Monday, August 31, 2009

Life and ....Fall?????

I can't start my mornings in a rush. It just doesn't work well.

I want to slowly wake up, ...snuggle somewhere and read for 30 minutes or so, and put on what I'm wearing for the day, ...enjoy a leisurely breakfast, around the table for awhile and plan the day, ...finish making myself presentable...

...And finally hit the day "full force," as my older sister says.

This doesn't mean I am not a morning person. I love the morning! If you want me to be rearing to go, and ready to "hit the day" at 7:00, no problem.

I'll just wake up at 5:30.

I must have those extra hours at the start of my day if I want to "feel right" the rest of the day. Don't you love those quiet morning hours, of slow thinking and warm feelings?

Don't you love the crispness that comes in the morning air? The glow of a new sun?

Today our morning started cloudy and dreary. No one could quite wake up all the way - not even after breakfast. If it hadn't been for my "early" rising time (that's relative), I would never have gotten much done this morning, because it would have taken me until noon to wake up.

Sometime around noon, the sun came out.

Not just "out," but gloriously out, full of cheerfulness. The sky is blue, with fluffy clouds. The air....

...the air is cool.


When did fall get here?

I practiced my fiddle for an hour out on our back porch today. Dampness hung around my legs, along with buzzing mosquitoes. Around my face, soft wind puffed at strands of hair and cooled my skin.

I wasn't hot. ...But it was more than that. The air smelled different. Do you know that smell? It's the smell of dying leaves. It's the smell of cool, damp earth.

When did Autumn arrive?

The calendar doesn't even say "September" yet.

I'm torn inside. I'm sick and tired of my summer wardrobe. I'm eager for pumpkins, scarecrows, piles of leaves, fall apple festivals, bonfires, fall breezes, and cardigans and hoodies.

But I dread the death fall brings. I smell the leaves on the ground and can feel my lungs quivering with recognition - that smell that I hate because of what it does to my body. I look at the garden, beginning to die and turn brown, and want to cry. I look backward, realize "wasn't Christmas just last month?" and want to dig in my heels and find the brake pedal.


Why do I bother to analyze? Time will go on, no matter how I feel about it. I can't rush it or hurry it. But....somehow....half the enjoyment is in the thinking, ...the analyzing. It's like savoring a cup of warm apple cider. I'll drink it, one way or the other, but savoring it makes everything so much better.

The rest of my guest post

The rest of my guest post at Keeper of the Home is up today! Check it out if you'd like. I'd love to know what you think of it!!!!

Thank you SO much to those of you who prayed for our evangelism/musical outing on Saturday! ALL of our players ended up being able to come after all, which was wonderful. Several of us (including me!) were burnt to a crisp by the sun, but our time out there was a TON of fun. Dad says he and our other "tract distributors" passed out several hundred tracts, which is great! I'll try to post more of an update as I have time. I just wanted to thank y'all for the prayers. :):) We need them!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Please pray.

We just found out that we will probably be missing 3 vital players in our group when we preform tomorrow at the festival. Please pray that everything still goes smoothly as we figure out how to compensate for the parts they usually play and sing. We will absolutely miss them a ton! They add a lot to our group. But I know God is still perfectly in control, and very able to bless our efforts. To Him be all glory!

A Guest Post

I've had the honor of being able to write a guest post for It was published today. If you feel like it, please go check out my post and let me know what you think! I encourage you to check out the rest of Keeper of the Home, too. It's a lovely site that I read all the time. All sorts of goodies on there!


I'm busy, busy, busy! Tomorrow The King's Strings plays at a festival in a small town some distance away from us.

For some time, we've been working on getting matching outfits. I volunteered to take care of making the shirts/ironing on the logos. This performance is our deadline.

Shirts. For 11 players.

What was I thinking? Was I thinking?

Okay - I'm joking. I'm actually have fun doing these shirts. I'm glad the rest of the group is letting me do them. ...But I am definitely feeling the pressure as time ticks away and I still have 6 shirts to finish.

