Sunday, January 24, 2016

PUMPKIN Luxury and a Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

It still blows my mind that I can ask my Smart phone questions and it answers them! I got my first ever Smart phone in August and after accidentally dropping it into the toilet right away and soaking it in rice for 24 hours, I have been enjoying it's high tech-features ever since! 
One of the cool things I can do is locate the recipes on my blog in seconds. I pick up my phone and say"OK Google", which activates the listening function. Then once my phone starts listening I tell it what recipe I want such as,"Sallyseashell lentil coconut curry." Or "Sallyseashell protein balls." Within seconds my phone has located the recipes on my blog and they appear on my screen. Lastly, I prop my phone up somewhere in my kitchen (I know, I need to make one of these fabric stands!) and cook my heart out! So obviously my goal is to post more of my favorite recipes on my blog for easy access!

This past summer Micah planted a different variety of pumpkins called Winter Luxury pumpkins. They have been so delicious! They are thick, meaty, and a beautiful bright orange color! I have really enjoyed harvesting them, processing them, and turning them into all my favorite pumpkin foods. (So grateful for my husband's thoughtfullness in growing these pumpkins for me.)

First I slice them in half and scoop out the seeds. I wear my Christmas apron year-round.
Next I quarter them and boil them in a large pot for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If I can slide my fork through the meat easily, I call them done.
 After the pumpkin has cooled down, my little guy likes to help scrape the orange meat off the skin.  Pantsless, of course. I collect the puree "mush" in a large bowl to get it ready for bagging.
 Next I measure the pumpkin mush into 1 cup portions and divide them up into ziplock bags for the freezer. Since I use the pumpkin puree for so many different recipes, I've found that keeping one-cup portions is easiest. i.e... A big pumpkin pie takes 2 cups. 24 pumpkin muffins take 3 cups. My morning pumpkin smoothie takes 1 cup. Pumpkin pancakes takes 1 cup, and so on. 
And that's it! I always make sure to have plenty of pumpkin pie spice mixes on hand so I never run out because pumpkin pie spice makes pumpkin......pumpkin! I either buy pumpkin pie spice mix on sale or make my own. If you have powdered ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves, you can make your own easily. (I never use mace. What IS mace??)
 My boys love these pumpkin muffins! We make them whenever we get the craving!

Pumpkin Muffin Recipe:
6 Tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1 1/3 Cups brown sugar
3 Cups Pumpkin Puree

1. Heat oven to 375 F (191 C)
2. Put 24 cupcake papers into two muffin pans.
3. melt butter in microwave or in small pan on the stove on low heat.
4. Put the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
5. In another bowl, mix the eggs and brown sugar. Then add the pumpkin puree and butter.
6. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir until mixed. 
7. Use a small scoop to fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full.
8. Bake for about 20 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Utah or Bust!

Our theme for this upcoming summer is UTAH or Bust! We're basically not making any travel plans other than exploring the beautiful, dynamic, and  natural outdoor resources right here in our own backyard! Last summer we were so busy roadtripping to California and flying to Hawaii  that we didn't do a lot of fun things right here in our very own neighborhood. This summer will be different!
Utah is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. People come here from all over the world to see for themselves the canyons and mountains and rivers and peaks and hoodoos and lakes that make this place so amazing. We haven't even touched the surface of all that is amazingly Utah!
Just recently we took our kids to Snow Canyon to hike around just for a couple hours on New Year's Day. We live just an hour from here! This place is fantastic for little kids who loves to run and climb all over the rocks! The kids can't wait to come back and camp in the Spring.

A couple of weeks ago Micah and I went out on a hiking date. We like to occasionally hire our favorite babysitter and go hiking up in the hills, just the two of us. This time we went hiking in the hills up behind our neighborhood. I had never been back there before! It was so gorgeous! The white snow on the red rocks really takes my breath away every time. I love it!
We took our two dogs walking with us. They went crazy running all over the place. We even lost one of them for a portion of the hike as he took off running up the mountain and never came back. We finally found him back at the beginning of the trail. Phew!
Anyways, it was a fun, romantic hike with my favorite husband and hiking companion.

