Saturday, September 23, 2006
Apples, apples, and more apples!
Autumn is officially here now, and with it comes apple season! For as long as I can remember, each fall has brought with a big applesauce day at Grandma's house. Aunt Jill, Grandpa & Grandma, Great-Grandma, and all of us, would get together at Grandma Erber's house and wash, peel, core, chop, boil, and mash bushels of apples into applesauce. Grandpa always managed the cooking and mashing part of it while we all sat at the kitchen table peeling and coring the apples. Some of the apples we would slice into ziplock bags and freeze to be made into apple pies sometime during the coming winter. It was an all day job, and by the end of the day the kitchen table would be covered with apple peels and cores, and our hands would be black and cramped, but the house would be warm and filled with the delicious fragrance of apples.
This past Wednesday was apple day at the Erber home. Carrying on the old family tradition, Sara and her little ones arrived just before 9:00am to help us get things set-up and started, Josh lugged in the 7 crates of apples, and we were off! Mid-morning brought the arrival of a family from our church who stopped by to be a part of the day, and lunch time saw the arrival of Jeremy, Nathan and Jeanine, and their little ones. Oh, the noise! Oh, the energy and busyness! Oh, the fun!
It was a perfect old-fashioned, storybook scene. Over the noise of one brother at the piano, the steady rhythmic sound of the quartering of apples, the saucer grinding away at its task, the pot of apples on the stove whistling as it boiled, and the voices and sounds of children as they played, the four sisters attempted to carry on a conversation with one another across the kitchen sharing news, gossip, ideas... "Did you hear so-and-so's engaged?" "Oh really? Who is he?" "Have you heard anything from What's-her-name lately?" "Is that your baby crying, or mine?" "This pot of apples is ready." "Any news from the family that used to live over by J?" "I think it's your baby crying." "Say, I was reading about such-and-such yesterday..." "Does anyone remember what time the canner started boiling?" "Oh, did you hear about..." "Where ARE the little girls?" "I was talking with my neighbor, and her sister-in-law found that this rememdy really helped her baby..." "Could you stir those apples..."
Over the past few years as our family has grown it's only gotten better and even more fun to be together. Home and hearts were warm as we laughed, chatted, and worked together. And, as an added benefit - in spite of the pleasurable distractions of 4 children under two years old - by 11:45 that evening all 7 bushels of apples had disappeared and we had canned over 120 quarts of applesauce. Many thanks to Josh for scrubbing those dishes clean!!!!
Oh, and Caroline enjoyed the applesauce, too!
While our backs were turned... (though apparently the photographer was witness to the 'crime'!)
Cooking and canning side by side. We realized our kitchen isn't quite big enough... Or, at least, we could use a second stove! :-)
Ah, yes, EVERYONE got into the act at some point during the day!
Apple crates are really fun to play in, too!
Some of the 120+ jars of applesauce!
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
We're back from our first church weekend camping retreat. We all had enough fun "roughing it" that we hope to make this an annual event. Added to the pleasure of being with one another, was the absolutely beautiful weather that we had! God was very gracious to us.
Our weekend started - well, it started Friday morning as we worked at packing everything up - but it formally began with a campfire Friday evening (though most of us had been there since mid-afternoon).
That Friday night campfire was perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the weekend. We started off singing some old songs: old gospel songs, choruses, hymns, and even Old Hundreth. Then as it grew darker, and the crowd around the fire began to swell we went around and introduced ourselves. No, our church isn't that big that we don't all know each other, but we did find out we don't know everything about each other, as each person was required to share a little known fact about themselves... VERY interesting! :-) Laughter was very abundant as stories were shared, peculiarities confessed, and our very own comedians entertained us in their very own styles!
Saturday night's campfire was a little too hot to handle for those with the high dollar front row seats - notice the face shields on the front road fellas! As on Friday we sang songs and told stories, only they were of a slightly different genre than the night before. While we did sing "Count Your Blessings" and "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?" We also sang some of the old classics like the song about the old farmer named, MacDonald; the infamous dog, Bingo; good ol' John Jacob; and various other nonsensical songs learned by some of the older members of our crowd in their youth... To keep the song moving amidst the laughter, we had rousing accompaniment of guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. Thanks, guys - it was very fun!
Ah, but we didn't just sit around campfires all weekend.
The early morning sunrise on Saturday morning saw us climbing from our tents onto the heavily dew-laden grass all bright eyed and bushy tailed.
After a short early morning visit to the volleyball court, all our families gathered together with hymnals and bibles in hand. After raising our voices in praise and thanksgiving to our Lord, we read and discussed a Psalm, and then broke into three smaller groups to study through a list of verses prepared by the elders. A very obvious thread carrying through the verses was the use of the phrase "one another" in each and every verse. Through the lunch hour we read, studied, discussed, and prayed together - that evening at the campfire we would take some time to share with 'one another' what we had read and learned.
The afternoon was spent primarily at the volleyball court, on the basketball court, sitting and chatting, walking through the woods, napping, fencing, playing a bean bag toss game, and generally finding enjoyment from being together!
Nathan & Jeanine and Jeremy & Sara wisely refrained from camping with us over the weekend, but they did come up and visit us with their little ones.
Monday, September 18, 2006
This is how her birthday started, with a special breakfast. We wanted to post more pictures of her, but, blogger just won't let it happen today! So, throughout the week we'll post some of our favorite Jessica pictures from throughout the years.
We LOVE you Jessica!
Friday, September 15, 2006
This blog has been a little quiet this past week due to bad weather. Well, sort of. See, we used to have really great wireless internet service. Then they upgraded the tower and it hasn't been reliable since. But over the past few weeks it seems to have settled to a nice predictable schedule: on rainy days it doesn't work, on sunny days it does. Still not good, though. But then, the company said that certainly wasn't the problem and it was on our end, and they'd send someone out to check this morning. Well, it's been raining since late Saturday night, we haven't had a connection since Saturday. It's sunny today, we have a connection today. Nobody ever came out and fixed anything, so we are obliged to remain on a "sunny day service" schedule.
But all that is beside the point. The fact is, that as of right now, we can update you all on all the fascinating news you've been missing out on due to our absence from the cyberworld.
Before we move onto what everyone's up to these days, however, we've got an important headline to mention:
265 years ago today, September 14th - after 23 days of uninterrupted labor - George Frederic Handel completed writing his much beloved oratorio masterpiece, "Messiah."
For those of you who like to plan early, on Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 7:00pm we will be attending LaSalle Bank's annual "Do-It-Yourself Messiah." So mark your calendars and come on and join us for this incredible and delightful event (click here and here). If you're coming from afar, we'd be happy to reserve rooms for you the Erber Inn! For those of you who have come before, you will want to make note of the fact that they have a different procedure for procuring the greatly coveted tickets this year.
Okay, on to news on the homefront:
This past week both Joseph and Josiah finished their former math books and started new ones. An event certainly worthy of great rejoicing!
Jonathan continues to do well in the music courses he's taking at Rock Valley College (RVC). This past week he sang with the RVC choir in a 9-11 memorial service. He also spent a few minutes at the blackboard before the teacher arrived to teach the theory class earlier this week, diagramming and explaining certain things for some of the other students. As assistant accompanist for the choir, he has also worked one on one with various other choir members. Jonathan was also asked to sing the national anthem at the college's homecoming football game later this month! I'm sure there are other highlights to the last few weeks of classes, but I can't think of them right now...
Joanna and Josiah continue to excel in their respective studies of the violin and cello. At the urging of their teachers, this fall they joined the Rockford Music Academy's orchestras. Last Saturday was the first time they met with the orchestra, and I think they are both excited about participating in them.
On Saturday, Nathan & Jeanine, Jeremy & Sara, and the C's & W's, joined all of us (aside from Mom, Joanna and Josiah who were in Rockford as mentioned above) for a multi-purpose visit to Grandpa & Grandma Erber's home.
Purpose 1 - celebrate Grandma's birthday
Purpose 2 - business meeting for Jeremy, Joshua, and Nathan
Purpose 3 - introduce Winston to Aunt Jill
Purpose 4 - seal Grandpa's blacktop driveway
Purposes 1-3 were happily accomplished, but rain in the forecast required us to cancel the fourth purpose of our visit. But as that gives us a reason to go back again soon, that isn't all bad!
Saturday was a busy day, however. After arriving home from Grandpa and Grandma's house, we packed back up and headed 'cross the border' into the wilds of Wisconsin for an adventure. Okay, so it is only about 10 miles to the Strands house and the adventure was a birthday party for their now 9-year-old son, Evin. Oh, what fun! Arriving in our cowboy gear, we were brought out to the barn where - after some instructions and a brief demonstration - we were invited to try our hand at fencing! Having worked up an appetite after several rousing encounters in the lists, we headed towards the house for pizza. Following dinner, the Strands introduced us to a fun new group game, which defies description...
This week has been fairly eventless. School work, music lessons, 'round the house projects, and the like filled our days.
Yesterday evening, however, we had the pleasure of meeting new friends in the form of guests of Jeremy & Sara's. Mr. & Mrs. B are friends of Sara's family and as they were in the area they stopped by to visit with J&S for a few days. Last night we had them over for a dinner filled with interesting conversation - although a church men's meeting drew the men elsewhere for part of the evening.
This morning, we again had visitors as friends from Chicago that we haven't seen in awhile were out our way and stopped in for a pleasant chat.
Looking ahead to this weekend, we'll be spending it with most of the families from our church at a nearby campground. So far, the weather forecast looks good, and we know of nothing else to spoil the enjoyment and edification that can be found socializing with such a great group of families - excepting, perhaps, the thought of spending several hours pretending to sleep in the delightful atmosphere created by spreading sleeping bags on the floor of a canvas tent in the midst of a field in Wisconsin on a cold autumn night. Ahhh....
[Wouldn't you know it. By the time I finished typing all the above, it was dark out and our solar generated internet service had also gone to bed... Heavy fog covered our area early this morning and was followed by a couple hours of overcast skies which are just now clearing up. Hopefully, we will soon be again the beneficiates of full sunshine and possibly once again hook up to cyberspace and get this post up before it is too terribly outdated.]
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
One of the highlights of this past weekend and our visit with Justin Kelly, was having a softball game and barbeque on Saturday with several families from our church. It was a serious game. Men and older boys only. The teams, players, and line ups were discussed, compared, rearranged, and discussed some more in hopes of designing the most even game possible. The ladies and children watched this spectacle of strength, skill and strategy, cheered on their men, took photos, played at the playground, got the food out, and, of course, sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning. A good time was had - aside from sore muscles and various injuries - and a desire to do it again was expressed by all!
Just a small selection of pictures from the day...
In the dugouts
Some of the fans visit with their favorite players
Caroline enjoyed the flowers more than the game
Corrine heard that dinner is ready!
Food, glorious food!
Was it REALLY fair, or was it foul? No one will ever know for sure.
William with his Uncle Josh