Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Sisters' Summer Reading Challenge

 A new season means a new list of book! Yeah! Summer tends to busy, but we still want to read, so we kept these goals lighter.

1. Read a book by a favorite author that you have never read before.

It might be a new book by an author, a sequel to a favorite series, or a back-listed book by the author.

2. Read a book that contains less than 200 pages.

In the spring we chose a long book (Confession: I'm still working on mine) so this is a chance to choose  a short book. Maybe there is a middle-grade novel that you've wanted to read. 

3. Pick out three books that you'd like to read. Turn to the first word in each book, and read the book whose word comes first in alphabetical order.

I have a whole shelf of books that I want to read and I can become paralized on which one to read next. This is a way to force myself to just get started. You can choose an e-book, audio, or physical book.

4. Read a book of the Bible and a write down the key idea from each chapter.

Short or long, pick the book that is best for you in this season. 

I hope you have an excellent reading summer! I'd love to hear what you plan to read.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

One Name

I slit the envelope

and new checkbooks slide out. 

For the last four years, 

whenever I wrote a check

I saw our names together at the top.

Ed and Gina

But not anymore.

On these new checks,

my name stands alone.

Those first months after Ed's death

contained so many papers—

vehicle titles

electric bills

bank statements—

each with a name—his name—

that needed to be



I made phone calls,

handed over death certificates,

heard sympathies

from staff members who have done this often.

A couple, with names once connected,

now severed—

by death,

by choice,

by tragedy.

Each a story.

Now, my story.

I still say 

we, us, ours.

I want to imagine they will always be

our children, 

and this our house, 

the one Ed provided for us,

But I know that the future is just me

and the responsibility is mine

for my children and my home.

I don't like

me, my, mine.

I know they are God’s,

and He is here.

But I miss flesh and blood,

skin and bone,

paper documents

with his name attached to mine.

But I hold the proof in my hands.

A checkbook

with only one name. 

Is a stone in a graveyard

the only place to find our names together?

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Review of Poetry Month

 I began the month of April with the goal of reading more slowly and reading more poetry. And I did both.

On a whim, I decided to post a poem a few times during April on my WhatsApp status. I thought it would be a good way for me to pull out some poems I liked and maybe I'd find some new poetry. 

The first week of April was the week of Palm Sunday and Easter. There were so many great Easter poems that I shared a poem every day. Then I didn't want to break my streak. And I found if I didn't share a poem in the morning, one friend would ask where the poem was. :)

While I guessed that most of the people who saw my status would ignore the poems, I was surprised how many people, even rather unlikely ones, said that they enjoyed the poems. A few even stated that they were sad to see the month end.

At the beginning of the month, I would have guessed that I didn't have thirty favorite poems. I had decided that I would only share one poem per author, so that cut out sharing my collection of Amy Carmichael poems that I've enjoyed since I was a teen. But I ran out of month before I ran out of poems. I didn't even get to my favorite children's poems.

I began the month with no planning. Most days I had no idea what poem I would share the next day. I wouldn't say I shared the best examples of poetry by the best poets. Sometimes I shared a poem because it fit the one I had shared the day before. Sometimes I shared a poem because it was the one that caught my attention at 7:00 in the morning. Some of the poems were long-time favorites. Others I found because a friend said, "Have you read any poems by.....?" Some were shared when I asked a poet friend, "Can I share one of your poems this month?"

Was the month a success? I think so. I read (and enjoyed) far more poetry than usual. I loved finding new-to-me poets and hearing others' favorite poems. 

In case you are curious which poems I shared, here is the list. If they are found online, I'll include a link. If they were found in a book, I shared a link to the book. (Number 14 is a video of the author's friends reading her newly-published poetry book.)

