Sunday, December 22, 2013

Amish Paradise.

It is good to be back home in Pennsylvania! I was under the impression that I would be going to Ephraim, Utah for Christmas, but with the house settlement and selling complications, I feel blessed to have one last visit in good ol' Collegeville. And the best part? Our whole family will be together soon.

On Saturday -- Kristin, Jon, Mom, Brigham, and I went to Amish Country.  We love Lancaster, but this quaint town is tragically named Intercourse.  Yes, the town is victim to many inappropriate jokes, and people covet the town limit signs.  Our family has some favorite t-shirt slogans:
  1. I love Intercourse, PA   (Note how PA is in tiny-print).
  2. Intercourse, PA is everything I thought it would be.
  3. Ask me about Intercourse, PA.
The drive up to Amish country is absolutely gorgeous.  The sweeping farmlands stretch across the landscape, dotted with barns, farmhouses, and laundry lines. Every time we drive by, my dad sighs with longing, telling us about the plants that he would cultivate with all the attention and care of a tender parent. He has always wanted a farm, except he and Mom should have had...maybe 50 more babies to help with the work.

I am OBSESSED with this picture.
We drove to Kitchen Kettle Village. It offers "authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Country shopping!"  They have the best cheese, fudge, baked goods, jam, and quilt shops.  Each store gives tons of samples of food, so we always leave on a full stomach. We are so sad to be leaving this gem of a place, but we are grateful for years of good memories.  (Oh stars -- I sound so a 90-year-old).
This fudge shop is amazing. The workers show you how they make the fudge on huge marble tables, and it must be amusing as they see people salivating with the anticipation of deliciousness.

Smoked Gouda... enough said.

We love this gallery -- we buy most of our artwork from this place!

And of course... the holy of holies at the Kitchen Kettle -- the Canning Kitchen! Jams, jellies, salsas, cookies, relishes, EVERYTHING.  After using this jam, we will never go back to that Smuckers gelatinous junk.  This place is always a favorite for my parents, especially as they are canning aficionados. The Amish women working in the kitchens are incredible, and everything in the store is home-made.

Love these people.  And love this place, too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

He Builds Bridges... No Big Deal.

So, I know this boy... no man!!!  He's smart, he's kind-hearted, he's bright, and he is seriously one of the funniest guys I know.  His name is Brigham, and I am his proud big sister.

Cue the drum roll, folks... because Brigham is officially an Eagle Scout!  I think five billion astronauts earned their Eagle Scout award, so Brigham... perhaps you are destined to explore space.

Here's the thing about Brigham -- he is diligent.  He fulfilled his Boy Scout duties, he went camping all the time, he schooled all of his buddies in a mock-game of poker, he biked 50 miles, and he got to wear a fancy-shmancy sash with badges all over it.  About 18 months ago, Brigham finished his Eagle Scout project, the mother-of-all projects, if I might say so.  He built a bridge -- as in a structure that provides passage over a river, a chasm, a road, or in this case... a dried-up creek.  Hunsberger Woods is a place in Collegeville, PA where people go walking or hiking.  There was a bridge that was decaying, rotting, and if you were stupid enough to walk across it, it's likely that you would, you know, break a body part.

Brigham and some members of the amazing Valley Forge First Ward cleared the rotting bridge away, cleaned the debris in the surrounding area, and built a brand-spanking new bridge.  It's awesome, it's new, and it even has railings for those poor souls who are incapable of walking in a straight line... (yeah, there's a reason why I consistently won "Most Likely to Fall Down" in school).  He was a great leader, and he definitely rendered a service to the community.

Perhaps I do not say this enough, but I am so proud of Brigham! He is resilient, he is confident, he does not care about what people think of him, and he is a great example to me.  People always say that he has a big name to live up to...big shoes to fill, I guess.  But he has no need to worry about that.  Earning his Eagle Scout is no small feat. I am in awe of everything that he does, and I know that he will build his own great legacy.  He is destined for great things, and I am so excited to stand as a witness of those things.

Bud -- I love you, and I cannot wait to see you in a few days.  And when I get home... we'll just see who reigns champion in Super Smash Bros.  I suspect that the title still belongs to Bekki Hood.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Thanksgiving Post That's Long Overdue.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Who doesn't like feeling all grateful, warm, tickled, and super-stuffed inside?  These past couple of years, however, I have not spent Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, and that's kinda weird.  The whole family would be together, the kids would watch the Macy's Day Parade on the television, Christmas music would be playing on the radio, and Mom and Dad would be slaving away in the kitchen.  I miss that a lot, but fortunately, I was able to spend this Thanksgiving with Kylie, Cameron, Kristin, and Jon.  In other words... I spent Thanksgiving with some of the coolest people I know.  

