Monday, September 29, 2008


"Ottawa is a giant meat grinder that takes in idealism at one end and spits out cynical sausage at the other."

Terry Fallis

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recovered and Running

Sept. 27, 2008

Outside my window...our neighbours put in new windows. Almost all of the houses on our street (1950's bundgalows) have been upgraded now.
I am thinking...that it'll be nice to see some friends tonight at their church when we return their daughter to them.
I am thankful...that I'm not sick anymore, and that I have a job that pays 100% sick pay. It's one less thing to worry about.
From the kitchen...a Providential dinner at church (a.k.a. Potluck). Always an international affair.
I am church clothes; a black leather skirt and a black and purple blouse.
I am reading...Lucky by Alice Sebold. Rather disturbing. She recounts her rape when she was a college freshman, and its' aftermath. Like I wasn't already worried about my daughter living on campus.
I am keep my house clean until next weekend. I know, fat chance.
I am hearing...You Don't Know Me, by Michael Buble.
Around the house...if it doesn't rain tomorrow morning, I'll plant my tulip bulbs so they'll pop up in the spring.
One of my favourite things...soaking up the sun under a palm tree, or rather, near one. Palm trees just say, 'tropical getaway' to me.
Some plans for the four nights, hardly sleep on Friday, go to a Baptist Conference on Friday and Saturday, entertain friends from out of town for the weekend, see my oldest daughter in passing. When I'm exhausted or frazzled, remind myself that life is short, and is made up of moments like this with friends and family.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


"The providences of God are like Hebrew words:
they can only be read properly backwards."

John Flavel

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Finnish School Shooting

This is the second such incident within a year in Finland. The first was near Helsinki, this one was in a remote town in central Finland.
Finland, as a country, is not known for its' displays of violence; quite the contrary. Its' citizens are generally good citizens, although there are issues of domestic violence and alcohol-related offences. The fact that there have been two massacres in a year in the small country of 5 million people, has shocked Finns and non-Finns alike.
There were warning signs about this one. The police had questioned the gunman the day before, regarding a violent video he posted on you-tube.
The previous shooting involved an angry young man who saw no hope in this life, and he acted on his world view. It's a sad result of the teaching our children are getting in secular education. If we are just randomly evolved animals, then there is absolutely no reason for anyone to respect human life. If it's survival of the fittest, then might is right, and we should 'eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.'
But that's not the truth, and this young gunman learned that the moment after he died, when he stood before his Judge.
The sad thing is that people will often blame God when something like this happens. They'll say, "Where was God when this happened?" But people need to remember, if they don't want God in any part of their lives, they can't expect Him to answer them when they decide they want Him to intervene at other times. Fox-hole religion never was true religion, as people tend to go back to their old ways once trouble passes.
What happened in Finland was truly tragic. I'm not trying to minimize it. I sympathize with the families who lost their children. I would be devastated, myself. But if we're going to ask why these things are happening more and more in the world, we also need to be willing to hear the answers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Under the Weather

Sept. 22, 2008

Outside my's the first day of fall, although it's a nice, warm day.
I am thinking...that I hate being sick. I'm sick so rarely, that when I am, I'm quite offended by the idea.
I am thankful for...spending the past weekend with my family. My oldest daughter came home from university for a visit, to celebrate her sister's birthday. I got my first look at her nose ring. I'm glad she didn't get a tattoo, but I still hope she'll let it grow over.
From the kitchen...stuffed mushroom caps, chicken and lamb souvlaki, corn on the cob, sliced cucumber, and apple pie with crumble topping. Life is good.
I am wearing...sweats and a NAVY t-shirt. What? I'm sick.
I am reading...Faithful God, An exposition of the book of Ruth, by Sinclair Ferguson. It's amazing how much you can learn about Scripture that's new, no matter how often you hear or read it.
I am be well enough to go to work tomorrow night.
I am hearing...The Remedy by Jason Mraz.
Around the house...I just 'inherited' my daughter's I-POD, since she got a new one. I didn't think I'd have a use for it, but I quite like it.
One of my favourite things...watching soccer with my favourite guy (my husband), on the big screen, although a live game is always better.
A few plans for the, hopefully. Pick up my daughter's best friend from the train station on Friday evening. Plant tulip bulbs on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Out with the Old, In with the New

