Nutcrackers, Mooses, and Bears Deck the Halls

Nutcrackers, Mooses, and Bears Deck the Halls

It’s A Crazy Time…that’s why we have nutcrackers, trees, mooses, and bears in wreaths on our mantel.

the holiday mantel

The holidays are upon us. The year is rushing to an end, and our thoughts are on the right present for the right person, yummy food (overeating at parties), dieting (next year), exercise (please God let there be time AND no injuries), and all those projects we didn’t get to this year, along with the guilt for not getting them done.

And then there’s the writing schedule, as well. I’ve been looking at my year, and trying to plan my writing/publishing schedule. I mean, down to the word count per day. I’m ambitious, I admit it; but for the first time, I’m convinced that I can do this writing gig. I just took a class by Delilah Devlin and Elle James titled Writing 50 Books A Year (yeah, it’s a tongue in cheek title) and they gave me SO MANY DETAILED spreadsheets, I’m in geek heaven.

Those spreadsheets have given me permission to plan. Permission to plunk down big chunks of time (conferences, vacations) and littler chunks of time (see Dad) and all the projects I want to complete next year, and figure out just how I’m going to do it all.

I’ve decided I’m not going to share my desires for next year’s publishing schedule; I know people who publish a heck of a lot more than I do, and some who don’t publish as much as I do, so there’s really no point in sharing those details until next New Year’s Eve Retrospective on the year.

For the first time, I’ll be planning – really planning – my writing year. With months up on the wall, and inputting my daily word count, and everything. Life is exciting, and my dreams are within my grasp. It’s just a matter of pushing aside fear, that little voice that says “you’re going for too much,” and forging on anyway.

In other news, I’m over at Linda Carroll-Bradd’s blog, where she interviewed me. Go on and take a look – I’m still popping in every now and then, though the blog was last week. (My friend Mary Beth Bass wrote the most awesomest comment ever!)

I’ll try to get some wine picks in for you for the holidays, and a garden post. I know I’m behind on those here, but I was on a deadline, you see.  Right now, I’m deadline free (but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing!), and I’ll be back on deadline at the first of the year, so I’ll try to stockpile some blog posts.

One last thought to leave you with…even though it’s the holidays, and even though there are a million and one things to do and things that can (and do) go wrong, and even though there’s never enough time or money or energy to go around, do yourself a big, huge favor. Let go of the guilt, whatever kind you’re carrying.  Live in the moment. Grab hold of and hug those you love. Express that love whenever possible, because you never know when it’s all just gonna go wrong.

Sending love and big, tight, shoulder-to-knee, rocking side-to-side hugs. And here’s our tree…

The Tree, 2014

The Tree, 2014 And yes, there’s a bear on that tree. Do you see the snowflake fairy? Tom and I got her in Seattle in 1980…so long ago!


Have you read Christmas Star yet? If not, grab it…”A modern day, sweet as hot chocolate fairy tale…” And if you have, would you please leave me a review? Thanks! And my thanks to those who already have reviewed…you know who you are! xo

Holiday Wines

Holiday Wines

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful. Today I’m talking about Holiday Wines – those wines I reach for when creating a memorable meal, and under $25.

Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $16.99 on sale at Vons

On the Label: “Vineyard selection makes a difference. Our Jackson Estates Grown Pinot Noir delivers black cherry and raspberry fruit with velvet tannins found in our hillside grapes that intertwine with plum and spice from our benchland vineyards.  The wine was aged in French and American oak barrels that impart a hint of vanilla and cedar aromas.”

My Take: Funny, but as I’m writing this my hubby said to me, didn’t you already review that one? Yeah, well maybe! I suppose I need to keep an index of the wines I’ve reviewed. Hrm. At any rate, this wine paired beautifully with a big bowl of Cassoulet (the New Year’s Eve dish of choice). The depth of the wine dealt with the spice of the meats, and all around it was a wonderful pairing. Of course, in my book it’s hard to go wrong with Pinot Noir!

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~ and not a bad price, considering.

