We attended a late Christmas gathering at my husband Joe's Dad on Saturday, Feb. 4. Three out of Joe's twelve siblings couldn't make it, so the gathering was smaller than it might have been. We are quite a big bunch when we all get together, especially in Joe's Dad's small house, but we managed. Last year we had the gathering at our house on New Year's Day. Joe grilled 40 pounds of chicken and we had plenty leftover but wanted to make sure we had enough for everyone. Some years it would be almost too cold to grill that much chicken outside.

It took us an hour to drive the 12 miles to Joe's Dad's in our buggy. But a trip like that in a covered buggy doesn't seem near as long as it did in an open buggy, which is what everyone used where we once lived in Indiana.

Joe's dad is still battling skin cancer which makes him very miserable. It's spread all over his back and looks painful. He has been a widower for almost 11 years and is living by himself. Makes for a lot of lonely nights.

We came home about 3:30 p.m. Saturday. My sister Emma and her husband Jacob came to bring the food over for the church lunch which was to held at our place the next day.

The church benches were set up again, carried in from the bench-wagon which carries them from place to place. Jacob and Emma's daughters, Elizabeth, 9, and Emma 7, spent the night here with our girls. They had a lot of fun after all the work was done. After the we all went to bed, we thought that they had settled down for the night.

They told my sister Susan the next day that they played games during the night while we thought they were sleeping. On Sunday evening we had a few girls that were ready for bed pretty early. It brought back memories of the sleepovers I once had at my cousin's house. We always had so much fun it was so hard to sleep.

Jacob came early Sunday morning to help us with final preparations for church. Sisters Susan and Verena came over and made breakfast for us all. That really helped to not have to get breakfast. So we were all ready when the people started arriving.

Monday, Emma and her son Benjamin came over and we did a big laundry. Then we cleaned the house wherever it needed it and also the shed.

Our 3-year-old Joseph and Emma's 3-year-old Benjamin sure make a team. They walk around outside really talking serious to one another. They enjoy it when they can get together to play and talk. Meanwhile, 20-month-old Lovina walks behind them but they don't seem to want a third party. She seems to hold up her end though, not giving up when following them around.

It reminds me of Loretta and how she tried to follow our Benjamin and Jacob, Jr. when they were younger. For some reason those boys just don't care to have a girl follow them around.

A reader in Trenton, Ohio requested a recipe for homemade au gratin potatoes. Try this one:

HOMEMADE AU GRATIN POTATOES

16 medium potatoes, cooked and grated

1/4 cup diced onions

1/4 cup diced red peppers, optional

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup milk

1/4 pound yellow American Cheese, cubed

Arrange potatoes in a greased casserole dish. Saute onions and peppers in butter. Add remaining ingredients and heat until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Pour over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

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