I'm also feeling the pressure of expectation. We found out recently that this festival has been featured on the front page of their local newspaper, along with a photo of The King's Strings. Underneath the photo, amongst descriptions of other attractions there, is the following:

"...Music will also fill the air on Franklin Street. The featured group is The King's Strings from Goode. Band members range in age from early teens to early 20s, and they play bluegrass and gospel, bluegrass style. They will be performing at 11 a.m. on the porch of Basket Creations."


It's strange, ya know. I get SO excited when we get an opportunity to play somewhere. But then I start hoping nobody has too high of expectations of us. After all, we're just amateurs. ...Well, most of us are. Some of our players are quite good. But some of us are just...well, normal.

I said at lunch today that we're Amber-tures. (amateurs) My poor brother, Curtis, the king of good jokes, nearly cried. :):):)

I get afraid, sometimes. Not of performing, exactly...I LOVE that. It's just fear of what folks think of us before we play compared to how they think after we play.

But is that right? Who are we playing for, anyway? Sure, we want to be good at what we do - but WHY? Why is it so important what folks think?

Am I remembering "...playing strings for the King of kings; we are The King's Strings"? Am I wishing that God would make me an expert right away, without going through the growing process of learning to play well?

Oh how fun that would be! Wouldn't it be nice to do something right the first time, without falling on your face, getting up, and trying again?

But what would I learn through that? I know what I'd learn; self-pride and self-reliance. And I'd miss out on the character-formations that happen in the learning process. Do I really want that?

Sigh. No, I guess not. Not in my heart of hearts. But it's tempting, sometimes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crabtree Falls

This week most families across America dealt with school starting. Frantic efforts to get back on schedule and dig into bookwork was the norm, I expect.

Not so with our family.

Nope. While the rest of the world stressed out, we've taken a vacation. Yesterday and today, my dad had two days off work, and we've squeezed as much memory-packing into two days as we could.

Yesterday was spent around the house, with a busy morning and afternoon of canning in the kitchen for me, but oh such a fun evening! We intended to camp that night at a campsite, but we ladies were exhausted from our day in the kitchen, so our menfolk generously settled for a relaxing evening at home. Dad grilled some delicious burgers on his new (to us) grill for supper - which was yummy. Then everyone got out their instruments and filled the house with music.

That's always fun. ...Even if we are playing three different songs at the same time! Mom pleasantly surprised me by doing supper dishes for me (it was my turn) while all the commotion was going on. That alone made for a great evening for me!

Then Dad and I made some popcorn that, though I say it myself, was fabulous. Dad popped the corn in a big pot on the stove, while I melted butter and cheese to pour on when it was done. We lounged in the living room and watched some good old-fashioned black and white tv shows while we ate it.

Then we headed out to the backyard and roasted marshmallows over glowing coals and sang songs 'til late. Is there anything quite like the crispy sweetness of a 'mallow roasted to perfection? Is there anything like family voices blending together under the stars with a sweetness that makes you want to cry? Is there anything like watching firelight bounce and play with shadows on the faces of the seven people you hold most dear? Is there anything like strolling away from the fire, holding hands, looking up at the stars, and singing to the Lord together...alone? Is there anything like that?

It was a lovely evening. Even though it was so late when I hit the sack that I woke up tired today. It was worth it!!!!

Today we ate a quick breakfast (remind me to share that amazing blueberry-banana muffin recipe on here sometime!) before heading out. Dad and Mom were taking us hiking at Crabtree falls - the longest falls on the east coast.

It was worth the long drive. The beauty there took my breath away! And of course just being with my family all day long was great. I had some special heart-to-heart talks with several siblings as we hiked.

But by now I'm sure you're weary of my chatter, so I'll let the pictures some talking for me: (aren't you proud of me for including so many photos in one post? :):):)

These aren't in any particular order. This pic. was taken on the way down from the falls (we hiked from the bottom up). Justin thought it was fun to hide ahead on the trail, and jump out and scare me, who happened to be last in line. :):):) It worked, too!

This was on the way up. You can't see it, but the falls are really close to this stairway. Crabtree falls isn't one big "fall," but a loooooong trail of little ones. We were within sound, if not sight, of it during the whole hike (about 3 hours). I kept saying I want stairways like this in my house someday!!!! I love twisting stairways...and with a waterfall next to it? LOVELY!

