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Super Easy Microwave Sweet Pickles

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So, I do NOT have cucumbers coming out my ears this year. Last year and the year before, we picked and gave away literally thousands, that’s THOUSANDS of the sometimes prolific vegetable that is every dieter’s friend in its raw state. Hundreds of web searchers found my recipe for Midget Sweet Pickles. (Which are NOT a dieter’s friend in their super sweet state.) The recipe ranks 7th in popularity posts from this past year! Who would have guessed? Midget sweet pickle are also known as sweet gherkins especially in the U.K. and Australia.

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But this recipe is one hundred times easier and also great! I was delighted to find that Lois Priest’s recipe below, which she submitted for the Whatever Happened to Dinner recipe collection a couple years ago, is truly as fast (at least when it comes to pickles) as Lois always told me. (Lois is the shipping supervisor for all those books and Sunday school materials going out from MennoMedia and Herald Press.)

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So, if you have cukes, green peppers, onions and a few pickling spices, you’re in business. I whipped these out in about one hour, two small batches (taking about one half hour each), 4 pints altogether. If you have hundreds to can like I did last year, you’d be better off looking for a recipe that process gallons at a time, not cups. But if you have small dribbles of cucumbers and wish to do something with them so they don’t go to waste, Lois says she often does just a batch after work in the evening. This recipe is perfect for that.

(Note to self: do not plant the super long variety of cucumbers again. I don’t much like them. The vines seem to have been susceptible to a blight or something that killed vines off very early (see issues here) and the cucumbers themselves soon shrivel up after they’ve been picked. Other cucumbers I’ve raised other years kept beautifully in the fridge for at least a week, sometimes two.)

Microwave Pickle

From Lois Priest, with her note included in Whatever Happened to Dinner.LoisPriest

This was given to me by a friend several years ago. It is the only pickle I make, because it is so easy and quick—and good too. I even chop some to put in salads. I make many batches each year, usually 30–40 pints.

3–4 cups / 750–1 L sliced cucumbers
½ cup / 125 ml green peppers, cut in strips
½ cup / 125 ml onion, cut in strips
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon mustard seed
4 teaspoons celery seed
½ cup / 125 ml vinegar
1 cup / 250 ml sugar

Photos and instructions below:

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Put sliced ingredients in large bowl.

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Combine spices, sugar, and vinegar, and pour over the vegetables.

Stir to coat well. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 7 minutes.

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This is what they looked like when they came out of the microwave, all air sucked out and plastic down tight on the contents, but no plastic melted.

Remove and place into pint jars. Put on canning jar type lids and rings to seal.

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[My note: these do not need to be placed in a boiling water bath. They will seal themselves as they cool off.]

Makes 2 pints. (I made two batches with 2 pints each.)

Cleaning up the dishes and utensils after took about as long as making the pickle!

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There are two pickle recipes in my book, Whatever Happened to Dinner, one for cucumber relish, and one for these microwave pickles.

And if you haven’t heard, there’s a giveaway for this book going on over at Amish Wisdom, until August 7, 2015.
Three copies are offered. Check it out!

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Why Did I Want to Go to Mennonite World Conference in Pennsylvania?

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Why Did I Want to Go to Mennonite World Conference in Pennsylvania?

I went for my father.

My father, Vernon Miller, (mostly of Goshen, Indiana,) was a farmer most of his life who dropped out of school but caught a bigger version of the world through his service experience during World War II. As a conscientious objector, he served God and country in Civilian Public Service camps for four years where leaders, church historians and theologians gave him the “college” education he did not get otherwise, exposing him to Mennonite history and thought. He preached to us all of his life of what he learned—about Jesus as the way of peace and how we needed to love our fellow brothers and sisters all over the world no matter what color, creed or occupation. Dad invited into our home international visitors (with mother’s support, but she worried more about the extra work visitors entailed) whenever that opportunity presented itself: international students at Christmas, longer term exchange students, agricultural interns, singing nuns from Brazil, and more.

