Thursday, July 31, 2008

How - and how NOT - to make spagheti sauce

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the phrase "The Fruit of Her Hands."

There are so many things a woman can do with her hands.
~ There are the traditional womanly jobs, such as cooking and laundry.
~ There are the more artistic skills of sewing, painting, and music.
~ There are the menial tasks of washing dishes and scrubbing floors.
~ There are the heart-and-souls tasks of nurturing children and caring for the sick.
~ There are the women who excel in shopping wisely, being frugal, and embarking on home business adventures.
~ There are women who can use technological skills to create wonderful things on the computer that further the kingdom of God.
~ There are women who are skilled in areas that are not normally associated with women; such as carpentry or mechanics.
~ There are women who embrace nature; they are a wonder with animals, and if they can't grow a certain plant, than surely it can't be done.

I cannot begin to list all the things we can do with our hands. How blessed we are, to be offered such variety! God is good. He has made each one of us different, yet given us the same goal; to honor Him with the work of our hands.

I love my hands. I wanted to be skilled in every area I mentioned above. That doesn't mean I will be, but it means I can try. I love variety. I want to be able to do everything! And I want to be able to honor HIM in everything. To find ways to spread His gospel. To obey His leading. To follow His commands. And to live that abundant life He promised; full of His blessing, and full of His work.

So what have you been doing with your hands lately?

I spent all of yesterday in the kitchen, making spaghetti sauce and relish.

Odd combination, you say? Maybe. But the cucumbers were overflowing in our fridge, and the tomatoes were filling our table, getting riper every moment. We couldn't eat them fast enough, and who wants to let garden tomatoes sit so long they go bad?

I have grown up with a garden in the back yard. I've helped Dad plant seeds since I was old enough to remember, and I've watched Mom can green beans and freeze things for years. (Some years were skipped because we ate everything, with nothing left over to preserve!)

But though I've snapped millions of beans, and I've washed thousands of canning jars, I've never done the actual preserving of our bounty. Not until yesterday, that is. (Well, okay, I've frozen berries, but does that really count?)

Guess what? I didn't mess up!! Well..... I didn't mess up with the sauce. Relish was a little different. But because I don't want to overload my computer with too many pictures at once, I've decided to post about each cooking experience separately. And I'm doing spaghetti sauce first. That means you'll have to wait for the relish story. :)

Anyway, here's what I started with:

Four pounds of tomatoes. Four pounds of very RIPE tomatoes. First, I removed all the stems, then boiled the tomatoes for about 10 minutes or less. I had read that doing so, then plunging them directly into cold water, would loosen the skins.

Did you know that if you boil VERY ripe tomatoes for 10 minutes or less, then plunge them directly into cold water, the skins fall off when you touch them? No - I take that back. The skins don't fall off. The insides fall out.

I must admit, getting the skins off was quite easy. It would have been more enjoyable if I hadn't been worrying the whole time that such soggy, soupy tomatoes would not make sauce of the proper thickness. ( I didn't need to worry - I found out later that I was using a pound less of tomatoes than I was suppose to.)

After removing the skins, I placed the whole messy remains into the food processor, determined to have nice smooth sauce (I don't like cooked chunks of tomatoes, and most of my family doesn't, either.)

The soggy tomatoes filled the food processor within an inch of the top. I snapped the lid on, and pressed "pulse."

Wwwwwwww! Tomato soup, meet kitchen table.

Has anyone ever told you NOT to run the food processor when it's THAT full of liquid? The reason is because the liquid will manage to spin out of the crack between the lid and bowl of the processor.

The kitchen smelled very much like tomato soup at this point.

Oh - one more tip; don't wipe up tomato spills with good kitchen towels. Red + white towels = pink towels.

Anyway...with a amazing stroke of genuineness, I divided the soup in half, and processed each half separately.

With that done, I put the lovely smooth soup into a large pot, and added the meat and spices. (See above photo.)

All that was left to do was simmer until the sauce reached the desired thickness.

Oh yes - if you leave the lid on the pot, how does the liquid evaporate?

That is the question I was asking myself after an hour of simmering.

The liquid will not thicken if the water cannot evaporate. Therefore, I brilliantly decided to remove the lid. Progress was much better afterward. :)

From that little mound of tomatoes, I made this much sauce; about 5 pints. (Each container holds 1.5 pints. These will be frozen.) My brother Curtis sampled it, and said, "This tastes just like the store sauce!" which I received as a compliment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I can hardly believe my eyes.

Check this place out. My jaw is still rattling on the keyboard. AMAZING! This is fabric heaven.

It's my own creation....uh, concoction, that is.

May I share a recipe I've created? I've made it twice - differently both times - and I'm still tweaking it, but both times I've made it with ingredients that we had in the house already, so it didn't cost anything extra...and that makes it a frugal recipe, right?

Amber's Bean Soup

~ 3 cups dry pinto beans (I've just recently discovered the wonder of pinto beans!)
~ water
~ 3-4 carrots, sliced
~ 4-5 potatoes, diced
~ 1 sausage link, cut into small pieces (you know, the kind of sausage that looks like a hot dog? One of those. I guess a hot dog would work, too.)
~ 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into chunks
~ milk
~ 3 small garlic cloves, minced
~ cilantro leaves
~ paprika
~ Several good shakes of sea salt (This is important! It really adds to the flavor.)

~ ketchup
~ sour cream
~ shredded cheddar cheese

I think that's everything I've used. Aside from the sour cream - I haven't used it, but I KNOW it will taste good!

Okay. Preparation is very simple. First, you can let the beans soak in water overnight. That speeds up the cooking process a bunch, but you can make it work the other way, too.

If you soaked the beans overnight, in the morning drain them, put them in a large pot (one that has a lid), cover, and turn the heat up just enough to make the water boil. Boil for one hour. If you didn't soak the beans, just measure them out, rinse them, place in pot, cover with lots of water, and boil for one hour.

After one hour, drain the water from the beans, replace with fresh water, and start boiling again.

Here's where the fun of estimating comes in. Keep checking on your beans every 20 minutes or so - remember to stir. Add water if necessary. Keep them boiling for two or three hours - until the beans are soft. Once they are soft, remove from stove top and drain. Put the beans back in the pot (not on the stove), and add the carrots, potatoes, garlic, butter, and sausage. The other ingredients (aside from toppings) go into the pot at this time, too, but you'll have to estimate the amounts. Put in the spices to taste.

Milk and water will make up your broth, so add according to how "soupy" you like your soup, and how much milk you want to put in versus how much water. The first time I did this recipe, I used only water, and not much of it, and the result was a thick stew; nice texture, but rather lacking in taste. The next time I used about 1-part milk, to 2-parts water, and the flavor was much better, but a little too soupy. I think next time I'll use the same amount of milk, but less water. Keep in mind that the beans will absorb more liquid as they cook.

Put the pot back on the stove, and boil for 30-40 minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are soft. From that point on, just simmer the pot until you are ready to eat.

I started this in the mornings right after breakfast, and both times it was ready to eat by lunch time.