Sept. 17, 2008

Outside my's a beautiful,warm,sunny day; hopefully not the last.
I am thinking...that it's amazing that I could get rid of five bags of clothes out of my closet, and not even notice. I definitely have too much.
I am thankful...for my family still being near me, healthy and happy.
From the kitchen...fried smelts, caught in Lake Superior in the Spring. No one cooks them like my Mom. They are more addictive than candy.
I am wearing...jeans and a sleeveless top.
I am reading...Writing the Christian Romance, by Gayle Gaymer Martin.
I am hoping...that since Mitchell's bookstore just declared bankruptcy, that there'll be an amazing going-out-of-business sale. I got rid of my clothes, so I feel I can buy more books. Sounds logical to me.
I am hearing...Look Away, by Chicago.
Around the house... we're preparing to have a birthday party on Saturday for my youngest daughter. She turned 16 in August. We bought her a small diamond ring as a keepsake. My oldest daughter got a locket when she turned 16. Funny, that they both wanted jewellery. When I turned 16, my Mom bought me a pine hope chest, handmade by a friend of ours. I used to collect things for my future house and dream of the day I'd get married. I would sit beside it and look at each of the things I had accumulated and dream of my future. I still have it, only now it stores shoes and is used for sitting on when we're putting our shoes on.
One of my favourite things...a good meal, especially one cooked by someone else.
A few plans for the two nights, prepare for the party, clean the church (it's our turn), and finally finish the financial statement for the Carey Conference (I didn't go near it at all this week).


"Sometimes I'm surprised
To find how much
You're still with me,
How easily my mind finds you
In searching for a place to rest.
It seems that somewhere
In the months and miles
Between us,
The thought of you
Should have faded...
But no,
At the slightest reason--
For no reason at all--
I think of you."

Patricia D. Fosket

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


These sweet tea biscuits are quick to make if someone drops by, but the dough can also be prepared ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated, and sliced and baked when needed. These are excellent with homemade preserves.

Sift: 2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
Cut in: 5 tbsp. shortening or margarine, with a pastry blender
Stir in: 2/3 cup milk
Add: 1/2 cup raisins (Optional, I don't usually add them.)

Knead on floured board. Roll into a large tube. Cut into 8 pieces. Roll and pat down so they are 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 450 for 15 minutes.

Upcoming Federal Election

I'm a little frustrated living in my riding. I always vote Conservative, but it has been solidly Liberal for years, as are many ridings in Toronto. So in a way, it's a wasted vote. However, I remain optimistic that maybe this time, the winds of change will blow and this will be one of the ridings that the Conservatives steal away to win a Majority. I personally have always liked the Liberal candidate who always wins our riding. It's one of those situations where you like the candidate but not the party. His name is John McKay and he was actually a dissenter when his party was planning to change the definition of marriage to allow same sex "marriage". I read the copy of his speech in the House and he was quite articulate and reasonable. Unfortunately, they passed the law anyway.
My oldest daughter is still a few months away from being old enough to vote, and she's disappointed that the election is just before her birthday, because she wants to vote. I'm glad she does, since so many young adults are apathetic. I hope we've set the example for them. As I said, my vote may not make a difference in our riding, in this election, but I vote anyway. I'm glad to live in a country where I have a say about the government that rules us, and I feel that it at least gives me the right to complain about them with a clear conscience since I've voted.

Christian Woodstock

Our fifteen year old, went on a trip to the Pennsylvania countryside in June. She was at a four day concert featuring 40 Christian bands and speakers. They camped out on the Agape farm, a place with streets named Straight, Rapture, and the Road to Emmaus. It featured bands like Switchfoot, Newsboys, Toby Mac, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, Hawk Nelson, TFK (Thousand Foot Krutch), Barlow Girl, Superchick, Family Force Five, and Jeremy Carmp. She was able to meet Hawk Nelson and TFK. She came home with band t-shirts and CD's.
If you can imagine it, there were 70,000 people there from all over North America. Yes, contemporary Christian music is very popular. One evening, they gave everyone a candle. She said the sight was breathtaking.
A highlight was when the whole audience of 70,000 sang Amazing Grace, by John Newton. Of course they all knew the words to every verse, since they were Church-kids. They sang the last verse a cappella, and she said she felt like she was in Heaven already. I get goose bumps when I hear a crowd of 300 singing together. I can't imagine.
She said the whole trip was life-changing. I was a little hesitant to let her go (since we are rather over-protective), but I'm glad we did.
Our thanks to the brave youth leaders who were willing to take three van loads of teenagers into a foreign country for six days.

