The Skinny on Kale

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Welcome to the second Health and Wellness Wednesday. Today, I’m honored to have Karen McFarland guest posting. She’s got lots of tips and great info to share with us about kale.

Take it away Karen.

Thanks, Lynn.

It seems that some of our friends have health concerns that have caused them to be very sick with headaches, food allergies, inflammation, acid reflux, and toxins—yeah, you got it—nasty stuff.

Are you having those issues, too?

I’m here to share the skinny on something that can help you feel better. It might not be on your list of favorites, but when I share with you some of its awesome benefits, you may just change your mind.

What am I talking about?

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Home grown Kale, upper left corner. Photo via Jenny Hansen.

I’m talking about Kale.

Kale?

Yes, kale.

Kale is the sexiest of all vegetables. Yeah, I said sexy. Why? Because it provides a rich earthy succulent flavor and packs more nutritional value with fewer calories than almost any other food on earth. And the cool thing is, it can be found in markets throughout the year with its season reaching a peak from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring when it has a sweeter taste, especially the Tuscan variety, and it’s more widely available.

Like its cousins the broccoli, cauliflower, and collards, kale is a descendent of the wild cabbage, a plant that is thought to have originated in Asia Minor and brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by a faction of crazy Celtics.

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Photo by Jenny Hansen

Curly kale played an important role in early Europe, having been an important crop during ancient Rome and a popular vegetable eaten by peasants throughout the Middle Ages. It was English settlers who brought kale to North America in the 17th century.

So let’s take a look at the benefits of this sexy vegetable, shall we?

First of all, this bad boy Kale has some of the best cholesterol–lowering benefits of any vegetable around. It has recently been proven to lower the risk of certain types of malignancy such as cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate.

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Photo via Diana Beebe – WANA Commons

It is now recognized as promoting comprehensive support for our body’s detoxification system, even helping to regulate detox at a genetic level, whoa…while playing a major dietary role as respects to both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Okay, now that I’ve convinced you, how do I eat it, you say?

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Photo via Jenny Hansen

 

Well, if you want to heat it up–I mean cook it, you will want to prepare it properly. To do this you want to ensure quick and even cooking by cutting the leaves into ½” slices and ¼” stems then let them sit for approximately 5 minutes to enhance its health promoting properties, then steam it for another 5. Voila, you’re done.

But one of the best ways to enjoy Kale is fresh in a salad. And the most desirable trick is to give it a massage. Yes, I mean you need to get in there and give that sexy green vegetable a deep tissue massage. You can feel it relax as the leaves darken and shrink to almost half its volume. The flavor changes as well. In fact the color and texture will change and soften with its pre-massaged bitterness replaced by a sweet green flavor.

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Photo by Jenny Hansen

Your taste buds won’t lie, people. They will sing because it really is the king of the salad. And because you’ve massaged its leaves, *shivers*, it will have an amazing texture and just the right amount of sweet and bitter flavor so you don’t need much salad dressing. It’s suggested that all you need is a little extra virgin olive oil along with a pinch of salt and vinegar or lemon juice and you have a perfectly composed salad.

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Photo by Lynn Kelley – WANA Commons

Now, if you really want to turn things up a notch, you can juice it! That’s right. Kale gets even sexier when it’s mixed in a juice with some beets and cucumber in a carrot base. Or perhaps you might prefer an apple base instead for an even sweeter experience.

Whatever the case, you can always bank on its delicious flavor along with its awesome fresh nutritional benefits. And don’t let not having a juicer stop you. Most health markets now have juice bars which makes drinking down that bad boy that much easier and affordable.

So what do you think? Have you been in a slump? Feeling a little funky and sluggish lately? Fighting a flu or cold? Or heaven forbid you have a more serious illness? Could you be using some of that sexy Kale?

(As a sidenote: Kale is rich in vitamin K, so if you’re one that’s prone to blood clots, please eat in moderation and eat lots of garlic because it’s a natural blood thinner.)

Lg-Twitter-ShotKaren McFarland resides along the Southern California coastline as an author of literary fiction whose previous background as an accomplished interior designer made it possible for her to have worked with clients from all over the world. She is married and has two sons. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, getting lost in a book, walks along the beach, great food and conversation, shopping, smooth jazz and rock ‘n roll, driving along PCH, top fuel drags and travel.

Vist her blog here.

Are you familiar with the Dirty Dozen list and the Clean Fifteen list? Kale is on the Dirty Dozen list.

“These lists were compiled using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables after they had been washed.” Here’s the 2015 Dirty Dozen list.

