Monday, April 27, 2015

Many Changes

Alex got word that he will be transferring to a new area and leaving behind his companion, Elder F.  He doesn't say much about his emotions ever, but I am a bit sad for the people he will be leaving behind. But I'm sure it will be fun to get to know another area of Japan and to meet new people.

The Book of Mormon in Japanese. Notice how their books are read the opposite of ours.

Elder F., Alex's companion that he's leaving in Yonezawa

The city he will be in is Hachinohe, which is on the coast and very north, so the weather is still cooler there. It was one of the cities that was hit hard by the 2011 tsunamis.

When I asked Alex where they do their laundry, he said that they have "laundry machines" in their apartment. We've seen some changes in his English since he's been there, but told his sister that he doesn't think he'll forget English. I don't know how laundry at the new place will be for him.

People taking photos at the sakura (cherry blossom) festival
This is Alex's letter----

A while ago, I had mentioned that I wanted to learn Japanese sign
language so that I can speak to deaf people here, and now I'll have
the opportunity to learn lots of it! More info on that below (hint:
see Saturday's summary). Also, this week was Sakura (cherry blossom)
week, so I'll probably send pictures of that if I didn't include it in
this part.

This week's kanji is: 時代 pronounced gee-die and means era or time period.

And now for the week's summary (done with out a planner because I
brought the wrong one, so it may not be as accurate).

Monday: we had fun at the apartment, and in the evening tried to visit
some people. We got to go into one of our investigators home for a
lesson, and that was good. We also tried to visit an old investigator,
but it turned out that she had moved, and that it was a guy who lived
there, and didn't have too much interest.


Tuesday: we had companion exchanges, and I got to work with Elder
P. He is really fun to talk to, and we had a great time. We went
to visit someone in a neighboring city at her work, and when I went up
to her she started to freak out and was really happy to see us. She
kept on saying "you came!"  She has been really busy with work, but
wants to take the lessons again, so that should happen soon.

Wednesday: I can't remember much from this day, but we went to the
shrine to talk to people, because there were lots of people there
because of all the Sakura they have there. We also had English class
in the evening, and that was fun.

 Thursday: we had District Training Meeting with the zone leaders in
the morning, and it was really spiritual. After that went to go visit
a man called Mr. Iwai, which in English translates to "Rockwell"
interestingly enough. He was healthy, and we stayed long enough for
Elder F. and him to get acquainted, and then went and had lunch.
After lunch we went to the church for a lesson with one of our English
class students. She wanted to start getting private English lessons,
so she wanted to do the program we have of 30 minutes English, 30
minute Japanese/gospel for it. She asked a lot of great questions, and
a member who came to help us out really helped out a lot in explaining
things. We also went back to the shrine and the park nearby to talk to
people again.

Friday: we went to go hang a poster up in a high school, and when we
asked they said that the principal was coming to talk to us. We were
both a bit unsure of how it would go, but she was really open and
nice. She talked to us for a while (just normal conversation stuff)
and said she'd hang up the poster. We then went to visit a less active
member. He was nice as always, and we shared a quick message with him
before we left. Again we went to the park (there were lots of people


Saturday: in the morning we went to a sign language circle. We learned
a lot during it, and I really wanted to learn it more because of it.
That day was when we got transfer calls for the upcoming transfers,
and we happened to be in the signing circle when President Smith
called us. I found out that I will be leaving the good city of
Yonezawa and traveling all the way north to the city of Hachinohe.
There are lots of deaf members of the church there, so there will be a
big opportunity to learn sign language there. My new companion will be
Elder B.  I am looking forward to the experiences I'll have
there. Also, as people have mentioned to me quite often, the Sakura
haven't bloomed there yet, so I'll get to see Sakura twice this year.

We then went to eat ramen at a ramen shop that someone we met a while
ago works at. The ramen was really good, and the ramen I got was
called Yonezawa ramen. I'm not sure what the difference was from other
ramen, but it was good, so I can't complain. From there we went back
to the apartment and I packed some of my stuff and then we went to the
park again. We stayed there for a while, but weren't able to talk to
too many people (we didn't go at a good time to see people).

