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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On Hiatus

Between finishing up graduate school, working on a bazillion projects, dealing with the holidays, quitting all my part-time jobs, packing and sorting my house for the move, handling kids with emotional and anxiety issues, and just living, I have no energy for blogging or writing right now. As soon as we're settled in our new house, I'll be able to pick it up again.

Between now and sometime in February, I'm putting the blog on hiatus. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, everyone! Stay safe and keep reading good books.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Favorite After-Christmas Tradition

Christmas morning comes after days and weeks of building excitement. Children rush to the stockings and the tree to see what Santa brought. Fanciful wrapping paper is ripped from boxes and bags. And in a matter of a few hours (we drag it out at our house, opening presents one at a time), Christmas is reduced to bags of torn wrapping paper and opened presents. The excitement is done until next Christmas. The after-Christmas blahs set in with a vengeance. You know, that vague disappointed feeling.

We found a cure. We celebrate Hogswatch sometime after Christmas but before New Year's Eve. It's total silliness based on a book by Terry Pratchett, the Hogfather (now a motion picture!). The book is hysterically funny, especially if you read it out loud. The movie is pretty close to the story, too, and also very funny.

It's the story of the Hogfather being kidnapped right before Hogswatch. Somebody has to take his place, so Death steps in to fill his boots.

We celebrate by making all the kids go into another room and pretend to be asleep for 15 minutes so the Hogfather can come. Loud, horrible snoring noises are encouraged. Meanwhile, the adults leave large black paper bootprints around the fireplace, if you have one, and assorted imported treats or Christmas leftovers on the counter. The children get to run out and eat whatever they like while we get the gift exchange ready.

The first year we did this with just our own kids. I went to the grocery store and found some bizarre items, like a lemon juicer and an ice cream scoop and envelopes and biscuit mix and pineapples and other random cheap things, and wrapped them up from the Hogfather. The kids thought it was funny. No expectations of anything good or expensive. It was pure silliness.

Hogswatch evolved into a no-holds-barred white elephant gift exchange. Anything ugly or weird or unwanted that you could wrap ended up in the pile of presents. The nicer the wrapping job and the larger the box, the more the gift was fought over. Until it was opened. Only a few were still fought over after opening because they were useless or ugly and definitely unwanted for a reason. The hideous Santa plate made the rounds for several years. So did the awful angel fountain. It sounds much prettier than it was. The encyclopedia set was passed around for almost an hour before someone finally opened the box. Good times.

We haven't done it for a couple of years and I miss it. Maybe this year we'll find a space big enough for all the families that like to celebrate it with us. Last I counted we had at least seven large families involved.

It's something to look forward after Christmas that has no expectations tied to it except to have fun. It's just silly.

Pass me the pink sugar pigs and I'll read you The Hogfather...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Another Christmas Tradition

I grew up in a large family. I've got eight brothers and sisters. Each year, we would draw names for Christmas presents. We only had to get one present instead of trying to find presents for each of our siblings. Since my parents were funding most of it, I don't blame them for trying to keep things simpler and easier on the budget.

We kept that tradition with our own kids. Every year, usually Thanksgiving weekend, we scrawl names on slips of paper and take turns drawing one from the pile.

My family eventually phased it out. We're a large group and scattered across the US. It includes multiple generations. Half of us are grandparents. Keeping track of it just got too complicated. For a while we switched it to just the siblings and sent family gifts. But even that got too complicated after a while. We don't do an organized gift exchange. I kind of miss it.

We still do it with our own kids. We set a price limit but other than that, anything goes. Silly or serious, it's up to the gift giver. We've had some pretty fun presents over the years and since I usually fund the shopping expedition, it helps keep Christmas on budget.

How do you do present exchanges with your family?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday Recipe - One-Pot Alfredo Noodles

My son does these all the time and he's getting really good at making them. It's not really alfredo sauce, but it's close. It only uses one pot, a colander, and a spoon, so it's easy on the dishes. And it tastes great.

One-Pot Alfredo Noodles

1 lb uncooked macaroni or noodles, whatever shape you want (bowties, elbows, shells, etc.)
1/4 c. butter
2 T. flour
2 c. milk
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 c. shredded cheese (or more if you want it cheesier), this can be parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, or any cheese you want to use
1/2 c. chopped salami (optional)
1 c. steamed broccoli or frozen chopped veggies (also optional)

In a large saucepan, bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, melt the butter. Stir in the flour. Cook and stir for a minute or so until it's smooth, creamy, and bubbly. Stir in the milk with a whisk. Make sure you whisk it long enough to smooth out any lumps. Add the salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook and stir until it comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts.

