Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blessed, Honored Pioneer


Did you know that when I was little--around ten- or eleven-years-old--I wanted to be a pioneer so badly?  Like, I wanted to be born in the 1830s, just so I could have been a pioneer child, singing as she walked and walked and walked and walked.

Don't worry. I don't wish that anymore. Now I'm very glad to be here, in the 21st century. (Hurrah for air conditioning!)

But my admiration for the pioneers has never died. I can't put into words how much their sacrifice and devotion mean to me.

They sacrificed so much for the gospel of Jesus Christ--their homes, their money, their comforts, their families . . . even their lives.

I am so grateful for pioneers. And not just those who crossed the plains. But all those who had and have the courage to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like my dad.

So, thank you pioneers in my life. Thank you to those who sailed across the oceans to America; those who crossed the plains to make it to the Salt Lake Valley; those who bravely decide to join the Church. You are an inspiration.

"But if our lives are spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain. Oh how we'll make this chorus swell: All is well! All is well!" 

On Singleness

First things first:

When this blog became more about my life than about my travels, I made it a point to not talk about specific boys/dates. Those stories are reserved for my journal and for those who know me best, not for the public blogosphere. (Especially because I never know who is reading my blog.) I also really don't go into great detail about what I'm feeling or my fears and insecurities. Because I don't think people want to read about my angst.

That being said, I'm breaking one of my rules. And it's not the first one. This post is not about any boys in particular. I am going to reveal one of my deepest insecurities, but only because I hope that what I've learned can help someone else somehow.

Yesterday when I was studying my scriptures, I felt like I needed help with something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. You know those days when there are a thousand problems buzzing in your head--nothing too serious, but they cloud your mind and make peace impossible? That's how I felt. I wanted Heavenly Father's help and advice, but I wanted to be specific--you get specific answers when you pray for specific things.

So, I pinpointed a stressor: boys and relationships. It's a common worry for girls my age, and I am no exception. In fact, I'd say relationships are a constant worry for almost all BYU students . . . especially the singletons. The pressure to date and get married is a bit overwhelming . . . and not because I don't want to date and get married, but precisely because I do. I want to be a wife and mother more than anything in the world. But it can be frustrating feeling like you're doing all you can do, and still nothing. I'm not saying that I want to get married right away. I'm not saying that at all. All things in good time and all good things to those who wait . . . marriage is not something I want to rush. I also know that marriage is not a "fix-it-all." Ohhhhhh, goodness no.

Still, it would be nice to feel noticed, or at least have your love returned a few times. It can be difficult waiting for the promised blessings of relationships and marriage. I think most single BYU students would agree with me.

Anyway. I decide to focus on relationships and asked Heavenly Father to give me advice/help/comfort on the subject. I felt impressed to turn to the Index in my Triple Combination (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price). I opened up to the "Think" entry, I believe. And I was going to turn to Moroni 7:45, which talks about charity, but then I felt like I should turn the pages over just one more time. I looked at the page I was on, and chuckled when I saw the bolded words:


Oh yes, I thought. God has a sense of humor. 

But then I looked at the words right next to the entry:

"See also Diligence"

I stopped. I had never thought of it like that before. I looked at the tidbits of scripture listed under "SINGLE, SINGLENESS":

3 Nephi 13:22 (cf. Matt. 6:22)--if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light;
D&C 4:5--eye single to glory of God qualifies man for the work;
D&C 82:19--do all things with eye single to glory of God;
D&C 88:68--sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God.

My mind started whirling with realization.

Isn't it interesting that the word "single" has no negative implications in the Index or the Topical Guide? Unlike the word "worry," which generally points to scriptural stories of those who lack faith (yes, I've looked up the word "worry," too . . . but it was a different scripture study session), the word "single" brings up scriptures that imply mountains of faith. It's hard aligning your will to God's.

It's hard to be single. It takes patience. It takes faith. It can be so hard to keep faith in blessings yet to be when another lonely Friday night rolls around--whether you're on the girl's end, just hoping for the phone to ring; or whether you're a guy, feeling miserable because you've been rejected again. It takes patience to go to family reunion after family reunion and have people ask you over and over again, "Where's your boy/girlfriend?" "Why aren't you married yet?" It's hard to have hope when you're crying over another unrequited love or devastating break-up. It takes faith to move on and keep on moving.

But it's vital to keep on moving.

It's vital to be diligently single.

While I'm single, I need to be diligent in keeping God's commandments. I need to be diligent in dedicating my life to Him; in serving Him and others--truly having an eye single to His glory. 

