Thursday, December 31, 2015

How I learned to love New Year's by Amie Denman


At the risk of too much information, I’m baring my soul about the turning of the year. I used to think I had a “New Year’s Curse.” This started when I was eleven because (here comes the TMI, close your eyes if you don’t want to hear this) I had my very first visit from Aunt Flo (you know who she is) on New Year’s Day. I only mention it because it relates to my perceived curse. Happy Welcome to Womanhood 1981.

Another New Year’s, my father had a bizarre accident on New Year’s Eve. He was jet-skiing alone on a lake in Florida (yes, my entire family is crazy) and he ran into an alligator. The impact knocked him off his jet-ski in violent fashion and he suffered a hideous spiral fracture to his leg. The man (tough is an understatement) dragged himself onto the personal watercraft before the alligator could eat him, drove himself back to the dock, and called 911. All this with his foot turned 180 degrees from where it should be. So…Happy Emergency Surgery 1999. 

The next year was THE BIG ONE! New Year’s Eve 2000. I was pregnant, but my husband and I still planned a little celebration…our last New Year’s before becoming parents. Unfortunately, two events conspired to wreck that one. My husband got pneumonia and a plumbing “situation” caused raw sewage to back up in our basement. Ah yes, Happy Pregnant and Mopping Up Sewage 2000.

Fully recognizing that the curse was upon me…I made a drastic move. 

I stopped taking New Year’s seriously as a holiday. That’s right. I laughed in its face. I stopped making any sort of party plans and started making resolutions that were entirely frivolous. While my cerebral friends were resolving to read their way through the Harvard Classics, I resolved to:

Play the lottery every week (never did win more than a few bucks)
Try a new cake recipe every week (The Year of Cake…sigh…how I loved that)
Try a new cookie recipe every week (special request from the child born in 2000)
Go barefoot more often
Have more fun

This year, I considered flirting with fate. Yes. I seriously thought about making a reservation at a local resort for a fabulous Casino Night party on New Year’s Eve. My immediate family members shook their heads in warning and advised me to stay home and order pizza. That dastardly curse! I really want to fight it because this could be my Best New Year’s Ever 2016 because I am celebrating a dream come true: a book release from Harlequin on New Year’s Day. Happy Three-Book Contract from Harlequin 2016!

http://www.amazon.com/Under-Boardwalk-Starlight-Point-Stories-ebook/dp/B010LKC4NO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444872959&sr=1-1&keywords=amie+denman+under+the+boardwalk


Maybe I’ll do the smart thing anyway. Pour a glass of wine, sit back and read my own book. Indulgent, right? And I can’t possibly screw this up because I already know it has a happy ending…as all books should!

Whatever your plans are to celebrate the New Year, I hope you are safe and happy!

P.S. I'm running a little raffle for people signed up for my newsletter here. On January 2 at noon, I'll chose 5 random people on my newsletter list and send them a signed copy of Under the Boardwalk. Please jump in and sign up! Thanks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

This year's word is...

by Liz Flaherty
         
 It is during this last little piece of the year that I choose my word for the year to come. I don’t know when this little ritual started, but it replaced New Year’s resolutions for me and that was a good thing--it cut way back on my failure rate. I don’t even know all the words I’ve used. I know Joy was one, because it was and remains my favorite word. Magic was another. In 2015, it has been Expand which has been good not only for me but for my pastor who had such a good time with it.
          This morning I went back and looked at my plans for that word. They were as follows:

1.     Expand my faith. No, I’m not going to proselytize or otherwise hit anyone in the face with it, but I am going to give it a bigger space.
2.     Expand my spirit. I’m a Pollyanna. I’m a happy girl who can find the good in almost any situation. I’m going to stop being embarrassed about that.
3.     Expand my vocabulary. I just love words, don’t you, and I don’t know enough of them. The fact that my...er...maturity is causing me to forget a lot of them necessitates me latching onto more and using them in fun places when I—
4.      –expand my writing. I’m not sure how, yet, but it needs to grow.
5.     Expand healthy diet and exercise, because other habits have caused a great deal of expansion in areas I don’t care to discuss.
6.     Expand the width of my mind. It’s so easy for it to narrow up, to think experience always equals rectitude, to close against things that are new or uncomfortable.
7.     Expand my horizons. I want to go somewhere I haven’t been, see things I haven’t seen.

