Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Very Harry Christmas

From back left: Hermione, Ron, Harry.
From front left: Snape, Voldemort
Introducing Potter Puppet Pals ornaments. I like to think of them as poorly crafted charmingly naive.  I spotted them on Pinterest a few weeks ago and knew that I had to figure out how to make them for Rebekah.

Mischief managed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Week in Review OR My Slip is Showing

Since it's only a little over a week until Christmas, I can't really show pictures of everything I've done, but here is a bit of what's been going on at our house:

The youth activity this week was making 'gingerbread' houses (no actual gingerbread was harmed in the making....).  Danny proved himself a genius and simply constructed a 'swimming pool' and then poured his entire bag of mini M&M's in it - thus bypassing the fiddly step of picking the good stuff off and eating it.  We were able to go straight to the eating.

I was able to earn some big brownie/matrimonial points with Steve by making a thermal slip for his mother.  It's just like a regular slip, but lined with fleece.  I would have gotten it done sooner, but when I asked Steve to find out what type of slip (half or full), he came back with the wrong answer: three quarters.  I then packaged said slip AND went to the post office today and queued up to send it off.

On Wednesday Alex finally got the wires removed from his mouth! That evening we canned 18 cans of stuff in #10 cans: Beanland soup mix, red lentils, sugar and powdered sugar.  We had to get it done Wednesday night because I only had the can sealer checked out until Thursday noon.  Yes, we had it a full week and yes, we waited until the last possible moment to use it. What's your point?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Keeping Busy

I've been keeping fairly busy lately.  Much of my time has been taken up with my regularly scheduled programming (family, seminary, sleep, house....) but I've been sneaking in some time to work on Christmas presents.  Unfortunately, I can't really blog about what I've done because you never know who might peek. 

Here's a little something I posted on Help Me Hanna:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Wish...

We throw coins in a fountain, we blow out candles, we close our eyes against a falling star... all for the chance at a single wish. But what would happen if a wish was forced on you?

Kira is one of the newest batch of Jinn sent to mend the paths of those humans who have lost their destinies. She has been assigned to discover Jack Morgan's one true wish by whatever means are necessary, with only three stipulations: 1) no one is to discover she is a Jinni, 2) she is never to lose control of her powers, and 3) she is never, ever to grow attached to her human.

The stubborn Wall of Jack, as Kira thinks of him, has worked hard to create a life that is normal in a home that was anything but. He wants nothing more than to follow his meticulously laid out plan for his future. So, when Kira arrives in his English class with a rush of wind and spark of energy that knocks him off balance, he never would have guessed that she was a Jinni sent for him.

Kira and Jack battle wills, battle their own failings, and battle the impossible feelings that are growing between them; until a battle of another kind pulls them eternally together.

Even with mystery, magic and a timeless romance, nothing could prepare the reader for the consequences of two little words... I wish.

What can I say?
Yay Tia! I'm so proud of her.
I Wish by Tia Harrington, available November 19, 2011 (download from Amazon Kindle store).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Very Slurpy Thanksgiving.

I just got a phone call from my husband.  Alex just had his appointment with the oral surgeon.  It looks like three more weeks of having his jaw wired shut. 

Poor guy.  He's lost about 10 pounds so far - 10 pounds that weren't extra.  I'll have to step up the calorie count for him (I wish we could trade metabolism right now!). I had been hoping that the wires would be off in time for Thanksgiving - and that even if he couldn't chew much, he could at least eat soft food. Now I'll be making two dinners - regular and liquid.

I just need to borrow a stronger blender.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

(un)Award Winning Photography

We had a somewhat gorgeous Halloween yesterday.  I'd like to submit a little proof that it isn't always raining here in Western Washington:
Snow on Mt. Pilchuck Through Power Lines.

Farewell October

Friday, October 28, 2011

Best in Show

This was our year!  Granted, the competition was pretty light, but I think our pumpkins were pretty dang awesome.  I made the pattern myself - sort of.  I screen captured the ones that I had pinned on Pinterest, then enlarged them a bit and printed them up, traced with a push pin - then I cut out Ferb, Steve did Phineas. I'm pretty sure we'll be impressing some trick or treaters with these babies on Monday.

Not only did we get 'certificates', we also got some booty.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tall Oaks from Little Acorns Grow...

I'm not expecting to grow any oaks with these, but I thought I'd share the treats I made for the seminary activity Deann and I are having tomorrow.  I found the idea on Pinterest.  These treats are just store-bought donut holes, one end dipped in slightly melted frosting, then in sprinkles, then about 2/3 of a pretzel stick is jammed in the top. Boo. Ya.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Undiluted Truth...

...about diluting.

We're still on a learning curve here at Casa de Oeste.  Alex still can't handle any chunk-i-ness in his liquid meals - the bits and pieces get caught in the small spaces between his teeth and then nothing gets through.  To combat that, we strain his food through a mesh strainer.  We've found that if a food will get through the mesh, it will most likely go through a straw and NOT get stuck in his teeth.  In order for things to make it through the strainer, they often need to be 'watered' down.  Unless you're under the age of 6 months,  you're going to find most watered down food bland and unappealing.  What to do?  Well, first of all, don't use water. 

Here's a few of our favorite (so far) diluting agents:
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (comes in a six pack from Costco) - this is great for anything tomato based.
Lipton's Onion Soup Mix - lots of flavor and (after straining out the onions) no added texture.  I'm sure it has tons of salt too - but let's just keep in mind that this is a short term diet.  Works well with bland stuff like mashed potatoes. I just had Alex make up another batch of it to keep on hand in the fridge.
Chicken Broth. I've got a carton of the stuff in the fridge - this works with lots of soup smoothies (*gag*, sorry) - without imparting too much of it's own flavor.

Typical dinner.  Not very pretty - but both liquids were easily
sipped through a straw. 

"Instant" hot cereals tend to have less texture than longer cooking kinds - but they still
tend to be a bit too thick to drink through a straw.

We've found that if you make sort of a well in a strainer, then pour a liquid over
the food (in this case cream of wheat and milk), the liquid serves to carry the food
through the mesh more easily.  Milk, however, is awfully bland - we had to add some
brown sugar to this to make it reasonably palatable. While not a favorite, Alex didn't mind
it too much.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Will It Blend...the continuing saga.

Just because you can blend something doesn't mean you should.  Word.

We definitely had some hits and misses yesterday.  First the hits:

Mashed Potato Soup.  I made up a batch of Idahoan brand instant mashed potatoes (Loaded Baked flavor), then I put a couple of spoonfuls in my little sieve and poured some prepared Lipton Onion soup over it.  Lather, rinse, repeat. Alex loves onions, so this was pretty much a hit. 
Butterscotch Pudding.  Who doesn't love butterscotch pudding? I added an extra cup of milk so that it would be runnier and flow through a straw easier.
Krogers Fortify Plus.  Basically this is a store brand knock-off of Ensure. I'll be stocking up on these babies - lots of protein and vitamins, not to mention 350 calories each. 
Ivar's Crab Bisque. I just strained this - Alex got most of the creamy broth and I had a small bowl of all the good stuff with just a little bit of broth.  Win win. The only downside here is the cost.  Each 24 ounce container is close to $6.
Costco Berry Smoothie.  It was just a tad thick, but as it warmed up a little it got easier for him to drink.  I think it took him 30 minutes to drink the whole thing.

And now for the misses:

Alex's favorite go-to meal is ramen noodles.  You'd think they would be fine in a blender.  You'd be wrong. I learned a bit about how starches start binding together in the blender. We'll give ramen another chance or two - but we'll wait a week or two and see if his suction improves.

Instant Oatmeal.  I love oatmeal - but the starchiness of it just doesn't lend itself well to drinking through a straw without diluting it so much that it becomes oatmeal milk.  Yuk. We tossed it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Will It Blend?

