Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year in Review

It amazes me that today is the last day of 2011.  Where has the time gone?!  Last night David and I went to see the movie, The Way. It is a delightful film about walking the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.  Well, its about more than just that, but it centers around The Camino.  David's father, Damaso, who is originally from Madrid, Spain told us about the movie while we were in Charlotte for Christmas, and when I noticed it was playing in Boise, I made sure David and I checked it out as soon as possible.  Anyway, seeing the film was the perfect way to close the year and give us both inspiration for our dreams for 2012.
2011 was a year of sickness for both David and I, but especially for me- from the Swine Flu last January where I fainted and fell through the shower door and I had to get 5 staples in my head, to David's ACL and micro-fracture surgery, to kidney stones, and the flare up of Ulcerative Colitis I've been dealing with, to David having bronchitis in September and the stomach flu on our last day in Charlotte... it was a mess of a year for us.  So our number one goal for 2012 is to do everything we possibly can to have a healthy year(s) ahead.

I've found a doctor in the New York who is doing some very promising research on Ulcerative Colitis, and he has agreed to take me on as a patient.  The success rates of his mentor/colleague in Sydney, Australia are 90%, and I am a good candidate for the treatment, so wish me luck!  The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is definitely helping, combined with the antibiotics (Xifaxin) and probiotics (Florastor) I'm taking to combat the imbalance in my gut. 

David has done a great job rehabbing his knee, and as he continues to heal, we are looking forward to getting back on the slopes for a great year of skiing (weather permitting- snow, please snow!)  We're both trying to get into better shape... who isn't after all that rich holiday food?!  And our goals of getting to the gym and to hot yoga are at the top of the list.

This year has also been filled with great little travel adventures.  We started the year by going to San Francisco for a few days last January.  We made a bunch of trips to McCall, Idaho for skiing, camping, and playing with friends and it's one of our all time favorite places to be so we feel very lucky its so close.  We also took a trip to Leavenworth, WA over Memorial Day weekend.  It's the most charming little Bavarian town in a very beautiful and lush part of the Northwest.  I took a week to visit the midwest: my family in Wisconsin, where my dad and I won the father-daughter golf tournament at his golf club, Iowa to see David's sister and family, and then on to Chicago to attended the wedding of my dear high school friend, Maren Baker in June.  David took a trip up to Montana and Yellowstone in July, (which I was supposed to go on as well, but sadly those darn kidney stones kept me home.)  In September, David surprised me with a trip to Portland, OR for my birthday.  We had a blast watching the season opener Boise State game against Georgia with a crowd full of BSU Alumni and supporters at The Grand Central Bowl.  And we finished our year of adventures with a trip to Charlotte to visit David's family.  Man looking back, we were very busy!
Our goal for 2012 is more of the same.  However, we'd also like to make sure we fit in some international travel as well.  Although we can't find two months to walk the Camino de Santiago this year, we might be able to find 10 days or so to bike it.  We'd also like to get up to British Columbia and the San Juan Islands to do some kayaking this summer.  Neither of us have been to that part of the Northwest, and we are dying to check it out.

David and I would also like to spend more time with both of our families, but because we live so far from everyone, its hard to fit both sides into one year, but we are going to do our very best to make that happen.  We have a standing invite to all friends and family to come visit us too... our door is open if you feel up for an Idaho adventure!  The start of our travel this year will be a trip to Portland for some post holiday shopping without sales tax... win-win for good deals.  I can't wait!  We're also planning to check out the Portland museums and possibly attend the symphony for a well rounded cultural experience.

With the economy the way it is, David and I are trying to pay off all of our debts including our mortgage as quickly as possible so that we can pay for everything in cash from then on.  We're close to having only house debt, and its a very empowering feeling.  Cash flow can sometimes be an issue, but its amazing how many things people spend money on that they simply don't need... and we're all culprits of this behavior.  Our goal for 2012 is to be as close to debt free as we can be, and we're working really hard to get there.

My personal goal is to procrastinate less.  I've been working on several projects over the past year, and I want to get them all finished.  I've also gotten back into writing again, which I haven't done much of since college (10 years ago... where has that time gone... oye!) and I'm trying hard to focus my attention on finishing the various writing projects I've started.  I know I have a best seller in there somewhere!  But it all comes down to procrastination.  I have the ability to do great things... now I just have to do them.  What are your techniques to avoid procrastination?  I'd love to hear them!

