Monday, September 11, 2017

Giveaway Results and Other Tid-bits

Giveaways are fun. There's always this happy little thrill of surprise as I watch all the comments come rolling in. I know by now that they will but it's still so much fun.

The time is here to announce a winner and I've got a happy little surprise for you, this time. I decided to buy a copy of Anything But Simple myself and give away TWO books instead of one! So, without further ado -- Winner #1 is Katrina, who commented: "I enjoy reading your blog and would be delighted to win this book."  Winner #2 is Jessica, who commented: "Hi Bethany,
You don't know me, but I've been one of your quiet readers for quite a while. ☺ Don't give up your book dream; you have a wonderful way with words, too! Please enter me in your drawing... Thanks!"

Congratulations ladies! I'll be contacting you via email so we can get your books on their way. Happy reading and thanks for commenting.

       ----------------------------------------------------

Just a few pictures of life these days to finish this up.....


I've got a quilt in at my house, the first of three for my girl's beds, and I can't tell you how much fun I'm having! It also makes me miss my Mom. Quilting and Mom just go together and it's funny what triggers grief.


Charles likes to play with my pins, sticking them into the quilt and calling them "snakes",  for whatever reason, and looking underneath to see all the "pokes".


Lillian turned eight and was quite pleased with the doll sized garment bag and hangers she had been hoping for.


The weather has taken a definite turn towards fall and in the spirit of acceptance and resignation, we had a little "hot drink party" one evening.


I have to concede that the cool, crisp mornings are beautiful but Oh, Summer! Missing you already.

And with that, I will run along. The ever looming what-to-make-for-supper question must soon be answered........

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Anything But Simple

Somewhere in the dark, hidden corners of my heart hovers a dream. Occasionally I allow it to surface -- the secret, improbable idea that I could write a book. That someday, magically, I could have the ability to paint pictures and draw images and weave words that would carry a reader through page after page. That somehow I could acquire the determination to accomplish such a monumental feat.


Then, I read books like Anything But Simple by Lucinda J Miller, and I shake my head decidedly. I am quite content to write little blog posts and let others accomplish the monumental feats.

I've been reading Luci's blog for quite some time. I've enjoyed reading about her life, her dreams, her stories. More than a tiny, hovering dream, Luci has had a passionate desire to write a book. The burning intent for her words? To capture life as she has experienced it.

Luci grew up in a small, Mennonite community in rural Wisconsin. To grow up Mennonite is to be set apart from the world at large for life. The best way I can think of to describe this odd phenomenon is to imagine being born Russian and living in America. You can learn to speak English fluently, dress American, eat American, adopt the customs and the thoughts and the ways of Americans but you will always be a Russian. So it is to be born Mennonite.

As God so often seems to enjoy doing, in an odd twist of circumstances, Anything But Simple is not the book Luci first dreamed of writing. However, I think it captures the burning intent she so longed for: life as she has experienced it.

Luci is a very gifted writer. Not only does she weave stories and ideas for the reader to ponder and digest, she infuses emotion and layers of feelings into her words. As you read about her childhood, her family, her dreams, her struggles -- you are there. You feel the painful shyness of the little girl who cannot bring herself to mention needing a bathroom; the sensitivity of the lonely teen who is sure they are not only different, but alien; the growing awareness as an adult of two worlds and the struggle to navigate through both.

In the telling of her life as a Mennonite, Luci pours out her heart openly and honestly. There is no catching the high points of the Mennonite world and exaggerating them, no unrealistic portrayal of how Mennonites think they should look. What Luci shares is reality and the reality is that while she was born a Mennonite and will always be set apart from the world at large, she was also born a sinner with a heart no less in need of a Saviour - no less bent toward sin - than any other person ever born.

When I contacted Luci with an offer to do a book review and giveaway on my blog, she graciously accepted my offer and sent me an autographed copy of Anything But Simple and the chance for one of my readers to win a copy of their own! Her books are available on Amazon and Menno Media or you can contact Luci through her blog to purchase an autographed copy.

