Monday, December 26, 2011

Amish Second Christmas and the Value of Friendships

Today, December 26th, is Amish Second Christmas. When I first heard of this extra day of celebrating, I thought it was a day to recoup from having so many guests on Christmas Day. I imagined the Amish taking a day to just sleep and relax. But the Amish live very intentionally, and this Second Christmas is spent on something Outsiders would find surprising: going out with their “Amish Gang”.
Yes, I used Amish and gang in the same sentence, which seems like an oxymoron.  We think of gangs in a negative way, but think back to when you were a kid and you hung around with a neighborhood gang. That’s exactly what the Amish encourage their youth to do…form lasting friendships. Since many go to the same one-room schoolhouse, they have friends since childhood. But during the teen years, Amish youth are encouraged to get together all the more. Rumspringa actually means “running around” and it’s a misconception that they through off their Amish ways during this time. On the contrary, they strengthen them in forming bonds that will last a life-time, called Buddy Gangs.
So, the day after Christmas Day, these long-time friends get together. It’s a day to celebrate their friendship. I find this so heartwarming in a culture where “time is money”. The Amish are saying “time is friendship”.  The Amish find instruction to intentionally nurture friendships from the Bible.  With such verses as:
 A man who has friends must himself be friendly. (Proverbs 18:24a NKJV)
 Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. (Proverbs 27:9 NKJV)
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)
As I sit her, recouping from Christmas, I’m thinking how I can intentionally nurture friendships. The Amish always give me more to think about…

I wrote this little book to explain Amish customs around Christmas and share what I learned on toning down the Christmas chaos. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Having a Peace Filled Christmas "Amish" Style

Hi Friends,

My past two posts talk about my visit to Lydia, my Amish friend, which helped me change my perspective on Christmas. It really is all about getting together with loved ones and having fun. I shared how the Amish celebrate Christmas over several days, ending on January 6th, Old Christmas.

I'd have to say this has been the most stress free Christmas I've ever had. I've only made one cookie. Pizzelles. You're denying your Italian heritage if you don't make them ;) So, I made a batch and my daughter and I pressed them on her birthday, December 20th. We now plan to make this a birthday/Christmas tradition, something I always felt wrong about doing. Can't mix the two celebrations because Christin won't feel special. perfectionism is breaking. My birthday's on Old Christmas, January 6th, so the family's having one birthday party for us both over the next two weeks. No date yet. Doesn't matter because it's not about the perfect meal, setting etc. it's all about getting together and having fun.

I have to say that it was painful though when my husband said he wasn't making nutrolls until January 6th. He sent an email around work that the Amish celebrate Old Christmas and he was too busy to make his mouthwatering nutrolls. It was a tradition that he makes one for all his co-workers. I cringed when he told me. My mom taught him how to make this Croatian desert step-by-step and only he knows how to make them. I've never had a Christmas without nutrolls. I immediately thought of calling a bakery...CRACK! My perfectionism is falling to pieces. No nutrolls until January 6th?

So it's two days until Christmas and only pizzelles have been made, but I'm not stressed out. But as I reflect over the past two weeks, there's something I did that I've always wanted to do, but never did, because it would just kill my Christmas a Christmas novel! So, I read Christmas Mail-Order Brides, a wonderful collection of stories, all focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.

Is there something you secretly wish you had time to do, but your holiday schedule is dictating your every move? Think about it? Is that living a simple life? To be bullied by the "Tyranny of the Urgent"? I'm finding much more peace saying no to self-imposed or society-imposed rules. Yes, my visit to Lydia's and learning about how the Amish celebrate Christmas has been life perfectionism is breaking...for good!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Journey Toward a Peace Filled "Amish" Christmas

Hi friends,

My last post, Do the Amish Celebrate Christmas?, where I keep hearing from my Amish friend, Lydia, that they "just spend time together and have fun", will be helpful to read before you read this post.

I believe God is a hands-on teacher. Right after I wrote the last post, I went to my doctors for a lingering cold. He ends up putting me in the hospital for possible pneumonia for three days. My first reaction was...I'm not's only two weeks until perfect Christmas! Sorry, too much to do, and my husband and I are going to the Nutcracker ballet tomorrow. No!

Well, my husband took me to the hospital, saying to rest! I loaded my tote with my Thomas Kinkade Christmas cards and some knitting (not done making scarves for presents). Then I thought of what I just posted here...about what I learned from Lydia about Christmas, and to spend time together having fun.