This is Kristin's FIRST.EVER.TURKEY.  Usually, Kylie is the culinary master, but Kristin took over.  The turkey took forever to thaw, and she was having a cow.  She just submerged the turkey in a sink full of hot water for hours.
Yes -- that is Kristin's furry vest, and it is famous.
I would like to say that I was a massive help in the kitchen, but that would be lying.  I helped prepare edamame beans, and that was it.  Kristin and Kylie did most of the work.  I sat on my butt and ate cheese and grapes.
So here's the thing... I'm not much of an Xbox person because I've never really played that system.  When we were kids, we played N64 all the time, the holy grail of gaming systems.  Family Home Evening consisted of Mario Kart 64 tournaments.  Well, Cam and Jon whipped out the Xbox and started playing Halo.  And then they invited me to play...and then I picked up the controller...and that I started shooting people... and then I started throwing grenades...and then I started killing people...and then I died a lot... and then I liked Xbox and Halo.

On Friday night, we went to the Mesa Temple because the Christmas lights are up.  They are so pretty!  The temple lights attract tons of people, so it's a great opportunity to share the Gospel and to remind people to think of Christ's life and ministry during this Christmas season.  "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!"
Hi, pretty sister.

On Saturday, we spent the whole day together.  Jon and his Air Devils buddies went to fly some of their airplanes.  Cam was absolutely fascinated, and the girls liked watching the guys get their geek on... it's kinda attractive.   For the rest of the day, we went to Sprinkles, World Market, and Lo-Lo's (overrated and overpriced restaurant).
The best part was being reunited with my sisters.  They are such great examples to me, and it was so nice to catch up with them.  Every time we go out, people ask, "Are you guys triplets or something?"  I look absolutely NOTHING like my sisters.  Mom and Dad also tell me that I was adopted.  It just occurred to me... I look so Asian in this picture.

As I have reflected upon this year, I am recognizing that I have so much to be grateful for.  This semester has been the most difficult three months of my life... and not necessarily because of my school responsibilities.  It was difficult physically and emotionally, but the outpouring of love and support that came from friends and family was amazing.  I cannot adequately express my thanks, but I am forever grateful to have a wonderful support system.  I am also grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Christ's infinite Atonement cannot possibly be comprehended, but the power it has in my life is incredible.  It is empowering, and it helps me to look to Christ when I find that my burdens are particularly heavy.  My challenges are not removed, but I have the strength to press on, and I take comfort in knowing that Christ weeps when I weep, and He has suffered as I suffer.  I absolutely love this season, and I hope that we can all cultivate a better attitude of gratitude all year long.    

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Post for Mom.

So, Mom... you told me to take a break from working on my critical essay, and you're right -- I do need to allow my brain to rest!  What better way to "relax" than to engage in some informal writing! (The English major-writer-nerd never rests).

This blog post  is especially for you because it is your birthday, because you're absolutely amazing, and because I could not have asked for a better Mom. 

