Out and About

There are so many good things about being home in our Iowa place. One of those is reconnecting with all of our Iowa family + friends! We love them all so much and soak up the time to see all the Iowans again!
Above, Allison + I drove to Des Moines (end of April) for a day with several of our aunts + cousins, and our grandma. It is a yearly "Bontrager ladies" tradition to go there for garage sales for a day with whoever is able to come. We had such a party!
Olive Garden for a late lunch! It rained all day and we were so cold! I'm afraid they definitely lost money on us that day, with all the soup we ate from the unlimited soup + salad choice. =) Such good times!
Our church recently started up a mini orchestra to accompany the choir and congregational singing, and Liz + Hudson have been loving the opportunity to be a part of it.
Allison loved spending several mornings with these children, so their mother could go out for a few hours of quiet time.

Pancheros for lunch and then closet makeover shopping with our mother dear!
While we are speaking of Allison...she is invaluable these days at the hotel.
Public Relations Expert, Manager of All Projects, Marketing Director, and Hiring/Firing Queen, amongst other titles. =) Her social personality makes her perfect for her job, and she loves nothing better than doing everything she can to serve + bless her customers. The other morning she took some time to chat with this gentleman, a driver for the Amish, who was staying at the hotel.
Dad + Elizabeth, out on the town (Longhorn) for some quality father/daughter time.
 Several of us participated in singing/playing for the theme song, "I Will Arise", for our churches annual missions conference.

Mom + Rebecca spent an afternoon at Grandma's, with Rebecca learning a little more cross stitch from the pro. =)
Laundry time at the hotel! Allison took a few minutes at the end of her spring cleaning shift to assist our manager's wife with folding the ever-continuing pile of sheets + towels!


Spring Company!

We were delighted to have a number of guests in and out of our home in April + May. Here are several "company time" snapshots from a few of the visits!
Our cousin + her little family came to visit! (read all about that on my blog, here)
Liz was ecstatic to spend half a day with one of her best friends, who lives several hours away. Liz' friends' father was in the area on business so he dropped his daughter off here for awhile. They had such fun!
This girl was one of Joshua's fellow contestants in the Bible Bee for several years. Now she is married and has a baby, and their family visited us while they were out here in Iowa for a wedding.

Back when "things" were starting up, one of their sons asked my sister, "So, if this works out...does that make our families in-laws?" =)
Of course it is just the one getting married that gets the in-laws, but we tell Carson we are happy to share his in-laws with him, as they are just the sweetest ever. =)
Mom spending time with her little great-nephew. 
Work continues on the farm, even when we have guests, but you'd be amazed how much good conversation can be had whilest cooking, cleaning, gardening, and yes, even tearing apart a tractor with grease flying. =)
Tractor time and hauling manure with Mitchell + Co!
Two other cousins were traveling through Iowa with their crew on their way west for a work project, and stopped in late to spend the night. We love random and spur-of-the-moment opportunities to practice hospitality like that! Sadly, the time was short, but the sunrise chat was greatly enjoyed by all.
Story time with the little people.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17


Website Store Free Shipping!

Good morning Friends! With the ending of our recent giveaway, we wanted to give a little deal to those of y'all who didn't win. This deal is free shipping STOREWIDE on all USA orders placed within the next week! 
This deal will run today-next Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day. Head on over to our store and place your order now! We don't run sales very often (maybe 1-2x per year) so this is your chance to take advantage of the free shipping and purchase our new album, or stock up on some of our previous albums that you may not have!
Thanks for shopping with us!

Babies in the House!

(note: whoops, I thought this post was scheduled to publish on Saturday morning! We just returned home from a short wkend in Ohio, and I discovered this morning that there was somehow a glitch and it never posted after all! So y'all get two posts today, then! Sorry about that!)

We recently loved the opportunity to watch some of our favorite little ones-our pastor's two youngest daughters. Babies in the house is one of our favorite things ever, and these are tiding us over til the grand babies start coming! =)
I took Rachel out one morning (still in her jammies!) to meet the newest arrival on the farm-a baby calf born just that morning.
Liz adored every opportunity to entertain this little gal!
What a smile. =)
Painting nails is always a favorite activity!


Last Chance to Sign up for the Summer Bible Bee!

Our family has been incredibly blessed over the years by the National Bible Bee(to read more about our experiences in the Bible Bee, go to the top of this page and type "Bible Bee" in the search box at the top left)
 It has been both challenging and rewarding as we have dived into Word of God—intensely studying
 the Bible and memorizing more of it than we ever thought was possible! The Bible Bee has truly been a life-changing experience for all of us! 

That's why we would like to encourage all of you to join us this summer, beginning June 5, as we dive into the Word of God once more. The summer program involves studying a passage of scripture as well as memorizing several memory passage. Following the program schedule takes less than 20 minutes each day to complete. The competition is for ages 7-18, but the entire family is welcome to join the adventure. 
The summer program begins June 5th and ends July 28th, when contestants take an online written test based off of the material they learned during the summer. Top-scoring contestants can then go on to the National Level if they rank high enough in their scores and wish to continue in the National program. 

