Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rather Dashingly...

Dear Family,

Congrats on the new addition to the family!

Today was our temple P-Day. It was quite interesting. We went to the LA Temple for the 5:30 am session, and it was packed. Of the portion of the mission that goes to the LA Temple, I think that over half were in attendance (and on time). There were a lot of familiar faces in the celestial room. It was great.

James came back from China and we were able to talk with him last night. He really enjoyed his trip, and even with all the work he's having to do to catch up with all of his AP classes, he still finds time to read from the Book of Mormon and such (while also trying to get the world record high score in Abadox (a random NES game)). Quite impressive.

We're still working with Dawn and Nancy and that whole family. For Elder Perry's birthday this week they gave him a few random presents. On the more spiritual side, it seems they're doing better. Nancy was the only one of them who came to church this week though, which is weird because out of all of them she got the least sleep the previous night (ie none).

On Friday I was on exchanges with an Elder Greene, who (believe it or not) is a greenie (though unfortunately his name is just pronounced green). For somebody so quiet, he's quite good.

All the news I'm hearing about changes resulting from the influx of missionaries is weird. For instance, apparently the time in the MTC for all these incoming missionaries has been cut by a third (2 weeks instead of 3 for English, and 6 instead of 9 for Spanish). Also, I've heard (a rumor) that because of all of this they're cutting off the extra week from the next transfer, thus shortening everybody's missions by a week. Interesting happenings are about...

Rather Dashingly,
Elder West

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'd like to say we're winding up...

...but that would be a patent falsehood.

I just finished spending about 5 hours (!!!) putting books and DVDs away. I find I'm more than a little OCD about how I put them back. And I'm not done. I wanted to try and tart up the shelves a bit - sort of like this:

bookcase styling
I pinned several bookcases on Pinterest in the hope of making my shelves prettier. This is NOT my bookcase.  I don't have nearly this many knick-knacks and I have WAY more books. (Here is the source)
DIY built in bookcases
Another pretty bookshelf...more books this time, but still a lot of knick-knacks taking up valuable shelf space. (here's the source)
I picked up a couple of storage boxes at Goodwill. The one on the left is holding all my kiddie DVDs, the one on the right has holiday and religious. I plan on putting a basket on the top left shelf. The boxes I just bought have chalkboard on the front, which I'll leave, but I'm trying to decide whether to paint them a) dark gray b)peacock blue c)light gray OR d) white.  Discuss.
Just to the left of the fireplace. 
The very far left.  Mostly books, not much else.

Center left.  I haven't done anything with these shelves yet, I've just put some stuff on them that could possibly go...or not.  I need to take a break from the shelves for a bit, and start fresh. I would love any ideas that anyone else might have...
The giant (8 foot) airplane will probably be hung on the wall right above where it's at...unless anyone has a better plan.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hola Elder

He's a Semi-Teutonic Baptizing Elder of Action.

Dear Family,

This has been a weird week. It started off bizarrely warm, and then
the temperature plunged towards freezing (50s/60s) after it rained
Thursday. Verily, I have become quite acclimatized to the California

Transfer calls came: Elder Jenson is leaving, I am staying, and my
companion will be Elder Perry (I already have his theme song written
and everything). Also we'll be on bike. This marks my 6th consecutive
transfer in Whittier, or my 8th total.

Speaking of transfers, a couple of oddities: (a) this transfer will
only be 5 weeks (to avoid Christmas Day), and (b) my new ministerial
certificate says that I will expire on October 15. I'm just guessing
that they just rounded to the next full transfer for that date, though
if that happens to be the case then I will have served a 25 month
mission. We'll see what happens.

So, proselyting...

We found a guy named Keith. We contacted him on the street a couple
weeks ago. In ages past he dated a member for 3 years and went to
church with her. He came to church this week, and he brought two dozen
donuts, because he told us there would be donuts whether they were
provided or not. He's quite the character, to say the least.