When serving, add toppings according to taste. Ketchup really IS good in this soup, as is cheese...and I know sour cream would be good, too.

I hope this recipe was understandable. I'm still playing with it. Let me know if you have suggestions!

I prayed, and was answered.

I never did get to sit down and write a post yesterday; the morning was full of housecleaning, and the afternoon was full of teaching sewing lessons and running errands around town.

I do believe the busy day was worth it, though. The house looks much better, the students are progressing so nicely, and best of all, when I was out I was able to share the gospel with a lady.

I've always known that if I want to have opportunities to share the gospel, I must pray for them. I really believed that God would answer those prayers. So I didn't pray. Honestly. I was scared to pray for witnessing opportunities. Scared that I would blow them. Scared I wouldn't say anything - or that I'd say the wrong thing.

But in the past weeks, the Lord has done a work in my heart. These verses have come to my mind:

"When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. " Ezekiel 3:18-19

That can really put the fear of the Lord in you.

So I've started praying - praying with my heart in my throat, but praying.

And God answered prayer for me yesterday; I was able to present the gospel to a lady in a waiting room. She was called away before we had finished our conversation, but we got far enough so that she understood what I was saying. She was friendly, but there was no conviction of sin. She left still secure in her own far as I could tell. ...But perhaps the Holy Spirit will keep working on her.

At least I planted a seed.

At least I delivered my soul.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity. Please send more!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Day


It feels soooo good to be sitting down.

The mission conference officially ended last night. The whole week was wonderful. Now if I can only put in to practice what I've learned.

It was wonderful - but also exhausting. I stayed up late every night, and last night was the latest. I figured I could sleep in on Saturday, and have a pretty light and easy day.

I've never been so wrong.

Well... I was right about the sleeping in part. The clock said eight-thirty-something when I woke, and the first thing I heard was Mom reminding me that we were going blueberry picking this morning.

After a quick breakfast, we headed out. I had to do my morning Bible reading while in the car. The drive to the blueberry farm is a long one, but very pretty. So much beautiful land!

I could hardly believe it when we got to the farm, and found out that the price for blueberries this year is $3 a quart. We could get them on sale in the store for that much, and not have to pick them! Ah, but who would want to miss the hot, sticky fun of picking blueberries?

The bushes we were picking from were 33 years old, which meant they were huge, towering over all of us like great bushy soldiers. The picking was a little scarce, but we started in anyway. The tops of the bushes had the most berries left on them, so picking meant a lot of stretching and standing on tiptoe. I wish I had a picture of Lezley sitting on Justin's shoulders in order to reach the berries, but our camera batteries died.

The strange thing about berry picking is how easy it is for the first five minutes, and how the last two inches of your bucket miraculously refuse to fill up. When I'm picking strawberries, I always think that they are the worst to pick, because you must squat the whole time, but when I'm picking blueberries, I think they are the worst to pick, because they are so little, and it takes so many to fill a bucket.

Anyway, there we spent our morning; picking away, avoiding bees, and trying to fill our buckets. I heard one of my siblings proudly tell Mom, "I'm putting two berries in the bucket for every one I eat!" I dryly retorted, "That means you're eating one for every two you put in the bucket."

I actually had the most fun this morning I've ever had picking blueberries; but by the end of the morning I was really tired. That bucket was heavy, yet it refused to fill all the way. I just wanted to be finished! Heat and humidity were both present in the berry patch this morning. My darling brother, Justin, came to get me when everyone was ready to leave (we had all spread out, in order to make the best of the scarce picking), and he carried the bucket to the van for me. I loved him for that! Funny, how little things can become huge blessings when you're tired.

But my day wasn't over. Yesterday, I had told Mom that I planned to recruit my siblings and clean our backyard today. Yesterday.... back when I was full of energy.

We had to make a stop at our church on the way home, and while we were there we did some cleaning; the busy week had left its mark on the building.

When we reached home, at 2:30, I was ready for lunch. I had three slices of homemade bread, with dressing, cheese, and lots of tomatoes on them. With my stomach satisfied, I was ready to chill out on the couch. ...But my diligent mother reminded me of my plans for the backyard.

My siblings had other things to do, so I spent the afternoon cleaning our backyard by myself. Scraps of wood, ...outdoor toys, ...containers of rabbit food and bedding, ...empty plant containers, ...misplaced garbage cans, ...piles of leaves, ...a wheelbarrow, ...misplaced tools,...and other things contributed to a fairly big mess out there. The yard was really overdue for a straightening!

To say that I became hot and sweaty is putting it politely. I was spending the hottest part of the day outdoors in sunny humid Virginia, doing fairly heavy work, and I was wet. Ugh. I was also exhausted. But it felt so good to see the yard tidy!

I ran inside for a quick drink of water, grabbed a basket, and went out to the garden. There, I picked a nice amount of tomatoes and cucumbers. I hope to make pickles on Monday! And the tomatoes are really starting to roll in around here. We can no longer use them up just by eating tomato sandwiches every lunch. Now we get to be more creative!

After picking, I headed down to our nice cool basement, into our family's little workshop. My brother, Curtis, and I are working on a wood project together, and it needed some more work. We spent a good hour or hour and a half gluing wood pieces together, sawing, and sanding. We finished with about a half-hour to spare before supper. I had time to take a shower!!! Mixing steamy clothing with garden dirt and sawdust is a good way to get filthy.

It felt so good to get clean. I even had two minutes to sit on my bed and look at the computer before the supper bell rang! I'm not sure what was more enjoyable at the table; being able to sit, or eating.

I was soooo ready to collapse back on my bed after supper, but I discovered that the day still wasn't over. Mom gave me the choice of either helping to prepare food for tomorrow, or giving one of my brothers a hair cut. I chose the hair cut.

I'm ashamed to say I let a few tears fall as I got out all the hair-cutting supplies. "This isn't fair! I'm so tired, and I don't get to take a break! I've been working all day, and I picked the most blueberries this morning, and I picked up the whole back yard, and I've been on my feet every minute, and I'm still suppose to stand here and cut hair!" I'm thankful I didn't cut my brother's head off! I have so much to learn about keeping a cheerful attitude. I sure didn't do much today compared to the everyday life of my ancestors, yet I was complaining in my heart. I was acting proud because I had done what I was suppose to do, and hurt because I didn't get what I thought was my just dues. How far I have to go towards being conformed to the image of Christ!

But now I am sitting here with my feet up, hair cut finished, and a short evening left to me. I'm thankful for what I accomplished today, and I'm thankful I have a new day ahead of me. I'm thankful for cold showers, and soft beds! I'm thankful for a God who loves me in spite of my sin. I'm thankful for a Holy Spirit who convicts and changes me.

All in all, I think I've had a pretty good day.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Because I'm in the Photography mood, and I couldn't resist.

Isn't this lovely? I took it a few weeks ago. I picked two of these tomatoes this morning. Perfect ripeness.

Oh - one more thing. A frugal tip for the day.

In the summer...

...if you have a garden...

...and you grow the most popular plant of American gardeners...

...and they turn out well, which they almost always do...

