Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blackberry Custard Pie Experiment

It's been a long times since I did a cooking post so I thought I would delve into my latest dish. This past Thanksgiving I had three different dinners to attend and therefore could not escape pie assignments. Usually, I'll do anything to get out of making a pie because I'm terribly intimidated by pie-making. You can go oh so wrong with pies. And with my track record with desserts, I avoid pies like the plague. However, since it was unavoidable this year, I was researching different pies to make with the frozen fruit I have in my freezer and I came upon this recipe: Blackberry Custard Pie.

I was frightened and yet intrigued. I love custard - my grandma has made it for us for years and so it brings fond memories of home and growing up - and yet custard, with blackberries, and pie? Well, I decided I'd probably screw it up anyways so I might as well try something new. And it would use up some blackberries that are taking up lots of room in my freezer. And it looked super easy to make.

You know what it was!

Although I didn't start until way to late at night so I was irrationally freaking out about it being done enough, and about frozen blackberries messing up the cooking time, and about cooling time, and how one side of my crust fell in a little bit, etc, etc etc, I was pleasantly surprised with my results.

I think because my blackberries were frozen it dyed the custard purple when they thawed out while cooking, but I kind of like it that way better. Anyways, I was so happy with how it turned out I took pictures of my first successful pie. And even though the crust got a little well-done (yes it was a store-bought crust) I was still impressed that my crust-braiding turned out. So much so, that I took a close-up shot.

Then I moped myself to bed saying, "I just took twelve pictures of a pie," while Brigham laughed at me. However, the next day when it was cut into it wasn't runny and I received lots of compliments on the pie. I personally thought it was delicious. It was nice to have something lighter and different and the custard made the berries sweet and tasty. I did hear one relative say, "It's different." And then as an afterthought, "But good."

So if you ever need an easy pie and you've got blackberries, this is your go-to recipe. Believe me, if I can do it so can you. I'll probably be making this one for years to come now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Change of Attitude

It's that time of year again. Thanksgiving. I was sitting here writing a post explaining why I'm sorta ba-hum-bug about it this year. Basically giving excuses as to why I'm so ungrateful. Then I deleted everything I wrote because I realized I was just complaining about having a full, bountiful life. I was missing the whole point! So to change my crappy attitude and suck up the extra cooking I have to do when I feel so tired (sorry that complaint just slipped out and I can't take it back), here's what I'm grateful for. Because really I have SO much to be grateful for. So much.

  • I'm grateful for having a spare double stroller so that when my husband has to unexpectedly take my car, due to his having a flat tire, I can walk with my kids to trax to pick up my car (which has our regular stroller in it's trunk). And now that I think about it I'm grateful we live within walking distance to trax. 

  • I'm grateful for the library. Thanks to the library I have hours of free entertainment. Books, movies, and more. Every time I walk out of there with an armful of books I feel as excited as if I just won the lottery. Seriously. Every time.

  • I'm grateful for electricity that provides light so I can read my books late into the night. And lets me microwave food in minutes. 

  • I'm grateful for my 6 different credit cards that allow me to get great discounts at great places. That's right six. In fact I've been planning to open another one soon. Gotta have that 5% off and free shipping. I'm also grateful for the discipline I have to pay them all off immediately to live debt free.

  • I'm grateful my dad taught me an easier/better way to cut apples this past summer. So much time saved and frustration avoided. Thanks Dad.

  • I'm grateful for my husband's new job. It's nice having to figure out how to adjust to improvements.

  • I'm grateful that time of the month just ended so I won't be double bloated after all my Thanksgiving dinners. TMI? Sorry.

  • I'm grateful for all my extended family. They make my holidays crazy and wonderful. And they are always there. I love them.

  • I'm grateful for exercise. I love to hate it. It tortures me. It makes me happy. I'm grateful to be able to stretch my body to be better.

  • I'm grateful for food. It fuels my body. It keeps me going. It is delicious. And nutritious (sometimes).

  • I'm grateful for my mom. She's the best.

  • I'm grateful for my mind. I love understanding things. I love learning and growing and comprehending. I'm one smart cookie. Unless I'm trying to sound smart. Then I'm really dumb.

  • I'm grateful for my husband who does so much. He never stops. Work, school, homework, family, church. And he's the one that's making me feel better when his schedule is stressing ME out. And he also still finds me beautiful when I haven't showered in five days. That's true love people.

  • I'm grateful for a daughter that is understanding way too much now. Constantly challenging me to be better and asking why. Why do cars go fast? Why do we crack eggs? Why do we throw things in the garbage? Why? Because Lydia. Just because. And you're beautiful, that's why.

  • I'm grateful for a son that head-butts everything. People, walls, toys, church benches, elevators. While painful when getting him dressed, it is also very entertaining.  

  • I'm grateful for the Gospel. It is my life and who I am. I love my Savior. He deserves my greatest Thank You.

I could go on for hours...I'm sure you're wishing I were. But I will end here and wish everyone a Happy Turkey Day and may you count your blessing and find joy in what you have. I know I need to do better. I don't know how I couldn't be grateful with these three!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Smarty-Pants Dancer

Lydia just recently had her very first dance recital. She has loved her dance class and is major-bummed that it's over now. She was really excited to have family come watch her dance and cheered every time she found out someone else was coming.

And while Lydia may not have been completely accurate in the precision of the moves, she was always the only one who knew what each position, kick, or turn was called. She answered first and still remembers them all. It's pretty great to watch actually. I'm not surprised, honestly, because she comes from me and in my family we have always been unfortunately branded as know-it-alls. Her dad is right there with us as well. I just shrug and say sorry we're so awesomely smart :)

So enjoy these next few videos, not the best filming because I was trying so hard not to laugh hysterically the whole time. And we have a crappy camera. But here is the majority of her performances - it might look like a lot but only about five total minutes combined after watching each of the clips... And don't judge that she's the only girl without a skirt. She had a cute little black skirt that I simply forgot to put on her before we left - brains before beauty people.

Well I may be biased but I think she's the cutest little thing out there. I'm so impressed with my little dancer and this first little ditty just makes me excited to see how much more she'll learn and grow in all areas of life.

To my beautiful baby: You did so good pumpkin! I'm still so proud every time I watch these videos. Love you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Segment: Body Boosts

This segment has been a long time in the making, and I'm finally coming around to it. I think one of the reasons that I've been putting this post off for so long is because I knew I would need to start out with my story from the beginning. Just thinking about it makes me feel flushed and nervous. But here goes:

Most of the people I see day-to-day didn't know me back in high school. But if they had, they would know a different girl. In fact, when I tell people that I used to weigh 210 pounds in high school they often reply with, "I just don't see that" or "I can't picture you like that at all". And while it might be hard to believe, it is true.

These pictures were taken during a church history tour that I went on my junior year of high school. I started putting on weight during puberty and due to my love affair with food and laziness, I steadily put it on and on and on. At first I didn't really know that I was. I was just discovering what a body image was, let alone figuring out what mine projected.

But soon I did learn. I'll always remember the day in fifth grade that the high school marching band came to play for us at the elementary. I was curious about the clarinets because I thought that I might like to play one someday. As the clarinet section marched by, I was suddenly horrified by a large girl marching around with her clarinet. Her bulky frame was so unattractive to me as a fifth-grader, and I naively scorned her thinking to myself, "I will never be a fat clarinet player marching around like her!"

I'll also always remember the day that I realized I was JUST like that girl. I WAS the fat clarinet player in the marching band. I was exactly what I abhorred years earlier. It was that year, my Sophomore year, that I started to truly understand how I looked. First it started with comments from people I thought were my friends, then it was comments from family. Then it was not finding a prom dress that I could actually fit into for the Young Women fashion runway show. I slowly started to hate myself. And then I naturally turned to food to make me feel better. Those two things combined only led me further into a downward spiral.

