Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

I'm on vacation and I'm taking a break this week from everything, except maybe cleaning that is.

Enjoy your loved ones, keep them close in your heart even when they are far, and instead of making a list of doomed to fail New Year's resolutions, make a life statement instead of how you would like your life to be and how you would like to be in it. Then make some measurable baby step goals to achieve that. Perhaps break it into twelve steps, one for each month of the year and by the time we ring in 2014, you'll be on your way to being that awesome person who you really already are. You just haven't taken the time to notice it or show it yet.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Faves

So everyone has their own version of It Can't Be Christmas Without . . . This Is  A Christmas Must . . . We Can't Break This Christmas Tradition . . .

I think you get the idea.

So, here's my list of things I love at Christmas time.

It's a Wonderful Life
Home Alone (only the first one, the rest were subpar to say the least)
A Christmas Story
Polar Express
Santa Clause 1 & 2 (but not 3, again subpar)
The Grinch (any version)
A Christmas Carol (any version, from Mickey Mouse to George C. Scott and in between)
Arthur Christmas (I waited a whole year to be able to buy and watch this one again!)
Holiday in Handcuffs (don't judge)
The Holiday
The Family Stone
The Preachers Wife
 (obviously this isn't a fully comprehensive list, but you get the idea)

A Christmas Carol (I read this one every year!)
Skipping Christmas (the book is much funnier than the movie version: Christmas w/the Kranks)
The Christmas Blessing (I'd like to read Christmas Shoes someday)
The Christmas Box
Christmas Jars
Our own family compilation of short stories we read starting Dec.1. A story every night. FHE from Dec1 through Dec.24. Awesome. Wish I had that all year.

John Denver & The Muppets
Christmas w/the Chipmunks
Mannheim Steamroller (all of them)
Mo Tab's Silent Night
The Muppet Christmas Carol

To Do
Decorate sugar cookies
Bake cookies and give them to neighbors and teachers
Light and decorate the tree
Lights in downtown DC
Christmas cards
Lights at the temple
Family nativity and talent show

There is much to celebrate and be grateful for this time of year. Please remember why we do all this: because the Son of God was born. It would still be Christmas without all the trimmings and trappings at my house just for that reason and that is what I try to focus on during all the crazy.

What are some of your favorites during the holidays?

Polar Express
Mariah Carey
Handel's Messiah

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Winner of Tres Leches Cookie Contest!

Thanks to everyone who submitted cookie recipes! We've had a lot of fun making all the recipes and giving them away to our neighbors and friends as our holiday gift! (Plus it saved us all those extra pounds of eating them ourselves.) Not to worry we ate more than our fair share and I'll have to work out from now to the next Millennium to take off the sugar pounds packed on but as it was for a good cause...

Plus, I now have some way yummy recipes to turn to when I want something different than my rocking standby of  chocolate chip cookies!

We used a highly sophisticated grading system: a scale of 1 to 5 with my 4 year old skewing the results every step of the way by giving almost everyone 5's written on good old fashioned paper. I was nearly ready to throw out the highest and lowest scores for each but with only 4 scores to start with that wouldn't work. In the event of a tie we were prepared to put names in a hat and draw. Another highly sophisticated and random way to select a winner when the judges are stumped.  

So enough chatter already, you're thinking, tell us who won  so the winner's book can get shipped tomorrow and arrive before Santa!

The Winner Is . . . Kbrebes!

Her Chocolate Crackle Top with Mint Cookies were amazing! The recipe will be posted here once I have her permission. (I mean, I think it's okay, but I don't want to get sued over copyright laws or something.)



1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup cocoa powder, Ghiradelli preferred
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (may use miniature chips)
3/4 cup powdered confectioners' sugar, for coating cookies
2 boxes Necco Thin Mints (WalMart 99 cents last year)(I couldn't find these so use what you can find that works!)

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until evenly mixed. Set aside.

Scrape the melted butter into a smaller bowl with a spatula and add the cocoa powder. Stir until combined and no lumps remain. Mix vanilla extract with eggs, then whisk into cocoa butter mixture.

