Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tales of a Reluctant Baker...

Sometimes when it has been more than a year since you wrote on your start to wonder if you should just not have a blog...but then you think that keeping it gives you a place and an outlet to share your random you keep your blog and decide to write a post.

That is where we are today friends.

At this moment I am waiting for dough to rise for some cinnamon rolls I am making for a meeting tonight.  Yes...if you have been invited to the meeting...and are reading this post before the know what the surprise treat is.

 I do not really feel comfortable with yeasted breads.  It's all a bit mysterious to me and possibly a little too scientific.  I just need to spend some more time figuring it all out.  Maybe someday I will really understand it the mean time, I'll just keep blundering my way through.

The Spud family has been watching a lot of The Great British Baking Show lately, I've watched all 3 seasons available on Netflix twice and am starting my third go around.  We have also started watching The Great British Baking Show Masterclass also available on Netflix.  As a certified Anglophile, former Londoner (I'm going to claim that living there for 18 months makes me a Londoner), a person who enjoys cooking (gotta say though, Dr. Spud is the better baker), and a tired mom, I delight in these shows.  If you haven't watched are missing out.

Every single meal I make is now critiqued by Spud Jr. and Spudette channeling Paul & Mary.  We get a little of Mel and Sue in there too. It is all done in great fun and nobody is being harsh or really critical...we all laugh heartily as everyone inspects my meals for "soggy bottoms,"  "under-proving," "nice textures"  and "good bakes" in general.  Occasionally, I will get a Hollywood handshake and "well done Mother." I said...I don't really feel comfortable with yeasted doughs.  I am always afraid of over or under flouring.  And how do I really know when something is doubled in size?  Should I be measuring? And then there's the shaping...very tricky.  Hopefully my rolls will be up to par for tonight.  I may have to hold a roll or two out of the meeting stash to get the approval from my resident Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.

Thanks Paul, Mary, Mel and Sue for making meal times a delight.  Someday I hope to win a cake stand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You're gong to miss this...

This week has been the book fair at our elementary school.  I volunteered to help set up and then took 3 shifts to help with the fair itself.  I have enjoyed helping with this activity twice a year for the last few years.  This time the organizer, who is one if my friends, said, "I'm so sad you won't be at [this school] after this year."  It took me a moment to realize the reason. Spud Jr. will be in 5th grade next year, which means leaving the elementary school and heading into the Middle School.  That means...I will no longer have an elementary school child.  For those of you who are wondering how this can be possible...let me explain.  In Rexburg, kids go to the small elementary schools for K-4th grades, then all of the kids in the district move to the Middle School for 5th & 6th grades, then the Jr. High for 7th-9th grades and finally the High School form 10th-12th.

Having the youngest of my two children finish his time at the elementary school reminds me that my children are growing up.  FAST!!! I remember the days when I had two little kids running around and feeling the constant exhaustion of trying to keep up with them.  People told me, 'Enjoy these days, they pass by too fast' or 'Someday soon, you are going to miss this.' I didn't believe them.  And I'm not going to say I miss the physical exhaustion or the sleepless nights (although, we still have some of these...just not very frequently), I don't miss that.  

But...I do miss those days of tiny hands holding on to mine.  I miss the days when my kids thought I was the bravest, best and smartest mommy in the world.  I miss the moments of their first discovering so many new things that are just normal parts of life.  I do miss those tender, formative, long days.  

The days now are short and the months and years seem to race by at an astounding rate.  I am trying hard to remember to enjoy these days too because all too soon, they will have flown by too.  And while the challenges now are different and the physical demands aren't as great, the mental challenges are much greater and possibly even more trying.  Some days I feel completely mentally drained as I try to navigate the emotions of a 12 (soon to be 13) year old girl and a 9 (almost 10) year old boy.  Some days I catch myself wishing some phase or another will pass quickly, but then I catch myself and remember....'Enjoy these days, they pass by too fast.  Someday soon, you are going to miss this.' 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reluctant Spud Runs...Reluctantly: A few things I have learned about running

Ok, for those of you who were hoping that I would really be able to write a blog post twice a week, all I can say too. happens and things that I would like to do sometimes don't happen.  Luckily, my new years resolution was just to write more, and wasn't too specific and as with all goals, things have to be adjusted at times.  Which brings me to the title and subject of this post, kind of.

