Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Beef Stroganoff Can Be Gluten and Dairy Free and Still Taste Good

Cooking is not difficult. Everyone has taste, even if they don't realize it. Even if you're not a great chef, there's nothing to stop you understanding the difference between what tastes good and what doesn't. –Gérard Depardieu

I fought it for a really long time. I did not want to give up gluten — in essence, my daily bread. I was tested for Celiac and it came back negative. I gave up dairy almost a year-and-a-half ago, which was really, really hard. It was hard enough eating diary free without adding gluten to the mix so I stubbornly stuck to my gluten-laden diet because I don't have Celiac disease. I was convinced that it wouldn't help. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was eating myself sick. Within 3 days of giving up gluten, I felt better than I had in months. It's been a little over two months now and I feel like a normal person again. I can't believe what a huge difference it has made.

Coming up with menus that aren't monotonous is difficult. And living dairy and gluten free limits what you can make but necessitates cooking almost every day. Very few restaurants cater to special diets. You can only eat so many salads with vinaigrette dressing without getting bored. And there are cross-contamination issues, as well, when eating out. This week, I felt like I was out of ideas, so I rummaged around on Pinterest and found a few things I'd pinned a while ago and decided to give them a try. First up, was the most amazing Black-Eyed Pea Curry from Mel over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Her recipes use mostly fresh ingredients, so it is easy to substitute if necessary. This curry called for half-and-half, but I used canned coconut milk instead, added cauliflower as suggested in her notes but not included in the recipe and omitted the cilantro because I'm not a big fan. After tasting it, I could see how the cilantro would have complimented the flavors, so if you like it, I'd say go for it. As it was, I thought it was heaven on a plate. We will definitely be having more curry around here in the future.

Mel also has this casserole {she calls it a hot dish} that I've been romancing for the past year or so. It is an upscale version of one of my favorite casseroles. Mine uses cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups and plain white rice, with a splash of soy sauce, some hamburger, onions and garlic and chow mein noodles on top. Hers uses butter, flour, milk and spices to flavor wild rice. The first time I made it, I used a wild rice blend, butter substitute and almond milk and halved the recipe but otherwise followed it exactly. The rice came out crunchy and under done, and it was all burned to the bottom of the pan. The second time I tried it, I made the same changes as before but I tried cooked the rice half-way by using only half the water and half the time, hoping that the time in the oven as part of the casserole would finish cooking it all the way. It was an epic fail. For some reason, it was too salty. Way too salty {operator error, I'm guessing} and the rice still wasn't done.

Several months ago, I gave it one more try. I still used half the amount of rice and still did a wild rice blend, but I cooked it all the way before putting it into the casserole. I also used the full amount for the sauce ingredients {subbing in dairy-free only; I was still in denial about being gluten intolerant} and added in a tablespoon of soy sauce. It was spot on. I was going to make this recipe last week, but I was still recovering from surgery, so it got bumped to this week's menu. As chance would have it, we had a leftover steak that Mr. Bug had grilled up for us on Friday night, so I decided to use it to make beef stroganoff night before last or as close to it as you can get without using dairy or gluten. I used the sauce recipe from Mel's casserole, modified slightly, and I thought it was pretty tasty. Without dairy, it isn't exact, but it is pretty darn close so I thought I'd share.

Beef Stroganoff
½ to 1 lb. beef (leftover roast beef, stew meat, steak – raw or left over), cut to bite size pieces
2 tablespoons butter substitute or olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
¼ cup corn starch
1½ cups beef broth
¾ cup rice milk (or 1 cup almond milk)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon onion salt
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

8 oz. gluten-free pasta

• Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not drain until ready to serve.
• In a 10” skillet, brown the beef on medium high heat until juices caramelize on the bottom of the pan {works with both leftover and raw meat}. If your pan is non-stick, you don't need to add any oil, but if it is a regular pan, add a little olive oil to keep the meat from sticking. Transfer the meat to a plate and cover with foil.
• Return the skillet to the stove and add butter substitute or olive oil and melt over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes until the onions are translucent and most of the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms. Sprinkle the corn starch over the vegetables and stir to combine. Continue stirring and cook the mixture for about 1 minute.
• Slowly whisk the broth and milk into the skillet. Add the salt, celery salt, onion salt, garlic salt and pepper and stir to combine.
• Return the meat, with any juices that might have accumulated, back to the skillet and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes.
• Serve over hot pasta.
Serves 4

• I used Heartland Fusilli pasta. It was excellent. You can find it on the regular pasta aisle at Wal-Mart.
• Rice milk doesn’t thicken as much as almond milk, but I’m sensitive to almonds, so I use rice milk. Also, for some reason, sauces and gravies made with corn starch lose their “thickness” when you refrigerate them, so leftovers will have runny sauce, but it still tastes good.
• My favorite butter substitute is Earth Balance. They have the original in Wal-Mart, but I go to a health food store to find the kind made with olive oil because I like it better.
• The amount of meat doesn’t have to be exact. This is a great recipe to use up leftover roast or steak, but you can buy a steak or stew meat if you don’t have leftovers. Stew meat tends to be a little bit tougher, though.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Giveaway: Amelie Purse Pattern from Geta's Quilting Studio

In giving you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude. –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A couple of weeks ago, I put my name in on Giveaway Day at Geta's Quilting Studio and I was delighted to be one of the winners! Geta has so many beautiful designs. I bought her Flower Ball and Flower Power quilt patterns a while ago {which I will eventually get to} and recently, I made some bags from her Amelie pattern.