Add the noodles, salami, and veggies. Stir gently to coat. Serve with extra cheese to sprinkle on top. Serves 2-8, depending on who is eating it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Traditions

Christmas abounds with traditions. We have lots at our house. I think I'll share one a week until Christmas, then it's time to start packing up the house. Hopefully we'll have somewhere to move to by then.

One of our favorite traditions is the twelve gifts of Christmas. We start December 12, at least with the gifts part. I start several days earlier. The idea is to have twelve gifts, wrapped and ready, by the evening of December 12. We open one gift a night. Each gift is a small treat for the family to share, something simple like a box of chocolates or cookies or some other special treat. On the outside of the present is a scripture reference. Before we can open the present and share the treat, we read the scripture and discuss the gift God has given us. It brings a more reverent feeling to our Christmas countdown and reminds us why we celebrate Christmas.

What family traditions do you love at Christmas?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Orange Ginger Pork

I had a big pork roast the other day and a bunch of assorted leftovers. So I did what I usually do and improvised. I loved the taste of this one. It makes a great pulled pork. The orange and lemon gives it a nice tang and the ginger gives it a mild kick.

Orange Ginger Pork

about 2 lbs boneless pork roast, cut into large chunks (5 or 6 big pieces)
1 orange, sliced really thin, don't peel it
1/2 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 T. fresh ginger, chopped fine
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper

Stick pork into a 2 quart slow cooker. Stuff the orange slices between the pieces of pork. Mix together everything else. Pour over the pork. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.

Remove the orange slices and discard. Take two forks and use them to pull the pork apart. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Cover and cook on high for another 30 minutes.

Serve over rolls, mashed potatoes, or rice. Add a green salad and baked yams for a complete and yummy meal.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Moving Woes

My life is incredibly insane right now. I successfully defended my thesis and made the revisions and thought I'd have a week or two to relax and catch my breath. HA! Not gonna happen. We were looking to relocate so we put our house on the market thinking it might take a while to sell. We had plans. We were going to be moved out and settled before the house sold. I should have known better.

The deal we were working on fell apart. The other options we were looking at weren't working out. And our house is now under contract. We're scrambling to find jobs, a house to move to, and dealing with kids with anxiety issues as well as over twenty years of accumulated stuff.

Can I curl up under my desk and whimper for a while? Wait, that desk is in storage...

But in the long run, this will be better for my writing, my health, and our kids. We hope.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Spiced Sugar Cookies

Some of my books are on sale this week for only 99 cents! Check them out and a whole lot of other books in multiple genres -

I am in love with spices. And sugar cookies. And my husband. And chocolate. Some of those I can share with you. Not my hubby and not my chocolate. Sorry. Not gonna happen.

But I will share these luscious and easy sugar cookies with you, especially with the holiday season happening. These do call for some out-there spices, so if you don't have them on hand, you can be safe and just use cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Most people have those in their kitchen, right? Or am I weird with my giant spice collection?

Never mind. If you like spices, give these a try. If you want to experiment with spices, this is a good recipe to try. Plus, they smell divine while baking. Like a slice of Christmas. Or Thanksgiving.

Spiced Sugar Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. poppy seeds
1 t. anise seeds
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. ginger
1 1/4 c. flour (You can use 1/2 whole wheat flour in this recipe)

For topping:
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice or ground cloves

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes about five minutes. Don't skimp on this step or your cookies won't have that creamy soft texture of really good sugar cookies. Add the egg, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and spices. Beat until very smooth and fluffy. Gently stir in flour just until mixed.

Scoop dough by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Gently flatten with your hand until they're about 3/4 of an inch thick.

Mix together the topping ingredients in a small bowl or shaker. Sprinkle over the cookies before baking.

Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes, less time if you like them soft, more time if you like them crispier.

Cool and devour. Makes about 24 cookies.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Music Video Wars

My kids and I have this thing every once in a while where we post music videos to each other's FB feed. The one who posts the most horrendous one wins.

