Saturday, May 31, 2008

It felt so good!

I've just come home from being out at the flea market all day.

Dad, my brother Curtis, and I were finally able to go to the flea market and do something we've been talking about for a while; set up a tent and pass out gospel tracks. It's a ministry our church started, and we've helped before, but Dad has been working so many Saturdays that we haven't done it in a loooong while. It felt so good to get back into things!

The flea market is a good place to go because of the crowd, ...and of course we aren't there to make money - we just have a bunch of Christian books on our tables for show. I think we sold three books today, in five hours. We gave away about 150 CDs.

These CDs aren't music; they're messages from different speakers we've heard. The one we gave out the most today was "Hell's Best Kept Secret," by Ray Comfort. He's the man who started Way of the Master evangelistic courses.

To draw a crowd, Curt and I brought our instruments; guitar, banjatar, and mandolin. We played all sorts of hymns - country style of course. So many people came to listen! But my fingers are numb now. I don't think I've ever played four hours of mandolin all in a row like that!

There were some Amish folks selling veggies on the other side of the market. One of their men came over and asked to sing with us for awhile. He sang very nice tenor. He liked what we were doing, and talked about "starting a ministry" over at their tent, too! (Wouldn't it be great if we could get every stand at the market passing out tracks?)

Another man, this time smoking and wearing a great big belt buckle, seemed unable to get away from our tent. He just hung out and listen. He even borrowed my mandolin, and played a hymn through with Curtis!

Dad passed out CDs and tracks to every person who walked by (who would take them). He attracted little boys with his gospel illusions. As one little guy walked off, he looked over his shoulder at Dad and said "will you please be here next time?"

I have all sorts of ideas rolling around in my head for next time. Veggies and baked goods were attracting big crowds at other stands. I can bake, and we'll have veggies soon! Anything to get folks to come by.

What about you? What sort of creative ways can you come up with to spread the gospel?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Money, Things, and Friends

Dad gave me a piece of advice a few days ago that I thought was very worth sharing here.

"Hold things loosely."

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meant, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, not gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much More clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Gather knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Mathew 6:24-34
When I think about the virtuous woman serving in and out of her home, and doing all sorts of projects, and being a very good steward of what God has given her, this is one aspect I usually forget.
Things aren't everything.
Of course I know that, in this chapter in Mathew, Jesus isn't saying that we should never have a bank account, never buy an article of clothing, and never plan a menu. As He often does, Jesus is talking here about a general attitude.
I tend to hold tightly to things. I'm sentimental. I hate to throw things out; I may need it some day! I also tend to worry about my wardrobe; why do I never look as nice as the other girls? I need some more skirts! Maybe I should find another pair of shoes. If I could just find the perfect hair style....
I'm just starting to learn this lesson:
Don't hold tightly to things.
P.S. In honor of Family Friday, here's something I was thinking of today:
Why do folks say "You know you're good friends with someone if you fight with them." That's crazy. But maybe that's why siblings fight? Nah, that can't be. Siblings? Fight? Never.
I consider my siblings my best friends. I hope you do too. And, just so you know....
...You DON'T have to fight to be best friends!
In fact, doing without the fights would probably help all those people I meet who can't stand their siblings.


Well, here's my sewing area as it appears this morning. If you think it's still a little messy, you should have seen it yesterday!!

Mom always says that God is a God of order, and it feels so good to have my surroundings ordered and clean, instead of cluttered and hectic.

I've still been dreaming about what I want to do here next. The ironing board you see on the right will be covered with a cheery red and white star-print fabric, and the filling cabinet under it (where I keep my patterns), I'd like to paint red.

The table against the wall with the window is now my cutting table, which Mom is loaning to me. I've never had a table just for cutting before! I even drove some nails in the shelf above so I could hang my cutting mats.

The boxes below the cutting table are ALL FILLED with fabric. I nearly had to sit on the last one to shut it. The laundry basket is holding what didn't fit in the boxes. (And, yes, you do see jeans in the basket. It's NOT dirty laundry; I collect old jeans to use for fabric!)

Here is some of my "red stuff." Isn't it cheerful? Every single red container in my sewing area has been a gift from somebody who knew I liked red for my sewing area.

So, there's the bit of progress I have made in the past two days. get some of my sewing projects done!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mothers are wonderful

Guess what I've been doing all morning?

Cleaning and organizing my sewing area!

I wish I could share "before" and "after" pictures with you, though I'm really not finished yet. I did have a great "before" picture, that I took months ago, but I lost it when our computer crashed.

I am so thankful to have an area set aside for sewing. I appreciate it more because when I was learning to sew I was at the kitchen table, and I had to get everything out and put it away when I was done. Or I sat in the middle of the living room floor. Or on the couch. Or on my bed. Or in the car (when sewing by hand).

But for the past few years Mom and Dad have given me a corner of the basement all to myself. Ahhhh! Luxuries.

Of course, it's still....a basement; what can we say? But it's mine, and little by little I've taken steps to improve it. Two years ago, that meant getting a wall built on one side of the area as we put a room in our basement. (well, okay, that wasn't my doing - I just gained from it!) I also got shelves on the new wall! This past fall, I painted the walls and window frame, and collected some new storage containers. I also sewed a cover for my sewing chair.

My sewing area is themed in red. Red chair cover, red storage boxes, red ironing board cover (haven't made that yet, but I have the fabric!), red window frame (I loved sponge-painting that!)... I figured that, in a dark basement, the red stands out and cheers up the place. It also makes me focus on my sewing rather than what's on the other side of the room.

Oh yes. I forgot to say that I share this room with our laundry area. We have eight people in the family. We aren't perfect about keeping up with the laundry. ....Need I say more?

