July birthdays, family reunions, and tomato gravy

It’s July 1—today we enter the month of July, and 2020 is already halfway over. It has been quite a year to remember. I do not think many of us want to repeat such a year. When I see people in town shopping with masks on, what I miss the most is not being able to see a smile on a stranger’s face as I pass by, say “hi,” and smile. It’s hard to tell if other people are smiling or frowning under a mask. I will be so glad when life is all back to normal. It has been such a tiring year. My husband Joe is still laid off from the factory but stays busy helping son-in-law Mose with remodeling. Mose and son Benjamin are on vacation this week, so they are working over at the house every day this week so far. The dusty work is done now, and they should be ready to start framing the new walls soon. A lot of the family have plans over the July 4 holiday, so not much will get done there this weekend.

Today is our fifth child Loretta’s twentieth birthday. It is 5:30 a.m. as I write this, so she is still in bed and I haven’t told her happy birthday yet. Can it be possible that twenty years have passed since her birth? In two weeks, on July 14, son Benjamin will turn twenty-one. On July 24 son Joseph will be eighteen, and on July 27 grandson Ryan will be a year old. Joe and I will have been married for twenty-seven years on July 15. Brother Albert, who shares his birthday with two sons and a daughter-in-law, will be fifty-six on July 15. Sister Emma will be forty-seven on July 19. Emma’s youngest son Steven’s birthday is on July 30, and brother-in-law Paul’s is on July 31. July 18 was my dear mother’s birthday. In July we have lots of cake for everyone, but I sometimes just make one cake for all three of our children because we get tired of cake if we have it too often.

On July 11, my oldest sister Leah and Paul are hosting my family’s annual gathering. The siblings take turns hosting each year. My sisters Verena and Susan take their turn together, so each sibling hosts once every seven years. A lot of changes happen in those seven years, and also quite an increase in family members. After our parents both passed, we decided to start taking turns so that at least once a year we can all get together. The sibling hosting the gathering furnishes the hot food and everyone else brings a dish or two and a snack for the afternoon. We end up with a variety of food and more than enough.

In September, it will be eighteen years since dear Mother’s sudden death, and it was twenty years in May that my dear dad passed. Precious memories how they linger. Brother Amos will be greatly missed too.

My dad’s side of the family, the Coblentz’s, had chosen July 11 for their reunion date this year. Due to the virus and family coming from so many different states, they decided to cancel it. This is probably the first time ever that they have cancelled, but it’s the first time for a lot of cancellations this year, such as church, school, and weddings. It will be a year everyone will always remember.

Daughter Elizabeth is planning to come to our house today. She needs new dresses so I told her to bring her material and we will try to help her get something sewed. With three little ones, she keeps busy. Elizabeth and her husband Tim painted a bedroom and put new flooring down. Three-year-old Abigail helped her Daddy paint. Elizabeth said she did a pretty good job and it kept her entertained. Tim painted over it afterwards, but it is so good to invest time in the sweet, innocent little ones. They will always remember something like that.

Stay healthy, stay safe, trust in God. May He bless each of you!


Tomatoes from the Eicher family garden.

A reader requested a tomato gravy recipe. I’ll share my sister Liz’s recipe.

Tomato Gravy
1 quart of tomato juice
3 cups of milk, divided
brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour

In two-quart pan, bring tomato juice to a boil; add salt, pepper, and brown sugar to taste. Add 2 cups of milk all at once and heat. Do not let the tomato juice and milk mixture boil, as it may curdle. Separately, mix flour with enough of the remaining 1 cup of milk to make gravy. When tomato juice and milk mixture is hot, but not boiling, add gravy mixture and stir constantly until it boils.


Lovina’s Amish Kitchen is written by Lovina Eicher, Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Her newest cookbook, Amish Family Recipes, is available now from the publisher, Herald Press, 800-245-7894. Readers can write to Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply); or email  LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org and your message will be passed on to her to read. She does not personally respond to emails.

7 thoughts on “July birthdays, family reunions, and tomato gravy”

  1. Hello Lovina! I loved hearing about your July birthdays. Our family has many birthdays in July also, including two sets of twins, my late Dad, and myself. At one point we had a joint celebration for fourteen family members in July! Like your family it involves cake, food, and an appreciation for our health, happiness and blessings through the year!

  2. Hello Lovina I look forward to you article each week. I enjoy reading about your family life. I live in Cassopolis Mi out a half hour away from the Amish community of Shipshewana Indian . We Visit it there often but not this year because if the virus. I’m eighty years old and am basically home bound because if it. Your mention of your grand daughter Abigail trying to help her father paint brought back memories of my own children especially my oldest son now sixty always wanting to help. At first I tried to stop him but my mother said never discourage them when they want to help. You can always go over it when their not around and always tell them
    they did a nice job. Let me tell you we did many do overs. Today that sixty year old is quite handy good at what he does. He is the one doing a lot of do overs today when all the little ones want to help. Thanks for reminding me of tha wonderful memory. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY .

  3. Hi Lovinia, I love reading your columns! And the recipe for Tomato Gravy… make it quite a bit differently than you do. I use drippings from bacon, make my gravy then add fresh diced tomatoes. Yummy

  4. The granddaughter painting story was so typical of family life. Seventy years ago I helped my daddy paint the barn. There is still the faintest darker spot on the weathered wood. Memories forever!

  5. Happy 27th Anniversary to you and your husband. May God bless you for another year and then some.

  6. Love your column and recipes, I have tried so many and everyone in my family asks for me to make more. I am 85 and lilve in Mishawaka, In. I have a lot of family and friends in Goshen, where we moved from 2 years ago.

    I wanted to make your Peach Pie the other day and have lost or misplaced the receipe. Could you repeat it on Face Book?

    I miss Goshen and many of my Amish and Mennonite friends.
    God’s Blessings to you and your wonderful families.

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