The breakfast clubs

heartybreakfastbybrucestambaugh
This hearty breakfast was served at the Friday break held outdoors on the company’s campus.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Who doesn’t love food, fun and fellowship, even if they happen early in the day around the breakfast table?

Studies show that eating breakfast is important to maintain good health. It helps you get your day started right. I’ve discovered that’s true far beyond the nutritional benefits of healthy breakfast foods.

When it comes to breakfast, I am a fortunate person indeed. I don’t mean the quality or quantity of the early morning fare or the sacred times alone with my wife or sharing blueberry pancakes with the grandkids.

I am blessed to be a part of three entirely different, unrelated groups that all happen to meet regularly in charming Mt. Hope, Ohio for breakfast. Sharing around a common meal, including breakfast time, is special. Given the conversations, there is no dozing at these tables.

For several years now, I have been privileged to commune at breakfast every Friday morning at a local business where I serve as a consultant. At least that’s my definition of how and why I keep showing up for Friday morning “break” as the regular employees refer to the gathering. And what a time it is, too.

breakfastbybrucestambaugh
My wife always comes up with some delicious dish for breakfast break at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, Ohio. Her latest creation was a tasty fruit crisp.
On a rotating basis, each member of the company’s team, plus me, takes turns bringing breakfast for the 15 or so staff members. The menu is entirely up to the person responsible for hosting the break. The cuisine ranges from sausage gravy on biscuits to homemade sweet rolls to French toast casseroles. Fresh fruit and juice are often provided, too.

helpingherselfbybrucestambaugh
An employee helps herself to some fresh fruit.
Anxious anticipation always seems to precede my turns. They’re not afraid that I’ll forget or even of what I bring because my lovely wife always whips up some tasty breakfast treat. To be honest, I think that’s the only reason they keep me on the list.

You get your own food cafeteria style and come to the giant table surrounded by chairs and benches. Then the fun begins all around, with internal jokes and good natured kidding.

The second group is a gang from church that meets monthly in the town’s restaurant. Dubbed “55 Plus,” the attendees belong to the senior citizen bracket, unless our young pastors make an appearance.

Though I can’t always participate, I love to hear their experiential stories. That age group has a lot to teach us young bucks if we’ll just listen. From time to time, an informative speaker does the sharing.

The other group is the newest and most serious of the three. The straightforward sharing has priority over any food, which is more often than not simply toast and oatmeal. The troop started as a support group for three of us, all prostate cancer survivors. We share the latest concerning our conditions and healing, both physical and emotional.

A fourth prostate cancer cohort joined the group, and then recently, we added two more to the Blue Men’s group, which is what we have labeled ourselves. The title reflects the fact that blue is the color for prostate cancer. One of the newbies is also a prostate cancer survivor. The other is fighting a courageous battle against a more formidable, horrible kind of cancer.

The extraordinary club includes business owners, pastor, engineer, writer and banker. Cancer indiscriminately invades many careers. I admire my friends’ frankness and honesty, their devotion to staying positive and living a servant lifestyle, no matter their profession or personal prognosis.

Friends and food make for fine fellowship. Together they sweetly season even toast and oatmeal with faith and hope.

cancersupportgroupbybrucestambaugh
My prostate cancer support group added a new member who has a different, rather aggressive kind of cancer.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

More delicious reasons to visit Ohio’s Amish country

Strawberry pie and ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
The delicious homemade strawberry pie and ice cream will again be offered free to all those who attend Homestead Furniture’s Strawberry Summer Fest, June 14-16 at Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

People visit the world’s largest Amish population for many reasons. Nostalgia for the way things used to be, the friendly, plain folks, the delicious, affordable food, and the neat, quilt-patch farm fields often top the list.

Free pie and ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
This youngster was pretty pleased with his free homemade strawberry pie and ice cream.

On June 14, 15, and 16, two more reasons will emerge. Visitors can enjoy free homemade strawberry pie and ice cream made on the spot at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, Ohio.

The expansive furniture store, which specializes in customizing hardwood and upholstered furniture, will hold its 12th annual Strawberry Summer Fest on those three days. On average, the store serves up 350 pies and 150 gallons of machine-cranked ice cream over the three-day gathering, which draws hundreds of people from several states.
Strawberry pie by Bruce Stambaugh
The Strawberry Summer Fest is held each year to help welcome in summer. According to Homestead Furniture’s sales manager Todd Reese, the store chose strawberry pie and ice cream as symbols of the season to share with customers old and new.

Cortona dining table by Bruce Stambaugh
The Cortona dining room table is just one example the exquisite furniture design and built by the craftsmen at Homestead Furniture.
Besides the free food, Homestead Furniture will also hold a drawing for gift cards to the store. Prizes total $1,750. Of course, Homestead Furniture will offer special sales prices on all of its hardwood, upholstered, and leather furniture, excluding custom orders. Their only other sale is in October.

In fact, the Mt. Hope merchant’s annual Sundown Sale will be held on Friday, June 15. Most businesses in town, from the hardware store to the fabric store, will be open until 8 p.m. The merchants also have a special drawing.

Homestead Furniture by Bruce Stambaugh
Homestead Furniture, Mt. Hope, OH is a busy place during its annual Strawberry Summer Fest.

Homestead Furniture will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 14 and 15, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 16. The store is located at 8233 SR 241, just north of Mt. Hope.

Mt. Hope is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 50 miles south of Akron, and 75 miles south of Cleveland in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.

Ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
Employees at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH make homemade ice cream five gallons at a time over the three day event.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Employees gather for an evening of fun

Starting line by Bruce Stambaugh
Pine car racers were placed at the starting line for each heat of the pine car derby held at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The employees at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, Ohio don’t just build incredible furniture. They know how to have fun together, too.

Their latest entertaining venture threw in a little competition. A pine car derby was held recently in the manufacturing building across the road from the retail store. Of course, they invited their families and had plenty of good food.

The congenial group enjoys the camaraderie of one another, along with some good, fun competition. When warehouse manager Dave Hostetler suggested a pine car derby, the race was on.

The track by Bruce Stambaugh
Dave Hostetler stands at the head of the pine car race track that he built for the event.
The contest was announced, and rules were distributed to whoever wanted to participate. In all, 22 employees bought a pine car kit and built their racer to the required specifications.

Each race car had to weigh no more than five ounces. The maximum length was seven inches and the rear width of the car was two and three-fourths inches. Contestants were encouraged to be creative with their car designs. Given the creativity of the staff at Homestead Furniture, that turned out to be a given.

The cars varied in style and color. One entrant, Noah Shetler, even entered two pink cars in honor of his wife’s battle with breast cancer. One car was numbered 08 for 2008 when his wife was diagnosed. Number 11 was for 2011 when his wife was declared cancer free after several rounds of chemotherapy treatments. One of the more original racer designs was a racer built in the shape of an outhouse.

Ada Marie Troyer dedicated her car, and her eventual winnings, to her niece who was recovering from critical injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Her car was named Best of Show.

Hostetler built the track 31 feet long, five feet high at the start. It was a two-slot track with a steep slope that the cars raced down to the finish line. Two cars raced per heat, with the winner going to the winner’s bracket, and the loser to the loser’s bracket. Once a racer lost twice, they were eliminated from the competition.

While the race went on, family members enjoyed homemade snacks that each family brought. Owners Ernest and Barbara Hershberger provided the hot dogs and beverages.

Finish line by Bruce Stambaugh
Todd Reese, Sales Manager at Homestead Furniture, closely watched the finish line at the pine care derby.
With the audience gathered around the black and yellow painted racetrack, judge Daniel Troyer watched over the finish line to declare the winner of each heat. In several races, only the nose of a race car determined the winner.

In the end, none of the other racers could match the sleek racer built by LaVern Hershberger. In fact, his car never lost a race.

Asked what his secret to winning was, LaVern said he baked his car prior to the race. Baking it reduced the moisture content, thus reducing the weight, he said. This allowed him to place weights where they were critical to making the car run smoothly.

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LaVern Hershberger, the eventual winner of the pine car derby, tweaked his racer before the first heat.
LaVern also said he waited until the last minute to lubricate the car’s tires with powdered graphite. He declined, however, to say how long he baked his car, citing proprietary secrets.

LaVern won $100. Shetler finished second, winning $75, which he donated to Sisterhood of Hope, a support group for breast cancer victims. Krissy Yoder finished third and won $50.

Ada Marie Troyer donated her $33 winnings to her niece to help cover medical expenses.

It was a fun evening overall, mingling teamwork with fellowship, always a winning combination.

Homestead Furniture is located in the heart of the world’s largest Amish population at 8233 State Route 241, Mt. Hope.

Pine car racers by Bruce Stambaugh
Just some of the original designed cars that participated in the pine car derby at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Pumpkins are for more than pie

Great pumpkin by Bruce Stambaugh
Pumpkins, including the Great Pumpkin apparently, are sold in lots of large boxs at a produce auction near Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Besides the colorful leaves, pumpkins have to be right up there as one of the top icons of fall. The portly orange fruit seems to be everywhere this time of year.

By their sheer numbers, people appear to be in love with pumpkins. Maybe that’s because they don’t have to rake them like they do the pumpkin’s leafy fall compatriots.

Perhaps the pumpkin’s versatility is the primary reason for its popularity. Pumpkins are used for all sorts of things. My favorite, of course, is in pumpkin pie; hold the whipped cream please.

Pumpkin pie by Bruce Stambaugh
My wife's fabulous pumpkin pie.

I know I’m prejudiced. I’m partial to the pies my good wife makes. That doesn’t deter me, however, from enjoying the baking efforts of others just to prove my point.

Fall is the time of year when real, honest-to-goodness pumpkin pie begins to show up on the menus of local restaurants. There’s good reason for that. It’s pumpkin harvest time. Of course with canning and freezing, pumpkin pie can be made anytime. But given its delicate ingredients, it’s best made in cooler climes.

It’s also worth noting that the pumpkins we see for sale in the market, at roadside stands and in people’s front yards are not generally the kind of pumpkins of which pie is made. For that, you need pie pumpkins, which makes perfect sense to me.

Pumpkin display by Bruce Stambaugh
Homestead Furniture, Mt. Hope, OH used pumpkins in it's 20th Anniversary Sale last October.

These pumpkins have a much higher calling. They are for show. Pumpkins decorate front porches, yard displays, commercial displays and accent fall flower gardens. Their bright orange color warms the coolest autumn morning.

Toward Halloween, people pick the perfect pumpkin for their Jack O’ Lantern. Carving a face into the anointed pumpkin can be a family affair that makes lasting memories for impressionable children. On October’s darkened nights, a single lighted candle sufficiently illuminates the caricature designed and desired.

Colorful pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh
Pumpkins of different colors.

To be chic, pumpkins now come in alternate colors. There are white ones, gray ones, brown ones and even blue ones. These, too, are prized for their ornamentation qualities, and exhibited indoors and out.

Pumpkins are so highly regarded in our North American societies that they even earn their very own festivals. Towns around the country, especially in the Midwest where most pumpkins are grown, celebrated with contests like the largest pie and the largest pumpkin grown. To date, the record belongs to a young man in Wisconsin with a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,810.5 pounds.

Painted pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh
Pumpkins even get painted rather than carved so they last longer.

Pumpkins show up on our dinner tables in other forms besides pies and decorations. There are pumpkin cakes, rolls, ice cream, lattes, ravioli and soups. The seeds can even be roasted and eaten for snacks.

We shouldn’t be surprised at this. We are simply repeating history. Native Americans taught early explorers to North America to roast pumpkin slices skewered on long sticks over an open fire. Settlers learned to cut the top off a whole pumpkin, hollow it out, and fill it with milk and spices, and then bake it on hot coals. This entrée was the forerunner to our pumpkin pie.

The indigenous peoples also understood the pumpkin’s versatility. They would dry strips of pumpkin, and then weave them into mats to sit on.

Besides our early history, pumpkins have also played major roles in our folklore. Cinderella’s coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight. The headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow threw a pumpkin at poor Ichabod Crane. Of course, Charlie Brown is full of hope, still looking for the elusive Great Pumpkin.

Whether reading, eating or decorating, enjoy the pumpkin variety show while it lasts. Now pass the pie please.

Large pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh
Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are sold every fall at the Mt. Hope Produce Auction, Mt. Hope, OH.