1 Juicy Tidbit & 2 Kansas Christmas Concerts

In December, we did a couple of Kansas Christmas concerts. 
Whadjaknow. The cold weather decided to travel with us! Sleet, ice, raining at 27 degrees, snow... stopping several times per hour to bang/scrape/knock off the windshield wipers...

It's a good thing we have an all-powerful God to protect us, a great dad to drive for us, and an interesting story tape to listen to as the hours multiply and the speed divides.

Recording update: It's practice mania around here, so watch out! You'll get your ears blasted. If you want some quite time, go sit in a vehicle outside - it's pretty warm out there!

One juicy tidbit: We  will soon have a Johnson Strings logo! It is super cool. Very unique, and lots of fun. Interested?

It's an ice sun!

 da big one.

da little one.

Our new website is scheduled to be released in LESS THAN 7 DAYS!!!

Have a wonderful day, serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

A day in the life of a performing family

~ Le Mars Bluegrass Festival, Le Mars, Iowa ~
After driving for several hours, we made a quick stop at Walmart before our first performance.

It's always good to arrive with plenty of time to spare beforehand! You never know what might happen on the road. Our van has over 230,000 miles on it. We are praying it holds out until we can get another vehicle!

Studying the performance schedules for the many different stages... 10, I think.

After lugging all the equipment across the field (We made it in ONE trip!!), through the people (hey! it's good promo!), to "back stage" behind this building before our first set, our next job is to get everything as ready as possible for a quick and smooth transition onto the main stage for our time slot.
At festivals, everything is timed and the more time spent setting up, the less time you get to play. Soooo... get ready to FLY! Everyone has a job, and things are set up in a jiffy.

After our first time slot, everything must be hauled all the way back to the van.
Then it's time for a watermelon break. :) Hot and tired, we rested for a while.

Then it's off to jam with some friends, listen to other musicians perform, and talk to many people - old friends and new.

 After jamming and talking, it's back to the van to grab the rest of the equipment before our second time slot. 
Pack up.

After that performance...
Daddy treated us to Culver's. Thank you!

Then it's back to the van to get the equipment, unpack, play, and pack up once more.

Then it's.... ice cream time!!!
 At Blue Bunny.
Le Mars is the ice cream capital of the world.

See that huge bowl of frigid goodness? If you can eat it all by yourself in 15 minutes, you have conquered the Goliath! (Plus, you get a free T-shirt.) Any takers? 

This is only SOME of the grand array of flavors they offer.
One of our family favorites is huckleberry, only available at ice cream parlors.

Need the time?

Talking to friends and fixing the world over ice cream.  :)

~ Back to the van for the hours of driving. ~

And we're home!
And that is one day in the life of a traveling musical family.
Come back next week to hear about more of our adventures. Life is never dull around here.

A Joke, Some Sand Plums, and a Barn Concert

Earlier this year, we were engaged to do a Sunday morning church service for a local family reunion.

After the concert (and brunch!) we stopped and ate some sand plums. Tart, sweet, and small with a large pit in the center. 
This is what we do in program clothes - climb around in ditches! The guys actually were the ones who scrambled down and then threw the sand plums up for us girls to catch.

A TERRIBLE joke, don't you agree???  :( 
Violas are NOT fake violins!

Our Christmas concerts have begun!!! Check under the "Schedule" tab at http://johnsonstrings.net/ to see when we'll be closest to your area!

Wisconsin Indian Mission Trip Adventure and Concert

On our long drive up to Wisconsin to the Indian Mission in July, we ran into a long detour, winding around the country side for miles on end.

Culver's was a welcome stop to eat and regroup with the team.

(Oh, by the way, I've gotten the commenting fixed on this blog. Now all of you will be able to comment instead of just a select few!!!)

We finally arrived late at night, got a bit of sleep, and attended a Native American church Sunday morning.

Later were briefings on what to expect, time to get to know the staff who ran the camp, and time to move to the right cabins before the campers arrived on Monday.

If you wanted a shower, you had to get up early even though each night was a late one. With only 3 showers for all the girls and women at the camp and not much water pressure, some of us were getting up before 5:30 each morning to beat the rush.

One of the nights, we gave a concert for all the children, staff members, and the visiting family members. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing them react to the music.
They were such a FUN audience!
It was one of my favorite concerts of the year.

~ Children decorated tee shirts during some of the craft time ~

Kickball, Ga-ga ball, swimming, water activities, and fun crafts were all big hits with the children.

