Monday, November 19, 2012

Amazon Launch

It's finally here! Launch day on Amazon. Dear Girls is now available for Purchase. Let me tell you why you might want to buy this book.

Dear Girls is all about body image. It is written for girls age 12 and up. It is about one girl's journey from body hatred and eating disorders to health and healing. It is a message of hope, of health, of forgiveness, of self-care and empowerment. This is a message our daughters (and maybe even we as mothers) need. Dear Girls is written in the form of letters, and though names of people and places were changed to protect privacy, the events described in this work are true.

I wanted to be honest and real with people about the dangers of certain ways we think of ourselves and others. I wanted to talk about competing and comparing, and how damaging that can be. Most of all, I wanted my girls to know that the key to unlocking their power and potential in this world (and they will be powerful) is to look past how they look, and see what they can give. What we look like is barely a part of who we are, and once we realize that and focus on who we are and what we can do, all kinds of opportunities open up for us. I know, because I'm experiencing it now. Please pin this to your "Books" board, please pass this on to neighbors and friends. I believe in this message, and I know you all know people who might need to be reminded of it right now. Thank you so much for your help and support. I'd love your comments!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Launch Party!

I am so excited about this party I can hardly stand it. Not only is it at one of the COOLEST venues in Salt Lake City, Beauty Redefined is coming to give one of their life-changing presentations for us! Then there's the food, which I planned so it will be some of my favorite things. Oh, and a crowd of my friends, family, and future friends in one room celebrating the launch of this beautiful book....See why I'm out of control excited??

The party is on Tuesday November 27 from 7-9pm. The Church House (which is not a church anymore, that's just it's name) is located in Salt Lake at 129 North 600 West. Parking is available on both sides of the street as well as in the parking lot to the south of the building. Enter through the main doors. Books will be available for purchase and signing (if you want that kind of thing). Please either RSVP here, or let me know in a comment here if you can attend. The more the merrier, we want plenty of people (especially moms and teens) to experience this party!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Bouncing Baby Book

Folks, it is finally time to announce the completion of a project I've been working on for the past year. It's a book. It's called Dear Girls, a Mother's Message about True Beauty. It's written for girls age 12-25, and is about body image, and taking healthy steps to discovering our power and potential in this world. It is based on my very own true story.

"If you don't quit worrying about your body, your girls will start worrying about theirs." These chilling words spoken by a true friend have haunted Rachel since the day they were spoken. Worried there might be some truth to that bleak prediction, she decides to write her young girls a story, one that tells her very own tale of forgiveness, health and healing.

The book is due to come out in mid-November, and a launch party will be held at the end of November for any who want to attend. More details will follow, but until then please enjoy this teaser chapter of my beloved project: Dear Girls.

   The Beauty of Boys

November 6, 2011
Dear Girls,
“This, like all other stories worth telling, is all about a girl.” That’s one of the first lines Peter Parker speaks in the 2002 hit movie Spider Man. Sometimes when words like that are spoken by a cute boy on a big screen it sounds romantic. When I was younger, though, and I heard a girl say something like that about a boy and her actual life, it sounded pathetic and desperate.  Why was that? Why did I think that the pursuit of a girl by a boy was romantic, but the pursuit of a boy by a girl was just sad? It’s because in my mind, you only had to pursue a boy if you weren’t good enough. If you were good enough, perfect enough, skinny enough and enough enough, they would come after you. And that was just plain romantic.
I was in sixth grade when I first noticed boys noticing my body, and to my dismay, other girls’ bodies. I was boy crazy for as long as I can remember and I craved their attention. I had at least one dramatic and devastatingly deep crush every school year. I couldn’t name all my teachers, but I sure can tell you who I spent my time thinking about each year. From Brandon Fisher in Kindergarten right on up to Billy Walters in fifth grade I had someone to daydream about.   Sixth grade was when I discovered how exciting it was to actually earn your crush’s attention by flirting.  Back then it was “totally in” to be “going out” which of course did not mean going anywhere at all, but that you were committed to a lasting, meaningful relationship with a particular individual as long as you both shall live, or until he broke your heart at recess, whichever came first.
The boyfriend I was most proud of that year was Shawn McGee. He was the new kid, so his allure apart from his heart palpitation causing dimples was his mystery. He sat next to me in class and was the shy, blushing type. He could kick the ball the farthest in kick ball, run the fastest in all PE activities and was the tallest and most athletic of all my classmates. He was an only child, which was interesting to me since I had four siblings. He lived right by the school.  I got to walk past his house every morning and afternoon in my to-and-from school travels.
At that age, as any self-respecting sixth grade girl can tell you, you have to beat them at something to get their attention. Then be flirtatious and fun for the most part so they’re not insulted, just impressed. Then you have to tease them and pay them lots of attention.  I did my utmost to make sure I was on the opposite team in kick ball and always played the outfield so I’d be in prime position to catch his high flying kicks in my direction. It almost always worked. I flirted shamelessly with him every day. And then it happened. Right around February that year he asked me out! Not on a date, of course, for in sixth grade, the words, “Will you go out with me?” took on a much deeper meaning than a simple possibility of an upcoming date. No, no, those words meant commitment. I of course wrote “yes” on the note he had passed me to submit his request. I can almost feel the butterflies now.
The next week was very important because it was going to be our first (and likely only, but you couldn’t tell me that) Valentine’s Day as a couple. I had to wear the absolute perfect thing, of course, and think of something completely meaningful to give him. I mean, a valentine’s gift isn’t just your average present ladies; this is something you bestow upon each other to symbolize your deep and abiding love! Also it had to be under $5. Tricky.  I planned balloons and candy. I had to get up early and beg my mom to take me to buy the balloon bouquet and heart-shaped chocolates I thought he’d like most. Carrying them to school with me made me feel so special that those multicolored balloons might as well have been carrying me off the ground. He surprised me with a card he stamped himself with a teddy bear stamp and: a rose. A ROSE! Oh man, that’s when you know you’ve made it, girls, when you can proudly tote a rose around to all your classes on Valentine’s Day and even the teachers noticed. I was living the dream, and Shawn and I lasted clear into that spring.
 In early April I secured the envied crossing guard duty. It was always a privilege to be a crossing guard at any crosswalk, but this time I got what I considered the best news of my life up to that point: I was assigned the crosswalk on Ridge Street, right by Shawn’s house! Every morning I would arrive early with my neon orange flag and walk kids across to safety right where he could see me if he so chose. Every afternoon, I later found out, he and his friends really would watch me that whole week. It was then I heard the powerful words he said about me. These words filled my heart with the joy of success and feeling wanted and loved.  Randy Chapman told me that Jason Stock told him that Shawn said, “Rachel has the best body in the whole sixth grade.” Done.  I now knew exactly what I had to have in order for the boys to love and want me around: The best body. Did I need to be funny? Nope. How about fun, easy going, sensitive, a good cook, smart, or rich? Nope, nope, nope.  Beauty had now been defined to me by a boy I liked: The best body. And who determines whether or not I have the best body? The boys do, by the amount of attention I receive from them.
I tucked that golden nugget of what I thought was knowledge away for future romantic pursuits. I imagined I had the key to ensure I was desired, loved, and otherwise doted upon for the rest of my life. Little did I know what a double edged sword that “knowledge” would prove to be.
The summer before seventh grade was a trying one. Shawn and I broke up (no surprise there), and I entered the summer with no strings attached. I went to the pool every day with my friends, had a great tan, and spent many a carefree eve with night games and sleepovers. Also I gained over twenty pounds.  Yes sir, puberty bit me hard, right on my growing gluteus maximus. I didn’t know what to do. I thought puberty came with menstruation and that had happened ages ago back in the fifth grade! I totally thought I’d dodged the weight gain bullet of puberty. But no, that summer I passed the dreaded one-hundred pound barrier, and had one fleeting wistful glance at it as I ran right through it to a hundred and ten. What?? What are these weird white stretch marks on my beautifully tanned and otherwise muscular thighs? How did that unsightly flab appear overnight on my upper arms, and what the?!? Are those LOVE HANDLES? Life? Over. Beauty? Gone. Hopes of ever catching anyone as fabulous as Shawn McGee again? Dashed.  I felt shafted, doomed, and otherwise ill-fated. That my puberty should consist of a period and weight gain seemed outrageously unfair. Plus I got braces and zits. Oh how could it get any worse? It would though, because I was about to enter the deep dark hellish hole we refer to as Middle School.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hidden Peak Hustle

