Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween: My Ever Changing View

 Well, this can often be a catalyst for many heated debates on the topic of good vs. evil. It's one that I have fought and debated all my adult life. As a child, I went door to door just like any other child and while it was fun to dress up, I remember being a little too scared from time to time. As an adolescent, I would love to have the pants scared off of me and looked for that rush all year long. I loved scary movies and that feeling that you use never know what could be lurking just around the next corner. Now that I am a parent and my primary job is to protect my children from evil, my views are changing. Here are few thoughts we pondered regarding halloween:
  1. Would I allow my children to watch a program with scary images of dead/dismembered people?
  2. Are my children going to "miss out" on a learning/growth experience?
  3. If all year long I teach my children "stranger danger" & never take candy from strangers then why would I encourage them (one day a year) to go to door asking for candy?
  4. What is halloween really about or promoting?
  5. How would Jesus react/deal with halloween if he were here today?
And here are some of my conclusions:
  1. NO, I would never choose to let my children watch any programming that would fill their impressionable minds with fear.
  2. My children dress up a few times a week and, thanks to the influence of Mr. Dress-up, we have a tickle trunk full of many costumes (none scary) for them to choose from. Dressing up with friends happens almost ever week around our house; so I know they are not missing out on the creativity that halloween brings to the dressing up of children. Not participating at all might not be sending the right message either. So where is the line drawn?
  3. For older children I know this can be explained, but I certainly do not want to promote "breaking rules".
  4. My husband has done a bit of research into this "holiday" and it's origins. For the most part we, in North America today, do not recognize this day as a day to worship "pagan" gods as was once done by the Druids years ago. We also don't often see or hear of the celebrations adopted by the radicle "satanists" out there. It really is a day that is marketed toward the selling of candy & costumes (not unlike how modern society has changed Christmas). However, I do feel that in going door to door with our children's goodie bags opened wide "begging" for treats is a bit on the gluttonous side. I know how excited my 6 year old gets about getting candy. The excitement surrounding halloween for him is in regards to the volume and diversity of candy that he can get in one day, or even in a couple hours. He really starts going nuts over it as the day approaches. He's not at the stores buying the candy we give out so he doesn't realize the expense involved and that we could just keep the candy we buy and he would get a much greater "deal" and less "junky" candy. He really enjoys getting home and dumping his "loot". We then get to teach him self-control and I get to learn patience as he asks every day for more candy as I try, in vain, to ration it out as to not send his little body into mad fits of sugar rush and insulin resistance. I hate the candy part now that I am an adult and know the affects sugar has on our bodies. I could rant on this topic alone for days, but the next question is really where I hold my moral compass as my guide.
  5. I am not God and do not pretend to know all he knows, but based on Jesus' actions and words throughout the bible I feel confident in a few things. 
  • He most likely would not dress up as a ghoul and go door to door for sweets. 
  • He probably would not hide in his basement with the lights off, giving this day, that His father made, to the devil on a silver platter. 
  • He would be out in the neighbourhood, with His people whom he loves so much regardless of their religious views or lifestyle choices. 
  • He would try to be a blessing to those around Him and would pray for them, forgiving them and healing them of their pains. 
  • He would cast out demons and break off curses. 
  • Most importantly He would LOVE them.
So this halloween, like so many before, we will open our hearts and our door to serve our neighbours with kindness and love. As we serve the hot chocolate and heat up our fire pit in the front yard, we will talk to them and get to know them, if even for a minute. We will pray for them and bless them. We will pray that every foot that touches our property will be protected from the evil one and that their lives will be richly blessed. Until the Lord teaches us otherwise, we will just love our trick or treaters the best we know how. No our children won't go door to door, but they might visit the homes of the people we have met through the years, at least to say "Hi. Hey stop by our place we would love to bless you and warm your bellies with some hot chocolate and don't worry my daddy will come by to clean up the litter from the cups."

Bless you all for ready my views on the controversial halloween, feel free to share what you think or any ideas you might have on how to bright light to a dark night of the year. Below are some links to information regarding halloween.

Here's the link for the site we got the pumpkin carving templates from: I will update with the finished products.

A brief explanation of halloween & it's origins (there are many out there, this one is brief and sums it all up well:

Focus on the Family: has a podcast that has a neat interview with a gentleman about Christianity & halloween.

And lastly, a couple of scriptures that I guided my heart in this matter: 

Matthew 22:36-40

New Living Translation (NLT)
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 4:23-25

New Living Translation (NLT)
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns,[a] Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.

John 12:46-48

New Living Translation (NLT)
46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.

