Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010 Recap

Christmas is awesome!  I have eaten enough food in the last 10 days to hibernate for the next 3 months. Not only did I eat, but I relaxed and enjoyed my family and my in-laws! I could not have asked for a better break.

We started out with a bang celebrating my Birthday and an early Christmas with my family here in Little Rock.  Being the birthday boy, I got to select the menu!  BBQ Nachos and coconut cream pie from Chip's BBQ. Wow, what a combo.  We opened presents with the fam and took turns passing Landon around.  As always, my mom and dad out did themselves with their generosity and giving spirit.  I am grateful for the love and support!  Best gift given - Mom got the boys Coke and Mt Dew pajama pants!  They loved them!

Mark and Landon

Narcisse Loves Christmas

Computer Gear

I love this photo because Tory and Casey have this look on their face that is saying "What am I going to do with this?"

On Christmas morning two cultural traditions collided. In Africa, you stay up all night celebrating Christmas; in America, you get up early to celebrate Christmas.  What happened...Dina, Theophile, and Narcisse stayed up till 4 am...Tory and I woke them up at 6:30 am! Needless to say...everyone was not as excited about Christmas as we hoped!

Nonetheless, we had a great time exchanging gifts and sharing Christmas together. I got some cool new boots, Dina for a new outfit and shoes, Theo and Narcisse got cameras, and Tory had to hunt for her present!

We managed to fit everything in the jeep liberty + 5 people and we headed to Alpena. Upon arrival we met up with Tory's sister Shelly and her husband John and their Cockatoo Coco!  The bird instantly pooped on Tory's hand and then tried to bite Narcisse several times. It was hilarious!  We celebrated Christmas with the Hodges clan and enjoyed some of my favorite holiday traditions, Aunt Sonya's Christmas candy!  She makes the best peanut butter balls and cherry balls you have ever tasted.  Every year I debate about stealing them.

The next day we were visited by Tory's other sister Kelly, her husband Chris, and daughter Victoria.  We had a great time catching up with them as we went bald eagle watching down on the Patterson Farm!  We also took the boys to feed cattle.  Both boys have Rwandan cattle experience and were excited to see how my father-in-law handled things on his farm.  They got the biggest kick out watching the cows come running when he honked the horn!  They also wanted to pet the cows.  Apparently Rwandan cows are much friendlier than American cows.

Of course, we celebrated Christmas with Tory's family and found their generosity and giving spirit to be overwhelming as well.  Every present Victoria got managed to make loud noises!  Bad planning.  Best Gift Given - My Father-in-law gave Victoria a stick horse. I believe at one point or another every grown adult rode the stick horse.  I know I did!

It was a great Christmas!  I loved every moment of it! Our families were fantastic! We were worried about the burden we were putting on our family by bringing guests and asking them to feed us, but they responded just like we knew they would...with love and open arms! Our boys and Dina had a great time everywhere we went and we are so thankful everyone took the time to invest in them.

Other funny notables:
  • The boys now have enough socks to last the rest of their time in the States.
  • Mom has single-handedly boosted the sales of the gift shop at the hospital in Memphis.
  • John Hodges is more stingy with his smoked sausage than my father.

Our First Family Photo!

More Pictures to come!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas

Dear Friends and Family,
2010 has been a year of international endeavors for the Lewis family.   Between trips to the Amazon jungle and Haiti, we served as a host family for two young men from Rwanda and a young lady from Cameroon.  In fact, we are fortunate enough to have all three joining us for Christmas this year.  Tory and I went from two stockings to five stockings in a matter of months!
This summer, we were introduced to two fine gentlemen from Rwanda, Theophile and Narcisse.  The boys are studying in the United States for four years through the Rwandan Presidential Scholars Program and Bridge to Rwanda.  We first heard about the program through a local ministry in Little Rock called International Friendship Outreach and offered to serve as host parents.  Theophile and Narcisse lived with us for eight weeks this summer, and now that they are living in the dorms, we see them almost weekly.  When they came to live with us, they were skinny Rwandans with little knowledge of America and what lay ahead of them.  Now, they love pizza, hamburgers, and milkshakes; carry their cell phones everywhere; and update their Facebook pages daily.  Welcome to America!
Shortly after their departure, we were given the opportunity to house a girl from Cameroon named Dina.  Unlike the boys, Dina came to us completely Americanized; she knows more about pop culture than either Tory or me!  We have learned about MTV, Beyonce, and every reality TV series known to man. Dina is studying to be a nurse at UALR and will be with us until the first of the year.
Tory is continuing to do what Tory does…Everything!  Tor has been on two trips to Haiti this year, joined the Junior League of Little Rock, runs multiple programs at church, and is probably planning something now for us to do over the Holiday break.  Tory is in her second year as a law clerk for a federal district judge here in Little Rock and has been blessed with a new clerkship that will start this summer for a federal court of appeals judge.  Her ability, intelligence, and patience never cease to amaze me.  Tory is definitely the engine that keeps our house running!
I have also had a busy year with a mission trip to the jungles of Suriname and an otherwise over-committed schedule. My big accomplishments for the year were successfully curing my first batch of country hams and smoking some breakfast sausage at our Caney Creek Smokehouse. Hopefully, everyone will be able to try some!  Tory continues to limit the number of hobbies I have, but I continue to fight back.
Juno has had a great year!  With all of our house guests, she has double the number of socks to steal from the floor. She remains hyper but is on the verge of calming down– or at least, that is what we keep telling ourselves.  We get an unreasonable amount of joy from Juno.  Dad continues to claim the superiority of his dogs given their ability to hunt, but I kindly remind him that my dog has never bitten anyone.
God has blessed our family greatly in 2010, and we thank Him for His provisions and guidance.  We are striving to use these blessing in ways that will glorify Him. We are thankful for each of you and the role that you play in our lives.  We look forward to spending 2011 with you!
Merry Christmas!
Mark & Tory
Tory and Dina!

