Moving on over

Hello there faithful followers. I’ve created a new website for my blog, so please head on over there to read my recent post, Don’t focus on the belly. Please also subscribe to that website, if you haven’t done so already. That way you’ll continue to receive notifications of my posts. I’ll be shutting down this website shortly.

I’m looking forward to continuing our journey together.



Go big or go home

Dale and Heather

We were five months along with baby #2 in May 2014 during our trip to Peru

I’m the type of person who generally doesn’t shy away from a challenge. In fact, periodically I choose to make something more challenging because I like the philosophy of go big or go home. I did both (literally) when we had our son 21 months ago. He weighed in at 9 pounds 14 ounces (yes, you read that correctly), so I both went for the “oh my” big weight factor, and went home from the hospital happy he was no longer kicking around inside of me. Not that I had control of his weight – although I tried to by teaching cycle multiple times each week until I delivered – but it seemed appropriate that his weight fit with my life philosophy.

Now that we’re expecting package #2 in September, I thought I should make the most of my last few weeks of only caring for one child. So what am I up to?

Gee, I thought now would be a good time to start my own estate planning law firm since I am an attorney and all.

Then of course there’s preparing for the baby by doing everything around the house and yard that I couldn’t do while I had a broken foot for eight weeks this summer and won’t be able to do for awhile after the baby’s born.

Oh, and did I mention I’m submitting my mystery novel, Beguiling Deception, to literary agents so I can hopefully get a publisher to accept it sometime this year?

So yes, big, big, big.


Here’s hoping baby #2 weighs in below 9 pounds. I’m thinking 8 pounds sounds splendid.

If you’re interested in joining me on this wild, summer ride, you can do a couple of things. First, you can follow me on my new website, I’ll be posting teasers on my novel, short stories, travel tales, recipes, funny stories, and whatever else tickles my fancy. I’ll also update you on my journey, providing tips along the way on what I’ve learned in the process. This website you’re on now will be discontinued shortly.

Second, you can like my Heather Harshman Author/Speaker Facebook page. I’ll post additional updates on my writing on that page, such as information on the publication of my story, Winters of Solace, in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life in September 2014. I’ll also respond to your thoughts, questions, and whatever else you are nice enough to post.

Reboot your lifeTo get things rolling, I’m going to treat you to a sneak preview of Beguiling Deception since I know you’re wondering what kind of novel an attorney, writer, mother, fitness instructor type person like me would write. So buckle up and get ready for a sneak peak in the life of Candice Morgan, my main character.

Beguiling Deception

Candice Morgan enjoys practicing law until her life becomes a criminal case of its own. She finds a girl stabbed to death at her office. Then the killer sends a riddle, demanding she deliver what her deceased father failed to produce or people close to her will continue to suffer or, preferably, die.

Candice scours her attorney father’s criminal client files, searching for the killer and evidence to prove her father’s innocence while her friends solve the riddle. Their research reveals details about her father better left buried, but once uncovered, Candice has to deal with them in her quest to find the killer and the truth.

Hope becomes a pastime for Candice when she realizes the killer’s demands are based on a reality of his own making, yet his aggression accelerates, his grip on her life tightens. Death is Candice’s shadow as his relentless pursuit locks them in a battle that can be fought by no other, insisting she give him the impossible or die.

Chopsticks Travels, Part II

IMG_0012Tokyo – such a small name for such a massive city. I wasn’t sure what to expect during our visit in the metropolis with a population of 30 million. Yes, you read that right.

Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo's Asakusa district

Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo’s Asakusa district

Tokyo has the world’s largest metropolitan population, which can be an intimidating thought for first-time visitors like me. That’s why I pondered a number of thoughts during our eleven hour flight from Los Angeles:

Would it be noisy, dirty, visually “scarred” as big cities can be?

Would there be anything soft, beautiful about it?

Would the people be friendly or keep to themselves, not wanting to be bothered by tourists?

I’m happy to report I was shocked at how unlike a big city Tokyo feels. There were indeed people everywhere, but the Japanese

Naomi and Christian hanging out

Naomi and Christian hanging out

are generally quiet, respectful people so it didn’t feel like we were surrounded by the masses. Plus it is super clean. Translation: it didn’t have that odeur de grande ville I’ve become familiar with on my travels to New York City. And the people were definitely friendly, especially Dale’s host sisters and brother-in-law, who were kind enough to let us stay at their apartment.


The pond at Ueno Park, by the Ueno train station

His sister, Naomi, had a great time strapping our then six-month-old baby Christian to her with the Ergobaby carrier and toting him around the city. She got quite the looks and comments, I’m sure.

As for the softer side of Tokyo, we enjoyed some couple time in Ueno Park, which was originally part of the Kaneiji Temple. Although the park has museums, a zoo, and is one of Tokyo’s most popular spring cherry blossom spots (which we missed since we were there in May), we chose to relax on a bench by the large pond while watching birds frolic and eating tasty sweets from a nearby bakery.

