, very muddy, or full of snow. Make sure you've packed sturdy hiking shoes with good traction (and preferably more than one pair if you have them because our shoes got soaked all the way through). If your hike is long enough to warrant carrying a backpack, make sure to carry plenty of water (we packed 3 liters for two people for a four-mile hike, but had it been any warmer, we would have wanted more), an umbrella or light jacket just in case the weather changes, and extra socks (so you don't have to go around all day with dripping wet socks like we did).

*We stayed at Ruby's Inn (Best Western), which was decently-priced and at a convenient distance to the park (about 3 miles). The nice thing about the hotel was that it had virtually everything you could need: a restaurant, a gift shop, a gas station, a grocery store, an outdoor goods store, AND a pool/hot tub. March was a great time for us to book because there were hardly any people staying there. However, even though they offered pretty much all the necessities at their little stores, they are VERY pricey (we went to go buy some sunscreen after we got fried, but we couldn't bring ourselves to spend the $15 for a bottle). If you can, pack everything you need before coming to save yourself some money.

*Although we'd heard Ruby's Inn has decent food for lunch and dinner from family members who had visited, we went there for breakfast and were extremely disappointed. We paid almost $20 for a meal that neither of us wanted to touch because it was so greasy and heavy and unfresh. On the bright side, we found a FABULOUS restaurant about 15 minutes south in Tropic--a quaint little local place called Clark's, which served some of the best burgers and fries I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Plus, since we went during the off-season, there was never any wait (the first night we went, we were the only ones there, and they treated us to fresh-out-of-the-oven bread AND made us a dessert as per our request, even though there weren't any listed on the menu). The restaurant was so good, we made a point of going again the next day, even though it hadn't been in our plans. We also ate at a local steakhouse called Foster's, which fell somewhere in between Ruby's and Clark's. It was a little pricier, but the service was great and we had no complaints (although we didn't rave about it as much as Clark's either).

*The benefit of going to Bryce in the off-season is that you avoid most of the crowds and the heat--we were the only two people on our first hike, and we rarely were disturbed at any of the lookout points we drove to. However, the downside to going during the off-season is that a lot of the tourist places in Bryce City and Tropic are closed, such as the cute little faux-historic "Old Bryce Town" they've constructed and a bunch of the gift shops and food vendors. So, if crowds aren't your thing, go in the spring. If you'd like to be able to fully sample everything that's available, you'd probably want to wait until summer to visit.

Regardless of the time of year you decide to visit Bryce, you will be guaranteed some of the most spectacular views you've ever seen--this is definitely one national park that's worth the trip (and the $25 entrance fee!).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bryce Canyon: A Photo & Word Journal, Day One



Day One:

We are in the Mazda, speeding our way along the road that will shortly lead us right to the mouth of Bryce Canyon, a local (and national) jewel that I had never taken the chance to go see. My feet are wedged awkwardly next to our bulging bag of chips, Easter candy, and Diet Dr. Pepper, and in my hands I hold In Defense of Food, a plea for Americans everywhere to stop eating processed food and start going back to "real food."

The irony of it all is not lost on me.

Only slightly grumbling as we pay the $25 entrance fee, we make our way into the park, unsure of where to go next. I keep snapping my head around, hoping to catch the first breathtaking glimpse of the hoodoos and rich red rock that this canyon is known for, but the canyon is intent on making me work for it. A few miles in, we pull off at a marked-off viewpoint, and I take my first steps toward the edge of the cliff we've been driving on.

My mind will always be wondrously capable of being awed, a fact for which I will (hopefully) always be incredibly grateful. The canyon glitters before me, a picturesque scene of snow and spire, and I immediately feel reverent, as if I am in the presence of my Creator Himself. After months of slogging through snow and ice and frigid cold and desperately craving a break from the chaos and frustration that are seemingly ever-present at my job, my heart felt like it wanted to take wing and lift itself right out of my chest and settle out onto the tallest spire.

How quickly my winter-starved soul is fed by the arrival of even the faintest signs of spring!




Like most tourists, we wander around to everywhere and nowhere, intent on doing it all but realizing at the same time that it is an impossibility. We drive back and forth and back and forth (partly because I was put in charge of navigation) until we finally find the Fairyland Trail we were looking for.

Call us ambitious, but we want to take on the park's longest and most difficult hike first, while we are still fresh. As we make our way out of the car and down the first half mile of trail, our earlier query of "I wonder why no one else is doing this hike?" is quickly answered: oozing masses of thick orange mud and snow drifts that often unexpectedly give way, leaving you thigh-deep in white.

