Archive | October 2013

Birthdays, Bikes and Barbies

There is something about turning six that catapults one out of babyhood-toddlerhood-preschoolhood forever. Tomorrow my last five year old granddaughter turns six. I don’t quite know how that happened, but I suspect that very soon it will be sixteen. Life has a way of sneaking up on us that way.

Josie’s birthday’s are always a bitter sweet day for me.  She was the only grandchild that Orin did not meet. Born just three months after he died, when I was already knee deep in my own cancer journey, I relive, each year, the trip alone to Via Christi hospital to first see and hold her.
This year, she wants a bike.

It makes me remember my sixth birthday. I had a real party and got my first (and only) bicycle. It was one of the few gifts I remember getting from my Grandpa Fluke. Oh, he always remembered our birthdays… and the tradition was we got to put our hand in his penny jar and have as many as we could hold. That was when a penny was still a big deal.

The bike though, oh my, that was really special.

My Josie, however, already has a bike…what she wants is a bike for her Barbie.  Bikes, and Birthdays, and Barbies. Guess some things never change!

Blessings, Kathy

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String…

parcelThese were among the list of Fräulein Maria’s favourite things from the classic film, The Sound of Music. I would have to say, they are on my list, too. It is always such a treat to open the mailbox and find a brown package inside.

I’m not much of a shopper anymore. I find the older I get, the less I can tolerate crowds. So online shopping has been a real gift. And the added bonus is getting deliveries in the mail. There is just something fun about unwrapping a package, even when I know what’s inside.

And those unexpected parcels are even more fun…or are they?

The other day I finally ordered my own copy of the Phantom Of The Opera sheet music for piano (okay – so I’m 30 years behind the times) and Deb Raney’s latest novel, The Face Of The Earth. It felt like Christmas day as ripped open the Amazon wrapping.

And inside I found a little extra gift…a DVD! I didn’t order one, so I double checked the packing slip. No DVD listed. Curious, I turned it over to see this….

body back

Just in case you can’t read it, it says:

GET Your Body Back.


Lose the Baby Weight, Tight Your Tummy, Feel Great!

Ummm, thanks Amazon?

(If you need me, I’ll just be working out.)

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What was the best surprise you ever got in the mail?

No new sweaters!

Just when I thought all the summer clothes were packed away and the winter clothes arranged in the closet – What is this? A whole other box of sweaters? Say it ain’t so!

As I “turned” the closet this fall, I was forced to face the warm reality: I have a lot of clothes. Especially sweaters. Even with regular purgings to send outcasts to the donation box, the drawers overflow. The issue has become especially apparent as winter clothes are bulkier than summer T-shirts and shorts.

An idea had been forming in my mind that firmed up today when I found that extra box – which included some cute bargains Kathy Gronau and I picked up on an impulse shopping spree during the Called To Write Conference. (As far as anyone else knows, we were working on our manuscripts.)

The truth is I have plenty to wear. The plan: Make it through the entire winter season without buying any new clothes.

It sounds easy, but I am well aware of my weaknesses. When passing through Sam’s Club, I always drop by those tables with tops on them. Bargains prove almost irresistable – passing up a cute dress for $7 would not be wise stewardship, I rationalize. Getting ready for work each morning becomes more fun if there’s a new outfit to look forward to.

After consulting with a friend, she pointed out how it is good to have something new each year to keep up to date, so I’m going to allow myself two new purchases.

I can already tell this is going to be tough. On the other hand, I’m excited about some of the other things I might be able to buy if the clothing budget is slashed to zero. (Obviously, I still have a ways to go to overcome my consumption habits.)

Susie-4028-EditPS 72Any advice on how to stick with the plan?

~ Susie

(Get used to seeing me in this sweater, because I won’t be getting any new ones for awhile.)

Milestones & Park Benches

This writing journey has been marked with milestones and park benches. Both make me nervous. To get to the milestones, I’ve had to push myself and step outside my comfort zone. To sit on the park bench is also uncomfortable because it always involves waiting.

I wrote on my first story for over a year-and-a-half before I told anyone what I was doing. That was the first milestone of many in this writing journey. I remember looking at the website for ACFW and knowing I’d never have the nerve to attend their national convention. I’d find the names of editors and agents and know there was no way I’d ever get to meet, much less tell them about my story. I prayed that somehow I’d get to talk to a real author about my story and hopefully they’d tell me if I could even write.

In the years since showing my good friend that first story, I’ve attended several ACFW conventions, met with editors and agents and have met some authors who have taken a real interest in me and my writing. I’ve been very blessed by each milestone.

I’m at a park bench time right now. That time of waiting that isn’t always so fun.  It’s hard to sit on the bench and not feel guilty for all the writing milestones I’m not meeting. To know my current story is half-finished and there isn’t a lot of time or brain cells left at the end of the day to journey into my story world. Instead, my mind is filled with next week’s lesson plans and what chores need to be done at home.

But there’s also a certain peace that has joined me on this particular bench. I know I’m right where I should be at this moment of my life. I know my writing will still be there when this time passes. I’ve been blessed with a job that I love and the added bonus is I get paid to do it!

