Monday, May 25, 2009

May Days

Flowers that my sweet sister and brother-in-law gave me for Mother's Day. I'm an auntie who loves all her little people and these made my heart sing. Thank you. 

I've been out of commission for a week, mostly sleeping. I know I'm not feeling well when eating is too big of a hurdle to climb. It simply becomes a chore and I would rather not. Mostly I slept and slept and slept some more. I'm feeling much better now and glad to have my energy back. What a true treasure it is!

I downloaded a few photos from happenings over the last month and wanted to share. So, enjoy the small photo tour. 


Tami and Rus have the same birthday so we had birthday cakes for each of them and celebrated. 

I don't know who set up the candles on Rus's cake but somebody was having fun. 

Rus, of course, had to warm his hands by the flame created from all those candles. 
I hope it was a good birthday. 

May is a very, very big birthday month for us. In one week we have Brock's birthday and anniversary, Granddad's birthday (gone but not forgotten), Grandma J's birthday (gone but not forgotten), and Rus and Tami's birthdays. Plus throw Mother's Day in there and that week always feels very full. 

And there are still more birthdays coming later in the month!


The girls of the family (except Cassie, the graduating senior, and Julie who lives five hours away) spent a weekend up at a condo about a half an hour up the canyon. We had a great time even though it was a quick little trip. The purpose of the trip was a chance to talk about Meg, Julie, Cissy and Michelle are the core leaders for that blog and the rest of us like to believe we are the first followers. So, we had a great chat about the website and then lots of chats about other things as well. 

I, somehow, got to sleep in this very pretty king size bed that night. Ummmm, yeah, that was fun. Do you know how big this kind of bed is? I planted myself right in the middle of the bed and sank into bliss. I felt like a princess. The other princesses slept in the four other beds in the other two bedrooms. 

Michelle loved me sitting in front of her trying to get a good shot. The sun was coming in right behind her in the window and I was having a difficult time. Four days later she would deliver a new baby. 

Meg also barely put up with my little photo shoot. (And note to Meg: This is a good photo. I want brownie points for NOT posting the photo you didn't like, which I liked. I will just say that since you so delicately threatened me with death I decided to not chance it.)

Cissy and Meg in full conversation mode. I think we stayed up until midnight just getting a good chat in. 

And dinner. Michelle's sister, Lauren, is here visiting to help out Michelle with the new baby so she came with us and I think had a good time. (l to r: Lauren, Michelle, Tami, Mom, Jenny, Cissy, Meg)


Baby sister is growing up! She will be eighteen in a few weeks and is graduating from high school. I can barely believe it. My parents will officially be empty nesters in a few short months. 


This sweet little munchkin showed up last week and put a smile on everyone's faces. In this photo she is just over 24 hours old. Sweet, sweet baby. 

Michelle seemed amazingly energetic and alert after her birth. She also had her own birthday just four days after Liv's arrival. They spent it laying low and letting little Liv hang out on those funky lights they have to sleep on when they have jaundice. 

And this little peach kept everyone smiling as she protectively watched over the new baby and reminded anyone who held her "That's Mama's baby." Yes, the protective older sister streak has arrived with a vengeance. She gets very distressed if baby sister is out of her or Mama's eyesight. 

Thankfully, Auntie Lauren and Grandma Sue know how to keep her busy and preoccupied. Lucky little girl. 

What a great May so far!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cooking Up a Storm

The last few days have been filled with food, food, and more food. I have been cooking and I've been having a blast. I've been cooking for a variety of reasons but the best part of it is I've been cooking for others. I love experimenting in the kitchen and trying out different foods but once I've run through a recipe a couple of times, I want to try it out and see if it is a success for others too. 

Let me acknowledge once again in all of my cooking now how much of a debt of gratitude I owe to my favorite food blogger, Elana, at Nearly 90% of these recipes come from her site with a few modifications here and there by me. She got me excited again about cooking and eating because she taught me through her blog that I could make food that was delicious and appetizing even with my food sensitivities. I owe her much for sharing all of her scrumptious recipes. She's got a great gluten-free cookbook coming out this summer that you can pre-order if you like, so check it out. I can't wait to get my copy. 

Monday I cooked because my sweet, multi-talented brother Adam came and put up three curtain rods and a towel rod for me. He keeps telling me that if I get a great drill I could do it myself. I keep telling him I would miss seeing his face. :) So, Adam and Michelle brought their little girl and Michelle's sister and we did dinner and FHE together. Of course, we girls chatted up a storm while Adam did the work but I think everyone had a good evening and we got to pull my table out from the wall and put it to good use. 

Menu for Monday night was 

Tuesday was our monthly supper club with a group of friends where we each cook a dish around a theme and bring it to supper club and then eat and chat the night away. I was hosting for the month of May and since it was gluten-free night and most people are not gluten-free, I did a little extra cooking just so everyone could try out a variety of dishes. We had a great turn out, several people brought some excellent recipes and my favorite patio was put to good use. 

