Sunday, August 24, 2014

And another church talk



One of my favorite movies as a kid was the 1968 version of Heidi. In the beginning there’s a scene when Heidi’s grandfather is having a conversation with the local clergyman about why he wouldn’t take care of orphaned Heidi. No matter what the clergyman said to convince him of his responsibility the grandfather adamantly refused. Frustrated the clergyman belts out, “Why are you so stubborn?!” The grandfather grunts and mumbles, “It’s my nature.”

What’s your nature? What is my nature? What does the world teach us about our nature? How often is “our nature” used as an excuse for our actions like Heidi’s grandfather? “I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am.”

From the time that I was twelve, until I graduated high school I was constantly being taught by my Young Women leaders that I had a divine nature. It was reiterated every Sunday as we recited the Young Women’s theme since Divine nature was second of the 7 Young Women values (although now it’s 8 values-overachievers). It was associated with the color blue. There’s even a song written by Janice Kapp Perry that we learned called “My Nature Is Divine”.  I particularly like the second verse which says,

“Why is it when I touch a fevered brow, I know that I must give relief somehow? Why is it when I see someone with less I’m urged within to share my goods and bless? Why is it when I see a soul in sin I long to share the light I have within? Why is it that a joy beyond compare distills upon me when I kneel in prayer? Could it be, oh could it be a sign that deep within this simple soul of mine I sense by some miraculous design my nature is divine? Could it be? I ask in prayerful hours. The spirit speaks with gentle power saying  Yes, your nature is divine, for you my child are mine.”

Even before I made it to Young Women’s, I was still being taught about where I came from. How many of us could sing “I am a child of God” before we could even read the words ourselves?
Our nature is Divine. It is divine because we are children of God. We come from God, and have the ability to one day return to and be just like Him. Our nature is the same as His. In order to know ourselves and what our potential is, we should have an understanding of what God’s nature is.

God is Eternal
17 By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; 
 18 And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them;
 
 19 And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.

God has a perfected living body
Joseph Smith had seen God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in an experience we know as the first vision. His described what he saw as, “a pillar of light…above the brightness of the sun… two Personages whose brightness and glory defy all description” JosephSmith History 1:16-17

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s…”
We are patterned after Him as His children just like we are patterned after our earthly parents. Our bodies are not yet glorified, but will be through the resurrection.

God is omniscient
God knows everything. He knows us, our names, what we need, the mystery behind the missing sock from the dryer, why the sky is blue, and how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop.

41 “He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

We learn from Abraham that God isn’t shy about his knowledge either and he wants us to know that even if we think we’re pretty smart, he can still outsmart us.

19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

Knowledge is a godly attribute (it’s also a young women’s value- it was the color green). We should all be striving to learn and increase our knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is important, but secular knowledge will also be a benefit to us. President Hinckley is known for encouraging us to gain as much education as possible. He said, “You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field (Words of the Prophet: Seek Learning).

Not only will we benefit from education in this world only, but also the next. Doctrine and Covenants section130 vs 18-19 promises:

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

God is omnipotent
God can do whatever he wants. Not only is there nobody to tell him what to do, he can manipulate, create, or destroy anything or anyone at any time.Just because he can, doesn’t always mean he will. Nephi reminds us that faith is required if we are going to call upon God for help when he says
12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him (1Nephi 7:12).

And sometimes, no matter how much faith we pull forth there are some things and trials we or loved ones experience that only God knows why they happen, but we can know that God loves us and we will be stronger through our hard experiences.

God is Kind
Despite these hard experiences that some of us or our friends may be going through that seem like God is inflicting unjust punishment, he really does love us. Doctrine and Covenants 122:7 says,

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

How could we gain knowledge or experience without trials? Our trials give us experience to know how to help others. It gives us perspective and allows us to better appreciate and develop gratitude for the good in our lives. They prepare us to be as God is.

God loves us. He wants us to become the best possible versions of ourselves we can be. I think we’re all familiar with the story of the “refiner’s fire” where a silver smith refines- or purifies- silver by holding it in a fire. If left in too long it would be ruined. It needs to be watched carefully throughout the refining process. When the refiner can see his image in the silver reflected back, the refining process is complete.  God wants us to become like Him and in order to achieve this we need to be held in a fire, our trials, but we are being closely watched. We couldn’t grow without some form of resistance. We couldn’t prove ourselves without a challenge. This world is one ginormous challenge, but hopefully we can find some happier ways that God shows his love as we travel our paths.