So, I rested for three days, never wrote out one card, knit maybe 10 rows, and that's it. I came home to a house that doesn't have one decoration up, and it's only eleven days until Christmas. I can't run around decorating the house because I'm too tired on all the meds my doc put me on. But, I somehow feel like I'm being set free from perfectionism and it feels wonderful.

But I have to make pizzelles, an Italian cookie passed down through the generations. My sisters and daughters are talking about a "cookie frolic". How Amish is that? Combining work with fellowship?

As for not going to the romantic Christmas time with hubby...still working on that one. I collect nutcrackers and always say, "Christmas is the Nutcracker". Well, maybe some sacred cows have to be tipped over. Christmas is Jesus...all about Him coming to bring "Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward men".  With a shift of perspective, I'm starting to feel more peace.

Please feel free to leave comment about how you're simplifying your Christmas. We can all learn from each other!

Above is a picture taken in Riccia, Italy, where my grandparents grew up and many of my cousins still live. Outdoor live nativity sets are common. Somehow it gives me peace and makes remember the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Blessings to you!  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?

Having just written the Christmas volumes of Amish Knitting Circle, I'm reflecting on all I’ve learned from my Amish friend about how they really celebrate Christmas. I don't think I'll be the same! I'll put up my tree and decorations, but something has really broken in me...the need to be perfect on Christmas.
What do I mean by that? Well, I need to get those perfect gifts so people will feel loved, right? I need to get that perfect Christmas sweater from Christopher & Banks!  I need to make my perfect cookies in my perfectly clean house, right? And of all things, I need to have all my kids with spouses come to my perfect orb for half the day or they won't have a holly, jolly Christmas, right?
When I sat with pen in hand, ready to take down notes as Lydia explained to me how she celebrates Christmas, she just kept repeating herself no matter how I asked the question. "We just spend time together and have fun." No candles in the window? No greenery? Any special games? "We just spend time together and have fun." Any special cookies you bake? "We make cookies all year. We just spend time together and have fun." I leaned forward, "BUT, you have to have a favorite Christmas cookie, RIGHT???" She leaned back and
In shock, I moved on to the dates I knew they celebrated Christmas: Christmas Eve, First Christmas, Second Christmas and Old Christmas.
I asked about the children’s play at the one-room schoolhouse on Christmas Eve. What is it like? "Oh, well, we don't always have it on Christmas Eve. It may be three days before Christmas." I almost fainted. I thought of little Hannah and Eli in their little Amish clothes not understanding what "Eve" meant. The night before? So I asked her if the kids minded changing the date every year, and she gently leaned toward me with a look of concern, thinking I'm neurotic. "Now, why would that matter for?" She tries to calm me down...
On to Christmas Day, or First and Second Christmas as the Amish call them, Dec. 25th and 26th. Any traditional meals? Please, tell me you have this! "We just spend time together and have fun." How about Second Christmas, is there something special you do? "We just spend time together....."
Maybe I just needed to hear it ten times to hear what she said. To the Amish, once again, nothing is more important than spending time together and enjoying each other company. 
I asked her about her favorite Christmas memory as a child. Her eyes lit up and she said she got a doll once. She could describe that doll in vivid detail. Then she went on to tell of her brothers’ presents, plastic animals that she then went on to describe, clapping her hands as she recalled their happy expressions.  But she added, "Aw, we had so much fun spending time together..."
As I’m still in shock, I thought maybe they're more into their German roots, and celebrate on January 6th, which they call Old Christmas. She must be saving this day to tell me all their holiday traditions. She only said, "Nothing special....we just spend time together...seriously."
To be honest, I'm still taking it all in and I started this research on Amish holiday’s months ago. But I think it’s helped my two sisters and me change our view of the holidays. We now have First and Second Thanksgiving! I didn't have 20+ people at my perfectly clean house with that just perfect turkey, and then half-way through the meal feel the need to drop dead. No, I saw my sisters the next day and we even talked about going to see a movie, but ended up ... spending time together just having fun!
Who knows what changes we'll make for Christmas? I just hope we can simply spend time together and have fun, no matter what day we actually celebrate the holiday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amish Christmas Cookie Recipes....Enjoy!

Volume 5 of my Amish Knitting Circle is called Christmas Cookies. I surprise readers with original Amish Christmas cookie recipes. I'll share them today on Amish Crossings because so many ingredients are on sale this week to make Thanksgiving desserts. Stock up on flour now ;)  Enjoy!

Lydia’s Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Frosting

3 c. Crisco
2 c. white sugar
2 c. brown sugar
5 eggs
3 c. whole milk
Vanilla to flavor (1 tsp.)
6 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
Enough flour to handle, not too much. About 9 cups.

Cream shortening with sugars. Add wet ingredients. Sift dry ingredients and slowly fold in. Mix well. Drop teaspoon full of batter on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. 

Cinnamon Frosting

1 c. Crisco
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch salt
Milk to thin a bit
Flavor with cinnamon to your liking.

                                                Ginger Cookie
1 c brown sugar
1 c. shortening (Crisco)
½ c. hot water
1 egg
2/3 molasses
1/3 c. corn syrup
1 T baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1 T Ginger
1 T vanilla
Pinch salt
1 T baking powder
Enough flour to make soft dough. Start with 4 cups to start. Add flour slowly until right consistency.

Sift flour with salt and spices. Cream shortening and sugar; add egg and beat until light. Add molasses, corn syrup and vanilla, then dry ingredients. Dissolve baking powder in hot water, and add to mix. Add flour, not to exceed 9 cups. Drop by teaspoons on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

                                    Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

4 c. brown sugar
1 ½ c. Oleo (Crisco)
4 eggs
4 c. flour
4 c. oatmeal
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda dissolved in 6 T boiling water

Cream together sugar, Oleo, and eggs. Add pinch of salt, flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder. Add soda water last. Beat and drop by teaspoon full on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees. Take two cookies and spread with filling, holding them together.

Whoopie Pie Filling
2 egg whites
2 t vanilla
4 T flour
4 T milk
4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. Crisco

Beat egg whites until stiff. Add other ingredients. Spread between cookies and enjoy.

                                    Chocolate Whoopie Pies

4 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 t. soda
1 ½ salt
1 c. shortening (Crisco)
1 c. cocoa
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 c. sour milk from the cow (and for the rest of us…1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup ;)
1 c. cold water

Cream: sugar, salt, shortening, vanilla and eggs. Sift: flour, soda and cocoa. Mix ingredients together and slowly add sour milk and water until right consistency. Can add flour to mixture if too gooey. Drop by teaspoonful. Bake at 350. Put two cookies together with Whoopie Pie Filling recipe.


                                    Christmas Butter Cookies

3 c. powdered sugar
½ c. white sugar
2 c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
6 c. flour

Cream together butter and sugars, add vanilla and eggs. Mix well and add flour and baking powder. Roll thin and cut. Bake at 350 degrees. Top with frosting.
                                                Basic Frosting
3 egg whites
½ tsp. cream of tartar
4 c. powdered sugar

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar. Add powdered sugar and beat until stiff. Add enough water so that you can dip the cookies in the frosting.

                                                Butterscotch Cookies
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup shortening or lard
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup nuts

Mix all ingredients except nuts. Stir the nuts in by hand. Roll the dough into tubes 2 inches thick and cut in thin slices. Press with fork or potato masher to make design. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Inside an Amish home...Plain and Simple

 Every time I step inside an Amish home, I feel like I need take half the stuff in my house to the Salvation Army pick up bin. If a picture can say a thousand words, take a look at my friend's new house. You'll see two sewing machines that she often uses, decorated with runners and crocheted doilies edged in blue. In the left corner there are two Amish "drying racks" for laundry. So this beautiful room is where Lydia dries, sews and mends clothes. When not in use for laundry or sewing, it's really cute, neat, and orderly. You'll see two Amish rockers with woven rugs under them which can be easily turned to use for sewing, or to sit and chat with a friend. The left wall is filled with storage...out of sight and out of mind. Plants adorn the tops of the window sills and sewing machines when they're not in use. Lydia has two greenhouses and like most gardeners in Western Pennsylvania, shelves line many windows so plants can be started inside in February. So many functions for such a little space. Really makes me wonder what I need to get rid of first....plain and simple

Monday, November 7, 2011

Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel & Operation Knit Together for Charity

I've always wanted to write a full length novel. Every time I watched Little Women, and saw Jo up in the attic writing about things from her heart, a knot would form in my stomach. I could never do that, I thought. I have nothing to really say.