 

 

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Mystery Mayhem– Make Readers Crave More

Welcome, Lois D. Brown!

Lois is here to share valuable tips for writing a good mystery. Be sure to enter the rafflecopter for a vacation getaway!

Take it away, Lois.

Thank you, Lynn!

Robbed of Soul collageEvery story is a mystery in its own right. If there is no mystery, readers won’t invest the time. They want answers.

Will the girl fall for the right guy? Will the alien kill the human? Will the idiot teenager work through her pubescent angst? Will the protagonist find the murderer before she herself is killed?

I just released Robbed of Soul, an adult mystery that combines a modern-day murder with the 150-year-old legend of Montezuma’s treasure in Utah. While this is the fifth novel I’ve published, before writing it I boned up on some elements of writing an effective mystery.

Here are six of my favorites:

Point #1: A mystery is really a collection of smaller mysteries with one “biggie” that carries through the entire book. For example, there may be a murder investigation going on, but don’t forget about the unsigned note, the threatening phone call, an unidentified skeleton, a missing person, etc. 
 
Point #2: Once you know your plot, make a list of clues you can use in your story. And don’t forget the one “crucial clue” carefully hidden so readers will remember it only when the reveal is finally given.
 
Point #3: You have to have  red herrings—bits of information designed to mislead readers. If you don’t, your reader may figure out the mystery mid book. The is the kiss of death to any novel.
 
Point #4: Motive, motive, motive. For Robbed of Soul, I interviewed a veteran police investigator. He said in real life there are only a  handful of reasons people commit crime (besides mental illness). These are: revenge, jealousy, self-protection, personal gain, and love (or hate).
 
Point #5: Have the “right” number of suspects. Some say no more than six or seven serious suspects. Any more than that and you lose your reader.

Point #6: Unlike an “action” story, mysteries must contain promises to reveal more
information. These “promises” are what make your reader turn the page. Not the
car chase or the fist fight. Don’t forget that once you make a promise of information, you must deliver or incur the wrath of your reader and collect bad reviews.

Do you like books? Do you like Zions National Park? Join the ROBBED OF SOUL book launch giveaway and you may win 3 nights in a vacation townhome in Kanab, Utah.
(Thirty minutes from Zions.) A $450 value!
(Or a $100 Amazon gift card if preferred.) 
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rescued but psychologically damaged from a failed mission, ex-CIA officer Maria Branson takes the job of police chief in the quiet town of Kanab, Utah. Rest and relaxation are the doctor’s orders. She gets neither. Instead, a missing mayor, the spirit of a dead Aztec warrior, and the over-confident-yet-attractive head of Search and Rescue await her in a town whose past has almost as many secrets as her own. As Maria investigates a modern-day murder, she disturbs a world of ancient legends and deadly curses. Yet most lethal of all is Maria’s fear someone will discover just how empty her soul really is. 

Available at Smashwords, Google Play,
and Amazon – Robbed of Soul: Legends of Treasure Book1

 

 

Thank you, Lois. Those are wonderful tips for writing a mystery novel. Congratulations on your new release. Sounds like a great mystery!

 

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Cheers for Chickpeas – Garbanzo Beans

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Welcome to the first post in my new blog series, “Health and Wellness Wednesday.”

I’m on a wonderful adventure cruising down the road to optimal health and well-being. Wow, what a difference to actually feel good and have a normal, active life! Adios, brain fog and chronic fatigue.

I’m excited to share my journey and what I’m learning with you. My three-year-old grandson, Grasshopper, is chemically sensitive to foods and things in the environment.

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Ninja Doll, Me, and Grasshopper

His mother has been playing detective, putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to eliminate and avoid things that compromise his health, and she’ll be writing some guest posts here.

As caregiver for Grasshopper and his little sister, I play an important role in working with his parents in a united effort to help him.

Many of these posts will highlight Grasshopper’s progression, plus my daughter and I will share about our own journeys to health and fitness with the hope that others can benefit from our experiences.

For this first post, let’s focus on a super healthy recipe.

I should let you know up front that I hate to cook, and if it isn’t simple, I won’t attempt it.

Homemade Hummus

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Hummus is made from chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans. Whatever you call them, they’re an amazing food that can be eaten alone, in soups, salads, curries, and other dishes.

