Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gratitude: Appreciating Your Spouse

I came across this article written by Elizabeth Scalia (don't you just love her!) and it really resonated with me.  I'm taking her advice and "writing it out to see it".

Chris and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in June and our kids think it is completely hokey that we truly think of each other as being our best friend, but it is true.  As it is in every marriage, and every friendship, there are days when we don't like each other all that much.  For us women, it can become a real pity party when we aren't exactly getting along with our husbands, culminating in feelings of unworthiness and unlovableness.  In hindsight, we hopefully end up seeing most disagreements are a result of hurt pride and not much more.

It is too easy to take each other for granted.  Let's take the time to offer up some gratitude and appreciation for our spouse.  Do it in writing, so your can really see it.

In our 25 years of marriage, I cannot think of a single time Chris has ever told me no.  I'm a pretty reasonable person (at least I like to think I am), but even the most reasonable person has to throw out some pretty outrageous requests and ideas.  It has never mattered how outrageous, crazy, or expensive an idea I've asked him to support.  Not only does he support it, he often outdoes what I've asked.  In those 25 years I've asked him to attend church--not only did we begin attending church, he began praying for people to come into our lives to help us live out our new faith and within 2 years of that request we were both fully "initiated" into the Catholic Church.  I've asked him if I could go off birth control--not only did we say goodbye to the pill, we've had 7 living children and taught NFP for many years.  I've asked him to homeschool--this year marks our 18th year of homeschooling.  When I suggest giving charitably to a particular organization he always gives more generously than I'd requested.  What a blessing it has been to be married to such a genuinely generous man.

Chris enjoys being a homebody and spending time with me.  We nurture our friendship by hiking, fishing, hunting, playing games, watching movies, or just sitting with each other.  I know he actually enjoys my company and presence.  What a blessing it has been to be in such a caring relationship.

Chris encourages my spiritual life.  Since suggesting we begin attending church services, we have not missed a single mass unnecessarily.  We have been late to mass only once in 22 years.  Think about that for a minute.  We have 7 children and are never late.  He has helped make weekly mass an absolute priority. I attend a weekly holy hour in front of the blessed sacrament due to his encouragement.  We endeavor to pray the family rosary each night.  He forwards articles to me he feels will enrich my faith.  He suggests books he feels I would benefit from the wisdom they impart. What a blessing it has been to have his spiritual support.

Probably my favorite quality of Chris' is his sense of humor.  Rare is the day in which he has not made me laugh out loud.  Married life has not all been a joyride.  We've definitely had our bumps and bruises, but for the most part it has been a real blessing being married to this man.  I thank God for the man Chris has become and I thank God for the many graces he has bestowed upon us during these 25 years. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Whole30 Journey

Confession time.  As 50 years is brutally creeping up on me and pre-menopausal symptoms have reared their ugly heads, I've had a very difficult time keeping extra weight off.  For nearly 3 years I've toyed with the idea of trying the Whole30 diet, but my love of a creamy, sweet, morning latte prevented any serious attempt.  After an indulgent trip to my home town for my dad's 70th birthday, I came home heavier than I'd been since giving birth to Leo 5 1/2 years ago.  I knew I needed to do something more than just behave moderately.

Thankfully, I'd already eliminated sugar in my coffee during this past lent.  I even began enjoying my creamy latte without any sweetener.  To make my morning coffee Whole30 compliant, I just needed to give up the dairy.  10 pounds of vacation weight gave me the motivation and I convinced Chris to join me.

If you are unfamiliar with Whole30 here is a link to the website: Whole30.com  In a nutshell, the philosophy behind Whole30 is to eat only foods which actually nourish your body.  This means eliminating foods which are considered filler foods, foods which might trigger autoimmune responses, and foods which are not naturally part of the historic human diet.  No sugar of any kind (no honey or agave and no sugar substitutes, including stevia).  This helps break any habitual cravings for sweets.  No dairy (no cheese, milk, etc. from animals and no dairy substitutes, like almond milk,  unless you make it from scratch canned coconut milk is ok). No grains (wheat, corn, oats, etc.) No recreating baked goods using flour substitutes such as almond flour. No legumes (no peanuts, or beans but green beans and peas are ok because of all the green matter they contain).  No alcohol. Fruit is ok, but limited to a certain extent, you don't really want to start your day with fruit and if you are craving sweets or a snack, fruit is not the best choice as you are perpetuating habitual craving for sugar.  Lots of meat, eggs, and veggies with every meal and this is not limited.