Hymn 87 (God is Love) does a nice job illustrating some ways we can see God’s love in our lives:

1. Earth, with her ten thousand flow'rs,
Air, with all its beams and show'rs,
Heaven's infinite expanse,
Sea's resplendent countenance—
All around and all above
Bear this record: God is love.

2. Sounds among the vales and hills,
In the woods and by the rills,
Of the breeze and of the bird,
By the gentle murmur stirred—
Sacred songs, beneath, above,
Have one chorus: God is love.

3. All the hopes that sweetly start
From the fountain of the heart,
All the bliss that ever comes
To our earthly human homes,
All the voices from above
Sweetly whisper: God is love.

One of the greatest acts of love and kindness God has given us is the atonement. He wants us to return to him and so provided a way for us through his great plan of Happiness, or the Plan of Salvation (which is an entirely different talk so I’m just going to skip to the next highlight of God’s nature- and the last one so don’t worry even though God is eternal, this talk is not).

God is Perfect
The nature of God covers a lot of attributes and there isn’t enough time in the world to cover everything, but it could be summed up in about 2 seconds with the word: perfect.
In Matthew 5:48 we are charged to:

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Perfection seems to be continuously out of reach, but if we embrace our divine nature and continuously apply the atonement in our lives and strive to develop our godly attributes that are within us someday we will return to our heavenly father and become just as he is.

So we really shouldn’t blame our faults, or excuse our imperfections because “it’s our nature” the way Heidi’s grandfather did. Instead, next time someone compliments you for achieving something great or doing something nice you can grunt and mumble, “It’s my nature.”

