When it comes to cookies, these are about as decadent as you can get.
It all started when my daughter was in grade school. We made bonbons for her teachers every year. And then for family members. And then... suddenly it was getting harder to find the ingredients we needed. And those Bonbons were really labor intensive. Soooo, we switched to Andes Mint cookies. (You can find the recipe on the recipe page.) Still a little labor intensive but nothing like those Bonbons! Well, now my daughter has daughters and we're still baking Andes mint cookies at Christmas. The work crew has just grown by two. What a fun holiday tradition. I love getting to hand out with the girls and do this. And I'm hoping someday my daughter will be doing it with her granddaughters. What's your holiday tradition?
Sooo, I just happened to mention a favorite painter, Stewart Moskowitz in my novel BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE, and, lo and behold, one day I got a nice email from him, thanking me for the mention. He also offered to send me a copy of his adorable children's book, TOO-LOOSE THE CHOCOLATE MOOSE. How cool is that?
I was not only delighted with this thoughtful gift but really thrilled to hear from someone whose work I admire.
So, what's the purpose of this little anecdote (besides to share something fun that happened to me)? Well, I'm not sure, except to say that I think a great life isn't necessarily composed of huge, earth-shaking events, but small blessings and kindnesses, moments to smile, moments to laugh. Mr. Moskowitz has given me a lot of smiles, first with the print of one of his paintings that hangs in my hall, and second with taking time to write me. The book was icing on the cake. Hope I can do some small thing to make someone smile today. How about you?
By the way, you can find the 30th anniversary edition of Stewart's book on Amazon. If you're interested, here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Too-Loose-Chocolate-Moose-Anniversary-Edition/dp/0985146710/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356110617&sr=8-1&keywords=Too+Loose+the+Chocolate+Moose
I'm sure by now that many of you have seen the music video we made to go along with my Christmas novel "Merry Ex-mas". If you haven't, hop on over to Youtube and check out "Merry Christmas, Mama."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MssZlpob0os&feature=g-all
I've got to say, filming that was one of the most fun things I've done in ages. The Tracyton Public House in Bremerton let us take over for several hours on a Sunday last spring. As you can see, we decorated the place for the holidays. And ourselves, too! We were all dressed in our winter clothes but that afternoon was a scorcher with record high temps. The regulars were in t-shirts and shorts and we were all roasting like so many Christmas geese on the spit.
I can see why it takes so long to make a movie. We spent hours filming just for this short video. So many people volunteered to be part of the fun. And let me tell you, there were a lot of people snapping pics of Santa napping at the bar!
The video is based on one of the story lines in the book, so please don't go thinkin' that I hate mothers-in-law. I had a great mother-in-law and I am one. I always tell people that no mothers-in-law were harmed in the filming of this music video. Santa, however, got a hernia.
The big Christmas tree in town square.
Well, okay, I wasn't really in Icicle Falls, since there is no such place. But I was in Leavenworth, which is the inspiration for my fictional town of Icicle Falls. Leavenworth, WA is a charming Bavarian village nestled in the Cascade mountains. The town is adorable, the shopping is amazing, and the people are friendly. It's a perfect getaway place, especially this time of year when town is all lit up for the holidays. No snow yet, but I suspect by December it will be the usual winter wonderland it is.
A lack of snow didn't stop us from having fun. I enjoyed hanging out at A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS, signing copies of BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE and MERRY EX-MAS, and meeting readers from all over the state as well as the country. Let me tell you, I also found time to shop - spent a fortune on soap and bath goodies at The Bubblery and checked out local artists' wares at the craft fair at the Christ Kindle Mart. Also enjoyed the brass quartet performing in the gazebo in town square.
My visit to this sweet town capped off a perfect Thanksgiving, spent with family. Now, as the weekend winds down I can't help reflecting again on how blessed I am. I have a great family and good friends. I have snug house and food on the table. I have my health. I am a truly rich woman. I don't count my blessings nearly enough so I'm glad for a holiday dedicted stWhat a wonderful holiday Thanksgiving is!
