Saturday, December 27, 2008
Christmas was a day of a lot of driving. My husband was tired from working the all night Christmas Eve-into-Christmas morning shift at the hospital, and so the driving from our house, to the in-laws, to my mother's, and back home again was performed by me. The day after Christmas I refused to get back into a car for any reason. Still, it was an enjoyable day of shared meals and visiting.
I was gifted with the elusive black walnut cracker that we forgot to pick up in Ohio. Watch out walnuts, here we come! The gift to myself was finally catching that mouse that had been wreaking havoc in the kitchen every night, causing me endless amounts of cleaning each day. Having ignored the traps with peanut butter, I finally baited them with bread crumbs which worked instantly. It was so unbelievable to finally catch this thing that my husband asked if I had just managed to grab it with my bare hands and shove it in the trap. That option seemed more likely than catching it in a trap! Unfortunately, I only had one day of rest and then another mouse moved into the former mouse's territory. Back to the drawing board.
We decorate mostly with Christmas cards (because when your house is in renovation mode, decorating of any sort is a non-issue) and among the more memorable cards we received this year was one from my great-aunt Margaret who sent us some pictures of her pet fox.
Pertzel the fox is six years old, and was raised by my aunt and uncle as an orphaned pup. My uncle is really the only one who can touch him- he even gives Pertzel vaccines that he buys from the veterinarian. My aunt says that the fox brings them a lot of joy, but they can't ever go on a vacation. Indeed, who is going to come by and feed the fox? Surely no kennel would board him! Just so you know, I wouldn't try this at home, and don't at all recommend keeping wild animals as pets. Their fox ownership came about through unique circumstances, not to mention an apparent lack of wildlife laws where my aunt and uncle live.
Today I want to get out to the market and restock. Maybe there are still some good deals left, too. We'll see...
In the Kitchen: Restocking mostly. The cupboards aren't bare, but the refrigerator nearly is. Today I want to get out to the market and see if there are any good deals left.
On the Table: Yesterday was just leftovers and sandwiches. Cookies, leftover trifle, and a bowl of popcorn for a snack. Today I'd like to do some baked fish with ginger broccoli and rice. I'll see what's fresh at the market as far as fish.
Around the House: Did I tell you what happened with the wood stove? This important part called a "baffle" was slightly damaged (by accident) while the stove was being set into place. My husband called about a new one and they said they could send us one in twelve weeks or something ridiculous. Just awful. All that work putting it in, and our wood pile is healthy and ready to go, and now we have to wait for this part.
On the Nightstand: Emma: A Widow Among the Amish, by Ervin R. Stutzman. A true story.
Friday, December 19, 2008
It was the late afternoon of Christmas Eve, and the sky was low and grey with an occasional snow flurry in the air. The dresses in that community were the color of the winter landscape in
A few sparse decorations marked the time of year, a small shelf of cards, a candle on the table. It was the smell of toasted nuts and cinnamon and ginger that made this day feel like the Season. That, and the anticipation of familiar visitors.
As the sky darkened, a black van arrived to carry off the hired girls. Supper preparations were under way, and extra food would be made for visitors who wished to stop by. Festive jello salads and breads and pickles and pie. Uncle Eli would stop his work and wander over to the window about every half hour, seemingly searching the sky. I joked that he was looking for Santa, as some of the children were indulged in that myth. It was then he confessed that he was looking for the North Star, and I understood because my whole life I too had looked skyward for that special star on Christmas Eve. It was then he told (or retold) us the story of how when he was a boy, he and some other boys got it in their head one Christmas to follow the Star ala the Three Wise Men. After all, it had worked so well for them!
This was back in the 1930’s, Eli, two of his brothers, a neighbor boy, and a cousin set off in early evening when there was still a hint of light thinking that they would probably make it to Bethlehem in about six hours. Of course, when the boys disappeared this caused a huge worry that extended for miles as word got around, and soon, family, friends and neighbors were searching on foot and by horseback for the “five kings.”
A man in a car drove by, and soon he was searching, too. Meanwhile, the young not-so-wise men managed to cross two swamps, climb six fences, and eat their entire night’s worth of provisions (cookies and pop corn) in the span of a couple hours. The conversation reportedly centered on how much the land, no matter how far they traveled, continued to resemble
Eventually, the boys were found, cold, hungry. A couple of men standing outside at a family Christmas celebration saw this bedraggled band of Amish boys meandering down a dirt road and decided to ask questions. Raising a lantern, a man addressed Eli as he was the oldest. Their muddy clothes must have been a given that something was amiss.
“You boys look worn. Would you like to come inside and rest by the fire?”
“No Sir,” replied Eli. “We’ll be traveling on.”
Eli and his troop had managed a little over three miles in a north-easterly direction, and not nearly as
Many years later on the day my great-uncle Eli (Hostetler) Yoder was laid to rest, four elder men in their good Mutze jackets and hats huddled together in solace and shared memory.
“He finally traveled on,” I overheard one say. “Without us.”
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
But then, when someone whose beliefs are close to mine (I think) recommended the book, I dug in to see what the fuss was about. Plus, it's a memoir, and I enjoy those.
