Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reasons (excuses) for not blogging more . . .

You've probably noticed that my blogging entries have been few and far between this fall. I just figured out another reason (excuse) -- I've been taking on-line classes since the end of September. And by the time I've finished listening to the lecture, doing the assignment, and posting on the discussion board, I want to be off the internet. (Today I'm posting in the morning BEFORE doing any on-line classwork.)

Here are some other reasons:

My on-line time must occur during the hours when my kids are at school. 'Cause once they get home, they want the computer for school work and internet trawling. (When I've got something critical, I do stand up for my computer usage rights and tell the kids they can wait.)

On days that I substitue teacher, there's no time for blogging.

Now that I'm focusing on teaching and getting out to work, I don't feel the need to blog.

I'm learning new skills like crochet and hat-loom knitting. (I want to learn "real" knitting too.) They sometimes take the place of blogging.

I'm facing reality. I started blogging as a means to write. And although I still love to write, I'm realizing that if I'd have really wanted to write a book, I would have done it by now. I like writing. But more than that, I like ideas. I like coming up with titles, but writing the rest of the book . . . that eludes me.

Plus, writing is a solitary pursuit. And I need to be around people. Getting out and working, seeing people, interating in person instead of over the internet has done wonders for my mental health. I may not have had SAD each fall, so much as I had MSP (missed seeing people) when all my kids went back to school, and I stayed home. Alone.

I guess it all comes down to changing my focus. My goal is to get my teaching certificate current and then apply for 7th grade jobs in my school district. I hope to have a full-time position by the start of school next year. In a way, my sporadic posting is a sign of things to come. Maybe even the beginning of the weaning process away from blogging.

But don't hold me to that. A woman can always change her mind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wicked Weekend Went Well

I had a great time in Denver this weekend! I went with my sisters-in-law to see the Broadway musical, Wicked. It did not disappoint! (Just FYI, I've referred to this weekend as my "Wicked Weekend," making some listeners raise their eyebrows. But never fear, no real wickedness happened.)

We flew out of SLC early Friday afternoon. We arrived in Denver, got a rental car and drove into downtown to P.F. Chang's to meet some other ladies for an early dinner. (It gets dark early in Denver too.) After dinner we drove to Lakewood, Colorado to a huge outlet mall. Thank goodness for GPS -- what an awesome tool! Oh, and shopping was fun too. Eventually we made it back to our hotel -- the Sheraton downtown. After checking in and unpacking, we pretty much hit the sack.

Saturday was more shopping, lunch at Subway and then ... drum roll ... getting to see the matinee showing of Wicked! The costuming and scenery were fabulous, but better than that was the script and music. For those of you unfamiliar with the story line, it's a look at how the Wicked Witch of the West got her name/fame. I liked how it was a mucial for all different ages. At the most basic level it's a fantastical story with magic and wonder. Teens might appreciate the romantic element in it, and there are all sorts of complexities for adults to appreciate -- my favorite being the whole look at calling good evil and evil good. (There's a bit of political symbolism too.)

The rest of Saturday was dinner and a bit more shopping followed by watcing "Julie and Julia" on the TV back in our hotel room. We packed up on Sunday and, despite initially having a cancelled flight, returned to SLC with only a half hour delay. Whew!

Well, that's all for today -- maybe for this week. Enjoy the beautiful crisp fall days!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All is Safely Gathered In . . .

There's something cozy about this time of year. With Daylight Savings Time ended, it's dark outside by 6 PM. I'm enjoying how we tend to stay home in the evenings, all warm and snug in our home. When a storm blows in and it's cold outside, Hubby will make a fire in the woodburning stove. The girls and I work on Christmas projects. We turn the porch light on early, telling passersby that they're welcome to join us.

In the last week we finished up the outside projects that had to get finished before the snow descends:

Mixing and pouring concrete for the mow strip of the new fence around the garden and orchard. (Nothing tires one out quite like concrete work.)

Draining the hoses of water and storing them away until spring.

Taking the last load of the season to the green waste bin. (Including the pumpkins and cornstalks that have decorated the front porch.)

Working with our contractor as he got the footings, foundation and floor poured for our future shop.

Mowing the lawn short and bagging the clippings so that mice don't make havoc of our turf.

Breathing a sigh of relief that winter is coming.

I like to think of winter as a vacation from yard work. Yes, shoveling snow feels a little like yard work, but I try to think of it more as exercise. Plus I love how the rest of the great outdoors is covered by a bright, white blanket of cold. It's worth shoveling for.

Enjoy what remains of fall!

P.S. I'm headed to Denver to see "Wicked" -- the broadway musical -- this weekend. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fall At It's Finest

I'm loving the nip in the air, the frost on the lawn each morning, and the warm changing colors of the leaves.

This spring we planted two hills of a gourd-mix. Yowza! We've had gourds coming out our ears! I picked two full apple boxes for us to use, gave some to my mother-in-law, and Hubby posted a you-pick post on his works intranet and a couple people have picked what they wanted. Many will simply stay on the vine and end up in the green waste bin.

Our pumpkins were also robust. We have a dozen on the front porch along with cornstalks tied to the porch pillars. I must say that I love decorations that are practically free and that can decompost back into Mother Earth without needing to be stored for another year. Yeah, that's my kind of decorating!

(Sorry, not photo. I'm writing this well past dark.)

Another great thing about fall is getting to listen to LDS General Conference. I love to be doing some sort of work while listening to the Saturday sessions. This time around Hubby, kids and I stacked wood on the back porch with General Conference blaring on the radio outside. Hubby and I continued to move our "junk pile" in preparation for the footings/foundation/floor of our future shop. For some reason my brain absorbs more of the messages if my hands are busy with a menial task. Go figure.

Hope you're having a great fall too!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bizzy as I Wanna Bee ...

Those of you who know me well have probably seen my kitchen -- decorated in bees. The title of this blog would make a nice framed addition to my decor. And it's the truth. At the moment I'm as busy as I want to be.

Here's a summary:

In the last 2 weeks I'll have substituted 9 out of 10 days. Seven of those days were in a 6th grade classroom where I had just one day's worth of lesson plans (kind of) and had to forage through classroom supplies and pick the brain of the level II observer to figure out what to do for the rest of the time. It's been a lot of work, but the students have been great! (But I'll be glad to have a week off next week.)

I'll start an on-line course through UEN (Utah Educator's Network). I'll use the credit from it and two other on-line classes this fall to get my teaching certificate current. (Along with substitute teaching and past PTA volunteer work.)

Right now I'm not sure if I'll apply to teach full-time next year. The last two weeks have shown me that teaching school really is WORK. I'm bushed by the end of the day, and boy do I sleep well. (So tired!)

Well, must go. I need to pick up my youngest at ice skating lesson.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Substitute Teaching Report (very short)

This week I'll be substituting 4 out of 5 days. Two were at an elementary school (5th grade classes) and the rest will be Thurs./Fri and thru most of next week in a 6th grade language arts and social studies class at a middle school.

All of this means that my blogging is suffering. And will continue to suffer.

So far subbing is good. The kids are respectful and even funny and endearing (a vocabulary word in 5th grade this week). I'm a bit tired at the end of the day, but not too tired to enjoy time at home. (I think I appreciate home more after being away most of the day.)

I like working. Which should come as no surprise. Technically I began working as a babysitter when I was 11 and picked berries during the summer when I was 14. When I was 16 I began working at a local lumber store -- even during the school year. I worked there until after my first year of college. After taking a year off from employment (but not school), I worked at a grocery store right up until I had my first baby. (If not for those jobs, I'd have very little Social Security accumulated.)

Normally fall is a rough time for my mental health, but not this year. It's got to be the job. Maybe having plenty to do (home/kids/yard/subbing) utilizes more of my brain cells and keeps me on my toes.

Whatever it is, I like it. And will keep doing it as long as it's working for me and my family. I'm thinking about getting my teaching certificate current. It will mean $10 more a day when subbing. Plus, if I like this subbing thing, I may entertain teaching for real. Who knows?

Cashew later.

-- Christie

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In which I survive hiking the Wellsvilles...

I did it!

This past Saturday Hubby, my friend K'leis and I left before 6 AM to conquer the Wellsville Mountains via Deep Canyon. By the time we turned up 300 North in Mendon and got to the trailhead it was barely light (6:25 AM), but we began our climb anyway.

I took it slow, taking many breaks, but finally reached the summit just before 10 AM. What a rush!

