Christmas is a season for childlike faith and innocence, when we are invited to believe that anything is possible.

As we grow up, though, the stories so cherished in childhood simply become harder to believe. Most of us grow skeptical about life, including the story of Christmas.
Yet, two thousand years ago, God invited two very different people to believe in Him for the impossible and what happened next changed their lives forever.

What would it take for us to experience the miracle of Christmas in our time and in our lives? What would happen if we could, once again, just Believe?

New School!

Everyone’s new at Crossroads School
By Jeff Bolichowski

Released in the St. Catharines Standard
September 7, 2011

My nephew, Rowan, and some of his friends
getting off the bus on their first day
of classes at the new school.
Suddenly, everyone was the new kid in a new school Tuesday morning.

It left 12-year-old Frank Boese, a Grade 7 student at the new Crossroads School in Virgil, caught between admiration and nervousness. He'd been a student at Virgil School until his student body combined with Colonel John Butler School's to populate the newly-built school on Niagara Stone Rd.

Nervous or not, though, he'd made a couple of new friends by noon. And he'd found plenty to like about his new digs.

"I think it's really great that we have lockers and we have classrooms with smart boards," he said. "They really help us learn."

The newly-built school was not entirely finished when it welcomed students for the first time Tuesday. It's the new home for kids who once attended the nearly 140-year-old Virgil School and the small Butler School, both of which closed in the summer.

Some kids know each other, principal Marian Reimer Friesen said. But with two student bodies together in a new building, everyone got the new-kid experience of finding their way around and learning who's who — even the teachers.

"That moment this morning, when the buses arrived and all my kids stepped off the same bus. My Butler kids, my Virgil kids, the new kids, that was an incredible feeling," she said.

While some are getting lost, she said, that happens on the first day.

The transition, she said, has been rougher on the adults than the kids. "They're so adaptable," she said.

"The new kids say, 'What a great year to be new.' Nobody knows where the washrooms are. Nobody knows where the staff room is. Nobody knows how to get to the main office, so we can all experience it together."

The kids stepped into a school quite different from their former academies. Crossroads, a two-storey school, gleamed Tuesday, its corridors coloured in subdued tans and greens and blues.

Students have lockers now, which Reimer Friesen said has sparked a great deal of excitement. And the building houses a learning commons featuring plush chairs for reading plus books and computers, a hybrid of library and computer lab and discussion space.

It's even got that new-school smell, Reimer Friesen said.

A few things aren't finished. The gymnasium remains a mess of tools, its bare floor still lacking hardwood. And a couple of interior walls near the entrance, intended to eventually house a display case, aren't done yet.

The school holds 410 students, 20 teachers, three early childhood educators and two education assistants.

Grade 1 teacher Vinciane DeBrouwer, who taught for 10 years at Virgil School, said she's fascinated with what else her classroom holds. She was quick to name her favourite aspect of the room: "Storage." Everything, she said, has a place.

She said she spent about a week setting up her classroom. Displayed along the walls and bulletin boards, cutouts of cartoon monkeys introduce kids to months and colours.

The students, she said, got comfortable quickly. For her, it was a bit tougher.

"It's scary," she said. "But it's nice because everyone's in it together."

Grade 7 student Britney Goertz marvelled at the scale of her new school. She said it's a huge change from Butler and its 130 students and eight staff members.

"This is so big," she said. "Such a big change for me.

"I got to kind of get to know a lot of people. You don't know very many of them because Butler was kind of a small school."

The size and amenities are a big change for Reimer Friesen, too. She said she didn't have access to such amenities as principal at Butler and Virgil

My friend's daughter busy in her new
class at the new local school.
"It's incredible to be able to answer the questions that parents have with, 'Yes, we can help you with that.' "

Also on Tuesday, regional council's public works committee voted to recommend lowering the speed limit on Niagara Stone Rd. in front of Crossroads at certain times when kids are around.

If council green-lights that, flashing signals will indicate a speed limit of 40 km/h in front of the school from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

16-year-old girl dies in ATV crash

By Grant LaFleche, Standard Staff

Cheryl Beecroft-Penner has faith there was a reason behind the tragedy. One she cannot see or understand, perhaps, but a reason nevertheless.

"We have faith that she is exactly where God needs her to be," she says. "And am I just so thankful, so so thankful, that I had a daughter who was touching people's lives in a positive way."

Beecroft-Penner's daughter, 16-year-old Arlynne Holyer of St. Catharines, died Saturday as a result of an all-terrain vehicle accident near Longlac, Ont. some 320 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

Beecroft-Penner said she was told the ATV rolled in a ditch while her daughter was on it.

The Eden High School student had spent most of her summer in the north doing what she felt called to do — sharing her faith. On the day she died, her mother said Arlynne was with members of an evangelical ministry handing out tracts to other teenagers to try and get them to come to a bible group.

"She just felt, deep down, that this was what she was meant to do, what God wanted her to do," she said. "We're heartbroken, certainly, and I would not wish this on anyone. But we are trying to see the positive."

Arlynne was a member of youth ministries at two St. Catharines churches, Southridge Community Church on Glenridge Ave. and Central Gospel downtown.

Her mother said the girl was raised in a religious home but like most teenagers, reached the age of minor rebellion. She tried alcohol and was occasionally disrespectful. But it was a period, fortunately, of finite duration.

Arlynne started taking her faith more seriously and soon developed a passion to help others.

"We told her the most important thing was to love Jesus and love others," said Arlynne's stepfather, Pete Penner. "Every family has that one member who just lights it all up. Arlynne was that person for our family."

She went on a youth missionary trip last year to Montreal, but came back disappointed.