Registration ends on May 31st, although late registration does run until June 15th. However, if at all possible, you will want to sign up by May 31st, so that you can start on time with everyone else. Waiting until June 15th will give you a late start and place you behind most other participants.

To find out more about the Bible Bee, or to sign up, go to www.biblebee.org. 

We would strongly encourage all of you, young or old, to commit to studying God’s Word for these 8 weeks this summer. There are few things you could do with your time that are as worthwhile as studying God’s precious Word. 
Embark on a life-changing adventure and allow yourself to be transformed by the eternal Word of God! 

"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee."

Psalm 119:11


Youth Conference Food Prep

Last week, several of the children helped me prepare a meal for the speakers at our church's annual youth conference. I am thankful for these opportunities we have to spend time in the kitchen together and for the privilege to serve at the church where we have been so blessed.
Elizabeth was the "tomato salsa maker". 
These two sweeties diligently cut about 2 lbs. of pineapple, many peppers, and a large amount of cilantro, (used in their pineapple salsa as well as in the tomato salsa, the guacamole, and the rice & beans) plus squeezed a lot of limes, the other key ingredient in our meal.
Sauteing the peppers!
Taylor prepared the incredible guacamole. This young man applies himself diligently to whatever project is at hand.
And then there were the rhubarb custard bars. M-m-m-m-m, these were just another confirmation of Chelsy's ability to bake yummy desserts. Hudson and Elizabeth were the chopping duo.
 Honestly, these were one of the best creations ever made with butter and rhubarb!
Tortillas, grilled fajitas chicken and vegetables, lettuce, cilantro rice & beans, tortilla chips, sour cream, guacamole, tomato salsa, pineapple salsa, and the rhubarb custard bars were enjoyed.   

 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
-1 Corinthians 10:31

{written by Becky}


Work Night With Friends

Last week, we enjoyed a beautiful summer evening with friends-eating yummy food, sharing good conversations, and planting garden/flower beds! It was so fun to help them and make the pieces fly. With our big crew of almost everyone, there were lots of able, willing workers. It was the perfect summer night and we had a great time with our whole group!
Fun on the trampoline after dinner!
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; 
and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
-II Corinthians 9:6


Spring Cleaning at the Hotel

It is springtime, and that means time for a thorough deep cleaning @ the Dutch Country Inn. As usual, this includes scrubbing everything from top to bottom-moving beds, flipping mattresses, washing windows, etc. 
In addition to the spring cleaning, Allison is painting a verse on one wall in each room. 
I (Chelsy) am again doing the window washing. I love the finished product and the extra muscle-building with hefting those big windows in and out. =)


Family Coffee Shop Night

Back on a recent tour (or was it one longer ago? no one seems to remember!) we had some type of goal we were all working towards, on the bus, and the incentive was that if everyone "made it", the reward would be a night at the coffee shop, on the parents. 
With our many + varied schedules, getting this to actually happen was somewhat of an act of congress! But finally----we managed to make it happen!
Just a quick plug for the coffee shop. It is our favorite stop in Kalona and we visit there quite frequently. Whether it is work meetings, or job interviews, or coffee dates, or just writing/quiet time..it is one of our favorite locations. It is also a great place to hang out with the family. Naturally, we don't go with everyone very much, since with twelve people our bill adds up quite quickly! So on those rare times we have all gone together, it is very much a treat and enjoyed to be out with the whole family for the night.
Thankfully we were able to reserve one of the side rooms, just for us, so we weren't too disruptive. Well, depending on your version of disruptive. =) 
Basically, no one else complained or threw us out so...we assumed we were fine. =)
Dutch Blitz, the legendary family favorite
Good conversations...
Take One...
The whole gang!
So thankful for these family nights + together time. Our family is changing a lot these days and in the midst of it all, we are so thankful for each other and the blessing of strong family relationships. 

"We may not have it all together...but together, we have it all."


Carson + Carolina's Engagement Party

About a week after Carson + Lina's engagement, the Bowers clan (Lina's family) invited ours over for a celebration...family-style! We had such a riot! Lots of laughter, conversation, yummy food, and even a few very very happy tears of joy at the answering of so many people's prayers for these two. If ever there was a prayed-for couple, Carson + Lina was it! 
{Note: They have decided to wait to write out their story, here on the blog, until after their wedding. However, if you are able to snag them in person sometime, I guarantee you will get all of the details!)
Beautiful table settings.
The beverage counter.
Happy families!

You can't go wrong with a menu like this!
So much good food.
Cassidy (Lina's younger sister) prepared this labor of love---a beautiful wall covered with pictures of Carson + Lina...from their childhood, all the way to their relationship. So sweet.
Napkins-C for Carson + L for Lina. (her full name is Carolina, but she mostly goes by "Lina")
Carson + Lina, we love y'all so much, and are so thankful we could celebrate your engagement with you! Can't wait to party on your wedding day in September!

"I love you for all that you are, for all that you've been, and for all that you're yet to be."