I'll save all the details for my write-up in the Herald Journal on Tuesday, September 15th. (Don't worry if you don't get the paper. I'll post it here shortly after the 15th.)

Whew! I did it. And my newspaper writing stint is all but over. Just in time for my new career as a substitute teacher.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Miscellaneous Happenings . . .

Just a quick update of what we've been up to here on Belly Acre Farm.

1. We're officially sick of zucchini. Need some? It's yours!

2. Sweet corn is on and at its prime. Hubby has sold some at work, we've given some away, and most of the family (all but me) have been eating it.

3. I'm doing low-carb (South Beach) again. And it's working. In four weeks I've lost over 6 pounds. For me, that's amazing. And now I know where my near-constant water retention was coming from -- carbs. No carbs, no puffiness. Aaaah! (P.S. I've cheated a time or two, but I'm not going to quit what works.)

4. I'm reading "Build your own web site the right way using HTML and CSS." When I'm finished I'll create a website to market "Don't Let the Stuff You Leave Behind Destroy Your Family," an amazing estate booklet written by Hubby's uncle, Ken Hansen.

5. I've canned 21 pints of baby dill pickles.

6. School started. After the shortest summer on record. (Where DID the time go?!)

7. By this time next week I'll have climbed the Wellsville mountains, or I'll have died trying.

8. Lou is playing competitive soccer.

9. Beans has started ice skating lessons.

10. I've got all my paperwork ready for submitting when I go for my substituting teaching interview with Kelly Education Services on Tuesday next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to School -- Back on the golf team

Just a little note about how much I've enjoyed school shopping with my kids this year. Actually, I haven't gone with my son yet. Probably because he's been consumed with making his high school golf team. Try-outs were Monday and Wednesday with the team posting listed Wednesday after 6 PM. Bug made the team! The coach also posted the eight players who would play in their first tournament TODAY. Bug made the 7th place tourney cut. He was stoked, as he was the only Sophomore to make it to the tourney.

But the big news is ... of the 32 players entered in the tourney, Bug took 5th! And his team placed first! There was only one other teammate who scored better than Bug. He hopes that means that he'll also be attending another golf tournament on Monday. (Only 5 players per team.) What a great start to the golf season.

In back-to-school shopping news, I've decided that going to multiple stores looking for shoes, capris, shirts, binders, markers, etc. is actually fun. It's a great chance to spend time with my daughters, to get to find out what their interests and tastes are. To get to reminisce about the good-old-days of my youth. (Dinosaur era.) And to catch their excitement about another year of school.

Bug and Lou successfully went through their schools' registration processes. Bug wanted me to go with him (as he was registering on the Junior's day due to golf try-outs), but Loula Belle just went with her friend from next door. After Bug and I were done and back to the car, he said, "I don't really like all the crowds and people."

"Well, I do," I replied.

"I know. I could tell," he said. "You get all chatty and hyper, talking with everyone and smiling your head off."

I guess he has me figured out. I really do get a kick being around lots of people. Plus I think that part of it is being in the school environment. It just gives me a buzz. Which means that I'll probably enjoy my foray into substitute teaching. And as of this moment, I'm planning to get my certificate current this year (maybe take a class Spring semester) and possibly apply to teach school. That's the plan, anyway.

I did a little quick calculating and figured out that we only have 3 more summers until Bug goes on a two-year mission. And in another eight years all my children will be through high school. Time doesn't march on so much as it goes at a dead sprint. I'm going to try to enjoy each little joy while I've still got my kids at home!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Letter of Recommendation . . .

I'm applying to be a substitute teacher and as part of the application process, I need two letters of recommendation. One came from the editor who I freelance for at my local newspaper, and another came from a past co-work who also happens to be a close friend. I got such a boost from reading these letters that I decided that it would be fun to return the favor for my friend and write her one. She might be a bit embarrassed to see her fine qualities blatantly praised on this blog, so I'm going to call her Tricia Brown.

Letter of Recommendation for Tricia Brown

To Whom it May Concern:

I would like to recommend Tricia Brown to you as the ideal candidate to fill any position. She is the full package. Not only is she a gifted listener, but she’s also adept at applying her experiences and knowledge to the information she’s heard and then coming up with realistic and successful solutions. She’s a caring and compassionate problem solver. Her plans for action are always well-conceived and practical. She considers all sides of an issue and always seems to find the ideal solution.

Work should be Tricia’s middle name. As a past co-worker, I noticed that Tricia was always busy with the task at hand. No loafing. No lally-gagging. Just honest, cheerful work. Her children have even noticed her work ethic. On a Mother’s Day survey it asked what their mother’s favorite thing to do was. One of her sons wrote, “Work.” Meaning, work around the house and yard.

Tricia knows how to get along well with others. She’s a people person extraordinaire! Her background in psychology has no doubt added to her people skills, but I believe that her native qualities of friendliness and compassion play an important role as well. She is a natural leader. Because she holds herself to high standards, her example encourages those around her to do their very best. She leads with cheerful encouragement and a can-do attitude.

As a manager, Tricia runs a tight ship. This can be seen in how she fulfills her duties as the Brown Family Manager. Despite the many financial demands of raising five children on one income, she keeps the balance sheet in the black. She recognizes her children as individuals and works with their unique personalities to help them learn and achieve their potential. Tricia is proactive. If she notices something needs to be done, be it big or small, she sees that it gets done. She delegates age-appropriate duties to children to help them develop life skills that will serve them well into adulthood. She supports her husband in his ecclesiastical duties and scholarly advancement. Tricia is the glue that holds her family together.

In addition to the abilities and gifts listed above, Tricia also has a talent for making and keeping friends. Somehow the circle of her influence always seems to have room for one more friend. She has an infinite capacity for loyalty, sharing and fun. I’ve enjoyed my association with Tricia as a past co-worker and neighbor, but I’m most proud to call her my friend.


Christie Hansen
Hansen Family Manager

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Zucchini Recipe . . .

It's that time of year when we've got zucchini galore! My neighbor gave me a great casserole recipe that used a lot of zucchini and tastes great. (Think of it as almost a zucchini omelet.)

Note: If you leave off the buttered croutons, it's a great low-carb dish too!

Zucchini Jack Casserole

8 small zucchini (about 2 lbs. total)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. chopped parsley (optional -- I left it out)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large can (7 oz.) diced green chiles
4 c. (1 lb.) shredded Jack cheese
1 c. seasoned croutons or herbed stuffing mix
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch-thick rounds (should have about 7 c.); set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with milk, salt, baking powder, and flour until smooth. Stir in parsley, garlic, onion, chiles, cheese, and zucchini. Spoon egg mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Toss croutons in melted butter, then sprinkle over top. (For low-carb version, leave off buttered croutons.)

Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean and zucchini is tender when pierced. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Makes about 10 servings.

Enjoy! (P.S. I ate leftovers for breakfast this morning.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Business Opportunity -- Free Idea

If you're looking to start a business, I have a suggestion. Make and sell affordable, modest swimsuits. Make modesty the selling point.

Over a year ago I did a blog entry on modest swimwear. It contintues to be my most popular blog page. Women want modest swimwear that provides plenty of coverage.

Give women what they want, and you'll have a successful business!

Eating My Words (Calorie-Free)

I'm going to be eating my words. The ones about being fine with being a traditionally built woman. The ones about how I'm not going to diet the rest of my life. Fortunately, words are calorie-free.

Here's the thing -- I just can't give up on trying to lose weight. Not because I want to be thin, but because I want to feel healthier. I've had four knees surgeries on my left knee. Weighing less would benefit my knees. Type II diabetes also runs on both sides of my family. I don't want to get it, and being overweight is one of the causes of type II diabetes. I'd also really like to avoid having to buy clothing in the Women's section again. Most of all, I'd like to keep my heart healthy. I felt guilty somehow being an overweight patient at the cardiologist's office recently. I wanted to hang a sign around my neck that said, "I exercise and try to watch what I eat. I work really hard to look like this!"

So, here's what I'm doing . . . South Beach. I've been doing the Weight Watcher program for more than a month with no significant results. So I'm going back to low-carb living. Permanently.

I have an uncle who has lost 50 pounds by cutting out all sweets, only eating at meal times and exercising for 70 minutes on a tread mill most days. Yes, he's a man, and it seems like men have an easier time of dropping weight. But the most impressive thing about his weight loss is that it's a lifestyle. He fully intends to avoid sweets/sugary foods for the rest of this life. (Once he gets to his weight goal, he plans to cut back a bit on the treadmill time.) He's already been living healthier for 2+ years.

