Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'm grieved

The Lord has been speaking to me lately about being patient with other believers.

You know what I mean; you don't have to blow a gasket just because someone believes a little differently than you do. You don't have to walk up to a girl in church who is dressing immodestly according to your standards and give her a lecture. So many of Paul's letters address this issue of...well, to put it in my own terminology,...not being nit-picky.

Number one, maybe I am being legalistic. Gasp! You mean it's possible for me to be wrong?! Humbling as it is to admit it, I have to come to terms with the fact that if God's Word spells something out black-and-white-in-clear-concise-English, then that particular thing is correct. If He says it's sin, it's sin. If He says it's right, it's right. Anything else - any laws and standards I have - I get from my interpretation of His word. And there is the possibility that I'm wrong about what He means in a certain passage.

Number Two, if I'm mature in a certain area of my Christian walk, and I do have the correct interpretation of a passage, the correct conviction in an area...then I ought to be mature in the way I apply it. I ought to realize that there are weaker brethren who have not "seen the light" yet.

Hey - if God showed something to me in His own good time, and convicted my heart about it, then why can't He do it with those people too?

Without my help.

Has your heart ever changed because someone walked directly up to you and confronted you about something you were doing wrong? Count the number of times that has been effective in your life. Not many.

How many times has God changed your heart indirectly - through a message you heard, and conversation you overheard, a chapter you read, a time spent in prayer? Ah, now those times I can't count on my fingers. Or my toes too, for that matter.

I know there's a correct time and place to personally confront a brother or sister in Christ about something in their life. I'm not saying it's wrong to do that. I'm just saying I often do it when I shouldn't be doing it. There are many times when God was getting along just fine without my help, and I stepped in just because my time table wasn't His, and I thought that I could raise His children better than He could - that I could mature them faster with MY child-rearing method.

Sounds foolish, huh? I can't believe I give in to that temptation so often. But I do.

Then I feel guilty.

Then, like a true human....I swing to the other extreme. I tell myself not to open my mouth about anything. I don't want to confront anybody, at any time, about anything. (Well, if they're a sibling, that's a different matter....)

But, honestly, I sometimes just want to open my arms, accept everybody and anything, and say "It's okay, you can just be yourself, and I'll love you."

That's fine. I should love them. The problem is, I sometimes start loving what they're doing wrong, too. In fact, I start "loving" them so much that if they honestly sit down and ask me if that particular habit is wrong, I start getting wishy-washy. I don't want to hurt their feelings.

"Oh....well, I don't think it's a sin, ....necessarily. It's all about your attitude. God sees your heart...and, well, I think you're fine."

And a perfect - perhaps God-given - opportunity for gently correcting a brother or sister in Christ has just gone out the window.

Whew! What a mess it is, being a human.

Do you know why I started this post?

Because I wanted to "rail" against a certain...thing...that bothers me - grieves me. I don't want to rail against the people that do it. I love them! I just want to be like those who stand in front of a group of people and preach against lying in general, without saying "Mr. Smith, you shouldn't have told your wife that, and Mrs. Simms, you should have said this instead of that to your neighbor."

I think I can honestly say that I don't care if my readers agree with me on this topic. It's kinda a "as for me and my house" type thing. I don't want y'all to feel like I'm passing out a new copy of the tablets of stone God gave Moses. *grin* It doesn't make me angry to have people disagree with me on this particular topic. That's why I titled this post "I am grieved" not "I am mad." I can deal with grief much better than anger. In fact, if you want to disagree, that's perfectly all right. I believe we've already established the astounding fact that it is possible for me to be in error. *grin again*

I just need a place to "vent," as one of my friends says, and what good is a blog if it doesn't provide a place for you to get up on a soap box once in awhile?


I've just looked up, in an online Bible concordance, the word "goodness." Do you know that word is used 50 times in the Bible? And do you know that only 3 of those times the verse is talking about anything other than God?

That means that out of 50 times the word is used, 47 times the word "goodness" in the Bible refers to God. "His goodness," "Your goodness," "My goodness," etc. Over and over again, the Lord proclaims His own goodness, someone tells God He is good, or a group of people exclaim in wonder over His goodness.

My favorite out of all these verses is Psalm 144:2. David is praising the Lord, describing Him, and when he gets to verse 2 he says "My GOODNESS, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me."

He calls God his goodness.

And God is our goodness! We are nothing on our own. We are filthy. We are wicked. We are not good. But God - ah, He is goodness itself! And even in the Old Testament, David understood that Jesus would give Himself as a covering for us - to literally become our goodness.

He is MY goodness.


I love the many names of our God. I have a bookmark that has some of them on there.

Jahovah Jireh - the LORD provides.
Jahovah Nissi - the LORD is my banner.
El Shaddai - Almighty God.
El Elyon - (Isn't that beauuuutiful?) - God Most High.

I could go on. Talk about lovely names! Each one sends shivers down my spine.

And there are other names, too. Names that aren't really proper names, but we use them anyway; we call God our refuge, our strength, our strong tower, our shield...

...And our goodness.

Now, picture spending time on your knees in prayer, calling out to the Lord, praising Him, and thanking Him for indeed being your goodness.

Then go shopping at the store, attend a church service, browse the short, go to any gathering of people, and hear at least a dozen people use that very same phrase as....well, they put it in where other folks would probably insert swearing.

"Oh my goodness!"

Can that fall on deaf ears? Can I actually hear folks who know nothing of my God use that phrase and it not make me wince? Especially my Christian friends. I know they have no intention at all, in the slightest, of sounding the way they sound to me. They're just talking like they've always talked. But in my head, I think "they have no idea what they're saying!" and I am grieved.

Now, like I said, perhaps I'm being legalistic. I don't think so. I'm not creating any new laws, and I'm not telling people how they have to talk. I'm only discussing how I like to talk - or not talk, rather.

I guess I just needed somewhere to write down how I'm feeling tonight. I guess I just get tired of hearing people steal that phrase. It's mine - and yours - our special description for One we love very much. I wish folks would stop inserting it where the heathen insert swear words! I do indeed.

Ah, well, thank you for bearing with me. I'm amazed at how many rambling posts you put up with. They aren't ramblings to me (most of the time!). They are out pours of my heart. You seem to understand that, and take my words, sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Thank you for that. Please do it tonight.

Friday, February 27, 2009


...Rain dripping outside my window...

...cozy brown fleece wrapped 'round me...

...lounging on my bed...

...looking forward to Friday Pizza Night...

...quiet chatter in nearby rooms...

...the sound of Dad getting home from work...

...greeting him...

