Sunday, June 30, 2013

Doomsday


Well, folks---doomsday is upon us. Google Reader shuts down tomorrow, and unless you find another way to follow me...this is probably goodbye.

*tear*

Just kidding. I'm guessing that if you want, you'll still find other ways to sneakily stalk me, but just in case you want your stalking to be as easy as possible and out in the open, go ahead and follow me via Bloglovin' (if I've done the link right below, you should just be able to click on that, or you can click on the link on the right sidebar).  

That's all, really. Have a happy Sunday!


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Friday, June 28, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week 26


Well, here I am: a little more than halfway through this "50 Weeks to Organized" business and wondering how much real progress has been made.

I have learned an important lesson about decluttering this week though: I've learned that I can't let "perfect" be the enemy of the "good enough for now." When I started this project, I was determined that I would be perfect in fully decluttering my entire life---nothing would be allowed to stay that wasn't absolutely necessary or that didn't bring me the utmost happiness, and those beloved few things that were left would be displayed and organized immaculately.

Well, I've definitely realized that THAT is just not going to happen for awhile.

Let me illustrate: this week, I have spent at least an hour on most days methodically working my way through our spare bedroom, which has become our dumping ground for everything we don't know what to do with. You wanna know my biggest problem right now?

I STILL don't know what to do with most of it.

I learned to just crack down on some things, like getting rid of all my half-used school notebooks (unless they had original writing in them, in which case I'd tear those pages out and recycle the rest). I've been keeping these notebooks for years because I just plain felt guilty not using every single little scrap of paper in them, but when I looked around and saw perhaps 30 notebooks scattered about that I realistically was probably not going to use again...well, it got easier after that. (It also gets easier to toss stuff at 2:30 in the morning when you can't sleep, apparently.)

But getting to my main point about not letting the perfect get in the way of the good enough for now, I've encountered scads of papers, cards, letters, and various mementos that I just don't want to part with. I keep thinking that I need to save them all for that "someday" when I decide to magically take up scrapbooking. However, since that day is clearly not coming anytime soon, I just decided to go with a "good enough for now" method = haphazardly placing them all into page protectors in a 3" binder that wasn't being used for anything else. Is it ideal? No. Would it have been better if I'd gone through and organized them all by date and theme and event? Yes.

But the fact is, if I lose my focus on decluttering to start taking on projects like that, I will absolutely never get done, and I will still miserably be kicking my way through clutter for the rest of time.

Wow, THAT was a tangent.

Anyway, this week, I officially got our desk organized to the point where it's "good enough for now" so my mind can be freed up to focus on the rest of that horrendous room.

So, without further tangents:

THE DESK.



I'm sure it's painfully clear that we don't actually USE this desk for, well, anything other than holding clutter (please tell me we're not the only ones!). But, if I discover that now that it's cleaned off, we STILL don't use it, then I'm getting rid of it.

No use having furniture that's not doing its job.

To-Do List for the Desk:

*Take everything off of the surface of the desk and out of the drawers
*Dust the desktop completely
*Replace only those items you really need or want on a desk: a lamp, pens, a clock, etc.
*As far as decorative items go, limit yourself to just a piece or two that you find inspiring, and get rid of the rest (or put it elsewhere, where it can be more appreciated)
*Everything that's left needs to be divided into categories: One, stuff that belongs IN the desk; Two, stuff that belongs in the general house but not in the desk (this will probably create multiple piles); Three, things that need to be tossed; Four, things that need to be donated; Five, things that need to be returned to their rightful owners.
*Deal with each pile immediately (if you're having a hard time deciding if an item is worth keeping, ask yourself a few questions: is it useful? Do I absolutely LOVE it? If my house were burning down, would I honestly even remember that I owned this?)
*Designate each drawer for a specific type of item. For example, our new drawer system is this: top drawer is for blank note cards and batteries, middle drawer is for blank notebooks, bottom drawer is for craft supplies, and the shallow drawer is for basic office supplies, such as paper clips, post-it notes, etc.

And, voilĂ ! You have yourself a desk you might actually want to work at.



Like I said, the desk is on a trial run right now, but now that I'm looking at it again---I actually kinda like it.

Go figure.


This Week's Quick Stats:
# of Items Tossed/Donated: Honestly, I stopped counting this week. But I'll lowball it and say 35.
# of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 200
Amount of Money Spent This Week on Organizing: $0

Do you have a desk at home? Do you actually use it?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Wish I Could Pin Down When This Problem Started



Every day I take a jaunt that looks a bit like anticipation, forced calm, secret smiles, and a heart clenched with potential despair =

My walk to the mailbox.

