I had lunch with one of my oldest buddies yesterday. She and I have been friends for thirty-five years. Hard to believe. Because it seems like only yesterday we met and formed that bond that (little did we know then) would span the years. Sadly, we only get to see each other once or twice a year, even though we live in the same town. Juggling work and family and other obligations, life takes over and before we know it another year has passed. That’s when we put on the breaks and carve out time to sit down and catch up. Of course, when we do get together we pick up right where we left off. Isn’t that the mark of a good friendship?
On my way home from lunch, I was thinking about the power of girlfriends and how lucky I am to have so many wonderful women in my life. The connection I share with them runs deep and rich. In addition to my friends who go way back, there’s a group of moms I grew close to when our kids were in school. Even though our daughters are in college in different parts of the country, we’re still in touch. I have a small group of trusted friends who are also writers and we know we can count on each other for advice, inspiration and to be there through life’s ups and downs.
I love this quote from Elizabeth Foley, “The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”
That’s so true and so important. Even though miles (or even cross-town traffic) separate some of us and we don’t get to see each other often, what’s important is that we always pick up right where we left off and we feel good and uplifted by our time together. Which reminds me of another quote: “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.“
Isn’t it wonderful that we have girlfriends who inspire us to keep singing?
Tell me about your best friend. I’ll give one person who responds a $5 Amazon gift card.
I’m taking a break to celebrate the holidays with my family. So, I’m sharing a blog that originally ran in 2012. I tweaked it just a bit to reflect what’s happening right now, but the message is timeless. Happy holidays, everyone!
We have nine days until Christmas. Where has the time gone? Is it just me, or has this year flown by? It feels like it shouldn’t even be Halloween yet. Probably because Halloween came and went without even a carved jack-o-lantern or toasted pumpkinseed in our household (and I love toasted pumpkin seeds…). Halloween was preempted by deadlines and obligation. There was just no time. Missing that, we held on tight as we careened into November, which is birthday season in our family; then the birthdays gave way to Thanksgiving. Now, here we are sprinting toward the end of another year.
I realized the other day, I need to slow down and smell the Christmas cookies. Actually, I need to make time to bake some. I need to make time to enjoy my family and the meaning of the season before it’s over and we’re halfway through next year.
It’s time to take a deep breath and live in the moment.
I’m reading a great book called Ten Zen Seconds by Eric Maisel. Chapter nine, Embracing The Moment, really spoke to me. It’s about the difference between “passing the time” (or in my case, racing through it) and “being present.” Living in the moment. It’s really given me pause and made me think.
How is it that we get so busy that we don’t have time to enjoy life? We get so caught up in planning and scheduling and racing from one thing to the next that we neglect to live. Events that are supposed to be fun and memorable become burdens or worse yet, they slip by because we don’t have time or we’re present in body, but not in spirit as our mind wanders, planning what’s next .
The commitments and obligations won’t evaporate – and the truth is, we probably don’t want most of them to go away. I just finished back-to-back deadlines (and thank goodness for book contracts!). I’ve barely made a dent in my Christmas list (probably good for the budget). My daughter just got home from college and my father just returned for the holidays (one of the most important events I’ve been anticipating all year. I don’t want to take for granted a single moment with my family). I am determined to slow down and savor the rest of the month.
What’s your best tip for enjoying the spirit of the season? How do you keep up with family, friends, work, housework, decorating and all those holiday concerts, pageants, and parties and keep your sanity? How do you live in the moment during the holidays?
I’m on deadline working extra hard to finish my book before Thanksgiving. But I wanted to pop out of the writing cave today for some fun with my friends in the Jaunty Quills community.
How about we play a round of Five Things? I’ll tell you five things about me, and then you tell me five things about you. Here goes…
1. I have a corgi named Samantha. I call her the ambassador of all dogs because she made me love dogs. I was raised with cats and hadn’t had much experience with dogs – except for our neighbors’ dog, Missy, who bit me and pushed me firmly into the cat-lover camp. Then Sammy came along and changed everything. I still love cats, but it’s ridiculous how much I love my dog.
2. My favorite hobby is art journaling. Because I use a lot of found objects in my journal creations certain people close to me have accused me of being a hoarder. I am not. Yes, I need fifteen different shades of blue paint. And that ripped corrugated cardboard box? Don’t throw that away. I can make something beautiful out of it. Really, I can.