We were able to teach Dawn with her mother early in the week, which
went really well, but then things in the household exploded. Once
again we are left without words and much idea of what to do.

Tito... is Tito. We were able to sit down with him a couple times this
week. His initial sense of resolve with regards to learning has seemed
to inexplicably crumble, and as a result our visits with him became
quite bizarre, to say the least (unproductive, to say a word more).

James is doing good. Somehow, even though we couldn't meet with him at
all this week, he was able to obtain permission from his parents to go
ahead with the baptism. He also went to mutual this week and also
church. Yesterday, we had dinner at the bishop's house, and the bishop
invited him over. It was good. The only hiccup now is that he's going
to China for a couple weeks, which I guess is as good of an excuse as

Elder West

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Painting Project...Day 2

Pretty sure I'll be cuddling up to a bottle of Advil tonight...
If only I had been able to park somewhere else...

The reason I haven't had to break out the big ladder yet...

Dingy old white, meet bright clean white.

Living room is done, dining room is done-ish, kitchen is done (except for a 5 x 5 portion above the refrigerator).

Haven't done the entry.  Even if I wanted to, it's too tough of a proposition with the lights on.
I plan to spend part of the evening prepping wall, then I think I'll swing by Home Depot and pick up some wall paint.

Monday, November 5, 2012


It may seem like I just got done whinging about how much I hated staining our new deck.  Pshaw! I say.  It's been at least 3 weeks...possibly more.  Time to move on.

Besides, Steve is out of town...and if you think I'm not going to take advantage of the opportunity of wowing him with a semi-finished project, you'd be wrong.

My goal for the week is to get the ceiling and walls painted in my livingdiningkitchenhallentry room. Wish me luck.  I'll need it.
Today is all about the prep work.
After looking at about a million shades of gray, I think I'm going with what I used in The Empire Strikes Bath.  I bought a sample size of a different gray, and while it was beautiful, I may as well have gone out and killed me a varmint and dressed in skins because I would have been living in a cave.

I still have a ton of prep work to do - tomorrow I plan on painting the ceiling. Be prepared to hear a lot of whinging...I like painting ceilings only slightly more than I like painting deck railings. 

Hola Elder

Dear Family,
So, this week... man these weeks are flying by so fast. It's hard to keep track of them. The transfer ends next Tuesday.
James is doing rather good. We were able to meet with him once (his busy-ness prevents us from meeting with him more often), and he came to church. Also, he told us that his parents are willing to let him be baptized now, so I guess the only real thing we need to do for that to happen is just to meet with him and talk with his parents about it.
Things with Dawn got... a bit interesting this week. 'Drama' would be the sufficient one-word summary of last Monday's meeting, and then things kind of hit an awkward standstill.... We'll be rebooting soon.
Tito we met with once this week and then we haven't been able to get in touch with him since. We'll be trying by some more, but we're going to refer the LA missionaries to him soon.
On Tuesday I was on exchanges with our fearless district leader, Elder Evans. (Side-note: apparently he knows Nathan from when he was serving with Elder North back in Virginia) He's super good and says that I did a super good job too. Fun times all around.
Wednesday was Halloween, which meant two things: staying inside and doing some deep cleaning in the evening, and interviews with the president (spooky). Anyhow, he directly confirmed the rumor regarding the number of missionaries here, and said it will be happening within the next six months. One thing he emphasized is us setting a very good example for all the new missionaries, and another thing is that this was the 4th or 5th time in a row that he's commented that he thinks my letters to him are funny. Should I consider a career in stand-up? (Answer: no, I'll stick to writing.)
Nobody new this week. In fact, we decided to drop some of the investigators that we've been having very little luck in terms of contacting, so our investigator list looks a little shrunken. Funnily enough though, somebody we dropped drove by us as we were walking and we set up an appointment there. Something tells me the Lord doesn't want us to quite let go some of these people. 
...well, actually there was somebody new this week, but we forgot to set up a return appointment and we'll be handing him off to the singles' ward anyways. He is a very nice young man though. We also had a nice talk with a receptive guy right, Tony, outside his house, though it wasn't a lesson. We'll be trying to get inside his house to teach a lesson.
The frequency of random cars passing-by yelling random things at us has seemed to increase this week. Can't imagine why.
Oh, and also, who will be at home for Thanksgiving? I'm wondering mainly because I was just thinking of sending a bunch of letters to people and what to do there.
Items of interest that I want: a stapler, letters from Danny, a no-bake cookie recipe, and letters from Danny.
Elder West

