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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Spiked Lemonade and Road Trip News

So this is late because I've been in my car since 4am driving from Utah to Washington State for a con. Lots of gorgeous scenery and fun conversations with my hubby. We ate breakfast at Spencer ID, at an Opal Mine and Diner. Biscuits and Gravy. Mmmm. We also stopped in Phillipsburg MT at a Sapphire store. Not quite as weird as it sounds. There are lots of sapphire mines in the area. For a mere $25, you can buy a bag of gravel and look for your very own sapphires. But they aren't cut and polished and I have too many cans/boxes/buckets full of uncut, unpolished gemstones and rocks I've collected. I'm addicted to rockhounding. It's fun, but the rule at our house is, "When your pants start sliding off, you're through putting rocks in your pockets." I ended up with a bag of uncut, unpolished opal, arrowheads, a big honking trilobite, and a nice flourite crystal. They're rocks. I can't resist. It's the BS in Geology. Gets me every time I go into a rock shop.

Okay, enough travelogue. Time for a recipe. This one is great for those hot summer afternoons. And it's spiked with mint and tonic water.

Spiked Lemonade

1 packet unsweetened lemonade drink mix
1 c. sugar
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
2 sprigs fresh mint
1 quart ice cubes
1 quart cold water
2 liters tonic water or club soda
1 c. fresh raspberries, optional

In gallon pitcher or large punch bowl, mix water, concentrate, sugar, and drink mix. Lightly crush mint sprigs and add to lemonade. Stir in ice. Add tonic water carefully, it foams. Stir gently to mix. Garnish with raspberries. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes for the mint to infuse. Serve cold. Makes about 1 gallon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's the story that counts

And yet again it has been brought home that when everything else is stripped away, the story is what really counts.

We had a discussion at work the other day about this. One of our simulators, the newest and shiniest one with the best gadgets and gizmos, isn't doing so well with camper ratings. We were surprised. Don't kids love touch screens and cool gadgets and settings? As it turns out, yes, they do, but they want a better story. The flight director realized that her story left the captain with no choice. They were railroaded during the whole mission. The bad guys always had the drop on the crew. They never felt in control. With some minor reworking, she changed the story to give the captain more control of decisions. Her scores went up.

At work, we run "choose your own adventure" stories that are carefully designed to get the crew to choose what we want them to choose. It's a lot like being GM for a sci-fi role-playing game.

But as we've proven yet again, it isn't the special effects or the props or the costumes that really count. It's the story.

Now if only Hollywood could figure that out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Pudding Supreme

It's been a long day. I slaved in the Romulan snack factory, Starfleet kitchen, AND the digitarium planetarium. I'm ready to be done with summer camps. One more week...

To get me through the next week, here's a great pudding recipe. I think I'll make this for the next camp.

Pudding Supreme

1 large box instant chocolate pudding
1 large box instant vanilla pudding
Milk (usually about 6 cups, check pudding mix)
12 oz tub of whipped topping
10 oz package coconut cookies (Mothers brand are great!)
12 oz package of Oreos or whatever your favorite is

In separate bowls, mix pudding according to package directions.

Spoon half of vanilla pudding in bottom of large clear bowl. Carefully level. Spread 1/3 of whipped topping over pudding. Arrange 1/2 of coconut cookies on top. Spoon 1/2 of chocolate pudding over, followed by 1/3 of the whipped topping. Arrange the rest of the coconut cookies on top. Spoon the rest of the vanilla pudding carefully over the top for another layer. Mix the remaining whipped topping with the rest of the chocolate pudding. Spoon over the layered pudding to make the top layer. Arrange oreos on top as desired. Cover and refrigerate for 2 - 3 hours.

Variations: Experiment with different cookies including Teddy Grahams, crunchy chocolate chip, fudge covered grahams, vanilla wafers, etc. You can also add marshmallows, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, sliced bananas, etc. Have fun and make it as rich as you want!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yoda Wisdom and Gummy Bear Gelatin Layered Dessert

"Do or do not, there is no try." ~Yoda

This quote says a lot. Success or failure are your only options. When you say, "I'll try," you are hedging your bets, not committing fully to your endeavor. How often do we do that to ourselves? "I'll try" implies that we anticipate failing. Some things in life are worth full commitment. Do or do not, succeed or fail, but put your whole heart and soul into it.

Okay, Monday philosophy lesson is now over. It is time for Gummy Bear Salad/Dessert. Be warned: this is weird stuff. If you let it sit for more than 24 hours, the gummy bears swell up and become part of the jello. Hmm. Borg jello? Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated?

