Monday, October 31, 2016

A wonderful weekend at the couples' retreat

This photo was taken from inside the gazebo.
On a weekend in mid-October we had the blessing of attending the 2016 couples' retreat at The Wilds of New England.  What a wonderful time it was!  We came away determined to make this a part of every fall.  I don't think we have missed a couples' retreat since TWNE started having them, so we're off to a good start.

The retreat got off to a fun start for us as we walked into the office to check in.  Coming out was an old friend we have known for 30 years but had never seen at TWNE.  What a joy to find that he and his wife were there with some of our newer friends, a younger couple we'd met at a retreat a few years back.

Our first stop was the coffee shop where we each enjoyed a decaf maple coffee.
 Soon it was time for supper.  What a wonderful meal -- if I could only remember what was served!  As always, we enjoyed the attractive fall decor on tables and windowsills.

In case you can't tell what's in the goblet, it's a floating candle in water.  Then a sunflower, pine cones, and bittersweet complete the arrangement.  I really like the idea of floating a candle in a water goblet.  I have some floating candles on hand, too, so I might just do something similar for Thanksgiving!

The retreat speakers were Jim and Pat Berg, and the teaching on marriage was just excellent.  They spoke on "Marriage in 3D"-- Jim taught three of these sessions to the assembled group of husbands and wives, and there was a split session on Saturday morning where he taught the husbands and Pat taught the wives.
Leaf line courtesy of my friend Vee
So, back to Friday night.  We enjoyed such a hilarious fun time with lots of laughter over skits and cowboy songs.  The rest of the evening was then worshipful and instructive as we were blessed by a lovely song service and then Jim Berg's teaching from God's Word.

Friday night's session of "Marriage in 3D" was titled Design: What does God intend for us and our marriages?  God has pictures in mind for us to develop and display.  I wish that I could just copy my notes to share with all of you, but that would take too long.  However, I will try to keep it basic, so here are some of the key points as I jotted them down.
*  God intended that human beings picture something -- His image.
*  God intends for human marriage to be a picture of  Christ's relationship to His bride -- the church.
*  God intends that people -- including our children -- be drawn to Him through the influence of our lives.
* God intended every generation of children to have within their own homes a portrait of how Christ and His church love and minister to one another.
* Marriage is a covenant -- a promise -- to develop and display, through mutual, loving ministry to each other, the relationship of Christ to His bride, for the blessing of all who behold.
One of the concluding statements was this: "The most important pictures in our homes are not the ones on the walls."   Think about that for a bit.
We left with much food for thought and returned to our hotel for the night.  In the morning, we ate a nice breakfast at the hotel and got back to TWNE just as the coffee shop opened.  Perfect time for another maple coffee!

View from Cool Beans window (I think)
Our next session by Jim Berg was titled Disintegration: What went wrong for us and our marriages?  
* Through Satan's deception and man's disobedience in the garden, Satan vandalized the portrait of God in man with devastating results.  (The Fall initiated profound and tragic losses into the life of every human being.)
* God is working in our lives to restore that vandalized portrait.

This session also gave much information from secular experts on marriage and why marriages fail.  It was  very helpful.  There are four attitudes/actions that can doom any marriage:
• Criticism (an attack on the other spouse's character)
• Defensiveness (any attempt to defend oneself from a perceived attack)
* Contempt (sarcasm is contempt thinly disguised)
* Stonewalling (when one person just won't talk)
What all of these attitudes/actions have in common is a lack of humility.  Real men run to the problem (with humility), not away from it.
The next session was the split session in which Pat Berg taught the ladies.  Her session was titled Understanding Our Role as Wife.  She pointed out two important facts about our role as wife right at the beginning.
* It's not our only role. (we might be sisters, mothers, daughters, pianists, teachers, etc.)
* It's not our primary role.  (It is secondary to our calling as a redeemed child of God.

We cannot walk in our role as wife unless we are walking in the Spirit -- simply obeying what God says in the Bible. 

She also pointed out what God intended as the role of a wife as He stated it in Genesis before the Fall:
* Her husband's companion ("It is not good that man should be alone" -- Genesis 2:10)
* Her husband's helper ("I will make him an help meet for him." Genesis 2:18)
Both of these had so many subheadings under them -- so very helpful!  How I wish I could share it all with you!

The last part of the session dealt with our identity as a part of the bride of Christ (in the analogy between human marriage and the relationship between Christ and His church). It also was excellent. 
View from upstairs
From there, we met up with our husbands and went to have God and I Time together.  We were to read a chapter of  James together, if I remember right, in preparation for the last session, and to have a time of prayer together.  Mr. T and I went upstairs in the [closed] coffee shop -- our favorite place for God and I time -- to have our quiet time together.

Soon it was time for lunch. 

