Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A 15-minute Chore

Note: In the following post, I'm not complaining. Really, I'm not. Last night at Bible Time, Dad challenged us to go through the next day being especially careful to "do all things without murmuring or disputing." So I'm not complaining.

When the following story was taking place, I felt like complaining. But I was alone and there was no one to listen to me, so I skipped the talking. Now, I'm glad I did, because as I look back on the situation, I find it humorous instead of annoying.

It all started when I was late getting my clothes hung out to dry today. Tuesdays are my wash day, and I like to get an early start in hanging out my clothes on the line, to be sure they dry completely by the end of the day.

However, today found me hanging my clothes out between 10:30 and 11:00. That alone had me a little unhappy, but I was thankful that the day promised to be a very hot one, and I didn't need to worry about my clothes staying wet for long.

We were also low on our clothespin supply, and Mom had used a great deal of them to hang out towels earlier in the day. The towels flapped gaily behind me as I worked, happily unaware that they were using the clothespins I wanted.

Did I mention the day was already very hot? I wanted to finish as fast as possible and get inside, away from the heat. I had two things to get done before I could head inside; hang the clothes, and water baby plants that were sitting on the deck.

These things all seem little by themselves, but piled together they seemed annoying.

Our clothesline is not a few lines between two poles. It is four ropes between two great tall trees. These ropes have been in use for a couple of years, and sag a little in the middle, but we make do.

Anyway...hold on to these random notes and keep them in mind as I finish the story. There I was, using three clothespins for every two shirts, working my way down the line. I had my hand on the very last one when a snapping sound shot through the air and my clothes were suddenly on the ground.

My nice, clean clothes were on the ground.

ALL my nice clean clothes.

The clothes I had just hung.

Our clothesline had just snapped.

I dove for the two ends of frayed rope, and held them up to keep my clothes off the ground. I was surprised at how heavy a load was on that rope. It was all I could do to keep the ropes taunt enough to keep the clothes up.

So there I was, in the middle of the clothesline, like the little boy plugging a hole in the dike with his finger. I couldn't let go of the rope, and I couldn't fix anything while holding it.

And no one was in the back yard.

Ahh - saved! Lezley finally came out onto the deck and asked me what I was doing. She held the ropes for me - no easy job for a little girl - while I transferred the clothes to the next line.

That settled the clothes. Now for watering the plants.

I didn't feel like hiking down the hill to our garden and fetching water from the tubs down there, so I grabbed a bucket and went to the rain barrels at one corner of the house.

There were three rain barrels on that particular corner of the house. I set the bucket under one and twisted the handle.

No water. It was empty.

No problem - I'm being patient, right? I tried the next one. No water there either. And no water in the third barrel either.

So off I go - all the way to the other corner of the house, where two more barrels sit.

You guessed it - no water in them either.

Then I remembered that Dad had drained all the water down to the garden tubs yesterday. I could have headed down there in the first place.

Long story short; I fetched the water, watered the plants, and headed inside. The outdoor errand that should have taken me 15 minutes took about 45.

But such is life. The small stories become adventures, and the problems can become blessings.

'Specially when you're blessed enough to have a blog to write on. Somehow everyday things become humorous to me when I write them out. Thanks for being readers!


I think I was nine years old before I ever got near enough a dishwasher to touch it. *Gasp!* Yes, I do live in the 21st century. And yes, our house has no dishwasher. ...Well, Dad says we have eight dishwashers - meaning us. But we have no electric dishwasher.

You know what? I don't really miss having one. I've loaded and unloaded plenty of dishwashers at friends' houses, and it seems to me that what with rinsing, loading, unloading, and having pans too big to fit in the washer, the person with a dishwasher doesn't save themselves that much work and time. So long as dishes have to be washed, I'd just as soon do them by hand.

That doesn't mean I adore washing dishes. I would love dishes that just clear themselves off the table and stack themselves neatly in the cupboard, clean and dry. But so long as dishes have to be washed, I am thankful for the dish sink.

I was thinking last night, as I washed the supper dishes, what a good place the kitchen sink is for praying and singing. Shamed as I am to admit it, there are a lot of people on my prayer list who would never be prayed for if it weren't for the kitchen sink. I've trained my mind to associate the dish sink as a gem of a place for spiritual evaluation, praising the Lord, prayer for others, and so on.

When I was little, the dish sink was the dreaded time-thief. No one wants to spend an hour out in the kitchen cleaning up after every meal. (Yes, that's how long it took me!) There were so many other things I could be doing! I used to look at my mother and older sister and wonder how they could finish the dishes so fast. It took me forever.

