Burns and Stuffy Nose

This has not been my favorite week.  I haven’t felt well.  I’m not sure if it is allergies or something worse but nothing seems to really help.  I feel tired, stuffy, with sore throat, sneezes, congestion and itchy eyes.  Luckily I haven’t taken any PTO time yet so I could afford a sick day (or my version of a sick day where I still work 3 hours!).  I have to travel this weekend for a family event and I’m kind of dreading it.  I hate flying when I’m all stuffed up.  No fun! (Btw, this might be the end of my 7 ticket, 3 year streak of free tickets from United.  We will see.)

To make matters worse I made carrot soup with carrots I got from the bountiful basket.  While the soup was delicious, as I went for a second helping a bubble of the liquid spit up at me and landed on my arm.  It was very hot and it blistered my skin almost immediately.  Ouch!  It really hurts.  I have been applying hydrogen peroxide and gauze bandages so that it doesn’t get infected but its still very sore and tender.  It got wet when I was in the shower this morning and it stung like crazy (even worse than the hydrogen peroxide.).  I think I better wait a while before introducing it to chlorine and definitely salt water!

That’s all you can say about that.  Maybe its an over-share but when has that stopped me on my blog.  Today I went to Walgreens to get more guaze and I had to wait for many minutes for a lady to get all of her extreme couponing done.  So annoying! I’m feeling tired and a little cranky.  Grrrrrr

Celtic Woman

Recently I decided to embrace my cheesy side. For years I have loved listening to Celtic music when I’m stressed out, starting out with the amazing Enya.  My brother would get annoyed when I listened to Enya and one day he said to me ‘Aren’t you relaxed enough yet!’.

After my mission I got introduced to the group Celtic Woman.  This is the Celtic version of a boy/girl band but I LOVE it!  Its so peaceful and while admittedly cheesy its calming and beautiful. While watching their Believe PBS concert the fundraisers mentioned a concert for Celtic Woman coming to SLC.  On a whim I decided to go for it.  It’d been a while since I’d been to a concert and figured I could find a friend to go with me.

The concert ended up being tonight and I went with my friend Jill.  It was a lot of fun and something different to spice up life.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself- a night full of beautiful music and despite the cheesy lighting it was great!

Me sporting my Celtic woman shirt

Over the years the women in Celtic Woman have changed but the amazing singer Chloe Agnew and fiddler Mairead Nesbitt have remained constant.  Their numbers were definitely the highlights of the night.  Chloe is just a stunning talent.  They had a broadway medley and her singing I Dreamed a Dream was awesome.

Other highlights were Ave Maria and Danny Boy.  Here are 2 videos I took.  Please just listen because the video is shaky.  I just can’t seem to keep my hand still enough while shooting video.

Jill and I at the concert

I love going to concerts.  There is just something about live entertainment that never gets old.  I think my ideal date is a guy thinking of cool concert and planning it out.  That would be awesome!

The Richer Sex

Recently a Time magazine piece and NPR broadcast caught my attention.  Both featured the author Liza Mundy who has written a book on the topic of the recent trend of  ‘women…overtaking men as America’s breadwinners’.   In the article she gives an example of the Hawkins family in Detroit, Michigan.  Despite growing up in traditional families with a working father, the Hawkins father, Danny, left the ‘crushing’ corporate world to be a stay at home Dad.

“He is a master of the shopping list, appointment calendar and household budget; he has served as treasurer of the PTA and the HOA; and on Halloween he did a statistical analysis of trick-or-treaters to gauge how much candy to buy next year. ”

“I told Susie several times that my job is to make her life easier, and I like doing it.”

Susie, the Mom says “We both have made sacrifices but your priority is to provide for your family- the love, the affection, the nurturing.  For us, its about what’s best for the family”.

The article then says “Assuming present trends continue by the next generation, more families will be supported by women than by men…In 2009 4 in 10 working wives out-earned their husbands- an increase of 50% from 20 years before”.  I found this to be an amazing statistic!

“Think about what this portends.  The primary role men have played since they departed the cave…to earn paychecks in the Mad Men era will be passed to women.  The impact will be felt everywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom to the bedroom, in how men and women work, play, shop, vote, save and share, and court and even love each other”.

