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Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

This past weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada. The weather where I live was sunny and warm, making a gorgeous backdrop to the golds, oranges and reds in the trees. Today is a little more typical for fall…overcast and windy.

Over the last several weeks, my husband and I have been working on new landscape in front of our home. It’s mostly done but we will add the finishing touches in the spring.

The two new additions we are most excited about are the new Pin Oak tree and the Burning Bushes. Buying them at this time of the year allowed us to see how pretty they will turn every autumn. Too bad I didn’t think of taking pictures when the sun was out this weekend when the red really popped…but this should give you an idea.

image

With this change of season, I thought I’d share one of my favourite fall soup recipes. I made this up one night with what I could find in the house and we enjoyed it. Hope you will, too.

 

Sweet Potato & Pear Soup

  • 1 leek chopped
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3 Bosc pears, peeled and cubed
  • 3 ½ Cups vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • ¼ Cup of cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté chopped leek and ginger in melted butter until soft. Add sweet potato and sauté for 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock. Bring to boil for 10 minutes. Add Pears. Continue to boil for 10 more minutes. Stir in cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and puree soup (either in blender or with wand). Add cream and serve!

Enjoy!

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

There..Now can I go see Daddy?

I’m not particularly proud of this story–but there are times when  motherhood stoops to bribery.

Because of the hours hubby worked–24 hours on/24 hours off–there were  a LOT of times he missed the kids’ activities. They rolled with it better than I did, at times, and often a visit to the firehouse was both a reward and a treat, and my way of coping.

It was the church Christmas program he missed this year. Our oldest son (the third child) was 4 and had the Welcome speech for the program. Perhaps not the wisest decision to have a child open the evening, but after all…church Christmas programs take two avenues–Cantata or kids.  Right?

The problem with this scenario–oldest son did NOT want to say Welcome, Welcome, everyone. And because his daddy hated the thought of speaking in public, son #1 was not encouraged (or threatened).

Overhead lights went out, sanctuary was beautifully lit by Christmas decorations, microphone adjusted to four-year-old height—and son scooted closer to me, folded his arms across his chest, stuck out his chin and shook his head “no”. Teacher smiled and encouraged. I, on the other hand did what every proud, embarrassed mother would do (someone out there please tell me you would have followed my lead)…I whispered to him that if he didn’t say his part we couldn’t go see Daddy after the program.

Now, one of the real treats at the firehouse was strawberry pop in a bottle!!  I was certain this threat would work. Our two daughters begged and pleaded (in whispers of course) because they didn’t want to miss a chance to go see their daddy OR the bottle of pop they would share.

But nope–I underestimated the strong will of this child. And eventually, the program went on, and no one was Welcomed!!

Closing prayer. Eyes closed. Amen. Open eyes–and there in front of the microphone, arms still folded across his chest was son #1 , who–in a VERY important manner–Welcome, Welcomed, Everyone. Then added this little epilogue as he nodded my direction.

“There–now can I go so Daddy?”

We did!!

Mother’s pride OFTEN went before  humiliation in this family!!

road 2 we like!

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!

Sara

How I learned to love August

I wrote this several a few years ago. It’s still one of my favorites.

August used to be my absolute most hated month of the whole year.

July was all popsicles, water slides and fireworks, but the moment the calendar turned over, a sense a dread settled in my stomach. A big old circle around a certain date gave full notice that my wild and carefree days were numbered. Literally.

hammock

Destination for August.

Whatever fun could have been wrung out of the fading days of summer were overshadowed by the looming deadline. We still slept late, played games and tried to be as lazy as humanly possible, but it all had a sense of desperation. It wasn’t summer any more, it was August. Hot, stifling and lifeless. In other words: school.

Even the word sounded like coughing up a hairball. August.

After I graduated from college, I turned the calendar over to August and marveled that for the first time in 18 years, there was no drop-dead date circled in red. Then I looked closer. There really wasn’t much of anything on the calendar for August.

And I made the most delightful discovery: August is awesome!

This is the month when schedules slow down and it’s too hot to do anything much beside sip iced tea and read a good book.

The grass gets overtaken by the heat so I only have to mow every other week. Cheery wildflowers bloom with abandon on the side of the road. The hillsides have taken on varying shades of green and yellow and tan, a relief to the eye after the monotonous shade of summer. Sometimes a hint of a cool breeze stirs the air.

Gifts of August.

The garden offers up an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, zucchini and more zucchini. Reruns are the only thing on TV, so you might as well as go outside with a piece of watermelon and spit the seeds over the porch railing while the cicadas drone.

