Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reminders for when other people just don't understand

Hello, lovely readers!

I was just doing some blog reading, and I came across someone commenting on another blog. The topic of the blog post was "how to respond to negativity when living the life of a stay-at-home daughter." This young woman who commented was asking how to respond when all the traditional explanations of your choices simply don't "work," and folks around you keep giving you grief about your decisions.

I couldn't help putting in my two cents, since that topic has been on my mind a lot recently. I don't consider myself part of the stay-at-home-daughters movement, (I follow Christ, not fads or movements!) but I do agree that a woman flourishes and prospers when she choses to submit to the loving authorities God has put in her life, and she is in the center of His design for women when she pursues a life of joyful servanthood,  instead of the wear and tear of a career. (Not to say she can't make money, or pursue her own passions, under God, but she is free from the bondage of being a provider. She can be a joyful help to so many people!)

...And I have been "given grief" about my choices lately, so I really felt for this other young woman. Here is what I wrote to her: 

"I'm sure ____ (the author of the blog) will have some wise words to offer you, but I'd like to share something that a friend used to encourage me just yesterday; "A joyful life baffles them." I was "ranting" to my friend a bit, about someone who had just been very patronizing to me (because I'm still living at home, and I'm not in college), and that's when she reminded me that it doesn't help to respond in our flesh by becoming defensive and feeling like we must explain ourselves to everyone and get their approval. Do we seek to please men, or God? ...Yet it IS hard to constantly be going against the grain. I like to focus on telling people what I AM doing, rather than what I'm NOT doing. Sometimes they are just so stuck in the traditional mode of things that they can't see past that. They see a "non-college" life as a wasted one, because that's what they've been trained to think. They need to have their view renewed, and one way for that to happen is for them to see what your life IS, rather than what it is NOT. Talk about how you serve, your passions, your visions for ways that you want God to use you, the people you help, the skills you are learning (or using at home or to build a home business!), etc. If your life ISN'T full, then I would encourage you to the joyful pursuit of making it so! God has a fullness and an area of service for every girl, and when you are in that role you can truly be joyful. Like my wise friend said, "A joyful life baffles them." :) Blessings!"

I know that a lot of my readers have convictions that are similar to mine. I hope that if you are also struggling with joy, as I was recently, you will find this encouraging. Your life is not about what you choose not to do. You have the world before you. You need only to follow God's rules for your life - His are the only ones that matter.   

Remember, it's not about a "lifestyle". It's not about having the perfect family situation. It's not about knowing how to cook and serve a 10-course meal, or having a certain set of skills. It's not about being "traditional". It's not even (gasp!) about being conservative. (Much as I may like those things.)

It's about a relationship.

It's about knowing God. The Bible says "let him that glorieth glory in this; that he knows ME." (paraphrased, I know!) We need to seek God with all our heart, embrace His plan for our lives, and then be JOYFUL about it!!!  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why I Don't Really Care that I'm Still At Home

I spent some time the last few days doing the Forbidden Activity.

I compared myself to others.

First, I thought about various friends, and how their lives have changed over the past 5 years.

...This friend is now married. ...That one now has children. ...This one is expecting. ...This one is married and expecting. ...That one just finished college. ...This one graduated from high school last year. ...This one changed from being a girl to being a young woman. ...This one moved to a new city. ...This one traveled the world. ...This one went on a missions trip. ...That one started college two years ago. ...This other one started a new job. ...That one gained two new siblings. ....

This list goes on. They all seem to have fascinating changes happen in their lives. They have gone somewhere in the last five years. They have grown, had experiences, become richer in their lives.

Me? I felt pretty boring. What have I done? How have I changed? How have I gained? I'm still doing the same-old same-old.

There are two side to that feeling.

#1 - Falsehood. I know, when I'm honest with myself, that I HAVE had experiences the last five years. I've traveled a little bit. I've met new people. I've tried various ways of making money. I've been given new responsibilities. I've become crazy busy, keeping up with my expanding sewing business. I've helped with lots of things at church - children's choir, banquets, etc. I got to be on staff at a ministry for a few months.

#2 -  Truth. I haven't done as MUCH as I would like in the past five years. No matter how busy I get, I stay the same person, living in the same place, with the same work, and the same responsibilities. Sometimes I feel like a car stuck in the snow, spinning my wheels, splattering muddy slush everywhere, but going nowhere. That's depressing.

