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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Adventures with SS Harvey #1 - Shakedown Cruise

Christmas came a little early for us. I was out running errands with my hubby early in November and we happened to pass an old RV for sale. I mentioned it might be fun. He took me seriously. One thing led to another and we ended up buying the old clunker. It was very clean, low mileage, everything worked, and the price was too good to pass up.

We christened it the SS Harvey, our very own personal warp-capable (barely) shuttlecraft.

Day 1-

Harvey made it one mile to our local grocery store before breaking down and refusing to work. Apparently, shuttlecraft need fuses in order for the engine to work.

Day 2-

On the road by 9:30 am. Drove all day, barely breaking warp 5. Snowstorm continued through most of Utah. Slush sprays reached roof level. Finally arrived at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Lovely rock formations. Food supplies are running low. I'm bad at planning. May have to figure out how to cook sagebrush. Full moon and Orion are beautiful.

Day 3-

Civilization! Well, Las Vegas. Found Ethel M Chocolate Factory. I think I've died and gone to heaven. My drool runneth over. Three hours later, arrive back at Valley of Fire with supply of eggs, gluten-free beads, M&M's, and fine chocolates.

Unfortunately, electrical is non-existant. Furnace is not working. Went to bed with the sun (7 pm) due to cold and lack of light.

Day 4-

Woke at 5 am. (See Day 3 entry) Convinced pilot to leave campground by 6:30. Moonlight hike to see petrified wood. Fun, but cold.

Stopped for breakfast in Saint George UT. Drove home. No slush this time, just sunshine.

All in all, SS Harvey is a success. Looking forward to our next Adventure with Harvey.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

This is an oldie but goodie. They come out soft and chewy with an almost butterscotch/caramel flavor. They freeze really well, too.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
2/3 c. oatmeal (I used quick-cooking, but you can use old-fashioned)

Heat oven to 350°. Cream peanut butter and butter together. Add sugar. Beat until well mixed. Add egg, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Beat well. Stir in flour and oats. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, just until very lightly browned and set. Let cool 2-3 minutes before removing from the sheet. Cool completely before freezing.

Makes 3-4 dozen, but it's really easy to double or even triple.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and here on my blog,
I'm enjoying a mug of dairy-free egg nog. (Rice Dream has egg nog, woot!)

May you all have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy a hug from your loved ones. Spend some time with family. Give the gift of your time. To quote the Grinch, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store."

It comes from your heart, from love and good will toward all.

It comes from Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate during the season. Without Him, my life would be meaningless. He is truly the light and the life of our world.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Divinity

We have some traditional Christmas favorites at my house. With my new diet, some of them are not going to happen this year. But my kids are willing to skip some treats if it means Mom feels better. The new diet is not for weight loss, it's for a medical condition called IC (interstitial cystitis - extremely sensitive bladder). Not fun being in pain all the time. Diet is the best and least invasive treatment. It's chronic, so I'll never get better. I'd better get used to the diet. If you suffer from it, you know what I'm talking about. I'm trying to find substitutes for some things, like salad dressing. I'll post the recipes when I get them working. Meanwhile, here are links to some Christmas treats that I'm making this year.

I read I'm a Lazy Mom regularly. She's funny and offers some great tips. She shared this recipe for caramel corn a few days ago. Oh, my, goodness. Easy and so delicious. I doubled the recipe, because we love our caramel corn, and it turned out delicious. So fast and easy. The hardest part is popping the corn and picking out the unpopped kernels.

And my version of candied popcorn, that isn't caramel, but can be whatever you want. We like rum or almond flavoring.

One word - divinity. Skip the colors to keep it IC friendly. Most oil flavors and extracts should be okay. I am shocked, shocked! that I haven't posted this recipe yet. This is one of my favorite treats to make. Here you go, with variations.

Divinity

You need a very sturdy mixer for this recipe.

2 2/3 c. sugar
2 /3 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. water
3 egg whites
1/2 t. flavoring (vanilla, almond, anise, rum, peppermint, etc.)
1/2 t. food coloring

Cook sugar, corn syrup, and water in 2 qt saucepan over medium heat, stirring until all sugar dissolves. Continue cooking to 260° on a candy thermometer (hard ball stage). This takes about 8-12 minutes.

To test candy syrup - This isn't as accurate as a thermometer and takes some trial and error. Be prepared for some mistakes. Get a small mixing bowl or large cereal bowl. Fill with cold water, add ice cubes. You want very cold water for this. To test syrup, wait until it's been at a hard boil for at least 5 minutes, drop a small amount into the hard water. Fish it out and see what texture it is. If it feels like taffy, soft and squishy, that's soft ball stage (234°-240° F). For this recipe, you want it to make a hard ball, almost like hard candy but you can still stretch it a bit. Don't undercook the syrup or you'll end up with gooey marshmallows. Still tasty, but not the crumbly puffy deliciousness of divinity.

While syrup is cooking, beat egg whites until stiff in large mixing bowl. Continue beating while pouring hot syrup slowly into bowl. Do not rush this step. Add flavoring and coloring. Continue to beat until mixture holds it shape and becomes slightly dull. This can take up to 15 minutes.

Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper. Work quickly before it sets up. Let cool completely before removing from waxed paper. Turn over and let the candy dry completely, about 4 hours. Store in airtight container.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My experiment with blog traffic

I tried using Triberr for a few months. Yes, it increased blog traffic. I was getting over 100 hits a day. But, and it's a big one, my spam comment list went from one or two every three months or so to five or six a day. What does it matter if I'm getting lots of hits if half of them are spambots? I'd rather have real people reading my blog.

I lost quite a few Twitter followers over Triberr, too. When I checked my Twitter feed, I realized why. "Check out XXX blog! *insert link*" over and over and over. Too much spam joining the never-ending flood of it on Twitter.

I've dropped out of Triberr. Sorry to those who were part of my tribes and counting on me, but I can only do so much social media. I will tweet links to blog posts that I enjoyed but only because I enjoyed them, not because I feel obligated. I will continue with the social media I enjoy.

And I'd love to get comments from real people. The spambots are entertaining, but their grammar is killing me.

I have friends who do a monthly giveaway on their blog. All you have to do to enter is comment. Should I start doing something like that?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Sneetch Belly Salad

I've been dealing with my dietary restrictions the last couple of months. Posting recipes just got too painful. Sorry about missing a couple of weeks. If you have suggestions or good recipes, I'd love to help share them here. Just leave me a comment.

The day after Thanksgiving, we hosted our annual leftover and games party. It's casual, like most of what I do. Drop in with whatever you've got leftover from Thanksgiving, play a few games, and enjoy a potluck. My sister brought her favorite salad. It's the one with tiny pasta, fruit, and cream. Except this time, she made it dairy free because her husband can't eat dairy anymore. And she couldn't find the tiny orzo pasta so she used tiny stars. It was dubbed Sneetch Belly Salad, because it's got stars upon thars. If you don't get the reference, you haven't been reading your Dr. Suess books. The Sneetches

It's a great salad, fun and easy, dessert or fruit salad depending on what you add to it. Change it up, play with it, but most of all, enjoy it. Because the star-belly sneetch is the best kind of sneetch on the beach.

Sneetch Belly Salad

1 20-oz can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve juice)
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, drained (reserve juice)
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. flour
1/2
t. salt
1 1/3 c pineapple juice (from canned pineapple)
2 eggs, beaten
1 T. lemon juice
1 12-oz pkg tiny stars pasta
2 11-oz cans mandarin oranges, drained
1 8-oz carton whipped topping, thawed

Open pineapple and drain, reserving 1&1/3 cup juice. Refrigerate pineapple in separate container until needed the next day. Combine sugar, flour and salt in medium saucepan. Gradually stir in pineapple juice and eggs. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thickened. Add lemon juice. Cool to room temperature. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and cool to room temperature. Combine egg mixture and pasta. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight in airtight container. Add pineapple, oranges and whipped topping. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Refrigerate until chilled in airtight container.

