Monday, January 28, 2013

Jennifer Hudson Taylor - Path of Freedom

It’s my pleasure to welcome Jennifer Hudson Taylor to Ink Dots this week. Jennifer’s an award-winning author. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, researching her own family history, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte, North Carolina.

Path of Freedom - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple. With only her mother’s quilt as a secret guide, the foursome follows the stitches through unknown treachery.

As they embark on their perilous journey, they hope and pray that their path is one of promise where love sustains them, courage builds faith, and forgiveness leads to freedom.


Want to know more about the author of Path to Freedom? Of course you do. Here's a snippet of what Jennifer loves and longs for...

If I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would Scotland! I've always wanted to go there and tour old castles and visit the land my ancestors came from.

One thing I enjoyed today is.....that my daughter started homeschool with her dad and it went great. She has Epilepsy and Asperger's Syndrome and public high school was not working out. We checked into other schools and ran out of options in our area.

A secret pleasure of mine is.....chocolate.

A moment that changed my life daughter's birth.

Sundays are for...spending family time together with God.

When I was a child I wanted a published novelist.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but...I would love to take a whole summer and go backpacking across Europe before I get too old. While there I'd like to travel by train, motorcycle, horseback into the highlands, take ferries from island to island in Argyll. I want to stay in different places, old castles, old manors, hotels, and hostels.


Oh, I am so with you on the old castles and manors, Jennifer. I'm not in a hurry to get on a motorcycle, but a slow barge through the waterways of Europe sounds perfect. With a case of great books to read... 

Jennifer is offering a giveaway copy of Path to Freedom to one Ink Dots friend. Please leave a comment below to be in the draw. Tell us if you've ever visited an old castle or manor and how you found yourself there. I'll announce the winner in the comment thread on Friday. Good luck :o)

Friday, January 25, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Week 4, Furniture Polish

 Yes, I made my own furniture polish. Well, to be exact, I made a solution in which I dunked flannel pieces, saved and cut from an old bed sheet. 

Frugal, to borrow the well-loved Victorian attribute, and Green, as we would say in the 21st century. 

Unlike the housemaid of yesteryear, I don't have to fashion my own cleaning rags and polishes. But I wanted to try it anyway. The same way I'd like to wear a bustle and bonnet. On occasion. 

For a while now, I've been intrigued by the safe cleaning solutions so in vogue today. Applied liberally with elbow grease, they're much tried by those wanting to save money, save the planet, and save their health from nasty allergies. 

The mixture I settled on, (and there's loads on the internet you can experiment with) takes a minute to put together. Here's mine...

1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp oil

That's it. Mix together, dunk your cloth in, squeeze, and alternate damp flannels with lemon rind in a deep glass jar. Leave overnight and do as I did today, when I took down all the Christmas decorations - give the place a deep dusting. 

My verdict? Not bad. The vinegary smell doesn't linger, and the lemon makes up for that anyway. There's just enough oil to leave a light shine on furniture, and enough dampness to pick up dust without pushing it around the way a dry cloth does. Very downstairs maid of me, if I may say so myself. 

But there were corners I couldn't reach, where the vacuum cleaner extension arm did the trick. I wondered what my Victorian counterpart would have done. Feather duster, I imagine.
Mrs Beeton's book of all things household management
recommends a long handled brush of feathers or a goose wing.

A goose wing!! But don't worry. I won't be leaving for any wild goose chases in a hurry. 

No, sufficient for me is the knowledge God covers me with His wing. Nothing limp and lifeless as a poor goose's lost appendage. But lavish, and generous in its reach. Vast, with enough to cover, tuck and keep me safe. Fierce, like an eagle. Proud, like a mother.  

I've mulled over God's way of making all things good again, as I've wiped away the Christmas tinsel and the dust of summer. And I've pondered the way oil, vinegar, and especially wings, are symbols of how God gathers and restores. 