Oh yes - pictures of the fall. I ought to include that, huh? *giggle* These are my lovely parents at one of the more level spots on the trail. (I'm not doing too good at cutting out the chatter, am I?)

We finally made it to the top! It was a very steep climb, and we were all glad to sit at the top in the cool breeze and feast our eyes on the beauty up there. Some nearby rocks presented the perfect spot for some pictures....

...I love my siblings!
(LtoR: Justin, Lezley, Tiffany, Heather, me, Curtis)

And because we like to be goofy once in awhile....

This picture of my older sis and me gives you a better look at the view:

And on the way back down we stopped at a few more places for pictures:

Hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into my day. I'm going to bed tired tonight, but happy.

I'm wistful, too. I can't help thinking what a lovely thing family is, but also how temporary it is. I can't hold on to my family forever - someday we will all have families of our own, Lord willing. We will always love one another, but things won't stay the same as they are now. My little siblings won't stay little. We won't always live in one house.

Sometimes it's hard to love so much. Sometimes it's hard to be so close. ...But somehow it's worth it. I wouldn't want to lose the pleasures of today because of fear of tomorrow. Sometimes I am afraid to love, because I am afraid to lose. But that's no way to live.

I've chosen to love with all of myself, and leave the future to the Lord. He is more than able to take care of it. He is more than able to give me the grace to grow with changing circumstances and not only adapt, but thrive. Isn't He good?

I've had fresh proof of His goodness lately. I've been wondering how to share this with y'all....Somehow it didn't want to come out right.

Psalm 20:6 says "Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand." I like that phrase; "Now I KNOW..." There's something about experiencing God's grace for yourself, instead of just "knowing" it's there for when you need it someday.

I've always been afraid of the time when my siblings and I start to grow up and start our separate lives. I knew we'd still love one another, but things would be...different. I wouldn't like it. I knew I wouldn't like it. I was very afraid.

But fear doesn't freeze time.

Things have come.

I've now faced - and begun to conquer - what I feel is the beginning of "growing up and out." To be honest, it's been such a deep, inner, struggle that I haven't written about it here at The Fruit of Her Hands. But now I have tried God's grace and found it true. It has held me. And so I want to tell you: God will come through!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Free E-book!


I heard about this good deal and thought I'd pass it on to y'all as a thank you for being such wonderful readers.

I haven't read this book, but I've heard good things about it. "Eating Better than Beans and Cabbage" was written by someone who feeds 8 adults and 2 children three times a day for less than $700/month. And they do it with a big variety of foods - not just your "cheap" ones. (Hence the name)

The price is right - why not check it out? I just ordered mine and can't wait for the download to go through. You'll need to add the item to your cart and go through checkout. A download link will be emailed to you.

Click here to get yours!

*Note: I am not positive that the deal is good for today only. If you read this and you're a little late, it might be worthwhile to check it out anyway.

*** Edited to add: I just got my download, and am browsing through the recipes. Some of the ingredients are ones that could use improvement health-wise, and I think my Mom might do an even better job at saving money when grocery shopping. :) That being said, it is still an interesting book, and I'm sure I'll get at least a few ideas from it. Go ahead and check it out!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We are busy around here!

Have you seen those big rubber-maid tubs before? (Okay....why am I asking? Everyone has seen those, right? If you come from a big family, you probably have lots of these filled up and stacked in your basement.) :)

They're very handy things. They're useful for storing out-of-season clothes and old keepsakes. (And, when you're a little girl, they hide junk that you don't want your Mom to find and throw away.) When you (eventually) lose the lids the tubs can retire to become school-book totes and laundry baskets, and then when they get too beat up for that they can move outdoors to store baseball bats, Frisbees, balls, and jump ropes.

Yes, Sir. Very handy things.

They also work nicely as containers for bulk-picked food. This week a friend with two pear trees was kind enough to let us pick all the pears we wanted from her excess. Two of my sisters and I loaded 2 rubber-maid totes in the back of the car and went pear-pickin'.