...and you want to save money on lunches...

...and you don't mind if those cheap lunches are delicious, mouth-watering, and pretty healthy...

...LIVE on tomato sandwiches.

Missons Week, Day 5

There is something sad about admitting that our own precious country is in need of missionaries. But it is.

Today I'd like to introduce you to a family that is church-planting in a part of our country that is a spiritual desert. Until I met this family, I had no idea that there are many areas in the West where Bible-believing churches are so scarce that children can grow up never hearing God's name except as a curse word. I could hardly believe it when they spoke of meeting a young man, in a small town in Wyoming, who had no idea who Jesus was.

In America.

Our nation needs prayer. And we need to obey. Remember God's promise? If HIS people humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, THEN He will heal our land.

Sharing the gospel with others is one way of turning from our wicked ways - we are commanded to share, and if we do not, we are disobeying.

Please visit the King family's site today, and offer a prayer for them...and for our nation.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Missons Week, Day 4

"Today is exceptionally busy for me, so I don't have time for a long post. Missions week is fun but time-consuming!

Today, I'd like to know what missions projects you, my readers, are involved with right now. Passing out tracts? An unsaved friend you are praying for and witnessing to? A missionary you are corresponding with?

I'd like to know so I can pray for you. If you aren't involved someway, somehow, with something to spread the gospel, do some thinking and praying about it. It is the nature of a true Christian to reproduce."

Okay; this proves how busy today has been! I wrote out the above post, and had to leave the house before I could even finish. I guess I'll end with "good night."


I've changed the template on my blog - it's needed something new for quite awhile. Credit for finally motivating me to experiment and find something new goes to my sis, Heather.

Everything should still be on the page. Please let me know if you find something that I haven't fixed!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I just thought that perhaps I should apologize to the faint-of-stomach for the post I just wrote; the one below this one.

If you can't stand bugs - don't read it.

I can stand bugs.

I wrote it.

It makes me sick.

Sorry. I just had to tell someone about the experience, and you poor readers get my fire. You always loved being a blog reader, didn't you?

I performed surgery.

Yes, I performed surgery today.

Armed with a kitchen knife, aluminum foil, and gardening gloves.

The squash bores have done enough damage. Today I planed action.

Yesterday evening, I stalked to Dad's gardening shelf and pulled out every gardening book that had helped me in the past. Staggering under my armload, I sat down on the living room couch and searched the indexes for "squash bores."

The information I found told me to prevent female squash bores from laying their eggs by mulching the squash plants with aluminum foil.

Okay, Amber. Make a note of that for future reference. But what about NOW?

The only solution given was to carefully slice open the stalks of the plants and remove the bores by hand.


"Slice the stalks? Won't that kill the plant?"

"Come on, Amber - the plants are dying anyway."

"Oh yes. Right."

So I went out this morning.

I didn't know what I was looking for. What do squash bores look like, anyway? Are they microscopic little black creatures? Or are they like large spiders? At least I could spot where they had entered the plants; holes the size of a pencil lead marked their entrances. The insides of the stalks had been chewed to gummy sawdust and pushed out the holes, littering the ground around the base of the plants.

We had three yellow squash plants left; no zucchini had survived. Cringing, I sliced open one stalk near one of the holes. This didn't feel right. I'm supposed to slice vegetables, not the plants they grow on!

Wiggling the tip of my knife inside the plant, I waited for something to happen - some swarm of tiny insects to come flying out. But the inside of the stalk was empty.

Empty. That wasn't good; there was suppose to be....whatever is suppose to be inside a stalk. Stalks aren't suppose to be hollow, and lined with more gummy sawdust - but they were.

I scraped the sawdust-like residue off the insides of the stalk, and sat back on my heels. Looking at the way I had torn up the stalk, I wondered if I should try the other two plants. I knew I hadn't solved anything on this plant.

"But I might never have an opportunity to experiment with this kind of cure again. The plants are dying anyway."

I moved on to the next plant.

Finding a hole, I sliced open a plant again. This was a little better; the stalk had a hole up the center, but it wasn't completely hollow.

No indeed.

The tip of my knife stuck something soft. Through the crack I had cut, I saw something white.

It squirmed.


I don't know how I managed to drag that thing out.

It looked like a fat caterpillar. A very over-fed caterpillar. He had rolls of fat on him...or her. And a big black head, with huge eyes.

Somehow I moved my hand - with the knife - to the cement blocks surrounding the squash bed, and I pressed the ...the thing to death between my blade and the block. The blood was yellow and thick. I nearly lost my breakfast.

My churning stomach must have dulled my good sense. I stuck my knife back up in the hole.

Three more critters followed their leader to a quick and painful death.

Permit me to wind up this story before I make myself sick all over again: I found eight squash bores all together between that plant and the next. All were ugly. All were killed quickly. I left two in plain sight so I could later gross out my family.

I surrounded all three plants with foil, and put a few rocks on it to keep it from blowing away. I watered them well, hoping they would recover from surgery without complications.

I am now waiting to see if the plants survive. I hope they do, after all I went through for them.

After exiting the O.R., and changing from my scrubs, I planted two rows of beans. (Yes, I know it's a little late in the season, but we're seeing if we can get away with it.)

Planting beans is so much easier than curing diseases.

Can you believe that when I was little wanted to be a nurse?

Missons Week, Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of our missions week. If you've missed the beginning posts in this series, just scroll down a little ways.

Today, I am asking you to pray for the three missionary families who were at our conference last night. All of them are on deputation, traveling around and asking churches to support them in prayer and finances. They are going to Nepal (involved with orphanages), Brazil (church planting), and Poland (teaching English).

It was fun to see the three missionaries meet one another, and to see their children talking to each other. The diversity of ways there are to spread the gospel is quite exciting. Each one of these families are going to be ministering in a different country, and in a different way, but they all have a heart to spread the gospel. Please pray for them as they prepare for the field.

Also, please pray for the people they are going to reach. Their hearts need to be softened and prepared to receive the gospel.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The post I thought about writing, and didn't.

I thought about writing a certain post today.

A post about all my failures and flops in the kitchen.

The idea had all the earmarks of a good post. It would be quite entertaining. It would reveal me as human and full of flaws (as if no one knows that!). It would make the rest of you SO thankful for your dishes. It would make the rest of you so thankful that it wasn't you.


It's much too long of a post for someone who must get other things done today.

To be brief, I shall list a small number of dishes I have broken (minus the stories behind each incident), and then a tip for how to encourage oneself in the midst of such difficulties.

~ A bowl from Mom's wedding shower
~ A glass mixing bowl
~ A slow cooker bowl (is that what you call the stone-ware-thing-a-ma-jiggy that goes in the slow cooker?)
~ Numberless cereal bowls
~ Numberless glasses
~ I cracked glass plates by putting hot food on them
~ I broke Mom's electric coffee grinder by trying to grind chocolate in it.
~ I've cracked plastic bowls by kneading bread dough in them - by hand! (I thought I was safe with plastic!)

...the list could go on. But it won't. I'll stop here.

