Canning Jalapeño Peppers

I recently purchased a canning kit and decided to try it out on a harvest of fresh jalapeños from my raised bed garden.  Here is a little montage of my first batch.

They were hot and delicious!

Branson 2017

The Dixie Stampede

It had been almost 6 years since our last visit to Branson,  so we decided to head back to re-visit many of the places that made the last trip so enjoyable.  It was a very smooth flight and only took us a little over 4 hours.

After checking into the Stillwater Resort on Branson’s beautiful Table Rock Lake, we enjoyed an evening at the Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction where we celebrated the American spirit. After a friendly North and South competition, we were brought to our feet singing the Star Spangled Banner and giving thanks to God in our hearts for the land that He has given us. Aside from the show, eating a four-course meal (complete with a whole mini-roasted chicken), all with our hands, was a highlight of the evening. So was the pre-dinner show by “Skeeter & Nugget”. We left there that night singing the words to the song “Long Black Train.” The chorus goes like this: “’Cause there’s victory in the Lord I say. Victory in the lord! Cling to the Father and His holy name, and don’t go riding on that long Black Train.” There’s wisdom in those words.

Silver Dollar City

Day two brought us to Silver Dollar City, an 1880’s theme park with action-packed rides, demonstrations from craftsmen like blacksmith’s and glass blowers, and good old-fashioned entertainment. Us girls braved the Outlaw Run which ranks in as #7 on the list of the World’s Top 50 Wood Coasters. The coaster soars over the Ozark Mountains, but I don’t think any of us paid much attention to the landscape. We were too busy screaming as we dropped 162 feet (more than 16 stories) at 81degrees, went upside down on a 720-foot double barrel roll, and reached top speeds of 68 mph. Some of the thrill rides we did twice, but that one…once was enough!

Runaway Mountain Coaster

After a good night’s sleep digesting Pizza World’s pizza pies, we made our way to Runaway Mountain Coaster for another exciting adventure. None of us knew what a mountain coaster was prior to our arrival, but we soon found out that it is a coaster that uses the lay of the land and changes in elevation to provide a ride around the natural features of an area. In this case, it was around the beautiful Ozarks. It was definitely a new experience for all of us. Each of us got into our own cart and was pulled to the top of a mountainous area by a chain. Once at the top, we got to pick our own thrill levels as we rode down to the bottom on tracks. Kory is the only one who didn’t use his brakes the entire ride down. We had no idea what a thrill-seeker he was! Well, actually, he said he was trying to impress us girls. We told him he already impresses us. Poor guy hurt his back as a result and was stiff for the next 24 hours. Would he do it again? He said he sure would.

Sight & Sound Theater

The afternoon brought us to one of the highlights of our trip, seeing “Moses” at Sight and Sound Theatre. This is the third live show we have seen (after Noah and Joseph), and Lord willing, we will go back to see Samson next year. The Bible comes to life in these shows, and we always leave with a meaningful message, and gratitude that Christ was honored.

On Sunday morning, we attended Friendly Baptist Church that we had visited six years prior. Although Millie, the 95-year-old banjo player, had passed away, we remembered her, and were grateful for the opportunity to worship with other believers outside of our state. The lyrics to one particular song stood out to us. They go like this: “Dig it shallow; dig it deep. It don’t matter much to me. That old grave’s just a hole in the ground.” Well, if you know Christ, those words ring true. That old grave is just a hole in the ground. There is no fear in death when you know you have life in Jesus Christ.

Table Rock Lake

After church, we spent the afternoon cruising around in a pontoon boat on Table Rock Lake. The weather was beautiful, but the water was a wee bit cold this time of year. Katey and Lauren braved the chilly waters and went tubing for a while, and then we spent the remainder of the day laying poolside where we were able to warm up and take some naps. We played dozens of games of Bananagrams in our hotel room throughout the week, enjoyed lots of laughs, and made great memories.

Our last day in Branson found the girls ziplining on over two-miles of zipline cables, soaring seventy feet above the ground. Lauren even rode upside down at one point, and Katey enjoyed the swinging rope bridges. Kory and I sat on rocks and thanked the Lord for the solid rock we stood on. Pun intended! We ended our stay with lunch at the Farmhouse restaurant, trying to convince ourselves that calories don’t count on vacation. Who are we kidding?

Dinner with the Danker Family

Just when you’d think our adventures were over, we ended the trip by flying to Chandler, Oklahoma, to visit the Danker family. What a treat it was to fellowship with them in their home and get to know their family better. Their faith in Jesus inspires us, and we see the fruit that the Lord is working out in their lives. We enjoyed dinner with them at a local Mexican restaurant.

Afterward, Mr. Danker was kind enough to give us the grand tour of his office at Buckventures. He loaded us up with souvenir deer antlers, a turkey call, and plenty of t-shirts and hats! We are so grateful for the fellowship we enjoyed and the generosity they showed us, thank you Danker Family!

The work of His hands

We departed a rainy Oklahoma in the early evening and just as we broke out of the clouds at 14,000 feet, we were awestruck by the majesty of God’s creation. Kory was able to capture this picture but as is usually the case, it doesn’t do justice to what we saw.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
Psalm 19:1

Co-op(eration)

IMG_4835This home-school year has been a lot of fun when it comes to co-op groups. Three families have joined together to provide different educational and social activities that have been a huge hit with our children. We designated every Wednesday of the month for a different activity.

The first Wednesday of the month is an art class; the second Wednesday is sewing, and the third Wednesday of the month is cooking. I don’t know who is having more fun, the girls or me!

