Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Countdown is on for "Shine Your Light" 2009

With only four days left until our family's 3rd annual "Shine Your Light" event, Liam and Caroline were helping me today to prepare our house. For the past few years we have hosted a party at our house on Halloween night for all of our neighbours. I posted about our event last year and you can check it out from the link above. Our worship team plays tunes, church family members come over to meet people, we hand out hot chocolate for parents and candy bags with scripture on them for the kids. It is a really fun time. It is such a natural opportunity to get to know people that live around us and to let them know a little bit more about our family and for us to shine our light in our community.

I like to decorate the house with more of a fun factor than a fear factor so most of our decorations are homemade. Our costumes are often homemade as well, and we raid second hand stores and our craft bins to make things work. Everyone really gets into it, the worship team helps us with lots of candy and they have come up with some pretty stellar costumes over the past few years. It is not every day that kids get to see Mr. Potato Head
(Jason's costume last year) playing the electric guitar. Parents and kids often stick around and dance our driveway and we get a chance to meet them and have some good conversations. I would encourage you to think of what you can do to shine your light in your neighbourhood on Saturday night. Maybe you don't have a worship team to play but you could play CD's or your MP3 player on a stereo. You could sit on your porch and say hello to parents as they bring their kids around. Attach encouraging scripture to your candy or write positive messages with chalk on your driveway. Hand out coffee or hot chocolate...really the possibilities are endless.

Today, as we were starting to set up a couple of girls walked by and they began talking about what a great time they had on our front lawn last year. Trinity was so excited to hear that they had liked it and that they remembered our house. It was a great teachable moment to talk to her about why we do this and to pray with her for our neighbourhood and for more opportunities to love our neighbours. Praying with TJ is always such a blessing as she is so honest before the Lord. Her prayer today was simple "Please Jesus make people come to our party and let them see how much fun you are." And to that I said "Amen."

Friday, 23 October 2009

Free Recipe Friday - Cream Soup Base Mix

Yikes it has been so crazy that I am just getting this post up now! I have seen several of these recipes on the Internet and in different cook books. I know that mine originally came from somewhere but over the last year I have tweaked and changed it so that I now can't remember where I found it. I find this more economical to use in casseroles than canned soups and for me it easy to keep on hand in the cupboard. Most of the recipes I have seen use the powdered bouillon right in the mix (about 1/4 cup) but I like adding my bouillon after so I can decide then if I want to use chicken, veggie or beef depending on what I am making and who is coming to dinner.


2 cups of powdered milk
3/4 cups of cornstarch
2 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil

Mix and store in an airtight container.

To Use:

Combine 1/3 Cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cup of chicken or beef stock. (I use the liquid bullion concentrate to make the stock) Cook over medium heat until the base begins to thicken. Now you can use this as your soup base for any soup or use it as you would a creamed can of soup in casseroles. Try some different dried spices if you want to change it up or if you have a specific casserole in mind that you would like to use it for.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I am content. I love mornings like this when I wake up and my mind does not automatically rush to all the things I have to accomplish in the day. Instead, I am reminiscing over events at my house last night.

Last night we had old friends over for dinner. Two families that we use to meet with every week for home church when we lived in Oakville. It seems so long ago and yet last night it felt like it was only yesterday. Even this morning I am still finding it hard to believe that it has been six years since we have seen some of our friends. We now live in different places, attend different churches, have different jobs and different lives I suppose from when we started meeting. We had two children combined when we first met and last night I was amazed to count eleven running around and playing. As I took in the scene, I realized that the thing that what has not changed is God. As I met with my friends and got caught up on everything that has been happening in their lives, it was evident to see that God was still central. All of us are still wanting to learn more about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. It seemed in many ways that we were still close. A bond that is hard for me to describe. It got me to thinking. Why is it different?

I think it is different because our friendship began through God. It was God centered from the beginning. Each week we explored God's Word together, we shared our struggles, our triumphs and many of the every day details of our lives. We worshiped through song and we prayed together and we prayed for each other when we were apart. I will never forget praying for an entire year with my friends as we prepared to adopt two of our children. We did not even know who God had picked for us and yet our friends prayed faithfully with us, for all aspects of the lives of our children, that we had yet to meet. We were not always perfect and didn't always agree on everything but we supported one and other, we served each other and we were there for each other in hard times and in times of celebration.

