• Life Outside the Pages

    Those who can’t: Collect!

    I have a little problem; I rescue afghans from thrift stores.

    Not Afghan Hounds…though they are very pretty! But I don’t think my house could hold very many of them; they’re biggish.

    I’m talking about small blankets made for cuddling under on the couch while reading a book or watching television. Traditionally made of wool, they now come in more affordable options, such as acrylic and cotton. The debate rages on about which is better when it comes to making afghans: knitting or crocheting. I say either produces a cozy throw you can snuggle under while enjoying some down time.

    I can’t stand to see a pretty one in a thrift store. This may be because I have never made one, so am somewhat in awe of the time and skill it takes to do so.

    In a household with two people and one undersized sofa, how many of these things do you need?

    So I regularly resolve not to buy any more; but then inevitably I find myself standing in a thrift store, gazing in wonder and, yes, pity at a gorgeous, discarded piece of handmade folk art.

    I imagine the time and effort that went into creating each lovely throw, and wonder why it ended up tossed into the donation bag.

    The time consideration, and even the cost of materials, is daunting. But it’s the love that goes into making an afghan that gets me right in the feels. I look at a colorful, intricately-designed little blanket and picture some old auntie or grandma – or hey, a devoted granddad or papa – spending many a winter’s evening, yarn running over her fingers, cat grabbing the ends by her feet, as she creates a cozy bit of comfort for someone she loves.

    How does such a thing get tossed away?

    Maybe there are just too many of them. A prolific crocheter could make a couple dozen a year. I suppose after a while, all her loved-ones are up to their eyeballs in afghans.

    Or maybe the gift went to someone who just isn’t into country kitsch in the first place and it quickly found its way to Goodwill.

    Or maybe the creative lady in question just kept making them as personal therapy long after all her friends, relatives and church charities had all the throws they could use. So she hoarded them lovingly in boxes and bags and bins until she died. Imagine the treasure trove someone discovered upon cleaning out her home! I am grateful that her heirs donated them instead of simply tossing them in a dumpster.

    I have one my grandmother made for my wedding, nearly 40 years ago. It was fashioned from cream yarn, knitted with intricate Swiss dots and cross-hatching in the pattern. I used and displayed it for many years, but now it is old and yellowed. Of course, I’ll never discard it; I wonder if I could dye it a lovely sage green to give it a new lease on life?

    So, back to me standing in the thrift store looking at another beautiful bit of discarded folk art. You know I’m buying it, right?

    Just last weekend I added to my collection. I was at a lovely Christian thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio, when the colorful geometric blanket complete with fringes caught my eye.

    I picked it up and examined it, expecting stains or holes. Nope. It was perfect. I took it up front and asked the price, thinking it had to be at least $50.

    The two young Mennonite women manning the counter looked at each other questioningly. “No price tag?” one asked. I shook my head. They consulted silently again, and the other turned to me and said, “It’ll be $4.”

    I hope my mouth didn’t drop open. “Sold” I said, placing it on the counter.

    And I brought it home, where it will be appreciated and loved for another generation.

    If I get too many, I guess I could rehome them like one does with kittens and doggies.

    But for now, I’ll cherish each one, and wonder who made them and to whom they were originally given.

    I hope they know their art is appreciated and cherished. As one who can’t (or doesn’t have time to lean, honestly) create these handstitched works of art, I’ll collect them! And no apologies.

    My newest “rescue”, from the thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio.
    So cozy! And it pairs well with the ginger cat pillow my son gave me for Christmas!

    Aren’t the giant, blue corner tassles fun?

    I simply couldn’t leave this nuanced blue beauty behind when I discovered it in an area Goodwill!
    The work that went into this piece of art steals my breath! Who made it? Where? When? Why did it end up discarded? I’ll never know, but I love it as if it had been given to me by a favorite friend.
  • Reviews by Anne Blackburne

    Courting an Amish Bishop

    Mindy Steele’s latest book, “Courting an Amish Bishop“, which is book number four in Barbour Publishing’s “Heart of the Amish” series, released April 1. I got my copy in the mail shortly thereafter, and gobbled it up in just a couple reading sessions!

    It was that good!

    The book features Stella, an herbal healer living her independent life on a hillside in the woods with her silver lab. She’s doing very well, treating the people in her Amish community and delivering the occasional baby.

    Then influenza hits the nearby Amish community, and her help is needed there. She goes without hesitation to do what she can.

    That’s when she meets Simon, a very attractive widower with a teenage son Stella falls for right away. In fact, she falls for Simon’s whole family — and maybe for Simon, too. Then she finds out he’s the bishop.

    Why is that a problem? Read on to find out!

    I highly recommend this book.

    If you’ve missed the other books in The Heart of the Amish series, they are: “The Flower Quilter”, by Mindy Steele; “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”, by Anne Blackburne; “The Quilt Room Secret” by Lisa Jones Baker; and coming soon, “Mary’s Calico Hope” by Anne Blackburne, and “Serenity’s Secret”, by Lisa Jones Baker.

    I’m having so much fun being part of this wonderful series of stand-alone stories. I hope you’re enjoying them, too.

  • Books

    Courting an Amish Bishop Releases Monday!

    No fooling: Mindy Steele’s new book from Barbour’s “Heart of the Amish” series comes out on Monday, April 1!

    I just ordered my copy, and am eagerly waiting for it to arrive in the mail. This is another wonderful story from popular author Mindy Steele; her second in the Heart of the Amish series.

    Brief synopsis: Meet Stella Schmucker who faithfully uses her herbal knowledge to help her Amish community while neglecting her own desire for romance—until she meets the bishop.

    The cover is so sweet! I can’t wait to read my copy, and then I’ll go review it, because good book reviews help authors, and I know from Mindy’s previous stories that the review will be good! Mindy doesn’t disappoint.

    The other books in this series include: The Flower Quilter, by Mindy Steele (September, 2023); Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise, by Anne Blackburne (December, 2023); The Quilt Room Secret, by Lisa Jones Baker (February, 2024); and coming June 1 by Anne Blackburne, Mary’s Calico Hope! And September 1, Serenity’s Secret, by Lisa Jones Baker.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Winner of a Ginger Snap Original Painting!

    I am a major procrastinator. I apologize to all the people who came to my book signing for “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” at Bookology a few weeks ago, and signed up to win this painting I did of Ginger Snap. All the people whose names I collected will eventually receive my newsletter; I say eventually, because I still don’t have a newsletter! One thing at a time, right?

    We had a marvelous turnout that day, despite frigid temperatures and fresh snow in the morning. So many friends, old and new, braved the weather to come to Bookology in Cambridge to say hello. Many of you purchased a copy of my book, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”. It was a wonderful day. You all made me feel so very, very special and blessed!

    So now, without further delay, I’ll announce the winner (chosen at random by my daughter using the old-fashioned pick-a-number-any-number method) of this painting! Drum roll please! And the winner is — well, ARE, in this case — Les and Betty Hoffmann! I’ll email you and you can give me your mailing address so I can send you your painting. Thank you so much for coming out to support me in the cold!

    As you may be aware, the next book in the Heart of the Amish series, “The Quilt Room Secret”, by Lisa Jones Baker, is on shelves now. And on or around April 1, the fourth book in the Heart of the Amish series from Barbour Publishing, Mindy Steele’s “Courting an Amish Bishop”, will be out. (Mindy also had book one, “The Flower Quilter”, which I absolutely loved. I want to make my own flower quilt now!)

    After that, it’s only a little while until my next book, “Mary’s Calico Hope”, book five in the Barbour series, will release on May 15 in e-books and on June 1 in print! Here is something else you may not know. The story takes place in the same story world as Ruth’s story! In fact, if you read my first book, you met Mary Yoder. She works for Ruth’s love, Jonas, in his basket shop, and uses crutches to help her walk due to a childhood accident.

    And here is more exciting news! Around this time next year, I’ll have a third story in that story world, which I’m calling my Willow Creek Amish world, even though it is part of Barbour’s Heart of the Amish. Are you confused? I hope not! I signed a contract a couple weeks ago to write “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, about Elizabeth Miller, whom you met in Ruth’s story (she got the little gray kitten from Lydia Coblentz), and who you’ll see again in Mary’s story. I’m pretty excited! I’ll tell you more about Lizzie another day. For now, it’s Mary’s turn.

    Soon I’ll start telling you all about Mary Yoder, and her wishes and her fears. But today is for celebration! Congratulations again, Les and Betty Hoffman!

  • Reviews by Anne Blackburne

    Happy Release Day for “A Quilt Room Secret” by Lisa Jones Baker!

    From Barbour Publishing’s Heart of the Amish series, comes book #3 in the series, “A Quilt Room Secret“, by Lisa Jones Baker. This is the third book in the series in which my debut novel, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is book #2. Book #1, in case you missed it, is “The Flower Quilter” by Mindy Steele.

    This is a delightful book about two people who have been best friends . . . and maybe more? . . . all their lives. Except for that unfortunate period of time when one of them moved away.

    “As they took turns pushing each other on the swing that hung from a large tree, the mature—for a five-year-old—Jacob Lantz asked Trini Sutter to marry him. The nine-year-old thoughtfully responded that she’d consider his proposal when they were older.
     
    Nearly two decades later, the Amish farmer returns to the beautiful countryside of Arthur, Illinois, to take the independent owner of The Quilt Room up on her promise. Quiet, handsome Jacob is truly in love with the spirited list maker, and Trini finds herself falling in love with Jacob, but the youngest of eleven has big plans of her own.
     
    Jacob’s long-held aspirations are put to the test when he learns that Trini has been holding a secret. He prays for a turnaround of events; however, when Trini moves away from her tight-knit community, he begins to realize that his dream of them being Mr. and Mrs. most likely won’t happen. 
     
    Will Trini forfeit her own well-laid plan for the man of her dreams?”

    Don’t miss out on this wonderful story by a wonderful story-teller!

    You’ll find it wherever fine books are sold! Available now in print and e-edition.