Here are 10 reasons why you win the ---
1.  You are married, you have children, you are in your 40s, and yet, you still allow that inner teenager to emerge.  For instance, you still squeal and giggle whenever you see an attractive, shirtless man on the big screen.  (Daniel Craig check, Zac Efron double check, Tom Hiddleston quadruple check).  Your famous words are... "Oh honey, he's so gorgeous!!!) 
2.  You are a piano-playing, sight-reading beast! I am extremely envious of your sight-reading abilities.  I will be slaving away on a new piece (like a certain Chopin etude...), and then when you take a look at it, you sight-read through the first page flawlessly. You truly have a gift for music, and you render a great service to everybody whenever you share your talents.
3.  You helped me cultivate a love for reading.  I don't know if you remember, but when I was super little, I hated reading.  You expressed major concern and encouraged me to read at least one book per week.  Such a grueling punishment transformed into an absolute joy, and now, we can discuss all of our favorite books! I can only talk about Jane Eyre, The Count of Monte Cristo, and A Tale of Two Cities with you.
4.  You are  Whenever we watch Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, I sit there...gawking at you with my jaw to the floor as you answer every single question and solve every single puzzle.  And your natural intelligence is not just limited to game shows.  You speak eloquently, you're a hardcore Grammar Nazi, and you even look scholarly.
5.  I secretly love it when you boast about me on Facebook.  Sure, at times, it's embarrassing.  However, few things in life bring me greater satisfaction than knowing that you are proud of me and my accomplishments.  Also... I like it when all of your friends think I'm smarter than I really am.
6.  You engage in random acts of kindness.  I remember... one time, we went grocery shopping, and we were in the frozen food aisle.  You had your massive binder of coupons, and you noticed a man reaching for a bag of frozen beans.  You quickly dug into that magical binder of yours, pulled out a coupon, and gave it to that man so he could save some money.  Sure, it seems inconsequential, but you perform such acts on a daily basis! 
7.  You never ever age.  That family picture... that used to be in the living room?  That picture was taken when I was a baby, and yet, you look exactly the same.  I think that's the Asian genes coming through... I hear that Asians age impeccably well.  And dare I say it... you age even better than Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  
8.  You always talk about how you're a failure in the kitchen, but you are wrong!  When I come home from class, and it's been a particularly long day, there is nothing that I want more than your home-cooked meals.  I've tried recreating some of your recipes, but they're never the same... which makes me feel lame and sad and homesick.  Also... remember when we were making scallion pancakes?  You started to follow a recipe, but then you ditched the recipe, did your own thing, and the food was AMAZING.
9.  Running errands with you is the best!  I love grocery shopping with you.  I love your deep satisfaction as you fill an entire grocery cart full of food, and you only pay a couple bucks for it.  I love how you score tons of containers of cat food for free, and we don't even have cats.  I love how, in the car, you'll crank up the volume and bob your head to Prince, Neil Diamond, and the B-52s.
10.  Although there are ten billion more reasons why you're amazing, I think they all culminate into the fact that you have done a beautiful job raising your family.  And I don't mean to say that I am an excellent child who gives you little to no trouble (although that is true).  You and Dad have a wonderful, loving relationship, and such abiding and unequivocal love is extended towards your children.  You have a firm testimony, and you have helped us cultivate a testimony of the Gospel, too.  The love of Christ shines in your countenance, and you are an amazing example to me of what it means to be a mother in Zion.   You're not perfect, but you never fail to do your best, and that is most certainly enough!

I love you so much, Mom, and I hope that you always know that! You deserve the happiest of birthdays because of everything that you do.  I cannot wait to see you in just a couple of weeks!

See... you NEVER age!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tyger, Tyger! Burning Bright, in the Closets of the Night.

I've never been much of a cat person.  I think they're mean, mysterious, selfish, and annoying.  In short, they're not like dogs.  I'm also allergic to cats -- they make me sniffle, and sneeze, and itch, and wheeze.
Despite my particular distaste for such feline creatures, I always have a tender spot in my heart for animals.

Upon my moving into the Mesa house, there was a smell... a yucky-rotting-dead-smell.  In the backyard, there is a small utility closet which is built into the exterior of the house.  With the intentions of discovering that reeking smell, my dad opened the closet and found two cats and a skunk... all dead, decomposing, and maggot-infested.  Aside from being completely appalled and disgusted, I admittedly went to the bedroom and cried.  When my sister and brother-in-law were moving out of this house, I guess these poor animals accidentally got locked in.  I was overcome with guilt/sadness, and I vowed to never close that utility closet door.  If animals needed a place of refuge... they could go to the closet, and maybe I could start a zoo.

Such animal compassion resulted in an unexpected surprise, just last weekend.

On Saturday, I went to the utility closet to get a bucket, and I discovered a kitten -- a fluffy, tiny, frightened, bright-eyed kitten.  He was absolutely adorable, and yes, I'm sure it was a "he"... I checked his furry butt.  In the midst of spare tires and outdoor paraphernalia shoved into the utility closet, Momma Cat nursed this kitten.  I named him Tyger because he's feisty, he bit me SUPER hard, and I like William Blake.  

I knew I couldn't keep the little guy because I would be sneezing up a storm, but I felt so guilty leaving him in my backyard!  The following Sunday, I ran to the closet, but he and Momma Cat were gone.  I honestly felt sad... I'm not a cat person, but I wanted that kitten.  Occasionally, I see Momma Cat skulking around.  When neighbors leave their car windows open, she'll be lounging in the backseat (which I find hysterical.)  I imagine that Tyger is lodged in a new safe place, and I hope he'll find his way to my closet again.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Big-Girl Table.

