I remember when I turned 30. (And no, I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was!) I was downright depressed. I was turning OLD. What to do to make myself feel better?
I decided to throw myself a "surprise" birthday party, invite my friends over for cake and ice cream and fun and games and console myself for being OLD.
Oh, brother. I look back on that now and think, I'd love to be thirty again! Well, okay, actually, I'd like to be right where I am in life... only with my thirty-year old body.
Time has changed me, that's for sure. But once thing hasn't changed, and that's the tradition of the annual "surprise" birthday party. Over the years that party has taken different forms, everything from roller skating adventures to going dancing. But the last few years it's settled down into a girlfriend afternoon, with cake and punch and snacks and lots of conversation and fun and games - the kind the guys don't like to play, like Charades and Taboo. (Most of the men I know seem to hate word games. I think it's because of that Mars & Venus thing - the guys just don't have as many words in their arsenal and they always lose.) Anyway, it was great fun, and I collected birthday cards galore. One of my favs says, "We'll be friends until we're old and senile. And then we'll be new friends." Ha!
Gerhardt took me out to dinner and last night we wrapped up the birthday week by going to the historic Admiral Theater here in our small town to see a magic show. I love magic, love trying to figure out how they do those tricks. Of course, I never do. And that's okay. That's what makes it magic.
In addition to partying my children made sure I had a great birthday. My son sent me a book to help me learn to be a wiser investor and my daughter, knowing I know longer have a veggie garden to play in, has bought seeds for all my favorite veggies and reserved several rows in her garden for me. What a clever gift!
This year I had much to celebrate. My children are all doing well, I have a great husband, and a wonderful family and the best friends on the planet. And I'm cancer free! So this birthday I felt especially blessed.
It's so easy to take our lives for granted. I don't want to do that, not for a minute. I want to appreciate every day God gives me here and to make every day count. This birthday is my new year and I'm going into it gratefully. And with much celebration and lots of cupcakes. (And, after eating all those cupcakes... some dieting!)
How about you? How do you like to celebrate? If it's with cake and ice cream, you have my permission. Save a piece for me!
It's January, wedding planning season, and since I have a book about weddings (and mothers and daughters) coming out in August, Gerhardt and I thought it would be fun to go to the nearby West Sound Wedding Show and take a trip down Memory Lane, maybe even make a little book trailer.
I tell you what, it was so much fun and there were so many great ideas and yummy goodies to check out I wished I could get married all over again. To Gerhardt, of course!
We sampled cake, talked to women planning their weddings, and sampled cake, checked out beautiful table settings and, did I mention? Sampled cake! In short, I totally blew my diet. But I had a great time doing it. And it did bring back memories of that lovely day a million years ago when my husband and I said, "I do." A wedding is such a special occasion, not only for the happy couple but for their family and friends, too. It's a chance for us all to come together and support each other, to celebrate love and commitment.
To all you brides getting ready to get married this year, I wish you all the best. And to my readers, looking for a good read this summer, I hope you'll say, "I do," to A WEDDING ON PRIMROSE STREET.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas - love the message behind the celebration, love the joy, the lights, the sounds and wonderful smells and goodies. And this year I really got to enjoy the holiday. Gerhardt and I took a once in a lifetime trip, returning to the country we lived in when we were first married. We got to see friends from both West and East Germany and then took a wonderful cruise, visiting the Christmas markets in various German towns and cities. Above you see part of the market at Nuremburg. We also visited Rothenburg and Bamburg. Oh, what fun. And, oh, the money I spent.
Possibly the most memorable part of our trip was the first part when we and our friends Brett and Lorian met up with new friends Sybille and Fred from East Germany and hung out with them in Cologne. Gerhardt's German is great, mine is... improving, and Sybille's not so bad at English - so our evening of eating Schnitzel, wandering the Christmas market, and then, later, playing Farkle was a mixture of languages and laughter. The next day we all went on to Aachen to enjoy time with old friends Werner and Maggie. We stayed at their B & B, and both of our nights in Aachen we all enjoyed a meal together, again, mixing languages and sharing more laughter. One night Fred made Rolladen (thinly sliced beef spread with good, German mustard, then rolled around a dill pickle, chopped olives and bacon then cooked in a pressure cooker or the oven). By the way, if you'd like the recipe it's up on the recipe page. Oh, was that a treat for the taste buds, as was Maggie's Printen Parfait, which makes use of a favorite German Christmas cookie. Oh, my! Sugar, rum, eggs, whipping cream, cookies, and calories. Yum.