Well, after my mom passed away, I went to visit my friend, Lydia, in Smicksburg, PA. She had just lost her sister-in-law to a heart attack. As we walked around her two greenhouses, sharing our grief, I wondered what it would be like if Lydia and I lived across the street from each other and could talk everyday. I've learned so much from her about the Amish way of life, I then thought....I have a story to tell. The major life-lessons my Amish friends in NY and PA taught me.

In the book is a man named Eli Hershberger. He's my late friend, Harry Hershberger.  He became a paraplegic after his buggy was hit while he was on his way to help put out an Englisher's fire. The Amish built a variety shop onto his house so he could have a source of income. I'll never forget asking Harry how much a cord of wood was, as we usually put up 30 cord in Upstate NY. Harry looked at me baffled...he didn't know. The Amish community had always provided all the wood he needed, since his wife couldn't go out and split logs and tend to him.

My book , Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel, published by Trestle Press, just came out as an ebook and will be a paperback before Christmas 2011. What a dream to not only have a novel, but to have one about the lessons I learned from my Amish friends. I'm just as excited to partner with Christian Aid Ministries, an Amish/Mennonite charity in Berlin, OH. In the front of the book is a knitting pattern for mittens. The Amish/English knitting circle in the town not only hold the town's harmony together, but knit for charity together, and they're making mittens for orphans in Eastern Europe. Operation Knit Together is announced in the front of the book, asking reader to knit the mittens and send them to CAM. They will distribute them to orphans in Eastern Europe.

I am so thrilled about this book, and my  Amish Knitting Circle series. If you have Amish friends, or know something about them that changed your life, maybe you have a story you can begin to spin. I believe the Amish can teach so much in this the post-modern world we live in. I know I’ve learned a lot….
If you'd like to read my book and knit along in a virtual worldwide knitting circle, you can get the book at the link below.

Blessings to you!

Karen Anna Vogel

Monday, October 31, 2011

A heartfelt talk with Amish author Suzanne Woods Fisher

I'm so honored to have Suzanne Woods Fisher on my blog. I think most people know her as the author of Amish Peace, Amish Proverbs, and Amish Values for your Family, and her Lancaster Country Secrets series.  I wanted to ask her about her new Christmas novel, Lancaster Country Christmas, since I bought it as my "Christmas 2011 Keepsake Book". Let's get into the interview:

Suzanne, I am thrilled to have you on Amish Crossings. Thank you for answering my many questions with such transparency. What inspired you to write A Lancaster County Christmas? 

 The inspiration for this novella came from two loose threads …

 In the Amish culture, motherhood is highly valued. I felt as if there could be a story in that: what does a woman do when she feels an inner and outer pull toward motherhood, and yet she isn’t able to have children? A character from “The Choice,” Mattie Riehl, came to mind as a woman who had the depth to tackle that enormous disappointment. So Mattie was the first thread.

 The second thread belonged to Jaime Fitzpatrick, a young English woman who keeps trying to stuff down some serious issues in her life…but they keep popping up. Her mother had recently passed away, her father has just re-appeared in her life, and her poor husband, C.J., seems to get the short end of Jaime’s trouble with trust.

 Jaime’s story was loosely based on the relationship a close friend of mine has with her father. I’ve known this friend long enough to see how her father’s “on again, off again” interest in being a dad has affected her. Hard stuff!

 Here’s how the two threads wove together to create A Lancaster County Christmas:  A winter storm on Christmas Eve blows Jaime and C.J. into Mattie’s farmhouse. These two women—opposites in every way—are facing their own private difficulties. As an unlikely friendship begins, Mattie and Jaime are about to discover if miracles still happen at Christmastime.

 I see you bring up the topic of infertility. Why?

After my first two children were born, I had a miscarriage. It gave me a hint of what women who experience infertility go through. Even though I did have children and obviously wasn’t infertile, I still mourned for the loss of that baby. I didn’t feel like myself for a while, and I felt frustrated by people who dismissed the loss or rushed me through the grieving process. Much of Mattie’s inner dialogue comes right out of my diaries during that time in my life.

How do you try to have a simple Christmas without turning Amish?


