Saturday, July 29, 2017

Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter, © 2017

The Amish Cooking Class series, Book 2


Releases August 1, 2017
This is the second book in The Amish Cooking Class series. Book #1:  The Amish Cooking Class - The Seekers

My Review:

In Book 1 of this series, there were five students in Heidi Troyer's first cooking class ~ this story almost had five students too ~ until the Troyers' mailman gets a whiff of Heidi's cooking as she opens the door for a package too big for their mailbox. Missing the first class that morning, he is eager to catch up!

Others in Heidi's class share their lives ~ unexpectedly ~ as they become more comfortable with themselves and their decisions outside of class. Heidi's addition of a Scripture verse on the back of the recipe note card goes home with them ~ and their hearts. Praying for them during the week, Heidi wonders which one or ones the Scripture is meant for as they return for the continuation of the six cooking lessons.

I liked how one member of the class aided another anonymously to relieve their overload. The recipient hears a conversation and is thankful to be able to share appreciation. Beyond Heidi's recipes, lives are touched. Not initially realizing their isolation, new friendships are formed.

The author's story is conversational as the daily happenings of the five participants are followed and interchanged within a chapter. Characters from the first book are intermittently referred to in continuation of their lives and interaction to Heidi and her husband.

About the Book:

Return to the Troyer farm where Heidi welcomes six new cooking class students who experience the healing hand of God.
   Despite stressful changes occurring in their lives, Lyle and Heidi once again open their Ohio home up to those seeking to learn about Amish cooking. This time a teenager helping her divorced dad cook for the family, a caterer needing new recipes, a food critic, a hunter looking to impress his buddies, a wife given the class as an unwanted gift, and a mailman lured in by the aroma of good cooking gather around Heidi’s table.
   During each class, Heidi teaches culinary skills, but it is her words of wisdom that have a profound effect on her students—though, this time Heidi’s own hurting heart will need some healing nourishment.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing ~ Chapters 1 & 2