If you go back and look at any picture of me during my high school years, it's easy to see how uncomfortable I was. Every day I either wore baggy t-shirts or hoodies to hide. In almost every photo, I'm in a giant hoodie, and I had plenty to cycle through. When I think back now, I realize I still didn't really understand what was going on. All I knew was that I was fat and that it was hopeless. I would try to eat less and fail. And then I would give up and eat more because it was hopeless anyway, and that made me feel better. I remember being put on diet pills and forced to stick to protein diets from a well-meaning dad who struggled with the same issue and just wanted me to be happy. I remember sobbing on my bed in pain and having my mom come in and cry with me because she couldn't stand to see me hurt so bad. I remember looking in the mirror and hating myself

The thing that hurt the most was that I never got asked to one school dance. Not one. It still hurts. I've always wanted to go to a school dance and wear a beautiful dress with fancy done-up hair. I've always loved dressing up. Watching all my friends leave on their dates and knowing it was a night in for me was awful. I wanted to be beautiful and special. It wasn't only that, but I felt as the oldest child, I was letting my parents down too. I was keeping them from experiencing prom night with their teenager because I was fat and worthless. It was all such a disappointment and made me hate myself more.

I remember seeing my senior picture and hating it with everything I had. My senior picture ended up being done by the the school and I had tried on dozens of outfits to wear but I couldn't find one that I liked. I looked bad in everything. I remember picking my big, blue shirt out because it was my go-to shirt that worked. I wore it even though we had been warned not to wear blue because the background would be same color.

When my mom put the biggest print of it in a frame and displayed it on top of the piano, I wanted to die. I begged her to take it down, but she refused and said it was a good picture of me. I looked good she said. I remember cringing every time I walked by. I hated it. All I saw was fat and ugly. And you know what, it's still hard not to look at this picture and still feel that about that girl. Along with sadness and pity because I know how much that girl hurt inside.

Despite feeling determined to change things my senior year, I didn't improve much and I still ate like a grown man (working at KFC/Taco Bell didn't help much). However, I did start to exercise more. I would go on walks by myself, and even jogs sometimes. Then I left for college. It changed everything.

College was a complete fresh start. I felt it when I left and utilized the opportunity. First of all, without a pantry constantly stocked full of food I loved combined with living off a college student income, I suddenly had a lot less food at my disposal. Choosing my own foods when I went grocery shopping and purposefully avoiding the junk - knowing I would gorge if I bought it - really helped. Add that to an active job of cleaning a cafeteria, weekly ward basketball/flag-football/volleyball, having to walk anywhere I wanted to go, and a new habit of daily runs, things started changing. And I loved it. I started feeling good about myself and I'll never forget the first thing said to me when I stepped off the plane to visit for Christmas, "You're face is SO thin! You look great." I remember looks from old ward members at the Christmas party that had me smiling and then the icing on the cake during that holiday trip home was being asked on a date by the guy I had been in love with for the last two years (who cares if he was a jerk that night).

I still hid behind the same black pullover (which I still have) and my self-esteem wasn't great, but I gained more confidence in my abilities. The thing that really helped me shed the final pounds was a full time job where all I had to eat was what I had packed that day, and a daily morning jog with the best friend a girl could have. Just a half hour, five days a week.

In that first year of college and first summer back home, I lost sixty pounds! I was in the normal weight range for the first time of my life and the consistent compliments from people just kept me going.

I also started dating a lot. For the first time guys were actually asking me out instead of the other way around. And eventually I met my husband and got married. I remember when I fit into a size ten wedding dress, I almost cried with happiness. Maybe that's a big size for you, but for me it was a miracle. And I have never felt more beautiful than on my wedding day.

I wish it were all a fairy-tale story after that and that I have manged to stay skinny and beautiful forever. But alas, I will always, always, ALWAYS struggle with my weight, my self-image, and self-control. Plus having babies is hard on a body. 

Once I was dead in the stress of marriage, working, school, and pregnacy, I fell back into bad habits and put on a lot of weight. I had already gained a bit of marriage weight and when nine months pregnant I actually got back up to the heavy weight I had been in high school (which I swore I wouldn't get to). I then assumed all that excess weight would just shed off with the baby.

It wasn't until we had family pictures taken a couple months after Lydia was born and looking through them, that I realized the weight wasn't going anywhere. In fact it was going up. All the old feelings of self-loathing came back.

I couldn't believe I had let myself get to this point again. I knew I had not been watching what I ate and my exercise was slim to none. I had let every excuse of pregnancy keep me from being healthy. The thing that I probably hated the most was that my body felt heavy and bulky again and I had little energy. And when you start running when your body feels like that, running=the devil. Running is hard anyways, but when you have no energy, extra baggage, and no conditioning, getting yourself going is the worst part and you feel like you have cement bricks tied to your legs during the run. I longed to be past that arena of mud-running and to the confident, great, workout run that knew existed. So I changed my mind set once again and determined to get the weight off.