...a whole afternoon, free for whatever projects I want to do...

...planning sewing and craft projects...

...a stack of library books sitting near by, inviting me...

...decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Frugal - and fun - Dress Form

It's about time I wrote another sewing post.

Actually, for this one, I didn't sew a stitch. Not yet, anyway.

It all started with a white cotton dress. I want one for this coming summer, and so naturally I decided to sew one. I can rarely find what I want in the stores as far as dresses go.

Hmmm...I'm sitting here debating whether to tell you where I got my pattern idea or not. ...Hmm...

I guess I will. But don't laugh. Please.

I got it from a chip bag.

It's a delightful tortilla chip bag, with a smiling girl on the front, wearing a lovely frilly white Mexican-style shirt. Every time we have chips and salsa dip, I look at that pretty young lady, with curl dark hair and frilly white shirt, and admire her seamstress. (Of course, it's only a drawing, but still...)

So I decided to make a dress patterned after the shirt. The only problem is tortilla chip companies don't offer dress patterns for shirts that their drawings wear. Or any kind of pattern, for that matter.

But that didn't bother me - not after all the lunches I've spent critically studying that shirt. I was confident that I could turn out something very similar.

Now, usually when I create a new pattern, I use old pattern pieces - from lots of different patterns - to cut around. This way I know the design will at least fit me. I hope. It also saves much headache and measuring time.

But for this new project I used only one pattern piece. Everything else I eye-balled.

In my sewing dictionary, "eye-balled" means "Cut where it looks good, sew, then try on. Repeat." I was just cutting, trying on, and cutting again. Bad way to sew. Did you hear me? Bad. I finally ended up throwing the dress across the table and saying "I'm not touching you again until I have a dress form!" Enough with the little white lint fuzzies covering me from head to toe! Enough with the pulled muscles from trying to measure the arm that's holding the tape measure.

But I can't afford a dress form. At least not a "regular" one.

That's where duck tape comes in.

Now, I'm very proud - in a nice way - of this method of making a dress form. I thought I had come up with the idea all by my original self...until I goggled it and found out that others have had the same original idea. Oh well. It's still a good idea.

Here are step-by-step instructions, which are easier than trying to sit and explain what a duck tape dress form is:

#1: Start with a large T-shirt; one that you don't need anymore. You will be cutting this one. Use one that is as big as possible. The longer the better. I used one from my Dad, and even longer would have been nicer. You will also need a scrap of cotton cloth to wrap around your neck. I used a scrap from that infamous dress.

#2 - Buy at least 2 rolls of duck tape. You will probably use almost all of it. Start wrapping it around yourself - with help, if you need it. (I did!) Start by wrapping one strip of tape around your waist, then your neck, and then one around yourself right under your arms. I got my youngest sister Lezley to help me. I don't think I could have managed without her help!

You'll want to wrap the tape tightly, but not too tight. The dress form you'll be wearing should be your size - no smaller, no larger.

#3 - After covering every inch of T-shirt, including your neck, go back over and do a light second coat, trying to make everything smooth and neat. You should be starting to look like a dress form!

At this point you will discover that duck tape it very hot, and it does not expand when you breathe. Breathe shallow, and tell your sister to hurry with the tape.

I have a picture I took of me completed in the duck tape, but I just can't stand to post it. You'll have to imagine what it looked like. Mom says I was "from outer space."

#4 - Get someone to make a nice neat cut down the center of you back. Mom did it for me. I had a moment of panic when at first we couldn't find scissors that were sharp enough to cut the layers of duck tape. What a relief to be out of that thing!

(Note: I was not wearing this shirt under the old T-shirt. If you wear a shirt under your dress form, be willing to have it cut by accident. I don't recommend wearing two shirts while doing this. It will probably alter your shape too much.)

And of course Lezley wanted to try it on. :) After all her help, I was glad to let her have fun with the thing.

#5 - Now, all that morning I had been creating the frame for the dress form to sit on:

The bottom part was already made - my brother Justin had been using it for something, but he let me have it. I just had to add the three cross sections on top.

#6 - Tuck the sleeves inside the dress form, and hang it on the frame. Use duck tape to close up the sleeve openings, and the bottom on the shirt, taking care not to misshape it. Then tape up the bottom few inches of the back slit.

#7 - Stuff with whatever you've decided to use as stuffing. After much brain-racking, I was stumped. Dad suggested using plastic grocery bags, and I liked the idea. We have plenty of those hanging around!

However, when they're compressed, they shrink a great deal. I wadded them up and packed them in. They're perfect; they give the dress form shape, yet are light.

I can't finish the dress form until we go shopping again, 'cause I used up all the bags we have in the house, leaving a few for trash bags, and I still need more. For now, here's what it looks like:

If I were doing it over again, I would use a longer shirt (if I could find one!) and make the dress form come down a little farther. Aside from that, I love how this turned out. It's exactly my size! I even made it my height. After stuffing it, I want to spray paint the pole red, to match my red-and-white sewing room, and sew a white cotton cover for the duck tape. Then I'll add a cheery pincushion on top of the neck, and I'll be done! Won't it look nice?

Who says you need to spend a bunch of money on a fancy dress form? This works for me!


Dad goes in to his workplace in the early morning hours. Sometimes I feel a little jealous of families who get to have their father at home for breakfast, but because of Dad we have a special tradition that those other families can't have.

For as long as I can remember, Dad has called us at home around breakfast time to say good morning. It is a lovely habit. When we were little, we learned how to answer the phone politely by practicing on Daddy. Even before we could talk, we heard Dad's voice on the phone in the morning. We know he will always ask us about our day; what we have planned, how we've done so far, etc.

Quite awhile ago, I decided to make a point of asking Dad every morning if there is anything special he wants me to do that day. At first he would say "just obey Mom," but as time went by he added to that; he would sometimes give me special assignments to carry out. I'm sad to say that I don't always complete them before he gets home that afternoon, but I sure try! It thrills me to do something Dad specifically asked me to do.

Most of the time.

Not this morning.

This morning, ....

...I'm not thrilled.

Phone Conversation:

Dad: " can go ahead and set those seed potatoes out in the sun."
Amber: "Okay."
Dad: "Oh - and that alpaca manure we got yesterday..."

At this point I gulped mentally. Alpaca poop...It's great for the garden...but we discovered that the batch we got is full of white grubs. Those are not great for the garden. Dad says the one thing to do is go through and pick them out.

