Thursday, April 28, 2016

Eating Fermented Foods Keeps us Healthy

Valerie Steimle

Last week I had the opportunity to teach a workshop on fermentation for an Emergency Preparedness organization in which I belong. Fermentation: the process of a chemical reaction to break down on form of food into a simpler substance to create other foods. For example you can ferment bread dough, vegetables and make yogurt which creates probiotics. Part of my presentation was to show how probiotics can help many health issues. In our modern society we deal with many health issues which were not present 100 years ago because of the change in our diet. By bringing back some of these eating habits (eating fermented foods) we can live healthier lives and feel a lot better.

As women and mothers we bake, cook, fry or create food in some way or another to feed our families. The following is a recipe for sour dough bread which can help those with gluten issues. No yeast is used! The recipe was taken from some website over 10 years ago so I'm not sure of the author but the recipe is from Mrs. Norma Condon of Los Angeles.


Amish Friendship Bread

This is more than a recipe - it's a way of thinking. In our hi-tech world almost everything comes prepackaged and designed for instant gratification. So where does a recipe that takes ten days to make fit in? Maybe it's a touch stone to our past - to those days not so very long ago when everything we did took time and where a bread that took 10 days to make was not as extraordinary as it seems today.

The recipe comes to us from Mrs. Norma Condon of Los Angeles. Amish Friendship Bread is a great bread for the holidays. When you've made your bread, you can give your friends a sample and the starter that made it! Then your friends can make their own and pass it along to their friends. This is why the bread is called "friendship bread". It makes a great homemade birthday and Christmas present. Church groups and hospitals have spread a lot of love and cheer by making Amish Friendship Bread for their members. Many people make it regularly just because it tastes so good!

Amish Friendship Bread is a genuine starter bread. If you know someone with a starter, you are in luck. For those of you without access to a starter, we've done our research and found a great option. It's a special starter in powder form that can be activated with flour and water; it's safe, very inexpensive and we can send it to you.
The Recipe
Important Note: Don't use metal spoons or equipment. Do not refrigerate. Use only glazed ceramic or plastic bowls or containers.
Required Main Ingredient
1 cup live yeast starter (see above)
Day 1:
Do nothing with the starter.
Days 2-5:
Stir with a wooden spoon.
Day 6:
Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Stir with a wooden spoon.
Days 7-9:
Stir with a wooden spoon.
Day 10:
Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir. Take out 3 cups and place 1 cup each into three separate plastic containers. Give one cup and a copy of this recipe to three friends. To the balance (a little over one cup) of the batter, add the following ingredients and mix well.
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 - (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding

Monday, April 25, 2016

Writing Dilema

            A potter finishes his/her pot, paints it, and puts it in a kiln. Once fired, it’s done. Once an artist applies the last stroke to a painting, it’s finished. When I create counted cross stitch or Swedish weaving projects, after working the pattern, it’s complete. Not so with writing. Writing is never finished. There simply comes a time the author sends it out. There are always improvements to be made. That brings me to my current novel.
            I’m at a crossroads with my Latter-day Saint romance, Hidden Heritage. Do I send it out next month, or wait until I go to  in September and make even more changes? Nobody from my intended publisher will be holding pitch sessions. Either way I will work on Escape from Fire or Car Crash this summer.
That presents another dilemma. Do I edit the completed Escape from Fire, or fill in the partial Car Crash? Maybe I could even dig out Divine Love and its sequel Diane’s Story.
            But I digress, back to the topic. With writing, there’s always room for improvement: This sentence might be better if I use a fancier word. Perhaps that sentence sounds too pompous. A paragraph may need more description. Another one slows down the narrative with too much description. Would this scene work better later in the story? Does that dialogue sound realistic? The list goes on without end.
            Beta readers are valuable with their opinions, but they’re just that—opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I love the improvements made when I have beta readers.
Whether novel, or note I find better ways to say things nearly every time I go over stuff, even my Face Book posts. One of my college professors said, “Writing is never finished. Just send it out there.” He told us about a famous poet that had 2 or 3 versions of the same poem in print. How do I know if it’s time for Hidden Heritage?
            I don’t expect the reader of this post to tell me. You haven’t read it. I’ll decide when I finish this time going through it. I already have the dreaded Synopsis, query letter, and such because I’ve sent it out before. Naturally I made changes in those as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Year in Review, and Au Revoir...

