Obsessions of Kristi

What am I obsessed about this week? Find out!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

In love with Green Smoothies

I never thought I would say this, but I am in love with green smoothies.  It's true.

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When I was growing up, my mom, taking after her own mother, would occasionally make "green drink," which consisted of radish tops, celery leaves, pineapple juice, and I'm not really sure what else.

 Sorry, Mom and Grandma, but it wasn't very good.

So I was skeptical when I heard about adding greens, like spinach or chard, to smoothies.  A friend of mine recommended the book "Green for Life" by Victoria Boutenko.  I was intrigued, so I checked it out from the library.

Very fascinating!

The author claimed that smoothies with greens in them actually taste good.  Could it be?  But why add greens in the first place?

  • They are full of nutrients:  vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and chlorophyll.  In fact, some people say greens should be their own food group separate from regular vegetables and fruits because they are above-and-beyond good-for-you.
  • They supply your body with protein - actually they contain the amino acids that make up protein.  This was news to me.  If you're like me, you equate protein with meat.  But where do the animals we eat get their protein from?  Plants!  
    • For example, raw Swiss chard (which I've been getting from my mom's garden - thanks, Mom!) is 23% protein and raw spinach is 30% protein.
    • We've been told animal protein is "quality" protein because it is efficiently turned into the proteins our body needs to build muscle and carry out many necessary functions.  It turns out that efficiency does not equal greatest health.  In fact, "low-quality" plant protein, which allows for slow but steady synthesis of new proteins, is the healthiest type of protein. (See "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD)
  • They are easily digested and promote bowel regularity.  Blending the greens breaks apart the cells walls, making the nutrients much easier for your body to assimilate.  Plus you can eat a lot more raw greens if they are blended up.  Have you ever eaten a pound of plain raw spinach in one meal?  Me neither.
  • They are low in calories but filling.
  • They are easy to make.
  • They make you feel really good.
  • I could go on since there are a lot more great reasons (here's a list of 20 reasons to drink green smoothies), but suffice it to say, green smoothies = awesome nutrition.

I decided to give it a try.

It's recommended to use a high-powered blender, like a Vita-Mix or a Blend-Tec, to really make your smoothie smooth, but all I had was a regular blender.  So that's what I used.

Banana, strawberries, spinach and water.  Not bad.  The spinach was a little chewy, but it actually tasted good.

I asked my mom if I could borrow her Vita-Mix, since she hasn't been using it lately, and she agreed.  The powerful blenders really make a big difference.

For the past four months I have consumed a green smoothie almost every day.  They are that good!  Drinking them feels like I'm satisfying a deep thirst.  I have more energy.  I have less cravings for sweets.  I look younger.  Okay, I made that last one up.  I hope I look younger, but it's probably wishful thinking.  Some people claim they have less wrinkles and less gray hair from drinking green smoothies.

I have since tried many different combinations of fruits and greens.  Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Kid-Friendly Strawberry Banana

6-7 frozen strawberries
1 pear, cored and cut up (I left the peel on) or 1 navel orange
1 banana
2+ cups spinach or other greens (I stuff the rest of the blender full of greens)
2 cups water

Blend for 45 seconds or so.

Wonderfully creamy and delicious.

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Zingy Citris

1 grapefruit, peeled, seeded and cut up
1 navel orange, peeled and cut up
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 banana
2+ cups kale or other greens
1/4 cup water + 4 ice cubes

Blend it up and serve with more ice, if desired.  (I always add ice or something frozen because I think they taste better cold.)

So refreshing!  Cool and tingly.

Tropical Favorite

1 banana
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 fresh pineapple
1 kiwi, peeled and diced
2 cups kefir
1 packet Stevia
2+ cups greens
1/2 cup water + some ice cubes

I think this really is my favorite!  Love that fresh pineapple and mango!

Oh, and what is kefir?  It's an ancient cousin to yogurt that is supposed to be more nutritious.  My mom gave me some starter granules, so I can make my own.  (I just add 2-4 cups of milk, let it sit for 2 days at room temperature, strain out the granules, and it's done!)  Kefir contains a plethora of vitamis, beneficial probiotic bacteria, and rich enzymes that promote healthy growth, optimize digestion, and fight illness.  Plus it makes the smoothies extra creamy.  I like to add some kind of sweetener to my smoothie when I use kefir.