I hated it when we had company... because I always had to sit at the kiddie-table.

Perhaps table is too generous of a term.  Rather, it was a rubbery, forest-green slab attached to four metal legs.  It reminded me of something that you would see in a retirement home, where fellow-wrinkly-chums would sit together and play cards.  Ironic...given that the kids sit at this table.

The Big-Girl Table sat six people, and "company" usually involved two guests.  Thus, the two youngest kids (Bekki and Brigham) were booted to that abominable kiddie-table.  Even as Kristin and Kylie left for college, the number of guests conveniently increased.

And it came to pass that in those days, we were confined to the regions of darkness, shunned from intellectually-stimulating conversations, and forced to satiate our hunger in isolation and sorrow.  And there was much weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

On my 16th birthday, I thought, "16 is a big birthday...and I can drive... therefore, I am a big girl, and I can sit at the Big-Girl Table." I still sat at the kiddie-table.  Brigham lovingly saved a place for me.

On my 18th birthday, I thought, "18 is a huge birthday. I can vote...and get married...and get convicted as an adult...and buy a Costco membership...therefore, I am a big girl, and I can sit at the Big-Girl Table."  I still sat at the kiddie-table, and then, I left for college.

I think my frustration with the kiddie-table reflected a desire to grow up... to be a "Big Girl" just like Mom.  But now that I am an adult, I am recognizing that it's not all that fun, sometimes.  For instance, getting the mail is just sad... bill after bill after bill after bill.  And cooking my favorite recipes?  It's not the same, and it's not how Mom makes it.  Sometimes I wish that she was here, cooking dinner in her special way, teaching me the rules of kick-butt-coupon-shopping, hugging me and telling me that she loves me before I go to bed...

Being a responsible adult is hard and daunting, and I wish I could tell my 12-year-old self, "Don't grow up too fast, kid! Childhood will be gone before you know it."  So when I go home, and we have company, I think I'll be okay sitting at the kiddie-table.  I'm sure Brigham is still saving a spot for me.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Suppose an Explanation is in Order.

The Silver Fox.  The glaze on your donut.  The frosting on your cake.  The seasoning on your chicken.

That's right, folks... this is Dieter F. Uchtdorf we're talking about, and it is such a pleasure to see him and to hear him speak during General Conference.  My friends from the University Ward and Valley Forge know of my captivation/obsession/glee/love for this blessed man.  My newer friends and acquaintances, however, express slight concern.  Such concern necessitates this explanation...

I have always been a firm believer that Elder Uchtdorf has been graced with astonishing good looks.  Oh yes, Heavenly Father has blessed him abundantly.  Last year, I taught Relief Society, and my lesson addressed the need to be temporally prepared.  I used one of Elder Uchtdorf's messages as a supplement, and his picture was included in the article.  As I gazed into his smiling face, I thought... "Dang, he is attractive."  But then... I heard giggling, laughing, cackling, and squeals of amusement.  It was then that I realized... I just verbalized my secret thoughts.  My peers know that I have a ridiculous crush on a man who is old enough to be my grandpa.  Naturally, word spread like a wildfire, and I suppose that it's somewhat of a joke among my friends, now.

As Elder Uchtdorf spoke during yesterday's session, I received an onslaught of text messages... dear friends who were thinking of me and, most particularly, my feelings for an apostle of the Lord.  So, why is Elder Uchtdorf so amazing?

  1. Okay... clearly, obviously, as you can see... Elder Uchtdorf reigns in the good looks apartment.  He has excellent skin tone, he maintains a good figure, he has a classy and sculpted hairstyle, and he has that winning, million-dollar smile.  He ages impeccably well.  
  2. He has excellent taste in Sunday attire.  I'll bet that he gets his suits tailored... they fit him so well, and his ties are selected with such taste, precision, and effort.  He switches ties for every.conference.session, and yet he still manages to emerge into the conference center looking like a total stud. 
  3. The wicked accent??? Enough said, my friends!
  4. And perhaps the most important reason -- one of the times in which I felt the Spirit so strongly was during Elder Uchtdorf's address to the Young Women organization.  It was the General Young Women Conference of May 2010.  His message, one that I will never forget, is that the Gospel is our path to "happily ever after".  I felt the Spirit and love of God radiate from his presence, and I knew that he was a man called of God... to deliver messages of love, wisdom, and council to the members of this Church.  
I am grateful for Elder Uchtdorf.  I love him.  I love General Conference and the opportunity we have to be edified by the Spirit and to learn from the words of righteous leaders of this Church, as we all unite to come unto Christ, to strengthen our testimonies, and to declare the message of salvation.