Deb Raney has told me more than one, “A woman can have it all, just not all at the same time.” True words that assure me it’s okay to be sitting on the park bench. Someday I’ll reach that next milestone and it will be all the sweeter!


No More Single Digits

In December my oldest son will be a teenager. This past August my youngest turned 10 years old. We are officially out of the single digits.

For families whose children are unaffected by disability, this era can bring a little more freedom for moms and dads. At these ages, parents are able to do small errands solo or get to projects around the house with minimal child supervision.

Even though my oldest won’t ever have the same capacity for independence as his peers and my youngest lags behind socially, I feel the change. My youngest has exchanged Thomas the Tank Engine for Power Rangers and Super Heroes. The toddler pool has been replaced by the water slide at the aquatics center.

I had quite a laugh this past weekend when I took my oldest son to a period costume fashion show. I had no idea how he would respond. It was amazing how well the show held his attention and I wondered if he found a new interest. But after a few minutes, I suspected that all the models who took a walk about the room and stopped particularly to give him notice didn’t hurt. Nor, the many other ladies who made a big deal over him and returned the blown kisses. (Yes, he really turned on the charm). It would seem my teenage son didn’t mind spending an afternoon with mom under such conditions.

Recognition of this new stage for my family really hit me the other day while I was shopping in a department store. As I passed the infant and toddler section, I felt a little sad that my boys are way too big for cute denim overalls or footie pajamas. Winnie the Pooh and Elmo no longer hold their attention. My days of rocking the boys to sleep in my arms has passed.

But I guess I need to dwell on the beautiful things at this stage. It’s important to savour the wonderful moments that we have today because one day I’ll look back and wonder how my boys turned into 20 somethings.

How do you deal with new eras your life?

For those with older children, how do you handle your kids growing up?

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Frozen Meals

I’d be lost without meals in my freezer. These meals are often a supper-saver and prevent us from eating one more meal out. I’d love to say they prevent us from eating any meals out, but that’s not possible when there are nights we’re not even home!

Putting the meals together is a chore I dread–until one day I get up and think, “Today I’m going to put twenty meals in the freezer!” Really, that’s how it works. If I know I have to do it, it is a monster chore that is dreaded. But, I know that the day will come when it seems like a challenge–MUCH better attitude!

Over the years, I’ve put together many lists of freezer meals. Open just about any drawer, cookbook or old planner in my kitchen and you’ll probably find a list. Each list basically has the same things on it, because I do the same meals. I’ve added a few ‘keepers’ over the years, but for the most part, I know what my family likes and I know how those meals freeze. Here’s two lists for you, one of tips and the other of some meal ideas.


  • start with a list of meals, then create your shopping list. Make the meals you know so you’re not trying to figure out new recipes when you want to make a lot of meals
  • mass produce–chop all the onions you’ll need at one time, fry all the burger you’ll need, etc
  • make at least two meals of each one on your recipe. It takes about two minutes more to assemble TWO lasagnas and you’ll double the amount in your freezer.
  • use disposable pans and ziplock baggies. The only drawback of the disposable tin pans is you can’t thaw them in the microwave so you have to remember to set out the frozen meal ahead of time. Use FREEZER baggies
  • When covering your meal, put plastic wrap on top and then a sheet of tinfoil. This prevents freezer burn. Mark the date, name of meal and baking directions on the foil with a permanent marker. ALSO, write on foil in huge letters, REMOVE PLASTIC WRAP BEFORE BAKING. Trust me on this one, you’ll be glad you wrote it!!
  • Use your crock pot. There are many meals you can assemble, completely raw, in a freezer bag. In the morning, you simply dump the frozen meal out of the bag and into the crock pot and cook on low for the day.
  • Don’t freeze raw potatoes. They turn brown in the freezer. It’s easy to just add your raw potatoes before baking.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of a few freezer bags of browned beef (tacos, spaghetti) and de-boned chicken (noodle soup, chicken salad)

My meal ideas:

  • lasagna
  • Mexican lasagna
  • pork chops and rice
  • meatballs
  • beef stew
  • soups
  • chicken/noodle dishes
  • shepherds pie
  • bierrocks
  • calzones
  • ready-to-bake chicken
  • burritos
  • breakfast burritos

This is just a few ideas to get you thinking. Make things your family likes! Maybe the meal isn’t as perfect as if you made it fresh, but it’s always better than fast food!

The best part of freezer meals is you always have a meal ready to share with someone else. It’s an easy way to help someone out and you don’t have to run to the store or feel that panic of wondering how you’ll get one more thing done.

Freezer meals–it’s a life saver at our house!


Weekly Meal Planning

calendarYears ago I was told that weekly menu planning was one key to surviving one of the most stressful points in the day—dinnertime!

We’ve all been there. It’s a weekday and you, your spouse and children have just arrived home and everyone is hungry. One kid has homework, the other has piano lessons and it’s Small Group night at your house! You stand in front of an open fridge and try to figure what you can make. Nothing comes to mind, so it’s fast food again.

