Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Muddy Waters and Blue Skies

Monday night into Tuesday we had freezing rain that turned to downpours yesterday afternoon. Today, a small creek in town is all muddy but the sun is shining and the skies are lovely! 

They would be prettier without the telephone lines, but...
What can I say? We like electricity. And yes, that is an old barn on our property. It is full of treasures junk.

I'm linking to Water World Wednesday  


Watery Wednesday.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First Sighting and Ice

After yesterday's post this one probably isn't near as exciting but we had our first sighting of an American Goldfinch today! Isn't she a beauty?!

The ice and wind did not deter her from finding the feeder. My son captured the only clear and focused shot. All the rest focused on the rain hitting the window.  

I did get some pretty cool shots of the ice earlier this morning. Some neighbors down the road a bit have a small vineyard and the ice was so frosty looking on the rows. Maybe I should have tried for a panorama shot?

I boosted these next ones so the cows could be seen better but I was intentionally focusing on the holly bush and ice.

And then the fence...

I really like this next one of a couple of my daffodils getting ready to bloom...

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

I'm linked with

Rurality Blog Hop #4Down Home Blog Hop #26Friday Fences

Rurality Blog Hop    


Weekly Top Shot #72

Weekly Top Shot

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wings of a...

Dove, maybe? 

I don't know for sure what kind of bird decided to try flying through my car door but it left a telling image: 15" wing span on a 7 1/2" body. 

When my oldest son first saw it he said, "Fairies are real!" 
Then he ran to get the camera and we took a ton of photos trying to get one where the whole image could be seen but it is tough to do, especially when we don't know how to use all the settings on the camera yet.

Since the bird wasn't in sight, I am assuming it survived the ordeal.  

Have you ever seen anything like this?!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Before, During & After

The weather channel was predicting our first snow of the 2012-2013 winter. 
I thought I'd journal it in photos, beginning the evening before. 

 I love watching the sunset from our front porch.
Beautiful, huh?

The next day, Saturday, my husband and I decided to go to town before the snow started. 
As usual, we ended up driving in it. Well, he did and I took pictures :)

It was so messy at this point, but the flakes were huge!

Obviously, this area had gotten the snow first. It really was pretty coming down that hill. 

Once we got home, this is what we saw. It continued to snow for a bit more but by late afternoon we realized it was hoo!
In a matter of about two hours, it went from the above photo to this. 

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
~Psalm 65:8

God sure does know how to paint the perfect canvas, doesn't He?!

Be sure and stop by  Rurality Blog Hop & Down Home Blog Hop to see more great ideas for rural living, crafts, recipes and much more!

Linked with Weekly Top Shot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ My Amish Childhood by Jerry Eicher

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Bestselling fiction author Jerry S. Eicher recounts his childhood in the Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario and his parents’ decision to move to Honduras. Jerry also tells of his eventual conversion to Christ and the reasons for his departure from the childhood faith he knew.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736950060

ISBN-13: 978-0736950060

My Thoughts

This is an intimate look into an Amish community started in Honduras. It's quite detailed with some heart breaking stories of the challenges faced in a foreign country. There's so much information given that it took me a bit to get through the book, even though it's not long. It certainly opened my eyes to what this community went through and made me very sad as to the way they were treated. All in all, it's an inspiring story of living according to one's God given convictions.


I can still see his face. Lean. Determined. Framed by his lengthy beard. I can see him running up the hill toward our house. He was carrying his bag of doctor implements.

Mom was having chest spasms, and any real doctor was miles away—across four hours of the broken, rutted, dusty Honduran road we took only as a last resort.

The running man was my Uncle Joe. The smart one of the family. The older brother. The intellectual genius. When Uncle Joe walked by, we stopped talking and listened intently when he spoke. On this day, he rushed by, not paying any attention to us children.

I knew he was coming about Mom, but I recall experiencing no fear for her life. Perhaps I wasn’t old enough to have such a fear. To me, Uncle Joe’s haste seemed more entertainment than emergency. After all, Mom had looked fine to me a few minutes earlier.

When Uncle Joe left the house some time later, he issued a favorable report that I never questioned. Nor did anyone else. The mysteries of the Englisha world of medicine were even further removed from us than the four hours to town. Uncle Joe studied the books, and we trusted him.

Years later, when our little Amish community in Central America was on its last legs and held in the grip of terrible church fights over cape dresses, bicycles, singing in English or Spanish on Sunday mornings, and other horrors that the adults spoke of with bated breath, it was the look on Uncle Joe’s face as he talked with Mom and Dad by the fence on Sunday afternoon that made things clear to me. If Uncle Joe thought something was over, then it was over.

Uncle Joe lived below us, across the fields, in a house smaller than ours even though his family was much larger. How they managed, I never thought to wonder. Their house never looked crowded. It was kept spotless by his wife, Laura, and their oldest daughters Rosanna and Naomi. We didn’t visit often on Sunday afternoons. Mostly we children dropped by on weekdays, sent on some errand by Mom or we wandered past on our meanderings around the countryside.

They kept goats in the yard, all of them tied with long ropes to stakes. One of them was named Christopher. We didn’t have goats. Dad ran a machine shop, and Mom took care of the garden. Goats were foreign to us. Smelly creatures. Mom scorned goat’s milk, even when Uncle Joe said emphatically it was far superior to cow’s milk.

We all lived near each other in those days—part of a grand experiment to see if the Amish faith could survive on foreign soil.

My grandfather, Peter Stoll, an Amish man of   impeccable standing, had taken it upon himself to lead an Amish community to the Central American country of Honduras. He wasn’t an ordained minister, and I don’t remember seeing him speak in public. Still, the integrity of his life and his ideas so affected those around him that they were willing to follow him where few had gone before.

At the height of the experimental community, we ended up being twenty families or so. We all lived on two neighboring ranches purchased in a valley below a mountain. Most of us had come to Honduras from the hot religious fervor of the small Aylmer community along the shores of  Lake Erie in Southern Ontario or from the detached coolness of Amish country spread over Northern Indiana. Plans were for the two to become one in mind and heart. And for awhile we did.

Those were wonderful years. The memories of that time still bring an automatic gathering of hearts among the Amish who were there—and even some of us who are no longer Amish. All these years later, most of us are scattered across the United States and Canada—except for the few of the original group who stayed behind.

Some of the people credit the joy of those days to the weather in our Honduras valley. And lovely weather it was. Balmy. Hardly ever above ninety or below forty. Others credit the culture. Some attribute our happiness to being so far from the States that we only had each other. I don’t know the full reason for our happiness. Perhaps it isn’t possible to know. But I do remember the energy of the place—its vibrancy. I do know the years left their imprints on us all.

This was my childhood. Those hazy years when time drags. When nothing seems to come soon enough. And where everything is greeted as if it had never been before. To me that land—that valley—was home. I absorbed it completely. Its sounds. Its language. The color of the dusty towns. The unpaved streets. The pigs in the doorway of the huts. The open fires over a metal barrel top. The taste of greasy fried beans. The flour tortillas and meat smoked to perfection. In my heart there will always be a deep and abiding love for that country.

Around us were mountains. To the north they rose in a gradual ridge, coming in from the left and the right to meet in the middle, where a distinctive hump rose into the air—officially named Mt. Misoco. But to us it was simply what the locals called it: La Montaña. The Mountain. Our mountain. Which it was in ways we could not explain.

To the south lay the San Marcos Mountains. At least that’s what we called them. Those rugged, jagged peaks lying off in the distance. I never climbed those mountains, but I often roamed our mountain—or rather our side of it—from top to bottom. On its peak, looking over to the other side, you could see lines and lines of ridges running as far as the eye could see.

A party of courageous Amish boys, along with a few visiting Amish youngsters from stateside, once decided to tackle the San Marcos Mountains. They threw their forces together and allowed two days for the trip. I was much too young to go along—and probably wouldn’t have anyway. But I waited for news of their adventure with interest. They came back soon enough— defeated and full of tales of dark jungles and multiple peaks that disoriented the heart. No one even caught sight of the highest point, let alone the other side.

In the summer, around five in the morning, the Southern Cross—that symbol of Christianity—hung over the San Marcos Mountains. Its haunting figure made of stars swung low in the sky. I would stand for long minutes gazing at the sight, caught up in the glory of it.

I was eight when we arrived in Honduras. We were one of the first families there after Grandfather Stoll had purchased and settled on the Sanson ranch. Dad seemed driven to the move by motives other than adventure. He was unhappy with the ordnung rules in the Amish community at Aylmer, and he wanted change. Change that didn’t include the great sin of joining a more liberal Amish church, of course.

In time Dad came to love the land along with the rest of us. And strangely, he came to love what he didn’t expect—the old ways, imperfect though they had been. My most enduring memory of Dad in those days is hearing him sing the old German songs at the top of his voice over the roar of his machine shop motors. And in the end, it came down to that question for all of them. A choice between what they loved and what they loved the most.

