Saturday, December 31, 2016

Canning Chili for Chilly Days

I feel like I've spent the last couple of days in the kitchen, but in all fairness that really is where a mom spends her time when she has grown and almost grown kids.  Knowing we were traveling for Christmas, I didn't cook much and made sure we ate whatever was left in the refrigerator.  

Once we made through Christmas and two birthdays it was time to get back in the kitchen.  I love having my jars of prepared meals because it makes it easy to have a home cooked meal with minimal time, effort and mess.  Granted the on-time cooking process of canning can create one glorious mess, but it will be enough food for 9+ meals! 

The boy and I ran to the store to pick him up some toiletries for his return to college next week and while we were at the grocery store I spotted 93/7 lean ground beef for under $3 per pound. $3 is my break point for 93/7, because I can usually find it from $4-$6 per pound but it's hard to find at $3.  

(cooked in skillet)
3 lb of beef
1 Tablespoon beef bullion
1 Tablespoon Ranch seasoning
1 Tablespoon Taco seasoning
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
(drain and place about 3/4 cup meat in each Ball Wide Mouth Quart Jars)

Next split and layer the following ingredients between your jars: 
1 chopped poblano pepper
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped onion
3 chopped Roma tomatoes
3 sprigs of parsley

Top the jars with boiling tomato sauce, it will take about 32 ounces to top off the 3 quarts.  Use a small Bubble Remover to release any air bubbles that might be trapped in your jars.  Hamburger meat has lots of crevices for air bubbles to hide.   My jars look really pretty stacked, but once I release the air they look like chili. 

Leave about 1" headspace in each jar.  Wipe the rims down with white vinegar before adding your sterilized lids and finger tighten. Process the jars for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a Pressure Canner

So you know it will taste fantastic, but how does it price compare?  Well, a 15 oz can of Wolf brand chili is 2 (1 cup) servings at $3 per can.  My quart jars are 4 (1 cup) servings at $3.25 per quart.  Meaning the store bought canned chili is $1.50 per serving and my homemade, lean, fresh veggies, preservative-free chili is $0.81 per serving! 

Bring on the cold weather! 

Who gives food to all flesh: for his mercy endures for ever, 

O give thanks unto the God of heaven Psalm 136: 25-26

Friday, December 30, 2016

Canning Mexican Fire-Roasted Corn

Our family enjoys a little spice to our food.  The other day while I was grocery shopping when my youngest struck up a conversation with the sample lady.  She was handing out sample of Del Monte's Fire-Roasted Whole Kernel Corn Blend prepared in a recipe of Esquites (Mexican Corn).  

My girl ate a sample and went back for a sample for me, because I needed to try the goodness.  The store sample lady share with Abigail her favorite recipe for Esquites as they chatted.  On the way home my girl said if we were going to can something, this was what we should be canning.  My standard response to such revelations from my girl is, "when it's on sale, we can do that."

Today that day arrived, frozen corn was on sale. Fresh corn on the cob would be great but frozen corn holds up beautifully and can be canned. I heated it up enough that it wouldn't be cold going into my hot, sterilized jars.  To each Ball Pint Jar I added 2 whole cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp. red pepper, 1/2 tsp. Morton Canning Salt, 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, and 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.  Next, top each jar with hot water, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. The trick is NOT to pack the corn in the jars too tight, allowing room for plenty of water. Also, be sure to use a Bubble Remover to make sure you don't have any air bubbles in your jars.

I wiped the jar rims with a damp cloth and tightened your hot lids on to fingertip tightness. Process pints of corn in a pressure canner at 10 lbs. pressure for 55 minutes. (Corn is a low-acid food and MUST be processed in Pressure Canner).

For Abigail's recipe from her store sample lady, we can now open a jar and drain, the stir in 1/3 cup of Mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  This can be served hot or cold.  And yes, we had a jar with dinner, minus the cheese for Jon.

Let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Genesis 41:35

Canning Carrots!

My family has an aversion to carrots.  I don't know why, because I like carrots, especially cold and crunchy straight of the refrigerator. The kids like carrots cooked with a roast with all that beefy seasoning.  I think it's Jon who doesn't like carrots and had influenced the children, but I digress. 

The kids like the texture of roast cooked carrots and prefer them a little salty instead of sweet, because carrots already have a natural sweetness to them.  This is a great time to find vegetables on sale at the grocery store, because their shelves were stocked with orange goodness to accompany holiday meals. 

