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

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Up Side of Moving

Roses and a peony from our yard
I posted a while back about how moving across several states still felt like same-old same-old. I was still doing the same things, just in a different house. The neighborhood still felt the same in most ways. We're mostly unpacked now, I did find the box of Tupperware that was missing (mislabeled as someone's clothes) and my measuring cups (inside the rice cooker) and the last few plastic cups and dishes (inside my canning steamer). The house is feeling like home. The animals and kids have adjusted. We did lose one cat, Chunkalicious passed away from kidney failure, but he was sick when we moved and we knew it was just a matter of time. Poor kitty. We did our best to make him happy while he was with us.

Now for the positive side of moving. We got rid of a lot of junk, but we've replaced it with new junk better suited to our new house. I'm loving the house and the neighborhood and, especially, the weather. It's warmer here. We've already uncovered the pool in the back yard, cleaned it, figured out how to treat it with the proper chemicals, and found plenty of floaty toys. We started swimming in late April. Back in Utah, our yard would still have had snow on it! We'll see if the warmer weather remains a good thing through the summer. It's supposed to get really hot here. So far we haven't resorted to our AC though it's been up into the 90s a few times already. Our house stays fairly cool.

The biggest thing I'm loving here though is the yard. I'm gardening again. Having sandy soil helps. It's much easier to dig up than the clay hardpan of our last house. We're in a different gardening zone so some of the plants I've wanted to grow for years are finally possible. I found out yesterday that there's even a palm tree that's hardy enough for our area. I'm thinking tropical oasis in our back yard. I've already put in rhubarb, raspberries, currant bushes, elderberry bushes, other berry bushes, roses, irises, a bunch of other flowers and herbs, and even a reblooming lilac bush. I'm excited to see how they grow.

My hubby put in raised gardening beds for me, too. I've got them full of tomatoes, squash, melons, peppers, okra, and popcorn. I still need to get Marigolds growing in them to help ward off the bugs. We also started worm buckets. The idea is that you have a bucket for kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, dog poop, cardboard, and a few other things that the worms can crawl in and out of, eat the stuff in the bucket, and turn it into compost that they spread into your garden. I got the idea here. We have plenty of kitchen scraps and other stuff and we have plenty of sandy soil that needs compost added. Why not get worms to do the work for us? I'll keep you posted on how that's working.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Chocolate Fondue

We picked up this cute little fondue set at Goodwill. It was still sealed in its original packaging. So of course, I had to mess with it and make chocolate fondue. We also made waffle sticks to dip in it, but that's a different post.

Chocolate Fondue

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 T. butter
1/4 - 1/3 c. coconut milk (I used Simple Truth Coconut Milk in the refrigerated carton, it worked great!)
1 small fondue set

Put the chocolate chips, butter, and 2 T. of the coconut milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on low power for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds or so. Cook only until it is mostly melted and you can stir it smooth. Remove from the microwave and stir in coconut milk, 1 T. at a time, until it is smooth and the consistency of nacho cheese sauce. You want it slightly thick but runny enough to dip things in. Think hot fudge sauce when it's hot.

Set up the fondue set and light the little tea candle. Pour the chocolate sauce into the bowl. Dip to your heart's delight. We used waffle sticks, but you could do marshmallows, fresh fruit, cookies, ice cream, gummi bears, or whatever you think would go well with hot chocolate sauce.

Monday, May 23, 2016


I've been told that if I don't post pics, it didn't happen. I officially graduated in December, but they don't do ceremonies then so I walked in April. This is me.

This is my son the next weekend. 

Yep, education is important in our house.
Next spring, we have at least two BS graduations to attend.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Lazy Cheesecake

My daughter offered to write up a post for me. Sounds very yummy, and perfect for a warm summer afternoon. No-bake cheesecake, anyone? Take it away, Becca!

There's nothing better than a cheesecake on a lazy summer afternoon. It's even better with fresh berries.

First things first, the crust. Lazy: make a graham cracker crust. Lazier: buy a pre-made graham cracker crust. Even lazier: place cookies in pan instead of crust. Laziest: skip the crust.

Now for the filling. About an hour before you want to put any effort into it, place 2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese on the counter. You're waiting for them to get soft. 

Once the cheese is softened, get a small microwavable bowl and fill it with 1/4 c of water, 1/4 t salt, and 1 package of unflavored gelatin. Let that small bowl sit for 5 minutes.

Add your cream cheese to your stand mixer along with 1/2 c sugar and 1 t vanilla. Beat the cream cheese on medium speed until nice and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Take the small bowl you set aside earlier, it should now look like a pile of grainy goop. This is ok. Microwave it for 30 seconds, then remove it and stir. If all the gelatin has dissolved, you're done. If not, give it another 15 seconds.

Add the gelatin mixture to your stand mixer, and beat for another 2 minutes.

Use a spatula or other device to spread the cheesecake on top of your crust (or empty bowl). Refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until set before eating.

Optional, garnish with chocolate sauce, caramel, fresh fruit, or anything your heart desires.

Notes: I like to use the cheesecake filling on it's own and pipe it into strawberries for a nice treat.

Monday, May 16, 2016

What Are You Watching?