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another church talk


My topic was supposed to be gratitude and abundance. I mostly just talked about myself.
My name is Katie (insert last name here). I’ve been in the ward now for about 2 months, so if you still don’t know me, here I am for about the next 10 minutes.  The three most commonly asked questions people generally want to know about me so far have been, where I moved from, why I moved to Bountiful and how am I liking the ward. I usually give the reader’s digest version of my answers, but since I have some time to fill, and you have no choice but to hear me I’ll tell you a part my story.
I was born in Sacramento and then as a kid my family moved to Antioch in the east SF bay area in California, which is where my parents still live. The town I just moved from was Paradise, California which is about 2 hours north of Sacramento near Chico. I was there for a little over 2 years working at the local hospital as an RN.
I don’t have a logical reason as to why I chose Bountiful over any other place. I had moved to Paradise for a job and knew going there I wouldn’t want to stay there forever. I loved the hospital and people I worked with, and although I found a few treasured friends, my social life there was not what I wanted it to be. I knew something had to change when I finally had a Friday night off and decided to go for a run and watch a movie by myself rather than drive 40 minutes to go to a YSA activity where most of the crowd would make me feel matronly.
This past summer I had an experience at work that allowed me to reflect on the things I really wanted and which ultimately led me to move here. I was asked by my boss to apply for a position that had opened up in our unit. It was not a position I normally would have wanted or applied for on my own, but I was flattered that I was sought out and asked. I like to be helpful and I always feel that new experiences (especially at work) shouldn’t be passed over, so I applied and interviewed for that position. The first interview went really well. The second interview, not so much. Hands down the worst interview I’ve ever been a part of. I don’t know why, but I could not formulate an intelligent response to hardly any of the questions presented to me and I felt so dumb. I left the interview questioning if this was something I actually wanted? I got home and felt so uneasy I couldn’t sit down. I paced back and forth trying to figure out my feelings.
After several minutes of pacing (it might have only been a few minutes, I’m a terrible judge of time) I decided that if by some miracle they still wanted me for the position, I had to say no. That thought was followed with the impression that the time had come for me to leave Paradise. For my entire 2 years there, even though I knew I would leave eventually I always put off deciding where I would go telling myself it wasn’t time to worry about it yet, hoping something would just come to me because it was a hard decision. I thought to myself, ok then, if I’m not supposed to take this position, and I’m supposed to go away, then WHERE am I supposed to move to? And as soon as the thought passed, Salt Lake City came to mind. I had dismissed any idea of moving to Utah in the past, but this time I let that hang out in my head for a minute as I considered it, and as I did my unsettled feelings went away and I was finally able to sit down. It turns out they offered the position to another nurse who had applied with more experience than I had anyway, so I didn’t even have to tell them no and I had never been so grateful to have had a crummy interview.
Before I had enough courage to give my resignation, I kept wondering if I was doing the right thing and prayed and prayed and prayed for a reconfirmation of what I felt the morning after that awful interview. I was given the thought that it would be scary until I did it, and I just needed to do it, and it needed to be soon. I gave my work a month’s notice without having another job lined up or a place to live yet in Utah because I felt like it was the right thing to do and for some reason I just knew my last day at my previous job HAD to be no later than the end of August. I was checking out Utah nursing job postings daily, but knew that Utah wasn’t lacking in nurses and in order to be seriously considered for a job I would need to have a Utah address and a UT nursing license which I was still in the process of applying for. I expected I would be doing most of my job hunting once I arrived in the state, so I didn’t waste too much time applying for jobs during my last month in California, but I did apply to a couple just to test the waters. There was one job posting I found that I felt I just HAD to apply to even though I already threw out my couple “let’s see how this goes” applications with the expected rejection emails in return. I applied, never heard back from them and then never gave it much thought. I didn’t feel impressed to apply for any other jobs after that and spent my focus on finding a new place to live, completing my UT nurse license application and getting ready to move.
I took the week before my last week of work off and came by myself to Salt Lake City to find somewhere to live in person rather than just via the internet and get my fingerprints done in order to complete my application for a UT nursing license.  Every place I went to look at in Salt Lake felt wrong. I didn’t even have to get out of my car to see the inside of anywhere to know I wasn’t supposed to live in any of those places. It wasn’t until I checked out a few places in Woods Cross and Bountiful that I started feeling closer to right. It was the day before my last day in Utah and I had only one more place left to see in Bountiful, but the property manager or realtor or whatever he was couldn’t see me until the next day so I drove over to check out the outside and neighborhood anyway since I had nothing else to do. I loved the neighborhood, and even though I didn’t see the inside, I wasn’t feeling great about that place either. Something told me I should just keep driving around and maybe I’d see some kind of a sign, because this neighborhood was like the “hot” in the hotter colder game. 
Sure enough, after a few minutes driving down (insert specific street name here) there was sign with an arrow on it pointing down (insert another specific street name here) declaring there was a duplex for rent- which is what I was looking for. I didn’t want to have to live in an apartment complex. I drove until I found the matching sign in the yard and fell in love. It was the only place I had seen that I had any kind of positive reaction to. It was a strong “I really really want to live here, I am going to live here, I just have to live here” feeling. I called the number on the sign, left a message after a strange automated recording  worried that it wouldn’t work out, but feeling like it just had to and there was no way it couldn’t. It did. The owners called me back later that night. Everything about the place met my major needs and wants and was the right price. I was able to see the place the next morning, paid my security deposit that same day, was told I could move in any time after the current tenants were out after the 2nd week of September and I never felt so good about life.
A few days or so after my last day of work in CA I got a call from (insert specific hospital name here) asking if I was still interested in the job I applied for about 3 or 4 weeks prior. The next day I was driving back to Utah for an interview which went a million times better than the last one I experienced and I went home feeling really positive. A week and a half or so later I arrived in Utah for good, had a couple weeks to settle in, my Utah nursing license arrived safely in the mail well before my first day of work, and then started my new job that I had forgotten I had even applied for until they called me that turned out to be (insert specific number of miles here) away from the place I found and decided to live in. This hasn’t been the typical pattern in my life. I’ve grown to expect a bit more of a struggle and a lot of hard work and persistence before things usually work out like that for me. This experience was a very pleasant surprise.
I’m extremely grateful for the things in my life that have brought me to this point. Even the times that weren’t so great, and there have been a few. Many times the things I thought were the end of my world lent itself to even better things that I couldn’t have acquired without the previous trial and gave me a story to tell and something to remember how bad things can really be when I might get frustrated with how things are currently. I find that the things I’m least thankful for (like speaking in sacrament meeting) allow me to have a greater appreciation for the things I might otherwise take for granted (like sitting quietly in a pew listening to someone ELSE speak in sacrament meeting- I’m really jealous of all of you right now).
In a general relief society meeting in 2007, Bonnie Parkin described gratitude as: “… a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence.”
Happiness is my favorite emotion. If gratitude can help keep me there, I’m in.
Doctrine and Covenants section 98 verse one says, “Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks.”
And if just being thankful for what we have isn’t enough incentive for having an attitude of gratitude, Doctrine and Covenants section 78 v 19 promises, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
Most if not all of us here have been blessed with abundance. We are blessed with friendship, basic physical needs like food, clothes and a place to sleep, colors to see, a place to come to worship and partake of the sacrament, a way to repent and be happy, music, temples with all the blessings they contain, and many other countless blessings. Can you imagine an hundred fold more? Good thing our bodies will be perfected in the resurrection because they’re going to burst with gratitude if we don’t find a way to let it out.
So how do we do it? By what way can we show appreciation for the abundance we have been given? We can express our gratitude vocally, by saying thank you through prayer. Elder David A. Bednar has said, “The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests.
We can pay a full tithing. We can use the gifts we’ve been given: such as the atonement to repent, the sacrament to re-new our covenants, participate in temple work, use our talents in helping to build the kingdom, and rely on the holy ghost to help us make good choices in our lives, and keep the commandments.
And finally, to answer the third question about how I like the ward so far, I have been nothing but impressed with every person that I have met. I’ve been especially impressed with fast Sundays in hearing all of your testimonies, but be quite honest, I was a little disappointed because I’m an evil person and I find disastrous testimony meetings to be rather entertaining. But everybody was perfectly appropriate, uplifting and inspiring. I can tell you’re a good bunch, and I’m grateful to be here with you. I am grateful to be a part of this church, for prophets and for the scriptures. I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father and his plan, I’m grateful for my savior Jesus Christ and for his love and sacrifice so that we would not be lost. I’m somewhat grateful for trials but more so for the immense joy I feel in the blessings that follow but couldn’t experience without. I’m grateful for the Holy Ghost and for the guidance I receive, especially since it brought me here. And now, I am grateful that this talk is over.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Judgy McJudgers