Let me tell you baby weight is THE hardest weight to come off. I have had a lot of chances to lose weight people and baby weight sticks like glue. So all you moms out there do not be hard on yourself, just keep going! Eventually it does come off. It took me a good year before I finally felt comfortable with myself again. I know because we took my daughter to the zoo a few months after she was born the pictures were just depressing.

I truly felt like a gorilla. But then after my daughter's first birthday, I was going through the pictures of her birthday trip to the zoo and realized all my hard work had paid off, I actually liked what I saw.

I determined to never slip back to those same habits. And to some degree I haven't. With my second pregnancy I exercised SO much more and I ate so much better. I still had some weight to lose afterwards (of course, NORMAL women always will) but I had gained a healthy amount and lost the excess in a healthy amount of time.

The picture above is five months after Ammon was born.

And the next picture is nine months after Ammon was born. It was also the first picture that both my mom and sister called me skinny.

And now I'm where I am today. Honestly, I am probably the thinnest I have ever been, I run farther than I ever have, and can do more than I ever thought possible. In fact I just recently won second in my division at a community 5k.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn. It's to show where I've come from. Honestly, when I look at this picture, it's hard to believe it's me. Why? Because I still battle fat-girl mentality everyday.

I was recently told that I need to accept a compliment when I'm told how good I look. It's very hard for me. I still struggle with body image, self esteem, and staying on track. I still love food and I am a very emotional eater. I celebrate with food, I comfort myself with food, when I'm mad at someone I get back at them by eating food. It almost never fails making me feel better...for the short term. It has taken me these YEARS to learn how to mange these compulsions. And fighting them is a constant battle. I am also still naturally lazy and the workout drive declines quite often. As I recently discussed this with my sister-in-law, I realized that until I don't have these tendencies, I don't think I'll ever feel skinny. I fight that fat-girl every day and I have weeks were I slip right back into the bad habits I've spent years overcoming. Then I spend time in fear, self-loathing, and panic and have to get back on track the next week. As you can tell it's still a work in progress. But you know what, that's all it needs to be is progress. And look at where I've come from. I have learned to manage my food compulsions and laziness. I also have become dedicated to health and fitness. I know our bodies are meant to MOVE, and now my muscles ache to get used again after the weekends rather than complain from being used. And exercise feels good now, rather than all torture (still some torture, lets be honest, but good torture now). I enjoy the treats that I do indulge in so much more because they are special and my body isn't already loaded with so much garbage.

I have also gained such a testimony that God gave us these bodies and we are to learn how to overcome the natural man and push past the laziness and gluttony. It has brought me so much closer to Him as I develop self-discipline. It has also taught me that it's not all about how I look. While I may sound so concerned with image and weight, and although that's what started this whole journey and begrudgingly will probably always be a part of it, I have learned that being healthy and fit matters more. I really am passionate about that. I want to spread the news of the importance of health to everyone. When you're healthy and fit you'll feel good, you're quality of life improves, you can do so much more, and looking good just naturally follows. It's awesome :)

As you can tell, I'm pretty passionate about this aspect of life and I have plenty to say on the matter. That's why I decided to start this new segment. I've been at both ends of the weight spectrum and I know what it's like to yo-yo, to look at the start of it all and feel so intimidated, to be in the middle and sweating through the rough parts, and to look back and see where you've been. I also have studied so much on the subject, and have lots of tips and ideas to share.

So welcome to Body Boosts! Posts with my personal insights on how to improve that body you're living in and mine as well. I'm grateful for my body. I want to build it to be the most beautiful temple it can be. And what better way than a few pick-me-ups, or boosts, here or there? I hope you enjoy what's to come and I promise that the posts won't all be as weighty (no pun intended) as this one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Three Years Later, and Vote People!

It's been three years since Brigham graduated from college. It's been three years that we have been looking for a better job that would more fully support our family. It's been three years of an insanely tight budget and pinching pennies everywhere. It's been three years of praying, wishing, hoping. It's been three years of interviews and applications. It's been three years of wondering why.

