Archive | June 2012


I’m a good cook. Really I am. I’m not a fancy cook, gourmet cook, or even a terribly original cook, but I am good!!

But when it comes to sharing recipes I stink!! Probably because most of the time I don’t bother to look at one . . . and if I do, I manage to tweak it somehow so that if I make it again it probably won’t taste the same. But all you cooks out that know about that, don’t you? A favorite joke is to give five women the same recipe to bring to a funeral dinner and you still have five different dishes!!!

But, I do have a recipe for the 4th of July that is absolutely fail proof . . . but you MUST follow it exactly as it is given. No tweaking. And it’s guaranteed to work by the very One who created it in the first place. Got your pencils ready? Recipe cards out? No back of envelopes or kitchen napkins for this one.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

May we never forget the cost of freedom. May we never forget what it cost the Father to send His Son for our freedom.

May we never be tempted to tweak what is guaranteed to be fool proof.

The problem: It must be mass produced. But the HOPE–it starts with one committed to following the recipe as its written.

Little Jars of Sweetness

Several years ago, I made baked goods for the local farmers market. One of the most popular items was jumbo cupcakes. I’d always have three different flavors and I’d change them each week. A friend of mine had just lost her husband and she loved the cupcakes because it was a little bit of sweet without having to eat the whole cake. She always took home two or three flavors to enjoy. I’ve thought of that often and how to her, something so small was special.

Last week I took little jars of Oreo dessert to Julane’s. It was fun for each of us to have our own treat. This weekend my cousin and I our hosting a luncheon for the women in our family and guess what I’m making for dessert–little jars of sweetness! Three or four flavors. Each labeled jar will be nestled in a galvanized tub filled with ice. I wish I had pictures to show you, but that will have to wait!

How fun would it be to do the same thing for your Fourth of July celebration? It doesn’t matter if you’re getting together with a group of family and friends or just at home with your kids. It’s fun to have a choice and my boys would tell you it’s even more fun to sample all the choices! Here’s a recipe that works well in a half-pint jar.

OREO DESSERT                                                                  

1 large package of Oreos – crushed

8 oz softened cream cheese

1/2 c. softened butter

1 c. powder sugar

1 large container Cool Whip

2 boxes vanilla instant vanilla pudding

3 c. milk

1 teas. vanilla

1. Crush your Oreos and layer in bottom of jar. Save about a cups worth for topping.

2. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add powder sugar. Fold in whip topping.

3. In a separate mixing bowl, mix instant pudding, milk and vanilla until thick. Fold into cream cheese mixture.

4. Pour over crushed cookies in jar. Add extra cookie crumbs to the top.

*Makes about 12 half-pint jars.

Easy and delicious!



I’m making a list of desserts to put into my little jars–ice cream sundaes, mini triffles and peach cobbler. What are your ideas? I’d love to add them to my list!

Scrumptious Sugar Cookies!

I’d like to share a recipe for the best sugar cookies in the whole world!  Well, okay, that’s my humble opinion.  They’re a softer, thicker sugar cookie. I grew up eating these tasty morsels whenever my family’s special friend, Pearl, made them.  Pearl was like a grandma to me, although there was no biological connection between us. She was a fabulous cook and I loved being in the kitchen with her.  Well, anywhere with her actually.  She was so much fun!
If you want a delicious sugar cookie that literally melts in your mouth, Pearl’s recipe will not disappoint you.
These cookies make a great accompaniment to a picnic.  This light tasting cookie would go great with a dish of homemade ice cream for Independence Day!   If you want to really get into the spirit, use food coloring to tint the glaze and throw on some sprinkles to go along with the red, white, and blue of 4th of July!
Pearl’s Sugar Cookies
3 C. flour                                                1 C.. shortening
2 t. baking powder                                 2 eggs
1 scant t. baking soda                             1 C. sugar
1/2 t. salt                                                4 T. milk
1 t. vanilla or lemon extract (1 t. vanilla & 1/2 t. lemon)
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut in shortening just as for pie crust.  Beat eggs and add sugar, milk and extracts.  Combine with mixture of dry ingredients and shortening and blend well.  Make dough into ball and chill in the refrigerator.  Roll thin and cut cookies.  Bake until lightly browned in a moderate oven (350 degrees).  Cookies may be sprinkled with sugar before baking, but I prefer to ice them with an icing made of powdered sugar and orange juice.  Just take powdered sugar and add enough orange juice to make a thick glaze.
Health note:  I know these cookies call for shortening, not so healthy.  But it’s a special treat and I’ve never tried subbing something else for the shortening.
Enjoy and an early Happy 4th of July!
Susan Hollaway

