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Moon Shadow Series:

Ghost Shadow

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Soul of the Desert

London Bargain Mystery

bookThis book looked rather interesting to me and it’s normally a ten dollar book. Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart It’s not the first in a series, but I think it’s the latest in the Peculiar Crimes Unit Mysteries. Full Dark House is book one.

Also there is a 30 percent off sale at Kobo books on this list. Use code: JULYW30. Good until July 16.

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Posted: July 7, 2015

Yellow Cake Recipe

I made this recipe for yellow cake provided by King Arthur, one of my favorite recipe sites. Okay, no I didn’t. I started with that recipe, but it sounded dry to me so I substituted buttermilk for the milk, which necessitated switching out the baking powder with baking soda. I know you have to switch the leavening when you use buttermilk, but I wasn’t entirely sure I needed to sub it all out, so I went with half baking soda and half baking powder. That way, I figured I was covered either way! My cooking methods are pure genius I tell you! Or madness. Depends on whether it works out or not.

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup margarine
4 large eggs
3 cups King Arthur white wheat Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

I mixed the sugar, butter and margarine with a mixer until smooth. I then added the eggs one at a time and mixed. I added the flour and baking powder/soda and mixed loosely before adding the milk and vanilla.

When everything was nicely mixed, I baked in a 8 by 8 AND 9 by 11 pan at 350 for about 30 minutes. I did more than one pan because I was really after a cake for tiramisu so I wanted thin layers. This is a huge cake — the layers were still too thick for tiramisu. I made it work, but next time I’d do another pan…maybe another 8 by 8 or 6 by 6 to get thin layers. It’s possible to cut one of the thick layers into two layers, but I’m not good at it. I end up with a bunch of pieces of cake and a mess.

This cake was very moist. Since I only did two layers, I saved a large piece of the cake for later. I put it in the freezer, and I’ll frost it with chocolate icing when we have polished off the tiramisu!

I planned to take a picture of the first slice of tiramisu, but it fell over on the plate! Leaning tower of tiramisu looked more like a part of the Roman ruins…

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Posted: July 6, 2015
Filed in Desserts

Miscellaneous Tidbits and Wisdom

beareatingLeo got himself locked in the garage. Did he meow to let us know he was trapped in there? Of course not. Leo is a cat and cats are not logical. Now had we put him in a room and told him he had to stay there and shut the door, he’d have unleashed an unholy cacophony of meowing. He suffered no ill from being in the garage for a few hours, and luckily husband went out to take some recycling in the afternoon. Leo popped through the door like a little genie from the bottle. He looked rather offended, as though we should have known he had gone sneaking in there.

My parents watch a lot of TV. There’s nothing good on TV so I don’t really know why they bother. Dr. Phil is especially onerous. While I was visiting my parents, I overheard a line from his show: “We deal with reality here.” WHAT???? Go home. Just go home. As I often tell Mom: There has to be a better way to waste time. Like a million ways. And no, Wheel of Fortune isn’t one of them.

What if idiots spoke and the news refused to cover their babblings? Well, for one, we wouldn’t have to see Trump in the headlines. There’s a few thousand others who would disappear from my newsfeed. I wouldn’t miss them. Not one bit.

News for Mastercard: We do not want to pay bills by taking a selfie. Look, the whole selfie thing has gotten out of hand as it is. But let’s be honest here. I do not get dressed up to go to the grocery. I almost always remember to comb my hair, but there are days. I can guarantee you that the picture I send in as my “compare” photo is going to be a very nice glamor shot–me at my best with my hair done just so, and I might even wear makeup. So what happens when I’m having a homeless bag lady day, and I go into Sprouts desperate for milk and eggs and pay with a selfie and the big light flashes: “Arrest this hag! She is a thief, an obvious imposter!”???? I’m not interested in sending in 4000 different shots of myself as I age. What if someone who looks vaguely like me gets my info and starts sending in pictures and buying stuff? And when I deny it’s me, you send me some picture of a hag and say, “Looks just like you in that one shot in Sprouts.” NOT INTERESTED.

Happy Fourth, Everyone!

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Posted: July 4, 2015

Some Books for the Weekend

There’s a long weekend about to start and you’ll probably need something to read. I always keep a wishlist as things scroll by that are of possible interest. Here are some that are at bargain prices.

Inspector Hobbes and the Blood by Wilkie Martin The title sounds rather gory, but I think it might be a pastiche of sorts. You know that English humor!

Bed and Breakfast Bedlam by Abby Vandiver — This sounds like it could be a good cozy caper!

The Feathered Virgin by Steven Hardesty – I’m a little leery of this one because it could be crass–or it could be funny. It’s a thief caper, which I sometimes find very amusing. Depends on the thief and whether he has his heart in the right place.

The Heist Society by Ally Carter I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, but it never goes on sale. My library has it, but my card is expired. I haven’t taken the time to get it renewed. BUT. I have high hopes that it’s a good read!!!

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Posted: July 2, 2015

Nearly Beta Draft

front_dirt4I’m thrilled to report that Executive Dirt is very nearly ready for beta readers! Yes, I know the blog has been somewhat quiet this summer, but in order to write and work and can tomatoes, I have to work pretty hard to squeeze it all in. Just ask my house–it doesn’t get cleaned all that often. I even skipped doing the windows this spring. It was hard to pass on that opportunity, but I managed.

Sedona happily turns down Steve Huntington’s latest undercover project when Mark gets her a fantastic job testing advanced cell phones. But if the dead body of her coworker is any indication, the new job may not prove to be any safer than Huntington’s covert assignments.
Sedona finds herself knee-deep in dirt and tangled in clues that unravel faster than the baby bib she is supposed to be sewing for her niece. Her parents are in town to visit the new baby, and Mark has decided it’s time for Sedona to meet his mother. Can she somehow endure family interferences and stay alive long enough to solve the case?

I haven’t had time to read in over a month. So tell me. What are y’all reading??? I’ll read vicariously through your reading!!!

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Posted: June 30, 2015

Fresh Garden Salsa

Fresh garden salsa over scrambled eggs and bacon with twice cooked garden potatoes: It’s brunch!

Grow something! You know you want to!

I recommend Amish Paste and Juliets for salsa. Amish Paste are the best tasting roma tomatoes I’ve ever grown. They are a beautiful deep red and just the right mix of pulp and juice. Juliets are smaller, but the plant produces hundreds of them. Other paste tomatoes that are very very good are Italia Viva and San Marzano, in that order. The Opalka ones are good in cool weather but can get “dry” in hot weather. The Italia Viva doesn’t do well with various fungus and viruses.

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Posted: June 28, 2015

Cats and Gardening

Leo gifted me with a live roach yesterday. Kitten! STOP BRINGING INSECTS INSIDE. Most of the time now, when he brings in a moth or other victim, if we stand up and go get the disposal equipment, he takes his collection back outside before we return. It’s quite funny. He’ll be merrily “killing” a moth or beetle in the dining room, see us head for the kitchen where we keep clean-up stuff, and he’ll grab his toy and dart back outside. Of course, when it was a nasty, live roach, he just let the thing go and sprawled with apparent exhaustion on the tile floor. KITTEN!!!

Meanwhile, in gardening news, the cats have not been doing full duty keeping the birds from the tomatoes. Oh, they will work the morning shift, but they are quite slackerly after about nine. And the birds know it. I found a half-pecked tomato at noon yesterday. Where were the cats? Inside the air conditioned house, sleeping! They do go out and work a relaxed evening shift, but beware. If something more interesting occurs a few trees over, they can’t be bothered to guard the produce!

I’ve had a very nice crop of tomatoes this year, and we’ve been enjoying BLTs for lunch. I have a lasagne with fresh tomatoes and fresh tomato sauce in the fridge for dinner tomorrow. I’ve canned a few jars of tomatoes and frozen a few nice ones too. I’m still hoping for lots more, but it is about 90 now so production is slowing at an alarming rate. I’ll get what has set and then have to start pulling plants. The typhoon variety produced some HUGE tomatoes again this year. The big boys did okay, but they don’t produce as many as I’d like.

I think I’d need to can forty jars of tomatoes before it would be enough. And some salsa and some tomato sauce and maybe some ketchup!!!

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Posted: June 26, 2015

Banana Nut Bread

Since we are talking food (we were talking food, right?) I thought I’d share my banana bread recipe. I do not like a lot of bananas in banana bread. I want them not seen and barely tasted, but I like the moisture that adding fruit brings. I use a single banana in this recipe (and I don’t measure it. I just put a banana in there).

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes in a loaf pan. Optional: Add chocolate chips to the recipe! Very good.

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Posted: June 24, 2015
Filed in Desserts

More Fabulous Artwork

IMG_0071 Right after I finished setting up my booth at the book signing, I spotted this piece of artwork. Perfect for storytelling, isn’t it? Dawn Gray creates many a stained glass gem, but this was by far my favorite!!! I love the background color of the sky and the owl on the wizard’s arm. The cloak of many colors must have taken days and days to complete. (Click to see a larger picture).

IMG_0075 I didn’t get the name of the artist who did these horses, but check out the great carvings!

IMG_0072 Here is a shot of me with my history teacher! It was so great of him to come by to see me!

IMG_0104And here you have a New Mexico sunset.

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Posted: June 22, 2015


IMG_0093[1] Infamous outlaw rock out on the ranch.

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I’m always a little nervous when I travel, but I’ve been overly antsy about the trip to the ranch this time. I thought maybe it was the book signing, but honestly, that didn’t bother me much. On Thursday, we were scheduled to go out to the far ranch. My parents live in the middle of nowhere. The ranch is several miles from there, out where your nearest neighbor is a deer or a rabbit if you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky, it’s a coyote, a wolf or maybe a bear.

At any rate, Dad and I headed out Thursday morning just before six in the morning. It gets hot in the desert mountains so you don’t want to be fooling around outside after about eleven. Dad was taking a “four wheeler” up to the ranch to try out on the terrain so we had the big truck with a trailer pulling the four wheeler. We left the main road and were on the county graded dirt road when Dad mentioned that he’d had a flat on Monday.

“I forgot to put the other spare in the truck. No big deal. I have the emergency spare underneath the truck. I just don’t like to have to crawl under there so I always throw another spare in the back.”

He also shouldn’t be crawling under there at his age. He doesn’t move so great anymore, and it can be difficult for him to stand back up.

Five minutes later, before we even reached the gate to the first wilderness ranch, the back tire blew. We were on a hill, of course, because why would a tire go out when you were on a flat???

Dad eased the truck to the flattest spot on the hill before stopping. He thought the trailer tire blew. Sadly, I had to inform him that it was the back truck tire. These are ten ply tires, and the air was hissing out of there like a hot air balloon on the spiral of death. That’s about the way I felt too. It was barely light out. We might have still been within cell phone range, but it was doubtful. “Well,” I said, “we could always drive the four wheeler back.”

And don’t I wish we had. The bolt holding the tire under the truck was rusted shut because Dad had avoided crawling under there for so long. He hammered on that bolt, he chiseled on that bolt. His idea of taking a rest was to loosen the nuts on the flat tire so that I could get them all the way off while he went back to fighting with the tire under the truck. He was flat on his back and dust was flying all over. So were the curses. Oh, the joy. Well, at least it was getting light out.

Dad really needed a torch to cut through that bolt, but we were well shy of that type of equipment. At some point, the cursing changed to prayer and that was long before the platform holding the bolt gave way. Once he finally hammered through one of the steel pieces that the bolt went through he paused. “Should be easy now,” he said.

Easy? What the hell is that?

The long screw that held the tire in the center was corroded onto the rubber plate. From what I could tell, eons of dust had collected in there, the rubber had partially melted and that sucker was now glued on there by a century of God’s own cement mixing.

More chiseling. More hammering. More hand injuries. He didn’t even have the energy to curse anymore! The whole time this is going on I’m thinking that if I was out there by myself, I wouldn’t have gotten the first nut off the flat tire, never mind stood a chance with the welded together pieces UNDER the truck.

It must have been an hour later when we got that tire changed. My nerves were stretched somewhere from “I’m going to die out here” to “We can always take the four wheeler and find civilization. Probably.” With a Herculean effort I managed not to ask just how much gas was in the four wheeler because we always take water, and we can actually walk home. Sure, it’s a LOOOOOONG walk, but I’ve hiked that far before and these days the cell phone range would come into play after only a mile. Or two, maybe three. Plus, there’s big mountains. All I had to do was hike high enough to get into cell phone range, and Mom could bring the other truck. Probably.

At any rate, Dad was able to fix the tire, and we drove on. Personally, I thought we should just go home, but Dad’s a guy, and they are rather stubborn creatures.

We went through the first ranch area (not our ranch) and parked, and got the four wheeler off. I’m not fond of them. They are loud and obnoxious. This was supposed to be upgraded and stabilized and have all kinds of safety protections for the rough roads. My opinion? Damn thing was nothing more than a glorified 4 wheel drive golf cart. We got stuck in a stream on top of a rock! What the hell kind of clearance is that, I ask? AND, in case you are wondering, no, there is no 4 wheel drive in reverse. Plus if the front wheels aren’t ON the ground because you are hung on a rock, you have 2 wheel drive any way you add that up!

Why were we in a stream bed you ask? Well, because the dang thing doesn’t have power steering, which means when you run out of so-called road, turning it around requires the muscles of the incredible hulk and a lot of space. And if your Dad doesn’t see the rock because he decides to drive over a very large bush, well, then you end up perched on the top of a rock like a dork. Then when you go forward to get off the rock, you are in sand and the four wheel drive doesn’t work even with me pushing from the front. Luckily, Dad has been stuck before, although never in a golf cart, but he was able to drive up some rocks, get traction and get out.

As we drove back another way, Dad said, “There’s a road somewhere off to the left, but you can’t really see it. We’ll take that back up out of the canyon.”

Wait a minute. If you can’t SEE a road, does that mean it’s really a road??? I’ll tell you the answer. NO. That isn’t a road. That’s a rabbit track with an old mule deer path next to it. Possibly a cow used it. ONCE.

We made it to the cabin. We even got hay in the back of the golf cart. We found the cows and lured them towards the other pasture. The problem was that we were running well over an hour behind, and it was really too hot for the cows to be interested in hay. That time of day smart cows sit under a shade tree.

Dad had me drive while he threw hay, but his bad knee gave out (Gosh, I wonder if kneeling to do tire work had anything to do with that???). So then I threw hay while walking up a mountain and down the other side. That was fine until the soles of my boots came unglued. Now I was flapping along behind that damn golf cart like a duck. The breeze was blowing just enough to cover me in hay. I am telling you I had enough hay on my person to attract most of the cows in the county.

By the time we made it to the water tank, I was tired, starved and more than ready for a break. But the water pump hadn’t stopped like it should have. “Oh, for the love of…”

The float wasn’t working. It was time to play diving for pieces you can’t see in the water tank. I won’t go into the beautiful technical details of how a float works because IT WASN’T WORKING. I can tell you that it would be much easier to fix if you could see it working FIRST and not have to guess how a float actually functions. Sure, I get the IDEA. Cars have a float mechanism in the gas tank (probably digital these days. I don’t know. I’m not terribly interested in floats. In fact, I would rather not HAVE to be interested in floats. EVER.) Anyway, we worked on the float, trying to release it. The release, in case you wondered, is under a foot of water. There’s moss in the water so we are not talking crystal clear, squint a bit water. I’m still not sure we fixed that float, but the water did stop running over.

We pulled under a shade tree and ate the tiny little burritos I had prepared in case we didn’t make it back before lunch. I had occasion to remember why I never travel without food. BECAUSE WE ARE NEVER BACK IN TIME FOR LUNCH.

It was almost possible to enjoy the beauty and near silence of the mountains at that point. We rested. Dad had forgotten his eye drops, but I had some. Sure, we lost the lid to the drops, and we forgot to leave the branding irons at the water tank, but I’m thrilled to say we made it back to the truck on that golf cart. We loaded it and Thank God, we didn’t have another flat on the way out. I was slightly sunburned, but, as you know, Cowboys Covered in Hay do not sunburn very much.


Hiking boots ruined: 1 pair.
Jeans dirty beyond cleaning: 2 pair.
Hand hurt: Dad’s
Knee hurt: Dad’s
Times I was called a city slicker: 4
Times the gate chain got stuck and I could not open the gate: 1
Times we were stuck in golf cart: 2
Time we were stuck with flat: 1

Total score: Wilderness 13, Humans 0

Lessons to remember:
Always pee downhill, don’t spit into the wind, always wear hefty jeans out to the ranch, and load your spare tire where you can easily access it!

Flowers growing at the water tank because with the water flowing over, they got plenty of water!

IMG_0088[1] Dang glorified golf cart.

IMG_0089[1] Water tanks with non-working float. The float is under that panel that is just to the edge of the water.

One of the good roads.

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Posted: June 19, 2015
Filed in Walks in Life
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