Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Leftover Christmas Wrapping paper

Christmas is over, and you're stuck with 8 rolls of snowflake and candy cane wrapping paper because you bought the 10 roll jumbo pack that was supposed to save you a lot of money.  Now you have three rolls left and you don't want to save them for next year…because people do remember wrapping paper patterns!


Here are a few ideas to put that paper to good use from getgreeliving

Line Your Dresser Drawers with Leftover Paper


Drawer liners do wonders to protect your clothing. Believe it or not, wrapping paper makes great drawer liners. Cut pieces of wrapping paper to fit the bottom of your dresser drawers. Attach the paper with double-stick tape. Voila! Homemade drawer liners that are environmentally friendly because they are made of paper that didn’t end up in the landfill and they didn’t cost you a penny!

 Use Leftover Paper to Protect Fragile Ornaments

When the holidays are over and you have to pack up the ornaments and other Christmas decorations, use scraps of leftover wrapping paper to protect the ones that are fragile. As an added bonus, you’ll be greeted with holiday cheer when you unwrap them next year! This is also a great way to protect ornaments and other fragile items when moving.

Shred Leftover Paper



Shred any leftover paper and use it in place of packing peanuts to protect valuables when you ship them. The shredded paper can also be used as a fun alternative to tissue paper when you use gift bags. It also makes a great bed for your kids’ Easter baskets!

Homemade Holiday Coasters by Martha Stewart



And finally...Clean the Windows with Paper

Like newspaper, wrapping paper is great for cleaning windows and leaving them streak-free – use it instead of paper towels or a cloth. (Avoid using the shiny/plastic stuff though.)

What do you do with your leftover wrapping paper?

 Marin Thomas
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)








Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to You and Yours

May your home be filled with love and happiness, today and always.


With warmest wishes from
          the authors of Harlequin American Romance

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the night before Christmas...

Actually it's still the morning of the night before Christmas, my home is bustling with holiday preparations, and I love it! In a couple of hours we'll decorate the tree and then it'll officially be Christmas.

My whole family will be here and we usually have an informal buffet supper on Christmas Eve, but tonight I'm serving a four-course sit-down dinner—butternut squash soup, apple-pomegranate salad, boeuf bourguignon a la Julia Child, and lemon custard for dessert. Tomorrow, of course, I'll do the more traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings. For me, a Christmas filled with family and food is the best present of all, and I wish the same for you. Let's all have at least as much fun as these goats...


Until next time,
Lee
The Christmas Secret (Nov. '11)
The Daddy Project (working title, TBA)
Daddy, Unexpectedly (working title, TBA)
Lee's website
Lee's Facebook page

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Wishes

This year I'm on deadline during the holidays, which means the tree is half-trimmed, only a few packages have been wrapped, and the cookies may not get baked at all. Oh, well. I can't regret any of that, when I'm so happily immersed in the lives of my characters. (Besides, fewer goodies around the house means we'll get a jump on our New Year's diet resolutions!)

Still, for your sake, I hope your preparations are moving along much better than mine are. LOL

One not-to-be-missed event is writing my Harlequin American Romance Authors blog entry.

My December appearance here never gets old—to me, anyway (smile)—even though I say some of the same things from year to year. How could I not? A blog post almost smack in the middle of December requires some very specific messages, don't you think?

The first is a huge thank you for your support of my books and for your letters and e-mails and social media posts throughout the year.

I look forward to staying in touch, both here at the blog and "out there" in cyber space.

Meanwhile, no matter what special days you celebrate, I wish you a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.

See you next year!


