Saturday, October 22, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--October 19, 2016

At last the leaves on the trees are figuring out what I’ve felt in my bones for a few weeks; it is finally fall. 

I love the change in seasons. It doesn’t matter which one it is, I get excited as one season gives way to the next. Maybe it’s the newness of the new or maybe I’m plain tired of the old one. Regardless, I never regret moving on to colder or hotter or wetter tomorrows.

But we also order our days in seasons that have nothing to do with the weather. Our family is in the midst of our fall birthday season. With four kids’ birthdays in as many weeks, I struggle to continue liking cake. It is also school season, which means times tables, poems, and lessons about the fall of Rome fill every spare minute. Thankfully, I have more time to devote to our studies now that the garden season is winding down.

Cooling temperatures seem to mean allergy and cold season for us. This last week we came down with some sort of coughing, sore throat, and stuffy nose sickness. Nobody was too sick-- just sick enough for me to allow a few extra cartoons and fewer chores and grammar lessons.

Unfortunately, our little sick season meant that planned visits with my parents couldn’t happen; since my mother has COPD, our sniffles can easily land her in the hospital. 

We’ve all had to adjust to this new season of Grammy’s severe COPD. Tears of disappointment sometimes accompany these adjustments. It’s a big downer for us when we can’t be with my parents for fear of sickness or when Grammy can’t do what she wants to do because it’s too strenuous. 

But think of those big snows in winter, the ones that cause accidents, halt emergency services, and bring us all to our knees. Isn’t all that devastating snow so beautiful! The whole world, it seems, is cozied up in a fluffy white blanket that muffles all the noisy busyness of our lives.

My mother’s condition is awful, but God still works good through it. My mother may have to limit her activities, but that gives her more time to sit in her chair, a lukewarm mug of coffee in one hand and the telephone in the other, simply listening to her grandchildren.

She listens to them read, complain about their mean mommy, and rattle off their Christmas lists as well as their dreams for the future. Because of COPD, my mother, though far away, is available for her beloved grandchildren-- and they know it. And to be honest, that is more beautiful than the purest of snows, the reddest of autumn leaves, the coolest splash in your favorite swimming hole, or the most playful lamb frolicking around the greenest spring pasture. 

I love all things autumn-- the bushels of apples, the colorful displays of pumpkins and winter squashes, and the smell of all those wonderful fall spices. My husband created this recipe, and I think it is the quintessential fall meal. I like it for the orange colors, the salty sausage, the sweet apples, and those lovely spices baked in a warm oven on a chilly autumn day. My husband likes that it only dirties one pan. The kids just like that it’s yummy.

The measurements on this are approximate. My husband has never measured, but he adds one layer at a time with these proportions, depending on the size of the baking dish. This is so easy to tailor to the taste of you and the crew that you’re feeding, so add your own favorite twists and fall flavors if you wish.

Fall Harvest Supper Bake

In a 9 x 13 casserole dish, layer the following ingredients in the order given:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
4 apples, cored and quartered
1 onion, cut in 1-inch chunks

Sprinkle this with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves, to your taste.

Next, crumble one pound raw bulk sweet Italian sausage over the top, topped by 1/2 stick butter, cut into small cubes. 

Bake, uncovered, in a 350℉ oven until sweet potatoes are almost tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with about 1 cup of Craisins (dried cranberries). Gently stir before returning the pan to the oven to bake until sweet potatoes are soft. Serve with toasted pecans sprinkled on top, if desired.

*This post was shared at Strangers & Pilgrims at Home for The Art of Home-Making Mondays.


  1. I love fall, too. Somehow, I see orange everywhere I go. 😊 The best color ever. And then there's the apples, too. I could eat apples every day already, but they are extra sweet this time of year.

    I'm sorry to hear about your mother's condition. But, I think it's awesome that you're able to find the blessings wrapped up in it. 💜
    Take care, and happy fall!

    1. Apples, apples, apples! We just bought several bushels for cider and sauce. Then we were given a lot, too. Now we have enough sauce and cider, but still more apples! Wish you were close enough to share :)