Potpourri 

I use this title repeatedly for posts that contain snippets and snapshots of my life at the moment. 


I tried to take the day off today since I haven’t had one in quite a while. This afternoon the children and I weeded the garden until I broke the hoe. Then we raked and swept the bare dirt under our big maple tree for summer play time. I started a fire in the pit and called a family circle time with the children. (The husband wasn’t home from work yet.) We talked about our day; what we liked and didn’t like and about how we could better support each other. I wondered what the world would be like if we took more time for circles like these. My heart is most at home in the mountains (or even our backyard) around a campfire, so for me it seems such an easy solution for everyone to get along. 🙂


As we were weeding, one of the children exclaimed, “You mean weeds have roots?!” I explained that weeds and good plants all have roots, so we need to be careful what we allow to grow in our garden. I couldn’t help but mentally relate that to our lives. Whatever seeds we allow to take root will be what flourishes. Roots of bitterness can grow deep. So can roots of gratitude. What seeds are we nurturing?


I had other plans for supper, but the baby refused to let me put her down. (A combination of how busy I’ve been and having to come indoors.) Last evening I deboned BBQ chicken from church, added brown rice and corn and cooked it in my new electric pressure cooker. It was fabulous. This evening I simply “creamed” the leftovers with milk and sour cream and added some smoked paprika. I wanted to make Indian Fry Bread, but I couldn’t with one hand so I separated leftover hotdog buns from a party we’d had, spread about a half teaspoon of mayo on each one, sprinkled some garlic powder, topped with shredded cheese and broiled to toast. I felt guilty at first. I’ve never done something like that with hotdog buns before, but it was a huge hit with the children. Certainly not the most nutritious meal to grace our table, but it was tasty, our tummies were sufficiently full, we used a number of leftovers, and the baby didn’t have to cry while I cooked. #simplesupperscore


I posted this photo on my Facebook page earlier, but it bears repeating. Really folks, a little kindness goes a long way. As I said on the post, it is easy to be kind to those who are kind to us. The real test is being kind to those who are not. I’ve prayed for special grace from others as I’ve gone through difficult times and perhaps responded or acted in ways that were less than stellar and I need to remember to extend that same grace to others. We truly seldom know the battles others are facing and a random act of kindness and a simple gesture of grace can give someone a boost when they most need it. 


I’ve been reading lots of books while I write my own. Now that our annual Sadie Rose 5K is behind us for another year, I am devoted to finishing my book. 

Tip for getting out of the cooking rut

I’ve finally gotten back in the kitchen to create a well-rounded meal. I like to come up with different challenges to get out of my usual cooking habits. Something I do occasionally is try to create a complete meal from one recipe book. I did that this evening with this book. 

This evening I made chickpea and spinach stew served over cooked and fluffed cracked wheat. 


Topped with garlic mayonnaise. 


Our side was honey mustard glazed carrots. 



I also have two loaves of cracked wheat-honey bread in the oven. (Except I used bulgar and molasses.) 


Here they are rising in the pan. 

We will top it off with an evening snack of homemade snickerdoodles (not from the cookbook) and mango sherbert (from the cookbook.) 

Even though I get frustrated with menu planning, finding new and different things everyone likes, cooking and baking on a tight budget, serving my family in this way brings me great joy. 

What do you do to get out of a cooking rut?

Potpourri; factory seconds, Sears catalogs, and nostalgia

I don’t do many chips around here, but when I do, my favorites are these Factory Seconds. $1.79 a bag at our local discount grocery and bursting with character and flavor. 

As I munched on some today, I thought of how these potatoes, for whatever reasons, were not chosen for the first and finest batches, and yet I love them more than perfectly shaped and colored chips. 

They reminded me of life. Some of us get knocks and bruises. We come in all sizes and colors. The final outcome is not what fits into a perfect mold. But oh the character, the flavor, the uniqueness we posses at the end of the day. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t let anyone tell you you’ve gone too far, messed up too badly, failed to miserably, to be made into something lovely and desirable. You are worth it, you are loved, and your experiences are what makes you who you are. 


I was talking with mother-in-law about these Sears “wish books” recently. Nostalgia almost swept me off my feet when she found these 1992-1993 Fall/Winter annual and 1993 Spring/Summer annual treasures in her basement. We didn’t order much from these because most everything was “too worldly,” but I would page through each one when they came and daydream about what I would get if it wasn’t worldly and we could afford it. (We mostly used them for our hineys to make us sit taller on the benches at the supper table.) Paging through them again brought back special memories of a child dreaming about something far beyond her reach, but I loved dreaming. 