I’ve seen this blog post shared a few times by fellow fb’ers: http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/09/youre-a-stay-at-home-mom-what-do-you-do-all-day/
The author writes about his experiences with people who seemed judgmental of stay at home moms and his response and high opinion of motherhood.

Some are in agreement and appreciative of the article and what he has to say about stay at home moms. Others are not and take offense because they don’t fit the description he outlined as admirable. I was surprised at the amount of comments, opinions, offences and defenses it aroused within my own facebook circle. I’ve always been aware of the debate and judgments between working and stay at home moms, but I had no idea that so many of my friends personally felt bad, less than or that they were being demeaned or belittled for whichever choice they had made because of other people's opinions.

Holy cow. According to the crappy generalized views of motherhood we're exposed to, a woman who chooses to be a mother can’t win in the world. You're a mother who wants to work? You suck. You're a stay at home mom? You suck. Both views require a defense, which means being a mother requires a defense. It's ridiculous. We need to just do what we want and stop being offended over other people’s opinions when what we do doesn't match what they would do.  They don’t matter. The world needs mothers (working or stay at home) and it's just preposterous that the role of mother requires a defense to the world no matter how she chooses to fulfill it.

I feel this is applicable not only in this case, but in life in general.  Make a choice, own it, feel good in your decision. Who cares about that other person who looks down their nose because I decided this was the best for me and my life at this time? Nobody deserves to have someone else make them feel guilty for doing what’s best, and the only person who can know what’s best for you is you and God. If you’re good on both accounts, nobody else matters…unless you’re married it might be nice to include your spouse in major decisions. They DO matter. I really think if everybody stopped caring about Judgy McJudger's opinions on motherhood, mothers would feel a lot more satisfied with their role however they choose to fill it.

Any mother who loves her children and is actively working towards giving those children the best life as she knows how is awesome. You know what else I think? Judgmental people suck. And there again, that’s just one opinion of one person and if you’re a judgmental person that I’m sitting here in front of my computer screen anonymously judging and you feel that’s the best life decision for you, then who am I to pay heed to?