This could not have been any easier to prepare.  I washed and inspected the carrots and then cold packed then into hot sterilized Ball Pint Jars.  I topped each jar with a 1/2 tablespoon of Morton Canning Salt then finished filling the jars with boiling water.  Use a Bubble Remover to release any air bubbles that might be trapped in your jars.  Just run the tool down each jar moving things around gently so air will release.  

Next, wipe off the rims of the jars and finger tighten the sterilized lids.  Finally, process  the pint jars at 10 pounds pressure for 25 minutes in Pressure Canner (30 minutes for quarts, but honestly we'd never finish a quart at one sitting!). 

Voila, carrots that don't taste like a tin can and aren't crunchy or too mushy! For under $6 I have 15 pints of carrots.  Plus when the zombie Apocalypse occurs we will be stocked up on biotin, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. 

And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.  Joel 2:26

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Canning Beef Bone Broth

Have you ever wondered why your grandmother gave you chicken soup when you were sick?  These days you can open a can of Campbell’s best chicken soup, but it doesn’t come close to the healing properties that our grandparents served.  You see, chicken broth, beef broth, or even pork broth when cooked with the bones can promote healing, support digestion, contains highly absorbable minerals, bolsters bone, joint and skin healing, aids in detoxification and supports the immune system.  So when it comes to staying healthy during the cold and flu season why wouldn’t you want a homemade soup? 

At the store yesterday I picked up about 5 lbs. of grass fed, meaty, beef soup bones. They are available in the meat aisle.  

The first step is to roast the bones.  Place them in a pan drizzled with oil at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes.  This will get the juices in the meat flowing will help bring out a meatier, tastier flavor. 

When the meat was roasted I then split it up into two 6-Quart Crock Pot, mainly because I wanted to have several jars of broth to process at one time.  Making bone broth is really simple, to each 5 quart crock pot with 2 ½ lbs. of roasted bones I added 1 chopped onion, 3 stalks of chopped celery, 2 bay leaves and ½ of a bunch of parsley. At this point my crock pot is still off.  To this I added 2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar, this is crucial.  The vinegar is what takes this from beef broth to a bone broth with all the healing properties because the vinegar helps to break down the marrow. Fill the crock pot to the top with water.   At this point let the concoction sit for about 30 minutes to allow the vinegar to do its job. 

After 30 minutes, turn the crock pot to high for about an hour to bring the water up to a simmering temperature.  After an hour, turn the heat on the crock pot to low and allow the broth to cook for about 24 hours.  The house will smell amazing! 

For the Instant Pot:
Tie up bones and veggies in cheese cloth and place int your Instant Pot.  Add apple cider vinegar. Next add water until the pot is 2/3 full. Let the pot sit for 30 minutes so the vinegar can begin to pull minerals out of the bones. Select the 'Soup' button and set the pressure to "low" while increasing the cook time time to 120 minutes.  Allow the Instant Pot to depressurize naturally. This takes the cooking time in a crock pot of 24 hours down to about 2 hours in the Instant Pot! 

After cooking in the Crock Pots for 24 Jon strained the veggies out through a colander to get the big pieces, then again through cheesecloth to get all the small bits. 

Next I began filling my hot, sterilized Ball Pint Jars, leaving about an inch headspace. I tightened on my hot, sterilized lids, to fingertip tightness.

I processed the pint jars of broth in my Pressure Canner at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes (quarts would be 25 minutes).

I now have an incredibly healthy beef stock that is shelf stable. My two crock pots yielded about 8 pints of broth. I can use them to make soups, use in rice, chili, beef dip sandwiches, beef stroganoff or French onion soup. 

Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.” 2 Kings 4:38

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Birthday Breakfast in Bed

One of our family traditions includes a family breakfast in bed. Yesterday Abigail awoke to bacon and pancakes in bed. We all climbed in on her bed and ate while she opened her cards and gifts.  What better way to say, 'today we celebrate you,' than to begin with a favorite meal and gifts.  The birthday girl did get to sleep in a little because to have breakfast at her usual 6:30am wake up time seems a little mean.

For my birthday today, Jon made sausage and cheese balls.  It's one of my favorites from the years when we had big family events for Christmas, there were always sausage ball left over and they were my favorite breakfast item. Jon is sweet enough to make them for me even though he can't eat the cheesy, savory goodness!  Jon and I finished off the day with a delicious steak dinner for two! 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  Colossians 2:8

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Baby Girl Turned 16!

