Archive | September 2013

If I were a pioneer

Fun week here on Pages From Stages! We each must imagine we had to live in a different time period.

My choice is an easy one – I’d be an American pioneer.

Since childhood – when I tried to make my bedroom look like a log cabin and I sewed long skirts for my Barbie dolls – I’ve been captivated by the frontier spirit. I would love to be part of settling a wild land and growing the nation.

Several years ago I read the book Pioneer Women which is a compilation of letters that settlers wrote to family back home.

These letters detail hardships that I never imagined, but also the great pride these women had in their endeavor. It drove home the critical role women played on the frontier of the United States. I think early pioneers survived only because of the sheer determination of these ladies not to let their families starve or freeze to death.

Another thing about settlers that I admire is their sense of community. They all pulled together for barn raisings and threshings at harvest. And I love the clothes, especialy the gloves, but not so much the bonnets and corsets.

PS Small
Would I have had the stuff it takes to survive on the frontier? I’ll never know, but it is fun to imagine.


Crock Pot Pot Roast

I loved typing that–two pots in a row and no red line!!

For over 50+ years of married life I’ve done my roasts in the oven–because my mama did them in her oven.

But then…lo and behold…along came Pinterest. Something my mama could never have imagined even in her wildest dreams. And my mama yelled in her sleep so we knew they must be wild.

So, now, so simple and so yummy!! And because I rarely measure anything, I’ll just give you the basics and let you ‘tweak’ away.

1 packet of Italian Dressing Mix (the dry kind)
1 packet of Ranch Dressing Mix (the dry kind)
1 packet of Brown Gravy Mix

I just sprinkle the dry mixes on top of the roast, add water (I think the original recipe called for 1/2 cup but I use more because we like lots of gravy).

On Sundays, if I put this in the crock pot around 7:00 am, and set it on high, it is very well done when we get home from church. If you wanted to leave it for all day, then you might want to put it on low.

Oh, wish my mama could taste this!!
road 2 we like!

Slow Cooker: Mediterranean Meatball Ratatouille

Here’s a favourite slow cooker recipe from my house. This flavorful dish provides a nice Mediterranean twist to the French classic, Ratatouille. If you cut the vegetables the night before, it’s fast to toss together in the morning. Serve with fresh bread and you’ve got comfort food that is perfect for a cool autumn’s evening!

Mediterranean Meatball Ratatouille*

  • 2 TB olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. Mild Italian sausage, casings removedmed ratatouille
  • 8 oz. Sliced mushrooms, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • ½ C chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp Italian spice mix or oregano
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 TB chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Pour 1 TB of olive oil into a 5-quart slow cooker. Shape sausage into 1-inch meatballs. Place half the meatballs in slow cooker. Add half the mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini. Add onion, garlic, 1 tsp spice mix or oregano, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp tsp pepper.

Add remaining meatballs, mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini. Add remaining spice mix or oregano, salt and pepper. Top with remaining olive oil. Cover and cook on LOW 6-7 hours.

Stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Cover and cook on LOW 15 minutes. Stir in basil and lemon; serve. Makes 6 (1 2/3-cups) servings.

 *recipe from Hearty Soups and Stews.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What’s your comfort food?

Vintage green Crock Pot cooks up pork chops and rice

My best Crock Pot - It just won't stop!

Ain’t she a beaut?!

My mom had a Crock Pot just like this, in all its green glory. My dad bought this particular one at a farm sale. I snagged it because this size is perfect for cooking for one person. New styles of slow cookers are larger. They’re also complicated. Look at the simple beauty of this thing – one button, two settings. This appliance is still working great and will probably outlast me. On Ebay, these “vintage” models are going for $25 to $30.

I’m looking forward to reading my fellow bloggers’ recipes this week because using a slow cooker is so convenient for a working gal, though I find I don’t have many ideas. Here’s a recipe I “discovered” one Sunday morning when I needed to come up with dinner for company.

Pork Chops and Rice

4 pork chops
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups water

Pour rice into slow cooker. Sprinkle with 1/2 onion soup mix. Place pork chops over rice. Pour mushroom soup over all. Sprinkle remaining onion soup mix over all. Add water.  Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or 4 to 5 hours on high.

It’s a Crock Pot, not a rocket booster – you can just throw it all in there in any order and it’ll work. Of course, you can also use cream of chicken or cream of celery soup.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72Did you have an avocado green Crock Pot?
Still got one?

Happy slow cooking!


Created to Create

I use to think some people were given the gift of creativity while others weren’t. Over the past two years I’ve changed my opinion. The first words in the Bible tell us, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He didn’t just speak or think, He created.

Later in Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him;”

If creating was important enough to be mentioned in the first five words of the Bible, don’t you think God created each of us to create?

Starting last year, I taught elementary art classes. Then we did two art camps this summer. Now I’m teaching art classes again and high school FACS class (Family and Consumer Science). Whatever the class, there is great joy as the students create. From the second graders to the seniors. Not all have the same skill as everyone else but in each class I watch students excel and find great joy.

I think, if I could, I’d like each student to grow up with the knowledge that creativity isn’t a waste of time. It isn’t a mess on the dining room table. Rather, it’s how we were created. We are created in the image of God and He created. It doesn’t have to be painting or working with clay. There are hundreds of ways to create and when you find the way that brings joy to you, you’ll be offering up a wonderful gift to God.

May you find great joy in creating something beautiful!


Imagination Destination


Do you ever wonder where the path ahead of you leads?

Where do you think this one goes? And what would you hope to find at trails end?

Snapshots from 2013 ACFW Conference

acfw13monumentI just returned from the 2013 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. It was a great time to meet with others in the industry. I believe there was about 600 in attendance. The keynote speaker, Robin Jones Gunn, shared two encouraging talks. (If you know any teenage girls, you might want to look into her Christy Miller series.)

Here are a few pictures from the event! Check out my other blog post at Stitches Thru Time to view some of the great costumes worn at the all new Genre Night!

This me at Genre Night (hence the gloves) with Frank Peretti who received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the conference. My son is a big fan of his children's videos. This is Frank making a "Mr. Henry" face!

This is me at Genre Night (hence the gloves) with Frank Peretti who received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the conference. My son is a big fan of his children’s videos. Frank is making a “Mr. Henry” face for my son!

Shown above is a picture of a few of us from the "Beyond the Border" zone. We had people from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Bermuda, and Japan.

Shown above is a picture of a few of us from the “Beyond the Border” zone. We had people from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Bermuda, and Japan.

Although I live in Canada, I am actually closer to the writers in the Great Lakes Chapter (Michigan) than I am to other writers in the Beyond the Borders Zone. I love living in a border city next to Detroit! Shown above are a few writers from Michigan.

Although I live in Canada, I am actually closer to the writers in the Great Lakes Chapter (Michigan) than I am to other writers in the Beyond the Borders Zone. I love living in a border city next to Detroit! Shown above are a few writers from Michigan. (And Peggy, the camera caught you!)

Susie Mires and me taking a few of the sights in downtown Indianapolis.

Susie Mires and me taking in a few of the sights in downtown Indianapolis.

Who knows if I’ll be back at the next ACFW conference in St. Louis, but enjoyed my time this year!

– Cherie

Mrs. Hammann

She wore her hair in a bun on top of her head, a fresh housedress and sensible shoes. She also spoke gently, and always had a smile. Mrs. Hammann was our town librarian. I have no idea whether she volunteered or actually got paid. Our library was located on the top floor of the local Farmer’s Co-Op grocery and dry goods store. In the summer it was stifling hot, and I don’t remember it being open in the winter–perhaps because when school was in session there was no need. Our town was very small, you see. And even in the summertime the library was not open every day. Mrs. Hammann was a busy lady with a family and gardening and canning and laundry and baking to do. One couldn’t expect her to sit at her desk in the heat every day.