While I was perusing her fantastic patterns trying to decide which ones to choose, an idea began to hatch. What if I were to use part of my giveaway winnings as a giveaway of my own? The Amelie purse was so fun to make and everyone who has seen it loves it. I've received lots of compliments on it. The mother of one of the girls I made one for loved it so much that she even ordered the pattern!

It has tons of pockets and would look fabulous in an infinite number of fabrics and colors.

So, I asked Geta if I could use one of the patterns I won from her as a giveaway on my blog and she kindly consented. I'm so excited to share an Amelie Purse Pattern in PDF downloadable format with one of you! I would like to send a huge thank you to Geta for her generous giveaway! And for those of you who can't wait for the giveaway or want to try one of her amazing quilts, her patterns are on sale for $5 each for two days only, through May 28th!

The Fine Print:
• To enter this giveaway, leave a comment telling me something good that has happened to you this week. Or just leave a comment. Whichever.
• One entry per person, please.
• Non-blogging/non-Google users and international entrants are welcome.
• If you do not have a Google account, use the name/url {url optional} commenting option and make sure you leave your e-mail in your comment in the following format: address (at) domain name (dot) com.
• Comments with no contact information will be deleted.
• Duplicate comments will be deleted.
• Comment moderation is on, so don't panic when your comment doesn't show up. I'm notified of new comments and will approve them periodically each day, after which they'll show up on the post.
• The giveaway will close at 10:00 pm MST on Friday, May 30th. The winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified by e-mail and announced here by 8:00 pm on May 31st.

Good luck!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Same Familiar Packaging with New and Improved Functionality

"This is the cabin for Hypnos, the god of sleep," Annabeth said.

. . . Soft violin music played from somewhere. The air smelled like fresh laundry. The cabin was so cozy and peaceful that Jason's eyelids started to feel heavy. A nap sounded like a great idea. He was exhausted. There were plenty of empty beds, all with feather pillows and fresh sheets and fluffy quilts and—Annabeth nudged him. "Snap out of it."

Jason blinked. He realized his knees had been starting to buckle.

"Cabin Fifteen does that to everyone," Annabeth warned. If you ask me, this place is even more dangerous than the Ares cabin. At least with Ares, you can learn where the land mines are."
–Rick Riordan, The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero

I am beginning to wonder if I am a child of Hypnos because a nap always sounds good to me. But since that is probably not the case, I had a septoplasty {warning: link contains gross photos} with turbinate reduction, which probably isn't the most logical choice of treatment but let me explain. For as long as I can remember I haven't been able to breathe well through my nose. I couldn't breathe out of my right nostril at all. And I clench my jaw while I sleep, so I wondered if I might not be getting enough air at night, which was causing or at least contributing to poor sleep quality. I never wake feeling rested and refreshed. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to wake up. Most mornings, I push the snooze button a few times and then turn the alarm completely off and go back to sleep. And no matter how many times I tell myself that I will get up when the alarm goes off, my mornings pretty much always go like that. Obviously, I don't make good decisions when I'm asleep.

When I finally do wake up, I feel like I have to take several minutes to breathe deeply enough to re-expand my lungs and come to my senses. The coming to my senses parts takes about a half-an-hour, at which point, I start scolding myself for sleeping past the alarm again and promising that tomorrow I will do better.

Whether or not there is any real correlation to my hypothesis, I went ahead and made an appointment with an ENT about a six weeks ago. The PA asked lots of questions and then she donned a forehead light and took a pair of cross-lock tweezers, stuck them up my nose and expanded my nostril so she could have a look in there. She told me that it looked to her like about an 85% blockage and explained that to repair it the surgeon would remove the cartilage from my nose, shave the bones spurs from it, smooth it out, make it nice and straight and put it back in. Easy peasy. She said it was a very non-invasive procedure {which is kind of debatable in my non-educated opinion, because they go right up your nose} and a quick recovery. She made me feel very confident that it was a good option and would be less than a minor interruption to my life. So I signed up.

Cut to Thursday-before-last. Mr. Bug and I had to be at the same-day surgery center at 8:45 am. After we checked in, the nurse led us back to a little room where she gave me a lovely lilac-colored paper gown about the same weight and feel as a reusable grocery sack and a pair of large and unattractive boxer shorts of the same material, for which I was very grateful. I supposed that in the event they needed to open my chest from my collarbone to my navel, they could get those babies off and out of the way in a jiffy and in the meantime, I could keep from hanging the moon on my way to the bathroom. It was a win-win situation.

