Saturday, May 31, 2014


Since my most popular posts are book reviews, this week I am posting THREE book reviews!  Yes, I've been doing a lot of reading and loving every page.  So here we go:

Monday:  A Book Review of Hannah's Courtship by Emma Miller

Tuesday:  A Book Review of Forever Amish by Kate Lloyd

Wednesday:  This week's recipe is a favorite for family get togethers and summer grill outs - Creamy and Delicious Jello Salad.  And you can change this one depending on what flavor Jello your family likes!

Thursday:  A Book Review of The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer

Friday:  My daughter is getting married in November so I thought it would be fun to write about Traditions of Amish Weddings.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Click to hear an audio file of Das Loblied.  This audio file is from Saloma Furlong, author of the recent memoir, Bonnet Strings, An Amish Woman's Ties to Two Worlds.  This Amish hymn is mentioned frequently in Amish novels as a song sung during Amish church services.  I found listening to Das Loblied very moving.  Below are the words to Das Loblied translated into English taken from

Das Loblied

The best known hymn is Das Loblied, or “Hymn of Praise”.   The Loblied is the second song sung in all Amish church services.  It is hymn # 131 in the Ausbund.  Here is an English translation (source):
1. O Lord Father, we bless thy name,
Thy love and thy goodness praise;
That thou, O Lord, so graciously
Have been to us always.
Thou hast brought us together, O Lord,
To be admonished through thy word.
Bestow on us thy grace.

2. O may thy servant be endowed
With wisdom from on high,
To preach thy word with truth and power,
Thy name to glorify.
Which needful is to they own praise,
Give hunger for thy word always,
This should be our desire.
Ausbund Lob Lied
3. Put wisdom in our hearts while here
On earth thy will be known,
They word through grace to understand
What thou would have us to do.
To live in righteousness, O Lord,
Submissive to thy word,
That all our vows prove true.

4. Thine only be the glory, O Lord,
Likeness all might and power.
That we praise thee in our assembly
And feel grateful every hour.
With all our hearts we pray,
Wilt thou be with us every day
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Amish churches can differ in many ways, but the Loblied‘s position as the second song sung in every church service is one unifying aspect which stretches over all of North America’s 1,900+ Amish congregations.  Writing of the Lancaster County Amish, Donald Kraybill notes that “on a given Sunday morning, all the congregations holding services across the settlement are singing the same song at roughly the same time, an experience one member described as giving a beautiful feeling of unity among the churches” (The Riddle of Amish Culture p. 123).

Thursday, May 29, 2014


In my continuing, never-ending quest to lower our monthly bills, I try to read about frugal lessons on the computer.  Here's one that is worth repeating to all readers.  I found this post written by Mary Ann Romans (you can see the original post here.)  How many times have I bought something when buying it second hand would have saved me at least 50% and the item would still be just as good?  I think you may be surprised at the vast quantity of items available at Goodwill, plus repurposing items is good for the environment!  

May I also suggest thinking about donating what your family no longer needs to Goodwill or any of the other local second hand or thrift stores?  You are helping others and that feels good.

I hope you enjoy this article from Mary Ann Romans; she writes frequently for

Frugal Lessons from the Amish: Going Goodwilling

If you have been reading my recent blogs about the Amish you know about Amy, a young wife and mother who is part of the Amish community near me in Lancaster county, Pa. Amy has been nice enough to share some of the ways that she and others in her community live frugally.
I asked Amy if she ever goes shopping and she laughed. “For sure!” She and her relatives and friends love to shop as well as anyone, turning the trips into social occasions. Her husband, Levi, and her brothers often come along, too.
How does Amy shop? Well, they generally don’t go to a mall or large shopping plaza, although it isn’t completely prohibited by their church. But they seldom see the need to go to such a place. For them, a fun shopping trip is to go “Goodwilling.” That is, they love to browse and shop at the Goodwill and other thrift stores.
They don’t see shopping at a thrift store as a negative or as settling because they need to, but rather as an adventure and chance to buy something “new.” For Amy, the Goodwill is the equivalent of the Target or Sears. Whenever they need or want something, the thrift store is the place to go. How many times do we spent lots of money on an item that we could easily get second hand?
If you are ever in Lancaster, ask a local for the location of the nearest thrift store. These stores are really a pleasure to browse. In addition to the normal bric-a-brac, you can even find beautiful hand made wooden toys and Amish clothing. There are some real treasures to be found. I picked up a tiny child’s dress for a friend that she now hangs in her home and is part of her warm county decor.
While you may not live next to an Amish community, there are plenty of treasures you can find in your own area. So the lesson here is simple. Instead of automatically heading to the mall or “megamart,” make the thrift stores your first place to shop. You’ll have fun and save money too.
As Amy said to me, “Why buy new?”

