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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.


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
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:

And find the rest of our blog hop here:

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."


"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)