Will I always love Elder Uchtdorf? Yes.  Even when I am married and have a husband so attractive that I could fry chicken on him? Absolutely.  And will Elder Uchtdorf always look so stinking good? You bet.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Woman Named "Ida" / I am a Borderline Terrible Liar.

Whenever I am driving, and I pass a light rail station, I start cracking up.  Other drivers are probably thinking, "She's on something."  Trust me, my uncontrollable giggling is justified.  Some years ago, when I was 17-years-old, my dear friend, Taylor, and I took the light rail to Phoenix.  We took our seats towards the back of the shuttle, and I noticed an old (I mean ancient) woman gazing at me intently.  She was sitting next to an equally ancient man.
At the next stop she said, "My young dear... are you, what's the word... Chinese?"  I affirmed her speculation, and a look of pure glee filled her countenance.  "Oh, what fun!! You see here... I am a caretaker to this man, and he looks Asian, don't you think? I was wondering if you could speak to him, in his native language! Oh, by the way, dear... I believe he's deaf."  I politely explained to her that I did not speak Chinese, and we might encounter a challenge, given that he's deaf.  Also, I was a bit concerned that a 90-year-old was a caretaker for another 90-year-old... I mean, isn't that counterproductive?

The conversation continued. "I beg your pardon -- you don't speak Chinese? Hm... I should like to meet your parents.  Anyway, my name is Ida,and I would like to take a picture of you next to this Asian man, here. A Chinese person smiling next to another Chinese person... what fond memories this shall inspire!"  And so, my picture is in Ida's scrapbook. Normally, this would be frightfully concerning, but this is Ida we're talking about -- she just wanted a picture.  She asked me my name, and I told her.

Then, things got a bit personal. "My dear, are you dating anybody?" I panicked... I seriously thought she was intending to set me up with a 90-year-old, deaf, wrinkly, Chinese man. "Oh Bekki... no need to answer that question.  With a pretty face like yours, I am certain that you have a young man! Just a word of advice... do not kiss a young man, until you are standing with him on the altar.  If that son-of-a-biscuit attempts to kiss you beforehand, well... Lord have mercy... he's only after one thing.  Perhaps, I should buy you a promise ring..." Holy stars, I was uncomfortable.  Meanwhile, Taylor is cracking up.  For some reason, Ida wasn't too interested in Taylor... probably because she isn't Asian.

Ida grew so fond of me that she invited me to the Phoenix zoo, the following Saturday morning.  Wrinkly-Asian-deaf-man would come, too, of course.  I freaked, and I failed to even consider what I was about to say. A terrible lie parted from my lips.  Actually, several terrible lies parted from my lips: "Uh... I have Church on Saturday..."  Really, Bekki? That was stupid, but Ida bought it. "Well, that hardly surprises me, dear! You're so pious.  I was thinking about going to the zoo in the wee hours of morning.  Would that be more accommodating for your schedule?"  Crap. "Well, Church starts quite early on Saturday... 5 am, even! You know how we religious folks are... we're so... uh... spiritual."  At this point, Taylor lost it.  She was quivering with laughter, but Ida failed to notice.  The blessed woman was too busy admiring this young-Chinese-girl, the paragon of virtue and piety.  Thankfully, Taylor and I had to get off the shuttle, but Ida left me with a firm hug and a parting gift.  She gave me a picture of her, embracing a Mesquite tree, and her address was written on the back. 

I never wrote Ida.  I feared that she would hunt me down, take me to the zoo, or force me to engage in some kind of ritual in which I would vow to never kiss men until I married.  It was a pleasure, however, to meet such a passionate and vibrant 90-year-old woman.  As I got off the light rail shuttle, Taylor playfully shoved me, and said, "YOU, my friend, are a terrible liar." I concurred.

Monday, September 16, 2013

College Student Gone Crazy.

There comes a point during the school semester where I go crazy.  Last year, I went crazy during finals which is perfectly acceptable and understandable.  Massive tests are approaching, English professors form a cult and decide to assign papers...all at the same time, and the last days of the semester seem to drag on for eternity.  Well... I think I'm in trouble.  I'm starting to experience the crazy symptoms now, and it is only the fourth week of the semester.  What's my excuse for going crazy? Heck... I haven't the slightest clue. I'm ahead of the game in school, I'm doing well in my classes, and I'm achieving somewhat of a balance in my undergraduate career.  But no... the signs are apparent. Craziness manifests itself in three ways...