"She was a little bummed and when I asked, she told me it was too short. There was so much left to do," Penner said.

So she left in June for a five-week mission with Child Evangelism Ontario in the north.

Her family held a big party for her before she left. Penner said he told her he would have to get up early the next morning to mow the lawn but when he awoke, Arlynne had already done it for him.

"That was her. Always thinking about others first," he said.

Arlynne's father, David Holyer, declined comment Tuesday evening.

A funeral service for Arlynne will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Central Gospel downtown. Visitation for her will be held Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. at Tallman Funeral Home in Beamsville. Along with her parents, Holyer is also survived by five siblings.


Arlynne was on a missions trip with Child Evangelism Fellowship's Christian Youth in Action. She was in the Thunder Bay area teaching Bible Clubs to kids from broken homes who probably thought of God as a swear word (her words, not mine). During this missions trip, she experienced some incredible things. She just celebrated her 16th birthday on Wednesday. On Saturday night, she was out with her partner having fun when the ATV that she was driving rolled over onto her.

Arlynne, you were an amazing girl! When you entered a room, you made sure everyone smiled, talked and laughed. I will miss your joy for life and your spunky personality. See you "on the other side" and love cows!

HOLYER, Arlynne Elizabeth - Aged 16 years, was transported from the seat of an ATV to the presence of her Saviour on Saturday, July 30, 2011. Beloved daughter of Cheryl Beecroft-Penner and Pete Penner, David and Nohemy Holyer; sister of Karissa Holyer, Josiah, Eden, Nathan and Sarina Beecroft-Penner. She is also the granddaughter of Ronald and Marjorie Beecroft, Nest Pritchard, Richard and Marilyn Holyer and Jakob and Katie Penner. Loved and missed by many aunts, uncles and cousins. Arlynne was joyfully serving God with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Northern Ontario. Her presence is already sorely missed by her many friends from Eden Secondary School, Central Community Church and Southridge Community Church. Visitation and life celebration still to be determined. Memorial donations to Child Evangelism Fellowship would be appreciated by the family. Online condolences at

This is the testimony Arlynne shared at Southridge when she got baptized last summer..

¡Adelante Paraguay!

2011 Copa America

**First Stage - Group B**

July 03 - Paraguay 0:0 Equador
July 09 - Paraguay 2:2 Brazil
July 13 - Paraguay 3:3 Venezuela

**Paraguay advances to the quarter finals**

July 17 - Paraguay 2:0 Brazil

**Paraguay advances to the semi-finals**

July 20 - Paraguay 5:3 Venezuela

**Paraguay advances to the finals**

July 24 - Paraguay 0:3 Uruguay

**Paraguay settles for the silver medal**

My Car

Recently, I was told that my car "used to look so cool". Yup, one of my fave Grade 6 boys decided my car looked like crap. And it's true, it did need some work. But who knew that my summer would be the summer of car repairs?

My muffler was getting louder, so I got it fixed. When I got my oil changed, I also got the mechanic to see why the "check engine" light came on (they hooked my car up to a scanner thing-y and said it just read that there were fumes, no biggie but should get it checked out if it comes on again soon). I needed new tires, so got those. There was some damage done to the front end during the last ice storm, so got a new front bumper cover (Thanks so much, Uncle Harry!!!).

Then, while I was out to see Cars 2 (see previous post here), one of my brake lines gave out and needed replacing. The "check engine light was on again, so I asked to have it checked again and got the same answer.

Now the "check engine" light has reappeared. So I brought the car in to my mechanic and it was examined. I was told that the gas lines are rotting out on my car, but the costs involved in replacing them would be better spent towards the purchase of a new car.

NOT what I wanted to hear. I guess I'll drive this car until I can't drive it anymore (that was the plan anyhow, but the end may come sooner than I'd hoped). I've got about $3500 saved up towards a new car - it's not enough for a new car, but maybe for a decent down payment on one. I guess I'll just wait to see how long my car keeps me going from point A to point B.

an excellent reminder...

Everything - by Tim Hughes

God in my living / There in my breathing
God in my waking / God in my sleeping

God in my resting / There in my working
God in my thinking / God in my speaking

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

God in my hoping / There in my dreaming
God in my watching / God in my waiting

God in my laughing / There in my weeping
God in my hurting / God in my healing

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

Christ in me / Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me / Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

God in my hoping / There in my dreaming
God in my watching / God in my waiting

God in my laughing / There in my weeping
God in my hurting / God in my healing

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

Be my everything / Be my everything
Be my everything / Be my everything

Christ in me / Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

You are everything / You are everything
You are everything / You are everything

Jesus everything / Jesus everything
Jesus everything / Jesus everything

Paraguay breaks Guinness Record!!

Yup, that's right folks! Paraguay has broken the Guinness record for the longest hot dog. On July 15, 2011, a hot dog measuring 203.80 m and weighing approximately 120 kg was made by Ochsi to obtain the world record. The hot dog bun weighed approximately 150 kg and was made by Myriam Products. International media was on site and the measurements have been verified by Johanna Hessling of Guinness. The hot dog was made as the central part of a media event surrounding the 2011 Expo in Asuncion, Paraguay. After the official measurement, the hot dog was cut up and eaten by those present. Here's the official report from

It's a Pie Party!!

Yup, that's right! One of the blogs I follow, gluten-free girl, invited everyone to a pie party. Turns out that a conversation between a couple of friends can turn into an event where over 1500 people accepted the challenge to make a pie on July 5. So... here is my pie using Mom's strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe.


We are gently easing into that rich season of abundance, found in farmers' lands.