First, I'd put off washing for as long as I could; talking with my family, drifting out of the kitchen, trying to escape unnoticed. That didn't work very well. Sooner or later I'd be sent back to the kitchen. Then I'd putter around as I cleared the table, looking at the growing stack of dirty dishes every so often, and groaning to whoever passed through the room.

When I finally got around to getting my hands in the sink, I'd pretend to be a slave in a castle kitchen, and I'd stir the cooling water with a dirty spoon and pretend it was soup for the other slaves. Then I'd be a woman at a well in the desert, ladling out precious water to passing camel riders. Then I'd finally wash the ladle. No wonder it took me forever to finish the dishes.

But those days are gone. Now I consider myself quite the expert on washing dishes. (*grin* Doesn't every homemaker feel this way?) I've been doing it for so many years. As I washed dishes last night, I came up with a mental list of tips I've found to be helpful in dish-washing, and I thought I'd share them here. I'll be writing these from the perspective of someone who hand-washes everything, but I think even those of you with dishwashers can find something in here that applies to you too. Hope some of this is helpful, and even if you already know all this stuff, I hope the very last tip will encourage you!

~ Always, always, always, rinse your dishes right after using them. Don't ever leave a dirty pot sitting while you go eat your meal. If you do, it can really mean a headache with certain dishes - such as broccoli - which will harden on in a matter of minutes. (Then you have all those tiny green specks stuck to your pan, and they take forever to get off...then your fingers will feel a spot you missed...) But all pots and pans and bowls and such will benefit from a quick rinse with the sprayer before you stack them in the dirty pile. Your wash water will stay cleaner later on if the dishes have already been rinsed, and your wash time will also go much faster, because you won't be scrubbing hardened food off the dishes. This tip has cut down my washing time a whole lot.

~ Don't fill your sink with soapy water before you start washing. Instead, squirt your soap in and fill the sink only a few inches - enough to wash silverware in. Then rinse the silverware directly into your wash water. The level of the water should raise enough for you to wash cups in, which you will also rinse over your wash side of the sink. Do this until your sink is full of soapy water. In this way, your rinse water isn't wasted by running right down the drain, and your wash water will stay hotter. I can usually adjust this perfectly so that by the time I get to the pots and pans, my water is nice and high, and I just rinse the pots and pans into the rinse side of the sink.

~ Always save oily pans until last. But that's just common sense.

~ Wash by category. Don't just grab whatever is closest to the sink. Collect and wash all the silverware first, then the cups, then bowls or plates, then serving dishes, then pots and pans. This will help you stack the clean dishes easier, and I believe it cuts down my washing time. You sorta get into a rhythm, ya know?

~ Don't overdo it on the soap. You really don't need as much as you think you do. The soap actually doesn't kill germs - it loosens things. Friction and heat are the two things that kill germs the best, so rely on your hot water and arm muscles to disinfect the dishes, and use the dish soap to cut through grease. And please - rinse all the soap off! I hate to think about eating dried soap - which is clear - with my food. :)

~ Finally, have a good attitude. This makes the biggest difference in how quickly you finish. I have found that when I get right at it, don't let myself leave the kitchen until after the dishes are done, work with a will, and don't stop to dawdle, but keep a good pace, the dishes are done in an amazingly short amount of time. In fact, when I work like that, and pray and sing, dish time is almost enjoyable! Ah, the blessings of a heart that is right! It can even change dishes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rejoicing Mothers

Proverbs 23:24-25
"The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice."

I just felt like writing about this tonight. I'm starting something new here at The Fruit of Her Hands; Rejoicing Mothers posts. Let me talk a bit, and then I'll tell you how this works.

First of all - why the title "Rejoicing Mothers"? It comes from the verse you just read. (If you skipped it, go back and read it!)

"...She that bare thee shall rejoice." Doesn't that touch you? Really, how many times do you stop and think about the fact that your mother gave you life? (I know God and your father had a lot to do with it too, but you know what I'm meaning.)

Our mothers carried us in their wombs for many long months. They cared for us when we were helpless. They teach us and guide us. We owe so much to our mothers, and the Bible clearly teaches that we are to hold them in highest regard, to love and honor them, and to rise up and call them blessed. She is to be our queen - and we her ladies-in-waiting. She ought to be beautiful and good in our eyes.

I've been thinking today about how much mothers give of themselves, and how they encourage their children and husbands. And I decided it ought not be one-sided.

So here's what these "Rejoicing Mothers" posts are going to be about. I want to share one thing that I do on purpose to rejoice my mother's heart. It will be hard for me to hold it down to one thing per post, because I have many ideas floating through my head. I wish I actually did them all! This will be good for me, because if I don't actually do the idea, I'm not going to let myself write about it. :)

Here's something I did today. It's a seemingly small thing, but I know my mother pretty well, and I know this is something that she likes. It's helping in the kitchen before supper.