The youngest turned sweet sixteen today, so hard to believe!  Earlier in the month when I asked what she wanted for her birthday she said 'a party.'  It's not hard to understand that with a birthday only two days after Christmas that it is hard to plan a party.  In past years I've avoided scheduling parties because we were expecting family for the holidays or we were traveling.  With this being Sweet 16, what the birthday wanted took priority.  

We invited her church, softball and home schooled friends to hang out with us for a few hours at the mall.  One of the truly great things about my creative, independent youngest child is that she did a lot of the work.  She not only decided that she wanted a Photo Scavenger Hunt but she also made up her list of items, like: 

  • Stranger getting their ears pierced
  • Stranger (husband/son) bored waiting for mom who is shopping
  • Stranger returning a gift
  • Team  member wearing a sequined dress
  • Team member in 5" high heels
  • Team member hugging a book in Barnes and Noble
  • Team member proposing to a mannequin
  • Team riding the elevator
  • Team eating food samples
  • Team wearing men's ties 

Those are just a few of the fun items she came up with. To her delight most of her friends were able to make it for the big day.  It was an all girl party except for Caleb, Ryan and Roy, after all it would not be a party without her boys!  I'm thankful they were able to drive down from Ada. 

The mall was bustling and crowded with after Christmas shoppers, but the busy-ness just added to festive nature of the day.  I can't say thank you enough to the friends that made today such a sweet day for the baby! 

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Celebration Continues

Time for one more family Christmas celebration with Mimi before we head back to Texas!  We had a great visit catching up and enjoying a meal together.  It was fun listening to Caleb catch her up on all his school adventures and up coming plans. 

It's always nice to get to spend time together.  It can be tough being in the home she shared with my Dad, but it is also comforting at the same time.  Hopefully she will be able to make a visit to Dallas soon and we can spend some more time together. I'm so very thankful that the kids have so many extended family that want to be a part of the kids lives.  They are truly blessed! 

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
Psalms 133:1

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Oklahoma Kirkwoods Christmas

Years ago when we relocated to Texas and I began the blog I selected Texas Kirkwoods because there were no family members in Texas.  Not one one either side of the family.  

So today we headed to the original Kirkwood clan in Oklahoma for Christmas.  It's crazy to think that it's Christmas day and it was seventy-five degrees outside.  The cousins, all five of the grand kids, were able to play ball outside.  Granny and I sat out on the porch and watched the kids.  Donnie took the boys out back to see his new tractor and the new gardening plots he's been plowing up for spring. 

Sport, Granny's yellow lab, loves being in the middle of all the action.  I have no doubt that the puppy will sleep well after all the play time today.  Granny served her boys favorites, chicken and noodles with a side of green bean casserole and some Velveta-Rotel dip.  All the favorite flavors of family meals together. 

Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ Luke 10:5

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Home for the Holidays

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas from my side of the family.  Our first Oklahoma Christmas stop after boarding the big baby was at my mom's house.  It's always good to come home.  Mom and Bob had some Elvis and Burl Ives on on the surround sound.  

My mom's house, like all grandparent homes is never short on food, lots of snacks and goodies.  I'm sure they probably still have leftovers from all the goodies, but we did our best to eat as much as possible.  

Santa shopped at Rustic Cuff, Kendra Scott and Kohl's, he has impeccable taste.  Mom got her first two Rustic Cuff bracelets, so now she can sit with the cool kids at church!  The kids also showed her how to take her first selfie, clearly a skill that will come in handy with her flip phone! 

It was a great holiday, too short, but so good to be together.  

And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house,
 and peace be to all that you have.  I Samuel 25:6

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

It's amazing how none of the children offered a single objection when they were told they could open their Christmas presents a few days early.  Not a peep, they were more than willing to accommodate our upcoming busy schedule. Imagine. 

Most of their growing up we have had Christmas at home, where they could run down the stair in their pj's to where their stockings were hung to see what Santa had left for them.  We've always invited extended family members to join us in the merriment.  For the last several years we've made big plans to have family in town, cleaned house, cooked meals, prepared special treats, all those extras you do for entertaining, but for various reasons no one has made it down despite the best laid plans.  

So, knowing there was family in Oklahoma who missed out on seeing us, we decided to head north.  So instead of clean sheets, and dusting we busied ourselves with making arrangements to board the dog, packing and car maintenance.  We still made sure we had lot of baked goodies to take with us to the family.  Frankie was beyond ecstatic to have Grandparents to share the holiday.  