Dad: "...I dumped some of it into your garden bed before we saw the grubs. You can go ahead and go through it."
Amber: *makes funny noises*

I am hoping something really important happens, so I have an honest reason to delay going out into the garden until Dad gets home. Then maybe he'll show me a easier way to kill those...things...without going through the soil with my gloved hands.



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making your own chocolate shell

Just on the slim chance that the public doesn't already know:

I like chocolate!

And I like ice cream!

So what better combination than this stuff?:

I love magic shell. Whenever we have it, I squirt as much on my ice cream as I can without feeling guilty that I'm hogging it. Then I eat it plain. I'm not decorating the ice cream. I'm not having some chocolate with my ice cream. I'm having ice cream with my chocolate!

You know what the only problem is? We don't get magic shell very often. And when we do, a tiny (very tiny!) part of me says "but it's soooo bad for you!"

Do you know what makes magic shell "magic"? Paraffin wax.


It's edible. ...Well, not really. In fact, it's not digestible. It goes right through your body without being absorbed.

Knowledge of content, paired with lack of availability, seriously limits my enjoyment of magic shell.

But no longer!

Enter homemade magic shell! It really works! It hardens splendidly. And I like the taste even better. It's made with real chocolate - so get this; it's good for you! (Pure chocolate has antioxidants)

Without further ado, the recipe:~ 2 squares (1 oz. each) of pure Baker's chocolate.
~ 1 TBS unsalted butter
~ 1/2 TBS brown sugar (More if you have a sweet tooth. I do, but I like a strong chocolate taste, too.)

That's it! Put the butter and chocolate in a microwavable bowl, and cook in 10-second increments until the butter is melted. The chocolate will still hold its shape, but will be stir-able when you touch it with a spoon.

Stir the chocolate into the butter until it's completely melted. Stir in sugar until smooth. Work quickly. This stuff will harden without ice cream....eventually. You can't just let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes. You can add chopped nuts at this point, if you like them. I do!

Now it's ready to be poured over the ice cream! This stuff hardens even faster than store-bought stuff. And mmmm, is it good!



I just want to say thanks for all the splendid comments y'all left me on my anniversary post.

Thank you, Adelhiede and Hannah, for stepping out of the shadows. I look forward to getting to know you.

Sandra, I'll try to control myself and make the gardening posts less full of confusing terms. *grin* Thanks for being the only person brave enough to tell me something you didn't like! Thumbs up to you!

Leah, I would love to meet you in person someday too! And my favorite Bible characters...hard pick!...would be David in the Old Testament, and John in the New Testament. They're just so wonderful. ...But y'all had some great choices too!

Marie, I would say the Proverbs 31 woman does count. :)

Thanks again to all of you for the sweet well-wishes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Aniversary!

I want you to pretend that this post is written tomorrow.

You see, tomorrow is Sunday, and I hate getting on the computer on Sunday unless I absolutely have to. That's the day I let my computer sleep.

But tomorrow is also February 22, and something post-worthy happened on that day last year.

Any guesses?

On February 22, 2008, my voice was heard for the first time in blog land!

Before June 2007, I didn't even know what a blog was. But that month someone gave me a book written by Crystal Paine, and on the last page was an invitation to visit her "blog"...whatever that was. So I hopped on over to Crystal's blog.

I was hooked. I visited her site every day, and browsed the archives on the days when she didn't post anything. For several months I didn't realize that there were thousands of other people out there writing blogs. Then one day the realization hit me - there were other young ladies out there who were a lot like me, and I could get to know them through blog land!

That's when I started doing some serious blog searching. During that time in my life I was feeling very lonely, and sensing very keenly what it's like to be a counter-cultural young person. Meeting young ladies through their blogs satisfied, in a sense, my longing for friendships with like-minded girls. Several of you now read my blog. I want you to know I appreciate you!

It wasn't too long before I started wanting a blog of my own. The first time I mentioned it, Mom and Dad weren't too keen on the idea. I even had to explain to them what a blog was. In the face of their lack of interest and approval, I decided to honor them by not getting a blog. But I kept hoping.

Then, in February of 2008, Dad became interested in the money-making aspect of blog land. I had already researched this side of the topic some, and guess who Dad asked to tell him about blogs? Me! I was more than happy to tell him what little I knew.

Dad ended up deciding not to pursue blogging at that time - at least not his own blog - but the research and browsing he did then made him comfortable and open to the idea of me having a blog. He and Mom gave me the go-ahead!

When I finally started to plan a blog, it was then I realized what an opportunity it is. What I could do with a blog! But what to do? What focus should it have? It's pretty pointless to write just to write. I'm purpose-driven. Everything in life must have a reason. What reason would be behind my blog?

Well, I don't like admitting it, but when I started, money was part of my reason. I wanted to gain enough readers to be able to generate income through selling advertising space on my blog (only to good companies!). Through this year, though, that goal has faded quite a bit. My readers aren't numbers to me now - I still want a lot of readers, but for a totally different reason; I've learned to value you for your interaction, your caring spirit, your humor, your kind comments, and the way special things become even more special when I share them with you.

But money wasn't everything. I wanted to create a place that helped like-minded ladies. Something like the blogs that had helped me so much, yet was unique...a place that was me.

I love to work with my hands; sewing, cooking, gardening, knitting, crocheting, quilting, baking, cleaning, teaching, playing instruments...I love to be busy with my hands. I also love finding a blog or website that fosters that love. You've seen them; sites packed with info, tales of victories and failures, photos of completed or in-process projects, recipes, know.

I wanted to create a place like that. A place that vibrated with life and happiness. A place that proved working with our hands is something God created us to excel at, to thrive in doing, and to use as an avenue of worship and praise. A Proverbs 31 type of place. A Fruit of Her Hands type of place.

So The Fruit of Her Hands was born. I launched it on a Friday night, full of dreams and hopes. Those first weeks I knew (ahem) a lot more about blogging, writing, and giving advice than I do now. (Note: read that sentence with sarcasm, please.) Despite my confidence that I could write no wrong, I've made plenty of mistakes along the way. But none of that was in my mind that first Friday.

Family Friday! I wanted to write about family first thing on my blog - and with pizza smells filling the air, and family swirling about, preparing the house for our family night, what better topic could I chose than family pizza night at our house?

Yesterday afternoon, as I worked my hands in the pizza dough, I remembered that Sunday would be my blog's anniversary, and I remembered that first Friday post. In that post, I estimated that I had made about 128 pizzas in the past 4 months. Now I estimate I've made about two-hundred ninety-four pizzas since that time.

I believe I could mix up a batch of pizzas in my sleep. I love it!