Frozen Sunshine

In this part of the country, we literally watch the corn grow. It’s fun to look out the window or drive down a gravel road and marvel that the plants are growing before our eyes. Most of the corn grown in our region goes for livestock feed and ethanol.

A field of corn near home.

Special attention is given, though, to the sweet corn, raised for us to eat. We anxiously waited for the day Dad would announce, “The corn is ready.” We grab laundry baskets and feed sacks and head out to the field. A line of soldiers advancing in formation, we march through rows of corn stalks, plucking the ripe ears. Like homerun hitters calling their shots, we reach for an ear and announce, “Here’s a good one!” As proof, we pull back the shucks to expose gleaming rows of yellow and white kernels.

Then it’s time to sit on the tailgate of the pickup shucking sweet corn. Sometimes we shuck corn out in the pasture where the cows get so eager for the occasional end piece of corn they crowd close enough to pet. For dinner, we boil the roasting ears, then slather them with butter and forsake all semblance of table manners and sink our teeth into them.

Some of that sweet goodness needs to be saved for later. I remember the hours my mom spent with one foot on a chair, bracing her arm while she cut the corn off the cob into a metal cake pan then tossing the squared-off cob into a bucket to take to the cows and horses. My job was to wash the silks off. In college, I learned there is one silk for every

kernel of corn, so it was no small task. By the time the washing, cutting, cooking and bagging are all done, every exposed surface in the kitchen is splattered with shaved pieces of corn.

It’s worth it, though, when the containers of corn are stacked in the freezer like so many packages of frozen sunshine. Throughout the winter, we’ll thaw out these yellow little bundles, remember the humid July afternoon we pulled it off the stalk and remark that it will soon be time to order seed for next year.

Here’s our recipe:

Corn for the Freezer

4 quarts fresh cut sweet corn
1 stick butter
4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1 quart boiling water (or slightly less)

Cut the corn from the cob. Mix in large pot with other ingredients. Bring the corn mixture to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Allow to cool until easy to handle. Store in plastic freezer containers or plastic bags.

To serve: allow to thaw in refrigerator or defrost in microwave. Heat on stove top or in microwave until heated through. No more seasoning is needed.

Enjoy and may your day be brightened with sunshine and the Son who is the Light.

~ Susan

Cheers to Canada with Strawberry Lemonade*!

 Strawberry lemonadeThis week Pages From Stages writers are sharing favorite 4th of July recipes. However, I’m a Canuck so I’m sharing a recipe to celebrate Canada Day – July 1st!

Here is a refreshing beverage for a Canada Day picnic. Strawberries are a little early this year in Ontario, but local varieties are still available which gives this lemonade a fresh burst of flavor.


  • 2 cups of water
  • ¾ cup of sugar (or equivalent of your choice of natural sweetener)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups cold sparkling water or club soda (use either one since they have no sugar added. If you use pop, reduce amount of sugar)

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon peel and lemon juice, stir, and remove from heat. Let cool completely, then strain into a clean pitcher.

In a blender, puree strawberries and add to the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until well chilled.

Add the sparkling water and stir well. Pour into glass with ice and garnish with mint and strawberries!

*modified from Emeril Lagasse

Happy Canada Day and Happy 4th of July!

– Cherie




This weekend the writers of this blog have had a retreat at our wee cottage on the lake. Four of us were able to attend, and we Skyped with the other two.  We were able to brainstorm or current WIP (work in progress), as well as read a portion to one another. It is SO helpful to have the input of others who understand this crazy, whacky writing journey.

