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Monday, December 22, 2008

A Visit...

...from St. Nicholas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

--Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

S hine

How come it's sunshine...
but not snowshine?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Christmas Tree

Yesterday, after we cleared fourteen inches of snow from our driveway, we weren't inclined to do much more than sit before the fire, with our feet up and relax. We'd had enough of The Great Outdoors. Enough exercise to last a week. Enough frozen moments that vegetating for the rest of the afternoon seemed like an excellent idea.

We drank hot chocolate, ate Christmas cookies and watched holiday movies. The deal we made was that we'd alternate choosing movies. I graciously allowed hubby to make the first choice and he was predictable, as I'd expected he'd be. He chose A Christmas Carol, one of his all-time favorite films.

When my turn came I chose Surviving Christmas. Yes, we've already watched that one this season but after all those chain-rattling, graveyard-walking moments with Scrooge I needed something fun. Besides, watching James Gandolfini wear a Santa cap and sing O Christmas Tree just cracks me up every time.

By the time Surviving Christmas was over we knew we needed more than sugar cookies, so I pulled a fast pizza together and, with gourmet brownies that were a gift from a favorite aunt as dessert, we were ready to continue the movie marathon.

Hubby chose Christmas with the Kranks. I loved the John Grisham novel, Skipping Christmas, so this movie was, in my humble opinion, a great choice.

When Frosty was on the Kranks' roof and the credits had rolled, it was nearly ten pm. Yes, we'd watched movies, eaten less-than-healthy food and lazed about all day. We don't do that often here, so I make no apologies. Hubby wanted to head upstairs, his eyes bloodshot from so many hours staring at the screen but it was my turn to pick and I had decided hours before what my choice was going to be.

You guessed it. My favorite Christmas fellow, his green self so close to my heart that just the sound of the opening music makes me smile.

Hubby fell asleep on the sofa but I spent the last hours of the last Saturday night before Christmas with the Grinch. Oh, how I love that Grinch!

How did you spend your day? I hope you had as much fun as we did! Today we're supposed to get another pantload of snow so we'll probably be shoveling out again tomorrow.

Hmm...think I can get Hubby to watch the Grinch one more time? Maybe I can, if I bake a batch of his favorite fig cookies for him, and ply him with hot buttered rum. Yeah...that sounds like an idea worth investigating...

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There's only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

N utcracker

Last night we watched one of my favorite holiday stories, The Nutcracker Ballet. It doesn't matter how many times I see it, either live onstage or on the screen, I am captivated. The music, costumes and of course the story all enchant me.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on a story written by E.T.A. Hoffman called The Nutcracker and the King of Mice. It is the tale of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.

In 1891 choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the music for the Nutcracker Ballet. The first performance of the Nutcracker took place at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia in 1892. Thankfully it was a hit, and eventually made its way across Europe and to the United States.

The Nutcracker is one of our annual holiday traditions.

What about you? Is there one special performance that touches your heart?

Friday, December 19, 2008

S now, Again

...and again and again.

Remember last Friday's ice storm? The one that left us completely cut off from the rest of civilization for a number of days? The one I'll be cursing come spring when I've got to haul away all of the branches it brought down from our trees? You know, the storm that we're just now getting back to normal after?

Right, that Friday ice storm.

It looks like this Friday storm thing might be catching on. No, no ice today. Snow. Lots and lots of it...about twelve inches worth, if the prediction is accurate.

Bah! Humbug!

Now, don't get me wrong. I love snow. I love watching it fall, clearing it away. Mostly I love snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing on the stuff. Building snowpeople, I like that, too.

But the hint that so much snow falling in a very short period of time may leave us cut off again gives me the shivers. I'm just getting used to not hearing the generator's hum; thinking that we'll be using it again so soon--ugh. Just ugh.

I'm going to be optimistic about today's event, and hope the snow comes without any havoc to newly restored services. But if I disappear for a day or two you'll know what happened.

Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to spend another day in the kitchen baking cookies. Today it'll be pignoli cookies, strawberry filled cookies and good, old chocolate chip cookies. That ought to hold us through any kind of snowstorm, don't you think?

What have you got planned for this Friday before Christmas? Anything you'd care to share?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

G ood Enough to Eat

Guess what I'm doing today? Gotta have something for the Big Man to munch on when he visits, don't I?

Sugar Cookies
3 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
3. Cut in butter and blend with a pastry blender
until mixture is crumbly.
Stir in lightly beaten egg, vanilla and cream.
4. On a floured surface, roll out dough.
Cut into shapes.
Place on ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake 7 minutes, or until lightly brown.

R eindeer Travels

I've missed talking with you every morning. Fortunately it looks like life in the aftermath of our monster ice storm is slowly returning to normal. You know what that means, don't you? Yeah, that's right...soon I'll be caught up with everything and back to chatting with you first thing every morning.

Still on the rush to catch up, so I'm just going to share a quick, but true story with you. I hope it'll make you smile the way it did me.

The names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

Picture this...one of those morning Breakfast with Santa deals. Lots of happy children, fabulous Santa, French toast sticks to die for. All good, right?

After breakfast has officially ended, one little girl goes to restroom to use facilities. Still, all good. When smiling child emerges from bathroom, who does she see? Why, Santa, of course! Only now, Santa is in street clothes and heading for parking lot, where he gets into a pick-up truck and drives off. Now, not so good.

How to explain this to wonderful child?

Simple. Everyone knows that sometimes the reindeer fly ahead and meet Santa at his next stop, don't they?

All I can say is I'm glad Santa didn't shave in the men's room. Now that would've been really hard to explain!

Monday, December 15, 2008

E astern Sparkle

Right now, we've got power, cable and phone. It was a pleasant surprise to wake up and find that was so. But I've finally been able to watch the news and this return to civilization isn't predicted to last long. The reason? We've got high winds which are knocking restored lines down again. So I'm not going to get used to being connected.

I just wanted to say hi, let you know we're all right here. We've got a generator we've been using sparingly and enough wood to keep us warm for months. We've played chess, wrapped holiday packages and read by candlelight. We have cooked soup on the woodstove and even danced by firelight. All in all, we are faring well.

I see I've got lots of emails to answer but I hope you'll excuse me if I don't answer them until I'm sure the power will stay on. My first order of business? A hot shower and a hot meal!

Hope you're all well!






E lves at Play?








T insel






Friday, December 12, 2008

I ce

We are in the middle of a monster storm. Yesterday we had ice and sleet fall all day and through the night.

The roads in the county are all closed to anything but emergency vehicles but of course there's always an idiot...um, committed soul who decides he "has" to go to work. I just saw one slide sideways past the house.

It's ugly out there but also beautiful. Everything is coated in ice and sparkles. If it wasn't so treacherous underfoot I'd go out and shoot some photos but I'm staying inside, and on my feet.

I'd best go and get some work done before the power fails. We are supposed to get a foot of snow on top of the ice and that's going to make everything very interesting.

Hope you're warm wherever you are!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

N aughty List?

Ever felt like you should be on Santa’s Naughty List? Not in the sense that you’ve done something big and bad, but more like you’re not doing all that you should be doing? Like maybe your To-Do List is getting out of hand? And if it is, in fact, growing as large as the Abominable Snowman’s belly, who’s to blame? The person who wrote the list, of course! And in this case, that would be me.