The three of us filled both of those totes in about 30 minutes! Almost half of those we gave away to friends yesterday, but we still have 2 half-filled tubs of pears sitting in our kitchen. They are still a little hard, and we're going to let them ripen some more before doing anything with them, but in the meantime I'd like to ask for suggestion. I bet we have enough pears to try any and every recipe you suggest! ....Twice....or three times. We could probably make each recipe FOUR times and still have leftovers!

I'd especially like to try a pear pie filling recipe, or another such recipe that can be made in large batched and preserved. (I've done that before, but want to compare my recipe with yours to see if I can improve it!) ...But pear cakes, muffins, etc. recipes would all be welcomed as well!

Please? Thanks so much!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I feel like I have so much to update y'all on! It's been awhile since I've posted a very interesting post, hasn't it?

Well, you may be sure that lack of posting does not indicate boredom on my part - on the contrary, it most likely indicates a heart that is just too full to speak yet. That happens a lot; my mind is full of emotions and ideas, like a fizzy glass of soda that overflows with bubbles. You have to wait for the bubbles to die down some before you sip it, and I must wait for my thoughts to gather before I write them down. Sometimes that takes awhile.

What shall I share first - the practical or the thoughts? I'll go with practical. That way if you want the stuff that makes sense you can stop reading after I share it, and if you want my thoughts, you'll have to read the whole post. :) :)

By "practical" I mean "stuff I've been doing lately." I have a completed sewing project that I want to share photos of soon - a shirt/tunic made from a wrap-around skirt. I love how it turned out. Oh - I also need to give y'all the answer to my previous post's question!

The quilt I chose was #3. It was a hard choice to make. I've enjoyed seeing what patterns you ladies like - I believe the majority of you mentioned #3, so I guess I made a good choice. :) ...But those of you who chose other patterns needn't feel as if your tastes are slighted! I like all of them - after all, I came up with all of them. :) After settling on #3, I sewed the blocks together and set them aside to wait until I buy batting.

The next morning, I had another layout idea.

I groaned, and said "It'll have to wait for the next quilt. There's no way I'm tearing all the blocks apart now!"

My current sewing project is three shirts for the girls in The King's Strings. Ever since our group has started playing at the market, we've been receiving numerous requests to play at events. Our next date is a festival on August 29th, and we want to have matching t-shirts to wear by then. Guess who volunteered to sew shirts for the girls, and iron logos onto the t-shirts for all 11 members of our group?

How did you guess?

I'll show you pictures when I'm done, I hope. I can't wait to see them all completed!

We are finally getting around to recording a CD for The King's Strings. But that's a post in itself, and I'll save it - and the photos - for a post on The King's Strings blog. Sorry!

Hmmm.... Oh yes; I want to share a new recipe we tried lately. I found it in a Taste of Home recipe book and tweaked it a bit. Mom made it for the first time yesterday (I didn't have time to make it myself), and it turned out marvelous. It's a great way to use up zucchini.

Zippy Beef Bake

1 lb. ground beef
2 TBS butter
4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (we left these out...but they probably would have been yummy. ...And I don't even like mushrooms!)
4 TBS chopped onions
3 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 cups cooked rice (you could probably use 4 if you wanted to stretch this dish farther)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded mozzarella

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef until no longer pink. Add butter, zucchini, mushrooms, and onions; cook until tender. Drain. Stir in chili powder, salt, and garlic powder. Add rice, sour cream, and 1/2 the cheese. Transfer to a greased 9x18 baking dish; top with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

That's it! It's very yummy.

I think that's all the "practical" update I had in mind for tonight. Now for the "thoughts"...

...Which are becoming less important as the night gets later. :)

Actually, in all seriousness, I've been having quite a lot of deep thought lately on the topic of contentment. Contentment can be such a delicate thing - you have it one moment, but one word or look can cause you to lose it the next. Yet the apostle Paul said he had learn in whatsoever state he was to be content. How did he do it?

Reading the book of Philippians gives me a clue. That book is full of two topics; joy, and the mind. Most people know Philippians is the "joy" book, but not so many realize that it's full of instruction on how to guard your mind, and what to fill your mind with, and what to think on, and how to think. It's quite good.

If I can do those two things - get the joy of the Lord and learn to control my mind - I find I am well on the way to contentment as normal state of being. Of course, I think the one sorta creates the other; thinking the right way naturally makes us joyful. But thinking the right way can be hard sometimes.

