Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm in Love

Beard Papa

The other day someone brought a treat to the office.  I found them in our break room.  There were several bright yellow boxes filled with puffs.  I'd never thought of myself as a big fan of cream puffs, but that was before I had these.


Now I'm in love with a little bearded Japanese guy named Beard Papa.


These cream puffs are to die for.

I had never heard of this franchise before this experience.  Evidently they've been around since 1999 when the first Beard Papa store was opened in Osaka, Japan.

They proclaim themselves to be the baker of the "World's Best Cream Puffs", and I may have to agree.  That's saying a lot, actually.  Because I haven't particularly been a fan of French choux dough puffs before this!  And I've had creme puffs in several different countries. 

Now, according to their website, Beard Papa stores are located in 15 different countries around the world.

I apologize for getting your hopes up if you don't live in one of these countries.  In the USA, Beard Papa locations seem to be clustered around the west and east coasts, with a couple in Illinois for good measure.

I'm happy all over again thinking about these little wonderful delicacies.  It's the excellent custard inside which makes them particularly delightful.  It's the real deal, not some imitation whipped goop, like some American bakeries try to pass off as the interior of a creme puff.

I shouldn't have blogged about this.  Now I'm thinking about that Beard Papa store that's only about 10 minutes away from my place of work!  Help!

It will take all my self-control not to drive the car over in that direction after work today.

Curse you, Beard Papa!  You made me love you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Visit to Whidbey Island

Scenic Village on Whidbey Island - Langley Marina
Whidbey Island is the largest of nine islands located in Island County, Washington, USA.  It's a long, skinny island, about 30 miles north and west of Seattle, which makes it a lovely day trip from there.

My family was recently on the island as part of their Washington State vacation, so I thought I'd post a few pictures, so we could take a virtual vacation along with with them!

The lighthouse at Fort Casey
My brother writes that the island "has a really cool old fort on it from World War II.  You can climb all through it and explore.  It's a great place for kids."  They also went to a quaint old lighthouse there (see above), and stopped at Deception Pass.

Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass is a really rocky area where boats have a hard time going through and the wind is always blowing.

Christian, Kirsti and Anders on the rocky beach
Luckily, the weather was nice and lots of folks were enjoying the rocky beach in their swimsuits.

Mormor and Kirsti with the Deception Pass Bridge in the background

Whidbey Clinton Ferry

Arne and Kirsti on the Ferry
The family rode the ferry off the island, then all went to have hamburgers at a Dick's Restaurant, which is a hamburger chain in the area.

Sounds like a lovely day!

Photos: J Evensen

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Acapulco Nerds

Just in case you think Elder Nils is leading a cushy life down there in Acapulco, his current letter reminds us that life isn't all fun and games.

He writes:
This week we found a huge scorpion in the house.  That was cool.  We were planning and he just walked out of our other room, like nothing was going on.  I swear he looked at me and winked... anyway, so that was pretty funny, a lot of running around with the broom screaming like a girl trying to kill it. It was a big one, which is okay, those are the least dangerous ones.  We've found a few small ones in our house.  Those are the dangerous ones that can kill you.  I think they've been coming in 'cause of the rain.
Elder Nils trying to gross us out, as usual
They've also been having water problems.  Even living in a relatively big city such as Acapulco, and in a nice area, there is sometimes no water for washing or drinking.  When those situations arise, they do the best they can!

Elder Nils is funny.  You forget sometimes that these guys are still young kids.  He told me this story in a recent post:
[I'm reminded] of the time I asked one of my comps (i.e. companions): "What are we gonna do today?"
As he turned, he looked at me very seriously and said, "Try to baptize the world".  
And then he started humming the Pinky and the Brain song.  Good thing us missionaries aren't huge nerds, huh?
If you don't know Pinky and the Brain, this isn't going to be funny at all.  If you DO know them, well, I hope you are laughing by now!

