More tidbits about the Amish

I learned some interesting facts about the Amish of Kentucky while researching A Little Bit of Charm. Many of the Amish and Old Order Mennonite farmers have started growing strawberries commercially, while others have built hothouses to extend their season. Frequently raised vegetables are rhubarb, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and pepper varieties, both sweet and hot. Here’s a photo of me standing in a field of soybeans. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also I learned about another way the Amish make a living–bookmaking. A cobbler near Sheridan makes gorgeous, fit-like-a-glove leather boots. The boot-maker traces the customer’s feet for the pattern and sets to work. Then you go back a second time to pick them up. They won’t be cheap, but they also won’t hurt your feet.

I hope you’re all enjoying these warm days. It’s finally summer in Ohio! But before you know it, the rain and snow will be back. Enjoy!

Tidbits about the Amish of Kentucky

Happy Wednesday, readers. Today I’d like to share with you some interesting tidbits I learned from Linda Hitchcock, lifelong Kentucky resident and friend to several Amish and Old Order Mennonite families. One of her good friends works as a “driver” for those who usually use horses and buggies to get around. Her peak driving months are post harvest, from mid-October until around mid-March, when most crops have been planted. The Amish will still drive for doctor and dentist appointments and major grocery shopping trips. But the long-distance travel for weddings and visiting relatives isn’t done, except in rare emergencies like funerals. This driver mentioned that the ultra-conservative, Schwartzentruber Amish, are much quieter during these trips. They don’t make jokes or laugh much, and do not sing along the way. The less conservative Amish sing on long trips and aren’t inclined to be so serious. In Kentucky, most Amish weddings take place during the late fall and winter. January, particularly around New Year’s, is a very popular time for weddings! Drivers of the Amish get their business by word-of-mouth, and often take their clients great distance to North and South Dakotas and beyond, staying with the relatives as their hosts. Amish as now living in thirty states, along with Canada.

Next week I’ll share some other interesting things I learned about their gardens and home-run businesses.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horseracing and the Christian life

Happy Wednesday, lovers of Amish fiction.

A Little Bit of Charm is on its way to stores, and I’m excited about the conclusion to this series. In this book, I explore the role of money and/or gambling in a Christian’s life. I’ve always loved watching horses race, pure and simple. I attended the Preakness once, years ago, and the Kentucky Derby four times.

These days, fighting traffic and mega-crowds is no longer appealing. Alas, I’ve become a couch-potato Thoroughbred racing fan.

Over the years, I’ve encountered other Christians who take exception to horseracing in general, and betting on races in particular. In book three of my New Beginnings series, I explore a young man’s dream of raising a Thoroughbred colt to contender status as a three-year-old. His devout Christian father grapples with the son’s obsession with racing, both the cost of training and the lure of potential riches. His young Amish girlfriend grapples with Jake’s obsession with money, period.

I had fun writing this story, and learned something about myself along the way.

What do you think? Is it sinful for a Christian to place a bet or gamble in general?

– Mary

A Little Bit of Charm

A Little Bit of Charm

By Mary Ellis

Available September 2013

A Little Bit of Charm, the third book in bestselling author Mary Ellis’s New Beginnings series, is about fresh starts…and how faith in God and His perfect plans provide the peace and joy all long for.

Learn more:



A return visit to the Amish of KY

I just heard from my friend and research contact to the Amish of Kentucky, Linda Hitchcock. She just came home from a trip to Simpson and Allen Counties. Not only did she discover a wide variety of produce, but some downright great bargains such as hand-woven straw hats for 6.00, and pickles, jams, jellies and relishes at $2.75 each. And the vendors were the friendliest she’d ever met. Besides watermelon rind pickles and chow-chow, they had “moonshine” jelly, brightly-colored pepper jellies, and jams with eye-catching names like TOE Jam, TRAFFIC Jam and FROG Jam. TOE has tangerine, orange and elderberry; traffic a mixed variety and FROG includes figs, raspberries, orange and ginger. While shopping, Linda was told that “Amish vendors must do something different to stand out these days.” The jam Linda purchased came from Spring Valley Farms, owned by the Habegger Family. Their label says: “Old Fashioned, All-Natural Home-Style Canning”. There’s a little circle which says “Preserving the Past” and a picture of two draft horse heads on the labels. The Habegger started making sorghum molasses in the mid-1960’s and has farms in both Holland, KY and Caneyville, KY. Linda also learned that you can no longer purchase eggs from produce stands in KY unless they have refrigeration. I enjoyed meeting Linda while researching the Old Order Mennonites and Amish of KY in preparation to write A Little Bit of Charm. Thanks, Linda, for a look back at a beautiful part of the US of A.Little Bit of Charm, A

Anybody ready for something sweet?