          Globally, 2015 has been a time of tumult and terror and immeasurable pain that hasn’t stopped yet. Politically, it seems to have been year of greed and lies and meanness—I think some of “them” could do with my list. Personally, it’s been...wow, a great year. Not that I was completely successful in my quest with my word (see #5), but for the most part...yeah, I’m happy.       
          So what now? What word can I attach to in 2016 that might make me kinder, more productive, more giving? Might make me drop back some on the use of the words “I” and “me.” (I use them so often I sometimes start sentences with “You know it’s all about me...” Embarrassing!)
          And I have it. One of my very favorite quotes is from A. A. Milne:

          “What day is it?" asked Winnie the Pooh
          "It's today," squeaked Piglet
          "My favorite day," said Pooh.

          My word for 2016 is Today. I can’t do a single thing about tomorrow, and it’s way too late for yesterday, but for Today, I’ll do what I can.
          Happy Heartwarming New Year to you. Do you make resolutions or have intentions? Or do you have a word for the year, too? If you feel like sharing, we’d love to hear it.

***
Isn't this lineup a great way to start the new year. If you don't have yours yet, don't wait. If you find them in a Walmart near you, give us a shoutout--we are so excited!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Heartwarming New Year Facebook Party!


Amie, Cynthia, Pamela and I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

With Christmas behind us and 2016 just around the corner, it's time for our New Year Facebook party to celebrate our new releases! It's happening today, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM eastern time.


We've already had a lot of fun and six prize winners through our blog giveaway. For more prizes, autographed books, fun and to chat with Amie, Cynthia, Pamela and me, join us today at our party. As a special treat, MIRA suspense author Elizabeth Heiter will be joining us. It's a particularly exciting day for Elizabeth since Seized, the third book in her The Profiler series, released today. Happy book birthday, Elizabeth!

In addition to signed copies of our four Heartwarming releases, here's a selection of the gifts we'll be giving away (Santa not included; Canada/US only):


Harlequin is contributing 5,000 My Rewards points, too!


Don't be surprised if you see other Heartwarming authors stop by to chat at the party. If you haven't already confirmed your attendance, there's still time to do so. Please click on the image below to go to the event page and confirm your attendance.


And it's not just the five of us who are celebrating. In fact, all Heartwarming authors have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. Starting with our January 1st releases shown above, Heartwarming books are now offered as mass-market paperbacks through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and of course Harlequin.com. Also starting January 2016, our books will be available in select Walmart stores in the United States the month following their online release. Thus, you'll be able to find our January releases in select Walmart stores in February. These exciting developments are only possible because of our wonderful readers. Thank you so very much for your support, reviews and loyalty!

If you would like to learn about the four January Heartwarming releases, read on!

We hope to see you at our Facebook party on December 29th!



Under the Boardwalk by Amie Denman
  
Everyone's counting on him
  
With the sudden death of his father, Jack Hamilton finds himself running the family amusement park, Starlight Point. His first job? Balance the books, and that means raising the rent for vendors like baker Augusta Murphy.
  
Gus won't accept the new contract…not without a fight. She rallies the other vendors and sets out to negotiate with Jack. At least, she tries. How do you play hardball with a man who's charming and kind and still grieving? Gus needs to figure it out fast, because the closer she gets to Jack, the more she risks losing everything.

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Amie on her website.

When Love Matters Most by Kate James

Keeping her safe at all costs

Could their backgrounds be any more different? Rick Vasquez, a K-9 unit sergeant with the San Diego Police Department, fled drug-related violence in Mexico as a boy. Madison Long, who recently became primary veterinarian to the SDPD's canines, is the privileged daughter of a judge. Rick has dedicated his life to curtailing cross-border drug trafficking and preventing other young boys from being drawn into the dark world of the cartels. But everything Rick and Madison value, and the growing love between them, is threatened by the dangers of Rick's job, and the risks he's determined to take…

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Kate on her website.