God has blessed me so much. I've learned a ton from interacting with friends in blog land. I don't have the huge readership I dreamed of when I started blogging - I've gone from averaging 1 visitor a day to 12 visitors a day - but the readers I have are faithful, enthusiastic, kind, and an inspiration and challenge (in a good way!) to me. Thank you all!

Now....what I have been waiting for for months.......

...One of those things I've learned from blog land is that when it is my anniversary, I am allowed to "demand" a little extra gift from my readers. I can ask every single one of them to leave a comment, giving such information as I shall ask for, be it the color of your toothbrush, or your favorite kind of drink.

I've been anticipating this day for many, many long months. I have often wondered if I have lurkers. I want to meet you! So today I make my kind but firm "demand." *grin*

Please - whether you read this blog once a day or once a month - if you get even the weensiest little thing out of it, or even if it just gives you something upon which to sharpen your criticism muscles, leave me a comment. I'd love to know you.

Please tell me what your name is, how you found my blog, and...let's see now....Ah. I have it. Tell me who your favorite Bible character is - apart from the Lord. If you really can't decide on one, you can pick two; one from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament. (That's what I have to do!)

I'd also greatly value any opinions you have regarding this blog. Please tell me honestly what types of posts your enjoy most, and what kind bore you. Tell me if there are things I've never mentioned, that you'd like to hear about.

Wow. I think I get the prize for the longest anniversary please-leave-me-a-comment-beg. Ah well. Y'all already knew I'm long winded, didn't you?

Y'all are the best readers ever. Thanks for being there!

And please do leave a comment.

...Yes, Mom. Even you. *grin*

Friday, February 20, 2009

In which I talk about a lot of different things before I finally get down to the point

For those of you who were feeling jealous that I'm already talking about gardening in February:

It snowed here on Wednesday.

Really hard.

For about 20 minutes.


Actually, it's been....well, like winter here lately. (Surprise!) I did do some garden work yesterday without a coat on, but this morning the temperature was below 20 degrees again.

Ahhh, yesterday....

...Yesterday was lovely. You know those perfect days you dream about? I had one yesterday.

It all started when I actually woke up early enough to pray, read, and study my Bible for over an hour. I aim for that every day, but lately I've been hitting the snooze so many times that I might as well have not set my alarm.

So I had a lovely devotion time. I was wrapped in my red bathrobe, cozily snuggled on the couch with my Bible, my journal, and the concordance spread out beside me. The house was quiet with dark corners, and I had time to pull myself together for the day. That quiet hour helps so much. I don't know why I hit my snooze button.

Breakfast was beautiful. Like out of a magazine. Blueberry Baked French toast, with whipped cream on top. A tall glass of orange juice. A cup of hot tea, sipped from my delicate blue and white teacup (gift from Heather last Christmas). I wanted so much to take a picture. It was all so perfectly arranged; from the blue and white teacup and shiny silverware, to the vibrant colors of the food. I enjoyed every bite and sip.

I started the day dressed to my shoes, with hair fixed pretty but practical, and clothes that made me feel "nice," but ready for work. Nothing like feeling prepared to give one energy!

I had made out a "To Do" list the night before, and I felt so ready to cross things off. First I tidied my bedroom. I dusted my precious bookshelf and the photo frames on top of it. So nice to have things clean! The glass in my picture frames now shines.

I paused to spend some time with my little sister. I combed Lezley's hair for her, listened to her practice piano, and just enjoyed being with her.

Then I spent the rest of the morning in the kitchen having fun. I made up a batch of bread dough, in preparation for supper, and then had the delight of creating a new recipe. This time it was for coleslaw. I'd been craving that for a long time. I'd never made it before, so I just put whatever smelled good into the bowl, tasted, and added some more. I love that kind of freedom! It makes me feel so rich.

After lunch, (yummy coleslaw!) I spent some quiet time in my room doing computer work. I've volunteered to help a homeschooling-family-run business that's based here in our town, and I had some research to do in relation to that. I felt like quite the secretary.

Then I livened up and cleaned the bathroom from top to bottom; toilet, tub, sink, floor. Sparkle!

Then I could no longer resist the call of the garden. Dad was already out there working, and I just had to join him. We spent an hour out there digging. We're preparing the soil for when our transplants are big enough and the weather is warm enough. The soil is so rich and black this year! The green manure crops that have been growing all winter are now ready to be turned under. What hard work that is! But so satisfying, too.

I turned under the soil of my little herb bed, then moved to a larger one; 16'x4'.

Put the spade's blade on the earth; stomp on it! Lean onto the handle; lift it! Turn the spadeful over; smell the richness of the dirt! Repeat 20 times. Pause. Put a hand over your heart and feel the powerful thumping. Lift your face and see two hawks flying between you and the vast blue expanse above. Notice the lazy clouds drifting by. Watch Dad shoveling near by. Take deep breaths of crisp air. Bend over the spade again. See God's hand everywhere.

The hours spent in the garden are the loveliest of my day. I take great satisfaction in them.

But I came inside at 4:00 to get some sewing done. I was feeling very inspired. I have 2 projects going already, and I had just had ideas for 4 more! I searched my stash and found cloth for my new projects, fingered it longingly, and turned to work diligently on my current project; a white dress for spring. The design is my own, and it was giving me a lot of trouble. I gathered up all the wit and skill I have to throw at it, and rejoiced in the effort.

At 5:00 I went back to the kitchen to make supper. I love it when Mom lets me take over a meal on short notice. I made what we call perogies; golden brown bread filled with sauce, sausage, and cheese. I made them look like little tarts this time, baked in muffin tins. We had peas, too, and of course that got us starting talking around the supper table about the time - fast approaching - when we will be eating our own peas.

Garden-planning on paper after supper with Dad....Family Bible Time in the book of John...chit chat in the living room...a warm shower...soft pajamas...cozy bed...turning through the pages of Psalms for one last thing to think on as I go to sleep...being blessed by Psalm 65...reading it again...and again...flipping off the lamp...a dark bedroom...whispers with a sister...drifting off to sleep. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Oh well. Enough about yesterday. Let me get to the point of this post. (You thought I was just giving a history-in-the-life-of-Amber-lesson, didn't you?) :)

For those of you who live in the cooler regions of this planet, and aren't able to get out in your dirt yet. :( Poor you! ) Here is something you can do; plan crop rotations!

Planting the same crop in the same place year after year can be very harmful to your plants. Diseases will build up, pests will always know where to look for their snack, and the plants will miss out on the benefits they could have had from things that are left behind in the soil when other plants grow there. Any old farmer will tell you that you need to switch your crops around; crop rotation. Here are some tips I found in "The New Organic Grower" by Eliot Coleman: (if my explanations seem redundant and annoying, please forgive me. I'm talking to myself.)

