Home Feely Humnifub

I just have to share this lesson we had for tonight’s Family Home Evening, or as my mother-in-law calls it, Home Feely Humnifub. Since we’ve been going through some sudden, unexpected home renovations lately, our humnifubs have involved lots of power tools. Tonight, we were able to return to our old routine, and I was pretty pleased with how it all turned out.

We took our lesson from Robert D. Hales’ talk Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and from 2 Peter 1:5-7. We had one of our teenagers read the scripture listing Christlike attributes while our youngest put wordstrips with each attribute in the correct order. We then discussed what each attribute meant, and how they related to each other.

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Then we read and discussed the following quotes from Elder Hales’ talk:

Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.”

As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet.”

And then came the really fun part. We rolled out eight strands of dough (one for each of the attributes we discussed).

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Using the recipe and braiding instructions here, we wove together each of the eight attributes into one lovely loaf of bread.

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And it looked even better after baking.

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No Tomato Left Behind

I love our garden this year, especially all the tomatoes and peppers. I’ve been canning salsa (and pickles and jam) like crazy the past month and I’ve only injured myself twice  – one cut finger, one burned thumb. Just look at all the beautiful colors. It almost seems a shame to eat.

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My go-to salsa recipe comes from my mother, but every year I manage to lose it and every year I have to ask her to send it to me again (and each time she sends it, it’s a little bit different). This year, I’m going to post the recipe here so I’ll always know where to find it. Just be sure to remind me if I forget again next year.

Since I don’t always follow the recipe exactly, I’ll include any changes I’ve made in parentheses. Although my mom will be disappointed, I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever followed the recipe exactly. It always tastes great though, so feel free to adjust as necessary. For cutting the veggies, I like the Vidalia Onion Chopper – it’s fast, cuts into neat little bites, and I’m less likely to cut my finger (usually). My mom insists that the tomatoes need to be cut by hand but I respectfully disagree.

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J’s Canned Salsa

  • 4 quarts chopped Roma tomatoes (Although Romas are better because they’re less juicy, I always use other tomatoes as well – anything I can get my hands on to fill my 4 quarts.) When my 8 quart bowl is full of whole tomatoes, I know I have enough for 4 quarts chopped.
  • 3-4 onions
  • 3 green peppers (or red or yellow, or really whatever will save me another trip to the grocery store)
  • 4 jalapenos (only leave seeds in if you really like it spicy)
  • 2 Anaheim chili peppers (or any other kind of chili peppers, or more jalapenos, or more green peppers)
  • 1 clove garlic (I just use a big old spoonful of the pre-minced garlic)
  • 1 T. Accent
  • 1 small can tomato paste (I leave this out quite often – it just depends on how thick you like your salsa)
  • 1/4 c. vinegar
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch (I also leave this out most of the time, but if you want to thicken it up, go for it)
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • Cilantro (I usually forget this, but it’s good with or without)

Chop tomatoes, onions and peppers and put in a large pot. Add garlic, Accent, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Combine vinegar and cornstarch and add to salsa. Add salt, pepper, and sugar. Simmer on low 2+ hours. Add cilantro just before canning. Process 25 minutes. Makes anywhere from 3.5 to 6 quarts.

Butter Fingers

I have a special guest blogger today: Fritz is a 3rd grader who loves to cook. He’s very excited to write about how we celebrated Pioneer Day this year. (Actually, he was very excited about writing his very own blog post until it came to actually writing it. I know the feeling.)


When it was pioneer day I wanted to make some pioneer recipes. We made corn bread and butter from scratch. To make the butter you just put cream in a jar and shake it.

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It felt like a long time to shake the cream but it was only half an hour.

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It started out fun but I got tired.

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Really really really tired.

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It didn’t look very yellow but it was still good.

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We made some cornbread that was really good especially with the butter I made.

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and the neighbors LOVED IT.

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If you want to make the cornbread here’s a link.

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Pioneers had to work hard.

 

Break’s Over

I took a break from this blog for a while, trying to decide if I really had it in me to keep going or if I should just call it quits. The whole reason I started it in the first place was for my own enrichment. I figured no one would want to read it anyway, so I should just do it for myself. After a while, when it turned out some people actually did read it, I found myself caring about what they thought, or how they would react. This is probably an appropriate response to putting something in writing out in public, but when I shifted my focus, I started to enjoy it less.

I started to worry that the new experiences I was looking for were too shallow or trivial. I wondered if it was too selfish of me to focus on my own thing when there are so many things to freak out about in the world. Shouldn’t I drop this silly blog and focus on more meaningful things?

