Mini Monuments on My Christmas Tree

Thomson Christmas Tree 2014

Ornaments With Meaning

This is my Christmas tree this year. As with almost every year in my married life, I decorated it myself. Yes, it’s in front of a closet. It’s that kind of Christmas because our reno isn’t finished yet. But I promise you, next Christmas will look different. I did not put all my ornaments on this year. I left some of the most fragile in the box this year. I’ll look forward to seeing them next Christmas. But I still have several with special meanings. I’ll bet you do too. I’d thought I’d share the meaning behind a few of my “mini monuments.”

One of the Oldest

Musical Angel

This is one of the first ornaments Tom and I picked out together. I don’t think it was from our first Christmas, but definitely from early on. Angels are such an important part of the Christmas story that I have many of them on my tree. I love that this one is playing a violin. For years I thought it was breakable and always hung it near the top, out of the reach of little hands and pets. Then a few years ago I realized it’s plastic. It could still break, but it’s not as fragile as I thought. I still hang it near the top, however.

 

From My Home Church

Chi-RhoThis one is fairly old too. It’s the Chi-Rho symbol, The Greek letters for Christ (the first two letters of the name.) Sulphur Grove traditionally had a tree with these symbols. They might still. One year we were encouraged to include them on our own trees and I bought this one at the church Christmas bazaar. I hang it to remind myself to keep Christ in Christmas.

From Christmases Past

Cindy Thomson's childhood ornamentThis is certainly the oldest ornament I have. I snagged it from my mom a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites from when I was growing up. I loved decorating the tree when I was a kid. It’s something that did not get passed down to my boys. I guess some men are like that. Decorations? Whatever! But for me this one brings such happy memories.

Remembering Happy Times

There are lots of ornaments like this. Maybe for you too. This one is from a special vacation I took a couple of years ago with my sister Bev and my mom. We went into a Christmas shop and that’s where I got this one. While we saw lots of moose crossing signs in Vermont, we did not see any moose. But we are very familiar with them from the time we lived in Alaska. We loved Vermont.

Vermont Christmas Ornament

 

Ornaments That Remind Me to Pray

Our previous pastor always held an event where you brought an ornament with your family name written on it and hung it on a tree in the sanctuary. At the end of a service you went to the tree and picked a different ornament. Then you prayed for that family throughout the Christmas season. I have more than one of these but this one is for a couple that still need prayer because of the wife’s health issues.

Praying Angel Ornament

My Giving Ornament

Some of my readers have identical ornaments because I’ve given out a few of these over the last couple of years in contests and drawings. I will always think of them when I look at this on my tree. I believe I have one left to giveaway next year.

Irish Christmas Ornament

Remembering My Publisher

This one was included one year in a gift I received from my publisher. I am so grateful Tyndale House published Grace’s Pictures and Annie’s Stories, and this reminds me of the wonderful people I was privileged to work with there.

Star Ornament

 

From a Facebook Friend

Isn’t it amazing how you can make friends through Facebook? Kind of like pen pals. This ornament reminds me not only of the person who sent it to me, Cindy Z. from England, but also of all the wonderful people I’ve met. Cindy wanted to send me something authentic from her country. Isn’t this jester adorable?

 

English Ornament

My Celtic Heritage

This one was a gift from my son Kyle and his wife Kelsey. It reminds me of our Celtic heritage, and also how thoughtful they are!

Celtic Cross

 

From Ireland

This one I picked up on our last trip to Ireland. I kinda went nuts at the Belleek store, but you couldn’t buy these here for the price I paid. I just love this Santa and will always think about our tour of the Belleek Factory when I get it out to hang on the tree. Yes, this one is breakable, so we’re being careful. It’s the same on both sides so it doesn’t matter if it gets turned around. Isn’t that genius?

Belleek  Santa

Go Reds!

I mean, my favorite team has the right color for Christmas, so why not?

Reds SnowmanThese are just a few of my favorites. I have more so maybe I’ll do this again next year. Care to share one of your favorites with me? Post a picture or tell me about it in the comments. Merry Christmas!

 

Writers Are Unique People

Just in case you didn’t know that, I’ll tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.

