Archive | April 2012

when you don’t feel like writing

What to write do when you don’t feel like writing?

Its one of those days. Everything I need to do looks overwhelming and impossible. Words from a conversation last week are today haunting me. In 2007 my son and his wife were struggling with his father’s impending death. Six years later and its her father that is dying. I am finding it hard to decide if my tears are for him or her or me. Surgery is in two weeks. and the “what if’s are making me fear … and its my day to write the blog …

Some days don’t feel right. Today is one of them. I know that God is in control, has it all figured out, has a glorious end. Just writing that calms my spirit.
I think I should assign myself to write it 100 times! and then just go on. On about today. Do what I can. Wait on the rest. Praise God for what is.

What do you do when you don’t feel like writing?
(P.S. Chocolate is not the answer )


OKAY. . so I will be the dud without pictures. But actually, after this dessert is made all you see is the whipped topping with vanilla wafers on top!!. . . so use your imaginations and put fluffy whipped topping on you best 9 x 13 pan. This is a favorite spring-time dessert . . . although we make it year round.


1 box vanilla wafers, crushed
1/3 cup margarine, melted
1 (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 (8 z) whipped topping
1 lg, or 2 sm. pkgs. instant vanilla pudding mix
1 qt. fresh strawberries, sliced
2 cups cold milk.

Combine vanilla wafer crumbs and margarine–reserve 1 cup for topping; Press the remaining crumbs in the bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Gradually add 1/2 cup milk to softened cream cheese. Blend well; add instant pudding and remaining milk. Beat one minute. Pour over crust and cover with strawberries. Cover with whipped topping and remaining crumbs. Chill overnight. Serves 12-15 (or, in our case, serves 2 lots of times if we eat it before the grandkids know we have it)

Another spring time favorite for our family–and it actually is delicious but may not sound that way–is CREAMED STRAWBERRIES. This is a recipe my mother remembers her mother making when the strawberries first started ripening in the spring and she needed a way to stretch them so everyone could partake. Actually–it isn’t a recipe as such.

Mash strawberries.
Add bread (torn into pieces . . . no amount . . . depends on how far you want to stretch the strawberries)
Sugar to taste
Cream to stretch

It makes a beautiful creamy pink dish . . . and is still our oldest son’s favorite way to eat strawberries—even more than the strawberry tiffany torte.

Kathy started the week with ‘comfort food’, and the beautiful memories it represented.

I’m ending the week with beautiful memories, and the comfort those memories bring!!

Hope you have all enjoyed the recipes from our different stages. Next week we ‘ free wheel’ . . . meaning each contributor gets to do their own thing. Climb aboard . . . strap on the safety harness . . . and enjoy the ride!!

2 Book Winners and a Fruit Pizza

THANK YOU all for commenting on Deborah Raney’s new book, After All.

The winner of this third book in the series is MEGAN GADDIS!! Congratulations, Megan! Please email me at with your address and I will send it to you.

To add a bit more fun, I also have the first book in the Hanover Falls Series titled Almost Forever. The winner of this book is LINDA DIETZ! Congratulations!! Please email me your address Linda.

There are certain foods I only make seasonally. Can you imagine pumpkin pie in May? Our favorite dessert at the Meisinger home is fruit pizza and I only make it for three months each year. Sure, you can find strawberries almost anytime of the year, but there’s something about this dessert that just says SPRING. I know many people make fruit pizza and use a sugar cookie crust. This recipe uses a yellow cake mix so the crust is soft and chewy. It takes a little extra time, but hearing the compliments make it worth it!

CRUST: 2 c. yellow cake mix (dry), 2 T. soft butter, 2 T. brown sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 c. chopped pecans, 2 T. water.

Mix well. Spread into greased pizza pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

   MIDDLE LAYER: 3 oz. softened cream cheese, 6 oz. of Cool Whip, 1/4 c. powdered sugar. Mix together until smooth then spread on cooled crust.

Top with halved strawberries, banana slices, drained mandarin oranges, sliced kiwi. Start with strawberries on the outside and work towards center. Repeat fruit as needed.

GLAZE: 1/2 c. sugar, 2 T. corn starch, 1/4 c. water, 1/2 c. orange juice, 2 T. powdered lemon Jello. Bring to a boil to thicken. Cool. Spoon over fruit.

This recipe serves at least 12. Well, in my family, it doesn’t serve quite that many! I hope you’ll try this recipe and add it to your list of spring treats!

Care to share what your favorite springtime food is?

Spinach Smoothie Challenge — Energizing!