I Love Soups for Fall

I really enjoyed this one and wished I had made a triple portion. It's from my Williams Sonoma, Food Made Fast: Soup cookbook. I though I might share this one with you. I have made so many recipes from this series, that I could not even count. Hopefully, I won't get in trouble for this... though I did make some of my own alterations.

Lentil & Spinach Soup

4c chicken stock
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
salt & freshly ground pepper
1c dried lentils, rinsed & picked over
2 tbsp tomato paste
3c baby spinach, chopped (though I used kale, because that's what I have)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the bacon until the fat is rendered. Add the carrot and onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, thyme and 1tsp salt and sauté until garlic is soft. Stir in lentils.

Add stock, tomato paste and 1c water, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover partially and simmer until lentils are tender to the bite (25-30 min). Add the spinach and simmer until wilted. Season with salt & pepper and serve.

serves 4

Also shown here is a cheddar-chive-biscuits

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did. There are plenty of neat tips in Williams Sonoma books and as usual great photos, making them well worth investing in. Another recipe made from this series is Pappardelle with Mushrooms. We added chicken to make it more family friendly and satisfying for my husband who really doesn't like mushrooms much. It was so good. Since we don't drink that much wine, I just froze the rest in ice cube trays for future recipes. I do the same thing with left over herbs. Put them in a baggie and into the freezer they go.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Next Week's Menu

October 31 to November 4, 2011

I was just so excited for some of these options, I thought I might share them in advance. My husband is currently working his night shift a couple breakfast for dinner options are planned. I have included the links to my sources. In no particular order...

Baked Oatmeal

Mantastic Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwiches

Chicken & Dumplings (only I am using leftover roasted chicken & my own biscuit recipe)

Salmon Burgers (served on fresh buns and a side salad)

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese (this is a new variation on a recipe I have made before)

Anyway, these are inexpensive to make, but seem like yummy comfort foods that won't kill us. I might alter the oils & prep to make them a bit healthier for us. I will let you know how they turn out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Stock Pot

There are certain things that I make in my kitchen that inspire me. I know that this just looks like a pool of scraps to most but as we all know there is something wonderful about the smell of simmering chicken stock. As the aroma of this simmering stock began to fill my kitchen it made me think back on the things in my life that bring me comfort. Obviously, there is homemade chicken noodle soup. I loved it when my mother would make chicken soup, especially if she also made those large noodles to pour the hot soup over. Then there is the delightful smell of baking cinnamon buns. It was an all day affair to make, but the pay off was always worth it. Both of these bring back such fond memories of fall at home in the kitchen with my mother.

These times were often uninterrupted by my little brother (because it looked too much like work) or the friends that would often pop in to have coffee. I got to have my mom all to myself, something that was pretty rare at times. I remember her rolling out the freshly risen dough onto the table that I was allowed to lightly flour. My job was to spread the warm melted butter over the surface of the sweet smelling dough. As I got older, I was permitted to spread the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins and even later, to roll and cut them into pieces and leave to rise. This was a right of passage for me and it was a great learning experience that will, thankfully never be unlearned. This time was often used to catch up or talk about anything that came to our minds, but even if we never said a word, it was always a bonding time between mother & daughter.

Clearly food has always played a pretty large role in my life. It's usually the smell of foods made from my childhood that elicit the more intense comfort responses. You can not put enough emphasis on the importance of the time spent with your loved ones in the kitchen. Not only did I learn how to make wonderful, yummy homemade foods, but I learned to take comfort in the conversations and the quietness between loved ones. While my children might still be pretty young I know how important this is and will be to them as they grow. So, as fall comes along, I find myself wanting to make soup and cinnamon buns and even perogies with my children. The conversations aren't deep and their attention spans aren't too long, but they are working side by side with their mother in the kitchen, making foods that they will remember for the rest of their lives and that is really cool!

My mother saved a set of these Campbell Soup
bowls from my childhood of me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bringing in the Harvest

Here are some more photos of one day in harvest.

Kale: 6 heads of kale are now washed & frozen.

Tomatoes: These are peeled & frozen, however I did manage to get at least twice as much more before the end. Half are still green. I really have enjoyed the yellow variety. We managed to collect about 3L pail of grape/cherry tomatoes as well.

Ancho Chillies: I had only 5-6 grow from the 3 plants. I just didn't water enough. I dried these and put them in jars to add to sauces, chillies and more recently cupcakes.
Tobassco Peppers: about 8 of these, from two plants. Now dried & waiting.