Thus it was that he and mom decided to sell a few hogs in order to go to Mennonite World Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1967—and while planning to cross the pond decided “rather than turning around and just flying back home” they would visit some of the many people we had hosted in our home. They would take in the Holy Lands and continue on to India and the Far East. They “Mennonited their way,” staying on mission compounds with people they had long supported and prayed for through Mennonite Board of Missions, and saw first hand how food and material goods or animals sent through MCC, CROP/Church World Service, and Heifer projects were actually distributed.

They ate up World Conference and the rest of their around-the-world trip. I guess the seed for my own desire to someday go to a Mennonite World Conference was planted, which only happens every six years and rotates among five continents. I doubted a closer opportunity would ever come in my lifetime.

I went for my mother.

My mother still enjoys recalling the social and cultural surprises of their far flung journey. My mother and her first cousin, an avid singer and worship leader who also attended that World Conference, recalls now the “shock of seeing those cigarette-smoking Holland Mennonites” (the photo that rocked many a Mennonite’s world is still often shared today through social media.

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Amsterdam 1967: Left, Fannie Peachey, Rosedale, Ohio, USA; (on right) non-Mennonite guest attending the conference and staying with a Mennonite couple in Amsterdam. Photographer: Tijn Olij-Spaan

In Amsterdam, Mom and Dad were hosted by a Dutch couple who ran a bakery. Yum, what smells and pastries they enjoyed, and they told us their stories of communication gaffes across languages, and how they craved plain old simple water but couldn’t get anything but seltzer in restaurants. And how they were surprised and a bit saddened to see that their hosts—and other local Dutch Mennonites—didn’t pay that much attention to the events at the conference, and did not have time to attend. While many many Pennsylvania Mennonites attended this conference, of course, there were many more who didn’t or couldn’t attend, nor maybe have much interest in attending. Indeed, if they had, there wouldn’t have been room for the thousands of guests from around the world. It’s the old story of when something is in your backyard or your own town, you seldom take time to visit what travelers go out of their way to see.

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Four women from Zimbawbe, wearing the traditional “celebration dress” they wear for church baptisms and special days. MWC was indeed a celebration time. They gave their permission for this photo.

My mother loved and still loves to travel; she turns 91 this week and while going to something like a major meeting would have been over the top for her to tackle at this age, she was so excited that I planned to go, remembering how much Amsterdam 1967 meant to her and Dad.

I went for me.

Truth be told, my parents’ travel bug passed down to me and as a writer, I hunger after and feed on new experiences, sights, sounds, connections, conversations and inspiration. My dear husband gets this, and did not question or complain about me heading off on this adventure on our dime. Even though I work for a Mennonite organization, our budget there is stretched to the max and I did not have the opportunity to go there on a work assignment. But it was kind of nice to just go and not have duties at the convention like I have worked so many national church or regional conferences, or professional and trade association conventions.

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So even though I could only go for one day, I tried to soak up all that I could. Sometime I’ll write more about what all these sewing machines were doing at a Mennonite convention;

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what a guy wearing this hard hat was up to;

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and what this unusually-equipped semi truck trailer was doing in the parking lot of the Pennsylvania Farm Show grounds and complex.

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I was able to take in two fascinating workshops—one led by two German pastors—one Lutheran and one Mennonite talking about the Mennonite/Lutheran reconciliation of the last decade or so (and if you read my recent blog post here you’ll know why I wanted to go to that one). The other workshop was led by a woman from the Netherlands and I could imagine my parents’ Dutch hosts through her charm, trendy haircut and European style.

I went for future generations.

I was “trip morning excited” as I loaded my minivan at 5 a.m. for my short three hour drive up to Harrisburg. I took in the fresh summer air and thought of my parents in 1967 packing for their around the world trip of a lifetime, and how pinch-myself-is-this-real-thrilled they must have been. I also thought about how keyed up many of the visitors from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, India, Japan, Indonesia, France, England, Mexico, Paraguay and South Africa and many more countries must have been as they prepared to come to the U.S.—for some, surely also the trip of a lifetime. Travel and hosting others, when done with the right approach along with equal measures of care, compassion, and patience, is one way to reach across so many fences and walls that threaten to divide us as a world wide family.

