Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Between now and sometime in February, I'm putting the blog on hiatus. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, everyone! Stay safe and keep reading good books.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
We kept that tradition with our own kids. Every year, usually Thanksgiving weekend, we scrawl names on slips of paper and take turns drawing one from the pile.
My family eventually phased it out. We're a large group and scattered across the US. It includes multiple generations. Half of us are grandparents. Keeping track of it just got too complicated. For a while we switched it to just the siblings and sent family gifts. But even that got too complicated after a while. We don't do an organized gift exchange. I kind of miss it.
We still do it with our own kids. We set a price limit but other than that, anything goes. Silly or serious, it's up to the gift giver. We've had some pretty fun presents over the years and since I usually fund the shopping expedition, it helps keep Christmas on budget.
How do you do present exchanges with your family?
Thursday, December 10, 2015
One-Pot Alfredo Noodles
1 lb uncooked macaroni or noodles, whatever shape you want (bowties, elbows, shells, etc.)
1/4 c. butter
2 T. flour
2 c. milk
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 c. shredded cheese (or more if you want it cheesier), this can be parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, or any cheese you want to use
1/2 c. chopped salami (optional)
1 c. steamed broccoli or frozen chopped veggies (also optional)
In a large saucepan, bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
In the same pot, melt the butter. Stir in the flour. Cook and stir for a minute or so until it's smooth, creamy, and bubbly. Stir in the milk with a whisk. Make sure you whisk it long enough to smooth out any lumps. Add the salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook and stir until it comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts.
Add the noodles, salami, and veggies. Stir gently to coat. Serve with extra cheese to sprinkle on top. Serves 2-8, depending on who is eating it.
Monday, December 7, 2015
One of our favorite traditions is the twelve gifts of Christmas. We start December 12, at least with the gifts part. I start several days earlier. The idea is to have twelve gifts, wrapped and ready, by the evening of December 12. We open one gift a night. Each gift is a small treat for the family to share, something simple like a box of chocolates or cookies or some other special treat. On the outside of the present is a scripture reference. Before we can open the present and share the treat, we read the scripture and discuss the gift God has given us. It brings a more reverent feeling to our Christmas countdown and reminds us why we celebrate Christmas.
What family traditions do you love at Christmas?
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Orange Ginger Pork
about 2 lbs boneless pork roast, cut into large chunks (5 or 6 big pieces)
1 orange, sliced really thin, don't peel it
1/2 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 T. fresh ginger, chopped fine
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
Stick pork into a 2 quart slow cooker. Stuff the orange slices between the pieces of pork. Mix together everything else. Pour over the pork. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.
Remove the orange slices and discard. Take two forks and use them to pull the pork apart. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Cover and cook on high for another 30 minutes.
Serve over rolls, mashed potatoes, or rice. Add a green salad and baked yams for a complete and yummy meal.
Monday, November 30, 2015
The deal we were working on fell apart. The other options we were looking at weren't working out. And our house is now under contract. We're scrambling to find jobs, a house to move to, and dealing with kids with anxiety issues as well as over twenty years of accumulated stuff.
Can I curl up under my desk and whimper for a while? Wait, that desk is in storage...
But in the long run, this will be better for my writing, my health, and our kids. We hope.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
I am in love with spices. And sugar cookies. And my husband. And chocolate. Some of those I can share with you. Not my hubby and not my chocolate. Sorry. Not gonna happen.
But I will share these luscious and easy sugar cookies with you, especially with the holiday season happening. These do call for some out-there spices, so if you don't have them on hand, you can be safe and just use cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Most people have those in their kitchen, right? Or am I weird with my giant spice collection?
Never mind. If you like spices, give these a try. If you want to experiment with spices, this is a good recipe to try. Plus, they smell divine while baking. Like a slice of Christmas. Or Thanksgiving.
Spiced Sugar Cookies
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. poppy seeds
1 t. anise seeds
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. ginger
1 1/4 c. flour (You can use 1/2 whole wheat flour in this recipe)
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice or ground cloves
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes about five minutes. Don't skimp on this step or your cookies won't have that creamy soft texture of really good sugar cookies. Add the egg, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and spices. Beat until very smooth and fluffy. Gently stir in flour just until mixed.
Scoop dough by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Gently flatten with your hand until they're about 3/4 of an inch thick.
Mix together the topping ingredients in a small bowl or shaker. Sprinkle over the cookies before baking.
Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes, less time if you like them soft, more time if you like them crispier.
Cool and devour. Makes about 24 cookies.
Monday, November 23, 2015
So my son and I were playing this the other day. My other son jumped in. Someone got rick-rolled. Horrible music videos from YouTube were unearthed and posted. Things got ugly fast. This video was the front-runner:
Then my daughter got involved and found this one:
Same song but so much worse. She wins the war.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
I had nuts in my freezer - a few walnuts and lots of hazelnuts. We have family and neighbors who grow walnuts and we have several hazelnut bushes in our yard so we have plenty of these things around. I added in some sliced almonds from Costco to make a really scrumptious nutty granola.
Be warned; this stuff is very filling.
3 1/2 c. rolled oats, either old-fashioned or quick cooking
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. walnuts, smashed into a fine powder
1/2 c. hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. honey (or use pancake syrup)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. maple flavoring
1/4 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
Mix oats, coconut, and nuts in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together oil, honey, sugar, vanilla, maple flavoring, salt, and cinnamon. Pour the sludge over the oat mixture. Stir until well coated and liquid is spread evenly through the mixture.
Spread on a large baking sheet. Bake at 300° or 30-40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Granola should be lightly browned.
Let it cool on the baking sheet after the final ten minutes. Break it into crumbles and store in an airtight container. If you like dried fruit in your granola, stir it in after the granola is cooled down.
Now to come up with some variations. White chocolate chips and craisins? Dried pineapple and mango? Cherry and extra vanilla? The possibilities are endless...
Monday, November 16, 2015
Another nitpick of mine: Why are these aliens who are supposedly advanced enough and intelligent enough to travel between stars always naked and always just roar and growl? Why do they kill people with giant claws when they have all sorts of cool tech and weapons at their disposal? They don't have to be human or humanoid, but PLEASE, for the love of Pete, make them more than just rampaging monsters. Or else have a really good explanation WHY they have the brains of rabid squirrels but can still fly spaceships.
Cowboys and Aliens was a huge bust for me. I give it a giant tomato and raspberry. If I want to watch grouchy old men fight things in the wild, I'll watch "Up." At least he was a likable old grump.
I give "Home" an A. It's definitely finding a place in my movie collection.
Friday, November 13, 2015
|Made as a casserole with sliced delicata squash -|
Cook in a crockpot on low for 4-6 hours until tender.
For the record, this is a vegetable stuffing. It has no bread in it so if you're gluten-free, it should be fine for you. If you want a traditional stuffing, toss bread crumbs with the vegetables then add enough chicken or vegetable broth to moisten it. The vegetables have some liquid in them so don't add too much or you'll have soggy stuffing.
For the sage, I grow it in my yard as an ornamental plant. It has these really fun fuzzy gray thick leaves. And it smells really good. It also grows in places too dry for most other ground covers. If you don't have fresh sage and can't find it at the store, you can substitute 1 t. dried sage for 1 T. fresh sage.
Sage and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 large acorn squash (about 8 inches across) or 3 small ones (3-4 inches across)
2 T. pancake syrup
4 large or 6 small pre-cooked sausage patties, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 small potato, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 granny smith or other tart apple, cored and chopped into small bits
1/4 onion, chopped small
2 T. fresh sage, chopped small
1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)
Arrange squash cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with syrup. Set aside.
Mix together sausage, potato, carrot, apple, onion, sage, and pecans. Stuff this mixture into the squash halves. You can mound it up but try to keep it all inside the squash. (If you don't have enough stuffing, you can chop up more potato or carrot to fill up the squash. I had way too much so I let it fill the pan between the squash halves but it ended up burning.)
Sprinkle salt and pepper over the stuffed squash. Keep it light. Sprinkle just a pinch or two of nutmeg over each squash half. Be very stingy with the nutmeg. A little goes a very long way.
Bake at 375° for 35-50 minutes, until the squash is tender and top of the stuffing is browned. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Paltronis wasn't the one who started the fight, but she was the one who ended it. She also ended her career with the Patrol. Until Tayvis, an officer, shows up and offers her a chance to prove she's not a complete screw-up.
A prequel short story for the Fall of the Altairan Empire series. Find the whole series at www.altairanempire.com
I have codes for free downloads of the audio version. If you're willing to give me a review in exchange for a code, leave me a comment! Act fast, because these are limited to the first ten people to respond.
Today is also the day I defend my thesis. Talk about pressure...
Thursday, November 5, 2015
And just in case you're wondering, this is a double layer cake, not pie, but it's called whoopie pie for obscure reasons. If you're really interested in why, go read this article. And yes, I know this recipe isn't technically a whoopie pie, but it's based off another recipe that calls it whoopie pie even though it's a big cake. But whatever you call it, this is really delicious.
|Woot! I remembered to photograph it|
before it got devoured!
1/3 c. yogurt, plain or vanilla
1/2 c. powdered milk
1 1/2 c. water
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. oil
2 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. baking cocoa
2 c. flour (I used half whole wheat, half white)
Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two round cake pans (I used my 10 inch springform pans.) Set aside.
Beat yogurt, powdered milk, water, and lemon juice together until smooth. Stir in oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl, mix sugar, soda, salt, and baking cocoa. Add liquid ingredients. Beat until smooth and creamy. Stir in flour.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched. (The 10" pans took 28 minutes, smaller diameter pans will take a little bit longer.) Remove from the oven. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.
Peanut Butter Frosting/Filling:
1/2 c. cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
3-4 c. powdered sugar
2-4 T. milk
Soften cream cheese and butter if needed. Beat together with peanut butter until very smooth and fluffy. Add 3 c. of powdered sugar and 2 T. milk. Beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl often to make sure everything is mixed in. If frosting is too thick, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. You want something soft and spreadable that still mostly holds its shape. Beat the frosting on high for at least five minutes. Check the consistency again and adjust if needed. Once you have a smooth, creamy, fluffy peanut butter filling,
Place one layer of the cake upside down on a serving platter or large plate. Hint: If it bulged up in the center, use a big serrated bread knife to level the cake before assembling. You only need to do this to one layer.
Dollop a very generous amount of the peanut butter delicious filling on top of the cake layer. Spread a little, it should be soft enough to continue spreading on its own when you add the second layer. Speaking of which, place the second layer, right side up, on top of the filling. Let it settle a bit. The filling layer should squish out the edges a little. Dollop the rest of the frosting on the top and gently spread it. Let it drip down the edges on its own.
Now the hard part. Set the cake aside for several hours to let the frosting set up. You can cover it and refrigerate it if you want or if its really hot in the house.
Serve and eat.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Winners have been chosen and contacted. Congrats!
I'm beyond thrilled to announce that Mission Tomorrow is available starting tomorrow! I've got a fun story in this collection. But check out the other big names in the volume. I'm published with some great authors. And by Baen, no less.
So here's the deal. Enter the giveaway below and I'll give three lucky people an ebook copy of Mission Tomorrow. Reviews would be awesome after you read it.
Bonus entry if you comment on this post telling me what you see for the future of space travel, say the next 100 years or so. Where will we be? How will we get there? What issues do you see for near future space travel?
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Thursday, October 29, 2015
So, I had a whole garden full of green tomatoes and needed something to do with them. I still have quarts of green tomato mincemeat in my basement. I don't have any salsa and my children eat it like candy. So salsa was the obvious answer. I couldn't use my red tomato version, so I went searching for something with green tomatoes. I came across this recipe on the Ball Canning website. I didn't have all the ingredients, so I improvised. I like the version I came up with. It's sweet, tart, citrusy, and very tasty.
Bonus, it can be bottled and stored. If you can keep your kids out of it. Just follow the canning and processing directions for your area and altitude. The original recipe has information on processing or check your local county agricultural extension office.
3 large anahiem chilies
7 c. finely chopped green tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped small
2 - 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 c. lemon and/or lime juice
1 t. cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1 t. black pepper
Wash the chilies. Roast until nicely blackened. (This takes about 15 minutes in my BBQ grill. If you don't have a way to roast them or just want the easy way, use 2 can chopped green chilies. If you want it spicier, chop up some fresh jalapenos or other peppers and add them in.) Peel the roasted peppers, remove seeds, and chop into small pieces.
Dump everything into a large pot - chilies, tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon/lime juice, and spices. Cook and stir over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Fill clean, warmed pint jars. Wipe the rims clean, process and seal if desired. Otherwise, put it into containers and refrigerate for at least overnight before serving.
If you like it smoother, use a stick blender on the salsa until it's the texture you like.
This recipe makes about 5 pints.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
|Check out Broaduniverse!|
I love the song Blue Moon. It's a sweet, sad, romantic song, great for those moody days.
A blue moon isn't really all that rare or special, though. Astronomically speaking, it's the second full moon in a month. This past July, we had a blue moon on July 31. The moon was full on July 2, then again on July 31, making the second one a blue moon. It was very pretty. I enjoy sitting outside at night and watching the full moon. I enjoy watching the night sky pretty much anytime, even when it's cloudy. But then, I'm a space geek.
I could explain what makes a full moon. (During a full moon, the earth is between the sun and the moon so we see the fully lit up side of the moon. The cycle from full moon to full moon takes approximately 28 days.) Or I could explain how the moon doesn't have a dark side. (It's tidally locked with the Earth. One side always faces the Earth, but because of the relative position of the Sun, Earth, and Moon, that side is not always lit or always dark. One day on the Moon lasts about two weeks. One night on the moon also lasts about two weeks. It is more technically correct to call it the far side of the Moon.) I could quote numbers for daytime (100°C) and nighttime (-173°C) temperatures on the Moon.
|Day and night temperature|
maps of the Moon -
from NASA's website
But what I love most about the Moon is the way its light makes my mundane backyard into a chiaroscuro world of mystery and shadow and liquid silver. I love how it hushes the strident noise of day and creates a silence stitched together with the chirp of crickets and the shush of the night breeze. Night without the Moon would be too dark, too full of terror and fear. Night with the Moon is magic.
Because this is a giveaway tour, I'm offering a one-of-a-kind hand-made crocheted Kindle cover! And yes, I'll even mail this international. And include at least one free ebook for your reading pleasure. Just pick a title off my webpage - http://www.jaletac.com - and tell me in the comments on this post. It also helps if you leave an email or some way I can contact you if you win.
Be sure to enter the giveaway for the Blog Hop and visit the other blogs -
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Thursday, October 22, 2015
chopped green onions
Monday, October 19, 2015
That could change any moment. We're in a holding pattern waiting for the dominoes to start falling. Then big changes will happen, all at once. And I'll be wishing for more breathing room again.
What kinds of things do you wish you had more space and room for in your life? I'm looking forward to more time for writing fiction again. Time for quilting and crocheting. Maybe I'll take up sketching again. Or maybe gardening. Time for games and movies. Time to laugh with my family. Hiking, camping, perhaps fishing. What would you do if you had a day or three where you could do whatever you wanted?
Thursday, October 15, 2015
It's easy and fast so go try some today. This version is based on an old Betty Crocker recipe.
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
3/4 c. warm water
4 T. lemon juice
1 t. grated lemon peel (optional)
2 T. butter
Mix sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat until it thickens and boils. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon peel and butter. Stir until smooth.
Serve over your favorite fruit dessert or applesauce cake or bread pudding or whatever you like lemon sauce drizzled over.
Monday, October 12, 2015
It makes sense. If you had to wait an entire week to get the next chapter in the story, you'd lose a lot of the urgency and interest. Yes, you still have to wait a week if you're watching the shows live. But with various recording devices and services like Netflix and instant streaming, long storylines are not just possible. They are becoming the norm.
I am definitely not complaining. I love it. I'm finding that watching shows with short storylines aren't as satisfying to me. Even movies are not as good. These tv shows really go into depth on the characters and settings and background. As long as it doesn't bog down the story, why not? It's like settling in with a really good book series.
Person of Interest is that kind of series. The story gets more tangled and convoluted the longer I watch. I just finished Season 3 and I can't wait to dive into Season 4. I really enjoy watching the characters evolve and finding out about new complications and issues.
The series is a dystopian-in-development that takes place in the now to near-future. It's totally 1984 in the making. I'm not a fan of that kind of dark storyline usually, but I'll make an exception with this show. The main character, Finch, is a Don Quixoté. He's full of goodness and light and hope. He sees the best in people and the future. Despite evil. Despite people who do horrible things. Despite the ever-looming presence of Big Brother. He believes in decency and goodness. And because of that, I can love the show and him.
If you've ever seen Man of La Mancha, the stories have a lot of similarities. Finch is taking people that most would assume are beyond redemption and finding ways to bring out the good in them. They have evolved into crusaders for the common good. Even though most of society is oblivious to what is happening, Finch and his friends are fighting for that right to remain oblivious. It's a hidden war, fought in shadows, which only adds to the tension. What if this is real? What if we are just ignorant because the government wants us to be ignorant? It's a believable scenario. And that's another reason I enjoy the show. I can believe in the truth of it. Even when I know it isn't true.
Besides that, the story is riveting. Three seasons in and I still don't see where it's headed. But the ride is fantastic so far.
Person of Interest is on Netflix. If you haven't watched it, go find it and spend a few days watching.
I give it an A, great show. I will warn that is a solid PG-13. The violence is a bit much, even for me. They keep the language and the innuendos clean, though. It's very definitely an adult storyline, so not one for the kids to watch.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Bundt. Such a fun word. Every time I say it, I think of that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mom "fixes" the bundt cake.
Anyway, bundt cakes can be fun. The key to getting them to look pretty is to grease and flour the pan well so they slide right out. Nothing wrecks the cake faster than sticking in the pan. It still tastes good, so if it sticks, mix it with pudding and call it dirt cake. Or make those cake pop thingies out of it. Or just eat it as crumbs on ice cream or all alone.
This cake made my house smell so delicious while it was baking. Cinnamon and apples and all the smells of fall. Now I'm hungry again...
Applesauce Bundt Cake
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground cardamom
3 c. applesauce
3 c. flour
Cream butter and sugar. Add salt, baking powder, and spices. Cream until very fluffy. Add eggs. Cream again until light in color and silky smooth, about three minutes. Stir in applesauce. Mix very well. Add flour and stir just until mixed.
Grease and flour a bundt pan. Scoop the batter into the pan and spread just enough to even it out if needed. Bake at 300° for 90 minutes.
Flip the pan upside down on a cooling rack. Let it sit for about five minutes, then lift the pan. The cake should slide right out. Let the cake cool for at least an hour. Transfer to a plate.
Serve with lemon sauce, whipped cream, cream cheese, or caramel sauce. Or just eat it plain. For breakfast. Come on, be a rebel!
Monday, October 5, 2015
|Karina Fabian and Bruno, her pet chainsaw|
|Becky Parker and her awesome voice|
You do NOT want to see what happened next. It wasn't pretty. Trust me. Oh, you DO want to see that? But this is a public blog. You're going to have to read the books. Or listen to them. After all, we are celebrating the audiobook release for Neeta Lyffe and her zombie adventures. I Left My Brains in San Francisco is waiting for you to listen.
Find Karina at:
Find Becky at:
Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:
Find more stops on the tour at http://karinafabian.com/2015/09/zombiebooktour