Monday, August 31, 2015

There is a Pattern in Everything

Part of Alex's letter to me:
(I said that I hoped the soldiers they taught were polite to them.) The military was not rude, but they didn't really pay too much attention to us while we were in the base. Mostly just the host family even looked at us. I guess that's what happens when you're an American in an American military base.

(I asked whether he thought housing or streeting was more difficult or scary.) I think that streeting is more difficult, because you have to stop someone, and quickly think of reasons to talk to people, but I think that streeting is a lot more fruitful than housing. Especially in Japan where mostly everyone has a intercom doorbell, so they don't even need to show their face to reject us. But even then they don't reject us rudely.

This is where I usually put his first photo of the week, but he didn't send any. None. So I'm using some pics I found online of Morioka, Japan.

Alex's letter to everyone:

So, with this next week, we'll be starting a new transfer. It marks my
7th transfer on my mission, and at the end of it I will have been on a
mission for an entire year. That is really weird to think about. That
being said, there is a pattern that has come up in my mission so far
that I'd like to share: I move to an area, stay with a companion for
two transfers, get a new companion for one transfer, and then move to
a new area and get a new companion. Not sure how long this patter will
last, but that's how it's been so far! In following with that pattern,
I am moving to Morioka this transfer, and will be getting a new
companion, Elder M.. We both haven't been to Morioka before,
something most people call whitewashing out here (I don't know if they
call it that anywhere else). It will be a fun transfer, as the area is
going from two elders to four, and we are the new companionship.

The kanji of the week is: 盛岡 pronounced "morioka," and is the new area
I'm going to. It means prosperous hill.

Monday was just as always. We emailed, shopped, and relaxed. At night,
we waited for people to show up at Family Home Evening, but no one
showed up, so we went home and did stuff there.

Tuesday we went to do service with a group called Angel House. The
missionaries have been going for a long time, but with the downsizing
of Hachinohe, neither me or my companion remembered about it until
they contacted us last week. So, we went and helped them out. We got
to do yoga, and badminton and basketball with them. I found out that I
love yoga, and I'm sad I won't get another change to work with them.
We also went and did some street contacting for a bit. No actual
results from that, but it was a learning experience. In the evening we
called members to set up appointments with them, and we got five set
up, all miraculously on Friday at different times.

Wednesday, we had companion exchanges, and I got to work with Elder
E., who was in the MTC at the same time as me, in Hachinohe. It
was fun, and although we didn't get too much time to go around because
of studying, but we did get to pass out a Book of Mormon. In the
evening was English class, and that was fun, but nothing new or too
exciting to report.

Thursday Elder T. and I got back together from exchanges, and
the rest of the day was spent studying and weekly planning after a
district meeting and district lunch. It was a good planning session
though, so I'm glad we got that in.

Friday was the day of all the member appointments. We spent literally
the entire day there, with the exception of going out to a nearby
bakery for lunch. They were all good appointments, as all but one of
them were practice lessons, and one of them was home teaching. The
last one we had for the day was with a deaf member, and he helped us
learn some tips on teaching deaf people, and explaining church signs
to those who don't know them. We also heard some of his conversion
story, and his testimony. I say "heard," but I mean we saw it.

Saturday we went and prepared for English class right after studies,
and after that went to go streeting. We took a break at a nearby
convenience store, and while we were there we got a text from a less
active member who lives too far for us to visit saying that he was
near the church and could talk with us for a bit if we had the time.
So, we rushed over, and got to talk to him. We had gotten the transfer
call the previous night (a bit earlier than normal), and so we told
him that unfortunately both of us were transferring (but Elder
E. is transferring to Hachinohe, so that's good). So, he was
kind enough to take us out to eat quickly at McDonalds. We then went
to the church again, and had English class. The students were
understandably surprised at both of us leaving at once, and after
class some of them took pictures with us.