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College friend, Nancy Landis.

Oh and P.S., I too Mennonited-my-way staying overnight with a college friend. That was a treat and a good reminder to keep and nourish the friendship connections we have whether in our backyard, the next state, or another country. Thanks, Nancy!

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One of many informal singing groups sharing music from their own culture.

Finally, I went for the music.

It was awesome and pretty close to my vision of heaven. Here’s one I got to enjoy.

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Do you enjoy large church assemblies or gatherings, no matter what denomination? Mennonite World Conference calls their every-six-years gathering a “reunion.” What is your take on the purpose and meaning of such gatherings? Your thing or not? If you went, what did you enjoy most? What was hard?

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For a playlist of 14 music videos from MWC, check here.

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For more on Mennonites, go to the website I help curate: www.ThirdWay.com

Called to Be Amish: How I Connect with Marlene Miller’s Well-Told Memoir

Book review: Called to Be Amish

The back of the book asks, “Ever wish you were Amish?”

AmishCountryOhioCows crossing the road in Ohio Amish country.

I know some people who have wished that–perhaps fleetingly–traveling through scenic rolling Amish countryside where horses, buggies, kids in cute carts, and neat farms with beautiful vegetable and flower gardens line the highways. We sometimes think of Amish life as quaint, picturesque and all about family, food and farm.

I can’t say that I’ve ever wished to be Amish but in reading a memoir recently, Called to Be Amish, I was taken back powerfully to my own Amish roots (grandparents who grew up Amish) and made to think of my wonderful Amish neighbors growing up, and close grade school friends.

3rdGradeClassMiddlebury3rd grade class at Middlebury Elementary. Bertha, lower right, first row, rode my bus and we sometimes sat together. Ten of those pictured were Mennonite, Conservative, or Amish. I’m middle of “tall” row.

Marlene Miller’s book in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press (disclosure: one of my employers) destroys some of the picture-perfect myth with its relentless portrayal of the hard work inherent with this lifestyle: barn chores, field work, housework, childcare, cooking, canning and cleaning—in addition to Marlene’s husband working in a factory 8-10 hours a day. While this memoir is also a sweet lifelong romance story, much of it deals with the hard realities of every day life.

I was charmed when I read how Marlene met her husband-to-be in almost the same way I met mine—on skates! Different kinds of skates and rinks, and a small difference in who spoke to whom first, and different faith backgrounds, but the same scenario.

First a romantic passage from Called to Be Amish:

As I was making my way around the ice, I noticed a very nice-looking eighteen-year-old Amish boy and his friends skating very well. This boy wasn’t wearing Amish clothes, but I knew he was Amish because of his accent. He really impressed me. I thought he could skate like a pro because he could skate backward just as well as forward.

“Hey, would you teach me how to do that?” I asked. He took off, demonstrating some of his skating techniques … especially making beautiful circles going backward. I took off trying to skate just as he had done …

“No,” he said, you’re crossing your feet over the wrong way. Don’t pick up your foot so much; just let it flow on the ice.”

Then the whiz skater noticed her loose laces and bent over her feet to tighten them, which he said would help her skate better. Marlene writes:

Johnny Miller was so kind and gentle while he tightened the strings on my skates I think I started to fall in love with him right then.

And now a maybe-romantic scene from my own first encounter with my husband-to-be (which I’ve long promised to share and which I’ve never actually published, but I’ll set it up like a quoted passage):

One of my apartment mates my senior year at Eastern Mennonite College was going skating at the new roller skating rink in Harrisonburg and invited me to go along on a Saturday night. I had planned an enticing evening of study. Barbra explained how some of her friends had started skating just to unwind from stress and homework, and how it would do me good, too.

So I agreed to join them. But as I was making my way gingerly around the rink after not having been on roller skates since junior high or high school at Eby Pines Rink near Middlebury, Ind., a guy I’d noticed hot-dogging around the rink skating backward and forward called out to me, “Bend your knees, you’ll skate better.” Was it a pick up line?