After cleaning cabins, exercises (Get your blood pumping before you eat!) and then breakfast, the mornings were spent with different age groups rotating through Bible time, game time, and craft time.

Abigail, telling the story of Pilgrim's Progress

Meals were an adventure!

Because of the great attendance, one leader and his campers was put outside in a tent. That leader was Seth. He was a great trooper. It was REALLY hot and the air was swarming with millions of mosquitoes. He and his campers were the only ones in a tent. No air conditioning. No cool escape (like all the rest of the camp had). Plus, he and his boys didn't get a break from the camp cabin inspector: their tent had to be spotless, just like the cabins. No grass, no bad smell, everything absolutely in order, bags in a straight line with no wrinkles, swimming clothes out of sight, everything spotless, everything precisely uniform (you are docked points if it isn't) all sleeping bags going the same direction each morning, etc, etc. for the ex-Marine cabin inspector!

We each had campers we were responsible for - 24 hours a day - eating, sleeping, playing, and working through problems together for 5 days straight (with some on our team even getting up multiple times per night to go with their kids to the bathrooms). 
Because of his age, Silas had day campers instead of ones that stayed for night - he did a fantastic job with them.
Silas and one of his many new friends.

It was an amazing experience. God answered prayer and helped us when we asked Him. All of us grew in the Lord through the time there and are thankful for the opportunity we had to spend time with these wonderful children. They are such treasures.
Several members of the team said it was the hardest mission trip they had ever been on before, but it was worth it for the children. With God's strength and help, we can do anything we need to do to have the opportunity to tell others about Jesus.

~ The Team ~

Behind the Scenes Christmas Prep

A lot is happening around here as we get ready for the Christmas season. Practices are vamped up – beside the usual group practice almost every evening. We also have group practices on Monday and Friday on the songs just the 6 of us younger ones play. For each of those practices, goals have been set, metronome markings have been picked for the next practice, and we spend time working individually beforehand. (Check out our Christmas concert schedule starting December 1st at http://johnsonstrings.net/ under the "Schedule" tab!)

To get into the spirit of Christmas, we are already enjoying batches of English Toffee and Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls – a couple of the 8 or so recipes we make every Christmas season.

You can hear Christmas CD's playing at different times throughout the house. (Karen and Abigail have been working on finding and arranging our new Christmas music since July/August, so for them, the Christmas music is nothing new. They do try to be nice and save the majority of the audible Christmas CD playing {a.k.a. without headphones} until at least October. J ) By the way, our house is never silent unless we are gone – so much happens all the time. Then again, I don’t really know if the house is silent when we’re gone.

Karen is making supper right now and it smells absolutely wonderful! I’m getting hungry just sitting here and waiting, writing this for publishing tomorrow morning.

Here are some pictures from a concert we did earlier this year…

Lots of the old churches we get to play in have neat architecture. 

The “perfect” angel? ... complete with a halo

Oh, it’s supper time!
See ya later!

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

“He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” – Luke 1: 32-33

Bill Riley Talent Search - EXCITING!!!

It was a really hot day. And I mean REALLY hot. The van thermometer read 140 degrees. I admit, it might have been slightly off...maybe. :) Did I mention that the air conditioner barely works? We were sitting in the stifling van, trying to eat supper without getting our performance clothes messy. Although we do it all the time, it still can be an interesting experience. Anyway, we arrived safe and sound at our destination - a high school 3 hours from us that was hosting one of the preliminary rounds of the Bill Riley Talent Search.

10 Days Earlier...
We have always thought it would be fun to enter one of the bigger talent contests, but never have. When we went to the Iowa State Fair for the very first time ever, we got to see parts of a couple of the contest rounds in the Bill Riley Talent Search. It's a big contest with 4 levels of judging (in the Senior division - 3 levels in the Sprouts) that you have to get through, with the last three rounds taking place at the Iowa State Fair over a period of 10 days. When we got home from the fair, we decided it'd be fun to enter the contest next year. The competition we saw was very stiff, but we knew we could be a Christian influence to the thousands of people there and, of course, it would be a fun opportunity! I was extremely disappointed to learn that once we finally decided to enter, I was too old. I would turn 22 before the contest. Everyone would be able to do it except me. Sad, but God is good, and He knows what is best. After all, He controls all things and this wasn't by accident. 

