Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Help Requested

Okay, y'all.

This is to every single one of my readers - even the ones that never comment. (Yes, I know you're out there; I have a blog counter! Besides, some of you I know personally.)

I am having trouble deciding what to post about. So I'm asking you.

What would you rather read about?: Gardening tips? Sewing projects? More organization jobs? New recipes I've been trying lately? What my family has been up to?

Or what about topics I haven't really approached yet on "The Fruit of Her Hands"? Photography? Writing? Childcare? Budgeting? Music? Driving? (Yikes. Only thing I can tell you there is what NOT to do!)

Or maybe we could get into the more detailed discussions about modest clothing, Bible versions, evangelism, and things like that.

Or maybe (and this is a big maybe) you are like me, and when you find a blog on the internet, you begin to wonder about the author, and wish you could ask them questions about themselves.

So.....with all these "maybes" combined, I hereby open the poles and ask (beg, plead, beseech..)for some input. What should I blog about next?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Random Kitchen Tip...

...Keep those menus that you make up!

I have heard of some ladies (mostly those younger ones who move out on their own) who just go to the store, buy whatever looks good, and make that for supper. Besides being a waste of gas, that seems very much like impulsive-buying to me. I can't imagine my mom cooking for eight people that way. It just wouldn't work.

I know of no one else who can shop for eight people, (most of them with big appetites), and keep such a low grocery bill. And I know it's because she plans her menus carefully. Mom really works wonders with her planning.

The only thing is, for some reason she always starts from scratch each week. We have family favorites over and over again, of course, but only because Mom puts them on the new menus. The old menus end up in the trash.

Until recently, that is.

Even if my mother is a creative genius, I draw a flat blank when it's my turn to create a menu. Sooooooo, for many weeks now, I've been taking off with the old menus before Mom can throw them away. I'm storing them in my "kitchen notebook." Now I've got all those amazing menus captured on paper for the time when I have eight people to feed!

A Vital Skill: Organizing

"She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness..."


Yesterday I was reminded of a certain home-making skill that I hadn't used in awhile. It's a skill that's VERY important to the function of a home.


I'm very thrilled about discussing the topic today. I feel as if this is an area in which I have made a little progress.

Never mind the fact that my bedroom looks as if I just drop things in there and go. I know where everything is. That's being organized, right? :)

Actually, I think organizing things is one of the most enjoyable parts of homemaking. I love to have everything I need at my fingertips - in any room. Mom says I was "neat" even when I was a little girl. ...I think she might mean organized, because I'm not exactly neat.

I'm not really messy, either. ...But my bedroom does look lived in. If being neat means being sparse and empty, I'm not there. (though that looks really cool in magazines!)

I could discuss why organization is important, and how it is vital if you're going to have a pleasant home, and how it forces us to weed through our possessions and keep only what we need...but most people already know all that. Instead, let me list a few tips. (Not that I'm an expert, or anything - but just for fun. Like I said, I enjoy organization.)

~ First, I think I'll focus on bedrooms today, because that's what I've just finished organizing. I volunteered to help one of my younger sisters clean the bedroom she shares with our littlest sister. She was saying that the bedroom was too small, and I told her that all she needed was some organization.

~ The bedroom is small. But I'm learning that many times, there's just too much stuff in one place. (Did she really need all those pencils and crayons? And every envelope she's ever gotten in the mail?)

~ So we sorted through every single solitary item in that room, and decided what she could do without. We had a huge trash bag to fill up, and two big Rubbermaid tubs. One tub was for things that belonged in another room in our house, and the other was for things she wanted to sell at a yard sale. We ended up using both tubs for items that belonged elsewhere in the house.

~ Then - and this is my favorite part - we divided the room into "zones." I got this idea from a library book, and it really works great. I asked my sister what she does in their bedroom. Playing, getting dressed, writing, drawing, sewing, etc. From there, we set aside one wall (the one with the closet) for dressing. We took a little bookshelf that was being used in another part of the room, moved it next to the closet, and turned it into a vanity of sorts. All the hair items, purses, hats, and such went there.

~ We also sorted through the closet. I think this went so well that it's a pity to shut the door and hide the beautiful shelves away! They have two shelves above the rod in the closet, and neither was being used for clothing. I think they had toy boxes or something up there. Anyway, we took the clothes that weren't on hangers, which were being stored elsewhere in the room, and placed them in pink baskets on the first shelf. (Everything in this room is pink!)

~ The remaining shelf was saved to store sewing items, because the closet is right beside the sewing zone.

~ Do you see how the idea of "zones" works? Now my sisters have everything they use for one activity (dressing) in one place. The dirty laundry basket and the shoe basket are sitting on the floor of the closet. Everything they need is right there, in the closet and on the little bookshelf.

Now it will be much easier to keep the room neat, because it's not work to put things away. The baskets for clean clothes are easier to access than what they were using before. The hair stuff isn't being stored on the other side of the room.

That's the difference between cleaning a room and organizing it. If you clean it, you'll have to do the job again in about two weeks (or two days!). But if a room is organized, it practically keeps itself clean.

~ We proceeded around the room, creating the other four zones. Three to four zones is about all one room can handle. We were pushing it to do four zones in this little bedroom, but it worked. The trick was getting rid of everything that didn't fit in those four zones.

