Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Health and Wellness Report

I am VERY happy to report that the echocardiogram (also called an echo stress test) I had on Monday was normal. I have the green light to exercise away!

As for what I experienced a couple weeks ago, I'm not sure. It could have been a random incident of SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) or a result of too much thyroid medication. (My doc now has me on the lowest dose possible.) Whatever it was, it galvanized my resolve to get rid of my extra weight. For good!

So the snowshoe trips are back on. My plan is to go on 2 snowshoe/hiking outings each month in training to climb the Wellsville Mountains on September 12th. Here's a nice view of them in springtime:


I'm referring to the Wellsville hike as my personal Everest. Hmmm. Maybe I'll even re-read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Or maybe not.

The cool thing about making the Wellsville Mountains a part of my fitness goal is that I can look out my front windows and see them everyday. See them when I'm running errands in my car. See them when I'm taking the dog on a walk. I've always loved them, but I'm guessing that now they'll mean even more to me!

Have a Happy New Year!

Healthy and Wellness Report . . .

I am VERY happy to report that the echocardiogram (also called an echo stress test) I had on Monday was normal. I have the green light to exercise away!

As for what I experienced a couple weeks ago, I'm not sure. It could have been a random incident of SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) or a result of too much thyroid medication. (My doc now has me on the lowest dose possible.) Whatever it was, it galvanized my resolve to get rid of my extra weight. For good!

So the snowshoe trips are back on. My plan is to go on 2 snowshoe/hiking outings each month in training to climb the Wellsvilles on September 12th. Got that? September 12th. Put it on your calendar and plan to come with me!



I hope to sit down soon with my Cache Trails book and come up with a schedule of outings. When I get it all figured out, I'll post it. If any work with your schedule and you'd like to join me, I'd LOVE to have you come along. I'm referring to the Wellsville hike as my personal Everest. Hmmm. Maybe I'll even re-read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Or maybe not.

The cool thing about making the Wellsville Mountains a part of my fitness goal is that I can look out my front windows and see them everyday. See them when I'm running errands in my car. See them when I'm taking the dog on a walk. I've always loved them, but I'm guessing that now they'll mean even more to me!

Have a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Low Carbing through Weight Watchers . . .

I gave myself an early Christmas present this week. On Monday I re-joined Weight Watchers.

I originally joined Weight Watchers in February 2006 and steadily lost weight through September '06. My low weight was 164. Down 40 pounds from a joining weight of 204.

First I was trying to reach a goal weight of 150 lbs. But after a YEAR of trying, I was still stuck at 167 lbs. or so. I had my doctor write me a new weight goal of 168, but by then I weighed 170+ lbs. Still, I kept at it. But instead of losing, I was slowing gaining. Finally, after over 2 year with Weight Watchers, I quit. I was tired of paying money to gain weight.

That's not the only reason I quit. I also came to the realization that I was using WW as a crutch. It was almost as if I believed that as long as I was paying and going, I would lose weight.

So why am I back? Because I recognize that WW is an excellent tool. Not a cruch, but a tool. I need the accountability of weighing in each week. I also think that the face to face support of members at meetings is motivating for me. Plus, I've come to realize that a strict low, low carb diet just isn't for me.

But I haven't given up on low carb combletely. When I read "Low Carb Dieting for Dummies" it reminded me a lot of the Core Plan at WW. (Now WW has combined Flex and Core into the Momentum plan.) Fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, non-fat dairy and healthy fats worked for me once. I'm banking on them working again.

One thing is certain, I won't quit trying to lose weight until I'm back down under 170 lbs. It's a sensible weight for me given my P.C.O.S. and heredity.

Better is the enemy of good enough.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Versions of Popular Christmas Carols

(All I Want for Christmas Is) To Lose Some Weight
All I want for Christmas is to lose some weight, to lose some weight,
Yes, to lose some weight.
Gee, if I could only seem to lose some weight,
I'd truly have a Merry Christmas.
It seems I always have to say, "No thanks, I'll just have vegetables for dinner."
Gosh, oh gee, how happy I'd be if I were only thinner!
All I want for Christmas is to lose some weight, to lose some weight,
Yes, to lose some weight.
Gee, if I could only seem to lose some weight,
I'd truly have a Merry Christmas.

Down in my Wallet (sung to "Up on the Housetop)
Down in my wallet I look and pause -- It is worth it to play Santa Claus?
Up and down the aisles buying lot of toys -- All for the little ones' Christmas joys.
Ho, ho, ho -- Where'd the money go?
Ho, ho, ho -- Where'd the money go?
After the register goes ching, ching, ching -- Down in my wallet I don't see a thing!

Ruby the Red-faced Parent (sung to "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer)
Ruby the red-faced parent had a very loud-mouthed son.
And everywhere she took him, he offended everyone.
All of the time she'd tell him, "It's impolite to speak so loud."
But still he kept on saying things heard even above a crowd.
Then one fateful shopping trip, Junior was heard to say:
"Mom, that lady sure looks fat. How do you think she got like that?"
Then how his mother wished that she could somehow disappear.
Under her breath she told him, "You are grounded for a year!"


Down the Hall (sung to "Deck the Halls") -- a tribute to mothers
Down the hall the kids come shrieking. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
I think the baby's diaper's leaking. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
My toddler's void of all apparel. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
I guess I'll sing this Christmas carol. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

A Few of Our Favorite Things . . .

It finally came . . . the annual neighborhood gift from the Tippetts. And again, they've outdone themselves. Yes, those are a plate of plain rice cakes wrapped in cellophane. And here's the note that came with them. (Once again, a classic!)



On December 26th of last year our Family Christmas committee met and began throwing out ideas for the gift we would give in the coming year. Our committee knew that if we were to be considered like the house that gives out full size candy bars at Halloween, we couldn't waste any time. This year the committee came to the conclusion because of the financial conditions of the world we would give a versatile gift -- homemade rice cakes.

We failed to find a recipe for homemade rice cakes. Quaker apparently doesn't want anybody to find out their secret formula. We decided that each member of the committee would taste a rice cake then discern by taste the ingredients in them. We unanimously came to the conclusion on the main ingredient. They are called rice cakes, but we determined it was probably to throw you off so you couldn't make your own. We figured the main ingredient was a small rice-shaped type of Styrofoam. We tested various types of Styrofoam until we found one similar in color and which had no taste. This had to be it! With tiny stencils we carved the little rice shaped Styrofoam pieces to add to the mix. It was hard to tell if the second most dominating taste was a heavy paper or cardboard. We decided to go with paper. We took common notebook paper and shredded it and re-shredded it until it turned into a powdery substance. (We hoped the ink wouldn't create any health problems, but would enchance the color of our cakes.) After identifying the two main indredients we knew there must be a binding material to hold these items together. We cheated a little by simply asking local physicians, "What type of glue has no taste and would not be harmful if eaten in small circular amounts?" Our family formula was created over months and months of mixing and testing. We then took the perfect mix and threw batch after batch into the dryer to ensure every ounce of moisture was removed. Once all the moisture was removed, we then placed the dried, tasteless material onto a flat pan and again with stencils we cut the cakes into a perfect circle. It should go without saying that we sang during each phase of this project our favorite family song, "Whistle while you work."


Oh, how we hope that the kids haven't already devoured them. They're much more than a treat. There's been more than one family night when our activity was kick ball or baseball and we didn't have any bases. We simply grabbed four homemade cakes from the pantry and then it was "play ball!" Brush them off and then set them back in the pantry or just enjoy them after the game. Playing indoor hocky and need a puck? Tired of scratching your hardwood floors while playing shuffleboard in the hall? Can't afford clay pigeons for shooting practice? No, they won't break! Just look for the hole to see if you hit your mark then shoot at them again and again. Take an ear swab with a little soap to clean the gun powder residue from the holes to make them safe enough for the grandkids to snack on.


Short on cash for decorations for the Holidays? No problem. Take three of these cakes, put one on top of the other. Place a small hat on the top cake and, voila, you have a snowman to hang on your front door to greet all your friends and neighbors. Hurry fast so you won't be thought of as a copycat. Do you have bald spots on the Christmas tree? Take a handful of cakes, paint them with bright colors, and hang them all over the tree. Oh, what a difference! (Remember take a 30 grit sand paper to remove the paint and get them back into the pantry for future use.)


They're not justs for recreation and decoration. They're a great food storage item. They have no shelf life. Nobody can identify a good one from an expired one. They beauty is that one cake could possibly feed a family of four for up to a month. Remember one tiny piece of cake will expand up to thirty time its size with a little water.


We could go on and on about this glorious circular delight, but the point really is -- we are happy to give the gift filled with a little Styrofoam, a little paper, a little glue and a lot of love.


Love, The Tippetts Family



And now, a little something to say, "Merry Christmas" fellow bloggers:



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Family Book Recommendations -- Our Gift to You!