Will it Blend?

I think Alex needs this t-shirt...

I plan on doing an ongoing series on what I've made for Alex to eat...er...drink while his jaw is wired shut.  Not necessarily recipes, but at least a list of what works and what doesn't.

McDonald's vanilla shake - thumbs up.
Blended Zuppa Toscana - I had to strain it through a sieve.  The end result tasted fine, but there was quite a bit of waste.
Canned Peaches smoothie - dump a can of peaches in the blender, then add a few scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I found it too sweet, Daniel didn't like the temperature - he prefers ice cold smoothies.  Alex slurped it down.
Yogurt.  I bought a few of the "blended" variety from Fred Meyer.  It packs 7 grams of protein in one serving.  I plan to go to Costco today or tomorrow and buy some Chobani (Greek yogurt) - it has twice as much protein - but I'm a little concerned that I may need to thin it a little so that he can drink it - I'm also a little concerned about the fruit in it.  Maybe I can make yogurt smoothies with it?
Ivar's Smoked Salmon Chowder - I dumped a couple of cups into the blender - then poured through a sieve.  Not nearly as much waste as the Zuppa Toscana.  Alex liked it. I'll check Costco and see if they still have it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Elder Abuse

One of the other missionaries gave Alex this pen...

He's not nearly as swollen as I thought he might be - he was
injured on the left side of his face.

I guess we won't have to worry about a Halloween costume - all he has to do is bare his teeth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hola Elder

So, today is our p-day. It's kind of redundant to email you folks, since I'll be returning home tomorrow morning, but my companion wants to have some email time, so it's not like I have much to do right now.

I'm sure that all of you know why I need to return home (broken jaw) and why it happened and what I did at the hospital, so I'll spare you of all the gory details. It sufficeth me to say that the Presbyterian Intercommunal Hosiptal that I went to is probably one of the best things the Presbyterians have ever done.

I have to congratulate you, mom and dad, for taking this all so calmly and coolheadedly that the mission president and my companion have expressed surprise.

I have to congratulate President Bubert for being such a big support in more ways than I can express.

I also have to congratulate my companion for putting up with me, and having the patience to do basically all the medical paperwork yesterday. If you haven't heard yet, yesterday was an exercise in pure frustration. We had an appointment at 9 o'clock at this one place nearby, but it turned out that they didn't take our insurance, so we spent like two hours there trying to sort everything out, so they just referred us to another place for a 2 o'clock appointment.

That place was pretty good, but we had to redo all the paperwork and sort out a couple headaches and whatnot, so the actual surgery ending up starting around 5 o'clock IIRC. It only took about ~20 minutes, but
was rather excruciating since I was awake and only had local anesthetic. The procedure is pretty simple conceptually, just drill some screws into the patient's gums and wrap some wires around them, but even with the numbing it was still a very unpleasant sensation afterwards. The fact that it wasn't until like 8 o'clock that I got the (liquid) pain medication didn't exactly help either.

What did help though was (surprise) the mission president. When we arrived back at our apartment we found him waiting for us, and he had bought a lot of liquid food for me. Now we know that I won't need it
all, but yesterday we thought that due to my skull fracture I wouldn't be able to fly home for about a week. After talking with use for a bit, we went to the store and bought stuff for smoothies (awesome), and then spent the rest of the night talking.

Well, actually, I didn't talk that much, with my jaw being closed and all, but I was able to say some words clearly, and if needed I could just pull a Zacharias and write down what I needed to say.

Anyways, if any of you are wondering, yes I'm fine, and yes the pain medication is working.

Really the only three things I'm worrying about is how are [1] how am I not going to lose a massive amount of weight (considering that I've been the most voracious eater at dinner in a Spanish ward and have still failed to put on any weight) [2] how am I going to keep my teeth clean, and [3] how am I going to eat ramen without any real gaps in my teeth.

Hasta manana!
- Elder Oeste

Monday, October 17, 2011


I'm learning that it's really tough to have a child in a hospital a thousand miles away. I'm having a little trouble concentrating on anything right now - except the fact that I wish I could be there, and that I wish I knew more about the condition Alex is in. 

...about your son...
 Yesterday, right after Danny and I got home from church, I got a call from Alex's mission president.  Umm...for those of you who haven't had a child go on a mission, it's a little like having the school counselor call you from the high school...sure, it could be good news...but it seldom is. Sure enough, it wasn't good news.  I felt bad for Alex's mission president - he'd never had to call a parent to tell them that their son was in the hospital with a fractured skull, jaw broken in two places and a possible ruptured eardrum.  All of that sounds worse than it is...I hope.  The fractured skull bit sort of threw me...but it's a hairline fracture (ha! hair...line...) and the doctors say it will heal up on its own without their help. The jaw fractures are a bit more serious - serious enough to need his jaw wired shut for the next few/several weeks.  The good news...yes, there is some good news...is that Alex will get to come home for those weeks of recuperation - possibly Wednesday. In the meantime, I'll be getting a bedroom prepared for him, digging out his casual clothes and shopping for things he can drink through a straw. 

Yes, this is where my imagination takes me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Untidy little secrets...

Surely I'm not the only one who does this? I have between 20 - 30 recipes haphazardly taped up on the inside of my cupboard doors.  I use some of them quite often - but I just noticed that there are several that have been up for years (yes, years) that I've never made.  Will I ever?  Hmm. At this point, probably not.

Cookie recipes, pasta, soups, and a very yummy looking
carrot cake recipe (that I've never made...)

My most frequently used bread recipes - right above my bread maker. 
Oh yeah, also the recipe for pizza egg rolls.

Cheese puffs (savory cream puffs), crepes, pumpkin pancakes, beanland soup, cake mix cookies,
fresh blueberry cake, and a couple more unused recipes.
What I should do is take all these recipes down, type them up on the computer and then print them up - all nice and neat.  That's what I should do...will I?  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hola Elder

I bet you folks are surprised that I'm emailing today, but I assure you that there's a good reason behind it. You see, in this mission, we have the opportunity to go to the temple once every two transfers, and to do this we wake up early on p-day and get a ride from a member. The only problem is that the temple is closed on Monday or something, so we have to change our p-day. We went to the Los Angeles temple this morning, though the southern half of the mission goes to the Newport Beach temple. The LA Temple is very awe-inspiring, though I'm always impressed at how the spirit is the same regardless of the exterior. Anyways, after our session our zone was able to meet in the chapel with the temple president, where he talked for a bit. It was interesting.

This past week a general authority, Elder Choi (pronounced "Che") of the Seventy, went on a tour of the mission. For us that entailed a half-mission conference, where he and his wife and the mission president all took turns speaking about stuff. The prevailing theme of Elder Choi's remarks was "get married right after your mission", which my companion found rather timely since he's going home in 3 weeks. I, on the other hand, have somewhere around 85 weeks before I need to worry about such things.

A couple times this past week we had the opportunity to take a young man who's preparing for his mission out with us. He went out with us on Thursday night and made some really good contributions to the lessons we had, and yesterday he helped us do some yardwork-service. He's working really hard preparing for his mission, and I have to say that it really showed. He'll be a pretty awesome elder.

On Wednesday as we were trying to find somebody we street contacted, we ran into this one lady who was taking groceries in. We offered some help, she accepted, and was interested enough to set up an appointment Friday evening, to which we ended up being 50 minutes late. I kind of feel guilty about that, but I feel pretty safe shifting the blame to the member we had with us. In any case, the lady was waiting for us, and our truancy didn't seem to faze her interest. Let's just hope we'll be able to go somewhere with her.

The next transfers will be November 1, for those who are curious, but I kind of doubt if I'll get transferred.

