Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Favorite Fall Pictures

Fall has officially hit Minnesota, and my house!

Here are my top 3 pictures..

The triplets, my niece and nephews, came over and brought some pumpkins from their patch!

My two nieces are ready for football, and they are true Minnesotans. They love the Vikings, despite the usual outcomes on the field!

And finally, our dog loves to haul corn cobs from the field around. He's pretty funny..he also leaves mice on the steps for my parents. He's confused and thinks he's a cat!

Happy Fall, and remember to eat a few Honeycrisp Apples while you still can!

Michelle Strombeck

Saturday, September 29, 2012

'Stumbled Upon' by the Prude

If one lovely fall day, you find yourself on a little country road, in a little country town, and
you notice some hubbub from the corner of your eye, park your car, get out, and investigate.
You may just have stumbled on the Boaz Parade.

Twenty minutes is all the handful of tractors, classic cars, 4-H wagons, horses, and tugboats need to pass the spectators, who are often outnumbered by the participants. 

But what a memorable twenty minutes. You’ll be treated to more than just the buckets of candy tossed your way. You won’t miss marching bands or canned music because the chatter of spectators with participants and the tooting of the tugboat and the clopping of hooves make other music superfluous.

You won’t need the thrill of Shriners on trick bikes when you see the owner of the tugboat and a horseback rider almost come to fisticuffs because a tootling tugboat whistle and a skittish horse do not make for good parade-fellows.

A passing motorist will leap from his car and clap his hand over his heart because his flags are passing, and an empathetic lump of patriotic joy will form in your throat. 

Twenty short minutes after the parade began it will be done. 

The hay wagon is needed in the field and the horses need to be fed and the Lonesome Dove Saloon needs some customers. 

The flags are furled and the streets of the little town are empty, but your pockets are full of Tootsie Rolls and your heart is full of gratitude for little country towns, friendly people, and unexpected autumn parades.

If you go: Boaz is in western Wisconsin, on Hwy 171  off Hwy 14 west of Richland Center. 
This year the parade is Oct. 13, and, if past performance is any indication, will begin about noon.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Shalom, Shalom

Peace be with you.
Jesus' words in Luke 24:36

After Jesus' Resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and offered this greeting: Shalom, Shalom.   Each time I read these words, I am reminded that God offers us His peace in abundance - Shalom, Shalom.

Peace.  So important.  Sometimes, so difficult to find.

Where do you go to focus on God and experience peace?  Do you have a favorite spot in the Midwest that serves as a retreat for your soul? Is there a special place where your family has spent time focusing on one another far from the intrusions of life?

Our favorite retreat location is in New London, Wisconsin. My husband and I spent last weekend at this retreat home and we immersed ourselves in the beauty of the first day of Fall while relaxing at The Shalom House. 

Shalom House is a hidden treasure that I'd like to share with you, so that you may share it with others.

Shalom House is a stunning retreat home designed for families involved in ministry.  This large home sits on three wooded acres.  A master suite with jacuzzi, three additional bedrooms, a large family kitchen, large screen TV and a sitting room with fireplace gives any sized family plenty of space to relax and refresh. A wooded path on the property allows visitors to soak up the beauty of God's creation in solitude. A private pool and hot tub is a luxury that helps wash stress away. The Shalom House game room has been the site of exciting  family ping pong tournaments.

The host couple, Vaughn and Maralee Groen, welcome families with warm chocolate chip cookies and a smile. The Groens have a remarkable  ability to make themselves invisible so that families can focus on their time together. They are also available to encourage and pray with couples as needed.

Maralee's home cooking is available for families who want a break from meal preparation. Their love, care and attention to detail has created a warm and inviting environment - a refuge for refreshment and renewal for hundreds of pastors and wives.

The Shalom House is a ministry of Pinnacle Ministry.  Their goal is to provide an affordable retreat environment where pastors, pastors' wives and families can relax, refresh and refocus.

