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 White Daille

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 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". 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)

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.