I don't know of anyone who is more obsessed with the mail than I am--who else do you know that memorizes when the mail carrier comes, who knows down to the specific week (or day) when a particular circular or magazine should come, who subscribes to over a dozen magazines JUST SO SOMETHING IS ALMOST ALWAYS WAITING IN THE MAILBOX?

Matt tried to tell me once that it had something to do with my mission. (For anyone not familiar with the restrictions that come with being an LDS missionary, missionaries for our church voluntarily give up contact with their families through phone call or face-to-face contact for the length of their service, thereby rendering snail mail and email your only connection to loved ones back home).

However, that's not where it started (although I'm sure that didn't make it better).

Side Note: I was famous in the mission for how much mail I received. I didn't go a single mail day on my entire mission without receiving something (or, more often, thick stacks of rubber-banded envelopes and even a small package or two. Granted, it's because we only received our mail once every 1-3 weeks, but still...

Then Matt tried to blame it on HIS mission, which is coincidentally when all of my male friends were out in the mission field, and I was faithfully writing all of them. (Note: I once was regularly writing letters to over a dozen missionaries---not romantically, of course). The reason he tries to tie it back to that is because since I was one of the few faithful who wrote these friends regularly, I also regularly received mail in return. Once again, I'm sure this didn't help my obsession, but unfortunately, my problem goes way, WAY back---

Whether it was the fact that my best friend moved when I was 6 or 7 (and I wrote him as a pen pal for years) or to the fact that I bought myself several gardening and birdwatching magazine subscriptions when I was 11 due to my lofty dream of becoming a famous landscape designer, I can't say.

The only thing for certain?

I have a problem.

It's gotten to the point where I sometimes plan my day around the mail, and Matt (who doesn't share my intense need to receive folded bills and stacks of glossy papers daily) has told me that if I am planning on him having to be with me when I check the mail (usually because he's driving us both home), he needs to have fair warning, preferably over an hour before.

I am not kidding.

I don't know why I'm admitting to all this---I guess it's to let you all have a little peek into some of my weirder idiosyncrasies. Some people are addicted to chapstick, Diet Coke, having their nails filed down, or making sure the bedspread is tucked in just so. And I'm addicted to checking the mail.

So there you have it.

What are some of your little obsessions?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

10 Summer Date Ideas


Along with its other amicable qualities, summer is a time of adventure, spontaneity, and romance (or at least it can be). However, one truth I've learned about marriage is that it's a little too easy to fall into a routine that you rarely (if ever) deviate from, especially when it comes to date nights. I decided that that's why there are some things I miss about my high school dating days (about the only things)--back then, I seemed to be up for anything when it came to dates, the ideas tended to be a little more original, and I wasn't afraid to be a little silly.

Last night, when I was up at 2:30 in the morning cleaning out our spare bedroom because my brain wouldn't stop buzzing, I came across a list of almost 800 date ideas that I'd received way back when I was 16 and just starting out on my dating career.

Some of the ideas were just too fun NOT to share, so I propose this:

The Summer Dating Challenge!

How It Works:
1. You pick any number of the 10 date ideas listed below and make them happen
2. Blog about it
3. Leave me a comment or drop me an email (torrief@hotmail.com) so I can check out your summer dating adventure

Let the romancing begin!

10 Summer Date Ideas

1. Bake cakes (or just two cake layers), then frost them blindfolded, with a spatula. Take pictures of your creations, then do a little cake-feeding (or cake-smashing!) to each other. Or, if that's not your thing (feeding each other, that is), just eat the cake with tall glasses of milk. Whatevs.

2. Go to a local farmers' market (check out Local Harvest's website for a location near you), and give each of you $10 (for a total of $20 between the two of you). After walking around for awhile to enjoy the general splendor, split up, and follow these two rules: one, spend $5 on something that you can take back home and make for breakfast together, and two, spend the other $5 on a special treat or trinket you think your spouse would enjoy. Then go home and make breakfast together with your finds and eat it out on your porch/patio.

3. Go to a dollar store and pick up two coloring books and a box of crayons. Take them to a nearby ice cream parlor and color them while eating your ice cream. Ask a stranger (preferably a child) to judge whose coloring is better.

4. Go rent a canoe from a local outdoor rec shop (here in Logan, USU's ORC offers an all-day canoe rental for only $18 for students or $25 for anyone else). Take it out to a lake you've never been to before and have a day filled with sun and spray (don't forget the sunscreen!).

5. Check out a free outdoor movie or concert sponsored by your community (here in Logan, all community events are posted on the local library's webpage).