I don't have any stupendous advice or remarks on this topic, really. I told you these would be my thoughts. The reason I've been thinking about contentment is because I have been in need of it. One thing I have learned is that if I am to have this - and I know it's something Christ wants me to have - I must fight for it. I cannot sit passively and expect to have a joyful, contented heart.

The nature of everything is to break down and slow down, and fall apart (take a look at your hair when you first wake up and you'll see what I mean). Nothing gets better by being left alone. All good things are created, or sent. They don't just happen. That goes for my spiritual welfare, too. I must be striving to have the right thoughts (avoiding things that get me thinking the wrong way, for instance, or singing and reading God's Word to lift my spirits). God must send me joy. And I must ask for it. These things require action. ...And by "action" I don't mean crying and wishing my heart would do what I want it to do. I mean finding out what will give me the results I want, and then doing that.

Do you know one thing that really helps? Having people praying for you. I can't tell you how much my attitudes have improved since I confessed my struggle to some of my close friends (including family!) and asked them to pray for me. Just feeling their prayers is reason enough to be more joyful!

Something else that helps is getting enough sleep.

That's a hint. :) I need to go for now. I hope to post more later.

Talk to you ladies then!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Decisions, decisions....

I've been flipping, twisting, and otherwise rearranging quilt blocks for just about a full day, now. I spent most of yesterday afternoon on the project, and a good part of this morning. The pattern is one that I created myself, so..... I can do whatever I want. :)

The problem was I wasn't sure what I wanted. I would think I had it the way I like it, then another idea would hit me, and I'd be back at it again, shifting squares, then standing back to look at it all with head cocked to one side and eyes squinted.

This morning I had the idea to take some photos so I could compare actual pictures, instead of relying on my memory to decide what arrangements I liked best. Sorry - I didn't take any of yesterday's trials. And these pictures are only a few of the ways I tried it today.

Just before lunch time, I settled on a pattern. Just for fun, I thought I'd upload these "finalist" photos, and see if you can guess which one I picked. I also want to know which one/s you like best!

So go ahead; leave a comment and cast your vote!

Entry #1

Entry #2

Entry #3

Entry #4

Entry #5

Monday, August 10, 2009

The post I started last night:

I had another one of those "ah-ha" moments today.

...Only it was more like one of those "uh-huh" moments, because I really already knew this...I just was reminded of it again.

Here's what "it" is:

God really did know what He was doing when He gave us mothers and fathers.

Don't shake your head and say "duh." This is one of those things we should never get over!

I received fresh proof of that this week. Last week was extremely difficult for me. I was going through a....dark valley, shall we say. I felt like Christian from Pilgrim's Progress, going through the valley of the shadow of death and vanity fair at the same time. I was in emotional upheaval, and ready to fall apart.

And all of this I kept inside. I didn't share my struggles with anybody - just hugged them to myself and became more and more miserable. Of course I prayed. And of course I asked for help. And of course I ignored one of the biggest helps God gave me; my parents.

It's hard for me to open up with my parents about the way I'm feeling. Oh, not in simple matters. That's easy. We're great friends, after all! But you know what I mean; there are ordinary, everyday talks, there are serious talks, there are deep talks, and then there are THE talks....the ones where you open up yourself so much that it's scary.

'Cause you're vulnerable then, you know. And who likes to feel vulnerable? It's not easy to share my heart with anyone...including my parents. I do it...but not as often as I should. Certainly I hadn't done it in awhile. But God finally nudged me (or should I say pushed me?) into talking with them - and I'm so glad He did!

We had a good long talk. A very deep talk. One where I simply acted as though my parents were what they are - people who love me and are trustworthy. I trusted them with my deepest feelings and thoughts...and they handled them as gently as a mother does her child. (Ever wonder where that saying came from, anyway?)

In doing so, I saw the beautiful truth that I so easily forget; yes, we're most vulnerable when we're open...but we can receive the most when we are that wide open. The walls are down, the doors are completely open, and blessings can pour in.