So my son and I were playing this the other day. My other son jumped in. Someone got rick-rolled. Horrible music videos from YouTube were unearthed and posted. Things got ugly fast. This video was the front-runner:

Then my daughter got involved and found this one:

Same song but so much worse. She wins the war.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Nutty Granola

My family adores granola but it's so pricey and the store varieties I can afford aren't that exciting. So I made my own granola the other day. It's surprisingly easy and affordable. Plus you can adjust it for whatever ingredients you have on hand. And bonus! this recipe has no wheat in it.

I had nuts in my freezer - a few walnuts and lots of hazelnuts. We have family and neighbors who grow walnuts and we have several hazelnut bushes in our yard so we have plenty of these things around. I added in some sliced almonds from Costco to make a really scrumptious nutty granola.

Be warned; this stuff is very filling.

Nutty Granola

3 1/2 c. rolled oats, either old-fashioned or quick cooking
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. walnuts, smashed into a fine powder
1/2 c. hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. honey (or use pancake syrup)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. maple flavoring
1/4 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon

Mix oats, coconut, and nuts in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together oil, honey, sugar, vanilla, maple flavoring, salt, and cinnamon. Pour the sludge over the oat mixture. Stir until well coated and liquid is spread evenly through the mixture.

Spread on a large baking sheet. Bake at 300° or 30-40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Granola should be lightly browned.

Let it cool on the baking sheet after the final ten minutes. Break it into crumbles and store in an airtight container. If you like dried fruit in your granola, stir it in after the granola is cooled down.

Now to come up with some variations. White chocolate chips and craisins? Dried pineapple and mango? Cherry and extra vanilla? The possibilities are endless...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Movie Review - "Cowboys and Aliens" and "Home"

Movie binge time again at my house. The Netflix DVD option may be my downfall. But since we rarely make it to the movie theater and it takes forever to get the movies on Netflix streaming, if ever, so ordering DVDs works for me. Up this week: "Cowboys and Aliens" and "Home."

Cowboys and Aliens was a huge disappointment. It had Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. It had cowboys. And aliens. And explosions. But even with all that, I can sum it up in one word: Boring. Everything was grim and dirty. Everyone was grim and Serious. Notice the capital S. They were all Serious. It was like the entire cast was constipated and needed a truckload of prunes so they could loosen up and have fun. Daniel Craig looked old and angry. Harrison Ford looked older and angrier. The movie should have been fun. But it wasn't. It was painfully boring. You don't have to be silly to have fun, but when the actors look like they're sitting on porcupines covered in napalm the entire movie, it's just sad to watch. And boring. Porcupines covered in napalm would have made the movie so much better.

Another nitpick of mine: Why are these aliens who are supposedly advanced enough and intelligent enough to travel between stars always naked and always just roar and growl? Why do they kill people with giant claws when they have all sorts of cool tech and weapons at their disposal? They don't have to be human or humanoid, but PLEASE, for the love of Pete, make them more than just rampaging monsters. Or else have a really good explanation WHY they have the brains of rabid squirrels but can still fly spaceships.

Cowboys and Aliens was a huge bust for me. I give it a giant tomato and raspberry. If I want to watch grouchy old men fight things in the wild, I'll watch "Up." At least he was a likable old grump.

"Home" was highly entertaining. The story is really predictable and childish and in-your-face with the moral, but the characters were so much fun that I didn't mind. There are some really funny one-liners, too. The aliens were childish, but very believable. Smart but very stupid at the same time. Like small children. Or the Paklids at the space center. For an animated kids' movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult. It wasn't dark and dismal and depressing, and no one was Serious, at all. I laughed, and yes, I cried a couple of times. I cared about the characters. I wanted to take them home and make them my friends. That's when you know a story is successful, when the audience makes that emotional connection with your characters.

I give "Home" an A. It's definitely finding a place in my movie collection.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Sage and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

Whoops. I can't read a calendar. Too much on my mind. Here's the recipe for this week:

Made as a casserole with sliced delicata squash -
Cook in a crockpot on low for 4-6 hours until tender.
I need to make this stuffing as just stuffing. It is so flavorful and tasty just by itself, but stuff it in the squash and it's beyond delicious. This makes a hearty winter supper or, if you can find some tiny squash, you could make it as a fancy dinner party offering.

For the record, this is a vegetable stuffing. It has no bread in it so if you're gluten-free, it should be fine for you. If you want a traditional stuffing, toss bread crumbs with the vegetables then add enough chicken or vegetable broth to moisten it. The vegetables have some liquid in them so don't add too much or you'll have soggy stuffing.