It was difficult (though not impossible) to put the book down, as it initially felt like it was all going to lead up to a great revelation in Donald Miller's walk with Jesus, one that would drastically change his views and motivate him to enlighten the masses through his writing ability. But that never seemed to happen. It was disappointing when he would suddenly take a sharp turn and spend a page mooning over a girl he likes (and he likes a lot of girls.) In fact, Miller talks about things he likes and doesn't like a lot. He is most deeply critical of other Christians. He also makes the occasional shallow comment that is disjointing, and takes away credibility from his more thought-provoking insights.
Still, Miller did have some good observations about contemporary culture that carry some weight, like how people tend to idolize and even emulate people without having any idea what these individuals believe. And how mainstream evangelicals have come to define themselves almost solely by their politics. No argument there.
I was hoping he would mention Anabaptists and how we might fit into the picture, but he didn't mention us except for his thought that a friend might have become Amish because he was courting instead of dating. Sigh.
Finally, there was one paragraph that I gave a hearty amen to, and that was where a friend was telling Miller about the new "postmodern church" that will be "relevant" to people, to which Miller replies that only a church that believes in Jesus and the power of his Gospel can be a relevant church. Without that, a church with fancy web pages and modern music is just a tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing. Right on.
But by the time I had finished the book, I was acutely aware that this was the most postmodern commentary on Christianity that I may ever read. And the church Miller now attends has rock bands and very fancy web pages, and also strives to be "relevant."
I'd like Miller to write a sequel to this book in twenty years because his thoughts as a mature Christian might be a interesting contrast to the identity-crisis in Christ that he described in Blue Like Jazz.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Okay, this bottle comes from the very private vanilla reserve of Bob at Small Kitchen Cooking, but the great news is that you can make your own private reserve too. He has a great tutorial on his blog about it, and there is also one by Heather over here. It looks so easy that it makes me wonder how we ever got to the point of buying vanilla extract at the store. This one from Bob is made with rum, making it somewhat sweet and pungent. I can't wait to use it- no extract needed!
Since elderberries are somewhat scarce, I hold on to this homemade jelly with plans to use it in my Christmas trifle.
Gingerbread People and other fun cut-outs
Last year I made these Gingerbread Folk from a recipe on the Simple Folk blog. Let me say, I consider this to be the absolute best gingerbread cookie recipe. We usually decorate ours plainly with raisins, but you could really get very creative with these.
Okay, I haven't made fudge in forever. But this is a great time of year to do it because evaporated milk is on sale everywhere, and it makes a nice little gift, all wrapped in wax paper and boxed with a bow. I have a recipe for a honey-nut fudge that I'd like to try.
As a side note, the experts say this is a good time of year to buy new baking powder, since it loses it's potency with time. You can test yours by pouring 1/3 cup of hot tap water over 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder in a cup. It should bubble up like a mini hurricane. Mine failed the test...and I'm terrified to proof anything else around here.
The last thing I was saving for Christmas baking were those black walnuts I harvested from the back yard and hung up to cure. They haven't been cracked yet and there' s a little bit of a funny story there. It seems that we were planning on picking up one of those specialized black walnut crackers when we took our jaunt out to Ohio, and somehow came home without one. We couldn't believe it! So, that's still a project on hold for now. But those nuts are ready and waiting.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My husband has been off from work for the past couple weeks working on the inside, and the house is more of a mess than ever before. Dust hangs so thick in the air that I sneeze even more than normal and my nose constantly runs, crippling me while I am in battle against a certain trap-savvy mouse. The kitchen and everything in it has to be cleaned before I can even start cooking, and everything takes so much more effort. The cleaning schedule is way off- there was a power outage last weekend and a mishap with our fuel tank the weekend before. How often do you hear of someone having a mishap with their fuel oil tank? I am patiently waiting for the day when I can laugh at this. Yesterday, my friend asked me, "Can I come stay at your house?"
Absolutely, I told them. Just bring a 3-season tent, and anything else you might bring on an outdoor survivalist mission.
That is what the never ending task of renovating an old house (while you are also living in it) feels like: a survivalist mission. Or at least it does for me, but perhaps some people are calibrated to handle dirty, chaotic living conditions where important things go missing or are randomly destroyed all the time with greater grace than I. Most men, for example. I have long chewed on the theory that men don't care where they live. They would gladly pitch a tent in an open field and claim it as home, if they could. It's why bachelor's quarters are infamous for all the wrong things, like horribly mismatched furniture and strange lighting. In college, a friend of mine lived in a riverfront town where recreational boating was extremely popular. There was a man who lived on his small recreational watercraft year round, anchored out in the middle of the river. In the winter, the guy just threw a cover over it and kept right on living. It was pretty amazing. He was not homeless either, he had a house and a wife. Obviously, there was a bigger story, but you get my point.
In the Kitchen: Thinking about staying warm and dry (it is wet here) with lots of comfort food, and stocking up on baking essentials. Christmas baking is something I can really get excited about, and I have a post on that coming up soon. Also, next week I was thinking about making some macaroni and cheese, which I love but never ever ever make. There is this recipe that calls for using cottage cheese (in addition to cheddar) and I am wondering whether to be daring and try that. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
Around the Home: It's not inspiring at all, so lets skip this.