I've been having a great time at my book signing parties, celebrating chocolate madness with the release of BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE. And now MERRY EX-MAS is out too, so that means more fun. Hope to have some pictures from the parties up soon. There's always a photo op, especially when my family is involved. My crazy older brother always crashes the party in some crazy costume and this time was no exception. He came dressed as a little old lady. Well, actually tall old lady. He made a great girl!
One of the things we've done at the parties is play a chocolate trivia game. So, for those of you who don't live in my neck of the woods, I thought it would be fun to post the questions. Let's see how many answers you can get right.
1. Researchers are finding that chocolate is actually good for us. But for the best benefits it should be ___ % cacao.
2. What candy bar is named for a clumsy person?
3. Complete this jingle: N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best ________________.
4. In the movie A CHRISTMAS STORY Ralphie gets a decoder ring that tells him to be sure to .....
5. In addition to being good for our hearts, what other benefit have researchers found chocolate to offer?
A. It's an aphrodisiac
B. It's a cough suppressant
C. It works as a breath freshener
6. What city in Pennsylvania has a hotel that offers a chocolate spa?
7. What are nibs?
8. In the town of Hershey the downtown street lights are shaped like Hershey's kisses. True or False?
9. M & M's were first created for the U.S. Military. True or False?
10. What chocolate bar is named after 3 famous literary figures?
11. In 1849 a now famous San Francisco chocolate producer started out selling supplies to minter in the gold rush. Who was it?
12. Have M & M's ever gone into space?
13. According to Sheila, when is the best time to buy Valentine candy?
Okay, let's see how you did. Check the answers below to see how many you got right.
3. Chocolate (All of you who grew up in the fifties should know that one!)
4. "Drink your Ovaltine"
5. B, cough suppressant (Every man who plays this game guesses aphrodisiac)
6. Hershey, PA (I must go there to visit!)
7. Nibs are those little pieces of the roasted cacao beans
8. True (How cute!)
9. True. Our soldiers ate them during WW II
10. Three Musketeers
12. Yes! They first went into space with the 1981 Space Shuttle
13. The day after Valentines Day (Everything's 50% off)
It's a big day here in America. Today we choose our next president. The last weeks have been filled with heated debate... and I'm not talking about the candidates. We Americans are passionate about our causes. But I think this year goes beyond that. We've been downright angry this time around. That's understandable. A lot of us are worried about our future.
Like most of you, I'll be camped in front of my TV tonight, watching the results. And, I'll confess, I'm going to be really upset if my candidate loses. With the race this close I have no idea who's going to win.
One thing I do know for sure. No matter who wins, life will go on. We will plant gardens, fall in love, plan weddings, have babies, work hard. Somehow, we will get by. We will find work. We will make work. We will start companies and we will start new relationships. We will survive. And many of us will succeed.
Our president is our Commander in Chief. Our legislators represent us and pass laws that will benefit us. (Hopefully.) But ultimately, I believe we are each responsible for our own success or failure in life, so I'm not looking to the president to make my life good.
I hope we all go to the polls today as informed voters. And once the election is over, I hope we all remember that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, and that we all pull together to help each other succeed both as individuals and as a country.
I love what I do for a living! I love sitting at my computer, spinning out stories, and, after I've completed a scene, I enjoy reading what I've written. Hanging out all day in Fantasy Land - does a job get any better than that?
Wonderful as all that is, my favorite part of this job is when I get to go out and plug a book. I have so much fun throwing parties at book stores, meeting readers and generally being a ham.
By the way, here I am, being my hammy self on A.M. Northwest, which airs out of Portland. This is a favorite TV show of mine because everyone who works on the show is incredibly nice. They always make me feel welcome.
And speaking of nice, I think I have the greatest readers in the world. Some, like my friend Myssie, even bring their daughters to signings, and it's great to get a chance to meet the next generation of readers.
The last couple of days I was in Oregon. This Saturday I'll be in Bellevue, WA, and next week, more places in Washington. In fact, next week, we'll be kicking off the release of "Merry Ex-mas" with a huge bash at the Silverdale Mall in Silverdale, WA. That will be a total immersion holiday party, complete with Santa. I can hardly wait!