6. Drive to the next town over (or, if you've been there a lot, drive a few towns over) and stop to eat at the first eatery you come to that's locally run. Make friends with your waiter and ask him/her to recommend a dessert stop (elsewhere) that you could go check out after your meal. In other words, it's kind of like a shortened progressive dinner that combines the thrill of new places with the lower expense of only going to two eateries.

7. Go shopping and see who can find the weirdest toy for the other person for under $5. Then go play with the toys.

8. Choose a fancy type of candy (like a truffle or something) that you normally would never make. Go buy the ingredients for it, then make it together. Arrange several of the candies on two plates, then go deliver them to two other couples you don't know very well. Hopefully, you'll find yourself chatting with the other two couples and making new friends, but even if you don't, you still both did a good turn, so it's a win-win.

9. Buy tickets to see a show that you'd never normally go and see (the opera, an unusual musical group, etc.). Leave the tickets in the book your spouse is reading (or propped up somewhere else where they will see them and be surprised). Don't forget to dress up in your finest when the big night comes!

10. Rent a tandem bike (about $35-40/day, at least in Logan) and hit the town. Don't forget your helmets!


And there you have it! Do you have any more unusual summer date ideas? Which one of these ideas stick out to you?


P.S. In case you've been under a rock and haven't heard, Google Reader is being cancelled next week, which means that if you follow me via Google Friend Connect (the little thing on the side that shows Google followers), you'll no longer see any new posts in your feed. Therefore, I'd love it if you continued to follow me through Bloglovin' (click on the link at right).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All


*When the school year got over, I thought to myself, "YES! Weeks and weeks of leisure and relaxation time ahead of me." Well, although I've definitely had more leisure time than usual, this summer has been busy, busy, busy--between youth conference and that family reunion this last weekend and other responsibilities going on, my days have been surprisingly packed with family, friends, genealogy work, housework, hobbies, and hubby. All in all, it's been fabulous.

*We finally sat down last night for family night and made an Excel spreadsheet of all our movies---the way to tell whether you have an obsession with something (apparently) is to sort and count all the ones you have, and if after you've done, you think, "Wow! Let's go get some more!" then you have a problem. Case in point: we found out we have 258 movies, and both of us immediately felt the hankering to go out and buy more. Likewise, when we were sorting through our books a couple weeks back, we both felt like jumping on Amazon and picking up another load of them. Bad news bears.

*In case you were wondering, we still have yet to make an Excel spreadsheet of our books. Unlike the movies (which only took about an hour to catalogue), the books would probably take the better part of an afternoon. I just don't think that's going to happen, summer or not. Especially since I had to practically bribe Matt to help me by telling him I'd make us some of his dad's famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies if he did.

*They were positively mouthwatering, thanks for asking.

*So remember how last week I mentioned I had an ear impaction that meant I couldn't hear anything? Well, it finally got so bad during Youth Conference that I took off for a couple hours to head to the Instacare, where my ear was basically hooked up to the equivalent of a fire hose that made me wonder if I was going to have anything left in my ear at all--hearing parts and all. Have you ever had that done at a doctor's office before? It's probably one of the most bizarre sensations I've ever experienced.

*Last week, when my day was particularly full of leisurely possibilities, I actually watched the first episode of The Bachelorette (which I'd sworn not to watch since the Emily & Jef season). Yeah, I don't think I'm going to sail on that boat again...one episode was about all I could take...any of you following this season?

*So I've been running 3X a week and taking all my body measurements each Monday, and I want someone to explain something to me: why is it that I lose the inches the quickest from the areas I'm fine with, and the areas I'm most concerned with don't seem to budge? It's maddening. My whole adult life, I've been shaped like an upside-down triangle (due to my extremely narrow hips), so my goal is always to slim down the top half. So what happens? I lose 1.5" in from my hips in two weeks. Now, I know some of you would love to take my place right now, but the thing is, my hip size doesn't even show up on those little clothing measuring charts--it's always just below the smallest measurement. It's ridiculous. And now I have even less on them than before. Maddening, really.

*In conclusion, I know this much: I will never be complimented for having "birthing hips."

(I included this picture because it actually makes me look like I HAVE hips, thanks to the wind!) 

*Speaking of weird things to get complimented for, I remember that one of my roommates once got complimented for "looking fertile." Isn't that awful? I would have socked the guy in the nose and stomped off.

*(After getting a free dinner off of him, anyway.)

*So some of our best friends up here in Logan are moving at the beginning of August, and we're starting to freak out a bit--I mean, we spend a night or two playing games and/or eating dinner with this family almost every week, and one semi-well-kept secret of adulthood is that it's super tough to make close friends after you get married. At least, I think that's how most people experience it. Or are we just unlikable??

