Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sit Down Saturday with Amy Vastine

Today we’re celebrating Amy Vastine’s release of Catch a Fallen Star, the second book in her Grace Note Records series. 

So, Amy, where did you get the idea for this novel?
I love music and was trying to think of a way to tie in the world of music in a new way. I came up with having a series that centered on a record company. Boone came to me when I was writing the first book. The company needed a troubled, aging star, who could cause the hero in that book a little bit of trouble. I knew I would then have to give Boone a chance to redeem himself and Catch a Fallen Star was born. 

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
“Not too late for sorry.” Boone comes to Helping Hooves horse farm to write his new album and try to get his life together. He’s estranged from his daughter and, thanks to Ruby and her daughter Violet, he ends up writing her a song called “Too Late for Sorry”. I imagine that’s the song he’s working on when I look at this picture.

What is your favorite scene?
I have a lot of favorites in this book. I love a lot of the scenes between Boone and Violet (Ruby’s teenage daughter). Violet knows how bruise Boone’s sometimes oversized ego and plant his feet on the ground. But I really love the scene between Ruby and Boone after she saves him from falling off the wagon. It’s the first time he really takes responsibility. Here’s a little snippet …
She didn’t see what to Boone was so clear. They both might have felt rejected, but only one of them deserved it.

“No, I mean I’m not like you. In my family, I’m Levi. I have no idea why you even open your door to me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“If you were my ex-wife, you would hate me and have every reason to do so. I’ve spent so much time convincing myself Sara’s the bad guy in our relationship, I never thought about what I have really put her through. You and Violet have forced me to see the other side. Sara has been battling with me like you’ve been doing with Levi.”

“You and Levi aren’t the same.”

“Aren’t we? I’ve let my daughter down more times than I can count. I’ve put my career and my problems in front of her since she was born. I’m worse than Levi. At least he’s apologized for not being around.”

“More like given Violet thin excuses, Boone.”

“I’ve never apologized. I blamed Sara. I blamed my drinking problem. I blamed everyone and everything except myself. I’m the bad guy.”

Ruby’s eyes welled with tears. “You’re not a bad guy.”

He cupped her cheek and wiped her tears with his thumb. “Thank you for
thinking that.”

Maybe someday he wouldn’t be. It was time to change. To be the person he should be.

Who was your favorite character and why?
I didn’t really like Boone when I wrote him in the first book, but when I got in his head during this book, I fell hard. I was Booned for sure! There’s something about a guy who’s a little cocky in the beginning and is humbled in a way that allows his true self to come shining through. I do love Violet, too. I live with a sassy teenager, so I know exactly what they’re like. You might not always like them, but you have to love them!

lf you could pick actors to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?

Easy! Boone has always been Tim McGraw and Ruby is Amy Adams. 

What do you plan to work on next?

I have a couple things in the works. One thing I can’t talk about yet and the other is Sawyer’s story. If you’ve read the first two books in the series, you know Sawyer and are hopefully rooting for him to get his happily ever after. 

That's all for me - wishing everyone a very happy new year! Let's hope 2017 brings us lots more Heartwarming stories to love!
Find him here:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Keeping Old Traditions and Creating New Ones

with Lee McKenzie and Janice Carter

Merry Christmas, everyone! We had a different kind of Christmas at my house this year, but I’m happy to say it’s been a truly lovely holiday. So, what’s changed this year? I became a grandma! In the past, my son and his wife would divide their time between his family and hers, but babies do change things up! I didn’t want them to stress about having to do two family Christmases in two days, so this year we have postponed our big family celebration until New Years.

That said, I still prepared a Christmas Eve supper (Mexican-themed this year!), a Christmas Day brunch of BLATs (bacon/lettuce/avocado/tomato sandwiches), and a Christmas dinner of roast chicken with stuffing and all the trimmings.

How was your holiday, Janice? Did you focus on family traditions, or has there been something new thrown into the mix?

Merry Christmas to all! I had a great holiday too, Lee, in spite of having to juggle preparations and revisions for my Heartwarming novel out in 2017. Somehow I managed, though at a cost of a few restless nights! Our Christmas traditions changed slightly this year too, though not—and I say this, green with envy—due to the arrival of grandchildren.

