Halloween marks the start of the busiest time of year in our house. There are so many birthdays mixed in with the holidays we’re pretty much celebrating through Valentine’s Day. Still, no matter how busy we are, I always carve out time to do some baking. Birthday cakes, sugar cookies, gingerbread, and bourbon balls are standard holiday favorites in our house. My mother-in-law was the Queen of the Snickerdoodle cookie. My mom used to make these incredible seven layer cookies. But the thing that really signifies the start of the holiday season – or at least “fall” is my grandmother’s pumpkin bread.
In my latest release A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS, Lily Palmer is a nanny for Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids. What better way to keep them occupied and out of trouble than to keep their hands busy baking holiday treats? She teaches them to make sugar cookies and her grandmother’s Christmas bread.
Even though I’ve been busy in the writing cave working hard to finish up deadlines before the festivities begin, Lily inspired me to pull out the mixer and whip up a batch of my grandma’s pumpkin bread.
Here’s her recipe:
Grandma’s Pumpkin Bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup fresh or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Sift together the first eight ingredients.
In a separate large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the pumpkin puree, vanilla and milk. Beat in the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix until smooth.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds (if desired). Bake for about 1 hour.
I guarantee you it will make your entire house smell like fall.
What says “fall” to you? I’ll give away a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.
RT Book Reviews gives A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS 4 Stars!
“Dr. Cullen Dunlevy is in need of a holiday nanny for his for grieving, misbehaving wards. What he gets is a curve a shares beauty who is making him all hot and bothered. Celebration schoolteacher Lily Palmer needs this temporary job and is prepared for everything these kids throw her way. What surprises her is how fast she falls for them and their guardian, Dr. Dreamy. Thompson takes us back to celebration, Texas, to check in on old friends and create new memories. It’s fun to watch her complicated commitment-phobic hero and nurturing nanny take the ultimate plunge, but it’s the four hurting little co-stars who add heart rending-poignancy.”
I love watching TV. There, I said it and I’m not ashamed.
When I was in grad school some years back, you did not admit to watching TV–unless it was public television or a political debate. The clear implication was that you should be reading Proust or Henry James instead of watching the boob tube. The fact that I often preferred TV to my studies was probably an indication that I was not cut out for life as an English professor.
Fortunately, that stigma has gone by the wayside. There is SO much good stuff out there, especially on cable TV. Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Outlander, Longmire…some of the best film work is now happening on the small screen. And thank God for that, because after staring at the computer all day or reading/working on revisions I’m ready for a little downtime that’s easy on the brain but not entirely lacking in content (I refuse to even LOOK at Big Brother).
My favorite show of the new season is Madame Secretary, staring the fabulous Tea Leoni. She plays a former CIA analyst who suddenly finds herself serving as Secretary of State after the mysterious death of the previous incumbent. She strides through the halls of power, scowling and exercising a dry wit and lethal intellect, solving problems with aplomb. She also has a totally hot husband–a theology professor at Georgetown, of all things–who is a great partner and a very present father. I love the combo of humor, family issues, and fairly non-partisan politics. The heroine is a truly good, moral person who wants to make the world a better place.
Hey, I know it’s fantasy, but I’d like to clone Tea Leoni’s character and replace every politician in Washington.
Another show set in Washington is The Black List, staring James Spader.
Okay, I confess to having a mad crush on both Spader and his character, Red Reddington. Who would think a tubby, middle-aged, morally challenged guy could be so cool? And yet he is. The Black List features the dark underbelly of politics and is (I hope) completely unbelievable. The second season has yet to display the pizzaz of the first but I still love Red. I’m hoping The Black List will soon return to the form it displayed in it’s first and very stellar season.
Finally, there’s The Walking Dead, which is quite possibly my favorite TV show ever. It’s terrifying, heart-breaking, infuriating, suspenseful, and often funny. It taps into everyone of my anxieties and yet I keep going back for more.
Perhaps this guy has something to do with it.
I believe I saw this picture on Kristan’s facebook page a few weeks back, which doesn’t completely surprise me. But I digress.
There are many fine things about the show, but the relationship between Daryl and Carol sucks me in every time. And it’s so cool to see how the characters have developed over the course of several seasons. What really works for me is that I believe the premise, crazy as it is. I believe the reactions and portrayals, how everyday people might respond to the zombie apocalypse. Some of us would be dead in about ten minutes (me), and some would rise to the challenge (sadly, probably not me).
And, hey, with guys like Daryl around, even the apocalypse doesn’t look half bad!
Are you a Walking Dead fan? If not, what are some of your favorite TV shows? One person who comments will win an ARC of my upcoming release, How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy.
Are you as shocked as I am that October is nearly over? It could be a sugar coma induced by the bags of Brachs candy corn that I found at my local American shop that made the month fly by.