I took the three older boys up in the red hills a week later to hike after church on Sunday. We had so much fun! They were making me laugh so hard the entire time. They were all  in these incredibly goofy, laughing moods that contagiously made each other and myself goofy and laughy all over again. There was this one moment where my five year old Jonah was trying to scramble up a steep incline. So I told my nine year old Zadok who was at the top of the incline to grab his hand and pull him up. My nine year old grabbed his hand, which was inside of a glove and pulled the glove right off! They started laughing hysterically. I got serious and told them to consider how dangerous it would've been if Zadok was pulling Jonah up from falling off a cliff. Imagine if you grabbed his hand but it was really his glove and it came right off and you had to watch Jonah fall to his death! I scolded. Zadok thought about this for a second then replied,"Well, at least I'd have something to remember him by."
Then they all started laughing again.
Boys, boys, boys.
After that we found a rock that looked like The Grinch. We decided this is where Whoeville is, but the Whos are too small to see so we might have been accidentally stepping all over them. 
In other exciting news, we turned our minivan in for a tour van. Yes, it's an actual 15-seater tour bus complete with beautiful western landscapes painted on the side doors. At first I scoffed at my husband for wanting to buy such a huge, extravagant van, but after thinking about it, it all made perfect sense. This will become our adventure wagon for all our camping and exploring needs! We can take out the 2 back seats and make room for all our camping gear, plethroa of children, and even our dogs! This van will go everywhere we go, checking off our Utah bucket list one canyon, one mountain, one river as we go!

Last but certainly not least, my baby turned 18 months old today. sniff sniff.  I don't know what to say--the time is going too fast! I want to bottle him up and save him forever like this. He's too darn cute. And that curly hair reminds me of a little cherub. I don't want to cut it, but I know eventually I'll have to. It's starting to get in his eyes. I tried a headband but he doesn't like wearing it. He also doesn't like it when I spray the detangler and brush the bedhead out of his hair. So, we shall see. Right now my favorite thing in the world is kissing those little cheeks and rubbing my fingers through those springy curls!
Here's my little buddy with his new boots that he hasn't taken off for three days because he loves them so much:
Utah Summer Bucket List:
Coyote Gulch
Mystic Hot Springs
Kanarraville Falls
Zion National Park (again and again)
Capitol Reef
Navajo Lake
Duck Creek
Yankee Meadows
Uintahs-Kings peak (Micah and Z-boy)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Real life, not braces life

I am trying hard not to let the comments bother me. After all the people giving them were just being friendly and polite and trying to make me feel good. 

"Wow, you look really great! You've lost a lot of weight haven't you?"
"I wish I could lose that much weight! You look amazing!"
"You look amazing! You've lost so much weight!"

I don't really know how to respond so I just say the truth: Yes, actually I was starving after I got my braces put on because I couldn't eat all my favorite foods so I lost 15 pounds and went down two pants sizes. I was pretty miserable because I couldn't eat anything, but yeah, I've lost some weight!

I should be happy! I should be jumping for joy, right? Thank you! I should scream! Starving myself and losing weight is my absolute dream!!
The problem now is that I am slowly putting the weight back on now that my teeth are less sore. It's not a problem for me per say, but has the potential to psychologically mess with a persons self esteem.
"So wait, what you're saying is I look amazing now that I've lost weight? What was I before-- A big fat un-amazing hog of cheese?" Exactly.

In real life, not braces life, when I eat healthy, exercise, and go about my normal routine I plateau at a size 12, 160 pounds. This is normal for me. This has been my normal size and weight since right after high school. This size and weight is where I feel most comfortable in my skin, where I know I'm not over-eating or under-eating or over-exercising or under-exercising: it's right where God intends me to be. However, when I starve myself because of braces, or get huge and pregnant, or eat too much over the holidays my weight goes up and down and changes to fit my growing needs. (Yes, pumpkin pie is a need! ) 

I am happy with my plateau and don't feel that I should put excess energy into trying to be unnaturally smaller than I am. 
So that's why the comments bother me. Just because suddenly I've lost some pounds, I get comments that are potentially supposed to make me feel good, but instead they have the reverse effect. I've written about this before, about how in most cases weight loss compliments are neither appropriate nor helpful. In fact they usually reflect the person's own values about thinness and what their priorities are: being thin equals being more beautiful. more lovable. more healthy. more happy. etc etc.
There's also a lot of people in this world who value being thin over other traits that are far more meaningful like humility, kindness, Godliness, love, tolerance, and acceptance. I won't lie, I've been there before.
But I tell ya what, the shape and size of a body isn't going to have the long term affects we all wish for. After we're dead and gone people aren't going to say,"Gosh, we're sure going to miss her lean legs and rock hard abs." Nope:, they're going to miss the virtues that made us lovable, likable, and a decent contribution to society. This is something I've been thinking a lot about as I see a world where people really struggle with their self worth. Self worth is something I have struggled with and I think most people question at some point in their lives. Am I pretty enough? Smart enough? Important enough? Is what I'm doing with my life going to make a difference in the world?

