Monday, May 21, 2018

Tasting Snow

One of the many games we enjoyed playing was using a jump rope and wear it over our shoulder and then under our arms and pretend we were a horse while someone else drove us.

One Saturday there was a few inches of fresh snow covering everything and John, David and I decided to play horse again. Our barn was a big old spruce tree that had branches that touched the ground on three sides, the other side had an old propane tank that had been converted to an air tank to run some of the smaller machinery in Daddy's wood working shop. The hooks on the tank worked great as a place to tie our 'horse.'

On this particular day John was the farmer and David and I were the horses. I stood under the tree waiting for John and David to get back from their little run and have my turn. I was hoping they don't go too far because I wanted some fresh snow to run through before we had all our little paths made.

Once they came back John unhitched David. As I prepared to have my turn David announced how great it was to have a fresh layer of snow that he can pretend to eat hay by licking the snow on the tank and proceeded to take a lick.

Unfortunately he didn't get to enjoy the snow because his tongue stuck to the tank and he couldn't get it to loosen. He started crying as I ran to get Mom, but before she could bring a pitcher of warm water he gave a hard yank and pulled himself loose, but cried even harder when he discovered he had left a good bit of his tongue still stuck to the tank.

Mom and Daddy tried to comfort him in any way they could think of. They were worried that he might never be able to taste again and have trouble speaking. For several weeks we had to put all his food through the baby food grinder but bit by bit his tongue healed until you could no longer tell anything had happened to it.

We had learned our lesson well and never tried licking snow on any metal surface again.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Birthday Cake

Mom's birthday was always a special occasion. Daddy used to have a nice gift for her and we children would try our hand at creating something special too.

The busy summer days were passing and as her birthday approached I kept trying to think what I could make for her this year. John and David were making a wooden shelf with a cute little rail around it, but so far I still couldn't think of anything.

I dug through boxes of fabric scraps hoping that I would become inspired but nothing seemed to work. Then one Saturday as we were doing our weekly baking I found a recipe book that had colored photos of desserts. As I paged through it I found what I was looking for. A beautiful marbled layer cake with thick fluffy frosting.

I knew Mom had a doctors appointment a few days before her birthday which would give me the golden opportunity to have the kitchen to myself to bake the cake while she was gone, and the mess cleaned away before she came home.

I took the cookbook to my room and pored over the recipe. I had visions of how pleased Mom would be when she saw and tasted the beautiful cake I was going to bake.

The day finally arrived when she had to go to her appointment. I kept watching out the window waiting for the driver to come. After what seemed like a long time I saw him appear over the hill. I told Mom he was coming and she hurried to get her bonnet and handbag and told me after I swept the kitchen floor I was free to play until it was time to peel potatoes for supper. I watched as they backed out the driveway and drove down the road.

I got the mixing bowl out and started on the cake. It wasn't long before I remembered I needed to preheat the oven. I opened the stove door that held the oven burners and pulled them out. After tipping the chimneys back I turn the wick up and carefully struck a match to light them. As the flame caught the wick and started spreading around it I lowered the chimney. It got stuck a little bit and as I jiggled it to loosen it, it suddenly dropped down and snuffed my flame. I tried it again but the same thing happened. After numerous attempts I finally gave up and went down in the shop and told Daddy what my plans were and how I couldn't get the burners lit. He came and lit them for me, and after I had adjusted the wick until the flame was burning a nice blue like Mom always did I was finally ready to continue with my cake.

I showed Daddy the picture of the cake I was planning to make. He smiled and said "It looks really good," as he patted my shoulder and then went back to his work in the shop.

I glanced at the clock and was dismayed to see that I had wasted quite a bit of time trying to get the burners lit and decided I would have to cut a few corners if I wanted to have the cake cooled enough to have it frosted before Mom came home. I decided to make only one layer instead of two. It didn't take very long to make the batter, and I was feeling better about my plans again. The recipe told me to melt some chocolate chips and stir them into part of the batter. To save time I decided to just pour the chocolate chips into the batter and let them melt while the cake was baking and have a lot of cute little swirls in the cake. I poured in the chips and stirred vigorously and then decided to pour another cupful of chips in to make it extra special.

As I poured the batter into the cake pan I had visions of Mom asking me how I ever managed to make so many little chocolate swirls in the cake, and how pleased she would be to find out how easy it was. I set the timer, and then turned to the frosting section in the cookbook to find the perfect recipe.