And if anyone knows how to make or bake the perfect treat from the earth's bounty -- it would certainly be a farmer's wife.

Just recently, a handful of Ontario Tender Fruit Growers' wives unlocked their special recipe boxes to share family favourites in the baked goods department. With the availability of fresh Ontario tender fruit around the corner, these delicious treasures feature the best of summer's harvest -- peaches, nectarines, plums, pears and Coronation grapes -- creating flavours that only fresh, local and seasonal fruits can provide.

Agnes Wiens' Coronation Grape Buckle is the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea. Each bite of this flavourful dessert is texturally pleasing with its dense cake, sweetly flavoured grape filling and crispy topping.


While some call it a cobbler or a crumble, Agnes Wiens prefers the old-fashioned term buckle -- dense cake, layered with a sweetly flavoured grape filling, topped with a crispy streusel. Agnes has been making this recipe for her husband Abe and their four children since the early 1970s *correction, early 1990s*. And now, as their family expands, their four grandchildren get to enjoy it on the family farm, Wiens Family Farms, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.


3 Tbsp. (45 ml) cornstarch
2 cups (500 ml) de-stemmed Coronation table grapes (fresh or frozen)
2/3 cup (150 ml) sugar
1/8 cup (25 ml) water
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) lemon juice

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup (75 ml) flour
1/4 cup (50 ml) granulated sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) cinnamon
1/4 tsp.(1 ml) salt
1/4 cup (50 ml) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Cake Batter:

3/4 cup (175 ml) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. (7 ml) vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups (325 ml) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. (7 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt


Add cornstarch into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1/3 cup (75 ml) liquid; set aside. Add grapes, sugar, water and lemon juice into a pot and stir to combine (if using frozen grapes, include any ice that has formed). Place pot over medium heat and bring to a boil; cook for 5 to 10 minutes, continuing to stir. Add cornstarch to grape mixture and continue to cook until it no longer looks cloudy from the cornstarch mixture, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and transfer grape filling into a bowl; cool to room temperature. Do not skip this step. When assembling the buckle, if the filling is not at room temperature, it will bubble and overflow, creating a mess in your oven.

Streusel Topping:

In medium bowl, add flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. Using fingertips, work butter into dry ingredients, until mixture is coarse and crumbly. Refrigerate for later use.

Cake Batter:

With a stand mixer or hand mixer, blend butter, sugar and vanilla together until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time until well blended. In separate bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Assembling the Buckle:

Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C). Grease and flour a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan and pour in cake batter. Drop spoonfuls of grape filling on top of the batter and gently swirl with a butter knife, creating a marble effect over the surface area. Top with the streusel mixture and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

PER SERVING (1/10th recipe):
about 433 cal, 4 g pro, 20 g total fat (12 g sat fat), 60 g carb, 1 g fibre, 105 mg chol, 239 mg sodium. %RDI: 18% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 8% iron.

Tip: To reduce preparation time, grape filling may be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before assembling the buckle.

Tip: Freezing grapes is simple. Wash, dry and de-stem grapes. Pack in airtight containers and freeze. No sugar is required because the natural high sugar and acid level in Ontario Coronation table grapes act as a natural preservative. Eat as a snack right from the freezer. Frozen grapes can replace fresh grapes in every recipe as they retain their intense colour and flavour and hold their shape when thawed. When using frozen grapes for preserves, thaw in refrigerator just until crushable.

Connecting in the Big Apple

This is the theme song from this year's VBS.

Cars 2

It's opening night for Cars 2 and I'm going with a special, spunky 10 1/2 year-old named Daniel. I'm getting very excited - I'm picking him up in about an hour and then we'll be headed to the theatre to watch it in 3-D. I'm not sure who's more excited, me or Daniel :D

Tomorrow night, weather-permitting, I'll be headed to the drive-in with 2 of Daniel's sisters (Bella and Karilyn) to see... Cars 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I can't wait to hang out with those two giggly, silly, wonderful girls!!

birthday wishes

Lisa Regehr sent me this video link and the following birthday greeting:
to my personal-walking-encyclopedia and uber-friend for life. Love ya girl...but only til midnight. ")

How wasteful was the older generation?

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained: "We didn't have the green thing back in my day." The clerk responded: "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right, that generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn't have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. People took the streetcar and kids walked, rode their bikes or rode the school bus to school, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she was right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the disposable kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 240 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of a small country. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. They used a push lawn mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right; they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a glass tumbler or a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a disposable cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn't have the green thing back then.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because "they didn't have the green thing back then"?

Resurrection Eggs

What you will need is an empty egg carton, 12 empty plastic eggs, miscellaneous items to fill the eggs (see the list below), a sharpie to write the numbers on the eggs, and the printed verses which you will see below.

Looking around the house, I seemed to find everything that I needed to fill the eggs.

I cut out the scriptures, folded them up, and placed each item from the corresponding day in the numbered egg.  The last day there is nothing in the egg because the tomb was empty!  I placed the scripture of that one underneath the egg in the carton.  Just print out this list below and cut out.  Easy!

Egg #1--Bread.

Matthew 26:26
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

*You can use a crouton, small piece of bread or a cracker

Egg #2--Coins.

Matthew 26:14-15
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.

*I used 3 dimes

Egg #3--Scourge

Mark 15:15
Pilate wanted to please the crowd. So he set Barabbas free. Then he ordered his soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip

*a small piece of rope or string

Egg #4--Purple cloth

Mark 15:17
They dressed him in a purple robe...

Egg #5--Thorns

Matthew 27:29
They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!”

