Month: November 2010

In Defense of Utah

I live in the great state of Utah and people are always ragging on it.  I’m not saying it doesn’t have its flaws and annoyances but it also has some great benefits. Here is a little list:

1. The mountains/outdoor activities- Anyone in need of inspiration? Just look at the mountains surrounding you from all angles ( it’s a valley for goodness sakes!). I admit I don’t hike in them as much as I should, but I hope to improve upon that in future months.  There are tons of outdoors activities to participate in year-round.  Of course, there is skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snow shoeing (and sledding!) in the winter, but there is also swimming, tubing, boating, hiking and exploring throughout Utah but especially at its 5 national parks.

2. Amazing local culture- From the moment the pioneers settled in Utah Valley (and even in Nauvoo, Illinois) there was a tradition of theater, music and art in the state.  One of the first buildings dedicated by the Saints was a theater and even Brigham Young acted several times. Now there are local symphonies, theaters, ballets, operas, museums and choirs (including of course the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).  The Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, UT won a tony award for its amazing summer productions. Hale Center Theater is always wonderful (Broadway level performances).  There are great shows by BYU, UVU, and the U.  Plus, the Utah ballet, Utah symphony and Utah opera are all well regarded around the country.  I think a lot of people were surprised when they came for the Olympics by how much culture Utah had to offer. I also appreciate that most of this art, theater and music is low cost and family friendly.

3. Friendly people- I know some criticize Utah for being ‘too Mormon’, and maybe sometimes it is, but being Mormon,  most of time I’m ok with that.  I find people are unfailingly kind, generous and charitable.  Even customer service  is better than anywhere else I’ve lived.  I think a lot of people move here thinking Mormons are going to be a certain way and then are surprised to find us friendly and kind. (All you need for proof is the volunteer response they got for the Olympics- most ever.)

4. Burgeoning food town- By my count Utah has been featured 7 times on food network in recent years.  While Utah County still falls short, Salt Lake and Park City are loaded with great places to eat, farmers markets, bountiful baskets, organic shopping and eclectic stores.  I’ve had delicious Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Greek and American. Its not all chains people!

The Lonestar Taqueria profiled on Diners Drive-in’s and Dives is delicious.  Great fish tacos!

5. A heroic past- I like living in a place that is steeped in history.  The Mormon pioneers sacrificed greatly to come here and it is wonderful to learn of their stories.  I love going to Temple Square and the other sites and don’t do it half as much as I should.  There are also lots of smaller sites that are fascinating such as Cove Fort.  I love going down to BYU and walking around campus.  I changed so much there, it moves me feel of its spirit.

6. Personal Gifts- The last item is all the benefits Utah gives that are unique to me.  I love my friends, voice lessons, gym,  apartment and job. I wouldn’t trade those 5 things for all the glamor of living in New York or DC. (my apartment would probably be $2000 a month if I did!)  The other advantage that Utah offers me is that my family comes all the time but they don’t live here.  This allows me to be a part of their lives but still have my independence.  There is nowhere else I could do that.  I love my life here and even with the snow (which we’ve had a lot of lately) and the cold it is far worth it.

So, come out here for a visit!  I have a guest room (and a pull out sofa) so put it to use.  I promise I will show you a good time!  Come and see this state I have grown to love living in. I will be your own personal Utah Chamber of Commerce!


Things I Am Thankful For III

Thanksgiving is here and that means it is time to trot out my annual ‘Things I am Thankful For List’.  Each year since starting this blog I have come up with 25 items I am thankful for.  This might sound like an easy task but my first list was frustratingly broad with such items as ‘my family’ only taking up one item.  I wish I had been more specific knowing there would be years of gratitude to come.  That said- it is probably good to dig a little deeper for my list each year.  Heaven knows I’m so blessed the list should be unending! Its interesting to look at previous lists to see how my life has changed.  For instance, last year I certainly wasn’t thankful for my gym or a trainer! My cousin Anne has done  tremendous list of 1,000 things she is grateful for.  I don’t know how I could come up with that many!