Monday, December 10, 2012

FREE short story

It's been a journey getting Wandering Weeds published. But, that's a story for another post.
You can buy the anthology here:

Print in Createspace store: https://www.createspace.com/4081868




And find the rest of our blog hop here:


 rebeccalbrownupdates.wordpress.com

Lots of stories of evil weeds, some intelligent, some not, but all very bad news. We hope you enjoy the book. To whet your appetite, here's a story that isn't in the book but captures a lot of the flavor of the collection:

Lassie, Go Home
by Jaleta Clegg

"Come on, girl. Let's see what's over that ridge." The boy trots up the steep slope, dust puffing from his footsteps.

Silly human offspring. Always running away from the pack. It's my job to keep him safe. I stop at the crest of the ridge, posing for anyone who might notice my magnificent coat and perfect form. The wind ripples my fur. My nostrils expand, sniffing the bone dry air.

Why can't my pack live where the air is moist and the ground green? The harsh desert sands wear my paws to nothing. I almost envy the boy his shoes as I bound after him.

I bark. He's straying too far.

"What is it, girl? Do you see a rabbit?" The boy barely slows. "I think I see that spring I told you about yesterday. Down there by that abandoned mine. Betcha there's gold in that mine, big nuggets just waiting for me to pick them up and take them home. Won't that make mom smile. We could buy her that washing machine she always wanted. And a big refrigerator. And an air conditioner. Then we could build the town dad always wanted, you know, the tourist center and everything. Boy, I can't wait to bring home all that gold." His yellow hair disappears into the darkness of the abandoned mine.

I bark. It does no good. I sigh. My night vision isn't good. My keen nose informs me that the mine shaft is an evil place. I do not want to enter. I bark, but the boy does not return. I whine as I try to place the odd smell emanating from the dark cave. My skin twitches.

"Lassie, come on, girl. Help me find a lantern or something."

I do not want to enter the cave. I sense something amiss. But the boy might be in danger, stupid human child, and he is my responsibility. My foot scratches my ear, sign of my distress.

"Wait, there's something glowing down here. It's sticky. There's a bucket. I'll scoop some up."

My ears perk forward. Every sense screams of danger. Growls emerge from deep in my chest.

Green light oozes from the cave, reeking of malevolence. A soft hum filters from the darkness.

"Ah! It's got me!"

I bound up and down, unable to force myself to enter the darkness. The boy's screams rip the air. I run in tight circles, barking frantically. My ears prick as I detect the sound of rustling branches. I freeze, assessing the new threat.

Balls of greenish-gray limbs roll over the ridgetop. The tumbleweeds stop just above the entrance to the mine. Their branches wave though the air is still. Traces of greenish light define the thicker center, flickering like beating hearts. My hair rises along my neck. Pure evil watches me without eyes. The tumbleweeds roll closer, branches tracing lace in the dry dust. I crouch, whining, torn between protecting the stupid human boy child and retreating from the danger encroaching on the mine.

A small weed, barely larger than a rabbit, bounces from a ledge and lands just beyond the mine entrance. The thorns lining the branches drip green ichor.

I bark, once, then bound away. The boy needs help, more than I can offer. I dash bravely around the hill to the small house where my pack resides.

I paw the screen door, whining low in my throat. The woman sings as she prepares the evening meal. I thump the door with my paw. She continues to sing. I bark once. Her voice shrieks off key as she hits a high note in her song. I cover my ears with my paws.

"Here, girl, whatever is the matter?" The man, alpha of my pack, leans his shovel against the porch.

I bounce on my paws. "Bark! Barkbark bark bark barkbarkbark. Bark!"

"Beautiful day, girl. I'll second that."

What is the problem with these stupid humans? "Bark bark barkbark bark!"

"Did you see a rabbit?" The man sits on the porch, scratching behind my ear.

My tail thumps in pleasure. But the boy is in peril, I must bring help. I back from his reach, front paws low. "Bark! Bark! Barkbark!"

The man frowns, scratching under his cap. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

The woman screeches the chorus to her favorite song.

"Bark barkbark bark." Can't they understand a simple statement? The boy is in grave danger and the man sits and scratches!

"What is it, Lassie?"

"Barkbarkbarkbark bark barkbark!"

The man jumps to his feet. "Little Timmy is in the well again?"

I whine, pawing my face. Stupid humans! "Bark barkbarkbark bark!" I waggle my tail, circling to the trail and back.

"Martha! Little Timmy fell into the well again!" The man grabs his shovel.

The woman's singing stops abruptly. Blessed silence falls in the little valley.

No, not silence. Rustling edges over the ridge, like an army of shrubbery creeping towards us. My hair rises. I growl deep in my throat.

The man rushes forward, heedlessly running for the well. Tumbleweeds pour from the ridge. Green light traces their descent. The man screams as they envelop him. His body disappears in the mass of mutant vegetation.

I bark, but I cannot stop the tumbleweeds.

The screen door slams. The woman emerges, damp dishcloth dangling from her limp hand. The wave of tumbleweeds crests, surging along the path to the farmhouse. I rush in circles, barking a warning. The woman flaps her dishtowel.

"Hush, girl. Strange weather we're having. You say Little Timmy fell into the well again? Fool child." She hums as she clips her cloth to the clothesline.

The green-gray plants advance, swallowing the shed. The woman pays no attention to the threat now creeping into her yard.

"Bark bark!"

"Lassie! Go home, girl!"

The tumbleweeds creep around the woman, encircling her with their glowing fronds of thorns. She sings. The branches tremble as the tumbleweeds prepare to pounce.

I cannot stand helpless while my pack is devoured by the mutant plants, but I cannot stop them by myself. I dash away, paws flying as I rush to the town. The man with the shiny badge and the man with the great, red, water-breathing monster will help.

I bound across the park. Delicious smells waft through the summer air, but I am determined they shall not distract me. I must save my pack. I leap over a small child playing in the sand. Nothing will deter me, not today.

The man with the water-breathing monster stands outside, washing the beast with a hose. The great square beast sleeps.

I rush to him, barking.

He pauses, water pooling around his feet. "What's that, Lassie? Is there trouble at the farm?"

Finally! A human who can think! "Bark, barkbark yip!"

"Little Timmy has fallen in the well again?" The man drops the hose.

I wrap my paw over my eyes. Why do they not understand?

The man dashes into the den of the monster, leaving me alone with the great red beast. I whine, impatient to save my pack.

The fat orange tabby leaps from her perch on the windowsill of the den. She flicks her tail. "Mrow."

"Barkbarkbark!"

"Mrow?" Eye-blink conveys her assurance that no plant would dare invade her home.

These are not normal plants. They are monsters, evil hybrids fed on the toxic waste stored in the old mine. These tumbleweeds can think, move on their own. And they eat humans. I scratch my ear as I share with the tabby.

Her fur bushes. She hisses.

"Bark." I thump my tail once.

She leaps the fence to the alley. She will bring help to my pack.

The man who tends the great beast hurries from the den, followed by the other servants of the beast. They climb onto the monster.

"Lassie, come on, girl! We have to save Timmy!" The man pats the seat in the monster's head.

I jump. I have never been allowed inside before. I sit tall, tongue hanging loose as I taste the new smells.

The man wakes the beast. It roars and squeals as it charges through the town. I brace myself as it rushes around corners. Within moments, we have reached my pack's residence.

Masses of glowing tumbleweeds cover the house and yard. They wave sickly branches, threatening with their oozing thorns. The great red beast drives into the mass, crushing them beneath its round black feet. I bark, rejoicing in our triumph

The tumbleweeds hunch together, retreating up the slope behind the house. Green light sparkles along each narrow thorn. They tangle branches, rolling atop one another. A giant form emerges from the mass. Rudimentary arms sprout, tangles of smaller tumbleweeds forming stumpy limbs.

"Well I'll be tarred and dipped in mustard." The man scratches his head. "Your little Timmy is quite the genius, to build a statue from tumbleweeds."

The other men who ride the beast gather to stare at the monstrosity.

I growl and snap my teeth but they do not listen to my warning. The tumbleweeds engulf the men, covering them with oozing green ichor. I leap to the head of the great red beast, barking warnings at the evil plants. The giant creature stumps forward, humans wrapped in its thorny embrace. I stand my ground. They will not devour the water-breathing beast, not while I breathe.

The mutant creature stumbles closer, clumsy in its new manifestation. A mouth forms in its featureless face, a hole lined with tumbleweeds.

I bark, standing firm on the water beast's head. The flashing lights rotate beneath my paws, streaking the abomination with red.

A sound emerges from the thing, like a wind roaring through the desert canyons. My fur rises at the eerie wailing. Little Timmy's head appears in the thing's eye socket. His eyes glow with green light. I bare my teeth. I must save Little Timmy. The stupid human offspring is my responsibility. I leap to the nose of the great red beast.

The tabby cat appears, landing lightly beside me. Her tail bristles at the sight of the thing and the humans now embedded inside. She flicks one ear. Help is on the way.

I rush at the thing, confidence renewed. It swipes one stubby arm downwards. The female of my pack dangles within the branches of tumbleweeds. I dart back, barking and snarling my rage. How dare these plants perpetrate such horror on my humans!

Rabbits pour from the hillsides. I leap to the safety of the red beast's head. Rabbits frighten me with their vapid stares and gnawing teeth. Eyes flash with reflected red light as the horde pours into the valley. Teeth glint as the creatures fling themselves upon the mutant plants.

The giant form sways, howling like wind trapped in the chimney. The suicidal rabbits leap up its torso, biting and kicking. Their eyes glow madly, insanity incarnate. The tumbleweed creature has been damaged; one arm dangles, the humans trapped inside writhe with mouths open in soundless screams. But even the rabbit horde is too small, their numbers too few. The monstrosity shakes itself free of most, howling in rage as it swings its remaining arm at the square, red beast.

I bark, thumping the beast with my paws. Why will it not breathe water upon the tumbleweed monster? Why will it not slaughter the thing with its powerful spray? The beast remains in slumber.

The cat hisses, swatting her paw across my nose. She deliberately glances over her shoulder, pausing to lick a spot on one paw.

Deer pour into the tiny valley, eyes rolling white in panic. Cats from the town drive them into the monster's embrace. The deer kick and buck, knocking tumbleweeds loose to scatter across the remains of my female's garden. The rabbits rise from the ground, devouring the loose tumbleweeds.

The creature howls, Little Timmy's head rolling in the eye socket as the beast falls. The rabbits swarm its carcass. The deer trample the human bodies within the thorns. In moments, the thing lies in pieces too small for even rabbits to devour.

I perch on the head of the water-breathing beast. My pack lies dead on the churned ground, among the servants of the slumbering monster. The deer flee into the hills. The rabbits fade into the brush. The cat flicks her tail as she saunters back to town and her sunny windowsill. I contemplate my failure to protect my family from this horror.

I raise my muzzle and howl my grief to the uncaring afternoon. I shall stand vigil at the site of their destruction until my beautiful coat is dusty and faded and my ribs show from starvation.

The man stirs, groaning. The woman sits, pushing strands of hair from her face. Little Timmy sprawls in the road, snoring. The servants of the beast stir.

I bark in sheer joy. My pack lives! I have saved them from the abomination of tumbleweeds. I have proven my worth yet again.

"Bark! Bark!"

"Lassie! Go home, girl! And stop that infernal barking." My alpha male holds his head, blood seeping through his fingers.

I bound from the beast to lick his face. He shoves me away.

All is right and proper. I have saved my people from danger. It is only my job.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Basket of Book Reviews

I bought most of these books. A couple were won as prizes. I don't get paid for these reviews. I use Amazon links because they are the easiest to locate. Here's what I've been reading:

Runestone of Tiewas, M. H. Bonham, Yard Dog Press, 2007, ISBN 9781893687837

This is book 2 of a series, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the story. It's high fantasy but not a typical Tolkein world. Yes it has several varieties of elves, and several varieties of humans, but it also has demons, and the bit I found most intriguing, several main characters who were ghosts for a thousand years before being reborn to face their enemies again. The story bogged down in a few places, but overall, it was a fun read. I'll be looking for more in this series, including book 1 that I missed.

Rating: 4 stars, PG for violence

Ink, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Crossed Genres Publications, 2012, ISBN 9780615657813

This is a near future science fiction story where the US population is required to be tatooed to show their status - citizen, legal immigrant, or illegal immigrant. It's a story that explores our perceptions of race and inequality. The story threw me off at first because each chapter switches viewpoints between six different main characters, most of them in first person. But the book is worth reading. Usually when the issue of race or prejudice is explored, it revolves around those of African descent. This book deals mostly with Hispanics. How far is our government willing to go to stop illegal immigration? How far will we allow it to go? I didn't find the story completely believable, it pushed the situation a bit far, but I did find it compelling.

Rating: 4 stars, R for violence, situation, and language

Chickens in the Headlights, Matthew Buckley, Covenant Communications, 2005, ISBN 9781591568520

Matthew Buckley writes a fun semi-autobiographical novel about the summer he was ten. As the second oldest of seven brothers, eleven and under, chaos and mayhem rule their house despite his mother's best efforts to civilize them. Coming from a large family myself and with eight kids of my own, mostly boys in both, I enjoyed the book. His story of their family vacation rang true. I've lived through enough road trips as a kid and a parent. My kids enjoyed the book, too, even the 9yo. It would be a fun one to read aloud. If you enjoy books like The Great Brain or Tom Sawyer, you'll most likely get a kick out of this more modern version.

Rating: 4 stars, G, but be warned, it includes fistfights, chicken attacks, and lots of boy mayhem

Carnival Girl, Sonja Herbert, Cedar Fort, 2012, ISBN 9781599559964

Another autobiography, Carnival Girl is the story of a girl growing up in a carnival in the aftermath of WWII. It's a touching story of finding faith and family, even if that family isn't perfect. I met the author at Costco one afternoon and bought her book after talking with her. She grew up as part of a traveling carnival and didn't step foot inside a house until she was a teenager. Her stories are a fascinating look into a life I've never experienced.

Rating: 4 stars, PG

A Thousand Words for Stranger, Julie E. Czerneda, DAW, 1997, ISBN 0886777690

I love Julie Czerneda's stories. This is one of my favorites. Book 1 in her Trade Pact series and her first novel, it's the story of a species driven by their biology to the brink of extinction. Sira is a sympathetic main character, struggling to remember her past and understand the strange compulsions driving her to seek out Jason Morgan, human captain of the starship Silver Fox. She doesn't know who to trust and finds danger at every turn. If you enjoy hard science fiction (using biology instead of physics) with a touch of romance, you'll enjoy this book. I highly recommend anything by Julie Czerneda.

Rating: 5 stars, PG for violence

Space Sirens, Full-Throttle Space Tales #2, Edited by Carol Hightshoe, Flying Pen Press, 2009, ISBN 9780981895734

I enjoyed the stories about women in space. Ranging from a Dolly Parton-esque security guard who can kill a man thirty ways with just her pinkie finger to heavy-weight Martian spaceship crew and colonists, this collection of short stories has a bit of everything. Anthologies can be a great way to find new authors. These stories are fun and imaginative. The only thing that really bugged me about this book was the number of copy-editing errors, wrong words or misused phrases or typos. If you can overlook those, this book is a fun read.

Rating: 3.5 stars, G to PG-13 depending on the story (a couple had a lot of language)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Need to Create

Do you feel the need to create something? It seems to be an almost universal human drive. You don't have to be an artist or a musician to participate. Everyone has an outlet for their creative urges. I like to use words to create worlds and stories. I also love playing with cloth and yarn, piecing quilts and creating costumes and crocheting all sorts of things. Even cooking can be a creative exercise. I have friends who garden to fill that need. Others who build things with wood or metals or other materials.

What is your canvas? What do you like to create?

I'll leave you with a few pictures of some of my latest projects as inspiration:





Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Dog Muffins

My daughter is into gourmet cooking, plus she likes spoiling her purse dog. He's a 75 lb chow-lab mix named Wookie.

These are her muffins she likes to make for him. Our other dog, Sasha, loves them, too. Plus, if your kid eats one, it won't kill him. Easy to make and healthy, try these out for your favorite canine friend. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your dog's tastes.

Puppy Muffins

2  cups oat flour
1 cup oatmeal
2 bananas (or 1 cup of chopped fruit and veggies)
2 eggs
1 1/2 c applesauce (or pureed squash)
1/2 c peanut butter.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Put everything except oatmeal and oat flour in blender. Blend until smooth.

3. Stir in oat flour by hand.

4. Add in oatmeal in batches until it reaches a thick consistency, like muffin batter.

5. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, fill about 2/3 full.

6. Bake regular muffins for 15 minutes, small muffins for 10 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let cool thoroughly. Store in an air tight container up to 1 week.

8. Use as treats for good puppies.

Makes about 48 small muffins or 24 regular muffins.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Has NASA Ever Done For You?

It's called spinoff technology and it is changing your life every day. Let's keep exploring our universe. We all benefit.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Dairy Free Rice Pudding

Call it rice pudding and no one eats it. Call it sweet, sticky rice and they eat it but no one knows what it is. This is my attempt to recreate the sweet rice served as a dessert in Thai restaurants. It's one of the few desserts I can still have, at least for this month.

Sweet Sticky Rice, aka Dairy Free Rice Pudding

2 c. short grain rice or sticky rice or glutinous rice
1 can coconut milk, plus enough hot water to equal 4 c. total liquid
1/4 c. sugar, brown or white
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt

Stir together all ingredients in a 2 quart crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 - 6 hours, until rice is done. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with fresh mango or strawberries, if desired. You can also add 1/2 c. raisins if you want the more traditional rice pudding.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bestsellerbound Friendship Blog Hop

I've talked about the Bestsellerbound group before. It's the nicest bunch of authors, editors, and readers you'll ever meet. I'm so glad I discovered them. I haven't met any of them in person, but they've touched my life and changed it in ways I would have never guessed. Because of my friends there, I have a new publisher and I've found new readers for my stories. I've also found people who understand when things get tough and are there to support and help. I've found people to sympathize with. I've found people who are my friends and I'm proud to call them friends. I hope I can be there for them as much as they are for me.

Thought on friendship: You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but don't try picking your friend's nose.

***

BestsellerBound.com is a wonderful community of indie authors. Created by Darcia Helle in the late summer of 2010, and featuring resident authors, Maria Savva and Stacy Juba, the community has grown and now boasts over 500 members. Quite a few of the members are active on the forum. The group wanted to celebrate one thing that has kept them all going over the past two years: friendship. Many friendships have been formed on the board. In fact, one of the most common things our members say is that BestsellerBound is the friendliest group of writers they have found. We pride ourselves on that.

To celebrate not only a successful 2 years as a popular indie writer forum, but also the friendships we have made on the board, a few of the regular members have organised a blog hop. The theme for this blog hop is of course, Friendship. If you follow the tour, you can read blogs by each of the participating authors based on the theme of friendship. Some of the authors will be writing about fictional friendships in their novels, others will be writing about real friendships. We are sure it will be an interesting and varied blog hop. We are also offering a big prize! One lucky winner will win the following prizes:

Secrets by Darcia Helle (Print)
Haunted by Maria Savva (Print)

Harmony's Passing by Joel Kirkpatrick (print)
Belkin Mod Standing Cover for Kindle Fire
Nexus Point by Jaleta Clegg (ebook)
Sink or Swim by Stacy Juba (ebook)
Alaskan Healing by Lana Voynich (ebook)


The contest is very simple. There is a Rafflecopter form available on the BestsellerBound Recommends blog. All you have to do is follow the instructions there to enter! Contest runs until November 26.

All the blogs are taking place today, and the contest will run until.... (insert date)

Check out the following blogs, for some wonderful stories about friendship!

BestsellerBound Recommends
A Word Please - Darcia Helle
Maria's Goodreads Blog - Maria Savva
The Tale's The Thing - Joel Kirkpatrick
One Stop Reading - Stacy Juba
Scribblings from my mind - Lana Voynich

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Recipe - New Diet

I'm dealing with too much this week. I've been put on a very strict diet, on top of the other two diets I'm supposed to be following. I'm struggling to figure out what I can still eat. None of these are weight loss diets, if you were curious. I'm supposed to be on the glycemic load diet for my blood sugar and a low-salt diet for my blood pressure. Now I get to add a diet for my kidneys. The list of banned foods is very long.

IT INCLUDES CHOCOLATE. I CAN'T HAVE CHOCOLATE FOR AT LEAST A MONTH.

So I get to eat plain vegetables, except for tomatoes, onions, and a couple of others that I don't like anyway. I can have fresh meat, but not with any seasonings other than some herbs and salt. No pepper, no spicy mixes. I'm not supposed to eat fruit, except for bananas, pears, and blueberries. I'm banned from sauces and dressings. I can have lots of breads and grains, except I can't eat most of them because of my other diets. I can't have MSG because it triggers migraines, but I also can't do additives, preservatives, artificial flavorings or colorings. I'm going to have to start cooking from scratch. Except I'm so drained dealing with health issues and fibromyalgia I have no energy.

I've been banging my head on the wall trying to figure this out. Anyone out there have suggestions or favorite recipes?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Cabbage Rolls

Every once in a while, I get a hankering for some good old-fashioned down-home cooking. I have no idea where cabbage rolls originated, although I suspect they are at least partially German. They're a cross between meatloaf, lasagna, and I'm not sure what. I do know they are delicious.

Cabbage Rolls

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
2 c. chopped kale, spinach, or other dark leafy green
1 c. oatmeal
2 eggs
1/2 c. minced onion
1 t. dried basil
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 c. mayonnaise
12 large cabbage leaves, I prefer Napa cabbage
1 20 oz. can spaghetti sauce

Mix meat, kale, oatmeal, eggs, onion, spices, and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Squish it around until it's well combined. Set it aside.

Fill a large pot half full of hot water. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Dip cabbage in the hot water 2 or 3 leaves at a time, just long enough to wilt them, 15-20 seconds. Remove from the water and drain.

Heat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Scoop about 1/3 c. meat filling onto a cabbage leaf. Wrap and roll it, kind of like an egg roll, tucking the sides in and making sure the meat mixture is completely inside. Place it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the other leaves and the rest of the meat mixture. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the filled cabbage leaves. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour, until meat is done.

Serve with garlic bread and a fruit salad for a complete meal.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

...Is not a train! My remodeling for the year is almost finished. The kitchen is done and looks beautiful. The walls in my new office space are painted. All we have left is putting the trim back on the walls and rearranging furniture again. I'm excited to see how everything is going to look when it's all put back together. The office space used to be our tv room off the dining area. We moved the tv to another room. The space is going to be office and homework center when we're done. Oh, it's also where our zombie frogs will live.

Here's some pictures of the kitchen, before, during, and after:








Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Ferengi Chicken

Continuing the Star Trek theme, here's a fast, easy meal that takes two pots to cook. Yep, I'm the queen of fast, cheap, and easy. Food that is.

Ferengi Chicken

1 T. oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken, cut in bite size pieces
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 c. carrots, diced small
1 lb bag frozen mixed cauliflower and broccoli
1 c. ketchup or catsup
1 c. crushed pineapple
1 t. ginger
1 t. garlic powder
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar

Mix together ketchup, pineapple, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar. Set aside. In large saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and onion. Cook, stirring often, until chicken is mostly done. Add carrots. Cook 5 minutes longer. Add frozen vegetables and sauce. Stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve over rice.

If you prefer the sauce thickened, use 2 T. cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 c. cold water.

Monday, October 22, 2012

An Interesting Book

My husband has been helping clean out his parents' house. He keeps bringing home old books and other stray items. I couldn't resist a few quotes from this one:

Cats, by Grace Pond and Angela Sayer, 1976

page 5 - "The felines are carnivorous or flesh eaters, using their thirty adult teeth in a scissor-like action to tear their food apart." That really makes you want to own cats, doesn't it?

page 51 - "Cats which become very soiled, for example having explored the chimney, or the coal-hole, may be bathed, as is virtually the only way to remove soot, coal-dust, or any other greasy substances from the cat's coat. It is usually necessary to have two people to bath a cat, one to hold on to him and the other to do the washing." Cats aren't clean, they're just covered in cat spit. And they don't mention the medical team standing by to suture the deep slashes and puncture marks from bathing the cat.

And my favorite:
page 83 - "Maggot Infestation is generally only seen in long-haired cats following a bout of sickness or diarrhoea, when small plugs of feacal material remain matted in the coat around the rear end. A blow fly then lays its eggs in this mat and within four days the horrified owner will notice the cat's extreme distress and agitated behaviour, and see a large cluster of maggots which have hatched out." What a lovely picture this paints!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Recipe - BBQ Tribbles

I've been hanging out on Ravelry lately, talking crochet and getting in touch with my inner Star Trek geek. There's a group on Ravelry that does Star Trek missions with knit and crochet. It's been a blast playing with them. Plus Ravelry has hundreds of free patterns available. If you knit or crochet, it's a great community.

One of our missions is to craft something to help us connect with the Klingons. It's supposed to be a diplomatic mission. Crafting a basket of tribbles for them is out of the question - tribbles hate Klingons and Klingons hate tribbles. Unless they're barbecued. I'm posting this recipe along with my crocheted stuff for this mission. So get in touch with your inner Klingon and enjoy some BBQ tribbles this weekend.

BBQ Tribbles

2 lbs skinned tribbles (or 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs)
1/2 c. jam or jelly (peach, apricot, or grape preferred)
1 c. barbecue sauce

Place tribbles in a 3 or 4 quart crockpot. Pour jam and barbecue sauce over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oscar the Grouch is a Time Lord

I admit, I watched Sesame Street for many years. I haven't watched for the last ten years or so, mostly because the show got too Politically Correct for my taste. And I can't stand that horrid little red manipulator named Elmo. *shudder*

I've come to the realization that Oscar the Grouch is a Time Lord.

1. He has funky hair that never stays where it belongs. Plus he has very expressive eyebrows.

2. He has a very long scarf that he uses as a tool. (Mostly only in the holiday specials where he has the garbageman Sully take his garbage can to the ice rink...)

3. He does strange, inexplicable things without giving any reason for his actions. (See above)

4. He eats very weird food. Pickles and ice cream are the most normal of his dishes.

5. He has several companions - Slimey the worm and the elephant, to name two.

And the clincher -

6. His garbage can is MUCH bigger on the inside. Oscar has a swimming pool, bowling alley, ballroom, and movie theater inside that thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Sweet Pickle Relish

My sister gave me this recipe years ago. It's a great basic pickle relish, sweet and tangy. Use it wherever you usually use pickle relish - hot dogs, hamburgers, tuna salad and sandwiches, deviled eggs, etc.

Cucumber Relish

4 c. ground unpeeled cucumbers
1 c. finely chopped green pepper
1/2 c. finely chopped sweet red pepper
3 c. finely chopped onion
3 c. finely diced celery
1/4 c. pickling salt
3 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. vinegar (5% acidity)
1 T. celery seed
1 T. mustard seed

Combine all vegetables in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt, cover with cold water. Let stand 4 hours. Drain thoroughly, pressing out all excess liquid. Combine sugar, vinegar, and seeds in larg pot. Bring to a boil, stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in vegetables, simmer 10 minutes. Pack in hot jars, process to seal.

For canning, check out these books and sites:
USDA Guide to Home Canning (PDF download)
http://www.homecanning.com/
Ball (brand of canning jars) site
http://pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm
National Center for Home Food Preservation

Monday, October 8, 2012

Messages of Hope and Inspiration

This past weekend was the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Twice a year, the whole church gathers, at least virtually, to listen to church leaders. The messages are uplifting, full of hope and love. It was what I needed this last weekend.

You can listen to any or all of the talks here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2012/10?lang=eng (Yes, they do translate the talks into many languages if English isn't your thing.)

If you need some light in your life, try listening.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Onion Relish

Are you sensing a theme here? It's canning and pickling season. Lots of fresh produce around just begging to be turned into wonderful pickles, preserves, and relishes. These are fairly easy to make and usually safe for home canning, just keep the kitchen and jars as clean as possible and use a good quality vinegar that says 5% acidity on the label.

This one is another good one for burgers and hot dog toppings. It's got a nice onion flavor that isn't too overpowering.

The summer we tried this recipe out, I got a 50lb bag of onions for about $15. Great price, great deal, but that was an enormous pile of onions. We made at least a dozen batches of this relish. The kitchen reeked of raw onion for a week. We sat around the table crying our eyes out as we peeled and chopped onions. Lots of bad jokes happened.

If you have a salad shooter grater type thing, use it for the onions. Just use a coarse grating blade. Makes it go much faster than trying to chop it by hand.


Onion Relish

1 quart finely chopped onions
2 c. finely chopped sweet red peppers
2 c. finely chopped green peppers
1 c. sugar
4 c. vinegar
4 t. salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pack into hot jars and process to seal.


For canning, check out these books and sites:
USDA Guide to Home Canning (PDF download)
http://www.homecanning.com/
Ball (brand of canning jars) site
http://pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm
National Center for Home Food Preservation

Monday, October 1, 2012

Celebrations and Ceremonies

Today is my mother-in-law's funeral. It's also my brother's birthday. Both have me thinking about milestones and the way we mark them.

The older I get, the more complicated my feelings about birthdays. Remember being a kid? Your birthday was almost as big as Christmas. My parents weren't big on parties or presents, but I usually got a cake. My birthday was supposed to be my special day. Most of them were a big disappointment. We were either at a family reunion where I had to share my cake and candles with several aunts, cousins, and other relatives or something else obnoxious happened. I had my tonsils out right before my twelfth birthday. By the time I could eat cake, it was long gone. These days, each birthday is a reminder that I'm not getting younger.

Funerals are a tricky subject. For my husband's mother, it will be a celebration of a life well lived and a woman well loved. Because of my faith and my religion, death isn't a final ending. It's only another step in our journey of existence. But the funeral isn't for the deceased, it's for the family and the friends. It's a way to find closure. It's a necessary step in grieving.

Another common milestone in life is marriage. Many societies also have a coming of age ceremony to celebrate the passage of a person from childhood to adulthood. Without these milestones, we may become lost, anchorless. These help provide the framework for a social structure, the basis for many traditions.

What are some of your favorite traditions or celebrations? Have you created a set for your fiction stories? Are there traditions in fiction books that bother you? What and why?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Pepper Relish

This makes a lovely relish - sweet and slightly spicy, perfect for hot dogs and adding to tuna salad or mixing with mayo to make sandwich spread. It doesn't take too long. One batch doesn't make much, only 3 or 4 cups, which is not nearly enough for the way my family eats pickles.

Bell peppers are easy to grow. Plant four or five plants to get enough peppers for this recipe. We get enough peppers for a fresh batch every week or so starting late August and going until frost kills the plants. Of course, we also eat the peppers in other ways, so I only get two or three batches total.