1 -- I put items in the wrong places.  Last semester, I put my textbooks in the fridge.  I didn't think anything of it until I opened the fridge to get some water, and I saw the chilled books.  A couple days ago, I made some grilled cheese. (Okay, I've been eating grilled cheese for every meal), but anyway, I had to put the butter and the spatula away.  An hour later, I noticed this....  Heaven forbid... what if I put milk in the pantry?
2 -- I have ridiculously unusual dreams.  Usually, I have no recollection of my dreams, but such was not the case a few nights ago. I dreamed that I was pregnant, as in 6-months-pregnant, something's-in-my-body, my-mom-is-freaking, pregnant.  I was just curious, and I looked up some dream interpretations.  Apparently, "pregnant dreams" reflect a desire to wield power and authority.  Huh - that's funny.

3 -- I think obsessively about puppies.  Last semester, when I was super stressed, I looked at puppy pictures, I watched puppy videos, and I looked at donation centers for puppies.  Now, I want a puppy so flipping badly.  I went to the grocery story, and a woman was selling a Rottweiler puppy for $300.  I wanted that thing... I thought, "I can buy him. I can take care of him. He can eat the bugs in my house. He can attack the creepers in my neighborhood.  He will be a good dog.  He will come to school with me.  He will be my dog.  I'll name him Henry."

That's how I know I am going crazy, and the semester has yet to truly kick in.  So... if in a month or two, you see me in the middle of a street in the fetal position with a paper bag over my head accompanied by a dog named Henry, you know that my descent into madness has reached its pinnacle.  Brace yourself, world.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Testimony of the Believer.

Recently, I have been called as a ward missionary in the Towne Lake YSA Ward, and what a blessing this has been.  Last semester, I had the most amazing missionary experience of my life -- I made friends with an international exchange student from China, and as I invited her to Institute and missionary discussions, I saw a remarkable transformation in her.  She embraced the Gospel and the scriptures with all of her heart, she showed a deep love for the Lord, and she lived her life in accordance with God's will, despite the protests of her family and culture.  Attending the missionary discussions as well as her baptism had a profound influence on my life, and I realized why people often say that there is no greater joy than engaging in missionary work.  I add my testimony to such sentiments.

Being called as a ward missionary confirmed, in my heart, that Heavenly Father is aware of my sincerest desires.  I want to build up the kingdom of God, I want to be an instrument in His hands, and I want to make a difference in the lives of others.  With this calling, I have that sacred opportunity.  About a week ago, I attended a missionary discussion with our ward missionaries.  We taught an investigator from Haiti, and his knowledge of the gospel was astounding.  We felt the Spirit strongly, and it was so humbling to learn from this investigator's faith.  When asked why he followed Christ, he stated, "I believe in Christ.  And when you believe in something with all of your heart, why wouldn't you follow Him?"  His simple yet profound statement serves as a reminder to me, and I am thankful for the example he is to those around him.  What he said is true -- the ultimate way in which we can demonstrate our faith in Christ is to follow Him.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Year of Change.

And so, friends, a new school year always marks a slew of changes.  Some of these changes are good; some are even bad.  This year, however, is filled with good changes... some of the biggest changes that my family has ever encountered.

1 -- I have a car. He's a cute car. His name is Chico. (You're probably wondering, "Why does she name a car?" Perhaps, though, the more appropriate question is, "Why don't you name your car?") Anyway, I've even had people comment on my 'sweet ride', and such compliments are oh-so-gratifying. 

2 -- I have a house. It's a cute house in a sketchy neighborhood, as in a broken walls, police-infested, crazy dark kind of sketchy neighborhood. No need to worry, though. I double-triple-quadruple check the locks each night. (Me? Paranoid?) It's so nice to have a space to myself (and an awesome roommate), especially since I had been previously living in the dorms. 

3 -- I have a new ward. It's a big, 'older-people' ward.  Last year, I went to the University Ward, and it was full of young single adults who were closer to my age.  This year, I'm in Towne Lake, and there are working single adults, grad single adults... in short, older-young-single-adults. I love it. I feel so welcomed, and there's just a different vibe where people are so chummy with one another. Plus, I've always felt more at ease around people who are older than I.  After all, my own mother reminds me on a weekly basis that I have the mentality of a senior citizen. 