I love to run, obviously. I would change almost anything in my schedule around to go. Running trails are my therapy. However, I have very strong feelings against races. Why? I'm a cheapskate. I just feel there is something fundamentally wrong with paying to go running. Also, most races are run on pavement. I can't pay to run on the road.  I've been very vocal about this view, so you may find it surprising to hear that in early September I participated in my first ever 10k race.

First of all, it was a trail race set in the beautiful mountains of Snowbird. Secondly, my friend Hilary found a Groupon for it. Win-win.
Hilary Lesh and Andrea Morganegg, two of my favorite running pals

unplanned matching outfits.
Altra loving girls. These shoes seriously rock.

I should mention that while we had all been running regularly, we did not find it necessary to train for this particular race. I didn't think the altitude difference would be that big of a deal. Turns out going from 4,000-ish feet to 8,000-ish feet really changes things!

 It was brutal in the beginning. Steep inclines, coughing like mad in the thin air, and trying to keep up with the group took a toll, but the middle was absolutely gorgeous.We hit our stride at about mile two. It was a lovely time clear until mile four when we all thought we should be done and the nice person at the drink station told us we were just over halfway. What? Then the inclines began again. Who plans a race with hills at the beginning AND the end? Oh well, at least it was pretty!

We all finished within minutes of each other. Over all not a bad first race. They even had really cute T-shirts for us, not just the big old boxy man T-shirts I was expecting. We were greeted with applause, water and stroop wafels at the finish line. Best. Cookies. Ever. Would I do it again? Maybe next year, if stroop wafels are still involved.

At the end.

A moose we saw next to the parking lot as we left.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rim to Rim. The Grand Adventure.

It's almost three months later.  I'm literally sitting here pep-talking myself into writing this story, it's that exhausting. Oddly enough that just makes me want to go again, almost like I need a do-over. I'll begin by telling you that hiking Rim to Rim in one day is never recommended by the people that work in and around the Grand Canyon. In fact it's strongly discouraged.  It's roughly 25 miles across with sever elevation changes. It is approximately 7000 feet down from the North Rim to the floor, and 6000 feet back up the other side. Many hikers who are ill-prepared attempt it with disastrous results. We were all pretty well prepared, though, and among the eight of us, there were only three first timers. My dad has done this same hike four times now since 2002, Jen three times, Nate and I and Jon Lewis now twice. We had been training for months and were very excited to go. We started at 6 am and planned on a 10-11 hour hike time. When we take people that have never been before, starting at 4 am like most Rim to Rim-ers kind of defeats the purpose of showing someone the canyon. They would miss the whole North Rim and then some. We chose June for the large amount of daylight we would have. Also, we hoped it wouldn't be too hot yet in June. That kind of makes me laugh now. Our group was large, consisting of eight hikers: Jim Curtis (my dad), Jen Curtis (my sister), Derek Baker (Jen's boyfriend), Nate and I, Bob and Brandon Allan (my uncle and cousin from California), and Jon Lewis (our friend).
The hikers at North Rim. 6am, ready to go.
(L-R Derek Baker, Jen Curtis, Nathan and Rachel Larsen, Bob Allan, Brandon Allan, Jon Lewis, and Jim Curtis)

We had a group of four people to shuttle the cars around and meet us at the South Rim. My mother, as well as my mother and father in law, Chuck and Cheryl Larsen, and my aunt Janet were taking that job. They hiked with us for the first mile and a quarter to a lookout point. We began very slowly, since we had the shuttlers with us. They were just on a nature stroll, and had no interest in hiking the thing in its entirety. They just wanted a taste of each rim. By the time we reached the lookout point my legs were shaking with the effort it took to hold myself back on the steep downgrade. I knew I'd be completely exhausted by the time we reached the bottom if we didn't pick up the pace to give my quads a break. Jon Lewis, Nate and I decided to jog a little ahead. Well, Jon wasn't jogging, he was hiking, but his long, quick strides soon left us in the dust.