Yes, I’m having a bit of pre-holiday angst here. Thankfully I generally shake angst of any kind pretty quickly so I’m not worried this will linger. But…it’s there. Lurking beneath the surface, like a fat toad waiting to snap its tongue at an unsuspecting mosquito.

My To-Do List? Totally out of control. I’ve been chipping at it for hours and I’ve gotten enough done that it’s shrinking but I can’t help but wonder how it grew so fat and long without my realizing it.

Has that ever happened to you? One moment you’ve got four or five things on the list—then, the next time you look down, there are a dozen? Or more?

It seems the holidays, even though they are wonderful, heartwarming and joyful, come with a built-in list. Believe me, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.

So, before I forget, some things from my list that I’d like to share with you…

Yesterday was my day to take part in Cindy K. Green’s White Christmas Jubilee. I had a blast visiting with Cindy—she always throws a great party! If you haven’t had a chance to peek in at the Jubilee, the link is here. Today’s blog guests are Kara Lynn Russell & Anna Kathryn Lanier, two very talented authors. I hope you'll head over there and say "Hi!" to all the particpating authors.

A few days ago I realized a few days ago that Proclamations, one of my short stories at The Wild Rose Press, is on sale. It’s right on the homepage, if you’d care to check it out. The direct link is here.

I went over there last week and picked up some great stories to give as holiday gifts. I’m attaching them to e-cards I’m sending to some cyber-friends. Ebooks make economical, earth-friendly gifts; who wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised to find one in their mailbox?

On the fourteenth I’m blogging at Paranormal Romance Writers . It’s my first time blogging there so I’m pretty psyched! I hope you’ll stop in and say hello. The link is on my profile page.

Something else I’m excited about—next week I’ll be the Tuesday interview over at The Long and The Short of It! Isn’t that great?

All right, now that I’ve shared some stuff I don’t feel half as stressed. Isn’t it great how that happens? You share what’s on your mind with friends, and voila! Instant stress reduction. Thanks for listening.

Before I forget, I want to let you know I'm going to have Author Chats a couple of times each week at From the Pages. Lots of talented authors have signed on to be interviewed. Look for breaking news of upcoming releases as well as titles that are already available, the inside scoop on some of your favorite authors, as well as wonderful giveaways. I think it's going to be fun for everyone. Who knows? We all may find some fabulous new-to-us authors whose work will find space on our "keeper" shelves.

If you're an author interested in appearing on From the Pages, just drop me an email. I'd love to have you visit!

So, what about you? Are you feeling a little swamped this December morning? What's on your plate today? Anything you'd care to share?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

G rinch

“He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!” —Dr. Seuss

The expression on his face might have frightened another woman. Not her. She knew better than to be afraid of anything about the man. His furrowed brow, pinched lips and shaking head just made her giggle.

“You’re kidding, right?” He folded his arms across his chest and closed his eyes. Bowed his head, as if praying for deliverance.

“You know I’m not.”

Year after year, they had the same discussion. And year after year, she won out. In the past he had tried everything to dissuade her, but now he just stood with his head down, eyes closed, and waited.

She ignored his distress and grabbed the television remote off the coffee table. Within seconds she took control of the situation, pulling the man down onto the sofa beside her. When he opened his eyes and met her gaze, she kissed him. Fast and hard, so he couldn’t speak. Their kiss lasted until the familiar music began to play.

With a sigh, he turned toward the television, where the opening credits rolled across the screen.

“You’re not kidding, then?”

“Uh uh,” she said, snugging her body into the crook of his arm. “It’s a tradition.”

“So is your Aunt Carol’s fruitcake but that doesn’t mean we have to eat any of it. Can’t we just pass on this, too?”

“Shh! Don’t say anything about that fruitcake. She bakes it because—” Why did anyone bake fruitcake? “—just because she thinks we like it. And this is better than fruitcake. Come on, get into the spirit of things. You know this is my favorite Christmas movie.”

“This thing doesn’t even have real people in it—”

“He is real!”

“And this is a cartoon. I hardly think it counts as a movie—”

“Shh! It’s starting!” Her heart warmed as she saw the object of her affection.

He stretched his legs out in front of him and pulled her close. Her head rested on his shoulder and she heard his small sigh. Capitulation.

“That’s right,” he murmured. “It’s starting. And we wouldn’t want you to miss a minute of his Grinch-iness, would we?”

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

S now

I told you that we had a humdinger of a little snowstorm on Sunday. The hills behind our house sparkle. Towering oaks and pines look like they’ve been dipped in sugar. And all the summer gardens are covered, their tilled soil finally hidden from view. It is so pretty here it almost defies description.

I know a lot of people don’t like snow. I know they don’t like to drive in it. Schlep to work wearing less-than-fashionable snow boots. Clear their cars, walks or driveways. I understand all that. Really, I do.

But me? I love snow like a fish loves water. I’m thrilled that the forecaster didn’t get this one right, that we got much more snow than was anticipated. I figure a few more storms and we’ll have enough on the ground to go snow-shoeing. And me? I adore snow-shoeing. Am simply crazy for the sport.

What about you? Snow? Or no snow?

Monday, December 08, 2008

E lf


Here in the middle of nowhere we had a snowstorm yesterday. The Weather Channel called for two inches of the white stuff, and only a 40% chance of anything at all. The forecaster obviously didn’t take our backyard into consideration when he made that optimistic prediction. Believe me, it snowed up here—and a heck of a lot more than a few inches.

We didn’t mind one bit. Nestled inside the house, with the fire roaring and Christmas music playing, we were snug. It was the perfect sort of day for decorating the tree in our great room, so we did that first. Then, we wrapped packages. Once every bow and ribbon was in place we looked at each other for a minute.

Now what?

There was no time wasted trying to figure out an answer to that question! During the warm-weather months we’re so busy here that an empty afternoon is rare. But now, with Old Man Winter howling, we’ll probably get quite a few of them.

Oh…what did we do? We settled in and had a movie marathon. All holiday movies!

We started with cheese and crackers, and Surviving Christmas—James Gandolfini cracks me up in this one. Certainly not a Sopranos adventure, that's for sure!

Then we watched Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase. It doesn’t matter how many times we see that movie—I always laugh until I cry. It was dinnertime by the time we popped this into the DVD player, so we made a pepper-and-onion pizza—and ate every last bite.

The funniest we saved for last. At least that’s what I think. My husband thinks we watched the funny movie first but shh! Let’s not tell him that it was the other way around. While we watched this last movie we consumed more snickerdoodles than I care to admit. Well, since we’re all friends here…let’s just say I ate more than five but less than fifty.

Hmm…? The movie? Oh! Sorry! The final feature of our movie marathon was Elf, starring Will Ferrell and James Caan. Honestly, how can anyone not think Will Ferrell wearing yellow tights and riding the elevator while doing a split isn’t funny? I have to admit, I howl at this movie. Hubby thinks I’m nuts but hey—every nut has its season. Mine just happens to be December.

How did you spend your Sunday?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

V isions of...

gift wrap. Tape. Ribbons, bows and bubble wrap.

You expected me to say sugarplums, didn't you? Sorry to disappoint, but this morning I'm all about the wrapping. Sugarplums can wait. What exactly is a sugarplum, anyway? Anyone know?

Back to boxes and bows. This morning we're going to get down to wrapping the holiday gifts. That way we'll have everything in the mail by the end of the week. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? Let's hope it works. Every year I forget to buy something for this big wrapping event. Last year? Tape. Can you believe it? I forgot the to pick up an extra roll of tape. This year I've got the tape but I'm sure something else will prove to be in short supply.