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Luke 18:27

Chapter 1

Walnut Creek, Ohio

Heidi Troyer’s skin prickled as a gust of wind blew into her kitchen. After peeling and cutting an onion to go in the savory meat loaf she was making for supper, she’d opened the window a few minutes ago to air out the room.
   Glancing into the yard, Heidi watched as newly fallen leaves swirled over the grass. Across the way, freshly washed laundry she’d hung on the line a few hours ago fluttered in the unseasonably cool breeze. Even the sheets made a snapping noise when the wind played catch and release.
   They’d soon be saying goodbye to the month of August, and Heidi was glad. A long dry spell had caused some of the trees to drop their leaves early, and the rustling of those still clinging to the branches sounded like water rushing down a well-fed stream after a heavy rain.
   “I wish it would rain. Even a drizzle would be nice.” Heidi looked toward the sky, but not a single puffy cloud was in sight. September was a month of transition, teetering between warm, summer-like days and cool, comfortable nights, so maybe the rain would come soon. She looked forward to its fresh, clean scent, not to mention it removing the necessity of watering her flowerbeds and garden.
   Heidi glanced at the plot where she’d planted a variety of vegetables in the spring. The potatoes and other root vegetables still needed to be dug and put in the cellar, and she wanted to get the chore done before Kendra’s baby was born and the adoption became official. Once the infant came, Heidi would put her full attention on raising the child. She’d already made the decision not to teach any more cooking classes— at least not until her son or daughter was older and didn’t require round-the-clock attention. Heidi certainly couldn’t teach and take care of the precious baby, and she didn’t want to juggle between the two—especially after waiting so long to become a mother.
   Heidi’s senses were heightened, and she giggled out loud as she visualized herself holding the infant while stirring a batch of cookie dough. After being married to Lyle for eight years and finding herself still unable to conceive, the idea of soon becoming a mother was almost more than she could comprehend. In a matter of weeks, her dream would finally come true. How thankful she was that Kendra had moved into their home and agreed to let them adopt her child. Once the baby was born and Kendra got her strength back, she would find a better-paying job and move out on her own. It wouldn’t be right to ask her to leave until she was physically and financially ready.
   Heidi sighed. What a shame Kendra’s parents turned their back on her and she felt forced to give up her baby. But then if they hadn’t, Lyle and I would not have been given the opportunity to raise Kendra’s child.
   Satisfied the onion smell was gone, Heidi took one more breath of the late summer-scented air, then closed the window and took a seat at the table. She owed her aunt Emma a letter and would start writing it while the meat loaf cooked. Maybe by the time supper was ready, Kendra would be back from her doctor’s appointment, and Lyle from Mt. Hope, where he’d put his auctioneering skills to good use most of the day.
   I can hardly wait for us to be sharing a warm meal at the kitchen table, so I can hear about the events of their days. Heidi was most anxious to get updates on Kendra’s doctor’s appointment. She’d offered to go with her this afternoon, as she had several other times since Kendra moved in with them. Today, however, Kendra had said she had a few stops to make after seeing the doctor and didn’t want to take up Heidi’s day.
   I wouldn’t have minded. I enjoy being with Kendra. Heidi’s nose tickled, and she rubbed it, trying to stifle a sneeze. Smelling onion on her fingers, she wet her hands under the faucet, then rubbed them along the sides of their stainless steel sink. After a few seconds, she smelled her fingers again and was amazed the onion scent was gone. Heidi didn’t know how it worked, but she was glad her friend Loretta had recently given her this unusual tip.
   “I’ll have to keep this in mind to share with my students once I decide to start up the cooking classes again.” Heidi wrote a note to remind her, since it would be a good while before she taught more classes.
   After she stuck the note in her recipe box, Heidi turned her attention to a daily devotional book lying near her writing tablet. She read Psalm 9:1, the verse for the day, out loud: “‘I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.’”
   Closing her eyes and bowing her head, Heidi prayed: “Thank You, Lord, for Your many blessings. I praise You with my whole heart for all Your wonderful works. Thank You for this day, and for my family and friends. Protect us, and shower Your people with many blessings. Amen.”
   Heidi had no more than finished her prayer when she heard a car pull into the yard. She went to the window and looked out, smiling as she watched Kendra get out of her driver’s car. Since Kendra didn’t have a vehicle of her own, she’d hired one of Heidi and Lyle’s drivers to take her into town. If Heidi had gone with her, they might have traveled by horse and buggy; although it would have taken them longer.
   Keeping an eye on Kendra, as she made her way toward the house, Heidi couldn’t help noticing her slow steps, and how she pursed her lips, while holding her stomach, as though in pain.
   Heidi’s shoulders tightened as she rushed to open the door. She hoped the doctor hadn’t given Kendra unsettling news today.
   “Sorry I’m late.” Kendra entered the house, avoiding eye contact with Heidi, and took a seat at the kitchen table. “We need to talk.” She pushed a lock of auburn hair behind her ears.
   Heidi pulled out a chair and sat. “What is it, Kendra? Is everything okay with the baby?”
   “No, not in a physical sense at least.” Kendra’s brown eyes looked ever so serious as she took the seat next to Heidi.
   “What do you mean?”
   The young woman’s shoulders curled as she bent her neck forward. “The whole way here, I thought about how I should tell you this.” Kendra took a shuddering breath. “And still, I don’t know where to begin.”
   Heidi held her hands in her lap, gripping her fingers into her palms. “Please, tell me what it is you need to say.”
   “Well, the thing is. . .” Kendra shifted in her chair. “Miracle of miracles—my dad called my cell phone this morning. He asked if I’d be free to come by his office this afternoon.” She paused and drew a quick breath. “I went there after I left the doctor’s office, and. . .” Her voice faltered, and she paused to swallow before continuing. “He said it had been a mistake to kick me out of the house after I told him and Mom I was pregnant.”
   Heidi smiled. “That’s good news, Kendra. I’ve been praying for it to happen. I hope things will be better between you and your parents from now on.”
   “Yeah, well, Dad wants me to move back home so he and Mom can help raise the baby.”
   “Raise the baby?” Heidi blinked rapidly, her breath bursting in and out. “Does this mean you’ve changed your mind about Lyle and me adopting your child?”
   Kendra gave a slow nod. “Since my parents are willing to help, there’s no reason for me to give up the baby now. And since the contract the lawyer drew up says. . .”
   Heidi held up her hand. “I know what it says; although I never expected you would go back on your word.”
   “I. . .I wasn’t planning to, but things have changed.” A few tears trickled down Kendra’s cheeks. “I never wanted to give up my baby; you have to know that. I only agreed to it because I had no support and knew I couldn’t take care of a child by myself.” She touched Heidi’s hands: both of them had turned cold. “I can see you’re disappointed, and I’m sorry, but I hope you understand.”
   Understand? Heidi’s stomach clenched, and she pressed the wad of her apron against it. She sat in stunned silence, unable to form a response. The tension felt so strong, she could almost touch it. It didn’t seem possible, after all these months of Kendra living with them, that she had changed her mind. Heidi wanted to be happy for the young, pregnant woman sitting at her table. It was good Kendra had reconciled with her parents and been invited to move back home. But Kendra’s decision to keep the baby put a hole in Heidi’s heart—one she felt sure would never close. Her dream of holding a tiny baby she could call her own was just that—only a dream. The walls in this house would not echo with the laughter of children. Tiny feet would never patter across the floor. No chubby arms would reach out for a hug. Heidi fought for control. The ringing in her ears was almost deafening.
   She glanced toward the hall, knowing the nursery that had already been set up would have to be dismantled. All the baby blankets and clothes would have to be packed away. The crib would be disassembled. She’d have Lyle haul it out to the barn, for having the crib in the house would be a painful reminder of their loss. Heidi didn’t even want to look at it now.
   She thought about the scripture she’d quoted several moments ago and wondered if she would ever praise the Lord again.

