Take note

While we are in the promotional mode—

It’s been a while since I talked about my advertisers! I’m grateful to these businesses and want to give them a little shout-out, a more personal introduction than I’ve done so far.

Kauffman’s Fruit Farm

I was introduced to this 100-year-old family business through my friends Sheldon & Joann Kauffman. Their apple cider is the best! They also sell and ship fruit trees, bulk food products, fruit baskets, and their signature apple butters. I appreciate the Kauffman’s straightforward honesty and quality work. They know fruit, and have perfected what they do!


Byler’s Relish House

I’ve been blessed to do some product work for BRH. I’ve shot some photos for them, and taste-tested a few products to write descriptions and suggest uses. Their preserves are wonderful—from classics like peach and black raspberry to an entire no-sugar-added line. They also have a wide range of pickles, barbecue sauces, relishes and salsas, good enough to eat straight out of the jar. {I have had experience with this.}

(Shown here is pulled pork with Bylers’ Honey Barbecue Sauce.)


Yoder Financial Services

Dennis Yoder is a numbers man. He’s good at math and taxes, two areas in which some of us need a little assistance. He’ll help you navigate red tape and the intricacies of the Obamacare requirements, with inexpensive options for initial consultation with him. He offers financial advice, bookkeeping solutions and payroll services.

Plus his sister teaches my son in second grade—so you KNOW the Yoders among the few, the proud, the brave. In the best sense.


Christian Learning Resource

CLR is the local bookstore of which we are proud! But they’ll also ship across the country. They offer an excellent choice of school/ homeschool curriculum, plus great books and quality music. I love their books by authors I know: Anita Yoder on living well, Sharon Yoder on singlehood, Steven Russell on nonresistance, Beatrice King on cooking, and Desiree Kuhns on math class openers. It’s a fun website to browse, especially if you’re a book lover like me.


Several of these ads are nearing the end of their six-month run, and I’ll have an opening coming up. I think it’s a niche location for Mennonite businesses to advertise, particularly those who can ship their products across the country. If you have a business you’d like to advertise for, contact me (sharizook@gmail.com) and we’ll talk about options and details.

It’s been fun to connect my readers with great products and services. Thanks for being interested!


Have you interacted with these businesses? Any words to offer in their praise?
What other online vendors do you enjoy?

Giveaway: White Hill Pottery

I see none of you were brave enough to say “Forget the story; gimme the giveaway.” Thanks for that. You’re sweet.


Hello there.

A week or two ago I asked you to share a cup of tea with me, and now I’d like to offer you—the cup!

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I {almost} don’t need any words at all for this giveaway; the product speaks for itself. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful handmade from clay.

White Hill Pottery is based in Virginia, run out of the basement of Darrell and Alison Hershberger. Alison does the pottery making herself; every piece is hand-thrown. Do not ask me how she manages this alongside being a pastor’s wife, a true friend, and a mother of three—she just does. She’s continually exploring new items or styles, and perfecting her existing ones.

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She and I are offering one of you readers a mug, your choice of the two. There’s a beautiful blue…

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and a rich earth brown.

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I love the textures and varied glazes Alison works into her products, and the perfect, perfect shapes. The one shown here happens to be a new shape for her. Isn’t it a beauty though? So petite in appearance, but able to hold a full 12 ounces of your favorite hot beverage. I measured.

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(Do you want this cup yet or should I keep talking?)

I was given one of Alison’s mugs last year, and I use it nearly every day. Her pottery is microwave and dishwasher safe, and like stoneware, holds the heat of your coffee. She also makes vases, pitchers, and bowls. On her White Hill Pottery website, you can take a look at the other products. {Click here.}

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Only one of you can win. But it’s Alison’s wish, and mine, that you keep her in mind when you need a new piece of pottery, or a pretty gift for a friend. She’d be happy to ship you one!

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To enter the drawing to win, please leave a comment stating WHY you think you should win, and who you think should definitely NOT win. Just kidding.

Please leave a comment with the simple recipe for a hot (or cold) drink you love. It doesn’t have to be precise, or fancy, or from scratch—Hot milk and a packet of Swiss Miss with a mound of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel works for me. Then we can get ideas from one another, you see. As we speak, the outdoor temperature at my house is negative five degrees Fahrenheit and I need to think warm thoughts.

I’m not *requiring* you to share the giveaway with your friends, but please do: we are NonSnatchers, remember? So we think of others who might want cheese. And we tell more people about Alison’s work.

I am so happy to share this chance with you. Enjoy!

