What I’m Reading For Book Lovers Day 2019

I’ll be finishing “Absinthe, Alewives & Alchemy” by Kate Henriott and Ted Jauw today. I met the authors at a Michigan Steam Expo earlier this year, and found them both utterly delightful folk. Kate shared some of her homemade absinthe with me, and I really need to track her down again to buy a few bottles. We talked about heritage cooking, wine making, gardening and herbs, and I found so many connections with her. It took me a while to get to the book, and then it got set aside for a while, half-read, but it’s time to settle back in for the rest of the story, while sipping one of my own weird little recipes: a huge mug of boiling water laced with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, a LOT of cinnamon and honey. Lovely stuff and seems to awaken something in me.

You can have a sneak preview of the book below. What are you reading today?

Book Review: Raise the Stakes

Raise the Stakes
Aces High, Jokers Wild – Book 3
by O.E. Tearmann
Available in Paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com

It’s 2156. Corporations now control the people of what used to be the United States. And they’ve gone way too far.

But, there’s a Resistance. The Democratic State Force has pushed back for decades. And they’ve come up with an incredible plan: To free the people from a system that literally runs their lives by knocking out the Citizen Standing Score. Now, all the force needs is just the right team with enough smarts and guts to pull it off. Being a little crazy wouldn’t hurt, either.

It’s a mission custom-made for Base 1407. Every team member is brilliant in their assigned duty – and not a one of them lives up to society’s common expectations.

But even as the team puts in endless hours working on their game plan, they also strive to figure out who they are and what their lives mean—not only to themselves, but to others.

This is a ‘Mission Impossible’ style adventure caper, but it’s also an unflinching (and often smart-ass) examination of life, love, acceptance, change and what truly makes a family. And just like the unorthodox team members of Base 1407, it’s a story that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

A caution: LBGTQ romantic themes are explored, often in graphic, loving detail. If this is not your cuppa, you may be put off by this aspect of the story. I was not. I felt this very real part of life was included in balance with the breathtaking action sequences, the absorbing tech details, the quirks of personalities, and the varied blessings and challenges of body and mind that the people of Base 1407 face every moment of their lives.

A Guided Tour of My Girl Cave

When we moved into this house 2ish years ago, our lifestyle changed a *lot*. This house is newer, better built and well maintained, unlike the old house. It even has a spacious, well-landscaped country yard.

But best of all, it has THREE bedrooms! This meant, to my utter glee, that for the first time in my life, I could have an office of my very own. Even during my working career, I had never had an office, not even once. I always worked from cubicles, computer rooms, warehouses, and open plan desk rows. But now I have my very own Girl Cave. Want a little tour?

I’m trying. 🙂 This wall plaque is a good inspiration.
It’s 8:00 am on a beautiful day here in CowTown. Time for my morning commute! First, I exit that closed door (the bedroom) and then carefully navigate the three-foot crossing through the Girl Cave door (the open one). Whew. Thank goodness, traffic was light today, as the cat was still asleep. Now that we’ve arrived, we’ll look at the room in a proper clockwise manner. First is my filing cabinet. It looks so neat from the outside, but I do need to do heaps of organizing on the inside. It’s on my to-do list, and I’ll get to it eventually. Perhaps.
Here’s the full north wall. That dark wood mirror is a favorite antique. I bought it for $20 in the mid-70s at an antique shop in Seattle. It’s a shaving mirror, with a small shelf for grooming needfuls. It’s hand carved; every detail is a little lopsided, as the curves and spires don’t quite line up. I like it better because it was made with more love than talent.
I love snooping at other peoples bookshelves, so I’ll give you that same chance! Here’s the top. Real butterflies on a display under glass, decades old. My cold drip coffee maker, and yes, it really works. I had to put it up here because A) it’s out of reach of the cat and B) it’s rather steampunky and I like it in here. Lastly, a cross stitched picture done by a good friend.
Top three shelves of the bookcase. Most of the paperback steampunk and fantasy books are here, and many of them were bought directly from the authors and signed. I love my Kindle library, but it’s nice to have paper, too. Best of all worlds. Also, there’s a 1940s rubber-stamp holder that I use for my earring collection, my Bluetooth speaker, a huge Godiva cup filled with all sorts of loose tiny objects, and a resin antler candle holder.
Continuing down to carpet level. There’s a metal heat sink from a 1997 Pentium II computer, which makes a nifty business card holder now. And on the bottom shelf, Eomer sits atop Minas Tirith, doing battle with Van Helsing, who is taking aim with his crossbow from the geology and nature book section. Er, and his crossbow is backwards. It keeps falling off otherwise.
A wind chime. There’s plenty of chimes outdoors and elsewhere, and this one looks so elvish and elegant that I hung it from the light fixture. A convenient floor length mirror is next.
Going round the corner to the east wall. A stuffed pair of blue jeans makes a cozy cat bed for Chives, and his wheatgrass is nearby. It’s straggly, and needs to be replaced soon. He loves chewing grass. I crocheted that teddy bear in the corner. 🙂 Built-in shelving holds all sorts of supplies, book stock, whatnots and whatevers.
More of the built in shelving. It leads right up to the edge of the corner built in desk. Filling that wall with artwork is a future project we’ll get to soon.
The view from the doorway over to the southeast corner. The windows are above a built in small desk, which is perfect for gazing out over the farmlands beyond the back yard, or watching Burgess, the neighbor’s cat, make his rounds. And there’s a divan for reading, napping, or just having an occasional flop. I fold two fleece blankets at the foot of it for chilly days, or for Chives to hop up and sleep on. He loves doing that.
Closer view of the desk nook, where I like to use my 7 year-old laptop that Ken refurbished for me. It’s so cozy here! On the far right is my oil diffuser, which often mists lemon grass or patchouli oil into the air.
The view south is of the back yard, up to a barb wire-topped fence, and the fields beyond. The crops rotate between soybeans, corn and wheat.
I do like the care that went into texturing the walls in here.
Three plain pine boards on metal brackets had been left by the previous occupants. I had fun heaping them with the family heirloom doilies and various objects meaningful to me.
The west wall holds a desk for my gramma-box computer, which, like my laptop, is also 7 years old and refurbished. There’s a Himalayan salt lamp on the left side. It’s nice on cold mornings to rest my hands on to warm them. The left door is a small private bathroom and the right door is one of two sliding doors leading into a very spacious closet filled with costume supplies and clothing, mostly used at steampunk gatherings and cons.
The bulletin board over the desk is my own creation. Wine corks, cut in half, were hot-glued onto an old, faded, stained basic corkboard. I love how it turned out.

Thanks for visiting! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to be writing. Or… napping. Time will tell.

Dandelion Bread

Dandelion bread isn’t what most people think it’s going to be like. It’s a dense bread, like banana or zucchini bread – but with a light, slightly sweet flavor that’s almost like a standard white bread. I think its the best of both worlds. Ken loved it, too! Other than the actual gathering of the dandelion petals, the recipe is very easy to make. If you’re awash in a sea of yellow outside, turn those weeds into treats!

Last fall, a friend gave me this recipe, and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since. Imagine my joy when one fine morning my lawn had turned completely yellow with dandelions. The original recipe was published online by Walnut Acres, but that website keep redirecting me away from the page to a dubious domain-parking site. So, rather than send you there, I will give them credit and keep the recipe here.

Be sure to pick flowers well away from driveways or roads, and avoid areas that have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals.

Clean enough dandelion flowers to make two cups of dandelion petals. It’s important to remove the petals, leaving behind all green parts of the flower. To learn more about my own method of doing this, read my previous post, It’s Dandelion Day!

Walnut Acres Dandelion Bread

This recipe makes two small loaves, using 8″ x 4″ x 2-1/2″ loaf pans.

Preheat over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease your bread pans. I used melted, unsalted butter. Sodium Note: I cut the recommended salt amount down to 1/2 tsp as we are a low-sodium house. I’ve left the original recipe unchanged here, though. Using a sodium-free baking powder will also save you a lot of sodium.

Dry Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 – 2 cups dandelion petals Note: I recommend using the full 2 cups

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-2/3 cups milk
Dry ingredients. And yes, dandelion petals count as ‘dry’.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir with a large spoon until very well blended and the petals have been evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into your two greased pans, dividing it evenly between them. Bake for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for another 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick or cake tester to be sure the batter is set in the center. Bake a little longer if needed, watching over the breads carefully.

Cool the bread in the pans. A good trick is to tilt the pans on their sides for even cooling all around. This helps the bread come out of the pans easily after its cooled, too.

Fresh from the over, about to be turned on their sides.

With its sweetness and density, I’ve been thinking that this bread might also make a nice coffee cake. If I can gather another two cups of petals before the season passes, I’ll be experimenting with that. I think adding raisins would compliment the sweet lightness of the bread, and perhaps an orange flavored glazed drizzle-topping would be the finishing touch.

Yum! Ready for a favorite topping.

If you like to experiment with recipes and need to change the pan size, here’s a handy pan sizing chart. Once you know the volume of the recommended pan, you can substitute another sized pan that holds the same amount. If you don’t change the depth, you probably won’t need to adjust the cooking time. If you do change the depth, be prepared to stay near your new creation, and watch it like a hawk.

Post your dandelion baking adventures in the comments!

It’s Dandelion Day!

The dandelions have achieved full bloom in the back yard. Each year, I set aside one day in early spring to wallow in them. This year’s goal – enough petals to brew the annual batch of dandelion wine, with extras to try making dandelion bread. First, I spent a couple of hours crawling around the lawn with a large, clean bucket, picking as many as I could. Next, I set up camp on the back deck with plenty of beverages, and my iPad logged in to Amazon Prime to keep me company.  Time to clean those flowers.

It’s a beautiful day!

I aim for perfection. NO green whatsoever in the petals. The green parts are bitter. My special method of achieving this is to pick up a flower, hold the hard green bulgy cylinder under the flower between my thumb and index finger, and press-twist the flower. This detaches the petals from the green parts of the flower, and I can pluck them out easily.

Soft, fluffy petals!

This process takes hours. And a lot of patience. That is why Dandelion Day only comes but once a year. After two hours, this is what I collected in my big green bowl.

About a fifth of what I intend to collect.

Eventually, the green bowl was filled – by then I was in such a twist-and-pluck trance I forgot to take any more pictures.

And finally, the closing ceremonies for Dandelion Day. A Wizard performs a special spell from the book of John Deere, and all the remaining dandelions vanish into the mists.

Stay tuned for the adventure of the Dandelion Bread!

Fantasy Faire 2019 – Builders of Hope

Last year I was delighted to be invited to Fantasy Faire as a Literary Festival featured author, and I want to pay it back. This year, in honor of my dad, lost to lung cancer this past Autumn, I’m participating behind-the-scenes at the Faire, tending to some of the necessary proofreading, editing, and webmistressing. The Faire takes place in Second Life, as part of the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life events.

If you think that virtual worlds only exist to shoot zombies or run raids, think again. Second Life is a world – not a game. It’s completely created by its residents, and a lot goes on in here. This year our Literary Festival will welcome author Elizabeth Bear as our special guest, and we will pay tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin.

Fantasy Faire in Second Life has emerged anew from the mists of the virtual world to create a new and immersive fantasy-inspired experience each year for the past eleven years. Since the 2015 Faire, writers have gathered to pen new stories and poems inspired by the Fairelands as part of the annual LitFest. And though the Fairelands disappear back into the mists every year, the stories remain to inspire and transport.

Please click the poster to be taken to our press release – you’ll be taken to the Fantasy Faire website, so have a look around while you’re there. I’m especially invested in the Literary Festival, which you can find under the “Events” menu tab at the top of any page. We are still adding content as opening day approaches, but you won’t mind our dust, as it’s sparkly magical fairy dust!

Fantasy Faire 2019