Like my uncle, I've noticed that eating sweets begets eating more sweets or more food. Can I live the rest of my life without any refined carbs or sweets? Maybe not, but I'm sure that I can live without them for at least a few years. Right now I'm doing phase one of the South Beach Diet. I'm eating lean proteins, low-carb vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts and healthy fats. No fruit or whole-grains just yet, but I'll add them back in after at least two weeks.

That's what I like about the South Beach plan -- it doesn't forever outlaw fruits and whole grains. And once I've reached my goal weight (which isn't "skinny" -- just healthy), I can even indulge in an occasional treat.

Right now the possibility of reaching my goal weight seems remote, if not impossible. Most of the past year has been extremely frustrating in the weight department. I've had many moments when I wanted to give up on ever losing weight. But here's the thing, the moment I give up, weight gain is an inevitability. That's not okay.

Maybe I'll lose weight, or maybe I'll just maintain. But I'm not quitting.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'd die without air conditioning!

I don't know about you, but I don't like the summer heat. I walk the dog in the morning (the earlier and cooler, the better) and then try to stay indoors the rest of the day. Most evenings, however, there is work to be done out in the yard or garden. Mostly Hubby does the outdoor stuff, but tonight I'll pick green beans for the first time this season.

Coming up in August I'll be creating a website to sell copies of Unle Ken Hansen's little book, "Don't let the stuff you leave behind destroy your family." It contains a great way to equitably divide the personal effects of an estate among siblings. Unle Ken has sold or given away over 1,000 books, and I'd like to see what the wonders of the internet can do to keep even more families happily together once their parents pass away. When I get the site up and running, I'll be sure to post an entry with a link. (BTW, does anyone in my neck of the woods have experience creating a website? The last time I created one was back in 2000. Help!)

Yesterday I took an hour or so and culled past posts from this blog for possible inclusion in a book manuscript. I told Hubby my title might be something like, "Thoughts of a Mormon Housewife." He said that he didn't think that would sell very many books. (Thanks, Honey.) So here are some alternate titles. Tell me which you think might entice someone to buy my book.

Love Handles: It's not how we look, but how we love that matters

Temporary Serenity: A Mormon Mother's Quest for Contentment

Lemonade: Making the Most of Life's Lemons

I'd Like to Die Laughing!

Actually, now that I've written those titles, I want to write each one of them. Hey, as long as I'm talking about rejected book titles, I have another one that's been shot down. I've been thinking about writing something along the lines of, "Patience Please! (Pretty please)." I have a friend, I'll call her Linda, who thinks that I should bag writing a book about patience. "No one wants to read a book on patience," she said. "They're either already patient, or they don't want to be patient." Which is probably good advice. Besides, I've yet to acquire a book's worth of patience. And who knows exactly when that will happen.

Enjoy your air-conditioning. (I will be!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Traditionally Built Women

I just finished reading Tea Time for the Traditonally Built,by Alexander McCall Smith -- the latest in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I loved it!

These books aren't page turners, instead they are slow, mellow reads full of warm and truthful observations about human nature. The plot is simple, leaving plenty of time to focus on the cast of characters. Mma Ramotswe is my idol. She's a traditionally built woman who is comfortable in her own skin.

At one point in the book Mma Makutsi, an assistant detective in the agency, left a note for her employer in which she signed her name followed by three initials having to do with her secretarial degree. It made Mma Ramotswe wonder what initials she'd put behind her name. She settled on TBW as being the most likely. It stands for Traditionally Built Woman.

Maybe I'll start writing my name with TBW after it. I am what I am, afterall. Maybe it will help me embrace the reality of myself, instead of constantly being dissatisfied.

It's worth a try.


Christie Hansen, TBW

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Heart of the Matter . . .

Just thought I'd post a quickie about what's been happening lately.

I've had a couple incidents of tachycardia (rapid heart rate) lately. It's a really, really awful feeling, a crushing pressure in the chest that leaves me feeling breathless and a bit nauseous too. Once again, I'm having things checked out. So far the more in-depth echocardiogram they did this time looked good. Today I'm having a nuclear stress test done. I'm fairly confident that will be normal too. Which means that I may have a heart electrical problem. If both of the tests (echocardiogram and nuclear stress test) come back normal, the cardiologist says that chances of having a "negative outcome" from future tachycardia events are rare. Meaning, I'd have the green light to resume more intense exercising. (Like hiking, aerobics and doing cardio at the gym.)

Watching my reaction to this chain of events, I've come to the conclusion that I've been planning my life and thinking that planning is the same as controlling. Not so. I'm hoping that this latest health hiccup can help me remember to live in the moment -- really savor all that the present has to offer. Part of my planning/dreaming/scheming habit keeps me from appreciating what I've got. Where I am. Who I'm sharing my life with.

I'm going to stop wishing the present away. How does one wish away the present? By pining over the past, spending too much time reliving the glory days. (The days of wearing a size 8, not having love handles, and having loads of energy). Another way to wish away the present is to engage in "I can't wait until..." kind of thinking. A similarly fruitless phrase is, "I'll be happy when ..." I'm guilty of falling into that mode of thinking as well. Both rob the present of its pleasures. I'm going to work hard to counteract the mental ruts I've fallen into.

Instead of thinking, "I can't wait until all the yard projects are done," I'm going to think, "It's so nice to have a lawn to relax on, to play with the kids and the dog on. And we're so spoiled to have a sprinkling system." I'm not going to put off happiness until I can drop a few more pounds (which doesn't seem to happen anyway) or until there's a little more give in the family budget. I'm going to find ways to enjoy life now. Here are some things that make me happy: (Note to self -- none of them have anything to do with what I weigh)

-- helping others
-- talking with friends and family
-- walking the dog
-- riding my bike with the dog
-- watching movies
-- laughing at myself
-- writing
-- reading
-- writing letters and cards
-- being creative

I'm thinking that now might be a good time to recommit to keeping a gratitude journal.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

June's Hiking Article (printed in my local paper)

Let me get this out right up front . . . I only went on one hike in the last month. Two were written in ink on my calendar, but the second hike never happened.

I managed to take the first hike along the Crimson Trail on its scheduled date at the end of May, but when the day came for the second hike, it rained. And it proceeded to rain on each of the other days that I had optimistically penciled in for make-up hikes. On days that it didn’t rain (Were there any?), I had other things to do. Things like laundry, shopping, running kids to lessons and appointments – the usual mundane activities that fill the hours of most mothers.

It really irks me that I didn’t get that second hike in. I thought about how hikers in the Pacific Northwest must have to deal with sloshy, wet hikes. I even tried to convince myself that I could make friends with mud. But let’s face it, I’m a mom. I’ve spent the last fifteen years teaching my children how to avoid getting muddy, and old habits die hard. Clearly I am not a hard-core hiker. It’s strictly fair-weather hiking for me!

Even with the sun shining and my trusty canine companion by my side, the Crimson Trail was no cake walk. Before I even began my ascent up the trail, my knees and hips were already achey. I couldn’t help thinking back to the first time I climbed the Crimson Trail over sixteen years ago. Back then I was a young, energetic college student on a date with my future husband. This go-around as an overweight housewife couldn’t have been more different. When my heart raced and I became a bit breathless, this time I knew it was from the extra weight I’ve gained and not because I was simply in love.

Speaking of weight gain, last week I had a light bulb moment, an epiphany of sorts, while carrying a fifty-pound bag of rolled oats up the stairs from the basement. Carrying those fifty extra pounds up the stairs was hard work, leaving me tired and out of breath. It helped me realize that the extra weight I carry around all the time must have a similar effect on my body. How I’d love to drop my extra weight as quickly and easily as I dropped that bag of rolled oats.

Truth is, I haven’t dropped any pounds since starting my hiking adventure. I’m okay with that. A couple months ago I read, “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.” It helped me to see that health is about more than just the number on the scale. I may never weigh what I did when I first hiked the Crimson Trail, but I still made it to the top. I went slower. I took more breathing breaks, and I learned a thing or two.

I learned that having the right equipment makes all the difference. I wore my tennis shoes, but while going down the steep switchbacks, I wished that I’d worn my hiking boots. The ankle support of a good hiking boot keeps your toes from jamming into the front of the toebox. After my first hiking article appeared back in February, I had a couple kind readers suggest that I use hiking poles to help take the pressure off my knees, especially when descending a hill. After the Crimson Trail descent, I finally took their advice. From what I’ve heard, the trip down the Wellsvilles is the toughest part of the hike. There’s no sense being a glutton for punishment.