The single years are not a time to wallow in misery and self-pity. They are a time for joy, really--to solidify your relationship with God and touch lives in ways you couldn't otherwise. There's so much for me to do while I'm single. It's not a time to mope or wish away my problems--or dwell on dreams of the future and forget to live. God has a specific plan for me. And right now, I'm supposed to be single. I can have faith in His plan, even if it isn't comfortable for me or exactly what I want. Because guess what? I would like a boyfriend. Not gonna lie about that. 

But instead of worrying about not having a boyfriend, I can be diligently single. I can diligently seek out the good in the world, others, and myself. I can be diligently single by touching one life at a time. I can be diligently single by seeking to align my will with God's. I can be diligently single by developing my talents. I can be diligently single by learning how to commune with God.  

I don't know when I'll get engaged, married . . . I don't even know when my next date will be. In the wide spectrum of things, I could have a "Marius and Cosette" type of meeting with my beloved tomorrow and he'll be singing love songs at my window and we'll be married within a fortnight. Or, maybe I'll be single forever. I just don't know what the future holds. I'm not supposed to.

But my scripture study last night certainly changed my perspective on singleness.

There are lives to touch. There are people to change.

There is more to life than a changed relationship status on Facebook.  

Yay! Pretty picture to reward you for getting this far!

. . . anyway, I hope that was helpful somehow to someone. I felt like I should post this, so I did. And I hope I was coherent. If you got this far, thanks for reading. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adventures in Baking

Once upon a time I made croissants.

And they were the most delicious things I've ever made.

And probably the best croissants I've ever had. No joke.

And they lived in my stomach happily ever after.

Nom nom nom nom nom. :)

Here's the recipe:

First off, a disclaimer: These take a loooooonnnnnnnnngggggg time to make. I wasn't expecting that--so like, I wanted to eat them the same day I made them. You can't really do that. Unless you start in the morning. Then you can eat them in the evening. Anywho.

Croissants (recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups warm whole milk (110 degrees)

Butter Square:
3 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for brushing

1. For the dough: Combine 2 3/4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook (I didn't have a standing mixer, so I just used a beater). With the mixer on low speed, add the milk and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
2. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and knead the dough until it forms a sticky ball and becomes elastic, about 8 minutes. If after 5 minutes the dough appears overly sticky and doesn't come together into a ball, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
3. For the butter square: Lay the 3 sticks of butter side by side on a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Gently pound the butter with a rolling pin until the butter is softened and the flour is fully incorporated, then roll it into an 8-inch square. Wrap the butter square in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counted and roll into an 11-inch square. Place the chilled butter square diagonally in the center of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough up over the butter square so that the corners meet in the middle and pinch the dough seams to seal.
5. Using a rolling pin, gently tap the dough, starting from the center and working outward, until the square becomes larger and the butter begins to soften. Gently roll the dough into a 14-inch square, dusting with extra flour as needed to prevent sticking. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
6. Repeat step 5 and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 2 more hours before using.
7. For the croissants: Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the chilled dough into a 20-inch square on a lightly floured counter. Cut the dough in half.
8. Cut each piece of dough crosswise into 3 small rectangles and cut each small rectangle on the diagonal into 2 triangles (you will have a total of 12 triangles). Gently stretch each triangle of dough to lengthen it slightly and even out the sides. Cut a 1-inch-long slit in the center of the wide end, then fold the dough on either side of the slit outward.
9. Gently roll up the dough, from the wide end to the tip, gently stretching it as you go. Lay the croissants on the prepared baking sheets, with the pointed end facing down, and bend the ends of each croissant around to form a crescent shape. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise slowly in the refrigerator, 10 to 16 hours.
10. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the croissants with the egg and bake until golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking. Transfer the croissants to a wire rack and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 12.

Super long and intensive recipe. But so worth it.

Harry Pottermania

I meant to post this a few days ago, but I've been catching up on sleep. So tired. . . . 

On Friday at 12:01 am, I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2!

I was super excited to see it. After all, Harry Potter has defined most of my childhood (see post below).

For one last hurrah, I decided to dress up to the midnight showing--I never had before, and I figured was better to do it late than never at all!

And who better to dress up as than the incredible, brilliant, brave Hermione Granger?

I've been told I look more like Ginny Weasley. But oh well. I'm Hermione.