This is a fairly easy procedure, and considering how nutritious and healthy chickpeas are, it’s worth the effort. Here are some of their benefits:

  • Helps you feel fuller so you eat less in between meals
  • Helps regulate blood sugar
  • Great source of fiber that aids your digestive system
  • Supports the cardiovascular system and can help lower your LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides
  • A good antioxidant
  • Good source of protein

For more details, check out The World’s Healthiest Foods link,

Ingredients you will need:

DSC039831 teaspoon tahini
Juice from one lemon (or lime)
Two cups cooked chickpeas
¼ cup olive oil
Dash of sea salt
5 peperoncinis
¼ cup peperoncini juice (from the jar of    peperoncinis)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup water

You can buy canned garbanzo beans (already cooked), but first you might want to read about possible health issues HERE and HERE.

I got my dry garbanzo beans (about three cups) from the bulk bin at Sprouts.

DSC03955First, rinse them. Next, presoak them for about eight hours. I soaked mine in the fridge overnight. For the quicker method, read about it below.

Presoaking helps reduce raffinose-type oligosaccharides. Say what? Basically, it will help minimize flatulence. Presoaking also cuts down on cooking time.

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While soaking, the chickpeas will absorb water and expand.

Rinse, then place in a pot and fill with water about one to two inches above the chickpeas. Bring to a boil.

 

DSC03965If any film/foam bubbles up, skim it off.

DSC03968Turn the heat down, cover partially with lid, and simmer approximately an hour and a half or until the chickpeas are soft. If all the water is absorbed before they’re fully cooked, add another cup of water and continue cooking until they’re done.

Quicker method of soaking according to The World’s Healthiest Foods: Boil the beans for two minutes, take pan off the heat, cover and allow it to stand for two hours. They recommend soaking for at least four hours minimum, though.

You can also cook them in a slow cooker on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 8 to 9 hours. Cook until they’re tender. Read about it here.

Or cook in a pressure cooker about 45 minutes. Read about it here.

Rinse. Pick out any loose hulls and throw them away.

In food processor, blender, or Nutribullet, add tahini and lemon juice and blend together.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. If the mixture is too thick, add more water or other liquid (such as peperoncini juice). That’s it!

DSC03988Use for dipping chips or vegetables or as a spread.

My hummus turned out pretty good. Next time I’ll use jalapenos instead of peperoncinis.

It tasted better the next day, so setting in the fridge overnight helped bring out more flavor.

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Because I like spicy foods, I added some of the remaining chickpeas to the jar of peperoncinis to marinate them in the juice.

Later, I added them to my salad, and they tasted great! Actually, fantastic!

A brilliant idea. Try it!

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One cup of chickpeas is about 270 calories.

Chickpeas can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

 

Other Recipes:

http://www.inspiredtaste.net/15938/easy-and-smooth-hummus-recipe/

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/hummus-for-real-recipe.html

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/hummus-recipe.html

DSC03985For roasted chickpeas, go here.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/557013-how-to-roast-dry-chickpeas/

If you roast them, keep an eye on ‘em. I baked mine at 350 degrees for 35 minutes and some burned. Darn!

As you can see, I’m new at this and have a lot to learn. It’s going to be a fun journey. I hope you’ll be a part of it and share your thoughts.

Do you like chickpeas? Have you ever made hummus? Do you have a favorite chickpea recipe to share with us? Any tips? Favorite healthy seasonings?

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you would sign up to receive future posts. Fill in your email address in the Subscribe window near the top of the right-hand sidebar.

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Car-free Living in Los Angeles

Please welcome my guest blogger, Harvey Slater. Harvey is a unique individual who is making a difference in our world. He’s set some noble goals and is here to share them with us.

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Take it away, Harvey.

Thanks, Lynn, for inviting me to connect with your readers today.

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Photo by Lynn Kelley Author, WANA Commons

Hi Everyone! Have you spent countless hours commuting, inching along bumper-to-bumper, staring at the automobile in front of you and thinking about all the other things you could be doing? Do you ever ask yourself, “What exactly am I doing in this car, sitting on this freeway in traffic?”

I had asked myself this question for many years. As a native Southern Californian, I slowly became resentful at being told, “If you live in LA you MUST have a car to survive.”

Despite knowing all the negative impacts of operating a motor vehicle—carbon emissions, noise, dependency on crude oil, legal mandate to participate in the insurance industry, time wasted sitting in traffic—I remained programmed to think that driving a car was the only way to go.

This reliance on cars in Los Angeles is actually quite bizarre. We have probably the most perfect annual weather record globally, and plenty of space, money, and resources to develop a green transportation infrastructure.

Instead, we remain dependent on our vehicles and continue traveling on the widest freeways we can squeeze between two neighborhoods. We drive to our exercise appointments, usually indoors, and once there, we drive in circles to find the parking space nearest the front door.

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Photo credit: Harvey Slater

For me, this started to look and feel like insanity. Then, a couple of years ago, I received a unique opportunity to explore some new business and career ideas.