I blushed and tried to do so but still likely looked as stiff as I felt. As he passed me again, I probably smiled and shrugged in a gesture of “this is the best I can do” and at some point asked him how everyone took curves so smoothly.

After hanging out with Eastern Mennonite guys the three years I’d spent on campus where everyone was “just friends” and dates were rare, it was, frankly, nice to be noticed. When he finally asked me to skate on a “couples only,” lower-the-lights skate, I panicked momentarily, worrying about what my EMC friends would think of me skating with a “local.” But then I decided I didn’t care.

StuartsSkatetown80sSkatetown in Harrisonburg at our daughter’s birthday party many years later.
Under the red light hanging from the ceiling is near the spot we first met.

So even though Marlene was an Englisher who became Amish as she dated and eventually married Amish-raised Johnny Miller she met ice skating, and I was a Mennonite girl who eventually left the Mennonite church as I dated and married Stuart, a Lutheran, (and together we became Presbyterian, touched on briefly here), I could identify with that fluttery butterflies-in-your stomach feeling.

Stuart1975Top, my husband-to-be when I first met him.

Bottom, dressed up for his brother’s wedding, 1975.

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I did not come from a difficult or abusive home background like Marlene, but when she also describes the flirting between Amish and English that could go on even while doing the backbreaking, intense, filthy, and stinking job of catching chickens and loading them on trucks in the dark of night, I found other connecting points in Called to Be Amish.

Marlene writes of making and wearing her first buttonless cape dress, the kind where Amish use straight pins pushed through the cloth opening to hold things together, and the gicks you receive to your flesh as you move about in the dress. Oh my! Gicks was a Pennsylvania Dutch word? We had always used that in our home for something that pricked or stuck your skin, but I do not think I knew it came from Pa. Dutch.

The same mouth-dropped-open feeling came to me when she talks about teaching her child that something was bache or yucky (and she uses the word yucky in her book to help explain the meaning). If I ever knew bache was Dutch, I do not remember that now. I was well aware of many other Pa. Dutch words that sprinkled our conversation because my father loved using it on us, and whenever he’d talk to his Amish friends, or occasionally with his dad and mom who lived in a “dawdy” type apartment attached to our own farm house. Schushlick, (uncoordinated); strubblich, (messy, as in hair); doppich, (inclined to drop things) and oh yes, shiesh stihl (shut up, slightly vulgar)—were all words we knew and used (and my spellings may not be quite right here.)

I also stepped back in time as Marlene wrote about her husband or oldest son climbing up the silo rungs to throw pitchforkfuls of silage down the chute. The dangerous levels of fumes in silos are something to be very careful about of course, and my dad was always careful about making sure proper ventilation was maintained. Somehow as the third daughter, I don’t specifically recall throwing down silage but I certainly remember the smells and watching my older sisters climb those high rungs. (We no longer used the silo when I would have been big enough to handle that responsibility.)

Back to the present: these days one of my tasks is working long distance with Old Order Amish columnist and cook Lovina Eicher, which MennoMedia began syndicating a year ago as “Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.” Lovina and her mother before her, the late Elizabeth Coblentz, has made a cottage business out of sharing a weekly recipe along with the ups and downs of her family of eight children, the oldest of which is planning to get married this August. So Marlene’s descriptions of preparations necessary for an Amish wedding and holding church service for hundreds in one’s home (or barn, as the case may be) are fascinating, and a reality which Lovina, my work colleague, (from a distance) is living.

If you want to catch up with that kind of authentic Amish living from scribe Lovina Eicher, head over to Lovina’s Amish Kitchen blog where her column is posted each Friday after it has appeared in newspapers, or join the Facebook page we manage for her at Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.

And if you want to read 50 years worth of Amish living from the viewpoint of a non-Amish woman turned faithful and committed Amish—with homemade cape dresses, pinpricks and all—check out Marlene’s memoir. This is an Amish romance in real life, complete with Marlene’s own unplanned pregnancy, deep despair when life with three children all in diapers threatens to overwhelm her, tragic turns, and ultimately a faithful love that lasts a lifetime.

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Have you ever thought you wanted to be Amish? How and why? Why not?