At the lookout point not far from the top of North Rim

Nate and I at the look out point. You can see the canyon we'll be hiking behind us.

One first stop was roaring springs, approximately 5 miles down. We all stopped for a quick refuel and water break. We met many hikers there, some coming, some going, and it was fun to chatter about each's hike and destination. Jon took off ahead of us again.  Nate and I  again made the decision to jog to save our legs. We knew we'd be hiking with the rest of the group after Phantom Ranch, so we weren't too concerned about staying together as a group at that point. Another two miles and we were at Cottonwood Campground. We were all still feeling fresh and exhilarated.  We then took a mile and half detour to Ribbon falls so anyone who'd never seen it before could behold it's splendor.....

Ribbon Falls in all it's glory.
I kind of wish we hadn't taken that detour, though. Nate and I had both seen it, and we felt like it took the wind out of our sails hiking back to the trail from it. It was with that slight decrease in energy that we began the trek through "The Box".   This is a 4 mile corridor with 1000' rock walls on either side. It tends to trap heat in those walls. The trail heats up like a convection oven. It feels endless. We alternated jogging with walking through it, and drank as much as we could.  My muscles started to feel stiff, and I started wishing for the cool air of the little lodge at Phantom Ranch.
The Box

Still smiling (kind of) in The Box

 When we jogged into Phantom Ranch I was worried. We were roughly two-thirds through our hike, but my muscles were already screaming. We got into the little lodge/store thing and found Jon there guzzling ice cold lemonade and refueling. We ate. Our fuel was simple, and I think that really helped us. We chose peanut butter filled pretzel, nuts and freeze dried fruit. Jon said he'd been there for about a half hour. The first thing I noticed about Jon was that he was covered in dried salt. Seriously, white waving lines were all over his hat, his face, his arms and shirt. I'd never seen anyone visibly lose that much salt in their sweat. I asked about his fuel. He said he still had plenty of salt replacement, electrolyte replacement and the like. He was very chipper. He stayed with us while we waited for the others. When they arrived my sister's boyfriend, Derek came in and laid down on a bench at a table. He just walked in, groaned and laid down. He didn't rush up to the counter like the rest of us for some lemonade, he didn't move. Uh-oh.
Refilling water, checking and bandaging blisters at Phantom Ranch. (L-R: Rachel Larsen, Derek Baker, Jen Curtis, Jim Curtis)
We waited for everyone to feel refreshed for another 45 minutes. We discovered you could buy ice there. ICE! Oh man, we bought three big bags to split among our eight packs. As we sat filling our packs with it, a worker came by to check the AC wall unit that was by our table. He said it was 99 degrees inside the building. It took me a second to think that through. If it was 99 degrees inside and it felt heavenly, what is it outside?  Hell. That's what it was.

Nate and I by the Thermometer outside Phantom Ranch.  it reads 124 degrees. In that bulletin board there is a sign referring to the thermometer that says, "That can't be right, can it? Yes it is."
After everyone felt sufficiently fueled and treated we got back on the trail. Jon once again went on ahead. Just outside of Phantom Ranch there is a thermometer, and it was then our hopes for a cooler day in June were dashed. It read 124 degrees. We still had a long way to go. Derek started having some real dehydration issues. His muscles were cramping, and so it was to the music of his grunting and agonized gasping that we continued on.

The trail heading out of Phantom Ranch
Our next landmark was the bridge across the Colorado river. I dreaded that bridge because I remembered what came after it. The hardest part of the hike, that's what.
On the bridge over the Colorado.
From this point on there are not many pictures. You'll soon read why. We continued on through what is known as the Devil's corkscrew. 200' of winding switchbacks heading steeply up in red hot sand. Sand. Oddly enough, I felt pretty good. We had to stop frequently as poor Derek's entire back would seize and we'd hear his strained Arrrrrrgh!  To this day whenever we mention the Grand Canyon, he looks at me and makes that crazy grunting, gasping yell. I love it. It was just after the corkscrew that I felt the first symptom of heat exhaustion. Nausea. I  tried not to worry. With each step I felt my vision get more and more unfocused and my mind feel more and more panicked. I quickly assessed my situation. I had plenty of ice water, that wouldn't be a problem. I needed to rest but stopping so frequently in the hot sun in the corkscrew was not helping. I told Nate I couldn't stop anymore, and that I felt sick. He told me to go on ahead and find my uncle and cousin. I said, "you'd let your wife wander on alone knowing I'm feeling sick???" He gave me the 'quit-whining-you're-fine' look, and I knew he was right. He could not come with me, he needed to carry Derek's pack and make sure he was OK. I went on alone for maybe 5 minutes before I heard someone calling my name. Bob and Brandon were resting on a rock on the far side of a creek in the shade. Shade. I was so grateful. Bob was cheerful and chatty. Brandon confided that he was worried about altitude sickness. Altitude,  I thought, didn't you train? Oh yeah, they're from California and he trained at sea level. It was around 5 miles from Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens campground, and a further 4 miles from there to the top. If he was going to get altitude sickness, his symptoms would be about the same as heat exhaustion and there was really no going back at this point. He shrugged it off. We waited for Jen, Derek, Nate and my dad and continued on to Indian Gardens all together. We frequently soaked shirts and chilly pads (Best. Invention. Ever.) in the creek that was near the path and stopped so often I thought we'd never get out.
Trail on the South Rim side looking back toward the green patch of trees in the distance that is Indian Gardens campground
When we finally reached Indian Gardens it was 5 pm. We were at 11 hours and still 4 miles from the top. Groan. We were very surprised there to see a Polish couple on a bench, crying. The woman seemed to be angry at the man. Then there was Jon. Jon? We thought he would have been out of the canyon by now. He was sitting on a bench in the shade with a very weary look on his face.  He said that he got hit with heat exhaustion in the corkscrew and decided to take a nap on the trail for a half hour in the shade. What? Jon, a nap on the trail? Those are the kind of naps you don't always wake up from! The Polish couple, it turns out, had hiked from the South Rim to the River and back that day, roughly 18 miles round trip. Jon found them on the trail and followed them because they didn't seem like they were doing too well, and he wanted to be with them just in case. They were totally unprepared. She was completely sunburned in shorty shorts and a tank top, and they had very little food. We gave them some of ours. They declined. We told them in no uncertain terms that they had to. They accepted. We assessed our situation. I still felt pretty good, and Nate was doing amazing considering he had been carrying two packs since the corkscrew. Jen was in tears, she had some very painful blister issues. My dad was great, Bob and Brandon were ok, and Jon was fading. We split up the troops. Bob and Brandon took off with Jon and the Polish couple, and they went a few minutes ahead of us. I hiked with Jen,  and my dad and Nate traded off carrying Derek's pack. There would be a water station every mile and a half from there on out, and it would be switch backs the whole way.

