This will be my first column of 2008. It is hard to believe that 2007 is now history. We wish everyone a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year. My husband Joe turned another year older yesterday. He is now 39 years old.Some of the family came in honor of his birthday. I made a "haystack supper" which is one of Joe's favorite meals. A "haystack" is a layered meal of hamburger, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and other favorite toppings. Then we surprised him with a nice big ice cream cake.

We just came home not too long ago from our annual Christmas potluck with our church. (Editor's note: The Eichers are Old Order Amish. The Old Order Amish worship in the homes of church members on a rotating basis, they do not have a formal church building) There was plenty of food with all that was brought in. There was so much food it would have been impossible to taste everything. There were six or seven different puddings, different kinds of fruits, pies, cookies and Christmas goodies.

There were five or six different salads and at least five different roasters of casseroles. It was a nice enjoyable time of fellowship after the church services. This morning it was 53 degrees and raining but now the mercury has dipped to a cold 22 again. Most of our snows have melted but we are having the strong winds during the night and all day today and we are getting some more snow now.

With the windy, wintery weather I once again really appreciated our covered horse-drawn buggy to ride in on our way to church. It would have been impossible to hold an umbrella in an open buggy with this wind. In Indiana where we used to live the Amish community only allowed "open buggies," which made for a colder ride. We moved to this settlement in Michigan four years ago and really like it here. In the open buggies we had to wear more coats, scarves, and gloves to keep warm.

Tomorrow we will have our small family gathering among us four sisters at Emma and Jacob's house. The children are so excited to go. Jacob's want us all to come tonight and stay the night until tomorrow.

Yesterday the girls and I made peanut butter cups and all sorts of other Christmas goodies. Everyone else was also making some goodies to take along. Emma will fix a turkey and all the trimmings. We will all exchange our gifts which is enjoyable especially for the children.

We are busy having family gatherings right now. They are enjoyable but it is a relief when everything is back to normal. Joe will not have work for two weeks and the children are on vacation from school for a week.

I imagine there will not be a dull moment here at the Eichers this coming week. We have completed our first 1000 piece puzzle now and luckily we have all the pieces so Elizabeth can glue it together. I think two year old Kevin messed it up around three times and he even started sticking pieces between the walls and window frames of our new house where this is no trim yet.

Our hearts to go out to all the ones that did not have their loved ones with them through this holiday season. May God give them the strength to go on and have a Happy 2008.

This is a favorite coffeecake to prepare on New Year's morning. It's a great way to begin the year!

GERMAN COFFEECAKE

3/4 cup warm water (about 105 degrees F)

1 package dry yeast 1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided for use

1 egg 1/4 cup lard (or other shortening)

Topping: 2 teaspoons margarine, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand a few minutes, then stir. Stir in sugar, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Beat the egg, add lard (softened or melted and cooled) and the egg to the flour mixture. Beat in the remaining flour until mixture is smooth. Drop by spoonfuls into a greased shallow baking pan. Let rise in a warm place until dough is nearly doubled. Dot the top of the dough with tiny slivers of margarine, then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake 30 minutes at 375.

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