You Can Go Home Again by Pepper Phillips

P1000289This fall I went home again. Back to Lewiston, Idaho where I was born and Clarkston, Washington, where my Granny lived. The Snake River separates the two cities.

I lived with my Granny during the 2nd and 3rd grade.  It was a great time to live in a small town.  Kids had free range.  All the neighbors knew each other, and if you misbehaved, they didn’t mind calling Granny and telling her.  Like the time I discovered how delicious fresh peas were right from the pod in the neighbor’s yard.  I should have thought to pick up the pods.  They were evidence.  The neighbor got me back, though.

She locked herself out of her house, and I was pushed through a small bathroom window, which was scary as it was high.  I was promised an all-day sucker, but that never happened. Adults shouldn’t break promises to kids.

But the hills above are my touchstone.  Their strength, their bigness, dominates the landscape.  Just looking at them makes me homesick.  They have a new highway that goes up them, but back in the day, it was a narrow road, with a lot of switchbacks.  Halfway up was a short cross that was stuck in the ground, with tattered fabric fluttering in the wind.  The song, “Old Rugged Cross” always came to mind and reminds me of home.

P1000288I don’t know who owns this house, but it is picture worthy.  I especially like the whimsical cow in the front yard.  How many people have that?  It makes the owner happy and that’s all that counts.  I might need to use it in a book sometime.

Then there is this lovely old lady.  Her bones are there, even if they are leaning to the side.

P1000280I drove down to Long Creek, Oregon with my aunt and sister.  My aunt is seven years older than I am, and one summer we spent a week or two there.  I always wanted to go back.  A small town with only a few hundred souls…I am related to some of them.  Now I don’t know if this is the same house, but I remembered the side of the street (mind you I was seven) and that there were two stories, as we slept upstairs and the front porch had a railing, which I fell off onto some rose bushes.  Yes, they had thorns and I was warned to be careful. This house might be hers…I would have to do some serious research.  But it must have been beautiful in it’s day.

Back in the day, we went to the General Store and the storekeeper asked me who I belonged to.  That question stumped me.  Then I blurted out, I’m with my granny visiting with Aunt Dot and pointed in the direction of the house.  He asked my granny’s name, and once I told him, he nodded.

Aunt Dot had a brother named Walter.  Now that was a character.  He lived in a small house, but he had a burro or donkey which he used to go into the hills.  He had a ‘hidden’ gold mine and when he would run low on funds, he’d take his sack of dirt from the mine and throw a couple of handfuls into his gold pan until he found what he needed.  From what I remember, he’d strike out alone with said burro and wouldn’t tell anyone where his mine was.  There were carrots in his garden as a treat for the burro and as a kid you can imagine my delight in pulling a few, washing them off and feeding the burro.  He showed me how to pan and picked a nugget out and gave it to me.  I wish I still had it.

My ancestors were among the first settlers of the Oregon territory, getting there by wagon train.  I admire their spirit and dedication to conquer new lands.  Visiting where they lived and raised family makes me appreciate all the people who came before me…I only hope that the generations that follow me get the same feeling.

You can go home again.  It’s not the same, but it touches emotions that are part of your being.

If you are living far from your hometown, what is it you miss the most?

Organizing for Next Christmas by Pepper Phillips

2014-12-28 17.39.56It’s that time of year when the Christmas Decorations need to be taken down and put away for next year. But not yet, for me. I love the look of Christmas in my living room and will keep it up until January 6th.  That date is known as the feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night. So, Christmas isn’t over for me until then.

The scene above looks tranquil and calming, but on Christmas Eve, the night we open gifts to each other, it’s jammed with close to thirty people. In order to fit everyone in, all the furniture is moved back, the coffee table is removed to the hallway, the beaded pillows that decorate some of the chairs are put away and as you can see are still not on the chairs. Room must be made for kids with size 13 and 14 shoes, as there are some big galoots in the family.

But everything is moved back into place on Christmas Day, the day the children visit their spouses’ families, the day we spend in relative quiet, the day we fix Christmas dinner, the day we relax and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.

But this year when I begin to put away the Christmas Decorations I’m doing it different. I generally unplug the three trees and hoist them into rolling garbage bins, lights and all. This year I’m taking all the lights off, untangling them and putting them in those plastic bags I get for groceries. It took me hours to undo the mess from last year and I don’t want to go through that again.  The big tree this year didn’t get ‘arranged’ to my liking, so it looks lopsided, but that will change.

I don’t know exactly how many garbage bins I use, but I’m going to finally organize them this year. I have decorations that I didn’t even use, so I have no idea what I really have, so it’s time to get organized . A spreadsheet is in order.

We have a huge hook that we use to hang the wreath over the fireplace. At the top, the bricks of the fireplace have some drainage holes in them, and you have to insert the hook in one of those holes so it doesn’t fall. This year, they couldn’t find the hook. So the hubby made a new one. Then they found the old one caught up in a fireplace screen that you can’t see in the picture. So now there are two. But where are they? The spreadsheet will tell me which bin they are in.

When I take down the Christmas stuff, the Mardi Gras decorations go up. But I don’t know what garbage bin those are in…so it’s time to get super organized.

My weapon of choice is Duct Tape. I’m going to run a band of color across the top of the lid of each garbage bin to let me know what’s inside at a glance.

Red and Green = Christmas – I’m going to mark on the tape what number that particular bin is. Such as #1…of course #1-#3 have Christmas trees sticking out of them, so no lids for those, but the rest will let me know what room that particular stuff goes in or what’s stored in that bin.

Yellow and Purple = Mardi Gras – Those are two of the colors associated with the season, green is the other color, but since I have green on the Christmas stuff, I’ll leave it off. There are over six weeks from Epiphany until Mardi Gras, February 17th, so it’s a nice time to decorate as it’s pretty gray and gloomy most of the time.

Pink and Light Green = Easter – Yes, I decorate for Easter as well. Right after Mardi Gras until Easter.  So that’s mid-February until April 5th.

Orange = Halloween and that’s about it.  Though I do have some Thanksgiving stuff, I’ll have to think on what corresponds with that holiday.

I have some decorations that need fixing, replacing (usually lights – and if I were really smart I’d buy them now while they are on sale) or over the hill items that need to be tossed.

The thing is “Do It Right The First Time and You Won’t Have To Do It Again”…I usually just want to get it over with.

But it’s time to get organized.

What are your organizational tips to prepare for next Christmas?

The Christmas Feeling

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The Christmas feeling started at Thanksgiving with a rehearsal of the Nutcrackers on Ice where my grandchildren performed. A week later the other pair of grandchildren invited us to their school’s Christmas concert, an elaborate and so professional Christmas pageant that took place in a public theater with two thousand people attending.

IMG_4133 - CopyDecorating my apartment with a two-foot tree, a winking Santa Claus and two nativities put me in a festive mood. By then it really began to feel like Christmas without the commercialization that annoyed me in the previous years. I started cooking and baking, and carefully avoided the stores. A Christmas party at our church, another organized by my FRW chapter, and a breakfast with Santa for the children continued for us the holiday celebration.

The Sweet Romance Reads Christmas Bash we held on Facebook allowed me to connect with hundreds of readers who shared news about their Christmas preparations and celebrations, and posted pictures of the decorations in their houses. It felt like a huge cyber web party where we met friends and shared stories.

So what about presents? Usually, we offer gifts to the children only. This year we ordered for the boy a big Lego, and for the girls a Kindle each.

My children, grandchildren and close relatives are invited to my place on Christmas Eve for dinner and in the morning we will be going to church. After that they are free to play games, eat left over, or go out while we babysit. The noise and mess doesn’t bother me but attest to the children’s fun and happiness.

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Last night I watched three Christmas movies, one of them titled, The Christmas Spirit. Considering I almost never watched TV, that was a record for me.

Do you feel the Christmas spirit?

Unusual Christmas Bestseller

An Unusual Christmas

Running away from Christmas celebrations and the demons of her past, Dr. Jillian has dedicated her life to saving third-world children. In Belarus, a baby girl, four little boys, and a handsome doctor may teach her the true meaning of Christmas.

Counting Blessings

So. Thanksgiving flew around the corner this year! Now, Christmas Eve is upon us and Christmas is on Thursday. Wow! For the life of me, I’ll never know where this year went. But it did. Each month pushed in so quickly, I scarcely remember one from the other. Except, of course, tax season. Who can forget that time of year? Not me.

