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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My secret love of school supplies

July is a favorite shopping time for me. I stock up on all my kids art supplies, and many of their gifts for the year. There are great deals out there right now, without too much work.

My kids have been looking forward to this sale too. We ran out of crayons a while ago, but I couldn't bring myself to buy any at full price since I knew they would be on sale soon! What the kids don't know is that I have a thing for school supplies. Something about blank notebooks, sharp new crayons, packs of pens... I get excited just thinking about them! In my house I have a "secret stash" (that technically isn't a secret since everyone knows about it) where I have stacks of office and art supplies, and I love it when the stash is full and ready for any writing or drawing emergency I may have.

Right now Walmart has Crayola crayons for 40 cents a pack. For that same price, you can also buy Elmers School Glue or a 2 pack of glue sticks. They have off-brand crayons for even less, but after once drying one of those in the dryer and ruining a bunch of clothes, I'm sticking to Crayola, because there are ways to get those stains out! For 20 cents, you can get a 70-sheet-of-paper notebook.

Staples has penny and quarter deals this week- erasers, pencils, packs of pens, pencil boxes. The only catch is that to get the penny deals, you need to spend $5. This is easy to do if you buy a pack of paper for $5.99- $5.75 of that will come back to you in a rebate with a few clicks online.

Another great sale in July is the Target toy sale. I LOVE this one! Target marks its toys down, as much as 75% off. I usually get at least half of my Christmas shopping done there, and also buy birthday gifts for the kids to take to birthday parties throughout the year.

Happy shopping!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Artichoke Salami Paninis

This recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse of Food Network fame. I make my own focaccia  bread, with half wheat/ half white flour. It has a great flavor that comes from the combination of all the ingredients, but what really brings it all together is the vinaigrette. Search for nitrate-free salami. If you can't find that, pastrami or even pepperoni also work in this recipe.

I serve this with whatever vegetable I have on hand. In this picture are zucchinis from our garden, sliced, breaded and baked. 


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 slices focaccia bread, sliced
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced provolone
  • 1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced genoa salami


Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Arrange the slices of bread on a flat work surface and, using a brush, divide the vinaigrette equally among 1 side of each slice. Divide the provolone equally among the bread slices. Top 6 of the slices of bread equally with the sliced artichoke hearts and sliced genoa salami and then place the remaining 6 slices on top. Brush the outsides of each sandwich with olive oil if desired.

Cook at medium heat (on a skillet or frying pan) until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, pressing occasionally to compact with a large spatula, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Classic Fettucine Alfredo

This recipe is a classic, and one everyone should have in their recipe collection.  It's simple, rich and delicious. It's fancy enough to serve with company, but also good for a weeknight dinner because it's kid-friendly and comes together quickly.

Don't be afraid of the fat, or the carbs, or the calories. As long as you leave out this toxic ingredient, you'll be fine!

Fettucine Alfredo
from Joy of Cooking

1 lb. fettucine noodles

8 Tbsp. butter
1 cup cream
1 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add cooked pasta and remaining ingredients. Toss the pasta until well coated. This is best served hot. If there are leftovers, heat on the stovetop rather than the microwave, because the sauce and noodles will separate, and heating over low will let the sauce absorb into the noodles.

I served this with fresh green beans. To cook, wash and break off any tough ends or stems. In a large skillet, melt about a Tablespoon of butter over medium low heat. Add green beans, and cook, stirring occasionally, until green beans are slightly browned and crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and serve.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I've been RRARFing for the last couple of weeks. Don't be scared by the way it sounds-- RRARF is an acronym for Rehabilitative Rest and Agressive Re-Feeding. It's Matt Stone's creation, and you can get his free e-book to read all the details, but I'll outline the basics here.

RRARF is a program to heal and speed up the metabolism. Matt defines metabolism as "the ability to produce cellular energy at a high rate." When your metabolism is high, it keeps you healthy, resistant to disease, and hopefully keeps you lean.

However, the point of RRARF is not to lose weight. It's to get your metabolism revved up to where it's supposed to be. Matt says, and I think he's on to something here, that when we reduce our calories to lose weight, we are setting ourselves up for failure. The way to lose weight and keep it off is to have the body lower its setpoint, and the weight will slowly drop on its own.

