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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

This is the time of year we look back at the past and forward to the future. We are thankful our reverses were minor in comparison to what a lot of people have had this year. Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, here is my wish for you as we enter a new year.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Past

Christmas 2009 has joined the ranks of Christmases past. And what a Christmas it was! This was our year to have our family for Christmas Day. Leroy's family always has their dinner the Saturday after Christmas, so that meant this year we had two Christmas dinners back-to-back. Gerald brought a girlfriend for the first time which swelled our crowd to 28. I didn't get an exact count but around 60 were at the big Stauffer family dinner. (There would be close to 90 if everyone came.) We are blessed to have the 86-year-old matriarch of the family still with us. Here she is, surrounded by her ten children.

I spent December 23-24 preparing food and the house for Christmas. Then we had two days of parties on Friday and Saturday. Now it has taken me two days to recover and return to normal. Sunday was a day of rest. Today there was a mountain of laundry to do and the house to put back in order. Except for the train still set up on the pool table and a few new stains on the carpet that I still need to deal with, you would never know my basement was Christmas Center on Friday.
While I gave the basement a good cleaning in October I was thinking of it as the first step in getting ready for Christmas. While I was putting things back in place this morning I could savor the memories we made on Friday. I don't mind having a mess to clean up. I want the family to remember having a good time when they are here, not having to sit on the edge of their seats for fear Grandma will get upset if something is out of place.
Now that Christmas is past, it is time to tackle the list of things I am hoping to do this winter. The season used to seem dreadfully long when I had a flock of children underfoot but now it flies by so fast it is hardly long enough to get everything done. The world must be turning faster than it used to.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moravian Sugar Cake

Every family has their own unique Christmas traditions. In our house, you know Christmas is almost here when you smell Moravian Sugar Cake. I have made one of these every year since 1967 for our Christmas breakfast and to share with the neighbors. With Christmas just two days away, it was time to bring out the mixing bowls today and bake the 2009 version.
This is a yeast dough type of coffee cake, basted with butter, topped with brown sugar, and punched full of holes which are filled with butter. Since I can't give you a taste electronically, feast your eyes on the finished product. And if you want a real taste, either come to my house or use the recipe below to make one of your own. Whatever works best for you. :-)

Moravian Sugar Cake
2/3 cup crisco
1 cup hot riced potatoes (I put them through a food mill)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 cup lukewarm milk
Dissolve 1 package of yeast (1 tablespoon) in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Add to the above mixture. Add 6-7 cups flour and knead until smooth. Let rise in a covered bowl until doubled (about 2 hours).
Roll out on a greased cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Cover and let rise 1 hour. Brush with melted butter. Cover with the following mixture:
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbs. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
With your finger, make lots of small holes in the sugar-covered dough. Fill with melted butter. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes
Cut in squares. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to Him

Leroy reached full retirement age on Thursday. He took the day off work and we spent the whole day together, cramming more into one day than is sensible for senior citizens. Since he was not at work on his birthday his treat was postponed one day. He arranged to have a stack of pizzas ordered into the office and told me to bring in some chips and sodas to go with it. I went the second mile and got an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen to add to the meal. After all, I had a "surprise" on my birthday so he should have one on his birthday too.
In March it will be 37 years that he has been working for Shank Door Company. He is not ready to retire yet but will probably cut back to part time next year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ein Spiegel der Tauffe

Here is another old book I saw yesterday. It is in the rare book collection at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. The title is Ein Spiegel der Tauffe. It was written by Henry Funck, a Mennonite bishop at Franconia and was printed in 1744. The small 94-page book was written to show pouring is the scriptural mode of baptism in response to the pressure being put on the Mennonite by the Tunkers (Brethren) who insisted immersion is the only valid mode of baptism. Philadelphia's German printer, Christopher Saur, was a Tunker and refused to put his imprint on the book.
Since I can't read much German, the name written on the fly leaf means more to me than the contents of the book. It says (in English) "This book belongs to me Barbara Burkholder." The "i-n" on the end of the surname was used to indicate the feminine gender.

Amos Hoover told me about this book. He thinks it probably belonged to the immigrant widow Barbara Burkholder, my ancestor and mother of Bishop Christian Burkholder. There is nothing in the book to verify it actually was hers but it would be in the right time period for her. Even if it belonged to some other Barbara Burkholder, it is a rare and valuable book.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Look what Leroy gave me for my birthday this morning! This china teapot by Noritake is the Romaine pattern. Only one other time have I seen something with my name on it. That was a little sign in Israel, "Citerne Romaine" (Roman Cistern). Wasn't he thoughtful to give me something with my name on it?!
Confession time! I bought it myself on E-bay. I was watching this thing for weeks. It was listed three times and the price kept going down. On the third listing I thought the price was quite reasonable so I bid and there was no competition. I got it for the opening bid.
It came by FedEx last week. I opened the box and checked to be sure it had not been damaged in shipping. Then I put it in a plain brown paper bag and set it in the corner of the dry sink. I was waiting for Leroy to ask me what the bag was about but he never did.
This morning I asked him if he had noticed the bag. He said he had but figured it was a gift I was going to give somebody.
He was surprised when I said, "It's for you."
"For me?"
"For you to give to me for my birthday."
He smelled the rat but cooperated nicely and handed me the bag. I opened it and showed him what he had bought me for my birthday. He was the only one who was surprised. Well, I made the shopping easy for him, didn't I?
Birthdays are handy excuses for indulging ourselves with extras we don't really need. I guess it's good I don't have more than one per year or I'd do this too often. And besides, the numbers go up fast enough as it is. I guess we can call this a consolation prize for making 62 trips around the sun and crossing the line into the official retirement age.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Burkholder Family History

I had an appointment yesterday with Amos Hoover to see Christian Burkholder's Martyrs' Mirror which is housed in the Muddy Creek Library. Christian was born in Switzerland in 1746, immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1754, and bought this book in 1761.

The Martyrs' Mirror was written in the Dutch language in Holland in the 1600s. It was translated into German and printed at the Ephrata Cloister in 1748-49.

Christian's copy of the Martyrs' Mirror was passed down to four generations of his descendants and then to Hershey and Musser families. In 1980 Esther Musser Hammond found the book in her attic and consigned it for public sale. Amos learned about the sale and bought the book. Being printed at the Ephrata Cloister makes it a valuable book but the thing that makes this one priceless are the pages of family records Christian wrote in his own hand on the blank pages in the front and back of the book.

At the bottom of one of the pages, Christian wrote the names and ages of his brothers and sisters (above). This corrected some false information that had previously been published and was the key to finding a document in Switzerland which changed the Burkholder story. The names and ages in Christian's Martyrs' Mirror match exactly with the names and ages of the children of Ulrich and Barbli Burkhalter in a 1745 tax record in Switzerland. I am planning to include copies of both of these documents in the new Preface I am writing for Hidden Riches.

Amos also showed me the Family Bible of John Burkholder, grandson of Christian. This Bible contains many pages of valuable family records. John wrote his grandfather's family record on a page at the back of the Bible. He begins by writing (in German), "Christian Burkholder was born (in Europe) on June 1, 1746 and died May 13, 1809 (He came to America in 1754)." Both of these books are now safely stored in the Muddy Creek Library where they are not in danger of being tossed out as "junk" by a generation who has no interest in history.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One to Go!