And…for the record, it’s rained in my neck of the woods for two straight days, which has barely let up. I’d rather have some of that white stuff known as snow. Snow and the silence that comes with it. Beautiful.

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I realize so many have been bombarded with snow, this year especially, and my heart goes out to them. Still, this rain is abundant. Enough already. My footsteps squish when I walk across the yard. Nasty.

The year has also been a blessing in countless ways. We gained another ten months with my precious ninety-two-year old Mom. The holidays aren’t the same without her sweet smile around. She remains in my heart.

Housing, food, and clothing are a blessing, and I pray for those who are less fortunate.

The last few days have been filled with cooking, baking and more cooking. We’ll have dinner at our house tonight and open gifts. Christmas morning, we share breakfast with the kids after they open the rest of their gifts. Mostly for the grandson. Christmas is for kids and I love watching my grandson’s face, as he appreciates each and every gift.

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I hope your tree is decorated and brings you happiness.

May your Christmas be fabulous and filled with love, peace and joy.

Merry Christmas!

A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website for all My Books

http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books.html

Even Myren Wishes You a Merry Christmas! by Stephanie Queen

The REAL Santa

Santa

So after three straight days of shopping and chauffeuring and spending money, listening to Christmas Carols on the limo radio and waving Myren’s cigar smoke out of my face–for some reason he thinks he can do whatever he wants once he throws on a Santa hat and white gloves–it’s not like he grew a snowy white beard or anything–because that would have bought him substantial creds–I think I’m finally ready. For Christmas.

As long as I can talk Myren–my chauffeur–into helping wrestle the turkey into the roasting pan–because it’s gigantic–I should be all set. Of course there’s lots of gift wrapping and desert making and finishing touches with the decorations still to do–but that’s okay. I have it covered. With Myren’s help. I figure if I hinge to him that there might be some rare Cuban cigars in his stocking he’ll be very helpful. But then that would mean I’d have to run out and actually buy the cigars because I couldn’t very well buy them while he was driving me around and lifting and hauling the gifts into the trunk and from store to store.

So one more trip. Out into the breach on my own. Without Myren. But I’ll listen to his cheesy Christmas Carols while I’m out so I can feel like he’s there.

I’m looking forward to a preposterously wonderful and gigantic Christmas dinner with too many presents to count under the ridiculously bedecked Christmas tree with every family member from miles around gathered together. And Myren too.

Hope your Christmas is a merry one too!

Top 5 Christmas Favorites by Joan Reeves

Merry-christmasAre you ready to sit down and put your feet up? I am. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, I always feel as if I’m in a timed track and field sprint event. Actually, I guess it’s more like a marathon than a sprint.

Best Laid Plans

I worked so hard to finish my next contemporary romance, but I failed to take into account that the various publishing platforms would be shutting down early and not reopening for uploads until after New Year’s. So, I finally just screamed loud and long and said, “Oh, fish!”

Then I proceeded to eat the last two chocolate-covered cherries in my Christmas candy stash to take away the sting of not getting this book back from the last proofreader and formatted well before now.

Chocolate Cures All Ills

But back to the chocolate-covered cherries. I buy one box every year because my wonderful grandfather always bought a box for each of us kids every Christmas. I mean, an entire box of chocolates was like my idea of heaven.  So I do this every year and think of him and how much I loved him.

Tradition

Most of the stuff we all do at Christmas is because of tradition. Either a tradition started in your family long ago or one that you started–or just some little thing that you carried on because it makes you think of someone you loved or something that made you feel loved. Like my grandfather and the chocolates.

Instead of getting back to work on a short story I’m writing, I started thinking of all the things I do at Christmas that I do every year. I grouped these into 5 Christmas Favorites.