4 -- I have a new major. It's quite possibly, the best major EVER.  I changed my major from Education to English Literature.  I stuck with Education for so long because I was too afraid to change my schedule.  There's nothing worse than approaching the first day of school when your college career/schedule is in complete disarray.  I need order, structure, discipline... I never really liked my education classes, but I am so passionate about English.  I love the readings, and I'm often so excited to discuss the content with my classmates.  I like to carefully craft my sentences and transform something cruddy into something eloquent.  Although I will forever respect and praise the good teachers out there, I think this is the major for me.  Just don't ask me about my career plans after college... I haven't the slightest clue. 

5 -- I've saved the best/scariest/biggest change for last.  My dad, my intelligent-handsome-awesome-dad, got a NEW job. (cue the gasps...) My dad has worked at Ursinus College FOREVER.

But things at Ursinus aren't going so swell. Some of his fellow faculty members are being...gee what's the word... STUPID.  Anyway, my dad deserves so much more, so he applied for a job at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.  After a series of interviews and conferences, the faculty at Snow College recognized him for his sheer awesomeness.  And so, with the start of the new 2014 Spring semester, he will be Mr. Vice-Pres.-of-Academic-Affairs.  (Dang... that sounds bomb.) This means that my whole family will pack up our stuff, leave Pennsylvania, and move to, dare I say it..., Utah.  I'm very excited -- it might be hard to leave PA because we've spent so many years there, but this is an adventure! We are surrounded by mountains, we might actually get lots of snow, and we have a Walmart Supercenter.  The best part? Our whole family will be closer together.  Utah is a lot closer to Arizona than Pennsylvania is!  This will be a new start for the Hood family, and I'm so excited and proud of my intelligent-handsome-awesome dad.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. -- the home of our nation's greatest treasures, and I finally got to see them for myself.  (side-note: I actually visited D.C. when I was 5-years-old maybe, but I have no recollection of it, so...doesn't count!!!)  My family and I visited many Smithsonian museums, the National Archives, the U.S. Capitol, and my favorite, the Library of Congress.

It's amazing how these treasures are free to the public.  There were tons of people, many from different countries, all appreciating the gems of our country.  Speaking of gems... the Hope Diamond??? Holy gravy, it's huge.  I could give lengthy descriptions of my trip, but the pictures speak for themselves!

Nauvoo Temple Sunstone ~ The Museum of American History

Ted's Montana Grill

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress... swoon!

U.S. Capitol

Capitol Dome

Statuary Hall ~ U.S. Capitol


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Pioneer Post.

Today, I am feeling slightly defeated.  Why, you ask?  It’s Pioneer Day, and happy festivities are nonexistent in the state of Pennsylvania.  This day is, perhaps, the only day that I ever desire to live in Utah.  The whole state practically shuts down, there are pioneer activities galore, parades lining each street, massive barbecues, and families spending time together.  In Collegeville… it’s just another day to most people.  My dad worked in his office today, Mom was busy teaching piano, I’m at work, and Brigham is being Brigham. 
But I haven’t forgotten the pioneers… no, I am celebrating the pioneers who sacrificed everything as they crossed the plains, AND I’m celebrating modern-day pioneers. 

“Whenever I think about pioneers, I think of brave women and men”

Can you even imagine the pioneers' journey? - 70,000 Latter-Day-Saints, abandoning their homes and possessions, risking their well-being, putting their trust entirely in the Lord.  I think of the young men who sacrifice their lives, carrying people over the icy rapids of the Sweetwater River.  I think of the heart-broken widow who digs the graves of her children using nothing but a wooden spoon.  I marvel at their sacrifice and bravery, and I am forever grateful for their legacy and for their testimonies that enabled this gospel to flourish even more.  My ancestor, Andrew Ole Anderson, made the journey several times to help additional members cross the plains.  You can say that he's awesome, and yes... you can even Google him.

“My goal in life is for my children to be educated, happy, and worthy to marry in the temple”

Both of my parents said something to that effect.  I certainly do not need to be reminded that I have the best parents ever --they are my modern-day pioneers.  My mom did not always have the support of her parents regarding the Church.  She went to Primary by herself, she completed the seminary program by herself, and she even dumped some dude because he wasn't Mormon, knowing that she would never have the blessings of the Priesthood in her future household (bummer for him…my mom was quite the catch).  She has been active her whole life, and she has prepared me for the responsibilities of being a wife, a mother, an educator, and a worthy-temple goer.  My dad was born into the covenant, but sometimes his life was hard, as it was for my mom.  Occasionally, his family members did not make righteous decisions, but he persevered through such hardships.  He served a faithful and extremely challenging mission in Taiwan.  He forever remains, in my eyes, one of the best bishops ever, and he is an example to me.  When my parents eventually fell in love, got married, and made ridiculously awesome babies, I hardly think they could ever fathom the influence they would have on their kids.  Mom and Dad make me want to be a better person. 