Sweet Pepper Relish

12 large red or green peppers, finely chopped
1 T. pickling salt
3 c. sugar
2 c. vinegar

Mix peppers and salt. Cover and let stand at least 12 hours.

Drain peppers, pressing out all liquid. Heat peppers, sugar and vinegar t boiling, stirring frequently, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 45 minutes. Pack into hot jars and process to seal.

For canning, check out these books and sites:
USDA Guide to Home Canning (PDF download)
http://www.homecanning.com/
Ball (brand of canning jars) site
http://pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm
National Center for Home Food Preservation

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Bread and Butter Pickles

This is one of my favorite recipes. My kids eat these like candy. I have a hard time getting cucumbers to grow in my yard, though. One year, I substituted sliced and chopped zucchini (If you want pictures, this post has them). Turned out wonderful. Don't be too particular about the vegetables being exactly the right amount, close enough is good enough for this recipe. If you don't like onions, you can substitute peppers or more cucumbers for part of the onions.

These are slightly sweet, very crunchy pickles, great for sandwiches or burgers. If you want them spicy, try adding a t. of red pepper flakes with the other spices.

Bread and Butter Pickles

3 qts thinly sliced unpared cucumbers
7 c. thinly sliced onions
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 green pepper cut into strips
1/2 c. pickling salt
1 c. water
2 1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 c. white vinegar
2 T. mustard seed
1 t. celery seed
1 t. ground turmeric

Mix cucumbers, onions, and peppers. Dissolve salt in water, pour over vegetables. Place a solid layer of ice over vegetables. Weight with heavy object and let stand 3 hours.

Drain vegetables. Mix remaining ingredients in large kettle, heat to boiling. Add vegetables, bring back to a boil. Pack into hot jars and process to seal.

For canning, check out these books and sites:
USDA Guide to Home Canning (PDF download)
http://www.homecanning.com/
Ball (brand of canning jars) site
http://pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm
National Center for Home Food Preservation

Monday, September 17, 2012

I've been tagged? The Next Big Thing

Darcia Helle tagged me in this challenge. It sounded fun so I'll go along with it. I'm supposed to tag five other bloggers, but since I usually refuse to play and I know many of you do, too, I'm not going to tag anyone. If you want to play, consider yourself tagged. Leave a link in the comments and I'll pass your name and post around if you like.

The rules are simple. I have to:
  1. Answer 10 questions about my current WIP (Work-In-Progress) (see below)
  2. Tag five other writers and link their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers. (see above)
Here are the questions:
  1. What is the working title of your book?
  2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
  3. What genre does your book fall under?
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
  8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
  9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
1. Title: Dark Dancer
2. Idea: I wanted to play with fairyland, elves, and airships. So I did. The plot is a mess, but that's why it's a work-in-progress.
3. Genre: This one is fantasy/steampunk. I tried to make it a romance but the characters didn't want to cooperate.
4. Actors: *raise eyebrows* No idea. I don't work that way. I do have cover art in mind, if I ever get to that point with this one.
5. Synopsis: Sabrina has the power to save fairyland from the Seligh who are bent on destroying it.
6. Publishing route? I don't think that are ahead. I have no idea where this book will be published, if it is ever published. I've got a lot of editing work to do first.
7.  How long to write first draft? I'm still working on it. I started it last winter, set it aside for a few months, then finished most of it during August for CampNanoWrimo. My rough drafts take anywhere from a week to three or four months, depending on how much writing time I've got and how much of the story I've got worked out in my head.
8. Other books? Um, no idea. I don't usually read steampunk or fairyland stories.
9. Inspiration? Frances Pauli wrote a great urban fantasy fairyland trilogy. Check it out. The link is to her blog tour last February but it gives you all the info on the books. I loved them.
10. Pique reader interest? Don't hold your breath. This one has a lot of polishing before it's ready for even an editor to see. Meanwhile, go check out my space opera series. Books 1 and 2 are published, book 3 just went to the publisher.

If you want to take the challenge, please do. Leave me your name and a link to your blog post answers in the comments and I'll be happy to consider you tagged.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Tutti Fruitti Jam

I know spring is the time for rhubarb, but in the fall as the weather cools down, my rhubarb usually perks up again. If you can't find fresh rhubarb and you aren't growing your own, you can try frozen. If you don't have rhubarb, try growing it. If you have a partially shaded area that stays damp, it's perfect. Rhubarb is a pretty ornamental that also tastes great.

This is an interesting recipe. It doesn't set up for me, ever, but it's a great syrup for pancakes or waffles. Or you can warm it up and pour it over vanilla cake as a quick dessert. It makes a great holiday treat. Use it in jam filled cookies or tarts. Have fun with it.


Tutti Fruitti Jam

1 pineapple
1 orange
1 lemon
7 c. cut-up rhubarb
7 c. sugar

Peel and remove core from pineapple, then cut it into small chunks. Cut lemon and orange into quarters, remove any seeds. Grind pineapple, orange, and lemon using food processor. Add sugar and rhubarb to ground fruit, cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. (If you don't have a food processor, you can chop it fine by hand but it will take you a while.)

Pour fruit into a large pot, bring to boil. Simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Jam should thicken slightly. Pour into hot jars and process to seal. Or you can cool, pour into freezer containers, and store in the freezer for up to three months.

Or pour it into pretty jars and give away to your friends. Just tell them to refrigerate it and use it within a month.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Author Interview - Debra Soles

Please welcome Debra Soles to the Far Edge of Normal!
Since, coming across her first romance novel at twelve she has been enthralled. By fifteen she knew she had to be a romance writer and help spread the love, but in a new more spectacular way, thinking outside the box. Mainly writing Futuristic Romance, she makes stories of vampires, witches, weres, aliens, a pirate found through time-travel and even a contemporary about Native American Indians, to share her own feelings on the L word. Debra grew up in the Carolinas, but now lives in Massachusetts with her hubby Tim and their wonderful son T.J.

My site
On Twitter 
On Facebook

My NCP site
On Amazon
On Barnes & Noble

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up? 

One thing my readers know about me is that, I have no set genre, other than romance. All my books revolve around the telling of a great love story and I always love adding in whatever feels good to me. Aliens, witches, weres, vampires, winged demon lords, Native American Indians, even pirates. I use scientists, soldiers and even musicians with a mechanic or two thrown in for good measure. As long as there is love, I'm going to try writing it.

My favorite of all my books, would probably have to be Book 1 of my Zogone series, Old Dreams.
I wrote for twelve years, getting rejection after rejection, trying to fit into the mold. Then, finally, I said to heck with it and started writing just for me. I let myself go and wrote the oddest love story about...aliens! That was Old Dreams. It became my first book to be published and the first of a four book series.

Upcoming- I'm working on a number of things right now, including the second book in my Haven Sent series, You Were Wrong! The first book in the series Talkers was released back in March of 2012. It's a story about Alien rock stars, which a nasty stalker problem and the heroes of the two books are twins.

I'm also working on another time-travel, a questionable contemporary and a YA sci-fi book that has my head spinning with ideas of the apocalypse.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
I have a million hobbies and most days it seems like I am never completely still. I love movies and I'll be the first to tell you I've always watched way too much TV. There is constantly music going in our house, because none of us could go a day without it. When I am not writing I always have my hands doing something, drawing, knitting (though as a newbie, not very well), blogging, dancing around the house no matter how silly I look at times. walking endlessly around the lake, as long as I am in motion.

One of my major hobbies is learning about other cultures. I'll read a Japanese manga, watch the anime version most of the books are turned into, then turn around and watch the live action versions in Asian Drama form. I'm completely hooked on my dramas, Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean. Sometimes all three countries will remake the same manga book and I love seeing how different each country works the story.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
To write, I always have to have music going. Music is definitely my muse. My mp3 playlist is constantly changing and I'm always willing to check out new songs. My love of cultures goes to music too. On my mp3 I have songs in English, Spanish, Japanese, a lot of Korean and even a few from time to time in Mandarin Chinese. My music list is so full of variety and interesting songs I couldn't give you a simple list.  But, I love sharing all my great finds, Every Monday I post Music Monday on my blog to share a different song that inspires me to write or just is so great I have to share it.

I'll have to check it out. I'm always on the lookout for more music. "All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
Furry creatures are a must! In the old days I would have said it had to be a cat for sure. But, now... two of the greatest loves of my life are ferrets. The first is a petite albino ferret named Shiva. She acts like a teenage girl, diva princess who is the center of everyone's world. You must always give the princess what she wants when she wants it or everyone knows she isn't pleased. Bossing her brothers is a full time job and her favorite place do that is while having a hoodie baby, meaning riding in the hood of my son’s hoodie. She is happily minding everyone’s business as you can see from her picture. The look on her face says she is the boss lady.

The second ferret is the baby of the family. Scooter, named because he hits the floor and hauls major booty. He thinks he is a human babe. If he doesn't spend half the day curled up on mom's chest listening to my heart beat, he isn't happy. That kid is 100% snuggler and the lovingest creature I've ever seen in my life. He has a collection of teddy bears and bunnies to substitute when I’m busy, because he has to be loving something.

The day we brought him home was the happiest day of Shiva's life. He is her baby. She washes him, snuggles him, plays, pets, completely tends to him. I've never seen two animals love each other so much. It is a sight to see for sure. They are my constant writing buddies, snuggling next to me or playing tag right over top of my laptop, but I couldn't write with out them any more. As a matter of fact Shiva makes an appearance as a character (a naughty villain) in my 4th Zogone book, New Beginnings, as a ten foot long goddess who kidnaps the main character Megumi.

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
Write what you like and write what you know. If you don't enjoy your genre the writing won't go smoothly. Also write about things you know about. If you enjoy baking, add it into one of your books. You might think something so normal is something everyone would already know about. That just isn't true. Some people can't tell the difference between a grilling pan and a muffin tin. Your every day common could be someone else’s extraordinary.

The best place to look for help when becoming a writer is between the pages of someone else's books. Read, read and then read some more. I hit the library almost every weekend. You would be surprised at all the info hidden in the depths of silent halls. Same for the internet. Find a good search engine and info is only a question away.

Good advice. What writers inspired you to become an author?
When I was twelve, I got my hands on my first Harlequin Romance. The picture on the front lured me in, but it was the love story that kept me coming back for more. Every romance I could get my hands on from Harlequin and Silhouette, then I became an avid collector of Danielle Steel novels. I absorbed every story as if it were life and death. By the time I was fifteen I had a collection of close to a thousand titles and knew I had to be a writer.

The one writer that inspires me to keep going, keep writing and pushing even at the hardest moments though, is Nora Roberts. My favorite book is actually her born in Ireland Series. I actually mention one of my characters reading it in my Native American Indian contemporary, His Kiss.

Any special appearances or events that you want to mention?
Romancing the Hop- August 31st-September 3rd, 2012. My blog will be listed along with the other participants in the blog hop on- http://carrieannbloghops.blogspot.com/p/romancing-blog-hop.html

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
That is a hard one. I think about all the interesting and horrible events of the past I would have liked to live during, then stop and think about how women were treated during each time. If I were a man there would be endless possibilities, but as a woman... I'm not the type to be left at home, bought, sold or traded. I'm also too mouthy and stubborn to be beaten into submission. If I were a man, you could hand me a sword and God help any villain that got in my way.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
From my Zogone series, their is a secondary character, a scientist named Dr. Mandrasport. I would love the chance to sit down with him and pick his brain. He is a scientist that specializes in human chromosomes and cryogenics. I could see myself completely nerding out, sitting with a spoon halfway to my mouth, which of course would be hanging open in fascination as Dr. Mandrasport droned on about cryogenics.

What would  serve?
I really have no idea what I could serve him as a main dish. As for dessert, I can imagine handing him a bowl of banana pudding. A bowl layered with vanilla wafers, then slices of banana covered in vanilla pudding. It would be funny to see such an esteemed scientist poking at his pudding going, "It smells divine, but it looks questionable to me." as the vanilla pudding jiggled at him happily.

Do you add chocolate chips and other fun stuff to your pudding?
If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
If I could travel anywhere, running off for a year wouldn't be enough. I love learning about other cultures and even speak bits and pieces of 7 or 8 languages. I would probably start off in Asia, going from Japan to Taiwan, to South Korea, before getting lost in the mountains of China.

Next, I would have to go to Scotland to see the place where one of my great, great grandfathers came from. and visit the rough wonderful highlands I once wrote about. Then, over to the land of green in Ireland, to head to County Clare, which I fell in love with reading books by Nora Roberts.

By the time I'm done trekking all over, it would be a great time for a nap. The best place for that would be on a bright, beautiful beach in Hawaii where I could happily write surrounded by blue, daydreaming my life away.

You and I have similar dreams. I'd love to see the karst hills in China and walk the moors of Scotland and live in Ireland for a while. What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
That would be a toss up between purple and blue, which are my two favorite colors. As  matter of fact I especially requested that all my covers have blue and purple on them. Almost all of them have one of the two colors on them. :)

I love purple myself. Delicious color. Describe your dream writing spot.
My dream spot would be in an old farm house way out in the country. It would be a few stories tall, with an attic fully equipped as a study and a library. My desk would sit next to a pretty shaped window over looking acres of green, a big round horse corral, maybe a barn and a tree with a tree house and an old tire swing.

That sounds perfect! Reminds me of my grandparents farm. Good memories.
Thanks for stopping by, Debra. Good luck with your projects.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thursday Recipe Addendum - Peeling Tomatoes

I realized after I posted the chili sauce recipe that maybe not everyone knows how to quickly and easily peel tomatoes.

Get a really big pot and fill it 2/3 full of hot water. Bring to a boil.

Drop the tomatoes into the pot, don't crowd them. Let them cook for about a minute until the skins start to split, remove from the pot and drop into a sink full of cold water.

Using a sharp paring knife, cut the stem end off. The skin should just slip right off. If the tomatoes are not vine-ripe, they'll be a lot harder to peel.

If you have a pasta cooking insert, it works great to get lots of tomatoes in and out in a hurry.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Roasted Chilies and Chili Rellenos Wraps

We just started participating in Bountiful Baskets. It's a food co-op. They explain it all nicely on the site. You put in your order on Monday, pick it up on Saturday. Fresh produce for you, money for the small farmers, everyone wins. The only problem we have is also a benefit - you never know what's going to show up in your basket.

The last two weeks we've gotten these:

Lovely Anaheim chili peppers. I've never really used fresh peppers besides bell peppers and I'm not a huge fan of those. The first week I got these, I just stared at them for a while wondering what to do with them. I'd seen a FoodNetwork show where they roasted them. Roasted peppers sounded good, and if I got real ambitious, we could have chili rellenos for dinner, right? Umm, maybe.

We have been enjoying having a propane BBQ for the last month, courtesy of the contractor rebuilding our kitchen. It's a long story. Let's just say, I'm a fan. I want one of my own now. My only experience before was with a stupid little tabletop grill that might warm up a slice of cheese if you waited an hour. I've cooked in dutch ovens and over fires, but that's a messy proposition.

These are about halfway done.
Back to the peppers. I roasted them in the BBQ, but didn't do it long enough. I was paranoid about burning them. Roasting them longer makes them easier to peel. You WANT the skin to turn mostly black.

After roasting them, set them aside in a metal bowl loosely covered with a big plate or giant plastic bag. Let them steam and cool down for an hour or so. Then, peel off the skin and discard it.

