Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

 I'm pretty sure this year has been the best year of my life. I've met a few hundred new people, been to seven other countries, made memories that will last a lifetime, accomplished a good handful of lifelong dreams, and had countless of those moments when I was so happy I thought I would burst. (Actually, that's a very vague summary.) On the other hand I've also had many discouraging moments when I didn't know what I should do or how I could ever accomplish something that I wanted or had to do.  But it's the good and the hard coupled together that has made for the best year of my life. I don't know anything that could top this year besides maybe serving a mission or getting 2012 and 2013, I can't wait for you!!!

Fiddler on the Roof is one of my all-time favorite movies. In it there's a song about how time is made up of sunrises and sunsets. Here are some of the sunrises and sunsets that have made up my past 365 days. They have been some of the most signifcant moments of the year.

January 26th:  Camel ride along the Nile at sunset.

 January 30th: Sunrise from the top of Mount Sinai. #1 most powerful sunrise experience of my life. Actually, one of the most spiritually powerful moments of my life, period.

 February 17th: Sunset from the balcony of the Hurva Synagogue.

 March 14th: Sunset on the Sea of Galilee.

 May 6th: My first view of Africa was this sunrise from the window of the Kenya Nairobi airport. The exhileration of finally being in Africa put my jet lag to shame.

 May 27th: Sunrise on the Serengeti during a game drive at 5 a.m. on a safari.

July 7th: Sunset on the Indian Ocean in Tanga, Tanzania.

September 3rd: Sunrise from the top of Mt. Timpanogous in Utah after hiking since 1 a.m.

I don't think I'll ever have a year of such diverse and exotic sunrises and sunsets again in my life. However, I'm completely ok with that because it matters more what we do with the time between those sunrises and sunsets than where we are. Sunrises and sunsets are repetitious and days can seem humdrum and routine. However, small daily decisions are what destiny is made of just like centuries are composed of ordinary sunrises and sunsets.

"In reality, there aren't many things in a day that are totally without signficance. Even the mundane and repetitious can be tiny but significant building blocks that in time establish the discipline and character and order needed to realize our plans and dreams."
~D. Todd Christofferson

Here's to the 732 sunrises and sunsets you'll encounter in 2012 (leap year!) and making the most of them! May all the sunsets in your life be turned into sunrises because of the hope we have.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas

I spent the day before Christmas Eve in bed. All day. I was sick with a wracking cough, pink eye, sore throat and what seemed like three other diseases. But honestly, lying in bed all day instead of baking and playing with neices and nephews like I would have done made me think.  I thought how Jesus Christ has felt everything I've ever felt. I thought how if I died in bed right then it would be ok, because I will live again because Jesus Christ conquered death. And, because of Him and His priesthood my family can be together forever. Because of him there is hope in life.

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

I also thought about how 263 days ago I was in Bethlehem where the greatest gift mankind could ever receive was given to us. What greater gift could we ever ask for than the gift of that precious baby who would choose to suffer so we can live? Think of the opportunities and potential that opens up for each of us because of our Savior! Do we realize how hopeless and in-vain life would be without Him? There would be no repentance, no second chances, no greater plan or purpose.

Soemthing about lying in bed makes me analyze life, the true meat of it. This time I realized how life is simple. We get caught up in choosing gifts, spending and earning money, relationships, jobs, grades, making choices.  I get blinded by decisions that seem to consume my life while it would be so liberating to look at the grand scheme of things. If we are living the gospel and doing our best, what else can we do? When I think "life is hard," I try to remember that really, it's simple: you either do what the Lord wants you to or you don't.  When this life is over, that's the thing that will matter most anyway.

On Christmas I especially want to bear my testimony of our Savior. This year I have grown so much closer to him as I studied His life in Jerusalem and saw the places where he performed his great mission and exemplified the perfect example to us of love and service to others. Because of Him we can change. Our very natures can change, no matter what we've done before or how many times we've said we won't do it again, yet do. He lives! And He wants nothing more than our eternal happiness.

