Check out my fiction - http://www.jaletac.com
Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, October 23, 2017

Craft Fair Experiences

I was a vendor at my first ever craft fair. I've attended quite a few over the years, just never as a vendor. My friends and I took our collection of crocheted stuff and sold it.

We did pretty well. I made more money than it cost me to be there. But then I spent it at other vendor booths. My little bit to help the economy.

We're looking for other craft fairs to attend so if you know of any in Washington near tri-cities or Moses Lake, please let me know.

If you want to buy any of my crocheted things, I'll be happy to work out a mail-order deal for you. Send me an email, please. jaletaclegg @ gmail.com

I've got wristwarmer mitts in all kinds of fun yarn, cotton dishcloths and scrubbies, hats, rose hair clips, and lots of little stuffed animals, mostly hedgehogs and bunnies right now. Oh, and loads of little turtle keychains.




That's all just my stuff. My friends didn't make it the first day, but I had no problem filling a 9 foot table by myself. I think my yarn addiction is getting out of control...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Apple Jelly

Apple jelly is really easy to make and very tasty. Next time you're peeling and coring apples, save those scraps to juice for jelly.

Apple Jelly

8 c. apple peels and cores
5 c. water
5 T. pectin OR 1 box
5 c. sugar

Pack the peels and cores into a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Pour the 6 c. of water over the top. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 4-6 hours.

Carefully drain off the juice into a measuring cup. You need 5 c. total of the juice. Add a little extra water if you come up short. Discard the juiced peels and cores.

Pour the 5 c. of juice into a large pan (I use my 5quart stew pot for this). Add the pectin. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Once it hits a full, rolling boil (it keeps bubbling even when you are stirring), add the sugar. Keep stirring while you bring it back to a full boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and pour into hot pint jars. Seal and process the jars.

Makes about 3 pints.

Monday, October 16, 2017

I Have a New Purse

I'm sure that title just reached out and grabbed you by the throat and screamed, "READ ME NOW!" Totally gripping. Yup. Not boring at all.

Yeah, I struggle with titles. I spend hours trying them out in my head only to be met with shrugs when I run them past my kids.

I remember years ago picking up a book by an author I'd never heard of before and being so intrigued by the title that I just had to read it. A Thousand Words for Stranger did not disappoint. Julie Czerneda gained a new fan that day. I love her books. And I'm glad I took a chance on a book simply because it had such a fantastic title.

What titles have reached out and grabbed you? Or what titles would you love to see on a book someday?

Comment with your most epic title and I might actually award someone a prize for it.

The poor tribble, all worn out.
And I do have a new purse. My poor tribble was dying after many years of faithful service lugging my wallet, keys, and junk around. But my laptop didn't quite fit. It does fit in my new purse. Plus, I have a pocket just for my current crochet project for those times when I'm stuck somewhere and need to keep my fingers busy. And lots more pockets. I have pockets that are still empty.

Bonus: My teenage daughter told me it was a hideous granny purse. Score!




The new purse in all its hideous glory!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Apple Butter

I'm a day late and a dollar short. Like usual lately. I got busy and forgot to get the recipe post up. Too many apples. Too many errands. Too many everything!

Apple butter is like a cross between applesauce and jam. It goes great on pancakes, waffles, muffins, toast, biscuits, and pretty much anything else you'd put jam on. It was really easy to make, too.

Save the peels and cores to make apple jelly. It's easy and tasty and very pretty. I'll post the recipe next week.

Apple Butter

12 apples
cold water
lemon juice
3 or 4 quart crockpot

Wash apples.

Fill a large bowl half full of cold water. Add 2 T. of lemon juice to the water. Set aside.

Peel, core, and slice the apples, dropping them into the lemon water bowl as you work. This helps keep them from turning brown.

Drain the slices and dump into your crockpot. They should fill it pretty much up to the top. Add 1/2 c. water. Sprinkle 2 T. lemon juice over the apple slices. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours until the apples are soft and starting to fall apart. Stir them really well to break up the chunks. If you stop now, you have applesauce. The apples should have broken down to only fill the crockpot about half-way.

Remove the lid and continue to cook for another 4-8 hours, stirring every hour or two. The applesauce should turn caramel brown as it reduces. When it's really thick and down to about one-third of the starting volume of applesauce, it's done.

Package it into hot pint canning jars and process to seal. OR let it cool down and put into airtight containers and keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Makes about 2 pints of apple butter.

Monday, October 9, 2017

My Sasquatch Story

Check out the photos on this site!
I've been researching folklore lately. You can't live near the Cascade Mountains and NOT research Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch, at least a little. Giant hairy apes living in the forests that instinctively know how to avoid scientists and people with good cameras? Yeah, right. I'm usually a skeptic.

But, years ago, I had my own close encounter with Sasquatch.

I was just a few days shy of my twelfth birthday. My dad had decided to take me and some of my siblings on a backpacking trip with one of his friends in the Uinta Mountains in Utah. The plan was that we'd live on ramen, hot chocolate packets, and the loads of fresh trout we were going to catch.

Early one morning, Dad, his friend, and my older brother had gone off to a nearby lake to go fishing. My sisters and I were back at the camp next to another lake. I didn't want to fish, so I went off exploring around the lake. The fish weren't biting.

These lakes weren't very big, but there were a lot of them in the area. It's beautiful country. We were the only humans for miles around. Or so we thought.

I came around one end of the lake and found a stretch of muddy bank. And right in the middle of the mud, was the biggest footprint I think I've ever seen. It looked like a barefoot human foot, but not even my dad had feet that big. He'd also gone the opposite direction.

I poked around, looking to see if someone else was camping, but found no trace of anyone in the area. Just that lone footprint.

To this day, I have no idea where it came from. Did Bigfoot come to the lake to drink during the night leaving only his bare footprint behind? Maybe.

I halfway hope that's the truth, because I'd love to believe there's a lot more mysteries on this planet than we think.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chowder Base

I have neglected to post this recipe. Clam Chowder is one of my all-time favorite soups. This recipe is a great base to build on for many types of soup. Feel free to add in clams for clam chowder, corn for corn chowder, or whatever else you like.

Chowder Base

2 T. butter
1/2 c. onion, chopped small
1/2 c. diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small carrot, diced small
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 T. chicken boullion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
4 c. hot water
2 c. milk or cream
2 T. cornstarch

Melt butter in a large pot. Add onion. Cook and stir for a few minutes, until onion is soft. Add celery and garlic. Cook for another  minute. Add in carrot, potatoes, chicken boullion, salt, pepper, and water. Cover and simmer for about an hour, until vegetables are tender.

Mix milk and cornstarch. Stir into soup. Simmer on low for about ten minutes until soup thickens. Adjust seasonings if needed.

*For clam chowder - add 1 can of clams with the milk.
*For corn chowder - add 1 can of corn with the potatoes, do not drain

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fun Anthology - Tales from the Underground

I've got a story in this collection. They all involve caves and/or underground. The genres are mixed - science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

It's up for pre-order now. The book will be delivered October 6, so grab it while the grabbing's good!

Tales from the Underground: Twelve tales of hidden legends

Under our feet lie countless realms of possibility. Join twelve writers as they explore those realms - discovering lands of fantasy, lands from our far future, lands of mystery. 

There are places full of wonders, full of terrors, full of visions of what could be. 

Join us, down here, in the dark.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chicken Cordon Bleu (GF and cow free!)

I love chicken cordon bleu, but it doesn't love me back. The original dish is a chicken breast pounded flat, layered with ham and swiss cheese, then rolled up, coated in bread crumbs and fried to delicious crispiness. It's a massive gall bladder attack, heart attack, cholesterol nightmare; but it's so tasty...