After leaving our friends, it was on to the cruise ship, which we were sure we could walk to from our Gasthaus. The boys and I decided to try a trial run the morning of embarkation. It should have been a fifteen minute walk. It turned into a two hour wander. I kept thinking of the theme song from "Gilligan's Island."
Ah, but life got easy once we were on the boat. One of the fun highlights on the cruise was getting to "assist" the chef with a demonstration on how to make apple strudel. I was fabulous (says she modestly), but alas, Gerhardt had gone to the room and was there along with the movie camera and my camera so I have no proof. (I am FOR SURE getting a Smart Phone in the new year.) Since I have no proof of my fabulous performance you'll just have to take my word for it.
As with all trips, this one went way too fast. But the memories will last forever. Hopefully, the extra pounds I put on my hips won't.
So, what did I come away with from my trip? For one thing, I was made very aware of how much people love to celebrate what's good. The very air seemed to vibrate with happiness as locals and tourists alike did their Christmas shopping. Secondly, I was reminded afresh of how very blessed I am to be a modern American woman. I live in a great country where I can come and go freely. I have a wonderful family and the kind of fun and loyal friends I like to write about in books. I have a great husband and children I'm proud of. Yes, I've had some bumps along the way like everyone else. My life hasn't always been perfect. I haven't always been perfect. But God has been beside me through both the good and the bad. And this year, even with bad things happening around the world and in parts of my own country, I still see people helping each other, loving each other, forgiving each other, and celebrating and worshiping together. The message of hope feels very real and close to me this season. I pray it does to you, too.
I hope you and yours all have a wonderful holiday season. May your heart be touched, your memories wonderful and every cookie you eat magically robbed of its calories. And as Tiny Tim would say, "God bless us, everyone."
This week I took my granddaughter to see the latest installment in The Hunger Games movies. Loved it, as I've loved all the movies and the books.
Some of the scenes in MOCKING JAY were so stirring and I left asking myself, "Why, exactly?" Was it the background music? After all, music has a way of stirring us all and that score was great. But it was more than the music. Was it the dialogue? Katniss was pretty darned stirring when she was throwing down the gauntlet to the bad guy. Well, that contributed.
But I think what really got me going had more to do with the theme of the movie. How could the viewer not be stirred by watching people unite to bring down an evil force? How could a lowly movie goer not be inspired seeing what a difference one person can make?
Maybe that hope that one individual can rise up and bring about change, the idea that each of us is important in his or her own way, that we all have a purpose here on Earth, is what makes this whole genre of movie so popular right now. Super heroes abound. Young women save their families in dystopian worlds. Stakes are always high and the odds are usually against the hero but that doesn't stop said hero from entering the fray.
I think these days everyone is looking for a hero, a cause, a reason to live large. Yet so few of us step out of our safe circle and do it. So few of us sacrifice for others. So few of us are involved with helping good causes. Perhaps we all need to get in touch with our inner Katniss. No, we don't all have to say, "I volunteer as tribute," and step into the arena, but I think, for each of us, there is a cause waiting, something noble to which we can give time and energy. For some of us right now that might be family. For others, civic duty may call, or church or a worthwhile organization like Habitat for Humanity. There is something each one of us can do, something for which we can say, "I volunteer." And perhaps we should also be teaching our children to make that part of their vocabulary as well.
We're not all called to be super heroes. (Thank Heaven! I could never fit in Katniss Everdeen's cool outfit. And the last time I tried to shoot an arrow I twanged my arm and got an owie.) But we can all fulfill the purpose to which we're called. We can all make a difference.
I think I want to work in a bookstore. How did I come to that conclusion? By getting a chance to do just that.
Last Saturday was a day when Independent bookstores celebrated their independence by having local writers come in and "work" in the store. I was invited to hang out at A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS in Leavenworth, WA, the town which, as many of you know, is the inspiration for my Icicle Falls series.
Oh, my, oh, my, did I have fun! Pat and her wonderful family and team are simply fabulous: friendly, kind, supportive, helpful. It's no wonder their store is always full of book lovers. In spite of the fact that I dumped over a display of lip balm within my first five minutes on the job, they let me stay. Stephen and Andy and Donika tried to explain to me the mysteries of ringing things up via the computer. I almost got it. Entered something wrong but was smart enough to figure out not to give the customer $185 back from a twenty. I also learned to dodge the cash register drawer, which would magically open when a sale was rung up. Got a couple of Christmas gooses before I figured that out though.
There's something magical about bookstores - they are such a treasure trove of stories and adventures. And the people who frequent them are wonderful to talk with.
