Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Magic of Christmas Makes It Happen



“No. I’m from the South, remember? We get snow when we’ve done something to upset God—which we don’t do very often,” Darcy replied.





That is just one of the many lines in Perfect that readers have loved. Do you want more? Well, PERFECT is on sale at Amazon, B&N, I-books and Kobo until November 30th. Grab your copy today and enjoy the perfect holiday read.


Making Christmas perfect isn’t Dylan Kincaid’s forte, but he needs to make it happen, for his nieces. Darcy Witherspoon arrives in Black Moose, Vt., needing an escape and a holiday dreams are made of. They team up for the short run, but Christmas magic has something everlasting in store for them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

An Honored Memory

I remember lying in the hospital, looking around at the ward full of beds, occupied by only a few and wondering if the Army really thought there were so many pregnant women. I was young and naïve. Two years prior we'd seen the end of the Vietnam War.
My husband was on assignment. I was a thousand miles away from home and family. Not a long distance now days, but in the seventies I might’ve well been across the globe. There was no instant communications. No pictures sent across cyber-space or I-phones. No I love you, miss you, take care messages coming back at me. I had just had my first child, a boy, and I felt so alone.

The walls were not decorated with funny characters, but were clean, stark. There were no televisions in the ward. No radios. My meals were not served to me in bed, but rather placed on a long table in the center of the room where my trio of fellow new-mothers gathered to eat whatever everyone else was served in the mess hall that day. Strangely, I felt comfortable. I was an ARMY BRAT. My son was now an ARMY BRAT—born into the 101st Airborne.

With nothing but time to heal, I scanned at the empty beds and wondered how many men had been treated here? My pain was nothing compared to what they must felt. Some had died in this very room. In that defining moment, I grew. A sense of pride like I’d never felt before welled through me as the sorrowful notes of taps floated across the base. I still get choke-up every time I hear the woeful tune.

The nurse handed me my baby. I stared at his innocence while his tiny fingers curled around mine and I thanked all the souls that had given so much so that my son would know freedom like none other in the world.

Please take a few moments this holiday weekend and remember the women and men who gave so much of themselves for your way of life, for your children and for you.

Ps: I’d be proud to have you list the branch and division of any family heroes who’ve

served or are serving listed in your comment.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thanksgiving or Bust!


This year, Thanksgiving is at your house and you’re beginning to wonder why you agreed to host the family event. Relax. I’ve got tips for you.

Why should you take my advice? Well, I’ve hosted Thanksgiving, among other events, for more than twenty years for small, large and huge groups. And, I’m not only an award-winning author, but also— a long time ago— an award-winning restaurant manager. So, I have some experience at preparing feasts for many. Organization is one of my talents.

It’s always good to have a plan, so let’s start.

First, you need to do is decide three things. What style of dining you want your party to be—buffet or sit down. The style will play a part in your menu. You certainly don’t want to serve soup at a buffet, at least not at your home. Too many opportunities for spills.

Second, how many will be attending your celebration? If you really envision a sit down dinner, you’ll have to limit the guests, or have a second sitting, even a third sitting. Extra sittings is not my idea of a fun-filled day.

Third, menus for Thanksgiving can range from the traditional Norman Rockwell’s portrayal of roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce to Wild Salmon and rice. Make the holiday your own by combining traditions of guests. If invited family or friends offer to make dishes, let them, but ask if they intend to cook or bake their dish before arriving. Seriously, I’ve had someone bring their unbaked dish to dinner, expecting room in my oven and time to bake it.

My last tip has nothing to do with the meal. Activities. You’ll have a household full and while dinner is part of the agenda, it’s not the whole day.

While I love watching football not everyone does, so have other activities planned. My children and grandchildren love playing bingo. A game set can be purchased at a dollar store along with prizes. And while very few think of November as a time to fly a kite, it is great fun and a way to burn off the 5 thousand it is said Americans consume on Thanksgiving .
Now with your style, guests and menu decided, make a game plan.

Two weeks out from the holiday:
1) Confirm guests and time.
2) Review recipes and make shopping list for all dishes.
3) Anytime this week, check china, silverware, glassware and all serving dishes and platters, including salt and pepper shakers (wash & fill), butter dishes, gravy bowls, bread baskets, etc. Wash them and store them until ready to set your table.