What a blessing I've had today, even as I've gone about the mundane of this world, to remember the unfathomable love of God who always draws me to a safe place. 

He shall cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings shall you trust. Psalm 91:4

Have you made your own cleaning supplies? Do you have a real feather duster? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,
Next week.... Hydrangeas

Monday, January 21, 2013

Murry Pura - Ashton Park

It's my pleasure to welcome Murry Pura to Ink Dots once again, for my first interview of 2013. And what a great set of questions I have for my guest authors this year. More of that in a minute... First.. Who is Murray Pura?

Murray was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988. Since that time he has published seven more novels, two collections of short stories, and a number of nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams. He has been a finalist for several awards in the US and Canada and in 2012 won the Word Award of Toronto for Best Historical Novel. His book The Wings of Morning has been nominated for several literary awards including Best Inspirational Romance by ACFW. Murray lives and writes in southwestern Alberta and is currently published by Barbour, Baker, Harper One, Zondervan, and Harvest House as well as several other publishing houses.

Ashton Park - Four daughters and three sons have come of age at the Danforth family estate in Lancashire, England called Ashton Park. Some are liberal-minded, some conservative, some are wild, some more self-controlled, but each one tries to care for the others and each one is looking for the love of their life. They don’t necessarily look for that love among other aristocratic peers, a fact that drives their well-meaning parents, Sir William and Lady Elizabeth, to distraction. But amidst the pitfalls of war and revolution, sibling quarrels and misunderstandings, forbidden love between nobility and commoner, and tragedy that strikes when you have three sons in uniform, a deep-rooted faith and hope in God sustain the family through the trials and heartbreaks of the early years of the 20th century, 1916-1923.
Want to know more about the author of Ashton Park? Of course you do. Here's a snippet of what really fills Murray's thoughts and days when no one's watching. 
If I could go anywere in the world tomorrow, it would be…..the Great Barrier Reef. I love to skin dive and snorkel. I was on the 3rd largest reef last summer in Turks & Caicos but the largest is the Great Barrier Reef.
One thing I enjoyed today is writing a love scene in one of my books. They really are the most pleasant & enjoyable scenes to write in a novel.
A secret pleasure of mine is swishing my swords around in the air. I have katanas (Japanese swords) and medieval swords. They are functional (not wall hangers) and sharp so I do this when I'm alone. It is quite fun.
A moment that changed my life is… being asked to minister at Columbine in 1999. I was heading to Denver anyways to talk about my writing but the shooting happened the same week. Three days after the tragedy I was there and they asked me to lead a memorial service in one of the churches. I write about the experience in my book STREAMS. Those days cut right to my heart.
Sundays are for… creative worship, prayer, meditation, church family, forests, streams, and mountains.
When I was a child I wanted tobe a writer. Yup. And I've done it all my life and I'm still doing it, thank God.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but… sometimes I wish the heroines I create in my books would come to life and take me out for coffee. :o) 
Murray, in Australia, we'd shorten your name to Muzza, and then get out of the way of those swords! Thanks for visiting with me today, and I wish you wonderful success with Ashton Park.
If you're a Downton fan, you will love Ashton Park. It's on my nightstand right now and I'm lost in the romance of the Danforth family. You could be too... Leave a comment below and I'll choose one lucky Ink Dots guest to receive a prize copy. Tell us which fictional character you'd like to take you out for coffee. I'll draw a winner on Friday. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Week 3, Jam Making

I'm away with my Beloved on a quick trip to Sydney this week, So I'll be reposting something I wrote a while ago about a favourite summer joy - jam making.

Late 19th century jam pan - Ratty and Moles Riverbank Antiques, Warrandyte

Crabapple House is a big home on a tiny block of land. Somehow, we've managed to squeeze in as many fruit bearing trees, as well as a raspberry patch and a veggie garden. All to satisfy my longing to live on a farm. (Still don't have that goat though.)

What I do have is the bounty of summer, all lined up like soldiers in my hallway cupboard. My personal treasure trove of home-made goodies, preserved to last all year long. 