Today will be my last post on the blog, and just now happens to be the anniversary of several momentous happenings in my life.  For those reasons, I hope you'll forgive me if I wax a little retrospective.

One year ago today my son flew for the first time by himself, and stayed the night with his aunt and uncle.  The next day, he entered the Missionary Training Center, and after studying and studying and studying, flew to Seoul, South Korea where he's spent the last year.  Serving a mission for our church has helped him to grow, and helped us to realize just how much we love him.  I'm grateful for both experiences.  And, grateful that one year from tomorrow, he'll be coming home. ;)

Two years ago almost exactly, our then six-grade daughter developed Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, after having a taxing school year.  She finished up an outdoor flute concert with her group, then went down and spent the better part of the next six weeks flat on her back, unable to stand without assistance.  She does worlds better now, but we've also learned that she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disease, and recognize that her health challenges will last her lifetime.

One month and one year ago, we sold our small farm, and the last of our chickens and guineas, and moved back to the city where we have easy access to the hospitals, and can devote more time to taking care of our daughter.  This was the second time we've sold what we believed was our forever dream house, and somewhere in the range of the 20th time we've moved our family.'s tiring!

Three years ago this April, I got a full request--as a result of a contest--from an agent that would turn into my agent, Christa Heschke.  Despite lots of setbacks, she's proven herself to be savvy and devoted.  Best of all, she has my back and is truly a champion of my books.

Six years ago on April 15th, my brother just younger than me and his wife were killed in a car accident.  They were both in their twenties, and coming up on their three year anniversary.  They'd bought their first house, and were thinking of starting their family.

So many challenges...and yet, so many blessings.  Because of the challenges, I learned the depth of the love my family and friends have for me and mine.  Because of the blessings, I've learned how to press on, holding high my light of hope, no matter how deep the surrounding darkness.  And I've also learned that challenges can become blessings, in a miraculous shift that doesn't so much change their nature as change ours.  I'm grateful for every experience--yess, all of them. :)

I'll be leaving the blog, to concentrate my energy and efforts elsewhere.  Some of that will be our daughter, and some is life generally, and some is my romantic suspense books, of which my first will be published--you guessed it--one year from now!  I'd love it if you can join me on that journey--just like my Lily Black (note the single L in the middle!) page on Facebook--but no matter what your life brings for you, I hope your journey will be blessed.

Much love, my friends!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dandelion Wars

This is our fourth spring in this house...and my fourth season doing battle with the dandelions. 

Our home had been vacant for nearly two years when we bought it. It was a short sale, and the recycling had never been take out by the previous owner, so you can imagine the yard hadn't been high on the priority list. 

It looked much like this:

Maybe, not quite that bad. 

In fact, we needed a machete to get to the front door! Okay, we don't own a machete, but you get the idea. 

Everything was overgrown, and the weeds had run rampant with their freedom. The dandelions raised their smiling golden heads at me and dared my to try and bring them down. 

Battle began. 

My husband is responsible for all other weeds in the grass, but somehow it fell to my lot to be Queen of the Dandelions. I looked over my kingdom. It wasn't a pretty sight. It would take serious persistent effort to rid the lawn of the yellow heads. 

Also, try explaining to the four year old not to blow the dandelion fuzz all over the yard because it only makes more dandelions and more work for mommy. Yeah, right. 

The first year, I would spend an hour a day for weeks on end, pulling off the heads and dousing the stems with weed killer. (If you know of an all natural way to get rid of theses weeds, I'm all ears.) It was tempting to give up the fight. There were too many of them. I'd empty 3 beach sand pails a day. What was the point? Did anyone besides my husband and I care how the lawn looked. The HOA doesn't fine you for dandelions or even write you a courtesy note to say your lawn isn't up to snuff. 

"Just throw in the towel," the dandelions taunted me. "You'll never win." 

But, the goal was a weed free lawn, and endure I must.  

Season 2 went much the same as Season 1. Endless buckets and hours of persistence in the spring. I even offered monetary rewards to my children for full buckets of dandelions. They were too smart for that. 

Season 3 was when I finally saw change in the war swinging toward my favor. I spent about 2 weeks, 15 minutes a day clearing out the dandelions. What a difference! 

Now I had a little time to clear out weeds from the flower beds. Not much better, really, but a necessary evil to a pretty yard. 

I'm really not a fan of weeds. Why don't they go bother someone else? 

At this point you may be wondering, What is she going on about? What is with the dandelions?

For nearly the past 3 months, I've been in a Sunday school class focusing on the Atonement, based on the Addiction Recovery Program. I've been following the 12 steps one at a time and relating them to sin instead of addiction. I've spent hours listening to the Addiction Circle recordings. The last 3 steps they refer to as "Maintenance Steps." 

Once you've done all the hard work of clearing out your past, you then turn your attention to maintaining "clean" living. 

As I reflected on this idea of maintenance, the battle of the dandelions came to my mind. It had taken hard work, effort, perseverance in the face of failure, staring down temptation, support from others when I asked, etc to get to the point where if I just stuck to the program, I could keep the new status quo. 

Ridding my life of sin was like clearing the yard of dandelions, but, instead of using weed killer, I used the Savior's Atonement. 

The yard = my life. Dandelions = sin. Weed killer = Jesus Christ. 

Checking in daily, I have to go through and clear out the errors. If I do it daily, then it's easy to maintain. When I neglect my mistakes, it takes more time and effort to clear things up and the dandelions take root. They are harder to get rid of. 

One spring, I dream I will wake up and find I no longer need to rid the lawn of dandelions. They simply don't grow there anymore. This would be equal to perfection. I think it'll be a lot of springs before I get there...but still, it's nice to dream. Look, no weeds!

There are lots of gardening analogies to be found in the scriptures. I hope you can identify with the one I've shared with you today. 

Do you have a garden analogy to share? Leave it in the comments below. 

Now, let's go out and conquer the dandelions!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

God's GPS

by H. Linn Murphy

I've been in Scouting for fifteen years, both in the LDS church and in the community. I've done all kinds of things. I've been den leader, assistant den leader, cub master, camp director, camp program director, staffer for countless cub camps and achievement days, trainer, and Unit Commissioner. I'd been to camp school and every kind of training there is for almost every part of scouting, plus Woodbadge. So I pretty much thought I knew most of what I needed when I got this new job as the first councillor in the stake primary.

But I didn't. What I didn't know was surprising. So I went about re-inventing the best road map I could as fast as I could. I wanted to really do my job well, and I felt the church scouting wasn't all that well organized in our stake (or council). I prayed over my position and a little voice kept telling me, "You don't know it all. Go get even more trained." So I did. But that little voice also said, "Go look in the Church handbook and on Well today I finally did. I found out I could throw my stupid map out the window.

And I found out that I am an idiot. Okay maybe just clueless. Of course Heavenly Father is the ultimate organizer. Of course His church is super organized. On the web site and in the handbook it shows supreme order. It's all thought out quite well. 

Who isn't organized is me, and maybe lots of people like me. It's a matter of seeing the iron rod right there next to my hand, and reaching out to grasp the dang thing. 

It's the same thing with lots of areas in our lives. We think we have to run around like crazy people doing all kinds of extra work to make sure we're in control of our lives, when the Lord has already given us the tools and the help we need to pull our lives into some semblance of order. We have the scriptures and gospel. We have prayer as a direct pipeline to the Lord. We have all kinds of manuals, teachers, leaders, parents, and friends to help us keep on an even keel.

No more re-inventing a new GPS. We've already got a great hand rail. Catch hold.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Keep Moving

by Jewel Allen

Every morning, I show up at my Crossfit gym with a knot in my stomach. I know I can look up the workout on the website or Facebook page, but I’d rather not know what I’m up against. Today’s was a killer. It was this long list that looked intimidating on the whiteboard. Even at the scaled level, I felt so wiped out I didn’t do a post-workout run like I normally do on weekdays until after I’d rested.
Part of today’s workout was squat cleans. It’s lifting a bar to about your chin and squatting with this said weight, then getting up again. I was doing fine, except for the squat. I stopped. A lot. I thought about sitting down. Just for a moment. But I knew I had to keep going or I would never move again. Finally, I finished the dang workout, just three minutes shy of the maximum time allowed.

Inertia - in this case, tendency to stay in a resting position - is one of those laws of physics that can derail our good intentions. And it can happen to writers especially.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and thus, it is so easy to stop moving towards our goal. Because ultimately, if you stop, the world still keeps turning. No one will pound on your door to beg you to finish it (unless you are an established writer and your fans clamor for your next installment).

My goal recently has been to finish a manuscript that I’ve been working on now for a decade. I started, shelved, and re-started it I don’t know how many times. There was even a period there where I wanted to give up on writing altogether.

Here are some things I did that kept me moving once again towards my writing goals:

1.I attended a writing retreat. After a period of non-writing and not even attending writer’s conferences, I finished the draft of the novel’s sequel during a frenzied weekend with other crazy writers. I had no time to think and second-guess myself. I met another writer who became a fabulous critique partner/supporter.

2.I forked up serious money for a writing workshop. I like writing conferences. I really do. But sometimes, I come away with lots of general ideas but not enough personalized, specific help. For example, with my current manuscript, I wanted to know how to add setting, but I didn’t know how to tackle it. One day, as I scrolled on Facebook, I came upon a post by David Farland for one of his writing workshops. I peeked at the price tag and said, no way. Finally, I dared myself to do it. I just knew that I was at a point in my writing career where I couldn’t do it by myself. So I took a leap, and it was one of the best investments I have ever made.
A writing workshop is great because as you learn principles, you can exchange critiques with the same group of people who are learning those principles. There are a number of workshops out there, I am sure. But I highly recommend David Farland’s.

3.I had a cover designed. Nowadays, you can get a fairly inexpensive, professionally done cover. Or you could make your own. And then put it up on your computer desktop where you can peek at it once in a while. For me, looking at my cover reminded me of the story’s tone, of my main character’s personality, and inspires me through my messy revisions.

4.I re-read the draft of the sequel. I laughed. I cried. I swooned. I realized that in order for me to put number 2 book out, I needed to put number one out first.

5.I joined a goal-setting group. Sometimes, it’s nice to not talk about writing goals with other writers because you tend to have envious vibes and feel like you are not measuring up. My goal-setting group (which includes non- writers) meets once a month in someone’s home. We share goals. We ask for help for ideas to achieve those goals. Then the next time, we report. Having a group like this keeps me accountable and constantly working towards my goals.

If you find yourself with writer’s inertia, or just need to motivate yourself to go to the next level in your writing, try one or more of those antidotes I listed.  In the comments, feel free to share what has worked for you.

Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author, ghostwriter, mom and politician. Read about her adventures on

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mortality -- It's a killer!

Ever since our family moved to our new little house (two years this last Friday), we've had chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Having animals has brought on a whole new dimension that has taught our kids a lot about life—and death.

Not that they haven't lost animals before. My oldest lost his guinea pig on his twelfth birthday, and we've also lost two hamsters. But this has been a whole new experience. We started out with chicks and got to watch them grow. The kids even helped us build the chicken pen, so it was exciting for them when the chickens were old enough to go outside. After that we added ducks and then turkeys. 

Somewhere along the line, we bought an incubator and decided to try our hand at hatching new chicks. We figured out how to candle the eggs to figure out which ones had chicks developing, and we were careful to make sure we did everything right. The first time didn't work out, but the next time we were able to hatch a couple. And then a couple more. And then even more.

Then came Lucky. It was a tiny little bantam chick who had legs that weren't quite formed right, and it was just a little runt. I was determined to help it survive, but nature has a way of choosing the strongest, and it passed just a week or two later. We decided to hold off on hatching anymore for the year.

This year we started with a batch, and for some reason only one of the twenty hatched. It took a couple of days before it finally broke out of its shell. I was worried about it because its feet wouldn't go flat, but stayed curled up. We tried a few things to help it, and made sure it got food and water.

And because chickens do better with other chickens, we decided to get more for company. This ended up being the cause of death of this poor chick. I won't get into the grisly details, but tonight we had another chick go off into bird heaven as I held it.

My son sat next to me and tried to control his emotions as we had to say goodbye, but he lost it. And I think that's perfectly okay. They got to see life as the chicks hatched, and the other side of the coin is the loss and learning to say goodbye.

The thing I'm most thankful for is that no matter what mortality brings us, I know this isn't the end. We move on and our bodies become perfect again, and we get to see family and friends who went before us. And while death is a sad thing as a mortal human being, it's also a good time to teach my children what comes next. 

Farewell, chick. I'm glad we got to know you, and I'm glad you're no longer in pain.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Lesson Well Learned in Life....

Yes--it's Saturday and I missed my turn.  I have been so overwhelmed with a new full time job that I completely missed my day to post... but I thought I would make it up here.

On top of that I have a confession to make.. 
This new job was just a temporary thing.. Something for me and my family to get caught up in our budget.  There were 30 of us starting and when I went to orientation there was a woman there about 10 years younger than me who would not stop talking.  My thought was to just stay away from her but I ended up being her partner.

Fine, I thought. Maybe I can be a positive influence on this women but after three weeks of 40 to 50 hours a week of being her partner in our job, I couldn't take it anymore.  To make a long story short... this job of tagging plants in an outdoor warehouse was wearing on me and I just snapped.  Between smoking in our area (she knew I got sick from cigarette smoke but just went on smoking anyway thinking if she blew in the opposite direction it would be okay), the constant repeating of negative comments including calling her son names in front of him, assuming the worst from the people around us also tagging plants and out bursts about other workers and more it was all too much. It started with yet another outburst of "unfair" taking of carts from the lineup of many carts of plants and her running off to tell the management how terrible these two women next to us were.... it was too much for me to bear.

I could not keep my mouth shut anymore and stood up for those two women but by doing this I ruined the friendship with this women and my work partner so now I have another partner. 

Over the three weeks of being partners when she would jump on others or accuse others wrongly I tried to stick up for them then but she never listened to me.  She never did listen when I tried to talk just in every day conversations.  She was too busy talking.

I could just let it go and apologize to make it all better which I tried.  But it was too late and there was so much I said to try to get her to understand why I did what I did...that I lost her trust. 

A lesson learned for me...... Maybe she will understand all of this later on in life.  Maybe she will wake up one day to understand what I was trying to tell her. But for now, I found a really great bit of advice that I should have read before all of this started from Granny Jean...a "Dear Abby" of sorts for parents:

Dear Parents,

You want to raise awesome kids with solid characters, you need to tell them how much you love them. By using the method below you can shape your child’s character and become the positive influence you want to be.


Your loving opinion is sweeter than honey to your child. If you tell your child what you specifi cally love, you will give your child what he or she needs from you: 




On the other hand, if you criticize your kids often, they may give up and rebel in anger.  This would cause both of you pain. You can avoid pain with these affirmations.

Of course, it’s important to be truthful. That’s why every
 affirmation ends with the word “because.”  After the word “because” you get to tell them a specific time you noticed them acting well. 

Being specific with an affirmation is a powerful motivator for them to continue building their characters.

THREE DOs when using these affirmations:

1. Use them as lunchbox love notes. Just print and cut as many blank cards as you’d like. Then fill in a suggested affirmation and complete the “because” part.

2. Use them as the compliment that begins your Family Meeting from my Family Meeting Diary. Post the compliment on the refrigerator until the next meeting.

3. Use them as encouragement when your child feels down. Put the affirmations in a basket in a special place in your home. Pick out an affirmation and share it with your child. Discussing it further with your child will help too.

THREE DON’Ts when using the affirmations:

1. Don’t add a negative statement. It will delete the affirmation.

2. Don’t lecture your child.

3. Don’t use the word, “but” as in “But you need to do this even more.”Enjoy using the affirmations. Make them a habit. You’ll show love to your child and you’ll build character too.

All my best,

Granny Jean