Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Very First Blog Giveaway

My friend and ANWA* Sister, Lara Niedermeyer, lured me to her blog by posting a giveaway. All I had to do was comment and post my favorite color and I would receive a home-made prize from her some time in the next six months.

Lara writes beautiful poetry. Gorgeous, image-dripping, deep, moving poetry. When I read about the promise of a home-made prize, I thought maybe she would give me a poem, so I posted a comment and told her my favorite color was red.

Too late, I learned that there's a second part. I have to then offer a prize to the first 5 commenters on my own blog. Lara said "do likewise". Does that mean it has to be home-made? If so, both I and anyone who comments are is trouble. I don't do home-made any more. And what if I don't have 5 people read this blog, much less comment? This is really getting stressful.

So, I'm changing the rules. Here are Lara's rules (we will not follow them):

The item will be my choice made just for you!
Restrictions and Limitations:
1. I have complete creative freedom.
2. What I create will be just for you.
3. It will be done within the next 6 months.
4. You have no clue what it will be.

Here are my rules:
1. Forget the home-made. You're getting a book.
2. You may choose any of the following:
- The Lodger
- After Goliath
-Snakewater Affair
-Using Family History in Fiction (pamphlet)

All you have to do is comment on this posting, telling me which of your ancestor's stories you'd like to tell and which book you want me to send you. For instance you could say, "I love all your books, Liz. Your writing is fabulous. I'd like to tell the story of my Uncle Luke. Did I mention you're my favorite author? Send me Snakewater Affair. That's my favorite Spider Latham book."

Or, you could just say, "Uncle Luke. Snakewater."

Either one will do the job.

Then, if you're one of the first five to comment, you will need to email me your address at and I'll send you the book you requested.

If you're commentor #6 and beyond, your name goes in a drawing for a book. I'll do the drawing this coming Sunday, so you'll need to check back and see who won.

But--and here's the catch--if you have a blog, you have to post a giveaway on your blog. You can do like Lara and offer something home made and with a long lead time. If you don't have a blog, go to and begin one. It's dead easy. If I can do it, anyone can.

However, if you don't have a blog, who is going to know that you didn't post a giveaway? I mean, are there blog police that go around and check? It doesn't matter to me. What matters is that people comment, because this is going to be sooooo embarrassing if no one responds.

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*ANWA stands for American Night Writers Association. It's a writers' group made up of Latter-day Saint women. You don't have to be a writer to join. It's a great place to learn. Go to and check it out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Single Sisters or Spinsters?

I always told my daughters not to even think of marrying before age 26. The reason for that was that, looking back, I felt I was unprepared to be a wife and mother at 23. None of them listened to me. All married before age 23.

My last daughter wed a decade ago. It seems to me that nowadays, young women are waiting longer to wed. I'm amazed at their opportunities and how they are capably seizing them and doing great things. From my vantage point as a woman who grew up in a time when my sex had more limited opportunities, it's an exciting time to be a woman.

However, it seems that with the freedom and choices come new challenges that I hadn't thought about.

I had dinner with some wonderful young women in Salt Lake City the other night, and when I mentioned that I'm a blogger, one of them mentioned a fun blog she had happened across that was dedicated to being a support group for single women in the never-married category. Spinsters she called them.

I've always liked the term 'Spinster.' It has a genteel, refined-yet-independent feel to it, but, to me, is a word from another century. However, reading this blog, I think it fits.

The blog is Check it out. Then, if you know a single lady who is, say, past twenty-five that you think would be interested, pass on the link.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shoelaces That Won't Come Undone

Back a quarter century ago, when I was trying to get a double knot out of three-year-old Clay's shoe, my friend Barb Brainard taught me how to tie a bow knot that would not come undone, yet could be released by pulling on one end, just like a regular bow knot. Since in our church we call members of our congregation Brother and Sister, Clay and I started calling this the 'Sister Brainard Knot' and it has kept that name through the years.

I will now instruct you in the art of tying the Sister Brainard Knot.

Begin as you would a regular bow knot by tying right-over-left and pulling it tight.

Tie the bunny ear as a regular bow knot, but do that about 2-to-three inches above where your first knot was, leaving an empty circle between the two knots.

Take one ear and adjacent lace end and bring them through the circle between the bunny ears and the first knot.

Pull the ears tight, just as you would on a regular bow knot.

You now have your laces tied in a knot that will not come undone.

To undo the knot, just pull on one of the shoelace ends. It offers just a bit more resistance than a regular bow knot.

Now, go and teach someone else how to do this revolutionary knot! sure you don't miss out on the next revolutionary knot, recipe, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button. 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, April 17, 2009

Liz Adair's No-Joes, A Healthy French Fry Alternative

I tend to avoid all things carbohydrate. I do it for my thighs. It’s not sugar so much as bread that is my downfall. I absolutely adore bread and could live on bread alone. The scriptures say that man cannot live by bread alone, so I and my thighs take that very seriously.

