Monthly Archives: February 2011

Whoopie pie and filling recipes

Whoopie pie recipe

2 eggs          1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup vegetable oil 8 tablespoons of cocoa
2 cups brown sugar 1 cup milk
3 cups flour 1 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Mix eggs with vegetable oil and sugar until creamy, then add flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa.
Add vanilla and milk.
Drop on greased baking sheet with teaspoon.
Bake at 375 degrees F. about 7 minutes.
Let cool.
Add filling between two cookies.

Filling recipe

5 tablespoons of flour 1 cup of milk
1 cup of sugar 1 cup of shortening
1/2 teaspoon of salt 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix flour and milk, and cook until thick, then cool.
Mix other ingredients.
Add the two mixtures together and beat until fluffy.

Neva Stambaugh

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Making whoopee over Whoopie pies

Whoopie pies by Bruce Stambaugh

Whoopie pies are actually two cookies stuck together with some kind of filling or icing. These have marshmellow cream, and were not purchased in Maine.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For two consecutive nights, I sat with hundreds of others in a College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio performance hall and listened to real experts share about urgent current events in the world.

The first evening, the speaker was an Iranian journalist who told his story of being arrested and tortured in Iran for reporting newsworthy events. The country’s autocratic leadership didn’t take kindly to him telling the world what was happening.

The next evening, two career diplomats from Egypt took the same stage and mesmerized an even larger crowd with Egyptian political history and their observations on the unfolding events in their home country. They were ecstatic that the mostly peaceful revolution had succeeded, and were nearly giddy about the country’s potential to finally embrace democracy.

All the while in our democratic nation’s capital, Congress raucously debated the necessity and wisdom of spending federal dollars on programs to feed and educate children. This version of democracy in action numbed me.

Amid all this critical confusion, a ludicrous verbal war had broken out between two states. Maine and Pennsylvania were at loggerheads over the origin of the Whoopie pie, of all things.

If you are not familiar with this delectable snack, Whoopie pies look like two cookies held together on their bottom sides with white frosting. They look that way because that’s what they are.

Things got serious between Maine and Pennsylvania.

When a Maine legislator introduced legislation to make the delicious treat the state dessert, the keystone state took it personally. Pennsylvania’s tourism bureau set up an online petition for people to sign. It was titled “Save Our Whoopie” as if Maine was going to round them all up for themselves.

The original Whoopie pies were chocolate, and most still are. But other flavors and colors have found their way into recipes, like pumpkin, red velvet, and carrot. I even saw some pink ones in honor of Valentine’s Day. The filling is generally sugary vanilla icing, although alternatives could be whipped cream, ice cream and marshmallow cream, which is Maine’s claim to fame. In some areas, they are known as Chocolate Gobs.

Most Whoopie pies are the size of hamburger buns. Others are more bite sized.

Things got so testy about where and how the first Whoopie pie was made that major metropolitan newspapers picked up on the story. It probably was a nice diversion from all the nasty news they had to report.

The tone of the rhetoric between Maine and Pennsylvania nearly matched that of the sound bite D. C. politicians. This was more than just a publicity stunt. Why couldn’t both states have the same dessert as their state’s favorite? After all, seven states claim the Cardinal as their state bird, and I have not seen any feathers fly over those duplicate designations.

In all the Whoopie pie war reporting, never once did I either hear or see anything about how popular Whoopie pies were here in the world’s largest Amish population. Here, the delectable treats show up regularly at family gatherings, reunions, at picnics and in school lunch boxes.

I thought it admirable that our own plain people paid little heed to this confectionery war. They had better, more productive things to do.

As for Egypt, Iran, Congress and all the others, we’ll have to hope for the best. While Maine and Pennsylvania make whoopee over their Whoopie pies, I think I’ll just enjoy mine.

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Sunset haiku

Mackerel clouds at sunset by Bruce Stambaugh

Mackerel clouds at sunset.

Mackerel clouds sail
above the gilded sunset,
trees silhouetted.

Bruce Stambaugh
Feb. 21, 2011

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Cold Moon haiku

Full moon by Bruce Stambaugh

February's full moon is called the Cold Moon.

The icy landscape
glistened the pearly soft light
of the cold full moon.

Bruce Stambaugh
Feb. 20, 2011

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Taking my breakfast with the birds

Cardinals galore by Bruce Stambaugh

A flock of Cardinals at one of my feeders.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Some people might think that breakfast is for the birds. I’m not one of them. I never miss breakfast.

