Monday, January 24, 2011


I've been thinking, lately, about how often we make provision for the flesh.

What is it, to "make provision for the flesh"?

I don't think the scripture is talking about providing food for our stomach.

No; our flesh is more than bodily appetites - though those are included. It's those longings we have that stem from the old man. Those desires that come from selfishness, pride, and other wrong motives.

We know we shouldn't desire certain things. But we play with ourselves. We show ourselves things we know we can't have, and shouldn't want. Our imaginations run to places they shouldn't go, and we soothe our consciences with the thought that we "wouldn't really do that."
We just want to play with it. Watch other people do it.

What are we really doing when we look at things we know we shouldn't do or have?

We are wishing we could do it, or have it. Even if we don't admit it even to ourselves. The fact that we find it attractive betrays us. We aren't treating it like something our Lord hates. Instead, we are pampering that old man inside us; showing him what he longs for.

Do we really expect him to stay content, to be dead to sin, when we keep tantalizing him? He won't be pacified by looks. Sooner or later he'll act. Because he's human.

To provide for the flesh is to make sinful options available. Just in case. Just on the chance that we have to give in. You know. Like sticking that chocolate chip cookie on the counter instead of in the jar, just in case we get hungry.

Or keeping that questionable book on our shelf, just in case we change our minds.

Or hanging that "iffy" shirt in our closet, just in case it doesn't look so bad the next time everything else is in the dirty laundry pile.

Or keeping our computer turned on and within reach, just in case we give into the temptation to waste time when there are other things to do.

What are we doing?!?! What happened to fleeing temptation?

A verse in Proverbs 19 struck me along the same lines. It tells us what to do in these cases: "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge."

It's so simple; if something causes you to err, to be less interested in the words of God, stop listening! Turn it off. Shut it up. Throw it away. Whatever you have to do.

The huge simplicity of this concept has occupied my mind often during the past few days. It is a marvel to me, how alluring sin is. I wish it wasn't. It is amazing to me, how enticed mankind is by sin. We go for it, like a dog to poisoned meat. The only thing strong enough to keep us away is love. The Bible says love is stronger than death. It's stronger than anything. The only way we will stay away from sin is if we love the Saviour more.

What are you doing today to foster that love?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sweet Potato Coffee Pie

I want to share a recipe with you, but first I have to brag on my brothers a bit. They made supper for us the other night; not a common occurrence, but one that we enjoy whenever Mom decides it's time to assign them a meal.

Potato soup was the menu, with apple pie for dessert. But not just plain old soup and pie. This soup was creamy, and cheesy, and thick, and savory, and oh so good! The pie was high and golden and sweet...extremely good pie crust, 'specially considering that it was Curtis' first time making a pie.

I took a picture, and Justin said, "Are you going to put that on your blog?"
I said, "I might. Think I should?"
"Yup," he replied.
"Want me to brag on my brothers a bit, huh?" I smiled.
He just grinned.

And so, swelling with pride, I present the photo:

Now for the recipe. This is another one that I made up, so if you hate it, there's no one to blame but me. :)

But I don't think you'll hate it. Not if you like pumpkin pie. Or brown sugar. Or nuts. Or cinnamon. Or sweet potato casserole.

Sound good? Let's continue.

To begin with, this was going to be sweet-potato-cinnamon-rolls, made almost exactly like normal sweet cinnamon rolls, for breakfast. But one thing led to another, and I decided to aim for coffee cake instead. The finished product turned out more like pie than cake, however, so I have dubbed it "Coffee Pie." I know it sounds nothing like what it is, but, hey, I made it - I name it. :)

This Coffee Pie is really a thin, very moist cake. With crumble topping. The stuff is sweet, but not too sweet. Would you believe I could make two 9" coffee pies with only half a cup of brown sugar? It's true! You would never guess it is only that bit of sugar, when you're eating the cakes.

Ahem. I mean pies.

I have a confession; I've only made this recipe once, so it may still need a bit of tweaking. But if I wait for that, I'll never post it, so I'll offer it as-is. It's pretty tasty that way.

Without further rambling:

Amber's Sweet Potato Coffee Pie

Oh - wait - one more thing. (Sorry!) This recipe is great for being made ahead of time, to save you time when you're fumbling around the kitchen in the morning because you overslept.