Mentoring Mentor mug

There are mentors for all kinds of occupations, and what my county does with high school students I think is tremendous. Even before they get to college students are able to get some real life experiences to find out if they would like to work in a certain career. They’ve been doing this for years. I didn’t know anything about it until a few months ago when a gifted coordinator (that’s her actual title) from a local school district contacted me and asked me to mentor a high school senior. I really enjoyed doing this since I’ve mentored students online for several years and I used to teach. I’ve also had a couple of college interns. But in this program, I was somewhat of an anomaly, because Bethany is as well. If you assumed I was the only author mentoring a student in the program, you would be correct. (But I didn’t care.)

A Writer Must Write

No matter how difficult the path is (and it is difficult, make no mistake), no matter how unsure the possibility of financial gain, a true writer must write. If someone can choose another career, he or she must do so. Because if you feel like you have a choice, you may not make it as a writer. It takes dedication. It takes perseverance. It requires hours and hours of working alone. It requires being able to hold up under a cloud of rejection. Sure, lots of writers work in other occupations, but if you want to write you simply must have the drive to do it. You can’t NOT do it. A writing career is not for the “take it or leave it” personality type. If you do not possess this drive, then do something else because nothing you write will impact readers. And that’s what all readers want–to be heard.

Unique, Meaning Not The Same as Everyone Else

Bethany could not think of another career she’d like to explore. Writing was it for her. So her counselor had no choice but to seek out a published author for her to mentor under.

At the end of the mentorship the programs holds a luncheon to honor the mentors and to show off the students’ final projects. The other mentors present were professionals such as veterinarians, nurses, politicians. They seated me at a table between a forensic scientist and an aerospace engineer. Seriously. The brain power at the table was overwhelming. How could a novelist not find that amusing, and a bit intriguing at the same time.

Mentor student Bethany

Bethany Garrison, my student, with her mentorship project

The head of the program (the gifted coordinator) admitted at the beginning that we would have to be creative. I have no office. I have no procedures to observe or patients to work on or clients to see. And of course, Bethany and I were creative. We talked a lot about writing career choices. We visited a publisher and spoke with some editors. We chatted with my literary agent. She joined my writers meeting one Saturday. And in the end she was the only student who chose the option of making a scrapbook for her project. Very creative, I thought. Yes, she still wants to be a writer. (Despite the reality check I was honor bound to present. Few are able to make a living at being a novelist.) She has no choice but to write, really, because she has that peculiar writer’s virus–a gene, a brain that simply must write or have no rest. (Hmm, I wonder what the genetics researcher would think of that? Yep, that person was a mentor too!)

The World Needs More Good Writers

Just as much as scientists and engineers. Sure, there are tons of books out there. Plenty of people fancy themselves writers but then never put in the work required to produce high quality books. We don’t need more of those kinds of people. But we do need more books that are so well done that they inspire us to become better people. Bethany strives for excellence. I’m sure she’ll find it. It might be a long time before another high school student requests a writer as a mentor. We are different and not many can understand us. (We really do hear voices in our heads!) But I sincerely hope they invite me to mentor again. It was refreshing to see the author gene alive and growing.

Best wishes to all the young writers out there. Take up your pens and follow your heart!

Cyber Monday Books!!

Cyber Monday buy books

photo by Kevin Marks

Get My Special Cyber Monday Deal!

I could not let this day go by without offering a deal on a couple of my books. So here it is:

  1. Buy EITHER Brigid of Ireland or Celtic Wisdom through my website (print versions only.) Click on the book titles to be taken to the page.
  2. Send me a message to tell me that you’ve done that and you’d like to take advantage of my deal. Put “Cyber Monday Deal” in the subject line.

It’s buy one get one FREE!

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson3. Tell me which book, Brigid of Ireland or Celtic Wisdom you’d like and I will mail to you for no additional postage. You can get a copy of each of them, or two Brigid, or two Celtic Wisdom. Buy two, get two free, and so on and so on…

4. Don’t forget to tell me how you’d like the books autographed. Books make great Christmas gifts, especially for those on your list interested in Irish topics and Irish history.

What you can do for me

It’s optional, of course, but I’d love it if you shared this on your Facebook wall or Tweeted it.Celtic Wisdom by Cindy Thomson

Just copy:

Author   deal 4 u. Buy a book-already a great price-& get a 2nd 1 free no addit. postage: 

What Great Cyber Monday Deals Have you Found? Share in the Comments!

Cyber Monday Shop for books

photo by Mike McCune

Macy Day Parade

Guest Post by Tamera Kraft

I will be guest posting over at Tamera’s blog today. Please click here.

