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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Our Christmas Feast by Kara O'Neal

I'm so excited to finally share this! I've been waiting for this final day in November to tell y'all all about our Christmas feast.

It's a wonderful Christmas tradition. The first weekend in December we pull out the Christmas decorations -- we have A LOT -- so we can trim the tree and the house.

While the kids and my Prince Charming put everything out, I cook. I make all kinds of appetizers and finger foods. I use all my best and cute party platters, and our table is FULL of food. We eat for days after, which is just another great thing about it.

We listen to Christmas music, and the kids get all excited about each ornament they pull out and hang up. It's wonderful.

Y'all should know that I spend about 5 hours in the kitchen. My feet and back kill me by the time I'm done, but it's soooo worth it. I wouldn't trade it at all. The menu consists of:

1) Deviled eggs -- a riot ensues if I don't make these
2) Pigs in a blanket
3) Cheese tray
4) Cream cheese with jalapeno jelly
5) Jalapeno poppers
6) Pizza rolls
7) Parmesan crusted chicken tenders
8) Stuffed mushrooms
9) Veggies and dip
10) Egg rolls
11) Cookies galore
12) Taco sticks
13) Apples and a fruit dip
14) Pot stickers
15) Queso
16) Salsa

It's a lot. But it's sooooo great.

Once everything is done, we fill our plates and watch Home Alone. And the kids still giggle. They're 22, 20 and 16 now, but it doesn't matter. They love every bit of this day, and we have every intention of continuing it even after they're grown and gone. My daughter has started to help me with cooking, and she does a great job. When she helps, it only takes three hours. I sure wish I had two ovens, though. That's for the next house, I guess.

Here's a little look into what it's like for us. The kids are younger in this video.

It's traditions like these that make it easy for me to write like I do. The best thing about my books is the family feel in them. I think it's become a trademark for me, because my readers remark on it often.

I'm glad I can evoke homey feelings in my stories. Hopefully it shows the love I have for my family and friends, and gives readers a sense of what life is all about.

What reminds you of family? What do you look forward to -- it doesn't have to be a Christmas tradition. Let us know!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Vintage Christmas Cards/Ornaments

A busy elf am I.

Joan Walsh Anglund image from her books

Once upon a time, I was Miss Crafty, making everything from decoupaged goose eggs (how we wound up with the geese) to vintage Santas and herbal wreaths, and have renewed my hands-on creativity with Christmas card/tree ornaments. I first gained inspiration for this project from a talented lady on YouTube, Lisa, with Our Shabby Cottage. Her Shabby Chic style appeals to me, and I’m naturally shabby. The vintage images I’ve used include Joan Walsh Anglund from her little books I’ve loved since the 1970’s, though her work goes farther back, and old-fashioned Christmas images wherever I can find them. The local thrift store is a trove of goodies. My four-year-old grandson, Charlie, loves to treasure hunt there with his mom, great grandmom, and me. Amazon (of course) has many image choices in their craft section, and Bl├╝mchen, a German styled company, carries a wide variety of Christmas ornament making supplies–not to forget Dollar Tree and Walmart for general crafting. I’m sure there are many more stores, but these are the ones I’ve found.

For the background/card paper, I searched the house to find the Medieval sheet music from my old recorder days and used that until I ran out. I like the worn look achieved from using older music and further aging the paper with distress oxide. I also employ eye shadow to give an antique appearance. Our local thrift store has used sheet music that’s perfect for my needs. I’ve lost track of how many card/ornaments I’ve made thus far but discovered mailing them in bubble wrap envelopes is pricey because the post office considers them parcels. I’m not officially in the card crafting business, as I’m making these for gifts, but if I were to create card ornaments for sale, postage would take a big bite. Mailing is a major consideration for any online sales.

I allow my creativity to flow freely, and every card is different. That makes each one original, and if there’s something I dislike I dive in and disguise the error or remake the card.

