Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It was Puppy's first Christmas, and I'm not sure what it was she expected out of the holiday. She certainly picked up on the excitement and confusion in the house - the fresh tree right in the middle of the living room, all the wrapping paper and gifts and bows and oodles of tape to sniff and play with...
Puppy went and met Santa on Christmas Eve. There was a fundraiser at a local vet's office with and lots of pets there to see the Big Guy. Puppy was a little skittish, and the rest of the people in the waiting room were making fun of her until I told them all that she's a PUPPY. She actually just turned 11-months-old this week. She's just a BIG BABY. They cut her some slack after that.
Except the parrot, who kept making fun of her. Puppy was a bit freaked out by the parrot.
Although she got a nice new fleece pull toy (that she immediately un-braided) and a nice new Ginormous Beef Bone (that now lives in the backyard as it stinks like death)... Puppy wasn't prepared for all the "waiting" that goes into a Holiday. Waiting in line to meet Santa. Waiting for Santa to come with the presents on Christmas Eve. Waiting for the kids to wake up in the morning. Waiting for the kids to open said presents.
Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
And then there were all the photographs my husband likes to take on Christmas morning. Puppy almost fell asleep while waiting for him to finish snapping all the shots.
Waiting. More waiting.
And then the poor thing wasn't even invited to my mother-in-law's house for the day. We had a neighbor stop over to let the dogs out early in the afternoon to romp a bit in the backyard. But most of her day was spent chewing her new stinky bone in the kitchen and waiting for us to get home.
Puppy's real fun with the holidays started the day after Christmas. When we were all home all day, and had plenty of time to play, and walk in the snow, and feed her treats.
Puppy's thoughts on meeting Santa? She didn't say.
Puppy's thoughts on Christmas itself? Bah, humbug!
Puppy's thoughts on Christmas vacation week? Fun Fun Fun! Two paws way up!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
So when we had the snow delay earlier this week, my daughter and I decorated the sugar cookies - note the cool Lobster and Mermaid shaped cookies on the plate - nothing says "Cape Cod Christmas" like a Lobster Sugar Cookie, glazed in red frosting with red sprinkles! Think Santa will approve?
We also tried out a new recipe for "Chewy Spice Cookies" - they're like a cross between a snickerdoodle and a molasses crinkle. Easy to make, tasty to eat, and boy how they made the whole house smell like Christmas while they were baking! I got the recipe from Real Simple's Cookie-A-Day holiday email newsletter, but we had to modify it slightly because their recipe was way too sticky.
Holiday Spice Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 cup shortening (we used "I can't believe it's not butter")
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar (to roll cookies in before baking)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, Cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cloves.
2. In second bowl, beat shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg, molasses & vanilla. Add the flour mixture until just combined - don't overmix.
3. Put white sugar in bowl or on a plate. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls with your hands and roll balls in the sugar to coat. Place balls on baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
4. Bake until edges are firm and tops are cracked (like in photo above) - 10-12 minutes. (It took us 12-13, but my oven always takes a few minutes longer.) Cool slightly on trays before transferring to wire rack. Store in airtight container.
Another "baking" item we enjoy during the holidays is the traditional gingerbread house - usually we have a competition between the 3 kids who partner with their aunts and grandmother.... but this year, my daughter was the only one interested so we just bought one kit and she put it together all by herself - I was allowed to supervise, but not touch.
Don't forget to leave a few cookies out for Santa and the elves - all that work on Christmas Eve makes them need the sugar rush!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
School wasn't cancelled or delayed yesterday, because the weatherman said it would only be flurries. Like last week. He was wrong. They were all wrong.
The roads were absolutely terrible at 6:15 as I drove my eldest to his bus stop 2 towns over (the regional high school is half an hour away.) They hadn't improved much as I drove my middle son to his school at 7:00 am.... and then they got bad.