Sunday, we had a normal sacrament meeting, save the fact that all the
missionaries gave talks that day. Three of the four missionaries in
Hachinohe are leaving, but two of them already had talks planned
because the branch presidency had asked them to. So, all of us gave
talks. The rest of church was great too, and I felt the love of the
branch as they wished me luck in my new area (it's kind of close to
Hachinohe, by the way). After church we had sign language class,  and
that was a quick lesson followed by the missionaries sharing their
testimonies in sign language to the deaf members. It was a good
experience. We then had the rest of our studies followed by dinner at
a members house. It was fun, and we got to share a simple message to
the friends of the families kids who were all young.

That's my week! I hope all your weeks have been good, and that you
have seen the Lord's hand in your lives. I love you all! My prayers
are constantly extended to you.

Elder _______

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Broken Bows

I have the pleasure of knowing Jennifer Paustenbaugh, the University Librarian at BYU, and her family, and hearing her speak many times, always engaging the listener and always bringing the Spirit into the room. She recently had the terrifying opportunity to give the BYU Devotional Address and I'm sharing it with you in case you didn't get to see it yet.

Jennifer recounts the Book of Mormon story of Nephi when he breaks his bow, leaving the family with no way to get meat, which was their main source of food and likens it to our own adversity.

"Like Nephi, each one of us is likely to experience the breaking of a bow—a major life challenge that has all the makings of a personal or family disaster or one that has all the makings of an opportunity to grow."

Jennifer states 6 principles that we can learn from this story and she uses personal examples to illustrate them.
  • Pray
  • Do
  • Turn to Priesthood Leaders
  • Read the Scriptures
  • Feel Gratitude in Your Circumstances
  • Expect Miracles
I feel like I personally am pretty good at some of these, but I need to work hard at others. For example, DO. I cannot just pray and read my scriptures and expect my problems to be worked out for me without my action. In that action, that doing, is where I will learn, progress and find blessings. I cannot let fear or indecision keep me from doing.

You can watch her devotional below or read the transcript BYU Speeches.
                                           Go, Jennifer! :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Preserves Balsamic Dressing

I made this a few weeks ago after seeing it on Reluctant Entertainer. I added avocado and nectarine, and used pecans instead of pistachios. Also, I used grilled chicken. Lots of flavor and the dressing is unique.

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Preserves Balsamic Dressing
8-10 c. baby spinach leaves
2 c. cooked chicken, chopped 
2 c. fresh strawberries, chopped
2 green onion, chopped
1 c. English cucumber, seeds removed, chopped
1 c. pistachio nuts
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. preserves 
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 c. red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 c. canola or olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar, shallots, and sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Add the preserves and cook 1 more minute.

Transfer the mixture to a blender; add the oil and red wine vinegar and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Place the spinach on a large platter or in a large salad bowl. Add the chicken, strawberries, green onion, cucumber, and pistachio nuts. Drizzle the dressing; toss and serve. You can also plate the salad and then drizzle the dressing on to individual servings.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Turning Down a Gear

In Japanese there's a phrase: お疲れ様です! There really isn't a translation for it, but the best I can do is, "keep up the great work!"

We've played a bit of chess and Shogi (Japanese Chess) lately, and
these two photos are of my first two ever wins in Japanese chess
(consecutively). They probably don't mean much to you, but I was
pretty happy.

Hachinohe can get quite windy at times. As I have biked around in the
wind and other weather, I think that it is interesting to note that
sometimes when the wind gets strong, going down a gear helps you more.
Too often, I think, we are used to the automatic route. Automatic
transmission in cars, automatic lighting, even instant food is
available to most of us. So, when the going gets tough in a car, we
usually think push harder. I've quickly learned that that isn't always
best. There are times when, honestly, less can be a lot more effective
than more. Don't forget to enjoy the beauty of the Earth around you!
God didn't make it for nothing, He made it for Man to enjoy.

The Kanji of the week is: 祝福師の祝福 pronounced
"shh-coo-fh-coo-shi-no-shh-coo-fh-coo," and means Patriarchal
A delicious meal made by my lovely companion. There is
corn soup on the bottom, and the top is his "special." Yes, that's a
raw egg in the food. I've come to really love the taste of raw egg.

Monday we didn't do much except for email and shopping for food. That
was fine though, because it meant we had time to relax and not have
anything to worry about. In the evening we went housing for a bit, and
then went to the church for Family Home Evening. As no one showed up
for half an hour, we went home after that, and looked at some
potential investigator records.