Gotta love those missionaries!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mormor's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Britt!
One of the pleasures of visiting Mormor and Morfar (Mom's mother and father) up in the Seattle area during the summer, is being able to celebrate Mormor's birthday with her.  My two youngest nephews enjoyed their stay at their grandparents' gracious home.

Mormor Britt is a beautiful woman and someone I love being around.  I'm so happy she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren for this happy occasion!
Everyone wanted a piece of the action!
- photos: J. Evensen
Looks like a pretty yummy cake, there, too!

Happy Birthday, Mormor!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Metropolitan Yanji, China

Continuing our tour of Yanji, China, from last week, here is (I believe) the entrance to the Yanji Mall.

I sincerely believe having a mall is one of those signs of an advanced civilization  Eureka!  They have a mall. Now we can have a meaningful cultural exchange!  I mean, Ancient Greece had malls, Ancient Rome had them too.  They just called them Agoras or something.  Really.

These days you get extra points if your civilization also has a McDonald's (or ten) and a Starbucks too.  And maybe a Walmart and an IKEA...

Speaking of culture!  (We were, weren't we?)  My nephew Daniel has been a big fan of pizza since he was a little kid.
Pizza in Yanji
 So.... trust Daniel to find the local pizza parlor!

I'm glad he found the Best pizza around.
Movie posters in downtown
Sometimes I'm disappointed when I see photos of modern China and realize it doesn't look all that different from the Western World.  Am I being weird?  I mean, the above city street scene looks pretty ordinary to me!

But then, I live in the Los Angeles area and us Angelinos are fairly strange.  So, maybe it's me!

Okay, this one is a little weird:

Yanji's KTV Station sports Christmas trees in July
I think the Christmas trees are a nice touch, but just a little out of season.

Being so close to the North Korean border means being able to get a North Korean TV station!
North Korean TV Station's weather report
Hey!  We use suns, clouds and umbrellas, too!  What a coincidence.  I can read Korean!

Okay, maybe not.

Daniel says this next photo is of the Korean TV station's program line-up for the following day.   Note the militaristic and patriotic symbols in the lower part of the picture.
North Korean TV's line-up for the following day
I think all that military arm waving would get old for me really quickly. All that oppressive government paranoia is tiring. It makes me so thankful for living in a free country.

That's it for now!

I'm so happy to have a foreign correspondent!  Thanks, Daniel!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Gresham Bed Races!

Jon and Cheryl's frame holds this rolling "bed" together.
Here we see Sadie, Sophie, Duncan and Cammie after they came in second place in the race!.
The annual Gresham Bed Races were held recently up in Gresham, Oregon.  They are a fund-raising event for the Mount Hood Community College.  Most of the competitors are local businesses and restaurants who are all owned by local families who have been in Gresham for generations.

However, the folks on Victoria Avenue have traditionally competed for the fun of it, and get all the neighbors involved.  I think that's such a great idea.

I also love the bright colors!  It sounds like the kids had a lot of fun.  Last year they got a plaque for best bed and costumes, so they put forth their best efforts to do it again this year.

My friend Desiree supplied these wonderful pictures of the races, as well as some photos of the historical buildings of the older part of Gresham where she lives.
This Victorian Church dates back to the early days of the last century
It's no longer used as a church.
According to Desiree, Gresham was an old timber and farming community.  This whole area expanded in the late 1800s after the railroad came in.  The first settlers to the Willamette Valley, west of here, came in covered wagons along the old Oregon Trail.

She further writes, "I love the architecture!  Our little historic downtown is still very Victorian and filled with wonderful small businesses and sidewalk cafes."

Gresham is located in Multnomah County, Oriegon, in the western United States, immediately east of Portland.  It was named after the American Civil War General and Postmaster General, Walter Quinton Gresham.  It's currently the fourth largest city in Oregon.
The original Gresham Library, built in 1910
The beautiful Gresham Library, shown above, now houses the Gresham Museum and Historical Society.
The Black-Eyed Susans are still coming on strong.
Desiree says their blooms herald the end of summer.
Regarding the Black-Eyed Susans (above), Desiree writes, "When they bloom you know it's the end of summer!  We begin to look forward to the shorter days, earlier sunsets and cooling weather when they arrive.  They are part of my annual time clock!"