We've already completed 30 days and are currently in the middle of a second round.  Chris lost 10 pounds and looks absolutely great, but he really misses his sugar.  I've lost the 10 I gained on vacation plus 5 more and I feel awesome.  My skin and hair look awesome.  The food really is really good and I haven't felt deprived in the least. I'm hooked.  The biggest difficulty has been finding all the ingredients I'd like to have without any added sugar.  Bacon, and other cured meats are the biggest culprits and the most difficult to find sugarless varieties.

We have had a couple "cheat" days, and I'll tell ya, I felt absolutely miserable afterward.  Even just one slice of Sinclair Oil 100th birthday cake made my stomach churn.  I'm not sure what I will do, once this cycle is over.  I might stick with it completely, or phase just a few foods back in.  I would really like to lose just 7 or 8 more pounds.  I'm just not sure Chris is on board for the near permanent long haul.

Here are links to a few of my absolute favorite Whole30 compliant meals.  These were all huge hits with the entire family.

Dinners:  (With Dinners I serve either a huge salad, sautéed or roasted veggies, and fruit or fruit salad to round it out)
Chicken in Coconut Mango Verde Sauce

Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Loin

Italian Sausage and Potato Quick Skillet

Stove-top Pulled Tandoori Chicken

Lemon Harissa Chicken  (I made my own harissa paste using this recipe)

Five Spice Beef and Broccoli

Green Curry Scallops

Slow Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Salsa

Indian Coconut Korma

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken

Greek Meatballs with Avocado Tzatziki Sauce

Creamy and Smoky Chipotle Pork Chops

Pad Thai


Cranberry Tuna Salad on Apple Slices (be sure to get fruit juice sweetened cranberries)

Turkey BLT Salad

Burrito Bowl (I like this dish much better over raw broccoli slaw)

Curried Chicken Salad

Nectarine Ginger Sesame Chicken Salad

Buffalo Chicken Soup

Zesty Lime Shrimp Avocado Salad

Avocado Baked Egg

Sweet  Potato Hash browns topped with Lox and a poached egg (this recipe cheats a tad as it calls for almond flour, but in reality it is fairly compliant as you're not recreating a baked good recipe using a flour substitute)

Berries Nuts and Coconut Shreds  (We only have this once a week as it is more of a fruit laden meal, but it is soooooo good)

2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes (I know, another fruit breakfast, but these are sooooo yummy.  We top with softened almond butter and diced apples with a little cinnamon or with berries, toasted nuts and coconut shreds)

Easy Paleo Chorizo and Tomato Frittata

Often I'll throw together a quick breakfast skillet by sautéing some veggies, adding some cooked bacon or prosciutto, and then tossing with some scrambled eggs.

Snacks: (While snacking is discouraged, it sometimes can not be helped be sure to reach for something loaded with protein which will be much more satisfying than a handful of veggies or a fruit)

We love the Whole30 compliant Larabars for a quick, convenient snack

Rosemary Mixed Nuts

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Entomologist

Nadja officially graduated from the University of Utah in May with a BS in Biology.  Last summer she interned with Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement, and this season she was hired as the lab supervisor.  Recently Olivia and I were given a tour of the facility, and I could see the definite pride Nadja took in the lab and the work she does there.  She showed us the mosquito colonies she has so painstakingly raised, even feeding them on her own blood.  Her bosses genuinely like her and it is evident she is a very hard worker.  She is still unsure if this is the path she will continue to take, especially since the position is seasonal and she has bills to pay, but it is a great place for her to build her resume.