Oh, I wish I could say that I’ve got the perfect formula for a simple Christmas! Sometimes, I think my Christmases are getting even more complicated. Our extended family is changing—oldest children are marrying, one has a baby, two of our brothers’ have divorced, my dad has Alzheimer’s disease, our mothers are getting quite elderly. Paying attention, during the Christmas season, to all of the people in our lives is a lot to juggle. But here’s the one principle that helps to simplify Christmas: make time to reflect on the coming of Christ and all that it brings to us. It might mean skipping Christmas cards or limiting gifts or saying no to some parties. Whatever it takes! Worship is the heart of Christmas.

Amish Values for Your Family is such a great book. You talk about the lost childhood. How can we give our children a more "plain and simple" Christmas?

 The term “lost childhood” comes from recent studies that indicate children are overscheduled and don’t have enough down time for…just being children. Seems like this is where parents can put some thought into Christmas gifts that encourage imagination. For example, we have a family tradition of starting a new 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on Christmas Eve. It usually takes until New Year’s Day to finish it and includes lots of mellow time by the fireplace.

 I’ve heard of two different ideas to put some parameters around Christmas. One is the “Three Wise Men” rule. Each child receives three gifts: one that he wants, one to share, and one (such as a book) for his spiritual life.

Another suggestion comes from the Victorian tradition. Children receive four gifts, one from each category: need, want, wear, read.

 What I like about both of those plans is that they create a limit to the amount of gifts a child can expect and it takes some pressure off of Mom and Dad (who hasn’t worried on Christmas Eve that one child has less gifts than another?). I read recently that the average American family spends over $4,500 each Christmas. Ridiculous!

 How can we live more simply like the Amish?

I’m a big fan of living with less clutter and chaos and simplifying the daily routine--but sometimes we look at the Amish and stop at the buggies and bonnets and beards. There’s so much more to the Amish than living without television or cars or “stuff.”

 As I’ve studied the Old Order Amish, I think what has touched me in a deep, unsettling way is their intentional forgiveness. We just don’t emphasize that enough! To the Amish, it’s a daily attitude of “letting things go.” The Amish place great importance on forgiving others because of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). It really makes me gulp!

I think “letting go” of pettiness and grudges is another form of simplifying. The best kind. 

 What new projects are on the horizon?

Lots of exciting things are in the pipeline! A new 3-book Amish fiction series kicks off with The Keeper in January (it might be my favorite!), and an Amish children’s chapter book series is coming out next summer. I’m co-writing the series with Mary Ann Kinsinger, who was raised Old Order Amish and writes an amazing blog called “A Joyful Chaos” ( Some exciting projects are getting finalized, too. (Stay tuned!) My goal is that every book is better than the one before it—I never want to stop improving my craft.

Wow, that sounds really exciting. What message would you like your readers to take from reading A Lancaster County Christmas?

Emmanuel—God is with us (Matthew 1:23). Stop for a moment and think about that simple phrase. God has entered His creation to come alongside of us. Such a miracle!

Last thing—I love to hear from readers! I can be found at, and on Facebook: I try to answer everyone back within a day or so. And I’d like to invite each of you to sign up for my newsletter—filled of contests and giveaways and good stuff! Hope to connect with you.

Thanks, Karen, for having me visit on your blog today.

Thank you Suzanne. It's been an honor. If you'd like to purchase Lancaster County Christmas, for a good price, see the link below to my store, Thrifty Christian Shopper.;)

Blessings to you!

Karen Anna Vogel

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview with Roger Rheinheimer, author of Amish Snow

What was it like growing up among the Amish?

My dad was the town doctor in a small town in northern Indiana, and the town had a hitching rail for the Amish to tie their horses on a side street right around the corner from his office. I remember going on house calls with him, sometimes to Amish homes, but of course as a kid, I never realized how special that was. Those are some of my favorite memories.

 Do you have any favorite stories about an Amish friend you'd like to share?

I worked for an Amish craftsman when I was in high school, after school and summers.  One summer - I was probably a junior in high school - we were working on a room addition for another Amish family, and their five year old son came sauntering up with a very broad grin, announcing to anyone in earshot, “Here comes trouble!”  We just cracked up

I believe youre Mennonite. Where your grandparents Amish or Old Order Mennonite?