We joked that we could pile our gifts in the mini-van to take to Oklahoma and unwrap with family, but joked that with 184,000 miles on the vehicle it could just be more weight in the car to push when we broke down!   Again, another advantage to opening gifts a  few days early.  I think the biggest obstacle to traveling for our family of five isn't the eleven year old car, or the very limited boarding options for a huge English Mastiff, but it's the juggling of schedules.  But anyone with kids and especially almost grown kids understands that struggle.  I'm so grateful for parents and in-laws who have modified their schedules for us for so many years. 

I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 29:10-11

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Canning Shredded Beef

Just a few more day until Santa arrives, so I ran to the grocery store for the last minute baking supplies.  While I was at there I found two Nolan Ryan All Natural Beef Top Round Roasts at half price.  Every time I see one of those yellow clearance stickers I immediately began to think of how I cook, can, dehydrate or freeze it!  One of our favorite meals is street tacos, its a soft taco with shredded beef, onion, cilantro, and cotija cheese! 

Canned Shredded Beef
4 1/2 pounds Beef Top Round Roast
1 Large Onion sliced thickly
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
4 cups water
1 1/2 Tablespoon Beef Bullion 
1 Tablespoon Ranch Seasoning
1/2 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning

Heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat to saute the onions for a couple of minutes, or until starting to get brown.  Place the onions in large 6-Quart Crock Pot with the roast on top.  Add all remaining ingredients. Cover pot and simmer (low heat) for 5 hours, or until beef is fork-tender and falling apart.

Shred the beef and place into sterilized Ball Pint Jars up to 1 inch head space, remove air bubbles with Bubble Remover, put on heated lids and caps, process for 75 minutes in a Pressure Canner at 10 pounds of pressure.

These jars are now shelf stable for three years.  The great thing is when I forget to prepare something for dinner or I'm running short on time, I can open a jar, heat and make street tacos, burritos, beef stroganoff, stew, or a roast beef sandwich!  And it was really no more effort than making a roast for Sunday lunch, crock pot style.  

Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. Acts 2:46-47

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Visit with Santa

Time to go see the big guy in the red suit at the mall. Every year the kids indulge Sissy and stand in line to have their picture taken.  We hung out in line for about an hour and half with a line of much younger, busier, noisier kids.   

At moments like these I'm thankful for the way the two younger kids indulge and oblige Frankie's wishes. They are sweet to my girl and she loves this time of year.  Afterward we stopped by Sonic for our favorite drinks before heading home. 

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7

Canning Poppy Seed Chicken

One of the kids favorite meal is poppy seed chicken. It is one of the recipes that Abigail learned to prepare when she was in the girl's Tabitha class at church as they were learning about hospitality.  It is also one of the meals that is served at Camp Blue Haven. 

The biggest hold up to serving this dish more often is that I would have to remember to cook the chicken ahead of time.  So that got me to thinking about how canning could help me shorten the prep time.  

Last night I slow cooked a whole chicken in my Rival Roaster Oven.  Today Caleb de-boned and shredded the chicken.

In Ball Pint Jars I put 1/2 of a chopped yellow onion, the chicken, 1/2 Tablespoon of powdered chicken bullion, 1/2 Tablespoon poppy seeds, and 1 tsp. of garlic salt.  After packing the jars I added boiling water, it will mix with the bullion to give the meat good flavor and keep the chicken moist.   

I processes the jars in my Pressure Canner for 70 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure.   While the jars processed I prepared the topping using a large skillet, melting 2 sticks of butter, along with 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers and 1 Tablespoon of poppy seeds.  Once the topping was cooled I sealed it with my Food Saver.  They will be fresh and ready to sprinkle on the casserole. 

Here is how easy it will now be to whip up dinner: 

1 Pint jar or my canned chicken (do not drain)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1 10oz package Yellow Rice
Cracker Poppy Seed Topping (2 sleeves Ritz crumbled with 1 stick butter & 1T poppy seeds)

Prepare rice according to directions.  Stir chicken (do not drain), soups, and milk.  Pour into 9”x13” baking dish, sprayed with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle with Cracker Poppy Seed topping and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Doesn't it look delicious?!  

See that no one is immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Hebrews 12:16-17

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns, and Syrup

When the party invitation includes 'wear your PJ's,' and 'spaghetti with optional maple syrup,' you know it is going to be a fun evening! The Arcellana's hosted an Elf movie night for the girls. 