Doing these "little things" aren't always easy. Mothering isn't easy either, so I guess it's fair. :) Today I wanted to come do some stuff on my computer, and we'd been out all morning and afternoon. (Passing out tracts at the flea market again! ...Ah, too many stories for one post!)

Anyway, ...I was in a hurry to get busy doing what I wanted to do, and I knew the kitchen was in a bit of a mess since we'd been gone most of the day, and I wasn't at all in the mood to attack it. I felt willing to go in and lend a bit of a hand - maybe clearing the table - but I knew if I stepped in the kitchen at all I'd be drafted for longer duty.

But I knew Mom was just as tired as me, and she hates messy kitchens just as much as I do...so my conscience led me to the kitchen. Sure enough, Mom asked me to help slice potatoes for fries.

I guess she saw my face fall. When I explained that I had other plans, she quickly said "Oh, just get the chopper out, then, and I'll do it."

I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave her with all the work and go browse the computer. I stayed and helped chop the fries. And, while my guilty conscience had a bit of a part in that, the main reason I stayed was because I wanted so much to rejoice Mom's heart. I wanted to make her heart sing.

So that's my "little suggestion" for this post. Girls, help your mother in the kitchen. It is a shame if any mother in any family with daughters does all the meal prep alone. Your willingness to come work alongside her and be there with her will encourage her even more than your practical help. Take the time to learn self-sacrifice from your mother and thus rejoice her heart.

Now, ladies, please participate in this. Daughters, tell me something you've done recently that rejoiced your mother's heart. If you can't think of anything, get busy and then come tell us about it! We can all use ideas.

And mothers, please help us by gently letting us know what kind of things rejoice your hearts. We want to know. We want to make you rejoice.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I ate lunch alone today.

I don't usually eat alone, but it's just one of those things that happens every so often. I was out way past lunch time, and came home just as everyone was getting busy again. Many of the family members were working outdoors, and those who were inside had projects to work on. It was me and the kitchen table with a bowl of leftover rice.

It may not sound appetizing, but it was pretty good. I mixed mayo and ketchup together and stirred it into the cool rice (my favorite way to eat it!). The first three bites were lovely. I was so hungry, and this hit the spot.

But in just a minute or two, that little bowl of rice seemed like the widow's jar of oil - having no bottom. It was just kernels of grain on a cold spoon. I looked around at the 7 empty chairs and chewed slowly. This was taking forever to eat.

I hadn't really thought about it before - I mean, I've heard folks who live by themselves talk about how food doesn't mean much when you eat alone, but I always assumed I wouldn't have a probably with such a thing. I like food!

I've eaten alone before, but there was always someone in the next room, always chatter flowing around the house, always noise somewhere. Today the house was quiet. I could easily imagine myself to be alone. ...And I did.

You know what? I wasn't hungry anymore. My stomach had been growling for two hours, and I suddenly was having a hard time finishing a little bowl of rice.

This may all sound very depressing...and it was at the time. But five minutes later I was out in the garden, sun hat on, dirt between my gloved fingers, the smell of plants in my nose, and the sound of Justin and Lezley's laughter up in the tree house. Dad worked a few beds away, and I could hear his shovel scraping soil.

The world was good again.

Lesson learned; appreciate my family while I have them.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Eventful Morning

Well! We're back safe and sound from our local flea market. Heather, Curtis, a friend of ours, and I spent the morning doing some soul-winning over there.

Curtis, our friend Eugene, and myself played guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, Dobro, and fiddle all morning long. The music attracted quite a little crowd, and then Heather (and me, sometimes, when I wasn't playing) would pass out tracks and preaching CDs to the listeners. Between songs we'd all stop and talk to the people.

We arrived there at 6:00 this morning, while the moon was still up. (This place is so popular that if you get there at 7:00 or later you won't get a spot to set up your booth.) Whew! was it cold! We set up the tables and tent/canopy, and laid out our materials on the tables with frozen fingers, then stuck our hands in our pockets and bounced up and down or huddled in a folding chair. I stomped my sandal-clad feet to keep a bit of feeling in them.

The sun came up at 6:30, giving us light, and people began to flow in. We unpacked our instruments and began to play, but it was very difficult with frozen fingers. As I tried to hit the right notes on my mandolin, my fingers felt as if they were two inches wide, and clumsy as a dizzy child. We teased one another, however, and stuck it out. People stopped to listen, and loved it. They even started giving us donations, though we told them we weren't there for money.

