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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Bomb!

This book is a fundraiser for the Central Washington Authors Guild. I'm technically a member even though I have never lived in Central Washington. They're just that awesome and wonderful to let me join in the fun.

The stories in this anthology are written by members of the guild. It's on sale right now so snag a copy. I've got mine waiting. Reviews will be forthcoming, but I'm sure it's going to be a wild and crazy ride. These people are gifted authors.

Assassins

They are a symbol of awe and wonder, a breed that defies the line between what is safe and what is dangerous, the characters genre fiction readers have fallen in love with generation after generation, whether they were kind and noble creatures or terrifying enemies.

Click the title for the Amazon link, click the picture for the Barnes and Noble link.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Candied Ginger

My son is into making things in the kitchen. Not bad for a 14yo.

I'm out of candied ginger and can't find it at my local grocery store.

Put those together and you have a 14yo making me candied ginger. I use it in a variety of recipes - from cookies to salad dressing to stir fry. It keeps well in the freezer. And it isn't that hard to make.

Candied Ginger

1 large hand of ginger, about 1/2 pound
1 c. sugar
2 1/2 c. water

Scrape the peel off the ginger root. If it's fresh, the peel should be thin and easily scraped away. Chunks of peeled root can be left in cold water to keep them from turning brown.

Once you have the ginger peeled, slice it into very thin slices. (We used my salad shooter, but the strings in the ginger gummed it up.)

Cook the ginger slices in the water until the ginger is tender, about 25 minutes. This should be a slow simmer more than a hard boil, so keep the heat on the low side.

Drain the ginger, but keep about 1/4 c. of the cooking liquid. Put the ginger slices and the 1/4 c. liquid in the pan and add the sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar syrup starts to look dry and begins to recrystallize, about 20 minutes. STIR THIS THE WHOLE TIME OR IT WILL BURN.

Spread the ginger on a cooling rack and set in an undisturbed corner for a day until it has dried out. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Clichés for a Cause

I've got a great guest today - my good friend Bobbie and her hubby. He writes, she draws. They have a story together in a charity anthology, Clichés for a Cause.

Tell me about this charity project. Who are they and what is their purpose? 
Bobbie: The goal of Clichés for a Cause is to take a trope and produce a beautiful book each year of completely donated artwork and short stories.  This is their second year and this year’s charity is RAINN.  The full name is the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.  They help support survivors of sexual abuse and sexual violence in so many ways.  They have hotlines both online and phone:  https://ohl.rainn.org/online/  and they support and sponsor awareness programs and a whole bunch of victims services.  They even have parenting tips on talking to your kids about sexual assault and abuse.  Most impressive is that 92 cents of every dollar donated goes straight to the cause as opposed to so many other charities.
There is so much more you can see on their website.  As for me, as a survivor of sexual abuse, I am so very excited to be using my skills to help this wonderful group.  Everyone at Clichés for a Cause is excited to do our best to help this year.
Steve: It's a great cause and it's been tremendously rewarding to play even a small part in it.

What are the stories in the anthology like? Tell me more about yours. 
Bobbie: This year’s Clichés for a Cause cliché is Once Upon a Time. All the stories are reinterpretations of fairy tales. There is one about the sea witch in Little Mermaid, illustrated by the illustrious Jessica Douglas.  Another story is called Maiden Tree and Michelle Papadopoulos’ picture for it is just lovely. 
I inked 2 pictures for my hubby’s story Bridgette and the Gruffz.  Steve’s story is hilarious, oh and charming.
Steve: These are vicious, vicious lies. Our story is based on a heated, late-night conversation about how the 3 Billy Goats Gruff is a monoculturist misrepresentation of troll courting rituals. As a warrior of truth, I needed to make the facts known.
Bobbie: That’s my hubby, ever the champion of truth, or at least a more entertaining version of it.  We were watching TV one night and during some end credits the name Trowbridge popped up and I misread it as Trollbridge.  I started laughing so I had to point it out to Steve.

Tell me more about you and your hubby. 
Bobbie: There we are as Franken-Steve and the Bride of Franken-Steve.
Steve: I am not interesting.  My wife is a transcendent muse of depthless inspiration, posing as a mild-mannered independent artist. She works in jewelry and curios, (www.metallicvisions.com)  but most important is her pen-and-ink work (http://bobbieberendson.deviantart.com), some of which you can see if you buy the book… *grin emoticon*
Bobbie: Flatterer. He is so humble, in actuality he is a magnificent spinner of tales grand and simple. And he has spent countless years building amazing and detailed worlds for his friends to run around in and ruin. In truth he is the most amazing and frustrating man I have ever known, and I am very grateful to have him to create with.


Thanks so much for sharing. The book sounds like a lot of fun.

Check out Bobbie's blog about her experiences and buy the book to support RAINN.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Fried Cheese Balls

I can hear the jokes starting already. Um, yeah. Not going there. I'm trying to be more tasteful than that.

These turned out to be a very tasty treat. Kind of like mozzarella sticks, but better. They're still a heart attack waiting to happen, so go easy on them.

Fried Cheese Balls

2 c. shredded cheese, you pick your favorite variety or mix and match
1 large egg
3 T. flour
1/2 - 1 t. hot sauce, tabasco sauce, or siracha
dash of salt and pepper
1 c. dry bread crumbs, finely smashed

Mix cheese, egg, flour, hot sauce, salt, and pepper together. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to kind of meld it together a bit. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in dry bread crumbs. Set on wax paper on a baking sheet.

Freeze the balls for at least 1 hours.

Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a saucepan or heat up your deep fryer. You want it about 375° F, about what you'd cook french fries at. Too hot and they'll burn before the inside gets all gooey. Too cold and they are just nasty greasy lumps that fall apart in the oil. To test the oil, drop a thin slice of potato into it. The oil should start bubbling and the potato should float to the top within a few seconds. If it takes longer than that, the oil is probably too cold. If it bubbles furiously as soon as you drop the potato in, it's probably too hot. But too hot is better than too cold with this recipe.

Fry the balls 4 or 5 at a time for 1-2 minutes, just until golden brown and crispy on the outside. The center should be melted and oozing when you cut one open.

Serve warm. Makes 2 dozen.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Morning Blues

It's been a very long week. Pilot testing a camp program takes a lot of energy, way more than I can muster these days. I'm sunburned, exhausted, but overall happy with how things went. My dad has been developing this idea for a while and the two of us put it into action last week. It was like herding ADHD cats in the rain while surrounded by large dogs. I think it can be a successful program, but it needs a lot of tweaking. More details when I have permission to share them.

At least I'm not dead, like my friend Pauline Baird Jones. Apparently she's been dead for fifteen years but didn't know it. I'm not sure how it all works, but here's her post about it. Go check it out. Her blog is usually pretty entertaining. Plus she does a giveaway once a month for commenters.

Maybe I should start doing that...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Classic Pound Cake

I went through a pound cake phase a couple of weeks ago where I tested out several different pound cake recipes. My kids didn't complain about having to taste test pound cakes for several days, especially not when I had fresh berries to go with the cakes.

Here are some tips I found helpful:
- Bake the pound cakes in small loaf pans for best results. Many recipes say to use a bundt pan, but I had problems with my cakes sticking. I have three different size loaf pans. The large bread loaf size was too done on the outside before the center was cooked. The tiny ones were too much hassle for this recipe. The middle-sized ones were just right. (Ha! Take that, Goldilocks!) They measure about 6x3 and about 4 inches tall. The non-stick ones are nice to use for cakes, but make sure you grease and flour them so the cake comes out smoothly.
- Beat the living daylights out of everything EXCEPT the flour. Cream the sugar and butter for the full five minutes. Cream the eggs for another five minutes. Don't skimp on the creaming. But once you add the flour, stir as little as possible or you might end up with tough cake.
- If the cake looks funky or falls apart, it still tastes good. Make a parfait and pretend that you intended the cake to be in crumbles. Looks aren't everything, especially with desserts.
- Cooking times are estimates. Your oven may bake faster or slower depending on how accurate the temperature is. Mine tends to bake hot so I adjust the temperature down 5-15° from what the recipe says to keep from burning things. Check the cake with a toothpick for doneness starting at the shortest time. If your oven needs another 5-10 minutes, don't panic. Just check the cake every 3-4 minutes to keep from burning. The toothpick should come out clean when poked into the center. My tip is that once I really start to smell it baking, I need to start keeping a close eye on it.

I have friends doing a book launch with home-baked treats this Saturday. If you're in the area (that's American Fork, UT), check it out! Maybe they'll have pound cake for you.

kindle giveaway

Classic Pound Cake

1 2/3 c. butter, softened (use the real stuff for this recipe, not margarine)
2 1/2 c. sugar
6 large eggs
3 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Cream butter until it is very light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Add sugar. Cream for another 2-3 minutes until very light. Add eggs. Beat for another 2-3 minutes. Mixture should be very light and fluffy.

Turn mixer speed to low. Add 1 c. flour. Mix only until moistened. Add 1/4 c. milk. Repeat adding flour and milk alternately until all has been added. Stir in flavorings. Mix on low speed just until smooth.

Grease and flour 4 6x3 loaf pans. Divide cake batter between pans. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one loaf comes out clean and cake is lightly browned.

Cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen the edges, then turn out cakes onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Household Tip - Cleaning your microwave

I came across this tip years ago but didn't try it out until recently. I could slap myself. This makes it so much easier to clean your microwave.

One of my kids heated his leftovers too long and they exploded all over the inside of the microwave. He told me, "Don't worry, I'll clean that later." Two days later, when I went to use the microwave, the food was still splattered all over it. Life with teenagers. It had dried out and was crusty and hard to remove.

Then I remembered this trick. The actual suggestion was to microwave a lemon, but since I rarely have fresh lemons around and if I do, I'm not microwaving it just to clean the microwave. I'm slicing it for water or lemonade or using it to bake fish or something else. Anyway, I do have lemon juice in the fridge so I decided to use that.

Put 1/2 c. hot water and 2-3 T. of lemon juice in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for about 3 minutes, until it boils and you get some good steam inside the microwave. DON'T OPEN THE DOOR FOR AT LEAST 3 MINUTES! Just leave it in there when it's done cooking. Let the lemon steam do your work for you, just like Scrubbing Bubbles (which works really well at getting stains out of your kitchen sink, unless you have stainless steel sinks).

Then, after about 3 minutes, open the door, remove the bowl and what's left of the lemon water (carefully since it's still pretty hot), and wipe the microwave clean. Everything comes off so much easier and, bonus, the microwave smells lemony fresh.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Ginger Sesame Salad Dressing

I was craving salad the other day but the only dressings we had were not flavors I wanted. So I went searching and came up with some ideas. This dressing is a keeper at our house. Fast and easy and a different flavor than most salad dressings.

Ginger Sesame Salad Dressing

1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. rice vinegar
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. garlic powder
1 T. honey
2 T. candied ginger, chopped small (scissors are the easiest tool to use for this)
1 T. sesame seeds

Dump everything into the blender. Whirl until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to let the flavors mellow.

Store in the refrigerator. If it separates, just shake well until it's blended again.

Serve over green salads, cabbage, or oriental chicken salad.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Clutter

Do you struggle with clutter? I think everyone does to one degree or another. Clutter happens when life happens. If you don't have some clutter somewhere, you're either OCD or you aren't living. Life is a messy process, especially when you share your house with children.

The clutter is getting on my nerves lately. Too much has just been piled up and labeled, "I'll deal with this later." Does later ever come? I'm beginning to think not. Flat surfaces accumulate papers and random objects faster than I can spit. I get that some of it is necessary, but when every surface has something on it, I start twitching. I can't find space to work.

I recently shifted my center of operations from the coffee table in the living room to a desk in the family room. One reason was that the coffee table wasn't the right height and didn't give me enough space. The second was that my son infiltrated that space with his homework and projects until he took over and shoved my stuff out. It's a nefarious attack plan—just start adding your clutter until it takes over the space. Whenever someone starts cleaning it up, shout, "I'm using that. I need that for a project. That's MY homework!" Not that my son did that verbally. We're good at sneaky attacks in my house. It's all a territorial dispute, just ask the dogs and cats.

Anyway, I'm looking at the stacks of papers and clutter on my desk and realizing that all of it is mine this time. I think I've got too many projects going on. But my thesis is well underway, which accounts for most of the papers. Bills are another stack that just seem to keep coming no matter how often I file them away. The rest of it is just random things I'm working on, like recipe books and science classes and other stuff like that.

Part of what triggered this post is watching my husband's family still dealing with all the things his parents left when they died. Eighty years of living leaves behind a lot of clutter. I think I've finally dealt with the emotional clutter, though the physical stuff is still getting sorted even after almost 18 months. Material clutter is easy to see and sort, it's the stuff we surround ourselves with in the process of living.

I'm working on decluttering my house and my life. One small step at a time.

How do you deal with clutter in your life? The physical clutter we can easily organize and reduce, but what about the emotional baggage and clutter we collect? I'm realizing I have a lot that needs to be dealt with. I do it partly through my stories. The rest I'm still figuring out.