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Terms, Conditions, & Disclaimers:

  • The only item available for giveaway is a mug. Chocolates, hot drinks, great books, fraying burlap, and old crate not included. Or cheese either, just in case anyone was confused about that.
  • The beverages shown above were inserted into the mugs for photographical purposes only. This pottery is brand new and has never been drunk from. I promise.
  • It’s okay if someone else in the comment section shares the idea for the same drink as yours. You can’t be an original ALL the time…
  • Persons of any gender, age, race, criminal history, religious preference, and geographical location are permitted to enter this giveaway. The only requirement is a US MAILING ADDRESS. If you live off the continent and know of a friend who wouldn’t mind storing (using) your mug for a few months until your furlough (if you win)—please enter. I’d be honored. (Your friend would too.)
  • Giveaway closes in one week, at midnight on Monday, March 2, 2015. Winner will be chosen by random.org.
  • Go.

The string cheese incident

Once upon a time in the aisles of Aldi, I came up against a stranger at the cheese cooler.

She was tall and trim, with lush curly hair. She flashed a megawatt smile at my daughter and flitted through her purchases, energy oozing out of her. We chatted a little.

“String cheese, string cheese,” she said to herself. “Don’t tell me they’re out. I need some for children’s church tonight!”

I was looking for string cheese too, and helped her look. We scanned the shelves together. “I don’t think there’s any here,” I said. Suddenly her hand shot out and snatched (I do not think “snatched” is too strong a word) a pack of string cheese from the cooler right in front of me. A single pack had been sitting out of place on top of another cheese box.

She practically hugged it. “Oh my goodness!” she said, her face alight. “Jesus put this here just for me! Isn’t He so good?! He knew just what I needed!”

By now I was thinking two things.

  1. You are a beautiful lady of courage and charisma.
  2. Did He also give you permission to snatch it from in front of me?

I said something kind, since I don’t fight with strangers [only sisters and husbands], and stood there scanning the shelves one last time. On the highest shelf, out of its usual place, sat an entire box of string cheese packages.

“Look,” I said. “Here’s more.” And I took down a package for myself. “Do you need more packs?”

No, she only needed one. She bubbled on her way, a radiant lady.

I admire her still, and I do not tell this story to paint me as the good guy: I would have liked to snatch up that cheese myself. I tell the story because I began to feel, after a time—not at first—that what she did with cheese, I might be doing with quarters in Aldi carts.

I began to wonder if The Miraculous Provision of Jesus Just For Me is sometimes code for Being a Better Snatcher? We Christians have an easy handle on this brand of selfishness.

“Pass it on,” those liberal strangers at the carts always told me. And I did. But I wonder how often I found a cart outside the store without an owner, just sitting there waiting, as I said in my last post, and mentally added …for me!

I want to be a NonSnatcher. That’s why I started taking a quarter of my own. And if I want to walk forward another step and become a Giver, my little envelope could probably hold two…?

The Time Keeper PMM

Or, “The Time Keeper: Post-Market Modifications and Other Digressions.”


I really love my Time Keeper.

There are two things I do to make it even more user-friendly for me. I suppose I could suggest these to its creator, but they seem like the kind of thing not everyone would like.

1. I snip the corners as I go, so I can easily find my place.

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2. And I create a little envelope for my Aldi quarter, and glue it inside the front flyleaf.

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You have no idea how hard it is for me to keep an Aldi quarter on hand.

Those of you who shop at Aldi know this: you have to put a quarter in the cart before you take it, your little pledge to return the cart (and reclaim your quarter) so as not leave it out in the parking lot. They are uber-smart, these German grocers. I’ve been watching and researching their business policies, and I have to say I’m impressed. But I digress.

You would think it would be easy to keep a quarter tucked in the van for such a time as this. You would think.

But you would be wrong.

In fact a quarter is often in demand, for parking meters in town or for slot machines that dispense candy to children who have been good while shopping. (Did I say that out loud?) The quarter grows wings.

For a long time, God and I had a little game going in which I forgot my Aldi quarter and He came up with creative ways to supply it. This amused and inspired me for a long time, until I thought how irresponsible I was being and started carrying one with me.

Often, a stranger would offer me a cart and then say “Just take it! I don’t want your quarter.” (Not that I had one.) Or I’d find a cart outside the store without an owner, just sitting there waiting. Once I had a dollar bill with me, and changed it at the cash register. (If you knew how seldom I carry cash you would appreciate this more.)

Once I was driving to town and God nudged me in the middle of me thinkingaboutsomethingelse.

How about that Aldi quarter?