We then went to play basketball for my last time in Yonezawa. It was
lots of fun, and the boys we play with were sad that I was leaving. I
really hope I meet them again.

I like this close-up of the sakura with the missionaries blurred

I think this is the last photo of the 4 roomies together. What handsome young men. Thanks to Elder F. for this shot!
Sunday: in the morning, we went to church. I said goodbye to everyone,
and one of our investigators came, and gave me a cake with a not from
her, and also a picture that was drawn by her three year old daughter
of my face. She gave it to me in a Studio Ghibli bag, because she knew
I liked Studio Ghibli. We then went back to the apartment, and I
packed most of my stuff. We also got to go visit a lot of the people I
knew to say goodbye to them.

I hope this email was a good read, and that you all have a great week.

I love you all.
Elder __________

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lazy Day Workout Videos Part 1

Some people work out because they enjoy it. I don't enjoy it. I do it because my family has a history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and because I like to eat dessert sometimes and still fit into my clothes. Well, I've allowed myself to gain a little bit of weight recently even though I do some exercise 5 or 6 days a week (obviously not enough) and for someone as short as me (5'1"), a little extra is a lot noticeable. I need to get rid of it soon so I can comfortably fit into my clothes again.

So in addition to my regular workouts and time on my treadmill, I have been doing different YouTube video workouts. When I was doing a couple of these short ones, I started thinking how they work certain muscles really well and burn calories in a short amount of time. Of course, it wouldn't be enough all alone every day, but next time I feel like skipping a day because I feel lazy, I will tell myself that I can surely do 13 minutes of exercise.

Maybe this will help others too who may have a lazy day or a busy day or maybe even someone who is afraid to start exercising because it's so daunting.  I'll be looking around for more short workouts for future posts and for my workout routine list. 

The videos I have been using are from JessicaSmithTV on YoutTube. You can go to her channel and check out a lot more (some longer and some shorter), even videos with Q&A about fitness questions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Utah Local: Wildflower Studios

My kids are creative and artistic and they enjoy expressing themselves through art and music. One activity we have done before is painting pottery and we have some fun pieces from doing that.

When Elisa was on choir tour recently, Sabrina and I were trying to figure out something fun to do so we went to a new place in Spanish Fork called Wildflower Studios where you choose a bisque piece and paint it and they fire it in a kiln.

It's at 1274 E. Center Street in Spanish Fork right near Highway 6 in the shopping strip with Domino's and across the street from the gas station right on that corner.

You go in and choose a piece, which has the price on it, on take it to the table. You pay a studio fee in addition to that price to cover the paint and firing. I think the studio fee is $5 - $7 depending on the size of the piece. There are lots of little animal figurines and fun stuff for kids and also vases or dishes for more adult décor. They have some unique pieces, Disney pieces, small ones, large ones.

So we found our pieces and sat down to paint, only I could not figure out what to paint on my plate. I am not creative and artistic like my children so I was afraid to start painting. I didn't want to end up with a colorful blob. I ended up slowly, but surely, with a bird on my plate.
Sabrina chose a small cup and saucer. For a few months she wanted to paint a cup that said, "Fuzby and Murphy", the names of her two hamsters. Murphy died just a few days before we went to Wildflower Studios, but she still wanted to paint that.
Here's a look around the studio from the table I was sitting at.

 Sabrina wasn't happy with her stencil work (they have lots of stencils there for you to use), but it's a special piece for her.

After being fired in the kiln, the paint colors look different.

Here is Fuzby in his cup, trying to get out.
And introducing Sabrina's newest hamster, Gus, who she bought after painting the cup and saucer. She plans on making him something soon too.

Ruby and Robin are the owners who enjoy art and love making this experience available to people in southern Utah County. I like to support small, local businesses and I hope many people go have fun there and support them so it can stay open for a long time to come. Go there for your child's birthday party, bridal shower, group date, family night or just for fun. And right now is a GREAT time to go make something for Mother's Day for a loving lady.