I was raised in a Mennonite family, yes, but Mennonites have a wide variety of beliefs and practices.  We were part of the most liberal group, and I remember my dad always bought a new Ford from the local dealership every year.  He was also a gadget nut, and bought one of the first color televisions in town, then forbade us from watching anything but sports on it!  My maternal grandfather was born into an Amish family, but left that faith and joined a Mennonite church.  I used to love to hear his stories about barn raisings.  As long as we kids were willing to turn the homemade ice cream handle, he was willing to tell stories.  He was an antique dealer, and provided well for his family selling antiques, even during the Depression.

What is the one big misconception people have about the Amish?

Boy, this is a tough question because there are so many misconceptions. I suppose the biggest misconception is that all Amish are the same, in terms of beliefs and practices. Partly because they eschew modern means of communication and still travel by horse and buggy, it is virtually impossible for them to have a central religious committee. So the interpretation of the Bible and Christianity is up to the local Elders, usually Bishops. That is why you will see things in one community, like cell phones, that another community will ban.  My wife Ginny and I were in Ohio one time, and saw an Amish man drive up to a filling station, grab two five gallon gas cans from the back of the buggy, fill them up and then head out. Ginny was aghast until I explained that no doubt their particular community had approved the use of gasoline for lawn mowers, etc. The Amish craftsman I worked for had some of the latest power tools, but the Elders in his community said they had to be powered by generators, not public utilities, unless we were working at an English home, then we could use their power outlets.

You have a new Amish series coming out soon. What inspired you to write Amish Forever?

I had been toying with writing a sequel to Amish Snow for some time, and when Trestle Press inquired whether I would be interested in writing a serialized Amish romance, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’ve always heard there are only seven plots in fiction writing, and they’ve been used since the beginning of storytelling, so the only thing we writers can hope to contribute are a fresh way of telling and, of course, characters that come alive. It’s hard to describe how gratifying it is to hear from readers that they couldn’t put the story and characters out of their minds after they finished reading.

Can you tell us a little about the book without giving too much away?

The Amish really are “strangers in a strange land,” meaning there is always this tension between their way of life and the “English,” what they call the rest of us. This becomes especially important when it involves marriage and family. Ava Troyer, the seventeen year old protagonist, is a beautiful young Amish girl, and is rescued from a bad, Sunday morning wreck by a mysterious young man in military fatigues that speaks Pennsylvania Dutch and then disappears from the scene. Ava is smitten, to the consternation of her family, but she can’t put him out of her mind. Crystal Linn, my co-author, came up with the title, Amish Forever.

 Thank you for sharing with us on Amish Crossings. More information about Roger Rheinheimer can be found at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Do Amish Women Knit?

Since my book series, Amish Knitting Circle, came out with Trestle Press, I’ve been asked if Amish women really knit. Most people think they only quilt. I’m so glad to say, yes, they knit too!
            The Amish came to America in the early eighteenth century. At that time it was typical for women to know how to spin their wool and knit. Amish women knit shawls for warmth, usually in dark colors to match their dark clothing. Between1860-1920 Lancaster County women had more colors accessible to them and knit fancy colorful socks to wear under their long dresses and boots. These were called wedding socks and worn only by married women as part of their wedding attire.
As the Industrial Revolution produced more yarn in mills at affordable prices, Amish women  set aside their spinning wheels. But, they still made socks, mittens, shawls, and other apparel. They made their own knitting looms, now called Amish Knitting Looms, that require no needles and where made of wood and nails. Most are about 32 inches long, the right size for a shawl. When items became cheap enough to buy in stores, the need to knit was replaced by a want to knit. To this day, Amish women knit  mats to put under their oil lamps, placemats for their tables, rag rugs to warm their floors, and much more.
 Today the traditional Amish Knitting Loom is replaced by plastic ones, although the Amish still make their wooden ones. Lion Brand Yarn sells them in different lengths. But if you go into any craft store you’ll find knitting looms, some as kits, for sale. The top rated knitting loom book on Amazon is Loom Knitting Primer: A Beginner's Guide to Knitting on a Loom, with over 30 Fun Projects.

If you’re reading The Amish Knitting Circle you’ll know their making shawls to send to tornado victims in Joplin, MO. Why not get a loom and knit along with Granny Weaver and her circle and give your shawl to someone in need. Happy knitting!
I think it's safe to say that some things never change. Men aren't made to knit ;)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do the Amish give to charities? Do they help the poor?

