Sunday, July 8, 2018

The TBR -How Do You Deal?

Our topic at SFF Seven this week is How long is your TBR list? The answer for me is easy to give:


The "TBR" is the To-Be-Read list. I know exactly how many books are on mine because in the fall of 2015, I started a spreadsheet to keep track of it. A brilliantly conceived effort, my spreadsheet tracks format (paper, ebook or audible), date acquired, WHY I thought I wanted to read it, and even assigns a  priority.

Like many brilliantly conceived plans, it works moderately well.

It does help me to know if I already own a book - one of the primary purposes of the list, as I'd found I had books in both paper and digital format - and I use it to keep track of high priority reads. I use it A LOT to recall how something ended up in my possession and why I wanted to read it - except for the occasional book that I forget to log in. This is particular bad when I buy books on my phone in the bar during conversations that I don't remember weeks later.

The other way the list doesn't work is that it never goes down. I'd had this grand idea that I wouldn't acquire ANY new books until I read the ones I already have.


Instead, I started out with 298 books on the list when I first cataloged them all. Today it's at 299. The list hangs around 300 most of the time, fluctuating up and down. It's not because I'm not reading. I've read 80 books so far this year - I keep track of that, too, moving them off the TBR onto the read spreadsheet once I start them - and last year I read 107.

Clearly I read pretty much at the rate I acquire. Likely I should clear out a bunch of these books that have languished in the pile since October of 2015. Do you all do that - eventually give up on books that never escape the TBR pile?

Also, I've started a podcast! First Cup of Coffee. Just me, sharing my first cup of coffee of the day along with various thoughts on writing and life. They're short and informal. Here's the first one. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Rubber Band Boat Races

Given that this week’s topic is recipes we make for parties, I can only laugh and say “Round Table pizza” or “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” I do not cook and especially not for parties.

We used to have some pretty fantastic parties in our ‘starter’ house, which came with an old swimming pool. My late husband was an engineer and so were most of his close friends, so he hit upon the idea of holding an annual rubber band powered boat regatta. There was a LOT of intense rivalry, let me tell you, and people held practice runs and trials leading up to the event every year. My spouse published a detailed series of rules and specifications and the designs grew more sophisticated over time. We also did pool volleyball and had other fun and a good time was had by all.
Two of the entries
We made sure to give trophies for other categories than just the fastest boat. Memory fails me at the moment but we probably did things like ‘Best Looking’ and ‘First to Sink’. Designing a rubber band powered boat is a lot more complicated than you might think! And the rubber band quality was important to success. And of course vast quantities of beer were consumed during the event.

I think we did the parties for three or four years and then we moved to a place with no pool. The first year in the new house, which was in the foothills, we had a bottle rocket powered car race, the 'Carnival of Speed', but it just wasn’t as much fun, the home built wooden track required seemed to have built in factors which made whoever was in a certain lane always the winner and oh yes, there was a brush fire danger we’d failed to factor in but quickly realized as the first heats were underway, rockets sparking like mad. Water hoses at the ready! I believe we only did this for two years (it was a long time ago, folks) and then we stopped. Just not as much fun, not as much participation, all good things must come to an end.
The rocket cars 
Switching subjects, I have a new release! Book four in my Sectors New Allies Series, DARIK.

The blurb: Nicolle James is far from her home in the human Sectors, kidnapped by alien scientists to be the subject of horrifying experiments.  Her only hope might be a mysterious soldier she’d glimpsed outside the laboratory fence. She’d managed to sneak a few words of conversation with him when her captors weren’t watching but now the aliens were taking her inside the lab to begin the experiments.

Darik, a warrior of the genetically engineered Badari pack, is on a solo recon mission to check out a mysterious new lab high in the mountains. His orders are strict – do not engage. But when he has a chance meeting with the woman who might be his mate, he vows not to abandon her, orders or no orders.