Don't forget to like them on Facebook!

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Thirty-One Gifts Party

I'm having a party on May 12 for my friend Stacie who sells Thirty-One Gifts products and you are invited to participate virtually by going to the website at and then giving me your order any time before the party. Or if I know you in person (or we've been blogger friends for a long time), I can give you info to come to the actual party.

If you order anything at all or if you come to the party, your name will be put into a drawing for this awesome tote below with lots of pockets. It works great as a diaper bag, church bag, pool bag, fun on the run bag, whatever!

Thanks to my daughter's friend for modeling
Thirty-One Gifts has so many products like lunch bags, fashion purses, organizing bins, jewelry, bins, caddies, wallets and more!

And lots of the products can be personalized.
So if you'd like to order any of this great stuff, just let me know!! I can get answers to any questions you might have about the products.

A New Perspective

I got to hear from Alex again last night. Now that he has his iPad, he can email me a little earlier in his p-day so I go the letter before 8:30 Sunday night (Monday morning in Japan). I'm so glad to hear that he's doing great and looking good too. I've never seen him hang out with so many guys since he is outnumbered at home and many of his friends before his mission were girls.

I told him that we went to my sister and brother-in-law's restaurant in Mt. Pleasant called Pioneer House. Remember my post about it recently? Here's what he said about that and a few other things (like running or not due to his asthma and dislike of running) in his letter to me.

I am glad to hear that the Mercer's restaurant is doing really well. It sounds delicious. I'm sure it's still not as delicious as their food, but McDonalds is a lot better here than in America. We don't go too often, but I really can't complain about the quality of the food here. 

I feel like I have grown so much more in these 6 months on a mission than I ever would have had I chosen to not come. My testimony has been strengthens so much, and I am just s completely different person than when I started already. I can't say what has changed specifically, but when I look back at my past self I see a huge difference. The changes are so gradual that it's hard to tell when or what is changing. 

My shoes are holding up well, and I should be fine for a while yet. I don't really do too much different for exercise in the morning, but Elder F. wants to start running. I am a bit apprehensive about running in the mornings, but he might ask one of the other two to go with him. He hasn't started yet, because it's been cold in the mornings still over here. 

I love so much of conference that it's hard to pick a favorite. I guess the one that is sticking out to me right now is Elder Holland's talk. I also loved Elder Eyring's from priesthood session. 
This photo is a bit old (with his old companion Elder O.), but he said someone had it on their iPhone and he was just able to get a copy of it since he got an iPad.

Here's his letter to everyone: 

Yesterday as I was sitting in a car on the way back to yonezawa from
Fukushima, I had a sudden enlightenment. I was looking out at two men
having a conversation and wondering about it as well as saw other
people walking by and watched the cars as they all moved towards their
destinations when it suddenly dawned on me: God our Loving Heavenly
Father knows all that goes on. He knows the conversations we have, he
knows the thoughts we have, and he knows where every single car is
heading. And he loves everyone even more than any earthly father has
ever loved his children. He cares about everything they do and wants
them to be happy. I've always believed it, but I've never known it as
strongly as I now know.

The week's kanji is: 従う pronounced sheet-a-gow and means to follow.

 And now for the weekly summary.

Monday: we basically took full advantage of preparation day by
relaxing and not doing too much at all. In the evening we  tried to
visit people, but no one was home.

Tuesday: we had DCS in the morning followed by visiting Brother Seino.
After that we had a planning meeting for a Easter party we had on
Saturday. We got all the last minute item out of the way, and then
went and bought most of the things we needed for the party. We then
went no tried to hang up an English class poster in a community
center, but they couldn't. We then went back to the apartment, had
dinner, and then closed the day.

Wednesday: in the morning we took a bus up to Sendai, and had a
meeting on health. When that ended, we had lunch all together, and
then had to catch a bus back to yonezawa. When we got back, we had
dinner and then taught English class. One of our zone leaders came
with us for companion exchanges with Elder P., so he helped me
with teaching advanced class.