Macy's Thanksgiving

Photo by gigi_nyc

Macy Day Parade has become a tradition on Thanksgiving Day. My earliest memories of Thanksgiving were watching the parade and waiting for Santa to appear. Every child in my school knew that the real Santa was the one who appeared in the parade. But did you know that when the Macy Day Parade first started in 1924, it took place on Christmas Day? Store workers dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other characters and walked the entire six miles hike from Herald Square to Harlem. Professional bands and the Central Park Zoo along with their animals joined them in the parade. Santa rode into Herald Square at the end as he has every year since.

The parade was meant to bring attention to the Macy’s Store in downtown New York City, and it worked. The first year, 250,000 people showed up. After that, it was an annual event in the city that continued to grow even during the Depression. The first radio broadcast of the parade was made in 1932, and the first TV broadcast was made as early as 1938.

Balloons have been a part of the parade, almost since the beginning. In 1927, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company from Akron premiered their first parade balloon, Felix the Cat, but he wasn’t filled with helium until the next year. In the early years, people didn’t bother to deflate the balloons. They would release them into the air with an address attached. Rarely were the balloons returned. Mickey Mouse made his debut in the 1934 parade, and Bullwinkle first appeared in 1961. Today over a dozen large balloons are in the parade.

Floats were in the first parade and also had a large part over the years. Floats were still drawn by horses until 1939. Snoopy holds the record for the most floats. More than thirty parade floats are now featured in the parade.

The Macy’s Day Parade, although very popular in New York City, gained popularity throughout the nation after the movie, Miracle on 34th Street, was released in 1946. In Miracle on 34th street, the real Santa Claus steps in to replace a drunk Santa and decides to be Macy’s Store Santa to help fight commercialism.

But the Macy’s Day Parade didn’t always have smooth sailing. In 1942 through 1944, the parade was cancelled because rubber and helium were needed for the war effort. After the assassination of President Kennedy, the parade went on as scheduled to boost the morale of the nation. In 1971, heavy rains forced the parade to ground all balloons.

Today, over 8,000 people participate in the Macy’s Day Parade and over 3.5 million are expected to attend. It has become, not just a New York City Thanksgiving tradition, but a tradition for all of the United States of America.

Author Tamera Lynn KraftTamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio.

Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

You can contact Tamera online at these sites.

Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com

Revival Fire For Kids Blog: http://revivalfire4kids.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TameraLynnKraft

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tamerakraft

Tamera’s Latest BookA Christmas Promise by Tamera Lynn Kraft

A Christmas Promise:

A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.

Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

Available at these online stores:

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GM59GN4/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

Pelican Book Group

http://pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=37_47&products_id=512

Christian Books.com

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=48711EB&item_code=WW&netp_id=1206746&event=ESRCG&view=details

3 Top Reasons to Hunt the Good Stuff

Why Your Attitude Matters

A few weeks ago I attended an all-day meeting for families with deployed soldiers. I was just thinking that what I learned there is very appropriate for Thanksgiving week, so this a reminder for me, but just in case it’s also helpful to you, I thought I’d share.

One of the presenters showed us this video of a father and son.

She used it as an example of hunting the good stuff. Sure, there are lots of obstacles in life. This boy wanted to run. He asked his father to help him, and he did. Can you think of a better example of not giving up a dream? If we hunt the good stuff, which is another way of saying look on the bright side, find what you can do instead of lamenting what you cannot, how much better will our lives be?

Here are three reasons it’s a good idea to hunt the good stuff.

1. If you hunt the good stuff, you’ll find it.

The Good Stuff!

photo by scribbletaylor

 

 

A defeatist attitude will only get you that, defeat. Looking for what’s good, beautiful, inspiring, however, can only make life better. Reminds me that we’ve been told this before:

 

 
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.–Philippians 4:8

And good attracts more good. Here’s what I mean. Say you’re having a bad day. You’ve misplaced your keys, you can’t find your favorite jeans so you had to settle for something else, you forgot your computer password, and the coffeemaker broke. Bad day, huh? Suppose you

Attitude is contagious

photo by ayadi othmane

decide instead to hunt the good stuff. You have a job. You have choices of clothing in your closet. You will save your password in the future, so you’ve learned a valuable lesson. These are SMALL things, but they add up. If you keep that bad attitude, guess what you’ll keep experiencing the rest of the day? But if you choose to look for the positive, guess what you’ll find then?