Tuesday I went to Misawa on companion exchange. There was a lot of
things we did, including visiting a couple of members and eating lots
of snacks they gave us, and teaching Japanese Class. The reason for
the Japanese class, is that there is a US air force base in Misawa, so
there are Americans who come to learn Japanese. On top of that, I got
to go on base with a member and got a taste of America. All I can say
is it was a giant reverse culture shock experience, and I learned just
a taste of how much I've grown un-accustomed to the bigness of
A pizza that we had while I was on base in Misawa. I
couldn't eat more than two pieces (I also had a big lunch and nonstop
snacks from members up until that point just about), and my stomach
has shrunk. It was so weird not seeing hardly any Japanese people,
everything was in English, and the pizza was actual american pizza.
There was also a "small wal-mart," which wasn't actually a wal-mart,
nor did I think it was small. I am in for a big shock when I come

Wednesday we didn't get too much in. We went streeting for a little
bit, but there was no fruits from that, and after that all we really
had time for was English class. But that was fun, as always.

Thursday we did weekly planning. As has been the case the last little
while, it has taken a bit longer to make sure that both of us are on
the same page while planning because of the language difference, but
all is well, and there were no arguments. The remainder of the time
was trying to find a building for information on a sign language
circle, and trying to find places to street or house. But no luck on
that day either.
A  cool flower I saw in Aomori and thought I should take a
picture of.

Friday was Zone Conference, and it was great. I am always amazed at
the spirit that is felt at zone conferences, and I learned a lot. I
also learned a bit more about talking to others on the street, and
about not worrying about what to say, but to just talk and my mouth
will be filled by the grace of God. That's hard work though, I'll have
you know!

Saturday my companion woke up with a sore neck, and couldn't move it
much. We called the mission president and he told him to keep the neck
warmed up, and to take some ibuprofen. He was a bit reluctant on the
medicine side, as all we had was American ibuprofen which is
apparently stronger than Japanese medicine, but He took it, and rested
a bit. By the time that English time came around though, he still
wasn't feeling good enough to actually move his neck freely, so we
spent the rest of the day looking at potential investigators records,
and old investigator records. We have some people we want to visit
now, so hopefully something goes on with that.
A cool cup thing going on in McDonalds right now in
Japan, along with a vintage sign for coke. I wanted just the coke
sign, but I didn't have my actual camera, so I just used the iPad
camera at a distance.

Sunday was great as always. The sacrament is as precious to me as it
always is, and I am so grateful for Christ forgiving me of my sins
against His commandments as long as I repent with an honest heart. Our
recent convert's brother also got back from college, and so he'll be
translating for him while he's here as he speaks Japanese. The rest
of the day was studying, but it was good studies, so I think it was
worth it.

That's my week! I hope you all have a wonderful week this week, and
that you all experience something new. I love you all, and I hope that
you all know that.


Elder _______

The happy birthday banner you sent me back in February
being used for Elder T's birthday (it was the 20th). If you
look in the reflection, you can see me taking the picture.
Zone Conference

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Better Plan

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I'm on the treadmill I do or I go crazy. I was flipping through channels and stopped on Oprah's Master Class, where Robin Roberts was talking. I just saw a couple of minutes of it, but I loved what she said and I've been thinking about it. When I decided to look for the quote today, I actually found a clip with the short part that I saw so I included it below.

I love the thought that optimism is like a muscle that needs to be used to be stronger, but the part that I kept thinking about is this...

"God answers us in 3 ways: Yes, not yet, and I have something ever better in mind."

Many of us think of that third one as, "No. I can't give you what you want." Even when we know our Father in Heaven is omniscient, knowing all, and that he is loving, wanting to bless us, we still feel a sting when He does not grant our desires when we feel they are right.

