Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Loving My Weight

Levis are omnipotent. At least, I have granted the four pairs of size 8 jeans sitting in my bottom drawer that level of power for the last 2 years and four months. They have had the power to make me miserable. They have had the power to give me extreme joy (they haven't done that yet) and they have controlled my self-esteem.

Come November, I plan to wrest their evil power from their too-small crotches and miniscule waistbands by DI-ing the dang things. I often think about burning them (along with my double jogger), but that would be wasteful, so I'll give them away.

I'm tired of wishing to fit into them. I'm tired of sucking my waist in and barely getting the button shut. I'm tired of "fitting" into them only to have my skin newly lined with aching cutmarks in a few hours. And I'm tired of endlessly kvetching about it to and with all the other healthy, beautiful, talented and with-it women that join me in throwing the smack-down to our bodies.

I'm done. I'm happy with my body. I want my daughters and the young women I teach and all the women around me to know that I love my body. I am healthy. I am 2 sizes larger than I was before I had children. I workout and I try hard to eat well. And I'm okay. I'm glad. I'm lucky. I work hard for my body and dang, I look good.

Why November? Since giving birth to Hannah the all-powerful Levis have mocked me from their throne, and I have been chasing an elusive ideal-- I would fit back into them. I would! I would! I ran a marathon. I ran a 19-min 5K (that was last year). I helped my team win a 24-hour relay race. I did two parts of a triathlon. I joined a gym. I exercised religiously. Off and on I've tried restricting my sweets and dessert intake as well. That hasn't gone as well as I wanted. I have a serious sweet tooth.

My weight fluctuates 5-10 pds above "ideal." And still the Levis sit in their drawer. And I complain. And I whine. And I say, "I'm just too fat. If I could just drop 5 pounds." And I'm annoying myself and probably everyone around me.

This contest I'm having with Mike, which includes a point a day for exercise, eating no sweets and scripture reading, is my full-health test and it ends in November. Besides exercising regularly I am truly giving eating healthy a good try. This contest is a good effort. It's an honest, maintainable effort as well. Come Thanksgiving, when the contest ends, I will know that my body is happy at whatever weight it is. That will be my new ideal.

In the meantime, I will refrain from falling into the trap of complaining about weight and "how I used to fit into those." And I will stop saying, "I see now why women get plastic surgery." And I will stop scrutinizing pictures to see how much fatter I look now than I used to. And I will think to myself, "Dang. I look good. I feel good. I am good."

And come November those evil omnipotent Levis will be gone.

I'm working on loving what I have. Won't you?

The butterfly does not wish to be a caterpillar again. Why should we as mothers wish for our old caterpillar bodies? :)

Other excellent posts about body image:
From the Segullah Blog
This entry, "Beauty in the Age of Plastics" is really though-provoking. I like the comment trail as well. Also, this CJane entry, "Sweet Cheeks" is a nice 'love yourself' continuation. It references the excellent "To Young Women" talk by Elder Holland
Next, from Mormon Mommy Wars we have "Insecure" by Heather O. Her invitation to name one thing you love about yourself is wonderful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hooper Tomato Days (We missed the plane crash)

I'm only about a month and a half behind in my posts about family life.

For Labor Day we have the privilege of attending Hooper Tomato Days. Usually Mike and I run the 5K to start off the day. This year, since I'm not supposed to run until January, I let my friend Janae win it. Not really. Janae would have kicked my butt even if I were well. She even set a new course record of 19:17. I challenged her to a duel to the death next year. I'm planning on training all year just for that race. :)
Mike ran it and did well, coming in at 20:45 minutes and taking second in his age group.

They had a Kids race after the 5K and Koy, Kandelyn and Kenzie raced in it. So much fun!

Every year the Chambers play in the volleyball tournament and I swear I will not play because I am so bad at it. But they are nice and let me play with them. And they don't yell at me or make me feel bad when I hit just about every ball out of bounds, or miss it entirely. It was a lot of fun to play this year.