Those of you who live in our neighborhood, know that for our neighborhood Christmas gift we donated money to our local library and then supplied our friends and neighbors with bookmarks and a list of our favorite (or recently read) books. Here's what we wrote:


Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.
— Henry David Thoreau

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
— Mark Twain


A Few of Our Favorite Books

Hubby
The Lord’s Way, Dallin H. Oaks
All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, Neal A. Maxwell
Beekeeping for Dummies

Christie
A Redbird Christmas, Fannie Flagg
The Host, Stephenie Meyer
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman (series), Pamela Aidan
An Assembly Such as This
Duty & Desire
These Three Remain
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, (2nd in series), Jeanne Birdsall
An Incomplete Revenge (most recent release in the Maisie Dobbs series), Jacqueline Winspear

All 3 Hansen Children
Peter and the Starcatchers, Dave Barry
Peter and the Shadow Thieves
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon

Bug
Stormbreaker (Alex Rider series), Anthony Horowitz
Lord of the Rings series, J.R.R. Tolkien
Johnny Miller: I call the shots
Mike Weir: Road to the Masters

Loula Belle
Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, (series) Chris Heimerdinger
Midnight for Charlie Bone (series), Jenny Nimmo

Beans
Geronimo Stilton (series)
Books by Gordon Korman
The Sixth Grade Nickname Game
Dive
Everest

Merry Christmas!


Honest Scrap


Thanks to Suko for giving me the Honest Scrap award. Here are 10 honest things about myself:

1. I am very gifted at the fine art of belching on demand.
2. I have taught the skill to my children.
3. Hubby can't do it. We tell him it's because it's genetic.
4. I maintain that the ability to burp properly prevented me from experiencing heart burn while pregnant.
5. I'll quit blogging about burping any time now.
6. Blogging about burping beats blogging about weight loss -- especially when you haven't been losing weight.
7. It also beats thinking about Holter monitoring results that weren't normal and wondering what could be wrong with my heart.
8. Sometimes I do really well Pollyanna-izing about my health challenges.
9. And sometimes I am just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
10. Time spent with my dog always takes my mind off my troubles.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's for dinner?

This post is for anyone who is looking for ideas on what to make for dinner. (Hi, Alison!)

Here's a copy of our menu from last week. We followed it fairly well. One in a row.


And finally, here are some delicious recipes that my family likes. Enjoy!

Traditional Fried Rice

4 c. cold, cooked rice
3 to 4 eggs
¼ tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. canola oil (or other veg. oil)
2 whole green onions, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, diced
1 ½ c. ham, or shrimp, BBQ pork, chicken, etc.
½ c. frozen peas, thawed
2 Tbsp. + soy sauce (Kikkoman is our fave)

Rub cooked rice with wet hands to separate the grains. Beat eggs with ¼ tsp. salt. In a large skillet or wok heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add green onion and green pepper and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add eggs and stir and cook until soft curds form; remove from pan and set aside.

Heat another Tbsp. oil in pan. Add ham or other meat, and peas. Stir-fry for 2 min. to heat thoroughly; remove from pan and set aside. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil in the pan. Add the rice and stir-fry for 2 minutes to heat through. Stir in soy sauce, meat mixture, and egg mixture. Fold in until the eggs are in small pieces. Season with additional soy sauce if desired. Serves 4 to 5 people.

(Don’t worry too much about the proportions. Just add away. We like our with a bit of extra egg and ham.)
---------------

Sweet and Sour Chicken

6 split boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut into strips. Dip in a slightly beaten egg and then in flour. Brown in hot oil. Place in casserole dish.

Boil:
2 chicken bouillon cubes (2 tsp. powder)
1 c. hot water
1 ½ c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2/3 c. vinegar
2/3 c. catsup

Pour over chicken. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees (do not cover). Baste half way through cooking time. Serve over rice.
---------------

Macaroni and Beef Bake

2 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 tbsp. ground beef
2/3 c. finely chopped onion
1/3 pound (1 c.) elbow macaroni
3 ¼ c. tomato juice (or V-8 variety)
1 ½ c. cheddar cheese, grated
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in frying pan and brown ground beef and macaroni. (If you’re using a non-stick pan, skip the oil.) Add tomato juice, tomato soup, chili powder, salt and pepper.

Bake in a large casserole (9x13 glass pan works too) at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until macaroni is tender. Cover with cheese and return to oven until cheese melts. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Using Oprah's weight gain as part of my weight loss motivation

I feel for Oprah. Sure, she may be a billionaire. She may have a home in the Bahamas and wealth untold. But she also has regained 40 pounds to reach the 200 pound mark. And it's all over the newspapers, magazines and internet. She gains her weight in the public eye.

I'm just grateful that my weight gain trend isn't on the front page of my local paper. It's bad enough to watch the scale climbing ever upward without uncaring millions knowing about it.

Oprah and I have a lot in common. We've been obese. We've lost a lot of weight and looked really good. And we've gained it back. A number of times. Oh, and we both have thyroid problems. (We both have the gift of gab as well.)

(Note: As I was typing that last line I hit the 's' key instead of the 'b' key when typing gab. For a moment there, Oprah and I both had the gift of gas. . . . Must. Stop. Laughing.)

A-hem. Serious again. Any moment now.

Dang. I can't get serious again. The 'gift of gas' line really blew my whole plan of writing an inspiring post about how I'm going to stop my recent trend of gaining weight by conquering my personal Mt. Everest -- hiking the Wellsville mountains. I was going to write about how Oprah will no doubt hire a personal trainer and pay nutrition experts to help her lose weight. I, on the other hand, will go the low-cost route and use hiking and snowshoeing to reach the same ends.

The same ends.

Gift of gas.

I'd better stop while I'm ahead.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Ooooh! I'm so excited! It's snowing. I mean SNOWING! At the moment I'm typing this at the computer with a steaming cup of herbal tea sitting nearby, it's a blizzard outside. The snow is blowing in maybe 15 degrees above horizontal. Every now and then a gust of wind sends the snow off the eaves in thick billowy waves.

I'm loving it! Yes, I do need to head out to our Relief Society Christmas breakfast in 50 minutes. But that will only make me more excited. I'll be thankful to have a front-wheel drive car to get me to the church safe and sound. But after it's stopped snowing, I'll be thankful for my truck. Yes, it has available four-wheel drive, but mostly it's rear-wheel drive. Which means it's great for doing fishtails and donuts.

(Note: Earlier this week I drove the truck to drop off Bug for basketball at the church. There was a snowy area of the parking lot that is on the north side of a line of lilac bushes. I decided to let it help me get turned around. Wheee! It was a bit more helpful than I had thought it would be. A group of cub scouts saw my free-wheeling turnabout method and watched with open mouths. I was grinning from ear to ear. Bug was a bit distrubed, but in the end thought it was fun too.)

Yes, I love snow!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A little lightness for Friday

Flashlight Girl forwarded me this video. I thought it was funny. I'll be looking forward to the kids' bedtimes. They can't sass me in their sleep. At least when they're sleeping I know they're not ignoring me. (I'm just sure that I was never a grumpy attitudinal teenager. Never. Not me.)


A few of mom's favorite things by Hillary Weeks

Monday, December 08, 2008

Fitness Goal: Prepare to Hike to the Wellsville Cone

I've found a goal to help me focus my health and wellness efforts. My goal is to hike to the top of the Wellsville Cone in September of 2009. Here are the specifics of the hike from "Cache Trails -- 2004 edition."

Deep Canyon Trail to Wellsville Ridge Trail

Distance: 6.1 miles up the Deep Canyon trail and along the Wellsville Ridge to the Wellsville Cone

Rating: Strenuous

Elevation Gain: 4,070 ft.


I plan to purchase the maps of the hiking area, maybe even post them as additional motivation to keep me on track. I haven't sat down to create a detailed game plan yet, but I'm going to start by walking everyday with my dog and gradually increase our walking time. Twice a month I'll do a hike in the nearby mountains, starting easy and working my way to longer and more difficult hikes.

During the winter I'll snow shoe and come spring and summer I should be well on my way to better health and stamina. Because the hike is steep and strenuous, I'm going to feel it in my knees. I'm planning to do weight training that will focus on building my leg muscles to support my knees.

I also think it would be fun to invite the Young Women in my ward to join in my hikes. We can do some of the easier ones in preparation for girls' camp. I'm also planning to invite them to join me on the final hike up the Wellsville mountains. I wish that I'd had the opportunity to hike them when I was younger, back when my body actually worked.

But it's not too late for me. I'm excited about this hike like I've not been excited about anything in a long time! Yeeha! Watch me go!

Writing a Book on Patience While Grumpy -- Patience Report #8

I'm writing a book on patience. Now pick youself up off the floor and stop laughing. I'm serious. Not very patient, but serious.

Who better to write a book on acquiring patience than someone who lacks but desires patience? That's me.

Here are some possible titles: (Tell me which you like best -- or make new suggestions)

-- Give Me Strength: A Mother's Journey Toward Patience
-- In Pursuit of Patience
-- On the Path to Patience
-- Patience, please! (Pretty please)

I figure that the best time to write about patience is when I'm grumpy. Mostly because I've been grumpy a lot lately, and if I wait for a patient mood to strike before I begin writing, this book won't get written.