While this year has been a great one for change there are some things that will never change.  I will always be grateful for my testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restored Gospel.  I will always be grateful for modern scripture, forever families and temple covenants.  If I did repeats those items would make my list every time!  I know that Jesus is the Christ and that he died for my sins.  I know this from personal prayer and introspection.  He loves me and wants me to be happy.  Nothing inspires me more.  There is nothing I am more grateful for.

Thank you to all of you for all the love and support I have received on this blog, on facebook and in person.  This health journey has already been tremendously difficult and I could not have gotten through without each one of you.  God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

25 things I am grateful for

1. Prayer- Heavenly Father is always there when I need someone. Given I live alone there could be lonely hours but I do not feel alone with His presence in my life.

2. My Gym- Today I went to a gym here in El Dorado Hills and it made me grateful for my awesome gym.  I love the spa environment, the multitude of machines, the trainers whenever you need them and the POOL! I could not have lost 35 lbs without it.  Funny how you find just the right thing, just when you need it!

3. My trainer- Michelle has been great.  The perfect trainer for me.  She pushes me with new workouts and difficult routines; however, she doesn’t yell or demean me.  I am not the kind of person who would do well with a biggest loser type trainer.  She is just what I need.

4. My IPOD- My IPOD is currently only playing music out of one headset (no matter the headset); nevertheless, I use it every single day and love it.  I can’t imagine my life without music constantly adding the Rachel soundtrack!

5. Healthy Food that Tastes Good- I’m sorry but sometimes healthy food can be boring and tasteless, which makes me especially grateful when I find  recipe that has some flavor!

6. Swimming– I am grateful for one sport/fitness activity that I actually enjoy and am marginally good at.  Its nice to have a fitness reward that is great for my body and fun.

7. Stefanie and Emily being closer.  My 2 best friends Stefanie and Emily moved to Utah this year.  It has been such a blessing to have both close by- a tender mercy.

8. BYU- As great as my mission was BYU was the most trans-formative time of my life.  It gave me a voice I’d never been able to express before.  It is holy grounds to me.

9. Holidays- Even though birthdays, christmas, thanksgiving all provide bountiful opportunities to mess up my diet holidays are so great.  They give me something to look forward to when work gets drab.

10. Bruce and Tracy Grist- Bruce and Tracy are our new maintenance supervisors and are lifesavers.  They get things done without my nagging.  They like being around me and working with me.  They let me go on vacation and took care of everything.  May not sound like much but they are my heroes!

11. Visiting the Triplets- My cousin Kate had triplets in August and I get to visit them when I go to work in Syracuse on Friday.  It is so much fun and they are adorable!

12. Family Reunions- Sometimes I moan and groan about particular reunions but it is always great to see my cousins and grandparents.  I am lucky to be close to them on both sides.

13. Ben gay lotion- My Dad keeps telling me it doesn’t work but I don’t care.  To me it feels great!  While making my apartment smell like peppermint it has gotten me through many a sore night.

14. Good, Kind Doctors- After the incident with the crazy doctor I realized once again how great a good doctor can be.  Thank you to all the medical professionals who treat patients with kindness and provide accurate medical diagnosis.

15. Photography- I am not as into photography as the rest of my family but I still cant imagine life without it.  How sad would it be to not have life’s moments documented?

16. Broadway Musicals- I can’t think of much I would rather do then see a Broadway musical live.  It doesn’t even have to be in New York.  Some of the shows locally are great.  I am going to Christmas Carol at Hale Center Theater Orem on Dec 11th.

17. BBC Miniseries- one of the reasons I love Netflix is it allows me to continually check out various BBC miniseries.  Everyone knows I love Elizabeth Gaskell (see #18) but there have also been great versions of Jane Eyre, Emma, Little Dorrit, Wuthering Heights,  and Persuasion recently.

18. Elizabeth Gaskell– I can read her books (and have read them) over and over again.  I LOVE all of them.  The last three years I have read North and South at least 3 times.  I LOVE IT!!!  If you haven’t read it don’t be scared by the length.  It is so good.