Puppy is LOVING the snow. One of the first things she did yesterday was put her face right in it and rub her snout back and forth through the white stuff. She played outside with the kids after school and kept begging to go back outside, long after all the snow pants were in the dryer.
Puppy will have another chance for romping today. Cape Cod is blanketed by a foot of snow and expecting more. The "light dusting" has ended up a blizzard. With a nor'easter promised for Christmas Day. (That one'll probably be the dusting!)
Like I said, I want to be a weatherman. They get paid no matter what they say.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Melissa and Jen are hosting an around-the-blogosphere holiday party - click on the image above to head over to Jen's blog and see who's participating - I hear there are over 80 blogs you can visit to see Christmas trees, holiday decorations, fav recipes and drink ideas to make it a jolly holiday!
My middle child helped me choose the tree this year - I blogged about our tree earlier in December, about trying to get it decorated... but it's all ready for Christmas now
Some of my favorite ornaments are related in some way to cookies. This gingerbread girl is actually made from sand paper, pompoms and foam pieces - I went into my daughter's first grade class and made them with the kids (way back when.) The fun part was rubbing the Cinnamon stick on the sand paper to make them smell delicious. The kids then had a little baggie with decorative bling that they could use any way they chose.
Baking Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday happenings - I like to do it as often as possible during the month! Yesterday we baked chocolate chip cookies; today we've got oatmeal and roll-out sugar cookies on the agenda. Tomorrow: snickerdoodles!
I found a great sugar cookie recipe a few years ago, in the Penzey Spice Catalog! Easy because you don't have to refrigerate it before rolling, and they always come out well.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 ts baking powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter & sugar. Add egg & vanilla. Mix until well blended. Add flour and baking powder and blend well. Form dough into smooth ball. Roll on lightly floured surface to 1/4" thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake 6 minutes (they shouldn't brown at all.) Remove, cool & decorate with colored frosting.
Vanilla Frosting Recipe:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp butter
2 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients until smooth. Separate into smaller bowls to add food coloring.
Drinks are another fun part of the holidays - when my parents owned an Inn in Vermont, I'd go home over the holiday break and work for them. I served breakfast, washed dishes, and tended bar at night. I can't even count the number of mugs of hot chocolate I must have served over the years... with and without peppermint schnapps!
One of my suggestions during the very first holiday week soon became an Inn staple: Hot Spiced Cider. We set up a coffee burner on one end of the bar, and the pot of cider would not only stay warm but fill the whole bar with the scent of simmering Cinnamon. Mmmm.
Lots of places serve hot cider with rum. We had a secret ingredient... Apple Jack whiskey.
Heat 8 cups of apple cider with 4 whole Cinnamon sticks and half an orange, cut into slices. Let simmer for at least half an hour, to allow the flavors to mingle. For each mug of cider, pour 1 shot spiced rum (like Captain Morgan) and 1 shot Apple Jack whiskey in the cup, then fill with hot cider. Garnish with an extra long Cinnamon stick as a stirrer and a wheel of orange hanging from the rim.
And remember... Be Jolly By Golly! Happy Holidays!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Like his other adult books, there is a whole host of characters that we follow through this tale, but the main one is Annie, an actress hired to be the body double for a young pop tart with addiction problems. The premise made me stop and wonder a few times how often this kind of thing happens in real life, and which stars are most likely to have body doubles in their full-time entourage. Interesting thought, no?
The other main characters include an unethical paparazzi (is that a tautology?), the inexplicably stupid pop tart herself and her just as dumb actor/boyfriend, an ex-governor who flipped a bit while in office and now lives in a swamp, and a slew of ruthless promoters and developers... the usual cast of Hiasson characters.
He alternates viewpoints and jumps scenes enough to keep you guessing how it's going to end up. I don't want to say too much about the plot, because most of the fun is in the twists and turns that it takes the reader on - kind of like being on a roller coaster ride with a blindfold on. You'll be able to anticipate some of the turns but then the bottom drops out from under you.
