Giveaway: Fragrant Whiffs of Joy

Confession: Sometimes I need to be reminded that it’s going to be okay.

This is not the same thing as pretending it’s okay when it’s not, as I wrote in my last post – I mean I need to be reminded that it’s going to be okay in the end.

I’ve never been sure if I’m a pessimist or an optimist, because I try to put a good face on everything, especially if you meet up with me in real life, but hidden inside myself I’m often sure we’re all going down, boys. My husband, on the other hand, has more than his share of snark and cynicism, but underneath it all, a constant certainty that we’ve turned the corner. He’s relaxed, it’s going to end well, and life is good.

What do you call that?

I love his steady perspective and rely on it more heavily than anyone guesses (except him) (and sometimes not even him), but from time to time I really need to hear a woman older than me say that it’s going to be okay. What is the “it”? It’s mothering, pastor’s wife-ing, mistakes, canning season, science experiments in the boys’ bedroom, wintertime, life. It may not be easy, but it’s going to be okay.

This week I remembered why I love Dorcas Smucker so much as an author and a friend: she’s a beautiful optimist. The ugly kind of optimist is the one that denies any hardship or pain, but delights in throwing solutions around. Stop crying, hon. Chin up. The beautiful kind of optimist is the one who’s seen a lot, handled a lot, freaked out a lot, and come full circle to the satisfying rest of experienced living: not much is worth hyperventilating about. Relax, hon. Cry, breathe, smile. Try again.

Dorcas recently released a new book, Fragrant Whiffs of Joy, a fresh collection of the newspaper articles she writes for the Eugene Register-Guard. She’s stopping by here today (kum ba ya, my Lord) to share a copy with you.

When I sit with Dorcas, which isn’t nearly often enough, she usually has a cup of tea in hand. She’s been an important sounding board for me in writing, mothering, and letting go of shame.

The book itself is like a cup of tea: relaxing, fragrant, warm. She writes about her ninety-eight-year old father, her six grown children off to college, her blackberries, her jam-packed schedule, and her cats. She sends texts to the wrong people, wilts in the heat of summer, makes lists, buys too much fabric, assembles a pot roast to put in the oven. You can see her bustling around, loving people, laughing with children, canning grape juice. And saying, “It’s going to be okay.”

This book contains my best-of-the-best, all-time favorite Dorcas Smucker quotes, the one that has graced a chalkboard on my wall for two years: “This is what it means to be an adult, I think: to make peace with the life you didn’t foresee, to see spiritual significance in the daily repeated tasks, and to find fulfillment in doing them well.” That’s from one of my favorite chapters, “Love on a Plate and Fragrant Whiffs of Joy.” (p. 13)

Another favorite chapter, that kept me laughing upon multiple re-readings, is “Heavy Burdens in a Hot Summer,” in which Dorcas pulls back a memory of directing a Christmas play. One young girl acted the part of a poor mother clutching her baby through a snow storm. Dorcas writes,

She had one line to say: “Oh, I am so weary and cold.”

Thankfully I had a sense of humor, and the girl who played this part was not easily discouraged, because for some reason she could not recite that line. “Oh I am so tired and hungry!” she would say before collapsing into the snowbank: a pile of quilt batting from the sewing circle, covered with a white sheet.

“No, no.”

Back up the aisle I sent her. A slow turn, and toward the front again, into the wind: “I am so weary and tired!”

“No! WEARY and COLD.”

“Oh, I am so cold and hungry!”

I am not sure that she ever got it right, even on the night of the program. I should have let her ad lib, I guess, because she had the right idea. The original line is not seared into my memory, and I always think of it at times like this.

Sometimes, in certain seasons of life, it feels like we’re all weary and cold, fighting our way into the winter wind. Our shawl isn’t nearly enough protection, and we are about to collapse into the snowbank with the baby in our arms… It seems we will never reach the front of the church, and we certainly won’t hear the miraculous chimes when they ring in the steeple on Christmas Eve. Health issues, difficult relationships, financial stresses, caregiving – all of these can seem like trials that will never end. (p. 60)

I think you need this book.

If you’re interested in owning a copy, you have two choices: one whimsical and one practical. First, you may leave a comment below and be entered in a drawing to win one copy that Dorcas and I are giving away today. Second, you can order the book directly from Dorcas – that way it’s guaranteed.

Or you can try the first option first, and if that doesn’t work, go on to the second. That ought to do the trick.

Dorcas’s earlier books (also delightful) are available on her blog:

Ordinary Days
Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting
Downstairs the Queen is Knitting
Tea and Trouble Brewing
Footprints on the Ceiling
Sunlight Through Dusty Windows: The Dorcas Smucker Reader

To order a book, contact Dorcas Smucker at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446, or dorcassmucker@gmail.com. Fragrant Whiffs of Joy is priced at $12 each plus $2 postage. Checks or PayPal accepted. Discounts available for combination orders. Also available here on Amazon.

