I’m Back!

I sure enjoyed blogging about solar cooking!

Photos from my solar cooking adventure are now up on my photo gallery; you can check them out here (scroll way down):  


(Warning: looking at these picture may make you hungry. LOL)

If you’d like to check out my recipes and solar cooking blog posts, they are here:


So anyway, I hope you had a good spring/summer/early fall!

Mine was:

  • GOOD (met some new friends)
  • FUN (went tubing in the river for a very short time; it’s been years since I’ve had the energy to do anything like that!)
  • PRODUCTIVE (Lord willing, I will release both my second mystery for kids and my second picture book before Christmas)
  • HELPFUL (learned things about myself and about truth)
  • BAD (got dumped on by a helicopter spraying railroad tracks with herbicide and got quite sick from that; took 2 ½ months to recover)
  • BEAUTIFUL (as always out here: some gorgeous days, evenings, scenery, animals, sunsets, crickets, etc.)

What did you do (or how did you grow) this summer?

Christa Upton        Black Hills Picture Books        PO Box 293        Custer, SD 57730

Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

Solar Cooking is a Blast!

Solar cooking using a Solar Hot Pot boasts a number of advantages:

  • no electricity or fuel needed
  • no smoke or combustion by-products generated
  • little risk of burning food
  • concentrated flavors (yum!)
  • slight charring sometimes (yum!)
  • often decent browning, especially in the summer months (yum!)

And in addition to all that, I find it very fun!!!  It has been so interesting trying different foods and recipes.  So far, three of my favorites are:  Orange Sun Chicken, Sunny Yellow Quiche with Potato Crust, and Chocolate Sun Fondue.








picture:  banana in Chocolate Sun Fondue in Solar Hot Pot

To find these and more recipes, go to my blogging page here:


and scroll down to the bottom for all my recipes and new posts.  I am on my 35th recipe now–Sunny Sausage Pizza!  It was very yummy.  Used the Solar Hot Pot for it from beginning to end–no microwave, stove, oven, or anything else.

I’m hoping to complete 50 recipes by October.  Planning no-bake cookies, baked oatmeal, and Pizza Sunbeans soon!  :)








picture:  Chicken Hot Pot Pie in Solar Hot Pot

Christa Upton         Black Hills Picture Books       PO Box 293    Custer, SD 57730


Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments

Solar Cooking Blog

I am very excited—for the next six months, I will be blogging at:


about my experiences with solar cooking!

I got this solar Hot Pot this month:


and I can’t wait to see what all it can do.  :)  We have already made a successful stew, quiche, and more!

Since I will be doing this food/solar cooking blog, I will not be blogging here for a while.  But please feel free to check out and share my free puzzles, photos of the Black Hills, information about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, books, etc.  And likely I will be back here to blog about other things next fall.

If you’d like to follow my new blog, come on over and see what’s cookin’!



Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   PO Box 293    Custer, SD 57730

Posted in Homelessness, Recipes | 8 Comments

Blogging Break

Speaking of projects, I have a lot of them on my plate right now!  So, I’m going to take a break from blogging.  I’ll be back when I’m back!  LOL

sunsetChrista Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    PO Box 293    Custer, SD  57730

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

10 Steps to Succeed at Projects

Almost none of these ideas come from me, because I’m a typical artist/writer—I’m a dreamer, I would rather create than get “bogged down” by details, etc.

Adding in brain fog and other symptoms from my Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I would probably not finish things and be in a mess right now if not for help….

My Dad, Mom, sister, hubby, and dearest friend Sarah Sears are ALL good at these organizational tips, so they have helped me survive and produce.  (They get the credit for this post.  :))

So, if you have 20 different exciting projects hanging around not getting done, don’t despair.  Maybe trying a few of these ideas will help you.

1.  Decide if you will work on several projects at once or prioritize them and work on one at a time.

A.  A little done on several projects each week might be nice variety for your energy, thinking, etc.
B.  Working on several projects over several months also works better if you will find yourself waiting on others who are contributing to the projects.
C.  In addition, several projects at once can help if you are feeling overwhelmed by deadlines and not sure you can complete one project in time to get another one finished by the correct deadline.
D.  On the other hand, focusing on one project at a time will bring the first project to completion much faster.
E.  Focusing on one project at a time is better if you have a project that far outweighs others in priority (for whatever reason).

I have worked both ways over the years—on “one project at a time” and on several projects over a number of months.

2.  Break up your first project or each project into manageable steps.  (This is one of the hardest things for me to do.  Sometimes I can’t even “think” what the steps need to be, but I sit down at my “peak” thinking time and try to logic it out.)

3.  Ask someone for help in figuring out the steps if you need.  (“How do I get such-and-such an idea from ‘great idea’ to completion?”)  You will need to determine your goals to complete this.  Maybe your goal is to write a book, or maybe your goal is to write a book and get it up for sale as an e-book.  The second example will have many more steps than the first example.

4.  Get a calendar that stretches out for months and write each step of the project down, a little bit on each day.

5.  Don’t write too many steps on one day, especially if you know that day will have other goals (“clean the house because a friend is coming to visit”).