Writing is a very different kind of self-expression from crafting, and I do love both. Gardening is also a hands-on form of inner expression, partly why I love it too. That, and the sights, sounds, scents… All the feels. No one said I can’t do them all, just not at the same time. I’ve been sick a lot this fall, and these card ornaments are easier for me to work on when I’m only half decent. Imagine what I could achieve if I were really well. Here’s hoping.

It takes me several hours (more or less) to craft each card, but it easily takes me that long to comprise a sentence. I’m still working on the opening line to my never-ending WIP. My inner editor is too loud. I need to ignore her and move along.

Meanwhile, these card ornaments are fun and make me feel like I’m accomplishing something. Before the craft bug hit, I was planting crocus like a mad woman, but then I used up the bulbs and the weather grew too cold. It’s wise to have varied interests.

For those of you who are interested, the online bulb sites are having mega sales now. Not that I’ve noticed. It’s this dream I have of planting my entire yard in crocus…

And God Bless Us Everyone.

I'm scoping out online used book sites for Joan Walsh Anglund books to rebuild my library. They're out of print.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Free Book! Highland Eclipse by Laura Hunsaker

I hope my American friends enjoyed their Thanksgiving! We've had a day to recover, and with all the time spent with my family these past couple of weeks, I've realized I'm incredibly grateful to them for being in my life, and to all of you! Yes you all! You all have touched my life in some small way and I appreciate it a lot. I know that while Thanksgiving is an American holiday, one thing seems to be creeping it's way to a universal day: Black Friday. 

Some of my favorite German youtubers will be speaking fully in German and then bam. The phrase in English: Black Friday. This cracked me up and first, but after thinking I guess it makes sense. So I double checked some other non-English speaking youtubers, and yep, same thing. The term Black Friday but used in English. Since this seems to be a world-wide event now, I set one of my books for free this week. It will continue on until Cyber Monday for you all, so I hope you know that while Black Friday is slowly becoming universal, one thing always has been: gratitude. I am grateful for all you readers, writers, friends...and hopefully you can all have an enjoyable weekend and relax with a good book.


Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Google Play  |  Smashwords  |  iTunes

A member of an elite Time Ops team called the Eclipse Agents, Declan Wallace’s job is to jump through time. He maintains order in the timeline, he hunts down those who would time jump for their own purposes. But sometimes Fate intervenes.

After a lifetime of living with illness, Lady Fiona McClure is proving to herself that she is finally healthy in an attempt to swim across the loch. If she makes it, maybe then her overprotective father won’t treat her as a child anymore. When she is snatched and dragged ashore by a man who thought she was drowning, her heart races for reasons that have nothing to do with the swim and everything to do with the man standing before her.

With a mission to finish, Declan can’t allow distractions, and Lady Fiona is definitely a distraction. But he’s discovering that living for the next mission isn’t as exciting as it used to be. Staying in the past is forbidden, but Fiona McClure is his destiny.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

NOVEMBER - Transitioning to Winter

 by Judy Ann Davis

                                          HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It’s Novemberour transition into winter. Bare tree limbs shiver in stiff winds. Wayward leaves scurry across the chilly ground, and clouds gather in gray skies. Inside, people search closets and drawers for wool and flannel clothing, and warm shoes and boots.

It’s the time when everyone dashes outside to get their homes battened down and ready for the first snows to fly. The bushes and trees have been trimmed, and perennial plants are leveled to the ground for a spring rebirth. Leaves from trees, now drab brown, wet, or maybe crispy and dry, have been raked or swept up in lawn mowers. In our small development here in Central Pennsylvania, when one mower roared to life, another followed shortly, and the race was on to see which house finished first.

November brings back many memories from childhood in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I remember school days when we watched out the windows in our classrooms to look for the first snowflakes. For farm kids, snow meant outside fun as we rode sleds, shovels or saucers down a slippery slope. There were outside chores, too. Clearing snow from the front porch, sidewalk, back steps and entrance were unspoken activities after every storm. Almost daily, we hauled stacks of wood from outside into our cellar to dry and feed our hungry, wood-fired furnace.                                     

