Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Strengths Finder, May 2011

At work we met with a professional career coach - privately last week and as a planning group this week. We read a book called “Strengths Finder” and took a bunch of quizzes that supposedly identify your natural talents and strengths. The idea is that we all have areas that we are naturally good at, but we spend a lot of time working on areas that are weaknesses rather than emphasizing our strengths. By identifying our strengths and emphasizing them we can get a lot further in life. The book tells the story of Rudy - which while somewhat inspiring - he conquered his natural weaknesses - he also devoted years of his life to something he was never ever going to truly excel at and in the end ended up getting a lucky break and about 5 seconds of recognition for all those years of hard work. Why not find out what you’re naturally good at and work on that as instead?
After taking the quiz my initial reaction to my strengths was “wow! I am really a boring person!” I was a little in shock looking at the words “discipline, consistency, achiever, analytical and focus”. I took it home to Isaac and said “I’m not really this boring am I? Where in here does it say I can ski black diamond runs at 8 months pregnant? Where in here does it say ‘enjoys swimming with sharks?’ Isaac looked at the results and immediately said “this is exactly you. You are the practical one.” And I guess that’s true. There’s certainly no way I can call myself an adventurous risk taker compared to Isaac.

The funny thing is that when we discussed our strengths as a group this week, our entire staff had the same reaction: “Wow! you are really boring! You should have been an accountant....on and on....” Hearing that from a bunch of engineers really makes you think hard about your life choices. But in the end I decided I’m ready to acknowledge and embrace these strengths. They are truly essential for mothering. Everyone needs someone who will make a list of things to do and get excited about checking things off that list. That truly motivates me in life. I am not the most detail oriented person . Not a perfectionist. But if I make a list of things to do, watch out. I will do whatever it takes to cross everything off.

Poor Isaac perhaps suffers the most from this achieving drive I have. I am continually trying to check things off of his list as well. And since his list is mostly in his control we both suffer. It sincerely pains me to see tasks stay on the list for months at a time - just sitting there day after day and month after month and nothing I can do about it....

Also a strange realization to have Isaac take one of the quizzes and see that we are actually quite similar. How can this be? He has a few different strengths. His top one is “helper” which does make sense and I’m not going to diminish how nice it is to have a “helper” around. But I was surprised to see that we share “focus, analytical, and achiever”. We just have different ways of going about things. Come on Isaac, get on board with the check-lists already....I’m sure the day Isaac learns to tell time and comes home on time with a check list in hand I will pass out in disbelief and happiness.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

3 Favorite Recipes


I love this recipe. I don't stick to the quantities closely and add more or less of whatever I want. By the time I've added more of everything I like, there is no bowl in the house large enough for this salad. (It does make a lot. But we've never had a problem finishing it.) It's a favorite in the summer. Perfect for outdoor parties with the neighbors.

5 Cups chicken (approx 3 grilled chicken breasts)
2 Cups of grapes (I use red grapes cut in half so their easier to fork)
2 Cups celery
7 - 9 oz. pasta (I use the spirals or bow-ties and rinse immediately after cooking so it doesn't stick)
1 jar artichoke hearts
3-5 green onions chopped
1/2 c. toasted and slivered almonds

Dressing: 1/2 c. oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 c. sugar (I use less), 2 TBL parsley, 2 TBL white wine vinegar (I use whatever I have), 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. dried onion
Eat at room temperature

I've never been a fan of ground beef - so Taco salad/tacos etc. have never been my favorite. But I love this recipe using ground turkey and beans and my kids love it too. We've used it for taco salads, tostadas, burritos etc. (I got this recipe from Jessica Seinfeld via Oprah....)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 can pinto beans (I use whatever I have red, kidney, black - just be sure to rinse them first)

Heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add onion and cook (3-4 min). Add turkey and cook (5-6 min). Stir in tomatoes, chili powder, salt and pepper and beans and continue to cook, stirring until heated through.

Eat with chips, tortillas, or taco shells and top with salsa, lettuce, avacado, cheese, sour cream, olives, fresh tomatoes etc.