The moral of the list is this; don't ask me to wash dishes. Or move them. Or touch them.

This list doesn't include all the food I've ruined. Bread particularly. But this is where the tip comes in; get yourself a sister like mine.

"To A, I love your bread. Do you? Love, Lezley"

Wouldn't a letter like that make your day?

Missons Week, Day 2

Today, continuing our missions week, I invite you to visit the blog of a missionary wife and mother of five. This family is supported by our church, and my family has had the pleasure of meeting and fellowshipping with them on a few occasions. We were so excited for them when they reached the field in February this year!

Please get to know this family a little bit, through Ms. Nina's blog, then pause and pray for them. Being new in Portugal, they have special challenges; new language and culture being only two.

This year my family was able to get to know a German family that was spending some time in the states, and when I tried to share my testimony with the mother of that family, I realized for the first time what a hindrance language barriers are when you're trying to witness.

I had learned three or four German words, and the lady had learned a great deal of English. She was really quite good; but secular language school apparently doesn't teach words like "grace," "atonement," "substitute," "wrath," "judgment," "court," and "salvation." How does one present the gospel message without using religious words? It was practically impossible.

But cultural and language difficulties are minor compared to the biggest spiritual needs of a missionary - or any Christian, for that matter. They need spiritual strength. They need grace and wisdom. Just like me.

So take some time to think about the missionaries you know. Pray for them. Pray also for the souls of the people they talk with; that their hearts would be prepared to seek the Lord.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Week...

...Our church has started our annual mission conference.

Every year we have been blessed with a Spirit-anointed guest speaker at our conference, and this year is no different. Pastor Alun McNabb has already been a great blessing to us, when he spoke at church yesterday.

The focus of our meetings is not missionaries alone; rather, the purpose of the conference is two-fold. We meet and fellowship with some of our missionaries (or new missionaries), so that we are better able to pray for them and, most emphasized, we search our own hearts and come before God in order to be equipped for our own missionary lives.

In regards to the first focus, I've decided that I'd like to share with y'all some of the missionaries we pray for, and ask you to offer a prayer for them this week. If only ten of you do this, and I share a new missionary five days this week, that's 50 more times that the throne room of Heaven has been entered in behalf of these missionaries!

Today I invite you to visit the site of the Zwingles. My family has been blessed by getting to know this couple personally. They have a burden for the country of Russia, and they are both filled with zeal and energy; ...and it's contagious! Please browse their site to let them tell you about themselves in their own words, and then pause for a moment and pray for them. regards to the second focus of our mission week; our own hearts....

Every day, I am learning more of the importance of this matter. My own missionary life. The life of a missionary and the life of a Christian are the same. I am called to preach the gospel to every creature. How, where, and when differs for every Christian, but we are all called.


I wish you could all feel the atmosphere in our church family right now. We have been praying and praying for the Lord to burden our hearts for the lost, and to make us witnesses. I believe the Lord might answer our prayers soon - maybe even this week.

I've been praying for revival in my life, and telling people that I want it, and telling God I want it... I've also been acting as if "revival" was some mysterious thing. As if it only happens when you get worked up enough, serious enough, spiritual enough.... and in the end, only God decides if you're dedicated enough to receive revival.

But reading through my Bible recently, I've made a personal discovery that is quite life-changing.

I started spotting people in the Bible who were spirit-filled. People like David, Joshua, Josiah, Paul, Stephen...people who were used by God. People who had personal revival.

There was a common factor in all their lives.

It was so simple, it blew me away.

They obeyed.

They obeyed.

They obeyed.

They all had a enormous delight in God's law. They all knew God's law. They knew His Word backwards and forwards.

They all broke the Ten Commandments; and knew it.

But they obeyed this command; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might. EVERY time they sinned, the repented with bitter tears. They went back to the narrow way, and walked therein.

It was so simple. God used those who obeyed.

I'm not talking about obeying to earn salvation; that's another matter. I'm talking about which Christians are used of God to do mighty works. Isn't that real revival? Being used? The ones used were the ones who obeyed. Not the ones who were mysteriously spiritual. Not the ones who prayed long prayers (though they all were pray-ers).

Salvation isn't given to those who try their own ways, but to those who use the Way God has set out in His Word. Likewise, I believe revival isn't given mysteriously to those who are "spiritual enough," but those who obey what they have learned.

Picture it. A Christian who is constantly witnessing. He is kind and loving. He is not easily angered. He assembles with the believers every chance he gets. He tithes. He keeps the sabbath day holy. He obeys those in authority over him. He cares for the poor and widows. He guards his tongue. He searches the scriptures. He humbles himself. He loves the Lord with all his heart, and his every action shows it. Wouldn't we say this is a revived Christian? Yet all he's doing is obeying.

God promises to save all who come to Him; He will in nowise cast them out. He also promises to bless those who obey. He blessed David with revival. He blessed Joshua with revival. He blessed Josiah. He blessed Paul. He blessed Stephen.

Why didn't I see this before? Lord, forget about making me "extra spiritual." Forget about making my prayer life amazingly complex and flowery. Forget about making me perfectly poised in every situation. Just help me obey!!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gardening Imput Requested

This morning, I worked in the garden from 10:00 to 11:30. I weeded, watered, pruned, tied tomatoes, picked cucumbers and beans...

Our garden is doing fairly well, but I am still puzzled by the demise of our squash and zucchini plants. What makes this:

...turn to this?
I thought perhaps it's squash bores, but I don't know what signs to look for. The soil around the plants are rather dry, and the healthy ones are covered with aphids.

Today I donned my gardening gloves and squashed aphids until my fingertips were soaked with their gooey insides. I hate that part of gardening. Ugh.

But at least the plants are safe from aphids for a short while. I don't think the bugs are causing the death of the plants, though, because the leaves aren't really eaten - you can see for yourself that they're yellow and wilted, but whole.

Can any of you help us figure this out?

Friday, July 18, 2008


What better way to celebrate Family Friday than to post pictures of my darling little sisters?

They were the perfect little models for me. Two afternoons ago, I caught them out by our apple trees when I was taking pictures of the garden. With a camera in my hand, and two little girls sitting on the grass eating apples and laughing, how could I resist?

I haven't mentioned it much on here, but I have an interest in photography. Many photography books and sites out there are impossible to look through, being so filthy, but clean, fresh, innocent pictures are such a joy to look through! What can be more innocent than two little girls and an apple tree? I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I do. I may not be the best photographer, but I'm learning! And I had excellent subjects. :)

I do apologize that the Family Friday Logo managed to skip down to the bottom of this post. I can't figure out how to move it! I guess we'll just be different today. :)

For those of you who don't know my little sisters, let me introduce them; Tiffany, the older one, and Lezley, our youngest. They are 3 years apart in age.

Inspecting fungus growing on the leaves. Aren't those little hands adorable? I love the way their heads are bent close together. It's as if they have a secret.

Everyone agrees that, in this picture, Lezley looks exactly like I did at her age. That's "my" face expression.

These last two pictures are my favorites. They say it all.