People who know me from my childhood, know me as a swimmer.  I started swimming lessons very young and was swimming on a team from the time I was 6 years old until I was in high school.  I was a great swimmer.  I actually still hold records at a couple of pools in Salt Lake.  I was one of the top backstrokers in the state of Utah at age 10 and continued to do well for several years.  As I grew so did my body (strangely enough), and the space between the ball and the blade of my shoulder became too narrow.  As a Freshman in high school, I developed chronic inflammation in my shoulder and it caused a lot of pain.  To make a long story short, I eventually had to decide how much my swimming career meant to me.  Was it going to by my life-long passion?  Was it going to continue to be as large a feature in my life?  I spent a lot of time thinking about this and also praying to know if I ought to pursue the course that might make continuing to swim a possibility (surgery, with a not-so-great chance of success) or if I was going to let it become something I loved but didn't do every day.  Following inspiration from the Lord, advise from people who loved me and not being sure a surgical option would really correct my problem, I decided to "retire" from competitive swimming when I was a Sophomore in high school.  My retirement coincided with a transfer to a different high school so from that point on, friends and people I spent a lot of time with had no idea what swimming had been in my life.  

It has now been a few years (ahem) and I live in a small town.  I don't have great access to a swimming pool and I still have that faulty shoulder.  Several years ago I decided I just had to find a way to be physically active.  I had some problems with my health that limited my ability and I hated the idea of going to a gym.  Partly because I didn't want to spend the money on a gym membership and partly because I didn't want to be seen by others in stretchy pants.  We lucked out and got a great deal on a treadmill and I liked it because I could run at night after I got my kids to bed.  As my health issues progressed, I had a harder and harder time keeping consistent with my running.  Following a series of surgeries, I was totally discouraged in terms of getting physically active.  But one talent I do have is that I have a hard time giving up.  There is just something in me that doesn't want to be beaten, especially by myself!  

A few months after my final surgery, I decided that I needed to find a way to do something.  I started walking at the track at the BYU-Idaho center in the morning after my kids went to school.  It felt good to be out of the house and making an effort.  In those early days, while I was still recovering from that last surgery (it was a doozy!), it took about all the energy I had for the day.  After several months, I started trying to see if I could slowly jog half of a lap.  It worked and so over time I would add another half a lap and then after a few more months I found that I could jog an entire lap without stopping...following a slow course I was eventually able to jog 3 miles on the track.  It has been about 3 years since that time and I have been slowly making progress along the way.  I am actually planning to run a 10k this summer and for the first time in my life I ran 4.5 miles without stopping last week.  I must say it feels great to be in a place where I can do something that seemed pretty impossible 3 years ago.

The truth is:  I don't love running.  I loved swimming and felt (and still feel) totally natural in the pool and in the water.  Running is not natural nor easy for me, but it does work and even though I honestly feel like I would rather not...I keep running, even if I may be doing so a bit reluctantly.

Let me share a few things I have learned along the way:

#1 - I am not a sprinter.  This was true when I was a swimmer too.  I could sprint pretty well when I was a little girl, but as I grew in swimming, I found my best events were the distance events.  I learned how to negative split (go faster every 100 yards) and usually by the end of the race, I was about 2 lengths ahead of everyone else.  I do the same thing in running.  I have no idea why, but starting out is hard.  My first mile is always awful, then it gets better.  I'm not saying I run any mile very fast, but each mile I run, usually gets better than the one before and by the end of whatever distance I am running, I am running as hard and fast as I can.  I hope that I can be this way with life, just keep getting better and stronger as it goes along.

#2 - In order for me to improve, I have to do one run a week that challenges me.  I might add distance, or altitude or just speed, but I have to add something that gets me out of my comfort zone.  If I just keep doing the same thing, it's ok, but if I want to improve I really have to push a bit.  I guess that is also true in life.  I might just like to stay at home and watch TV or read, or whatever, but I don't really progress if I don't push myself a little bit.

#3 - After one of my "challenge" runs, I have to take a rest.  I can't run the next day, I just have to recover.  Another truth in life.  When I have faced something big, I have to take some time to recharge.  If I just keep going, I don't really do well, I may even fall back.  So...I have to rest and recharge after the big stuff.