Everything changed when I broke up with my catering business partner and handed him the keys to my company vehicle.

At first, I thought, “Oh, no, now I have to buy a new a car.” But something inside told me to hold off. I started using the Metro, and for about two weeks, I got by pretty well. After that, I incorporated the bicycle into my commuting by using the bike to connect between Metro rail and busses or just riding my bike the entire distance, if possible.

Then I had the epiphany that there was an opportunity right in front of me to stop the insanity and finally do something to make a difference: I would not replace the car.

Lynn Kelley Author, Monster Moon Mysteries, BBH McChiller

Metrolink Photo by Lynn Kelley Author – WANA Commons

Instead of spending hours stuck in traffic, I’m able to read, write, and complete tasks using my computer and personal devices while city busses and Metro trains whisk me around town. I am in the best physical health I have been in since my 20s, and I am living a real dream that I hold for the future of my city.

I’m pretty sure some people are scratching their heads, thinking I am crazy. I have often wondered whether I would be taken seriously in business, showing up to meetings on a bicycle. I have often wondered if I need to have that “status” of a fancy car in order to be a valid, credible professional and member of society. At the end of the day, staying true to my principles and passions gives me credibility…with myself.

This spring, I am cycling more than 775 miles to raise funds for a greener future. I will take a solo ride from LA to Las Vegas, then participate in Climate Ride in Northern California with more than 100 other cyclists.

I would be thrilled and grateful if you make a donation to support my beneficiary, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. The organization works to improve safety and better alternative and active transportation infrastructure for the entire Los Angeles region.

My fundraising goal is $20,000, and I have about $16,000 to go. 100% of your donation will support the cause. You can learn more and make a donation at Climate Ride.

Hope to see you outside!

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Photo credit: Jessie Harrell, WANA Commons

Thank you, Harvey. It’s been a pleasure to have you guest post. What a fascinating life you lead. Your story is inspiring. Good luck with the fundraising. I’d like to see more bicycle paths in our cities, and safety for bicyclists is a huge concern. I applaud you for raising more awareness about this.

The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.
~ John Howard

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Harvey Slater is a chef and creative entrepreneur residing in Los Angeles. Most of Harvey’s career has been devoted to operating his catering business in Los Angeles. He recently launched a healthy eating blog, and is currently studying to earn his designation as a Holistic Nutrition Coach, with the intention of using his food knowledge to help people achieve optimal health, by teaching them how to create an enjoyable, nutritiously balanced, whole food lifestyle.

 

Follow Harvey’s car-free journey on A Guy Without a Car
Check out Harvey’s food blog at The Whole Dish

Please consider donating to this worthy project or helping to spread the word. 

Do you ride a bicycle? Do you have a long commute to work? Have you ever been in a traffic jam? I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us in a comment. 

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you would sign up to receive future posts. Fill in your email address in the Subscribe window near the top of the right-hand sidebar.

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Water – Weird, Wonderful, and What Else

IMG_3415Wow, it’s good to be back. My last post was in October. I’ve been dealing with a lot of “life stuff” in addition to caring for two of my grandchildren (ages 3 and 1), working on new books and a short story, building up my new business as an independent consultant for Arbonne International, a health and wellness company, and taking part in meetings at my local Toastmasters International club.

I’d like to share my latest speech with you. This is the third speech I’ve given. I recorded it at home using a makeshift green screen background (green fabric hung over the shower rod) and then added some cool backgrounds and music.

For those who can’t view the video, the speech is below, with some added links for anyone who’s interested in learning more.

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Photo by Laura Ritchie, L.M. Ritchie, WANA Commons

 

Life originated in water. All living things, regardless of size, require H2O to survive.

In the U.S. and other industrialized countries, water is easily accessible with the turn of a knob. It’s so simple and convenient, we may take water for granted as just another ordinary part of our day.

Water is anything but ordinary.

Earth’s water has been in continuous motion for millions of years and is a repeating cycle. Water from streams, rivers, and oceans evaporates and becomes vapor. Once it cools, it condensates into clouds.

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Low Thunderclouds, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma photo by Kristen Nador, WANA Commons

Next, it might fall back to Earth in the form of rain, hail, sleet, or snow. It may soak into the soil where plants draw it in, then release it back into the air or it may find its way into a natural aquifer. Perhaps it runs into a river, then into a reservoir, goes through underground pipes, flows out of your faucet and into your teacup.

An amazing fact is that those drops in your cup may have once been dew on a leaf that was eaten by a brachiosaurus, digested, and deposited back to the Earth, or may have been part of a glacier that carved out Yosemite Valley, or perhaps it flowed in the Nile River, which was used for Cleopatra’s bath.

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El Porto Sunset, photo by Jenny Kaczorowski, Cellar Door Films, WANA Commons

Another amazing fact is that the exact same amount of water that existed in prehistoric times still exists today. No more. No less. Just as water continuously moves through its cycle, so, too, it flows through our bodies where it helps maintain the balance of body fluids.

Our bodies are approximately 70% water, and because of that, we are part of the water cycle. Whatever amount of fluid is lost must be replaced by that same amount or we are in danger of becoming dehydrated, which can cause problems such as fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, and even death.

We are able to live approximately three days without water.

In addition to keeping us alive, drinking enough water has many benefits. It regulates body temperature, helps us lose unwanted weight by drinking it before a meal, gets the digestive tract moving, washes out our kidneys and flushes out toxins, to name a few.

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Rain on Grass, photo by Jenny Kaczorowski, Cellar Door Films, WANA Commons

The Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, said, “There is nothing softer and weaker than water, and yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things.”

Water’s soothing properties can be experienced by soaking in a bathtub or natural hot springs. It can calm and relax us if we listen to or meditate on the sound of it splashing and flowing over pebbles in a stream or cascading down a small waterfall. The rhythm of ocean waves breaking upon a shore can lull us to sleep.

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Niagara Falls Photo by Lisa Hall-Wilson, WANA Commons

The strength and power of water can be seen in Niagara Falls and places like the Grand Canyon, which was slowly carved out by the Colorado River.

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Grand Canyon photo by Jenny Kaczorowski, Cellar Door Films, WANA Commons

So, water is gentle and nourishing, yet powerful and destructive. It has many properties that aren’t fully understood by scientists. Instead of solving its mysteries, recent studies reveal new mysteries.

Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scientist, conducted research on the effect of ideas, words, and music on the molecules of water. He published his findings in a book titled, The Hidden Messages in Water. (You can learn more here.)

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Lily Pads photo by A. Marie Silver, WANA Commons

He found that water from clear mountain streams has beautifully formed crystalline structures, while the crystals of polluted water are deformed and distorted. He also found that distilled water takes on delicate, symmetrical crystalline shapes when exposed to classical music.

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Iceberg photo by Prudence MacLeod, WANA Commons

I have a feeling these new mysteries uncovered in recent studies are just the tip of the iceberg.

Water is fascinating stuff. Its importance in our lives cannot be overstated. Millions of people don’t have the luxury of turning on a faucet for a drink of water or a shower. Many women in Africa and Asia have to walk an average of 3.7 miles to collect water.

 

Benjamin Franklin said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

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Wishing Well Bucket photo by Natasha Hanova, WANA Commons

How about a shout out to water? Its life-giving source refreshes our bodies and quenches our thirst! It’s soothing, yet powerful, and its mysteries run deep.

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Photo by Lynn Kelley Author, WANA Commons

Three cheers for water! Bottoms up!

* * *

That’s the end of the speech. I wanted to include facts about the cool water tricks in this video, 8 Water Tricks That’ll Melt Your Mind, but the speech could only cover so much in five to eight minutes. Kids will especially love this video.

Here’s another site with facts about water: 40 Shocking Facts About Water – Matador Network.

Do you like to drink water? Love water sports? Ever lived through a drought? A flood? Hurricane? Tsunami? What do you think about this amazing liquid that plays such an important role in our lives? 

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Legend of Monster Island – Book 3 is Here!

Hello Readers! I’m excited to announce Legend of Monster Island, Book 3 in the Monster Moon Mystery series (for ages 8 to 12),  by BBH McChiller (Kathryn Sant and Lynn Kelley).

Listen, swabbers, to this kraken tale. 
Treasure and scoundrels and setting sail. 
Sinking ships and a ghostly wail. 
Can AJ survive, or will the beast prevail?

Special price on the eBook through the end of October for 99 cents:  Amazon

Also in paperbackAmazon

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Slimy tentacles slither out of the toilets and tangle with 12-year-old AJ Zantony and his younger cousin, Jasmyn, while they’re visiting Zala Manor, their great aunt’s creepy old mansion.

AJ’s buddy, Vlad, the pirate rat, stops by and pleads for help in saving his species from the creatures invading the sewers. AJ, Jaz, and their friends decide to risk everything to assist Vlad, plunging deeper into sea monster lore and facing the mysterious legends firsthand.