This is so different from what we hear all the time that it's hard to believe. We are constantly bombarded with the mantra to "eat less, move more." But what if our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for? What if our bodies send signals to eat exactly what they need, and when we don't provide that nourishment (by dieting, for example), the body responds by slowing down the metabolism?

The idea behind RRARF is that for about a month, you overfeed the body. You can eat almost anything except sugar and polyunsaturated fats. That leaves you with all-you-can-eat of real, healthy foods. You can measure your progress by taking your temperature each morning. You also get a lot of rest. RRARF is really about learning and listening to your body cues.

Sad to say, before I started, my temperatures were in the mid 95s! That indicates that my metabolism was very slow. My cellular energy was quite low, and I could feel that-- I had less energy than I have ever had.  After RRARFing, my temperatures are in the mid 97s, and I can feel a big difference energy-wise. (note: armpit temperatures are generally up to one degree lower than oral temperatures.)

What I have loved about RRARF:

1. It's really helped me understand my hunger cues. I don't think I'm much of an emotional eater. But I did find that there are times when I'm hungry, but I don't feel that it's "okay" for me to eat (it's not a meal time, or we're about to have dinner or something), and those are the times when I'll reach for chocolate chips or something to tide me over. By taking sugar out of the picture, and being encouraged to eat whenever I was hungry, I understood what my real hunger signals feel like, and learned that I just need to eat when my body is telling me to!

2. Understanding body cues means listening to more than just hunger signals. The body knows when it needs to rest, when it needs to move, etc. The body knows what it needs and I need to listen!

3. Measurable results. We want to measure results in inches and pounds, but RRARF helps you measure another aspect of your health. Seeing my body temperature rise so much in such a short time shows me that I am really doing something good for my body. I also feel that I am setting myself up for future weight loss.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My biggest trial: 30 pounds

Here's the thing about me. I don't really like to be vulnerable. It scares me a little to write about something that I'm currently struggling with, but here goes: I don't much like my body these days.

With each pregnancy, and each birth of a child, I was able to let it go. I knew that my body had just done something amazing. I brought a child into the world. And if I had to gain 40ish pounds each time to do that, then okay. And I was fortunate to be able to lose that weight each time in about 9 months to a year.

Fast Forward to Baby #4. Emergency C-section, terrible and slow recovery. My body did NOT bounce back, but I was slowly making strides in the right direction. I lost all the weight but about 15 pounds in about a year. Then, I got an IUD put in. I noticed that my clothes were fitting tighter, but it wasn't until 4 months later that I actually got on a scale and realized I had put on almost 20 pounds in that short amount of time! I hadn't changed my eating or my exercise habits, except maybe to add in a little more exercise! I found a site online where women have had similar results. So frustrating! As soon as I realized what the problem was, you can be sure I got that thing removed!!

But, I still have to live with the aftermath. I am trying really hard to be patient. The hard thing is, I was already working really hard to be patient BEFORE I had this added obstacle. Now, with 30 pounds to lose, the struggle is as much mental as it is physical. I have lost this much weight before, right? It's just like having a baby all over again (without the middle of the night feedings). Only it doesn't feel the same at all. Instead of feeling amazed at what my body was able to accomplish, I am mad that my body betrayed me by gaining all this weight in the first place.

Sigh. That is beside the point, I guess. Like I tell my yoga students, be in the present moment. Don't let your thoughts focus too much on the past or on the future. Experience the now.

And the choice is this: I can enjoy my now and work really hard to not let it bother me too much, or I can let thoughts about my body consume me. I can take steps now to change what my body looks like in the future, or I can give up and throw in the towel.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TFOT: What manner of men and women ought ye to be?

Last Sunday for the Teachings for Our Times lesson, I taught on the talk What manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be? by Elder Lynn G. Robbins. It was a great reminder of some things I need to be working on. Elder Robbins quotes are in italics, with my thoughts below.