We finally did warm up around 9:00. We even began shedding our coats. (Later on it reached 80 derees.) Lots of musicians stopped by. (This is the kind of place where you smell cigarette smoke, see lots of men's belts with large shiny buckles, most everyone has a tan, half the crowd is wearing hats, and everybody loves bluegrass music.) We loaned out our instruments to a few older men who looked like they were dying to join in. I tell you, it is the most interesting thing to see a lean sun-beaten man put his roughened hands around the skinny neck of my fiddle or mandolin, and make those strings talk while he belts out a hymn in a voice that you would never expect to hear those words from.

One man in particular was an excellent fiddler, and made me almost jealous, the way he could make Selah (the name of my fiddle) sing like a song bird. He gave me some excellent tips.

Everybody loved hearing the Dobro and banjo, especially, and when they're so enthralled by the music, it's so easy to get them to take tracts and things. Lots of folks wanted to know what church we go to, and two or three promised to come visit.

You know what else made this morning interesting? Eugene (the banjo and Dobro player) told me that he heard my name on the radio this week! I could hardly believe it.

You see, Dad had heard a local talk-show host mention on the air a few weeks ago that she loves to buy American-made things, but can't find a good source for American-made clothing. Dad came home and told me, "Amber, you ought to drop her an email and tell her you have a home-run sewing business, and offer to sew some clothes for her!" It seemed a little far-fetched, but I did.

I never heard back from the lady, so I assumed she wasn't interested. Now, Eugene tells me she mentioned me on the radio!!!! She told people my name and email address, and that I have a sewing business. I can't believe it. My name on the radio! Wow.

Anyway...I've had a very eventful day so far. *grin* Thanks to everybody who prayed for us. Please, continue praying for those who we talked to or who received tracts and CDs. May God use those things to work on their hearts.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I planted the first of my herbs today! Rosemary.

Though it is the first herb I've planted so far, I didn't think I would actually plant this herb this year. It was on my wish list, but I intended to start with oregano and sweet basil, since I've grown them before, and get to rosemary, chives, and dill if I had time and money. But a kind new friend gave me a cutting of rosemary today, and I've just planted it out in our garden! Incidentally, the Internet says April is the best time for planting rosemary. Perfect.

So....now I need advice! Any care suggestions, or - more exciting - suggestions for how to harvest and use this lovely-smelling plant?

Oh yes - the scent. I'd heard great things about the fragrance of rosemary, but couldn't imagine what it smelled like. Today I got my first whiff, and I'm hooked. What a wild, tangy smell! I like it!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The smell of freshly-made bread fills the house, along with that thick quiet that settles over rooms at night. My brother Curtis has made rolls.

The gentle voices of my Mom and Heather murmur in the living room like water trickling over pebbles. The day dies a quiet death.

I spent my morning outdoors. First, I went walking with my older sister, Heather. She's doing more walking as a kind of therapy for her hips. We had a lovely chat, and the weather was simply gorgeous.

Then I went indoors and painted a little project I'm working on while I also taught a nutrition class to my three youngest siblings. I hadn't helped Mom with teaching in awhile, and this morning was a fun change.

Then I spent the rest of the morning in the garden. Sunlight poured down on my neck, but the air was crisp and cool. The dirt was black and rich, like brownies. We're ready to plant tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash before the week is over. Yeah!

This afternoon was full of errands and computer work (check out my new Amazon bookstore!!!!!!).

Now the house is quiet, and I'm sitting here thinking about the Song of Solomon. Have you read that book lately?

Read it as a love letter. A personal love letter to you. This is Christ speaking to His chosen one; His church.

The language is so descriptive. The feelings are so passionate. The bride is not so eloquent at first, but the groom is enraptured by His dear one. He loves her every feature. He loves everything about her.

The bride loves Him too, but she takes His love for granted.

Until the day He disappears. Listen:

(Chapter 5)
2. I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
3(Then she says:) I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
4 My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
(Oh what language this is!)
5 I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
6 I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.

She resisted His spirit calling to her, and now she must go find Him. The people of the city ask whom she is seeking, and then how her descriptions flow!

(Also from chapter 5)
10My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.
11 His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.
12 His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
13 His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
14 His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.
15 His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
16 His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

"This is my friend." Don't you love that? Our friend. He is altogether lovely.

Theology is nice. Step-by-step documentation of Biblical truths is nice. Fancy words and head knowledge is all very well and good.

But being in love is something that cannot be put in a test tube. One cannot explain it. One just knows it.

That's why I like the book of Song of Solomon. If I am down and feeling alone, I read it. (Or should read it!) Then I start to weep, when I see this passionate affection and love my Saviour has for me. He really feels this way toward me. Even though I don't deserve it. What I deserve is not part of the equation - He loves me anyway. What a marvelous thing!