1. The Bright Field by R.S. Thomas

2. Palm Sunday by Malcolm Guite

3. The Messiah by Sarah Beiler

4. The Thorn by Elizabeth S. Riall

5. As Simon by Lydia Hess

6. Royalty by Luci Shaw

7. Amazing Grace by Marlene Brubacher

8. Seven Stanzas for Easter by John Updike

9. The Lord Is Risen! by Emily J. Gingrich

10. Go and Tell Peter by Gwendolyn Eby

11. Spring Romance by Janice Etter

12. Plant Me by Lucy Martin

13. When Spring Breaks Forth by Rebecca Weber

14. The Goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living by Leslie Bustard

15. Working with Daddy by Daniel Hess

16. Make Me Thy Fuel by Amy Carmichael

17. A Birthday Poem by Claudia Martin

18. Anniversary by Claudia Lehman

19. Like the Water by Wendell Berry

20. On His Blindness by John Milton

21. Thinning Pines by Sarah Martin

22. Ritual by Lori Hershberger

23. I Shall Not Want by Jennifer Perfect

24. What a Gorgeous Thing by Mary Oliver

25. The Mask by Maya Angelou

26. The Early Bird by Ted Kooser

27. Pray by Ruth Bell Graham

28. God's Grandeur by Gerald Manley Hopkins

29. Matthew VII, 28 ff. by Richard Wilbur

30. Make Me Red-Tailed Hawk by Abigain Carroll

You could probably find a theme in this collection if you searched for it. Grief, birds, God's Word, gardens, spring, quiet. 

If you are interested in stats - Nine men and twenty-one women are featured on this list. Nineteen of the poets are still living today and all but two were living within the last couple decades. Fifteen, exactly half, of these poets are Anabaptists (probably because I found many of these poems on The Curator. 

And best of all, seven of these authors I consider friends. And I could have included poetry by more friends if April had more days.

So, maybe you could say I most enjoy modern poetry written by Anabaptist women. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Favorite Mac-and-Cheese

If you are a long-time reader of the blog, you know that in the past, I shared lots of recipes. The unexpected result of a blog full of recipes is that typically, when someone asks me for a recipe, I can easily send them a link. In fact, finding recipes on my blog is easy that I'm guilty of reading a recipe from this blog on my phone instead of searching for it in my recipe file.

But since I haven't been sharing recipes in recent years, newer recipes haven't been included in this filing system. One of those is this Mac-and-Cheese.

One of the first recipes I shared was my mom's baked macroni and cheese which continues to be a family favorite. But in 2020, we began helping with a monthly community meal in our nearby city. I offered to make a large electric roaster full of macaroni and cheese and needed to find a different method. 

I combined a few recipes to come up with a version that was simple and delicious. I think I made eight batches that first day, and it was consumed with rave reviews. 

I've lost count of how many times I've made mac-and-cheese for the community meal. It is perfect paired with lots of menu items and any time I offer to bring mac-and-cheese, I am never turned down. Though I think I've made a lot of good food over the years, it is a little embarrassing to realize that the lowly mac-and-cheese has garnered more praise than anything else I've made. 

So I'm sharing the recipe so that I have an easy way to send others the recipe. 

A few hints:

  • If you aren't serving the mac-and-cheese immediately, make sure the pasta is fully cooked. If the macaroni is under-cooked, it will continue to absorb the sauce and the result will be a tacky mac-and-cheese. Since we like it super creamy, if I know it will be sitting for a while, I'll add another 1/2 cup of milk.
  • Preshredded cheese is a big time-saver, but pre-shredded cheese includes anti-caking ingredients that make the sauce gritty. For best results, buy a chunk of cheese and shred it yourself. It is worth the extra time. If you have lots of mac-and-cheese to make, a food processor is a time saver.
  • Feel free to change up the seasonings. How about a little garlic and rosemary? Adding a can of diced green peppers gives a nice zing.


(serves 10) 

16 oz macaroni

1 T olive oil

4 Tablespoon butter

1/3 cup flour

4 cups milk

4 cups (12 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Cook macaroni in boiling water until soft. Drain the water and drizzle oil on pasta and toss. 

Sauce: Melt butter in pan. Stir in flour. Add milk and stir over medium heat until thickened. Add cheese, salt, and pepper and stir until the cheese is melted. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni.

At this point you can serve immediatly. 

Or you can place the mac-and-cheese in a crockpot and keep warm until ready to serve. 

Or you can refrigerate the mac-and-cheese and warm it in the oven or crockpot the next day. 

Or you can place the mac-and-cheese in a 9x13 pan and bake in oven for fifteen minutes at 325 degrees. To add a layer of crunch, you can add a crumb topping with buttered cracker crumbs or bread crumbs. (Topping option: Mix 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 4 T. melted butter, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 tsp paprika.)

I make five batches of this recipe and place in a large electric roaster to serve about 75 people.


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