All my best to you,

Barbara

~~~~~~

Barbara White Daille
THE RODEO MAN'S DAUGHTER (February 2012)
http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com
http://www.facebook.com/barbarawhitedaille https://twitter.com/BarbaraWDaille

Christmas Party Games

If you’re hosting family and friends at your house this Christmas holiday you can add to the fun with party games.  Just think how much more fun these games will be if you spike the eggnog!

Party ideas from Wryte Stuff

 Kiss it Relay: Place a large bowl of Hersey's kisses on a table. Divide your group into two teams and have them line up around 10-15 feet away from the table. Give the first people in the row mittens that are slightly larger than they would ever need. On the mark of "Go", the first player of each team runs to the table (with their mittens on), takes a Hershey's kiss out from the bowl and tries unwrapping it with the large mittens. After they unwrap it they have to run down and pop it into the next person's mouth. The next person takes the mittens and runs to the bowl to do the same.


Reindeer Antlers: Divide your group into teams of two to four people. Give each group a pair of pantyhose. Give each team eight balloons. Then, when "Go" is said, the race starts, and the teams start blowing up the balloons and stuffing them into the pantyhose. Once all the balloons are stuffed inside the pantyhose, a team member wears the "reindeer antlers" and the team yells "Rudolph" when finished. The first team to finish is the winning team.



Snowball Toss: Divide the group into teams each team forms a line. Place a 2 taped markers on the floor a few feet from the teams. Give each team a bag of marshmallows (large, not the mini size). The first team member in line stands behind the tape marker. On "Go" the 2nd one in line takes a turn trying to "catch" a marshmallow in their mouth. Once a team member catches a marshmallow, they get out of line. The team that finishes their line first wins.



Do you have a favorite Christmas game you play at your holiday parties?

Marin Thomas
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)




Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Grinch or Not to Grinch...

…that is the question.

My hubby worked in retail for many years and to say he was a Grinch is an understatement. He was in a district position which required him to be at various stores during the day so between the traffic and the craziness that surrounds malls during December, he was not amused. Add to that all the Christmas music that malls begin playing around, hmm, October, and Christmas was a dreaded event. If I put on one of my many, many Christmas CD’s, he grimaced and groaned in true Grinch form.

But the past couple years he’s been in a different career and I love the change in his mood. I love Christmas so it’s refreshing that he’s now getting into the spirit of the holiday. He even decorated the outside of the house without too much grimacing. But when I came home from a weekend trip, I had to laugh. In a special salute to his favorite Christmas show, he’d decorated my palm tree in true Whoville fashion. He was quite impressed with his handy work. But if he pulls out his Scooge shirt, we’re going to war.

Anybody else have a Grinch in the family or a good Grinch story to share?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Having Myself a Very Weird Little Christmas!!

Christmas Eve 2010 

Christmas this year in the Altom home is following a little closer to fiction than I'd like.  Similar to the characters of last story in my Buckhorn Ranch series, A Baby in His Stocking, our holiday will be much different than it has ever been before. 

Hannah is still dating her New Jersey hockey player.  We talked about maybe spending the holiday on the beach in Gulf Shores, taking Antonio with us, but as he's been away from his family for months, playing with a Minnesota team, he's of course spending the holidays in New Jersey.  Here's where things get dicey.  He invited Hannah to spend the holiday with him.  Now that Hannah's not going to be here for Christmas, my parents have decided they're not coming, either.  Suddenly, our typical houseful of fun has dwindled to Hubby, me and our sons.

Not gonna lie, I'm freaked out.  With a family this small, each member counts.  Having just lost my last grandparent literally like a week ago, the child in me feels like this is a time when we all ought to come closer, but instead, it feels as if everything's falling apart.  I'll be the first to admit I'm a drama queen, but when it comes to Christmas traditions, I hold on tight.  Now, I'm a little scared--like there's nothing left to hold on to.

On the flip side, all of my men are excited by this change-up in plans.  A new video game has them all held captive.  Skyrim--a sequel to Oblivion for you non-gamers--is a HUGE deal in the gaming world.  I have a copy for my PS3, but I've had deadline after deadline and it's sitting in a drawer unopened.  My guys have this new and--in their eyes--improved Christmas all planned out.  Open gifts as fast as humanly possible, cook feast, play Skyrim with said feast on laps while casting spells and slaying dragons.  No cleaning, no leisurely sitting around the fire cherishing each gift, no laughing at the dining room table, no cleaning or dressing up or using manners--just a full-fledged Man Fest they're promising me is going to be a great time.

Part of me is psyched about not cleaning, but another part is apprehensive, like if I let something as sacred as Christmas traditions slide, our family has a problem.  Every book I write is focused on the sanctity of family, but the one topic I've never dealt with is what happens to my fictional families once the kids grow up and start their own traditions.  Dealing with the transition from high school to college was tough enough, but this new kink in my world is a beast.  One I'm in no way ready to slay. 

I know Hannah will be with a huge, wonderful family having a ball.  Not sure what my parents will be doing.  I, however, will be surrounded by three of the best looking guys in the state, feasting on ham with all the trimmings, downing "magic" eggnog and embarking on a fantastic quest for gold and power.  All of which, now that I think about it, doesn't sound half bad!!

How about you?  Switching up your holiday traditions?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Harlequin Annual Christmas Open House

On Wednesday December 14th Harlequin will is once again sponsoring their Annual Christmas Open House where readers can chat with the authors from the various Harlequin lines.  Be sure to stop by www.harlequin.com for more information on the event and how to register for the chat rooms.

American Romance Authors, Ann Roth, Barbara White Daille, Jacqueline Diamond, Tina Leonard and Marin Thomas will be on hand to chat with readers or aspiring writers about everything and anything from holiday cookie recipes  to upcoming books and series for the line.  The authors will also be giving away copies of their books throughout the chat so please stop in and say "Hi".

www.Harlequin.com chat with American Romance Authors Wednesday December 14th from 7-8 pm (Eastern Standard Time)

Happy Holidays!



Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Party Time!


No doubt, at this time of year some of us attend catered soirees where waiters in black tuxes circulate trays of canap├ęs and caviar among the gowned and bejeweled guests. Much as I'd enjoy those events, the parties I'm usually invited to are much simpler affairs, gatherings of friends or family or--best of all--both. Events where I'm typically asked to bring "a dish."