Caribbean Habanero: 1 plant provided only these two little peppers.
Yellow Peppers: I am not a fan of green. Since pregnancy I just lost the taste for these because they just give me heartburn. Yellow, red & orange are still okay though. Due to the lack of water, I only got maybe 5, from 2 plants. 3 plants never did bear fruit.
Cucumbers: I just planted one row of slicers and we slowly got about 10-12 throughout the summer.
Beets: We managed to harvest about 8-3" round purple beets and 6-3"round golden beets and a handful of smaller ones.

Carrots (purple & orange): This is a pretty huge bowl, but once the stems are removed (some saved for stock & juicing) we have about 3L pails full. We still have a few in the fridge, in some water.

Pumpkins: We still have them outside, but at long last they are orange. I took 3 large pumpkins off the vine in September to "ripen". I am hoping the snow this morning did not ruin them.

Herbs: I have brought these in for winter. I haven't had much luck bringing these in for winter, but I will keep trying.

So this is the update. I had so much fun. I look forward to spring, when we can start planting the seeds indoors. Until then...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Baby Girl Turns One

September 22, 2011. This day came with such mixed emotions for me. I just blinked and now Maggie Joy is a one year old. This last year flew by so fast. I know I have said this with all of our children but this one was faster than the speed of light. She's our sweet, dear princess pretty pants and as the only other girl besides Mommy she does have a special place of honor in our home.

The boys adore her and really do treat her as though she was royalty. And since I often call our boys little princes, it's no wonder they know to treat their sister as the princess God has made her to be. Don't get me wrong they still steal her toys and even the food from her highchair, but they love her and she loves them and that's all that matters.

Here are some photos from the big day. I hope you enjoy them and thank you to all the friends and family who were able to share that day with us. Enjoy!

My 1st really girlie cake.

She has a real sweet tooth like her daddy.

This dress was her cousin Ella's, on her 1st birthday. How special is that!

Dumbo; her 1st movie (the boys have enjoyed it more, for now).

Grandma Bernice, these are so dear to us. She wears them a lot these days!

A gift from Auntie Krista & Uncle Greg to help keep that bald head warm. 

These photos were all taken by our 13 year old Neighbor, Megan. She did a really good job. I've encouraged her to take some classes sometime to bring out her natural talents.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Birthday Dinner

This is the one I made for Deryk's 35th birthday Dinner. It was enjoyed by all and it's easier than it sounds. I am not a food photographer so this isn't the best photo. Again this qty fed my whole family (2 adults & 4 children, with one left over for Daddy's lunch).

Feta Stuffed Chicken with Fresh Tomato Sauce Spaghetti

For Chicken:
6          boneless, skinless breasts
1 c       feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp  chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp    chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp  olive oil
1 box   whole wheat spaghetti (sm)

For Sauce: 
1 tbsp  olive oil
1          med yellow onion, chopped
8-10     chopped, roma tomatoes*
1          minced garlic cloves*
1 sm    can tomato paste*
1 tsp    basil (fresh or dried)
1 tsp    oregano (fresh or dried)
3 tsp    cornstarch
salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350˚F. Cut a small pocket into the thick side of the breast ( I like to do this when the chicken is slightly frozen).

Combine crumbled feta, parsley, oregano & olive oil, mix well. Fill the chicken pockets. Place chicken into ungreased baking dish.

In a med/small saucepan heat the olive oil over med heat for the sauce, add garlic and chopped onion (until aromatic). Add in the tomato paste, tomatoes & herbs. Simmer until warmed through (5-8 min). Then add in the cornstarch (I find it gets too watery in the oven without). You can use a large can of italian diced tomatoes, I just prefer the fresh when it's available. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. In the meantime, cook the spaghetti. Toss the spaghetti in some of the sauce, plate and top with chicken and more sauce. If you have extra feta, you can top with more of that as well. We serve an italian salad along side.

For desert, we had this recipe from Aztec Chile Chocolate Cupcakes

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

This one is a family favorite any meal of the day. I will often make it for supper when my husband is on night shift. That way he can wake up to the yummy aroma of apples and cinnamon. This qty feeds our whole family of 6+.  So I thought, especially since it's cooling off these days, that this can be one to share. I will be sharing many more recipes over the next while so keep checking in.

4 1/2 c     old-fashioned oats
1/2 c        raisins (we've also used chopped dried apricots or cranberries)
8 c           milk
2/3 c        packed brown sugar (sub. with honey or even maple syrup)
4 tbsp      butter, melted
2 tsp        ground cinnamon
3-4 c        apple, grated with it's juices or chopped
1 c           chopped walnuts, or almonds
Additional milk, if desired 
  • Heat oven to 350°F. In casserole dish, mix oats, raisins, milk, the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and apples.
  • Bake uncovered 40 to 45 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed. Top with nuts. Serve with additional milk if you like.