I have my usual Halloween costume prepared (suburban mom), I’ve got bags of candy that I don’t like so that when kids arrive I actually have something to give them and I’m preparing to make my family my famous hot chocolate with Halloween sprinkles. I know I’ve mentioned my obsession with sprinkles before.
I’ve launched a new series with Harelquin Blaze called Holiday Heat. The books take place overThanksgiving (US), Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The setting is a luxurious ski resort in Park City, UT. I made it up so I could control all the aspects like cute little alpine chalets where guest can spend more than a week. And my heroine can be the general manager. I used my experience working at Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort as the basis for the idea.
I used to love working there when I was a life guard and recreation hostess. And I loved to make up stories about all the people vacationing at the resort for my own entertainment. :)
The first book, IN TOO CLOSE, is out now. Today I think in the US as both print and e-book. It is a friends to lovers plot which isn’t one I do too often. I loved the fact that Elizabeth is really driven and single-minded when it comes to keeping Bradley at arm’s length and he’s willing to let her do that because he knows one day she’s going to weaken and fall into his embrace.
Here’s a little snippet:
“Is there a security camera in here?”
Elizabeth looked at Bradley with surprise. “No. Only the executives have a key to this elevator. Why? What are you doing?”
“Taking the kiss I really wanted.”
The last time he’d kissed her it had been earth-shaking, and even though she was prepared, there was an initial shock that sent waves of sensation down her body. She shut her eyes, but that only intensified the feel of his mouth on hers. He put his hands on her waist and pulled her closer. For once she just forgot everything and gave in….
His hands caressed her back and then slid lower. He drew her into his body and groaned deep in his throat.
Finally, she felt the rough exhalation of his breath against the side of her cheek as he pulled his mouth from hers.
She opened her eyes and looked up into the dark green gaze of the only man she’d never been able to fit into the “just friends” category. From the moment they’d met, she’d wanted more—that made him dangerous.
Danger at eighteen looked different at thirty, and she knew he still wasn’t a safe option, but she time, she would take what she wanted.
I’m giving away an autographed copy today and a Cheryl’s cookie card to three lucky commenters. Just tell me what your favorite candy is or if you’ve had a friends-to-lovers relationship. My hubby (who’s birthday it is today!) and I are freinds-to-lovers. :)
When I start writing a new book, I do it in pieces. This is because writing a book is (to me) terrifying. I can’t sit down and say, “Okay, Higgins, get to work! Only 450 pages to go!” or I would end up looking at remote Montana cabins on Pinterest, trying to figure out how quickly I can pack a bag and run away.
So I break the process into chunks and try not to look at the whole thing. Those authors who start with a burst of inspiration and type, “Chapter One” and just get going…I am not one of them. So I start by outlining and jotting notes about the characters, and assembling what is essentially a hot mess of ideas. I’d guess I spend about a month and a half doing this before I write the dreaded words: Chapter One.
Recently, I’ve broken down my books into a series of documents, each one a separate chapter. That too keeps me focused on what I have to do this day. When I’m happy with the chapter, I cut and paste into the main document, and see the book grow by ten or sixteen pages at a time.
When I have about 300 pages, I realize that I am, in fact, writing a book, and it’s got some legs. The fear subsides a bit. I start to see what’s wrong and which parts need work, and I keep another document, cheerfully entitled “What Sucks.” It lets me acknowledge that the book needs a lot of work without throwing up my hands and applying for bartending jobs.
The same is true for my upcoming trip to Europe. I’ve never been to Italy, Germany or France. I speak rudimentary French, but when a native French-speaker talks to me, I catch about every tenth word. I can ask where the Eiffel Tower is, but when I get an answer, I’ll be like, “So okay, you said something about a street…?”
I’ll be alone in Venice, I have already imagined falling into a canal and drowning, getting irretrievably lost, being pick-pocketed and rebreaking my ankle. In Milan, I’m giving a presentation (with a translator). I’ll be giving a reading at a baking school in Hamburg, because they’re publishing The Next Best Thing, which features Bunny’s Bakery. In Paris and Lyon, I have meetings and signings, and these wonderful lunches and teas and dinners.
I’m a little nervous. Utterly, completely thrilled, but nervous, too. I can’t really think about being away from home for two solid weeks, getting on the right flights, waking up at the right times, being charming, not getting lost. So I’m just thinking about what I have to do next. This week, work on my book. Pack on Thursday. Fly to Maryland on Friday for a signing with La Nora on Saturday (more info at Turn the Page Bookstore). Get back. Write more. Go out to dinner with friends. Pack. Print out documents. Practice deep breathing.
This is where list-making saves my sanity.
I’ll be posting lots and lots of pictures of my travels, gang. Check out my Facebook page and make sure you hit “follow” in addition to “like” and you’ll see my little travelogue.
Are you a list-maker, like me? Got any travel tips for me?
Congtratulations, Judy! Please contact me through my website NancyRobardsThompson.com and I will send you your prize.