Less than an hour later, Heidi checked on the meat loaf, decided it was done, and turned the oven temperature to low. It was all she could do to get supper ready for when Lyle got home. Kendra’s shocking announcement numbed her mind. She wondered what Lyle’s reaction would be when he heard the news.
   Kendra came into the kitchen and stood watching as Heidi took a sack of potatoes from the pantry. “Would you like help getting supper ready?” she asked.
   “We need a kettle for boiling the potatoes.” Heidi could barely make eye contact with the young woman. Truth was, she wished she could be alone to deal with her grief.
   Kendra went to the lower cupboard and took out a medium-size pot. “I’ll add water to the kettle and set it on the propane burner to heat.”
   Without a word, Heidi slid over the jars of home-canned beans she’d taken out earlier. After removing the lids, she dumped the contents into a kettle and sprinkled some leftover onion bits on top. She stirred them around a bit, set the lid in place, and put the pan on the stove. She felt like a robot, merely going through the motions of preparing their meal.
   “Is there anything else I can do?” Kendra waited by the stove.
   “We’ll have iced tea to drink. Could you make that while I cut up a few carrot and celery sticks?” Heidi glanced at Kendra. This meal will be so awkward. I’d give anything if Kendra’s decision wasn’t absolute.
   Her hands trembled as she took out the carrots and began slicing them. She wished it was still morning and things were as they had been before Kendra’s shocking announcement. Is there even a chance she might think things over and change her mind? Is it right to cling to that hope?
   “When I’m done making the tea, I’ll set the dining-room table.” Kendra put the tea bags in the pitcher of hot water.
   “Okay.” Heidi washed celery stalks and cut those as well, pausing briefly to glance at the clock. Lyle would be home soon, and he’d be hungry. Her insides twisted; she had no appetite at all.
   Silently, Kendra got out the plates, silverware, napkins, and three glasses. She placed them on a large tray and headed for the dining room, elbows tucked into her sides. This had to be difficult for her, too. Heidi and Kendra had become close during the months she’d been living here. Heidi felt sure the young woman did not want to hurt her. But she had, and Heidi needed to come to grips with it, despite her disappointment.
   A few minutes later, as Heidi watched the water bubbling over the potatoes, she heard the familiar sound of Lyle’s horse and buggy pull in. She glanced at the timer on the counter. The potatoes had ten more minutes to go. It felt like it was a countdown to the moment she would give Lyle the news. Should I tell him before supper or wait until we’ve finished eating? Either way, there simply wasn’t a good time nor an easy way to say it.
   The back door squeaked open and clicked shut. A few seconds later, Lyle entered the kitchen, carrying his lunch box. He placed it on the counter, then pulled off his straw hat and smoothed back his thick auburn hair. “How was your day, Heidi? Did everything go well here?”
   She moved away from the stove and gave him a much-needed hug. At the moment, Heidi felt so overwhelmed she could barely speak.
   “You’re trembling, Heidi. Is something wrong?” He patted her back gently. “Wasn’t Kendra supposed to see the doctor today?”
   “Jah.” Heidi’s voice sounded muffled as she held her face close to his chest, hoping to draw strength from his embrace.
   “There’s nothing wrong with the boppli, I hope.”
   “No, Kendra’s baby’s fine.”
   Kendra came into the room just then. “Are we about ready to eat?”
   “Almost.” The timer for the potatoes went off, and Heidi stepped back to the stove to shut off the burner. The beans were also well heated, so she turned them off, too. “I’ll set everything on the dining-room table, and we can take our seats.” She’d already decided not to tell Lyle about Kendra changing her mind regarding the adoption until they were alone this evening. It would be too difficult to say it in front of Kendra.
   “Okay, just let me get washed up.” Lyle gave Heidi’s arm a tender squeeze before he left the room.
   Kendra picked up the amber-brewed tea sitting near the refrigerator. She also got out a tray full of ice before turning to face Heidi. “Lyle doesn’t know about me moving back with my folks, does he?”
   “No, I haven’t said anything yet.” Heidi’s voice caught in her throat. She picked up a pair of pot holders, opened the oven door, and brought out the meat loaf. After placing it on a platter, she sliced up their main course.
   Kendra paused a minute, blinking rapidly, then without a word, she made a hasty exit with the tea and ice cubes.
   Soon Lyle returned from washing up and offered to carry the meat loaf to the table. Heidi gave a brief nod and followed him with the beans and potatoes. Then, remembering the carrots and celery that had been sliced, she returned to the kitchen to get the container. When Heidi returned to the dining room, she took a seat across from Kendra, and they all bowed for silent prayer. Lyle sat at the head of the table, and he cleared his throat when he’d finished praying. Heidi took this as a cue, and she lifted her head. It had been difficult to even formulate a prayer. Although she was thankful for the food on their table, she felt no gratitude for the fact that her hopes and dreams of being a parent had been crushed. She couldn’t let it defeat her, though; she had to be strong.
   After the food was passed around, Lyle looked over at Kendra and smiled. “I was asking Heidi about your appointment earlier. How did it go?”
   Kendra picked up her iced tea and took a drink. “Umm. . . It went fine. The doctor said the baby and I are doing okay.”
   “Good to hear.” As if sensing Heidi’s gloomy mood, Lyle reached over and lightly touched her arm. “You’re not eating much.”
   Her lips quivered. “I–I’m not really hungry tonight.”
   “How come?” He reached for the bowl of potatoes and helped himself to several pieces. “Did you have too much to eat for lunch?”
   Before Heidi could respond, Kendra blurted, “I believe it’s my fault Heidi’s not hungry. She’s upset.” She paused and looked at Heidi before continuing. “I can’t blame her, and I’m sure you’ll be upset, too, with what I have to tell you.”
   Lyle’s brows drew together. “What is it, Kendra?”
   “I’ve changed my mind about giving up my baby.”
   His eyebrows shot straight up. “What?”
   Kendra explained the situation and said her parents wanted her to move back home. “I’ll be packing up my things and leaving in the morning.”
   Heidi wished Kendra hadn’t said anything—especially during their meal. Her shoulders slumped as she dropped her gaze and stared at her uneaten food. Heidi felt her husband’s eyes upon her, and she couldn’t help wondering what Lyle must be thinking right now. Her heart felt like it couldn’t sink any lower. It’s so unfair. How could this be happening to Lyle and me?