Thursday: we went to visit Sister Taira and we had a great time
talking with her. She is a very strong member, and she has a lot of
faith. When we were going to leave, she surprised us by giving us each
a "white black thunder," a variant of a chocolate bar called black
thunder that is from Hokkaido (north of the main island). It was very
delicious. After that we went back to the apartment and we organized
less active records before we went to the church and passed out fliers
for our English class and waved at cars as they passed by so that they
could see the sign we made. The entire hour Elder F. spun a
basketball on his fingers, and he said that his fingers were raw for a
while after that. We then went to the Endo family and had an amazing
time with them. The mother had made great food, and we shared a good
message and got to play a few fun games with the kids before we left.

Friday: we did weekly planning so the majority of our day was inside.
When we got most of it finished, we went and tried to visit some less
active members, but we didn't have too much success with meeting any
of them. So we returned to the apartment, finished planning the
upcoming week, and then called people to invite them to the Easter

Saturday: we had a meeting with the Goto couple, and there was a lot
of random conversation that took place in that meeting. We then shared
a quick message with them, and then left to prepare for the party.
Eventually we got all the stuff ready, and the party started. At first
it was really slow and awkward, but by the time the games started,
everyone was having fun. We even got to color eggs for Easter
tradition. We ended by having a snack of French toast and sausage, and
some cake an English class student brought.

Beautiful night shot of Sakura (cherry blossoms)

Sunday: at the last minute the night previous, we were asked if we
could go to Fukushima ward, so we did. The ward is still amazing, and
they are really healthy. They were all so amazed about the iPads, and
how many amazing things we can do to further missionary work. After
the church block, we had personal study, and then we got a ride back
to yonezawa. We tried to visit some people, and stopped by the shrine,
but there wasn't too much at the shrine when we went, and no one was
home. So we went back to the apartment and did language study and then
had dinner.

This week has flown by and I am amazed at how much has happened in
that blink of an eye. I hope that you are all doing well, and I truly
love all of you from the bottom of my heart.

Elder _____


Sunday, April 19, 2015


My son left for his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 6 months ago. He sends an email every week and he says he loves Japan and being a missionary. I love photos of him, of course, more than anything, but I also love to see photos of other missionaries. Even with their day-to-day hard work and discouragements, or possibly because of them, they seem to glow. They spend so much time in the service of the Lord, reading scriptures, praying, and teaching that the light is there.

So this song isn't one that most people would hear and think of missionaries, but when I heard it, it's the first thing that I thought of. "The more things change, the more they shine." I've only seen the changes in my son from a distance, but I see him shine. I want to see his glow and hope that that glow never dulls.

Glow Lyrics:

I wanna be your rush love, I wanna hold you to the stars
The way light shines in the park on a Sunday afternoon
I want you to be big, want you to be gold,
I want you to be, sky

The more things change
The more they shine

Glow, I wanna see you glow
I wanna see your daylight shining all around your
Heart I wanna see you glow, I wanna see your daylight so bright
All around my soul

I wanna see you soar love, oh, I wanna see you fly
Kick of the world in the dark and just dive, just dive

The more things change
The more they shine


I'll run this world with you
(glow, I wanna see you glow)
And I'll run this world with you
(glow, I wanna see you glow)
Glow, I wanna see you glow

I wanna see your daylight shining all around your
Heart I wanna see you glow, I wanna see your daylight so bright
All around my glow, I wanna see you glow
I wanna see your daylight shining all around your
Heart I wanna see you glow, I wanna see your daylight so bright
All around my soul

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cranberry Avocado Spinach Salad with Chicken and Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

Today I went to California Pizza Kitchen for the first time. Yep, the first time. And I got to sample several dishes since the ladies I went with all shared family style. Two of the dishes were salads, very different from each other. One with watermelon and strawberries and the other was a Thai salad. They were both super yummy and I hope I can have them again sometime.

It reminded me that I made a new salad last month that I never posted on my blog, so here is the salad from Cooking Classy, which has an orange dressing to kind of go along with the orange theme from the last post (Orange Bars). As you can tell by the photos, I threw some oranges into the salad, but the dressing has a fresh citrus flavor so you don't need to if you don't want to.