My husband and I tried out weekly menu planning while making a grocery list about 13 years ago. It’s worked out so well, the practice stuck. We find spending 20 minutes once a week to thoughtfully select meals saves a lot of grief, not to mention money spent on take-out, later. Because of this strategy, we eat a better variety and experiment with new recipes since we have all the ingredients on hand.

This also helps us be more efficient. For example, I might cook two roasts in the crock pot on a busy day. Then with the leftovers, I might make a beef and barley soup, beef pot pie or maybe hot roast beef sandwiches on another day.

I know what you are thinking, “Who has 20 minutes to make a grocery list?” Trust me. You will save time with fewer trips to the store and you’ll throw meals together faster with a schedule in place. Think of those 20 minutes as an investment into your week.

All this to say, there are still days when a frozen pizza or Chinese bumps something else off the schedule. But having Plan A in place keeps us from going to Plan B less often.

Do you do weekly planning or do you plan “on the fly”?

Cherie GagnonCherie

I recommend “Got 2 B Glossy”

If you’re blessed with naturally frizzy curly hair, you know the challenges of keeping it somewhat under 2 b

A whole salon aisle of products promises to do just that, but most of them just aren’t up to the challenge. Those that are effective know how much you’re willing to pay for a good product and will charge you every dime of that.

One of the best products I’ve found for controlling friz is called Got 2 B Glossy. Though I can’t endorse the spelling, they got the formula right. It’s like a glue that holds your hair down. It works great on wet OR dry hair, a rare feature in friz products. It costs about $5 a bottle and is comparable to Paul Mitchell’s “Super Skinny” that costs about $30.

I can find it at Walgreens, but not at Walmart. Look for it on the shelf with the hair gels and things that make your hair stick straight up in the hair. (Why would I pay money for that when my hair will do that for nothing?)

Susie PinkDo you have a hair care secret or favorite product?

~ Susan

Show &Tell

I never imagined what a blessing I’d get every day from teaching a group of high school girls. It might help that I’m not teaching Physics! This is an amazing group of young ladies who embrace whatever the project is. We’ve had some funny moments (icing colors that no one would dare to eat) and a few frustrating ones (sixteen girls on sixteen different sewing machines), but this class is learning and doing a fabulous job. Here’s a few pictures to show what our class is about.

Finger prints made by each girl to show how unique they are. The finished product was amazing.

Finger prints made by each girl to show how unique they are. They used their thumb print, then filled in the lines with words to describe themselves. The finished product was amazing.

After a few weeks of basic cooking, we spent time learning how to decorate cakes. I was amazed at the results and it was their first time to decorate!

After a few weeks of basic cooking, we spent time learning how to decorate cakes. I was amazed at the results and it was their first time to decorate!

Now we are spending about six weeks on basic sewing. The girls are making pillowcase dresses that will be given to little girls in Africa. The girls will each make three dresses. Here they are working in our very tight, but fun classroom!

Now we are spending about six weeks on basic sewing. The girls are making pillowcase dresses that will be given to little girls in Africa. The girls will each make three dresses. Here they are working in our very tight, but fun classroom!

Just a few of the dresses. I can't wait to see them all finished!

Just a few of the dresses. I can’t wait to see them all finished!




















I love the saying above the dresses. More than anything, it’s what I want the girls to learn this year.

Live life to the fullest & make a difference along the way.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for letting me share!


Thank you for going on my driveway!

Josh2My oldest son has to use a wheelchair for mobility. It can be frustrating for a kid with an insatiable curiosity. So we try to respect his requests to take him where he asks. However, this can be problematic since our guy can also obsess about certain things.

One thing he fixates on is our neighbor’s driveway. It is a wrap-around style which crosses a wide front lawn. When we first moved to the area, we thought Josh would literally fall out of his chair for all the pointing and lurching he did at this driveway…begging us to take him around.

We would explain to Joshua that we didn’t know the neighbours, and that we would be trespassing, etc… But how he would insist! So when we thought the couple wasn’t home, my husband, myself or one of Josh’s assistants would run him across the driveway.

Then one day, the neighbour came out.

“I see you on my driveway,” she said in her thick Croatian accent.

Okay, so none of us would cut it in the espionage department. “I’m sorry. We should’ve asked. He’s just so intrigued,” I stammered.

She clasped her hands together. “Oh, no! It makes me so happy because he loves our driveway. Please go on it anytime you want. Thank you. Thank you, my little friend!”


keep off grassI know many of our readers are fortunate to live in the county with wide open spaces. But in the city, we get our little piece of land, put up huge privacy fences, lock our doors and put signs on our lawns. It was so refreshing (not to mention relieving) that this neighbour wanted my son to be on her property.

It may seem like a silly story, but her welcoming attitude really spoke to acceptance and community. We become so busy and consumed with what belongs to us that we miss out on opportunities to get to know the people around us. Because we cross this driveway often, we have developed a friendship with the neighbours.

Lately, my husband and I have taken to studying community. Here is a beautiful quote from an author, Jean Vanier, who writes on this subject:red heart

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.”

In this case, it was a simple act of sharing that brought us together.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Do you think that we in Western culture appreciate community enough?