A few days later, Karen just "happened" to find out that there were still 2 qualifying rounds in 2013 which meant I would be able to enter! It was such a gift! We couldn't make the first qualifier, but we could go to the second. We had 10 days to prepare. Silas entered the Sprouts Division and the other five of us played as a group in the Senior division with our Mom as an accompanist. At the competition, Silas was the second performer. There were other Sprouts who sang, acted, or danced. He won first place! He gets to go on to the next round! We were so happy for him. He played amazingly well on his piece - Sarabande by Bach. It has lots of chords and double stops.

We wondered though whether the judges would pick our group now that a string player had already won the sprout division. They only get to send two acts to the state fair- one sprout act and one senior act. In our division there was an opera singer, dancers, tap dancers, regular singers, a yo-yo artist, a baton twirling act, and a good barbershop quartet... The results? With God's help, we won! So, now we are all going to the State Fair next year to compete in the next round. We had ice cream to celebrate on the 3 hour late night trip home.
And they all lived happily ever after.
~The End~
Silas being announced first place winner in the Sprout division 

All of us with Bill Riley

Sneak Peak Behind the Scenes and a Whole Day of Concerts

After playing at our home church in the morning, our next engagement was at Antique Acres.
In our spare time, we enjoyed looking around at all the working old machinery on display such as this one where they were making boards. I can totally understand how so many people were injured in the old days! This thing is dangerous! If you aren't careful, your hand could be sliced off.

Quiz Question: Know what this thing is?

Answer: It's either an old thresher, or a combine, or a different old piece of machinery... anybody know for sure?

Horns can be annoying things I'm sure! It looks like the weight of those horns would make his head off balance. 

 To boost our energy in between concerts, Daddy got us some ice cream. Go Daddy! It certainly helped.

Our next stop was in Readlyn, Iowa to give the concert at their special Farewell to Summer event in the park.
 Both the band shell and park were very nice. As you'll see later, the one downside was the heat and the sun.

 Making the jump.

Rosining bows before the concert.

That sun was powerful and it was shining straight into our eyes, reflecting off the walls, and generally making it an oven on stage. Thankfully, our audience could sit in the shade and enjoy refreshments while we played.

In fact, it was soooo hot that my chin rest cushion melted and turned into a gooey mess.

 Over half of us ended up wearing shades to cut down the glare.
It was a good day. In fact, some heat would feel pretty good now, wouldn't it?

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

P.S. Some of you may wonder what we do behind the scenes on our concert trips. Here's one example of the things we figure out to entertain ourselves with. Believe me, we have a hilarious time!

Dows Corn Days

We had a great time playing and enjoying the Dows Corn Days festival.
Arriving just before the parade started, we were able to see more fire trucks in one parade than we thought a small town would ever attract.

With all-you-can-eat sweet corn and watermelon, 
how can you go wrong? 
Oh - there was ice cream too.  :)
 Did I mention - they literally dipped the sweet corn in 
buckets of butter.
Unbelievably healthy. A great way to enjoy your vegetables.

 Comin' back from the flea market...

 Inflatables for the kids

Right before we played, we got to listen to some other fun musicians!

 ...and watch historical dances

We stuck around after giving our concert to watch a world famous juggler. He was fantastic, juggling everything from flaming torches to machetes. Besides that, he juggled behind his back, on a unicycle, under his leg, with Frisbees, and more. It was fun inspiration. It's great to watch others who are great at their craft and understand the hard work it takes to do something well.

Have a fabulous day!

Women's Connection Brunch

Setting up - the same routine as always!
 The food at the brunch was delicious and the people were wonderful. Scott Gottschalk was the speaker this time and he had several thrilling stories to tell about his many near death experiences before he was saved. What a life! Scott has had twenty-seven times when he probably should have died. He has had twenty-six fractured bones and been unconscious on five different occasions. Poisoning, a machinery mishap, a horrible motorcycle crash, a buffalo charge, and more! I'm so thankful my life isn't as hair-raising as his has been!
I hope you have a wonderful day rejoicing in all the blessings Jesus has given to us!

Kalona Gospel Sing

Our family had a great time performing at the Kalona Gospel Sing! 

One highlight of the trip was meeting the Garms family for the first time. We spent several fun hours deep in conversation... :)

We also had a chance to catch up with the Wissmann family and other musical friends.

Yum! Soft pretzels - a surprise treat from Daddy!

Piano pedal troubles! The pedal quit working, so it's great we could borrow one! Thanks guys!
We're searching for a screw we lost when trying to fix our pedal. Those screws are so tiny - we never did find it.

