Archive | December 2008

Christmas is Coming

With yesterday’s sleigh ride (thanks to all participants!) and this morning’s chilly temperature (currently 34 degrees outside!) it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! That brings to mind all that’s left to be done:

* Last minute gifts
* Last minute groceries
* Finish the ridiculous christmas Boldcards!

So, what’s a busy mom to do? Here are some quick tips on how to finish without pulling out the last bit of your hair! so you can actually enjoy some of the pre-holidays this season.

Last Minute Gifts
This year, pay close attention to those holiday panic gifts you purchased while waiting in line. Don’t hesitate to return them. Do you really need to gift every relative with a gag gift? or a pen topped with a blinking light? No. Take the time to rethink the “extra” gifts that you purchased just for the sake of the sale. It was only 4.99! you say. Well, that’s a latte at Starbucks for you, on your way home. Or half the price of a pizza, for that night you just can’t bear to cook. Better yet, by the time you’ve returned all 6 of them, that’s a matinee movie with popcorn for you and your kids! Lots of little dollars add up quickly, and this year the thoughtful gift will go a great deal further than the panic prizes.

Last Minute Groceries
We all have to grocery shop for the staples – each and every week. So, this week while you’re picking up your milk and eggs, grab some extra holiday baking items to store in your cupboard in case the mood strikes. Here’s a quick list of holiday baking/last minute entertaining items that I like to keep on hand at this time of year:

  1. 1 or 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  2. 1 or 2 cans evaporated milk
  3. 1 bag powdered sugar
  4. 1 bag brown sugar
  5. 2 packages chocolate chips
  6. 2 packages Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix
  7. Almond extract & Vanilla extract
  8. Food Coloring
  9. Apple cider
  10. Cinnamon sticks
  11. Hot Cocoa mix
  12. Mini Marshmallows
  13. Taco Chips & Salsa
  14. Brie Cheese
  15. Craisins
  16. Walnuts
  17. 4 pack of crackers
  18. Extra unsalted butter
  19. 4-6 bottles of “good” – not “great” wine (I’m partial price wise to the Yellow Tail Cab-Shiraz, Shiraz, and Cabernet.)
  20. Frozen chopped spinach
  21. Artichoke hearts
  22. Cream cheese

With these items, you have all the elements you need for impromptu baking of holiday cookies, frosting, and serving up a quick appetizer and coctails for those caroling neighbors who drop in for some unexpected holiday cheer! Here are some ideas. But tell me, can you think of anything else you can put together with these on hand ingredients?

I get:

Stuffed Brie baked with cranberries will delight any crowd.

Quick Artichoke Dip is both tasty and impressive.

Chips and Salsa go with everything.

Fudge. Yikes. Both brown sugar fudge, and the traditional chocolate kind.

A Sugar Christmas Cookie party to please the kiddos!

Let me know if you have any other brilliant ideas from this exercise. And PLEASE tell me if I’ve left anything off my shopping list.

Finally, for Finishing the Ridiculous Christmas Cards:

It’s happened again. I’ve created our family Christmas card, as Perry relies on me to do. However, in so doing, I’ve also created a project for the girls and I (one that they bored of within the first hour), and a headache for myself. So, at the prompting of my FaceBook friends, I have come up with a delightful cheat for all that you would love to send cards to, but don’t have the dinero for extra stamps, or time for sitting and stuffing envelope after envelope with holiday cheer. And to you over achievers who finished your task after Thanksgiving, I have choice thoughts for you that I will keep to myself. Largely based on jealousy for your superior time management skills.

For the rest of us, here’s a time saving tip! Post your christmas card .jpg online! e-mail it to friends and family overseas. Add it to your FaceBook profile, so everyone can see your little ones as they stayed still enough for the perfect pose, or a photo collage for those of us whose little ones WOULD NOT stay still enough for the perfect pose. Or were crying on Santa’s lap! Not the right message for a happy holiday.

Let me know your time saving tips! I’d love to add them to this next year of living on less… as we all adjust to this new depression mentality – there’s no need to be depressed! we just need a new way of thinking.

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Christmas Sleigh Ride is Here!

Welcome one, and welcome all! Sorry we’re late for all you east coast Christmas Riders! I’m still on my first cup of coffee out here on the west coast…wait! What’s that I hear?

The jingle jangle of bells? The thunder of hoofbeats? The shoosh of the sleigh, flying across the snow? It’s here! Christmas time! and Christmas weather to boot, which is a feat here in sunny Southern California. So read on, gather a recipe to fold into your holiday treats, and my first gift to you all is a chance to pick up my short romance, an inspirational Free Read – Tessa Takes a Chance, available from The Wild Rose Press.
No matter the time of year, Southern California is usually the land of sunshine and flowers, of beach walks and barbecues all year long. However, the cold, thick clouds have moved in. The day is gray, wet, and calls for a hot mug of cocoa and a crackling fire in the fireplace. It’s the kind of day that reminds me of my mom, of being cared for so completely, of decking the halls and singing our favorite carols, and listening to my father’s deep, gravelly voice as he reads us the Christmas story, and reminds us of the reason for the season. So curl up and let’s talk about our favorite holiday traditions.