A snake that crossed our path on the switch backs of the South Rim.
We were within sight of the first water station when I noticed something was really wrong. Bob was standing at Jon's side watching for us. He caught my eye, then took off up the trail leaving Jon sitting on a rock. His eyes were open, but he was not quite lucid. I cautiously said, "Jon, are you ok?" Without blinking or turning his head he said, "I threw up."  His boots and poles were splashed with vomit. He wasn't near the water. I asked if he'd put water in his pack, he said no. We gave him hard candy to suck on, filled his pack and did some shifting. His pack was so heavy! Nate took it. My dad took Derek's.  The trail was still relatively light, but we were going painfully slow. I wondered about Bob, Brandon and the Polish couple. The next mile and a half were agony. Jon was vomiting intermittently,  and at one point Nate had to grab the back of his shirt to keep him from going over the side while puking. Jen was in so much pain it took her breath away. Derek was still cramping and our light was fading. We kept thinking we'd be fine when we got to the water station because they have emergency flash lights there. When we got there, they'd all already been taken. Chuck was there though. What? Chuck what are you doing here? "OH, I just got worried and thought you guys might like some snacks or water. I've been down here once already...." He'd hiked quite a bit that day, and that didn't bode well for his hike out. OH man. At that point my sister and I looked at each other and she made a decision. "I'll go back with the slow pokes," she said, " you run ahead and get flash lights." I started to run. I ran and walked and ran and walked and ran and walked. The sky darkened. Bats swooped my head. I ran and walked. I caught up with Bob and Brandon. They had a light. Would they come on ahead with me? In answer, Brandon vomited. Altitude sickness. Spectacular. I ran on. I emerged to the sound of clapping and congratulations, I was the first one out. I cut them off with my news: We are in trouble. I need lights, like now. I got them, a few juice boxes, and stood at the trail head. I didn't want to go back in there. I called Nate and told him to download a flashlight app, and get Jon's phone out because he already had one. They asked how far from the top they were. I asked for a landmark, and he told me they'd just passed the arch. I asked which one. He groaned. I went back down.

At that point, a man joined me. His name was Eric. He said he was on a flashlight rescue mission as well, and should we go together? I gratefully accepted. About a half a mile down I saw Jon. Alone. Nate had to attend to his father, and Jon couldn't be stopped. He wanted out. I called his name. As he got closer he whispered my name and collapsed on top of me. He's not a small guy. Eric grabbed him and set him on a rock. I gave him juice. I knew he'd puke it up, but he needed it. Then Jen walked up, crying. I gave her some juice and she sobbed, "you read my mind." and kept going. She's so cute. Derek and my dad came next, followed by Nate and his dad, who was also battling altitude sickness. Oh we are a sight, I thought. I took Jon's arm and talked his ear off to get him to put one foot in front of the other.

We made it out. It was 10 pm. The south rim was all but closed. Jon's muscles were seizing and he was still puking. Chuck was too. We drove the Polish couple to their car, listening to them argue and her tell him, "We are not hikers!"  We tried to find the clinic. We even split up on foot to find it. Jon was getting worse by the minute. He kept saying, "Please hurry. Please hurry." I called 911. I told the operator we couldn't find the clinic. She told me the clinic was closed. Then would you mind sending an AMBULANCE, lady? The rangers arrived, chewed us out for going Rim to Rim, did we have any idea how hot it was today? Uh, yeah, I think we have an idea, thanks. Derek was still grunting. "Is he OK?" The rangers asked. "Yeah, he's just cramping."

We split up again. Nate and I followed Jon in the ambulance, and the others headed two hours away to our nice resort hotel in Paige. It was an hour and a half drive for us. We had to wait an hour at the ER, to see if Jon needed to stay over night. He did. He had all the necessary nutrients in his blood, just not water to carry them. We went in search for food. There was only one food place open that we could find, McDonalds. Sick. Those were the best tasting cheeseburgers I have ever had though. We had been up 22 hours, we were sore, and we stank. The last available hotel room in that whole sleepy town was in a disgusting motel 6. We didn't even care. Jon received 3 1/2 liters of fluid and was a whole new man in the morning. Jen said Derek woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning, he wasn't even sore. Brandon and Chuck likewise. All's well that ends well, I guess. I had nightmares about the trail for a few days. I still feel a little traumatized.