6.  If you have an “end goal” date (like publishing a book on Amazon Kindle by summer’s end), start at the end goal date and work backwards, spacing out the steps relatively equally.

7.  Build in days for “bad days” when nothing goes right or you don’t have the energy to complete steps.

8.  Other than bad days, doggedly DO each step as you see it on your calendar.

9.  Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your goal or your timeline.  If you are falling further and further behind, re-evaluate the goal and/or the priorities in your life.  (Pray and ask God what to do.)

10.  Don’t be afraid to fail.

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   PO Box 293   Custer, SD 57730

Posted in MCS/Chronic Illness, Writing/My Writing/Children's Books | 2 Comments

You Know You Live in the Boonies When….

To my friends and acquaintances who literally live in the desert or other remote places, trying to recover from MCS:   I know it is a VERY hard life, and I do not at all mean to make light of your struggles.  In fact, I almost didn’t post this simply because of not wanting to hurt you.  I feel so horrible for you, my desert and wilderness friends.  If you are reading this and not in the mood for humor, I understand, and know that I am praying for you.


You know You Live in the Boonies When….

  • Three cars meeting at an intersection is a “traffic jam.”
  • You sit outside and literally the only thing you can hear is the tapping of a woodpecker.
  • You hear a gunshot and know it’s not a matter for the police, but local deer might want to watch out!
  • You have satellite internet.
  • Your neighbors are fantastic!
  • You see more turkey tracks and bunny tracks in the snow than people tracks.
  • You can take a picture of the sunset with almost nothing man-made in the picture.
  • You miss being able to walk to the Post Office.
  • The UPS guy can’t find you.  (Actually, our UPS guy is really great.  :))
  • The county that you live in is different from the county of your mailing address and is different still from the county of the closest library to you!  (Yep, that’s really true where we are living now!)
  • The closest town to you is in a different state.
  • Other nearby towns have signs that read something like:   Population 7.
  • Your house number has five digits.
  • You miss being able to order pizza delivery.
  • When you consider the awesome view out your window, you remember you like homemade pizza almost as well.  LOL
  • You see sheep (or cows or horses) grazing, across the road.
  • The deer eat your mulch pile before it can turn to mulch.
  • You start naming the wild animals that come by often.   (“Scraps” is the deer that comes to eat our mulch pile most often.  :))
  • You see more pick-up trucks around than mini-vans or cars.
  • The only thing you can smell outside is grass and plants.


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books    PO Box 293   Custer, SD 57730

Posted in Humor, MCS/Chronic Illness, The Black Hills | 6 Comments

A Great Example

The United Methodist Church is one of the churches leading the way into a brighter and lower-chemical world.

I was so excited to read an article from the United Methodist Resource Book about Accessibility.

The article states:  While it may be extremely difficult to accommodate the most severely chemically sensitive, many with moderate levels of sensitivity can be accommodated relatively easily, and incremental additional efforts will help those with greater degrees of sensitivity. Churches will be rewarded for additional effort by the knowledge that they are not only performing an important ministry for the range of persons who are sensitive to chemicals but also helping others who do not realize they are affected by environmental pollution.  They will also be increasing everyone’s awareness of environmental stewardship issues.”

Yes!!!!!!  I agree wholeheartedly.

You can read the whole article here:  http://www.holoweb.com/survivors/UMC_Statement.htm

There is hope, friends!!!


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books     PO Box 293    Custer, SD  57730

Posted in God's Grace/Encouragement, MCS/Chronic Illness | Leave a comment

Guest Post—Why Christians Should Care About Chemicals

My friend recently posted this wonderful and well-written piece.  (You can visit her at Sharing Air by clicking below!)

Sharing Air

Why Christians Should Care About Chemicals

by Martha McLaughlin

Does God care about the issue of chemical toxins in common products?  I believe the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”  I also firmly believe he wants us to care about it, too. Here’s why:

1. God created us with physical bodies. Psalm 139:13-14 says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . . Your workmanship is marvelous.”  God could have created us as disembodied spirits, but he chose to house our spirits in intricately designed physical forms.

2. God pays attention to the state of our bodies. He knows us so completely and cares about our minds, souls, and bodies so deeply that he is aware of how many hairs are on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30). We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:13 that “our bodies . . . were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.”

3. Our bodies don’t belong to us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”  Verse 15 says, “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? “

4. Because God owns our bodies, they are to be used to honor and glorify him. We are called to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), presenting our bodies to God for his use.

5. Being good stewards of our physical forms means doing our best to keep them healthy and functioning well. God can and does work through people with broken bodies, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to faithfully manage the physical resources we’ve been given. The Bible instructs us on many aspects of physical health, including diet, drinking, overeating, and the importance of rest.

6. The Bible also addresses the issue of toxins. Although the man-made chemicals that saturate our present-day world didn’t exist in Biblical times, the Bible gives us some important clues on how to deal with them when it discusses household mold. Mold can produce mycotoxins, which can affect the body in much the same way that chemical toxins can. In Leviticus 14, God gave the Israelites detailed instructions on how to proceed when they found mold in a home. The instructions included scraping walls and removing affected stones, then tearing down the house if the mold continued to spread. The instruction wasn’t to expect or pray for protection from the toxin. The instruction was to go to great lengths to avoid it.