Back to the races:
The races in action!
This (above) was the kids' final heat off the starting line on the green light.  Here we see the Victoria Avenue kids racing against the martial arts school, who were all boys twice their age and size.  Those plucky little girls still managed to come in second over all, earning medals and a plaque!

You go, girls!

Sounds like it was a lot of fun.  Again, a big hearty thank-you to Desiree for sharing this very colorful event - and a little bit of her hometown - with all of us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Goat Named Elaine

Sweet Little Elaine
The Orange County (California) Fair runs from the middle of July to the middle of August every summer.  It's full of all kinds of fun things, like barnyard animals, that us city dwellers don't often see.

This little goat (above) was born on my friend Elaine's birthday - July 6th - so Elaine felt that the goat's name should be Elaine.

I don't have any problem with this.  Elaine appears to be a perfectly good name for a little goat.  She looks like a sweet little kid.  (Pun intended.)
Elaine and her siblings resting in the warm summer weather
It was very very warm the day these photos were taken.  Poor little Elaine and her siblings were laying low and not moving around a whole lot.  I don't blame them.

In another end of the Fair, this little piggy (below) was enjoying the shade.
It looks as if this little piggy provided a fun photo op for a toddler
You will note the Krispy Kreme donut sign in the background.  A Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich consists of a grilled chicken breast served between two warm glazed raised Krispy Kreme donuts.  People who have tried this delicacy say it's pretty good.

I'm afraid I can't quite wrap my mind around the idea.  Eeuwww.

My friend Lisa loves the chocolate covered bacon. Eeuwww again....  I love bacon.  I love chocolate.  I still do not think they belong together!

Of all the junk food Fair fare, the deep fried Snickers candy bars might tempt me, though.  Add some ice cream and top it with whipped cream and I could go for one right now!

Americans are funny.  We'll deep fry anything. And fair-goers, at least some of them, come to try these strange snacks and eat their way from one end of the Fair to another.  When I go, that's usually my plan.

Thank goodness the Fair only comes around once a year!

Bye, little goat Elaine!  Great to see you!  Hope you have a great life on the farm!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Those Lazy Days of Summer

I want this open!  Now!
When the weather gets warm, we open the windows around here.  There's usually a cross-breeze, and between that and the ceiling fans, we are quite comfortable.

This is opposed to when it gets REALLY warm and we batten down the hatches and turn on the air conditioning!

But, most days, Jack and I are content to hang out with the windows open.
My Sweet Jack posing for the camera
Jack's favorite place is the floor length window next to our front door.  He is perfectly happy to hang out there nearly all day long.
It's a good place to watch for any commotion in the courtyard where we live, and it's a place Jack's friends can drop by and say "Hi".  And they do.  Honest.  He has a little stripey cat friend who visits regularly, and the other night, around 2 a.m., a beautiful white cat came by.  What did my boy do?  Jack responded by pulling all of his toys closer to the window for them to see.  He wanted to play!

What a sweet little boy I have.

Jack also has winged friends.  The humming birds do very low fly-bys to say Hi sometimes.

They really do.

They come for the feeder my neighbor has next door, and then they fly low past our windows to say Hi to Jack.  Sometimes they just hover in the air and peek in at him. They are quite tame and will even come close  to greet me when I stand on the porch.

Bite that toe!  And Bite Me, you birds of the teasing variety!
Jack tries to ignore them when they tease him.  He doesn't let them bother him.  He is very good-natured.

Jack and his mom's toes
But mostly Jack likes to hang out with his mom.  Here he is using mom's foot as his pillow.  He is a loving and kind little kitty boy.

We're having a nice, relaxed, summer.  Well... we were until the real heat set in!

Beautiful blooms on the trees in the hot sun.

Since the above photos were taken, this summer has become inordinately hot in our area - and I know it's been a tough summer in places throughout the United States.