~ My sisters think it's the greatest thing, that all their toys are in one place, in the part of the room that has the most floor space to play on. They're already talking about how easy it will be to put the toys away. (Something they've never said before!)

Creating this much order, in a room that had a bunch of extra stuff in it (a lot of that got thrown away) was a huge job. I read somewhere that most organization jobs are a 1 to 1 and 1/2 day job. It took my sister and I five hours.

At about 3 hours, Tiffany looked at me and said "you know what, Amber? I'm actually having fun!"

We did have fun. We hadn't spent much time alone together lately, and there we were, shut away in that bedroom for 5 hours. It was a time for me to see how much my sister is growing up. She impressed me with her mature attitude about throwing things away, and sticking with a job. She's only 10 years old, after all. I could hardly believe she was handling this massive sorting project. She must have really been enjoying herself.

But so much organization has its affects. Last night I dreamed that I was still cleaning that room. I was sorting through tiny little toys, and there was no end to the job. It kept going...and going...and going...'til I thought I would go crazy. I was glad to wake up.

When I told Tiffany good morning today, I also told her about my dream.

She laughed, and said "I dreamed that I was swimming in toys!"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

growing gardens...and sisters

This week has been SOOOO busy that I've haven't posted as much as I wanted to. It's pouring rain outside right now, but here are some pictures of our garden from earlier in the week:

Isn't everything growing up so beautifully?!

These are my carrot seedlings. Aren't they lovely?

AND....since today is Monday, and the house looks like it, I must be off.

I take my job as sister seriously, and today I have the chance to work overtime. I've volunteered to help my younger sisters organize their room. I could use some prayer! I'm not saying my sisters are messy ...they're just human. :)

I've already cleaned the kitchen and done 2 loads of laundry, so I feel good. Now I'm back to work!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Whatever happened to family?

She looketh well to the ways of her household...
Prov. 31:27

Welcome to Family Fridays!
Something struck me as odd yesterday.
My family (well, most of my family) has been doing some things on a college campus during the past week. Living in a college town is interesting, but we don't always go up on campus very often.

Yesterday, my mother, my three youngest siblings, and I were walking through a crowded building that would have made the labyrinth look simple. We had a legitimate reason to be there, but the fact remained that we were the only group in that college building that had people under 13 with us.

I wish I were a better descriptive writer. You should have seen the looks we got.

I felt as if we had landed on a strange planet, where children were unknown. Hadn't these people ever seen children before?

Then it struck me that, due in part to the victories evolution has won in our culture, most of America is brainwashed into the "segregated" mindset. Young and old aren't really suppose to mix. That's carried over into every area of public life - from school to many churches.

That's the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

According to the word of God:

"The aged woman likewise, ...that they may teach the young love their children..."
And "these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children..."

And "hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me..."
I'm glad that I've chosen to remain in my family unit in my 'older' years, instead of moving out on my own. Rubbing shoulders with all ages is healthy, stimulating, and biblical. That doesn't mean I can't study, and learn, and minister as a separate person. That doesn't mean I don't have I a separate life. I do.

But I am learning to serve others, and think of others more than myself. Even Jesus pleased not Himself, but obeyed His Father. Think that copying Him is going to rob me of my joy?

Not hardly.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another quilt...and other things

Here is another picture from the quilt show. I liked the color combinations on this, and the fact that is was patriotic. If I remember correctly, the quilt is all machine-made, and was designed by the quilter who made it.

...But, in all truth, I'm really not interested in quilts this morning. I have other things on my mind.

Sometimes, though I love to work with my hands, I look around at the people I know, and the world I see, and the problems that are there just overwhelm me. I think to myself that cooking, sewing, and cleaning are just wastes of time. They don't seem to solve the bigger problems.
And, by themselves, they don't solve any problems. I know that. So why bother? Why even blog about various skills of womanhood?

Because they are a means to an end.

Like I said a few posts ago, talents and skills are made to be used for the kingdom of God. They open doors for me.

They also help my personal walk with the Lord. No kidding. Do you remember the creation account, and then how Adam and Eve sinned, and then were cursed? Do you remember how God says to Adam that the ground will be cursed "for thy sake"? That's very interesting.

"For thy sake."

With sin came many things; thorns and thistles, and fightings and depression. That last thing is something I've struggled with personally. I only found out recently that depression is common amongst all people. 'Specially American women.

I've heard a preacher say that depression is caused 99% of the time by sin. Great. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I was discouraged and depressed because of how often I sin and fail, and I wanted to do better. Telling me that I was depressed because I was sinful didn't seem to help any.
If there's some area where I'm not obeying the Lord, then I need to get it right, and sometimes that is what I need to brighten and encourage my life.

But other times, I'm just in the dumps, and I can't get a grip on myself. That's when skills help. That's when work helps.

Through trial and error, I have found that a great deal of movie-watching or novel reading causes me to give in to depression, and work helps me fight it. Work and music.

Work is God's cure.

Brain work doesn't work very well. Often, if I'm "in the dumps" I simply can't concentrate. But working up a sweat in the garden? Scrubbing the kitchen 'til it shines? Hanging laundry outdoors? Biking miles until I'm panting? Walking for miles in the quiet outdoors? Ahh. Now that works wonders.

Maybe depression is becoming rampant in America because we've got so many machines to take over our work for us.

Maybe God knew what He was doing when He cursed the ground for our sakes.
Of course He did.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When was the last time YOU passed out a tract?