A Boy to Remember by Cynthia Thomason
  
You can't live a lie forever

One magical summer—that was all it took for Alexis Foster to fall deeply in love with Daniel Chandler. And then she gave him up to keep Daniel from sacrificing his own dreams. But the passionate bond they shared is rekindled when Alex returns to her family's farm…with a powerful secret.

Ohio's youngest state senator, Daniel's star is on the rise. He's also discovering a kindred spirit in Alex's seventeen-year-old daughter. Alex has to tell him the truth even at the risk of his political future…even if it costs her the two people she loves most.

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Cynthia on her website.

The Missing Twin by Pamela Tracy

The secret between them

Angela Taylor knew her sister was in trouble. For anyone but a twin, her instincts would seem crazy, and her actions crazier. Picking up and moving her and her daughter, Celia, to Scorpion Ridge, asking questions, put them all at risk. Even more risky was trusting Jake Farraday, the handsome ex-cop turned forest ranger. Years in witness protection had taught Angela to trust no one. Yet with Abigail missing, Jake was her only hope, and she found herself wanting to share more of her past with him. And more of her future. But did Jake have his own motives for helping Angela?

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Pamela on her website.

You can also purchase all four books together at Harlequin, Amazon, and B&N, and all four books are also available in both print and e-book formats from Amazon, and Barnes and Noble!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas! (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I am with my family today, and hope many of you are with loved ones as well.  The new year brings us a very special gift for both Harlequin Heartwarming and Harlequin Superromance.  Starting in January, print books will be available for purchase on Amazon!  And even more exciting...Harlequin Heartwarming books will be in select Walmarts across the US!!

In the meantime...A Holiday Gift from Harlequin and me:


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy holidays and congrats to our winners!


Blog giveaway winners announced at the end of this blog!!

I don’t recall when exactly I started believing that it was okay to cry. It may have been when my sister died, though I was only five at the time. But I remember  bawling almost hysterically when I was ten and watching “A Night to Remember” the 1958 movie version of the sinking of the Titanic. The scene where the orchestra kept playing hymns as the ship went down, really got to me. I told my mother that I couldn’t stop crying and she said, “That’s okay. Have a good cry, you’ll feel better.”

And now it’s Christmas again and I know that amidst all the joy, a good cry is coming soon. I love the holidays, but I always experience a moment of melancholy at this time. I no longer fight my emotions. When I hang my sister’s stocking, I cry. When I watch a sappy Christmas movie, watch out. When I think of those less fortunate than I am, I cry. And you know what? I feel better.

So during this most joyful of seasons if you feel your eyes leaking just a bit, it’s okay. My mother was right. Have a good cry, you’ll feel better. And from my house to yours, Happy Holidays! And remember, after life throws us a curve, a bell rings and an angel gets his wings.





But now for the good news!!! Our blog giveaway winners.

$40 Amazon gift card, 20,000 Harlequin My Rewards points, silk scarf & signed copies of all 4 Heartwarming books (US/CAN only): Gabrielle Compolongo

Yay, Gabrielle!!

Signed copies of all 4 Heartwarming books (US/CAN only): Pauline Frost

Signed book: Under the Board Walk (US/CAN only): Amary Chapman

Signed book: When Love Matters Most (US/CAN only): Nadine Fraser Stacy

Signed book: A Boy to Remember (US/CAN only): Stephanie Young

Signed book: The Missing Twin (US/CAN only): Gail Rasmussen
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to all of you. And please remember, we love to see our books added to the Goodreads "To be read" list. And reviews are always welcome.

Cynthia


For a great New Years read, check out the January releases for Heartwarming. You can order all four at once! And come to our facebook party Dec. 29




Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas + a DIY + a Recipe

Merry Christmas, Heartwarmers! Feliz Navidad!

I was in Mexico in November and was delighted to see the early Christmas preparations. In Mazatlan, on a blistering hot day with off-the-chart humidity, I couldn't resist snapping a picture of a car with a Christmas tree tied to its roof.