#4 - Running uphill is hard and so is running downhill.  Uphill is hard...that makes sense, right?  It is more exerting.  I generally run more slowly and I can tell you it works my heart harder - I wear a Fitbit Charge HR to monitor my heart rate and it is definitely working harder when I am climbing.  But going downhill is harder on my knees and I have to be really aware of my form and be careful not to run too fast.  I have to pay attention to where and how my foot falls and not lean back too far but stay centered and focused.  So...this also relates to life.  When life feels like an uphill battle, it is taxing!  Progress is slow and it sometimes hurts.  But when life seems easy or like I'm coasting, I have to get focused and centered or I might run too fast or do something stupid that I might regret later.  

#5 - Equipment and form matter.  When I was in college and doing some running to stay in shape, I didn't have to give my form nor my shoes a thought, I could just handle whatever.  But now that I am in my forties (YIKES!), I have learned that wearing running shoes that have the right amount of drop, are lightweight, and have enough support are pretty critical for my joints.  Likewise, I have to think about how I am running.  When I am lagging and getting slower, I have to consciously think of lifting my knees up and pushing through my stride, which ironically makes it easier to run.  Again, these lessons have also bled into understanding my life, especially spiritually.  I've got to keep my form in mind and pick up my spiritual knees and push through when I am feeling sluggish.  My equipment is my spiritual preparation.  I have to say my prayers and read my scriptures and study the gospel and take time to meditate -to allow silence and clarity to help me understand concepts and principles that are challenging and difficult.  It's this equipment and form that can pick me up and carry me through.  

I still miss swimming.  I miss racing and winning and I miss being really good at something.  I'm not a great runner, my progress and pace are both slow, but I am so grateful for a body that now allows me to do it. I am grateful for the sense of accomplishment that comes from making progress in something that is hard for me to do.  So even if I still think (every day), that I really don't want to run, this Reluctant Spud will keep running...reluctantly and hopefully I'll be ready for my 10k and whatever else life throws at me.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Quick Kitchen Reorganize

It seems like every year I need to do a little reorganizing in my kitchen.  I do not have my dream kitchen with oodles of space and the perfect spot for everything, but I want everything to have a spot of its own to call home.  Over the course of a year, I realize that there are things that are working for me and things that are not.  So over the last few days I have been working on making simple changes that make a big difference to the functionality of my kitchen.  And since I am trying to blog more this year, I decided to share some of what I have learned over the years with you. :)

Let me just start by saying that I do not believe in a single organizational system that will work for every person and every home.  That is probably why I re-organize things every year.  My life changes every year, my family changes every year and that means I need to be flexible.  

My basic organizational strategy is to put things close to where I use them.  That is not always exactly possible, but when I put things where I use them, it makes my life much easier.  It is sometimes easier to put things where they fit and sometimes that just has to happen, but if possible, try putting what you use where you use it.

1. The first thing I do when I am re-organizing is to take everything out of its place.  For this little project, I was re-organizing a few cupboards that just weren't working well for me.  I was always having to dig around to find what I wanted and it was just getting old.  So...I started by taking everything out of the cupboard where it has been living and put it on the counter.  
2. The next step for me to do to a a quick de-clutter.  For these cupboards, I looked at each item and decided: Is this something I still like or want to use? Has it expired? Is this the best location for this item or would it be more useful in a different spot?  After de-cluttering it is much easier to see what I really have to work with.
3.  Next, I clean out the area where I am going to be putting things back.  In the case of the cupboards, I wiped down the whole inside of the cupboard and the shelves.  It just makes me feel better to know it is all clean! 
4.  Finally, I but things back making sure to find a way to make it work for me.

I took some before and after pictures of my project this time.  Let me walk you through it...

The above picture is the cabinet under my kitchen sink.  It is still a work in progress, but I just needed to make a few changes to make it work a little bit better for me.  I always struggle with these cabinets under sinks, you know...water can get under there and I don't know if I really want my toaster down there...but that is something to think about another day.  My big change here was getting a basket that hangs on the cabinet for the things I use the most.  It makes it much easier to get what I need.  The extras are in the back and it is working great so far.  My favorite thing about this basket is that it is mesh so nothing will fall out, but I can see everything in there!  I got it from Bed Bath and Beyond.