Add wet mixture to dry flour mixture and mix thoroughly by hand with a rubber spatula. It may seem as if you need more liquid, but do not add any. Just keep folding and pressing until the mixture comes together. It will eventually reach the consistency of stiff brownie batter. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to firm up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silpat baking liners or parchment paper. (If you do not line the baking sheets, be sure to lightly grease them.)

Pour confectioners' powdered sugar into a small bowl. Scoop dough by teaspoons or tablespoons (your preference), roll into balls, and drop into powdered sugar, rolling around to cover completely. Place on prepared baking sheets 1-1/2 inches apart.

Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes (longer for larger balls). The cookies will spread, puff a bit, and form cracks. The longer you cook them, the more crispy they will become. As soon as they come out of the oven, press a Thin Mint on top of each cookie. Let cool 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before using a spatula to remove to racks and cool completely. Store in a covered container.

Please e-mail me at the address above or through AI so I can get it shipped Friday. That's when I'm doing the final run to the post office.


PS. Thanks to all of you who have become a follower of my blog. I'm looking forward to doing a happy dance when I reach 50! Maybe I'll do a giveaway. Hmmm...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Kringle by Tony Abbott

Unlike the traditional Santa Claus myth, KRINGLE is a coming-of-age story about an orphan who becomes a force for good in a dark and violent time. It is a tale of fantasy, of goblins, elves, and flying reindeer -- and of a boy from the humblest beginnings who fulfills his destiny.

Our tale begins in 500 A.D., when goblins kidnapped human children and set them to work in underground mines. Kringle is one such child.... until he discovers his mission - to free children from enslavement. His legend lives on today, as he travels the earth every Christmas Eve to quell the goblins once more.

Okay, I didn't really get this book. I plowed through it and when I say plowed I don't mean in a hurry. It took me over a month. Translation: I wasn't into it.

Problem for me: The Voice
It was all over the place and as someone who keeps trying to keep all the different voices and ways you can tell a story straight, it drove me crazy that this one broke nearly every rule and got published because an established author wrote it! Grrr. Unfair! Plus, it kept breaking the 4th wall. And then at the end when it finally told me who was speaking, it didn't make sense. How could they know all that stuff about Kringle when they weren't even there half the time?!

It does incorporate all the typical Kringle themes: sleigh, flying reindeer, elves, children, north pole, etc. and in an inventive way, while introducing new characters: pirates, goblin, Romans, etc.

Will I read it again? No. Should you? I don't know. Try it. Read the first chapter. See what you think. Maybe it just wasn't my cup of Christmas tea.

Now, does anyone have a better story about Santa for me to read?

In the meantime I'll curl up with Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo 2012

I'm a WINNER! (Now if I can only figure out how to put the badge in that column to the right!)

Yes, I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days! Actually, to be technical, I did it in 22!!! Yeah, overachiever, you can say it.

This was the first year I've been able to take on this challenge since entering the writing world a few years ago. The fates had conspired to keep me out of it until this year.

Here's what I did to achieve success and learned along the way.

First, I committed and officially signed up! Nothing like motivation to keep your word count up by having a whole state of writers counting on you.

Second, I did something I've never done before. I OUTLINED! A couple of days before the November started I outlined my book. Nothing fancy. A simple spreadsheet in Excel with chapter numbers, a one sentence idea of what to cover in that chapter and the time period in days. Voila! Ring on Her Finger was born! (Well, actually I've had the idea and title for a few months now, but not planned out.) This step was very important! Normally I'm a write by the seat of my pants kind of girl. (In my personal life I'm a pretty organized always has a plan A, B & C kind of girl, but when it comes to writing I toss the book out the window so to speak.) Outlining saved me from having to figure out where I was going and what was going on from writing frenzy moment to moment. I can still be creative but with just the right amount of structure. It saved me brainstorming time each day and when you are trying to write that many words in that few days, every minute counts! I'm going to give a Thank You to Karen Hoover on this step. I didn't go to the level of outlining given in her class at LDStorymakers Midwest but she made me a believer!

Third, I divided out how many words I would have to write each day to make my goal. Now, I had less days to work with because I choose not to write on Sundays (God's day) and I knew I was leaving on the 28th and couldn't write after that. Also, I couldn't be sure how much writing time I could get done on Saturdays, so I worked with a Monday through Friday schedule and any writing done on Saturdays were bonus and got me just that much further in the word count. Words to write each day: 2200!

Fourth, write in smaller time increments. This was the biggest thing I learned! Normally my mode for writing is pound away for 2 1/2 hours straight while my son is in preschool. That doesn't work. I found that the longer I wrote the harder it was to keep my word count and my fingers going, so I started working in 45 min stretches throughout the day. I could blast out better words faster if I did it that way. This sometimes meant getting up at 6 am ish to get in a few hundred words before starting my regular day. (The laundry, shopping, cleaning, getting ready for school, cooking meals, etc. doesn't stop just because I'm trying to write a good chunk of novel in <30 days!) So, a chunk in the early am, mid am, early pm and late pm were how I got it all done.

Fifth, when I hit my word count for the day, I stopped writing. GASP! all the more experienced and even more overachieving NaNo's go. Think of all the words I could've written, they say. Think of how much higher my count could've been for the month, they say. This was important for me for two reasons: 1) it gave my brain a break so it could be creative for the next day and my family to see me, 2) my carpal tunnel just couldn't take much more daily pounding. Gotta know your own limits.

Sixth, I sprinted for the first time. This has nothing to do with running. I would get on Skype with a good friend and we would write as fast as we could for 15 minutes. I couldn't believe how fast I could type when adding in a little friendly competition.

Seventh, have writer friends support. I accounted for my words on both NaNo's site and the Author's Incognito site. I cheered on fellow authors for each word they wrote and danced when they hit the 50,000 mark even if they couldn't see it. Also, texts here and there helped immensely from write friends.

Eighth, some things will have to slide. It's okay. This sometimes meant a frantic cleaning sweep on Sat nights with my kids to be  ready for Sunday. Sometimes it was a pile of dirty dishes next to the sink for a whole day. Sometimes it meant my hubby didn't come home to a cooked meal because we'd opted to make it a mac and cheese/leftover night. I'm a pretty good wife and mom the other 11 months of the year, so I cut myself a little slack for Nov. But my family always had clean clothes. This kept complaints down. Although you may not get a Christmas card this year! ;)

Ninth, trim your nails. Not kidding. Sliding and skittering across the keys impedes word count time and damages your proper typing form adding to your carpal tunnel issues.

Tenth, if I didn't make 50,000 words it would be okay! This one is crucial! The world would keep spinning even if I didn't make it. Life happens, people get sick, travel comes up, as do true tragedies like death in the family, or hurricanes, etc. The words written would still be a great start to a hopefully great book. And besides, how many people who actually get brave enough to sit down and write a novel, complete it? How many do it in <30 days? How many go on to write a second or a third or more? I'm still happy to be counted in a brave group of people.

So cheers to all of you who wrote in November!

Ring on Her Finger is my third novel. (Yes, I know, I still have to complete the second one) Here is the idea for it.

It's been a great week in Las Vegas celebrating college graduation with her friends for Amanda St.Claire. But when she wakes up on the last morning with a terrible hangover she realizes she's also made a horrible mistake. She accidentally married rich playboy Blake Worthington, the one guy she cannot stand and has loathed the past four years. Amanda convinces Blake to get the marriage legally terminated and goes home as if it never happened,  But when Blake gets thrown out of his family and shows up on her doorstep Amanda must admit her mistake to her family. Thrown together for better or worse until the legalities are cleared Amanda must play along until she can escape to her new job as a nurse in Africa. The danger is she just may do the one thing she thought she never would...fall in love with Blake Worthington!

Does it sound like something you'd like to read?