Ian and Jenna’s A-Mazing Mystery Trip with Nana’s Twisty Turns

Dr. Seuss explores the maze of life in his famous book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! On the first page he assures readers:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

And that’s just what Jenna and Ian did when they visited Conner’s A-Maizing Acres this past October near Hilliard, Florida guiding their grand-parents from one station to the next. (Yes, they did learn “maize” is a type of corn.)

During the one-hour trip in the car, Ian read poems from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children to his cousin Jenna. He didn’t read from Dr. Seuss’ book, though whose wise words weave a web throughout this travelogue.


Then, a snapshot at the entrance . . .


The Conner Barn offers much to keep little hands busy . . .


After a hayride to the field, we tackle the maze . . .


There were Rules and a Life-Guard at the entrance to make sure we didn’t get hopelessly lost or ejected!

The staff were exceptionally friendly. We imagine the rules were a response to previous infractions.
The staff were exceptionally friendly. We imagine the rules were a response to previous infractions.


Jenna and Ian steered us away from blind alleys, saving us false steps and loss of sanity. No danger of losing our way with these two at the lead!


Like Dr. Seuss explains, it’s easy to take missteps and get lost.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

But we had such good guides, not a chance this would happen to us fortunately!

Next, while Jenna and I shopped for pumpkins, Ian bounced around on the spider web . . .


We also visited the Micro Farm with an aquaponic system:



Aquaponics: Growing plants in water and gravel, clay pebbles or lava rock.

We learned King Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon with an aquaponic system as a tribute to his wife.

One of their favorite pauses: The horse farm . . .


Dr. Seuss continues . . . I’m sorry to say so / but, sadly, it’s true / that Bang-ups and Hang-ups / happen to you.

No, the Hang-up didn’t happen to either Jenna or Ian. It happened to their NaNa. The Cylinder-on-Rollers looked exciting and easy . . . until I got into one and right from the start, felt disoriented and dizzy and not very smart. Still, Jenna and I persisted through to the end – with less than wonderful results.

I’m physically fit and strong for my age (so I’m told),

but when I exited the roller I felt much less bold!

I had to wonder the truth of the Seuss line “You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Yet, I suppose these closing lines below from Dr. Seuss still would apply to us. We made it to the end of the course, more or less . . .

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Seuss’ shouts optimism and assurance on his last page:

Today is your day!

So . . . get on your way!

Have you done something lately to get out of your comfort zone, maybe even made a fool of yourself? Any memories of antics in times past?

Coming next: Quiet Lives Matter, My Brother Mark


A Plate, a Parade, and a Song

First of all, there was no parade and no song.

But there was a plate. A plate of cupcakes. I can show you the plate, but the cupcakes are missing. Why? Because our grandchildren ate them all up. In fact the two older boys ate theirs up seconds after they landed on the plate. I missed the photo op completely.


Last weekend the family gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July. Some months ago, I had read Laura Brennan’s suggestion about celebrating success of family members with a plate of accomplishment. I caught her enthusiasm and thought “What a great idea!” All four grand-kids had received recognition at school this past year, so it seemed sensible to combine a national holiday with a family celebration.

Laura says,

We have a fun and easy way to celebrate in our house: it’s called The Plate of Accomplishment. In going through my mom’s stuff, I found one lone, gorgeous dinner plate – shimmery,  just lovely. So when one of us has an accomplishment to celebrate, they get to eat dinner on that plate. It comes out with much fanfare (a mini-parade, actually) and a song: “It is the Plate of Accomplishment, it is the Great Great Plate of Accomplishment …

Our grand-kids’ accomplishments were not measured by degrees as adults might do. There was as much hoopla about a memo from a teacher dashed off in minutes as for a bound book in a school library.

And so it went in birth order. . .

We celebrated Patrick’s printed book “My Life as a Pencil”


And Curtis’ recognition for academic achievement among 5th graders in the District


Jenna’s gift for noticing trash on the playground and stopping to pick it up at recess


JennaCharReportAnd Ian’s quality of charity and compassion


Ian: Character trait of Charity & Compassion
Ian: Character trait of Charity & Compassion. He also received a senior yellow belt,  Tae Kwon Do

As long as the pixels and electrons hold together on this website, today’s post will be a family record for the Daltons and the Beamans for years to come. Just as importantly, I pass this celebration along as a template to commemorate all sorts of happy occasions among your own friends and family members, including nieces and nephews.

Back to the celebration: I don’t really think my grand-kids paid much attention when I read them the inscription on the back of the plate. They knew cupcakes were coming! Yet the Old Testament writer Zephaniah prophesied the power of praise . . .

Plate ReverseZechIn my Mennonite upbringing in the 1950s and 60s, honor given to a family member would probably be shyly appreciated but not expressed openly. Why? Because recognition of this sort smacked of pride, the worst sin of all. After my high school graduation with honors, my parents barely acknowledged all the recognition I received. During my Eastern Mennonite College graduation ceremony, not a word was spoken about my ranking in the class. Such practices were soon to change though. I was near the end of the Old Guard.

