(This post was written TWO summers ago and for some odd reason I never posted it. What’s good about me posting this now is, you have time to make some summer plans! So…here you go, y’all!)
Ha! Bless the sweet Greeter’s heart, he tried a couple times and just could not get the family in focus!
(I guess that could be said of us on many levels…)
No matter, our main focus, during a recent vacation, was a side trip to the Texas Panhandle to see Texas! The Outdoor Musical!
Our oldest son had to finish up his summer baseball season, so he was unable to join us on the first leg of our vacation, so ThrillCam and I loaded up our youngest and started the drive toward Montana, with an intentional stop in Amarillo. We told our youngest that if he really wants to consider himself a true Texan, then he needed to see Texas!
Texas! Outdoor Musical, is performed, every summer, in the beautiful Pioneer Amphitheater, nestled in the basin of the Palo Duro Canyon (which is amazing and entertaining, all by itself).
Sidenote: Palo Duro Canyon suddenly appears out of nowhere and drops down into the earth, revealing beautiful reds, browns and greens. (see above picture) Did you know, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States?
(We’d love to go back and spend time there hiking and camping for a few days.)
We planned out our whole route, with a couple stops along the way, obviously, including an extra night just to see the musical.
(As we left town, we stopped here: another Texas must!)
The musical is about…you guessed it…Texas. It’s a little bit of history and a whole lot of entertainment.
Yes, the show is sort of cheesy at times.
Yes, it’s even occasionally corny.
(Would that be cheesy-corny?)
But, by golly, you learn a little Texas history while being entertained.
(And who doesn’t want to learn more about Texas?!)
And, because we drove straight there, we opted to eat dinner, on the grounds, before seeing the show. (Your ticket can include dinner, if you’d like. Click on the first link above and you can see the ticket prices. The earlier you make your plans, the better!)
I’m not going to lie and say it was the best BBQ in town, but it certainly wasn’t awful!
While waiting to be seated, we milled around outside the amphitheater where we noticed a huge map of the world. Folks could purchase a pin and show where they traveled from to see the show. There were numerous people from almost every country of the world. (Shown are the pins from just around the Waco area.)
The stage is set, literally, in the cliffs of Palo Duro Canyon. As the sun sets, the special effects become a little more impressive and way fun for the kids.
(I may not remember any of the songs and dances, but I can still remember, as a young kid, seeing the Lone Horseman atop the cliff.)
(Oh! And, the lightning strike!)
(You just have to go to know what I’m talking about!)
No cameras are allowed during the show (that means phone cameras, y’all!), so I don’t have pictures of the set or the actors/dancers, but I can tell you, the colorful costumes are wonderful, the characters are sweet and funny, and the songs will make you tap your toes. It’s, honestly, not a bad way to spend a few hours.
TIP: When selecting tickets, don’t sit at the VERY front. Choose more toward the center middle to center upper-middle, so you can see the stage and cliffs fully. The place will fill up, so order tickets early for best seating choices.)
Honestly, if you plan to visit the Texas panhandle (or just visit the state), this is a fun event for the whole family! There’s singing, dancing, decent BBQ, a few variety acts before the actual show. Of course, all of this while you sit under the great and vast Texas sky.
(“The stars at night…Are big and bright!”)
(clap, clap, clap)
(“Deep in the Heart of Texas!”)
If you’re a native Texan like me (6th generation, y’all!), I’ll tell you, like I told my son, you can’t truly call yourself a Texan until you’ve seen this show.
This Spring, I decided to go a different route and try my hand at raised beds.
My sweet, handyman of a husband built these awesome beds and I am already loving them!
I like the rustic look of these beds…rusty tin recycled from the ranch, and rough-hewn cedar lumber.
I’m hoping, by having smaller, raised beds, I’ll have larger output of vegetables.
The plan is to use these beds for herbs and more compact vegetable plants, while using the original garden plot for corn, beans, squash and watermelons.
You know, the plants that like to wonder and spread out.
Okay…I do plan to put a couple green and purple pole beans in these boxes to climb on the trellis.
I love having a pretty trellis in the garden, even in raised beds.
(See our sweet pet cows and donkey?!)
(Have I told you ThrillCam doesn’t really like it when I call them our pets?)
I’m sort of bummed I didn’t ask ThrillCam to take some “how-to” pictures for me.
Pictures would have shown how he put a floor about 18′ down, in each box, so we didn’t have to fill the entire box with dirt and compost.
And, believe you-me, we shoveled in plenty of dirt and compost!
I can’t imagine having to completely fill each box.
(Okay…HE shoveled the majority of the dirt…”and I helped!”)
(I really did shovel some! I have the very sore shoulders to prove it!!)
(Does it count that I’m the one who will tend to the garden, though?)
Actually, I think we make for a good team!
I’ll be sure to give updates on what veggies and herbs I’ve planted and how they do.
Happy Spring, y’all!
When we moved to League City, south of Houston, in 2007, we planted a church. It was just a little different from most churches where we had served in the past.
But, it was a good different.
We tried to take the good from the past and chuck the ineffective/not-so-great, and planted a church, designed on the church in Acts, in the Bible.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Not every idea worked perfectly, and our church, which is still in existence, even though we had to move, is still trying to get it right. (Aren’t most churches trying to get it right? We are a group of flawed humans, after all.)
But, through all of it, we felt (and still feel) God’s hand of favor was and is upon that little church.
One of the things we did a little different was to have weekly local neighborhood gatherings. (A couple different families would host in their own neighborhoods, getting to know their neighbors.)
There was ALWAYS food involved!
(And, you know how I love me some food!)
Long story, short, we would meet at our house, or at our neighbor’s house, bring a pot-luck meal, and while eating, we would share our lives. The highs and lows of the week. The kids were included in the conversation, as well. It was important for them to hear and be heard.
We invited other neighbors and we shared meals with them. It was not designed to be exclusive in any way, shape, or form.
But, it was bigger than just a supper club.
We served our neighbors together.
We played together. (That link is only one of the many Hunks vs Punks posts I’ve written about…do a search for Hunks vs Punks, and you can read them all!)
(Not only did we play football together, we went to football games together…)
(I actually DO know the lady at the bottom right; I just didn’t when I took that picture. She’s probably still talking to her neighbor because he’s probably still texting…)
We prayed together and even baptized together…
And, of course, we ate together.
It was a beautiful thing.
ThrillCam and I will forever be changed, for the better, because of our neighborhood Table Group.
(photo credit to Jeremy Knight)
So, guess what?
We are trying it, again, with our new neighbors!
We had a group of 4 families over, on Tuesday night (no, I didn’t take pictures…yet!).
We threw out the vision.
We’ll see what happens.
Either way, whether we meet weekly and eat together, or not, I’m excited to see where God takes us, as a neighborhood.
Because, I KNOW how lives can be impacted and changed just by reaching out and loving one another…doing life together.
I made strawberry jam!
My internet friend, MizBooshay, recently posted pictures of her strawberry jam on Instagram.
I was smitten. I adored the little jars of red jelly, although I was very leery of the time and effort needed to tackle such a domesticated project.
I mean canning things communicates that you mean business.
Donna promised me it was easy-sneezy.
(I trust Donna. I read her blog daily, and I feel a connection…a friendship.)
(I don’t believe MizBooshay would ever lead me astray.)
So, I took the leap.
Once I washed all the mason jars, I was ready to go.
I cleaned and hulled my strawberries.
Then, I smashed the living daylights out of the sweet berries.
(Cooking is cruel, y’all.)
(And, I would know, because I.mean.business! I’m canning after all…)
Next, I added some sugar to give the strawberries extra sweetness.
I also threw in a little lemon zest to give it, well, a little zestiness.
(I am fully aware zestiness is not a word. But, I stand by my made-up word, because we all know what it means, whether it’s real or not. And, really, if we want to get picky, “Yay” is not a real word, either, but y’all don’t seem to mind using that word!)
(My English major mother, God rest her soul, would have had a conniption over that one. Yea is yea, not yay!)
After I added the sugar and zest, I had to boil water and the pectin for a bit.
Not much, just a bit…like one minute, I think.
After the minute, I poured the water/pectin mixture into the strawberry/sugar bowl and stirred until all the sugar was dissolved.
The final step was to fill my jars with the red, juicy sweetness…
I could not contain my excitement as I waited the 24 hours to see if my jam would actually set up.
Once the jam has set, you can store your jam in the freezer, so you’ll have some for later.
And, I am here to say, my boys LOVE this jam on biscuits in the morning!
So, MizBooshay did not lead me astray! It was as simple and as delicious as she promised!
My family recently did the Griswolds’ thing and drove to Montana for a family vacation.
We drove from Texas.
(that in and of itself should be impressive)
Three days to get there.
Three days to get back.
Through seven different states.
Worth every hour on the road.
My husband and I put this family vacation WAY high on the list of favorites. (My boys may disagree, simply because the last three days–with nothing planned but hard 8-12 hour driving–really shrouded the good memories of the trip. I know, though, as they forget the boring drive home, they will begin to remember the highlights of the trip. And there were many!)
Here’s a short list of some of our adventures:
We visited new friends in Montana and ate some of the best steak ever.
We drove to Wyoming, more than once–more on that soon.
We hung out Yellowstone–we saw lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
(Okay, we didn’t see lions and tigers.)
We hiked in Teton National Park–I didn’t pack the proper shoes, so I hiked in flip-flops…
We stopped at every state sign and took a picture. (See picture above.) My boys were THRILLED every time we stopped. Thrilled, I tell ya!
We had F.U.N., fun!
I’ll unpack our trip over the next few posts, if I may.
Some people you just hit it off with immediately.
Some people fall into the “they will will be lifelong friends” category.
You know them.
You have a couple of friends like that.
ThrillCam and I have a number of those friends from our old stomping grounds, south of Houston.
I am happy to say, we can now add a few new folks to our list here, as well.
We moved to the Waco area nearly a year ago. While it seems like a long time, it has flown by.
Our first few months we spent holed up in the new house getting things moved in. We weren’t spending a ton of time meeting people. We didn’t really start to church shop until after the new year. We sat alone in the football stands for most of our son’s football season. I did not go up to the school to volunteer. And, on top of that, our house is set off the road with a few acres, not in a typical neighborhood.
We pretty much made it very difficult for anyone to get to know us.
If we were going to actually make friends, it sort of rested on the shoulders of the very people we needed to meet, but weren’t. THEY were going to have to be intentional about meeting us.
Enter: Mark and Julie.
Look closely at the picture above. Those two are the poster children for the term Good Neighbors.
They immediately reached out to us and invited us to church, to their home, to share deep and thoughtful conversations, to eat. (Offer food, and I’m so there!)
They took a risk.
Julie took it upon herself to introduce me to more girls in the area. We started having lunch out. Or, I’d invite the girls over for coffee. I was even invited to celebrate a new friend’s 40th birthday, which is huge in my book!
Or, Julie and Marlo and Kim would take me walking or to Zumba and cause me great pain the next day because I was (am) so out of shape.
But, that’s another story.
Mark asked ThrillCam and our youngest son to join him, his sons and a few other dads and their sons, to hang out on Sunday evenings. Mark wanted to just pour into the neighborhood boys and foster stronger father/son relationships.
This couple has made our transition a little easier, a little sweeter.
Learn from these sweet folks; reach out to someone you don’t know well, open up your circle of friends to a new (or not-so-new) neighbor, take a risk.
Who knows? You may gain lifelong friends!
We often think others don’t want to be bothered, but you may be totally surprised if you reach out. Honestly, don’t we all want friends, to be cared for, to be loved? ThrillCam and I did!…do.
Of course, it may not work out as supremely as my new friendship has, but you will be better for trying, for risking, for loving.
That, I do know.
So, get out there, and be a Good Neighbor.
If you follow me on Instagr.am (esimmonsphotography), then you’ve already seen pictures of my latest breakfast obsession.
How can pictures truly depict how delicious this is??
How can words fully describe this experience?
Lemon juice (don’t skip).
Red pepper flakes (a MUST).
Salt and pepper.
Unadulterated, uncomplicated, luscious, creamy, light, scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth, nummy, yummy…
I’ll stop now.
For my sake.
I beg you.