Our final goal is the most important one to me: to start a family.  We are currently exploring all options for starting a family, including attending an adoption seminar next week, and looking more closely at finding a potential gestational surrogate willing to carry a baby for me at a cost we could afford (an angel carrier (no fee- angels require only the cost of the medical expenses involved in pregnancy) would answer my prayers!).  I'm also continuing to work on curing the Ulcerative Colitis I have so that I could possibly one day have a healthy pregnancy of my own.  Having just come from a big family Christmas in Charlotte, I'm craving a baby now more than ever.  Our families and friends make our world, and both David and I are very excited to have a family of our own.  No matter how annoyed or angry you get at your family, there is something so healing about the bond and kinship in family, I find it almost magical.
Guess who?!
The thing I can most definitely say about looking back on 2011, is that we are so grateful.  We have an abundance of goodness in our lives and I couldn't feel more thankful if I tried.  We have amazing family, friends, neighbors, a cool-albeit eccentric dog, great jobs, a very nice house, and most of all, each other.  If I were to say one thing about 2011 its that it is easy to look back upon the year with 20/20 vision and notice all the flaws, but to see all the goodness that comes from each moment and decision of our lives is a lot harder, but its certainly worth doing.  I'm even grateful for this darn Ulcerative Colitis... it's made me a much more compassionate person.  I'm aware of others more than I ever was before, and if I'd never had to deal with the pain and embarrassment its brought me, I'm not sure I would have ever felt the kind of compassion for others its also given me, and that is a gift.

I hope you have a fun New Year's Eve where ever you plan to spend it.  Be safe and I look forward to seeing you next year!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Birthday Boy!

Today is a special day in our household, because today is my wonderful husband David's birthday.  

Happy Birthday Lovie!  

photo by Krakora Studios
I have a few special things planned to make his day especially wonderful... and I hope you'll all join me in wishing the love of my life a happy happy happy birthday!  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Hello Everyone!

This evening David and I made it safely home from a wonderful trip to Charlotte, NC to celebrate the Christmas Holiday with the Lopez family.  My in-laws went all out for Christmas, and we really had a great time catching up with everyone.  Plus, my mom was there too, so I had such fun snuggling with my mommy on Christmas.

The only hiccup in the entire trip was the 24 hour stomach bug that the entire family came down with on the last day.  It definitely put a damper on the final day's festivities, but it was a minor flaw in an otherwise wonderful trip.  My two sister-in-laws and I were the only ones not effected by the bug... cross your fingers it stays that way!

When we are with family, David and I both wish there was a way we could move Boise closer to Madison, Boston, DC, St. Louis, Charlotte, Dubuque, etc. so that we could see each other on a more regular basis.  We're lucky to have such a nice group of people to belong to!  But we're torn, because we love everything about our western lifestyle, so we don't want to leave here, but maybe we can somehow convince everyone to move out west?!  Portland could be a good compromise to Charlotte, St. Louis, Boston, and DC, no?!  And Madison and Dubuque could possibly compare to Boise, right?!  I know, I know, I'm just dreaming!

Anyway, as I'm sure you'll all agree that no matter how great any trip you go on is, coming home is always so nice!  Our little Linus Lopez was over the moon to see us walk through the door (even when we made him wear his Christmas antlers!), and everything seemed so calm and steady the minute we set foot on Boise soil.  I love coming home!

Since we've been singing this song from the minute we stepped off the plane in Boise, I thought I would share it will you all.

We hope you all had a lovely Christmas and have a (safe and) Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Christmas Cookies ever... and they're SCD approved!

Hello All!

Last night I made the most delicious cookies I think I've ever had... and they are completely SCD approved, which makes them even better!  My wonderful husband thought they were so delicious he arranged them all on a plate for me and told me to take a picture of them and post the recipe on my blog.  So, I've taken his advice... I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

I took a recipe for "Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies" found on Elana's Pantry, and altered it a wee bit to make it SCD approved.  Here's what I came up with:

SCD Snickerdoodles
2 ½ cups blanched almond flour
½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter or ghee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup honey
Cinnamon to taste

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry... let the mixture sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes
  4. Form ½-inch 1-inch balls and press onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet
  5. Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes or until golden brown
  6. Cool before removing them from the parchment paper.
  7. Either sprinkle cinnamon on top of each cookie, or put the cookies in a paper bag and cinnamon and shake.
  8. Remove and serve.
Makes 24 cookies

As a side note, I've been following the SCD program now since the beginning of November, and although I'm not having perfect results, I'm feeling so much better over all.  And I'm able to do things like go for a hike with out panicking and jumping into a bush, and even get through my hot yoga classes (although I'm still not able to do all the poses, but I'm working toward it!)  But either way, better is better, and if following this diet for only a month and a half has made me feel this good, I can't wait to see how well I do in six months!  Bon Appetite!    