Ahh...Curtis has brought me a roll, fresh from the oven, with butter on top. What a kind thing love is.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chocolate Coffee Cake



Coffee Cake.

Doesn't just the name sound good? :)

I found this recipe a few days ago and - unlike many recipes that I find and want to try - I actually made this one! The original recipe comes from Passionate Homemaking (a blog I always enjoy), and I only played around with it a little bit. *grin*

I was glad that the recipe included soaking instructions, because I've been getting interested in grain-soaking recently. That's too big of a topic for this little post, but consider yourself warned that I might be writing more about it in the future.

Now for that recipe! I'll write it out the way I did it. Incidentally, I LOVE make-ahead dishes. That's my kind of convenience food!

Sorry the pic. isn't too glamorous.
Best I could do on an empty stomach!
(...Unless you count those nibbles of chocolate batter...)

Chocolate Coffee Cake

3/4 - 1 cup natural sweetener (I was naughty and used brown sugar! But it was only 3/4 cup, and not packed.)
1/2 cup butter
1-2 Tbsp cocoa powder (as desired, I used 2 heaping Tbsp!)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 TBS ground flax seed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
dash of allspice
1 1/2 cups whole white wheat flour
1 cup cultured buttermilk, kefir, whey, yogurt (or your preferred acid medium for soaking) (I used buttermilk)
1/2 cup nuts, if desired (I used chopped walnuts)

The night before you want the cake, prepare recipe as follows:

In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients except flour with a fork. Cut in butter until mixture is...well, not like bread crumbs, but well mixed. It will be like very stiff cookie dough, and evenly colored. (WARNING: THIS STUFF TASTES REALLY GOOD! DO NOT SAMPLE IF YOU WANT ANY LEFT WITH WHICH TO MAKE THE CAKE!) Cover this bowl and place in refrigerator until morning.

SOAKING STEP: In another bowl, combine flour and buttermilk. Stir with a fork until lumps are gone. Cover, and let sit at room temp. all night.

Next morning, pull your chocolate mixture out of the fridge and let it soften. ...Or, be like me, and forget to do this, and stick it in the microwave for 15 seconds to soften it to the perfect consistency. Pour the flour mix over the chocolate mix, and combine well, with firm but gently strokes. Stir only until the batter is evenly colored.

Pour into a greased glass 8 x 8 pan and cover with chopped nuts, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. (I baked mine for 45-50 min., because it was still wet in the middle, but looking back on it, I think it would have been better had I cooked it only 40 min. - kinda like brownies; good when moist and wet!)

That's all. It was SO easy to just combine the contents of the two bowls, pour it in the pan, and bake this morning! And mmmm, the chocolate taste! Not too sweet - I like a cocoa taste, but you could add more sugar, to taste - but just sweet enough.

Did I mention I like chocolate?

Thanks, Passionate Homemaking, for a great recipe!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Because I don't have enough time to do a full post...

Highlights of my day:

~ Heather's birthday. My only older sibling! She's more wonderful every year. Are there any words to describe the relationship between two sisters who love one another? We've grown up together, gotten into trouble together, argued together, laughed together, planned together, borrowed each other's clothes, giggled together under the covers at night, prayed together, looked up Bible verses late at night when we're having a discussion, ...we've cried together, grown older together, and (hopefully) matured together. I love her SO much.

*Yep, she's a little bossy. I'm a little whiny.
*She's a little messy. I'm a little bit of a neat-freak. (When she gets around to it, she cleans better than I do.)
*She likes to bake sweets. I prefer to make homemade bread.
*When we're in public, she likes to listen, and I like to talk. When we're alone together, she likes to talk and I like to listen.
*She has everybody's phone number, address, date of birth, and favorite color memorized, and I have to ask her when the birthdays of some of my very good friends are.
*She has sore shoulders and back, and I have good massaging hands.
*She has good tastes in fabric but hates to sew, and I have no money for fabric but love to sew. :)
*She can play piano music that I would butcher, and I can grow plants that she would let die of thirst (accidentally, of course).

We complement one another perfectly. We're very different, but we like it that way. We're best friends. I don't think I could live without her. She reminds me that life is to be lived with joy, and I remind her of the theological, philosophical, and otherwise long-worded things that I find so important.

But I am starting to sound like I really DO have time for a full post. So on to highlight #2.

~ Went bike riding as a family this afternoon. 7 miles on a river-side trail. Lovely. We reminded me of Sound of Music, all strung out along the trail with different sized riders on each bike. (...Note to self; When choosing to ride a bike while wearing a skirt, ...on a VERY windy day....do not pick such a full skirt. Doesn't work too well.)

~ Frosted a carrot cake with Tiffany. Fun sister project.