Cranberry Avocado Spinach Salad with Chicken and Orange Poppy Seed Dressing
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. canola oil
2 t. orange zest
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. honey
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. salt
1 T. poppy seeds
1 lb. chicken, grilled
9 oz. baby spinach
2 medium avocados, cored and diced
1 c. crumbled feta
3/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted
3/4 c. dried cranberries
Add olive oil, canola oil, orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard and salt to a blender. Pulse until well emulsified. Pour into a jar and stir in poppy seeds. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl. Pour dressing over top and toss to evenly coat. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Orange Bars

These soft bars from Your Homebased Mom have fresh orange zest in the bars and the icing making it pretty and delicious and very easy!

Orange Bars
2 c. sugar
1½ c. flour
1 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 t. orange extract
2 t. orange zest, divided
1 c. confectioners' sugar
2 T. orange juice
Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Add butter, eggs, orange extract and 1 teaspoon orange zest. Beat at medium speed until well blended.
Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and set in the center.
Combine confectioners' sugar, orange juice and remaining 1 teaspoon orange zest in a small bowl and pour over bars. Cool completely before cutting into squares.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Southwestern Pasta with Chipotle Cream Sauce

This is a spicy pasta dish full of veggies and it's a new favorite at my house. I added fewer chipotle peppers than it calls for since we like heat, but not as much as some people do. The Hopeless Housewife shared this recipe. This dish is good with or without the grilled chicken. 

Southwestern Pasta with Chipotle Cream Sauce
8 oz. dry penne pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to 1.2" thickness
Salt and pepper
3 T. butter
2 small shallots, minced
6 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
2 c. half and half
1 T. chipotle adobo sauce (from the can)
1 t. vegetable oil
2 ears white corn
1 yellow pepper, sliced into 2" long slices
1 red pepper, sliced into 2" long slices
½ red onion, sliced into 1" long slices
¼ cup cilantro, chopped plus some for garnish
Cook pasta. Cook the penne pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, according to instructions. Drain and set aside.
Cook chicken. Heat grill pan or grill and cook chicken until opaque, about 3-4 minutes per side. Slice into 2" long slices and set aside.
Start sauce. Heat butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot sand sauté until translucent. Add chipotle peppers, half and half and adobo sauce. Let simmer over medium heat, stirring every minute or two until sauce thickens.
While sauce is cooking, sauté corn, red and yellow peppers and onions in vegetable oil in a separate pan over medium heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
When cream sauce has thickened, add the vegetables and continue to stir. Add chicken and pasta and stir well to coat pasta. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Salt to taste and serve.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Six Months In

Alex's mission is 1/4 of the way over. Wow! In some ways it seems to have gone by fast, but in other ways it seems like I haven't hugged him in forever.

I asked him to tell me about his companion and this was his response:

I think you know more about my companion and the elders in my district than I do through talking with their mothers. As for how well we get along... There hasn't been a fight yet, and things have been really easygoing as a companionship. I don't know what else to say.
Here's his letter this week:

Is anyone else surprised by the fact that I'll have been on a mission
for six months on the 15th (two days for me)? I can't believe how fast
time has flown by, and I bet time will just keep on getting faster. I
have a friend who lives here in yonezawa who has a baby that was born
about the same time I started my mission, and that is really weird to
think about.

This week's kanji is: 食事 which is pronounced show-coo-jee and means meal.

This weeks summary is as follows.

Monday: after emailing we went to get a few things from Daiso, and
also went to a secondhand shop. After that we went back to the
apartment and I made cookies with a mix I got in a package for my
birthday a month ago. In the evening we worked on making a sign for
our English class, and got that basically done.