Is it worth sailing into an otherworldly storm and confronting evil scoundrels, scarred souls, and the most nightmarish beast imaginable? The dangers mount, increasing the chances that AJ and his friends will fall victim to the Legend of Monster Island.

Watch the book trailer I made:

Get the first two books, too:

Monster Moon Book 1
Curse at Zala Manor
Perfect read for Halloween!

“This tale will rattle yer timbers, squiffie,
and chill ye to the bone!” ~Vlad

Curse at Zala Manor, Monster Moon mysteries, Lynn Kelley, Lynn Kelley Author, BBH McChiller

Available in:

Paperback:  Amazon
Hardback:  AmazonBarnes & Noble
eBook:  AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords (formats for all e-readers)

Monster Moon Book 2
Secret of Haunted Bog

MONSTER MOON - Show Me The Bounty!

“Beware the bog, landlubbers.
If ye venture into that haunted place,
Yer every step be filled with danger. Yarr!” ~Vlad

 Hardback:  AmazonBarnes & Noble
Paperback: Amazon
eBook:  AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords 

 All three books are great for Halloween. Do you like spooky, fun children’s books?

Posted in Books, Kids, YouTube Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Stepping Out of the Zone – My Toastmasters Ice Breaker Speech!

So many changes are taking place in my life. One of those changes: I joined Toastmasters International.

I have a severe fear of speaking in public, but this is a fear I must overcome to reach my goals as a children’s author and as an independent consultant for a health and wellness company.

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Just finished my Ice Breaker speech. The adrenaline had kicked in big time, and I still felt shaky!

Are you familiar with Toastmasters? If not, here’s a brief history I copied from the website of my local Toastmasters club:

“In October 1924, a group of men assembled by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, U.S.A., forming a club ‘to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.’ The group took the name ‘Toastmasters.'”

I signed up at the very first meeting I attended. The members were friendly and professional, I liked the way the meeting was conducted, and I knew this was what I needed.

A month later, I gave my very first prepared speech, the “Ice Breaker,” which is basically to tell who you are and what your goals are. My fellow Toastmasters were supportive and made me feel comfortable, so after doing some deep, slow breathing to calm myself as much as possible, I gave my speech. I must have practiced it a hundred times, mostly in front of my toddler grandkids I’m care giver for.

I messed up a lot, like saying words backwards when I was tired (for example, “wealth and hellness” instead of “health and wellness”), had some giggle attacks, drew a lot of blanks, stumbled over my words, and actually started shaking as my heart raced. So, I just kept on practicing until, finally, the big moment arrived.

My daughter recorded it for me:

If  you’re unable to access the video, here’s the speech and some photos just to spice up this post. The photos weren’t part of the speech!

Hello. I’m Lynn Kelley. I’m a recovering court reporter, care giver for two of my grandkids, an independent consultant for an amazing health and wellness company, and a children’s author.

Highlights Magazine awarded me Author of the Month for my short story, The Jobo Tree, and I’ve published five middle grade books, three as coauthor of the Monster Moon Mystery series under the pseudonym BBH McChiller.

My memory isn’t the best, especially when I’m scared stiff to step out of my comfort zone, so I brought my pet Brain for support.

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Pet Brain – The original was the brain child of my coauthor, Maria Toth. Then my other coauthor, Kathy Sant, and I adopted our own Pet Brains!

Brain, stay!

A few years ago Brain and I got to take part in two Homework Hotline episodes on a local TV station. Brain was a big hit, along with my Monster Moon coauthors, Kathy and Maria. I had an important part too: Cue card girl.

That’s right, I was too chicken to be on camera. Just holding the cue cards gave me the jitters. As it turned out, the teleprompter messed up, so I saved the day! Go cue card girl!

How Do You Cook Up Suspense?

Cue card girl on the Homework Hotline set!

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back, way back to the olden days when I was just a girl.

Abbracadabra Presto Picheelo!

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I made a shadow box using a photo of Granddad, his magic wand, some of his silk handkerchiefs, and some playing cards.

With a magician grandfather, is it any wonder my childhood was magical? Granddad not only performed magic, but he was always working on creative projects, like the time he cut the legs off a coffee table and replaced them with women’s mannequin legs. Like, wow!

In those days, I was a skinny, freckle-faced kid. My dad was Mr. Funny Guy. In my eyes, Jerry Lewis had nothing on Dad. He made up a little song about me that always made me giggle:

Skinny Lynnie, there she goes Walkin’ down the street like a Bag’o’Bones!

It still makes me giggle! Being skinny didn’t bother me and neither did my freckles, but there was this mole on my neck that stuck out like a skin tag. I must have whined about it a lot because for my eighth birthday, my mom gave me a choice:

Do you want a birthday party? Or Do you want to have the mole cut off your neck?