I wish people could be comfortable in their own life decisions without worrying about what their neighbors think. It’s none of their business and if you feel it’s best for you, kudos! Do it! Do it well. Those Judgy McJugders are jerks and you don’t need them. Be as good as you can be (which is most likely pretty remarkable) and stop fretting over what other people are thinking because it really doesn’t matter. If you don’t think it’s what is best for you and yours, find ways to change it and make it better for you but don’t let what other people think influence the way you feel about your choice or cause you to get up in arms over their rudeness/ naiveté/ condescension/ belittlement/ judgments etc. More than likely they’re feeling guilty over their own life choices and trying to overcome that feeling by proving you (or others who have made choices opposite theirs) to be in the wrong rather than they, which is dumb because everyone has a different “best” choice. Own your choice, and feel good in it if it truly is the best for you. When I see mothers (or anybody for that matter) get defensive in their choices, I sense that they’re unhappy or unsure of the choice they’ve made and they’re trying to prove why their choice is valid to themselves as much as anyone else in order to not feel guilty. If mothers have made a choice they feel is the best possible way to go, they have no reason to feel guilty and I hate that the world has imposed that on them. Whatever choice a mother makes, ANY mother, she will be unjustly judged by someone (perhaps lots of someones) who doesn’t matter. If we understand this, then I think we have a better chance accepting that there is no way EVERYBODY will think we’re perfect even if we are, so we can be happy knowing we’re doing our best. Be good with yourself, be good with your family and be good with God. Try not to let opinions of people who don’t matter ruffle your feathers, even though they are idiots. I honestly feel that the people who are the most judgmental are those who are unsatisfied with their own choices trying to soothe themselves into feeling better. You should pity them because look at you! Making all sorts of best decisions for yourself and family that you feel good about. Everyone else is just totes jelly and can’t deal.

Stay at home. Fine. Go to work. Fine. Why can’t we all just be fine? Judgy McJudgers- go home (maybe after work?)! There are kids that need lovin’ and better examples of how to treat our brothers and sisters in the world and no good reason to make others feel guilty for not being you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gluten Free Double Mint Brownies

Here’s another gluten free version of a dessert that’s a favorite in my family. Usually my mom uses a brownie mix and tops it with the mint cream and chocolate topping recipes below. Instead of the boxed brownies, I use a delicious gluten free brownie recipe her friend gave her called “Gooey Chocolate Fudge Brownies”. If you want the easy factor of a boxed brownie mix, there are gluten free brownie mixes available…but they won’t taste as good as this recipe and it’s really not hard. The response I got with this recipe: “These are gluten free?” Yes. Too bad they’re not calorie free because I just ate 3 days worth in one sitting. Best to make these for a party or take them to work or somewhere else to share...random person next to you? Here, have a gluten free double mint brownie...or 10. Bam. Insta-BFF. And don’t think you can just make them for yourself and reasonably only eat one...or two… or four and save the rest for future days (maybe freezing them perhaps? I don’t even know if they freeze well because they’ve never made it to my freezer), because once you taste them you won’t be able to stop until they’re gone and unless you forget they’re in the freezer (which I don’t think is possible), they have no hope of survival. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m still learning self-control and it’s a hard lesson to learn. For me this definitely isn’t a lonely, I think I’ll bake something for myself tonight recipe. Sharing is the way to go, but if you’re looking for a few extra pounds there’s no happier way to do it and I wish you the best.

 

Gluten Free Double Mint Brownies

Bake brownies (recipe below). Cool completely in pan. Spread mint cream layer on brownies (recipe below). Chill. Pour chocolate topping (recipe below) evenly and spread over dessert. Chill.


Gooey Chocolate Fudge Brownies

¾ cup butter

2 ¼ cups sugar

5 eggs

½ tablespoon vanilla

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose gluten free flour blend

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (or more)

(I also throw in a couple handfuls of walnuts)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Press parchment paper into a 9x13 cake pan and spray with pam (I just used the parchment paper sans Pam and the brownies came out fine).

Melt butter and sugar on very low heat (I also do this in the microwave- last time I made this recipe I did it on the stove in a pan that was too small and melted the sugar faster than the butter and got crunchy sugar crystals in my brownies and ended up having to pull the butter out to melt in the microwave anyway). Let mixture slightly cool and place in a large bowl. Add eggs gradually. Mix well. Add vanilla.

