Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Make Navajo Tacos

Navajo tacos are a tradition when we go camping. They're easy to make and you can feed a passel of people with little fuss.

Navajo tacos consist of fried bread dough (called fry bread) topped with chili, cheese, lettuce and tomato. If you wish, you can add salsa and sour cream.

You can use your own bread dough--and that reminds me. One day in the future I'll give you my recipe. However, when we camp, we buy frozen dinner roll dough from the freezer section of the grocery store.

If we're having Navajo Tacos for dinner, I set the bag of rolls out to thaw about mid-morning. When they're squishy but still cold, I mash two together and set them on a pan I've sprayed with Pam to rise.

When the rolls have risen to double their bulk, I heat the chili. You can simply buy canned chili, or you can make your own. (There's another blog!)

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When you drop a piece of roll in it and it bubbles around it, it's hot enough. If it bubbles furiously, it's too hot. Turn the heat down and cook one of the rolls just to bring down the temperature, and try again. After one or two, you'll learn to read the temperature of the oil.

Before you drop the roll in the oil, you need to flatten it to about the thickness of a pancake. It will puff up again as it fries.

Cook the bread until it's golden brown on one side and then turn over to cook on the other side. If it's turning brown on the outside but it's still doughy on the inside, your oil is too hot.

Remove the bread and drain on a paper towel.

These are best if eaten right away. We usually cook two or three and then have people start coming through the line. We give them a piece of fry bread hot out of the oil, then they put on their own toppings that we have laid out buffet-style. If your crowd is big, you can have two or three people cooking fry bread. However, if that doesn't work out, you can hold them in a warm oven until you have enough cooked to begin.

We also have butter, powdered sugar and honey set out so everyone can have a piece of fry bread for dessert.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I 'met' Ronda Hinrichsen on line a little over a year ago and continued the acquaintance in person at a writers conference we both attended last April. We had breakfast together, and, as we talked, I was struck not only by her fine eyes and poise, but also by how dedicated she is at honing her writing skills.

Ronda’s first novel, Missing, was published last fall, and she has generously agreed to let me interview her on my blog.

Liz: Tell us a bit about yourself: where you're from, about your family.

Ronda: I’m the oldest of seven children. I was born and raised in Rexburg, Idaho, but I’ve lived the past 22+ years in Utah. I currently have a son about to return from his mission, and another son who’s been in the mission field for about 7 months.

Liz: You’re kidding! You don’t look old enough to have sons out on missions! Writing must keep you young. What is your writing schedule?

Ronda: I write almost every morning as well as throughout several evenings when the house is quiet. I do my best work in the quiet, but since solitude isn’t always possible, I also write whenever I get the chance—waiting at the doctor’s office, etc. About ten years ago, I used to have a set schedule, and that worked well for me at that time, but now. . . let’s just say I adapt writing to my changing schedule.

Liz: That’s another example of your dedication. How long have you known you wanted to be a writer?

Ronda: I was in the 6th grade. My teacher was reading S.E. Hinton’s THE OUTSIDERS to the class, and when she reached the section where Johnny urged Ponyboy to stay “gold” I realized I wanted to write "golden” words just as Hinton had. More than that, I wanted those words to encourage the "golden" in others.

Liz: It’s marvelous that you knew that early what you wanted to do. How have you learned the craft?

Ronda: I always learn a great deal about the craft of writing when I’m edited. However, I studied English in college, and I’ve read/studied TONS of “How to Write” books. Also, about 20 years ago, I started writing for magazines. I had young children and little time, so the relatively short structures and specific formats of stories and articles taught me how to use precise language and gave me the opportunity to build my portfolio of published credits.

Liz: Have you transferred what you learned in formatting of stories and articles to your novels? I guess I’m asking, do you plot your books ahead of time or just begin writing and see where it takes you?

Ronda: Both. I initially gather ideas as they come to me in a notebook, and then I begin to outline the important points of the story. I absolutely have to know my beginning and my ending or I can’t write. However, as I write from point to point, a lot of “waiting to see what happens” takes place.

Liz: What is the hardest thing about writing?

Ronda: Constantly drumming up the courage to submit my work, have it read by others, and ultimately critiqued. When it comes to writing, I have a great deal of the perfectionist in me, so I’m always afraid my work isn’t quite good enough. That said, there is nothing like the thrill I get when I learn others have enjoyed and/or been blessed by my words. That success—joy—more than compensates for my fear.