Then they started explaining the procedure in more detail. That's when I started to worry. The anesthesiologist came in and explained how the anesthetic would work, which didn't worry me {sidebar: my first c-section, which is major surgery, was a semi-emergency but by the time we got to that point I was so tired I didn't even care and just wanted a nap, although they didn't put me under. I breezed right through the second c-section. But when I had a bunion removed a few years after that, the thing that worried me the most was the anesthesia. What if I never woke up? Of course I did, and I was really annoyed that they wanted me to leave the blissful and best sleep I'd ever had so soon after I arrived there. After that, I wasn't worried about it anymore, and kind of looked forward to it when the opportunity arose. Weird, I know. But sleep and I have a long and complicated history.} What did worry me is all that they told me about after-care. Namely, that there would be swelling, bleeding and crusting. And I was not allowed to blow my nose. That was a deal breaker and I was ready to get out of the paper gown and go home. Fortunately for them, they had powerful sleeping agents at their command and before I could make a break for it, I was under.

I have to add that when the surgeon came in to talk to me between the anesthesiologist and the surgery nurse and the guy with the drugs, I was working on one of the embroidery labels for my Patriotic Sampler quilt. I put it on my lap while he went over what he was going to do, but I saw him look at it several times as he was talking to me. As he was turning to go, he hesitated and then asked what I was working on. I showed him and he studied it for a minute and then complimented me on how precise my stitches were and said something like, "you could do surgery."

I don't remember much of the afternoon after my surgery. I think we were supposed to start at 10:00, but they must have been running behind because they didn't wheel me out until 10:45. We made it down the hall and around the corner and I was out. They told me I'd have to move from one bed to another, but I don't know if that even happened. The next thing I remember was trying to wake. My lungs felt heavy and it was difficult to breathe. Then I was in a recovery room and the nurse brought me applesauce, pain meds and soda. Mr. Bug hung out and read and I slept. About 2:45, it seemed like the nurse kind of wanted to shoo me out the door. She brought in a nose sling, which wrapped over my ears and had padding across my cheeks and then a plastic strip under my nose, which you placed a gauze pad on to catch any blood that might be dripping out. Up to that point, my nose seemed pretty clear, but when I stood up, it started to drip. It was uncomfortable, but not unmanageable. And according to the nurse, it wasn't a lot of bleeding. So I got dressed, they trundled me out to the car in a wheelchair and we went home. I slept on the way. When we got home, Br. Bug set me up in a comfy chair {they recommended sitting up, or lying at an incline}, I had a popsicle and watched TV for about 10 minutes. Then I had another nap. One of my kind neighbors brought dinner, after which I'm pretty sure I had another nap. And then Mr. Bug and the kids came in to watch TV with me and I dozed in and out and went to bed before 10:00.

At about 2:00 am, I woke up and wandered into the kitchen to get some more pain meds. I decided that a popsicle would be a good idea, too. It took me about 15 minutes, and the whole time I stared at my sewing table and seriously debated about doing a little something. In the end, I decided it was too much effort and went back to bed. I got up a few times to use the bathroom or get pain meds, but mostly I slept until about 1:00 in the afternoon. I set up camp on the living room couch and trimmed frayed threads off the cut edges of my latest fabric acquisitions fresh from the wash {sidebar: I used to serge the cut edges but quit doing that and instead I wash on the "hand washables" cycle, which is very gentle. I get about a fourth of the amount of frayed threads than with a normal wash and because there are less stray threads, there isn't a tangled up rat's nest that has to be sorted before the fabric goes to the dryer. I figured that the time I spend trimming that off is about the same as the time it takes to serge the edges, but saves on thread and wear-and-tear on my machine.}. The rest of the weekend was spent mostly sleeping interspersed with saline flushes, pain meds and popsicles, alternately. I wasn't in too much pain following the surgery and after the first few days Tylenol and Advil did the trick.

Resting was nice, but also difficult. I have kind of a hard time sitting still {another sign that I may be a demigod and that Hypnos is indeed my father} and am always working on something. I almost never sit and veg in front of the TV, but I did a lot of that because I was so tired. I wanted to sew, but it seemed like too much effort. I had four whole days off and all I managed was one set of four blocks for the signature quilt I'm making.

Four blocks. That is all. Admittedly, I pressed 3 yards of pink Kona and 2½ yards of white Kona between naps. But four - 5" blocks seems like nothing for a four-day weekend. OK. I did get all of my stash fabric washed, folded and put away in rainbow order. Some of it wasn't as recently acquired as I may have previously led you to believe. Some of it has been sitting in my laundry room since last July. So, that is a good thing.