For the sage, I grow it in my yard as an ornamental plant. It has these really fun fuzzy gray thick leaves. And it smells really good. It also grows in places too dry for most other ground covers. If you don't have fresh sage and can't find it at the store, you can substitute 1 t. dried sage for 1 T. fresh sage.

Sage and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 large acorn squash (about 8 inches across) or 3 small ones (3-4 inches across)
2 T. pancake syrup
4 large or 6 small pre-cooked sausage patties, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 small potato, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 granny smith or other tart apple, cored and chopped into small bits
1/4 onion, chopped small
2 T. fresh sage, chopped small
1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)
fresh nutmeg

Arrange squash cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with syrup. Set aside.

Mix together sausage, potato, carrot, apple, onion, sage, and pecans. Stuff this mixture into the squash halves. You can mound it up but try to keep it all inside the squash. (If you don't have enough stuffing, you can chop up more potato or carrot to fill up the squash. I had way too much so I let it fill the pan between the squash halves but it ended up burning.)

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the stuffed squash. Keep it light. Sprinkle just a pinch or two of nutmeg over each squash half. Be very stingy with the nutmeg. A little goes a very long way.

Bake at 375° for 35-50 minutes, until the squash is tender and top of the stuffing is browned. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cracking the Lid on Audio Books - Second Chances now available!

I finally dipped my toe into the audio book market. Second Chances is now available as an audio book! Others are in the works.

Paltronis wasn't the one who started the fight, but she was the one who ended it. She also ended her career with the Patrol. Until Tayvis, an officer, shows up and offers her a chance to prove she's not a complete screw-up. 

A prequel short story for the Fall of the Altairan Empire series. Find the whole series at

I have codes for free downloads of the audio version. If you're willing to give me a review in exchange for a code, leave me a comment! Act fast, because these are limited to the first ten people to respond.

Today is also the day I defend my thesis. Talk about pressure...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Peanut Butter Chocolate Whoopie Pie

Every once in a while, I want something decadent. Something that any self-respecting diet book would tell you to run away from, as fast as your chubby cellulite-ridden body can move. Yeah, I hate diet books. Just a warning that this is the kind of dessert to reserve for very special occasions, like the hubby's birthday. I usually try to post healthier recipes, and I did lighten this one up just a little. But be warned: It's a diet killer. But it's sooooooooo good. And not hard at all.

And just in case you're wondering, this is a double layer cake, not pie, but it's called whoopie pie for obscure reasons. If you're really interested in why, go read this article. And yes, I know this recipe isn't technically a whoopie pie, but it's based off another recipe that calls it whoopie pie even though it's a big cake. But whatever you call it, this is really delicious.

Woot! I remembered to photograph it
before it got devoured!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Whoopie Pie

Chocolate Cake:
1/3 c. yogurt, plain or vanilla
1/2 c. powdered milk
1 1/2 c. water
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. baking cocoa
2 c. flour (I used half whole wheat, half white)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two round cake pans (I used my 10 inch springform pans.) Set aside.

Beat yogurt, powdered milk, water, and lemon juice together until smooth. Stir in oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, mix sugar, soda, salt, and baking cocoa. Add liquid ingredients. Beat until smooth and creamy. Stir in flour.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched. (The 10" pans took 28 minutes, smaller diameter pans will take a little bit longer.) Remove from the oven. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Peanut Butter Frosting/Filling:
1/2 c. cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
3-4 c. powdered sugar
2-4 T. milk

Soften cream cheese and butter if needed. Beat together with peanut butter until very smooth and fluffy. Add 3 c. of powdered sugar and 2 T. milk. Beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl often to make sure everything is mixed in. If frosting is too thick, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. You want something soft and spreadable that still mostly holds its shape. Beat the frosting on high for at least five minutes. Check the consistency again and adjust if needed. Once you have a smooth, creamy, fluffy peanut butter filling, eat it with a spoon assemble the cake.

Place one layer of the cake upside down on a serving platter or large plate. Hint: If it bulged up in the center, use a big serrated bread knife to level the cake before assembling. You only need to do this to one layer.