Here is my scrapblog about it:

Case lot Sale

I need some sort of a record of what I bought and how much I spent on it, and instead of complaining about how Kenzie refuses to be quiet during quiet time ("Mom, While I was getting my doll out I accidentally scraped her arm on the wall. Is this a big deal?" "Mom, when is quiet time over?" "Mom, I want to show you something." "mom, mom, mom, mom" every five minutes or so.) I will treat you to an insider report of my spending and eating habits. Plus I'm going for efficiency here. If I record how much I bought and look at it during next year's case lot sale I can see what I need to buy more of and what I need to buy less of. Also, then I can effectively yell about how much prices have gone up and how the world is going to he** in a handbasket.

What I bought:
1 Case of Ramen 3.42
1 Case of Tomato Sauce (24 cans) 12.00
1 case of Mac and Cheese 6.00
2 Bags of Flour 6.49 each
2 Bags of Sugar 9.77 each
4 Brown Sugars .99 each
1/2 case of Cream of chicken 6.00
1/2 case of Cream of Mushroom 6.00
1 case of diced tomatoes 12.00
1 case of black beans 13.68
1 case of green chilies 10.56
1 case of pineapple (just for the heck of it) 21.12 (holy smokes. Pineapple is expensive)
2 things (scientific term) of paper towels 5.99
1 thing of toilet paper (I'm interested to see how long 24 rolls last us. Not long since both girls enjoy using copious amounts of toilet paper. Hannah seems to think that if she goes potty she must take at least 4 squares off the roll to throw in the toilet on top of the pee. Not to wipe with-- that's extra--just to throw in to cover up the smell or something.)
1/2 case of peanut butter (12 8 oz jars) 20.28

And just because I'm pretty sure the world will end soon, I bought 50 pds of wheat for 14.99. Not that I have a wheat grinder or anything, but I'm sure I could use those extra paving stones we have in the driveway if worse comes to worst. (Worst. That's such a funny word. Worst.)

p.s. I was just reading over this and realized that I also bought a box of thin spaghetti noodles. It's not on my receipt. Dang it. Now I will have to be all honest and have them charge me on my next trip. And I don't usually shop there. ARGHHH. So much for efficiency.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Boring Canning Details

My brain functions with a Catch and Release sort of mentality. Reel em in and Let em go, is the general idea of all my knowledge. Right now my brain is full of Xterra athlete and event details, because that is what I spent all week writing stories about. Next time they come to town though I won't be able to remember who won what or how the event is run. I might even have to look up if I was there. I used to be smart. I'm not quite sure what happened.

With that preamble, here is a boring post about canning because I get tired of re-inventing the wheel. Last year I posted about peaches and pears and boy oh boy did I use that post this year. By the time I dusted off my canning equipment, I'd forgotten what a peach looked like, let alone how to can it. I'm a little less thrilled about how my peaches turned out this year, the color is not as beautiful as usual, but I'm sure I can figure out a way to fix that and still manage to be a lazy canner.

This year you will be treated to a post about Blackberries! And how I made my kitchen look as if I had killed someone in it. Isn't that appetizing. Makes you want to open a fresh jar of jam right now, doesn't it?

Early this month we were invited by Mike's aunt and uncle to pick from their stash. Holy Canoly. It was marvelous. The girls stuffed themselves and turned their fingers and mouths purple. We filled five huge cookie sheets and one 10x10 pan with blackberries. What to do with all of them? JAM! And freeze a few. And give some to my mom (with hopes she'll make me a pie with them) And give some to Sherrie. And eat some, sweetness exploding in my mouth! Oh yum.

I've never made Blackberry jam before and I thought syrup sounded good too. Well, toss the idea of syrup right into the Canning Hall of Fame terrible tragedies. It was not worth the effort.

I decided to experiment with jam recipes. I'm somewhat obsessed with how much sugar is in everything. I'd like to use less and have my kids consume less, so I was basically trying to see how much sugar I could do without before I put the jam in the freezer for my posterity to be grossed out about when they find it after I die. Because I wouldn't throw it away. I would pretend that I was going to eat it. So I wouldn't be wasteful. Anyway here's the recipes I used:

Batch 1:
I used a recipe (kind of) from Savory Sweet Life. I found this site while looking for jams without pectin. I had some strange idea that pectin made jams unhealthy. The more I read about pectin the more I realized that it's just dried fruit rinds. Or something equally benign. Anyway, I wanted to make some jam without pectin, mostly because I didn't have any.