I wanted to try something different from the regular one Mom used to make, and it didn't take me long to find it. Lemon Flavored Icing. I got my bowl ready and dumped the powdered sugar in and added lemon juice. It wasn't turning out creamy and fluffy like I had hoped it would but I didn't have time to start another batch. The cake was now cooling in the refrigerator and I needed to get it frosted and hidden before Mom came home.

As I was washing the dishes I had used I thought of the perfect way to still make the cake beautiful. I would use food coloring. The back of the package had instructions on how to mix the colors to get a color other than the basic four. A lovely purple would look very pretty and be just the thing to help the cake become special since so far it wasn't co-operating with the one I had envisioned. I carefully measured in the drops of food coloring but instead of turning a lovely purple it turned into a sickly hideous brownish orange. I felt like crying as I looked at it.

There was no time to do anything because I heard the crunch of gravel on the driveway and when I looked out the window and saw that Mom was at home I quickly grabbed the cake and my bowl of frosting and ran upstairs to my room. I sat on the floor and poured the frosting on the cake. It was too thin and as hard as I tried to spread it evenly over the cake I soon found out it was impossible as it all wanted to pool around the edges. I hid it in one of my desk drawers and went downstairs and helped Mom get supper ready.

When her birthday arrived and I presented her with my miserable cake she smiled and beamed as if it actually looked pretty. She cut pieces for everyone. I was disappointed to see that the chocolate chips didn't melt and swirl like I intended that they should and since I had added more than double what the recipe had asked for the cake was crumbly. The icing wasn't much better since it had dried to a brittle lemony mess. Mom must have sensed that my dream cake had turned out all wrong because she asked for a second piece, commenting how nice it was to have a daughter old enough to make a cake all by herself.

I still wasn't happy with the cake, but Mom made me feel special and I vowed to make it up to her next year by making something really nice for her birthday instead of a cake.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. What would you say is your biggest day to day challenge?

My biggest day to day challenge is trying to stay on top of the laundry. I could declare that the laundry basket is never empty for longer than five minutes. I try to remind myself of how much easier it is to do laundry than it used to be, but .... laundry! Sigh.

2. May 16th is National Biographers Day. What's a biography you really enjoyed reading? Is this a genre you read regularly?

There are several biography and memoirs that I have really enjoyed.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Growing up Amish by Ira Wagler
Ten P's in a Pod by Arnold Pent

3. How important is keeping a clean house? Do you need to de-clutter your life?

It's important to me to have a clean house. Not spotless, but clean. Clutter makes me feel slightly claustrophobic, itchy, and anxiously overwhelmed. I function much better and happier when things are in order. The lived in look is fine, in fact I prefer it more than spotless or cluttered. Paint me a happy medium.

4. You're the 8th dwarf. What's your name?

Wordy.

I love words. Whether they are in books that I'm reading, things that I'm writing, talking or listening to someone talk. I'm all about the words.

5. What's surprised you the most about your life or life in general?

I think the thing that surprised me the most is how fast life goes by, and how many changes happen.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

It's been a weird morning. First I noticed there is nary a cow or calf in sight in the pasture. Then a very chattery squirrel was making his grievances known. He was joined by a noisy scolding wren, and then the perturbed angry honking of the pair of Canada geese that hang out here. Next there was excited barking of a large dog. I stepped out to see what was going on. All I could see was a fat brown chicken pecking at the edge of the yard, and the waterfall falling as usual. The chicken I have no idea where it came from since we haven't had any in over 14 years and as far as I know none of our neighbors have any either.

Monday, May 14, 2018

School Program

Every afternoon in school during December we had to practice for the Christmas program that would be held a few days before Christmas. We memorized poems and both Matthew and Luke's version of the Christmas story and more than a dozen Christmas carols.

We had to color Christmas-y pictures to cover the walls and spent hours cutting out snowflakes to hang from the ceiling. I loved the way the school house looked as Christmas approached. It was the one place in an Amish community where it was permissible to decorate for the holidays.

Once the day of the program arrived we started for school extra early carrying a bag filled with gifts for the teacher and the pupils. The teachers gift was always something very nice but the pupils only exchanged cheap little things.

The forenoon was spent practicing our program one last time to make sure there were no glitches, and right after noon buggies started driving into the school yard. Some of the parents set up a lot of benches and chairs in the back of the school room. Once everyone had arrived it was time to start.

I was glad that we had practiced everyday for so long because the crowd of people sitting there watching us was a little overwhelming. I was glad to be able to focus on Mom and Daddy's smiling faces. David was sitting happily beside them watching everything and looking forward to the next year when he would be old enough to also be a part of the program. Mahlon was sitting contentedly on Daddy's lap.

