Monday, June 29, 2015

Crazy Normality‏

Not a single photo from Alex this week. I really don't understand how hard it can be with a camera and an iPad to take at least one. I included some photos from Hachinohe, the area where he's living right now, that I found online.

I sent him a couple of Japanese Liahonas (church magazines) and this is what he says about them:

I have been reading a bit out of the Japanese Liahonas for some language study, so they are helpful. I can get the Liahonas on the iPad, but I can't use my iPad if my companion isn't near by, so it's helpful to have some new material to read when he's not around. But you don't need to worry about sending more, because it's a bit expensive to send stuff here. 

Here are some other excerpts from his letter to me:

I'm sorry it's been so hot over there. It has been raining the last two days (Saturday and Sunday). It wasn't hot though, and it was actually close to 32 Fahrenheit yesterday. I was looking at the weather down in Tokyo, and it really is hot down there! I have heard a lot about Tokyo being so much hotter than Sendai.

The prettiest thing I saw this week? I am not sure. Everything is a blur, and if I saw any pretty things, then I didn't take pictures of them. Sorry!

My shoes are holding up, I guess, but they have definitely been worn for a long time. My clothes are good, and I don't think I have anything bad to report about them.

A scripture that I remembered recently is Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5. We read that section in institute the other day, and although we didn't read those verses, I saw that I had it marked in my scriptures. I love those verses, and I had a really strong spiritual experience with those verses in the MTC with one of our "investigators."

Thank for the quote! I am so surprised how much I've learned about being a father and a husband while on my mission so far. I never would have expected my mission to prepare me so much. 

And here is his letter to everyone-----

Usually I start of with a little remark, but today I got nothing!

The Kanji of the week is: 復活 pronounced "phoo-kah-tsu," meaning resurrection. 

Monday was good, and we got all the things we needed to get done on a p-day done. The rest of p-day time was spent relaxing. At night, we tried to visit some people, but one of them seemed to move, and one wasn't home. The last one's address doesn't even exist, and the apartment name is in a different address. When we went and asked them, they said he had never lived there.

Tuesday, we went to seminary in the morning, and from there went straight up to Aomori. When we got there, we met the zone leaders, and my companion and one of the zone leaders went back to Hachinohe; I stayed in Aomori with Elder T.. As the name implies (or maybe it doesn't, and I've just been in Japan for a long time), he is Japanese. It was a lot of fun speaking only Japanese for an entire day. I also got to see my last companion, Elder F., because he transferred to Aomori. We did practice lessons for a while with different members, and then went and visited some less actives. One of them wasn't really interested, but was nice enough to oil our bike chains for us. We finished off the day by biking far out to the edge of town for another practice lesson with a member, and it went well. I love the members in Aomori.

Wednesday we went back to Hachinohe, and had a district meeting with the Zone Leaders. After that we studied and ate at the church until sign language class. I am starting to learn a bit of sign language, and it's really fun to talk to the deaf members. They are super willing to teach sign language, and are very patient. After that we did some street contacting, and then ate dinner and had English class.

Thursday we went and tried to find out some information about a Japanese class to see if we could use that to find some people interested in the gospel. But it ended up being $30 to sign up, so we didn't sign up. We then went and housed a bit, and tried to hang up a poster or two. We then passed out fliers for our English class, and immediately after that went to institute. I love institute, and it was lots of fun. The teacher is good at teaching. Thankfully ;)

Friday was another seminary day, followed by trying to visit someone we tried to visit on Monday. But she wasn't home again. So we went and house for a bit before going to a members house. At the members house, we read the Book of Mormon with him. Specifically Mosiah 6-7. I read it in Japanese, and luckily I had read it not too long ago, so I understood more than I otherwise would have. After that we housed just for a bit before going home eating. Then we did weekly planning for the rest of the day.

Saturday it rained all day. For half of the day it was near typhoon weather, so we stayed in the apartment and called people. After that, the rain calmed down a bit, but the wind was still going strong. Luckily the church is only a 10 minute bike ride away, and we got there safely. While there we had DCS (don't remember what it is in English), and English Class. After English class, some of the students and the missionaries went to McDonalds for dinner. I don't like McDonalds in America, but it is a lot different in Japan. It's actually good (sorry to those who like McDonalds).