Most importantly, I learned that the slower you hike, the more time you have to appreciate the spectacular scenery.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Finally! A little decorating . . .

Those of you who know me very well know that I'm not much of a decorator. We've lived in our new house for over 5 years, and there's nothing hanging on the walls in the front room. Sigh.

But, I did finally get something for the front door entryway.

What do you think? We have a narrow entry hall so I chose a narrow table with a small wire basket. (Inside the basket are two antiqued wall hooks that I'll mount on the studs to the right of the mirror.) I picked up the old beveled mirror mirror at D.I. A neighbor up the street had a branch fall off their corkscrew willow, so I picked up a few branches to add to my umbrella canister. The silk pink apple blossoms tie in with the pink crackley finish on the mirror. Someday (don't hold your breath) I'll get a small quilted runner for the table top and put something artful in the wire basket.

I have to admit that decorating is fun. I'll have to save a bit more money and do it again soon!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hiking Update

News Flash: The date for my much-publicized hike to the top of the Wellsvilles has changed. I will be hiking the Wellsvilles on Saturday, August 29th. Those wanting to accompany me will meet at my house at 5:30 AM. The date change fits better with my newspaper deadlines.

Recent hikes have helped me to see that the Wellsville hike will be a doozy! Hubby and I hiked 9+ miles on the High Creek Trail on Saturday(photos posted below), and it took me days to fully recover. It was nowhere as steep as the Wellsville hike will be and was also nice and shady up and back. A week ago I started Weight Watcher points tracking again. I'm also going to the gym and doing weight training and cardio. It sure would be nice to drop 10 pounds before August 29th!

But if not, I'll just gut it out, go SLOW, and make the Wellsville climb come heck or high water. I'm guessing that it really is the last window of opportunity for me to climb to the ridge and look down into both Cache County and Box Elder County. I WILL DO IT!

Here are the photos from the High Creek hike. We crossed the creek five times or so. Once on a nice, sturdy bridge with guarde rails, next on a tilting foot bridge, then three times on log bridges. Even Annie, my dog, got proficient at crossing log bridges. Despite my achiness on the way back, the hike was spectacular! It was cool, damp and smelled wonderful (of pine).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Giving Golf Another Try

It's official. I'm going to give golf another shot.

It's not like I've been a dedicated golfer in the past. I bet I've played less than 10 times. But each time I've played golf, I stunk. And some of the time I'd get frustrated with the game and begin thinking of all the things I had to do back at home. Things that were't getting done because I was out on the course chasing a misbehaving little white ball around.

But here's the thing. My husband, son, dad and possibly youngest daughter are all golfers. My son made his high school Freshman team last year and will be trying out again this year. Hubby and son like to watch tournaments on TV, and I'm finding that I like watching them too. But the thing that really got me back on the golf course was reading a few stories from Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul. (Really, it's one of the Chicken Soup titles. Who'd have thought?) Those few stories helped me see that golf is a lot like life. And I'd like to spend more time with the people in my life who golf.

So today Bug and I headed out to play 9 holes. In on-and-off rain. I still pretty much stunk, but I kept my focus on the overall experience, on enjoying the cool morning air, watching my son hit some really great shots, and trying hard to come in under double-par. (Yeah, that's a stretch for me.)

Prior to our outing, I'd also read a bit in Golf Digest and Golf magazines. I learned that white belts are in this year -- only keep the width of the belt in inverse proportion to your own waistline. (And if you're built like me, skip belts entirely.) I learned that when putting at a distance less than six feet away from the hole you don't want to have much of a backswing at all. On the course, my son also pointed out that putting is a slight shoulder rotation, like a pendulum, and not a wrist-oriented action. Reading the golfing magazines was enjoyable, but I didn't know a lot of the terms they used, and I certainly don't have enough experience to put much of their instruction into use yet. But I'm learning.

In fact, I think one those magazines should hire me as a columnist. I could write from the perspective of the know-next-to-nothing newby. "Learning Curves" would be the name of my column. (Note: Most of the articles in golfing magazines are by and for men. Most articles are also for experienced golfers. My monthly piece would round out their editorial coverage nicely.) Problem is, how long can one write from the perspective of a neophite golfer?

From what I can tell, my induction period could last for years.

P.S. I took my camera, but teenage boys are averse to having their mothers take photos while on the golf course. (And no, it would not have slowed play any. There were a group of senior citizens ahead of us whose play enouraged us to take our time.) Alas, the picture above is of the course, but not any of the holes we shot. Sigh.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moving at the speed of summer . . .

Let this serve as notice that life is moving at the speed of summer, and chances are that I won't be posting a whole lot while the kids are out of school. Yes, we're busy, but I'm also finding that the kids want to use the computer at the same times I do. And I'd rather have them busy and calm than constantly asking me when I'm going to be off the computer.

Writing the monthly hiking articles for my local newspaper seems to be filling my writing compulsion, leaving less of a drive to blog.

All of which means that blogging is taking a back seat to living. Which is all for the best.

Hope you're enjoying your summer too!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Socks (Free-write from 5.28.09)

Socks have a way of sneaking up on me, hiding there under the dust ruffle of my daughter's bed. There's another pair, dirty and inside-out, beside the grass-stained shoes Loula Belle wore to mow the lawn.

I wonder if socks started the game of hide-and-seek. I can almost hear some ancient, befuddled housewife mumbling to herself, "Now where is the match to this sorry black sock?"

If I were a sock, where would I hide?

At the bottom of a sleeping bag that will soon be stuffed and stored until the next camping trip.

Wadded up at the toe of a soggy snow boot.

Tucked under the covers at the foot of the bed.

Hidden in plain sight at the back of the drawer containing clean and sorted socks.

Or, just maybe I'd start a game of Sardines and slide between the wrap-over cushion at the end of the couch. As one end fills with fellow dingy and worn siblings, some would need to hide together at the other end of the couch.

Those sardine socks stayed hidden for years. I only found them when we sold the house. Needing a better grip when moving the couch, I slid my arm into the wrap-over sanctuary. There were almost a dozen socks. Which, by the way, no longer even fit the boy who had hidden them there.

Did the invention of modern laundry methods increase the amount of missing socks? Or did socks go AWOL before the introduction of the electric dryer?

In societies and cultures that wear only sandals, what goes missing instead of socks? Are there even societies that don't wear socks? Are there mothers somewhere who have never even seen a sock?

If such a place exists, I just might consider moving there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'd Like Your Opinion

My friend, Rebecca Taggart, is on a mission. And I'm helping out. She'd like to see if our local elementary schools can go back to a K-5 format.

I'm posting a copy of her letter below. (I've edited out the specific names of the elementary schools for privacy/security reasons.) I also have a hard copy of the letter that I'm getting signatures on. So here's the deal . . . If you're from my neck of the woods, let me know your thoughts on this issue. If you agree with Rebecca and me, I'll drop by and get your signature. She'll be turning the signatures in to Principal Gary Thomas who will spearhead the discussion with the school district.

Here's Rebecca's letter. My own personal specific thoughts will be posted below it.

We, the undersigned, are in favor of returning to the K-5 configuration at our local elementary schools for the following reasons:

1. Every year between 80 – 90% of a child’s classmates change. This means two or three students from a class will be together the following year. This happens year after year after year for a child’s entire grade school experience. Emotionally and socially it’s almost like moving to a new school every year! This lack of social continuity has been one of the unintended consequences of our present division of grades. If students attended all six grades in one school, there would be half the number of classrooms per grade level. This would mean more peer continuity.

2. Students move to a new school every three years. When a child moves from one school to the other, not only are classmates new (again), but also the principal, secretaries, lunch workers, custodians, librarians and other support staff. This constantly changing environment does not foster stable relationships, feelings of community, or a sense of well-being.

3. Students would spend less time on buses with the K-5 configuration. Buses would not be stopping at both schools for loading and unloading, and more students would be able to walk to school.

4. Siblings would attend the same school. This would not only be more convenient, but would also foster better partnerships between families and school personnel.

Some parents may be concerned about bullying. Well-managed schools have scheduled, supervised recess periods that accommodate different grade levels. Bullying most frequently takes place on buses. A K-5 configuration would reduce bullying by reducing busing.

A K-5 configuration would foster a more stable environment for our children by providing more continuity and reducing time spent on the bus. We would appreciate your consideration regarding this matter.


