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.