Well, it's actually best warm (I think - it didn't last 'til it cooled), but you can mix the ingredients ahead of time. I'll show you:

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 generous tsp. cinnamon
1 sprinkle ginger
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder

Add 4 TBS cold butter, and 3 TBS shortening. Cut into flour until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Cover and refrigerate immediately.

In another bowl, combine wet ingredients:
1 cup cooled, well-mashed sweet potatoes
1 or 2 tsp. of lemon juice
1 cup milk (*I use almond milk. It's got more calcium than regular milk, but it's sweeter, and has fewer calories and less fat. It's yummy!)
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, well beaten

Combine until smooth. Refrigerate this bowl, too. (You can wait, and add the eggs in the morning, if you want them to be a bit fresher.)

In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup well-chopped walnuts
2 TBS ground flax seed (see how healthy this is?)
1.5 TBS cold butter

Mix until well combined and crumbly. Butter will get soft and a little pasty instead of crumbly, but do your best. Refrigerate.

The next morning, you'll be able to assemble this before your oven is done preheating!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" cake pans. Take all 3 bowls out of the refrigerator. Pour wet ingredients into dry ones, and fold together with a fork just until combined. Pour evenly into the pans. Divide topping in half and sprinkle each half over one cake. Let the batter sit in the pans for 3-5 minutes, then put in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Don't over-bake; you want it nice and moist.

Serve warm!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Gasp! A post with a picture!

This is one of those evenings when I'm just dying to blog. I have so much to say that my fingers are flying on the keyboard. Of course, with me, that's counterproductive, because I just have to backspace twice as much.

If I can get my appendages to behave, I'll move on to what I want to say.

I've been supremely happy lately, and one byproduct of that glorious state is increased immersion in handiwork. My hands have been finding all sorts of things to do, and my mind is way ahead of my hands. I haven't been nearly as productive as I want to be, but it's a start.

To begin with, my bedroom project is nearly completion. Many of you know that I got my own room for the first time in my life this May, when my sister got married. (She was married in April, but didn't get back from the honeymoon and move her things out of the house until May, so I count from there.:) I've had loads of fun creating a haven of peace and productivity in my little room, and can't wait to show you what I've done with this little space. I haven't forgotten my promise to post pictures, but before I will do that, there's one last project to complete: my desk.

It's a set, really; one desk, and two matching wall shelves, made to be attached one above the other, on the wall above the desk. I designed the desk, and cut out almost all the wood on my own, and with some help from my brother, and loads of help from my Dad, I've slowly been assembling it since the summer. Now it is completely together and ready to be stained, painted, and given coats of polyurethane to give it a glass-like finish. I plan to work on that tomorrow.

My new room is small (about 8'x11'), and it's been a delightful challenge to me, to find ways of making it work. I've cut down on the amount of stuff I have (felt so good!), rearranged furniture, and done all sorts of things to make this room work. I can't wait to tell you all about it.

I've also been inspired to sew again, which always feels good. No matter how recent my last "spurt" of sewing has been, it always feels like ages ago. I've been smart this year, and begun working on summer clothes before July. My summer wardrobe has needed help for several years, but if I finish my projects in time, I think I'll actually have a pretty efficient wardrobe this summer. (Did you hear the word efficient? That's a whole 'nother blog post...) I'm excited to wear the stuff I've been creating, once the weather gets warmer.

My favorite way to get new clothes is to take old ones and reassemble them in an entirely different way. Here's a sneak preview at one project I'm planning...

And, to continue; I've been indulging in one of my favorite pastimes the last few days; kitchen time! I so delight in working with food, even though cooking from scratch can be very time-consuming. It really could be faster, but I just enjoy it so much, I don't rush the process. I bet that habit would change if I was a full-time wife and had to cook 3 meals a day, but I'll enjoy the leisure of choosing my kitchen days, for the present. :)

I have a recipe to share with you, but that just feels like too many random stuff in one post, so you're going to have to wait for my next post. Won't be too long a wait - really! It's a reeeeeally good recipe, if I may say so myself, so stick around!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ways to Keep Warm in a Cold House

I can't believe I'm writing a post with that title. Only a year ago, I was Miss Always-Warm. I lived in short sleeves almost year-round, except for a very small window of time in Jan.-Feb. I always felt bad that I couldn't enjoy all those lovely furry sweaters I had, but what can a girl do? If I wore "winter" clothes, I died of heat!

But, whether from "old age" (haha), some unknown physical reason, or because we are keeping our house thermostat set much lower this year (probably the later), I have been freezing most of the winter. It's the first year I've dealt with such a problem, and I find it quite bewildering. I've always wished that January first marked the first day of spring, but this is the first time I'm constantly equating "spring" with "heat."

At least I can finally enjoy my cozy sweaters...and several of them at once, as a matter of fact.

As winter has progressed, I've learned a few things that help me keep warm. If you are struggling with "freezing" temperatures in your house, maybe you'd like to hear some of them. And maybe you have a few to add! PLEASE do, if you have some!

By the way, I'd like to go on record as saying I'm all in favor of keeping the thermostat set lower. It saves money, and it feels more natural. My body never did know what to think when the house felt like July in January. I think it must kill some germs, too...Anyway, I like the idea. It's frugal, and I get to wear all my wardrobe! You just have to learn to work with the system.

Without further ado, here are some things that have helped me keep warm in a cool house:

~ Wear clothes! Lots of them. Learn to layer.

Skirts really are your best friend. A lot of people think pants are warmer than skirts, but that's only if you are thinking of those flimsy, dressy, skirts with only a slip and pantyhose under them. If you wear skirts in the winter on a regular basis, you'll soon learn to get sturdy everyday ones, made from denim, corduroy, flannel, and wool.

But don't stop there. Add a pair of leggings underneath the heavy skirt. I have two pairs of knee-length denim leggings that I've practically lived in this winter. They make all the difference. Add a pair of warm knee-high socks and you're set to go.

On the top half of your body, learn to wear cotton near your skin, and then add something less breathable, like wool or acrylic. Wear at least one shirt with a high collar, to keep your neck warm. And, if you're still cold, don't be afraid to go around the house in a thick hoodie ...with the hood up!

~ Try fingerless gloves. Daddy recently found a great deal on high-class gloves made from cashmere and wool. He bought quite a few pairs, and gave them to his wife and daughters. :) :) One of the pairs he gave me are fingerless, and I wear them around the house quite a bit. They're great for playing the fiddle. :)

~ Drink warm things. This was a new one for me, because I'm not a fan of hot drinks. I'll just take my water, thank you very much. But there's no denying that a warm drink helps you warm up, so I decided to "get into" warm drinks. I didn't want to overload my system with sweet coffee and hot chocolate, and we don't often get apple cider (which I love warm), but I do love hot lemon and honey, and it's good for you. And I'll occasionally have that cup of black (ugh!) coffee. (Though I take that back if it's black German coffee.)

~ Exercise. Spending at least 20 minutes getting your blood flowing in the morning makes all the difference for the next several hours.

~ Sleep warm. It's very important that you feel warm while you're trying to fall asleep, or you won't sleep well. Pile those covers on! I have...let's see...five covers on my bed, and I'm never cold when I'm under the covers. Just like with clothes, have a mixture of fibers, and keep the more breathable ones closer to your skin, and the less breathable ones on top.

~ Bake! The oven will make the kitchen warm and toasty.

~ Eat enough. Don't overeat, of course, but do eat enough. You'll be colder right after you eat, but in the long run you'll stay warmer. Believe it or not, this is one I've had trouble with this winter.

~ Laptops. Did you know it's actually bad for the skin on your legs if you rest your laptop right on top of your lap? The heat from the computer can actually create burn-like skin damage over a long period of time. But all that heat can be comforting on a cold night. Just be sure to put a pillow between the laptop and your skin - the heat will warm the pillow, which will in turn warm you - safely.

~ Pay attention to when you wash your hair. If you're like me and always let your hair air-dry, don't wash your hair at the coldest time of the day!

~ Move around more. Nothing will warm you up quicker!

And always remember - a cheerful spirit will warm your home better than anything. :)

Happy January to you all!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Slam the Door?

You know, at times I get really frustrated with some of the side effects of being a stay-at-home daughter.

Making my work and influence sphere center around my home and family was my own choice, and it certainly a choice that I don't regret (although phrasing it that way makes it sound like a one time decision, rather than an ongoing commitment), but that doesn't mean I love every minute of it.

There are times when I shake my head and say "Amber, why do you choose to live this way? Don't you get tired of planning your schedule around your family's schedule? Don't you wish you were more independent? Don't you want to prove to the world that you are a mature, capable adult?"

I have to squeeze my eyes shut and remind myself that the most mature, capable people I know - my parents - also submit themselves and their schedules to what is best for the family as a whole. They can't run around doing whatever they want. They don't live on their own, and yet no one questions their maturity and "independence."

But there are times when I get frustrated anyway. Take this afternoon, for example. Or yesterday afternoon. I've just sat down to work on my computer, a work load staring back at me from the screen. Website maintenance, business correspondents, language studies, and O how I wish for time to work on my newest book that I'm writing! And free time to research hobbies online would be wonderful.

Yet how many times must I get up and answer my bedroom door? No, sister dear, I cannot cut your rabbit's nails right now. Yes, Mom, I can help you edit my sibling's school work. Yes, Daddy, I can come tell you what it exactly that I wanted you to help me with the other day. Yes, Mom, if the phone call is for me, I'll take it. Yes, Mom, I'll watch whatever is on the stove while you run an errand. Yes, brother, I have your project all ready for you - here it is. Yes, other brother, I can cut your hair sometime this evening. No, Dad, I don't want to go the the garden store with you, though I absolutely LOVE doing that. Yes, Mom, I'll help you find that book. Yes, yes, yes...

Sometimes I get so TIRED of saying YES! I want to slam my bedroom door, lock it, pound on it a couple of times and yell, "What do you guys think I am? Do you think I exist in this home to do nothing but help you with all your problems? I've got a few projects and problems of my own, guys!"

This is a moment of terrible honesty. Because, truly, I don't like confessing that that is what I ache to do and say. I'd rather say that I am constantly cheerful and always willing to help out. But I'm not. And even if I'm helping out, I'm not always doing it cheerfully. Sometimes I'm secretly yelling at the person I'm "helping."

My projects are important to me. I like to have time to work on them. And as an adult, I do have stuff that is necessary for me to accomplish. I have to take time to make a budget every month. I have to maintain our online thrift store's website. I have to reply to certain emails. And so on and so forth. When I don't have the time to work on these things, I get a sort of panic rising in my chest, starting at my stomach, and getting tight toward my throat.

But do I really want to be on my own, free to pursue only my own projects and passions, never disturbed or encountering conflicting schedules? Do I really want to still live in this house, but operate completely independent of its other occupants, only interacting with them at mealtimes and on holidays? Do I really want that?

Let's see...I'd get a whole lot of work done. Maybe even finish writing my book. I wouldn't be so tempted to lose my temper so often. It'd be less stressful.

But what would I have to give up to get that?

~ Family. Real, true family, that interacts with me constantly and knows me ever-so-well.

~ Strength of character. How else would I ever learn patience and kindness, if my limits were never tested? It's easy to be sweet and helpful when there's no one to demand those things at a moment when you feel anything but sweet and helpful.

~ Help. It's only fair to admit it; these people who constantly ask for my help also are constantly giving me help. If they weren't here, who would do all the things they do?

Am I willing to give up these things - family, character building, and help - in exchange for solitude and peace?

Not hardly.

Because there's a forth blessing involved; the knowledge that I'm right where God wants me to be. I'm convinced that He put me in this family to serve, and to further this home. Sure, He's given me personal projects, but that doesn't cancel out my other job; that of daughter, and sister. I know He can give me the strength to do both. ...And if I start running out of fuel, then I should start asking myself if all those "personal projects" are things God wants me to be doing, or things I thought up on my own.

That's all I have to say for now. I just needed to sit here and remind myself why I should not get up and slam the bedroom door. Because I really do want to be cheerful and helpful. For Christ's sake. Because He is the one I am serving.

P. S. For those of you who read my New Year's Eve post, I ought to mention that I have postponed that series I mentioned; I still plan to publish it, but probably not until February. Stay tuned!