Thursday, April 24, 2014

Live below the line challenge!

I decided to do the live below the line challenge again this year!  I used it as an optional assignment to my students of non-traditional security.  Despite the chance at 3 extra credit points, only 1 student tried!  It wasn't very hard.  My friend Terry came to visit and brought my some pastries, so that helped, but I had leftover oats, pasta, and sour cream so it evened out anyway.  It's nice to take time to think about the billions of people who can't afford the basics of life and to think about what we can do to improve their situation.

 The challenge was 5 days at 1.15 euros a day for 5.75 euros total.  I spent 5.71 and then used the extra 4 cents as credit for the salt that I used during the week.  the food: 500g loaf of bread, 400g bag of pasta, 5 potatoes, 1 carrot, 500g sour cream, 8 slices of fake cheese, 2 liters of milk, 190g of baloney, and 2 sausage pastries.  You might wonder how I could afford baloney and sausage pastries?  Well they were in the past the expiration date and were half off at the store.  They were most likely the main reasons for my digestive problems during the week. 

This is my first dinner compared to Maris' dinner that night.  I have grilled cheese sandwiches, she has a nice pasta dish with chicken and veggies.  I also had two slices of a carrot, I had to make it last the whole week.

This is my last dinner, and yes you guessed it, mine is on the left and Maris' is on the right.  For those concerned I did have a glass of milk to go with it.  Maris enjoyed the time because she was able to eat healthy for 5 days in a row!  No sour cream pasta or temptations by me to eat a peanut butter/Nutella toast, which I do all the time. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring, walks and fun plans

Last week we went for a family walk in the woods. They have a nice paved road going through the woods and it is perfect for strollers.

2 days ago I went for a walk with our dear baby and saw this awesome bird - most likely a Starling.

Lots of dead snails.

Lots of Hepaticas everywhere. It is just so blue!

Other nice plants.

A couple of days ago I met with Finnish YW leaders to check out our YW camp site. It is close to the sea. We are planning to do a hike on the beach because it is a peninsula so you can hike on the beach and get back to the starting point. We will hike to the Keila-Joa waterfalls and manor house and then hike back to the camp site. How exciting!

Here are the water falls:

Keila-Joa manor house:

I have a plan to visit a bunch of manor houses in our area in the summer - there are at least 5-6 of them. We also want to spend some time by the sea and in May to do a family hike in the Pääsküla bogs nearby:

These are taken in 2012 when we had a hike with YW and YM there.

Spring and summer are just so good! Cannot wait to do all these things!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everybody! I'm a little early, but in Estonia (and for almost everybody except the Mormons) Easter starts with Good Friday (terrible name, maybe the Mormons are on to something).  Today is a national holiday.  Some might wonder how Estonians celebrate, very similar to the US, with some differences.  Estonians have egg wars where they crack the eggs together to see whose egg comes out on top.  They also have egg races, they roll them down the hill to see who is first.  We don't have peeps :(

But the reason we celebrate is the same, to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The inspiring video below does a great job of putting things into perspective.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Baby swimming

We love baby swimming!
Our sweet baby  now dives 3 times during a swimming session (about 35 min).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thoughts on general conference

General conference is one of the best weekends of the year! We kicked off the celebration last night with strawberry milkshakes, Oreo cookies and Diam candy bars.  We followed it up with chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes this morning!  Of course the best part isn't the sweets, but the good spiritual messages and the spirit that can be felt by listening to them.  Conference is still ongoing so I won't make any comments on the specific talks, but I would like to make some interesting observations about the Church overall.  some of these observations reflect some of the topics I have written about earlier on this blog and at Real Clear Religion

No new temples.  This confirms the financial status of the church, the surge of missionaries is using up any extra funds floating around.   Temples cost a lot to build and maintain and the financial return is virtually zero.  Money spent on missionary work should lead to an increase in tithing donations.

Same number of converts.  Just under 300,000 converts were baptised in 2013.  While the true results of the surge in missionaries will be known next year, although this number has to be a bit of a disappointment.  The surge does not include just an increase in the number of missionaries, but also a change in strategy with many missionaries using facebook and other online resoureces to share the gospel.  Next year's statistics will also give us insights to how effective these new methods are.  I think the real value of the increase in missionaries will never show up in convert baptisimal statistics.  Rather, it will be seen in activation numbers as missionaries work with inactive members.  Also, members who serve missions are more likely to stay active for the duration of their lives. 

New general authorities.  New members of the first quorum o the seventy are not from the US (Germany and Hong Kong).  A new member of the presidency of the seventy is from the US.  The internationalization of church leadership continues but at a slow steady pace.

Changes in the women's general meeting. I'm not a regular watcher of the women's meetings, so I'm not 100% sure how new some of the changes are but I did see two interesting developments.
  1. A regular member gave a prayer.  Maybe this is because of the limited number of general church leaders who are women, but I think it most likely reflects a desire to involve all the members in the meeting.  This is a positive development that hopefully will be applied in general conference as well.  Earlier I have called for a regular member to give a talk in general conference.  That is probably a long ways away, but having regular members give a prayer is a good first step.  
  2. They used a long video clip in the meeting.  This is a refreshing break from the standard talk talk song, talk talk song pattern we are used to.  This is especially good for visual learners.  It isn't quite the same as my pageant idea, but it achieves the same goal.  

No changes yet for Spanish speakers.  Spanish speaking general authorities are still forced to speak in English.  I don't think it is easier for an English speaker to listen to a talk by someone with a thick accent compared to listening to a talk in Spanish with English subtitles or hearing a dubbed translation.  The church should bite the bullet and allow a multi language general conference format to allow Spanish speakers speak in their native language.  There could be some complications, but thousands of other organizations have to deal with these same language issues and they have gotten by just fine. 

Equality for women just the tip of the iceberg. Ordain Women supporters were denied access to the Priesthood session again.  This has garnered considerable media attention and posed a challenge for the church PR department.  The topic of equality for women in the church is an important topic.  I think this goes far beyond the women and the priesthood debate.  I think this will be a relevant topic for decades to come.  Keep your eye's pealed for an upcoming op ed I'm planning to write on this topic!

Enjoy the rest of conference!