Finding a Home for My Books

I’ve written about a Mouse, a Madras dress, Marie Kondo, my Mate’s stored secrets and Louisa Adams’ Moving adventure during our Big Move from a tri-level to a single floor. Now we are settling in. You may be curious about what happened to all the books originally stacked on the shelves of my three adjoining bookcases next to my former writing desk.

I gave away plenty. This week, Ian got my 1950 copy of The Peanut Man. He sucked in a gasp when I told him George Washington Carver was sold as a slave in exchange for a horse but bravely used God’s wisdom to find hundreds of uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts. Another book, The Power of Style became a birthday gift to my friend Carolyn, a stylish woman whose blouse underneath declares she is cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.


Back in May I started with three floor-to-ceiling bookcases, now condensed to just one. My other books have cozy nests elsewhere, cosseted in small spaces all around our new home.

A book rack in a corner of the great room holds books for morning meditation, including my lilac gratitude book.


My journal for rants and other facts of life has gone missing. It has an iridescent Tiffany-style cover. If it turns up at your house, please let me know. I’m dying to have it back!

Old books, my hymn books, and a violin in-need-of-repair with the bridge missing fill an alcove in the hallway. Cathedral ceilings have amplified both glorious sounds and sour notes – ha!


The dining room has built-ins for china and books. On the window seat, small crocks (one from Mother) hold in place more old books, including the one at the far end on my blog banner.


Underneath, a long cabinet swallowed up over two dozen photo albums and about a dozen journals.


Above the media center in the living room, a sturdy candlestick holds up Sonnets of the Portuguese, Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance popular in 1995 and Alice in Wonderland, a gift from son Joel and wife Sarah, Christmas 1998. Coral from Key West separates these from another stash of antique books.


Under the sofa table, brass butterflies hold some of my books by Mennonite writers, a collection by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, one of John Updike’s novels, Judith Viorst books and The Story of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon.


The water closet, should you choose to linger on the “throne,” offers a changing display of reading material.


And finally, I pared down kitchen recipe books. What remains has a distinctly Mennonite/Amish vibe with slender tea-time booklets at right. Most recipes are available online, so the 4-inch thick encyclopedias had to go. Besides, my favorite recipes sit snug in a computer desktop file.


Four months ago in our former home, I began with three adjoining bookcases, jammed with books. In the photo below, I had already started purging.


Space for my books is much smaller now, condensed to just one. Besides, it was time to let some tomes go. Looking back, I see my method for giving away or keeping has been more intuitive than rational. Autographed books, gifts from friends or family had to stay. Hardest to let go – textbooks laden with notes I had labored so long to create.


A glitch occurred as we tried to stabilize this bookcase. When the cable guy came, he angled the bookcase to hookup the internet and pushed the oak file-case forward. When he finished, he shoved the case too far to the right, so we couldn’t get it pushed back to the wall. Because it was overloaded with books and too heavy to move, son-in-law Joe and husband Cliff relayed books from case to floor and back again, so the behemoth could be moved into its final resting place. Bless them!

“I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.”  Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker   (My stack has dwindled.)

Do you believe as William Dean Howells suggests

Oh, nothing furnishes a room like books.

What books are among your favorites? Which ones would you never, ever part with?

Do you have places to showcase special books?

What other room accessories do you value? More quotes about books are welcome here too ~ thank you!


Mennonite Girls Can Cook

Yummy Recipe

Last week I was in the kitchen with my nearly vintage Mennonite Community Cookbook (1978) creased open to page 155 where I checked out the recipe for sautéed (Okay, I’ll admit, it’s fried!) egg-plant. Hours later when my new and improved Mennonite Community Cookbook arrived in the mail, I quickly turned to page 155, and behold there was the same egg-plant recipe contributed by Mrs. Hubert Pellman, wife of one of my favorite English professors at EMC. No, I didn’t use the new cookbook because I didn’t want to splotch it up. But when I switch over I’ll enjoy the spiral notebook style of binding and other updates on the new edition.




Here I substituted olive oil for lard.
Here I substituted olive oil for lard.

Blurb from the Old Mennonite Community Cookbook: First published in 1950, Mennonite Community Cookbook has become a treasured part of many family kitchens. Parents who received the cookbook when they were first married make sure to purchase it for their own sons and daughters when they wed.

The Mennonite Community Cookbook, 1950 – 2015

Dubbed the “grandmother of all Mennonite cookbooks” author Mary Emma Showalter compiled favorite recipes from hundred of Mennonite women who brought their recipes directly from Dutch, German, Swiss, and Russian kitchens. A “dab of cinnamon” or “ten blubs of molasses” have been translated into standard measurements. Fine pen & ink drawings of the pie shelf in the springhouse, outdoor bake ovens, the summer kitchen recall cookery in Grandma’s day.


You can buy the book here, or go to their MCC Facebook page and enter to win the cookbook. As of this date, there are drawings for free books every week.

Mennonite GIrls Can Cook

Also produced by MennoMedia (Herald Press): Mennonite Girls Can Cook, volume 1 and their second volume, Celebrations.


This book required collaboration from 10 authors (cooks and writers) all but one from Canada. Names like Friesen, Wiebe, Klassen, and Penner suggest their southern Russian (Ukrainian) roots.


Their Celebrations cookbook, on special for Mother’s Day (half-price until May 9), is a collage of recipes, of course, and meditations of faith celebrating milestones such as birth, marriage, and holidays illustrated with first-class photographs. Some surprises: a mini-pizza recipe faces one for homemade potato chips. Pages later, a lattice-topped grilled apple recipe followed by Borscht and Zwieback (first cookbook).

The authors emphasize “hospitality over entertaining” and “blessing rather than impressing.” Appropriately, the Celebrations book’s end-leaf posts a copy of Old Hundred, Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow. Best of all, royalties go to nourish children around the world. You can follow them on their blog, Mennonite Girls Can Cook, which attracts 7000 views daily.

Short History

Many Mennonites (Anabaptists) who live in the USA have Swiss roots, but fled to Germany to escape to religious persecution. When William Penn offered them rich farmland in Pennsylvania, these folks, my ancestors, immigrated in the 1700s with hopes of adapting their love of the land and family tradition to the New World. Similarly, Canadian Mennonite forebears fled western Europe and religious persecution to live in Russia from where they immigrated to Canada escaping political upheaval.

Tie-Dye Rainbow Cake!

I can’t wait to make the tie-dye rainbow cake with Jenna or one of the grand-boys, and soon! (Pages 60 and 61 in Celebrations)


Your turn: Are you familiar with either cookbook? Do you have a favorite recipe or cookbook – or do you just “wing it”? Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

Coming next: An Orphan Speaks on Mother’s Day