We have two adult daughters, one of whom has a ‘significant other’ (can someone please come up with a better euphemism!) and this year they spent Christmas morning with his family, but came to us for dinner. Although I missed having her around—she’s a huge help in the kitchen!—and pretended to cry when I handed over her childhood Christmas stockings, I thought it very mature and considerate of the pair to ‘share’ Christmas festivities.

Christmas at Janice's house, before and after
We had 12 for dinner, including some of my husband’s siblings and their offspring. After New Year’s, like you, I will host another dinner for my side, which thankfully is much smaller. In spite of disliking changes, I know next year will bring other, different ones and I’m ready for that. Now that the rush is past, more or less, we can take a breather. How do you usually spend this lull before New Year’s, Lee? And do you have any New Year’s traditions?

Congratulations on your 2017 Heartwarming release, Janice! My next Heartwarming—His Best Friend’s Wife—will be available on January 3. Next week! More about that later.

I love your table setting! With Christmas behind us, I'm now planning a big New Year's Day dinner, which is something I've never done before. Will it become a new family tradition? Time will tell!

I’m not big on resolutions but I do have a few personal New Year’s traditions. The first is to transition from my current calendar/planner to a new one. I am still one of those people (some might say dinosaur!) who loves a paper calendar. I transfer my address book into the back of my new calendar. I page through the whole year, marking special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. And then I page through my old calendar—my own personal year in review.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Next, I do some goal setting by jotting down the major things I hope to accomplish in the new year and then mapping out a quarterly plan. Another personal tradition is to organize and declutter my home office, which actually started yesterday. What can I say? It’s a big job!

I’m excited that we’ll both have a book out in 2017. Do you have a title yet, Janice? And can you share a little teaser about this story?

Lee, as someone who likes to organize, I’m definitely a novice next to you! But I did get a start on putting away Christmas gifts on Boxing Day. My husband and I are not fans of New Year’s Eve and will likely get some good take-out, enjoy some Champagne and get caught up on our latest Netflix obsession. The entertaining will be on-going after New Year’s, but only with family and close friends. Besides, I cleaned our house really well before Christmas so….

I’m excited about my first Heartwarming (and my 12th Harlequin romance) but the release date is September, which seems almost out of sight at the moment. The working title is A Man, a Boy and a Dog which came to me in an act of desperate non-creativity. The man, an army captain seriously injured in an explosion in Afghanistan but inadvertently saved by a stray dog he had befriended. The dog is transported to the States thanks to the efforts of the captain’s squad and with the help of the heroine, a photo-journalist on assignment. Circumstances interrupt the handover of dog to captain and the heroine must return to her family’s farm with the dog. The boy is the heroine’s young nephew, who has refused to speak to any adult since the sudden deaths of his parents. The hero arrives to claim his dog and the rest is….well…romance plus the healing powers of love.

Speaking of romance…I’m looking forward to reading your January release Lee and am also wondering if you have other writing projects in mind for 2017.

Janice, I can’t wait to read this book! I'm currently working on the third book in this series, as well as a proposal for a new series. Your comment about your title made me laugh out loud. I’m the worst at coming up with titles. That said, my next book is being released with my original working title. His Best Friend's Wife is the second book in The Finnegan Sisters trilogy.

A second chance for his first love
Paul Woodward has always known Annie Finnegan was the one. But when she married his best friend, he moved away from their tiny hometown to try to forget the woman he could never have. When her husband passes away, Paul is heartbroken and wants to be there for the love of his life—but how can he, given the way he feels? As he returns to take over his ill father's medical practice, though, it's clear that Annie and her son are the family Paul longs for. As Annie heals and their connection grows, Paul will wait to find out if love really gives second chances…
Happy New Year, everyone, and happy reading!

Lee McKenzie
His Best Friend's Wife (January 3, 2017)

Janice Carter
A Man, a Boy and a Dog (working title) (September 2017)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Patricia Johns: Beautiful Idiots

What were you like when you were young?

I look back on ideas that I thought were so clever back when I was twenty, and I cringe. Good grief--I had no clue! But that's youth for you--efficient metabolism, tight skin, limited life experience. I was a beautiful idiot.

There are benefits that come with age, like some actual perspective on things. We no longer think we're quite so clever, and we're more compassionate. Life is no longer about being the brightest and the shiniest, it starts being more about the long haul--and that takes humility, empathy, and a whole lot of courage.

In A BAXTER'S REDEMPTION, Isabel Baxter has had a life-altering accident. She's gone from flippant beauty queen to "ordinary" in one metal-crunching moment. When she returns home, she has to face the person she used to be, and start over as a scarred woman. No more special treatment by the male population, and no more power in one sultry look.

Add to that, her wealthy father has remarried a woman younger than she is, and they're expecting a baby together. The inheritance that Isabel has always counted on--her cushion in hard times--is about to change... and while the rest of us have a good twenty years to gain some maturity and perspective, Isabel doesn't have that luxury.

How do "ordinary" women face life? How do they get their way? How do they navigate men?

Isabel is about to find out.


Has she really changed? 
Former beauty queen Isabel Baxter returns to her hometown, scarred after a near-fatal accident. But in high school, she was the fantasy of every teenage boy in Haggerston, Montana, including James Hunter. Even though James was too far below her social circle to be noticed…

Now her father's attorney, James isn't ready to forgive Isabel for the part she played in his own family tragedy. Yet she seems eager to make amends and prove herself capable of being more than a pretty face. Has the girl he once worshipped—his boss's daughter—grown into a woman James can respect…and maybe love?

Find this book online in January! 

Come by my blog--I'd love to see you!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tis the Season....

Happy holidays from the Heartwarming team at Harlequin.
A photo from the Canadian Harlequin office

Merry Christmas x2 to all Heartwarmers... both authors and readers! Happy New Year's, too!
Catherine Lanigan

"Happy Holidays to all and may in 2017, we take a real step toward peace on earth, goodwill to all.
Shirley Hailstock

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and any blessings for 2017!
LeAnne Bristow

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, and blessed holiday season.
Anna J. Stewart

My tree is a ragamuffin of ornaments made by the many elementary students I taught 
and the ornaments grandpa gives me every year.  
Truly, I need two trees!  Not.  Merry Christmas.  
Hope the season touches our heart.
Pamela Tracy

Our "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.  Happy Holidays, 
Janice Carter

Here is an amusing photograph of my cat Bert halfway up and lounging in our tree. 
Bert appreciates the joy and wonder of the season, 
and I hope everyone else has a joyful and wondrous Christmas!
Amie Denman

"Wishing everyone peace, love and joy this holiday season and in 2017!"
 -- Love, Rula Sinara

"May all your Christmas wishes come true."
Beth Carpenter

Happy Holidays and New Year from Karen, Zoey and Rudolph- 
we're sure everyone's made Santa Paw's "Nice List" <3

Karen Rock

Merry Christmas from the Jensens in Astoria, Oregon.
Muriel Jenson

I've been so busy that this is the Christmas tree I managed to put up.  Merry Christmas.
Roz Denny Fox

This not my big tree but I love it too. I've had it for years. 
Every Christmas it sits in my bedroom, and we leave these lights on all night 
to really feel and enjoy the spirit of this blessed season. 
The little nutcracker is a bonus. 
Merry Christmas to all and a happy, healthy New Year!
:) Leigh Riker

Although I love ALL Christmas trees--even 1950s aluminum ones--
there's something "Heartwarming" about a kitchen tree. 
Merry Christmas! 
Liz Flaherty

Merry Christmas to all of our readers and friends. 
Hope you have the happiest of holidays.
Patricia Forsythe

Happy holidays to our fabulous readers! 
Thank you for making 2016 another heartwarming year. 
xoxo, Amy Vastine

Friday, December 23, 2016

Is Christmas a Scramble or Is it Just Me? by Roz Denny Fox

As children the Christmas holiday is a most exciting time. I grew up loving everything from going out to cut a tree, bringing it home to decorate, buying and making gifts, hiding and wrapping them. All that was followed by the arrival of Santa, sometimes during the night, sometimes not until morning. And Christmas Day we feasted on ham or turkey and side dishes and homemade pies.

Fast forward to me as an adult. When my kids were small and growing up, of course I carried on traditions that came from both my family and my husband’s family. Many years we traveled in snow and ice to celebrate with grandparents and great-grandparents. For me the joy was still there.