What to bring? Each year, I search my recipes for something a little different, a little “out of the box.” Which is a challenge since I’m not a fancy cook. A good one, perhaps, but I wouldn’t know a piping tool if it bit me. So forget anything that requires carving radishes into roses or creating them out of icing.

This year, I’ve chosen a spinach artichoke dish as my to-go selection. To be honest, it started out as an Emeril Legasse recipe, and you can’t go wrong with Le Bam! I have, however, played around with the ingredients a bit. His version called for Brie and marinated artichokes. My crowd prefers Swiss and skips the marinade. Whichever suits your fancy, serve with good chips and enjoy.

Leigh's Version of Kicked-Up Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated
1 cup extra sharp, white cheddar cheese, grated
2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 strips of bacon, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Green onions, sliced (optional)
Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch ovenproof serving dish with cooking oil. Set aside.

Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Squeeze excess liquid from thawed spinach and drain well.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne and cook for another minute.

Sprinkle flour over onion mixture. Slowly add cream and milk, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat while continuing to stir, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture is thick and creamy.

Remove from heat. Add the Swiss and Cheddar. Stir until melted.

Add spinach, and lemon juice. Stir.

Set 1 tablespoon of bacon side. Add the remaining bacon and artichoke hearts to the spinach/cheese mixture and stir well.

Pour into greased casserole. Top with Parmesan cheese, reserved bacon and, if desired, sliced green onions.

Bake about 15 minutes or until heated through.

Serve with chips.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

ENOUGH


Is everyone in full holiday spirit? This time of the year life gets a little rushed and hectic. The planning, decorating, shopping, cooking, parties and on it goes. Sometimes it’s just too much. I’m always rushed to finish everything that I don’t take time to enjoy the moment. I have a poem on my desk that I cut out of the paper in 1999, the year I sold my first book. It’s very simple, a little sad, but says a lot. It was written by Jeremy Richard Frampton, one of the twelve who died in the tragic Texas A&M Bonfire collapse. The university is about ten miles from our house.

Enough
If I stare long enough
If I talk hard enough
If I touch soft enough
If I look good enough
If I love deep enough
Will I live long enough
To love life enough

I love this poem so I’ve decided to enjoy the holiday and my family because it’s time to say enough is enough. I plan not to agonize over gifts and drive myself crazy. And to keep everything simple. We’ll see how that goes. It’s really nice Mother Nature has decorated our yard. That’s even better. These are Texas Yaupon holly shrubs and the bright red berries are gorgeous. After the drought, I thought they wouldn’t make this year, but they did.

Are you ready for the holidays?

Wishing each of you the best holiday ever.
Linda
http://www.lindawarren.net/
The Texan’s Christmas – Dec ‘11

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Fudgey Christmas Memories

I have to keep with the spirit of the season posts here, as today I'm baking cookies. I've been gathering new recipes and might stir up some rum balls for a change of pace. However, my family demands I make Chocolate Chip cookies, and people tell me they hope I give them some in tins. Which is strange because my "secret" recipe is the Nestle Toll House Cookies recipe on the bag of semi-sweet morself. LOL So everyone could make them, if they wanted to. The only thing I do that's not listed on the bag is put foil on my baking sheets (because I reuse the cookie sheets during the baking of a batch). Here's what I made for Santa last year. He didn't eat all of them, but he made a pretty big dent.

I like rolled cookies that are pretty shapes and have icing, but not sprinkles or sugar. Making them is a chore, however, even though I like to decorate the ones that turn out. There's something about rolled dough that challenges me. You can use your Valentine heart cookie cutter for Santa, just put heart tip at the top for his hat. For a few years, I made Linzer cookies, which are basically shortbread-like cookies with red raspberry preserves. Again, they're not easy--too much rolling and cutting and perfecting. I'm more the drop-from-a-spoon type. Maybe that says something about me in general, but I'm not going there. :)

Could be I'm missing the rolling-dough gene. My mom wasn't a cookie or pie baker, but she made moist cakes with frosting that would make your knees buckle and FUDGE to die for, just from the smell. I'd love to be able to make it like she did. But Mom cooks by experience, not by a recipe, so we may have lost this treat forever. She can't cook with anyone in the kitchen, nor can she cook when trying to write down what she's doing. This doesn't bode well for us, especially as Mom hasn't been able to make Fudge for a few years now. Since I don't have a grasp of what a "hard ball or soft ball stage" looks or feels like (or how a drop of fudge cooked to that stage reacts in a cup of water!), I tried to make fudge using a candy thermometer. No luck. I tried different measurements of liquid to attain a "messy but not sloppy" consistency. I kid you not! That's how much milk to add, according to Mom. Now you're getting an idea of what I'm up against. I won't even try to explain how you know when you've beat it enough, but it includes the words shiny and glossy (however, you only want one and the other is bad).

But even if we can't have the Fudge itself, my siblings and I will cherish the memories of buttering the dish, getting to eat the fudge off a beater or scrape the bottom of the saucepan, waiting for the fudge to set enough to eat that first cut bite, still warm, or cheerfully assuring Mom that the "bad" batch of spoon candy (when it didn't set up) was not really a disaster because it tasted so good. Same with the rock hard, chisel-a-chunk-free batches. That smell of rich, luscious fudge cooking on the stove--aaah, my mouth waters!--would bring us from wherever we were in the house.

So, no, I never missed home-made cookies when we had something a zillion times better. Fudge, cooked with love, by Mom. Thanks for the memories, Mom.

Is this peculiar to my family, or is there a food in your family that no one else can make or there's no written recipe for? Do y'all have any suggestions for me--perhaps a good recipe I should try?

Wishing y;all a happy holiday season, with warm fudge, warm times with loved ones, and warm memories for your future.

Megan Kelly
www.megankellybooks.com

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Red Kettle History

In the midst of all your shopping, last-minute errands and trips to the grocery store as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, please remember those less fortunate in your communities.  Make the holiday special for someone in need by dropping a few coins into the Salvation Army Kettles outside your local grocery store or favorite big box retailer.  Dig between the sofa cushions, check beneath the seats in your car and ask your kids to spare a few pennies from their piggy banks…a little goes a long way!   


Here's a little history on those famous RedKettles.

In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome -- funding the project.

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Where would the money come from, he wondered. He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city's poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.


The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.

Six years later, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the Boston area. That year, the combined effort nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy. In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years. Today in the U.S., The Salvation Army assists more than four-and-a-half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.

Captain McFee's kettle idea launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but all across the world. Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries. Everywhere, public contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten.

Do you have a favorite charity you like to donate to during the holidays?

Marin Thomas
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)



Sunday, December 04, 2011

Nuts about the holidays! (recipes)

Looking for tasty snacks to have on hand when family and friends drop by?

Here are two easy make-ahead recipes to put out for your guests.

And if you package them in pretty glass jars, they also make great hostess gifts!

Spicy Almonds and Pecans

1 cup whole almonds, with skins on
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the nuts are coated with seasonings. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the baking sheet, let the nuts cool, and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to a week.

Curried Cashews

3 cups roasted cashews, unsalted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the nuts are coated with seasonings. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the baking sheet, let the nuts cool, and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to a week.

The preparation instructions are pretty much the same but temperatures and times are different, so they have to be roasted separately.

Happy holidays!

Until next time,
Lee
http://www.leemckenzie.com/
The Christmas Secret (Nov. ‘11)
The Daddy Project (TBA)
Daddy, Unexpectedly (TBA)

Friday, December 02, 2011

NOVEMBER WINNER!!!!

CONGRATULATIONS Marcie! You’re the November winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Lee McKenzie, Shelley Galloway and Julie Benson through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Holiday Spirits

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, these days the Christmas decorations don’t wait until December. But I wish they would. For me, the magic of the season sparkles more if it isn’t stretched over such a long period.

Well, at last, it’s December, when the lights shine a little more brightly. To those of you living in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica, happy midsummer! To those in northern climes, I hope you get just enough snow for a pretty holiday.

Here in Southern California, I’m still harvesting a few tomatoes and peppers. And still digging up weeds. Isn’t there always a tradeoff?

Last year, I had a December Harlequin to toot about. This year, after October’s release of The Surgeon’s Surprise Twins, I’ll have to wait until February. That’s when the seventh book in my Safe Harbor Medical series, The Detective’s Accidental Baby, will be available.

In the meantime, I’m pleased that readers are enjoying the reissue (for Kindle and Nook) of my earlier romance, A Warm December. There’s a hero who dresses as Santa, a heroine named Merrie who’s a veterinarian, and even an orphan. It’s set in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.

I wish you all a happy season!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Craft ideas

Christmas is right around the corner...those of you Mom's who are room mothers or have been put in charge of coming up with holiday craft ideas for a school christmas party will enjoy this site I stumbled upon. 

My kids are college age so the days of school Christmas parties...at least the kind with crafts and treats are long gone, but I still enjoy making a small craft that I can attach to a present or a tin of homemade cookies for my neighbors. 

Check out this Link for lots of cute ideas.  When you click on the picture of the craft you'll be taken to the blog where the idea originated.

Here are a few samples...

Reindeer Gift Bag

Christmas Peanuts Gnomes


Candy Wreath



If you have any cute Christmas craft ideas or Christmas cookie decorating tips please share them! 

Marin
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2011)
All My Heroes are Cowboys
www.marinthomas.com


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

One of my favorite things about holidays is that every year, even though it’s a day steeped in tradition, a fresh new memory is made.

I live in Canada where we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October, so I thought I’d share something new I tried this year. First I should tell you that I love to set the dining room table for a special occasion so I tend to go all out with the china, crystal, candles, linens and fresh flowers.


This year I decided it might be fun to add placecards. I started by searching online for “vintage Thanksgiving graphics” and this one caught my eye.


I printed the image on white cardstock, trimmed it to size, glued it on a piece of gold paper, and added the names by hand. Then, at each place setting, I propped the card on tiny white pumpkins I found at a local farmers' market.


My pink-and-white china doesn’t lend itself to traditional fall colors, so the gold and white worked well with my color scheme. Best of all it was easy and inexpensive!

Now I’m planning my Christmas tablescape. I think moose placecards will be fun because I have a lot of moose-themed holiday ornaments. What do you think of this?


Or this?


I haven't decided how to display them, but I might use pinecones. If you can think of a better idea, please let me know!

For now I’m wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving filled with everyone and everything you love.

Happy holidays!

Until next time,
Lee
http://www.leemckenzie.com/
The Christmas Secret (available now!)
The Daddy Project (TBA)
Daddy Unexpectedly (TBA)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The thing about technology...

Technology is a beautiful thing. I love my computer, couldn't live without the word processing program I use to do my writing, and—as my husband would no doubt be very quick to tell you—I am...oh, let's say...just a teeny bit captivated by e-mail. LOL

When you're a writer on a deadline, technology can be a wonderful thing. Or not.

Recently, I was plugging away at the work-in-progress when a new program I'd installed on the computer began acting up and my screen froze—and proceeded to freeze every ten minutes.

As I continued to plug away, the program began to spontaneously combust and shut itself down every five minutes.

Then, even though I had set the backup feature to do its thing every two minutes, I discovered it had decided not to do its thing at all. So I lost countless pages of writing.

And this program's designed to help make the writing process go smoothly! Grr...

But wait, there's more.

A few days later, I was deep into the best part of drafting a story, the part where thoughts burst into your brain so quickly, you can barely type fast enough to get them down before you lose them, and...and... The keyboard died. (sigh)

The computer settled down, finally, and that seemed the end of the catastrophes.

Although, today—I suppose just to make sure I didn't get too complacent—this blog post refused to go live....

Yes, technology is a beautiful thing, isn't it? When it works. LOL

Well, despite all the recent frustrations, the good news is that being on deadline means I'm due to have a new book out. (smile) That's just one of the many things I have to be thankful for in this week before Thanksgiving.

Another of them is you.

Thanks so much for stopping by. And, if you celebrate it, I hope you have a wonderful turkey day filled with family and friends and good food.

All my best to you,

Barbara