My Favourite Soccer Team

I follow the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga for soccer. In the Bundesliga, I like Bayern Munich best, because of Miroslav Klose, but I also like to watch Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, and Dortmund.
In the English League I like Aston Villa, West Ham, Portsmouth, Chelsea, Liverpool (my husband's favourite), and Arsenal.
But just yesterday, as I was watching Aston Villa beat Tottenham 2-1, I realized something. Of all the teams I like to watch, I feel good when I watch Aston Villa. It makes me happy to watch them. Nothing more complicated or technical involved in my decision than that. That was my epiphany, if you call it that.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

This is an incredibly silky, moist coffee cake. Always a hit.
1 cup softened butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream (may use reduced fat sour cream)
2 tbsp. poppyseed
2 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated lemon peel (optional)

Lemon Glaze:
1-1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp.+ 1 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract
Mix until smooth.

Cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Stir half into butter mixture. Add sour cream and then remaining flour mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spoon into a greased, and dusted 10" bundt pan. Bake at 325F for 60-65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely. Top with lemon glaze.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Two Great Okra Recipes

Okra is an acquired taste. I tried it first a few years ago, and my husband and I love it. Our kids hate it, mostly because of the texture, which can be slimy. Here are two ways I cook it. Enjoy…

Fried Okra and Tomatoes

Two trays of okra, washed and cut in bite size pieces, usually just in half crosswise. Also, trim off the head.
One onion, diced.
One large, or two medium tomatoes, washed and diced.
Grace Jamaican Jerk seasoning, 1/8-1/4 tsp. to taste.
Thyme, to taste.
Olive oil.

I first partially steam the okra, or they can be too tough, or the other ingredients could burn while they cook. Then I fry the onion in the olive oil, add the tomatoes, sprinkle with thyme, and add the Jerk seasoning. It’s one of those things that can be too hot very easily, so be careful. But it is essential to the recipe. Then I add the steamed okra and combine. That’s it. It’s a great side dish with fish, or curried chicken.

Shrimp and Okra Soup

8 cups of water, with 4 packets of Bovril chicken bouillon
1- 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes with juice.
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 leek, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp. thyme,
Cayenne pepper to taste, again, be careful, but it is essential to the recipe.
1 can corn, drained
2 trays of okra, with ends trimmed, and cut in half cross-wise. Steam for a few minutes. I usually just put them in a colander over the soup itself, until they are softened.
1 bag of cooked shrimp (20-30). Remove tails, and rinse.

Add the ingredients in the order above. Cook as you chop the vegetables, and then an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve with corn bread (see recipe below), and salad. Comfort food at its’ finest. A warning: for some reason, this soup is soporific (it makes you sleepy). I don’t know why, but that’s what we’ve found. It’s best served fresh. If you leave it overnight, the okra really slimes out.

Corn Bread

This is from the book, Traditional Jamaican Cookery, by Norma Benghiat. My husband’s grandmother sent it to me when we were first married. I guess she knew I couldn’t cook. It’s one of the tastiest corn bread recipes I’ve tried. I usually make it in a muffin tin so it only takes about 15 minutes to bake.

1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal
4 tbsp. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
¼ cup softened butter

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add the cornmeal and sugar. Stir in the beaten eggs, milk and butter, mixing well until the batter is smooth. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or in a loaf pan for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool and enjoy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Parents When They Were Dating

I love this picture of my parents, taken in the fall of 1957 when they were dating. It was taken by his roommate. You can see the rain on the window. They are having coffee and pulla (a sweet, coffee loaf, common in Finland).
My Dad was so handsome and had a cool haircut. My Mom was so pretty. You can see the love in their eyes. We don't have many pictures of my Dad, since he didn't like to be photographed. He died when I was three (he was only 28). This is a snapshot of a happy moment in their lives.

This Too Shall Pass

Sept. 13, 2008

Outside my's raining, and starting to get dark earlier. Where did the summer go?
I am thinking...whatever possessed my oldest daughter to get a nose ring? The steam's still coming out of my ears.
I am thankful...for my Mom's help. She brings our daughter to school, does our laundry, and cooks dinner a few times a week; like today!
From the kitchen...roast beef, potatoes, gravy and veggies. Yum!
I am church clothes. A navy print skirt and a white top.
I am reading...All She Ever Wanted, by Lynn Austin.
I am learn not to freak out over things that aren't permanent, like nose rings.
I am hearing...the rain, and Eleanor, by Low Millions.
Around the youngest daughter has a cold, my husband is watching a space movie, and I'm repairing a hem on my daughter's sweater. A showcase of my domestic abilities--a rare occurrence.
One of my favourite back ribs.
A few plans for the week...Go for a walk at least three times this week. Get a haircut. Complete the financial statement for the Carey Conference (Ugh!) Clean the house. Put away my summer clothes. Write. Oh, yeah, and work.