Dollop a very generous amount of the peanut butter delicious filling on top of the cake layer. Spread a little, it should be soft enough to continue spreading on its own when you add the second layer. Speaking of which, place the second layer, right side up, on top of the filling. Let it settle a bit. The filling layer should squish out the edges a little. Dollop the rest of the frosting on the top and gently spread it. Let it drip down the edges on its own.

Now the hard part. Set the cake aside for several hours to let the frosting set up. You can cover it and refrigerate it if you want or if its really hot in the house.

Serve and eat.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Giveaway Time!!! Ebook copies of "Mission Tomorrow"

Winners have been chosen and contacted. Congrats!

I'm beyond thrilled to announce that Mission Tomorrow is available starting tomorrow! I've got a fun story in this collection. But check out the other big names in the volume. I'm published with some great authors. And by Baen, no less.

So here's the deal. Enter the giveaway below and I'll give three lucky people an ebook copy of Mission Tomorrow. Reviews would be awesome after you read it.

Bonus entry if you comment on this post telling me what you see for the future of space travel, say the next 100 years or so. Where will we be? How will we get there? What issues do you see for near future space travel?

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Salsa Verde

I adore salsa verde, except nobody makes it without cilantro anymore. In case you haven't picked up on it, I detest cilantro. Detest isn't strong enough. Abhor, loathe, despise, execrate (cool word I just found in the dictionary!). The stuff is foul beyond words. If you like it, good for you, but please, please, PLEASE don't try to convince me to try it. I have and no, I will never NEVER like the stuff.

So, I had a whole garden full of green tomatoes and needed something to do with them. I still have quarts of green tomato mincemeat in my basement. I don't have any salsa and my children eat it like candy. So salsa was the obvious answer. I couldn't use my red tomato version, so I went searching for something with green tomatoes. I came across this recipe on the Ball Canning website. I didn't have all the ingredients, so I improvised. I like the version I came up with. It's sweet, tart, citrusy, and very tasty.

Bonus, it can be bottled and stored. If you can keep your kids out of it. Just follow the canning and processing directions for your area and altitude. The original recipe has information on processing or check your local county agricultural extension office.

Salsa Verde

3 large anahiem chilies
7 c. finely chopped green tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped small
2 - 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 c. lemon and/or lime juice
1 t. cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1 t. black pepper

Wash the chilies. Roast until nicely blackened. (This takes about 15 minutes in my BBQ grill. If you don't have a way to roast them or just want the easy way, use 2 can chopped green chilies. If you want it spicier, chop up some fresh jalapenos or other peppers and add them in.) Peel the roasted peppers, remove seeds, and chop into small pieces.

Dump everything into a large pot - chilies, tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon/lime juice, and spices. Cook and stir over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Fill clean, warmed pint jars. Wipe the rims clean, process and seal if desired. Otherwise, put it into containers and refrigerate for at least overnight before serving.

If you like it smoother, use a stick blender on the salsa until it's the texture you like.

This recipe makes about 5 pints.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Broad Universe Full Moon Blog Hop - Blue Moon Blues

Check out Broaduniverse!

I love the song Blue Moon. It's a sweet, sad, romantic song, great for those moody days.

A blue moon isn't really all that rare or special, though. Astronomically speaking, it's the second full moon in a month. This past July, we had a blue moon on July 31. The moon was full on July 2, then again on July 31, making the second one a blue moon. It was very pretty. I enjoy sitting outside at night and watching the full moon. I enjoy watching the night sky pretty much anytime, even when it's cloudy. But then, I'm a space geek.

I could explain what makes a full moon. (During a full moon, the earth is between the sun and the moon so we see the fully lit up side of the moon. The cycle from full moon to full moon takes approximately 28 days.) Or I could explain how the moon doesn't have a dark side. (It's tidally locked with the Earth. One side always faces the Earth, but because of the relative position of the Sun, Earth, and Moon, that side is not always lit or always dark. One day on the Moon lasts about two weeks. One night on the moon also lasts about two weeks. It is more technically correct to call it the far side of the Moon.) I could quote numbers for daytime (100°C) and nighttime (-173°C) temperatures on the Moon.

Day and night temperature
maps of the Moon -
from NASA's website
I could even expound on the types of rocks on the Moon's surface (mostly volcanic), their ages, and even the origin of the Moon's atmosphere. (Yes, it has an extremely thin atmosphere, basically negligible but still there.)

