"" Writer's Wanderings

Monday, September 01, 2014

A Return to Ohio's Amish Country

Last week we met with family in Holmes County, Ohio, halfway between our home and theirs, to explore some more of Ohio's Amish country. Holmes County has the highest population of Amish in the state. We stayed at a place called The Barn Inn in Millersburg. The place appears to be a converted barn and is rustic and homey all at the same time. It is a bed and breakfast with quite a spread in the morning but the real charm lies in the proprietor, Loretta. She welcomes the visitors at breakfast and once everyone is just about finished with breakfast, she gives background and stories of the Amish in the area and information about where to go and who to see. She knows them well. She used to be one of them until her mother and father joined the Mennonite church. She still has relatives that have stayed with the Amish community.

Beautiful peaceful countryside.
On our first night we had dinner in an Amish home. At first glance you wouldn't  notice much difference from a regular home other than its residents being garbed in the style of the Amish dress and the dad sporting the iconic Amish beard. They were a welcoming family and I felt a little bad that our hostess had slaved over a hot stove all day to prepare our dinner of roast beef, chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, noodles, green beans, homemade bread with peanut butter spread and two kinds of pie, raspberry and peanut butter. She said she had been tempted to turn on a fan that sat on the floor and when asked, said the electricity to run it would have to come from a gasoline powered generator.

Notably there was a refrigerator in the kitchen as well. I thought maybe it ran on natural gas like the stove but when we visited the Lehman Hardware store in Kidron the next day, we saw a similar refrigerator that ran on kerosene. Esther explained that the family shared an "ice house" with four other families. It is a small storage structure that houses freezers and is run by electricity from one of the lines that runs along the roadside. Except for looking above our heads to see gas lights, the home wasn't notably that different from any other. The people were.

Our hostess' day starts early. Her husband is up at five and gets a ride to work in a van with a hired driver that picks him up. He is a woodworker and makes changing tables and dressers. She sews (again, sewing machine runs on electricity supplied by a gas generator). The children walk to their Amish school. The oldest was in the fifth grade and will only be in school until she completes the eighth grade. She and her brother sang to us from their school songbook full of songs that told Bible stories. Their youngest brother had been excused to enjoy the pony cart the neighbor kids were driving up and down the long lane between the houses.

The alternative to horse and buggy.
There were eight of us around the table plus the tour guide, Harriet, from Amish Heartland Tours who had arranged the dinner. She had toured with the other four guests taking them to various places where they got a buggy ride, saw basket making, and other Amish activities.


Our other notable stop this time in Amish country was at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin. While it's been in operation for 28 years, it has only been in its present location since 2002. The Center is home to a mural painted by Heinz Gaugel. The mural is 10 feet high by 265 feet long and fills the walls of a round room. It starts on one end with a portrait of Jesus and from there moves through history depicting the origin of the Anabaptists and how the Mennonites, the Amish, and the Hutterites came to be. The guided tour is $8 ($7.50 for AAA discount) but is well worth the price. The mural is amazing. Our Amish guide was well versed and we learned so much more about how these unusual sects came to be.


Horse powered vehicles of all sorts share a parking lot.
It was two days of peaceful countryside, the clippity clop of horses, and a time to catch up with my brother-and sister-in-law. I'm sure we'll return again.









Sunday, August 31, 2014

No Greater Love. . .

While researching for the historical novel I'm writing, I ran across a story of four army chaplains whose lives exemplified their faith. The four, John Washington, a Catholic priest, Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed pastor, Alexander Goode, a rabbi, and George Fox, a Methodist minister, were being transported along with troops of men on board a cruise ship, the Dorchester, that had been converted to a troop transport. The ship was several days into its Atlantic crossing when it was torpedoed and went down. Survivors reported that the four chaplains had spent the last moments of their lives calming the men as they helped them into lifeboats and even giving some their own life jackets. With no way to save themselves in the end, the four joined arms and went down with the ship.

One of the relatives of the four researched the story to be sure it was true. Survivors he found all corroborated the story and added that the four men had a genuine love for each other even though their faiths were different. Catholic, Jew, Dutch Reformed, Methodist. It didn't matter.They exhibited the kind of love that Jesus truly wanted for all of God's children.

You can read more about the story of the Dorchester and these men of faith at American WWII.com. I found it amazing and reaffirming.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friendsJohn 15:13

Friday, August 29, 2014

How To Spend Lots Of Money On Cruise Extras

Extras on a cruise ship fall into several categories as I see it: shopping, excursions, accommodations and dining. I really need to add the spa to that but it's not a place where you will find me. If you love the spa and all it has to offer, there are lots of ways to spend money there from hair styling and makeup to exotic massages and thermal suites.

Start with accommodations. If you really want to spend some bucks don't just upgrade to a balcony. Go for a full blown suite with a butler. The big ones come with private hot tubs on the balcony and even grand pianos! Invite all your new cruising friends in for a party and let the butler make all the arrangements. Be ready to leave a nice tip though.