Vacation is over, as is the county fair, Bible school, family reunions, hay baling and the ambitious summer to-do list. Either the projects are done or the list is discarded. This is not a time for starting projects; this is a time for taking naps in front of the fan.

The songs on the radio are all familiar since no one introduces new singles in August. No movies at the theater are must-see, although a cheap movie may be in order just for the sake of sitting in the cool and dark for two hours when the heat index approaches 112.

If I get a burst of energy, I may upload some pictures from summer adventures to Facebook. Then again, why work up a sweat? My wardrobe of choice has dwindled to a pair of denim shorts, a souvenir T-shirt and – when shoes are absolutely necessary – flip flops.

August is that moment at the top of the swing. Your legs pump back and forth, the old chains creak on the swing set and you push forward. Just when you’ve gone as high as you can possibly go, the swing pauses for one magic moment. Your heart swells in your chest as you float in a blue sky. The world stretches out pure and perfect beneath you. Then you catch your breath and fall back and have to start working again.

August is a 31-day pause in the middle of the year for us to rediscover simple pleasures. It is the taste of tree-ripened peaches, wild plums and homemade salsa. It’s not quite summer, it’s not quite fall, it’s just hot and that hammock is calling my name.

The best thing about not being in school is I don’t have to go back to school. I understand the agony teachers and students are experiencing, but this is one month when it’s good to be a grown up. I may just sleep in the first day of school because I can. Because it’s August.

Susie PinkWhat do I have going on in August? Nothing much. What’s so great about August? Nothing much. Which is why it’s so great.

August – love it or hate it?

~Susan

The Love of a Father

heart handsThis week’s theme was Famous Father’s as a nod to Father’s Day that kicked off this week. Before I get too far into this blog post, I’d like to wish my dad a Happy Birthday who celebrates on this very day. It’s sunny here in Southwestern Ontario. My grandmother swore that it never rained on my dad’s birthday and today is consistent with her declaration. Enjoy the day, Dad!

This year, I agreed to do another read through the Bible with a friend. It’s been good to refresh on details of stories in the Old Testament or review the lesser read portions of the New Testament. There is one story about King David and his son Absalom that really stood out for me in the book of Second Samuel.

Absalom worked to conspire against his father. For four years, he would turn people away at the city gate who wanted to see King David for a matter of justice. He told them that there was no representative for the king to hear the people out…if only he were appointed judge in the land! By doing this he won the hearts of the people. (Not to mention, he is described as exceptionally handsome and without blemish.)

Before long, Absalom stole the kingdom from his father and won the allegiance of the many. David, on the other hand, had to run to save his life from being taken by his own son.

Can you imagine how David must of felt, having his own son betray him? Or, that his son would wish him dead?

I wouldn’t have blamed David if had become enraged and desired retaliation. But David responded differently. He longed for his son and left the palace weeping. Later, when David’s troop were forced to fight against Absalom’s army, he begged them to be gentle with Absalom for his sake. In the end, Absalom was defeated and killed in battle.

When the news of Absalom’s death reached David, he mourned for his son. In fact, his grief was so heavy that his army, who had returned victorious, fell into mourning. The men returned to David as though the were ashamed, instead of with the joy of champions. David wept so intensely that one of the commanders had to basically tell him to snap out of it. His grief demoralized the men. David was strongly advised to acknowledge those who defended him – if not, David risked the men turning against him.

What an intense love David had for his son. His son behaved in such a traitorous way – deceiving and betraying-and bent on murdering his own father. Yet, David showed nothing but compassion toward Absalom.

David was called a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ If he could have great love for such a son, how much more love does God have for us?

(You can read about Absalom in 2 Samuel 13-19:8)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Grandma’s Lemon Cake

lemonadeYesterday, I wore a floral print top to church – in honor of my Grandma Violet’s birthday.

Grandma loved bright colors and floral prints. (I inherited her sense of style, just ask my sisters.) And she loved having us all over for her birthday, which often fell on Mother’s Day as it did this year, to enjoy her delicious cooking and sit on the patio and enjoy her flowers.

Chatting with my sister yesterday, she mentioned it was her turn to take treats to Sunday school, so she made Grandma’s lemon cake in honor of her birthday. Several people in the class said their grandma made that cake, too!

It’s a simple and delicious dessert that tastes just like a sunny spring day.

Grandma’s Lemon Cake

1 lemon cake mix
1/3 c. oil
3 eggs

Glaze
1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 c. powdered sugar

Bake cake according to directions. Mix orange juice and powdered sugar for glaze. While cake is still warm, poke lots and lots of holes in it with a fork. Pour the glaze over the top. It tastes best to prepare the night before and let it get really moist. I’ve also used pre-made orange juice and it works just as well.