    NOTE: You can prep this the night before, refrigerate and then just heat in oven for 1/2 hour or until warm. The oats will absorb a lot of the milk through the night.

Monday, October 17, 2011

This is what I know for sure

I know I love my Husband
The thought of him still makes my heart flutter a bit. Even typing this brings a smile to my face. He is gentle, kind, thoughtful and strong. He's the one God chose for me and that's all I need to know in the tough times.

I know I love my children
These things all seem obvious, but the truth is it's not so easy being a loving parent all the time. I am weak and selfish and hurtful at times. I don't always think about what I say to them before I speak, but I know that when I look into their sweet faces as they sleep that God has blessed me beyond measure by "loaning" them to me. Ultimately, they are His and not mine and I cherish everything they are to me.

I know I am creative
With so many ideas in my brain there is never a shortage of creativity. Each of us are creative in our own ways. It could be for making food, party plans, crafty stuff, even fixing a toilet (all of which I love) we are using our creativity. If God created us in His image, then we too must be creative. After all, look at how amazing His creations are; the galaxy, all the fish in the sea, how each species works to create an amazing eco-system. It's all creativity and that is in each of us.

I know that I am important
With so many things going on in this world, it is easy to feel small or unimportant. But that would be a lie. Just like the worms are important to the birds, I am important to this world. Each of us has a part to play in this great master plan. Many people wonder what is this master plan. Allow me to let you in on the big secret in case you don't already know... to glorify God and have a relationship with Him. I am important because everything God makes is for a GOOD reason and he NEVER makes mistakes.

I know that I am loved
So many people have come and gone in my life and each one of them has and is still having an impact on my life. My parents are probably the most impacting. Both of them are very strong individuals in their own way. My mother is always able to hold her head high and laugh in the face of the most difficult situations. She taught me to take each day as it comes and sometimes each minute. Do what you can and then try to do a bit more. It makes you feel good when you accomplish just that little bit more than you thought you could. My father is wise and thinks things through, looking at the larger picture. Think carefully and plan smart, most of all, don't paint yourself into a corner. God always provides a way out; it's just not always the most comfortable route to take. He has always been very resourceful (also like my mother) in such a way that people think he's just lucky. The truth is, he has the grace of God on him. What a good combination to grow up under. They both feel very deeply for me and show me that often in their own ways.

My children look at me with the dearest of emotions I have ever seen. It's a love that is indescribable. I have grandparents who pray for me and my family daily. My mother-in-law is one of the most genuinely sweet women I know. Her heart is huge, always willing to give of herself to me any time I ask. That brings me more comfort than most would ever know. There are so many friends and extended family members who reach out their loving arms by being a listening ear or a helping hand. Those from our church body show me so much love by keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. What greater love is there than to know that people who might not know me personally are willing to set aside time to hold me up in prayer. To think that God loves me even more than this. Oh, yes, I know I am loved!

Most of all, I know I love my God 
I'm sure it's obvious by now, but to truly love God isn't always as easy as some make it out to be. You see I was born selfish and a sinner and I will often put myself above the desires of my God. I will shut out his voice with my busyness or stubbornness. I don't always want to learn more about Him or talk to Him. Often I think that I know what's best for me and decide thing before checking to see if it's a good idea or not. I don't know everything but this is what I do know for sure.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Know What I Did This Summer... Or Do I?

I think this summer was one of the best I've had in a long while. We had great weather with no bugs, so we spent a lot of time outside.

So after we planted our garden, we let the events begin. We had the Maggie's Walk Bowling Social and much fun was had by all. I can't believe this is my 6 year old boy having a blast with the big girls Megan and Candace.
Later in June Graeme turned 3 and we had his party at Kildonan Park. We went to a total of 3 birthday parties and one family event at this park this year.

It's a great park! Not too big, but with the right amount of family fun things to do.

The Red River Ex was pretty fun with all the children and Megan (my neighbor). I really must remember to not eat the corn dogs. That's two years in a row now that after eating this midway treat it renders me unable to go on any more rides. That really sucked for Megan because she lost her ride buddy. I tried anyway and wound up getting a migraine. At least the children had fun.

Graeme was the BEST! He and Dino could have rode all night. My favorite for them was the cars that whipped them around the corner. Every time they came around they would scream with delight at the top of their lungs. Too funny! Can't wait for next year. They will all get wrist bands and be able to go on so many more rides. Not a great day for Maggie though. Not much for a baby to do.

We stayed pretty late and the kids got baked. Baked enough that Deryk took them home so Megs & I could have more fun (pre corn dog incident). We made up a new game. Instead of punch-buggy, we came up with punch-holli. Whenever you see someone in a Hollister shirt you punched the other person. I think I still have the bruises. Seriously people get some original clothing! Has anyone heard of a thrift store?