Temperatures here in Southern California have soared above 100 degrees F, with so many days above 100 degrees we have broken all kinds of records for consecutive days of miserably HOT, icky weather.

I'm not a warm weather person.

Can you tell?

Here, in the Los Angeles area, we have a Mediterranean climate.  It's usually pleasantly warm the year round, and it seldom rains.

Recent high, record-breaking temperatures, however, have left me longing for a good rain storm to cool things off.  We've been getting rain and thunder storms in the desert and mountain areas surrounding us, but it never seems to rain here in the basin.

So, last night I hear from friends in Phoenix that they are having torrential rains with thunder and lightening.  Then our weather report comes on and I hear that the same system is bringing some rain to us up from Baja, California.  But when I wake up this morning, there is nothing: the ground is dry, there are few clouds in the sky, and you could just curl up and die from the extreme humidity.

Anyone available to do a rain dance for me?

Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, President Monson!

Photo: Belinda Olsen Photography
Today, August 21st, President Thomas S. Monson turns 85 years old.  More than 14 million people all over the world revere President Monson as a Prophet of God, a Seer and Revelator.  He's the current President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At 85, he is vital and active and beloved by his people - that includes me!

On Friday night there was a huge birthday celebration at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City.  It featured the talents of many professional musicians and performers and included such celebrities as former San Francisco 49ers star quarterback, Steve Young.

President Monson with his wife and young family in the 1960s
President Monson saw service in the United States Navy at the close of World War II.  After the war, he  married his sweetheart, Frances.  They have been married for 64 years. They are the parents of three children, with eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

President Monson was appointed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1963, after a distinguished career in publishing and printing. His life of service has included serving as a Bishop and as a Mission President of the Canadian mission.  In 1981, United States President Ronald Reagan appointed him to serve on the President's Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives.  He served in this capacity for a year.

If you would like to learn more about this wonderful man's life, check out this link:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PRESIDENT MONSON!  May you have many more!

Monday, August 20, 2012

North Korea Across the River

My nephew Daniel and the bridge to North Korea
My nephew recently got a business trip to Yanji, which is north and east of where he is living with his family in Shenyang, China.  Yanji is right on the North Korean border.

He writes:
My trip to Yanji was entirely last minute, due to an American citizen emergency.  It was a real blessing to be able to visit that part of the world during the summer, when everything is so beautiful.  It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful the North Korean countryside is.  What a stark contrast to its horrid, oppressive regime and the hard lives its citizens lead.
Yeah, don't worry, I can't read the sign, either.
These pictures are taken right on the border with North Korea.  The Tumen river separates China and North Korea in this region.  You can see the North Korean city of  Namyang in the distance.

Daniel said that this is a popular spot for Chinese Tourists, too.
Flags of China and North Korea
Just to give you some perspective of where Daniel was - here is a map of Yanji (covered by the big red "A" balloon) and the city of Tumen by the Tumen river.  The black line shows the border with North Korea:

Here it is in relation to the rest of the countries in the area.  China, North and South Korea and a bit of Japan are visible on the map.  You can also easily see Shenyang, where Daniel and his family live.  The same red "A" balloon marks the Chinese city of Yanji:

North Korean city of Namyang in the distance
It's hard to imagine the poverty and bleakness of the lives of so many just a few feet across this river.  The Chinese people live relatively free in comparison.
The bridge over the Tumen River
This area is far to the north and gets very cold and snowy in the winter.  Daniel was happy to be able to visit in the summertime.  Everything is beautiful and green!
There were lots of Chinese tourists

Another shot of the river
 The photo above is of the Chinese side of the river, I believe, with the city of Yanji in the distance.
On the road to the Tumen River Bridge
At first glance, this road could be anywhere in the world... until you see the sign in Chinese!  Again, I have no idea what it says.  It probably says there's a McDonalds at the next rest stop!

Or maybe it says, "Last chance for gas before North Korea".

Just kidding.

This has been a rare glimpse into a far corner of the world.  I hope you enjoyed seeing it as much as I did.