Uh oh.

Anyone know where I can buy tissue paper early on a Sunday morning? Hmm?

On another front, I've been mulling over a few things where blogging and writing are concerned. I've got a plan for the new year, writing-wise, but I'm thinking that I'll try some new, hopefully fun and interesting, things here on the blog beginning in January.

First, I think I'll post two or three new recipes a week on the From the Kitchen page. I've gotten emails asking when I'll begin sharing more recipes so I've decided to do that.

Then, I think I'll begin hosting author interviews here on the blog. This morning I put out a call to some of the author groups asking for victims--uh, volunteers. The post looked like this:


Good morning authors!

I hope you're enjoying a peaceful weekend. Here in chilly New York I'm decorating the house and sitting by the fire and...thinking. Yes, I've been mulling over a few New Year's ideas. Why am I telling you this? Well, because one of my ideas includes you. Yes, you!

Starting in January I'm going to do guest author interviews on my blog. I think it will be fun, and I believe my readers will enjoy getting to know different authors. Interested in being a guest author? If you are, please drop me a note at
snowdance1@gmail.com with the word "Interview" in the subject line. Give me a few days to compile a list of interested authors. Then I'll send out a list of questions and we'll get started.

I hope to hear from you!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. :)

~Sarita

And finally this cold, snowy Sunday morning, I'm going to remind everyone that my new mystery, Sandswept, released this past week. I've been so caught up in the spirit of the holiday that I've spent practically no time promoting the book.

Remember, books make great holiday gifts! And wrapping them requires no tissue paper at all!




Everyone has a secret. One they hide.
Sometimes, one they run from—fast and hard,
without stopping to consider the
consequences of that mad dash for sanity.

Kelley Garrett? She's got a secret. A big one.
She's hoping to shake its grip but even
someplace as peaceful as Chincoteague Island
may not be able to shelter her.

Then again, who knows? Maybe it will.
That's a chance Kelley's willing to gamble on
—with her life.

Sandswept

Saturday, December 06, 2008

E ntertaining Angels


Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~Hebrews 13:2

Holiday time sure brings people out of the woodwork, doesn't it? Here at the farm we see more unexpected visitors and get more surprise phone calls in December than we do at any other time of the year. Every day brings a new connection from someone we know and love, but who perhaps isn't part of our day-to-day living.

I like it. A lot.

Yesterday we received a call from someone we haven't heard from since last holiday season. It's funny, but when I heard the familiar voice the months between our last conversation melted away. We chatted for nearly an hour. Laughed over silly things. Shared success and sadness. Then, we hung up. There were no false promises to "stay in touch" or "talk soon" that are so often offered in such instances. No, we know we probably won't speak again for months and that's all right. We know that when we do hear each other's voices next there will be that same delight we always feel when we reconnect.

A few days ago we had a drop-in visit from one of Hubby's old work acquaintances. He came bearing cookies his wife had baked. Of course we were happy to see him, and we welcomed him into our home. We sat beside the fire for a while, drinking tea and nibbling cookies. When the fellow left, he and Hubby hugged and spoke of getting together in the spring to work on a building project.

This morning I'm going to bake a cinnamon loaf, just in case we hear the doorbell ring this afternoon. I love these impromptu holiday visits, and am secretly hoping someone shows up.

What about you? Are you reconnecting with anyone special? Or are you one of the drop-ins or wonderful, unexpected callers?

Hope you have a fabulous Saturday!

Friday, December 05, 2008

R aspberry Tart

Here on the farm we grow raspberries and pears. This summer I froze and canned our excess so now we'll enjoy summer-like treats all winter long. I baked the first tart of the winter season yesterday. I thought you might enjoy making the simple, yet scrumptious, dessert at your house. I used a basic, no-frills tart pastry. Use whatever one your family likes best.

Enjoy!


Raspberry Pear Tart

2 cups raspberries
3 cups sliced pears
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar

Toss sliced pears in lemon juice to keep fruit from turning brown.
Add raspberries and toss fruit together.
In a separate bowl, combine flour,
cinnamon, ginger and sugar. Add fruit and mix well.

Place all ingredients in an unbaked tart shell.
A free-form, rustic kind of shell works especially well for this tart.
Bake in 375-degree oven for approximately 45 minutes.
Cool before serving.
Serve with ice cream, whipped cream
or vanilla bean yogurt.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Y es, Virginia...

there is a Santa Claus.

So much about the holiday season asks us to suspend belief. Have faith. Expect miracles. I realize that for some this is difficult. For me? It just comes naturally. Every day I believe in miracles and have faith in the unseen. It's a way of life in this house.

Not to say we're not down-to-earth, rational types. We are. In fact, sometimes I think we're too practical and logical. Still, there's room for more than one facet on any personality.

I believe. Do you?

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

"VIRGINIA O'HANLON."
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

--Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun. A quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. It was the work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

O rnaments

"That's the last one." He dropped the large green-and-red plastic tote on the floor. It landed beside six identical boxes.

A fast mental calculation. "Um...I don't think so."

"What do you mean? These are all the Christmas colored ones in that corner of the loft. The only thing left are the boxes you've marked 'Outdoor Lights' and a couple of spares."

"The spares? Are they blue?"

"Yeah. Big blue boxes." His brow furrowed. "You don't mean...?"

"I do. Those are Christmas boxes, too." A glance out the window. Snow mixed with sleet had just begun to fall. "We'll get those another time."

Heaving a theatrical groan, he flopped down into an armchair. He reached for the closest box, pried off the lid and pulled out an ornament. It dangled from the end of his index finger. An elf, its long arms curled around its legs. Its holiday suit, made of green flocked fabric, was worn thin in spots.

He smiled. "This one was..."

"Your mother's," she said softly. Settling on the floor beside his chair, she watched as he laid the elf down with care before he dug in the tote again. Next he brought out a tissue-wrapped bundle. A delicate purple metallic teardrop. "And that's one of the ones my mom gave me. I remember picking that one out when I was...oh, maybe five or six. See the little tag dangling on the top? It's got my name on it. I watched her write that tag. Then I hung it as high as I could on the tree so it wouldn't get broken."

He placed the teardrop beside the elf. Then he pulled out a small box filled with red and silver balls. A grin stole over his handsome face. "These?"

"You know what they are."

"Um...maybe I do. Maybe I don't," he teased. A quick kiss. Holding one of the balls by its slender silver wire, he looked deep into her eyes. "Would these be the first ornaments we bought to hang on our--"

"First Christmas tree."

"I thought so. If memory serves me, they were the only balls we had on our tree, weren't they?"

"They were the only ones we could afford, remember?" She put her hand on his and together they held the simple ornament up to the window. The falling snow and ice flashed across its surface, sending dancing rays of light over the room. "We chose well, I think. They're--"

"Beautiful," he murmured, drawing her close.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

N oel


Every family has its own treasures. What may be priceless to one person may be junk to another. I believe most things carry a "value" that has absolutely nothing to do with dollar signs.

Today I'm sharing one of my treasures with you. The NOEL letters are one of my earliest memories of Christmas. When I was a child, my mother put them out right after Thanksgiving. They stayed in place until January when she put the house back to post-holiday order. I remember running a fingertip over the leaves and berries almost reverently. I was afraid to break them so I was very, very careful. My mother wouldn't have said a word had I damaged the letters but I loved them so I didn't want to harm them.