3. Oh, no, now you think I’m a hoarder, don’t you? Actually, one of my quirks is that I find cleaning very therapeutic. So, I’m a clean hoarder. And I won’t let you make me feel bad about it.
4. When I was young, I used to be able to lay on the floor, rise up into yoga cobra pose and touch my feet to the back of my head. Yeah, I can’t do that anymore.
5. Other than writing, my dream job would playing Eponine on Broadway in the musical Les Misérables. However, since I can’t sing I’ll stick to writing and torture my family with my heartfelt rendition of On My Own.
So, how about you? I’ll give a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who shares Five Facts about him- or herself.
RT Book Reviews gives Nancy Robards Thompson’s A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS 4 stars and says, “Thompson takes us back to Celebration, Texas, to check on old friends and create new memories.” Harlequin Special Edition, November 2014
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.”
Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids, she’s got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she’s ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn’t adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family—and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?
Cullen doesn’t mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason—to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…
* Where did you get the idea for A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS?
The Sound of Music has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw it for the first time when I was very young. Later, I shared it with my daughter. I hope someday she’ll continue the chain. In the meantime, I wanted to write a book that was a nod to that classic story that shows that with love and family you can overcome just about anything.
Of course, I changed it up enough to make it my own. First, it’s set during the holidays. Cullen, the hero, is a doctor rather than a wealthy navy captain; and Lily, the heroine, is a teacher rather than an aspiring nun. There are four kids rather than seven. Actually, in the first incarnation of this book, I gave Cullen seven foster children, but then I came to my senses. He and Lily were grateful because as it turned out, four feisty Thomas children were more than enough.
* Tell us about the hero and heroine of the book? Why will we want them to fall in love?
We met both Cullen and Lily in previous books. I introduced you to Lily inCELEBRATION’S BRIDE (she was the woman who won the wedding of her dreams, only to have her fiancé back out on national television). Cullen first appeared inCELEBRATION’S FAMILY. He was the stern chief of staff at Celebration Memorial, who insisted that the hero of that book participate in the bachelor auction that raised money for the hospital’s pediatric wing.
Lily’s nurturing, never-give-up-on-love spirit softens Cullen’s hard exterior and together they realize that through love and family they can heal hurts of the past.
* Is there any particular significance in the setting?
I think Debbie Haupt of RT Book Reviews said it best, “Thompson takes us back to Celebration, Texas to check in on old friends and create new memories.”
* What was your favorite scene to write?
This book was so much fun to write, that it’s difficult to pick just one scene, but I guess the scenes with the kids were my favorite…or maybe the scenes at the Holiday market…or maybe when the hero and heroine go to the Christmas ball… Wow! Choosing is kind of like naming my favorite child.
* Were there any real-life inspirations for a particular scene or character in the book?
I infused several personal details into the book. Like Lily, I lost my mother and was exceptionally close to my grandmother. My grandmother’s recipes are very special to me. I cook her food when I’m missing her.
My father remarried a wonderful woman, who was first generation German American and my lovely step-mother shared her mother’s recipe for a German Christmas bread called stollen, a confection filled with dried fruits and marzipan. In the book, the stollen recipe came from Lily’s grandmother and to bring some holiday cheer into the house, she teaches the kids how to make it.
* Do any beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
Oh, yes! Sydney and Miles from CELEBRATION’S BRIDE and Pepper and A.J. from Celebrations, Inc. Catering Company among others. It was fun revisiting everyone.
* Any interesting tidbits of information you discovered while researching this book?
I wanted Lily to tell the children the story of Christmas stollen and when I was researching it, not only did I learn all about where stollen came from (Lily will tell you all about it in the book), I learned there used to be an annual stollen festival in Germany. They’ve recently revived it and now it’s called Stollenfest.
That makes me wonder about your holiday traditions. I know it’s a little early for some of you to talk about Christmas and Hanukkah, but we are getting close to Halloween and Thanksgiving. What are some of your fall/winter traditions?
I will give away an ARC of CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS to one person who posts on this blog.
If you’d like another chance to win, I’ve joined with a group of authors from Tule and we’re a prize package worth $500 in the Great Thanksgiving Giveaway. Follow the link for details on how you can win.
I can’t wait to hear about your fall/winter traditions!