Stir dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture. Stir gently.  Add chocolate chips (and nuts if you want them). Pour into pan and bake for 35 minutes. (Mine were done after 28 minutes- brownies firm and toothpick came out clean).

Notes: I added all the eggs at once, and my stir gently was the lowest setting on my hand mixer. Still turned out great.

 
Mint cream layer

2 cups powdered sugar (I added a touch more)

½ cup butter softened (NOT melted)

½ teaspoon mint extract (I added just a smidge more- probably less than 1/8th of a teaspoon more)

3 drops green food color (mine was a gel, use as much or as little or none as you like)


Beat until smooth. (Don’t be tempted to add milk or water, especially if the butter wasn’t soft enough to start with and it’s crumbly. Keep beating. It will become creamy and smooth.)

 

Chocolate Topping

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup mint chocolate chips, or semi sweet chocolate chips


In a small bowl melt the butter and chocolate chips until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.

Notes: I used semisweet chocolate chips with a tiny bit of mint extract (I didn’t measure it. It was probably around 1/8-1/4th of a teaspoon). I always prefer to use butter, but Imperial (stick, not tub) margarine is an acceptable substitute if you need/prefer in both the mint cream layer and the chocolate topping. It will still taste and turn out amazing. Most every time my mom has made this in the past she used Imperial margarine in the mint cream and chocolate topping and it always turned out a winner. I usually use butter in most of my baking, but the last time I made this I ran out and used butter in the brownies and mint cream layer and Imperial margarine in the chocolate topping. Still too good to not eat.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gluten free hello dolly's!

I’m not a recipe blog. I’m a blog about nothing blog, but as I discover new gluten free ideas or recipes that I love I’m probably going to share them here. I love Hello Dolly’s. I’ve been googling gluten free graham cracker recipes all week trying to figure out a gluten free version of this dessert (that is already mostly gluten free except for the grahams) since I promised somebody a few weeks ago I’d bring some to church tomorrow before I knew I was sensitive to gluten and there’s no way I want to be left out of eating one of my favorite treats. A lot of the graham cracker recipes I found take ingredients that could be hard to find or get in a couple days. I decided I would try this “graham cracker” crust recipe I found here:

 

It seemed the easiest and I knew I could find almond flour in the bulk section of Winco (I happened to see it there on my last visit). I just nixed the cinnamon. The rest of the recipe is the classic Hello Dolly recipe (aka magic cookie bar or something similar that is not as fun to say as “Hello Dolly!” except I use peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch as a flavor preference). Very simple and what I love is the gluten free version of this recipe is just as easy (if not easier because you don’t have to crush anything) as the original. I have only eaten one of the finished product so far, but I’d say they turned out amazingly well and taste just as yummy as you could wish them to. I guess the real test will come tomorrow when I have my friends try them. If this post is still up in July, you’ll know they made the cut.

Gluten Free Hello Dolly's 

1 ½ cups almond flour

4 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon salt

1 bag (10 oz )Reeses peanut butter chips

1 bag (12 oz) Guittard semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup coconut flakes

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350. Mix almond flour, butter, honey and salt until combined. Press into bottom of greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (or completely). Evenly sprinkle peanut butter chips across crust. Continue with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut. Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk evenly over the entire thing. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown. Of course you can use whatever brand of chips you want. Reeses and Guittard happen to be the ones I use. And there’s no reason you can’t use whatever nut you prefer also.

Original gluten-full Hello Dolly’s recipe

1 cube butter

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

12 oz chocolate chips

12 oz butterscotch chips (I substitute peanut butter chips because they taste better)

1 cup coconut

1 can eagle brand milk

1 cup nuts

Melt butter in 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle in graham crackers. Mix. (I usually would mix the graham crumbs and butter in a bag and then press into the pan. It was easier. I would also lightly grease the sides but not the bottom of the pan with crisco). Sprinkle butterscotch, chocolate chips, nuts and coconut. Pour milk on top. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or 325 for 30 minutes.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Perhaps my body hates gluten


“Will you pass me the…the…” I can’t remember what it’s called. I’m looking right at it. I’ve known its name since I was 3 or 4. I know what it is, I know what it tastes like, smells like, looks like, and I can think of all the words describing these things except its name. The family member sitting across from me is waiting expectantly for what I want but I’m drawing a blank. I can only point and describe it, so I do, “…the red stuff you squirt out of a bottle?” I finally finish.