On the Nightstand: "Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality" by Donald Miller. For all of the buzz this book has gotten, I was hoping for something a little more profound. It is a memoir though, so it's really about Miller's unique journey. Still, it's engrossing and hard to put down, and that is saying a lot these days since I no longer finish about half of the books I start.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday: Pan fried pollock with butternut squash, wild rice, and salad.
Tuesday: Roast Chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, chow chow, and noodles.
Wednesday: Crock pot sausage with sauerkraut and peppers.
Thursday: leftovers, and there's some broccoli in the freezer that I need to do something with...
Saturday: Corn chowder with grilled cheese
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Step 1: Ready your unbaked pie crust.
I'm not going to go into pie crusts here. There are so many different schools of thought on pie crusts that it could be a whole post in itself. Suffice to say, just get one together. For this pie, I am using one of the pie crusts that I have frozen and pre-stacked in my freezer so I can make a pie in a hurry.
Step 2: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Step 3: In a medium sized bowl, put:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T butter, shortening, or margarine (I prefer butter.)
Cut these together with a pastry blender. If you do not have a pastry blender, I have found that crumbling them with your hands works just as well. You are making a nice crumb topping with this.
Combine the following in a mixing bowl:
1 cup molasses (or corn syrup, or sorghum.)
1 egg slightly beaten
3/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon of baking soda diluted in 1/4 cup hot water
I use a combination of 1/2 molasses and 1/2 sorghum, or sometimes just the sorghum. Some people use dark corn syrup instead of either of those options. They all taste delicious, so use whatever is convenient for you.
Add half of your crumb mixture to the contents in the mixing bowl and mix again.
Pour the contents into your unbaked pie shell. Since this is liquid, it may help if you put your pie on a cookie sheet to reduce spillage.
Finally, take the remainder of your crumbs and sprinkle them on top of your pie to cover. Bake for 35 minutes.
Let the pie cool before serving. Some people like to eat it a little warm with whipped topping.
Any questions? I offer pie support- just ask me if you need help.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Okay, first of all I have the pictures for my shoo-fly tutorial ready to load, I just need to write the instructions, but look for it this weekend.
With my husband off from work, I have been spending more time with him and have had less time to squeeze in my regular posting. For instance, yesterday we went out to Cabela’s, the huge hunting/fishing/camping store so he could look for new work boots. If you have never been to a Cabela’s store before, it really is quite something. Taxidermy everywhere, a fresh water aquarium, and even a restaurant. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an outdoorsy person. Camping strikes me as an unnecessary hardship. Cabela’s was filled with items that could prepare me for an experience I don’t necessarily want and hope to never have. I am probably in the minority on this, but then again, I have lots of unpopular ideas.
For instance, I would not at all be opposed if perfume-wearing was banned in public places. Now don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate many smells; our home contains a few scented candles, and fruity soaps and lotions inhabit my cabinets. But when working with the public you come across many people who embrace the “more is better” philosophy when it comes to applying cologne, without regard to those of us who will be sent into a succession of sneezing fits, followed by an itchy throat, and ultimately manifesting in swollen red eyes, and a nose that won’t stop running. I loathe shaking hands with these people, and am terrified when they reach out to hug me. This would be a terribly unpopular idea, and I know this because I also would have also been in favor of banning cell phones in certain places and we all know how that went.
They say there is no love like a mother’s love, but as the years go by I tend to disagree. There are an abundance of cases where the true love that cannot be equaled is that of a grandmother. Maybe it is because they have fewer of those moments of child training challenges than parents do, and get to enjoy more leisure time with them, but most grandparents really really REALLY love their grandchildren. This is a concept that would be unpopular with parents, but more popular with their parents.
I also have a vastly unpopular and oft-challenged belief that it can be as much of a blessing to be an only child as it can be to have one sibling, ten, or twenty.
But like I said, I have lots of unpopular ideas.
To Do this weekend:
Hem a dress
Clean the bathroom
Fill the bird feeders
Saturday, November 29, 2008
You are getting a glimpse of what constitutes my windowsill herb garden. Just a couple kinds of parsley, chives, and green onions. Remember a while back on my old blog, that I mentioned reading that you can plant green onions (scallions as we call 'em) from the grocery store in a pot to keep them growing? You just snip off the green part when you need it and keep them watered. It's true, they do keep growing and now I can't remember when I last had to buy them. What a great tip that was. Anyway, we don't have any proper windowsills yet, so these just sit on a shelf by the kitchen window. Nothing fancy, but they are a help in the kitchen. I despised buying those big bundles of herbs they sell at the store and only using a few tablespoons for soup or something, and then having to throw the rest away. This is a money saver and reminds me of summer, too.
A seed catalog came in the mail the other day, already. Yes, I'm scheming.
I really want to thank all the readers of this blog who followed me over her from HSB. It's so nice to be able to share things with friends, and I consider you all friends.
On the Table: Aren't we all still eating some leftovers? Tonight I'll supplement them with a spinach and artichoke dip and some veggie quesadillas.
In the Kitchen: I used to have this great cinnamon-y granola recipe that has gotten lost somewhere. Last night I tried a new recipe from one of my cookbooks and it did not turn out very well. Edible and snackable, but not delicious. I have a feeling that at 350 the heat was too high for one, and that I should have used two pans to spread the granola out instead of just one pan.