But, courageous adventurers that we are, we decide to "stick it out" for awhile longer, climbing up nooks and crannies, taking in the unfolding views, and scraping off mud when our shoes get too heavy.






About an hour and a half (maybe less) into our hike down into the pit of the canyon (without meeting a single other hiker), we have a conversation that goes something like this:

Me: "I say we've gone at least 3 or 4 miles, and it doesn't look like this thing is looping around anytime soon. And where are some stinking signs anyway? Do you think we should keep going?"

Matt: "3 or 4 miles? Try like one. Maybe two.

Me: "Don't you be pulling your marathon mind-tricks on me again, like when you said that Mile 18 was really only Mile 4."

Matt: *laughs*

Me: "I'm serious--what should we do?"

Matt: "Let's keep going until we round the bend. Then we'll decide."

He says that around the next 5 bends. At least.

Finally, we come to a mile marker that I'm convinced is going to tell us we are now at least 4.5 miles in.

It says that we've only gone 1.7.

I kick it, wiping a little mud on the corner for good measure.

We decide to hike 200 more feet to a rest stop overlooking some of the plateau's delicate formations and eat our lunch of pb & honey sandwiches and melty string cheese.

We consider the fact that we've covered less than two miles in almost two hours (mostly due to mud, snow, and picture-taking), and we come to a unanimous decision to head back the way we came without trying to attempt the whole loop.

 
 
The hike back is uphill the entire way, made even more brutal by several feet of melting slush and mud that threatens to make you slide right off the cliff face. I start panting like a German shepherd, and I am reminded of our hike in Zion up Angel's Landing. After multiple water breaks and minimal talking or picture-taking, we find ourselves back at our starting point with aching calves and heaving chests.

Within an hour of getting back to the hotel, we realize we are hopelessly--stupidly--sunburned.

Like a pair of lobsters.

Looks like Day Two will be nothing like planned...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week Twelve


Sometimes as I do these posts, I wonder if I should be embarrassed to let the world see some of these horrendous "before" pictures (kind of like my "before" picture of the car, since it is proof of how much I love Tootsie Rolls.) But with each week, I try to squash any feelings of pride and just let those "before" colors fly. Also, I figure that in the end, it will just make my road to simplification that much more impressive, since y'all can see how much I obviously needed to de-clutter my life.

With almost three months of organizing behind me, I think I can safely say that the only things left on my organizing to-do list are the gargantuan tasks that simply seem like they'll be as difficult as Goliath to conquer, or the tasks that are so "simple" that they won't be too exciting to post before and after pictures of.

Oh well. Who said that getting organized was always going to be on that pleasant middle ground?

This last week's task was our car, which I would consider probably the last of the "middle grounders." The before and after pictures are still (slightly) impressive, but it wasn't so monstrously huge of a project that I keep conveniently putting it off til summer.

Ahem.

(Yes, I still haven't read that book I bought on procrastination. Why do you ask?)

I specifically scheduled our car clean-up for right after our vacation, so that it wouldn't just be getting trashed again right after we'd organized it. After roping Matt into helping me, we both quickly discovered that our car had somehow become a receptacle for a hoard of random papers, candy wrappers, and odds and ends that somehow never made it inside for one reason or another. It was definitely not like going through the clothes last week, which was fairly straightforward--with the car, there was a lot of, "What does this belong to?" or "Do you think this is important?" or "What IS this exactly, honey?"

Our glovebox was the worst: registration papers from years back, old insurance cards, coupons, random rags, technology cords that were never used...

Basically, our organization system went like this--the only things that could stay in the car were any necessary papers (registration, insurance, and maintenance--which we are now keeping in an organized folder in the glovebox), emergency supplies (first-aid kit, blanket, water, etc.), c.d's (now kept in two neat organizers instead of sprawling out everywhere and anywhere, with or without cases), sunglasses (now the only thing allowed in the driver's side pocket), driving gloves (for when it's cold), and a few things in the trunk that we regularly use in multiple locations (temple bags, some sports equipment, etc.)

Weirdly, the hardest thing for me to toss were the c.d. cases because I've just never tossed any before, and it just seemed so wrong. But judging by the fact that literally all our c.d's are in organizers, we didn't really need to keep all those cases lying around. So we chucked them.

So, there you go, our little project for the week:



Whew!