May you all get sick around Christmastime and lie in bed for hours so you, too, can remember what life, and Christmas, is really about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Little Mexico

My dad and Hope and I took a little trip to Rocky Point, Mexico and stayed in our extended family's beach villa. We got there just in time for low tide  and saw this guy who showed us what he had in his mesh bag--three octopus he had found under the ledges of the tide pools. It's not a very good picture, but there is a pulpo (octopus, en espanol) on the end of that wire.
It was a little too cold for swimming, but other than that the weather was almost perfect and a huge improvement from freezing Utah!

 We rode ATV's the next day which was an absolute blast!

 And...we found the best tacos in Rocky Point. Seriously the best 14 pesos you could probably spend in Mexico.

Traveling with my dad is so fun. Whatever we want, he wants. We watched movies, played cards, saw Santa dance, visited friends, lit fireworks on the beach, saw a man breathe fire, got lost, went for a long run on the beach, ate awesome chicken fajitas, and chilled on la Choya Bay.  Do I not have a wonderful family? It's so nice to be home with them! Feliz Navidad, mi amigos!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happiness Defined (finals week version)

  • Happiness is finally leaving the library after being there 10 hours that day.
  • Happiness is selling your book back and being told they were only buying two more of that book. 
  • Happiness is knowing you'll never have to take an epidemiology test again.
  • Happiness is when the boy taking his test next to you in the testing center offers you a slice of his chocolate orange.
  • Happiness is a candlelight dinner when and where you least expect it. 
  • Happiness is feeling your ears thaw after four miles in 23 degrees. 
  • Happiness is knowing you'll be in Mexico in three days where it's 63 and sunny. 
  • Happiness is having roommates that are so awesome that you don't even mind cleaning checks, just because you get to clean with them
  • Happiness is eating at the Cannon Center with Hope and her meal plan when the only food you have is frozen spinach and a box of Chex. 
  • Happiness is making new friends.
  • Happiness is that temporary feeling of being rich when you have a wad of cash from selling your text books back.
  • Happiness is your boss giving you a whole plate of fudge and a pecan log.
  • Happiness is your freshman roommate Emily Armstrong coming to visit you from California!
  • Happiness is when none of your pumpkin bread loaves in your second batch stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Happiness is staying up late and then actually sleeping in (don't be too jealous mom and Carrie).
  • Happiness is having the sweetest visiting teachers in the ward. 
  • Happiness is reading stories like this (click here) and feeling the true spirit of Christmas. 
  • Happiness is not having to say goodbye to BYU and your ward because you're coming back next semester.
  • Happiness is knowing tomorrow you'll walk in the door and be pummeled by anxious nieces and nephews and hug your wonderful parents. 

As my roommate Brooke says,

Isn't it nice to know that the lining is silver? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Do Girls Serve Missions?

Since you asked, 

Girls do not go because they have nothing else to do. They do not go because they are commanded to. They do not go because they feel obligated or pressured to. They do not go to learn lessons for themselves, because even though they hope they will change and learn much, they could definitely learn those same lessons through doing equally good things at home. They do not go to have fun. They do not go because they are part of the lonely hearts club. They do not go to tour other parts of the world. They do not go because they think it's better than getting married and raising a family, because it is definitely not. They don't go to become more marketable in the dating world, either. They don't go because it's an easy little break, they actually make a lot of sacrifices to be able to go. They don't go because all their friends are doing it.  

So, why do thousands of girls go on missions every year, when no one expects them to? Why do they agree to go anywhere in the world, possibly learn a foreign language, go out of their comfort zones, leave their families and friends and their personal lives behind, and obey rules for a year and a half?

They go to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. They go because they want to and they feel it's right for them.  They go because knowing the truth is so incredible they can't keep it to themselves. They go because they love the church.   They want others to feel what they feel and to know the precious truth they know. It doesn't matter that it may be hard for them, because it's not about them.

They go because the truth they have is a pearl of great price. It changes their daily life, and they can't imagine making sense of this world without it. They go because the gospel makes them so happy that they want to share it with everyone they know, even those they don't. For instance, they're grateful to know that their family can be together forever, and they want all families to know that. They are grateful to know God lives and answers prayers, and that is a truth that everyone deserves to know.