But the highlight–thus far (it is 2 AM as I am writing this)–SKINNY DIPPING!!

Yep!!  We did it.  We had spinach dip and rye bread; a hot chicken dip; layered bean dip; veggies and dip and a wonderful, wonderful fruit salsa with homemade cinnamon chips.

And–there was nothing skinny about any of them.

But then . . . there’s nothing skinny about any of us, either!!

Next week we’ll share the recipes of our ‘skinny dips’, and other favorite 4th of July recipes. !!  Join us . . . and share one of yours, too!


Christian fiction is fairly easy to find in 2012. You don’t even have to go to a Christian bookstore to buy a new book. The genres range from romance to fantasy. But in 1989 Christian fiction, as we know it today, was new.

I attended a Christian high school and read Grace Livingstone Hill and Eugenia Price from the library. But the one memory that stands out from my senior year is the day I discovered a brand new book on the shelf under T for Thoene. Bodie Thoene (pronounced Taynee).

 Vienna Prelude, book one of the Zion Covenant series opened a whole new world to me. One part of that world was waiting for nine months for each new book in the series to be published. In college there was a Christian bookstore down the block from my dorm. All four years I was in Manhattan I’d be the first one to buy the newest release in this series. I started reading the series in 1989 and finally finished the last book in 1992. Since then I’ve read the entire series back-to-back many times. Before I had three kids, I’d read the series every summer!

Ms. Thoene is a master storyteller. All of her stories are historically rich. The Zion Covenant series starts in Germany in 1935. Historical people and events are woven together in such a tight tapestry that the reader is swept back in time and feels the intrigue, danger and romance that the characters experience. These books brought history to life for me and I’ve never viewed history as dry and unimportant since.

What makes Ms. Thoene’s writing so amazing is she has dyslexia. What a gift to be able to write like she does when it obviously hasn’t always come easy. My son struggles with dyslexia and when I see him working hard to read a book or write a story, I always remember Bodie Thoene and all she’s accomplished in a world made up of words.

If you enjoy history, Bodie Thoene might have a series for you. Her books cover Biblical fiction, WWI, WWII, Israel becoming a nation, and Ireland in the mid-1800’s. My favorite series is the Zion Covenant and I encourage you to read or re-read them this summer. I think I’ll download them onto my Kindle and take them with me on vacation. Part of the fun will be not having to wait nine months between each book!

Happy reading,


Have  you read any of Bodie Thoene’s books? What’s your favorite one?

Seriously? Pick only one?

So far, writing about my favorite author is one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever had to write.   You’ve got to be kidding!  I can’t pick only one.  Sigh.

First and foremost, I have to say God.  He inspired the Bible , and after all, the Good Book is what  we’re to live by, right?  Okay, so that’s a given for us Christians.  And for the purpose of the “theme” this week, that’s technically cheating to go for the obvious.

I am honestly hard-pressed to pick “a” favorite fiction author.  There are so many great authors and books out there.  It depends on what kind of mood I’m in as to who might be pegged as my favorite author for any given time.   Am I avoiding picking one?  You betcha’.   But true, nonetheless.

I love fiction— especially romance. And I’ve met a  few people throughout my life who have poo-poo’ed the kinds of books I enjoy reading, saying they don’t have the “literary value” of the classics.  Puhleez!  I’m not downplaying the classics.  Some of them are very good.  Great even.  A few, however,  are dryer than a cracker barrel.  Just sayin’.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading a great book just for the sheer enjoyment of it.  If I had to pick giving up the television or books, the television would definitely have to go.  A really good book gets you so wrapped up in the story that you don’t want to put it down.  And at the end when you devour the last page, sigh, and close it’s cover (or hit the off button if you’re on an e-reader of some sort), you can’t stop thinking about it.  And often times, you realize it wasn’t just an awesome story, but you gleaned a wonderful message or lesson from it.  One that generally most anyone can apply to their lives.  A great book definitely leaves you pondering and thinking afterwards.  And wanting more from that author.  Jesus taught through parables, you know.  There no reason His followers can’t use His example and do the same thing in their novels.