Recently, we've had a several cases of Zika appear in Utah and one Zika related death.  All have been cases contracted while traveling to Zika prone areas, with the exception of one case in which a family caretaker contracted the virus from the man he was caring for.  Nonetheless, this has sent Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement into alert mode and they are diligently collecting data and searching for potential Zika carrying mosquitos.

Of course the local news agencies have been frequent visitors to the lab, doing their best to get the inside scoop.  Nadja has been featured in several stories and a photograph of her hand holding tweezers with a mosquito has been picked up and used several times by the AP.  I think it
is all so interesting and cool and we are so proud of the work Nadja has been doing.

If you are interested in reading or seeing some of the stories in which she's been photographed click on the following links:

Utah Zika Case raising new questions about how virus spreads

Pregnant Mother with Zika Virus in Utah County

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Does One Do When One Leaves the Postulancy?

Many occasions Olivia's superiors mentioned how stubbornly she stuck to her desire for the religious life.  There was only one period, during her formation years at the school, in which she doubted this was the vocation she was being called to, but then she put her nose to the grindstone and stuck with it.  Her perseverance was remarkable.  In the end, it really came as no real surprise to any of us that she discerned was being called to something else.  Right now, she's determined it is a call to something in the medical field.  We are ever grateful for the amazing opportunities and solid formation Olivia received.  Everything she learned and the graces she received will continue to be blessings in her daily life, I am sure of it. I honestly cannot wait to see what God has planned for her.

Ollie wasted no time applying to our local university and was quickly accepted into Weber State University's EMT program.  She's pursuing her bachelor's in Emergency Healthcare Services, possibly followed by post graduate studies in Physical Therapy.  That's the current plan and she is excited. I'm excited. We're all excited.  She had orientation at WSU yesterday and begins classes at the end of August.

We've also needed to create a space for Olivia in our home.  She's roomed with at least one roommate her entire life.  It was about time she got a room of her own, which meant a reevaluating and renovation of our downstairs area.  Chris moved his workout room to the room in which I've been storing all of our homeschooling materials and Olivia has repainted the former workout room and moved some furniture in to it.  Olivia plans on building a platform bed and has a particular decorating scheme in mind. When she's finished building, decorating, and moving in, I'll post some before and after pictures.

Olivia has her room. Chris has his workout room.  Now, what to do with my bins of books? Today they sit stacked in the media room as Chris frames in and builds a storage closet for me in the main family room.  It's going to have tons of shelving, a hanging bar for clothing, and floor area for storage  of some of the boys' construction type toys.  So far the closest is framed, sheet-rocked, mudded, taped, interior painted, and the French doors are hung.  Tomorrow we hope to finish installing the shelves and then I'll need to paint those.  Then I can move my books in and begin planning our new school year in earnest.  Once we are all rearranged, I'll have the girls repaint the main family room. Finally, we'll focus on the flooring.  Chris and I want to attempt putting in tile ourselves by the basement doorway and around the new storage closet.  That will be our next DIY project. We've also needed new carpet in the basement since moving here four years ago.  I've been holding off for various reasons, but once we've painted and tiled (and paid for all the schooling for the coming year), I think I can give the carpet a green light.  Once we've finished I'll post before and after pictures.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Lenten Spiritual Reading

I saw this graphic on Facebook and loved it.  It really makes Lenten sacrifices more meaningful.

One thing we've adopted the last couple years is to engage in meditative or spiritual reading for 30 minutes everyday.  I've found age appropriate materials for each of the children, even for Leo.  While the rest of the family is reading, I read to Leo and then I squeeze in my half hour wherever I'm able later in the day.  Last year, we all realized how much we all benefited from this focused time of reading, meditation, and prayer.

These are the books I'm reading to Leo.  We read from the Catechism for the first 10 minutes and then we read an entire Treasure Box book.  We read the Treasure books last year, and he really loved it.  He even remembered we had done so when I brought them to my bedroom on Ash Wednesday.

Ben is joining us for the Catechism book.  The illustrations are fantastic and we are able to really focus on some of the tenets of the faith, one on one.  He's also reading chapter books about various saints, I only have a few of the titles pictured here.