Are you a ministry family looking for some peace and quiet?  Or, do you know and love a pastoral couple that could use some R and R? If you want more information, I invite you to visit

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures taken at Shalom on the first day of Fall 2012.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mr. Acorn Man

This was no ordinary Fall Fest, this was the Macomb Park Elementary School Flower and Harvest Fall Family Fun Fest in Warren, Michigan on the second Saturday of every October.  By the second Friday morning of October each student was to have in their classroom window sill a proper entry for the Fall Flower and Harvest Show with the documented paperwork.

We lived kitty-corer across from the school.  We had a small yard which belonged to the church where my dad was the pastor.  Most of the yard was a parking lot and the rest was a garage, cement patio, and adjoining swing set.  It was physically impossible to grow a 115 lb. pumpkin for our entry.

On the second Thursday of October during dinner we would throw ideas around for our Flower and Harvest Show entries.  But, we all knew and loved that our family tradition was the acorn men that dad made each year for his four daughters.  Although small in comparison to some of the entries, we were amazed what some of these people got out of their yards.  We lived in Detroit yet some families came up with things that looked perhaps like semi-trucks brought it in from their uncle's farm in the U.P. 

It was our family tradition and we loved our acorn men.        

Mr. Acorn Man

Acorn Man - acorn head and skinny stick dangly body
From Beach bags to Backpacks
         Sun-visors to football helmets
         Swimming suits to sweaters
         Flip flops to tennis shoes
         Fans to furnace heater
         Screen to glass windows
         Fly swatter to wasp keeper
         Leaves shading to burning
         Clear skies to smokey nights

Speed - bike rides forests gold foliage lined paths
             colors intersect to make red flaming glow

Scream - football games loud for your favorite team
               high sounds low sounds yell our pep band

Smell - casseroles, soups, roasts, nutmeg, cloves
            juicy lemonade stands into cafeteria lines

Shine - bonfires apples silver rain on the lake dancing
            cools hot stones autumn sun at a new angle

Schedule - teachers desks deadlines studies crisp weather
                 squirrels make plans acorns new beginnings

Are you winding up or down Acorn Man?

My dad in the 1960's in Warren, Michigan
                                         He was not what you would call a craft person.  ha ha
But, he did make our acorn men.

I absolutely love autumn.  How about you? What's your fav fall tradition?
We love soups in the fall and here's your opportunity to get some of my recipes for fall soups and hot beverages.

FREE FREE FREE on Kindle and if you don't have a Kindle, you can get a FREE app

Aunt Sarah's Alaskan Cookbook by Cheryl Moeller
is my first cookcook, 2008.
My second cookbook is Creative Slow-Cooker Meals, 2012.

I hope you can get a free copy of my Alaskan Cookbook. (until Thursday, 9-27-2012)

Here are the sections with some recipe examples from each section.

•Chapter One: Refreshing Cold and Hot Beverages (Polar Bear Guzzler, Pacific Rim Hot Lemonade, Dogsled Caramel Apple Cider, and more!)

•Chapter Two: Berries and Fruit ("After the Sauna" Cold Fruit Soup, Aleutian Grilled Fruit-Kabobs, Klondike River Rhubarb Bars, and more!)

•Chapter Three: Salmon and the Fish of the Sea (Fairbanks Citrus Salmon, Kanai Breakfast Fish Tacos, Water's Edge Crockpot Trout, and more!)

•Chapter Four: Choose Moose, Rabbit, Deer, Elk, Bear and Caribou (Katishna Venison Sausage and Flax Pancakes, Barrow Buttermilk Grilled Rabbit, Wild Buck Beans, and more!)

•Chapter Five: Dog Sled Race Party for Kids (Finger Lake Moose Munch, Rainy Pass Wheat Germ Cookies, White Mountain Ice Cream, and more!)

•Chapter Six: Banquet of the North (Czar Alexander Elk Meatloaf, Easy Baked Alaska, Okmok Volcano, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, and more!)

Each section begins with a Scripture with some related fun facts about Alaska. You learn about icy waters, Alaska's produce, salmon runs, The Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race, and President Andrew Johnson's purchase of Alaska from Czar Alexander II of Russia. The Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race section would make a fun birthday party for younger children. You could watch Disney's Snow Dogs at the end of the party. The Banquet of the North section of recipes would make a great New Year's Eve Party for your family and friends to celebrate.