Menu for Tuesday night

Then last night I had to use some ground turkey I had had in the fridge for a few days and I made spinach turkey burgers. In all of my cooking, my mom and my sister are my ad hoc test kitchen so I will run food over to them to taste and try together. Despite all of that testing, I had not ever made my spinach turkey burgers or my special sauce for Meg, so I wanted her to try them both. She's a very receptive audience to all of my cooking attempts so I wanted to get her reaction to them. Then she had been asking for smoked paprika almonds again, so I whipped up a batch of those too. 

While I was cooking, Mom stopped by to try the leftovers from supper club. I love talking food with both of them because Mom had a few ideas for tweaking the blueberry muffins a bit and I had figured out a way I wanted to modify the cookies a bit and Meg had made the ranch dressing herself twice and we could compare notes. Cooking is always a collaborative effort whether it is over the stove or at the table and it is fun to experiment and try things together. 

Katy came by one night when I was knee-deep in cupcake batter and loving every second of it. She tasted and tried and even ran to the store for a last-minute item that I needed. In the midst of the hustle bustle she stopped and said, "Isn't cooking fun? It feels like an art to me some days like here is my oil painting or this is my watercolor" and I had to agree. That feeling isn't there every night but on the nights it does descend on me in the kitchen--well, it's pure magic. 

What kind of magic have you created in your kitchen lately? 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dinner Plate Photo

Katy and I had dinner last night before heading off to hike Stewart Falls. Katy is another foodie friend (and Amy's sister) who happens to have celiac disease and some other food sensitivities so our diets are very similar and we talk about food often. Katy has been doing this a lot longer than I have though so it inspires me to hear what she is making and we share favorite recipes with each other.

I love to cook for her because we have such fun talking and experimenting together. And it is thanks to Katy that we have a photo of dinner. She styled the plates and took photos. I likely would have forgotten until the meal was over and then I would have wished I had remembered to pull out the camera.

Spinach turkey burgers with almond mozzarella cheese
Spring salad with chopped almonds and apples and Elana's awesome ranch dressing
Zucchini and yellow squash sauteed in olive oil
Strawberry and pineapple salad

Any of this look yummy to you?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Living Room Outdoors

Six months ago on a cold Tuesday, I woke up early, got ready and went and stood in line at 6:30AM and then spent an hour waiting to vote in the presidential election of 2008. While I'm grateful I could vote that is not the most memorable event of that day.

I had been watching the weather reports closely and I had a pretty strong inkling that we were going to get our first snowstorm of the season. I had one last task that needed to be completed before that happened--clean off my patio for the winter and store the outdoor furniture. 

The reason I waited so long to complete this task is that I love, love, love my little patio and I don't like to shut it down until I'm positive I can't use it because of the weather. It is so useful because it nearly doubles my living space. While I love my little place it isn't loaded with elbow room so this patio effectively doubles my square footage. 

Photo from last year. The couch and table have both been refurbished and there is a little more art on the walls but seriously I think I need an art intervention. The bare walls are begging for it.

During the spring, summer and fall evenings it is so pleasant to sit out there and visit or read or even just sit and listen to the crickets singing. When the n&ns come over on Sunday, they love to play and eat out there too. It effectively opens up the entire backyard to them for exploration as well which I love. 

So, here is the patio this morning before I unpacked the furniture and prepped it for all its summertime joy. 

And here is the patio after. Ready for visiting, sitting, chatting, and eating. I realize it doesn't look as wonderful in the photo as it looks to me in reality, but I bet you understand my excitement. Tomorrow the n&ns will play out here after church while we eat apples and green hot dogs (meaning lettuce-wrapped, I just called them green hot dogs the first time I served them and the name stuck). Tuesday night our little supper club will sit out here and chat while we sample yummy food and recipes. And one night I will sit out here and blog too! 

Yes, the patio is open for service. Welcome to my official start of summer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Food Friday

Are you all tired of hearing about my allergy-free diet? I got the most comments on the photos from my recent trip to Massachusetts so it makes me wonder if I'm boring you to tears when I talk about all things health. I've got to admit that besides school and work, the other topic that consumes my mind endlessly is health, my health, your health, our health and how to get healthier.

So much to learn. So little time it seems.

I'm starting my fifth month on the allergy-free diet. All that really means is that I'm eating more of the things that are good for me and less of the things that I've long suspected give me a bit of trouble. Slowly over the last several weeks, I've felt my energy build and build and build to a point that I feel more alive and whole than I've felt in a long, long time. Not to overstate the case but I feel like I've discovered a secret long hidden and long wondered about in my life--what it means to feel good on a daily basis.

Is this how the rest of you live life on a regular, daily basis? Because I've got to tell you that having energy like this feels like a rock star life. And the universe has been holding out on me for far too long. I could get addicted to feeling this way each and every day of my life.

Now, I'm human and I know that I'm going to experiment, test the boundaries and generally push my own buttons to confirm what I've learned so far. I know that just because I feel spectacular for one day or even for many days in a row does not guarantee that this feeling will continue unabated ad infinitum. I'm just going to be okay with the process wherever it leads and whatever I learn from it.

And for now, that means the allergy-free diet is staying.

