• 7 Days, 7 Forgotten Jackets

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    The Week Of Forgotten Jackets

    Welp, here we are in the last week of February. Spring is right around the corner, and we’ve started to hit that blustery, too-cold-too-hot period here in California.

    I remember when I was back in high school, the end of February was always the most miserable time of year. It wasn’t close enough to spring break, summer was a distant memory, Christmas felt like it was years ago, and the worst part was, it was still too cold to wear a t-shirt in the morning, and too hot to wear a jacket when I walked home.

    I like to think of this time of year as nature’s adolescence. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s indecisive, it’s moody, and nobody wants to be around it. Best to just grit your teeth, and wait for actual spring to start so you can get around to doing all those fun springtime activities (like fighting allergies!)

    In the meantime, I like to take this time of year to kick those winter habits while we wait for spring to actually start. So, here’s a list of my 6 must-dos - things that, if I don’t do ‘em, I’ll forget and it’ll cause me mild inconvenience like you wouldn’t believe.

     Dig out the windbreaker.

    I have a heavy jacket, a light jacket, and a windbreaker (well, it’s more like a light-light jacket) at home. Most days, I go with the light jacket just because it’s comfy. But when this friggin’ week rolls around, it gets to that awkward period where I’m only wearing it for about half the day. So then I forget it, everywhere. Another three weeks, I’ll probably be able to go without if I just wear long sleeves. But in the meantime?

    Make sure you dig out that awkward middle ground, so you’re not leaving your jacket behind whenever you decide to take it off.

     Turn down the heater.

    Well, at least the power bill will go down. This time of year is about the time I start toning down the heat in my house. I usually try to create a preset, so it’ll run during the mornings, and turn off during the afternoons. No sense heating a house all day, right?

     Clean out your pantry.

    Speaking for myself, I eat pretty differently during the winter than in the summer. Winter’s got a lot of soups, hot sandwiches and big, dense meals. My pantry is filled with cans and bottles, since fresh food is a little bit harder to come by.

    Spring, though, is summer foods. If my sandwiches can’t be described as either “subs” or “clubs,” I stay away. Lots of lighter foods and snacking. High-energy stuff, since I’m active. And definitely fewer hot foods. Less microwaves, more refrigerators.

    So it’s about this time that I start to empty out my pantry, and take care of all those random miscellaneous foods that I haven’t gotten around to eating. Otherwise they’ll be sitting in there for another 6 months, and who wants that?

     Start storing the winter clothes.

    This is an easy one, but I always prioritize it because otherwise, I’m kicking around my winter stuff for another month or two, easy!

    Time to start putting away the heavy-duty clothes for the next few months. I don’t just mean shoving them in a back corner – I mean actually putting them away, like in a box or a suitcase or on a top shelf, so you aren’t tripping over them over the next month or two. Don’t get rid of everything – I wear long sleeves almost year-round – but those heavy wool socks? They can probably go. That double-layer sweater? Definitely. The windproof half face mask? Keep it out for a few more weeks, then stash it. That cold-weather jacket? No, I don’t mean the glorified raincoat, I mean the one that’s built to withstand a blizzard. Yeah, that can probably go too.

     Get ready for spring cleaning.

    I dunno about you, but I try to put off spring cleaning for as long as possible. It’s more like… summer cleaning. Especially since this year, I’m probably gonna have to buy a new vacuum.

    But in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to get ready. Clean a sink when you’re done using it. Start dusting tables, one room at a time. Pick up the bathroom (mine’s a mess) and figure out exactly how much bleach you’re gonna need to get rid of that smell. Y’know, the usual.

    I start doing all that around this time, so when I decide it’s time to stop putting off my spring cleaning purge, it only takes three hours to get the dust out of the cracks, instead of a day and a half. You won’t regret it.

     Plan my spring celebration!

    Anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a planner. If I don’t plan, I don’t do, and that’s in all things. But I’m also pretty conscious of my attitude, especially when it’s being affected by something silly (like the weather).

    So, I always plan what I want to do to celebrate the end of winter, since, if I don’t, I know it’ll take me a couple of weeks to escape that winter funk. This year, I might go camping. Or maybe I’ll just go to Bidwell Park. Chico also has a kite-flying festival at the end of March… maybe I’ll attend this year.