Our tv is Netflix and whatever we can find on YouTube. In many ways, it's been liberating. No more commercials. No more depressing news. No more crappy tv shows that we watch because nothing better is on. Instead we have no news shows so we're out of touch with a lot of things. No more commercials so I have no idea what the hottest new gadgets and toys are. And lots of crappy tv shows because Netflix is scraping the bottom of the barrel again.

But we have found some shows we thoroughly enjoy. No commercials makes it easier to enjoy the show. We don't have to wait for the scheduled time. Watch it when we want, as long as we want. Which leads to a lot of binge watching, but that's another problem.

Here are some shows I've been binge watching:

2009 Robin Hood, Netflix streaming - fun characters, although it tends to run a little cheesy and melodramatic. Still loads of fun to watch.

Stargate Atlantis, Netflix DVD - Major hotness, I mean Major Shepherd is great eye candy. The action is fun, the storylines can be a bit lame, especially the time travel ones, but it's still great sci-fi.

Andromeda, YouTube - I enjoyed this one the first time around. I just wish I could find it on DVD or Netflix. The DVDs are available, if you want to pay lots of money.

What shows have you found to watch? Do you binge watch?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Luscious Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

Necessity is the mother of invention. So is running out of an ingredient halfway through making a dish. The end result was worth keeping. This is one of the best chocolate frostings I've ever made. Try it out for yourself.

Luscious Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 7 oz jar marshmallow creme
1/2 t. vanilla
2-4 T. milk
pinch of salt

Cream butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Stir on low speed until mixed. Add the marshmallow creme, vanilla, salt, and 2 T. of milk. Beat on low until blended, then turn speed to high. If the frosting is too dry, add more milk a teaspoon or two at a time. You want a soft, fluffy frosting that doesn't drip. If you get it too runny, add a little more powdered sugar.

Whip on high speed for at least 3 minutes.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Serendipity at a Freeway Rest Stop

My son and I took a trip from Washington to Utah for graduations. Very long drive, especially across Idaho. We stopped at a rest stop somewhere in the middle of the state. It was time to stretch and take a break for a few minutes.

At a picnic table near a bunch of bushes, my son spied two cats. They looked healthy and happy. They were curious although skittish and timid if we got too close. They were beautiful animals, one black and white the other a cream color tabby.

I looked around at the dry gravel and sand of the desert area. The stand of bushes were about the only green things in the rest stop. Somehow these two cats were not just surviving and living at the rest stop, but they were flourishing.

I had to laugh at the sight of the two of them, just patiently lounging on the picnic table, waiting for someone to leave them a few crumbs.

Life hands you unexpected surprises. You can find joy in the oddest circumstances. I have no idea where the cats came from or whether anyone actually takes care of them, but I want to believe that they are happy living in the bushes at the rest stop in the middle of Idaho. They certainly looked happy.

If I'd been better prepared I would have had my phone with me to snap a picture, but I don't usually think to grab the camera. If you're driving on I-84 across Idaho traveling west to east and you stop at a rest stop with big bushes near the picnic tables, look for the cats. And maybe leave them a bite of your tuna sandwich.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Layered Bean Dip

From scratch! Yep, you read that right. Refried beans and guacamole and everything except the cheese and sour cream from scratch. It isn't as hard as you might think.

Layered Bean Dip

3 c. refried beans (recipe follows)
1 small can chopped green chilies (or make your own)
1 c. shredded cheese, cheddar or jack preferred
1 c. sour cream
1 c. salsa (how about this recipe)
1/2 c. mini bell peppers, chopped
1/2 c. chopped olives

Layer everything in the order given. Serve with plenty of tortilla chips.

If you want a hot dip, layer the first three ingredients, then bake at 400° for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and add the rest of the ingredients. Serve immediately.

Refried Beans (not really fried but smashed until it resembles the canned stuff)

2 c. dried pinto beans
plenty of water
1 T. salt
1 t. garlic powder

Rinse the beans in cold water. Place in a saucepan and add 4 c. very hot water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the beans soak for an hour.

Drain the beans. Add 4 c. of fresh hot water. Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours until the beans are soft. The water should be mostly gone by this point. If the beans get too dry while cooking, add more water 1/2 c. at a time. You want just enough to cover the beans.

This is the tricky part. You don't want a lot of liquid when you smash the beans up, but you want to save the cooking liquid from the beans in case your beans are too dry when smashing. You want a gloppy consistency but not a runny one. Make sense? Good, I'm confused now, too.

Smash the beans with a potato masher until they're the consistency that you want for refried beans. Some people like them chunkier. That's just fine. If they get too dry while you're smashing add in some of the saved bean cooking liquid.

Once you have the beans as smooth as you want them, stir in the salt and garlic powder. Taste and add more if you want. Some people like cumin in the refried beans, but I usually pass on it.

Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Makes a nice big pile of beans - about 5 cups.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Inspirational Song

I was driving down the road one day, feeling a bit sorry for myself. Life was tough. It seemed like I was getting blow after blow after blow. Nothing was working the way I wanted. I was depressed and dealing with way too many things at the same time.

This song started playing on the radio. The message hit me hard. You are loved. No matter how hard life gets, don't forget that you are loved more than you know by your Heavenly Father.

What songs have inspired you or come at a time you needed to hear them?