I got through my parts of the Christmas story and my poem with out messing up. But I still had to lead the song that had been assigned to me. When my turn came I managed to squeak out a quavery little sound and the rest of the children quickly joined in and helped me. There were only three verses and I breathed a sigh of relief once it was over.

The rest of the program went by with everyone remembering their parts. As we all filed back to our desks we sat down and teacher Hannah called us one by one to her desk to receive a gift from her. All the girls got a pretty glass bowl and the boys each got a game. Once we had all admired what she had given it was time for the pupils to exchange their gifts. Hannah would call one family at a time and they would go get their bag of gifts and give one to each child. Some families gave everyone an eraser, others gave a few pieces of candy or maybe a balloon or a pencil. The gifts were all very simple but we didn't mind and by the time everyone had passed out their gifts we all had quite an assortment of treats on our desk.

We placed them carefully in a bag and took them home where we divided everything with David and Mahlon. It had been fun but I was glad we only had to have a program once a year. Singing and reciting in front of so many people was not something I enjoyed doing.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Christmas Dinner

The wind was blowing the newly fallen snow and whipping it up into pretty drifts. Every morning Daddy would have to go outside and shovel the snow from the driveway in case any customers wanted to come.

This was New Year's morning and he was once again shoveling snow but only a path so we could walk to the buggy without getting a lot of snow inside our boots. Mom was putting the finishing touches on several platters of snack foods and candy and checking to make sure the Cut Glass pudding looked just right. My brothers and I were dressed in our new clothes that we had received for Christmas and were excitedly waiting until Daddy would get Jim hitched to the buggy and we could go to Grandpa Masts for the Mast Christmas dinner.

When he drove up we saw he had tied our new sleds to the back of the buggy. We all climbed into the buggy. John and David asked if they could sit on the sleds and ride to Grandpa's that way. Daddy gave them permission and they jumped out of the buggy and got situated on their sleds.

Jim started up the hill. The buggy wheels squealed their noisy song as they cut through the snow. I was happy to stay inside the buggy with Mom and Daddy and only peep out the back window to watch John and David enjoying their sled ride.

After we got to Grandpa's Mom and I hurried through the cold into the house where the aunts were all busy helping aunt Emma and Grandma cook, the menfolk were all sitting in the living room visiting and the cousins were in Vernie's bedroom playing. I went to join them and we played games until we were called to get ready to eat.

Grandma's table was stretched out to it's full length and there was room for everyone to sit at it. The table fairly groaned under the weight of all the good food, because every one's favorite dish had been prepared. I tried to look at everything to pick out the things I thought looked best as there was no possible way to be able to taste everything.

Once everyone was seated we all looked at Grandpa to see when he was ready to ask the blessing. He would bow his head and everyone else did also. I used to wonder if he either fell asleep or tried to name all the food on the table. It seemed his prayer wouldn't end. I used to peep several times to see if he still has his head bowed. My neck would start creaking and I thought I just can't sit here like this any longer when we finally heard Grandpa's loud sigh signaling that his prayer was done.

Everyone looked up and started passing the food around the table. The grown ups resumed their conversations and I felt warm and cozy as my plate filled up with delicious things and the noise of all the happy families surrounded me.

After we were done eating it was time to clean everything away. Aunt Vernie, cousins Emma and Esther and I would stack the dirty dishes on the sink while Mom and the aunts would divide the leftovers to be sent home with each family and the boys were outside riding their sleds. Once everything in the kitchen was cleaned up we would all sit in the living room where we sang all the Christmas carols that we knew.

Once we were done singing. Grandma would hand out paper plates and then Emma, Esther, and I would each take a platter of snacks and carefully carry it into the living room and take it from person to person letting them pick out any snacks they wanted to try. There were lots of platters since every family brought at least three. Once every platter had been passed around we would fill our own plates and sit in the living room and listen to the grown ups conversations.

There were no gifts. But just being with family and all the good food made the Mast Christmas dinner an event I looked forward to each year.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Christmas Memories

I used to start thinking and planning for Christmas soon after school started each fall. My options for gifts were limited since we never had an allowance so anything I wanted to give I had to make myself.

I wasn't good at running our scroll saw in the shop like my brothers were so making wooden things were out of the question. I was nine and Christmas was fast approaching and the only thing I had ready was a little picture book I had made for Mahlon by sewing pieces of paper together and gluing pretty pictures in it that I had found in old catalogs.