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Chicken Divan served over rice.  
This is the one recipe that my daughter and husband both request often.  It is easy to fix and just has such a great taste.  It just has a hint of curry powder in it but that adds a unique flavor. I have also included a recipe for poaching chicken.  Poached chicken is perfect to use in so many recipes, chicken quesadillas or tacos or chicken croquets.  This poached chicken recipe will leave you with tender, juicy shredded chicken.  Please try it, we all think you will like it!

Well seasoned chicken with chicken broth in slow cooker

The chicken will be falling apart when you remove it from the slow cooker.

Piles of shredded chicken!


1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker, salt and pepper generously, pour chicken broth over chicken, cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 -10 hours.  Chicken should practically fall apart when done and you are removing from the slow cooker.  Place chicken in a bowl and using 2 forks, pull the chicken apart.  Refrigerate until ready to use in Chicken Divan recipe.

First layer in your casserole dish is cooked, chopped broccoli.

Next add the shredded chicken,

Make your sauce then spread it on top the chicken.

Then sprinkle more grated parmesan cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then broil for a couple of minutes.  So delicious!


10 ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli
Shredded chicken breasts from above recipe
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ cup real mayonnaise
½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon curry powder
½ cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook frozen broccoli in microwave according to package directions.  Drain broccoli and place in a greased 2 quart casserole dish.  Place shredded chicken on top of broccoli.  In a separate bowl, mix soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, and ½ cup parmesan cheese together.  Stir well.  Spread this mixture over the top of the shredded chicken.  Sprinkle additional grated parmesan cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then broil for a couple of minutes until top is browned and bubbly.

Serve over rice.  Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The author, Amy Clipston, is sending me five bookmarks and five luggage tags which I will send one set each to five people, based on a random drawing, who comment on this review of her new book, A Mother's Secret.  Please include your email address so I can privately contact you for your mailing address.  Thank you Amy for your generous gifts!

The second novel in The Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series, A Mother’s Secret, by Amy Clipston (Zondervan) is an engaging, page turning, and stunning success.  A Mother’s Secret stands alone perfectly without reading the first book in the series, A Hopeful Heart.  The third novel in the series, A Dream of Home, will be available in the fall of 2014.  Fair warning however, A Mother’s Secret is so enjoyable that readers will want to purchase the entire series.

The protagonist, Carolyn, has been judged harshly by some of the people in her Amish community for a mistake she made when she was 16 years old.  She became an unwed mother and now at age 31, she still feels the sting of the mistake that she made.  She and her son, Benjamin, age 15, live with her parents in the daadi haus on land owned by her brother Amos.  Amos is constantly belittling Carolyn for her past, and in addition, his sons bully Benjamin.

At the Horse Auction, Benjamin is accused of throwing a rock at Joshua Glick’s horse, causing injury and a veterinary bill.  In reality, Amos’s boys threw the rock but blamed Benjamin.  Benjamin is made to work at Joshua’s horse farm to pay the vet bill where he finds he loves working for Joshua and with the horses.

Amos begins pressuring Carolyn to find a husband and marry so she will be more legitimate and give her son a father.  Carolyn doesn’t want a marriage of convenience; she wants to marry for love.  Still, Amos introduces Carolyn to widower Saul and she agrees to get to know him.  Saul has a 10 year old daughter, a successful cabinetry shop, and a kind heart, but he has difficulty expressing his feelings.  Joshua Glick, on the other hand, has no trouble expressing his feelings and he is beginning to fall for Carolyn.  She needs to figure out which man is right for her.