For a chance to win your free copy, leave me a comment and be sure to include an e-mail address where I can contact you. This giveaway will close one week from today and is open to only US mailing addresses.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Recipe For Lunch Packing Moms

I don't really enjoy cooking and my blog is anything but a food blog but occasionally circumstances call for desperate measures. Back to school and packing four lunches a day is cause for talking about food and sharing recipes! Today I am shamelessly copying a fellow blogger and passing on a great lunch box idea for you all. If you want professional pictures, check out her post about packing lunches. If all you want is the recipe because you're desperate for something quick you can grab out of the freezer in the rush of a school morning, read on.


These things don't have an official name. I'm calling them 'Pizza Pockets' but you can take them, customize them, and give them your own name!

I took our favorite stromboli dough recipe:

1 T yeast
1 C warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C vegetable oil
3 C flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, then add other ingredients. Let rise five minutes.


(I love that it only has to rise for five minutes - anything quicker is better when you don't really like to cook!)


I doubled the recipe and rolled half of it out in a big rectangle. Next I cut it into twenty square-ish squares with a pizza cutter.


Since I have about as many preferences for ingredients as I do children (you probably don't have this problem, so no need to dwell on my issues), I did some squares with cheddar cheese and ham, some with cheddar cheese and pepperoni, and some with mozzarella, ham and pepperoni. You could add whatever you like!

(Have fun trying to keep the different kinds separated once they're closed. I lined them up on the pans carefully and used a toothpick to mark my row.)

Then I folded the corners in and pinched them closed and baked them at 350 for 20-25 minutes. I repeated the process with the second half of the dough giving me forty cute, little lunch life-savers.


I melted some butter and added a little garlic salt and oregano to it and brushed the tops when they came out of the oven. They looked so irresistible that Charles and I had a couple for lunch with pizza sauce for dipping. Yum.


After they cooled, I bagged them up in labeled bags (God forbid the pepperoni hater should end up with the ham hater's Pizza Pocket!) and stuck them away in the freezer.


I've been feeling like super mom all day!


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Vacation 2017

This post is mostly providing myself with a little picture diary of our trip. All I had for a camera was my cell phone, so I definitely have no spectacular photography to show off! Chris is a master trip planner and he did a super good job lining up all the details for our trip ahead of time and adjusting our days as we went to make it all go smoothly.

Day 1 - Travel 12 hours to friends in Leon, Iowa. Discover a new era in travel where mom sits in the front seat the whole 12 hours (in fact, the entire trip)!! Read Miss Buncle's Book aloud from start to finish because every time you stop someone begs for more. Eat supper with Arlyn and Sue Kauffman and family and spend the night at Marvin and Rosanna Kauffman's place.

Our rig for the week

Day 2 - Enjoy breakfast and stimulating conversations. Depart for DeSmet, South Dakota. Arrive Monday evening and run into church friends who were traveling nearly the same path we were! (No picture to prove it but it happened) Visit downtown DeSmet and the graveyard.

Windmills that signal the west... We had fun looking for gravestones of the Ingalls family and other people in Laura's books.

Day 3 - Tour Laura's houses and school. Surveyor's house and DeSmet school are original buildings. Visit homestead and enjoy all the hands on activities.



Comparison pic from three years ago when we were in DeSmet

Day 4 - Head toward Mt Rushmore. Visit the Badlands. Take a small hike because Miss Drama isn't feeling well. Arrive at Mt Rushmore. Enjoy supper in motel room by our chef. (Who knew you could have chicken and mashed potatoes in your motel room?) Drive up to Mt Rushmore to see the lights.

Gorgeous sunflower fields enroute

Terrible pictures but it was really cool in the dark!

Day 5 - Visit Mt Rushmore. Amazing, amazing place. Switch up planned activities for the sake of the sickly and drive through Custer Park. Totally worth it for the breathtaking scenery!


We saw buffalo, prairie dogs, antelope amazing rocks and scenery and drove through tiny tunnels...

Day 6 - Head to Rapid City, South Dakota "The City of Presidents" and walk through 12 blocks, I believe it was, meeting all the Presidents. Fun!


On to Storybook Island where we saw "The Three Men In The Tub", "The Cat In The Hat", "The Pumpkin Shell" and lots of other fun storybook scenes/characters.


