Thursday, September 3, 2015

World of Writing, interview

-- World of Writing -- 

Our guest today is: Donna Baier Stein - the author of Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award finalist and 2015 IndieBook Awards finalist) and Sometimes You Sense the Difference. An earlier version of The Silver Baron’s Wife won the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Her work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Confrontation, and many other journals and has earned three Pushcart nominations. She also received a Bread Loaf Scholarship, Johns Hopkins University MFA Fellowship. Find out more about this accomplished writer at:

Q: Tell us about the workshops or events you offer.

A: I teach writing workshops in person in Summit, New Jersey, and Bernardsville, New Jersey… and online through the literary magazine I publish, Tiferet Journal. The courses I offer are Short Story Writing, Where Do I Begin?, Poetry Writing, and Spiritual Writing. I love teaching writers at all stages of their journeys and firmly believe that we learn as we teach. So I am always looking for new ways to present the material and share my own discoveries about the writing life with my students.

Q: What inspired you to write?

A: I’ve written since I was a little girl. One of my first stories was called “Melissa in Book World.” The main character lived underwater in a world of books. I think I was inspired to write by my love of reading. I used to read in the shower, holding a paperback book far away from me. And for some reason, my parents let me read at the dinner table! I loved the way stories engaged me, and I loved seeing what authors could do with language.

Q: How long will we wait for your next book? / What are your current projects?

A: My first story collection, Sympathetic People, was published in December 2013. My novel, The Silver Baron’s Wife, will be out later this year. I’m working on a second collection of stories based on paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and should complete that before the end of this year. I also have a poetry book I want to get in shape for submission, but that’s on the back burner right now.

Q: Do you use any set formula when writing a book?

A: My goal is to write for at least 25 minutes every day. Usually, I’ll for 3-4 hours most mornings. I find that keeping track of my writing time motivates me. I don’t use an outline but write a very rough first draft then start researching to fill out details. One of my favorite things about the writing process is the synchronicity of finding unexpected plot elements through my research.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your writings and why do you feel you choose some over others?

A: With this second story collection, I’m getting my ideas by looking at paintings. I imagine who the characters portrayed there are and what they are doing in their lives. It’s a fun way to work. My novel is based on a woman—Colorado’s Baby Doe Tabor--whose life has fascinated me since I was a child. I also keep a list of ideas for future stories and novels; there never seems to be a shortage.

Q: What was your path to publication?

A: It’s been a long but steadily uphill one so far! For many years, I only wrote part-time while working as a freelance copywriter and raising my children. I got an MFA when I was 40 and submitted my thesis to the Iowa Fiction Awards. Judge Marilynne Robinson named it a finalist. I was thrilled. I spent the next years revising stories and occasionally sending the manuscript out for possible publication. Most of my writing time was spent writing new stories and poems, most of which were published in literary journals. Some of them won awards. I wrote my first novel, which won the PEN/New England Discovery Award in 1998 and had a top agent at William Morris represent me. We came close to getting an offer from Crown but did not. So I took the book back and rewrote it. Finally I sent my story collection manuscript to a wonderful small press and they said, “Yes”. So much of this writing journey is about persistence in the face of rejection!

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Enjoy A Playground all Year Long, part 4

Two ways communities can prepare public playgrounds for spring:

Today’s article was written by Meagan Deacon... it was a bit long so I've split it into a few parts... today is part 1.   Megan invites our readers to check out ParknPool - the leading online supplier of commercial grade site amenities and furnishings such as picnic tables, park benches, trash receptacles, drinking fountains, bleachers and playgrounds. It is important to us that all kids and adults spend as much time in the outdoors as possible. For more information visit

Part 1 published September 17th:

One great way to welcome Spring in your town or community is to dress up public parks and playgrounds. These communal areas are ideal for families to gather with friends and neighbors for an afternoon picnic or a session enjoying the playground. Of course, these public parks or backyard playgrounds may need a little tender, love and care before they are fully ready for use.

  • Check for Equipment Wear and Tear: Most playground equipment is designed to be strong and safe for years to come, but it never hurts to be cautious when dealing with something children use on a regular basis. As the snow and ice begins to melt away, one of the first things your town's park and recreation department should focus on is inspecting the condition of local playgrounds. After several months of winter snow and inconsistent maintenance, it's possible that a fair amount of weather damage could have occurred. The next step should be to start working on the park grounds. For starters, months of suffocating under heavy snow may have left the grassy lawns of the park brown, dead or in an unattractive state. You may want to inspect the quality of any wood chips, rubber padding, or other soft material around the playgrounds as well.

  • Incorporate Spring Elements: Consider planting a variety of colorful and beautiful flowers in garden patches around the space to create an inviting seasonal appeal. You may also want to add some new paint to any areas of the playground that may need a little extra color, such as park benches, water fountains, or shelters. When you feel that your playground equipment and park grounds are almost ready for public use, the last step is sprucing up the area for Spring!

