Candy Cane Popcorn

candy-cane-popcorn1

Sweet Holiday Treats

This time of year, I love making Candy Cane Popcorn. I found this recipe a couple of years ago and I could have sworn I put something up here about it, but I haven’t been able to find it, so…

If you google it, you’ll find a ton of recipes. But this is one that I like, with a few differences.

CANDY CANE POPCORN <– that’s from All Recipes. They have you keep the popcorn in a bowl after you’ve mixed the white chocolate and the peppermint in.

I like spreading it out on a cookie sheet…and I confess I add a little smattering of sea salt to it. Oh, and I cook it on the stove in oil…no air popper at my house, so there you go. And you know what? It’s still JUST as tasty.

Decadent Hot Chocolate

Another thing I love  this time of year is Decadent Hot Chocolate. I HAVE written about that here before, but I truly believe it’s a concoction worth sharing. So here’s that other post.

I had the best hot chocolate ever in February 2005. Hubby and I were in Paris for our anniversary, and we stumbled on this patisserie on the Isle de St. Louis on a chilly morning.

The scent of chocolate permeated the air. We didn’t even think of resisting its call. So, as we sipped our chocolate (to DIE for), hubby prowled around and found the recipe, hand-written, on a card by some chocolates. So he copied it.

One memorable morning, when Paris was a distant memory, he made me this Decadent Hot Chocolate, and I was pleased to remember, yet again, what a lucky girl I was to have married him.

The recipe is below…but be careful. You can tie people to your side with this hot chocolate. On no account (if you’re single) should you give out the recipe…

1 cup high quality 60% cacao chocolate (I use Ghiradelli – but regular choc chips are fine) IMG_12214 cups milk, 3 Tlb powdered baking cocoa (Again, I use Ghirardelli), 3 Tlb white sugar, 1 cup heavy whipping cream.

Put chocolate in a pan, and add just enough milk from your 4 cups to float the chips a bit. Heat until chocolate is melted through, stirring the entire time. Once melted, add the rest of the milk a little at a time, keeping the heat on medium (don’t boil!). Then add the powdered cocoa, one Tlb at a time, whisking it in. Do the same with the white sugar. Once that is incorporated, slowly add the 1 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring the entire time. Continue to stir until the chocolate is hot again. Then drink and be glad you are human!

IF you wish, in the spirit of the movie Chocolat, you may add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to spice things up.

Now you know!

 

 

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Six Years Ago Today

When I realized what day it was, everything in me kind of jerked to a stop. Six years ago, I had surgery for an Acoustic Neuroma. 11 hours under anesthesia.

Two days after surgery.
Two days after surgery.

You can read more about it in this post here. That’s the one year anniversary post.

Here’s the 3 Year Anniversary post.

To everyone who’s ever gone through something that had such a lasting effect on you, I understand.

Me? I am so very grateful to still be here. Sending love and hugs to you all.

)O(

Need a pick-me-up? Try Christmas Star, only .99! One reader called it “A sweet as hot chocolate, modern day fairy tale…”

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In the Looking Glass of 55

Christine, in the wild.
Me at 50

I did the girl thing this morning, spritzing and moisturizing my face. As I did so, I remembered the dry and flaky skin on my mother’s face. Toward the end of her life, she was wheelchair bound by MS and didn’t get the skin regimen she used to give herself.

So, I remembered, and moisturized. And as I did, I looked at my face of 55, soon to be 56. I have bags under my eyes that have been there since birth; I have laugh lines around my eyes, also there since birth I believe, only now they show when I am not laughing. The rest of my face is smooth; maybe a forehead wrinkle or two, but nothing earth shattering. A bit of the jowl thing going, because of the weight gain, but still there’s nothing that breaks the illusion I hold that I am still in my forties, ha.

I wore makeup in my twenties; powder, eyeshadow, thick mascara. In my thirties and early forties, I went back and forth between full liquid foundation, powder and eye makeup, and just doing the eyes. When I turned fifty, it was as though I dropped the mask of makeup entirely, and was fine with it.

And to my surprise, no one cared.

March 2011, RT - 3 months after brain surgery.
March 2011, RT – 3 months after brain surgery, with Donna O’Brien – 51

I would like to figure out how to put makeup on this face; it’s not the same face as it was 30 years ago. If I treat it as theater makeup, I think it will be easier. That, after all, was the first makeup I’d learned to apply.

