Archive | March 2015

Finishing My General Conference Goal…and Looking Forward to the Next One!

General Conference

{picture from lds.org}

General Conference is less than 2 weeks away (and if you count the General Women’s Broadcast, less than 1 week away)!  And guess what?  I completed my goal of reading all the General Conference talks prior to the next one.  Hooray!  I’m so glad I was able to do that, and of course the very last one I read was President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk given at the General Women’s Broadcast.  It was exactly what I needed to read, on this day, and actually every day.  Here is part of what he said:

“My dear sisters in the gospel, whether you are 8 or 108, there is one thing that I hope you truly understand and know:

You are loved.

You are dear to your heavenly parents.

The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you!  He is mindful of you.

Yes, God loves you this very day and always.

He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits.  He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles.  He is aware that you reach up to Him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer.  He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed — even in the midst of growing darkness.  He knows of your sufferings.  He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed.  And still He loves you.

And God knows of your successes; though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them.  He loves you for extending yourself to others.  He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens — even when you are struggling with your own.

He knows everything about you.  He sees you clearly — He knows you as you really are.  And He loves you–today and always!

Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect?  Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest?  Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if some un-friend or un-follow you on Facebook or Twitter?  Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe?

He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become.

More than you could ever imagine, He wants you to achieve your destiny — to return to your heavenly home in honor.

I testify that the way to accomplish this is to place selfish desires and unworthy ambitions on the alter of sacrifice and service.  Sisters, trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ; keep His laws and commandments.  In other words — live the gospel joyful.”

I’ve been watching every session of General Conference consistently each April and October for about 28 years now (since I was 12!), and I continue to be amazed at how many of the talks given address something that I’m very personally concerned about right at that moment!  So, yes…I’m really excited that it is that time of year again!

But one thing that I really noticed as I re-read the talks given over the past few months is how much they helped me when I was feeling anxious or upset.  I do tend to struggle with emotional highs and lows, and I have relied a lot over the years on prayer to help me when I feel bad.  But recently as I was prayingm I felt like I should also read my scriptures and the talks from General Conference.  So, I’ve been doing this a lot more, and even when what I’m reading has nothing to do with what I’m bothered about, I immediately feel peaceful and more centered.  And often, I find that what I’m reading actually is relevant to my concern!

If you are not familiar with my church’s General Conference, feel free to visit this page and read or watch any talks that have been given!  And anyone can watch the upcoming Conference on April 4-5, 2015.  It will be broadcast on-line, but my favorite way is to watch it on the BYU Channel on TV!  If you take the time to watch even a little bit, I am confident that you will be glad that you did.

If you have a favorite quote or experience from General Conference, please share in the comments below!

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10 Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

fruits & vegetables collage

In my efforts to eat more fruits and vegetables, I have noticed that there are times when the task is very difficult and other times when it feels practically effortless.  So, I started paying attention to what makes the difference and came up with this list.  Some of these strategies are more helpful for my family members, and others are more helpful for me, but when they are in place, I find that we all eat more of the good stuff!

1.  Keep the cutting board and knife clean and in easy reach.  Most fruits and vegetables require some prep work before eating, and if the cutting board and knife are dirty or hard to get to, the preparation becomes a large barrier to eating them.  On the other hand, if they are clean and available, I find that it’s usually pretty quick to chop up whatever it is I am planning to eat.

2. Snack on fruits and veggies before meals.  Yes, you read that right!  Most of the time we hear the advice to not eat snacks right before meals.  But I find that when I’m chopping produce for dinner, my kids will often ask if they can have some.  If I go ahead and give them some right then, they eat more than they would with the meal.  I’ve actually had to start buying extra bell peppers, because my youngest has been known to ask for so many that I haven’t had what I needed for the recipe! 🙂  However, my big exception to this is berries.  We have a strict “hands-off” rule for berries until the meal is served, because everyone loves them so much!

3.  Add fruits and vegetables to muffins and other baked goods.  This is a pretty common strategy, but it definitely needs to be included, because it works!  And every little bit helps.

4.  Make smoothies.  Another common strategy, I know.  But smoothies really are a great way to get in some less favored fruits and veggies.  Spinach and greens of course, but for my family even pineapple is not very well liked among the kids.  However in a smoothie, you can’t really taste it.  It simply adds sweetness and it is so healthy.  Smoothies are a perfect way to help my family eat more pineapple!

5.  Make extra.  White potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes are all vegetables that can be prepared in larger-than-normal batches, and stored in the fridge to eat for several days.  Or, they can be stored in the freezer for longer.  I like to make soups and freeze individual batches for me to have for lunch.  It’s so easy to just thaw and eat! (I like these two recipes: Butternut Squash-Apple Soup and Nutty-Sweet Potato Soup — however, I’m the only one around here who does, so that’s why I freeze individual portions).  Smoothies also freeze well, but they don’t thaw quickly.  Sometimes  I make a big batch of smoothie and put it in small tightly-sealed containers to pack in my kids lunches.  They thaw to just about the right consistency by lunch-time!

6.  Make a little extra.  For vegetables that don’t store well for a long time after they are cooked, I’ve learned to make just enough extra at dinner to have some the next day for lunch.  This way I don’t have to prepare a vegetable when I really want to just grab something, but I don’t have so much around that I have to throw it out later.

tooty fruity salad

{click image to view larger}

7.  Mix ’em up!  I love this story from the Friend Magazine (see image on the right).  The child is hungry and wants a snack, but when offered an apple, banana, grapes, and crackers he turns them down saying that he is tired of them all.  The mom responds, “how about tooty fruity salad?”  This gets the boys attention, and he agrees.  So the mom combines bite-sized pieces of the different fruits and the graham crackers to make a fruit salad.  And, of course, now the boy is very happy with his snack!  And this trick doesn’t just work with kids; it works for adults too!