But what I love most about the Moon is the way its light makes my mundane backyard into a chiaroscuro world of mystery and shadow and liquid silver. I love how it hushes the strident noise of day and creates a silence stitched together with the chirp of crickets and the shush of the night breeze. Night without the Moon would be too dark, too full of terror and fear. Night with the Moon is magic.

Because this is a giveaway tour, I'm offering a one-of-a-kind hand-made crocheted Kindle cover! And yes, I'll even mail this international. And include at least one free ebook for your reading pleasure. Just pick a title off my webpage - - and tell me in the comments on this post. It also helps if you leave an email or some way I can contact you if you win.

Be sure to enter the giveaway for the Blog Hop and visit the other blogs -

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Hawaiian Beef

Slow cooker recipe for you. It worked pretty well, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping to re-create. I've been looking for a sweet tomato beef recipe that my neighbor taught me to make years ago. It had pineapple, bell peppers, raisins, and a bunch of other yummy stuff in a ketchup based sauce.

Here's try #1:

Hawaiian Beef

1 large onion, cut into strips
2-3 lb top round steak or roast, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large bell peppers, cut into strips
1 c. crushed pineapple
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. hoisin sauce
1 c. ketchup
1 t. ground black pepper

Layer everything into a large (5-6 quart) crockpot or slow cooker in the order given. Slap the lid on and let it cook on high for 1-2 hours. Give it a good stir, then cover and cook for another 4-6 hours on low.

Stir well before serving over steamed rice.

chopped peanuts
sliced almonds
shredded coconut
chopped green onions
mandarin oranges
pineapple tidbits

Monday, October 19, 2015

Breathing Room

It's nice to catch a breathing space every now and then. I finally found a few days. Sort of. My thesis is off to the committee. The house painting projects are (mostly) done. Those that are left are not critical. The house is cleaned up, cleared out, and officially up for sale. Work is not to busy, at least for me. The kids are old enough that they don't require much hands-on care anymore. Most of my projects are at a point where they don't require a lot of attention. So I have space to breathe.

That could change any moment. We're in a holding pattern waiting for the dominoes to start falling. Then big changes will happen, all at once. And I'll be wishing for more breathing room again.

What kinds of things do you wish you had more space and room for in your life? I'm looking forward to more time for writing fiction again. Time for quilting and crocheting. Maybe I'll take up sketching again. Or maybe gardening. Time for games and movies. Time to laugh with my family. Hiking, camping, perhaps fishing. What would you do if you had a day or three where you could do whatever you wanted?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Lemon Sauce

This is that tangy, sweet but still sour, dessert sauce that goes really well with applesauce bundt cake (hint, hint). Or over gingerbread. Or over those traditional baked pudding thingies that I can never get to come out right.

It's easy and fast so go try some today. This version is based on an old Betty Crocker recipe.

Lemon Sauce

1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
3/4 c. warm water
4 T. lemon juice
1 t. grated lemon peel (optional)
2 T. butter

Mix sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat until it thickens and boils. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon peel and butter. Stir until smooth.

Serve over your favorite fruit dessert or applesauce cake or bread pudding or whatever you like lemon sauce drizzled over.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Person of Interest Definitely Caught My Interest

Have you noticed how tv shows these days are going for long story arcs that take at least the whole season, if not two or three, to resolve? Back in the day, tv shows told stories that took at most two or three episodes to finish, and those were usually reserved for season finales. Most storylines took one episode. Period. The End.

It makes sense. If you had to wait an entire week to get the next chapter in the story, you'd lose a lot of the urgency and interest. Yes, you still have to wait a week if you're watching the shows live. But with various recording devices and services like Netflix and instant streaming, long storylines are not just possible. They are becoming the norm.

I am definitely not complaining. I love it. I'm finding that watching shows with short storylines aren't as satisfying to me. Even movies are not as good. These tv shows really go into depth on the characters and settings and background. As long as it doesn't bog down the story, why not? It's like settling in with a really good book series.

Person of Interest is that kind of series. The story gets more tangled and convoluted the longer I watch. I just finished Season 3 and I can't wait to dive into Season 4. I really enjoy watching the characters evolve and finding out about new complications and issues.

The series is a dystopian-in-development that takes place in the now to near-future. It's totally 1984 in the making. I'm not a fan of that kind of dark storyline usually, but I'll make an exception with this show. The main character, Finch, is a Don Quixoté. He's full of goodness and light and hope. He sees the best in people and the future. Despite evil. Despite people who do horrible things. Despite the ever-looming presence of Big Brother. He believes in decency and goodness. And because of that, I can love the show and him.

