Saturday, August 25, 2012

Admiring the Plain Folk

I've lived in Mercer County my whole life.  Nestled nearby, there are clusters of Amish communities, thriving like early American settlers among the 21st century texters and Facebookers.

A short drive down Rt. 18, from Hermitage into New Castle, almost always results in spotting an old fashioned horse and buggy, clip clopping down the berm of the road.

If one drives in the other direction, across the Ohio border, there are other little Amish communities within a short distance as well.

It's not uncommon to see a buggy hitched up to a light pole in a plaza parking lot, or to see a family of Amish, shopping at the local Aldi's store.  Aldi's is a unique store, full of inexpensive groceries, in a sort of warehouse setting.

Amish homes are easily recognized--they are typically white, with fields of neatly planted veggies, and livestock grazing.  They only use one curtain in their windows, pulling it off to one side, so that's the real giveaway, if you're still not sure.  Often, you'll see their buggies hitched up next to the house, and you may notice that their farm tools are all very 19th century.  Amish people are impeccably tidy.  Their property is always kept clean and orderly.

When they work in their fields, there are no tractors, nothing modern, it's all sweat and tears out there.  The men are always tanned.

We are fortunate to have several little shops nearby where the Amish ladies sell their baked goods.  It's been a tradition in our family since my grandma was alive (she died when I was 10), to go on a little drive and pick up a few loaves of freshly baked bread.  Their pies, cookies, and other goodies are all delicious!!

I was once studying and researching how to be a lay midwife in Pennsylvania.  After a couple years of discernment, I decided not to go forward with this because the laws were changing, and there were too many restrictions being put in place.  The Amish ladies still use midwives, and the lady who I met with had been delivering Amish children for decades. 

 Once, when I was at her place, an Amish woman came in for her post natal, six weeks checkup.  Her infant girl was dressed in the traditional bonnet, long black dress, and apron, with little black leather ankle boots, to match.  She looked like a baby doll!  How sweet!

Last week, my family went to Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio.  This quaint little village is Ohio's first and oldest resort town.  It sits on the shores of Lake Erie, and boasts lakeside cottages, game arcades, wineries, restaurants, and other such amenities.

While settling in on the toasty sand, and snapping photos of the kids, I noticed a young family about 100 ft. away.  They looked fairly ordinary until I took note that the daddy had a long beard that ran the length of his torso.  Tipping me off that he was an Amishman was the fact that he had no mustache, and his hair was cut in a simple bowl cut.

His upper body was bronze, while his legs were pale white.  The wife had her hair pulled back in a simple low bun, and there were five children, close in age, no older than eight or ten at the oldest.

The Daddy plunged into the water with his little ones, and played in the sand.  The Mommy looked over all her ducklings, but never ventured into the water. 

I took this photo of the family; they do not realize that, the Amish do not like to have their photos taken, so I hope they would not be offended.  They are just really adorable, aren't they?

I've seen Amish men on their way to the lake to fish, and they pull a fishing boat on the back of their buggies!  It's an interesting sight!

I admire the Amish--the way they take care of their whole community.  If one's house burns to the ground, all the men come together and build a house in one day!  The ladies cook and bring cold drinks to the men. 

They believe in the Gospel, and they live it.  They work hard, they play hard, they pray hard, and they sleep hard!  No tv's, no cars, no phones, no furnaces, no lights, no modern conveniences.  And yet, they are content.

I've never had a dishwasher, and sometimes wish I did.  My fridge is too small, and growing ancient.  Our house is old and has very few electrical outlets.  We have no air conditioning, nor do we have cable TV.  And yet, everything I have would make life a breeze for the Amish wife.

I'm not ready to give up my Honda Oddysey for a horse pulled buggy yet, but I can see the value in that simpler life.  I actually envy them to a certain extent! 

Whenever I am in a mood to escape from the craziness of everyday life, I like to hop in the van and drive through Amish country.  It's a good way to settle one's nerves, to take a deep breath, and remember that life is good!!!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Pressing the Pause Button to enjoy my family

This photo didn't make it onto my Facebook Timeline, it was a mistake and I didn't even know I took it until I uploaded my photos today!  It's my leg and foot inside a bumper boat; I must have been talking when I snapped the photo!  Or maybe trying to blast one of the kids or John with water!

John had this week off from work, and it has gone by so fast.   The three oldest of our young men have jobs, so it was hit or miss on whether any of them could participate in any of our jaunts.  Maria's social calendar leaves little time for all day adventures with 'Mom and Dad', but we have managed to lasso her in for a few things, thankfully. 

 The circumstances of raising a family present many challenges.  Rarely do we ever feel completely satisfied with the way things work out.  But, with that said, we have had tons of fun!  When we had a houseful of little kids and babies, our life was pretty much wrapped up in schedules, naptimes, feedings, bathtimes, bedtimes, etc.  Going anywhere was hindered by the ever present diaper bag, stroller, and all the accompanying paraphernalia require when you have kids. 

There is a small window of time when they all reach school age, and you can ditch the strollers, and skip a few naptimes with little repurcussions.  That lasts for a short time, and then the older kids become socially involved, dating, scheduled, etc., and that starts a whole new phase of challenges.

We're currently in a stage where our eldest children are young adults, but still live at home and participate in family time when they can.  Our three youngest are still in school, but growing more independent with each passing day. 

But, anyway, let's get back to THIS vacation.  A favorite moment--so simple, yet, a chance to laugh and bond--was when Billy Joel's Piano Man began to play on the radio, and we all started swaying and singing along to the catchy tune.  That's the kind of stuff I will always cherish, and think my kids will, too.

This time we didn't want to go anywhere that would require an overnight stay.  We did that in June, and it wasn't cheap.  For a family our size, a hotel stay always requires two rooms or a family suite, so it costs a good chunk of change.  Add into that the cost of eating out (which we generally like to do once in awhile while we're out of town) times eight.  If we go to a sit down restaurant, add in a tip!  It causes a rather large dent in our wallet.

So, we've been taking day trips this week.  One day, we stayed in the valley and went to the movies.  The next day, we went to a family recreation center and raced go carts, rode bumper boats, and played 18 holes of miniature golf.  On the way back home, we stopped at Playthings, Etc., a unique toy store that offers kids of all ages a fun experience.  We usually pay this store a trip once a year.  Every time we go, they have all sorts of new and interesting things to look at.  This is one store where the patrons are encouraged to touch and try out the toys.

Therese was quite taken with a bike that looked rather like a unicyle, only it had three wheels.  There was no steering apparatus, no handle bars.  The only way to steer was by leaning her body off to the side, and turning with her hips.

She also found a plastic 'bowl', shaped perfectly for one's 'bottom'.  She plopped herself down into it, and began to spin like a top.  I would've tried it, but was a little self conscious about that, so I refrained from doing so.  Haha.

Yesterday we went on a shopping excursion at Boardman, Ohio.  The large Southern Park Mall offers lots of shops and stores, food and other enjoyable places.  I miss Jillians, though, an entertainment complex that we used to visit whenever we made the trip over in the past.  We could bowl there in a retro 50's style bowling alley, complete with waitresses and even a bar.  It was a classy and fun place, with a huge game room, too.  Sadly, they closed down awhile back.

We had lunch at Chik Fil A--not trying to make a call on any political issues, just LOVE the food there.  We only get to eat there once every year or so, although we did have some of that delicious chicken in June, when were at Splash Lagoon.  I do, of course, feel proud to eat at a restaurant that holds Christian values, and do not offer any apologies for patronizing them!

Therese is the little shopper of the Elliott family: she loves to shop--to look at pretty and girly things.  When she spotted Justice, that was the start of a female frenzy!  We noted that there were racks and bins of all kinds of sale items, and we went a lil crazy!  She walked out of there with a bag full of stuff--clothes, a swimsuit, sunglasses, lip balm!  But, we saved over a hundred dollars!  I couldn't pass up a sale like that!

I found a book on Jack the Ripper at a bookstore, and have just started reading it.  I enjoy reading on my Kindle Fire, but there's just nothing like holding a real book in your hands.

This morning, we got up early, packed some food and drinks, piled comic books(for the kiddos) into the van, and took off for Erie.  Erie has always been one of my favorite cities.  I have been visiting it every summer since I was a baby... summer just wouldn't be summer without Erie.

We've been planning this trip for today for awhile now, and the weather for most of the summer has been sunny, hot, and little rain.  Wouldn't you know today the sky was dark, brooding, and heavy with pregnant clouds?  But, we took off and made the best of it.  When we arrived at Presque Isle, the sky looked ready to blast us with a pelting rain, but it kept itself in check!  We ate our little picnic there, and played on the beach.

We left there and went to Waldameer Park, right next to Presque Isle, overlooking Lake Erie.  The threat of rain kept people away, so we were able to get onto the rides with little or no lines!  Now, that I liked!  Mother Nature was so kind; she only shed a few wayward tears on us, off and on throughout the afternoon, and finally, the clouds lifted, and we were greeted by the sun and blue skies. 

We soared on swings above the lake.  We plunged down huge hills into rivers of raging rapids.  We went through scary fun houses, and mimicked paratroopers.  While everyone else rode the spinny roller coaster (I didn't want to go on that), I treated myself to a cool Dip N Dots cookies and cream ice cream cup.  Sitting in the shade, eating my delicacy, I rested my legs for a few minutes, and enjoyed watching my loved ones on the whirling ride.

After a long and exhausting day, we headed back to the van to have a little snack, some sandwiches, and cold drinks.  John and I have a little tradition: every time we go to Presque Isle or Waldameer, we grab a hot cup of coffee from the McDonald's on Penninsula Drive to keep us alert and awake for the drive back home.

So, staying true to our traditions, we went thru the Drive Thru, and headed back to home sweet home.  As we left sunny Erie, we noticed lightning on a dark horizon.  All the way home, it rained heavily as we sipped our steaming cups of caffeine.  I love taking time to pause life's hectic pace and make memories with John and the kids!

We still have a few more days to do more exploring, so we'll see what tomorrow holds! 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yummy (and healthy) meals on a budget!

I've been experimenting with new recipes (created by lil old me) and thought i'd share them with all you!

We've had some really hot and humid days lately, which means 'don't turn on the oven!'.

Because of that, I have come up with two really tasty pork dishes for the stove top that are easy on the wallet, and fairly healthy as well.

Both recipes call for boneless pork ribs.  You can substitute other cuts of pork, too, but I think these work out really nice.

The first recipe is a pork and potato dish in one:

One Pot Wonder, by Annie

You will need:  (Serves 4) (We eat more, obviously, since there are 8 of us)

1lb. lean pork ribs (look for some marbling or the meat will not be tender)
2 to 3 cups boiled whole potatoes (or two cans of whole potatoes if you're looking for shortcuts)
1/2 tsp. chicken boullion
1/2 tsp. beef boullion
1 mild green pepper cut in slices (around 8)
1/2 medium onion, sliced or diced
1 tbs. cornstarch to thicken

Place pork ribs in saucepan and cover with water.  Stir in boullion, and add pepper and onion.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for one hour.  Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water, and blend completely.  Stir into pan, mixing well with water.  Let simmer on low for another 10 minutes.  Serve with salad or fruit on the side.

If you try the recipes, let me know how you like them!

The next recipe is also one that calls for pork ribs:

Tangy Ribs, by Annie

You will need:
1lb. pork ribs
1 tsp. beef boullion
3/4 cup catsup
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 onion
1 tbsp cornstarch to thicken

Place pork ribs in sauce pan, cover with water.  Add beef bouillion and onion, simmer for 1/2 hour.  Mix remaining ingredients, pour into pan (Mixing it into the water), simmer for 30 min. or until sauce is starting to thicken.  Mix cornstarch with 1/4 water, blend well, then add to pan.  Blend all ingredients well, let simmer 10 min.  Serve on a hamburger bun with salad on the side, and with Tasty Taters (recipe coming up next).

If it's not too hot, you can make these potatoes to compliment the recipe for Tangy Ribs.

Tasty Taters, by Annie

Again, this feeds 4 people, I make twice this many

8 medium potatoes, quartered
olive oil
onion powder
garlic powder
cooking spray (preferably olive oil)

Cover a cookie sheet with foil, drizzle 2 to 3 tbls. olive oil on pan.  With paper towel, spread oil on entire surface of pan.  Place potato quarters in single layer on cookie sheet, then spray to all sides of potatoes with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with onion powder, paprika, and garlic powder.  Place cookie sheet in pre heated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Turn all potato wedges, bake for another 20 min., or until potatoes are fork tender, and golden brown.

DELICIOUS! (I like to dip mine in catsup.)

If you like my recipes, let me know--I'll post some more!

XoXoXo Annie