*I got mine from our rose bush, but in the picture it shows one made of pipe cleaner

Egg #6--Cross

John 19: 17-18a
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

*I used an old wooden cross from a necklace

Egg #7--Nails

Mark 15:23, 24a
They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross.

Egg #8--Dice

John 19:23-24
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.”

Egg #9--Sponge

Matthew 27:48
One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.

Egg #10--Spear/Sword

John 19:33-34
When they got to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn't break his legs. One of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with his spear. Blood and water gushed out.

*I used a cocktail sword

Egg #11--Rock

Matthew 27:59-60
Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left.

Egg #12--Empty

Matthew 28:6
He isn't here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would. Come, see the place where his body was lying.

Something to think about on Good Friday

Watch the Lamb

The Hammer

Feel the Nails

Stitched Together ♥ with love (continued at home)

"Upcycling" ~ for "stitched together ♥ with love"

"Stitched Together ♥ with love" was one of the interest groups at Cornerstone's Breakaway - a ladies group that met Thursday mornings between 9:15-11:00 am from February 10 and until April 7 (we did not meeting March 17th-March break) at Cornerstone Church. During that time we were able to complete 3 rag blankets using donated denim and flannel to be distributed by AIDS Niagara.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we thought we'd continue meeting on Thursdays to work on more quilts. Unfortunately, I won't be able to continue meeting on Thursday mornings, but I thought I'd try to continue on at home. So here goes...

The 6-inch square patches for the quilt top are cut from previously worn clothing or previously used bedding. There's some variety in the types/textures of fabric (the flowered pieces came from 2 flannel pillow cases, the plaid was a flannel shirt, the orange was a corduroy shirt, the outside layer of green was corduroy pants, the blue was a denim dress and the inside layer of green was a canvas skirt). **Note to self: take pictures of the clothing/items used BEFORE cutting them into squares.** The back of the quilt is from a "new-to-me" flat sheet that will be cut up. The final size of this quilt will be approximately 75"x65".

This is the quilt top for a rag blanket I will be making. I'm liking the way the top looks.
I can't wait to finish cutting the bottom so I can see what it'll look like when it's all done.

This is a close up of the fabric I will be using for the backing on this quilt.

The Life Story of Abram F. Wiens

Abram Franz Wiens
April 3, 1918 to April 5, 2011
Abram Franz Wiens was born April 3, 1918 in Sagradowka, USSR. When he was 12, his family, together with their entire village, fled the terror of communist Russia in a miraculous escape that paralleled Israel's escape from Egypt. After 15 months spent in China, with the assistance of the fledgling Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a group of 375 people left Habrin, China for Paraguay. It was on the ship somewhere between Shanghai and the Suez Canal, that Abe came to understand his need for a Saviour and asked Jesus to come into his life. He was baptized and joined the Mennonite Brethren church at the age of 14.

The early years in the Paraguayan jungle were full of hardships as young Abe learned the trade of wheelwright and wagon-maker.

On October 1, 1938, Abe married Anna Wiens, the vivacious 18 year old from the other end of the one-street village. Over the next nine years God blessed them with "five boys". After many moves and seeral brushes with death, Abe was able to emigrate from Paraguay to Canada with his family, where God blessed them again with three daughters and another son. This was the land of his hopes and dreams, but with no education in a strange land with a language he did not understand, it was hard to provide for his growing family when he was earning 30 cents an hour.

In 1952, Abe moved his family to a farm in the Edmonton, Alberta area, in order to give his growing boys an opportunity to learn to work and stay off city streets. Due to several mishaps on the farm and health issues for both Abe and Anna, they decided to move their family of nine children to Ontario in 1958. Here Abe and his older sons worked in house building while Anna and the younger children worked on fruit farms to provide for the needs of the large family.

Abe retired from the dual role of carpenter and farmer in 1983. This allowed him to follow a dream from his youth, as he took several courses in massage therapy and reflexology and started a work, which he saw as a healing ministry for aching bodies and (often) lonely souls. This "second career" kept him busy for almost 20 years. These years were also filled with travel to all continents (except Australia), visiting parents, children and grandchildren.

Abe and Anna spend the last 45 years of their lives together in various church servant/leadership roles. He always served with integrity and humility. On October 3, 2000, after 62 years together, Anna was taken from him. In spite of being surrounded by his children and many grandchildren, this led to a very lonely time for Abe.

On February 15, 2002, he married Susie Enns. As a family, we want to that Susie for the companion she's been to Dad over the past nine years. Abe has spent the last two years in the Tabor Manor long-term care home in declining health. His final graduation cam on April 5, 2011, only two days after his 93rd birthday.

Abe is predeceased by his son Henry (1966) and wife Anna (2000). He leaves to celebrate a life well-lived, his wife, Susie, and his children: Ernie and Marie, Erwin and Marian, Hugo and Lydia, Hart and Ginny, Mary and Peter Warkentin, Betty and Peter Loewen, Muggs and Ferd Klassen, Dave and Debbie, and Chi and Boma Waboso. In addition there are 32 grandchildren and their spouses and 63 great-grandchildren. Abe is also survived by one sister, Lena Sawatzky and one brother, Henry, many nieces, nephews and Susie's large family.

Here is a link to a slide show that shows glimpses into his life. 

The Life Story of Elisabeth Isaac

Elisabeth Isaac
October 25, 1911 to April 7, 2011
Elisabeth Isaac was born in 1911, in Alexanerfeld, Ukraine as the third child to Wilhelm and Katerina Klassen. Her father was a farmer, and Elisabeth helped around the farm in many ways. She married John Isaac on December 17, 1933 and was his wife for 69 years. In 1937, Elisabeth's father was taken away by the Russian KGB and he was never returned to the family. Her mother died 10 years later.