Chapter 2

Lyle placed his hands on Heidi’s shoulders, where she stood at their bedroom window watching the remaining colorful leaves swaying gently in the trees. “Are you all right? You’ve been staring out the window for the last ten minutes. If we don’t get ready for church soon we’re going to be late.”
   “It’s our off-Sunday,” she reminded. “We can stay home today and do our own private devotions.”
   “I realize that, but I thought we were going to visit a neighboring community today, like we often do between our own church district’s biweekly Sunday services.”
   Groaning, she flopped onto the bed. “I don’t feel like going. It would be hard for me to sit and watch other women holding their bopplin.”
   “There are babies in our own district, too. Are you going to stay home from church every Sunday because of that?”
   Heidi blinked several times, willing herself not to cry. She’d had enough tearful spells since Kendra had moved out two weeks ago.
   The bed creaked beneath his weight as Lyle took a seat beside Heidi and clasped her hand. “Don’t you think it’s time to let go of your grief and get back to the business of living?”
   She pulled away from his grasp. “That’s easy enough for you to say. You never really wanted to adopt Kendra’s baby. You only agreed to it because of me.”
   He shook his head. “Not true, Heidi. It may have been the case at first, but I changed my mind, and was looking forward to being a daed.” Lyle pressed a hand to his chest. “I’m hurt by Kendra’s decision as well.”
   She tipped her head. “Really? You haven’t shown it that much.”
   “I keep busy with my work and try not to dwell on what happened. Don’t you think it was hard for me to take the crib down and haul it out to the barn? Like you, I couldn’t bear looking at it.” Lyle leaned his head against Heidi’s. “We can’t change the situation; Kendra’s moved out and gone back to live with her parents.” He paused and drew a deep breath. “I’ve reached the conclusion that the adoption must not have been God’s will for us.”
   Heidi stiffened. “So are you saying God doesn’t want us to become parents?” Her throat felt swollen from holding back tears, and she swallowed hard to push down the lump that had formed.
   “I don’t know if God wants us to have children or not, but if it’s His will for us to become parents, then we’ll be given another chance to adopt.”
   “Oh, so you think some other pregnant woman is going to show up at our doorstep and ask us to adopt her child?” It wasn’t right to speak to her husband in such a sarcastic tone, but Heidi couldn’t seem to hold her tongue this morning.
   “That is not what I meant.”
   “What then?”
   “We can put our name in with the adoption lawyer, and. . .”
   “I don’t want to.” Folding her arms, Heidi shook her head stubbornly. “Not now, anyway. Even if the lawyer found another birth mother seeking adoptive parents to take her child, she might change her mind at the last minute, like Kendra did.” Heidi’s voice cracked. “I can’t deal with another disappointment, Lyle.”
   He slipped his arm around her waist. “Let’s wait a few months, then we can talk about this again. Okay?”
   She lifted her shoulders in a brief shrug. What choice did she have?
   “Have you thought about teaching another cooking class? You enjoyed the last one you taught, and your students learned a lot more than cooking from you. It would give you something meaningful to do, and teaching six more classes might prove to be fun.”
   Heidi couldn’t deny having enjoyed teaching her first set of students. During the six classes she’d taught, some wonderful things had happened. She would never forget how Ron Hensley turned his life over to Christ and went back to his hometown to make amends with his grown children and ex-wife. Then there was Loretta Donnelly, who’d formed a relationship with their friend and neighbor, Eli Miller, and was preparing to join the Amish church this fall. Heidi had been pleased when Charlene Higgins, engaged to be married, learned how to cook under her tutorage. The young school teacher had gained more confidence in the kitchen, which in turn, gave Charlene a better relationship with her future mother-in-law. Even Kendra Perkins had changed during the time she’d been in the class, focusing on the positive, rather than letting negative thoughts fill her mind.
   Despite Heidi’s disappointment over not being able to adopt Kendra’s baby, she wished the young woman well. “Maybe it is time to teach another class,” she murmured. “At least it would keep me busy.”
   Lyle patted her arm. “Good for you.”
   Drawing strength from deep within, Heidi turned toward the closet. “I’ll change into my church clothes and be ready to leave for church by the time you have the horse and buggy ready.”
   He smiled and leaned down to give her a kiss. “You’ll be glad you went once we’re sitting in church and singing familiar hymns from the Ausbund.”
   “Jah, you’re probably right. The songs of old, as well as our ministers’ sermons are enough to lift anyone’s spirits.”

Coshocton, Ohio

“Hey, buddy, what’s for breakfast? You’re not gonna give us any leftover stew, I hope.”
   “No, Andy, I’m certainly not. We’re gonna have cold cereal this morning.” Bill Mason ground his teeth together. He and a couple of his buddies had gone camping at his cabin for the weekend, and as usual, he’d gotten stuck with all the cooking.
   Andy, Russ, and Tom wrinkled their noses. “Come on, Bill,” Russ said. “Can’t you do better than that? If I wanted cold cereal for breakfast, I could have stayed home.”
   “Maybe you should have then.” Bill poked Russ’s arm. “Whenever we go camping you guys always want me to cook, but then all you do is complain.”
   Tom shifted on his canvas camping stool and leaned toward the fire he’d recently built in the pit outside Bill’s cabin. “Know what I think?”
   Bill shook his head. He had a mind to throw his gear in his rig and head for home. Let ’em fend for themselves and see how they like it.
   “I think you oughta take some cooking classes. If you started on ’em right away, by the time deer season starts, you might be ready to cook us some decent meals.”
   “Humph!” Bill folded his arms. “Maybe you should be the one to take cooking classes.” It was hard not to let his so-called friends get under his skin this morning. Bill hadn’t slept well last night, even though his was the only bed inside the cabin. The other men had bedded down near the fireplace with their sleeping bags on fold-away cots.
   Tom shook his head. “Nope. Out of the four of us, you’re the only one who likes to cook.”
   “Tom’s right.” Andy gave a nod. “Even if I took classes, it would do me no good.”
   Bill grunted. “Well, you’d better get used to my cooking then, ’cause I ain’t takin’ no cooking lessons—end of story.” He grabbed a box of cereal and set it on the metal folding table he’d set up near the fire pit. “And by the way, I don’t actually like to cook; we just wouldn’t eat if I didn’t do it, ’cause none of you guys can do much more than boil water.”
   Tom threw another log on the fire. “You’re right about that, but even if we could cook a decent meal, you’d probably still do it.” He pointed his finger at Bill. “’Cause you like to be in control of things, since this is your hunting cabin.”
   Bill massaged his temples. I wonder if it would have been better for me to go to church today instead of camping with this bunch of ingrates. The truth was he hadn’t been to church in a good many years. More than likely, he’d never step into a church building again.