They go because the worth of souls is great. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Study Break

I had to take a blogging break from studying about the endocrine system just to ensure my adrenal cortex doesn't go ker-plunk.. Ask me to explain what panhypopituitarism is one more time and I'll probably develop it. Make me read about the hormones secreted by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, or the difference between toxic and nontoxic goiter and I might cry.

Sometimes it seems no matter how much you study, it's never enough.  However, this
talk by Sister Dalton (love her!) gives me hope.  

She urges us to dare great things, which require us to
1) dream big
2) move out of our comfort zones
3) go forward with full confidence relying on the strength of the Lord.

Although cliche at first, she says, 

"Believe in yourself! Don’t give up. Endure! You have the power to achieve anything you set your mind to. Now you may not be contemplating a marathon or an ultra-marathon, but you may be in the middle of a challenge that looks like one. You may feel opposed on every side. You may wonder if you really can continue to push forward with a perfect brightness of hope. So as Paul taught the Hebrews, today I repeat the same words to each of you—“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” Go forward with faith knowing if you do your part, the Lord will always do His."

On a different note, my mom sent me this picture which I've been thinking about. It reminds me there is so much more to the world than my pitiful stress about finals.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To be Back in Jerusalem

What I would give to just spend one day in Jerusalem right now. I've been thinking about it all day. I think it's because it's beginning to feel like Christmas, and Christmas is so much more meaningful to me after Jerusalem. As President Uchtdorf said tonight at the devotional, when you understand that Christmas is all about Christ, it's ok if your Christmas is "imperfect." If the turkey burns and the toys don't have batteries, or you don't get what you want or things don't seem the way they should be; it's ok if you understand the real reason for the season.

Going to Bethlehem last March was perhaps the most Christmas-y I will feel all year, and I wasn't even surrounded by lights or family or gifts. It felt like Christmas because we were focused on the birth of Christ. I will never forget having a testimony meeting and singing Christmas carols in a "shepherd's field" just outside the little city. It was cold and rocky, just like I imagined it for the shepherds.  The Spirit was so strong.

Sara and I just outside Bethlehem
All day I've been thinking about how life would be if Christ wasn't born, if He didn't do what He did. All those reassuring truths we hold dear wouldn't be so. We wouldn't be able to repent, we would never be able to return to live with our Father in Heaven, families couldn't be together forever, we wouldn't have His Church or Priesthood, we would have no perfect example to follow. We would walk in darkness. We would have no prophets or apostles today. We could not have eternal life. Death would be permanent. Life would be hopeless.
I can't believe it has taken me 20 Christmases and nearly 21 years to realize just how incredible the gift of the Savior really is. At a time when there are so many uncertainties in the future, I'm so thankful that Christ stands immoveable for us. I encourage everyone to read and perhaps memorize the Living Christ this month. It's an incredible document that teaches some of the most important truths we can know.

As if watching the Christmas devotional in my cozy apartment with my dear roommates and a pan of chocolate chip cookie dough brownies surrounded by our decorated apartment and my banana-leaf nativity from Tanzania wasn't heaven enough....having the true happiness that comes from knowing what Chrismas is all about makes everything seem possible and world look so bright.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Day Brought to You by Metaphor

In an effort to make a rather low-key weekend blog-worthy and engaging...

My phone got left in Arizona about 15 minutes before we got to the airport. But, my mom who is as sweet as a Christmas sugar plum sent it right away and I got it three days later.  We were reunited like lovers separated by cruel fate who eventually raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph. Actually, I had only missed one call and two texts, so getting it was as anticlimatic as when you learn it's only Thursday when you thought it was Friday.

I wasn't really looking forward to the weekend because weekends are just like weekdays--full of homework. You see, a girl with a mission call is about as dateless as a cell phone is reception-less in the middle of the Sahara desert.