But, like Robin says, if it is a no, there is always a reason and it is because He knows what is best for us and it will be better than anything we cold ever plan or hope for. So the next time that I don't get what I pray for, I will try my best to see that it is because I am headed toward something so much better.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rich & Fudgy Zucchini Brownies

Shhhh! I made these really delicious brownies the other day and didn't tell my daughter Sabrina that they had zucchini and she loved them. I don't mind grated zucchini, but if she knew it was in there, she wouldn't have even tried them. The zucchini is processed in the food processor so that you can't even tell it's there. I will definitely be making these again. I found these at Chew Nibble Nosh.

Rich & Fudgy Zucchini Brownies
2 c. chopped, fresh zucchini
3 T. butter, melted
3 eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
¾ c. sugar
⅔ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ t. espresso powder (optional)
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
½ c. flour
1½ c. chocolate chips, divided
¼ c. half-and-half or heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 7x11 inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Place the chopped zucchini, eggs, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Cover, and process until the mixture is smooth.
Add the sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, salt, and flour. Pulse a few times until well combined. Add ¾ cup of the chocolate chips and pulse a few more times to mix in the chocolate and chop it up just a bit.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Once cool, combine the remaining ¾ cup of chocolate chips with the cream. Microwave in 30 second intervals, until warmed and stir until the mixture comes together into a smooth ganache. Spread the glaze over the top of the cooled brownies.
Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour, just to set the chocolate topping. Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice

This very easy recipe that my family actually liked is posted at 
Kevin and Amanda . I added chopped carrots and frozen corn to ours and you can add whatever you have on hand. I'm so glad to add this to our busy night recipe list.   

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 T. olive oil
1 c. uncooked long grain white rice
2 c. broth
1 c. salsa verde

Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry. Cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch cubes). Season generously with salt and pepper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is very hot, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until the outside is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Add the rice, salsa verde, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is tender. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I upgraded to Windows 10 on my computer and my photos are not downloading right from Alex's emails now. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong, but until I get that figured out, I can't post his other pics. Luckily, I downloaded one of them, the one of him, before the upgrade. And the other photo with him and a group of other elders at a conference outside is from another elder's mom. Thanks, Mayumi!

A bit of trivia from Alex's letter to me:
Light goes down fairly early here. Today the weather report says that sunset is at 6:30. But the sunrise was at 4:30 so the time is getting shorter on both ends.

Alex's letter to everyone:
I don't have too much to say today, so let's get right into it!

The kanji of the week is: 賛美歌 pronounced "saun-bee-kah," and means Hymn.

Monday I don't have too much to say about. The day was mostly just
relaxing, and in the evening we had family home evening. But no one
except for our investigator showed up. It was good though, and we had
fun with him.

Tuesday, my companion had a bad headache all day, so he rested while I
cleaned the apartment. That's all we did, but our apartment needed it,
and I'm grateful for the spirit it brought into our apartment. It was
a good cleaning of the inner vessel (General Conference, October 2010,
President Boyd K. Packer)

Wednesday we had home teaching and a practice lesson with a member. It
went well, but I don't have to much to say about that. We didn't have
too much time for anything else, because we had dinner, and English
class that day. It was lots of fun, and something that I've learned to
do to give English class is to draw pictures that have to do with the
theme on the whiteboard. It's fun, and gives me a chance to practice

Thursday we went on companion exchanges with the zone leaders. I
stayed in Hachinohe and worked with a fellow American for the first
time in a while. We went and did street contacting for the majority of
the day, and I learned a lot from him on how to approach people. That
day we were able to give out 4 copies of the Book of Mormon, which was
a big difference from the 0 we usually get. I look forward to keep up
that trend as we both try our best and improve our own skills.

Friday was weekly planning. We had a lot to figure out this next week,
and so that was took up the entire day. It was needed planning though,
so I'm glad that we got it out of the way.

Saturday was the big showing of Meet the Mormons. It was good, and we
had lots of member there (the most important part in my opinion).
There were also a couple of English class students, and from talking
to them afterwards, they seemed to like the movie a lot. We had
planned on giving out a Book of Mormon to each person who was a
non-member, and as at the end of the movie there was only one
non-member, we gave one to her. It was great experience, because our
mission president talked with her for a while and you could feel the
spirit strongly. After that event, the mission president and his wife
took us out to eat. We were going to go a couple of places, but there
were too many people, so we ended up going to McDonalds. I like
McDonalds here more though, so it was fine and lots of fun.

