1.31.2015

Winter Tour 2015//Week 2

Week #2 of the winter tour found us in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. We sang in several new areas/churches which meant meeting new faces and making many new friends!
Tear down time! Mitchell & Hudson putting away instruments after a concert.
It takes lots of food to feed all the hungry children on this bus! =) Having everyone traveling together means that our Costco shopping crew sometimes looks a little different than what it looks like at home! Its fun to have the guys help with the shopping on the road.
Of course we like to keep things fun. Didn't y'all know that carts were originally made for riding like this? The fact that you can also store groceries in them is totally a bonus. Sometimes we tear through the stores at the speed of light and mom lingers far behind so no one will know she is related to us. (hehe)
We are always on the lookout for new educational opportunities on the road. In Cumberland Gap, we spent a few hours one morning at the Abraham Lincoln University.
Reading in the library...ah, the library-always a Bontrager's favorite place to be!
We had never been to this part of Virginia before and the mountains were so beautiful!
One night we were driving on the interstate, on our way from Virginia to North Carolina, when suddenly a car swerved over and ran into the front end of our bus. The car was smashed in but still able to drive and the person never stopped but just drove off.
 The front end of our bus was damaged considerably but we were thankful for God's protection because it could've been much worse. 
Another birthday on the road! This was a big one-Taylor's thirteenth! 
"If it ain't red, leave it in the shed". This is a Bontrager's life motto. =)
Banana splits for dessert!
A family selfie to remember the occasion! Denver barely made it. =)
Taylor's activity of choice was watching the college football national championship. So we got a hotel room and all piled in to watch it. Afterwards a few stayed and slept in the room and the rest of us stayed in the bus.
One of our sweet brothers bought this coffee for the coffee drinkers of the family. We also finally got a tiny little coffee pot for the bus because the french press hasn't been working so well. So now nearly every morning on the bus you will smell the delicious aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Ahhh...reminds me of home sweet home!
Supper before a concert one night with dear friends in South Carolina.
As you can tell, we have been greatly enjoying the camera abilities of Carson's iPhone. This photo was taken backstage one night while the pastor was introducing us. We almost missed our own concert. (whoops)
But we got some great pictures. Never a dull moment. Never. =)

Week #2 was also full of lots and lots of music practice, school, and office work. For some reason we don't end up with as many pictures of the "work" time....probably because we are busy working! 
Special thanks to all of the old and new friends who blessed + encouraged us in so many ways during week two of our tour! 

"I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my WHOLE HEART; I will shew forth all Thy marvelous works."
Psalm 9:1

{posted by Chelsy}

1.24.2015

Winter Tour 2015||Week 1

The first week of our tour found us in Missouri, Kentucky, + Tennessee. We had eight concerts in eight days, which kept us hopping! 
As usual, it took a little while to get back into the swing of road life. (and some of us still haven't quite adjusted yet!) 

Our life at home on the farm is pretty much polar-opposite from road life, so making the switch back and forth is usually tough, but especially when we leave for our winter tour, since we've just gotten off of our longest stretch at home (3months). 

We had quite a few challenges that first week. Those states were having unusually cold weather and our bus didn't do so well with that. Thankfully no pipes burst although we did have strings popping on our instruments from the cold. Due to that we had to store all the instruments up in the bus instead of down in the bay (since the bays weren't staying warm enough for the instruments) and that was definitely character-building because the bus is so tight anyway with all twelve of us, and adding ?? instruments piled all over the place made for quite a bit of tripping and organized chaos. 

The above picture was taken during a meal we had at a home nearby to our first concert of the tour. I felt like that chocolate cake definitely deserved to be photographed. =) That meal was such a treat-we were all exhausted and feeling very unprepared for the concert that night and it was like God just sent us this incredible home cooked Mennonite meal to give us the little extra encouragement we were needing!
In addition to everything else, we were frantically spending every spare minute practicing new music for our upcoming time in the recording studio in February. 
For whatever reason, music practice is usually a pretty stressful experience for us. (maybe its because we often wait til the last minute) There is definitely not jumping up and down with joy whenever Mitchell (commander-in-chief of practice time) announces group practice. 
But as is the way with real life, you can't always do what you feel like doing! 
I took a few pictures of this practice we had at a little country church in KY. The above picture is typical-instrumentalists are serious + focused.....
...while the female sector of the family are buried in the books during the various instrument licks. Invariably though they get so immersed in their books that they forget to sing at the proper times, which results in mild scoldings from the males. =)
Fellowship with dear friends one night in Tennessee after a concert there.
As always, laundry is a big part of life on the road!! We have more laundromat stories in our book than you can imagine! We've been to every kind. 
This particular one was great except that the dryers heat was so high that it literally fried all of our dress pants. We rewashed and ironed and sprayed and rewashed but they still haven't been the same since. =(
I was thankful for this crew of siblings that came in to help finish the folding + get everything loaded on the bus!
In the hills of KY, we sang at this gorgeous community building. It was definitely my favorite building we have ever sung in. It was so rustic and beautiful and COUNTRY. 
 Just check out that chalkboard above the fireplace! (above)
sound check time
A panoramic view from the back of the building. Isn't it gorgeous?! 
In the midst of all of those concerts and practice and laundry and everything else,  we still have to make time for lots of physical activities outdoors or else this farm family will go CRAZY! =) 
Above, the boys enjoying a good football game at a park in Tennessee.