We had a beautiful gloomy rainy day. At the very end the sun broke through for a glorious display. I was reminded of a hymn from my childhood, “Lo, Behold The Western Sky,” by Ruth R Martin and Carol Stroop, copyright 1985. 


I made four batches of fresh buttermilk biscuits and two gallons of my famous sausage gravy to feed the BBQ chicken crew at church in the morning. This is our first one of the season. We sampled the fare for dinner and it was satisfactory. 🙂

Now downstairs for some much-needed family time. Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Oops… cookie bars and accidental soup 

There are times I want cookies, but don’t feel like scooping out all the dough. That’s when I make my desired cookie recipe and bake it like bars. (This chocolate chip recipe also makes a great crust for a sweetened cream cheese layer and fruit on top!) 

There are also days I have supper in the works and plans go awry. Like tonight, when I wanted to make a Mexican casserole but the polenta had gone bad. Thankfully I tasted the polenta before pouring into the pan as a crust. As frustrating as it was to relinquish the idea of a casserole and toss the soured polenta, I used the exact casserole filling I’d already combined in another bowl, added a quart of tomato juice, and made taco soup. 

It’s a lot like life, really. You get handed all manner of circumstances for ingredients and what you make of it is up to you. 

I’m so thankful mom taught me how to assess, adapt, and overcome at an early age. Some days it saves my sanity. It reminds me of the gentle-natured painter, Bob Ross, who encouraged even the most novice painter saying, “there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.”

What happy cooking accidents do you have to share? 

Simplifying in 2017

Six people in a 1700 square foot house has caused me to re-evaluate “stuff.” We’ve always had clutter but I never saw it as excess, just disorganization. 

I’ve long felt the call to live simply and sufficiently and in many ways I feel like we do. I cook nearly every meal from scratch with many homegrown preserved ingredients. I make our own variety of soaps, detergents, deodorants, and try to live as closely to the earth as possible. We have one TV in the whole house, which is one too many if you ask me. I shop at second hand stores and we wear our clothes completely out. We live and work and play very closely as a family, focusing on building character, relationship, and communication skills and try to avoid excessive digital/electronic time. 

But now, now we’re busting at the seams of this sweet little brown brick ranch and I realize the piles of dirty dishes and clean unfolded laundry are more because of excess than disorganization. It’s not that I’m disorganized, although my husband and brother-in-law would sniff at this comment or rather burst into fits of uncontrolled laughter, but we simply don’t have the room for what we have.

 This sign on the door of my kitchen cabinet aptly sums it up. 

I’m responding to the internal tug to minimize, simplify, reduce, and refocus. I’m pretty sure God and the universe are trying to tell me this, because I’m seeing shared links, blog posts, books, and quotes about simplifying everywhere. 

Besides clearing clutter and excess from our home, I’m also taking a hacksaw to the commitment calendar and it feels oh so good. I’ve had to practice saying “no” in the mirror, but I’m getting the hang of it. My life is of little value to others when my own well is empty and dry. My prayer is that I maximize my opportunities to serve in the capacities to which I am called. 

I will share more with you along the way, but here’s our pretty little cabinet that contains all our dishes now. (And it’s still more than what we need daily.) Imagine, I thought we needed an entire cabinet for cups and glasses and one for plates and bowls and I still didn’t have room for everything before the purge. 

I hope you all have something to look forward to in 2017. I’m looking forward to a slower pace. 

Peace and Love, y’all. 

Potpourri 

My life in glimpses. That’s how it seems these days. 

I love soap and lotion-making days at our house. The air smells fabulous and my hands feel so soft. No pictures because I’m too busy during the process, but today I made five gallons of laundry detergent, two recipes of dishwasher detergent, and two recipes of deodorant. 

I wish I had a picture of the soap bubbling over the edge of the pot… oops!

All that in between working on a “Christmas Around the World” program for our church and a Candlelight Remembrance Ceremony for the Sadie Rose Foundation. 

I am home with a little one today because the sitter wasn’t available. I ran errands to collect supplies for both of the services mentioned above and then drove to church and realized my keys were at home. I drove home and realized I was locked out of my house. No spare key. Husband had to backtrack thirty minutes to let me in the house. 

Our daughter had her dance recital last weekend. She was beautiful. At 5 years old, lives and breathes dance. 

Every now and then I try to “wipe the cute” off these sweet faces around here. Our little guy must have taken me literally. I had just cleaned his face from eating a sandwich when he came to me with peanut butter on his hand and said, “Mommy, cute, hand, wipe off.” 

I used my mad mud-bogging skills in a mini van last evening on the way to and from music practice. Shhhh… don’t tell the children they were safe puddles on a country dirt road, not really off-roading, but they were delighted to see how high the water splashed up on our van. 