Gummy Bear Jello

1 small box green gelatin
1 small box orange gelatin
1 small box red gelatin
8 oz tub whipped topping
1 c. multi-colored mini-marshmallows
1 c. gummy bears

Make green gelatin according to box directions. Pour into 9x13 glass pan. Refrigerate until mostly set. Sprinkle gummy bears on top. Mix orange gelatin according to directions. Carefully spoon on top of green layer and gummy bears. Sprinkle marshmallows on top. Refrigerate until soft set. Mix red gelatin according to box directions. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over other layers. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Serve and wait for the comments.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Potato Salad

I'm running way behind today. I whipped this up the other night. With some cold cut sandwiches and fruit, you've got a classic summer supper. This is one of my favorites.

Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced, peeled if you want
1/3 c. dill pickle juice
1/3 c. dill pickles, diced small
1/4 c. sweet onion, diced fine
1/3 c. celery, diced
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. mustard
dash tabasco sauce
2 t. celery seed
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. garlic powder
paprika for garnish

Put potatoes in a medium sauce pan, add cold water to cover potatoes, cover and bring to a boil. Remove lid and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes, rinse with cold water. Pour pickle juice over potatoes, toss gently. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix mayo, mustard, and spices. Add pickles, onions, and celery. Add potatoes. Toss gently until potatoes are well coated. Sprinkle paprika over the top to garnish.

Serve immediately at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teaser Tuesday! Excerpt from "Nexus Point"

Check out #teasertuesday on Twitter for a lot of great stories!

Nexus Point - Captain Dace just wants her own ship and a trade route. She has that, until her crew blows up the ship and strands her on Dadilan, a primitive tech world restricted from all unauthorized contact. The natives think she's a demon. The researcher, Leran, rescues her from the native ruler only to threaten her with arrest by the Patrol for interfering. On the way to the Patrol base, they are attacked. During the fight, Dace gets separated and lost in the woods. And that's only the first two chapters.

    He came out of the mist like a primeval god in a really bad romance vid–dark hair, darker eyes, and a face stolen from my most secret fantasies. He wore a leather vest with no shirt, tight pants, and tall boots. He stopped on the other side of the stream, muscles flexing as he folded his bare arms across his chest.
    I swallowed hard, wondering if he was just a dream. I shifted my feet on the stream bank. "What do you want?"
    He looked me over, not answering.
    I lifted the rock, trying to appear as threatening as possible. I lost my hold on it. It fell into the stream with a loud splash.
    His lip twitched as he smothered a chuckle.
    Having a complete stranger laugh at me was the final straw. I thumped down on the stream bank, dropping my head into my hands.
    The man splashed across the stream, his touch gentle on my shoulder. "Are you hurt?"
    I shook my head. I'd felt worse and lived.
    He watched me a moment longer, then put his arm around my shoulders.
    I stiffened at the unexpected touch. No one had ever tried to comfort me. I surprised myself by bursting into tears. I'd lost control. I hated the feeling. I struggled until I finally fought the tears back. Only the occasional hiccuping sniffle escaped.
    "Feel better?" he asked, just a trace of sarcasm coloring his voice. He shifted away, leaving me cold.
    I couldn't look at him, embarrassed by my outburst. I stared down at his vest, at his muscles, at his hands, anywhere but at his face.
    "You want to explain why you're out here?" He waited, still as a statue.
    I finally looked up, at his face. It was a mask, giving nothing away. "I got lost?"
    He raised one eyebrow. "Lost from where?"
    I dug through the information Ameli had dumped into my head. I found little of any help. "My father's house."
    He shifted position slightly, enough to change from sympathy to threat. "You're no native of this planet. You want to try again?"
    I edged away. "No. How do you know I'm not native?" My curiosity got the better of me.
    "You're speaking Basic."
    I hadn't realized it. I repeated one of the more colorful expressions I'd learned from Toiba.
    The man raised his eyebrow higher.
    "You aren't native, either." I sniffled, wiping my nose on the back of my hand.
    He stood. I glimpsed a tattoo on the inside of his wrist, an intricate black diamond that only one group in the Empire had.
    I froze, not knowing if it was good or bad. "You're a Patrol Enforcer."
    "Give me one good reason I shouldn't shoot you."
    "You aren't carrying a blaster."
    He moved fast. He knotted his fist into the neck of my dress, his face barely an inch from mine. "I don't need one. Who are you and why are you here? Don't even try lying."
    "Leran . . ."
    He shoved me to the ground, on my stomach. His hand pinned me to the bank. I struggled to keep my face above the rippling surface of the stream. I planted my hands in the icy water and shoved. His hold didn't budge.
    "You work for him?"
    "Leran? No. He was taking me to the Patrol." I shut my eyes and waited for the man to drown me.
    "Why would he do that?"
    I was a lousy liar. This man would see through anything I tried. I gave him the truth. "Because I ruined his research. I crashed in Baron Molier's cow pasture. He said I was a demon. He was going to kill me. Leran decided to take me to the Patrol base and turn me in instead."
    The man's hold relaxed. I shifted back an inch from the water.
    "Keep talking," he said.
    "We stopped somewhere in the hills. The camp was attacked."
    "There were too many to fight so I left. I got lost."
    "You still haven't told me who you are."
    "Dace. My name is Dace."
    He rocked onto his heels, letting me go. I scrambled away from the water.
    "I don't think you heard me." He flexed his hands. "What's your name, your full name?"
    "Dace." I wasn't about to use a name I'd discarded six years previously.
    "I'll let that pass for now. How did you come here?"
    "My ship exploded. The core redlined. The escape pod landed me here."
    "In Baron Molier's cow pasture, you already said that. What ship?"
    "Star's Grace, Independent trader registered out of Eruus."
    "What was your position, ship's idiot?"
    I'd already embarrassed myself, I wasn't about to let him insult me. I sat, sticking out my chin. "I'm the pilot. And I'm telling you the truth."
    He gave me a look that said he didn't believe it.
    "I'm also the captain and owner."
    He laughed, a short bark of sound.
    "Believe it or not, it's the truth." The anger drained away, replaced by fatigue. I wrapped my arms around myself, wishing I was at the Academy where I could ignore the humiliation the other cadets dished out.
    "You aren't going to cry again, are you?" He looked afraid of the possibility.
    I shook my head and sniffled. I'd wait until later, when he wasn't looking. He watched me fight with myself. He finally sighed.
    "My camp is just across the stream. You look like you could use something to drink." He stood and offered me his hand.
    I stared stupidly at it. He confused me. He wasn't threatening me, not now. I took his hand. He lifted me without effort. I couldn't hide my wince when my feet hit the rocks.
    "This way," he said, pulling me after him.
    I limped across the stream, soaking the bottom of my skirt. He pushed me down onto a rock before stirring up a small fire. My stomach growled. I rubbed my arms, shivering in the night air.
    I studied the man surreptitiously. His hair was longer than mine, very dark with reddish highlights. It curled just slightly where it brushed the back of his neck. He stirred the pot steaming on the fire. The tattoo on his wrist caught the light and my imagination. What was a Patrol Enforcer doing here? Why try to drown me when I mentioned Leran's name? Something was rotten on Dadilan.
    Not my problem; I was leaving. I would face whatever criminal charges were levied against me. I would give them the truth. The Patrol would have to believe me. But this man was Patrol and he didn't believe me.
    The man handed me a steaming cup dipped out of the pot. I wrapped my hands around it and sipped the hot drink. It wasn't enough to counterbalance the cold night air and my wet skirt. My teeth chattered. The man fetched a blanket out of a neat pack on the ground. He dropped it over my shoulders. I clutched it tight. He loomed over me. I felt even shorter than I usually did.
    "Try again." He sat on a rock nearby. "Start at the beginning."
    "I was born . . ."
    "Not that far back." He shot me an impatient look.
    "I told you. My ship was en route to Thurwood with a load of machine parts. Something went wrong. I had to do an emergency downshift out of hyperspace. The core redlined and the ship exploded."
    "Not very professional of you." He poked at the fire with a stick. "You say your name is Dace and you own your own ship."
    "It's the truth." My ship was a cloud of radioactive debris. I sighed again.
    "No crying." He pointed the stick at me. "That isn't fair."
    I wiped my nose on his blanket.
    "What were you doing with Leran?" he asked casually, studying the end of his pointy stick. I sensed the answer I gave would determine how he used it.
    "He pulled me out of Baron Molier's dungeon and offered to have me arrested. It was better than being skewered by hot iron pokers."
    "Why are you speaking like a native now?" The man touched the pointy end of his stick.
    "They used a hypnoteacher. It doesn't work right on me." I sipped at the drink, watching him carefully. The stick was still very evident. "It usually takes me a week or two to get all the information straight again. It's easier just to learn it the old way. What's your name and why are you out here?"
    He studied me, the stick waving in the air between us. After a moment, it went into the fire, pointy end first.
    "Malcolm Tayvis," he said. "I'm looking for my partner. He was supposed to meet me here two days ago. I don't think he's going to make it."

Want more? Ordering information and the first three chapters are here for free:
Or download more at Smashwords - Nexus Point

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book review - Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia

Warning: This post is written under the influence of a migraine and allergy medication. If it sounds loopy, it's because the author definitely is.

I met Larry Correia at a local con recently. He's a nice guy. A total gun nut, but still a very nice guy. In many ways, he resembles the main character in his novel, Owen Pitt.

Monster Hunter isn't the kind of book I usually pick up. It involves the undead. But since they are basically cannon fodder for the book, I decided to buy a copy off him and try it. Did I mention Larry is a really nice guy? (And, no, he isn't paying me to say that. Not yet, anyway.) I added the book to my tottering WTR (want to read) and HTBR (have to be read) piles. I'm happy to say his book landed in the first category. Then, life happened.

My husband picked up the book and asked me if it was good. I said, "I don't know, I haven't read it yet. But Larry is a nice guy." My husband read the book in one weekend. Considering he dumps books he doesn't like by page 50, it was a good sign.

So I finally read the book over the weekend. Very fun read. Lots of monster slaughter happens, usually with heavy firepower, but the story is more than just pasting various undead with large-bore silver ammo then burning them with grenade launchers. Larry manages to create hordes of mindless undead that make sense. Their creator has a purpose for them and the world that nobody with any brains is going to like.

Monster Hunter International could have devolved into the usual zombie/vampire gore novel with big guns and hot women, but it doesn't. The writing is a bit clunky at times, but this is his first book and the story carries it past the minor flaws. Owen Pitt is engaging, fun, sweet in a weird way, and somehow carries an air of innocence total incongruous with his skills of mass destruction.

The ending leaves the story open to a definite sequel, which I have to admit, I'm looking forward to reading. If you like quirky characters, piles of undead carcasses, massive firepower, and gun talk, check out Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. You'll only be sorry if you actually *like* vampires, zombies, litches, etc. (They die, a LOT!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Sweet Na'an

Na'an is a traditional flat bread from India. I've never been there (although I would love to visit someday!), but I do frequent our local Indian restaurant. One of my favorite dishes ever was the sweet na'an. Think cinnamon roll on steroids.

This recipe isn't authentic mostly because I don't have a clay tandoori oven. But it's the closest I could come with my home mixer and oven. It's still extremely tasty.

If you enjoy this, it's part of a 12-course Scherezade storytelling banquet I wrote for Abandoned Towers Magazine. It's in print issue #4 ( if you want to try my version of middle-eastern/Indian cuisine.

Sweet Na'an

1 1/2 c. warm water
1 T. dry active yeast
3 T. sugar
1 T. salt
3 egg yolks
4 - 5 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. coconut
1/2 c. raisins or chopped dates
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. anise seeds

Mix yeast and sugar into warm water. Let sit until it foams, about 5 minutes. Add salt, egg yolks, and 2 c. flour. Beat until smooth. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover and refrigerate 3 - 4 hours.

Mix brown sugar, butter, coconut, raisins, pecans, and spices in small bowl.

Heat oven to 425°. Divide dough into 4 portions. Roll each portion into large circle at least 12 inches in diameter. Spread 1/4 of filling over dough. Fold in half and seal edges. Place on large cookie sheet. Bake 10 - 12 minutes, until bread is golden brown. Repeat with other 3 portions. Tear into pieces and serve hot.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beat the Summer Blues with these Blogs

Sorry to sound like a bad advertisement. Summer is in full swing. Because of the wacky weather, my allergies are also still in full swing. Hard to think or do anything when your head feels like it's about to explode or you're dosed up on Benadryl. So, just for fun, here's a list of blogs I've found informative and entertaining. Enjoy.

Under the Troll's Bridge - Writing advice and musings about life

Speculative Friction - Tech geek, writing, and fun

Bad Agent Sydney - a cat who's also a literary agent

The Troubadour - an inside look at my day job, and some general silliness and space geekiness

Author Culture - more writing advice

Sisters in Scribe - more writing advice

And the one that has in falling off the couch laughing:

Cake Wrecks - unbelievable what people will do to an innocent cake

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Fruit Cream

Thursday Recipe - Fruit Cream

This is a loose interpretation of Ambrosia Salad. Easy to make and dairy free, if you choose the right ingredients. It’s a great salad or dessert for summer.

Fruit Cream

3 16 - 20 oz. cans of fruit (fruit cocktail, peach slices, pears, pineapple tidbits)
1 large box vanilla or lemon instant pudding (6 serving size)
1 8 oz. tub whipped topping
1 c. miniature marshmallows (the multi-colored fruit ones are always fun)
Optional: 1/2 c. shredded coconut

Open cans of fruit and drain juice into large mixing bowl. You need about 2 to 2.5 c. of liquid. Add the pudding mix and whisk until smooth and very thick. Fold in whipped topping. Add fruit, marshmallows, and coconut. Fold in just until everything is covered. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Variations (because life just isn’t fun without them)

Use pistachio flavored pudding (2 small boxes if you can’t find one large), 2 cans of pears, and 1 of crushed pineapple. Mash pears into chunks before mixing in.

Use vanilla pudding and 2 cans of pineapple tidbits. Add 2 - 3 c. fresh berries and 1 c. white chocolate chips.

Use 2 cans of fruit cocktail. Add 2 c. broken pieces of vanilla wafers.