Sunday was church, as usual, and as usual, I loved the cleansing and
renewing power of the atonement. We also had fun with sign language
class, and I am glad for the things I am learning from them. We then
went home, and had our apartment inspected by the mission president.
We passed, and he then left for the long drive back to the mission
home. The rest of the day was studying.

That was my week, and I am ever praying for all of your safety and
love. I pray that you all can feel that you have a Father in Heaven
that cares about you and knows you personally. I know that He does,
and that He wants you to know so.

Elder ________

This looks like a bunch of trees, but there is one looooong branch from a tree on the left side and the branch is being held up by posts. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Who doesn't love polka dots? This moist dessert has polka dots in the cake and in the frosting. It's a great way to use ripe bananas and it's super easy to whip up. I found this one at The View from Great Island.

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. sour cream
1 large egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 c. poppy seeds
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
Milk or cream
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 8-inch square pan.
Cream butter and sugar. Add sour cream and mix. Beat in egg, banana and vanilla. 
Sift flour, salt and baking soda into mixture and mix just until combined. Fold in poppy seeds.  
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool before frosting.
To make frosting, combine all ingredients and beat until smooth, adding enough milk or cream to get a spreading consistency.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Nathan Pacheco Tickets Giveaway -- CLOSED

***The winner is Heather! (Not a surprise, as she was the only one to enter.)***

I'm excited to have a FLASH giveaway today. It's a FLASH because the prize is....

2 tickets to see

with the Utah Valley Symphony this coming Monday, August 17 at 8 pm in Orem at SCERA Shell Outdoor Theater.

Please only enter if you can really go to the concert on Monday. I need to choose and announce a winner by tomorrow morning (Saturday, August 15) at 11 am so I can arrange a way to get the tickets to the winner on time.

To enter, leave a comment on THIS POST telling me one recipe that I've posted on my blog that looks good to you. You can find recipes by going to the right hand side of my blog and scrolling down until you see the "Labels".

I apologize to any of my blogger friends who aren't close enough to see this classically trained tenor with an amazing voice. In case you don't get to go, here are a few of his videos so you can still hear him.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Since my son Alex is on a mission in Japan, I have been looking at Japanese recipes and saving some to make. None of them have ingredients like pig uterus or octopus like he has sent photos of. This one at Just One Cookbook didn't look very different than a stir-fry with noodles like we're used to, so I added this one to my menu. Then Alex actually mentioned that if we want to eat what he eats, we could try yakisoba, so I knew we had to try it.

It looks a lot like ramen, but the seasoning is quite different (and good) and the noodles are soft, not crunchy. You can find Yakisoba noodles in a package with seasoning packets in the produce section with the won ton wrappers, at least in my grocery stores.

Nami, on her blog, used dried green seaweed and pickled red ginger as a pretty garnish, so you may want to, but I didn't use them. I chose beef as our meat, but it would be great meatless too.


3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 zucchini, grated
2 green onions, chopped
4 cabbage leaves, chopped
½ - ¾ lb. sliced beef, pork or chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 T. oil
Freshly ground black pepper
8 T. yakisoba sauce (or the seasonings that comes with the yakisoba package)
1 pkg. yakisoba noodles
Heat oil in wok on medium high heat. Cook the meat just until cooked through.
Add the onion and cook 2 minutes. Add the rest of vegetables and cook until soft.
Add black pepper and about 3 tablespoons yakisoba sauce. Prepare yakisoba noodles according to package directions. (Mine said to run warm water over noodles.)
On medium heat, add noodles and stir. Add yakisoba sauce to taste and stir. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Beginning at the End

Part of Alex's letter to me:
My week has been awesome. Something that I really realized was a protection from the Lord recently was about my old bike. The bike I used to use was pretty small. The tire had needed a replacement, and we just took the wheel off of a different bike to fix it "temporarily" (it's still on the bike). Because we had already spent money recently on it (at the time), my companion didn't want to buy new breaks for the back. After not using it for this entire transfer (we had extra bikes because we went down to two elders), I needed to use it yesterday when I discovered my tire had a flat. As we were biking I quickly realized how bad of a condition of the breaks were in, and realized that I was super protected by the hand of the Lord as I rode that bike. I fixed the other bike this morning (that's why it's taken so long to write emails), and so all is fine. I'll be buying new brakes for that bike soon though, so no one else has to deal with such a dangerous bike. 
A float in the parade.