Favorite Christmas Songs (And the version I prefer)

1  Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives)
2  Come Home for Christmas (The Eagles)
3  Santa Clause is Back in Town (Elvis)
4  Last Christmas (Wham)
5  Santa Baby (Bernadette Peters)

Favorite Christmas Carols

1 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
2 O Little Town of Bethlehem
3 Do You Hear What I Hear
4 O Come, O Come Emmanuel
5 Silent Night

Favorite Christmas Movies

1 Love Actually (Funny, wise, wonderful!)
2 It’s a Wonderful Life (I still cry!)
3 A Christmas Story (I have a Red Ryder BB Gun!)
4 Die Hard (Christmas at Nakatomi Plaza)
5 The Ref (The Dysfunctional Christmas Story)

Favorite Christmas Food

1 My Mom’s Chocolate Bourbon Bon Bons (Oh, how I miss my Mom. She loved Christmas!)
2 My Sister-in-law Judy’s Coconut Cake
3 Chocolate Covered Cherry Bon Bons (chocolate, cherries, creamy liquid, yum!)
4 Texas Trash (my version of Chex Mix made with Tabasco, Tony Chachere Seasoning, Pecans, Almonds, Cashews, Peanuts, and, oh yeah! Chex Cereals.)
5 Pralines (the candy of the South–instant inches to the hips but oh so good.)

Favorite Christmas Activities

1 Nighttime Christmas Eve service at church.
2 The wrapping paper fight we have after all presents are opened.
3 Playing games with the whole family after Christmas dinner.
4 Caroling–either doing it or welcoming carolers at the door.
5 New Year’s Eve party we give.

Traditions are just memories of Christmas past. They call to mind long ago moments that bring joy to the present. Fill the holidays ahead with joy, making memories with family and friends.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Post Script

I want to remind you of the free book available to everyone. I compiled Holiday Decorating as a companion book to the Christmas on Main Street Romance Collection.

Each of the authors in the Christmas Box Set contributed a favorite craft or holiday decorating idea to the book. You can even watch the YouTube video I created to show you what the craft book is about.

If you haven’t downloaded Holiday Decorating, free to all, get it now. It’s available at Amazon Kindle * iTunes * Kobo * Nook

Only 99 cents for 12 Novels
Then for only 99cents, buy Christmas on Main Street Romance Collection, a box set of 12 full-length novels, all set during the holidays. My contribution to the box set is Nobody’s Cinderella. (Amazon never put the right cover up on the box set so you won’t see my name on the cover image, but I’ve been promised that my book is in the set.)

Buy Christmas on Main Street: Amazon Kindle iTunes * Kobo * Nook

Joan Reeves, author of funny, sexy Romance Novels, lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Her books are available as ebooks and audiobooks. All her books have the same theme that is her motto: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free NL for writers, and WordPlay, a free NL for readers. Find Joan online: Blog, Website, Facebook, Twitter, & other social media.

Cures for the holiday blues

Christmastime can be difficult for those who have lost a loved one during the year. There is a loneliness about this time that even holiday music, lights and cookies can’t totally overcome.

That is just one of the reasons I love Christmas romances. There is always a happy ending. Cheer and love win-out as the story closes and hope again reigns supreme.

It’s OK to feel a bit melancholy over the holidays. It’s OK to feel like there’s never enough time to truly enjoy them. It’s OK to feel like you could use a good cry. If you or someone you care about is feeling a bit blue I hope that after the cry, knowing that you are loved and appreciated will gently wash over you. Then, when it’s time to celebrate, I hope you do so with a full heart.

When I feel a bit like the world is spinning too fast and nothing is getting done the way I think it should be, that’s when I find a good dose of undercover reading is in order. I always feel better after and somehow everything that needs doing still gets done.

This year, CHRISTMAS ON MAIN STREET, is available again with the addition of Joan Reeves’ story, Nobody’s Cinderella. These are beautiful stories that can be read in small bits when happily-ever-after is needed. I hope you enjoy the set as much as I do and that you share it with those who could use a bit of cheer.

Thank you for visiting and being a part of our Authors of Main Street family. We all wish you, Love, Peace, Health, Prosperity and a bit of romance on the page in the New Year. If everyone read romance, the world would be a happier place.

For those of you looking for a quick and wonderful treat to bring on your holiday outings, here’s my recipe for Macski’s Scottish Shortbread. Enjoy!

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3 sticks of room temp butter

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla

In a mixer, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy. Slowly add the flour until fully blended. If necessary, add an extra 2T of butter to make the dough workable.

Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness between two sheets of waxed paper. Cut out cookies in your favorite holiday shapes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until light brown.

Enjoy!

Peace and Goodwill to you,

Leigh