Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 Camarillo Stake Youth Conference: Ask - It Opens Doors

This year's Camarillo Stake Youth Conference theme was focused on missionary work:
Ask - It Opens Doors

The youth conference started on a Thursday afternoon with each of the young men and women receiving their "mission call" and reporting to their districts where they learned about their "mission" from a YSA who had served the same mission. After a hearty dinner, we arranged for a fireside with our niece Hanna Eyre, NBCs The Voice contestant!
Hanna shared with our youth her experiences with the 2017 season of The Voice. They learned about her music background, how she progressed through the auditions, how her choice to wear her YW medallion opened the door to gospel discussions, why she insisted on modest styles, etc. Afterwards, Hanna performed two arrangements of hymns, as well as two songs she had composed. Before ending the fireside, Hanna took questions and answers from the youth, during which one brave young man asked, "Are you single?!" 
Hanna and youth from the Camarillo Stake:
 A crazy pose!
 She was sweet to grant photo ops:
And our youth showed her how to have a good time during the stake dance the entire night:)
 Together with a sister her father's mission in Japan, and our stake president:
 With our stake YW president:
 With a member of our stake presidency:
 Taking the train home the next morning with Sister Chao:
 The next morning, I had the opportunity once again to role play with "sister missionaries" to help the youth learn about Teaching People, Not Lessons!
We love helping every young man, and woman, prepare to serve a mission!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

6-17-17 I Love Lychees!

When I first saw fresh lychees in Taiwan I was so surprised! The outer shell was pink, not dark brown; and so soft to peel, and not hard to crack! I realized that it's because the ones my mother, Sis. Chao, bought at the Asian market in California had been picked so long ago that they were seriously dried out. Look at these beauties...they were so huge and fresh! Makes me think I'm in Taiwan again!
Where did I get them from? Not in California! I went to South Carolina to attend my cousin's son's wedding, and her auntie from Florida brought us a big bag of fresh lychees! She buys them every year from lychee growers in the Sunshine State:)
 So huge and amazingly sweet and juicy!
 Wedding attendees came to Sunset, South Carolina from all over the U.S. and even Canada!
 The venue was at the Reserve at Lake Keowee:
 On my morning run along the lake...
 I discovered how beautiful and clear the water was!
 A haven for golf lovers!
 Clubhouse pool to cool off in the afternoon:
 Poolside bar and grill for members:
 ...and a special pool for the kiddies!
 The bride's family had a dock with lots of fun activities to enjoy the day before the wedding:
 Giving paddle boarding a try:
Wow, it's been years since I've been on a jetski! Growing up, my cousin was the big sister I never had. Every summer I spent a couple of weeks at her house, and one year she taught me how to sew. That skill has served my family, including my missionaries, very well!
 Outdoor BBQ that evening, complete with summertime thunderstorms!
 The groom!
 Breakfast with my other cousin's family in Clemson:
 Driving through the campus of the NCAA National Champions!
 Gorgeous campus!
 The owner of the cottage where my other two two cousins' families were staying offered to take us on a boat ride. Southern hospitality to the max!
 Crystal clear water!
 We found a group of youth cliff diving:
 Or more like belly flopping!
 Lake Keowee has over 300 miles of shoreline!
 Next day...the wedding!
 Overlooking the lake:
 Bride and father, mother and groom dance:
 So tender!
 Older brother toasting the groom:
 Both fathers stressed the importance of commitment in marriage:)
 Our dinner table:
 The traditional Jewish Hora chair dance:
 After an impressive firework show, the couple drove off in a Maserati through a path lined with mega sparklers!
Saying goodbye to the happy couple!
Nothing in life is more important than family!
 Greenville/Spartanburg Airport:
I have a whole new respect for South Carolina!

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!