So I decided to make a more diet-friendly version. And while I was at it, I decided to make it gluten free so my daughter could eat it too. But that also meant we had to swap out the cheese for a sheep cheese. (Can't do goat cheese because I'm allergic to it.)

So if you aren't gluten-free, go ahead and use regular panko bread crumbs. If the cheese isn't a problem for you, use your favorite cheese. I recommend swiss cheese, but havarti, provolone, or monterey jack would also work well.

For the ham, choose whatever deli ham you like best—canadian bacon, black forest ham, honey smoked ham, or whatever sounds good to you. I like using the natural hams mostly because the chemicals added to most deli meats give me issues. Me and my GI tract need to have a long talk about reacting to things...

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 chicken breasts
8 slices of deli ham
8 slices of Manchego cheese (sheep cheese from Costco - delicious!)
1 egg
1 c. gluten-free bread crumbs or gluten-free croutons, crushed fine
chopped parsley for garnish

Lay a chicken breast flat on a cutting board. Slice it horizontally into two thinner pieces. Repeat for the other three breasts.

Flatten each chicken breast by pounding it with a meat hammer or a rolling pin. You want them fairly thin.

Lay a slice of ham and cheese on each breast piece. Roll it up with the ham and cheese on the inside. Use a toothpick to hold the rolls closed.

Beat the egg with 1 T. of water.

Bread the chicken rolls by dipping them into the egg, then into the bread crumbs. If you use croutons, no need to add extra seasonings. Otherwise, you can add 1/2 t. of oregano or sage to the bread crumbs. Place seam side down in a greased baking dish.

Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and breading is nice and crispy. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 8 servings - size depends on how big the chicken breasts were to start with.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Garden Stories

This is a story of the little garden in my backyard. It produces tons of veggies and fruits. My husband was in charge of planting it this year so we ended up with an interesting mix that wasn't what I had planned but it's okay. My husband is a casual gardener. He weeds maybe once a month when the weeds get higher than the veggies or he convinces me to go out with him.

My husband also believes in letting volunteer squash and tomatoes grow. Many of the varieties you plant are hybrids, so when they cross-pollinate, you get some very weird varieties. We got red pear tomatoes one year and teeny tiny red cherry tomatoes another. This year, we have some weird squash. Tasty, but weird. They look like zucchini, sort of. We just picked one that looks like a zucchini shaped acorn squash. Can't wait to cut into it to see what it tastes like. Others are a cross between delicata and zucchini. Mild tasting and less wet than zucchini, they worked great in zucchini bread and stir fry.

We also have these - tigger melons. They're about baseball size and taste a lot like a honeydew except not quite as sweet. They're an heirloom variety of muskmelon.

Maybe next year I'll plant my flowerbed of okra that I wanted to do this year.

What weird fruits or veggies have you tried that are not the normal stuff? Did it grow well for you? What did you do with it? I'd love recipes or other fun stuff.

Now to get back to making tigger melon jam. New experiment for me. I'll do a recipe post on it if it turns out.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Eggs Benedict with Blender Hollandaise Sauce

"What are eggs benedict?"

I glanced up from my video game. "Why do you ask?"

My daughter shrugged. "They always talk about them on Food Network. I just wondered what they were."

"Poached eggs on toast with ham and hollandaise sauce."

"That sounds delicious. Can we make them?"

I thought about it for a minute. "Not tonight. I don't have any ham."

We finally have ham, eggs, and all the rest of the ingredients so we tried it. Verdict is Eggs Benedict are delicious but they make a humungous pile of dirty dishes. And they aren't quite as simple as they look on tv.

Here's my version:

Eggs Benedict

Eggs - 1 or 2 per person
Deli Ham - 1 or 2 slices per person
Toast - sourdough bread, GF bread, or rice, depending on the person and their allergies
Sliced Havarti or Manchego cheese
Blender Hollandaise Sauce (recipe follows)
Chopped Green Onions, for garnish

Fry the ham until it's hot.
Toast your bread of choice.
Make the hollandaise sauce.
Fry eggs over easy - whites set and yolks runny.

Each person gets to assemble their own - Place toast on plate, top with ham then cheese. Gently place the egg on top. Drizzle some hollandaise over, then sprinkle with green onions.

Eat with a fork and knife. It gets really messy, but it's delicious.

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
3 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
2-3 drops tabasco sauce

Melt butter in a small saucepan over med-low heat. Keep cooking it until it is nice and hot but not browning or burning. If it starts to boil, you've gone way too far.

Dump egg yolks into a blender. Add lemon juice, salt, and tabasco. Blend on low just until mixed well. Turn speed up to med-low. Drizzle hot butter into the blender while it's running. Let it blend for about 15 seconds after you finish adding the butter.

Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers. Don't try to reheat it or it separates. Try using a spoonful on top of fish when you serve it. Or spoon a dollop on top of steamed asparagus or broccoli. It's got a great lemon-butter taste.

Monday, September 18, 2017

More News...

Since I'm struggling writing new stuff other than short stories, I'm working on other venues and ideas. Here's an update, in case you're interested.

First off, I'm working on my health issues. They've gotten so bad lately that I'm having a hard time getting anything done other than binge watching Netflix and playing too many online games. If it requires brainpower or energy, it usually isn't going to get very far. But hopefully, I'm finally with the right specialist and on the right medications. I'll know within a couple of months. It's hard being a one-person publishing house, even if the only author is me. It takes more energy and time than you'd think to get things published and out there for you to read, even if I'm not trying to write it, too.

Second, I'm working on getting my backlog out in audio. It's a struggle. I found a narrator I loved, but she's not doing books any more. So I found another one. She's pretty good. I hope she'll do the rest of the Altairan Empire series. Meanwhile, I'm working on getting other books and stories out there, but the narrators are hard to come by. I've had a couple of them flake out on me.

Third, I'm writing short stories to publish. Slowly. Mostly getting rejections so I'm working on another short story collection. I've got enough of a backlist, new stories as well as ones published in various anthologies and magazines, to fill a new volume.

Barf-on-a-Cookie-Sheet Cookies
aka S'Mores Bars
Fourth, I'm toying with the idea of cookbooks. If there's enough interest, I'll collect all my recipes to date and put them together in a cookbook. Downside is that my current publishing options don't handle cookbooks well. I want spiral bound and coated paper. Plus I need to get some nice food photos taken, not my usual barf-on-a-cookie-sheet look. So, shout out in the comments if you want a printed cookbook. I can also do ebook cookbooks easily enough, if that's more your style. Let me know what you are interested in and I'll make it happen. Eventually.

Fifth, I'm crocheting like a mad woman. And selling yarn stuff at cons. It makes more money than my books.

Speaking of money, I spend two afternoons a week teaching piano. It's a great part-time job, but it takes a lot of my limited amount of energy. Between that and my own kids, I'm exhausted most days.

And the last bit of news, I'm putting all of my Altairan Empire books into two ebook bundles. The first bundle is on sale here and includes books 1-5. If you already own all the books, THANK YOU! If not, here's your chance to get them all for a great price. I'm also working on a collection of my short stories set in that universe. I've got several more to write first.

So, how's your life going?


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Cinnamon Peach Coconut Ice Cream

I have a pile of fresh peaches. And I want peach ice cream. I can't find any at the store. So I'll just have to make my own. And since I'm going to the effort of making it from scratch, I may as well make some that my daughter can enjoy too.

So here's to dairy-free, fresh peach ice cream!

Cinnamon Peach Coconut Ice Cream

1 16-oz can coconut milk (not the lite stuff or the drinking stuff)
1 c. almond milk (go ahead and use the drinking stuff)
1/2 c. honey
4 egg yolks
1 stick cinnamon
1 c. fresh peaches, peeled and chopped

Whisk the egg yolks and honey together in a large metal mixing bowl OR the top of a double boiler. Beat for at least one minute - you want them well combined. Set aside.