I grew up surrounded by men dedicated to an old faith. I saw those men, most of them my uncles, tested to the core. I saw them wrestle with the old and with the new, trying to figure out where everything fit together. I lived among giants of faith. I saw their agony and their sacrifice. I saw their choices, and it affected me deeply. Their faith had been hammered out back in the sixteenth century, in the old town of Zurich, Switzerland. Back during the time Ulrich Zwingli thundered his sermons in the old Grossmunster Church.

But in the days of my childhood, those stories of   long ago were not mine yet. Those gallant tales of deeds done under fire and sword. Of imprisonment in noblemen’s castles. Of narrow escapes into the Swiss countryside from the murderous Berne Anabaptist hunters. Instead, my memories are of men in my own time. Men who believed that life was not worth living if you didn’t believe in something worth dying for. I was surrounded by men of passion. And if someone should make the claim that these men were misguided, I would insist the fault lay not in caring too much about religious matters. For I learned while growing up among them that this is how a person should live. That true believers follow God with all of their hearts and souls.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Giveaway & Interview with Joy McKemy

Giveaway has ended! 
Random chose commenter #2, Robyn Campbell!!!

I'm pleased to introduce Joy McKemy, a remarkable young woman, writer and animator that I met last year. She independently published her first children's book in January this year, with her own illustrations. You can read on to find out about Joy and her desire to educate young readers on political and social issues. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Joy McKemy and I am a recent graduate from UNC-Asheville with a bachelor's degree in New Media. I was homeschooled most of my life and have been very fortunate to be home educated as it has allowed me to explore and polish my talents and interests. My passion for drawing and writing stories has always been something I enjoy doing with my free time since I was a teenager. I also enjoy composing my own music on the piano for my stories and one day would love to create my own video game based off a story I wrote. But that's in the future!

When did you write your first book?

I probably wrote my first book when I was fifteen years old. I have written a ton of stories--just never got around to proof-reading and publishing them.

As for this book, I wrote it right after the 2012 election. I had been talking to a friend on a blog about how we, as American people, need to speak out more on issues we disagree with and not let the media decide what we should believe. I am not very good when it comes to debating with others on political issues; however, I realized I could use my talents as an artist to illustrate my point.

Are your characters based on yourself or anyone else you know?

To be honest, I've never met the people, but they are based off famous historical characters that had some sort of influence on the masses during their time.

Which is your own favorite book or character?

This is going to sound a little nerdy, but The Law by Frederic Bastiat. I agree with a lot of the issues and arguments he brings up in his book. Highly recommend it.

How did you come up with such an ingenious idea for a book?

By listening to the news. It really bothered me to hear people talking about how it was unfair that the wealthier American's were not paying more in taxes. To me, the message the media seemed to be portraying was if you're successful and become rich from that success, then you should be punished. I also realize the topic itself is a lot more complex than this, but as a Christian, I believe God blesses those who are faithful and work hard with happiness and, in some cases, wealth. (King Solomon being a wonderful example of God blessing those who are faithful).

Do you do your own illustrating? If so, have you taken at classes or does your talent come naturally?

I do illustrate my own books. I also would say my talent comes both naturally and from art classes. As a homeschooler, I never took any art classes until my last year of high school. So I spent a lot of my time reading tutorials online or checking out every possible art drawing book our local libraries had. Then, while I was in college, I was able to squeeze in a few art electives and learn even more.

What do you hope to accomplish with this story?   

A couple of things. One, I want people to realize that not everything they hear on the news is true. I want people to become more involved and do their own research into topics that are currently being discussed. I also want to encourage other authors and illustrators to publish children books that are more conservative.

What are you working on now? 

That's a secret. ;) Actually, I have found myself drawn towards world currencies and may end up illustrating another book on fiat currencies.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Relaxing on my favorite chair drawing or reading.

Where can readers connect with you?

They can either friend me on Facebook or check out my portfolio website to contact me -

Tricked (The Marks Family) (Volume 1) [Paperback]

About the Book

It's Halloween, a time for children to go out and collect candy. When two twin brothers, Frankie and Ronnie Marks, decide to go Trick-or-Treating in their neighborhood, Frankie decides to take the easier, shorter path while Ronnie chooses to go on the longer, harder path. Frankie comes home earlier with a smaller bag than Ronnie, who comes home later with a larger bag. Same proportions of candy are eaten by both twins and, before Frankie knew it, he has eaten all of his candy first! What happens when Carlos, their father, takes Ronnie's candy and redistributes it among the two? How does Ronnie react and what effects does this have on him when Halloween comes around next year?