I had no idea how that tree was going to hold onto its needles for more than a month, but I like to think it's now decorated and surrounded with gifts, creating a festive atmosphere in someone's home.

Two of my favorite things about Mexico were the food and the beautiful churches.

The Mission in San Jose del Cabo
The cathedral in Mazatlan
Beautiful lattice dome on a church spire in Puerto Vallarta
I arrived home at the end of November, just in time to begin my own preparations for Christmas, and the time has been flying by. I've managed to squeeze in another DIY project, though, and thought I'd share that with you. I found this wood-framed glass tea tray at a thrift store for $5. Score! I was so excited to get started on this project that I almost forgot to take a "before" photo.

I thoroughly cleaned the wood and gave it a light sanding, then taped the edges of the glass to keep them paint free. I used Annie Sloan chalk that I already had on hand.  The light mossy green color is called Versailles.


This was my very first attempt at stencilling, but it sure won't be my last. I'm already planning to use this stencil to paint a set of place mats.


This was a very quick project and I'm delighted with the outcome, and of course I'm looking forward to using it during the holidays.

Speaking of Christmas, I plan to add a little taste Mexico to our holiday feasts. Included in our tour of Puerto Vallarta was a "cooking" class at a charming little restaurant where we made our own salsa and guacamole, tostadas and enchiladas. I will never again buy prepared salsa or guacamole! Here's the super-easy how-to:

Salsa

1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1/4 of a small cooking onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons of sliced cilantro
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve!


Guacamole

1 avocado
3 - 4 tablespoons of salsa (recipe above)

Mash the avocado, stir in the salsa and serve!


Thank you for joining me today! I wish you a very merry Christmas and a prosperous 2016!

Seasons greetings from Puerto Vallarta!
At "cooking school" in Mexico! Cheers!
 
Until next time!

warmest,
Lee
To Catch a Wife (Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2016)
Now available for pre-order on Amazon!
www.LeeMcKenzie.com



Monday, December 21, 2015

Celebrate the Holidays with Us! . . . by Kate James


I find it hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away! We have all our decorations up and are now officially in holiday entertaining mode, but I still have some gifts to buy and preparations to tackle.

One exciting aspect of this year's holiday season is the upcoming January 1st release of my next book, When Love Matters Most. I'm thrilled to be in excellent company with Amie Denman, Cynthia Thomason and Pamela Tracy, as they celebrate their January 1st releases, too.



It's not just the four of us who are celebrating. In fact, all Heartwarming authors have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. Starting with our January 1st releases, Heartwarming books will now be available as mass-market paperbacks through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and of course Harlequin.com. In addition, starting January 2016, our books will be available in select Walmart stores in the United States. These exciting developments are only possible because of our wonderful readers. Thank you so very much for your support, reviews and loyalty!

In return, we would like to make this holiday season as exciting for our readers as possible. If you haven't already entered our blog giveaway, you still have time. We've "sweetened" the grand prize by adding 20,000 My Rewards points, courtesy of Harlequin, in addition to the other great prizes. And I just added a beautiful silk scarf.


Cynthia will announce the winners right here on our blog on December 23rd. Congratulations to all the winners. You will be contacted by e-mail on December 23rd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway But there's more! For more prizes, autographed books, fun and to chat with Amie, Cynthia, Pamela and me, join our Facebook Party on December 29th, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM eastern time. As a special treat, MIRA suspense author Elizabeth Heiter, who has a release coming out that day, will also be participating in our Facebook party and giving away signed copies of her books. Here's a selection of the gifts we'll be giving away:


Please click on the image below to go to the event page and confirm your attendance.


If you would like to learn about the four January Heartwarming releases, read on!

We wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Heartwarming Christmas, and we hope to see you at our Facebook party on December 29th!



Under the Boardwalk by Amie Denman
  
Everyone's counting on him
  
With the sudden death of his father, Jack Hamilton finds himself running the family amusement park, Starlight Point. His first job? Balance the books, and that means raising the rent for vendors like baker Augusta Murphy.
  