Okay, so maybe the thought of a spinach smoothie doesn’t immediately get your taste buds excited.  But honestly — it tastes quite good, and it’s good for you!  It only takes a few minutes and you’ve got an energizing drink that will get you going for the day.  Raw spinach doesn’t have much flavor, so you get  a fruity  flavored smoothie with the added bonus of the dense nutrients in raw spinach.

I make one of these for my hubby every single work day.  He enjoys them.  He says this drink hydrates him well and gives him energy — especially during the months of the year when he rides his bike several miles to work.

My daughter and I both have more energy when we drink one as part of our breakfast.  She and I generally prefer a smaller smoothie, but I’m sharing the recipe that makes about 16 oz. 

For one 16 oz. smoothie use:

1 cup frozen strawberries

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

1 packet Stevia

1 handful fresh baby spinach

8 – 12 oz. filtered water (depending on if you want it thicker like a slushy or thinner so you can drink it right down)

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend to desired consistency.

Pour in a glass, add a straw, and you’re on your way to enjoying a fruity, energizing drink!

OPTIONS:  You can substitute your favorite kind of frozen fruit easily.  Pineapple makes a really sweet smoothie and it’s totally green!    So, if you have young kids in your family that think a totally green smoothie is cool looking — a pineapple smoothie will be bright green.  I’d like to try frozen mango, cantaloupe, and a few others.  Maybe posting this recipe will inspire me to be a bit more creative in the smoothie department.

What’s your favorite frozen fruit?  I’d love to hear what kind of smoothie creations you come up with.  If you dare to take the spinach smoothie challenge, please stop back by and let me know how you liked it.

Happy Blending!

Susan Hollaway










Chuck Wagon Meal

Last year, I hosted my ladies Bible study group for our Christmas party. With a cowboy theme, I dubbed it “Home on the Range for Christmas” and served cornbread beef casserole. My friend Becky, a Texas transplant, loved this dish and mentioned it the other day, so I made it again recently.

Cornbread Beef Casserole

1 pound ground beef
Chopped onion
1 package (8.5 oz) cornbread mix
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 can creamed corn
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 c. shredded cheese, divided

Brown ground beef and onions in large skillet. (You can also add hot peppers if you’d like.) In a mixing bowl, combine cornbread mix, salt, baking soda, creamed corn, milk, oil and eggs.
Pour half of the cornbread batter in a square baking dish. Layer with half of the cheese and all of the ground beef. Top with remaining cheese. Spoon the rest of the batter on top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Note: The original recipe in Taste of Home called for baking it in a 9×13 pan. This works for a big crowd, but the casserole is thinner. Also, a great time saver is to buy a package of frozen chopped onions and peppers, sometimes called seasoning blend. It’s much cheaper and easier than trying to keep fresh peppers on hand.

I like to serve it with Calico Baked Beans. Click below for recipe.

Happy chuck wagon cooking, gang!


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Bocconcini-Veggie Salad

Bocconcini-Veggie SaladHere’s one of my favorite spring salads as we enter asparagus season. This dish is loaded with flavor. We often serve it as a meal with a side of crusty French bread (dipped in olive oil, sprinkled with grated parmesan). Or, if you want more protein, this salad compliments grilled tuna or salmon nicely.

Parmesan Dressing: 1/3 cup (80 mL) olive oil, 3 tbsp (45 mL) lemon juice, 1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard, 3 tbsp (45 mL) minced fresh basil, 3 tbsp (45 mL) grated Canadian parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad: 2 tomatoes, quartered 2 yellow peppers, quartered 1 red onion, quartered 2 cups (500 mL) baby potatoes, cooked and halved 1 bunch asparagus, cut in sections and blanched, 8 Canadian bocconcini-quartered (a 13 oz or 400 g container)

Preparation: Prep time: 15 min • Cook time 7 to 10 min

– Preheat barbecue to medium-high.

– In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and basil. Salt and pepper to taste.

– Brush a little dressing on tomato, pepper and onion pieces.

– Roast tomatoes, peppers and onion on hot grill until browned and soft, then cut into chunks.

– Add Parmesan, potatoes, asparagus and Bocconcini to dressing.

– Add grilled vegetables to mixture in bowl. Toss lightly, adjust seasoning as needed and serve immediately.

This recipe can be found on sponsored by the Canadian Dairy Farmers. So for my international friends, substitute Canadian parmesan and bocconcini with your local variety ;).

Enjoy!Cherie Gagnon

– Cherie 

The Ultimate Comfort Food

Every family has their own take on “comfort food”. Those foods and recipes that signaled that you were home, safe, and loved. Sometimes those recipes fit into the all time favorite category of almost every family every where. We had one of those. Mac and Cheese.