IMG_4837

We started our cooking course with a class titled “Preparing for Success in the Kitchen.” They learned all about kitchen first aid, tools and utensils, appliances, the use of knives, cooking terms, common abbreviations, equivalents, and measuring accurately.  Then we got into the hands-on cooking classes: “Quick Breads”, “Yeast Breads”, and “Baking Cakes”. They have made Irish soda bread, banana muffins, biscuits, a sweet buttery bunt cake, and red velvet cake. Now c’mon, who wouldn’t like cooking class!

Our most recent class was “Fruits and Vegetables”. The girls learned how to pick ripe fruits and vegetables and how to properly store and freeze them. They were then able to practice different cuts on a variety of fruits and vegetables, from chopping, dicing, and mincing, to roll-cutting, bias cutting, and julienne.

In addition to learning to prep fruits and vegetables, they learned different cooking methods such as baking, boiling, steaming, roasting, blanching, and stir-frying.

IMG_4829We also made garlic and Parmesan roasted green beans, caramelized onions, and baked apples with brown sugar and butter which they got to enjoy at the end of the class with snicker-doodle ice cream. Yumm!

“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”

(Genesis 1:29).

Praise God for the bountiful harvest that He has supplied!

Family Connections Conference

Family Connections, Mesa

After a successful first run in 2014, the Family Connections team headed on the road again for a 12-week tour across the country. Our family was blessed to be able to host them again this year.

Saturday morning, everyone pitched in to set up chairs and tables, to get the media and music operating, to organize book tables, to warm up food in crockpots for lunch, and to offer praise to God for the work He was doing. Just as the team finished breakfast the guests started arriving.

The Lord brought 53 people for the all-day event. The day was filled with challenging and promising messages to encourage families to stay strong in our Lord Jesus Christ. There was joyful singing, heartfelt prayer, rich fellowship, and lots of food.

Morning Session

There was even a time for the children to have a devotional led by Samuel, Gabriel and Matthew, and then participate in some fun activities outside while the parents had a separate break-out session with David and Priscilla inside. After the event was over, many people gathered in the living room to sing hymns and continue a time of fellowship and spiritual refreshment.

Singing

When the guests left, we gathered in the family room and thanked the Lord for making this event possible. We each went around the room and prayed for whatever the Lord laid on our hearts, which included much praise, thanks, intercession, and supplication. We ended the day with a game of Apples to Apples Bible Edition and much laughter. What a wonderful day!

Sunday morning we were blessed to have Gabriel passionately teach us a lesson from Scripture, and then John and Tia announced that they are going to have another baby. We were all so excited, and a few of us cried tears of joy with Tia. After we returned from church, we had a time of rest, more music, fruitful conversations, and a big volleyball game that lasted until dark!

Hynes Family +1

After a devotional on Monday morning, Priscilla, Tia, Lauren and I made the base mix for mint chocolate chip ice cream and put it in the refrigerator to cool for the day. Then we all packed up and headed out for a place called Tortilla Flat. We stopped along the way to hike and take a few pictures.

Lauren, Priscilla, Davia, Katey, and Kerry

At the bottom of a big cliff, John, David, and Gabriel found a rattlesnake. They didn’t waste any time converting it into a good snake (a dead one…). John even came back with the rattle. It was quite an adventure and young Paul and Samuel didn’t quite know what to make of it all. We spent the latter half of the afternoon at Tortilla Flat where we had lunch. Then all of us hiked up the side of a mountain, while Kory stayed behind to fly the drone and film our adventures. Samuel and Matthew helped those struggling to make it the top—namely the young children. They went out of their way to keep everyone safe and encouraged. Once at the top, we sang “How Great Thou Art” and marveled at God’s creation. It was amazing!

Tortilla Flat

Upon arriving back home after a full day of adventure, most of the group went outside to play volleyball while Kory, John, and I stayed back at the house to make homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and prepare for a pizza dinner. The Ciampi Family, along with our neighbors, the Reeds, came over as well. The ice cream was a huge hit and all of the children played on the trampoline and the swing in the backyard while the rest of us fellowshipped and had fruitful conversations.

Making Ice Cream

The evening culminated with a magnificent hymn sing, with everyone participating on the piano, viola, violin, harp, harmonica, guitar, and singing. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Hymn Sing

On the last full day of the Family Connections’ team stay, the ladies went out for a time of thrift-store shopping, a leisurely lunch, and pottery painting. The men took the young children and two quads and went to the mountains for a day of riding.

Quad Riding

We reconvened at the house that evening and enjoyed one last meal together at Señor Taco, after which everyone prepared for the departure the following morning. Wednesday was a sad day as we said our “goodbyes”. May God be with you, Family Connections team, until we meet again!

Here is a little video montage of our time together…

BRIGHT Lights Christmas

Caroling at Wal-Mart

This year we were excited to have two other Arizona Bright Lights groups join us for our third-annual Bright Lights Christmas Party.  What a beautiful sight it was to have 34 godly young women joined together to bring honor to the Lord.

We began the evening with prayer, reading Scripture, and some get-to-know-you activities.  Then the girls enjoyed appetizers, cookies, hot chocolate, and lots of candy.   Shortly thereafter, we split into teams and drove to Walmart (with the help of seven mothers and my good husband).  At Walmart we sang Christmas carols at the front entrance of the store, praying that others would hear the gospel message through song.

We then went shopping for children at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home which is a Christian organization that cares for children who are separated from their parents.  The girls were responsible for selecting and purchasing gifts for seven children in need.  The girls also handed out candy canes that had Scripture verses about Jesus Christ attached to them and wished store patrons a “Merry Christmas”.

Once the shopping trip was done, we gathered back at the house and had a time of prayer for the children who would receive these gifts.  The prayers were so sincere and humble that many of us had tears in our eyes.  What a wonderful time of  fellowship we enjoyed!