As I went about the rest of my early-morning, pre-breakfast, pre-work routine, the thoughts on aging and face/body image rumbled around my head. My body is definitely not the ballerina body I had; it has borne two children, run a marathon, and had two major surgeries plus a couple broken bones since then.

There is so much out there about women and body awareness/fat shaming/ageism. I find when I really think about it, that in this body of mine that is carrying probably 30 pounds more than I would like, I am more sexual and sensual, more loving, and happier than I have ever been, including back when I was 55 pounds lighter than I am now and dancing every day.

Almost as if with age (and the weight gain), my fear has lessened and my empathy haselfie smalls grown. My heart has grown, and I am more connected to people than I have ever been.

Over all, I have to say that this year of being 55 has been one of the best years of my life so far, in so many ways.

But maybe it’s time to wear mascara again.

)O(

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Losing, and Finding Again…

This has been a tempestuous year. Lots of travel for conferences and reader cons, lots of doubt about my writing, lots of internal worry and change, lots of hot flashes – oy.  I’ve done some editing work for friends, taken a lot of online classes, stood my ground, gave ground, and in general – lived.

Guarded Star4Good things have happened, and new connections have been made. GUARDED STAR came out this year with Boroughs Publishing Group, and STAR CROSSED is in final edits and will be making an appearance soon. RISING STAR StarCrossedwill, hopefully, make an appearance in early 2016.

Plus I’ll be going to TNEE in Atlanta in April, RWA National Conference in July, and the Emerald Coast conference in October. These will be, most likely, my only “public” appearances this coming year.

 

The Caine Brothers series, my paranormal romances, have been picked up by Wolfpack Publishing. I’m writing a prequel, the two (and a half) books that have already come out will be published again, and the third book (Justin’s story) will be out as well, all starting in January 2016. I have been told there are at least two more stories in this world, and maybe more, so hopefully I can get them out next year. We will see.

As well, there’s another line of books (contemporary) that I’m going to be working on, so…busy!

***

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving night. For years, we traveled to my parents’ house and I cooked (or they came up to us and…I cooked); or we traveled to Arizona and Tom’s family…and I cooked, ha. But…a few years ago, I handed the mantle of Thanksgiving Queen to my nephew’s lovely wife (something about – oh, brain surgery comes to mind), and they have been hosting ever since.

I won’t lie – 150+ miles, one way, is a long way to go for a turkey dinner. But a turkey dinner where my brother can sweep me up in a hug? A dinner where I get to sit on a couch for an hour or so, holding my dad’s hand, and talking possible TV series ideas with him? A dinner where I can give my great-niece the book I had promised to give her LAST Thanksgiving, but had neglected to send to her? (Her comment when I handed it to her? “At LAST.” lol…)

In between conversations, we watched two teams sportsing. One team was in some sort of white outfit, while the other team was in electric blue…and they were still sportsing, even after dinner. The electric blue team ended up sportsing better than the white team, and won…. please understand, that out of the ten people at this dinner, only three of us were female. None of my clan is overly sportsy, except for soccer and basketball.

But my favorite memory of the night? Holding my dad’s hand, and feeling the veins there, and knowing that in a few short years, my hand will look much the same.

hands at thanksgiving

Life happens, people. We lose our way, and find it again, and if we are very lucky, we have family and friends that stand with us along every step of that meandering path we’re all on.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, my lovelies.

)O(

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Three Different Needs – One Blog Post

Everyone Needs a Helping Hand at Times…

There are three friends of mine – well, one is a close friend I’ve had for over twenty years, one is a professional colleague who has become a close friend, and the third is a lovely young woman who has become a new friend.  Anyway, as I was saying…

Three friends. Three different needs. The one missing ingredient for all three? Money. Now, the way I see it is, if everyone just donated the price of a cup of their fancy coffee, these folks will be on their way to getting done what needs to get done.

So, let me tell you a few stories…and read all the way to the end. Because I have a deal for you.

Christina and Justin

Meet Christina Munson and her husband, Justin.  I met Christina recently through FaceBook, and our common love of the written word. Here’s what Christina has to say.

“When I first met my husband Justin he weighed a healthy 200lbs. Now his teeth are in very bad condition and need to be removed and replaced with dentures. He fights to maintain a a healthy weight.  His health has also declined because he cant eat like he should. He is in constant pain, and I fear that if we don’t take care of this soon he won’t live long enough to watch our son grow up.”

