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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

These really hit the spot, not too sweet but plenty for a tasty treat. And the frosting? It was really good, enough that now I want to figure out how to make peanut butter twinkies with it as the filling.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. honey
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
4 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. jelly

Cream butter and peanut butter with sugars. Add baking powder, salt, and eggs. Beat until very creamy. Stir in oatmeal. Spread in a greased 9x13 baking pan. Spoon jelly over the top. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Let cool.

Top with peanut butter frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. shortening
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 T. milk

On very low speed, cream powdered sugar, shortening, and peanut butter. Add milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Top bars with frosting and serve.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Data Collection is Killing Me

News from the trenches: the war on indifference continues...

I'm neck deep in data collection for my project right now. Getting school teachers to respond and agree to let me use their class as guinea pigs is harder than I thought it would be. I've got some preliminary numbers I could crunch, but I'm trying to get the full amount before I do that step.

My project doesn't look like much: a one-page survey for school kids to fill out after a field trip. Thirteen questions. But there's a ton of work that goes into those things. And even then, I'm not sure it's going to work.

I'm trying to measure changes in curiosity about astronomy due to a planetarium field trip. It's harder than you'd think. First off, no one agrees on a definition of curiosity, what it is, why we have it, or what we could do to generate it in ourselves or others. Second, surveys are harder than they look. I'm finding the physical layout matters as much as the wording of the questions. How the questions are arranged on the page, what fonts I use, everything affects the outcome.

So why do this at all? I run a planetarium for my day job. Our stated mission is to increase curiosity. We want kids to go home with more questions than they came with. I haven't found anything out there that can measure it without asking for an hour or more to fill it out. That's why the extremely short and simple survey is essential to my project.

We're currently running on a gut feeling about how we're doing. I'd like to have something more substantial. If we don't know how we're doing, how can we figure out how to improve?

Now back to the data collection...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Spicy Teriyaki Tribbles

Whoops. Late to the party today. It's been a long week. Here's a good, easy recipe for all you Star Trek fans out there. Enjoy!

Spicy Teriyaki Tribbles

2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. water
1 T. siracha or tabasco sauce (or leave it out if you want the mild version)
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. garlic powder OR 2-3 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 c. finely minced onion

Dump the chicken in a large crockpot.

Mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and siracha. Don't worry if it has lumps, you're mostly trying to spread the heat of the chili sauce out. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and onion. Pour it over the chicken.

Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours until very tender.

Serve with gakh, if you have it, or rice.

If you want to use regular chicken thighs, it's fairly easy to skin and debone them. If deboning scares you, just leave the bone in. Who says tribbles don't have a skeleton?
Peel off the skin and discard. It adds a lot of fat and doesn't cook well in the crockpot.
Slice each thigh lengthwise to get to the bone. Pull out the bone and discard. Remove any lumps of fat and discard. Roll the thigh back into the same approximate shape.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review Time

No fiction this time. I've been buried in non-fiction research. Most of the books and articles are dry and hard to read but they have great ideas so it's worth the pain. But a few books have stood out as not only great idea sources but enjoyable reading. Here are two:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, by Ian Leslie

Quiet was a revelation to me. I knew I was an introvert, but didn't really understand what that meant for me. My husband always said he was an introvert, but he has too many traits of an extrovert. Understanding who we are and why we function the way we do is crucial to building good relationships. I've really been struggling the past year with a lot of things, relationships particularly. I think I know why now. Read the book. It's an eye-opener.

Curious is for my research for my thesis. I'm dealing with trying to measure changes in curiosity for my project. It's more difficult than you'd think mostly because it is hard to measure something you struggle to even define. Curiosity is one of those weird things where everyone knows what it is, but no one can come up with a definition that everyone agrees on. It was a fun read and well worth the time.

Next up on my reading list: lots of dry dull boring papers.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing beats the smell of cinnamon rolls baking. Except maybe eating them fresh and hot from the oven. These take some time to prepare, but they are worth the wait.

Cinnamon Rolls

2 c. hot water, very hot bath water temperature, about 115° F
1 T. yeast, or 1 packet
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. powdered milk
1/4 c. butter
2 c. white flour
1 T. salt
1 egg
2-3 c. additional flour

1/2 c. softened butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
3 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 c. raisins, optional
1/2 c. diced dates, optional
1/2 c. craisins, optional
1/2 c. chopped nuts, optional

1/4 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
2-4 T. milk

Place hot water, yeast, sugar, powdered milk, and butter in a large mixing bowl. Stir until mixed. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until yeast is foamy and bubbly. Add 2 c. flour, salt, and egg. Beat for 3-5 minutes, until the batter forms elastic strings. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for an additional 2-3 minutes until smooth.

Cover and let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size. Punch down.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12x18 inches and about 1/2 inch thick. Spread with 1/2 c. softened butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Add raisins, dates, craisins, and chopped nuts as desired. Roll up, starting from long side. Slice into 1 inch thick slices. Place cut side up on a greased baking sheet. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375° F. Bake sweet rolls for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on the edges.

While rolls are baking, mix melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to make a thick glaze.

Drizzle over hot rolls. Bake an additional 2-4 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 18-22 rolls.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oops, Missed One and RADCON! Here I Come!

Welp, I didn't even make it to the end of January before I broke one of my resolutions. I was going to post here every Monday. Missed one, but on the up side, missed it because life was so hectic I didn't have time to write a post. That means I'm busy and doing lots of great things.

Like this weekend. I'm headed off on a road trip to Pasco, Washington, for RadCon! A whole weekend of hanging out with my writing friends and having fun at a convention. My daughter is coming with me. The rest are staying home. My son is staying behind because he has a date for the Valentine's dance at the high school. He's got a girlfriend. Not sure I'm ready for that. When did my kids get so grown up?

I was invited to RadCon as a professional guest. That means I'm a real author now. I'm on two panels - Sex, Violence, and the Modern YA Story and Religion in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Could they have picked some less controversial panels for me? Either way, it should be entertaining. I'm also doing a reading and the autograph session.

So if you're in that area of Washington state, stop by and say hi!

And if you aren't, have a great Valentine's Day and/or Singles Awareness Day.

James, happy anniversary on the 14th. 29 years. Has it really been that long?

Monday, February 9, 2015

New Book Release - Once Upon Two Kingdoms by Anna del C Dye

Today I'm happy to announce a new book by Anna del C Dye. She writes some lovely fantasy stories. If you're in the mood for escaping, check out her books. And be sure to stop by the Facebook party she's throwing for her book:

Freedom to Choose is Paramount for any human

An arrangement made when Elizabeth was just a babe ties her to someone she has never met, never spoken to, never loved. Now she desires freedom—a way to choose her own path—her own husband. The moment Elizabeth meets Patrick she knows he is her soul mate. But when you are bound to a crown how is any choice your own?

Buy your copy today:

Anna was born in the extreme South along some famous beaches. She grew up with four other siblings, being placed in the middle.
Anna moved to the USA to marry her husband Rodney, and has resided in Utah since then. Her husband, a native of Idaho, met her in her hometown. They fell in love and she came to Utah on Christmas Eve to be married two weeks later. They are the parents of three princes and a princess.
Early on in her life she showed an affinity for sewing and took classes that have rewarded her with the opportunities of doing the costuming for the cast of four musicals, and Utah’s own Fantasy Con, which she enjoyed immensely. She is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Some of Anna’s writing recognitions:
She received the Editor’s Choice Award from the International Library of Poetry and had her article entitled A New American Mother, published by Desert Saints Magazine. Her short story entitled Amerine—Fairy Princess won an award in a League of Utah Writers contest later to be published by Kalkion Magazine. (Now it has been published as an e-book.) Other articles about family and relationship have been published frequently in the MOMS CLUBĂ’ of Salt Lake Valley-West. She has published 7 books on her Elf series. Her and Rodney’s love story was published by Deseret book in the anthology entitled Angels Round About compiled by July C. Olsen. Another of her articles was included in the Anthology Mother’s Message in a Bottle, edited by Tyler Hayden and published by Nimbus Publishing.
Links to social media sites for the author

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Spiced Cider

'Tis the season for hot drinks. This is a great one to stick in the crockpot for a relaxed evening party. Try serving it with fresh cinnamon rolls. (Recipe for those coming up next week!)

Spiced Apple Cider

1 gallon apple juice or cider
2 sticks cinnamon
12 whole cloves
2 - 3 pieces candied ginger

Put everything together in a large pot or large crockpot. Cover and heat until steaming. Serve warm. Makes 1 gallon.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Vaccinations are a controversial subject anymore due to a lot of misinformation and intolerance. With the measles outbreak, I thought I'd share my thoughts on this. This is my opinion. You are welcome to your opinion and you are welcome to share it even if it differs from mine. But please, for the love of pete and for the sake of rational and civil dialogue, keep it polite. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm sharing how I feel and why.

First off, I have eight children, most of them adults now. Most of them are also autistic. Although the medical community says there is no link between vaccinations and autism, there are other medical conditions associated with my kids' autism that make the risk of vaccination complications higher. All of them have allergies of one kind or another. Most of them are vaccinated, with only a few experiencing severe reactions. My youngest has only had a couple of shots total. Yes, we delayed them. Yes, we consulted with our pediatrician before deciding not to vaccinate for a long time. Yes, I know the risks of not vaccinating and understand that vaccines do save lives. But sometimes vaccination is not the best choice.

My youngest has severe food allergies. She was diagnosed at one month old. Because her immune system was so hyperactive, we chose to delay vaccinations. When we did get her the first shot at ten years old, she reacted badly. We have chosen to only do the bare minimum of vaccinations for her for these reasons. For some people, vaccinations do more harm than good.

Fortunately, we live in a society with very good access to health care where most children are vaccinated. The percentage of unvaccinated children is rising, however. For my child, I'm hoping that herd immunity will provide her some protection.

I had someone inform me once, very stridently, that herd immunity only works if everyone is vaccinated. Excuse me, but no. Herd immunity means that if most of the herd is immunized and doesn't get the disease, the chances of the non-immunized members catching that disease are much lower because very few members are passing the disease around.

So whether your children are immunized or not is your choice. Just be certain that you are making an informed decision and understand that choosing not to immunize makes your child more vulnerable to some very nasty diseases and if enough people choose not to immunize, those diseases will come back. With devastating consequences.

As I stated at the beginning, this is my opinion and my choice. If yours are different, I respect that. Feel free to share, but keep it civil and respectful.