It is definitely not psychologically sound to overlook the accomplishments of the deserving and according to Zephaniah, it is certainly not biblical either.

*  *  *

As you read this post, did a name or two pop into mind, someone deserving of a plate of accomplishment?  It’s your turn to tell!

Coming next: Oh, Beautiful – Amber Grain & Grainy Amber

Jenna’s Rainbow Cake: A Pot of Gold?

Grand-daughter Jenna and I decided to make a rainbow cake on Memorial Day weekend. We were hoping for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the cake-making process wasn’t that easy!

Here’s our step-by-step process with a few glitches noted:

First, we put on our aprons JennaNanaThen we mix together the ingredients (oil, eggs, and water), Jenna trying hard not to get egg-shell pieces in with the batter from a mix.


Tricky Part: Dividing up the Batter

We divide the batter into 6 paper cups and begin to add color. Remember ROY G BIV from grade school? Then we use 6 more cups, adding the color in reverse order: violet-blue-green-yellow-orange-red. (No indigo among the colors.) Here Jenna is stirring the green, her favorite color:


Next, we pour batter, one color on top of the other into the first pan. In the second, we repeat the process, pouring the colors in reverse order. Mind you, this takes a long, long time, with several spatulas. Think “art” and finger painting when you are in this step.

PansMixedThe recipe book looks so perfect. Hmm . . .

Pop into Oven: We set the oven to preheat (350 degrees) way too early, so temperature was super hot. The recipe’s suggested bake time of 40 minutes actually turned into 30, so the cake layers became a little brown.

Like her Great Grandma Longenecker, Jenna used a toothpick to check to see if cake was done.

Take cake pans out of oven, cool, and frost. Then . . .



Adding sprinkles was probably Jenna’s favorite part. Her expression shows her delight!

SCARY PARTS: Behind the scenes!

* The first gel color we used (violet) made the batter a tepid shade of gray. We both felt  disappointment because we thought the other colors might be duds too!

  • NaNa (when we began): “Think of making this cake as a combination of art and baking.”
  • Jenna (at this point): “This is a combination of art and baking with a hint of disaster!”

* The cake layers came out of the oven looking like volcanoes (Jenna’s word)! I forgot to take a photo here. Our fix: we sawed off the tops with a bread knife and got our first yummy cake taste.

* The two cake layers did not fit together perfectly. Our fix: Slathering frosting into the gaping parts.

Recipe photo: Courtesy, Mennonite Girls Can CookRecipeRainbowCake

Our cake  RainbowCakeJenna

Before we Started:

We traced the word “cake” in the Bible, Jenna reading the passage from I Kings 17:8-16 about the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. Actually, this woman’s cake was the bread of sustenance, one of survival, nothing like the confectionery concoction we baked just for fun.


* * *

Tell us about your cake-making successes, disasters, or near misses. If necessary, how did you improvise?

Coming next: Two Mennonite Girls on a Cross-Country Road Trip

Oh Happy Day!

I am sitting with my three friends, Gladys Graybill, Hazel Garber, and Millie Zimmerman near the pulpit in front of Bossler Mennonite Church to be baptized. At the prompting of our Bishop Clarence E. Lutz, we kneel, and as we kneel I hear the crinkle of the skirt of my caped dress. Mother and I have chosen a taffeta fabric for this special day – a dress made of tiny checks of navy, silver and white to set off my dark-haired braids now covered with a prayer veiling. The dress has a tiny collar with navy piping. I love that navy piping. Besides the silky fabric, this tiny decoration is the only fancy thing about this plain dress with a cape overlaying the bodice.

Since I made a spiritual decision in June, I have been wearing my hair in pigtails topped with a covering. For the first time since then, my braided hair has been pinned up around my head with hairpins in accordance with church rules. But today my prayer veiling has strings dangling from its two corners. Before the service, we have met in the church basement with the Bishop’s wife Elsie Lutz, who has requested that we girls wear strings of white satin ribbon attached the two corners of our coverings, I suppose for an extra measure of plainness. “Oh, you girls look so nice!” she gushes as she inspects our apparel, especially our heads, before we ascend the steps to the main sanctuary.

This girls' cover strings are black. Mine were white, but attached the same way.
This young woman’s covering strings are black. Mine were white, but attached the same way. (Bicentennial photo, Bossler Mennonite Church)


We three girls are ushered to the front where Bishop Lutz and Deacon John Kraybill wait with a basin of water and a white linen towel ironed smooth. We have been through a kind of catechism entitled “Instructions to Beginners in the Christian Life,” which includes a review of the tenets of faith, nonresistance to evil and nonconformity to the world, and the ordinances of Communion, Feet Washing, the Devotional Covering, the Holy Kiss, Anointing with Oil, and Marriage. The first ordinance is Baptism, which we are now ready to participate in with two “I do’s” and “I am (sorry for my sins), with a final “I do,” promising by the “grace of God, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, to submit [myself] to Christ and His Word, and faithfully to abide in the same until death.”

