Celebrate Autumn’s Arrival

Can you believe it?

The first official day of fall here in the United States is tomorrow.

I love the autumn season. The crisp crunch of leaves beneath my boots. The spicy and loamy scents that waft on the afternoon breeze, and the pumpkin and spice scents that waft from my oven. The sounds of fans cheering at high school football games, and the brilliant array of colors as the leaves change from green to crimson, tangerine, and gold.

As the days grow shorter and we tend to spend more time at home, it’s a perfect time to host a get together, whether it’s inviting a friend over for lunch, or the whole gang over for a bonfire.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I used to work for a direct sales company that was all about making entertaining at home easier and more enjoyable for the hostess. I learned so many tips and tricks for entertaining that really do simplify things, I thought I’d share a few today.

 

 

THEMES

One of the easiest ways to entertain is to pick a theme for your gathering. It makes everything from decorations to food choices so much simpler.

For an autumn party theme, send out invitations shaped like fall leaves or use stationery with a pumpkin or apple theme.

Bring the colors of the season into your home using shades of crimson red, burgundy, sage and earthy greens, golden yellow, and deep orange. Use accent pillows or throws to really create that warm and cozy atmosphere we associate with fall.  (Side note: you can easily recover a pillow using a swatch of felt since the edges won’t fray. Cut a piece big enough to cover the entire pillow and glue the edges or simply connect the edges by stitching with a piece of thin ribbon.)

Decorations for your party can be something as basic as a few potted mums, bundles of wheat tied with raffia bows, or a pile of mini pumpkins and squash. You don’t have to get carried away with something fancy.

Your meal can be simple as well. Make a big pot of stew (check out Cheryl’s recipe for hamburger stew) or a filling casserole. Finish the meal with a pumpkin or apple dessert.

If you want the party to be a more hands-on experience, do a fun activity before the meal like apple picking or visiting a pumpkin patch.

Or host an autumn bonfire. Serve up hot dogs, potato wedges and mulled cider.

Here’s a list of party ideas from A to Z:

Apples

Back to School

Crafter’s Gathering

Decadent Desserts

End of Summer

Foliage & Fun

Game Night

Harvest Festival

Indian Summer

Jubilee

King’s Castle

Leaves & Laughter

Maze Daze

Nature’s Splendor

Oktoberfest

Pumpkins

Queen for a Day

Rag Time

Scarecrow

Tailgate

Under the Umbrella

Vintage

Wiener and Marshmallow Roast

X-ray Vision/Superheros

Yearbook

Zebra – everything is black and white

 

SCENTS

If I thought I could get away with it, I’d burn pumpkin scented candles all year long. Just think about walking into a home where the scents of pumpkin, apple, cinnamon or spices fill the air. It makes you think about fall and hayrides and pumpkin pie and all sorts of wonderful, comforting experiences.

The main thing to remember as you fill your home with the scents of fall is to stick with one scent at a time.

If you’re burning a sweet pumpkin candle in the kitchen, don’t light a heavily spiced candle a few feet away in the family room. Before you know it, you’ve got warring scents and quite possibly a headache.

DECOR

If you are looking to bring the autumn season into your home, a great place to start is by going outdoors. What fall leaves, branches or natural items, like grasses, pinecones or nuts, can you bring indoors for an inexpensive accent to your decor?

Use neutral tones highlighted with fall colors, focusing on the vivid jewel tones of autumn like rich red, warm gold, brilliant orange, deep green and pops of purple. This is not the time or the season to go all beige. Think bold, warm and rich when you are choosing accent colors.

Create a fall welcome at your front door by placing pumpkins on steps, a twiggy wreath around an exterior light or baskets filled with bright fall flowers like mums.

Use fall scents like pumpkin, cinnamon and apple throughout your home. Whatever scent you choose, make sure you stick with it consistently so you don’t have scents overpowering each other. No one wants to walk into a scent war-zone!