Gus won't accept the new contract…not without a fight. She rallies the other vendors and sets out to negotiate with Jack. At least, she tries. How do you play hardball with a man who's charming and kind and still grieving? Gus needs to figure it out fast, because the closer she gets to Jack, the more she risks losing everything.

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Amie on her website.

When Love Matters Most by Kate James

Keeping her safe at all costs

Could their backgrounds be any more different? Rick Vasquez, a K-9 unit sergeant with the San Diego Police Department, fled drug-related violence in Mexico as a boy. Madison Long, who recently became primary veterinarian to the SDPD's canines, is the privileged daughter of a judge. Rick has dedicated his life to curtailing cross-border drug trafficking and preventing other young boys from being drawn into the dark world of the cartels. But everything Rick and Madison value, and the growing love between them, is threatened by the dangers of Rick's job, and the risks he's determined to take…

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Kate on her website.

A Boy to Remember by Cynthia Thomason
  
You can't live a lie forever

One magical summer—that was all it took for Alexis Foster to fall deeply in love with Daniel Chandler. And then she gave him up to keep Daniel from sacrificing his own dreams. But the passionate bond they shared is rekindled when Alex returns to her family's farm…with a powerful secret.

Ohio's youngest state senator, Daniel's star is on the rise. He's also discovering a kindred spirit in Alex's seventeen-year-old daughter. Alex has to tell him the truth even at the risk of his political future…even if it costs her the two people she loves most.

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Cynthia on her website.

The Missing Twin by Pamela Tracy

The secret between them

Angela Taylor knew her sister was in trouble. For anyone but a twin, her instincts would seem crazy, and her actions crazier. Picking up and moving her and her daughter, Celia, to Scorpion Ridge, asking questions, put them all at risk. Even more risky was trusting Jake Farraday, the handsome ex-cop turned forest ranger. Years in witness protection had taught Angela to trust no one. Yet with Abigail missing, Jake was her only hope, and she found herself wanting to share more of her past with him. And more of her future. But did Jake have his own motives for helping Angela?

GoodreadsAmazonB&NHarlequin

Find out more and connect with Pamela on her website.

You can also purchase all four books together at Harlequin, Amazon, and B&N, and all four books are also available in both print and e-book formats from Amazon, and Barnes and Noble!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sit-Down Saturday with Helen DePrima

Today we're celebrating Into The Storm, Helen DePrima's debut novel for Heartwarming.

So, Helen, where did you get the idea for this novel?

My agent suggested I write about what I love, so I chose on three of my passions: Colorado, Western horsemanship, and the sport of Professional Bull Riding. Into The Storm is the first novel in the Cameron's Pride series about a Colorado ranch family involved in bull riding. This first book focuses on rancher Jake Cameron as he struggles to carry out his responsibilities as head of the family after losing his wife several years earlier to lupus. His life begins to swing in a more positive direction when Shelby Doucette, a traveling horse trainer on the run from her past, takes refuge at Cameron's Pride.

My favorite scene is quiet but pivotal, the point at which Shelby discovers the strength to confront the tragedy in her past which still threatens her future.

It would be hard for me to chose between Jake Cameron and Shelby Doucette as my favorite character. Both have taken hard blows in their lives, responding with courage and honor so that they deserve a rich reward by the end of their tale. I've tried to draw the secondary characters, especially Jake's sons Tom and Luke, with equal sympathy and detail so that their stories will keep readers interested in the ongoing fortunes of the Cameron family.

I had no trouble finding public figures to visualize as Jake and Shelby. Joanna Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper is the perfect double for Shelby, and retired bull rider J.W. Hart is my ideal Jake.


Researching Into The Storm was a treat, traveling through southern Colorado and attending Professional Bull Riding events to soak up details of geography and speech to lend authenticity to my settings and characterization. Pro bull riding is a sport with a fascinating subculture, colorful characters and language and a crazy magnificence from another age.


Working on my first novel with Heartwarming was an enlightening experience. My editor Dana Grimard shepherded me through the process with wonderful patience and expertise so that we emerged with a much better product than I could have created without her guidance. I just sent her the initial draft of the second novel in the Cameron's Pride series focusing on Jake's bull rider son Tom. I'm currently putting together the synopsis and opening chapters for the third book which will tell Luke's story.