“The ketchup?”

“Yes! Ketchup.”

This was the first time I can remember forgetting the name of something I shouldn’t forget the name of. I don’t remember how long ago this particular incident occurred, maybe 5 years ago. It was confusing to me and a really weird sensation. It’s not like you can’t remember where you put something, or the name of a person you once met and you’re trying to remember something you’ve only encountered once or twice. It’s having a normal conversation and then stopping midsentence because your brain goes blank and there is no word supplied to you for an everyday object that you should have no problem identifying. Things become “white fat in a can” (Crisco/shortening) or “things you unlock doors with” (keys). I’m really good at the game catch phrase. Since the ketchup it happens occasionally, and I had accepted it as something that my brain just does sometimes and I don’t even waste time trying to think of the word for whatever object I can’t remember at the moment anymore. I just go right into descriptions until I remember what it is called (usually by the time I’m done describing it the word comes back to me), or the other person figures out what I’m talking about. I usually attribute my poor word recall to being tired.

Tired. I’m tired an awful lot. I usually try not to complain about how tired I am because I figure I’ve always been tired, even when I have no reason to be, so this must be how most people feel (except the super lucky chipper ones who seem to have caffeine naturally running through their veins) and I’m being a wimp about it so there’s no reason not to do things I should (like go for a run, go grocery shopping, wake up). In high school I attributed my chronic tiredness to early morning seminary. In college, shoot, I was a nursing student. Of course I was tired. But even on summer vacation or a non stressful week with plenty of sleep I still find it hard to feel energetic. At best I’m not sleepy. Given a choice my body would always choose resting on the couch even though I love to move. It’s hard to find the motivation to do it, but my brain usually wins and yells at my body until I comply...but sometimes my body wins, and I stay on the couch. And I’m still tired. My fatigue is not debilitating, I did train for and complete a marathon last month, but it was really hard to make myself run most days. Once I started a run it wasn’t so bad, the hardest part was getting my shoes on and out the door and making myself do it. So many days I just wanted to take a nap instead.

Starting in highschool I developed “crunchy” knees. When I walk down stairs I sound like rice crispies. The grating, or “crunchiness” is palpable if you place your hand on either of my knees and I bend my leg in and out. Along the same lines my joints ache. Hips and knees. Not all the time, but especially after long periods of standing, stressful days, or sometimes for no reason at all. In high school it started with my elbows, but my elbows don’t bother me anymore.

Ever since elementary school I’ve had digestive issues. I remember car rides where I wanted to die because there wasn’t a bathroom available in the next 20 seconds…let alone 20 minutes. I used to get diarrhea frequently so painful I’d nearly cry and I’d have to bury my face in a towel as I sat on the pot. There was never an identifiable food pattern relating to my digestive woes. The pain has eased over the years, the diarrhea is not nearly as debilitating as it once was as a pre teen and teen. I’ve adapted to having certain issues as well as “singing” intestines. After nearly every meal, no matter what I seemed to eat I would get gas that would make my intestines sing-sometimes it sounds similar to a stomach growling. I’ve had people comment on my being hungry, when really it was just gas pushing against and travelling along my insides. It’s embarrassing. If I was going somewhere that was going to be quiet (like church or a class) I had two options: stomach growl because I’m hungry, or intestines singing because I’m not. Peptobismol tablets and simethicone are staples in my medicine cupboard. Sometimes I would take pepto before a car ride or a shift at work if I felt any inkling of discomfort or even if I didn’t, “just in case” because I never knew when I’d be hit with something. My biggest fear training for my marathon was urgently needing a bathroom. Have you seen those pictures of marathon runners in dinky shorts with code brown running down their legs? Oh man. I was so afraid that was going to be me…don’t worry. It wasn’t. My pre run meals I found I did best with turned out to be gluten and lactose free: chex, bananas and almond milk.

