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I like cooking and baking. Part of this enjoyment, I am sure, is because I love to eat, and by preparing my own food, I can adjust the recipe slightly to suit my own preferences.

But another enjoyable aspect of cooking and baking is the effort involved in creating something worthwhile- something that I and hopefully others can enjoy and benefit from. I don’t claim to be an expert in any of these areas, but I find photography and writing enjoyable for the same element of creation.

I don’t mind using another’s recipe, but it is particularly satisfying when something that I thought of, no matter how simple, turns out to be delicious.

For example, I like experimenting with different mix-ins with oatmeal for breakfast. One of my favorites is to add raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar.  (I planned on posting a picture but it wasn’t that impressive so you’ll have to use your imagination.)

I like this quote from President Uchtdorf regarding the happiness that comes from creation:

” The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty…”

“You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.”

So, while you may not enjoy cooking, see what you can create today!

I absolutely love chocolate, so when I saw this contest at amanochocolate.com, I couldn’t resist.  I have not yet had the pleasure of trying this chocolate myself, but it must be amazing as they have won many prestigious awards.

If you can guess the origin of these cocoa beans, you could win a year’s supply of chocolate.  You can enter the cocoa bean origin contest here.

A few years ago, I bought a fairly new used car. It seems that not long after I bought it, I noticed an odd noise coming from the engine. I asked several mechanics about the noise, but no one knew for sure what it was. So I kept on driving.

A few weeks ago, weird things began happening with the car- the horn stopped working and the battery light would come on intermittently. I know very little about cars, but I figured that since the car started fine, the battery must be fine and that it must be some kind of glitch in the electronics.

Then one day the car just died. Even using jumper cables to start the car from another car’s battery would not work. After trying various solutions, I finally had to have the car towed to a mechanic. After having the car’s computer replaced, it finally would start. The computer failed because the alternator was not working properly, so I had to also replace the alternator.

One of the first things I noticed was that the noise from the engine was gone, so it must have been the alternator that needed to be replaced all along. The car had given me plenty of warning signs along the way, and although I made some feeble attempts to diagnose the problem, it took a near catastrophe before I really invested the time, effort, and money to take care of the car.

While I have learned specifically the importance of paying attention to a car’s cues that there may be a problem, I am much more interested and concerned about the implications this has for other areas of my life.

Although there are certainly exceptions, I think that most often our most valuable “possessions” are not taken from us in an instant but rather slowly fade away from neglect.  I believe that we generally have some kind of warning signs when things begin to go amiss in our lives.  We cannot go too far astray if we regularly “check the pulse” of those things that we most cherish- our faith, health, relationships, etc.- and if we make necessary course corrections.

As I evaluate my life and consider where I am compared to where I would like to be, it is easy to feel frustrated, hopeless, and discouraged.  So I close with this quote from Elder Hafen’s talk Beauty for Ashes:  The Atonement of Jesus Christ:

“Another affirmative endowment of grace is the gift of hope, which blesses us with the state of mind necessary to deal with the gap between where we are and where we seek to be. As the remission of our sins makes us lowly of heart and meek enough to receive the Holy Ghost, the Comforter fills us with “hope.” (See Moro. 8:25–26.) The gift of hope offers peace and perspective, like the encouragement we feel when a close friend gives us insight about a difficult problem and we sense that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Such hope can be literally life-sustaining when given us by the Savior, for the light at the end of life’s darkest tunnels is the Light and the Life of the world.”