So, whether you love contemporary romance, historical romance, historical fiction, speculative, whatever—there’s a lot of great authors to choose from today.   While I like different genres , I’m going to focus on two of my favorite authors. (I know, I know, it’s supposed to be one. Humor me. )

Judith Miller writes fabulous historical fiction.  Her impeccable research pays off with details and description that has you suddenly in a time or place that you may have known nothing about previously, but are suddenly living alongside her characters and you are part of the story.  I’ve not read one of her books that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. Hurry, you’d better get started right away.  The hard part will be deciding which one to read first.

If you like humor and historical romance, you’ve got to check out Lorna Seilstad.  I’ve read two of her books so far and am getting ready to read her third.  I’ve felt as if I’ve been to Lake Manawa Resort in Iowa and I never even knew it existed before I picked up her books.  The resort she uses as her setting is gone today, but it comes alive in the tales she’s woven around the unique and popular historical vacation spot of its time.   Her books will give you wonderful chuckles and some laugh out loud moments as well.

So there you have it.  Two of my faves in the historical genre.  Have you read any of Judith or Lorna’s books?

Favorite Funny Author Lisa Wingate

Sometimes a book will come along just when you need it. Such was the case with Lisa Wingate‘s Talk of the Town. I read the book two years ago and it made me laugh at a time when I didn’t think that was possible.

Daily, Texas, was the true star of the series. Lisa did a masterful job of creating characters that were authentic and entertaining, but not caricatures.

Talk of the Town begins as local girl Amber Anderson becomes a finalist on an American Idol-type show.  Daily turns into a hotbed of activity and the town rises to the occasion to protect its own little celebrity. The action centers in the Daily Cafe, where the regulars  — known as the countertoppers — enjoy a fine piece of pecan pie. Next door is the Daily Hair and Body, that’s hair styling in front, auto body repair on the alley side.

One narrator was Manda Florentino, the producer who arrived from Hollywood to try to organize Amber’s hometown concert. Imagene Doll, a widowed waitress at the Daily cafe, narrated the other half of the story. Her Texas sayings and tender heart gave the story a sweet flavor that lingered like pecan pie. Imagene was such a doll, in fact, I started hoping she would end up with the good looking cowboy who showed up in town.

I sent Lisa a note when I posted the book review and we struck up a correspondence. I got to meet her at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference and enjoy following her Facebook posts, where she is just as entertaining as in her books.Never Say Never, the third book in the Daily, Texas, series, won the Carol Book of the Year award for contemporary romance last year.

Some of Lisa’s books take a more serious tone, such as Blue Moon Bay which I’m reading right now. All of them touch a special place in my heart and make Lisa Wingate one of my favorite authors.

Have you read any of Lisa’s books? What did you think?

~ Susan

My Favorite Author

This week we’re writing about our favorite author. I’ve had many over the years, from Dr. Seuss to Beverly Cleary to Jane Austin. I considered taking a walk through my favorites over the years, but I think that would be a cop out to picking just one, so I did.

My favorite author for the past five years has been Lynn Austin. Her stories are so rich. It’s like walking into a 200 year old home full of character with well-crafted details and hidden passages. And each time you pass through, you discover a subtle feature you hadn’t noticed before.

Lynn has written about 18 novels, and while I haven’t read her entire collection, so far not a single one has disappointed. Many of her stories are historicals which range from Bible times to World War I. She carefully works in true facts without it drawing attention to the research she has done. Her sense of time and place is wonderful. In addition, her writing is clean and tight. Aspiring authors, like me, sometimes become frustrated when we read published novels which contravene the rules of writing that we’ve been told to keep. This is not the case with Lynn’s books.

But I think what really makes her novels resonate with me is her characters. I’ve become friends with all of them and I’ve walked through their journeys and personal struggles alongside them. When I close a book and keep thinking about the characters for a few days, I know the author has done a tremendous job in making me care. That, to me, is a sign of excellent writing.
You can learn more about Lynn at

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Who’s your favorite? Have you read anything from Lynn Austin?