Wearing my floral - Grandma style.

Wearing my floral – Grandma style.

Did your grandma make this cake?

Blessings,

~ Susan

It’s not about me…after all!


When I was a little girl I had a doll house. It came complete with little rubber figures of mommy, daddy, brother and sister—and pink plastic furniture. It was tin and one side was painted white with a red roof, and there were even shrubs and flowers along the foundation. The other side was open, neatly divided into rooms–a bathroom and two bedrooms on the upper floor, a living room, dining room and kitchen on the bottom tier. And I could move my  rubber ‘family’ around, and rearrange that plastic furniture until my heart’s content. And if I wanted–I could leave those figures lying on the floor of that tin house, or scramble the rooms around any way I so desired. Because at the end of the day, I would turn the open side against the wall and only the beautifully painted side showed to anyone who might care to see…and visitors could ooh and aah over my beautiful toy. Only my closest friends were allowed to play house with me.

But I’m a big girl now..older and wiser…though some might call me a rebel. You see–new clothes, bunnies, and pretty baskets full of colored eggs don’t bother me–any more than tinsel, and colored lights and decorated trees bother me at Christmas.

What DOES concern me, is that I’ve found myself guilty of playing house…with Jesus. And it breaks my heart. And it breaks my heart that we (I’m sure I’m not alone in this) have created places of worship that resemble that little tin house.

Have you ever listened–really listened to how children play? So very often there is one in charge who will tell all the others how to perform.  “I’ll say this, then you say this.” or “I”ll go here, and then you go there.” And if they don’t cooperate, then they are no longer welcome to be a part of the game.

Now, I’m going to really get myself in trouble. But frankly, I’m tired of ‘playing’. I’m weary of thinking we are More Christian if we have a Harvest Festival and dress up as Bible characters, than opening our doors to the neighborhood Trick or Treaters; if we sing in the Christmas Cantata and fill our pews with relatives who come to see the ‘little ones’ perform, than fill our homes with neighbors who would never darken the door of a church; if we have a sunrise service with biscuits and gravy and then another Cantata, rather than an colored egg hunt and stuffed bunnies.

Why have we, as Christ followers, allowed so much division? We have become divisive among family: home school versus public school (you know, you can’t possibly love your children if  you choose to send them to public school); praise songs versus hymns (no matter who wrote the hymns or where they were first sung); church three times a week (at a minimum…more with committees, choir practice, etc.) versus attending an activity to support a neighbor kid and/or his parents; the King James version of the Bible…only, and we must look down our holy noses and argue and  point how wrong all others are .We have become suspicious of anyone or anything that doesn’t look like our little rubber family.  The color of skin, the style of hair, the type of clothing, even what they proclaim to believe…if they don’t fit into our little tin houses, they can’t play. We even divide ourselves over whether we choose to take our children to the doctor or not.

So what does Easter mean to me–the topic of this blog this week? It means I fully realize I was a sinner, am a sinner, and am saved, redeemed and sanctified by the precious blood that my Saviour Jesus Christ shed on that cross. I means that if I truly believe I am saved from eternal hell, by His grace alone, and nothing that I ‘earn’, then I can put my arms around my neighbor, regardless of who they are or what they believe or what day of the week it might be…because who or what they are is not about me…it’s about the Lord IN me. The same God who never changes. The God who empowers the believer and who desires for His children to show His SON to all without fear, without malice, and without them jumping through our little plastic hoops first.

The Christmas cantata I sing should be one of daily praise for the gift of God’s Son…every day…every day. The  Easter cantata I sing should be on of Praise for the sacrifice of that Son..for me…every day…every day.  I can have lights on my house and in my windows every day…I can color eggs every day…I am free to sing a ‘today’ song as well as the old hymns. I can attend public school functions, pray for the teachers in those schools, and love my kids and grandkids just as much….JUST AS MUCH…as those who choose to home school.  I am NOT, however, free to look down my nose at  how others choose to live. I can turn my porch light on and give out candy to the  neighbor kids, without preaching to them until I’ve earned the privilege of being trusted enough to say anything at all to them, what the better part of reasoning teaches our children to be wary of strangers. Shame on us, if our neighbors don’t know who we are. And I can smile at the senior citizen who is earning a little extra money by dressing as Santa Claus and sitting in a crowded mall. I can try to understand that the big fuzzy bunny standing at the curb holding a ‘car wash’ or ‘hamburger special’ sign, could very well be a kid who has to earn his own money to pay for college, or a young dad who just wants to buy those special shoes so his boy can play baseball this summer. Or, again, someone who needs medicine for a wife, husband, kids or even themselves.

Until Easter becomes real enough to us, who claim to be His followers, to love as He loved. To forgive as He forgave. and to be Jesus to a world who might otherwise never know the freedom that is ours in Christ, then we are guilty of pretending and  we’ve made the Jesus, who died for us, just another figure to  manipulate into playing our games, our way. We must stop presenting only the ‘pretty painted’ side of who we are, and let people see our open rooms, …and quit pretending that we have a corner on Who He Is!!

If  you claim to be saved by His blood…then you must realize that you were first one of the nails.

 

 

It Is Finished

Our Bible study group is reading No Wonder They Called Him the Savior by Max Lucado which explores the events leading to Christ on the Cross. Max describes this as Jesus’ darkest hours, but Mankind’s greatest hope. Each chapter draws out a poignant lesson that we can learn from and offers a fresh perspective on the Passion Week.

We just studied Jesus’ final moments. As He hung on the cross and breathed his last, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46).

Here is Mr. Lucado’s thoughts on those last words.

“Were it a war—this would be the aftermath.

Were it a symphony—this would be the second between the final note and the first applause.

Were it a journey—this would be the sight of home.

Were it a storm—this would be the sun, piercing the clouds.

But it wasn’t. It was Messiah. And this was a sigh of joy.”

(No Wonder They Called Him the Saviour, p.43)

And it was that moment before the grand finale…Easter morning.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

May you and your family have a blessed Easter.

 

My faith may be on life support, but ‘God’s Not Dead’

By some miracle, our local theater is showing God’s Not Dead. A friend and I went to see it this weekend.

The movie depicts a college student’s struggle to stand for his faith against a philosophy professor, then the impact his decision has on others. The movie itself moved kind of slow with a plot based mostly on dialogue. The ending, however, was well worth it. Our whole theater joined the Newsboys in singing “God’s Not Dead.”

Much more than a night at the show, my faith needed a shot in the arm. No big crisis, or even anything that anyone else would notice. Just those discouraging things that make me question if it’s worth it to keep trying.

I needed to hear shouted from the big screen in stereo surround sound, that even if it feels like my dreams have breathed their last, “God’s not dead!”

I needed to stand in the moonlight of my backyard at 11 p.m. and see that even though I feel alone, the “heavens declare the glory of God.”

I needed to learn from my Sunday school teacher yesterday that even when my prayers go unanswered, to “keep on praying” (Romans 12:12) and to remember that “his ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)

As I write, this latest release from the Newsboys came on the radio. This Easter, no matter what else, I believe.

 

Cracked Eggs!

It’s finally warming up here in Southern Ontario and I’m finally thinking about spring and Easter! Here’s a post I wrote 2 years ago about my family’s Easter tradition. Maybe you might like to add this to your celebration this year!


April, 2012

Easter always reminds me of cracked eggs. And no, I’m not referring to the relatives at Easter dinner (*a-hem*). Breaking eggs is actually a Romanian tradition we’ve learned from my father’s side of the family.

Many people are familiar with the beautiful, intricately decorated eggs associated with several western European countries. In Romania, people often use three colors for their meaning; red represents the blood of Christ, black represents Christ’s suffering, and yellow is for light. These eggs are prepared by poking small holes at the top and bottom, then the insides are blown out.

Most Romanians, though, decorate hardboiled eggs. In our family, we draw each person’s name on an egg, along with a meaningful picture in crayon. The eggs are then dyed in food coloring.

With these miniature pieces of art, we begin the egg cracking contest (which you only use hardboiled variety!). Family members pair up with their own egg in hand.  The first person says a traditional Romanian greeting which means, “Christ has risen”. The other responds with, “He has risen, indeed.”

Next, with the two pointed ends facing each other, the opponents tap their eggs together – hoping to crack the other person’s egg and preserve their own. Then the players turn the eggs to the rounded end and tap again. The person with their egg still intact, moves on to the next round.

In the event that both eggs have only one broken end, the opponents try again with the remaining good ends. The victor, in this case, continues to play with only one end until it is cracked.

The persCherie Gagnonon whose egg lasts the longest wins!

I always remember my grandmother telling the story of one of her brothers who found a wooden egg that looked very real. He used it in the contest, and, of course, won. But, when he was found out, the family took him to task and no one ever forgot!

Have a blessed weekend!

What is your favorite Easter tradition?