8.  Keep it simple.  While mixing it up can be a great thing, on the other end of the spectrum is planning to “mix it up” so much that it becomes too much work.  For example, if I plan a main dish and a vegetable side for dinner that both require quite a bit of preparation, I will likely want to skip making the vegetable side when it comes time to actually make dinner.  So I often plan the simplest vegetables to go with dinner, or a more complex side with a basic main dish such as baked fish or chicken.

9.  Eat ’em first!  If the fruits and vegetables being served are not my favorite part of the meal, then I try to eat them first and get them out of the way.   Then I am free to enjoy the rest of the food.

10.  Keep ’em fresh! – I have a thing for wanting my produce to be really fresh.  The longer it sits in my fridge, the less likely I am to eat it or serve it.  It’s kind of a hang-up really, because sometimes it really is still fine to eat.  But in recognizing this about myself, I’m learning that prior to shopping for new groceries it is helpful to look in the fridge ask myself, “Do I have a clear plan for eating these (i.e. scheduled in an upcoming menu)?”  If not, I take some time to clear them out…either by eating them right away, preserving them for later (i.e. freezer), or getting rid of them (in the compost pile).  This way when I bring new produce home from the store, everything in the fridge is as fresh as possible, making all of it more appealing to eat.

Below is a picture of a bunch of produce that I preserved by freezing one day, prior to restocking the fridge.  From left to right (clockwise) there are cut up bell peppers (to add to soups), mushrooms (for stroganoff), celery (to make chicken stock), apples (for smoothies), orange-lime-aid (drank right away), lime zest and orange zest (for adding extra flavor to food), and spinach which I blended with water and froze in an ice cube tray (to add to soup or smoothies).

freezer food collageThese 10 strategies really do work when I take the time to implement them.  In fact, I’m glad to publish this post today, because I need the reminder!  Hopefully they can be helpful to others who may want to include a few more delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables in their diet too!!

What are your favorite strategies for eating more fruits and vegetables?

{note:  click here for top picture source…I made a collage of several of the pictures}

Back to Blogging and Tiny Steps Towards Family History Work

Well, I’m back.  I am so sorry to be such a flip-flopper!!  I thought that if I wrote a blog post actually saying that I was quitting my blog (as opposed to just stopping without saying anything), it would bring some closure…but it hasn’t.  It’s only been a little more than a week since I wrote that post and every day since then, I’ve found myself thinking about something that I would write on my blog if I was still writing it.  Instead of feeling relieved, I’ve just felt sad, like I just said goodbye to my best friend.  I do feel like this blog is my friend, and I also feel like the people I interact with through the blog are my friends.  But I had let it become a stress, and I had started wondering if it was the best use of my time, especially with the new things I am trying to do now like “learn Spanish” and “declutter my house.”

This morning however, I read something from General Conference that I really want to share.  It has everything to do with my post about tiny goals.  And so I began thinking seriously about opening my blog again.  But this time with a smaller approach, and less stress on myself to make it “perfect” (whatever that means, right?).

These past few weeks my family has been getting excited about Family History.  The excitement is led by my husband, who loves history and especially learning about his (and my) ancestors.  He is a teacher, and it has been snowing a lot with below-freezing temperatures, so school has been out and the whole family has been home a lot.  (Yep, I live in one of those areas where everything closes down for snow).  My husband’s past-time through all of this has been to learn about our ancestry and tell us all the stories he has found out.

Well, Family History is something I know I should be doing, but every time I start, I get overwhelmed by it, and feel stuck because I don’t know exactly what to do to get from point A to point B.  Yesterday, church was cancelled (once again due to the weather) and my oldest daughter (11 years old) asked me if I would show her how to do Family History. So I opened up my Family Search account and started explaining things to her.

Then I opened up Facebook to see that one of my friends was sharing that they had accepted the #templechallenge.  In a moment of enthusiasm, I quickly shared the post announcing that my family accepts the challenge too.  And then I panicked.  All kinds of questions came to mind, like “what did I just say I would do, again?”  and “is this even possible?”  I said a silent prayer that I would be shown just the next step, and later my daughter asked if I would set up a Family History account for her.  Then we started filling out the on-line booklet for her, and even though I couldn’t see exactly how doing this was going to get us names to take to the temple, I felt it was a good step to take.

This morning, as I read from the General Conference addresses (making sure I finish them before April!), I read Elder Allan F. Packer’s talk about Family History.  One thing he said was,

“However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove.  It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work.  All it requires is a decision and a little effort.  It does not require a large block of time.  Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield the joy of the work.  Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you.  They will!  The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for ‘the book.'”

See, tiny steps work!  They have really been working for me.  Recently I’ve been thinking in terms of small steps for so many things, and feel a lot more productive and balanced.  I also feel more motivated, because I’ve removed the major obstacle of feeling overwhelmed.  So, now I know to apply the same principle to Family History work.  The key is to be consistent about the small steps, and that’s when the effort starts to add up.

And here I am at the end of my blog post, and I have to say that I really enjoyed writing all of this.  Once again, I apologize for making an announcement, and then taking it back.  I’m not sure that’s exactly fair to my readers, but sometimes when I’m feeling indecisive about something, I just need to make a decision and start following through with it.  In this case, doing so helped me to see that the decision was not the right one for me (at least at this time), and so I feel more confident in my decision to stick with blogging.  Does that make sense?

As always, thanks so much for reading!  Also, what steps have you taken that have helped with doing Family History work?