Fill bowls or baskets with nuts or pinecones for a fast fall accent. Place large leaves between a serving tray and a piece of glass (or a clear glass pate). You can use this as a centerpiece, serve warm mugs of cider on it or leave it on the coffee table as a conversation piece.

Keep your focus on warmth. Warm colors and cozy fabrics create a fantastic sense of welcome.

FLAVORS

If you are a pumpkin maniac (hand waving in the air), here are a few ideas to add pumpkins to your menu if you choose a pumpkin theme (or just really love pumpkin!).

• Make a simple pumpkin soup by adding about four cups of chicken broth to a 28-ounce can of pumpkin. Cook until bubbling and let simmer then stir in about 3 ounces of Feta cheese, season with salt and a pinch of nutmeg.

• Use canned pumpkin as a thickener. Add it to any type of chili or stew that needs a little thickening.

• Substitute canned pumpkin for half the fat in quick breads. This works well with cinnamon, citrus and chocolate. Or make your taste buds extra happy and make a loaf of pumpkin bread.

• Add canned pumpkin to half your cheesecake filling. Swirl it into the filling, but don’t mix, before baking to get an awesome design and incredible flavor.

• Mix canned pumpkin into softened ice cream then refreeze for a quick pumpkin dessert. Serve with gingersnaps and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

• Mix a heaping spoonful into grits, top with grated Parmesan cheese and a tiny dollop of butter.

• Mix canned pumpkin with one part apple cider and two parts ginger ale for a fun beverage.

You could also make pumpkin polenta, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin wedges, pumpkin roll or pumpkin seeds.

However you decide to entertain this fall, just remember to enjoy the experience and not get too wrapped up in the details. It’s all about connecting with your friends and loved ones that truly matters!

Speaking of connecting, I hope you’ll join me and the rest of the Love Train authors for a “welcome autumn” celebration tomorrow. The fun begins at 8 a.m. Pacific Time (9 Mountain, 10 Central, 11 Eastern). It will be a day full of fun, games, giveaways, and more!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2143576775865837

What’s your favorite way to entertain?

Casual? Rustic? Elegant? Classy? Whimsical?

Or if entertaining isn’t your thing,

what’s your favorite autumn flavor? 

 

Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of my newly released

Fall Into Love

collection of two autumn-themed sweet cowboy romances,

and a digital copy of my Savvy Autumn Entertaining guide!

 

 

Stories from My Winery Visit

Photo: Kiepersol

My husband and I recently visited Kiepersol Winery and Bed and Breakfast in Tyler. Our room at the Bed and Breakfast was in the building with the restaurant. Not only were the surroundings quiet, calm, and serene, the wine was wonderful, our room beautiful, and the restaurant defied description. They feature great steaks and seafood, with incredible sides. My favorites were the sauteed mushrooms and garlic potatoes. And the desserts…I had cherries jubilee, and I swear I gain a pound thinking about it, but it was worth every calorie.

But the stories of the winery’s history our wine tour guide, Ron shared captured my writer’s sentimental heart. Founder Pierre de Wet’s story would do any hero proud. Born in South Africa, in 1984 after the death of his wife from skin cancer, he and his young daughters, age two and four, moved to America. Pierre worked as a farm laborer until he could buy acres in Tyler, Texas. Though in 1996 there were no wineries from Austin to Florida, Pierre was sure he could make a winery work.

The winery’s name comes from the Kiepersol farm where Pierre grew up. Legend has it soldiers running from a lion toward a lone tree, shouted, “Kiepersol! Kiepersol” as they sought safety in the tree. (Later it was learned the soldiers yelled, “We hope this tree will keep us all!” Pierre named his winery after that Kiepersol tree, hoping everyone who visited the winery would find that same comfort.