At some point in the future, whether in three weeks or three months or three years, I'm going to do the second phase of the allergy diet which means challenging each of the foods that I have a sensitivity to and trying them each one by one for a twenty-four period and then waiting three days to see if I experience any negative consequences from that particular food item. For now though, I mostly want to focus on feeling good and not worry about the second phase just yet.

I went to the doctor today and confirmed that this lifestyle change is having a marvelous effect on my overall health as well as my particular health issues. Yeah! Take that metabolic syndrome and PCOS! I've finally found a secret weapon. And it tastes goooood.

On my trip to MA, Amy and I spent a lot of time being foodie friends and discussing all things yummy and tantalizing. I'm continually surprised by Amy and her sister Kate's natural, intuitive leanings toward not only good health but good food too. Good food is fun with them. And good food is really, really yummy with them.

So, in the spirit of simple, warm, yummy food here is a very easy recipe for roasted veggies that Amy made one day. I've done a version of this recipe before but Amy has a magical touch and these veggies and potatoes came out tasting so yummy that I've made this simple dish at least twice since I've been home. Pair it with roasted chicken or spinach turkey burgers and a big salad and you've got a spectacular meal.

RECIPE: Roasted Veggies and Potatoes

1 yam or sweet potato
2-3 red potatoes
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion
1 red pepper
light or virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil (only used after veggies are cooked)
sea salt or kosher salt

Slice and quarter the yam and red potatoes. Slice the onion into long, thin strips. Slice the red pepper after removing the seeds and stem. Put everything in a bowl and toss with regular or light virgin olive oil until veggies are well coated. Layer in a 9x13 glass baking dish and salt then bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Pull out pan once during baking process and turn all veggies. After an hour the veggies should be soft. If not, you may want to bake a little longer. Pull them from the oven and let cool for five minutes and then garnish with extra virgin olive oil and salt if necessary.

Makes a warm, hearty dish.

I'd love to hear any great recipes from you. Also, have you made any health changes that have significantly improved your energy? And are you still doing those things? Let's chat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Looking Up

The sky yesterday while I was in my car

I was in the canyon yesterday driving up to some property in Midway and admiring the blue-black mountains and the azure sky and the sun rippling through the leaves of trees freshly-minted with new growth. It is hard not to feel steeped in nature when I simply drive through the canyon. 

Of course, it is a motion-picture kind of beauty--rather surreal and rushing by my window-swathed capsule of a car. I'm not actually out among the leaves and the dirt and bugs getting sunburned and hot and dirty. I'm sitting removed from the struggle of nature but admiring its effect. 

I feel desperate at times to get out of my brick-and-mortar office into "the real world." This particular itch seems especially troublesome each spring when the birds are chirping constantly, the trees are lush and full, and the mountains seem so soft, green and inviting. It's like I'm nutrient-deficient in rocks and wildflowers. I feel like if I don't get outside soon I just might expire--at my desk. 

So, my drive up the canyon re-ignited my itch. Or at least brought it into full relief. This itch has been niggling around my brain for several weeks. Now it is punching me in the face. It says rather vehemently "GET OUTSIDE!" 

Sunshine, cool breezes and green, green grass. Mountain trails, pine trees and cold, rushing water. That's what I want. Yet, my life is tied to desk for eight hours a day and my free hours seem consumed with cooking, cleaning, attending class, homework, and whatever else may keep me inside the confines of four walls. 

And then I remembered. Way back in the halls of my memory I remembered a Geography 101 class I took a long, long time ago. The professor who taught the class was understandably focused on all things outdoorsy. One of our first tasks was to record barometric readings each day along with the temperature. And then we had to keep a journal about what the sky looked like. Excuse me? What the sky looked like? Who cares what the sky looks like? It had something to do with the kind of clouds in the sky and what those clouds could tell me about the weather. 

What it did to me was give me a crick in my neck. I found that being forced to look at the sky each day and contemplate clouds required a lot of looking up. And thinking. And pondering. What did the clouds look like? What were they doing? Were they puffy and white like cotton balls or wispy and fleeting? Were dark clouds on the horizon? Which direction were they coming from? What kind of storm might I expect from their appearance? 

All very annoying questions that made me have to stop and contemplate the vast blueness of the sky on a too-regular basis. 

What that too-regular basis did for me was scratch my itch. Looking at the sky each day and recording my thoughts usually occurred on campus when I was in the midst of a heavy school schedule and rushing to and fro in all of my perceived busyness. Looking up forced me to slow down. Looking up made me see the world around me and realize that nature wasn't just in the mountains or up the canyon or going to the lake. Nature was right here above me telling me a story through the clouds. 

Looking up reminded me of lying in the grass as a child and staring up at the vastness of the sky as I dreamed of the kind of life I hoped to live. Looking up reminded me that I was small part of a very big world. Looking up made me think of God. 

Which is why just yesterday when my itch was itching me the most and I was wishing I could be anywhere but in my car amid traffic headed towards a full night of "things to do" that I was startled out of my rushing to and fro when I glanced at the sky and saw some puffy white clouds and felt the warm, late day sunshine. Just a glance away was that beauty I seemed to so be itching for. 

Right there in front of me. 

I've just got to remember to keep looking up. 


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