Remember when I got fed up with my daughter's elementary school making the kids stand outside in lines until 9:05 AM? (Click this sentence for a refresher.) Having our local schools on a K-5 configuration would solve her school's early bussing headaches.

My oldest daughter began second grade in a class where she didn't know any of the other students. The teacher was wonderful, the other students were friendly, and Loula Belle is my most outgoing child. But the situation gave her chronic stomach aches all year. We had her tested for lead poisoning. (We were living in an old rental home at the time.) I took her to the doctor. Nothing turned up. Looking back, I believe the problem was anxiety caused by a lack of friends in her school class.

Rebecca discovered that the K-5 format would eliminate the need for three school buses, saving time and money. I also learned that the third grade will have eight classes next year. Eight classes! The format would also simplify PTA membership (by the way, our schools are the only elementary schools in the state that have two seperate PTA boards for split schools), back-to-school nights, and Parent/Teacher conferences. I'm all for simplicity!

Sure, we'll miss meeting some of the parents and students that currently attend our elementary schools. But that won't last forever, we'll run into them when our children go to middle school. And by then our children will be more mature and ready for not only a new school, but the opportunity to make new friends.

I say lets give our kids the school configuration that is healthiest for them. In my mind that's the K-5 format.

What do you think? If you'd like to sign Rebecca's letter, write "sign me up" somewhere in your comments. And if you've got your own ideas, that's great too. Let us know how you feel.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Toddler Diet

I went to lunch with friends yesterday, and promised LaLoni that I would post this piece. It's part of the "From the Trenches" self-syndicated columns that I wrote between 1997 and 2000. Hope you like it!


Try the Toddler Diet

Moms have it tough when it comes to staying in shape. When pregnant, we watch our bodies balloon to unimaginable proportions. Post delivery we’re left with sagging mid-sections and spreading hips. What’s a mom to do?

We count calories, fat grams and keep food diaries. TV advertisements entice us to drink shakes, eat bars and pop pills to help us lose weight. Some say cutting out carbohydrates is the key. They’ve got it all wrong.

For the answers to weight management, follow your toddler’s diet.

Day One
Breakfast – Orange juice and a bowl of corn flakes. Take two bites of cereal and drink half the glass of orange juice. Spend five minutes picking up the remaining corn flakes and squishing them between your fingers. When finished, wear your bowl like a hat.

Morning snack – Remove the couch cushions and rummage for food. Eat one button, a penny and chew on the pencil that you discover.

Lunch – Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, glass of milk and small bunch of red grapes. Before eating anything, throw a tantrum because you’re not getting macaroni and cheese. When you’re calm again, drink three sips of milk and eat a third of the sandwich. Then, open sandwich and place it face down on the table. Rotate it a few times. Choose one slice and stuff it into your milk glass. Finish by sticking a grape in your ear.

Afternoon snack – While outside, pick up a wad of gum from the sidewalk and chew on it for a while. Find the dog’s dish and eat two pieces of dog food.

Dinner – Steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes with gravy, roast beef and chocolate ice cream for dessert. Show no interest in anything on your plate. Instead, insist on having a drink of milk from Dad’s glass. Pretend to take a drink, but spill most of it down your front. For the next ten minutes, play with the food on your plate, but don’t eat any. Hold out until it’s time for dessert. Eat all of your ice cream and whine until you get more.

Day Two
Breakfast – Two slices of toast with strawberry jam and scrambled eggs. Take two bites of toast, being careful to cover face and clothes with as much jam as possible. Poke and prod your eggs, eating only a small bite. Dump what food remains on the floor.

Morning snack – Eat four dinosaur-shaped fruit snacks. Suck on five more. Spit them out and hide them under your bed. Swallow a red Lego that you find by the book case.

Lunch – Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Throw another tantrum over not getting macaroni and cheese. Angrily push soup away, sloshing most of it across the table. Penitently nibble at sandwich. Insist that you’re full. Once away from the table, eat the fruit snacks from under your bed.

Afternoon snack – Work for twelve minutes to get a fuzzy lifesaver from under the fridge. Eat it and the three crayon pieces that you also find.

Dinner – Linguine with tomato sauce, garlic bread and canned peaches. Drop utensils. Eat your peaches with your hands (this may take a while). Alternate between ripping your bread into small pieces and trying to get the linguine in your mouth. When the pasta and sauce cover your shirt, face, hair and the floor, you’re finished.

Continue in like manner, refusing any new foods offered, until you’ve reached your weight loss goals.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Best Father's Day Gift -- At-Home Wife

Today I was checking in at to see who was coming to this blog and from where. Someone from St. Charles, Illinois googled "healthy housewife" and found my blog. When I clicked on their search term, I discovered that I was google's #2 healthy housewife. But best of all, I discovered just how housewives have impacted the health of their husbands.

I came across this article from the Telegraph, a Brittish on-line publication. Click on the "this article" link mentioned previously for a fascinating read on why having an at-home wife provides big benefits for husbands. (You're welcome, honey!)

Hiking to Health #3: Alternate Routes

This write-up ran in my local paper in April. (I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better.) :)

Writing about hiking to health doesn’t guarantee it’s going to happen. Life happens. An underactive thyroid gland happens. Ongoing nausea, fatigue, and a bit of the winter blues happen. Yet my calendar still shows the dates I’ve mapped out as hiking days, and the newspaper deadline must be met. Just how does one try to meet fitness goals when one’s health takes a dip?

The advertisers at Nike tell us to “just do it.” While getting out and moving can help one feel better, I object to the models that Nike uses in its commercials. It’s not surprising to see young, fit men and women out running and sweating. Real people struggling and overcoming real health issues motivate me to keep going. Instead of looking to Nike’s brand of motivational models, I’ve found a few of my own – friends and neighbors whose courage and persistence set an example that says, “If I can do it, you can too.”

I have a neighbor who suffers from degenerative bone loss that leaves her in near-constant pain, but you’d never know it from looking at her. A smile and cheery outlook are her trademarks. I also admire a mother of six children who goes swimming in the wee hours of the morning. She goes because she has found that she’s more patient with her family on the days she goes swimming. Another woman in her 90s goes swimming three times a week and has been doing so for over three years! No doubt you have similar acquaintances.

Perhaps you’re wondering if I completed the two hikes I had planned. Yes and no. I did go on two hikes, but they weren’t to the destinations on my list. During the past few months of feeling sluggish, I had to focus on climbing hills, not mountains. Mountains overwhelmed me, but hills seemed doable. I lightened up on my expectations for myself but didn't let myself quit entirely.

During the short, snow-free thaw in mid-March I hiked the Cedar Ridge jeep trail along the foothills above Hyde Park. I chose it because it was close to home, wouldn’t take too long to hike, and because it looked like it was dry as I scoped it out from my backyard. It was all I thought it would be, plus something else – steep! I was glad that I decided to go this hike alone, as no one had to know how many times I stopped to catch my breath on the climb up. Making it to the top gave me a sense of accomplishment along with breath-taking views of Cache Valley.

For my second excursion I did a little urban hiking. I tried to think of the steepest roads in Logan and then developed a walking route that would take me up or down most of them. I went down the street just north of the Logan Temple, north half a block and then up Temple Avenue. Next I went down a walking path to the south of the temple, along Canyon Road and then up the short dugway. I made my way to the bottom of Old Main Hill and climbed all 124 stairs. Once on campus I walked toward the LDS Institute building and then headed down a path that put me near the entrance to the underground parking terrace. From there I hiked down 600 North to 600 East and eventually returned to where I’d parked my car near the temple. I liked how this urban outing let me get my heart rate up during short climbs, followed by quick recovery periods while hiking downhill. It was a fun way to get a good workout.

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This especially applies to anyone trying to meet fitness goals during a health downturn. Focusing on single steps has kept me moving forward on the path to health.

Today's Free-Write: Chickens in history

Chickens are under-rated. Sure, we're prized for our eggs and meat, but we're much more than agricultural commodities. We have minds.

We live very balanced lives. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase:

Early to bed, and early to rise
Makes a man healthy, and wealthy, and wise.

Just where do you suppose he got the inspiriation for that much-quoted dictum? That's right, from watchnig Colonial chickens. Afterall, we've long turned in for the night at the disappearance of the sun. And we start the day in the dawn's early light.