Pierre’s determination and frugality when he started his winery served him well. To lower startup costs, he purchased used equipment. In tough times he sold residential lots, eventually creating one of two wine estates in the U.S. In 2000, he harvested his first grapes. To sell his wine, he hired teenagers with signs and obtained retired Clydesdales for carriages rides that ended at the winery.

Photo: Kiepersol

I can’t share all the winery’s stories today, but I want to share one behind Flight sparkling wine. Guinea fowl have roamed the area for over 20 years as vineyard stewards. Their chatter safekeeps the grapes from deer and birds. They eat bugs serving as nature’s pesticide. Guinea fowl spotted feathers are believed to be good luck charms. Now to the name. The winery says, “We believe each spotted feather found represents a releasing of the past. Flight is grown in a place where one can feel soulfully grounded while also letting dreams soar. So. Take Flight my friends.” That sentiment makes me shiver.

I love visiting Texas wineries and hearing their stories. The minute I heard Pierre de Wet’s, I thought how I would’ve loved to create such a hero. The courage, strength, and determination he possessed to come to America with two young daughters when the only person he knew was a Texas A&M professor, astounds me. He created a winery, a bed and breakfast with fifteen rooms, an incredible restaurant, a distillery, and an RV park! But most importantly, he raised two strong women who carry on his legacy.

Pierre de Wet and his daughters
Photo: Kiepersol

I may have found a retirement-keep-busy-and-involved career. What could be better than telling a winery’s stories, meeting fabulous people, especially if I could be paid with an occasional bottle of wine and dinner?

Today I’m giving away this horseshoe decoration and a signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy. To be entered in my random drawing, leave a comment to this question. What is the best story you’ve heard or best/most interesting fact you’ve learned on a trip? Or, if you don’t have a story to share, just stop by to say hello or tell me about a real life hero in your life.

 

To Invite Parents Into A Story or Not

Many of my books deal with the theme of family of choice. There are a couple reasons why. I’ve always been geographically separated from family and then later, I became estranged from my parents. This changed my writing and my definition of family.

Another reason I turned to this theme is because having parents–ones who have a solid relationship with their children, offer advice when asked without dictating, forgive their children, are mentally healthy, and set good examples–is tough. At least for me, they muck up a story. They often keep their children from making bonehead mistakes that drive a story and create conflict. Why? Partly because they’ve raised children to consider options before acting, gave them a solid moral base, and are present during rough times.

That’s why either my hero or heroine often have past issues from with one or both parents. Let’s face it. Anyone who’s a parent has worried about screwing up their kid. I often joked I hoped I wouldn’t botch parenting so bad my kids spent spent in a therapist’s office. But in romance novels, emotionally damaged characters make for create conflict and character growth. How we’re raised, our emotional baggage and wounds, taint how we see the world and influence our every relationship. For example, Zane in To Marry a Texas Cowboy has major family baggage. Like two  large suitcases and a trunk’s worth.

 

Here’s an excerpt that shows how two relationships shaped Zane’s life.

“Why isn’t your old man helping out?”

“He’s in Europe trying to patch up marriage number three. Good thing, too, because he’d be a worse choice than her assistant.” How could folks as wonderful as his grandparents have raised such a shit for a son? Someone who would lead two completely separate lives with two families?

“I’m thinking a man who breaks out in hives when he hears the word wedding has no business managing a wedding planning company,” Cooper said. “If you ask me, that’s looking for trouble.”

Zane wouldn’t let  Grandma Ginny, the one person who’d been there for him his entire life, loving him unconditionally and acting as a guiding force, put her future at risk. He’d do anything this side of legal for her.

Even run Lucky Stars Weddings.

 

Another thing I like about parental absence in my stories is it allows friends to occupy a prominent role. I love creating banter between good friends, who as Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” That kind of friend will also tell you when you’re being an ass, and often do in my books.

 

Here’s an example of the heroes in To Tame a Texas Cowboy, who view themselves as family.

“What did this one do? Is she another one with a hyena in heat laugh?” Ty asked, pulling Cooper back to the conversation.