So I used 6 c. berries and 3 c. sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. I cooked it the way she said to. It tasted great, was a little runny, and yielded 7 pints. I processed them for 15 min in my canner, but I put two in the freezer. Just to see. Someday I'm going to be blogging from my hospital bed about horrible indigestion, but until then I'll keep trying to figure out exactly what I can get away with in the kitchen. Besides I have a stomach of steel. (knock on wood)

Batch 2: This was freezer jam. I broke down and bought some pectin. Like I said, it's only citrus rinds. You can mimic its effects by adding orange rinds (or something. I didn't try this. It seemed much easier to dump in a box of pectin.) I used 4 c. berries and 1.5 cups sugar and a box of pectin for this recipe. Yield: 6 pints. This was by far easier than my first batch and the method I will use in the future. Pectin, I believe in you. I actually followed the recipe in the pectin box on this one, since it called for minimal sugar. Here's a link to the Ball freezer jam pectin I bought. If I wanted to get all crazy and go sugar-free, I could even buy sugar-free pectin. Mah-ve-lous.

Now for the syrup. A Disaster. I blame my sieve. Supposedly you can strain all the seeds out of the berries and have delicious syrup. Well. Here's what I got for my effort. 1 lousy half pint of syrup. Pssh. That's not worth canning. I found a couple syrup recipes and tried this one, kind of. I used 4 c. berries and added sugar to taste. Someone said the syrup was super runny, so I brilliantly though I would just eliminate the water in the recipe. Brilliant. It just got stuck in my sieve. I left it for hours hoping it was just a really slow drip. Nope. The leftover berry mixture in the sieve looked a lot like jam to me. So I poured it into a jar and canned it as jam. It's a little seed-thick, but tastes fine to me. So my yield from that was 1 pint jam and 1/2 pint of syrup. Not an effective method at all.

Second Syrup Batch.
I decided to give the syrup a second chance. After all it was my fault for not putting in the water right? Right-o. Poor little syrup it never had a chance. This time I was going to follow the blackberry syrup recipe that I found here. I really was. But it called for a lot of sugar. A lot. How much do you really need? This requires further research which I am far too lazy to do. I just thought I'd subject my stomach to a few experiments. I'll let you know when I open my last bottle of blackberry jam if diarrhea or other horrors ensue. Until then I'd consult some other source for recipes and canning tips. Like the Ball Website. I just read their FAQs and you don't have to add sugar to can safely.

Anyway I used 6 c. berries and 1/4 c. sugar and 1/2 c. water. Seriously, these blackberries were sweet. I followed their method until it said add more sugar and boil it all again. Nope didn't do that. Yeah. If I were you, I don't think I'd accept any form of jam or syrup from me except the pectin freezer jam. That was done according to regulations. I got 3 c. syrup (1.5 pints) that tasted fine. But again with the sieve! I poured it in and waited and waited and then gave up, scooped out the leftovers, turned them into 2.5 pint jars of jam and gave up on canning syrup completely.

Well, this experiment was completely unscientific. What have we learned? 1. Not to take blackberry jams and jellies from Stephanie. 2. Blackberries are delicious and will stain. 3. Canning syrup is not worth it. I would make some fresh syrup or syrup from frozen berries for breakfast, but I will never, ever make syrup with the intent of canning it unless someone introduces me to a cheap and easy way to do it. 4. Freezer pectin jam is the method to use. 5. Picking blackberries makes you feel like Huckleberry Finn 6. Consult somewhere else for safety and recipe tips.

P.S. Dear neighbors: I plan to give you all a jar of jam for Christmas. I bought a half bushel of pears and made pear honey (scroll down for recipe). This yielded 48 half pints of jam. (I told Mike we could have as many friends as we wanted this Christmas. We certainly have enough jam) I followed the recipe and safe canning guidelines. I canned it safely. I did not perform experiments with it. No worries. I promise. If I give you a jar of blackberry jam though, consider our friendship to be in dire straights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Juggling: Why I've been gone for two weeks

I keep throwing balls into the air and pretending that I am a juggler. In reality, I've always had a fear of balls, so as they hurtle towards me I am trying to dodge and deflect their blows.
Balls I have recently thrown into the air:

Home Preschool: Sherrie, Trisha and I started a group for our 4-year-olds with three other moms. We're each taking a week and developing our own curriculum. So far Kenzie loves it, but cries and gets clingy when I try to leave. She has this Jekyl/Hyde sort of thing going on. She wants to be big and grown-up, but she still likes to cling and cry.

Home "Joyschool": Hannah has been so excited to do a school of her own. So Summer and two other girls in my ward and I started a Wednesday school. We're trying to make it somewhat educational, but still lots of fun. We all have little girls in the same school age group. We're not using the Joyschool curriculum, we're making it up as we go around a theme for each month. On Wednesday morning I have 1.5 hours without the girls. This works out wonderfully as I try to juggle my next "ball."

Work: This is the time of year that things get really crazy for me as a writer for the Standard-Examiner. Cross country, Xterra races and fall road races really add up. This year I picked up a few stories on Lotoja as well as what I thought was easy money on some election stories. It turns out I chose to cover two towns of people who don't have email addresses and don't understand that I have a right to get election results.

Trips: Mike and I just returned from an absolutely fabulous 5-day vacation to San Diego. I'll have to post more when I get caught up. We're also planning to take the girls with us to China Lake in California in a couple weeks while Mike has a work trip there.

Canning: Somehow, even though we don't have a garden, we ended up with copious amounts of produce. It made me happy and stressed all at once. Some of it I bought and some of it was given to us by neighbors (Thanks Melissa!), and some of it was thrown at us while we were trying to escape. :) Not really. We went to pick blackberries at Mike's uncles and walked away with loads of blackberries, beans, cabbage, peaches, tomatoes and corn. That same week blueberries and strawberries went on sale and I decided to do peaches and pears. I plan to do a completely boring detailed post about my canning experiences as well. Gosh dang it. I still need to do applesauce.

I'm feeling a little crazy right now. If you see me muttering to myself or hitting myself repeatedly--no worries. I've probably just dropped one of my juggling balls.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kenzie and the Dance Class

I'm not even going to get into the whole psychology of teaching little girls to "sha*e their b**ti*s." Let's just leave it at: Kenzie took her first dance class from the Falcettes. One of the girls Sherrie (Mike's sister) teaches in YW is a Falcette so we signed up Kandelyn, Kenzie and Gracie for a week-long class culminating in the half time show on the 28th. They had an awesome time together and loved showing off their moves. Besides it was highly entertaining to watch the high school girls try to herd 50 3-6 year olds. Hannah went and would join them for a little bit and then decide she was sad (a common occurrence these days) and sit with me. I believe in prepping your children for their experiences, so I told Kenzie there would be tons of people watching her at the football game. Kenzie told me she was going to be scared, but then she had no problem.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Family Journal Catch-Up A Trip to Snowbird

Awhile ago I might have mentioned having two blogs and keeping family journal stuff on one and something else on the other. It turns out I am far too lazy to have two blogs. It involves way too much clicking. So until I can figure out how to not be so lazy (or really until all my children are safely installed in school and I have so much spare time I start thinking about starting a non-profit organization for poor destitute blue herons), this will continue to be as the title states, "Excited and Confused"-- a conglomerate of things that happen to occur to my mother-adled brain.

Anyway. . . Here are a bunch of pictures with captions so that I don't forget what I did during my summer vacation. Well, I will still forget, but now, if the magic of the Internet lasts for another 100 years, I will be able to come back here and read them and pretend that I remember.

While the Tour of Utah was in town the week of Aug 17-23 I got to write a few stories about it and cover some of the event. It was really a cool race and the excitement about the big name bikers was fun. For one day of the race Mike and I took the girls to watch one of our friends finish a stage of the race (he was racing in the amateur section) at Snowbird. I was also able to convert the trip into a biking action story for the newspaper.