I purchased these books for Katerina, but so far she's been reading the Book of Esther from the bible. She will be confirmed this coming June and she chose Queen Esther as her confirmation saint.

These are Angela's selections.  I read 7 Women just a few weeks ago and loved it.  I've assigned Letters to a Young Catholic to some of my other children over the years and the final title was a suggestion from a good friend.  I may read that one, myself, once Angela is finished with it.

These are some of the books I have for myself.  I'd already began Called to be Holy and My Brother Pier Giorgio before Lent.  I read Father Neuhaus' Catholic Matters last Lent and Chris suggested Death on a Friday Afternoon for this year.  Mere Christianity is a title I've always wanted to read and after reading The Screwtape Letters this summer, I decided I definitely needed to tackle Mere Christianity.  The Examen Prayer is one I've read in the past, but have drifted from the practice of a daily examen, which is something I hope to remedy this 40 days.

These are our lofty goals.  With God's Grace, we hope to draw closer to him each day.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} February 11


I made this very pretty (and delicious) challah to go with a curried lentil soup for our main Ash Wednesday meal.  Fasting isn't quite as bad, if you have something so pretty waiting for you at the end.


It was February birthday week.  Our youngest and oldest had birthdays.  Leo blew out 5 candles on his chocolate sheet cake.

And Nadja blew out a single candle on her sophisticated cupcakes.  We decided 23 candles would be way too many to light.  No one likes candle wax on their cake.

Her cupcakes were amazing.  They were pineapple cupcakes, frosted with coconut buttercream and topped with toasted coconut, a pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.  I'll definitely be making those again.


The deer here have gotten down right audacious.  This doe just hung out nibbling our neighbor's bushes as we pulled up.  She didn't spook at all.


We've got a bug traveling through the kids.  Our little guy came down with a low grade fever on Saturday and even took a rare nap.  By Monday he was coughing and sputtering and this morning I have three more with stuffy noses and coughs.  I have the diffuser going with a myriad of essential oils.  Hopefully we'll have this licked in just a couple days.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016

"I like to think of Lent as a 40-day retreat that we enter into with the entire universal Church. It gives us an opportunity to re-examine our personal relationship with the Lord and to personally judge the spiritual state of our own life. The ashes of Ash Wednesday are a stark reminder of the shortness of life, the reality of death, the mortal nature of the human body, and the need for redemption. Salvation has come to the human race in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered and died on the cross for the remission of our sins and to show us that death is the doorway through which we enter into eternity-eternal life or eternal damnation. Lent provides an opportunity for each one of us to contemplate the mystery of our redemption that we might more deeply appreciate the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily life, the forgiveness of sins that He has purchased for us by His suffering and death, and the eternal life that He has promised to those who are committed to Him."
--Msgr Charles Parry, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Bowie, MD

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Friday, February 5, 2016

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Little Lamb is 5!


5 years ago, February 4th, this beautiful baby boy was given to us. His sweet little face won us over immediately.


He has brought so much joy into our lives.


He's also added so much more laughter with is funny faces, dispositon . . .

. . . and a mouth that does not quit moving.


Reality has hit me hard.  Our baby is 5.  Where did the time go and can we please make it stop?

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

I was recently asked for my recipe for homemade mayonnaise. I'm here to oblige.

Homemade Mayonnaise

2 fresh eggs at room temperature*
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup light oil of your choosing**

Having been making mayo for several months now, I'll tell you it is more about the technique than the actual ingredient list. The following is the technique I find the most effective in producing a nice thick and creamy mayonnaise.

Crack eggs into a large plastic cup or quart mason jar.  Add the mustard, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Using a hand held immersion blender, give the ingredients a pulse or two to combine.  Very carefully and slowly drizzle the oil down the side of the blender stick into the jar as you blend the mayo.  Drizzling the oil should take at least 30 seconds.  Continue to blend until the mayonnaise begins to thicken.  This can take between another 30 seconds to 90 seconds more.  You can use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you do not have an immersion blender, a regular blender will work, but I have yet to get the same lovely thick consistency with a standard blender, although the mayonnaise has always continued to thicken while cooling in the fridge.