If you have any heart for the Lord at all, you can't help but be moved by this:

Christians Attacked, Children Beaten for Distributing Bible Tracts:

" On April 2, pastors and members of the Manna Ministry in Krishnapuram, Andhra Pradesh, were beaten by a group of 20 Hindu extremists.
"Believers were returning from an evangelistic outreach when their car was stopped by the attackers. One of the ministry's leaders, Pastor Gopal, sustained serious injuries. The militants also tore up the Christians' evangelistic tracts."
Ask God to heal Pastor Gopal. Meanwhile, on March 17, school children from Toopran School in Telungana Village, Andhra Pradesh, were threatened and beaten by Hindu extremists while they were distributing Bible tracts in the school compound.
"A group of Hindu extremists stopped the school children from further distribution of tracts. The extremists beat the children and threatened them."
Pray believers in Telungana Village will be encouraged and protected. Pray that Indian Christians will continue to share the gospel with boldness despite increased persecution. Ask God to use their testimonies to draw nonbelievers into fellowship with Him."

I got this from my sister's mission blog. You can visit her at

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Saving electricity...and dishes!

Today, I'd like to share a little kitchen tip that my marvelous mother came up with.

My Dad says that we have 8 dishwashers. I guess that's strictly true...but they aren't the electric type. No, Sir. These kind of dishwashers have hands and feet....and look a lot like the members of our family. :)

Seeing as how people always eat, and dishes always need to be washed, I'd say we've become experts on how to use just a few dishes. (Don't use the 1 cup and the 1/2 cup! Use the 1/2 cup twice to equal 1 cup, and that's one less thing to wash!...Better yet, if the recipe calls for 1 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1/4 cup of something, you can use the 1/4 cup for everything! That's two less things to wash! Did we mention that math comes in handy in the kitchen?)

So maybe Mom got this idea when she was trying to save on how many dishes she used. Or maybe, because Mom is so hard-working that she really doesn't mind washing a few extra dishes, maybe she got the idea when she was thinking on how to save electricity. Or maybe she just likes the way it looks.

In any case, I've borrowed the thought from her, and I am using it this morning, as I do prep. for supper tonight.

Tonight I plan to make chicken/broccoli casserole. Instead of boiling the chicken in one pan, and steaming the broccoli in another, and using two burners at once, I'm using a large pan, with a shallow steaming insert on top. The chicken boils in the water down below, and the broccoli steams above. The broccoli finishes cooking first, but it can simply be lifted off, and the chicken left to finish cooking.

Cool, huh?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Use it!

It's 11:30 on a Monday morning.

So far today, I've:
~ had a quiet time with my Lord,
~made myself presentable,
~washed a huge pile of dishes,
~cleaned the rest of the kitchen,
~washed and hung almost all my laundry,
~checked my email,
~done a little work on book marketing,
~and done one other blog post besides this one.

I've been thinking a lot lately about getting things done. I'm hardly the best time manager in the world. Sometimes I worry, when I hear folks say that a woman, 'specially a wife and mother, is naturally wonderful at multi-tasking. I wonder how I missed out on being born with this important trait.

But the fact remains that I must get it, if I want life to be manageable, so I guess I must learn the hard way!

I've also been considering in my mind the different jobs of a woman. At first glance, the Proverbs 31 woman is all about outward, hands-on tasks, but there's more to a godly woman that that. I know it. I see it in every godly woman I meet.

We are called to help win the world to Christ, not just see that people's backs are clothed and their stomachs are filled. What a menial life that would be!

From the very time that I was born, the Lord put me in a environment rich in information. Nearly every adult I know has been willing to teach me something, from planting a garden, to playing music, to peeling an apple, to reading a book, to sewing a dress. He also blessed me with a mind that wants to find out as much as I can. With those two blessings combined, is it any wonder I've grown up knowing how to do many different things?

That's what people call talent, I guess. Knowing how to do things.

But what is talent by itself? Tell me how to use it!

So what if I can write? Tell me how to write a book that glorifies God!

So what if I can sew? Tell me how to use that to open doors for witnessing!

So what if I can bake (sometimes successfully!)? Tell me how to use that to minister to others!

So what if I can teach? Or play fiddle? Or sing? Or grow plants? Or clean a room? Or care for children? Or speak another language? Teach me how to USE it!

Sisters in Christ, let's stop thinking of skills as an end in and of themselves. We are called to something so much higher. Stop pursing things that have no value. When you must choose what skills you are going to pursue in life, let the determining factor be "how useful will this be to the kingdom of God?"

If the world thinks of Christian women as humans with "half their brains tied behind their back," it's our fault. Let's be creative! Put to use what we've got. Use it for the kingdom of God!

What happens when you forget about your plants?...

...This happens when you forget about your plants.

Look at my poor little marigolds!

The Lord has been sending us lots of rain lately - usually on the weekends. After the drought we had last year, I'm not complaining. And anyway, the sun comes out for a few hours at least every other day, and in the middle of the week the temp. got up to 89 degrees.

So, on Friday, I set my flat of marigolds out on top of our rabbit cages, right in the sun. I could almost feel them soaking up the real sunlight, after all the artificial light they've been under.

On Friday night, the weather was mild, so I left the plants outside over night. No harm done.

They continued flourishing through Saturday.

We had a terrible downpour on Saturday night. The rain poured down hard. Really hard.

And the above picture is what I saw when my little sister came running up to me when we got home from church Sunday afternoon. "Amber, your marigolds are squashed!"

*Sigh.* I had forgotten all about them.

I drained about 2 and 1/2 inches of water out of the pan they were sitting in, and hoped the sun would dry them out.

When we were at church Sunday night, the sun disappeared, and we had another down pour.


When we got home, my brother Justin went out in the rain and dark with me to drain another few inches of water out of the flat, and then bring it indoors.
And that's where my marigolds are sitting now.

Amber is sitting at the computer, contemplating the necessity of a good memory, if she wants to be successful in growing living things.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Guess what?

Today I'm going to be brief but excited:
My carrots are up!

Happy Saturday to you all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another kitchen flop...or is it?

Unlike my last kitchen tip, this kitchen adventure actually turned out well! didn't start well. As some of you may remember, I have had many bread-flops in my life. Several weeks ago, I added yet another bread recipe to my "this-one-doesn't-work-for-me" list.

Perhaps it was the flour. Perhaps it was the recipe. Perhaps it was the cooking time. Whatever the case, the loaves turned out very hard, "wheaty," and dry. ...Oh yes, and did I mention that I doubled the recipe? Never do that until you try it out at least once!!!

Well, as my mother says, I can't stand to waste food.

My whole family helped me eat the first loaf, when it was fresh from the oven.

Two or three family members helped eat the second loaf, a day later.

I was stuck with the last two.

I tried valiantly. For several days, I cut myself a slice to eat with every meal. Each day the bread got harder, drier, and less flavorful.

When I had about 2/3 of a loaf left, Mom positively forbade me to eat anymore, telling me I would make myself sick.

But I can't stand to waste food.

To make a long story short, I turned the hard, dry, unflavorful loaf into crisp, spicy croutons. Rescued!

I didn't have a recipe, so a simply cut the bread into cubes, discarded the crust (so hard to throw it all away! Surely I could have used it for something...), and put them in a bowl. Then, I poured about a cup of oil over the bread cubes, and added whatever smelled good from our spice rack. A pinch of parsley, a pinch of something else, and LOTS of onion and garlic powder.

Then they went into the frying pan, where I added more onion and garlic powder, and a little salt and pepper. It took them a long time to reach the "crisp" stage, but oh how good they smelled as they cooked!

All in all, my family admitted that they were glad I hadn't thrown that last bit of bread out. Yes!!


She looketh well to the ways of her household...
Prov. 31:27

Welcome to Family Fridays!

In the past, on Family Fridays, I have posted thoughts on family activities, frugal ways to have fun together, and special messages for my family. Today, I'd like to take a slightly different turn of thought.

Some time ago, I heard very valuable piece of advice, about daughters relating to their family. For the past few days it has been rolling over in my mind again and again.

"Make yourself indispensable to them."

Have you ever thought "if I left this household, nobody would even miss me!"? I confess that I have. Of course, at the time, I was put out with my family, and feeling sorry for myself. I didn't realize that, by what I was saying, I was actually showing how much at fault I was.

So my family doesn't value me? They don't pay enough attention to me? Nobody would miss me if I left? Why, pray tell?

Well, the messy answer was this: I wasn't doing anything they would miss!

My time was filled with my projects, my work, my goals. I talked about what I was working on. I did chores, and that was about it. I didn't do extra. I ate at the same table as everybody else, and slept in a bedroom with my sisters, but I wasn't very interested in their lives.

So, if I left, what would they have missed? A listening ear? Hardly. A sister who helped them with their work? Not at all. A daughter who asked what she could do to further the interests of the family? Nope.

I really wasn't a vital part of the family. I was a part, to be sure, but not a vital part. I loved my family, and I knew they loved me, but at the same time...they didn't need me.

When I came to that realization...I was hurt. I got a little angry. But I finally had to admit that it was my fault. And, Lord helping me, I determined to change.

When I leave this home, as I believe I will someday, I want to leave a HUGE hole. I want my family to miss me. I want them to have to sit down and figure out who's going to do what I've been doing. If they don't have to sit down and plan to cover for me, then I haven't been doing my job.

I find it interesting that, in Proverbs 31:27, the phrase "she looketh well to the ways of her household" is immediately followed by ""and eateth not the bread of ildleness." Work!

Of course, when I say I want to leave a hole, I'm not speaking about just chores. There are other kinds of work, too. Running errands, playing secretary, caring for the garden, watching my younger siblings, giving hugs (though that's not really work!), lending a listening ear, planning surprises, encouraging, teaching, helping with my siblings' school work....just anything that I can find to do.

I have been so pleasantly surprised to find that I do not feel "unfulfilled" by focusing on other people's needs and goals. Instead, I feel so....vital! I'm an insider. I've got a job to do.
That's not to say I'm the perfect daughter and sister. Sigh. No indeed. Just this week, I found myself sliding into the "me,me,me" mentality. I felt myself loosing contact with one family member in particular. And I've had to do a great amount of praying and reading, claiming the grace of Jesus to correct my attitude. But, bless His name, He does help me! Don't we have a wonderful God?
We have a God who put us on this earth to serve. So, let's get busy, and make ourselves indispensable!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Book Announcement!

Talk about excited!

Today, I am very pleased to share with you that I have a new book for sale.