19. Poetry– Any reader of this blog knows I love poetry.  I find it amazing how a perfect sentence can encapsulate an emotion, a world.   I wish I had more talent in writing but I love reading it.

20. Book Club.  I mentioned book clubs on my first list but it was never a separate item.   After about 4 months of failures finally this year I have established my own book club.  I love it!  We have read a variety of books and the conversation is always good.  Thanks to all who come!

21.  Julia Child–  This year I have come to idolize Julia Child.  Her book My Life in France is one of my all-time favorites.  I LOVE IT!  She not only revolutionized home cooking but had the guts to change her life at 40.  She had the courage to be her best self.

22. Free Elections- As this radical election shows the American people have the power to change their democracy.  I am grateful to have that say and to be able to vote.  Never missed an election since I could vote at 18.

23. Computers and High Speed Internet- Last year I went on a cruise where it was very expensive to use our computers or the internet.  That trip aside, I can not think of another day in the last 2 years that I have gone without using the computer or fast internet.   I do everything on it- even my shopping.

24. Art- I love beautiful art from all periods.  Throughout my apartment I have paintings by Van Gogh, Minerva Teichert and other artists.  I wish I had some artistic talent but I appreciate those that do!

25. Christmas Tree– Over the years I have developed some of my own unique Christmas traditions including going to the Messiah Sing-in and seeing a Christmas Carol at Hale Theater (and watching every other version I can).  Another tradition I have is my Christmas tree.  It is called a memory tree and it is full of ornaments that either come from a meaningful place or symbolize an event of my life.  I also have little silver picture frames that have recent photos of my family.  I love it!  (this year it is a bit tricky to figure out where to put it but I will find a way!

Thanks again to all of you.  I love you!  I know that 2011 will give even more to grateful and I can’t wait to see what it offers.

The Pioneering Spirit

Today I was looking through my stationery collection (yes I have a stationery collection that craves a pen pal) when I saw my Minerva Teichert note cards I bought several years ago at the BYU Museum of Art.  Minerva was an artist that reached her prime in the 1930s in Utah.  She is primarily known within the Mormon community but she deserves a wider audience.  Her palate is unique and relaxing- using mostly pastel colors.   Some of my favorite of her paintings are:

Don’t you think these paintings are beautiful? I actually have the Martha and Mary one (the middle one) framed in my dining room.  Seeing that painting reminds me to take a second and “choose the better part.”

Anyway, today I was looking through my note cards and one of Teicherts painting called Zion Ho! stood out to me.  It is a painting of a pioneer woman raising her hands to the heavens as she pushes her hand cart through a mountain valley.  I can only imagine that she is saying “Yes! I did it! Another mountain done!”

I’ve always looked at the pioneers and thought “I could never do that.”  I am so not a hiker/camper.  My survival skills are next to nothing and I know I would be a complainer.  (I’d drive everyone crazy.)  That said- when I looked at this painting I felt a moment of connection with the woman.  Right now I am fighting the battle of my life.  I don’t know why I’ve been given this trial or why it has to be so hard but I suppose valiant saints of any era have not known the answers to those questions.  As I looked at her I felt a comfort almost speaking from her saying “you can do it! It is hard and scary!  Keep going! We set the path for you now run on it!”

The pioneer women didn’t know why they were persecuted, kicked out of their country, forced to travel thousands of miles across a snowy wilderness, to find a home in a salt-lake’d desert surrounded by ominous mountains.  They must have had moments of discouragement and frustration.  I wish I could have heard those conversations. Can you imagine how the women must have comforted each other?  I actually can because I think of the comfort and support given to me with my trial.

I know my trials are light in comparison to the deep suffering of the Pioneers  but their legacy of thriving through trials makes me want to push harder until I conquer.  It’s almost like a  “fellowship of sufferings” (Philipians  3:10).  The strength of the pioneer women strengthen me, and I in-turn strengthen others.  Our various trials may be different but the experience of suffering is the same.