Crop Rotation

~ Legumes are generally beneficial preceding crops (They will help whatever you plant in that soil next year.)
~ Onion, lettuce, and squash are generally beneficial preceding crops.
~ Potatoes yield best after corn. (Plant them where you had corn last year.)
~ For potatoes; peas, oats, and barely as preceding crops increase scab. (DON'T plant potatoes where you had peas, oats, or barely last year.)
~ Corns and beans are generally not greatly influenced in any bad way by the preceding crop. (Plant them wherever the "dangerous" crops were last year.)
~ Liming and manuring help, but do not totally overcome the negative effects of the preceding crops.
~ Carrots, beets, and cabbage are generally detrimental to subsequent crops. (These are the "dangerous" crops.)
~ Sweet corn is one of the most beneficial preceding crops for potato.
~ Tomatoes and potatoes are close cousins and should not follow one another. (Don't plant tomatoes where you had potatoes last year, or visa-versa.)
~ Beans are a good choice to follow root crops, such as carrots and beets, because the are apparently unaffected by them. (Plant beans where you had "dangerous" crops last year.)
~ Squash is a good predecessor for root crops. (Plant squash where you plan to put "dangerous" crops next year.)
~ Growing potatoes one year, then squash the next, us even more beneficial for a planting of root crops planted the third year .

What! Planning three years ahead? Sure! That's what a gardening notebook is for! If you aren't able to get your fingers in the dirt (or clay) yet, why not sit down and at least plan where you'll put everything when the weather warms up enough? It's quite challenging, but loads of fun! It will probably increase your crops, too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Books and Friends

Books are wonderful things. There are no replacements for them; not movies, not radio, not oral speaking. Books are in a class by themselves.

Why do you think God chose a BOOK to be the only item in the world that is both physical and spiritual? The Bible alone has that special distinction. ...And the Bible is a book. To me, that means all books are something special, because between their covers there just might lie something that tastes faintly - or strongly - of God's own book.

But if you think about it, books are really people. I mean, you can't separate a book from all the circumstances surrounding its creation, the way it sounds, the way it reads, and say "I love it."

If you love a book, you've fallen in love with something about it; the story plot, the perfect grammar, the glass-clear instructions, the gorgeous illustrations, the word pictures painted in your mind, the humor that keeps you laughing, the suspense the kept you turning the pages, the tragic parts that made you cry... It is the way a book is put together - worded - that makes you love it.

That explains why you can love a splendidly-told story and hate a dry history book, or adore a well-written biography and detest a jibbery novel. Some speak to you politely, elegantly, kindly, and others are full of themselves.

What makes one book differ from another? What is this "voice" that each book has?

If you are sold on a book, what is it you have bought?

It is the author you have bought. It is the author's voice you hear. It is the author's personality that makes a dry subject fascinating, and a potentially good story ridiculous.

It is the author you have fallen in love with.

This is why books are people. You don't read a book; you read a heart.

And that is why when we love the Bible we find ourselves falling in love with God. The author and His work are inseparable. Books are truly friends, and we should be as careful with them as with other friendships.

Read a lot, yes. Meet people - all kinds of people. But for your heart-to-heart friends, chose jewels. Choose people who love what you love, and who love you. And chose books whose authors love what you love. Chose friends - and books - who will lift you up, not drag you down. Chose books - and friends - who will teach you, and who are going or have gone to places you want to go.

...Hmmm...when I started writing this post, I only meant to say a few words about books to introduce you to a new "friend;" a very dear book I have only half finished but am already in love with. The author is a dear lady, and her topic is the missionary life of her father, James O. Fraser. I wanted to quote some passages to you, so you could be blessed as I was. I have ten pages I want to type out and share in their entirety!

But, alas, time is precious, and I don't believe I have enough of it at the moment to complete the post I've started. I shall have to save it for a future day, and simply leave you with this thought:

When was the last time you made a new "friend"? Before I started this book I've mentioned, it had been awhile since I sat down with no other purpose but to read. Reading blogs and researching topics on the web isn't the same as a good book. ...But I'm so glad I slapped myself awake and decided to do myself some good by finding a likely-looking book to open. It's also been a long time since I was so blessed.

Try it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This is sad.

I want to sew, and I'm out of white thread.

...But I'm having fun browsing!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rules for Staying Healthy in a Flu-infested House

Note: Mind you, I am not saying I'm out of the woods yet; I could very well wake up sick tomorrow. But so far I've stayed well, and I think that - aside from the fact that God has protected me - following these rules has greatly helped my resistance.

Note #2: Some of these rules are to be taken with a grain of salt. *grin*


~ Keep your hands out of your eyes, ears, and mouth. Even when your ear is itchy. Even when you need to floss your teeth. If you absolutely must get that eyelash out of your eye, do it with your pinkies. Less germs there.

~ Refuse to sit where any sick family member has sat. Even when they, one by one, have sat on every couch in the living room. There's always the piano bench.

~ Boil water while washing dishes, and pour it over the silverware when you have finished washing it. (Seriously, this is a wise practice when there's sickness in the house.)

~ Don't let sick folks touch anything in the kitchen. If they're really sick, don't let them eat at the table with everyone else.

~ When in the bathroom, dry your hands on a towel that is separate from the one the rest of the family uses.

~ If you have more than one phone, keep at least one for "healthy-people-only" use.

~ Wipe off the family computer keys when sick folks have used it. Also, place a tissue over the mouse while you are using it, to prevent your hand from coming in contact with the germ-y mouse. (I have yet to find a way to type on the keyboard while it is covered with a tissue.)

~ Stay cheerful. Laughter truly is good like a medicine. Happy folks are less likely to get sick. Sing.

~ If you sleep with a sick sister next to you, sleep with your back to her, not your face.

~ Take a really hot shower every morning, to wash the germs off. Stay clean.

~ Wash your bedding.

~ Don't eat sugar. A few tablespoons of sugar is enough to cut your immune system off for 3 hours. Can't spare the down time!

~ Get out of the house and get some fresh air at least once every day.

~ Let sunshine into the house whenever possible. Sunlight kills germs. (...I think I read that somewhere. It's cheerful, anyway.)

~ Drink a LOT of water.

~ Hold your breath if a sick little sibling wants to talk to you, and gets right in your face.

~ Get to bed early every night.

~ Pray.

~ Laugh a lot.

And thank the Lord for every new day He gives you.

Just in case you've been wondering where the posts are...

We've been sick.

I think we have the flu.