And my favourite is apricot jam. Each summer we fight the rosellas for fruit and this year is no different. Thankfully, it's a win-win. They come to pick the trees clean - we hear and run out to frighten them away. To mock us, they peck as much fruit as they can before flying away - and we snatch it back to cover the kitchen table. 

Before and After - Summer at Crabapple House

In the Victorian era, when apricots were no longer in season, carrots were substituted as a fair imitation. I don't think I'll ever go that far. I'll stick to my summer tradition of real apricots for apricot jam. Luscious and sweet, I love to see my ripe fruit, some sun-bleminshed, others casualties of bird attack, saved and turned into something with a purpose. 

And here's what I've learned from summer jam making. 

1. Real apricot jam requires a mercy mission. If we don't rescue the fruit, it's destined to rot where it sits. The birds take chunks but then move on to pick elsewhere. But add some sugar and fire and what once shriveled with limitations, now lives again. Sound familiar? I know what it means to be rotten and ready to wither. But as a child of God, I've been transformed for an eternal future. And while I'm not a fan of fiery trials, I know without them, I'd still be a rotten mess. 

2. Real apricot jam requires sacrifice. It takes time to bubble away, during a full day of stirring, an upturned kitchen and in my case, a burn or two. The process of transformation is costly to me. But I'm prepared to go through it because I value my fruit and have a plan for it. And I'm comforted to know God does not give up on the mission of redeeming us. More than anyone He's acquainted with the suffering which comes from being the Redeemer. 

3. Real apricot jam requires a purpose. My jam is useless in the jar. While I love to look at my bottles of fruity promise, they're only sitting pretty on the shelf. Dusting their lids is no comparison to popping open a jar and slathering a batch of scones with fresh jam. Some breaking is required when others are to be blessed by my work. A disturbance of my neatly ordered shelf. The emptying of bottles I filled to the brim. 

How about you? Do you, or someone you know, make jam or jellies or sauces? I have two favourites - apricot and plum. What's yours? 

This time next week, I should be back to my everyday routine. And ready to share the next in my 52 Steps to Yesteryear. Inspired by what I know needs doing at home, my prompt is - homemade furniture polish. Yes, you read that right. You'll see why next week...


Friday, January 11, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Week 2, Berry Picking

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn 
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. Wendell Berry. 

Fresh Raspberries - Crabapple House

I guess with Berry for a name, Wendell Berry knew a thing or two about fruit. Here at Crabapple House, we too are learning the deliciousness of the raspberry patch. We've only had ours for three years, but in that time we've held it back by thinning out the plants and giving away as many as we can throw at people. 

In the off season, the patch is hardly noticeable. Stumpy twigs almost make a mockery of their beds. But once spring arrives, the bushes emerge in a wild hurry with foolishness on their mind. They think they can spread themselves wherever they wish. And they try, oh they really try. I'm forever digging up baby plants from the lettuce, the squash, the silver beet. Tenacious and assuming, they think they're in charge, and if I were to let them, they'd take it. 

Kitchen Garden - Crabapple House
So I prune, and yank and rid those escapees from where they shouldn't be, knowing the longer I leave it, the more work for me. But my reward is healthy plants right where I want them. Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and beans. Each variety growing without the tangle of raspberries at their feet.

But I sow and reap for pleasure. Things are different in times of famine. 

During the Victorian era, malnourished Irish children tempted by blackberry bushes often met with overcharged stomachs. Full to overflowing with wild berries from hedgerows, some cases of gorging on unripe fruit even led to deaths.

Some for today - Some for tomorrow

Still, bramble fruit could not be ignored. Victorian cook books abound with recipes for berry brandies, cordials, jams and jellies. Some thought blackberry syrup the remedy for cholera and 'summer complaints', and children often took their brimming baskets to the local village where in 1894 they could pocket as much as ten pence a stone for their wares. 

At Crabapple House our crop delights us for a short time. This year, we even had enough to freeze some for later in the year. But the fun of foraging through a hedge remains the same as in days gone by, when berry hunts fuelled competition as well as happy bellies. 

Raspberry Hunt 

Better still, those dawn moments Wendell Berry knew so well, when the competition is low and the fruit count high. Enough to fill, and spill, over the best raspberry cup. 


Do you grow berries? Drive into the country to pick your own?
What's your best berry picking story? 


Many thanks to those who shared a lemonade story last Friday, for out first week of 52 Weeks to Yesteryear. For her sweet story, Di Riley will be receiving a packet of paper star straws to use when she's next serving a jug of something cool. Congratulations, Di. 

Next week's prompt... Jam Making. 


Friday, January 04, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Week 1, Lemonade

Happy New Year! I hope the festive season overflowed with treasured memories and many quiet hours with a good book.

Yes, this really is our beach at Phillip Island.

We’ve returned from our summer fun at the beach. For now, anyway. There’s a heatwave forecast in our part of the world, so we won’t be turning our back on the beach for too long, I imagine.

What I didn’t imagine, is the generous gift to our family from my Beloved in the shape of an above-ground pool. We’ve managed to squeeze a henhouse, berry patch, veggie garden and 20 fruit trees here at Crabapple House, but no matter how we tried it on paper…. a swimming hole never made the cut.

Until this year when we took the plunge (sorry) and tried on a pool. Well, it fits. Very well… and now we’ve a summer of pool adventures ahead of us.

Plastics never really call to me when I collect whimsies for the yard. Rustic, weathered, reminiscent of another time, yes… but never the heavy duty rubberised tub now sitting by the back porch.

I’m more your rusty farmyard kind of girl. Eggs for sale. Lavender and mint in old wheelbarrows. A bird bath. That’s why today’s launch of 52 Steps to Yesteryear cheers my soul. It’s my way of catching all the wisps of yesteryear I love. The counterbalancing of all things modern with the old-fashioned charms I throw into the mix. The homemade, homespun, home-grown additions longed for in our fast paced, plastic world.

So each Friday I’ll share one way I bring this to my home. I hope you’ll join me, and write your own. You may not be into yesteryear the way I am. And that’s ok. I hope my weekly prompt will grow an original idea in your heart for a story, picture, blog post, devotional or poem.

So where do we start? With a favourite I selected weeks before the pool became a shimmering reality. But perfectly apt for an afternoon in the sun.  

It’s Lemonade.

In a time when summer days floated by without the aid of modern cooling, those frugal enough to have put aside a bottle or two of lemon juice, sank into the welcome refreshment of homemade lemonade.

I’m a loyal fan of lemon drinks. The icier the better. So here’s my recipe for summer tang.

To make: Juice your lemons and set aside. I had eight lemons this time. Measure out whatever quantity you have in juice, in water and sugar. I had 550 grams of juice, so I made a sugar syrup of 500g water and 500g sugar. Boil until dissolved. Add to juice and bottle when cool.

To drink: To a glass of ice cubes, add enough lemon syrup to your liking. Add tap water or soda water and mix. If you like to be fancy, (and who doesn’t?) you can drop a few crushed raspberries in the mix for pink lemonade. A mint sprig, a cute paper straw, a shady corner… and you’re savouring a slice of yesteryear.

What's the first thing you think of when I say, Lemonade? A favourite lemon recipe? A lemons to lemonade story? This is your chance to share. I have a packet of paper star straws for one lucky Ink Dots visitor who leaves a comment this week. Next week I'll add a linky button so you can share your own posts, inspired I hope, by 52 Steps to Yesteryear. 


Cute paper straws and mint for my raspberry lemonade.
And the prompt for next Friday is...

Berry Picking... and not the supermarket, frozen box kind of berry picking. I'll be announcing a new prompt each week, so if you're a blogger needing inspiration by week's end... please consider this your invitation to scribble along.