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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?