Well I think the answer is pretty simple. You are valuable, worthwhile, beautiful, and significant because you are simply a human being. By some miracle of the universe, or nature, or science, or God, or whatever your beliefs may be, you arrived here on planet earth and that is enough to make you amazing. People are amazing.
If we could just step outside of this human experience for a second and see things operating from a much grander scale (like maybe outer-space) we would see this race of people living, breathing, walking, eating, playing, loving, and simply existing to rise with the sun day by day. This is miraculous in itself and I don't think it's fair to put other values on a persons life....i.e. You are only important if you are healthy. You are only beautiful if you are thin. You are only smart if you make a lot of money. You are only worthwhile if you are talented. You are only valuable if you believe in God.... and on and on.

All people have value simply because they are people.
I'm becoming more aware of this fact as I grow into a less selfish person.
This way of thinking is  probably not enough to end the epidemic of low self worth in the this world, but it's enough for me to wake up and love my neighbor. And It's enough for me to find joy and happiness in staying home to raise my children. It's enough for me to put down my Smart phone and play with my little boys because they need me. And it's enough for me to accept those who hate me and tolerate those who piss me off. It's enough for me to see the eternal perspective of life and how the most important thing to do is to accept those different from me. Just as God wants me to do.

So I'm not going to worry about lean legs, rock hard abs, or even if people find me all that like able. What is important is that I find value in myself simply for who I am, love myself, and know that I am amazing no matter what size my pants are. In other words, I am trying to be happy here on my plateau so stop messing with me. :)

Last thought: I really like this response from Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) to the folks criticizing her for not looking like the same person in the current Star Wars movie as she did 32 years ago. Fisher has been the subject of online body-shaming and hateful social media posts following the opening film. She responded with her own tweets:

Love her!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Things that made me happy today

Things that made me happy today:

*Driving past my children's school today and seeing my eldest son out on the playground laughing and playing with his friends. I pulled over on the side of the road just to spy on him for a few minutes and watch him jump all over the place with this silly grin on his face.  He was clearly enjoying himself and that made me very happy to see!
This year hasn't been as rewarding as was last year for him. He doesn't love his teacher as much and there's a few kids at his school that really bother him. He is emotionally sensitive in nature so even if the bothersome kids aren't bothering him directly, he still comes home feeling bothered. So, I love it when I see him feeling happy and excited about life. When Z-boy is happy and excited about life, the whole world will know it! He lights up a room! He lights up an entire recess field enough for me to stop and watch him shine.
Z-boy shining bright at home with his brothers

*Micah took Odin ice-skating after school today, just the two of them. Odin loves ice-skating. I took both the big boys on Saturday and watched as Odin went around the rink 67 times (he counted) real fast, non-stop. Today when he went with his dad he said that he was faster than these three teenager girls that he kept passing by on the rink, over and over. And everytime he passed them one of them said to him,"I like your hair!" He came home grinning from ear to ear.
Saturday's trip to the ice rink

*This little monkey. He makes me happy every single day. He is almost 18 months old. He goes to nursery on Sundays all by himself. He loves marbles and bubbles and balls and tackling his big brothers. He hates brushing his teeth, but loves eating the toothpaste.

**Looking at this little picture Jonah drew for me below. He came up to me with this picture in his hand and said excitedly,"Here Mom, this is for you! Do you know why it has heart balloons on it?"
No, I don't! I said.
"Because I love you!" he said!!
My heart just about melted into teeny tiny heart-shaped-balloons. If you know Jonah you know he doesn't share his emotions very often or very strongly. He's told me he loves me maybe once in his entire five year old lifetime. I will keep this picture forever and ever!

Today was a happy day! I have four children that make me happy every single day.

Lastly, here's a picture of my big bracey smile. I'm finally starting to feel like a normal person. I even ate my favorite pistachio nuts on Christmas and didn't die from tooth pain. I am embracing the braces and embracing all the good, happy things in my life. I have a lot to be grateful for!