Can you picture a group of Amish men flying cows into Romania to start a farm to feed orphans? How about Amish distributing Bibles door to door?  How about Amish women processing 400,000 cans of chicken, beef and hamburger to give to the needy? The latter seems Amish, doesn’t it? We see the Amish as folk living quaint lives on the farm. Let me help blow your mind!
Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) is a worldwide Amish and Mennonite charitable organization run by volunteers that log in over 200,000 hours of work a year.  Annual donations made by mostly “plain people” are $116,168,060, according to Charity Navigator.  BUT 98.8% of this money actually goes to ward relief efforts in the US and around the world. (Some charitable organizations give less than 70%  to their actual cause)  CAM is run by a volunteer board and has only three paid positions, the top CEO making $45,895 a year. CAM has staff, bases and distribution networks in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Haiti, Nicaragua, Liberia and Israel. I don't know? I was blown away completely. CAM is doing a top-notch job.
So what is CAM doing right now? According to their newsletter, their international focus is the ongoing devastation in Haiti and the famine in Africa. In the US, they're helping Hurricane Irene victims.
Plans are for CAM’s Rapid Response Teams to help victims of Manville, New Jersey, clean up from flood damage caused by the hurricane. Leroy Heatwole, a Rapid Response Team director, says, "We are in Manville walking into the flood area with the homeowners who are just returning to their homes. There are a lot of homes flooded, from six inches to all the way to the roof. Plans are to do more investigating and then start mucking out homes as soon as the water level goes down. We will be needing lots of volunteers from the PA community.”
CAM has a wonderful mission statement:  Glorify God and help enlarge His kingdom.  “. . . whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)
For more information on Christian Aid Ministries, visit their website, run by less conservative Mennonites who use electricity and the internet ;) 
I've chosen to really spotlight CAM in my Amish Knitting Circle Series with Trestle Press. The women in the circle will be knitting scarves and shawls for Joplin, Missouri hurricane victims. I hope it will raise awareness for this wonderful ministry.
Karen Anna Vogel
Amish helping Hurricane Irene victims...

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Amish and Lasagna

When I went to my Amish friend’s greenhouse in rural Pennsylvania, I bought lots of eggplants because I love eggplant parmesan, and all my plants died. I asked her what she was making for dinner for her family of ten. I expected to hear something like ham from their smokehouse and potatoes and vegetables from their garden. She smiled and said, “Lasagna.”
After knowing Amish families for twenty years, I’m always taken back. I wanted to ask, “So, you know how to cook Italian? Do you want some recipes from my grandma who came from Riccia, Italy?” But I’ve learned the Amish are tired of assuming they limit themselves to recipes from Little House on the Prairie Cookbook.  
But since there are Amish in 27 states now, some in really rural places where it’s two hours to Wal-Mart, some probably do eat more like pioneers.  One rule of thumb in the Amish community is they don’t consider a meal complete unless there’s a dessert after supper, every night. Left over pie is usually served for breakfast. So I wonder what my friend is making for dessert…Italian ice?  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Amish Recipe ~ Plain and Simple

Hello dear readers. I'll be coming out with an Ebook with Trestle Press called The Amish Knitting Circle. It will be a monthly serial following the lives of six women in Smicksburg, PA. It all starts one day when Granny Weaver spins her wool and sees the fibers are stronger when they come together. She thinks of five women who are unraveling, so she starts a knitting circle to bring them together.  I'll take you on a journey with these six women through an Amish year filled with their seasonal activities. Since November is their wedding season, I thought it fun to start there.
At the end of the book, due out Mid-September, is a recipe. As a mother of 4 preschoolers, long ago, I needed a quick and easy dessert. An Amish lady in NY said Cinnamon Flop was my answer. I call it the lazy way of making cinnamon rolls. They taste the same but made in no time. Little hands love to poke the dough too….

                                                Cinnamon Flop

3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
 1 1/2 cups sugar
 2 eggs, well beaten
 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 2 teaspoons baking powder
 1 cup milk
 1 cup light brown sugar
 1/4 cup butter
Cream butter with sugar.
Beat in eggs.
Sift flour with baking powder and add alternately with the milk.
Pour into well-buttered 9-inch pie plate.
Sprinkle top with brown sugar, dot with butter, and sprinkle with lots of ground cinnamon.
Bake in preheated hot oven (375° F.) for approximately 30 minutes.