I am finally singing again after recovering from a hemorrhagic nodule on my left vocal chord. There is still a certain pitch I’m having trouble with, but at least I can sing. It has been exactly one year since the hoarseness started and I am just really starting to sing again. 


I don’t really have many pictures to share. I get too caught up in the business of living and forget to stop and photograph the memories. Here is a picture of a poinsettia leaf that fell from our plant and then got rained on. The beauty was breathtaking when I saw it on our driveway the next morning. 

Other than that, I’m busy preparing our hearts and home for Christmas. What are your Christmas traditions? I’d love to hear from you near and far! 

Just for laughs 

For some reason my mind was recalling childhood stories this evening and I thought I’d share a few with you. 

1) By 1992, some of the family had strayed from our upbringing and were watching movies and television with friends. This was the year the movie “Wayne’s World” was released and for some reason it was a big hit for my oldest brother. He would walk around the house saying, “Party on, Wayne.”


After this went on for awhile my mom finally said, “I just don’t get it! Why would someone party ON Wayne?!” 

Even after repeated attempts at explanation mom was still struggling with the idea of someone partying ON Wayne. Finally my brother changed the words to, “Continue to party, Wayne.” She got it then. 

I’ve still never seen that movie. 

2) In the lifestyle in which we were raised, it was not unusual for a van load of relatives and/or friends to show up from out of state and stay with a host family. The host family would then drive their guests around for visits with others within the church. 

Even though we all wore the “plain dress,” we could often tell at a glance if someone was not from our area. 

One day myself, my two little sisters, and several neighbor kids, decided to dress up as “Canadian visitors,” and go for a visit. I don’t remember much what the other’s did, but I put powder in my hair to whiten it, pulled it straight back into a bun, and put on my mom’s head covering and bonnet. I also dug out her plainest dress and shoes. I was probably about 12 so to fill out her caped dress, I stuffed tea towels in the top. 

We hitched up the horse and buggy and decided to drive the five miles or so to someone we knew well. I was driving. 

The buggy looked a lot like this one, but had four doors instead of two. The horse was even close the the same color. 
As we drove past the house of someone we barely knew, one of the kids tugged unexpectedly on the horses rein and he turned into their driveway. 

Simple, I thought, we can just turn around and drive right back out. What I didn’t anticipate was a dog barking ferociously that would spook the horse. 

I handed the reins to one of the boys and jumped out to manually turn the horse around, but the dog was awfully suspicious of me, too. Maybe he smelled the baby powder in my hair. 

The dog started after me so I began circling the buggy to jump back in. The kids in the buggy were scared and had closed the door so I was out of  luck. Meanwhile, the matron of the household was standing at the door with a puzzled and somewhat horrified look on her face as the tea towels started falling out of the bosom of my dress. I was never so thankful for a disguise in my life. 

Eventually we got the horse turned back around and I landed safely back in the buggy, along with the tea towels that had tried to escape. We did go on to visit our friends and were so well disguised that we had them fooled until they saw us close up and heard us talk. 

I don’t have pictures because we didn’t have cameras. What I wouldn’t give to have that scene caught on a cell phone video.

For all that was hard in our lives, we sure did know how to have a great time! 

Senior Moment

“I have to ask,” the cashier said almost sheepishly, “are you a senior?” 

The question was innocent enough since I was accompanied by some of my favorite church ladies, several of whom have white hair, but I was caught off guard. 

I wanted to say, “I have been living my 39 years to the fullest and wouldn’t go back a day in my life, but don’t rush me forward.” 

However, all of my deep-breathing pastoral calming techniques malfunctioned and instead I said, “I feel like throwing my wallet at you.” 

Sigh. I really said that. 

Sometimes words of grace and mercy roll off my tongue like gold, but more often I succumb to my lifelong “foot-in-mouth” diagnosis. This was clearly one of those more oftens. 

It gets worse. 

“Well,” the cashier replied, somewhat embarrassed, “some businesses start including seniors at 50.” 

“What?!” I gasped, realizing that she was certain I was at least 50. “I’m not even 40! This conversation has spiraled quickly. I can’t believe this is happening right now!”

Meanwhile, the ladies hearing the conversation were struggling to contain bursts of laughter. 

“Look, how about I just pay you and leave so I can nurse my bruised pride,” I said, laughing, never thinking I should have at least asked for the senior discount or even a free meal after that fiasco. 

I walked out joking with the ladies and mentally recalled lines to a poem I wrote years ago titled, “Coming of Age.” Ironically, I can’t remember it all, neither can I locate it (senior moment?), but I remember the following…

A few more pounds found their way to my thighs and a crow left it’s footprints around my eyes… so bring on the wrinkles and sagging breasts. I’ll live a full life ’til I’m laid out to rest.”


