Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Friday Early (Tara Taylor Quinn)

First – Harlequin is bringing Black Friday Early to you!  Click on the link below to purchase Wife By Design at 50% off the cover price!!  They are only offering this deal until 11:59PM ET on Thursday, Thanksgiving day.  Type in Coupon Code EARLYBF at checkout to get the Black Friday price.  For those of you who don't read my Superromance, this book is the first in my Superromance Where Secrets Are Safe Series.  It was out in February of this year.  Book Four, Child By Chance is out is six days!  I wish I could bring you a Heartwarming Black Friday deal, but I don't have a Heartwarming book out until 2015.  Anyway, click on the bookcover below to shop Black Friday Harlequin Style.  The coupon code is good for only one use, but you can use it on one of the thirty titles Harlequin has selected.

Now, on with my show…
I’m one of those who loves Black Friday.  On Black Friday.  I don’t want to leave my family, or the relaxation of home, or the mindset of openness, safety and thanks that permeates our home on Thanksgiving Day to go shop.  But come before the crack of dawn Friday morning and I’m excited and up and ready to go.
This year, there won’t be a lot of places to go.  I’m seeing that a lot of stores are open from 5am until 1am on Thanksgiving, but not opening until 8am on Friday.  And another change – there are sales on the Internet right now – Black Friday deals like I used to find only when I got up at the crack before dawn on Black Friday.  Today I saw one such deal.  I called my mother and a purchase was made on line.  I’ve already picked it up from the store and delivered it to her.  No waiting.  No hassle.  Not as much fun, either.
But One thing I’ve learned about life is that it changes.  And it’s counterproductive not to accept that.  But the world’s change doesn’t mean that I have to change what I know to be important to me.  I’m not going to shop on Thanksgiving.  I’m still planning to be up early on Friday.  To scout out the deals.  To have fun with my honey and get some breakfast out and buy Christmas gifts.  I just won’t be at Best Buy at 5am.  And I might spend an extra dollar or two.  I’m okay with that.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.  I hope each and every one of you feel loved.  Appreciated.  Please know that I appreciate your support here.
Tim and I are cooking the turkey on Thanksgiving Day.  (And dressing and scalloped corn and green beans, too.)  What will you be doing?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From a Thanksgiving Grump

I’m the first to admit that I like shopping. Malls are happy places for me, places where a person can be waited on in a clean environment where someone else polished the glass on the showcases. Looking for sales is a particular skill I’ve worked to develop over the years. While shopping is fun, saving money is even better.

I also truly love writing for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. My fellow authors and I compose stories about tender love, family values, and coming together with hope for the future.

So, why am I so upset about Thanksgiving this year?

Basically Black Friday is ruining the holiday for me. I never was a Black Friday shopper, but I actually admired those who were. But now Black Friday is threatening to take over what I cherish about the holiday. Many stores are open all day on Thursday. Many are opening before dark on Thursday evening and remaining open all night. Many are asking their employees to come in at 5 AM Friday to handle the customers.

Isn’t it possible that we are forgetting what this truly original and universal American holiday is all about? Aren’t we supposed to remember why we join around the table in the spirit of peace and harmony and good will (and yes, good food). Our ancestors have been recognizing the value of these few hours on a Thursday in November for many years. I think we should honor their memories and, for one day,  put the shopping on the back burner, the turkey in the oven, and allow all American families to gather together and say thanks.

Just sayin’

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When holidays are difficult....

I'm guilty. I never realized how much, but I have taken my blessings for granted, big time. Four sisters,  two parents and in laws all within driving distance here in Northern, CA. That's a pretty big blessing, but an even bigger one? We all get along. Better than that, we all love each other and enjoy time spent together. Pretty Hallmark, huh?

I thought it would always be like that. I mean sure, my brain realized that people would age and health would deteriorate, but my heart sure didn't believe that. This year, my heart cannot deny the fact that there are family members suffering, with mobility that's compromised, pain that continues in spite of what doctors can throw at it. Will we all be together this year? I still cannot accept that it might not happen, that pain and mobility and suffering would overshadow our Hallmark celebration. My brain can accept it, but my heart cannot.

I finally understand why holidays are so difficult for some because blessings don't last forever, even though the love does. Do you have loved ones that you can't celebrate with this Thanksgiving? How do you keep them close to your heart?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Has Thanksgiving Dinner ever been less than you expected?

By Patricia Bradley

I love Thanksgiving. And I believe there will be tons of blog posts on what we are thankful for, or should be thankful for. As there should be. And not just on Thanksgiving.

So, I thought I’d write a post and title it Funny Disasters on the Way to the Dinner Table. Or…What had happened was….Or...What was your most disastrous Thanksgiving Dinner…

At the end of the blog, you can vote on which title you like the best.

I’d like to say I have only one disastrous story to tell. I'd really like to say that.