Around the Home: Slowly accumulating items for Christmas, and on the lookout for ideas. Bless the person who flat out tells me what they would like me to make them for Christmas. Also it's a great day to try and clean the house since my husband has taken the dogs with him to haul some wood out of his family's wood lot, meaning the house is empty except for me.
Follow up: Thanks to those who weighed in about whether to wrap our nephew's birthday gift on the occasion of him turning One. I just smacked a bow on it and some ribbon, and wouldn't you know his 2 and 1/2 y-o sister immediately took possession of the toy anyway.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Although I believe we need to remember to be thankful every day and not just on one designated day of the year, the holiday offers a unique time for reflection on the abundant blessings in our lives. First, and most importantly, it has been a relatively healthy year for my family and friends. Good health is always the greatest consideration in both my praise and prayers.
This year I am grateful for the canned goods that line our bookshelves (or sit on the floor, or are stuffed into any old corner where there is space) and am grateful that our garden did well enough to make those jars possible. It's with an equally grateful feeling to see all the vegetables in our freezer. As most of my readers know, we have a small house and not much space. No basement, no pantry, barely a closet. Construction supplies and tools take up our largest room. But the relatively small amount of food we are able to store will amount to a significant savings in the coming months. And not just in terms of money, but time too.
We are abundantly thankful for the progress we have made on our home during the warmer months. The addition of a back door, outside lighting, new front step, and bedroom are appreciated all the more since we spent over a year using the front door for everything, fumbling around outside in the dark with lanterns, and sleeping in the living room.
There are too many loved ones to name for whom we are thankful for every day. Truly, this life would not be worth living if we were all alone.
I'm even grateful when bills come in the mail. I can remember when bills would come and I could not pay them. Today, it is possible and for that I am extremely thankful. It is also possible to give to others in charity, and we are privileged to do so.
As we enjoy our meals and family gathering tomorrow, let us not lose sight of the source of all blessings.
Monday, November 24, 2008
This is the Pumpkin Cream Trifle I made for a fellowship meal at church. It's cubes of pumpkin spice cake layered between a fluffy whipped cheesecake filling and layers of toasted pecans and toffee bits. It was very easy to make and feeds quite a crowd.
Now, once I get the apple pie made for Thursday it will finally feel like things are getting done!
In other news, I'm a bit late in acknowledging this award given to me by Linda at Remote Treechanger:It is the Marie Antoinette ~ A Real Person Award.
The rules for this award are to display the icon and pass it along to 7 other bloggers I feel are real in who they are. If you read this, consider yourself tagged as my readers are all genuine in who they are!
In celebration of my award, here are a couple of genuine thoughts:
On the home improvement front, late in the afternoon I was standing on a step stool trying to scrape off those stickers that come on new windows. You know, the kind that say things like "Lifetime warranty" and "argon filled", whatever that means. I don't know whether the stool lost footing or whether I did, but the next thing you know I was sprawled out on the floor on top of a crushed card table. Just a few bumps and bruises, nothing serious. It made me wonder why window companies take perfectly new windows with pristine glass, and then plaster impossible-to- remove stickers all over them.
This afternoon I perused the toy section of a store to shop for a needy child. Every year the library sets up a "wish tree" with gift tags that have a child's name, gender, age, and clothing size so that those who want to help can purchase a gift or two for them. My child is a 4.5 y-o girl. First, I'll say it's very tricky to buy a gift for a child you don't know, and without any parental guidance. And then once you see what's out there for little girls to play with...well, it gets worse! There is oodles and oodles of princess stuff, and something called "puppy divas" where puppy toys are dressed up like princesses, and then a mini spa kit designed for the age 3 and up crowd so they can pretend they are at a spa! It appears an entire generation of princesses are gearing up early for life in the royal household. How interesting. How disingenuous. I selected some Leggo's and a shirt.
Monday, November 17, 2008
There are a few days over the next six weeks where I consciously plan to devote entire days to sewing of some sort, whether it be for home or clothing. It gives me a great feeling of relief and satisfaction when I finish making a new dress or useful item for around the home. Now, I will say that I think that in order to be the type of person who makes most of what you wear, that you need to be a high-control type of person who values personal choice on some level. After all, how your garment will look, fit, and feel is all up to you. You choose everything from the type of fabric to the hem length, so it helps if you have decisive ideas on what is comfortable and modest for your body. And at the end of the day, comfort and fit are two things that I really value, as well as a love for fabric. Even if you belong to a church with highly specific standards on what to wear, the feel and ease of your dress (and fabric) is still up to you.
Working in an environment with a diverse group of women, the complaint of how ready-made clothing (often manufactured overseas) fit is a prominent one that I hear. Sleeves are always too long, pants always need to be hemmed, and I do feel badly for any woman who has to shop for blue jeans as the range of fit options that are available seem to stifle many women into multi-day dressing room odysseys. Ha! Even if I wasn't a skirts-only Mennonite lady, I'd still say you can have it! A woman who worked in the garment industry once told me that many clothing manufacturers use fit models from the country where the actual items are made. Then, they are sized-up accordingly. That means a tiny woman in a foreign country may be the "base" body that your clothing is meant to dress. No wonder so many women have a hard time finding something flattering to wear. Many women have approached me and asked me to sew for them. "I can never find long skirts in stores," is one complaint I hear often. Alas, there is barely time for me to get my own sewing done let alone start a side business! But I sympathize.