I’d never had a birthday party before, so of course that’s what I chose. Imagine if I hadn’t and my friends asked, “So, what’d you get for your birthday?”

“Uh, I got a mole cut off my neck.”

“Eww!”

Still, I was confident, athletic, and spunky, until junior high when I turned into a dorky dweeb and regretted not having that mole cut off.

I’ve always loved costumes and playing with makeup at Halloween, so when I grew up and attended court reporting school, I tried to bring in some extra money working as a clown. That was short lived because…everyone just laughed at me.

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For my son’s fourth birthday, I provided the entertainment as Buffy the Clown.

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George and I two years ago at his 60th birthday party (hippy theme). Groovy, man! He’s wearing a wig.

I moved on and life’s been good. I worked as a court reporter for 25 years. My husband, George, and I will celebrate 38 years of marriage next month. We raised four rascals and now have four grandchildren, ages four and under.

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Our four rascals!

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Me (Grammy) with my son, my oldest daughter, and my four grand-darlings: Sweet Pea, Twinkle Eyes, Grasshopper, and Ninja Doll.

I’m caregiver for two of them. I can be the biggest goofball ever. And they love it. I wonder if I’ll have an influence on them the way Granddad’s creativity inspired me.

A few weeks ago I came across a Facebook post that said, “If you ever want to know what a creative person’s mind feels like, just imagine a browser with 2,850 tabs open. All. The. Time.” What a great analogy!

What tabs might you find lurking in this quirky mind?

A pirate ditty for my next book,

A new chocolate smoothie concoction,

A time travel adventure,

Or maybe a new Funny Bones video for YouTube.

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Bag’O’Bones – Each bone has a joke written on it.

 

 

My Funny Bones character is a numbskull skeleton who carries a bag of bones. Each bone has a joke on it.

Hmm, seems Dad’s little song about me proved to be prophetic.

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Funny Bones – Clown Skeleton

And one day it dawned on me, Funny Bones is actually a clown skeleton. Go figure!

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Ninja Doll, me, and Grasshopper. I had just lost 14 pounds! Since this pic was taken, I’ve lost two more! Woo hoo!

 

The future is wide open, and I have lots of stories itching to be told. I hope to leave a legacy for my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, and all children.

All my goals are within reach now that I’m feeling better, thanks to the pea protein shakes I drink every day.

For the record, that’s pea spelled p-e-a, folks!

The pea protein shakes have taken away my sugar cravings. My sweet tooth is so big, it’s more like a fang. Since it’s been tamed, I’ve lost 15 pounds in four months!

Not only that, my energy level has increased so much, I’m able to do some extra things, like join Toastmasters.

Fellow Toastmasters, thank you for the warm welcome into your club. I look forward to being on this adventure with you. I have a little gift for each of you when I’m finished, a bookmark for one of my books, but first…

…I must click my heels three times and wait for the flying monkeys to carry Brain and me back to our seats. There’s no place like my comfort zone…

Do you have  a fear of public speaking? Are you familiar with Toastmasters? It’s perfect for learning to speak off-the-cuff and give prepared speeches. Here’s the link for Toastmasters International. Chances are you have a Toastmasters club nearby that you can visit as a guest to see if you’d like to join.

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The Science of Creativity!

I knew my Monster Moon Mystery series coauthor, Kathryn Sant, would be an awesome blogger because she’s a retired OB-Gyn, loves all things science and history related, loves writing and reading, is brilliant, creative, and extremely humble. She never toots her own horn. So, honk! Honk! Honk! I’m tooting it for her!

Kathy just wrote her second blog post, and it’s jam-packed with fascinating info about creativity. This is a must-read post for all parents, teachers, and creative folks who want to boost their creativity.

Kathy took the below photos of graffiti on a wall in Tijuana during her most recent trip with a group of other medical professionals who volunteer their time and talents to provide health services for people who live in extreme poverty. The creativity she witnessed amongst their community is what inspired her to write the post.

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Tijuana graffiti – Jellyfish, Shark, and Turtle – Photo by Kathryn Sant

In Kathy’s blog post (on the Emblazon site), you’ll find answers to these questions:

Is creativity something one is born with?

Is creativity in a specific spot in the right side of the brain?

Can creativity be enhanced?

You’ll not only learn the answers to these questions, but you’ll learn lots of other facts that might surprise you.

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Go to Emblazon to read Kathy’s post.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

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Through the Shimmer of Time

Whoop! Whoop!  You’re just in time to help us celebrate the release of Jennifer Jensen’s debut novel Through the Shimmer of Time for kids ages 9 to 12.