I other happy news, after the first few days of crustiness and several dozen saline flushes, my nose functionality has improved. And so has my sleep. This was recorded by my sleep app {Sleep Cycle for iPhones and Sleep as Android for Android} just a few days after the surgery. That has been my best day so far, but I've moved from the mid 70's on average into the low 80's on most nights, which is a step up from a C to a B- and I'm encouraged by that.

I'd planned to go back to work last Monday, but by the time I got up and dressed, I needed a nap so I worked from home. Tuesday was much the same, except I had a popsicle for courage {don't ask me why, because I don't really know} and actually went to work instead of working from home. Wednesday morning I had a follow up with the PA, who again donned the light headband and armed with the cross-lock tweezers and a suction tool, went up my nose and cleaned it out. At one point, she got a pair of tweezers and pulled something out—I didn't look—and went back to suctioning. I wonder if she goes home at night and says to herself, "best job ever!"? She told me that the doctor had used the word "severe" in his notes in reference to the deviation of my septum. Part of the reason I put off going for so long {I've been thinking about it for a couple of years now} was because I was afraid I would get there and they would say, "nothing is wrong, you big whiner, so quit whining." It was a relief to know that there really was something wrong and that it has been corrected.

The PA noted that there was still quite a bit of swelling in my previously good nostril {the left one, in case you were wondering} because that was the side that the surgeon went in on. She told me that the swelling would go down, and after about four weeks I would be better than ever and I would wonder why I had put it off so long. That put me at ease, because on my way in I was wondering if the large chunk of change that was our portion after insurance had been worth it. I felt even better on my way out because I noticed a huge improvement from the little vacuuming job she did. Also, I was cleared to blow my nose. In the past week, there have been several times that I have noticed that breathing is a lot easier for me. I even woke up one night and realized that both my nostrils were open and that I had a nice flow of oxygen going there. I settled back to sleep with a smile on my face.

I constantly marvel at the amazing-ness of the world we live in. Sometimes, when I'm cooking up something yummy in the kitchen, I wonder if they had simple, ordinary, commonplace ingredients as readily available a century ago as we do now? Could Laura Ingalls stop at Olsen's Mercantile on her way home from school and pick up some chocolate chips? Or did their Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies just have oatmeal in them and she didn't even know to imagine chocolate chips and coconut? What if they wanted to have a curry? Did Nels stock Garam Masala {sidebar: I made the MOST FABULOUS Black-Eyed Pea Curry last night. You seriously have to give it a try, and make sure to add some cauliflower to it.}? What if the reason Nellie was so cranky is that she was lactose and gluten intolerant? Diagnosing that would have been next to impossible and changing her diet would have been entirely impossible. What if Ma had trouble delivering Carrie? Doc Baker couldn't give a her an epidural, let alone begin to imagine performing a c-section. There wasn't an outpatient treatment center for when Albert was hooked on morphine. He had to go cold turkey. And even the fancy doctors in Mancato couldn't have done my septoplasty.

We live in an age of abundance and modern convenience. This fairly non-invasive surgery {which will not result in my nose caving in. I asked.} has the potential to improve my quality of life on a very fundamental level. Or at least I am hopeful of that. I'm already feeling better. If my sleep doesn't improve to at least a B+ average, I'll pursue other diagnoses and treatments, which will involve gadgets and gizmos and tests the likes of which Doc Baker couldn't begin to fathom, even in his wildest dreams. In the meantime, I will continue to marvel at the technology that made my little modern miracle possible.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mormon Messages: The Other Prodigal Son

Someone or something is forever telling us we need to be more handsome or more wealthy, more applauded or more admired than we see ourselves as being. We are told we haven’t collected enough possessions or gone to enough fun places. We are bombarded with the message that on the world’s scale of things we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all.
–Jeffrey R. Holland, The Other Prodigal Son, April 2002

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sabbath Songs: Abide With Me

I need thy presence ev'ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r?
Who, like thyself, my gtuide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!
Abide With Me!
text by Henry F. Lyte, music by William H. Monk

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sleep: There's an App for That

I wonder why I don't go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip one hour more of sleep and live. –Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

It's been an interesting week around here. Yesterday LadyBug and I went to the dermatologist for our semi-annual skin check. It's one of those necessary evils, but it is never fun to strip down to your unmentionables and lie on a table covered in a paper towel while the doctor shines a bright light on you as he checks your skin for "interesting" moles. It's especially uncomfortable when you forget to shave your legs and underarms. LadyBug had three removed and I had one, we went for a brownie afterwards and that's over and done with for another six months.

Yesterday evening it was on to the next adventure—prep for a colonoscopy this morning. The procedure itself was a breeze. I slept right through it. But the prep was horrible. The solution was completely vile, I slept very little and 10 years will not be long enough for me to forget that process. This was a follow up to my giving up gluten almost two months ago. I went to see the regular doc and he referred me to a GI doc. They did blood tests and other kinds of fun tests {including testing for giardia, which I thought was hilarious} and when they all came back negative, a colonoscopy was the next step. In the category of finding nothing wrong, my large intestine is squeaky clean and a-okay. They even gave me a souvenir photo, suitable for framing.

Which brings me to tomorrow's stop on my whirlwind medical tour; a septoplasty with turbinate reduction. You see, I haven't been sleeping well. Do you want to know how I know? Well, there's an app for that. This is where we jump to backstory.

Sometime last October, Mr. Bug downloaded an app on his phone that uses the accelerometer to detect movement and then gives you an output of how well you're sleeping. Sleep and I are old nemeses. It seems like I toss and turn and I never wake feeling rested and refreshed. I figured, what the heck? It would be a fun experiment, so I downloaded a similar app {his is for Android phones and mine for iPhones}. I've used it almost every day and the results are in. I am not getting a good quality of sleep at night.

The app is pretty cool. It gives you an analysis of your sleep every morning and keeps track of various aspects of your sleep in charts and graphs. This graph shows my overall sleep quality. You can see that I hover in there right between 70% and 80%. If I were getting a report card for sleep quality, I'd be getting a C. I'm an overachiever and that's really not acceptable.

This chart breaks it down and shows my sleep quality by day of the week. I used to kind of make a game of it and on those days where my sleep quality was lower, I'd make an extra effort to go to bed a little earlier, clear my mind, relax and let the day go, to see if I could improve the graph {see also, overachiever}. All I really managed to do was to swap Tuesdays for Wednesdays.

And here, you can see I'm squeaking by on about 7 hours of sleep a night most of the time. If we were to put this in a report card, I'm getting about a B+ in time asleep, but the quality of that sleep is a C. After watching my charts and graphs for week after week hoping that things would improve, I decided that something more than hoping had to be done.

Back to the present and my impending upcoming surgery. I've suspected that I have a deviated septum {the cartilage in my nose isn't straight} for a number of years. I don't breathe very well through my nose. The right nostril always seems blocked up. And I clench my jaw while I'm asleep. Putting the two together, I am guessing that some of my sleep trouble is that I'm not getting enough air. I never made it a priority to get checked out, but after downloading this app and seeing how crummy my sleep quality is, I started thinking of it more and more. Even so, I put off calling an Ear Nose and Throat specialist to make an appointment. I mean, what if I got there and there was nothing wrong?

Then that would be a waste of time and money.

Recently, I've decided that is a silly way to think and I've decided to be more proactive about my health concerns {see also, colonoscopy}. I made an appointment at an ENT practice and the PA I saw said that my septum is definitely deviated and that I have about an 85% blockage in my right nostril. That means that it is operating at only 15% capacity, which is something like a T {for Troll} on my report card. I chided myself for waiting so long to get this checked out, because something is wrong and it can be fixed.

Of course, it was a different story when the hospital staff called to do early check-in and said that the estimated cost of the procedure was 15 bazillion dollars and 50 cents, which had been submitted to my insurance already for preauthorization and my portion of that was 15 bazillion dollars. And it kind of dawned on me that if care goes beyond the initial office visit, the cost of the thing skyrockets. I'm going to have to visit a therapist next, to work through the anxiety all these medical bills are creating.

In other news, if we have not yet met the out-of-pocket/deductible max for our entire family for the year, we will shortly. This means insurance will cover any and all procedures for the rest of the year. I should have scheduled a mammogram for Friday to round the week out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The One Where I Went Rappelling

The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective. –Al Neuharth.

Saturday, May 11, 2014
7:00 am: Why do all adventures have to start so early?

7:52 am: Why am I always late? I was supposed to be there 7 minutes ago. It's a good thing we all run on Mormon Standard Time.

8:16 am: I wasn't the only one who was late. But we are on our way. It is a 2½-ish hour drive. Good thing I took my Dramamine and brought a project to stitch on. And I'm so glad I'm not driving.
{The blue star is our starting point and the blue dot is the destination — Black Dragon Canyon in the San Rafael Swell}

10:48 am: Rest stop. One thing I really dislike about Nature is the lack of flushing toilets. But an outhouse is better than going behind a bush. I guess I'll take it.

I've been working on the labels for my patriotic sampler and have made a lot of progress. I would like to get this quilt finished in time to display this year, but it will be July before we know it.

11:13 am: Girls Camp isn't until June, but we're here to fill the High Adventure certification for the 4th year girls {age 15}. The activity is for all the 4th years in the stake, and arranged by the Stake Young Women leaders, but I thought it was important to come and show support to my girls. I'll admit that I was a little hesitant to give up an entire Saturday to go rappelling. I'm not a big fan of dirt. Or heights. Or non-flushing portable toilets {although I have to admit that the set up here is nicer than the pit toilet we stopped at earlier. The girls had some funny name for it, but I can't remember it now}. But it really is beautiful here and I am glad I came.

A kind, grandfatherly gentleman is our host for the day. Oliver has been teaching the girls in our stake to rappel for years. The basics are these: the ropes are certified up to 9000 lbs. but don't step on them, and don't drop the carabiners and figure eights.

This is where we are rappelling from. It's only about 140 feet. No biggie.

11:27 am: In order to get to the rappelling point, we have to scale an only slightly less steep incline than the face we will be rappelling from. I *huff* am *puff* so *wheeze* out *huff* of *wheeze* shape *huff*.

11:49 am: Surely the elevation up here isn't that different from where we were standing on the ground, but I'm feeling a little light-headed. I'm not so sure this is such a good idea.

The girls are starting to gear up. Oliver's granddaughter is helping them get their harnesses on correctly.

12:03 pm: The ropes are tied to hardware anchored in the rock. Oliver's son and grandson are harnessed and the ropes pass through a figure eight attached to their harnesses by carabiners. They serve as a back-up should the anchors fail. At the bottom of each rope is someone on belay who only has to exert about 10 lbs. of pressure to stop your progress down the rope. Good to know.

12:19 pm: These are my girls. Aren't they beautiful?
{Top left: Serina
Middle left: Kali and Oliver
Bottom left: A cactus patch growing in the middle of the sandstone
Bottom center: Kristina
Bottom right: Jehni
Group shot: Kristina, Kali, Serina and Jehni}

12:42 pm: Quote of the day from Cami, a girl from one of the other wards, to Oliver and his family: "you guys do this for fun?"

1:19 pm: It is my turn. I can see what Cami was talking about.

I've been watching Oliver coach each of the girls in turn. Keep your legs straight, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, lean back into the harness, keep your eyes on your feet and where your next step will be but don't look down, breathe, yell "help" if you get into trouble and the men on belay at the bottom will stop you.

Oh, look. There are grooves in the figure eight where the rope passes through. Interesting.

Time to go. *Deep breath* I can do this.

This is what it looks like after you go over the edge. It's really not so bad. Just put one foot behind the other, don't bend your knees, trust the equipment and don't look down. My partner, Lizzie, is from another ward, but I adopted her for the day.

1:31 pm: That was fantastic! What an amazing experience. I'm so glad I didn't chicken out. The hardest part was kicking off the rock as it curved back and letting myself dangle in open space. But when I turned around and looked around, it was awesome. I live in some of God's most beautiful country.

Now for some lunch. I had a hard time deciding what to bring. Eating gluten and diary free on-the-go is a hassle. In the end, I decided on a Jimmy John's unwich. It is a little bit soggy, but not bad.

2:27 pm: Oliver said that you should go twice, because the second time was more fun. It was pretty fun the first time. Maybe I should go again.

2:51 pm: That hill is a doozy to climb. I'm not sure that going a second time is such a good idea. I'm tired. What if I drop myself? They guys on belay at the bottom will stop me, of course, but still. I could get scratched up pretty badly.

3:13 pm: The second time was not as much fun for me. I was too tired. And I looked down. I'll remember that for next year.

3:26 pm: The girls are having so much fun. Jehni has been six or seven times. She rappels down and runs right back up to the top to go again.

4:18 pm: The wind has really picked up. I have sand in between my eyelashes. We're going to pack up and go up the canyon a little further, where there is shelter from the wind to eat.

5:05 pm: Oliver talked for a little bit on his experiences over the years and drew some parallels between having faith in God and having a safe rappelling experience. He gave each of us a carabiner and a bookmark with the comparisons he made on it.
Be Strong
Stay firmly anchored to the mountain (gospel).
Tie the right knots (good friends and family).
Remember, your life hangs in the balance (eternal life).
Only use the best equipment (scriptures and prayer).
Never step on your rope (sacred things).
Go with faith (in the Lord).

5:45 pm: Dinner was good and now we're on our way home.

8:11 pm: It got too dark to work on my stitching project about an hour ago. I have sand in my ears. I am so ready to be done. The drive up didn't seem this long. Just a few more minutes until we are home.

8:21 pm: That last 10 minutes nearly killed me. I can't wait to hit the showers!

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Stitch In Time: April Finishes Giveaway Winner

Time is free, but it's priceless.
You can't own it, but you can use it.
You can't keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you've lost it you can never get it back..

–Harvey MacKay

Time. The one commodity that we all have in equal measure. Even though I try to spend my time wisely, I often find myself wishing for more time and kicking myself for wasting time. Still, some of my "free time" {if there is such a thing} each day is allotted to sewing. When I only have a few minutes to spend it's frustrating. Progress is barely perceptible at that pace. To keep from getting discouraged, "just keep stitching," has been my motto over the last several months. I've tried not to let time, or lack thereof, be a deterrent to working on something, no matter how small, every day. It finally paid off as I finished seven tote bags this month, which I worked on a bit at a time every day for about seven weeks. I felt like I crept along at a snail's pace. Or maybe it was a tortoise. In either case, there were some days I just wasn't feeling it because I knew I wasn't going to finish in the amount of time I had to spend. I tried to keep things in perspective, though, and I used what little time I had each day to work on the project. And when it was all said and done, having seven finishes at the same time was really awesome. In addition to the bags, I finished two journal {Personal Progress} totes. It was a good month for finishes for me. And now I begin the process over again. I won't have much to report in the way of finishes, but I'll just keep stitching until I do. But enough about me. Let's get on to all the amazing things you finished and announce our winner for the month of April. LadyBug drew the winning number — number one.

Dottie Charm Pack

Congratulations to
:partytime: Kathy :partytime:

Kathy will receive a Dottie Charm Pack by Moda from The Fat Quarter Shop, which I'm sure she will put to good use. In addition to the awesome scrappy quilt that was pulled out of the drawing as the winner, she also finished a really fun triangle quilt. There were lots of other great finishes in April, too. If you have a minute, check some of them out. I'd recommend Carin's Garden Fence Table Runner or Cynthia's orange and grey Scrap-a-Palooza quilt.

The May Finishes Linky Party is open, so you can link up as you go throughout the month. Remember to include the May Finishes button {code found in the May post} somewhere in any post you link up. Code for a button for your sidebar can also be found at the bottom of the May post. The giveaway this month, sponsored by The Fat Quarter shop, is a 30' Playtime Charm Pack by Chloe's Closet for Moda.
30's Playtime Charm Pack

Today's post brought to you by:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It Was Mom

God chose mothers to bear the responsibility of providing physical bodies for His children through the miraculous process of pregnancy and birth. Being a mother means participating in the miracle that is God’s greatest work. Thomas S. Monson, a modern-day prophet, said, “One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”

The divine role of motherhood is exhibited in all women, whether they’ve born children or not. It is important to remember that the call to nurture is not limited to our own flesh and blood. Whether it’s an aunt, a teacher, a friend, or a community leader, we are all deeply indebted to the moral, steadying influence of good women in our lives.

With much gratitude in my heart, I wish my mom Happy Mother's Day!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sabbath Songs: The Mission/How Great Thou Art

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze,

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!

How Great Thou Art, text by Stuart K. Hine, music arranged by Stuart K Hine from a Swedish folk melody

From The Piano Guys
We've set an ambitious goal to film in front of all Seven Wonders of the World. We started with the Great Wall of China. As our tour of Brazil approached we set our sights on our next Wonder: Christ the Redeemer. This incredible piece of art soars 10 stories in the air, stretches 100 feet wide and weighs 1.4 million pounds (630,000 kg). But even more impressive is that it was built in the 1920's on a peak of a sheer 2,300 ft. (700 meter) cliff overlooking Rio de Janeiro.

Not far from this inspiring statue are the Iguazu Falls — a natural Wonder of the World. Made up of 275 waterfalls that stretch across 1.7 miles (2.7 km), to match the amount of water that flows down these falls you would need 2 million people to each pour a quart of water every second.

As we considered what piece of music would be worthy of such incomparable locations we looked to songs that have been composed or used to praise Jesus Christ, for whom the statue was built and who billions believe created all the natural wonders of this world. We wanted to combine the melody of the heartfelt hymn of praise "How Great Thou Art" with one of the most beautiful melodies ever written — the theme from the movie "The Mission" ("Gabriel's Oboe.") "The Mission" is a movie that powerfully depicts the lives of men that lay down their lives for others. It was also filmed at Iguazu Falls. "How Great Thou Art" praises God and all that He has done for His children on this Earth. The two harmonize so beautifully with each other, both musically and thematically. As we played these pieces in front of the Christ Statue and Iguazu Falls we felt an overwhelming sense of wonder, peace, and joy.

This music video is not meant to exclude anyone that does not believe in God. We hope that it instead promotes spiritual feelings that can be felt by all — gratitude for a beautiful Earth, for life, and for joy.

A wise man once said, "If we thought of life as a gift, we might not demand nearly as much from it. And if we lived more graciously, giving of ourselves more freely to the well-being of others, many of our personal concerns would disappear, and life would become easier for all."

We respect all beliefs and opinions, but we hope that in the comments everyone can set aside religious differences and instead focus on building each other up — through gratitude, inspiration, kindness and mutual respect.

Thank you so much for watching! We are grateful for you!

"The Mission," also known as "Gabriel's Oboe," (from the soundtrack of the movie "The Mission") written by Ennio Morricone
"How Great Thou Art" is a Christian Hymn based on a Swedish folk song
Arrangement produced by Jon Schmidt
Arrangement written by Al van der Beek, Jon Schmidt & Steven Sharp Nelson
Mixed & mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG Studios in Utah
Performed by
Jon Schmidt: Piano
Steven Sharp Nelson: Cellos
Video produced by Paul Anderson
Video filmed and edited by Shaye Scott & Paul Anderson

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Signature Block Resolution

In school you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you're given a test that teaches you a lesson. –Tom Bodett

About six weeks ago, I called for opinions on a layout for a signature block quilt. You all rose to the challenge magnificently! All of your comments were wonderful and helped to point me in the direction I want to go. But before we get to that, I want to show you my newly acquired 30's Reproduction Fabrics.