~~~~~~

Barbara White Daille
http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully...or Not

How many of you like to watch Doctor Oz's TV show?  I've become an Oz junkie.  There's just something about his no-nonsense approach to good health that appeals to me.  He understands that being human is just that—human, not a machine.  And even when we "know better" we still make bad health choices on occasion.  But he forgives us and encourages us to keep trying.  No matter what the topic on his show, by the end of the sixty- minute segment I already feel better about myself and I feel like I have control over my health.  One episode that made a big difference for me was a show about hair color and how choosing the right color can make you look younger.   
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/hair-colors-take-decades-your-face

For years I used boxed hair colors and I usually chose a dark shade of brown…the color my hair had been in my youth.  Dr. Oz's show taught me to "lighten up".  Now I'm a lighter shade of brown and have highlights that add depth and dimension to the color and make my face appear less harsh. 

It's been a process of sorts, but over the past few years I've learned to embrace getting older….to be the best I can be for whatever age I am and the Dr. Oz  show has been a great motivator in encouraging me to take care of myself.

Is there someone…a show…a book…that's given you sound  advice on growing old gracefully? 

Marin
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Veterans Day and WWII

After living in Waxahachie over two years, my husband and I finally went to the Veterans Day festivities this year. They had set up both an American and a German camp and they did battle for the bridge coming into town.There were vintage vehicles and airplanes. People dressed in vintage WWII uniforms and costumes. Even an evening USO show with Georgie Burns. Sorry, Bob Hope couldn't make it this year.




Such a wonderful opportunity to honor all the men and women who have served this great country, both past and present. So proud of my dad, sons, daughter-in-law, uncles and all the other people out there who have served.



WWII has always seemed like such a romantic time period to me. I grew up listening to my parents stories about how my dad was a tail gunner in a B-17. How my mom left her parents’ farm during the war and moved to Dallas to find a job. Looking back at my dad’s pictures from overseas. Many of the war and the planes and even a few of him dancing with women he met while in the military. He actually returned after the war ended and taught dance for a time. He was the king of the jitterbug. Our house was always filled with music . He’s been gone nearly twenty-five years, but I still treasure his vintage big band record collection.


Anyone else have a particular era that they find romantic.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hockey is Waaaay More Fun Than Lounging on the Sofa!!

Remember our Romance Road Trip?  Gorgeous Louisa and her
super-talented Oilers goalie, Ian, are still an adorable couple!!

After a freakishly hot summer here in Oklahoma, it's cooling down and time for Oilers Hockey!!  I've been sick for so long with that *&^%$ mystery tummyache, I was beginning to doubt if I'd even make it to the first few games.  Finally, the last test with the last specialist showed a not-so-little problem that landed me in surgery a few days later.

Fast forward a little over a week and while I tire easier than I'd like and still have twinges of surgical pain, the mystery knife pain that's held me prisoner since May is gone.  Can I get an Amen? 

I'm not just being a drama queen when eluding to pain being the ultimate warden.  After a while, I felt caged.  Pain pills made me nauseous, which only made me feel worse.  Thus, I've spent months on the sofa and it was getting old.  Now that I'm sprung, I've been deep cleaning the house that's felt dormant and at least trying to catch up on laundry.  Hannah and I went girl-shopping Saturday afternoon and I did lunch with Russell Sunday afternoon.

Another task Hannah and I tackled is buying silverware--more specifically, forks.  We were down to three.  How does that happen?  Where did they go?  We now have a nice, new set I'm counting after meals!!

Wish I had some clever moral to this story or a definitive reason for what I went through.  I have gained a new respect for anyone suffering from chronic pain.  Having had one doctor tell me it was all in my head, don't take that sort of disrespect!!  Only you know your body and insist the search for the problem doesn't end until you say!!

Quick shout-out of thanks to my amazing family and friends who've suffered this with me--Big Terry, Little Terry, Hannah & Russell, Mom & Dad, Margaret, Winnie, all of my fab Facebook friends local and far away, and of course Sweet Pea, Cocoa and Daisy--at the worst of this, you all made life worth living.

As for my Oilers, they're doing great!!  Yesterday, since Hubby's out of town and Hannah was doing her Ice Girl thing, Louisa and I cheered them on to a HUGE win over Wichita!!  Let's Go Oilers!!! 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

SMELLY THINGS AT OUR HOUSE...




The drought in Texas has caused many problems, the least of which is an armadillo rooting up our yard. Every time my husband waters the grass the next morning the yard is rooted up with deep holes. The armor-shelled creature is digging for ants, beetles, worms and other unpleasant little insects. In the photo below he burrowed into the ground. It’s ruining our lawn so the hubby devised a plan. He was going to trap the armadillo and take him far far away deep into the woods away from houses.

He went to Lowe’s and bought a trap. The instructions were to bait it with table scraps, fruit or sardines. Well, I wasn’t giving the armadillo my fruit and we didn’t have any table scarps so he baited it with stinky sardines. Three days went by and nothing. The armadillo rooted all around the trap but didn’t go in it. On the fourth morning my husband came in and said, “I caught something.”

“What?” I asked.

“Come out and see.”

I had on my robe and didn’t want to go out at 7 in the morning, but I did. This is what he caught. A SKUNK!!

I looked at him and he looked at me. ‘How do you plan to get that out of the trap?” I asked.

“I was hoping you’d have a suggestion,” was his response.

“No,” I told him. “I’m going into the house and lock the door and not let you in if you’re all stinky.”

“Thanks,” he called.

I went into the house and made my way to the front bedroom so I could see what he was doing. He got his long rod and reel he uses on the Texas Gulf Coast. He stood as far away as he could and slowly lowered the hook. The skunk couldn’t see him because of the solid aluminum piece in the middle. Several times the hubby tried to catch the latch with the hook. I was holding my breath. Finally he caught it and reeled the hook upward and the latch popped and opened. (photo taken after skunk was released. Didn't want to get too close) Hubby slowly laid the rod on the grass and walked several feet away and watched. The skunk turned around and trotted out of the cage and into the woods without spraying that foul stinky scent on anything. Ingenious. I was so proud of the hubby.