So even though six years had passed since we had sat together on the couches of my living room, it seemed just like yesterday, as we sat on them again last night. Many things have changed but the connection that God began in our lives had not. That is what is different. I love that about Him.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Free Recipe Friday - Apple Cranberry Amish Bread

At some point you have probably had someone give you some Amish Friendship Bread Starter. I often have some of this in my house because there are so many different recipes that you can make from it. I make biscuits, muffins, bread etc. Did you know that you can make the starter yourself ? You don't have to wait for someone to give you some because you can make your own. If I ever don't feel like keeping it up I just throw it in the freezer and label it with what day it was on. Then when I take it out again I thaw it and just pick up where I left off. So today I decided to share one of the recipes that I have developed that uses the starter. Once you have the starter it is very easy to make and it is also a great gift to share. In the recipe I have put a link to another website where you can not only find the starter but lots of other yummy recipes. Have Fun!

Apple Cranberry Amish Bread

Preheat oven to 325 F.

1 cup Amish friendship bread Starter
1 cup oil
½ cup cold milk
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 large apple peeled and chopped

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a greased bunt pan.
Bake 1 hour. Test with a cake tester to make sure it is done.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Dead Sea Scrolls - Words that Changed the World

Tuesday of this week we took our kids on a field trip for school. The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has a temporary exhibit of of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea between the years 1947 and 1956, about thirteen miles east of Jerusalem. It was amazing to learn more about the scrolls and to spend the day with our kids talking about their importance. One of the things that I learned was about 15,000 fragments of over 500 scrolls were found in one cave alone. It took over a decade for many of the scrolls to be put back together. Can you imagine a jigsaw puzzle that big?? Honestly, if you could have seen some of those little pieces. I find it amazing that they have actually pieced together between 825 and 875 separate scrolls. One of the Isaiah scrolls was found relatively intact and is 1000 years older than any previously known copy.

We chose this week to attend the exhibit because for this week only they are also showing a scroll from Deuteronomy that contains the ten commandments. I will never forget all our kids and our friends Mike and Patty crowded around the display, looking intently into the glass because the lighting is so dim to protect the scroll itself. The writing is also so tiny that we even resorted to using Daniel's glasses to magnify the Hebrew lettering. I am sure we were quite a sight!

What I enjoyed most about the scrolls was being able to talk about them with our kids. What fun to be reading scripture with them in a busy museum, to be able to read and talk about what historians think and to feel that connection with many of the words that we read in our own personal bibles at home.

What surprised me more than the actual scrolls themselves were the hundreds of artifacts that we got to see. I spent most of my time with Trinity as she wanted me to
read her the captions and scriptures in front of every item. "Keep reading, Keep reading" she would say. Her most exciting finds were sandals and a comb that had been discovered. My most exciting find was a large piece of the gateway from the temple in Jerusalem. As I read the words "most likely that Jesus walked under this gateway to enter the temple." I was in awe. I still get excited just thinking about it.

The Museum has promoted the Dead Sea Scrolls as "Words that Changed the World". They play up on the fact that words can be profound and words can be powerful. They have had lectures and intellectual debates, controversial protests and over 160,000 people have walked by the dimly lit glass cases. But what I will remember from my trip to the ROM is my four year old's excited voice, "Keep reading mommy, Keep reading. Who said that in the bible? Moses or Jesus?" "Mama sing me that song, I lift my eyes up, up to the mountains where does my help come from?" To me this a reminder that these Jesus is still changing hearts.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Gratitude Garland for Thanksgiving

The dictionary on my Mac's dashboard defines "thanksgiving" as an expression of gratitude. I am so grateful for all that God has done for our family over the last year. I wanted to try to think of a creative and memorable way for us express our gratefulness. It is nice to have an excuse like Thanksgiving to take time to reflect on all that is important and to be able to express our gratitude.