You know how in “Rocky” he prepares for the fight by punching sides of raw beef? Well, lately it has been as cold as that meat locker he was in. According to it was going to snow a lot last night, so I woke up on Saturday anticipating to look out the window and see the world blanketed in snow like a lasagna is blanketed in melted mozzarella. But instead, it looked like a lasagna made by a cheapskate cook on a diet who skimps on the cheese and only sprinkles some Parmesan a little on top. I think I'll trust like I do the boy who cried wolf.

Nevertheless, since the night before I had (unintentionally) practically carbo-loaded on pizza like Lance Armstrong does before the Tour de France, I wanted to go for a run. I stepped out from my 70-degree apartment into the 28-degree outdoors and it took my breath away as if an attractive man with a bouquet of flowers had unexpectedly knocked on my door.

Later I hit the library like a bird hits a glass window when it doesn't see it. I hit it like the gas pedal hits the floor of the car in a chase scene, but with the goal of staying there 5 hours instead of trying to get away like in a chase scene. I went to the Periodicals section because it's so quiet there and I like that. But, it's so quiet that if you just clear your throat or tear a page out of your notebook you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb among a bunch of normal thumbs and you wish you could just go unnoticed like the period after Dr. on a Dr. Pepper can.

When I cracked open my Human Disease text book I began reading this sentence; "Because the intrapleural pressure is subatmosphereic...." and the thought of my chronic disease final in one week made my brain hurt as much as your tongue hurts when you staple it to the wall.  The sheer volume of how much homework I had made my heart sink like when you find out that that attractive man at your door with the flowers is there for your roommate. But, the homework grew on me like E. Coli on a slice of Canadian beef at room temperature. I began to enjoy it and I sailed along in my studies gracefully like a boat on a smooth lake, exactly like a bowling ball wouldn't.

Three hours into studying, a nice boy sat at my table and after asking me about my intimidating chronic disease book asked for my number, like a boy in the Periodicles section at BYU would. We had never met, just like a pair of hummingbirds who had also never met.  I was expecting that about as much as you expect a surcharge at a surcharge-free ATM. Maybe there is a bar of reception in the Saraha desert now and then. Can you hear me now?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gossip Girls

They usually start with someone's dilemma and they usually end with someone saying, "Guys I was going to get to bed early tonight!" Roommate chats. We all end up in Brooke and Nicolle's room and eventually cover topics of every sort. We talk about marriage, soul mates, boys, dating, and how long eternity is. However, while the subject of matrimony sometimes does dominate, there's also politics, missions, choosing a major, weird dreams, foreordination, Jerusalem, how precious the gospel is to us, motherhood, life dreams, and school.  I seriously lucked out to have such great roommates and I love our chats, no matter how late it gets (which is saying a lot for someone who's an early-to-bed early-to-riser). One thing I love about them is they don't talk about people unless they're talking about how amazing they are. We talk about ideas and solutions, so we're not gossip girls at all.  It seems like if we put our heads together as roommates we could solve (or at least sympathize with) any problem.  My roommates Emily, Ashling, Jamie, Brooke and Nicolle have been a great strength to me this semester and my best friends.

Our omniscient dialogues usually produce some great quotes for the quote wall. One of my favorites, "Women are great, it's just all the other people." Our quotes are pretty funny out of context.

It's nice to know that even if we neglect doing the dishes and slack off on our chore chart, we don't neglect each other. This was left near our piled-high sink the other day and cracked me up:

The days of final projects, presentations and tests are nigh. Pretty sure I'll need to recuperate with my girls of apartment 119.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Got Hope, Right?

While I was home a bunch of us went Black Friday shopping and Hope and I were switching cars between stores, either going in my parent's car or my sister Carrie's. I was with my parents and was worried Carrie might have left Hope in Payless. So we rolled down the window and my dad asked Carrie, "You got Hope, right?"

