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Be Kind

Over the past week, I have been slammed with reading about kindness or hearing stories about how being kind can change lives. I thought I would share a few with you.

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I read a story about a bubbly, older woman visiting a book store. Talking to the clerk, she added chocolate to her stack for her husband waiting patiently in the car. Then a college student slammed down heavy tomes on the counter beside her. Looking at his face, she grabbed up the books and said, “Put these on my bill.” The young man loudly protested, but she was determined. She decided he needed chocolate candy, too. As he walked out the door with his sack, he turned back to her with an uncertain smile, “Bless you, ma’am.”

“Why did you do that, ma’am? Wasn’t that a little crazy? You didn’t know that boy from Adam’s house cat,” asked the woman, as she packed up the smiling customer’s buys.

“Oh, my son is incarcerated now. Drugs just took him over. Nothing we could do or say helped him. I tried to bring him up right, love him, and teach him the difference between right and wrong, but somehow he chose another path. Maybe, just maybe, if someone had been kind to him, it would have made a difference.”

Still smiling, she reached inside her purse and handed the clerk a piece of chocolate. “Be kind,” and she bounced out the door.

Then this morning, our teacher read the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, as part of our lesson. There was a little bit of enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews, and that is putting it mildly. Luke 10 describes a Jewish traveler who is attacked by thieves and left by the road for dead. First, a Jewish priest and then a Levite see the man and walk on by. Next a Samaritan journeyed on that same road, saw the naked and bruised man, stopped,  and put oil and wine on his wounds. But that wasn’t all; the Samaritan took the hurt man to an inn to be cared for and paid for his stay. Jesus tells us to do the same as the Samaritan and be kind.

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We have precious neighbors: Emily and her three children are the best. We hadn’t been home long today when Emily, her eight-year-old daughter Eliza, and cousin knocked on the door. They had seen our dogs Kita and Folly in the middle of one of the roads close to our house. There are plenty of neighborhood dogs around us, and all enjoy walking. With two days of rain, there had been no walks. Somehow the two escape artists opened the gate and found freedom. The girls wanted to help catch them and were following John when the two dogs came bounding up the sidewalk. Sweet Eliza told me we were always doing nice things for them, and today was their day to help us. Emily and I both smiled at that.

What a sweet heart this child has! She knows about being kind.

Do you remember a movie called “Pay It Forward?” A teacher gave an assignment to his class middle schoolers to design a project that would change the world. Seventh grade Trevor decides that good deeds for others would be a novel adventure. The title of the movie is the title of his project. And, yes, kindness changes lives even in a movie.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seems like kindness should be our first choice…. will you join me?



Cotton Mill Women — Sheila Ingle


Today I’m happy to welcome author Sheila Ingle as she shares about the history behind her story. Read through to the end to find out how to enter to win a copy of her book, “Tales of a Cosmic Possum”.

Cotton mills in North and South Carolina hit a boom in the late nineteenth century, and hundreds of mills were built. They advertised for workers from the mountains and the farms. Employment benefits were posted, and company men visited homes to encourage families to move to the mill villages. Mill workers were promised a home, a school for their children, and a weekly pay check. For those, bound to worn-out farms, a mill village sounded like the “promised land.” They traded a lifestyle governed by the seasons to a lifestyle controlled by a mill whistle.

Adjusting to life in mill villages was not easy. Work hours were long, and the…

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Cornbread and Vegetable Soup

As I realized we really were going to have snow on Tuesday, my cooking plan knew that vegetable soup would have to be made. Yes, to fresh and canned vegetables and ground chuck. Yes, to the smell of it in our home, as it simmered for several hours. And, yes, to cornbread as the perfect side! Whether crumbled in the soup or dripping with butter, I am so glad we have left overs of soup and cornbread for today!

My grandmother Nanna had an iron skillet for frying chicken, and Mother had her smaller cast iron pan, exclusively for cornbread. I enjoy using both of these, and have added a corn stick pan, two griddle pans, and a grill pan that John uses on our gas grill.

Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread

Have you ever wondered why cornbread and biscuits were a staple during Colonial Days?

Corn was the first crop planted after the land was cleared. Both the colonists and the animals ate corn on a daily basis. For the family, it was some type of cornbread. Cooked in a Dutch oven in the coals on an open hearth, the smells filled the room.