My dusty, dirty legs and feet while waiting in the ER
If you want the mileage rundown of the Rim to Rim trek, check out this link:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Basic cobb

I've decided that the best way to get everyone to eat salad is to make it into a Cobb. It is so dang easy! There are many variations out there, but here's how I make mine.

Romaine, Iceburg and Green Leaf lettuce (1 head each, or half if you don't want it to be HUGE)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese (about a cup)
6-8 hard boiled eggs
1 cup crumbled bacon
1/2 cup fresh corn sliced from the cob (canned or frozen will work, but not taste as good, obviously)
1 chopped cucumber
1-2 chopped avocados (optional)

Wash and chop lettuce to bite size. Layer other ingredients as you please. We've tried this with many different veggie toppings, it always turns out great. The bacon is a must though.  My family likes Ranch dressing best with this, we make our own. It goes like this:

1 C. mayo
1 C. buttermilk
1/4 t. white vinegar
1/2 t. dill
1 t. parsley
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1 1/2 t. dried (or fresh) chives
1/4 t. seasoned salt
1/8 t. dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together mayo and buttermilk until mixture is lump free. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate.

Rosemary Chive Fries

These we didn't do very crispy, but the seasoned salt ones, which I do not have a picture of, were crispier. This is more like a boiled potato texture if you like that. I do.
All summer long I've been trying to perfect home baked french fries. I've tried many variations, but I think this one's my fave. My kids however, liked the season salt and olive oil variation, so take your pick.

You'll need a couple of pounds of red potatoes sliced how you like them. I like slicing them four times lengthwise, then crosswise to get more of a french fry look. You'll need a quarter cup (or less) of olive oil, some fresh chives and rosemary chopped, and some salt and pepper. This is all to taste. Combine the oil and seasonings in a bowl and add the potatoes and stir to coat.

Baking is the tough part because it took me forever to find the right temp for my oven for the right amount of time for the crispiness we wanted. I have now determined that either 450 or 475 will work, but plan on at least 30 minutes, and maybe closer to 50 depending on your oven. turn at least once while baking.

What the?? Was that summer that just flew past my face?

In case you were all dying to know: Yes, summer kicked my trash. No I didn't quit running or cooking, but man, did it seem iffy for a while. Let me update you.

At the end of June, Nate and I (together with some friends and family) finally took the adventurous Grand Canyon trip, in which we hiked rim to rim in one day. That story is dramatic and insane so it will be getting it's very own blog post after this one. Two days after that I was still sore, tired, and traumatized. I blame that condition for what happened next. I slammed my finger (yes, I slammed my very own finger) in the car door. As in the car door shut violently with my finger sticking out the side. To this day I don't even know how it happened. Please be advised that the following story contains both graphic descriptions and photos of the injury. Read at your own risk.

The finger burst open and the bone fractured in 3 places. Check out the tip of your ring finger. See how small it is from the top joint to the tip? That's where my bone fractured in 3 places. It sucked. I screamed and stood there for a full 30 seconds. I was holding my 22 month old who also started screaming. My 8 year old then started screaming, "Mom, what's wrong, what happened?" I couldn't speak. In fact, I couldn't even think what to do. It was pain like I'd never known. Finally I came to myself and realized I'd have to put the kid down and open the door. That's right, my finger was still in the door.

At that point I was crying and walking toward the house when the 8 year old saw the blood and went running. Crying himself, he swiftly brought me back.....a tissue. So sweet. So completely insufficient. I could see chunks of the fatty finger pad coming out of the wound. A tissue just wasn't going to cut it. I asked for a wet rag and some ice. Oh, and son? The phone.  After failing to reach the obvious options (Nate and my mother who lives 4 houses away) I proceeded to call everyone I could think of in my neighborhood. Two people were home. Both were sick. I finally got a hold of someone who happened to have a teen home so they could watch my kids (Thank you Sandy and Cassie!) She drove me to the ER, and all the while I thought I might pass out from the pain. Why was I so woozy? Oh yeah, I was too tired that morning to eat breakfast. But guess what? My muscles weren't sore anymore from the Grand Canyon, go figure.

When I arrived at the ER sporting my wet rag, jammies, and flip flops, I was greeted with no one. What the? People! I am BLEEDING! Oh there she is, feeding the fish in the lobby. I said, "Excuse me, I am in need of some medical services for my finger. It's busted open. Also, I feel a little faint." She took one look at me, and hustled me right inside saying we'd take care of signing me in later. I got as far as the triage room before I felt that ominous heat in my face, and loss of strength in my limbs. Uh oh. I told them I didn't feel well, they said they'd get me a chair. I told them......I don't remember.  My oxygen level went from 99 to 38 in about 5 seconds. The next thing I remember is I was feeling much better and I was on a bed. I told them my finger hurt. They looked at me like I was speaking chinese.
Me after they finally cleaned and wrapped the thing. Yes that's a BP cuff and warming blankets. No you may not laugh.
I got to a room and I just remember sitting there so embarrassed. I just kept thinking. I did this. Me. To myself! I got what I can only imagine would have been a frantic phone call from my husband, since I'd left him a horrible text before I got to the hospital. All I could type out was "Heading to the ER". As you can imagine, he was not pleased. However, the grumpy doc wouldn't let me answer my phone, he was too worried about the possibility of losing the tip of my finger. I didn't care about my dang finger. It hurt too bad. All I wanted was a cracker. They wouldn't give me one. 

This was taken 2 days later in the cursed triage room at my infection check. I couldn't take any myself the day of and Nate refused to look at it. You can see why.