If you've ever seen Man of La Mancha, the stories have a lot of similarities. Finch is taking people that most would assume are beyond redemption and finding ways to bring out the good in them. They have evolved into crusaders for the common good. Even though most of society is oblivious to what is happening, Finch and his friends are fighting for that right to remain oblivious. It's a hidden war, fought in shadows, which only adds to the tension. What if this is real? What if we are just ignorant because the government wants us to be ignorant? It's a believable scenario. And that's another reason I enjoy the show. I can believe in the truth of it. Even when I know it isn't true.

Besides that, the story is riveting. Three seasons in and I still don't see where it's headed. But the ride is fantastic so far.

Person of Interest is on Netflix. If you haven't watched it, go find it and spend a few days watching.

I give it an A, great show. I will warn that is a solid PG-13. The violence is a bit much, even for me. They keep the language and the innuendos clean, though. It's very definitely an adult storyline, so not one for the kids to watch.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Applesauce Bundt Cake

Referring to Monday's post: Talk about frustrating! Karina Fabian’s I Left My Brains in San Francisco would be up on Audible by now, but sometimes, there’s no rushing Amazon. To make up for the wait, she’s offering the first 3 chapters free and a chance to win the audiobook of Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, the first in the series. Go to Hurry! This offer goes when Audible finally posts the book!

Bundt. Such a fun word. Every time I say it, I think of that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mom "fixes" the bundt cake.

Anyway, bundt cakes can be fun. The key to getting them to look pretty is to grease and flour the pan well so they slide right out. Nothing wrecks the cake faster than sticking in the pan. It still tastes good, so if it sticks, mix it with pudding and call it dirt cake. Or make those cake pop thingies out of it. Or just eat it as crumbs on ice cream or all alone.

This cake made my house smell so delicious while it was baking. Cinnamon and apples and all the smells of fall. Now I'm hungry again...

Applesauce Bundt Cake

1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground cardamom
2 eggs
3 c. applesauce
3 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add salt, baking powder, and spices. Cream until very fluffy. Add eggs. Cream again until light in color and silky smooth, about three minutes. Stir in applesauce. Mix very well. Add flour and stir just until mixed.

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Scoop the batter into the pan and spread just enough to even it out if needed. Bake at 300° for 90 minutes.

Flip the pan upside down on a cooling rack. Let it sit for about five minutes, then lift the pan. The cake should slide right out. Let the cake cool for at least an hour. Transfer to a plate.

Serve with lemon sauce, whipped cream, cream cheese, or caramel sauce. Or just eat it plain. For breakfast. Come on, be a rebel!

Monday, October 5, 2015

::Warning! This blog has been infiltrated by zombies!::

My brain has been stolen. . . by zombies! It's all Karina Fabian's fault.