My Review

I am suitably impressed by Joy's artistic ability, as well as her cleverness in explaining a sometimes confusing subject, in a creative way, to children and young readers. The animations will certainly keep your youngster engaged in the book, and they might learn a thing or two about economics. 

Joy has graciously offered to send a copy of her book to one of my blog followers. Just leave an encouraging comment, along with your email. Use this format or something similar to prevent spam - yourname[at]provider[dot]com

Ends Feb 22nd. Continental US ONLY!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

An odd relationship...

This black Labrador mix, aka Blacky, used to be a concern when our chickens would be out free ranging. Not anymore. He is old and tired and lonely looking. Our girl, Charlotte, goes over to his home each morning and afternoon to hunt for fresh bugs. Maybe he entices her by saying, 
"You know, the bugs are juicier on my side of the driveway."

I'm linked with

Weekly Top Shot

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guest Post ~ Susan Ernst, Journal Keeping and Blogging

I'm so delighted to introduce artist Susan Ernst. I met Susan through a Gratitude journal challenge last year during the month of November and I was so impressed with her artistic gifts (she makes her own paper for one thing) that I wanted to spotlight her on my blog. Be sure and visit her blogs for inspiration in multiple areas and leave her some comment love :)

Journal Keeping and Blogging

Since my early school days I have been enamored with notebooks, pens and pencils. Opening the stiff binding, touching the smooth lined pages, making notes with my best handwriting in bright blue ink or with the sharp point of a pencil has always been a thrill. Even today, blank journals with beautiful covers allure me. I keep a journal for almost every aspect of my life: gardening, travels, day to day events, prayer, bible study, general research on various topics. All of these are on-going.

Then there are visual journals. About a decade ago, I took a visual journal workshop at the BrookfieldCraft Center, taught by CharlotteHedlund. It was so much fun, thought expanding and creative, I have been making and working in visual journals, altered and handmade books ever since. Not to say that I have amassed a huge collection. Most are still works-in-progress. When time allows I return to them. Each time I thoroughly enjoy the experience and tell myself I need to come back to it again soon. But then something always seems to pull me in another direction…

Blogging is an extension of physical journal writing with the creativity of a visual journal, but is even more dynamic. Photos can easily be inserted and written about. Much faster than putting together a physical photo album. Hyperlinks can be embedded into the blog post keeping information easily accessible. No photocopies or notes need to be written to summarize articles read elsewhere, places or events visited, movies or videos seen. The internet has information on all these topics and a click on a link takes you there, providing a more complete experience.

And the fact that someone may actually be reading what it is I am writing adds another dimension. No longer am I writing for myself, but also for a potential reader. I believe this helps me write more completely, wanting the reader to understand what it is I am trying to say. In personal journal writing, a type of shorthand can be used since I know what it is I am thinking. Whatever words are put onto the paper will be reminders of the thoughts, feelings or questions I had at the time I wrote them. Specifics aren’t always necessary.

Just as I keep separate journals for separate topics, I have four blogs for different interests. The decision to create separate blogs was made with readers in mind. If this was to be a private blog, chronicling the adventures of my life, I believe I would have created only one. As I read the blogs of others, I do appreciate the authors who stay on topic. For instance, if I am following an artist who writes about her work, adding recipes for chicken soup is a little distracting. Likewise, if a follower is reading my art blog for information on papermaking or printmaking, he may not want to read about caterpillars on fennel plants or childhood memories.

My blogs are:
HoneysuckleCottage and Wisteria Studio - my first blog, this is where I post most often. I discuss the art I create - the process and the inspiration behind it.

My Big Backyard: The Diary of An Amateur Naturalist - here I post photographs and write about birds, small animals, butterflies, dragonflies, bees and other insects and natural phenomena occurring in my little world.

HortusConclusus – Literal as well as figurative, this blog explores the physical gardens which I cultivate, the spiritual garden within, and the intellectual garden of horticultural knowledge gathered through decades of study, observation and practice.

StoriesMatter - a blog about the family stories I heard growing up and stories about my own life. This blog is new and does not contain much at the moment, but I have great aspirations for it!
The difficulty for me comes when my interests overlap. My horticultural experiences often inspire my art. Planting flowers that produce seeds attractive to goldfinches is a post fitting for both my nature and gardening blogs. I suppose the important thing isn’t so much how to organize experiences, but to enjoy them and to share them with others.