There's a rod hanging from the ceiling that we use to hang clean clothes. I use it to dry my clothes indoors on cold days. It's very useful, but it hangs near the solitary light bulb in the room and, when clothes are on it, it blocks most of the light from reaching my sewing area.

But today, after a long wait.... has been re-arranged!

I was downstairs at about 9:15, knowing I needed to work on some sewing projects, but not really looking forward to facing the mess in my sewing area. I had let things pile up, and not put projects away...and some of the laundry always migrates onto my "sewing-only" ironing board....All in all, not a pleasant place to work.

But my wonderful WONDERFUL mother came down after me, and said "Do you think that would fit there? I could we hang the rod over there? And we could put my table there... And we could stack those boxes over there... Let's get busy."

Unbelieving, yet rejoicing, I set to work with my Mom's and Tiffany's help, and now I am so thrilled over all the space down there. I have been sorting and sweeping and dusting all the rest of this morning, and I still have a ways to go, but already there's such a big difference in the way the room looks! I hope to post pictures soon.

Mom, I love you so much!!!!!!

P.S. I would love some suggestions and tips for how y'all keep your sewing supplies and areas organized!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Enemy

I was so furious yesterday morning.

Our peas are just starting to come in. There are so many white blossoms everywhere! Have you ever noticed how a white pea blossom looks like a little lady wearing a bonnet? If you look close enough, you can even imagine a sweet little face.

The pea pods, on the other hand, don't stand out so well. We are growing snow peas again this year, which means we can eat the tender pod and all, but any kind of pea we've ever grown is still green. And green equals hard to spot. I've always preferred picking something like tomatoes or beets, to picking peas and beans. It's just so much easier when I can see what to pick.

But someone must do it - pick peas, that is. And since Mom decided yesterday morning that there were enough pods on the vine to warrant a picking session, out I went, basket swinging on my arm. My youngest sister, Lezley, went with me, and Tiffany came to help after awhile, too.

I hadn't been picking long when I spotted them.

The enemy.


Oh yuck. Thousands and thousands of them, sucking the life-giving juices out of our vines, clinging to the leaves, sitting on the pods...

...OUR pods!

It just wasn't fair. There they were, congregating in masses on the underside of every fifth leaf. There were big brown ones, and tiny green ones that were the same color as the leaves. It was as if the big ones were whispering instructions to the little ones "this is how you do it, Charlie..."

"Aphids! Look at them all!" I wailed. "How do we get rid of them?"

"Daddy showed me. Here - let me borrow your gardening gloves," Tiffany said. She proceeded to protect her hand with the glove, then systematically squash bugs between her fingers.

"Ugh." I shivered and shook my head. I couldn't bring myself to do that - glove or not. I picked another pea, and carefully flicked two aphids off. It didn't kill them....but at least they were out of sight. They didn't appear to have hurt the pod any. I stuck it in my basket. I would scrub it well before I cooked it.

We have tomato plants in the same beds as the peas. I soon went over to check on them. I've heard that aphids really like tomato plants.

Yup - there they were.

We've put a lot of work into our tomato plants - Dad has, especially. They are each neatly staked (with a bug trap on the top of each stake!), and Dad has taught several of us how to remove the suckers that form on the plant. We prune, tie, weed around, and water each plant carefully. We have over 20 in our garden now.

And there were the aphids, calmly ignoring the bug traps, (which I think are designed for other kinds of bugs) and camping out on our tomato vines.

That did it. Tiffany was still borrowing my old gloves. My new ones were in my back pocket. I pulled out the right hand one, slid my hand inside, and went to work.

It really wasn't that bad. The aphids weren't big enough for me to actually feel them being squashed. In just a few moments the thumb and first finger of my glove were dyed a strange dark green color.

As I worked, my anger began to bubble up. How dare these little pests move in! They had never swarmed over our garden in such numbers before. Did they know that we were praying for an extra big harvest this year? I was glad to squish them.

As I worked my way down the beds, I came to Dad's, um, pet tomato plant, if I may call it that. It's the largest plant in our garden, and has been given extra care. It already had almost a dozen blossoms and one or two small green tomatoes!

A cluster of five or six of those lovely golden blossoms were hanging limp and curled, with brown starting to form around the edges. Tiny green bugs gave very clear evidence as to what had happened.

I reached over with my bare left hand. I pinched the vine just below the blossoms, trying to prune it off. The vine was mature and thick. It would not yield to my fingers.

I used both hands, tugging and pulling as my lips trembled and misty tears formed in my eyes. The six-inch piece of vine, loaded with blossoms, finally came free.

I tossed it to the ground beside the bed, and stomped on it with all my strength. I continued until I could see neither bugs nor blossoms - just a green-yellow mess. As I looked up, I saw Tiffany watching me with surprise in her bright eyes.

I looked over at the tomato plant. One section looked bare now, with the section of vine showing a sticky place where I had pruned off that piece.

I sputtered as I stared at the aphids that still remained on the peas, not wanting to say the name I was thinking. ""

"...Meanies?" Lezley offered.

"Meanies. ...There has got to be a way to kill these things!" I couldn't wait for Dad to come home. I wanted to personally help with the extermination I was sure he would think up.

Well, to skip ahead to present time, I had to be out yesterday afternoon, and didn't get to see Dad mix up his concoction of oil and dish soap, but I did have the pleasure of walking out to the garden as soon as I got home and seeing the bugs lying still and dead on the leaves. It might sound cruel, but for the first time in my life, I soaked in the sight of a dead thing. ...or things, rather.

And we did have steamed peas for supper. I scrubbed them well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

By the way...

...Look what decided to pay us a visit when I was making pizza last Friday afternoon! This baby robin sat on the windowsill for about ten minutes, continually flying up and clinging to the screen with his little scrawny feet. He was so cute!!!!! It has been awhile since I've seen a baby bird so close.

T.I.M.E. Tricky. Important. My Master is watching. Eternal results.


It's the one thing that everybody has the same amount of. I've got just as much time as you do, and you have just as much as I do.

Free time.

Now there's where people differ.

I've been thinking a lot about time lately. Should I have free time? Should I always be busy? What are ways that I can be frugal with my time? How can I do two things at once? How can I get more done? How can I redeem my time, as Ephesians tells me to?

Here are a few random things that work for me:

~ I'm working towards rising earlier. This makes such a huge difference. Noon comes at the same time every day, whether I'm ready for it or not, and I can literally enlarge my morning by several hours, just by getting up earlier. Who doesn't want more hours in their morning? I've set my goal as 5:30am. I'm working my way backwards with setting my alarm clock; once my body adapts to waking at a certain time, I set the alarm back by 15 minutes or so.

This will also mean that I need to go to bed a little earlier (or a LOT earlier!) but I think it will be worth it. It's healthier, too. (This sounds really vain....but did you know you can actually improve your looks by sleeping the hours before midnight? Your face will look rosier, smoother, and just all-around better.)

I have tried getting up early before, but always slipped back into old habits after a week or so. Early this year, however, something changed. I've been slipping out to our living room early every morning to read my Bible and pray. I stay awake better out there than reading in my bed. And there's something so special about having that precious hour all for Him. When I have it to look forward to, it's so much easier to get out of bed in the morning.

~ I have a simple routine. I don't just get up and drift for three hours. I try to always get hopping and get things done. I'm still learning this one.

~ I try to do two things at once. ...Now, my mother and older sister are great about doing this when it comes to household matters. They can have a load of laundry running, be washing a load of dishes, and have something in the oven to bake all at the same time.

My mind spins when I try to do that, but I figure I've got to learn, so I'll keep trying.

But I CAN do other things simultaneously. Take reading and crocheting, for instance; prop the book open with a pair of scissors, set it on your lap, push the yarn out of the way, and work and read. ...Or sewing and watching a movie. That works too. ...Or praying while washing the dishes. I love the dish pan. Such an awful lot goes through my head there! (Maybe that's why I can't remember to put a load of laundry in while I'm washing dishes?)

Or making two dishes at once. I can do that.

Or clean a room while reading. (Okay, so this doesn't work so well.)

Or, if you really don't mind being stared at...when you go to the YMCA to walk on a treadmill, take a book to read, and prop it open on the machine, wear headphones to listen to music, and take your latest knitting project to keep your hands busy!

~ If you're a "crafty" person, like me, always have some kind of handwork to occupy your fingers when you're sitting down. (Or walking - stick a ball of yarn in a light bag, sling that over your shoulder, and knit away!)

~ Computer Time. Okay, this can be a biggy. Computers are wonderful tools, but don't let them run your time. I, too, need to work on this. There are always blogs I want to read, things I want to research, emails I want to reply to....and that's just on the Internet.

It helps that there's eight people in our family, and only one computer with Internet access. I couldn't be on all day, even if I wanted to be. And Dad has also set time limits for how long we can be on in one day. That's good too.

When I know I'm only suppose to be on the computer for one hour, it keeps me hopping, to get what I need to do done. I know I don't have to time to just browse.

Speaking of which, I have six minutes left, so I'm going to take off for now.

But, in closing, I'd like to suggest that each of you sit down and list all the activities you do in an average day. Look at them, pray about them, and see how many really need to fill your time. Then take the things that you know you need to do, and compact them as much as you can.

And when you get those "extra" three hours? Don't fill them with time-wasters. Figure out what jobs the Lord has for you to do ...that you didn't have time for before. Now you can do them!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Once to Every Man and Nation
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
'Twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause brings fame and profit,
And 'tis prosp'rous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.

Text: James Russel Lowel

Eternal Father, Strong to save
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, the Lord of hill and plain
O'er which our traffic runs amain
By mountain pass or valley low:
Wherever, Lord, our brethren go,
Protect them by Thy guarding hand
From every peril on the land

O Spirit, whom the Father sent
To spread abroad the firmament:
O Wind of heaven, by Thy might
Save all who dare the eagle's flight,
And keep them by Thy watchful care
From every peril in the air.

O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er theygo;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad praise from air and land and sea.

Text: William Whiting, stanzas 1,4; Robert Nelson Spencer, stanzas 2,3

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bugs, Paint, and Other Things

Here's an idea so neat I couldn't help wanting to share. It covers more than one topic - gardening, creativity, families, and being frugal!

It's Family Friday today. For lack of a better idea, I'll talk about something our family has started doing.

Our family has started doing more serious composting and recycling this year. I wish we did more. I'm one of the ones who jumps up when someone heads towards the trashcan "No! Don't throw that away! We can rinse it out and recycle it!" (Mom might call me a pack-rat) ...But I'm glad we're starting small, anyway.

We make most of our food from scratch, which cuts down on a lot of the packaging junk we could be creating, but we do use a lot of cans - glass and aluminum.

One thing about recycling cans, though; they build up. Storage can become a problem quickly. We don't want to be running out to the recycling place every week, so....? What to do? Haven't figured out how to solve that problem with glass, but here's what we do with the aluminum cans:

First, since we're blessed with a sturdy young man who loves to smash things, we arm him with a big sledge hammer and have him smash the cans flat. That will reduce a whole bins of cans to a few inches of metal.

But, if you use this idea, don't smash ALL your cans. If you have a garden, that is. Why? 'Cause old cans are your answer to organic and cheap bugs traps!

Yes, folks, we have cans sitting on the tops of each and every tomato post in our garden. They are spray-painted red and yellow with plastic spray paint (by that same energetic younger brother. See what a great family project this is?!)

The idea is this: bugs can see color. The bugs that attack tomatoes are attracted to red and yellow. Soooo, before we get tomatoes on our plants, we have put these cans on our posts, to attract the bugs.

Oh yes. The cans are smeared with Vaseline. The poor critters will be stuck. And die. Then they get wiped off, and a new coat of Vaseline is smeared on.

So don't throw out those cans! Grab some paint and Vaseline, and take another step towards having a organic yet bug-free (harmful-bug-free, that is) garden!

P.S. Hanging red paper circles (with Vaseline on them) in your fruit trees works well, too.

Okay, the promised "outbreak of posting"!!!

It feels nice to be sitting down. I've been in the kitchen all morning...persevering strawberries.

Strawberries are like tiny red gems that you can eat. Bursting with sweetness, they make our whole house smell like a summer afternoon.

Though I've watched the preserving processes many times, this year I am determined to learn how to do everything for myself - not just watch Mom do it. And I'm starting with one of the earliest crops of the year; strawberries.

Some of the berries we simply lay on cookie sheets to freeze, the scoop them into freezer bags and store in the freezer. They'll be great for snacks or baking later.

But most of the berries were made into jam. I really, really like strawberry jam. Those chunks of strawberries....mmmm!And I've been thinking about starting a "how to" series here at "The Fruit of Her Hands" anyway, so here's the first post:

How to Make Strawberry Freezer Jam
(called freezer jam because you don't have to can anything.)

First, was up all your canning jars. (Since this jam will actually be stored in the freezer, you can use plastic freezer containers as well. Your choice.)
This is usually my least favorite part of food-preservation jobs, but I got stuck with it this morning. Smile.

Then, get everyone to pitch in and slice the tops off all the berries!

Rinse your berries well....

And smash them! For our recipe, we used 4 cups of whole berries for 3 pints. (These smash to 2 cups of ...stuff.)

Then you add sugar. In this first picture, I show the second recipe we tried today. It was made with a different kinds of pectin, and much less sugar. (About 1.5 cups for 4 cups squashed berries.)

Here's the first recipe. Equal parts of sugar and berries! (No wonder I like strawberry jam!) Honestly, that much sugar was a little sickening. That's why we tried the other recipe. I don't know yet if it will set as well, but hey - it will taste fine! (I hope!)

Next, you boil the pectin in water (however much the recipe calls for). Once you reach a rolling boil, continue cooking for one more minute. (And yes, I did spill that pectin all over the burner. Strawberries weren't the ONLY thing our kitchen smelled like today!)

Add the pectin to the strawberries. Stir for 3 minutes. Ladle into glass jars, using a funnel (this is the part every little helper wants to be in on.) Screw on the lids....

And you're done!

After 24 hours at room temp., this can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for one year.

I can't wait for that first slice of toast, or peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hey Everybody...

... I'M BACK!!

The Lord has blessed us with a brand-new computer. It will take a while to learn the new systems, (our old computer was in eight years old), but I'm so glad to be in contact with the rest of the world again!!

...So get ready for an outbreak of posting topics tomorrow!!!! (If I can fight my way {ahem. I mean softly, graciously, kindly, sweet-talk my way} through the crowd around the new computer.

Can't wait! (to post, that is!)


Saturday, May 17, 2008

So things don't always go the way we want them to...

Up until now, I could say that we've never had a virus on our family computer.

Up until now, that is.

Today I am posting from a library computer. Our computer at home has decided to leave us.

It's very frustrating to have a computer die on you. Especially if you loose a lot of files.

But there's one good thing. It's a very good life lesson.

We caught the virus because our computer protection and fire wall was turned off. I've learned this week that the average time it takes for a computer to be bombarded by viruses after it connects to the Internet is 7 seconds.

What about the spiritual realm? My protection and strength is in Christ. He tells me about my spiritual armor in Eph. 6. Salvation, prayer, His Word, preparation of the gospel of peace, truth, and many other things are my defensive and offensive weapons in this spiritual war that has engulfed our world for ages past and has yet to reach a climax.

Spending time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word charges me up with what I need to fight. Being close to Him is my protection.

When I become isolated from Him, the wall of defence begins to break down, and you know what? I bet it doesn't even take the devil 2 seconds to start firing his flaming arrows. So I'd better stay close to Christ.

So, while my posts may not be as frequent, until we get a new computer, I am thankful to have that bit of learning gained from this experience.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Day In My Life

Okay, this post will probably be overloaded with pictures, but I want to share with y'all the lovely day I had on Wednesday. At least, since I'm posting on a library computer, I don't have the temptation to be too lengthy.

On Wednesday I celebrated yet another year the Lord has given to me on this earth. What mercy! I also felt like celebrating that my family has put up with me for so long. (smile)

My request of my parents was that we spend the morning at my favorite spot on God's green earth; the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the Peaks of Otter. I think of Flat Top and Sharp Top as my mountains, and I love to be near them - and on them! The views are magnificent.

Anyway, we cooked breakfast over the open flame....of a camp stove. :) Pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage never tasted so good. 'Specially when the pancakes were drowned in 100% pure maple syrup from New York.

Granted, the pancakes didn't look that lovely. Since the cook top wasn't on a perfectly flat surface the batter made odd shapes, and since the flame didn't get hot enough, some were gooey inside. But I take all the blame, since I was the person tending to them. (It all happened just to take me down a peg or two, after my post on how "expert" I am at making pancakes!)
(My sister Heather, warming up with a cup of coffee.)

After breakfast we went hiking. The beauty in the area this time of year is just breathtaking. Mountain laurel of all colors lit up the trail, and goldenrod and other flowers peeped out from between shiny green leaves.

Our hike took us to an old farm, from the 1930s, which, during the summer, is outfitted like it used to be, and open to visitors. When we arrived, however, the cleaning crew was there, and though several pieces of furniture were set up, no linens or details were in place.

I didn't mind. We had the place to ourselves! The folks who were cleaning the place up were very welcoming and helpful - we got our own tour, then got to explore wherever we wanted to on our own. No crowds. Freedom to explore the nooks and crannies. Perfect.

I love old house. 'Specially old farmhouses. This one was wonderful. I love history!

I snapped pictures of everything. I thought I'd share some of the sewing-related pictures with y'all.
I think I need to use this idea! Isn't that handy for getting a quilting frame out of the way when you're not using it? ...Now if I could just find some eye screws....

And this lovely sewing machine. It's the original, that the lady of the house used. ...Though, as our tour guide said "she wasn't much of a homemaker - she would rather be out tending to her veggies and flowers." I wanted to asked why tending to plants made her "not a homemaker," but decided not to bother. Anyway, haven't you always wanted to use one of these? I have.

When we got home, we had a lovely lunch of subs and ice cream cake. Then my family gave me some wonderful gifts, and I spent the afternoon out in our garden. I got my first harvest of beets! Granted, they are small and tender, but I had to thin them out anyway, and I'd rather eat them them throw them in the compost pile! I also snapped a photo of my single marigold that has opened up.

In the evening, after supper, we all headed out to church for midweek prayer service, which was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

That's just a brief summary of one day in my life. Of course, it wasn't typical, ...but in a way it was like other days, because I was surrounded by love. That happens every day, and I'm so glad it does.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A slice or a loaf?

Imagine a wedge of that all-American-favorite, apple pie, sitting before you.

The crust, no store-bought, sawdust-dry thing, is homemade by a master hand, with each flaky layer begging to fall apart in your mouth.

The apple slices, each one encased in shimmering filling and showing specks of cinnamon and dots of juice, are bulging from the sides of the wedge of pie.

A fork is in your hand. What are you waiting for?

Now imagine that you have an appointment at 1:30, and the clock on the wall by the table says 1:15. You need at least ten minutes driving time.

You can't bear to leave this piece of pie untouched. With one eye on the clock, you quickly clean the plate, brush the crumbs into the trashcan, and exit the lonesome kitchen.

Pause. Rewind time.

Now you are sitting again in front of that apple pie. This time you are at the end of a long day. Your family is also gathered around the table, each member with their own piece of pie. A red-checked tablecloth shows off each plate to advantage. Pleasant conversation flows between each person as you slowly savor each and every bit of pie. The flavors explode in your mouth with juicy goodness. When your plate is clean, you lean back in your chair - perhaps lifting the front legs off the floor slightly - and soak in the feeling of contentment.

You have one life.

My Pastor says that life is like a loaf of bread. You can slice it thick or thin, but in the end you have only one loaf.

Too many young people - or middle age people, for that matter - are rushing through their life. They can't wait for the next stage. To be able to drive. Or marry. Or have children. Or have grandchildren.

When you eat slowly, you fill up more. You don't get indigestion. It takes less food to satisfy your hunger.

Be content. Take time to enjoy your piece of pie.

I'm back!

After five days of very sporadic posts, here I am, ready to keep up with this blog once again!

First of all, here's a fairly recent picture of my marigolds. If you look close, you can see that there are buds on the tips of several plants! (Since this picture was taken one bud has opened up. It's yellow, and SOOO beautiful!!)

Second, I want to share another recipe. This one also includes a story....


Now how hard could a batch of fluffy wholewheat pancakes be, anyway?

I was in my early-mid teens when I decided that I ought to know how to make a good batch of pancakes. Mom was all for that.

We have a tradition of eating pancakes on Saturday morning, so I had lots of chances to try out my skills. ...Or lack thereof.

First, there's the recipe. I tried all kinds. Once I forgot the baking powder. ...Ever had pansheets?

...Then I added too much baking powder. I was so excited! They sizzled up so nicely, and came off the griddle looking high and fluffy...

...not even the dog would eat them.

And after you get the ingredients right, you still have to master the trick of flipping the little things.

Easier said than done.

For months, the side of our stove was constantly developing streaks of batter down the sides, and the floor behind the stove became the ant restaurant, where the specialty of the house was dirt-encrusted pancakes.
What's the good of having a nice recipe if none of the pancakes make it to the table?

Soooo....(drum roll, please!)...with a hard-earned sense of accomplishment, I wish announce that the ant restaurant is now closed for good (I hope!) and I wish to present to you my pancake recipe, that never fails me:


Amber's Pancakes

3 eggs
3 cups milk
1/4 cup veg. oil
a capful of lemon juice
3 cups flour (white whole wheat is nice!)
2 TBS baking powder
1 tps. salt
a few dashes of cinnamon (actually, I load this on!)

The method used to combine ingredients is very important if you want fluffy cakes. First, break eggs into bowl and beat lightly until lots of bubbles form. Then add milk, lemon juice, and oil. Stir. Now mix in dry ingredients. Pour them all into the bowl, and don't start stirring until everything is in the bowl. Then, use gentle strokes with a fork until the batter is fairly smooth. You don't want big lumps...but if you beat the batter hard enough, you will loose all the bubbles that that the baking soda is making. Those bubbles are what make fluffy pancakes, so don't let them escape!
Now cook pancakes in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil on the pan if you need to. Cakes are ready to flip when bubbles start coming to the surface and popping. Second side doesn't have to cook as long, usually.
Serve with butter and genuine maple syrup! Enjoy!
Serves 8 people with average appetites.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

To my littlest sister...

...I won't be able to say this tommorow, so I want to take the time to say it now.

I want to wish a very happy birthday to my sister Lezley, who will be celebrating her birthday tommorow.

Lezley is the youngest member of our family, and it's a little scary to think that she's getting closer and closer to the double digits. We don't have any babies any more!

Lez, I apoligize for all the times I'm impatient when I should be loving. You're a wonderful sister, and it's a thrill to see you changing and growing as you develop into the young lady God wants you to be. Every day I realize even more what a friend you are to me.

You fill our home with laughter and joy. I tease you about your strong personality, but I want you to know that I am thankful for the way you come right out and try to make me laugh when I'm sad, and that you aren't afraid to witness and pass out tracts. All that lady-like boldness will make you a wonderfully strong woman some day!

May you have a wonderful birthday tommorow. I love you, sis.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Didn't think I would...

Well, what do you know? I actually have a free moment to sit down and write a post!

We've been having a lovely visit with my grandparents, who arrived yesterday afternoon. Our house has been very busy, with us trying to do everything we can together before their visit is done.

Do you know what's frustrating? I had a photo of my marigolds that I wanted to share today, (I've discovered some buds!) and our little camera memory card has decided it doesn't want to communicate with our computer, so....

...Let's get on to the more cheerful subjects....

She looketh well to the ways of her household...Prov. 31:27
Welcome to Family Fridays!

If wives are the completer of men, then mothers must be the completer of families.

What is it about the special love that forms between a mother and her child even before the child is capable of reasoning? What is it that makes a mother sacrifice so much for her children?

On the other hand...Why is it that motherhood no longer automatically stands for all that is good and noble? Why do we have mothers today who care so little for their children? Why are there mothers today who are selfish instead of selfless, impatient instead of understanding, and so focused on the outside world rather than what's going on in the lives of their children?

Good and godly mothers are even more valuable today, because they are rare today.

So today I'd like to say how very thankful I am for my mother. What a gift God gave me when He placed me in her womb!

Mom is patient when I am rude and upset with the whole world.

Mom laughs when I need someone to find me amusing.

Mom teaches me when I'm groping for answers.

Mom does so many menial tasks - all for the love of her family and God - that I'm just starting to find out about.

Mom is a listening ear when I need it the most.

I guess, above all else, good mothers are good servants. Someday I hope to be blessed with the title "mother," and when I look at Mom, I realize I have a long way to go before I have the selfless and serving heart I will need.

That selfless and serving heart comes from only one source; closeness to the Saviour. I know that. I'm so glad Mom values her Lord even more than her family, because we reap the benefits of that.

If you have been blessed with a godly mother, go find her right now and tell her you love her. Don't just say "thank you for all you do." Tell her the details. Tell her thanks for the hugs. Tell her thanks for not yelling at you all the times when she had a perfectly good reason to do so. Tell her thanks for telling you about Jesus.

I can't say everything that is going on in my heart right now.

I love you, Mom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A little bit of everything...

Today's post will hopefully be wonderful enough to last a few days, because I'm not sure I'll have the time to post in the next few days. My grandparents will be visiting us from out of state, for Mothers' Day and one sister's birthday, and I have a cousin graduating from college this weekend as well. ...All in all, I expect a busy weekend. ...A weekend which starts on Thursday. :)

First, though, I'd like to thank all those of you who contributed ideas for getting rid of ants. ...Though I did fall asleep last night imagining little ants curling up and dying in agony from indigestible food I provided for them. :( No, I haven't tried anything yet. There's so many ways to get rid of them, it seems! Now I must pick which one to suggest to my mother first.

Second, I thought I'd show another quilt picture from the quilt show back in April. One day soon I hope to share some pictures of the spring outfits I'm working on right now, but I've only completed one skirt so far, so that will have to wait. (Maybe I should do a post on NOT putting sewing projects off!)

I really liked the simplicity yet beauty of this quilt; it looks like it was meant to be used. The colors remind me of the 1950's, and the pattern reminds me of one my great grandmother used. The bottom photo is a close up of the wonderful hand quilting the maker did. Such tiny stitches! I believe the piecing was done on machine.

...And, next, I'd like to share some of those recipes I promised y'all.

Doughnuts. Who doesn't like them?

I know this is bad to say, since I took it, but isn't this photo beeaauutiful? The morning sunshine was falling through our kitchen window onto the table, making the chocolate topping on the doughnuts just sparkle. And I had just learned how to use the focus on Dad's camera, so I could get close-up pictures that weren't fuzzy.

Anyway, back to the topic of making doughnuts.

I've always wanted to try my hand at it, but was a little nervous because I've heard that making doughnuts is tricky.

Then my Grandma gave me a recipe for doughnuts that she's used, and her mother used, and I decided to try making it.

They were good old fashioned fried doughnuts. Putting the dough together was simple. I cut out the doughnuts and plopped them in the hot oil. (great way to splatter your clothes and get burned!) But oh how good they smelled! Half an hour, and several burns later, the kitchen smelled strongly of burnt oil, but the table had a lovely little heap of doughnuts cooling on it.

If you've never had fresh, warm, homemade doughnuts you can't imagine how good they are. I'd never tasted anything like them.

But there was the issue of using all that oil, and making the house smell like a fast-food place.

Then, someone told me that you can make baked doughnuts.

So I researched that on the Internet. Wala! Of course, I HAD to adapt the recipe I found. I fiddled with the amounts of some of the ingredients, changed a few things, and added the cream cheese filling and chocolate topping. Here's the results:

(By the way, you're free to make these doughnuts, but this recipe is copyrighted! :) I may want to send it in to Taste of Home someday! :) Isn't that the greatest magazine?)

Amber's Baked Doughnuts

Don't overbake these - if anything, underbake them; they will continue baking outside the oven for a few minutes. Also, if you decide to make Option#2, make sure the holes are big enough that they don't bake shut - these doughnuts rise! You can cut doughnuts out and place on baking sheets the night before, and store in the refrigerator. Pull out and let rise 1 hour, before baking the next morning.

1 1/3 cups warm milk (divided)
1 TBS active dry yeast
2 TBS butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
2 eggs (fresh, if you can get them!)
5 cups flour (white whole wheat is what I use, and it tastes perfect!)
A pinch or two of nutmeg
1 tsp. Sea Salt

Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. (Be sure your milk is warm, not hot, or it will kill the yeast.) Stir butter and sugar into remaining cup of warm milk and add to yeast mixture. With fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt - just until flour is incorporated. With dough hook, beat lightly for a few minutes on medium speed. Now, look at your dough and add a few more TBS of flour or milk, is you need to. (Mine, if I remember right, usually is just right, and I don't need to add anything.) You want the dough to pull away from sides of bowl, and be smooth and supple. Now, knead just a few minutes longer, shape into a ball, put in a buttered or oiled bowl, and let rise for an hour in a warm place (like the inside of an oven, with the oven light on. The oven isn't on, of course!)

Punch down dough, and roll out to 1/2"-thick on your table or counter top. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit-cutter (for filled doughnuts) or with a doughnut cutter (for doughnuts with holes). Transfer carefully to greased baking sheets, without stretching the circles out of shape.

If you plan to refrigerate over night, this is when you put them aside. If not...

...Cover with a clean cloth and let rise another 45 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until bottoms are just golden - about 10 minutes, but you might want to check earlier.

Now, you have two options.
Option #1:
This is for filled doughnuts. With an electric mixer, cream about 1/2 a pack of cream cheese with some powdered sugar and milk, to make a stiff frosting. Put into some sort of decorator's tube.

Let the doughnuts cool a bit, then insert a knife sideways into it, and wiggle the knife around to make a pocket inside the doughnut. Remove knife, insert the tip of the decorating tube, and fill the doughnut with creme. (Don't bust it!)

Now, melt some chocolate chips until they are runny, and use a spoon to spread a thin layer on the top of each doughnut. This should harden fairly quickly.


Option #2:
This is for doughnuts with holes.
1/2 cup UNSALTED butter, melted (the UNSALTED part is very important! That's experience talking!)
1 cup sugar
1 TBS cinnamon

Melt the butter in one shallow bowl, and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another. While the doughnuts are still warm, dip first in the butter, then quickly into the sugar-cinnamon to coat.
Eat while still warm. (though they taste good cool, too!) Yum!

One more thing:

Grace at the Kitchen Sink

Do we, I wonder, stop to think
How we need God's grace at the kitchen sink?
It really isn't any fun when you can't get your dishes done.
For some folks need to fill their pans
And others want to wash their hands.
The cook brings vegetables to scrub.
One sister has a cloth to run.
Each little one keeps coming up for a cool drink in his small cup.
You try to keep the dishwater hot, but cold drips in, like as not.
It takes a lot of prayer, I think,
For the grace of God at the kitchen sink,
Yet - I am glad that I can live among dear ones who take and give.
There is a wondrous family link of love around the kitchen sink!
~ Anonymous ~

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I need help!

I need some kitchen help.

Perhaps it's the warm weather....

...Perhaps it's the year...

...Perhaps it's our older house...

....whatever the case, We are being invaded by ants!

There's nothing quite like finding ants in random places all over your kitchen. Ugh! They must have a hole someplace, because when we chase them, and aren't quick enough to step on or otherwise squash them, they disappear. We don't like using chemical sprays in our house, because several of us are allergic to them. Any ideas for "organic" ways to get rid of ants?

...All that being said, I have been having good times in the kitchen lately (despite the little visitors!) so prepare yourself for some doughnut, bread, and casserole recipes to be posted soon!

Monday, May 5, 2008


Today is the first Monday in the month of May.

So...though I skipped the month of April, I would like to pick back up with "Sister Day," celebrated on the first Monday of every month. "(No, you haven't missed something on your calendar, and yes, my older sister and I invented this!)

Today is a time to ponder the relationship you have with your sister/sisters.

I could wish that all of my readers have sisters, have godly sisters, and have wonderful relationships with them, like I do. In this world, however, I know that's probably not true for all of you.

Perhaps you have no sisters. I have several friends like this. In a way, I pity them for the wondrous things they are missing out on, but every time I feel that way, the Lord has to remind me that He knows what's best for each person. He knows whether a girl needs blood sisters or not.

But whether a girl has blood sisters or not, God has provided a wonderful group of sisters for those who are part of His family. I am so thankful for the spiritual sisters I have in Christ. This year, particularly, I have begun to develop those relationships more, and appreciate them more. I am learning to truly love like a sister - to care,... to give,... to respect them like sisters.

...This particular sister has had a very busy day that isn't over yet, and her free time has just run out! ...I have responsibilities to tend to. Sorry to break off, but I just want all my spiritual sisters (that includes you blood sisters too!) to know: I love you!

P.S. I'd like to invite anyone who wants to leave a comment about sisters to do so. I'm sure each one of you could contribute something good to this topic!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

My Quilt

Sunny mornings are so lovely!

I'm thankful for all the rain we've had lately, but it's so nice to see a clear blue sky today. Saturdays are always busy around here, and I've gotten a head start already, by hanging out a load of towels to dry on the line.

I don't think anyone else in our neighborhood was outdoors yet. There was a noticeable absence of human-created sounds, except for the distant highway. Birds were scolding each other in a large tree several yards away, and our sweet dog, Midnight, was coming out of her doghouse and making "waking up" sounds. I could see our three rabbits wiggling their noses, and rattling the doors of their cages, thinking that I had come to feed them.

The combination of dewy grass, damp towels, smooth clothespins, and a faint breeze made my sense of touch come alive. I could smell someone's breakfast cooking - I think it was sausage. And so many other smells invaded my brain too. And down at the end of our yard, I could almost see our garden soaking in the sunshine and dew.

All in all, it's wonderful to be outdoors in the morning.

Now that I've spilled a little of my enthusiasm out, let me get to the real topic of this post.

I finally have a picture of my own quilt to show you. This is the one I displayed at the quilt show:

It is the first quilt I ever made. I started it on my 16th birthday. Mom took me shopping that day, and we picked out the fabric together. (That's a special memory...)

You can't see it very well from this picture, but the darker blue is solid, the yellow is really yellow and white tiny print, the lightest blue is also tiny blue and white print, and the print that sort of looks green is actually my largest print, that has all the colors in it together, including green, which was my border and backing for the quilt.

I like the idea of picking one "theme" fabric, with several colors in it, then matching everything to that fabric.

I can tell you more about this quilt than I could about the others, of course, since I made it. The entire quilt is pieced by hand. I didn't intend to do that, but after MANY tries with those angles on my machine, I gave up the idea of a machine-made quilt, and started threading my hand needle.

I found out later that this particular pattern is one "only for experienced quilters." Oh.

The white areas are each made from a single square or triangle. All the quilting was done by machine, and it really wasn't the greatest job of quilting I've ever seen. (understatement) There are several puckers on the back. Sigh.

Oh well. I had lots of fun doing this quilt, and I will treasure it always.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Much better than TV

She looketh well to the ways of her household...Prov. 31:27
Welcome to Family Fridays!

I know I've already touched briefly on this topic for a previous Family Friday, but I'm bursting to discuss it again.......


Guess what I received yesterday?

A mandolin! (no, that's not in the picture - that's one of my siblings playing a guitar!)

I had ordered it last week, and it seemed to take forever to arrive.

Last night, my brother Curtis and I spent nearly an hour tuning the thing, and then started picking! I have already learned a little bit of fiddle, and since the mandolin has the same fingering, I had a head start in learning the mandolin.

Curtis started playing guitar with me, and then who should sneak into the bedroom with us but Justin and Heather? They grabbed a banjatar and harmonica, and the four of us just sat and played one song after another.

Who needs TV?

When we finally looked at the clock, it was way past bedtime! Opps.

I spent the night dreaming about my mandolin, and this morning, as soon as everyone else was awake, I was at it again. Curtis and I had fun with music for nearly two and a half hours straight this morning!

I'd like to urge every one of you to incorporate music into your family's life. There's nothing like it!

Oh - and as an added bonus, I have a frugal tip for the day: When ordering my mandolin, I actually just added to an order that a friend of mine was doing. She also was buying a mandolin, from the same company. Together we got free shipping (for spending a certain amount) and a nice discount on the total price because of a sale. Very nice! ...Now...I can't wait to get together with her when we have time to play!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thank you

Thanks to those of you who have contributed posting ideas! You've started all sorts of post topic ideas running around in my mind. decide where to start!

I would love to post more about my family and how we operate. And about our animals, ...and my driving experiences... and all the things y'all have mentioned. You may start seeing more posts on those topics. :)

One of you also mentioned tongues. What powerful tools! As the book of James says, behold what a great fire it can kindle!

That reminded me of something I've been "rehearsing" in my mind. Something I've wanted to say, but haven't.

You see, I'm always thinking of something I wanted to say, or should have said, but didn't say during a conversation. Ever had that happen to you?

Here's one grand question that I am asked constantly. A question that, afterwards, I always wish I had answered differently: "Are you going to college?"

Usually I reply with a simple "no, I am working at home." But what if I told the whole truth? My reply might go something like this...

"...Well, Sir (or Ma'am), do you remember Titus 2, where the older women are instructed to teach the younger ones, about being pure, keepers at home, lovers of their children and husbands? All those things?
"I have found a delightful 'older' woman, with her husband, who has agreed - well, actually, invited me - to stay in their home. To live with this lady, and to be discipled every day in these areas! She teaches me about running a household, with all the economics and skills that includes. She teaches me to love children, and how to submit to authority.
"I have lots of extra time for other things, of course. Living with this precious couple still leaves me opportunities for outside ministry...and going out in my turn and discipling girls who are younger than me. And I do study some academics on my own still. I'm learning lots of history, for example. I love history! Academics are just not the main focus, like it would be on a college campus. I have time for other things.
" Besides all, this woman's husband is also investing in my education. Everything I do while I'm living under his roof has to have his blessing, of course. But, as a godly, wise man, he offers me so much more than that. He is teaching me doctrine and theology. He gives me good counsel, and teaches me how to submit to authority. I am so thankful to both of these people.
"The environment I am in right now is so rich. I am learning so much! I would never, ever, trade it for a college campus. So, Sir (or Ma'am), the answer is 'no,' I am not going to college. I live with my parents."

I can't imagine the look I would get if I said all that. I might really kindle a fire.

It's not that I'm against college. I'm just for the concept of living where I'm learning the most!

Only girls who have also made the choice to live at home in their "college years" can understand what I mean when I say I get tired of that question "Are you going to college?"

But it's not the people's fault. They just assume what our culture has taught them to assume. So we must be patient, girls, and learn to use our tongues right. Perhaps a simple "no" is the best answer in most cases.

...But I will still love to find out what would happen if I did say all that to someone!