Some people don't have my problem, of being too closed. They are too open. It's just like humans to be one extreme or the other. With the help of technology, we can share our innermost feelings with the world; facebook, blogs, texting, you name it. Even those who don't do much online can have their own little circle of friends who receive personal information. The world teaches us to "know who we are," and to tell everyone what we know about who we are.

But not everyone handles bare hearts gently. And not everyone is wise. And not every heart that opens wide will receive blessings. Other things can enter instead.

Oh how I wish we girls could learn to make our parents our closest confidants! That's what God gave them to us for. ...I'm writing this assuming that your parents are, like mine, God-fearing and Christ-loving. If they aren't, find yourself some spiritual parents. You need them! Peers just won't do. Yes, we need friends our age, but we also desperately need those older, wiser, gentler hearts to open safely to.

My parents have so much experience and wisdom, and other good things inside them - all mine for the taking! Was there ever so many lavish gifts pours out on more ungrateful people than in the relationship between parents and children? This ought to change! We ought to not only receive from them with grateful hearts, but "mine" them, so to speak, trying to learn all we can from them.

It's strange. The issues I was struggling with are still here. And I'm still a bit upset by them. But I no longer feel like a typical floundering young person, unsure of life. I feel like an adult, ready to face challenges and conquer them for the glory of God!

Where did the change come from? From talking with the guides God has given me! From lining myself up with His plan, even when I was afraid to do so.

Funny, how His ways always work, huh?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Biggest Yet:

I don't remember if this guy came in right under or right over 2 pounds...but somewhere around there. Yes, Dad has been weighing our harvest. :) This fella is a Big Zac, and that's a quarter next to him for scale.

We've been saving seeds from all the best produce, and hope to have lots of plants to sell in our new family gardening business next spring. If all goes as planned, we'll have several thousand seedlings. (Hey - if you live near us, be sure to check us out next spring! Trust me, we don't have space to plant all those in our garden!)

A few days ago, Dad and I were sitting at the kitchen table, sorting seeds as Mom worked on supper. He was getting seeds from one of our Big Zacs, making a lovely soupy red puddle - dotted with small plump seeds - on a plate, and I was counting seeds from a yellow squash that I had raided earlier. The seeds were pale and smooth under my fingers, like pearls.

"Daddy... are you really going to try to have at least a thousand tomato seedlings next spring?"

"Yup - and, well, you know how many I already have."

I glanced at the seed-filled cup next to him and nodded. "We already have plenty. They're such a beautiful sight! ...And you're gonna let me try yellow squash, and zucchini, and maybe flowers... Dad...what are we going to plant them in?"

"We'll start them in dixie cups. You can't get much cheaper than that, unless you make your own. We can transplant them to bigger containers as they grow."

I smiled, picturing our little work shop in the basement this past spring - how it was loaded with tiny green seedlings, and how fun it had been to tend to them, and see them grow. Then I imagined that on a grander scale, with a thousand or more seedlings. How fun it would be! Plants everywhere...

Then I paused.

"...Dad...where are we going to fit a thousand seedlings?"

Dad chuckled. I'm sure he has plans, but all he said was "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kitchen Tip

Today I canned 2 quarts of pizza sauce, and made about 1/8 pint of tomato paste.

I feel great about actually writing 3 posts on this blog in 2 days, but sad because I don't know if my posts are turning out very informative. I love to read bloggers who have instructions, recipes, photos, and info packed into every post...and here I am, having to confess yet again that I don't have a recipe to share. Or any photos. Just comments.

The recipe (shhh!) was my own. And it actually turned out okay. I like it better than any homemade sauce I've had before, yet not as much as store-bought sauce. Traitor? Yes, I know, but an honest traitor.

I've been having fun with recipe creations lately. My poor brothers. This morning I was mixing up another try on my "Banana Oat Bars," (long story). Curtis walked through the kitchen, saw what I was making, and said in his best morning voice "I'm really getting tired of oats."

Poor guy.

I've been making "Amber's Cookie Breakfast" (oatmeal cookies, that is), "Amber's Granola" (featuring oats), "Amber's Regular Soaked Oatmeal," and now "Amber's Banana Oat Bar" for breakfast just about once a week for quite some time now. It's like a challenge to see how many different ways I can serve the same food for the same meal.