Stag’s Leap 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay Alcohol 14.1% by Volume; $22.99 at Vons

On the Label: “At Stag’s Leap Winery, we appreciate wines that enhance conversation and artisanal foods. This Chardonnay is a story of balance, a delicious intersection of richness and minerality that benefits from the classical standard of viticulture, care of the land, and winemaking that is as relevant today as it was in 1893 when the winery was established.”

My Take: It was Christmas Eve, and I wanted a special wine to go with a simple dinner. I was making home made pasta and a rich garlic cream sauce, with broccoli alongside. So I splurged on this wine, as usually Stag’s Leap is out of my budget. (But it’s Christmas, Mr. Scrooge!)

I really, really liked this wine. It cut through the richness of the creamy sauce, enhanced the flavor of the broccoli, and rounded out the meal beautifully.  Truly a delight to be shared on special occasions.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you Slut! Another white to add to the Slut Status! Woo!

 Thanks for dropping by, please know that I LOVE having you here. As is usual, the ratings of these wines are my opinion only and can be affected by the weather and the late night news. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

I LOVE hearing from you, so please leave a comment, okay?

Concannon’s Crimson & Clover wine, Revisited

Concannon’s Crimson & Clover wine, Revisited

I’m doing a revisit of Concannon’s Crimson & Clover. My original assessment of it can be found here. I’ve been looking for this wine ever since; to my delight and surprise, I found it up in Tehachapi, last Friday evening. I have since located it in my local store.

Concannon Conservancy Crimson & Clover, 2010 Livermore Valley Red Table Wine Alcohol, 13.7% by volume. Price: Originally $11.99, on sale for $8.40 on a 30% off discount at Vons.

On the Label: “My dad, James Concannon, began his winemaking career over 50 years ago. Following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he remains one of California’s most innovative and inspiring winemakers. This velvety wine is a living tribute to my father, who was the first to bottle Petite Sirah which continues to thrive in the gravelly soil of the Livermore Valley.

A vibrant red blend of signature Livermore Valley varietals, Crimson & Clover honors my dad’s enduring spirit that runs deep in the Irish roots of our family. This lush wine has deep flavors of blackberries and rich chocolate balanced by a long, silky finish. Pair with black pepper crusted filet mignon or grilled artichoke with tarragon aioli.”

My Take: I remember being slightly disappointed in this wine when I tasted it in February, and wanting another bottle to hold for a few months. I can joyfully say that, YES! THIS is a bottle of wine that any hostess would be pleased to receive, and you can now drink it right after opening. After airing a bit, it’s even better. It has a richness, a lovely jammy flavor that doesn’t get cloying, and goes great with hearty foods. It’s even better with cheese and crackers after dinner.

I enjoyed it up in Tehachapi, and relished it even more at home this past week. I’ve got a bottle stashed away and will most likely buy another bottle (or two) while it’s still on sale. I am SO happy to be able to review this wine again – and even happier that it’s now been released. Originally it was supposed to release in the spring; last week was the first time I’ve seen it on the shelves, and I have been looking. I’m glad they waited.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Time is pressing and I’m running late for work. The only other wine-related thing I can think of to mention is that we tried the Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay last night – and had to turn it into sangria with the help of a couple of oranges and a slice of lemon. Yeah, it was that bad. But the oranges and lemon made it taste, ever-so-vaguely, like a shadow of a mimosa (orange juice and sparkling wine) without the bubbles. So we managed to save the wine. Now we’ll see how long it takes us to actually drink it…

May your weekend before Christmas be happy, stress-free,  and filled with simple joys. (Stop laughing!) Be good, my lovelies! Merry Yule, Joyous Winter Solstice! (We’re all still here!)

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!


Tehachapi Peace

Tehachapi Peace

At two separate times, I’ve gone up to Tehachapi to spend time with my brother and both times found something I hadn’t been looking for, but very much needed – a sense of peace.

My brother Greg works as a freelance Computer Technician, because he’s that smart. A couple of guys he knew were wondering about social media, and if they should/HOW they should use it to promote their books. After mentioning my name a gazillion times as an example of how it should be done (my brother is a sweet guy, and doesn’t know any other authors, lol), he suggested – and they agreed – that I should come up and talk with them, and answer their multitudinous questions about social media and writers. (But this post isn’t about that.)

Me and my brother, Greg, at the Cesar Chavez Center, Tehachapi

The only catch? The date was set for Friday, December 14, at 2pm – right in the middle of my workday. But I did manage to get the day off and around 10am that morning, drove on up north.

The Tehachapi Mountains rise out of the San Joaquin Valley on one side and Mojave on the other. The pass is at just under 4000 ft above sea level. Once I drove into the small town, the temperature gauge on my car read 38 degrees. The air was crisp and cold and perfect for December. The house was small and sweet and perfect for Tina, the lady that owns it. We putzed around, went to lunch, drove out to a ranch, and I had a three hour talk on writing and social media with two other writers (one has 4 books out and has been writing magazine articles for twenty years; the other is a screenwriter who has had several scripts produced and has just written a memoir about Hollywood). These guys were sharp, smart, funny as hell, and willing to listen to me, and I had a total blast. I hope to showcase both of them here on the blog in the future.

After we’d talked each other out and darkness had fallen, we said goodbye to new friends and drove to the Souza Family Vineyards, where I bought two bottles of their Primitivo Zinfandel (because I’m a sucker for Zinfandel!). The 2007 won a silver medal, the 2009 won a bronze medal, and the 2010 won a gold medal, all at the San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition. (I’m looking forward to showcasing the winery and the wines on a future Friday blog.) At the winery, we drank wine, looked over the wares at a craft fair there inside the winery, and chatted. Bob and Patty are really cool people.

Bob and Patty Souza, Proprietors of the Souza Family Vineyards

Bob and Patty Souza, Proprietors of the Souza Family Vineyards

Afterwards, we went back to the cute little house, where Tina made dinner and I drank wine. (Seems like a fair trade!) Greg futzed with the new sound system he’d put in place in the house. We talked and laughed and when I went to sleep, I slept soundly, surrounded in peace.

The Keene Cafe – lots of railroad workers eat here. Terrific food!

In the morning, we went to the Keene Cafe for an enormous breakfast (that’s all I ate until 7pm that night – fanTAStic ham steak!), then went to see some sights. We visited the Cesar Chavez Center and saw his grave and wandered around the peaceful grounds.

The headstone for Cesar Chavez is between the Angel and the Pointsettia.

We drove up the side of a hill so we’d have a good view of the Tehachapi Loop, an engineering marvel by William Hood (“one of the 7 wonders of the railroad world”) built in 1874 – 1876, the train tracks that loop through 18 tunnels and 10 bridges; at one point, if the train is long enough, a train can loop itself three times. This line is part of the last and final link of the first railroad line connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. The single track line is still in constant use today, 136 years after its completion.

Hopefully you can see three sections of train in this photo. If you google it, you’ll see better photos of the area…

But aside from the Loop, aside from Keene’s Cafe and the Cesar Chavez Center, aside from the flurry of snow that quickly melted and the frost that rimed the grass, the sense of peace was overwhelming. Part of it was the unconditional love that is so much a part of my brother; part of it was the crisp, cold air; part of it was me, without husband, sons, or responsibilities for a few hours.

It was lovely. A peace I desperately needed after hearing about the tragedy in Connecticut on my drive north. (After half an hour, I turned off the radio and kept it off.)

I had been worrying that this Christmas wouldn’t be the “best” Christmas, due to a shortage of funds and a new unwillingness to go into debt just to buy stuff. But after my time in Tehachapi, and after the events in Newtown, I am fine with a simpler Christmas. Blessed that everyone I know and love is well and alive.  We aren’t traveling this holiday, and we don’t have guests, so I think perhaps the family will go on a journey of some sort. A photo safari, or local hiking, or a neighborhood we don’t get to very often (there are SO MANY of them in the Los Angeles area). Or maybe we’ll stay home and watch the first season of Game of Thrones.

Whatever we do, I shall do my best not to stress, and hold tightly to the peace I experienced in Tehachapi.

May you have many blessings, peace, and happy days, from my house to yours.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?