Tipping the Teacup: A frugal fashion show

Naomi Raber
Naomi Raber checked her hat before making her entrance into the fashion show.

By Bruce Stambaugh

A fashion show sponsored by a thrift store sounds like the punch line to a bad joke. But that’s exactly what happened recently in Millersburg to the delight of all who attended.

Save and Serve Thrift Shop of Millersburg sponsored a memorable event titled “Tipping the Teacup” Friday evening, May 21 at Millersburg Mennonite Church. Part meal, part fashion show, part fundraiser, the enjoyable gathering was officially dubbed “a very special tea party and style review.” No matter how it was described, the evening became quite the social party.

Helen Glick, assistant manager at Save and Serve, organized and hosted the party, which was attended by nearly 150 people. That number included 23 individuals, children to grandmothers, who served as models for the fashion show that followed the heavy Hors d’ Oeuvres meal.

The church was filled with decorated tables set with china plates, teacups and saucers, all from Save and Serve. Bouquets of fresh cut flowers adorned each table.

After raiding a buffet worthy a cruise ship and having tea or coffee served to them, attendees were entertained while they ate. Rhoda Mast played the piano and sang. Others sang as well, including Kudzayi Nyakura, Rachel Miller, and Annie and Carrie Yoder.

After the meal, the patrons, who paid $20 each to attend, settled in for the stylish entertainment. They weren’t disappointed.

Carol Mullet of Sugarcreek served as commentator of the style review. Each volunteer model dawned pre-selected outfits obtained from Save and Serve’s inventory and wound their way through the audience as Mullet described their choice of clothing.

Zack, Kevin and Jonathan show off their outfits.
Zack Miller, Kevin Roth and Jonathan Reuel revisited years gone by with their outfits.

The wardrobes modeled ranged from prom dresses to hip garb to head-to-toe cowboy. Each model chose three separate outfits to wear.

60s dress
Back to the 60s.

Some wore exquisite clothing, while others exhibited crowd-pleasing silliness with combinations from by-gone eras.

The style show concluded with entrance of a black tuxedo complete with top hat worn by Dr. Roy Miller. He escorted Heather McDonough dressed in a lacy, black formal gown and contrasting red hat and veil. All the models had first option to buy the clothing they wore. After that, those in attendance could purchase particular items they had spied.

Glick said the evening earned nearly $2,400 for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Proceeds from Save and Serve also are sent to MCC, which aides refugees in need of food, clothing and shelter around the globe. Emergency kits for Haiti following the devastating earthquake there earlier this year are an example of MCC’s services.

The Tipping the Teacup planning committee included Glick, Mullet, Janice Miller and Ruby Miller. This was the second year for the benefit fashion event.

formal and tux
Formal attire completed the benefit fashion show.

A beautiful morning well spent

By Bruce Stambaugh

It was a gorgeous morning for what my son and my wife had conspired to do. The project itself was both practical and uncomplicated.

Of course, they needed me as the gopher, as in go for this and go for that. As it turned out, I will remember that beautiful morning for a long, long time.

Our son came to help build a pair of tomato trellises, since we will share the eventual bounty with him and his wife. My wife had found a magazine picture of just what was needed for our heirloom tomatoes.

Last year, the heirlooms flourished. But as the blossoms turned into baby tomatoes then plump fruit, the plants gave way to gravity even though they had been staked. If we didn’t get the tomatoes before they hit the ground, the dry rot did.

The main problem was that the tomato patch quickly became a vegetative jungle. It was difficult finding the ripe ones that hung hidden in the leafy overlap. That problem needed to be remedied if our two families were to fully enjoy the fruits of our labors.

readying the site
My son and my wife readied the site for the tomato trellises.

The proactive plan seemed simple enough. The growing tomato plants would be safely tied to the wooden trellises, which would better distribute the weight than the previous individual supports had. We had the perfect place to erect them, the south-facing plot next to our bricked garage wall, the scene of last year’s prolific patch.

The needed materials as shown in the picture were easy enough to come by. My wife had already obtained the sturdy oak stakes. I retreated to the neighbor’s farm for baling twine.

Using a measuring tape and a container of flour, the experts measured and marked where the supporting sets of three stakes each would go. Our energetic son climbed the stepladder with sledgehammer in hand, and the seven-foot posts were pounded into the fertile ground at an angle so they crossed near the top. Not wanting to look too professional, we just eyeballed the angles.

After each set of stakes was thumped into place, we attached the crossbars, again three on each side. We secured them to the stakes by crisscrossing lengths of twine around and around and tying them off. I think I can tie square knots in my sleep now.

tying twine around the stakes
Baling twine was used to secure the horizontal and vertical stakes.

Each bar was leveled in place. A top bar, which according to our son was purely for looks, was laid in the cradle of where the angled stakes intersected.

pounding in the trellis stakes
Our son pounded in the stakes that formed the trellises.

Once the first trellis was completed, one would think the second would go easier. Somehow that didn’t really happen. Still, it turned out all right, just a little off skew. The tomatoes won’t care.

In the process of all this measuring, climbing, pounding, angling, leveling and tying, we threw in a little kibitzing as well. You know how mother, father and son, and husband and wife can be. Personal, profound, picky, sarcastic, vulnerable, venerable, loved.

This constructing trio was all that and then some on this lovely morning. While we worked beneath a cerulean sky, robins, nuthatches, house wrens and blue birds called and fed and gathered nesting materials all around us.

Building anything isn’t exactly my strong suit, unless it’s memories. Indeed, this morning well spent fit that definition like a gardener’s glove. In truth, we had built more than tomato trellises.

Creating productive, valued, lasting recollections with family seemed a most appropriate way to prepare for Memorial Day. Come late summer, when the heirlooms are heavy laden but securely ripening, memories of a different flavor will be made.

the tomato trellises
The completed tomato trellises stand against the garage wall.

Waking to the sound of work

pouring the cement for the parking pad
Our neighbors, who own Mast Poured Walls, pour the cement for our parking pad.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I can’t say for sure if the idling engines woke me or if I just happened to notice the noise after a full night’s sleep. No matter. Their steady, pre-dawn purring was merry music to my ears.

Both neighbors across the road own a construction-related business. One pours walls for a living, the other trenches fields and lays pipe.

Their tidy steel buildings sit cattycorner from my home, one to the southeast, and the other to the northeast. On mornings when they work, they often pull out their always-clean vehicles and let them idle before heading out to the job site.

It doesn’t take a financial wizard to guess that their work, like most building related work, has slowed considerably in this extended recession. Though neither has ever complained to me, my neighbors’ patience for work has had to replace actual labor.

This lack of employment has been hard on them, not just financially, but emotionally, too. These men are used to working hard for their daily living. But in this economy, with construction moving at a snail’s pace, regular, substantial work has waned.

Last year was especially uncertain. Too many days their trucks were silent. It may sound funny to say this, but I missed that motorized humming and the occasional sharp clanking of metal against metal as they prepared to head out. I felt their pain.

The expressions on my neighbors’ faces couldn’t hide their concerns. They were frustrated at the lack of work. These are talented men, men who know how to put in a decent day’s work for honest pay.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just my good neighbors whose jobs had slowed or stopped altogether. It seemed every business took a hit, regardless of occupational focus. In a community where work ethic is king, doing nothing or next to it was absolutely agonizing.

The economic downturn was particularly hard on this community that hosts the world’s largest concentration of Amish and Mennonites. Consequentially, the tourist industry, a major revenue producer for private and governmental institutions alike, tapered off.

It was difficult to see people’s work hours curtailed. A few businesses simply closed for lack of customers. For the first time in a long time, our rural area felt what the rest of the global economy was feeling. And it hurt.

Farmers weren’t immune either. While milk and commodity prices sputtered, operating expenses kept rising. It was a losing proposition.

For these thrifty people with whom I have communed daily for four decades, it wasn’t just about the money. Cash flows were low, and so were their spirits.

These were people who knew how to work, had excellent skills, many self-taught, and labored for a fair wage. They had done so all of their lives, as had their fathers and mothers before them. Work was as much tradition as it was means.

But true to their congenial nature, their heritage and their commitment to faith, family and community, my neighbors in Big Prairie, Nashville, Glenmont, Killbuck, Clark, Farmerstown, Walnut Creek, Winesburg, Mt. Hope, Benton, Holmesville, Millersburg, Berlin and yes, even charming Charm preserved. They skimped along as best they could, and hoped and prayed for the best.

Perhaps we are not completely out of the economic woods yet. But it sure is nice to wake up to the sound of diesel engines running once again. Here’s hoping they keep on purring.

Morel mushroom recipe

By Bruce Stambaugh

Morel recipe

morel mushrooms
Morel mushrooms

Preparation
1. Find a mess of morels.
2. Rinse with water.
3. Slice the larger mushroom in half.
4. Place the mushrooms in a container of well-salted water.
5. Soak for 10 minutes.
6. Dump the water and rinse the mushrooms again.
7. Wrap the mushrooms in paper towels until ready to cook.

Cooking
1. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron frying pan on medium heat until it’s hot.
2. Pour the mushrooms into the heated pan.
3. The remaining water in the mushrooms should immediately begin to sizzle.
4. Keep turning the mushrooms into their own moisture in the pan.
5. Once the moisture begins to dissipate, add either a dab of clarified or real butter or some extra virgin olive oil.
6. Add a pinch of sea salt.
7. Stir the mushrooms into the melting butter or olive oil.
8. Keep stirring until the mushrooms just begin to look wilted.
9. Turn off the heat.
10. Remove the mushrooms from the pan.
11. Enjoy.

In search of the elusive morels

morels
We found this nice assortment of morels "in the woods."

By Bruce Stambaugh

This time of year, where two or more are gathered together in the world’s largest Amish population, there is certain to be a conversation about mushrooms.

Not just any old mushrooms either. We’re talking morel mushrooms, commonly referred to as sponge mushrooms. They can be gray, yellow, brown and even black. Regardless of hue, they’re all good as far as I’m concerned.

After all, once you taste your first morel, you’ll realize they are better than ice cream. That might be because they are harder to find than ice cream. You can’t just go to your local grocery story and buy a pound of nicely packaged morels. Finding them takes effort.

Instead of talking about finding mushrooms, a friend, my son and I put our words into action. We went in search of the elusive, edible fungus. Everyone has their favorite spot to hunt mushrooms. Usually, it boils down to where they were found in previous years. In our case, we headed up a steep hill and into the woods. For the record, it’s a morel sin to ask exactly what woods.

We walked carefully over the spoil bank where my foody son picked wild garlic, across a lane, and down a slope to a deer stand that guarded a placid, clear stream. However, at some point prior to our arrival, the creek had been angry. Rocky, silted debris littered the grassy flats where I had found the largest mushrooms last year. Pretty pink lady’s slippers took their place.

We gingerly made our way through the tangles of downed trees, briars and undergrowth. We headed back up hill, into large sandstone boulders covered with delicately textured lichens and mosses. The last of the spring beauties still blossomed here and there in the sunlit woods, still without its canopy.

The woods grew thicker, the trees taller, and the forest floor more densely laden with last year’s leaves. Emerald patches of new life broke the brownish camouflage. May Apples, lovely lily of the valley and occasional flowering trilliums made refreshing appearances.

I wandered ahead of the others until a pair of unidentified birds winged overhead. Without binoculars, I struggled to identify them against the late afternoon sun. The birds flew off, one after the other.

I looked down, and there against an ancient and fallen, moss-covered elm was my first morel of the season. Before I bent to pick it, I looked all around for others. Mushrooms seldom sprout solo. But this decent gray was the exception.

I hollered to my partners, who were out of sight but within earshot. My shout was promptly returned. They were less than 100 feet away, on hands and knees carefully scouring for mushrooms.

I circled around and joined them. I sat on the leafy debris carpet, straining to find more. Soon I spotted one, but when I reached to pick it my son shouted again. My hand was about to crush another mushroom. That’s how hard these little fellows were to see.

As the even sun faded, woodpeckers still hammered out their territories. After three hours, we heeded their reverberating warnings and retraced our steps. In all that time, we had covered less than a mile.

But the season’s first mess of mushrooms was in hand. Not many, but enough for a luscious meal of the hearty, flavorful morels. Just one taste of these sautéed morsels made all the effort worth it. I tell myself that every spring when the talk of hunting mushrooms in Ohio begins anew.

A Mother’s Day gift from my mother

By Bruce Stambaugh

My mother gave me an early Mother’s Day present this year. I know. It’s supposed to work the other way around.

The gift presented itself in the evening of one of our incredible summer-like spring days we’ve had recently in rural Ohio. I had gone to have supper with Mom at the assisted living facility where she lives.

mom
Marian Stambaugh

After the meal, I pushed Mom’s wheelchair down the hall towards her room. Since it was still nice outside, I asked Mom if she wanted to go out on the porch awhile. I pretty well knew her response would be positive.

We settled on the southwest corner of the wraparound porch. From there, we had a panoramic view of the broad, bucolic valley below. We could see far to the east, south and west. The evening sun was still strong, its breeze just a whisper.

Mom and Dad used to spend as much time together on the porch as they could. From their elevated position high on the hill, they had a lot to take in.

Together they enjoyed watching the progress of the construction of a covered bridge the county erected over a usually gentle stream. They could see Amish farmers mowing hay in the flat, fertile fields on either side of the creek.

They watched the traffic on both the county road that climbed the long hill into the little town of Walnut Creek and on the state route that bypassed both. They preferred the buggies plodding up the step grade to the rumbling trucks on the highway.

With Dad gone now, it was up to us family members and staff to encourage Mom to take advantage of evenings like this. Her Alzheimer’s disease prevented her from even initiating the idea. But if somebody else suggested it, she was all for it as long as the weather cooperated.

This fine evening was downright perfect. Besides the temperature, the earth vividly declared its beauty, much like the many landscapes Mom had painted over the years.

She no longer paints, but her appreciation for both nature and her own natural affinity for appealing colors remain. She still picks out her own clothes to wear each day, and receives many compliments on her color coordination.

Mom hasn’t lost her artistic eye, either. At first, she didn’t say much as she gazed over the vibrant scenery. Eventually, she began to point out the various flowering trees, all at their peek. And she did so in complete, spontaneous sentences, something her disease has greatly diminished in this lovely lady.

Long, comfortable silent spells punctuated our conversing. We listened to bluebirds warble their blissful songs. Cardinals called. Song sparrows sang echoing solos.

Mom asked me what those yellow things were far off in the distance. I asked her if she meant the objects with the silver, pointy tops. She said, “Yes,” as she pointed with her finger. I told her those were corncribs like Uncle Kenny used to have on his farm.

Soon a green four-door sedan, exactly like the car Mom and Dad had before we sold it recently, pulled from the parking lot below us. Mom watched the car travel all the way out the drive.

She turned toward me and instead of saying, “That looks like our car,” Mom surprised me with an even greater upbeat comment. “I wish I could still drive!” she said with a fantastic smile.

For me, Mom’s moment of recognition and effusive expression was an unexpected and unforgettable Mother’s Day gift.