Fill a saucepan or the bottom of the double boiler with hot water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

Stir the coconut milk and almond milk together in a small saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick. Cook over medium heat just until it comes to a boil. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.

Stir a little of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Beat well. Add the hot milk a little at a time until all of it has been stirred into the egg yolks. Place the bowl or double boiler over the simmering water. Cook and stir just until it thickens and coats a spoon, about 185°F or about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour into a covered container and refrigerate at least three hours.

Process the custard in your ice cream maker according to directions. When it starts to freeze up, add in the peaches. Let it finish processing.

Enjoy as soft serve, or freeze for later.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Dal

I've been on an Indian food kick lately. It doesn't have to be heavy or weird or spicy, though.

Dal is a side dish made from lentils. I used red lentils and got a nice mush, a lot like refried beans except greenish yellow and a different flavor. Regular brown lentils won't fall apart so you'll end up with a thick soup instead of a mush. You could try yellow lentils or one of the other varieties if you can find them.

Lentils are healthy. They're low-fat, low-fart (as opposed to beans), high fiber, and high protein. With the right mix of spices, they're also quite tasty.

Weird trivia - the "pulse" that Daniel (from the Old Testament) was most likely lentils.

Use this as you would refried beans - in tortillas, as a side dish with cheese (use a hard white cheese like manchego for best flavor), or as a main dish vegan soup.

Dal

1/2 c. chopped onion
1 lb lentils, whatever variety you like
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. paprika
hot water

Dump onions, lentils, and spices into a smallish crockpot (2-3 quart works great). Add just enough hot water to cover the lentils completely. Cook on high for 2 hours. Stir well. Add more water if needed.

Turn heat to low. Continue cooking until the lentils are soft. Add water as needed for the consistency you like. It usually takes about 1-2 hours on low to get them really soft and smooshy.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Like a Duck

I am like a duck. I'll explain that in a moment.

This is what I accomplished last Tuesday:


That's a nectarine cobbler, a plum cobbler, four quarts of nectarine pie filling, and six pints of plum jam. It took most of the morning. What you DON'T see is the enormous pile of dirty dishes doing this generated. Several large bowls for holding fruit in various stages of being peeled, chopped, sliced, mixed, and processed. A giant pot that got rinsed out and reused several times. Big spoons. Knives. Measuring cups. Cutting boards. My canning funnel. Lots of dishes.

Looking at the picture, it doesn't seem like it should have taken that much time to produce so little. How much time and effort should it take to make a pint of jam? Honestly, how much do you think?

Those who have made jams and jellies and canned fruit and made cobblers from fresh fruit know how much effort it takes to process fruit. This was just two big bowls, one of nectarines and one of plums. That's 3-4 hours worth of work on the counter. It won't take nearly that long to eat it. All of it.

Writing is very similar. Hours and hours and hours of work goes into something you can read in an afternoon.

And now to explain the title of this post. Watch a duck on the water sometime. They look so serene as they glide along. But if you could dive underneath and watch them from that angle, their little feet and legs are going like crazy. It takes a lot of work to look that calm.

Watch the babies in this video to see what I mean:



Sometimes, we're the momma ducks, who just need to kick water a little to glide across the pond. Sometimes, we're the baby ducks, paddling for all we're worth just to stay in position.

And sometimes we're just really really grateful we have children who will wash that mound of dirty dishes we just created.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Plum Cobbler

Plums aren't usually the first fruit people think about when they think about cobbler. But this time of year, when they are ripening on the trees, I remember all the bowls of plums we picked from the trees in our yard when I was growing up. My dad loved fresh fruit. He planted a mini orchard in our front yard and a matching one along the edges of the garden in the back. Cherries, peaches, plums, and the lone apple tree that was there when we moved in. We won't even mention all the grape vines he added to that yard. Let's just say we were juicing, canning, and processing fruit from June through November most years.

I love fresh plums. My favorites are the Italian prunes. Yep. The ones they dry and sell as old people digestive aids. Fresh, they are sweet and juicy. The pits pop right out. Best of all, they are compact in size but not in flavor.

I got my hands on a box of Italian prunes. A big pile of them are now jam - lovely deep red-purple jam. And another pile are now Plum Cobbler. I can't wait to dig in.

Plum Cobbler

2-3 quarts of freestone plums
1 c. sugar
2 T. instant tapioca
2 c. oatmeal
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted

Wash the plums. Cut them in half and remove the pits. Roughly chop the halved plums. You should end up with about 6-8 c. of chopped plums.

Add sugar and tapioca to plums. Toss until well coated. Dump into a greased cake pan. Spread evenly across the pan. Set aside.

Mix oatmeal, brown sugar, and butter. (I usually use the bowl I just mixed the plum stuff in. One less dish to wash.) Spread oatmeal mix over the top of the plums.

Bake at 325°F for 45-55 minutes, until plums are soft and juice is bubbling.

Let cool at least one hour before serving to allow the tapioca to thicken the juices. Or serve hot with plenty of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Melon Report

We planted Tigger Melons last year and got nothing. We planted them again this year and have a bumper crop. They grow on medium vines, kind of like cantaloupe. The melons are about the size of a softball.

The unripe ones look like little round watermelons—dark green with lighter green stripes. When they turn a pale orange, they're ripe. The darker orange ones are overripe and not as tasty, but still quite good. Unripe, they taste like cucumbers. You can peel them and use them like cucumbers, too. The ripe ones taste like honeydew. Very delicious.

So if you're looking for a different melon to try, Tigger melons are fun and as easy to grow as cucumbers.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Eclipse Ring'O'Fire Cookies

I wanted to do something for the eclipse. I have not-so-fond memories of train wreck pudding from grade school. It involved chocolate pudding and whipped topping and sticking out your tongue. Now that I think about it, it was more than just gross. But moving on...

The total eclipse has a ring of light with a dark middle and dark outside. Chocolate and vanilla coming right up!

Eclipse Ring'O'Fire Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. shortening or coconut oil
2/3 c. white sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. cocoa
4 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
3 c. flour (1 1/2 white and 1 1/2 whole wheat OR 1 1/2 rice flour and 1 1/2 almond flour)
18 large marshmallows
36 Hershey's kisses

Cream butter, shortening, and sugars. Add cocoa and beat well. Add eggs, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cream until smooth and fluffy. Stir in flour.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°. Grease two baking sheets.

Scoop dough into 1 inch balls, it should make 36 cookies. Place them on the baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes.

Pull the marshmallows in half. Push a half marshmallow onto the top of each cookie. Do it gently or the cookies will crumble too much. Bake the cookies for another minute.

Push a kiss into the middle of the marshmallow on each cookie, bottom side up. Let them sit and cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes.

Enjoy.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Bizarro Search Engine Auto-Complete

Woohoo! Eclipse Day is here! Are you excited?

What would your browser search engine history say about you? I read an intriguing story that was told all as a search engine history. There was so much hidden between the lines, yet it was a rich, full story. I'm toying with the idea of writing some stories this way.

Search engine history can be funny, too. I was looking for a name for a character  the other day. Baby name generator sites are great for this. So I started typing the letters I wanted the name to start with. Then had to stop and laugh. This is what auto-complete gave me:

Totally going to name my fancy-pants girly character CreamedEggs.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chocolate GF Sponge Cake

I'm experimenting with a wheat-free diet. My health issues are getting the best of me and I'm willing to try anything that might help at this point.

So I decided to start this wheat-free diet on my birthday. While I have guests in the house. And all sorts of other crap going on in my life. Not a good idea. Extra stress is not pleasant.

But it did give me the option of playing around with my GF sponge cake recipe. It's easy, fairly quick to pull together, and makes a delicious cake. I made one on Saturday that was gone before everyone got a slice. It was vanilla, filled with coconut cream, whipped topping, and fresh berries. Today I shall attempt chocolate sponge with chocolate whipped frosting.