I had a lovely summer, with lots of free time to read by the pool, work in the garden, and bake yummy treats. I didn’t accomplish a whole lot, but I had time to unwind and hang out with my family. After a while, though, I realized that all this unstructured leisure isn’t good for me in the long run, so I bought myself a new planner.

The jury’s out on whether it was the right choice for me – I’ll need to see how it serves during the school year when I have actual things to schedule. It involves a lot of goal setting and follow-up questions for accountability which I think will help me when we’re back to real life and regular bedtimes. We’ll see.

The thing about this planner is that each morning, I’m supposed to list three things I’m grateful for and three things I’m excited about. It’s a nice idea, but I noticed this summer I could rarely think of even one thing to be excited about, let alone three. I couldn’t bring myself to put in writing that the only exciting things I could think of were the treats I would bake that day.

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That’s the thing about not doing much – there’s just not that much to be excited about. So, selfish or not, even if it’s not always deep or interesting to anyone besides myself or my mother, I’m getting back into it. Forcing myself to write once a week has been good for me, and I’ve missed having a weekly goal, even a silly one.

It’s kind of a shame I wasn’t writing over the summer, because I did get to knock a few items off my List of things to try. I visited Oregon and Washington, two states I’ve never been, and spent a lovely day in Seattle.

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I went on a cruise for the first time, thanks to my mother-in-law’s generosity, and visited Alaska (also a first) and British Columbia (my first time on the west side of Canada).

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We went whale watching and felt like storm chasers, we visited glaciers, and we ate a lot of food.

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Fritz fulfilled his dream of deep-sea fishing, and at one point, as he was reeling in a salmon, a bald eagle swooped down and tried to snatch Fritz’s fish off the line. How’s that for exciting?

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It was an amazing summer (according to Fritz, the best he’s ever had), but the break’s over. It’s time to get back to work – real work and blog “work”. On a related note, does anyone know where I can get my hands on a Segway?

Put a Pin In It: The Root of the Problem

I love eating vegetables, especially when prepared well, but I’ve noticed that there are certain sections of the produce department that I just walk right past without even looking. Since I’ve been trying to expand my vegetable repertoire, and because we’re going to be deciding what to plant in our new, bigger garden, I thought I should try all those vegetables I’ve never cooked before. You know, all the vegetables from that book I used to read to my kids.

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I thought it was worth a try, just in case I find something I love as much as sweet potatoes. I’ve never found a sweet potato recipe I didn’t like, but I never really liked them until recently. If I could be converted so fully to yams, who knows what else is out there for me to love?

Maybe I should have spaced these out over several meals, but I had a deadline. That’s why, for dinner tonight, my family was served an assortment of roasted veggies and Red Lobster biscuits. They love the biscuits so much, I knew they couldn’t possibly revolt if everything else turned out to be awful.

Spaghetti Squash

I like most squashes (is that the plural for squash?), but for some reason, spaghetti squash seemed too complicated to try. That turned out to be a silly assumption, because it was easy peasy. I’m not sure I’m in love with the recipe I tried for Cheesy Garlic Parmesan Spinach Spaghetti Squash (try saying that with a lisp), but I do think I’ll try growing my own squash this year. Any suggestions for other recipes are appreciated.

Parsnips

Parsnips look a lot like pale, sickly carrots. Since I like carrots, I thought parsnips would be an easy transition. I chose to make Honey Roasted Parsnips because I prefer my cooked carrots with a sweet glaze. Unfortunately, there was a bitter aftertaste that I just couldn’t enjoy. My husband likes them a lot, but he also likes gross stinky olives, so take that into consideration.

Turnips

Maybe if I had known ahead of time that turnips are bitter, I would have chosen a recipe that didn’t include balsamic vinegar. Lesson learned, since my experience with this recipe was not a positive one. My husband didn’t like it either.

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I’ve noticed that a lot of recipes compare their weird vegetable to potatoes. Kind of a “tastes like chicken” for root vegetables. I had high hopes for this one, since I love my recipe for maple syrup roasted sweet potatoes, but I just couldn’t get past the bitter aftertaste. My husband (big surprise) liked it.

Radishes

I can’t stand raw radishes so I thought I’d see if I like them better cooked. I tried this recipe for Crispy Roasted Radishes, and although they weren’t really crispy, I did enjoy them much more than my previous radish experiences. Fritz was hesitant to try them, insisting that radishes are too spicy, but even he had to admit that they were pretty mild. Even our dog likes them.

Rhubarb

Okay, this isn’t really my first time eating or making rhubarb, but apparently my husband doesn’t hate it as much as I thought he did when we were first married, and apparently our rhubarb plant is exploding, and I really needed something coated in sugar and topped with whipped cream for dessert, so I made this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars. It’s not even cheating, because rhubarb is a vegetable. And it was delightful.