I have to say I feel mostly positive about these changes.  While still a gap women have been working for decades to reduce the wage gap and be treated fairly for their hard earned labor.  Also, the work of a stay at home provider, traditionally a woman, was downgraded (even still can be downgraded today- Hillary Rosen!) and treated as nothing but watching soap operas and cleaning after kids.  As I’ve mentioned before on this blog despite having a wonderful stay at home Mom I didn’t see its value until I was an adult.  I wanted to do something important and in my young naivety that could only be done outside of the home, out in the big world.

Now hopefully men are getting a more appreciation for what women have been doing for years.  Also, the work in 2 income households is more shared than it ever was before.  It used to be that a woman would work full time and then still be expected to contribute more than her husband to the house/family responsibilities.  Now with more men learning domestic skills such as cooking and cleaning, these tasks are shared across sexes more than ever before.

“As for child rearing, men have become significantly more hands-on over the past generation, and that trend will only accelerate as more families let earning power rather than gender determine who is the primary parent.  While some women will struggle to adapt to more distant mothering, they may also relish seeing their children enjoying intimate relationships with their fathers”.

This seems like a good thing to me?  I grew up in a culture that is always talking about the nurturing gifts of women to the point where men can feel ostracized and less capable of bonding with their children.  I think both sexes are equally capable of loving and raising children.

I was discussing the ‘marriage crisis‘ with a friend the other day, and he said he felt pressure ‘to provide for a family’.  This surprised, even amazed me.  In the modern world I think most women see marriage as a team endeavor where both parties work to make a budget effective for a family.  For me I am not looking for the traditional male protector and provider role in a prospective partner.  I figure if I get married we will be a team and conquer any challenges that come our way together, not a husband guiding me through perilous waters to safety!

On a purely selfish perspective I love this change.  I love being able to go into commerce and experience both women and men in almost every situation.  I have had much better experiences with women doctors (more on that in a bit) and am grateful for the sacrifice they make to serve me in their chosen field.

In the article Mundy goes over the history of male/female relationships and even says ‘Evolutionary psychologists argued that dependence was women’s desired condition- that women were genetically driven to seek providers who could support their offspring. ”

But now “‘the deal is off.  High paying industrial jobs that once enabled a man with a high school education to bring home a family wage are disappearing and as women become co-breadwinners or primary breadwinners in more households, all kinds of assumptions about how the household works are changing such as the domestic division of labor and women’s ‘economic influence at both home and in public’.”

“A study found that in households where the husband brings in more income, buying decisions are made equally, but in households where the wife earns more, she typically makes twice as many buying decisions as the man”

Does this not put additional pressure on already over-burdened women?  Could that not be a negative?  Even if it isn’t, could women still feel a self-imposed pressure to do everything at home and work, despite a husbands efforts?

Other negatives-

The fluid nature of the role of manhood has changed.  While I abhor any notion of chauvinism there was an aspect to a traditional male role that is appealing.  A sense that man knew who he was and what he was supposed to do with his life.  Will Ferrell  and Seth Rogan have made careers out of playing lovable louts who don’t know what to do with their lives.   Traditionally men didn’t have the choices they now have because of the pressures of providing for a family.  Now so many seem to amble about waiting for the perfect job, perfect school, perfect woman.

Also, the desire of women to date and get married reduces when it is  difficult to meet a true and equal partner.  Why get married if you know you will have to provide for a family?  That’s the decision men have shouldered for centuries and women sometimes find it harder to answer than they might have expected. Also, why get married when you can live a happy life by yourself? Characters such as Robin on HIMYM are facing this dilemma.  She doesn’t want to get married but the eager-to-have-a-family Ted is dying to.   Do you see this change amongst your friends and family?

There is also the issue of women still making less money, particularly in certain fields, as men.  We’ve made huge improvements but still careers that are viewed as feminine such as teaching are vastly underpaid.  In addition, women still have a ways to go with entering leadership positions and running for public office.   As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is still difficult for most people to envision a woman as president. I wonder if that will change as these trends change?

And then there is the delicate issue of pregnancy (the age old female problem that women can’t pass on to men!).  Many jobs still make maternity leave a difficult prospect and the idea of being gone for a vacation let alone months of leave can be very scary.  As a breadwinner, can a woman sacrifice such time for her family and will the work-force tolerate it?  Naturally this causes people to put off having children, have less children or have no children at all (All 3 decisions which I support, it is just an interesting societal change).