Slit the peppers open and pull out the seeds. I also cut off the stems at this point. You will be left with a slimy, green slab of deliciousness. These peppers are a little bit spicy, a lot like the canned green chilies you can buy but much more delicious.

Yeah, it looks like a mess, but it tastes so good.

Here's my take on chili rellenos wraps. My kids gobbled these up.

Take one pepper. Smear it with a bit of cream cheese. Add in a few hunks of really old cheddar cheese (scrape off the mold first). Roll the pepper up. Set it on a ginormous tortilla (also from Bountiful Baskets), fold and roll it like an eggroll - fold 1/3 over the pepper, fold in the sides, roll it up. Microwave for 1 minute if you have a real microwave, 3 minutes if you use an old 300 watt beauty like ours used to be before we bought the new, powerful, lovely one above our stove. Enjoy.

You can add fresh salsa if you want, but I thought these were very tasty on their own.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Author Interview - Krystal Brookes



Let's welcome author Krystal Brookes to the Far Edge of Normal. When Krystal Brookes isn’t enjoying staring at the beautiful scenery of her Scottish home, she’s writing about what’s under hunky Highlanders’ kilts, feeding her nieces too many sweets then taking them home, and drinking way too much coffee.

She started out writing Star Trek fan fiction but has recently progressed to original stories for publication. She writes contemporary Scottish romance and science fiction romance. When the wet dreary weather in Scotland gets too much, she dreams of taking off in a spaceship to find warmer climes. Who wants to go to a sunny country when you can head for a sunny planet?


Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?
I write sci fi romance and contemporary romance and am dabbling in paranormal. I write mainly m/f but have also dabbled in f/f and menage. I only have 3 works published so far and they all have a place in my heart. Bounty was published first, Highland Fling was second and was the type of book I wanted to write when I was young (though I probably didn't imagine so much sex in it, lol) and Fan Girl and the Geek is a kind of fantasy autobiography for me.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
I'm quick to anger but equally as quick to apologise and try to move on. I love social networking to relax. I love Downton Abbey, Castle, Star Trek Voyager, West Wing and Firefly.  I do have a major crush on Nathan Fillion

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
i like to listen to internet radio channels that play modern country. It's tuneful and easy to listen to and I love a lot of modern country acts like Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
I have no pets. I don't have an appropriate lifestyle to keep a pet. I'm also much more a dog person than a cat person. I'll stick with the giant spiders for now.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
Probably the authors I enjoyed when I was young. - Enid Blyton, Francine Pascale, Christine Marion Fraser

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
Highland Haven, the second Kilrigh Heat series book is due out on 18th October.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
Ancient Greece, I think. They were terribly civilised. Besides, I studied New Testament Greek at college so I think I would pick up the language pretty quickly.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
Any of my heroes. They are all babes. For some reason my heroes always make French toast.  I would make chicken stuffed with haggis in a cream and mustard sauce. It's the fanciest thing I know how to make.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
The nearest planet with intelligent life. There has to be intelligent life out there in this vast universe.

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Purple.

Describe your dream writing spot.
A beach in the summer, with a cool breeze wafting off the sea, dogs barking along the shoreline and guys with these little beach windsurfing things going by (hopefully with few clothes on and great abs.)

Find more about Krystal Brookes:

http://krystalbrookes.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Krystal-Brookes-Author/305059372898922
https://twitter.com/KrystalBrookes
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5779760.Krystal_Brookes
https://plus.google.com/u/0/102945611910059968448/posts
http://krystalbrookes.tumblr.com/
http://pinkpetalbooks.com/Krystal-Brookes/

All books available on Amazon (UK and US), Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Bookstrand, CoffeeTime Romance and Allromanceebooks.

Blurb for Bounty
When Gemma Scott’s shuttle crash lands on Alcatraz prison planet, she’s sure of one thing. If the impact doesn’t kill her, the inmates will. She wakes up in the hut of a convicted terrorist and wonders how long it will be until the handsome but dangerous man finds she was the one who arrested him two years earlier. As their attraction grows, they work together to help Gemma escape the dangerous planet. But they can’t deny the sparks that fly between them.

Excerpt
“I see you’re awake,” a gruff male voice stated.
Gemma looked in the direction of the voice. Wherever she was, it was dark and damp smelling. Her mind was struggling to make sense of what had happened. She could tell there had been an accident but the immediate events before it were extremely fuzzy.
“Where...?”
“It doesn’t matter. You’re safe–for now. How are you feeling?”
“Sore and groggy,” she replied quietly.
She couldn’t quite make out the man in the dim light. She didn’t recognize his voice or where she was. Her memory was still fuzzy but something in the back of her mind scared her. She seemed to be alone with this man and she certainly was not in a hospital.
“Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you crash land your shuttle into a planet Ms. Scott.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Your ID was in your pocket. And your phase gun was in your holster.”
“Where is my gun now?” Gemma asked, trying to stop the fear in her voice.
“It’s safe.” The man moved forward into the thin shaft of light coming from the dim overhead light on the ceiling of the hut they seemed to be in. The man was tall, muscular and tanned, with a shock of medium length brown hair. She recognized him, but couldn’t quite recall from where.
“I’d prefer it if you returned my gun. I need it.”
“I said it’s safe.”
She sat for a few moments trying to remember what had happened. She knew she had to get her gun back from this man but her head was too befuddled to form a coherent argument for now.
As the details of the accident came back to her, she squinted again at her rescuer, trying to recall how she knew him. She felt her blood drain as she remembered.
“I need to fix my shuttle,” said Gemma, hoping that he hadn’t realized who she was.
“It’s dark outside, you won’t be able to do anything just now.”
She tried to sit up but a shard of intense pain ripped through her shoulder and made her fall back on the pillow.
“You dislocated your shoulder, so I had to put it back in the socket. It’s going to be sore for a while.”
She rubbed her shoulder and grimaced.
“Thanks, I think.”
“If I’d left you in that shuttle, believe me, you would have been murdered or worse.”
“What’s worse than being murdered?”
“On this planet? Not being murdered and being kept alive long enough to be aware of what they’re doing to you.”
She shuddered.
“Thank you for not leaving me. I heard them banging on the shuttle hull. How did you get rid of them?”
“I have a reputation around here. Apparently I can rip a man’s throat out with my teeth.”
“Oh!” She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear any more. The man smiled wolfishly at her.
“Don’t worry, Gemma. I’m not hungry just now.”
She did her best not to show her fear. Not having her phase pistol was a problem. She always felt braver on the other end of the cold slender metal tool.
“Umm, what’s your name?”
“Rob. Rob Paris.”
His name triggered the memory that she had buried under a hundred other missions. He was a terrorist and she had hunted him for weeks before he had turned up on an abandoned planet on the edge of Terran space. She’d stunned him and kept him unconscious as she had transported him on her shuttle back to Earth to face trial. She wondered if he would remember her. She’d shot him from behind, so with a bit of luck, he hadn’t made the connection.
“Pleased to meet you. Are you a prisoner here?”
“What do you think?” he drawled.
“Well, I assumed but...”
“But what?”
“Never mind. Can I get my pistol please?”
“I said I was keeping it safe.”
“That’s very kind of you but I’d prefer to have it, if it’s all the same to you.”
Rob walked over and sat on the bed. He clasped her chin roughly in his hand and moved her head back, peering into her eyes. He let go as suddenly as he had grabbed her.
“Hmph! You’re definitely slightly concussed. As for your pistol; you’re in no shape to be carrying a fire arm. If any of those brutes came in here, you’d never be able to get it out the holster quick enough to kill them.”
“I always have my pistol set to stun.”
“I noticed.”
“You noticed?”
“Well, I noticed it was set to stun when I took it from you.” Gemma looked hard at him. Did he know? His gaze was unwavering and she was having difficulty reading him.
Gritting her teeth, she swung her legs out of the bed. Her shoulder was agony. Only then did she realize that she was wearing nothing but her bra and panties.
“Where are my clothes?”