Thursday, March 17, 2016

Diabetes-friendly "Almost" Sugar-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Back in September I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It was, as it is for many people, a devastating discovery and it's been a hard road. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm learning to manage it. Of course, this means finding substitutions for a lot of carb-y treats I used to love (I'll be revisiting my lembas recipe to work on how to make that more Type 2 friendly soon as well).

One of my favorite things in the world is chocolate chip cookies. How could I live without them? Well, fortunately, I don't have to. Here's a recipe I've cooked up for diabetes-friendly chocolate chunk cookies that are almost sugar free. I say "almost" because there's a tablespoon of molasses in the recipe. But that's for the entire recipe. So with that disclaimer, here we go.

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Splenda (you can use Stevia if you like)
  • 1 Tbsp Molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. (2 bags) Hershey's Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Mini Bars
  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. (This is the fun part) Take a plumber's mallet or meat tenderizer to the two bags of dark chocolate bars. You don't want to powder them, but give 'em a good beating to turn them into chunks. I actually use a Slap-Chop, which works great!
  3. Place the coconut oil in the microwave for 1 minute or until it liquefies
  4. Combine coconut oil, Splenda, molasses, eggs and vanilla in a bowl, whisk until smooth.
  5. Combine almond meal, baking soda and salt in another large mixing bowl. 
  6. Stir wet ingredients, dry ingredients and chocolate chunks together until you've got a nice dough. 
  7. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
  8. Scoop heaping spoonfuls of cookie dough onto sheets, forming into slightly bulging discs about 2 inches apart.*
  9. Bake for 12-16 minutes. 
  10. Let cool and enjoy!
* Normally when making cookies you form the dough into balls. The reason you want to form these into discs is that they won't spread as much as cookies made with regular flour.

I'm not 100% sure about the exact carb count of these, but the entire recipe should have a net carb count of 57 grams - that's for the entire batch. I got 16 cookies out of this, so that's just over 3.5 g of net carbs per cookie! Also, there's 72.6 grams of protein in the whole batch, which breaks down to roughly 4.5 g of protein per cookie. There's also somewhere between 30 and 40g of dietary fiber in the batch (already accounted for in the net carbs).

I should mention, however, that the Hershey's sugar free bars contain a LOT of sugar alcohols, so if your diabetes is sensitive to those, this might not be the recipe for you. I'd suggest maybe adding some cocoa powder to the dough instead of chocolate chunks to create chocolate flavored cookies instead? You'd have to experiment to see how that would work.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - The Final Hours!!!

Project image

A couple more days, folks! We're officially down to counting HOURS, now, and are only 12 backers away from $200! Check the Kickstarter--we have unveiled a TON more really cool stretch goals! Let's see if we can hit $21,000 in 2 days!!!

Science, sorcery, pugilistic pummeling, gun-toting, sword-wielding, B17-flying, gadget carrying adventure. Own it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - The Final Countdown

Well, folks, we've got less than 6 days remaining in the Kickstarter and a long way to go, still, to hit that all-important $21K stretch goal. I want more than anything to see all three of these books in hardcover, and I think that people are going to like the Companion enough that they'll be disappointed in it being only softcover.

So, while we're funded for the core book in hardcover and the Manual of Monsters and Companion to be produced in softcover, WE STILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT. Please consider pledging, or sharing the link around. Help a starving game designer!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - Upping the Ante!

Greetings from the Troll Dens!

Regarding the Amazing Adventures Kickstarter, some of you may have noticed an extra "S" in the 10K stretch goal.  Steve and Jason were talking last night and have decided to do a little something extra:  When we open that door, anyone at the $99 or above level will get 2 Amazing Adventures Players books for your table.  And -- hint, hint -- expect a few more secret doors to be popping up.  :-)

We also have a little bit of a challenge put forth by Steve and the TLG Trolls. We currently are at about $8,300 now. IF we make $10,000 by Friday (midnight), everyone at the $99 or above level will get a digest sized copy of the Amazing Adventures Core book! So if you are considering adding more, or changing your pledge, now is the best time.

And if you can help spread the word about it, we'd appreciate it. Here's a link you can share for the Kickstarter:


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print is Live!!!

The Kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print is Live!!!


I haven't been around for some time, folks. For that I apologize. I hope to rectify that in the future--life has been too crazy of late.

However, I'm back and pleased to announce that Troll Lord Games has launched the kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print!

What is Amazing Adventures?
It is Pulp Siege! The newest core game powered by Troll Lord Games' celebrated SIEGE engine (this is what runs Castles & Crusades). It allows you to create any type of pulp adventure hero you want, and customize them as you like! Be it arcane scholars, mentalists, tomb-raiding archaeologists, Asian martial arts masters, or gangsters and G-Men, this game has you covered. And best of all, if you're a fan of Castles & Crusades, you can pick this game up and get playing in a matter of minutes! Inside this book you'll find:

• Eight brand new character classes: Arcanist, Gadgeteer, Gumshoe, Hooligan, Mentalist, Pugilist, Raider, and Socialite
• Character customization options: Generic Class Abilities, Traits, Backgrounds, Fate Points, Pulp Costumes, Sanity Rules, and more!
• The complete SIEGE engine rules, adapted to use a single Challenge Base
• Rules for vehicular combat
• Guidelines on how to run a pulp game
• A rogue's gallery of foes, pre-generated characters, NPCs, and a ready-made adventuring society to get you up and running fast
• A complete starting adventure for 4-6 new pulp heroes
• And tons more

The Amazing Adventures Kickstarter!
We want the Amazing Adventures core rulebook out in Hardcover and Kickstarter is the platform to make that happen. With you on board we can not only put AA out in hardcover but we can, with a little hard work, add Amazing Monsters to the mix and the next release in the series: The Amazing Adventures Companion, filled with all manner of new material, from classes to vehicles and more.

If we hit our funding goal, the core rulebook will be in Hardcover. We also hope to get both the Manual of Monsters and Amazing Adventures Companion through stretch goals. We feel very strongly that if we hit $20K we can meet those goals and have all three in Hardcover!

The great news is that after a soft open this weekend, we already hit our base funding goal! However, since our public opening, pledges have dropped off a bit. Help us get the word out and reach that $20K goal!!!

Even if you can't contribute, it would be awesome if you could spread the word. Thanks!

You can find the kickstarter at:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On Being My Own Boss and Why You Should Too

I came to a sudden realization this morning.

I'm living my dream.

It's not in the way I thought it might be, not remotely. But life is full of unexpected surprises. 

I've been in the "independent contractor"/"work for yourself" mode for about 5 months, now, but I have to say it's incredibly liberating. Yes, there are things about it that are terrifying, but it's nice to know my fate is in my own hands.

For those unaware, to say that a brand new library has limited funds is a gross understatement. The funding here isn't even enough to provide me benefits. So I am employed here as an independent contractor. I pay my own taxes and am on the justifiably-maligned Obamacare health system (which sucks--everything good you've heard about it is a lie, and if you're not actually ON it, you don't get to disagree).

Aside from the Obamacare bit, though, things are pretty good. Sure, I don't get PTO from here, but again, my fate is in my own hands. You see, I am also doing web content writing for a company called Optimized Scribes and quite frankly, that stands to be more lucrative than librarianship--at least at this stage. The amount of money I make from that is really up to me, but to put it bluntly, this two-week pay from OS is going to be easily as high as that from the library, and I've put in less than half the hours.

So why stick with librarianship at all? I mean, here I do have a boss, my contract can be terminated, and I can be out of work--I'm technically not my own boss at the library, and I don't even get sick days because there is (literally) nobody else to run the place on a moment's notice.

I stick with librarianship because I love it. I love this place, I love the kids and patrons, and I love what I do here, even if it's not quite as expansive as I thought it would be when I signed on. And guess what? I have the freedom to do this because I love it. I didn't go to school for my Master's in Library and Information Science just because, and I certainly didn't do it because it's a lucrative career. Hell, it took me two years to find a job and the one I did finally get pays way below the median salary for librarians. There's just too many new librarians and not enough librarian jobs. No, I went for the degree because it's a field I feel passionate about.  Sure, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to find a job, but even still. Baby steps.