That phrase stuck with me for a second. I thought how lucky I am that I got hope, both hope as in optimism that good things will come, and Hope as in my sister. But what a different life I would have without Hope my sister.
  • I wouldn't have had someone to play pioneers with in the treehouse all day long for the first 9 years of my life.
  • I wouldn't have had tea parties in the front lawn.
  • I wouldn't have enjoyed track in high school as much. Our relays wouldn't have won very often without her, either. 
  •  I wouldn't be as motivated. Just listening to Hope play the piano or watching her read through a Jane Austen in an afternoon makes you want to be better.
  •  I wouldn't have sung in church or at events like I have. I've only done that because the two of us made a duet. While I'm always a stickler to the melody, Hope is a great harmonizer.
  • Being homeschooled would have been less interesting and fun, being the only student. 
  • Heck, life would be less interesting and fun.
  • I would have less fashion taste. Hope is a little fashionista.
  • Going on trips with just my parents would have been ok, but going with Hope made it a blast. I'll never forget walking down the National Mall one rainy day in Wasington D.C. We were really giddy that day and I  was so thankful to have her as my sister. Also, the day we were driving in Cancun for hours and memorized the alphabet backwards together. 
  • I probably wouldn't have attempted downhill skiing until much later. I was terrified my first time down the bunny hill (ok, I still kind of am terrified when I ski), but Hope (as an 8 or 9-year old!) had no fear and went straight down.
  • I wouldn't have received those long, funny, witty, clever, long, supportive, hilarious emails while I was ever abroad. Nothing like logging into a dusty internet cafe with a homesick heart and getting a dose of Hope to lift your spirits and boost your self esteem.
  • Going home wouldn't be as fun. I realized this when I came home from Africa this summer and Hope was at BYU. It didn't seem like home without Hope.
  • I wouldn't have anyone to talk about the 100 Hour Board with.
  • I wouldn't have anyone to talk about a LOT of things with. There are some things I tell Hope and Hope only.
  • I would be much less spontaneous.
  • I wouldn't have this beautiful girl visiting my office at the MTC brightening any work day.
  • People wouldn't ask me, "Where's Charity?" That would be no fun.
 There is a lot that would be different if I didn't have Hope. I could fill pages if I had time. Hope has shaped a lot of who I am, in a very positive way. She's not just a sister but one of my best friends. I'm so thankful we were sent to the same family around the same time so we could grow up and share our lives. She's a great example to me of striving for excellence, doing hard things, and so much more. I love being at BYU with her and will miss her so much on my mission.

Watch out for her, because this girl is going places.

I'm glad I got you, Hope!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Best Blessing

This video always chokes me up a little at the end, I don't know why. 

This year has probably been the best year of my life. So, when asked the question,
"What are you thankful for,"
 I'm almost paralyzed for a second because so many things come to mind. My perspective of the world has been broadened beyond so many horizons, making me grateful for things that never even occurred to me last Thanksgiving. My testimony has been strengthened, tried, and relied upon to make me more grateful for the gospel than ever before. 

Yes, I am grateful for the opportunities I had to walk where Christ walked, to live with 80 other students who became great friends, to learn from inspired professors, to see the pyramids and swim in the sea Jesus walked on and snorkel in the waters Moses parted. I'm grateful to have met sweet people of Tanzania and learn from them and see how they live, to sing "Count your many Blessings" at church every Sunday with those who had so much less than I, to see wild animals and play pick-up games of soccer with barefoot boys as the sun set behind the banana trees. I'm grateful for the protection I literally felt around me when I was in dangerous situations. 
And, of course, these experiences have made me grateful for reliable electricity, malaria-free mosquitoes, running water, toilets above the ground, good health, and the United States of America. 
I'm grateful to go to school at BYU and to live, work, and study in such an uplifting environment. I'm grateful to have a job at the MTC. I'm grateful for my roommates and the spirit they bring to my apartment. I'm grateful for the experiences and lessons I've learned this semester, even if learning them was a little painful.
I'm grateful for my wise parents to whom I will always be indebted to for all they have taught and given me.
I'm grateful to be in Sedona for Thanksgiving with all 16 members of my family, including the six cutest nieces and nephews ever.

I'm so very thankful for these things, although they be just the tip of the iceberg. My heart is full to the brim.

But mostly, what it all comes down to, what puts my cup of joy at max capacity, what I am MOST grateful for; is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is what provides hope for all of us, even when we know we'll never measure up enough. I'm grateful for His gospel that provides guidance and peace unlike anything else. If I didn't have all the blessings I listed above, I could still be happy if I had the gospel in my life.

I know I'm a daughter of God. I know Jesus Christ lives. I know the Book of Mormon and Bible are true. I know that living the commandments is what brings true happiness in life.

I know God answers prayers.

I know who I am. 

I know what the purpose of life is.

This knowledge is the most influential blessing I've ever been given. Happiness or peace based on income, relationships, popularity, grades, or anything else will fluctuate as those things change. But happiness based on trust in the Lord ensures a constant steadiness since the Lord never changes and His love and involvement in our life never will, either. An understanding of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is truly the blessing of all blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Light in the Tunnel

It may be BYU's best-kept secret. It's never advertised. You just have to know. 

On Sunday nights at 10 p.m. you can find BYU students huddled in groups under the tunnel leading to the Marriot Center. They have braved the cold to sing hymns together for an hour or so.  Some nights there are just 30 or 40, other nights, there isn't enough room for the couple hundred.  It's a beautiful sight to see and hear: scores of young people singing about their conviction to fight with sin, their testimonies of Jesus Christ, their knowledge of where true peace comes from, and the joys of the gospel.
Half-way through, the head guy (I don't know how he got his top-man position) shouts, "It's that time again!" and everyone sits down. Newly-called missionaries announce their calls and everyone claps. Then everyone sings "Called to Serve" with extreme zeal. 

Last night I went with my roommate Jamie.

(I love this girl.)
And for once, I didn't just listen to missionary calls. I announced mine.

Hope and Logan joined us!

It reminded me of when Hope and I went tunnel singing two years ago when she visited me my freshman year.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love BYU?

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I know you're now all dying to learn everything about Paraguay! Surfing the internet about Paraguay has been taking up time that should be being spent on homework, given this has been the busiest week school-wise (and the week I've been the least focused). Anyway, I've been reading blogs of missionaries who are there right now (this blog will soon be one more missionary blog!) and doing a little research.

Here are some facts:
  • The official languages are GuaranĂ­ and Spanish. Guarani is the indigenous language (not at all similar to Spanish) that the majority of the population speaks and a lot of the older generation in rural areas don't know any Spanish. My friend Brian Libby actually knew this and told me I might get to learn it, and I've since talked to some sisters at the MTC going to Paraguay who said the same thing. 
  • The life expectancy is 76 years old! So much better than Tanzania where I was all summer at 52 years.
  • Total population is about 6.5 million. 
  • The capital, Asuncion, has a population of 1.9 million!
  • 89%  Roman Catholic
  •  Dengue fever and malaria are the major infectious diseases. And what determines whether you get it or not is a bite of a mosquito. 
  • Unemployment is 7%. Better than the U.S.!
  • Out of a population of 6.5 million, only 1 million use the internet. 
  • Today it was 86 degrees Fahrenheit since it is summer season there now. I'll get to have a Provo winter and leave to enjoy a Paraguay winter! Winters are mild and short but sometimes drop below freezing in July and August.
  • This is the flag. It is two-sided and has a different symbol on the other side.  
  • Currency: The national currency is the GuaranĂ­, which is composed of 100 centimos, or cents.
  • Gross net income per capita  US $2,270 (World Bank, 2009)
  • The poorest 60% of the nation earns less than 20% of the nation's income.
  • One of the poorest countries in South America, right behind Bolivia.
Every day I realize what a perfect mission this is for me. I am so thankful for how well I've been prepared for it, too. I've been exposed to Latin American culture, the Spanish language, reckless Latino driving habits and packing four times as many people on a bus as it should fit. I've seen poverty and know that the gospel is what will change their lives far better than teaching them to wash their hands or helping them start their own business.

Guatemala, 2009

 I remember thinking about this quote from Ezra Taft Benson a lot when I returned home from Guatemala:

"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature."

Friday, November 18, 2011


When you're not eating sugar for four weeks, you don't only miss eating delicious things but you miss baking. So, I found a recipe that was fun to make but only has 3 tablespoons sugar (that doesn't count). I've never made scones before or really thought about them, actually. But I had breakfast with Hope at the Cannon center the other day and they had the most delicious blueberry scones. So I went to my favorite recipe source, the American Test Kitchen cookbook, and tried out their recipe. It has all the qualities the scone critiques hunt for in good scones--light and fluffy, perfect amount of sweetness, barely crispy exterior.

Cream Scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, I used bread flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants (I used dried cranberries, and chopped them into smaller bits)
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did, because little circles just seemed cuter than wedges) and cutting until dough has been used up.

6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Best eaten warm, but good at room temp, too.

Yes, this is what I do on Friday nights--take pictures of things I bake. I'm trying to get better at food photography.

The little kitchen all these recipes come from, and the beautiful girls who help me (Jamie, Emily, and Brooke).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I had Hoped they Would Call me on a Mission...

Yesterday, my call came. Right on time. I was so happy. I brought it in from the mail box then left for work so I wouldn't be tempted to open it. I wrote in my journal about where I thought I would go. I said, "I'm hoping/thinking it will be to South America or at least somewhere Spanish-speaking."  I would have added Africa to that, but sisters don't go there much.
At 9 p.m. I had so many wonderful friends come over to watch me open it, it was really touching. My parents were on Skype. I hadn't been nervous all day, but a few minutes before I actually opened it my heart started beating faster and faster. What was on that paper determines so many things: the people I teach, the friends I make, the companions I have, the food I eat, the conditions I live in, the clothes I wear, the language I speak. But I knew it would be to a place that is just right for me, so I wasn't that nervous.

I couldn't believe this was happening. How long I had thought about a mission!  I had my goals taped to my ceiling above my bed all throughout high school, and one of them said, "I will go on a mission in 2012." That had seemed so far away. And now here I was!

I began reading my call. "Dear Sister Goimarac,"  So many missions flooding my head. 
"You are hearby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." Oh my goodness, that is so right. That is who I am!  
"You are assigned to labor in..."
Would it be South America like I hoped? Was I supposed to learn a difficult language like Japanese or Russian? Was I going to Temple Square? 

I am going to the Paraguay Asuncion North mission! Leaving April 4, 2012! Speaking Spanish!
Missionary calls are beautiful letters, so full of promise and centered on what our message is about: Jesus Christ. If you can enlarge this photo you should read the whole thing.

I'm still overwhelmed with gratitude that I am going on a mission, and the cherry on top is that I'm going exactly where I wanted to go. I didn't NEED to get what I want, it's just an extra perk.  The Lord truly grants us with the righteous desires of our hearts. 

Have I mentioned how happy I am? And that's the reason I'm going on a mission, to bring the happiness of the gospel to others. My friend recently wrote the perfect post about why Mormons are so into missionary work at all. Please read it here! 

Mormons are so Pro-Mormon because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ, which makes us HAPPY--not only on earth but for eternity. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Always on my Mind

Usually I fall asleep within mintues of hitting the pillow. Usually I can focus a little better when studying for big, scary chronic disease tests like the one I have on Wednesday. But the past few days, I've had pretty much only one thing on my mind making me a tossing, turning jumbled mess of thoughts at night and nearly fruitless in studying. 
 Ok, I'll just cut to the chase: I should be receiving my mission call on Wednesday! Since I met with my stake president I have been counting down the days to the 16th of November. They have been the longest two weeks OF MY LIFE.
I have gone through the list of missions in the world so that I won't have the reaction, "Where is that?!" I have stopped in the halls of the MTC where I work to stare at the world map of all the missions. Anyone who comes in my apartment gets to write down their guess of where I will get called to. There is really nothing else like it: Volunteering yourself to go absolutely anywhere in the world for 18 months, following strict rules, all voluntarily. I think that is where some of the power lies, though: no one is making me do this, I want to with all of my heart and soul.
This is my mailbox. The beginning of all the excitment.
I'm thankful to realize though, that my call isn't just to a certain place. My call is as a missionary and the place I go is just my initial assignment. It doesn't really matter where I am assigned to, it matters that I WILL BE A MISSIONARY. Since my call and assignment come in the same letter it's natrual to just combine the two. But in reality, it doesn't matter where I serve, but how I serve. It's a big wonderful world out there and it's exciting to know I could go anywhere from Tahiti to Temple Square--and every place has people who are just as valuable and worth my efforts as the next. But, if I could have my pick I'd go somewhere where the people are humble and the weather is warm. And hopefully it's Spanish-speaking. That's my one little wish (along with leaving as soon as possible!).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Homemade Pita Bread and Greek Salad