Sunday we spent a lot of the time at church. It rained all day, so that was a good thing. We had sacrament meeting, and I translated the talks for a member who moved here from the philipines a while ago and doesn't speak Japanese. That was quite the adventure. After church, we had another sign language class where I practiced signing the Plan of Salvation. I had a lot of fun, and I love sign language. We also tried to visit a guy, but he wasn't home. The rest of the day was in the apartment studying.

I hope you all enjoyed the story of my week, and that all your lives are full of interesting things! I love you all!


Elder ___

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lemon Cream Puffs

I love how quick and easy it is to make something delicious with frozen puff pastry and now I've found a new favorite way to use it! I could have eaten so many of these tasty morsels. Thanks to Linda from With a Blast for posting the recipe.

Lemon Cream Puffs
1 Roll frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg
1 T. water
2 T. caster sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream or whipping cream
1/4 c. lemon curd
1 - 2 t. lemon juice, to taste
White Chocolate
Powdered Sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper or grease lightly.

Unfold puff pastry, but do not roll any thinner. Cut into 2 inch squares. Whisk together the egg and water. Brush the pastry with egg. Sprinkle caster sugar on pastry and transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets, leaving space between each square. Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling: Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the lemon curd and lemon juice. Chill for 10 minutes before use.

Gently open up a small piece in the center of one of the sides of each baked pastry square, lifting the upper part carefully, only enough for the nozzle to fit through. Pipe about 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls per pastry lemon cream into the pastry opening.

Melt 2 squares of white chocolate and drizzle over the puffs. Let stand a few minutes to set. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Leftovers should be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Beat the Heat!

Alex's weekly letters with 2 photos:

I have been traveling around quite a bit, and it is cool to see the sights of the town. I really hope I can teach a lesson to a nonmember soon too, because I know that the Lord has prepared people for me here in Hachinohe, and I want to find them. But I must be patient in the Lord's timing, and do all that I can to talk to everyone I can.

We've eaten pancakes recently, but besides that, I don't really think I've eaten American food since coming to Japan. Even if you go to american restaurants they aren't american food, because they are catered towards the tastes of Japanese people. I also don't think the food is too much different here in Hachinohe verses Yonezawa, but it's hard to say. I haven't eaten anything too different here at any rate.

And no, not much disappointing things happen. I can't think of any anyway. I have been blessed so much by the Lord that any disappointment is swallowed up in His atonement.

There is too much stuff that happened this week for me to write all of
down, so I'll give a very quick synopsis of the different days. It was
a very great week though!

The Kanji of the week is: 自転車 pronounced "ji-ten-sha" and means bicycle.

On monday we went to a few stores, but besides that all we did was
relax until the evening. In the evening we went around and housed for
a while, but not much happened then.

Tuesday we went searching for some old investigators and less active
members, but all the people who opened the doors that we could find
were not the same people. We couldn't find one of the houses, and some
of them weren't home. We did get another poster hung up though.

Wednesday we went to a different area of town and looked for people
there. We didn't find many people, but two of them the wife said we
could come back when the husband is there, so we'll be following up on
that. We also did english class, but there wasn't too much to say
about that.

Thursday we did weekly planning, had a practice lesson with a member,
and handed out fliers for our english class. There were a couple of
people who seemed like they might come, so I hope they do. We also
looked for some more old investigators, but didn't find any of them.
Thanks to Elder F.'s mom for sending me this photo!

Friday, we went to Morioka for a conference with one of the seventies.
His name is Elder Ringwood, and he is a very spiritual man. I was very
impressed that he knew all of our names, and whenever we raised our
hands, he would call us by name. I don't know if he had come prepared
or if he memorized them all when we shook his hand and introduced
ourselves, but either way it was way cool. I am glad to have been
there and felt the spirit so strongly.

Saturday we had a barbecue with the ward. We had it for away for a
bike (and up-hill), so we left in the morning to get there on time.
There were a lot of english class students who came, and also some
less active members. We had tons of fun with eating and talking, and
some fun games we had prepared. I had hurt my foot a couple of weeks
ago when chairs fell on it, and it just now started causing problems,
but I got a blessing from my companion and that helped a lot. The foot
isn't broken, so I just need to rest it a bit. Hard to do on a
missionary schedule, but I'm doing what I can. It will all turn out
alright, so no one worry about it okay?

Sunday was full of church, a quick lesson with a recent convert, and
sign language class. Besides that all we did was study.