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Chocolatey Dream

2 bananas
2 T cocoa powder
2+ cups kale or other greens
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
ice cubes

Creamy, chocolatey, a guilt-free dessert

Berry Pear

1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 banana
1 pear
2+ cups greens
2 cups water

The dark berries (like blueberry and blackberry) make the smoothie purple instead of green, so it's easier to get kids and green-smoothie-newbies to try it.



I could go on and on with various recipes, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy to put together a yummy smoothie.  Here are some tips to help:
  • Fill the blender half full of fruit, then stuff the rest full of greens.  Maybe add less greens at first as you get used to them.  If there's more fruit than greens and you're using a mild green like spinach, you really can't taste the greens.
  • I (almost) always add a banana because of the creamy texture and taste.
  • Good fruit for smoothies:  pears, bananas, berries, mango, papaya, pineapple, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, kiwi,  apples, grapes.  Add any combination you like!
  • Greens I have personally used in smoothies:  spinach, chard, kale, celery, mustard greens, beet greens, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, collard greens, radicchio, arugula, parsley.  Add more than one kind if you want.   Using all radicchio, for example, will be too bitter, so use mostly spinach and a little radicchio.  If you don't know how bitter a green is, just bite off a piece and you'll soon know.
  • Get organic or pesticide-free greens whenever possible.  They have up to 50% more nutrients and you won't be consuming pesticides.  The whole point is to get as much nutrition as possible!
  • Use a variety of greens so you get a broad spectrum of nutrients and amino acids.
  • When using more bitter greens, like dandelion greens, add 1/4 lemon (including rind) to counteract the bitterness.  Actually, I often add 1/4 lemon if there's no other citrus in the smoothie. 
  • When adding plain yogurt or kefir, I like to add some Stevia or some agave syrup, so it won't be too sour.
  • Why not add some flax seed meal for your omega-3 boost?  I add 2 tablespoons to pretty much every smoothie.
  • Add water according to how thick or thin you like the smoothie.  I tend to go for thinner smoothies.  That way they're easier to drink through a straw and easier for my kids to drink.
  • Can't get your kids to try it?  Freeze it into a Popsicle.  Kids love Popsicles!
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  • Things I tried in smoothies, but didn't like:  fresh coconut (tasted good, but texture was awful), cranberries (too sour), red leaf lettuce (too stringy), cilantro (too strong)
If you are still reading this, thank you, and I have some exciting news to tell you.  "The Green Smoothie Girl" (Robyn Openshaw, author of "12 Steps to Whole Foods") is coming to Mesa! She is teaching a green smoothie class for free:

Saturday, May 12, 2012
7:00 PM
Red Mountain Center

I will be going, so join me!  Register here. If you don't live in Mesa, check out her website for free classes around the country.

I hope you will love green smoothies as much as I do, and reap many health benefits from them.  Cheers for green smoothies!

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Snow on Film & Kayla Skis!

There is so much to remember to bring when you go on a trip with four kids. Can you believe I forgot my CAMERA??

Simply unacceptable.

Fortunately you can still get a good ol' 35mm disposable camera that'll do the job in a pinch.

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There is an earthy quality to film pictures that I like.

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Our mini-vacation to Show Low last month was a nice break from the daily grind.

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It actually snowed while we were there! Beautiful!

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It snowed earlier in the week, too, but there wasn't enough left for decent sledding - unless we wanted to drive an hour to Sunrise Ski Resort just for 30 minutes of sledding. Instead, we stopped at a playground area with some good snow and played.

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I haven't seen one of these Merry Go Rounds in ages! So fun!

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"You spin me 'round, 'round, baby..." (I couldn't help but sing that song.)

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Kayla was pretty happy that I took her skiing for half a day. She and I DID drive to Sunrise. I love the thrill of skiing! It was Kayla's first time, so I had her go to ski school for a couple hours. She did really well for being a total newbie. It was only the last run of the day when she chose a more difficult hill that she crashed a lot and got a bit frustrated. That's how it is when you learn to ski. It's so worth it to learn how, though!

Here's she is:




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Since this trip, Sydney has been asking every day to go to the snow.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sydney loves her Little Sneakers class!

It's the highlight of Sydney's week. She gets to chase her teacher, jump over bean bags, throw balls, crawl through tunnels, do somersaults and more!

Ready....

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Go!

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Sydney is a very active girl, so it's perfect for her. We love Miss Kristina and her fun class!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grass vs. Rock: the Battle in our Front Yard

In the epic territorial battle between Grass and Rock, Grass attempts to overpower the strength of Rock by slowly creeping under and between its fortifications.

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Grass seems to be winning until Rock makes an alliance with the humans, who engage in chemical warfare. While the humans like the beautiful green of the grass, they dislike the constant watering, mowing and border patrol required for its maintenance. Within a few hours Grass suffers innumerable casualties. Rock delights in supposed victory!

But with deep roots and incalculable resiliency, the grass presses onward and begins to slowly grow and encroach upon Rock again. In a bold move, Rock introduces a new weapon: the sod cutter. With the help of sweaty humans on a scorchingly hot day, the top 2 inches of grass is beheaded.

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Grass suffers further disgrace when new plants take its place.

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In despair, Grass is on the verge of surrender as more plants are inserted and it sees a large pile of rocks threatening to overtake its territory.

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The Rock is ready for attack! Ha ha!

In a bold and final move, Grass's defeat is complete as a further chemicals are applied, an irrigation system not designed for Grass is installed, physical blockades are laid out, and finally rocks are spread over the land.

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The humans and Rocks relish in victory! All are pleased with the new look, and look forward to a $500 check from City of Mesa for conversion to xeriscape.

What were the costs of battle, you ask? More than we would like:
Glyphosate for killing grass: $83
Sod cutter rental: $73
Irrigation and electrical supplies (including fixing several broken pipes and wiring): approx. $160
5 new plants: $72
New rocks: $183
TOTAL: $571

We won't actually make money, but hopefully it's still worth it. Go Rocks!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Week of Firsts

I usually think of school starting in the fall. It used to start in the fall, anyway. I'm sure it still does somewhere.

Now it's the second week in August. It does not feel like anything close to autumn. I mean, 108 degrees of melting heat does not exactly bring pumpkins to mind.

I still love Arizona. Well, at least I will in October.

In the meantime, school starting has meant lots of firsts in our house:

First Day of Junior High (7th grade):

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As excited as she was to start Junior High, Jessica was grumpy on the first day of school and didn't want me taking her picture.

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I took pictures anyway.

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First Day of 8th Grade:

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Kayla knows the drill. It's a required part of growing up that you get your picture taken on the first day of school.

First Day of Kindergarten:

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Kindergarten already? Yes! Chloe gets to attend Montessori Education Center. She loves it, but she's not quite used to being away from me five days a week, even though it is only for three hours at a time. It's definitely different than regular schools, but in a good way. Montessori schools are more hands-on, self-directed and nurturing.

Chloe's teacher is walking her in to school.

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I also started teaching my first real Let's Play Music classes! It was exciting, a bit nerve-wracking, and gratifying. I love how the kids faces light up when singing songs, learning and enjoying music. I can't wait to see them build on the simple concepts we introduce in the beginning.

The first semester of Let's Play Music is the Red Balloon class. It's called Red Balloons because that's the name of one of the songs we learn, which helps introduce the staff and how the staff makes notes sound. So I gave out red balloons to my students on the first day of class.

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They loved it!

Summer, the season, may not be over, but I appreciate the new beginnings this time of year offers. As my grandma used to say first at our piano recitals, "Let us begin, to commence, to proceed, to start!"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let's Play Music!

I'm so excited to start teaching Let's Play Music classes in just a couple weeks, and I can't believe I haven't even blogged about it yet! The perfectionist in me has kept me from it.

What is Let's Play Music, you ask?

Super fun music classes for young children that get them to love music, read music, sing music, play music, understand music, compose music, and yes, even play the piano, all through fun and games! Or to quote something more official, Let's Play Music is "an exciting, new music curriculum which teaches advanced musical skills to young children using age-appropriate methods." That's what I'm talkin' about!

When I first saw Let's Play Music in action at a Desert Valley Music Teacher's Association Meeting, I fell in love with the program. I have my Grandma Judy to thank for not only teaching me to play the piano, but for inviting me to the meeting where I learned about Let's Play Music. Plus she helped pay for my licensing fees. Thank you, Grandma!

In February I starting training on how to teach the first year's curriculum (by the way, it's a three-year program). I am now a Certified Let's Play Music Teacher! How cool is that? Telling everyone I know who has a 4 to 6-year-old about it (that's the starting age of students), holding Sample Classes, signing up students, and studying has kept me busy. I'm loving it!

Check out the Let's Play Music website to learn more and even watch a video of what it's all about!

For a much more amateur video (taken by Kayla), here's a clip of me singing one of the songs in a Sample Class, "Scotland's Burning". We teach the children Solfeggio hands signs to promote "inner hearing" and to help their brains make the connection between the notes and their places in the scale. The magnet board next to me had just been used for "The Red Balloon" song.


video

It's so much fun!

Last month I got to attend the Let's Play Music Symposium, where I learned a plethora of information and connected with other teachers. Here are some pictures from it.

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Group Picture

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My headshot taken by Cherie Mask.

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The Let's Play Music advisory board

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Watching one of the presentations

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Learning more during one of the mini-classes

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One of the many tables set up with lots of great teaching helps - this one has semester gift ideas.

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A Kit Kat keyboard. Yum!

My parents deserve a thank you for also helping pay my licensing fees. And thanks to my husband and kids for supporting me in this endeavor. Thanks to all the parents who value a music education for their children and have trusted my teaching abilities enough to sign up for one of my classes. It's gonna be great!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Marvelous Month of May

May is...
busy
bustling
berry & peach season
beautiful
boisterous
baby bird time
a barrel of fun

With so much going on in May, I limited myself to one photo (or maybe two) from each convivial event. Otherwise it might be overwhelming.

I already ordered a 20 page photo album from shutterfly.com with all my favorite photos from May. I'm so proud of myself for being on the ball! (It's amazing how the impending expiration of a coupon for a free photo album gets me motivated.)

Let's start with Kayla being inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Impressive! She really works hard at school, and she's smart!

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Jessica and Kayla both play the clarinet in band. Here they are before their final concerts of the school year.

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Did you know Desert Botanical Garden has a free day once a month? I took Chloe and Sydney there to enjoy the lovely plants.

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I had the privilege of attending a photography workshop by Carolyn Wells. This is a shot from the hands-on portion at a playground. Yes, Sydney is eating sand.

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My sister, Marie, chose May to get married to her mellifluous mate, Mark. This meant lots of family came in town for the event. It was great to spend time with my two sisters who live in Idaho. Here's Rachel and her two kiddos, who joined me at Tumbleweed Park.

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Chloe's Uncle Justin helped her pick peaches in my parents' backyard. Delicious!

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Jessica worked hard on her science fair project.

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May is full of end-of-the-school-year parties. Chloe got to play at Bounce U for her preschool party. Then the students showed off their counting, reciting, singing and reading skills.

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Here are some of the girls at the bridal bash we had for Marie.

Marie's bridal bash

I was honored to be a bridesmaid for Marie's wedding. The day before was designated "spa day" for the bride and bridesmaids. Here's Marie at the nail salon where we all got pedicures. I love having pretty toenails!

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Chloe took ballet this past year. Here she is at her end-of-year demonstration.

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Then there is Chloe as a flower girl for the wedding. She basked in the attention, to say the least.

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The beautiful bride and me:

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Kayla received a Gilbert Golden Scholar award at school. She is showing it to her friend as she walks back to her seat.

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Jessica graduated from 6th grade! That means I'll have two children in Junior High next year. Oh my!

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Over Memorial Day weekend we bought a family pass to Skyline Pool (also good at all the Mesa pools if anyone wants to join us this summer).

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Jessica is looking at her yearbook. This is pretty much her permanent outfit for the summer.

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We've already been reading a lot since school got out. Sydney, especially, loves books!

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As I went in the backyard to hang some laundry, I noticed movement in the overgrown grass. It turned out to be baby birds. We counted six of them. They are so cute!

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Where was the patriarch of the family this whole month? He was there, behind the scenes. See, he really does exist:

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I hope your month of May was as marvelous as ours!