Looking up at the constellation Orion

Tonight – or any January evening – look for the constellation Orion the Hunter. It’s probably the easiest to pick out of all the constellations in the winter sky. It’s identifiable by Orion’s Belt, three medium-bright stars in a short, straight row at the mid-section of the Hunter. See these stars? They are easy to spot on the sky’s dome. As seen from mid-northern latitudes, you’ll find Orion in the southeast at early evening and shining high in the south by late evening (around 10 to 11 p.m. local time). If you live at temperate latitudes to the south of the equator, you’ll see Orion high in your northern sky at this hour. Pick out Orion’s Belt and the nearby bright stars in that part of the sky, and you’ve probably found Orion.

orion-sky

Stars in distinct constellations like Orion look connected, perhaps even gravitationally bound, but usually they aren’t. Certainly Orion’s stars aren’t bound to each other by anything but their general location near one another along a single line of sight from Earth. The stars of Orion just happen to make an easy visual pattern on our sky’s dome.

Meanwhile, the stars in Orion and most other constellations are located at vastly different distances from each other. For example, notice the two brightest stars in Orion—Betelgeuse and Rigel.  Betelgeuse is estimated to be located 522 light-years away, while Rigel’s distance is 773 light-years.

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Did you attend a New Year’s Eve Celebration?

In spite of our soggy, rainy weather Southern Californians came out last night to celebrate.  There were thousands of  parties to attend, bands to listen to, fireworks to see, champagne to drink, and lots of hugs and kisses.

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Here were some ways SoCal brought in the New Year:

1. LONG BEACH: Queen Mary New Year’s Eve: Three and a half acres of the ship’s deck  themed areas.
LONG BEACH: New Year’s Eve Party on Pine with bands and party time.
2. BUENA PARK: New Year’s Eve at Knott’s Berry Farm with Fireworks Show, bands and dancing.
3. COSTA MESA: OC WinterFest New Year’s Eve party with fireworks.
4. ANAHEIM: Disneyland’s New Year’s Eve Fantasy In The Sky Fireworks Spectacular.
6. FULLERTON: First Night. Free Downtown Fullerton street party with bands. Kids bounce houses, small train, face painting and balloon art, food and Fireworks Show at midnight.
7. MARINA DEL REY: New Year’s Eve Celebration with Fireworks. Free event.
8. AVALON: Annual gala with Big Band, formal attire and spectacular bay views from Historic Casino Ballroom.
9. BIG BEAR LAKE: Torchlight Parade held annually on the ski slopes to celebrate the New Year.
10. TEMECULA: Old Town Temecula New Year’s Eve Party with Grape Drop, kids activities and family fun.

Spaghetti with Sausage alla Carbonara– something new with pasta!

Today I asked my husband for a dinner suggestion, and he suggested this–

SPAGHETTI WITH SAUSAGE ALLA CARBONARA

spaghetti-and-sausage-carbonara

INGREDIENTS

·         1 pound sweet Italian sausage

·         1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

·         1 tablespoon unsalted butter

·         1 medium onion, sliced thin

·         1 ½ teaspoons pepper

·         2 bay leaves

·         ½ cup dry white wine

·          Salt

·         1 pound spaghetti

·         3 large eggs

·         ¼ cup pecorino Romano

PREPARATION

FOR THE SPAGHETTI WITH SAUSAGE ALLA CARBONARA

1.   Remove casings from sausage. Using a knife, a fork or your hands on a cutting board, break meat into small pieces. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook on medium-low just until translucent.

2.   Add sausage, mashing and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it is uniformly crumbly and has lost its pinkness. Stir in the pepper and bay leaves. Add wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and discard bay leaves. Season meat to taste with salt.

3.   Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large serving bowl with hot water or warm it in a low oven. Lightly beat the eggs in a small dish. Just before pasta is done, return pan with sausage to low heat. When pasta is done, slowly beat about a tablespoon of pasta water into eggs. Then drain the pasta.

4.   Transfer sausage to warm serving bowl. Pour spaghetti on top and toss it with the sausage, slowly adding the beaten eggs. Add salt to taste and fold in the pecorino.

What is it about reindeer that spread holiday smiles?

Have you noticed all the reindeer inspired candlesticks, pillows, mugs, hats, slippers, and sweaters? It’s all fun and reindeer games this season with these whimsical finds inspired by Santa’s furry friends.

Beyond their sled-pulling capabilities and discrimination towards those with red noses, what do you really know about reindeer?

REINDEER AND CARIBOU ARE THE SAME THING.

Historically, the European/Asian reindeer and American Caribou were considered to be different species, but they are actually one and the same. There are two major groups of reindeer, the tundra and the woodland, which are divided according to the type of region the animal lives in, not their global location. The animals are further divided into subspecies, ranging from nine to thirteen depending on who is doing the classification. At least one subspecies, the Arctic Reindeer, is already extinct.

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Election Night– goat cheese tartlets

Are you hosting or attending an election night party? Here’s what I’m making– Goat Cheese Tartlets with spiced apple-fig compote.  This recipe serves 30.

tartlets

Ingredients

  • 30 item(s) mini phyllo shell(s)
  • 1/3 cup(s) fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 5 1/3 Tbsp soft-type goat cheese, softened (1/3 cup)
  • 1 item(s) egg white(s)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, coarsely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup(s) jam, fig variety
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup(s) mint leaves, fresh, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange phyllo shells on a cookie sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, goat cheese, egg white, honey and flour until thick and creamy, about 5 to 6 minutes; spoon 1 teaspoon of filling in each shell. Bake until set, about 15 minutes; remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine apple, jam and allspice; set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until jam melts and mixture thickens slightly (juice from apples will evaporate); remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Just before serving, spoon 1 teaspoon apple compote onto each tart; garnish with mint. Yields 1 tartlet per serving

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Feral cats in Hawaii spell disaster for the endangered monk seal.

Did you see this on Newser today? The feral cat population has exploded in Hawaii, where they are not native and face no natural predators—and this could spell disaster for the endangered monk seal. That’s because cat poop often contains a parasite called Toxoplasmosa gondii, and when sewage and polluted runoff carry the infected feces to the ocean, it can prove lethal, reports Scientific American. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that eight Hawaiian monk seals have succumbed to the disease since 2001, which is a sizable number given that 1,100 are estimated to be alive today in the wild. The same bacteria have also killed California sea otters and helped send the Hawaiian crow into extinction, reports the Christian Science Monitor. For feral cats a trap-neuter-return project is going on.

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My WIP heroine owns a bloodhound– what a wonderful breed.

Besides the enjoyment of plotting and penning a story, I enjoy character development and “giving things to the character” that are useful to them.  In my work-in-progress, Unholy Alliance, the heroine, Tori, is searching for her cousin. (These two people appear briefly in Deadly Alliance.)  Tori’s dog, Sherlock, is retired from law enforcement.

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I researched the bloodhound prior to writing Sherlock into my story. According to legend, the Bloodhound was first bred in two variations: black and white. The blacks, first developed by monks at the St. Hubert Monastery in Belgium around the 8th century, and were later imported into England by William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D. In the 12th century, many English dignitaries began using these dogs as hunting companions, referred to as “blooded hounds,” indicating their noble breeding and pure blood.

In the United States, Bloodhounds were recognized in the mid-1800s, again for its ability to trace a scent — helping their human masters track criminals or lost persons. (Once the Bloodhound locates a person, it never attacks him/her.) Today, the Bloodhound is considered a great and loyal companion.

Greek burgers– new take on a summer classic!

Fall in love with a burger all over again.  Here’s my recipe for Greek turkey burgers using refrigerated Pillsbury French bread dough–

Greek burger

Ingredients

1 can (11 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crusty French loaf

8 oz fat-free plain Greek yogurt or regular yogurt (3/4 cup)

1/4 cup finely diced peeled cucumber

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Dash salt

Dash black pepper

1 lb lean ground turkey

2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil

1 block (6 oz) reduced-fat feta cheese, cut into 6 (2×1 1/2×1/2-inch thick) pieces

6 lettuce leaves

Steps

  • 1 of 5Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Cut loaf of dough crosswise into 6 pieces to make buns. Place buns, seam sides down and 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Cut 2 (1/2-inch-deep) slashes in top of each bun. Bake 19 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
  • 1 of 5Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Cut loaf of dough crosswise into 6 pieces to make buns. Place buns, seam sides down and 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Cut 2 (1/2-inch-deep) slashes in top of each bun. Bake 19 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
  • 1 of 5Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Cut loaf of dough crosswise into 6 pieces to make buns. Place buns, seam sides down and 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Cut 2 (1/2-inch-deep) slashes in top of each bun. Bake 19 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
  • 2 of 5Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, lemon juice and dash of salt and pepper; refrigerate.
  • 3 of 5In medium bowl, mix turkey, garlic, onion, parsley, seasoned salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Shape mixture into 12 patties, about 3 inches in diameter. Place one piece of cheese on each of 6 patties; top with remaining patties. Pinch edges to seal well.
  • 4 of 5In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add patties; cook 5 minutes on each side. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 3 minutes each side or until burgers have dark brown, caramelized appearance and thermometer inserted in center of turkey (not cheese) reads 165°F.
  • 5 of 5Cut buns horizontally in half. Place 1 tablespoon yogurt sauce on bottom of each bun; top with lettuce leaf, burger and top of bun. Secure each sandwich with toothpick; serve with remaining sauce. If desired, serve with frozen green beans & almonds.
  • Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Cut loaf of dough crosswise into 6 pieces to make buns. Place buns, seam sides down and 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Cut 2 (1/2-inch-deep) slashes in top of each bun. Bake 19 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, lemon juice and dash of salt and pepper; refrigerate.
  • In medium bowl, mix turkey, garlic, onion, parsley, seasoned salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Shape mixture into 12 patties, about 3 inches in diameter. Place one piece of cheese on each of 6 patties; top with remaining patties. Pinch edges to seal well.
  • In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add patties; cook 5 minutes on each side. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 3 minutes each side or until burgers have dark brown, caramelized appearance and thermometer inserted in center of turkey (not cheese) reads 165°F.
  • Cut buns horizontally in half. Place 1 tablespoon yogurt sauce on bottom of each bun; top with lettuce leaf, burger and top of bun. Secure each sandwich with toothpick; serve with remaining sauce. If desired, serve with frozen green beans & almonds.

Hem pants like a pro– no sewing

Have you heard of fusion tape? This is a hemming trick I like.  Who wants to spend their time stitching? For this project, all you need are scissors, fusion tape, and an iron. I did this today, making pegged leg jeans into cute capris. You cut the fabric, fold it, tape it on the underside an iron over your crease on a warm temperature.  Let it cool and iron again.  Your hem will stay in place even after going into the washing machine. I don’t recommend this for chiffon or silk– those sheer fabrics need to be hemmed by hand.

fusion tape