~ Made rolls for tomorrow. Turned out great. I love this recipe more every time I use it.

~ Got my Pampered Chef order. Yippee!

~ Went last-minute gift shopping at an old bookstore. I could spend hours in that place!

~ Went shopping with Dad at WalMart at 7:00 in the morning on a Saturday. Fun to see the place so empty.

~...And became very sleepy while typing a blog post. ....

...I think I'll sign off for now. Heather, I love ya. To all my readers; I wish y'all a very blessed Lord's Day tomorrow, and hope it will be filled for each of you with thoughts about our risen Lord, and joy, and hope, and remembrances of promises He's made to us. Remember that song, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow"?

I serve a risen Savior; He's in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me, and talks with me, along life's narrow way.
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

If at first you don't succeed....

...there's always a silver lining to the cloud. ...Or was it blue lining?

Must be blue, 'cause that's the color the bottom of our tub was when I drained the dye-remover solution out a few minutes ago. Lovely blue dye ran in streaks all over the bottom of the tub.

Oh yes - the fabric? Still blue. (If this story makes no sense to you, check out a previous installment.)

"Great. I soak blue fabric to turn it white, and instead I turn our white tub blue." The humor of the situation was not lost on me, but I would have laughed harder if I hadn't been picturing what my parents were going to say.

I can't believe how stubborn this fabric is. The "thrill of the chase and the excitement of the attempt" is beginning to fade a little. Too bad it's the only thing that's fading; the denim has no intentions of doing such a thing. If I cared enough to dig through my scrap pile and find the labels from these 3 pairs of jeans, I would write the companies and tell them this whole story in hopes of being hired to endorse their jeans; "Buy these jeans - they will never (ever, ever, ever, ever, ever) fade!" :) :) Now I know why faded jeans in the stores are so expensive. :)

So there I was, staring at blue streaks on a white tub. Slowly, ever so slowly, hope began to dawn. I knelt down and rubbed a rubber-gloved finger (this is dangerous stuff, this dye remover; might eat up your skin!...Never mind eating up the dye.) over one blue streak.

It came off.

Not only that, but the brown soap-scum that lies on the bottom of every old tub came off with it. Underneath was pure white - like a brand new tub.

Now I was really excited. (Yes, this is me; the person who hates to clean the tub.) I grabbed a scrubbing pad from the cleaning cupboard and briskly attacked the bottom of our tub.

It started turning white!!!! Really, shiny, new-y white! I've discovered a new tub cleaner! It takes 7 hours of soaking time, but it works really well!

So maybe the lining is silver after all. But you haven't heard the best part:

Mom went shopping this afternoon.

Guess what she came home with?

That's right; a white skirt. A white skirt for me.

Dear Mom. She knew I wouldn't care that I'll have to alter it to be able to wear it. I think she figured that even the most intensive sewing project couldn't be worse than my current one.

You know what? I think she's right.


I'm soaking that infamous denim in the bathtub with dye remover and boiling water right now.

It's my last resort - I have no other ideas to try if this doesn't work...though I may be able to think some up. :)

I wish y'all could have seen our stove top a few minutes ago; packed with water-filled pots, all bubbling away. Now it's our bathroom that's bubbling away - it's like a sauna in there. The dye remover I added to the water smells like hot baby wipes...and therefore the bathroom smells like-wise. The package instructions say "avoid breathing" ...breathing the fumes, that is. ...So I've warned folks to hold their breath if they go in there.

Yesterday, I sprayed the pieces with a dye remover and water from a spray bottle, then set them out in the bright sun for several hours. That didn't work well - ah, well, it was just an idea.

Don't you love all my ideas? I like trying them. Even when they don't work. Course, I like it best when they do work! But it's the trying that fascinates me. Some of my family members don't get it, but to me the chase is the thrill - the attempt is the excitement. If it works, great! If it doesn't, I tried. Trying counts for something....to me.

Anyway, a box-elder bug had spent the night in my fabric, for he fell out into the bathtub when I put the denim in there.

"Avoid breathing."

Bugs breathe through their skin.

What an awful way to die.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Quote

"Do not call me morbid, but I look forward to death. What is this feeling in me? I will try to tell you.

"Find me a young woman who is exceptionally close to her family. She is the kindest, sweetest sister, confident and companion to every sister and brother. She adores her little siblings, and looks up to every older sibling. Her parents? She admires them abundantly. She wants their input in her every decision. She loves to be surrounded by her family, and her life with them is abundant and fulfilled.

"Then she meets the man she is to marry. Suddenly, though her love for her family has not decreased in the slightest, she has no other desire than to be near this one. He is all she wants. She wants to hear his voice, she dreams of being in his arms, she wants to talk with him, laugh with him, be with him. She longs after him with all her heart.

