I hadn't been to church in over a year because of COVID-19. I had been viewing the services on Facebook. But I longed to be back in my church community. I had thought about coming back after getting my vaccine, but then the Delta variant was spreading through Missouri. My friend, Sharman, asked if I wanted to attend outdoor church. That's when they set up in the parking lot. Tents for shade quickly filled up , speakers set up so everyone could hear. At 9 am, it was very warm and started off sunny. I was prepared with sun screen, a bottle of cold water, and a hat (at Sharman's suggestion). But I was very uncomfortable. How would I last for an hour? Thankfully, I remembered an umbrella in the car. Soon, the sky became overcast and there was a breeze. I was able to listen to Pastor Kim's sermon with a heightened awareness I hadn't felt in a long time. Has your church held outdoor worship? Have you enjoyed it?
My husband, Steve, is a natural. He grew up on a farm and loves to plant--from colorful flowers to vegetable vines to towering trees, our little acre is brimming with life. So, when our grandchildren came to visit, they helped! They don't have a garden at home, so this was a new experience. I enjoy cooking--nothing beats the fresh flavor and texture of vegetables straight from the garden. Do you have a garden? What do you plant?
Our grandchildren visited from Des Moines (a 2 1/2-hour drive to Maryville, Missouri) for a few days. We celebrated Charlotte's birthday. She had asked me to wait until they arrived so she could help bake the chocolate layer birthday cake. I had everything measured out and used an easy recipe where all the ingredients are measured and mixed in a large bowl. She helped for a couple of minutes. Then we heard laughing in the other room. Playing with her brothers and Grandpa was more fun--that was fine! Charlotte and her brother, Toby, help to frost the cake. We made homemade ice cream, too. What a treat!
I used this chocolate cake recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook given to me for my 16th birthday.
COCOA FUDGE CAKE
2 cups cake flour
OR 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan, two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).
Bake rectangle 40 to 45 minutes, rounds 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool rectangle in pan on cooling rack. Cool rounds 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely. Frost with your chocolate frosting.
Last year, from January through May of 2020, I worked on a challenging (but fun!) writing assignment--and I love the finished product! I retold 60 fairytales, folktales, and classic stories as easy readers working on assignment for a South Korean educational publisher, Compass Publishing (www.compasspub.com). They publish EFL (English as a Foreign Language) books for students learning English. The boxed set of 60 books is available on their website. I gave art direction for the books as well, so it's been especially fun to see the illustrations. The books were also animated (very simply) and are available on YouTube. I downloaded the covers to my website. Click here to see the collection. I worked with great editors and had a positive experience.
My neighbor saw a crawdad in her yard. It had about 30 babies. She let it go. It burrowed down into the mud, by a drainage ditch. The babies followed her down, and then went back inside, underneath her tail. We live in Northwest Missouri. Do you have crawdads where you live? We don't see them very often, but have noticed more holes--very muddy here. Lots of rain lately!
Happiness is when your granddaughter likes a board game you have created so much she plays it by herself. And then her brothers start playing, too! Can't wait until we can play it together! It's been too long.
So excited to announce that Ashland United Methodist Church is reading my book, God's Protection Covers Me, for their story time! And my good friend, Sharman's, daughter, Emily, is going to read it. What a blessing!
Thank you, Missouri Life Magazine, for including my picture book, God’s Protection Covers Me in your “More Great Reads” section!
My gift to you is a free cooperative board game I created called BEFORE THE BLIZZARD! A Winter Holiday Game. Enjoy! Encourages empathy, helps to develop critical thinking skills, fine motor control. Great for families, teachers, grandparents. Download PDF of the game board, rules, and game pieces here: https://www.houtsandhome.com/before-the-blizzard-freebie.html. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
My picture book, God's Protection Covers Me, was released by Beaming Books last year, but is an important reminder in this moment when families are struggling with illness, job loss, and stress. I would love to get my book into the hands of families, churches, and preschools, so I've decided to give away 3 signed copies on Goodreads from November 15-December 15. If you have young children in your life or would like to give a copy to your church nursery or public library, please enter! And please follow me if you have a Goodreads account. Click here to enter.
Great news! God's Protection Covers Me has won two awards!
"Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the basis of all abundance." Eckhart Tolle
Amy Houts is an award-winning author of over 100 children’s picture books, cookbooks, and board games that feature early learning concepts, family themes of love and friendship, and holiday celebrations. Amy’s numerous short stories, articles, and poems have appeared in Ladybug Magazine, Highlights Hello, and Pockets Magazine. Her books include: The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers (Group Publishing); Think Like a Scientist (Pearson Learning Group); and Dora the Explorer Safety (Learning Horizons).