We were also treated to blooming azaleas throughout the city. The vibrant pink and purple flowers surprised us most places we went, including at Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. It was nice to know Mother Nature still went about business as usual despite the throngs of people passing by her creations each day.

Tokyo was a surprisingly lovely city we hope to visit again soon . . . maybe next spring. And it’s never too early to make plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so start practicing with those chopsticks.




Chopstick Travels, Part I

Last May, we flew to southern Japan after spending some time in Tokyo. Our accommodation was a traditional Japanese house attached to a 100-year-old Zen Buddist Temple of which my husband Dale’s host father, Mr. Michihiro Takebayashi, is the retired priest. The instant his host mother, Mrs. Takiko Takebayashi, saw little six-month-old Christian, she whisked him into the house while we followed Mr. Takebayashi around the temple so he could light incense to celebrate our arrival. And so began our four days in a remote paradise called Amakusa.


The temple where we stayed


Christian after his first flight – Los Angeles to Tokyo. He wasn’t lucky enough to get his own seat, but he did get to sleep in a bassinet.

A lot of our time in Amakusa involved trying traditional Japanese foods, which, if you’ve ever been to Japan, you know can be an interesting adventure . The first morning, though, Mrs. Takebayashi served a Western breakfast of toast, eggs, ham, and other standard foods because she was concerned about my willingness to eat a traditional breakfast. Being uncertain about my proficiency with chopsticks, she also provided cutlery. By our third morning, Dale convinced her I was up for the challenge, so we enjoyed salted salmon, pickled ginger, salad, seaweed, and miso soup while dazzling her with our chopstick skills. This food combination sounds bizarre for first thing in the morning, but it actually works!

One evening Mr. and Mrs. Takebayashi treated us to dinner at a Japanese fish restaurant. These restaurants are rare because you don’t order from a menu; you receive what the chef chooses to prepare. For our experience, this included sashimi, a whole baked fish for each person with the head and tail still intact, sea urchin, and numerous other delicacies. It was initially a bit unnerving to see parts of my meal staring back at me, but I managed to pull through, eating everything placed in front of me. True, raw squid will never make it on my list of favorite foods, but the rest of the offerings were delicious and unique.


Azaleas, azaleas, and more azaleas. Beautiful!

We also found a restaurant that served okonomiyaki, a savory “pancake” we cooked on a grill at our table. We selected tuna, cheese, bacon, and kimchi (Korean-style fermented vegetables) to be mixed with the batter, then topped the finished product with fish flakes and mayonnaise. It was a like a massive tuna patty with other things thrown in. I loved it and wished my stomach was large enough to eat the entire pancake.


Savory pancakes for lunch? Dinner? Snack? Oh yeah!

IMG_0134On a non-food note, one day we dropped Christian off at the daycare operated by Dale’s host family so they could watch him while we went sightseeing. Our day outing involved taking the car on a ferry from Oniike to Kuchinotsu, then driving to Unzen, one of Japan’s most active and dangerous volcanoes. A short hike rewarded us with views of a new mountain created when the volcano erupted in 1991. We did not realize we would also be treated to a dazzling display of wild azaleas in bloom up the mountainside. The color was so astounding, it looked as though it was painted.

We purchased some fried octopus balls (“takoyaki”) to munch on during the hike, but should not have bothered. We were offered dried apples and Japanese chocolates by people along the trail who were thrilled to see Americans hiking beside them.

The egg. The pits.

The egg. The pits.

We ended our day by walking through sulfur pits where we purchased hard boiled eggs cooked in the pits, and relaxed in a traditional onsen, a hot spring with water naturally heated by local volcanic activity. There are specific steps you must follow to use the springs, as illustrated on a sign for visitors. This includes, among other things, sitting on short stools to clean yourself before entering the spring and rinsing off afterwards, not taking wet towels into the changing area, and not wearing clothes in the spring. I know I accidentally violated at least two of the rules, but lucky for me, I wasn’t tossed out.


The volcano without its top since it was blown off

We’re hoping to return to Japan next spring to enjoy more time with Dale’s host parents who are eager to immerse Christian in the Japanese culture so he can speak the language with Dale. I’m not sure if I’m up for the challenge of tackling the language, but that’s okay. My boys can translate for me!


With Dale’s host parents at the temple

Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #4: Little House on the Prairie Flashback Whole Wheat Bread

Do you ever watch a movie or TV show set during the 1800’s or read a book from the same era and think,

“I wonder what it was like to have to wear long dresses all the time, even when it was a zillion degrees and crazy humid . . .”


“I wonder how people slept on mattresses stuffed with hay, grass, or cotton, ’cause I’m sure my allergies and back wouldn’t have tolerated any of those . . . “


“I wonder how often people got bladder infections in the dead of winter when the privy was below freezing . . .”

I wonder those things and more. Like how rewarding yet exhausting it must have been to make most foods from scratch since the word “instant” wasn’t in Americans’ vocabulary. And I’m guessing drive-thrus hadn’t been invented yet.