One evening as I was helping Mom unpack a new shipment of things and place them on our store shelves I had an idea. I asked her if I could have the empty box, after she granted me permission I took it upstairs where I carefully cut off a flap, and covered it with some old wall paper scraps. I then glued a plain sheet of paper in the middle and copied a poem about a mothers love onto it. There was still something lacking. I finally decided it still needs a pretty border. My teacher gave a sticker to anyone that got 100% in their lessons and I made up my mind to try extra hard to do my lessons carefully and use the stickers to create a border. It took quite awhile to save enough. Every evening I would run home from school with my hard earned stickers and carefully place them as a frame around the edges of the motto I was making for Mom.

I asked John to cut out some heart shaped pieces of wood and varnish them for me. I then painted a blue rose on the one and wrote Daddy on it. Then painted roses on the others and personalized them for John and David. I felt pleased with my efforts of creating gifts and hid them in a drawer until Christmas morning.

When Christmas morning arrived we were awake early but Mom and Daddy had told us to not get up until they called us. As the sun rose it seemed they would never be ready. Finally they called us and we went downstairs. The boys went out to the barn with Daddy to help with the chores while I helped Mom fix breakfast. We had our regular fried cornmeal mush with tomato gravy and eggs, and then oranges and a cold cereal for something special.

When Daddy and the boys came in from milking the cow and feeding all the animals, we all sat down for breakfast. After breakfast everyone helped with the dishes. And then Daddy got the Bible and read the Christmas story. It was the only day of the year that he would read to us so we all sat quietly and listened carefully. After he was done reading we children had to go back upstairs until they told us it was time to come down. We used to get the gifts we had made and put them in a grocery bag and sit on top of the stairs to try to listen what was happening in the kitchen.

When they called us we ran downstairs and at each of our places at the table was a pile of things covered with one of Mom's pretty kitchen towels. We uncovered the pile and found a plate filled with nuts to crack and a lot of different candy. The boys each got a new shirt and I had a new dress. We each had a little German songbook. We thanked them and then we noticed in the middle of the table was another covered pile. Daddy said that was for everyone to share. We uncovered it and found a pile of books. We were thrilled. We all loved reading and new books were something we all enjoyed.

John, David, and I gave the gifts we had made. Mom thanked me for the motto and hung it on her bedroom wall where it stayed until after I was married.

After we had cracked and eaten some of the nuts and read a chapter or two in our new books Daddy said slyly. I have a feeling we didn't find all our Christmas gifts yet. Why don't we all go down in the shop. We followed him downstairs and there in the lumber bin were three of the prettiest sleds I had ever seen. We hurriedly dressed ourselves in our warmest coats and went outside to try them out. We had a nice hill in the pasture behind the barn and for the rest of the afternoon we rode down that hill and trudged back up. The longer we played the longer the hill seemed when we had to pull our sleds back up but the ride down was so fun we kept on until we were too cold to continue.

We went inside and Mom opened the oven door in our Pioneer Maid cook stove and laid a thick towel on it. We pulled up chairs and rested our feet on it enjoying the delightful warmth that the oven poured over our feet. Mom popped some popcorn and peeled a bowlful of apples and we all sat around basking in the glow of happiness of having had another great Christmas.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. What are your ingredients for a perfect Saturday?

A perfect Saturday for me is one with lovely weather, and having my husband at home. The past however many Saturdays he has been doing maintenance on machinery for a business so that everything is in order come Monday and the workers return for another week.

It looks as if this will be the theme of many Saturdays to come.
 
2. What skill do you wish more people took the time to learn?

A skill I wish more people used is to keep right on scrolling when they see something they don't agree with on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet. It's really not that hard.

A practical life skill ... cooking.

3. What's something you ate as a child you can't stand now as an adult?

It's nothing that exciting or a weird combination of anything. It's simply ... oatmeal. The older I get the more I loathe it.

Our children on the other hand, will have a better answer to this once they're older. At least I hope they'll grow out of loving peanut butter, chocolate chip, and mustard sandwiches.

4. Something parenting has taught you? If you're not a parent tell us one important lesson you learned from your own parents.

Parenting has taught me a lot but especially that time is extremely short. I think I may have approached it with the mind set that their childhood will be as long as I thought mine had been. I've learned time is precious and to not push off the things I want to do "someday".

5. Share a favorite quote or saying about mothers or motherhood.

Your children don't want or need a perfect Mom, they want a happy one. 

This is a quote that has meant a lot to me over the years. I'm far from perfect, but I can be happy.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Some of our favorite things to during on lovely spring afternoons is hiking or playing at the creek. Yesterday provided us with some time to do that before a rain shower popped up and chased us back to the house.