Which reminds me ... Who do you think Francis Scott Key had in mind when he wrote the opening lines of the "Star Spangled Banner?" Here's the text. Let's see if anyone comes to mind:

Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

He's obviously talking with fellow early-risers, to those who proudly hailed the sight of the Stars and Stripes still visible in the twilight's last gleam. Who was it? I believe it was, again, chickens. Chickens would have been up at the dawn's early light. Chickens would have hailed their beloved flag at the twilight's last gleam just before going to roost for the night. And chickens were often kept on ships at that time to provide fresh eggs for the troops.

Are there other events in American History where chickens have played a pivotal role? Undoubtedly! Why do you think there's an entire breed of chickens named after Plymouth Rock? Those egg-laying girls were at it again!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Computer Woes

In the past few weeks we've been having computer problems -- crashes, not connecting to the internet, being sent to weird pages when clicking on google search results. Weird stuff. So on Monday morning I took our tower (computer) into a repair place. I had a coupon for $39.95 for a clean-up and tune-up. Only our computer needed more than the clean-up and tune-up.

The guy said that he needed to wipe our hard drive and re-install everything. That alone was $120 or so. Plus if we wanted him to preserve our personal file, that would be another $65 or so. Long story short ... $200 later we have our computer back, but it won't run itunes for me. Doesn't have my Microsoft Publisher program installed or our Microsoft Office suite. Which pretty much means that all the files I've got on it aren't accessible. Needless to say I'm prett peeved. Oh, and the place doesn't open until 10 AM so I can't call to get more fix-it advice.

What I really need is a close friend who knows EVERYTHING about computers and wants to help me out in exchange for, oh, say . . . custom written poetry, creative business slogan ideas, or a new take on marketing angles, or (more realistically) fresh garden produce (strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, peas, sweet corn, etc).

Know anyone like that? Do tell!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Funny phrase about American Idol

Our family likes to watch American Idol. Last night our youngest, Beans, tuned in a little late and asked, "Has anyone been deleted yet?"

I'm certainly glad that I'm not up for getting deleted!

By the way, I thought that Chris Allen should have gone instead of Allion. But as we're not really voters, I can't complain.

P.S. We also like to buy the albums of American Idol alums. We have Daughtery, David Cook, David Archuleta and Jordin Sparks.

Correction (5/8/09)

It was Hubby who was late sitting down to watch American Idol. He asked Beans how things were going. She said, "No one has been deleted yet."

And that's the truth.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Changing up the chore charts again!

The other night I showed Hubby the file I keep of all the past chore charts/cards that we've tried. He was impressed. Honestly, I could probably write a book.

I find that every 6 months or so I have to fiddle with the chore chart system that we're using. Now that my kids are older (10, 13 and 15), we've gone to a money-earning system.

You'll notice that there are a number of important things missing from the pay schedule below. Keeping their room clean, doing homework, helping with the dishwasher -- that's just part of living in our family. They won't get paid for that. I also wanted to reward effort. You work, you get rewarded.

Here's what we're trying:

Bring in the mail $.05
Help make dinner $.50
Weeding, per 15 min. $.25
Write in journal $.25
Read an entire New Era $2.00
Read a Conference talk $.25

Empty and re-line a garbage $.10
Bring in garbage/recycle bin $.05/ea

check off when completed

Total Toilet Treatment: $.50

Clean Sink and Counter: $.20
Laundry room

No-smudge Mirror: $.10
Master sink
Master door

Clean with scrubbing bubbles $.50
Master shower
Master tub
Boy’s tub/shower
Girls’ tub/shower

Vacuum one of these areas: $.25
Down.hall & media room
Recreation room
Sewing and piano rooms
Up. TV & Master bedroom

Vacuum Stairs $.75

Super shake-a-rug (outside) $.10
Kitchen sink rug
Rug by cubbies
Front door rug
Both kids’ bathrooms
Master bathroom rug
Outside front porch rug
Rug on garage porch
Back patio rug

Wipe all upstairs windowsills $.50
Wipe all downstairs windowsills $.30
Mow the lawn $3.00
Mow the orchard (ask Dad 1st) $2.00
Super-Sweep the garage $1.00
Wash the outside of car $.75
Wash the outside of truck $.75
Wash car windows in & out $.50
Wash truck windows in & out $.30
Vacuum car interior $.75
Vacuum truck interior $.75

This past week my oldest and youngest each earned $.80. But my middle child earned a whopping $9.00! She's motivated to earn money towards girl's camp.

They pay 10% in tithing and 20% into savings. The rest they can spend.

I think it's important to teach kids how to work, but it's also important to teach them how to manage money. To help teach them about the value of a dollar, we also give them a larger quarterly amount, with the biggest payment coming in August to help cover school clothes. Then, throughout the year they're in charge of budgeting their money to pay for clothes, candy, presents, etc.

This has done wonders for my middle child. Before we tried this system, she'd ask for everything that her heart desired. But once we turned her share of the budget over to her, she began weighing the importance of name brand vs. second hand clothes. It's made her a much more value-oriented shopper.

Lest you think we're making our kids pay for everything, rest assured that we buy all their food, pay for their sports and activities, and even purchase any socks or underwear. (No teen or tween wants to spend hard-earned cash on socks or underwear!)

What works for your family? In another 6 months or so, I'll be fiddling with our system again and would love having your ideas to draw from. Please share!

Take a page out of Pollyanna's book . . .

A couple nights ago as Hubby and I were in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I was bemoaning the fact that I have to wear special moisture-wicking undergarments to bed to help me sleep through night sweats. I hate night sweats! And I hate having to change my undergarments just to go to bed. (Note: The moisture-wicking unders don't always prevent me from waking up either!)

Hubby, who is so good to try to make me feel better, pointed out that it could be worse. "You could have a bowel leakage problem and have to wear Depends all the time," he said.

Yeah. That would be worse.

We then spent a few minutes coming up with a number of things that would be worse than having to deal with night sweats. Things like:

Having ALS disease.

Losing a leg to diabetes.

Having Parkinson's disease.

Having to wear a c-pap machine everynight.

Having another knee surgery and having to sleep with one leg aching and propped up.

You get the idea.

The funny thing is, after our little Pollyanna moment of finding worse things than what I currently complain about, I felt almost grateful to have recurring night sweats.

Night Sweats? No problem!

Just FYI: I don't really think they're due to an estrogen deficiency. Instead, I think that perhaps my thyroid I'm taking is a bit too much of a dose. When my thyroid levels were low, night sweats were non-existent.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Books I've Read and Want to Read . . .

I just finished reading Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. As many of you know, I love reading. Sometimes I post a book review on this blog, but the best place to catch up on what I've been reading is at My profile name is Christie Belly Acre Farm.

I just finished writing up the recent books I've read and also added a few books to my "to read" shelf.

If you're a goodreads user and I'm not your friend yet, I'd like to be. Send me a request to hook up or let me know your user name. I find that books recommended by friends are often the best.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts on Swine Flu

Here are some possibilities of what you might look like after catching the swine flu . . .

Actually, I'm taking the whole swine flu outbreak pretty seriously. Earlier today I bought the remaining medical masks at a local medical equipment supplier. The man before me bought the only remaing full box of 40 masks. He said he was scheduled to take a 17 hour flight this week.

Now, before you go out scouring your neck of the woods looking for medical masks, I'll tell you what my husband, Safety Man, told me during our daily lunch time phone call today. Keep in mind that he has extensive training in blood bourne pathogens and biological hazards. (He was the go-to guy for answering questions about the dangers of Anthrax at our local university when that scare was on everyone's minds.) Basically, he said that the medical masks are more effective at keeping someone who is sick (and wearing a mask) from spreading the illness than they are for keeping healthy people (wearing a mask) well.

The fine print on the back of my box of masks says, "Intended Use: This product is intended for infection control practices in the healthcare industry. When worn properly, it will help minimize contamination caused by exhaled microorganisms and reduce the potential exposure of the wearer to blood and body fluids. Warning: This mask does not eliminate the risk of contracting disease or infection. Change immediately if contaminated with blood or body fluid. This mask is not a respirator."

Wearing a medical mask does NOT guarantee that you won't catch an air-borne illness.

So, just in case the swine flu does spread to my state, and we have to shelter at home, I thought it would be a good idea to round out our family's "year supply" of food. I bought:

150 pounds of flour (3, 50 lb. bags)

24 cans of cream of chicken soup

8 boxes of onion soup mix

enough powdered milk to make 5 gallons, reconstituted. (Which is pricey!)