Hasta Luego,
- Elder Oeste

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hola Elder

The Spanish word of the week is "surdo", which means "left-handed" ("southpaw"?).

Conference this weekend was really good, though I guess that goes without saying. It was kind of weird going to the stake center for the Saturday session and basically seeing nobody there, but I did appreciate the lack of distractions. I felt that I was able to get more out of it that way. I think my favorite two talks were Ted Callister's Book of Mormon talk and the talk by the Japanese guy that amounted to "Thank you, missionaries."

I'm not sure whether the Provo Tabranacle temple or the Congo temple announcement surprised me more. The first one was entirely out of the blue, whereas all the other elders in our apartment think that I misheard in the case of the latter (my notes don't lie).

Due to the distance between our proselyting area and the stake center, it was essentially infeasible to do much work between sessions, which was quite the bummer. During the Saturday afternoon break, we had the opportunity to eat at a member's house. It was nice since he was feeding all of the Spanish missionaries from our zone and the other zone, but it was not so nice since the other missionaries goaded me into eating a Chili de Arbol (bad idea).

I'd say my Spanish is doing pretty well, though I think I have some work to do with regards to comprehension. For instance, last night we were visiting a member and I had to sit on the sidelines because I could barely understand a word he said because he was talking so fast. Despite my best listening efforts, my brain was fried at the end of the visit. (Strangely, I understood practically everything my companion said.

On Thursday (jueves) we had the opportunity to provide service to one of the emeritus Bishops of the ward. We basically did a bunch of yardwork, which entailed using stuff like chainsaws and lawnmowers and such. I ended up with the rakes. In any case, I enjoyed the opportunity to sweat a lot (you see, with me being a car-elder this doesn't happen on a daily basis).

Just a note: The mission president actually allots us time each week to use mormon.org for some reason, so if you want me to see any of the profiles you make I can just look them up.

Hasta el Fuego,
- Elder Oeste

Hola Elder

This past week was my first real experience with transfers. My companion and I weren't transferred, but I still found it rather interesting to see how much anticipation people had for their transfer calls on Saturday night. For our district, 3 out 6 elders ended up being transferred. That meant one of the areas got "whitewashed". The new elders are pretty good. One of them served in the Cambodian ward for the past year, but somehow he ended up in our district (curiously, the English district in our area also got a Cambodian elder). All I can say is that it's a really weird sounding language.

Last night my companion and I were talking to a few really drunk guys on their doorstep. My companion ended up talking to the only non-drunk one, and apparently they had a good discussion. I was left with the drunk guys, and I'm not exactly sure what happened. From what I got out of it, they have been reading the Book of Mormon and really like it, and then for the next ten minutes it felt like the conversation was going in circles. Whatever the case is, we somehow ended up setting up a lunch appointment with them for the Saturday (I have reasons to doubt that they'll remember, though).

-Elder West

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hola Elder

I have been informed that in my e-mail last week I had a paragraph in my e-mail that consisted only of the sequence of letters "Speaking of w". I must inform you that the text was not missing, but rather was invisible. Any and all rumors along the lines of "The computer didn't send the email even though I clicked the send button a full minute before my time was up and so I had to use another Elder's time to fire off the latest (read: incomplete) draft which ldsmail had" are entirely false and should not be taken seriously.

For those without the ability to see invisible text, I will provide a summary of said inviso-text:

"Speaking of which, the members around here feed us really well. We're usually able to have a member feed us every night, which is pretty amazing when you consider that there are six of us ravenous beasts to feed. Really, the ward here is pretty good, though it's been a while since there's been a baptism here so the enthusiasm for the work could be higher, but I guess that it's just something we'll need to work at.

Also, I just feel like mentioning how weird the housing around here seems to me. I don't think I've seen more stucco, front-yard fences, and backhouses (with backhouses) in my life. I've started to get used to it, but it was all rather bizarre at first (Washington, this is not)."