Praise the Lord for a refreshing evening of gospel music!

Day in Wisconsin

When I see the beauty of the world around us, I am constantly reminded of how amazing our God truly is!
We had some extra time before our concert, so we did some sightseeing along the way. I snapped with my cell phone - the best camera is the one you have with you!

...We enjoyed some candy bars in van en route to a scenic lookout...
It was a good, healthy treat, right?

The Tower 
(Hmmm... this looks sort of like something we've been studying about. More on that in the future.)

Shopping - MOST people in our family enjoyed this event. :)

Daddy took us out for a late lunch at the Copper Kettle.
Karen's egg

We all had to try some of the mussels - our family loves to try new foods or new food combinations and then duplicate our favorites at home. Did I mention that we love to cook???

The evening concert was held in the city park. Last year it rained. I'm thankful for the great weather we had this time!

They had a beautiful memorial in memory of our fallen heroes with a statue of a U.S. soldier in uniform from each big war our country was involved in.


We are all worn out from our weekend travels, but our concert in Hinkley, MN went extremely well! Praise the LORD! People traveled to the concert from up to 4 1/2 hours away, coming from Michigan, Wisconsin, and up by the Canadian border! The church was packed with a responsive crowd and we sold a ton of CDs - we SOLD OUT on 2 of our CDs and were only left with a handful of the other two!!! It was fun.
The couple we stayed overnight with was so sweet. 
They had been dairy farmers. Here's a bit of humor from their house to brighten your day :)

 We stopped at the Mall of America for a few hours on our way home. 
The first neat store we spotted was a hat shop.
Oooo the fun of playing around! All sorts of choices!
Top hats, anyone?

Weird Bluegrass in South Dakota

On the way to our first concert, we stopped at one of our favorite restaurants - 
a French American fusion named Cafe Brule. 

 See our drinks? We had a blast choosing the flavor combinations for our cream sodas. The list of choices was quite long...I went with Kiwi Dark Chocolate, Karen chose Peach Toasted Marshmallow, Seth thought Blueberry Butterscotch sounded good, and Daddy liked Macadamia Nut,  while Mommy definitely liked the Raspberry White Chocolate better.

We unloaded, set up, and played an evening concert, loaded back up...

and then unloaded and set up the next morning for a church concert...

and loaded back up.... then we unloaded and set up for an evening concert...
and of course loaded up again once it was done. Some people ask us how we get our exercise...
I wonder sometimes.

 weird Bluegrass - nowhere near Kentucky. For us Iowans, it looks sorta fake.
But, maybe that's how it's done in Kentucky.
Anyway, we were playing bluegrass on the bluegrass - not something you do every day!
Seth and Karen are warming up before the concert on their duet, Limerock.

We had a great time and were glad to see old friends and meet new ones.

It turns out that not only does this guy have a cool, one-of-a-kind John Deere tractor car, but he also had a brother who wrote some of the gear software that Daddy uses at John Deere! It's a small world.

With such a unique subject, I had to have some fun with the photos!

On the way home the following morning, 
we stopped once again at Cafe Brule for the dessert we had skipped a couple days ago!

No Wasps! Definitely an improvement.

A random photo of Silas in front of one of the gorgeous stained glass windows we come across during our travels...

Two area churches combined for our concert at Floyd Methodist Church in Floyd. We had a great time sharing with them and of course, the potluck afterward was wonderful!

This is a photo that was hanging in the room where we stored our cases during the concert.
What a thought provoking picture! Do you recognize the building? It's the UN headquarters.

After our concert in Floyd, we headed into Illinois to our next concert.
Here, Seth is making an adjustment to his tuning - the weather often throws the tuning out of whack. 

Karen warming up her fingers

A quick photo before the concert

Isn't their new sign great? The top is a replica of their church's roof.
I have to say that God definitely blessed us with the perfect weather for this concert. In all the years we've performed here, the weather has never been this good. No sprinkles, no heat, no cold, no big winds, no huge swarms of mosquitoes, and no wasps bothering us during the concert!

New YouTube Videos!!!

Hey everybody! If you want something to watch or some music to listen to, why not check out a few songs I just uploaded to YouTube?

Here are the links:
Hopefully you're not tired of Christmas music!

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day with Ding Dong Merrily on High


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Here's a video taken way back in March of 2011! It just never got uploaded until now:
The Old Rugged Cross