31 March 2012

Author Interview: Dustin Kuhlman

Source
As an aspiring author myself, I decided it was probably important that I glean some wisdom off those who have already trod the path to publication.  Luckily, I discovered a former classmate, Dustin Kuhlman recently published his debut novel entitled Warned.

While I'm not generally drawn to science fiction (let's just say I'm all too familiar with everything from Star Trek to Star Wars to Stargate and have been since childhood), there is definitely an underlying human element throughout the novel that I enjoyed.  Though it primarily focuses on earth's untimely demise due to a severe acceleration of global warming, it often made me reflect upon my role to avoid over consumption, reduce waste and what small steps I can take to be a better steward over this beautiful planet.  That is certainly something I can relate to as I plant my own food or recycle in new, creative ways.

Dustin was kind enough to answer a few brief questions for me that I thought I'd share.  Who knows?  Authors are an expansive breed of people with a variety of backgrounds and perhaps you'll publish your own literature one day.

What do you hope readers will take away from your novel?: I hope the reader will be inspired to treat the earth and each other with respect and care.
From conception to publishing, how long was the process?: I started writing in August of '07. Warned was released on June 21st 2011. During that time I put in two and a half years of work. Now that I am familiar with the process, I feel I could cut that time in half for my next novel.
Do you have a favorite time or place where you find you are the most inspired?: This question reminds me of a quote by Orson Scott Card. "Isolation is the optimum environment for creativity". I do best when I can concentrate and not have distractions when actually writing. Although I have also had great inspiration out in the world while around many distractions.

Do you have any advice for new/aspiring authors?: Without getting too technical, just take it one day at a time. Looking back there are countless steps when completing a novel and/or starting a publishing company. Rather than try to do everything at once focus on a single task and do it.

Are there any additional books, sequels or otherwise, in the future?: I have many more ideas for upcoming books both fiction and non-fiction.

Where can readers purchase your novel?: Warned is available in print at Amazon.com and Admonishpublishing.com. The ebook is available on amazon, itunes, smashwords, barnesandnoble.com and admonishpublishing.com.



A synopsis of Warned is available on the homepage of Admonish Publishing as well as an additional interview with the author under the Media Resources tab.









29 March 2012

Runzas

I enjoy recipes that originated decades earlier.  It's a kind of way of feeling connected to the past by enjoying the same foods our ancestors enjoyed.  Runzas have been traced back to Russia around the 1800's (though known by a different name) then spread to Germany, eventually appearing in the United States.  And if you've ever lived in Nebraska, you've most likely eaten at the restaurant based off the unique food.

They're dough wrapped around a meat filling so they're practically an entire hearty meal.  They aren't terribly difficult to make either which is always nice.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cooking oil
3 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 pound ground beef
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1 cup finely chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine water, milk, yeast and sugar and let sit until foamy.
Add cooking oil, 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and egg, beating well.  Add 2 more cups flour.  Knead and let rise 1 hour.
Brown ground beef in skillet until redness disappears.  Add cabbage and onion and season to taste.  Cook until tender, stirring often.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
To form runzas, pinch off pieces of dough, about the size of a large egg using additional flour if dough is too sticky.  Roll thin (about 1/8 inch thick--too thin and there's a risk of the filling breaking through) and place a spoonful of meat mixture onto pieces.  Gently pull dough around the filling and pinch edges to seal.
Place on a greased cookie sheet, seam side down.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350F.
Enjoy!
(I like mine with ketchup.  I don't know if I should be admitting that...)

Gum And Hair

Source
If your children are anything like mine, they love gum.  My girls have gotten pretty good at chewing their tiny pieces but occasionally, they twist it around their fingers and it inevitably finds its way into their hair.  Having had this happen several times to me as a child, a sticky piece of gum tangled in hair rarely causes me to panic.
Should you need to remove gum from anyone's hair, simply smear it with peanut butter and massage it into the problem area..  The oils loosen the gum and it'll easily dislodge, then it can be rinsed out with hot water and soap.  Saves from having to do anything drastic like chopping off hair!
Time for a rinse!

28 March 2012

Hens Out Back

With Clay now peacefully at rest, my mom has been able to hatch (hahaha!) a plan she's been scheming for a while.  She always enjoyed our poultry and during her visits, she was the first to race out to the coop every day to collect eggs.  For a few dozen, I could work her to death fixing up my house and she'd still leave happy.  I really think I got the better end of the bargain.
Black Giant chicks
My chickens are all long gone but yesterday, my mom picked up several adorable chicks she fully intends to keep out back.  Unlike me, she does not live in the country but rather in a quiet neighborhood.  Thankfully, Lincoln permits hens to be kept within city limits, allowing enthusiasts to collect fresh eggs from their own backyard flock.  I have warned Jack should we ever need to live in the city again, I'll be getting my own chickens.  He just rolls his eyes.
Maylay chicks
If you've never had a fresh, free-range hen egg, you've really missed out on something.  Store bought eggs are fine but if you crack it open next to a free-range hen egg, there's no comparison.  Hens that are allowed to roam, scratch and forage for bugs lay eggs with a deep yellow yolk, a springy, firm albumen and white and a thick shell.  The biggest difference is the overall superior taste.  Happy hens make way better eggs.
Silver Laced Wyandotte (like my favorite hen Queeny...)
A friend of mine visited our farm a few years ago and I made some pancakes and scrambled eggs straight from our coop.  She mentioned she wasn't quite sure how she felt about eating something that'd just fallen out of a hen a few minutes previous.  I can't deny I felt the same hesitancy the first couple times eating our hens' eggs, but I quickly overcame it.  I really like the idea of knowing where my food came from and that any animal sources lead a content, enjoyable, cage-free life.
A little mutt chick.  I have a soft spot for mutts, including poultry.
My mom's modest flock will hopefully (depending on who ends up being roosters and hens) consist of several heritage breeds that are not commercially used.  While she searched for those illusive breeds, she met Cleo, an elderly woman who has a veritable gold mine of champion, show-quality breeds.  Through a few minutes conversing with her, my mother discovered that my great-great grandfather, Dr. Lamb delivered her as a baby.  To add to the excitement, her friend lives in his old house and gave my mother a tour.  Apparently it's still even got the original apothecary table where Dr. Lamb mixed medications for his patients.  What a small world!
When these (again, hopefully) girls start laying, they'll produce a rainbow of egg colors--everything from white to brown to pink or green.  In return, they'll gobble up table scraps, keep pesky bugs out of the garden and provide plenty of entertainment for grandchildren.  And me.

And you?  Would you ever consider keeping hens in your backyard?

27 March 2012

Washing A Fleece

I decided to go ahead and try washing one of my fleeces.  Having sheared my sheep right on the ground they live on, they had all kinds of little surprises tucked inside the strands of hair--everything from twigs, leaves and seeds to pieces of food that had gotten trapped.  All of that debris was on top of the waxy lanolin that gives sheep their distinct smell.  Lanolin is a great waterproofer and unfortunately, a wonderful dirt collector too.
I'd read a few methods and decided to give it a go with the washing machine.  The fleece certainly could have fit in the tub but it sounded a lot more labor intensive and time consuming.  The washing machine method was easy enough and I'm happy with the results.

Here's how:

Fill washing machine with hot water and mix in 1 cup liquid laundry detergent.  Once full, submerge fleece and close the lid, allowing the fleece to soak for 45 minutes (make sure your washing machine is off--if it actually washes the wool via agitation, you'll have an irreparably tangled mess).

Turn on the spin cycle.  When the water is drained, remove the fleece, rinse the washing machine and repeat with another soaking cycle.  Repeat as many times as needed to sufficiently remove the lanolin and dirt.
Gross.  Needs a few more cycles.
While waiting for the washer to refill with hot water, "groom" the fleece to check again for debris such as twigs, leaves, seeds, etc.
For the last soak, fill the washer with hot water and 1/2 cup white vinegar.  Spin to remove water and place on a towel to air dry.
 It's a little difficult to tell from the photo, but trust me, it's much cleaner and smells soooo much better.

26 March 2012

The Bloated Pink Bunny

I needed something to, shall we say, encourage Evelyn to finish her dinner last night.  Nothing like a beautifully wrapped Easter gift from the girls' great grandma and great aunt!  I was trying to save it until closer to Easter but I had a hunch there were a few items like an egg dying kit we'd be able to use pre-Easter so I used that awesome present as bait and Evelyn gobbled her meal right up.

We sorted through the goodies and I tucked away most of the candy and toys away before the kids could get too attached--it'll be a surprise again come Easter.  The one thing I couldn't bring myself to put away was a hilarious bunny punching balloon.
I remember receiving several punching balloons as a kid and though I've got a phobia of balloons exploding in my face, it never occurred to me that punching a balloon put me at greater risk.  Anyway, since I last played with a punching balloon, the things have gotten even more high-tech.  Not only are they made from incredibly durable material, they're shaped into amusing creatures.  In honor of Easter, we got a rabbit.
Jack blew it up but it took him a few times to figure out how to tie the end off so it wouldn't deflate.  The result?  A bloated pink bunny.

Evelyn tried her darnedest to get the bunny to deflate again.  See?
And Claire took a turn at it too but was unsuccessful.
(Did you catch a glimpse of our TV atop a TV?  Very hick, yes, but I couldn't bring myself to invest in a coffee table just for the duration of our stay...I just pretend it's recycling).
Those things really are tough.
Thanks Great Grandma Deaton and Aunt Michele!

25 March 2012

Tolerance Versus Acceptance


Some people tend to think that the words tolerance and acceptance are synonymous.  While they're close cousins, they're definitely not the same thing.  I'd like to demonstrate using my children and our cats.

Here's Claire ripping away lovingly at Hercules while Evelyn reminds her in the background to be gentle:

Evelyn's not completely innocent herself.  She tormented the cats a fair share (and occasionally still does).  Here's her getting a little carried away with RJ:
 
So what exactly does this have to do with tolerance versus acceptance?  The cats are generally patient and tolerate the only way the girls know how to share affection with their feline companions.  Once in a while, the cats get lucky and the girls scratch them just right though for the most part, they've got an obviously expression in their faces, confirming the abuse isn't exactly their idea of a good time.  The girls, on the other hand, tolerate the occasional warning swipe that they're going to far as long as they get to dig their hands into the cat's fuzzy bodies when the mood strikes.  Neither party approves completely of the others methods but are able to endure them for the mutual benefit of both.  I like to think of this analogy whenever I hear talk of tolerance and acceptance.  They're close, but really quite different.

It seems there is a way to live happily with one another.  Cats and children can sure simplify things.

23 March 2012

If You're In The Area

Source
I served an eighteen month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Montreal, QC.  During my stay, I spoke with Buddhists, Voodooists, Muslims, Wickens, Hindus, Atheists, Sheiks, and just about every Christian denomination under the sun.  When conversing with such an eclectic group of people in their homes and at their religious sites, I for one could appreciate the importance of being able to share and clarify the true convictions of both of our spiritualities without bias from outside sources.

A temple has been built in Kansas City, Missouri by the LDS church.  If you're in the area, I hope you'll take a chance to visit the open house and see first-hand the dedicated construction and attention to detail that goes into the magnificent edifices.  Little is spared in building them as they are hallowed houses for the Lord, not unlike the children of Israel's tabernacle in the wilderness or King Salomon's temple.

It will be open to the public from April 7th to April 21st, 2012, excluding Sundays.  Additional information is here, including how to make reservations for a tour.  There are other temples being constructed throughout the world as well--if you would like to see if there is an open house closer to you, search here.

Patrons will get a chance to tour the interior of the temple before it is dedicated and directly learn some of the beliefs of the LDS church.  If nothing else, those lucky enough to go will be able to admire some spectacular architecture, art and craftsmanship.
Source

21 March 2012

Rainbow Jell-O

We aren't great at decorating for holidays but we make sure to celebrate with a delicious meal.  For St. Patrick's day, we all wore green and fixed corned beef, cabbage, mashed potatoes and a new favorite: rainbow Jell-O.

This side dish can be made in any color combination for different holidays and whipped topping can be substituted for the sour cream, offering endless, colorful combinations.  Any way it's prepared, it's a fun addition to any festive meal.
Ingredients:

3 oz packages Jell-O (how many you need depends on the color combination)
1 cup hot water per Jell-O package
2/3 cup sour cream (or whipped topping) per Jell-O package

Place a 9x13 inch pan or a large, round glass dish in the refrigerator on a level spot to allow the glass to chill.  Meanwhile, mix the first desired Jell-O packet with one cup hot water (the trick is to use water just hot enough to dissolve the Jell-O but not boiling or chilling time between layers will be significantly longer).

Separate out 2/3 cup Jell-O and pour into chilled glass.  With the remaining 1/3 cup Jell-O, mix well with 2/3 cup sour cream or whipped topping.

Allow first layer of Jell-O to chill at least 15 minutes or more before pouring the Jell-O and sour cream mixture on top.  Test first layer to make sure it is firm enough to support the sour cream layer or it will break through and the layers will not be clearly defined.

Continue until finished with Jell-O packets, allowing sufficient time between to cool.  It should take about an hour and a half to make, with an additional two hours to chill the entire side dish.

Cut or scoop and enjoy!

15 March 2012

Soft Caramel Popcorn

I had some sweetened condensed milk to use up about the same time I stumbled across this popcorn recipe.

I was doomed.
But it was so worth it.
It's quicker than my caramel corn recipe and produces a gooey, sticky treat that everyone loves.  Just make sure you keep a close eye on any children who stick their hands in the popcorn or you'll have tacky fingerprints everywhere they can reach.

Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 stick butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 quarts popped popcorn, lightly salted (the original recipe calls for microwaved popcorn but for the sake of all that is good, use stove popped corn.  Here's help if you need it).
Bring the brown sugar, corn syrup and butter to a boil.  Reduce to medium heat and add the sweetened condensed milk, stirring constantly for about five minutes to avoid scorching (the less time you cook it, the stickier and softer it will be).

Pour over the popcorn and mix until it's covered evenly.  Allow to cool and enjoy!
 And don't forget to brush your teeth!


A B-I-G thank you to The Girl Who Ate Everything for bringing this delicious and simple recipe to my attention so I could indulge my popcorn obsession in new ways.

Hey There, Delia

Delia, whom I mistakenly thought was "Delilah" (and Evelyn kept calling her "Charlie"--the good little dog responded to anything she was called) came with us today.  She was sitting so sweetly in her kennel and it just seemed right to take her, though Morgan and Betsy were wagging their tails a few kennels down, hoping they'd be the lucky ones.  If only I could juggle two small kids and a handful of dogs.  Sigh.
We went for a walk along the Brazos river to get some fresh air.  Delia was a bit of a weaver on the leash but after bumping into the stroller a few times, she figured out how to walk in a straight line.  Despite the other dogs being walked nearby, she never strained on the leash or barked.  She preferred to flick her tail and flirt from a distance.
Once she got some grass under her feet, she got a real spring to her step.  She pranced along, obviously enjoying the activity.  Delia enjoyed the attention from the girls too, trying occasionally to crawl in their laps for a hug.  She easily conceded though once she was told to get down.  The car ride was no big deal and she was quick to give the sweetest kisses when she gets the chance.  Who could say no to such a beautiful tri-colored face?
Her bath was a bit of a surprise but once I got to scrubbing her down, she relaxed and enjoyed it.  Though a young rat terrier, she didn't even try to bolt while I towel dried her.  Afterwards, happy about being clean and dry, she put on quite the show as she comically wriggled her way across the floor on her back, then exuberantly tore down the hallway.
Delia is a sweet dog that probably won't last long.  She'd be super for a family with small kids--she is so dainty and gentle around children and took her treats very carefully.  At times she was a little unsure of the new situations we exposed her to, but she did little more than skirt out of the way.  We'll be the first to say Delia is a good dog that will make the perfect addition to some lucky family.
***Lucky Delia has been adopted!***

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