I hope you all have a great week, and I truly do love you all!


Elder ______


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

How did I not share this on my blog before? I got this recipe from a cookbook that my parents gave me in 1992 and I made it and loved it. It had been a while since I had made them so I made them recently. I still love them. The surprise cream cheese filling makes it special and tasty. 
Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

1 (8-oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/3 c. oil
1 1/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or line 16 muffin cups.

Filling: Beat cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 egg until smooth. Stir in chips; set aside.

Cupcakes: Beat all cupcake ingredients together until blended and smooth. spoon 1/2 the batter into the cupcake liners. Top each with 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture. Spoon remaining batter evenly over cream cheese mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with favorite chocolate icing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Full Week, Empty Brain

Alex's letter with a whole 1 photo.....

This week was full of so much stuff, and we got so much done in it.
Even then, it feels like the week has gone by without us doing much. I
think part of the reason is that most of the things we have done
haven't had immediate results, so patience is needed to start seeing
fruits of our labors.

This week's kanji is: pronounced "she-mah" and means island.

Monday was fun, and we went around to a lot of stores just for the fun
of it. Elder B. got some shirts, but that was about it. We also
stayed at the church for a while and just relaxed. In the evening, we
tried to update some less active member information on the iPads, but
there was a problem with the application part way through. We went to
a store close to our apartment to try and get wifi to send a problem
report email, but the store didn't end up having wifi. We went to a
couple more places, but they didn't have any either. We didn't end up
getting the email sent, but it was quite an adventure. That took a lot
longer than we thought, and when we got back to the apartment it was
the end of the day already.

Tuesday was rainy the entire day. We went up to an area called
"Hachinohe New Town," and housed around there. There was some
interesting conversations and I hope that there are some fruits from
it. That took a chunk of time, both getting up the mountain and
housing, but it was really quick on the way back down. We then
translated for the sisters some videos that we all need to watch but
are only available in English with no subtitles. After that was done,
we helped them with a free family English program lesson for the
English part. We then took the kids and entertained them. The member
that helped us out was really good with the kids (he has taught
preschool before, so he knew some good tricks). That lasted for a
while, and it was fun.

Wednesday we were the only two missionaries in Hachinohe for a
majority of the day, because the other Elders and the sisters both had
to go to Sendai to get their new companions/go to their new areas. We
went to seminary in the morning, and after that and our daily studies,
we went to the sign language class. It was fun, and although there
were fewer people than usual, I enjoyed it. After that, we went to a
members house and had a practice lesson with him. It was interesting,
and he gave us some good pointers. We then tried to find the house of
a boy we met the other week, and after finding it talked to him for a
bit. We then explored the area a bit and then headed back to the
apartment. When we got back the others were there, and that was the
end of the day.

Thursday we went out very far away yet still in the "city" to find a
less active member. We quickly found out that he wasn't living there
anymore, so we housed for a bit. After that, we went around town and
got quite a few posters hung up for our English class. That took the
entire day, but we got a lot hung up.

Friday we made more posters, and then went to a busy street and street
contacted using a questionnaire we came up with. We also hung up a few
posters. Again that was our entire day, except for when we tried to
find a less active member; again he no longer lived there, and the
apartment he was supposed to have lived in didn't exist anymore.

Saturday and Sunday were fun, and full of quite a bit of driving. We
went up to Aomori on Saturday and up to Misawa on Sunday for District
conference. It was a very spiritual meeting, and I got to meet members
from all over the Aomori district. It was fun, and I loved it. We even
had one of the other's investigators come with us on Sunday (he drove
us there and back). I liked it a lot.

I hope you all have a great week, and want you all to know that I love
you from the bottom of my heart.


Elder _______


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Homemade White Bread

This is a basic white bread recipe that is very simple that I found at The Wannabe Country Girl. You can even roll out half of the dough and use it for pizza dough. You can roll it up pretty or kinda rustic. As you can see, I did one of each.
Homemade White Bread
2 cups warm water
4 tsp yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup oil
5 cups flour
2 tsp salt

Put warm water in a bowl and add yeast. Next add sugar and stir. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes.

In mixing bowl, place flour, oil and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture. Mix with dough hook (or by hand). Mix on low until ingredients are combined and dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Dump the dough on the counter. Spray bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place dough back in the bowl. Let rise about 25 minutes.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto floured surface. Knead about 5 minutes. Shape into 2 loaves by splitting dough in half and rolling out each half. Roll up each like a jelly roll and place on cookie sheet. Cut a few cuts on each loaf and let rise 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350°.

