Taking In Cuba

The wanderlust gene runs deep in my soul.  I am always up for a road trip, an airplane flight, or even packing a moving van and setting out on some fun adventure or checking out new destinations.  You will see this in the next couple of weeks as I share a couple of trips Audley and I have made this summer.

But, I am not the only one who has this wonderlust gene in our family; my children have it as well.  Since I am in Boston on an anniversary get-away with Audley, our daughter Madeline is taking over my blog today sharing her recent trip to Cuba with my Dad (see, the wonderlust gene is multi-generational) for a little mission trip; the second mission trip some of our family has made this summer. 

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Pop and me at the Atlanta airport ready to fly

The view of her trip through her 17-year-old eyes is so very sweet and full of passion.  Enjoy.

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I think I just left my whole entire heart in another country.  Over the last year I have been praying for Cuba.  I have cried out to God on their behalf so that the people there could experience Him.

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Yes, it is a BEAUTIFUL country with so many kind and beautiful people.  Their country is not far advanced and it is in poverty.  They may be content, but they still lack one thing – Jesus.

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We went through Cienfuegos spreading and teaching the gospel.  They welcomed us in their homes and cried with us as they shared their stories.

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People there thought that they were full, but as we taught, they were quick to realize the emptiness they had inside.  This week we filled that space with Jesus.

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I fully believe that we have been called to be missionaries where we live, work, and play, but also sometimes we are called beyond that.  It is a beautiful thing that we can be tools for the kingdom, no matter where we are in the world.

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We were able to hug and tickle kids who needed to feel loved and valued.

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We got to make new friends, sisters and brothers.

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We got to spend time with His creation and worship Him.

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My Pop teaching

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But most importantly, Jesus made himself known this week.  He taught me to be a little more humble and that it is okay to not have everything figured out.  My God is UNSTOPPABLE.

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Look at all these Christian teenagers gathered in CUBA… a communist country!

I am so thankful for this opportunity and how Jesus is continuing to change my heart.  My greatest prayer is that we won’t lose our fire back in our communities; that we will continuously be sharing the gospel, not just through our word, but by our actions.

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Pray for Cuba.  There is still work to be done there, but we do know God is on the move.

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Pop studied with a young man who was baptized (one of 17 baptisms I watched) and this young man brought his friend to study and learn as well!

To the people who made this trip financially possible (I know some of Momma’s blogging friends helped), and spiritually possible through prayer, THANK YOU!

This week I have made so many friends for life.  I have learned to be humble and patient.  We saw so many people come to meet Jesus and got to encourage churches and communities in Christ.  God broke through every barrier in our way to make Himself known and our team feels beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to be tools for the Kingdom (the Church). God continued to reveal how He is our provider.

Continue to pray for Cuba and Cienfuegos’ churches.  I have a full heart and God is unstoppable in me.

~Maddie Jones~

“Sweet Cherry Pie” Filling

“Tastes so good makes a grown man cry…

Sweet Cherry Pie”.

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After single-handedly devouring several pounds of sweet, summer cherries, I felt the need to be a wee bit productive and share the deliciousness with others.

The result?

A perfectly sweet and tart cherry pie filling that I turned into the easiest pie that anyone could make!

Check out this yummy treat, and add it to your summer supper menu!

Sweet Cherry Pie Filling

Ingredients:

8 cups pitted sweet cherries (I cheated & split mine in half to pit)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup organic sugar

2 Tbsp fresh squeezed Lime juice

3 Tbsp Corn Starch

1 whole vanilla bean, split in half

Making The Filling:

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pan on your stovetop.

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Cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally to keep the cherry mixture from sticking to your pan.  The mixture will thicken up and be ready to remove in 8-10 minutes.

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Remove from heat, store in pretty jars, and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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I love these mini mold jars from Weck for storage, and even canning.  I used 4-  5.6 oz jars to hold my finished filling.

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Now why in the world would I make cherry pie filling to hold onto is beyond me, so over the weekend I whipped up the easiest cherry pie you could imagine for Sunday supper.

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And when I say this pie is easy to assemble  I mean it is so easy that even my daughter who recently used a hair dryer to melt butter for a brownie recipe can make it!

All you need is an 8-inch Lodge cast iron skillet, a box with two roll-out Pillsbury pie crusts, a star-shaped cookie cutter, and 18 ounces of cherry pie filling.

Spray your skillet with coconut spray and use one of the pie shells to line it.  Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust, place in an oven, and bake at 350° until the crust is light brown.