I think I have mentioned before that every Thursday night our worship team with their families come for dinner, bible study and then we practice. It is a special night in our house. There is something about sharing a meal and then studying God's word together that is important to the spiritual growth of a community like our team. During this time each week we are able to pour into one and other. To pray for each other, to love each other and each others kids, to be family. Even though Thursday's have become the busiest day of our week we look forward to this time together. To show our appreciation for these people that come faithfully every Thursday we decided to cook them a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

To get everyone in the mood of thankfulness I had the kids help me with this easy craft that I call a "Gratitude Garland" I fully admit that this craft idea was not originally mine. I think I saw it last year around American Thanksgiving some where on the web but I wasn't able to find it again so I am probably calling it something different. We completed it on Thursday night and it was a big hit. It now hangs in our dining room and we are reminded every time we walk by of all of our blessings.

You will need:

Some yarn or string
construction paper in fall colours (red, yellow, brown, orange)
leaf pattern
scotch tape


1. Make a simple leaf pattern that you can trace. We used a maple leaf but you could easily use a simpler leaf. Or you can do different shapes of leaves. If you have a football shaped cookie cutter it will make great leaves when you trace it.

2. Trace your leaf pattern on different colours of the construction paper. The number you need depends on how long you would like your garland to be.

3. Cut out your leaves.

4. Hang up a string of yarn where you would like your garland to be.

5. As friends and family come over for thanksgiving dinner have them write what they are most thankful for on a leaf and hang it with a little piece of scotch tape.

This is such an easy craft that all of my kids were able to help with some aspect of it. We had a great time with our worship team writing on the leaves and giving thanks to God for all that He has done. Many blessings to all of you this Thanksgiving Holiday.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Free Recipe Friday - BBQ your Thanksgiving Turkey

In honour of our Thanksgiving holiday on Monday, I thought I would share something that we do with our turkey that maybe some of you have never tried. We BBQ our Thanksgiving turkey. I think it was my mom and dad who started doing it years ago. Maybe it is because we are crazy canucks who like to BBQ all winter and we deem the turkey dinner a challenge. Probably though it was because as our families grew my mom could not fit the turkey in with all the potatoes, other yummy veggies and pies that are made for this special event. So since putting another oven in their house seemed too expensive they decided to BBQ the bird. Well, we all loved it and now our family has been cooking turkey's this way ever since. You might think that cooking a turkey on the BBQ would be hard but it is really a lot like roasting it in the oven. Prepare your turkey was you normally would if you were going to put it in your oven. We have a propane BBQ and use an indirect grilling method. We always use a fresh or thawed turkey that we have stuffed ourselves. Heat your gas BBQ on high until it reaches 400 degrees and then turn off one side of your BBQ. Place your turkey in a roasting pan and place your roasting pan on the side of your BBQ that is not turned on. This is the indirect grilling method. Your turkey will take 15-20 minutes per pound. We always check ours with a digital meat thermometer in several different spots just to be sure it is done. Baste your turkey as you would if it was in your oven. The other thing we do is we try to time it to take our turkey out a half hour before we want to carve it. We leave it in the roasting pan with the lid on and we cover it with blankets or towels to keep it warm. I think my mom always said that this allows all the juices to rest in the turkey. I have no idea what that means other than we get a juicy turkey when we do this! So hopefully I have helped to free up some space in your oven. Check back tomorrow and I will have another post about a great holiday craft that we did with our kids and our friends to get us thinking about being thankful! Have a Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Lessons from Thirty Days of Almost Nothing

Our “Thirty Days of Almost Nothing” experiment is over and after having some time to reflect I feel I have learned many things.
The first thing I learned is that I really don’t need Ziploc bags.  If you have read some of my earlier posts, you will know that I love Ziplocs. At first they were one of the hardest things to give up for me.  Sad but true.  What I realized though is that there are so many bags that come with the packaging of our milk that if I wash and reuse what I have we have more than enough. The outside bag that usually holds the three inner litres of milk makes a great freezer bag.  They are especially good for repackaging meat as they don’t leak.

The second thing that I have learned is that we save a lot of money by making our own cleaners, hand soap and laundry detergent.  In a house of six people and two dogs you can probably imagine that there is always lots to clean.  We started making our own natural cleaners after Liam got sick for health reasons.  I wanted to eliminate as many chemicals in our house as possible.  I didn’t realize at the time that we spent quite a bit of our grocery budget on kitchen cleaners, bathroom cleaners, window cleaner and floor cleaner.  We now make all of our cleaners and not only are we more comfortable with the health risks of natural cleaners but we are saving a bundle.  With new homemade cleaners I started thinking of other things I could make myself for this thirty day experiment.  As you know, we made our own laundry soap which now only costs us pennies a load and we also made our own hand soap and refilled our dispensers.  Not only does it not take a lot of time but these changes have helped our budget tremendously.  These are definitely changes that we will keep now that our challenge is over.