If you’re planning to use paper or plastic-ware, buy it this week, especially if you’re thinking of holiday theme. You don’t have time to run from store to store searching for the last few packs on the shelves.
4) Check tablecloths, napkins, and any other decorative items, such as candles and candleholders. I’ve come for my candles only to remember they were used during the last storm. Purchase wanted items now.
5) During this week, you could actually arrange your furniture and set your table to ensure enough elbow room. It’s better to have the space all planned now then to try to arrange it during the days you’ll be baking and cooking. Arrange for extra necessary table space or seating.

One week out from the holiday:

1) Double check your grocery list and head to the store. (It’s a good idea to buy extra plastic containers and Ziploc bags for guests to take leftovers home.)
2) Think about your cooking timeline. I have one oven and a lot to bake, so I start my timeline at 1 pm, since my family usually sits down then and I work backward. The star of my dinner is the turkey, which I know must come out of the oven by 11:45. It has to sit and can be kept warm. So, depending on the size of the bird is when the turkey must go in my oven. 11:45 works, because my stuffing and corn pudding needs to bake for an hour so it can go in the oven then, along with mash potatoes and yams or any other dishes that need to be warmed. (It’s a good idea, especially if you have limited space, to put all baking dishes in the oven beforehand to ensure they fit) At 12:45, those food items come out and rolls go in for the last fifteen minutes while all other food is put into dishes and placed on the table. During the last hour, veggies can be steamed or warmed.
3) Cleaning. Honestly, I do a light house cleaning before the holiday, because the house is going to need a deep clean after the crowd leaves.

Two days before the holiday:

1) Some dishes can be made now. I find stuffing and candied yams taste much better when made ahead.
2) If you possibly can, set your table.
3) Make ice if you don’t have an ice maker.

Day before holiday:

1) Other dishes can be made early. Ie: mashed potatoes, pies, desserts, veggie trays.
2) I put my applesauce and cranberry sauces into bowls and refrigerate.
3) I’m live in northeast PA and have already used my outside gas grill as an extra cold storage unit for items prepared ahead. Think out of the box when space is limited.

The holiday:
You’re organized and ready. Stay with your timeline and if something hiccups, don’t sweat it. Your friends and family only will know what you’ve done not what wasn’t done.

Enjoy the day!



Need to get inspired for the holidays. Download Perfect today. On sale for a limited time for $.99. AMAZON
Dylan Kincaid totally screwed up Thanksgiving and now he’s faced with Christmas. Thrown into the frightening role of both mother and father while his brother and sister-in-law are off serving their country, all Dylan wants is to make Christmas perfect for his two nieces. But time is running out.

Down on her luck Charleston, S.C. restaurateur, Darcy Witherspoon is licking a wounded ego when she arrives in Black Moose, VT and meets the handsome Maple tree farmer. Wanting a happy holiday herself, she teams up with Dylan to make a perfect Christmas.

Neither is interested in a holiday affair, but the magic of Christmas has something more everlasting in store for the couple. An absolutely perfect love!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Decorating For Thanksgiving

The ghosts, skeletons, bats and witches are coming down and going back into storage for another year and it’s time to decorate for Thanksgiving. But what can you do?
There are a lot of inexpensive ways to decorate for Thanksgiving.

First, make a thankful tree. All you need is a planter pot, a few branches and some colored paper to cut out colored leaves. You can stick the branches into an existing pot but be careful not to disturb the root system of the plant. Over the next few weeks, have everyone write down everything they’re thankful for and hang it on the tree. Read them on thanksgiving.



Second, if you live near a field, gather some wild grass (Or buy at craft store) and fill some empty jars. The jars don’t need to be all the same size or shape. Mix them up and make the design your own. Tape a holiday greeting to the jars.




Do you have clear candle holders, or wine glasses, or truffle dishes? Fill them with dry beans, peas and corn. Later you can make soup.








I have a lot of baskets. When I saw this next idea, I was like slapping my head. I can do this no problem. I have pine cones and branches and I’m sure I can use leftover pumpkins and gourds. I bet they’re really cheap now that Halloween is history. CAUTION: DO NOT leave a lighted candle unattended!




The next idea is CHEAP. I’m sure you have pictures hanging on your walls. Print off a few pages with holiday greetings and tape them to the frame. I did this at Easter and then I forgot to take one down. I left it there in the frame and waited to see of anyone would say something. In August, my mother asked me why I had an Easter bunny up. We had a good laugh.





My grandkids love to do crafts when they visit and I love sending them home with reminders of our fun day together. Here a few ideas to keep them busy and add to the day. This next idea is similar to the last. A little finger print and colored paper and viola! Tape them to the frames.












Pine cones and paper cups can easily be made into turkeys with colored paper, feathers and sticky eyes. Last Thanksgiving my gang made turkeys out of paper cups. The wrote their names on them. On Thanksgiving, at their place setting, the cups contained applesauce. They loved it. You could put a dessert in them. Jello anyone?