Elisabeth was baptized in 1942, when the churches were free again to gather in the Ukraine. Elisabeth and John had five children, however, their two youngest daughters both died in their childhood. In October 1943 the German army removed the family from their home in the Ukraine, and by March of 1944 they had been relocated to Poland. Shortly after that John was drafted into the German army and Elisabeth continued to raise the children on her own. In January 1945, Elisabeth and the chidlren were moved to Germany. They were eventually discovered by the Soviets, and were sent back to the Soviet Union as prisoners in October 1945. During the next 10 years, Elisabeth was forced to work in the forests of Bashkiria. They had to clear trees and pile logs. In 1958 the family moved to Kazakhstan. Here, Elisabeth was able to take care of the family and her home. She also enjoyed the birth of several of her grandchildren.

Elisabeth had no contact with John while he was in the German army. Finally, in 1956, she received a letter from him, 12 years after she had last seen him. John had immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in the St. Catharines area. He began to make arrangements for the family to move to Canada in the late 1950s. Elisabeth and her oldest daughter, Tina, were finally able to join John in November of 1966.

Elisabeth and John were separated from each other for 22 years. They were privileged to share many happy years together after they were reunited. In 1971, their son, John, and his family were allowed to come to Canada and join the family. And their daughter, Aganeta, and her family were permitted to come to Canada in 1973. After all these years of separation, the family was happy to be together again. They thanked God for the gift of restoring the family and blessing them with a new life in Canada.

After settling in Canada, Elisabeth enjoyed taking care of the home and family. She enjoyed many hobbies such as crocheting, quilting and needlepoint. She was also a talented seamstress.

The whole family enjoyed renting cottages in the summer at Golden Lake in Killaloe, Ontario. Elisabeth loved gardening and had a beautiful rose garden in front of their house on Agar Drive in St. Catharines. The entire family shared many special meals and good times at this home. Christmas Eve was special and the family would always gather to celebrate the holidays. Some special dishes remembered by the grandchildren were Vereneke, baked cheesecake with the diamond pattern topping, thin pancakes, homemade noodles, and many other baked goods. Her recipes were always a secret, even if she would tell you the ingredients.

Elisabeth Isaac died at the age of 99 years and 5 months at Tabor Manor Nursing home. She was a strong and determined woman who was able to overcome many difficulties while still smiling. She enjoyed sharing stories with others and had a terrific sense of humour. Elisabeth is survived by her children: Tina Wiens, John Isaak (Elfrieda) and Aganeta Schmidt. She is also survived by 14 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by two daughters, eight brothers and sisters, two sons-in-law and by her dear husband, John.

Just Foolin' Around

On Friday night, my niece showed off her skill as part of a team skate to the Mario Brothers' theme song and then Saturday afternoon she performed her solo and earned a silver medal for it. So very proud of her!!

More than 200 figure skaters, including national pairs champion Kirsten Moore-Towers (of St. Catharines)
and Dylan Moscovitch will perform at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Skating Club’s annual year-end Showcase
this Friday. The International Skating Union has the duo ranked 21st in the world. The theme of the
Showcase is‘Just Foolin’ Around’ to coincide with April Fools’ Day. The age ranges
from 2-58 years-old. The event starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children.

upcycling some denim

Life around here just doesn't slow down. Now that my folks are back from Paraguay, my mom is on a sewing kick. For a few years, she's been gathering jeans from anybody and everybody who would give them to her. Now those piles of jeans are being cut up into 6" squares (by yours truly ~ thank goodness for rotary cutters!!) and being sewn into quilts (by my mom).

The original plan was to do a bedspread for my nephew. Once that was done, a new plan emerged - a picnic blanket for 3 of my cousins and a "car blanket" for my mom. The plan seems to have been altered again - now it's to do as many as possible using the jeans we've got. And hopefully, it will be warm enough to work in the garden by the time we run out of jeans.

Mom is sewing away and the piles of old jeans that were at our house
are slowly growing smaller. I figure it takes about 10 pairs of jeans
to get the number of squares she needs to make each blanket.
This is the top of one of the finished
blankets. This one is 77"x77".
This is the top of one of the finished
blankets. This one is 66"x77".

Stitched Together ♥ with love (Quilt # 3)

Take a break away with us! Breakaway is a ladies group that meets Thursday mornings between 9:15-11:00 am from February 10 and until April 7 (we did not meeting March 17th-March break) at Cornerstone Church. There are many different activities to choose from. This year I chose to participate in a group called "Stitched Together ♥ with love" and we're making rag blankets using donated denim and flannel to be distributed by AIDS Niagara. Here are some of the pics for Quilt # 3. You can also check out Quilt # 1 and Quilt # 2 on my blog.

The top is laid out.
The bottom is laid out.

Sewing is well under way
Getting ready to sew.
Sewing and snipping the last seams under the watchful eye
of our co-ordinator, Diane.

cancer sucks!

Shari (Emmalee's Mom) and I went to Bible School together back in the day.

Cancer takes its toll but recovery continues
By Greg Vandermeulen
29 March 2011

Music is Emmalee's one escape from
the difficulties of cancer treatment.
RIDGEVILLE - Six months after their three-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a Ridgeville family is doing everything they can to keep their hopes up and their thoughts positive.

Emmalee Chubaty's story was first told in the Nov. 4, 2010 edition of The Red River Valley Echo.

Her mother Shari Chubaty explained how the diagnosis came as a result of a fall after Emmalee was jumping on her bed. She told of the issues that started with the blood transfusion in Winnipeg, and the pain that followed. Emmalee began an aggressive chemo treatment, and the family struggled to cope as father Wayne remained at their Ridgeville home, and their young son stayed with friends.