Story# 1:
It started out a disaster way before Thanksgiving. It was my first Thanksgiving with my husband, and we are living with his parents. See, disaster already. Anyway, Thanksgiving morning, nine o’clock, my new mother-in-law wanders into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator, looking for the turkey she meant to put in a couple of days ago. She forgot, and I didn't know you were supposed to thaw it…Hey, I was just 17.

I thought she’d be real upset, but no. This wasn’t the first time she’d forgotten. Out came the turkey from the freezer, we peeled the plastic off and stuck him in the oven. Frozen. About 3 hours later, she took the giblets out. And filled the cavity with dressing. I skipped dinner that Thanksgiving.

Story #2:
Cold Thanksgiving Day. Many years later. Company is gathering around the table. The turkey is beautiful and no, I didn’t forget to thaw it—I learned my lesson watching my former mother-in-law. Oh, by the way, the next year, she forgot again, but instead of sticking the turkey into the oven to cook with the giblets inside, we took a hammer and chisel to the bird.

As I was saying, the turkey was beautiful. Golden brown. I took the dressing out of the oven. It too was golden brown. Found a dishtowel to pick the dish up with, not knowing it was damp. Did I tell you how pretty the turkey was? It was delicious, too. Even without the dressing.

Story #3.
This last story is from a friend who is known far and near for her wonderful rolls. For weeks before Thanksgiving morning she had told her husband her oven was wonky. But he thought it was fine. She put her rolls in to bake and when she took them out, the bottoms of the rolls were black. And hard. 

The tops were nowhere near done.  She threw them out in the yard for the possums to eat. Two weeks later, the possums had not touched them. 

She thought the winter would break them down. Snows came and went. The rolls didn't. They littered her yard and refused to break down. She told her 8th grade class about them. That spring, she mowed over them. A piece broke off one, sailed through the air and broke her living room window. 

The next Thanksgiving her doorbell rang. It was a student from the year before with a large pan of baked, warm rolls and a note—“Don’t worry about the bread this year.”

So, as I look forward to Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel this year, I am thankful for so many things. My family, my friends, that I’m warm, that God has blessed me so much…and that  I haven’t cooked a turkey in 17 years.

Do you have a Thanksgiving dinner story to tell? If so, share it. If not, which title would you choose?

And have a blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving...What's on the Good Side? by Shirley Hailstock

Back (before the flood) when I was in college, I met a woman who became a very good
friend.  She was the Director of Students, even though she was only a few years older than me.  She once told me that she was thoroughly depressed about losing a boyfriend.  He was a high-profile actor and everyone recognized him.  When she was with him, there was an added prestige she garnered from both her friends and his.

When the relationship broke up, the prestige went with it and it plunged her into a place that she thought was dark and so deep she couldn't claw her way out of it.  One night, in the wee hours of the morning when she was unable to sleep, she got up and took a piece of paper.  She drew a line down the middle and on one side wrote Good and the other Bad.  She wrote down the things in her life that were good and weighed them against those that were not.  The list was much longer on the good side of the page.

I have never forgotten this technique when I’m feeling low or feeling that my life is spinning out of control and there is nothing I can do about it.  The good always outweighs the bad.  At this writing, Thanksgiving is approaching and I have much to be thankful for.  I have a lot to list on the good side of my paper and very little on the not so good side.

I sent in a manuscript this morning (wee hours mind you, but it's done).  That, in and of itself, is a monumentally good thing.  I finished the book, developed the blank page into real live people I liked and wanted to spend time with.  People I want to share with readers.

I have my family, immediate and extended, all well and healthy.  I have my romance writer friends, all supportive and eager to share information.  I have non-romance writer friends who I’ll see and toast the holidays with.

I have my shopping done for the big meal on Thursday and the beginnings of some Christmas shopping too.  I can spend some quality time with my daughter since I don’t have a deadline to keep me chained to the computer.  We can do whatever it is she wants to do (within reason).  She’s twelve.

On the not so good side, I have to cook the meal.  But then I get the leftovers.  I have to clean the house, both for Thanksgiving and before I begin another writing project.  If I don’t, it won’t get done until after the next book.  And by then I won’t be able to get into my office or the front door.

So you see the good is much longer than the bad.  Have a wonderful holiday.  Don’t eat too much.

And remember the soldiers who are keeping us safe to enjoy family, friends, and a good meal.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving from Lee McKenzie

Hello, Heartwarmers! I hope everyone’s having a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoying the transition from autumn to winter. I’m adjusting to cooler temperatures and waning daylight hours as I bask in the memories of my recent Hawaiian cruise with Handy Man—sixteen glorious days on the MS Zaandam, sailing from Vancouver to the Hawaiian Islands and back again.

The trip included five days at sea on the way to Hawaii and another five to sail back, which seemed like a long time before we embarked but not nearly long enough by the time we returned. Isn’t it funny how that happens?

Here are some photos and anecdotes of our Hawaii cruise and, if you read on, a giveaway.