So here goes.

In my dreams for this book on patience, Deseret Book will publish it. (Despite having customer service problems -- as STM has discovered.) And they'll include me in their line-up of Time Out for Women speakers. And because one of my favorite publishers/speakers for Deseret Book is Mary Ellen Edmunds, I'm going to take a page out of her book and write on a serious topic but not take myself too seriously.

In my quest to acquire patience, I've been collecting quotes on patience. They have given me much to think about. I've been thinking that I might get more written on patience if I cite a quote and then write my reaction to it. So, that's what today's entry is. A quote and thoughts on patience.

Two persons who have chosen each other out of all the [rest] with the design to be each other's mutual comfort and entertainment, have, in that action, bound themselves to be good-humored, affable, discreet, forgiving, PATIENT, and joyful, with respect to each other's frailties and perfections, to the end of their lives.
-- Joseph Addison

This quote struck me as humorous and true. First of all because it points out that we have chosen our mates for comfort and also for entertainment. I'd never thought about marriage as entertainment. Which made me think about what is entertaining about my own dear husband. His inability to find things immediately came to mind. It's such a pervasive quality that it has ceased to be annoying and has become comical. Also, the wool boot liners that he wears as slippers are entertaining. Ditto the "Mickey Mouse" winter boots he brought to our marriage. And I'll never forget the first time I saw him push his glasses further onto his nose without his hands, using only his cheeks by alternating winks and eye squints. We were engaged at the time. It should have alerted me to the tremendous entertainment value in the man I had agreed to marry.

The quote above gets a little more serious when it lists the qualities that we have agreed to exercise in relation to our spouse's frailities and perfections. I got a little hung up on the line, "frailities and perfections." I understand the need to be good humored, affable, discrete, forgiving and patient in relation to frailities. But perfections?

Actually, now that I think about it, my grumpy mood this morning had a lot to do with my husband's perfections. Namely his perfect digestive system and metabolism. I'm waiting to find out the results of allergy testing that will determine if I'm allergic to something I'm eating. In the meantime, I'm avoiding things with flour and chocolate. But Hubby made brownies last night. There were a couple left this morning for the girls -- a reminder that I can't eat them. And the rest of the family can. Oh, and when I do eat sweets, I blow up like a blimp. But the rest of my family doesn't.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm in for a long road of learning to be patient with my family's perfections. Sigh. I'm not there yet -- not when the Christmas season keeps throwing sweets our way.

If I were Pollyanna (hey, that could be a good book title, "If I Were Pollyanna") I'd look for something to be happy about. So here goes . . .

I'm glad that none of my family members have diabetes. Not only would I have to re-think what we eat, what I make, but I'd also have to learn to give shots and pokes to my loved ones. I'd rather not eat sweets than contemplate giving insulin injections to a member of my family.

I'm grateful Hubby doesn't have my metabolism. One is enough. (Besides, if I work this right, I might just be able to get him to take over the cooking of desserts. Maybe even a few more categories.)

I'm also glad that my children don't struggle with their weight. Sure Bug would like to weigh more, but none of them are overweight. If, for some reason, one person in every family had to be overweight, I'd want it to be me. I wouldn't want anyone else in my family to battle the bulge.

Pollyanna would probably do a better job of letting her husband comfort her. My man tried to cheer me this morning, but I pushed his efforts away. (Sorry, honey. I'll do better.)

I also have ideas on how Hubby and I can better entertain each other -- we can deliberately over-play some of our frailties (him: lecturing / me: devising new job charts) and exchange knowing looks when the kids bite the bait. That ought to be entertaining.

In the meantime, I can enjoy the non-food aspects of Christmas: wonderful music, inspiring stories of giving, writing Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, getting gifts together for friends and neighbors, singing carols, anonymous giving.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Perspective -- Inner Beauty Thoughts

I got on the scale yesterday. I'll have to let Charlie know that I did not lose weight over Thanksgiving. But I didn't gain weight either. The scale read the same this Monday as it did last Monday. And in between I've been chowing down on carbs.

I'm finding it supremely difficult to balance my low-carb lifestyle with being a wife and mother. Honestly, I'm the only one in my household with a sensitivity to carbs. The rest of the gang seems to handle them just fine.

I'm having a tough time trying to maintain beloved holiday traditions, such as hanging gingerbread cookies on our Christmas tree, with eating low-carb. Once I sample the sweets, it's downhill from there. (Note: No one has noticed that I haven't made a Christmas countdown garland filled with M&Ms. I guess that's one carbilicious tradition that we can ditch.)

In the midst of this holiday angst, my husband came across a section in Neal A. Maxwell's book, "All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience" that hit home. Here are three quotes that resonated with me.

"How ironic it is to envy someone who has a pretty figure but who is a spiritual cripple."

"Think for a moment how different it would be if people took on that physical appearance which would reflect distinctly how well they are doing spiritually.... When the outer person reflected the inner person, whom would we applaud? And whom would we pity?"

"The faithful but perhaps plump woman whose nails are worn but who is a giving mother, wife, and neighbor has a queenly beauty and a regal way, if we would but see her as she really is; her beauty will not be taken from her by the passing years."

Rustic Christmas Tree -- inexpensive too!

I used my discretionary money that had been accumulating and bought my first artificial Christmas tree -- prelit! I love it! We put it up after Thanksgiving and decorated it the next day.

The only thing I needed to buy was the raffia for the garland. (It cost $1.58 at WalMart.) The red twigs came from our dogwood bushes. I trimmed them a couple weeks ago and saved the beautiful red branches.

The berry-looking sprigs are rose hips that I trimmed from a wild bush growing along a canal that I pass everyday when I walk my youngest to school. A few years ago I put fresh spruce cuttings, rose hips and some other berry-looking cuttings above my kitchen cabinets, along our mantle, and above the entertainment center. It was beautiful (and free!) but dried out and was a real pain to clean up. The rose hips, however, are pretty mess free. Ditto the dogwood.

About the cookies . . . Way back when I was in college and dated Dave Fenton, I saw his mother's tree hung with gingerbread cookies with white piping. I loved it! And got the recipe. I didn't marry Dave, but I've been using his mom's Swedish Rolled Ginger Cookie recipe to decorate our Christmas trees since 1995 (maybe even a couple years more). Here it is:

Swedish Rolled Ginger Cookies

1 c. shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. molasses
1 egg
2 Tbsp. vinegar
3 3/4 c. flour
2 - 3 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar. Stir in flour w/ ginger, soda, cinnamon, clobes and salt; Mix well. Chill 3 hours.

Generously flour surface and roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes. Place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8 min. (5 to 6 min. if you're not planning to hang them). If hanging, make hole in each cookie before removing from baking sheet. (I use a pair of clean needle-nose pliers.) Let cookies cool completely on wire rack.

For icing: I only use milk and powdered sugar. (This year I added vanilla so that my icing would be off-white to match the raffia.) It needs to be fairly thick so that it won't run when you work with it. Put a large spoonful into a ziplock sandwich bag. Cut a tiny corner off the bottom of bag and use as a pastry bag. Let your kids help! This year I mandated a lot of outlined cookies, but most years we go wild with icing and have a variety of designs on the tree.





This is what my tree will look like by the time Christmas rolls around. You see, part of our tradition is to let the kids eat the cookies off the tree up until Christmas -- one a day. Then on Christmas Eve we take the remaining cookies off and either eat them or leave them for Santa.

Note: I knew we'd miss the smell of pine after years of having real Christmas trees. So I've been looking for a plug-in pine scent to use with our new tree. (Safety Man insists that candles are too dangerous. Even candle warmers don't make the cut for him.) I found the perfect scent at Bath and Body Works. It's heavenly! (If you look closely at the top photo of the tree, you'll see the scentport plugged in at the bottom right.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Okay, so I didn't really think about vegetarian vampires at all on Thanksgiving. Instead, I made a plan and stuck with it.

Before heading over to my parents' house on Thanksgiving I wrote down what I was going to eat and figured the net carbs too. I'm proud to say that I stuck with my plan. I didn't really mess up until we got home. Oh well. At least I avoided eating even more carbs at the big feed.


----------Menu and Net Carbs for Thanksgiving 2008----------

9:00 AM
4 oz. ham
3/4 c. raspberries (5)
scant 1/3 cup of half and half (3)
packet of Splenda
Thanksgiving preparation snitching (6)

12:30 PM -- The Dinner --
10 olives (2)
baby dill pickles (6)
celery sticks (2)
carrot sticks (6)
dilly dip (3)
2/3 c. green bean casserole (11)
1 Tbsp. cranberry sauce (6)
2" x 2" square of pumpking delight (20)
dollop of whipped cream (5)

2:30 PM
cherry pie (gag! It was for the chickens) (30)

6:00 PM
4 oz. ham, salad greens, ranch dressing(5)
2 c. herbal tea
pumpkin delight w/ whipped cream (25)
another serving of that pumpkin stuff (25)
==========

Total net carbs: 165

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm Thankful for . . .