I loved our cellar furnace. The light sweet smoky smell of wood still reminds me of a toasty warmed-by-air ducts ending at metal floor registers above. In high school and before bedtime, I would find a register, grab a blanket and wrap it tent-like around me to trap the heat while I did my homework.

And I’ll never forget the tasty winter foods of November. Falling temperatures brought warmer hearty dishes to our table—roasts, ham, meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, and stews, to name a few. Delicious scents from homemade soups like chicken noodle, beet, creamy potato, or vegetable beef wafted through the rooms. Hot chocolate, cider, tea, and coffee made winter meals even more savory and inviting. Thanksgiving was a feast. If we didn’t have a turkey, we enjoyed a chicken or roast. Mother froze or canned every imaginable vegetable, so cranberries were our only purchased item for the holidays.

As the eleventh month of the year, November can rightfully boast it’s the transition from fall to winter. It also announces we are approaching the end of the year. For children who love and wait for winter, it's so much more as they ask the curious and often blissful question swirling in their heads and hearts—will it snow today?  

JUNE ~ The Pianist

(Book 1 of the Musical Christmas Series)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Ranch Life for the Ranch Wife

 When I was young we lived in the city, my father broke his back and took medical retirement and we moved to the rocky mountains. I loved it. My siblings, not so much. All I dreamed of was marrying a cowboy and living on a ranch. No, it has not always been an easy life, but it has been a grand one. Of course, some jobs are better than others. Calving season is long and hard and amazing. I love feeding the cows on a crisp morning and listening to the calves bawling. 

But I also love fixing fence with the hubby and salting the cows with the grandchildren.

Then there is farming and bailing. Long hours on a tractor are hard on the back, that is why old cowboys walk that way.

Maintaining the ranch and equipment is not fun but it is a must-do.

Roping and wrangling. The part everyone loves to join in on.

Gathering cows off the mountain and out from under the feed wagon. We have no idea what she was thinking! Cows are so stupid.

We also gather wood and food. One is great fun the other not so much.

What I love most about being a ranch wife now, is I get to share this life with my grandchildren. 

It makes me sad when I hear young moms say they don't have the time, money, or energy to do stuff with their kids. Remember to a child digging worms in the backyard with you is an adventure. Stopping at a creek and jumping in the water for a child is as good as Wild Waters if mom jumped in too. Tieing a sled to your bike and dragging them through the snow is a ticket to a Ski Resort as far as they are concerned because you were there. A pile of raked leaves becomes the ball pit at Mcdonald's. Please don't miss out on your children's childhood. They are memories you will look back on and cherish. Don't say go outside and play, say let's go outside and play.

I put much of my life in my books. Give them a look.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Aunt Nellie, Bing Crosby, and A Small Glass of Beer by Liz Flaherty

This isn't a new post at all. Quite honestly, I'm not sure when I wrote it, so if you've read it too recently to like reading it again, my apologies. But it is my traditional Thanksgiving story. The greatest gifts...the greatest reasons for thanksgiving...are the people in our lives, and I'm so grateful for Aunt Nellie. She gave more richness to my life than I can ever explain.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust

Aunt Nellie was my great-aunt. She was born in 1892, loved and married two men, and never had any children. She was the other side of the coin from my grandmother, who’d undoubtedly been the Good Daughter, and even though I loved them both, I worshiped the ground Aunt Nellie walked on.

My mother’s side of the family were all teetotalers, but when my brother-in-law asked Aunt Nellie if she’d like a beer, she said, Yes, she wouldn’t mind a small glass. I don’t know that she ever drank beer again, but she did indeed enjoy every drop of that “small glass.” Where Aunt Nellie was, there was always laughter.

                We used to go to her house for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how many of us were there. It seemed like dozens at the time, but the number was probably closer to 25. She lived in a pretty little Cape Cod house on a pretty little street in Goshen, Indiana, and she had...oh, even in memory, it thrills me...she had a step stool you could sit on and the steps pushed out in front! She also had a finished basement with its own kitchen! In the living room part of the basement, there was a cabinet Victrola with a stack of records. They were tinny and scratchy and it was hard to get them going the right speed with the crank, but there was such safety lying on the rug listening to Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore.