2. You’ll bring others with you.

Nothing is worse than a pity party. Sure, there is a lot in this world to be down about. There is a lot to scary you silly. But dwelling on those things causes not only anxiety, but also causes you to miss what’s truly good, not to mention the affect it has on everyone around you. Don’t be that Debbie Downer-type. Choose to encourage and inspire instead. (That’s what I would like to do, anyway. I’m trying!) And think about what a difference you could have in the lives of others if you hunt the good stuff more often than not. The people around you will begin to do the same thing. It works both ways, in my experience.

3. You will lessen the pain of the bad stuff.

And who doesn’t want that? Count your blessings. You have them, I’m sure. Have you counted them lately?

What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Blessings quote

photo by BK

My 2014 One Word

My One Word, Changing Your Life

My One WordHave you heard of this? Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen wrote a book in which they explain how choosing one word to focus on for an entire year can change your life. The concept involves praying about what God wants to teach you, and that can be both scary and enlightening. Often the word you pick turns out to show you something you hadn’t considered before or you end up needing that message more than you could have ever imagined. You can read more about the book and the whole movement on this website.

My Words

PEACE

Photo: Muff McElfresh

In past years my words have been: Listen, Kindness, Peace, and Focus. Each year I have learned something new about myself and about where God is leading me by meditating on these words, seeking them out in the Bible, and praying over them. Sometimes they are a slap to the head. I’ll just let you imagine what that could mean! ;-)

Often women who choose a word will buy something with that word on it to help encourage them along the way. Usually, yeah, it’s jewelry. But also ornaments, coffee mugs…

I admit I’ve ordered something with my word on it. I’ve even created my own little pictures. They are reminders because I forget easily. The more reminders, the better. I made this little image to place on my desk because in 2014, I really needed to focus.

Cindy Thomson FOCUS

There have been so many distractions keeping me from making as much progress on my writing as I should. Some of them I created. Others have been beyond my control, but overall I just needed to focus and plow through.

How Is That Working?

Slowly. I am so happy God is patient with me. I would like to report that these words have changed me in spectacular ways, but the truth is, I have a long way to go. It’s a journey, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I should not expect to have arrived. Because of that I’m a little reluctant to let my words go at the end of the year. I haven’t learned everything yet! That is why I’ve been keeping some of them together like this:

Cindy Thomson's My One Word

One thing I have learned from concentrating on one word for an entire year is that there is always something I have indeed learned. Maybe not perfectly, but it’s progress I might have missed had I not chosen to do this.

My 2015 Word

This came to me in church one Sunday, and then I heard the word somewhere right after. And I felt it in my heart.

SHARE

I realize that this word could have several meanings (as is the case with a lot of words) and I am not entirely sure what it means for me. My first thought had to do with mentoring since I’ve been seeing some changes in the way I’ve mentored in the past. My next thought was that I need to give away some of my writing, which feels just a bit painful right now because my writing income is virtually nil. Another thought is that if I don’t FOCUS in 2014 and get the current novel I’m working on finished, I won’t be able to SHARE in 2015.

But there are other things it could mean, such as speaking up, sharing my heart, my passion, the Gospel. I don’t know where it will lead in 2015, but I am sure God has a reason for asking me to focus on this word.

Have you chosen a word to focus on for a year? Are you considering doing so?

An Old Book Gets a New Life

Out of Print? Nope!

It happens, authors know it but dread it just the same. Not many books live forever. Or do they? That used to be the reality. When a book ceased to sell enough copies to satisfy the publisher, they put it out of print. An author can get the rights back (the rights to the story, not the cover or artwork) but in most cases that was the end of the line. Was. Now authors can easily reprint their books or put them out as ebooks, or both. With a fresh cover and more opportunities to reach readers through social media outlets, a book can live again.

My First Novel

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy ThomsonMy first published novel (I have several unpublished novels), was born into the market in the spring of 2006. I loved the process of writing this one, loved the Irish theme, loved imagining how a saint whom many believe never was a flesh-and-blood person could have actually existed and performed miraculous deeds. My publisher kept the book in print for seven years, not the norm for novels today. I actually earned royalties on this book. :)

When it went out of print, they allowed me to purchase the remaining stock. I still have a few boxes of the print version that I sell for just five bucks. But, in 2006 nobody was doing ebooks. Well, almost no one. Certainly not Monarch Books.

Introducing the 2014 Brigid

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson, ebookMy friend Deirdra Doan and I have bartered back and forth for editing (me) and artwork (her.) She has read this book and when it came time to create a new cover, she introduced me to her friend Kim Draper. I’m so glad she did! Kim created a lovely cover that I feel conveys the mystery and intrigue of the story.