Anyways, as far as this week is concerned, I'll just have to express my surprise at the fact that I'm basically done with my first transfer in the field. The saying "Time flies like an arrow" has never been more true than it is now (same with "Fruit flies like a banana.").

I've learned quite a lot in the past 6 weeks, and hope to be able to learn and do much more in the coming 6 weeks (FYI, the new training program lasts 12 weeks total).

Weirdest thing that happened this past week was having one of our lessons interrupted by the Los Angeles Police Department. I still have no idea what exactly prompted their visit (they said the mother of the house called them, but apparently she didn't), but they ended up waking up one of the other persons we were teaching from that home, which was good because that meant that we got to teach him too.

On Saturday morning as we were trying to contact one of our investigators (I'm not sure why we planned on stopped by so early), we ran across some person on the street who just wanted us to teach him. Apparently he was a member who had been inactive for quite a few years and has had some trouble in his life, and now he's come to the conclusion that he should come back to the church. I guess that's just an example of the Spirit guiding us to people we need to talk to.

So yeah, this was a pretty good week.
- Elder Oeste

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hola Elder

This past week has been rather interesting. We've had temperatures ranging from 100+ to the low 70s (muy frio). It just so happened that for the hottest day this week I was on exchanges and had to use a bike. I'm not sure if I drank four bottles or five bottles of water that day. (Mercifully, the mission president said that bike elders could have an extra hour of study time because it was so hot.) Regardless of the temperature, I actually enjoyed biking around. The main problem with it (besides being slower than driving a car) was waiting for the other elders to pick us up for dinner.

Speaking of w (he just breaks off here...)

On Saturday I learned that I have superhuman cockroach-ignoring abilities (and that my companion doesn't).

Los vemos,
Elder West

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On the Road

Here's another little slice of our summer vacation:

There weren't a lot of lodging options in Grand Coulee, Washington - but I have to admit, I was digging the sign for our motel.  The Trail West was nothing fancy - but adequate for a one nighter.

Salmon, Idaho had a few more options - we chose the Sacajawea Inn based on positive TripAdvisor reviews.  It was awesome in a retro/theme room kind of way. As we pulled up in front of the office, I asked Steve if he wanted a slushy...there were 3 people sitting on chairs that reminded me of the characters in Baptists at our Barbecue.  Loved. It. 

Yes, I did say 'theme room'.  We had the 'deer room'.  Can you tell?  Not only did we have a large mural, complete with deer, the lamp next to Danny had deer on it, there were 3 or 4 pictures on the wall with deer, AND the blankets under the bedspreads had deer on them. 
 The Sacajawea Inn was a very friendly place - the manager asked if we would be staying the next night (Saturday) - as they put on a free steak dinner every Saturday.  Sadly we were not. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Twenty Six Bedroom...

Spotted this behemoth in the parking lot near Old Faithful.
Awesome doesn't even begin to describe it...but maybe claustrophobic comes close.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beartooth Highway...or...Switchbacks (backwards) R Us

I've decided not to even attempt to post pictures of our recent vacation to in any sort of chronological order...we covered about 3,900 miles. Yes people, that's 3,900 miles!! Much of those miles were on scenic routes and back roads.  Some were on dirt roads... I'll just divide up the trip like a pie.  Everybody likes pie...right?

Our travel along the Beartooth Highway will be featured as the first slice:

We started at the bottom of this valley - coming south out of Red Lodge, Montana.
We kept going up...and up...

...and up...

...until we were above, well, pretty much everything.

Marcy and I took about seventeen thousand pictures.  Each.

The top  was surprisingly flat-ish. Yes, we sang I'm On The Top of the World.  Badly. Very badly.  Fortunately Steve was able to supply some forgotten lyrics. Unfortunately Marcy and I sang them.

Even the road construction stop was breathtaking.
(This is not it...the stop looked at least this nice...if not better)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hola Elder

So, my first week on the mission field. It's been pretty "waitwhatexactlywasIexpecting", if that makes any sense.