For those of you who have read my first book, please realize that this is not the second book in that series. Due to complications, that project is still on the shelf. This new book stands on its own as a separate story.

It is a story about my family.

How many of you have parents who are first-generation Christians? How many of you are those parents, who weren't raised in Christian homes? This book is written for you. It is written to encourage you. In it, I simply tell my memories of what it is like to be raised in a God-centered home.

Some memories are funny. Some are sad. Some are serious. But through them all, I have endeavored to give an picture of my home in hopes that I can:
#1 - encourage those who don't know how big a blessing they are giving to their children,
#2 - rebuke those children who take their homes for granted,
#3 - inspire those families who do not worship the Lord in their daily lives.

If you wish to know more, or order a copy for yourself, please visit:


Here's a kitchen tip for the day!!!

#1~ When adapting a Baked Bean recipe from cook top to slow cooker, remember that water does not evaporate nearly as much from a slow cooker as it does from an open pot!

#2~ Therefore, reduce water amount in slow cooker by about 2-4 cups.

#3 ~ Failure to do this results in bean soup instead of baked beans.

#4~ To salvage your supper, you can always try adding cooked rice to the mixture, to thicken it up.

#5~ Then, of course, you end up with bean-rice soup.

#6~ So you resort to serving it in bowls, and thanking God that you have a understanding family!

P.S. Guess what we had for supper last night? :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Quilt

Whew! It's Monday again.

I had a lovely Sunday - hope y'all did as well. The sermons at church were excellent, and I could really feel the Lord working among His people. In Sunday School, Pastor spoke about how we must sow our seeds in life, and remember that we won't always see the results right away. If you read my Saturday post of this week, you'll know why I smiled when I heard Pastor say that.

I sure needed a good Lord's Day to get me ready for this week! This Monday has not been, profitable, I guess I should say. I haven't done everything that I had on my mental "To Do" list. I did do the dishes and two loads of laundry, however! Here's another quilt picture from the quilt show:

Isn't that pattern something?
This quilt was made from a commercial pattern, by a very accomplished quilter. She had two quilts at the show - the other one was designed from scratch. I like the play on color in this quilt. I can't remember for sure, but I think this quilt was made entirely by machine.
Don't all these quilt pictures inspire you? I have so many projects I want to start! I must learn self-control!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Seeds and Humans

" She considereth a field and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard." Prov. 31:16
Do you remember this?
The rain continued to fall, thank the Lord, and the beet seedlings became this:

Today I went out, under the overcast skies, and took this picture:

What wonder there is in a garden!

Some things grow so fast you can almost see them moving before your eyes.

Other seeds lie under the ground so long, silent and still, that you think they've died.

Then, one day, a tiny sliver of green stretches above ground into the air, and you know it's going to be a beautiful plant someday.

Isn't that sort'av like people? When we go out into the white harvest, some folks are just waiting for the good news. They receive the gospel gladly, and quickly bear fruit.

Other folks listen for years, and never show signs of being changed. But in some of their hearts, God is working in His quiet way a change that will someday be revealed, like a little sliver of green.

Doesn't this give you hope, when you think of those you are praying for, that they would be saved? How good God is to give us this picture! Everybody should have a garden, don't ya think?

P.S. Here's one of those seeds I thought would never start growing; our potatoes have come up!!!! We planted them even before the beets, and they've taken so long to show, yet here they are, bigger than any of the beet seedlings!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happy Birthday!

"She looketh well to the ways of her household..." Prov.31:27
What better way to observe "Family Friday" than to announce a Happy Birthday message?
Some of you may have noticed that I skipped "Sister Day" this past Monday. Instead, today I'd like to wish "Happy Birthday" to the best older sister a gal could have.

May you have a wonderful day, Heather! I love you!!!!
Don't y'all think it's sad when family members would rather party off with other folks instead of their family? We don't have that problem. We always pick some activity to do together on birthdays. ....And Heather always picks great ones!

We've already packed quite a bit into this day. Early this morning, two of my siblings sneaked out to the living room to decorate the place with streamers. We started the day with a sumptuous breakfast, and a reading of a chapter in Proverbs. Later in the morning, our whole family went biking together on a lovely trail. Then we came home to a lovely lunch, with cake and ice cream. (The cake was all milk chocolate - yum! ...And, of course, I've never met an ice cream I didn't like!)

I don't know what all the afternoon may hold - probably just relaxing, letting the beautiful breeze flow through the open windows....and we'll finish the evening off with our traditional Friday night pizza.

But, anyway, I want y'all to know that I have the absolutely BEST older sister in the world. I have the best sisters, period. And I'm not biased. :) No, sir.

Well-known facts about older sisters:
~ They know what you want to hear, but they will tell you what they think you need to hear
~ They can seem bossy at times, but when you look at their lives, you'll see that they are just expecting you to be as hard-working as they are.
~ They come alive at about 10:00 every night, and they're great for late-night chats.
~ Mine is dangerous with coffee inside her. :) (Love ya, Sis!)
~ What a comfort it is, to know that you can pour out words to them, knowing that they will take them, sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away!
~ They always have a better memory than you do.
~...There's so much more! ...But who has time to sit and read (or write!) about great sisters, when you can go off and be with them? I've got to go. Bye!

To Be or Not to Be...

Some time ago, I was sitting in church, listening to our pastor tell about a fellow missionary he knew. This man was very different from the average American.

He worked with our Pastor as a missionary in a European country. Whenever he bought something from the natives, he purposely paid extra. He didn't try to get the best deal.

Whenever he sold something, he took less than the thing was worth. He didn't try to get the best deal.


He didn't want anyone to be able to say that he was trying to cheat, look out "for number one," or pushing and shoving to promote his own interests. He was there to be a witness to these people. He would do whatever it took to keep his testimony clean. Going the extra mile.

How different this is from the greedy average American! Sadly, even Christians seem to be afflicted with this disease.

I was thinking about frugality today. I like being frugal. It makes me feel like I'm being a good steward. There's certainly plenty of Christians who act like their money belongs to them, instead of God. I don't want to join that crowd.

But neither do I want to swing to the other extreme. I'd rather pay $10 extra, and have a good witness, than save $1o and lose my chance to be a good testimony.

How 'bout you?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another Quilt

Look at the quilt I have to show today!
For those of you who missed my first "Quilt Show" post, if you scroll down just a bit, to a few posts ago, you will see that I've recently had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a quilt show. I took lots of pictures, and I'm sharing them with y'all, one quilt at a time.
This quilt, called "The Virginia Album Quilt" was my second favorite quilt at the show. (Of course, being a Virginian doesn't influence me in the least :))

All that applique! The lady who quilted it took me under her wing and gave me all sorts of quilting tips. She said this quilt was a "blue ribbon quilt" - she won a blue ribbon for it at some fair. I can believe it! Beautiful!The quilting was all done by machine, and I think the applique was done by hand, and the piecing by machine.

The quilter seemed to like adding pretty touches like these to her work. Those are little pearl beads in the center of each flower!

These swags are 3-D; really pleated and draped like that!
Ahh, what inspiration! Who wants to join me in making an applique quilt?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bread Recipe!

Okay, here's the promised Oatmeal Bread recipe! Just for the record, it's adapted (I can almost NEVER follow a recipe exactly!) from "The Quaker Oats Treasury of Best Recipes."

Adapted, it reads like this:

Oatmeal Bread

~ 3/4 TBS active dry yeast
~ 1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
~ 1 tsp salt
~ 6 cups whole-wheat flour (works best with a 'lighter' whole wheat. Nothing really heavy.)
~ 2 1/2 cups quick or old fashioned oats, uncooked
~ 2 1/4 cups warm water
~ 1 1/4 cups milk (this really isn't all milk, since we dilute our milk with water - makes it go twice as far!)
~ 1/4 cup butter


In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, salt, 3 cups flour, and oats. Mix well. Heat water and milk until warm, and add to flour mixture. Stir to combine, then melt butter, let it cool to "warm," and add it into the bowl, too. (You may want to melt it earlier, and let it be cooling while you mix the yeast, flour, oats, etc.)
This next step is very important for nicely-textured bread: beat - with a mixer preferably, but by hand works too if you're strong! - for 5-8 minutes on low speed. Then, by hand, gradually stir in rest of flour.
Now you're ready to knead. This dough works best in a machine, because it starts out looking and feeling like....well, oatmeal. As the oatmeal slowly absorbs the water, the dough gets to looking more like dough, but it will still be sticky. Anyway, if you're like me and must divide your dough to fit it in the machine, divide it in half, and knead each half for 8-10 minutes. (15 minutes, or 300 strokes, if you're kneading by hand.) If you've made bread before, and you know the consistency you're looking for, add water or flour as needed. Just bear in mind this dough might be slightly wetter than you're used to.
Let dough rise in a draft-free - but not necessarily 'warm' - place for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled. Punch down, shape into three loaves, place in three greased bread pans, and let rise 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and let the dough keep rising a little longer while the oven gets ready. Then put your bread in to bake, and let bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown on all sides, and bread sounds hollow when tapped on top. Remove from pans to cool.

10 minutes before going in the oven



Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I've been to a quilting show!

Yesterday afternoon was so fun! Armed with a camera, I spent almost 2 hours snapping pictures, and talking with the quilters at this show.

The quilt show took place at our library. (Well, one of our libraries. We go to ...let me count...five or six...) We visit quite often, and we've been to one of their quilt shows before. When I saw the signs advertising their next show, I asked about entering a quilt, and....I entered a quilt!

This was a new experience for me, and it was tons of fun. I was a little nervous about letting my quilt out of my hands for a whole month (the length of the show), but felt better when I heard the other quilters tell the librarians "Take good care of our babies! These quilts are like our children; we like to know where they are, and we never feel quite right until they're home again."

So I had company.

Oh yes, the other quilters! Yesterday was the opening day of the show, and all the ladies who had made the quilts were suppose to be there. I, incidentally, was by far the youngest quilter there, but I didn't mind. It was actually very flattering and fun - all of these ladies coming up to me, taking me under their wing, giving me all sorts of quilting hints, and telling me how impressed they were that someone of my "vintage years" knew how to quilt!

One of the quilters had helped hang all the quilts, and she told me mine was right up front because of how young I was. Smile.

And these ladies were so gracious. Almost all of them were veteran quilters, with quilts far surpassing my own, but, as they stood around in circles discussing the virtues of each piece, and techniques they used, they welcomed me into their circles and made me feel quite at home. No wonder I had a good time!