Discover Alaska's amazing geography, history, land, and people through her tantalizing cuisine. You'll find unique recipes that reflect the colorful story and appeal of this vast national treasure. Breath-taking color photographs of Alaska accompany each chapter along with original artwork to illustrate the variety of delictable foods you'll find in Aunt Sarah's Alaskan Cookbook.

I hope you can get a free copy of my Alaskan Cookbook. (until Thursday, 9-27-2012)

I am a Michigan girl, living in Chicagoland, who sees a lot of similarities between the Michigan U.P. and Alaska. :)

I would love to be your next speaker for your event or conference.  I do motivational/Biblical inspirational speaking with comedy and a cooking demonstration.  I also speak for writing conferences.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Wild Rice

Other than the fact that wild rice soup is yummo, do you know anything about the wild rice process? I sure didn’t, until I met Randy Beaulieu at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. He’s a wealth of information since he harvests wild rice every year. Here’s some info Randy shared with me…

Wild rice is declared as Minnesota's official state grain.  "The good berry" is commonly known, by most people today, as "wild rice". No other state has more wild rice than Minnesota.  Minnesota has somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 acres in all.

In a way, wild rice is named unsuitably, as it is not rice at all.  Rather, it’s actually a grass like wheat, barley or oats. It grows within stained, but clean river beds, reaches into the deeper parts of channels, and, in lakes, forms beds of large & continuous green grass swaying in the breeze. 

The Ojibwe called this life giving water-grass.  Migrating waterfowl and a host of other birds and animals rely on it for food and safety cover.  It is also referred to as  "Mahnomen," which means "good berry". This food source is so important to Minnesota's indigenous people that the many settlements that were established nearby and were fiercely defended. It is delectable and highly nutritious to people and wildlife alike.

Wild rice primarily grows in water three feet deep or less, but can reach surprisingly tall heights of eight feet and more at maturity. It is green during the growing season then turns golden as they ripen in late summer and fall with grains of browns gracing the heads. Wild rice grows year after year in the same locations and is abundant when conditions are favorable.

When ripe, the rice is harvested by locals in small canoes or small boats. Push poles are limited to only those that are forked, flails (sticks made for harvesting) no longer than 30 inches, no heavier than a pound and must be round and made of wood. The size and length of boat are regulated by the Department of Natural Resources, as well as other state and local Native American governing bodies. The time and days of harvest are also regulated.

Wild rice tastes good and is good for all who eat it. It has a delicious nutty flavor, is high in protein but low in fat, and contains B vitamins, potassium and phosphorus. Wild rice contains antioxidants, which are believed to reduce cancer in people. Wild rice can be used in salads, soups, casseroles, breads, popped, eaten as is or steamed. Natural wild rice will cook nicely in as little as 10 minutes depending on how the texture you like your rice to be when you eat it.

One time I was ricing with my cousin on Leech Lake.  We hit a patch of rice almost as soon as we started.  Each pass in this area yielded a thick layer of wild rice in the canoe.  By quitting time, the canoe was full, with over 400 lbs of green rice. We had a hard time pushing the canoe, so we decided to go to the outer edge of the rice bed where the rice opened up to a main basin so we could paddle where the rice was very thin.  A gust of wind caught us, and we were blown out onto the lake with the most rice we had ever harvested in one day.  We both dug in and paddled as hard as we could. I thought we would capsize and be in a real bad spot but by working together we got the canoe turned back into the wind and paddled into the rice bed so that we were not so vulnerable to wind gusts. We got more rice that day than anyone else at the landing, but it wasn’t because we were the best ricers.  We just got lucky and hit a patch that was perfectly ripe and falling easily. 

Our Wild Rice is 100% hand-picked by members of the MN Ojibwe Nation. Processed in Sawyer, MN at our own plant where our partner with 30 years of experience in the Wild Rice business oversees the finishing process.

When you experience the difference between our "real stuff" and mass grown cultivated rice, you'll never go back. We finish our rice in our own plant to ensure only the highest quality final product comes to market.

This limited supply product is in high demand and we are happy to offer it to you. Available pre-packaged in 1/2, 1 or 5 pounds. Mail order inquiries and larger bulk orders welcome.