"To be and to do are inseparable. As interdependent doctrines they reinforce and promote each other. Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one’s faith.
The Savior often denounced those who did without being—calling them hypocrites: “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6). To do without to be is hypocrisy, or feigning to be what one is not—a pretender.
Conversely, to be without to do is void, as in “faith, if it hath not works,is dead, being alone” (James 2:17; emphasis added). Be without do really isn’t being—it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good merely because one’s intentions are good.
Do without be—hypocrisy—portrays a false image to others, while bewithout do portrays a false image to oneself."
Throughout this talk, Elder Robbins focuses on being and doing.  We see do without be when people act one way in front of their church friends, for example, but act a different way in front of others not of our faith. Be without do is harder to see- those are the people who are lying to themselves. The example that came to mind for me are the people who say they are religious or spiritual (be) so they don't need to go to church (do). When, in reality, if you really are religious/ spiritual you will act on that by doing- in this example, attending church.
"Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s."
This part really hit home for me, because I love to make to do lists. As I was preparing for this lesson, I went through my planner to look at past checklists, so I could see: are my to do's helping me become who I want to be? Most of my to do's focused on the temporal, things like cleaning, cooking, buying, etc. It's an interesting thing to ponder: who do I want to be? and what things to I need to do to get there? In a sense, that's a simple question, right? We all know that if we want to be a doctor, we need to go to med school. But to focus on attributes that we want to attain, and then to make those 'do's' help us grow toward our 'be's'... it's not something I have spent as much time contemplating. If I want to be charitable, what am I doing each day to develop that attribute? 
"Because be begets do and is the motive behind do, teaching be will improve behavior more effectively than focusing on do will improve behavior."
That quote can be a little hard to understand on the first read-through. Boyd K. Packer said something similar when he said,"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will change behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." Elder Robbins uses this thought to help us understand how to be better parents. If we want our children's behavior (do) to change, we should focus on the attributes (be) that is causing that behavior. I tried this as an experiment with my two oldest kids, age 7 and 6. They are both home from school from the summer and spending lots of time together each day. They sometimes get annoyed and fight with each other and then come and tattle to me. Individually, I asked them each to work on an attribute. With my daughter, I talked about patience; with my son, I talked about being a peacemaker. When they weren't getting along, I reminded them about working on those things. The next morning, my kids were up early, and already having some disagreement. I was reading scriptures when my 6 year old came out and started telling me the problem. "What do you think you could do about it?" I asked him. "Well, I remember how you told me about being a peacemaker," he said, "And maybe I could do that, but I don't know how." I had my scriptures open in the New Testament to the part where the Savior is being mocked and ridiculed. I read him a couple verses and we talked about how Jesus was a peacemaker. He went back and worked things out with his sister. Wow! Focusing on 'be' is definitely something I will try to implement more in my own parenting. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Night Biff Stories

"It's Friday! It's Friday! We get a Biff story tonight!"

You know you're on to something when the kids start off the day looking forward to their bedtime story. Biff stories are my husband's creation. Even though the stories are named after Biff, he's the bad guy. As the villian of the Friday night stories, he's always up to no good. Kri, Ky and Tyle (variations on 3 of our kids names) try to be nice to Biff, and sometimes he almost comes around, but like a true villian, he never quite changes his ways.

Because this is a Dad thing, Biff stories have lots of bathroom humor --burping, loudly (and publicly) passing gas, that kind of stuff. And even though I sometimes smile and shake my head, I can't complain too much when I hear the kids laughing and see how much they look forward to those stories from their dad.

Part of the magic of Biff stories is that they include versions of themselves. Kri, Ky and Tyle are the heroes, and since parts of real-life creep into the stories, they can really see themselves in those roles. Kri will forgive Biff for ruining her birthday party, Ky makes a new invention to try to help Biff out, and Tyle is always trying to be friends with Biff.

But probably the real magic of the Biff story is that every Friday night, their Dad creates something special and shares it with them. They get to explore the world, work out problems, learn and grow-- and share it all with their dad.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Luxuries in Mom-Life

If you don't have kids yet, you might be taking for granted the little things in your day that will surely disappear once you have children in your home. Here is a list of things for you to enjoy while you can. If you have kids, and can relate, feel free to add anything I missed in the comment section.