I thank you for taking the time to read my guest post and I thank Anne for giving me the opportunity to write to you. I hope that you want to read more on one or all of my blogs.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013


microsoft images & picmonkey edge frosting

My sweetheart and I don't like the crowds on the big ♥ day so we are going out to dinner this weekend. We'd probably do that anyway but so as not to be Valentine Scrooges, we'll count it as Valentine's Day.

I always give my children a sweet treat. I've been combing Pinterest for ideas but with this lousy cold, nothing sounds good. Hmmm...guess I'd better figure something out before dessert time, huh?

Do you celebrate Valentine's Day? If so, what special something do you like to give your sweetheart? Or do you give Valentine's to your children?

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ A Home for Lydia by Vannetta Chapman

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


 Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author's website.


A Home for Lydia, the second book in a new romantic series from popular author Vannetta Chapman, centers again on the Plain community of Pebble Creek and the kind, caring people there. As they face challenges to their community from the English world, they come together to reach out to their non-Amish neighbors while still preserving their cherished Plain ways.

Aaron Troyer simply wants to farm like his father and grandfather before him. But instead he finds himself overseeing the family's small group of guest cabins nestled along the banks of Pebble Creek. That also means he must work with the cabins' housekeeper, Lydia Fisher.

Lydia is the most outspoken Amish woman Aaron has ever met, and she has strong opinions about how the guest cabins are to be run. She also desperately needs this job. Though sparks fly between boss and employee at first, when the cabins are robbed, nothing is more important to Aaron than making sure Lydia is safe.

Together they work to make the vacation property profitable, but can they find out the identity of the culprit before more damage is done? And is Lydia's dream of a home of her own more than just a wish and a prayer?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736946144

ISBN-13: 978-0736946148


• Prologue •



Lydia Fisher pulled her sweater around her shoulders and sank down on the top step of the last cabin as the sun set along Pebble Creek. The waters had begun to recede from last week’s rains, but the creek still pushed at its banks—running swiftly past the Plain Cabins and not pausing to consider her worries.

Debris from the flooding reached to the bottom step of cabin twelve. She could have reached out and nudged it with the toe of her shoe. Fortunately, the water hadn’t made it into the small cottages.

Almost, though.

Only two days ago she’d stood at the office window and watched as the waters had crept closer to the picturesque buildings nestled along the creek—watched and prayed.

Now the sun was dropping, and she knew she should harness Tin Star to the buggy and head home. Her mother would be putting dinner on the table. Her brother and sisters would be needing help with schoolwork. Her father would be waiting.

Standing up with a weariness that was unnatural for her twenty-two years, Lydia trudged back toward the front of the property, checking each cabin as she went.

All were locked and secure.

All were vacant.

Perhaps this weekend the Englisch tourists would return and provide some income for the owner, Elizabeth Troyer. Guests would also ensure that Lydia kept her job. If the cabins were to close and she were to lose her employment, she wouldn’t be able to convince her brother to stay in school. Their last conversation on the matter had turned into an argument—one she’d nearly lost.

Pulling their old black gelding from the barn, she tied Tin Star’s lead rope to the hitching post, and then she began to work the collar up and over his ears.

“You’re a gut boy. Are you ready to go home? Ready for some oats? I imagine you are.”

He’d been their buggy horse since she was a child, and Lydia knew his days were numbered. What would her family do when he gave out on them? As she straightened his mane and made sure the collar pad protected his shoulders and neck, she paused to rest her cheek against his side. The horse’s sure steady breathing brought her a measure of comfort.

Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, she brought out a handful of raisins. Tin Star’s lips on her hand were soft and wet. Lydia rubbed his neck as she glanced back once more at the cluster of buildings which had become like a small community to her—a community she was responsible for maintaining.

Squaring her shoulders, she climbed into the buggy and turned toward home.

• Chapter 1 •

Downtown Cashton

Thursday afternoon, two weeks later

Aaron Troyer stepped off the bus, careful to avoid a large puddle of rainwater. Because no one else was exiting at Cashton, he didn’t have to wait long for the driver to remove his single piece of luggage from the storage compartment. He’d thanked the man and shouldered the duffel bag when the buggy coming in the opposite direction hit an even bigger puddle, soaking him.

The bus driver had managed to jump out of the way at the last second. “Good luck to you, son.”

With a nod the man was back on the bus, heading farther west. A part of Aaron wished he were riding with him. Another part longed to take the next bus back east, back where he’d come from, back to Indiana.

Neither was going to happen, so he repositioned his damp duffel bag and surveyed his surroundings.

Not much to Cashton.