"Has she forsaken her family? Does the world call her morbid because her past life no longer is enough, and she longs for her future life with her dear one? No indeed. It is perfectly natural. A girl this close to her family will shed tears on her wedding day, and her heart will ache to leave them, but will be wild with delight at the same time.

"Therefore, call me morbid if you will, but I am wild with delight at the thought of death - the thought of meeting my bridegroom."

Monday, April 6, 2009

That Dress Form of Mine....

...I finally used it! Granted, it still isn't finished - I have to fill in the neck, seal up the last few inches of the slit, and cover the whole thing with a cotton cloth cover - but I couldn't resist using it for this recent project.

Good thing I did, too, because this dress required a LOT of fitting, and I think I would have lost patience if I tried to stop sewing, go up to my bedroom, try the dress on myself, pin, take measurements, take off the dress, get dressed in my other clothes again, trot downstairs, and get set to sew again every time I had to make an adjustment. That is how I have sewed every garment for myself all my life....until now. Being able to spin around in my chair and have a body to fit this dress on right next to my machine was such a luxury!

This particular project was enjoyable not only because I was using my dress form for the first time, but also because it was altering, and I love altering; I think it's my favorite form of sewing. Less work for store-bought-looking (hopefully) results! It's also almost always cheaper. This dress, for instance, cost me only the price of a invisible zipper; I already had the original dress, and the extra blue fabric was left over from another project.

Here is the original dress. You can see a bit of red peeping out below - I painted the dress form stand to match my sewing room. (This location is not my sewing room - it was too messy to photograph. :) )

I bought this dress ages ago, from Good Will, and because it reveals too much skin for me to feel comfortable wearing it alone, I always had to wear a shirt over it - borrowed from my sister Heather, since I don't have a matching shirt. Another con to this dress is that, though you can't see it very well in the photo, this garment was cut on the bias, or something, and it hangs really, really, really oddly on my body. As in weird. As in "it starts to look as if I have lumps on my body in random places" kind of weird.

So I had nothing to lose by cutting up this dress. I love the blue flowers, so I really hoped to make something wearable out of it.

Here is the back of the dress. You can see it comes quite low. I really didn't have very much fabric to work with! I have only threads and a few tiny strips of cloth left over. I even used the spaghetti straps! (As button loops.)

Here is the finished product. Justin took the pictures for me yesterday afternoon. I didn't think to get pictures of the back - sorry. And it was windy, so the skirt is plastered against my legs and looks a little narrower than it really is. And my hair looks very plain....but, okay, we're not here to discuss me - just the dress.

For those of you interested in details:

I brought the skirt up several inches, to create a wider skirt and so I could use the extra fabric to fill in the top. I found an old pattern that has a high waist, and played with the top pieces until I had something I liked, and used them to cut out the bodice pieces, putting the two colors together and treating them like single pieces. The sleeves are my own creation, and are really just tubes gathered in the right places, and narrowed a bit under the arm.

The waist band was the hardest part, but it's really just pleated fabric that I tacked to a muslin backing to get it to lay right. All that had to be done by hand. The skirt is pleated in four places and attached to the waistband.

The dress has two covered buttons in the front - don't you love covered buttons? - but they are just for show. It has a 22" invisible black zipper down the back.

This last picture is just Justin being a photographer, telling me to sit down on the grass and let him get some more pictures. :) Hasn't all the rain here made the grass lush? God is good!

Quote from Spurgon

I sat down in the pew, ready to hear a sermon from the Lord. I turned the bulletin over to scan the back, and read a sermon. I know God put it there for me.

Mourning Christian! Why weepest thou? Are thou mourning over thine own corruptions? Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in Him; thou art in God's sight as perfect as if thou hadst never sinned; nay, more than that, the Lord our Righteousness hath put a divine garment upon thee, so that thou hast more than the righteousness of man - thou hast the righteousness of God. O thou who art mourning by reason of inbred sin and depravity, remember, none of thy sins can condemn thee. Thou hast learned to hate sin; but thou hast learned also to know that sin is not thine - it was laid upon Christ's head. Thy standing is not in thyself - it is in Christ; thine acceptance is not in thyself, but in thy lord; thou art as much accepted of God to-day, with all thy sinfulness, as thou wilt be when thou standest before His throne, free from all corruption. O, I beseech thee, lay hold on this precious thought, perfection in Christ! For thou art "complete in Him." With thy Saviour's garment on, thou art holy as the Holy One. "Who is he that condemeth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Christian, let thy heart rejoice, for thou art "accepted in the beloved" - what hast thou to fear? Let thy face ever wear a smile; live near thy master; live in the suburbs of the Celestial City; for soon, when thy time has come, thou shalt rise up where thy Jesus sits, and reign at His right hand; and all this because the divine Lord "was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
~ Morning and Evening Devotions, C.H. Spurgeon

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I've had a lovely day, working hard cleaning our church and fellowshipping with everyone else who turned out for church-clean-up day.