AJ dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “Nah, can’t be that. Not even Coop could find two of those. Ten bucks says this one talked too much.”

“I’m still here, guys, and I’d rather skip the psychoanalyzing session. If you’re interested, I think I can scrounge tickets to the Alabama game. If we can beat them, we’ve got a real shot at the national title,” Cooper said, hoping to channel the conversation onto football and off his love life, or lack thereof.

“I say Coop connected with this one on Facebook, and she posts pictures of her food all the time.” Ty tossed a ten on top of AJ’s, completely ignoring Cooper’s change of subject.

Damn. He was in trouble if tickets to the A&M Alabama game failed to divert his buddies.

Zane tossed a bill on the stack and rubbed his chin while he flashed a perfect white smile at the women two tables over who’d been giving him the eye.

When he glanced back at his friends, he said, “I peg her as the strong, assertive type who’s recently divorced and is still in her angry phase. I say she complained about her ex.”

His friends stared, waiting for him to declare the winner. Betting wasn’t much fun when he was the topic. While AJ and Ty weren’t correct now, in the past, he’d lost interest in women for both the reasons they predicted. Tonight, Zane came damn close. Too close.

“Zane, sometimes you’re damn scary when it comes to women. How do you do it?”

“Years of extensive research.” Zane grinned as he scooped up the cash.

 

So, that’s why I often don’t include a parent or parents in my stories. Another time I’ll chat about the couple times I have had a parent be a prominent character.

 

To be entered in my random giveaway for the cactus T-shirt, coozie, and a signed copy of Family Ties, leave a comment telling me what you think about having the hero or heroine’s parent(s) as main characters in a story.

Regina Walker Insists Genealogy Isn’t Such a Bore After All!

The Fillies give a big welcome to Regina Walker. Regina crafts interesting characters facing some of life’s hardest challenges. Her heart’s desire is to always point toward Jesus through the way her characters face challenges, relationships, and adversity.

Regina is an Oklahoma import, although she was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado. She likes to curl up on the couch and binge-watch crime shows with her hard-working husband. When she’s not wrestling with a writing project, she can be found wrangling their children, riding their horses, or working around their small hobby farm.

Before I get started, I want to take a moment and thank Karen Witemeyer for so graciously inviting me to write a post for Petticoats and Pistols. I appreciate all of the ladies that run this fun site, and I’m thankful you are here to read this post and the others!

For as long as I can recall, my mother has traced our family history. Sometimes she makes slow progress, occasionally great leaps, but it’s something she has built for years. While her dedication and commitment have always inspired me, I must admit that I thought it was such a boring pursuit.

I listened with half-hearted attention, my mind always wandering to something else. When I decided to take my writing seriously, I swore I would never write historical anything.

See, not only did genealogy bore me endlessly, but history, in general, made my eyes bug out of my head. I know it is important to understand certain aspects of history, but it was never my thing.

When I received a message asking me to join the Mail-Order Mama series, I wrinkled my nose. Historicals and I don’t mix! But I read the premise, and immediately, Mary Ann came to life and started whispering her story to me.

The way she respected and loved her father, the way he cared for their family, and the struggles with her mama all blossomed in my mind.

How could I say no to a story that was writing itself with no help from me?

I did end up helping sort out a few things in this story. I started my research on my mom’s website, reading about real-life people in our family. I selected Wyoming because my great-great-grandfather homesteaded there. The old house, although in terrible disrepair, still stands near Lake De Smet.

I chose to give Mason the last name Barkey to honor my heritage. Although my great-great-grandfather did not order a bride via the mail, it was my way of honoring where I came from to include the last name in this story.

Now, don’t let me fool you. I didn’t become a history buff and I’m not going to take up genealogy the way my sweet mom has. I did gain an appreciation for both history and genealogy that I did not have before.