The first day where we flew to Long Beach was pretty good. We woke up at like 3:50 (Utah time), got to the travel office at 5AM, and then my companion and I were randomly selected to help with the check-out process. The ride from the MTC to the airport was pretty pleasant (I think we spotted 5 temples).

Somehow I managed to win the lottery and score a first-class seat for the flight to Long Beach. The man sitting next to my assigned seat had his girlfriend on the flight, and she decided to sit next to him rather take her first-class seat. As a result of this, I ended up learning that the only particularly special thing about first class is the leg room.

I was really impressed with the weather in Long Beach once we got off the plane. It was in the mid-60s with a nice breeze, and most of the airport was outside to boot. According to the mission president the weather is practically the same every day. Cool, cloudy mornings followed by sunshine and a gradual increase in temperature (but it rarely rains and it's never too hot). He said the more north (away from the coast) you are the in the mission the hotter it gets in the day, but the northernmost area in the mission (Whittier) is only about
10 degrees warmer than the coast (hey guess where I got assigned).

Right after the airport the mission president took us to the top of Signal Hill, from which we could see the entire mission basically (smog permitting). It was quite the sight.

After that was lunch and orientation at the mission home, and then some vehicle safety stuff and interviews with the mission president at the mission office. Since there were 15 new missionaries in our group, that latter part took quite a while. By the time my interview took place we were already running half an hour late (I was second to last), so he only talked with my for about 2 minutes ("areyouworthyareyouhealthydoyoupromisetoreadthebookofmormonin90days" "yes" *hug* "gettowork").

My companion/trainer is named Elder Bradshaw. He has only 2 transfers left, so training me is going to be the last thing he does. If I could describe him in a sentence, I'd say "He's the opposite of Elder Lybbert." That is to say: he's from the US but lives in Canada now, and some other things. Anyways, we're serving in the Whittier area, which is the northernmost area of the zone. If it ever really gets that hot up here then I guess the reason would be that I'm not noticing is because we have a car, which I am the designated driver of not because of my driving skills, but because my companion says he has epilepsy. I'm pretty sure I've gotten ourselves almost-killed about 4 times per day so far with my level of driving competency.

The language is... coming slowly. If I listen really hard I can usually understand the gist of what people are saying, but there's still a lot I need to learn. Right now I'd guess I'm understanding 10% of what people are saying around here. Sacrament meeting was rather interesting, though. It was a testimony meeting for all the youth and youth leaders that went on some scout camp thing or something, and there was Spanglish all over the place. The other two hours of church were decidedly less linguistically adventurous, sadly.

The work itself has been different from what I expected (which is what I expected, now that I think about it). Between our hour of language study and our extra hour of companion study (part of the new training schedule) and lunch and dinner, I always feel rather surprised at how little time it seems we have.

I'd write more but I just realized that I have to write to my mission president during this time.

P.S. If you want to see the mission boundaries you can check out LDSmaps on LDS.org IIRC.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pacific Science Center with the Munchkins

Watch out Kaith! Your evil genius is showing.

Sterling and Grandpa learned what happens when a plastic bottle full of liquid
nitrogen is sunk in the bottom of a barrel full of water.

Ride 'em caterpillar!

Trevor and Sterling are really into music.

No, there wasn't really a rope swing...but Miriam and Andrew were well able to improvise.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hola Elder

So, um, this is going to be my last week at the MTC. Feels pretty weird.