If the swine flu continues to spread, I'll be asking my two children who wear contact lenses to stop wearing them until the threat of infection passes. Rubbing your eyes with germs on your fingers is perhaps the easiest way for infections to enter our body. I'll also be sending each of my kids to school with a full bottle of hand sanitizer. And I might even have them wear the masks. After all, what if someone coughed right in their face?

At the moment I'm hopeful that a pandemic isn't on the way. I'm not panicked, but should the worst happen I'm prepared.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Hubby is 40!

As I type, homemade carrot cake is baking in the oven. It's my hubby's favorite. I've tried different recipes, but keep coming back to this one:

Best Ever Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 360 degrees

1 c. oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 c. flour (or tad more)
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 c. peeled, grated carrots
1, 8 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Beat together oil, sugar and eggs until well blended. In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Add to egg/sugar mixture and mix well.

Drain pineapple. Add carrots, pineapple and nuts to main mixture. Blend to mix well.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 360 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour -- until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. pkg reduced fat cream cheese at room temp.
1/2 c. (1 cube) butter at room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar

In addition to his favorite cake, I also took Hubby a ballon bundle that included four black latex ballons and one mylar one. Attached were two of his favorite snacks: Ranch corn nuts and Flipz yogurt covered pretzels.

If, like my husband, you're getting on in years, here are a few things to do to reconnect with your inner child:

draw a picture with crayons

give it to your mother

get out the play dough and make something

play hopscotch

try to come in while two people are turning a jump rope. (Warning to women who have had more than one child -- incontinence is common when jump roping.)

buy some bubble solution and go to town filling your house/yard with bubbles! (Try not to acknowledge that you enjoyed the bubbles at the end of the Lawrence Welk Show.)

Choose a cloudless night to lie down on the grass and look up at the stars.

Next time you see really great fluffy clouds, lie down on the grass and try to identify recognizable shapes.

Sing the ABC song while washing your hands.

If it's raining, go for a walk and jump in the biggest puddles you can find!

Make mud pies.

Invite a few friends over and play school.

Climb a tree. A really sturdy tree.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hike #6 -- The Wind Caves

Here are the photos I took on my hike to the Wind Caves today. I'm scheduled to take a hike on Saturday, but the weather looks bad, so I went TODAY!

This is the trailhead -- submerged in spring run off.

I had to cross this drainage stream at the beginning of the hike. And, yes, I got my shoes wet. But it didn't seem to bother my feet. They stayed nice and happy the whole time.

This is, from left to right, Caitlin Campbell and Anna Sharar of the Conservation Corps. There were a number of other Conservation Corps employees also scattered along the trail constructing water bars to prevent trail erosion. Thanks for all your hard work! They deserve the credit for well maintained trails.

This is the view from a top the Wind Caves looking south. Love those mountains!

And this is an actual photo of the wind caves. True to form, it was windy as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Meeting fitness goals when your health takes a dip

I've been working on writing up my next "Hiking to Health" article for my local paper. It starts off by exploring how to meet fitness goals when your health takes a dip. If only writing about health could make it happen. Here are some thoughts on getting through health challenges and returning to health.

The advertisers at Nike tell us to “just do it.” While getting out and moving can actually help make one feel better, I object to the models that Nike uses in its commercials. It’s not surprising to see young, fit men and women out running and sweating. Real people struggling and overcoming real health issues motivate me to keep going. Instead of looking to Nike’s brand of motivational models, I’ve found a few of my own – friends and neighbors whose courage and persistence set an example that says, “If I can do it, you can too.”

I have a neighbor who suffers from degenerative bone loss that leaves her in near-constant pain, but you’d never know it from looking at her. A smile and cheery outlook are her trademarks. The closest I’ve heard her come to complaining was when she expressed a desire to be of more service and help to others. Those who cheerfully persevere through unremitting pain and challenges can never know the extent that their examples help to lift and encourage others.

No doubt you have similar friends. I also admire a mother of six children who goes swimming in the wee hours of the morning. She goes because she has found that she’s more patient with her family on the days she goes swimming. Another woman in her 90s goes swimming three times a week and has been doing so for over three years! Pretty much I admire anyone who enjoys swimming -- anyone who will 1) put on a swimming suit and 2) get in chlorinated water. (You can see that I’ll never be known for not complaining.)

Pretty much I found that during the past few months of sluggish health I had to focus on climbing hills and not mountains. Mountains overwhelmed me, but hills seemed doable. I lightened up on my expectations for myself but didn't let myself quit entirely.

I like the quote that says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." When you're facing health challenges, focusing on single steps keeps you moving forward on your journey.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fablehaven Fever . . .

If you were to drop in at our house, you'd probably find a number of us with our noses in a book. A Fablehaven book, to be specific. It started when Beans bought the first book in the series at her school's book fair and had it autographed by the author (Brandon Mull). She loved it! And soon Hubby started reading it. Followed by Loula Belle, myself and then Bug.

When Beans was finished with the first book, she wanted to buy the second one. So I took her shopping and we got it! And the third one too. Ever since then it's been a bit hectic scheduling time with whichever book each of us is currently reading. (I'm ready to start the third one. But Beans took it to school. Probably a good thing, allowing me to actually get something done today.)

Today Loula Belle is ready for book number four. So I bought it! After redeeming my Deseret Book bonus points, I paid a grand total of $1.95. Whee!

If you've yet to read any of these, get started! Our whole family is devouring them.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

No More Dieting!

I'm a little more than half way through "Health at Every Size." I must say that it has been great having someone say that diets don't work. That diets, in fact, aren't healthy. To have somone say emphatically, "Don't diet!"

Since January I haven't been following any certain diet. And I haven't gained weight. But until I started reading this book, I felt like as soon as my tummy started feeling better and my thyroid levels got back to normal I'd return to some sort of diet. But not anymore! No more diets for me.

I feel liberated!

We're a biologically diverse people. We're not all meant to fit into the same cookie cutter shape that the media portrays as "healthy" or desirable. I'm me. I weigh what I way because of who I am. And I'm not going to try to be anyone but myself ever again.

I'm not going to exercise because I have to. I'm going to move and sweat because I want to. I'm going to walk, hike, dance, mow the lawn, work the wheel hoe, and garden up a storm because it makes me feel good -- makes me feel alive.

Food can't make me feel guilty. It's meant to nourish my body and to provide enjoyment. By listening to my body, eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm satisfied, I can stop eating for external reasons. No food is off limits. I can savor and enjoy every mouthful of what I'm eating. Chocolate. A crisp apple. A baked potato. Red licorice. You name it, I'm going to enjoy it.

Blogging is a guilty pleasure!

Here are the things I should be doing:

Writing up an entry from the Friends of the North Logan Library for May's North Logan Newsletter.

Typing up the Young Women acitivies for April to post on the bulletin board.

E-mailing those activities to Sis. Robinson for the ward newsletter and Sunday bulletin.

Distributing the new food items for our 72-hour kits. (We rotate them at General Conference in the spring.)

Taking a nice long walk with the dog.

But what am I doing instead? Blogging! And it feels great!

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been a very consistent blogger lately. But I'm getting the feeling that I'm about to make a comeback.

Earlier in the week while walking the dog I saw a young cat on a porch spying on a flock of house finches twittering in a nearby bush. I wanted to write a poem about it. I WANTED TO WRITE! It's been far too long since I've wanted to write. Just for fun. To stetch my flabby neurons and get them firing again.

Because, here's the thing, I love to write. Sometimes as I'm going about my day I find that I'm thinking my thoughts as a mental composition -- rearranging words, adding a little more description. The grocery list and weekly menu is no longer enough. I need to return to blogging.

It just feels good!

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Wish Books Had a Rating System

Movies have a rating system. Electronic games have a rating system. Even music has ratings. Why don't books have a rating system?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I am a modern prude who loves to read. But so many times when I pick out a promising book at the library and bring it home, I find it's filled with foul language or more sexual content than I'm comfortable with. I can avoid watching movies with questionable content by looking at the rating. But there is no rating system on books. I wish there were.

I don't advocate banning books. I'm not for censorship. I'd just like a little more information on book jackets so that I can make an informed decision.

What do you think? Should books have a rating system? What should it be modeled after? I'm most familiar with the movie industry rating system and think that something similar might work for books.

Before posting this entry I googled the term "book content rating system." It didn't turn up anything like what I'm envisioning. Does it exhist and I've missed it? Do tell.

Finding Health at Every Size . . .