I chose to publish the ebook on Kindle exclusively for now because most ebooks are sold on Amazon and even if a reader doesn’t have a Kindle, he or she can download the app on their computer for free and read it there. Here is the buy link.

Finding New Readers

That is my goal. I have heard from so many readers over the years who have enjoyed Brigid of Ireland, but of course there are many more who have never read it. I’m aware that some people prefer to read ebooks, and some for physical readers must read electronically. These days novels are published in both print and ebook formats (as are Grace’s Pictures and Annie’s Stories.) Some may wish to go back and read my first novel after they read those two, and now they can!

When Brigid of Ireland first came out, my publisher and I were thinking the book was for adults. But so very many young girls have enjoyed it, and there is nothing objectionable that should prevent them from doing so. I have signed the book for girls as young as nine! Of course, these girls are reading above their grade levels. I’m mentioning this in case there is anyone out there is looking for an adventure story set in ancient Ireland for a young reader. Maybe for a Christmas gift?

At one of my first book signings a young girl and her father paused at my table. The girl told her father she loved that book. I was amazed she had read it! She told me she read it for a book report for school. As a former teacher and a current mentor to some young writers, that really made my day. Well, my year at the least. Seeing as there is lots of action in the story, I think boys would like it too, but of course girls relate to Brigid who is a young woman in the story.

One of my earliest fans was the 14-year-old daughter of one my fellow novelists. When I sent my friend my new novel, her daughter snatched it from her to-be-read pile and read it first! I sent her a t-shirt. She is a young woman today, but this was her then.

Jenni, a fan of Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson

Her review from back then:

Jenni’s Review

My name is Jenni and I’m a freshman at Concordia-Academy Bloomington (a Lutheran high school). I love to read and am currently working on writing a novel of my own. I like fencing and archery, playing flute, piano and guitar, and I hate geometry (but like algebra).

I took Brigid of Ireland from the stack of my mom’s books because the description on the back cover sounded interesting, and the cover was pretty. I liked the chapter openings with quotes – some Bible verses and some Celtic blessings or sayings.

But most of all, I absolutely loved the STORY of Brigid of Ireland. It has such a gripping plot, and is a great inspiration to my faith.

I’ve recommended it to all of my friends, knowing that they would love the suspense and heartbreak in it, as well as the spirituality. I admire Brigid’s strong faith throughout all her troubles. It gives me strength to go through tough things.

In addition to sharing this terrific book with adult friends, consider buying a copy for a daughter, student, niece, or other young woman in your life!

And Finally, Something for you!

Who would you recommend Brigid of Ireland to? Tell me and I’ll enter you in a drawing for your choice of either the ebook or the print version. Only comments on this blog post by Dec. 3, 2014 are eligible, and only if claimed by Dec. 31, 2014. Subscribe to the comments or check back to see if you’ve won. Update. Karen Lewis is the winner of this book. Congrats and thanks for commenting, Karen!

Farewell to the Christian Writers Guild

Mentoring with the Christian Writers Guild

Christian Writers GuildI began mentoring the Guild several years ago, starting with the Pages program for kids when it was first introduced. I was thrilled to be included, and as a former teacher I loved that it gave me the chance to teach again. Over the years the Guild asked me to include Squires (for teens), several of the short adult courses, and in the last year the adult courses referred to as Apprentice and Journeyman Fiction. I also did a couple of critiques, attended the Writing for the Soul conference to take appointments as a mentor, and judged the first round of The First Novel Contest for several years. Besides my students, which I enjoyed walking through these courses, I met other mentors and employees of the Guild that I count among my friends. Wonderful people.

Jerry JenkinsJerry Jenkins

I heard Jerry relate his reasons for buying the Guild in 2001 many times at conferences and meetings we had in Colorado. He believed (and I’m sure he still does) that Christian writers ought be just as good or better than mainstream writers. We should represent Christ by writing with excellence. And to this end he wanted to train Christian writers and the Guild was the way to do that, a means to give back. He gave of his time and his resources. If anyone thinks it was a money maker, they’re wrong.

Anyone who has witnessed his “thick-skinned critiques” understands how much he cared about teaching writers. He even chose carefully each mentor and employee of the Guild. But as time marched on, he wanted to focus on his family and his own novel writing. The time had come to close the doors. Some have reported that he did this “suddenly” but that’s not true. The man doesn’t make impulsive decisions. Not that I’ve witnessed anyway. It was a process.