It is easier than ever before to find ideas to decorate your home for the holidays. Just google.


In a few days, I will share my expertise on getting ready for the feast. I always had twenty or more people to fed. I just love this holiday. Until then, have fun!

AJ

Need to get inspired for the holidays. Download Perfect today. On sale for a limited time for $.99. AMAZON

Dylan Kincaid totally screwed up Thanksgiving and now he’s faced with Christmas. Thrown into the frightening role of both mother and father while his brother and sister-in-law are off serving their country, all Dylan wants is to make Christmas perfect for his two nieces. But time is running out.

Down on her luck Charleston, S.C. restaurateur, Darcy Witherspoon is licking a wounded ego when she arrives in Black Moose, VT and meets the handsome Maple tree farmer. Wanting a happy holiday herself, she teams up with Dylan to make a perfect Christmas.

Neither is interested in a holiday affair, but the magic of Christmas has something more everlasting in store for the couple. An absolutely perfect love!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bartender In The Sky

Late last evening, feeling angst and sporting a headache that throbbed against my skull, I took a walk in the dark. My only companion, the moon. With his hair over one eye, he watched over me—saved me from the dark shadows. I gazed up into his face and wondered about the billions of people who’ve gone on to the next world before me, the ones who had dumped their troubles on him. The ones who had shared with him their dreams. The ones who had laughed and loved under his twilight.

I wondered about their stories. Some are known by all of us. Some by a few.
As I walked, I gaze over the valley that was my great grandparent’s farm, now divided among their children’s children. I know my great grandparent’s names. I can tell you they lay in the cemetery on the rise to the east. I can tell you their birth and death dates. However, I don’t know what they were like as people. Did they enjoy music or reading? Were reserve or outgoing? What was their favorite time of the year? Or their favorite foods? Did they believe and trust in the Almighty? What were their dreams?

We have pictures of course with names scribbled on the back, but by who? We have ledgers and invoices of transactions stored in the old farm house attic, but no personal memoirs. Knowing this, sadness crept in my heart as I crossed an open field. I wished someone had left behind their words for me. Told me who they were. Left a clue as to who I called my pass.

At that moment, the moon winked at me and from within I heard, “You were given the gift of the written word. Why haven’t you left behind words for your children or grandchildren or great grandchildren? Not all will seek them, but there will be one who will. Like you, they will cherish the memories you share and pass them on to another who well cherish their heritage. And so on.”

Stunned, I gaped into his one eye. The ancient man was right. He winked again and turned into a cloud, probably to advise someone else. I finished one swallow of crisp night and with a light step headed for home. I pulled from a drawer a diary given to me one Christmas years ago and wrote; November 4, 2017. Within these pages you will come to know who I was, what I felt passionate about, and what were my dreams. My hope is I will teach something of the past, something that will make you a stronger person and that I’ll touch you in some way. With love, your heritage.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I'm A Torn Woman

I’m a torn woman. I’m torn between two men at the moment, fictional of course. One being Ross Poldark (PBS series Poldark). I fell for Ross over a year ago. After watching season one of Poldark, it took me all of two seconds to buy season two so that I could binge watch it. I nearly died waiting for the next episodes to air. Now, I’m into season three, watching an episode a week, and waiting for the next show is killing me.

Of course, Britain’s Captain Ross is tall, dark and handsome, but he is also strong, brave and has a compassionate heart. He is the man who will give his last loaf of bread to your family so that they will survive and will wait to hunt food for himself. He is a hero. His roots are set and he loves his family and friends he will die to protect them. I sigh thinking of him.



The second man is one I recently found after a dear friend and fellow author, Rita Henuber, insisted that I watch Outlander (STARZ series). His name is James Faser. The Scotsman’s quick wit, adorable smile, hard-muscled built, fearlessness, and sensitive heart won me over way before season one episode seven, ‘The Wedding.’ (CAUTION that episode is smokin’)

Both story lines are wonderful, filled with a cast of life-like secondary characters whose human weaknesses and strengths cause layers and layers of conflicts. There is also rivalry between nations in each. And then there is love. Love of country, friends, family, and if your romantic they’re plenty of those scenes too.
I love watching sagas like these. I can’t imagine writing them, but I love them never the less. I’ve even started to watch the first seasons over again, so that I can learn more about character development. I haven’t read any of the books for either series, but I plan to study them also.

If you’re looking for a good series to watch, I would recommend either of these.

Let me know what you think.