But every now and then I will relent in my no-carbs-in-the-house crusade and bring home a potato or two.

I think potatoes have been given a bum rap in the last decade or so about being unhealthy. The Potato Council nutrition page shows that potatoes are a good source of: • Vitamin C • Vitamin B1 • Vitamin B6 • Folic acid • Iron and • Potassium. They definitely count in the 5 servings of vegetables and fruits we are encouraged to eat every day. I think it must be the way they’re prepared and served that is so unhealthy: fried or slathered in sour cream. Mmm-mmm. It doesn’t get any better than that.

But, the Adair household is dedicated to healthy eating, and I’ve come up with a healthy French fryesque way of fixing potatoes that go great with hamburgers. (Can you mention healthy eating and hamburgers in the same breath?) Anyway, I call these potatoes No-Joes. It’s Jo-Joes minus the grease.

Here’s how you do it:

Arrange both racks in your oven to be in the bottom half. Preheat the oven to 450 while you’re fixing the potatoes.

Figure one small or medium sized potato per person.

Scrub the potato, then slice it into ¼-inch-thick slices. You’ll end up with lots of circles.

Spray a flat baking pan with cooking spray and arrange the circles close together and salt them liberally. Put in the pan on the bottom rack and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Move the pan to the top rack (located about mid-oven) and turn on the broiler.

This is where you need to check them frequently, for you want the potatoes to be just nicely browned. If you get involved in something else you can end up with miniature hockey pucks.

You can see that I did some sweet potatoes. I peeled them first, but they're wonderful done this way, too.

If you’re feeding a crowd, you can do several pans on the bottom shelf, set them aside and then do the broiling step so you can have plenty in a lot less time.

Bring out the ketchup, and enjoy. Your thighs will thank you.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother by Kersten Campbell

Kersten Campbell doesn’t look like a writer of humorous, harried-mother stories. She looks like a romance writer, with that long, red hair curling fetchingly and limpid blue eyes set in a pretty oval face.
However, when she smiles, you see it. A mischievous twinkle edges out limpidity, and you’re ready to laugh with her.

I had the pleasure of doing the Ladies’ Night Out at CTR Books in Bellingham, WA a couple weeks ago, and I got to spend a few minutes chatting with Kersten. I also got to listen to her read aloud from Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother. I had already read her book, and so I was surprised with how pulled in I was as she read a passage that I remembered quite well. I think it’s because Kersten’s stories are written so they’re just begging to be read aloud.

Each humorous essay is short and easy to identify with. I’ve been an empty nester for a decade, but I still nod my head and laugh out loud as Kersten describes my mothering experience to a T. Here’s a random sample, from the chapter entitled New Year’s Resolution:

This is the year I will get organized. I will clean up that five foot high mound of coats by the front door. I will no longer store spaghetti sauce with the kids’ underwear. No more crusty gooey stains on the shelves of my refrigerator. I will (gulp) fold clothes. And last but not least…I vow to rid my world of all knickknack items. That is why I have turned into “High-Strung, Fierce Junk Annihilator Mommy.”

What follows are the steps in Kersten’s abortive attempt to rid her house of superfluous stuff. We’ve all been there.

Here’s a hint: Mother’s Day is coming. This is a lighthearted little book that would brighten any mother’s day.

If you’re a lucky recipient and feel that you’ve just got to share a story or two with someone, go ahead and do it, for Kersten’s stories are even better read aloud.
To read additional humorous essays on the family and to share your own funny stories, check out Kersten's web site at
And by the way, Kersten will be a presenter at the ANWA (American Night Writers Association) fall retreat at Silver Lake, Washington. If you're interested in attending, email me at

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Monday, April 13, 2009

My Most Important Review

As soon as copies of my latest book, Counting the Cost, arrived, I signed one in extra large handwriting, packaged it up, and sent it to my ninety-five year old uncle.

Uncle Nate is the last of my mother’s eight siblings alive. I haven’t seen him in at least ten years--about five years after the picture above was taken. Nate is on the left. His brother Emory is on the right, and his sister Gertrude is in the middle.

I sent the book to Uncle Nate because Counting the Cost is full of his family’s history and I wanted to get his blessing.

I didn’t hear back for a long time, and didn’t know how to interpret that silence, but he called me about a week ago and told me that he had finally finished the book. He has macular degeneration and had to depend on his daughter to come and read the book aloud to him. It took about a month to finish it, but he had her record it, and he has a boxful of tapes so he can ‘read’ it again.

Uncle Nate gave my book his blessing. He recognized that the cowboy parts were based on his brother Emory’s experiences, and he grew tender as he spoke of how Emory had been a father figure to him, how he was always square and true. He recognized, too that the hero, Heck, was based on another brother, Curtis, though he called him, ‘that old boy.’ “When I read about that motorcycle,” he said, “I knew how it was gonna’ end.”

The last time Nate saw Curtis was when he, Nate, got on the bus to go to the army. America was gearing up for war, and Curtis wept when he said good bye, fearful that Nate wouldn’t return. Life is full of irony.

The picture below is of Nate, home on leave, holding my brother Ron. Behind him is one of the adobe walls of a building in Las Palomas. If you've read Counting the Cost, you'll recognize the setting.

I’ve been sending out review copies of the book these last few weeks, but somehow, I think I just got the only review that really matters. Uncle Nate loved the book.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Serving the Nameless Dead in Sedro Woolley

Sedro Woolley, the town in Northwest Washington State where I live, was the home of Northern State Hospital for the Insane from 1910 to 1976. Covering approximately 1200 acres, it was a self-sufficient little farm colony with about 400 acres of garden space, an equal amount of pasture, a dairy, herds of pigs and cows, flocks of chickens, and processing plants for all that food, including a cannery. Inmates worked on the farm and in all the ancillary activities that had to do with a small, self-contained village. There was even a crematorium, for most people who came stayed the rest of their lives.

Built in a style called Spanish Revival, the campus was beautiful, with about 40 acres of landscaped, formal gardens. There are several web sites that have photo montages of the campus as it was, and other sites have pictures of the buildings as they are now.

Some of the buildings are currently being used for a Jobs Corps campus. A ways away from that area, the old complex of barns (picture below) is slowly tumbling down. They’re made of brick, so it may take a while.

You can park below the barns and ramble around the acreage on old roads and trails. There’s a great Frisbee golf course laid out, and it’s a dog friendly place. That’s why I was there the other day. I went with a friend and her two German Shepherds.

My friend took me up to the cemetery. About an acre in size and ringed with barbed wire, it looked like a cow pasture. As we walked across it to get to a single headstone on the far perimeter, our feet squished in the spongy soil, even though we had had several dry days in a row.

We saw a few small, round concrete markers that sat flush with the ground that had only a number and initials on them. There might have been twenty in all.

At the entrance to the cemetery, there’s a new brick monument-type wall with a plaque that says it is dedicated to the 1487 people who are buried in the cemetery. Looking around, it didn’t look to me as if the cemetery population was that large, so I came home and did some on-line research.

A man by the name of Noel V. Bourasaw, editor of the on-line Skagit River Journal, has written a nice history of Northern State Hospital, and he also has included a history of the cemetery written by Dave Evans. Mr. Evans recently worked on a project to identify all the people who were buried in the cemetery, but because of the way they marked the graves with simply initials and the hospital identification number, a lot of the information has been lost. He was unable to find a complete master key that cross referenced with the few markers that are left or that mapped out where in that acre of ground each person was interred.

Another thing that made identification harder was that, apparently, inmates performed the cemetery maintenance chores, and they would often lift out the round concrete markers to make mowing easier. They didn’t always get put back. Then, too, the ashes of cremated inmates didn’t always get buried. When the state closed the hospital, they found about two hundred tin cans stacked in a shed. Each can was filled with ashes and identified with the same pattern of initials and numbers that were used on the concrete grave markers. The cans were moved to a municipal cemetery shed where they languished for another period of years before they were finally buried, some of them forty years after cremation.

As Dave Evans worked at his identification project, he contacted next of kin whenever he could find any, but only had two people claim remains. Then he, along with Bob Cockburn and Cookson Beecher, worked for years to gather funds and set up a memorial marker to remember these forgotten people who had lived their last years in our area.

As Latter-day Saints, we’re used to serving the departed. We do that when we do our genealogy, when we tell family stories in Family Home Evening, and when we go to the temple. But the people we serve have names. They’ve been identified and tied us by blood. Standing there, reading that plaque, I was struck by the goodness of these men--Mr. Evans, Mr. Cockburn, and Mr. Cookson--who spent all that time and energy lobbying and working so that these people they didn’t even know, people who lived a cloistered existence, people often forgotten by their families while they were alive, wouldn’t be completely forgotten in death.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Stop on the Life is Tough Virtual Tour

This is the second stop on the virtual book tour for Stacy Gooch-Anderson’s new book, Life is Tough, I Doubt I’ll Make it Out Alive. Each of these stops has a Life Saver that Stacy will expand on at her blog, Stayin’ Alive With Stacy. Here’s the one for this stop:

“Space can be a dangerous place, especially if it’s between your ears!”

Stacy Gooch-Anderson is a woman after my own heart. To look at her, especially as she appears on TV as she does her book tours, you think she’s this polished, one-hundred-percent successful, got-it-together, power woman who has it all and can do it all.

But in her latest book, Life is Tough, she bravely reveals she’s just like you and me. Maybe I shouldn’t lump you in there, but I certainly identify with the stories Stacy tells in this humorous look back on her life.

Stacy’s growing-up family was different from mine. She had four rowdy brothers that got a kick out of flatulence and phlegm. I get the idea from the stories she tells that there was lots of activity in the household. Our family was quieter; we usually all sat around with our noses in books. However, the inner, awkward, often disastrous search for confidence that Stacy portrays is spot-on. That’s my story, too. I can identify. It seems to me that Stacy’s laughing about it and letting the world laugh with her shows that she’s achieved that confidence.

One of my favorite stories is about Stacy’s first experience on skis. It’s a very small story, but really spoke to me, because I was a very timid skier, and my brother did downhill racing. I laughed out loud as she described the aftermath of falling off the ski lift:

…I lost my balance and ended up sitting on my skis because weak knees and cement-like boots didn’t allow me the luxury of standing up like a human being. I must admit, however, that I did learn a few lessons in physics and aerodynamics that day. The reduced wind resistance allowed me to barrel down the slope like a flashy blue bowling ball, indiscriminately striking ski patrons and leaving a wake of destruction and flailing bodies.

When I asked Stacy if she really fell off the ski lift, she said,

“Unfortunately that is true. I am a self avowed clod and I did barrel down the hill bowling people over. God saved the masses and gave me bad knees which required surgery at age 17 and a half. Those who knew me best hid my skis for the duration of that winter. I still haven't found them....;-)”

Stacy’s stories about parenting are funny and poignant and strike familiar chords as well. The one about wanting to strangle a certain challenging child every day until the day he accidently strangled himself was choice, because after she gave the child CPR and called her husband about the incident, she discovered they had a pool at the office about that child’s next emergency incident and whether CPR would be necessary. A fellow by the name of Josh won the pool.

Stacy begins each chapter with a pithy saying, and the book is worth the price just for those chapter headings. My favorite is: “She who never gives up still has hope, and maybe someday that hope can reap miracles. This is true of any heavy burden, whether upon one’s inner soul or upon one’s inner thigh.” Do you see why I identify with her?

The picture on the front of the book says it all: pictures of toast in various stages of brownness. We all know which one we are. We’re with Stacy: the burnt one on the end.

You can buy Stacy’s book at Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Deseret Book and Seagull books.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

LiZ Adair's Sour Cream Lemon Pie

I had a small commercial bakery for most of the 80s and part of the 90s. My main focus was home-made pies for restaurants, and I made about 300 pies from scratch each week to supply twenty restaurants.

That was a long time ago, and nowadays, holidays are my only pie-making times. The family usually requests banana cream and sour cream lemon. You can find recipes for banana cream pie pretty much anywhere, but the sour cream lemon pie recipe is my own.

Today I’m going to share it with you just in case you’d like to have it for your Easter feast.

This is a one-crust pie. The crust is baked first and the filling is cooked and poured into the pie shell. You can either buy a frozen pie shell or make your own.
I blogged about making a tender, flaky crust when I wrote about how to have a successful apple pie service project. If you want to make your own crust, just follow those directions for one batch of pie crust mix, and that should equal two pie shells. Or, you can purchase a graham cracker crust.

This recipe will fill a nine-inch pie shell—and by the way, I used a store-bought crust for the one in the picture.

In a heavy saucepan or double boiler, mix together:
1½ cups sour cream
1 ½ cups sugar

When they’re well blended, add
4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition

When the eggs are thoroughly mixed in, add grated zest from two lemons (or limes--I actually make my pies with limes rather than lemons, because I always have limes in the house).

Then, dissolve ¼ cup cornstarch in ¼ cup water and add to sour cream/sugar mixture.

Place on the stove burner and stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
With a saucepan, turn the stove to a range between medium and low. Use medium-high heat with a double boiler.

If your burner is too hot, the filling will scorch. If that happens, don’t despair. It won’t ruin it. As I was making the pie pictured at left, I got distracted and scorched it. If you look closely, you can see the little brown flecks. Just act as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be and people will still rave about it.

When the mixture thickens, pull it off the stove and add ½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon (or lime) juice. This makes a very tangy pie. You may want to taste as you go along, as you may not like the pie as tart as my family likes it.

Pour it into the pie shell. Put a covering of saran directly on the filling, but don’t pull it over the crust. This will keep a skin from forming on the top of the filling.
Put it in the fridge to cool for at least several hours.
Serve with a garnish of whipped cream.
Let me know how it turns out!
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