Bake 25 minutes.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June Message

Alex didn't send me a single photo this week, but Sister Smith, the mission president's wife, posted this photo of the zone training so I got to see a photo of him anyway.

This week has been a great week, and I have lots to share about it. I
don't think I can share it all though, so I'll share highlights of the

This week's kanji is: 奉献 pronounced "ho-ken," and means consecrate.

Monday was a very normal day, and we didn't really do too much. At
night we had do finish up our weekly planning because of the crazy
schedule we had for the weekend.

Tuesday after lunch ended, we started a mission wide fast we were
asked to participate in. It was a bit different than your normal
breakfast and lunch fast, but despite being abnormal to the average
member, it was one of the most spiritual times I've had on my mission.
I went a whole day without food or water while biking around in the
heat, and through the infinite goodness of God no harm came upon me.

Wednesday we had a district meeting where we sang hymns, bore our
testimonies, felt the spirit strongly, and closed it off with a
special re-dedicatory prayer said by the district leader to
re-dedicate ourselves as full purpose missionaries. I am surprised at
the amount of energy I still have from that re-dedication, and I have
seen many good things come in just this short time since that

Thursday was once again splits, and me and my friend from the MTC went
out into the world by ourselves to preach the gospel. We had a great
time, and got to talk to lots of people and have some interesting
stories. One of which was when we went to see if we could have a
poster hung up in a local high school. We got it approved fairly
quickly (they didn't even hesitate to take it), and when we walked
outside there were two boys who were watching us. I started to talk to
one of them in English to see if he liked English, and he said he
liked it. I started to explain that we teach an English class in
English too, but he looked confused, so I started to speak to him in
Japanese. His friend heard me start to speak Japanese and quickly ran
and got his friends saying, "HE CAN SPEAK JAPANESE YO!" We gave them
all English class fliers, and hopefully they come sometime.

Friday was a Zone Training Meeting, so we went all the way up again to
Aomori. The training was great and I had a fun and spiritual time. We
had lunch, and afterwards me and Elder B. missed the train we
meant to take by a minute. We hopped on the next train (an hour
later), and ended up meeting a boy who's parents are from America, but
he was born and raised in Japan. He speaks both languages fluently,
and he loved talking to us. He said he wants to come and learn more
about American culture some time, and he seemed to have interest in
the church as well. We'll see what happens.

Saturday was mostly planning for the next week, and teaching English
class. Not too much to say about that day.

Sunday one of our friends from English class came to church to say
goodbye to a friend who will be transferring soon (it is transfer
weeks, and I'm staying in Hachinohe). She and her daughter had a
wonderful time, and it was so amazing that they came. They seem like
they might want to learn more, and am so glad they were able to feel
the spirit yesterday.

I hope that you are all doing well, and I love you all. My prayers are
ever with you.


Elder _______

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mashed Potato Puffs

Here's another great, creative potato recipe from Cinnamon-Spice and Everything Nice, this time using leftover mashed potatoes. I wish I would have doubled it because they were so good. I will cook them a little longer next time since they keep their shape better when they're browner and I like the crispy outside. I used green onion instead of chives, since that's what I had. 
Mashed Potato Puffs
2 eggs
1/3 c. sour cream
1 c. (heaping) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 
2 T. grated Parmesan
1 strip bacon, cooked and chopped 
2 T. chives, chopped 
Salt and black pepper, to taste
3 c. leftover mashed potatoes
Extra sour cream, bacon, and chives for topping

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease 8 - 9 of the wells of a cupcake pan.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk the eggs then whisk in the sour cream. Mix in Cheddar, Parmesan, bacon and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add them to the bowl and mix well.
Spoon them into the pan filling the cups just to the top or a little below. Bake 25 - 35 minutes until they pull away from the sides of the cup and are golden brown all over.
Remove from oven and let them cool 5 minutes in pan. Turn them out onto a platter. Serve with sour cream and extra chives, bacon or cheese.