According to his uncle and his dad, the town was about the same size as Monroe, but Aaron couldn’t tell it. He supposed new places never did measure up to expectations, especially when a fellow would rather not be there.

The ride had been interesting enough. They had crossed the northern part of Indiana, skirted the southern tip of Lake Michigan, traveled through Chicago and Rockford, and finally entered Wisconsin in the south central portion of the state. Aaron had seen more cities in the last twenty-four hours than he’d visited in his entire life. Those had been oddities to him. Something he would tell his family about once he was home, but nothing he would ever care to see again. But passing through the Hidden Valley region of southwestern Wisconsin—now that had caused him to sit up straighter and gaze out of the bus’s window.

There had been an older Englisch couple sitting behind him. They’d had tourist brochures that they read aloud to each other. He’d caught the highlights as he tried to sleep.

He heard them use the word “driftless.” The term apparently indicated a lack of glacial drift. His dat would laugh at that one. Not that he discounted all aspects of science, but he had his doubts regarding what was and wasn’t proven as far as the Ice Age.

According to the couple’s brochure, Wildcat Mountain to the east of Cashton was teeming with wildlife and good hiking. Any other time he might be interested in that piece of information, but he wasn’t staying, so it didn’t matter much to him.

He also learned that small towns in the Driftless Area were at risk of major flooding every fifty to one hundred years.

Staring down at his damp pants, he wondered how much rain they’d had. How much rain were they expecting? He hoped he wouldn’t be here long enough to find out.

Aaron glanced up and down the street. He saw a town hall, a tavern, a café, a general store, and a feed store. A larger building, probably three stories high, rose in the distance, but he had no desire to walk that far because it could be in the wrong direction. Already the sun was heading west, and he’d rather be at the cabins before dark.

Several streets branched off the main one, but they didn’t look any more promising. Pushing his hat down more firmly on his head, he cinched up the duffel bag and walked resolutely toward the feed store.

Instead of heading toward the front door, he moved down the side of the building to the loading docks, where two pickup trucks and a buggy were parked.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the buggy that had sprayed him with rainwater and mud. He would rather not ask information of that person, though in all likelihood the driver had no idea what he’d done. Folks seldom slowed down enough to look outside their own buggy window—even Amish folk. It appeared some things were the same whether you were in Wisconsin or Indiana.

He approached the loading docks, intending to find the owner of the parked buggy.

“That duffel looks heavy… and wet.”

Turning in surprise, he saw a man leaning against the driver’s side of the buggy. Aaron could tell he was tall, even though he was half sitting, tall and thin. Somber brown eyes studied him, and a full dark beard indicated the man was married. Which was no surprise, because a basket with a baby in it sat on the buggy’s floor. The baby couldn’t have been more than a few months old, based on the size of the basket. He couldn’t see much except for a blanket and two small fists waving in the air.

“Duffel wouldn’t be wet if someone hadn’t been determined to break the speed limit with a sorrel mare.”

The man smiled, reached down, and slipped a pacifier into the baby’s mouth. “That would probably have been one of the Eicher boys. I’m sure he meant no harm, but both of them tend to drive on the far side of fast.”

He placed the walnut bowl he’d been sanding with a piece of fine wool on the seat, dusted his hands on his trousers, and then he stepped forward. “Name’s Gabe Miller.”

“Aaron Troyer.”

“Guess you’re new in town.”

“Ya. Just off the bus.”

“Explains the duffel.”

Aaron glanced again at the sun, headed west. Why did it seem to speed up once it was setting? “I was looking for the Plain Cabins on Pebble Creek. Have you heard of them?”

“If you’re needing a room for the night, we can either find you a place or take you to our bishop. No need for you to rent a cabin.”

Easing the duffel bag off his shoulder and onto the ground, Aaron rested his hands on top of it. “Actually I need to go to the cabins for personal reasons. Could you tell me where they are?”

“Ya. I’d be happy to give you directions, but it’s a fair piece from here if you’re planning on walking.”

Aaron pulled off his hat and ran his hand over his hair. Slowly he replaced it as he considered his options. He’d boarded the bus ten hours earlier. He was used to long days and hard work. Though he was only twenty-three, he’d been working in the fields for nine years—since he’d left the schoolhouse after eighth grade. It was work he enjoyed. What he didn’t like was ten hours on a bus, moving farther away from his home, on a trip that seemed to him like a fool’s mission.

“Sooner I start, sooner I’ll arrive.”

“Plain Cabins are on what we call the west side of Pebble Creek.”

“You mean the west side of Cashton?”

“Well, Cashton is the name of the town, but Plain folks mostly refer to Pebble Creek, the river.”

“The same river going through town?”

“Yes. There are two Plain communities here—one to the east side of town, and one to the west. I live on the east side. The cabins you’re looking for are on the west. The town’s sort of in the middle. You can walk to them from here, but as I said, it’s a good ways. Maybe five miles, and there are quite a few hills in between, not to mention that bag you’re carrying… ”

Instead of answering, Aaron hoisted the duffel to his shoulder.

Throughout the conversation, Gabe’s expression had been pleasant but serious. At the sound of voices, he glanced up and across the street, toward the general store. When he did, Aaron noticed a subtle change in the man, like light shifting across a room. Some of the seriousness left his eyes and contentment spread across his face.

Following his gaze, Aaron saw the reason why—a woman. She was beautiful and had the darkest hair he’d ever seen on an Amish woman. A small amount peeked out from the edges of her prayer kapp. She was holding the hand of a young girl, who was the spitting image of the man before him. Both the woman and the child were carrying shopping bags.

“I was waiting on my family. Looks like they’re done. We’d be happy to take you by the cabins.”

“I don’t want to be a bother,” Aaron mumbled.

Gabe smiled, and now the seriousness was completely gone, as if having his family draw close had vanquished it. As if having his family close had eased all of the places in his heart.

Aaron wondered what that felt like. He wanted to be back with his own parents, brothers, and sisters in Indiana, but even there he felt an itching, a restlessness no amount of work could satisfy.

From what he’d seen of Wisconsin so far, he could tell he wasn’t going to be any happier here. He’d arrived less than thirty minutes ago, and he couldn’t wait to get back home.

Gabe was already moving toward his wife, waving away his protest.

“If it were a bother, I wouldn’t have offered.”

You can read my review of this great book by clicking on the following link:
Review ~ A Home for Lydia by Vannetta Chapman.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Interview with author Rita Gerlach

I'm so pleased to have Rita Gerlach on my blog. She is the author of several Inspirational Historical Drama books, including the acclaimed The Daughters of the Potomac Series.

Hi Rita, Thanks for being here today. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

Since I was old enough to hold a book in my hands, I wanted to tell stories. I first knew I wanted to write novels as a career back in the early 90s. Something sparked within me, something ignited, when my cousin, a famous romance writer, gave me one of her books at a family reunion. I first wrote a novella. I had a lot to learn about the craft and worked at it for several years.

The most significant thing in my journey to publication was learning to be patient and persistent. I had to get to the place where I trusted God implicitly with my work, whatever His plan. I wrote about my journey and the miracle it was the day I contacted Barbara Scott, then acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press. For writers that are struggling and feel discouraged, and for readers who are curious, please read Perseverance, Patience, and Humility under the link ‘For Writers’ on my website.

Oh, A famous romance writer for a cousin sounds exciting! What do you think makes a good story?

The characters. They have to be well rounded, what some writers call ‘fleshed out’. In other words readers have to be able to see these characters as living, breathing people. They have to ‘come alive’ in the readers imagination so the reader becomes attached to them. A book may have a great plot. But if the characters are flat the plot will fall short.

I've put down several books because the characters didn't ring true. But not yours! Do you have a favorite book? What about it makes it stand out from others?

I have a hard copy edition of ‘The Authentic History of Jenny Dorset’ that I will not loan to anyone. It is written by southern writer Phillip Lee Williams. His writing reminds me of Mark Twain. The book made me laugh, cry, and cheer for the characters. The historical aspect of the book had me engrossed, as he told it from the point of view of a house servant.

I looked the book up on Amazon and it sounds like a great story. What’s the one food item you can’t live without?

Veggies. I know you might have expected me to say chocolate. But at my age it’s veggies.

LOL...Yeah, veggies are a good choice now ;) Where is your favorite place to write?

My desk in front of a window that looks out at evergreen trees, a farmer’s field, and mountains in the distance.

That sounds inspiring! Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just have to get up and write down a thought? If so, do you keep a tablet on your bedside table or go to the computer?

It’s happened. I keep a pad of paper in my beside table. When an idea wakes me, I get my pad and pen and go into the bathroom so I can turn on the light and not wake my husband.
Read Chapter 1 here

You're very thoughtful :) Do you talk to your characters? Keep story boards? Pictures?

I don’t talk to them, but I do keep a character chart with photos so I can visualize them.

I follow your Pinterest boards and enjoy looking at all the exquisite gowns and costumes. Can you give us a glimpse into your next book or story idea?