Now, if any of you have suggestions for how to cook eggplant and artichokes so that I finally like them, I need all the help I can get!

 

Not All Who Wander

I once asked a friend what she did to get such great looking legs. (It was not as smarmy as it sounds now, although I may or may not have used the word “gams”.) She insisted that hiking was her only form of exercise, which surprised me. I always thought of hiking as something too enjoyable to be considered real exercise. Could it be true that I could get in shape by doing something I actually like? I decided to give it a try this week.

Although I live minutes away from many possible hiking trails, I’m embarrassed to say that I tend to stick with what I know and avoid any unfamiliar path where I could get lost or, even worse, encounter any deer. Every summer, I make big plans to take my kids on weekly hikes, but somehow it never happens. I decided to use this week to not only put some variety into my exercise plan, but also to try out some possible places to take the boys. A few of the hikes even had the added bonus of getting to spend time with my husband.

We started by “Hiking the Y”, my first time. I know it’s a rite of passage for BYU students, but since I wasn’t one, I haven’t particularly felt the urge to hike it until now. It’s pretty much straight up a mountain – we had to stop to catch our breath a few times. It only took about an hour, and the weather and view were lovely.

I appreciated the signs posted at each switchback urging us to keep going, like little cheerleaders. Our favorite part of the hike was right at the end as we passed a little boy, maybe four or five, and what I assume was his grandfather. They were reading the current elevation on the first sign when the boy said in the tiniest, cutest voice: “My pwediction was five feet off.”

The next evening, we took advantage of the fact that we were in Salt Lake and my husband introduced me to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near Red Butte Garden. With only one hour until sunset, we weren’t the only ones trying to get a quick hike (or bike, or dog walk) in before dark. It was a busy place, but I can see why.

If the weather had been more cooperative, I would have tried more hikes closer to home. I did dare to try a longer one, close to my mother-in-law’s home near St. George, with just my son Grub. Our destination was “Elephant Arch,” in the beautiful Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.   When I’m out in the desert, I tend to worry about things like snakes, scorpions, and dehydration. Luckily, Grub is pretty much Dwight Schrute when it comes to knowledge of what to do in a disaster. I knew that if anyone in my family could help me survive a snake bite out in the wild, it would be Grub.

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Our goal was to find Elephant Arch with a few vague instructions and the promise of signs along the way to guide us. We found our way to Bone Wash easily enough, then were told to follow the wash until the signs pointed us towards Elephant Arch. Sounded pretty simple.

We were lucky enough to hike not long after a rainstorm when the color of the sage was an unreal sort of green. The rain also made the sand a little less annoying to wade through. (I still had to stop half a dozen times to empty my shoes because they were filled to capacity.) The red rocks were amazing, and at certain points, I felt like I was in The Flintstones.

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We kept walking until we reached a dead end – no way around or through or over. That’s when we realized we probably missed the sign for the turnoff.

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I’m kind of glad we followed the whole wash, though, because we got to see lots of good stuff we would have otherwise missed.

Walking back, we looked to see where we went wrong. We saw a few possible spots it could have been, but none seemed right.

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But then we found the spot. It was so obvious, I couldn’t believe we had missed it the first time around. Turns out we had been so distracted by our delicious snack from Trader Joe’s, we walked right past it. But can you blame us? They were really good.

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Once we found the turnoff, it wasn’t long before we reached our destination. Somehow, even though Grub told me it was right behind me, I still couldn’t manage to see the arch. Duh.

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Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t hike by myself. I would have been so lost without Grub.

During our three hours together, I realized that Grub is a good hiking buddy, not just because he’s willing and doesn’t whine. It’s also because he has so many things to talk about, from random trivia to deep thoughts, we never ran out of things to discuss. It really helped the time pass quickly. When we finally got back to cell range, my husband called to check on us. I told him about how we missed the turnoff because we were distracted by Scandinavian Swimmers and he was very confused.

I know you’re dying to know about my legs, so I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Although I enjoyed each of my hikes very much, I did not see much progress in my weight loss goals this week. Back to the boring gym machines, I guess. The good news is, I can find my way up the stairs and to the elliptical machines without getting lost at all.

Feel the Burn

It’s April again, my recovery month. The month I do fun stuff or heavy stuff – whatever I want. This April, since I’m so close to my second nap and have stayed disciplined (bordering on obsessed) for almost three full weeks, I’m only choosing blog challenges that will help me in my quest to shed the weight of the world I’ve been carrying for a while now. I can’t have anything distract me from my goals because I am easily distracted, especially by food and naps. For one month, this will become my own personal Health and Fitness blog. You have been warned.