I’m the mother of two little girls, ages 4 and 3, and the most amazing thing has happened this season! My oldest asked when they were getting their advent calendars. She’s been singing Rudolf and Frosty. We settled in to watch the first Christmas movie of the season at our house, The Polar Express.

Then, of course, we roll up our sleeves for some good old fashioned holiday baking! a feat, with such little ones. The house is filled with aromas of melting chocolate, baking cookies, the kids are covered in flour, powdered sugar, and sticky whatnots that I do my best to ignore. That’s when I think about what I remember about growing up under my mom’s roof. I don’t remember a sparkling kitchen. I remember my mother, who accidentally quadrupled a batch of spritz cookies, and her bribing us to frost about 400 tiny christmas tree cookies. We frosted that year until we didn’t even want to sneak a taste!

And, for our Sleigh Ride Song of the Day – I must recall the sturdy, towering, warm embrace of my father telling us the Christmas story, on a cold night in Bethlehem. I often wondered what Mary must have thought, following her husband in such wretched conditions. Such faith is wonderous to me.

Finally – for the bakers & candy makers out there… At our house we’ve already made the gingerbread house, the sugar cookies, and the first batch of holiday fudge. Unfortunately, making horrible fudge is one of the traditions around here, too. You’d have to know my sister to understand. She’s the candy maker of the family, I’m the baker. BUT, this year, with the help of Epicurious.com, I’ve finally mastered the art of fudge making. So, my final gift to you is the best butterscotch fudge I’ve ever tasted.
So, add your favorite recipe here! and guess the song, collect all of them for your chance to win!
~Ashley

Tessa Takes a Chance, Free Read! now available
at The Wild Rose Press

Coming Soon:
By Another Name, April, 2009

All or Nothing, Spring, 2009
And so, here is your Christmas Song Clue: (CONTEST RULES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST!)
“Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.”
Send your guess to the song! then hop along to http://annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com/ for your ride tomorrow!

ABOUT THE CONTEST: Spread more Christmas cheer, everyone hosting the CHRISTMAS RIDE came together and we’re giving one lucky person a $75 Wild Rose Press gift certificate!
To enter, simply:
  1. review each day’s blog post
  2. identify the carol
  3. make a complete carol list to submit after the final blog post on Christmas Eve.
Send it to Christmasrideblog@live.com by midnight, CST Dec. 31st 2008!
Start at P.L. Parker’s Blog to begin the Blog Ride that connects all the blogs and all the carols. Visit each blog to hunt for the clue to the carol of the day!
Hop along to http://annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com/ for your ride tomorrow! Ho Ho Ho and off we go!

God’s greatest gift – a big sister…

I had a special opportunity to gaze into the huge, amazing heart of my big sister, Paige Day. For those of you who don’t know her, Paige is an amazing woman. She’s been through the fire and come out on the other side. She’s raised three amazing children, survived an abusive, alcoholic first husband, she nearly lost her soul-mate in a motorcycle accident, and she is the strongest woman I know. She is the stuff that romance heroines should be made of. She never quits. She never surrenders. She is eternally faithful to God. She is the kind of woman I strive to be.

Here are some random thoughts that I came across on her facebook page today, and I pray she doesn’t mind! but I’m sharing them in today’s post. My heart bursts with pride for my big sister, who has always ALWAYS taken care of me. Even when it broke her heart to do so, she’s always told me the truth. With my big sister, I can share my deepest secrets, my darkest fears, and my wildest hopes. She is the extrovert this introvert has always striven to be. She is the lead role in the school play while I was the towns-person in the background. She is the soccer star while I cheered on from the sidelines. She is the reason God made me more of a fan, and less of a competitor. I continue to cheer for her every day.

I pray that my girls have a relationship as strong as ours. So, without further ado – here are 16 things about my big sister. My best friend. Some of them I knew, and some of them dampened my eyes, and stirred my soul…

Paige Day at 7:54am December 16

  1. I have enjoyed growing up with my kids…..
  2. I love being a paramedic and a firefighter
  3. Tucson really feels like home, even though I love the different seasons
  4. I have a dragon tattoo on my back (it’s way cool, my husband drew it)
  5. Living through Mark’s accident and getting our family through it was the hardest thing I ever did
  6. I love roses
  7. I love animals (from fish to dogs, turtles, lizards, rats…..we have them all)
  8. I am starting my master’s degree in January
  9. I can’t believe I am 41 when I still feel 18 on the inside
  10. I knew I was a grown-up when I started having extra lightbulbs in the pantry for replacement
  11. I love to watch football
  12. I bought a book to learn about the rules of wrestling so I could support my boys.
  13. I love to play American girl dolls with my daughter
  14. When I run it is my favorite time to pray and sort out my life
  15. I love Christmas and get as excited about Santa as the kids……
  16. I think snow is beautiful

I love you, Paigie. Thank you for sharing.

