Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Non-alcoholic Beverage to Toast the New Year

I'm late getting this posted, but I've been, if not at Death's door, then at least in Death's zip code. It kept me from getting this to you on the 28th as promised.

I intended also to have an elegant stemmed glass to show it off in, but we're doing what we can, here. I doubt if anyone would want to drink the pictured glass, refreshing though it may seem, because I coughed all over it.

However, you can make your own.

The non-alcoholic beverage is...(drum roll)..Fresh Limeade!

You will need to purchase:

1. Limes--figure two limes for each guest.
2. Club soda--Figure 8 oz. for each guest.
3. Marischino cherries for garnish
4. Sugar.

Step number 1 is to make the simple syrup. This needs to be made several hours ahead of time so that it can cool in the refrigerator.

The ratio is 2 cups sugar to 1 cup water. (This will be enough simple syrup for about 6 8-oz glasses of limeade. )

Mix the sugar and water together and bring to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a jar and refrigerate.

Making the Drinks:

When the syrup is cool, squeeze the limes. Mix 1 cup of lime juice to 2 cups of simple syrup, stirring well. You'll have 3 cups of this mix that you can keep in a quart jar or plastic container.

For each drink: In a 12 oz glass, add 1/2 cup of the syrup/lime juice mixture. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of club soda. Add ice and gently stir.

Add a slice of lime and marischino cherry for garnish.


This is a great summer drink as well, but it's suited for New Year's celebrations because the limes are so plump and juicy at this time of year.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas, all you good people! This is my Christmas Card--trying to make up for almost fifty years of non-sending. Do you think it will work?

Thanks to all my followers for sticking with me. I've got more recipes, parenting tips and philosophizing that I want to post in the New Year. Starting with a jazzy non-alcoholic New Year toasting beverage that I'll post by the December 28th so you'll have time to prepare. Okay, so I'm sharing that with you in the old year, but who's counting?

May you have love surrounding you tomorrow, Christmas day 2009. I wish you peace and joy in your heart, whatever your circumstances.

As we give gifts to each other this Christmas, I hope we pause to remember the greatest gift of all, given two millenia ago, but planned for before the foundations of the world: the baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Matter of Principle - A Christmas Review

A Matter of Principle is one of my favorite Christmas programs. Running about an hour, it first aired on PBS in 1984, and my husband and I still quote lines from it.

Set in what looks to be the early 1960's, it's about Flagg Purdy, a man with a slew of children, high principles and lots of ideas that probably seem old fashioned to those born and raised after women's lib.

Flagg's family is forced to live without electricity because he won't pay certain taxes included in the bill. "I voted agin' 'em," he says. He loves his children and is very invested in their lives, and because his upbringing was hard, he feels that they will benefit from a hard upbringing as well, especially as they see that their father is a man of principle.

Tied up in this is his unwillingness to have a Christmas tree. His father never allowed that frivolity, and he won't have one in his home.

Alan Arkin plays Flagg Purdy and even though we groan at the things he does 'on principle,' we like the man. As his wife says of him, talking about how life wears people down: "Flagg just don't wear smooth."

It's a joy to see the family pull together to show their dad another way to look at his principles and to make it so they have a Christmas tree after all.

You can buy the program in VHS format, in DVD, or pay-to-download from Amazon. The customer comments say they were disappointed in the quality of the DVD.

If you'll click here, you can see a couple of minutes of the movie. If you've got kids from middle grades on up, they'll really enjoy it. It's a great family film.


Follow this blog! I've still got to redeem my promise to give you a wonderful non-alcoholic beverage with which to toast the New Year. And Navajo Tacos are on the horizon as well. And I'll have some more reviews, too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Liz Adair's Holiday Fudge

This fudge has been part of my Christmas celebration for over 60 years. My mother made it every year from the time I was a little girl, and I continued the tradition after she died.

You will need:

1 pint marshmallow cream
1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped walnuts
1 can evaporated milk
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 cube butter
2 7-oz hershey bars (the Giant ones--or enough
smaller bars to equal the weight.)
1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

First, in a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips, the Hershey bars broken into 1/2 inch chunks, the marshmallow cream, and the walnuts. (If you have a Kitchenaid mixer, you can use it--the ingredients will just barely fit into the bowl, but it makes it easier to mix it up. Use the paddle, and put the marshmallow cream in the middle of the ingredients.)

Next, combine the sugar, milk and butter in a large, heavy pot and heat on medium high until it comes to a boil. When the boiling can't be stirred down, turn to medium and start timing, and boil for an additional 4 1/2 minutes

Take off the heat and pour over the chocolate, nut, marshmallow cream mixture. Beat it until everything is mixed together and the candy is losing its sheen.

Pour into a pan somewhere around 10 x 15 inches in size that you've buttered or sprayed with Pam. Or use 2 smaller pans. Or pour into individual, gift-sized pans.

Let cool and then cut into pieces and cover tightly with saran.

Tomorrow I'm going to write about one of my favorite Christmas videos--a very off-the-beaten path little story that is wry and funny and heart-tugging and has a you-go-girl ending.

Also, in the wings (and on my camera card), is Navajo Tacos. And, I'll be reviewing some books, too. sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

North and South, the BBC Miniseries; a Review and Christmas Gift Suggestion

I don’t know how I happened to order the BBC-produced miniseries North and South, but I’m glad I did. I just watched it again the other night and felt I had to blog about it and suggest to any male readers out there who are looking for an idea for a Christmas present for your sweet lady: this is it.

Giver her North and South and then watch it with her. She’ll love you for it and you’ll like it, too. My husband, who judges every movie against The Guns of Navarone, thought it was great.

Taken from a book of the same name written by Elizabeth Gaskell in 1855, North and South is about Margaret Hale, the daughter of an English cleric. Her gentle, south-England existence is changed forever when her father leaves the church because of matters of conscience and moves the family to a northern manufacturing town where he barely scrapes together a living as a teacher.

Margaret has had a London season at the home of her wealthy aunt, and, though she is not totally comfortable with London manners, her social graces cause the northern mill owners’ wives to think her a snob. One mill-owner, John Thornton, falls in love with her.

Margaret’s first introduction to John Thornton is just after she sees him beating up a mill worker. Taking him to task for it, she immediately sets herself apart from the upper-echelon social fabric of the town. The gulf is widened by her south-England ways, and, in her loneliness, she befriends a millworker’s family. It doesn’t help that this worker is a union organizer who precipitates a strike.

In the BBC miniseries, Margaret Hale is played by Daniela Denby-Ashe and John Thornton is played by Richard Armitage. They both do a great job.

When Mr. Thornton was a lad, his father committed suicide because of financial ruin. As he says, “I taught myself self-denial,” in order to pay off his father’s debt and to build up a successful textile mill. When he is around Margaret Hale, he feels very keenly his lack of education and polish.

Margaret Hale struggles to make the best of the situation when life continues to dissolve around her. Part of that struggle is to maintain her independence and to stand for what is right. She finds herself being drawn to Mr. Thornton even as she must do things that set her at odds with him.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plot, some great character studies, and plenty of action. Also, John and Margaret do finally end up together in a beautiful train-station scene.

I would say you need to be prepared to invest eight hours in this 4-hour miniseries, because most of it is in northern dialect, and it takes a while for your ear to become attuned. I love the broad vowel sounds, especially as voiced by Richard Armitage and Sinead Cusak, who plays Thornton’s mother. If you’ll watch it first time through for the story line and next time to catch all the dialogue, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it both times.

You can order North and South from Amazon.

~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Mellow, Out-of-the-Ordinary Christmas Candy

Date Nut Roll

This is a way easy candy to make. It's one my mother made when I was a child, and I took over the process when I was in the 5th grade.

Here's what you'll need:

3 cups sugar

1 cup canned milk

1 cube butter

1 to 1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and chopped

1 to 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Put the sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Lower heat to medium and add dates.

Cook, stirring often, until candy reaches soft ball stage.

Remove from heat and add nuts, beating until it starts to set up.

Form in a log on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll up and store in a cool place until it's cool and set.

When ready to serve, unwrap and slice.

This recipe is foolproof. When I was making it for this blog post, I inadvertently added a can of evaporated milk rather than a cup. I simply increased the dates to 2 cups and cooked it longer. It turned out wonderfully. A little more chewy than the original recipe, but great.

~~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dawn's Early Light by L.C. Lewis - a Review

Wow! Laurie Lewis has done it again. Writing as L.C. Lewis, she has just released another action-packed, stuffed-full-of-American-History novel. This is the third in the Free Men and Dreamers series, entitled Dawn’s Early Light. Set during the War of 1812, it’s a continuation of the story of Jed Pearson, plantation owner, member of the Maryland Militia, and man of principle and action.

If you read my review of the two earlier books, you know that in them we met Jed and his wife Hannah as young people, and we followed their rocky courtship, hoping that she would choose him in the face of her parents’ disapproval. In this Early American setting, Ms. Lewis let us see the incidents that were shaping not only Jed and Hannah’s destinies, but also the destiny of their young country.

The brilliant thing about this series is that it lets us see how intertwined the affairs of England and America were at that juncture. We see how the lives of families on both sides of the Atlantic were colored by the same incidents, only in different hues because they were seen through a different lens.

Ms. Lewis has also brought the War of 1812 battles surrounding Washington D.C. to life. As a writer, I marvel at her foresight to have written the minor character Marcus O’Mally into the first book and let us get to know him better in the second so that in the third, we can follow his exploits as a bargeman and understand this part of the naval strategy. That’s plotting at its very best.

I also appreciated the glimpse of Dolly Madison. After finishing Dawn’s Early Light, one of the things high on my To Do List is to get her biography and read it.

Though this is one of a series of books, it can stand alone. Ms. Lewis has provided a list of the cast of characters, and as they are introduced into the narrative, she unobtrusively reminds us who they are and how they have been important to our main characters.
You can buy Dawn's Early Light on Amazon, Deseret Book, Seagull Books or order it from your favorite book store.
I can’t wait to read Number Four in the Free Men and Dreamers Series. If you read Dawn’s Early Light (and you must), you’ll know exactly why.
Follow this blog! I have yet to make good on my promise to teach you how to make flour tortillas, and I'm also going to blog about Navajo Tacos, so hang around.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Regolith, Orthoclase, and Other Lovely Words

I love rocks. I could spend hours in a dry stream bed, stumbling along with head bent and eyes on the ground. It’s time that should be spent with a companion, though. Not only so you’ll have someone to help you when you turn your ankle, but also so you can share the things you find: a whimsically shaped rock or one with a streak of exotic color or one that has been worn so smooth and round that it looks like it’s been polished.

Derrill and I try to bring back a rock or two whenever we travel. I have a one from Beartooth summit to commemorate the day we crossed that almost-eleven-thousand-foot pass on our way from Yellowstone to Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn. I have another from Panaca summit, where we went to see the charcoal kilns. I have a beautiful hunk of rose quartz from South Dakota, and a much uglier piece of regular quartz from a mountain near Concunelly, WA (left). I’ve got lump of lava from Idaho, and a rectangular slab of red sandstone from St. George, Utah.

Little wonder, then, that when Derrill mentioned a geology course he had found on the internet, I agreed it was something we should do and ordered it from The Teaching Company.

This course consisted of eighteen hours of lectures in half-hour segments taught on DVD by Professor John J. Renton of West Virginia University. Sporting a curly handlebar moustache and with a genial manner and sly sense of humor, Dr. Renton made sure the lectures weren’t dry. The information was basic, which was good, because when Derrill and I were last in a college classroom, Plate Tectonics wasn’t yet being taught. We had lots to learn, including new vocabulary words. Two of my favorites were orthoclase and regolith.

Toward the end of the series, one of my sons called to visit, and as we talked about how much we were enjoying the class, I was going to impress him by dropping one of the terms into the conversation. But I couldn’t for the life of me remember it! I could remember the definition. I knew it started with an R, but I couldn’t summon the word. I went through the evening with a Grrr attitude, upset because I had forgotten my lovely new word and thinking that just as soon as it popped into my brain, I’d write an email to my son, telling him what it was and what it meant. The wow factor would be gone, but I would have redeemed myself.

I was just drifting off to sleep at midnight when the word came tiptoeing in to my brain. Regolith! That was the word.

“Are you awake?” I whispered to Derrill, wanting to share with someone the fact that I had remembered. He didn’t reply, so I turned over and muttered the word several times to myself to make sure that I’d have it when I woke up the next morning.

It didn’t work. I had to look it up in the lecture notes.

But that doesn’t matter. We’re on to Complexity now. It’s a math class, sorta. It’s only twelve lectures. And when we get through with that, we’ve got a short course on the history of the American Constitution, one on the history of the Bible and the making of the New Testament canon, one on the rise and fall of the British Empire, and one on the life and writings of C. S. Lewis. That should take us through the winter in fine shape.

These courses are quite reasonable if you buy them on sale, and there are always lots of them on sale. Check out the web site. You’ll find their Great Courses are a good workout for the gray cells. Except for vocabulary words beginning with R.


Follow this blog! Click on the "Follow" button on the side bar to become a regular reader. Remember, I'm going to blog about how to make flour tortillas, and I've still got a pie recipe or two or three to share, too. And...a killer fudge recipe for Christmas.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Liz Adair's World Famous Apple Pie Recipe

A long time ago I blogged about making pies for homeless shelters and food banks for Thanksgiving as a service project of youth groups. In parts 2 and 3 of that series, I taught you how to make a flaky pie crust. Click here to go to Part 2. It will have a link to Part 3. The filling recipe I gave in that series was one that was good when working with a lot of squirrely teenagers. It's the one you will usually find in recipe books.

Today I'm going to give you one that is far, far better. It's one I came up with myself, so you'll have to remember the old saying: self praise is half scandal. (Though I never was sure of exactly what that meant.)

You can make the filling first, using the recipe here and then go to the crust posting and follow the instructions there. For one two-crust pie (top and bottom), use just one batch of the 3-cups-flour, 1-cup-shortning, 1-tsp.-salt recipe. You'll use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup cold water for one batch.

First, you have to select the kind of apples you're going to use. If you're using fresh apples, you'll need 5 or 6 apples per pie, peeled, cored and sliced into thick slices. I usually end up with chunks about 1" x 1/2".

Or, you can use the apples you home canned using the instructions I posted last month. Use one quart of apples per pie.

Or, you can buy pie-sliced apples that are packed in water. I know you can get them in #10 cans at Costco and at restaurant supply houses. Some times you can find smaller cans of them at grocery stores, but last time I looked, all my local market had was apple pie filling. (You don't want that. This filling is much better.) A #10 can will make three 9-inch pies.

Here is the recipe for filling for one 9-inch pie:

1 1/2 cup apple juice

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

pinch of cloves

Bring 1 cup of the apple juice + 1/2 half cup of sugar to boiling.

Dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining 1/2 cup apple juice and add to the boiling liquid, stirring quickly with a wire whisk so it doesn't get lumpy. When it is thick, pull it off the heat.

Add the spices to the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and mix. When the spices are evenly distributed in the sugar, add to the thickened juice and stir.

Add the apples (drained, if you're using canned apples) and mix.

Set the filling aside as you make your crust and roll it out according to the directions in the links I gave you above. Remember, if you'll follow the instructions about cutting your crusts larger than the pan, moistening the bottom crust, and rolling them under before crimping, you won't have any leakage into your oven.

Bake these pies at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until nicely browned.

With this filling recipe you won't have the voids between the top crust and the filling that you get with other filling recipes that use only dry ingredients.


I realized I haven't blogged about custard pies yet. Custard pies are simple, understated deliciosity. When I was teaching an early-morning class to a bunch of teenagers, I used to defy the Friday Donut tradition by taking a custard pie instead. They loved it, and it was so much better for them. And, it's sooooo easy. Watch for it! sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wayne and the Waffle

This isn't the first time I've lifted something my son Wayne has posted on Facebook about his autistic child and namesake, Wayne Jr. I'm proud of both of them, dad and son, so I thought I'd share.

Here's what Wayne Sr. said:

I had the opportunity this year to have two of my children graduate. The first graduation was pretty much what you would expect. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from high school. Liz is a fantastic student, is loved by all her teachers, and is respected by her peers. She graduated as a member of National Honor Society, and I was very proud to see her walk across the stage and get her diploma.

The second graduation was not what you might expect. My son Wayne Jr. graduated from preschool. This was my first child to go through this rituaal, and I didn't know what to expect, especially since Wayne was one of two children with autism in a class of 15 students.

The class was a wonderful setting for Wayne. I had worried that he would be ridiculed by the children in the class because of his disability, but in fact, the opposite was true. The kids loved him. They were able to see him for the sweet boy that he is, and they figured out ways to deal with the tics that come with autism.

The parents of the class made a big deal out of the day. They made caps for the children to wear, there were diplomas made up, and the children had been practicing a song that they would perform for the parents.

All parents are apprehensive about their children being on stage. As we sit there watching, I think we are convinced that if we put enough body English on our thoughts, we can WILL them to success. As the class walked up on stage, I spotted Wayne in his blue shirt and gold tie, and I saw that he had a Lego toy in his hand. I felt myself wilt. Mine was the only child that was carrying a toy. I wanted to leap up and explain: HE HAS AUTISM!!! Instead, I thought to myself, "Please let him do well," and I hoped people wouldn't notice the thing Wayne was carrying. I knew why he was carrying it. His routine was very out of sorts; school that day was different from what it normally was, and it was frightening to him. A familiar toy soothed him.

The music started, and I got to see my sweet autistic son march with all the other normal children and sing, "We Are the Dinosaurs." He did all the motions, and he roared, and when they were done, he clapped his hands and cheered with his classmates. All my fears about him failing were totally unjustified.

This is my first time as the father of a special needs child, and I suppose the temptation is there to overprotect him and try to shield him from the possibility of embarrassment. I'm so glad I didn't, because he made me proud.

That happened last spring. The thing that got me thinking about it again was a conversation Shea and I had this past week. We don't talk much about Wayne's future, because we really don't know what to expect. We don't know if he will become a functioning member of society, or if he will be able to live in a group home, or if he will live with Shea and me 'til we are too old to take care of him. We just don't know. And the not knowing is frightening, to some extent.

Wayne gave us a treat this week that kind of helped show Shea and me that he is really a sharp little boy, and he has the ability to learn to care for himself. The act itself seemed simple, but it showed us a level of self-sufficiency. One morning, Wayne got up and was hungry. So, he went over to the fridge, opened the freezer door, and got out an Eggo Waffle. Then he opened the cabinet, took out the toaster, plugged it in, put the waffle in, and pressed the lever down. When the waffle was done, he unplugged the toaster and took the waffle and wandered out of the room.

That act showed that Wayne has the ability to comprehend a task that has multiple steps, and it gave Shea and me a great deal of comfort and hope.

I think that my little autistic boy is going to provide me many opportunities to be a very proud father.
Follow this Blog! The next posting will be my World Famous Apple Pie. You don't want to miss that--it's just in time for your Thanksgiving pies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Um...Counting the Cost Got This Award....

So, I guess I need to make an announcement. Counting the Cost was a Finalist in USA Book News "National Best Books 2009" Awards.
Runner-up is good!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A 21st Century Rosetta Stone

Most writers who have an on-line presence use Google Alert, which will tell them when someone in cyberspace has mentioned their name or a recent book title.

I'm no exception. I've got my alert set for Liz Adair and for Counting the Cost (a phrase I have found is overused).

The other day, I got an alert that a blogger had mentioned my name. I clicked on the link and found that someone had re-posted an interview that Heidi Thomas had done on her blog a month or so ago. It had apparently been translated into another language and, I assume, since Google knows my language is English, when it came up on my screen, it was computer-translated back into a language I could read. Sorta.

