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.