Six months later, there is hope, but there is still a very rough road for this young family.

Shari said her daughter has come to the end of the intensive chemo. After blood counts get to a certain level she starts maintenance, which involves a two year period, of a blood test every three weeks, and a spinal tap and chemo treatment every 12.

"She will still have to take oral medication at home every day, including an antibiotic to prevent infection, low dose chemotherapy and low dose steroids, but we'll get to be home," she said.

Emmalee has been home several times but has spent the last six weeks in hospital. Her brother James is staying with relatives in Regina.

With the exception of one scary incident that saw Emmalee end up with falling counts, fever and infection, Shari said her daughter's treatment has gone well.

But cancer brings some scary realities, especially for a three-year-old. "She lost her hair one night, all within eight hours," Shari said. "That really scared her, and took a long time for her to adjust to."

As hard as it is for Shari and Wayne to watch their daughter fight the disease, Shari said it becomes tougher when they see how their formerly outgoing little girl is dealing with it.

"The worst of all of it, is the emotional damage for Emmalee," she said. "Being three, we've never been able to explain to her fully what was going on and why."

Even the best efforts of Cancer Care's life skills therapist hasn't helped.

In fact Shari said they have to literally force her child to take the necessary treatment. "Every time they had to access her port in her chest for chemo, we would have to pin her down as she kicked and screamed, cried and told me she was 'a good girl today'," she said. "Those are the days it broke my heart to see her go through it."

Shari said it's tough to see the girl who was once so outgoing, turned into someone who is scared of everything.

Emmalee has yet to walk again as well. Sessions with the physiotherapist have helped, and Shari said although her daughter cries when her boundaries are pushed, she very quickly wants to go back again.

"We've been told and we've seen what a long process it can be, and we know it may take years for her to be able to walk and run as normal again," she said.

But Emmalee has some great things to look forward to. Shari said the Rainbow Society has offered her a wish of going to Disney World, enjoying a princess makeover and meeting Cinderella. She'll also go to Sea World, likely in fall.

She's also been asked to appear in a Ronald McDonald House fashion show in May, and Shari is cautiously optimistic.

"We'll see how much of all this she'll be able to handle by then," she said.

Despite her fear of the chemo, Emmalee has become a star among the nurses. Shari said she'll tell them "nope, not today, get out" when they come for tests, but she willingly holds out her finger for blood tests, although she'll cry at the same time.

"I'm so relieved and completely overjoyed that the worst of this is hopefully over," Shari said, noting it is possible the cancer could return. "We're far from done we know, but maybe now we can get back to being some sort of family, and allow her to be some sort of normal three-year-old."

The impact on the family will never be entirely removed, and Shari said her perspective has changed dramatically.

"You definitely develop a new list of priorities with cancer," she said. "The other day, I was behind a mom with two kids in a checkout line, and she was getting extremely frustrated with the bugging and whining they were doing. I felt like saying 'hug them'. Give them whatever they want. I would give anything to be in your shoes."

Support has come from all corners for the family. The community of Emerson has helped out, but it has spread much wider than that.

Shari said her sister-in-law had sent an email to a friend in the U.S. about making Emmalee a hat for when she lost her hair.

"It 'went viral' as she called it, and pretty soon, we had boxes of notes for Emms, gifts, and hats of all shapes, types and designs, pouring in from all over the world," Shari said. "The last time I counted, there was 78 hats, four quilts and so many pictures and cards and gifts sent from families and other young children, I can't count."

Shari said daycares have gotten together to draw pictures and make cards, something that has lifted Emmalee's spirits.

"She absolutely loves to open the boxes and see each one," she said. "No matter what kind of day or week she had, coming home to those hats perked her up."

Shari said the family can't wait to get home and let Emmalee get back to being a kid and not a "kid with cancer".

Stitched Together ♥ with love (Quilt # 2)

Take a break away with us! Breakaway is a ladies group that meets Thursday mornings between 9:15-11:00 am from February 10 and until April 7 (we did not meeting March 17th-March break) at Cornerstone Church. There are many different activities to choose from. This year I chose to participate in a group called "Stitched Together ♥ with love" and we're making rag blankets using donated denim and flannel to be distributed by AIDS Niagara. Here are some of the pics for Quilt # 2. You can also check out Quilt # 1 and Quilt # 3 on my blog.

The bottom is laid out.
The top is laid out.


and then it's all done and we're ready to move on to the next project :)

that's my family!!!!!

Growing forward
NOTL couple wins 2011 Outstanding Youth Farmer Award

By Melinda Cheevers
Reporter from the Niagara This Week

Growing forward. Wes Wiens and his wife Briar (not pictured)
were recently named 2011 Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers.
The couple are grapevine propagators operating
Gemmrich W. Nursery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Sometimes, you don’t realize how far you’ve come until you take the time to pause and look back.

For Niagara-on-the-Lake farmer Wes Wiens, being nominated for the 2011 Outstanding Young Farmer Award, provided him just that chance.

“It’s funny, I’ve never really had the time to reflect back on the challenges we’ve faced or how far we’ve come, I was always just looking forward,” he said. “So it’s been nice to take the time to look back.”

Wiens and his wife Briar are grapevine propagators operating Gemmrich W. Nursery on Line 5. Within the last five years, production at the nursery has almost doubled from 800,000 vines grafted in 2006 to 1,400,000 vines in 2010.

On March 11, the couple was chosen from a group of six farmers from across Ontario as Outstanding Young Farmers of 2011. They took home the award from an awards ceremony held in Ajax, Ont.