But oh, that special library day…when I could climb the worn wooden steps and enter that large room full of magic. The ceiling fan hummed and stirred the aroma of the room like a big wooden spoon–ink and paper and oiled floors and…leather (Mrs. Hammann’s husband ran the local harness shop located next door).

I don’t recall every having to be ‘quiet’. It was a place for mothers to sit and visit while we kids searched the shelves. And Mrs. Hammann welcomed us all by name. Bicycles couldn’t be brought up the stairs, and we had to remove our skates. But we could talk and giggle all we wanted. It was library day!! And there was no holding back our imaginations. It wasn’t like we could go home and watch a world happen with the flick of a switch. Books were where the world outside of our small Kansas town happened. TV had not even made its way to that little dot on the map.

And part of the fun was pulling the card from its pocket and seeing who read the book before you, and when. And if it happened to be just the ‘right’ person, it made the reading even better. And somehow, Mrs. Hammann just ‘knew’ we’d want to check it out.

I’m not going to deplore the advances in technology. I could never have imagined, all those years ago, that so much information could ever be so readily available while holding a small device in the palm of our hands. Nor can I even begin to fathom what might lie ahead.

But I am sad that too many will miss the wonder of all those books, and a sweet, smiling lady at her desk calling their name and saying “I’m so glad you came in today because I have just the book for you.”

If you have a Mrs. Hammann in your local library, give her a hug.

road 2 we like!

The Library Was Part of My Childhood

All of us on this blog admit to being voracious readers as children. We’ve all been caught for reading when we shouldn’t have or staying up too late to reach “the end”.

As a child, I felt lucky that our local library was at the end of our block. It was wonderful to run down to the corner to check out the next book in a series…or to rush a stack of books back before the due date to avoid fines.

I will always remember Mrs. Dunn…our librarian from Scotland. She was a cheerful woman with a delightful accent who clearly loved her job and also encouraged kids to be in the library often. She ran activities for children every Saturday morning…and it only cost a quarter to participate! During this time, we often made crafts or sometimes she put on a puppet show. Or for a real treat, she would run a movie on an 8mm reel projector since no one had VHS machines yet! (Boy, do I feel old!).

Many of the neighbourhood kids joined the fun and we felt a part of a community in that little library. Mrs. Dunn took many pictures and kept a stack of photo albums with us showing off our creations or participating in activities.

A few years ago, the city tore down the original building and built a new one across the street. The new library is beautiful and spacious

The new Riverside Public Library. Unfortunately, I could not track down any pictures of the original building.

The new Riverside Public Library. Unfortunately, I could not track down any pictures of the original building.

with tall windows. I’m glad it remains in a residential neighbourhood so kids can still get there by walking or biking. But I’ll always miss the quaint little building that housed so many memories that Mrs. Dunn help make!



Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Did you ever attend story time or craft time at your library?

St. Joseph Downtown Library

We’re talking about libraries and librarians this week and I’d like to show you around the St. Joseph Downtown Library. In a town full of neat old buildings, I think it’s one of the coolest.

 This photo shows the front lobby and circulation desk.

library lobby

Photo: St. Joseph Public Library

Here’s the view from the top of the skylight: Too cool!

Photo: St. Joseph Museum

Photo: St. Joseph Museum

I used to work just a block from the library and sometimes on lunch break I’d slip over to the reference room to read or browse books. My favorite part is the book balcony. The balcony filled with stacks is visible as you enter the lobby. And the floor is made of glass!

Photo: St. Joseph Public Library

Photo: St. Joseph Public Library

With my Kindle electronic reader, I don’t go to the library as much as I used to, but this summer I went to the kids section to check out some Laura Ingalls Wilder books. It was like visiting an old friend and we picked up right where we’d left off.

And when I needed photos taken, the Downtown Library was the perfect place for this writer.


Photo: Ginger Mathes Photography

Happy library week!