In my childhood it was soft and creamy, drenched in melted Velveeta. And it was yummy.

As a young bride I discovered that soft and creamy was not exactly what my new hubby meant when he said “make macaroni and cheese tonight”. From his mom, I learned a new way, this one baked and stringy. It became the new norm at our house. Oh it didn’t always turn out the same. I learned over the years that sharp cheddar and colby jack didn’t turn out the same. Deep baking dishes held a bigger batch but shallow ones gave more people the crunchy top that everyone seemed to love.

And so it went. Always the same, yet always different, and always a favorite. Even in his last days, Orin would ask for macaroni and cheese when nothing else seemed to work. So it was hard when, later, he wasn’t there to ask. Grieving happens many ways and for me it often came in verse.

 From my journal

Feb 8,2008

Macaroni and Cheese

 Forty two years

a lifetime, since I stood beside his mother in her kitchen

on the farm until I knew just how to grate and cut and layer and mix until it was just right.

His favorite;

our favorite,

this simple dish that came to stand for home and love and warmth.

I think about it more often now as the months go by.

I wonder if I will ever make it again.

I must.

There are grandchildren.

Lord, carry me over this fearsome gorge in my journey

Will you tell him that you did?

That you brought me through?

that I cried as I mixed and stirred

and smiled when it was done.


Gronau Mac and Cheese

 Cook macaroni until done but do not over cook. mushy isn’t good!

Make a white sauce-Melt butter in a skillet and stir in flour until it is absorbed. This might look lumpy that’s ok. The trick is next.Pour in a good amount of milk and stir, preferably with a wire wisk, until all is smooth. Be agressive with this. The trick is to get it all smoothed out while the milk is still cold.

Put some of the cheese in the white sauce and let it melt. I do this OFF of the fire. Just let it set until it is a bit lumpy and stringy then stir.

Dump the macaroni and sauce together and mix. Layer it in the buttered dish with more cheese.

 How much?

I never measured. It is a forgiving mixture. The white sauce is the only trick. I use about 2 TB butter, 2 TB flour and 1 cup milk. The rest, well more cheese is always better!

Bake at 350 about 30-45 minutes You’ll smell it”s heavenly odor when its done!


Hanging in our redbud tree is a funny little gizmo my Bob brought home in a box of ‘stuff’ he purchased at an auction.

It twists and turns and changes shapes with the merest breath of air.

We were first fascinated by these little ever-changers while sitting in a small cafe in the beautiful Arkansas Ozarks and saw them hanging in a tree across the road. In fact, there were many of them and with the same breath of wind it seemed they each moved and re-shaped in a different manner.

Today’s world can leave you feeling like my funny little whatchacallit!! Predictions of the end, technology that promises to take us into the future, stock markets bouncing, job forecasts erratic, and housing markets up and down like a yo-yo in the hands of a child.

I meet change kicking and screaming most of the time. Oh, I like to rearrange furniture, and change hair styles. I don’t mind trying new restaurants and I love making new friends.

It’s the myriad of other changes that take place and I can’t control that leave me spinning. While I love each stage of my grandchildren–I don’t want them to grow up and away from me. It’s nice being eligible for the senior discount–but that means getting older. And while I don’t mind aging–I hate that my body can no longer perform at the level my mind says it can. It’s not that I want things to slow down so I can get off–I want the thrill of the ride–it would be nice if it would slow down enough that I might enjoy the scenery on the way.

There will be younger folks read this and tell themselves they won’t get like this writer–they won’t click their tongues over the world, or let their bodies tell them what to do.

And there will be folks my age read this and wish they had listened more carefully to their parents. Who would have taken more time to hear their stories, to know their hearts, and to gain their wisdom.

Like they say–What goes around–comes around.

Listen, my children!! Enjoy the ride on this ever-changing roller coaster of life. But strap yourself in, and hold on tight to the NEVER-CHANGING promise of Hebrews 13:8 …Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!!

No winds of change, no matter how hard they blow, can ever cause that assurance to change shapes! —


After All – Book Review and Free Book!

Most of us at pagesfromstages have been blessed by the friendship of author Deborah Raney. Deb has become a mentor and encourager to us.