That’s me on the left, sipping tea with my lovely and quite young bestie. If this is senior living, bring it on! 

From now on I will practice more composed responses to the “are you a senior” question. That poor cashier is probably still nursing her embarrassed ego. Whatever my age, I hope I can always respond that my life has been lived to the fullest. 

Unearthed Musings; a poem, a dare, and memories of my childhood school

I recently came across some writings I had collected throughout my youth. Some were letters, songs and poems I had written, while others were pieces that were given to me. An elderly Old Order Mennonite neighbor, Roy Rhodes, shared the following poem with me when I was starting a significant journey in my life. What makes it even more special to me was hearing him talk about how this poem and others prayers sustained him during imprisonment when he was incarcerated for the sake of allowing parochial schools. (See a more recent article I wrote about my childhood school below the poem.) I keep this handwritten note as a treasure from my childhood, a memory from the special neighbor, and a dare to do right.

Dare to be honest

Dare to be true

The failings of others can never save you

Stand by your conscience, your honor and faith

Stand like a hero and battle ’til death

The following article was published in the Shenandoah Journal and the North Fork Journal in Sept. 2011

 

Regina 1

Memories of Hickory Hollow School

Memories of – Hick’ry Holler School – As Hickory Hollow Christian School raises funds for a new facility, former staff writer Regina Cyzick Harlow shares school-day memories after a summer reunion.

North Fork Journal (Broadway, VA) – Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DAYTON – Braided pigtails, plain homemade dresses, bare feet and the smell of musty books on the shelf; these memories flooded my mind as I pulled into the parking lot of my first-ever school reunion at Hickory Hollow School in Dayton. The once two-story chicken house had been converted into a parochial school to serve some of the Valley’s conservative Mennonites.

When I started first grade in 1984, there were 13 students enrolled in grades one through eight and five of those, including myself, were from my own family. High school was not yet offered. Aside from reading, writing and arithmetic, we were taught the foundation of our heritage and how to apply the commitment of our ancestors to our lives today. It was there I received a basic education in worldly terms, but gained values to build my life upon.

The curriculum was aligned with basic Mennonite doctrine. The art portrayed plainly dressed families and the stories centered on their practice of simple living and non-resistance. We were required to memorize and recite poems of great length such as John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy,” as well as chapters of Scripture.

A typical day began with devotions that included singing-four-part harmony, of course-Scripture reading and prayer. Along with hymns, we often sang from folders that included songs of Stephen Foster and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, spirituals and Native American tunes. Devotions were followed by social studies, science, language arts, lunch, recess, math and Bible.

Our annual assembly program took months of preparation, memorization and study. We worked hard to present our families with poems, readings and songs about the Native Americans, stars and galaxies, our ancestors who lived during the Civil War and other topics.

Hickory Hollow History

The privilege of administering parochial schools, or schools offering religious education, came at a great sacrifice to our ancestors. Some spent time in jail for the sake of the cause and in 1972 an Amish case, Wisconsin vs. Yoder, went to the Supreme Court . The court ruled that due to religious beliefs, the Amish were only required a basic eighth-grade education and one that aligned with their theological views.

Hickory Hollow Christian School began in 1968 as part of Bank School. In 1972, it began operating under its present name in a “temporary” location, the remodeled chicken house that has served as the school for nearly 40 years.

I grew up next door to the school, so many of my childhood memories involve that structure now so precious to my heart.

There, I attended singing school and learned to read shaped-note music.

The school also housed the Country Village Bakeshop for a time. Mom was the chief doughnut maker and would get up at 2:30 three mornings a week, so she had fresh doughnuts ready when the doors opened. She mixed, rolled out, fried and glazed them by hand. Some mornings, I would go with her and sleep on the flour sacks in the corner. On those mornings, I would down a bowl of cereal for breakfast as she quickly combed my hair. Then I walked from the bakery kitchen through the door into my classroom.

Changes

Returning to the building for the school reunion, it was obvious the years of wear and tear had taken its toll. The school enrolls almost 100 students and offers high school classes.

Every crook and cranny has been turned into functional space. Classrooms and storage have spilled into additional outbuildings that eat up playground areas. While the remodeled chicken house served the school well for many years, it’s once ample environment has been exhausted and the need for a new school was clear to me.

The school board has purchased land on Limestone Lane, less than a mile from the current location. Construction has started and plans are to move in by the 2012-2013 school year.

I learned the value of teamwork, perseverance, commitment, and the fundamentals of my faith at my school. Although I have chosen a different path for my life, the core of what I believe and who I have become was established in that old two-story chicken house endearingly referred to by our family as Hick’ry Hollar.