Wes said it was an honour just to be nominated, let alone taking home the title.

“We really didn’t expect it,” he said.

The Wiens were nominated by the Grape Growers of Ontario. Wes said once they were nominated, the lengthy application process began. The couple was required to write a 15-page essay about the company, the challenges they have faced and looking forward to the future. Wes said once they were shortlisted, they had to develop a presentation for the awards ceremony in Ajax.

Wes comes from a family of grape and tender fruit farmers. Growing up he learned the value of hard work and knew innovation was a key to success in the agricultural industry. When he was approached by Martin Gemmrich, a third generation propagator of grapevines who operated the Line 5 nursery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and asked Wes to buy the business from him, Wes said he had to consider the proposal. He eventually decided to go for it, with Gemmrich as his partner at first. Under Gemmrich’s tutelage, he learned the propagation business.

Now, using a mix of old techniques learned from his mentor and new technology, the future of the business is looking brighter than ever. It currently has 60 per cent of the market share in the Canadian grape vine industry. Wes said they are exploring GPS mapping for the vineyard and soil sampling as future services.

Wes is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day responsibilities of the nursery while Briar plays a different role. In addition to caring for the couple’s children, she also helps to organize employee events.

At the awards ceremony, the couple were given two trophies, a banner to hang in their office and a painting depicting the various aspects of Ontario’s agriculture industry.

For more information about the Ontario Outstanding Young Farmer Award, visit For more information about Gemmrich W. Nurseries visit

Local couple win Ontario’s Young Farmer of the Year Award
New technology in an industry steeped in tradition helped earn the award

By Penny Coles
Reporter from the Niagara Advance

Wes and Briar will represent Ontario
at the National competition being held
in Brandon, Manitoba where
they will compete for the title of
Canada's Outstanding Young Farmer.
A Niagara-on-the-Lake couple have been named Ontario's outstanding young farmers of the year, chosen from a group of six provincial finalists that exemplify and demonstrate innovation and progress in agriculture.

Wes and Briar Wiens, nominated by the Grape Growers of Ontario, attended an awards ceremony held in Ajax recently, where each finalist gave a presentation about their business to the judging committee and about 200 people at the event.

Wiens says he was proud to be nominated for the award—and winning it was a huge honour.

He grew up working in first his grandfather's NOTL vineyards, then alongside his father and uncle. He has done everything from hoeing weeds to helping with the grape harvest, he says. Now he has gone back to the beginning of the grape cycle, grafting and selling grape vines to growers across the country.

About eight years ago he and his wife decided to buy an existing operation, Gemmrich Nursery on Line 5. The previous owner, Martin Gemmrich, stayed on as a mentor for a couple of years, but since then, Wiens has applied his knowledge of modern technology to an industry steeped in tradition.

It's his industry-leading innovations that helped win the award.

"Any business owner that is going to have success has to look at all the tools at your disposal and apply them to their industry. One of those tools is new technology," says Wiens.

The last eight years have been quite a journey, he says, beginning with learning the business. Keeping up with changing government regulations came next, and then the Ontario market took a bit of a nose dive—not just in agriculture but in most industries. That forced him to focus on out-of-province sales, which gave him an opportunity to attract new markets, first in BC, now in the eastern provinces, and to increase his market share to about 60 per cent—all the while using research and technology at their Line 5 nursery to raise the quality of the product.

And it has worked—the nursery grafted more than 1.4 million vines last year, almost doubling the number from 800,000 in 2006.

They also provide services such as potted vines, custom grafting and brokering imported vines.

Wes, 34, and Briar, 33, are proud parents of four aged from just 15 months to eight years old, so Briar's role is of necessity mostly one of support. But although she may not have much free time to spend at the nursery, "we're in this together, whether she's here everyday or not," says Wes.

There is some traveling involved to more established wine regions around the world in the name of research, and fortunately they are able to do most of that together, he says.

Wes and Briar will represent Ontario at the National competition being held in Brandon, Manitoba where they will compete for the title of Canada's Outstanding Young Farmer.

Grape Vine Propagators named as
2011 Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers

released by

“When you do something, you do it to the best of your ability, and whatever is done in the present, will have an effect on the future.” Those words sum up the philosophy of Wes and Briar Wiens, the 2011 Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers. The Wiens', of Gemmrich W. Nursery in Niagara-on-the-Lake received their award at a banquet held in Ajax on Friday March 11. The Wiens' will represent Ontario at the national OYF event to be held later this year in Brandon, MB.

Nominated by the Grape Growers of Ontario, Wes Wiens was born and raised on a grape and tender fruit farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake and learned two important lessons early on in life - that agricultural success is built on innovation and adaptation, and that agricultural survival is attained through commitment and stamina. He feels that “both of these life lessons have helped me become one of Canada’s leading grapevine propagators.”

As one of Canada’s leading propagators, Gemmrich W. Nurseries (, named after Wes’s mentor and former partner, Martin Gemmrich, a 3rd generation propagator of grapevines, has been able to benefit from steady market share gains. Within the last 5 years, the nursery’s production has almost doubled to respond to customer demand.

Commitment to quality supersedes all other aspects of management practices at Wes and Briar’s nursery. They add value to operation by providing services such as producing potted vines, doing custom grafting and brokering for imported vines. They are also affiliated directly with another family operation which provides custom planting, trellising and harvesting services, making them a one-stop operation. In the future they would like to add vineyard GPS mapping, soil sampling, viticultural consulting, missing vine counting and over-grafting to their list of services.