There is a lot of drinking and drug use in this book, but it's not at all glamorized and the likable characters don't partake. There are, however, a lot of meant-to-be-unlikeable characters.
I enjoyed the story and it kept me reading, but honestly? I enjoyed both FLUSH and HOOT a lot more. He gives his younger books more defined story arcs and better endings, in my opinion. Maybe because he knows young readers expect that, and adult readers can "deal" with the reality of things not all being wrapped up neatly at the end (although this book does have an epilogue that follows each character's future.)
What are you reading this week?
OOOh, and don't forget to stop by tomorrow for the BE JOLLY BY GOLLY Christmas Blog Fest! Tons of writers will be participating in this around-the-blogosphere Holiday Event, sharing photos of decorations, favorite Christmas recipes for food and drink... which reminds me, need to get out that recipe book and choose.... See You Then!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
My favorite old photo was given to me as a gift one year at Christmas. It's a sepia tone 8x10 of my very own Great Grandfather William A. Oliver playing Santa Claus in 1934, during the Depression.
Aunt Kate wrote on the back of the frame that it was taken at Weaver's Department Store in New Jersey. She didn't mention why Santa had a big ol' riding whip in his hand - is that for the reindeer or the naughty children?
These kids don't look so much naughty as sad, even in the presence of the Big Man in Red. One or two are managing a smile. Despite the somber faces, it's one of my favorite Christmas things. A connection to the past that shows even when the going is rough, we manage to go on with our lives and help others.
What are some of your favorite Christmas images?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I like the simplicity of these paper figures. I know many people have sets made of china or carved from wood. My Great Aunt actually gave me a second set of bone china one year for Christmas. But I prefer this one. It looks at home on the mantle with all the Christmas photos old and new.
The collection of photos is there to remind us that the holidays are about family, across the generations. The creche is supposed to remind us all that Christmas is about more than getting presents.
Do you have a Nativity scene in your home? What does it mean to you?
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
You can find the whole review page - and many more reviews of paranormal works - by going to www.paranormalromance.org or by clicking HERE.
"Drugs, Ghosts and Love."
Jillian didn't know she had inherited everything her Aunt Edith owned - but her husband did. And he was pissed! She had already filed divorce papers but it wasn't final and the only way Kyle would profit is if she wasn't there to finalize the divorce. Sounds like a perfect murder mystery plot, right?
It is! You must add in the fact the Jillian is a "ghost whisperer" who has hidden the talent for many years as she was exploited by her parents as a child. When she goes home to care for her aunt, leaving her children in Vermont with Kyle; she is opening a huge can of worms. Jasper, her deceased twin is waiting to say hello, as is her grandmother and many others. Can she deal with Kyle finding out her secret? For that matter, can she stay alive long enough for him to find out!
Ghosties (no ghoulies, though) help and hinder in this wonderful tale of the paranormal with a little romance thrown in for good measure. I heartily recommend this story and hope that I can find more work by Ms. O'Sullivan in the future! The characters are great, the drama high and the spirits far and away the best!Reviewed by Nancy Eriksen
Posted December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Author Sky Purington is hosting a Christmas blog party all month long over at her blog "A Writer's Mind." Several wonderful authors have already visited to talk holidays and romance, and now it's my turn.
Join me at A Writer's Mind to chat about Christmas, writing, and my books! There're 2 delicious excerpts from PERFECT STRANGERS and even a brand new sexy scene from my work in progress, a sequel to last year's UNFOLDING THE SHADOWS.
Leave a comment to be eligible to win some great prizes!
Visit the party at http://skypuringtonwrites.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-every-woman-wants-under-her_04.html Saturday and Sunday.
See you there!
At our Middle School this week, we had the Chorus and School Band performances on Tuesday night. My son is in the 7th and 8th grade band - he did a wonderful job as did the rest of the musicians and singers.
This weekend is the Drama Club production. They chose THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare as their Winter performance. Last night was the Opening Night - - and it was wonderful.