It was nothing short of a stellar idea and according to the girls it needs to become a new holiday tradition!  What a great idea and an every sweeter group of friends. 

For a quick run down of our favorite quotes from the movie: 

10.  Santa!  I know him! 

9. You sit on a throne of lies!

8. He's an angry elf.

7. Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?

6. New York, it's just like Santa's workshop, except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me.

5. You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here.

4. You smell like beef and cheese. You don't smell like Santa.

3. It's just nice to meet another human that shares my affinity for elf culture.

I think you're really beautiful and I feel really warm when I'm around you and my tongue swells up.

1. We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

Gift of the M.A.G.I.

In November we were able to pack M.A.G.I. (Making a Godly Impact) boxes for Healing Hands International that were headed to Honduras and South Texas.  Today the kids and I along with 70+ other volunteers packed boxes headed to Zambia, South Africa.  The containers will leave Texas this month and will head up to Nashville where more boxes will be loaded. The container will eventually be loaded on a ship and arrive in Africa in a few months. The Namwianga Mission will distribute the boxes to the wonderful children of Zambia

The boxes we loaded today had toiletries, soap, wash cloth, tooth brush, tooth paste. They also included underwear, clothing for boys and dresses for the girls because the girls aren't permitted to wear anything but dresses.  Each box also included hard candy, coloring books, colored pencils, small toys and English Bibles. 

Churches of Christ throughout the brotherhood packed the boxes and the volunteers today double checked and sorted the packages.   Each box also included a personal note.  They are message of encouragement and love.  Check out Healing Hands; God's healing, your hands! 

Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.  Acts 4:30

Monday, December 19, 2016

Top Me Off Kronk

So our little blog is called Texas Kirkwoods primarily because none of the Kirkwood family, except us, live in Texas.  We are the transplants.  Our nearest family on either side is nearly five hours away.  When we relocated to Texas I dreaded the kids growing up with out grandparents living near by.  Thus the little blog was created.  

Our family, regardless of where they live, can keep up with our family.  The grandparents could watch the kids growing up on pretty much a daily basis.  This isn't a how to homeschool, parent, church or crafting blog.  It is a little spot where we can share our little world with those we miss and love the most. 

Over the years friends have stopped by to visit our blog.  More times than not though, it's been our little family of five who have enjoyed coming back and looking at places we've visited or friends we miss.  As the mom, I love looking back and seeing how much the kids have grown.

Today was another moment of looking at a point in time and no longer seeing the little girl that I began blogging about.  Abigail participates in a Speaker's Club led by a member of Toastmasters.  I'm blown away by her confidence standing and speaking in front of a group. Our speech group and Leadership Training for Christ's Speech program have been a real asset to both of the younger kids.  Her speech isn't without areas of improvement, but when I step back from being her teacher, I really enjoy seeing her as a little girl growing up all too quickly. 

Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants,
And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace
Psalm 144:12

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Morning to Midnight

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!  The day of rest doesn't always feel so restful.  They are still my favorite day of the week, but some Sundays require a nap!  

Fortunately today I had a guest speaker in Texas Bible Bowl.  Caleb led the kids through my lesson on Acts chapter 15.  We played a review round of Jeopardy, it's always a fun way to review our previous chapters. 

After evening services the youth group had their annual Christmas Party complete with a snowman wrapping race, gift exchange and pizza of course.  They finished up the evening with a devotional including songs and prayer which is always a great way to close out the day. 

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and,
because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. Acts 20:7

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Theater, The Theater

After our fun in Ada last night, Richard and Melissa drove down to Plano to spend some time with Caleb and Abigail.  The kids went to visit the big guy in the red suit, but this is the picture they sent me! 

Apparently they really do sell everything at Tiffany's! Darth Vader was also at the mall wearing a red cape.  

While the kids were out, Jon and I headed to the movies to see the new Star Wars release Rogue One.  But the the showings were sold out so we decided to see Marvel Comics Doctor Strange. 

After we got our tickets Jon and I started talking about the tickets costing less that we had expected.  Upon further inspection or our tickets, we had one adult ticket and on senior ticket.  We looked up on Studio Movie Grill's website to see that a senior is 65 years and older!  After a good laugh, Jon said he was a little upset to find out that a senior discount only get you $0.50 off a movie ticket!  Maybe in another 12-15 years when we actually qualify, it will be a more substantial savings! 