When I got married my mother gave me the NOEL. It's been part of our holiday tradition every year since. The letters come out early, and stay until January. And I still run a fingertip lovingly over the swirls and berries.

Hubby and I were only married a year or so before we saw an identical NOEL in an antique shop. We purchased the second set and we gave them to my mom. Now we both enjoy NOELs...mine a gift from her and hers a gift from us.

Why am I so crazy about these little letters? They're not expensive. Not one-of-a-kind, limited edition collectibles. They're not even particularly gorgeous. Still, I love 'em.

Of course the reason these are one of my "treasures" is because they remind me of my childhood. Happy memories. Love. Wonder. Excitement. They make me feel like a little girl again, bring back the warmth in the center of my chest that bloomed every year while I watched my mother unwrap the NOEL.

So, our NOEL is out. We're ready for the holiday season.

What about you? Is there anything that your family enjoys each season that brings the warm glow of childhood back to your life? Care to share?

Monday, December 01, 2008

E nter, December

I've got to admit it. I love December. Everything about it. The music. The food. The way strangers smile at each other. Midnight Mass. Small secrets, kept with love. I just love it all.

We've begun putting out our holiday decorations and they make me feel like a kid again. Which, I assure you, is a near-miracle given the fact that my kiddie years are in the distant *sigh* past. Yesterday morning we hauled boxes of stuff from the barn loft into the house, moving swiftly beneath an ominous, gray sky. I worried we'd have to call our decorating spree off due to inclement weather but my concern was wasted. Old Man Winter must've known better than to begin blowing and snowing on our parade! He waited until we'd brought the decorations inside, and I was grateful for his consideration.

It's always heartwarming to unwrap the "treasures" in our holiday boxes. The preserved dough hand of a child. Cards from years gone by, some with letters written by those we've loved but have had to bid farewell. Trinkets picked up during years of marriage. Heirlooms, bits and pieces that come together and tell the history of our families. Of our life. Things that would mean nothing to someone else but bring immediate laughter as we painstakingly unwrap. Discover. Relive. Yeah, there's joy in the boxes.

So, enter December! Bring your wave of cheer and good tidings!

What about you? Are you as jazzed as we are to welcome the new month? And what's in your treasure boxes? Anything you'd like to share with us?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Round-Up

November has been such a good month, hasn't it? I'm sure you've realized by now that it's one of my favorite times of the year. But honestly, there isn't a month I don't enjoy so I don't know how much stock I'd put in my November appreciation! *G*

Still, I love the whole NaNo challenge. I enjoy working with others, even from a distance. I am tickled that I've got two first drafts completed and while they both need work the stories are essentially told. No complaints about that. I've loved mentoring my newbies, and plan to do so again next year with a new set of NaNo newcomers. And I have enjoyed encouraging fellow authors, and watching many of them experience the joy of a successful NaNo. All in all, a great month writing-wise.

The weekly contests have been fun for me, too. I've given away a bunch of books which I hope will make for interesting winter reading for a few kind visitors. I plan to continue a weekly contest through December, so keep commenting if you'd like to be entered.

Everyone loves Thanksgiving, so I won't go on about that. We had a joyful, peaceful holiday filled with family and friends. It was a delightful way to "launch" the winter holiday season.

Now as I look forward to December, I smile because these past weeks have been such good ones. I hope they have been for you, too.

What's on your December agenda? Anything you'd care to share?

Me?

Well, I plan to begin writing a new novel tomorrow. I hope to get the first draft done in a few weeks. That way I'll have plenty of downtime before beginning JaNoWriMo. The December book is pretty much in my mind and I've already got a plan for its submission so hopefully it'll be an easy write. Fingers crossed!

Oh! Sandswept, the second in the Chincoteague Island Mystery Series, releases in December! I'm so excited that this book is coming out. It's a darker sort of story, and I hope readers will enjoy it.

Speaking of books, I've recently gotten requests for signed books that will find homes beneath Christmas trees. How much fun is that? I am tickled readers are giving my novels as gifts! There's plenty of time to get signed books from me to you so if you'd like any as gifts, please just drop me an email. I'll gladly sign them to your Aunt Bertha, Uncle Bob or anyone else!

Besides that? I'm just going to relax. Listen to holiday music. Bake. Wrap packages. Take long walks in the snow with Hubby. Enjoy the peace and blessings of the season.

I hope you do the same. Thanks for spending November with me. I hope you'll come back next month!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Now What?

Now that the eating is behind us, and the shopping (for those of you who were brave enough to go out on Black Friday!), what better entertainment could we find than to settle in with a good read? Or two? Or three? That's what I'm doing this weekend. No work. No cooking. Nothing but settling in with a good book (or two or three!) and a cup of tea.

Why not join me?

Names, Week 4 Winners!

The randomly chosen winners of the fourth November contest are...

(drum roll please!)

Linda Banche and Wendy!

Congratulations!

Linda and Wendy, please email me with your choice of any of my backlist.

Thanks to everyone who visited this week. I appreciate all of you very much.

These November contests have been fun for me, and I hope they have been for you, too. I've got plans for a December contest wave to celebrate the release of Sandswept. Stay tuned; details to follow soon!

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nutritious...but delicious?

All that remained of the Thanksgiving feast was dessert. Anticipation sent a tremor up her spine as she cut two thick slices of pumpkin pound cake and placed them on antique china plates. With a smile, she brought them to the table.

"Looks good," he said, sniffing appreciatively. "Smells like cinnamon. Isn't this your new recipe?"

"It is. I hope you like it."

She watched as he took the first bite. The furrow that appeared between his brows told her something was wrong. Horribly wrong.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"Is it supposed to taste like this?"

Uh-oh. Not a good sign.

Quickly she broke off a corner of the slice that looked oh-so perfect on her plate and put it in her mouth. Instantly she knew why he'd chased his with a mouthful of tea.

"Don't eat that," she said, grabbing his plate.

"It tastes like...like...like it doesn't have any sugar in it."

When he picked up his fork and looked ready to take another bite, she rose and put the dishes on the counter. Thank goodness she had baked an apple pie and fig cookies yesterday! Swallowing a giggle, she reached for fresh plates and forks.

"That's because it doesn't."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Near and Far

To all our family and friends, near and far,
we wish you a
happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not Homemade

“Why don’t you let me make you a pie tonight?” They stood at the bakery counter, he eyeing the pies while she inhaled the sweet aroma of the place. “It won’t take long. I’ve got everything in the house already. And it won’t cost—” She glanced at the price board hanging behind the glass display case. “Eight ninety-five.”

He shook his head. “No. You’ve got too much to do already. The fig cookies and apple pies. And you’ve got to post an extra blog for Thanksgiving, don’t you? In case there’s no time in the morning?”

“No biggie. I’ve got time to do it all. No sweat. Come on, I’ll bake you a pie tonight.”

“Uh uh. I’m not going to add to your to-do list,” he insisted. He smiled at the tired-looking woman behind the counter. “A pumpkin pie, please.”

After dinner they turned to an old movie station and settled in to watch Cary Grant, a beautiful woman and several children in an old, leaky boat. Halfway through the movie he headed toward the kitchen. “Want anything?”

Her gaze stayed on Cary. “Nope, thanks.”

When the credits rolled she glanced down at his empty plate and fork. “How was your pie?”

With a scowl, he shrugged.

She knew that scowl. That shrug. “How was your pie?”

“Not so great,” he admitted. Disappointment shone clear in his deep, chocolate-brown eyes. “Pretty bad, actually. It tasted like…”

“Like what?”

“Soap.”

“Soap?”

“Yeah. That is the worst pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. Damn thing tastes like Ivory soap!”

She laughed. Leaning close and patting his hand, she met his stormy gaze and asked, “Want me to bake you a pie tomorrow?”

“You mind?”

“No, I don’t mind, darling.”

And she didn’t. Not one bit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nostalgia

It's that time of year, isn't it? The time for looking both ways...back to holidays past and forward to...well, just forward. While we'd like to think we know what's in our future, I don't believe we do. We can make all the plans we want but sometimes those plans don't materialize quite the way we envision. But this isn't a post about planning or the future so I'll leave all that for another time.

The past few days have seen a definite wave of nostalgia in our house. We've pored over old photo albums, laughed about things we haven't thought of in years and told stories we've heard a thousand times but never tire of hearing. And while the holidays usually bring memories, this year's wave is a far bigger one than most. Why the monster wave? It began with a meeting...

Last week we had one of those delightful accidental encounters that warms hearts. The woman we bumped into is someone we knew when she was a child. Knew very well, actually. In fact, we held her the day she was born. Does it get any better than that? I think not. While she has always had a special place in our hearts, and I'm sure this has happened to you, we lost touch over the years. Life gets busy, people get swept up by this and that, and even though people care about each other there are instances where circumstances separate them. Physically, at least. The heart? That's another story.

Anyhow, this wonderful young woman (who shall remain nameless for privacy reasons) is no longer a little girl. She is, in fact, expecting her own child in a few months. We are overjoyed for her, thankful she has found happiness and is experiencing all the wonderful things life can offer.

Our meeting was brief but an exchange of email addresses will hopefully bring us back in touch. (Fingers crossed!)

The funny thing, and my husband and I both agree about this, is that while we saw a woman standing before us there was still the delightful gleam in her eye that had been there when she was just a little thing. Lurking behind her poised exterior was the mischievous, laughing, loving, always-ready-for-adventure child we knew and loved. I pray those traits will be passed on to her baby. I suspect they will be.

Anyhow, we've spent hours smiling over old photos these past days. We've laughed. We've swallowed around lumps in our throats, thinking of those who aren't with us now. We've grinned, looking at hairstyles and fashions that now seem ridiculously silly.

And we've noticed that while we may basically feel the same as we did all those years ago, we've changed too. Not just gray hair, expanding waistlines or fashion changes but deeper shifts as well. We're the same...but we're different. Get my meaning? The person we met, her changes are obvious because she's gone from child to woman. Us? More subtle, I think.

So, a time for reflection. Laughter. Gratitude.

Yes, a definite nostalgic wave is warming this house. Which is good--because Mother Nature is showing that winter is nearly upon us. Me? I'll take the warm, comforting waters of reminiscence over cold, uncertain breezes any day.

What about you? Is the holiday week working its magic on you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nonsense!




Meowy happy Monday morning.

It's me, Piglet. I've absconded--uh, comandeered--um, hijacked--no, that's not it, either. I've graciously agreed to write today's blog post. Only shh! Don't tell Sarita. She's still in bed with the guy who brings my food. I think she said he's a pain in her neck or something. No, that's not right, I don't think. I've known them for a lot of years and I've never heard her say he's a pain in her anything. So I'm not exactly sure what the deal is but hey, who cares? All I know is I've got the keyboard...the world is at my pawtips.

Listen, if you're here hoping for one of those sappy Wednesday stories or a post about the whole NaNoNutjobWriting thing you're out of luck. Just move along now, find another writer who's blogging about that stuff today. I don't do sap. And, for obvious reasons, I don't write so I don't have any word counts, plot twists or characters to share. And my upcoming releases? Heh heh heh...I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear about that, do you?

So what am I going to chat about this cloudy, gray morning? Nothing. Nada. Niente. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nossir, not a thing. No chat.

This is my blog post so I'm going to show you some stuff. Let's see if your as observant as I think you are. I'm hoping you'll be able to solve a mystery for me. I asked Sarita, and I think she knows what's up, but she's not talking. So it's all in your hands...

Yesterday I took a walk around the farm. There are loads of interesting spots out here in the middle of nowhere, and I think I checked out most of them. I was searching, you see. And a search? Well, it's not a really good search unless you poke into lots of spots. I'll show you what I looked for...


These.

I looked in all the usual places

but I couldn't find even one of pink things.

Where'd they all go?

Okay, now I know there were a whole bunch

of these flying, chirpy things.

They lived in those houses the food guy built.

Yesterday?

Couldn't find one of them.

Not even a feather.

I gotta tell you, I really like these.

A lot.

Looked high and low,

but they're all gone.


How could they leave without telling me?

These things don't ever move.

They're always in the same spot.

Year after year, I know where to find them

Now?

All gone. Every single one of them.

Disappeared.

I tell you, it's a mystery.


I was pretty bummed about these

being gone, too.

I like to lick them when no one's looking.

But that's just between us, you hear?

Someone must have stolen all of these.

I can't figure out who would do it, though.

These are prickly as all get-out

but they smell real good.


Must've been a thief with cement fingers.

Who took all of the little flying things?

The yard is empty.

No fluttering.

No flapping.

No fun.


So sad.


How could all of this just vanish?


What about these?

Where are they?


Where is it all?

I ask you, where did everything go?

Huh?

Huh?

HUH?

And how am I supposed to do this...

in this?




Sunday, November 23, 2008

Noodling

It's a guilty pleasure. One I've kept to myself for a while. Hidden. Secret. Completely under wraps.

Yeah, it's been my own little time-stealer, pulling me away from what I should be doing to claim my attention.

I can't take it any more, having this skeleton cracking a finger from the closet beside my desk. So I'm going to come clean, confess and let you in on the secret. Are you ready?

Noodling. I've been noodling around with an old (almost ancient!) manuscript. I wrote the book a long time ago but never really gave it the attention it deserved. I tucked it away, thinking that someday I'd mess around with it.

"Someday" arrived a few months ago and I've got to confess, I'm pretty much hooked. It's so much easier to see what the story needs now that I've been away from it for so long. The spots where it needs more tension jump out. Characters who deserve extra "quirkiness" get it. And loopholes and inconsistencies are so blaringly obvious they make me laugh. All easy fixes.

I'm having fun with this old book, tightening and rewriting it. It's a blast but oh-so seductive. It calls to me, urging me to come play, while my NaNo clock is ticking fast and furious. I want to be good, really I do, but the book, it calls...

What about you? Any noodles wrapped around your neck?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Review!

Sniffing Sand has a new review!

It's also up for LASR's Book of the Week award. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't mind taking a peek and voting for the book that most interests you. A lot of great books this week, so there are a lot of good choices!

The link is here .

Part of what LASR had to say about Sniffing Sand:

"Sniffing Sand is a romantic suspense of the cozy mystery variety. It's not a fast paced thriller but more like something Agatha Christie might have written and just as fascinating."

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend!

Neck Revolt

My neck is revolting.

It's true. My neck is staging its own I'm-tired-of-holding-your-head-in-one-position revolt. I want to tell it that, excluding my fingers, wrists and hands, the rest of my body is on this side of the line my neck has drawn in the sand. I want to tell the neck that I'm in charge of this show. I'm the one who says when--or if!--a body part gets to stage a coup. I want to say--

Oh, who am I kidding? The neck is winning!

Please excuse the short, whining nature of this post. The NaNo neck made me do it.

Any plans for this cold, snowy Saturday? Me? I'm going to listen to my neck and lay off writing for a day. Maybe I'll eat, sleep, watch movies... Those are my plans, but I'll have to check with my neck before I'll truly know what's going on today.

Yeah, the neck's running the show here. For now, anyhow. But shh! Keep it to yourself, please! I don't want the other body parts to know how simple it is to take charge.

Name, Week 3 Winner!

The randomly chosen winner of the third November contest is...

(drum roll please!)

Nan J!

Congratulations!

Nan, please email me with your choice of any of my backlist.

Thanks to everyone who visited this week. I appreciate all of you very much.

The new contest begins today, so please, tell your friends and comment till the cows come home! Er...or at least until next Saturday, when we'll announce the next winner.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Narrowing the Gap

Ah, November. Don't you just love this month? The air is crisp, snow flurries fall and it seems like anything is possible. The world nestles in, prepares for a long, cold slumber. It's a month filled with family...friends...good food...and NaNo.

Yes, there are those among us who push the limit of an otherwise-peaceful month. We're not content to simply indulge in the flurries, family or food.

Some call the National Novel Writing Month journey an adventure. Others, a challenge. Still others speak of it with reverence, as if the whole write-a-novel-in-a-month gig is a spiritual cleansing ritual.

Call it what you may. Whatever suits your needs. Call it anything, as long as it helps you get through the month.

Me? I know the truth. November? It's the month when I prove to myself something I've long suspected. I must be nuts.

No, I'm not kidding here. I really must be nuts. Or, more precisely, I am Must Be Nuts.

I finished A Morning Glory Christmas a couple of days ago. Two, I think, although days and word counts are blurry at this point. I'm happy with the story, already have a sequel in mind and am hopeful that it will clean up nicely. All good.

What I kept mostly to myself these past weeks is that I've been working on another NaNo novel, using the Must Be Nuts name. Crazy, I know. But true.

You see, I figured out a couple of NaNos ago that in order to complete two 50,000-word novels one would have to write just over 3,000 words each day. I tossed the idea around in my head and thought Why not?

So now I'm hoping to get A Blue Moon Romance done before the end of the month. Yesterday I got several hours of uninterrupted behind-in-chair time so I knocked just over 7,000 words off the gap between me and the finish line. Today looks like a snowy, cold day so I'll probably give it another push closer.

I'd hoped to finish both books before Thanksgiving but now I'm not so sure that will happen. There are only a few days left before the holiday and I've got all the usual pre-feast stuff to take care of--shopping, housecleaning, baking...you know the drill. I'm sure you're doing a fair bit of all that in your house, too.

Still, I'm hopeful that the last chapter of A Blue Moon Romance might emerge before we all sit down to the big dinner. After all, it is November and that is the month when just about anything can happen, right?

You know what I've got planned for today. What about you? Anything going on in your world that you'd like to share? I'm all ears!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No-mess Nut Cookies

I've been making these since my husband and I were first married and they've always been a favorite in our house. There's only one problem with these cookies: they never last long enough. As fast as I make 'em, we eat 'em.

Pignoli Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 3tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pine nuts

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg. Add the flour and mix just until blended.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into an 8-inch-long log. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets.

Press the pine nuts into the tops of the cookies.

Bake about 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nowhere to Run

He whistled as he stirred the marinara sauce bubbling in the pot on the stove. Her stomach rumbled as the aroma of fresh garlic mingled with tomatoes and basil.

“How’s that eggplant coming? Should I heat the oil yet?” He sounded as hungry as she felt.

“Not yet. I’m almost done slicing them but—hey, who’s that in the driveway?”

They peered out the window. The car was unfamiliar, a dark blue sedan they hadn’t seen before. They watched as a tall, thin man dressed in a suit emerged from the driver’s seat. He paused, straightening his tie, before he retrieved a briefcase and, closing the door with his hip, turned to walk toward the back door.

Blurp—blurp blurp. Blurp!

“The sauce!” A large splatter hit the tiled backsplash as he grabbed a wooden spoon and began to stir.

“Here, stir this. I’ll go see who it is,” he said. The doorbell chimed but she didn’t take the spoon from him.

“No, you stir. I’ll be right back.”

The man smiled as she opened the back door. Then, his smile faltered.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

She watched him swallow, his Adam’s apple moving just behind his tie knot.

“I…I’m Bill Daniels. I’m new to the area and wondered if I might have a minute of your…” He glanced down and annoyance shot through her like lightning. Whatever was he staring at? He regained his momentum but his words held a wobble. “A minute of your time to discuss the policy options my company offers. Would that be…uh, would that work for you?”

She shook her head, waving her hands as she spoke. “No, thanks. We’ve already got all the coverage we need.”

As if chased by all the demons in hell, he turned and hurried away. Over his shoulder he called, “Oh! Okay then. Sorry to have—” He reached his car, opened the door and threw his case inside. “Bothered you. Good day, then.”

They watched him back down the driveway, his tires squealing when they met the paved roadway.

“That was odd.” She returned to the cutting board where the eggplant waited. “He practically ran out of here. I wonder why?”

He chuckled as he crossed the room. Planting a kiss on her temple, he said, “It might have something to do with that huge knife you waved at him. Maybe next time you answer the door you should leave the cutlery behind.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Not Focused

Everyone has them. You know, the days when you just can’t seem to focus on any one thing? The day seems to meander, pulling your attention in every direction except the one you know you should be giving it to.

*sigh*

Yesterday was one of those days. I had planned to really give my NaNo novel what for, just to completely pull myself close to finishing the story. But…I just didn’t do it. I found all sorts of other, more interesting, things to do.

What did I do? Oh, lots of stuff…I read a magazine from beginning to end. Every single page—even the advertisement pages. I worked on my holiday embroidery. Yeah, those snowmen really needed to have their eyes and noses put on yesterday. I did laundry—not exciting but necessary. What else did I do? Let’s see…oh, right! I began making out Christmas cards. And I played with Piglet. Looked in the greenhouse. Walked down to the pond.

All valid endeavors but none designed to push my word count higher.

Tomorrow I’m going to have to make sure my brain understands I want it to produce words that will tie up A Morning Glory Christmas. Today is going to be filled with errands but tomorrow? That’s the day I close the gap between “almost done” and “an inch from done.”

I hope.

What about you? Do you ever have days like mine, where you know you should be doing one thing but where you disregard the “shoulds” in favor of the “wants”? Please say you do.

Hope you have a great Tuesday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NaNo Newbie Update

As I’ve mentioned before, I have adopted a couple of newbie authors to mentor during the NaNo experience. Newbies are first-time NaNo novelists, and when I realized I could offer my mentoring services to a few of these new novelists I jumped at the chance. I want everyone to succeed all the time at whatever they’re attempting but I especially want everyone to do well during NaNo. So of course I was thrilled to think I might be able to help these novelists finish their challenges.

I’ve got to tell you, my new friends are all doing really, really well. They’re telling some great stories, some with plot points and characters I never, ever could have dreamed up. They’ve each committed to fitting novel writing into their schedules and are all moving steadily toward reaching their goals. I am honored to be part of their first-NaNo experiences.