Now, as I said, I spent 2 hours taking pictures, and I just can't load them all onto one post, so here's what I've decided to do:

For the next few weeks (or months :) ) I'll be featuring one quilt every day or so. I'll share the pictures I took, and what I learned about the quilt and quilter. Bear in mind that these aren't my quilts, so they're sort'av copyrighted. I did take the pictures, but all the credit goes to the ladies who did the work. I wish I could remember all their names!

I didn't get a picture of every quilt - there were just too many! You might notice my quilt style preferences as you look at each one; I seem to have taken pictures mostly of the full-sized patchwork and applique, and ignored the wall-hanging and picture quilts. There's nothing wrong with wall-hangings and picture quilts, but my own preference leans toward being practical (you can't really use a tiny quilt that hangs on the wall, can you?), and traditional (patchwork vs. modern colors and design, for instance)

The first quilt I've chosen to feature was my favorite, I think (it's so hard to decide!).

Isn't it beautiful? Some of the ladies called this "Virginia Reel," but the little white tag called it something different...I can't remember for sure, but "Jamestown" something. I REALLY like the fabrics used, but the photo doesn't do them justice. I believe this was a "quilt of the month" type of quilt. It is all machine-made. One lady pieced it, then sent it to another local lady to quilt it. The quilter wasn't at the show.

Here's a closer picture, where you can see the lovely color combinations, and the fine quilting.

And I couldn't resist taking a closer picture of this fabric. All fabrics used in this quilt - 36 kinds, all told - were reproduction fabrics. Maybe that's why I like it so much.

So that's our first quilt.

Oh - one more thing. The quilt that I showed....well, I forgot to take a picture of it! Good thing we'll be visiting the library again soon. :) If you look to the right of this quilt I've shown here, (in the full-sized picture of it), you can see the green border of my quilt, with the cream-colored fabric next to it.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Note from a very busy, side-tracked Amber:

To all of you who like new recipes and quilts, Lord willing I will have some stuff to share with you in the next few days! I have just tried a wonderful Oatmeal Bread recipe (pictures coming!) AND, this afternoon I am going to a QUILT SHOW! Can't wait to post pictures. Hope to talk to y'all soon!


Ahh, what a difference a day of rest makes!

Was it a coincidence that one of the messages I heard yesterday was on the topic of "attitudes"? Certainly convicting.

I was glad that I had been rebuked by my conscience and the Spirit on Saturday, and gotten things right before the sun went down. But hearing on Sunday that "you choose your attitude - it's not like you can't help it," and "God lets those trying things come into your life to let you see what's inside yourself - those things bring out the sinfulness inside you so you can see just how bad you are," was certainly a good reminder. ...And a timely one.

Another message I heard yesterday was about the "generation gap" in our churches today.

Titus 2 talks about the older people in the church building relationships with the younger ones, and passing on what they've learned. Listening, I was suddenly deeply impressed with a sense of thankfulness. How kind God is, to design things this way - how much trouble and heartache it will save us younger folks, if the older believers in our lives will teach us what they've learned through rough experience!

I was a bit surprised to have another idea enter my thoughts - "I am older than someone." I mean, I can't just shrug off Titus chapter 2 as being for only "those folks over 40." Paul didn't put an age limit.

I do think that the older woman are to be the primary teachers. ....But the fact remains that I am older than someone. There are always girls younger than me. My younger sisters. Their friends. The little ones, toddling around our church. What am I teaching them? Do I build relationships?

I can remember being one of "the younger girls" quite clearly. I can remember lots of teenagers, or girls in their early twenties, who turned their backs or stopped talking when I came around. Worse, I remember those who spoke down to me, patronizingly.

Those few older girls who took the time to greet me, and speak to me girl-to-girl, I remember with a surge of thankfulness. By just smiling at me and treating me as if they wanted to be friends, they became overwhelming beautiful in my eyes. I admired them extremely. Everything they said to me I treasured.

Now, if I watch for it, I can see that same sparkle come into a younger girl's eyes when I talk with her girl-to-girl. I have lots of girlfriends who are younger than me. From the five-year-old who tells me what she helped mommy with that week, to the 12 and 13-year-olds, who just want to hang out together, I am blessed with lots of friends! It is so rewarding when one of them wants to confide in me, or asks my advice. I pray that I am being the "older woman" God wants me to be.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fruit Inside

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23

I say down at the computer, and out of the corner of my eye I looked out the window next to me.

The heavy covering of clouds in the sky looked like the faint but intricate pattern of stitching on the back of a quilt. The bright green of all the grass and the moss on the trees hinted at the rain we've had all week.

Though the plants have grown considerably, and I was able to get out and plant 2 packages of carrot seeds between rain showers, there really isn't enough change in our garden this week to justify a "Growin Garden" post.

Or maybe I'm just not chipper enough to be enthusiastic.

Have you ever had a day when everything makes you either groan, cry, or scream?

"I wanted to do a post about our garden - and look at the weather." I slumped in the chair and grumbled to Mom. I had already made other post suggestions that she had shook her head at. "WELL, what am I gonna post about?"

"Why don't you post about the fruit of the Spirit?"

A brilliant suggestion, I thought, though I wasn't about to open my pouting mouth and say so. I fetched my Bible, and opened to Galatians. I typed the verses on the screen of the computer, than started thinking.

Nice fruit I've shown today.