This week, I noticed that I’m already getting bored with the same old workouts. I felt the need to expand my horizons, to turn to the wisdom of the past.

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I searched for inspiration in the previous century, specifically the 1980s and 90s. And like any true seeker of truth, I looked to YouTube as my guide.

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You know all those crazy workout videos people share on Facebook? I started to think maybe it was unfair for people to judge solely based on select clips. Maybe there really was some value in giving each workout an honest chance to prove itself. I did it with Prancercize, so why not see what else I could discover?

BODYFLEX

This was not my first time with this particular technique. My sister did these exercises daily in the 90s, and sometimes I joined her. She still swears by it for tightening up double chins. I can remember several times being upstairs and panicking when I heard the “PAAAH” breathing, thinking someone was dying down in the basement. My sister has one of the most powerful “PAAAH”s you’ll ever hear. I gave one of the other Bodyflex videos a try, and was reminded of that song from my kids’ Elmocize video – “Workout in a Chair”, except with less actual workout involved.

Although I really enjoyed making my very best lion face, I’m not sure I got a lot out of this workout. It probably won’t make it into my regular rotation.

DANCE! WORKOUT WITH BARBIE

This one was really weird. I can’t decide if I was more bothered by the length of Barbie’s thighs or the frighteningly perky workout instructor.

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Jennifer Love Hewitt fans will enjoy watching her in the video, but the dance moves are so fast and jerky, I had trouble keeping up. I also did not appreciate the reminder that I never could, and apparently still cannot, do the Roger Rabbit (renamed in this video: “Attitude”) or the Running Man (“Jammin’ Jogger”). Thanks for making me feel self-conscious of my actual human-like body proportions and my inability to do 90s dance moves, Barbie. I just don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

ZUIIKIN’ ENGLISH

This series of workout videos appears to be meant for Japanese businessmen to learn English while getting a little bit of exercise during the workday. Each exercise repeats a phrase in English several times, covering such topics as what to say in a business meeting, a golf game, a doctor’s office, getting around town, asking someone on a date, or what to do if you are robbed by two men.

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The workouts are focused mainly on the arms, and after 30 minutes, I was feeling it. I also noticed an improvement in my business English. The moves sometimes seemed awkward to me, but I’m sure with practice, I could master them. I also think that, with a little bit of work, someday I could sound like I know something about golf.

SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES

After growing up during Richard Simmons’ heyday and watching so many Sweatin’ to the Oldies commercials as a child, I was really looking forward to the chance to try it for real. Unfortunately, these seem to be targeted to those who need an extremely low impact workout. I felt like I got more exercise sitting in the chair than I did with these dances.

LET’S JAZZERCISE

This video is led by Jazzercise’s founder, Judi Sheppard Missett, who is quite a character. When I first saw clips of this video on Facebook, I watched it without sound. At first glance, Judi reminded me a lot of my mom in the 80s – similar hairstyle, tan, and body type. But once I turned the sound on, I realized that’s where the similarity ended, mainly because my mom is not crazy.

As I did this workout, I tried to pin down just who she reminded me of. Her speaking voice sounds like Doris Day, but her personality reminds me more of Carol Burnett’s Miss Hannigan character. Her tendency to speak the lyrics of each song reminded me a bit of William Shatner, but when I woke up the next morning, I realized she reminded me more of the cute old man at a nearby Alzheimer’s residential home. He also likes to break into song or quote song lyrics in their entirety, but when he does it, it’s endearing because he’s old and sweet and has Alzheimer’s. It’s not quite as cute when Judi does it.

I could maybe overlook her quirks if the workout was effective (much as I do Jillian Michaels and Tony Horton), but I woke up with several pulled muscles. Not just sore, but pulled. Days later, they still hurt. I think I’ll steer clear of those moves in the future.

CHER FITNESS: A NEW ATTITUDE

Out of all the workouts I tried this week, this was the only one that felt like actual exercise. In the introduction, Cher is pretty clear about the fact that fitness is not her profession and that she takes all her cues from the professionals. Much like the Barbie video, the workout is led by another, with Cher interjecting now and then with little quips and jokes. At one point, she cuts the instructor off mid-sentence when one of her songs comes on: “Oh wait, don’t talk now. I want to hear this song. I love this song.”

The amazing outfits in this workout let you turn back time (see what I did there) and be grateful for how far fashion has come since 1991.

Although the YouTube exercises were a nice way to break up the monotony, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to help me achieve my goals. They did, however convince me to give leg warmers and sweatbands another chance. They also reminded me that, no matter where you are on the fitness spectrum, you can always start somewhere. There’s something for everyone.