Honestly, I thought my new noveling friends would need me more than they have. I’ve had nice chats with them, have encouraged, nudged and prodded a bit but more than that? Nope. They’re all working well on their own. And actually I’ve learned—or relearned—just how fabulously exhilarating the first NaNo can be. I feel like I’ve gone back to my first NaNo through their shared experiences and enthusiasm.

My newbies are halfway through November and I’m so pleased for them! I’ve got a feeling they’re all going to look back on this first challenge and smile. At least I hope they will.

Mentoring continues to be a joy for me. Next year I plan to offer my services again with new first-time novelists. I hope others will consider doing the same. This year there were more who asked for help than there were those able to assist. I don’t know why that was; the only thing I can think is that prospective mentors feared helping would be a time drain. I can attest that it hasn’t been. My investment has been small, my satisfaction enormous.

Helping someone else achieve their dream? Priceless.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Norwegian Nut Danish

It's Sunday and you know what that means...I'll be baking this afternoon.

This recipe comes from my B is for Breakfast cookbook. It's one I make often. If you try it I hope you enjoy it.

So, what's going on in your neighborhood today? Anything you care to share?

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Norwegian Nut Danish

2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
15 oz. undrained crushed pineapple
2 t. baking soda
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
½ t. salt
8 oz. softened cream cheese
6 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a large mixing bowl whisk eggs until fluffy. Add granulated sugar and whisk until incorporated. Add flour, pineapple, baking soda and salt and beat until batter forms. Add half of the walnuts.

Pour batter into a 13"x9" baking dish.

Place baking dish in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for 50 minutes. Cool cake before spreading frosting over top of cake.

While cake is baking, assemble frosting. Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat well. Add remaining nuts and stir. May be used to frost this cake or any other cake that calls for a plain nut frosting.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NaNo Update

I know I promised not to go on and on and on about my NaNo novel so this is just a quick update.

As we hit the halfway point in the noveling month, I'm more than half done with my novel so that's good news. And I really like the way the story is unfolding. The heroine, burned by love in the past, is uber-resistant to opening herself up to romance. The hero is so down-to-earth and understanding. He sees she's closed herself off, but he also believes she may, with the right amount of kindness, open up--at least a little bit. All is going well until she finds herself in hot water. With nowhere else to turn for help, will she accept that all men are not the same and the one who's eager to win her heart may just be what she needs when she needs it most?

Hmmph. Well, we'll see if she does or she doesn't.

All I know is I'm having a blast with this book. Being part of NaNo truly ratchets up the excitement surrounding writing. I love seeing how everyone else is doing with their novels. I am thrilled to be able to encourage and congratulate those around me. And, maybe my favorite part of the adventure this year, I love watching the newbies I'm mentoring flourish. I do so want them to be successful with their first NaNo. If it's possible I'm more engrossed in their writing than I am in my own!

So, off to work on A Morning Glory Christmas before it's time to rustle up breakfast.

I hope you have a peaceful Saturday. Any plans?

Names, Week 2 Winners!

The randomly chosen winners of the second November contest are...

(drum roll please!)

Miss Mae, Annette and Skhye!

Yes, three winners this week! Congratulations!

Ladies, please email me with your choice of any of my backlist.

Thanks to everyone who visited this week. I appreciate all of you very much.

The new contest begins today, so please, tell your friends and comment till the cows come home! Er...or at least until next Saturday, when we'll announce the next winner.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Interview!

Exciting news this morning! Today I'm the featured author at Diane Craver's blog!

All week long Diane has interviewed some very talented women. Her guests have been Cindy Green, Debra Parmley, Jennifer Shirk and Anne Whitfield.

If you haven't had a chance to read their interviews I suggest you peek in. I'm always amazed to hear how other writers work, and to learn what inspires them. All four women are smart and witty and reading their interviews was a pleasure. I think you'll enjoy what they had to say. I know I did.

Today's my day! I'm thrilled to be included in Diane's Author Week.

I hope you'll come by and leave a comment. Everyone who comments on Diane's blog today will get an extra entry in my drawing this week.

I'm giving away three books this week so comment here and there and increase your chances of having your name pulled from the hat! And tell your friends. Your neighbors. Strangers on the street. The more the merrier!

And Author Week has prizes up for grabs, too. So be sure to comment and get your name in the pot for that, too.

I can't thank Diane enough for inviting me to join the party. Such an honor, and a fun way to tie up what's been a great week.

Hope you have a wonderful Friday!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not much time until...

Thanksgiving. Fourteen days, or thereabouts.

Have you welcomed the spirit of the holiday into your home yet? Hmm? Got your turkey decorations out? Your gourds...cornucopia...hmm? No pressure; just asking.

We do. And yesterday afternoon we baked sugar cookies--in the shape of turkeys. So much fun, and let me tell you they made for a great dinner. Yeah, we had cookies for dinner. But don't tell anyone, all right? It's one of those little secrets I'll share with all of you but would rather didn't get out in...you know, public.

One of the short stories I've got published with The Wild Rose Press has a Thanksgiving theme. I kid you not! If you're interested, the details about Proclamations can be found here. I hope you'll take a moment to check it out.

So, what have you got planned for this rainy fall Thursday? Me? I'm going to get some writing done. You know, the writing that I should have been doing yesterday afternoon when I was busy making--and eating--turkey cookies!

Hope you have a lovely day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Next Year

Icy rain clattered against the windows. The day was dark and dreary but the roaring fire kept any chilliness from creeping into the room. In fact, it bordered on sweltering and she considered removing her socks. Why did he insist on building such a big fire? A small one would have done just as well.

Temperature was forgotten when she got to the bottom of the box and saw what she had been searching for. Delight made her grin. She snatched it and held her treasure up to the light. So intent on examining the small rectangle, she missed hearing him walk up behind her.

"Where should I put this?"

A grin played at the corner of her lips and she felt temptation call her but she resisted. Barely. Instead she turned and, with a nod of thanks, took the mug he offered. She sipped. Then, a grimace as it hit her taste buds. White chocolate cocoa. An oxymoron, that. The idea was a good one but the actual taste? Not as great. She took a second, tentative, sip. There. It went down easier.

Must be an acquired taste, she thought as she looked longingly at his mug of real hot chocolate.

"What's all this? Isn't that the little box you got out of the greenhouse yesterday?" He tapped a fingertip on the small, clear plastic shoebox that was now empty.

"Uh huh." Slow sips, that was the ticket. If she had imagination enough to write book, then surely she could imagine the cup of hot white stuff into rich, satisfying cocoa, couldn't she?

"All of this," he waved his arm over the tidy stacks of seed packets that covered the table. "Came from that?"

"Uh huh." No. It was impossible. No amount of imagination was going to turn the foamy white mess into coca. She used an empty packet as a coaster, placing the half-empty mug far enough from her that she wouldn't be stupid enough to take another sip. "They're this year's seeds. Or what's left of them, anyway."

"What're all these little piles?"

She pointed, ignoring the steam coming from the mug. "Those are empties that I'm going to order again. They're empties that we weren't too crazy about. These are the ones that we loved."

"So...what's the deal with the empty packets? And those--aren't they still full?" He picked up a packet of Roma tomato seeds and gave it a squeeze. It crackled between his fingers. "We didn't plant these?"

A fast head shake was his answer as she snatched the seeds from him and placed the packet back where it belonged. "The empties are to remind me next year what we planted this year. That way I'll know we didn't like," she chose a packet at random from the not-so-crazy-about pile. "Lima beans."

"I could've told you that, even without an empty seed envelope."

She ignored him. "But I'll remember the walking stick kale was fun. And that we really liked those yellow tomatoes and the hot, round peppers. I'll know the white pumpkins grew well but the--"

His hand shot up. "I get it. So what you're telling me is that, even though we just tilled the last vegetable bed two days ago and it's getting set to snow, you're planning next spring's gardens. Is that it?"

"That's it." She picked up her pen and turned to the seed list in front of her. It was easier to pretend she didn't see the eye roll that she knew accompanied his long, tortured sigh.

A fast kiss on the top of her head made her smile. They might not always understand each other but that was a detail quickly overlooked.

"You don't want this white cocoa, do you?"

"Nope."

"But the doctor said no caffeine so that means no chocolate." He brought the mug closer. "What do you say?"

"Let the doctor drink it." She gently pushed his hand aside.

"All right. I'm going to get an apple. Want one?"

"No, thanks." She jotted a few notes, then called over her shoulder. He was halfway to the kitchen already but his footsteps halted so she knew he heard her. "But could you bring some ice cream?"

"Ice cream? But it's snowing outside!"

A wide grin spread across her face as she looked down at the shapes, colors and varieties spread before her. So many options... Her heart warmed. "That's all right," she called. "Old Man Winter can snow all he wants. In here, spring's just around the corner!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Never Forget


Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue
~George M. Cohan

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.
~Elmer Davis

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Happy Veteran's Day!

We take Veteran's Day seriously around here. My husband is a veteran but even if he wasn't we would still wholeheartedly observe this day. Old Glory waves here, and I hope it does at your house, too.

Formerly known as Armistice Day, Veteran's Day is the day we set aside to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans. They are the men and women who risk their lives to preserve what we hold most dear. They protect and serve and for that we are truly indebted.

There is no way to adequately thank someone for giving so freely but we try, not only today but everyday . We remember that the man in the grocery store wearing a USMC T-shirt is making more than a fashion statement. He is proclaiming the commitment he's made to keeping Americans safe. We nod our thanks and hope he knows what's in our hearts. We realize there are children who are separated from their parents, not because they want to be but because one or possibly both are serving our country. We pray they know how much we appreciate their sacrifice. And we reach out to those in uniform with a handshake, hug or a few quiet words. The moments are small, the thanks inadequate, but we acknowledge their service and are grateful.

When I reflect on our country's veterans my thoughts also go to those who have made it their mission to honor those who have served. I marvel at their unflagging dedication, their tireless, often thankless, toil. For those unsung patriots, I am also grateful. And when I think of organizations like the VFW my thoughts linger on one very special woman. If you don't mind, I'm going to tell you a little bit about her now.

Our Aunt Shirley has worked at her local VFW Post for as long as I can remember. I'm sure she served there before I was even born. She is still incredibly active in the day-to-day affairs of the place. I don't know what they would ever do without her.

The mission of the VFW is to "honor the dead by helping the living" through veterans' service, community service, national security and a strong national defense. Aunt Shirley does all that with grace and flair. No sacrifice, commitment or inconvenience is too great for her to bear. She puts her all into promoting patriotism and helping veterans and their families.

Our Aunt Shirley? She's a tribute to the spirit that makes this country great. She gives freely of her time and energy. She gives often, with enthusiasm and pride. She gives with her heart and soul--not only sometimes, but all the time. She lives what she believes and she's not afraid to show it. And she does it every minute of every day.

Every minute. Of every day.

I have been fortunate. I've never had to wonder what service is. Or patriotism. Or commitment. Or determination, fortitude, love or honor. I've had a living testament to those things. All my life I've had an inspiration in our Aunt Shirley.

Today I join our nation in honoring our veterans. I am eternally grateful that they sacrificed to protect the freedoms and rights we have. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Also I thank the countless men and women who, like our Aunt Shirley, have made it their life's work to honor our veterans daily. They've never forgotten, and I hope and pray I never do, either.

Thank you, Aunt Shirley, for teaching me that patriotism and honor are important--not only on special days but every minute of every day.

To learn more about the VFW and what Veteran's Day stands for, there is an editorial by VFW National Commander Glen Gardner here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Notes for a Monday

Good morning! I hope you had a peaceful, relaxing weekend.

Here on the farm we had one of those kick-back-and-chill weekends. Saturday's rain kept us indoors but yesterday we braved the cloudy day to take a long hike in the forest.

Now that the leaves are off the trees more light filters through to the forest floor. Even with its stark pre-winter bareness, the forest is alive and there are so many things to see and enjoy. Patches of irridescent green moss. An owl peering down at us from a Tamarac branch. The hint of movement near the stone outcroppings. A fox? Turkey? Maybe a deer? Walking in the forest is an adventure I always enjoy--even on gloomy, overcast days!

Today I plan to work on my NaNo novel, bake cookies (I know I baked cookies yesterday but Hubby requested fig cookies so I'll bake a batch for him this morning.), do laundry and watch the snow fall. Probably in that order, too. A pretty quiet day here at our house.

Before I begin writing, though, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you. It'll only take a moment, I promise. Well, maybe two moments...

First, I want to thank Amy for kindly awarding me an "I Love Your Blog" award. What a great way to start the week! The truth is, Amy's is one of the blogs I begin my day with. Her posts about her sons really are heartwarming. She's smart, funny and I feel like I'm visiting with a neighbor when I make my daily stop. I know the rules of the award state that I'm supposed to pass it on but since I passed it on last week I'll leave it at that. Amy, you've made my day! Thanks so much!

Just wanted to remind you that my short story, Press Pass Corfu, is available for free all month long from Whiskey Creek Press. Have you downloaded your copy yet? If you haven't, please do! Find it here.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that I posted a short excerpt from my NaNo novel, A Morning Glory Christmas. I hope you'll take a peek. My NaNo page is right here.

I think that's it. See? I told you I'd only take a few moments of your time this morning. :)

So what about you? How was your weekend? How's your Monday shaping up? Anything you'd care to share?

Whatever you do, wherever you go, I hope the day is a good one for you.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nut Drops

I like to bake every day, but especially on Sundays. It just seems like a relaxing thing to do. Today I'm going to bake Nut Drops. The recipe is one we use often. It's included in my cookbook, Tea Time.

(If you're interested, the cookbooks are available through the link at the top of this page. Or contact me if you'd like any signed copy. Thanks!)

But today, as we bake these yummy treats, I'd be thrilled if you, too, had the chance to try them. If you give the recipe a test drive, please let me know what you think about them. I love comparing recipes and chatting about food, so feel free to email me!

What are your plans for this beautiful fall day?

Nut Drops

1 cup granulated sugar
8 T. butter
1 t. almond extract
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
1 cup mashed strawberries
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl cream butter,
almond extract and granulated sugar until creamy.
Add egg and mix.
Add flour, baking powder and
baking soda and mix well.
Fold strawberries and nuts into batter.

Drop batter by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.

Place baking sheet in a 375-degree oven
and bake for 14-16 minutes.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Name, Week 1 Winner!

The randomly chosen winner of the first November contest is...

(drum roll please!)

Anne Carrole!

She won with her comment on Thursday's Notes From the Farm post. Anne, please email me with your choice of any of my backlist. I'll get it in the mail to you this coming week.

Thanks to everyone who visited this week. I appreciate all of you very much.

The new contest begins today, so please, tell your friends and comment till the cows come home! Er...or at least until next Saturday, when we'll announce the next winner.

Have a great Saturday!