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hola Elder

Dear Family,
I feel like a salmon going upstream, and by that I mean I'm in my original proselyting zone (not the exact same area) and am thus having some serious deja vu at points. I can't say I'm really familiar with the area I'm currently serving in, so it's not that bad (other than the occasional "oh hey I remember driving down this street once"), but driving to the church where district meeting is at was quite bizarre, to say the least ("oh hey there's that intersection... and post office... and grocery store... etc.). Also, I got to see people from all three of my previous wards in the stake during general conference.
Anyhow, about the ward and area and such... I'm serving in English (again), so this transfer will mark the year mark of me not being in a Spanish ward. Aesthetically, the northern half of the area is pretty unique: houses and small apartment complexes indiscriminately mingled together, plus the whole "Uptown" area (quite classy looking). With general conference and a relative dearth of dinners, I haven't gotten to see as many of the members of the ward as I would have liked. There was a ward activity on Friday, and the people seem nice enough, but I can't say I remember very many of the faces. On the plus side, our ward mission leader is quite awesome. He used to be part of the stake presidency, and he's very motivated.

Our teaching pool seems pretty good. We have somebody lined up for baptism in a couple weeks: James. He's a nice young man who referred himself to the missionaries a couple weeks back and already knows the church is true. And he wants to go to BYU. You can't get much nicer than that. In addition, we have about 5 or 6 other people that we are teaching, with varying degrees of progress and understanding. Also, something we've decided to do as a companionship is just to man up and plan a little bit of knocking every day. It keeps us from being rusty, and we've seen some interesting things come of it.
Also, we're in car again (I'm the driver because Elder Jenson is currently at war with the DMV (long story involving long lines and bayonets)), though judging by the gas prices we'll probably be using our bikes (or walking) quite a bit.
Elder Jenson and I get along very well, both in terms of proselyting and personality. Terse and to-the-point describe his contacting and tracting approaches, which works quite well. Teaching-wise we're good at letting each-other have the chance to speak and jumping-in when needed. We're also pretty good with our random conversations together. Out of the nine companions I've had, he is only the second one (well, I guess technically first) thus far with which I can have an intellectually stimulating conversation about BurgerTime.
General conference was quite good. One thing I've noticed is that when you're scrambling to take notes that the whole thing seems to go by quite a bit faster.
Elder West

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm Sooooo done.

I thought I'd better post some pictures before I passed out from deck stain inhalation...

All I see when I look at the deck right now is the 50 trillion pickets, 10 billion rails and the 2 million posts that make up the railings on the deck and arbor. Seriously, If I had realized how much work would go into staining these puppies I'm not sure I would have wanted to even start the project.

...pickets, pickets, pickets...

I would like to add a final THANK YOU!!! to all the people who helped put this project together:
Mike Carr (and his crew) for the cement work
Delvin Tapasoa (and crew) for framing the deck
Cory for flying out here from South Carolina and working so hard
Stephanie for letting Cory fly here...
Nathan, Andrew and Danny for giving up some of their summer vacations to help out
Kelly, Tia, Suzanne & Keira for last minute (pre-wedding) heroic help (again...giving up vacation)
and last, but not least-ish in the least...
Steve - for spending every minute he could spare this summer (and more money than we would have liked to spare) on getting this project started AND finished (ish).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doctor Who Week Part 2

I've been holding off making a classroom reading chart...until now.

I used the New Testament bookmarks from lds.about.com and a google image of the TARDIS.  Cropped the reading chart, pasted over the TARDIS doors, added a white box (for names). And there you go.

I think I'll put them all on a piece of poster board with a heading that reads:

 "Scriptures - bigger on the inside".

Doctor Who Week

Yes, I am the nerdy seminary teacher.  I also happen to have at least 3 students this year who are avid Doctor Who fans.

Brilliant! Fantastic!

That's something I can work with.

This is the goal - getting kids to read their scriptures on a daily basis. I laminated this pic and put it up in my classroom.  It makes me smile.

I created 5 stickers - I give out a new one each day.  The R.E.D. at the top of each one stands for Read Every Day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's Autumn Time!

It's pumpkin-pa-looza here at Casa de West this week. That's what happens when you open a big can of pumpkin and need to use it up.

On Wednesday evening I opened the can...and made Petite Pumpkin Spice Donuts (get the recipe here). I glazed them with some cream cheese frosting instead of rolling them in sugar, but otherwise the recipe was the same.  Turned out great - and they stayed nice and moist (unlike 'real' donuts) for when I passed them around in seminary the next morning. The little donut recipe only called for 3/4 cup pumpkin - which left way over half a can. What's a girl to do? Hah! Like that's a problem. I whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Pancakes for Sunday breakfast, that's what.

Don't you just want to gobble them up?

I add blueberries...because I can.  But not to all of them, because Danny is not a fan.  He loves the pancakes 'as is'.  He might love them even better if I threw some chocolate chips in, but why mess with a good thing?

The pancakes with blueberries look a little lumpy after I turn them - but that's because the blueberries haven't finished thawing - which they do pretty quick.

Makes about 12-16 ish.

Would you like the recipe?  Of course you would.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Sift dry ingredients together:
2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
(If you don't have all the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger - or you're feeling a bit lazy, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice)

Mix together wet stuff:
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
1 egg
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Whisk wet stuff and dry stuff together, feel free to add blueberries (frozen or un), chocolate chips or whatever, then cook on a griddle (no hotter than 350') or frying pan the same as you would a regular pancake.

I really like these with blackberry syrup...but alas, I don't have any in the house right now.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Are We There Yet?

...No. No we're not.  But we're getting within one more fill up, a rest stop and an exit sign of the end.

The croquet lawn.  Evidently our grounds keeper needs to water the lawn...
Still need to plant something around the arbor.

The railings are not complete - still need the outer, top and hand rails.
A great place to view Mt. Pilchuck.
We need to plant by the arbor posts...put in ground cover by the stepping stones...get patio furniture...
...plant the bushes around the wall....etc...etc...etc...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stress Level: Defcon 2...

...I could have said defcon 1, but I'm reserving that for later in the week.

We have been crazy busy here at Rancho West for the past...umm...well, for the entire summer.  What ever happened to sitting on the porch sipping lemonade? That's what I want to know. I guess part of my problem is that I don't HAVE a porch to sit upon. Not quite. 

Here's a peek into our backyard (and the cause of 98.9% of my stress):

No, this isn't the loading dock of Home Depot. But can you imagine this all done and cleaned up (oh, and decorated) by Saturday?  Yeah, I'm having a tough time imagining that too.  On the plus side, I haven't killed too many flowers yet.
Notice the hole in the lawn, just past the sidewalk?  That's the arbor where the happy couple will exchange their vows. This Saturday.  Did I mention it's this SATURDAY?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hola Elder

Dear Family,

So this past week we made three hospital visits, I gave two blessings, and we saw one person die.

Long story behind that last one right there. In short, let's just say that it put us in a pensive mood for the rest of the day, and that the ward has done a good job with the whole "mourning with those that mourn" part of the baptismal covenant.

Curiously, later that day we taught one of the better Plan of Salvation lessons in my mission to a friend of one of the members in the ward, only to be unable to set up a return appointment to any (any) degree of specificity.

Tuesday was the first time I mowed a lawn as a missionary. I don't know how I got away with not doing that for so long.

One Friday we cleared some space out for a shed in somebody's backyard. This entailed the ripping out of some seriously overgrown tomato cage thingies (curiously, without a single tomato to be found), killing a domesticated cactus with a machete (yes really), felling a tree with a chainsaw (my role here was to hold the limbs in place so they wouldn't sprout wings and fly away after being cut off by the member with the chainsaw (don't worry it was perfectly safe)), and removing the remaining stumps (decidedly less awesome than any of the previous activities). Our reward was a Costco pizza (curiously, the next day our dinner was also Costco pizza (from somebody else)).

Yesterday we brought a member with us who is a WWII buff (it's quite literally his job) to a lesson with an investigator who is also a WWII buff. It was a good conversation for the two of them, but they hit off so well that it was really difficult for us to switch the conversation towards religion. The way we finally got the subject on track was when we asked where the investigator's 1948 edition of the Book of Mormon was at (he got it from his dad, who got it from some missionaries while being stationed in post-WWII Japan). After that things were more on topic.

Elder West

P.S. Elder Halvorsen has been telling me about how the band he used to be in, Plaidipus Rex, is becoming famous in the ward he is serving in. Apparently a good portion of the ward is fans of it on Facebook. Also, he related to me the entire history of the band, the hundredth part of which cannot be contained on these plates.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Backyard Math

We've had a few additions and subtractions for the backyard so far this week:

Add 7/8 of a wall + 1 bucket of pebbles...
...subtract eleventy million weeds and a boatload of grass from the lilac border...
...and finally subtract 1 safety board from the sliding door.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Counting today...

...we've got less than 20 days before David and Xuehui's wedding.  

It's been over a week since I posted any pictures of our yard/deck/patio 'progress'. So here's a wrap-up of The Good the Bad and the Extremely Frustrating Not so Nice.
With all rain we've been having, our lawn is staying quite green! Win!

The front deck looks nearly done...if you don't notice how the railing are improperly installed and will have to be tweaked (put in a half-nelson and pinned to the mat) before they will pass inspection. I threatened Steve with bodily harm suggested to Steve that he not touch the railings before the back deck is finished.

Back stairs...cut, but not screwed down. Always a bridesmaid...
Hmm...note to self, take a machete to the tomato plants.

Back deck. The rain proofing has had plenty of rain trials, works fine.  I need it covered with decking a week ago asap.

Steve tidied up the patio before leaving for scout camp...for the week.   Did I mention he'll be gone for a whole week!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Deck Fairies

We really wanted to hire my dad to help us build our new deck this summer.  He would have done an awesome job - but since we haven't been able to get that coordinated, we hired Delvin Tapasoa to give us a jump start.

Just a reminder of how it looked a couple of weeks ago - before we left on vacation.

Before we unloaded anything (or more importantly, went to the euphemism), Steve and I dashed out to the back yard to see what the deck fairies had accomplished in our absence.  More than a little fabulousness.
The view from above.  We're adding an under deck drainage system so that the patio under the deck will remain usable during the rainy season.
As an added bonus, the stringers were attached to the frame on the front of the house.  Steve built the frame by himself, and boy howdy, that thing could fly if needed.
There's still a ton to do...not the least of which is to figure out exactly how and where the stupid railings will go...but at least we have something to attach them to when we do.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Concrete is done.  Yay! 
No more damp and wretched side yard.
Transition from side yard to back.
Curving through the trees.

I think we'll call this 'South Bend'.
I think it's shaping up rather nicely.

Next up: The front deck and stairs.

I took a hammer to the railings this afternoon.
And I pried up a few treads.
I sort of like it better already.