So every once in awhile I get in touch with what I imagine my 1800’s self would be like, had I been fortunate (?) enough to live during that century. I’ll make chunky apple sauce from scratch, can peaches, add veggies to my garden or plant another fruit tree, even bake bread from scratch.

My holiday endeavor this past year was making whole wheat yeast bread as gifts for some lucky people. I find freshly baked bread, with a crisp crust and soft, springy inside, to be delectable, so I thought others might appreciate it, too.


You may think I was overly ambitious by taking on this task, especially since there’s a thing called a bread maker I have tucked away in a closet. You may even contemplate how looney a person must be to take on such a task during one of the busiest times of the year.

Apparently I was nesting, because we’d just moved into a new home a few weeks prior. So there you have it.

Should you also feel like nesting, getting in touch with your 1800’s roots, or want to try something new this year, the recipe is below. It’s really not as hard as it seems. Simply keep repeating, “Yeast is my friend, yeast is my friend” as you go and you’ll be fine.

Who knows? Maybe next December I’ll churn my own butter to go with the bread . . . or not.


3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

5 c. lukewarm water, divided

1/4 – 1/2 c. honey or agave (optional)

1/3 c. canola oil

1/2 c. sugar or 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. Splenda

2 tsp. salt

4 c. whole wheat flour

6 – 8 c. bread flour


The dough will seem like it has too much liquid when you’re mixing it up.


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 3/4 c. lukewarm water. If the water is hot rather than lukewarm it may kill the yeast. Add the remaining water, honey, oil, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour,


The dough will be too sticky to work with if you don’t add enough flour before kneading it.

and 3 c. bread flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in enough additional bread flour to form a soft dough, which will be sticky.


Place a decent amount of flour on a clean surface before you start kneading and keep adding flour on the surface as you knead so the dough doesn’t stick.

Turn onto a well-floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 – 8 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the

top or spray cooking spray on the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (like in the room where your water heater is located or by the washer and dryer) until doubled, about 1 hour.


The dough balloons up nicely as it rises.


To knead, fold the dough in half and do a 1/4 turn after you push down. Use your upper body weight to push down rather than just your arms so you don’t get tired fast.


Punch the dough down. Shaped into 4 loaves. Place in 9″ x 5″ x 3″ pans coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 35 minutes (depending on if your oven runs hot and whether you’re using glass pans, which bake faster).


This is how the dough looks after you’ve finished kneading. It should no longer be sticky. I cut it with a sharp knife to divide it into 4 loaves.

It’s here. I smell it . . .

Kentucky and Belle Meade 183My favorite part of fall isn’t the changing leaves, the cooler weather, or that thing called Turkey Day. Don’t get me wrong. Those are all wonderful things to look forward to, but my senses veer towards a little something different.

Just call me Ms. Olfactory because it’s the smells of fall that get me a smiling.

Wet leaves

Rain on a crisp day

A pumpkin pie spice candle

Turkey sizzling on the grill

Damp soil

A casserole in the slow cooker

My husband, Dale, and I experienced nature’s version of fall this morning as we road 13 miles on our mountain bikes through a hidden valley of massive palm trees, California Oaks, and a trickling stream. The dank smell reminded me of hiking in New Zealand during their fall last year where everything was glowing green and wet from weeks of rain.

Kentucky and Belle Meade 151Then there was the 40 some degree temperature that engulfed us. It was as though it rose from the moist soil like a ghost seeking a human to haunt. It tickled our noses, leaving them cold to the touch.

The ride was lovely, unexpected, perfect.

The best way to start our holiday week during which we’ll embrace a host of fall scents and experiences that will leave us craving more.

What makes the fall and this holiday week memorable for you?

How to not fall flat on your face

The wise are glad to be instructed, but babbling fools fall flat on their faces.

Proverbs 10:8 NLT

Last month I attended the San Diego Christian Writer’s Conference. It was a chance to learn from seasoned writers, savor the creativity in the air, and partake in a Humility 101 class. It’s funny how we think we’re so great at something until we meet someone (or dozens of people) who are better.  When this happens, we may realize

we should take off our superhero cape until we’re able to fly rather than just skip. . .

there are many kind, generous people in this world who are willing to help us learn our trade . . .

and God thought of others besides us when he created the Earth. . .

Kentucky and Belle Meade 194

And then we wipe off our humble pie mustaches, pull back our shoulders, and wisely use resources at our disposal to grow and help others do so along the way.

Or we fall flat on our faces because we can’t see or accept these realities about our situation.

It’s never fun to fall, although one can get quite adept at it (just ask a baby learning to walk). But why fall when you can soar above your problems by seeking wisdom from God and accepting the instruction he provides through our experiences?

This isn’t to say we won’t trip a little before taking flight, or that we’ll immediately feel the wind under our wings. It can mean, though, that the next time we’re served a giant size portion of humble pie, we’ll soar faster than before, brush the dust off of our knees without worrying about the stains left on our pants, and thank God for the chance to grow in wisdom with his gentle guidance.

Have you been humbled lately? Were you glad for the lesson, or did you resist it?