Take it away, Jennifer!

Thanks for hosting me, Lynn. It’s fun to share some blogging with another middle grade booklover.

With a MG time travel book that goes back and forth to 1838, you’d think I’d be a history fanatic. I thought I was a history lover . . . until college. American History 101 cured me of that – History with a capital H is names and dates and battles and economics. B-O-R-I-N-G, even if I was half-decent in memorizing them.

What I love about history is what I used to call The Olden Days – any and every time period far enough in the past that it’s fun to imagine living there. I love reading about how the pilgrims survived winter, how families buried their silver during times of war, and how kitchens were in separate buildings, not only to keep the house cooler in the summer, but for fire safety!

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Summer Kitchen: By Andrei Stroe via Wikimedia Commons

I love imagining farmers mending harnesses by the fire and ladies dancing intricate steps in sumptuous long gowns. I still remember being fascinated with an old high school movie that showed how coopers made barrels in colonial America. Since I can’t actually travel to those times (although I did make a plea for a time travel agent this week), I love reading books and watching movies that draw me in, as far as my imagination and someone’s research will take me.

A few “Olden Days” moments that have grabbed me through books:

• Being about 12, reading about the Whitman massacre in Walla Walla, Washington. Although that may be partly because Walla Walla is fun to say!

• Living alongside (in a book, anyway) an impoverished mining family in Newcastle-on-Tyne.

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“Edinburgh Castle DSC05056″ via Wikimedia Commons

• Visiting Edinburgh Castle and finally understanding that a castle was a whole town unto itself!

• Finding out exactly what being “hanged, drawn and quartered” really meant. *shudder*

• Imagining how ancient families scratched a living in the ice age or early Mesopotamia. • The idea of cooking dinner over a fire made with buffalo chips (manure). Hmm . . . would that add any special flavor?

• The incredible perseverance of pioneers as they lowered wagons into the Columbia River Gorge or carved a road into a mountain of solid rock.

• Crying when I discovered that my Scottish sea captain ancestor lost his 3-year-old daughter and his wife in the same year, and then lost his ship to rocks in the fog a month later!

I could go on and on, but the gist of it is that I like learning how people lived in any sort of Olden Days, and living it along with them. To me, the best historical fiction (including history-based time travel) is accurate in its facts and how it portrays life, AND has a great story line.

Final cover

Title:  Through the Shimmer of Time
By Jennifer Jensen
Readership:  Ages 9-12

Amazon

A mysterious pottery shard . . .

            A haunted cabin . . .

                        A shadowy stranger . . .

                                   And no way home

Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home or is he marooned in the past?

1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.

Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time.  It will take all their courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.

Jennifer Jensen photo

Jennifer Jensen is an award-winning writer who wouldn’t be without her computer or smart phone, but still dreams of living in the olden days. Until someone invents a working time machine, she lives in Indiana and makes do with plenty of imagination, loads of books and as much Dr. Who as the BBC will produce. She’s a longtime member of SCBWI and has received two Indiana Arts Commission grants for her fiction. Through the Shimmer of Time is her first novel. Connect with her at her blog, through Facebook or on Twitter (@jenjensen2).

Jennifer’s Blog:  Surrounded by Story
Follow her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter

What do you love about the Olden Days? Do you have a favorite time period? And if you’re into time travel and frontier America, check out Jennifer’s new release, Through the Shimmer of Time.

Posted in Books, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Cover Reveal of The Swift by Alex Banks

 The Swift

Comes out June 2nd
The Swift Final Cover Front in RGB

How far would you go to save the ones you love?

“The night twelve-year-old Pete planned to shoot the winning goal in the championship hockey game was the same night his dad was lost at sea. Now, eight months later, his mom still cries all the time, his beloved grandfather, stricken with Alzheimer’s, can’t even remember him, and they’re about to lose their crappy old house to the bank. To make matters worse, his twin brother Henry blames Pete for all of it. After all, they were a family of fishermen—if Pete had gone to help on the boat instead of to the game, their dad might still be alive.

While searching the attic for stuff they can sell, Pete finds a battle-torn ship-in-a-bottle. When he and Henry show the bottle to their grandpa, the three of them are transported back in time—on board the very ship that’s going down.

Battling pirates and the raging sea, the boys must learn to work together to help their grandpa save his past. If they don’t, they won’t have a future to return to.”

Amazon – Paperback

Do you like time travel tales? If you could travel back in time and change something in your past, what would it be?

Posted in Books, Giveaways, Kids, Pirates | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments