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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Blueberry Scones

These are not fried yeast bread scones. These are more like British tea scones. Either way, I took the recipe and changed it up, like I usually do. These turned out very tasty. The secret is in the dried blueberries. You could use other dried fruit, but the intense flavor of the blueberries really shines here. Serve them warm with butter and honey.

Blueberry Scones

1/2 c. dried blueberries
2/3 c. milk
1 t. lemon juice
1 c. flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. softened butter

Heat oven to 400°. Put the blueberries, milk, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside.

Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add butter. Cut in until the mixture resembles corn meal crumbs. Add the milk mixture. Stir just until it comes together into a dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead three or four times, just to finish mixing. Pat dough out 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch circles (I used a regular drinking glass as a cutter). Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Write What You Know? Maybe Not.

The view from my front window.
I was supposed to be on a panel at ConDuit yesterday titled "Write What You Know". I'm sad I couldn't make it for Sunday. I was looking forward to sitting on the panel with Larry Correia and Paul Genesse. Both are good friends that I really enjoy talking to. But I wasn't looking forward to the topic.

I tried writing what I really know once. It was the most depressing five pages I've ever written. What do I know? What have I experienced? I'm mostly a stay-at-home mom who rarely gets to travel outside of Utah. I haven't experienced much of the world. I think the advice "write what you know" does a disservice to new writers. A better piece of advice would be, "Never stop learning."

I write about aliens and spaceships. My characters are kidnapped, tortured, shot, and pushed past their limits. I've never experienced any of those things. I don't know those things personally. But I have an imagination. And I know how to research.

I'm not advocating that you sit at home, reading and watching tv. Getting out and experiencing things for yourself is wonderful in ways that remote learning can't begin to cover. When you do travel, take in more than sights. Pay attention to smells, sounds, textures, temperatures, all the little details that can enrich your writing when you choose to use something similar.

Do I have to travel to the south pole and spend a year living with the researchers to really "know" what it would be like to live in an ice age or a very cold planet? No, thank goodness. I've experienced winter in mountains. I can extrapolate.

My advice to writers would be to never stop learning. Never stop imagining. Pay attention to the little details. Step outside your comfort zone. Try something new. You can find myriads of adventures within a few miles of your home.

Write what I know? I'd rather write what I can imagine. And that's limitless.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Spinach Cheese Pie

I know I've posted variations on this before but it's such a versatile recipe I had to post another version of it. This has been my lunch most of the last couple of weeks. It's fast and easy to throw together, it's healthy, and it tastes delicious. It's great for using up bits of veggies that are wilting in the fridge, too.

I used fresh mozarella medallions on the top of this one.

Spinach Cheese Pie

3 eggs
1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. flour
2 t. garlic salt seasoning (I love the Kroger brand California seasoning)
2 c. spinach
1 - 2 green onions
1/2 c. assorted chopped veggies - olives, green peppers, sliced mushrooms, cooked broccoli or carrots, etc.
1/2 c. shredded cheese or sliced cheese

Heat oven to 425°. Spray a pie plate and set aside. Beat eggs, milk, flour, and garlic salt until smooth. Set aside. Spread spinach in pie plate. Sprinkle green onions and chopped veggies over the top. Spread cheese over that. Pour egg mixture over the top. Lightly press cheese and veggies into the egg.

Bake for 30 minutes until set and browned on the edges. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Makes 2-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are and what else you have to go with it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Adventures with Harvey

It's time for another adventure with Harvey the RV! It got off to a rocky start.

"We need to go somewhere," my husband announced on Sunday afternoon. "We can go this weekend."

I looked at a full calendar for the week. "Are you sure? Look at everything we have scheduled this week. We'll be exhausted by Friday."

"We're taking Harvey."

"Okay, where are we going?" Sometimes it's easier to just accept than to try to fight. "Somewhere close since we can only go for one night."

We argued back and forth, consulted Google maps and paper maps, argued some more, and finally decided that Capital Reef would be nice. But it's about a four hour drive. We argued again and finally decided we'd go to Promontory Point where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads met 144 years ago. But there weren't any camping facilities close. So back to the maps we went. We picked Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville UT.

So Friday afternoon, we picked up the kids from school, threw some stuff into Harvey, and took off. We weren't even out of the driveway before I heard, "Are we there yet?"

We made it less than a mile before the first fight broke out. Traveling with children is so much fun. And we only had three with us this time.

Crystal Hot Springs is a nice campground, although we picked the wrong weekend. We shared it with three LDS Wards' Father & Sons campouts, at least three Boy Scout Troops, and lots of normal tourists. We got a lovely RV spot right next to the swingset/sandbox and the restrooms. Let's just say it wasn't very quiet or peaceful.

Our dogs had fits about being on a leash the WHOLE TIME. They're used to running free. I forgot half the food. Taco stacks with no taco seasoning or salsa aren't nearly as tasty. My 16yo son slept in the bed over the cab. Every time he rolled over, we got an RV-quake.

We picked the right weekend for the Golden Spike National Monument. We got to travel back in time to May 10, 1869, when the last spike was driven in the railroad line connecting east and west. The re-enactment actors did a great job.

Then we got to travel to the future. ATK-Thiokol has a rocket display out in front of their facilities. They also have the most effective deterrent I've ever encountered. Teeny tiny black gnats that fly into your ears and hair and make your whole head itch. They are the spawn of Satan. I only lasted ten minutes. I love rockets but not even rocket motors and shuttle boosters could win over the gnats.

Memorable quotes from the trip:
"Don't put rocks on the dog."
"No, Wookie, you can't pee on the Clunker rocket engine."

Home at last!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Flamingo Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is my interpretation of a recipe in an old Southern Living Annual Recipe collection. The title grabbed me. Who could resist making Hummingbird Cake? I have no idea why it was called that but it sounded delicious and it was fairly easy to put together. And it's delicious. It takes time, but it's worth the wait.

It's full of tropical flavors and makes a wonderful spring dessert. I changed it up a bit, which is why I changed the name. The original called for pecans and lots of sugar. I don't usually like nuts in my baking, so I skipped them and added a pineapple-raspberry filling.

Flamingo Cake

3 - 4 very ripe bananas
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained and divided
2 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 T. cornstarch
1/3 c. raspberry jam or preserves
Cream Cheese Frosting
shredded coconut for garnish

Put bananas in the mixing bowl. Add sugar. Beat until bananas are smashed and sugar is mixed in. Add cinnamon, butter, baking soda, salt and vanilla. Mix together. Add eggs. Beat for 1 minute. Add half of the pineapple and the flours. Stir just until mixed.

Divide into baking pans - 3 8-inch round pans or 2 10-inch round pans (springform pans are nice for this because they make it easy to remove the cake). Bake at 350°F for 20-35 minutes, depending on pans. (My 10-inch pans needed 30 minutes.) Let cool in pans.

Meanwhile, place remaining pineapple in a small saucepan. Stir in cornstarch. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute. Set aside to cool.

Once cake and filling are cool, make the frosting, then assemble the cake as follows:
Place one layer on a plate. Spread with jam and pineapple filling (use half at a time if you have three layers, otherwise spread it all on the first layer). Top with the second cake layer. Frost top and sides with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with coconut.

I'm not the best at decorating and I skipped the coconut on this one.
DO NOT EAT YET. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least six hours. This lets the cake flavors blend and the frosting and filling set.

Remove from refrigerator and serve chilled. Garnish with strawberries, raspberries, coconut, fresh pineapple, or ice cream. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 8-oz package regular cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond flavoring
3 T. milk
2 - 3 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla, almond flavoring, and milk a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Mixture should be very soft and creamy. Add powdered sugar until mixture is of a spreading consistency. Beat for another 5 minutes until very fluffy. It will be a very soft frosting.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Basket of Book Reviews

Here's what I've been reading lately. Just FYI, I do these reviews because I liked the book enough to read it all the way through. Nobody pays me for them, although I get free copies of books sometimes. I rarely review books by request.

Bards of Bone Plain; Patricia McKillip

I adore McKillip's writing. It's so poetic and beautiful. Her stories sometimes leave me scratching my head and saying, huh? Not this one. This is a wonderful story of a young man searching for his life's dream which is tangled up in his father's hidden past and the lost magic of the kingdom. Oh, yes, he also finds his true love.

The story just flowed for me. I loved the interwoven stories and the descriptions and characters. It's a beautiful story of friendship and family, of a young man learning to reach for what he wants, instead of what his father, mother, or teachers want.

5 stars, G rating, good for everyone.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow; Jessica Day George

I confess, I know the author. I met her years ago at a local event. I bought a couple of her books two years ago and I just now got around to reading them. I should have picked them up earlier.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is a retelling of a Scandinavian folk tale about a girl who rescues her brother/true love (depending on which version you read) from the Ice Queen/Troll Queen. Jessica tells the story in a simple way that's still very rich in detail. She starts off with the main character's backstory. She's the youngest daughter of a woodcutter with a very large family. Her mother, disappointed that she wasn't a boy, refuses to give her a name, so she is called Pika, which means girl. Magic things happen to her, like being gifted with the language of animals, that eventually lead to her being kidnapped by the Troll Princess who lives in a palace of ice in the far north. Strange things happen in the ice castle and since I don't want to spoil the surprises, I'm not going to tell you any more plot.

Go read the book. It's well worth it. It's an easy read, aimed mainly at 10-16yo girls, but I thoroughly enjoyed the tale. It's a good one for read-aloud sessions. If you enjoy fairy tales, try this one.

4.5 stars, G rating

Princess of Glass; Jessica Day George

This is the sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, which I haven't read yet. Princess of Glass can stand alone, but a lot of the story references things which happened in the previous book.

Princess of Glass is a retelling of Cinderella. I can hear you thinking, Another retelling of Cinderella? What more is there to say about this story? It's been done to death! And yet, Jessica manages to pull a very unique story out of the world she created for Princess of the Midnight Ball and tie it to the events in that story. And the evil one in this story is very creepy. I will never look at glassblowers the same way again.

Her writing style is easy to read and she spins a fun tale of magic and princesses and match-making.

4 stars, PG rating for all the flirting

Elidor; Alan Garner

This was written in 1965. My coy has a clearance sticker on the cover so I think it was a reprint I picked up at a book fair several years ago. What can I say? I'm finally catching up on my backlog of books.

This is definitely a middle-grade book, aimed at kids from 8-12 yo. It's a British book about four siblings who get transported to a magical world that is in deep peril and they are the only ones who can save it. Sound familiar? It's a very well-used trope in British MG fantasy, but remember this book was written over forty years ago back before it had been done to death.

I enjoyed the story and the magical world. The interactions of the children were believable although sometimes I wanted to smack them upside the head for squabbling and being idiots. I guess that just adds to the believability. But I have a couple of complaints. The author spends little time in Elidor. He builds on the idea but after the initial visit, they never go back. Instead, the evil keeps trying to break through to our world. But even that is given short shrift in the story. And then it just ends. Abruptly. I was left feeling like I'd been allowed a small peek into a very rich world and then had the door slammed shut. I wanted more of the world, more of the villains, more of everything except the squabbling children.

3 stars, G rating

A Little Short for an Alien; Frances Pauli

This is a collection of short stories by my friend, Frances Pauli. We met over our books and I'm still inspired by her writing. I love her stories. My biggest complaint is that this collection is too small. It's only got six stories. I want more!

If you enjoy stories about wild hair, aliens giving birth, space squids, androids, and replicator on the loose, this is for you. My favorite story, though, was the last one with enigmatic aliens and an unusual attempt to communicate with unintended consequences. I don't want to say more because I don't want to ruin your exploration of the numerous worlds and ideas that the author invents.

Frances Pauli writes with flair and passion. You can tell she loves space and aliens and all of the weird and wonderful things that might possibly happen. If I ever get a spaceship, I'm inviting her along. Mostly because she knows how to handle giant space squids.

5 stars, PG for some mild violence

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Succotash

What the hey is succotash, you ask? Well you might. Wikipedia says it's usually defined as a dish of corn and lima beans with other stuff. I just like saying it - succotash. Succotash. Suc! o tash. It's also a tasty vegetarian dish. I chucked mine in a crockpot and let it cook very slowly all afternoon. Simple, easy, delicious. Try some succotash.


2 T. butter
1/2 c. minced onion
1 c. thinly sliced celery
2 c. diced carrot
1 10 oz. bag frozen baby lima beans
1 18 oz. can sweet corn

Place butter in the bottom of a 2 quart slow cooker. Dump onions and celery on top. Add carrots and lima beans. Open the can of corn. Do Not Drain. Pour it over the top. Cover and cook on low for 4 - 6 hours. Don't bother stirring it. You want it layered while it's cooking. The stuff that needs the longest cooking time is on the bottom of the pot where it needs to be. Don't panic and add water, either or you'll end up with soup. Just slap the lid on and let the slow cooker do its magic.

30 minutes before serving, stir it well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let it cook the rest of the way.

Serve with butter, sour cream, bacon, ham, cheese, whatever you want to top it with. I just used a little butter and pepper on mine.

Feel free to add up to 2 c. fresh veggies when you stir it - asparagus, green beans, bell peppers, kale, collard greens, etc. Use whatever you have on hand. They'll cook during that last 30 minutes.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Truth in Advertising

I hate to be nitpicky, but no, your car really isn't running on recycled dinosaurs. Try recycled algae or peat moss. But that isn't as funny or as cool.

Who wouldn't want to stuff a tyrannosaurus into the gas tank? (I wonder if car manufacturers would respond to a petition to change "horsepower" to "t-rexpower"? My car has a 20 t-rex power engine!)

But it isn't true.

I ran across a discussion in one of my author groups that's been eating at me for the same reasons.

An author complained that if she tagged her book as erotica on, they wouldn't let her list it in any other category. Her solution was to tag all her books as "Family" instead. Um, no. Just no. Erotica does not equal family oriented entertainment, not in any society I want to be part of.

I would have probably forgotten about it, except a few days later I was chatting with a neighbor about ebooks. She mentioned she'd bought one listed in the family category that should have had TV-MA or XXX warnings on it instead. She said she gave the book a really bad review for that reason. She's the sweetest lady, who would never viciously attack anything, not even a cupcake with a fork. For her to give you a bad review, you had to do something horrid. Like lie about your book.

When you slap labels on your book, it isn't all about making sales or getting noticed. It's also about informing the customer what to expect. Some customers really don't enjoy spicy hot romance books. Some of us don't enjoy MM or MMFM or whatever alphabet soup romance you want to cook up. We are not your target audience. Someone else is. When you label your erotic story as family entertainment, you are lying to the consumer. People don't like being lied to. They tend to get upset. Upset people do things like complain and give you bad reviews. Upset people tell their friends and give you a bad reputation. You end up losing sales, not to mention any goodwill you may have earned.

Those ratings are a tool. Don't abuse them. Don't push boundaries just because you can.

And for pete's sake, DON'T LIE TO THE CUSTOMERS. You are not going to convert them from family/sweet reads to erotica by mislabeling your stories. You are only going to make enemies.

I think from now on, I'm going to label all my dry, scientific papers as erotica. That should get me more sales...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Fresh Ginger Cookies

Halfway between molasses cookies and gingersnaps, these have a very different flavor than either. The original recipe is here on Just so you can see what I do to recipes, I'm posting my version. Next time I get my hands on fresh ginger, I'm saving a chunk so I can make these again.

Here's a great tip for making these: Get your teenage son to finely grate the ginger for you. They've got energy to burn, plus they don't have arthritis yet. (I'm going to have to invest in a food processor with a grating attachment one of these days. I finally broke down and bought an electric can opener last Christmas. Just one more sign of how young I am not...)

Fresh Ginger Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. honey
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 T. grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. white flour

Cream butter, honey, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, soda, salt, and ginger. Beat well. Stir in flour just until cookies are mixed. Scoop dough into 1 inch balls. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes, just until cookies are set. Let cool on sheets at least 5 minutes.

Snarf the whole batch before your kids get to eat any.