Juno watching the birds in the back yard!

Ham amongst Hams

 These are the monsters we created!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Too Much Going On!

We have too much going on!

Last week we participated in Olivia's annual Christmas party.  This year was line dancing and pizza.  A dangerous combination for any group of 6th grade girls.  the highlight of the evening was when the 6th grade boys who were at basketball practice peaked in and were caught!  It sent the girls into a frenzy!  There was not a drill instructor in the world that could have got the girls back in line to participate in anything after that moment.
Other hilarious observations:
  • There cannot be more than 3 bathroom stalls at the place where we were, yet if one girl needed to go to the bathroom all of a sudden 13-15 other girls needed to go.
  • You never have a 6th grade girl say "don't take my picture".  They are all more than willing to participate.
  • You officially begin your awkward stage in 6th grade.  I know I did.
  • I managed to see my old basketball coach for the first time in probably 8 years while wearing a hot pink bandanna,
My grandfather has been in the hospital for the past 9 days now with some heart issues.  The latest news is he will be getting a pacemaker sometime over the next month. He seems to be doing well and is not in a lot of pain, except boredom.  We are hoping he will be able to come home soon.  He does have his laptop, iphone, and Ipad with him though!  Hopefully he can read this and know we are thinking about him!  I look forward to seeing him over Christmas.

At our small group Christmas party I experienced for the first time a little thing called White Hot Chocolate!
Ohhh my!  It might be my new favorite thing.  If you are thinking that sound like it would be is!
I have been looking for it in local stores, but have yet to stumble upon it!  No worries...I will find it.

We also had a Tennessee Pride Christmas party this weekend.  We went to Dam Good Pies in Little Rock for some good pizza and then back to our house for some dessert, coffee, and apple cider.  It was a good time had by all!

We have finally settled our Christmas plans and it looks like we will be in West Memphis for a day and then up to Alpena for the weekend. It looks like Alpena will be a packed house, but should be a lot of fun. This will be the first time we have taken the boys to the farm and I know they will love it.  I just hope it is warm enough to get out and show them a couple of things.

Dina convinced Tory and I to watch Prison Break with her on DVD and we are officially hooked!  We are about 2/3 of the way though season 1 and we are all anxious to see what happens next. 

Have a great week!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Smoked Sausage Anyone?

Caney Creek Smoked Meats LLC has now officially ventured into pork sausage!  Dad and I took 52 lbs of sausage to the cabin this week for a little under 72 hours of smoking.  They were stuffed in the old school cloth bags by Tennessee Pride and then given to me to add some TLC and smoke.  Everything turned out great!

Unfortunately, all of this seasons sausage has already been allocated to family and friends for Christmas presents. No need to fear, I will hopefully have a new batch ready for public consumption soon.

I really enjoy this hobby.  I would love to make it a profitable venture (as would Tory). Who knows,  one day you might be picking out your favorite Caney Creek Ham at your local Kroger or swinging by Wal-Mart to pick up a lb of Caney Creek Smoked Sausage.  Never hurts to dream!

Even better, once I got home...Tory and Dina had put up all the Christmas decorations!  My wife is awesome!

Have a great week.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Theophile's B-Day!

Theophile turned the Big 21 over the Thanksgiving holiday so we had to have a birthday party!
It was a whole family event topped off with some chicken dumplings, fruit salad, and of course birthday cake. Theophile's "brother" Narcisse was able to come to the festivities as well.