Looking at the painting I felt the sufferings of the woman but also the exclamation of victory.  I wanted to go up and hug her but sadly it is a painting!  Still, the moment of connection reminded me that many have faced difficult trials that never seemed to end, yet they persevered with faith. I know if they could do it then, I can do it now. Zion Ho!

Venting About Weight Loss

As I mentioned in my earlier post I’ve been a little stressed out lately.  I’ve had a lot of work on my plate and been trying to keep up my part time exercising job.  To be honest its been exhausting!  I went to the doctors yesterday and I think we’ve started on the path for figuring out why I’m tired all the time and weight loss is so hard.  The doctor was very supportive but it brought back a flood of emotions and memories.  It was like all the struggles, diets, criticism, looks of disdain, judgments, disinterest from boys and over 20 years of failure came welling up.  I feel like I’ve been absorbing the emotions and filtering it for the last two days.  It may be hard to believe but I have a healthy self-esteem. Still, that doesn’t mean I haven’t faced challenges with weight loss and my ‘never-want-to-change’ body.  In a way it has been more difficult to be trying so hard and be fat (although admittedly less fat). A quick fix is very tempting but I’ve done that before and it never lasts.

Permanent weight loss is something I have never been able to figure out and am just starting to get.  The path I’m on is dauntingly difficult and emotional in a way only a journey starting when I was 8 could be.  I know it is awesome to have lost 35 lbs but those lbs have been won with blood, sweat and tears (some shed this week!).  I should get a gold medal in weight loss if I pull this off.  Its certainly been the quest of a life time.  I sometimes wonder why Heavenly Father feels I need this challenge from such a young age?  Why does it have to be this hard- especially when it seems so easy for others?  Why couldn’t I be skinny and meet Mr. Sunshine and life be perfect? I don’t know but it must be what I need to be my best- to be perfected.  It must be!

this is how I feel most of the time!

I know its silly to worry about what the world thinks but since I have this forum I just want to say one thing to the world- the next time you see a 275 lb girl and your tempted to think “what a fattie”  just remember she might be exercising until collapsing for the last 8 months.  Please keep in mind that maybe she’s been eating 1300-1500 calories and denying herself almost all her favorite foods.     She may be trying as hard as she can to change her life- so understand her struggle before you dare judge her. She may not be the lazy coach potato you think she is. In fact, she may be in better shape than you! (or at least a better swimmer! 🙂 ).  Please try to see her potential.  I used to know someone who would take photos of fat people in parks and at Disneyland because they were supposedly funny.  It is that kind of cursory glance, mocking without any follow up questions,  disdain for a fellow human beings struggles,  that makes me want to scream.  The idea of someone thinking I’m funny because I’m fat when I’m working so hard to change makes me crazy.  If you want to see the type of prejudice I fight against check out this link.  Phew!  I’ve said it, now moving on!

As I say this I want to make it clear I’ve had nothing but amazing support from my family and friends.  They have been awesome.  My parents and siblings have been especially great supports.  I have felt unconditional love no matter my weight, and I am so grateful for that. Thank you for the phone calls, emails, comments, shoulders to cry on and arms to hug when victories are achieved. I am particularly thankful for everyone that has listened to me cry again and again  this week.  Thank you so much. You wonderful people allowed me to let it out and now I feel like I can move on and keep fighting!

So there world- think before you judge, remember everyone has a journey and never give up! I’m not going to!

Recipe Winners

So lately I’ve been very stressed out.  I’ve been working long hours trying to find tenants for our rentals (which are found!) and my other responsibilities.  The exercising has also been great but combined with the high work hours I feel wrung out- completely tired.   I just can’t seem to figure out how to exercise without it completely draining me of all energy for the day.  It can be very frustrating. I went to the doctor yesterday and got some medicine that should help my hormone levels be more balanced.  I am very hopeful that this will help me to feel better.  Its hard to explain but I feel like there is something off in my body and hopefully my doctor and I are down the road to fixing the problem.  Have you ever felt that way about your body? What do you all do to keep your energy up?  How do you know when to push yourself with exercise and when your body truly needs a break? What can I do to speed up my weight loss when I’m already dead to the world?   I’m still trying to figure all this out!