Music.

My i-pod and how I can have all sorts of playlists at my disposal.

For the sound system in our home that lets me play beautiful music throughout the upstsairs.

My husband who went along with so many of my wants when we were building this house. (The double oven is mighty handy too, honey.)

The internet.

Blogs.

Friends.

Family.

My parents.

Annie, our dog.

Our chickens.

A day with my kids out of school.

A chance to babysit my baby nephew while his mom takes her older kids to a movie along with my youngest. My sister-in-law is a little nervous, but I'm delighted!

The bright red color of dogwood bushes in the winter. (I'm trimmed mine to use along with some rose hips as decorations on my rustic Christmas tree.)

Getting to serve in our ward's Young Women organization.

Velcro curlers that give my hair more volume.

My Saucony running shoes -- even though I don't run in them.

The Deseret Industries. Not only do I find incredible bargains there, but they accept our family's excess goods too. What a service they provide!

The gospel of Jesus Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson.

Temples. (All 120-something. Amazing!)

The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. His life wasn't perfect, but he made incredible sacrifices to bring forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our car and truck. So glad we're not still in the day of horse and buggies. (lthough I do enjoy horses.)

Basketball. The sport and those who have helped Bug come to love it. It gives him something to work toward.

Loula Belle's terrific friends. I enjoy having them at our house as much as Lou does.

Lotion.

Central heating systems.

Earrings. (I take after my mother.)

Quality cleaning products.

Dishwashers.

Flush toilets.

Indoor plumbing in all it's wonderful pampering convenience!

The changing of the seasons: snow, frosted trees and grass, but also crocus in spring and watching kids run through the sprinklers in the summer.

Plenty of food to eat. Especially tomorrow.

A soft, comfy bed with new red sheets.

The color red!

Blue jeans. (My daily uniform.)

Gold-toe socks. For her.

Hair spray.

Lined paper.

Pens. Good ones that aren't blobby and messy.

Calculators.

Banks.

Public schools -- especially the ones that educated me and are educating my children.

Teachers.

Listeners.

Entertainers. (Espcially five-year-old kids who tell jokes.)

Babies.

Flowers.

Hiking trails.

Campgrounds.

Snow shoes.

My Danner hiking boots.

My fanny pack, which I've had since high school/college.

Country music. I've been listening to it in the car lately. I like how a lot of the songs are about family. It doesn't take itself too seriously either.

Radio.

Television. There aren't a lot of shows I watch, but I get a kick out of "The King of Queens" re-runs. And "Everybody Loves Ramond." I even like some episodes of "The Simpsons."

People with a finely honed sense of humor.

Vacuums. (Which reminds me . . .)

Engineers. Just think of all they've given us!

Mothers. Without them there would be no engineers, artists, entertainers, babies, teachers, students . . . etc.

Charitable organizations that do a world of good.

The Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Approaching Thanksgiving like a vegetarian vampire (think Twilight)

Turkey day is less than 48 hours away. I'd be fine if it really was all about the turkey, but as there will be stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, pies and other carbilicious foods, I've been dreading its approach.

But just this morning I happened upon a thought that just may be the key to getting through the day without gorging myself on carbs. I just have to put myself in Twilight mode.

I just finished reading the final book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. They're about a girl who moves to Forks, Washington and falls in love with a vampire. But it's okay because he and his family are "vegetarian" vampires, meaning they don't drink human blood, just that of wild beasts in the nearby forests.

Anyway, back to how this applies to Thanksgiving. You see, I am a recovering carb-addicted human, facing one of the biggest carb-fests on the calendar. I figure that it's like when Edward first got that heady sniff of Bella's aroma. Just like Bella was Edward's ultimate temptation as a vampire, the carb-filled traditional fare on Thanksgiving really calls my name. "Christie," it says, "we're delicious. Can you smell the rolls that just came out of the oven? Aren't you grateful for them? And look at those pies! Cranberries are healthy. They're a fruit. You can eat us. We won't hurt you. Don't make your mother feel bad. She's spent a lot of time and effort on this meal."

(Note: I'm so sensitive to carbs that at church on Sunday when they uncovered the sacrament bread to bless it, I could smell it. I was at least four rows back from the sacrament table. Its smell affected me until it had been passed to the congregation.)

If Edward can resist drinking Bella's blood, I can resist eating carb-filled food on Thanksgiving. I told Charlie Hill, of terrific blog fame, that I'm going to lose weight this week. Over the Thanksgiving holiday. To make that happen, I've got to ignore the siren call of rolls, pies, cranberry sauce and stuffing.

Look at my weighloss ticker in the top of the left-hand column. As of Monday I've gained back all the weight I've lost since the end of August. Six pounds! That is NOT okay.

I am stronger than my carbohydrate cravings. Like Stephenie Meyer, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Also known as Mormons or LDS. We're raised to exercise control over our physical impulses. In fact, I wonder if Stephenie's plot of "vegetarian" vampires who are family-centric can be traced back to her LDS roots. And why do you think that Edward is so insistent that he and Bella be married before engaging in sexual relations? Ding, ding, ding. Chastity is a core belief in our faith. (Note: Edward and Bella's conduct doesn't all sit well with me. I'll be fine if my daughter doesn't read these books until she's older. Married maybe.)

So if I remained chaste until I was married, if I had my first child while still in college and stayed in school to graduate as one of the top 3 English graduates, if I've been able to stay at home raising my kids despite the tugs and pulls of the workplace, I CAN DO THIS.

I can be thankful that I can eat turkey, olives, green bean casserole and nuts on Thanksgiving. I'll also be thankful for the support and encouragement I get from reading other low-carb blogs. In fact, Greta and Kiki of Does This Blog Make Us Look Fat, have reminded me of what my special vegetarian vampire skill is -- a sense of humor. Read their yoga class post and be sure to click on their zumba class link. Too funny! The Hunger Kiki writes about is like that vampire lust for blood. Only we relate to it as a lust for food. I'm going to laugh in the face of The Hunger.

We're all in this together.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Need the Power of the Pen!

It's Monday. The day I usually step on the scale. Well, this morning the number wasn't good. And I know why. I haven't been writing down what I eat or tracking carbs/calories.

When I keep a food journal or track what I eat, I inevitably lose weight. But when I wing it, I gain weight.

It works inversely for money. If you don't track your money, you lose it. And if you write down or keep track of what you spend, you're more likely to watch your savings account gain funds.

I'm fairly good at writing down what I spend. I'll just have to apply those same principles to tracking what I eat. Knowledge is power!

Use the Power of the Pen for Tracking Dollars or Calories

It's Monday. The day I usually step on the scale. Well, this morning the number wasn't good. And I know why. I haven't been writing down what I eat or tracking carbs/calories.

When I keep a food journal or track what I eat, I inevitably lose weight. But when I wing it, I gain weight.

It works inversely for money. If you don't track your money, you lose it. And if you write down or keep track of what you spend, you're more likely to watch your savings account gain funds.

I'm fairly good at writing down what I spend. I'll just have to apply those same principles to tracking what I eat. Knowledge is power!

Now, on a bit of a different track, I've been thinking a bit about this crazy economy that we're experiencing. It's making me nervous.

I usually try to put everything I buy on my Discover credit card. (I have the Preferred Membership at Sam's and get 2% cash back on all my purchases -- 6% back on gasoline purchases at Sam's.) I keep my receipts and deduct them from the monthly budget as if I've spent cash. The way I look at it, I'm getting paid to budget.

But here's the thing . . . I pay for what I've purchased a month later. All the things I buy in November come out of my checking account in December. When Elder Robert D. Hales came to our Stake Conference in September, he mentioned that the Church stays a year ahead when spending money. In other words, the budgets for this year are created from funds garnered last year.

That idea has stuck with me. In fact, just this morning I'm realizing that I need to change how our family budget works. I'd like to follow the example of the Church Finance Department. Realistically, we ought to be able to stay a month ahead. And seeing as how we're really a month behind, I've got some work to do.

I'll be honest. I'm not excited about trying to switch over to becoming a month ahead in December. I'd like enjoy the holidays by spending money on others. But given the times we live in, now is a good time to take control of our family finances.

I'm going to do a little calculating and make a three- or four-month plan that will ease us into becoming a month ahead in our budgeting. The first thing I'm going to do is stop using the credit card. I can resume it once we've accumulated a month's worth of budgetary funds in the bank, but until then it will be simpler and more motivating to spend cash or write checks.

Don't get me wrong. We do have a Rainy Day savings account that we can turn to if we were to lose income or suffer a large unexpected expense. But by staying a month a head in our budgeting, we'll have that much more to fall back on should the worst happen, like if my husband lost his job.

There is no such thing as being over-prepared.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The World is in God's Hands. But what about government?