Yesterday while wandering the racks at my local library, I found a book that caught my eye: Health at Every Size: The surprising truth about your weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD. I'm starting to read it, and must say that I find it intriguing. I'm beginning to see that it could have wonderful health implications for me.

One of the things it advocates if giving up on dieting. Instead, we should listen to our hunger and fullness signals for eating cues. That's what I've been doing since the end of January. Remember how I went back to Weight Watchers in December only to find that I gained weight each week? Sure, my thyroid was out of whack. That was part of the problem. But even when I'd lost 40 pounds with Weight Watchers in 2007 I hit a plateau and then slowly started regaining the weight -- even though I was following the program and staying withing my points target. This book explains why.

For the past two months I have not been dieting. I haven't written down what I've eaten. Haven't tracked points or calories or net carbs. I've eaten sweets. I've eaten salads. Really, I've eaten whatever sounds good. And I haven't gained any weight. I weigh the same as when I quit Weight Watchers in January.

So far Health at Every Size is confirming what I've been experiencing for the past couple months. Our bodies have a set point where they feel most healthy and happy. It's not dictated by BMI charts or graphs. Mine, for the moment, is set right here. But the best thing is, I feel free. I don't obsess about food and don't feel guilt over what I eat. What a concept!

When I finish the book, I'll do a more in-depth review. I really think it's onto something.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Help! Give me feedback for my talk in church Sunday.

I'm speaking in sacrament meeting this coming Sunday (the 29th). The topic is, "Be thou an example of the believers."

We all have someone we look up to as a good example. Is there someone whose example made a difference in your life? Could you tell me about it?

Also, what keeps us from being an example of the believers? My downfall is probably a quick temper. I haven't mastered patience yet -- not even close.

I'm thanking you in advance for any insights you might share. Muchas Thank You!!

Hike #5

The mother in me wanted to avoid hiking in mud. But how? I briefly contemplated doing a little urban hiking -- walking up and down the steep dugway a couple times and climbing the stairs on Old Main Hill a time or two. In the end, last week I looked out my back windows at the foothills and noticed that the snow was almost gone. Upon closer examination, I noticed that the Cedar Ridge jeep trail on the mountains above Hyde Park looked dry. I decided to give it a try.

So, on Friday morning I dropped my youngest off at school and took the dog in the back of the truck up to the trailhead. The two photos to the left were taken so you could get a feeling for how steep the trail is. I was glad that I decided to go this hike alone, as no one had to know how many times I stopped to catch my breath on the climb up.

The views of Cache Valley on this hike were spectacular! (I had plenty of time to enjoy them on the many stops I took during my ascent.) In this photo I can actually see my house. It's fun to see my community from a different perspective.

When I finally made it to the top of Cedar Ridge, I felt great. What a sense of accomplishment! This is the view from the tippity top. I'm happy to report that my body held up great -- my knees felt fine, and my heart and lungs didn't feel over-taxed even though I haven't really done much cardio in the last two weeks. The nausea I've been feeling the past three weeks disappeared on Thursday. I felt like Rocky when he made it to the top of all those stairs. I even thought about putting my hands in the arm and doing some Rocky moves. Yeah!

Okay. I will admit it. I was really looking forward to getting to head DOWN the trail. It was a nice change. And again, my knees held up great. I did notice, however, that my legs where a little shakey from fatigue. After a couple weeks of little exercise, it felt good. Once I got off the ridge there was a lot more mud,but I found that I could walk on patches of unmelted snow or along the side of the trail where the vegetation kept me off the mud. Some spots were dry, and for the most part I avoided getting too much mud on my hiking boots.

The biggest disappointment of the hike was seeing the amount of junk and trash that the melting snow left uncovered. ATV tires, wooden pallets, liter from food containers. Who do people think is going to clean up after them? It's disgusting! Actually, I may make a suggestion in my newspaper write-up that some enterprising Eagle Scout looking for a project would have plenty of work to keep them busy. (Thank goodness for Eagle Scout projects!)

All in all, it was good to get out into the great outdoors and enjoy a solitary walk in the mountains. I love hiking!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's Not Easy Feelin' Green . . .

I spoke too soon. The metamucil didn't work today. I spent all morning feeling green around the gills. By mid afternoon I was doing a bit better and took the dog for a walk.

And I finally decided to make an appointment with my doctor to see if he has any ideas what is making my tummy feel topsy turvy.

Actually, I thought it couldn't hurt to make an appointment. How many times have you made an appointment with the doctor only to have your symptoms disappear completely by the time you actually go in? If only that would happen this time, I'd pay my $35 co-pay and go away happy!

Signs of Spring . . .

Spring is finally arriving at Belly Acre Farm. This is one of the crocus that bloomed for the first time today out along the sidewalk to our front door.

At this very moment Hubby is out in the orchard trimming fruit trees. There are 18. It's going to take him a while.

The kids have also been out playing ball in our yard and the neighbor's. I even took our dog for an extended walk around the block. Maybe tomorrow I'll put her harness on her and take her for a bike ride. I think it would do both of us some good.

I love spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm Making a Come Back . . .

Making a come back. Aren't those great words?

You want to know the funny thing? Metamucil is part of my return to health.

Metamucil. You know, that fiber supplement you stir into a glass of water. The product that my grandparents couldn't live without. Well, apparently, I can't live very well without it either.

After the anti-depressants brought back my mental health, I was still suffering from an upset tummy (nausea) every day. Sometimes all day. Just a couple days ago I remembered what had helped me get through the last bout of IBS a few years ago -- Metamucil. So I tried it again. Sure enough, it helps. I'm not sure why, but it does.

Give me a week, and I'll be back to regular exercise and positivity once again!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Winter Blahs . . .

I've been trying really hard to be a healthy housewife, but it's been a battle. Starting in January my health took a dive. At first I thought it was mostly physical, but the longer it went on, the more I came to believe that it was both mental and physical.

In September I switched from anti-depressants to light therapy with my doctor's approval. Fall was wonderful! Then I had a heart scare in December, followed by super low thyroid levels. Somewhere along the line I think that the light therapy wasn't enough to keep the winter blues at bay.

I tried upping the time I spend under the light. I went on vitamin D supplements. I tried to get outdoors on sunny days. I tried to get good and sweaty on my Nordic Track every morning. But despite my best efforts, my health deteriorated.

A month or so ago I was flipping through channels and came across a show on PBS about mental health. The man said, "Saying someone has depression is like saying someone has back pain." His point was that everyone experiences depression differently. Everything from its causes, symptoms and treatments needs to be individualized.

For me, depression manifests itself very physically. I get incredibly tired. My stomach hurts (nausea, IBS symptoms) as well as other parts of my body (headaches, joint pain). I get frustrated when I can't accomplish all that I expect of myself. I can get moody. But this year I've experienced what I call the winter blahs -- just a tired, empty mood most of the time. (Hence, my lack of blog entries lately.)

I've tried being patient. Because a low thyroid can cause depression, I thought I'd wait until I get my throid levels tested again before doing anything. But the tummy troubles and fatigue are getting to be too much. A week ago I called my doctor and we decided that I should go back on medication at least through the end of April. Hopefully that will banish these winter blues.

Here's hoping that a healthy housewife re-emerges soon!

Spring is coming (I just know it is)

Hey. You've probably noticed that I'm not writing regularly in my blogs anymore. There's a reason for that -- the winter blahs. It's been a really difficult couple of months (since mid January). With not much going on, there's not been much to write. And I've noticed that I prefer reading to writing. Here is a list of the books that I've read since January, in the order I read them:

"Ella Minnow Pea" by Mark Dunn

"I am a Mother" by Jane Clayson Johnson

"The Careful Use of Compliments" by Alexander McCall Smith

"The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch

"The Right Attitude to Rain" by Alexander McCall Smith

"No Graves as Yet" by Anne Perry (1st in her WWI novel series)

"Shoulder the Sky" by Anne Perry (2nd in her WWI series)

"The Twisted Root" by Anne Perry (from her William Monk detective series)

I started "Blessings" by Anna Quindlen, but it did NOT pass the modern prude vocabulary test.

I also tried "Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver but it didn't hold my attention. (No modern prude issues as far as I got.)

"The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday" by Alexander McCall Smith

"Angels in the Gloom" by Anne Perry (3rd in her WWI series)

At the moment I'm reading, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" by Maria Augusta Trapp.

There you have it. Lots of reading reasons for why I haven't written. I can't guarantee that I'll be posting again soon. You just never know.