This Week's Quick Stats:
# of Items Tossed/Donated: 11
# of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 303
Amount of Money Spent this Week on Organization: $0

Because this week back at the school has been so ridiculously challenging (can't it be summer already?), I've decided to go with one of those "mini" projects that won't seem quite as impressive, but that will save my sanity a bit:

Magazines/Newspapers

Since cancelling our newspaper subscription a couple months ago, this one hasn't been quite so crazy, but considering the fact that I subscribe to 8 or 9 different magazines...it still needs some work.

This Week's To-Do List:
*Toss or donate all magazines that are over a year old. Make sure you check every single room in the house for magazines (clip what you want to save from old ones before you toss them)
*Toss all newspapers more than a month old
*Toss all catalogs and sale flyers that are expired or that you'll never use or look at, or that are for places you know you'll never shop
*Designate a specific place for magazines that you are keeping. Once this receptacle is filled, it's time to toss.
*Cancel subscriptions to any publications that you are no longer interested in or reading.

Maintenance:
Every Month
*Dispose of all publications you have read and don't want to keep
*Clip articles or ads that you will need for later reference
Every 3-6 Months
*Donate all magazines to a business/charity of your choice or recycle them
*Toss old sales catalogs
*If you keep magazines in your bathroom, refresh the selections by taking the old ones out and putting the new ones in
Once a Year
*Cancel any subscriptions you currently do not read
*Renew any subscriptions as desired

*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.)




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All



*I'm coining a new phrase: vacation hangover. Basically, it just means that head-pounding, groggy sense of reality that smacks you right in the face when you realize that your vacation is officially over and you are getting served a steaming dish of reality. I think that perfectly sums up how it felt to wake up at 5:30 yesterday morning and go into work.

*The one saving grace of the whole business is that I have my "real" spring break coming up in just two weeks.

*Thank. Goodness.

*To welcome me back to reality, the school decided to have a dance yesterday (we only have a total of three all year long) AND a magician. Now, to a 12- and 13-year-old, that might sound like a dandy of a day, but I've decided that being a teacher sucks all the fun out of such things since you've officially become The Monitor and The Enforcer and the Don't-Have-Too-Much-Fun-er. And the Harlem Shake has to be the longest song EVER. Just had to throw that out there.

*Okay, I'll put the complaining aside. I mean, I actually got to GO on vacation, so I've got a leg up on all the other teachers at the school.




*Random Fact #344 about me: I hug trees. Literally. I mean, I'm a bit of a tree-hugger in other senses as well (I recycle, I try not to waste energy, I pick up litter), but I also mean that I have scads of proof (read = pictures) that I go around and embrace growing things pretty much all the time. I don't know what it is exactly, but I will tell you this: I've been this way for a long, long time. Just call me Tree-Huggin' Torrie.

*Actually, don't. That would be weird.

*In my creative writing class, I have the students do a writing prompt first thing upon entering the room. Today, the "prompt" was this awesome picture I took in Alaska of an enchanted forest, and then I turned off the lights and had nature sounds playing as the students came into the room. When it had quieted down enough that the nature sounds could actually be heard, I had two boys in the front who kept turning their heads from side to side and saying, "What IS that? Where are those sounds coming from? Do you think it's the plumbing?"

*Is it mean that I just laughed to myself at my desk instead of setting them straight?

*Today, the students were rocking out to the Macarena and thinking they were the coolest of the cool. I wanted to say that the Macarena was like, so totally 1996. Honestly, I'm shocked that the kids even knew what it was, considering that only about a third of them are familiar with the story of Harry Potter.

*One thing I'm a little sad about was that we didn't go swimming even once at our hotel down in Bryce.

*Of course, that had NOTHING to do with the fact that we maybe sorta got really, really sunburned. Shhh! Don't tell my mom.

*Last night, I was cooking a curry chicken dish, and MAN, I forgot how strongly that stuff smells. I believe that was my very first time personally cooking with curry, and I think my eyeballs were about to explode.

*P.S. It was delicious, though!

*I was just barely thinking about how gosh-darn tired I am and how much I need a nap, when I looked behind me and saw my husband with his book in his lap, his head thrown back, and his mouth wide open. Lucky!

*Prepare yourself for some major Bryce Canyon overload over the course of this week (and maybe even into next). I don't get out much, okay?

*On a closing note, last night for family night, I decided to do a little blast from the past and make no-bake cookies. Ohmyheck---now I remember why I used to make those suckers about every single weekend with my friends. They're positively scrumptious!

*What favorite treats or dishes are a "blast from the past" for you?


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