Drive on to Deadwood and watch a shooting reenactment. Leave Charles and I at the motel while the rest tour the town and take in the evening's activities - including the mock trial of Jack McCall and Jennifer helping serve on the jury. They had a grand time!


Day 7 - Traveling, with stops along the Oregon Trail ---

Oregon Trail Ruts. Amazing to see the path made through the rocks by so many wagons passing through!


Register Cliff. Landmark on the travelers way with thousands of names carved in it's side.


Chimney Rock. A spectacular landmark that could be seen for two days when traveling by wagon. Amazing.


These flowers were everywhere.
I want some.

Day 8 - Head to Kalona, Iowa and spend the evening/night with Elam and Loretta Stoltzfoos. Lovely time.

Day 9 - Leave at 6:00 for New Bloomfield, Missouri to be near the center of totality and view the eclipse. I have no good pictures of the eclipse, sadly. The experience was absolutely amazing and one that is hard to describe with words or pictures!

Watching the people was almost as interesting as the eclipse. The man on the lower right amused me greatly.

This is how we travelled -
racing games on the laptop and Play House/School/Hospital on the iPad were main activities with Adventures In Odyssey, a biography of Ulysses Grant on CD and various other books, games and snacks in between.

Arrive home at 12:15 a.m.

Day 10 - First Day Of School! No picture to prove that either but it was and now vacation is over and it's back to school and a new schedule.

The End

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Are Vacations Overrated?

I'm  not sure why I always feel the need to get defensive about Vacations. Probably because I'm still trying to decide if Vacations are overrated. I'm talking -- take off for a week, travel to far away places, sight see and sleep in motel kind of vacations. I grew up without them and turned out pretty well, I'd say. My husband managed to become an amazing man in spite of no Vacations as well. I've always held tightly to the idea that it's really the little things that create some of the best memories -- playing Whistle Wink or Wave with my siblings in the gathering twilight, sitting around the popcorn bowl on a Sunday evening, talking at the supper table long after the food has disappeared, riding on the back of the truck down bumpy roads for a picnic at the White River...

I married a man who shares my ideas of making memories with little things. But, he is also a man who loves history and stories and giving his children opportunities to travel and make that history and those stories come to life. Our biggest venture to date has been the trip we took three years ago to see all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's little houses. This year, the solar eclipse on August 21 was the catalyst for another big adventure. Chris always vowed he wouldn't miss a chance to see a solar eclipse, so plans began to take a vacation over that time. What started as a small, weekend trip turned into a nine day excursion and returning home late the night before school started!

There were many moments in the past nine plus days when I really felt Vacations are highly overrated. Packing up a family of seven for nine days away from home is not for the faint of heart. We did not take a motor home nor a maxi van. In fact, we rented a vehicle that turned out to have less space than our mini van. Lets just say my minimalist and organizational skills were stretched a good bit and, to be honest, I had a hard time mustering up much excitement about the whole thing. Children have no respect for the hard work a Vacation takes. They wake up all groggy in the morning and look expectantly at their parents and ask, "Where are we going today?" They ask thoughtless questions like - "Is this all we're doing?" "Why do we have to walk so far??" "Do we have to eat chicken again?"

It was four nights into our trip, driving up to Mt Rushmore in the dark with the lights of the town blinking brightly in the distance, when I squeezed Chris' hand and whispered, "Maybe it really is worth it all."

I don't know if I can explain what prompted that feeling. The children were mimicking favorite stories and there was a level of camaraderie and closeness that just squeezed my mother heart. I had watched my oldest swing the youngest up onto his shoulders when short little legs got tired; seen the big girl give the younger sisters the best seats; observed the close bond the five of them share. Do not get me wrong here. I'd heard plenty of, "Make him stop!" "It's my turn!" "Why do you always have to....?" kinds of stuff, too. We don't have angels for children, trust me. The Drama Queen had totally frustrated me with her 'when I don't feel good I'm dying' routine; the fifteen year old had not acted the way I thought a fifteen year old should act..... but in the dark, closeness of the vehicle with the glow of the lights in the distance and someone wondering how many of them were street lights and how many were buildings and how it would look if it were only street lights.... Somehow with the sharing of laughter and stories and memories, I felt the irreplaceable bond of family and how special it is to share the big moments of adventure together.