The third thing I learned was that this experiment was not that hard.  I really did not feel that I was being deprived or that I was depriving my family.  Sometimes I think I get caught up in the mentality that I need to provide my kids with the best experiences, the best extra curricular activities, the best educational experiences.  There is a freedom in having less choice.  It is not that any of the things that I want for my kids are necessarily bad it is just that they may not be the best choice.  What I realized on this short journey is that what my kids want and need the most is time with their dad and I.  If we are always out doing activities, when will we find time for our family?  Our kids need us to ground them.  To create a safe place at home where they know that their parents want to spend time with them.  A place where they can tell about their day and ask questions, a place where can just be who they are.  During our thirty days, we read to our kids each night, we went for great hikes in our neighbourhood, we ate simple meals together around our dining room table and we had great discussions about our experiment.  The key word in all of this was that we did it together.  It did not really matter what we were doing but more that we were doing it together. 

The final and really most difficult thing that I continue to struggle with is...“How do I as one who loves Jesus and wants to love as He loved, reconcile the needs of our global world with my everyday ordinary life in an wealthy nation such as Canada?”  I will be honest.  This one makes my brain hurt.  My bank account balance confuses and frightens me into thinking that I am not rich and yet I am probably in the top 1% of the world wealth.  On the website www.globalissues.org I found these disturbing statistics.

“Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity.”

Can I even begin to imagine what it would be like to live on under $2.00 a day?  To raise a family that you love on that amount?  I know that God’s heart breaks for those who are suffering in poverty stricken nations.  I know that as my children wake up this morning and begin to drive me crazy with their rambunctiousness, that on the other side of the world there will be mother’s crying because their children did not wake up at all.  I know that today, as my children complain about their homework, that in many countries there are children who can not go to school because they need to spend all of their time getting clean water.  I know that as I sit this morning and spend time with Jesus and read His word that there are brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives are in danger because they have one bible in their house.   How do my actions and decisions in the everyday details of my life reflect my heart that God continues to shape and mold to His?

I guess that is where this experiment does not end.  The number one thing that I have learned from this is that I don’t really want this to be an experiment at all.  I guess what I have always wanted and continue to work out is my life verse that picked years ago.

“When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with
Jesus.”   Acts 4:13 (Holman Christian Standard)

I love the word boldness.  It means without fear, willing to take risks, confident and courageous.  When it is all said and done I want a life without fear that is continually changed by Him.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Free Recipe Friday - Zippy Artichoke and Red Pepper Dip

It is that time of the week again.  Free recipe Friday.  I thought for this week I would post an appetizer recipe.   With the fall season comes the start of the hockey season - Go Leafs!  I know, I know some of you are avid football fans but in this house hockey rules!  One thing that I think we can all agree on is that a good game needs a good snack.  This easy dip fits the bill.  Even if you aren't into watching sports try this appetizer out the next time you have friends over or use it as an excuse to have friends over.  I usually try to keep the ingredients on hand as it is fast to make in a pinch if someone stops by.  My good friend Cheri thinks I should bottle this dip and she often reminds me that I haven't made it for her lately (hence no photo sorry).  So Cheri this recipe is for you!  I promise to make it soon.

Zippy Artichoke and Red Pepper Dip

8 oz (250 g) Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
½ Cup (125 ml) Mayonnaise
6 oz Jar of Marinated Artichoke hearts, Drained & Chopped
6 oz Jar of Sweet Roasted Red Peppers (or use homemade roasted peppers)
2 Green Onions, chopped
1 Tsp Lemon juice
2 Tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tsp Franks Red Hot Sauce
2 Tbsp of Black Olives Sliced (optional)

Beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add Mayo, and beat again until well blended.  Fold in the remaining ingredients.  Serve with your favourite crackers, toasted baguette or pita crisps.

Have a super weekend and check back soon for my final post of our Thirty Days of Nothing challenge.