    In any case, I think that’s where I’ll leave this list. Of course, since I can’t think of that last thing I wanted to add, I’m sure that means I’m going to forget it… but oh well!

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  • Last Lift Out Of Winter

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    Last Lift Out Of Winter!

    Ah, the middle of February. The day after Valentine’s Day. Historically known for that wonderful combination of feelings, mingling somewhere between “oh thank GOD Valentine’s Day is over” and “WHY HASN’T WINTER ENDED YET?”

    With maybe just a sprinkling of “Ooh, half-priced chocolate clearance!” mixed in.

    Well, unfortunately, winter isn’t quite done with us yet. And it’s not looking to be, for at least another month or so. But that doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing.

    Winter’s still around. That means that all that cool winter stuff (you know, all of the things on your winter to-do list that weren’t marked “Christmas” that you’ve been procrastinating on?) can still get done!

    I don’t know about you, but here’s a list of all of the winter stuff that I still need to do, before spring rolls around in March.

    Hit The Slopes

    I haven’t gone skiing yet, this year. I actually haven’t gone in a couple of years. It’s something that I always intend to do, but never actually do. Kinda like going to bed an hour earlier. Or cleaning the house.

    Well, that changes this year. I’ve got about a month left before the snow is too hard or too high to ski on, and loads of the country’s best slopes out here in California. Time to hit the slopes. Shred some powder. Carve some tracks. Gnarly, brah.

    If you’re still waiting to go skiing or snowboarding, don’t. Do like me – make a reservation next weekend, and take the day to have some fun! Personally, I recommend keeping warm, and since I’m not about to rent my pants (gross), it’s time for me to pick up a pair of these. They’re kinda cool – just put on some warm-weather pants, slap these on top, and you can keep your ankles snow-free. I’d also recommend a balaclava to keep your ears and nose from freezing off. And you get the added benefit of looking super professional, so that’s cool.

    Rain, Rain, Stay A Day

    Rain is a nuisance to most of us, and an inconvenience at best. But I actually really like the rain. I remember when I was a kid, and the rain meant I could sit inside and goof off all day, instead of my parents making me play outside. Now that I’m an adult, it’s been a little bit of a pain to try and recapture that magic.

    Out here in California, we’ve been having a little bit of a rain problem. We weren’t really getting enough of it. Or any, at all. Until a month or two ago, when we suddenly had all of it.

    So now I’m looking for a middle ground, so I can grab my rain coat and go for a walk.

    I’m not talking about the heavy, gusty storm that’s best viewed from behind glass. Or that little drizzle that hardly counts as rain. I’m waiting for that perfect rainstorm – just hard enough to keep most people inside, but not hard enough to blow into your face. Sure, it’ll be cold, but a winter day in the quiet rain is about as much as I can ever want.

    If that sounds good to you, make sure to remember your jacket and umbrella. Oh, and make sure that your shoes are waterproof. And get an umbrella hat, because, well, who doesn't want an umbrella hat? I don’t really have any other suggestions.

    Cold Air, Clear Days

    In California, we have a little bit of an air-quality problem. The valley has a habit of holding smoke and smog and whatever else, so our air isn’t always as clear as we wish it was. Usually, it’s something on the agricultural side – farms burning, orchards in bloom, harvest time is kicking up dust… it’s just a part of life.

    A cold, clear winter day is one of the only times that us Californians can actually go out and appreciate the atmosphere. Here in Chico, we can see the Sierra Nevadas on one side, and the Coastal Range on the other. We’ve got a few nice parks (including one of the biggest in California, right in the middle of our city) all around us, and my personal favorite outdoorsy-type activity on days like this is to go hiking to the top of Table Mountain.

    It’s cold, and clear, so I make sure to bring a few things. First, I want to be able to actually look out from the top of the plateau, so I always bring binoculars. Second, I need to make sure that (since it’s usually a day trip) my phone battery lasts, so I bring a solar charger and attach it to my backpack. Third, it’s still a hike, even if it’s cold, so I make sure to bring a water bladder. Beats the crap out of carrying a bottle around, that’s for sure. We’re actually having a sale on those right now (it's not figurative - we actually have too many), so if you need one…

     

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  • Valentine's Day, Outdoors

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    Why Spend Valentine’s Day At Home, When You Could Spend It Outdoors?