Next up...
This cupboard is just one where I have kept some of my baking supplies, it is near my stove and oven and I have liked some things about it, but the big pain was that I couldn't get at whatever was behind something else!  I have used several different storage systems and have found things I like and don't like about all of them.  This cupboard needed something different.  I went with the Sistema Klip It containers and labeled them with my personal labeler.  This cupboard is now a dream!  I can see everything and get to everything easily!  

Next...up was one of my dreaded Lazy Susans...
I have to admit that I really don't like corner cupboards.  They are always so hard to organize! So, you either have a lazy Susan that is not easy to work with or a huge cavern that is impossible to get to, or you have a lot of wasted space.  We went with lazy Susans for this kitchen and while it isn't just has to work.  This particular lazy Susan is where almost all of my baking supplies and staples reside.  The problem with a lazy Susan is that things just don't fit nicely inside.  But I decided that the main thing I needed to do was to get everything in some kind of container.  I put like things together as well so that they all have their own area.  So far, I am much happier with this little cupboard.

I find that often when I am working through a re-organization project, I end up doing more than I thought I would. bonus this time was my spice cabinet.  I know a lot of people have a spice shelf and that is all they need, but I really like to cook and I really like to use spices.  If I had the space, I would honestly be able to use 2 whole cupboards just for spices.  I didn't take a before picture because I wasn't planning on making changes to this cupboard, but since it ended up being one of the things I worked on...I took a picture for you all to enjoy. Actually I took a picture to make myself feel really great about the work I did.

Let me just point out a couple of things that I am loving about this cupboard.  First of all...several month ago, Dr. Spud noticed that I was frustrated trying to find the spices I wanted.  They are on those great spice shelves that step up so you can see them, but the labels are always hidden behind the spice in front.  So...Dr. Spud got out our favorite labeler and put a label up on the top where I can see what I am looking for.  Then, when I run out of a spice, I can just take the label off, stick it on the shelf (if you look you can see one on the second shelf) to remind myself to replace what I am missing.  The other thing I am loving about this cupboard is what I added this time around.  On the top shelf you can see two acrylic boxes.  They are called Cabinet Binz and I got them at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I put them up there and fill them with whatever I want and then when I need something from them, I just pull out the whole bin and can easily see what I want.  I can see myself using a lot more of these babies!!!  They are awesome!!  Now I can see and get to everything in that cupboard so easily.

All in all...this quick re-organize project took about 1.5 hours.  But you could easily just break that down and just do one cupboard each day until you get where you want it to be.  When I do that, I just have a small basket or box where I put things that don't work in the space I am working on and put it aside until my whole project is done.  At that point I either throw or give it away because I don't have any place for it, or I find a good home for it.

If you are interested in the labeler that I use for just about every organization project, this is it.
* Please note that this link (and only this one) is an affiliate link, if you click on this one and end up buying the labeler, I will make a small commission at no cost to you!

There you have it, a quick kitchen reorganize that didn't take too much time, but makes my life easier.  Happy organizing!



Friday, January 22, 2016

Sharing Your Story

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a Relief Society Meeting, one of the meetings that happens on a weekday instead of Sunday.  The theme of the meeting was: Women of Faith.  I was asked to share a little bit of my story and tell a little bit about how I remain a woman of faith, maybe share some of my trials or challenges, etc.

When the counselor of our RS presidency stood to introduce the meeting, she shared the story of a friend who had moved into a new community.  That community had a larger LDS population than she had experienced before and she expressed the feeling that she didn't fit in there.  Maybe she felt like she couldn't relate or had such different life experiences from everyone else that she just didn't feel like she knew how to click with her new community. The purpose of our meeting was to help everyone know that even though we all have different backgrounds and come from different places, there are threads of commonality in our experiences.

After that introduction 3 of us were able to share our individual stories and something of how our lives have helped us to have faith and how we remain faithful - meaning that we continue to have faith even when times are hard.  The two other women who shared their stories had had very different life experiences from me.  They had both endured serious hardships in their lives and I found myself getting nervous because I wasn't going to share those kinds of experiences.