Nate arrived. I was Xrayed. The punk kid who came to get me came into my room with a wheel chair and said, "I was told I needed to bring a wheel chair for an X ray of a finger." Yeah, dude. I'm gonna give you a finger in a second. I told him I'd walk. what seemed like hours later (I was soooo hungry) they finally came in and told me the results. They literally gave me the whole good news, bad news routine.The good news was I didn't need surgery, the bad news was it was broken in several places. I don't care, I said, just give me a DA-- cracker! They complied. They really were a nice bunch of people once I charmed them with my sparkling personality. I was in a Percocet induced delirium for a week after that. It was 4 weeks before I could resume running. Do you see why I was a blog slacker?? Please forgive me and my ugly finger. I wasn't typing so well.
This is a few weeks later when it finally started to heal. The outer layer peeled off like a banana. The finger nail didn't come off for over 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Asian Chicken Salad with Soy Peanut dressing

I get a produce box each week from a local dairy farm. Every time there is at least one item at which I frown and think, "Great. What am I going to do with that?" Which, actually I think is the point of the variety. Because then every week I get to learn and experiment. I concoct, or find that someone else has concocted a delicious something or other involving that very thing. It is then posted it online for all the experimenters out there to enjoy. It's been parsnips, rutabaga, radishes, and weird peppers I still can't name. I feel like I'm being educated by a produce box. This week it was cabbage. Along with the cabbage came red peppers and the bells started a ringing. There's nothing like a fresh and flavorful Asian style salad, right? Lucky for me, I found a base recipe for a dressing, which I then promptly changed to fit my whims. I was in a peanut kind of mood, so here is how it went:

1 head of Napa cabbage, shredded
1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
Some Bak choy leaves, shredded
2 carrots, sliced or shredded
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/8-1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 cups shredded chicken (I boil mine in ginger and onion, then shred it.)
Sliced lime and chopped peanuts for garnish

Soy Peanut Dressing
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (heaping) peanut butter (use creamy unless you have a blender)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (dried will work in a pinch, or if you don't like the "kick")
1 clove minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar (1 T. honey will work also)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

whisk or blend the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, agave, and oils, season with salt and pepper or additional soy sauce to taste. Add the dressing to the salad and toss. Garnish with lime slices and chopped peanuts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Training-- short runs

I've been asked lately what I'm doing to train for our upcoming running adventures, so here it is.

In June, some close family and friends of ours are embarking with us on a Grand Canyon trip to remember. We're hiking it rim to rim in one day. That's roughly 25 miles. It's 7000 feet down and 6000 feet back up the other side. It's crazy. My family (parents and siblings) has done this 3 other times in the last 10 years. Nate and I have only done this once before (I was pregnant all the other times), 10 years ago on the first ever attempt with my parents when we were dating. Well, kind of dating, we'd actually broken up for a couple weeks, but since the trip was planned we went together anyway. It was just the 2 of us with my parents, a romantic little trip for four, in which Nate had to share a bed with my father on the North Rim. Hilarious. It was also the trip we came to our senses on the trail, and got back together at the scenic Ribbon Falls. But I digress.

This time we have a bigger group going, and we've been planning and training for months. Nate and I decided that since we'd not have much hiking time to train because we're going so early in the summer, we'd better train all fall and winter with running. This consists of short runs to build up endurance, and long runs to test it.

My short runs are almost exclusively done in the Gulley near my house. Here is what it looks like:
 There are quite a few different trails down there, the one below is the bottom trail that travels the length of the bottom of the ravine (hence the original and obvious name) and runs from 200 or so East near the trax station clear up to 2300 East near Granite Park. It's a shady quiet and thin footpath, great for thinking, or worrying about serial killers if you're alone. I don't recommend going that one alone.

The others I like to take are the Mountain view trail (Pops and I call it the middle trail), The Sego Lily trail (Pops named it the "sisters" trail because of 3 hills he calls the 'sisters'), and the Top trail (I don't know it's official name).

Each run is either a 5, 6, or 7 mile loop just to keep my heart, lungs, and legs in good shape. It's the maintenance work, you might say, to keep my body running optimally. I do this 3 times a week, unless I'm working in a long run, then I only do it twice. It's gorgeous and challenging and I live for it. The long runs are a different story, but I'll post about our first one later. Care to join me? Just say the word.

Curried Anything Cures All

So, a word about curry here. I LOVE IT. Sorry if you don't, because I'm going to go under the assumption here that curry was an inspired thing, meant for the good of all mankind. I'd eat curried anything any day. This particular day I was trying to use up some produce I had, as well as cure the mid-spring-rainy-day-blues. This soup totally worked for me.

Warning: This recipe was made up on the fly, so I guarantee nothing. I loved it. Pops, one of my favorite running partners loved it, but the rest of my family not so much. I think if you like the curry flavor, it's for you.
Sorry about the picture, it's a little dark. In my defense, I never said I had any photography skills, so don't judge me.

Curried Cauliflower and Butternut soup

2 cups butternut squash puree
1 head cauliflower cut into florets
1/2 t. ginger (or 1 t. fresh grated)
1 clove garlic
1/4 C. chopped onion
2 1/2 C. broth (I used chicken) or bouillon
 2 chopped carrots
4 ribs celery chopped
1/2 t. curry powder (or individual herbs and spices that are contained therein)
1/2 C. heavy whipping cream, whole milk, or half and half

Here's how it went:
Place cauliflower florets, ginger, garlic, onion, carrots, celery and broth in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, boil for 5-8 minutes or until tender and fragrant. Place in Blender with  Butternut puree and blend until smooth. (VITAMIX! Man, I love that thing.) pour back into sauce pan and add cream and curry. Serve warm with Butter Naan or other bread of choice.

Note: You can prepare it without the curry, but since it adds no heat and does only good  for the soul, I say keep it in. However, if you really do not care for the flavor, just don't add it, it's good without as well.

Runner's Little Helpers

Every trail runner knows how important it is to have a good partner, especially if that trail runner is female. I'd love to go into a big old discussion here about the injustice of it all. How unfair it is that men  may run when and where they please with little to fear besides a side ache, whilst us poor females, for safety's sake, must be at the mercy of things like daylight and running partners....sigh. But I'm not going to go into all that right here and now, that's a post for another time.