A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.
Proverbs 16:31

Friday, December 16, 2016

Long Tall Tale

This morning we headed to Oklahoma to see the Gungans.  Ms. Donna, my best buddy, my partner in crime for the last twelve years, was directing the play for their new homeschool group.  Donna has been teaching drama at the co-op academy, and today was the big day they put on Long Tall Lester.  

It's the story of the notorious outlaw Billy Black returning to Dodgeball City, leaving the current sheriff heading for the hills.  The townspeople decide to appoint the next person who walks through the door of the saloon (where only sarsaparilla is served) as the new sheriff.  Unfortunately, that person turns out to be Lester McChester, encyclopedia salesman. 

The play was witty and the kids did a great job on their production.  My buddy did a great job preparing the kids with everything from projection, blocking to covering up when things don't go exactly as planned. And true to her nature Donna was very humble about her role in it all which of course generated the desire of the kids and parents to shower accolades on her.  Everyone of the kids presented her with roses and love. 

Donna invited our other 'Drama Momma' Ms. Kathy and Hannah to this evenings play.  It was fun to reminiscence about all the plays we've worked on together through PEACH. So many great memories.  After the play the kids headed to the 10pm showing of Rogue One.  Besides the three Duncans, three Kirkwoods, and Hannah we added to the group Richard's girlfriend Melissa and her sister Hannah.  We didn't scare his girlfriend off and she got our definite approval.

We love our sweet friends and miss them dearly but are thankful to share these moments together. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:11

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spreading Christmas Cheer

At our homeschoolers party on Tuesday we made cards to be delivered to the Christian Care Senior Living Community.  When the kids were younger we would visit the location in Gunter, TX.  But that one was closed a few years ago, however just recently they have opened a new facility in Allen.  

The Christian Care centers are sponsored by Churches of Christ and were initially established to provide an affordable place for ministers, elders and their spouses to retire.  Many smaller congregations don't have retirement plans for their ministers.  The Christian Care centers also provide a place where Godly like-minded individuals can continue to worship and fellowship just as they did when they served in the local congregations.  It's a great ministry. 

Today we met up with the Hunt family and handed out our cards and visited with the residents of the center.  It is such a small world in the Lord's body.  We met a gentlemen, Rayburn who was the brother to a gentleman we worshiped with for years in Owasso, Ok.  We met another man whose daughter attends the congregation in Broken Arrow where I grew up.  Still another couple we met were the great-grandparents to one of my Bible Bowlers!  It was really great to visit with the residents and something we will do again soon! 

The LORD stands guard over the stranger; he supports both widows and orphans, but makes the path of the wicked slippery.  Psalm 146:9

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmas time is here, and today we made plans to see Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang at the Dallas Children's Theater! Charles Schulz's classic animated television special comes to life in the live theater production. We were all looking forward to seeing Charlie Brown and his friends discover the real meaning of Christmas but Frankie wasn't feeling well.  

Fortunately Caleb and Abigail were still able to make the performance and joined the Baileys and several other PEACH families for the holiday fun. We broke out the DVD for Frankie to enjoy at home.  The photo with Caleb and Abigail standing in front of Snoopy's dog house is them leaving a space for Frankie would have stood if she had been feeling up to joining them today.  

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:14

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Homeschool Party

Years ago Donna, Carina and I started our McDermott Road Homeschoolers Christmas Party.  The faces and ages of the children have changed over the years but it is still one of my favorite events of the season.  Since I no longer have little guys we now have the Christmas party at one of the other mom's homes where there are more toys.  

Today Ms. Ruth graciously opened up her home for our party.  With six families of homeschoolers the house was full of kiddos and fun. There was more food than we could possible eat.  There were Nerf guns, light sabers and Legos; all the things that make a afternoon of fun.  The kids took a break from playing to draw and make Christmas cards for the residence of the Christian Care Senior Living Community in Allen.

The highlight for the kids is always the gift exchange.  We start off with the oldest kiddo selecting a gift from under the tree.  The next child can steal the gift or select a new gift from under the tree.  Because we start out with the oldest it means that at the end of the game the little kids can steal the gift they want from the big kids!  

Frankie made sure Caleb joined us today because it was our annual party, what could he possibly have to do today that is more important than playing with us!  He was a good sport and the boys were glad to see him.  We were also excited to have our new minister's wife Hollee and their two boys join us.  They are the latest addition to our McDermott Homeschoolers! 