Last year in the New York Times a doctor named Karen Sibert made huge waves with her article  Don’t Quit This Day Job.  She argued that women who have so much invested in their education to become doctors and don’t work in the field full time are denying society of the investment it has made in their services and from the services they can provide for the greater good:

“Medical education is supported by federal and state tax money both at the university level — student tuition doesn’t come close to covering the schools’ costs — and at the teaching hospitals where residents are trained. So if doctors aren’t making full use of their training, taxpayers are losing their investment. With a growing shortage of doctors in America, we can no longer afford to continue training doctors who don’t spend their careers in the full-time practice of medicine.”

I’m not saying I agree with the doctor (in fact, I think her assumption of an all-or-nothing deal is a bit crazy) but it is a conversation we need to have.  Women need to acknowledge that they may be asked to give up their career full time or that their husband may make this sacrifice (or that you are comfortable with outside childcare, or having no children)  Before you are married or have children it is good to ask yourself the question of what you are going to do and what you want your family to look like?

Whatever choice you make there will be sacrifices for both spouses and their children.  As a society we need to be aware of these choices and encourage a discussion.

We also need to make sure that both men and women are educated in domestic skills.  That they both know how to cook, clean and live on a budget.  I have known so many girls that can barely toast a bagel let alone cook for their families.

Part of these psychological adjustments in femininity and masculinity will go away in time as the differences between the sexes becomes smaller and smaller.  I know a lot of people that would see such a change as a very sad thing.  What do you think?  What do you think of stay-at-home-Dads and the new female breadwinners? Do you think this is a mostly a good or bad thing?

The article ends with this thought:

“It would be nice to imagine a world where employers make it possible for all mothers and fathers to work reasonable hours.  But some jobs will always require more than the eight hours a day.  For a woman, like a man, reaching the highest levels of achievement may depend on a sp0use willing to downshift.  What’s new is that the decisions about who dials back will be based on personal aptitude and what works best for each couple rather than outdated n0tions of which sex is better fitted to what”

Seems like a good thing to me…

Be a Bother

This makes me laugh and it goes along with a discussion about inferring when others make a statement or an invitation.

I had an interesting experience today.  There is a family in my ward who I had greeted but didn’t know very well (that’s true for most of the family’s in my ward!).  Especially without a ward activity I don’t feel like I’ve had a chance to really get to know people.  Last week being Easter a number of people asked me to their home for dinner because they wanted to make sure I had some place to go for the holiday.  I had a lovely evening with one of those families but another one I said ‘please invite me over another time.  I’d love it.’.

So this week I saw the Mom of the family and said ‘would you like to come to dinner tonight?  We’d love to have you.  It’s totally up to you’.

My immediate reaction was ‘I don’t want to be a bother.  I have food at home.  I don’t need to bother them.’  but then I reasoned ‘She is inviting me, so why not?’

With a shrug I said ‘sure.  That’s so nice.  Thank you.’

I offered to bring something, we chatted and then I joined them later for dinner.  We had a wonderful meal with her in-laws and the whole family.  It’s fun to go to someone’s house because I can have just a little bit of food I don’t normally indulge in because I can’t make a whole batch for myself.  For example, she had rolls that were big and fluffy.  I could never make a batch of rolls because I would eat too many on multiple days!

In the course of our conversation she said ‘I was pleasantly surprised when you said yes.  I think that shows great determination to accept an invitation from a stranger who you don’t know very well’.

What I didn’t tell her is that I’d almost said no but living alone has taught me to take advantage of the social opportunities presented before me and gather with others when you have the chance.   Its interesting to me that I would have held off from having a pleasant experience where I wasn’t a bit of a bother out of a fear of breaching some kind of social protocol.  Do we fear that the offer is not really sincere? Kind of like when someone asks you how are you doing and you just expect a ‘fine’ in response even if their world is falling apart?

Do we worry that we really will be a bother even if they don’t think we are at the moment of the request? Or are we just too prideful to accept an offer when it is presented?

Why do we hold ourselves aloft from positive experiences because of a mysterious social fear? Have you noticed yourself doing this? Someone offers you help or says ‘I’d like to do _____ sometime’ but you never pursue their request out of an embarrassment or you outright refuse knowing it would be a good experience?

It’s a funny part of human nature that’s for sure.  Why do we hold ourselves off from good experiences? Strange. I’m going to try and not do that any more.  Take advantage of every good thing that comes my way.  I’m not saying you have to accept every invitation offered to you but to not except out of some type of social protocol is ridiculous.

Anyway, just so you know I love getting invited to others homes and hopefully I’m helpful and can return the favor sometime.  So all you friends out there invite away.  I won’t be offended! 🙂 .

(Big Bang Theory on non-optional social conventions)

I Am a Cheesy Mormon

My whole life I’ve heard things like “I love the Mormon church but hate the Mormon culture”.  What they are referring to is the cultural traditions in Utah that many times are equally popular in other places.  For example, the cliche of green jello, funeral potatoes, scrapbooking and the Osmonds.

I don’t know if it is because of the ‘Mormon Moment’ but lately I feel like anything remotely connected with the church automatically becomes lame and uncool in certain people’s eyes. For example, the recent City Creek Shopping Center is looked down on by some purely because of the church’s involvement. If it was any other investor they wouldn’t give it a second thought. Another example- Mitt Romney mentions Etch-a-sketch and all of the sudden that is lame.

Its very annoying because sometimes I just want to be a cheesy Mormon and not care. That’s all I’m saying. I don’t want to have to defend everything I do or view.   I like the culture and religion.  Not everything but more often than not I like it.  I’m done defending myself and my culture.  If you don’t like it, don’t live here.  There are plenty of other places to live.

I also do not believe there is anything more educated about being critical of one’s culture.  In fact, it is equally easy to be heedlessly critical as it is to ignorantly follow.  Most of these things do not matter in regards to faith or intellect but add a nuanced value to the quality of your life. They actually can make you a more interesting and colorful person.

So here goes- I love living in Utah, blogging, temple work, Utah symphony and opera, family home evenings, tabernacle choir, crockpots, book clubs, pinterest, acapella music, funeral potatoes, food storage, Hawaii, Polynesian Cultural Center, Brandon Flowers, journals, stay-at-home Moms, Gladys Knight, sherbet punch, service projects, frozen yogurt, eternal marriage, most Mormon authors, family history, pioneers, big families, republicans, homeschooling, Hallmark movies, David Archuleta, live theater, watching dancing like the BYU Ballroom dance, BYU Volleyball (pretty much anything associated with BYU I like),  Jimmer, general authorities, volunteering, CTR rings, Church History sites, Utah Olympics, Mitt Romney, firesides, General Conference, missionaries, and all versions of BYU.

I get excited when I stay at a Marriott hotel and see a Book of Mormon.  I smile and wave whenever I see a missionary.  I get excited when I see a Mormon has done well in business or any other field. I like that Mormon’s help each other move and are quick to bring a meal to a friend.

Some people are just critical of anything because its associated with Utah or the Church. I think that is lame. Oh well!

I am a cheesy Mormon- Deal with it!

(Btw, this is my 400th blog post.  Pretty amazing!)

Good Gifts

This post is probably more appropriate at Christmas but I thought of it now so there!

I have always prided myself on being a good gift giver.  In fact, several years ago my brother got me in the Christmas gift draw and his immediate response was ‘I got Rachel.  She’s not a good gift giver’.  I was heartedly offended by this statement and made sure to give him a great gift (perhaps his strategy all along!).   This sentiment came from a gift I had given him as  a child of a toy that I wanted but was in the guise of being meant for him, but who doesn’t do that when they are little?  Practically every gift I gave my Mother as a child in some way benefited me.  There was one year we all gave her perfume and she told me she wondered if she smelled badly.  LOL.

Since those days I have honed the craft of gift giving and become pretty good at it.  One of the best gifts I’ve ever given was to my sister Anna for her birthday before college (I worked for weeks on her birthday party planning decor and food for the whole extended family.).  I made her this book:

It was a guide book for BYU with restaurant recommendations, study tips and suggestions for a good social experience  I don’t know if she ever really used it but that doesn’t negate the value of the gift. I can’t control that!

I’ve also made it a goal of mine to try to bring a thoughtful gift to showers and birthday parties I am invited to.  A gift off the registry is so boring.  For years I’ve prided myself on having the cutest baby gift at the shower.  Rarely have I failed.

So here are some keys to good gift giving:

1. Try to be extra thoughtful.   It can be as simple as finding a book they will enjoy or will show you made effort. Have your ears open (and social media eyes alert) to clues for a movie they’ve been pinging for or a singer they like. Sometimes this is easier said than done.  For instance, I have not had great luck with my gifts to my little brother, but I keep trying.  One day  I will score.

2. Think of what they need in their lives and then try to work a gift around that need.  Gift certificates may seem unthoughtful but for a young Mom they may be just what they want most of all.  A gift certificate to get a manicure or to have their house cleaned may show a thoughtfulness to their needs which will make an impact.

One of my favorite quotes from Conference concerned gift giving and being aware of others needs.  Ronald Rasband of the Seventy said:

“If you come upon a person who is drowning, would you ask if they need help—or would it be better to just jump in and save them from the deepening waters? The offer, while well meaning and often given, “Let me know if I can help” is really no help at all.”

Already I have thought about this quote several times and instead of offering to help, found some way to help, even if its just chatting on facebook with a lonely friend.

3.  Ask them what they want.  Or even better sometimes they tell you want they want.  I love when someone asks me for something as a bit of a challenge.  Something that perhaps I’m going to have to find at a bargain or hunt websites for.  Recently I had one of my greatest gift giving triumphs when my Dad asked me to find him Lord of the Rings DVDs dubbed in German.  I was able to find two on amazon.de.  I had to google translate everything and only ended up with the 1st and the 3rd but it was very exciting!  My Dad can be a tough gift recipient to crack so the few genuine successes are all the more meaningful.

4.  Be a good gift recipient.  If you want someone to enjoy your gifts give them the same courtesy.  In the end it doesn’t really matter if you  hate the gift.  What matters is the thought and love that went into choosing a gift.   Even if it is clear they did not put a lot of thought into the gift, they won’t be likely to do so in the future if you are ambivalent to their current offerings.  Any gift should be accepted with gratitude and if possible a thank you note should be written.   Emily Post says thank you notes should be written “any time you receive a gift (even a ‘thank you’ gift)”.  Emails are sufficient but not quite as thoughtful as a short note in the regular mail.

5. Mention using the gifts you receive.  I have given hundreds of baby gifts out over the years and I always say ‘please send me a photo of your baby in the outfit’.  I can only think of once when someone actually did this and it was great!  If you genuinely receive a gift you don’t like such as an ugly painting suck it up and find a boring, out of the way wall for it.  Every time you see it you can smile and think of your friend and their attempt to give you a thoughtful gift.

6.  The best gifts are one’s that require a little bit of sacrifice. Whether it be a  sacrifice of time, money or creative talent it doesn’t really matter.  My friend and I were talking about how a bountiful basket would make a great gift for a family (or anyone) and at $15 a bargain.  The sacrifice comes in the time spent ordering, waiting, delivering the basket (not too mention the lack of sleep).

7. Experience gifts are often wonderful choices.  One year my friends and I surprised our roommate with Rascal Flatts concert tickets the night of the show.  We went to pizza and announced ‘after this we are heading to the show!’.  It was a great memory (better than the concert itself which was blase).

8.   Finally, the best advice is you can’t control each others gift reactions- especially where children are concerned.  One year my Mother made my little brother the most adorable doll because he kept playing with his sisters dolls (yes, there were attempts at a gender neutral home; although, we all couldn’t behave more stereotypically of our born sex).  He only wanted to open one gift on Christmas morning and after that was tired of the whole fuss.  (he was around 4 I’m guessing).  We forced him to open the doll and he took one look at it and threw it across the room! Eventually he did end up playing with it but that certainly wasn’t the initial reaction we all anticipated!  Just be glad for your efforts even if they are unappreciated and try again the next time.  Eventually it does pay off and relationships are stronger for the effort made.

9.  Try to work in traditions into gifts.  I have a tradition with my nieces of giving books.  This doesn’t take up much space,is affordable, easily personalized (easy to ship with amazon!) and encourages reading.  Occasionally I will stray from this tradition but its worked well so far.  My niece Olive and I have a little shared love for Fancy Nancy and since I don’t get to see her often its fun to have some connection with each other.