Easy and so good! I like this for using left-over chicken.

2 - 4 carrots peeled and chopped
2-4 celery stalks chopped
1 onion chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 c. rice (I use 1/2 c. brown and less chicken)
1 quart chicken broth
2 chicken breasts or whatever you have left-over (cook before and shred into soup)

Chop carrots, celery and onion. Heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add vegetables, pepper and paprika. Cook about 6-8 min. Add rice and cook 1-2 min until ends of rice turn translucent. Add 1 quart chicken broth and bring to boil. Add shredded chicken and cover. Serve when rice and vegetables fully cooked.

Optional: mix in a little cream cheese or sour cream when serving and a little lemon juice

Friday, March 25, 2011

Belize and Guatemala: The Mayan Jungle Adventure - March 14 - 22, 2011

Xanantunich, Belize

Happy 5 year anniversary to me and Isaac!  March 14, 2006 in the Hong Kong temple (or maybe at some government office the day before - we're not sure where it was really made official), but it's been 5 years since the Hong Kong wedding trip.... and 2.7 kids later we're both still happy about it. 
To celebrate we decided to plan a vacation without the kids and do some things we can't do with children.  Hiking in the rainforest, climbing Mayan ruins, and snorkeling...not to mention sitting in peace and quiet and reading a book on a beautiful beach.  This is what I was thinking when I planned the trip and I think we can put a big check-mark next to that goal because it was definitely not a child-friendly trip.  In fact, it may have not been a pregnant-friendly trip either, but now that we're all back safe and sound I guess we can say 'all's well that ends well.'  It was definitely more of a 3rd-world adventure than I expected.  (Most pictures are at the end of this post.  I can't figure out how to arrange them.)

For those of you not interested in reading the day by day happenings - here's a summary:
Weather = Perfect - Sunny and low 80s every day.  Amazing and beautiful scenery everywhere we went.  Belize (and Guatemala) were totally different than anyplace I've been before.  (i.e. unlike Mexico and I've never been anywhere else in Central or South America).  So it was fun to explore someplace new.  The fact that English is the official language makes it easy to order in a restaurant, read signs etc.  (Finding a restaurant where you'd actually want to eat may be more of a problem.  I was not impressed by food on this trip.  There was a lot of rice and beans and mystery meats.  Not as much seafood as I expected, and prices everywhere were much higher than I anticipated.  I felt like I was paying either America or sometimes even Hawaii prices for not nearly as good of quality.)  Mexico definitely has a leg up on Belize in terms of food. 

If you're wondering "do they really speak English in Belize?" Well, uhmm..., sort of is the answer. There is a lot of Spanish as well. Schools are taught in English, but it's more "Creole". I haven't been to Jamaica but I imagine that it's similar to how they speak there. Queen Elizabeth would have a hard time understanding anything - I certainly do. For example, the other day on the bus out of town there was a typed and laminated sign that said "Dis bus don stop wen ya shout rite yah. Please approach ya driver to say rite yah." Easy enough to decipher a meaning when it's in writing, but harder to understand when people are speaking. But people here are very friendly and I feel very safe. Great place to snorkel (and I assume dive) and the beaches and surroundings are beautiful. 

Upon arriving in Belize City late in the day March 14th, we successfully escaped a swarm of eager taxi drivers and negotiated a local bus to San Ignacio.  It was a long and bumpy trip (not very many paved roads).  And it was well past dark when we arrived in a small town on the Western border of Belize.  We didn't have reservations anyplace to stay, but I relied heavily upon my Fodor's book for the duration of the trip and we found a nice place to stay, Martha's guesthouse.  And a decent place to eat too, Han-nah's. 

I woke up March 15th and walked around the town, found some croissants, took some pictures and went back to wake up Isaac.  We took a bus to see ruins at Xunantunich (pronounced Shoo-nan-too-nich) meaning "Stone Lady" (just a few miles from San Ignacio).  We hiked for a mile or two up to the site and hiked to the top of several temples.  It was impressive and amazing to look out at the views from the tops of the temples. 