Contact us (Randy or Ronda Beaulieu) by
email at or visit our Facebook page for more information. We look forward to sharing our wild rice with you.

And he’s right …I bought some of Randy’s rice and it is truly some of the best rice I’ve ever eaten. Make sure to check out their Facebook page for wild rice recipes as well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Family Fun - It's Tradition!

In the 1990’s, with a daughter at college and a son about to marry, we instituted a family tradition of driving to Garwood’s Orchard for fresh-picked apples, cider from the tap, still-warm donuts, local sausage, and cheese. We'd tote everything to a nearby woods or lake for a picnic. Once, during a downpour, seven adults crammed into a small car to picnic. Good times.

Giving thanks to the Creator and Provider.

The passing years brought changes. Grandchildren came-one, two,three adding much pleasure to the outing with choosing pumpkins and gathering mums.

However, Garwood’s Orchard has grown into a popular destination site for Chicagoans. Rather than fight the crowds, last year we visited a smaller orchard and changed our location to Potato Creek State Park.

Great way to relax on a lazy September afternoon.

Our Potato Creek picnic site overlooked Wooster Lake, where fishing was available. At the Nature Center we browsed exhibits and watched through one way glass various birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons feasting at the feeding center.

Reading clues in the maze.
There are bikes, canoes, and kayaks available for rental, but we thought the brilliant day was perfect for a walk. Out of all the trails available we chose the prairie maze. Information stations provided clues and interesting tidbits about the original prairie, native animals and bugs.

A Great Find.

My "short person's view" of the maze.

Cradle of Bugs

Straw Wars  - The duel.

At the end of the day we left contented and better prepared for whatever our regular lives would hold. Does your family have fall traditions? How has a growing family changed what you do?

"Let all the trees of the fields clap their hands."

Mary Allen enjoys her family in Northern Indiana where she finds the outdoors a great boost to creativity. She is a contributor to the book of inspirational real-life stories, "Kernels of Hope: Real People, Real Stories". Her self-published book of poems, "Journey to Christmas", explores the thoughts and feelings of those involved in the very first Christmas. She is developing her "Maps for the Healing Journey" (a thirty-one day devotional for codependents) into a group study.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Poem about a Wisconsin Dog

Bonny by Lori Lipsky

She goes to places she’s not permitted

lays herself down where she’s not allowed

gets into things she ought not touch

does things she should not do

But finds forgiveness comes with speed
because of her Bonny-lass air—
she avoids admonishment

With a look of her eye
a wag of her tail
a tilt of her
Bonny-lass head


Bonny lives happily in southern Wisconsin with the Klumpers family. My friend, Anita Klumpers, is a contributor to The Barn Door. You may know her as The Prude.

One photo is not enough, so here are a few more of dear Bonny:


Find more of Lori's poetry at Poetry Patio

photo credit: Anita Klumpers

Friday, September 21, 2012

Modern Pioneer—Transition from City Feller to Country Boy

Edtitor's note:
Boyd Sutton spent his youth overseas with his family, moving frequently throughout Europe and the Middle East. A graduate of Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University), the Program for Senior Executives in Government at Harvard University, and the National War College, he retired from the Senior Intelligence Service in 1997. He spent 11 years in the U.S. Army and 26 in the Central Intelligence Agency. He and his wife of 44 years now live on what used to be her family’s farm near Siren where their life is enriched (and controlled) by two horses, two dogs, a cat, acres to mow, fences to maintain, gardens and flower beds to weed ...


