Friday, February 28, 2014

All calories are not created equal

I'm not an unhealthy person, really. I rarely eat fast food. I'm not a fan of soda...I don't even handle carbonation well, let alone the caffeine in the Diet Coke that is so very popular around these parts. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs. I exercise very somewhat regularly. I tend to cook and eat homemade prepared meals rather than freezer or microwave fare.

That being said, I do have one pretty big BUT....

I have a sweet tooth. A raging addiction to sugar. Which means that when I'm snacky, I tend to go for some kind of candy or baked goods rather than fruits and veggies. Not always. But frequently.

So when my neighbor proposed an 8-week "get healthy" challenge, I was interested. Extreme or fad diets are not for me. I have a hard time visualizing how they work out in the end. Oh sure, you'll work super hard and be super focused and intense for some predetermined amount of time, and certainly you will lose weight. But then how do you transition back into normal life after that? How do you maintain? I was more interested in finding something that would help me ease into a new, healthier lifestyle. And this plan seemed to have many of the same goals that I was already trying to make into habits...wrapped into a nice little challenge with a built in group of friends who support and/or commiserate with you. Plus, did I mention there is a monetary prize for the winner?

The plan? Daily points for things such as eating 3 veggies and 2 fruits. Cutting out sugary treats (except for 1 cheat day a week). Drinking 64 ounces of water. Exercising 5 days a week. Keeping a food journal. Quit eating by 9:00 at night. All things that we've long been told would be beneficial to our health, yes? And we even get points for each pound lost, or for simply maintaining.

We're finishing up week 4. Halfway through. I have not been keeping track of my calories...only specific foods eaten. I've never wanted to be a calorie counter. I don't know...something about it just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I'm worried that it would be too easy for me to become obsessive about what I ate and how much I weighed. I don't want to be consumed with each and every tiny morsel that I put into my mouth. However, I have become more aware of calories in general. It's a little bit discouraging to realize just how many calories even a piece of fruit such as a banana or pear can contain. But yesterday I discovered something that made me laugh.

On our neighborhood "get healthy challenge" Facebook page, there have been recent rumblings about how many calories raw almonds contain. Now we all know that almonds have long been touted as one of the world's healthiest foods. So to hear complaints about needing to eat fewer because of the calorie count got me a little curious.

And hey, yeah. 190 calories for 1 serving...a serving being 1/4 cup. Hmmm.
Curiosity continuing to lead me on, I searched out and found a package of my favorite dark chocolate acai/blueberry candy sitting empty in my bedside table drawer.

The results from my search? See for yourself.
One serving equaling 1/4 cup of these particular chocolates at least, is 180 calories! Less calories than the almonds! Albeit only by a small margin.

Clearly all calories are not created equal. Foregoing the chocolates for the almonds is the obvious healthy choice...if you are indeed going for health over simply losing pounds. But oh, how I enjoyed that little bit of irony!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lovers Feast

I didn't go to the local high school here in my current town. Bryan and I attended a high school in Salt Lake County. We are in a small minority due to that fact. Many of my neighbors grew up here, went off for college, missions and marriage...and then came back to settle and raise a family here...their children following in their footsteps. And I can see why. This town has a very distinct and tight community feel with all its quirks and traditions. Solid people, solid schools, solid way of life. I'm glad we are here. My children have expressed gratefulness that we are here. We plan to stay here. We're lifers.

But that being said, I am indeed a newbie. Which means that I didn't know about Lovers Feast at the high school until just last year when Rebekah had a chance to be a part of it as a "serving wench." A choral department wide fundraiser with most of the choir kids involved in some sort of way or another, truly it's the Madrigal's show. And Rebekah was chosen to be a Madrigal this year.

In it's 34th year, it's a seven-course renaissance style dinner with entertainment provided by the Madrigals...a dinner-theatre type show with audience involvement. And each year they take some sort of modern pop-culture theme and weave it into their tale. This year, a renaissance version of "Hunger Games" complete with tributes performing in the various arts (dancing, mime, cooking and paper mache) in an attempt to win the privilege of marrying whom they choose. Each of the audience members were assigned to one of four tables representing the four places the tributes were from. Rebekah was one of the two tributes from "Stuart". The rest of the Madrigals had various parts as people from the Capital. The whole thing was meant to be silly fun and not taken seriously. We laughed a lot. And there was singing, did I mention that? Lots and lots of singing.

As the dancing tribute, Rebekah had to improvise two different dances each night. Despite the fact that she hasn't had any sort of dancing lessons since she was 6 years old, she was rather graceful. Appropriate seeing as her name was "Grace."

And what would a Hunger Games theme be without a rebellion? Forks were strictly forbidden. We were not given forks to eat our meals....but somehow forks were slipped to various people throughout the evening by rebellion sympathizers. And if you were found in possession of a fork, you got hauled off to the stockade....
Julianne and Lilian were better at hiding forks....Julianne had three by the time the night was done. Brandon got caught fairly quickly and spent some time in the stockade. Grandma tried to fight off her jailers.... "Long live the rebellion!"

Soon the whole room was in full scale rebellion with people holding up three fingers (symbolizing the 3 tines of a fork) every time someone got caught. The longer the evening went, the more hyped up (and hilarious) the rebellion became.

