Gloria is taking some time off from writing to focus on family. In the meantime, please enjoy this column from January 2017.
Chilly winter weather has finally arrived! My daughter, Julia, has been excitedly waiting and waiting for the first snow. Finally, a week ago, we got our first flurries here in southern Illinois but, unfortunately, they did not stick around. Sled rides with Daddy and making snowmen rank on the top of Julia’s list of wintertime favorites. This winter, I’ve been kept indoors more, organizing items from our recent move, but it’s been a perfect way to spend more time with the children.
Winter is probably a prime time for most people to spend more time at home, but it is especially so for us who drive a horse and buggy. Most of the buggies in our church are enclosed, while some prefer the open buggy rides. When I was a little girl, we used to have a small propane heater in our buggy to keep us warm during those long winters in Holmes County, Ohio.
One of our family favorites during the blustery months is feeding our feathered friends. My husband, Daniel, moved the large bird feeder he made several years ago from our old home to where we live now. We were anxious to see how soon we could attract these beautiful little creatures to our station with all kinds of food for them to choose from. At our former home, we had a wide variety of birds flying and pecking away to their hearts’ content, that is if we didn’t have too many bossy blue jays showing up. I remember one snow-covered morning a year ago when the cardinals seemed to be having a family reunion of some kind. We counted 60 of them on and around the feeders! The goldfinches ranked on the very top of the popularity list at the bird feeding stations with 90 to 100 feasting at once.
I have been receiving some “mystery packages” over the last few months with bird-related items. Each package is signed by “your secret sister.” A beautiful lantern feeder (with candy in it for the children) along with a few other items showed up at my parents’ house recently. A few months ago, a brown paper bag showed up at my uncle’s store with my name written on it in black lettering. Upon opening it, I discovered a thistle sack feeder and a bag of birdseed with instructions about how to make biscuits for the birds. Along with it was a bag of trail mix and some hot chocolate mix. The attached note, written in block letters, said: “Need a fun project for the children? Once you have treated the birds to a snack, you might want to sit down and have a snack as you watch your feathered friends. – your secret sister.”
Julia and I have been trying to figure out who this generous “secret sister”could be? I did find out that each of our church youth girls has a married lady as her “secret sister.” Now the challenge is try to figure out who it may be. Although I have a few ideas, it has to be someone quite creative, for sure.
On Sunday after church, I spotted another brown paper bag where the ladies keep their bonnets and coats. On it was a card with my name written on it in black letters. When I told Julia about it she couldn’t wait to open it. I told her to wait until we were at my parents’ house where we planned to spend the rest of the day. After our half mile walk to their house through this freezing winter weather, we were ready to take a peek into the bag. Inside, there was a beautiful basket loaded with attractively arranged fresh fruit. Did my secret sister know how much I have enjoyed fresh fruit ever since I was a little girl in Mom’s kitchen? It was too beautiful to put back into the bag, so I told Mom I’d set it on her table until we were ready to go home. “OK,” Mom agreed. “I’ll put a note on it telling people not to eat it because it is yours,” she decided.
In the fruit basket was a bottle of silver, glittery fabric paint. Included was a paper with instructions on how to make “snowflakes” using the glitter. The instructions are very basic. I’ll pass them onto you in case you also have a little person in your life who would be delighted to help make indoor snowflakes. Following is what you will need: paper and pen, cookie sheet, waxed paper, and dimensional fabric paint (preferably glittery).
First, draw a snowflake template. Small, compact designs work the best. Lay the template face up on a cookie sheet and cover with waxed paper. Using a thin line of fabric paint (about 1/8 inch wide), trace the snowflake design onto the waxed paper making sure all the lines connect. Let your snowflake dry overnight and then carefully peel from waxed paper. The snowflake designs will stick to your windows. Enjoy watching the sun shine through them and you never have to worry about them melting away!
Meanwhile, I thought I’d share the recipe for birdseed biscuits that my “secret sister” shared. I hope you have as much fun with these as Julia, Austin and I have had!
3/4 cup birdseed
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons water
Mix all together. Spray or wipe two- to three-inch cookie cutters with oil. Place birdseed mixture on a cookie sheet and pack into the cookie cutters. Insert a straw into the center of each cookie cutter mixture to create a hole for hanging the biscuits. Straw only needs to be several inches long. Bake the biscuits with the straw in a 170-degree oven for 1 hour or until the biscuits are hard. Let cook, remove the straw and tie a ribbon or string through the hole and hang outside in a sheltered spot.
Gloria Yoder is an Amish mom, writer, and homemaker in rural Illinois. The Yoders travel primarily by horse-drawn buggy and live next to the settlement’s one-room school-house. Readers can write to Gloria at 10510 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427