Sunday, September 7, 2014

What to do in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado

This summer I have been working as a horse wrangler at a dude ranch in Parshall, CO.  According to Wikipedia, Parshall is classified as an "unincorporated community," barely even a town. Though the natural beauty of the area more than makes up for the lack of attractions in the town, it is still nice to go into town for a warm meal or a cone of ice-cream. For this, I've made friends with the next town over: Hot Sulphur Springs.

The town of Hot Sulphur Springs in Grand County, Colorado is barely a speck on the map along highway 40, north-west of Denver.  If you were just driving through it would be easy to simply pass by. But it is a place that has become dear to my heart, so I would like to take this time to share with you its simple pleasures.

Named for the natural hot sulphur springs found in the town, the natural spa is considered one of the best in the country. The hot springs was originally used by the native Ute tribe and was called their "magic waters" and "big medicine". It was believed to have magical healing properties. They even bathed their horses and dogs in the springs! The first white man to discover the springs was William Byers, who is the namesake of the neighboring Byers Canyon (which I ride my bike through from Parshall in order to get to Hot Sulphur Springs). The spa has been open for over 140 years now and has had recent renovations to make what the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa is today. There are seven natural springs there that flow into 21 man made pools at the spa. It is quite an amazing experience soaking in a pool that you know is heated by volcanic rock thousands of feet beneath you. Once you get past the slightly eggy smell of the sulphur springs, it is quite enjoyable.

The spa alone is reason enough to stop by Hot Sulphur Springs, but that is something I have only taken advantage of once. What really charms me about the town are the three staples of my summer, The Glory Hole, Dari-Delite, and Hot Sulphur Springs Candy Company.

In my opinion, The Glory Hole Restaurant is the best place to get a warm cooked meal in Grand County. Of course, I have only been here for one summer, but it only took one visit for it to become a favorite. Its brightly painted exterior is enough to wake you up from the hum drum of driving down the long stretch of highway 40, but once you enter the doors you are instantly calmed again by the warm woodsy theme. I first visited The Glory Hole my second day in Colorado. I rode my bike five miles through Byers Canyon just to get some warm breakfast and a hot cup of coffee (which I do not recommend when you are not used to the 7500 foot elevation). I was greeted by a busy, but smiling waitress who called me "Honey" and told me to sit anywhere. The place felt more like walking into a friends warm mountain lodge, then like walking into a cafe. Though the beige painted walls and light oak wood made the place feel lighter than a cabin. A large Elk head smiled down at me as soon as I entered the dining area, and woodland creatures in paintings and plaques adorned the walls.  That first day, I enjoyed a phenomenal breakfast burrito. I chose to have it smothered in sausage gravy, but you can also have it with green chili if you would like. The coffee is everything diner coffee should be, served in ceramic mugs with frequent refiles. They also have a great lunch menu. I recommend the chicken fingers, but they also have great sandwiches.

If you are in more of a hurry and do not have time to sit to enjoy your meal, another option in Hot Sulphur Springs is to stop by Dari-Delite. Dari-Delite has a walk up window and outdoor picnic table seating. They serve hotdogs, hamburgers and all other sorts of fried goodness. But what they do best are their shakes and malts. They have many flavors beyond your standard chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, such as pina colada, coffee, butterscotch, and hot fudge (which IS different from chocolate and tastes great!) just to name a few. You can have any two flavors mixed. My go-to is coffee and chocolate mixed together. You can also get toppers for your shakes, such as M&M's, brownies, and Oreos. It is the perfect place to cool off after a hot summers day of work or bike riding. 
My last, but not least, favorite is Hot Sulphur Springs Candy Company, which is so much more than candy. I first visited the Candy Company that same first day I visited the Glory Hole. The owner is a sweet lady named Diane, who I have had many great conversations with over this summer. She works so hard to make her shop a place worth stopping at again and again. The selection of chocolate and other candies is vast. She also sells old fashioned sodas in glass bottles and a wide variety of gift items. In the gift shop portion of the store you will find handmade soaps, candles and lip balms. The place smells amazing. The Candy Company has become a regular stop for me this summer. I come away with at least three bags of chocolate each time, my favorites being non-perals and the mini peanut butter cups. I enjoy knowing I will be warmly greater by Diane and leave feeling like a truly valued customer and friend.

My times in Hot Sulphur Springs have formed in me an appreciation for small town businesses like I have never experienced before. We have all stopped at places such as these before, and we may not always think much about them. But these sorts of places are what make small towns what they are. So they next time you stop at that little diner, or that drive in ice-cream stand, take a moment to appreciate what they add to that town. Take a moment to smile at the lady behind the counter. And if you ever find yourself at the Hot Sulphur Springs Candy Company, tell Diane, Miranda says, "Hello."

Miranda Joy

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Where to Stay in Kremmling, Colorado: The Hotel Eastin

I have always been enchanted by old buildings, especially ones that are still being used and have maintained their original charm. I like to be able to see the history of a place when I walk into it. I love that feeling of mystery that surround such places. If only walls could talk, I would love to hear the stories they would tell. The Hotel Eastin in Kremmling, Colorado is just such a place.

A couple of weekends ago, one of my dearest friends came to visit me on her way traveling across country. Staying at the ranch with me was not an option, so we decided to rent a hotel room to optimize on our time together. I did not have high expectations for our room. I simply wanted a place for us to rest our heads so that we could then spend all Sunday exploring Arapaho National Forest together. By word of mouth I heard that the Hotel Eastin in Kremmling was inexpensive and clean, which is all I wanted. But as soon as I walked in the front door, I knew we were getting more than we expected.

We were greeted by the sound of music, as Walt sang and strummed his guitar. Other guests were seated around him in the small, but cozy lobby. My friend and I were caused to pause and soak in western melody. We were then greeted by Maryann’s smiling face, as she welcomed us to her hotel. In hushed tones, as to not disturb the the blissful music, Maryann checked us into our room and explain to us all the Eastin had to offer us during our stay. She informed us that coffee, tea, iced tea and homemade cookies were always available in the kitchenette; and that there was also fresh popcorn in the antique style popcorn machine in the corner of the lobby. She also told us about the hut tub that was open 24 hours in the garden out back. She briefly told us the history of the Eastin, how it started out as a Sarsaparilla factory that had boarding rooms on the upper floors. She then handed us our keys and invited as to explore any room with an open door to see all the renovations they had done to the place. Maryann immediately made us feel like old friends, not simply customers. Throughout our short stay at the Eastin, my friend and I shared many great conversations with Maryann.

Walt and Maryann Van Lue were originally from Indiana, but for years they managed a hotel in Estes Park, CO. For over 40 years they dreamed of owning their own hotel. Two years ago they purchased the Hotel Eastin and have been working hard to turn it into the hotel they always dreamed of. Their goal is for every room to be themed, and they are well on their way to making that happen. “I’m no spring chicken,” Maryann said to us, “We are doing this for our children and grandchildren. We want to leave something of character for them.” I found this cause to be noble and inspiring. Just by looking around the lobby, I could tell how important family is to the Van Lues. Old photographs of parents and grandparents were tastefully displayed, along with other family heirlooms, such as Maryann’s mother’s wedding dress. The dress had been shoved in a bottom drawer for years, and her mother tried to throw it away after the death of her husband. But Maryann rescued it from the garbage and now it is proudly displayed in the lobby. Stories like these are what make a place memorable, and the Eastin is full of stories. 

I have no complaints about our room. It was small and simple, but clean and charming. Ours was not one of the themed rooms, but it still had western charm. There was a large screen TV mounted on the wall, though we never switched it on. I was charmed by the old feeling of the place, and the simplicity it brought with it, but I was never left wanting for anything and the place was so clean and organized. 

That first morning, we went downstairs to get coffee and saw Maryann again. She gave us a voucher for 10% off at the Moose Lounge Restaurant down the street, which we took advantage of and had an excellent omelet breakfast. The sign outside promised it was “Clean and Friendly” and that is exactly how we found it to be.


After breakfast, was also stopped at my now favorite local coffee shop, Big Shooters, to get us each a blended ice coffee for the road. My favorite drink is the Growler, an iced mocha with both dark and white chocolate and an extra shot of expresso. 

We then set off to explore Arapaho National Forest. We traveled along the Ute Pass Highway, which was beautiful.

After a long day of getting lost and loving every minute of it, it felt so good to return to the Hotel Eastin and feel welcomed back like it was home. 

Our stay at the Eastin was so short, but it left a big impression on me and I do hope to return.

If you find yourself traveling across highway 40, through Grand County Colorado, and you need a place to stay, do not overlook the Hotel Eastin in Kremmling. You will not be disappointed in this charming establishment, and you might just make a couple new old friends.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Process of Piles

I wish you could see my apartment right now... actually I'm quite glad you can't see it. But if you could you would understand my organization style a little and see it is far from neat. I like to call it "Ordered Mess".  When stuff doesn't have a place it belongs, or if I am in the process of organizing, it all end up in little piles all around my house. Now I am the first to admit that a pile can become a very dangerous thing if it is allowed to grow and take up a permanent location in your house. It can become a breeding ground for disorder and a source of stress and negativity. But there can be meaning to the madness and making piles can be a valuable form of organization. I want to share with you my Process of Piles, which I am implementing heavily in this time of simplification and reduction.

This past week I have been sorting through all my clothes and getting rid of items that no longer fit or that I no longer wear. This can be a very daunting and time consuming task. I have two large drawers under my bed where I keep most of my clothes. It had become a disordered mess in there, everything had become unfolded and little used items had been pushed to the bottom or way to the back. I had been putting off organizing my drawers for awhile. It felt good to finally tackle them and because of my Process of Piles I didn't have to do everything at once.   

1. Create a work space that will get in your way. 
Yes, you read that right. When I begin an organization project, I want to work in a place where the stuff will be in my way later if I choose to leave it there. I prefer to use my bed. That way I MUST deal with the stuff before the end of the day. Other good places would be the kitchen table, or the middle of the living room floor. The temptation is going to be to set up your work space in that unused corner of your bedroom or living room. But in my experience that is the WORST place to work, because it is too easy to allow your piles of stuff to sit and not get taken care of. That unused spot can suddenly become that stuff's permanent home. As I type, there are several stacks of books staring me down from the corner of my living room. I began the organization process but never finished... at least they are not in my way, right? Wrong. Make the things you must sort through in your way. 

2. Prepare to Pile
In this process there are going to be piles and sub-piles. This can be as orderly or as chaotic as you want but remember this one thing: every pile must have a purpose. We will get into this more in a bit. To begin, prepare spots for four basic piles. Throw Away, Give Away, Not Sure, and Keep. For Throw Away I don't bother with a pile, I just grab a trash bag for that. I have a canvas bin I use for Give Away so that's not really a pile either, but it is still important for me to keep it orderly. One rule I have is that once something goes into the Throw Away or Give Away pile I am NOT allowed to remove it. Sorry, count it as incinerated. The Not Sure pile is for any item that will take a little longer for you to decided if you want to keep it or not. If at any time during the sorting process you find yourself lingering on one item for more than a few seconds, "Should I keep this or not?" just put it in the Not Sure pile and come back to it later. I usually put my Not Sure pile right in the middle of my floor so that I still have to deal with it before the day is up. Your Keep pile will consist of anything that you still like, but by the end of the day you may not actually be keeping everything in your Keep pile. This pile is actually going to be many sub-piles, more on that in a bit. 

3. Unfold and refold everything. 
Obviously, this step only applies to clothes. In the example of my drawers I completely emptied them. Most things were unfolded already, but the things that were by some miracle still folded I unfolded. Why? So that I could get a good look at each item. Trust your gut in this moment. If you know you are never going to wear that item again put it straight in the Give Away or Throw Away pile. If it is an item you would like to try on first then put it in the Not Sure pile. The other day when I did this I was home alone. So I just closed the blinds and tried on the clothes as I organized. There is no shame folding clothes in your underwear. But if you would rather try on clothes later, that is what the Not Sure pile is for. The things that are going into your Keep pile, fold neatly.

4. Create piles with purpose.
This is where Ordered Mess becomes a beautiful thing. Begin to sort everything in your Keep pile into sub-piles (with clothes, I begin this process as I am folding them). Every pile must have a purpose. Give it a name. I talk to myself as I am doing this, talk about the items you are sorting, why you like them and how you use them, this will actually help you categorize them. Don't just sort shirts, pants, and underwear, get even more specific than that. For example, yesterday I was sorting through all my T-shirts. I have over 15 T-shirts. Instead of just making a T-shirt pile I made sub-piles of "comfy", "work day", "cute" and "sentimental." Why bother doing this? Because even though all those shirts are in the same category of "T-shirt" I use them all for very different purposes. The ones that I consider to be cute I will never wear during a work day where they might get dirty or torn. I'll never wear a strictly comfy T-shirt in public if I don't think it's cute (unless I REALLY don't care that day, but I have days like that maybe once or twice a year), and I will hardly ever wear a work day shirt when I want to be comfy because it just feels like mixing work with rest (I know, it's a mental thing). And with my sentimental pile I usually don't actually like those T-shirts except for the memories they bring back to me, so I just need to decided if the nostalgia factor is worth keeping them. When you sort things out in this way you are able to ask yourself, "How many comfy t-shirts do I really need?" "How many of these cute T-shirts will I actually wear?", Etc. This will help you reduce your items down to what is really necessary. In my case I've reduced my T-shirts from 15 to 10. Not a huge reduction, but it is a start. Other sub-pile examples would be favorites vs. rarely-worn, books according to authors or genres, casual vs. dressy, etc.

5. Take an honest look.
Once you are satisfied with your piles it is time to take an honest look at what you have. How many of these things do you REALLY need? How many of these things do you REALLY use? How many of these things do you REALLY like? Figure out how many you need, pick out your favorites, and then get rid of the rest. Ask yourself honest questions (again, talk to yourself as you work). "Do I REALLY need 25 pairs of underwear? I wear about 10 of those consistently, can I ditch the rest?" "These two shirts are very similar, can I do away with one of them?" "I really enjoyed this book, but will I ever read it again?" "I love my grandmother and she gave me this tea pot, but will I ever actually display it?" You'll be surprised how much you can reduce your stuff just by being brutally honest. 

6. Put away the piles 
This is one reason I actually love piles. If they are kept small they are actually really easy to move and put away. After I cleared out my drawers and sorted everything into piles I did not have time to really ask honest questions about each pile. But I was able to put each pile back in the draws and every day since then I have pulled out one pile and sorted through it. I've turned my drawers into an active workstation. In another day or two the project will be complete. Another option would be to get large plastic or canvas bins to put your piles in. BUT make sure this does not become an "out of sight out of mind" matter. Put the bin somewhere prominent, in the middle of the room even, so that you will be reminded that the job is not done. 

This Process of Piles is not beautiful while you are doing it, but sometimes you need to make a little mess in order to reduce your mess. Working in this way will help you be aware of the purpose of every item you have. If something doesn't have a purpose, it shouldn't have a place in your house. Get rid of it. Embrace the Ordered Mess, it can be a beautiful thing. 

Bonus Tip: Use the Process of Piles to quickly help organize any mess in your house, even if you do not have a lot of time to commit to a full blown project. Is stuff starting to accumulate on your table or counter space? Is your living room getting cluttered with objects casually placed down? Put things into purposeful piles and they will be so much easier to take care of later. 

This way of organizing may not be for everyone, but I wanted to share how my brain works. Maybe this will help bring some Method to your Madness.