There was plenty of corn available, so it was used. For many settlers, a mill soon made grinding the corn easier. There were also small kerns that could be used in the cabins to grind their own corn. Since there was a shortage of sugar and flour, it grew in its popularity. It was one of those stick-to-your-ribs recipes, and it was also quick and easy to make. Since it was good either hot or cold, it was good at home, on a hunting trip, or working in the fields. It could be made into Johnny cakes, spoon bread, corn muffins, Bannock cakes, ash cakes, corn dodgers, journey cakes, or slapjacks.

A simple recipe could be

1 cup cornmeal

4 Cups water

1½ cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt

Of course, using milk rather than water and adding eggs made for a creamier dish.

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This picture is of a typical open hearth. Wood is placed under the oven for a fire to cook the bread. The wood has to burn down to hot coals, and that means lots of hot coals to bake anything.

The pots over the fire on the crane would be for cooking soups and stews. You might have heard the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot. Peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Some like it in the pot nine days old.” By adding meat and vegetables to the stew or soup, it could continue to feed a family for several days.

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Below is a picture of some of the necessary items for cooking on an open fire in a hearth. Under the trivet are the hot coals, and the skillet is placed on top. On top of the lid are coals to keep the baking even on the top and bottom of the cornbread. (Biscuits and cake were also baked in these Dutch ovens.)

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The floor near the cooking hearth was swept constantly, and the hearth itself scrubbed often to keep it free from grease. Dripping pans were used when roasting or boiling to prevent the grease from dripping directly on the hearth.

Usually the coals have to be replaced at least once during the baking, particularly on the lid.

When our son went on camping trips with his scout troops, they would often use this same method over the campfire to bake cornbread and pineapple upside-down cake. Isn’t it interesting that some things never change?

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National Spaghetti Day

Who knew?

Pick your sauce!  National Spaghetti Day is today, January 4, and it recognizes that long, thin cylindrical pasta of Italian and Sicilian origin.  Usually made from semolina flour, this pasta has been a worldwide favorite for ages and loved by millions.

Spaghetti was a staple in my home growing up. Mother made a simple meat sauce using only salt and pepper for seasoning, but we enjoyed every mouthful. She never served salad with it. The meal consisted of spaghetti and toasted, buttered bread as a pusher. And, yes it was quite enough.

There are a variety of different pasta dishes that are based on spaghetti from spaghetti ala Carbonara or garlic and oil to spaghetti with tomato sauce, meat sauce, bolognese, Alfredo sauce, clam sauce or other sauces.  Spaghetti dishes are traditionally served topped with grated hard cheeses such as Pecorino Romano, Parmesan and Grana Padano.

The word spaghetti is plural for the Italian word spaghetto, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning “thin string” or “twine.”

In the 19th century, American restaurants offered Spaghetti Italienne, which was spaghetti noodles with a mild, tomato sauce enhanced with cloves, bay leaves, and garlic. It was decades later that oregano and basil were added.

As to the origin of spaghetti, there is debate. In the Jerusalem Talmud, itrium, a boiled dough was common in Palestine for the 3rd to 5th centuries. An Arab dictionary refers to itriyyas as string-like semolina dried before cooking. Itriyya was manufactured and exported from Norman Sicily. Because dry pasta could be easily stored, ships took it to America and other explored countries.

In March of 2009, the world record for the largest bowl of spaghetti was set and then reset in March of 2010 when a Garden Grove California Buca di Beppo restaurant successfully filled a swimming pool with more than 13,780 pounds of pasta.

  • The Buca di Peppo 13,780-pound bowl of pasta was set up in the parking lot of the restaurant's Garden Grove location in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record.
  • Eddy Suarez, a regional culinary supervisor Buca di Peppo, tosses a bucket full of sauce onto a 13,780-pound bowl of pasta as part of an attempt to break the Guinness World Record. The event took place at the Garden Grove restaurant on Harbor Blvd.
  • Buca di Peppo employees put the final touches on a 13,780-pound bowl of pasta in their attempt to break the Guinness World Record.


My grandmother Lulu found a new way to serve spaghetti and passed it on to her family. This easy casserole consisted of 6-7 cans of Campbell’s spaghetti, two pounds of cooked ground chuck and one medium onion, a drained can of mushrooms, all mixed together and topped with grated cheese. Season to individual tastes, the mixture is placed in a 8×13′ dish and baked at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.

  • Campbell's Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce with Cheese, 14.75 Ounce (Pack of 12)

It became another favorite at our house, and I am the third generation to make it. This recipe has been enjoyed by the fourth generation of the Collins family.

Now you must be wondering why I am writing about spaghetti. Before reading that this was National Spaghetti Day, I had placed on my kitchen counter seven cans of Campbell’s original spaghetti, an onion, and a large can of mushrooms. In the frig is the ground chuck and cheese.  Who knew?

Sung to the tune of “On Top of Old Smoky,” the fun children’s song, “On Top of Spaghetti” was written and originally sung by folk singer Tom Glazer.I remember singing this song, and perhaps you do, too.

“On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.


It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.”

I remember singing this song, and perhaps you do, too. There’s nothing like a little nonsense nostalgia to start off a new year! Happy New Year!



Stringing a Package

Christmas memories seemed to be flooding my heart and mind today.

One of them is about the packages Lulu/Daddy’s mother used to send us from Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Lulu was quite the cook, and she sent two of her backed goods to Daddy.

She made salt rising bread. She wrapped it in cheesecloth or a worn dish towel. Then she placed it in a box, wrapped it in brown paper, and tied it with string. She usually used old shoe boxes for the mailing. Buttered, toasted in the oven, and smeared with Mother’s homemade preserves, it was delicious.

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This looks like the small loaves she used to send.
Slicing thin slices, it would usually last two meals for the four of us.
Enjoyed by Appalachia families, this dense, white bread uses a starter with no yeast. The distinctive smell (a little stinky) is not a pleasant one, but the taste is golden. Some say the smell is “cheesy.” Tracing its history, this recipe appears to be totally American, becoming popular during the nineteenth century.

The origins of the name are also unclear. One explanation is that pioneer women who crossed the country kept their starter dough warm in the salt barrel, kept atop the wagon wheel. By day the sun would warm the salt, which would warm the starter. The bread could be made in the evening.

Of course, when we visited the farm, there was always a loaf or two in her bread box


Another of Lulu’s specialties that Daddy received before Christmas was fruit cake. Loaded with dried fruit and soaked in Bourbon, it was also fragrant. I can’t tell you much about the taste, because fruit cake is not my favorite. The many raisins turned, and still turn, me away from this holiday favorite.

But these baked gifts were a taste of home, and there was plenty of excitement when they arrived.

Just as Lulu’s packages arrived in brown paper, Daddy also would string his packages for mailing. String, scissors, tape, and brown paper were required.

He would clear the kitchen table, pack the boxes, and start wrapping. The process was much like wrapping a package for mailing today, except for the string. To begin with, string was tied, knotted, and clipped short horizontally around the box, and then vertically. Critt and I held our small fingers on the loops for Daddy to knot them. He always tied the package with two more strings to be sure it wouldn’t open in transit. Then assorted labels were added to help the mailman: Fragile Handle with Care, Do Not Bend, Do Not Crush, Handle with Care, This Side Up. Since these labels were red, they were like decorations on that brown paper.

Soon there was a stack of brown paper packages on the kitchen table. As with everything he did, Daddy was meticulous. The string had to be straight and was usually adjusted several times. Celebrating a completed job that showed how much he cared for his mother, a cup of coffee was always next.

Oh, how I wish I could help him with wrapping some presents today. So thankful for the memories and the way I was taught by example to do even the little things to the best of my ability.  Looking back, I realize he tied up those packages with love, not string. Thank you, Daddy!

Merry Christmas…


A Moravian Love Feast: Coffee and Buns


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Stories of the past intrigue most of us, and we learn so much about our ancestors this way. Antiquing or rummaging through estate sales are a favorite Saturday morning pastime for many. Historical sites continue to be popular with all ages, and history-related television channels have a faithful following. Benjamin Franklin’s two apprentices in Liberty’s Kids, shown on PBS, are now on Facebook. Reruns of Braveheart and Downton Abbey are readily available, and historical fiction continues to bring history alive. The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution gained over 13,000 new members last year; these are women who can trace their ancestry back to the Revolutionary War.