Instructions to Beginners in the Christian Life_2 pages together_300

After prayer, we remain kneeling. And the Bishop, assisted by the Deacon who is holding a basin of water, takes a handful of water from the basin and pours it methodically three times in succession on the head of the applicant intoning the words: “I baptize thee with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This statement is followed by the Bishop taking us by the hand and saying as we rise:

In the name of Christ and His Church I give you my hand. Arise! And as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so thou also shalt walk in newness of life . . . 

The wives of the Bishop and the Deacon then give us the kiss of peace, and thus we are received into the church fellowship. The congregation in four-part harmony happily joins in the tradition of singing “O Happy Day” from the Mennonite Church Hymnal with shaped notes.

Happy Day_Bossler Mennonite Church Hymnal_ 5x7_300

I remember this day so well. It was September 29, 1951, my sister Janice’s birthday.

*  *  *

Earlier this month, our oldest grandson and only grand-daughter, Patrick and Jenna Dalton, were baptized at Highlands Baptist Church. Their family attends a Lutheran Church, which like the Mennonites also baptizes by sprinkling, but since their parents wanted their Uncle Bill to baptize them, they complied (happily I might add) with baptism by immersion. Words similar to those spoken at my baptism accompanied their immersion in the water: “Buried with Christ in his death . . . raised to walk in newness of life.”

Rev. Bill Caverly baptizing Grand-nephew Patrick Dalton
Rev. Bill Caverly baptizing grand-nephew Patrick Dalton


What special sacred ceremonies have you observed or participated in yourself?


Coming next – The Potting Shed: A Magical Place

At Home with Grandkids: Fun Stuff to Do

It’s cold outside, maybe even Polar-vortex cold, and Saturdays with Grandma or Aunt or Mom will be spent indoors. One cold day three of our grandkids warmed up the house, at least the kitchen, with cupcake baking.

Gkids_2 kids_ top_chocolate +lowers_071008

Gkids_2 kids_bottom_chocolate+flowers_071008

Yes, it’s fun to help mix up the batter and lick the beaters, but the grandest thing is putting the plastic Gerbera daisy in the flower pot or scooping up the “chocolate” dirt. It’s okay that we get frosting all over our arms and face – Grandma doesn’t care, now does she?


Downstairs the grand-kids find the ottoman/toy chest with classics like Lincoln Logs, just like sets from the 1960s but with added plastic gadgets. Tinkertoys – there is just no way to improve on Tinkertoys!



Do you have a deck of jumbo cards? If so, you are in business. Patrick and Curtis both learned the meaning of the expression “house of cards” as they tried to stack playing cards on a shaky foundation. Incredibly they persisted even after a collapse or two. Bryan Berg, who holds the world record for a 75-story card tower, can rest easy. Still, both boys couldn’t enjoy the challenge more, as Patrick illustrates:



Their dad Cliff retooled this marble flick board from an old oaken desk in 1978 when Crista was 9 and Joel, 7. They both competed in “Flick the Marble,” trying to earn the higher number of points, best out of three! All four grandkids have since enjoyed the board. Even grand-nephew Noah and grand-niece Emily give it a whirl here.




Back in February 2013, when “plain and fancy” launched, the theme of Grah-ti-Tood, announced my first blog post. The grandkids’ gratitude books were featured along with pictures Curtis and Ian had drawn. They are a year older now, and their thanksgiving continues. Sometimes reluctantly. But this time spontaneously, as conversation around the breakfast table last month moved around to things to be thankful for.


Curtis_Ian_Gratitude Book_102514

On October 25, 2014, Curtis is grateful for friends and thankful that the wars are not hurting me badly (Oh, my)! Ian says, “I am thankful that blueberry pancakes are the best!” Curtis’ illustrations are cartoon-like. Ian’s pancake is realistic with shading.

Each unique.

I am sure you thought of a game or activity to add to the assortment here. Suggestions, comments – it’s your turn!

Coming next: Moments of Discovery # 3: Two Butter Stories and an Autograph Book

Happy Birthday to My One and Onlies

birthday cancle


My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.     Boris Johnson

*  *  *

July is the birthday month for four our immediate family. If you count our extended family, there are three or four more birthdays this month.

This month I celebrate the birthdays of three of my one and õn-lies:

The Inimitable Mother Ruth Metzler Longenecker

Mother and her morning ritual, reading her Bible
Mother and her morning ritual, reading her Bible, age 96

My One and Only Son

Joel with wife Sarah at cousin's wedding
Joel with one-and-only daughter-in-law Sarah at cousin’s wedding

My One and Only Grand-Daughter Jenna Skye Dalton


July Birthdays

July birthdays in our family span four generations. Apparently, I tried very hard to become my mother’s first birthday present after her marriage the previous year, having missed being born on her own birthday by just one day. Our son and grand-daughter are birthday presents to me – Joel born two days after my birthday and Jenna preceding my birthday by a mere five days.

Who are your one and ôn-lies – birthdays or otherwise? 

*  *  *

Coming tomorrow: Birthday Butter Shake Sequel