      Living there was great. The nearby small town of Marshall had historical significance. Before the U.S. Post Office forced a change, it had been called Salem. There was another Salem in southern Virginia, so one of them had to adopt a new name. This one took the name of Marshall because the ancestral estate of first Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall was just outside town. Civil War history buffs know Salem cum Marshall as the territory of Colonel John Singleton Mosby—The Grey Ghost—commander of a Confederate cavalry battalion known for its lightning raids and ability to elude Union forces. A TV series in the late-1950s was based on his exploits. A small plaque on the wall of a business in Marshall commemorates the place and date that Mosby’s Rangers disbanded after the war.
      Marshall was a typical small town. It claimed a population of 800, but that included all those served by the local Post Office. In reality, maybe 300 people lived within the town limits. It had one grocery store, one hardware store, a feed store, two gas stations, a tiny Ford dealership, a small bank, and three churches.
      At one end of town, there was an intersection with a road that headed south toward the county seat at Warrenton. One day the Town Fathers decided a stop light should be put up at this intersection. The county duly complied and the light was installed. The same night, someone blew the light to smithereens with a shotgun and that was the end of pretentiousness.
      The hardware store was like many in small towns. Many customers ran a tab and came in to pay their bills monthly. I forgot my wallet on occasion. They made a note on a slip of paper and pinned it to a cork board. The next time I came in, I paid the bill and they took the note down. It was a friendly place where everyone knew just about everyone else.
      The commute took me down I-66 past Manassas to the Washington beltway, then around the beltway to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and in a few miles to the CIA Headquarters compound adjacent to the Potomac River. Over the 20-plus years I commuted from Marshall, I worked occasionally at other buildings in the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. area, but most of the time I was at Headquarters.
      When we first moved to the Marshall area, the commute was about one hour each way. But, as people moved west toward Manassas and beyond, that increased to about an hour and a half on a good day, and often much longer. During my year at the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., it often took me well over two hours each way.
      Part of my transition—a large part in retrospect—from city feller to country boy was that commute. About one-third (in miles) of the way between our home in the mountains and work, I passed through Thoroughfare Gap, a gap between Pignut Mountain on the south and Bull Run Mountain on the north. Between the gap and work, the traffic was often horrendous. Between the gap and home, it was clear sailing. It seemed like the gap signaled my body and brain—on the way in, to put on my game face; on the way home, to relax. The gap became synonymous with “country vs. city.” I grew to love country and, eventually, to hate city.
      When it came time to retire, there was no contest. It would be far from the nearest large city.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Calgon Isn't an Option

Life, as beautiful and adventurous as it can be, is filled with sinkholes and ditches and gulleys.

Add to it two ... or three ... or endless conversations taking place at once in your mind and you’ve got … trouble? … no, I think more like children vying for mama’s attention; each of them saying to the other how much more important they are to Mama than the next.

Now spread some outer voices. You know; the ones that sound like, “MomcanI …?” and the one saying, “Honwouldyou …?”  Sprinkle a little seasoning of instructors in your online classroom, typing away at their keyboard. You can almost hear them thinking, “Iwonderif …” or “Whenwillthey …” And then there is the job, where there is a constant ringing in the ears coming from all directions. Of course you want to help the guests, and as one  who loves her job, you are eager to assist your team members and leaders in any way you can.

This year I’ll pour on a dash of pitches and proposals as I prepare my first manuscript for an acquisitions editor in five weeks.

With this, the questions buzz: Am I ready? Is my baby ready for its debut? What if she (the editor) hates it? Or oddly, What if she loves it? I’ve coddled, nurtured, and slept with (I know it sounds weird) my characters since 2008. I’ve tried committing the perfect murder (can I say that here?)—only to have my protagonist get up and walk out of the car wreck, wake up after a near fatal gunshot wound to the chest and bludgeoning in the back by his father. He refused to die. (Okay, so I didn't like him very much--in the beginning.) In fact, he insisted it wasn't his wife's story, but his. Really? Yes. Really. And he is right, as usual.

Sorry, I got sidetracked …

I am she, for whom the commercial was once famous: “CALGON, take me away!”

The problem is, I don’t have a garden tub deep enough to sink my entire body in up to my neck, with Jacuzzi jets and foamy bubbles that I can scoop into my hands and blow across the room. But I do have pictures. I have favorite getaway spots. I’ve shared some before.

It seems Hollywood has painted the picture of an author as having beachfront property. Glorious. Or mountains in their back yard. Heaven. I have memories and hopes for another trip one day. 

Until then, I give you this:

Lake Superior at Sunset

And this:

Lake Superior view from McClain State Park (Keweenaw Peninsula, MI)
I could sit and soak in the majesty of these moments for hours.


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