Connecting the past to the present involves artists, historians, archaeologists, authors, and storytellers. Whether sharing a cup of coffee at Starbucks or visiting over a family meal, fellowship and food unite the participants instantly. Virgina Wolfe said, “One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them.”

Over the past several years, book signings in Bethabara and Old Salem have opened my heart to a culture that I was not familiar with. Visits there have offered me a tangible link to the colonial history of North Carolina, where many of the buildings are original to the town established in 1753.

The Moravian church had its beginning in the country now known as the Czech Republic in 1457 and is known as the oldest Protestant Church. They formed the “unity of the Bretheren” and followed Jan Hus who was martyred for his faith in 1415. The early Moravians were a gentle people who trusted the defense of their beliefs to their faith rather than to walls or military battles. Members agreed to accept the Bible as their only standard of faith and to practice a code of behavior based on the principles of simplicity, purity, and brotherly love.

The first love feast was held on August 13, 1727. It was created to make the community of faith more like the church of the New Testament. It was an Agape meal among the followers, held either at the breakfast or the dinner hour. It was a simple meal, but still a meal. It does not and did not take the place of the sacrament of Communion. This custom became a tradition to celebrate a special occasion.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, they often held as many as 50 or more a year. They celebrated festival days, honored distinguished guests, recognized milestones such as birthdays, bid a last farewell to neighbors moving away, or to bind unity in the congregation. Today Christmas and Easter are the more usual times. One year in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the first Moravian community in the United States, they held 250 love feasts.

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There was no set menu in older days. At least one love feast in North Carolina consisted of pumpkin mush, but generally there was a sweet roll, which was to remind the worshipers of the sweetness of faith. The beverage was usually tea, which is still the case in most European congregations. For Christmas, our Moravian ancestors sometimes had spiced wine or hot chocolate.

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All of the sweet rolls would be home made, according to family recipes. In the 18th century, individuals in a congregation might volunteer to provide a love feast for the congregation or a smaller group, such as the Single Brothers. The people in charge of the love feast would provide the food and beverage and arrange for special music. Giving a love feast was a type of stewardship and a way to serve the congregation. It was about building unity.

In the Moravian Church, there is a special corps of servers called “dieners” (German for serve), whose responsibility it is to distribute the buns and mugs of coffee, prepared well in advance so that there is no interruption to the flow of a service. The dieners sometimes wear special uniforms, the women in white with a white doily on the head, and the men with a long white apron wrapped about them.

Buns are passed along the pews in baskets, each person taking a bun and passing the basket on. The mugs of coffee are carried on a tray and passed hand-to-hand by the occupants of the pews. Usually men carry the trays, while women take care of passing the mugs to the pew occupants.

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All of the serving activity, and the collecting of the mugs after the partaking, take place while the hymns are being sung. In a well-run love feast, the buns and coffee are distributed almost without being noticed by most of the congregation.

When the whole congregation has been served, a grace is prayed in unison. Traditionally the American Moravian Church prays “the Moravian grace”:

“Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts bestowed by Thee. Amen”
Today the love feast meal is still simple, and elaborate trappings are not needed. The usual food is a sweetened bun, sometimes placed on a paper napkin. Any kind of pastry can be used if it does not produce dust, crumbs, or stickiness. Sweet, creamy coffee is the usual hot beverage.

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The Moravians left Herrnhut, Germany, in 1733. They came to settle new Moravian communities and become missionaries to the Indians. It is interesting that John Wesley, the cofounder of the Methodist Church with his brother Charles, sailed with them and was influenced by their faith, joy, and practice of love feasts. This pilgrim group celebrated their safe journey with a love feast when they arrived in Savannah, Georgia.

The oppressive climate and tension with the Spanish in Georgia led the group to consider moving to Pennsylvania, a colony known for its rich natural resources and extraordinary toleration of ideas. By 1741, they had purchased a 500-acre tract of land north of Philadelphia, along the Lehigh River. Once again, they celebrated their arrival with a love feast. The Moravians organized and built the religious communal society of Bethlehem. Although the settlement began with fewer than 20 people, the population grew to several hundred by the 1750’s.

The Pennsylvania Moravians felt called to start a new settlement. On November 17, 1753, fifteen weary men and a wagon load of supplies arrived at a deserted cabin in the western part of North Carolina in what is today Forsyth County. The group had been six weeks on a journey walking from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road. On arrival, they celebrated their love feast with cornbread.

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Their task was to break ground in the wilderness for a new colony of their church; they named it Bethabara, a Hebrew name meaning “house of passage.” This was to be a temporary town before the settlement of Salem. Visitors in Bethabara today can view the reconstructed 1759 community garden, the only known, well-documented colonial community garden in the United States. Along with raising their food, these Moravian pioneers were organized and industrious; they were carefully selected for their skills and talents.

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Gardening was essential for seasonal foods, as well as preserving for winter. Today in Old Salem, you can visit traditional Moravian gardens and see the produce they raised. The original home of Matthew Miksch can be toured; he was trained in Europe as a Master Gardner and brought his expertise to Salem. Using raised beds as planters and grafting fruit trees. Onions, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, pumpkins, and cabbage were plentiful.

The Historic Town of Salem is a living history site that covers a large period of time, telling the story of Moravians establishing a town, and that town’s growth through the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the easiest ways for the modern visitor to gain an understanding of the past is through historic cooking and baking preservation.

Costumed interpreters learn how to cook, bake, and preserve food; this requires quite a bit of research and practice. Primary sources teach understanding about what types of food were used, the common ways to prepare and flavor them, and how to cook and bake on an open hearth. The Moravians encouraged keeping diaries and journals, and some people would often include meals enjoyed, or daily household activities such as preserving, so information is still available today.

Winkler’s Bakery still uses recipes and methods from 18th century —raisin bread, hot cross buns baked at Easter, sugar cakes, love feast buns, similar to hamburger buns but sweet. The dome bake oven is original to 1800, and it is heated still with wood. Up and down the street, the smells of fresh baked goods lure visitors to this site.

The Moravians brought to North Carolina their strong system of community life. In the original Wachovia settlements, property was held in common and settlers drew on community stores for food, tools, and other supplies. Pooling their labor and resources allowed for rapid settlement based on an economy of agriculture and trade e.g. pottery, blacksmithing, woodcarving, etc.

Moravians have maintained the heritage of a distinctive way of life into modern time. There is something unique to eating during a church service. It is not unusual to see babies given bottles or children candy. When all members of the congregation participate in a food event, unity and harmony are immediate.

Today a love feast might be conducted for a cancer ward. The last day of Vacation Bible School could celebrate with a love feast. In Spartanburg, South Carolina, there is a love feast celebrated each Christmas season at the First Presbyterian Church, led by their choir, but the food is served by Moravian dieners from a local Moravian congregation.

Wake Forest University celebrates a love feast on the first Sunday in December. It was organized by a Moravian student in December, 1965. There were two hundred students at the first observance, but numbers have grown each year. Now it is the largest Moravian love feast in North America.



In Old Salem each year, the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church presents a Candle Tea in the Single Brothers’ House. This traditional love feast includes hot, creamy, sweet coffee and sugar cake baked at Winkler’s Bakery. There is a time of singing Christmas carols to the playing of a 1797 Tannenburg organ. Each participant receives a beeswax candle, surrounded by red crepe paper and handmade on site.

Even among strangers, shared food, fellowship, and music produce a closeness that we recognize and hunger for as individuals. We savor our times of community, and a Moravian Love Feast is a feast for the soul that includes a cup of coffee in church!

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Advice from Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa (1910–1997) was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world. She spent many years in Calcutta, India where she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to helping those in great need.

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Her work spread around the world. By 2013, there were 700 missions operating in over 130 countries.

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The scope of their work also expanded to include orphanages and hospices for those with terminal illnesses.

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“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became a symbol of charitable, selfless work.

When she was asked how to promote world peace, she replied, “Go home and love your family.”

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Mother Teresa had a card that she gave to others; the words are challenging.

“The fruit of silence is prayer.

The fruit of prayer is faith.

The fruit of faith is love.

The fruit of love is service.

The fruit of service is peace!

May we all be instruments of peace.”