Beautiful, right? Rather than ordering on-line, I went to a LQS that I don't visit very often because it is more than a 3-minute drive from my house or from where I work. I knew they'd have an awesome selection of 30's Repros, and I was right. I had a really hard time choosing the best of the best. I came home with 25 Fat Quarters, which are currently in my laundry room waiting to be washed. Every so often, I go in there and run my fingers over them and admire how pretty they are. Now that I've finished the bags I was working on, this signature quilt is the next project in line. My deadline is September 17. The recipient turns 100 and this quilt will have 100 places for people to sign. I decided to go with the flower layout.

I didn't see a block pattern when I was searching for different signature blocks, so I used Quilt Assistant to make a pattern based on the quilts I'd seen. I used the grid feature to make sure it was divided out equally. Once the pattern is finished, you can print it out at any size you want. I'm going with 5" blocks, which don't work out mathematically for easy cutting. I'm either going to use templates to cut the fabrics for traditional piecing or try out paper piecing using freezer paper. Lane posted a good description of how to do it a while back and I want to try it out. Peeling the paper off the back in one solid piece when you're finished looks pretty slick. I think that I'm going to cut sheets of freezer paper at 8½" x 11" and see if they will play nicely in my printer, saving me a lot of tracing. The freezer paper is good for more than one block, but I'll still have to have multiple copies, because eventually they'll run out of stick.

I'm itching to get started. I just need to find a minute to slip off to JoAnn's when Kona Solids are NOT on sale so I can use a 50% coupon on those.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Stitch In Time: May Finishes Linky Party

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice. –Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories

Does anyone know where April went? I seem to have misplaced it. Actually I did get quite a few projects — several tote bags and a couple of notebook holders — done in April, even though it seems to have slipped away so quickly I hardly know where it went. I'm looking forward to another month with another few finishes in it. I really like today's quote about habit. While it speaks specifically about writing, it can apply to any pursuit. I make it a habit to never sit and do nothing and I sew a little bit every day. If watch TV, I work while I watch. Even if it has been a really long day, I'm not feeling particularly motivated, and I don't get much more than a few stitches in, it is a habit to sew a little bit every day and I love it. And I hope to get a few more finishes in during May. But enough about me. I love seeing what you all are up to, so let the linking begin!

To participate in this month's linky party:
• Your project must be completed sometime in May 2014.
• Once you've got your project finished {as in done, finito, nothing more to add, ready to use/display/give away} with some sort of stitching in it, blog about it or post a photo of it on Flickr.
• Scroll down to see what other bloggers are up to and link to your own finishes.
• Please include the May button in your blog post. Copy the code in the text box below and paste it somewhere in the post you link for this month's finishes. The button is a link to this specific post, so that other bloggers can find their way over and link up too. If you'd like a button for your sidebar, the code is at the bottom of this post.

• Each time you link up a finished project, you're entered to win the May giveaway, a 30' Playtime Charm Pack by Chloe's Closet for Moda.
30's Playtime Charm Pack

• Thank you to The Fat Quarter Shop for sponsoring our giveaway!

The Fine Print {which might be boring but you really should read}:
• Your project must be completed during the month you are linking to.
• Projects must include stitching of some sort. For example: appliqué, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting, practical sewing {garment construction, bags, curtains, etc.}, quilting.
• Projects must be completely finished. As in done, finito, nothing more to add, ready to use/display/give away.
• You can pick something new to do, but projects do not have to be started during the month. If you pick up a UFO, Ph.D, WIP and finish it during the month, it counts.
• Finishes must be completed during this month, but you have until 5:00 pm MST on the 1st of the next month to link your post.
• Post about your finish and then link your specific post {instructions here} above. Links to your blog and not the individual post about your finished project will be deleted.
• Have more than one finish this month? Great! Post about each finish individually and then link the specific posts up separately. Each finish, and therefore each link you add, counts as one entry for this month's giveaway.
• If you've already posted about a finish for this month, there's no need to do a separate post. Just add the button to that post and link up.
• Please copy and paste the code below to include this month's button somewhere in the post {not your sidebar} you link up for this month.
May Finishes

• Don't have a blog? You can link from your flickr account. Just post a picture, include a little note about your finish and a link back here {code included below} in the description. Then join the linky party.

• Want a button for your sidebar? Copy and paste the code below into an HTML gadget for your sidebar. This button is a link to the main A Stitch In Time Linky Party page, which always has the current month's finishes and links to all previous linky parties.
A Stitch In Time Linky Party

• Make sure to visit a few of the other links and leave them some love {ie, a comment}. A good rule of thumb is to visit two links for every one you include.
• Winner of the sponsored giveaway will be drawn randomly from among the links and announced by 8:00 pm MST by the 5th of the following month.
• Kindly consider changing your comment settings to the pop-up window option for faster and easier commenting for visitors to your blog. Instructions can be found here.