Karina Fabian and Bruno, her pet chainsaw
The Great Zombie Interview Experiment
Welcome to ZERD, the Zombie Extermination Research & Development Center. I’m Dr. Coriander Spice, and it’s my pleasure to take you on this tour. We have a special treat for you today! We have started an exciting new round of experiments suggested by Doctor Jaleta Clegg, a blogger and SFF writer. (Aren’t they the most amazing people?  I wish I had that kind of imagination.)
If you’d follow me to the experimentation room… Yes, yes, that is a live zombie. Or actually, an undead zombie (chortle). No need to panic. We’re behind safety glass, as are Doctor Clegg and our own ZERD specialist, Berk Fognini.
As you know, or should know by now, zombies do not have higher brain functions. For example, zombies as a rule cannot do multiplication. Of course, regular humans can. What’s 7x6? Yes you… uh, no, that’s not… You? No, it can’t be an odd number.  How about…? No, no Googling it.
Oh, hm. Maybe we should rethink that test.
Anyway, in general, a lack of higher brain functions is the rule, but what does that mean? We know that zombies can think enough to return home, chase the living, open doors, even avoid smoking areas. But is that cognizant thought or just ingrained habit? Today, we’re trying something new. We will actually question a zombie.
Yes, yes, people have done that before, but in the past, most of those people have been killed by the zombie before they could share anything they might have learned. Besides, “Honey, what are you doing?”, “Don’t you recognize me?” and “How could you?” really don’t give us a lot of insight. So please do not try this at home or anywhere else. We are professionals!
As you can see, our – quote – live zombie – unquote - has been immobilized with netting and we’ve attached electrodes to its brain. An MRI would be more accurate, of course, but we couldn’t guarantee it would survive the decontamination process. Listen as Doctors Clegg and Fognini begin the test. You can see the brain activity on the screen to the upper left.
Clegg: Can you tell us your name?
The zombie rasps a groan and struggles against the netting. The lines on the graph twitch, but steady quickly.
Clegg: What’s your name?
Zombie: Ehhhhh.
Its eyes roll in its head and it twists, but it ignores the scientists. Again, a minimal response makes the lines wiggle but nothing more.
Clegg shrugs and waves to Fognini.
Fognini, with the voice of the Bridgekeeper in Monty Python: What…is your name?
The zombie stills, but turns its attention toward the scientists.  The graph starts drawing peaks.
Zombie: Gaaal-a-haaad.
Fognini: What…is your quest?
Zombie: Graaaail.
Fognini: What…is your favorite color?
Zombie: Blue! No, yelll…auuuuugh.
Despite the zombie’s last answer ending in a long groan, the machine still showed activity.
Wow! So as you can see, we definitely have a Python fan. We had expected that, since this is the walking corpse of Cumberdict Benehatch, a local actor who hung himself when he didn’t get the part of King Arthur. The corpse zombiefied and escaped its noose before it was discovered, and was captured when it returned to the theater groaning, “Flesh wound.” I wonder if it’s a fan of British comedy in general. Excuse me.
Coriander presses a button: Jaleta? Try something from Dinner With the Past. I love that show.
Clegg: Who would you like dinner with?
Zombie stares at her a moment: Braaains.
Clegg, this time with a Welsh accent: Welcome to Dinner With the Past. Are you expecting someone?
For a moment, the zombie is still. The graphs trace gentle waves. Then, a sudden spike.
Zombie: Einstein. Aquinas. Biiiiiiiden.
Clegg, eyebrows raised in surprise: Very good. And what will you be having?
Zombie: Einstein. Aquinas. Biden. Braaains!
Becky Parker and her awesome voice
Fascinating! If I may draw your attention to the charts. You see this pattern, here? That is commonly associated with hunger, yet this line shows a definite decision-making process. It would seem our test subject has a discriminating taste in brains. Biden, one can only assume, is dessert. Let’s see where Jaleta goes with this.
Clegg: Why do you eat brains?
The zombie groans “brains!” once or twice more, and renews its struggle to escape.
Fognini, quoting The Return of the Living Dead: Don’t be afraid. Can you hear me? Why do you eat people?
Jaleta grabs Berk’s arm, shouting for him to stop, but it was too late. The zombie goes wild. It howls and thrashes against its restraints. The charts draws the Himalayas, then go flat as the zombie tears the wires out of the machine. Alarms sounds and large guns drop from the ceiling and spray the zombie with foam. As its struggles cease and it goes slack, it moans.
Zombie: Haaaack.
Oh, my. Oh, that is a shame. Fognini stepped all over its lines. You see, this is why you have to stay objective, and keep to a methodical scientific process. Well, still some interesting data. Perhaps we can try with someone who was less sensitive when they were alive.
Next on our tour is our chemical defense system. We have a wonderful video for you on how we developed the antihistamine foam you just saw in action.

You do NOT want to see what happened next. It wasn't pretty. Trust me. Oh, you DO want to see that? But this is a public blog. You're going to have to read the books. Or listen to them. After all, we are celebrating the audiobook release for Neeta Lyffe and her zombie adventures. I Left My Brains in San Francisco is waiting for you to listen.

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

Karina Fabian, the author, is an award-winning fantasy, science fiction author writes comedic horror that will make you die laughing and come back for more.  Check out her latest at

Becky Parker Geist, the narrator, owns Pro Audio Voices, serving clients internationally with exceptional voiceover for audiobooks, advertising & animation. She loves creating audiobooks with sound effects! Married with 3 adult daughters, Becky lives in San Francisco and New York, working Off Broadway regularly.

Find Karina at:

Find Becky at:

Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:

Audio Link will be sent once live….or undead, as the case may be. Due to publisher delays, it isn't quite there yet, but stay tuned.

Video Links