Liz: Good for you! Tell us what Missing is about.

Ronda: Missing is about a BYU-Idaho student who’s on a college choir tour in British Columbia when she sees and then searches for a child who was kidnapped from her own hometown in Rexburg. That’s the exciting part, but underneath the plot, it’s also about sacrifice and a mother’s love for her child.

Liz: I had an affinity for Missing because it’s set in the Pacific Northwest, near where I live. Why did you set this book on Vancouver Island, B.C.?

Ronda: Honestly? Because I wanted a romantic setting that hadn’t been overused. My husband and I went there for our anniversary one year. I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I’d seen. And yes, it was very romantic.

Liz: Well, that last scene in the book where Stacie is driving through the winter weather, trying to save the child was more than romantic. It was exciting, and you captured the feel of Vancouver Island in the winter very well.

Music also plays a big part in this book. Does it play a large part in your life, too?

Ronda: Yes! In relation to the use of my talents, music is second to writing. I love it. Like Stacie Cox, the main character of Missing, I’m a soprano soloist. I also teach beginning piano. In my opinion, music and words are two of the most powerful media we have. My desire is to mold those powers to influence the good in all who read or hear my work.

Liz: That already partially answers my next question: What do you want the reader to take away from this book?

Ronda: I hope readers will experience the story almost as closely as Stacie Cox (my main character) does. I hope they will enjoy it. Most of all, I hope they will feel that the time they spent with Missing will have been well worth the effort.

Liz: Have you begun your next book? What is it about?

Ronda: I’ve actually just started my third novel, but I’m also making “final” edits on my second novel, tentatively titled Trapped. I’m really excited about it. Like Missing, it takes place in an exotic location—Salzburg, Austria—and is filled with mystery, suspense, and romance. But it also has an element of fantasy. The basic premise? A young woman discovers she and her entire bloodline are under a devastating, centuries-old curse only she can end.

Liz: We’ll be looking forward to it! Thanks so much.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen’s book Missing can be purchased at or
Follow this blog! I promise Navajo Tacos THIS WEEK! Well, maybe I'd better temper that, as I'm expecting a new granddaughter tomorrow and I'll be taking care of the new one's siblings. However, I'll bet I can make it happen. They don't call me SuperGrandma for nothing! Actually, they don't call me Supergrandma at all. They call me Grandma Tudy, but that doesn't fit the situation. I'll give it my best shot, and if I succeed at posting my Navajo Taco recipe, you can all call me SuperGrandma.

2 Chances to Win a Copy of Counting the Cost

I'm going to post an interview with Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen later this afternoon, but I thought I'd better post where people can put their names in the pot to win a copy of my latest book Counting the Cost.

The first one is at Cami Checkett's blog. Click here to go there. In fact, she's giving away books all during the month of January.

The other opportunity to win a copy of the book is at Pistols and Petticoats, a site hosted by women who write about the west. Click here to go there.

In both cases, you have to comment in order to have your name in the drawing.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Four Rules for Setting Goals

I was lucky enough to spend five years as Director of Education at a Sylvan Learning Center. During that time, I not only took care of all the administrative work, but I also often got the chance to teach at the table. Because I never had more than three students, those hours were most enjoyable.

One of the courses we offered was a Study Skills Program, and one of the components of that course was goal setting. I learned a lot from teaching about goals, and it was interesting to see the successes of the students who were willing to implement this component into their scholastic lives.

That was a lot of years ago, but four things about setting goals have stuck with me:

1. Goals need to be achievable.

2. Goals need to be measureable.

3. Long range goals need to be able to be broken down into short-term and intermediate-term goals, which in turn must be achievable and measureable.

4. Goals need to be written down and posted where they will be visible to the goal-setter constantly.

In our family we often tell the goal-setting story about my mother. In early January, 1977, while on a self-improvement kick, Mom declared that she would read six uplifting religious books during the year. An avid reader, she read at least a book a week, but it was mostly fiction.

When the year was over, Mom had read nary a religious book. On January 1, 1978, she announced that this year, she was going to adjust her goal: she would read twelve uplifting, self-improvement books.

So much for being achievable.

With the four goal setting rules in mind, I’m posting my writing goals for 2010:

1. Blog at least once a week on Liz Sez and at least once a month on Make Me a Story, LDStorymaker’s writing-oriented blog.

2. Complete a new novel this year. This goal is broken down into these shorter-term goals.

A. Have the book completely blocked by January 31.

B. Have a detailed outline by February 28.

C. Have chapter thumbnails finished by March 31.

D. Write one complete chapter per week during April, May, June, July and August

E. After the manuscript sits for two months, re-write and edit during November.

Okay, folks. I think these goals are realistic and achievable, though it will take organization on my part. I've got them taped to the closet door in my office.

I’ve also got some family history goals, some exercise goals, and some religious, self-improvement goals set, but I won’t bore you with those.

I’ve got a little more than two weeks to get this book blocked out. I’ll let you know how I do. It’s going to be lite fare—more like The Mist of Quarry Harbor than Counting the Cost. There'll be some romance, some adventure, some intrigue. I'm excited about it. By posting this for all to see, I feel like I'm sure to make my goals.

But then, I think that's what my mother thought, too.


Follow this blog! I've got interviews coming up with writers Rachel Rager and Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen. I've got my world famous pancake recipe and how to make Navajo Tacos in the queue, and I'm going to review Tanya Mills' taut novel about a journalist imprisoned in modern-day Iraq.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In Praise of Antibiotics

Thank heaven for antibiotics! After suffering through my post-Christmas cold and thinking that I had finally rejoined the living, I was hit with a secondary infection that really walloped me. I am so grateful for those little two-tone pills.

I have always had a reverence for antibiotics. My mother instilled it in me as a child. Before I was born, she lost a child to pneumonia just before his first birthday because the newly-discovered ‘wonder drugs’ hadn’t yet made their way from the East Coast to provincial New Mexico.

I have a shadowbox hanging in the hall. In it is the blanket my grandmother made for this grandbaby of hers out of material from flour sacks. She gathered wool that had stuck on barbed wire fences at my uncle’s angora goat ranch and carded it for the quilt batt. Up in the corner of the shadowbox, above the picture of this brother, is a little soft-leather, high-button shoe. Bemis, the operator of the village store, gave the shoes to my mother. They were in the inventory when he bought the store, probably left over from the turn of the century.

I wrote about my brother’s death in my book, Counting the Cost:

In the early part of the twentieth century, an up-and-coming German woolen manufacturer was looking for a mordant that would bind dyes more tightly to wool. His company experimented successfully with a chemical that bore the formidable name p-aminobenzenesulfonamide. Apparently, it caused pigments in the dye to adhere to the protein in the wool.

No one remembers just how it happened, but the parent substance, sulfanilamide, came to the notice of scientists researching infectious diseases. It looked promising, and laboratories in England and the United States took up the work.

By 1936, it was known that a group of sulfonamides had a profound effect in the treatment of many deadly diseases. Known as wonder drugs, they were used successfully against scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, meningitis, gonorrhea, and pneumonia. Doctors at the hospital of the Rockefeller Institute in New York City published accounts of a dramatic drop in the mortality rate when these drugs were used.

Dr. Colbin, the aged general practitioner who cared for the poor of Sierra County, subscribed to medical journals and read them faithfully. Two months before the evening that Jimmy Swank came looking for him, he found out about sulfapyridine and its effectiveness in treating pneumococcic pneumonia.

But, knowing a drug exists and having it in your medical bag are two different things. There was no sulfapyridine available in New Mexico, no dramatic drop in the mortality rate in Sierra County, no wonder drug to save Little Emory as he burned with fever and struggled for breath.

He died in the evening of January 6, a week before his first birthday. It was so sudden. Monday he had a runny nose. Tuesday he developed a cough and a fever. Wednesday night he was dead.

My mother told me once that that was how quick it was. She had bought a little wagon in anticipation of his first birthday and kept it hidden under the bed. When she went somewhere and left my father to baby-sit, Dad got out the wagon and let the baby play with it all evening. She was mad that Dad had spoiled the surprise, that is, until the birthday came and the baby was gone.

So, thanks be to God for antibiotics. I know there are people who don’t realize we haven’t always had them, but I’m not one of them. I just had a refresher course in gratitude.
Follow this blog! I'm going to post about setting goals next time, and I've also got my world famous pancake recipe in the queue. And, I haven't forgotten that I've promised Navajo Tacos and a how-to on flour tortillas. I have to have the mood strike me to make tortillas, though. When it does, I'll be sure to take pictures and write down the recipe. I'm a 'little of this, little of that' cook. It really hampers me when I have to write down a recipe. But, I'll do it for you, dear readers!