Why were we not getting anything even though we felt like we were doing everything asked of us? Why did a college degree matter? Why was Heavenly Father waiting to bless us with a new job? Why is life so hard?

And while it has been difficult and trying and depressing, I have learned so much. I learned that Brigham needed to go back to school. I learned that in order to appreciate our increases later, we need to learn to be happy with what we have and learn how to work hard to earn a better life. I know that now I will appreciate EVERY penny so much more than I would have if Brigham had landed a job earlier. I learned how to work as a team with my husband in providing for our family. I learned that the Lord knows best and knows how to make me grow to be better. Even if growing hurts sometimes.

So yes, as you may have guessed it, Brigham finally got a new job. Today he was finally told he could give his two weeks notice and prepare to start with Adobe on November 19th. I can't tell you how much of a blessing this is. We have applied for a dozen different jobs with this company and had HOURS of interviews, only to be turned away.

Finally they came to us asking Brigham to apply for a different position, went through more hours of interviews, waiting days to hear a job offer, and then a week to see if we cleared the background check. Well folks, he did. Not only that but he was offered a better job than he had ever even applied for. All that waiting and learning has paid off.

Now before you think we're rolling in the dough, his new salary may not be that great according to the world's standards, but for us it is. It means I can stay home and don't have to worry about looking for a job. Also we won't have to pull from savings anymore to pay rent. That sounds so good to me. Not only that, but it will give Brigham management experience and room for him to move up. Adobe also offers tuition reimbursement which will help with all the money we're putting into Brigham's masters program.

I'm nervous now that he's in a master's program and has to start a new job all at the same time, but I've learned to trust a bit more in the Lord, wait on his timing (even if it is THREE years), and do a lot of praying. I'm grateful to all our family that has prayed for us, looked for job opportunities for us, and loved us through everything. We are so blessed.

So now after that big announcement, I send everyone off to do their part in making sure we pick the right guy to start his job as the president of this country. This economy sure didn't help Brigham any in the job-searching department. Let's pick someone who will help things improve in our country, no matter who you think that might be. I'm glad to be able to have a choice and to have a say. So go vote people! Do your civic duty and may Mitt Romney the best man win :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cinderella Trick-or-Treats

We're pretty well known for loving Halloween around these parts, and this year was no exception. We had tons of opportunities to celebrate and lots of candy to show for it!

This year our family costume theme centered around Lydia's desire to be Cinderella. So we had Prince Charming, Cinderella, Fairy Godmother, and the Grand Duke. It was a bit of work to make the costumes, but they turned out so it paid off.

First opportunity for Halloween festivities was the classic Halloween Party with other classic costumes:

And some classic pumpkin games:

Pumpkin golf, pumpkin pinny pitch, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin bocce ball, and pumpkin penny pitch were the games to win.

And don't forget great food!

It was a laid-back and fun time!

Next Halloween jaunt was the ward trunk-or-treat:

In the top-right picture Ammon is yelling because he has to wait his turn to throw the ball at one of the games and Lydia is afraid of who knows what - probably one of my most favorite pictures ever. This night introduced Ammon to the joy of Halloween. He was surprised, when making the rounds, that if he put out his hand people would put candy in it. I saw his eyes widen in "BEST NIGHT EVER!" happiness. His charming ways sure earned him an extra load of candy. People couldn't resist his outstretched hand and pleading grunts and kept just filling his hand up, even if they had already given him one.

The next night was the true Halloween and we met up with the other Tappana siblings and my sister for a glorious night. The weather was perfect! And we had a fitting moon to set the scene.

Spooky! But not spooky enough to hold these two back:

Boy did they love their trick-or-treating and Lydia sure was cute with her "Happy Halloweens" after collecting her goods. Ammon utilized his innocent hand/grunt routine again and it did the trick just as well as the first time.

Seriously, we have enough candy to stuff stockings at Christmas, fill Easter baskets at Easter, give birthday treats for all year, and lots left over to get sick on. We did good with the loot this year :)

Yeah, we had a great time. Halloween is just so great! So as the Fairy Godmother, I hope your Halloween was as wonderful as ours, and may your every wish come true!