I love you two! You are beautiful young ladies, inside and out!
May the Lord bless you and keep you close to Him.

Happy Family Friday!

Making Your Butter Last; Homemade Buttery Spread

Frugal tip for the day:

Make your butter go twice as far!

Let two sticks (1 cup) of butter sit at room temp. until soft but not melted. Put in mixing bowl and beat with mixer. Add 1/2 cup water. Beat into butter. (Be sure you are using a DEEP bowl, or you will have water splattering everywhere!) When well combined, add 1/2 cup oil. I use virgin olive oil and non-hydrogenated canola oil - a little olive oil in the bottom of the measuring cup, and then the rest of the cup is filled with canola oil. I find that all canola oil gives the butter a flat taste, while all olive oil is too strong for our tastes, so I combine them.

This recipe makes 2 cups of butter, and will need to chill for a few hours after you make it - it will be very soupy at first. It is the perfect spreading consistency straight from the refrigerator, and tastes especially great on veggies.

I have been using this for our family for several weeks. This week the store raised the price on the health spread we had also used, so I'm glad we can make this.

I like the taste of real butter, and I believe it is healthier than margarine. This recipe gives us the taste of butter, the "spreadability" of margarine, and a cost less than both. :)

Try it!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Now get this:

My sewing machine is working fine.



I didn't do a thing to it.

Personalities. You'll never convince me that machines don't have them.

I can't figure it out

See this little gadget here, called a bobbin?

I ask you, how can such a little thing cause so many problems? And how can it be so stubborn? I can plainly see that it has no brain, no heart,...and no mercy.

But I'm beginning backwards.

Yesterday afternoon, I was working on a sewing project. A very good project, it was. A baby quilt. I hope to post pictures of it when I'm finished.

I have a tendency to become bored with one project after several hours, so at about 3:00 I put the quilt away, and fished through my "Current Projects" box to find something else to work on. (I really should enlarge that box - everything in my sewing area is a "Current Project!")

"...Ah, yes - that fabric someone gave me years ago that I've been saving. I finally know what I want to do with it. I'd better find some matching fabric for trim...

"...Oh wow - what is this doing in there? I remember when I started ripping the seams apart. I thought I had mended it by now...

"...Oh. That's right. I need to finish that blouse, so I can wear it before the summer's over."

So I began work on the blouse. I ripped four seams out, and sewed three seams back together correctly.

The fourth seam is where I ran into trouble. The bobbin decided to eat my fabric. The needle would not go down, and the thread became knots.

No problem. This machine and I - we go way back (all of a year or two!). If there's a problem, I can fix it. I talk to the machine, and the machine purrs back to me. I can take it apart and put it back together.

...Which is what I proceeded to do.

Well, not at first. First, I re-threaded the bobbin and the needle. Several times. That wasn't the problem.

So I checked tension. I checked stitch selection. I tried different fabric. I tried a new needle. I tried threading the bobbin backwards. I tried many things.

No good.

THAT is when I proceeded to take the machine apart.

Does this look like a battleground to you? It should. (This is after I put the machine partly back together.) At this point, I had spent many minutes working with the machine, and was getting worried. I had to start supper at 4:00! I wanted to get some sewing done before that time.

Nothing appeared obviously wrong inside the bobbin workings, so I - oh, what's that? You're asking what the above photo is? Well, I'm getting to that.

I saw a bit of fuzz and lint scattered in the gears, so I thought this would be a good time for spring cleaning. (Well, okay, summer cleaning.)

The above photo is that "little bit of fuzz and lint." It just kept coming and coming out of those bottomless nooks and crannies!

I thought I had found the problem for sure. No wonder the thread wasn't going through the bobbin smoothly. It couldn't fit! That lint clogged the whole thing up.

I confidently put everything back together and threaded everything. Then I tried to sew a seam. No go. I couldn't sew more than half an inch. The thread knotted, and the needle refused to move.

So now I'm asking for ideas. What else can I check? And does anyone know what I can use to bribe sewing machines? They don't really have a use for chocolate, or I might use that. I think my machine might settle for a once-a-month cleaning. :)

A New Recipe

These fritters are one of the best ways I've ever had zucchini! I like zucchini anyway, but these fritters turned delicious into fantastic. The recipe calls for any garden veggie, so feel free to experiment.

Credit for the above stack of fritters goes to my mother. They went fast! Credit for the recipe goes to Martha's Family Cookery Book.

Vegetable Fritters

1/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup wholewheat flour (original recipe called for just unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups fresh garden veggies, washed and sliced thinly.

Mix all ingredients except veggies, until well blended. Then fold veggies into batter. Drop by tablespoons full (or a little larger) into 1" of oil in a hot skillet. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Breath of Life

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a really good appreciation for the breath of life. Did you ever think about the fact that if God wanted to, He could withhold your breath? A few days ago, I thanked the Lord specifically for every breath He gives me. I sure didn't know what was ahead of me.

For the past several days, I've been having trouble with my breathing. I'm an asthmatic anyway, but this was a little different. My lungs weren't clogged or filled; they were squeezed. I couldn't do more than take shallow breaths. It was very strange - not to mention uncomfortable and annoying.

Okay. Pause. Let's have a small anatomy lesson. I'm fascinated by the human body God has designed, and love to study it. Blood and guts - no thank you - but looking at a body that functions well? That's different.

Last year I developed an interest in the spine. Because I go to a Chiropractor, I've had ample opportunities to ask questions and get answers. I've learned that the spine controls so much more than just movement. It houses the spinal cord - which I've learned controls much more than the sense of touch.

I used to think of the sense of touch when I thought of nerves. I sure had a small picture! Yes, it's nerves that tells me "ow! that's hot!" but they have a much bigger job. In fact, we "feel" less than 9% of our nerves. The rest of them do things we don't even know about, and have no way of feeling.

The nerves send messages to all the organs in my body. For example, if the nerve signals to my stomach got messed up, I wouldn't feel pain, but I could have digestion problems. If I treated my digestive problems with medication, I might fix the symptoms, but my nerve signals would still be incorrect, and I would just be setting myself up for future problems that are more serious.

I have the coolest chart that I got from the Chiropractic office; it's a larger-than-life drawing of the human spine, and shows which vertebra houses which nerve in the spinal chord. Each vertebra has two nerves coming out from it, and each nerve leads somewhere different. I can look at the chart to find out where my brain nerves are, where my stomach nerves are, where the nerves that control my emotions are....etc.

Ahem. End of anatomy lesson.

When I was adjusted yesterday, I found out that the area of my spine that controls my lung nerves was extremely twisted and curved. Yikes. The chiropractor said he'd never seen my spine so curved. I don't know what I did to mess my back up recently, but it sure has had its affects. It's possible that my spine and rib cage could even be pushing against my lungs. It sure feels like it.

Well, after I was adjusted, I didn't feel any difference. But at prayer time last night, my family prayed for me, and I thought I could feel a little improvement before I went to sleep.

It is hard to describe what it is like to have trouble breathing. There's a certain panic button that nothing else can push. After all, breathing is rather necessary! If you've never done without, you can't quite understand how precious it is.

I was so tired of concentrating on every breath I took. I kept wondering how many times my spine would need to be adjusted before the problem would be totally corrected. I prayed that God would give me the grace to be patient and calm and not get snappy and mean to those around me - which I'm tempted to do when I don't feel well.

But I didn't really pray for complete healing. After all, let's be practical! I knew what the problem was, and I knew what needed to be done to fix it. It would take awhile to fix.

That didn't bother my family. They prayed for healing anyway.

This morning I woke up able to breathe! Granted, my lungs feel bruised, and my spine is sore, but I can breathe! Whew!

Do something for me. Take a slow, deep, precious, delicious, invigorating breath, and tell God "Thank YOU!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Of pickles and such

Today I'd like to borrow pictures from my sister's blog, to show you what we've been up to lately.

Homemade pickles! Mmm, mmm! The best. This is the first "preserving" we've done with our produce this year. ...Though I can't really say it's preserving, because cucumbers go twice as fast when they're in this form! We made two quarts and three pints but, as you can seen in the picture, we're down to three already. Several of us just like to eat these pickles plain!

I guess I should correct the use of "we." We did not make these pickles; Mom did. But I am determined that I shan't miss out on the action next time. I want to learn how to do it. She shared the recipe with me, but that's not the same as being out in the kitchen when she's doing it.

Yesterday, some friends of ours told us that they are getting an over-abundance of cucumbers from their garden, and they didn't know what to do with them. They didn't know how to make homemade pickles, so they....were very creative. They bought a great big jar of store pickles, ate the pickles all up, sliced their cucumbers, and soaked them in the store-made brine. It worked! Isn't that cool? Talk about ingenuity.

Cucumbers aren't the only things that have been growing around here. This tomato is the biggest yet from our garden this year. Of course, it doesn't hold a candle to our biggest tomato ever:

We got this guy last year. I don't know how many tomato sandwiches we got out of him, but I do remember we had to cut each slice in half to fit it on a piece of bread.

I wonder if we'll beat the record this year?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rise 'N' Shine!

Remember that verse in Proverbs 31 that talks about the woman "rising also while it's yet night"?

Yes.....I remember it too.

I had a terrible time dragging myself out of bed this morning. The clock said 6:00. I knew I had planned to go walking this morning at 6:30. It's my morning routine.

But the light filtering through my window curtains hinted at cloudy skies and dripping leaves. I desperately hoped that it was raining. Then I wouldn't feel bad about rolling over and going back to sleep.

But, of course, to see the weather, I had to get up and go to the window.

Do your eyelids ever feel like they weigh about 30lbs?

Well, I hit the snooze on my alarm.



Okay. Clock says 6:20am.

I rolled over on my back to stare at the ceiling, crossed my arms, and determined not to fall asleep. I turned the alarm off. No more snooze.

For the next ten minutes, I shook my head violently every two minutes, in order to keep myself awake. When the clock said 6:29, I knew I had to get up. So I did. And, by the way, it wasn't raining.

The point of this long-story-on-a-short-subject is to introduce the topic of 'rising in the morning.' I believe early rising is good for a person. I know that I personally get more done if I rise early and...ahem...get busy.

My personal goal is to wake at 5:30 every morning...without my alarm. That may seem like nothing to some people, and ridiculously early to others. I realize that time is relative. To me:
~ anything before 5:00am is early,
~ 5:00-6:30 is rise-n'-shine,
~ 6:30-7:30 is I-needed-some-extra-sleep,
~ 7:30-8:00 is I-can't believe-I-over-slept,
~ 8:00-9:00 is this-only-happens-once-every-two-years,
~ and after 9:00am is I-am-in-the-hospital-dying.

You know what the only problem with my 5:30 goal is? The problem is that I originally was a night owl..."way back" when I was little. I was the only one of my family members to be born at night! Mom says that began it all.

But now my father, who can't seem to sleep past 3:30am, has converted me to loving to be up early.

The problem is, I still have my stay-up-late instinct. And I often can't fall asleep until 11:00 or so. (Okay, so "late" is also relative. In our house, 11:00 is late.)

Do you know what you get when you mix Amber+stay up late+get up early? Well, you get grumpy, sleepy, tired, absent-minded Amber.

So I'm now working on getting to bed somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00. I wish I were one of those people who could survive on 5 hours of sleep, but I'm not. I function best on 8 hours.

I wonder what I'll do someday when I (Lord willing) have children? Getting up in the middle of the night every night will certainly take some getting used to. Good thing I can fall back to sleep quickly! :)

Anyway, this sleepy Amber is off to clean the kitchen. Happy Monday!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Riches, a Kingdom, and Cleaning

This morning at breakfast, Dad read part of Proverbs 11; "Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from wrath."

He went on to discuss how much money Americans spend on pleasure and entertainment. It's not a sin, but when you think about how you could use that money elsewhere....

Do you ever see boats parked in driveways that probably cost more than the trailer the person lives in? Or people buying cheap unhealthy food so that they can have money for a elaborate vacation? It doesn't make sense to me.

I think the most basic tip I could ever give anyone on living frugally is "spend money where it counts." Riches aren't gonna do me an ounce of good when I stand before the throne of God someday, but righteousness will. Of course I have no righteousness of my own, but through Jesus I am clean. That's why I want to use my money to further His kingdom...and also on practical necessities.

Speaking of which, I thought I'd share a product that my family has used and been very pleased with. Just so you know, I'm not being paid anything to say this! But this is "Frugal Friday," and this is honestly one way of being frugal...and healthy:

Shaklee Basic H2
! Would you believe that this one little 16oz. bottle would make gallons and gallons (48, to be exact) of safe cleaning spray? No chemicals, no harmful residues. All natural. Perfectly safe. You can use it on any washable surface.

Because it lasts forever (well, it seems like it!) One bottle is a great investment. And it's very handy around the home because it's so versatile. We just got a new bottle recently, for our home. At first I didn't recognize it, because last time we'd bought some (in a HUGE bottle, much bigger than 16oz.) the packaging was different. Now they've updated. That's how long it's been!

Well, I'm off to clean the bathroom (honestly!). Guess what I'll be using?

Folks, I have an announcement to make today.

I've started a new blog.


The theme is history.

Now, don't groan. History can be fascinating!

This new blog: Love-HIS-Story, is a random collection of history facts I've collected. I'm still collecting, so I'd love for those of you who also enjoy history to leave me your comments there with facts you've discovered.

The most important element of Love-His-Story is discovering how God's hand has worked through the ages, and how He is still working.

Along the way, you might discover some things you never knew. Who invented the electric chair, by the way? And was Thomas Jefferson really the first person to talk about separation of church and state? Did you know that hot air balloons were used during the civil war?

If you have even the slightest interest in history, I invite you to stop by Love-HIS-Story today. Leave a comment to let me know you came! I'd love to get some discussions going. I'm looking forward to learning through my visitors.

Different and glad of it

The differences in families and between families are such fun to consider. For example, between my siblings and I there are a multitude of differences;

~ Physical differences - height, hair and eye color, shoe size, etc.

~ Personality differences - happy-go-lucky, studious, curious, daring, shy, bold, talkative, quiet, helpful, etc.

~ Age differences

~ Talent differences - some are musicians, some are artists, some are good cleaners, some are good cooks, some are good singers, some are athletic...

~ Different likes and dislikes - she likes pepper, he likes salt. We love cabbage, they can't stand it. One likes classical music, another prefers country.

~ Opportunities we've had - one has been places some of us haven't. One has been pushed forward in a way the rest of us haven't. One has certain skills that will take him places the rest of us can't go.

But should these differences push us apart? I should hope not! We have much more in common than we have different:

~ The same blood. The same parents. The same name. The same cousins, aunts, and uncles.

~ The same God. The same Bible.

~ The same love of humor and laughter.

~ We live under the same roof. We share the same memories.

~ We've been told we look more alike than we look different.

~ We were all homeschooled (or are being homeschooled).

~ We were all born in the same state, and raised in the same house.

~ We all share a love for music, even though it's in different ways.

~ We all like food. :)

~ I could go on......

These are things in a family. But you can see the same thing repeated between families. Every family has its own flavor. But every family is still a family. We are different from one another, yet we are the same, too. I rejoice in the differences - they are such fun!

One family has rich olive skin with big dark eyes - another family is light-complected, with sparkling blue and green eyes. Both are beautiful. (Isn't God a master at creating beauty?)

One family focuses more on one talent than another - perhaps music instead of sports, or gardening vs. computers. What diversity of talents this adds to the world!

God has chosen for one family to be blessed with many, many children, while He has decided that another family is complete with only a few members. It's His choice.

One family has been able to enter the public arena and accomplish much for the Lord there, while another family lives in a town that isn't on the map, and ministers to the people there. In this way, both arenas are being reached.

Isn't is sad when a family decides that their flavor is the best, and they try to push it on everyone else? I need to be careful of this myself. So what if this other family isn't crazy about gardening? There are more important things in life - such as spiritual things. We agree about that. And so what if this other family doesn't run in the same social circles we do? They are accomplishing things for God where they are.

I hear much about the world's cry of "toleration for all views!" The Christians say "no, we must tell them that there is only one way!" Yes, we must. But let's not carry it too far. Inside the Christian realm, there must be room for folks to breath. If you truly believe a family is in sin because of their "flavor," that's one thing, but let's not make a list of petty rules. That would make Christian families into a bunch of tin soldiers, and hypocritical ones at that.

Wouldn't that be a tragedy?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I'm doing right now...

I'm sitting at our kitchen table.

The windows show that the outdoors are dark and dreary, despite the clocks saying 10:17am. Water is dripping steadily from the droopy green leaves.

All of my younger siblings are in the kitchen with me. Mom isn't feeling well today, so she laid down briefly, and we have been left to ourselves for the moment.

To my left, Tiffany is drawing a picture of a horse in her big drawing notebook. To her left, Justin is sketching house blue-prints; one of his favorite amusements, and one that I believe I started him on. So what if we can't afford to build any of the dream houses we come up with? It's fun to dream.

Across the table, Curtis is also sketching. On the other side of the kitchen, Lezley, our youngest, is practicing a speech she wrote. I had to help her spell about every other word. It was a good lesson in patience, and I was glad I passed the test. It was worth it, to hear her recite what she wrote.

Her topic was bananas and apples. She described what she knew about them, then ended by saying, "Isn't this amazing? God made these, and much more. So MUCH more! He even knows how many hairs we have. Isn't that amazing? And we are going to live forever, in either Heaven or Hell. You need to think about that."

I suddenly realized that she has heard her older siblings and parents constantly talk about being evangelistic in everything. She's paid close attention, apparently.

There are certainly worse things she could be learning from us. :)

Sometimes, being an older sister is rewarding beyond my wildest dreams.

Monday, July 7, 2008


For those of you have been keeping up with my kitchen-related posts, you'll remember that I've been working on a bread recipe, adapting it to my particular tastes, preparing to share it on here.

This morning, my fourth batch of this bread is in the oven, so I think it's safe to say this is a dependable recipe. It's turned out the same every time, except for the first, which is when I followed the original recipe. Thank to "Tammy's Recipes" for the inspiration!

I changed the recipe to have less added wheat gluten, less flour, a cup of oats, ...and I can't remember how else I changed it. I'll let you compare the two recipes!

Amber's Whole Wheat Bread:

2 cups warm water
2 tsp soy lecithin
4 tsp dry yeast
2 TBS milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
2 TBS wheat gluten
a capful of lemon juice
two dashes of ginger
1 cup rolled oats
6 cups whole wheat flour

Heat water until warm to the touch. Pour a little over half of it into a large mixing bowl. In the remaining water, dissolve lecithin, then yeast. Set aside. In the large mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients in order, except for oats and flour.

Add the yeast water, and stir to combine. Now add oats and five cups of flour. Stir well. Add last cup of flour, stir briefly.

Now either knead by hand 600 strokes, or knead by machine for 15-20 minutes.

Form into ball in the bottom of the bowl and let rise in draft-free (not hot) place 1 hour. Punch down, divide dough in half, shape into two loaves, and let rise in greased bread pans for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, start preheating your oven, and let the dough keep rising 10 more minutes. After the 10 minutes have passed, bake loaves at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until well browned on the outside.

Immediately butter the tops of the loaves, and let sit in the pans for 5 minutes. At the end of that time, remove loaves to wire rack. Cover with two layers of dish towels to trap moisture as the loaves cool. I know it tastes best warm, but it slices best when cool!

These pictures were taken when the bread was 2 days old. (I can't believe it lasted that long, around my family!) But I've heard lecithin helps preserve bread. Maybe that's why it still tasted fine and fresh. The texture was the best I've had...I think.

Try it yourself, and let me know how you adapt my recipe! :)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I wonder what he thought of me

It's bad enough to have a cooking flop.

It's worse when the neighborhood finds out about it.

We've had some mushrooms sitting in our refrigerator for awhile. Mom originally bought them to go on our pizza. Because most of the family dislikes mushrooms on pizza, the little blue container has been sitting, half-full, in the back of the refrigerator... until today, which is when I decided to use them up before they went bad.

As I pulled them out and looked at them, I wondered if they had gone bad already. They looked okay...a little dry, but okay. They smelled a little strange, but maybe mushrooms always smell like that. How would I know? I hardly ever cook with them, 'cause the only thing I can stand them on is pizza.

I knew I had to saute them before I could put them on the pizza. I chopped them, put them in the frying pan, and went back to spreading sauce on the pizza crusts, thinking to myself that chopping the mushrooms had kinda felt like chopping foam. Was that how it was suppose to feel?

It wasn't long before I noticed a peculiar smell filling the kitchen. I should mention here that I have a very sensitive sense of smell. The kind that can detect soap in the bathtub from four feet down the hallway....or basil sitting on the counter five feet away...or that bit of orange juice that spilled on a shirt... and other such interesting details that add zest to life.