*Anyway, here's the real question: what are some strategies you use for making friends while married?

*This morning, I had to take one of my young women up to a camp that's being held for all the junior and senior girls in the area, and I decided that I REALLY should not be allowed to drive to places that I've never been to before when there are other people in the car--apparently, I get distracted because I start talking to the person in the passenger seat, and then I miss relatively important things like signs telling you that there's a construction stop ahead. I don't think I've ever seen a traffic worker look so scared before (not that I can blame him--I practically blitzed through him and his sign, heading at 50 MPH to a car coming in the opposite direction in the same lane). Seriously, though. It's nothing short of a miracle that I still have a perfect driving record (no tickets, no crashes).

*I think I've mentioned this before, but I actually started planning out our weekly dinner menus again (something I haven't done for months). Two things I've discovered: one, I'm apparently getting to be good enough at cooking that I can make some fairly respectable dishes up out of my head (which is NUTS, considering that I'm usually the kind of cook that's happily chained to the recipe); and two, cheese tortellini (found in the frozen foods aisle) makes a perfectly scrumptious, VERY quick dinner when mixed with some olive oil, fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion, and a little red pepper. Mmm hmmm!

*Are you the kind of cook that's brave enough to try out your own stuff? Or are you more comfortable chaining yourself to the recipe and not deviating from it?


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Highland Games (aka Sometimes Ye've Gotta Take Advantage of your Scottish Heritage)


My husband's family seems to always be cooking up something new and crazy, which is why, for the longest time, I didn't really think this Highland Games thing was serious business.

Then came the promotional videos on Facebook, the cans of haggis on my in-laws' steps, the obsession over picking a tartan...

And before I knew it, the Games were upon us.

Just so you know, the Meidells don't do anything halfway. The Highland Games was no sissy-pants family reunion--everything from the competitive games of shotput and caber tossing, the menu (corned beef and cabbage and an intricate kilt cake), the grand trophy (complete with handmade kilt), and amazing turnout just continued to prove this fact:

My in-laws are pretty rad.


 
(Matt and I taking on the shotput)
 
Obviously I did so with style, hair-in-my-face and everything.
 
In fact, I'll have you know that I got 2nd place in the Women's Division.
 
Yeah.
 
I've totally been practicing.
 
(Just kidding. Although I am serious when I say that I'm pretty sure that after this first time,
everyone will be practicing a LOT for next year's games...)
 

 
So not all the games were authentic, but the
Who Can Kick His Shoe the Furthest?
never seems to go out of style.
 

I didn't have the guts to try the haggis.
 
I'm obviously the sissy pants in the family.


Any Highland Games would not be complete without an intricately-designed kilt cake
(thanks, Katie!) and a Merida wig that just begged to be photographed.


I'm proud of my hubby for going the full throttle with the kilt.
 
He tells me that I'm apparently getting one for next year.
(Anyone know of any good vendors that sell kilts that DON'T cost a fortune?)

 
I'll admit, these Games were largely put on to show off how tough we are.
 
(And to give Matt a chance to take his sword somewhere.)


We obviously couldn't prove our toughness without some tug-o-war competitions...
 




(This might go without saying, but I was also happy for the chance the Games gave me to practice my photography skills on someone other than my husband---check out how cute!)


And just downright funny...
 


Can't wait until next year, Highland Games!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to Become a Smoothie Pharaoh (aka How to Make a Perfect Smoothie Every Time)


When I was a wee sophomore in college, I had the glamorous job of working at the on-campus eatery called The Marketplace. Lucky for me, they stuck me in the desserts bar, where I restocked plates of truffle pie and stacks of chocolate-slab cookies and learned how to fold cloth napkins to look like poinsettias. But the most important part of my job there was making the smoothies for the students.

Now, I was under strict orders to make the smoothies a certain way--go heavy on the liquid base, skimpy on the frozen fruit, and don't let anyone take the smoothie leftovers from the bottom of the blender (even though the buffet was supposedly all-you-could-eat).

Did I listen to instructions?

Well, now that I'm no longer under the threat of losing my job due to being too liberal with the fruit, I can proudly say that I did not.

Over the course of the semester, my fame grew to campus-wide proportions (or so I liked to think)--19-year-old freshman boys would memorize my work schedule just so I would be there to make the smoothies for them, since no one else made them as good as I did.

It was from there that I started calling myself The Smoothie Pharaoh, and each hungry college student who came in asking me for three glasses' worth of smoothies only served to feed my blend-master ego.

So, even though I've hoarded my secrets for so long, I have decided to go ahead and share my secrets for perfect smoothies with you. I'll just say you're welcome now.