Cleaning windows can be entertaining, ya know? 'Specially when it's windy, and you're sitting on the window ledge of a second-story window with your feet hanging inside, and your paper towels keep blowing away.

But that's beside the point. My reason for writing was just to remind y'all - because it's been on MY mind a lot lately - that prayer is indispensable. God has really been impressing that on my heart lately. I NEED prayer. Nothing's gonna happen just because I try to manipulate, or control, or even follow all the biblical instructions I can think of. I need breath, life breathed in the nostrils of my work - and that breath of life is prayer.

Don't go scuba-diving without an oxygen tank. Don't sit on a high windowsill without something to hold on to. And don't live without breath.

Don't live a spiritual life without prayer.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wanna know something beautiful?

Yeast: In the Bible it represents sin. In bread it puffs up the dough.

Salt: In the Bible it represents the believer. In bread it balances out the effect of the yeast, keeping it from over-puffing the bread.

Huh. Almost like God planned that on purpose.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


If y'all are tired of hearing about this silly bleaching project I've started, just let me know, but for those of you who care to know, I just had to tell you about the latest development.

I put the pieces of denim in to soak at 9 o'clock yesterday morning. Despite my misgivings about creating holes in the fabric, I left it in to soak overnight.

Now it's 6:49 the next evening, and the denim hasn't changed shades at all, so far as I can tell. It still looks like ti-dyed fabric; lovely blue and white streaks.

Mom picked up a package of dye remover for me today when she went shopping, and I am considering using that. She handed the package to me while I was making potato salad for supper, and I thanked her and remembered that I hadn't "visited" my project at all today. After supper, I prepared to check the progress.

First, though, I needed a bigger bucket. Maybe if the pieces aren't packed into the bottom of the mop bucket they won't be dyed only in streaks. I asked Dad if I could borrow one of his 5-gallon gardening buckets, and he kindly went out in the wet weather to fetch one for me.

I poured the bleach-water and fabric into the larger bucket, and went to fetch more water. It was only after pouring almost all the second bucketful of water into the larger bucket that I noticed a puddle at my feet.

There was a hole in the 5-gallon bucket.

My first reaction was to pour everything back into the safe smaller bucket - but then I realized that it wouldn't fit. I stood there watching bleach water go everywhere, flowing dangerously close to other clothing (I was doing this in our laundry room.)

I waved my hands frantically and did what every girl should do when in trouble:

"Daddy! Help!"

After being rescued by Dad, who dumped the water into our sump-pump (after I rescued my fabric), I decided to try the dye remover. I turned my eyes to the back of the little box;

"Do not use with any bleach products."


I looked at the bleach-soaked fabric, and then at Mom.

"Mother, if this says it's not to be used with bleach products, and I use it on bleach-soaked fabric, will that be a problem?"

I think Mom had trouble not laughing. "Yes, I would think so."

"I was afraid of that. I guess I'll have to wash the fabric first, huh?"

"Mmhmm." Mom nodded.

How many times can fabric be washed before it dissolves, anyway?

SOoooooo....after I de-bleach my fabric - AND find a bigger bucket without holes - I'm gonna try dye remover.

Oh yes - one last little detail. As I stood contemplating how much I want - or don't want - this skirt, I leaned closer to the bucket containing my fabric.

I should note here that our laundry room, being in the basement, doesn't have very good lighting, and I was working in an out-of-the-way corner under the stairs, which is even darker. This is why I hadn't noticed a certain problem earlier.

"....Uh, Mooooom......My fabric is.....green!"

It was - uh, is. Green. A very faint, olive-y, yellowish green. The bleach water is yellowish-green, too.

I hope dye remover can fix that too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Update on that stubborn Denim

I've been soaking those denim pieces for 12 hours now. They still look about like they did after soaking for three hours - maybe a wee bit lighter.

This afternoon, I was telling one of my sewing students about my latest project, and she said that maybe the denim would get holes in it after all that soaking in bleach. I immediately had visions of Swiss cheese denim.

...But what do I have to loose? I can't use them now anyway - might as well leave them in there until morning.

Until then!

I go to sleep with the smell of bleach in my nose and the taste of Swiss cheese on my tongue.

(Just kidding.)

P.S. What if I reverse it; "The taste of bleach and the smell of Swiss cheese"? Which is worse?