"He is not a man like me that I might answer Him; that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay hands on us both, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more."


Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Pets

1. Wolf, our German Shepherd. We had him while we lived on our farm until I was three. He was hit by a car. We also had pigs and piglets, a cow, and barn cats on the farm. I remember once when my Mom was milking a cow, and a barn cat came by to check it out. She sprayed the cat in the face with the milk.
2. Minna, our black cat. She had a litter of kittens born on Mother's Day when we were little. It was interesting to watch them being born, but gross to see her lick the afterbirth off them. For a long time, they wandered around with their eyes closed. Then they learned to climb up on the curtains and we would walk in and see 5 or 6 kittens stuck up there, unable to get down, meowing for help.
3. Poochie, our tabby. He went missing. I suspected foul play. Our local ne'er-do-well's finally admitted he had jumped into their car and then jumped out when they got to their destination. I'm still not too sure of that version of events.
4. Fluffy, my beautiful grey, Russian Blue cat. My favourite. Unfortunately, she was the only female cat on our street, and about six tom cats would always be around to "court" her. They would sit on the slope of our roof with her, right in front of my window, facing the street. It made for an interesting sight to those driving by. It drove my Mom crazy. That, and the fact that when they were in heat, they were under her bedroom in the crawlspace under the house. That was the last straw, and she announced she'd be taking Fluffy in to the Humane Society to be put down. I was devastated. The day I had to say goodbye to her I was home for lunch. I knew I'd never see her again. I cried all day.
5. Assorted Goldfish. At one point we had a large tank full, then none for a few years. A few months ago, my daughter came home with Oleksandr, the goldfish. Now she's living in a dorm where they don't allow pets of any kind, so we inherited him by default.

The downside to pets is, of course, that you have to get someone to look after them when you go on vacation. And no matter how much they promise, kids never do end up looking after them. They become the parents' responsibility. And worst of all, you begin to care for them, even dumb little goldfish who have their own unique "personality".
While the girls were growing up, we probably would have had a cat, but my oldest daughter is allergic to them. Our house isn't suited to a dog, and I don't like rodents, like hamsters or gerbils. A turtle might be cool.
One day, if we move to a house more suited to it, I would like to have another dog; a German Shepherd. I don't like yappy little dogs, and German Shepherds remind me of happier times.
I always thought it was funny that guys would walk a dog because women stop to talk to them. I would never do that. At least, I thought so, until I saw a nice German Shepherd. I guess it does work, after all.

You Know You're Finnish If...

You Know You’re Finnish if:
You have blonde hair/blue eyes,
You know that you can throw water on rocks in ANY sauna...including electric ones,
You love pulla!,
You've been to Finn Grand Fest.,
Sadly, people can never seem to pronounce your first name and/or last name the "real" way,
You've been ice-fishing or cross-country skiing,
Your last name ends with “nen” “ta” or “la”, and
You can pronounce SAUNA correctly.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Journalling Template

This idea for journalling in your blog comes from The Simple Woman.(see
It recommends a series of sentence starters that you can fill in whenever you want to do some journalling. This gives a snapshot of your day or week. I've given the example I wrote today.

September 9, 2008.

Outside my window...the leaves on the Japanese maple are beginning to change colour. It's going to rain.
I am thinking...of clearing a few more books off my shelf to make room for more, but this is hard for me.
I am thankful...that my daughter is settling into dorm life at university.
From the kitchen...we are having a chicken/sausage/pasta casserole and salad for supper.
I am pajamas, drinking my "morning" coffee at 3:30 in the afternoon (aah, shift work, there's no life like it), and contemplating my shower.
I am reading..."Let's Roll", by Lisa Beamer, the widow of 9-11 hero, Todd Beamer.
I am hoping...tonight won't be too busy at work.
I am hearing..."I second that emotion" by Smokey Robinson.
Around the house...I'm all alone, except for Oleksandr the goldfish. My husband, daughter and Mom are on their way home. My house is actually still tidy!
One of my favourite reading by a lake.
A few plans for the week...Finish my four 12-hour night shifts, bake a blueberry pie (with Northern blueberries, Yum!) as a gift for our friend who will have his 50th birthday party on Saturday.