10.  Have your eye out all year. There is no reason you can’t set aside a gift in a closet for later in the year.  This will help you save money, ensure the gifts thoughtfulness, and help reduce stress during the holidays  Sometimes you will forget you bought a gift like a pinhole camera kit I got for my brother in law one year and it took me over 2 years to remember to give it to him! At least it didn’t spoil!

So those are my tips.  Maybe they will be helpful as Mother’s Day approaches.  Even just a thoughtful, well written card, can be all that is needed.  Last year a girl in my ward, who is now my good friend, brought me over cookies because she knew I had competed in my open water swim.  She just wanted to say congrats.  What a lovely gesture.  Gifts have the power to make someone feel remembered and that can be the real gift.

Good luck!

Breakfast Burritos

Since I started my fitness quest one of my greatest food struggles has been eating a good breakfast.  I just have no appetite in the morning and what appetite I do have usually craves high carb items such as cereal or toast (and don’t get me started on french toast and cinnamon rolls!).  I like eggs well enough the rest of the day but in the morning cooking them and getting a pan all dirty seems like the biggest burden in the world!

With a few exceptions most of the ready made breakfast foods are terrible for you and very expensive (was just at store and package of VitaTops cost $5.39!).  This left me frustrated and most of the time hungry through lunch (and usually through my morning work out).

So, one of the reasons I wanted to get a new freezer was to be able to easily make green and otherwise healthy smoothies and freeze breakfast meals in advance.  This would allow me to have a healthy breakfast without dirtying pans each morning or coming up with something to make.  I had seen freezer breakfast burritos on pinterest and thought I should try my hand at making a healthy version. Today I was at Sunflower Organic Market and their frozen vegetables/fruit was 2 for $3, a great deal!

Without a real recipe I purchased what sounded good to me for my burritos, came home and set to work. You could of course use non-frozen vegetables.  It just saved me some chopping and prep time.

The finished product! Healthy Breakfast Burrito

(I’m going to try to do my recipe Pioneer Woman style because I just finished her book and read her new cookbook.)

Breakfast Burritos Healthy-style!

24 low carb multigrain tortillas (60 calories, 2 grams fat each.  If I do it again I’d try to find slightly bigger tortillas to have more room to fold)

2 lbs chicken sausage removed from casing (I used a green chile chicken sausage they sell at sunflower)

2 bell peppers color of your choice diced

1 large onion diced

1 bag flat leaf frozen spinach thawed and moisture squeezed out

2 10 oz bags frozen thawed sweet potatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

2 bags 10 oz frozen mixed mushrooms, moisture squeezed out and diced

Cook pepper and onion in olive oil until soft.  Add chicken sausage, mushrooms and spinach.  Once chicken is cooked add sweet potatoes.

In a separate bowl whisk:

2 dozen eggs

2 cups of milk

Grate 1 lb of pepper jack and sharp cheddar and add to your preference

(Next time I would add a healthy dose of hot sauce because I used almost 1/2 a bottle once it was cooked to give more flavor.  It sounds like a lot but when you see how much I made it really wasn’t overly spicy.  I thought the chili sausages would have more spice.  A spicy pepper or two wouldn’t be bad with the bells depending on your spice preference)

I then put half of my meat mixture in a mixing bowl and left the other half in my dutch oven (it was too much to cook together even with my large dutch oven).

I poured half of the egg mixture over each meat mixture.  The bowl I put in the microwave and stirred at 5 minute intervals and the dutch oven I cooked over the stove top.  They both turned out really good! Once cooked I put the mixture on cookie sheets (and added hot sauce for more flavor)

The stove-top version
the microwave version

Then I took a heaping 1/3 cup of filling on each tortilla, rolling it up and folding the ends in.

The assembly line!

I ended up with 2 dozen burritos and extra toppings which I food savered for later. I’m now doing a light freeze so they are easier to work with and then will wrap and food save some of them.  I should have a nice reservoir of breakfasts to enjoy for some time!

The finished product. Healthy breakfast burritos for many days to come!

I’m excited about this project and look forward to making many more variations.  It could be really good with tofu or steak.  Whatever you like.  Test it out and see what you come up with and put it in the comments section.  We all can work together to be healthier and still have tasty, affordable food.  🙂  Enjoy!