Out of the mouths of babes…

Okay, so I had to share this with you all – as the honesty of kids floors me on a regular basis. Take Ellie, who told me the other day she had Jesus in her heart, and was wondering how he could get out!

Anyway, here is a chain mail I got today… enjoy the read…

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY?
-You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
— Alan, age 10
-No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.
— Kristen, age 10

2. WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?
Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
— Camille, age 10

3. HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
— Derrick, age 8

4. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?
Both don’t want any more kids.
— Lori, age 8

5.WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
-Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
— Lynnette, age 8 (isn’t she a treasure)
-On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
— Martin, age 10

6. WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
-When they’re rich.
— Pam, age 7
-The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that.
– – Curt, age 7
-The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do.
– – Howard , age 8

7. IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. — Anita, age 9

8.HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN’T GET MARRIED?
There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?
— Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite is………
9.HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck . — Ricky, age 10

Wow! Take a look at Wowio!

I came across a read today which I can’t put down. And, what’s more, it’s an E-book, downloadable for free from Wowio.com

I’m suddenly a huge Jack Cavanaugh fan. I’ve never read the story about how the Bible was ultimately translated out of Latin, and I find myself entranced after page 1.

Review to come!

Christmas Sleigh Ride! Hop on board for your chance to win!

And WHO wouldn’t want to hop on a sleigh ride FULL of fun, sassy, and savvy romance writers?

Here’s your chance to win a $75 gift certificate, plus one of 25+ other prizes. All you have to do is guess which Christmas song each author has chosen by the clues they give.

Just follow the blog train each day to its new stop…..discover the song of the day and keep track of them. On December 24th, you’ll learn where to send your song titles to so you’ll be eligible to win the $75 The Wild Rose Press Gift certificate. In additional, posting a comment on the daily blog will make you eligible for daily prizes! Here’s a list of where to start.

They’ve already held their daily drawing, but checking out their blogs and discovering their song will get you in the running for the the $75 G.C. Good luck and have fun!

FYI: There are TWO different posts at The Wild Rose Press, one on the Dec.1 and one on Dec. 4th. So be sure to look for both of them.

Our Juggling Act

I was recently asked how I can do it all. By “it” she meant: write, be a wife, be a mother, and be full time employee.

The truth is, I’m not sure. This morning, for example, I got up at 5 with Perry. We spent some quality morning time together, I sent him off to work, and started going through my final edits for All or Nothing. Quiet music, coffee, a fire in the fireplace. I managed to get through almost 10 pages before I heard the voice from upstairs. “Momeeeee! I want yooooou!”

Now, my daughter is snuggled up next to me, watching Nick Jr. and deciding what she wants for Christmas. Seems like a good time to blog. Check facebook. And do any number of things. Suddenly, she realizes that she wants me, and grabs my arm. I put the computer down and we snuggle, watching the rest of Wonder Pets. The computer waits. The final edits to All or Nothing are quickly saved, and set to the back burner until tonight, after everyone goes to bed. That’s the way it has to be.

Being a working, writing mama, I have involved myself with a wonderful group of women in the same boat. We offer each other encouragement, enthusiasm, and support when things go awry, as they inevitably do. Were it not for this support group, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep writing, or have the creative energy to even try. And the introductions to this group all stemmed from becoming part of The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) garden of authors.

The owners of TWRP can be credited by encouraging authors and readers to communicate with one another through message board posts, scheduled chat sessions, and online social networking sites. However, I doubt that they envisioned what a phenomenal creative environment that they were planting. We all have a common goal. I know, through my frequent communication with my world-wide network of author friends, that there is a common thread that runs through us all. We write because we always have. We write because we love books. We love to read them. We surround ourselves with them.

As the medium grows and changes into a digital format, with a new revolution in the development and encouragement of the short story, each submission becomes an online crash course in creative writing. At TWRP, I’ve been paired with three amazing editors. Each submission, I’ve learned how to be a better writer. And, All or Nothing has just improved because of what I learned writing and submitting Tessa Takes a Chance, By Another Name, and another story still in the works for resubmission, Solstice Moon.

And, through it all, I’ve had to learn balance in my life. How does a working, writing, wife and mother balance her day so that none of the plates she’s juggling crashes down around her head? I attribute my success in all categories to my project management experience. My life has become my project. Each day requires planning. Each week requires goals in every area. Each goal requires prioritization. Because it is categorically unacceptable to let any one of the important plates in the air fall. Not my kids. Not my husband. Not my job. Okay, sometimes the housework goes to the dogs. (And by that, no, Millie doesn’t pitch in and do the vacuuming!)

This is an ongoing adventure, a roller coaster that I don’t want to get off. So, how do you do it, my writer friends? How do you keep your plates in the air?