Millersburg, Ohio

Clutching a plastic container, Nicole Smith ambled across the room and placed it on the table. “Here you go, Tony. Are you happy now?”
   Nicole’s freckle-faced, nine-year-old brother looked up at her and frowned. “Is that all I get for breakfast—just some boiled eggs?”
   She pointed to the plate in the middle of the table. “You can have some of the bread I toasted, too.”
   Tony squinted his blue eyes, and wrinkled his nose. “You don’t have to be so bossy, Nicki.”
   She shook her finger at him. “Don’t call me that. My name is Nicole. Do you hear me, Tony? N–i–c–o–l–e. Nicole.”
   He puffed out his cheeks and grabbed a piece of toast, then slathered it with strawberry jam. “Mama calls you Nicki.”
   “That’s right, and she knows I don’t like that nickname.” Nicole looked at her twelve-year-old sister. “Are eggs and toast okay for you, Heather, or do you want a bowl of cold cereal?”
   “I don’t want either.” Heather shook her blond head. “I want pancakes this morning.”
   Tony bobbed his head. “Yeah, that’d be a nice change.”
   Nicole felt like telling her siblings if they wanted pancakes, they should get out the ingredients and fix them, but that would be a mistake—even worse than if she made them herself. “Listen, you both know I’m not good at making pancakes. The last ones I made turned out all rubbery.” Nicole plopped both hands against her slender hips. “I’m tired of you both wanting something different every day. Can’t you eat what I fix for breakfast without complaining?”
   “I don’t like cold cereal.” Tony wrinkled his nose again.
   Heather clutched her throat, making a low-pitched gagging noise. “The taste of boiled eggs makes me feel sick to my stomach. You oughta learn how to make somethin’ else for a change.”
   “All right you two; don’t give your big sister a hard time. Nicole does the best she can.” Dad came into the kitchen and took a seat at the head of the table. He paused long enough to add some cream to his coffee, then helped himself to a piece of toast.
   “She needs to learn how to cook somethin’ besides cold cereal, boiled eggs, and toast.” Heather looked at Nicole. “Maybe you should take some cooking lessons. Then you can make us some yummy-looking stuff like that lady on TV who has the cooking show.”
   “Dad doesn’t have enough money to pay for cooking lessons.” Gritting her teeth, Nicole grabbed a hard-boiled egg and cracked it open. Cooking meals for my sister and brother, as well as Dad, shouldn’t be my job anyway. It was Tonya’s responsibility, and she oughta be here taking care of us right now.
   Nicole tried not to dwell on it, but there were times, like now, when her anger bubbled to the surface. She was a sophomore in high school and should be having fun during her teen years, not babysitting, cooking, cleaning, and doing all the other things her mother used to do before she started drinking and ran off with another man. The high hopes Nicole once had for her high-school years had died. Everything she did now was an unappreciated chore.
   Nicole couldn’t fault Dad for agreeing to the divorce Tonya asked for—especially when she said she didn’t love him anymore and had started seeing another man. But that didn’t make it any easier to deal with the disappointment Nicole, Dad, and her siblings all felt. The responsibilities on Nicole’s shoulders had increased this past year, and it was hard not to feel bitter and let anger take control.
   Nicole had given up on her dreams of going to the upcoming homecoming dance that would be held the night before the big football game against her school’s biggest rival. Win or lose, after the game there’d be a big bonfire. Guess she’d be missing all that, too. Well, what did it matter? She had no one to go with anyhow. She couldn’t really blame the few friends she used to hang out with for not wanting to include her when she always turned down their invitations to go places and do things with them. Even after-school clubs like being on the yearbook staff, which she wouldn’t have minded joining, were out of the question now. Nicole always had to get home right away, do several chores, and of course, get dinner going before Dad got there.
   Nicole rubbed her forehead and heaved a sigh. Becoming a cheerleader was an even bigger pipe dream—a far-fetched hope that would never come true.
   She jumped when Dad placed his hand on her shoulder. “You know, your brother and sister could be right. Taking some cooking classes might be a good idea, Nicole.”
   Her eyes narrowed. “You’re kidding, right?”
   He shook his head. “It might be fun and even good for you. I think I’ll start looking around to see if there are any classes being offered in our area.”
   Lips pressed together, Nicole slunk down in her chair. She hoped if Dad did start looking, he’d come up empty-handed, because the last thing she wanted to do was take cooking classes, with some stranger telling her what to do. Besides, when would she have time for that? Nicole was already on overload.