Everyone in our family except for Dad and I have come down sick. It's been a loooong time since so many of us have been sick at once. I'm so thankful we've been spared for so long! God is good to keep us so healthy.

But this week has been full of sickness. We've been hearing about friends all over town - and the USA - getting sick, and I guess my family didn't want to feel left out. Everyone is coughing, sneezing, and running high fevers. Since I've been the only healthy one at home when Dad is at work (Mom recovered fairly fast, but still isn't feeling completely well yet), I haven't had much time for posting. There hasn't been too much post-worthy activity around here, anyway. :)

Just wanted to let y'all know I'm still alive. I'll be back in full force sometime soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Gardening time is here!

Yesterday Dad, my brothers Justin and Curtis, and I were out together in the garden, working. That wasn't the first time Dad's been in the garden this year, but it was my first time getting out there. It felt soooo good!

60-degree weather, coat, ...the scent of moist dirt, ...the sound of shovel load after shovel load of dirt being turned, ...the sight of dozens of fat worms wriggling as they are exposed to the air, ...discussions about where to plant what, ...I love all of it.

Yesterday I was turning under the green manure that's been growing all winter in the beds. Then I helped Justin move the compost pile. It's coming along nicely! We haven't turned it very often all winter, but there's a layer of rich black earth on the bottom. ....Well, it's all churned up now, so it's not on the bottom any more.

We hope to get some alpaca manure to put in our garden soon. Did you know that alpacas are some of the most efficient digesters there are? Their manure doesn't even need to compost - you can put it right in the soil. And it's rich in nutrients, too. If you are blessed, like we are, to have an alpaca farm in town, go beg some manure from them! ...If you have a garden, that is. :)

I can't explain the way gardening thrills my soul. I delight in being surrounded by growing things. I love being independent, growing our own life-sustaining food. I like the competition; always trying to do better than last year. I love cooking with fresh foods.

I only ever completely relax when I'm outdoors. I often think that if I ever have to talk with someone about anything really important, I'd best do it outside, because it's there that I think clearly and calmly. Being outdoors does something for my spirit. And one of my favorite outdoor places is our garden.

Depending on where you live, you may think it's a little early to be talking about gardening. I'm so glad to be living in Virginia! ...Yet even here some folks think this is way too early.

Not Dad. He's always planning how we can start earlier and earlier every year, and grow longer, too. He and I start drooling over seed catalogs right after Christmas. :)

Actually, we're a little late this year. I looked back on my gardening journal and found out that last year my first day in the garden was Feb. 8th, not 11th. *grin*

Today I planted 20 broccoli seeds, and 72 marigolds. The broccoli is downstairs on our gardening hot plate, and the marigolds are out in the greenhouse we built for Dad this Christmas.

If any of you remember my marigold plants from last year, you might be interested to know that - for the first time in my life - I saved seeds from a plant I grew, and planted them! Yup, the seeds I planted today were my own!

I keep track of these dates and such in my gardening notebook. I love this thing:

Contained in this notebook are layout plans, notes from gardening books I've read, my garden journal, and recipes for preserving the harvest. I started my gardening notebook this year, and it's already come in handy.

Are any of the rest of you starting on your gardening plans for this year? Want to share details? I'd love to hear!


Well, I baked with barley again today! This time I used a recipe. :)

These tasted better than they look, but while they made the "okay" score, I still want to play around with them and graduate them to the "wow!" score.


Barley Muffins

5 cups barley flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 dashes of salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup rich whipping cream
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400, and grease two muffin pans (makes 2 dozen muffins). Sift together all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. In separate smaller bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add cream, honey, and milk. Stir until honey is dissolved. Add to flour mixture, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Put into muffin tins and bake 20 minutes.

I was attracted to this recipe because of the use of all-natural ingredients and the simplicity of the directions. Like I said, I am pleased with how it turned out, but I still want to fiddle with it.

For one thing, this only makes twenty-THREE muffins, not 24, and they don't rise very high. I think the dough was too stiff. I added the milk, which the original recipe didn't call for, and it still seemed stiff. Next time I'll use just 4 1/2 cups of flour, and still use the milk.

I also think that dates and cinnamon would taste really good in these - give them that extra punch.

Do any of you have additional ideas? I'm all ears!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Results of Barley

Well, my barley bread turned out edible.

Actually, I like it. It's moist, a lovely brown color, hearty, filling, not too sweet or salty....

...and very time consuming.

Oh no - mixing the dough isn't time consuming. That part is pretty easy. It's the baking that takes awhile. If I counted correctly, that one loaf baked for at least an hour and twenty minutes! I kept taking it out every 15 minutes to see if it was done and, nope, it wasn't; the knife kept coming out sticky.

But it finally finished, and I'm pretty satisfied with the results. I'll tweak it some more before I post the recipe, however. ("Tweaking" meaning I'm gonna try to find a way to decrease that baking time!)

Having gotten the oven so nice and hot, I thought of one more recipe to try while the oven was still hot; barely cereal flakes. I could just taste the homemade raisin bran. Mmmmm!

I didn't have a recipe, but that didn't bother me. I'd read plenty of times that the secret to making flakes was to pour a thin layer of batter over a cookie sheet and bake until brittle.


I mixed 1/2 cup water with 1TBS molasses, 2TBS oil, 2TBS flax seed, and 6TBS barley flour. It made the perfect consistency. Thin enough to pour, but thick enough to have sustenance.

I got out two baking sheets with high edges, and poured enough batter on each one to just coat the sheet. I had a little batter left over.

"Oh well - I'll have that to try again with, if this try doesn't work," I thought cheerfully.

Why don't I listen to my own thoughts? They contain predictions so often.

I popped the sheets into the 350-degree oven, turned speed bake on, set the timer for 10 minutes, and sat down at the table to eat lunch.

While we were eating, the flakes starting smelling really good. I smiled and continued munching.

Food must dull my sense. Why let food stay in the oven when it smells done?

When the timer went off, I got up and opened the oven door.

And slammed it shut again.

You must understand that we have an eat-in kitchen. All my family members, with the exception of Dad, were at that lunch table, just feet away.

"Oh no. Do I have to take this out with them all here?"

Too late. They had already noticed my reaction, and were eager for a sight of the disaster.

I removed the cookie sheets - such as they were.

"Mom, I think I gave you new pans. Do you like the new look?"

She didn't reply.

Have you ever seen the wall treatment where the painters mix sand in the paint, and coat the walls in a lovely textured finish? Picture that. Paper thin. Black. On cookie sheets.

"Did you have a recipe, Amber?"

