Archive | August 2014

And then it’s…Wednesday!!

You would think, after two years, I would have it down pat. I’d know when I finished the blog for one week, that in seven days I would need to come up with something again. While I fancy myself fairly dependable–blogging is not on my list of achievements.

I’ve noticed that the really successful bloggers have a theme–be it recipes, fashions, devotionals, or whatever. And we’ve tried that…having one topic a week that we all (the five of us who contribute to this blog) use as our topic. Then we’d throw in a ‘free wheel’ week, ever so often. Now, I’ve lost track–sorry guys–but free wheeling seems to be the theme right now.

So this is what I’ve decided to do. Because we are all at such different stages of our life (thus pages from stages, duh), and they say one should write what one knows, I’ll write about my life as a fireman’s wife, the mother of two firemen, and where we are now in this ‘retirement’ stage of our lives.

Stay tuned for next week–when I begin this new venture…may also glean stories from my hubby and sons. I’ll call my portion “Tales from the Tailboard!!”  Catchy? I thought so.

road 2 we like!

As Summer Slips Away….

I know some of the kids in the States have returned to school already and some are waiting, like us in Canada, to start on September 2nd.

(Random fact: We have Labour Day in Canada, too, but we just kept the ‘u’ in the word.)

This is the last week for me at home with my boys before we all settle into routine again. They go back to school; I return to my job. As the days count down, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m grateful for this summer. Here are my top 10 things:

  1. Beautiful weather. It was cooler than usual, but so comfortable with low humidity.
  2. Visiting family. We had a chance to travel to see relatives from around Ontario all the way to Wisconsin.
  3. Slower pace. No homework at night and no packing lunches in the morning.
  4. Swimming.
  5. Bike rides.
  6. Gardening.
  7. Reading books with my boys. Every summer I pick a book or two to read aloud to my sons. Admittedly, I enjoy it more than they do, but I hope one day they will look back and remember the stories with fondness—or at least our time together.
  8. Family walks in local parks. (My youngest son, however, informed us that his legs have a pathological fear of family walks. He can prove it because he has a note from his brain. But once we get to the park, he really does enjoy it!)
  9. Birthday parties for my youngest. Why do the babies of families always seem to have more than one party?
  10. Celebrating my wedding anniversary. On Saturday, it will be 17 years since my husband and I said, “I do”.

image– Cherie

What did you enjoy the most this summer?

This cake is scrumptious and you’ll never believe the secret ingredient!

I’ll just tell you – it’s zucchini. Sorry about the headline, but it seems that’s the way to write headlines now, I see it on every video posted on Facebook.Zucchini cake

So here in late summer, I’m trying to power my way through the garden produce. I have reached my cantaloupe saturation point. I’ve quit picking cucumbers. The freezer is full to the brim of corn and tomatoes. And I’m thinking up reasons to make this cake. Lucky for me, Sunday was my friend Stefanie’s birthday.

And the reason that was lucky was not ONLY because it uses zucchini, but because it tastes absolutely delicious. I don’t know how a green vegetable can make a dessert so wonderful, but it does. This recipe is from the Nodaway County Historical Society’s “Taste of History” cookbook.

Zucchini Spice Cake

1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 heaping c. shredded zucchini
1 c. nuts (optional)

Mix oil and sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini and nuts. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes. When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.

The original recipe was for a zucchini bread and it would work just as well if you baked it in a loaf pan. This is a great way to use up the larger squash. Leave the skin on when grating. And as the original recipe says, “Pack zucchini in measuring cup as this is what makes this a good, moist cake.” Serve with a side of cantaloupe.

Susie Pink
Thanks for reading today!

~ Susan


What Happened to Summer?

I’m not sure where the months of June and July went, but August came way too soon. I have now been back to school for a week and I’m still trying to decide if I got enough done over the summer to satisfy until next May.

I always have big plans and long lists…doesn’t mean they all get done! Here are a few pictures of what I did get done.

After twelve years in this house it was time to paint the kitchen/dining room. The chairs also needed to be recovered in matching fabric.

After twelve years in this house it was time to paint the kitchen/dining room. The chairs also needed to be recovered in matching fabric.

New curtains above sink

New curtains above sink

New art work. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I painted my own field of poppies. I'm not Monet, but I'm pretty pleased with the results!

New art work. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I painted my own field of poppies. I’m not Monet, but I’m pretty pleased with the results!

The final item on my list was to work on my story. It’s been a struggle because there are so many other things filling my brain. I know, it’s an excuse and one that anyone who wants to write understands. Mark wanted to take the boys to Colorado to ride 4-wheelers before school started and I was unsure if I wanted to go. In four days at home alone, I can get a lot done! But Mark suggested I go with them and use the time to write. So for two days, this was my office.

Beautiful view!

Beautiful view!

Not a bad view and I did get a little writing done. Enough to return to school without feeling let down.

Enjoy your last few days of summer!


A Way of Seeing

road 2 we like!






My fellow blogger posted a very thought provoking subject yesterday. How our lives become so busy we fail to take the time to see the everyday things. At the end of that post she asked a question–“what lessons did your learn in your youth.”

I answered that question and then thought on it all day. Lessons I learned as a youth are somewhat different than the lessons I continue to experience. From my youth, I think the lessons were  mostly in the negative–things I learned NOT to do again.

But in this stage of my life, things have changed a bit. I can now look back and see there are some lessons that are worth repeating. For instance:

1. IT’S OKAY TO KEEP DUST BUNNIES UNDER YOUR BED. REALLY IT IS!! I don’t recall even one instance when any of the friends our kids drug home even mentioned them…and the grands and their friends haven’t found them, either.

2. DISHES DONE WITH A TWO-YEAR-OLD IS MUCH MORE ENTERTAINING THAN A DISHWASHER. And you know what–if they’ll talk with you while doing dishes at two, guess what they will still find time to do when they are 12, or 15, or 18? Even boys!!


4.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ‘NORMAL‘ BREAKFAST FOOD. Who says a child can’t have leftover pizza first thing in the morning?

5. AND OLD MATTRESS THROWN IN THE YARD IS MORE FUN THAN A TRAMPOLINE FOR A TODDLER. And much safer for the grandma who jumps with them.


7. MATCHED TOWELS ARE HIGHLY OVERRATED. Keep a set for company if it’s important to you–but I guarantee your legs don’t know, or care, what color terry cloth you dried then with, or if they clashed with the wash cloth.

8.  POPCORN IS A DELIGHTFUL SUNDAY NIGHT SUPPER. And it’s even better with lots of butter on it, a cold soda, and a movie!! (after church, of course)

9.  A DIRTY CUP LEFT IN THE SINK OVERNIGHT WILL NOT MULTIPLY. However, keep close watch on the dirty clothes hamper.  It rendezvous with the dust bunnies under the bed and multiplies faster than you can calculate.

10. LIFE IS TOO SHORT NOT TO TAKE TIME FOR THE EVERYDAY THINGS. Which brings us full circle to the negatives again. Funny how that works, But even a battery has a positive and negative end. It’s just knowing which end to put where that  makes it work.

All too often I try to plug the negative into the positive and expect my plans to work. Remind me, Lord, that unless you are my source of power, it won’t make a whit of difference which side I present to you. Without  you, there is no power and any light I put forth will quickly dim.

The year the leaves didn’t change color

bare treesIt was the fall of 1990. A cold, crisp morning and I was headed out the door before the sun was up. A clarinet case in my one hand and a school bag slung across my back. Another concert band practice this morning. If I hurried, I could catch the early bus in time and avoid the 30 minute walk to school.

Gazing down the busy road, I was relieved to see wide-set headlights and the white-ish glow from the city bus. I could use the break from a long walk. Climbing up the steps of the bus, I flashed the driver my pass and slumped in the nearest seat.

It would be a long day. Student council meeting at lunch and yearbook meeting after school. My mother was worried that I took too much on. I was also involved in church activities, in addition to taking violin lessons and a dozen other projects as they came up. But I liked to be busy and so did my friends. We liked involvement and getting things done. I’d be fine.

I rested my head against the large, cool window. Shafts of light spread out from the rising sun between the houses and buildings lining the road. I smiled. Autumn was such a beautiful time of year.

I turned my gaze upward to admire the trees. Instead seeing gorgeous golds and reds, I found nothing but bare trees!

Pressing my hands up against the window, I looked up and down the street. I couldn’t be! Turning my head, I strained to see the trees on the other side of the street. The exact same thing. The rising sun created long eerie shadows of tree limbs stripped of their foliage, like a scene from a scary movie.

How did I completely miss the leaves changing colors…and then falling from the trees? Could it be possible that I was so busy that I didn’t even notice the change in the environment around me?

Autumn was my favourite season. Leaves changing colors was a highlight of the year. That majestic burst of color in the fall was like Nature’s last kiss before hibernating for the winter. And I missed it. It would be an entire year before I could witness the beauty of fall.

I was filled with a profound sadness for what I lost out on that year. What else had I missed?

As I got off at school, my sadness was soon eased by a grateful heart. Grateful that I

This tree on our block has already started turning colours. I guess it didn't get the memo that it is still summer! So it is the first tree I've noticed changing this year. My yearly reminder.

This tree on our block has already started turning colours. I guess it didn’t get the memo that it is still summer! So it is the first tree I’ve noticed changing this year. My yearly reminder.

had experienced this lesson now, at 17 years old. How many people would go through life missing the changing leaves and not realize the lesson until it was too late? I promised myself that I would never let that happen again.

When fall approaches, I watch those trees and remember that lesson I learned in so many years ago.






Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What’s a lesson you were glad to learn in your youth?

Mystery Quilt

Cleaning out a closet a few months ago unearthed a mystery. A beautiful one.

I have no idea where this quilt top came from.

I’m not one to forget handmade heirlooms, but this is a mystery I can’t solve. It is made from gorgeous Depression Era fabrics in a Dresden Plate pattern. The plates are appliqued by hand to the squares, then the squares are sewn together by machine. It is a small size, just two blocks wide and five blocks long. Did the mystery quilter plan to make it bigger but something happened?

I suspect this little quilt came to me via my Dad who would have bought it at a farm auction, likely mixed in with some worthless junk.

I’m thinking about finishing this piece with an old pink cotton sheet as the backing so this long-neglected quilt can be complete.

What do you think – should this be quilted or left as is?

~ Susan

Changes and Traditions

This summer brought a huge change to my family. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Alaska. Two years ago, when David mentioned the idea to me, I asked him (okay, TOLD him) to never mention that awful idea again. My family isn’t one for big changes. We’ve always lived with a 45 minute radius from my parents. We don’t make major changes.

photo 1[1]

I’m not sure how many times they packed and repacked this trailer. My SIL should get an award or better yet, a reward for this!

Since that conversation so many things happened and doors were thrown wide open. They walked through those doors and at the end of July, with pretty much everything they were taking packed into a trailer. I hated to see them go. Just the thought that they aren’t nearby brings tears.

Growing up, I’d have paid for the ticket to send my brother to Alaska! We fought hard most of the time. But with age and leaving home, we found a really great friendship. Over the years we discovered we had quite a bit in common. It was a treat for my boys when Uncle David came to go hunting with them and a treat for me when he’d come in after hunting and sit at the island to talk and eat whatever dessert I had made.

I still don’t like that they moved, but since the moment he told me they were going, I’ve been able to say that I’m so excited and proud of them for following their dream. Who amongst us doesn’t have a dream and wish we had the nerve to follow it? They can always come home, but to get into their sixties and wish they had taken the chance, just seems sad. So they left, they are now living in Alaska, and they are loving it.

photo 2[1]

Dry curd cottage cheese wrapped in a bread dough pocket and deep fat fried.

Before they left we all got together for our most traditional meal. Verinika. I’m not even sure I got the spelling right! This is a German dish that we only had when my dad was traveling. Everyone makes theirs different. Some cooks boil and brown on a griddle and served with a ham gravy. Ours are deep fat fried with whole cream poured over the top. Delicious! Growing up the challenge was to see who could eat the most and still walk away from the table. We did not try that this time but we did make a pretty good dent in the dish.

All that's left

All that’s left

Even our plates were the same we used growing up.

Perfect plates because the cream runs to the center and is easier to scoop up.

Perfect plates because the cream runs to the center and is easier to scoop up.

So, we sent them off well. One last meal together, a hug, and a see ya later. And believe me, my boys are counting on the ‘see ya later’ part! They can’t wait until we can go visit Alaska.


Let Thy Clutter Go!

Last year I decided that it was time to de-clutter. I tried out a few organizing ideas that I found online or suggested by friends. In general, I’m doing a lot better. But honestly, I still have a ways to go.

Ten years ago we moved into a ranch style house because our oldest son uses a wheelchair for mobility. The previous owners built the house so that all the living space is on the main floor. This is perfect for our family. The owners also built a basement the same size as the upstairs. We love our spacious unfinished basement, but it also poses problems. With that much open space, you can imagine what happens when you are living a busy life.

“What should we do with this?”

“Stick it in the basement.”

“What about this pile of old board meeting notes?”

“The basement.”

“Who do you think needs these old toys/clothes from the boys?”

“Not sure right now, put it in the basement.”

Yes, the basement has become this incredible catch-all. I’ve seen those reality shows about hoarders, and my basement looks like it was arranged by Martha Stewart in comparison. In fact, after watching one of these shows I feel much, much better about my mess. Yet, it is still a mess and it should be cleaned.

I was able to get a jump start on this goal when a friend agreed to take some of my stuff to her garage sale. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare but managed to grab enough things to fill the backseat of her compact car. Surprisingly, it brought in $50.50. It’s not so much the money but the satisfaction of knowing these items aren’t collecting dust in the basement anymore and has become someone else’s treasure.

Continuing with the clean up, on the weekend I noticed an ad in our community paper. A group is collecting gently used book for the Terry Fox Foundation which supports cancer research. Great! I have a week to collect up books.

Discussing de-cluttering with one of my friends, she remarked  how we work to collect all this stuff and yet, when we get rid of it, we feel so much better.

It is inevitable over time that children will outgrow clothes. Toys that once provided hours of creative play are no longer age-appropriate. Even as adults, we can outgrow our clothes, too. It’s just taking the time to thoughtfully move our belongings on.

I’m not sure what my next step is except to make sure I bring in less!

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie 


What are some of your best de-cluttering tips?

The power of a volunteer

Gardening is good for the soul. This year, it has been both challenging and rewarding – but isn’t it every year? We’ve had a lot of rain, producing abundant crops. And weeds.

From one little seed.

From one little seed.

The thing I have learned this year is what volunteer plants can do. While mowing early this summer, I found a little plant growing in the yard near the back step. Since it seemed like a scrappy little thing – and I figured it must be watermelon – I couldn’t bring myself to mow it off, so I cut all around it and let the little plant grow.

And grow it did!

It turned out to be a cantaloupe. This is a single plant that grew from one little seed that fell in the grass last fall. At last count, there were 10 cantaloupe growing on it. I’ve already harvested one and it was delicious.

Patty pan squach

White patty pan squash. They taste great grilled or fixed in the microwave with a little butter.

Something unusual also sprouted from the compost pile. It turned out to be patty pan squash. I got some from the University Extension garden last fall. It’s a yummy little squash that is also adorable.

Never again will I doubt the value of a volunteer!
Susie Pink

Have you ever had a “volunteer” turn into something good?

~ Susan