 

Now that you know a little bit about how I came to write Mary Ann’s story – A Maid for Masonhow about a chance to win an e-book copy of my book? Three lucky winners will be drawn at random for this giveaway. To be entered, leave a comment on whether you’ve ever developed an appreciation for something because of a book you’ve read. 

Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for spending a little time with me today.

Birthday Games & A Giveaway

Today is my middle son’s 22nd birthday. The same son who both graduated college and got married earlier this month. Needless to say, we’ve been partying with Wyatt a lot lately. Which is great, because he’ll soon be out on his own, and I won’t be around to snatch random hugs whenever the urge strikes.

So in honor of Wyatt, I thought I’d share some photos, play a game, and offer up some gifts.

Wyatt is a huge Star Wars fan, so before the wedding, he and his groomsmen created this awesome “Force Push” moment. Isn’t it great? Not only did they add a little Star Wars flavor here, but his tie featured tiny Millennium Falcons and all of the male wedding party (including both dads) wore Star Wars themed socks under their fancy suits.

Game & Giveaway

Since Wyatt has just started his happily ever after journey, I thought we could play a game celebrating romance and true love. And since I just happen to have a brand new book out, there will be two autographed copies of In Honor’s Defense up for grabs.

Game

Use either “Honors” or “Defense” to make a romantic acrostic. Form a sentence using words that start with each letter in the chosen word.

Here’s an example:

H – Hope
O – Overcomes
N – Numerous
O – Obstacles, making
R – Romance
S – Sweet

If you need to add an extra word or two to round out the sentence, like I did, that’s fine, but the fewer extra words, the better the acrostic. My favorite two acrostics will win!

Happy wordsmithing!

A Month of Major Life Events

The month of May has always been a busy one in the Witemeyer house, but this year, the sheer number of major life events happening in this short span is staggering.

  • May 7 – Middle son Wyatt graduated from ACU
  • May 8 – Mother’s Day
  • May 12 – Daughter Bethany’s birthday
  • May 14 – Wyatt and his lovely bride McKenna tie the knot (first family wedding)
  • May 22 – My father-in-law (who lives next door) celebrates his 80th birthday
  • May 27 – My birthday
  • May 31 – Wyatt’s birthday
  • June 1 – My book deadline
  • June 5 – My husband and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary

Talk about a month of celebration! Unfortunately, it’s also a month of stress with a hundred details to plan and execute with almost no down time. And I’m smack dab in the middle of the craziness.

We got Wyatt and McKenna graduated this past Saturday. First major event of the month completed.

Wyatt graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA while double-majoring in Math and Computer Science. He was selected by the faculty of his department to be a University Scholar as well. I couldn’t be more proud of him! He has always worked hard and given his best effort in every endeavor he undertakes. He already has a job lined up following graduation, which is a good thing, because in a couple days he’ll be standing before the altar with the love of his life to recite wedding vows.

I spent most of Mother’s Day holed up with my computer, writing, but I did get to have a lovely potluck meal at church and a family card game to end the day. And the best gift of all – I had all my children at home. Hooray!

We celebrated Bethany’s birthday yesterday with dinner at her favorite burger place followed by the the new Dr. Strange movie. She’s a Marvel nut, and was excited to have a movie hit the big screen during her birthday week.

With Wyatt and McKenna’s wedding this Saturday, most of my mental and physical energy is aimed in that direction this week. As the mother of the groom, I’ve had it easy, but all the work has intensified this week. I’m cooking the rehearsal dinner with some help from my brother and sister-in-law. So I’m constantly running through mental lists and trying to make sure I have all my bases covered. Despite the stress that is trying to creep in, I’m doing my best to keep joy at the forefront of my mind. This is a beautiful, happy occasion, and I don’t want to let my frazzled state ruin that for anyone, including me!