One thing I learned over the years about the man is that he’s a perfectionist, but a kind one. Did you know he wears an atomic watch so that he’ll always know the exact time? When we had mentor meetings he used it to make sure we started each session on time. So it makes sense that he is now personally making sure the students and members currently enrolled in the Guild finish and receive all they’ve been promised. And the mentors still get paid for the work they have left to do. He is honorable. Make no mistake.

Endings and Beginnings

I hate saying good-bye to an organization that has done so much so well. But an ending creates the opportunity for something else to commence. I am open to that. I’ll be mentoring in other ways, including offering short critiques that interested writers can sign up for right here on my site. But I’m still just a wee bit sad.

What endings have you experienced that ended up opening new doors? Please share!

Cooking Up Some Family History!

This article first appeared in Discovering Family History Magazine, July/August 2008. No copying without the author’s permission is permitted.

Campton, KY church dinnerLinking Food to Memories

Scientists say that smell is the sense most tied to memory, and , of course, taste is linked. Think of your strongest childhood memories. Pancakes at Grandma’s? A hotdog at a baseball game? The smell of popcorn at a movie theater? The grape Popsicle you had after the doctor gave you stitches? We have such powerful memories tied to what we eat and drink, so it’s logical that our ancestors did also. Many people preserved their recipes and handed them down. Food, like many other factors of everyday life, helps to define people. Discovering family recipes is one way to find out who our ancestors were both economically and socially.

If You Don’t Have the Family Cookbook

If you don’t have a cookbook lovingly handed down to you, there are still ways to learn about what your ancestors ate. Once you find the recipes, you might even want to recreate some of them for a full sensory experience. At the Family Web Cafe, at http://www.familywebcafe.com, you can try some ethnic recipes.

Examples of Ethnic Foods to Try

Irish? Try shepherd’s pie with ground beef, mashed potatoes and cheese. Greek? Souvlaki might satisfy with its marinated meat, Greek olives and feta cheese. Those with Italian ancestry might like to try their hand at making stromboli. Can’t you just smell those amazing dishes right now?

Finding Historical Cookbooks

Early settlers to North America may have brought ingredients and recipes with them, but these were soon adapted to the food supply at hand. Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. at http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/, is one source for finding these recipes. The project, run by Michigan State University, is an online collection of cookbooks dating from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. The advanced search allows you to find regional and ethnic recipes. Click on “Browse the Collection”, then “By Interest”. Chances are, if your ancestors lived in the same region where these recipes came from, they ate similar things.

What Food Can Tell You

You can learn about the manners, customs and domestic arts of a group of people just by reading a few of these books. For instance, in Mary At the Farm and Book of Recipes Complied During Her Visit Among the “Pennsylvania Germans’, by Edith M. Thomas, you can learn how to preserve yellow ground cherries, make shoo-fly pie, brod knodel and other culinary delights. The book is written in narrative form and gives good insight into the everyday life of the Pennsylvania Dutch. In The Great Western Cook Book, or Table Receipts, Adapted to Western Housewifery by Angelina Maria Collins you can learn how to make veal in “western fashion” and apple pie in a pot.

But these cookbooks offer more than just recipes. There is a discussion in Mary At the Farm about women’s suffrage, both from an older woman’s view who saw no need for women to vote, and from a younger woman’s view who thought it was essential. In Estelle Woods Wilcox’s Buckeye Cookery, And Practical Housekeeping: Complied From Original Recipes, you can learn how to soften well water for washing clothes by using ashes. You never know what you’ll find in these “cookbooks”!

A search in your local library may turn up some interesting cookbooks, both regionally and nationally distributed. Sometimes the old cookbooks are reprinted and historical matter is inserted. Often cookbooks are compiled as fundraisers for churches and other groups.

Preserving Your Own Family Recipes

family cookbook

My mom’s self-produced family cookbook

While you’re digging around for recipes from past generations, don’t forget to preserve those you already have. Here is a great resource to help you with cookbook publishing: [Link from the article is broken. Perhaps you’d like to share one?]

With the popularity of microwave dinners and fast food, some of these family recipes, and the great memories that accompany them, might be lost if you don’t record them. Chances are the smell and taste of bite-sized pizzas will not be memorable enough to evoke emotions the way Christmas plum pudding or fresh baked Johnny Cakes can.