Or if you are formerly Amish, or your parents were, we’d love to hear from you her here!

Great Cooler for a Hot Day: Peachy Fruit Slush

 

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When it’s hot like it’s going to be today, this fruit slush is refreshing, nourishing and satisfying (and oh yes, it just might spike your sugar level). Or, for a breakfast treat with morning coffee.

My friend at work, Kimberly Metzler, made this for a special break once and shared the recipe. She says when she makes this she also freezes some in individual sized containers to pack in her husband’s lunch thermos. It thaws just right by lunch time and helps keep the rest of his lunch cold, too. He has a lawn mowing business so I’m sure it tastes really good in the middle of a hot day.

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Peachy Fruit Slush

6 oz. can frozen orange juice (my grocery store doesn’t carry 6 oz. sizes so I just used half a 12 oz. can)
3 cups water
1 cup sugar

Heat water to melt the orange juice and sugar; mix together. Chill.

Add

1 – 20 oz. can crushed pineapple (and natural juice)
2 quarts or 2 – 29 oz. cans peaches and juice, chopped slightly in blender (I used lite sugar sliced/canned)

(If you have fresh peaches to use, I’m sure they’d be divine!)

Plus add any other fruit you want and have on hand, to your liking
½ cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 bananas, chopped

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Mix together, freeze. Thaw slightly to serve.

Adapted slightly from Kimberly Metzler.

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What’s your favorite cooler on a hot day?

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Kimberly and other colleagues from MennoMedia/Third Way contributed numerous recipes to the collection of nearly 100 tasty dishes in my book, Whatever Happened To Dinner? Find out more here or purchase.

Whatever Happened to Dinner?

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This is my 300th post on this blog! The recipes I share here were inspired by the experience of working on the Whatever Happened to Dinner book with my colleagues. If you’re on Facebook, head over to the Whatever Happened to Dinner Facebook page to spy the recent cover picture (courtesy of my daughter) of grandson Sam, learning how to blow his food to edible temperature! And if you’ve never “liked” the page, I’d love it if you would click that! Thanks.

Boys and Their Trains

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My husband is an enthusiastic railroad and model train buff. Like many other boys (are there women train buffs? Check this link to see what others say) his fascination was born, I’m sure, out of having a small model train collection as a boy (Lionel O gauge, and as an adult, HO gauge if that means anything to you).

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On our family vacations, if there was a train yard with old trains within 50 miles of wherever we were heading, he’d sniff them out and have to stop. The girls learned to entertain themselves at such sites, and indulge his love for the old models, especially steam.

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We’ve seen the St. Louis Museum of Transportation in Missouri, The Colorado Rail Museum in Golden, Colorado, where they saw Union Pacific #4006 (“Big Boy”) and a bright Yellow Rio Grande; two of them were with us as adults when we toured the Baltimore B & O Museum (Maryland); and Dad and daughters entertained themselves (while I was networking at least two Virginia Press Women conferences) by checking out the Virginia Aviation Museum in Richmond and the Roanoke Train Museum. I always enjoyed the model train layouts and “crafty” miniature cities and countryside as much as the actual trains, as noted on the discussion thread linked above on women train buffs.

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Baltimore, Maryland train museum’s outside miniature layout.

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Miniature cows on Baltimore track layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it any wonder as a new grandfather, my husband couldn’t wait to put a “Christmas train” set under the tree while they were just one month and three months old??

 

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So it was with some excitement our daughters planned and bought tickets not only for us but themselves and their families for a delayed Father’s Day and Mother’s Day combined present on a steam-powered excursion train running between Cumberland, Maryland, and Frostburg.

BrochureEditedWe settled on July 5 as a time we could all make the trip—the two grandsons, three daughters, two sons-in-law and grandpa and grandma. We especially appreciated the efforts of the families with toddlers to endure car trips of several hours to make it happen.

