"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Pet

Yes, it's true. We have a new pet.

Now wait! Before you alert the landlord, let me tell you... it's not that kind of pet.

The girls lovingly named him "Cuteness".

He lives in the kitchen, and makes breakfast for us every morning. He drinks milk. Or juice. Or even sugar water, but for now he is still a baby and just sticks to milk. He grows very quickly and must be fed every day or two.

He has lots of talents and skills, and even a few vices (as with all pets).

He was given to us by a kind neighbor. Are you dying to know what he is? (Probably not.)

Cuteness is a Kefir granule:


Isn't he sweet? What, no? Well, my girls seem to have a slightly different aesthetic than most children as exemplified by their love of bugs, reptiles, and other creepy crawlies. They think "Cuteness the Kefir" is the cutest little thing ever.

I used to buy kefir milk at the grocery store to add into my smoothies. I had no idea where it came from. I just thought it was like yogurt or something. It is not the same thing as a living kefir granule. That stuff you buy at the store is just what the kefir MAKES. A kefir granule is a living probiotic organism. (is organism the right word?) Well... let me tell you, this stuff is cool.

Kefir is a super powerful probiotic - many many times stronger than the cultures in yogurt or probiotic pills. It has been used since ancient times and is just amazing. You take a living kefir granule like Cuteness and place him in a jar, add some milk (or juice, or coconut milk, or sugar water), and 24 hours later you have perfect kefir milk (or water or juice, depending). Kefir even digests the lactose in milk making it easy to digest for those that have lactose intolerance. You strain out the living granule and place Cuteness back in a clean jar for the next day, and then enjoy the kefir he made you in a smoothie or other recipe. Kefir can even be used to make cheese, sourdough bread starts, cream cheese or sour cream substitutes for baking, etc. There are tons of culinary uses I am excited to explore.

And another cool thing about kefir, is that it grows and can be shared with friends. Mine is still a baby, but in a while it will grow and multiply and I will be happy to share him with anyone that wants to try. The kefir milk tastes a lot like sourish butter or maybe sour cream. It has the consistency of thin yogurt. It's pretty tart alone, so I add some sweetener to the smoothies until the kids get used to it. It has a slightly yeasty smell, but doesn't taste the way it smells. It's a fascinating product.

Here is a "recipe" for a smoothie we made with it this morning. The children all loved it and proclaimed it delicious:


Brittany's Kefir Breakfast Smoothie
1 quart strained kefir milk
1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal (whole oats)
2 Tb. flax seed
1 large carrot
1 peeled cutie (mandarin orange)
1 banana (not over-ripe!)
8 frozen strawberries
1 cup spinach leaves
dash cinnamon
sweetener to taste (stevia, honey, agave, sugar, whatever floats your boat.)

I'll be making this one again.
We have also tried kefir with only frozen berries and a little sweetener to make a sort of ice cream. Yummy!

Now as to kefir's "vices"... I guess he can effect other yeast processes, such as bread rising. So if I make bread I should have Cuteness sit on the opposite side of the kitchen from where my bread is rising. Isn't that funny? My kids thought it was hilarious. They thought that cuteness would climb out of his jar and attack the bread dough so it wouldn't rise. Such active imaginations they have. Another "vice" is that you have to take care of it every day or two or the culture will actually die. It must be kept between 65 and 85 degrees(depends upon who you ask), and must be put to rest in hibernation mode in the fridge if you go on vacation. It is a bit of a commitment, but I'll take it over cleaning up doggie doo, dealing with barking, digging, fur, and destruction that comes with other pets. For now, Cuteness will make us a perfect pet. Just don't tell the landlord.


Here are some links if you are interested in reading more about kefir:
a place to buy a start (if you don't live near enough for me to share with you...)
kefir source website (lists health benefits of kefir)
{and many, many, more... isn't the internet awesome?}

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How {Not} To Photograph a 2 Year Old

It was a gorgeous day today. Mid-50's and sunny. There was a windy spell in the afternoon, but the combination of the temperature, the sunshine, and the wind melted all of the snow! It almost felt like spring.


I had a really busy day and spent much of it shuttling people to and fro, but I had about 20 minutes this morning with just Rylan. The lighting was too perfect and I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures of my cute, cute 2 year old.


Rylan loves to smile for the camera, but only if he is about an inch away from it. He also loves to run and jump when he knows you are taking his picture. The combination makes it nearly impossible to get a good shot. Thank heavens for bright daylight and cropping. Though I do think these candid shots catch his personality better than a "perfect" photo ever could.