We want to extend a special thank-you to all of the churches + dear people in Missouri, Kentucky, & Tennessee, who were so kind in hosting & blessing us in so many ways during our first week on tour for 2015! Thank-you all so much!! May the Lord richly bless y'all as you have blessed & encouraged our family! 

"Be Thou exalted, Lord, in Thine own strength: so will we sing and praise Thy power."
Psalm 21:13

{posted by chelsy}

1.14.2015

The Christmas Eve Tradition 2015

I'm not sure where to even start and stop with this post.  How does one even start to describe the festivity, the joy, the love, and the incredible amount of delicious food that is in our home on Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year?! We always celebrate in style, and this year was no exception.  
Chels worked her wonders decorating the table.  By the time she was done it looked like this:
The color scheme was simple black and white, with elegant place settings.....
.....and a profusion of white candles.
Throughout the day all sorts of delicious concoctions were being assembled.
Our time cooking together was a riot of delight!  There was much good natured banter and cooking tips passed all 'round.:)
Even the youngest were allowed to pick a dish and try their hand at gourmet cooking.
On our chalkboard door, I scripted the classic phrase that exemplifies what Christmas is all about.
These guys can cook up some seriously delish "victuals"!!!
The coffee pot (backround) was kept busy by Carson as he supplied us with fresh coffee throughout the day.  
The time spent together was truly the best part of the day.
Here is Carson making "THE" onion rings.  Yes, there is a story......A few years ago Carson tried deep fried onion rings for our Christmas Eve celebration and they were tremendously enjoyed.  As in THE. BEST. EVER.  He has made onion rings (or fried shrimp) every year since.  This year when we were all discussing what to make, he said something like, "I think maybe I will try something different this year.  I wouldn't have to do onion rings.  Maybe I shouldn't be so boring."  At which a loud chorus of dissenting voices arose and would not be quieted until Carson agreed to "fry".  We thence all murmured our thankful approval and gave ourselves up to visions of golden piles of onion rings.  The end.:)
It is fun to see the little ones improve year by year in their culinary skills.  They are really quite creative!
Even little Rebecca helped with the preparations.
Dad poured the sparkling juice.
Seriously......these two.:)  They keep things alternating between very intense and very humorous!
Doesn't this look like a fine dining experience?  
I shall introduce you to each of the scrumptious dishes that graced our table.  And let me say, I cannot even describe how utterly tasty each and every dush was, and how our taste buds (and tummies:) throbbed with enjoyment all evening long.  First....meet Chelsy's Italian Potato Skins.
THE Onion Rings (Carson)
Creamy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms (Denver)
Zesty Quesadillas Deluxe (Taylor)
Marinated Kebabs (Elizabeth)
Bacon/Leek/Mozzarella  Bruschetta Bites (Chelsy)
Cripsy Oven Baked Scallops (Mitchell & Hudson)
Queso Fundida (Joshua)
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (Taylor)
Espresso and Vanilla Cheesecake Truffles (Allison & Rebecca)
Lemon Curd & Berry Crepes (Mother & Allison)
We put lemon curd filling in the crepes, topped with some berries, and rolled it all up.  
Elizabeth helped assemble the crepes when dessert time arrived.
the ladies, setting out the food on the table
There are always last minute preparations to do and then finally.......
.............it's all ready and we do a quick group photo before turning off the lights and enjoying our candlelit dinner.
Sometimes I feel like we should take a picture like this every single week because some people's heights are changing just about that fast! Here were are, youngest to oldest...
...and shortest to tallest. The females in our family are involved in a losing battle. =)
After dinner, there was clean-up......
.....a few more photos......
.....and games!
We played a super competitive version of "Spoons" that involved the people who got "out" not being allowed to talk.  Then if you were "out" and got someone that was still "in" to talk, you switched places with them.  It was hilarious!
Finally, there was "Take One" for those who desired a bit more brain stimulation before calling it a night.  We all finally went to bed somewhere around midnight, most of us sleeping on the floor (another Christmas Eve tradition).

I think this quote says it so well, "Christmas presents come and go, but Christmas memories last a lifetime."  

-posted by Allison