So far it’s armadillo 28. Hubby 0, if you don’t count the skunk. But fall has arrived with cooler temperatures and a few showers so he hasn’t watered lately and the little devil has moved on to someone else’s yard.

What’s happening at your house? I’d love to hear some stories.

Thanks,
Linda
http://www.lindawarren.net/
The Texan’s Bride – Oct ‘11

Monday, November 07, 2011

Only Precious To Me by Megan

When I returned from the RWA National convention in July, I had strep throat. Bad. Coming home on July 2, a Saturday, meant my doctor wouldn't be in until Tuesday! I had three excruciating days of throat pain to endure. So I watched TV. lol

Yes, I watched Cardinals baseball--no surprise there. YAY to my team for their amazing comeback and World Series win!! (Y'all knew I'd sneak in a mention of the boys, didn't you?) However, I watched a lot of TV, and I tried different shows, one of which was "Storage Wars." For those of you who haven't seen it, when renters fail to pay for three months, their storage lockers are put up for auction. The show centers on four main buyers--two own thrift stores, one is a collector and one (I think) takes stuff to thrift markets. After winning a locker, they go through it and evaluate its worth.

I admit, I thought it was a trashy, low-class version of "Antiques Roadshow," the PBS program where people have their "treasures" evaluated by experts. And it may be, lol, but I've become hooked. I don't care for the bickering, but I love to see what's been stored, what treasures or unique items are found, and of course, how much they're worth. It's kind of like a pirate of old opening a chest to discover if it's clothing or doubloons.

My family didn't have antiques,--or doubloons for that matter. :) But we had some cool traditions that had props. On Thanksgiving, we would use the turkey salt and pepper shakers. Only on Thanksgiving. That's when my mom would also make Whipped Cream Salad, which I later learned was similar to Ambrosia, but since I never ate it, I had no idea. Whipped cream and the unused mandarin oranges and pineapple bits from the sweet potatoes, and sometimes coconut. [shudder] Had she thrown in chocolate, I might have at least tried it, but honestly, none of those things appeal to me, and coconut is a deal-breaker. She served it in what we called the Whipped Cream Salad bowl, a carnival glass dish she received as a bonus for buying gasoline or something back in the 50s.

For several years, I searched for a cute Thanksgiving turkey set to continue the tradition in my home. The only sets I found had two toms and no hen. No hen? I don't think so. Almost twelve years passed when my mom gave me the turkeys for my birthday. I've never had a more special present! No, they're not valuable, except for the memories. A couple of years later, she gave me the Whipped Cream Salad bowl. To me, these are priceless items. (I serve mashed potatoes in the WCS bowl,)

The other item in my picture is a potholder my mother-in-law made, which we only use in the fall. The guys on "Storage Wars" would no doubt throw this stuff out (even the carnival glass bowl isn't valuable), but these things remind me what I'm truly thankful for--my family.

And if I can keep my brother or sister from stealing them when they visit, I'll pass them down to my children. LOL

What beloved item/s do y'all treasure? I'd love to hear about them.

Best,
Megan Kelly

www.megankellybooks.com

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

OCTOBER WINNER!!!

CONGRATULATIONS Jo! You’re the October winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Laura Marie Altom and Barbara White Daille through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Far-flung friends

I hesitate to use the phrase “It’s a Small World,” because every time I do, that theme from the Disneyland Small World attraction gets stuck in my head and won’t go away. La-la-la-la…oh, just shoot me.

No, wait! I mean, shoot me over to Europe for a visit.

Once upon a time, I spent six months in Italy and another six months traveling on a playwriting fellowship. These days, I stick close to home in Southern California with my husband of 33 years, my garden and my wonderful writing friends from Romance Writers of America’s Orange County Chapter (check out www.OCCRWA.org. If you’re in the area, come to a meeting).

But it is, as they say, a diminutive globe.

I teach writing through Long Ridge Writers Group, and some of my students email their lessons from far-away places. South Africa, for instance. The UK. All over the U.S. and Canada.

The characters in my books, who often seem almost as real to me as the people I know, also come from a variety of places—almost always somewhere I’ve lived or visited. In my October release, The Surgeon’s Surprise Twins, the hero, Dr. Owen Tartikoff, is from Boston. He just moved to Southern California to head the fertility program at my fictional Safe Harbor Medical Center. As for me, I went to college near Boston (Brandeis University).

Then there’s Croatia. Never been there. But I have a friend in Zagreb.

It all came about because of a photograph. If I post it right, you can see the beautiful cover of my Regency romance, Song for a Lady, which I’ve reissued in a digital edition.

I found this photo on a website that allows people to download and use images for free. So far, so good. I credited the Croatian photographer, Darko Skender, in my publicity.

Then I heard from him. He never lets people use his photos commercially and was unhappy to discover his photo on my cover. Of course, I offered to take it down. Then this kind man—a retired police officer—decided to be generous and let me use it anyway. We emailed a bit, and ended up as friends. We even Tweet.

As it happens, my mother also has a friend in Zagreb, Hanibal Salvaro, a distinguished ceramic artist. No, he and my new friend aren’t acquainted, but I have a feeling they’ll meet one of these days.

After all, it’s a minuscule sphere.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Quick Five

Quick, give me your five favorite things about fall. To give you some ideas, here are my five.

1. Perfect temperatures. When the temps are between 65 and 75 with clear, sunny skies, it's perfect weather for outside activities, whether that's going for a hike in the woods or doing yard work.

2. Harvest festivals. When I worked for newspapers and magazines, I covered a lot of harvest type festivals. I loved the walk through yesteryear filled with blacksmiths, women cooking on wood-burning stoves, harvesting crops, the making of beeswax candles and cornshuck dolls.

3. The smell of the woods with the leaves falling and even the smell of fires if the smoke isn't too strong.

4. The color of the fall leaves. My favorites are the orange and yellow ones.

5. Pumpkin-flavored treats, particularly pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread.

Okay, your turn!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

It’s only October and we haven’t even had Hallowe’en yet, but it’s already starting to feel a lot like Christmas. My next Harlequin American Romance, The Christmas Secret will be out next Tuesday and I’m having a lot of fun getting ready for the release. Great cover, don’t you think? I’ve loved all my covers but this one’s my definitely my favorite.

To help readers celebrate this new release with me I’m sending out holiday recipe cards. If you would like one, please send your mailing address via my website.

I’m also inviting readers to join me next Monday, October 31 at the Pink Heart Society. For their Male on Monday segment I’ll be blogging about one of my favorite kinds of heroes—the nerd. I do love a man who can talk nerdy.

Happy reading!

Until next time,
Lee
http://www.leemckenzie.com/

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Seasons Changing and So Do We

While the temps have just begun to reflect the change from summer to fall, the last few days are hinting that winter isn't far off. I don't mind the cooler weather and am happy to have turned off the AC.  After surviving far too many recording breaking days of 100+, anything under 80 feels like heaven.  But the newest addition to our family isn't very happy.

Toby, a 2 1/2 year old gray cat, came into our lives a month ago.  Several times throughout the year, when the cat population becomes too high, our local Humane Society gives away free kittens and cats.  I hadn't intended to take a new pet home, but out of curiosity we decided to see what was available at the latest give-away.  After getting a number and walking through the crowd of people hoping to adopt a new pet, my youngest daughter and I weren't able to tear ourselves away, even though we were told that it was entirely possible there wouldn't be any kitties left by the time our number was called.  As it turned out, Toby, who was being fostered by one of the employees and wasn't in the facility at the time, was the last cat available at the end of our four hour visit.  We took him in a heartbeat.

Toby's description mentioned that he was a great personal assistant, and he's already proved that to be true.  His favorite spot to snooze quickly became the window that overlooks over my desk.  This was fine with me, until the temps started to dip into the low 50s at night, and the daytime temps stopped reaching 75.  To Toby's utter disgust, the window had to be closed.  All the windows had to be closed.  So now when he discovers that his favorite sleeping spot will no longer accommodate his bigness, he gives up and settles for the top of my desk.  At 34 inches stretched out from head to tip of tail, that's more than half of my desk, and I've spent quite a lot of time moving him so I can see the bottom of my computer screen.  He still doesn't understand that assisting doesn't mean keeping me from working.

We're happy that, instead of a tiny kitten that would have needed training, we found Toby.  Or he found us.  It appears that he and I will be enjoying the changes of the seasons together.  I'm already curious to see what he thinks of the view out the window when the snow begins to fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's your favorite costume?

It's almost the end of October, and Halloween will soon be upon us.

I love Halloween. And yes, it's partly because I'm a candy kind of girl. Don’t even get me started about chocolate! LOL

But for the blog today, how about we stick to something less fattening?

Let's talk about getting dressed up for the Big Night of trick-or-treating. Of course, like me, I'm sure you've worn many, many costumes over the years, from the most simple to the extravagantly elaborate.

As a teenager, my favorite costume was dressing up as a hobo. It was easy. It was cheap.

Heck, it was do-it-yourself:

Torn jeans, one of my dad's old flannel shirts, a pair of filthy, stinky sneakers my mom thought I'd tossed out long ago, and a worn-out bandana from the rag bag—and I was good to go.

Oh, along with the liberal application of black marker and eyebrow pencils to add that special down-on-my-luck touch. (smile)

My all-time favorite costume, though, was comprised of an old billowy ball gown with a "diamond" inset at the waist and a long gauzy train, strappy sandals, a pair of elbow-length gloves, and a "diamond" tiara. I felt regal and royal and really, really grown-up. That was probably the year I turned seven. LOL

And it does show that I've always been a romantic at heart, doesn't it?

How about you? Please share your favorite costume ever—one worn by you or one of your kids or grandkids!

All my best to you,

Barbara

~~~~~~

Barbara White Daille
http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween...Scary Story

October…

The month when leaves change color and begin to fall.


When farmers finish harvesting their crops and prepare the fields for winter. When days are cold, then warm, then rainy, then sunny all in the same week. The month when birds fly south, and apples and pumpkins are picked. The month when football hockey and the World Series compete for TV viewers.

However….it's Halloween that steels the show in October.


A night when wherewolves, Vampires and Witches walk together. When Princesses, Fairies, Batmans and Supermans share the sidewalk with Harry Potters, Hermonie's , Buzz Lightyears, Green Army Men and Aliens.

In honor of Halloween I thought it would be fun to share a scary tale. I came across Campfire Tales - The Scariest Urban Legends Ever at
http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/horrors/ss/Campfire-Tales.htm
and recognized a story from my youth—a slightly different version but the same general premise.

Scary Story #6 "The Boyfriend's Death"



A Girl and her boyfriend are making out in his car. They had parked in the woods so no one would see them. When they were done, the boy got out to pee and the girl waited for him in the safety of the car. After waiting five minutes, the girl got out of the car to look for her boyfriend. Suddenly, she sees a man in the shadows. Scared, she gets back in the car to drive away, when she hears a very faint squeak... squeak... squeak... This continued a few seconds until the girl decided she had no choice but to drive off. She hit the gas as hard as possible but couldn't go anywhere, because someone had tied a rope from the bumper of the car to a nearby tree. Well, the girl slams on the gas again and then hears a loud scream. She gets out of the car and realizes that her boyfriend is hanging from the tree. The squeaky noises were his shoes slightly scraping across the top of the car!!!


I bet you remember a scary story from your childhood...want to share?

Marin
www.marinthomas.com
Check out my new Blog "All My Heroes are Cowboys" at
www.marinthomas.blogspot.com
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2011)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Witches, Goblins, and Falling Leaves



I never thought I’d be so ready for fall. I’ve always enjoyed all the seasons, but I’m a summertime gal at heart. I love warm weather and trips to the coast and all the things that come with summer.

But after a terribly hot, dry summer, I’m really enjoying the cooler nights. I’ve been on vacation this week and have taken time to sit outside on the patio in the evenings with my coffee and watch the gorgeous moon rise. And it’s been downright chilly. The house is decorated for fall, with Halloween spooks and lots of rich fall colors. We’re looking forward to fireplace weather, and Thanksgiving. I’m pushing my hubby to help clean out the greenhouse to make ready for the potted plants.

It's fun to watch the high school kids all dressed for Friday night football. And to think about some of the planned activities we have with friends. I'm even ready for the time to change so it gets dark earlier. Okay, that's not entirely accurate. I'm looking forward to an extra hour of sleep each morning. My grankidos are planning out their Halloween costumes and the stores are full of candy. I have this unhealthy addiction to corn candy.



How about you? What is your favorite season?

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Harley and a Girl Named Gypsy . . .

Sweet Pea, who at the ripe old age of 98 dog years is the senior citizen of our family!!


Happy Friday!!

So excited for a mini-road trip to Arkansas I'm taking today with my kiddos and Daisy to meet a new family member--Gypsy!  But before I tell you who Gypsy is, you have to suffer through the back story of how this 9lb baby entered our lives . . .

The last book in my Buckhorn Ranch series, A Baby in His Stocking, is released next month.  UPS brought my author copies yesterday and I got all misty over the dedication.  (I turn in books a good six months or more before they're published, so a lot of times what the dedication is has nothing to do with my current life, but was meaningful to me when the book was turned in.)  We're a dog family, so I dedicated this story to Noodle, my parents' dachshund who lived to the grand, old age of eighteen. 

When you think about how much happens in our lives over eighteen years it's mind-boggling.  Our kids grew from infants to college, I think we've had three presidents, MTV stopped playing videos, cell phones are now postage stamps instead of bricks and TVs are flat as stamps!!  Raise your hand if you remember how exciting seeing your first big screen TV was!! 

Noodle the Wonder Wiener was there through it all, most importantly the passing of both of my grandparents and my favorite great-aunt and uncle. . . . Here I go again, making myself all weepy.

Losing Noodle was crazy hard on my mom.  I think if she'd had her way, she'd have gotten a puppy right away, but my parents do a lot of traveling and Dad put the kabash on getting another dog. 

Fast forward more than a few months and Dad is out riding his Harley--yes, you read right!!  Mom loathes it, as the helmet musses her hair, but she does have all the latest Harley fashions that she sported for Fayetteville's Bikes, Barbecue & Blues.  (I cannot keep that name straight, so sorry if I got it wrong.)  Anyway, Dad's on his bike and sees this little dog weaving out of the weeds on the side of a country road.

He was in a fairly desolate area, and since it looked like a dachshund, he got off his bike to investigate.  Sure enough, he'd found a starving, dirt-covered wiener!!  Mom reports her being skin and bones, but still wriggling and kissing in true dachshund style.  They asked all over Farmington if anyone had reported losing a dog, then took her to a vet for a check-up and to see if she had an ID chip (those weren't around when Noodle was born, either!).  With no chip and my mother already in love, the vet urged them to give the dog a new home.

Mom called to discuss names and decided the usual Heidi and Pretzel wouldn't do.  Dad refused to stand in the front yard in his robe yelling for Cupcake or Cutie so I suggested they name her something that told the story of how they found her.  A few hours later, Mom called back and made the formal announcement that our new family member shall be christened Gypsy!!

Welcome anyone to your family lately? 




   

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deadline Writing - Finding the Love

My son once told me that a Chick-fil-A Biscuit would “change my life.” So, I traveled twenty miles to the nearest Chick-fil-A in time for breakfast and ordered up a chicken biscuit. It was good. Yummy, even. But it wasn’t life-changing.

Not like Candace Havens’ Fast Draft Method.

If you read my post here last month, you know I’ve hit a new stage in my writing—writing to tight deadlines. I have to admit, at first, I wasn’t all that thrilled with this new challenge. Oh, I was beyond happy with a two-book contract. I was super excited that my editor had so much faith in me. I’d already fallen in love with the characters. I knew their stories and really, really wanted to bring them to life on the page. But writing a book in two months? Ooooh, scary stuff for an author who labors over each manuscript for a minimum of half a year.
That was before I met Harlequin Blaze author Candace Havens who introduced me to her concept of Fast Draft writing.

Believe me when I say that, for an author, this method will “change your life.” And I’m not the only one who feels that way. My good friend, Roxanne St. Claire, experienced true epiphany when Candace spoke to our local RWA chapter last month. The author of thirty books, Roxanne put the Fast Draft method to work for her. Much better than I ever could, she talked about the experience yesterday on Murder She Writes.

If you write and are looking for a way to do it better, faster, check Roxanne's column at: http://www.murdershewrites.com/2011/10/11/standing-on-my-skyscraper-sampling-some-crow out