    Three Ideas For An Unforgettable Valentine's Day.

    Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and even though some might not like it, it’s time to start planning that special something for that special someone. After all, just over half of all women say they would end their relationship if they didn’t receive anything for Valentine’s Day. Seems shallow to me, but who am I to judge?

    For me, Valentine’s Day has always been the day to do something extra for her. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a relationship that would depend on a gift to keep going (at least, I sure hope not!) but the idea is to go above and beyond, and give a little something extra. Some flowers, chocolate, a new necklace… you know, expensive stuff that nobody really needs.

    But my most memorable Valentine’s Days have been when I’ve gone out and done something. I did it almost every year through college, even when I was single! Speaking of which, if you’re currently mourning your severe lack of a relationship worth celebrating, or are one of those like myself who has occasionally celebrated “singles appreciation day” followed by “half off Valentine chocolate day,” don’t worry about it! These ideas are just as much for you to get away from the day, as they are for couples to get away from everything else.

    Snow, Snow, Snow!

    Winter will theoretically be ending soon, out here in California. Although I’m not sure the rest of the U.S. can say the same! In any case, make sure to get out and see the snow before the season ends. I don’t mean getting a cabin in the hills, or planning a ski trip or anything expensive like that, either. Did you know the average person spends over $100 on Valentine’s Day?

    No thanks. This year, here’s what you can do: put $20 in the gas tank, another $10 into some hot chocolate you can share out of a thermos, and take a hike.

    (Here’s a tip: you’re gonna need a bag to be comfortable. At the time of writing, we’ve got a sale going on our tactical, military-style backpacks. So you can get one at a discount, and get hiking. You can grab one here.)

    Snow has the wonderful effect of (literally) muffling the world around you. Imagine: a snow-covered path, a silent wood, and just the crunch of you and your bestie’s boots. Sounds like a dream, to me!

     

    Biking – Good For The Body, Good For The Soul

    My favorite part of biking is that it has all the benefits of exercise, without actually feeling like exercise. If you didn’t know, in addition to eventually making you look like a god, exercise has some great mental health benefits: it combats depression, subdues negative emotions and helps create a more positive, happy disposition.

    So gear up, and find a park. A deserted roadway works too, or, if you’re not living too deep in a city, try driving a few miles out of town! You won’t regret it. Then, just pick a speed, slap on a helmet, and pedal away!

    Just make sure that you’re safe, while you do. Biking at night is an amazing experience, but you’re going to need lights. I know helmets aren’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but they’ll keep you from losing your brains on a sidewalk. And if you need a way to transport your bike out of town, well… we’ve got that too.

    Having biked regularly whenever life seemed like it was more than I could handle, I recommend this activity to anyone that wants to escape the V-day pressures, whether you’re with your partner or proudly single.

     

    National Parks – Open for Now, So Go See Them While You Can

    I’m not one to talk about current events. Especially political ones. But some of my best vacations have been to our country’s National Parks. The website’s name is National Parks Depot!

    Anyways, a couple of weeks ago, the country has suspended hiring any more Federal employees. Which sounds like a good idea in theory – but our National Park workers are almost all seasonal. The summer crowd comes in during the spring, the winter crowd in the fall, and it just works. Thankfully, seasonal workers are now listed as an exception, in any department. But it goes to show just how fragile our park system truly is. 

    So that National Park that you live an hour away from might just not be open, six months from now. Go see it – and as a matter of fact, make a trip out of it. Take some binoculars to admire the views. And I know it sounds silly, but if you’re planning on being there any later than 4 or 5:00, you’re probably going to want a headlamp, too.

    In any case, Valentine’s Day is as good a reason as any to go out and see our country’s national beauty. Snowing or not, our system of national parks is one of our country’s shining jewels. Whether it’s the redwood forests of California, the winding canyons of Zion or the beautiful views of Yosemite, take you and your plus-one to one of our gorgeous parks, this year. You won’t regret it.

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