On the way back to San Ignacio we stopped to see a "Butterfly Farm".  It was really more of a "Butterfly Room", not as large as I expected but cool to see so many butterflies all fluttering around us.  The kids would have liked it.  We caught another bus back to town (San Ignacio) and got our bags and took a taxi to the border of Belize and several hassles and lots of money later and one more long and bumpy bus ride, we ended up in Flores, Guatemala. 

Fodor's guide failed me on accommodations in Flores.  The place it recommended was definitely not great at all, but at least it was expensive.  The same went for the food we found.  I didn't find anything even edible all day.  We waited for over an hour to be served at one restaurant and the food was so bad we had to throw it away.  (When Isaac throws it away, you know it's really bad.)  And by the time we waited for food at another place I was so tired and frustrated I just went to a market and bought some ice-cream instead.  The ice-cream was rotten too, so I just went to bed hungry.  (Day number 1 of my unintentional hunger strike). 

March 16
Feeling much better about life and Guatemala this evening.  We got up at 4am and left the hotel at 4:30am for Tikal.  We arrived a little before 6am and spent all morning, until about 12:30pm exploring ruins and climbing up to the top of every Mayan temple in the park -- and there were A LOT.  We saw about 6 separate temple complexes and did more "stairs" than I've ever done in one day before.  My legs haven't been so sore or tired since the marathon.  It was also awesome to see more rainforest and jungle.  We saw a lot of monkeys and bright green parrots and other colorful birds (but no toucans).  When we got back we decided to jump into the lake near our hotel.  We swam and showered and went out for an early dinner at La Luna.  I just kept ordering I was so hungry by the time we got back to Flores.  All I've had to eat for 2 days is 2 Twix bars and 2 gatorades.  I ate a whole plate of guacamole and chips, curried veggies, stuffed peppers, plus dessert - fried bananas with ice-cream and honey.  It was the first real food I'd had in 2 days and it tasted good. 

March 17
Isaac and I just barely survived Guatemala and are relieved to be back in Belize and looking forward to relaxing. Trekking across all of Belize and half of Guatemala was quite an adventure - talk about traveling off the beaten path. We did see occassional other tourists - mostly European college students traveling in pairs - all hard-core backpackers out for months at a time to see rainforests and jungles. I knew it would be a 3rd world adventure, but it was probably a little harder to negotiate than I planned on. Definitely glad we didn't have kids with us! We were up at 4am two days in a row riding through jungles on really bumpy dirty buses for several hours at a time and not much to ever eat.  Really and truly a poor country and even poorer out in the jungle where we were. But we did see a few cool places and climbed to the top of every Mayan temple we could find.  Those Nephites and Lamanites were busy. We saw monkeys and large green parrots and a tarantula in the rainforest. (no toucans or jaguars, but maybe that's okay.)
Today we woke up at 4:30am to catch a bus back to Belize City - got stuck at the border by a mean border agent who made us pay a fine of about $25/each (that's a lot in Guatemalan money) to get out of the country because THEY didn't stamp our passports on the way in - so it was a fine for illegal entry - even though we walked through that same border crossing two days earlier and no one said they needed to stamp our passports. (Everywhere we went in Guatemala it was really hard to feel like we were not being taken advantage of.) We ended up spending a lot of money everywhere we went. No prices on anything and hard to negotiate in Spanish and with our white skin. We had spent all our Guat. money on purpose before we left so we had none with us - and no American cash either (which is really what they wanted). We were planning on getting more Belizean money out of an ATM in Belize once we got to Belize City. They threatened to just hold us (our passports) there until we could come up with American cash. (no banks or ATMS within at least a few hours of the border and our bus was about to leave us.) The bus drive said he couldn't help us. Fortunately two nice German girls were going through and saw us stuck there and pooled their very last American cash together and lent us the $55 we needed to get through the border. We took the same bus back to Belize City and I went straight to an ATM to get money to pay them back. Well, of course, in the meantime Zions Bank blocked my account because they noticed out of the country transactions and were suspicious. After trying several banks and ATMs all around town I realized the problem was my card not the ATMs, I had to find a pay phone and make a collect call to Zions bank, which they fortunately accepted and fixed the mistake - so we were able to get things straightened out and pay back those nice girls who lent us the money. Isaac told them we'd name our baby after them, Stella Rebecca. (Ada will like that since she's been voting for Stellaluna from the beginning.) But I felt so bad they were stuck waiting around for us quite a while this afternoon while I tried to negotiate the whole bank situation. Wow! What a day. This afternoon after all that, we got on a water taxi to San Pedro and arrived here just 1.5 hours later. Good news is it's gorgeous here! We're staying in a lovely condo right on the beach and I have no intention of leaving the immediate area until it's time to come home.
Things are definitely looking up.  My dream of having a nice place to sleep and a beautiful pool have come true and Isaac and I went to eat at a "locals" joint tonight and they had a big screen t.v. with European soccer, 80s rock ballads blasting the the background and we ate loads of fresh fish and shrimp with rice and beans all while watching Real Madrid game, so I think Isaac's dreams have been fulfilled now too.  We're now back at the condo eating some amazing fresh pineapple. Definitely a good end to the day....
March 20th
It's Sunday night now and there's a wedding party going on one resort away but we can hear the dancing and music from here. We were lucky enough to see the wedding this afternoon and yesterday we got to see a baptism. We were just going to check out where the church is and what time it is (we saw some missionaries when we first landed in Belize City that told us there is a branch here) so we went to check it out and they were holding a baptism service yesterday afternoon. So we stayed and watched them baptize a little 8 year old girl just right in the ocean.
The family was very friendly to us and were really excited when we accepted their invitation to church : ) I'm sure they were disappointed to find out we are already members. We showed up this morning and I think the space the church rents here is also the missionaries apartment - small branch. There were 8 of us including missionaries and us when the meeting started this morning. A few more wandered in as the meeting progressed. The branch does everything in both Spanish and English - people singing in two languages and translating talks into English is just part of the drill I guess. It was a great experience to be there and remember life on a mission -- although Isaac and I both agree that the view of palm trees and the 82 degree Caribbean weather really wasn't even close to anything we saw in Sweden or Ukraine. But still it's so fun to experience the church in different parts of the world and find a place even here that feels like home.

We rented bikes when we got here and have explored the island a little more every day. This really is an interesting place unlike anyplace I've ever been before. The island is only about 1/2 mile wide and a few miles long. we can see the ocean from both sides of our condo. There are just a few places "in town" where the streets are "paved" with cobblestone. Everyplace else is dirt/sand roads and people mainly get around on golf carts or bikes. The town area is fairly densely developed but everywhere else is more hit and miss. You can go for a ways out on a dirt road and in the middle of nowhere will be another nice condo development. But it's definitely less developed than places I've been in Mexico. Because it's an island, everything's really expensive. Food is a more than it is at home and not great quality. But the weather has been ideal ever since we landed almost a week ago and I get the impression it's always like this. Perfectly sunny and 80 degrees with an ocean breeze. It's lovely. The ocean is beautiful turquoise water and beaches have white sand, but the ocean is really shallow and grassy. We jumped in from the very end of a pier when we first got here and landed in water about up to our waists. My brothers aren't missing out on any surfing opportunities.

We're going on a snorkel trip tomorrow morning with a guide on a boat - but apparently the reef is just about a 10 minute boat ride out so that's good news for me since I am not interested in going much further than that. It does feel like we've been gone a really long time and we're looking forward to getting home to the kids as soon as possible.

March 21st
Snorkeling was amazing!  We went to two different sites with a couple of guides and a boat full of about 10 other people.  We could see turtles swimming around before we even jumped into the water.  The turtles let us get pretty close and didn't seem phased by us following them around.  We saw a lot of large groupers, parrot fish, large conch shells everywhere and several rays.  Isaac even spotted a large eagle ray swimming near us.  At the second site, correctly named "Shark Ray Alley" we could see at least 9 or 10 nurse sharks circling the boat before we even jumped in.  The guide jumped in and wrestled one and just held him there and motioned that anyone who wanted to a turn to hold the shark could come over.  I did go over to "pet" the shark, but didn't really hold it since it was at least as big as me and thrashing around.  I just kept thinking of how jealous little Asher would be and wish I could have had a picture to show him of "Mama Shaaaark and a real Shaaaark'.  There were also large manta rays everywhere and the guide caught one of them too and let us come and touch it.  The shark felt very different than I imagined.  It was much more coarse and scaley than I imagined.  The ray felt soft and slimy.  It was a great day - so much fun and the perfect way to end our trip.  After napping and reading on the beach the rest of the afternoon I think I am ready to pack and travel home tomorrow.  I miss the kids.
on the pier
San Pedro, Belize
View from our condo in San Pedro
Xanantunich, Belize
Butterfly Farm (the bright blue right in front of Isaac's shirt)

Monkey swinging in Tikal, Guatemala

Red Butterfly at Butterfly Farm, Belize
Tikal, Guatemala (after a long climb up)
Monkey in Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal, temple complex
Tikal temple (another long climb)
View from our hotel in Flores, Guatemala (the lake we swam in after Tikal)


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dinner at Maria's with Angie and Yung Wah

Dinner at Maria's with Angie and Yung Wah.

Dinner with Grandma and Papa Mac

We went to see Grandma and Papa Mac last Sunday.  Isaac made pot-roast, potatoes, etc. and we took it up and ate with them.  The kids loved playing with Grandma's toys and looking at pictures.  It was great to be with them and I hope we didn't wear them out too much with our rowdy crowd. 


Adelaide loves to dress herself and sometimes I just am amazed at the combinations she comes up with.  Take this for instance, green crocs with purple hello kitty socks, orange shorts and a pink shirt.  Not everyone could pull it off - but she knows that you can wear anything with confidence and a smile. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Bakery Gourmandise = A taste and appreciation for fine food

Isaac has said more than once that when I die he will go to Gourmandise to sit on the patio, order a sandwich and remember me.  I respond, that's a good idea because after I die I will definitely be there if I have any say in it at all.  I have been frequenting my favorite cafe for as long as I can remember.  But I guess the committed relationship with Gourmandise began in 2000 when I graduated from college and moved back to SLC and lived downtown with my sister in the Covey apartments on South Temple.  I worked on 300 South and enjoyed life mostly within that 3 block radius.  Liz and I would go together a lot and we began to be friends with 2 sisters from Mexico who were waitresses there.  Well, that was 10 years ago and there is just one sister still waitressing there.  Whenever I go in she says hello and asks me how the kids are doing. 

The menu and atmosphere have changed slightly over the years, but the quality of Jean Jacques food is consistent.  Once I went there on a date with a guy who had been on his mission to France.  He knew Jean Jacques (owner and head chef and baker) and I nearly fell in love and proposed to this guy on the spot I was so impressed.  Fortunately that did not happen and now I can go there with Isaac, who may not speak French but he has grown to love the turkey bacon club. 

The perfect order for me consists of lemon rice soup (Saturdays only) with a wheat or rye roll and lots of their amazing butter.  Next comes the Greek pasta salad mixed with the green salad with French vinaigrette dressing.  And after that comes the fresh fruit - amazing blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.  Followed by a walk around the pastry counter as I pretend to contemplate something other than the choice I know I will make - a chocolate covered macaroon.  Depending on how indulgent I feel I also get a tiramisu cup to take home and eat later. 

I told Isaac this Saturday that I have no need for France.  As long as Jean Jacques is alive and well here in SLC there is nothing that France can offer me.  I've already seen their museums, beaches, churches etc.  how many times?  I don't even remember.  I was an art history major and spending time roaming around France was a large part of my life for several years.  And although France is lovely, I am perfectly content to stay here as long as Gourmandise will have me.