And a strange smell was filling the kitchen. I didn't have to guess the source - my nose led me directly to the frying pan.

I'll be delicate; they stunk. "They" being the mushrooms, of course. The scent reminded me of a dog that hadn't seen a tub in five years. Okay, so that's not so delicate...

Did you know that heat amplifies a scent about 100x? That's what I think, anyway.

Of course my brothers chose this time to come through the kitchen. They can't stand veggies on pizza anyway, and I knew they would make a comment.

"What's that smell? That stinks!"


"It's the mushrooms," I replied calmly, trying not to show my own disdain for the scent, because I didn't want to ruin the appetites of my mother and sister, who like mushrooms.

"Would you come try one of these, and tell me if they're still okay?" I called out towards the living room.

"I'll come throw them away for you," Curtis offered.

To make a long story short, the smell had already started drifting towards the living room, and Mom decided that we should just toss the whole load of mushrooms. I called for Curtis, to take him up on his offer to dispose the mushrooms, but he had gone outdoors to get away from the smell.

Dad was busy working on something else in the kitchen.

Mom was busy working in the living room.

Heather was busy writing something.

Everyone else was outdoors.

That left one person to take care of the mushrooms. And she was trying to stay as far away from the stove as possible, breathing only as much as is required for life.

But one can only hold one's breath for so long. I knew I had to get rid of what was in that frying pan.

There was no way I was putting it in the trash bin. The stuff had to be deposited outside of the house. Gulping, I picked up the frying pan and spatula, and headed for the door. Halfway there, I paused, remembering that I was wearing an apron - and a dirty one at that.

Apron removed, I resumed my trek towards the outdoor trashcans. I made it across the deck and down the steps without anyone seeing me.

...I stalked towards the trashcans....

As I rounded the corner of the deck, I saw him.

Our neighbor.

Strolling along the side of his house. About 20 feet away.

His eyes zoomed in on the frying pan and its contents. Then his gaze traveled to my face. I grinned cheerfully and laughed. If I could have thought of something witty I would have said it, but nothing came to mind. What do you say when a neighbor catches you dumping stinky cooking in the trashcan, anyway? When in doubt, remain quiet and smile.

So I smiled. And he grinned. And grinned. And grinned. If his smile had gotten any bigger, the corners of his mouth might have met in the back of his head.

I spared him that painful prospect by heading back inside. Once the door shut safely behind me, and could only shake my head and laugh. What ever did he think of me? I can only imagine.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

...I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave their lives for me...

...O Trinity of love and power, our brethren shield in danger's hour from wind and tempest, fire and foe, wherever, Lord, our brethren go...

...O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains' majesty, above the fruited plain...

...from north or south, or from the east or west? my heart is filled with love for all of these. I only know I swell with pride, and deep within my breast, I thrill to see Old Glory wave the breeze. This is MY country, land of my birth. This is MY country, grandest on earth! I pledge thee my allegiance...

...and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all...

...where the spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty...

...proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof....

...give me your poor,....the masses yearning to be free....

...If MY people will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive, and heal their land...

...There ain't no doubt I love this land! GOD BLESS THE USA!

These are all things I think of when I call my country to mind. Everything above was typed from my memory, so there may be a word or two wrong, but just for fun, let's try something.

How many of you can name the sources for these "quotes"? The titles of the songs, the references to the verses, places where the words are engraved, etc. Let's see how many of you can get all 10. Leave a comment with your "guesses," though I'm sure this won't be difficult for most of you.

Contest ends July 10th. :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bread, bread, bread

I'm so pleased - it's 8:47 in the morning, and I already have two loaves of bread in the oven, baking. (For those of you who don't bake bread, that means I started the bread at about 6:30...)

They were made using the new recipe I...ahem...adapted. My family votes this one as having good flavor, and good texture. ...With two exceptions; Curtis and I.

Curtis says he thinks the bread is too moist. Can't figure that one out. I was aiming for store-bought-like texture. Maybe he's too used to the sawdust texture I often produce. *grin.*

And I am satisfied with the texture - though I still want to do better next time. My complaint is the flavor. I'm using King Author flour which, out of all store-bought flour I've tried, is the closest to home-ground flour, and it hasn't been bleached, nor has it had the bran taken out.

That's good, nutritionally.

But the bran contains a certain kind of oil, which can go rancid in time. That's why whole wheat bread goes bad faster than white bread. You can slow the process down by storing the whole wheat flour in the refrigerator.

I guess the stores don't know about that, 'cause the whole wheat flour is always stored right there on the un-refrigerator shelves, alongside the white flour.

So, though we store our flour in the refrigerator, it's had time to get a little "sour," while in the store.

That's why my complaint is about the flavor. No one else in my family has said that they can taste it, but I can detect a faint sour flavor in all the bread I make, no matter the recipe.

We used to grind our own wheat, back before the store we bought from went out of business. Now, we have a grinder still, but don't use it. I miss our own flour! ...But I'm thankful that I can still make fairly healthy bread.

...And I can't wait to taste this batch! I plan to take pictures of it, and share the recipe, if it turns out well. This is my third time trying this recipe, and I think I have it how I like it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I'd like to wish a wonderful day to the best mother ever.

If you read my blog regularly, you may notice that birthdays happen in my family one right after another this time of year. It's pretty cool to have a way to let the whole world know that it's a special day for one of my family members.

It may be of no importance to you, because you don't know my family personally, but by publicly recognizing and admitting great love for a family member, I'm showing that I'm willing to go against the world's thinking of "family doesn't matter." Lots of young people think it isn't cool to show affection for their family.

I'd like to stand up on a tower and yell "So What?" If you love Christ, you had better love your family too, and real love is showed unashamedly.

So yes, I love to hang out with my siblings.

And yes, I think my parents are smarter than I am.

And yes, I value their instruction.

Yes, I consider how my choices will influence our family as a whole.

Yes, I think it's wonderful to be seen in public with my family members - that includes my parents.

Yes, I think it's great for my friends to know my parents and siblings well.

Yes, I think it's fine to do a wee bit of "good" boasting about my family members.

So, Mom, may you have a wonderful day. May you know that I treasure the gifts you have given me; life, learning, love, laughter, and so much more.

...And may you enjoy the labor of love Curt and I have put together for you, for your birthday. (Sorry, blog readers, it's a secret 'cause we haven't given it to her yet!)

Readers, I know that most of you also love your family unashamedly. I don't mean to yell at you with all this big type. I guess I just wanted to blurt out what I wish I could tell those who don't agree with the thought of "families are a gift from God." Let's find a gentle, loving way to change their minds, shall we?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Making life easier

Okay, folks. Random kitchen tip time!

If you bake with honey, you know that it can often be a pain to scrape the honey out of the measuring cup. That last little bit is impossible to get out...or so it seems.

Lately, I've noticed that most recipes that call for honey also call for oil. By accident, I discovered a lovely trick to make measuring honey in those recipes easier:

Measure the oil first!

Use the same cup to measure the honey, and the honey will slide out of the cup like water.

Just a little detail to make life easier!