Right now I'm reading Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa in my few spare moments before turning out the light at night.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Move Over Julie Andrews - These are Some of My Favorite Things

by Shirley Hailstock

I'm having a Christmas party.  Of course that means cleaning the house, at least the part that the guests will see.  So I'm vacuuming the dining room, when I start thinking about how I love seeing the lines the vacuum cleaner makes on the carpet.  And the idea for this blog comes to me.  This is proof of that common question writers get: where do ideas come from -- from the great and powerful and the mundane and necessary.


So, my first favorite thing is a clean carpet.  Mind you, I don't like being the cleaner.  I avoided the cleaning gene while I was still in the womb.  However, in order to get what I want, something I have to suck it up.  Writing and reading reference:  submitting a clean manuscript to your editor; providing a reader with wonderful experience devoid of typos and distractions that throw them out of the story.


The smell of fresh cut grass is another favorite.  I like the smell all summer long, but that first cut of the year is like all the fragrance buds opened up and offered their scent to the wind.  I don't cut my own grass.  I have a service that whips through the process in record time.  Yet, that first cut welcomes the change from winter to spring.  Writing and reading reference:  The writer has finally birthed the baby and she's holding it in your arms, ready to allow someone, a stranger who plucks it off the shelf (real or virtual) to read her story.  It's going to be a new world as soon as she lets it go.  Her feeling of fear increases ten-fold, until that first review comes in, until she can exhale and allow all the pent-up emotion out.  For readers, a new voice just entered the world and you're there to receive it.  With hope and admiration, you settle in your chair riveted to the pages, waiting for the end, for your ahhh moment as you reach the last page.  That's the first smell of cut grass.

The heat on my face when opening an oven.  It's a flash of heat, but it's dripping with anticipation.  There's something good in there.  I can feel the heat of it.  At the first snow, I love to make cinnamon rolls.  They remind me of home when I was a little girl.  We'd make them from scratch, eagerly waiting for them to finish cooking so we could open that oven door.  This brings me to a complementary favorite -- sticky hands.  We couldn't wait for the cinnamon rolls to cool down, so we'd ice and eat them, still hot from the oven, as the icing dripped down the corners of her mouths and onto our hands -- ala sticky hands.  Writing and reading reference:  It's a favorite book.  All writers have one.  Most won't tell you which one.  We don't want you to think there is a best because the writer's  favorite may not be the reader's favorite.  What sticks to your hands may not stick to mine. But something will stick.  And you won't be able to put the book down.

I love people who smile.  I find that smiling makes the day better.  It begins that way and continues.  This is not to say that life doesn't happen, that disappointments don't come, sometimes in droves, but putting on that happy face can make it feel a lot less irritating.  Long ago, I read something (probably in science class) about it taking more facial muscles to frown than to smile.  I was skinny then and thought smiling would be better.  I still think that and I also know that frowning uses more energy, but not enough to make you lose weight -- so smile.  You'll feel better.  Writing and reading reference:  Books make you laugh and cry.  They touch your emotions and introduce you to fictional family and friends.  They are people you can laugh with and most often, they make you smile. You may not know it, but they do the authors and readers have the same reaction.  Sometimes we're reluctant to let them go.  Readers want another story with their new-found friends.  Writers have new ideas, new directions to travel with the people they've brought to life.  Come on people, let's all get together for a group photo.  Say SMILE.

I also include chocolate among my favorites (only about a dozen people in the world don't).  However, I'm a chocolate snob, a cheap snob if that's a consolation.  I'm a Hershey girl.  I like milk chocolate.  I don't favor expensive chocolates.  When I was in San Francisco, a friend walked me around for an hour trying to find a very famous chocolate store, Ghirardelli.  I'd never heard of them.  (I can hear you gasping.)  I tried several different samples they had in the store, didn't like any of them. I've tried Cadbury Chocolate, Dove Chocolate, Whitman Samplers, Russell Stovers, even Godiva Chocolate (which always reminds me of a naked lady on a horse), and none of them appealed to me as much as a Hershey bar.  There are other favorites in the chocolate category that I adore; chocolate cake with chocolate icing, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, the list goes on.  Writing and reading reference: different books appeal to different people. Some like historical, some small town contemporaries, some Navy Seals, others FBI thrillers, there's something out there for everyone's taste.