My last post generated a considerable amount of thoughtful commentary. I spent a long time reading and considering your ideas and opinions. I took detours of thought that led me down previously untrod cerebral pathways. Thanks for all the mental stimulation!

But alas, now I am left with not much time for posting. So in consideration of today's list of to-dos that I have yet to dent, I'm posting my comment to my last post as today's main post.

As always, I'm interested to know what you're thinking!

--------------------


Oh my brain cells, they are a firing! These comments have given me a lot to think about. And because I filter everything through the lens of the gospel, I'm left wondering, What will Jesus do? We're told that at his second coming he'll rule temporally as well as spirtually. What will he make of this fine mess?

I believe that we should do all in our power to support and encourage government to best meet the needs of its citizens. That's one complex task! I'm glad Linda mentioned her example of sharing a lane and how it relates to government. I like to simplify complex things, and I do that by relating large and complex things to a scale that I can understand, knowing full well that complexities multiply as size increases.

So here's the thing. I've been thinking about writing another letter to my federal representatives encouraging them to take a close look at the "economy" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Remember when Time Magazine did that report entitled, "Mormons Inc.?" One thing I remember is that Joseph Smith received revelation early on to get the church out of debt. I think that our government would do well to follow the same advice. Yes, it will be difficult to whittle away at a trillion dollar deficit, but difficult doesn't mean impossible.

[Note: I re-read the Time article. It didn't say anything about Joseph Smith getting the church out of debt. But section 64 of the Doctrine and Covenants does. This talk by Franklin D. Richards also mentions other scriptural references to debt.]

I can see that STM has her heart in the right place. Along with her, I've noticed that ultra-conservative policies seem uncaring and hands-off in a 'we don't care' kind of way. That's not right either.

I like to think of myself as a compassionate conservative, but what does that mean? I'm idealistic and a Christian too. And in my heart of hearts, I know that the Lord is aware of each individual person on this earth. He knows our needs and knows this earth, His creation, down to every milliliter of oil. He has created this world to support our lives with enough and to spare. I'm sure he weeps to see how some have hoarded resourses and sold them off to the highest bidder. But he does not over-ride agency. Ever. Not even when it was His son they were hanging on a cross.

Our United States government was founded on providing freedom for its citizens. This means that some will use that freedom to exploit those underneath them. It also means that every one of us is free to "lift where we stand," as Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf expressed in his talk in the General Priesthood session of General Conference.

I believe that when more of us lift, we need less government. I'm going to do what I can to spread the good news of the gospel to those in my circle of influence. It lifts in ways that government can't.

We are in the hands of the Lord. I'll be praying for our leaders and supporting and encouraging them to look for ways to provide the greatest good while preserving the greatest amount of freedom.

Getting it Together: Mind, Body and Soul

I had fun writing that letter to my mouth that I posted previously. But it didn't seem to make a big difference, other than getting me to think about what motivates my overeating.

I overeat for a lot of reasons, but reading Potatoes, Not Prozac, helped me come to realize that my body is set up to crave carbohydrates and sugar. My doctor also has acknowledged that my genetics have combined to give me a body super sensitive to sugar and carbs. The more I observe my body's response to trying to eat a low-carb diet, the more I've become convinced that I am a sugar addict.

I am struggling to overcome this addiction. And I'm having a hard time keeping my life in balance. When I'm totally focused on what I eat, I neglect doing the things that bring me joy, that bring me fulfillment.

Alcoholics Anonymous encourages recovering addicts to call upon a higher power. I have come to the realization that I need to do that too.

When I read Elder David A. Bednar's talk "Pray Always" from October's General Conference, a light bulb went on. He talked of how the Lord created all things spiritually before they were created temporally. And Elder Bednar said that we could use those same principles in our morning and evening prayers. As I continued to read his words, I came to understand how that might work to help me overcome my overeating tendencies.

As I've knelt to pray the past few mornings, I've asked for help in spiritually creating a day where I don't overeat. Where I eat three meals in gratitude. Meals I savor and enjoy. Meals that utilize the many foods that have been created for our nourishment and pleasure. I also plead for strength to stop eating when I'm full, when I'm satisfied. In my prayers I ask for the Lord's help in creating a day spent in His service.

By implementing Elder Bednar's counsel I've learned important things about the Lord and about myself. For starters, the Lord knows me and cares about how I feel. He is all about life and living, and for Him, the quality of our lives matter.

A big part of my motivation to lose weight and experience better health hinges on my future plans of serving a full-time mission for my church with my husband. That's looking ahead to our retirement years. The Lord is helping me see that good health will not only allow me to serve Him later, but also better serve Him now. When I feel good, I'm happy. And when I'm happy, I'm outgoing and helpful. I reach out to others, including my family, and radiate joy. (When I don't feel well, I don't radiate joy. Sometimes what I radiate is more along the lines of snippy and grumpy.)

I'm hopeful that with the Lord's help I'll get myself together -- mind, body and soul -- and overcome the weakness I have for sugar and carbs. I may never be skinny, but I'll be happy and healthy.

Happy and healthy is enough.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This and That . . .


My sister-in-law forwarded this photo to me. It reminded me of a friend whose sister just found out she's got breast cancer. I'm joining the fight against breast cancer bandwagon. In fact, I'm up for fighting all types of cancer.

And now, before I forget, here's a link to the report created by the consultant hired to look into the costs of a County Wide Library system. I'd love to know that you think about having a county-wide system. My gut reaction is that there's no time like the present to work toward providing library coverage for every county citizen. But I haven't read the report. I don't know what tax increase would need to be made to fund a county-wide system. Give me a week to read the report and do a little thinking before you hold me to my opnion. :)

Finally, let's not forget that is Money Management Monday. USU economics professor, Tyle Bowles, wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in Thursday's edition of the Herald Journal. I think it is great food for thought, and I'm reprinting it here. Let me know what you think.

Bailout Gets More Disturbing

To the editor:

In this paper (Oct. 31) and in a series of radio interviews, I spoke out against the $700 billion government response to the nation's financial problems. My opposition was based on the economic merits, or lack thereof, of the specific legislation. As it turns out, I did not fully appreciate the most negative aspect of this legislation. This grandiose extension in the role of government has resulted in a substantial movement of the line in the sand that separates resonable from unconscionable proposals for government intervention into the economy.

Now, U.S. auto companies are asking for a $50 billion handout. (This is in addition to the $25 billion already promised.) They are not even going through the fiction of making the arguement that their failure would constitute a systemic failure. Rather, the auto companies are being slightly more honest than were the financial firms. They acknowledge that government money would be used to fund, among other things, the health costs and pension benefits of members of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). And here is the rub: this proposal has immediate and considerable political suport, and few are pointing out the immoral nature of this proposal.

Democratic government derives its strength from its moral legitmacy. When the primary function of government becomes thinly veiled policies that take from the politically unpowerful (and who could be less politically powerful than unborn future voters) and give to the politically powerful (e.g., UAW, teacher's unions, the ethanol lobby, Fannie Mae, etc.) it loses that legitimacy. The effect on society is corrosive and dangerous.

Although our democracy has been gradually sliding toward this corrosive state for a generation, the recent dramatic increase in the pace is remarkable and deeply disturbing.

Tyler Bowles, Weston, Idaho

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dear Mouth, It's not all about you!

Dear Mouth,

We, the rest of the body, wanted to write you this letter to let you know that we're important too. We are tired of you always deciding what we eat. It's not all about you.

Yes, desserts taste wonderful for you. But once they hit Stomach and go through the digestion process, the rest of us don't feel so hot. The sweet things you like to party with leave the rest of us feeling flat. Or plump is more like it. Desserts and breads spend a moment on your Lips and seem to last forever on Tush and Hips. Plus too many sweets and carbs leave the rest of us dealing with water retention and fatigue. Enough is enough!

Brain, Legs, Arms and Hands are no longer going to sucker for your sweet talk. In fact, Brain is taking back control. And we're all standing behind her. Legs will walk past the candy section at the store without stopping. Arms and Hands are no longer going to lift large quantities of carb-filled pleasures into your gaping maw. We're doing this because we love you.

We're all in this together. Have you noticed that when the rest of us are feeling crappy you say things that you later regret? Well, here's the thing . . . we've been out of balance. But the low carbohydrate lifestyle we're trying to live has been helping get us back to a healthy place.

We'll do our part and try to slow down and let you savor the eating process. Food IS good! We're not asking that you eat only tasteless tidbits. Quite the opposite. We'd like you to savor and enjoy the delicious food you get to eat everyday. Foods like eggs, fresh mozzarella chesse with proscuitto and basil, frozen raspberries in half and half sprinkled with Splenda. Nice juicy steaks.

We're asking that when Eyes spot the plate of brownies that were left on the counter, you'll stay shut. That plate of brownies only provides pleasure for you. They hurt the rest of us.

Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

The Rest of the Body


----------Daily Menu: Thurs. November 13th----------

8:20 AM
celery and natural peanut butter (8)
2 oz. colby jack cheese (1)
1 slice of bacon

1:00 PM
2 c. vetetable juice (14)
salad greens (4)
2 slices bacon
2 oz. turkey breast (1)
2 Tbsp. ranch dressing (2)
1/4 c. macademia nuts (2)
1/4 c. roasted almonds (3)

6:00 PM Dinner at Chili's
1/2 c. side dish black beans (13)
Monterey Chicken (estimate: 10)
broccoli/peppers (10)
one french fry, lick of carmel on spoon (4)
==========

Total Net Carbs: 72

Best Ward Talent Number I've ever seen!

Muchas thank you! to Angie W. who forwarded the Mormon Syncronized Swim Team link to me. I about died laughing! It's perfect for a Fun Friday post. So enjoy! But don't forget to check out my tagged photo below too. Angie tagged me, and I'm tagging Nomad, Flashlight Girl, Allie and Heidi.



Tagged Photo I'm actually fairly fastidious about my digital photo files. I download photos and put them is one of three places: to develop, temporary, and keepers. Once the 'to develop' folder gets fairly full I burn the files to CD and print out the photos at Sam's Club. I don't store a lot of photos on my computer. It slows it down.



Now, about this photo. This past memorial day Hubby took along the camera when we went to visit graves. This is a photo of the headstone for my grandparents' graves. And there's a funny story to go with it.

When Loula Belle was four or five years old I said something about going to visit Grandma Austin. "Which one?" she asked. "The one with red hair or the one that's resurrected?" That's right. Lou thought that my Grandma Austin (her Great-grandma Austin) was resurrected. She'd read Grandma's name on this headstone when we'd gone to visit on memorial day. (It didn't have the death date then, but Lou didn't notice that.) She thought that meant that Grandma had died. But since she could hug and kiss Grandma, that must mean that . . . Grandma was resurrected! (Don't you love the faith and knowledge that kids naturally have?!)

Also, I fudged a bit on picking the fourth photo of the file. This wasn't the fourth photo. But I need to write about my Grandma Austin. Yesterday I went to the temple. I wear a temple apron that my dear grandma hand-stitched, so every visit to the temple reminds me of her and the humble, sweet, kind life she lived. I always come away from a visit to the temple more dedicated to live a Christ-like life, and I can't help but wonder if thinking about my Grandma Austin is part of the reason for my renewed dedication. She's as close to perfect as anyone I've ever known. And I miss her.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

At-home thoughts from daughter's education planning meeting

This morning I went to an S.E.O.P. (Student Education and Occupation Plan) meeting for Loula Belle. The councelor we met with said, "Your mom is one of the 'lucky few.' Only 1 in 10 women are married to a man who makes enough money to support a family on one income." I was a bit surprised by her statisfic. Only 10% of moms stay at home? But more disturbing was the attitude behind the statement.

First, let me say that the counselor's statistic is a bit low. According to a Census Bureau Report, of the 41.8 million kids under 15 who lived with two parents last year, more than 25 percent had mothers who stayed home. A June 2003 article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a lot to say on the topic of at-home moms. One of the women interviewed in the article (Laurel Dickson) said that the decision for her to stay home was almost impossible at first. "Ends didn't meet -- but we made them," she said. "We did whatever we had to financially to get by."

Contrary to what the school conselor is telling students, staying at home isn't a luxury open only to those who marry wealthy men. If anything, staying home feels more like a sacrifice than a luxury. At least that has been my experience. (See this past post for more one how being at-home wasn't quite what I had planned.)

We had our first child when we were both still in college. We both stayed in school to finish up our bachelor degrees and left Bug in the care of babysitters. I'd pick up baby Bug from the caregivers as soon as classes were out, and Hubby worked swing-shifts at an exercise manufacturing plant to support our little family. Bug was born in October and we both graduated in May. That's when I became a full-time at-home mom.

In the early years Hubby didn't pull down big money. And even now his income is nice, but not huge. We've worked hard to make ends meet, but for me that hasn't been the biggest sacrifice of being an at-home mom.

I'm an achiever. (Recovering over-achiever.) When I was a sophomore in high school I worked after-school at Cantwell Bros. Lumber. I didn't need to work. I wanted to work. And I loved the challenge of doing a great job. By the time I graduated high school I trained all new employees on using the computer sales system for the lumber company. A short while later I became the credit manager. Later I worked in accounts payable, did deposits, was a signer on their bank account and did sleuth work when the till didn't match the day's report. Even when I worked at Macey's Sac and Save (that was the full title then) I worked my way up from bagger to checker to making deposits and eventually working as a front-end manager. Work was a big part of my life. I loved getting promotions and paychecks.

Then I became a mom. President Ezra Taft Benson's councel to mothers played a big part in my decision to stay at home. And because the siren song of the workforce calls so appealingly to me, from time to time I have re-examined my decision to be an at-home mom. Home is still where I belong.

But what about my own girls? Will they find their calling as at-home moms? I want them to get an education, to do their very best academically. The school is prepping them for employment, for an occupation, and I think that is wise. Every woman needs to have skills she can use to get a job that can provide for her family if the need arises. But will their schooling or future occupation make staying home to care for children seem second rate? Will they have to struggle to find contentment and satisfaction the way I have?

These are the questions that parents can ask, but can't know the answers to. Having the ability to choose, having free agency -- that's what this life is all about.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remember Rings . . .

I've slipped a bit in eating lately and have been eating more carbs. I'm sticking with the excuse that it's because I've had a head cold. For a couple days orange juice sounded better than anything else did. So I drank it.

I have, of course, experienced the consequences -- water retention, carb cravings and weight gain. So starting today I'm going to wear my 'Remember Rings.'

I've got two pinkie rings that are silver and turqouise. I'm wearing them to remind myself of two things that really help me feel healthier:

1. No snacking. Three balanced meals a day is enough.

2. Don't forget to pray. (I'm trying to make morning prayer a habit. This morning I said mine standing up in front of the washer and dryer. That's where I was when I remembered that I'd forgotten to check in with The Man Upstairs.)

----------Daily Menu for Monday, Nov. 10th----------

8:30 AM
2 eggs, fried in bacon fat (1)
3 oz. mozzarella cheese (2)
1 c. frozen raspberries (6)

1:45 PM
1/4 c. macademia nuts (2)
salad greens (4)
1/2 c. kidney beans (12)
2 Tbsp. ranch dressing (2)
5 oz. petite sirloin steak
1 Tbsp. A-1 steak sauce (3)

4:00 PM
Dove dark chocolate (4)

5:40 PM
Low-carb Hawaiian Haystack (without rice)
chicken and sauce, 1/2 c. (7)
over salad greens (2)
grated cheese (-)
diced tomatoes (1)
1/3 c. pineapple (6)
2 Tbsp. coconut (5)
F.H.E treat -- Sonic diet cherry limeade (10)
almonds and macademia nuts (7)
==========

Total net carbs: 74

Budgeting: Do what works for you

It's money management Monday, and today we'll be discussing everyone's favorite subject -- budgeting! Now, no sighs. No moaning. No pulling out your hair.

My message today is to know thyself.

As a visual aid I've scanned an account book that belonged to my great-great grandfather, John Andrew Kofoed. He kept the books for a blacksmith shop. I've included a sample page for Royal Crockett. I don't know who Royal was, but my grandfather's mother's family were Crocketts. Anyway, the point these visual aids are helping me make is this -- I have at least one ancestor who enjoyed keeping books. He also had great penmanship. Is it any wonder that I like to track money down to the penny? And I like to do it by hand. Sure, I make a form on the computer, but then I write down purchases and the amounts spent in the month by hand. Like great-great-grandfather, like great-great-granddaughter.

There are many ways to keep a budget. Some people like to use cash. They divide up the money for various budget categories into envelopes at the first of the month. Then they use the cash for purchases. They track their spending by watching the amount of cash that is left in the envelopes. When the cash is gone, it's time to stop spending.

Techno budgeters use Quicken or other brands of computer software to track monthly income and expenses. They can print out charts and graphs. I know women who track their budget using their bank accounts. Income is deposited into checking. They automatically transfer a set amount from checking to savings every month to cover long and short-term savings. What's left in checking is what the family has to spend for the month. When the account starts getting low, it's time to put the brakes on shopping and spending.

In some marriages, the husband does the bookkeeping. In our home, I do it. (I like to tell Hubby that he makes the money, and I spend it!) No matter who keeps track of the money, it's important that both husband and wife have a say in the family budget. Both should be aware of where the money is going. Honesty is the best policy.

How do you budget? Have you tried a method that didn't work for you? Do you know the financial state of your union?

Okay. That's it for money management today. To finish up today's post I have a couple domestic items to post. First of all, here is a recipe for a laundry treatment that removes the yellow underarm stains that deoderant often leaves on white shirts. (Think husband's Sunday dress shirts.) My friend Julie N. came across this on KSL's Studio 5. It orininated with USU Extention. Oh, and Julie says it works best for fresh stains. She also sprays it on ring-around-the-collar.