7. We are called not just to care for our own bodies, but to care for others, as well. No one can process an unlimited amount of toxic material, but there are differences, due to age, size, genetics, nutritional status, and other factors that affect how efficiently any given body can detoxify any given chemical. A product that doesn’t produce obvious symptoms in one person can cause another great suffering. Avoiding toxins is not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of those who share the air. Galatians 5:13-14 says, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Philippians 2:4 says, “Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

8. The use of toxic products can prevent people from hearing the gospel, participating in Christian fellowship, or using their gifts within the context of a church body. Chemicals can contaminate schools, workplaces, stores, medical buildings, and any other public place. When they contaminate a church building, however, there may be serious spiritual ramifications. When people have reactions to building, cleaning, personal care or other products used in a church building or on the bodies, clothes, and hair of other people there, they are likely to look for fellowship and spiritual food elsewhere. Likewise, toxic products used within a home limit the degree to which it can be used for hospitality and ministry.

Life is busy, and the world is full of both important and not-so-important things that claim our attention. It’s impossible to focus on everything. I do believe, however, that choosing whether or not to use toxic products is a foundational issue. Lack of health limits the extent to which we can fully address other important needs, and causing others unnecessary suffering just isn’t acceptable. We should care about this.



Black Hills Picture Books    PO Box 293   Custer, SD  57730


Posted in Caregivers, MCS/Chronic Illness | Leave a comment

Don’t Compare Trials

The day before one of the worst days of my life, I found out that a friend was dying.  She was relatively young at the time.

But did I expect her to set aside her suddenly having to face death and “not grieve” that, just because I was homeless (etc.)?  Of course not!  And did she expect me to set aside my troubles and “minimize” them because she was dying?  Of course not!  She prayed for me, and I prayed for her.

It’s so easy to feel like our troubles don’t matter because someone else’s troubles are so great.  Or, that someone else is whining about “nothing” compared to what we are going through.

One way I like to look at this is through my 9-year-old self’s eyes.  Some say that their childhood is carefree and they began to feel the responsibilities and trials of life more as an adult.

Not so with me.  I had a VERY happy childhood, but apparently I was born a very serious child in some ways.  When I was only around 9 years old, my grandfather commented to my dad that I was a worry-wart!  He was right!

So, when I faced a 9-year-old child’s struggle, it seemed huge to me.  Sometimes I ended up very distressed.  Did my parents shoo it aside (and shoo me aside) and coldly say I was silly?  No!  They helped me through it.

In the same way, any one of us cannot truly know how a certain trial or suffering is affecting another human being.  Each one has different skills, background, hurts, wounds, and difficult experiences that may play into our current trials.  Thus, to judge someone else’s trial as “not that bad” is very unwise.

On the other hand, when Jesus saw Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever, did He say to her:  “Oh, your fever isn’t nearly as bad as the troubles of the paralyzed guy I just healed.”  No, of course not!  He had compassion on her.

In the same way, Jesus comes to each of us in our own needs.  He does not minimize our hurts, and neither should we.

Has someone minimized your hurt?  How did it feel?   

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books    PO Box 293    Custer, SD 57730

Posted in Caregivers, God's Grace/Encouragement, MCS/Chronic Illness | 3 Comments

A Story of Kindness

One day, we got the kids all loaded into the car (ages 10, 6, and 3), I dropped Steve off at work, and the kids and I headed to an appointment (in our only car).

At the time, I was experiencing major fatigue from hidden mold and mold toxins in our house, but I didn’t realize it.  I thought the fatigue was only a side-effect from a medication I had been taking and had recently stopped.

We arrived at the office, and I struggled to get our three-year-old out of her car seat and into her wheelchair; (she was born with spina bifida).  I wearily pushed her wheelchair up the ramp, struggled with the front door, and came in.  We made our way to the waiting area, and our older kids began to play.  I can’t remember, but I probably tried to get out something interesting for our youngest child to look at or play with.

Then the person behind the desk called my name, but before I could get up, she told me my appointment was NEXT week.  I couldn’t believe it.  It didn’t surprise me that I had gotten confused about the date, but all that effort had been for nothing, and I would have to do it again next week.

Could she squeeze me in, I asked.

No, that really wasn’t going to work.

I’m sure the disappointment and weariness showed on my face.

But immediately, glancing at me and our daughter’s wheelchair, another client offered for me her appointment spot!  The person behind the desk started to protest, but the other client insisted I take her appointment, and then another person chimed in, saying they could come another day.

I cried.

It was over five years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  My eyes are tearing up even now at remembering this kindness from strangers.

People, don’t underestimate the impact your kindness can have on another human being.

“Love is patient, love is kind….”  I Corinthians 13:4a

Christa Upton      Black Hills Picture Books     PO Box 293        Custer, SD 57730

Posted in God's Grace/Encouragement | 10 Comments