I got my travel plans on Thursday. I'll be leaving on Tuesday and I'll have to report to the travel office at 5AM (read: I'll probably have to wake up at 4AM). My flight at the SLC airport leaves at about 8:30 and arrives directly at the Long Beach airport 2 hours later at about 9:30. After that I have no idea what's going to happen, other than that supposedly everybody in our mission goes to the Newport Beach Temple every transfer. (Have you seen any pictures of it? It looks amazing.) Anyways, the point here is that apparently I can call you guys home at the SLC airport. I'm not entirely sure how payphones work nowadays, but don't be surprised if you get a call from me between 6 and 7 AM next Tuesday (your time). As to the question "what do you think you'll miss most about the MTC?" I have to respond with the answer "I don't have a clue." I might miss the food, but honestly I think it'll be for the best. To say the least, my bowels don't exactly agree with all the stuff they feed us here. I'm pretty sure I won't miss the computers here or anything like that, but I do kind of regret that I didn't figure out how to effectively use TALL until like a week or two ago (the listening activities they have are really great). If I do miss anything from here, it'll probably be either having gym five days a week or our teachers.

Granted, this is all conjecture. For all I know I'll end up being horribly wrong.

Our district (and most the other districts with 7 weeks of Spanish under their belts) were hosts for the new missionaries on Wednesday. I only ended up hosting one Elder, Elder Hanks, but it turned out that he's in our branch and that his bedroom is right next to ours. (He's going to New Jersey, if you're interested.) I also hosted three Sisters, but that mostly entailed carrying their luggage 50 feet to the Sisters' residence and then having the Sister hosts take over from there. In one case we ended up doing a bit more, because apparently the new Sister's room was in a different building from the rest and on the top floor (and the building didn't have an elevator). Me and another elder carried her luggage to the top floor. (Don't worry, only the top floor of said building was a Sister's residency. (Floors 2 and 3 are Elders' residences, and Floor 1 is like the barbershop and stuff (weird building)).)

Hasta martes,
Elder Oeste

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My New Secret Identity

Just call me "Dark Mode".

My 8 year-old grandson has a highly active imagination and loves inventing scenarios for play-acting.  Lately it's been something to do with The Incredibles...only instead of being 'Dash'...he's 'Dark Dash'.  I'm not sure who gets to play all the other characters, but he roped me into it and asked me who I was.  Hmmm.  I'm definitely too old to be 'Dark Violet' - and since I happened to be sewing when he asked me, I opted for Edna Mode.  I was then informed that I could only use one name to go with 'Dark', so 'Dark Mode' was born.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Best Sister....Ever!

Sorry Marcy, Sherri, Suzanne, Keira, Cindy, Lisa, Lynn, Paula, Sara, Angie, Becky, etc...Tia wins.

Way back, in like, February (possibly January...), I asked Tia if she would like to come to stake Girls Camp with me and help me cook.  With absolutely no hesitation she signed on. Sweet!  Then there was a bit of a glitch when I was told that she couldn't come because she isn't in our stake. I was sad (and a wee bit grumpy), but I insisted that I HAD to have an assistant. HAD. TO. There was no way I could manage all of the food/cooking for Girls Camp on my own.

A few weeks later I got a call...and we were back on (evidently there are not all that many people willing to volunteer to help out at Girls Camp...go figure).

Tang: Beverage of Astronauts!
Tia was the awesomest minion EVER in the history of minions...although in reality she isn't the least bit minion-like (she's more a see the hill, take the hill sort).  We pretty much worked non-stop from around 5am to 8pm and then fell into our sleeping bags (before dark!). As far as we know, no one got sick OR went hungry on our watch...and we got a ton of compliments on our menu/cooking.  Which is pretty funny because much of what we did involved complicated stuff like using can openers and tearing open plastic bags.  We were even complimented on serving Fruit Loops for breakfast. Weird.

Speaking of weird...take a gander at the antiquated chest freezer from he**.  Tia and I are pretty sure it served as a place to store bodies (possibly for the mob)...before being donated to a Ensign Ranch to atone for its past sins.

The Dead Man's Chest (Freezer).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sweet Stuff

Disclaimer:  Please ignore the horrible condition of my deck - it's sadly in need of fresh stain & paint - which will have to wait until AFTER girls camp. Probably AFTER the grandkids are gone - I really need them to be able to use the deck while they're here.  Speaking of grandkids (we were, weren't we?)...here's the crew: