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Dec 31, 2015

To 2016 And Beyond!

How many cats do you see?

 Introducing our newest family members, Loki and Finn (MacCool), 6 months old.

Along with Loki (front) and Finn, we wish you a very erholsam/restful slide into the New Year and that all the dreams you've imagined for the next 365 days (And Beyond! - said with a Buzz Lightyear voice) will come true.

Our newly adopted rescue cats when they were still in hiding. Loki and Finn (aka The Mischief Brothers)
We are celebrating this evening with frozen margaritas and seven layer dip with a side of spanish rice

Seven Layer Dip (meatless version)

The recipe is designed to be spread across a large dinner plate and should serve 4-6 as an appetizer and 2-3 as a main meal. Using a larger decorative platter will also leave room for lining up the tortilla chips or fried tortilla wedges around the edges for a more festive appearance. Feel free to vary quantities according to taste, but don't skimp on the guacamole.

 Layer 1: Refried Beans 

The easiest is to use canned beans or, if available, canned refried beans (the easiest easy). These can also be made from scratch using dried pinto beans or, for something different, black beans. Simply cover the beans in water, add spices as desired, and cook the beans until tender. This does need some prep. Pintos need at least four hours cooking and black beans can take even longer. The beans can be presoaked the night before to speed cooking time. 

Alternatively, with a crock pot (on my wish list), add water, turn it on and forget them for several hours. 

Fry the cooked beans in lard or vegetable shortening or peanut oil (about a tablespoon or two per two cups of beans) until softened. Mash the beans and continue mashing and cooking - if they become too dry add a little bit of water - until they reach the desired consistency (I like mine with some lumps). Option: saute diced onion in the oil before adding the beans. Option 2: Fold in some sliced jalapenos at the end of the cooking time.

Layer 2: Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche

Put two cups of sour cream or creme fraiche in a small bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of taco mix (or make your own - here for example and here) and mix well

Layer 3: Guacamole

The heart and soul of 7 Layer Dip is the guacamole. This is my secret (oops) no-fail guacamole recipe that I learned from a woman I worked with at the UT Medical School in Dallas in my short-lived capacity as medical secretary many many years ago. I wish I could remember her name so I could thank her properly. The avocados must be perfectly ripe. Peel the avocados (need at least two, possibly more depending on size so you end up with a cup and a half - more is certainly okay - I've never ever had any leftover guacamole). Mash them in a bowl, add some finely diced green onion (optional), just a teaspoon or two of chopped and seeded tomato, a few squeezes of fresh lime juice, salt and hacked up cilantro leaves to taste and mix well. Be sure to keep this away from family members until ready to spread onto the dip.

Layer 4: Cheese

Use a good cheese such as a piquant Gouda or well-aged Cheddar or a good Mexican cheese if you can get it. Mozarella also works but is taste-neutral. Shred the cheese until you have a good cup and a half or even two.

Layer 5: Olives

Chopped and seed black olives, a half a cup or so

Layer 6: Lettuce and/or Cucumber

Shred the lettuce finely and, if desired, add a few tablespoons of finely diced cucumber to give about two cups

Layer 7: Tomatoes

Chopped and seeded tomatoes, at least two cups. Option: finely diced green onion can be mixed in with the tomatoes


Spread the refried beans onto the plate or platter to form a layer a bare centimeter thick. Spread the sour cream/creme fraiche on top. Follow this with the guacamole. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the guacamole. The rest of the layers can be sprinkled on as you like. But the order of the layers given here are the way I usually throw it together. The tomatoes on the top give the finished dish a nice color. Warning: the dish will only look good for about the first 30 seconds before everyone begins to demolish it. Give everyone a small plate to pile some dip on and pass around some good quality (plain salted) tortilla chips or deep fried corn tortilla wedges to use as dip utensils. The round chips seem to work the best.

Some people add a layer of ground beef between the beans and sour cream. When adding meat, divide the taco mix between the beef and the sour cream.

For frozen margaritas, this is a simple but excellent recipe and this one is sweeter because it uses a sugar syrup.


Dec 21, 2015

The Schattenreich: Heinrich's Songs (2)

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful holiday season.   

Love Never Gives Up
Heinrich von der Lahn

If Death takes us down, take it again.
You have to believe in the power
When you have no better way.
When destiny strikes the hour,
The gods will have their say.

And Death takes us down.
The shape of things to come
Is hidden from us all.
While the promise of dark wisdom,
Keeps you in its thrall.

Hold the one who matters near.
Let her drink from your cup.
Through your sorrow and your fear,
Love never gives up.

Death marks us all.
It’s his duty and his right.
Yet we must walk his road
Without an end in sight.
The past weighs our load.

Though Death marks us all,
That is not where it ends.
Life’s load makes us sway
With its twists and bends.
But Love’s light shows the way.

Hold the one who matters near.
She will share your poison cup.
Through your sorrow and your fear,
Love never gives up.

Hold the one who matters near.
Musn’t be easy to be good.
We will find our way back to each other.
Never fear Ankou’s wood.
The years may pass, but our love never will because
Love never gives up.
Love never gives up.

photo credits:

my wooden heart via photopin (license)

 Fisheye Snowscape via photopin (license)

Brittany Tree, Klaus-G. Hinzen, 2013

Dec 4, 2015

Amazon giveaway of Primary Fault!

Not yet read Primary Fault, Book 1 of the Schattenreich series?

Book 1 of the Schattenreich:
a tale of seismology, druids and an evil blonde

Now's your CHANCE  (link goes to Amazon giveaway page) to win 1 of 5 copies of the paperback version! U.S: addresses only (sorry! it's an Amazon restriction.)


Even if you don't win, the ebook is on sale for $0.99 (links below) from now UNTIL JANUARY 1ST.

trade paperback 
(to purchase - see link above to have a chance to win a copy)

Amazon (global link)
Apple ibooks

additional links at

Dec 1, 2015

The Schattenreich Extras: Caitlin von der Lahn in an exclusive interview!

Caitlin von der Lahn, the attractive and elusive mistress of Burg Lahn, has granted an exclusive interview with Anna Sturm for the Cologne Morgenpost. Frau Sturm, prime time news correspondent and freelance journalist reveals she has a personal connection to Freifrau von der Lahn, who consented to talk about some of her recent experiences.

STURM: Hi Caitie. Thanks for agreeing to talk to me. You're positively glowing with health. And that charming pinafore dress makes you look like you're on the verge of turning twenty. Pregnancy does become you.

VON DER.LAHN: Hi Anna. Thanks for the compliments! I'm feeling great. Spring in Germany, especially at Burg Lahn, does that to me. All that life that goes away in winter, returns. It's a heady experience.

STURM: And let me congratulate you on your recent victory. It must have felt like quite a triumph.

VON DER LAHN: Victory? Well, life has become a little easier. Goodness knows carrying triplets is a weighty enough affair. I'm glad to be able to get on with just concentrating on that and not having to listen to taunts of being the Hexe of Burg Lahn on a daily basis.

STURM: Have they stopped?

VON DER LAHN: Will they ever? You know how superstitious people are in the Rhineland. I've had to learn it firsthand!

STURM: You've turned down every request for an interview up until now. Since the surprising revelation of your relationship to Kilhian ar C'hoed and his own revelations, I think most everyone is eager to know more about it.

VON DER LAHN: No one was more surprised than me - except maybe for Kilhian. But you'd have to ask him about that. It's unsettling to suddenly find out you've got relations that you had no clue about.

STURM: Yes...I imagine so. But is there anything you can tell us about what transpired behind-the-scenes? How did you get Herr ar C'hoed to agree to come out in the open about his dealings with Dagmar Abel? And how did it come about that her sister----

VON DER LAHN: (clears throat) Half-sister. As I said, you'd have to ask Kilhian about all that. Have you tried to reach him? I'm sure he'd love to come out in the open about so many things.

STURM: Haven't yet tried to reach him, no. To be honest I'm more interested in your take on things. I mean, this whole thing started back when they accused your...when they accused Augustus Schwarzbach of attempted rape and murder. And Frau Abel's involvement in that was never proven.

VON DER LAHN: No, it wasn't. But I learned from Gus many years ago that the best way to handle trouble, especially serious trouble, is not to dwell on it overmuch. Don't you agree? I have to admit that I do, on occasion, have  problems following through with this advice. But long hot showers and taking action helps. Well, you and I certainly know how to go about taking action. (smiles) Bless our hearts!

STURM: We've dealt well together, it's a fact. Action is a better way of dealing with a great many things. A good reporter can't wait for the stories to come to her.

VON DER LAHN: And a good scientist must accept the data at hand, even if it seems unpleasant or the problems insurmountable.

STURM: You've certainly had your share of trouble lately.

VON DER LAHN: I am learning to take the good with the bad. If I constructed a histogram of all the good things that have happened to me since I moved to Germany and compared it a histogram of the bad things, then I think----

STURM:  We don't have room for any graphs in this article, I'm afraid.

VON DER LAHN: Hey, no problem.

STURM: I have one last question. It's a little awkward, but if you don't want to answer it...

VON DER LAHN: Out with it, Anna.

STURM: There seems to be a rumor of someone, people are calling him the Lord of the Dead of all things, stalking you.

VON DER LAHN: (creases brow, frowns, then smiles brightly) As I said, these kinds of rumors will likely never cease. Why I never...maybe it's one of those leftover Karneval gags.

STURM: (laughing) No, from what I've heard, from the official rumor mills, he's going for something much older than Gothic. Late Iron Age, maybe, you know, some kind of Nordic thing.

VON DER LAHN: Sounds oddly romantic in a scary supernatural kind of way. But a stalker, no, I'd surely have noticed that. I'm certainly not afraid of Death, wouldn't do much good anyway... (looks away)

STURM: Another mystery. They seem to surround you.

VON DER LAHN: Do you think so? I reckon it's something I could cultivate. Imagine that, me being mysterious. I'd dearly love to have such an image. But honestly, I'm just an expatriate Texan, trying to learn how to manage daily life in a castle near the Rhine and prepare for the big changes that come with having children.

STURM: Hmm. Maybe someday we'll learn The Full Story.

Book 5, the conclusion to The Schattenreich series

The Full Story: AVAILABLE NOW! In trade paperback
and ebook:

Amazon (global link)
Nook (Barnes & Noble)
Apple ibooks

Other links at

 BONUS! To celebrate the completion of the series, the ebook of Book 1 of the series, Primary Fault, is on sale for the entire month of December for $0.99.

Here's where it all began, Book 1 of the Schattenreich series
trade paperback
Amazon (global link)
Apple ibooks

additional links at