In order to sew your own clothes, I think you also need a sense of individual perseverance. You like to build things from the ground up, and are committed to finishing what you start. No one is perfect, and we all have projects we would like to work on if only there were more time to work on them, but you do need to have the discipline to get things done. For example, you can't start planning the next sewing project when the first one is still cut out and waiting.
Also, it can and does get frustrating. I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that I like sewing!
But, at the end of the day, I sew my own clothes mostly because I am a control freak and am fairly convinced that no one else can do it better. At least, not for what I am willing to pay which brings me to another point. Making your own clothes, even if it is just a few items a year, is economical. I spend so little money on my own personal clothing it's ridiculous. But it allows me to have money to spend on things to wear that really matter to me, like good quality long-lasting shoes and warm winter coats. And it's not only a penny saver but it can be a time saver, as well. There is very little time spent driving from store to store, looking a racks, rearranging my schedule to get to a sale, or sifting through trendy items.
Now, I'll tell you what surprises me. Why more women don't sew more of their own clothing.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Isn't that the easiest thing ever? Of course, I still plan to read all of the blogs I kept up with on HB and will still check my pm's there. As you can see, I am just getting started here and have not added much content yet, but will post a new profile photo and some other decorative touches soon.
You may remember some time ago that I purchased some old feed sack cloth at the outdoor market in Kutztown. Here is my first project from that batch of fabric, a cover for my stand mixer:
It's a bit imperfect as I had to create a pattern by modifying one for a bread maker cover. Also, that binding was a bit difficult to put on when it is covering a 3-layer sandwich of fabric. But hopefully it will serve it's purpose and keep dirt and construction debris out of my mixer bowl! Now I know that I'd like to take the rest of the material and make a few more appliance covers and some coordinating things for the kitchen.
Elsewhere in the kitchen, our trap-savvy mouse has been impossible to catch and is continuing to wreak havoc during the night. It made its way to the utensil drawer one night and began to tear apart a pastry brush. Yuck! After coming home from a church meeting last night I had to clean out the drawer and run everything through the dishwasher. Just how I wanted to spend the evening. My husband is talking about resorting to poison.
On the Table: Pumpkin pancakes, pizza casserole, spinach (truly the last of the garden?) and salmon. Also, pear pie.
Around the Home: My home is a mess and needs to be cleaned so badly, but already more and more things seem to be popping up every weekend to keep us occupied. It is one reason I truly dread the impending season, as us task-oriented non-social types secretly wonder why a work frolic doesn't count as a holiday get-together. This weekend I would just like to squeeze in a good dusting, but for now it is off to the store and then laundry before preparing supper.
Just Wondering: Would it be okay not to wrap my one-year old nephew's birthday gift, or maybe just put a big bow on it? Or is that just something you have to do and cannot get away with?
Friday, November 7, 2008
Anyway, after a fitful night's sleep on the hardest mattress mankind ever created, we drove west to Wayne Co. past the wood furniture stores and cheese shops. My husband dropped me off here to have a look around while he drove elsewhere to pick up the stove:
Now, I've seen their catalog of course, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer vastness of the actual Lehman's hardware store. It was an endless maze of of anything you could possibly imagine, and some things I would have never imagined such as a corner filled with Swiss cow bells, an enormous wall filled with every imaginable shape of cookie cutters, and a room filled with every type of laundry equipment imaginable. By the time my husband came back to Lehman's and found me, I was hauling a cart filled with kitchen items, books, and a pressure canner that was on sale. Their book selection was phenomenal- I really had to exercise some restraint there.
There were many items that I would not have bought there only because I have seen them for far cheaper at Target and other places, but there were also a few items that I thought were very good deals.
We had to leave by noon in order to get on the road, but we took a quick peak across the road at the Kidron auction/flea market before leaving.
Even though I knew this would be a quick trip, I was still a bit melancholy that we couldn't stay longer and visit some more places, make some acquaintances, and attend church, but perhaps next time.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thank you to everyone who took the time to express interest in a list of Amish books. I never get tired of recommending good books, and in this case, I love to recommend books that are authentic and are more reflective of Amish reading habits rather than the current crop of popular light romance books that take place in an Amish setting. While Amish women do read many of the same Christian fiction books that you do (they get borrowed from their local bookmobile or library), I wanted to show my readers what books you might actually find on bookshelves in Amish homes. This list is by no means complete, but is a good place to start if you are interested in real Amish literature.
So without further delay, here are some of my recommendations:
New Updates for Winter 2011
Author Harvey Yoder wrote "God Knows My Size" about a young woman named Sylvia and her Christian journey. Sylvia herself follows up on this popular book with "God Knows My Path" by Sylvia Tarniceriu
Also by Harvey Yoder, "Elena" and there will be two new books out in 2011 by the talented Mr. Yoder.
"Out of Deception" by Nathan Miller. This is the true story of a cult that swept through an Amish community in northern Indiana. It is very popular right now.
Dale Cramer, author of Levi's Will has a new book, called "Paradise Valley". This is fiction based on a true story. Cramer uses his grandfather's memories to piece together an Amish defection to Mexico in 1921.