A Mother’s Secret incorporates several important messages within its pages.  Carolyn works through shame and isolation to find true happiness.  Amy Clipston writes brilliantly on the subject of forgiveness, not just God’s forgiveness of sins but each person forgiving themselves and each other.  In addition, the book includes the theme of trusting in the plan God has for each individual.

Amy Clipston gives readers a wonderful romance in the pages of A Mother’s Secret.  The romance is sweet, exciting, and refreshingly realistic.  She perfectly captures that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling between a couple as they first start to fall in love.  There is also some very interesting conflict between the characters.  The book is totally entertaining with creative three dimensional personalities having relatable problems, both good and bad characteristics, fears and successes, happiness and loneliness.  It’s simply a pleasure to read Amy Clipston’s novels.  A Mother’s Secret will be available on June 3, 2014.

Monday, May 26, 2014


While in Holmes County, Ohio a few weeks ago, I came across a big stack of The Budget newspapers in Heini's Cheese Chalet.  They were for sale for $1.00 per copy.  Being a big reader of Amish novels, I have been wanting to read The Budget for a long time. Almost every Amish novel has Dad or Granddad reading The Budget.  

Reading The Budget is like taking a step back in time.  Each church district has someone responsible for writing about what is going on in their district for the week.  There were 48 pages of news from Amish and Mennonite communities all over the United States and five countries (Belize, Ghana West Africa, Israel, Nicaragua, and England).

Almost each post describes the weather, where church was held, who came to visit and from where, who went visiting and where, who is sick.  It is very homey and folksy.

Here are some interesting tidbits from The Budget:

Miller, Missouri, Halltown Area - Stanley Hostetlers found several hundred mushrooms. Several 8" and 9" have been found.  Yesterday the temperature went up to lower 90s!

Elmer Hostetler flew to Pennsylvania again to visit his friend Katie Miller over last weekend and her birthday.

Rosetta Headings (Mrs. Clinton) spilled boiling water on her foot. She doctored it with B&W salve and burdock.

Apple Creek, Ohio - All days have 24 hours, but today seemed like it had a few extra hours. Mom had nose bleeds during the night and a weak day.

Other news:  Paul L. Schlabach spent a day in the hospital due to some bladder problems.

Clearbrook, Minnesota - Andrew Troyer (Allans) hurt himself when he got caught between 2 buggies while helping others hitch up and the horse started to go.  He has 2 big cuts that look pretty deep above his knee.  They are trying to heal it with the B&W and burdock method.  They say it could go up to 4 months till he's fully recovered.  He doesn't have too much pain if he holds still, but that's hard to do being a 13 year old, not?

Rexford, Montana - Teacher David Slabaugh plans to leave for his hometown in Ohio sometime next week.  I'm sure the students will all miss him!  So far we don't have a teacher for the next term.  Any volunteers?

It's raining again, just a steady drizzle.  Makes you happy to be inside by the stove, and it sure sounds pretty on the tin roof!

Delhi, Iowa - Rainy and cold.  It was in the 40's all day , with rain off and on.  But at least the wind has died down.  It has been rainy, windy, and cold since Sunday.  We heard the saying "if it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain for 7 Sundays."  It has proved true so far.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Here's what I'm writing about this next week, May 26 - 30, 2014:  

Monday:  I will post some fun excerpts from The Budget, the Amish newpaper.

Tuesday:  Book review of A Mother's Secret by Amy Clipston,
this book comes out the beginning of June and you will want to put this book on your "to be read" list for sure!

Wednesday:  Time for a great recipe, Yummy, Savory Chicken Divan.  Your family will love this one!

Thursday:  Today's frugal tip is to Go Goodwilling.

Friday:  If you read many Amish novels, for sure and for certain you have read about church services where they sing Das Loblied.  I have always wanted to hear what the song sounds like.  Well, I found an audio file of Das Loblied and included it and the lyrics (translated into English).

Happy Memorial Day to all here in the United States.  My Dad fought in WWII in Europe, when I think about how young he was, shipped over to France and Germany to fight, it amazes me.  He was wounded by shrapnel from a land mine in Germany.  He recovered just fine and came home to marry my Mom and raise four daughters.  My husband volunteered to join the Navy and went to Viet Nam repeatedly, working at the Da Nang Air Base.  Those are the two courageous men in my life, one here with me and one in heaven looking out for me.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I found this article written by Joe Mackall for Ohio Magazine which seems to have a balanced approach when discussing the Amish.  Just like any generalization about a group can be unfair, so it is when those generalizations are made towards all Amish. So if you are interested in the Amish and their lifestyle, and want to discover more about them, this is a great article to read and learn.

The View From Amish Country

Forget any preconceived notions you may have of the Amish. Their daily lives and cultures are diverse, and vary according to both their order and "ordnung."
Joe Mackall
The View From Amish Country
I hadn’t been sitting across the table from some old friends for 20 minutes when the subject of the Amish came up. Their stories went something like this: One friend had hired some Amish to build a small barn. “They’re good workers,” my friend said. “They started early and left late. Had a 10-minute lunch.” Another friend offered this: “A guy I know hired some Amish to work in his shop. They were all on crystal meth.”
What came next is what always comes next. “What’s that crazy party thing they do when the kids don’t have to be Amish for a while?” “Do they go to hospitals?” “Isn’t there a lot of inbreeding?”

Although I don’t want to become an apologist for the Amish just because I wrote a book on a Swartzentruber Amish family in Ashland County, Ohio, I do feel compelled to beg friends and strangers not to generalize about the faith. The Amish are not even the Amish. By this I mean that the Swartzentruber Amish — the most insular and conservative of those who practice the religion — live lives drastically different from the Andy Weaver Amish, the Old Order Amish or New Order Amish. These four orders constitute Ohio’s Amish, and all four have a different “ordnung,” or social template that dictates what they can and cannot do, the rules they agree to follow. It varies from order to order, even within orders and among affiliations. It’s possible that some conservative, modern Americans have more in common with New Order Amish than the New Order Amish have with the Swartzentrubers. 

I live in the midst of the largest Amish settlement in the world. Approximately 40,000 Amish live in the Holmes County/Wayne County vicinity, which includes surrounding counties, the nearest being Ashland. When people hear that I live among the Amish of Ashland County, they get excited over having heard the wordAmish. Usually the next thing they’ll tell me is that they know somebody who knew some Amish guys who used electric chainsaws and drank beer at lunch, implying that the whole way of life is some kind of sham — or at least a hotbed of hypocrisy.

But people truly in the know might ask if the Amish being generalized about are Beachy Amish, Swiss Amish, Nebraska Amish, Andy Weaver Amish, New Order, Old Order or Swartzentruber. Even within subgroups, different church districts often have different ordnungs. It seems we all see what we want to see in the Amish. Even the different orders see what they need to see in each other. The Old Order Amish look down on the Swartzentrubers, making fun of them for milking cows by hand and for taking baths only once a week. The higher-church Amish refer to the Swartzentrubers asgruddel vullahs, or “woolly lumps,” for getting cows’ milk in their beards. The Swartzentrubers believe the Old Order Amish, from whom they split in the early part of the 20th century, have become too liberal and worldly, yoking themselves to the English in ways unpleasing to God.

As much as the Amish sometimes disagree among themselves, all, to varying degrees, adhere to the linchpins of their faith: obedience to their church and separation from the world. Beyond these tenets, to generalize about the Amish is to be a fool or worse. As David Weaver-Zercher writes inThe Amish in the American Imagination, “First, the Amish are not a monolithic cultural entity but are a diverse group of people, churches and communities that embrace the name ‘Amish.’ Second, these various Amish cultures are not static entities but are constantly shifting and reformulating themselves. Third, Amish people, even those who live within the same church district, think and act in a variety of ways, sometimes in sharp contrast to one another.”

Within an hour by car from my Swartzentruber-surrounded home in northern Ashland County, Amish use battery-powered lights on their buggies — buggies that have cool-looking faux-wood dashboards and heavy plastic windshields, like the kind seen in the 1985 Peter Weir film “Witness.” And not an hour by car in another direction, Amish farmers might use tractors around the barn, lease cars or ride bikes. The Beachy Amish own and drive cars. The Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, have gas lights and indoor toilets in their homes, and might as well be English — as the Amish call all non-Amish — according to some of their less modern brethren.

The Amish I know best are the Swartzentruber Amish of Ashland County. My friends, Samuel and Mary Shetler, own simple black buggies with two kerosene lanterns and no windshield, and live in a home with no central heating and no couches or stuffed chairs. To be a Swartzentruber Amish is to have no indoor plumbing, no refrigerators or freezers, no continuous hot water, no tractors in the field or at the barn, no blinds on the windows, and no wild rumspringa, which is the running around time some Amish orders permit their youth. (The English love to gossip about the period of limbo when Amish 16-year-old boys and girls are permitted, even encouraged, to throw off the heavy restrictions of Amish life and enter the modern world until they decide to join or leave the church.) 

Although their more liberal brethren have agreed to allow the slow-moving vehicle signs to be screwed to the backs of their buggies, the Swartzentruber Amish have steadfastly refused to use the sign — despite being thrown in jail and enduring lawsuits in several states. The Swartzentruber Amish reject it, believing it to be too brightly colored and too “of the world.” To them, accepting the slow-moving vehicle emblem would be akin to trusting in a symbol more than trusting in God to keep them safe.

To come upon a Swartzentruber Amish buggy at night is to spy the faint hint of a lantern’s red light, as if your headlights have shone on a reflector stuck in somebody’s front lawn.But as you get closer, and if you’re not going too ridiculously fast — although almost all of the young men in pickups around here do drive ridiculously fast — you’ll catch what look like long silver splinters of something you can’t identify, ostensibly floating independently of anything else. This will be your signal that you’ve come upon a Swartzentruber buggy in the dark. Parents and five, seven, nine of their young children will be riding home from a long Sunday of worship and socializing, perched on benches in the open night, belted to their seats by nothing more than their blankets and prayers, hoping you’ll see them in time to stop or pass.

A visit to Home Depot — via buggy — with my friend Samuel brought home the vast differences among and within Ohio’s Amish orders. After we’d been shopping for a while, I left Samuel to find the lumber he needed for his house. I decided to see just how many things Home Depot carries that Samuel will never have to buy. All electric appliances are out, of course. I imagine lamps disappearing from the store, and with them all electricity-related paraphernalia: lightbulbs, sockets, cords, adapters ... Because all big-ticket items run on electricity, the Swartzentrubers do not need to look at refrigerators, stoves (unless there’s a woodburner around), freezers or air-conditioning units. All the fancy front doors are unnecessary. There’s no need for the aisles of tile, linoleum or carpet. He could buy hammer and nails if he needed them, as well as wrenches and manual screwdrivers. The hardware aisle seems pretty solid for Swartzentruber shoppers. The only paint colors Samuel would ever buy would be white, gray or some shade of dark blue.

If Samuel were not a Swartzentruber but were instead a member of the Andy Weaver Amish, he’d be able to have linoleum or varnished floors, couches and cushioned chairs, and an indoor toilet, tub and shower. If he and his family were members of the Old Order, he could have everything permitted by the Andy Weaver Amish plus window blinds, continuous hot water and central heating. And if he were to join an even higher church than the Old Order and become New Order, he’d have everything mentioned plus bottled gas appliances, a gas freezer, and natural gas lighting, which would mean no more kerosene lanterns. But since he is Swartzentruber, none of those conveniences are within reach. 

All four of these groups do share something, however. Everybody is allowed to have a washing machine — although a washing machine needs to be stripped of anything electrical and must have a belt that runs to a small gasoline engine. And nobody’s allowed to have carpeting. I like to imagine all the women of the four orders somehow putting pressure on their husbands, explaining how difficult it is to do the wash by hand for the two of them plus eight or 10 or 12 kids, insisting on making washing machines cool with the ordnung, or else. Maybe they concede carpeting as a compromise.

But that’s not all. Some New Order affiliations use computers and electric typewriters, and the most liberal New Orders can fly in planes, use a garden tiller and have a private telephone. Along with the New Order, the Old Order Amish can artificially inseminate their animals, use power lawnmowers and weed eaters, hire vehicles and ride bikes. Even the Andy Weaver Amish can hire a car and driver and own power chainsaws. But not so the Swartzentrubers.

Swartzentruber farmers have lots of room to complain. The New Order Amish can use everything on their farms, including haybines, hay crimpers, corn pickers, mechanical gutter cleaners and milking machines. The Old and New Order Amish can use portable feed mixers, forklifts and front-end loaders. Even the Andy Weavers are permitted an elevator in their barns. Although none of the four can use tractors for plowing, the New Order Amish can use them as road vehicles, and even the Andy Weavers and the Old Orders can use tractors around the barn.

Not so the Swartzentrubers.

But generalizing is only a part of the vision problem most of us have with the Amish. For years before living among them and writing my book, I stereotyped and romanticized the Amish, which is something millions of people do. I still do it. Mention the Amish to most folks and you will generally see a smile cross their faces as they recall the barn-raising scene in the movie “Witness,” starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. Ford plays an English detective hiding among “the plain people” to protect an Amish boy who is his star witness in a murder case. In one compellingly gorgeous scene, McGillis, naked to the waist, is washing and preparing for bed when she and Ford catch each other’s reflection in a mirror. She turns to face him. The moment is bathed in a warm, soft, yellow glow as a thunderstorm charges the night. Romantics beware!

Another take on the Amish could be referred to as the idealized tourist view. People who adhere to this unquestioning perspective see the Amish as somehow preserving what to most of us is a bygone era, a time before cars and computers, when America’s families worked on their farms, a time when they cared for their neighbors and loved their country. If this view of the Amish were captured in an image, that picture would be of a horse and buggy rolling down a country road lined with tall rows of corn, the sun beginning to set, reflecting just enough red light to see the smiling faces of the Amish children glancing out the back of the buggy, no doubt heading home to a haven of love and peace. 

These romanticizers of Amish life are nearly as dangerous as those seeking to sensationalize it. These two opposing views of the Amish have more in common with each other than is apparent at first. They reveal more about what outsiders need to see in the Amish than about who the Amish actually are. Thus, when some people look at the Amish, they see a religious fanaticism that is about control, fire and brimstone, the heavy hand of patriarchy, and the subjugation of the individual, particularly women. Others see a splinter of some idealized America of a century ago — or at least a hint of a more recent past, embodied in the back-to-the-land philosophy that mirrors the lost ideals of the 1960s.

As he so often does, writer Wendell Berry grinds our faulty perceptions to cornmeal when he writes, “Nothing, I think, is more peculiarly characteristic ... of American society ... than its inability to see the Amish for what they are. Oh, it sees them, all right. It sees them as quaint, picturesque, old-fashioned, backward, unprogressive, strange, extreme, different, perhaps slightly subversive. And that ‘sight’ is perfect blindness.”

A year after researching and writing my book, I sometimes feel that I know next to nothing about “the Amish.” I do know that I’m now careful never to generalize about them. And when I want to feel connected to these unique and wonderful people, I walk over to the home of my friends, Samuel and Mary Shetler, who also just happen to be Swartzentruber Amish.

Who are the Amish? We think we know, based on our trips to Ohio’s Amish Country for a day of shopping, dining and viewing the idyllic countryside. But Joe Mackall, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish, encounters many misperceptions and generalizations about the Amish. Mackall lives in Ashland County and has befriended his neighbors, a family of Swartzentruber Amish, the most conservative and insular order.
Ohio Magazine asked Mackall, an associate professor of English and creative writing at Ashland University, to share some of his insights into Ohio’s Amish traditions, lifestyles and beliefs. His observations can help all of us “English” better understand what we see on next tour Amish Country. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Mary Ellis has written a most fascinating Amish romance novel, A Plain Man (Harvest House Publishers).  This novel follows the odyssey of 25 year-old Caleb Beachy, returning after five years from his Englisch life in Cleveland to an Amish lifestyle in Fredericksburg, Ohio.  Caleb finds himself back at his family homestead needing to rebuild a trusting relationship with his father, the bishop of the Amish community.  He wants to find an appropriate work life and re-establish an Amish social life.

Caleb is a wonderfully likable character but flawed as all God’s children are.  He has made mistakes and continues to make mistakes, but he owns up to his errors.  He is willing to learn from his past to make his future better.  Mary Ellis has created a complex, multi-dimensional Amish man with Caleb.  He has hung onto some of his Englischer language and customs, much to his father’s dismay, yet he remains determined and committed to taking his Amish baptismal kneeling vows. 

Caleb decides he needs to distance himself from his Englisch coworkers on the construction crew to remove the temptation to slip back into drinking after work.  At this point, Caleb’s father recommends that Caleb volunteer to help a fellow Amish family, the Sidleys, rebuild their run-down farm and home.  Mary Ellis instills a valuable lesson here, if you want to forget about yourself and your problems, help someone else.  By working with and putting the Sidleys family before his own problems, Caleb begins to feel better about himself.

But even with helping the Sidleys to put their home and farm back into order, Caleb is still distraught over his past improper conduct and mistakes made while living as an Englischer.  Caleb doesn’t feel that he will ever be accepted back into the community as a true Amish man.  Reoccurring themes of forgiveness and acceptance are throughout A Plain Man.  Multiple characters learn the value of praying for God’s grace to help them forgive others as well as themselves.

Caleb gets reacquainted with a lovely young Amish woman, Josie, who wants to help Caleb forgive himself for past mistakes so he can move forward in his Amish faith.  Caleb worries that no Amish woman in her right mind will ever marry him with all the baggage he carries from his years living as an Englisch man.  Mary Ellis knows romance and unique character development.  Josie’s character is a delightful breath of fresh air as a romantic counterpart for Caleb.  Their story is original and quite outside the box.  Josie becomes the heroine when she comes up with an unusual solution for Caleb to be able to accept and forgive his past.

Mary Ellis is a prolific five star writer of Amish and historical romance novels.  A Plain Man is a novel that will be treasured and enjoyed page by page.  It was published April 1, 2014.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


About 30 years ago, my sisters and I went with my Mom to a special program for mothers and daughters at her WWII ladies axiliary meeting.  They served a lunch afterwards and had these delicious Saucy BBQ Beef Sandwiches.  I enjoyed this version of BBQ and ground beef so much I had my Mom ask the lady who brought the dish for her recipe.  I was so happy she decided to share her recipe and that the recipe was so incredibly simple!  If you are having a crowd over and want to feed them inexpensively, this is your dish.  I have made this and then put it in a slow cooker to keep warm for hours until needed.  Also, the leftovers freeze nicely.  This dish can be doubled or tripled easily as well.  


1 pound ground chuck
3/4 cup frozen chopped onions
3/4 cup diced green pepper
1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Prepared Yellow Mustard
1 Cup Ketchup


In a large Dutch Oven, over medium heat, brown the ground chuck, onions, and green pepper.  Break up the meat as you cook it. Sprinkle the salt on the meat.  When the meat is no longer pink, drain the fat from the Dutch Oven.
Drain the fat after cooking
After adding the sauce, simmer on low, stirring occasionally

While the meat is cooking, mix together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, and ketchup, stir well.  After draining the fat from the meat, add the sauce to the meat, stir well, decrease the heat from medium to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve on the buns of your choice.  Some people like to add cole slaw to the bun as well. Makes 5 sandwiches.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


We went to Holmes County on a Thursday and laundry was hanging out everywhere we looked.

As my husband and I traveled throughout Holmes County on a gorgeous day in May, I took many photographs, well over 100 pictures as a matter of fact.  This is such a beautiful area, I couldn’t help myself.  As you may be aware, most Amish do not want to have their full face in a photograph.  Therefore it becomes tricky to capture the entire Holmes County experience, but I strongly feel it is important to respect other’s beliefs and put the camera away when it may make someone feel uncomfortable.  

I would have loved to capture the fresh faced beauty of the lovely Amish girls working at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen and handsome young men making cheese at Heini’s Cheese Chalet, but that would perhaps be putting them in an awkward position of having their beliefs challenged.  Not all Amish do not wish their picture to be taken, once while in Pinecraft, I asked some Amish ladies that were quilting if I could take a picture of their quilt.  I then assured them that I would not get their faces in the picture.  They chuckled and said that it was alright, their faces wouldn't break my camera!

Some people feel the rules towards photography and the Amish are softening.  For a more complete discussion of this topic, see the excellent article on What Do Amish Think About Photography.

It is surprising how fast some of the buggies are traveling, those horses really move!

Buggies are all over the winding roads of Holmes County, you really need to drive cautiously.
It was a warm May day and this farmer is plowing his fields the old fashioned way.
 By the way, those work horses are huge.
Such beautiful scenery

It must be laundry day all over Holmes County.

Laundry was out everywhere.

Some Amish travel in covered buggies,
but others had open buggies.

The local one room schoolhouse

Beautiful barns 

Monday, May 19, 2014


Lehman's Store

Hundreds of varieties of soda pop

Large jigsaw puzzle selection

Many racks of Amish novels

Candies of all types

Several rooms of children's toys

Vanilla and other flavorings

Pickled eggs, mustards, salad dressings

Clothes drying racks

Old fashioned clothes pins

Oil lamps

Lots of beautiful candles

Lanterns to match any decor

Scrub boards

Belts for men of any size plus straw hats

And more straw hats for heads of any size

Knife department

Old time stove

Antique refrigerators and stoves

More thermometers than I could imagine

After having a wonderful lunch at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen, we got back in the car and drove to Lehman’s located at 4779 Kidron Road, Dalton, Ohio, phone 888-438-5346, website  Lehman's came highly recommended by Kevin Williams of   How does one explain what Lehman’s is all about?  Lehman’s is everything, sold under one roof.  Lehman’s is so huge that we couldn’t find our way back to the parking lot when we exited a different door from the one we entered.

We walked into Lehman’s and immediately said, “Whoa!”  To the left was a large display of hundred’s of different types of bottled soda pop.  Down the aisle from there were jigsaw puzzles, unusual greeting cards (that is where my Mom’s Mother’s Day card came from), and lots of Amish genre books.  After that we came upon a nice sized cafeteria, but since we just had lunch, we kept on walking.

The next room contained baking supplies, popcorn making supplies, candies, spices, flavorings, mustards, salad dressings, pickled eggs, oils, and so forth.  Beyond that was children’s toys, and then an area for home goods such as clothespins, clothes dryer racks, scrub boards, borax detergent, wringers, which led to the largest selection of oil lamps and lanterns that I have ever seen.

The oil lamps led to a candle selection of many colors, sizes, scents, and types.  I found some taper candles that I had been wanting for quite a while; two 11” blue taper candles were priced at $3.25 for the pair.  We then came across a room which contained an entire wall of men’s belts and straw hats.

The next group of rooms was surprising; it contained new and antique ovens, stoves, fireplaces, refrigerators, washers, dryers, and toilets.  One of these pieces was priced in excess of $5,000 for a fire engine red antique-looking exterior on a brand new refrigerator.  I had trouble imagining who would buy such a piece.

Also of note, Lehman’s had a seriously large knife department and outdoor thermometer and weathervane selection, which was right next to the fudge kiosk.  I know I have left things out, but you get the picture.  Lehman’s has everything and anything you may even think you want.  It was the perfect stop after a heavy lunch at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen because we got to walk and stretch our legs for a bit before our three hour drive back home.