Possibly waiting for the lunch bell
We enjoyed make your own sandwiches with croissants, turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc., along with chips, and bowls of homemade corn chowder.  Dessert was warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies!
The afternoon was ours for free time.  Mr. T and I are not used to free time to use as we wish in a relaxing way.  It was just plain fun to casually say, "Oh, let's have an ice cream," or, "Let's go for a walk."  Our first activity was a hayride.  We enjoyed the ride, and great fellowship with a pastor and his wife seated next to us.

Often when we come to TWNE, Mr. T will take a ride (or two!) on the zipline.  This time he decided to skip that, so we did other relaxing things together.  We enjoyed pumpkin nor'eastahs (like a blizzard or flurry) in the Sweet Shoppe, relaxed in the gazebo,

Footbridge leading to the gazebo
walked around the property, took a few photos, and enjoyed another coffee (hazelnut this time).  After our walk, he got another nor'eastah later (apple pie, this time!) and I got an Italian cream soda (raspberry peach, and I highly recommend it!).
Our last session with Jim Berg was Discipleship: Become a reconciler like Christ.  Here are some important thoughts: "The quality of a marriage is only as good as the quality of the husband and wife within the marriage.  To strengthen the marriage, we must develop the people.  The gospel confronts our self-centeredness head on and offers a remedy -- our growth in Christlikeness through progressive sanctification."

I'll just jot down the main points of this session, most from the book of James:
• How we respond to temptation exposes our hearts (James 1)
• How we treat others who are different from us exposes our hearts (James 2)
• Our speech exposes our hearts (James 3)
• Our battles and quarrels with others expose our hearts (James 4)
• Only God's Spirit using God's sufficient Word can change our hearts and relationships.
(The Spirit of God using the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.)
There was more, much more.  Following another delicious meal, we headed home.  It had been a fantastic weekend with good food, great fellowship, plenty of downtime and challenging, excellent teaching from God's Word.  As we drove home discussing what we had learned and how we had already been blessed by it, we were more convinced than ever that a couples' retreat ought to be on every couple's yearly agenda.  It definitely will be on ours!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Glorious gourds

Photo from Pixabay
Okay, first the definition of a gourd:

This came from the New Oxford American Dictionary as available on my computer.

My original intent was to write a post of just pumpkin or just squash recipes, although I've shared some of both already this fall.  In thinking it through,  however, I've decided to feature both members of the Family Cucurbitaceae.  I've linked to a few of these already this month, but just in case you missed them ...

Pumpkin Coffeecake
Photo from Taste of Home
Gluten Free Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
From Faithfully Gluten Free
 Savory Stuffed Pumpkin
Photo from Taste of Home
Gluten Free Pumpkin Scones

Candied Pumpkin Spice Pecans

Photo from Taste of Home
You will find some great pie recipes using pumpkin here:
Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes.

And last but not least, my recipe for


1/2 cup cinnamon
1/4 cup ground ginger
2 Tblsp. nutmeg
2 Tblsp. ground cloves

Blend ingredients. Store in a tightly covered container; again, I use an old International Coffee® tin. Use as your recipe directs; in pumpkin pie, use 3 1/4 tsp. per can of pumpkin. Again, many other recipes for cookies or desserts may call for pumpkin pie spice, so it’s a useful spice to keep on hand.

And now for a few squash recipes. 

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Hearty Butternut Squash Soup
Photo from Taste of Home
Stuffed Squash for Two

Roasted Squash Medley
Photo from Taste of Home
 Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Photo from Kelly's Ambitious Kitchen
Hope you'll find some recipes here that you'll want to try this fall!   These are all recipes I have tried and that have been enjoyed, but I'm always trying more.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fall cleaning follies

Not to mislead anyone; I very seldom do "fall cleaning" as such.  But I've done a bit recently and thought I would share some tips and links for homemade cleaning products and solutions.  Since my eldercare load has lightened up just a bit, I find myself noticing things around the house more and actually can find a few minutes to deal with them.

The one thing I've done this fall that could be considered traditional "fall cleaning" is to wash my living room windows inside and out, vacuuming out and washing the window sills and washing and replacing the window valances.  It feels great to have that task accomplished.

Several times a year I like to wash the fabric "bins" from the laundry sorter that lives in the upstairs bathroom.  Strange as it seems, the outsides get dusty.  I just completed that job today and the laundry sorter looks so much better!

Another task I tackled back in September was cleaning two louvered doors that we have -- one to a coat closet and one to a baking closet.  The louvers were absolutely filled with dust.  It didn't show unless one happened to have the door open when the sun was shining in that area.  I've cleaned these louvered doors before with a vacuum cleaner and crevice tool, and then wiped them down with a dust rag.  But that never lasted long.  This time I decided to search online for a better way.  I found it, too!
A ruler with an old sock fastened around it.  Who would have thought?
 I ran this homemade cleaning implement through every louver until all the visible dust was gone.
Stiff scrub brush
Castile soap
 Then I added some castile soap to hot water and used the stiff scrub brush to scrub down all the louvers.  I then went over it all with a dry rag. 
Wow!  Are these doors clean!
That was a satisfactory project done.  Although I know it'll only have to be done again, next time I know just what to do!