"Out of the Thorn" & "Blossoming Thorns" by Ethel Hostetler
"Journey of Hope" by John Hochstetler (stories of adoption among Amish)
"The Odyssey of A Heart" by Mervin Wagler (leaving the Amish and then returning)
Some Amish Classics...or otherwise widely read
Tobias of the Amish and it s sequel Emma: A Widow Among the Amish by Ervin R. Stutzman (true stories)
Anything by author Jerry S. Eicher, such as Sarah, Rebecca's Promise, etc. (novels)
Finding the Way, by Barbara Yoder
Eyes at the Window, by Evie Yoder Miller (fiction based on a true event)
Growing Up in an Amish Jewish Cult series by Patricia Hochstetler (a much talked about book series in some Amish communities when it was first published.)
Rosanna of the Amish, by Joseph W. Yoder (Who also wrote Fixing Tradition.)
Amish Soul on Ice by John M. Keim (autobiography)
Just Plain People: Tails and Truths of Amish Life, by Eli R. Beachy (If I recall, this author got in trouble for writing a little too much of the truth...)
House Calls and Hitching Posts by Dorcas Sharp Hoover. (true) And you might also like Dr. Frau: A Woman Doctor Among the Amish by Grace H. Kaiser
Levi's Will, by W. Dale Cramer (fiction with some events based on the author's family.)
The Unwanted Son and The Forsaken Child, both by Benuel M. Fisher
Margaret's Print Shop by Elwood E. Yoder (historical novel)
The Mist Will Lift by Ruth Sauder (Old Order Mennonite novel)
Nobody's Kate by Carol Duerkesen and Maynard Knepp (novel)
No Strange Fire by Ted Wojtasik (novel based on true event)
Trials and Triumphs by Barbara Chupp (true story of a woman left alone to raiser her family.)
Sunshine and Shadow: Our Seven Years in Honduras by Joseph Stoll (about an attempt to start an Amish community in Honduras). Also, Jerry Eicher's A Time to Live.
Choice Stories for the Family (formerly titled Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle) (Stories and poems for families, lessons teaching obedience, kindness, and affection to brothers and sisters.)
Shelter Me Safe, by Sheryle Lehman (a young girl's journey of faith through difficult times...based on true events.)
Home Life on the Prairie, by Susan Hochstetler (An account of an Amish family's move from a community in Montana to Oklahoma in 1985)
The Cost of the Crown by Claudia Esh (novel taking place during the Reformation)
Increase my Faith by Maureen Huber (Faith building stories for all ages)
Ben's Wayne by Levi Miller
The Midnight Test by Elmo Stoll (adventures of Amish Youth)
Dr. Frau: A Woman Doctor Among the Amish by Grace Kaiser
A Separate God: Journal of an Amish Girl by Lucinda Streiker-Schmidt (Book by a former Amish woman)
If you have a difficult time finding any of these books or would like more information on any of the titles, just contact me and I will try to help.
Plainly speaking, if you are used to reading the Beverly Lewis type-Amish fiction, many of these books may bore you, or you just might not find them as interesting. Books that are written by plain people for plain people usually contain extensive family connections and historical events that have meaning to few people outside Amish circles. If you read this list and still can't find anything that peaks your interest, I'd encourage you to check out anything by Carrie Bender, such as the Miriam's Journal series. If you like Carrie's books you might also like books by Mary Christner Borntrager such as Ellie or Rebecca or Rachel (and so many others.) And don't miss the Buggy Spoke series by Linda Byler.
Another favorite, which takes place in an Old Order Mennonite setting, is the Nancy Martin series by Mrs. Cleon Martin. The first book in that series is called The Pineapple Quilt and it will remain a personal favorite, forever.
Also, as research for writing her book Plain Truth, Jodi Picoult lived with an Amish family and I think it shows in the details of her story. There is also a new author, Cindy Woodsmall, who wrote a trilogy called Sisters of the Quilt. As an outsider who writes about Amish and Mennonites, she also seems to do a better than average job, likely because she consults with Amish and Mennonite people for factual content when writing her stories.
Amish everywhere were deeply interested in the awful event that occurred in Lancaster in October 2006. Many Amish readers turned to the following books for information and comfort:
Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Redeemed a Tragedy, by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver Zercher.
The Happening: Nickel Mines School Tragedy by Harvey Yoder.
Think No Evil: Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting...and Beyond by Jonas Beiler & Shawn Smucker
Forgiveness: A Legacy of the West Nickel Mines Amish School by John L. Ruth
Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) is a top-rated relief agency with world wide mission projects that are largely supported by Amish and other plain people. They have also carved out a unique publishing niche for themselves, publishing and distributing books that focus on the missional endeavors of plain people. Some current favorites include The Long Road Home by Pablo Yoder, Miss Nancy by Harvey Yoder, and In Search of Home, also by Harvey Yoder.
Books for Children (Young Readers)
The Bishop's Shadow, by I.T. Thurston
Bridges Beyond, by Ruth K. Hobbs
Calls to Courage by Tim Kennedy
Katie and the neighbors by Della Oberholtzer
Doors to Discovery by Ruth Hobbs
Fountain of Life and A Horse Called Willing by Rebecca Martin
A Greater Call by Harvey Yoder
The Little Woodchopper by Mary M. Sherwood
Special Friends at Home by Sara J. Yoder
Sunshine Through the Storm by Rhoda Bontrager
Surprise in a Boot by Janet Martin Sensenig
Eli and the Purple Martins by Levi Overholtzer
Be Still My Soul by Sarah Zimmerman
Youth and Young Adults
The Nancy Martin Series by Rebecca Martin (Pathway Publishers)
The Unwanted Son by Benuel Fisher
Pepper in Her Pie, Singing Mountains, and The Buttercup Tree by Mrs. Cleon martin
Rita Comes Home by Audrey Siegrist (16 year old Dorcas faces trials when her family takes in her cousin)
***Some great comments on this post. I wish they would have transferred from my old site!***
Monday, September 15, 2008
You need to get the husk off, and the fastest and easiest way to do that is to run over them with your car. I know that sounds funny, but it seems to be the universally accepted way to do this. It helps if you have a gravel driveway, like we do, or else the walnuts can shoot out from under your tires and take out a window or an onlooker's eye or something.
Next, put on the gloves and peel off that husk. There is a juicy brown liquid inside of the husk which will stain your hands and clothing, so you have to wear something you absolutely don't care about. Then you discard the husks in the trash as they can't be composted.
Then, you set them in the sun to dry. This is a very important step, as failure to dry the nuts will result in a moldy mess.
When they're dry, you can bring them inside, place them in a net, and let them cure for a few weeks in a cool, dark place. Once the nuts are cured, you can crack them and extract the meat. If you sell the meat directly, like at a farmer's market, you can make a nice profit on the side. But our black walnut meat is just for our baking pleasure.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Does your child have trouble with math? I mean, very basic math?
And, you know there is nothing wrong because your child has trouble mainly with just this one subject? Your child might be five, fifteen, or twenty-five, and just doesn't get basic math concepts. They have difficulty telling time, counting money, figuring out multiplication tables, and you can just forget algebra. They can't understand written directions, read maps, and often can't recall the steps of how to do something just minutes after you have show them.
In fact, their short term memory in general is pretty bad.
You can't figure it out. Your child is not "dumb". In fact, they are ahead of everyone else in language arts. They actually achieve high scores in most things...just not math. Maybe they need to apply themselves more? Maybe they're just not paying attention?
Maybe this doesn't describe your child, but it describes YOU.
I need to tell you that your child may have an insidious learning disability that is actually more common than Dyslexia. It is insidious because it affects their ability to visually process numbers only, so your child excels in most other subjects, causing frustration and wonder. Your child's IQ is actually normal or higher. They are likely creative, poetic, and good with second languages.
They may have Dyscalculia, a learning disability that affects the visual processing of numbers and is recognized in the DSM-IV manual as the numerical cousin of Dyslexia, but Dyscalculia has not received nearly the same amount of attention and publicity.
4-6% of the world's population has Dyscalulia. Scientists are only now learning to effectively identify this learning disability.
They know it is likely caused by a malformation in the parietal lobes of the cerebral cortex. In other words, unless you have suffered head trauma, you are simply born this way.
As a Dyscalculic, I am deeply anguished when I meet teachers who are completely unaware that this learning disability exists. No one should have to spend years and years as I did, feeling stupid, until one day, well into college, a math professor expressed that a numerical learning disability might be a factor. If you think that anything I said here applies to one of your children or to yourself, then please take a moment to explore some of these links and educate yourself about Dyscalculia. The more you know, the better you can find learning startegies that will help your child.
One minute video about Dyscalculia:
How a Dyscalculic sees numbers:
I believe homeschooling in particular offers a unique advantage in identifying and working with learning disabilities. All that is needed is an awareness.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
We have come to recognize our favorite crafts people who sell their wares, and our favorite destinations at the fair, such as the farmer's market and the antique market. My husband likes the old steam engines and farm machinery, while I like to shop the antique linens and try to catch snippets of people speaking the PA dutch language (which I understand far better than actually speak, nowadays).
It is always a very hot day, and a good excuse to drink all of the homemade root beer, birch beer, and lemonade that is available.
I always enjoy the petting zoo...
This llama didn't care for me too much.
At the antique market, my husband found an old carpentry book that he will actually use, and I found some old feed sack cloth.
These were too pretty to have once held chicken feed! I don't have any specific plans for them yet, but I know they will become something special. Seeing how cute the patterns are, it doesn't make you feel bad for people who complained that their mother made clothing from it.
On the Table: Delicious food from the fair: Lebanon bologna, swiss cheese, pickled cabbage, chow chow, kettle corn, and fudge.
In the Garden: We picked our first green bell pepper over the weekend, and put in some mature cayenne pepper plants. Also, some silver queen corn seedlings as an experiment. We are fast running out of space in the garden plot, so we may be container gardening from here on out. My front porch is littered with peppers in pots, cucumbers, and even one last tomato plant.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
"What was that?" I asked.
"Well, I got a $500 royalty check that I wasn't expecting!"
Although we didn't usually close over lunch hour, she said, "I'll go on up to the cafe and order us a shrimp dinner, and then you can come up to the cafe and take time to eat a shrimp dinner with me." So I did.