On May 1st, her newest novel, After All, will be released! This is the third and final book in the Hanover Falls series. The following is from the back cover:
Eighteen months after the tragic Grove Street Fire took the life of her husband, David, and four other heroic firefighters, Susan Marlowe thinks she’s finally beginning to heal.
But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave. A secret that changes everything she thought their marriage had been. For the sake of their sons, can Susan forgive the unforgivable?
Andrea Morley lost her closest friend in the fire. But she has no right to mourn him. Instead, she must forever grieve in silence–because her dearest friend was someone else’s husband.
Peter Brennan carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. As Hanover Falls’ fire chief, he was responsible for the brave firefighters who lost their lives that awful November night. Can he ever shake the feeling that he should have somehow prevented the tragedy?
As he tries to rebuild the team at Clemens County’s Station 2, it seems he might find comfort in the arms of the woman he least expected.

After All is filled with tension and suspense as the main storyline of all three book – the fire at the homeless shelter – is brought to a surprise ending. Each one of these book could be read as a single title, but I highly recommend reading the first two books BEFORE May 1 so you’ll be ready to read After All.

After All is an amazing conclusion to this series. I didn’t put it down until the final page was read and several times I wanted to look ahead to see how it would end. Read the first two books and then treat yourself to After All–you’ll be so glad you did!

To add a little fun, we will be giving away a copy of After All. Leave a comment on why you want this book or what your favorite book by Deborah Raney is! Winner will be announced next Friday.

Have a great weekend,

Click here to purchase After All

Men and women think differently.

My dad used to say, “We don’t all think alike.”  He was right.  I find some of the differences in how men and women think  highly amusing at times.

For example, my  husband can tell you if a Ford pickup has Chevy  hub caps on it while it’s moving 60 mph down the highway.  How does he do that? And why? I think it’s one of those guy things.  If a vehicle is moving that fast, I’m not sure I’d notice it even has hub caps —much less the right or wrong ones.  To be honest, it could be parked and unless I went up to it and actually read a name brand on the  hub cap itself, I wouldn’t be able to tell.  And quite frankly, I’m not sure I care. But for some odd and unknown reason, he notices that stuff.

Now I, on the other hand, notice stuff like misspelled words in a newscast, or typos in books.  I’ll even sometimes notice things in a movie or television show that are inconsistent within the same scene.  For example:  an actor is sitting on the wrong side of the couch or has their hair parted differently, they have the same colored shirt, but it’s a different style.   Weird stuff like that.  He doesn’t typically notice that stuff.  Or care probably.

Certainly there are exceptions to this phenomenon.  Some women might be able to decipher the whole  hub cap mystery, but I’m not one of them.  Obviously, there are lots of differences between men and women.  God knew what he was doing and that’s why we compliment each other so well.  But some of them are just plain funny — at least to me.

I’ve never once been at an event or out to eat where a guy gets up and excuses himself to go to the restroom, and another guy or two gets up and says they’ll go with him.  That’d be weird. But women do it all the time.  Of course, women generally talk about more stuff than guys do.  Or at least different things. A trip to the restroom is another chance to visit. Plus, we might need to check ourselves in the mirror…..lipstick, hair, makeup.

I remember back when I was much younger, department stores once had outer lounges with couches or chairs in the women’s restrooms.  It was nice.  It was a place mothers could take their babies to nurse–or maybe it was to have a little respite from walking in dressy high-heeled shoes and attire while shopping.  I’m not entirely sure, but if I had to go shopping in high heels, I’d be needing some respite for sure. Unless you go to a really fancy restaurant, you won’t find outer lounges in the women’s restrooms anymore — at least in my part of the country.  But I think you’ll always find women going to the restroom in two’s or three’s.  It’s a girl thing.

I could go on and on.  But I hope you get my point.  You can find humor in the most unexpected places.  You just have to be willing to really see your surroundings (unless you’re me and it’s a  hub cap in your vision) and have an inquiring mind.  You’ll be surprised at what might make you smile … or even outright laugh.  And in my case, an occasional snort.

Yep, men and women don’t always think alike.  But I’m embracing that fact.  It sure does bring for a lot of smiles and laughs around my house.

As I finish this post, there is a woodpecker who keeps drumming on our metal roof vent.  It vibrates something fierce through the house.  I thought they liked wood for roosting, nesting, and eating insect larvae.  It baffles me as to why this bird keeps pecking on our roof vent.  So I looked it up.  Male woodpeckers actually peck or drum on metal pipes to make a hollow-sounding noise to defend their territory or attract females.  I guess I get the defending their territory thing, but it escapes my comprehension as to why a female woodpecker would find a male attractive because he’s banging his beak on a metal pipe.  But then, I’m not a bird.

May you find your day filled with love, laughter, and joy as you embrace the differences God created in us.

Susan Hollaway