First, I planned to get a big day of sewing done - well, actually, I planned to cut out the pieces for a dress. For this I need our big table in the kitchen. But today Dad and my brother Curtis are installing a water filter under our kitchen sink, so tools, rust, water pipes, bottles, and general dirt dominate our kitchen today. Of course they didn't know that I'd planned to use the kitchen why did I stand there glaring and tapping my foot?

Then, Mom gave me an unexpected job to do right after breakfast, which made me miss doing something I wanted to do, and it took longer than Mom thought it was going to take me, so she kept urging me to finish, and I snapped at her, and practically made the whole house miserable because I was miserable.

I have a huge To Do list of letters to write, books to finish reading, bread to make, and music to practice - all before tomorrow - but I just felt mopey and didn't get much of anything done this morning. I don't think I've smiled once yet today.

Right now, thinking back over the morning, I realize I have good reason to cry, not smile. I've been terrible!

Love? Joy? Peace? Longsuffering?

Yeah right. Not me. Not this morning.

Who cares about a garden if I'm not producing the right fruit? What kind of witness have I been?

Oh, dear sisters in Christ, let's pray for one another! I sure need it. Skills like gardening, sewing, and cooking are beautiful and helpful, but they don't compare to the beauty and helpfulness of a meek and quiet spirit.

Instead of running a hoe through the dirt today, I need to cultivate that meek and quiet spirit. I know where the only place to get meekness and peace from is. I know Who gives the peace that passes all understanding. I need to follow through with what I know in my head, and get my heart in the right place.

And......because Mom and Dad have taught me that life goes on, and the world can't stop just 'cause I want it to....
...I think I'll do my praying while I mix up some bread dough and practice my music.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A 7-Letter "L" Word

"She looketh well to the ways of her household..." Prov.31:27

What does your family do to bring its members closer together? What do you do? Do you make an effort to reach out and let your family members know that you love them?What does your family do for good wholesome fun?

Welcome to Family Fridays!
If I give you some hints, could you tell me what I'm thinking of?

~This is a seven-letter word, and begins with "L."
~ It's a place.
~ Our family visits this place an average of once every 2 weeks.
~ When Mom announces that we're going, I go ecstatic.
~ Everyone in our family loves this place.
~ Before we leave, we spend about 8-10 minutes at the front counter, keeping several workers busy getting us ready to go.
~ You have to have strong arms.
~This place ought to have shopping carts, but it doesn't.
~ On the return trip, the van is almost silent. No one talks.
~ On the return trip, the van is about 50lbs. + heavier.
~ For about three hours after we get home, the house is silent. No one talks.
~ Everyone is reading.
We love the library! Free, fun, and fantastic. The benefits are enormous. So many different kinds of books! Such knowledge at our fingertips! ...Or just plain fun, if we're in the mood for a relaxing book.

I would vote a nice big library as one of the best places to go for family fun. Everyone can participate, and it's educational. ...And, after you've read all your books, you get to trade with your siblings and see what they got!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Today I am thinking about writing.

Can writing be considered a work of our hands? It can certainly be used to bring honor to our Lord.

I am almost in love with writing. I spend a lot of my time writing. Do you who read this blog think that adding it to our discussions would be profitable? Are there other ladies out there who want to learn how to best use this skill for the glory of God?


We had a frost on Sunday, and I keep thinking that perhaps our beautiful fruit trees have lost their chance to bear fruit this year. It's too soon to tell for sure, but when I was outside this afternoon, I saw that most of the blossoms have fallen off. Were they about to fall off anyway, or were they killed? The sharp spikes left behind offer such a contrast to the soft round petals that were there before.

The Lord made them, and He sure has the right to kill them - like Jonah and the gourd. ...But it still seems sad. I don't always understand His ways.

On a happier note - I've planted carrots today and yesterday, and they should be coming up in 7-21 days. Can't wait! We've never had carrots do very well in our garden, but there's always a first for everything, right?

Sun and a Recipe

Sun, beautiful sun, is shining on our green grass this morning. It came out from behind the clouds shortly after I asked y'all yesterday to let up on the prayers for rain. :) I'm so thankful for both the sun and the rain - we need both so very much!

Anyway, today I'd like to share a recipe with you. Last night was one of the easiest suppers I've ever made. Slow cookers are wonderful inventions! Please forgive the"little of this, little of that" recipe.


In a large slow cooker, mix together:

1 large can of dark red kidney beans
2 small cans of chili&beans
(You can also add any cans of baked beans, black beans...any thing you'd like. Just don't overflow the cooking pot!)

To your combo of beans, add:
1 "dollop" of mild salsa (...hmm...about 3/4 cup)
1 can (about 26oz.) of meat sauce, or pizza sauce
About 15 oz. water
A few cups' worth of ground beef. We never measure this - Mom just cooks up a frying-pan-full of ground beef, with onions, and divides it up to use in several recipes throughout the week. I used....oh, maybe 1 cup. We're not huge meat eaters. (Well, my brothers would love to do something about that....:) )

Now, stir that all up, and you're ready to add spices and flavorings:
Several good squirts of mustard
A few tablespoons of onion powder
Six or seven good shakes of garlic powder
A sprinkling of chili powder
A good dose of paprika

Stir to combine, put on the lid, plug the slow cooker in and turn it on, (very important!) and let cook on Low from lunch time to supper time. (Around 5 hours) Serve with crackers and sour cream. Combine with a loaf of already-made-home-cooked bread for the easiest meal ever!