SleepEditedThe big disappointment of the day was finding out, upon arrival at the train station in Cumberland, that the engine pulling the train would not be steam after all but plain old diesel. The steam engine had broken down the day before. My daughter assured my husband that no, this switcheroo was not common because no one in reviews online had mentioned any complaints of this nature. Old engines sometimes need repair. Of course, Sam and James were not the least bit disappointed and truth be told, it didn’t matter to me, except I knew it was a big let down for my husband. But he got over it.

I wish I’d snapped my own photo of our picture-perfect conductor (shown on this brochure, who gamely posed for others) and when my husband quizzed him on the steam engine and other train facts, he admitted that although he’s worked trains all his life (50 + years), he was not that informed about other specific old trains. He soon asked a younger colleague on the train to come over and answer my husband’s questions.

We had packed picnic foods (allowed on the train) and rendezvoused in good time for the 11 a.m. load/11:30 a.m. departure from Cumberland. I’d passed that way many times on Amtrak’s path through the lovely mountains of western Maryland, so it was fun to explore the old timey station in Cumberland (different from Amtrak “smoking” stop there, by the way).

Much of the 16-mile route follows the C & O Canal Towpath, and it was fun to wave to enthusiastic Sunday bikers and hikers as we passed. Cumberland serves as a trailhead for the popular Great Allegheny Passage on the Towpath, running 141 miles running from Cumberland to Pittsburgh.

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Grammy’s got the goodies.

The best part though was just having the whole family together and enjoying grandparenting, such as doling out the  peanut butter crackers to the little ones to hold them over to lunch.

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Sam on left, James on right.

The boys (ages 21 months and 19 months) seemed to enjoy exploring the train aisles (accompanied by an adult of course) not constrained by car seats, and I enjoyed watching their eyes take in the huge engine and passenger cars. I wondered what they were thinking. It will be a memory only as it is told to them through pictures and stories, but like parents and grandparents everywhere, we’ll enjoy telling them about it for years to come.

And yes, they already have small trains of their own and Thomas Tank Engine books. And thanks to a friend and experienced grandma, Thomas Tank Engine videos await them when they get old enough.

I have long come to accept that if one of my hobbies is traveling, exploring train yards and museums is part of the package. How delightful to do so with some new young-ins in tow!

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Stuart and I, Brian, Michelle holding 19-month old James, Tanya, Jon holding 21 month old Sam, Doreen.

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Female train buffs–speak up? Are you out there?

What hobbies do you, your spouse, children or grandchildren enjoy pursuing on vacations?

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 Several photos courtesy of family members. Thanks!

What to Do With a Lot of Basil

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We have a pretty wonderful problem: what to do with the half row of basil I planted and is now producing prolifically.

I had never grown it from seeds before in the garden so like a dummy, I planted a whole pack of seeds thinking if four or five plants grew, it would be amazing.

But I think every seed grew! I replanted some to spread out the seedlings to give them room to develop and well, first thing I knew I had enough to maybe supply a restaurant!

Everything online said to pair it with tomatoes but ours are slow coming on so I decided to use up some of my canned tomatoes from last year and make up some all purpose tomato sauce for spaghetti or other uses. Does that make sense? We’ve also been blessed with plenty of fresh oregano and parsley in the garden.

And supply a restaurant? Not quite, but I know the folks at our local Patchwork Pantry Food ministry get plenty of cooks as clients who love basil and know how to use it, so I took a whole bag there this week. Any other locals in need of basil, shoot me an email or message me and I will be happy to share it. Freely ye have received, freely give.

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Tomato Sauce (or loaded tomato soup)

3 quarts canned tomatoes
2 cups (stuffed down) basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
4-5 small red onions
4 medium mushrooms
1 Tablespoon salt
3-4 sprigs of parsley chopped
3-4 sprigs of oregano chopped
4 bay leaves

Sauté basil, onions, garlic, mushrooms in olive oil until tender. Add tomato sauce and salt, parsley, oregano and bay leaves. Simmer on low (or one notch up from low) for 3 hours. Serve with spaghetti or freeze for another day!

I took out a broth-y sample after about 1.5 hours and it made a delicious soup for myself on a chilly rainy day, topped with parsley and feta cheese. Yum. You could also blend the mixture before eating to make more of a bisque or use one of those nifty hand blenders right in the pot (which I don’t own, yet!).