* Our two youngest boys do not eat mayonnaise of any kind so I am not all that concerned about salmonella poisoning with them. The rest of us are aware of the risks associated with eating raw eggs.  That being said, I use eggs laid by our own hens.  I know what they eat and also how clean their coop is so I feel confident our eggs are very pure.  I have also used store bought, pasteurized eggs with equal success.  Just be aware, this mayonnaise does require raw egg.  Consume at your own risk.

** Any light oil will do.  By light, I mean light flavored.  I used a combination of light olive oil and grapeseed oil.

Cast of characters

Egg, dijon, lemon juice, salt and pepper

Drizzling the oil extremely slowly and continuous blending is the key to avoid separation and to get the perfect emulsion

Blend for an additional 30-90 seconds once oil has been added

This is the consistency you are looking for--not quite as thick as Hellmanns, but thicker than a salad dressing.  This will continue to thicken when refrigerated and will be nearly the consistency of a store bought mayo.  The recipe yields about 1 cup of mayonnaise.

I made tuna salad with about 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, some diced apple and celery, and a touch more black pepper

Tuna salad with apples and toasted pecans for lunch.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Jan. 28


The views just never get old here.  This was taken just a mile from our house.

This was taken on a hike 25 miles from our house.  Yeah, Utah is pretty gorgeous all year round.


I've been making homemade mayonnaise.  Have you ever tried?  It is amazing, delicious, and so much better for you than Hellman's.  I love knowing exactly what we are putting into our bodies.

Have you ever made homemade ghee (clarified butter)?  It is amazing!  We had this over popcorn for movie night and now I cannot have popcorn any other way.  It was so rich and delicious and was actually better than movie theater popcorn (which I adore).  Once again, it is soooooo much better for you too.


Oh, little man of the perpetually dirty face.


Everything is so barren here right now.  Still it isn't difficult to find beauty among the dried out husks.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Budding Artist

Katerina has become quite the artist.  Up until last May, she hadn't really expressed any interest in drawing of any kind and then all of a sudden it is what she spends endless hours at every day. As she practiced, her ability became quite apparent.  She has a preference for Manga type drawing right now, but I'm hoping her horizons continue to broaden as her proficiency does.  Her walls are covered with her creations and she has folders and countless stacks covering most every surface of her room, not to mention the pens, pencils, sharpies, and markers in piles on her floor.  I've scanned in two of her pieces: one from May of 2015 around the time she first became interested and the second from just this month.  The improvement is marked, for certain.  I can't wait to see how she continues to progress.

(K's first anime picture she ever drew)

(This was drawn just yesterday)

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Sun Valley 2016


We took our annual winter vacation in Sun Valley this week.  I was surprised to return home with so few photos.  I guess we were all having too much fun.  It was absolutely lovely in Sun Valley.


Mr. Leo thoroughly enjoyed himself.  He skied a ton.  On the first day he rode the magic carpet to the top of a wee hill and skied down with me running behind him to make sure he didn't run into anything.  He has not quite mastered stopping while on skis.

Being such a little guy, his ski day was done much sooner than the rest our our skiers.  He and I would then head back to the lodge for a lunch date.  


It was a 5.5 hour drive to Sun Valley due to the bad weather we had along the way.  Mr. Leo found ways of entertaining himself.  Here he is tearing paper into itty-bitty pieces.


Skiing with Mr. Leo is tough work for Chris, but they both really enjoy themselves.

Mr. Leo is getting better at turns.

Mr. Leo took 6 trips down the big mountain on our last day.  It's a great workout for Chris.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} 1/14


Another pretty Utah sunset


I have a small collection of thimbles that were once my grandmother's.  This one is so sweet and it makes me happy to have it in my collection.


One of Leo's favorite games is hide and seek.  If we don't find him quickly enough he will peek out from his hiding place to give us a "hint".


It's been a very cold winter here in Utah.  This week we had below zero temps in the mornings leading to quite a collection of frost inside our windows.  Believe it or not, I've really enjoyed the cold weather and I'm not quite yet chomping at the bit for spring to arrive.

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