Would you like to own this book? Please drop a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


I was given three copies of FWOJ – one to give to a blog reader, one to give to a personal friend who had a tough year, and one to keep. Giveaway will close in one week. Open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen by random.org.

The moral of Thanksgiving

Once upon a time, the Pilgrims and Native Americans got together for a big fiesta. They ate venison and corn, pumpkins and nuts and delicacies until they were full, giving thanks for a great year together. And that’s how it all started.

But this week my daughter was reading a children’s book about what happened before the beginning of that story. She read about the long winter, the freezing temperatures, the illness, the death. She read that the Pilgrims would slip out into the deep night to bury their dead. They didn’t want the Americans to know how few of them were left.

In the spring, when Samoset and Squanto appeared and scared them half to death (half of them had already died, so I’m telling it to you straight), the Pilgrim’s fears turned out to be unfounded. Instead of bringing terror and destruction, the Native Americans brought vegetable seeds, earth knowledge, sturdy friendship.

Everyone says the moral of Thanksgiving is to be thankful. And it is. The Pilgrims took a deep breath and said, “We made it. Look at this harvest, we’ve stored up what we need for next winter, and we give thanks to God.” But I can’t help thinking about that first dark winter, and the poverty of isolation, the shivering widows standing at the graves of their babies under a chilly moon. God forbid that someone finds out we’re not doing okay. Please, God, don’t let them see us. I’ll just put another shovelful of dirt on top. I’ll wrap my tatters around a weakened body and slip back to my ship in the darkness.

That breaks me.

The Native Americans probably had a hard winter too – I’m not saying they were over there in the wigwams lolling in salted deer meat and corn flour. But they had the wisdom the Pilgrims needed, if the Pilgrims hadn’t been trying so hard not to need it.

Another moral of Thanksgiving, the one we don’t talk about, is this: Stop hiding in the darkness.

Take steps of faith through the night to the wigwam next door and sit down by the fire. We can spend so much time planning our militia that we forget the neighbors are not planning an attack. Incredibly, miraculously, friends are out there waiting: not to pounce and scalp, but to teach, to assist, to care. To help.

That is cause for the best Thanksgiving.


If you’re game, tell me three things you’re thankful for today, including one friend you know you can go to when the venison runs out. This has two purposes: it grows your gratitude, and as a bonus, it helps me to know if the bugs are worked out of my comment section before I offer you another gift on Friday. For this, I am grateful to you. We have every reason for joy: Happy Thanksgiving, dear people.

September Farm Giveaway Winners

Hi everybody.

Thanks for entering the giveaway for a September Farm cheese sampler! I’m happy for each of you who joined the fun. Jessica Thomas is our fortunate winner! She said

Oh yum!! I love their cheese!!! We’re traveling to Lancaster this weekend and September farm is on my list of places I want to go.

(If anyone wonders exactly how winners are selected on this blog, see the endnote below for a full explanation.)

Now, for the rest of you, all is not lost. I’m sorry; I know – you never win. You’ve told me that before. However, this time we find ourselves in kind of a win-win situation, because September Farm is offering a coupon code for 20% OFF any orders made in the next two weeks with the coupon code CONFESSIONS20. How great is that?

Again, a few products worth highlighting (including that amazing cheese) are their gift baskets of all sizes, snack foods, smoked meats, best-selling cheeses, and fresh cheese curds. Oh! And their chocolate whoopie pies! Since my last post I had the opportunity to try those little chunks of heaven, and oh my word. They brought tears to my eyes.

Plus, September Farm staff have recently reworked shipping prices, creating more affordable options for those of us who live at a distance.

The 20% off coupon expires November 29, one use only per customer, so be sure to get everything you need right away. You’ll have a chance to enter the coupon code at checkout, and again, that’s CONFESSIONS20.

Thanks for supporting a great business. Happy shopping!


Full explanation: After each giveaway, my husband and I compile the names and email addresses of all commenters who enter (in this case, from each of two blog posts, as well as all email entries) into a spreadsheet. We assign each commenter a number, and check to remove any duplicate entries – such as when someone adds a note to their own comment, replies to someone else’s comment, or inadvertently enters twice. Then, let’s say there are eighty-nine people left. We ask random.org to choose a number between one and eighty-nine, and whatever number is picked, that’s our winner.

Hope that made everybody happy; or if not happy, then resigned. Okay, bye. xo

Trouble entering giveaway

The internet, says my husband, is not as nice a place as we’d like to think. It is more like a dark alley, and every second of every day, there are hands reaching out to rattle the doorknobs, checking, checking, checking all down the alley for any unguarded portal.

I hate that image, it gives me the heebie-jeebies; so I thought I’d share it with you.

Apparently in the past month, my blog has come under attack by an unprecedented number of spam subscriptions. In an effort to address that issue, we tightened some security settings and inadvertently shut down the comment section. Also our email sending service, as I informed you, went on the blink for undisclosed reasons of its own, and failed to notify my readers of the giveaway.

