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 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 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 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