Little by little over the past three or four years I’ve felt that excitement, anticipation and joy slipping away. And this year is a real bah humbug year.

Ads start and stores began to decorate for Christmas along with Halloween and Thanksgiving. Didn’t those three fun events used to be separate, but fun in different ways?

My kids grew up, moved away and married. Unlike when we traveled to grandma and grandpa’s homes, my offspring and their spouses who worked in retail, can never get away to travel. So it was always up to us to do the traveling. Sometimes on airplanes grounded by weather in unexpected places. Maybe that was catalyst for the bloom of Christmas to begin fading a bit. Now I really balk at holiday travel.

It’s also more difficult because my grandchildren are grown and in college or off working, too. Figuring out what to buy, wrap and ship to various addresses has become a challenge. And you have to ship early or risk weather delaying shipments. Oh, but hoping everyone will like what I bought, and trusting clothing items will fit gets more difficult as they lose or gain weight. And even me finding time to get the shopping done in a year when even the postal service is advising earlier dates for shipments if they are to guarantee delivery by the once-exciting holiday.

This year I bought Christmas cards in July. I began addressing them right before Halloween. (Really?) (Yes, really.) Then I found out I hadn’t bought enough cards so I was off to find more when stores had gifts out, but no cards.

Even as I write this blog post I wonder if I’ll have time to decorate. And will I have time to finish shopping, wrapping and mailing gifts? Because other things have come up. I stupidly or carelessly backed into a sign while taking my sister to an eye appointment. When does the company want to repair my vehicle---at a time I should be Christmas shopping. Then my sister’s eye appointment looks as if it will result in her needing eye surgery. I’m the designated driver, and the person needed to care for her during recovery. The surgery is scheduled a couple of days before I should be sending off those presents.

Oh, and I always fix our Christmas dinner, but suddenly my oven has stopped coming up to the temperature it should be. And one other thing, for over a week I haven’t been able to get email. Cox tells me there’s an outage someplace and they’re “trying” to find it. I can send, but not receive and that seems like something a good tech should be able to figure out why and why not. I’m really not someone who usually whines about small things like this when there’s so much real misery in the world. But…

Is the panic I feel in place of what once was great joy a symptom of aging or a sign that times are changing? Or just a sign I’m having one bah humbug year?

I’d love to hear how you all keep the magic in Christmas, because I want to believe again. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all. Truly!

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Celebration! by Kate James

It's the time of the year for giving! To celebrate Christmas and as a small token of my appreciation for all the wonderful support and friendships I've enjoyed over the course of the year, I've put together a special Christmas gift pack to give away.

The prize pack includes a K-9 Trilogy T-shirt, a box of delicious Godiva Belgium chocolate assorted truffles, a cute owl Christmas tree decoration, a 2016 personalized photo Christmas tree decoration, a package of three Christmas-themed earrings, an additional pair of Christmas tree earrings and a Kindle version of my award-winning novel, A Child's Christmas.* (An excerpt from A Child's Christmas follows.)

The giveaway runs from today until midnight EST on December 22nd. You have three easy ways to enter, and you can enter each day!

Kate James

There is also a second-place prize, consisting of a San Diego K-9 Unit tote and a Kindle edition of A Child's Christmas, to be awarded to one person chosen at random from those leaving a comment on this post.

Please check the bottom of this post after noon EST on December 23rd for the names of the winners.

I wish you and your family a Christmas season filled with love, joy and good health!
*Prize pack to be shipped within North America only. Should winner live outside NA, ebooks will be substituted.

© © ©

The Winners are . . .

Thank you very much to everyone who participated in this giveaway!

The winner of the grand prize is: Karen M. from Detroit, MI.

The winner of the second-place prize is: Sandra L.

Congratulations Karen and Sandra!

Karen, I will send you an e-mail. Sandra, since I do not have your e-mail address with your entry, please e-mail me at kate @ kate-james . com (without the spaces).

Once again, I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and healthy 2017!
© © ©

Excerpt from A Child's Christmas

Irene Cara’s “Flashdance…What a Feeling” was playing, the last song before the official countdown to midnight, when Jason’s door opened. With his teddy bear clasped under his arm, he shuffled into the living room.

Paige was up and rushing toward him immediately. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

“Nothin’,” he responded, still groggy. “I just wanted to be up for midnight. I set my clock. I have something for you.”

The final chords of the song faded, and the host started the countdown. “Ten…nine…”

“You need to sit on the sofa next to Mr. Kinsley, Mom.”

The last vestiges of sleep gone, Jason dashed behind the sofa. “C’mon, Mom. Hurry!”

“…seven…six…” the host counted.

On five, Jason moved his other hand from behind his back. He clutched a sprig of mistletoe. “You know what this is for, right?”

“…three…” He held it over the space between Daniel and Paige’s heads and giggled.

“…two…” Paige sent Daniel a silent apology, but his expression was amused.

“…one!” At the blast of horns and noise makers on the television, Daniel cupped Paige’s cheek in the palm of his hand and leaned in for a kiss. Paige closed her eyes and leaned in, too, as if irresistibly drawn by a magnet.

Jason whooped loudly.

The kiss was light and brief. When she opened her eyes and gazed into Daniel’s, she could see in the expression on his face that he’d felt it, too. The sweet taste of the champagne lingered on her lips as it did on Daniel’s. She ran her tongue over her upper lip, savoring the flavor.

“My work here is done,” Jason declared cheerfully, his words followed by a huge yawn. He kissed his mother on the cheek. “See you in the morning, Mom. Good night, Mr. Kinsley.” Jason held up his hand, and Daniel high-fived him. “Happy New Year!” he called, waving the bear over his head, as he trotted back to his room.

© © ©

Sanctuary Cove and Home to Stay, the fourth book in my San Diego K-9 Unit Series, are both available for preorder.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


What is this story about?

     Silver River Secrets is about Rory Dalton and Lacey Monroe. They meet in high school, fall in love, and plan to marry and spend the rest of their lives together. Then, just before graduation, something terrible happens that tears them apart. Rory stays in town, but Lacey leaves, returning only periodically to visit her grandmother.
     Fast-forward ten years. On one of her visits, Lacey discovers something that prompts her to search for the truth about that fateful day. Will Rory help her? Or does he just want to bury the past and move on?

Where did you get the idea for this story?

Silver River Country
My stories often begin with a setting, and such was the case with Silver River Secrets. On a trip to Idaho, I visited a small town in the central part of the state. Driving along the highway, I happened to glimpse an old abandoned house. Not unusual to see abandoned houses and barns along the highway no matter where you go, but this house for some reason intrigued me. It looked so forlorn and lonely sitting there beside the road, stuck in time, with life passing it by. Why hadn't it been torn down? Why hadn't it been kept up? Why did no one live there anymore?
     That's when "what if" took over. What if something terrible happened in that house? And what if the people who lived there couldn't bear to remain but neither could they bear to destroy the house? And so there it stands, a bittersweet reminder of both happiness and tragedy.

Do you have a favorite scene?

     One of my favorite scenes is the one in which Rory and Lacey visit the house together. Something they have never done:
     Rory held open the screen while Lacey unlocked the door, and they went inside. The air smelled of mold and dust and made her choke. She let her eyes adjust to the light of rooms long hidden behind drawn blinds and then stepped into the living room, where an overstuffed chair with torn upholstery, a scarred end table and a couple of straight chairs were the only remnants of occupancy....
     In the hallway, they approached the stairs leading to the second floor. Rory stopped and looked up toward the landing.
     "No," Lacey said. "You don't want to go up there."
     "I do. I want to see the room where it happened. All these years I've only imagined what the room was like. Now I want to be there. You can stay here or wait in the truck."
     "No, if you're going up, I'll go."
     Gulping down a shaky breath, she climbed the steps, Rory behind her.

     Will their experience in the old house bring them closer? Or will it drive them farther apart?

Did you do any research for this story?

One of Rory's favorite classics

     Rory collects and restores classic cars, a subject I needed to research. Lacey likes the classics, too, and has one of her own.

What are you working on now?
     Another book in my Return to Willow Beach series. After that, I'd like to set another story in Silver River.

       Happy Holidays, everyone! Please take a look at the other December Heartwarming books. Catch a Fallen Star, by Amy Vastine; Christmas in the Cove, by Carol Ross; and Meet Me on the Midway, by Amie Denman. 


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Escape from Home | Mending the Doctor’s Heart by Sophia Sasson

Back in 2007, I got to visit the island of Guam.  At the time, the purpose of my trip was not a happy one, it was for my day job and there was work to be done. Even the workaholic in me couldn’t resist the charm of the island and the amazing people I met. The trip there touched my soul and the characters of Anna and Nico took seed. Finally, ten years later their story is real.
Mending the Doctor’s Heart is a story that will rip your heart out then put it back together. It’s the story of a mother who has lost her child, a wife who has lost the ability to love, and a husband who has lost everything. Set against the backdrop of Guam, my hope for this story is not just to entertain, but to share a piece of the wonderful island with you.
 Hafa Adai (sounds like Half a day) is the Aloha or Hello in Chamorro.  People will greet you with Hafa Adai and when they ask how you are, they expect to hear the real answer and make time to listen.

 So most people know that Guam is a U.S. Territory in the Pacific and many of you learned about it in the context of World War II history. But there is so much more to Guam. First, I didn’t appreciate where it was exactly until I learned that it would take me twenty hours to fly there from Washington DC. It’s a dot in the middle of the Pacific ocean, across the date line; 6,000 miles from California and 4,000 miles from Hawaii. It’s closer to Japan than to the United States.
 Image result for guam on world map
Okay so it’s an isolated island. What does that really mean? Not only is it far away from any mainland resources, it’s prone to all sorts of natural disasters.  When I visited with the emergency medical services program on Guam, they showed me this picture of a typical storm they get and contrasted it with a picture of Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans.


When I asked folks what they did when such storms overwhelmed local resources and they looked at me like I was crazy. “We handle it,” they said matter of factly. “There is no one coming to save us, we are here by ourselves, whatever happens, we deal with it. We have to.” Yes I did feel very small in that moment. And while I certainly saw the spirit and pride of the Chamorro people on Guam, not everything can be taken care of locally. Medical care on the island is limited. There is one hospital with limited specialty care. Most people go to the Philippines, or if they can afford it, to Hawaii to get care.  While I was there, I passed several roadside stands with people collecting money. The locals explained these were families fund-raising to scrounge up the money to get off the island to get medical care.

It’s not an easy place to live, but if you’re from there, it’s home. It’s a place where people take care of each other. Where work life balance is not a thing because family comes first, and everyone respects that. It’s where heritage and culture matter; and the entire village will raise a child. It’s a place of beauty, inside and out.
Okay now that I’m tearing up, I’ll leave you with the back cover of the book. It’s the third book I’ve written for Harlequin Heartwarming and I know I’m not supposed to have a favorite book but…ahem…

I can not end this post without leaving you an image of Nico, a proud Chamorro man, for whom family is everything. So when he must chose between his wife and the rest of his family on Guam, what will he do?

Thank you for letting me share Guam with you. Don't forget to check out the other amazing January titles by by  Tara Taylor Quinn, Lee McKenzie and Patricia Johns

I love hearing from readers, feel free to sign up for my newsletter. I plan to send out some Chamorro recipes soon.  

So tell me, is there a place that’s stuck in your heart? 

On Christmas trees and best laid plans

Helen's and my post is up a little late today, and we do apologize. Because Helen remembered it the night before it was due and I didn't remember it at all. Nevertheless, we wish you all a beautiful holiday season, full of peace, hope, and joy. We hope readers continue enjoying Harlequin Heartwarmings in 2017 as much as we enjoy writing them.

by Helen DePrima

Through the years, the Christmas tree has been our family’s most enduring tradition. I can’t recall a single time we’ve bought one already cut. In the first few years of our marriage, my husband and I would pay a small fee to cut a tree from one of the National Forests along Colorado’s Front Range. We lived in a hundred-year-old cottage in Fort Collins near the CSU campus; its 10-foot ceilings lured us to cut a tree to match its dimension. The challenge was getting a tree that large home from the mountains strapped to a VW Beetle. Because of the car’s egg-like shape, keeping the tree on top proved impossible; first it slipped backwards to drag behind and then forward to obscure the windshield. We finally compromised by mounting it upright on the rear bumper and drove home at 15 mph, accompanied by cheers and jeers of the motorists who had to pass us.

Since moving to New Hampshire, we’ve cut trees in shirtsleeve weather and leaning against arctic winds so strong we could scarcely stand upright; sometimes my husband has needed to scoop out a trough in the snow to reach the tree trunk with his saw. The transport problem has been solved by my succession of Ford trucks although there have been years when we’ve slithered down icy mountain roads leaving a wake of graceful S-curves as pick-ups tend to do.

For the last fifteen years, we’ve driven far north to a Christmas tree farm north of Franconia Notch, stopping first for lunch at the Littleton Diner which serves the best clam chowder in the state. Then on to Mountain Star Christmas Tree Farm to cut our tree, followed by a stop at the Brick Store in Bath, NH, which claims to be the oldest continuously operated general store in the US. The covered bridge close by is still in operation although snow is no longer shoveled inside to accommodate sleigh runners.

Gotta run now – time to put up the tree.

by Liz Flaherty 

I love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday for reasons both spiritual and because it is a cherished memory bank of my life. Actually, I love the whole time from Thanksgiving through Christmas. However, that five-or-six week period goes by in the blink of a geriatric eye, so I like to plan ahead.

What I Plan

·         Buy wrapping paper, labels, bows, Christmas cards, seasonal paper products, Christmas fabric, and 22 pounds of candy at after-Christmas sales for something like 90% off.
·         Start Christmas shopping immediately following 4th of July fireworks.
·         Begin sewing Christmas gifts. Make out schedule for the holidays since I am on deadline. Write from 6:00 AM till noon, sew from 4:00 PM till 6:00 PM. Use other waking hours productively.
·         Buy baking necessities in September so that I will have plenty of time to make cookies. Remember parchment paper.
·         Early in November. Finish Christmas shopping to avoid Black Friday. Buy turkey and other Thanksgiving needs.
·         Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Go to store to buy a turkey bag because even in the best-laid plans, I forget something. Red and green M & Ms are on display. Buy some.
·         Each day until Christmas, do things like wrap gifts or complete a handmade gift.
·         By the Sunday night after Thanksgiving, have the tree and all decorations up, half the gifts wrapped, a few batches of cookies in the freezer.
·         Enjoy the holidays! God bless us, every one!
My girls on Black Friday

What Actually Happens

·         Buy wrapping paper, labels, bows, Christmas cards, seasonal paper products, Christmas fabric, and 22 pounds of candy at after-Christmas sales for something like 90% off. Eat the candy. Lose the rest of it.
·         When my sister-in-law calls in August and asks if I have my Christmas shopping done, I call her names, hang up, and eat the M & Ms I’ve been stockpiling to make Christmas cookies.
·         Buy more M & Ms.
·         Lose them.
·         Oh, fine, I ate them.
·         Decide I will sew aprons for everyone for Christmas. Lay the fabric out neatly on the cutting table. It will remain there until dust gathers on it and I forget what I was going to do with it.
·         First baking day in October. Buy more M & Ms. Replace the parchment paper I’ve lost.
·         Find the parchment paper from last year and the year before. Put it somewhere that I will remember.
·         Thanksgiving Thursday, the day the holiday season begins for me. Remember the meaning of a full heart because all our kids and grands are wherever we’ve chosen to gather. I am never a perfectionist, but this day is truly perfect. It goes by in minutes.
·         Black Friday. Go shopping because it’s so much fun. Buy things no one needs but are on sale. Go home smelling like every single tester in Bath and Body Works. Show my husband the purse he just bought me for Christmas.
·         Saturday after Thanksgiving. Husband can’t help get tree and decorations out of the attic because of rotator cuff surgery—what an excuse!—so I do the sensible thing and buy a new tree. And some ornaments. Put tree up and discover flocked trees shed white stuff indiscriminately. Run vacuum. Run it again. Husband keeps sling on for no better reason than they told him to. Run the vacuum again.
·         All of December. Try to catch up with myself.
·         December 24. Finish Christmas shopping. Say “Where did the time go?” 37 times. Search frantically for the cellophane tape I know I bought. Use Band-aids to secure packages.
·         December 25. Everything is perfect. I've enjoyed the holidays! God bless us, every one!