Miranda Joy        

Thursday, April 10, 2014

3 Bag Challenge

Right now I am in a hyper-reduction mode. I am preparing to move out of my apartment at the end of April and for a couple weeks I will be staying with my parents until I go off to Colorado for the summer. I will be working as a horse wrangler at a guest ranch, living in shared accommodations. After this summer I am not sure yet what I will be doing exactly, but there is a good chance that I may get to go off to Northern Ireland for a few months. So, it looks like I may be living out of suitcases for the next six months to a year. This is the perfect motivation for me to simplify my possessions.

If you are looking to undergo a big transition in your life- such as moving off to college, transferring to a new town, or traveling the world- I invite you to join me on the 3 Bag Challenge. 

Can you reduce your possessions down to three bags? Why three bags? Because that is the number of bags I am able to comfortably travel with by myself. I am choosing to limit myself to one large suitcase that will have to be checked on a plane, one small suitcase that will fit in an overhead compartment and one carry on bag that will fit under the chair in front of me when I fly. I will let you interpret this challenge however you wish. 

Seems a little radical, I know. To be fair, I should probably call this the 3 Bag 2 Bin challenge. I have two large plastic bins to store away anything I won't need this next year. Items such as my sewing machine, dishes and cutlery, books, and sentimental items I'm not willing to part with. Thankfully, my parents are willing to store some of my stuff while I am abroad. They would be willing to store more, but I want to try to reduce all of my stuff down to what could easily be shipped or transported in one car. That means I will be selling all my furniture and will be getting rid of any item that could be easily replaced later on. 

Reducing my possessions down in this way forces me to keep only the things that are useful and meaningful to me. How much STUFF do I have that I don't even use or think about? And by limiting my stuff to three bags, all the items I need will be close at hand and could be moved at a moments notice. This may not be important or even appealing to someone who is already settled down with a career and family. But for someone like me who has the itch to travel, simplifying my life in this way feels like a dream. 

I will be posting updates as I wrestle this challenge. Follow me on Instagram @themirandajoy and if you decide to take on the challenge, please hashtag #3bagchallenge

Miranda Joy

Friday, April 4, 2014

The American Dream

I am a fairly patriotic person. I love living in America and I believe in the American Dream: For every man and woman to own their own home, live in a safe and harmonious community, support a family, live in good health, take vacations and have a dog. But I do not like what the American Dream has become. Since when did living in freedom and happiness become about how big your house is and how much stuff you own? Along with that naturally comes large amounts of debt, which in essence is bondage, not freedom. It's more like the American Nightmare. 

I do want to own my own house, I do want to have a family, I want to live in good health, I want to be able to take amazing vacations and I will always have a dog (and birds). But I want to do it without the debt and without the stress that seems so common these days. 

My solution? My house is not going to look like this:

It will be more like this:

And eventually, when my family grows, like this:
(Last two images courtesy of

Living in a Tiny Home will essentially force me to keep my life simple, but will also allow me to focus my time and resources on what I really care about. 

One can build a nice tiny home for about the same cost of a down payment on a typical American home. This will do away with the 30 year mortgage that most Americans are enslaved to. Also, the cost of utilities is significantly less. Utilities will depend on what climate one lives in and how one intends to heat and power the home. One man I saw interviewed on said his electricity bill was in the single digits for the whole YEAR! And when your space is that small, going off the grid with solar, wood burning or gas is extremely simple. All that money saved can go into enriching one's life with what they really care about and investing in their family and community. 

Tiny homes are not for everyone. If your idea of a happy life is not complete without a large 4 bedroom home with vaulted ceilings, that is perfectly ok. Investing your time and money into your large home may be worth it to you. But for me, my idea of a happy life has far less to do with the size of my house and much more to do with the freedom to go on adventures and create lasting memories with my friends and family. I want a safe and comfortable home where my future family can thrive, but I can do that in less space. 

Of course, I don't live in a tiny home yet. I am still in my second floor 2 bedroom, 870 square apartment with too much stuff, too much wasted space and too little order. I'm paying $800 a month plus utilities, which I know is great for some areas of the country, but it's just not working for me. 

This summer I will be working at a dude ranch in Colorado. I will be sharing a room and will basically be living out of a suitcase. So, as it is I need to simplify my things for this temporary arrangement. Then, in the fall I hope to move into a much smaller studio apartment. It still won't be the same as having my own tiny home, but it will be an exciting step in the right direction. 

This will be an interesting learning experience for me. I am not a naturally organized person, though I do crave order. I am a sappy sentimentalist, and I hate waste as if it were sin. These too things have contributed to me being a bit of a pack rat. Thankfully I've not ever reached hoarder status. The next couple months I will be ruthlessly reducing my stuff, downsizing my furniture and preparing to move into a tiny lifestyle. I appreciate any knowledge you wish to share. Maybe we can all learn something together. 

I really do want to see every American own a home if they want to. I believe that if people can simply change their mindset of what a prosperous life looks like and more people embrace a tiny lifestyle, the American Dream will stop being a nightmare wrapped in wishful thinking and return to being a happy reality. 

Miranda Joy 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tiny Joys. Rich Life. Simple Living.

"What will I do with what I've been given?" I believe this is one of the greatest questions any person can ask themselves. Time, money, resources, friends, family, health, intellect. These are all gifts -or if you'd rather, responsibilities- that are bestowed upon us. When my time on planet Earth comes to a close I want to be able to say that I have stewarded everything I have had well and that I have created something of value to pass onto the next generation.

I am still a young woman. I have only been alive a short twenty-five years, my life has barely begun. I realize that this sort of thinking is more characteristic of people twice my age, those in their mid-life or later. People often look back at what they have or have not accomplished and wonder frantically what things of value they can still create in the years they have remaining. Call it, the mid life crisis. During such a "crisis" people often make drastic changes in order to remedy what they may consider to have been wasted years. 

I am completely uninterested in undergoing such a crisis. Out of a desire to prevent such stress and drama, I am wanting to significantly simplify my life. I want to minimalize my possessions, downsize my living space and maximize the simple pleasures that make my life such a joy. 

This blog is going to be about that: filling my life with less stuff and more joys. You can expect posts about orginization, minimizing, and downsizing. But also expect posts about maximizing on this amazing adventure called life. I am an equestrian by profession, so beautiful animals and the great outdoors are bound to find their way into this blog. And you can also be sure to see a lot of the little beings that I share my life with. Those that I love are what make my life rich. I am also an artist and a crafter. Although I do not intend to make this blog about my art, it will be present. And of course, there will be samplings of recipes. After all, isn't great food half of what enjoying life is all about?

Thank you for joining me on this adventure. 

Miranda Joy

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's Been Awhile

Yes, it has been awhile. My best intentions do not always come to fruition.  Much has happened since I started The Joy Panda last winter. For awhile I had limited internet access, which made it even more difficult for me to consistently update a blog. Excuses aside, I do wish to continue with my blogging endeavors. But please be aware that this blog may be about to undergo an evolution. My interests are so diverse that at times it is hard for me to focus on a limited range of topics.  This summer I worked a full time job at my local animal shelter, which re-sparked my passion for animal care.  So I may be writing some pet related articles. I also adopted two cockatiel parrots recently, Fable and Lore.

They have won my heart and I am continually exploring how to help them live happier and healthier lives. I would like to write about them some. I have also gotten back into running, so health and fitness is an area of interest right now. I am even considering taking up Taekwondo again. As of late, I have become keenly interested in topics of simple and sustainable living. Maybe I will write about that some. On top of all this, I am doing a pastoral internship right now, mentoring ministry school students. So, topics of spirituality and relationships may also pop up here and there. As always, creativity is a major part of my life and I want to keep writing about that.

I do not want this blog to simply become a random mess of me, "Oh, let's see what crazy venture Miranda Joy is up to right now." No, I would rather not make this all about me. But I really love my life and I love sharing it with other people. Chances are if something interests me it's going to interest someone else too. I want to encourage others to live their lives to the fullest. That is what this blog is all about.

So I guess my point is, I am not really sure what this blog is going to look like in the
future. I am debating whether or not I should simply start afresh with a brand new blog. But the core values of this blog still stand. So, please bear with me as I figure all of this out. I appreciate your input.


Miranda Joy