I'm going to post selected paragraphs of the twice-translated text in blue. Under each paragraph, I'll put Heidi's original questions (and my answers) in green. I suggest you read only the blue paragraphs and use the green ones if you get stumped. Some of the twists are hilarious, though if you think about each a bit, you'll see that, in a certain situation, this could be a synonym.

Hilarious or not, it is really miraculous that something could automatically be changed from one language to another and still carry a high degree of clarity.

Here's the posting. Remember, blue is how it came back to me. I've reproduced it faithfully, punctuation and all.

If you don't read anything else, read the last question and answer.

HEIDI: I'm happy to welcome Liz Adair to my blog today. Liz is the Pacific Northwest writer of five novels, including her new Western romance, Numbering the Cost, and she is co-editor of her mother's missives in Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan Liz is besides cognized for her Spider Latham enigma series, for The Mist of Target Seaport, and learns shops on "Victimisation House History in fiction."

Counting the Cost is a marvelous, bittersweet narration that fall out in Land of enchantment in 1935. I take it this is slightly of a going from your usual composition. Say us what exalted this book.

HEIDI: I'm happy to welcome Liz Adair to my blog today. Liz is the Pacific Northwest author of five novels, including her new Western love story, Counting the Cost, and she is co-editor of her mother's letters in Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan. Liz is also known for her Spider Latham mystery series, for The Mist of Quarry Harbor, and teaches workshops on "Using Family History in Fiction."

Counting the Cost is a wonderful, bittersweet story that takes place in New Mexico in 1935. I take it this is somewhat of a departure from your usual writing. Tell us what inspired this book.

LIZ: This is a leaving. My other books were totally carefully plotted, hold a spot of intrigue in them, are placed in modern-day times, and are lighter menu. Numerating the Cost but welled upwards inside me and coerced itself out my fingertips. I consider it was portion of my bereft procedure after my mother went, for the narrative discharge shadows her brother's life.

LIZ: This is a departure. My other books were all carefully plotted, have a bit of intrigue in them, are set in contemporary times, and are lighter fare. Counting the Cost simply welled up inside me and forced itself out my fingertips. I think it was part of my grieving process after my mother died, for the story arc shadows her brother's life.

HEIDI: I understand that you turned upwardly in Land of enchantment on a ranches. How makes that background influence your authorship?

HEIDI: I understand that you grew up in New Mexico on a cattle ranch. How does that background influence your writing?

LIZ: Really, it was my mother who turned au fait a spreads, but she conjoined a man who worked for the Office of Rehabilitation, so we were hydroelectric gipsies. Two of my uncles worked cowses all their lives, and trips back to Nm were full of cowhand narratives and horseback equitation.

LIZ: Actually, it was my mother who grew up on a cattle ranch, but she married a man who worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, so we were hydro-electric gypsies. Two of my uncles worked cattle all their lives, and trips back to New Mexico were full of cowboy stories and horseback riding.

HEIDI: How large a office makes placing drama in your books?

HEIDI: How bit a role does setting play in your books?

LIZ: Putting dramas a major function. One of my readers mentioned that I write on settlement people. I consider that Holds because I'm a settlement somebody myself, and it Holds a comfy voice.

LIZ: Setting plays a major role. One of my reviewers noted that I write about small town people. I think that's because I'm a small town person myself, and it's a comfortable voice.

HEIDI: You give shops on applying menage history in fiction. Is all of your fiction based on your house history?

HEIDI: You give workshops on using family history in fiction. Is all of your fiction based on your family history?

LIZ: All my fiction banks heavily on household history. I name it Viridity Fiction. Recycling, you cognise? It may merely be that I make n't hold any original thoughts. Or that I'm lazy. But, it works for me.

LIZ: All my fiction relies heavily on family history. I call it Green Fiction. Recycling, you know? It may just be that I don't have any original ideas. Or that I'm lazy. But, it works for me.

* * *
HEIDI: State us about Missives from Aftghanistan Were the missives pent to you?

HEIDI: Tell us about Letters from Afghanistan. Were the letters written to you?

LIZ: Yes. I was a immature mother when my parents attended Afghanistan in 1965. My mother and begetter both worked for the Office for International Develoment (Assistance). Pa was in charge of buying machinery and learning the Afghans how to hold it, and mother ran a little hotel/restaurant that catered to the American contingent and seing diplomatists. She holded fifteen Afghan manpowers working for her, and she got really regarded in their lives. She would indite long missives place about her interactions with them. Some missives were uproarious; some were affecting, but none were dull.

I was a busy ma and instruction school additionally, and I'd savor each missive and lay it forth. It was only geezerhood afterward, in 2001, when I attended redact the missives for the menange, that I observed what a treasure these missives were and what a window they were into the psyche of the Afghan provincials.

LIZ: Yes. I was a young mother when my parents went to Afghanistan in 1965. My mother and father both worked for the Agancy for Internation Development (AID). Dad was in charge of purchasing machinery and teaching the Afghans how to maintain it, and mother ran a small hotel/restaurant that catered to the American contingent and visiting diplomats. She had fifteen Afghan men working for her, and she became very involved in their lives. She would write long letters home about her interactions with them. Some letters were hilarious; some were poignant, but none were dull.

HEIDI: On the dorsum of your book is a indorsement telling that constituent of your book sales attend gain Portion Women Across lands (SWAN). Say us a trifle about this grouping.

HEIDI: On the back of your book is a blurb stating that part of your book sales go to benefit Serving Women Across Nations (SWAN). Tell us a bit about this group.

LIZ: SWAN is a humanistic outreach organisation that was started by my two girls, Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, and I the intention is to assist women and shavers through microloans, malaria medicine, mosquito nets and school supplies and uniforms. Terry is the motivating force, and it is she who visits Bolivia each year to superintend the microloan plan there, which includes a mini-business class and proceeding didactis as the women take out loans and go enterprisers.

Most of the support for SWAN comes from the Pattie Wagoon, Terry's grant laggard that you may see at ball games or at Sedro Woolley jubilations, and SWAN too patronize a Century Motorcycle Drive that cooccurs with Sedro Woolley's Blast from the Yesteryear. You can chance out more about SWAN by seing

LIZ: SWAN is a humanitarian outreach organization that was begun by my two daughters, Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, and I. The purpose is to help women and children through microloans, malaria medicine, mosquito nets and school supplies and uniforms. Terry is the motivating force, and it is she who travels to Bolivia every year to oversee the microloan program there, which includes a mini-business course and continuing education as the women take out loans and become entrepreneurs.

Most of the funding for SWAN comes from the Pattie Wagon," Terry's concession trailer that you may see at ball games or at Sedro Woolley celebrations, and SWAN also sponsors a Century Bike Ride that coincides with Sedro Woolley's Blast from the Past. You can find out more about SWAN by visiting

HEIDI: Thank you for sharing with us Liz.