Happy sunny day, Amish readers! At least the sun is shining in Ohio, that is. After another cold snap last week green grass, leaves on trees, and flowers blooming in my garden sure are a welcome site. I thought I’d share a recipe from Love Comes to Paradise in case you’re ready for something sweet. This came from my Amish friends in Winesburg, Ohio. GE

Fruit Tarts


2 cups Robin Hood Flour

½ cup white Crisco Shortening

½ cup yellow (butter-flavored) Crisco Shortening

8 oz. Cream Cheese

Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients well with a pastry blender or fork. Form dough into balls and then place in a muffin or tart pan. Press dough into muffin or tart form and fill with your favorite fruit fillings approximately ½ to 2/3 full. (Lemon curd, raspberry, cherry, plum, or peach preserves.) Bake for approximately ½ hour at 350 degrees. Let cool and then add your favorite topping. We like whipped cream, but ice cream is really good, too.

A town is not always a town in stories

I faced an interesting dilemma while researching Love Comes to Paradise in Missouri. I marked Clark, MO, on my map and headed there with eager anticipation. However, when I arrived this “town” had all but packed up and left, or blown away in the last storm. Yes, there were plenty of Amish families living in the general area of Randolph, Audrain and Boone Counties. But the town of Clark, although it survives on maps, had little to say for itself. Remember, I live within an hour of Sugarcreek, Berlin, Walnut Creek, Charm, and Mount Hope–charming, lively, and thriving Amish villages. I wasn’t used to a non-thriving town. So I visited the entire area, including Sturgeon and Higbee and then created the fictional town of Paradise. It reflects the people, weather, and history of the area, but if you head to MO looking for Paradise…you’ll need a map better than I own. Hope you enjoy my photos of MO.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




A recipe from Love Comes to Paradise

Here’s a recipe from one of my Amish friends, Rosanna Coblentz. I hope you enjoy baking as much as I enjoy eating!Winter day in January2

Molasses Crisp Cookies

3 cups butter

2 ½ cups white sugar

2 ½ brown sugar

Mix well, then add:

4 beaten eggs and mix again

Add: 6 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 cup buttermilk

Next add: 1 cup cane molasses (lighter molasses OR 1 cup dark molasses) whichever your preference.

2 teaspoons baking powder and then gradually add 10 cups flour

Chill dough for at least 2 hours and then roll into balls about the size of walnuts.  Then roll the balls in a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.

Extinct Amish communties

Readers and writers of Amish fiction usually think about new settlements forming and growing larger each year. During my research of Love Comes to Paradise, I discovered that’s not always the case. In Missouri, the oldest settlement was founded in 1953, but several communties were founded before the Civil War and went extinct. During the Civil War, the Amish were often at the mercy of both Union and Confederate troops since both sides stole their crops, cattle and pigs. The Hickory County settlement disbanded in 1882 due to crop failures, financial losses during the Civil War, and lack of congregational growth. A settlement near Centralia in Audrain County, (location of my fictional story) failed to thrive due to erratic weather, periods of drought alternating with heavy, persistent flooding. The last two Amish families moved away in 1917. Other extinct settlements existed in the Missouri “bootheel” during the 1920’s and 1930’s. They last around a decade before members moved away. I wish to thank Amish historian, David Luthy, for his wonderful accounts, Settlements that Failed, and Amish Settlements Across America: 2008. History certainly provides a plethora of plot twists for an author of Amish fiction!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My New Year’s Resolutions

Love Comes to ParadiseREach year we Englischers love to make resolutions, no? And so I’ve come up with three that I’ve learned from the Amish. After interviewing, researching, and then writing about the Amish in my novels I’ve found my life has changed under their influence. Although I must add, I must reconfirm these three every January.

First of all: Slow down. Whether driving, talking or eating dinner, a person enjoys the event much more if they take it easy. I once thought if I didn’t rush, I would never finish everything I needed to in a given day. That’s not true. Whoever said “haste makes waste” knew what she was talking about. Secondly, make do with less. An Amish woman’s entire wardrobe hangs on hooks in her bedroom or can be folded neatly into one or two dresser drawers. Do I really need another pair of black heels or another summer dress? Women often buy because it’s “too good a bargain to pass up.” What a waste. I now shop with a list such as “new jeans” and won’t buy anything else, no matter how great the sale price. Thirdly, don’t compare yourself to others. There is little competition in the Amish world. We will always find someone smarter/prettier/richer/more talented than us.

And here’s a bonus resolution: Don’t over-plan life. The best opportunities come up spur-of-the-moment. If we map out our entire future (or at least try to) we’ll miss the valuable chances God drops in our path. Trust Him in all matters. As a Christian, I have witnessed His awesome power to change lives.  I hope your 2013 is filled with love and blessings from above.


Home cooking for cooler days


Old German Recipe by Rosanna Coblentz

¼ cup butter

4 med apples, peeled and sliced

½ red onion, chopped

1 head red cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup red wine (opt.)

4 whole cloves

1/3 c brown sugar

2 bay leaves

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup butter

Juice of ½ lemon

Sliced or cubed cooked pork roast (opt.)

Melt butter in 4 quart Dutch oven. Add apples and onion sauté slightly.  Add cabbage, red wine, cloves, sugar and bay leaves.  Simmer covered for about 1 hour, then add the remaining ingredients.  Heat to melt the butter and serve immediately.  Makes 6 servings. Note: For a hearty main dish, add sliced or cubed cooked pork roast, as much as desired, during the last hour.