His Letter to Everyone:
Recently, our mission president has asked us to memorize the 42
principles found in Preach My Gospel word for word. He also gave us a
tip on how to more effectively memorize them. One of the points he
said was begin at the end. Although he meant this for memorizing
purposes, I think it applies to life too; if we begin with the end in
mind--and sometimes that means the end of life--our perspective
changes, and we are more capable of overcoming the challenges at hand.
This week, I'd like all of us to try and begin with the end in mind.

The kanji of the week is: 贖い pronounced "ah-gah-nai" and means atonement.

Monday was very busy, because right after emailing we went to get my
companions hair cut. After that, we did groceries, and travel back
home took a little longer because of the festival that was going on.
In the evening, we went to go find an English class student's float,
but we didn't think we found it. It turns out we were right, but we
just couldn't find her.

A shirt that explains the festival
Tuesday we went to go visit some potential investigators, but neither
of them were home. We then went to hand out fliers for the Meet the
Mormons viewing we have this Saturday, and were able to get quite a
bit more out. We then made a few more fliers, and headed out to a
different potential investigator. We got to his apartment, but no one
was home. As we left the building we passed a man walking in, and
afterwards I realized that that was the potential investigator because
his family matched the description in his record (I had never seen him
before). So, we'll have to go back again sometime.

Wednesday was mostly handing out fliers, preparing for English class,
and English class itself. We also housed for a bit, but there wasn't
too much exciting that happened on that day.

Thursday we went housing for most of the day, and we also handed out
some fliers again (we're doing it for about an hour a day until the
event). This day felt a bit long, but we had some good moments of
talking to people, so I think it was worth it.

A cool ticket that they have for a limited time. I think
it's cool because of the 8-bit pictures, and how it looks like an old
mario game.
Friday we went up to Aomori for a zone training meeting. The meeting
itself was great, and I love hearing from the other missionaries.
After the meeting, we all stayed in Aomori through special permission
from President Smith for the Nebuta festival there. It was a great
festival, and the small group I was with the majority of the time got
to hand out three copies of the Book of Mormon (two to a member's
friends). It was lots of fun, and at the end of the night there were
some cool fireworks that they let off.

Saturday was traveling back to Hachinohe, planning and studies, a
quick lesson with our investigator who is doing good, and wants to
read the Book of Mormon from Jacob on (since he's not gotten past 2
Nephi yet), and English class. All those activities were good, but
nothing much to write home about.

Sunday was church, where I translated for our recent convert and his
friend who came for sacrament. As always taking the sacrament was a
great experience, and I hope that those of you who are back home don't
take forget how amazing the atonement in our lives and the lives
around us. We also had sign language class, and after that we gave a
blessing to one of the deaf sisters. We had a translator translate the
blessing for her. The rest of the day was studies.

I hope that you all love life and can find something amazing or
beautiful in each day this week. It's possible! I love you all!

Elder ______

Ready for several videos of the festival?

This is towards the end of the festival here in Hachinohe. It was in
the evening when the parade was almost done, so it wasn't as lively.
But that's the way they moved the floats around.
This is a dance they have in the festival. I didn't get to see it too
much, but the costumes seemed to be about the same no matter who
organized it. The floats and other things wore different costumes
depending on the group, so that's why I say that.
This float is a bit different than the floats in Hachinohe. I think
that all the festivals have their own style; no matter where you go,
it's always a new experience. I kept thinking that the people pulling
the floats looked like slaves, and the whistling people didn't help
with that. It was pretty cool though.
This music was heard just about the entire time the parade happened
(although I only was there for the last 15 minutes of the two hour
parade), and throughout the night. It's the Nebuta "festival song" I
guess. Also, I bought a bamboo flute similar to the one they have in
the video, and I am going to try and learn it the song on it. But with
a missionary schedule, it will probably take me a long time.
This was the only band that was playing a different song that I saw.
Also, note the guy with the crazy red glasses. I thought it was funny.
 Although this one didn't do it successfully, some of the other floats
did a similar thing where they turned their float 360 degrees and then
went forward again. It seems like it's a really hard maneuver to do. 
This is a chant that they had going on during the festival as well. It
sounds really cool, and I later found out that it's old Japanese for
"let's go kill them!" What a healthy thing to be chanting :P
This is a video taken on Monday on the last stretch of the last
parade. It isn't as lively, but it shows how the floats in Hachinohe
were pulled.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Caprese Tarts