We decided we would have some fun while we were there and ended up riding the tram ($12/adult) and the alpine slide ($9/adult $3/lap rider). The girls loved it. Later we found out we could have bought an all-day fun pass at Costco for cheaper, but we were pretending we were rich, so we pretended we didn't care. (And then we made the girls eat samples for dinner.)

Hannah and Kenzie love sitting on things. Rocks, buckets, cable boxes, and sometimes even chairs. Here they are while we were watching the racers finish the 1000 Warriors race. It was an insane race that started in Park City and finished with that crazy crazy climb to Snowbird.

The alpine slide at Snowbird is a long way to walk, so we rode the lift like the lazy people we are. The lift was free and I think we would have thrilled our children just as much if we just rode the lift over and over.

Hannah and me on the lift. I kept my arm tightly wrapped around her. My overactive imagination kept picturing a kamikaze Hannah bent on jumping off the lift. She was really good and sat very still.

You know, I really like delighted children. Hannah and Kenzie were both absolutely thrilled with the alpine slide.

The line was annoying but the squeals of delight as we raced down on our sleds were worth it. Now Mike plans to install one of these in our backyard, right next to the track and the rock climbing wall.

Next we rode the tram to the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet. Wow! It was amazing. The girls were so excited. Mike, is that a twinkle in your eye? (not an announcement, but if we have another child this picture could make for a good play on the old, "before you were even a twinkle in my eye" line.)

Oktoberfest was also going on this weekend so these horn players rode the tram and played some songs at the top. It was beautiful to hear the music echoing all around the view. On the way down Kenzie got a little bit scared and wouldn't look out the window anymore. Instead she found a tiny hole in the bottom of the tram and looked down it during the ride. I'm not sure how that didn't make her sick.

Happy times.

P.S. I realize that once my children are in school I will probably have far less spare time than I imagine. Especially since I will be saving blue herons.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

So Let it be written . .Rag Quilts are Hard

I have sewn two blankets. And by I, of course I mean my mother. It was a fun project. It took us a few months working once a week while the girls napped (and at the end when I got impatient to finish they watched copious amounts of Disney movies). My mom choose the fabric awhile ago when Kenzie was begging for a pink blanket and while I was ignoring her and trying to force primary colors on her. Then along came Hannah, another pink loving girly girl.

I've made my peace with pink. In fact if you could hear me I would be singing Aerosmith, "Pink is my favorite color. Pink it's like red but not quite."

I remember first being attracted to the idea of a rag quilt because I read online that it was an "easy sewing project." Easy schmeasy peasy. It is a lot of work. And although the sewing skill required is minimal, you still have to sew in a straight line many, many times. Some people may have this skill. But by about square number 19, my skill, which was minimal to begin with, looks like a boxer avoiding a hit--dodging and weaving all over. Luckily, the rag quilt is supposed to look a bit homey. It's charming to have crooked lines. It looks like pioneers sewed it by hand. At least drunk pioneers. Or pioneers who were watching "Enchanted" and laughing themselves silly about the part where the prince is hit by bikers in mid-song. But pioneers didn't have movies. They did have hard liquor though. But I digress.

We choose 12x12 inches for our squares. I'm not sure why. I think because that made our inside batting 10x10. And because we felt as if larger squares would make our lives easier. They did. I pondered making a two 3.5 footx5 foot squares quilt, but my mom advised me that might look bad. Last time we made a rag quilt (in primary colors) we did the squares in 6x6 and there was at least 20 times more sewing. (If I were Mike I would do an equation and figure out how much more sewing there really was, but I'm not Mike. I hate math. I'd rather exaggerate like the true English major I am). We ended up with 70 squares in each blanket. 10 down and 7 across and it fits their twin mattresses well. Hannah has the hand fabric in her blanket (it was too much fun with the alliteration) and Kenzie has the feet fabric.

Now if this were a really helpful blog I would have taken pictures of each step and written out directions. But this blog is obviously not helpful. It is more self-centered and narcissistic, and I'm sorry about that. So instead of giving you helpful directions for making your own rag quilt, instead I will say, "Gosh my fingers hurt from all that cutting. And it seems silly to cut perfectly good material just for cuteness. But I did it anyway." Let the pinkness be with you.