Theophile told us when he first moved in with us that it is a Rwandan tradition to dump water on whomsoever birthday you are celebrating. We made a mental note and filed it away for such an occasion.  We made sure his other host family was completely aware of the tradition and they came through brilliantly!

We are blessed to have a continued relationship with Theophile and Narcisse and we love sharing moments like these with them!

Even Landon Came!

Theophile wanted a picture receiving his gift as if he was receiving a diploma in High School!

Who doesn't like new clothes

Happy Birthday THEO!

Kansas 2010

Bird hunting in Kansas this year was everything I had hoped for!  We came out the gates blaring, but the birds did not get the message.  We only killed 3 the first day.  Needless to say...I was a little down and out.  It is hard to describe the feeling of walking mile after mile carrying a heavy gun only to never even take your safety off.  The good news...We got in a lot of birds the last two days!

It took about 3 covey of quail before I had dialed in my shot, even then, accuracy is not my forte. The more birds we saw the lighter the gun got and the bigger the smiles got. All of a sudden, you can walk all day.

Best part of the trip was when Al brought us all "Art's Hen Hunt" hats as a celebration of Arts unfortunate event that took place last year.

We had several new comers this year, none of them as noticeable as Rex Hayes. Rex came with Dad and I from Arkansas.  We carried 2 god boxes with a total of 7 dogs and 3 men.  We became known as the gypsies from Arkansas. I wish I could have taken a picture of the truck.

The mission of the trip was Dog Management.  We failed at this miserably. It is a long story, but give me a call and I would love to fill you in on the details.

All in all, great time and I hope Art invites me back!

Traditional Strategy Meeting

Chief Council Ryan

I love this shot!  kind of sums up what the Kansas trip is about.

It was freezing cold!

Kansas has it's own unique beauty.

Last field...Till next year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The holiday season is upon us and I have yet to give it much thought.  Tory and I have been so busy lately that it seems like my mind is still back in August. With or without me, the holidays will move forward, so I better get on board!

Tory and I both love Thanksgiving.  Family and food...good combination for fun. We are headed to Alpena for two family get togethers and then back to Little Rock for the LSU game and down time recovering from over eating.  We are also taking Dina with us to Alpena for her first American Thanksgiving.  Given her love for food and eating, she too will be a fan of Thanksgiving.

Tonight I will also get to see my mom's side of the family in a mini thanksgiving/Birthday celebration.  My grandfather turned 80 this weekend!  On his birthday I called him at 5:25 am. I knew he is the only person in the world who had already been up for close to an hour and would pick up the phone that early on their birthday.  I was able to have a great conversation with him that morning and I asked him what advice an 80 year old man would give to a 26 year old man.  He simply stated, to live a Christian life, love and protect your family, and work hard.  Three simple principles that he has whole heartily lived out in his 80 years.

Dad and I had a successful trip to Kansas again this year!  First day was rough, but we really got into the birds the last two days.  It was full of the usual hounding for bad shooting and self promotion for good shooting. Al was kind enough to purchase us all hats that said "Art's Hen Hunt" in memory of the lone Hen pheasant Art accidentally shot last year.  I could not stop laughing! I will post pictures later with more hunting details!

It is Thanksgiving...and we have so much to be thankful for! Tory and I are blessed with great family, great jobs, and good friends.  It is our prayer that we would view all of these as blessing from God and that we would use them to bring Him glory. We are so thankful!

Just because I love Blogs with pictures...Here are some of the previous Thanksgiving photos!

 Granddaddy asleep at the computer!

All the women working hard and Gloria just looking pretty for the camera

Juno and Tory Studying for Law finals!

Demuth, Hill, and Lewis Clan family photo

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cold Season

I hate waking up being able to breath only out of one nostril, a sore throat from snoring all night, and a constant feeling of snot dripping out of your nose. Yes, I have a cold!  In fact, Tory and Dina have a cold as well.

A cold often seems unavoidable. No matter the precautions you may take, they will still find you and more than likely at an inopportune time.  I headed to Kansas this week to go bird hunting with my Dad and some old Nashville buddies and I could not think of anything I would rather leave behind than this cold.  Not to mention, my father may be the biggest "germaphobe" ever! I will never hear the end of it if I manage to get him sick.

A cold can not keep my spirits down about this trip though. I am looking forward to a trip with my Dad and an opportunity to catch up with Ryan, Art and Al.  Stories will be told by the thousands.  All of them over exaggerated with a smidgen of truth tied in.  I have heard many of them probably 15 times, but I will still laugh and enjoy hearing them again. The best part is the stories that will be created this year, as inevitably someone will do something that will gain them a year of shame until the next time we can hunt together. I can hardly wait!