Gerald took his final exam and finished the fall semester today. Only one more semester to go and he will reach his goal of achieving a Bachelor's degree in nursing. We are all cheering him on to the finish line.
Nursing is a worthy career and one which will always be needed. Hospitals will probably become more crowded as we baby boomers age. Even I, who took no pills or supplements whatsoever, have buckled this year and now gladly swallow my daily dose of methotrexate and plaquenil to combat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Leroy has been on medication for several years for diabetes and hypertension. We're happy we can get away with generic drugs that are not too expensive and hope it stays that way.
Gerald is not planning to work on a med/surg floor. He wants to be where the action is and has been working in the ER. He has already submitted an application for a full time position there after May 15. It would not be for me but I'm glad to see how much he loves his work.
So "Go Gerald!" Thirteen more credits and you will have conquered the mountain!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hidden Riches

I had another of those calls yesterday asking if I would want to write someone's story. Sometimes it seems people think I am sitting here with nothing to do just desperately wishing someone would give me an idea for something to write about. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have lost track of the number of those requests but the answer was easy to find. I simply cannot add a new project to my list no matter how worthy the subject may be.
Last week I had an email from someone at Faith Builders saying they would like to use my first book, Hidden Riches, in their history curriculum. I was glad when the book went out of print in 2006 because it was not historically accurate. The story of the Burkholder family's immigration in 1754 was based on the information which we had in 1983 when it was written. Since then, research in Switzerland turned up new information which proves the Burkholders immigrated directly from Switzerland and never lived in Germany as we had been told.
Faith Builders asked if I would consider rewriting or revising the story. Either of those options would result in two different versions of the same story which it seems to me would create confusion. My suggestion was to leave the story as it was written but rewrite the preface to explain why it was written as it was, give the correct information, and advise the reader to take the story as typical of Mennonite immigrants in colonial times but not a historically accurate account of the Burkholder family's experience.
I am not at liberty to do anything without the consent of the publisher who holds the copyright, so I sent Faith Builders to Christian Light with their request. The timing was perfect and the request was presented at a CLP board meeting a few days later. They approved the reprinting of the book with a new cover and a new preface. Rewriting the preface, of course, is my job. That was suddenly bumped to the top of my job list. I have made a good start this week but am not by any means finished.
I know there is still interest in the book as I have had calls perhaps a dozen calls asking if I know where it can be purchased. The most recent call was about three weeks ago. When Hidden Riches went out of print I thought that was the end. It is getting a new lease on life and should be back in print in 2010. Do books have nine lives?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

God Loves Variety

My sisters and I got together today to celebrate my birthday. It was a couple weeks early but December is such a busy month so we went now. I chose to go to a Thai restaurant for lunch. Thai food is similar to Chinese but more spicy. My Dutch tongue cannot tolerate hot peppers so I told the waitress to keep my order pepper-free. I had Pan Thai which was a traditional noodle dish with shrimp and other things mixed into it. Without peppers, it was sweet and very good.

After lunch we went to the Reading Museum. It is a small museum as museums go but has some nice displays. The artifact they are most proud of is an Egyptian mummy. As I looked at all the variety of things from different countries and time periods, I was reminded of the ingenuity and imagination of the human race. There are so many different ways to do the same things. People use what they have available and fashion things they perceive to be either useful or beautiful.
The Native American who wore this beaded vest felt just as elegantly dressed as the actress who wore this dress to make the Cinderella movie. Either one would not have felt comfortable in the other's world.

There are as many ways to feed and clothe our bodies as there are nations and tribes. In spite of the differences in our appearance, we all have the same basic inner needs for love and fulfillment. Eating Thai food and seeing the variety in the museum today reminded me that my way of thinking and doing things is not the only way. God loves variety. That's why He made us all different.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

There are loved ones who are missing
From our fireside and the feast,
There are faces that have vanished,
There are voices that have ceased.
But we know they passed forever
From our mortal grief and pain,
And we thank Thee, Oh our Father
For the blessings that remain.
Thanksgiving, Oh Thanksgiving,
That their love once blessed us here,
That for a time they walked beside us
Sharing smiles and tears;
For the joy their love has brought us
That can never pass away,
For the sweet and gracious memories
Growing dearer every day.
For the faith that keeps us patient
Looking at the things unseen,
Knowing spring will follow winter
And the earth again be green.
For the hope of that glad meeting
Far from mortal grief and pain,
We thank Thee, Oh our Father
For the blessings that remain.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Angels and Miracles

Are angels real and active? Do miracles still happen today?
After church yesterday morning Barb Martin told me this story about her daughter Cheryl. The church where Cheryl goes supports a mission in Africa. She has gone over several times to help out for a few weeks. She just returned from her third trip and told Barb this story.
When Cheryl left the U. S. she did not realize her visa and passport had both expired in June. She made it through Holland without anyone noticing but the problem was spotted when she arrived in Africa. She had to pay $150 to smooth her path and be able to go on, which she did.
The van which was to take Cheryl and the lady who was traveling with her from the airport to the mission got hot and they were stranded in the middle of nowhere in the night. Before long, a car stopped and a man asked if he can help them. After they explained the problem he said they must turn around and go back to the nearest village. They said they can't but he insisted it will be all right. He would follow them back. They would go a ways and then stop to let the van cool down again. Eventually they arrived at the village where the van could be repaired.
A taxi driver there said he would take them to the mission for $100 but Cheryl did not have the money because she had spent it on her passport problem. The man who had stopped to help them said he will take the two women to the mission for no charge. He told them to get in the back seat because his brother is going with them. This did not smell good---two women being driven through the wilderness by two strange men in the middle of the night. But they did not know what else to do, so they got in and were off.
When they were an hour from the mission Cheryl said to the other lady, "Look at the gas gauge. It's on empty." The fuel warning light soon came on and they had 100 miles to go. Cheryl was really afraid now and she started praying out loud, "Lord, you put oil in the widow's jar and I believe you can put gas in this car. I'm counting on you for a miracle." She kept on praying and the car kept on going.
At last they arrived at the mission safe and sound. Cheryl got some money from Jonas (who lives at the mission) to give the driver. He refused to take it and said, "I told you I would bring you for no charge. I don't want any money." She tried to tell him he will need fuel to get back to wherever he was going but he just said, "It will be okay."
The next morning Cheryl and the other lady were telling Jonas about their midnight adventure. They told him how pretty the blue and white license plate was on the car. Jonas said, "There are no license plates like that in this country." Then they described the car and he said, "There are no cars like that around here."
Cheryl said, "It gives me the goose bumps. We were picked up by angels! I wonder what they thought of my praying."
If you are facing an impossible situation, remember this story. God can make a way where there seems to be no way. He can and does do the impossible.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lantern Books

Yesterday we made our first solo flight to Cumberland County to service book racks for Lantern Books. The business operates like Choice Books, putting book racks in stores but handles different books than Choice. Leroy thought he would enjoy servicing book racks as a retirement project and went along several times to learn how it is done. But he never got along very well with papers and got befuddled with the paperwork involved. He wanted me to go along to do that part of the job but I just didn't have time until October. The person in charge went along to teach me how to do the paperwork. It was not that difficult and we said we'll try it ourselves this month.
There are eight stops on the Cumberland County route. We left home at 6:30 in the morning, got the Lantern truck at the office, and arrived at the first stop at 8:30. My heart sank when it took us an hour there. At that rate, we weren't going to cover the route before the stores closed. But then the second stop took only 45 minutes and the third one a half hour. We worked out a system and things went more smoothly. He read the titles on the rack while I marked them on the inventory sheet. Then he dusted the rack while I decided how many new books to put on and which ones to take off the rack. He placed the books on the rack while I finished the paperwork to hand in to the office for billing.
By 12:30 we had finished five stops and I was breathing easier. We had time to stop for lunch and finished the route at 3:30. That was longer than it took in October when there were three of us but not too bad for the first time on our own. We returned the truck to the office and got home at 6:15. I enjoy the work but just have to forget about everything else waiting to be done at home.
Leroy would like to learn another route and go more than once a month but at this point I simply do not have time to go more often. He'll either have to learn to do the paperwork himself or wait until I have more time. Since February I have been volunteering two days per month at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and this takes makes three volunteer days per month. That doesn't sound like much but I am also keeping house, trying to do some writing, scrapbooking, quilting, etc. etc. I'm just as busy as when I had a house full of children underfoot, but in different ways.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Chairs