Can he get inside an underground lab, find Nicolle and rescue her without getting captured himself? And when he learns the lab’s deadly secrets, can he get word to his pack about the new dangers?

Because the ruthless alien scientist running the experiments wants to get her hands on him too and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

Buy Links: Amazon    iBooks    Nook      Google     Kobo

NOTE: Photos are Author's Own. Book cover by Fiona Jayde.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Bringing the "No Way Am I Turning On the Stove" Party Food

Florida has utterly changed my definition of 'party food'. If you can't throw it on a grill or eat it raw, I am NOT standing over a hot stove, much less adding to the AC load by adding heat to the living arrangement. Not to mention that I transitioned to a whole food/plant based diet AND there's celiac in the family so I don't eat gluten. Most of what I take to a party is what I can eat so no one else has to worry about what I can and can't have. (Why? Hereditary super high cholesterol. Can't take the statins. This dropped my numbers by 50 points without meds. The MD has stopped trying to shove pills at me. Pass the plants. Woo.)

So. How about a colorful, refreshing Asian-inspired salad?

Cucumber-Carrot Salad

Peel and slice 2 carrots thin. (Spiralize or grate if you like.)
Peel and thinly slice a cucumber. (Spiralize if you prefer - don't grate. It turns to mush.)
Clean and slice 2 green onions
Throw these all in the same bowl. You can add other veggies that suit you, too, just slice them as thin as possible.

3 TBSP Rice Vinegar
2 TBSP Mirin
1/8 tsp garlic salt (or to taste)
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes - this is to your taste

Toss your veggie salad and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. If you're really ambitious and you want this at it's best, make it the day before you mean to serve it. The recipe leaves me with a lovely subtle burn in my mouth, so adjust the pepper flakes and the amount of green onion to your taste.

You can eat it as is, or top a nice green salad with this and pour over a little of the dressing. Either way, this is cooling and refreshing and addictive. Have a great, fabulous holiday!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Dishes to Bring to the Party

This week at SFFSeven, we're talking about things to bring to a party.  As it happens, I'm going to one tonight, for Austin SFF Writer Amanda Downum.  So, what am I bringing?  I'm making a cochinita pibil.  It's a slow cooked pork in an achiote marinade.  It's SO good.
Here's how you make the achiote marinade:
achiote paste
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of orange juice
¼ cup of water
all spice (8 to 10 balls)
black pepper to taste
pinch of cumin
Blend all that into a thick marinade.  Marinate pork, cut into one-inch chunks, with that good stuff overnight.  Then slow cook it in a low temperature (the hardcore way is to wrap it in banana leaves), or in a sous vide.    Meanwhile, also make pickled purple onions:
3 purple onions
Put a pot of water to boil. Slice the onions into thin slices and blanch in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Move to another container, cover with vinegar, and add salt and water to taste.
This makes for delicious tacos, or served with black beans and rice. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Don't let me near a stove. Or grill. Or microwave.

Good morning, blogland! Today people here in the U.S. are building up steam to grill food, wear obnoxious red-white-n-blue clothing, and blow stuff up. Little tiny stuff, for the most part -- fireworks -- but still, boom. This is how my country celebrates its independence.

Remember what I said about food and the cooking of it? People do that! And they do it well.

I am not one of those people.

I don't have a go-to cookout recipe to share. If called upon in such a situation, I typically bring a six-pack of the unofficial beer of Texas, Shiner Bock. (Best American beer. Fight me.)

If I really like the party I'll bring a plastic bowl of pre-cubed watermelon. (Mmmmm, watermelon.)

If I really really like the party -- and it will probably include kids -- I'll bring something like this:

Happy day, folks, no matter what you're celebrating (yeah, sorry about that rebellion thing, England, but a case can be made for you lot celebrating the heck out of today, too). Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Party Recipe: Salmon & Green Bean Salad

Everybody ready for the 4th? Menus planned? Last-minute grocery run ordered online for pick up on the way home?  Book and wine slushies prepped?