They are close to their goal, but they’ve been doing this GoFundMe campaign for six months. Won’t you please consider donating? Even the price of a cup of coffee would help.

Justin and his son...Justin needs dental surgery and full dentures.
Justin and his son…Justin needs dental surgery and full dentures.

 

 

Click HERE for Justin and Christina’s GOFUNDME Campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sascha

A professional colleague (we are both in Lucky Stars Paranormal Box Set) who has become a close friend,  Sascha Illyvich is known as the Bad Boy of Romance. He’s had over 50 short stories, novellas and novels published in the last fifteen years.  Here’s what he has to say…

“I’m a published romance author in transition and currently crashing with friends in

Sascha just wants a place to call home.
Sascha just wants a place to call home.

Tennessee.  I have managed to save most of what I need to move back to Atlanta, but the next few months will be difficult.

“I’m legally blind, have a bad heart and because I’ve been floating around the country, access to my medicine and regular health care has been sketchy. Once I move back to Atlanta, I’ll remedy that.

“Work is steady but with money going out to sustain healthy eating and acquire my heart medicine, it’s going to be harder to save that last bit which would give me one full year’s rent in a safe, MARTA friendly neighborhood in the Atlanta area. Your help now will allow me to make that move, not only into a new space, but also a new stage in my career.”

Click HERE for Sascha’s GoFundMe campaign.

Jeffrey

Next up is my dear friend of close to 30 years (!!), and an amazing costumer, Jeffrey Schoenberg and AJS Costumes. Here is what he has to say.

AJS Costume Shop
AJS Costume Shop – Jeffrey’s company is at risk.

“After more than 20 years as a free-lance costume designer, I established AJS Costumes in 2002. In 2006, I purchased Renaissance Dancewear and moved both businesses into our present location in Burbank.  AJS Costumes has been proud to be a part of the Los Angeles theater community, offering creative resources, extensive stock, and diversity in design.

Today I find myself, my livelihood, and the future of my company impacted and at serious risk.  That is why I am reaching out to friends, supporters, and clients of AJS Costumes for help with this GoFundMe campaign.”

Click HERE for Jeffrey’s GoFundMe campaign.

So, Here’s the Deal…

There are people all over the world who need help. Financial help, physical help, emotional help. These are three people who are dear to me, and who I have given to. If you can give, that would be fantastic, I’m not going to lie. If you can’t give, however, and not everyone can, would you please pass this message on? You just never know…you might allow a father to see his son grow up. Allow a writer to finally have a place to call home. And allow a business to thrive.

If you do donate, come back and let me know which one you donated to, and you will be put into a drawing to win a $25 gift card to Amazon. And yeah, I’m going on the honor system here. I’ll do the drawing on September 30th, 2015 so be sure to check back. Oh, and leave your email address, too, so I can notify you if you win.

UPDATE: Okay – some of you haven’t been able to leave a comment, and I’m not sure why. If you leave a message on this post on my Facebook Page, you will also be counted in for the drawing. Or maybe I’ll do two separate drawings. Not sure yet. But thank you – and keep sharing.

)O(

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Exciting Times…And Fear Creeps In…

This was originally supposed to post on March 23, 2015…

As you may or may not know, I had the privilege of being a part of the Lucky Stars Box Set with some amazing authors – namely Louisa Bacio, Kim Carmichael, Solera Winters, Erzabet Bishop, Fred T. Kerns, and Sascha Illyvich. That box set came out in March.

Lucky Stars CoverIf you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s 500 pages of yummy, spicy and sweet stories – only $0.99.

Then, of course, we started rehearsals for CASSANDRA CRIES, a play I wrote, which will get 4 performances in Hollywood at the last weekend in April, and the first weekend in May. A play. As in, actors on a stage bringing to life a world I have created. My words in their mouths.

This is a different – thing – for me. I am the creator of the

Tom Ashworth & Jocelyn Hall, 1st Rehearsal, March 22, 2015
Tom Ashworth & Jocelyn Hall, 1st Rehearsal, March 22, 2015

play. Everyone else is there because of me. And while it is similar to being an author, in the theater world it has more of an impact on me. It’s intense. It can also be intensely boring (OMG I hate this scene -who wrote this shit? Um…*headdesk*).

It is a different medium, and having people take the characters I created and breathe life into them is somewhat astounding. And addicting. Sigh. But this isn’t the end of the craziness that is my life, my friends. Not a bit of it. Why?