"No, Mom. ...But this is what I've heard works!"

You must forgive my brothers, but they started snorting at this point. I felt like joining them, so it didn't bother me in the least.

"Whose turn is it to wash lunch dishes?" Curtis sounded worried.

"Mine," Heather said. "Am, you can either wash all the other dishes, and I'll scrub those, or you can scrub those."

But she didn't carry out that threat. I cleared the dish rack for her, and she washed those pans while I finished my lunch. Isn't she the sweetest sister ever?

I was very relieved that the pans weren't ruined.

Now, here's the slightly insane part of the story: after I finished my lunch, I decided to use up that leftover batter.

Yup, I wanted to try again.

This time, I oiled the pan.

REALLY well.

And the dough...well, it fried.

I checked it every two minutes, and each time it was still soggy. I finally just turned the oven off and let it sit in there to dry up.

When it cooled some, I took it out and scraped it into soggy flakes. It wouldn't have made 1/4 a bowl full.

They actually tasted good! Like sweet bran flakes. Um, I mean sweet oily bran flakes. (Yup, I tasted them. All five flakes.)

Now you cast your vote: does this experiment qualify as a success, or should I put it on the list of "Amber's Flops and Falls and What She's Learned from Them"?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Experiment

I'm making barley bread today - my first time ever. We found out lately that someone in our family is allergic to wheat, so I'm experimenting to see if I can come up with something that tastes good.

The problem with barley is that it doesn't have any gluten, which is a vital ingredient in bread, to give it a nice texture. If a dough doesn't have gluten, it won't rise well. So I'm trying baking soda instead of yeast, and....I guess we'll see what happens.

I read a bunch of barley recipes to get an idea of what works, but the one I'm using today I made up by combining my information. I sure hope it turns out! If if does, I'll share the recipe.

Oh - that reminds me. Several of you have asked for my biscuit recipe. I plan to share that soon. If I don't, just nudge me a bit!

If any of you have non-wheat barely recipes you'd like to share, please do!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Saturday Night Concert

Thanks to all of you who wished The King's Strings well on the concert this past Saturday . I wanted to write a post as soon as I got home that night - my mind was in such a dizzy - but I didn't get to bed until about 11:30 as it was, and so I put it off until today.

The evening really began at our 3:30 sound check at the church. The church is only 5 minutes down the road from our house, which was really nice for us. The other two families had to travel farther, but they met us there in the parking lot.

The place seemed deserted. No other cars in the parking lot. We got out of our cars, greeted one another, and slowly and quietly made our way to the nearest entrance.

That door was locked.

The next door was open, so we let ourselves in and walked down the dark hallway. We talked and laughed a little, as friends do when they're together, but mostly we were wondering where to find the auditorium.

It wasn't too hard. As we pushed the doors open, we saw a sound booth at the far end of the dark room, like a glow of a fire in the midst of a mammoth cave.

The sound guy called out to welcome us, and told us that yes, he was expecting us. (Though he apparently was expecting 3 or 4 musicians, not 10!) I wondered if he always waited for people in dark auditoriums.

As we walked in, I remember thinking how hot the place was. I hoped the AC would be on later in the evening.

Stage lights came on, and we unpacked out instruments. As each of us slung his or her instrument on, or picked it up, we climbed the five steps to the platform and faced the rows of empty seats.

We played four or five songs for the man, as he adjusted microphones. I won't say we were bad, but we were just barely good. Our timing wasn't together, half of us stood too far from the microphones, and all but three or four of us were nervous. Honestly, I wasn't. I was having the time of my life. I love stages. I love sound checks. I love microphones. I love lights in my face. No, wait, I don't like that part.

It took only a few minutes to get everything set. Then it was off to our house to wait until 6:00 - show time.

While one of our families head off to pick up a family member, the other family came home with us and we had supper together. The boys seemed to have fun together, but we girls (Heather, I, and our friend Elizabeth) had very small appetites, and spent a great deal of supper time saying we wouldn't be hungry until the next day. Poor Elizabeth was truly nervous. I was more excited than nervous, and I'm not sure what Heather was.

We arrived at the church at 6:00 sharp. The concert wouldn't start until 7:00, and we were scheduled to play from 6:30-7:00.

When we drove in, the place was already packed.

About that time I felt the first fluttering of butterflies in the general region of my stomach.

We unloaded our instruments, and admired our unified look as we were walking towards the building. We had elected to wear blue tops and black bottoms, and that moment in the parking lot was the first time we got to see ourselves all matching.

Too cool.

We really felt like professionals in our matching outfits, instrument cases in hand, strolling into the church and making our way through the crowd and through the side stage door. (Talk about privileged folks.)

That back room was really amazing and fascinating. It wasn't really a room. More like a maze. The passageways beneath and around the stage were about 2 and 1/2 feet wide, but anywhere from 8 to 15 feet high, and were crammed with sound equipment from the groups that were performing for the concert. They were dimly lit, and short flights of stairs led in various directions; up one flight to the baptismal, up another to the side stage door. One led down below the stage, where bare rooms connected to one another in an odd labyrinth-like way.

Justin took one look at these passageways, and a glint came into his eyes. I could see the desire to act like a little boy instead of a professional musician, but all he said was "Boy, I sure would like to explore this place."

I suppose I should stop here and name the people who make up our group.

First, there's my older sister, Heather, (who, incidentally, is the oldest of the group. :) ) then me, then my younger brothers Curtis and Justin. Curtis is our lead musician.

The family who goes to our church has six children, like our family, but only three of them are in The King's Strings; Ben, our banjo player, Elizabeth, the only other girl in the group, and Joe, who is Justin's age.

The other family, who completes The King's Strings, we met because I teach the boys' mother sewing lessons. They are a dear Christian family, and travel a long way to come to our house for lessons every week. I say "they" because the lady I teach always brings her boys along, and they pick and grin with Curtis and Justin for an hour, which is always a lot of fun to listen to. The boys are Ryan, and Aaron and Brandon, who are twins.

The ten of us migrated down to the room below the stage, and practiced with a seriousness brought on only by seconds ticking away. I was relieved to note that our songs sounded much better than they had at the sound check.

When we finally decided that we had practiced all we could, we paused for a word of prayer, then tiptoed our way up the curved and narrow flights of stairs until we were all lined up on the flight of stairs just below the stage. About that time I was becoming seriously nervous. The MC (master of ceremonies) came back to tell us to listen for our cue, and a few minutes later we were walking onto the stage.