Swimming, swimming and more swimming. We tried many different places this summer. More than I have pictures posted here. The most fun for me was actually at Lilac Resort. It was a great day spent with the children and their grandparents. There is just so much for them to do there. Get there early because it fills up fast!

We would love to go there to do some actual camping next year. It's close to the city and has all the comforts of a water park.
We live close to a park with a wading pool. I didn't bother trying to take all the children on my own. Someone would have drowned for sure! I tried last year when I was pregnant with Maggie and Dino & Graeme kept getting pushed over. Dino would go in face first and not even notice. Who do I save? Dino or Graeme. Go for Dino... he's too light to pick himself up.

Thanks to Megan & Deryk the children got to go out for a swim in safety.
What an intense little boy Graeme is. He plays so hard and makes no appologies for being his genuine self. Even if it sounds rude to those around him. Trust me this gets him into hot water a lot.

And then there's Owen... His sweet smile can warm the coldest of hearts. He tries very hard to be the best he can and to include everyone. What great men I think they will become.

So that no one would miss out on the fun, Auntie & Uncle got the children a wading pool that lasted only a week before getting a leak. Not the pool's fault, I just have three rough boys. Duct tape to the rescue! After many patches this summer, this pool made it to the end with much fun had by ALL. Hmmm, did Deryk make it in there? You know, I don't think he did...

Graeme refused to wear a bathing suit. I figured that since he was only 3 I would let it slide, but next year is no suit, no swim!

Maggie was just a fish out of water. Must have been those many months I spent in my mother's pool while pregnant with her. So when the boys got too crazy, I pulled out the baby bath. She was as happy as could be.

Another one of our favorite swim spots was at Grandma Barb's. We would go out for the day or even spend the night. The boys love to play and camp in the parked motor home. They act as though it was built just for them and "drive" around all over the world.

The Zoo wasn't as fun as I would have liked. Many of the exhibits were closed due to renovations. The flower garden and butterflies were pretty neat though.

The best thing at the park was the Nature Park. You really need to keep an eye on these children though. We "lost" Dino for a solid 20 minutes one day. I was so scared! Any of the other children would freak out if someone tried to take them, but I don't know that Dino would. We got to work on that!

An oldie, but a goodie... just go to the park. There are so many in our area. This is often a Daddy thing to do with the children. Wear them out in time to get them into bath and bed!
And on the off days of summer (few as they were), we acted like rock stars in the living room. Rocking out to kids worship on YouTube. "Jesus You're My Super Hero..."

We continue this into the fall as part of our morning routine. 9 am worship via YouTube. Myself and all 4 children rock out in the living room, setting the tone for the day ahead. Try it, it's pretty fun and it really makes the day better.

This was just a small glimpse of all that we did this summer. What a great time had by all!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Are They All Yours?

So with Maggie in the sling and the toddlers strapped into the double stroller, I grabbed Owen's hand and we entered the Kids Festival at the Forks. This was an interesting outing for me and the 4 children. It was crowded and HOT, but we were together and we had fun!

I am always amazed at the looks I get while out, on my own, with all my children. Without a doubt I hear "Wow, you have your hands full.", "Now that's a busy Mom." or "Are they all yours?". Granted the last one is somewhat fair because we do foster a cute little boy, so there is a chance that I could be just a part-time caregiver to at least one. However, my answer is always... "Some days are tough, but they are great children.", "There is certainly no time to be lazy." and "Yes, they are all my little ones."

I think it's something that happens to all mothers of more than two children, yet I wonder if I will ever get used to these comments? They are almost always well intended, but the truth is I don't FEEL busy, or that my hands are too full. On the contrary I feel content and purposeful. I know that every day I am fulfilling God's plan in my life. Not all days are a cake walk and I do loose it from time to time. I don't always feel like the "right one to do the job", but each day is new hope, love and after a cup of coffee, energy.

As a youth, I hated having a full house. My mother always had someone over. I used to think it was because she couldn't handle being alone, but I think now it was more that, in having people and children in her life, it brought her joy and a purpose that so many others just don't have the heart for. I know there were days, weeks or even months when this would drain my Mom and bring her down, but ultimately she was happy being with and serving others. After many years of denial, I have come to accept that I too have this calling. It is not an easy one, but it really is amazing to know that I am investing in the lives of people.

What an honor it is to know that God trusts me enough to give me the lives of these children to love and mold into great adults. Granted it's only with His divine wisdom I can actually achieve any of this, so when the day is done I rest peacefully in the knowledge that I have done my best!