Isn't it befitting that among Laura's many friends, she counted the local librarian? Laura loved to read and learn, and it showed. The book shelves in her Ozark home were filled, the same for Ma and Pa Ingalls' home in DeSmet. Laura would donate her own used books to the library. According to the librarian, they were mostly fiction, mysteries, westerns, "and some bird books."
Of westerns she preferred Luke Shot and Zane Grey. She said the small paperbacks were easy to hold, and she enjoyed them.
Once in a while, someone will tell me how much they enjoyed the frontier stories of Laura's childhood, and that they wish for "Little House" that they can enjoy as adults. The good news is that there are many wonderful books that capture the time, place, and spirit of Laura. I wanted to share my compiled reading list of books that you might also like, now that you're a grown up!
The Children's Blizzard, by David Laskin (A true account of a blizzard in 1888 that ripped across the Great Plains- very good!)
A Lantern in Her Hand, by Bess Streeter Aldrich (Wonderful novel of faith and frontier life.)
The Thread that Runs So True, by Jesse Stuart
The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig
High, Wide and Lonesome, by Hal Borland
"Little Britches", "The Man of the Family", and "The Home Ranch", all by Ralph Moody
"The Emigrant" series by Vilhelm Moberg
The Backwoods of Canada, by Catherine Parr Traill
Mrs. Mike, by Benedict Freeman
Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness by Anne Purdy, as told to Robert Specht
The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, by Jane Smiley.
Letters from Yellowstone, by Diane Smith.
Mountains Ahead, by Martha Ferguson McKeown
Come Spring, by Charlotte Hinger
The Wedding Dress, by Carrie Young
Letters of a Woman Homesteader, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (true!)
These is My Words, by Nancy Turner
The Journals of Corrie Belle Hollister (series) by Michael Phillips
The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas
The Change and Cherish Historical Series, by Jane Kirkpatrick.
Winter Wheat, by Mildred Walker
Let the Hurricane Roar, by Rose Wilder Lane (Don't miss Rose's interpretation of her parent's pioneering!)
A Sudden Country, by Karen Fisher
And if you still can't get enough of Laura, don't forget to read:
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks, by Stephen W. Hines.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, William Anderson, and Leslie A. Kelly (Beautifully done, full of Laura's authentic recipes.)
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Fairy Poems (Did you know Laura wrote poetry?)
Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend, John E. Miller (Brace yourself and ask, just how much do you want to know about the real Laura?)
Feel free to make more recommendations if you have enjoyed reading similar books! And thanks again for joining me on a pioneer journey.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Oh? What special exhibit?
It was called "From Shawls and Rings to Apron Strings" and was an exhibit of the belongings of the women in the Ingalls and Wilder families. Many of the items were on display for the first time, and as of the following day, all the items would all be returned to the special archives where they are stored.
We couldn't believe it. The guide handed us a list of the hundreds of items on display, including Ma's dishes, Laura's sewing kit, the Ingalls family lap desk, quilts, linens, jewelry, dresses, and even items belonging to Eliza Jane Wilder. It was a true peek into the attic of the Ingalls family! There was also a lot of personal letters and autograph books on display, and even a page from Grace's diary. I really enjoyed reading some of the letters Laura wrote to her sisters. In one, a letter to Carrie, Laura confessed that she suspected the postal clerk was reading her mail! Yet, she had something important and private to tell her sister so she "wrote" the message in braille. It had never occurred to me that the Ingalls sisters learned braille to better communicate with Mary, but it seems they had.
Our final stop of the day, on our way out of South Dakota, was to pay our respects to the Ingalls family at the De Smet cemetery. There, Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, Grace (and husband) and Laura and Almanzo's "Baby son Wilder" are resting on the quiet hill top grounds. It's a cool and shady location, without so much a hint of the "Laura tourism" feeling we experienced abundantly elsewhere.
On our way to the Minneapolis airport, we passed Sleepy Eye, located several miles outside of Walnut Grove. Sleepy Eye was the main hub of commerce during Laura's day.
There are of course, several other Laura tourist sites scattered throughout the mid-west, which we chose not to visit. There is nothing original left of Laura's little house in the big woods in Pepin, Wisconsin. It is merely a recreation of the cabin and small gift shop. The former Ingalls homestead in Kansas only contains a well that Pa dug, and nothing else original. Burr Oak, Iowa where the Ingalls helped run a hotel for two years (not mentioned in the Little House book series) has a small Laura museum in the restored hotel. Again, we didn't feel this was a location that played a substantial part in Laura's life. Mainly, we had wanted to see the significant sites. We wanted to see places that capture the real spirit of Laura.
This post is the conclusion of my Laura trip. Thanks for reliving the memories with me, it was fun to travel with friends!
I do have one more Laura-themed treat coming up, so watch for it soon.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Close to the marsh lies the land the Ingalls family first attempted to settle when they arrived in1879
Still, we saw Ma’s heirloom shepherdess statue that she carefully packed and displayed on mantles all over the prairie, and a host of other objects used by the family. I enjoyed reading the spines of their books to see what the family enjoyed reading. The second story contained many of Rose Wilder Lane's personal things, such as her writing desk and typewriter. The desk was an enormous three-sided piece. Another interesting living museum! Next: Even more to see!
Next: Even more to see!