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
Proverbs 27:9

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Celebrations

It's the holidays and time for parties and gatherings of friends.  Our PEACH Junior Toastmasters group had their party tonight.  Abigail is the VP of Activities so she was responsible for the evening. 

She made reservations for the group at The Cheesecake Factory.  She planned about three games for the group throughout the evening.  One of games she did was a game of Headbands.  Each person was given a card to place on their headband and then they could ask three, yes or no questions to figure out what was on their card.  Some of the cards Abigail made were Santa, Frosty, Christmas Tree, Stockings, etc.  

Another game she made was a game of table topics where the participants drew a card and then had to speak for two minutes on the topic they drew.  For example: 'Is Santa a good role model?'  or 'Is Chuck Norris afraid of Christmas or is Christmas afraid of Chuck Norris?'

The last game she made up was the participant drew a card and then had to sell an object to a group of people, only the seller didn't know the identity of the audience.  Players had to think quick on their feet because she had great scenarios like one player had to sell mistletoe to a convent of nuns! Funny!  I love her great sense of humor. 

The party was a great hit, everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves.  It was fun to see Abigail as Master of Ceremonies and all the planning that went into the evening. 

On the day I called, You answered me;

You made me bold with strength in my soul.

Psalm 138:3

Pantry, Prayers and Pizza

The Bailey's joined us at Metro Relief again today!  It makes the work a little easier when you've got friends helping out.  Ella and Robin helped Frankie sort the food donations and checking for expiration dates.  

Gracie worked with Mr. Arvid shopping our guests.  Later she worked with Abigail getting welcome packets ready for the new year.  

Caleb took his usual spot in Intake offering services and praying with our guests.  Ms. Barbara came in today and she was so thrilled to see Caleb.  Barbara is deaf and Caleb knows just enough ASL to communicate. They were able to visit about Caleb's schooling and Barbara's recent visit to see her son. 

When our work was done we headed over to Blaze Pizza for a well earned lunch! 

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:11-12

Sunday, December 11, 2016

He is His Father's Son

We had a fabulous guest speaker in Bible Bowl today, Caleb!  The kids were excited to have him home.  My favorite Bible Major presented Acts chapters 13-14 to our class.  

It's sweet to see him encourage the kids in their desire to study the scriptures.  And in a lesson full of names and towns it was great that he had their full attention. 

We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us,
their children, by raising up Jesus.  Acts 13:32-33

Saturday, December 10, 2016

No Worries

Padme', our sweet tempered English Mastiff, is getting older and having trouble getting around these days.  When she was younger she would climb into our bath tub where I could bathe her.  Now having celebrated her 12th birthday, climbing in and out of a bathtub is not an option.
There is a wonderful pet grooming and boarding business near our house called Hakuna Matata. They have stainless steel tanks that are on a hydraulic lift.  I can lower the tub to the floor where the puppy can easily climb in and then raise the tube once she is steady.  

The funniest thing is the dog loves the blow dryer.  I don't know if the warm air feels good on her tired joints or if she just like a little massage, but it's amusing to watch. 

We're really blessed to have the old girl.  Mastiff's life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.  I can't tell you how many times I prayed that we wouldn't loose her during that first year that Caleb went off to college.  I don't think Frankie or I would have survived!  God is good and the puppy is still here, and we survived Caleb's first year away from home! 

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Matthew 15:26-27

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Compassion and Mercy

In addition to Abigail's high school team CHANT, she also plays tournament ball with RAGE Softball Club.  The club operates under the philosophy that: Softball does not have be all about the wins or losses or what happens between the chalk lines. What these young ladies and their families do outside the chalk lines is what truly matters.

In keeping with that idea, the team does a lot of community service including fund raising for an orphanage, a charity motorcycle ride benefiting the family of a fallen marine, to name a few. 

The organization has 10U, 12U, 14U and 16U teams.  Tonight all four age divisions met at Toys R Us for the clubs 3rd annual Toys For Tots shopping event.  A portion of the clubs monthly dues is set aside for this event.  The girls were paired up, older players with the younger ones and given several hundred dollars to shop for children.  

Abigail and a player from the 12U team, Mykayla shopped for gifts for 12 to 14 year old boys. They filled their cart was filled with games, Lego's and Nerf  warfare. The teams filled up a couple of pick up trucks full of toys!  I think its ironic that a team that does so much charity off the field plays under the name, RAGE! 

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
I Chronicles 29:14