I’m writing an Edwardian period novel at the moment. I also have a 2-in-1 novel that will be coming out later this year. Thorns In Eden & The Everlasting Mountains are historical romances set during the American Revolution.

Oh, those sound delightful, especially the Edwardian novel! Have you traveled to locations that your books are set in?

I live near the Potomac River in Maryland. The Potomac area is a setting in all my books. I’ve explored both the Maryland and Virginia sides. I have settings in England, and hope to visit them someday.

My husband and I went through Harper's Ferry this past summer and it was beautiful! Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, what’s the most romantic thing your husband has done for you? Only if you can share ;)

Last year he took me to his favorite spot on the Potomac River for a picnic to celebrate our anniversary. He went to a restaurant we used to go to when we were dating and bought all the food. It was very sweet, sitting along the riverside and reminiscing about our lives together.

Awww...that is so romantic! Thanks for sharing that with us. Where can you be found on the internet?

The Daughters of the Potomac Series

Y'all be sure and check out Rita's website, then hop on over to Amazon and order a book or two, or three! They would make the perfect gift for Valentine's Day!  

Rita is also on Authorgraph. If you haven't heard of it,  just follow this link - You can request a digital autograph for your electronic books or you can print it out after you receive it and keep it in a notebook. Cool, huh?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quick & Easy Heart Wreath

I don't usually do any crafting for Valentine's Day anymore since my children are pretty much grown,  but I saw this cute DIY Heart Wreath over at The Happy Runner and couldn't resist giving it a try.

Who knows, maybe next year I will make one with my grand children.
It's that easy and kid-friendly!

The instructions are pretty simple.
Shape a piece of lightweight wire into a heart.

♥ My husband did this for me since I have slightly arthritic hands ♥

Cut a bunch of strips (at least 50, depending on the size of your wire frame) about 1" x 4" (or 6" if you prefer).  They don't have to be perfectly cut unless you are a perfectionist...which I'm not.
You can use anything, I think. The Happy Runner used an old shirt but I used felt. 
It looks kind of pink but it is red.

Tie each strip onto the wire that you bent and shaped until you had that great heart shaped frame.

And then you have this...

It didn't come out too bad but there are a few things I would have done different:
Used a lighter wire
Made a larger frame
Made a less obvious hanger

I'm linked up at:

Did you make any Valentine's Day crafts? If so, what did you make?

Happy Valentine's Day!

The Enchanting Rose

Friday, February 8, 2013

Review ~ A Home for Lydia by Vannetta Chapman

book title front

Read an Excerpt here.

My Review

The last place Aaron Troyer wants to be is in Wisconsin, taking care of some cabins that were owned by his deceased uncle. He's a farmer after all, and wants to be farming with his dad in Indiana. When he arrives at the cabins, he finds them in disrepair and can't believe that his uncle would have let them end up in such a state. With his attitude being sour, will he even want to make a go of them for his widowed aunt, who is depending on them for income?

Lydia Fisher is the housekeeper and lone employee at the cabins and has been doing the best she could since Aaron's uncle died but obviously she needs some help. Guests don't stay after being at the cabins the first night and she isn't skilled enough to make some of the needed repairs. Along comes Aaron, with his surly attitude, and Lydia thinks he will close the cabins. She desperately needs this job as she helps support her parents since her dad became ill. How will she get along with Aaron and convince him to keep the cabins?

I loved this story! Aaron and Lydia are wonderful. They have such personality that they seem to jump right off the page. I could feel their aggravations, their struggles, their longings and their faith. Truly this community has a love for each other that is God sent. They are an encouraging representation of all that people should be toward one another. Kind, gentle, loving, forgiving, peaceful. Oh, they're not perfect. They have disagreements and misunderstandings, but the way they solve their problems is to be admired. Community and family are everything to them and they will do whatever it takes to help one another achieve their goals.

We are privileged to meet up again with beloved folks we've met in the past, see what's happening in their lives, and even get a glimpse of some possible future romances. I have to say the scene after church where Gabe and David are talking privately with Aaron and giving him some “girl” advice was great. It was so humorous and at the same time showed a deep respect between the men.

I realize this is a fictional story but surely it is based on some known reality that the author has about the Amish. At least I hope so! I want to know that there are people in this world who are like this, who are raised with these intrinsic values toward hearth and home. I highly recommend this book to Amish Fiction lovers.

I received a copy from Harvest House for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review, just my opinion of the book.

Purchase links:

About the Author

Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Have you read any of Vannetta’s books? If so, which one is your favorite?