Truth for All Times

"Christianity is about truth, and at the heart of that truth is the gospel. 'Sola gratia, sola fide, in sola Christo.' If Christianity is not about what is enduringly, eternally true, in all places of the world, in every culture, in the same way, in every time, then there is no reason to strive to find the most accurate ways of stating what it is, nor in other parts of the world would there be any reason to face persecution for it. But across time people have struggled to know it, because in knowing it they have come to know the God whose truth it is and some have had to die for it. Who, one wonders, would want to die for something that was only true at some point in time, to some person, and not for all people in all places and times?"

David Wells
By Faith Alone

Monday, September 8, 2008

What's in a Name?

Some people, who've only known me as an adult (my husband included), may not believe this, but most of my life I was painfully shy. Emphasis on the painful.
I still have my report cards from elementary school. Almost without exception, they describe me as a "shy, quiet little girl". Most people outgrow it. Mine lasted throughout highschool and into college. Occasionally, even now, when I'm in a group setting or a classroom setting, I can still feel rare moments when I am seized by terror. It's like I'm a kid again.
I think I would have been shy even if my Dad hadn't died when I was young. I was the second child, and as such, I was more introverted than my sister. She did the talking for the both of us.
Also, when I was young, there was a long period of time when I didn't like that I was Finnish (I'm proud of it now,though). I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to have a normal name that people could pronounce. (Pia is not my real name). Even now, that name (my old one) brings with it so many bad memories, I almost feel angry when someone brings it up as a joke. Don't even ask what it is.
Whenever we had a substitute teacher, roll call would unfold the same way. Because my last name ended in "A", I was first on the list. The teacher would look down at the list, then say, "If I mispronounce any of your names, please correct me." They would try to say it, get it horribly wrong, it would call unwanted attention to me, and I would be embarassed. Then the whole class, who had been with me since kindergarten, would say my name in unison. I was three shades of red. As the years went on, they wouldn't even wait for the teacher to attempt it, they'd just shout it out. Did I mention how much I hated that name?
I asked my Mom, "Did you actually like that name when you chose it?" I was sure it was a curse. I never felt like that name matched who I was. I suppose if I would have grown up in Finland where I was born, it would've been a common name and I wouldn't have had these issues. But here, it was impossible.
Added to that, it ended in the letter "o". In a town with many other immigrants, like Italians who end a name in "a" if it's female (Maria), and "o" if it's male (Mario), people assumed I was a boy. For a twelve year old, flat-chested girl with short hair, and no make-up, it was not very self-affirming. I once held the door open for a little old lady. She said, "Thanks, Sonny." That was the third such episode that same day. It was not a good day to be me. Did I mention how much I hated that name?
I don't know if even now I can analyze all the reasons for my shyness. But it was a bad time. A very bad time. I seem to be scarred for life.
I can't tell you how happy I was to have two daughters who were so well adjusted and out-going. They never struggled with shyness the way I did. I even gave them names that could be pronounced in Finnish and English. I didn't want that to be a stumbling block for them. Did I say how much I hated that name?
When I was growing up, most families were intact. I was from a broken family. I'm sure that was a factor. After my Dad died, my Mom became an alcoholic (but that's another story), and I'm sure that played a part. My sister an I were alone alot because my Mom worked odd hours in a restaurant. We also had neighbours (bad boys) who used to peer in through our windows regularly. I was very self-conscious and always thought someone was watching me (and they usually were).
Wow, I should be more messed up than I am!
I wish I would have outgrown it sooner. My chance to make a clean break came when I turned 20 and moved to Toronto. I decided I would not use that old name at all. I would be Pia. I was already known by that name since I was 12 or 13, when my baby cousin named me because she couldn't pronounce my real name. Do you need any more proof that it's a horrible name?
I have been Pia ever since. It's on all of my documents, Passport, SIN card, etc. I haven't officially changed it, although I plan to. My Mom's okay with it.
I associate that old name with a mostly painful childhood in a Northern Ontario city; my new name with my new life in Toronto.
So name your children carefully. It matters more than you may think.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


"I would give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter."

God Doesn't Owe Us Grace

"Nothing requires that God be gracious, not even His love. If grace is ever required, it is no longer grace. Grace cannot be required. If we merit it then it is no longer grace; if God is obliged to give it then it is no longer grace. When we think that God must be gracious, we confuse grace with justice...Once I rebel against God, He owes me nothing...If God deals with us ultimately on the basis of justice alone, we will perish."

R.C. Sproul
Reason To Believe