Hermione is my favorite Harry Potter character. I think that's because I see so much of myself in her--always reading; wildly waving my hand in class; "when in doubt, go to the library"; itching for adventure; often awkward and insecure in social situations; kind and helpful; a bit of a bossy (yet well-meaning) know-it-all; having a fear of failure; and blessed with good, strong family members and friends who love me despite all my shortcomings.  Yes, I think it's easy to sympathize with Hermione. Besides that, Hermione is just such a strong character. She's clever and brave and good--I can't help but love her. Is it any wonder that I (along with millions of other girls) envy Emma Watson for getting to play Hermione?

Having a bit too much fun playing dress-up. 

"I read about it in Hogwarts, A History." (Sorry it's blurry.)

"Honestly, am I the only one who has ever read Hogwarts, A History?"

Reading the Malfoy Manor chapter.

I'm kissing Ron. 


Practicing non-verbal spells. 
Three turns should do it. 
Yeah, I had a lot of fun taking pictures. Probably too much fun. But when it's the last Harry Potter, you've got to live it up! :) 

My Sarah and Katy sisters and my best friend, Sharisa, also dressed up. 

Aren't we cute? (from left to right: Bellatrix, Hermione, Trelawney, Hermione.) 

Bellatrix and Hermione dueling. 

Katy's Trelawney face is great in this pic. 

If that wasn't enough, guess what we also did for the movie? My Erika sister re-named all the rooms in the  house and Potter-fied them. I.e., the dining room became the Great Hall, the kitchen became the Potions classroom, and my room became Ravenclaw Tower. Actually, it was really cute. My sisters are really creative.

But this IS really nerdy: I made Cauldron Cakes and (non-alcoholic) Butterbeer! 
Butterbeer! Cheers!

Cauldron Cake on the Wizards' Chess

Cauldron Cakes! They were really, really yummy.
After those fun and games, we finally went to see the movie. And then we watched the movie and it was so good. I loved it! 

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!! (Scroll down to the picture of the trio if you don't want to read any spoilers.)

Not all of it, though. There were way too many changes to the Battle of Hogwarts for me to be completely satisfied. Too many unnecessary scenes with the snake. And like how Dumbledore's past wasn't explained at all? Lame. Also, where was the Percy Reunion? Percy was there, but there was no repentance on his part for being a snot, and there was no forgiveness from his family. Double lame. And WHY was no one watching Harry and Voldemort's final duel? Triple lame. Also, I was cracking up during the "Nineteen Years Later" part. It was just a little ridiculous. If you want to read a really funny analysis on the flaws of the last 20 minutes of Harry Potter 7.2, read my cousin Kyra's post here


But overall, I really, really liked the movie. Loved it, even. I think it's the best movie of the bunch. And I'm excited for it to come out on video so I can watch the ENTIRE Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows without an 8-month break.

Huzzah for the Boy Who Lived! :) 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The End

My childhood ends tomorrow morning at 12:01 am.

It’s crazy to think that this is it: the Harry Potter series is over. Over-over. At least when the books ended we knew that there were still more movies to be made. But now . . . it’s the end. The end of a wonderful, magical, exciting era.

I remember first hearing about Harry Potter in third grade. I was in the lunchroom, talking with one of my friends, and she asked,

“Megan, have you heard of Harry Potter?”

I thought she said Beatrix Potter.

“Yeah, I’ve heard of her. She wrote Peter Rabbit, right?”

My friend smiled. “No, not Beatrix Potter. Harry Potter.”

I don’t really remember what she said after that; I think I put it aside, thinking that the story sounded cool, and that I’d get around to reading it someday.

Except my third-grade teacher read it out loud to us first.

And I was hooked.

I looked forward to story time every day—I just had to find out what was going to happen to Harry and his friends next! Would Harry fit in at Hogwarts? Would Harry and Ron ever be nice to Hermione? What was Snape doing the night of Halloween? Would Gryiffindor win the House Cup? No, teacher, you can’t stop there! I have to know if Harry will survive his first Quidditch match!

Those were magical days, to be sure.

It got even better when I found a large early-birthday package from my Nana on our doorstep. It was addressed to me. Inside: the first three Harry Potters. I finished the first book before the rest of my class did—I remember re-reading the entire book and waking up really early to finish it (probably around four in the morning) the day before my class did . . . and then diving into Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Oh, Harry. We’ve grown up together. Harry's life is entwined with my life. 

I remember going to midnight releases with my family—and trying to convince the rest of them that because I started the series before anyone else did, I should have the privilege of reading every new book first. 

Somehow I got my way.

I remember clutching the long-awaited Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to my chest, and reading it all the next day. I remember writing silly Harry Potter poems with my cousin Kyra at EFY. I remember trying to figure out what Hogwarts House I would be in. I remember discussing possible symbolism and plot twists with my family. J.K. Rowling said that someone was going to die in the fifth book? Who is it going to be? Is one of the trio going to die? 