The Perfect Smoothie (every time)

1 cup liquid base (I prefer milk, although fruit juices can be good, too. Just don't use water--gross!)
1 banana (not browned at all---the perfect banana is all yellow with a slightly green stem. The banana is uber important to the recipe because not only does it give your smoothie a nice taste base, it also lends a thickness to the consistency that's really hard to come by any other way)
1/2 - 2/3 cup frozen fruit of any kind (I personally like mixed berries) OR an equivalent of fresh fruit (i.e. a fresh peach, 6-7 strawberries, a sliced mango, etc.)
1 8-oz. serving of flavored yogurt (I say flavored because plain yogurt will tend to slightly sour the taste of the whole smoothie. I prefer putting in yogurt that matches whatever fruit I'm already putting in to intensify the flavor)
1 large handful (about one cup) of spinach (if you haven't tried spinach in smoothies, trust me--you won't be able to taste it. It's about the easiest way known to man to get in your daily vegetables)

Make sure you mix the ingredients VERY thoroughly together. Nothing will spoil your smoothie faster than chunks of banana or frozen fruit at the bottom. I always blend my smoothie for way longer than it would appear to need it.

Servings: 2 (unless you're a smoothie freak like me, in which case: it serves one)



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things To Do On Your St. George Trip


My mom's had access to this stellar condo down in St. George for a few years now (Las Palmas at Green Valley Resort), so you could say I've become somewhat of a regular when it comes to visiting that part of Southern Utah. So, because I've been around the St. George block a few times, I decided to pass on some ideas of things to do while you're down in the land of red rock and sun:

1. Pack a picnic and check out Snow Canyon (pictures showing off your mashed-up food not optional)


Snow Canyon is full of all the things that make Southern Utah a popular jaunt for outdoor enthusiasts, honeymooners, senior citizens, and families alike---hikes ranging from a couple hundred yards to several miles, a small visitors center, places to picnic and camp, random human-size spider webs to play on...you know, the works.



If you happen to be visiting in late summer and early fall, go to the visitors center and check out options for guided night hikes that explore the canyon's flora and fauna of the nocturnal variety.

But if that isn't an option, just grab some cold water and kick back in one of the rocking chairs just outside the visitors center that overlook the general splendor of the canyon (no hiking required!).


2. For history buffs and lovers of all historical landmark sites, take the 15-minute drive outside of Snow Canyon and check out the Mountain Meadows Massacre site.

While not the most cheerful place, the monument is beautifully kept and makes you stop and appreciate the modern world a bit more.


If you happen to go with people who seem to make friends wherever they go (like my mom and stepdad do), be prepared for some unexpected downtime. Things I wished I would have brought on this little day trip out: a hat, sunglasses, and maybe a magazine.

(Yes, they were talking to random strangers for THAT long).

But, since we didn't have those luxuries and there was a lack of people to practice people-watching on, we went ahead and made friends with the local wildlife.


3. Whether a member of the LDS church or not, take some time to walk around the St. George Temple. This building took almost 6 years to build and is a historical gem worth checking out (the building was completed in 1877).




4. As with any vacation, make sure you don't overplan. Leave yourself plenty of time to just kick back and relax with a book, look out on nature, go swimming, enjoy the free cable, etc.

The two books I took with me on our trip were The Silver Linings Playbook and The Happiness Project, both excellent vacation reads (well, for me anyway). Stay tuned for my full review on both books at the beginning of next month.


5. If you're not a Utahn (and even if you are), make sure you check out Nielsen's Frozen Custard on a particularly hot day. This custard stand has won national awards multiple times for their creamily delicious custard. Trust me, it's worth the $5-6 to get one of their world-famous concretes.


 6. Another splurge that's definitely worth it is a trip out to Tuacahn, St. George's renowned outdoor theater. The theater stages fantastic musicals nearly year-round, and if you're willing to fork over an additional $13 a person (or so), you can get their all-you-can-eat buffet before the show starts (each buffet menu is catered around the theme of the current show playing) .

While there this time, we checked out their recent production of Starlight Express, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical I'd never heard of about a trip inside a young boy's imagined world of trains come to life. Not only was the music upbeat and catchy, but I was particularly delighted that all the "trains" performed all their numbers on rollerblades.

Pretty awesome.

(Plus, this was the first time that Starlight Express had ever been approved for a regional theater production, which I thought was pretty cool.)

 
Since 3D is all the rage, Tuacahn was happy to oblige the trend by having
part of the show in multiple dimensions.


Whatever you do in St. George, above all, remember these three things: sunscreen, extra water, and air conditioning. Once those three are covered, you're ready to have your next favorite vacation :)


Have you ever been to St. George? What would you add to my list?

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