I had fun waiting on a family out here from Michigan. At least I think it was Michigan. I dutifully wrote down their names on a slip of paper and stuck it in my camera case and now, organized woman that I am, I can't find it. It's fallen out... somewhere. And they were all so sweet, too, darn it all. They even bought Sheila books! Guys I'm really embarrassed I can't remember your names, especially when I can see your faces so clearly. I think I definitely need a Smart phone in the new year. If I'd entered that info in my phone... I'd probably still have lost it.
Anyway, a big thanks to A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS for giving me a taste of what it's like to work around books all day and talk to friendly and fascinating people. And a big thanks to Theresa for organizing my book signings. I love that store and I sure do love Leavenworth!
And we proved it when we gathered a bunch of the gang down at the ocean to watch THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS on Hallmark November 8th. By the way, I'm happy to announce that the movie did really well. Obviously, many of us love movies about true love and kitty cats!
We did get confused regarding the time and were already to watch the show life at 8 p.m. only to learn it had already aired. Fortunately, one of us had recorded us, so we grabbed our popcorn, pop, and movie candy and quickly changed locations. It was like a progressive party... only the food moved with us!
So, a big thanks to my pal Wilma, who is fabulous and forever young at heart. Ah, the joy of girlfriends. And who did you watch the movie with?
Okay, so we don't live in Hollywood. That doesn't mean we can't celebrate the upcoming airing of "The Nine Lives of Christmas" based on my novel of the same name. And celebrate we did with back to back red carpet parties. One we invited the guys. The other was just the girls. Both were fabulous fun!
In addition to enjoying the movie we made a few screen tests just to see who might be good Hollywood material. I've posted some of them on my Facebook Like page, so I hope you'll check them out.
Naturally, we dressed to the "nines", as you can see by the picture above. There I am, modeling my fabulous Goodwill find! And I wasn't the only one. Several of us girls were sporting fun thrift store bargains. We've already decided if we get another movie adventure the future we're going to do a gown shopping day and caravan from thrift store to thrift store.
The food was wonderful, too, and included a special appetizer my pal Elizabeth Schultz tells me is actually served as Oscar parties. All I can say to that is, it was certainly a hit at our party (which is why I'm posting it on the recipes page).
The party fun ended way too soon. Then, as you can see by the picture below, it was time for Cinderella to get back to work and clean up. Fortunately, she had a lot of friends (and her lovely daughter) who stayed behind to help.
This weekend I'll be at a viewing party with my girlfriends down at the ocean. We're having a pajama party and will be eating all kinds of yummy movie food. And I know several of my friends and readers will be hosting viewing parties around the country as well. So, for those of you who are going to be gathering to enjoy the holiday fun, happy viewing!
With the Hallmark movie THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS based on my novel of the same name about to air (November 8th!) I figure I can now safely talk about the movie and my visit to the set last spring. I've got to say, this goes down as one of those extra fun, memorable life moments - a fabulous memory to treasure.
Gerhardt and I journeyed north to our Canadian neighbors to get a first hand behind the scenes glimpse of what it's like to make a movie. Let me tell you, it's a lot of work. These people put in 12 hour days. I was pooped after 10. Oh, who am I kidding, I was pooped after 4! But, after all my unfun adventures with chemo and radiation, this made a lovely reward. Jim and Ted the producers, were so kind and welcoming. And Gerhardt and I both got to make a cameo appearance. (All part of my plan to someday get on DANCING WITH THE STARS!)
Speaking of stars, everyone in the cast was down to earth and friendly. No big egos present, just hard-working actors, wanting to do their part to give viewers some fun holiday viewing. It wasn't only the actors who worked hard. Everyone on the set was there to make something special - the director, the producers, the make-up people, the extras, the people who created the set and the ones ran all that complicated equipment. So many people are involved in making a movie!
We were shocked when we arrived to see so many trailers in the parking lot of the exclusive golf course where the "restaurant scenes" were filmed. It's called "the circus" and I can see why. This really was a traveling show, complete with on site caterer to feed all of us. Gerhardt and I even had our own trailer. How cool is that?! If I'd had any brains I'd have gone in there and taken a nap. But I didn't want to miss a minute of the fun.
I came away amazed at how long it can take to film one scene. So many things are taken into account. Does there need to be more movement on the part of the background? (translation: extras) Let's get this from another angle. Let's try it this way. Now we need a closeup. So much thought goes into every scene. I don't think I'll ever watch a movie in the same way again. In fact, Gerhardt and I now point out different things we learned every time we watch one. "That guy had a walk through!"
Speaking of walk-throughs, keep your eyes peeled for us. We're in there!