Once we have the wedding completed, the rest of the month should be busy but manageable as long as I can meet my book deadline. 🙂 My husband would love to take a big trip to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, but not only will we both be worn out from the month of May, but my next book releases June 7, and I’ll be in full-on marketing mode. He’s in charge, though, so whatever he plans, as long as I have access to the Internet, I’ll make it work. Celebrating our marriage is more important than getting lost in the minutiae of the day-to-day.

What about you? Any major life events happening this summer?

 

A Recipe From My Childhood

How they wrapped my finger up at the ER.

I don’t think I’ve shared this fact before, but I’m super clumsy. My father used to tease me and say they should’ve named me Grace. I always joke that even if there was only one piece of furniture in a room, I’d manage to bump into it and end up with a bruise.

Well, I’ve done it again. I got tangled up with my dogs, fell, and broke my left ring finger. As it is hard to type, I’m doing a simple recipe post today. My family has made this Strawberry Dessert as we call it, for years. It’s light and refreshing, a perfect dessert for a big easter dinner. As it’s best made the day before to be completely set, it leaves you time on Easter for church, preparing the meal, and having fun with family. If you’re like me, unless I make dessert ahead of time whenever, we go without because by the time we’re done cooking, eating, and cleaning up, I’m too tired to make dessert!

 

Strawberry Dessert

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake

2 packages of # ounce strawberry Jell-O

2 Cups boiling water

2 10 oz (approximately) frozen strawberries in syrup, not the unsweetened kind

1 pint whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Tear angel food cake into bite size pieces and place in a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir boiling water and Jell-O until dissolved. Add frozen strawberries. Stir until strawberries are separated and mixture has started to thicken. Place in refrigerator for fifteen or so minutes until much thicker but not set.
  3. Whip cream to a thick but not stiff stage. Remove strawberry and Jell-O mixture from refrigerator. Fold in whipped cream until mixture is well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour over angel food cake. Refrigerate until firm.

Growing up Lutheran in the Midwest, Jell-O was a staple at family events and church potlucks. I can’t even count how many salad and dessert recipes I have that require this ingredient. This one is one of my spring and summer favorites. I hope you enjoy this blast from my past.

To be entered in my random giveaway for the Hanging With My Peeps T-shirt and a signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment about your favorite Jell-O recipe or the oddest one someone you know has made.

Various Valentine’s Day Ramblings

For this month’s post I started researching the history of Valentine’s Day, but ended up traveling down various rabbit holes. Today I’m sharing that journey and my musings with you. First, I discovered there’s confusion as to which St. Valentine the day honors. Apparently, there were two men named Valentine that are possibilities. The day has roots in a Pagan festival and became an official holiday in the 1300s. Valentines weren’t sent until the 15th century and mass-produced ones came to be in the 1840s. The tradition of giving flowers started in the 17th century, with the heart-shaped chocolate boxes we see everywhere arriving in 1861. Oh, and the discovery that surprised me was those hearts with the sayings were originally lozenges! (The messages were added in 1866.)

As I scrolled down under related content I found “7 Momentous Kisses in History.” They listed the first “post-married” kisses of Kate and William, Harry and Meghan, Ross and Rachel’s kiss on Friends, and others. Most—other than the on V-J Day 1945 and the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, didn’t seem that iconic to me. But those kisses started me thinking about about epic movie kisses. Again, I found myself disagreeing with what I found. The kiss in Gone With the Wind after Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O’Hara in she needs kissing badly was there. So was the potter’s wheel kiss in Ghost. But the other kisses didn’t seem that memorable or epic in my opinion. So I began wondering about great Western movie kisses. When I Googled that I pretty much came up with nothin’ other than The Longest Ride—a great movie by-the-way and Brokeback Mountain. With all the great Western romances written, how come there weren’t more Western romance movies? Or at least romantic movies or romantic comedies with cowboys? Boy is Hollywood missing out on a great market there.