Tuesday: we tried to visit a lot of people that day, but no one was
home or free to visit at the moment we tried to visit them, so we
finished the sign we worked on the previous night and then handed out
fliers for our English class for an hour after that. We had one high
school student come up to us and say he'd come, and there were a lot
of cars that passed by and saw the sign. After that we tried to visit
some people, but they were busy so we only got to talk for a short
while. We biked back home and called it a night since it was getting

Wednesday: we went to go visit someone who said he might have
interest, but he said that he was fine with his religion right now, so
we left. We then traveled from there (the very north of town) to the
church (on the southern side) and planned our English class. We then
tried visiting a few more people, but none were home, so we went back
home, had dinner and then taught English class. We had a few new
people come, and had a total of 13 people there; that's a lot more
than normal. We had fun with ping pong and talking afterwards, and
closed the night with that.

Thursday: we had a good district training meeting in the morning
followed with trying to visit a few people who were pretty far away
and on the outskirts of town (we saw a "welcome to yonezawa" sign at
one point), but no one was home. We then worked on getting videos for
an Easter video mashup for an Easter party we're having on the 18th.
That took a while, and took until we needed to go back to the

Friday: we tried to get English class posters up in some schools, and
one of them said they would, the other didn't. We then visited a
friend of a member with the member, but she was busy, so we could only
talk for a short time. We then went back to the apartment and planned
for the next week that took a while, and we then called people. One of
the people we called talked for 40 minutes, and we didn't have much
time to call people after him because it was getting late.

Saturday: we watched the morning session of Satuday's General
conference, followed by an hour break for food, and then the afternoon
session followed by a lesson with Sister Keiko. She and her friend
both showed a lot of interest in the resurrection, and so we talked a
lot about that; we committed them to read Alma 40-41 to learn more
about the resurrection. We then watched priesthood session of General
conference, and then met with three friends and ate ramen with them a
delicious ramen shop. We then went back home and had language study
for the rest of the night

Sunday:  we watched the Sunday morning session of conference with an
hour break for food, and then the afternoon session. When that ended,
we went and tried to visit a woman our ward mission leader asked us to
visit. We talked to her for a bit, and she said that she wants to take
the lessons again, but he doesn't have time at the moment. We then
went back to the apartment, finished up weekly planning, got some
language study in, and then visited a friend nicknamed Hudson (he's
Chinese). We talked for a while, and he even gave us some
chrysanthemum tea (very delicious and word of wisdom approved!) We
then ate dinner and finished the night.

I hope that this return to normalcy (some may not know what I'm
referring to, so let's just say that I'm imperfect ;) ) is good, and
that your week will be great! I love you all from the bottom of my
heart, and pray for you all daily.

Elder ______
No details on these two fish photos. It's his companion Elder F.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Invite ALL to Come Unto Christ

I was really disappointed this week to get only one photo and a very short email. I guess I'll stop begging him to take photos of the city and with his companion and everything because it doesn't do any good.

Before posting his letter to everyone, here is part of his short letter to me:

I haven't watched conference yet, because it isn't here yet, and we'll be watching it on Saturday and Sunday this week. We have iPads now though, so we can watch conference on our own time as soon as they upload it to the gospel library.

Something that has been coming up a lot this week is the words "invite all." As I have thought about this this week, I have come to realize that that "all" includes myself. If I don't invite myself and help myself come to Christ, then I cannot invite and help others.

This weeks Kanji is:  安心   pronounced anshin (awe-n-sheen). It means peace of mind.

I forgot my planner this week, so this week is going to be a bit shorter. I don't have the best of memories, and so I can't say a lot about when certain things happened. The biggest event this week was yesterday: we got iPads from the mission. They are the missions, so we don't get to keep them after the mission (better for everyone that way, because it means we don't have to pay for it). I also am allowed to view emails throughout the week, but I am only allowed to reply on Monday for me and Sunday for everyone else. But that means that I will have a bit more time to reply, so feel free to send emails that you'd like a personal reply to.

I didn't mean to send that, but oh well... I don't have access to Facebook yet, but more information on how I am allowed to use it will be given as the time to use it draws closer. I hope that everyone has had a great week, and that this next week is good too.

I truly love you all.


Elder _____

Blueberry Cheesecake Crumb Cake

Bursting blueberries in every bite! I made this coffee cake that I found on  Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts  (even though it's not a ...