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What do you like to do with basil? Or lots of tomatoes?

We ate our first one from the garden last night!

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Natalie Francisco shared a lovely recipe from a French restaurant for a Tomato Basil Soup in my Whatever Happened to Dinner cookbook, available here.

Whatever Happened to Dinner?

How to Be a Mennonite Presbyterian

My boss came to town recently, Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia/Herald Press. She had cleaned off her bookshelves of items she was ready to discard.

I was amused to land two particular books, The Presbyterian Handbook and The Lutheran Handbook. I already had on my own shelf a copy of The Mennonite Handbook, purchased earlier. Both the Presbyterian and Mennonite handbooks are modeled on The Lutheran Handbook with permission of the original publisher, Augsburg Fortress. These handbooks are themselves a knock off of The Survivors Guidebooks or Worst Case Scenario guides or other “field type guides.”

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It didn’t take me two seconds to realize that the three nifty volumes sandwiched my religious life in microcosm, which is frequently reflected here in this blog: a gal who grew up Mennonite, married a Lutheran, and found middle ground by joining a Presbyterian church.

These whimsical denominational handbooks tip their hands with cute caricatures right on the cover of their respective founding “fathers:”

A backwards cap (Menno Simons)

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  Some cool shades (John Calvin)

And a wink (Martin Luther)

There’s good solid information in each—along with insider, informal stuff like “How you can tell if you’ve accidentally sat in someone else’s pew (or chair)” and what to do if you eat the communion bread before you’re supposed to (pretend you still have it in your mouth if everyone else is chewing). And basic stuff that you really need to know but no one tells you on what to bring to a Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Mennonite potluck.

I grabbed up the Presbyterian and Lutheran editions, not so much for instruction or information but looking for the differences. And was tickled to find a cache of fun: the Lutheran copy was all marked up with the editor’s changes (Sarah Kehrberg edited the Mennonite one) that needed attention for the Mennonite version.

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(I know, what passes for fun for a writer/editor/bookworm quasi-Mennonite historian might not be such a hoot for normal people.)

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But just in case you’re interested, some of the terms circled in the original Lutheran “Handbook” as needing editing or removal for a Mennonite edition include:

  • Fancy robes
  • Acolytes
  • Sanctuary
  • Communion attendance books
  • Baby illustration for “Anatomy of a Baptism”

3Handbooks2

The handbooks may strike some as a not-comfortable marriage of a modern telling of the Christian story while trying to be funny and hip. While they try to be serious in chapters showing key Biblical stories in pictograph fashion, sandwiched in between the lighter stuff, if I am a newcomer, I can never be sure which is satire, or oh my goodness, do they really do/think/practice that? (Which is what I worried about too when guffawing uproariously reading Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.)

The basic facts about the Bible and key stories are clearly for newcomers to the Christian faith. The Mennonite version also tells and depicts the story of Dirk Willems, an early Anabaptist/Mennonite bedrock story of amazing willingness to help a persecutor. It, of course, is not meant to be funny, nor is the depiction of Christ’s crucifixion. Some may find chapters on “How to Wash Feet” and “How to Survive a Church Split” amusing, but actually have useful and (unfortunately in the latter case) timely information.

More fun stuff is a drawing of Jeremiah in his filthy underwear (Jeremiah 13) and a reference to Saul relieving himself (1 Samuel 24:2-7). Potty humor in a church handbook? Well I never. Oh wait, that stuff’s in the Bible first. Okay…

Perhaps I need to write my own handbook/survivors guide/worst case scenario guidebook: How to Grow Up Mennonite, Marry a Lutheran, Live Out Your Life as a Presbyterian—and Find Harmony on the Journey. I have certainly learned much about all three denominations over the years including my husband’s Lutheran tradition where my husband’s brothers and a sister-in-law and family are members. I feel my faith life is richer for it. We all have much in common. Thanks be to God.

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What faith traditions do you bring together in your family?

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All the books mentioned are available on Amazon with links above, but you can also purchase The Mennonite Handbook here for just $5.

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