Today I'd simply like to pay homage to those that make my runs possible! Because for me, as a girl and a mother, I need more than one person to make each run happen. I need both babysitters and partners. I'm so happy to have them. I've dragged people out of their homes at ridiculous hours of the morning, or the hot random hours of the afternoon. I've asked family, friends, and neighbors to babysit to support my habit at such awkward times as the lunch or dinner hour. At times even dropping off a grumpy or drowsy toddler who's nap time is being postponed so I can get in a run. And other times I've left my husband to handle the kid's morning routine alone ( of which task he's more than capable), so I could go before the day starts. It's never a regularly scheduled thing, it's always flying by the seat of all our proverbial pants, and I am so grateful!

Since I rarely remember to snap pictures mid-trail, I have hardly any pictures to post as monuments to these unselfish and unsung heroes. Especially not the sitters. I do have a couple, though, of one of my favorite partners, my neighbor's dog, Artemis.

I chose Artemis as a partner because of her looks, which is not always politically correct, I realize, but I needed the 'intimidation factor', and she has it. Wouldn't you agree? No one's messin' with me on those trails with Artemis around! Turns out, though, besides her looks she is also a champ of a partner. She pushes my pace at times, or trots along behind in her good-natured way, though she prefers the shady side of the trail to running when I've foolishly dragged her out in the middle of the late spring afternoon. 80 and above and that girl protests. With good reason, though, I mean look at her! She heats up in a hurry.

So here's to you, people (and animals) who help people run. You know who you are. It's an important job, and no one HAS to do it, it's all volunteer based. My love and my adrenaline pumped thanks go out to you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mayday Mayday; Wait, I'm fine now

In case anyone was wondering, I was on hiatus recently. I'm sure you gathered from my last post that things were not going so well in my hormonally challenged life. Well, things are better now.

Firstly, I ditched the doc. That's right, I just flat out said 'enough is enough' and I'm not going back. After my results from the metabolic test things went downhill in a hurry. I have no energy to elaborate. Suffice it to say that I followed what turned out to be the worst advice from a medical professional I've ever received and I suffered for it. I let them have it after that, and you know what they said? We need some more tests. So I quit. As soon as I made that decision everything went better. I'm now managing my condition completely doc free and feeling great about it. I still have challenges, but not insanity.

Secondly, it's finally May now. Can I get an AMEN??? AMEN! I'll cheerfully get more recipes, etc. on here, and feel free to comment or leave some of your own. If you'd like to email me some to post, I'm happy to do that. I'm happy to do just about anything at this point, because I'm finally happy again :-) Yay for May.

Also, I have a great big grand canyon running trip coming up next month, and I can't wait to share my training for it with you runners out there. Runners: what big running plans do you have for the summer?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good News Bad News

As I sit there in the endocrinologists office thinking over what I need to talk to the Doctor about, this guy enters, not a doctor, but he sees patients like he is one. It's the same guy I talked to last time, the one who said I probably have both crappy conditions all my doctors have been torn between diagnosing for the last couple years. He sits, we chat. I mention something about having both like he said last time. He bluntly says he never would have said that. What? I'm politely confused. He says quite simply, that I must have misunderstood. All signs point to just one: PCOS. Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, he says, is quite rare. It would be very unlikely to have both PCOS and CAH (IHMA - I Hate Medical Acronyms), so he proceeds to talk about treating just the one.

I'm stunned. I'm thinking I've just wasted 3 months worrying about the treatment of both conditions, misunderstanding my blood test results, and agonizing over whether or not I want to accept the medications. So I ask, "Is this a solid Diagnosis, and how will that change anything treatment-wise?" He tells me he's recommending the same 2 medications he would if I had both. So the good news is, I've only got one condition. The bad news is: nothing changes.

I still have facial hair, I still lose the hair on my head, I still get a manly spare tire, I still have problems with my cycle, I'm still addicted to sugar, and I'm still insulin resistant. The small glimmer of hope, though, is that I may not have to deal with the medications he's suggesting for the duration of my life. I could, in theory, get my symptoms under control with them and use diet and exercise to control them once the goals are reached. Huh. That really was my plan all along. Truly nothing changes.

So 3 days ago I started my rigorous regimen for the 3rd time in 2 years. Jillian Michaels 30 day shred DVD every other day, and jogging 6 + miles the other 3. Sunday I rest. No treats, no refined carbs, lots of fiber, water and veggies.

I'm now in moderate sugar withdrawals. Headaches the first 48 hrs, fatigue, dizziness, and severe crankiness! All bad news. Today I went in for a metabolic test which indicates by my breathing into a tube my resting metabolic rate (how many calories I could burn in a day by just sitting there). The preliminary results show my rate is on the low range which is odd considering how much I exercise. More bad news. Now I have to wait for the results of both a blood and metabolic test, but I'm guessing it will go something like this: "The good news is your results are back and the supreme endocrine overlord has authorized me to descend into the civilian world long enough to call you about them. And the bad news is.....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Buttermilk Pancakes with Homemade Maple Syrup

I'm not a huge pancake fan. Waffles are more my thing, but try as I might I CANNOT convince my family to be only of the waffle persuasion like me. They LOVE pancakes! All kinds. So I've given in somewhat and have even been known to enjoy a hotcake or two on occasion. The real key is the homemade syrup. My mom always made our syrup growing up. I think they bought syrup from a store once because an empty syrup container is what they used to store our homemade stuff, but I don't remember ever eating it. Once I made it for my husband he could never go back to the store stuff. Easy, cheap, and delicious. A must have for our kitchen.

Here is our usual recipe for good old American pancakes:

Buttermilk Pancakes
1 1/4 C. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. soda
1 beaten egg
1 C. buttermilk
2 T. oil

Mix dry ingredients, add wet all at once. Do not overstir, mix will be a little lumpy. Add more buttermilk or regular milk for desired consistency

And for the secret weapon!