I enjoy using homemade cleaners and household products and am always looking for ways to clean more safely and effectively without a lot of chemicals.  So I want to share a few links to formulas I've tried.

I've blogged about Tub and Shower Magic before-- that magical mixture of Dawn dish soap and hot white vinegar.
Tub and Shower Magic
It really does work wonders on soap scum and I find I only need to use it once a month if I use a daily shower cleaner every day.  Tilex Daily Shower is the only thing I've found that works for our hard water and soap scum.

Trying a homemade daily shower spray has been on my list for eons.  I finally got around to making one.  I found the formula here: Essential Oil Cleaning Recipes.  Sadly, this just didn't work as well as I hoped, but I am keeping it on hand in case I run out of Tilex.  On this same site is a recipe for a soap scum buster bar which sounds really nifty.  I hope to try that eventually.  And I've recently seen a couple of other homemade shower cleaners which look worth a try.

I've also tried this Lemon Soft Scrub
Photo from Mom4Real
and it works very well on my bathroom sinks. I have pretty much found that any of the formulas from Mom4Real are great, and if you go to one of these links you will be able to access all of the homemade cleaners that Jess has developed.

Another project I've been wanting to make is this Homemade fruit and veggie wash, also from Jess.
Photo from Mom4Real
It works great!  I had at one time tried a different recipe for this type of product and I just didn't feel confident that it was working as well as it should.  This one is much better!

Lastly, I want to share a couple of laundry products that I've tried.  These are both from Mom4Real as well. This idea for scented dryer balls works very well.  I use only one tennis ball and it is fine.
Photo from Mom4Real
And on a related note is this Homemade fabric softener.  I usually just spray the tennis balls with a small amount of this rather than using the essential oils.

I usually just use white vinegar in my laundry (in addition to soap, of course) and that usually serves quite well as a fabric softener.  But for loads that seem prone to clinging, or for really stiff items like work jeans, I will add the dryer ball.

Several years ago I used to make my own laundry soap, but did quit that. 

It was quite a chore and the soap was just no match for my hubby's very dirty logging clothes.

Hope you've found some ideas you can use for your own fall cleaning or for everyday tasks like laundry!

Friday, October 28, 2016

An autumn adventure from a few years back

I looked back to see if I've ever written about this adventure before, and I haven't -- at least not much.  I don't want to forget this wonderful adventure myself, so I'm going to post about it now.

In 2012 we received the delightful news that our daughter and son-in-law and four children, who live in faraway Nevada,  would be making an autumn visit to us here in New Hampshire.   We got busy making plans!

One plan we made was something that had seemed like an impossible dream to us.  For many years we have loved spending time at a small rented cabin on Back Lake in the Great North Woods of our state.  We had often thought how wonderful it would be if we could bring a number of our children and grandchildren here, but it would have necessitated several cabins and that seemed far beyond our means.

In spring 2012 we were staying at our favorite cabin and we mentioned our dream to the owner.  Now, on the same property are two large, beautiful log cabins that we'd never considered staying in; we felt they were completely out of our price range.   The owner took took a brochure and showed us that if we all stayed in the larger of those two cabins, we could probably afford to stay for a couple of nights. He even took us on a tour of the cabin so we could see for ourselves how there would be room for everyone.

After taking some time to pray and think more about it, we saw God work things out for us to book  the cabin for three nights, making it a long weekend.

So that's what we did!  Fifteen of us -- three couples and nine kids -- converged upon this lovely cabin on a perfect fall weekend.

The cabin as seen from the water

I can't possibly remember all that we did, but one thing was that we shared the meal planning and preparation.  We had pizza the first night, and for one meal we enjoyed waffles (cooked by Mr. T) and other breakfast treats.

Each night, one of the dads led family devotions for the group.   On Sunday morning, we were all able to attend a local church together.  What a blessing!
Little Micah, just 1 year old
And here with his aunt Carrie
Lots of time was spent in and about the various boats!  This is Emily.
Lots of time spent at the fireplace as well!  Sam with his mommy and daddy
Auntie Jojo reads to many!
At the playground across the road!
Some posed family photos were taken as well.  Clay and Jo.
The two oldest grandgirls discovered a love for kayaking!

One of the things we did was to plan a simple little Christmas celebration at the cabin, since we never get to have Christmas all together.  We drew names and exchanged dollar-store gifts.  You can read about it on my Christmas blog here: A Mini Christmas.  That night, we had a sort of snack supper with appetizer=type foods.  We brought a string of lights and a mini Christmas tree, and for that meal I brought some Christmasy paper place mats.  It was so much fun!

Evenings were lovely too.  If you should be interested in hearing about a lesson God taught me one evening on this trip, here it is: Lift Up Your Eyes.  It's a lesson that has stayed with me.

And our son-in-law Jim showed us a place he had discovered with amazing views of foliage.

The kids (and Carrie) enjoyed this ledge at the top of the road.

How thankful we are that we could take this family time together.  Even though it was a few years back, we haven't forgotten what a blessing it was to all of us!