But this is where I am. God has made this a time of waiting in my life....even though I'm so busy. This is what God has for me right now. It's okay. God isn't going to judge me for not going halfway around the world, or not being married by the time I turn 30, or not going to college. He only is displeased when I become discontent with what He has chosen for me.

And He's the only Person I need to please.

That's freedom. Smile! :) :) :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Freeze One-size Portions

I don't know how many of you will find this useful, but since writing my post yesterday, I realized that it wasn't a very informative one. ...So here's a "how to" post, to supplement the brain-dead blurb I wrote yesterday (can't blame a person, after spending 8.5 hours in the kitchen, right?).

What do you do if you want use the convenience of freezer meals, but don't want to defrost a whole 9"x13" pan of lasagna just for one meal for yourself? It's rather hard, doing this "freezer meal" thing for only one person, yet if you are making special-diet meals, you are really only cooking for one or two people.

There are several solutions to this dilemma;

- You could divide each pan into serving-size portions, and then buy a ton of little plastic containers to freeze each portion separately.

- You could really, actually, thaw out that whole 9"x13" pan of chicken casserole, and then eat nothing but chicken casserole for six days. (Chicken oatmeal, anyone?)

- You could freeze the whole lasagna in the big pan, then keep a hack saw, hammer, and chisel on top of the freezer, and use them each time you want to hack off a portion to thaw.

- OR you could do it this way:

Amber's One-Person Freezer-Meals Freezing Secret 
(The secret isn't freezing, of course; just the meals. ...Actually, that was pretty corny. It's past my bedtime, okay?) 

You will need
- Freezer paper
- A large cookie sheet
- Large spatula and knife
- A freezer (*grin*)
- Handiwrap
- Freezer bags
- 9x9 Aluminum pan (optional)
- One 9"x13" pan of whatever you want to freeze. This method will work will with just about anything you'd normally bake in a 9x13. Even "looser" casseroles, like rice and chicken. (I'm going on faith, there, actually; my first batch of that casserole is still in the freezer for the first step right now. But I'm sure it's going to work.)

It's pretty simple. First, bake the casserole. (This won't work with things that have to be frozen before baking. Sorry.)

Let the casserole cool completely. Almost every casserole will "firm up" a bit as it cools, which means it holds together much better cool than hot.

Once cooled, slice neatly into serving-size portions. (About 12 squares, for a typical casserole in a 9x13.)

Line your large cookie sheet with freezer paper, waxy side up. Do not substitute wax paper for the freezer paper. Unless, of course, you enjoy picking wax paper out of your spaghetti pie, or you like the taste of wax paper. I won't tell you how I know that won't work.

Ever so carefully, lift each square of casserole out of the pan, and set it on the freezer paper on the cookie sheet. (The freezer paper will want to roll up on itself, so I usually start out by putting one square in each corner, to hold it down. Bonus tip; no charge. :) )

If your cookie sheet is nice and large, you should be able to fit a whole casserole on one sheet. You can put the squares as close as you like so long as they are not touching. There's gotta be some space there. If the casserole is a bit soft, you may have to carefully press it into neat squares again after you transport it to the cookie sheet, but just be sure that in the end the squares aren't touching.

Cover the squares with another sheet of freezer paper - waxy side down, this time. Move the cookie sheet to the freezer, and make sure it's level on the shelf before you shut the door. (Why, no, our freezer is never crowded and I would never stack the cookie sheet on top of a uneven mound of bags in there. Why do you ask?)

After two or three hours - or however it takes for the casserole to freeze solid - take the cookie sheet out, and carefully pry the squares off the freezer paper. (Don't leave it in the freezer longer than overnight; it will begin to taste like the freezer.) Wrap each square tightly in handiwrap, and stack neatly in an aluminum pan, then slide the pan into a freezer bag. The pan is actually optional; I just use it because it makes the whole stack more sturdy in the freezer. A 9x9 square pan fits perfectly into a gallon-size freezer bag, if it's not loaded too far above the edge.

Now comes the fun part. Seal the bag almost all the way, leaving a space just big enough to insert a straw. Now (guess what?!) insert a straw in that hole. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Put your mouth on the straw and suck. You'll have the pleasure of seeing the whole bag shrink-wrap around your stack of squares, and look very professional. Slide the straw out and seal the bag in one quick motion.

You're done! (Probably in less time that it took to read that wordy batch of instructions. Don't you love all my parenthesis?) Now, anytime you want a freezer meal, pull out the amount of servings you need and unwrap them before putting them in a covered dish in the fridge to thaw. (The unwrapping part is important.) Once thawed, use your method of choice to re-heat them; microwave, toaster oven, oven, stove top, or whatever you want to do.

Enjoy a freezer meal just your size!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Once-a-Month Cooking for One Person

With a blog called "Fruit of Her Hands," I really ought to blog more about actual "fruit producing" that I do around the house. Sorry about that. I'm just so busy with real life that I rarely take time to mention it on here!

However, I'm happy to pop in today (er, tonight), and tell you that I've been quite productive today! I figured it was about time for a "housekeeping" post. :)

Have you ever done once-a-month baking? I've always wanted to try it. I've done LOTS of cooking-for-a-crowd, and figured once-a-month cooking couldn't be too much harder. The idea of saving so much time and money - at the same time - enthralls me.

Mom didn't think right now was good timing to try month-cooking for the family, but because I am on a special diet, I decided to make up a bunch of stuff that I can eat - once-a-month cooking for myself! Mom gave the go-ahead, and I started my experience.

I spent over a week planning my menu and cooking-plan-of-action. Today, after a long day in the kitchen (9:30am -6:00pm), I can sit here with aching feet and tell you that the hardest part really was the planning. My initial menu was WAY too complicated. And expensive. I wanted to challenge myself to spend less than $80.00 on food for the whole month. That's plenty for one person, right?

Well...that depends. When your diet consists of a lot of fresh foods, cheap can be very illusive. I finally decided not to worry about buying every single item I'll be putting in my mouth this month, but to focus on three things; making up a few breakfasts, ingredients for smoothies, and making most of the main dishes. On my third attempt, the menu looked doable. I spent MUCH less than $80.00. Like...less than half of that. Less than $30.00.

I went shopping yesterday. I hit two stores - Walmart and Kroger - to get the best bang for my buck. I was very pleased with the results. Even Mom complimented me on how much food I made for the amount of money I spent; and, coming from the Queen of Penny-stretching, that's a compliment indeed. :)

Today was baking day. Like I said above, I spent about 8.5 hours straight in the kitchen today; and I do mean straight. I didn't even take a break for lunch. ....Just nibbled a bit as I went. :)

Honesty compels me to admit that even though my legs hurt right now, those hours in the kitchen today were not a burden. I love cooking and baking. I just kept on a'rollin', churning out dishes and getting tired, but enjoying myself. :) So glad God made me to enjoy that kind of work!

Anyway...would you like to see what I got done today? I'm so happy with what's been finished, and I have only a few things to finish up tomorrow. I hope the stuff that I'm freezing does well. Any of you ever frozen cabbage before? I hope it doesn't get too soggy when thawed. ....Oh well. :)

Here's what I did!

 - 4 containers of Chili (about 12 servings or more)
- 12 servings of Cabbage Lasagna (gluten free!)
- 12 Black Bean Brownies (gluten free, and yummy!)
- 1 bag of Lentils, cooked (for future projects)
- 1 bag shredded cabbage (for future soups. It was on sale. Couldn't resist.)
- Rice (for a casserole I'll put together tomorrow)
- Potatoes and carrots roasted (for soup, to be assembled tomorrow)
- 1 chicken, cooked and shredded (for the casserole and soup)
- Milk for kefir, divided and frozen so it will stay good all month long
- 12 Orange Poppy-seed muffins (gluten-and-sugar-free and yummy!)
- 4 bananas sliced and frozen, for smoothies
- 13 lentil sausage patties (they're delicious, really!)
- Chicken bones for bone broth ready for simmering tomorrow
- 16 (?) Cornwaffles (Ever had these? Basically cornbread batter made into waffles. DeLICIOUS topped with chili! Gluten free, too.)

I think that's everything. I still have things to do, as you can see, but the great majority of work has been done. I'm heading off to the kitchen now to wrap portions of the lasagna and package them for freezing.

I didn't actually do huge batches of cooking today - it was all what I'm accustomed to, cooking for 7 people - but because it's just for one person, I really ended up making a lot of meals! Someday I'd like to try making stuff for the whole family. I like making huge batches of stuff. :) :)

I'm off to the kitchen again! Hope you have a splendid week.

P.S. If you want to read how I freeze portion-sized meals for just one person, check out this post.