    * Note from Lillian Brummet: Consider getting together with other family members, friends or members of other groups to clean up playgrounds, trails, beaches and other places that you plan to frequent that year. Have members keep an eye out for places that could use some cleanup activities and get them to bring it to everyone's attention. As a group, these activities can be fun. Games and prizes can be created. Special meals can be prepared.

    Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: 


Caring for Elderly Parents

*Today's article was written by: Ashikur Rahman

 -- Caring for Elderly Parents --

Caring for elderly parents is never easy. It requires much patience and effort. The reward attained, however, is worth every bit of effort you can make. Rather than doing it alone, you should take help of your siblings as their support can be precious. Family dynamics could get difficult to manage at times but with the following strategies you will learn to shed off your load and be closer to your family as well by sharing responsibilities.

Emotional management
• Learn to respect each other's differences as your opinions may differ from those of your siblings. You should respect everyone's different way of wanting to contribute to the parent's benefits even if it does not match your opinions.

• When people watch their parents grow old, they get depressed and uncomfortable thinking about death and old age. By joining groups for support or reading something, spiritual may help calm you down.

• Letting go past conflicts is imperative for a healthy relationship in the present. You should sort out your conflicts and rivalries and make peace with the present.

• Every individual has their families, jobs and other responsibilities to handle.
Handling caregiving of parents with all those other responsibilities can be challenging. It is, therefore, important for you to set realistic goals by setting your priorities.

• You totally deserve a break. You can find some alternative activity for your parents to do so they can get busy with it while you get to have some time alone for yourself or your children. It will help you regain your strength and freshen you up

• Always be compassionate towards your parents and let them know how much you love them. Be gentle with them and always be grateful for whatever your parents have done for you.

Logistic management
• Record maintenance: siblings might have certain difficult issues to deal with. They could be medical, legal or financial. If you make proper documents, misunderstandings can be prevented.

• Delegating duties: all siblings can contribute towards their parents care by evaluating their capabilities.

• Encouraging independence: you should support your parents in protecting their dignity. Make necessary adjustments to help them care for their self, so they stay independent for as long as they can.

• Professional consultation: you can coordinate with your siblings and care for your parents together by consulting social workers and family physicians.
• Information sharing: all the siblings should exchange updates to each other after they call or visit the parents. Whatever the siblings' research about aging, they should share with each other.

• Holding a meeting including the whole family: if you talk about ways of taking care of your parents before an unfortunate emergency, you can avoid many problems. Even if your siblings live elsewhere and there are long distances between you, gather everyone together at the same place and talk about all important matters.

• Asking for assistance: you can always rely on your siblings for help. You can let them know you need help without making them guilty.

By planning for this life stage in advance along with your siblings, you can make caregiving much easier. Learn to enjoy your parents company and always love them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Product review

-- Product Review -- 

Midori Spring's Ceremonial Matcha is 100% organic, gluten free, gmo free, pesticide free, vegan and also kosher certified. You won’t find any soy or wheat or any other additives; this is a pure product. The leaves are harvested from the finest shade-grown tea gardens in the regions of Aichi and Kagoshima in Japan and it is “certified and tested by 9th degree tea masters” to ensure perfection” (according to the company). Midori Spring is so confident in their product they offer a 100% quality satisfaction guarantee.

Initially, the communications for this review project started around July 9th, and the product was sent our way soon after that. Amazon’s order confirmation gave us a wide date range for delivery: July 23 – August 3rd, however we picked up on July 18th. It arrived in a 7.5” wide X 8.5” height X 5.5” tall box with a lot of excess air bubble packaging – the box was way bigger than necessary for the tin of tea powder.

While I am familiar with green tea and some other teas (blck, red, brown and white) made from the same variety of plants, I was new to matcha… so I did some research online. Here is what I found out:

Matcha is a flour-like powder “super-food” made from green tea leaves, used traditionally for ceremonial purposes mainly in Japan. It is considered special because it allows the user to benefit from the whole leaf. Green tea as many people are already aware is a powerful health food, rich in antioxidants (higher than pomegranate and goji or wolf berries; more than 137 times than what is found in steeped tea) and nutrients. The tea will increase a calm alertness due to a small amount of l-theanine and caffeine that it contains – it has less caffeine than the more mature brown, red or black leaves of the same plant, however. Green tea is also known to improve metabolism, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and encourages elimination of toxins and chemicals. Matcha also has the highest known rating for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It also offers cancer fighting Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCg).

There are different classes of this ceremonial tea – this brand falls under the “emerald” class, which equates to a mid-range level of grades in quality. The higher the quality means there will be a higher price. This brand is a product of Japan but is distributed by Life & Food Inc. (Silver Springs NV - USA)

This product comes housed inside a nice, compact, reusable aluminum tin. Inside the tin, there was a non-recyclable 100g. foil bag that you have to cut open to get at the product.

When I opened the food-grade envelope I discovered a very fine, flour-like powder that was bright green in color. The powder can be air borne easily so be careful when using not to stir it up to much or breath in the dust.  The company recommends keeping the envelope intact, resealing it to keep the product fresh.