Mom's Maple Syrup
2 C. sugar
1 C. water
2 t. maple flavoring
1 t. vanilla

bring all ingredients to a boil, boil 5-6 minutes (use a large pot, this will boil up and over if you let it!) stirring frequently. serve warm. Excess may be stored in the refrigerator for quite a while, maybe even forever, but it will never last that long, it's way too delicious!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flower Power

Ok, I get that the paint on my girls' wall is neither about running nor eating, but it's a fun share nonetheless. My girls have finally reached the age where they'd like to pick the theme and direction for the decor in their room, much to my dismay. They decided on flowers, butterflies, and fairies. I'm an expert at none of these things. So in my desperation I turned to paint, my cricut, and a treasure at the most surpising of places. Here's how it turned out:

First, I started with the grass and stems. I used paint and a foam craft brush for this. I had to have someone else in the room letting me know if I went to high on one side, or dipped too low with the grass, but that was the most difficult part. Grass is a fairly forgiving freehand venture.

Next I did the flower middles. Yellow paint. I tried this two ways: I cut a yellow circle from my cricut to the size I wanted then used the paper as a sort of stencil. Also I tried using the cut-out circle itself as a pattern and traced in light pencil where I wanted the circle to be atop the stem and painted in my lines. Both ways turned out fine, I'm not sure I'd say one was easier than the other, I guess it just depends on your taste.

Next came the petals themselves which I used colored vinyl and my cricut for. I cut out various shapes using the George and Basic Shape cartridge (I think).

I was competely stumped by the butterflies and fairies, though. I could have used the cricut for them, but I couldn't find any I loved with as many color layers as I wanted. One morning while trying to kill time with my 4 yr. old we perused the dollar store, which I haven't done in years. They have everything there! Not great stuff as you might imagine, but wall stickers? Oh yes.
They had a couple kinds of butterflies and fairies, and after a quick eenie-meenie-miny-moh game we had some picked. Now they have a gorgeous purple room with one white wall full of flowers and fairies, and remain the happiest girly-girls you ever did meet!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taco Tuesday!

Ok, that's a lie. Tacos should never be restricted to one day of the week. They should be had on any day, and for any occasion or whim. Tacos are flat out delicious. Since I'm of the Au Naturale persuasion I make my own taco seasoning. Turns out, it's cheaper AND better for you!

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/4 c. water
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/4-1/2 t. pepper
1 clove garlic (or 1/2 t. garlic powder)
1 -2 t. grated onion(or 1/2 t. onion powder)

Brown the meat with onion and garlic, add water and seasonings, simmer to reach desired consistency. (appx. 5 minutes)

Easy right? and no red 40 or yellow 5 or anything that preserves freshness and gives you cancer! :-)

On taco night I find I always need salsa, but I don't always buy it or have all the ingredients to make a stellar fresh one (for some reason I never remember to buy cilantro and peppers!). So in a pinch I have a simple and tasty recipe from my dad that only uses things I keep on hand. It uses a lot of the same ingredients as the taco seasoning. I grow and bottle a kajillion tomatoes (yes, that's the exact number) every year so I just use those. If that's not something you do, you can just use canned tomatoes from the store.

Jim's Salsa

two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
(or 1 qt bottled)
One 4 oz can mild or medium diced green chiles
1t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 /2 t. garlic salt
1/4 t. garlic powder
(I use 1 clove fresh minced garlic and 1 t. salt instead of the previous 2)
1 t. onion powder (or 1-2 t. grated fresh)
(add 1/4 t. cayenne if you want some heat)

Blend all ingredients in blender except chiles. Blend well. Add chiles and blend a few seconds (or not at all depending on how chunky you like it). You can, of course play with amounts of ingredients to get the taste you want, it's easy, hope you like it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine Mini Pavlovas

Since we had our official Valentine's date early (see previous post), this year on the day we had a romantic little dinner for 6 (us + the 4 kids) at home. We had Cheesy Potato Corn chowder with extra bacon as per the oldest child's request, medallion rolls (little rolls), and mini Valentine Pavlovas.

I'm not sure if any of you have ever made pavlova, but it's a little intimidating. There are very few ingredients, but they can be temperamental especially if you're making them mini, which I always do because individual servings are so much easier to work with. They are also worth every second of work and worry.

Preheat to 350, and then you begin with making the meringue, which is not difficult at all despite how fancy it sounds.
Just beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt til they're firm (which is past foamy) then add the sugar and keep beating.

When it's reach the desired texture, fold in the corn starch and vinegar.

After this point I sometimes beat it again, which probably defeats the purpose of folding in the last ingredients, but I really want it fluffy and I worry!

Next you pipe it into the desired shape (I've done pillows for a pajama party, bones for a Halloween party, and now hearts), or just spoon it for circles. If you don't have a piping bag, just spoon it into a ziploc and cut the corner off to pipe it, it works great. Make sure you line your baking tray with parchment paper.

Then bake them at 350 for five minutes. Turn the heat down to 300 after that time and bake a further 35-40 minutes. Turn the oven off and crack the door open to let the heat out and let them cool with the door ajar for at least an hour.

Hopefully they won't crack and fall. Sometimes keeping the door closed for a couple minutes after turning the oven off can help, then open it a little, but it all depends on the heat of your oven, so keep trying!

They will be pinkish when they're done. If they're brownish, they're overdone. What you have is a slightly crispy outer shell with a delightfully chewy inside, it's the best!

After they've completely cooled simply top with whipped cream (please don't insult these with cool whip), and either fresh fruit or a fruity sauce of your choice. I made a simple one with 3/4 cup OJ, 2 T. cornstarch, 1/4 (plus a little more) sugar and frozen berries. Feel free to comment for questions on the sauce.
Here's how they turned out! Enjoy!

4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 C. fine sugar
1 T. Cornstarch
1 t. Vinegar

Spoon into one large mound or small individual mounds (6-8) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes then bake a further 35-40 minutes at 300. Turn oven off, allow to cool with door ajar for at least an hour.