Yellow Under-arm Stain Remover

4 c. water
1 c. liquid laundry detergent
1 tsp. meat tenderizer.

Note: Julie cuts the recipe in 1/2 and puts the liquid laundry detergent and meat tenderizer in a 16 oz. spray bottle. She then adds water until the bottle is full. It's a little more concentrated than the original recipe, but she says it works. (I'll be trying it today.) Also, spray the stain remover on the offending shirt while a batch of laundry runs. Soak it good, being sure not to let the stain treatment dry. Then launder. Voila! White underarms.

I'm always looking for dinner ideas, and I thought you might be too. So I'm posting our family menu for the week. Be warned, it may just be a lie.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Crappy Schlappy . . .

This is not a fun Friday. This is a crappy Friday. A miserable (sniff), mopey (hack!), I've-got-a-cold Friday.

I shouldn't complain. It's been a good five years since I've had a real head cold. Maybe even longer. But that only makes it worse. I'd forgotten how miserable they are.

Guess I'll just lounge about sniffing, coughing, and breathing through my mouth. Good thing I made a big pot of Southwest Chicken Soup yesterday. I'm counting on it to keep me going. The kids found it a bit too spicy. Guess they'll just have to fend for themselves. Corndogs. Mac-n-cheese. They know the drill.

Oh, before I forget, you might want to check out the comments to the Adoption post from this week. Here I thought I'd written something warm and uplifting. Apparently someone didn't think so. How'd I do in my response to her? What would you have said?

Southwest Chicken Soup (for a head cold)

Today is Friday. I'd whoop, but it might split my head in two. Remember the dizziness I complained of about a week ago? I found out what was causing it. Sinus congestion -- the start of a head cold.

Now the cold has made it's way down to my nose/throat/chest. Today's Focus on Food post features the recipe for a spicy chicken soup that I'm hoping will help clear my head. (I made it yesterday. The kids find it too spicy. Great. All the more for Hubby and me.)

Southwest Chicken Soup

1 1/2 lbs. cooked, shredded chicken
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 - 16 oz. can green chile enchilada sauce
2 - 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles
1 - 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (great for colds!)
2 c. water
1 - 15 oz. can chicken broth
2 tsp. each chili powder, salt
1 tsp. each cumin, black pepper (or to taste)
1 - 15 oz. can corn, drained
2 Tbsp. cilantro, choppped (this is optional. I don't add it.)

In a crockpot combine all ingredients. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours.

To serve: spoon into deep bowl and garnish with cheese, sour cream and avacado as desired. For those not following a low-carb diet, corn chips may be served on the side.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Adoption is the Answer

Forget what I said about Wacky Wednesdays. I'm afraid that the only topic guideline I'll be able to stick to is the Money Management Monday thing. Hope you don't get tired of money management ideas. If so, please say something. I can always write about, oh, say . . . cleaning tips. (Don't use magic erasers on fiberglass tub surrounds or cultured marble. Yes, Linda. This means you.) Or unsolicited advice. I love giving advice.

But today I want to post on a more serious topic -- Adoption. Specifically, check out my friend Rachel's blog. She and her husband want to be parents, but it hasn't happened for them yet. Read about them. Get to know them. And then keep them in mind should you hear of a situation where a baby might be available for adoption.

Adoption isn't an unfamiliar topic for me. I have an older sister who is adopted. Back when I wrote my weekly self-syndicated parenting column (1997 - 2000) I wrote a tribute to my sister's birth mom. I'm posting it below in the hopes that it touches someone to realize what an awesome miracle adoption is.
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Nothing Short of a Miracle

On December 6th we welcomed a new little life into our family. When I heard her first startled cries, my heart skipped a beat. “Oh! A baby. I have a baby!” Somehow the recent months of friendly tummy taps and watching my middle expand hadn’t exactly prepared me for this moment.

Even a week later I found myself holding a little bundle wrapped in pink and marveling that she was mine. The little rosebud mouth, the thick brown hair that was a departure from the Hansen norm, the long slender fingers–all belonged to my daughter.

As I rocked little Beans and continued to examine her tiny features, I found myself thinking of my sister . . . Feeling grateful to even have a sister.

Most people are a little puzzled when I tell them that my sister and I are only five months apart. Sometimes I let them noodle over that fact a while before I explain that Sherri is adopted.

Growing up, I thought I knew what it meant to have a sister who was adopted. Basically, instead of bringing baby Sherri home from the hospital, Mom and Dad flew to California and brought her home from there instead. Although the story of how she came to be in our family was different from my own, I didn’t consider it extraordinary.

Having children, however, has altered my perspective. As I held my newborn daughter, awed that she belonged to me, I realized that years ago another mother had also held a tiny daughter–a daughter that would be hers to cherish only momentarily.

What must Sherri’s birth mother have felt, knowing that the infant she had just given life to would soon spend that life cared for by another? Although I will probably never be able to fully answer that question, I do know that sticking to her decision was anything but easy.

When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, a woman may decide to terminate the pregnancy, keep the child and raise it herself, or give the baby up for adoption. Living with any of these options creates challenges. Only one of the choices, however, made it possible for me to have a sister.

I often find myself holding my precious newborn and thinking of Sherri’s birth mother and others like her. Their decision to have a baby and choose adoption is nothing short of a miracle.

The Link Between Carbohydrates and Depression

It's Wellness Wednesday. And this is my first post under my new M/W/F posting plan.

I've actually been thinking about the topic of carbs and depression for over a month. Today is the day I'm sharing what I've learned and observed.

For starters, a little background information is in order. Every fall for the past 10+ years I've had mild bouts of Seasonal Affective Dissorder (SAD). Sometimes the depressive funk would last longer than just fall/winter. In the beginning I didn't recognize my symptoms as being depression. Mostly because I got out of bed, didn't spend the day crying, and generally functioned. But I was constantly fatigued and irritable. In 1999 my family practice doctor had me try anti-depressants. They made a big difference, but they didn't solve everything.

If you've been reading my past posts, you know that I decided to have a new set of medical eyes look at my list of physical complaints. This doctor said that my problem was carbohydrates and recommended that I start a low-carb diet.

That was at the end of August. In past years I've experienced mild SAD symptoms beginning in late September, even when I've been on anti-depressants. But this year has been different. No fatigue. No disrupted sleep patterns. It's been a wonderful fall.

I've come to believe that the reason is my reduced carbohydrate consumption. My theory goes like this . . . In the past I'd eat fewer carbs in the summer months because I didn't like to heat up my oven to bake. Then, as the weather would cool down, usually in September, I'd go back to using the oven. I'd bake breads, cookies, casseroles, potatoes. You get the idea -- carbohydrates. This year, however, I stopped eating most carbohydrates. And it's made all the difference.

If you're interested in learning more about the connection between carbohydrates and depression, I suggest you read Potatoes, Not Prozac. It goes into great detail on how serotonin is created and how carbs play a big role. But be aware that the book isn't really about getting off anti-depressants. It's more about breaking the sugar addiction cycle.

I also happened upon this article from the Scientific American, January 1989. It is entitled, "Carbohydrates and Depression," and it is great reading! It influenced me to ask my doctor about using light therapy instead of prescription meds to treat my SAD. I began light therapy (using a broad spectrum lamp I purchased at Shopko) on October 17th, and followed my doctor's advice for weaning off my anti-depressant. I've been medication free for over a week. So far, so good!

I also read a Mayo Clinic article on using lights to reduce S.A.D. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/MH00023) I've seen a reference to the book, Lights Out: sleep, sugar, and survival, but I haven't read it yet.

Do you have any experiences with SAD or depression? What have you found helpful? I'd be interested to hear from you. Please comment here or e-mail me at hansenchristie@yahoo.com Thanks for taking the time to read this post. -- Christie
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Menu for Tuesday, November 4th

8:20 AM
8 oz. non-fat yogurt, no sugar added (15)
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese (5)
small gala apple (15)
1 1/2 oz. colby jack cheese (1)

12:40 PM
salad shrimp, 6 oz.
2 Tbsp. cocktail sauce (6)
salad greens & ranch dressing (8)
24 pistacios (2)
20 almonds (1)

5:00 PM
Italian pasta sauce (7)
6 meatballs (6)
2/3 c. green beans (4)
2 celery stalks w/ 2 Tbsp. natural PB (8)

8:00 PM
2 c. herbal tea
==========

Total net carbs: 78

Monday, November 03, 2008

Money Management Thoughts from Middlemarch

I read Middlemarch by Greorge Eliot back in April of 2007 after Sister Susan Tanner mentioned it in her talk at General Conference. And this weekend I watched the BBC production on DVD. (The book is long and a bit dry. I'd suggest going with the DVD if you're interested in the story.) The outcome of the book has left me contemplating matters of money management.

I don't want to spoil the book/DVD for you, but Miss Rosamond Vincy and Doctor Tertius Lyndgate eventually marry. And despite their love and mutual attraction, they never fully realize the joyful possibilities of marriage due to conflicing philosophies about money.