Oh NOO, I’d forgotten again!

This one’s going to be good, He said.

And it was. When I pulled into the lot, a lady was up fumbling with her cart near the other carts. By the time I got out of my van and approached her, she was ramming her cart into the other carts, shoving and shoving. She said, “I can’t get it to go in. Do you want to take it? I don’t want your quarter.”

I said “Yes! Thank you!”

And then I looked underneath. There was a large cardboard box getting smooshed between her cart and the next one.

Yes, I laughed out loud.

But it also made me feel kind of like a taker, especially after I witnessed The String Cheese Incident, which has nothing to do with the Time Keeper and does not belong in this post. I will tell it to you next time, I think… Should I do it before or after I host a giveaway for the prettiest object this blog has ever seen??

Now I tuck my quarter in that little envelope and do not pull it out except in the parking lot of Aldi. I always have my planner along in town, because that is where my shopping list lives. So. Am I quenching the Spirit in creating a little pocket of security, or am I presuming on His grace to be careless about carrying what I know I will need?

How do you modify your planner?
I just asked you three questions. They are important, and you may answer them all.
Or not…

The story of Friday

Confession: I should have seen it coming, I suppose, with Friday being the thirteenth and all, but I didn’t. Of course I don’t technically believe in bad luck—

Have I ever told you about Our Lane?
This picture makes it look easier than it is.

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But that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say that the public bussing system finally rebelled; and when little Angel Boy goes to school two afternoons a week, we must meet the bus at the fire station a quarter mile down the road.

His bus driver, who had been making the run up and down Our Lane very nicely for some time, said “Well, the day D— rode with me it took her breath away coming over the top, that moment when you can’t see anything but sky.”

I laughed at him. “It’s our own private adrenaline rush. I just hate putting other people through it.”

Friday is one of Angel Boy’s days for school, pick up scheduled for 11:50 am.

We only have one vehicle, now that Our Car is on holiday. Our Car might be a story for another time as well. She sends Hawaiian postcards from Meadville mailing addresses, and we pretend we can’t see her backend sticking out of the snow over there. She’s no fonder of snow than I be.

Ryan was out on the road meeting a client on Friday morning, and the time kept ticking away. I texted him at eleven thirty to remind him of my need for the van. No reply. I called him at eleven forty. No reply. His phone has an unfortunate habit of dying when unconnected to life support for longer than a couple of hours, and my heart sank.

Alright, I said to myself. You will have to drive Our Car to the station, and take both kiddos along.

But by now I had hardly allowed myself enough time to prepare.

I went to get Angel Boy. He wasn’t on the couch where he’d been a minute ago, so I went upstairs where he likes to explore and checked every room. What in the world? I came downstairs to find my daughter laughing at me. Angel Boy had hidden himself behind the rocking chair in the living room.

And I couldn’t get within ten feet without encountering the telltale odor.

Oh son. Really? Right now?

But I can change a poopy diaper in record time (any objections to the word poopy in this context? very well, carry on), and within minutes I had him clean, dry, bundled, shod, and ready to roll. I tucked Kelly and me into our winter gear as well, against the bitter cold.

I toted the children outside, strapped in Angel Boy, opened the frozen door for Kelly, and started Our Grumbling Car to begin warming. Then I girded up my loins to tackle her exterior. Did I mention she’s been sitting in snow? I scooped that off her windshield and found a solid sheet of ice. My best efforts with the scraper did not clear so much as a centimeter. I was now down to just-enough-time-to-get-to-the-station-by-eleven-fifty. Scrape, scrape, scrape, harder and harder—and not a dent in that stubborn ice.

I had nearly resigned myself to sitting and waiting for her to thaw, bus driver or no bus driver, when a familiar blue van turned down Our Lane. Ryan was home, at eleven fifty on the dot. I may or may not have wanted to spear him at this moment.

I switched Angel Boy from car to van, shooed Kelly into the house to stay with her father, and rocketed out Our Lane.

At the station I sat. And sat. And sat.

The last time our bus driver was ten minutes late he told me “I’m sorry, I got stuck in a lane. My own.” And I had laughed at him again. But this was getting alarming, and now I found I had forgotten my phone at home: the bus system could be calling me and I would have no idea.

I’m going to wait until twelve five, I told myself, and then… Um. And then I’m going to make a new plan.

To kill time and steady myself, I pulled Angel Boy’s notebook out of his school bag—the red notebook used for correspondence between teachers and home—to write a quick note on his development. The first words I read were the teacher’s from Wednesday.

“Just a reminder. On Friday the 13th there will be no school.”