I have a sensitive stomach that reacts to black, white, red and green teas (tea variations made from the same plant) – so we use this product in our yogurt or milk based fruit smoothies (instead of other suggestions by reviewers and the company website) and because smoothies are made in our Vitamix blender the powder is mixed in really well, without common clumping issues. The powder has a slight green vegetable, sweet-like aroma.

Ying, my contact from Midori Spring (, offered several resources for our readers to learn more about the brewing process, recipes and answers to common questions: has a retail list price of $30.46 (US) for this product. While offers this product to Canadians for $42.05 (CDN). 

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Quote of the Day

-- Quote of the Day -- 

“zen in its essence is the art 

of seeing into the nature

 of one’s own being.” 

~ D. T. Suzuki

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Planning A Fun Family Road Trip

*Today's article was written by: Judith Villarreal who invites you to find more ideas and tips on how to make sure you have fun family trips - click here or go to to learn more.

 -- Planning A Fun Family Road Trip --

There's really nothing more exciting than rounding up the gang together for a fun family trip. As summer takes a firmer grip on the days, one of the best (and certainly kid approved) ways to celebrate is with a road trip. As a classic way to gather the whole crew up for a week or so of bonding, the road trip is often overlooked as an activity that needs planning because the destination will offer up the fun. However, as it's often said: getting there is half the fun! Keep these awesome 10 things in mind when your family adventure rolls around.

1. Pack fun car games to keep the family entertained
Keep a variety of giggle inducing games that are car friendly to keep boredom away. You'll never have to hear another "Are we there yet?" from your squirmy kids in the backseat. A few ideas for games for your family fun trips are Mad Libs, I Spy, Car Bingo, and Name That Tune.

2. Pack yummy snacks for the road
Don't rely on the roadside convenience stores to satisfy your snack attacks. Having prepared snacks is a great way to keep any tummies from rumbling with the peace of mind that you know what exactly is going into your family's bellies. Wouldn't you rather feed your family wholesome cut veggies, sandwich squares, and juice than the sugary sodas and questionable hot dogs you'll find in a gas station?

3. Book an awesome hotel
Ensure your fun family trips go smoother than a jar of creamy Jiffy by carefully booking your hotel. You want to make sure that it has something that the whole family can enjoy like swimming pools, breakfasts, cable, and all sorts of other awesome goodies.

4. Go on adventurous tours
Skip the boring tours and opt for ones that offer a more memorable experience like ghost tours, dollhouse museums, or safari rides at a wild life center.

5. Do your research
Wherever your final destination is pinned, make sure you have a list of things to see and do before you get there.

6. Take a camera
With all of the excitement of the pending trip, cameras are sometimes forgotten. Be sure you won't miss special moments of your fun family trips by remembering to pack your camera, charger, and spare battery.

7. Get some fresh air
When you're planning out your days, don't forget to add a few trips that will offer outdoor fun and sunshine to give the little ones room to run around and stretch their legs.

8. Check out cheesy landmarks
Every city has cheesy landmarks. Go to each one and snap a silly photo.

9. Have some little-people time
Carve out a very special day that's all about the kiddos. Maybe you decide to head to a train museum that you know they'll love.

10. Have some grown up time
Don't forget to have some special grown up time too, though! Whether it's a nice dinner with wine or antiquing, be sure to include fun for the grown ups too.

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Product Review

 -- Product Review --

The only really good pair of scissors I’ve seen in my lifetime belonged to my late mother, who had a professional pair of tailor scissors that lasted her lifetime; they were inherited by a sewer in the family, along with her prized sewing machine. I was never allowed to touch those scissors but saw her use them to earn extra money as a single mother of 3, and to make all kinds of clothing and quilts for the family as the years passed by. I’ve been looking for a pair like those my entire life and now at 45 years young I finally found them.

Frank Garcia, owner of the Brickhouse Products Company (a.k.a Evergreen Supply), offered a pair of their amazing, all-purpose scissors as a review project around the third week of July. Amazon’s order confirmation gave an estimated delivery date of July 14th, however we picked up on July 18th, which was the next time my husband had time to cross the border (a couple miles south of us) to the mail service we use there. The scissors arrived in a yellow bubble padded envelope (11” X 14”), and were housed in a glossy black, thick cardboard box with the company logo embossed on the front and inside of the box. The box could make a good storage container keeping the scissors safe, but also keeping cupboards and drawers safe from the blades.

These scissors come pre-oiled and very sharp – they have an ideal shape and angle for almost any cutting project. The design allows for a comfortable, ergonomically correct grip with rubber-coated handles. The blades will, according to the company, stay sharp and are made of high carbon steel (stronger than stainless steel), and will reportedly last a lifetime. In fact the company offers a 100% money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with their product!

These right-handed, high quality scissors weigh 7.4 ounces, and are approximately 9” long X .5” thick X 3.2” wide (at the handle) in size.

Sadly these are not available on for Canadians, but they can be found on where they have a list price of $47.99 but are currently on sale for $23.95.

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: