This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The ULTIMATE Low Carb Frosted Brownies

NOTE: Low carb eating seems to be healthier because you don't experience the blood sugar spikes and troughs. This is a topic in itself. Let me just say that if you are tired or hungry all the time, or can't seem to lose weight, you may want to consider lowering your carb intake to see if it helps. A good place to start is The Metabolism Miracle by Diane Kress.

After months of experimenting I've found the Holy Grail of Low-Carb Frosted Brownies. My 16 year old son, a picky taster, says these are indistinguishable from my award-winning regular brownies I make for him sometimes for an after-school snack You will be amazed. These are dense, moist, deep chocolate brownies that are incredible.

I use Hershey's Special Dark cocoa -- for best results use this or other Dutch-processed cocoa. The regular cocoa has no taste.

You can get the exotic ingredients (protein powder, almond flour, xylitol or maltilol, sugar-free chocolate chips) at a health food store or online at a company like Netrition.com.

Frosted Brownies
1 cup melted butter or extra-light olive oil
1 cup Splenda
1 cup Xylitol or Maltilol
2 tsp vanilla
4 whole eggs
12 T (3/4 cup) cocoa
3/4 cup protein powder
3/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or put parchment paper in 13x9x2 pan.

Blend butter/oil, Splenda, Xylitol, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Stir in cocoa and protein powder. Stir in almond flour, baking powder, and salt until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into pan, and bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (Don't overbake). Cool and frost with either #1 or #2 frostings.

Frosting #1

This is a quick and easy frosting.

2/3 cup Splenda
2/3 cup protein powder
4 T (1/4 cup) cocoa
1/3 cup butter or olive oil
dash of salt

Mix Splenda, protein powder, cocoa, olive oil, and salt until crumbly. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until smooth. If icing becomes too thin mix in more protein powder. Spread over brownies.

Frosting #2

This makes a creamy frosting that swirls beautifully.

1 cup sugar-free chocolate  chips
2 T milk

Melt chocolate over low heat or double boiler. Add milk and stir until blended. Remove from heat. Blend with handblender until smooth and fluffy, then spread over brownies.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dear Abby Gives Thanks

An interesting book I recently ran across is The Best of Dear Abby. Abigail Van Buren is the pen name of Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips, who was the twin sister of advice columnist Ann Landers (Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer). The twins were born in 1918. Dear Abby developed full blown Alzheimer's disease, and her daughter took over the syndicated name completely in 2002. Ann Landers died in 2002 from multiple myeloma.

Both women became competing advice columnists in their late 30s (1956), Ann in Chicago and Abby in San Francisco. The book, The Best of Dear Abby, reprises many interesting letters and responses, laced with Abby's reminiscences. What I found so fascinating was the dated sense of some of the language's expression and customs (flower children, smoking etc.), of such concern only a few decades ago. Tempest Fugit -- these cultural understandings are fading quickly, even though the underlying human problems remain the same.

I can understand why Abby's zippy responses were so popular. I didn't quite agree with her philosophy demonstrated in some of her answers, but found myself nodding and smiling to many of the things she said.

Below I've posted part of an annual Thanksgiving column that Dear Abby used to post every year. This is worth much reflection.

How's your health? Not so good? Well, thank God you've lived this long. A lot of people haven't. You're hurting? Thousands-maybe millions-are hurting more. (Have you ever visited a veterans' hospital? Or a rehabilitation clinic for crippled children?)

If you awakened this morning and were able to hear the birds sing, use your vocal chords to utter human sounds, walk to the breakfast table on two good legs, and read the newspaper with two good eyes-praise the Lord! A lot of people couldn't.

How's your pocketbook? Thin? Well, most of the living world is a lot poorer. No pensions. No welfare. No food stamps. No Social Security. In fact, one-third of the people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight.

Are you lonely? The way to have a friend is to be one. If nobody calls you, call them. Go out of your way to do something nice for somebody. It's a sure cure for the blues.

Are you concerned about your country's future? Hooray! Our system has been saved by such concern. Concern for honesty in government, concern for peace, and concern for fair play under the law. Your country may not be a rose garden, but it also is not a patch of weeds.

Freedom rings! Look and listen. You can still worship at the church of your choice, cast a secret ballot, and even criticize your government without fearing a knock on the head or a knock at the door at midnight. And if you want to live under a different system, you are free to go. There are no walls or fences-nothing to keep you here.

As a final thought, I'll repeat my Thanksgiving Prayer:

O, heavenly Father: We thank Thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank Thee for freedom and remember the enslaved,
May these remembrances stir us to service
That Thy gifts to us may be used for others.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mixed Metaphors

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse, without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River .

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap,only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Noisy Kittens

I don't know why I like this video so much, but it's really funny and cute. I'd like to adopt these kittens myself! Here's what the poster said:  

7 week old fostered kittens waiting on their dinner being prepared. They had been ill with cat flu and were just starting to get their appetite back. Because of their condition I had to chop their food finely and then add water and their medication to it. Once they were old enough and healthy enough the kittens were eventually re-homed in pairs to two loving families. They were never purposely starved for our entertainment - Cats can be very impatient and demanding!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Father Forgets by W. Livingston Larned

For Father's Day. Think carefully of your words and the moments that you share with your little ones, because they are few.

This essay was originally printed in Reader's Digest. ?Date? The condensed version of this essay is found in Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936.

W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive—and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy—a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Eyes on the Shore

Eyes on the Shore
Steve Goodier

A story is told about a bloodhound chasing a stag.  A fox crossed the path, so the hound chased the fox.  After a while a rabbit crossed the path, so the hound chased it.  Later, a mouse crossed the path and the hound chased the mouse into a hole.  The hound began his hunt on the trail of a magnificent stag and ended up watching a mouse hole!

Not that there is anything wrong with spontaneity.  Some of the most wonderful things have come into my life by beautiful accident.  But there is also something to be said for knowing where we want to go.

Florence Chadwick learned the importance of keeping a goal in mind on July 4, 1952.  She waded into the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island and began swimming toward the California coast 26 miles away.  The day was cold and her attendants drove off sharks throughout the journey.

Florence had already swum the English Channel twice and, if she could finish today, she would be the first woman to have swum both.  But after fifteen hours in the water, for the first and only time in her long-distance swimming career, she gave up and climbed into the escort boat.  Others had urged her on, but in the fog they could not tell her how near she was to the coast.  She later learned that she was less than half a mile from shore.

When asked by a reporter why she gave up, Florence replied:  "It was the fog.  If I could have seen land, I could have finished.  But when you can't see your goal, you lose all sense of progress and you begin to give up."

On a warm, sunny day two months later Florence Chadwick swam the Catalina Channel, handily beating the men's record.  Only when she kept her eyes on the shore did she eventually arrive there.

Keeping that goal constantly in sight will get you where you want to go.

From Your Life Support System, a free newsletter sharing life, love and laughter, published by Steve Goodier.  http://www.lifesupportsystem. com

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Sixth Day of the Sixth Month

Yesterday was the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the Allies' first move to gain a foothold on the main European continent to push back the Nazis.

The invasion of fortified Normandy, France, had originally been planned for June 5, 1944, but because of weather was pushed off for a day. Air assault conducted soon after midnight softened the Nazi entrenchments of Normandy (bridges, road crossings, terrain features and such). The amphibious assault occurred soon after 6 am along five beaches: Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword, and Utah. Germans mowed down soldiers from high cliffs, yet the Allies persisted and were able to establish a beachhead from which they launched their counter-invasion of Europe. This was the largest one-day invasion ever, with more than 130,000 troops landed by the end of June 6.

The casualty rate (killed, wounded, MIA, POW) is estimated to be about 10,000 Allies with about 2500 dead. 

I am humbled thinking about these brave young men going forward in the face of blinding artillery and seemingly certain death in order to free nations from the Nazis' grip. Anyone who has seen that opening scene of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan will have a hard time wiping those (realistically staged) images from his mind.

The WWII generation is quickly dying out. We need to remember the soldiers and civilians, throughout history and into today, who bravely and anonymously patrol, fight, face terrifying conditions, and make wrenching choices in order to improve the lives of others. So much of what we enjoy in this country is due to these sacrifices.

To those who sacrifice, thank you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why. Just Why.

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting  dead?

Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they know there is not enough money?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

W hy does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?

When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, 'It's all right?' Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, 'That really hurt, why don't you watch where you're going?'

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

And my FAVORITE.....The statistics on sanity is that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.