As I was watching the DVD, my son was at our computer working on his fantasy basketball team. Near the end of the movie emotions ran a bit high. Rosamond cried, Dr. Lyndgate raised his voice, and my son immitated them -- much to my annoyance. But Bug's partial interest did give me an opportunity to warn him about marrying a "high maintenance model" -- a woman whose self-image is wrapped up in what she wears, buys, and acquires.

I don't know if any of my warning sunk in, but you can bet that I'll be repeating it in the future. And also trying to raise all my children not to be high maintenance individuals.

Do you have any tips?

My husband once refered to me as a "low maintenance model." He meant it as a compliment. After watching Middlemarch, that's exactly how I'm going to view it!

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Note: I'm going to be cutting back on my blogging. (Must get projects/shopping done for Christmas.) I'll be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Given the financial outlook for our country, Monday's posts will be on money management. Wednesdays will be wacky. And I'll try to keep things fun/funny on Fridays.

Kick Butt Workout Tunes

Starting this week I'm going to only blog three times a week. I also wanted to add some structure to my posts. You can plan on reading about

Motivation on Mondays

Wellness on Wednesdays

Food on Fridays

Today I'd like to write about what tunes get me motivated, really pump me up when I work out. I have a play list on my i-pod that I call "kick butt." That means that songs are over 110 beats per second and make me want to move.

Here's a list of some of my favorites:

All Fired Up, Pat Benatar
Call Me, Blondie
You Give Love a Bad Name, Bon Jovi
Holding Out for a Hero, Bonnie Tyler
The Cup of Life, Ricky Martin
Kids Wanna Rock, Bryan Adams
Pump up the Jam, Technotronic
Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down
What I Want, Chris Daughtry
Crazy Train, Ozzy Osbourne
Women, Foreigner
Invincible, Pat Benatar
She is Beautiful, Andrew W.K.
Follow You Home, Nickelback
Another One Bites the Dust, Queen

You can hear the songs by clicking "play" on the link in the left column of this blog. It's under Healthy Housewife's Kick Butt Tracks.

What songs motivate you to move?

----- Menu: Sunday, Nov. 2nd -----

6:30 AM
2 Tbsp. cream cheese fruit dip (8)

7:40 AM
2 eggs fried in bacon fat (1)
1 c. frozen raspberries (6)
1/2 c. 2% milk (6)
packet Splenda

12:40 PM
chicken breast in a bit of Italian cream cheese sauce (3)
12 pistacios (1)
1 c. frozen raspberries (6)
20 almonds (1)
1 pkt. Swiss Miss no-sugar added hot cocoa (9)
green salad with tomatoes, ranch (8)
roast beef

5:00 PM
small gala apple (15)
2 tsp. cream cheese fruit dip (3)
chicken breast in a bit of Italian cream cheese sauce (5)
small serving of noodles with Italian cream cheese sauce (25)
=====

Total Net Carbs: 97

Friday, October 31, 2008

Healthy Housewife's Cholesterol History

Happy Halloween! Today I'd like to discuss something that used to really scare me -- my cholesterol levels.

When I first got married almost 16 ago, my overall cholesterol level was 170. I was slim. I was fit. I would soon find out that I was going to be a mom. And once I started having kids, my cholesterol went bonkers.

I remember one result from the hey-day of having kids (nursing a baby too). My overall cholesterol number was 243. Yikes! My HDL was good, and since I was nursing (which can raise blood cholesterol levels), I was told not to worry about it. But I did anyway.

Back then I was practicing low-fat dogma. And I couldn't imagine where I would possibly cut more dietary cholesterol or reduce more fat.

Even after I no longer had a babe in arms, my cholesterol levels stayed elevated. Here are the numbers that I have recorded:

10/2/06 Total cholesterol: 227 / HDL: 62 / ratio: 3.7

11/2/06 Total cholesterol: 228 / HDL: 56 / ratio: 4.0

9/5/07 Total cholesterol: 255* / HDL: 66 / ratio: 3.9

*Note: I was so excited to have this cholesterol test done. I'd joined Weight Watchers and had lost 40 pounds. I was just sure that my cholesterol levels would have dropped. Wrong. They went UP by 27 points. Urgh!

2/2008 Total cholesterol: 187 / HDL: 59 / ratio: 3.2

February 2008 marked the first time that my cholesterol levels were normal since I'd had children. The catalyst? Fish oil tablet. Three a day.

Which brings me to the results of the cholesterol test I took this week.
10/29/08 Total cholesterol: 195 / HDL: 84 / ratio: 2.3

Get a load of that HDL level. An 84! I am estatic!

The funny things is, on the back of the sheet with my results they offered some ideas for lowering cholesterol thru diet. They recommended limiting . . . butter, eggs, cheese, high-fat meats, whole or 2% milk. What a crock! Those are exactly the things that I was doing when my levels were elevated. Not until I added more oil to my diet in the form of fish oil tablets did I see my cholesterol levels drop.

And I'm attributing the tremendous amount of HDL I saw in this week's test to the low-carb eating lifestyle I've been practicing since the end of August. It's not even from weight lifting or exercise, as all I've been doing lately is moderate walking. And, get this, I have 1/3 cup of half and half over frozen raspberries at least five times a week. Half and half!

I think even my husband is coming around to the misguided mindset of low-fat eating. I'm excited to see what a full year of low-carb eating will do for next year's health screening tests. Just imagine what the scale might read?!
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Daily Menu -- October 30, 2008

8:30 AM
2 eggs fried in 1 tsp. bacon fat
12 pistacios (1)
small apple (14)

12:00 PM
3 homemade baby dills (4)

1:00 PM
salad with 3 oz. turkey, 2 slices bacon, 1 oz. grated cheddar cheese & ranch dressing (7)
2 c. of homemade chicken vegetable soup (9)

3:30 PM
12 pistacios (1)
Halloween gummi candy, 1 - 2 oz. (30)
1/4 c / 38 almonds, (2)

4:00 PM
1 c. frozen raspberries (6)
1/3. c. half and half (4)
packet of Splenda

6:30 PM
5 oz. petite sirloin steak
1 Tbsp. A-1 steak sauce (3)
1 c. green beans (6)
==========
Total Net Carbs: 87

Quote of the Day:
"If you risk nothing, then you risk everything." -- Geena Davis

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grateful for my Body . . .

This is my prayer this morning:

Heavenly Father, I'm grateful for my body. I know you hear me complain about it quite a bit, but today I'm grateful. Really! Despite the health challenges I've struggled with, my body works well. I'm grateful to have eyes to see the beautiful golden hues of fall, to have a nose to smell the acorn squash baking in the oven, to have legs that carry me where I want to go. I especially enjoy using them as I walk Beans to school each morning. She is such a joy. Thank you for sending her to our family.

Speaking of family, I'm grateful to be a mom. The P.C.O.S. I have often makes conceiving children difficult to impossible. Until those little bundles of joy came into my life, I had no conception of what having children would mean for me, how they would change my outlook, alter my perspective, cause, as it were, my heart to walk around outside of my body. I marvel that an imperfect body/person (me) could be part of creating such exquisite individuals.

About my body. I've been feeling dizzy the past few days. Please help that feeling to go away. And while it lasts, please help me to do the best I can. Help me eat smart, not trying to fix how I feel with food. I'm excited to start using hand weights here at home and to use the giant hippity-hop balls we have in a new exercise routine. Give me patience and keep me from getting discouraged while I wait for the dizziness to pass. (If you've taught me anything, it's that all things come to pass.)

I'm thankful for my muscles. They're not as toned as I'd like them to be, but they all seem to work. I'm thankful for modern medicine. For the chance to get a flu shot at the health fair my husband's work sponsored yesterday. And, yippee! My cholesterol levels are awesome! So I guess I'm grateful for fish oil tablets, how they helpled lower my overall number. And whatever made my HDL go up (it's 84!), well thanks for that too. The intricacies and finely balanced system that make up human anatomy never cease to amaze me. I'm so grateful for my body!

Well, that's about it for this morning. I know I've focused this prayer on my body and health, I hope that's okay. I haven't forgotten the needs of those around me. I only ask that you give me the health and strength I need to be able to perform the tasks Thou would have me do. I love serving Thee! Thanks for being my caring and compassionate Heavenly Father. Amen.

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Daily Menu: October 29, 2008

3:00 PM (at the health Fair and after fasting for the blood tests they took)
2 oz. cheese (1)
celery sticks / baby carrots / Ranch dip (4)
4 crackers (7)

4:00 PM
apple juice, 1/2 c. (14)
1 oz. mozzarella, proscuitto & basil roll
salad with cubed pork, celery, cucumber, 1/3 c. pineapple, Ranch dress. (15)

6:40 PM
Swiss Miss hot cocoa pkt., no sugar added (9)
24 pistacios (2)
2+ Tbsp. natural peanut butter (6.5)
2 slices celery (1.5)
==========
Total net carbs: 60 grams