About seven years ago my family and I were at Disneyland. I put SPF 50 sunblock on my face. That night when I got home I noticed a light red rash on both cheeks. I thought it was because I had sensitive skin and the lotion irritated it along with being in the sun. I still have the same rash today. I avoided facial lotions with SPF in them, and only used sunblock when I absolutely knew I’d get burned otherwise. Sometimes the rash fades a bit and other times it flares, but it has never gone away 100%. Pretty sure now it wasn’t the lotion.

Starting about 10 years ago I’ve had several cavities (like almost every single tooth that could possibly have a filling does) despite good dental hygiene.

I am sensitive to lactose, but even when I completely eliminate it from my diet (like I did when I was training for my marathon for 5 months) I still had all of the above symptoms.

A week or so ago I saw a friend post something about going gluten free to see if it would help his eczema. My knowledge of gluten sensitivity and celiacs is/was limited, and never something I even thought would apply to me. I always felt so sad for people who couldn’t eat wheat. I did some research (since I also have a rash that just won’t go away-luckily it doesn’t itch and isn’t too noticeable with some make up- I can’t see it in photos) and wouldn’t you know all of the symptoms that I experience that I have just learned to accept as my normal may be attributed to my body hating gluten. I gave myself a half a week to mentally prepare myself for a drastic diet change and get my final gluten fixes (I eat a lot of whole wheat foods and foods containing gluten) and every time I ate something with gluten in it once I came to my hypothesis I felt like I was knowingly hurting myself. It was a weird feeling and I was kind of glad when Monday came. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself or sad about it (I probably place too much joy in food- and a lot of my favorites are full of gluten) because if it is gluten sensitivity causing my abnormal norms it’s going to have to be a lifetime change. There are still many options and things that I can still eat. And if it really is a gluten sensitivity, I should be feeling better without it and perhaps I will learn to not want it if I know it makes me sick and tired.

Since Monday I started a 2-3 week gluten free trial and have nixed wheat, barley and rye from my diet. I’ve never read so many food labels in my life. In my online reading the recommendation is to consult your doctor before going gluten free and if you have enough symptoms being tested for celiacs since blood tests are less accurate if you don’t have as much gluten in your system, but I’m not consulting a doctor. I probably should, but I’m not. If my symptoms improve after 2-3 weeks this will be a change I’ll have to learn to love and I don’t need a doctor to tell me how I feel. If I don’t see any significant changes I’ll add gluten back and see what happens. So far the biggest change I’ve seen right away is no more singing intestines. It’s been a trip eating dinner and expecting the opera to start and feel no pressure or hear any horrifying whale sounds coming from deep inside. I definitely appreciate that change. I’ve learned MY normal is NOT normal, and maybe there’s a reason for it other than “that’s just the way I’ve always been”. I’m hoping gluten free can bring me there and that the rest of my symptoms also improve. If anybody has any favorite gluten free recipes, you’re welcome to send them to me, or leave them in a comment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mission impossible


Earlier this month I completed a marathon. I never thought I’d be able to run a marathon, but if you asked me which was more likely: completing a marathon or doing one pull up, I’d tell you the marathon would be easier to accomplish although both would be un-realistic goals for me.

My newest challenge for myself: one pull-up. I’ve attempted to do this before sometime last year. Eventually I lost interest, stopped practicing and never got to the full pull up because I let myself think it just wasn’t possible. It took too long and I got tired of trying. Occasionally I hang on my pull up bar and still wish I could do one.

I asked my younger brother if I trained to do a pull up like I trained for the marathon how long he thought it would take me before I could do one. He told me one month. I’m going to double that time because my upper body strength is non-existent, I’m not sure if I have it in me to train for anything again like I trained for the marathon, and I think 60 days is still pushing it even if I trained consistently. My goal is to give myself 1 pull up for my birthday this year. I know that “nothing is impossible” but if there is, this is one thing that would be for me. My mom tells me that pull ups are not in my genetics because even as a kid in school she couldn’t do a pull up. I don’t recall ever being able to do a pull up as a kid either. I have done chin ups (over 20 years ago); Never a pull up.

I wish I could say with confidence that “I can do this.” I can’t even pretend that I believe it, but I hope that I can. I discovered I can accomplish more than I thought of myself with the marathon, so I’m still going to try.  One pull-up by July 29. I hope I can do it.