How does a pita get it's pocket? This is no riddle, and it's even something you can create on your own. Even before I went to Jerusalem my mom made homemade pita bread, and now, after I've been to Jerusalem where I ate pita nearly every day I've learned to make it myself. It's become quite a hit in my apartment. I usually make Greek salad to go with it, making the cutest pita sandwiches that even so-called vegetable-hating carnivores will probably like. Here are the recipes:

Pita Bread
5 cups bread flour
4 tsp salt
2 tbls sugar
4 tsp active dry yeast
4 tbls good olive oil
2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees)
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour with the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the oil and water. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for three minutes, then stir in the rest of the flour ½ cup at a time. The dough should be a rough, shaggy mass that will clean the sides of the bowl. If the dough is moist, add a small amount of additional flour.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6 minutes.
Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Roll into balls, dust lightly with flour, and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Use the palm of your hand to flatten each ball into a disk. Finish with a rolling pin, flattening the dough into a disk about 6 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Their thinness is more important than making them perfectly round. Irregularity adds charm.
Place each round on a square of foil, and carefully place 3 or four of the rounds directly on the oven rack (not on a pan). Bake 4-5 minutes, or until they are puffed.
When you remove them from the oven, stack them up and put them immediately into a plastic bag and seal it. This keeps the dough soft while the tops fall, leaving the pocket in the center!

Greek Salad!
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2/3 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped radishes
1/2 cup chopped fresh italian parsley (cilantro)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 8-inch-diameter whole wheat pitas, halved
Whisk olive oil and red wine vinegar in large bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Mix tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, radishes, parsely and dressing. Sitr in feta cheese. Keeps in the fridge for a long time.

Hummus is also the perfect partner. Click here for a great recipe.  Also, in Jerusalem we couldn't live without this on our pita.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Moore Quotes

In aspiring to imitate the date 11/11/11 and try my hand at alliteration, I'm going to do a post called Feature Friend Friday and feature one of my friends this Friday.

Travis Moore moved into my ward when I was a senior in high school and has been such a genuine friend ever since. He is at BYU with me now. He has texted me a quote almost every single day for the past year and a half or so and still does! When I am abroad and out of cell phone reception, he texts quotes to my email. Dedication.

He also has very creative ideas. For instance, today he and his brother Jeremy organized a flash mob in my History of Creativity class. Around 20 people who are not in that class were sitting in among the 60-ish students who are in the class, and at 11:11 a.m. their cell phone alarms went off and they left the classroom to make a wish. I think our substitute professor is still a little confused as to why they left...but the rest of us were amused.

Another creative idea he helped to mastermind was a facebook in real life party.  We all brought white t-shirts and wrote a status on it. We had relationship status stickers, green dots to show we were online to chat, a list of friends on our sleeves. There were events and photos everywhere, and we even played "Pin the Like sticker on Mark Zuckerberg." Very creative!

I have done photo shoots, gone urban exploring, been spelunking, watched movies in random places, explored the roof of the Swicket, gone canoeing, and scores of other fun things with Travis and his innovation.  He's a great example to me of spirituality, service, charity, and good wholesome activities.

Yesterday's quote from Travis leads me to one last thought for this Veteran's Day.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."~John F. Kennedy. 

Veterans are great examples of living by their gratitude for America. They truly understand that life is not just about themselves, but that life is in service to others. I am thankful for America and our freedom beyond what words on a blog can express. All it takes is going to another country to instill deep patriotism in your soul.

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