*Note: This cake is more dry than the vanilla version. It's best to underbake it a bit, then after it cools, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Frost and serve the next day. Mine also didn't rise nearly as high as the vanilla one. Still tasty.

Chocolate Gluten-Free Sponge Cake

7 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. rice flour
3/4 c. almond flour

Heat oven to 325. Grease a 10-inch springform pan and set aside.

Separate eggs, being careful to keep the yolks out of the whites. Set the whites aside.

Beat the yolks until very thick and creamy, at least 3-5 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Beat for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in flours. Set aside.

Beat whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg yolk mixture and cocoa into the whites until the bits of white foam are all incorporated and cocoa is mixed in.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then gently release the cake. Finish cooling on a baking rack.

Once cool, split the cake into two layers. Fill with half of the chocolate frosting. Use the rest of the frosting to decorate the cake. Refrigerate to set.

Store in the fridge.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Promo!



I've got a friend with a book going FREE for one day only. If you enjoy clean romance, check out this book. (She even has a great title - I've got a Second Chances story out, too. Great minds...)

Second Chances by Donna K. Weaver

Thirty-seven-year-old Francie Davis is sure her luck has changed when she lands a job on campus that will pay her tuition. But when her handsome new boss yells at her on the first day of work, Francie learns that the last person you expect to fall in love with might be the one that’s the most perfect for you.




Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Hawaiian Haystacks

This is another of those build-it-yourself recipes. Everyone puts their own together with whatever they like. It's easy to adapt to various food allergies and preferences. It's also easy to cook, which is always a win in my book.

Hawaiian Haystacks

4-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I use the frozen ones straight from the freezer)
2 c. water
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 T. chicken bouillon
1 T. dried parsley
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. rosemary
1/2 t. thyme
2 c. white rice
1 t. salt
4 1/2 c. water

Put the chicken in a large crockpot. Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours or high 2-3 hours, just until the chicken is barely done.

Remove chicken from the crockpot, leaving the liquid behind. Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks and put back into the crockpot. Mix the 2 c. water, cornstarch, bouillon, and herbs together, then gently stir into the chicken. Cover and let cook on low for another 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, combine rice, salt, and 4 1/2 c. water. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or so until rice is done. Or just dump everything in your rice cooker and let it do its thing.

Serve chicken gravy over rice with any or all of the following toppings. Season with soy sauce to taste.

Toppings (not limited to this list, use your imagination):
sliced celery
shredded carrots
pineapple tidbits
green onions
chopped bell pepper
chopped daikon radish
sliced water chestnuts
bamboo shoots
sliced almonds
raisins
coconut
corn
sliced olives
shredded lettuce
chow mein noodles


Monday, August 7, 2017

Random Images from my Phone

Okay, not totally random. These were just the latest four that were downloaded to my laptop.

This is the famous Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah, WA. We stopped on our way to Husum, WA, where we went white water rafting on the Little White Salmon River. High adventure for me and my hubby.
 The gas station is now a historical site. It wasn't open when we were there so we couldn't buy any keepsakes inside the little station, but we could walk around and look at it. Cute little building.
 And check out the prices! I haven't seen gas that low for decades!
I also made totoros for a friend's children. If you haven't seen the movie, it's a cute one from Studio Ghibli. My Friend Totoro is a good one to watch with kids, although it might give them a few ideas...

What have you been up to?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Saucy Potatoes in the Slow Cooker or in Foil on the Grill

Grilling potatoes just doesn't work for me. Yeah, I could wrap them up and make baked potatoes, but I still haven't got the temperature thing right. They are usually burnt on the outside and raw in the middle when I try.

I came across this recipe and thought it would be worth trying. They were tasty and mostly done without being burnt, but some were still crunchy. We decided this dish would work a lot better in the crockpot. Or else you could try boiling the potato slices for 5 minutes or so to pre-cook them before wrapping it all up in foil.

Saucy Potatoes

6 medium potatoes
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 T. dried parsley
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. black pepper
1 small onion

Scrub potatoes really well, then slice into 1/4" slices. Place in a large pot, cover with hot water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and cover. Set aside while you prep the sauce.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, cheese, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper.

Peel the onion, then slice into thin rings or slices. Add to sauce.

Drain potatoes. Add to sauce. Toss gently to coat.

To grill: Divide potatoes between two large pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold up into flat packets. Grill over medium heat until potatoes are tender - 20-30 minutes. Makes two large packets.

For slow cooker: Dump the potato mixture into a large crockpot. Cook on low 3-4 hours, until potatoes are tender.

Serves 4-6 people.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Black Currant Jelly is da BOMB!

I picked my black currants. My little bush produced almost a gallon of berries. By themselves they weren't that sweet, but in jelly? Delicious!

So, if you're lucky enough to have fresh currants (or gooseberries or nanking cherries or anything similar), make some jelly. It's worth the time and effort. Here's my step-by-step process:

1. Pick the berries. Pretty self-explanatory.

2. Wash the berries. Pick out the spiders and slugs and other creepy crawlies. Get rid of the dead leaves and stems. Get them as clean as you can.

3. Dump them into a large pot. Add just enough water to cover the berries. Bring it to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat, cover, and let them sit for a couple of hours.

5. Use a big spoon and smash the berries. Don't worry too much about the seeds and skins and stuff, you want to free up as much juice and flavor as you can at this point.

6. Place a large colander over a large bowl. Once you've smashed the berries, pour the berry smash through the colander to strain out the seeds and skins and stuff. You want just the juice. Leave the colander over the bowl and let the juice keep dripping for an hour or so. Stir the berries every once in a while to help the juice get through.

7. Once you have the juice strained, measure it and figure out how much jelly you need to make. At this point, follow the directions on your pectin. I'm really liking the Ball pectin in the large jars. For jelly with that, you need 1 1/3 c. juice, 1 1/2 T powdered pectin, and 1 1/2 c. sugar for each pint of jelly. Don't make a batch larger than 7-8 pints, though. Even if you have a giant pot that won't boil over with that much juice and sugar in it, it's hard to get the pectin and sugar to completely dissolve and cook right. The jelly won't set right, so just do multiple batches if you have more than a couple of quarts of juice.

8. Figure out how many pints you are going to need, then add one. Put that many clean jars in a sink full of really hot water. (If you're using smaller jars, figure out how many you will need. I don't recommend jars larger than a pint for jelly. It doesn't set right in the quart jars.)

9. Once you have the juice measured out, stir in the pectin. Cook it over high heat to a full rolling boil, it should keep boiling even after you stir it. Dump in the sugar all at once. Cook and stir over high heat until it comes to a full boil again. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, move the jelly off the stove, and carefully pour into hot jars.

10. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then seal and process following the directions for your altitude and your equipment. If you don't want to bother with this step, put the lids on the jars and let them cool on the counter. Once cool, refrigerate. Eat within a month or so.

Black currants make a wonderfully flavorful, deep red-purple jelly. I can't wait for next year and hopefully a whole lot currants.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Grilled Tri-Tip Steak

We did this on our grill for dinner. Very tasty, although my kids complained it wasn't as well done as they preferred. But with tri-tip, if you cook it too long, the meat gets really tough. Tri-tip steaks are fairly lean and usually cut fairly thick. You want to cook them somewhere between medium-rare and medium, still very pink to red in the center. After they are cooked and rest for a few minutes, slice them nice and thin against the grain. You don't want long strings of meat, but very thin slices. It helps the tenderness of the cut.

Grilled Tri-Tip Steak

2-3 lb tri-tip steaks, cut 2-3 inches thick
2 t. lemon pepper seasoning
2 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 t. paprika
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried rosemary

Mix all the spices together. Rub into the steaks, making sure to cover both sides and the edges. Let them sit on a plate for a couple of hours.