LIZ: Thank you, Heidi. What luck to hold happend you manning your booth at the Sedro Woolley July 4 Jubilation. As I read your book about your gran, Cowgirl Dreams, I see that we hold much in common. We're kindred liquors.

LIZ: Thank you Heidi. What luck to have found you manning your booth at the Sedro Woolley Fourth of July Celebration. As I read your book about your grandmother, Cowgirl Dreams, I see that we have much in common. We're kindred spirits.

Follow this blog! Remember, the recipe for my world famous Apple Pie is coming. You don't want to miss that!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Am I Not a Man? The Dread Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff - A Review

It's been nigh on to sixty years since I was a fifth grader and first learned the name Dred Scott. So, it's not surprising that, before I read Mark L. Shurtleff's book Am I Not a Man?, the Dred Scott Story, I could not have told you (beyond a hazy, hazarded guess that it was about slavery), why the name was in my history book. I'm glad for the chance to renew my acquaintance with Dred Scott.

Mr. Shurtleff presents us history in an easily-assimilated form: in a tale or a fictionalized account of the events of Dred Scott's life. Though the word novel doesn't appear on the cover sheet of the book, it was described that way when I was asked to review it, and rightly so, for Mr. Shurtleff presents imagined conversations and actions of historical figures. The reader realizes that these conversations, and the unfolding events, though they spring from Mr. Shurtleff's imagination, are well grounded in history and the result of extensive research.

The book opens at a riveting point in the Dred Scott story: the Missouri Supreme court has just declared that Dred Scott is not free. Not only that, but through a twist of fate, in the intervening six years that Dred's case has been winding through the courts, his sympathetic former owner has died and ownership of Dred and his family has passed to a powerful, ardently pro-slavery family who demand restitution for the six years they have been deprived of profit from the Scott family's labors.

It is at that point that the book begins.

Mr. Shurtleff then takes the reader through the history of Dred's birth and how he arrived at the place where his suit for freedom was espoused by the family of his former owner and others willing to carry it to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Along the way, Mr. Shurtleff acquaints the reader with the currents of history that are flowing together to make the Dred Scott decision such a pivotal point in American History. I'm not going to reveal that here. If you don't remember it from your grade school or high school years, you need to read this book.

I teach workshops in "Writing Family History as Fiction", and one of the points I make, especially if I'm teaching at a Family History Conference, is that it's the stories that draw people in, that make people want to learn the names, dates, facts of what actually happened.

Mark L. Shurtleff has accomplished this here, because my readling list just expanded to include biographies of Chief Justice Roger Taney, a history of the Blackhawk War, and most of all, a biography of Dred Scott.

If you're interested in reading this book, click here to purchase in paper-and ink, here to buy in Kindle format.
Follow this blog! Remember, before Thanksgiving I'm going to give you my world famous apple pie recipe.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Home-can Apples for Pie and Apple Crisp

Years ago (we're measuring in decades, here), I did a lot of gleaning around the countryside. At that time there were lots of old, abandoned farmsteads that still had producing apple trees. Oh, the apples may have been kind of scabby, but that didn't matter. They were free and they suited my purpose, which was putting them up for the winter. The kids and I would gather half a pickup bed full and head home to start production.

We dried a lot and made gallons of apple juice and applesauce, but I was constantly stymied when I tried to can apples like the canned, pie-sliced apples I bought at the store. Invariably, when I put them in a water bath, the apples would swell and the jars would never seal.

A master canner told me the secret of how to can apples for apple pie. I've never seen this in any book about canning, but it has never failed me. Here's how you do it:

Peel and slice your apples. You can use the peeler-corer-slicer machine or do it by hand. I like chunkier pieces, but that's my own preference. As you fill a bowl, sprinkle sugar over the prepared apples--probably at about the rate of 1/2 cup of sugar to every 5 apples.
Cover the bowl with saran, foil, or a dishtowel, and let it sit overnight. The sugar will draw juice out of the apple.

The next day, sterilize the jars you're going to use. I used pints here, but that's because that's what I had on hand. When I had a family at home, I always put them up in quarts. One quart will do one apple pie.

When I'm ready to can, I stick my clean jars in the oven at 250 degrees while I'm getting everything else ready. I also put my lids in a pot of simmering water on the stove. I don't know if this is scientific or not. It's the way my mom did it, and so it's the way I do it. I never have a problem with a seal.
I fill the jars to within an inch of the brim with apples and spoon in some of the juice in the bottom. I use hot water for the rest of the liquid, put on one of the lids from the pot on the stove, and screw on the ring, making it finger tight. When I have a load for the water bath, I run them through and continue filling jars. The rest can wait on the counter for their turn in the water bath.

For pints, I process them for 20 minutes at a gentle boil; quarts go 25 minutes.
When I take the jars out, I invert them, leaving them upside down until they're cool. Like I said, it's the way my mother did it, and they always seal.

Use the apples as you would fresh apples in apple pie and apple crisp. Just decrease the sugar in the recipe by 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

I don't know if you know it, but for more than a decade I had a wholesale bakery supplying pies (made from scratch) to restaurants in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Next week I'll share my world famous apple pie recipe--and no, it's not the one I used when I blogged about the apple pie service project. This one is way better--unless you're trying to involve a bunch of teenagers. In that case, the simpler one works.

So, if you want to make sure you get that apple pie recipe, follow this blog! Click on the 'follow' button on the left hand sidebar.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Love the TV Show "Castle"

I have a couple children who live more than a thousand miles away, and I really, really miss them. Both are good friends and I love to visit with them, even when they call during Dancing With the Stars. Luckily for the mother/son tie, both live in later time zones, and I've never had to choose between chatting with them and the newest segment of Castle.

Castle is an hourlong program that is billed as a drama, but it's witty and fun, and a 'can't-miss' for me. I don't watch much TV, but I never miss Castle.

The program is about Rick Castle, a successful mystery writer, who wangles his way into shadowing good-looking homicide detective Kate Beckett as she tries to solve her cases. She keeps telling him to stand back and keep his mout shut, but he's irrepressible and exasperatingly acute, even though the things he comes up with are pretty off-the-wall and quite possibly straight out of his latest plot line.

Nathan Fillion plays Rick Castle and Stana Katic plays Detective Kate Beckett. Both are believable and endearing, he in a sweet, roguish way and she in a strong-but-vulnerable way.

One of my favorite bits was when they went looking for an armed, dangerous susupect. The detectives put on bulletproof vests with POLICE written in large white letters on front and back, and Castle put his on, too. It had WRITER written on it, and when Beckett told him to take it off, he quoted, "If you shoot me, do I not bleed?" Naturally, when she got busy doing police stuff, he put the vest back on, followed them in, fouled everything up, but ended up saving the day after all.

Rick Castle is divorced and single-parents his teenage daughter, Alexis. She's well grounded and very mature for having a flaky actress mother and a will-o-the-wisp, writer father. Oh, and a flaky actress grandmother that lives with them, too. However, where his daughter is concerned, Rick Castle is conservative, protective, and willing to take the heat for an unpopular decision, as when he called Alexis's friend's parents after he had to rescue the two girls from a party where there had been teenage drinking and the friend got very drunk.

Maybe I like this program because I write mysteries, but I think it's more than that. Castle has engaging characters, witty dialogue, great puzzles, and understated sexual tension instead of torrid bedroom scenes showing a lot more than I would care to see.

Try Castle, and let me know what you think. It's on Monday nights on ABC, right after Dancing With the Stars, which turns out to be 10 p.m. here in the Pacific Time Zone. Or, you can watch it on your computer at (complete with commercials).

Click here to read ABC's blurb about the show.


Follow this blog! Coming soon--how to can apples to be used in pies and apple crisp. I learned this from a master canner after I had had umpteen failures. The apples kept swelling and breaking the seal. So, gather your apples and be ready, and I promise it by Sunday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Make Sopapillas

Today I'm making good on my threat to teach you how to make sopapillas, a type of Mexican frybread.

As usual, you don't get the recipe without wading through some of my family history: My father ran a dragline when I was little, and his oiler was a Mexican American fellow named Joe Gray (but with a Spanish pronunciation: roll the r and pronounce the ay as aye). His wife's name was Romelia, and if you've read Counting the Cost, you've read the description of this lovely lady.

One summer we were on a highway project in northern New Mexico, and we camped out all summer in the woods near Ojo Caliente. Every morning, Romelia would make tortillas, and mother would let me go watch her. I always came away with a warm tortilla, and ever since that time, tortillas have been comfort food.

But, back to sopapillas. Romelia made those, too. I called them sofa pillows and thought they were the most lovely thing I had ever eaten. I was disappointed to find, when we left New Mexico, that Mexican restaurants in Arizona and California didn't serve them.

They're simple to make. Here's how:

This recipe will make about 16 2" x 3" sopapillas.

2 cups white flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup warm water

Cut the shortening into the flour. I used a food processor, but you can use the whip or beaters on a mixer. Add salt and baking powder and mix. Then add the water and continue to mix. Your dough should be soft but will make a ball that will hold its shape. Knead for a minute and then separate into four balls and let it rest for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, take a small pot or skillet and put 2 to 2 1/2 inches of oil in the bottom and heat to about 375 degrees. I don't have a thermometer, so I just put it on high and when the oil gets hot enough, I start turning it down. I usually end up with it between medium and medium high. The oil should bubble up instantly when the dough is put in. If the sopapilla doesn't fill with air, your oil isn't hot enough.

Roll one of the balls of dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. You should not have to flour your rolling surface or the rolling pin.

Cut your flattened dough into four diamond-shaped pieces and drop them into the hot grease. They should swell up into little pillows. If they don't immediately, hold them under the hot grease for a few seconds, and they should pop up and start swelling.

When golden brown on one side, turn the sopapilla over to brown on the other. When it's done, lift it out onto a paper towel to drain.

Sopapillas are best eaten warm with honey, jam or powdered sugar on them.

The two sopapillas pictured at the bottom left are ones that were cooked before the oil was hot enough. They are flat rather than puffed up.


I've taught sopapillas, but I've got to teach you how to make flour tortillas. You'll need a rolling pin made out of a 1 1/2 dowel or a piece of conduit like the one pictured above. Make friends with an electrician and see if you can get one. It needs to be 6" long. sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Eternal Corporation

I’ve been married forty-six years. I think that qualifies me to philosophize about marriage, and I’m going to do that today.

I have come to the conclusion that there are two things that contribute to a happy and successful marriage:

1. The first is the makeup of the people who enter into the marriage. I think the most successful marriages are made up of two people who each have the capacity to be happy alone. A person who can be happy alone is not dependent upon another for contentment or fulfillment and so doesn’t look to her partner to provide that in her life. This also makes it so the union is a free-will offering on the part of each.

2. I feel that a good marriage results when two people realize that, when they marry, the two of them ally to form an entity that is made up of the two parts, but is different from either. It’s better, stronger, more than the sum of its parts. I call it The Corporation. Each is an equal shareholder, and each must be steadfastly loyal to The Corporation, because disloyalty to The Corporation means disloyalty to oneself. I would not lie to my spouse, because in doing so, I would be lying to The Corporation, and, by extension, lying to myself. If I cheat on my spouse, I’m cheating on myself, since both I and my spouse share equally in The Corporation. When I serve my spouse, I’m serving myself, because I’m serving The Corporation. It’s a kind of enlightened self-interest and does away with any 50%-50% or 60%-40% or 90%-10% propositions about who should give more to the marriage or who is the dominant personality.

Of course there are lots of other things that contribute to a good marriage: being equally yoked as far as intelligence, education and religion; having a sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself—which are not necessarily the same things; being fiscally responsible. All these are important, but I think the two things I’ve listed above are basic to a lasting marriage.


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Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Trailer for Counting the Cost by Liz Adair

Well, I just gotta brag.

My daughter, Terry Gifford, has always had a flare for the dramatic, and she has used it to good purpose as she put together a traveling audio-visual program called Letters from Afghanistan that she uses to raise money for her humanitarian outreach organization SWAN (Serving Women Across Nations).

I asked her to use these skills to do a book trailer for me. That's the newest promotional wrinkle authors use. It's like a movie trailer, only it's for a book, and it's posted on Youtube.

Here's a link to the trailer Terry did for my latest book, Counting the Cost. I hope you'll check it out. I think you'll agree with me that she did an amazing job.


Follow this blog. You never know when I'll remember that sopapilla recipe. Did I tell you that when the Pepper Sisters Restaurant in Bellingham WA opened, I was the one that told them how to make sopapillas. I remember that. I'll bet I can remember how to make them, too. That's what comes from never writing recipes down.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Charcoal Kilns on Panaca Summit and Mill in Condor Canyon

We just returned from a trip to Nevada. If you’ve read the Spider Latham mystery series, you’re acquainted with my husband’s home town, Panaca. The Lincoln County High School was turning 100 on September 27 and we went down for the celebration.

We took our 4-wheelers with us and planned on doing some riding before the birthday party. I had never seen the charcoal kilns up on the summit, and Derrill wanted to take me through Connor’s Canyon—which we found out wasn’t Connor’s Canyon at all. He’d been calling it that all his life, but the name is actually Condor Canyon.

Well, we did both, and what splendid rides they were.

The charcoal kilns were built in the mid-1870’s. They were situated where they were because of two reasons: a nearby outcrop of rhyolitic tuff and a source of wood, for there is a lot of scrub cedar and pine on the Panaca Summit.

Skilled stone masons took rocks from the outcroppings, dressed them, and joined them with mud and lime mortar to form the beehive-shaped ovens. I was particularly interested in the keystone arch that formed the door.

Swiss and Italian woodcutters who knew the charcoal making process brought these skills from Europe. They cut five-foot lengths of wood and stacked them in two vertical tiers (totaling 50 cords) in the ovens. Then they were lit, the door was closed, the vent at the top was plugged, and air flow was regulated through holes around the base of the kiln.

It took 30 days to complete the combustion of the stack. The resultant charcoal was allowed to cool, and on a calm day, the kiln was opened. If it wasn’t done correctly, the charcoal could catch fire and burn up, destroying all the work of chopping, loading and burning.

Each cord of wood would produce about 30 bushels of charcoal which was enough to smelt one ton of silver ore.

The kilns are in pretty good repair. Inside they smell strongly of smoke, even after all these years.

The next day we went to Condor Canyon.

I had been swimming in the spring above Panaca lots of times, but I never knew that half a mile farther up the road was this wonderful canyon. In earlier days, a railroad ran through it. It’s gone now, but you can drive on the railroad bed as far as the first bridge that someone burned—farther if you’re on an off-road vehicle.

We found a wonderful, shady cave to have lunch in, for though it was late September, it was pretty hot.

We also found the site of an old mill. I don’t know what kind of ore they were processing here, but they had a ramp built for the oar wagons to come up to dump their loads, and there were remnants of what looked like boiler flues lying around. There was another, tumbled-down charcoal kiln located nearby, too.

When we got back to town, I went on line at the only place I could find internet access and found a wonderful picture of the mill that used to be in Condor Canyon.

This is the mill as it was in 1870.

I’ll blog about the birthday celebration next and probably do some philosophizing, but I couldn’t wait to share this bit of history with you.

~~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Liz Adair's Salad Dressing Recipes

I got another request the other day for my salad dressing recipe, so I thought that might be a good subject for today's blog.

We're in the trailer, on our way to Nevada for Derrill's high school's 100th birthday (NOT his 100th year reunion, he hastens to tell everyone), and as I made the salad tonight, I took a picture of it and the dressing I brought along.

My salad dressing consists of vinegar, oil and salt. When I take salad to a pot luck I may make one or two variations on that recipe. I'll give them all here.

I will say that two of the most important ingredients to a good salad are cucumbers and onions. If you've got those two ingredients, you can add anything else to it and have a successful salad.

Liz Adair's Basic Vinegarette

For a salad that would generously feed four:

3 tablespoons oil (I use canola, but olive oil does well, too)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (If you use any other kind it won't taste as good)

Combine these in a plastic bottle with a stopper that can be undone quickly. Just before you're
ready to serve the salad, shake the bottle vigorously to combine the vinegar and oil, and then pour over the salad.
Shake salt liberally over the salad, toss, and shake salt liberally again. Taste. If the vinegar is too sharp, salt it some more. It takes quite a bit.

The salt and oil will cause the salad to wilt after while, so this salad can't be saved in the fridge as leftovers--unless you like wilted salad.

Variation I: Liz Adair's Creamy Italian

Put the all-purpse blade into your food processor (or, you can use a blender).
Break an egg into the bowl, turn it on, and as it is running, slowly pour 1 cup oil into the egg.

While it continues to mix, add 2 tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon dried basil. If you have fresh basil, add a sprig of that, too.

Then, slowly add 3/4 cup red wine vinegar to the egg-oil mixture.
Let it beat for several seconds. Scrape down the sides and let it mix a few more seconds. Now it's ready for a salad.

Don't overdress the salad. Probably a tablespoon per serving is sufficient.

For those who are leary of having a raw egg in their salad dressing, here's an eggless variation:

Liz Adair's Avacado Vinegarette

This recipe is the same as the creamy Italian, except you delete the egg and basil and add 1/2 ripe avacado at the beginning.

Both of these salad dressings will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so. I store mine in glass jars, but plastic will do just as well. Be sure to shake them before you dress the salad, because sometimes the vinegar settles to the bottom.


Follow this blog! Become a follower by clicking on the 'follow' button just under the image of my "Using Family History in Fiction" booklet. Remember, one of these days I'm going to post my sopapilla recipe.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tips for Camping in Washington's Liquid Sunshine

The moss hanging in sheets from the trees is a dead giveaway that sunshine is a foreign element, but still, we blythely plan each Labor Day family campout to be held at Baker Lake in the Cascade Mountains about 45 minutes east of where we live.

Every three or four years, we get lucky and have warm, sunny weather. Usually we have at least one day of rain. But, even on the grayest of days, the vine maple trees carry their own inner light with their chartreuse-green leaves.

This last Labor Day, we had the mother of all downpours, but it was a great weekend, and we made some lasting memories. Here are things we've learned through the years about camping in the rain:

1. Bring plenty of changes of clothes for the little ones, and make sure they have rubber boots. Then turn them loose and let them play.

2. Don't trust that your rain fly will keep your tent dry. Add a tarp on top of it, but suspend the tarp from lines strung overhead, because if your tent isn't ventilated, it will get wet from condensation.

3. Ditch around your tent, and build dikes if you have to. Even the slightest of inclines can allow water to migrate to your tent from far away, and there's nothing worse than waking up at night in a wet sleeping bag.

4. Make sure you have a tarp under your tent so water can't wick up from the ground.

5. If you have a large group, have a couple of campfires so people can huddle around for warmth without blocking the heat for others.

6. String tarps over the fire--but of course, keep them high enough so they can't be melted by the flames. We had a 26 x 40 tent over the 'common' area, which included food prep, eating & campfire .

7. Invest in a catalytic heater. These little propane-fired, radiant, personal-size heaters are great to warm up someone who got chilled by being out in the rain. Two people can share by setting it between them and putting a blanket over their laps to captue the heat. Or, set it under a table while you're playing a board game.

8. Wear a knit hat and dry socks.

With a little preparation, you'll be humming that old Barry Manilow song, "I Made it Through the Rain" as you watch the campground empty out prematurely.
Follow this blog! Coming soon is Navajo Tacos and sopapillas. And maybe a posting on Dutch Oven Cooking. Stick around. I like having you check in every now and then.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Make-you-smile Autism Story

I've blogged about my autistic grandson before. He's five, and has been living at least a half continent away for a year and a half, so I have to keep up on how he's doing through reports from his parents.

Here's a story that my son, Wayne, posted on Facebook the other day about his son, Wayne Jr. (WayJay). It made me smile, and I thought there might be other people who would enjoy reading it, too.

Wayne writes:

I got home tonight and my wife, Shea, and I were sitting at the table, talking about the events of the day. I had quite a bit to talk about because of a bruha-ha that was going on at the shop. While we were talking, I noticed Wayne was walking around the room with a toy airplane. It was a USAF jet of one kind or another. (I have never cared enough about warbirds to learn the identifiers for each one.) Anyhow, Wayne was flying it around the room making airplane noises; more to the point, he was making jet noises.

I commented to Shea that it was cool that WayJay was playing in an appropriate manner (using the toy as an airplane and KNOWING that it was an airplane).

I watched him for a few minutes, and all of a sudden, I thought, "Why is my son playing with a jet? Everybody knows that jet pilots are knuckleheads. Real men fly single engine Cessnas." So I went out to the garage and got into one of my aviation boxes and pulled out a toy 172.

I walked into the house, took the toy out of the plastic covering, and handed it to Wayne. He stood there for a minute with a plane in each hand, and then he showed that he is truly my son: he pitched the jet over into the toy box and started playing with the 172.

WayJay flew the Cessna around for a few minutes, then "landed" it on the ottoman. He then said "DADDY" and "took off", making a circuit around the room with his newfound airplane. Once again, he returned to the ottoman. This time he did something that was really cool.

To show you how cool it is, I have to explain that, for as long as WayJay has been alive, I have tried to make a go of it as a banner tow pilot. I was towing banners the day he was born, and WayJay grew up out at the airport. All the planes that I towed with had a 4 cylinder Lycoming engine, and anyone who had been around those engines knows that starting one is more art than science. They have a very distinct sound; they crank-crank-crank, pop-pop-pop, and then they roar to life.

So, back to Wayne: the plane is on the ottoman, and I hear WayJay go, rrrrr rrrr rrrrr, pop pop RMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM and the plane takes off. Shea looked at me and said, "Did you hear him imitate you starting the airplane?" We laughed about it and sat back to watch what he would do next.

WayJay then flew the plane around with his pacifier hooked to the back of the airplane by its lanyard. He was towing it with the plane. My little boy was pretending he was towing a banner! He then went over to the ottoman, made the plane dive down and pull steeply up as he dropped the pacifier onto the floor. He had just imitated me doing a banner drop.

There are two cool things about this story. First, it's been over a year since WayJay has seen me tow a banner. He's pulled this from memory. The second, and coolest, thing is that imaginative play like this is unusual in autistic children. For Wayne to switch from zooming around in the jet to pretending to be banner towing with the 172 shows not only that he understands the function of an airplane, but that he understands that different planes do different things. Most of all, he knows his daddy flys a Cessna 172, and he's a wicked good banner tow pilot.

Follow this blog! Click on the 'Follow' button on the left sidebar. Coming up in the near future, if I survive camping in the rain over Labor Day, is a posting on how to make sopapillas. Oh, and we're doing Navajo Tacos while camping, and I'm planning on blogging about that. You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mary Trimble Reviews Lucy Shook's Letters From Afghanistan

I don't know if you remember me blogging about my July 4th experience this year, manning the booth for SWAN. My job was to talk with people about this humanitarian outreach organization that gives microloans to poor women in Bolivia and sell books. One hundred per cent of the proceeds from Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan and a portion of each copy of Counting the Cost go to SWAN, so I was vigorously hawking them.

Next to my spot was a table of local authors selling their books. I got acquainted and was delighted when they dropped by my booth. One of them, Mary Trimble, bought Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan. A former Peace Corps volunteer, her heart is definitely in outreach to developing countries.

Mary and I found we had another common interest: writing about high desert and ranching. Her books Rosemount and McClellan's Bluff are about a young woman who lives on a ranch in the Northwest.

Mary has a great blog. I got permission to post her review of Letters here, but I hope you'll visit her blog to see what else she has written about. Today she has a great article about emergency preparedness kits.

Here is Mary's Trimble's posting about the book she bought at my booth on July 4:

Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan
, edited by Shook’s daughter Liz Adair and granddaughters Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, is an amazing chronicle of an American woman’s view of Afghanistan from 1965 to 1970.

Serving with the United States’ Agency for International Development, Lucy’s husband, Jim, works in agricultural development while Lucy oversees their life in an Islamic country she describes as "2,000 years behind the times."

Shook soon finds that running a home staffed with servants isn’t fully utilizing her capabilities and she takes on the responsibility of a Staff House, a respite for visitors. Along the way, she becomes involved in the lives of those who work for her. She endears herself to these hard-working people of grinding poverty, people who are capable of such love and dedication that she is often moved to tears.

In the course of business or pleasure, the Shooks travel throughout Afghanistan, taking the reader along on camel rides, desert markets, and the oddities of doing business in a third-world country.

Shook successfully manages both her home and the Staff House and becomes known as an expert hostess. Indeed, she frequently manages two or three events in a day, often honoring dignitaries with 150 or 200 guests in attendance.

During their tenure in Afghanistan, Lucy suffered a severely broken leg and several environmental illnesses; Jim recovered from a heart attack and also had sundry illnesses. But they forged on, bolstered by their strong Mormon faith, relying on the love for family, and gathering strength from letters from home.

Shook’s letters to her children reveal great compassion for life and for doing her very best with materials at hand, all with honesty and openness to her own short-comings. Her witty and loving approach to her fellow man endears her not only to those she served, but to her readers as well.

On a personal note, as a former Peace Corps volunteer (1979-1981, The Gambia, West Africa), I appreciated her involvement with the Afghanistan volunteers. Living at the other end of the spectrum, Peace Corps volunteers don’t usually have much in the way of luxuries such as air conditioning, a balanced diet, even opportunities to carry on a conversation in English. Being invited to the Staff House must have seemed like heaven on earth to those volunteers.

Afghanistan has now become a household name, yet I doubt if the people have changed that much since the Shooks lived among them. I highly recommend this book for a look at a country few of us understand; at a people fierce, yet loyal to a degree we seldom see in America. Books can be ordered through Liz Adair’s website is

Thanks again to Mary Trimble for that review. Don't forgot to trip on over to Mary's blog and get acquainted wih her.

Follow this blog! Click on the 'follow' button on the left sidebar. Remember, I've promised to teach you how to make sopapillas, and I'm going to review Mary Trimble's book McClellan's Bluff soon. You won't want to miss that. Also, it's apple season, and over 30 years ago, an old canner taught me how to can apples for use in pies and apple crisps. It's a simple process, but one I've never read about in books. So...stay tuned!