Supper was later than usual tonight. The men were working on Mose and Susan’s house, sanding drywall. Mose and Susan bought the paint for the house today. Hopefully by Friday we can start painting.

Daughter Elizabeth, Abigail and Nikiah (the little girl Elizabeth babysits for) came here for the day. We all went to a local Amish store that is having a sale this week. They have daily drawings. Son Benjamin was a lucky winner. He won a big musical clock today. The grand prize drawing is two bus tickets for a round trip to Florida. The store had a discount storewide so we purchased some shoes, boots, coats and the like.

My husband Joe grilled two whole chickens to go along with the rest of our supper. Timothy, Elizabeth and Abigail ate supper with us before leaving for home. Abigail makes all the animal sounds when we ask her how the puppy, kitty, and more go. It is so cute listening to her chatter. We see her grow and learn from week to week.

Our whole family enjoyed Friday evening at the Community Youth Center where daughter Verena was a servant in the “Bethlehem Inn” play acted out by some of the Amish in this community. A vegetable stew was made in a black kettle outside. When the guests arrived we walked through the little town of Bethlehem where people were all dressed as they did in those days. People were selling eggs, fruits, nuts; there was a blacksmith shop, and even a jail. When my husband Joe couldn’t find his ticket for the play right away he was taken to jail for a few minutes. (This was all in fun but gave everyone a glimpse of what it might have been like back then). There were beggars coming around to people as they walked through town. It was all meant to be what it might have been like on the night Jesus our Savior was born.

We were then ushered into the inn (the community center) where tables were set up. The whole building was lit by candle and lantern light. We were served the vegetable stew and dinner rolls. There were bowls of grapes and cheese on the tables. While we were eating, one of the scenes was Joseph and Mary coming to ask if they could have a room in the inn for the night.

They were turned away and later when the inn staff heard of the bright star on top of the manger where baby Jesus was born, we were all lined up to walk outside past the scene of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. There's so much more to share but space in this column will not allow it. My friends Ruth and Karen went with us and they were amazed at what the community did to put on this play. It was all on a donation basis and the money will be put into making improvements in the building. This play was given three nights and a few hundred people could attend each evening.

While the guests filed back inside after seeing baby Jesus, we were handed a plate of warm brownies with a scoop of ice cream on top. The guests all sang two songs together before parting for home. It was a spiritually fun evening to enjoy with family and friends.

It was also so nice to meet all of the readers that attended the book signings in Highland and Crown Point on Dec. 2. We had a very good turnout and unfortunately ran out of books. We ordered more and they will be signed and delivered to the Crown Point store before Christmas. Our regrets to anyone for whom this was an inconvenience.

The readers were very encouraging to me and I want to thank everyone that attended. I was very excited when Aunt Caroline Coblentz, plus my cousin David and his wife Karen came to our Crown Point signing. What a good surprise. I missed seeing another cousin, Larry Coblentz in the crowd. He would come to a lot of my signings. He passed away from cancer a few years ago. A big thanks to my friend Ruth and also to Karen for driving us there and back. Also to my husband Joe and daughters Verena and Lovina for going along for support. Verena did a great job running the cash register for me.

God’s blessings! Here’s some hot soup for a cold night.

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

1 pound ground beef

1 cup chopped onions

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups diced potatoes

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced or shredded cabbage

1 cup diced celery

1/4 cup rice or barley

1 cup tomato or V8 juice

4 cups water

4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

DIRECTIONS: Fry hamburger with onions and garlic until no longer pink; drain fat. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for one hour. Serves 6.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. She is the co-author of three cookbooks. Her new cookbook "The Essential Amish Cookbook" is available from 800-245-7894. Readers can write to Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

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