Monday, June 1, 2015

A Very Spiritual Week

I asked Alex about the big 8.5 earthquake that was off the coast of Tokyo Saturday. I know he's hours north of Tokyo so I didn't know if he felt it, but the news said it shook most of the island. This is what he said about that:

We had a very minor earthquake (so small you had to really pay attention to notice the movement underneath), but I don't know if that's what you're talking about. It felt like the feeling you get when you spin around for a while and your head is a little tipsy, but that was it up here. I'm glad that there wasn't too much bad stuff down in Tokyo.

Here are some other things he shared with me in my email.

I can't believe that it's the end of another school year. I've been graduated for an entire year, and yet, I've only been graduated for one year! Over here in Japan, School starts in April and goes until March, so they just recently started school again. They don't get a big chunk of time off for a summer vacation, but they have a lot more breaks spread out throughout the school year.

This week we had a very good Zone Conference on becoming consecrated missionaries. I won't say a lot about it here (I plan on talking about it in the mass email), but I do believe that the same principles apply to regular members as well. I would like to share a message about consecration though. 

To begin, I would like to reference to the story of the rich young ruler in the New Testament found in Mark 10. In verse 21 of that chapter, Jesus extends two invitations to the young man: "come...and follow me." The two invitations are similar, but slightly different, and I love the way that Bishop Caussé explained it. 

He said to envision a time when you were a young parent (this was given in an address to new mission presidents), and you are getting ready to go to church one Sunday morning. As you are about to leave you notice that one of your children is not there. After searching for him, you find him in his room playing with his toys. You stand in the doorway and say, "Son, come, it's time for church!" Your son looks at you, looks at his toys, and then looks back at you as if trying to decide within himself. He then gets up and takes the hand that you have extended to him as you say, "Thank you. Now, follow me."

The principle of coming is like the son who had to come to the parent. He has to give up his toys to come to the parent; in essence, he has to sacrifice. The principle of following includes sacrifice, but also means that you do as Christ would do, and go where he would go. It is not only a sacrifice of material things, or of habits, or even of family, but of the heart. That is what consecration is, and as Elder Neil A. Maxwell said, it “is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar.”
And here's his letter to everyone:

This week we had zone conference, and we talked about how to
consecrate ourselves to the Lord. I hope no one gets too mad at me for
this, but I would like to focus on my thoughts on what I've felt and
thought regarding this.

Really quickly though, I would like to say that this week's kanji is:
霊的 pronounced "ray-techy", and means spiritual.

I cannot come close to write all my thoughts and feelings about
consecration to the Lord, but I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will
bear testimony to you that as you consecrate yourself to Him, as you
follow Him and keep his commandments willingly, that you will find
happiness beyond your wildest dreams. Not only that, but it is the
only path to true happiness.

On the same line as that, I learn more and more each day that a
mission is more for the missionary than for anything else. Yes, it's
great to have others come closer to Christ; yes, my heart is filled
with joy every time I see, hear, or read about someone following
Christ more than they ever had in the past. If I myself didn't do what
I plead others to do, if I didn't--at that great last day that most
certainly will come--have the ability to stand clean before God and
his Son, it would have been a waste in my opinion. Not a waste of the
others' salvation, but of my own potential.

I have a year and a half left to not worry about taxes, schooling,
work, food, housing, clothing, or anything else temporal, to give my
all, my very being to the person who created me. If I do that, I have
been promised that I will be blessed for my sacrifices. I myself have
not experienced life after a mission, but through others' experiences,
and through the witness born to me by the Holy Ghost, I know that ALL
aspects of my life will prosper because of my service.

Blessings are great, and they are a motivation to to keep the
commandments, but ultimately the most important reason to do anything
is out of a love of God. As stated in the Book of Mosiah found in the
Book of Mormon (chapter 2), God gives us everything. He gives us our
lives; he gave us our bodies; he gives us our daily breath; everything
we have is because of him. We have everything in existence to be
thankful to God for, and when we remember him he blesses us more than
we can hold.

I am imperfect, but I know that God and Jesus Christ live, that Christ
died for our sins, that they love us and want us back. I know that God
is our Father who lives in heaven, and that just as any righteous
earthly parent, he wants to give his children everything--only he is
perfect and all truly belongs to him only. The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints is His church restored on earth once again
lovingly through His servant Joseph Smith. As you act, pray, read the
Bible and the Book of Mormon, and do what is right, I know that you
will find the answers you need in life.

I love you all, and pray for you every day. I leave you this my
testimony in Jesus' name.


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 ...