Friday, June 16, 2017

Every Day a Missionary!

We are looking forward to the Camarillo Stake youth conference towards the end of this month, focusing on missionary work! Our stake YW president presented the idea of participating daily in the work of salvation, similar to the Light the World initiative by the Church last Christmas. President (currently stake YM president) felt the need for parents of the youth to be involved as well. Our stake president was so inspired by this idea that he has incorporated this into a Camarillo Stake initiative for the month of June:
What a wonderful way to be a missionary all over again!

I invite you ALL to participate and be an EVERY DAY A MISSIONARY for one month straight!

I have been so blessed this month to have had so many opportunities to share my testimony with others!
This week, as I prepared to fly to South Carolina for my nephew's wedding, I prayed for an opportunity to share my testimony. On my flight to Atlanta, several Mandarin speaking college-aged young women boarded the plane. I thought perhaps they were from mainland China and welcomed a couple of them to sit with me. Turns out they were from a college in Guangdong, and all en route to Florida to start a three-month internship over the summer! When I told this bright young student that President and I had served as missionaries in Taiwan for three years, she asked me what it was that missionaries did. So I told her what missionaries DO and TEACH! Unfortunately, it was a stark realization that my ability to share the gospel in Mandarin had regressed over the past year. Fortunately, she still agreed to let me send her a Book of Mormon while she was here in America:)

Lesson learned: ALWAYS keep a Simplified Chinese Book of Mormon on hand! 
You never know when you'll need to share it with someone who may not otherwise have an opportunity to obtain one in their native country!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Celebrating Birthdays with a Twice Chocolate Torte!

In June 2015, I posted this picture celebrating our Operations Manager's as well as our son's birthday:
This morning he messaged me for the recipe of the Twice Chocolate Torte, our family's favorite birthday cake. Seriously, every May, we celebrate three birthdays in the family so I have been in a habit of making three Twice Chocolate Tortes during May for decades! This year, we invited family plus a few over for President's birthday and although the kids are no longer home, still made three!
Best part about this cake: the recipe is SUPER easy! 

Bake a devil's food cake in two rounds. I use 1-1/2 boxes of Duncan Hines for two 10-inch rounds (the biggest of the three cakes above). 

Tip #1: The secret to getting any cake or sweet bread loaf not to stick to the bottom of the pan is to line the bottom with wax paper and spray the sides with cooking spray. Loosen the sides and it will literally fall out!

Tip #2: Unless you have a really professional oven or bake cake layers one at at time in the center of the oven, cake rounds most always end up bulging in the middle and lop sided:( To avoid the big bulge in the middle, bake at 325F for 5-10 minutes longer instead of 350F. This will prevent the sides from browning too early and pushing the center up! 

Tip #3: Always test doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle. Return to the oven until the toothpick comes out clean! This will forever prevent cakes from caving in the center upon cooling!

Cool completely, and refrigerate if you have time. Layers may be baked in advance, cooled, wrapped in saran wrap and then refrigerated or frozen before use (just thaw completely when ready to use). Split the layers in half with a bread knife to make four rounds. 

Tip #4: Insert a toothpick to mark the top layer and another to mark the bottom layer so you can put them back together in the right place. 

Beat heavy whipping cream until stiff. I use at least 1 pint (2 cups) for a 10" round cake; more is better! Be careful not to over whip and cause the cream to separate into butter. Add cold (refrigerated) Hershey's chocolate syrup to whipped cream and continue beating until chocolaty. 

Turn one round of the cake upside down onto a serving platter or plate. Remove top split layer. Spread with 1/4 of the chocolate whipped cream. Replace second layer, lining up toothpicks (bottom of cake will be faced up, remember to remove toothpicks). Spread with another 1/4 of the chocolate whipped cream. 

Place second round on top, faced up so bottoms are together. 

Tip #5: If both rounds are a little lop sided, position the second round on top of the bottom round so they will offset each other, with the end result being a evenly leveled cake.

Remove top layer of top round. Spread with another 1/4 of the chocolate whipped cream. Replace top layer, again lining up toothpicks. Spread with remaining chocolate whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles. Best if refrigerated at least one hour!

When President was serving in the Taipei mission in his youth, his mother actually sent him the ingredients for his birthday so he could bake his own Twice Chocolate Torte in Taiwan! Back then, she used Dream Whip (powdered whipped cream) and Hershey's fudge topping. However, when he got the birthday package, he realized she had sent a brownie mix instead:( Not wanting her to be saddened or disappointed, he never told her! What a sweet and loving son! 