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Remove from the oven and fill with your cherry pie filling.

Take the other pie crust and roll it out flat.  Using the cookie cutter, cut stars and arrange on the top of the pie filling.

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Bake at the same 350° until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

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Remove and serve with scrumptious vanilla ice cream for Cherry Pie a La mode!

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I love the ease of baking this pie and its rustic look… It gives off an old-fashioned vibe that screams “just relax” in a time when we often forget to savor the simple moments of family dinner.

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Give it a try and let me know what you think!!

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Out & About with Kustom Klutch

This week begins a new season of life for me.  For the first time in three years, I am a stay-at-home-mom.  When I went to work three years ago it was out of sheer boredom and loneliness, as we were still relatively new in town.  With Macy’s deciding to discontinue Elizabeth Arden (which eliminated my job), Audley and I decided together it was a great opportunity for me to return to our home.  My teenagers are actually thrilled over this, as is my husband, but mostly I think I’m relieved to have turned the page on that season of life.

So, I have shed the Macy’s black and brought back a little color to my life!  For me, blue and white is the quintessential color combo of summer.  Recently for an evening out with Audley to celebrate this new freedom of mine, I chose a pair of white Miss Me jeans paired with a blue and white striped top from INC (Macys… it was good for some things), and a fabulous pair of tan wedges by Steve Madden.  To complete my look I carried a denim clutch with red pom poms and a tassel from Kustom Klutch.

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I can’t help but brag that I’m down to a size 8 from a 24 just a few summers back!!  I intend to be a 6 by September… just saying.

Designed by Jordan Fish, girlfriend of NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, these cute clutches are handmade in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Once you design your clutch and place your order online (click here to check out Kustom Klutch) your custom bag arrives in just a couple of days packaged so adorably cute and included a hand-written note.

My daughters wanted to tear right into it…. Oh wait, Madeline did!!

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When you purchase your clutch, not only are you supporting a small and young business (these went live in June), you are also supporting a charity.  Ten percent of each purchase goes to a charitable organization of Jordan’s choosing each month.  When I purchased both of my clutches (couldn’t make up my mind…) in June, the charity of choice was the Denny Hamlin Foundation which is “committed to raising awareness and funds for the specific needs of children with cystic fibrosis.”  For July her charity of the month is Pit Stops for Hope.

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I was able to choose my bag and then added the tassel for a little whimsy.  The clutches are very well made and perfect for a night on the town.  You can easily fit your keys, a change purse with id and money, and of course a lipstick inside.

When your out for an adults night, leave the mom purse at home and go cute!

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As I mentioned, I did purchase two of these fun clutches; the denim and red as well as a floral print (which looks fabulous with a royal blue sundress!).  So much fun for a summer night out!

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Check out the Kustom Klutch website and find a clutch to fit your personality!

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Red, White, & Blue Snack Mix

It seems no matter how large our Independence Day cookouts might be,  the insatiable teenagers in this house always want snacks on hand.  Chips and dip is always an easy option for quick snacking, but sometimes it’s fun to change up the ordinary and make snacking a little more unique.

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This easy-peasy sweet and salty Patriotic themed snack mix is just perfect for the holiday as they can grab a handful while playing Bocce or Corn-Hole and keep moving.

Check it out for your own family!

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INGREDIENTS:

15 cups Popcorn (I used pre-popped by Cape Cod), divided into 1/3’s

1/2 bag of red Wilton candy melts

1/2 bag of blue Wilton candy melts

White Candy Sprinkles

Salted Almonds

Mini Pretzels (I used Snack Factory Mini’s)

1 Bag Red, White & Blue plain M&M’s (available only in May, June & July)

ASSEMBLING THE SNACK MIX:

Using your preferred method of melting candy, melt the red and blue Wilton candy melts.   Divide your popcorn into thirds; coat 1/3 with the red candy coating, and 1/3 with blue candy coating.  Leave the other 1/3 plain.  Lay out on wax paper and sprinkle with the white candy sprinkles and almonds.  Let candy coating harden.

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Break apart the popcorn mixture and mix in a large bowl with the reamining plain popcorn, mini pretzels and the M&M’s.

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Serve up in a colorful holiday bowl… and that’s it.

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I think the thing I love about this easy snack mis is that it can be easily adjusted for other holidays just by changing the color of the candy melts and M & M’s (think Christmas parties here).

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Give it a whirl for your next holiday celebration!

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