Truthfully, I have always felt that I have lived a very very good life.  I was born to amazing parents, had a great family life, married an amazing man who loves and adores me and I love and adore him.  We have been blessed with 2 amazing children.  He has a great job and we have a great life.  That doesn't mean that I have never had challenges and I shared a couple of things in that meeting that have been challenges for me and my family.  But really, I knew that what I was going to share that night wasn't very dramatic or really anything out of the ordinary.  I wondered if what I had to say would be a disappointment to everyone listening after the amazing experiences of those amazing sisters!  (Seriously...their personal experiences are amazing!!)

Well, I shared what I had on my mind anyway and told my story.  I shared a couple of experiences that I called the bedrock of my own personal faith and testimony.  I felt good about what I shared and even though it wasn't very dramatic, it was definitely my own story.  Since then, I have felt some amazing things. I have felt a different camaraderie with the other two sisters who spoke that night.  We may have very different backgrounds, but we share many things, including the opportunity to share that night and that has a binding power all its own.  The other thing I have felt is the love and acceptance of the sisters who were there that night.  I have had some people tell me that they could really relate with what I was sharing and that there are a lot of similarities between our lives.  Of course we have not lived the same life, but they could relate with my experiences.  It makes me want to hear more of their stories.

The stories of other women are important to women.  We deeply want to feel connected to our sisters and the truth is we all can feel connected to each other.  Even though our individual circumstances and stories differ, we really can relate with each other because we are all human beings trying to figure out life and we need other people and we need to feel connected.  Now...I just need to get women to start sharing their stories...any ideas???

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Faith on a Snowy Road you are thinking I already broke my resolution of writing more on my blog...but I have not!  Last week I went down to Utah to help and spent time with my parents for a few days and the days I had at home before leaving I needed to get things ready to go!

I drove home on Saturday morning while it was snowing.  I really do enjoy the snow, but I really don't like driving on snow-covered roads, especially on my own.  I mean...I could go off the road and get buried and nobody would least for a while??  The interesting thing about this journey home was that I did not feel nervous.  OK...maybe that is an exaggeration.  I was a little bit nervous for a while.  The roads were all great and clear until the Malad pass and then the road was snowy and slushy.  That is when I felt nervous.

Then something wonderful happened, I dialed up my faith.  I had looked at the weather reports and planned to leave at the time when it looked like I had the best chance of missing the snow.  I had prayed before I left, my parents had prayed for me, my husband and spudlets had prayed for me and so I realized that I really didn't need to be afraid.  If I was going to drive off the road, or get hit or was going to be OK and it was going to be in line with the Lord's plan for me and my family.  That didn't mean that I was going to just stop paying attention or start driving crazy fast or doing some other reckless thing, but it did mean that I could let go of my fear, lock in on optimism and drive without fear.

As I thought about that experience I realized that it was a little microcosm of my life.  I am a worrier by nature.  I can think of a thousand negative outcomes of just about everything, it plays out like a movie in my mind.  Some people might think that this is a challenging way to live and that would be true, if I didn't have faith in God.  I have learned to trust Him and lean on His understanding (see Proverbs 3: 5-6).  Whatever happens I kind of know it's going to be OK.  It might be hard, it might be life-changing, but it will really be OK.

I made it home safely on Saturday...I trust I will make it home to God in the end someday.  That is true for me and for you.  Hang on to your faith...the Lord has got you covered.

Leslie (a.k.a. Reluctant Spud)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New Year, A New Post (and hopefully more to come)

Welcome to 2016. It is a new year and that generally makes me feel a little anxious to try something new...maybe a few new things. This year...I want to get back to writing a bit more. So...I plan to do just that here on my wonderful little blog!! I will likely post about what is going on in my life but not in a boring way, hopefully. I might post something about the new things I am trying, my efforts to decorate my little abode, some of our family's favorite things and more. I have made myself a schedule to post twice a week! This in itself may be a bit of a lofty goal at this point, but I want to do it!!!

I believe in resolutions!! 

In fact, I believe in resolutions so much that I get the whole Spud family to write down their resolutions, then I frame them and hang them on their walls, so that we can see them all year. Then at the end of the year we take them down to see how we did.

Sometimes we laugh because our goals were funny, or we forgot about them, but most of the feels good to see our progress. Here's looking toward good things to come in 2016!

If you are just in love with the great printables I found for our resolutions this can find them: here, here, here and here. Oh...and if you like my post, let me know by sharing, commenting, pinning, or something.


Reluctant Spud (a.k.a.  Leslie)