(Walking on stage. You don't see all 10 of us there because Heather and Brandon were a little behind. :) From left to right; Justin, Ben, Ryan, Joe, Curtis, Aaron, me, and Elizabeth.)

The MC took a few minutes to introduce us, and tell how she "discovered" us in a back room in a little country church, and was gracious enough to pay us quite a few nice compliments. Then we were given the go-ahead. That was when my nervousness began to go away, and I started having fun.

I won't take the time to tell you in detail how every song turned out. We did about how I expected we would; there were some wrong notes, and a few moments of pause between some of the songs, while we figured out what we were playing next, but there were also songs that turned out really well. During some of the songs, the audience began clapping along. That was cool.

Heather, Brandon (jaw harp), and Justin.

Justin and Ben. (Can you see the difference between a banjo and a banjatar?)

Curtis playing lead.

Aaron, myself, and Elizabeth playing lead. (My fiddle was sitting on the seats behind us, and I played it for 3 songs.)

After we finished, our kind audience gave us an applause, and we went back stage again. As I sailed into that room below the stage and began putting my fiddle in its case, I exclaimed "Wow, that was fun!"

"Well, I'm glad you had fun," Elizabeth said.

"Didn't you?"

"My mandolin's handle is sticky," she grinned slightly. Poor Elizabeth; she was so nervous. But she went through it like a trooper.

We tiptoed in the auditorium to join our families, and listen to the rest of the concert.

The two main attractions of the night were really good southern gospel singing groups. Their music volume was way too loud, but they sang very well. A few of the songs I recognized, which was fun, because I like to sing along (quietly) with whoever is singing on stage. As I watched them, and as they were introduced, I realized that they were big name groups, and all I could think was "Boy, I can't believe they let us get on the same stage as these folks!"

We weren't able to stay for the entire concert. We really wanted to - 'cause it would have been SO much fun to talk to folks afterward - but around 9:30, when the concert still showed signs of running on, Mom and Dad looked down the row at all of us and gave us a nod that we knew meant it was time for us to be getting home - after all, we had to get up and go to church the next day!

We were sad to miss out on the chance to fellowship with folks afterward, but we had fun talking about the evening as a family when we got home. In fact, I was so keyed up that, like I said, I couldn't relax and go to sleep until 11:30.

I loved playing. It was so much fun. I am honored that we were allowed to do it. I pray the Lord used it to encourage the hearts of folks there. And I pray we'll be allowed to do something like that again real soon.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Quick Nervous Note

Do any of you remember me saying that The King's Strings has been invited to play pre-concert music in February?

That's today.


I'm excited. REALLY excited. And nervous. I'll probably be more nervous tonight at 6:29....

...but we'll see. I'll let y'all know later how it goes. We'll be playing about 30 minutes of blue-grass style hymns. Please pray the Lord would use our music to bless someone, and that He would be uplifted and glorified.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I have something I want to say:

I could be flowery, and say I'm glad it's Friday night because it's nice to be together and having fun as a family.

Friday Pizza nights are a long standing tradition.

They're fun, warm, pleasant, evoke wonderful childhood memories....

I have all sorts of reasons to be glad it's Friday.

But the one I keep thinking of is this:

I'm glad it's Friday because we always have ice cream on Friday nights. That ice cream always has some kind of sweet stuff in it, and right now....

...I'm craving chocolate!

There. I said it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pride goeth before the charred remains

Never give in to the temptation of acting like you've gotten everything together, just because you're older.


My younger sister, Tiffany, and I made breakfast together this morning. She asked for a day to do all the baking, and Mom gave her today. When I think of how old I was before I had the idea to make a similar request, I am a little envious of my younger sisters - they get all our ideas earlier than we did!

Anyway, Tiffy's been assigned as Queen of the Kitchen today, but she wanted my help with breakfast. We planned to make egg biscuits. You know; flaky golden homemade biscuits, with cheese, sausage, and eggs inside. It's one of my favorite breakfasts.

Mom and Dad grew up eating bread or rolls, not biscuits, and Mom rarely makes biscuits. A couple years ago, however, I became interested in learning how to make biscuits. Really, really, good biscuits. After a lot of trail and error, my biscuits actually starting turning out high and lovely. Yes! You know how wonderful it feels to succeed with something? You know how wonderful it feels to have people ask for your biscuits? Nice feeling.

Well, I hadn't made biscuits in...oh, I don't know....a month or two, maybe, but I was confident this morning that our breakfast would turn out lovely.

Tiffany and I dug out the recipe (I was careful to inform her that it was the recipe I had created myself), and put all the ingredients on the table. Together we mixed up the dough. I carefully instructed her through each step, trying not to sound patronizing...but failing, I'm afraid.

Well, the dough turned out very well. I rolled it out, and Tiffany cut the biscuits. She was great. We shoveled the pan into the oven, and I told Tiffany to set the timer for 25 minutes.

"Even with speed bake on?" she asked. (We have a fan in our oven, which circulates the air, and that cuts 1/3rd of the baking time off most recipes.)

"Well, I don't remember if I factored speed bake into my recipe or not...just set it for 25 minutes."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." Of course I was sure. I am the older sister, right?

Two minutes later, Tiffany excitedly peered through the glass part of the oven door and exclaimed "Hey, they're rising already!"

"Good. Let's not peek at them until they're done baking, and then we'll be surprised at how much they've grown."

"What if we get a black surprise?"

"Oh, we won't. If 25 minutes ends up being too long, they won't turn black in a few extra minutes of baking time. Brown, maybe, but not black."

"Okay," Tiffany agreed in a hesitant voice.

We sat down at the kitchen table to read our Bibles together, and slowly a deliciously tantalizing scent filled the air. We grinned at one another, and jokingly pretended that we were struggling hard to keep from peeking in the oven.

Exactly 25 minutes later, I opened the oven door while Tiffany was cutting sausage.


Tiffany turned around and saw the deep brown color of our biscuits.

She didn't even need to say it. I wasn't looking at her eyes, but I could almost hear "I told you so" spoken in her gentle way.

Later on, she did say it. I think she got a kick out of being smarter than her older sister. I insisted, of course, that I had been right; the biscuits did NOT turn black. Not one speck of black! Only lovely, deep....deep...deep brown.

But we both knew the truth:

Ambers aren't always right.


(P.S. Sorry about the "duh." I don't usually use that word in everyday conversation, because it sounds a little coarse to me. But I make an exception if I'm talking to myself. After all, when you are reminded of the obvious [like "I'm not always right"] what is there left to say to yourself but "duh"?)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Paul Washer on "A Virtuous Woman"

If you have 8 minutes and 26 seconds, take the time to listen to this.