Breakfast is one of my necessary routines. I’m not much of a cook, but, despite the fact that I am a man, I can certainly pour cereal into a bowl and juice into a glass. Along with some fruit, that is my usual morning feast, day in and day out.

I seldom dine alone. If the backyard birds are feeding, I often stand at the kitchen window and enjoy my morning meal as my feathered friends peck at theirs. This particular morning, I was seated at the breakfast bar, where I can still view the hanging feeders.

Goldfinch family by Bruce Stambaugh

The hanging feeder by my kitchen window is usually busy with birds, like this family of American Goldfinches.

I had just begun to crunch my mini-wheats when I heard the flock of birds outside the window take flight. The Mourning Doves were especially noticeable, with their thrashing wings and eerie, frightened call.

Clearly they had been startled. My first inclination was to blame the local Cooper’s Hawk. The feisty bird of prey makes frequent surprise raids on neighborhood feeders.

I suspected that the small hawk was after its breakfast as well. I checked the ground around the feeders. The ice-covered snow was void of any birds. A lone Mourning Dove sat frozen in fear next to the hopper feeder on the old porcelain-topped table beside the back porch. That told me to keep searching for the hawk.

I scoured the stately sugar maple where the hawk had been known to perch, waiting for any unsuspecting songbird. The dormant tree branches were bare.

I quickly scanned the row of white pines. No hawk visible there either. I headed to the front window, thinking the Cooper’s Hawk may have tried the feeders in the front yard. There it was.

The Cooper’s Hawk sat on the snow about 20 yards beyond the Colorado blue spruce that shelters the feeders. Beneath the hawk was what looked to be a Mourning Dove. Feathers from the hawk’s victim were scattered in a broad circle around the hunter and the hunted.

Cooper's Hawk with kill by Bruce Stambaugh

The young Cooper's Hawk held its kill to the snowy ground.

The Cooper’s Hawk kept looking around, wary of any predators that might try to steal its avian granola. I put the long lens on my camera as rapidly as I could, and shot several pictures.

All the while, the hawk squeezed its prey with its sharp talons. At one point, it shook loose some feathers that had stuck in its equally sharp bill. From time to time, the wounded Mourning Dove would wiggle its tail in a futile attempt to escape.

Between camera clicks, the hawk flew west with its catch. I rushed to the sliding glass door that leads to the back porch. There, beneath one of the pines at the edge of our property, the hawk sat with the dove still tightly clenched and pressed to the cold ground.

Before I could raise my camera, the accipiter launched low to the south with its catch and was instantly out of sight. I wondered if it had sought refuge in the pines or continued into the small deciduous woods on the other side of the neighbor’s.

Either way, the crafty hawk was likely enjoying its fresh, nourishing breakfast. I returned to mine, sorry for the dove, but glad I had been witness to the way the biological world really works.

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Look who’s talking now

Amish phone booth by Bruce Stambaugh

A phone booth on an Amish property is often placed away from the home to avoid the temptation of overusing the phone.

By Bruce Stambaugh

On a dark, chilly November night several years ago, an emergency medical technician arrived on the scene of a car verses buggy accident at a rural intersection. Unlike the car’s passengers, the older Amish man driving the lantern-lit buggy was uninjured.

As the scene cleared, the first responder asked the Amish man how far he had to go to call for help. With a toothless grin, the Amish man reached into his denim jacket and flopped opened a cell phone.

In the early days of cell phones, when even the EMT didn’t have one, that scenario might have been rare in Amish country. It isn’t any longer. As contradictory as is it may sound, Amish have and use telephones. They use them to converse, to fax, for GPS, to text, and on rare occasions, to access the Internet.

Of course, like many of other Amish lifestyle “rules,” there are many variables in the Amish – phone connection. Church leadership metes out phone use guidelines for Amish. Those rules and their application vary greatly. It all depends on which church and which order of Amish as to what the rules may allow. The rules about phone use, like other lifestyle guidelines, even differ from church to church within the same order of Amish.

Amish place by Bruce Stambaugh

The home of a young Amish family in Holmes County, Ohio.

The orders of Amish, if placed on a continuum, would range from New Order on the left to the Swartzentruber’s on the right. In other words, from the most progressive to the most conservative, with those terms being used in the religious sense, not politically. In between are the most numerous, the Old Order Amish that people describe when they refer to the sect.

The extremes of phone use by Amish would range from members of one church group permitted to have landline phones in their residence to others that are permitted no phones at all. Again, their individual church leaders determine how and where Amish use phones. This may seem strange or even unfair to those unfamiliar with the Amish, and sometimes to those who even live among them. But simply put, that’s just the way it is.

Driving down any highway in Amish country will reveal which families and businesses are not permitted to have landline phones in their buildings. Near the edge of the road, travelers will see small buildings about the size and shape of the old-fashioned phone booths with a door and usually a window for light.

They look like phone booths because that is exactly what they are. Enclosing the phone in a small structure protects the person using the phone from any inclement weather and provides privacy. The homemade phone booths are usually locked to prevent any vandalism or misuse.

Amish farmstead with phone booth by Bruce Stambaugh

Find the phone booth among all the other buildings on this farmstead near Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Such phone booths could be used by a single family or business, or by multiple families. Each family or business would have its own voicemail extension. The phones are not answered live.

Some churches require that phone booths be so many feet from the home or business. Some even require the phone to be across the road, so as not to be too convenient, thus reducing the possibility of casual use. Some Amish, especially the New Order sect, would allow a landline in their home.

In many churches, phones for calling out and faxing are permitted in the business, but not in the home. Incoming calls go directly to voice mail. This rule is economically weighted. The successes of cottage industries, which have boomed among the Amish in the last two decades, are critical to the welfare of the Amish community. Only about 10 percent of the Amish population farms today. The rest either have their own businesses or work at other local businesses.

Of course, any discussion about Amish and the use of phones would be incomplete without mentioning the ubiquitous cell phones. Cell phones are actually more widely accepted among the Amish leaders than landlines, simply because they are not literally tied to the public utility grid.

Cell phones have proven to be an efficient tool when it comes to doing business, regardless of the trade or product produce. Generally speaking, a common rule for cell phones is that they are turned off in the residence. Another rule stipulates that the phones cannot access the Internet or e-mail.

Because they are not yet church members, none of the rules apply to Amish youth, unless of course their parents say they cannot use them. Just like their non-Amish peers everywhere, texting and using cell phones to take pictures are typical for today’s Amish teenagers regardless of which church order their parents may belong.

In the 21st century, phones are one technology the Amish have embraced. Clearly though, the difference between them using the phone compared to the rest of society is in the details. For those instructions, the Amish look to their respective church leadership.

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Finding the good in the bad weather

Snow scene by Bruce Stambaugh

Snowy scene in Holmes County, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Weather is one of my favorite hobbies. Living in Ohio’s Amish Country affords me plenty of climatological variety to enjoy.

That is especially true in the winter. We never know what winter will bring here when it comes to weather. It could be mild. It could be cold. It could be dry. We could be buried in snow. And all of those scenarios could happen in the same winter season.

I especially like an occasional heavy snow. I love the beauty, the peacefulness, the serenity an abundant snowfall brings. The landscape comes alive, green pine boughs heavy laden with a snowy burden, fire engine red Cardinals searching for seeds, chestnut horses romping in the white, fluffy playground, children bundled up to build snowmen.

Cardinal and corn by Bruce Stambaugh

A male cardinal at an ear corn feeder.

Of course, such a snow causes headaches for travel and unwanted expenses for municipalities expected to clean every last flake from the roadways. Tow truck drivers, on the other hand, revel in the bounty of pulling vehicle after vehicle out of ditches.

For my part, the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to snow. I can’t say the same thing about an ice storm, however.

Our most recent experience with a widespread ice event is example enough. Ice-coated trees crashed onto power lines and highways. I both pitied and admired the road and utility workers who braved the dangerous elements trying to restore order out of the icy chaos.

Stores lost valuable business. Schools altered schedules, academic and extracurricular alike. People who lost power and didn’t have access to a generator had to wait it out, sometimes for days.

Ice clogged by Bruce Stambaugh

The ice storm clogged roads and gutters alike.

Eventually, though, some good managed to find its way through the gloom and dismay of the ubiquitous ice. Ice-coated branches sparkled, even from nighttime’s artificial light.

Moon crescent by Bruce Stambaugh

Even the light from a thin creasent moon reflected off of the icy landscape.

But often it takes us awhile to see the glimmering light of an ice storm. The most obvious benefits came in the first light of day. Once the clouds diminished, the low angled rays of sunrise and later sunsets ricocheted across the icy landscape. Even the light of a thin crescent moon slid its tiny light across the shiny, slippery iced-over acres of fallow fields.

The light came in other natural forms, too. A kind neighbor sauntered over to sprinkle calcium on the inch thick, hard blanket of ice that covered the walk and parking pad. After a few minutes, he began chipping the icy glaze just because it needed to be done. I joined him, and a congenial conversation brightened the otherwise dull day.

A township resident called to say that he and his neighbors had cleaned up the downed tree limbs save the one they couldn’t reach that still dangled above the roadway. The lone highway worker would not have to clear that section of the road of debris thanks to their thoughtfulness and commitment to doing the obvious for safety sake. Why wait on paid personnel when a volunteer effort gets the job done just as well?

As we saw again last week, an ice storm can be devastating. Urban and rural commerce and individual residents alike suffer the cold consequences.

Conversely, an ice storm can also be a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal winter. I enjoyed the enhanced scenery and the visit of the friendly neighbor.

However, having experienced this most recent icy incident and the one in late 2004, the next one can wait awhile as far as I’m concerned. That weather is a bit too extreme, even for me.

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Amish Super Bowl Haiku

Amish head to church by Bruce Stambaugh

Amish youth gathered for a Super Bowl Sunday hymn sing.

Super Bowl Sunday
neighborhood Amish youth hold
an evening hymn sing.

Bruce Stambaugh
Feb. 6, 2011

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Four season survival

Woods edge by Bruce Stambaugh

Where field and forest meet.

From the tallest trees
of the interfacing woods,
the red-tailed hawk gleans
the pasture, grain and hay fields,
fallow, fertile, emerging, golden,
winter, spring, summer and fall.

Bruce Stambaugh
Feb. 6, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk by Bruce Stambaugh

A red-tailed hawk glides over a hayfield.

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The sickening consequences of getting sick

By Bruce Stambaugh

I hate getting sick, absolutely hate it. But then, who doesn’t?

I wasn’t alone in my winter woes. Lots of people everywhere were sick with a wide variety of ailments.

Initially, I had a minor infection which one doctor had diagnosed and prescribed an appropriate antibiotic. Take the pills and it will get better. I did and it did, except that I started to feel worse, but in a different way.

I had no energy. I started to cough. I sneezed from time to time, too. My wife fled to the guest bedroom.

I slept, but when I woke I felt worse. I also dreamed crazy stuff, worse than the ones where I dream of being in the middle of a large crowd wearing no pants. At least I hope those were dreams.

I ached all over. My stomach rumbled, but fortunately, nothing more. I had gotten my flu shot. Maybe this strain wasn’t in the shot.

I went to bed chilling. The next morning I woke before 5 with a fever. I tossed and turned for a couple more hours until I called the doctor, who told me what I already knew. Go to the emergency room.

I felt horrible. I could hardly stand up straight. My breathing was short and labored.

I coughed and wheezed my way into the emergency room. The personnel there couldn’t have been nicer, even the ones that took my blood. They were just doing their jobs and they did them magnificently.

The doctor told me I had clinical pneumonia. The discharge papers said acute bronchitis. I wasn’t going to haggle over semantics. I was a sick puppy, and I just wanted to go home.

Like a good patient, I drank and drank and drank, hot tea, water, juices. I ate some, too. Mostly, I slept. Of course, I took more prescribed medications, which probably added to my drowsiness.

As time progressed, one symptom led to another. The infection brought the fever. The medication loosened the lungs, which caused me to cough more. The sustained coughing led to some unpleasantries not suitable for family reading. The more I coughed, the worse the headache.

The coughing was the absolute worst part. I sounded like a coon dog chasing a coyote. I didn’t want to be around anybody and nobody needed to be around me. My good wife hid out downstairs.

Once the medications fully kicked in, I slept really well. I would go to bed at 9, wake up at 8 the next morning, get up, clean up, eat breakfast, and take a two-hour nap. I never nap, especially in the morning.

I managed to wake for lunch, which was usually one of my wife’s wonderful homemade soups, chicken noodle, potato, chowder, tomato. After lunch, I’d take another nap.

My eyes watered too much to either read or write. I would cough some more, take more medication, eat supper, watch some college basketball, and then go to bed.

In the slow process of healing that lasted days, I lost track of time. I couldn’t distinguish one day from the other. It was hard to believe that an entire week had lapsed.

I’m hoping this week will be better and that I can get back into a more normal routine. But if that does happen, I’m going to miss those morning and afternoon naps.

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