                Even though I grew up on a small farm, the only time we ever had turkey was on Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in it every year. I loved eating whatever I wanted and never having to touch the red stuff that slid out of the Ocean Spray can. The dessert table was impressive, to say the least, and it was pretty much stripped by the end of the day. Even then, leftovers went home with each family, and the feeling of fullness and warmth would go on with turkey and noodles the next day.    

                I imagine being poor was a key player in my satisfaction with Thanksgiving, but that’s really neither here nor there. What matters are the memories and the lessons Aunt Nellie left behind. She was somewhere in her 80s when she died. She’d been packing for a trip to Grand Rapids with friends when she passed away. Grief created a hard, empty place in my chest at the loss, and I just knew I’d never get over it. However, at the funeral the officiating pastor mentioned her preparing for her trip and said she’d been just as ready to go to heaven as she’d been to go to Grand Rapids. My grandmother, who’d loved her younger sister even more than we did, said she thought if she’d had her choice, Aunt Nellie would rather have gone to Grand Rapids. Laughter softened the grief and added one more rung to the memory ladder.
                Aunt Nellie was one of the first people I thought of when I became a Harlequin Heartwarming author years ago. She’d have loved the line’s premise, its joy and sense of family and its humor. She'd have also told everyone at the beauty shop all about her niece, the author. Knowing that reminds me again of how lucky I was to have her.

                Happy Thanksgiving to all. If you have that small glass of beer, be sure to enjoy every drop.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Cold Outside? Let's Have Soup! by Joan Reeves

Baby, it's cold outside!

Here on the Texas Gulf Coast, we've had temperatures in the 40's for nearly 2 weeks.

To those of you who live in cold climates, 40's probably sounds like beach weather.

But I've lived in hot climates most of my life so this is put on hat, gloves, and coat weather.

Winter is soup weather so it's time to serve one of our favorite soups for dinner tonight—Cream of Poblano Soup.

I hope you'll enjoy hot, delicious soup. Oh, first a note about poblano peppers. They're a rather mild pepper about 4 to 6 inches long and slender, not skinny like chile peppers and not fat like bell pappers. They're available in most supermarkets today.

If you want exceptional flavor, roast or char the peppers over a flame or under a broiler. Wrap the charred peppers in a dish towel for about 10 minutes.

Then rub the nearly transparent "skin" from the peppers. If you don't want to do that, no worries. The soup will still be good.



2 tablespoons butter
3 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup diced carrots
2 tablespoons AP flour
4 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt


Shredded cheese of your choice (Monterey Jack, Colby, and Cheddar are terrific)
Diced red onion
Fresh cilantro leaves
Tortilla chips
Tortillas lightly grilled in butter and cut in strips


Saute the poblano, onion, and carrots in the butter until soft, usually about 5 minutes.

Add the flour, stir, and cook another 3-5 minutes to remove that "raw" flavor of uncooked flour.

Add the water and chicken stock. Whisk together to blend well.

Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth and creamy. If you don't have one of these stick blenders, simply pour the mixture into a blender. Use caution. Place dish towel over blender lid to prevent hot soup from exploding out.

Add the half and half, chopped cilantro, and salt. Heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

Serve with the toppings you like best.


Cold weather means you're often stuck inside. What a perfect time to snuggle on the couch beneath a warm, fluffy throw and read.

I invite you to try my "cold weather" romance EVERY LITTLE LIE for an emotional journey with a happy ending.

Reader Review: "Joan Reeves is an intelligent writer with a style that pulls you in immediately, just because her words flow so beautifully. Add to that a little mystery and suspense and you've got yourself one page-turner."

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving full of joy with family and friends.

(Joan Reeves participates in Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program which means she may earn a small commission if you click one of the links in a post.)

Monday, November 14, 2022

Grandma's cookies By Cathy Shouse

     Is there anything better than a good cookie? I’m aware there are all kinds of desserts people are fond of. More variations seem to come along every day. After all, Martha Stewart has made a “living” concocting desserts that are pretty to look at and too complicated to make. Or maybe that’s just me?