I remember reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I was ten-years-old and realizing that Ron and Hermione were going to get married. I remember sitting around a table in the Dining Hall at King’s College, Cambridge (which looked very similar to another famous Dining Hall) and figuring out which Harry Potter character I would be. I remember reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on a bus in Scotland. I remember midnight-release parties and Butterbeer sno-cones. I remember finally reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—pulling my first all-nighter to read that precious story.

And now . . . it’s all over.

But not quite. Harry Potter has influenced my life too much to be extinguished. . . . He won’t be gone forever. I’ll revisit his world when I need to see those good friends again--when I need a little extra wisdom from Dumbledore, when I need to see Hermione in myself, when I need a laugh from Fred and George, when I need to remember the power of friendships. 

And I know I'll pulling out my old friend Harry to read to my children. It will be fun to share that magical world with them. 

Harry’s not going away any time soon.

Thanks, Jo, for the adventures. 

“Of course it’s inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" 

Oh! Here's a link to a fun blog post about Harry Potter. I think you'll enjoy it. :) (Thanks, Jen!) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why it's a good idea to clean your room once in awhile

You never know when you'll find a long-forgotten $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

Thoughts (part 2)

Along the lines of what I've been thinking about recently.

I love this video. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


This summer has been rejuvenating.

I've found time to relax, which was definitely needed in my life.

I've found time to read again, savor a book, let the question it raises change my mind and often my soul, and become friends with the characters. It is an incredible thing to let someone's story change your life; that is why books are so powerful.

But perhaps even more important to me is that I've found time to write again. In the flurry of assignments, work, and other semester-drudgeries, writing my own stories gets put aside. I can't do that to myself. Fortunately, one of my friends and I created our own writing group to share our stories, and it motivates me to write. And the more I write, the more alive I feel.

I'm realizing that my hobby for writing is more than just a hobby--it's a need. I have a need to create beauty; I have a need to share stories; I have a need to use my imagination. I thrive on creation; on breathing life into characters. I feel complete by pouring my questions into a plot; my soul into a tale. I get excited when I think of new plot twists and character developments. I love it when my prose sings truth.

The stories I write are powerful. And I don't mean that in a prideful way, because goodness knows I have so much to work on. More than I'd like to admit.

But my stories are changing my life. And if that isn't powerful, I don't know what is.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Build Her a Cake or Something

This summer has been a summer of baking adventures. Some have been successful, others . . . not so much.

Here's a success story:

On the 4th of July, I went to a neighborhood breakfast. There was an auction at the breakfast, with all sorts of services and goodies . . . crafts, baked goods, you get the picture.

Well, one of my friends had made these two beautiful Kit-Kat Bar Cakes, one with chocolate Kit-Kat bars around the side of the cake and M&Ms on top, and the other with white Kit-Kat bars with fruit on top. They were awesome cakes.

Since I'm broke, I asked my friend how to make them. And it was super easy. Cake, frosting, Kit-Kat bars, and M&Ms.

So I made a cake.

Yay, pretty cake! It looks like a basket of M&Ms. 

Result: success! I brought it out for a family party and it was devoured in minutes. Mmm . . . so good.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Please Excuse Our Appearance

Serious blog-revamping going on. Hopefully I'll figure out the bugs and make the tweaks asap.

But meanwhile, for your viewing pleasure, here is the newest video of the Kid History series. Yes, I'm addicted. Yes, they are hilarious. nbd.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July Fun

Here are some videos that just have to be shared.

Like this one. I know I already posted it on my Facebook page, but I believe in sharin' the love:

Never gets old. :)

Also, the classic Schoolhouse Rock:

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Birthday, America!

Today's a good day to remember.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

"O beautiful for patriot dream which sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!" --Katherine Lee Bates, America the Beautiful 

"O thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation
Blessed with vict'ry and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust!'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
--Francis Scott Key, The Star-Spangled Banner 

"The longer I live, the more convinced I become that God governs in the affairs of men." -- Benjamin Franklin

Battle of Brooklyn Heights. One of my favorite stories from the Revolutionary War. Miracles happened that day. Read about it here

 "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." --Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address 

"Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written." --Ether 2:12, The Book of Mormon 

Let us remember those who came before us. Those who dreamed, worked, fought, and died to make us free.

Let us stand for liberty, and remember "our father's God . . . author of liberty," and the only Way we can remain free.

Happy Independence Day.