The on board boutiques (every ship has several) also know as the retail therapy area offer lots of ways to spend money. From the my-grandparents-took-a-cruise-and-brought-me-this shirts to jewelry worth thousand of dollars. Prices are high in most cases but you can run into sales from time to time when a ship is leaving one area of the world for another. It's like the seasonal changes in the stores back home. Most of the time however the prices are out of my comfort zone. I once saw a pretty clutch purse in the window of a ship shop and stopped to admire it. In one of my husband's generous moments, he took me in and asked the price. We should have known better. If there's no price tag, it's more than we want to spend. The answer to his question was $4,000. We quietly left without a purchase. No one has explained to me why I would need a $4,000 purse.

Excursions are another area where lots of money can be spent. Sure there are plenty of bus tours and lots of reasonable panoramic tours that give you a taste of the port. But if you really want to spend the kids' inheritance try taking a tour with a private car and driver. Or several of those helicopter tours. The overnight excursions are a must for those who love to splurge. Some of them go for several nights and are pretty pricey. You get off in one port and go overland to join up with the ship again in another port. Bob always asks those on that kind of tour who's eating your meals on board ship?

Only one tray of many.
And now we come to dining. The specialty restaurants are calling. More and more restaurants are showing up on ships nowadays. If you really want to go overboard (well, not literally) try some of the extra special ones. Champagne breakfast for two in the room or a romantic catered dinner on your balcony. Princess offers a special chef's dinner where the chef comes out and cooks something at your table. It is usually for a group of people and you also get to tour the kitchen and receive a cookbook. There was enough food at that meal to feed ten times the number of people at the table. We walked away uncomfortably stuffed. Truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us.

So bottom line: Plan ahead! You can research much of what your ship and your itinerary has to offer and make those choices that you feel will enhance your cruise experience. Provide enough in your budget for a few nice souvenirs or spa visits and if you must have a $4,000 clutch purse--well, be sure your credit card isn't maxed out.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Books For The Road - Until Proven Guilty by J A Jance

J A Jance is a new author for me. I'm running out of Harry Bosch books to read and I think I reached the end of Jack Reacher. So when a member of our book club mentioned a couple of series he has gotten into, my ears perked up and I wrote down the author's name. Jance had two series which involve murder and mystery and a detective and a sheriff.

Until Proven Guilty is the first in the Beaumont series which features J. P. Beaumont, detective on the Seattle police force. I'm glad this was the first for my reading. I loved imagining the streets of Seattle as she took her characters through them and then out to Snoqualmie. where I've been several times with our son and his family. Jance lives in Seattle and Arizona with her husband.

At first I wasn't sure I liked the voice of her writing. It seemed a bit short and choppy but once I got into the story and characters it all fell into place for me. Here's the teaser:

The little girl was a treasure who should have been cherished, not murdered. She was only five-too young to die-and Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont of the Seattle Police Department isn′t going to rest until her killer pays dearly. But Beaumont′s own obsessions and demons could prove dangerous companions in a murky world of blind faith and religious fanaticism. And he is about to find out that he himself is the target of a twisted passion . . . and a love that can kill.

Next up is the first in her series of mysteries that take place in Arizona with a female sheriff, Joanna Brady, just as soon as whoever has the loan from the library finishes with it. I'm looking forward to exploring these two series. They are proving to be good books for the road.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Through My Lens - Zoo Fun

As zoo members (visitors, not caged residents) we often spend a couple of morning hours walking through the zoo and then having lunch. It's a good walk. Our zoo is challenging with hills and lots of walking paths. This time through I grabbed my camera just in case we saw something unusual. I promised myself that the next time I photographed these kind of animals it wouldn't be through cage bars. Our safari will be coming up next year!

There's gotta be a salmon in here somewhere.

What!? Nobody smokes a camel anymore.

A kid's eye-view of an elephant's eye.

There's always gotta be one who's different.

Honey, is dinner ready yet?

Maybe Santa won't see me here. Enough with the sled already!

You hop for the visitors. No, you hop! No, you hop! No. . .

Oh dear, I think my deodorant failed me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lost In Translation--Made Up For In Smiles

One of my favorite signs in English I've seen as we travel is one that was actually truth-in-advertising. In Turkey just outside of Ephesus where local merchants were displaying their wares there was a large sign hung over a display of watches. It read, "Genuine Fake Watches." Here are some signs seen by others that locals translated into English for the tourists.


  • At a Budapest zoo: PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS. IF YOU HAVE ANY SUITABLE FOOD, GIVE IT TO THE GUARD ON DUTY.
  • Information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner in Japan: COOLES AND HEATES: IF YOU WANT CONDITION OF WARM AIR IN YOUR ROOM, PLEASE CONTROL YOURSELF.
  • On the grounds of a Nairobi private school: NO TRESPASSING WITHOUT PERMISSION.
  • In a Mumbai restaurant: OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, AND WEEKENDS TOO.
  • In a Tokyo bar: SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS.
  • Advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: TEETH EXTRACTED BY THE LATEST METHODISTS.
  • Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand: WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?
  • The box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: GUARANTEED TO WORK THROUGHOUT ITS USEFUL LIFE.
Travel is never boring. I can only imagine the chuckles we English-speaking tourists bring to others when we try to speak in their language.

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