The other thing I really enjoy about trips like this is seeing my father in his element.  He comes alive hunting for birds and becomes almost child like. It is infectious.  He can get everyone excited and passionate about what we are doing or make everyone laugh as he demands for more shells after missing multiple birds. I am fortunate to have an active father who pursues time with me and takes time to share life, provide wisdom, guidance, and is a Godly man. I look forward to our long weekend together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Happens When You Open Your House!

Tory and I opened up our house this summer to two Rwandan students, Theophile and Narcisse.  It was a blast and we shared so many laughs and memories.  Theophile started school at UALR and became friends with a girl name Dina who needed a place to live for the semester.  Theophile glady gave her our contact information and recommended that we were a great place to live!  God put her on our heart and we gladly welcomed her to live with us.  Dina has been living with us for about 5 weeks now and mentioned to us this morning about one of her Saudi Arabian friends that would like to live with us starting in March!  This gentleman was at least willing to pay rent!

We quickly explained that the Lewis Dormitory was a need base only. However, making a little rent money did not sound too bad!

Tory and I could not help but laugh!  We are the most popular international off campus housing development!

Tory and I prayed that our house would be used as a tool for God and that he would give us the opportunities to use it.  So far, he is keeping up His end of the bargin!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekend at the Cabin

This weekend I took Theophile, Justin, Emily, Brad and Beth Davis to the Caney Creek Cabin in Big Fork, AR.  It was a great weekend with great weather, lots of laughs, and simple living. 

Teophile experienced several first...His first time in weather below 16 degrees Celsius...first time in a sleeping bag...first time to ride on a 4 wheeler by himself...and I am pretty sure this is one of the first times that Teophile has ever put fun in front of studying!

We arrived late on Friday night to find a cabin that was not as cold as we feared, but cold none the less.
If you have never been to the cabin, the only thing we have to heat the cabin is one modern heating unit and two heating devices that Dad picked up in the 1970's that you have to unplug periodically for fear of burning the cabin down.  Ohh, but you can bring in the propane heater meant for outdoor use to "knock the cold out of the room".

Most of the weekend was spent exploring on 4 wheelers with the occasional break to eat, sleep, or visit the Law's neighboring cabin.  After the visit to the Law's Cabin, I am convinced They will never come to the Lewis cabin again.

The trip ended with a visit to Burls for the best Beef Jurkey in the world and a cinnamon roll the size of a dinner plate.  It is a dangerous combination!

Funny Memories from the trip:
  • Justin describing a trail that he had been on by using the phrase "the one with the log on it". We were in the woods Justin...need a little more to go on!
  • Teal (Brad's Dog) getting so tired from chasing 4 wheelers that she just sat down in the middle of a field.
  • We managed to eat nothing that was Name brand.  All was either Kroger Private Label or Great Value.
  • I managed to make breakfast by myself both days!  I know they could hear me preparing food, but yet no one got up!  Weird.
  • Justin and Emily were the last two to any event that took place.  They were the only unmarried couple and required excessive primping.  Mainly by Justin.
  • Everyone suffered a case of the "Meat Sweats"
Have a good week!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend at the Farm

Tory, Dina, and I had a wonderful weekend in Alpena.  The weather was perfect for a little cattle work, 4-wheeling, gun shooting, and bear investigating! It was a restful weekend of sleeping in, taking a Saturday nap, and good eating! 

On Sunday we ventured to a  famous NWA cemetery known for the gorgeous maple trees this time of year, Maplewood Cemetery.  Given Arkansas recent drought the color was not overwhelming, but beautiful none the less. Below are some of the snap shots we took.

This is one of my favorite photo's I have taken of Tory!
She is just beautiful!

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Blogger

I love following friends and family on blogs and started to wonder why the Lewis clan does not have a blog! After checking it out, I found it is an extremely easy process and you can make yourself look like a professional web designer. I have no idea about the content, direction, or objective of the Lewis blog; but I am excited about the possibilities.  I am sure Tory will chuckle when she sees what I have created.

In honor of Halloween, I decided to post some of my previous favorite costumes!

JD Dudley went as "The Facebook"

Grant was an 80's Athlete

I can't remember what Justin was, but I have a great picture of him holding a golden eagle with the flag as a backdrop.  Hard to beat!

Rachel, Liz, Stephen, and I went as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Mark as "Ricky Bobby"

Mark as "Doctor Evil"

Mark as "The Farmboy Bronzed Statue"

Mark as "A Box of Tennessee Pride Turkey Sausage Patties"