I have a strange back-and-forth view of my two paying gigs. Technically the library is my day job and OS is my supplemental income. It's odd, though, because my supplemental job pays me more than my day job does, when it breaks down.

It's also nice to know that if things go south here (which given the state of libraries today is a very real possibility) I have a fall-back position. I can increase my writing output and likely more than make up the difference. Indeed, were all things to remain as they are, I could be making nearly six figures from content writing alone, just by doubling what I did this past week, every week. Anyone who says you cannot make a living doing this probably just didn't have what it takes to pull it off or has listened to propaganda from those who failed to pull it off. Ever hear the old fable about the fox and the grapes? Yeah, look it up.

Granted; I'm lucky. The owner of Optimized Scribes is a good friend and a very canny businesswoman, and is also *very* good at researching and bidding jobs for her freelancers. Her company is growing so hopefully you'll be hearing more from them in the very near future. 

So here it is.

For years I've said, "I wish to God I could make a living as a writer. I'd give anything for that."

I've also said, "It would be a dream come true if I could be a librarian."

Guess what? I'm a librarian who is also making a living as a writer.

Sure, 99% of what I write is ghost written, and little of it is creative, but I am, in fact, making good money writing. It's just not the kind of writing I always thought I'd be doing. I have given thought to the possibility of going full-time as a content writer, but the truth is, content writing is feast or famine and the library makes a strong fallback position for those times when there's no work in the writing. If you're going to make a living at writing alone, you have to do all the work you possibly can when it's there, and put as much money away as you can while you do it, because there will be times when the work goes dry--perhaps for months--and you'll still need to pay bills. Since the library is stable for now, I look at it as my main job while the writing, lucrative as it is, is supplemental. If I ever lose the library gig or the writing just goes through the roof, I'll re-evaluate.

There's all kinds of other issues at play--taxes are fun when you're self-employed, but you get used to that and you really just need to be diligent about putting away 30% of every pay for taxes. I also recommend a good accountant, but that's neither here nor there so far as this blog goes.

So what's the point of all this? Am I bragging? No, I'm not--at least, that's not my intent. You would not believe the number of arguments I've had with people over the years I was wildly unhappy as an administrator for a University. People told me, "I don't know what your problem is. Suck it up. Grow up and do what you have to do. Nobody gets to do what they want. As long as you're making good money that's all that matters."

You know, I learned the hard way that those attitudes are sheer bullshit. Do what you love and don't sweat the money. As long as you are paying your bills, that's what matters. Quit being jealous of people who go on cruises or travel the world. Many of them do that shit because they so desperately need to get away from their soul-crushing but high-paying day jobs which they secretly hate.

I'm a lot happier not hating having to go to work every day, and just scraping together the funds to go to a gaming convention every year. And you know what? I'm pretty sure that if I keep on keeping on, eventually the money will follow. I may never be making 200 grand a year, but I'm stable.

The truth is, most of us live either at or just beyond our means, regardless of what we make. If you make more, you'll spend more. If you make less, you'll spend less. And you will spend less if you make less. I know, because I do.

I took a 53% paycut to come to the library from my last gig, and even with the supplement from writing I'm still about $5,000 a year less than I was (though if I keep on increasing my earnings from OS, that will change). I spend less because I know I have to, and it didn't take a hard conscious adjustment. It just happened.

Yes, since I know you're wondering, it was scary making that move. Terrifying, in fact. It certainly helped to make the decision, that I had fourteen years of successive administrative jobs that paid me more and more and made me less and less happy. I also discovered that while I was a passable secretary and administrative / executive assistant, once I climbed into the upper management levels, I was really not good at that job, no matter how hard I tried.

I was at a point where I didn't have much to lose. I was going to change my life or succumb to a pretty severe and possibly permanent depressive funk. So the thought process of whether or not I should go from almost $45k a year with full benefits to under $23k a year with no benefits but in a field I really wanted to enter took about 1.5 seconds. For many people it'd take significantly longer and the terror of the uncertainty might be crippling. I get that.

You know, I have only one response to the people who don't make the move because they're afraid of not having security. 

Nobody in this world EVER achieved great success by playing it safe. Nobody. If you can't take the risks, you can't play to win. If you take security over happiness, you've thrown in the towel, and the two are not the same thing--it's nice when they overlap, but make no mistake: security and happiness are mutually exclusive concepts which can be complementary but one is not requisite to the other.

It takes balls to walk away from upper middle class pay and full benefits for a far less certain future, but if you have the balls, it's almost always worth it. Yes, it's better to do it when you're younger, but it's never too late. If you're not happy and someone tells you to "suck it up," it's usually because they're too afraid to make their own change, and misery loves company. Not always, but usually.

The moral of this story is, have courage to make the change you need to make. Do what you love and the money will follow, and there are, in fact, opportunities to pay your bills doing what you love. You just have to hunt for them and grab them when you find them.

If you think I'm stupid or full of it, that's fine. If you're too scared to make the change or are otherwise dismissing me out of hand, it doesn't matter. If you don't believe me, so be it. All I can do is speak from my own experience. It took too long for me to get there and I no longer have time for negativity in my life.

Is my life perfect now? Nope, not by a long shot. Nobody's is. I still have job-related frustrations and really shitty days. Hell, I still may fail. Guess what, though? Here's an uncomfortable truth: any one of you can fail at your job at any time. This is true no matter good at your gig you are. One mistake can end it all, and it doesn't even have to be your mistake. If there's one thing 2008 showed us it's that even major multinational corporations can fall apart in a day and you can be out on the street.

I'll tell you what: I'm a lot better off emotionally, spiritually, and in all other ways than I have been for a very long time, and I hope it stays that way for a long time to come. The times are changing, the economy is changing, and the middle class is going away. There's not a damn thing we can do about it, except make our own middle class by finding our own opportunities and doing what we love. The future of corporate work is haves and have-nots, not upper and middle class. The future of the middle class is self employment.

But enough of my rambling. Quit your job; you'll feel better.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Original Dungeons & Dragons Premium Reprint

To put a crown jewel on their “Premium Reprint,” series, Wizards of the Coast has re-released the original Dungeons & Dragons rules. Specifically, this reprint is of the sixth printing, or “OCE” (Original Collector’s Edition) version of the rules. Like many fans of the old school, I was rather excited and more than a little nervous about this product. For $150, would they screw it up? Would it be handled properly? Would it, unlike the reprints for second and third editions, truly be premium?

Yesterday, I headed to my FLGS and picked up my OD&D Premium Reprint. Here are my thoughts.


This set is really nice. It comes in an actual wooden box, a nice nod to the original rules which came in a printed woodgrain box. The box construction is sturdy and just overall excellent. It has a nice velvet pad on the bottom to keep from scratching your table, and velvet lining inside. The inside lid contains gorgeous inlaid art of a wizard blasting his foes to smithereens. The box top has a laser etched dragon ampersand, and the front of the box, also laser etched, has the D&D logo.

Inside, the books sit snugly in a center opening and are surrounded by a set of premium dice. These dice are of good quality and look neat. As a side note, mine roll well, too.  Folded cardboard inserts keep everything in place. You’ll want to remove these, as the one in the top lid obscures the artwork and they all take up a lot of space that can be better used otherwise: there's PLENTY of room in the box to add your own books to the mix. I added copies of Chainmail, Swords & Spells, two Age of Conan booklets that I put together for my home game, and a couple booklets of notes on Chainmail Combat and general notes on OD&D, and a Sword and Sorcery adventure generator. And there’s still room for a couple more.

Since the books fit so perfectly into the opening, WotC included a ribbon bookmark that can be used to easily lift the whole stack out of the box--a nice touch. The dice, unfortunately, sit very snugly in their foam trays and can be a bit tough to work free.

The Contents

The books themselves are not as sturdy as the originals; WotC used thinner stock for both the covers and interiors. That's not to say they are cheaply constructed--they're not--they're just not as substantial as the originals. Still, they’re as well put-together as one could expect pamphlet-sized, saddle-stitched (stapled) booklets to be. Cover stock is white, but still has the marbleized textured indentations that were on the original covers. WotC decided to replace the original cover art with new artwork, which is cool, mostly variations and modernizations on the original themes. It's disappointing to see monochrome line art on the latter two supplement books which had color cover art originally, though.

The layout was redone--it matches the original but looks overall cleaner and easier to read. The interior art has not been redone and is the classic awful, amateurish art we all have come to know and love.

The numbering of the books themselves is changed. Originally, D&D consisted of three books: Men and Magic, Monsters and Treasure, and The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. These books were numbered “Book 1” through “Book 3.” The other four books were then numbered as “Supplement 1” through “Supplement 4.” In the reprint, the books are simply numbered Book I to Book VII. Where this becomes an issue is that it basically declares all four supplements as core—in truth there are many OD&D gamers who prefer to not use the four supplements. It’s my opinion that WotC should’ve left the original numbering in play.

I believeWotC made a big mistake by not including reprints of Chainmail and Swords & Spells with the rest of the books. For those unaware, while the booklets contain the then-alternate d20-based combat system with which we’ve all become intimately familiar, originally the idea was that players owned the original Chainmail miniatures rules, and many places in the core books reference Chainmail for rules—for example, halflings are noted to have “deadly accuracy with missiles, as per Chainmail.” Most people simply score this as giving Halflings +1 to hit with ranged weapons, and many of the other direct references can be similarly intuited, but it still is helpful to have that book handy. Swords & Spells, by comparison, forms little more than a curiosity—it’s the original D&D-branded mass combat rules. It stands mostly diceless and aside from being referenced in the first edition DMG, isn’t widely used. Still, there are some neat and interesting gems in there, and it does form part of the OD&D canon; as such, it probably should’ve been added to the reprint. As noted earlier, I made my own “reprint” copies of Chainmail and Swords & Spells from original copies I own, and added them.

The Conan and Elric mythoi have been excised from Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes. While disappointing, this is not unexpected—it’s highly unlikely WotC would’ve paid for those licenses just for a limited edition reprint. If you have a chance to track down these missing pages, though, I recommend them. They are very good stuff.

Speaking of omissions, I was a little disappointed that they left the "Corrections" page at the end of Greyhawk rather than incorporating the errata. It seemed a little lazy.

The Cost

Much like other WotC Premium Reprints, this one sports a premium price. The entire package is going to net you a cool $150 from your FLGS ($109 or so if you hit up Amazon). Yes, $150 is a good bit of bank, but if you consider that for the 2e and 3e reprints, each of the cores was $50, and you get the same amount of material here, albeit in a more compact and concise format and in a far nicer presentation, it's in line with the other premium reprints and actually feels PREMIUM, for a change.

The Breakdown


+ Really premium feel
+ Sturdy box and packaging
+ Great Presentation
+ Plenty of room to add your own additional booklets
+ Sweet premium dice
+ Secure, well-conceived packaging and a ribbon bookmark to aid in lifting the book out
+ Great box artwork, exterior and interior
+ It’s the Original Dungeons & Dragons, man! In print again after almost 40 years!


- People are going to complain about the $150 price tag
- Chainmail and Swords and Spells are not included
- No Conan or Elric mythoi in Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes
- Renumbering of the books makes supplements seem like they’re core
- Dice can be tricky to get out

Overall, this is the first Premium Edition Reprint that WotC has done that really and truly feels premium. I haven't been this excited to hold a D&D product since my 5th edition white box came in the mail several years ago. I'm extraordinarily happy with my purchase, and I might consider picking up a second one from Amazon to leave shrinkwrapped on the shelf.