Canton, Ohio

Kendra gripped the grocery cart, as she pushed it down the baby aisle. Since moving in with her parents, she’d tried to make good use of her time and help wherever, and whenever, she could. Her mother needed a few groceries, so Kendra had volunteered to go—if for no other reason, than to get out of the house for a while. Now, she wondered if it had been such a good idea.
   Since early this morning, she’d been having what she thought might be the early stages of labor. A dull, persistent pain throbbed through her lower back, but not bad enough to stop her from doing anything. Kendra wanted to keep mobile and stay busy, to help keep her mind off things, and grocery shopping would do just that.
   As the time drew closer to her due date, Kendra grew increasingly apprehensive. What was labor like, and how long would it last? Could she withstand the pain? Would she have any complications? Would her baby be born healthy? Kendra had all the normal questions of a first-time mother, but she had even more important things to ponder. Did I make the right decision to move back home? Would it have been better for my child to be raised by the Troyers and not under my parents’ influence? Mom can be so spineless, and Dad. . . Well, he’s impossible to please most of the time. He may have invited me back, but I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for bringing shame on my family.
   Already, Kendra’s folks had been suggesting things they thought would be best for their first grandchild. But Kendra did not commit to anything. She placed her hand on her stomach. “This is still my baby, and I have the final say, no matter what Mom and Dad might suggest,” she huffed under her breath. Kendra kept walking when a shopper looked quizzically at her.
   “Didn’t you ever talk to yourself?” Kendra mumbled low enough so the man wouldn’t hear her. Then she stopped at the diaper section, which took up a large part of the shelves. Kendra didn’t realize how many selections there would be, and how many different brands of disposable diapers were available for purchase. It was a bit mind-boggling.
   Pulling an envelope from her purse, Kendra flipped through the coupons inside to see if any were still active and hadn’t expired yet. “Oh good.” She took out a dollar-off coupon. “Here’s one I can use.” Thankfully, this store carried the brand, and she could save a dollar, at least. After realizing she’d need to buy two packs of diapers to qualify for the coupon, Kendra made room in the cart to put them. When she grabbed the second pack off the shelf, a sharp pain stabbed from her lower back all the way to the front of her swollen middle.
   Grasping her stomach, the pack of diapers fell, and she shuffled over to her cart to hang on. At the same time, a young woman, who was also pregnant, but not as big as Kendra, stopped to see if she needed any help.
   “Are you okay?” the kindly lady asked. She picked up the diapers and placed them in Kendra’s cart.
   “I—I think so.” Kendra remained still until the pain subsided. “It’s not my due date yet, and I’m hoping these aren’t labor pains I’ve been having.”
   “By the way, my name’s Delana.” The woman rubbed her stomach. “I’m not due until the beginning of December, but in the last maternity class I attended, we learned about false labor. Do you think that’s what you might be having?”
   “I’m not sure. I’ve had a backache all morning.” Kendra reached around and rubbed the small of her back. “But then, since I’ve grown larger, my back always hurts, so who knows?”
   “Okay, well, maybe you’d better finish your shopping and get back home, just to be on the safe side,” Delana suggested. “Would you like me to call your husband or someone else?”
   “No, that’s okay. I only live about fifteen minutes from here.” No way would Kendra admit to a stranger that she had no husband. Her situation was no one’s business but her own. Kendra hadn’t even bothered to introduce herself—not even after the woman had said her name.
   “Well, if you’re sure.” Delana hesitated a minute. “It was nice talking to you, and good luck.”
   “Same to you.” Kendra pointed to the diapers in her cart. “Thanks for assisting me.”
   “Sure, no problem.” Delana moved on.
   Looking at her mother’s list, Kendra headed for the frozen food aisle. Let’s see. . . Mom wants four packages of mixed vegetables. This morning, her mother had mentioned wanting to make soup for supper. Luckily the store was having a sale on a well-known brand this week. Ten packages for ten dollars. Sounds like a good deal.
   As Kendra held the freezer door open to get the frozen vegetables, another pain, worse than the last one, made her scream. This time, the cart’s support did no good, and she doubled over and crouched on the floor, barely able to deal with the pain. By this time, several patrons gathered around, including the young pregnant woman she’d spoke to minutes ago.
   Delana didn’t ask any questions. She got out her cell phone and called 911. An older woman took her sweater and bunched it up to make a pillow for Kendra’s head. “There, there dear, lie down on the floor and try to relax. Help will be here soon.”
   By then, Delana had made the call and hunkered down next to Kendra, taking her hand and patting it gently. “Looks like you might be having your baby a little sooner than you expected. Just breathe deeply and think positive thoughts. The paramedics will be here soon.”
   Delana looked up at the other people gawking at Kendra, and said, “She’ll be okay. The ambulance is on the way. No need to hover all around. Please, just give her some space.”
   A few people hesitated, but then they finally dispersed and went about their shopping.
   When only Delana and the older woman were kneeling beside Kendra, she didn’t feel quite so intimidated.
   Delana leaned closer. “I never got your name.”
   “It–it’s Kendra.” She tried to get up, but the older lady told her to stay put.
   “But the pain is gone now, and I feel okay. My water hasn’t even broken yet, so I don’t think the baby’s coming right away.”
   “Still, you should get checked out.” Delana placed her hand on Kendra’s shoulder. “What if you were driving home and had another bad contraction? You don’t want to have an accident and get hurt or injure the baby.”
   “I guess you are right,” Kendra relented, even though the floor was hard and uncomfortable.
   As she remained there, trying not to think about her situation and willing herself to relax, Kendra looked toward the end of the aisle. For a fleeting moment she saw a man who’d been looking her way, turn quickly and scurry around the corner.
   Was that Dad? If it was, then why didn’t he come see if I was okay?