The Wiens' find that keeping up with new developments in the industry is challenging, as there is no educational institution that deals specifically with viticulture propagation. Due to this they and their management team have traveled to more established wine regions around the world in order to learn more about their practices and technological advancements. Wes has also made it a priority to focus their own research and development program and conducts joint research projects with various educational institutions including the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Brock University and Niagara College.

Wes has also been a director for the Grape Growers of Ontario, a member of the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network and the American Society of Enology and Viticulture. The whole family, including their four children, Kaityn (8), Berlin (6), Rowan (4) and Addisyn (1) are heavily involved with their Community Church, and with regional minor hockey and baseball teams.

The Wiens' were chosen from a group of six farmers including Paul and Kelly Brooks (Brooks Farms, Uxbridge), Ed and Julie Danen, (Danzel Holsteins, Shakespeare), Ian and Vicki Mayberry (Mayberry Hill Farms, Ingersoll), Jason Verkaik (Carron Farms, Bradford) and John and Maxine Zekveld (Zekveld’s Garden Market, Wyoming). Market garden farmers, John and Maxine Zekveld from Wyoming received runner-up recognition. For information on all of the finalists, visit the Ontario OYF website at

Winners of the award are chosen based on career progress; environmental and safety practices, crop and livestock production history; financial and management practices and contributions to society. The judges, Jim Glenn (OOYF winner in 1986), Terry Daynard (retired from Ontario Corn Producers and the University of Guelph), and Marlene Werry (Durham Region Economic Development Officer) chose the Wiens' in part due to their industry leading innovations and commitment to their product quality and customer service.

Over 200 people, including the Honourable John Wilkinson, Ontario Minister of the Environment, and Maria Van Bommel, Parliamentary Assistant to the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, were on hand at the awards banquet to celebrate with all of the finalists. For the first time, food items from past OYF winners, and finalists were showcased in the delicious local food menu.

Eadie Steele, Co-chair of the 2011 event noted that “Spending time with such imaginative and successful young farmers reminds us all that farming is a rewarding occupation and we need to keep that in mind more as we deal with our daily challenges. The Ontario finalists showed the diversity of Ontario agriculture too, representing the dairy, horticultural, wine, goat, cropping and agri-tourism sectors.”

Celebrating 31 years of identifying great agricultural successes, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer’s program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year. The program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer CropScience and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and supported nationally by AdFarm and Canadian Farm Business Management Council.

The 2011 Ontario event was sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited, TD Canada Trust, Syngenta, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Better Farming, Ontario Farm Fresh and GROWMARK.

Signs of Spring... or lessons in patience?

Yup, it's March 21. You know what that means... it's officially springtime, right?

We've been eagerly anticipating the sight of a robin or two, scouring the ground for signs of little bits of green starting to pop up and scanning the trees to see if the buds are starting to swell. The feeling of joy when the last of the white patches of snow on the lawn finally disappears. The "official" change of outerwear from a winter coat to a raincoat, winter boots to rubber boots and exchanging mittens, scarf and a winter hat for an umbrella. Mm hmm... spring is on it's way!!

Well, in Niagara Region, March 21 has another significant meaning... if you're a local you know exactly what I mean when I say "the bridges are open" and you get that same sinking feeling that I do when I first hear those words. For those of you who aren't local, let me explain...

"The Welland Canal is one of the world's greatest man made wonders. Although not as well known as the ancient Egyptian pyramids or as famous as its neighbouring natural wonder Niagara Falls, the Welland Canal can be best described as simply amazing.

The Welland Canal is important because of its ability to move ships full of cargo up and down the Niagara Escarpment and therefore contribute to the economic growth and development of Canada and the United States. Approximately 40,000,000 metric tonnes of cargo is carried through the Welland Canal annually by over 3,000 ocean and lake vessels. What makes the Welland Canal fascinating is how it moves these ships up and down the escarpment. The canal utilizes its most abundant resource - water, combined with the Earth's gravity to lift and lower ships in a watertight chamber called a lock. It is an example of brilliant, yet simple innovative engineering.

The transportation of goods is not the Welland Canal's only purpose. The canal's founding father William Hamilton Merritt originally conceived the idea for a canal as a way of providing a consistent source of water for the area's local mills. Today that purpose still holds true with the canal's water being a major resource for industry in Niagara, serving steel mills, ship builders, paper mills and automobile parts manufactures.

The canal also serves the people of Niagara indirectly, by providing water for their everyday use. The canal water is even used to generate electricity at a small local power plant. One of the most overlooked benefits of the Welland Canal is the recreational pleasure it provides to all who visit and use its connecting lakes, waterways and surrounding trails. The canal area is full of activity with people ship gazing, fishing, hiking and boating all summer long."

Ugh... boring!! And, while it may all be true, the Welland Canal is also a source of frustration for many, many drivers. Most of the time, if you want to go somewhere, you know approximately how long it takes to get there and so you leave home to get to where ever you're going. Not so with the Welland Canal in the way. You never know when you'll be "caught at the bridge". So there are now 2 options, you leave, the time you normally would, and just hope the bridge isn't up, or you leave 20 minutes before you have to "just in case" and arrive everywhere early - unless the bridge IS up, then you'll be on-time (or late if there's another boat coming).

Some drivers, instead of just waiting it out, try to "bridge hop" and quickly turn around and speed their way to the next bridge. This method may or may not allow you to cross over quickly because that bridge may also be up. I am not always one of those "bridge hopping" drivers, but that may be because I've often encountered 3 bridges up in a row which means I've not only wasted that time, but also the gas

Yup, the only time this isn't a factor is from December 21 to March 21 when the Welland Canal is closed.