Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Letter

I had a good time at my parents' house for Thanksgiving with lots of family. I even got a wonderful surprise. My son Alex told me that he wouldn't be able to write on Thanksgiving since they had a special day planned with humanitarian service at the MTC. But they finished early and he was able to send an email after all. I always love his letters, but I cried more with this one since it was unexpected. Still no photos from him so I'm using one of him this summer in Canada.

To Everyone:
Another week gone by, and another time to reflect on everything I've done and pick from it what I want to share with all of you.

This week I had the opportunity, along with 600+ others, to sing to two of the Twelve apostles. One of the songs we sang was "Nearer My God to Thee" and the other was "Come thou Fount" on Tuesday and Thursday Respectively. Every week I have the opportunity to sing a new song and learn new stories, and every week my appreciation for music grows more.... I learned so much about these two songs and the truths they contain. If you ever have a day of sadness, a day of weakness, a day of pain, a day of loneliness, listen to Hymns and pay attention to the words that are said; the song of the righteous is a prayer unto God, and that includes listening to songs of righteousness. There is so much importance in music, it matters more than most realize.

Anyway, the first Apostle that came was Elder Oaks, and he came on Tuesday. It was an amazing talk and I learned a lot from the promptings of the Spirit during it. I don't, however, have much to say pertaining to his talk right now, mostly because the other talk was given more recently and I feel more impressed to share about the Thanksgiving devotional.

For this year's Thanksgiving devotional, Brother Eagett (spelled to some extent like that), the choir director, decided that a good song to sing for Thanksgiving was "Come Thou Fount." This song has never before in the history of the MTC been sung in the choir, or at least this particular arrangement, because it's just too hard. Or so it was said. But we practiced after the Tuesday night devotional, and this morning and were able to pull off the song at a General Conference performance level after only those two days. Nothing is impossible when you dedicate it to God.

I'm running out of time, so I'll have to write more about the talk later I guess. It was nice to talk to you all again and hope you have a great Thanksgiving!
With all my love,
Elder

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sneak Peek

Here's a peek of what I've been up to lately. More info to come.......





Friday, November 21, 2014

We Don't Want a Smelly Elder

My son didn't get to write a letter "To Everyone" this week because he ran out of time. In his letter to me he mentioned that along with singing in the choir, he auditioned to sing the tenor part of some carols at a surprise party. There are only 2 people chosen for each singing part and I'd imagine there are some elders who have been in choir in school or even had vocal coaches. He is brave and loves music so I'm sure he did well even without all of that vocal experience.

He won't get to send me or anyone a letter next week since his p-day is Thursdays and the MTC is having a special Thanksgiving day planned for them, including humanitarian service. Hopefully he'll still get to do his laundry. Hehe I will really miss hearing from him.

I recently learned from a Facebook group of Sendai missionary moms that Japan does not have effective deodorant and their toothpaste is different than what we're used to, so I'll be sending him an exciting Thanksgiving package of those two, along with some other things. Some moms have sent 10-15 sticks of deodorant. It gets very hot and humid in the summer so it's pretty important to have.



Alex did send his testimony to share with everyone so I'll end with that.

"I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that he suffered and died for each of us. I know that through him we can be forgiven of our mistakes and our sins, because I have felt of his love and mercy personally. I know that God gave his Only Begotten Son for us, that we may return to live with Him again. God is our Loving Heavenly Father, and cares about us each individually and personally. I have no doubt that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church on earth, once again restored--as it was in times of old--through his love for us. I know that God appeared to a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith, and called him as a prophet for these latter days, and that through Joseph Smith much of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored. I know that the current leader of our Church, President Thomas S. Monson, is Joseph Smiths authorized successor and is also a prophet of God. I have chosen to serve a mission for His church--to a place that I myself did not chose--to share this message of love, joy, happiness and peace to the people of Japan, that they too may feel our Father's love, that they may be able to be freed of guilt and shame from past mistakes through the blood of Him who died to make it possible. I testify that what I say is true, that man and woman can come to know God, and that anyone can know of these truths if they sincerely pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ with an open mind and a willing heart. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, as an official representative of Him, and with all the love I can muster. Amen."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Insert Clever Title Here"

It's Thursday so I heard from my missionary son this morning. I found out last week that Alexander was wrong when he wrote the Japanese word for Elder, which I thought looked like 5L3. Instead it's ちょうろう , but he said I can still call him 5L3.

In his letter to me, he told me that he gets to play the piano each p-day. I'm happy he can still find ways to bring music into his mission. I felt bad that the only music he could take with him was "appropriate" music on an iPod, but he didn't have one, so he didn't get to take any of this favorite music to listen to.

He said the only way to get photos from his camera to the computers there is to buy a card reader and they're expensive so he doesn't want to do that. So I don't have a single photo of him for this whole last month and it looks like I won't get any for the next month either. *Sad mommy!* So here's one of him from the day he went into the MTC, just minutes before we dropped him off.
 
He seems to really be enjoying his time in the MTC, which I'm so glad about since I've heard many missionaries not like their experience there for different reasons. Here's his letter from this week.


To Everyone:

It is hard to come up with clever titles for these emails! Hopefully when I get out to the field I'll have an easier time!
This week has been like just any other I'd say. I'm learning the language, speaking it a lot, and being a good boy and going to choir.
This week we sung "Praise to the Man"; the exact same version that David Archileta (forgive me for not knowing how to spell his name) sang while he was in the MTC in General Conference. They got the music specifically for General Conference, and it took them weeks to get it prepared enough to sing in General Conference. We had two two hour rehearsals to prepare it for the Tuesday night devotional. Needless to say, the Spirit was strong and we were able to sing it really well on Tuesday night. It's a bit different than normal choir, because we sit during the performance, and there's not a requirement of memorization (although memorization is always a plus), but I enjoy choir so much. According to one of the Elders in my district, I get a lot of face time on the cameras, so if you happen to find a recording of the MTC devotional's special choir numbers, be on the lookout for me. ;)
We get two native Japanese Elders next week, so I'm really preparing for that. I'm talking in Japanese as much as possible (even when it's just conversations at the dinner table), and I really hope I'll be able to help the Japanese Elder's experience a good one!
If you haven't noticed yet, there is no such thing as structure in my letters, so let's talk about what my ADD brain just thought of! Going to the temple every week is such a blessing! If you have a temple recommend, I highly *recommend* (so punny!) that you go as often as you can. Even if you don't have a temple recommend, I suggest you go to temple grounds as often as possible, because temples have such a different atmosphere about them. It's almost as if there's something different about them ;) 
Being in Narnia is great, I absolutely love it here! (Can't remember if I mentioned this before, and I"m too lazy to check, so if you have no idea what I'm talking about, say something, and I'll explain what I mean!)
Every day I'm more and more excited to go to Japan! I've enjoyed every second of being on my mission, and I know I'll keep enjoying it for the next two years (1 year and 11 months now).
Have a great week everyone!
Love you all!
Elder

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Texas Roadhouse Sweet Rolls


I pinned this recipe a while ago from Hoodwinked in Houston and finally got time to make them yesterday after getting home early from work. I actually messed up and they still turned out so great. I started making them and after adding the first addition of 2 cups of flour, I realized I had no more flour. So I had to let the dough sit there while I ran to the store and then came back and finished up. This is my family's new favorite roll recipe. Soft and yummy!

Texas Roadhouse Sweet Rolls

4 t. active dry yeast (about 2 1/2 packets)
1/2 c. warm water
2 c. milk (*scalded and cooled to lukewarm)
3 T. melted butter, slightly cooled
1/2 c. sugar
6-7 c. flour
2 eggs
2 t. salt

*To scald milk, place in a sauce pan on heat until it just starts to bubble and then remove from heat.

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar. Then add yeast, milk, & sugar. Add about 2 cups of flour. Then whisk together and let stand until light and foamy, about 5 minutes.



Add eggs, melted butter, & salt. Beat well. Add enough flour to form a soft dough, about 3-4 cups. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the counter to set the dough on and let rest.



While resting, grease a large bowl and cookie sheets. Then knead the dough until smooth (by hand or with a mixer). Put in the greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.



Punch down. Put on a floured mat/board and divide into 3 portions and then let rest for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Take one portion at a time and roll out to about an inch thick. Cut into strips and then cut the long strips in half. Fold each rectangle in half and press sides together. Place on greased cookie sheet and let rise 10 minutes. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lomo Saltado

This is one of my favorite meals, a recipe from Peru. The rice vinegar gives an awesome tang to the tender beef. I did post this recipe once before, but it was 5 or 6 years ago and the photo wasn't good, so I'm re-posting it. I often make it with Rice & Lentils with Onion and I'll be posting that recipe soon too.

Lomo Saltado
Marinade:
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 lbs beef tenderloin, cut into strips
2 medium red onions, cut into strips
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
Salt & pepper, to taste
1-2 jalapeño pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
4 potatoes, peeled & cut into strips
1/2-1 teaspoon paprika
Canola oil, for frying

Make a paste by combining the garlic & salt. Whisk together the garlic paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, canola oil, cumin, & ground black pepper.
Place the steak in one bowl & the onions in another. Divide the marinade between the 2 bowls & let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Pour a small amount of oil in a wok & turn on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the steak with marinade & cook until brown. Add the tomato & simmer for a few minutes. Add the jalapeño, cilantro, & onions with marinade to the wok, slowly stirring until well blended. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

As the ingredients are cooking in the wok, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika & fry in a separate pan. Once done add to the other ingredients.