Lilian and I attended both nights....the first with the family and Bryan's parents and then again the second night with my parents. Rebekah had asked a fellow madrigal friend to the upcoming Sadie Hawkins dance and it was on the second night that she received her answer. During the "battle" scene between "Peter" and "Dale" (Dale aka Nolan) Rebekah was handed a rolled scroll by the high steward. This was not a part of the script. And of course the whole audience was watching the big fight playing out in front of the main table so I did not notice what was going on. "Lady Grace," he apparently whispered to her, "it is of the utmost importance that you read the message that is on this scroll immediately." She opened the scroll and read, "Lady Croft. I would 'die' to go to Sadie Hawkins with you! Yes!"
According to Rebekah, she gasped and looked up....because at that very moment Nolan/ "Dale" had just been run through by Peter with a baguette (silliness, I told you) and was lying "dead" on the ground. Apparently Nolan's parents who were in on the whole thing, enjoyed watching Rebekah's shocked face. What a very clever way to answer!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sweet Sixteen

Last year Julianne's birthday fell during a gymnastics meet weekend in Las Vegas. Because of this, Bryan and I decided to take the whole family with us as a mini vacation to celebrate...even leaving a day early so we would have some serious birthday celebration down time in Sin City. (See here.) But Julianne is a traditionalist when it comes to holidays and birthdays. And so though we took her to the huge aquarium in Mandalay Bay, saw the white tigers and dolphins (her favorite animal) at The Mirage, and had icecream at Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace (where we even saw John Travolta), among other various activities....because we did not have wrapped gifts to open, cake with candles or a big banner and other such traditional decor, it was a fail. She enjoyed the day...but didn't really feel like it had anything to do with her birthday and therefore felt that she hadn't been properly celebrated. Sigh.

I learned my lesson this year. Julianne turned the very special age of 16. And tradition states in our household that turning 16 means rather than lots of presents or a big party, a special trip with mom and dad to a location of the birthday girl's choosing. (Remember Rebekah's trip to San Diego?) Because of various commitments that have all three of us tied up for the next couple of months, the soonest we can go is late April. And where did Julianne choose to go? The Big Apple....New York City. Her main goal, to see "Newsies" on Broadway. Truth be told, though it'll be a lot of travel time for a quick in and out trip, I'm certainly not complaining about her choice of venue!

But point being, with no traditional presents or party, and with her birthday trip still 2.5 months out, I knew I'd have to do something else to make sure that this birthday was not another repeat fail. So armed with ideas from pinterest, Rebekah and I waited (somewhat) patiently for Julianne to go to sleep the night before her big day. Unfortunately for us, she stayed up reading till midnight. But once the coast was clear, we quietly put our plans into action and tiredly went to bed around 1:00 AM.

At 6:30 AM Julianne's "Core Four" group of friends (Taylor, Lauren and Jessie) came over with breakfast. (I can take no credit for this one...they texted me the night before asking permission to surprise Julianne.) And to mine and Rebekah's balloon hallway decor, they added hearts inscribed with fun messages all over her bedroom door before going in and waking her.

After lots of hugs and "Happy Birthdays!!!" and such things, Julianne walked the three to the door, only to find on her way up the stairs the "life of Julianne" picture collage Rebekah and I had created the night before.
"Mom!" she exclaimed as she threw her hands up in the air, almost as if she wanted to hug the pictures..."You succeeded!!!"
I'd already succeeded and it was only 6:45 in the morning! Lucky me!
The doorbell rang again at 7:00. A doorbell ditch this time. And on the doorstep, a plate of cookies from Zoe, with the first of 16 notes Julianne would eventually receive throughout the next few days detailing "all reasons why you are awesome!"

What with breakfast coming from the Core Four, I thought Julianne's request to skip 1st period and have breakfast at Granny Annie's might be off. But she was still jazzed about the idea of missing 1st period, as was off we went.
And it was here that the birthday texts started coming in. From her own friends, yes...but also from numbers that she didn't initially recognize. Turns out Rebekah had sent Julianne's cell phone number to all of her friends and told them to text Julianne birthday wishes. All day long Julianne's phone beeped with messages, keeping her happily busy with thank you replies.

She was in a very good mood when she got home. "Everyone is celebrating ME!" She was incredibly touched and a more than a little bit amazed by all the gifts, hugs and messages.

One friend stopped by with balloons and treats. Another stopped by with cupcakes. Gifts and treats and visitors showing up all evening long. At one point shortly after the doorbell rang, I heard Julianne shrieking with laughter. She had just opened a gift from her good friend Jordan who lives down the street. He had bought her a toaster, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter. And though it'd probably take too long to explain all the back story, I'll just say the two of them are "toast buddies" and have long since bonded over their love of toast, bringing each other pieces on various's their "thing."

Taylor brought over a "kissing tool kit" filled with things like a new toothbrush, mints, chocolate, socks for a "foot popping kiss" (a reference to "Princess Diaries") etc. It even came with a kissing manual. Julianne has some seriously creative friends.

Bryan took Julianne out for her first date. But because of homework restrictions, they made it a quick one and just went to dinner. (Julianne was asked out three more times that week and put together her first creative "ask" to a big dance...Sadie Hawkins next month.)

When Brandon got home from gymnastics around 10:00 we had the official "Happy Birthday to you..." singing and the blowing out of the candles. She decorated the cake herself and was quite pleased with the results. Granted, she was quite pleased with the whole day so I think by 10:00 at night she was already predisposed to like anything and everything.