When we were married in 1967 we bought an extension table and six chairs. We ate from a card table for about a month until the table and chairs were finished. As the years passed, boards were added to the table to accommodate our growing family. Six chairs did not seat the whole tribe and we had to add two from other sources but the original six chairs were in use for 42 years.
As you can imagine, the chairs took a beating. One was broken too badly to be used and has stashed in the attic for quite awhile. Since there are only three of us living here anymore, we can easily do without it. This is how the survivors of 42 years and six children look. The picture doesn't really do justice to it. The back has been unprofessionally repaired. The finish is completely worn off in some places and is peeling in other places. Weekly washings have worn off the painted acorn design.

We often talked about replacing our beat-up chairs but it never happened. Then last week I saw a set of four chairs on E-bay that were just like ours, made by Moses Horning of Ephrata, Pa. We decided to put a bid on them and got them for the opening bid. They were in Chester Springs and for "pick up only." I was down that way on Saturday for something else so I made arrangements to stop and pick up the chairs on my way home. They had been used but look as good as new and just like our first chairs did when we bought them.

Since we both have December birthdays, we are used to giving and getting one gift that will do for both birthday and Christmas. Since there are four chairs, we decided we each get one for our birthdays and one for Christmas. Leroy's Christmas shopping is done and we finally have some decent looking chairs again. These should last as long as we need chairs at the table.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Upper Hand

I just came back from a visit with Dr. Walker. We have made some progress in the battle with rheumatoid arthritis but it still has the upper hand. On November 1 I decreased the dose of prednisone to 5 mgs and hoped I would be able to eliminate it altogether. After twelve days of the decreased dose, neither of us is happy with the results. My feet are swollen and painful again. It's not as bad as the first time I tried to go off prednisone but it is affecting my walking and shows us the RA still has the upper hand.
Dr. Walker told me to go back on the 10 mgs of prednisone, increased the dose of another drug I'm on and added a new one. We'll try that for two months and see what happens when I try again to go off prednisone before I see her in January.
There are a couple options available. The one I prefer and we are trying first is to use other drugs. I could also go on a clinical trial program which would be entirely free but I'm a little skeptical because I hate to be messing with things that might not work. The third option is to get injections but they would cost $30,000 per year so that option is out.
I am much better than I was in June when I first saw Dr. Walker. I think eventually we will find the right dosage of the right medications and get the upper hand, but we're not there yet. In the meantime, thank God for prednisone. After a few days on the crutch of a 10mg dose, my feet should improve and I'll be able to run full speed again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Count Your Calories

Yesterday we were invited to a get-together in Adams County. One of the ladies who attended brought this poem which can be sung to the tune of "Count Your Blessings."
When upon the scales you're weighing every ounce,
When you're stepping off and feel your belly bounce,
Count your many calories, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the food has done.
Count your calories, don't forget a one,
Doughnuts, cakes, and cookies seemed like lots of fun,
Count your french fries . . . Did you eat a ton?
Count your many calories, see what food has done.
When you think of others who are lean and slim,
Does your heart grow heavy as you think of them?
Count your Mr. Goodbars, every single bite,
And you'll know the reason that your clothes fit tight.
Count your Hersheys, count them every one,
Extra cheese and chili on your hot dog bun.
Count your Snickers, don't forget the Mars,
Count your Milky Ways and other candy bars.
So amid the dress shop as you try on clothes,
Polyester stretches everybody knows;
Searching in your closet, garments hanging there,
All those pretty dresses that you used to wear.
Count your blouses. How your wardrobe grows!
Count the dollars spent on queen-size hose.
Was it chocolate? Was it rich desserts?
Count the many reasons you can't wear your skirts.
Are you ever burdened with a load of guilt?
Looking at the body that your food has built?
Scrounging in the kitchen, see the foods you chose.
And you'll know the reason you can't see your toes!
Count your calories, praying as you eat
Vegetables and milk and lots of lean fresh meat.
Count your calories, you'll start feeling great.
Keep on counting calories, you'll start losing weight!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Changing of Seasons

I just brought the laundry in from the washline. The day started out bright and sunny but now the air is cold and damp with the feel of snow. It reminded me of a picturesque piece I clipped from a newspaper many years ago. Here it is.
Changing of Seasons
The dawn was made of smoky purples, grays and reds. It was like the background music for a movie about the Creation. Although the mood was somber, it was nothing you could really put your finger on. The colors were subtly intermingled and changed rapidly from one to the other and to mixtures of two or all three.
The day, according to the calendar, would be a November day and, after the nature of the brute, hardly anybody knew how it would all come out. It began brilliantly after its dawn had dissipated and the sun struck the east sides of houses and trees with a brightness that was altogether foreign to dusky November.
In this eleventh month of the year Nature's patience is running out. She is tired after having produced the bounty that fills barns and freezers and quart jars to feed animals and people through the winter ahead. Fatigue makes her fretful and the weather she brews in fit for neither man nor beast.
Sometimes, as in this year, there is snow before we are psychologically or physical prepared for it. Consider, if you require evidence, the bewilderment that struck us as we looked out upon a white world at a time it should have been green. Snow fence segments lie, still rolled, in fields and there was the unusual experience of the maples, spectacular in yellow---trimmed in white.
November is notable for its cold, dismal rains that slant into the faces of pedestrians and for sleet that dresses them and the objects of their culture in glassy sheaths. Its winds rattle doors and moan softly about the corners of houses in a tune-up for winter. They will become more proficient with rehearsals and, by January, should be in excellent voice.
Sometime in midmorning, long after the somber dawn had faded, a thick mass of forbidding clouds began to move out of the northwest in a line that stretched from horizon to horizon. There was no turbulence within the mass and its passage across the heavens was orderly, almost sedate.
The mass was not of a consistent thickness. In it were brighter areas of thinner cloud. Some parts of the mass moved a bit faster than others and in some areas had compressed the gray bulk ahead of them into formal rows until they resembled a squeezed accordion.
Torn By The Wind
Immediately preceding this darkening curtain across the overturned bowl of the sky was a wide line of thin, white cloud, ragged and torn on its leading edge by the winds. The larger mass retained its white border until there was nothing left of blue but a wide sliver that stretched across the southeastern sky.
The advancing clouds consumed the sliver in the end and the sky was gray from horizon to zenith over 360 degrees of its earth boundary. In the northwest, where it had all begun, the sky was a leaden gray curtain of uninterrupted gloom. This curtain was to bring a very brief spate of raindrops in midafternoon.
The countryside seemed moody and depressed under its heavy cloud cap. Farms appeared deserted, although, in Lancaster County, it must never be assumed that an absence of visible people means idleness--the work goes ahead inside buildings. Snow lay in patches about these buildings and there remained a light frosting on portions of their roofs. Where the blanket of snow on fields and meadows had melted or was very thin, strips of emerald green broke the monotony of adjoining brown fields.
There were still traces of color in the foliage of a woodlot that climbed a hill behind a snowy cornfield. The whiteness in the foreground accentuated the dim color in the woods that had been so brilliant a short week ago.
Most of the trees had lost their leaves. To the sycamores the absence of their crowns does not seem as great a loss as it does to other woody plants. The sycamores, with their whitish limbs exposed, are now the most spectacular and easily recognized of all the trees in the woods.
In the upper elevations where there was more snow originally and where more of it had remained there was the feeling that Thanksgiving was just around the next bend in the road. Warm feelings that accompanied this thought were supported by a thin column of smoke that rose from the chimney of a farmhouse where, in a few days, a turkey will be roasting in the oven. The smoke curled away from a northwesterly breeze that was not yet a wind.
A flock of starlings, perhaps the homeliest birds on earth, flew crazily overhead and landed clumsily in a field. Further on, for contrast, a pair of cock pheasants, bursting with pride at the glory of their own plumage, stood by the road and haughtily surveyed the landscape.
A lone gull made his way down the course of the river and disappeared into the gathering gloom of late afternoon. The surface of the Susquehanna was troubled by a breeze and its reflections of the hills opposite were indistinct, but not without a faint hint of color. Patches of snow shone among wooded areas on the tops of the York County hills. It seemed later than November over there.
There was no indication of it in the west when the day was over. The sky simply became more leaden and darker and evening settled in, chill and comfortless, around houses where lights came on. It had taken all day for it to become November.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ohio Weekend

We had a good weekend in Ohio with our daughter and her family---in spite of a cold rain on Saturday and the flu bug in the house. I knew before we left that Cheryl was not feeling well so I took a frozen casserole along to spare her the trouble of cooking for us on Sunday. We bought our food on Saturday at their school benefit auction.
This was the "first annual" auction so they had no experience or idea what to expect. It was a smashing success and gave the school budget a tremendous lift. We enjoyed watching things sell but didn't buy much. I got a pint of specialty barbq sauce which is made by an Amish family in Ohio and Leroy got a CHI Winross truck. The place Leroy works uses the line of garage doors manufactured in Ohio by CHI.
Cheryl was too nosey to stay away so she was there wrapped up in a blanket. By Sunday she was too sick to leave the house. Then I was really glad I had taken a casserole along which could just be popped in the oven. I tried not to get to close to her and so far I seem to have escaped the bug. I don't know if it was the regular or swine flu, but I don't need either kind. I have lots of other things to do besides holding down the couch.

Friday, October 30, 2009

B & B Week

This has been a relaxed week (after I got through Monday, which we won't discuss in detail) in spite of having overnight guests from Monday night through this morning. Our church is hosting a Minister's Study Week this week. It is an annual conference that rotates between states and groups so that our congregation's turn to be the host is almost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
We volunteered to host some of the visiting ministers and were assigned three people from southern Indiana. Verlin & Rosy Yoder and Sam Yoder arrived at bedtime Monday. We had never met any of them but enjoyed learning to know them. I only needed to provide breakfast for them in the morning and beds at night. They always left around 9 in the morning, were at the church all day, and returned around 9:30-10 at night. The last sessions are being held this morning and then they will drive straight home, which is about a 12-hour trip.
We are also heading west this afternoon and will spend the weekend with our daughter in Ohio. I'm glad that's only half as far as Indiana!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Road To Anarchy

Last week my nephew gave a very inspiring presentation on The Road To Anarchy. I wish you all could have heard it. Here is the outline in capsule form, using illustrations from the history of the nation of Israel.

System: Biblical Morality (Deut. 4:5-9; Deut. 5:1-29)
Philosopny: What is required?
Essence: God says
What Restrains: The judgment of God

System: Consensus Morality (1 Sam. 8:1-7 Elder's consensus; v. 19-22 WE say)
Philosophy: What is acceptable?
Essence: We believe
What Restrains: Approval of others

System: Pragmatism (1 Kings 12:26-33)
Philosophy: What is practical?
Essence: I think
What Restrains: Expedience

System: Hedonism (1 Kings 21; I want it; it pleases me)
Philosophy: What is pleasurable?
Essence: I feel
What Restrains: Pain, discomfort

System: Anarchy (2 Kings 17:7-23; Deut. 11:1, 26-28)
Philosophy: Nobody tells me what to do!
Essence: I will
What Restrains: Nothing

Where is our nation on the road to anarchy? Where is your church? Where are you? What philosophy rules your life? If you are further down the road than you realized, remember it is a two-lane highway. You can always turn around and go back to Biblical Morality.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pig Panic

There is something in the news every day about Swine Flu. Sometimes I wonder if it is much ado about nothing as I do not know anyone who has gotten sick. I suppose if I had lived through the flu epidemic during the first World War, I might take it more seriously. Back then, they did not have the vaccines and medications we have today so I do not expect a repeat performance of that great flu epidemic.
We found out this week that Swine Flu is actually circulating in Berks County. Leroy was scheduled to go for jury duty on Monday. All the potential jurors were dismissed by 10 a.m. because the defendant who was to go on trial was in a part of the prison which has been infected with Swine Flu. The trial was postponed to keep from exposing anyone to the virus. None of the potential jurors complained about being dismissed! Measures like this will help to curb the flu.
But still, it seems to me the panic is greater than the pandemic. The price of pork has fallen sharply. There is no way you can get swine flu from eating pork but people are afraid to eat it. Pigs are getting a bad name and even the most innocent pigs are being ostracized.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Many Irons

I was not mistaken when I said this week was going to be wild. Tuesday was my volunteer day at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. It was an interesting day, as usual, helping the editor prepare articles for the magazine and showing a tour group through the museum. Since it was such a lovely day, I stopped at a cemetery on the way home which I have long been wanting to search for Sallie Horning Powl. If she is buried there, her stone is one of the unreadable ones. I didn't find her but I did at least scratch the itch.
Wednesday was another day of volunteer work. In July Leroy started going to Cumberland County to service book racks once a month for Lantern Books. It operates much like Choice Books with book racks placed in stores rather than from a bookstore. After going with the man in charge a couple times, Leroy feels he can't do it alone and wants me to go along to do the paperwork. He would like to go more than once a month next year after he is semi-retired but I don't see how I can go more than once a month at this point. I enjoyed the day but just have too many irons in the fire to commit to more than once a month. Maybe I can go more in a year from now if I have my big writing project worked down to size---and provided I don't start anything new! I just like to do too many things and it's hard to keep all the irons in use.
This morning I took Leroy's mom to the doctor. I was glad to do it, but it put me on the road another half day. While I was over that way I got the weekly groceries. That should make it possible for me to stay home tomorrow to get caught after in the house and prepare the lesson I have to teach for one of the ladies' Sunday school classes on Sunday.
Being gone two and a half days in a row and trying to keep things after at home showed me I would never make it if I had to go to work every day. I have been a homemaker for 42 years and am admittedly spoiled by being able to work at my own pace. Tomorrow I am going to stay home--so help me God!

Friday, October 16, 2009


As I was cleaning today I was thinking about trusting God when our world is upside down and imploding upon us. At times like that, people mouth platitudes about trusting God and waiting upon Him to work things out and show us He knew what He was doing. They mean well but the repitition of things I already know does not help. All it does is tell me they don't really understand the situation.
It's easy to say, "There, there; it will be all right," when you are sitting in some sheltered cove. But when you are in the boat that's being battered by the waves and in danger of sinking or crashing on the rocks, those nice little platitudes about trusting God are not the words that come to mind.
So what is trust? Is sitting quietly and waiting for God to work the proof of trust? Perhaps one of my favorite poems will help to answer that question.
This Too Is Trust

O Lord, I realize that resoluteness,
And confidence that You are good and just,
And quietness, and cheerful songs at midnight---
These, these are trust.
But, Lord, when 'mid the blaze and crash of thunder,
The tempest lifts my boat so small, so frail,
And dashes it upon the foaming waters,
And torn my sail . . .
If then I drop my oar and scream in panic
Above the sound of wave and lashing gust,
Expecting You to save me from their furor---
This, too, is trust.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rite of Passage

This morning I attended the funeral of my cousin, Jane, who was about three years my senior. All of my aunts and uncles are gone except one and now my cousins are going. Since both of my parents were at the end of their families, most of my 96 cousins are a good bit older than I am. So far, the ones who died were the older ones but either the age is coming down or mine is going up. This was a cousin I spent more time with and is the closest to my age of any cousin that has died.
Jane's funeral included a lot of singing which I like. She asked for something I have never seen before at a funeral---a children's meeting. We sang "Jesus Loves Me" (which is the Gospel in a nutshell) and then one of my cousins told a story and talked to Jane's 27 grandchildren. It was a very nice touch and something they will probably remember.
I also really liked Jane's bi-fold memorial folder. It is much more family friendly, featuring a picture from their wedding 45 years ago and the family today as well as the addresses of each of her children. Jane was a people person and both of these things fit her personality.
Jane had cancer and knew her time was coming so she had planned most of her own service. That made me think about what I would want. I already knew I would want lots of singing. I would want the final viewing before the service, not afterward the way it was today. And I would not want the service to focus on me and the things I have done in life. I try to avoid being recognized (although my name often betrays me) and do not want my funeral to be all about me. All I am or ever hope to be is because of the One who died for me. I want the Lord Jesus to be the center of attention and the One who is praised. People who never otherwise go to church will attend a funeral and we should present the Gospel to them when we have the opportunity.
A funeral is a rite of passage for the benefit of the living rather than the dead. It is a gentle way to say good-by to those we love. Jane was in our cousin's quilting circle and we will miss her the next time we gather around a quilt. She will not be there but I think we will remember the message she chose to give us today from 3 John 1:14. "But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sister's Day

Whenever one of my sisters or I have a birthday we do something together. The birthday girl gets to choose the activity. The year I chose to go to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC to hear The Messiah was on the high end of the scale. Usually we simply bake cookies or quilt, or we might go out to eat or take in a special event somewhere.
Since one of my sisters had a birthday this week, it was time for another Sister's Day. This time we met at the Landis Valley Museum which was humming with activity during their Harvest Days. All kinds of crafts and demonstrations were being done, from making sauerkraut and butchering hogs to fine needlework and blacksmithing.
Two bachelor brothers, Henry and George Landis, began this museum simply by collecting Pennsylvania German objects from the 1700s and 1800s. They built a collection of over 75,000 objects and established a small museum in the 1920s on the grounds of their Landis Valley homestead. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired the Landis brothers' museum in 1953.
Over the next 45 years, the state began purchasing and building structures which are now part of the historic village. The property includes an 1856 hotel and two brick buildings built between 1815 and 1840. Also, two log buildings, an 1890's school house and an old blacksmith shop were purchased and moved to the site.
When the Landis brothers learned an old country store was closing, they bought the entire store and its contents. This store looks the same as when it was in business. The things you see on the shelves today were on the shelves when the Landis brothers bought it.

This crossroad which is now inside the museum grounds was once a busy crossroad on the Lancaster- to-Reading Turnpike. Back about 1955 my aunt and grandmother were involved in an accident here. There was a black iron fence around the lawn at that time. My aunt's car crashed into the fence about where the tents were set up today. My grandmother's pelvis was broken and she spent many weeks in bed healing.

One of the parts I liked best was the 1750 German farm. All the necessary buildings (surrounded by rail fences) are there: house, barn, hay rack, outdoor bake oven with red clay tile roof, and springhouse. Being set off to the side by itself helps to create a bit of the isolated atmosphere our ancestors experienced when they settled here, but the dense woods that would have stood around the buildings are missing.

We sisters had a good day together and I'm the next one to have a birthday so I'll get to choose the next activity. I haven't decided on anything yet but have about two months to think about it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Love or Money

There are some things I will not do for love or money---or any other reason. Then there are some things I will do for love that I would not do for any amount of money. Caring for my parents in their terminal illnesses was one of those situations. And there are other things I will do just for the love of it whether it is profitable or not. Writing falls into that catagory.
I have been asked more than once how many hours it takes to write a book. I have no clue. I figure my time in years, not hours. Yesterday I worked all day to write a little less than a page that you could read in two minutes. Today it went a little better and I wrote a page in half a day, but I'm a long way from finished. There is no way writing could be profitable if I was being paid by the hour.
Some people think having a book published means instant riches. Guess again! Unless a person writes something that sells millions of copies, the royalties are very slim pickin's. The writer does the hard work but by the time the publisher and bookstores have dipped their hands into the cash drawer the royalty that is left for the writer may only be twenty-five cents per book. At that rate, how many books do you have to sell to come up with even one thousand dollars? You do the math.
I'm not complaining. I just trying to make it clear that I don't write for the money. A little spare change is nice, but not the incentive. I write for the love of doing it. The problem is that once a book is finished the fun is over and the only remedy is to start another one. Sigh! Writing is a wierd self-inflicted disease that feeds on itself and is done for love rather than money.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Exeter Friends Meetinghouse

I saw in this morning's newspaper that the Exeter Friends Meetinghouse is observing their 250th anniversary this weekend. You can see the article here:
They had four speakers scheduled for today, beginning at 10:45. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. Leroy had other plans so I headed down there myself.
I had a great day---after I finally got there. The address in the paper was incorrect (19 instead of 191 Meetinghouse Road) and the place Mapquest sent me to was about 7 miles from where I wanted to be. I got there and knew right away I was at the wrong place. Thanks to cell phones and some fancy maneuvering, Gerald was able to direct me to the right place but I missed the 10:45 speaker.
I decided to hang around for the second speaker at 1 pm and while I was waiting I got to talking to the man who had been the first speaker. He wasn't busy so he took me inside and did a re-run for me. He was a member of that congregation (they call it meeting) and talked mostly about their beliefs and practices. The values they stress are simplicity, integrity, patience, peace, and equality. Women have always had equal rights with men in speaking at meetings. They do not practice baptism, communion, ordination ceremonies for their leaders, or take offerings. (One of the tourists said if they'd spread the word about no offerings their group might suddenly grow!) They still sit in silence until someone feels led to say something. They sit for an hour and if no one says anything, that's it. They shake hands and the meeting is over. A Quaker meeting for real! After the meeting they divide adults and children for First Day School (Sunday School) when they have discussions and/or other activities.
The second speaker was not a Quaker and talked more about the history of the Oley valley and architecture of the building. That was very interesting too. There is electric in the building but it is very well hidden so as not to spoil the colonial look. The benches date back to the 1700s. Daniel Boone's family worshiped in a log building across the road from the current building which was constructed in 1759. The Boones left for North Carolina in 1750 but Daniel would have been in the 1759 building when he came back to visit his relatives. Abraham Lincoln said his grandparents were Quakers from Berks County but the records of Exeter Meeting do not show President Lincoln's grandparents being members. They may have attended there without being members for there is a record of a Boone-Lincoln marriage and also of Lincolns being buried in the cemetery.

Outside of the Meetinghouse (above) and inside (below). The ministers and elders sat on the "facing" benches on the right side of the picture, facing the members of the meeting. The wall in the middle divided the men and women's sections. Movable panels could be pulled down to completely close off the wall and provide some privacy when men and women had their separate business meetings. Quakers were very organized and kept detailed records which today are a delight to genealogists and historians.

The cemetery was a disappointment. There are quite a few Boones and Lincolns buried in it but they carried their idea of equality too far. Some people could afford more expensive stones than others so, to keep everyone equal, no stones were erected for anyone. The cemetery is just an empty lawn inside a stone wall. They kept a good cemetery record so they know who is buried there but there were no Boone or Lincoln stones to photograph. I don't know how they knew the cemetery was full, but sometime in the 1800s they ran out of space so they hauled more ground in and buried people in a second layer at the upper end of the cemetery. Quakers did begin to use gravestones later on but in a cemetery this old they did not and they kept it that way. The members are proud of their old stone-less cemetery. Makes mowing a cinch, I guess.

They were running a shuttle bus to the Boone homestead a couple miles away so I went over there for about a half hour. Nothing was going on so the buildings were closed but I walked around the grounds and took a few pictures.

In 1730, Daniel Boone's father, Squire Boone, built a log house over a spring on this spot. Daniel was born in that log house in 1734. After 1750 the portion of the house on the right was added to the log house. Then the log house was replaced with the stone portion on the left after 1770, using the same foundation on which Squire Boone had built the log house.

I rode the last bus back to the meetinghouse at 3 and got home at 4. It turned out to be a longer day than I expected but I enjoyed it---even if I was alone and had the run around getting there. I have thought for years I want to see the Boone homestead sometime and never got there. I've gone across the ocean to look at historical things and never crossed my own county to see this bit of local history. Now I have! But I want to go back sometime when the buildings are open and more is happening there. At least next time I will know how to drive directly there instead of taking the scenic route.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Philosophical Questions

Some of the philosophical questions which are supposedly difficult to answer are:
1. Who or what determines right from wrong?
2. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
3. If there is an all-seeing, all knowing, and all-capbale Creator, why did He create imperfect creatures?
4. What happens after we die?
The answers to all of these "deep" philosophical questions can be found in the Bible. If you take God at his Word, they are not difficult at all.
There are other philosophical questions which are more abstract such as "Why don't we have all the answers?"
Eve's desire to know the unknown was part of the original sin that created the mess we're in and actually resulted in more questions than answers. But then, would you really want to have all the answers? I don't. It would save me a lot of work if some of the answers were easier to find but we would be bored stiff if we had all the answers. There would be no need for education or research. Wonder is the beginning of the journey and questions are what makes the trip interesting. An active imagination that wonders and keeps asking questions is a great antidote for boredom.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blessed Are The Flexible

"Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape." This weekend was one of those times we lived by this rule.
The weekend started out calmly enough Friday evening when I picked up Leroy's handicapped sister, Kass. She is staying with us for the weekend so she could get in on some of the family weekend activities. Saturday morning, Leroy went to a demonstration of plowing with a steam engine. I made some food and got things ready to go to Camp Swatara where most of the Stauffer family was camping for the weekend.

Dale and Cheryl (and their families) both had campsites this year so we went a little earlier in the day than we normally do. That turned out to be a good thing because things started going downhill at 3 p.m. when we felt the first drops of the predicted rain begin to fall just as the men were putting the chicken for supper on the charcoal. It was so cool some of us huddled around the campfire under umbrellas while the chicken was cooking. The tempo of the rainfall increased and by 5 p.m. when the food was ready, an umbrella was no longer sufficient. We moved under four canopies which provided enough space for all the food tables and a relatively dry place to eat.

Just as we started eating, Gene called and said the transmission broke in his car. He and Amy were stranded up in the Pocono Mountains two hours away. He wanted Leroy to bring a company truck and trailer to bring them and the car home. After Leroy finished eating his chicken barbq supper, we held a tribal council to decide how to arrange everything. In the end, Leroy and Dale went up with the truck and trailer. I drove our car over to the warehouse and let it set there so they have a way to get home when they come back with the truck. Daryl and Velma brought me and Kass home.
Cheryl and Richard had decided not to drag their camper all the way in here from Ohio but just set up a tent. With the steady rain falling and our good solid roof only 15 minutes away, they packed up their family and moved in here for the night too. We all went to bed and Leroy finally got back at midnight.

This morning it was still raining. Leroy had to teach Sunday school so we went to church and came home for lunch instead of going to the campground as we had planned. The rain was giving up by the time we finished eating so we thought we'll go back and collect some of the things we left there. But while I was washing dishes Dale came and dropped off our things. He said everyone had enough "fun" and was clearing out. It was not worth going.

The game we played this weekend was one where you make the rules as you go. Everything worked out in the end and everybody wound up safe and dry at their own homes. So I guess we can call it a success even if there were all kinds of twists and turns along the way.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Yesterday I served again as a tour guide in the little museum at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Things are marked so people can take a self-guided tour of the museum but we do provide guided tours upon request. Guided tours are divided into three sections with one man portraying the farmer, another man as schoolmaster, and I show the domestic section. The tour group is broken down into small groups of no more than ten so that we usually repeat our presentations four times. A bell is rung at a set time to tell the little groups when to move on to the next section.
To do my little show, I wear a black dress and apron with a shawl and an old fashioned head covering with black strings that tie under the chin. I always begin at a spot in front of the log cabin and end across the room at an old quilt. Yesterday when the bell rang I went back to my spot in front of the log cabin and waited for the next group to assemble. As one of the ladies in the group walked up she looked at me and said, "She looks very realistic." Then I moved and she threw up her hands and said, "She IS real!"
That was the first time I was taken for a wax figure! I guess I never stood still long enough before for that to happen.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New York City

Our church has been going to the Bowery Mission in New York City to have a service every year since about 1975. I don't remember when we last went along but it was not in this century. Leroy was saying the last couple years he'd like to go again but there was always some kind of schedule conflict. This year we crossed off other things and joined the group on the fully loaded bus to make the trip.
We got on the bus at 7 a.m. and arrived at Battery Park in New York City around 10. Our group walked to the Staten Island ferry and rode it both ways back and forth from Manhattan. We sang four or five songs on each trip. At the end of the first crossing one of the passengers told me our singing was beautiful and asked where we are from. Someone said they saw another man taking a video of our singing. We were not doing it to get attention for ourselves but to point people to the Lord as their hope and rescuer. From the ferry we had a good view of the NYC skyline. The ferry passes close to the Statue of Liberty and Leroy got a good picture of it. Someday I want to go up in the statue but we did not have time yesterday.
After we got back from the ferry we ate our lunch in Battery Park and explored the park a little afterward. The weather cooperated nicely and gave us a beautiful day to be in the city.
There is an old circular stone fort in Battery Park which was built in 1808. It was the last of a series of forts which guarded lower Manhattan, beginning with the one built in 1624 by the first Dutch settlers. Just across from the fort is a monument to the Walloon Settlers (Belgian Huguenots) who sailed with the Dutch on the ship Nieu Nederland (New Netherland) in 1624. The momument was dedicated in 1924, the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the settlers in New York (then called New Amsterdam). We are rapidly approaching the 400 year mark! This is the entrance to the fort. On either side it curves outward to begin the circular design. (You know I will find something historical everywhere I go, don't you?)

After lunch the bus inched toward Bowery Street where the mission is located. Traffic was heavy and some streets were closed for an Italian festival. We saw Ground Zero where some construction was being done but it is a long ways from being anywhere near finished. Because of the traffic we were late getting to the mission where our group conducted the 2 p.m. service (which didn't start until 2:30). Things have changed on Bowery Street since we were there last. The piles of trash and junk have been cleaned up and the drunks that used to line the sidewalks as they slept off their hangovers are gone. The neighborhood looks much more respectable now. The parts of the city I saw yesterday are cleaner and greener than they used to be. I saw quite a few rooftop gardens and flower beds planted in islands in the streets.

After the service ended at the mission, the bus again inched its way out of the city. It took an hour to get to the Holland Tunnel. We stopped for supper somewhere in New Jersey and got back to the church at 8 p.m.

As I looked at the streets of New York teeming with people I could not understand how so many people would be attracted to living in such cramped quarters. We saw all makes and models of people dressed in all sorts of ways and speaking a multitude of languages. I guess we were just one more variety added to the mix. I noticed the inquisitive looks we got from passers-by in the park while we were eating our lunch. Leroy heard two men discussing us and one of them identified us as "A-mish." New York is a nice place to visit but I'm a country girl to the bone. We had a good day in the city but I am thankful to be back in the quiet country again. I need my space!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Electric Candle Survey

There are less than seven days left until summer ends and the first day of fall arrives. Since the hours of dark and daylight are nearly equal again I got my electric window candles out of summer storage and set them up last evening. I have them on a timer in our bedroom so they go off around 9:30 because I can't sleep with a light on at night. In the summer when it doesn't get dark until nearly 9 it is hardly worth having them on. So I usually put them away in June and get them out again about this time of year. I think the house looks so inviting when we drive up in the dark and can see a light in every window.
As I was putting the electric candles in the windows I remembered reading a list of things that are typical of Pennsylvania. Here are just a few of them:

You know you are in Pennsylvania when...
*Hearing horses clopping down a paved road doesn't bring you to the window to see what's going on outside.
*Red Beet Eggs makes your list of top ten favorite foods.
*When it snows they put cinders on the roads instead of sand.
*You call Sloppy Joes "barbecue."
*You do things "once," as in "I'll go check in the back room once."
*Your turkey has "filling," not "stuffing" or "dressing."
*You say things like, "Outen the lights," "I'm calling off today," and "They're calling for snow."
*At least five people on your block have electric candles in most of their windows all year long.

How about that last one? I never thought of year-round electric candles as a Pennsylvania thing, but after hearing out-of-state visitors comment on the candles I began to wonder if there is some truth to it after all. Don't many people in other states use electric candles all year?
I'd like to take a survey. If you live in a state other than Pennsylvania, post a comment and let me know if electric candles in the windows are considered a Christmas decoration or commonly used all year in your state.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Here is a cute picture Leroy brought home one day last week portraying the difference between men and women. Men have one switch labeled "on" and "off." Women are much more complex creatures.
Leroy said there is one thing missing on the panel for women---a big loudspeaker. :-) I know I talk more than he does but don't let him fool you, he likes it that way. He readily admits he would make a very poor bachelor.
Honestly now, isn't it true that men like to fiddle and tinker with things to make them run smoothly? What challenge would there be in a one-switch woman?
In defense of women, I don't think all of us have this many buttons and knobs. Some of us are pretty basic creatures who plow through life without constant fine tuning to keep us running smoothly. But it shall always be a woman's prerogative to change her mind!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finish Line

I crossed the finish line at 5 p.m. today. Here is the chorus line of eight jars of grape jelly. The musical pinging of their lids sealing was nearly drowned out by the clashing sound of the lid being slammed on the canner. It is now washed and stuffed away for the season.
I have been canning non-stop the last month or so. My freezer and jar shelves are bulging with more than we can eat in one winter. This has been the best growing season we had in years so I figured I might as well do plenty when we have it in case next year is a lean one. I'm thankful for the good year but still, what a relief to be done! I'm looking forward to getting back into the past lane next week and having more time to dig into historical things again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Laughing Bride

This is great! It was on the news yesterday. I can imagine myself doing the same thing if it had been me. For some reason I couldn't get it to embed so just click on the link.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer Is Ending

It seems as if it was just a few weeks ago we were in Kansas for the Memorial Day weekend, and here we are at the other end of the summer finishing the Labor Day weekend. We limited our observance of the holiday to grilling hamburgers for supper and otherwise spent the day laboring. Since our Saturdays are all spoken for this month, we took advantage of the opportunity to clean the garage today. Over the years we've found a plan that works. He empties the garage, I scrub it, and he puts things back in when it's dry. Every year I think we will do better at keeping it clean but every year dirt happens. Clutter happens. And then we do it all over again the next year before the weather turns too cool to be slopping with the hose.
The signs of fall are increasing by the day. We are closing the windows at night now and I put a quilt on the bed. The crocheted bedspread is just not warm enough anymore. As we speak, I hear the sound of the corn chopper making silage of the tall corn. They've been at it all day and make quick work of it with a trailer truck driving beside the huge chopper. No little silage wagons for them! (This picture is actually chopping hay but it will give you the idea.) In about two days all the corn fields around us will be bare and empty.
We've been seeing a hummingbird around the house the last week or so. I don't know how long we can convince it to hang around but we resurrected Gerald's old hummingbird feeder and hung it on the porch. Today we saw the hummingbird feeding there. I hope it spreads the word and brings some friends. That would be one way to hang onto summer a bit longer.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Higher Kingdom Christian Bookstore

One of my cousins opened an online Christian bookstore this year called Higher Kingdom Christian Bookstore. His main objective was to make available online the books published by TGS International, an arm of Christian Aid Ministries. This humanitarian aid and relief agency with headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, operates a food packing and meat canning center in Pennsylvania as well as five clothing centers in the United States and Canada. Many of the books published by TGS tell heart-rending true stories of people whose lives have been torn apart in the countries around the world where Christian Aid Ministries is working to bring relief.
In addition to books published by TGS, Higher Kingdom Christian Bookstore also offers high-quality Christian books by other publishers. You can go to the bookstore by clicking on the link on the right. The web address is

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Shifting Gears

Huff puff !! I'm finally getting there! To the end of the garden and the August canning rush, that is. I prophesied things would gum up during the last two weeks of August and that's what happened. Things have been a little crazy around here lately but the dust began to settle today.
My canning repertoire for last week included corn, tomatoes, apples, and pickles. This week it was same song, second verse with tomatoes taking center stage on Monday and apples on Tuesday. My tally so far this week is 16 qt. spaghetti sauce, 36 pt. pizza sauce, 29 qt. applesauce, 2 qt. dried corn, and 5 pt. sweet pickles. Another kind of pickles is curing and can be processed tomorrow. I have just come in from picking the last two dozen ears of corn in the garden and a nice mess of green beans. They are still blooming and will probably continue to give us something fresh to eat for a couple more weeks. Other than the beans, the only thing still left in the garden are tomatoes. I probably could have picked another bucketful but chose to ignore them--at least for today.
Since our Family Day concluded with a cookout here on Saturday, I decided to skip cleaning last week knowing the place would need cleaning more after than before 27 people circled my table. Another prophesy came true. After the last ones left around 9:30 p.m. I was too tired to sweep the floor and I did not have time on Monday or Tuesday to do anything about it either. By last evening the floor was so sticky I could not tolerate walking on it in bare feet. My choices were either to wear socks or carry a putty knife to pry my feet loose after each step. (I chose the former.) Wednesday is not normally a kitchen-cleaning day but today was an exception.
My hoard of provisions for the winter are safely stored on the shelves in the basement, the kitchen is clean, and the garden is nearly empty. I will still can small amounts of a few things but the August rush is over. I'm happy to be shifting gears and moving into fall mode.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family Day

This was our year to do a sightseeing tour as a family. We had to go all the way to the end of the summer before we found a date that suited everyone--August 29. We planned to spend the day at Valley Forge doing outdoor activities. Plan B for a rainy day was to go to Harrisburg where we could do indoor things. The forecast at the beginning of the week looked good but the closer we got to Saturday the worse it sounded. The rain began about 10 p.m. Thursday and continued on and off all day Friday. The big question was whether it would stop for Saturday or not. Finally, late Friday afternoon we decided it would eliminate the stress if we just went with Plan B. There was some light rain on the way to Harrisburg Saturday morning and we knew we had made the right decision.
All 27 of our tribe met on the steps of the Capitol building soon after 10 a.m. and took the 11 a.m. tour of the building. I was there on a school trip when I was in about sixth grade but did not remember much of it. Even if I had, I would have seen it from a different perspective now. I could not believe the amount of real 23-carat gold used in the trim. Our guide told us this is one of the most ornate Capitol buildings in the United States and I believe her!

This is the third building, constructed in 1906 to replace the one which burned at the end of the 1800s. Thirteen million dollars was spent in 1906 to construct this building and today it is priceless. Some of the building materials are granite, marble, bronze, mahogany, stained glass, and Moravian tile. The marble used on the walls of the House of Representatives was quarried in France. The quarry closed after it was removed so this is the only place in the Western hemisphere you can see that particular kind of marble. Some of the chandeliers weigh as much as an adult elephant. A lady was commissioned to do the paintings on the walls. She spent 28 years completing the project.
Here is the sweeping staircase in the rotunda.
When the tour ended, it was lunch time. We carried our finger-food lunch to a large patio behind the Capitol where there are a lot of small round tables for that purpose. Just as we started to set up, rain began to fall. We quickly grabbed everything and dragged it to a wide porch. It was close fellowship with no tables or chairs, but we munched our lunch while it rained. By the time we finished the rain had stopped so that no one got wet carrying the remains to the vehicles. We walked across the street to the William Penn Museum where we spent the afternoon in dry, air conditioned comfort.
Some of the families with children headed back to our place first and started cooking supper. When we arrived the men and boys were finishing the grass cutting Leroy had been unable to do because of the rain. The food was ready by the time they finished mowing. Just as we began to eat, the rain came back. This time there was wind but we were in the house instead of on a porch. Gerald's contribution to the meal added a memory but was not popular and tasted by very few. I took a small bite of his Pickled Pig Snout and it tasts like tripe. In the end, the offending plate containing a whole pig snout was removed from the table for the sake of the squemish majority.
We had a good day that stretched out until 9:30 p.m. even if we had to take our second choice of activities. Where we are is not as important as simply being together. I am thankful to have a family that can enjoy each other's company.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce

I just finished canning 10 quarts of spaghetti sauce. That makes a total of 25 quarts to tomato products from four (yes, 4) tomato stalks. I never dreamed just four stalks would produce so many tomatoes, but this has been an unusually wet year and everything is producing by the bushels.
The flash sort of washed out the color in this picture but, trust me, the spaghetti sauce is a deep red. Some of that lovely color comes from using tomato paste to thicken the sauce. This is the best spaghetti sauce recipe I have ever used. It doubles well as pizza sauce too.
If you have an abundance of tomatoes and don't know what to do with them, maybe you'd like to try this recipe.
1/2 bushel of tomatoes (3 gal. juice)
2 tbs. onion powder OR 3-4 onions cooked and pureed
1 tbs. garlic powder
2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tbs. dried parsley
3 tbs. oregano
1 tbs. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbs. chili powder
1/2 c. salt
48 oz. tomato paste
Add all the ingredients to the tomato juice except tomato paste. At boiling point, add paste and boil until thickened. Pour into jars and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Yields 10-12 quarts.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pickled Pig Snouts

Ever seen these things before? I'm sure you have, but have you ever seen them in a jar?

Yesterday we had some guests here for a cookout. Leroy grilled some bratwurst I got at Dietrich Meats in the upper end of Berks County. They specialize in PA Dutch meats and have things you won't find anywhere else. When I told the guests where I had gotten the bratwurst I said that one of the unusual things Dietrich Meats has is pickled pig snouts. Gerald thought that was something he had to see. He passes by there on his way home from work, so this morning he stopped in and bought a jar. What you see there below the label is a whole pig snout snuffling up against the side of the jar. Anybody want a taste?

Friday, August 21, 2009

He's Back!

We're back to a three-ring circus. :-) Gerald came home from Haiti yesterday and our nest is no longer empty. As we feared, his flight out of Port au Prince on Wednesday was delayed which made it impossible to catch his connecting flight in Miami. American Airlines gave him a voucher to stay at a hotel and rebooked him for 8 a.m. Thursday morning. It was a hassle for him but they took care of him and we were actually happier that way than if he had landed on schedule at 12:20 a.m. Thursday. We got to sleep all night and drive to the airport in the daylight instead of at night. We never were city slickers and it's too late to start now. I hate to think what might have happened if we had tried to find the airport in the dark.
At any rate, Gerald enjoyed his visit to Haiti. Helping his cousin in the clinic was only one of the things he did. He helped with anything from wiring lights to installing programs on a computer, to hauling rocks. If you want to hear more about his experiences and see some pictures you can get it straight from the horse's mouth on his blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ripe Hour

(Here is a piece I clipped from a newspaper many years ago. It's still beautiful and true. The writer is not indentified.)

After a humid August day when a hot sun has pressed heat on the land, there comes that poignant hour between dusk and darkness when one can feel Year's ripeness.
Time is sliding downhill. Now the shorter days and longer periods of darkness mean that Nature is hastening toward the time of maturity.
When the sun is low above the mountain rim and shadows have started to thicken in the valleys, there is an interlude when one can feel the ripeness. Perhaps it is psychological; perhaps it is man who is in tune with the Great Symphony of the seasons.
But when the countryman walks his acres at day's end in the eighth month, he feels he can sense the ripeness.
Ripeness is a cumulative process. Countless small insects and plants have finished their life cycles earlier in the season. Now it is the beginning of the ripening hour for field crops and fruits.
Stand beside a cornfield on an August evening when the brooding silence is like a blanket and you may think you hear the corn grow. A man cannot hear apples swell nor acorns grow in their saucers, but he knows as he looks at them that growth is occurring and ripeness coming.
This it has been since plants took their places on our earth. Seeds sprout in the magic of humus; they grow to maturity and insure the continuance of the species.
Life goes in its ordained cycle. The Master Planner decrees that after the time of growth there is ripeness. The ripeness of an August evening is a meaningful lesson.
It is not sad. It is part of life.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mementos From The Past

Yesterday Leroy was sent to Ephrata for something so while he was down there he stopped at the place where I was born and took some pictures of the bare spot where the house used to be. This is how it looks now.
The barn is still standing but the big old tree that was in front of the house is gone and there is an empty hole where the house was. Some of the limestone rocks that had been used to build the cellar wall were still scattered around in the hole. Leroy asked one of the construction workers if he could have a few of them as mementos and was given permission to take anything he wanted. He brought a few small rocks home and we used them to form a short path in a flower bed behind the house. The most ordinary objects become precious when they are the only visible things that are left.

"Save a few mementos from your past
or how will you prove it wasn't all a dream."