I've since tweaked the recipe, which was a good thing because I don't think you can even find Dream Whip in the markets anymore!

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Mission President's Transition Back to Work

Almost five years ago, when President was first called to preside over the Taiwan Taichung Mission, he was at that time serving as the Director of Surgery at Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC). Some sections of the hospital were built as far back as 1919!
Fortunately, a couple of years prior to our call, the surgical group had already moved to a brand new clinic behind the old hospital:
By the time we left for our mission, the ground had just been broken for a new hospital on the same property. Four years later (last night), I attended an open house for the new hospital. I was shocked! Where did this beautiful new building come from? My how things change when you leave on a mission!

Standing next to Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County:
 New hospital lobby:
 And information desk:
 New surgical operating room:
 WOW, state-of-the-art DaVinci robotic surgical system!
 Orthopedic surgical room:
 Surgery Waiting Room:
 ICU Beds:
What beautiful patient rooms! Notice how the hospital is decorated in my favorite color...blue?! And so many windows to let the light of hope in! And notice the window seat? The cushion transforms into a mattress where a family member can stay overnight with the patient. How many of you had to sleep on a chair-converted-to-chaise while your companion recovered in the hospital? Remember those long days/nights?!
 Only a sink and no toilet in the room?
 Haha, hide-a-potty!
The real miracle, however, is in President's transition back to work experience. They never told us this before we left for Taiwan, but now we can testify, that the fourth year of a mission is the hardest! When he first returned, he knew he had to catch up on CME (continuing medical education) credits in order to re-activate his medical license, which was inactivated while he was on leave for missionary work. So President spent the month of July studying and even attended a course in Chicago sponsored by the American College of Surgeons.

When all his CME requirements were met, he applied to the California Medical Board and was told he had to wait 5-6 weeks for his license to be activated. So he notified his colleagues, who had very graciously welcomed him back and offered him a position to return to the surgical group at VCMC. After Labor Day in September, he received notification that his license was reinstated and he reported to the surgical group that he was ready to return to work. NOT! More hoops to jump through!

Just as we had left for Taiwan in 2013, the American Medical Association began implementing strict guidelines for physicians to re-enter the work force after having taken two or more years of leave. These guidelines were enforced to insure that physicians leaving for drug addiction, mental health, illness, etc., be qualified to return to clinical practice. Now that President was returning to his clinical practice after laboring in the Lord's vineyard for three years, he had to participate in one of these "reentry programs." Fortunately, his partners were willing to fund the cost of the program, $14,000! Unfortunately, it would be another 8-10 weeks for the certifying program to develop a course tailored to President's practice:( Patience is truly a virtue that needs to be cultivated, and President was being given a lot of cultivation time!

Upon return from Taiwan, our son-in-law was heavy into a workout program. President got interested so our son-in-law gave him a 12-week workout program. Every day, President now had time to work out at the gym and return his body to shape. After all, he wasn't riding his bike 24-7 on the streets of Taiwan. As you all know, he spent many hours sitting behind his computer reading your wonderful letters every week!

In early October, President finally received a call that he could attend the reentry course/assessment in Denver later that month. Bad timing, we already had our trip planned to return to Taiwan for the 60th Anniversary Celebration of Missionary Work! So he had no choice but to postpone until the end of October. Upon our return from Taiwan, President flew to Denver to complete the course of interviews, exams, evaluations, and skill demonstrations. Exiting the facility, he inquired as to how soon he could obtain his completion certificate; he was anxious to be reinstated to the Medical Staff at VCMC. He was curtly told that the evaluation would take another 8-10 weeks!

About mid-December, President finally finished his 12-week workout program. He's pretty dang buff now! And the following Monday, the assessment having been completed, almost six months after his return from Taiwan, President was officially back on the Medical Staff! I chided my son-in-law and told him that had he given President a 6-week workout program, he would have been back to work that much sooner!