Happy Pioneer Day, folks.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Daze.

This heat is killin' me! I know, I know -- I go to college in Tempe, AZ; I can fry an egg on the car hood.  But this is different, and I'm currently residing in Pennsylvania, remember?  I can take the heat, really I can.  In PA, though, Mother Nature has graciously blessed us with severe humidity (ya crazy woman).  I step outside to get the mail, and when I come back, I can swim in my own bodily fluids (I apologize for the particularly gruesome details, but try to envision my plight).  I get slightly ticked when AZ residents complain, "Ugh, it feels so humid, today!"  Folks... you don't even know humidity.  

BEHOLD!  So this is what hell is like... no wonder Satan is miserable.  Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic... I mean, some good things have resulted from this excessive heat warning.  For instance, I didn't have to work at the library this afternoon.  It costs too much energy to power Ursinus College, and it's not like the library is overflowing with students over the summer, so I'm off the hook.  We also have our methods of staying cool -- homemade popsicles, smoothies, cold showers, sitting on air vents...

So today... I went to a glorious place. That's right, folks -- IKEA.  Can you even fathom that today was the first time that I laid eyes on such a furniture sanctuary?  Before, I thought: It's a furniture store. What's so great about that? I deserved a mighty kick-in-the-pants.  Ingvar Kamprad, you blessed man, I give you my sincerest thanks for founding IKEA.  Seriously, I could live in this place.  There are furnished rooms (a billion, I might add), they have everything (including a fish-shaped ice cub tray that happily resides in our freezer), and there is even food (awesome, delicious, cheap food).  There are infinity-and-one hiding places, so the security guards would never find me as I make myself comfortable in this humble abode. 

You know why else Satan is miserable...?  There's no IKEA in hell.


Monday, July 15, 2013

A Special Kind of Tasty.

So there's this food, but it's no ordinary food.  It's an amazingly tasty food, but it's no ordinary amazingly tasty food.  It's a special kind of amazingly tasty, a tasty that I have grown up with my entire life.  My family refers to this special kind of tasty as: scallion pancakes, those pizza-slice-lookin'-thingies-with-onions, the best food ever.  Mostly, however, we call this dish  葱油饼 (No, I do not speak nor write Chinese, but I feel all fancy-shmancy writing those Chinese characters!)  It's kinda pronounced tsun-jou-pin, but for a large majority of my life, I called it "tone-yo-bean", causing my poor Nai-Nai to cringe as I consistently butchered the correct tones and intonations.

I love  油饼, and I herald it as the greatest food ever.  When I was young (I know I'm young, but I mean younger), my Nai-Nai would come to Pennsylvania to visit us.  She is an amazing cook, and I'm not just saying this just because she's my grandma.  Seriously, she ought to open a restaurant, and I would turn into a fat pastry cake from eating there for every single meal  Every time she visited, she made the mother-load of  葱油饼, and I would happily consume slice after slice after slice.  Nai-Nai's health started to decline, though, so her visits were less frequent.  I asked my mom to make  葱油饼 but she said that she could never recreate Nai-Nai's masterpiece.  Nai-Nai didn't use a recipe.

Well...yesterday, I did some snooping online, and I found a recipe from Ming Tsai for scallion pancakes.  I showed my mom, and she said it was remarkably similar to Nai-Nai's methods, so we gave it a try.  I tell ya... there was magic in the kitchen.  Mom started to follow the recipe, but then she changed it up, remembering Nai-Nai's tricks and tips.  After a couple of batches, we created the spankin'-good-amazing special kind of tasty, and it was just as I remembered.  And now... I'm an expert at making 
 葱油饼, and I cannot believe how easy it is! The recipe consists of only flour, water, scallions, salt, and sesame oil.  It sounds almost boringly simple, but it is so good, and it's a food that fits any type of budget. 

So now, I'll make it all the time, and I'll never get tired of the special kind of tasty.  The next time my family visits California, I will go to my Nai-Nai's house, and I will make a batch of  葱油饼 just for her.  And guess what... I don't need a recipe, either.