Heat your grill nice and hot. If you have a thermometer, you want it at 500-600°F. Slap the steaks on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, this should give you a good char. Move the steaks to the upper rack if you have one, or off to one side away from the direct heat. Cover and cook for another 20-30 minutes over the lower heat until the meat is done to your liking, or almost done. You want it slightly under-done. Set the meat on a cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

Slice against the grain into thin slices. Serve warm.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Berry Picking Report

Fresh gooseberries!
Last summer, I planted a whole row of berry bushes, partly to see what grew well, and mostly because I have a thing for berries. We already had a few raspberries in the yard, so I didn't need to add those. I put in red currants, black currants, elderberries, gooseberries, sand cherries, and blueberries. We got a few currants and raspberries last summer, but not much else. These bushes take some time to get established and start producing.

So far this summer, I noticed I planted most of them too close together. These bushes can get huge. I shall have to keep pruning them into small trees and short, wide bushes so they all fit in the space. The elderberry is supposed to become a small tree and so is the sand cherry, so they're okay. The others will need regular pruning to keep them smaller.

We have already harvested loads of raspberries. They are spreading like crazy. Some of the canes are eight feet tall. I have no idea what variety of raspberries these are, but they are mostly thornless with huge red berries that are delicious. It looks like they're producing all summer, too, so they're everbearing. They are also spreading under the fence into the neighbor's yard and he's not to happy about it, so we'll have to keep an eye on that situation. But I have seven pints of raspberry jam already tucked away in the pantry. RazBarb is one of my favorites - half raspberry and half rhubarb (which is gigantic!).

I picked the red currants last week. They made some tasty jelly. Only three pints, but the bush is small still. It was loaded.

The blueberry bushes are still really small. One of them has a few berries on it. I ate the two ripe ones last night. Absolutely delicious. I can't wait for more to get ripe. I'm not telling my kids or hubby about that bush. Those are MY berries.

I picked gooseberries this morning. They are so good. Not very many, so I think we're just going to eat these. Not quite enough for one small batch of jelly.

The black currants will be ripe in a week or two. I can't wait. They were my favorite last year. The bush isn't too loaded but I should have enough for some jelly.

The elderberries won't be ripe for a couple of months still. We have some nice clusters, hopefully enough to make more jelly. But we can always head to the mountains to pick wild elderberries to go with them.

This weekend we're hoping to get out to the mountains to pick huckleberries. I can't wait!

What's your favorite berry?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Maple Oatmeal Bread

This is an adaptation of a bread machine recipe. I enjoy the bread machine mostly because it makes bread easy. Sort of. My loaves usually come out looking lumpy or caved in or looking like some weird alien creature. They still taste good.

So I adapted this recipe to make a loaf of bread in my regular oven. It's easier to adjust flour and liquid when you're mixing it by hand or in a stand mixer.

The maple flavor come from pancake syrup. I like it, but if you want the traditional taste for this bread, use honey instead. I was out of honey when I tried to make it once so I used pancake syrup and liked it better.

Maple Oatmeal Bread

1 c. warm water
3 T. pancake syrup
2 T. butter
1 t. salt
2 T. powdered milk
2 t. yeast
1 c. oatmeal
2 c. flour (white or 1/2 whole wheat)

Dump everything in a bowl. Mix until it comes together in a soft dough. If it's too dry, add a teaspoon of warm water. If it's too wet, add a 1/4 c. flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead five minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. Place it in a greased bowl, cover with a damp dishtowel, and let rise for about an hour, until it's doubled in size.

Punch down the dough. Knead a few times to smooth it out. Place in a greased loaf pan, cover, and let rise again, about 30-40 minutes.

Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped.

Serve warm with plenty of fresh jam.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Another Audio Book Hits the Shelves

Woohoo! Brain Candy is now available in audio!

I found a great narrator for the stories. He's got a lovely drawl that works so well with these stories. Plus, he had fun reading them. I hope you have fun listening!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Easy Cheesy Eggs

Simple, basic recipe for scrambled eggs, but they are a one pan, one spatula, one cheese slicer recipe.

Easy Cheesy Eggs (1 serving)

1/4 t. butter
1 egg
1 T shredded cheese (or the equivalent small slice)
1/2 t. diced green chilies
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a small frying pan. Crack egg directly into pan. stir with the spatula until as mixed as you like for scrambled eggs. Add cheese and green chilies. Stir and cook until egg is done and cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with salsa or ketchup or hot pepper jelly.
Makes 1 serving.

For four servings - use 1 t. butter, 4 eggs, 1/4 c. cheese, 2 t. green chilies.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fun New Website

Want to gamify your life? Gain experience for checking items off your to-do list. Set goals and get points for reaching your milestones. Battle evil villains with every task you finish. Collect random crap, I mean gear, and raise pets. Then head over to www.habitca.com and join the fun!

It sounded fun so I joined in. It's actually getting me to do some of those things I've been putting off forever. But the whole system runs on your personal integrity. Want to create stupid tasks just so you can level up faster? Go right ahead. I put "get dressed before noon" and "drink water" on my list. Easy enough to do, but still things I sometimes need motivation to accomplish.

There is some interesting research on gamification of things like school and life. Here's just one example. Short answer is yes, it can work. But a lot of users will drop it once the novelty wears off. Some of the research found that over the long run, gamification actually decreases involvement. People come to expect a reward for doing things that they did before the game without reward. Make the reward too difficult to get or not rewarding enough and people quit.

Check it out if you're interested. For me, it's working for now. When it stops working, I'll find something else.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Salisbury Steak

This is a good dinner recipe - serve it with mashed potatoes and a salad and you've got a full meal. It's hamburger, but not just another burger or spaghetti sauce. It's also fairly easy to throw together and can sit over low heat for a while.

It's one of those old fashioned dishes. Basic comfort food.

Gluten-free options are given in paranthesis.

Salisbury Steak

1 lb hamburger
1 c. croutons, crushed (1 c. quick oatmeal or 1 c. gluten-free bread crumbs or croutons)
1 egg
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. worcestershire sauce
1 small onion, sliced
1 c. sliced mushrooms, optional
3 c. hot water
1 T. chicken bouillon
1/2 c. cold water
2 T. cornstarch

Mix hamburger, crouton crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, and worcestershire sauce until blended. Shape into 8-10 patties like you would for hamburgers.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil, if needed to keep patties from sticking. Brown patties on both sides. Don't worry about them being cooked all the way through. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add onions and mushrooms to the pan. Cook in the meat drippings for 3-5 minutes until the onions are tender. Add the patties back into the pan.

Stir bouillon into hot water then pour over patties. Cover the pan and turn heat to low. Let them simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

Stir cornstarch and cold water together. Add to the pan. Stir and cook until the gravy thickens.

Serve over mashed potatoes. Makes 6-8 servings.

Monday, July 3, 2017

And I'm Still Cursed...

So I've been working on getting my back list out in audiobooks. Audible was great to work with, until about a year ago. Then they got really slow. And started rejecting finished audio books. And taking forever to get things approved for sale. Then my narrators started having issues with things. And the website didn't send messages even after I hit send repeatedly. Things got lost and overlooked. I'm bashing my virtual head against the brick wall here.

Autumn Visions finally was approved and is out for sale. Dark Dancer is in limbo. Again. Priestess of the Eggstone is rolling along. I hope. Now I'm waiting on final approval for Brain Candy. The narrator did an awesome job. But at this point all I can do is twiddle my thumbs waiting on QC to approve it for sale. Just FYI, but ACX (the production side of Audible) gives me NO control over pricing. Once I approve the audio files, I only get to sit and watch while ACX does their thing.

So I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Watch for an announcement about the audiobook being up for sale. Sometime. Soon. Ish. I hope.

Don't hold your breath...

Meanwhile, enjoy the lovely cover. And pop over to Smashwords.com for their annual July sale. You can pick up some great free books this month. (And a link to my author page, if you're curious what I've got on there.)


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Apple Blueberry Pie

Time to get patriotic. Baseball, apple pie, peanut butter... Let's stick with apple pie. I adore apple pie. It's my absolute favorite. How about some patriotic apple pies? Make a plain one for the white, a blueberry apple pie for the blue, and a cherry apple pie for the red. With both blueberries and cherries in season right now where I live, and apples available all year round, it's definitely pie time!

A word about the apples - use a variety of apples. They cook differently. Golden delicious pretty much dissolve, so one or two are great to add to thicken up the filling. Granny Smith are very tart and hold their shape. Fuji and Gala are somewhere in between. Honeycrisp are very sweet so you can add less sugar. Red Delicious are red, but I don't consider them delicious. I usually skip them unless they are extremely cheap. Even then, I use them in cooked things like this.

Apple Blueberry Pie

2 T. lemon juice
4-6 apples
1-2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cardamom
2 T. cornstarch OR 2 T. tapioca
1 double layer pie crust (or just do a top crust)

Put the lemon juice in a very large bowl. Add 3-4 quarts of cold water. Peel, core, and slice the apples, dropping them into the lemon water as you go. This helps keep them from turning brown.

Once you have the apples prepped, drain them and put them back in the mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and cornstarch. Toss gently until mixed and apples are coated.

Spoon apples into prepared bottom crust. Add blueberries over the top to fill the pie. Add the top crust. Crimp the edges, place it onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and pop into a 400° oven for about 45-55 minutes. When the crust is browned, the filling is bubbling, and your house smells delicious, it's done. Remove from the oven and let it mostly cool before eating.

If you use tapioca in the filling, it won't set up until it's completely cool which takes 3-4 hours.

For plain apple pie - increase apples to 6-8 and omit blueberries.

For cherry-apple pie - substitute 1-2 c. pitted pie cherries for the blueberries. Toss with sliced apples in the filling. Or use 1 can cherry pie filling spooned over the top of the apples.

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Aspect of an Old Hobby - Crochet Patterns

I've been crocheting for over 40 years. I'm finally trying my hand at writing a pattern. If you crochet, please try out this pattern and let me know how I can improve it.

Unicorn Fingerless Mitts


This pattern makes LARGE mitts. To make them smaller, work 15 or 16 rows instead of 18. You want it to fit comfortably around your hand just under the fingers and around your forearm as high up as the mitt goes. It should be a little loose around your wrist. Keep in mind that this stitch will stretch more than regular crochet.

If you want the mitts to go farther up your arm, just increase the number of HDC for each row. Starting chain should be number of HDC plus 2.

The pattern works vertically up and down your arm, not around it. The finishing row makes a seam up the side of the mitt from your wrist, around your thumb, and just under your first finger. The chain pattern on the surface of the mitts is from the top of the HDC row before.

Materials:
*Sport yarn worked with fur yarn OR regular worsted weight yarn (I used sport yarn and thin fur yarn worked together)
*H hook

SL ST - slip stitch
SC - single crochet
HDC - half-double crochet

Row 1 - Ch 27, HDC in 3rd ch from hook, 24 HDC across. Ch 2, turn. (25 HDC, ch2 does NOT count as first stitch)

Row 2-17 - In back loop of row before, 25 HDC across, ch 2, turn.

Row 18 - In back loop of row before, 25 HDC across, ch1, turn.

Row 20 - This row stitches the side seam together. Match up top and bottom of piece. Work 1 SC through both the last stitch of Row 18 AND first chain of Row 1. Work 3 more SC the same way. 
Using ONLY the beginning CH, work 6 SL ST. Skip 6 stitches on Row 18. In next stitch of BOTH rows, work SC. This makes the thumb hole. Continue working SC together to the end of the row (15 SC from thumb hole to end). This should stitch both together and leave a thumb hole. One SL ST to the side of the finished seam, then fasten off yarn. Weave in ends to finish.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Grilled Lemon Chicken Thighs

I'll admit I'm not very skilled at grilling anything beyond hot dogs. I haven't done it much, mostly because we haven't owned a decent grill until we moved. Last summer, we did some grilling, just enough for me to realize I don't know what I'm doing most of the time.

So today I decided to jump into the deep end and try grilling some chicken thighs. They're cheap, but can be delicious, and because they are fattier than breast meat, they hold up to longer cooking times without drying out.

Mixed success with grilling them. I should have left them cooking for another 5-10 minutes. They were done in the middle, just barely. I prefer them cooked just a little bit more. They did taste good. Now I just need to clean off the grill...

Grilled Lemon Chicken Thighs

2-3 lbs chicken thighs
1 fresh lemon
2 t. salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. lemon pepper seasoning
1 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. rubbed sage

The day before: Remove skin from the chicken thighs and discard. The skin, not the thighs.

In a gallon ziplock bag, mix all the dried spices. Shake to mix well. Add the chicken and shake again until the spices are evenly distributed on the meat. Slice the lemon thin and add it to the bag. Seal the bag and squish it around for a while to work the lemon juice into the meat. Pop the whole bag into the refrigerate for at least overnight and up to a day or so.

45 minutes before you want to eat the chicken: Heat your grill to somewhere between 300-400°F. Oil it, if that's your thing. I usually skip it, which is probably why my chicken sticks to the grill. Slap the marinated chicken thighs on the grill. Squeeze the lemon slices over the chicken, then discard the slices. Close your grill and let the chicken cook for about 10-12 minutes.

Open it up and use tongs to turn the thighs over to the other side. Close it up and let them cook for another 10-12 minutes.

Now comes the tricky part. Use a knife to cut the thickest one right near the bone. If the meat is still pink, close up the grill and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Check the meat again. You want to cook it until its not pink anymore, then let it cook for a few minutes longer. Then turn off the heat and close up the grill. Let the chicken sit for 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Curse is Lifted!

I am so happy to announce that Autumn Visions is FINALLY out in audio book. It's been a long journey getting to this point. It's only three short stories, but my narrator and I kept running into issues.

By the way, she does an awesome job narrating these stories.

These are different from most of what I write, which is one reason they're in their own collection.


Please share with your friends who might enjoy them.
And please, please, PLEASE, leave a review! I need all the reviews I can get at this point. Yeah, I'm shamelessly begging...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Balsamic Herb Chicken

This is a strange dish, kind of like Italian sweet and sour chicken. It's pretty tasty, though. We served it over rice with fresh steamed asparagus on the side. They all went really nicely together.

Balsamic Herb Chicken

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into serving size chunks
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. dried parsley OR 1 T. fresh chopped parsley
1/2 t. dried oregano OR 1 t. fresh oregano leaves
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dried rosemary OR 1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. dried marjoram, if you have it

Place chicken chunks in a smallish crockpot - my 1.5 quart was perfect. Mix together vinegar with sugar and herbs. Pour over the chicken. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, low for 4-6 hours.

If you want a thicker sauce: 30 minutes before serving, stir 2 T. cornstarch into 1/4 c. cold water. Stir into chicken and sauce. Cover and cook the remaining 30 minutes or until sauce thickens and turns clear again.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Yet Another Con...

I just returned from FyreCon. It's a brand-new conference in Utah mostly aimed at writers and artists. Lots of great ideas presented and discussed. Lots of old friends and new friends. Good times. I'm hoping to return next year. This promises to be a great networking event.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Furlandia in Portland. If you haven't encountered furries before, it's a different world in a lot of ways. These are the people who like to dress up in full animal costumes and have fun. I had a great time at the convention and sold a lot of crocheted cuddly animals.

Both of these cons cost me money. I didn't sell enough to even come close to the cost of the gas to travel there, the cost of the hotel room or meals, or the other incidental costs of attending. But I feel like I got my money's worth at both. I'm there not just to sell my book, which ends up being more about letting people know I write and getting exposure than it is direct sales. I'm there to meet new people, to gain new perspectives on writing and art and the world at large, and to just have fun.

So if you have a convention or writer's conference in your area, go attend. You'd be amazed how nice the people are. Go make some new friends. Network. Have a great time.

Now to plan a writer's retreat for this summer so I can actually finish writing some of these books I'm working on so I can get to the new story ideas I've got stewing...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Deviled Eggs

I posted about nice hard boiled eggs last week. If you have trouble getting your eggs to peel, go check it out. It might help.

This week, I'm going to share my secret recipe for deviled eggs. These get devoured at my house where hard-boiled eggs tend to just sit in the fridge and smell.

If you like your middle creamy, use a mixer to cream the yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard. Stir in the pickle chunks after you mix it up.

As always, feel free to mix this up according to your taste. Try different pickles and relishes. Try different spices and sauces. Experiment to your heart's delight.

Deviled Eggs

8 hard boiled eggs
1/3 c. mayonnaise or sour cream or cream cheese (lowfat or spread works best)
2 T. prepared mustard (yellow is traditional but feel free to use brown or spicy or whatever mustard you like)
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic salt
1/4 c. chopped pickles or relish
smoked paprika for garnish

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Pop the yolk out and drop it in a small mixing bowl. Set the white on a plate. I have cool egg plates that were wedding presents. I never would have bought them for myself, but I really like them. Not necessary but they keep the eggs from sliding around too much.

When you have all the yolks in the bowl, add the mayonnaise, mustard, onion powder, and salt. Mash with a fork until smooth (or use a mixer). Stir in pickle chunks. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Try a dash or two of tabasco sauce. Or some sweet chili dipping sauce.

Carefully spoon the yolk mixture into the whites, dividing it out evenly between all 16 halves. Dust the tops with a light sprinkle of paprika. Refrigerate for about an hour to help them set up.

Serve cold. Makes 16 halves.

If you really want to be fancy, skip the pickles in the yolk mixture. Cream it good with your mixer, then spoon into a cake decorator tube with a wide star tip. Pipe the filling into the whites, swirling into a fancy star thingie. Garnish with thin pickle slices cut and folded into flowers. If you use bread and butter pickles, you can use the red peppers in the pickles to make roses and use the pickles for leaves. I'm not this fancy.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Game Review - Cookie Clicker

This is why my post is late, one of the reasons anyway. My family's been hit with the flu. I've been procrastinating because I'm dealing with other issues. The weekend got away from me. I forgot I didn't have anything scheduled to post today. Yeah, lots of excuses. And then I got distracted by Cookie Clicker.

It's a dumb idle game. You basically click to bake cookies which lets you save up to buy grandmas to make cookies for you, which lets you save up to buy more stuff to make more cookies. When I hit almost 2 billion cookies per second, I had to quit. It had been running on  my computer for over 80 hours straight and was slowing the processor down, especially since I'm trying to pull together some presentations for FyreCon this weekend. Photoshop does NOT like sharing processor power with anything.

But the game is amusing. Try it out HERE.

Or go play the other game that's got me distracted - Word Cookies. Make words with letter shaped cookies. Good for building vocabulary and frustrating yourself. If you like games like Boggle, you'll probably enjoy it. My only tip is to play it with data and wifi off on your phone. Otherwise the ads gets really creepy and annoying really fast.

I think I have cookies on my brain...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Hard Boiled Eggs

Yep, just plain old hard boiled eggs.

I've struggled with this for years. Mine never peeled nicely no matter what I did. I added salt and vinegar to the water. I boiled them for different lengths of time. I started them in cold water and hot. I tried really fresh eggs and not so fresh eggs. Nothing seemed to make much difference.

Until I moved to Washington. The water here is much softer than our Utah water was. Even with a water softener there and no water softener here, our water is softer now. And my eggs almost always peel without problems.

This really isn't that important of a problem, unless you like deviled eggs and want to serve some that don't look like mutant eggs of a spawning demon.

So here are the tricks and tips I've found to help you boil the perfect eggs.

Hard Boiled Eggs

6-12 eggs
1/4 c. vinegar
1-6 t. salt

Fresher eggs really are better but not too fresh. If you buy them at the store, use them within a week for the best results. If you get them straight from your own chickens, refrigerate them for 3-5 days before using for hard-boiled eggs.

Put your eggs in a largish pot. You want enough room for them to wiggle a little but not too much. Cover them with room temperature water. You want about half an inch of water on top of the eggs. Add vinegar. Add in salt. Go with 1-2 t. if your water is fairly soft, go with more if you have hard water. If you don't know, be safe and use about 3 t. of salt. Regular table salt works just fine for this.

Bring to boil over high heat. Turn heat to low, cover the pot, and let the eggs simmer for 16-20 minutes. Altitude makes a difference. Lower altitudes need shorter times, higher ones longer cooking time. Preference matters, too. If you like your eggs completely hard, cook them for the longer time. If you like your yolks bright yellow and just barely set, cook the eggs for the shorter time.

When the eggs are done, drain the hot water off. Stick the pot in the sink and turn the faucet on to cold. Let it pour over the eggs, dumping out the pot and refilling it several times. You want the eggs to cool down as fast as possible. Let the eggs soak in cold water for a few minutes, changing the water if it gets warm at all. You can even add ice to the water if you want.

Skip this next step if you're coloring the eggs for Easter. Cracked eggs let the color inside the shell and you get colored egg whites.

After about 30 minutes, pour off the water. Gently crack the shells by dropping the eggs on top of each other or stirring them around the pot. You want lots of small cracks. Fill the pot with more cold water and let the eggs soak for another 5-10 minutes. You want water to get inside the shell at this point.

Pull out an egg. Leave the rest in the cold water. Gently roll the egg on the counter to crack the shell the rest of the way. The shell should separate and pull right off. There is a membrane just inside the shell. If you can get your thumb inside that, the shell slides right off the eggs.

Repeat with the rest of the eggs. You should have pretty, smooth, perfectly peeled eggs. If you don't, you can always chop them up for potato salad or egg salad or creamed eggs. Or just make some ugly spawn-of-alien-demon deviled eggs.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Food Review - Voodoo Doughnuts

So I'm in Portland at a convention for the weekend. I'm selling mostly crocheted stuff at this one along with some friends of mine. I've heard about Voodoo Doughnuts on the Food Network shows and always thought it would be fun to go there someday. I still haven't made it to their shop but I did buy a doughnut from their mobile shop. It pulled up out in front of the hotel and we made a run for the parking lot.

I bought a No Name Doughnut - raised doughnut with chocolate icing, rice crispies, and peanut butter drizzle.

I give them four stars. Tasty doughnut, good flavors, but the rice crispies weren't very crisp.

If I ever make it to their shop, I'll give a full review.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Teriyaki Noodles

This recipe comes courtesy of my 14yo daughter. She even took a photo of it for me. This is one of her favorite quick meals to fix for herself. The serving size is one, so feel free to double or triple it.

Teriyaki Noodles

1 serving of pad thai rice noodles (about 1/8 of a package)
1 T. soy sauce
2 t. ponzu sauce
2 t. lemon juice
1/2 T. butter
1/2 t. sesame seeds
1 egg
green onions
bell pepper slices

Cook noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In small frying pan, toast sesame seeds in butter for about 5 minutes, just until lightly brown. Mix in soy sauce, ponzu sauce, and lemon juice. Stir together. Add noodles, cook over med-low heat for another 5 minutes until noodles are tender.