Enjoy it while you can list:

Waking up slowly, not jumping out of bed to the sound of a baby crying. Or someone yelling that they just threw up. Or a toddler who came in to show you he has a bloody nose that is now dripping all over the carpet.

Going to the dentist by yourself. I always say it's almost like a spa day for me if I don't have the kids with me. At my last two cleanings our youngest sat on my lap and played with the dental instruments.

Going to the doctor by yourself. My 6 year old son has even been there for ob-gyn appointments, some of which were also conducted with the baby on my lap.

Having an uninterrupted grown up conversation.

Not having to sweep after every meal. I think more food ends up in the dustpan than in anyone's tummy.

Getting to sit down for more than five minutes in a row.

Going to the bathroom by yourself. I think my kids have some kind of sixth sense for when I am in the bathroom, because as soon as I've been in there for 10 seconds, someone comes and finds me.

Cleaning a room that will actually stay clean.

Not having to flush the toilet before you go to the bathroom because someone else forgot.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hitchhikers

I never pick up hitchhikers. It's too dangerous, I always have my kids with me, and I can never seem to find a place to pull over, even if I wanted to. And sometimes, there is a part of me that wants to. My dad was always telling stories of how he'd stop to help someone on the way home from work. One time that stands out is when he stopped to help a woman he didn't know, but when they got to talking, he realized it was my 5th grade  best friend Christine's mom. I also remember my mom once stopping to help a stranded family on the side of the road. They told us that they had been praying that someone would help them, and then along came my mom in the 12 passenger Ford Club Wagon van, an answer to prayer.

When I saw a family walking down Highway 60 the other day, I felt for them. What mom wants her 6 year old walking on the side of the highway-  a few miles from any place they could get help? So I picked them up. They had run out of gas;  the gas gauge was broken.  The three of them- the dad, the mom and their son who had just graduated kindergarten that day- were so grateful. I was feeling pretty good. I got our gas can from home, already filled with gas. Because of the median on the 60, I couldn't drive them back to their car without going an additional 40 minute round trip, so I gave them the gas can and the husband said he would walk to the car. All I asked was that they return the gas can for me when they were done.

"Let me give you directions so you remember how to get back to my house," I said.
"That's okay," they told me, "We remember."
Well, I'm just naive enough to think they actually did remember and would be coming back shortly. Our house is close to the gas station; it was hardly out of their way. As time went by, I even went out and looked on the porch- maybe they left it, but didn't knock. But it was never there.

It may come as no surprise to you, but they never did return that gas can.

I am TRYING to forgive them. I keep remembering that part in Les Miserables where the thief steals the candlestick, and when he gets caught, the man who he stole from doesn't turn him in, but says, "you forgot this one," and gives him the other. And it's not like this was something precious to me, it was just a ($15) gas can filled with $4 a gallon gas.
Still. I went out of my way, trusted strangers in my car, drove back and forth to near where their car was, and didn't even ask for them to refill the gas can. And they couldn't drive an extra two minutes from the gas station to my house?

I have asked myself a lot of times since it happened: if I could go back and do it over, would I help them? I still don't know the answer. Would you?

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Blog Inspiration

As a missionary in Taiwan, back in the days before email really took off, we lived for the mail. Unlike now, when the mailbox mostly holds ads and a few bills, back then pretty much all that we got were handwritten letters. News from back home, letters from my missionary (now my husband), and occasionally a package. Sometimes people you aren't as close with write a letter to let you know they are thinking of you. I remember sitting in our Kaoshiung apartment with Sister Gravell, reading our mail. Hers was from a young girl--a neighbor, I think. It was two pages long, back and front, about everything that was on her mind. After sharing all the interesting details of the games she had played and the food she had eaten, she wrote, "There's so much to talk about!" We had a good laugh about that.

But now, so many years later, I realize she was right all along. There are SO many things to talk about! I had a blog devoted to a love of mine- food and nutrition. But there are so many other things to talk about, that when I thought about blogging again, I didn't want to limit myself to just one topic. This is a blog of all the things I want to talk about. I hope you'll talk about them with me!