But I go through phases. My first craze was pancakes, years ago. I burnt them, flipped them under the stove, added too much baking soda, forgot the soda, and flipped many a cake across the kitchen before I finally made a decent batch.

Then I wanted to learn bread-making. That's a post in itself.

Then I was into biscuits. Those piles of burnt biscuits, too-salty biscuits, flat biscuits (lots of those!), and unsavory biscuits finally led to the creation of "Amber's Biscuits" - my first real success at creating my own recipe.

After that, I was hooked. It takes only an idea now, to get me hankering to be puttering around in the kitchen. I'm so blessed to have a mother who lets me do that! I love to have half the refrigerator and all the cupboard contents out on the kitchen table, along with a huge mixing bowl, and all our measuring spoons and cups.

One of my driving goals in creating my own recipes is to either eliminate or reduce an ingredient such as sugar, wheat, or milk in certain dishes, or to use a food in a totally new way - like making pie crust out of rice crispies. I usually create one or more flops before coming up with something enjoyable. Most of the flops were eaten, but the looks on my family's faces encouraged me to do much better the next time if I wanted them to continue eating!

I post a lot about my flops on here. I even have a category devoted to those tales. My recipes I share less freely, being afraid that perhaps no one will like them. But - may I share a secret? - I have recently been thinking about a bigger project. I've been considering writing a cookbook. Wouldn't that be interesting? It would take awhile. But you never know....

But enough. I do have one bit of info for you today; one "tip" for use in the kitchen.

Blueberry season has finally hit us! Dad, Heather, and I went blueberry picking this Saturday, and picked three gallon-buckets full of those delightful blue balls of sweetness. Upon arriving home, I volunteered to take care of "putting them up."

We freeze our blueberries. It seems to be the easiest way to preserve them. From the freezer, they're easy to dump in smoothies, cereal, baked goods....and OH so good plain as a cold treat! In past years we've washed the berries carefully, laid them out on cookie sheets lined with wax paper, and put them in the freezer. Once they were frozen, we poured the berries into gallon-size freezer bags and stored them that way. Doing this kept the berries from sticking together. If we just washed them and dumped them into the baggies, they'd be so wet that, when frozen, we'd have one solid clump of berries in each bag - a big mess.

But this process takes awhile. It also can become a bad thing if someone (ahem - no names mentioned) forgets about the berries sitting in the freezer on cookie sheets until the next day, and the berries therefore get freezer burn.

BUT, this year I had one of those hankerings to experiment in the kitchen! I washed the berries in the kitchen sink, putting a little peroxide in the water to remove the spray on the berries. (No, sadly these berries were not organic.) Then I scooped them into a strainer, and from there into our salad spinner.

Yes - our salad spinner! It worked like a charm. I was careful not to overload it, and handled the berries carefully so they would not "squoosh." From the spinner, I dumped them onto an old kitchen towel, and patted them dry the rest of the way (that didn't take long). Then I scooped up the corners of the towel, and poured the now-dry berries into gallon freezer bags. It took about 3 spinner-fulls to fill a bag, and I filled 3 bags, with a little left over for fresh eating. I toted the bags down to our storage freezer, placed them on the shelves, shut the door, and...walla! Finished!

So simple. Fun, too.

Oh yes - I have one more tip for the day.

When I made my pizza sauce today, (inventing the recipe as I went) I had some left-over tomato liquid. I decided to see if I could boil it down and make tomato paste. And I did! It took about 4 hours, but it boiled down lovely.

Have you ever eaten plain tomato paste, just to see what it tastes like?

Here's my tip:


Never, ever, ever.


Whoooo! I can still taste it.

Monday, August 3, 2009


My sister, Heather, has half-threatened to hack into my blog and become a guest poster if I don't make this announcement myself, so here it goes:


Actually, I'm quite excited about the whole thing. We are selling new and gently-used modest clothing, and everything is under $10.00!!!!! (I like that part a lot! Who doesn't like to give folks a good deal?)

Heather and I have just about always loved entrepreneurial things, and this is the biggest business idea we've tried together. I wish I had time to tell you the whole story about how we acquired this business, and how God led us each step of the way. We're convinced this was His idea before it was ours!

We are excited about the fact that we can encourage women in modesty while helping them find the clothes that are so difficult to find in today's stores. It's one thing to tell people to dress modestly. It's quite another thing to help them do it!

It's been so much fun to be in business with my sister. We are great partners. I do the computer "tecky" stuff, and she packs orders. She also handles the advertising - a talent I'm sadly lacking. *grin* We both do the shopping together! Folks must think we're a little crazy when we go nuts over finding a lovely skirt that still has the tag on it...for a great price. "Oooh, look - here's something for our site!"

Our online selection is growing every week (and there's lots more waiting to be posted on the site, as soon as I get the time to put them on!) As fall approaches (yikes, where'd the year go?) we have been finding all sorts of cute fall skirts and cardigans for the new season (a lot of those skirts are waiting to be posted, and are coming soon, I promise!) There are lots of summer items still on there, too. We'd love to have you stop by and visit us! With everything under $10.00, it can't be too dangerous to stop by, can it? :)

Another thought...

This thought is a sad one. It's not really a thought, really. Just a picture that came to my mind this week.

In my Bible, there are a handful of verses that are underlined in pencil, and have this short label written in the margin; "One of the saddest verses in the Bible."

Do you spot them? Those sad verses? There are some that make me want to cry every time I read them. Some concepts make me cry, too.

Take, for instance, the concept of God the Father turning His face away from His Son when Jesus died on the cross.

I was sitting in church yesterday, trying to picture what it was like for God to die. He'd never died before. I wondered how He felt about death as He faced it, knowing that it wouldn't be permanent. Surely He couldn't fear it the way a human would.

I wondered how He felt about pain. I know He had a normal human body, with full ability to feel pain. Did He dread it? How much pain did He bear, anyway? Is there any way to measure such a thing? ...Yet pain itself, though dreadful, has its limits. It can only be so great - even though it be as mammoth as the pain all of Hell.

I imagined the garden, and saw the agony in Christ's face as He prayed there. I seemed to hear His voice in my head, crying "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me!" I even seemed to see the tears on His cheeks. I seemed to hear the dread of His voice.

What did He dread?

Bearing the wrath of God. Can there be any other answer?

At the beginning of His crucifixion, Jesus said "Father, forgive them." Even then, in His pain, He was talking with the Father. He was in fellowship with Him.

But then things changed. Darkness rolled over the hill of Calvary. A great dread, of they knew not what, must have fallen over everyone assembled there. Jesus was taking the sins of the world onto His back. And God the Father was pouring out His just wrath upon that sin.

Can our minds even begin to imagine the weight of that wrath?

But here is what tears my heart: With a sound that must have penetrated all the halls of the spirit world, God the Father turned His face away from God the Son. Because He could not look on such filth...such sin. The bond of eternity was, for a time, broken. The continual current that tied them together was gone.

Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Not "my Father." It was "my God." Jesus couldn't even call His own Father by His name. He was alone. Alone, under all that weight.

That is what I heard in my mind - a voice I can call back to my mind even now. I seemed to imagine the voice of Jesus crying "why hast thou forsaken me?" I seem to hear Him crying - screaming, even, in pain, that instant when God the Father was turning His face. Jesus bore so much physical pain quietly. But I cannot think that His lips would remain together when He felt God the Father turning from Him. It must have torn His heart.

It was the saddest, most agonizing, most truly awful moment in all of history.

And the answer to His question is a stab to my heart. Why did God forsake Him? Because He bore my sin. Because He had taken sin upon Him. He who had never known a moment of spiritual imperfection had taken more filth upon Him than any man will ever bear. And for that He was forsaken.

I cannot write this without weeping. Look at what He did! Look! There was never grief like His.

But also look at the glorious ending: Before He died, Jesus echoed the phrase the high priests had used through the centuries, when they came out from the tabernacle or temple and announced to the people that the yearly atonement for sin had been completed;

"It is finished."

The price was paid! Not just for a year, but for eternity.

It was only then that He said something that, to me, is almost as beautiful as the announcement of completed atonement.

"Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit."

He said "Father."

Ahhh. Now my spirit can rest.