Sunday Sabbatical

It’s not quite a sabbatical, but, well. Alliteration. Anyway! I thought I’d have posts scheduled for this week, but between Fair kicking my ass on Monday, preparing for my in-laws to arrive on Tuesday, and RECOVERING from Fair kicking my ass (chronic illness = loooooong recovery times), I’ve done very little reading. Very little reading = nothing to review! So I won’t be posting much this week – I don’t even know if there will be a Library Loot Wednesday or a Friday 56, and those are two of my easiest posts!

minecraft
This might also be influenced by finding out a good friend of ours really likes Minecraft, so we’ve set up a modded server (he’s always played vanilla!) and I miiiiiight be spending a little too much time on that. Whoops. It’s a little less brain-intensive than reading, though, and that’s what I’ve needed this week.

I won’t get much reading done this coming week, because the in-laws will be here. So this might be close to a two-week break, but I’ll reassess on Sunday, a week from today, and we’ll see. i'll be back

Survival Sunday

So I’ve talked about this project in passing a few times, but I thought I’d go a little more in depth on what I’m doing with my Survival Library. (So when you see it mentioned, you’ll know what I mean. I’ll probably link back to this post in the future.) Today is going to be quite the departure from my usual fantasy, young adult, and minority-driven reading, so – hold on to your hats!

hold onto your hat

I’ve got some very low-grade general anxiety. Like most millennials, I suppose. I worry about the future. Between climate change, economic uncertainty, political stupidity, and my own chronic health issues (that necessitate a certain diet and medications) – the future is bleak.

end is near

My friends and I often spend time speculating what we’ll do if society collapses. We have some friends with a large house and a few acres, who is next door to 30-some vacant acres of farmland; we’ve mostly decided we’ll all be flocking to their house and setting up a co-op. So then we start cataloging all the skills of our friends. We have leatherworkers, potters, weavers – we know one person who knows how to take wool from “sheep to shirt” AND has a lot of canning and food preserving knowledge, so we’ll be nabbing him immediately! My husband can brew, distill, shoot, cook, bake, as well as just be an able-bodied person.

So what do I bring to the table? I’m a chronically ill introvert who reads a lot.

i have no skills

We’ve decided that’s my role. I’m the librarian and keeper of knowledge. Because if society collapses, we have to assume the internet does too. Books will be important.

books best weapons

To bring all these bits together, planning and collecting a “Survival Library” of books about useful skills keeps my general anxiety in check so I don’t wind up with three pallets of MREs in my basement. I’ve made some book lists, though I’m still adding to them, and I’ve decided buying one book a month for the survival library will build it up fairly quickly but also cheaply. I have the lists on both Goodreads and Riffle – but Riffle lets me add notes about the books right in the list, so that will probably be where I’ll have the most information about them. As I pick up books, I’ll write a few sentences about each book and why it’s on the list. (Riffle also currently has my Polyamory Book List, my Activism/Civil Rights list, and my LGBTQIA+ list) It’s a big project, but it’s a simple way to keep my mental health up, and it could someday be useful.

maybe someday

So when I say Survival Library, that’s what I mean! I have several categories.

  • Homemaking involves things like making soap and candles and home goods, sewing, and pottery.
  • Gardening is the obvious, plus some aquaponics.
  • Construction includes building things from fences to sheds to houses to kilns.
  • Utilities are books on clean water, electricity from sources like windmills and solar, heat, refrigeration, and plumbing.
  • Cooking Skills and Recipes is what it says, plus canning, preserving, brewing, distilling, and foraging.
  • Animal Husbandry is the obvious. Mostly normal farm animals, but also books on dogs and cats, since I’m sure there will be pets too. Also beekeeping.
  • Medical Books are just that. If society collapses, we can’t just go see a doctor. We’ll need some medical knowledge, and we don’t actually have any doctors, veterinarians, or dentists in our immediate friend circle. That’s one big skill we’re lacking. It’s also not a very big list yet, because I don’t know what would be good books for it!
  • General Books are books that cover such a wide range of topics they’re hard to otherwise categorize.
  • Background skills are books on big topics. Biology. Geology. Meteorology. Geography. I have a lot of local interest books in this category as well. History of the area will help to know what to expect in the future.

I may create more categories in the future, or separate out lists into micro-categories if they get too big, but this is what I have so far. I only own about twenty of these books so far, and those are mostly in the gardening and cooking categories, which is why the lists are currently in just list mode, with no notes. Once I have enough knowledge about the individual books, I’ll go through and add notes about them. I’m sure I will be adding books, too!

more books

This is basically a giant expansion of my Homesteading Book List. I’m not sure if I’ll incorporate these book lists into the blog itself eventually or if I’ll keep them externally hosted, but Riffle is definitely their main home for now.

Does anyone else discuss with their friends what they’ll do when society collapses, whether that be from climate change, politics, or zombies? (Hope it’s not the last one – I’m too slow!) Have any suggestions or feedback for my lists?

Sunday Stress

Hoooooo boy.

I titled this Sunday Stress because – wow.

So much going on.

stressed2
Stressor #1:
Today is the second day of the first weekend of the Maryland Renaissance Fair. My husband is out working at our friend’s booth today; I’ll be out on Labor Day, and then not again for a few weeks until it cools down some. Though this weekend is gorgeous weather, we didn’t know that ahead of time, so I’m not on the schedule to work. Husband will be working one day of most of the weekends of Fair, though he has a couple weekends entirely off.

Stressor #2: Husband’s other partner (we’re polyamorous, they’ve been together for – five years or so) just got a job here in Baltimore; they’ve been living in Pennsylvania this entire time. So they’ve been visiting this weekend, and will be back in a couple of weeks to start the job, staying with us until they get permanent housing figured out. This is primarily a stressor because they and I are so different; they’re an extrovert and very spontaneous, I’m an introvert that needs things to be planned. So we grate on each other A LOT. And they’ll be living with us for….I’m not sure how long. Hopefully only a couple of weeks.

Stressor #3: Husband’s parents are coming to visit the second week of September. I love my in-laws, they’re great, but the house tends to turn into a bit of a mess during Fair season, and we have a few rooms upstairs, including the guest room, that aren’t completely put together yet (we bought the house in March) so getting everything in order before they get here is weighing on me.

stressed
AND ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME. Part of the reason it’s so stressful is that we’ve had no control over any of these dates; Fair is always these times. The in-laws’ visit has been arranged for a while now. Cedar’s job starts when it starts. No control.

I did realize that the Barnes & Noble Young Adult book club is meeting one evening while the in-laws and Cedar are all likely to be here – so I’m going to read that book, and go take an hour or so for myself away from everyone and talk about books with strangers. The book they’re discussing is I’m Not Dying With You Tonight, and I picked it up from my library yesterday.

I’m not entirely sure what all this will mean for the blog. I may be running around like a cat with the zoomies, trying to get everything the way I want it before people arrive, and so not getting my reading done, OR I might be hiding from the stress in books and reading more than normal! I’m hoping to hit a nice middle ground but…well we’ll see, won’t we?nap

 

Copycat Gluten Free Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies

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Oh, I know this is a book blog, not a recipe blog, but I absolutely have to share this one. I’m not going to make you scroll with a long-ass story to get to the recipe, just a very quick why of it. One of our friends brought Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme pies to a D&D session recently, and it had me drooling. Unbeknownst to me, my husband went looking for copycat recipes to see if we could make a gluten-free version, but all the copycat recipes were big chunky oatmeal cookies and buttercream. Which is SO not right. Little Debbie’s pies are molasses based, with marshmallow fluff! So we set out to make our own, and OH MY GOD DID WE NAIL IT.

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I have the recipe here for Molasses-Oatmeal Cookies, and a link to the Marshmallow Fluff recipe, which we only added a pinch of salt to. The cookies can be made gluten free or with regular flour. This is a big batch – we got three dozen sandwiches.

Molasses-Oatmeal Cookies with Marshmallow Fluff (Copycat Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie cookies)

1 cup Oat Flour (I pulsed some gluten-free oats in a small food processor until they were mostly flour.)

3 1/2 cups Other Flours (you can use all-purpose here, or your favorite gluten-free all-purpose blend; I used 1 cup almond meal, 1 cup tigernut flour, 1 cup of an all-purpose blend, and 1/2 cup of sweet rice flour.)

1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light because that’s what I had; dark would give it more molasses flavor, though)
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  1. Throw the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of your favorite stand mixer, beat until it’s fluffy – about two minutes or so.
  2. While those are creaming, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, spices, down through the salt) and whisk together.
  3. Pour molasses into your creamed butter and sugar and whip it again until fluffy looking again. (You can taste it here, it’s delicious! Not that I don’t sneak more of it at the end when there are eggs in it anyway…)
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture, about a cup at a time, beating on slow speed each time until incorporated.
  6. At this point you’ll have a very soft, somewhat sticky dough. Dump this into a bowl and shove it in the fridge for at least an hour, but not more than two. You don’t want it too hard to scoop. (Alternately, if you do this ahead of time and chill it overnight, just pull it out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for a bit to warm up and soften a little.)
  7. Use this chilling time to make the Marshmallow Fluff. The only change we made here was adding a pinch of salt at the very end, after it was whipped. (Because we only have one mixer bowl, and you don’t want any fat left in it before making the fluff, we washed it thoroughly after the cookies and wiped it with vinegar, then washed it again.)
  8. Preheat your oven to 350, and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper (silicon sheets would probably work too, but I love my parchment paper!)
  9. Scoop the dough out with a portion scoop; after some trial and error, the 1 Tablespoon scoop makes the perfect sized cookies for this. I know that sounds small, but trust me on this. (I like to use my biggest scoop for cookies, so believe me when I say you really do want your smallest one here!)
  10. Scoop out dough, dump into your hand, roll it into a ball, put it on the sheet. DO NOT FLATTEN. They will flatten themselves in the oven! I got 12 cookies per sheet. Make sure you let the sheets cool before putting another batch of cookies on them each time. Hot cookie sheets = more spread on your cookies, and they already cook up pretty flat!
  11. Bake for 10 minutes. No more, no less. This is the perfect softness. (You might have to cook longer if you made bigger cookies.)
  12. Let cool. Now we’re on to Assembly!

We took a couple hour break here, as baking cookies is always the most tiring part of the process. This also let them cool completely. Then we took the cookies, the fluff, and an off-set spatula and a spoon over to the dining table and made sandwiches!

Handle the cookies carefully; they are quite soft and will bend or break if you press too hard. This is how you want them! Just be gentle. Each sandwich gets about 2 Tablespoons of Fluff. Just eyeball it. You might taste-test a couple to see how much fluff you like in your sandwiches. I certainly won’t tell! I spread the fluff out on a cookie before topping it with another; my husband liked to dollop it in the middle, then squish it out to the edges with the cookie he put on top. It is up to you! We had a few extra cookies left over when we’d gotten all the way through the fluff, but this is a delicious recipe even without the fluff, so that’s certainly not a hardship!

I am SO HAPPY to have gluten free oatmeal creme pies. I LOVE these cookies. And this marshmallow creme is TO DIE FOR, too. You could certainly make a double-batch of it and eat the remainder by the spoonful. I’ll admit I was kinda sad we didn’t have any left over!

 

Short Hiatus until August

As you may have noticed, I’ve missed a couple of days this week. It’s just me behind this blog, so posting every day is sometimes a stretch, but it’s usually pretty doable.

However.

Summer is always bad for me – I don’t go into detail about my chronic illnesses much, but I have a couple of autoimmune diseases, which have the cumulative effect of giving me a LOT of fatigue, pain everywhere if I exert myself too much, and an extreme intolerance to heat, as the main inconveniences. This translates into sleeping for ten hours or so at night, dozing off whenever I try to read, and aching if I sit in my computer chair too long, aggravated in the summer when it’s warm. I’d probably just lay down and die if I didn’t have air conditioning.

So my library books are piling up, and every time I sit down to read I fall asleep instead. If I can’t read, I can’t review! Top Ten Tuesdays require time spent at the computer typing, as does cross-posting reviews to various places. Doing that too long makes my shoulder ache, and our office is the warmest room in the house, so on hot days that’s just impossible. Thanks to Feedly, I can blog hop on my phone, so I’ve actually been doing more of that lately. (This post on Reader Voracious helped me get that set up!)

I have a doctor appointment coming up soon; I’m hoping to change my meds and maybe fix this fatigue. (And perhaps the pain in my shoulder.)

I’ll still be active on Twitter – I have in fact started a second Twitter account just for the ridiculousness of inserting “yeet” into famous quotes. (If that sounds like your brand of weirdness, it’s @JustYeetThings.) And I have some books I’m really excited about, so I’m hoping to get some reading down, even if it’s slow. But I’m going to take a semi-hiatus until at least August 1st. (I still have Library Loot posts scheduled, and I might still do Top Ten Tuesdays and -maybe- a Friday 56.) But there won’t be any reviews for a bit.

I miss feeling AWAKE.

 

Book Review: Dark Lycan

dark lycanDark Lycan
by Christine Feehan
Paranormal Romance
384 pages
Published 2013

Oof. It has been a weekend, folks. The husband woke up with severe vertigo Saturday morning, and we wound up in the ER most of Sunday for it. Verdict is an inner ear problem (go see a specialist!) and slight dehydration. That took seven hours? So after a full day of worrying about him Saturday, and seven hours ferrying him around a hospital Sunday, I am EXHAUSTED. So this is going to be a quick one.

Dark Lycan is the twenty-first (!!!) book in the Dark series, Christine Feehan’s epic world of Carpathians and vampires. And yes, they’re different. I don’t think that number counts her “Wild” books, on leopard shifters, even though they exist in the same world. Dark Lycan introduces (I think, it’s possible they were mentioned in an earlier book, but I don’t recall them) a new species, the Lycans. Lycans are to werewolves as Carpathians are to vampires.

I suppose I should explain that.

Vampires are Carpathians that have given up their souls. They are almost invariably men, because male Carpathians eventually lose the ability to feel emotions and see colors (the better to be hunters of vampires, often their former friends and family) unless they find their lifemate. This is where the paranormal romance comes in. Each book is a story of a Carpathian finding his lifemate and “claiming” her. It’s an ancient ritual that binds their souls together, giving them a telepathic and empathic connection and involves a lot of sex and exchanging blood and yadda yadda yadda basic vampire erotica.

The Dark series is a bit formulaic – dominant powerful hero, sassy heroine that doesn’t know what he’s capable of, outside danger to them both, instant love because she brings color back to his world and he has a primal need to bind her and have sex with her and yeah. I’d stopped reading several years back (and I had a TON of these books!) because I was a bit tired of the near-chauvinism and almost-forced sex storylines. But I wanted some mindless guilty pleasure and the Dragonseeker bloodline (a specific family line of Carpathians had always intrigued me. So I picked this up and was pleasantly surprised. Fenris didn’t force Tatijana – on the contrary, he didn’t want to bind them. (Maybe Feehan’s modernizing slightly?)

Feehan’s strength, I think, is in introducing characters whose love stories you want to read. In this book we see a bit more of Fenris’ brother and his lifemate, who is also not yet bound, and they’ve been a slow-burn through several books because I remember them from when I stopped reading, a couple books before this one! This book also introduces Tatijana’s sister, and the man who will be her lifemate – but he’s a Lycan, so that’s…strange. The normal formula is that the man is always a Carpathian, but the woman isn’t always. She can be converted (because they do work off standard vampire mythos) so I assume that’s what they’ll do to her lifemate? Anyway, I’ve learned those two couples are the next two books, so I’ve put holds on those at the library because now I’m hooked again!

Side note: I thought this was going to be a quick paragraph or two fired off, but then I started talking about the background and – well I used to really love these books. Apparently.

So. In Dark Lycan we introduce the Lycans, have a new, real partnership between equals, and actually have a bit LESS explicit sex than I’m used to seeing in the Dark books. Cool. The pacing was a little weird, but the combat with vampires is never really the point of the books, it’s the romance and the feelings and the sex, so whatever. These aren’t great literature. They’re hot fluff when you need to turn your brain off for a while (and maybe turn other things on).

If you like Paranormal Romance, and don’t mind your heroes very dominant and rather forceful, you’d probably enjoy this series. I’d recommend starting at the beginning, though, because all the characters and background history would be VERY confusing to someone that hasn’t learned it through the books. Goodreads has them listed in order.

From the cover of Dark Lycan:

Tatijana of the Dragonseekers spent centuries encased in ice with her sister, trapped in limbo between life and death, never speaking to a soul other than those who tormented her. Now, she has been freed from her frozen prison by an unknown descendant. Awakened in human form, Tatijana yearns to explore the modern world in which she now lives – a world with more mysteries than she is prepared for.

Fenris Dalka has returned to the Carpathian Mountains after a long absence to be with his brother. He is scarred by centuries of battle, and every hard-won victory has been stamped into his bones. But the real reason for his return home could prove deadly if discovered by the wrong man – or woman. Upon his arrival, he is compelled by a beautiful and enigmatic stranger who carries the scent of fresh earth, of forest, of the night itself.

In time Tatijana and Fenris will discover all that unites them – their secrets and pasts, their predators, and the hot flash of passion that stirs their souls. Yet just as surely, seduced into the silvery darkness of a full-moon night, they’ll also discover everything ancient and evil that exists to destroy them.