Put noodles in a serving bowl, set aside.

Fry an egg in the pan, over easy or sunny side up is best for the dish. Place the egg on top of the noodles. Garnish with green onions and bell pepper slices.

Eat hot.
Makes one serving.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Writer's Conferences

I attended Write on the River Writer's Conference this past weekend. It was fun to hang out with old friends and make some new ones while we all learned about the craft and business of writing.

That, my friends, is why you should attend writer's conferences if you want to be a writer. Even if you've never been published, or even if you've never really finished a story, if you want to learn how to be a better writer, the classes at these conferences are wonderful for all levels of writers.

I learned how to bump up my story by fleshing out the active plot, the crunchy bit of my story, and beefing up the emotional plotline, the chewy bit. The author presenting had some great ideas on how to get the two to work together to make a much more compelling and powerful story. This is something I need to apply to Shadow Nothings and to Winterqueen's War. I'm excited to edit them, now. I have a much better idea how to fix the issues with them both.

On the business side of things, there were great classes on marketing and publishing and pitching to agents and publishers. Loads of wonderful tips and ideas to help writers reach the next stage of success in their careers.

Speaking of success and careers, there were also great classes about why we write and how we define success. For me, I will probably never be rich or famous at this, and that's okay. I write because I enjoy telling stories and creating new worlds and making things up. I write because I want to fly a spaceship across the galaxy and ride unicorns into battle and cast magic spells that transport me to other worlds. I publish because I want to share those stories with people who also want to do those things.

Conferences are not good places to find readers for your work, but they are great places to network, to make connections to other people who share your passion and interest in writing. Write on the River has members all ages, from high school to long past retirement; and authors in all genres. It was a great conference. Hats off and a big thank you to the volunteers who made it possible.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Baked Rum Spice Doughnuts

My son decided on doughnuts for his birthday. We're all trying to eat healthier so we decided to make them ourselves. I have a lovely doughnut cooker, one of those countertop models kind of like a waffle iron except it makes doughnuts. We adapted a spice cake recipe and came up with something extremely tasty. The frosting and toppings are totally optional, but I loved the coconut ones.

And the rum is just rum flavoring. It added just the right touch to the rest.

Baked Rum Spice Doughnuts

1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. yogurt (vanilla flavored works really well)
1/2 c. butter, softened or melted
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk (I used coconut milk)
1 t. rum flavoring
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1/4 t. ground cardamom

Dump everything in a mixing bowl. Beat on low speed just until blended. Beat on high speed for about a minute. It will be very thick.

Preheat your doughnut maker or grease a doughnut pan and heat your oven to 350°. Scoop in the batter and bake as directed for the cooker or for the pan.

Frost while still slightly warm. Sprinkle with coconut or sprinkles.

Vanilla Frosting

2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
2-4 T. milk

Mix sugar, butter, vanilla, and 2 T of milk in a large mixing bowl. Beat on low speed until blended. Add another teaspoon of milk if the frosting is too thick. Beat on medium-high speed, adding milk as needed, until desired consistency. Continue beating until soft and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

If it gets too thin, add powdered sugar 1/4 c. at a time until thickened.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dream Journal

I really should start a dream journal. Not a journal of my hopes and aspirations, but a journal of the weird dreams I have. My dreams are full-color, wild adventures involving all sorts of things from pirates to zombies to spaceships to angry cats to swarms of preying mantises. These are not nightmares. Nope, my nightmares are beyond creepy and scary. Those make Criminal Minds' serial killer crime scenes look like happy kids' pictures. My nightmares are why I refuse to take Percocet or watch/read dark horror or even a lot of intense thrillers.

I've had a lot of dreams lately. I think it's my subconscious telling me I really need to step up my writing. I need stories. I need imagination running wild. Now to find the time and energy to make it all happen. And words. Yep, words are important, too.

Meanwhile, I'm still typing away at Winterqueen's War. It's turning into a convoluted mess. I'm losing track of storylines and characters and important events. I'm starting to think it will never make sense and it's a pointless pile of crap. This makes me smile because it means I'm on the right track. About half to two-thirds of the way through any of my books, this is what happens. I go back, re-read the story so far, and realize that it's much better than I thought. I'm still shooting for having this one out by the end of the summer.

Meanwhile, I've got a pile of audiobooks in the works. Fingers crossed that Autumn Visions gets approved this week.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Tortilla Roll-Up Sandwiches

I had a request for more kid-friendly picnic foods. This is an easy one to change up to suit your family's tastes. The nice thing is you can use any size tortilla and put whatever you want inside it. You can slice them into pinwheels or serve them as long rolls.

Go light on the spreads and wet ingredients like pickles, though. Unless you don't mind liquid dripping out the back end of the roll.

Corn tortillas don't work very well with this recipe, they tend to split and break apart. If you want a gluten-free version, you can try the GF tortillas that are similar to flour tortillas, or you could use rice spring roll wrappers and make these more like fresh rolls.

Tortilla Roll-Up Sandwiches

12 6-8" flour tortillas OR 6 10-12" flour tortillas
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 c. shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or swiss are the normal choices, but use whatever you like)
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped fine (totally optional but makes it more pretty)
1 12-oz package of lunch meat (bologna, turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, etc.)
2-3 c. salad mix - shredded iceberg lettuce, baby greens, spinach, etc
Optional toppings - pickles (drained and patted dry), sliced olives, chopped or shredded veggies, thinly sliced apple, mustard, horseradish sauce, etc.

Mix cream cheese with shredded cheese and parsley. Feel free to add some mustard or horseradish or green onions or chives or dill or other herbs to this mix. Spread over tortillas as thin or thick as you like.

Layer sandwich meats over the top of the cream cheese. Add optional toppings as desired, but keep these to a minimum. Too many of them will make your roll-ups fall apart. You can always serve them as salad on the side.

Roll up the tortillas as tightly as you can. If they don't stay rolled up, dab more of the cream cheese mixture on top of the fillings to help them hold together. Cover and refrigerate the sandwiches for a couple of hours before serving, especially if you want to turn them into pinwheels.

For pinwheels, slice the tortilla rolls into thick slices and turn cut side up to show off the pretty layers in the middle.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Things I Saw Driving the Interstate

I was on another road trip this weekend. Driving ten hours, many of them across Idaho. The state has some lovely scenery and fun places to visit, but I-84 isn't any of those. It is one of the most boring stretches of freeways I've ever been on. The scenery is mostly sagebrush and fields of grass. At least it's green this time of year.

We amused ourselves by watching the other trucks and cars driving the same stretch of boringness. Most of that was boring, too.

On a trip a while back, we saw a little old guy in a battered pickup that looked like it was ready to disintegrate any minute. The best part was his dog, though. He was a gigantic Great Dane trying to fit in the front seat of the little truck. He kept turning around and around with his head banging into the roof of the cab. His face would be smooshed against the passenger side window while his tail was whacking this little old guy in the face. We laughed for a solid forty-five miles watching the antics. Then the old guy took an exit and we drove one with just the memories.

This trip we only saw a couple of semi-trucks with fun logos.

One was a tanker truck with red letters on the back that looked like someone had done them with duct tape strips. They said LIVE TROUT. We had a good discussion for a while whether this was a call to action (Live!, trout.) or a statement about the state of trout or some other weird slogan. Then we got alongside the truck and saw the company logo - somebody's Trout Farm. The tanker truck was full of live trout. It makes sense when you think about it. All those fish need to be delivered somehow so they can stock the rivers and streams where people like to catch the fish.

Then we saw this truck:


Notice the logo - D&D Transportation Services. I have no idea what the D&D in this logo stands for, but we immediately jumped to Dungeons and Dragons.

So I present to you The Truck of Holding.