Lastly, my thoughts wandered to asking why this day has such a focus on romantic love. Why do we do that people when it makes people who aren’t in a relationship feel as if they’re not complete or less than they should be? And why is it such a big deal to get engaged on Valentine’s Day? Instead, we should simply celebrate love in general. Love between friends, parent and child, grandparents and grandchildren, and the list is endless. Love and kindness should be showered everywhere like confetti. That’s where we should place the emphasis—on sharing love and kindness to those who most need it and to those who are central to our lives. If we did that rather than focus so much on romantic love Valentine’s Day would be more inclusive and not as painful for some. Also, can you imagine the ripple effect and the changes that could result from seeing Valentine’s Day this way.

To be entered in today’s giveaway for the Valentine’s Day t-shirt and A Cure for the Vet tell me what’s your favorite romantic movie and why it’s so wonderful. Some of my favs are The Sure ThingAn American PresidentOperation Petticoat, and Father Goose. I can’t wait to hear yours. I need some new movies to watch!

Visiting the Frontier – Disney Style

This past December, the Witemeyer family escaped Texas for a family vacation several years in the making. With a wedding and college graduation this spring for my son, and my daughter knee-deep in research and conferences for her PhD program, our window of opportunity for family vacations has been dwindling. Thankfully, the stars aligned just right for us to squeeze in a trip to Disney World before we all start going our separate ways. We invited my son’s fiancé and my youngest son’s girlfriend to join in the fun, and we had a fabulous time. So many photos and memories.

Of course, my favorite land to visit in Magic Kingdom is Frontierland. My western-loving heart enjoyed hearing the piped in oater music, seeing the Liberty Belle riverboat, and getting absorbed into the wild west atmosphere. My favorite ride is of course Big Thunder Mountain, and it was so much fun reading all the signs posted around the mining company as we waited for our chance to ride.

If my next book happens to feature a terrible twosome named the Hash Knife Outfit known for tomfoolery and habitual bungling, you’ll know where the idea came from. Or maybe my next heroine will take a job in the Hard Times Café. Lot’s of possibilities there.

Some other fun frontier moments came at Epcot where we visited the American Adventure theater to relive America’s past with Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin as our hosts.

And you know I wasn’t going to miss everybody’s favorite cowboy in Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios.

So many fun opportunities for inspiration. Like this masked gang of suspicious characters heading to the shooting gallery to stir up trouble.

It’s a good thing I found a pencil to make notes for my next book idea!

Did you travel at all over the Christmas break? Where did you go?
Have you been to Disney World or Disneyland? What are your favorite rides/experiences?

Lights, Dalmatians, Christmas!

I admit since my children are grown and on their own, some Christmas traditions from when my boys were young have gone by the wayside, but there are still a couple things we do without fail. We bake everyone’s favorite holiday treat. We watch Jingle All the Way and The Muppets’ Christmas Carol. My favorite is decorating outside. The lights always brighten my mood, lift my spirit, and remind me no matter how dark the night becomes, God’s light is always there.

 

And the decorations bring with them a cascade of wonderful memories every year when I put them out. I remember bundling my boys up when they were little, putting them in strollers, for the family, including our first dog, Shadow to look at neighborhood lights. I fondly recall the boys helping when they were old enough, and my oldest begging to put the lights on the roof long before he was old enough to! I still see my youngest picking out our first lawn decoration, the Dalmatian puppy sitting in the Christmas package. Who’d have thought he’d pick out something so perfect considering how important dogs, and fostering them, became to us.

 

Since that first puppy, our display has grown. The first addition was the two pups fighting over the lights. I recall thinking how expensive it was but wanting it desperately because it so represented my oldest two sons. I hear my boys saying we had Dalmatians that represented them, and we needed the mom and dad. My hubby and I had fun making Pongo and Perdita the old-school way with an overhead projector and tracing the image onto huge white paper. The other Dalmatian items I found at estate sales.

 

 

Whatever your traditions, may the wonder of the season light your life today and for the new year to come.

Happy Holidays!

Julie