I can't tell you how much fun I have hanging out with readers. And, to all of you, who come out time and again to this crazy stuff, I just want to publicly say, "Thank you." Without you, where would we writers be?!
We harvested apples off our apple tree this week. It's finally beginning to produce and we got 14 whole apples. How exciting! How thrilling! How... expensive. I'm big on growing your own food, and working edibles into the landscaping, so in addition to our apple tree we also have several blueberry bushes, raspberries, two cherry trees and another apple tree. Also strawberries for ground cover and a veggie garden. Doesn't that sound like natures bounty? Oh, yes, in many ways it is.
Except.... somehow, I never got to the three cherries on the baby tree in time, a marauding neighborhood pit bull thought the deer sprinkler in the veggie garden was a toy and tore up the entire garden playing with it. Twice. Yes, I persisted with the garden but I'm not sure it was a very cost effective one this year due to having to go out and repurchase seeds. And as far as the other edibles went, well, those all got a little pricey this year. We tried rigging up an automatic watering system with a timer and over-watered. Poor Gerhardt almost had a heart attack when he got the two-hundred dollar water bill. He called the water company, sure there had been some mistake. The nice lady asked, "Do you have an automatic watering system?" Ummmm. Not any more. After that Gerhardt got stingy with the water.
I can't say as I blame him. With a two-hundred dollar water bill how much were those fourteen apples a pound?! We could have bought a lot of organic produce for that price.
Oh, well. I'm not giving up. I do love being able to grow my own food. I just have to find a way to grow it more economically.
We hear a lot of jokes about mothers-in-law. Heck, I have friends who don't like theirs at all. But mine was great. We were good friends and never had a cross word between us in all the years we knew each other. She was great fun. She taught me how to shop using coupons and got me hooked on garage sales. When we were first married and times were tough she and my father-in-law would come to visit bearing grocery bags full of food. We both loved to watch Dancing with the Stars and any time I was staying at her place to help out we'd camp out on the couch and root for our favorites. We lost her earlier this month and it was hard to let go. I miss her.
Her passing has not only left a hole in my life, it's made me stop and think. Whose life am I impacting? Am I making a difference in the lives of my family and friends? My community? Mom was 90 when she died. Seems like such a long time, but she was the first to say those ninety years went in a blink. And boy, do I understand. Oh, Lord, help me to pack each day with kindness and grace. Don't let me waste time in mindless pursuits or on bitterness or resentment. Help me be thankful for each day and each person in it.
And Mom, rest in peace. I love you!
Fun, fun, fun!
Well, did we ever have fun this weekend! Saturday night was "NIGHT OF ILLUSION" at Sheila's place. This particular theme party was not simply a party, it was staged for a my favorite regional magazine, WEST SOUND HOME & GARDEN. The magazine is a class act, and so is Dee Coppola, the woman behind it. We certainly gave Dee plenty of material to work with. In this picture our guests are trying their hands at being escape artists. In this trick you tie a couple together, each with a length of string tied to their wrists and the two strings connected. Their job is to figure out how to escape without cutting or untying the string. As you can see by the picture below, this was not so easy.
All tied up!
Ah, the things my friends end up getting suckered into! Actually, everyone was a good sport. Several brought magic tricks to share and one couple came dressed for magic. The tricks ranged from card tricks to poking pencils through bags of water without spilling a drop. My friend Martha proved her abilities as a mentalist. My pal Theresia, who is starting a catering company, made the appetizers and we made the food disappear. It was great!
And I learned from Dee how to stage a gorgeous picture. Our dessert table looked magazine worthy by the time she got done helping me. The only picture I remembered to take was after the food was pretty much consumed and we were down to the cake and cookies (And no, this is not the dessert table. That was set up outside on the patio table for the photos and that picture is gorgeous!). Notice my centerpiece though! Yes, the rabbit in the hat. Always fun to keep your party theme going with decorations and eats.
This party was great fun (how could it not be with the group of people we had gathered!), but parties are about more than just fun. They're about connecting with friends and making memories. Never let unimportant concerns such as how your house looks stop you from entertaining your family and friends. Those special gatherings are what make life special. And they make us all feel rich no matter what our income level!