Anyway, I’ve been overwhelmed lately and have a long time taken to declare the winner for the recipe contest.  The three best I tried were as follows:

Roasted Winter Vegetables. I don't know if I am completely won over by brussel sprouts yet but they were good. Sent by Suzanna Rush

Take a medium sized bowl-full amount of winter veggies (wow that
sounds like it makes no sense…but it will, I promise haha), such as
brussel sprouts (my fave), yams, and potatoes UNCOOKED and chop the
potatoes until they’re about the size of the brussel sprouts.

Toss in enough olive oil to coat and one package of powdered onion soup mix

Put the entire mixture on a baking sheet in one layer

And then bake for 20ish minutes on maybe 375, take it out, flip
everyone over, and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes.  Until the onion
pieces look like they’re caramelizing 🙂

stuffed chicken breasts. This was a good recipe sent to me by Amber Winkle.

Mushroom and cheese stuffed chicken
3 tsp ex virgin olive oil
2garlic cloves minced
1/2 lb shittake mushrooms finely chopped
3/4 tsp herbs de province
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 oz reduced fat goat cheese softened ( I use fat free or reduced fat
mozzarella because the first time I made it I couldn’t find goat cheese
and the mozzarella worked great.)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 shallot chopped( I do green onions)
3/4 c chicken broth
6 T oj
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp cold water

To make filling heat 2  tsp oil add garlic cook 30 sec add mushrooms herbs
salt pepper cook about 5-6 min. Transfer to a bowl add cheese. Stir cool.
Cut pocket in side of chicken. Divide filling and stuff inside each
chicken. Add remaining oil to pan salt and pepper. Cook 8 min ea side.
Keep warm.
For sauce/ gravy
Add shallot to same pan and cook 30 sec. Add broth and oj. Bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 3 min. Meanwhile dissolve cornstarch in cold water
in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into the skillet. Cook stirring
constantly until it bubbles and thickens about 1 min. Pour over chicken.

(The only thing I would cut out would be the orange juice.  I also added an onion to the stuffing)

these cookies are as good as the supermarket pumpkin cookies and only have 2 gr fat and 75 cal. Amazing! Amber Alison send me this.

1 spice cake mix

1 30 ounce can pumpkin

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 c pecans or walnuts

1/2 c chocolate chips

1 egg

Mix all together.  Drop tablespoons on greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 for 13 minutes.

(Since discovering these cookies it turns out that everyone else seems to have heard of them.  I can’t believe that after dieting for over 20 years nobody thought to tell me about these amazing cookies.  In the future dear friends tell me of such things!)

All these recipes are simple and delicious but the one that excited me the most is the cookie recipe.  It was exactly the type of recipe I was hoping to get- a healthy version of something I crave.  All of the sudden cookies are possible and this make me happy!  So Amber wins the prize! Thanks to the submissions and please keep sending me your healthy recipes and perhaps I will do other contests.

The Republican/ Tea Party Opportunity

As all blog readers know I am a Conservative American that has strong passionate feelings in regards to politics.   For years I pretended to be a moderate because I thought it sounded open-minded and fair.  However, I began to notice that most of my views both morally and fiscally landed on the conservative side.  (If you want to see a few areas I agree with President Obama check out this post) Finally after the 2008 election I decided to stop pretending and embrace my beliefs- not only embrace but fight for them.  I was disgusted by the stimulus package, car company bailouts, government intrusion into our most personal choices, mounting debt, imminent deflation of the dollar, the massive health care bill, and declining moral values.