Later that evening, Nicole reclined on her bed, working on a math assignment. She laughed out loud, thinking about her dad’s silly idea of her taking a cooking class. “I can’t believe he’d even suggest such a thing.”
   Soon, her bedroom door opened, and Heather walked in. “I heard you laughing. What’s so funny in here?” She flopped on the end of Nicole’s bed.
   Nicole rolled over and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “You heard me laugh?”
   Her sister gave a nod. “Were you talkin’ to yourself, too?”
   “Yeah. I was thinking about Dad saying I should take a cooking class. Can you imagine me doing something like that?”
   Heather shrugged. “It’s not a bad idea, you know. We get tired of eating the same old things all the time.”
   “You can take over for me anytime you want.” Nicole stretched her arms over her head. “It’s not easy being in my shoes, you know.”
   “It’s been hard for all of us since Mom left.” Heather’s chin quivered. “I wish she’d come back, Nicki.”
   Nicole gave a quick shake of her head, choosing not to make an issue of her sister calling her Nicki. “Not with her drinking problem, Heather. That’s what got her messed up in the first place.” Her gaze flicked up. “Besides, she’s married to someone else now.” And he’s a big creep, she mentally added.
   Heather sniffed. “Don’t know why she’d want to leave Dad. He’s a great guy, don’t you think?”
   “Absolutely. He works hard and does the best he can for us. We’re lucky to have a dad like him.” Nicole gave her sister’s arm a pat. “You’d better get ready for bed, and I need to finish my homework.”
   “Okay.” Heather scooched off the bed. “See you in the morning.”
   Nicole smiled. “Yep. I’ll have your cold cereal ready and waiting.”
   Her sister paused at the door and wrinkled her nose. “If Dad can afford it, I think you'd better take a cooking class." Heather hurried out of the room before Nichole could form a response.
   Nichole picked up her math book and stuffed it in her backpack next to the bed. She was too tired to do any more problems. If she got up early tomorrow maybe, she could finish then.
   Yawning, she stretched out on the bed again and closed her eyes. A vision of her mother popped into her headscraggly blond hair she sometimes wore pulled back in a ponytail, and blue eyes often rimmed with red. Why'd you have to ruin things between you and Dad? How come you chose your new husband over us? He's not even a nice man.
Wanda E. Brunstetter,  Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., © 2017. Used by permission.

***Thank you to Barbour's Review Crew for inviting me to join in this second book and sending me a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Heidi's recipes she taught in this second class are included in the back of this book. You will look forward to 200+ practical recipes in the spiral bound Amish Cooking Class Cookbook releasing in February 2018, and... book 3 in this series: Amish Cooking Class - The Celebration releases then too!
author Wanda E. Brunstetter
Expected publication: February 1st 2018 by Shiloh Run Press

The Seekers (Amish Cooking Class #1)
Published February 1st 2017 by Shiloh Run Press

Amish Cooking Class - The Celebration
Expected publication: February 1st 2018 by Shiloh Run Press

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