I couldn’t believe we had the bow of the ship to ourselves as we sailed beneath and beyond the Lions Gate Bridge. Farewell, Vancouver!

I easily developed a routine for the days at sea:

  • a morning exercise class in the fitness centre (the reason for this will soon become apparent)
  • a hearty breakfast
  • two hours of reading and writing in the library
  • cooking demo in the Culinary Arts Centre
  • a three-course lunch in the dining room
  • time spent reading and writing
  • four laps around the promenade deck (the reason for this must now be apparent)
  • dress for dinner
  • drop by the Sip and Savor
  • an hour in the lounge listening to a violinist and pianist play classical music
  • a four-course dinner
  • evening entertainment

And trust me...“wash, rinse, repeat” never sounded better! Still, it was wonderful to say, “Hello, Honolulu!”

Instead of staying in the city, we rented a car and set off to explore the island, and we didn’t have to drive far to find a quiet beach.

After a wonderful day of sand, surf and sightseeing, we waved goodbye to Waikiki and Diamond Head as we set sail for The Big Island.

The next morning we said hello to Hilo.

And yes, the sand is black.

Then we were off to Maui, and the tenders were lowered to take us ashore.

Visitors to Lahaina are greeted by the city’s famous banyan tree. Yes, believe it or not, that’s one tree!

After a wonderful day of shopping and then lunch on an open-air lanai overlooking the water, we set sail once again.

On Kauai we cooled off with pineapple infused beer...

...and were greeted by an unexpected guest at the beachside restaurant in Nawiliwili.

That was the first time I've ever seen a chicken in a restaurant that wasn't on a plate.

 All too soon we were saying farewell to Hawaii and embarking for Victoria.

The return trip was equally memorable. I had entered a recipe contest sponsored by the ship's Culinary Arts Center...and I won! So on October 1, which was also release day for The Parent Trap, my most recent Heartwarming, I hosted that day's cooking demonstration, and the oh-so-adorable Chef Sebastiano prepared my Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Tart.

And here's my award-winning recipe.

Lee’s Tomato, Basil & Goat Cheese Tart


Pastry, enough to line a 10-inch tart pan
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 medium-sized ripe Roma or plum tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus whole leaves for garnish
8 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Prepare your favorite pastry, preferably one that’s extra flakey. (In other words, a recipe that calls for lots of butter!) Wrap pastry in plastic wrap, chill in refrigerator for half an hour. This makes it easier to roll. Roll the chilled pastry and line one 10-inch or four 4-inch tart pans. Brush the pastry with olive oil.

Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a skillet. Lightly sauté the garlic for about one minute, just until it starts to brown. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cut tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and any tough membrane. Tomato seeds are bitter, so don’t skip this step! Roma or plum tomatoes are best because they maintain their meaty texture after baking. Season cut sides of tomatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place tomatoes cut side down in the skillet and cook over medium heat for four or five minutes. Remove the tomatoes to a plate and set aside.

Add the sautéed garlic and chopped basil to the remaining oil in the skillet and cook just until the basil wilts. Remove skillet from heat, add the goat cheese and stir or whisk until smooth.

Spread the cheese and basil mixture in the pastry-lined tart pan. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up, on the cheese. Arrange one or two whole basil leaves on each tomato.

Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Cut the tart into wedges or remove the individual tarts from their pans, place on serving plates drizzled with a balsamic reduction and garnish with a sprigs of fresh basil leaves.

Enjoy! And to be eligible to win a copy of The Parent Trap, please leave a comment! Tomorrow I'll draw a winner and post the name in the comments.


Happy reading and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,
Lee McKenzie
Writing fifty shades of pink

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thankful by Syndi Powell

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and in America we are only a little over a week away from it. Alice Walker, author of "The Color Purple" said, "'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding." It may be the best prayer, but at times it is also the hardest to say.

For those of you who know me, this has not been my best year. There have been a lot of challenges to overcome as well as pain and sorrow. But this has also been a year of tremendous growth and opportunities. It has been easier to say "thank you" for the opportunities but almost impossible to express my gratitude for the challenges.

 Still, I want to say thank you for a few things this year:
Thank you for my ex-husband for his courage to imagine a different life for us where we would both find contentment and strength.
Thank you for my parents who allowed me to move in when I needed somewhere to go and for all the support they have shown me through everything.
Thank you for my sisters who despite their own challenges have been there for me too.
Thank you for my managers and co-workers who have been a part of those challenges as well as those opportunities. I learned a lot about relationships because of them.
Thank you for my agent and editor who have pushed me to become a better writer and person.
Thank you for lawyers and doctors who use their expertise to advise and guide me.
Thank you for strength and courage and the refusal to give up.

What are you thankful for this year?

Join us at our Fall for Heartwarming Holiday Facebook party today between 3 and 9 pm ET/ noon and 6 pm PT. We're playing games and giving away prizes. we'd love to see you! You can find us HERE