Watching the rehearsals, I really never thought the play would gel the way it did - all of the actors and actresses learned their lines and learned to project and did an outstanding job with a pretty difficult piece of stage craft.
The younger kids (like my daughter) were cast as magical sprites, non-speaking but important roles in setting the atmosphere as otherworldly and magic. I volunteered to help with makeup for all three nights, and to face paint as many of the sprites as I could.
My daughter and her friends had a blast. They were so jazzed up when it was over that the energy was palpable in the cafeteria even before they started eating the sugary after-party treats.
One night down, two more to go.
What performances have you attended this holiday season?
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I just found my first review for PERFECT STRANGERS on Amazon.com - - 5 Stars!
Wow! I'm having one of those "I'm not worthy" moments. And while I was looking at myself on Amazon.com, I came across another 5 Star Review for my first book - UNFOLDING THE SHADOWS !5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Strangers is a Great Romantic Thriller,
December 6, 2010ByAmazon Verified PurchaseThis review is from: Perfect Strangers (Paperback)Katie O'Sullivan does a great job developing characters, settings and story lines that you can relate to in the workplace and in your personal life. She perfectly creates the "normal" main character who is a pleasant young woman trying to succeed in the professional world as well as in her love life, the pretty friends, the best friends, the cheaters, players, drunks, eccentrics and of course the gorgeous hunk : ) And what do you get when you mix all of these characters together in "off-season" Cape Cod? Plenty of gossip, fun, romance and a fast paced novel with twists and turns that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I won't say anymore so as not to spoil the plot. I recommend this book to all those who read this review and look forward to Katie's next novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read!,
November 17, 2010ByAmazon Verified PurchaseThis review is from: Unfolding the Shadows (Kindle Edition)I read this book while on a cruise, and it was a so nice to get lost in the interesting characters and exciting plot. There was a great mix of very realistic relationships between the characters, and the more fanciful paranormal aspects of the book. Great first novel by Katie O'Sullivan, and I'm really looking forward to her sequels and new
Do you read reviews? Seek them out? If you're a writer, do you worry about getting good or bad reviews? If you're a reader, do you listen to reviews to make purchasing decisions? How much do reviews matter to you?
To me, finding a good review is validating - finding a great review is humbling. What nice Christmas presents to find, even if they're not under the tree.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
My son was selling them as a fundraiser for the middle school band - I currently have a table full to be delivered to my generous neighbors later today. But why are the red flowers so popular at this time of the year? I did a little online searching...
The hothouse flower has been a Christmas staple in New England since the mid-1800's, but the Poinsettia is native to Mexico. It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in the early 1800's.
According to Wikipedia, the plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus's birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias.
Starting in the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico supposedly included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood of Christ from his crucifixion.
Apparently, the plants were also known to the Aztecs, who used the flowers to make their bright red dyes, as well as for medicinal purposes. There is a common understanding that the flowers are poisonous to cats and dogs and small children, but studies are inconclusive. Since my dogs are beyond the chewing stage (except for books, of course) I'm not going to worry.
People seem to either love the bright flowers or hate them. I'm not sure why... this is actually the first year in a long time that I have them in my home - and I must say, they're beautiful.
Do you buy poinsettias for the holidays? Why or why not?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The number of "holiday traditions" that need to be kept up with can be daunting... and yet, I usually love sitting down to write out cards, to think about old friends and neighbors whom I may not have seen over the last year or so.
I love getting holiday cards in the mail, and seeing how their kids have grown. I even cut out some of the pics and tape them into my address book with the year jotted next to it, to remind me what's going on in their lives. The smiling faces greet me as I flip through the address book and write out the envelopes.
My favorite card so far this year is from my husband's cousin, from her wedding. We were there, so I know that right after her new husband dipped her and kissed her (the great photo on the card) they both tumbled over into a heap on the lawn! A great and fun memory - especially since there were no grass stains on the dress afterward!
I'll admit there's too much going on in my life at the moment, and while I usually write more personal notes and get it together to add a short holiday letter.... most people are just getting a photo card this year. But I'm still ahead of the curve and getting them in the mail before the 10th - my personal deadline each year. I don't know why, but it's a number I can remember and stick to. Most years.
Excuse me, I have to go finish a few more cards.... now where did I put those stamps...
Monday, December 6, 2010
My daughter loves this part now, too. She likes to be the one to unwrap certain "special" ornaments from the boxes - especially anything she's made over the years, as well as certain special ornaments that are "hers." The crystal swan. The penguin with the hot chocolate. The sparkly purple flip flop. The marshmallow s'more guy. She also wants to be the one to put those on the tree so everyone can see them first.
She also likes to be the one to unwrap the glass ornaments - the little ones that go near the top of the tree, and the big antique ones that I "hide" in the china cabinet, now that there are so few of them left.
My sons also get into the act, but there again, they only want to hang certain ornaments. The ones they made in preschool. The sparkly basketball to celebrate that he made the team again. The one shaped like a guitar that his aunt found for him in the city. These are the ones they want to hang.
The rest of the ornaments? Not so much.
Don't get me wrong, I love decorating the tree. But now that my daughter has covered the dining room table with unwrapped ornaments, the task seems daunting.
How about you? Do your kids help out until the very end, or do they lose interest and wander off after their few sparklies are hung? Is there a trick to this process that wasn't in the Mommy Handbook?
Let's get the coffee pot brewing and get started!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
SWEET INSPIRATION should be on everyone's Christmas reading list! I know Penny Watson from the New England Romance Writer's Association - she published this story last year, about one of Santa's (hot, sexy) sons finding true love. Her second Klaus brothers tale is coming soon (with another sexy torso on the cover, too!)
This book won first place in a 2008 romance contest, and since Wild Rose Press published it last year it's gotten rave reviews. It's also ON SALE for a mere $3 right now at the publisher's website - why not pop over there and download it for a fun, quirky Christmas story that'll shake off your stress and get you in the holiday mood? It's also ON SALE at Amazon.com for your Kindle, Mom. Check it out - fast read and cute story!
In other writing news, I participated in a group book signing with 20 other local Cape Cod authors yesterday, held at the Cape Cod Cultural Center in Yarmouth. I was selling and signing copies of my paperback, PERFECT STRANGERS, and had such fun chatting with other authors and having friends stop in to buy my book!
I shared a table with Marie Sherman, who I'd only known via email prior to yesterday. Marie was an officer of the court until her recent retirement, and has been a Justice of the Peace for many years (she still performs the occasional wedding.) Her book, SAY I DO, is a collection of short stories, about the many weddings she's performed over the years. CapeWomenOnline ran an excerpt from her book in the Spring 2010 issue. Not available as an ebook, you'll need to find it on-Cape at many local bookstores and retailers. Fun gift for the bride-to-be.
Also at the book signing was another romantic suspense author, Pamela Loewy, who lives just over the bridge in Plymouth. It's fun to meet new authors, and Pam was really nice to chat with. Like Penny Watson, Pam also writes for The Wild Rose Press.
Her book, SAVING JEMMA, is available as a paperback and an ebook. I just downloaded it to my Nook today, so I'll have to read it and review it for you all soon... but I absolutely LOVE her cover art! Snowy cabin nestled in the woods - looks like another good book to curl up with under the Christmas tree lights!
So what's on your reading list this Holiday Season? Are you choosing Christmas-themed stories, or avoiding them like the plague? I'm embracing the season - so far, at least!
Happy Holiday Reading!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
At our meeting Thursday night, my Girl Scout troop did celebrate the second night of Hanukkah with the lighting of the candles, the Hebrew prayers read by one of my Scouts who is Jewish... and a rousing game of cut-throat dreidel. The girls had a blast.
And then it was time for the Stroll... and Christmas stuff.
The Pilgrim Church in Harwich Port allows the Girl Scout troops in town to set up tables to sell crafts and homemade items. It's a great location because one, it's indoors (!) and two, there's a steady stream of people coming through the Fellowship Hall to buy the hot dogs and chili that the church sells.
It's my 5th year working the Holiday Stroll with my daughter and the Girl Scouts. For the last 4 years, I've been working our craft table for the entire 3 hours. We usually make $100, and last night was no exception, despite the slow foot traffic.
The "exception" at our table was that I was also selling and signing copies of my book - a tentative foot into the waters of book signing events. I had signed up for a double-sized corner table to allow us extra space for this, but the configuration was changed by the church and this was our allotment.
You can see my book poster on the left-hand side of the table, amidst the crafts.
It was fun, talking to people about writing romance novels and signing copies of my book. One friend brought in the two copies she'd ordered online to have me sign them - one is a gift for her sister. Most of the books I sold last night were to people I know... but I live in this town, so I know a lot of people.
One woman I'd never seen before was staring at my poster as she ate her chili. She came across the room to grab one of my postcards to read the book blurb, and then came back with cash to buy a book and have me sign it.
Unfortunately... the box of books I ordered more than 2 weeks ago didn't arrive in time. I had ordered one box of books when I planned this signing, and then a second box when I confirmed the SHELF SPACE signing sponsored by A Book in the Hand, but those aren't here yet. So I split up the one box I do have and took half to last night's event.
I sold them all. WHAT a cool feeling. I only wish I'd had more. But for a first signing, it was heartening to receive such a great response.
Maybe the box of books will be at the post office today, in time for the next event.
Friday, December 3, 2010
One of Puppy's Absolute Favorite Things is riding in the car. Don't ask me why, but she gets all bouncy when she sees me grab the car keys. And it's not just when she thinks we're headed to the dog park.
She gets excited in the morning to go to the bus stop and in the afternoons to ride around and just do errands. She insists on riding along later in the day when we drive down to the high school to pick up the oldest child after sports (it's a half hour each way, and she LOVES it.)
She likes to stick her head out the window, her jowls flapping in the breeze. The doggy-ness of my car is evidenced by the coating of drool on both rear windows (and the thick layer of white fur on the floor o fthe back seat.) Luckily, I have one of the newer minivans where the windows go down - I can't imagine what she would have done in the old Odyssey!
New "trick" this week: On Tuesday, we were driving home from basketball tryouts (he made the team, btw) and Puppy wanted her window put down. My son and I were busy talking in the front seat, and Puppy decided to take matters into her own paws.
She lowered her own window.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking - like we did at the time - it was pure luck that her paw hit the button the right way to lower the window. They are power windows, after all. So we laughed, and forgot about it.
Until she did the same thing the next morning on the way to the bus.
She didn't even ask that second time, she just lowered her window and stuck her nose out into the cold breeze.
Smart Puppy! Luckily, there is a parental control lock up with the driver, so I can "lock out" her power button. But so far, I just think it's a cool trick ;-)
What have your dogs learned lately?
In other news .... I'll be selling and signing my latest romantic suspense
tonight 12/3 at the Harwich Port Holiday Stroll - - look for my table and poster inside the Pilgrim Congregational Church's Fellowship Hall on Route 28 !
...and again tomorrow 12/4 at the SHELF SPACE event sponsored by A Book in the Hand, in Yarmouth at the Cape Cod Cultural Center. Twenty-two local Cape authors will be at the Center selling and signing books - come do some "Buy Local" shopping with your local authors!
...and next week I'll be the featured author on the A WRITER'S MIND blog on December 11th and 12th. Make sure to stop by and leave a comment to win some great prizes!
If you're on Cape Cod, stop by and say hi! (I'm even baking cookies for tomorrow's event! Well, all the authors are baking - should be a delicious signing!)
Have a great weekend!