All that to say, it was the quietest giveaway I’ve ever started. The funny side of the story is that in my original post, I’d written “Today, September Farm is offering you a chance to win one of their Small Samplers free of charge. (Seriously, did I just see you jump out of your seat? I know there’s exciting stuff here, but my gracious. Calm down.) Each Small Sampler includes…”

I hit publish, and the next morning I awoke to no comments. Zero. Not one, and I thought, “Good grief, people, I didn’t mean that calm…”

Even after we figured out the email notification issue and I breathed easier and sent another email to let you know about the giveaway, it took us another hour or two to figure out that comments had been disabled. We fixed that (we thought) and are still hearing reports that commenting is not working properly. So our problems are not behind us.

How is it that I can lump along writing about nothing for weeks and things go fine, and as soon as I collaborate with someone else and care about it more, everything blows up as predicted by Mr. Murphy? Believe it or not, we are not doing this to exasperate you. But I’m so sorry if we’re succeeding.

I need you to do me a favor.

If you want to enter the September Farm giveaway and are having trouble leaving a comment on my blog, please email your comment to sharizook@gmail.com and I’ll take care of copying and pasting it to the right place.

If you’re not sure if your comment already posted, double check by searching the page. (Control + F enables you to “Find” text, including your name.)

If you are having trouble accessing parts of the blog, subscribing to my posts, leaving a comment, or otherwise living a happy life online, and you would like to help us solve the problem, please email my tech-support husband at ryan@zookcomputer.com. Your feedback helps us address the issues!

Most of all, thank you for hanging in there with us and our technology. Blogs are human too…

Or something.


As of Nov 14, the September Farm giveaway is closed.

Giveaway: September Farm Sampler

As of Nov 14, 2017, this giveaway is closed.

Confession: I do love a good cheese, a good family, and a good story. All three come together in the business I’m promoting today: September Farm Cheese.

If you live near Lancaster County, you already know about September Farm. Their beautiful store is the place to stop for amazing fresh cheese, sandwiches, ice cream, and more. But did you know you can buy September Farm products from their webstore and have them shipped to your doorstep?

The Rotelle family has been involved in food production for four generations. In 2007, Dave and Roberta established September Farm Cheese, using milk from their own excellent dairy to produce the finest quality cheese.

Since then, September Farm has become ever more widely known for their delicious creations:

Handcrafted Monterey Jack

  • in many delightful flavors
  • including the award-winning Chives & Dill

Handcrafted Cheddar

Authentic Dutch Gouda

And much more, including Swiss, Havarti, Parmesan, and Mozzarella. Their own dairy still produces all the milk used in manufacturing the cheese. They age and ripen their cheese in their temperature and humidity regulated cheese cave.

I’ve been privileged to be a frequent taster of September Farm products – one of the Rotelle children lives in my community, and we always try to schedule our church potlucks for right after she’s visited home and returned bearing gifts. Okay, that was a joke. But still, I’ve loved every one of the cheeses I’ve tried: they’re creamy, nuanced, and perfectly textured.

I’ve also visited September Farm’s lovely store in Honey Brook, PA, sampling good things and making purchases. I love visiting on location, but it’s not always possible – so I’m really excited about their growing online presence!

They’ve recently expanded their online offerings, adding many products that were previously available in-store only, including fresh cheese curds, meats, relishes and dips, and beautiful gift baskets with customizable options, perfect for tasteful (or did I mean tasty?) holiday presents. Purchases can be made from their webstore at any time.

Today, September Farm and I are offering you a chance to win one of their Small Samplers free of charge! A Small Sampler includes

  • Three 8-ounce bars of handcrafted cheese (your choice of eleven flavors!)
  • One 8-ounce Lebanon Bologna
  • A September Farm cheese wire

Here are the flavors one fortunate winner will get to pick from.

Mild Cheddar
Medium Cheddar
Sharp Cheddar
Robertson’s Extra Sharp Cheddar
Smoked Cheddar
Jumpin’ Jack Jalapeño
Honey Jack
Pepperoni Augusto Jack
Chives & Dill Jack
Garlic & Basil Jack
Joy’s Tomato Basil Jack

If you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win a Small Sampler, I’m asking you to share this post on social media, or forward by email to a few friends. Then leave a comment below. Keep in mind that September Farms staff will read your comments, so if you have favorite flavors, or new cheeses you’d like to see them develop, be sure to let them know – and don’t forget to say thank you! {wink}

Cheese, anyone?


Don’t be shy if you are new to Confessions. This is the perfect chance to say hi and leave your first comment. I’d love to meet you!

I was given a Small Sampler by September Farm Cheese in exchange for hosting this giveaway, and it was scrumptious. All facts have been checked to the best of my ability with knowledgeable sources, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Giveaway will remain open for one week, closing at midnight on November 14, 2017. Open only to persons with a US mailing address. Winner will be chosen by random.org.

This giveaway is closed.