So where's the miracle? As you can imagine, it becomes quite stressful when you start running out of money because you have no income coming in. You start wondering if you should take money out of your pension to pay the bills, or, even worse, borrow money from your children! One day, mid-October during choir practice, President noticed an email inquiring as to his W-4 information. He thought there must be some mistake, because he was not yet on any payroll! However, he found out he had been approved to start receiving a salary though he was not able to fully return to practice. We felt that this was an incredible blessing, one that came after continual prayers, and was a witness to us that the Lord really and truly does take care of His missionaries!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cousins Visiting from Shanghai!

Earlier this year, one of my Taiwanese cousins emailed me saying that our mainland China cousins were compiling family history and genealogy records for the Chao posterity (my father's family) and were distributing the information through WeChat. Within a few minutes, I was connected to well over 20 of my cousins all over China! In our weekly Chinese class, I had already started learning simplified Chinese, but the daily chats got to be overwhelming. Then one random day at the end of May, I happened to see a  notification of a personal message to me outside of the group:

Within two weeks, several of my cousins were coming to Los Angeles! I had only met one of them in the past, 小菁,  while on tours through Shanghai. I was SO excited, especially when I found out one of the cities on their itinerary was Santa Barbara! They wanted to meet us, and especially to pay their respects to Sister Chao, their 五媽媽. All of the Chao siblings (8 in total) have passed away, and are survived by only a few spouses, including Sister Chao.
Pictured below:
Three of my cousins (to the right of Sister Chao) from Shanghai flew over, one with her spouse (to the right of President) and another with her son (next to me). Ray works for a U.S. company in Shanghai. He travels to Cleveland once or twice a year so his English is excellent and he is pretty savvy in America! I could not believe he rented a car and drove the group to Las Vegas and Flagstaff! 
My brother (far left) and another cousin in Orange County (left of Sister Chao) and his wife joined our Shanghai cousins for an amazing lunch!
After dinner, we took them to Hollywood to see the TCL Chinese Theatre...
 and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They all recognized this actor:
 The Hollywood & Highland Center preparing for the release of "The Mummy":
 Starring none other than...Tom Cruise:
Of course everyone in the world knows this star!
 Appreciating the Lord's handiwork on a beautiful Sabbath morning:
 With an early hike up to Mugu Peak:
 Signing the log at the top:
 Leaving our home Monday morning to head back to Orange County:
 Stopping at Santa Monica Pier:

 And taking the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles Temple Visitor Center:
 And to learn about our Savior Jesus Christ:
 As well as the purpose of temples:
 Stopping for lunch at our favorite LA Temple hangout, Mr. Noodle:
 I have been craving Tom Kha soup ever since tasting it for the first time
at one of our RM's wedding luncheon! Sooooo good!
Visiting with my brother and sister:
 And with another cousin down south:
 Next on their plan...Griffith Park Observatory:
 The Foucault Pendulum:
 Here's the real reason to to go to the observatory...getting a pic with the Hollywood sign!
Words can not express how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to serve a mission in Taiwan.
The experience continues to bring immeasurable blessings to our family!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 Memorial Day Weekend Visitors!

After I had committed to watch two grandkids for Memorial Weekend so my daughter and her husband could vacation in Europe, President made the comment that we could have had a 4-day weekend to vacation ourselves. But staying home with grandkids was a blessing in disguise, because we were surprised by not one but two visits that weekend!
Coming down to visit grandma, we had a fun breakfast together on Saturday morning!
 The whole wheat waffles and strawberries were inhaled so quickly I didn't get a chance to take a pic!
 We suggested a hike to Mugu Peak...so proud of our patriotic sons!
Then if that wasn't a nice enough surprise, look who else popped in Saturday night!
Fresh squeezed OJ from our backyard oranges goes great with breakfast burritos:)
They were so great with the grandkids too...gave me a little break:)
Suggested the hike again before attending church together...
was just as gorgeous looking out towards Malibu!
 More Camarillo strawberries after church together and a quick BBQ!
Off to a little beach camping before heading back to Utah!
 Need a quick break from the humdrum of school and/or work? 
Come visit, we have plenty of room and plenty of food!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

5-20-17 We love visits from our missionaries!

After serving in the Los Angeles Temple's Mandarin Session on Saturday, we were able to meet one of our Taiwanese return missionaries! Her husband just graduated from BYU and they will be off to Ningbo, China within a month. So far away...but so much closer to Taiwan!
 I Love to See the Temple!
 After enjoying Thai cuisine, there's always room for ice cream sandwiches!
We sent them home with a tray of fresh Camarillo strawberries...we'll miss you!