     But I think there’s nothing like a good, well turned-out cookie, preferably homemade and recently removed from the oven. Still warm. My favorites are soft yet not falling apart. Making them truly is an art, as anyone knows who has nearly broken a tooth on a chocolate chip cookie.


     When I think about where my love of cookies developed, I think of my paternal grandmother. Her name was Florence and she was just that elegant, to be able to wear the name of a romantic city.


     Grandma Florence lived until a few weeks shy of age 102. Long enough to hold my daughter who was born two months before that and say to her kindergarten-aged brother, “I remember you when you were this age.”


     We’d had many, many of her cookies over the years by then. She made a variety. Does anyone make brown sugar cookies anymore? There were oatmeal cookies with raisins. Some flavors of unknown origin showed up, faintly tasting of lemon. All were good. My aunt told me once that Grandma might substitute flavors if she didn’t have the exact ingredients. It wasn’t about the precise recipe with her.


     Grandma regularly had our family--my parents and we three siblings--over for dinner. At the end of the meal, she might offer other desserts. She could make just about anything, including pies with the flakey crusts. But there were always cookies. She arranged a few on a small plate and offered them to us.


     My best, most vivid memories are of her standing in her kitchen holding her ceramic cookie jar. She’d lift the lid and instruct us to reach in and grab the one we wanted. When she doled cookies out this way, it felt like pure love in the form of a baked good. 


     Decades after Grandma had passed, I had a brief reacquaintance with her “neighbor boy,” who lived in the house behind hers. He was an adult by then and I remembered his name because she always spoke fondly of the family. We’re from a small town where everybody really does know everybody. He informed me that he and his brother had mowed Grandma’s lawn for years. “When we were finished, she’d give us tea and cookies. She made the best cookies.” His smile at the memory said it all.


     I remembered that my English teacher in high school literally lived next door to Grandma. In the middle of class once, the teacher mentioned that she’d had one of Grandma’s cookies recently, saying, “Cathy, you know how good they are.” A guy friend leaned over and teased me, “How good are they?”


     Fast forward to about five years ago, when a cousin brought out Grandma’s cookie jar at the Christmas gathering, saying she wanted to pass it along. I thought my heart would melt, like in a scene from a Hallmark movie. Made with brown stripes criss-crossing it to look like a barrel, it had a curled faux rope loop on top. No one else seemed impacted as much by seeing it, so I didn’t hesitate to take it with me, where it’s stayed ever since. 


     I’ve tried to pass along the love of cookies to my kids. They think my chocolate chip cookies are the best there ever were or will be. My snickerdoodles are borderline legendary on the other side of the family. Maybe this is how it should be. I’m not my grandmother’s granddaughter for nothing. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Whew! That Was Close by Bea Tifton

I’ve always  believed I had an angel on my shoulder, and an exhausted one at that. I’ve had so many close calls. Keep in mind; this was before everyone carried cell phones.

When I was five, I often played in the front yard. This VW bug drove past often, and my mother and I would wave.  Mom supposed they were neighbors, but we didn’t know them or where they lived. One day they drove past when I was playing alone in the yard. The driver drove up and the passenger woman got out. She said, “Hey, wanna ride?” "No." "Oh, come one. It'll be fun." I realized she was inching forward.  I turned to run just as she lunged. I actually felt the rush of wind her hands made as she tried to grab me. I ran inside my house and yelled for my mother. We never saw that VW Bug again.