If you're having or attending a party, here's a pretty simple yet not overly common dish to throw together:

Salmon & Green Bean Salad


  • 1 6oz Salmon Filet Baked & Flaked
    • (if you don't like fish, substitute chopped ham or corned beef sliced into ribbons, or omit entirely)
  • 1 Steamer Bag of Green Beans, cut into bite sizes
    • (chopped, haricot verts, wax beans, any type is fine, it's the texture that matters so skip the canned beans) 
  • 4oz Dry or 2 cups cooked of Favorite Pasta, Cooked & Drained
    • (Orzo, bowtie, fusilli, dinosaurs, semolina, wheat, veggie, rice, whatever makes you happy)
  • 1/2 cup dried (pitted) cherries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup (ish) of your favorite vinaigrette
  • Shaved asiago or parmesan for topping (optional)

Mix in large bowl. Top with shaved cheese. Can be served chilled or warm.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Favorite Recipes to bring to a party

Our theme for the week is favorite recipes to bring to a party. I have two for you. first a simple one and second a recipe that's a bit more complex.

So a friend of mine introduced me to one of the best ever party dips He and his beloved call it "crack Dip," because once you've had it, you'll be addicted.

They aren't really wrong.

Crack Dip is amazingly easy. 1 part cream cheese. 1 part your favorite salsa.

Allow cream cheese to reach room temperature, mix with sals. until thoroughly blended. Serve with your favorite chips, though I always had it with Fritos corn chips.

The other, slightly more complex offering is stuffed jalepenos

Stuffing: cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic powder, black pepper, Old Bay seafood seasoning and panko bread crumps with either a) real or fake crab meat or b) salad shrimp.

Mix all of the stuffing ingredients together. 1 part cream cheese, 1 part cheddar cheese, seasonings to taste and a half cup of panko bread crumbs to help stick everything together. Once again the cream cheese should be room temperature to make it easier to mix. Add in the seafood of your choice.

Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator while you take a good dozen or so jalepenos and cut them in half. Take the time to scrape out at least the majority of the white flesh and the seeds, as those hold all of the heat. Even with them removed, you'll get a lot of flavor and some peppery bite.

Once the peppers have been cleaned, wash your hands thoroughly with warm soap water, thus allowing you to uses your hands without risking rubbing your eye unconsciously and wishing that your eye would stop catching on fire.

Now that we have THAT out of the way, spoon the stuffing into the jalepenos and once agains et them in he refrigerator for around fifteen minutes to let them set up.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees, set the peppers on a nonstick surface and bake for 20 minutes. Serve when ready.

There. That's two for ya.

Keep smiling and have a great 4th of July.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Orleans Picnic Sandwich for the Cooler

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is a "recipe for your favorite dish to bring to a party/cookout." Which is a pretty easy topic - and I would've had mine up sooner if we hadn't been out at the lake all day!

I've had this recipe forever. Like, it's still the yellowed column I tore out of the newspaper something like 20 years ago. But it's a great sandwich that feeds six people easily, and it's even better for marinating in the cooler for a few hours.

Here 'tis!

Muffuletta-Style Picnic Loak


One 16-inch loaf French bread
2 c thinly sliced zucchini or yellow summer squash
Italian salad dressing
8 oz sliced salami, cut into strips
6 oz sliced provolone or mozzarella cheese
3 T sliced pitted ripe olives
1/2 alfalfa sprouts
2 med tomatoes, thinly sliced

Slice bread in half horizontally. Hollow out bottom half and give what you dig out to the birds and squirrels. Brush both halves with Italian salad dressing. Put zucchini/squash in a bowl and toss with 1/3 c Italian salad dressing and let sit. Place salami strips on bottom half of bread. Top with cheese, zucchini/squash, olives, sprouts and tomatoes. Drizzle with Italian salad dressing and top with other half of loaf. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in cooler. Slice to serve.

Let me know what you all think!