When Mason is really frustrated with something or makes a big mess, he alway yells, "Ugh! Really!?!" Rylan had a dead ringer impersonation of him this evening after dropping an entire bowl of spaghetti. Hilarious.



My favorite: (How did he learn to pose like that?)



He is such a fun boy. He makes us laugh constantly. He repeats EVERYTHING we say and wants to know what everything is called. He now speaks in full sentences most of the time.


I know they are called the "terrible twos" but I disagree. This is my favorite age of all. Love my sweet 2 year old!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Washington Winter

Weather is amazing. Not any type in particular, just the fact that it is so quick to change and that it varies so dramatically from one location to another. When I think about the variety of climates on the earth and even the changing of the seasons I am totally amazed. Mason has decided he might like to be a meteorologist when he grows up. For today at least.

Everywhere we have lived I have marveled at the unique weather. In Idaho, the winters were cold, bitter, and harsh, but unimaginably beautiful. I had a hard time hating the cold because of the gorgeous scenery it created. (Okay, I'm not going to lie, I hated the constant wind, but still..) I never went anywhere in the winter without my camera because it was so gorgeous where we lived. The hoar frost was new for me, and I couldn't get enough of it. And the sunrises and sunsets were nigh to spiritual experiences. Wide, open, beautiful skies and crisp, clean air.

(photos taken last winter in Idaho.)






And now we are in a new place. The beauty is different. The weather is different. It's warmer. A lot warmer. The wind still blows, but only occasionally. The plants are different. Even the snow is different.

But we still have an beautiful skies from time to time

And in December, we even had a couple of foggy days that produced some fantastic hoar frost. For a couple of hours it looked like a winter wonderland.


This week we had our first serious snow of the winter. (At least by Idaho standards.) The kids were delighted to have 2 1/2 snow days due to the weather.

We got around 8 inches of snow, which seems like no big deal, but the snow here is different. It's dense and wet. And then after it snowed, the weather turned into what they call "freezing rain" I thought freezing rain was something different. Like sleet, or hail. ish.

I have never seen anything like this. It "rained" for a full day. Tiny frozen clear droplets of water pelting the ground. It was sort of noisy. They stuck like snow and then formed a solid layer of ice on everything. The windows of my vehicle looked like they had a rhino-lining of ice.

It was dark, but you can sort of see the layer of ice on the snow. Kooky.
It wasn't even very cold. Mid-30's.

And now it's in the 40's and the snow is melting as quickly as it came.
Maybe winter is over. Ha!
Everyone complains about the terrible roads. They really aren't that bad. I kind of enjoy winter. I think I would really miss it if I lived in a place where it never snowed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On Green Smoothies and Calories


I am totally addicted to green smoothies. We bought a super-duper blender for our anniversary a year and a half ago, and I have used it every. single. day. Sometimes we make fruit ice cream or soup or nut butter or pancake batter, etc.. but mostly I use it for smoothies. I make a gigantic green smoothie every morning. I love them. I crave them. I notice a difference in my energy and even my mood if I miss a day.


So I have noticed lately that a lot of people are really into smoothies. I think it's so awesome. I find myself in conversations about smoothies rather often. People often ask for my recipes. I'm less of a recipe person and more of a toss-it-in-and-see-what-happens person.


I've discovered that food and cooking, eating and nutrition are very personal things. No two people are alike, and everyone seems to have pretty strong opinions on the subject.


But in these conversations I have noticed that not all smoothies are created equal. My somewhat "health nut" mom has greener than green smoothies that most people couldn't choke down. No fun and games, but optimum nutrition.


In contrast, I attended a smoothie demonstration the other night where the lady added an entire bag of frozen fruit, sweetened fruit juice, fruit-flavored yogurt, two bananas and an orange. I was mentally calculating the calories and had to bite my tongue. That little dixie cup of smoothie had more calories than my whole quart of breakfast smoothie. And a fraction of the nutrition.




Calories can be difficult to guess about. I researched yogurt nutrition and calorie counts. Wow. A person could write a rather lengthy book on the subject. 6 ounces of lowfat/nonfat yogurt can range from 70 to a whopping 260 calories. There are other factors to consider such as active cultures/probiotics, fat, artificial sweeteners, additives, etc. Many of the lower calorie sweetened yogurts are loaded with all kinds of nasty chemical sweeteners.


Yogurt is one product I always read the label before buying. I really should just make my own, but, you know...lazy... someday, maybe. I buy the "Nancy's" brand. Plain or vanilla sweetened with agave. It's not too expensive and tastes really good. It has slightly more calories than those with artificial sweeteners, but I think it's well worth it.


Another consideration is adding fruit juice to your smoothies. Juice contains as many or MORE calories than soda pop. Juice has so much sugar, even if it is labeled "unsweetened". Adding 2 cups of grape juice just added over 300 calories to your smoothie! You have some benefit from the grapes, but not nearly as much as if you just tossed in a small handful of fresh ones.



So then the wheels in my head started turning and I googled calorie charts of the foods that go into my smoothies. I'm super curious about the comparisons. I am not a calorie counter. I probably should care a lot more, but I'm of the mindset that if I avoid nasty processed foods and eat as much nutrient dense living foods as possible, I'll probably be just fine. Anyway, I was surprised by the calorie charts so I thought I would share my comparisons.


Here is my typical morning smoothie:


spinach and kale

lemon

orange or apple

celery

carrots

flax seeds

frozen berries

yogurt

water


sometimes I substitute other frozen fruit for the berries or other fruit for the apple/orange, but this is the usual "recipe".


Now here are the amounts and calories for three different smoothies (note: I fill up my 2 quart blender to the top and drink 1 quart of the mixture. I add water to desired consistency. I also add liquid minerals which contain no calories.)


Smoothie #1

optimum nutrition and minimal calories

not super sweet, but palatable


3 cups spinach 30

2 cups packed raw kale 68

1/2 apple 40

1 stock celery 15

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt 35

1 lemon 20

1 peeled orange 60

1 cup mixed berries 60

2 Tbsp. flax seeds 74

1 large carrot 30


Calorie total 432/2 = 216 per quart



Smoothie #2

still quite low in calories

sweeter and more kid friendly, but without added sugar

high nutrition


5 cup spinach 50

1 apple 80

1/2 lowfat vanilla yogurt (Nancy's) 110

1 lemon 20

1 peeled orange 60

1 cup strawberries 40

1/2 cup blueberries 40

1 large carrot 30

1/2 banana 55

2 Tb. Flax seed 75

water 0


Calorie total 560/2 = 280 calories per quart



Smoothie #3

high in calories and sugar

fewer nutritional benefits (though still contains some great ingredients)

Way too sweet for my personal taste



2 cups frozen blueberries 160

2 cups frozen strawberries 80

1 apple 80

1 container sweetened yogurt 200

2 cups grape juice 300

1 cup spinach 10

1 Tbsp Honey 64

1 banana 110


Calorie total: 1004/2 = 502 calorie per quart

(over 500 calories! As many as a McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese.)


Now I know there is WAY more to nutrition than just counting calories. All of these ingredients have nutritious benefits. There are other factors and debatable topics to consider such as and not limited to:


sugar intake/ glycemic index

weight gain/loss/maintenance

anti-oxidants

protein, added protein, vegetable protein (there is a whole debate on the subject)

fat. Healthy fats, bad fats, Omega 3 -6-9's (again, you could dedicate your life to the subject)

organic vs. non organic

allergies and allergens

dairy (a dirty word to some)

cultured probiotics such as kefir

sprouting

live enzymes

specific vitamins and minerals

negative effects of chemical additives like artificial sweeteners

the "raw" revolution


I could go on and on.... but I won't


Like I said earlier, diet and nutrition are a very personal thing. The science on much of it is iffy at best. Everyone has an opinion and I think we are all trying to figure it out in one way or another.


So what do you put in your smoothies?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rylan Turns TWO!

Rylan is two! Can he really be two years old?


He sort of got the short end of the stick for his birthday this year, but I don't think he noticed.
My poor, poor January birthday babies...



We had a little birthday "party" for Rylan last Sunday night while Grandma Gina and Papa were still here. The party consisted of chocolate frosted cupcakes and opening two presents.

Like I said, it was pretty low key. He had a super time though.

He especially liked the happy birthday song and blowing out the candle. We re-lit it a dozen times or so for him to blow it out.

video

I think he ate 6 mini cupcakes. He's a fan of chocolate frosting. He also had an awesome chocolate mustache.


"Two!!"


The last few weeks Rylan has started talking up a storm. He speaks in full sentences whenever possible and repeats everything we say. He's a total chatterbox. It's strange because he would barely say a word or two at a time and point to things not too long ago. It's so amazing the way we learn language.

Rylan is so darling and energetic. He keeps me on my toes, but he brings so much happiness into our lives. We love him to bits. Here's to the not-so-terrible twos! (at least not yet...)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ellorie's Baptism Day

(Sunrise the morning of Ellorie's 8th birthday. Isn't it perfect?!)

Last Saturday my sweet Ellorie was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.



She was baptized by her father, who holds the priesthood keys to perform these ordinances.

The priesthood is such a huge blessing in our lives. I'm so grateful for the blessings and peace it brings to our family. Ellorie was also confirmed a member of the church and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by her father and other family members that also hold the priesthood.

Ellorie is 8 now and old enough to know right from wrong. We are so happy that she has decided to be baptized. Ellorie was really excited (and a tiny bit nervous) to take this first big step in her spiritual progression. She knows all about the covenants she makes at baptism and wants to choose the right so she can return to live with Heavenly Father again someday. She is trying so hard to be a good girl. She is such a joy to have in our home.

Her Grandmothers spoke about the ordinance of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Grandma Gina talked about keys and how the priesthood is like a key that opens a door on our pathway of life. Only the correct key will open the door. She gave her a special white key so she can remember the importance of the priesthood power in being baptized. She also talked about repentance and how we renew our covenants every Sunday when we take the sacrament.

Grandma Allen talked about the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how it feels like a warm blanket wrapped around you to comfort and help you throughout your life. The Holy Ghost can be with us to help and guide us if we keep the commandments and life a worthy life. Reading our scriptures and saying our prayers can help us communicate with our Heavenly Father and help us recognize and feel the Holy Ghost in our lives.


Grandma Gina and Papa Ken (My beautiful mother and wonderful step-father)


Grandma and Grandpa Allen (Brandon's parents)



Her grandfathers gave the opening and closing prayers. My dad, Kerry Clegg (who died when I was just a bit older than Ellorie) would have loved to have been there. Ellorie inherited his love of animals and wildlife and has many of his fun personality quirks. (I just know she would have been a favorite of his...) I thought about him often throughout the weekend and I know he is on the other side of the veil watching over us. I miss him so much when we are together for family occasions such as this, but I often feel him close by and know he is aware of us. I am so grateful for the blessings of Eternal families . I know that because of the covenants we have made in the holy temples will see him again someday.

We had so many loved ones there to support her on this special day. (Many, many more than pictured here. I think we had over 50 people in attendance.)


We haven't lived here in Washington very long and my heart was so full as I saw all the wonderful people that came to support our family. We have so many blessings!




My dear friend and neighbor Kim Wiberg took all of these beautiful pictures. She is so talented and I just love them. It was a busy morning for me, and there is no way I could have gotten the pictures I wanted on my own. I am so grateful for so many good people around me. Thank you so much Kim!

Another dear friend, Sharon Carpenter, made Ellorie's beautiful dress. It was so perfect! She is pretty much a wizard with a sewing machine. Ellorie felt like a princess in it. Also, a huge thank you to everyone that helped out with the baptism. So many people brought cookies, helped with music, set up, clean up, etc. I am so grateful for all of you!





Congratulations, Ellorie! We are so proud of you and love you very, very much!

Rylan Really Loves "Bey Blades"

Bey Blades are a trendy kind of top that is all the rage right now. Mason is obsessed with them, and apparently Rylan looks up to his big brother. The tops and rip cords are quite tricky to assemble and set up. It takes an adult several seconds to figure it out. Rylan used to bring them to us over and over again to put together so he could pull the rip cord. I guess he finally figured out how to do it on his own.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ellorie turns 8



Ellorie had an awesome birthday! Her grandparents flew in from Utah just for her birthday and baptism. She got to spend the whole weekend playing games and reading stories and being generally spoiled.
On her birthday morning she wanted crepes with whip cream and strawberries. And who can blame her? Yum!


Her birthday was a school day, so at lunch time Averie, my mom and I took her some cupcakes to share with her class. Everyone loves Ellorie. It was fun to see her in her interact with her class.


This year for her birthday presents, Ellorie wanted to go shopping for art supplies. Ummm... you pulled my arm, Ellorie. Asking an artist to help you go shopping for art supplies is like asking an alcoholic to take you to the liquor store, or a chocoholic to take you to the chocolate shop, or a ... well you get the picture. Needless to say, she is well equipped with all things artistic for a long time. I couldn't help myself. (Besides, we were out of paper anyway.)

We had a little family birthday party for her that night. She wanted a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake. It was actually very easy to make. And delicious. The girl has excellent taste. (Now if I only had excellent frosting piping skills... but in my own defense, I did that with the corner of a ziploc bag.)

Ellorie had lots of helpers opening her presents. She got some great things to prepare her for her baptism. Her very own set of scriptures:

A beautiful case to put them in from Grandma Gina and Papa:

A baptism towel from Aunt Tessa and Uncle Darren:



A card making stamp set from Chad and Hilarie's family:

And many more things I failed to get pictures of...

What an awesome and memorable 8th birthday. We love you, Ellorie!