GuardedStar4Because tomorrow, GUARDED STAR comes out – book 2 in the StarTide Agency series. And right on the heels of that release is the California Dreamin’ Writer’s Conference in Brea, where I’ll be rooming with 3 other people, hugging all my friends old and new, participating in a Lady Jane’s Salon reading of my book, coming right after the fabulous Susan Squires and a couple of people before Christie Craig…plus seeing friends such as Brenda Chin and Michelle Klayman (also my publisher), and the weekend all culminates in a booksigning  on Sunday, March 29, from 2 – 4pm. I’ll be signing that brand new book. Exciting doesn’t begin to describe…

eeyore

…and underlying it all is a sense of dread. Because too many good things tend to need a balance to them, don’t they?  So I worry about my dad, being so far away from me. I have to trust people my gut doesn’t want to trust, and I have to let my dad run his own life as he sees fit. He’s sharp as a tack and not one to bend easily (I get my stubbornness equally from him and my mother).

But it’s the fear of losing my hearing that has my heart in my throat and a glass of wine in my hand most nights. I know I need to call the doctor and get checked out…it might be nothing. It might be a lot. Just knowing that I might one day become totally deaf…not my worst nightmare, but hell. Makes me wish I’d actually followed through on learning AMESLAN which, according to that link, is an outdated term – and how interesting that American Sign Language and Chinese have a lot in common. Head. Desk. I mean, I know I want to keep learning and keep growing and…sigh. Damn it.  I dealt with losing the hearing in one ear. back in 2010. Really don’t want to have a matching pair of ears that don’t work…even though the hearing loss in ear #2 won’t be for the same reason as the loss in ear #1. I hope.

So, yeah. There’s excitement and dreams coming true and getting to see and hug friends and putting my work up on stage in Hollywood and relationships changing and growing and pedicures to get and … fear.

…and the beat goes on…

Scott and Christine, San Diego 1982 Photo by Chet Cunningham
Scott and Christine, San Diego 1982 Photo by Chet Cunningham

)O(

UPDATE: I don’t know why this didn’t get posted the first time around…anyway, hearing loss is minor to moderate in the good ear. Am waiting to get the referral to see the specialist that helped with my acoustic neuroma surgery…to see what can be done to preserve the hearing I do have.

Keep living, people. Keep living, and loving, and marching to the beat of your own drum.

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Life Happens…

I have had an amazing summer. Finished edits on book 3 of the StarTide series, Star Crossed – I don’t know when that’s coming out but hopefully will learn the schedule soon.

I also turned in Rising Star. Again, don’t know what’s happening, but hopefully soon!

Went to RWA National Conference in New York City, and then hopped to Long Island for the Book Obsessed Chicks Beach BBQ Bash, where I signed books and made new friends (Christopher Rice! Damon Suede!).

Then this month, there was Authors After Dark – a reader con that was a ton of fun, in Atlanta last week. Met a lot of great readers.

I’m currently working on a short story for Boroughs Publishing Group’s Lunchbox Romance line, in time for Halloween. Another for Christmas, hopefully, and then a sweet Valentine’s Day story.

Plus there’s more coming down the pike.

As soon as I get this glitch in the website fixed, I’ll be posting more often. I promise.

See you soon…

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So, it’s been awhile…

Things were happening. Like, unable to update here things. Insidious things. But hopefully those things are done with, and we can move on.

In case you weren’t sure, this is a test. This is only a test…

xo…

Edited to add: WOO! It looks like whatever bug prevented me from updating has been vanquished, and updates can be done once again!

Be prepared, my friends, for more wine reviews (under $10) and more book news. And more of me, in general.

Sending much love and hugs…

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Lucky Stars Box Set – Available March 17, 2015

Whoop! I’m in a box set with 6 other FANTASTIC authors, which has been gathered together and will be published by Irksome Rebel Press. I’m so excited to be among them. My thanks to Solera Winters for pushing me to submit; and to Scott Evans and Tamara Eaton for liking the story.  Here’s the “box”…

box set cover

 

And here’s the cover of the anthology…

Lucky Stars Cover

…and finally, the cover my hubby did for Thorne’s Rose, my story in this anthology…

Thorne's Rose Cover

It comes out on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day — so mark your calendar! Seven wonderful stories for only $0.99!

 

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