I could go on listing my favorite things, but Julie has come in and wagged her finger with the enough is enough gesture.  So, let's leave it with a favorite wine, a fireplace with a roaring fire, and good friends.



What are some of your favorite things?

As always, keep reading...




Thursday, December 17, 2015

It was the best of times...

Liz Flaherty       
   I have told this story a gazillion times, so I was feeling a little guilty about telling it again, but then I thought...Hmmm, some of my favorite stories are old ones. (Well, I don’t actually think in whole sentences like that, but you get my drift.) But it’s Christmas. My favorite Christmas story is a couple thousand years old. Muriel Jensen’s A Carol Christmas is another one. Mary Balogh’s A Christmas Promise yet another. So here’s mine, for the gazillionth time. Thanks for reading.
          It was the Christmas of 1975. We were four years and three kids into being married and living in our first very own first purchased house.  It came complete with three bedrooms, one bath, and a 30-year mortgage with a 9% interest rate. Yowser! Money was an issue. Time was an issue. Let’s face it—everything was an issue.
          I was making Kari, our little girl, a Holly Hobby dress (to go along with her Holly Hobby dolls,
wallpaper, and pajamas) and my sewing machine—a relic from a bygone era better left unvisited—was sending me right over the edge. Its tension was off, it skipped stitches, the thread broke...and broke...and broke.
          My husband, Duane, turned off the TV (if you knew him, you’d know what a big deal that is—he doesn’t know about the Off switch) and stayed up with me, making me coffee and talking and doing all the gift-wrapping we'd normally have done together, until 2:00 AM, when he wrapped the dress and we stumbled off to bed.
          A very, very few hours later, we watched the kids open their gifts--the dress fit as though it was, well, yes, made for her, and she looked beautiful. My gift came out from under the tree last.
          It was a new sewing machine. White and bright and beautiful. To this day, I don't know how he saved the money to pay for it.
          Forty years later, it still works. It’s Kari’s now. Not that she sews often—being a schoolteacher and the mother of three teenagers puts a damper on that—but she still has the Holly Hobby dress, too. It lies on a vintage wooden ironing board in her living room. Every time we see it, Duane and I smile at each other and I choke up a little and the shared memories slip into the bond created by being married 40-some years. Strengthening it, helping to keep it a warm and happy place for us.
          We live in a different house now and those three kids and their spouses have seven of their own. It’s a different time. I haven’t seen 2:00 AM on Christmas morning for a good many years (nor do I miss it), but the memory of that night in 1975 never ages.
          Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope it is a blessed and Heartwarming time for you.


Helen DePrima


Christmas for me as a child was an oddly fragmented celebration: Christmas Eve with my father and his extended family followed by midnight Mass with my aunt and uncle and five cousins next door to my grandparents’ house where I lived. O Holy Night always ended the service, the final high notes achingly pure and lovely, the perfect transition between the religious observation and the rowdy breakfast feast served at two in the morning, an exotic novelty itself for a child. In the morning I returned to my grandparents’ house for another round of presents and the big Christmas dinner, generally starring a ham adorned with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries.


The real high point of Christmas for me wasn’t receiving presents but rather shopping for them. My
father always gave me fifty dollars to buy gifts for everyone in the family, a princely amount until divided among three aunts, five cousins, my grandparents and my father. The delicious tension of choosing for my aunts – scarves or gloves – for my cousins ranging in age from six to eighteen, for my grandparents who needed or wanted nothing but exclaimed in delight over everything I bought them, and for my father, the most difficult of all. I still treasure one gift I gave my grandmother: a pink teapot that called to me from the window of Hammer’s Hardware in St. Matthews, Kentucky where I grew up. I use it now to hold coins and still recall the thrill of spiriting it home and hiding it in my aunt’s closet to surprise my grandmother with it on Christmas morning.

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