These tarts from Sweet Paul are so good! I chopped the tomatoes in half and didn't use 20, but I found myself wanting more tomatoes, so next time I'll add more. I loved these as a side dish with a dinner one night and then leftovers as a lunch alone the next day.
Caprese Tarts
1 large sheet puff pastry
1 fresh mozzarella, sliced
20 cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil
Fresh basil

Preheat oven to 375°.

Dust flour onto a countertop. Place puff pastry on flour and cut the pastry into 4 squares and roll it out to almost double size. Place each pastry on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Place mozzarella and tomatoes on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Bake until golden, about 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

God is Unchanging

Just a little about Alex's new companion: Elder T. loves to cook, and play basketball. He likes eating. In fact, one of his dream vacations is to go to Italy so he can eat the spaghetti there. He is from a place called Kyoto City. It's in Kyoto.
Alex and his companion Elder T.

These last couple of weeks, I have come upon the theme that God does
not change. He is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. He exists
in a state of love, care, and eternal Fatherhood. He is willing to
forgive us of all we have done wrong, all we wish we never did, and
rid us of all the guilt we ever feel. He also will helps us in our
hardships and trials if we turn to him. Lastly: "Man simply cannot
make moral what God has declared to be immoral. Sin, even if legalized
by man, is still sin in the eyes of God." -President Russell M. Nelson
of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The Kanji of the Week is: 教会 pronounced "key-yo-kai" and means church.

Monday was nice and relaxing. In the evening we made a bunch of fliers
for a viewing of Meet the Mormons we'll be having in a couple of weeks

Tuesday we got a call from the Mission President about the movie, and
we had to remake all the fliers because of it. It was because of a
mistake on our part, and a miscommunication from us. After that we
went and handed as many as we could out to people.

Wednesday we went to the city hall and invited the mayor and other
government officials to come and see the movie as an introduction to
our church. It was a lot easier than my companion was fussing it up to
be, and I hope he comes. Other than that, we posted some fliers in
houses nearby the church to invite them to the movie. Oh, and also
English class, but there isn't much to say about that.

Thursday we did weekly planning and were able to go and do some
housing for a bit. In the evening we also had a home teaching visit
with one of the members' family, and that was fun

Friday we had our first district meeting as a combined "Misawa and
Hachinohe" district. It was fun, especially because me and the
district leader are the oldest in the district at 6 transfers. We
tried to visit a couple of potential investigators, but not much came
of it. We then went to the biggest festival in Hachinohe. There were a
lot of people, but with all the sound and surrounding people, it was
hard to talk to people. We did happen to run into quite a few members
at the festival though, and talked to them for a bit.

Saturday, we were going to spend the day near the festival talking to
people and handing out fliers for the movie, but we had a
miscommunication amongst us, and it took a while after we finished
making the extra fliers to finally get things straight. So, we went to
a nearby area and posted more fliers for the movie. We then had
English class, but there were only four or five people who actually
came because of the festival.

Sunday was once again a great opportunity to take the sacrament. We
were also able to hear some of the members testimonies, and it was
good. The rest of church was good as well. After church the branch
president asked me to come and join him in a setting apart a recent
convert as a young men's leader's advisor. Since he didn't speak
English, and the recent convert didn't speak Japanese, he asked me to
translate the setting apart and blessing. It was a unique and
spiritual experience. The rest of the day was basically studies and
weekly reporting.

I hope that you all have a good week, and that you have the chance to
try something new! I love you all and hope you do well.

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 ...