I believe there is a balance between thinking we must have Vacations and always staying home because it would be terrible to "waste" all that money. I'm reminded of John Piper's practical questions about money, particularly this one: Is it an occasional, expensive nonessential that would say an extraordinary 'I love you'? This trip was certainly occasional, expensive and nonessential but I'm embracing the experience as the extraordinary 'I Love You' that it was.

Vacations are definitely overrated but they are also so much fun! I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend quality family time enjoying some of the amazing sights of this world God created and watching history come alive before our eyes.

All that being said.......


Just call me Duffy.

------------------------

Pictures coming soon... sometime after I emerge from the piles of laundry and back to school adjustments...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dear Mom

It's late and I am tired. Tears wet my cheeks; my heart is sad and weary. I just want to ask ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

When your sister stepped through the pearly gates yesterday, were you there to give her a hug? Are you both young again and full of energy? Are you walking arm and arm, exploring the beauties of heaven?
Tonight, I'm just wondering ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

Can you see us down here, struggling to make decisions? Do you see as God does, the beginning from the end? Does it all make sense now, the questions and the imperfections of this old world?


I wonder, really wonder ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

Will it matter, in the grand scheme of things, how much work I got done this week? Will it matter if my girls have new school dresses and how much corn I have in the freezer? Will it matter that I couldn't make it to my aunt's funeral?


In the whirl of all the going and doing, I'd just like to ask ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

Can you see my angel baby? Walk and talk with all your old friends who went before you? Hug your granddaughter who lived here only a few short days? Is sitting at Jesus' feet, gazing into His face, enough?

I really have no idea, I just wonder ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." I Corinthians 13:12




I miss you Mom. Can't wait to join you up there!

Even so come Lord Jesus........

Love, Bethany

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Happenings, Pictures and Tid Bits

Green beans are bubbling away in the canners and I'm sitting with my feet propped up, looking back through pictures and getting ready to tell you all the tid bits. Aren't you excited?

I refuse to tell you that school starts in three weeks. The list of things to be accomplished between now and then will not be mentioned either. Going over it all will neither diminish it's length nor stretch the weeks. What I will tell you about is how lovely this summer has been! Granted, someone seems to have stolen at least a month from this season - why do they do that, I wonder? But while it lasted it has been one glorious, luxurious stretch in the beautiful, yellow sunshine.

We haven't done a lot of big things this summer and we haven't been overly busy either - saved it all for the last three weeks of vacation. You should try it someday; adrenaline rush and all that...

Bits of summer in pictures:


Time spent at the lake is always worth the effort to make it happen!



We put peaches in the freezer;
Peaches and more peaches.
And we enjoyed lots of them fresh!


I enjoyed helping with VBS for a week.
I had the privilege of 15-20 minutes each night telling a Bible story and teaching a verse. Making verse posters and coming up with illustrations for stories was fun.


Somehow the sight of 25-28 energetic 6-8 year olds looking up at me with their sweet, innocent (albeit mischievous) faces squeezed my heart harder than I expected. The night I told my mom's old flannelgraph story "He Took My Whipping", I don't think I was the only one with tears in my eyes.


At the last minute, I ran to town for Dollar Tree New Testaments and suckers and my girls helped me wrap up a little gift for each.
It was an exhausting, fulfilling week.


I don't have a garden but we've managed to enjoy some yummy fresh produce anyway.


Our neighbor lady offered me free choosing in her sprawling flower beds. We spent most of a day digging and pulling and tucking plants into the ground. We have lots of dreams for the future, for now we'll see how many plants survive the moving and work on our dreams bit by bit.
 "If they die you can always come back for more," the neighbor told me cheerfully! I'm in love with the steps Jasmine dug out of the bank.


We're all into plants around here, and the fun of starting new ones.


Then there's just the random things -
"Playing Chess", an evening walk, Jasmine's art, Jennifer's teepee...


And there's this book.
I cannot remember where I heard about it but it was a very
 interesting read.

I feel like I have been rather lazy this summer. There are many projects I could have gotten done if I would have made them a priority. I'm telling myself I've been 'savoring' and, as they say, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it!"

How has your summer been?