In college, I lived in apartments after my sophomore year. One apartment had a terrible parking problem. Since the parking lot didn’t have assigned spots, I often had to walk from the outermost parking lot. The apartment complex itself was adjoined to empty fields on two sides. It was late, and I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere close. I considered just parking illegally right outside my apartment, but the manager was ruthless about towing so it was like playing, “Let’s beat the tow truck” to do so. After dithering, I finally resigned myself to the farthest parking spots. I noticed a man standing in front of one of the apartments staring at me. It was a huge complex, so he could have lived there. I hesitated, but I needed to go home and I wasn’t sure what to do. (I was younger or I would have moved the car and braved the tow truck. Then the next day begun advocating and starting a petition to make the parking safer for residents.) I finally took a deep breath and got out of the car. I stared the man right in the eye, then turned and power walked to my apartment. The next evening, a girl next door was mugged. Several of the residents heard her screaming and as the man ran across one of the fields next door, several college boys tackled him and sat on him until the police came. It was the man I had seen watching me.

For years, I had this dream that I was attacked and killed. I took precautions, but the dream persisted and I thought that was probably the way I would die. One evening I was visiting a friend of mine who lived one street away from  my house. I could see the corner of her house if I stood in a certain place in my front yard. Anyway, it was dark and late but I lived so close. How many women have thought   that to their peril, and how sad is it that we have to worry about such things? Anyway, this big guy drove past me in his car as I started to walk home. He gave me a look that made the hair stand up on my arms. As he drove down the block, I ran back to my friend’s house and told her about the man. As we were buckling up in her SUV so she could take me home, the car came past at a crawl. I ducked down as my friend watched him. “He’s looking for you,” she said quietly out of the side of her mouth. She waited until he drove past, then drove me home quickly.  I knew I had had a really close call. And I never had that dream again.

I guess that as I’ve become older and hopefully wiser, I realize that the most important thing to take with me from all this is that I need to listen to my intuition.  So, dear readers, listen to your instincts Call 911. Look people in the eye. Make a scene if you’re really uncomfortable or being threatened. Avoid those close calls before they come too close.

  But live your life without being consumed by what ifs.


Photo Credits: 
Mario Wallner "Monochrome Photo of an Angel Statue
Mariana Plozner "Woman Wearing White Shirt Sitting Inside Blue Volkswagon Beetle"
Mauricio Mascare "Monochrome Photo of Man's Face"
cottonbro studio "Man in Gray Hoodie Driving a Car"
Olga Luckina "Scared Woman Touching Cheek Behind Green Leaves
Felipe Zanchetta "Selective Focus of Smiling Woman Holding a Lit Sparkler Posing with Her Hands Up"

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Giving Thanks~Sherri Easley


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to recognize Caroline Earle White.

Caroline grew up in a little town in Pennsylvania and often walked into town. On those walks, she would see horses and mules being overworked and beaten if they were not performing to the owner’s expectations. Caroline had a big heart for animals, and it bothered her to see the animals being abused, so she began avoiding some streets, so she did not see it.

At some point, she realized that ignoring the situation was not enough, and she decided to stand up for what she believed in. Her husband, Richard White, an attorney, encouraged her to meet with the founder of the first American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Henry Bergh, in 1866.

Bergh advised her she should start by obtaining a petition and get signatures. White returned home with fresh energy. She called the organization the Pennsylvania Chapter for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

While obtaining signatures, Caroline met other animal lovers and before too long, she and twenty-nine other women formed the PSPCA.

During that time, women did not have the same rights we have today, and Caroline could not sit on the board of the organization she helped create. In April 1869, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) became known as the Women’s Humane Society, the first animal shelter in the world. The entity was called the “refuge,” and provided free veterinary care. It also employed three cruelty officers who were authorized to prevent animal abuse and punish those involved.

 The Women’s Branch was criticized for focusing on animal advocacy. Caroline White replied to these critics, who thought her group should work for human causes, saying:

But are we not working for human beings? Are we not constantly striving to make men and women more humane and disposed to all kindly feelings and to teach children to become gentle and merciful? Is not everything which tends to elevate man in the mortal scale a benefit to him, and is it not rendering him incalculable service to teach him to control his passions, as we do when we prevent him from weakening his anger upon his horses?”

 Still, many children were being abandoned in the United States. Building on the success of the Humane Society, the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was established in 1875, 

Besides the fact that I have adopted two dogs in the last few months, this story is an example of how one person can make a difference. 

Adopt, Don’t Shop!