Saturday, December 17, 2011

World Religions Series: The Episcopal Faith

Grant Wiseman was a counselor and student events coordinator at the boarding school, Wayland Academy, I went to for my Junior and Senior years in High School.  And, Grant's wife Heather was my Spanish teacher, my dorm "mother," and my boss, so I got a chance to know the Wisemans fairly well during my time at Wayland.  (In fact, I remember being so nervous to knock on their door the night I was having appendicitis... so I waited until the next morning... good thing I finally did knock!)  I tried to dig out old pictures of Grant and Heather from our days at Wayland, but the box full of photos was too difficult to get at without my husband's help, and he was no where to be found this morning.
Heather and Grant with their twin girls, Abigail and Audrey
I remember Grant was very passionate and excited about working with kids.  His office was in the Student Union, and he had Manchester United stuff on the walls, which I thought was especially cool because my last name was Manchester.  He also played fun music and was a very encouraging force for the students.

I also remember always knowing that Grant wanted to be an Episcopal Priest, and back then, I remember thinking, "Why would anyone want to be a priest?"  Frankly, until otherwise explained to me, I thought that becoming a "priest" meant that Grant would have to end his marriage with Heather like in the Catholic Religion, and when I knew them, they were still newly weds, so that was a bit confusing to me.  I actually remember the day Heather explained to me that that was not the case.  It was like a light bulb went on, and I suddenly got it!

I re-connected with the Wisemans through Facebook, and I was so happy to see that Grant was able to work in the church as he wanted to do when I first knew him.  They are living in Aiken, South Carolina with their twin girls, and Grant is a Rector at St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church.  Grant and Heather had a real influence on me back in High School, and I will always have find memories of that time.  Thank you Grant, for taking time during this busy Christmas Season to participate in my World Religion quest.  And now, in Grant Wiseman's words, The Episcopal Church.

What religion do you practice, and how did you come to practice it? 
I am a Christian who practices his faith in the Episcopal Denomination

Tell me about your religion. Describe what the tenants of your relgion are in your words.The tenets of our religion are described in 39 articles formally. They are also found in the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer. The thing that makes the Episcopal Church unique in comparison to others of the more Catholic leaning denominations and sects is that we have a bicameral body that makes major decisions regarding practice and doctrine. For that reason, we find ourselves challenging some of the more traditional beliefs of the Christian faith. In some ways it is more like the church in its beginning stages. While we have bishops, and dioceses like many other catholic churches, we give significant amount of decision making to the individual dioceses. Unlike Roman Catholicism where the Pope has ultimate ruling power, we have no central leader. Our “Presiding Bishop” is nothing more than the ‘greatest among equals” and has no power over other bishops. She (that is another difference) is the president of the House of Bishops. We have a House of Deputies as well that is made up of laypeople (every day members) and clergy (Priests and Deacons).We practice our faith using a liturgy that is found in the Book of Common Prayer. It has services for the Daily Office that has its roots in the monastic traditions. It is still practiced both individually among our members, as well as in the monastic communities that still exist. Our regular Sunday services include the Eucharist. The Eucharist is also called Communion. It is an important part of our faith. The other major Sacrament is Baptism. Sacraments are important to Episcopalians and they are defined as “Outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace” What does your religion mean to you?It is life. Practicing as an Episcopalian is for me the best expression of may faith in Christ as my Redeemer. It expresses for me the best way that I celebrate what God has done for me. It is imperfect, just like me. So many of the unexplained events in my life are best understood by my faith.

What are five things you love about your religion?
1. The liturgy, how the service is expressed in its various ways. Whether it is High Church. We call that Smells and Bells or Low Church much more casual. High Church is chanted and is incredibly powerful. Whereas Low Church, is for many people very accessible.
2. Music
3. Community. Like most religions, the strength of the community is an important part of it. Actually most of this is somehow food related. We like our potlucks, barbeques and any other reason to eat.
4. Wide interpretation of scripture and doctrine. This is both a thing I love and hate in its practice. It is messy and causes stress, but that allows our church to respond to the reality that we live in an ever evolving understanding of reality.
5. How it challenges me. Both how I live my daily life, and how it challenges my world view.

What are five things you don’t particularly agree with about your religion?
1. I struggle with those within my faith that see the Bible as infallible. It diminishes the power of the story that is contained in the Bible and the reality that it took us almost 500 years to come up with the Bible in its final form.
2. The way we fight. Often it is done with the most hurtful and least Christain Language.
3. General Convention. It is the equivalent of Congress for the Episcopal Church. My main reason for not liking it is that it is not run well and lasts too long. Done right, it could be incredible.
4. Wide interpretation of scripture and doctrine. Sometimes in our haste to become what we believe is socially or morally correct that is outside of our tradition we don’t take the time to form a defined reason for our changes. It then also becomes a problem where we ostracize those who are not on our side whether it be the side of the innovator, or the traditionalist.
5. Lack of Leadership. We don’t train our leaders well enough and that inhibits growth spiritually and physically.

What are the most common misconceptions about your religion and how do you address them?
That we are elitist. While many of our parishes are very comfortable, even wealthy, most are small and barely making it financially. Hard to overcome when people see the National Cathedral which is Episcopal, and Trinity Wall Street as our main churches. In middle America it is easier. Highlight what we do in Haiti which is actually the largest diocese in population in our church.That Bishop Robinson speaks for the Church. He is the first openly Gay bishop in our church. He does not act like a bishop who happens to be Gay, but seems to relish being the “Gay Bishop.” That is the wrong order or emphasis. He is a bishop, and a generally good man who can’t help but jump into every public argument and speak as if he is speaking for all of us. As to how to address it, hope he retires soon.

How does your religion affect your family life? Your work life?
It is our life, as I am a Priest. My daughters and wife are very much a part of how our faith. We are all active in various ministries and ways. It is where my passions are best expressed. If you could leave people with one idea that most closely describes the way you see and understand your religion, what would that be?If you are looking for a place that you can struggle comfortably with your faith, then the Episcopal church is a good place. It allows you to ask questions, not just follow everything without being able to question the doctrines and practice. It prays well.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
Not at this time.

To check out the rest of my World Religion Series, click on the links below:
The Story of Old Turtle
The Greek Orthodox Faith
The Christian Science Faith

Thursday, December 15, 2011


This morning I was reading the news online, and I noticed this article about retouching photographs.  For some reason, and I don't mean for this to sound weird, but it made me feel prettier.

I hope it does the same for all of you: Retouched or not? Tool spots photos too flawless features

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best Christmas Prank Ever!

I love a good prank, and when I saw this, I knew I had to share it with my readers.  Jimmy Kimmel got some hysterical responses when he asked his viewers to play a little joke on their children.  Frankly, I think you could pull the same joke on adults and get an equally funny response, but kids are so awesome and unafraid of telling you how they really feel... I just love it!  I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sticking To It

So I've been on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for almost a month now, and I'm really seeing a difference.  My gut isn't having quite the same amount of cramping and uncomfortable bloating after each meal, and my energy level is much better.  I also switched medications, which definitely helped!

Sunday, however, we tried to go out to eat to this great local Mexican Restaurant, Cafe Ole´ for dinner.  After being seated at the table with waters and chips and salsa served to us, we realized that there wasn't really anything on the menu we could eat and still stick to the plan.  Including the mouth watering chips and salsa sitting at the table in front of us.  This was especially frustrating to David, who was starving after a 10 mile jog in the Boise foothills, so we decided to high tail it out of there and eat at this place we both enjoy called Fork.  

The thing is, David was still frustrated.  I just assumed that he felt, as I did, that it was still fun to go out to restaurants even though there were limitations to our eating.  I also thought that he liked the whole grazing style of eating better than set meals.  This was not the case.  Note to self: quit assuming.  This lifestyle was exhausting him.  When it came down to it, I was expecting him to follow this program, but not helping him understand it or follow it, apart from telling him to "read the book."  It truly wasn't fair to him.  So, yesterday I sat down and came up with a great (albeit simple) solution:  Weekly meal plans.

I sat down yesterday armed with The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook, Breaking the Vicious Cycle Cookbook, and my favorite online SCD food blogs, Roost and Comfy Belly, and I picked out a weeks worth of great meals and I made a delightful plan to follow.  I made the appropriate adjustments to the recipes to make them SCD compliant, of course, but for week one, I think we're going to be eating pretty well and almost all the recipes are very quick and easy to prepare too.  Here's what I came up with for this week:

Dinner: Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Cucumber Salsa

Breakfast: Fruit
Lunch: Left overs from the night before
Dinner: Beef Stew with Fennel and Shallots and Carrot & Beet Salad

Breakfast: Fruit
Lunch: Left overs from the night before
Dinner: Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions and Spinach Side Salad

Breakfast: Yogurt
Lunch: Left overs from the night  before
Dinner: Mahimahi with Macadamia Nut Crust and Apple Walnut Salad

Breakfast: Yogurt
Lunch: Left Overs
Dinner: Spicy Beef Kabobs with a Greek salad

Breakfast: Veggies and Scrambled Eggs
Lunch: Left overs from the night  before
Dinner: SCD Chicken Croquettes and SCD Cheese Bread
Desert: SCD Cheese cake

Breakfast: Omelet
Lunch: Left overs from the night  before
Dinner: Left Overs and Salads

Last night's meal of Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Cucumber Salsa was AMAZING!  It was absolutely delicious and it made us both happy.  I only wish I'd saved the fresh-caught fish my friend Thad gave us about a month ago for this recipe.  Oh well... I'll just have to beg him for another one of his catches!  

The other thing we both noticed about the meal was how nice it was to sit and enjoy it together.  We used to do it all the time, but we'd gotten out of the habit lately.  David and I both feel that with our completely opposite work schedules, these meal plans will both help us save money on groceries, and give us an opportunity to enjoy quality time together.

What we've also decided is that we'll make the meal plan every Saturday or Sunday.  Then we'll do the shopping for the week on Saturday or Sunday as well so we won't be scrambling to find the ingredients to prepare each meal on the night we are trying to cook it.  Makes such logical sense, and yet we weren't doing it that way.

I think we've finally figured out how to stick to the SCD program and keep both of us happy.  It's such a relief... And I think I'm really going to get into this whole weekly meal plan.  I love a good plan, and lists are my favorite!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Movie Magic... "Hugo"

David and I just returned from a night of dinner and a movie.  I got to pick the movie tonight, and I chose, Hugo.  Have you seen it yet?

It made me feel like a child again!  It was purely magical.  I'm not sure when I last saw a film that made me see things through the youthful eyes of a child quite like this film does.

Hugo is directed by Martin Scorsese.  The casting is superb, with Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat) playing an awkward detective out to get our hero Hugo (Asa Butterfield), and Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) playing the miserly old owner of a toy shop.  Jude Law and Emily Mortimer also have small roles.

The film is based on a book by Brian Selznick called The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Rather than wreck the magic of the film, I'm not going to give you the plot line... but if you absolutely must have one, click here.

Just go see it!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade Christmas

Hello Everyone!

I'm sure you are all as busy as me these days trying to get ready for Christmas... and a wreath on the front door was the extent of my decorating because we're spending Christmas with my in-laws in Charlotte.  Instead, I'm working away making gifts for friends and family.

This year, instead of giving away cookies or breads or meaningless trinkets, I've decided to make a nice jar of homemade yogurt for friends and co-workers.  This is a really neat idea as well from Coco at Roost Blog: A spiced Ginger Cake with Rosemary Apple Butter. And I found this fun craft idea this morning on Design Mom: Sharpie-Dyed Clothes.  Most of my homemade gifts I'm keeping secret for the surprise effect on Christmas morning, but I'll be sure to post them after Christmas.

I've been noticing that the more thought I put into Christmas, the more meaningful it is.  I'm actually at the point where I get angry about spending tons of money on "stuff" for Christmas.  I'd much rather have someone buy me a gift randomly, because they saw it and thought of me, then just give me something because its Christmas or my birthday.

Last night David and I watched Charlie Brown Christmas on Hulu. If you haven't seen the movie, its about Charlie Brown's search for the meaning of Christmas.  Charlie Brown confides in Linus that even though Christmas is approaching he still feels depressed, despite all the presents, cards and tree decorating, due to the over-commercialization of Christmas.  Boy did David and I identify with that!

Our favorite things about the holidays are the little things... I don't remember the gifts I got as a child, but I do remember the time my dad took us down to frozen Lake Wisconsin in our old Willy's Jeep and threw a rope off the back and then pulled us around on sleds whipping us all over the place.  We had so much fun we laughed until it hurt!  Or the bonfires... My family made legendary bonfires on our land.  Those, I will never forget.

I'm curious, what makes Christmas special for you?  How much do you think is too much to spend on a Christmas gift?  At what point does spending money become more about yourself and less about the gift or the person you're giving it to?  What is your best technique for maneuvering the holidays while keeping Christmas cheer in your heart?    

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rabbit Rabbit!

Rabbit Rabbit!  Have a happy and lucky month filled with Holiday cheer!