Then came the tea party rallies, which gave me the chance to protest these policies. I don’t think I have ever felt as patriotic or as proud to have freedom of speech then when I carried my sign in the tea party rally.  It was a great moment in my life. (btw, why does it seem like protesters on the left are characterized as bold, courageous,  and patriotic but the right are described as radicals and dangerous? Makes me crazy!)

stop the insane spending

I know the movement has been mainly Republican but to all the Democrats who mock it- the tea party made many establishment Republicans reexamine their policies.   Politicians like Bob Bennett would no longer get the automatic rubber stamp from their republican base.   Bennett served for three terms but was not reelected in the primary because of his vote on TARP and support of health insurance mandates.   Despite many characterizing it as ‘extreme’ or ‘radical’ I have yet to see anything in the tea party movements (and rallies) that wasn’t patriotic and concerned.  We  don’t want to see our country go so far into debt that there is no way back.  We also want to keep our freedoms and our ability to choose how we run our lives.  Clearly we need government but the involvement should be as minimal as possible.  Washington needs to trust the American people and the free market to make the right choices- with a little nudging from Uncle Sam along the way.  Getting our country on track and out of debt will require CUTTING programs (some of them quite worthy) and getting rid of entitlements.  We cannot continue to spend money we don’t have.  To me it is as simple as that. As I mentioned before, this goes for the Republicans and Democrats.   They both got us into our current mess.

On Tuesday, after a year or more of campaigning, many of the Tea Party Republicans came into power- particularly in the House of Representatives.   Naturally not all of the tea party republicans won their races but this should be expected in any new inner-party movement.  In the Democratic party many progressive candidates lost election early in the 20th century and now they are the mainstream of the party.  For instance, William Jennings Bryan ran for president 3 times, loosing each time.  Now his ideas are part of mainstream liberal doctrine.   As weird as it sounds I expected some Tea Party Republicans to lose on Tuesday.  After all, Rome wasn’t conquered in a day!

Anyway, the next two years is the chance for the Tea Party Republicans to live up to their rhetoric.  We will see.  I am cautiously optimistic.  I know it will be hard to get everything the movement wants with just control over the house but I will be looking for some noticeable change.   Even if the bills get vetoed I want to see the budget cuts go through the house and let the Democrats be to blame for blocking them.  If these new Republicans wimp out I will be very disappointed.

This statement by Tea Party star Marco Rubio is encouraging of good things to come. Let’s hope he and others live up to the potential…

I pray our country can get out of the grasp of Chinese debt, that the dollar can become strong and that traditional values will reemerge.  The closer we get along these lines the happier I will be.  I hope I have explained my views well.  Its always a little scary to put them out to the world for scrutiny.  Please be kind as we debate the issues.

Cooking Lesson

Yesterday my sister Anna with her roommates Taylor and Becca came over for the first in what will hopefully be many cooking lessons.  We had talked about doing this for a couple of months and I was thrilled that we actually did it!  With fall in full swing I had a request to teach the girls how to make soup.  French onion soup is Becca’s favorite soup so that’s what I chose to show them.  I also thought it was a good, simple recipe for new cooks.  In addition to the soup we made homemade bread and decorated a cookies and cream cake.   While I admit this is not the healthiest of meals, I figured it was Halloween and we could go a little carb crazy!

The one thing I didn’t think of was what cutting 2 lbs of onions would do to our eyes.  It was intense in my kitchen and all of us had red eyes and tears (not exactly the best way to start off a cooking lesson but oh well!).   Anna did a little video tape to show their pain:

Once we got through the tears we caramelized the onions, added the broth and then transferred the soup into oven proof bowls for the croton/cheese toppings.  Delicious!


Delicious french onion soup!
This french onion soup was souper good!


I had already baked the cake so I showed them how to cut layers in it, add a pudding filling,  and frost it with whipped cream.   It was a yummy cake- perfect for Halloween.


cookies and cream cake


Don’t worry I’m back on the diet bandwagon today. In fact, I met with my trainer this morning and got a beast of a work out! Maybe the next class I do will have to be a healthy food class but on Halloween come on!  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I hope to do it again soon.

By the way, I am going to put out a winner for my recipe contest this week.  It has taken me longer than I thought to test out the recipes.  Only 2 more left!  I didn’t want you’all to think I’d forgotten it.